Here is the list of some important case studies from October 2020 that can be quoted/used in UPSC CSE Mains answers/essays.
Environment & Ecology, Disaster Management
The movement to Save Aarey
Relevance: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
- Aarey has been at the centre of a storm since October last year, after the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) decided to construct a car shed for the Rs 32,000 crore underground Colaba-Bandra-Seepz Metro corridor, and cleared the site of over 2,000 trees, leading to a public outcry.
- Hundreds of tribals, activists, environmentalists and supporters of Save Aarey movement were jubilant after Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced the decision to shift the controversial Metro Car Shed from Aarey in western suburbs of Mumbai to Kanjurmarg in the eastern suburbs.
- It was a victory of their relentless efforts to save the jungle in the heart of the country's financial capital.
- The CM had also announced the reservation of 600 acres of Aarey land near Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) as forest.
What is a reserve forest?
How is it different from protected forests?
What is the process of earmarking the land as a forest?
- Aarey Forest (also known as Aarey Milk Colony and Aarey Colony) is an urban, unclassed and degraded forest which is within the eco-sensitive zone of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).
- It acts as a buffer between SGNP and the city.
- It is classified as mixed moist deciduous type forest.
- The Aarey Milk Colony, spread over 3,162 acres, was established in 1949 as a centre for processing and marketing milk for Mumbai and adjoining areas.
- Over the last 70 years, this sprawling green area has been steadily eaten away at its edges – and 1,282 acres were acquired by the state for projects such as Film City.
- There are about 290 species of wildlife in Aarey Forest including 5 such species of animals which feature in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These vulnerable animals include leopards, Rusty-spotted cat, Sambar deer, Alexandrine Parakeet and Red-wattled Lapwing.
Tribals in Aarey Colony
- Surrounded by the Aarey forest, the colony is home to nearly 8,000 men, women and children belonging to the tribal communities of Maharashtra.
- People from the Warli, Kokna, Mallar Koli, Katkari and several other indigenous tribes residing in the Aarey Colony strive to keep their traditions, cuisine and culture alive, amid the encroaching urbanisation.
- They grow paddy, some vegetables and fruits like banana, guava, jackfruit, mango, Sapodilla (Chikoo) etc.
- Famous Worli paintings are also a tradition among some tribals.
- Vagh Baras (which celebrates the power of tiger), and Gaon Devi puja (the Goddess of villages) are some of their main festivities.
- They have suffered on account of basic amenities not provided by the government and also the rapid degradation of the forest and drive to displace tribals has impacted their sustainable lifestyle and means of livelihood.
Development vs Conservation
- It is not just the case of Aarey, natural forests across India have been subjected to large-scale species conversion over past several decades.
- Vast stretches in the Himalayan foothills have been converted to conifer monoculture, with species such as pines and cedars proliferating, during the colonial rule.
- It is a myth that forests grow by themselves. The role of indigenous communities in maintaining natural forests and protecting them has become only too obvious.
- Nature makes human development possible but our relentless demand for the Earth’s resources is accelerating extinction rates and devastating the world’s ecosystems.
- In response to a growing population- projected by the UN to reach 9.8 billion by 2050-intensive agriculture, overfishing, energy production and the extraction of raw materials have “significantly altered” three-quarters of Earth’s land and over half of the oceans.
- Governance, including customary institutions and management systems involving indigenous peoples and local communities, can be an effective way to safeguard nature and its contributions to people.
Sponge City Concept of China
Relevance: Conservation, environment restoration practices, climate-resilient infrastructure etc.
Many urban cities have experienced heavy rainfall and flooding in India during this monsoon. Major causes are rapid urbanization, lack of planning, poor sewer management and concrete structures which are impermeable. Sponge city is a concept which has been discussed as one of the solutions for urban flood management.
What is a Sponge City?
- Various problems such as urban flood inundation and water shortage occurred in China during the rapid urbanization in the last several decades.
- An urban water management program called Sponge City (SPC) is put forward in China in 2014 in order to relieve the flood inundation and water shortage situation.
- SPC development promotes low impact development, water security, water environmental protection, and water ecological restoration.
- The Sponge City indicates a particular type of city that does not act like an impermeable system not allowing any water to filter through the ground, but, more like a sponge, actually absorbs the rainwater, which is then naturally filtered by the soil and allowed to reach into the urban aquifers.
- This allows for the extraction of water from the ground through urban or peri-urban wells. This water can be easily treated and used for the city water supply.
A sponge city will include:
- Contiguous open green spaces, interconnected waterways, channels and ponds across neighbourhoods that can naturally detain and filter water as well as foster urban ecosystems, boost biodiversity and create cultural and recreational opportunities.
- Green roofs that can retain rainwater and naturally filters it before it is recycled or released into the ground.
- Porous design interventions across the city, including:
- the construction of bio-swales and bio-retention systems to detain run-off and allow for groundwater infiltration;
- porous roads and pavements that can safely accommodate car and pedestrian traffic while allowing water to be absorbed, permeate and recharge groundwater;
- drainage systems that allow trickling of water into the ground or that direct stormwater run-off into green spaces for natural absorption.
- Water savings and recycling, including extending water recycling particularly of grey water at the building block level, incentivizing consumers to save water through increased tariffs for an increase in consumption, raising awareness campaigns, and improved smart monitoring systems to identify leakages and inefficient use of water.
Key issues the Sponge City concept can solve-
- Less water availability in urban and peri-urban areas.
- Polluted water discharged into rivers or the sea.
- Degradation of urban ecosystems and green areas due to sprawling.
- Increase in the intensity and frequency of urban flooding particularly considering the predicted increase in extreme weather events due to climate change.
Benefits of a Sponge City:
- More clean water for the city. Greater accessibility to water resources for cities allows them to increasingly rely on water sources from within their boundaries
- Cleaner groundwater due to the increased volume of naturally filtered stormwater. Thus lower environmental and health costs.
- Reduction in flood risk, greater ability to deal with higher flood risks resulting from climate change.
- Enriched biodiversity around green open spaces, wetlands, urban gardens and green rooftops.
- Lower burdens on drainage systems, water treatment plant, artificial channels and natural streams. This also entails lower costs for drainage and treatment infrastructure
- Greener, healthier, more enjoyable urban spaces. Increase in land value due to aesthetically more pleasing, cleaner and healthier open spaces close to private properties.
Learning from past mistakes: It’s time to save urban rivers
Relevance: Conservation, environment restoration practices, climate-resilient infrastructure etc.
The worrying state of rivers:
- The river passing through a city offers many ecosystem services. It serves as a source of water supply and helps in balancing flood control and landscape ecology.
- Urban riverfronts particularly provide a space for a city to reduce the risks of climate change such as heat island effect and flash floods. They simultaneously provide greater health, space for social cohesion and socio-economic benefits to citizens.
- And yet, rivers are constantly polluted, moulded, abused and face grave environmental degradation due to urbanisation. Throughout a river’s course, anthropogenic activities have an adverse impact on the river’s watershed.
- As a result, an urban river becomes a stretch where the function of that water resource is altered from its natural state.
- Accelerated transformation of ‘urban riverfront development’ has been pushed along the riverbanks in the last few decades.
- The Sabarmati river channel, for example, has been uniformly narrowed to 275 metres during the riverfront development project, when naturally average width of the channel was 382 metres and the narrowest cross-section was 330 metres.
- These projects also often ignore treating the sewage flows into the river through the natural drains and tributaries in the watershed.
- Moreover, many such projects are pushed without any kind of social and environmental impact assessment and data or facts are dodged for environmental clearance.
What could be done?
- The riverfront development should involve the community to be the key agents for action.
- For example, youngsters come together to clean the Mithi river in Mumbai every weekend. In Tamil Nadu, a local non-profit Clean Conoor organises clean-up drive for river Conoor.
- It is critical to acknowledge the river’s flow regime, morphology and scale and align it with characteristics of local urban form.
- The optimal land-use planning for the riverfront areas by adding green spaces along the river edges is most suitable for balancing the river environment.
- Development and conservation need to go hand-in-hand where water and vegetation are seen together to shift from ‘hard’ to ‘soft’ engineering approaches.
- For example, the Yamuna biodiversity park located on Yamuna riverfront was developed by DDA with the technical help of the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems (CEMDE), University of Delhi.
- It serves as an alternative habitat for migratory and resident bird species.
- It was also designed to conserve wild genetic resources of agricultural crops, enhance groundwater recharge and augment freshwater availability.
- Riparian zones are as valuable as the river course itself. Hence, regulation and riparian limits should be framed.
- The encroachments inside the river channels and river beds should be checked and riparian fringes are fully protected along with strict and transparent social and environmental impact assessments.
- Yodogawa riverside development in Osaka, Japan, and Room for the Rivers Programme in The Netherlands are the two case examples to refer to for successful models of riverfront development and other interventions at a decentralised level.
Lessons from 2018 floods: Kerala shows the way forward by adopting tested techniques of developed countries in flood mitigation and management.
Relevance: GS III- Disaster and Disaster Management
- Floods, landslides, and landslips following torrential rains have affected Kerala for the third consecutive year. Though the number of people affected due to flood is less compared to 2018 and 2019, landslides and landslips were very rampant in high-range areas of the state.
- Thus Kerala is looking at multiple methods to contain floods, as the scenario here may demand a hybrid strategy combining different approaches.
- After the 2018 floods, flood-resistant buildings have become familiar in the state. The state government has also started building flood-resistant houses in flood-prone areas under the Life Mission.
- Houses that are built on pilings or pillars are very common on the banks of water bodies and low-lying areas in developed countries.
- The Netherlands, the pioneers in building flood-proof houses, has houses on raised platforms-floating homes, which rise and fall with the water levels, and amphibious homes that sit on dry land but float when water encroaches. This Dutch model of flood control has inspired the state and its rebuilding project.
- One of the main reasons for the 2018 floods in these areas was the blockage in the flow of water from the Pamba river through the thodukal (canals) in the area. These canals have been nature’s own drainage system for draining rainwater from the land into the rivers and in between rivers.
- Siltation of canals and drains, particularly post-flood, and disposal of solid waste into rivers affecting their carrying capacity, thereby increasing the likelihood of floods, has been highlighted by the state government’s policy document on the Rebuild Kerala Initiative.
- The state has introduced ‘Room for Pampa’, a flood-mitigation concept that had successfully been demonstrated by the Netherlands (‘Room for the River’). Under this concept, flooding water is given more room to flow and thus, the flooding can be controlled.
- More 'room' for rivers can be provided by:
- moving the dykes out or strengthen them,
- deepening the water beds (so the water flows into the depth),
- removing obstacles that block the river flow,
- creating water storage structures and so on.
- It will be implemented through the Rebuild Kerala Initiative.
- According to Irrigation Department officials, this concept will be practical only in a few locations in the State such as Kuttanad.
- The Irrigation Department had announced plans to construct a number of flood-control dams in major river basins including Periyar, Chaliyar and Chalakkudy. Initially, five dams have been planned.
Crime against Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes saw a rise of 7% and 26% in 2019: NCRB
Relevance: Salient features of Indian Society
- There is an increase in crimes against the Scheduled Castes (SCs) of over 7% and 26% for the Scheduled Tribes (STs) in 2019 compared with the 2018 figures.
- Increase of 1.6% in the registration of cases over 2018.
- Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of crimes against the SCs in 2019, followed by Rajasthan and Bihar.
- Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of cases against STs, followed by Rajasthan, and Odisha.
- In the number of cases of rape of women belonging to the SCs, Rajasthan topped the list followed by Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
- Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of cases against the STs, followed by Rajasthan and Odisha.
- The highest number of incidents of rape of tribal women was registered in Madhya Pradesh.
- Pendency of cases across India in which the marginalised caste was the victim was nearly 94%.
Overall crimes against women:
- A total of 4,05,861 cases of crime against women were registered in 2019 compared to 3,78,236 cases in 2018, showing an increase of 7.3%.
- Increased by 63.5% in 2019. Out of this, 60.4% of cybercrime cases registered were for the motive of fraud, followed by sexual exploitation, with 5.1%.
Good conduct is key to early release: SC
Context: A Three judge bench of Supreme Court has held that the length of a prison sentence or the gravity of the crime cannot be the sole basis for denying a convict premature release from jail.
Relevance: Recent judgements, prison reforms etc.
- The judgment came in a plea made by two prisoners who have been imprisoned for a botched kidnapping for ransom case in Uttar Pradesh.
- They are in their early middle age with a record of good conduct in jail.
- The court held that “their action of kidnapping was nothing but a fanciful attempt to procure easy money, for which they have learnt a painful life lesson” and ordered their release.
- The three-judge bench held that an assessment of the tendency to commit a crime upon release “must be based on antecedents as well as the conduct of the prisoner while in jail, and not merely on his age or apprehensions of the victims and witnesses”.
- Reformative justice should not merely focus on public harmony but should foster brotherhood and mutual acceptability.
- First-time offenders should especially be given a second chance at life allowing them to look forward to a bright future.
What is Reformative or Restorative Justice?
- It is generally the most appreciated theory of punishment as it believes in the concept that the object is to extinct crime and not the criminal.
- It believes that nobody is born as a criminal and it is only the consequences of those circumstances which were around the offender/criminal.
Science and Technology
PUSA Decomposter: A solution for stubble burning
Relevance: Science and technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life, Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
The menace of stubble burning:
- The burning of paddy stubble left in the fields after harvest has been a cause of concern for the past several years as it contributes to air pollution in the northern Gangetic plains and its already polluted cities like Delhi.
- Satellite remote sensing data from the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) show a five-fold increase in the number of farm fires in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh during the first six days of October compared to the corresponding dates in 2019.
- Several solutions have been proposed over the years to tackle the issue.
- The most recent one can be a game-changer if found successful- the ‘Pusa Decomposer’ capsule developed by IARI.
- IARI has developed 'decomposer' capsules, which when mixed in a water solution and sprayed on land, gets to work on paddy stubble, softening and decomposing it to the extent it can mix with soil and act as compost.
- It is a fungi-based liquid solution that can soften hard stubble to the extent that it can be easily mixed with soil in the field to act as compost.
- This would rule out the need to burn the stubble, and also help in retaining the essential microbes and nutrients in the soil that are otherwise damaged when the residue is burned.
- The technology is inexpensive. The whole process- from development, transport and spraying of decomposer costs very less.