Monthly Case Studies Compilation: January 2020

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Here is the list of some important case studies from January 2020 that can be quoted/used in UPSC CSE Mains answers/essays.



Eastern Ghats: land-use policies, climate change hit endemic plant habitats: 

Relevance: Environment degradation, Conservation, Sustainable Development, Climate Change

  • The broken hill-ranges of the Eastern Ghats spread across Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, are home to unique ecosystems.
  • Though it has over 450 endemic plant species, the region remains one of the most exploited and degraded ecosystems of India.
  • According to a new study, with intensifying agricultural practices, urbanization and pressures from mining, unsupervised tourism, and deforestation, the precious habitat of endemic and rare, endangered and threatened (RET) species could be reduced, even leading to species loss.
  • The study team looked at available plant species data and identified 22 endemic species and 28 RET species from various locations in the Eastern Ghats.
  • They then studied the soil, land use, anthropogenic activities and climate changes in these areas.
  • They used simulations to predict how the area will change by 2050 and 2070.
  • The endemic species were found to be distributed in the core areas of the forests – Kalahandi, Mahendragiri, Nallamalai-Seshachalam, Kolli, and Kalrayan hill forests. On the other hand, the rare, endangered and threatened species were distributed not only in the core areas but also in the periphery of the forests, thus taking a greater hit from anthropogenic disturbances.
  • The mean temperature and rainfall were all crucial for the plant species and simulations showed that the temperature is likely to increase by 1.8 degrees Celsius by 2050 to 1.98 degrees Celsius by 2070.
  • The rainfall is also projected to increase by 113 millimeters by 2050 and 160 millimeters by 2070.
  • The results show that by 2050 the total human population in the Eastern Ghats region is expected to reach 2.6 million, raising pressure from anthropogenic activities.
  • There will be a demand for land for food, road and other activities leading to encroachments and a threat to the habitats of endemic and RET species.
  • The regional or local climate change (warming) has led to frequent prolonged non-rainy days, an increased number of days with maximum and minimum temperatures resulting in loss of soil moisture and soil degradation.
  • These factors have also contributed to the occurrence of frequent forest fires, eliminating regeneration of the less-frequent endemic species in the forest.
  • Studies from across the globe have shown that the tropics are losing more plant biodiversity than other regions, stressing the need for urgent conservation strategies.
  • What can be done?
    • Ecotourism with regulatory guidelines is a positive way to educate and promote conservation.
    • It is of utmost importance that biodiversity conservation initiatives of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of Government of India and State forest departments focus on the Eastern Ghats to protect declining habitats of endemic and RET species.
    • The boundaries of national parks and sanctuaries should be redefined based on the richness of endemic and RET species.

M.P. focuses on reviving threatened tree species:

Relevance: Environment degradation, Conservation, Sustainable Development, Climate Change

  • In a marked shift from the British-era focus on high-value timber to indigenous species having traditional value, the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department is focusing on the plantation of threatened species.
  • In 2019, the forest department planted 70 lakh saplings of such threatened tree species in a bid to revive biodiversity, support livelihoods, and combat climate change.
  • With around a quarter of its area under forests, Madhya Pradesh, according to the India State of Forest Report, 2019, has the largest forest cover of 77,482.49 sq. km in the country.
  • And of the 216 naturally occurring tree species in the State, 32 face the threat of extinction.
  • Lack of awareness on the traditional importance of the species was a major reason for their endangerment.
  • Besides, the British and the department for too long focused on the timber of greater economic value like sal.
  • Under working plans prepared by 11 locals units across the State, the threatened species were identified as having less than 1% of cover in forests, based on surveys in 300-400 plots of 0.1 hectares each selected randomly in each district.
  • Moreover, the forest department collated data based on field studies and reviewed third-party studies by research institutes.
  • The department has also drafted a gum and resin policy for value addition and grading of the products benefiting locals.
  • For the first time in the country, Madhya Pradesh has taken initiative in identifying species under threat and taking steps to protect them.
  • Now, at least 10% of all plantations in the State will have the species under threat
  • Way Ahead:
    • Information, Education, and Communication campaign to raise awareness about the importance of such threatened species.
    • Regular monitoring to check the progress of such Plantation drives.
    • Policy support to the institutionalist livelihood of locals in line with the ethos of Joint Forest Management.

India begins coral restoration in Gulf of Kachchh:

Relevance: Environment degradation, Conservation, Sustainable Development, Climate Change

  • Coral Reefs, also known as the Rainforests of the Seas, are marine ecosystems that support a rich and colorful array of aquatic flora and fauna.
  • Yet, not much information exists on the coral species found in India, their conservation status and threats facing them.
  • India has four major coral reefs areas: Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Gulf of Mannar and the Gulf of Kachchh
  • The Coral reefs regions around the world are under threats posed both by climate change-induced acidification as well as by anthropogenic factors.
  • Now, the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), with help from Gujarat’s forest department, is attempting for the first time a process to restore coral reefs using bio rock or mineral accretion technology.
  • Biorock is the name given to the substance formed by electro accumulation of minerals dissolved in seawater on steel structures that are lowered onto the sea bed and are connected to a power source, in this case, solar panels that float on the surface.
    • The technology works by passing a small amount of electrical current through electrodes in the water.
    • When a positively charged anode and negatively charged cathode are placed on the seafloor, with an electric current flowing between them, calcium ions combine with carbonate ions and adhere to the structure (cathode).
    • This results in calcium carbonate formation. Coral larvae adhere to the CaCO3 and grow quickly.
    • They are able to grow at least four to six times faster than their actual growth as they need not spend their energy in building their own calcium carbonate skeletons.
    • The location for installing the bio rock had been chosen keeping in mind the high tidal amplitude in the Gulf of Kachchh.
    • The low tide depth where the bio rock has been installed is four meters, and at high tide, it is about eight meters.
    • Significance:
      • The ongoing initiative of coral restoration using bio rock technology could potentially help to sustain the coral reefs.
      • The technology helps corals, including the highly sensitive branching corals, to counter the threats posed by global warming.

J&K admin to fell 21 lakh trees to ‘reclaim’ Wular Lake:

Relevance: Environment degradation, Conservation, Sustainable Development, Climate Change

  • The Jammu and Kashmir administration has embarked on a project to cut over 20 lakh trees to “reclaim” the shrinking Wular Lake spread across north Kashmir’s Bandipore and Baramulla districts.
  • These trees are not part of the natural ecosystem, they were planted over the years.
  • The Wular Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA) has started cutting trees on this Ramsar wetland– an area of international importance and once Asia’s largest freshwater lake.
  • The project was started on the basis of a 2007 report by Wetlands International South-Asia, a non-profit organization that works to sustain and restore wetlands.
  • The largest freshwater lake in Jammu and Kashmir, Wular has considerably shrunk over the past eight decades.
  • Officials records show that 27 sq m of the lake has silted up and turned into a landmass.
  • In the 1980s, the central government proposed to dam the water by constructing Wular barrage.
    • The project, however, was shelved after a rise in militancy in the state.
  • In its 2007 report, Wetlands International had suggested removing all trees from inside the lake boundary.
    • Most trees to be cut, fall in Ningli forest range.
    • Ningli plantation, currently occupying 27.30 sq km, needs to be removed for enhancement of water holding capacity.
    • The removal would help the enhancement of water level by at least one meter, which is critical to the restoration of biodiversity.
  • Possible impact: 
    • The Wildlife Trust of India report says that on average, 33 kg of carbon dioxide is trapped by each tree annually, making it over 72,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide by 21.84 lakh trees.
    • If they are cut, carbon would be added to the atmosphere.
  • Suggestions:
    • WUCMA officials cite a draft study by Kashmir University on the impact assessment of Wular restoration as a green signal for felling trees, experts caution that proper studies should be conducted in this regard.
    • Wildlife Trust of India, while recommending the cutting of trees, has called for proper studies to assess the impact.

Plastic Roads for a sustainable Future:

Relevance: Environment degradation, Conservation, Sustainable Development, Climate Change

  • India generates nearly 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day, making it the 15th biggest plastic polluter globally.
  • Discarded plastic waste litter the country's roads, rivers and also form huge mounds in garbage dumps across the country.
  • Plastic Waste in different forms is found to be almost 9% to 12% in municipal solid waste, which is toxic in nature.
  • Non‐biodegradability of plastic in the environment has created numerous challenges for both urban and rural India.
  • Common problems are choking of drains, stagnation of water, the release of toxic gases upon open incineration.
  • Research experiments in the public and private sector have been undertaken to address the growing environmental challenge. 
  • One of the solutions proposed by experts was to utilize waste environmental plastic in road construction. 
  • Road construction projects were pioneered in the state of Tamil Nadu followed by Karnataka as early as 2001.
    • Both states have made significant progress since in rural and urban roads respectively.
    • Other states such as Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Jharkhand, Delhi, and Maharashtra have demonstrated projects in other states as well.
  • A 40-km pilot project of road network made with 50 tonnes of plastic waste has taken shape within Reliance Industries Ltd.’s (RIL) Nagothane township.
  • Under its sustainability initiative, plastics used by RIL in the construction include:
    1. end-of-life post-consumer plastics, such as multi-layer films used for packaging of wafers, snacks,
    2. flimsy polyethylene plastic bags,
    3. flexible polyethylene packaging materials used by e-commerce companies,
    4. garbage bags cling wraps and other flexible plastic products collected from within the township and surrounding areas.
  • Benefits: 
    1. Enhanced its durability and strength.
    2. Superior bonding among aggregates,
    3. Lower seepage of water, 
    4. Lesser erosion, and
    5. All this resulting in reduced abrasion of tires.
    6. Cost-effective- The cost of a kilometer of a road with plastic- 3.5 m wide, 5 cm topping- costs ₹1 lakh less to make as compared to a conventional bitumin-only road.
  • Way Ahead:
    • One of the major challenges in the business is the collection of such plastic.
    • The extended producer responsibility or EPR, to make the polluter pay, is touted as the way forward.
    • A robust collection system of such plastic will ensure that even types of plastic that do not fetch waste pickers much money, because they cannot be recycled, are put to use for making roads.

Crocodile population on the rise in Odisha’s Ghodahada reservoir:

Relevance: Environment Conservation, Community Conservation.

  • 21 mugger crocodiles live in ten village ponds adjoining Ghodahada reservoir of Odisha’s Ganjam district that houses 44 of these reptiles.
  • This example of the peaceful coexistence of humans and crocodiles in the Digapahandi forest range under the Berhampur forest division was revealed during the annual crocodile census conducted in the region.
  • As per the census, the number of mature crocodiles in the Ghodahada reservoir and its adjoining area has increased from 58 in January 2019 to 65 in 2020. In 2018, their number was 45. 
  • In 2019, there were 43 muggers in the reservoir, while 15 were living in the nearby village ponds.
  • As per the locals and forest officials, in the British era, the area zamindar had kept some crocodiles in the Ujaleswar temple tank.
  • The crocodiles of the Ghodahada reservoir and its adjoining village ponds have never harmed any villagers or domestic animals.
  • According to zoologists, muggers are less ferocious than other crocodile breeds and they seem to be satisfied with fish in the reservoir and its adjoining ponds.
  • Villagers are fishermen and involved in pisciculture in the reservoir and conservation of crocodiles.
  • Significance:
    • The villages around the Ghodahada reservoir present a good example of the peaceful coexistence of man and wild species as well as community conservation. 
  • The mugger crocodile also called the Indian crocodile, or marsh crocodile is found throughout the Indian subcontinent.
  • It is listed as vulnerable by IUCN.
  • The mugger is mainly a freshwater species and found in lakes, rivers, and marshes.


Permafrost thawing is contributing to Climate Change:

Relevance: Environment degradation, Conservation, Sustainable Development, Climate Change

  • Permafrost is any ground that remains completely frozen- 32°F (0°C) or colder- for at least two years straight.
  • These permanently frozen grounds are most common in regions with high mountains and in Earth’s higher latitudes- near the North and South Poles.
  • Permafrost covers large regions of the Earth. Almost a quarter of the land area in the Northern Hemisphere has permafrost underneath.
  • Although the ground is frozen, permafrost regions are not always covered in snow.
  • Permafrost is made of a combination of soil, rocks, and sand that are held together by ice. The soil and ice in permafrost stay frozen all year long.
    • Near the surface, permafrost soils also contain large quantities of organic carbon- a material leftover from dead plants that couldn’t decompose, or rot away, due to the cold.
    • Lower permafrost layers contain soils made mostly of minerals.
    • A layer of soil on top, called the Active layer of permafrost, does not stay frozen all year and thaws during the warm summer months and freezes again in the fall.
  • For tens of thousands of years, permafrost has kept 1,460 to 1,600 gigatons (a gigaton is a billion metric tons) of organic matter trapped in the soil.
    • That’s more than double the amount of carbon currently in the atmosphere.
    • It’s been slowly building, as plants that manage to grow in the uppermost layers of Arctic soil during the summer are frozen hard and buried in the long, dark winter.
    • Some of this carbon has been frozen for thousands of years.
  • Climate Change Effects on Permafrost:
    • As Earth’s climate warms, the permafrost is thawing. That means the ice inside the permafrost melts, leaving behind water and soil.
    • Thawing permafrost can have dramatic impacts on our planet and the things living on it. For example:
      1. Many northern villages are built on permafrost. When permafrost is frozen, it’s harder than concrete. However, thawing permafrost can destroy houses, roads, and other infrastructure.
      2. When permafrost is frozen, the plant material in the soil- called organic carbon-can’t decompose, or rot away.
        As permafrost thaws, microbes begin decomposing this material.
        This process releases greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. The release of greenhouse gases from thawed permafrost to the atmosphere increases global warming.
      3. When permafrost thaws, so do ancient bacteria and viruses in the ice and soil. These newly-unfrozen microbes could make humans and animals very sick. Scientists have discovered microbes more than 400,000 years old in thawed permafrost.



Modified kilns protect potters from toxic fumes: 

Relevance: Issues related to health, Indian Society, initiatives for vulnerable sections of the society.

  • Potters belonging to the Prajapat clan in Rajasthan's Bharatpur district have traditionally been fabricating kilns of mud and clay and using tudi, made of vestiges of mustard crop, as fuel for heating these furnaces.
  • The round-shaped kilns produce smoke and fumes in huge quantity as well as high flames caused by baking of earthen pots.
  • A technical intervention in the fabrication of pottery kilns has come to the aid of this ‘Kumhar’ (potter) community by ensuring protection against toxic fumes, consumption of a lesser amount of fuel and high production of earthen pots and utensils.
  • Bharatpur-based Lupin Foundation has taken an initiative for improvement in conventional kilns with the assistance of the Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG) at the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi.
    • The RuTAG takes up a modification of existing technology and redesigns gadgets for adoption by the users at the grassroots
  • The modified furnace has been installed in the Unch village of Nadbai tehsil.
  • The masonry method of “rat trap construction” was used for the fabrication of kilns, in which the bricks were placed in a vertical position instead of the conventional horizontal order, creating hollow space within the wall.
  • Significance:
    • The insulation created in this manner traps heat in the furnace and reduces fuel consumption by 60%.
    • The results are very encouraging and will go a long way in ensuring the protection of potters against toxic flumes.
Science and Technology

Telangana State Election Commission successfully tests facial recognition technique:

Relevance: Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

  • The Telangana State Election Commission successfully tested the facial recognition application for voter verification at polling stations using real-time authentication capabilities.
  • The application using the latest technologies like artificial intelligence, big data, and machine learning was uploaded in mobile phones and tested in 10 polling stations for urban local body elections in Kompally Municipality.
  • Testing of the application became necessary in view of the cases of impersonation in the voting process, as could be seen from the request for tendered votes coming up with every passing election.
  • An analysis of the tendered votes during the previous elections to the local bodies revealed that there was a violation in the voting procedure leading to the conduct of re-poll in these areas.
  • The Commission said there was a likelihood of more impersonation cases but they did not come to the notice of the SEC.
  • In view of this, it was decided to test the application on a pilot basis in some of the polling stations.
  • Significance:
    • The application was only an additional aid to personnel on election duties and not in lieu of the existing identification systems.
    • The use of the latest technologies will provide real-time authentication which will help in reducing the cases of impersonation in the voting procedure. 



Turmeric boost for Swabhiman Anchal: 

Relevance: Transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.

  • In a bid to boost turmeric production in Swabhiman Anchal and to weed out illegal Marijuana cultivation in the region, the Malkangiri administration has come out with a plan to bring more areas under cultivation of the organic turmeric and scientific training of farmers.
  • The Malkangiri district administration has initiated a project to dissuade the region’s tribals from illegal ganja cultivation by promoting organic turmeric as a profitable cash crop.
  • Lack of communication and poverty were the reasons behind illegal ganja cultivation.
  • Drug mafias from outside are alleged to be financing ganja plantations in the area. Ganja also provides some easy money.
  • Apart from this, in the absence of marketing facilities the existing turmeric farmers, often end up selling their produce at a price much below the minimum support price of Rs 60 per kg.
  • Turmeric farmers face distress sale as they have to sell the produce at Rs 30 or Rs 35 per kg to middlemen.
  • The administration with help of Horticulture wing is planning to train farmers of the area in scientific ways to improve turmeric yield and provide them the rhizomes free of cost.
  • For drying and processing the rhizomes, a processing unit and cold storage would be set and women SHGs will be engaged for trading turmeric to avoid distress sale.
  • Like coffee of Koraput and turmeric of Kandhamal, steps will be taken to market Malkangiri’s turmeric online through the Tribal Development Co-operative Corporation of Odisha Ltd.
  • Terming soil in the region as most fertile and suitable for turmeric production.
  • Currently, of the nine panchayats in Swabhiman Anchal, turmeric is grown in three panchayats of Badpada, Dhuliput, and Papermetla.
  • Significance:
    • With the help of the district administration, farmers will be able to give up Marijuana cultivation and increase turmeric yield through scientific methods and sell it with profits.
    • This will pave the way for increased farmers' income.


Art & Culture

INTACH efforts to protect Buddhist site bear fruit:

Relevance: Architecture from ancient to modern times, Heritage Conservation

  • The famous Bojjannakonda and Lingalametta are the twin Buddhist monasteries dating back to the 3rd century BC in Sankram Village of Vishakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh.
  • These sites have seen three forms of Buddhism:
    1. The Theravada period when Lord Buddha was considered a teacher,
    2. The Mahayana, where Buddhism was more devotional, and
    3. The Vajrayana, where Buddhist tradition was more practiced as Tantra and esoteric form.
  • The name Sankaram is derived from the term, ‘Sangharama’.
    • It is famous for a whole lot of votive stupas, rock-cut caves, brick-built structural edifices, early historic pottery and Satavahana coins that date back to the 1st century AD.
    • At Bojjannakonda, the main stupa was carved out of rock and then covered with bricks, where one can see a number of images of the Buddha sculpted on the rock face all over the hill.
    • At the nearby Lingalametta, one can see hundreds of rock-cut monolithic stupas in rows.
    • Tourists visit the Buddhist sites in large numbers to see the relic casket, the three Chaitya Halls, the votive platforms, the stupas, and the Vajrayana sculpture.
    • Visakhapatnam is famous for Buddhist sites at Thotlakonda, Appikonda, and Bavikonda too.
  • The villagers, as a part of the ancient ritual, used to pelt stones at a belly-shaped object at Bojjannakonda, believing it to be a part of a demon,  on the Kanuma day during Sankranti.
  • However, following the intervention of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the practice has almost been done away with.
  • After a sustained awareness campaign, heritage lovers and officials have been successful in almost stopping the stone-pelting ritual at Bojjannakonda.
  • Significance:
    • Vandalism, or defacing of any order like removing bricks and throwing stones at the heritage site, is highly condemnable as it destroys the centuries-old heritage treasures.
    • All the Buddhist sites in the region need conservation and promotion as north Andhra is home to several relics and monasteries.
    • Such campaigns for creating awareness among the locals will go in a long way in Heritage Conservation

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