SPR 2022 | Environment Current Affairs Compilation for Prelims 2022

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Table of Contents

Species in news:

  • Kangaroo

    • Kangaroos are marsupials, meaning that they give birth to undeveloped babies after approximately 30 days.
    • They are very social and live in mobs of up to 50 individuals.
    • They have very powerful hind legs, helping them to hop at high speeds. They also use their strong tail to help them balance. 
    • These species are native to Australia and listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
  • Ganoderma lucidum

    • The mushroom is shiny red-brown in colour and naturally grows on wood.
    • It is a medicinal mushroom in use for centuries to heal diseases like diabetes, cancer, inflammation, and ulcer as well as bacterial and skin infections. 
    • They have earned nicknames such as mushroom of immortality, celestial herb and auspicious herb. It is also known globally as the red reishi mushroom.
  • Indian Tent Turtle

    • This species is native to India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Its habitats include stagnant water pools along the river and slow-flowing water along the river.
    • Due to the attractive appearance of the species, they are traded illegally in the pet market.
    • It is listed as the least concern in the IUCN Red List and Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
  • Mugger Crocodile

    • It is a medium-sized broad-snouted crocodile, also known as mugger and marsh crocodile. 
    • It is native to freshwater habitats from southern Iran to the Indian subcontinent.
    • It is listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List and Schedules I in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
    • Major threats are habitat destruction, fragmentation, fishing activities and the use of crocodile parts for medicinal purposes

Ladakh’s plan to save its wolves

  • Context:
    • Over the past couple of years, village communities in Ladakh have been building Stupas next to traditional wolf traps, committing to stop killing wolves.
  • Concept:
    • Shangdong is a traditional trapping pit with inverted funnel-shaped stone walls, usually built near villages or herder camps. Typically, a live domestic animal is placed in the pit to attract the wolves. Once the wolves jump into the pit, the walls prevent them from escaping. The trapped wolves are usually stoned to death.
    • Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) provided support to the neutralisation of the Shandong while preserving their structure, and assisted the communities to build Stupas.
  • About Wolves:
    • Out of 32 sub-species of wolves that are recognised, two are believed to inhabit the Indian subcontinent: the Tibetan Wolf, whose range extends from trans-Himalaya into Tibet and China, and the Indian wolf that ranges over peninsular India (Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh)
    • Indian wolf, which we know numbers around 3,000, while Tibetan wolf is estimated of around 500
    • Both sub-species are critically endangered
    • Placed under Schedule I animal in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
    • There are no conservation projects launched by the Government for wolves.

Northern River Terrapin

  • Context:
    • Recently, GPS transmitters on Northern River Terrapin in Indian Sundarbans were installed.
    • The objective of the initiative was to ascertain the habitat, breeding pattern and movement of the species.
    • After installation, at least three of the ten individuals of the critically endangered Northern River Terrapin have travelled hundreds of kilometres and are now in Bangladesh.
  • Northern river terrapin
    • It is found in India and Bangladesh (Sundarbans), Myanmar, Malaysia (peninsular), Indonesia (Sumatra), Thailand, and Cambodia.
    • It lives in coastal mangrove estuaries and creeks, but ventures far upstream during the breeding season.
    • Threats:
      • Hunting and harvesting of eggs.
      • Pollution and loss of habitat
      • Drowning by illegal fishing nets.
      • Siltation and sedimentation due to watershed activities such as logging.
      • IUCN: Critically endangered
      • CITES: Appendix I.

Poisoning of Himalayan griffons vultures

  • Context:
    • At least 100 vultures — all Himalayan griffons — died of suspected poisoning in Assam.
    • Such incidents have been happening for many years.
  • Himalayan griffon
    • The Himalayan vulture (Gyps himalayensis) or Himalayan griffon vulture is an Old World vulture native to the Himalayas and the adjoining Tibetan Plateau.
    • Old World vultures are vultures that are found in the Old World, i.e. the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa.
    • They belong to the family Accipitridae, which also includes eagles, buzzards, kites, and hawks
    • It is one of the two largest Old World vultures and true raptors. 
    • It is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.
    • A study by the Bombay Natural History Society and other organizations in the 1990s found that the population of the Gyps group in India and Nepal declined from about 40 million to 99.9% in just two decades.
    • Himalayan griffon, white-backed and slender-billed is among its members.

Indian Rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia)

  • Context:
    • Recently, there was news of rosewood smuggling in Wayanad, Kerala.
  • About:
    • It is a premier timber species.
    • It is native to low-elevation tropical monsoon forests of southeast India.
    • Deep taproots and long lateral roots.
    • Species latifolia is from the Latin word latiflorus, which means with broad leaves.
    • The tree grows to 40 meters in height and is evergreen, but locally deciduous in drier subpopulations.
    • However, it takes long years for the tree to attain a commendable height.
    • It takes 240 years for a tree to attain a diameter of 220-250 cm and a height of 30-35 meters.
    • Due to its slow growth, growing trees for timber is not an attractive option.
    • Hence, the Kerala Restriction on Cutting and Destruction of Valuable Trees Rules, 1974, does not allow the cutting of rosewood that has not attained a girth at breast height (GBH) of 2.5 meters.
    • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has included it in the Red List of Threatened Species in 1998 (Vulnerable).
    • Overexploitation, low germination percentage of seeds in natural conditions, and the slow growth rate have led to a dwindling population of rosewood in forest areas.
  • Reason for smuggling:
    • Peculiar grain pattern
    • High demand
    • Fancy price owing to low availability
    • Restrictions on felling
    • Limited distribution.

Gharial

  • Context:
    • After 45 yrs of waiting, Odisha welcomes the first hatchlings.
  • Efforts of Odisha:
    • For the first time since they were introduced in its rivers back in 1975, Odisha has seen the natural nesting of gharials.
    • With the introduction of gharials in 1975, Odisha had become the only state to have all three species of the reptile —freshwater gharials, muggers and saltwater crocodiles.
  • About Gharials:
    • The gharial is also known as the gavial or the fish-eating crocodile.
    • The gharial is well adapted to catching fish because of its long, thin snout and 110 sharp, interlocking teeth.
    • It is among the longest of all living crocodilians.
    • Natural Habitat: Freshwaters of the northern part of India.
    • Primary Habitat: 
      • Chambal river.
      • The National Chambal Sanctuary is located along river Chambal on the tri-junction of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.
      • It is known for critically endangered gharials, the red-crowned roof turtle, and the endangered Ganges river dolphin.
    • Secondary Habitat:
      • Ghaghra and Gandak river, Girwa river (Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh), the Ramganga river in Jim Corbett National Park and the Sone river.
    • Significance: The population of Gharials is a good indicator of clean river water.
      • Status:
        • Gharials are critically endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Species.
        • Listed under Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
        • Listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
    • Threats:
      • Gharials prefer sandbanks as suitable habitats.
      • Wild animals, as well as humans, often destroy their eggs.
      • Increased river pollution, dam construction, massive-scale fishing operations, and floods.
      • Illegal sand mining and poaching.

Tasmanian devils

  • Context:
    • For the first time in 3,000 years, at least seven Tasmanian devils have been born in the wild in mainland Australia.
  • Importance:
    • Tasmanian devils are predatory animals but feast on carrion left behind by other animals and roadkill.
    • As scavengers “they help keep ecosystems clean and free of diseases that sprout up in decaying corpses”.
    • Also, they may be able to keep pests such as mice and feral cats under control.
  • Distribution:
    • Though they are called Tasmanian devils, these marsupials were once found widely in mainland Australia too.
    • Early human settlers in Australia introduced canines, which outcompeted the marsupials.
    • About 3,000 years ago, the latter were wiped off the mainland.
    • Since then Tasmania has been the only place where the Tasmanian devils have lived in the wild.
  • Threats:
    • Due to several factors, including loss of habitat, accidents, and attacks by dogs and foxes, their population has been dwindling.
    • Further, the devil facial tumor disease, contagious cancer found only in these animals, has been killing adults in recent years.
    • The disease has been so severe that the creatures are facing extinction – prompting action to bring back a population to mainland Australia.
  • Why is this great news?
    • The reintroduction of species in the wild has always been fraught with risk, including disease, predator attack, and lack of survival skills.
    • However, in this case, the captive animals released into the wild seem to have adjusted well to their surroundings, as is evident from the fact that they have given birth to young ones.
    • Now a whole generation of Tasmanian devils has the potential to grow in the wild in a region where devil facial tumor disease does not exist.

Saiga Antelope

  • Context:
    • The Saiga Antelope has been a critically endangered species since 2018.
    • But the antelope species is making a comeback.
  • About:
    • The Saiga is known for its distinctive bulbous nose.
    • IUCN deems the Saiga to be among five critically endangered antelope species.
  • Distribution:
    • During antiquity, it inhabited a vast area of the Eurasian steppe.
    • Today, they are only found in some parts of Russia and Kazakhstan.
    • Kazakhstan is home to a majority of the world's Saiga.
  • Decline and revival:
    • The population of the Saiga antelope has more than doubled in Kazakhstan since 2019.
    • This gives conservationists fresh hope for the animal's long-term survival as it suggests a continuing rebound after a massive die-off in 2015.
    • Around half the total global population of Saiga at the time were wiped out by what scientists later determined was a nasal bacterium that spread in unusually warm and humid conditions in 2015.
  • Major threats:
    • The threat of poaching is fuelled by the demand for the Saiga's horn in traditional Chinese medicine.
    • Climate change and the expansion of human activity through farming and infrastructure projects are other threats to Saiga.
    • Earlier this month the ecological ministry estimated that around 350 female saiga antelopes had been killed by lightning amid storms in the west of the country.

 

Great Indian Bustard (GIB)

  • Context:
    • Recently, the government has said there are no Great Indian Bustards in Kutch Bustard Sanctuary in Gujarat, a claim that has raised eyebrows among conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts.
  • Great Indian Bustards and their habitats:
    • GIBs are the largest among the four bustard species found in India, the other three being MacQueen’s bustard, lesser florican, and the Bengal florican.
    • GIBs’ historic range included much of the Indian sub-continent but it has now shrunken to just 10% of it.
    • Among the heaviest birds with flight, GIBs prefer grasslands as their habitats.
    • Being terrestrial birds, they spend most of their time on the ground with occasional flights to go from one part of their habitat to the other.
    • They feed on insects, lizards, grass seeds, etc.
    • GIBs are considered the flagship bird species of grassland and hence barometers of the health of grassland ecosystems.
    • Due to the species’ smaller population size, the IUCN has categorized GIBs as critically endangered, thus on the brink of extinction from the wild.
  • Threats
    • Overhead power transmission lines as the biggest threat to the GIBs.
    • Wildlife Institute of India (WII) research has concluded that in Rajasthan, 18 GIBs die every year after colliding with overhead powerlines as the birds, due to their poor frontal vision, can’t detect powerlines in time and their weight makes in-flight quick maneuvers difficult.
    • Change in the landscape by way of farmers cultivating their land, which otherwise used to remain fallow due to frequent droughts in Kutch, and cultivation of cotton and wheat instead of pulses and fodder are also cited as reasons for falling GIB numbers.
  • Conservation measures
    • In 2015, the Central government launched the GIB species recovery program.
    • Under the program, the WII and Rajasthan forest department have jointly set up conservation breeding centers where GIB eggs harvested from the wild are incubated artificially and hatchlings raised in a controlled environment.

Common palm civet/ Asian palm civet

  • Context:
    • Albino palm civet sighted in Odisha after 129 years in Satkosia Tiger Reserve.
    • A partial albino common palm civet was last sighted in 1891 in the state’s Kandhamal district.
  • About:
    • The common palm civet is a small mammal belonging to the family Viverridae.
    • It can be found in southern and southeastern Asia.
    • Their long, stocky body is covered with coarse, shaggy hair that is usually grey.
    • It is thought to lead a solitary lifestyle, except for brief periods during mating.
    • It is both terrestrial and arboreal and shows a nocturnal activity pattern with peaks between late evening and after midnight.
  • Albinism:
    • Albinism is a hypo-pigmentary disorder with a total lack of melanins in hair, eyes, and skin due to the heritable absence of functional tyrosinase enzyme in pigment cells affecting skin and hair.
    • This results in a total white plumage/fur with red eyes. 
    • Albinism is controlled via inheritance by an autosomal recessive gene in all animal species.
  • Satkosia tiger reserve:
    • It comprises two adjoining Sanctuaries of central Odisha named Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary and Baisipalli Sanctuary.
    • The vegetation of Satkosia largely conforms to north Indian moist deciduous forest, northern tropical dry deciduous forest, and moist peninsular low-level Sal.
    • The terrain is undulating.

Spinner dolphin

  • Context:
    • The carcass of a four-feet-long male Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) was washed ashore in Odisha’s port town of Paradip within the Bhitarkanika National Park on June 30, 2021, taking the number of marine animal deaths in the state within five months to six.
  • About:
    • Spinner dolphins are small cetaceans with a slim build.
    • Adults are typically 129–235 cm long and reach a body mass of 23–79 kg.
    • This species has an elongated rostrum and a triangular or sub-triangular dorsal fin.
    • The spinner dolphin is a rare mammal in Odisha as it is an offshore species and is found in deeper waters as part of large schools.
    • Dolphins were included in Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
    • They are also included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species.
    • They are categorized as ‘Endangered’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.
    • Some dolphins die each year after being mistakenly caught in trawling and other nets.

 

Pangolin

  • Context:
    • A pangolin was rescued by police after being spotted in the Behlopur area of Noida and handed over to the forest department.
  • About:
    • The pangolin, also called scaly anteater, is an elongated, armour-plated insectivore mammal.
    • It uses these scales as armour to defend itself against predators by rolling into a ball when threatened.
    • Also, a pangolin’s long claws help it to dig the ground for termites, which is its staple food.
  • Species of Pangolin:
    • Seven species of pangolin are found across the world, of which, two are found in India, namely the Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) and Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla).
    • The Indian Pangolin is found throughout the country south of the Himalayas, excluding the north-eastern region while the Chinese Pangolin ranges through Assam and the eastern Himalayas.
    • The Chinese pangolin is distinguished from other Asian pangolins by its almost helmeted appearance, smaller scales than the Indian pangolin.
  • Habitat:
    • It is adaptable to a wide range of habitats including primary and secondary tropical forests, limestone and bamboo forests, grasslands and agricultural fields.
  • Threats:
    • Once known to be found in large numbers, its population is rapidly declining in its range due to habitat loss and rampant poaching for its skin, scales, and meat.
    • It is a highly trafficked mammal; due to its huge demand for medicinal purposes, pangolins are smuggled through roads and rails and sent to China.
  • Protection Status:
    • As per International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the pangolin is part of the “red list”.
    • While the Indian pangolin is listed as “endangered” and the Chinese pangolin has been listed as “critically endangered”.
    • All pangolin species are listed in Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix I.
    • In India, pangolins, both Indian and Chinese, are protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
    • Therefore, hunting, trade or any other form of utilisation of the species or their body parts and derivatives is banned.
    • In India, hunting and poaching can invite prison time up to 7 years since it involves maximum protection under the section of the Wildlife Act.

Minervarya Pentali

  • Context:
    • Recently, a new frog species was discovered in the Western Ghats and named after former DU Vice-Chancellor and plant geneticist Deepak Pental.
  • About:
    • The new frog species named Minervarya Pentali belongs to the family of Dicroglossidae.
    • The family Dicroglossidae comprises 202 species of semiaquatic frogs distributed by the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and Asia and Papua New Guinea.
    • The family contains large-sized (e.g., genus Hoplobatrachus) and dwarf species, with a total length of about 30 mm (e.g., genus Nannophrys).
    • It was discovered from the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot, extending along the southwest coast of the Indian Peninsula.
    • This new species is endemic to the southern Western Ghats.
    • This species is also among the smallest known Minervarya (genus) frogs.

Swinhoe's softshell turtle

  • Context:
    • In recent years, a lot of efforts have been put by conservationists to save the world’s most endangered turtle, Swinhoe's softshell turtle from the brink of extinction.
  • About:
    • The animal is also known as the Hoan Kiem turtle or Yangtze giant softshell turtle.
    • In Vietnam, these animals have great cultural significance as people in Hanoi revere this creature as a living god.
      • Scientific Name: Rafetus swinhoei
    • These turtles are grey with light grey or yellow spots.
  • Significance:
    • Some researchers have highlighted their importance to the seafloor biosystem, where they contribute by enriching soil nutrients and facilitating seed dispersion.
  • Habitat:
    • The natural habitat for these turtles are wetlands and large lakes.
    • Native to China and Vietnam.
  • Protection Status:
    • IUCN Red List: Critically Endangered
    • CITES: Appendix II
  • Threats:
    • They have been driven to the brink by hunting for their meat and eggs, as well as by the destruction of their habitat.

Hornbills

  • Context: 
    • A study based on satellite data has shown a high rate of deforestation in a major hornbill habitat in Arunachal Pradesh. 
    • Satellite data revealed changes in forest cover of the 1,064 sq.km. Papum Reserve Forest (RF) adjoining Pakke Tiger Reserve and part of Assam is affected by illegal felling and ethnic conflict. 
  • About:
    • Papum RF is a nesting habitat of three species of the large, colorful fruit-eating hornbills: Great, Wreathed and Oriental Pied. 
    • The 862 sq.km. Pakke reserve houses a fourth species, the Rufous-Necked. 
  • Hornbills: 
    • India is home to nine species of hornbills: three of them, the wreathed hornbill (Aceros undulatus), the brown hornbill (Anorrhinus austeni) and the Rufous-necked hornbill (Aceros nipalensis) great hornbill is the state bird of Arunachal Pradesh and Kerala. India also has Narcondam Hornbill, found only on the island of Narcondam. 
    • Hornbill festival celebrated in Nagaland is named after the bird – Hornbill which is the most revered and admired bird for the Nagas. 
  • Do you know? 
    • Hornbills used to be hunted for their casques — upper beak — and feathers for headgear despite being cultural symbols of some ethnic communities in the northeast, specifically the Nyishi of Arunachal Pradesh.  
    • But a 20­ year-­old conservation programme entailing the use of fibre­glass beaks reduced the threat to the birds to a large extent. 
  • Hornbill species: 
    • 1. Great Hornbill:
      • IUCN Red List: Near threatened. 
      • Largest of all hornbills in India. 
      • Found in a few forest areas in Western Ghats and the forests along Himalayas. 
    • 2. Rufous-necked Hornbill:
      • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable 
      • Has Northern-most extent, ranging from North-eastern India to Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary in West Bengal. 
    • 3. Wreathed Hornbill:
      • IUCN Red List: Least Concern 
      • Found in forests from far North-eastern India. 
    • 4. NarcondamHornbill: 
      • IUCN Red List: Endangered 
      • Endemic to Indian island of Narcondam in Andamans. 
      • Smallest home range out of all species of Asian hornbills. 
    • 5. Malabar Pied Hornbill:
      • IUCN Red List: Near Threatened 
      • Common resident breeder in India and Sri Lanka. 
      • Habitat: Evergreen and moist deciduous forests often near human settlements. 
    • 6. Oriental Pied Hornbill:
      • IUCN Red List: Least Concern 
      • Largest distribution, found in the Indian Subcontinent and throughout Southeast Asia. 
      • Habitat: Subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. 
    • 7. White-throated Brown Hornbill:
      • IUCN Red List: Near Threatened 
      • Found in forests from North-eastern India. 
      • Common habitat: Namdapha National Park, Changlang District, Arunachal Pradesh. 
    • 8. Malabar Grey Hornbill:
      • IUCN Red List: Least Concern 
      • Common in the Western Ghats and associated hills of southern India. 
    • 9. Indian Grey Hornbill:
      • IUCN Red List: Least Concern 
      • Habitat: Mainly on the plains up to about 2000 feet, foothills of Himalayas southwards, bounded to the west by Indus system and to the east by Ganges Delta. 

Greater Adjutant Storks (Garuda)

  • Context:
    • Recently, Bihar has decided to tag greater adjutant storks locally known as ‘Garuda’ with GPS trackers to monitor their movement as part of efforts to conserve them.
  • About:
    • Scientific Name:
      • Leptoptilos dubius
    • Genus:
      • The greater adjutant is a member of the stork family, Ciconiidae.
      • There are about 20 species in the family.
      • They are long-necked large birds.
  • Habitat:
    • Once found across South and Southeast Asia, the Greater Adjutant is one of the most threatened stork species in the world.
    • There are only three known breeding grounds – one in Cambodia and two in India (Assam and Bihar).
  • Threat:
    • The widespread destruction and degradation of the wetlands that this scavenger bird needs to forage (i.e. search for food) and the loss of its nesting trees, led to a decline.
  • Protection Status:
    • IUCN Red List: Endangered
    • Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972: Schedule IV
  • Significance:
    • Religious Icon:
      • They are considered the mount of Vishnu, one of Hinduism’s prime deities.
      • Some worship the bird and call it “Garuda Maharaj” (Lord Garuda) or “Guru Garuda” (Great Teacher Garuda).
    • Helpful for Farmers:
      • They help farmers by killing rats and other farm pests.

Slender Loris

  • Context:
    • Recently, some environmentalists demanded that Tamil Nadu’s Kadavur Reserve Forest be declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary in order to conserve Slender Loris (Loris tardigradus).
    • The wildlife census conducted during 2016-17 showed an appreciable population of 3,500 slender loris in the Karur Reserve Forest.
  • About:
    • The slender lorises (Loris) are a genus of loris native to India and Sri Lanka.
    • Slender lorises spend most of their life in trees, traveling along the tops of branches with slow and precise movements.
    • They generally feed on insects, reptiles, plant shoots, and fruit.
  • Habitat:
    • They are found in tropical rainforests, scrub forests, semi-deciduous forests, and swamps.
  • Types:
    • There are two species of Slender Loris, the only members of the genus ‘Loris’:
      • Red Slender Loris (Loris tardigradus)
      • Grey Slender Loris (Loris lydekkerianus)
  • Threat:
    • It is believed that they have medicinal properties and they are captured and sold. Since there is great demand for keeping these animals as pets, they are illegally smuggled.
    • Habitat loss, electrocution of live wires and road accidents are other threats that have caused its populations to dwindle.
  • Protection Status:
    • IUCN: Endangered,
    • Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, 1972: Schedule I
    • CITES: Appendix II

Latham’s Snipe

  • Context:
    • Urban development continues to threaten Latham’s Snipe habitats as several snipe sites in eastern Australia are at risk from housing developments and large infrastructure projects.
    • Latham’s Snipe was formerly known as the Japanese Snipe.
  • About:
    • Characteristics:
      • Latham's Snipe is the largest snipe in Australia, with cryptic, mainly brown, plumage.
      • Their exceptional eyesight helps them constantly scan for dangers at night when they forage for food in open wet and muddy areas.
    • Habitat:
      • Breeds in northern Japan and parts of eastern Russia during May-July and spends the non-breeding season (September to March) along Australia’s eastern coast.
      • Like other migratory shorebirds, it has incredible endurance, undertaking a non-stop, over-ocean flight between its breeding and non-breeding grounds.
    • Threats:
      • Hunting and wetland loss during the 20th century have contributed to a decline in Latham’s Snipe in south-eastern Australia.
      • The signing of the Japan Australia Migratory Bird Agreement in 1981 has stopped snipe hunting in both countries to some extent.
    • Protection Status:
      • IUCN Red List: Least Concern

Crocodile

Context:

  • Odisha’s Kendrapara became the only district in India to be home to all three species of crocodilians found in the country.

Major species of crocodilians found in India:

  1. Mugger
    • Also called the Indian crocodile or marsh crocodile.
    • Habitat:
      • Found throughout the Indian subcontinent.
      • The mugger is mainly a freshwater species and found in lakes, rivers, and marshes.
    • Conservation status: 
      • IUCN: Vulnerable
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I
    • Threats: Habitat destruction because of the conversion of natural habitats for agricultural and industrial use.
  2. Gharial
    • Habitat:
      • The Gharial or fish-eating crocodile is native to the Indian subcontinent.
      • Small released populations are present and increasing in the rivers of the National Chambal Sanctuary, Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, Son River Sanctuary and the rainforest biome of Mahanadi in Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary, Orissa.
    • Conservation status: 
      • IUCN: Critically endangered.
      • CITES : Appendix I
      • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I
    • Threats:
      1. killed by fishermen,
      2. hunted for skins, trophies and indigenous medicine, and
      3. their eggs collected for consumption.
  3. Saltwater Crocodile
    • Largest of all living reptiles.
    • Habitat:
      • Found throughout the east coast of India.
      • Large population present within the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary of Odisha while smaller populations occur throughout the Sundarbans.
      • Populations are also present within the mangrove forests and other coastal areas of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India.
    • Conservation status: 
      • IUCN: Least Concern
      • CITES: Appendix I (except the populations of Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, which are included in Appendix II).
      • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I
    • Threats:
      1. Illegal hunting for its meat and eggs, as well as for its commercially valuable skin.
      2. Habitat loss and habitat alterations.
      3. Negative attitude towards the species makes conservation measures difficult to implement.

 

Turtle and Behler Turtle Conservation Award

  • Context:
    • Recently, Indian biologist Shailendra Singh has been awarded the Behler Turtle Conservation Award for bringing three critically endangered turtle conservation species back from the brink of extinction.
    • There are 29 species of freshwater turtles and tortoises in the country.
  • About Behler Turtle Conservation Award:
    • Established in 2006, it is a major annual international award honoring excellence in the field of the tortoise and freshwater turtle conservation and biology, and leadership in the chelonian conservation and biology community.
    • Also referred to as the “Nobel Prize” of Turtle Conservation.
    • Co-presented by Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Turtle Conservancy, and Turtle Conservation Fund.
    • In the present context, the three critically endangered turtles are being conserved as a part of TSA India’s research, conservation breeding and education programme in different parts of the country.
    • The Northern River Terrapin (Batagur baska) is being conserved at the Sunderbans;
    • The Red-crowned Roofed Turtle (Batagur kachuga) at Chambal;
    • The Black Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) at different temples in Assam.

Major turtle species found in India:

Freshwater turtles:

  1. Indian Flap shell Turtle: 
    • Most commonly found in lakes and rivers of India.
    • Also found in the desert ponds of Rajasthan and introduced to the Andaman Islands.
    • Conservation Status: 
      • IUCN: Least Concern
      • CITES: Appendix II
      • WPA, 1972: Schedule I 
  2. Assam Roofed Turtle: 
    • found in the Brahmaputra-Meghna drainage in India (Assam) and parts of eastern Bangladesh.
    • One of the most trafficked animals in the world and part of the exotic pet trade.
    • Conservation Status: 
      • IUCN: Endangered
      • CITES: Appendix II
      • WPA, 1972: Schedule I 
  3. Black softshell turtle:
    • Found in India and Bangladesh.
    • Conservation Status: 
      • IUCN: “extinct in the wild” since 2002.
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • WPA, 1972: Schedule I
  4. Red-Crowned Roofed Turtle:
    • Endemic to India.
    • The National Chambal Sanctuary is India’s only protected riverine habitat this turtle.
    • Conservation Status: 
      • IUCN: Critically endangered
      • CITES: Appendix II
      • WPA, 1972: Schedule I

Sea Turtles:

  • Five species of sea turtles are known to inhabit Indian coastal waters and islands. These are the Olive Ridley, Green, Hawksbill, Loggerhead and the Leatherback turtles.
  • Except for the Loggerhead, the remaining four species nest along the Indian coast and are listed as endangered under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and CITES. 
  1. Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
    • Context:
      • The Odisha government has requested the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to conduct a fresh study for identifying the movement of Olive Ridley sea turtles, which would help the State renew its conservation efforts along its coast.
    • Also is known as the Pacific ridley sea turtle.
    • Second smallest of all sea turtles found in the world.
    • Habitat: 
      • Found in warm and tropical waters, primarily in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and also in the warm waters of the Atlantic ocean.
      • Only species exhibiting the phenomena of mass nesting in India.
      • Gahirmatha coast of Odisha is the largest mass nesting site for the olive ridley sea turtles in India.
      • Other nesting sites:
        1. Hope Island of Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary (Andra Pradesh)
        2. Gahirmatha  beach (Odisha)
        3. Astaranga coast(Odisha)
        4. Beach of Rushikulya River
        5. Devi River mouth
    • Conservation Status:  
      • IUCN: Vulnerable
      • WPA, 1972: Schedule I 
      • CITES: Appendix I

  2. Leatherback Sea Turtle: 
    • Largest of all living turtles in the world.
    • Nesting populations are known from the Nicobar Islands.
    • Conservation status: 
      • IUCN: Vulnerable (many subpopulations such as in the Pacific and Southwest Atlantic are Critically Endangered)
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • WPA, 1972: Schedule I
  3. Green Sea Turtle: 
    • Found in the Indian Ocean and throughout the entire Pacific region.
    • Conservation status: 
      • IUCN: Endangered
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • WPA, 1972: Schedule I
  4. Hawksbill Sea Turtle:
    • Found in tropical reefs of the Indian oceans.
    • Conservation status: 
      • IUCN: Critically endangered
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • WPA, 1972: Schedule I
  5.  Loggerhead sea turtles:
    • Named for their large heads that support powerful jaw muscles, allowing them to crush hard-shelled prey like clams and sea urchins.
    • Less likely to be hunted for their meat or shell.
    • Conservation status: 
      • IUCN: Endangered
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • WPA, 1972: Schedule I

Irrawaddy dolphin

  • Context:
    • Irrawaddy dolphin found dead in Chilika Lake. This is the 8th dolphin death in Odisha in 8 months.
  • About:
    • Habitat: 
      • Species of oceanic dolphins found in discontinuous subpopulations near sea coasts and in estuaries and rivers in parts of the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia- the Irrawaddy (Myanmar), the Mahakam (Indonesian Borneo) and the Mekong (China).
    • Conservation status:
      • IUCN: Endangered
      • Wildlife Protection Act: Schedule I
      • CITES: Appendix-I
    • Threats:
      • More susceptible to human conflict than most other dolphins that live farther out in the ocean.
      • accidental capture and drowning in gillnets and dragnets, bottom-set crabnets.
      • electrofishing, gold mining, and dam building.

Bhitarkanika National Park

  • Context:
    • Odisha’s Bhitarkanika National Park is under severe threat due to the planned diversion of freshwater from the Brahmani river basin.
  • About:
    • Increase saltwater or estuarine crocodile population
    • Inundated by the rivers Brahmani, Baitarani, Dhamra, Pathsala.
    • Second-largest mangrove ecosystem in India, the first being Sundarbans (West Bengal)
    • It is a Ramsar site.
  • Brahmani River:
    • The Brahmani is a major seasonal river in the Odisha state of eastern India.
    • The Brahmani is formed by the confluence of the Sankh and South Koel rivers.
    • Together with the river Baitarani, it forms a large delta before emptying into the Bay of Bengal at Dhamra.

Rajaji Tiger Reserve

  • Context:
    • A Supreme Court-appointed committee has questioned relaxations given for the upgrade of a 4.7-km road (LaldhangChillarkhal road) in the buffer zone of Rajaji Tiger Reserve and sought replies from the Centre and Uttarakhand government.
  • About Rajaji Tiger Reserve:
    • It is a national park and tiger reserve that encompasses the Shivaliks, near the foothills of the Himalayas.
    • It was declared as a tiger reserve in 2015 and is the second tiger reserve in the Uttarakhand and 48th Tiger Reserve of India.
    • The park extends over the Shivalik Range in the northwest to the Rawasan River in the southeast with the Ganges dividing it into two parts.
    • Some of the basic features of the Shivalik formations are to be seen in the park and is rightly known as a veritable storehouse of Shivalik biodiversity and ecosystems.
    • The western part of the Park consists of the Ramgarh, Kansrao, Motichur, Hardwar, Dholkhand, and Chillawali Ranges.

 

Name Of Species: Information:

American Bumblebee

  • Context:
    • According to US Fish and Wildlife Services, the American bumblebee population has decreased by 89% in the past 20 years, and it could be declared as an “endangered species”.
  • About:
    • This species is scientifically called Bombus pensylvanicus.
    • The species live and nest in open farmland & fields.
    • It feeds on food plants like sunflowers & clovers.
    • It is a threatened species of bumblebee and is native to North America. It is also found in eastern Canada, eastern United States, and Mexico.
  • Reasons for Decline:
    • According to CBD, the population of American bumblebees has declined due to habitat destruction, climate change, exposure to disease & pesticides, loss of genetic diversity along with competition with non-native bees.

Mumbai blind eel

  • Context:
    • A new species of swamp eel was discovered from a well in Mumbai. 
  • About:
    • The eel is called Rakthamichthys Mumba, the Mumbai blind eel. 
    • It belongs to the genus Rakthamicthys that is endemic to India.
    • This is the fifth species from the genus to be described from India.
    • Unlike other species of its genus, the mumba lacks eyes, fins and scales, has jaws equal in forwarding extent, different gill aperture, crescentic-shaped cephalic. 
    • This is the first completely blind subterranean freshwater fish species to be described from Maharashtra and the Northern western Ghats. 
Indian Peafowl

  • Context:
    • Recently, a man was hit by a peafowl in Kerala after which he died. This incident has turned the spotlight on the increasing population of Indian peafowl in the state.
  • About:
    • The collective name for peacocks is peafowl. The male of the variety is called a peacock and the female peafowl is called a peahen.
    • The Indian peacock is also the National Bird of India.
    • Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) belongs to the Phasianidae family. They are among the largest of all birds that fly.
    • Phasianidae is the pheasant family, a bird family that includes among its members the jungle fowl (from which the domestic chicken is descended), partridge, peacock, pheasant, and quail.
  • The two most-recognizable species of peafowl are:
    • The blue, or Indian, peacock of India and Sri Lanka.
    • The green or Javanese, peacock (P. muticus) found from Myanmar (Burma) to Java.
  • Habitat:
    • The Indian peafowl is a native of India and some parts of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
    • The species are currently habituated more in central Kerala, followed by southeast and northwest parts of the state.
    • At least 19% of the states’ area is suitable habitat for this species and this may increase by 40-50% by 2050.
    • They are well adapted to living in forest edges and cultivated areas.
  • Concerns:
    • They are a threat to paddy farmers in Kerala. They destroy its seeds and cause man-animal conflict.
    • Agriculture expansion and deforestation have caused other species to ‘invade human territory’.
    • The growing population of peafowl signals climate change. They are known to grow and thrive in dry conditions.
  • Protection Status:
    • IUCN: Least Concern
    • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I

Javan Gibbon

  • Context:
    • Indonesia is taking steps to protect the habitat of Javan Gibbon (Hylobates moloch), which is endangered by climate change and human encroachment.
    • The species is also hunted for both meat and pet trade.
  • About:
    • The silvery gibbon, also known as the Javan gibbon, is a primate. They are found in groups only, usually in a pair of two.
    • It is endemic to the Indonesian island of Java, where it inhabits undisturbed rainforests up to an altitude of 2,450 m.
    • It helps in regenerating forest vegetation by dispersing seeds.
    • There are around 4,000 Javan gibbons left.
    • It was declared Critically Endangered in 2004 but since has recovered to the status of Endangered as per the IUCN criterion. However, the latest IUCN estimate shows that their population is decreasing.
  • Habitat:
    • The Javan Gibbon wild population is only found in Java, Indonesia.
    • It is not found in India (The hoolock gibbon is the only gibbon found in India).
  • Protection Status:
    • IUCN: Endangered (EN)
    • CITES: Appendix I

Red Sanders 

  • Context:
    • The Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) recently apprehended one of the most wanted red sanders smuggling operatives with alleged ties to global syndicates.
  • What Is Red Sanders?
    • Red sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus) are prized for their vibrant colour and medicinal benefits.
    • It's in considerable demand across Asia, especially in China and Japan, for usage in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, as well as furniture, woodcraft, and musical instruments.
    • Red Sanders prefer rocky, deteriorated, and fallow lands with Red Soil, as well as a hot and dry climate.
    • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed it as Near Threatened.
    • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora lists it in Appendix II.
    • It is one of the endangered wood species found in the Andhra Pradesh districts of Chittoor, Kadapa, Kurnool, and Nellore.

Dhole or Asiatic Wild Dog

  • Context:
    • A recent study has identified some priority talukas/tehsils where habitats can be consolidated to enhance population connectivity for the dhole or Asiatic Wild Dog (Cuon alpinus).
  • About Dhole:
    • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule II (Absolute protection – offences under these are prescribed the highest penalties.)
    • IUCN: Endangered
    • The dhole is a canid native to Central, South, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.
    • India perhaps supports the largest number of dholes, with key populations found in three landscapes — Western Ghats, Central India and Northeast India.
    • It is a highly social animal, living in large clans without rigid dominance hierarchies and containing multiple breeding females.
  • Their significance:
    • Dholes play an important role as apex predators in forest ecosystems.
    • Factors contributing to this decline include habitat loss, loss of prey, competition with other species, persecution due to livestock predation and disease transfer from domestic dogs.

Fishing Cat

  • Context:
    • The Children for Fishing Cat project in the Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh recruits children as ambassadors for conservation to save the predator and its home.
  • About Fishing cat:
    • They are nocturnal.
    • Habitat: Estuarine floodplains, tidal mangrove forests and also inland freshwater habitats.
    • Habitat in India: They are scattered along the Eastern Ghats. They are also found in the foothills of the Himalayas along the Ganga and Brahmaputra river valleys and in the Western Ghats. They inhabit the Sundarbans(West Bengal), Chilika lagoon and the surrounding wetlands(Odisha), Coringa and Krishna mangroves.
    • Protection Status:
      • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I.
      • CITES: Appendix II
      • IUCN Red List: Endangered.
    • Threats:
      • Depletion of its main prey-fish due to unsustainable fishing practices.
      • Loss of its preferred wetland habitats.
      • Indiscriminate trapping, snaring and poisoning.
      • It is also occasionally poached for its skin.
      • Tribal hunters indulge in ritual hunting practices throughout the year.

Lesser florican

  • Context:
    • In a major discovery, the longest in-country migration route of lesser floricans, the endangered birds of the bustard group, has been tracked for the first time from Rajasthan to Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district.
  • About the Lesser Florican:
    • Scientific Name: Sypheotides indicus.
    • It is also known as the likh or kharmore, is the smallest in the bustard family.
    • Endemic to the Indian Subcontinent.
    • Indian habitat: Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and some other regions during the monsoon season when it breeds and later disappears with its chicks to unknown places.
    • It is found in tall grasslands.
    • Conservation status:
    • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule 1
    • IUCN: Endangered
    • CITES: Appendix II
    • Threats:
    • threatened both by hunting and habitat degradation.
    • Collision with power transmission lines.
    • Wind turbines and solar farms.

Kyhytysuka sachicarum

  • Context:
    • An international team of researchers has discovered a new marine reptile in central Columbia. The specimen, a meter-long skull, has been named Kyhytysuka sachicarum.
  • About Kyhytysuka sachicarum:
    • New species of Cretaceous hyper-carnivorous ichthyosaur.
    • It evolved a unique dentition that allowed it to eat large prey.
    • The dentary is the longest bone of the species.
    • Mostly found in shallow waters.
    • It has been named so to honour the ancient Muisca culture.

Chocolate-bordered Flitter

  • Context:
    • Recently, the species of butterfly, now named the Chocolate-bordered Flitter, was found in Sikkim’s Dzongu, the ‘land of butterflies’.Context: 
  • About Chocolate-bordered Flitter:
    • Scientific name: Zographetus dzonguensis
    • Golden yellow butterfly with brown borders and spots.
    • The closest relatives of this butterfly are Zographetus pangi in Guangdong, and Zographetus hainanensis in Hainan, both in southeastern China close to Hong Kong.

Acute Bladder Snail

  • Context:
    • A tiny snail with a striking, pellucid golden-yellow shell found in the Edappally canal in Kochi has been flagged as an invasive species that could play havoc with native ecosystems.
  • About Acute Bladder Snail:
    • Physella acuta is a snail species.
    • It is considered native to North America but is now found in all continents except Antarctica. 
    • The snail was first reported in India in the early 1990s. It is believed to have reached Kerala through the aquarium trade.
    • Physella Acuta plays host to worms that can cause food-borne diseases and skin itches in humans. Moreover, its rapid growth rate, air-breathing capability, and tolerance to pollution makes the Physella acuta a potential competitor to native fauna

Thrips Parvispinus

  • Context:
    • A new species of insect is damaging the chilli crop in several states in south India. Thrips Parvispinous, an invasive insect from Indonesia first seen in 2015, has spread rapidly, affecting chilli crop in nearly 9 lakh acres in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
  • About Thrips Parvispinus:
    • The genus Thrips is one of the largest genera of the insect order Thysanoptera in the family Thripidae.
    • There are 295 species found worldwide of which 44 species are reported from India.
    • Each female Thrips lays eggs through Parthenogenesis (without requiring the male) and sucks the sap of leaf, flower and also the fruit, causing extensive damage to the crop within no time

 Indian desert cat

  • Context:
    • Recently, an Indian Desert Cat has been spotted for the first time in Madhya Pradesh’s Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR).
  • About Indian desert cat:
    • Scientific Name: Felis silvestris ornate.
    • It is also known as the Asian steppe wildcat and Asiatic Wildcat.
    • Considered as a subspecies of African Wildcat.
    • The cat is found in deserts and can survive without water. The toes of the species have cushion-like hair which helps them to balance the fluctuating desert temperatures.
    • Habitat:
      • Indian habitat: the Asiatic wildcat inhabits the Thar Desert and is associated with the scrub desert. The cat has also been recorded in Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh and Mirzapur forests.
    • Protection Status:
      • CITES: Appendix-II
      • Wildlife protection Act’s: Schedule-I.
      • IUCN Red List: Least Concern

Gharials

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Department of Punjab Forest and Wildlife Preservation, in collaboration with the World-Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India) has released a lot of 24 gharials (Gavialis Gangeticus) into the Beas Conservation Reserve.
  • About Gharials:
    • Asian crocodiles are distinguished by their long, thin snouts which resemble a pot (ghara in Hindi) 
    • Distribution:
      • It was once found across Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. However, currently, it survives in several severely fragmented populations in India and Nepal.
    • Indian habitat:
      • Son River, Girwa River, the Ganges, Mahanadi River and the Chambal River.
    • Protected areas:
      • National Chambal Sanctuary and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary.
    • Habitat:
      • It prefers to live in riverine habitats with deep, clear, fast-moving water and steep, sandy banks.
    • Protected status:
      • Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I.
      • CITES: Appendix I.
      • IUCN Red List: Critically Endangered
    • Threat:
      • Construction of Dam, barrages, and water abstraction
      • Entanglement in fishing nets,
      • River bed cultivation
      • sand mining.
      • Project Crocodile: UNDP and FAO in 1975. It included an intensive captive rearing and breeding programme intended to revive the dwindling gharial population.

Blue Bull

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Bihar government has decided that to control the increasing population of blue bulls, they will sterilise them instead of culling them.
  • About Blue Bull:
    • Locally known as the nilgai or ghurparas, usually found in India, Nepal and Pakistan.
    • Scientific Name: Boselaphus tragocamelus.
    • Largest Asian antelope.
    • Indigenous to the Indian subcontinent.
    • Sexual dimorphism is prominent; the males are larger than females and differ in colouration.
    • Conservation status:
      • IUCN: Least Concern
      • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule III
    • Habitat:
      • Live in forests, wooded grasslands, scrub areas and agricultural areas and also in the human settlements

Indian Flapshell turtle

  • Context:
    • A mountaineer and an international forest forensic investigator had a chance encounter with the rarely found species of Albino Indian Flapshell turtle in Telangana.
  • About Indian flapshell turtle:
    • Freshwater species of turtle found in South Asia. 
    • The “flap-shelled” name stems from the presence of femoral flaps located on the plastron. These flaps of skin cover the limbs when they retract into the shell.
    • Diet: They are known to be omnivorous. Its diet consists of frogs, shrimp, snails, aquatic vegetation, plant leaves, flowers, fruits, grasses and seed
    • Distribution: Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh (Indus and Ganges drainages), and Myanmar (Irrawaddy and Salween Rivers).
    • Habitat:
      • They live in the shallow, quiet, often stagnant waters of rivers, streams, marshes, ponds, lakes and irrigation canals, and tanks.
      • Prefer waters with sand or mud bottoms.
      • They are also well adapted to drought conditions.
    • Conservation Status:
      • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable.
      • CITES: Appendix II.
      • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I

Albatross

Context:

  • A new study has provided evidence of the effect of environmental conditions on the longevity of relationships among a population of albatrosses.

What Report Says?

  • The report says that environmental conditions cause splits between black-browed albatrosses in the South Atlantic, which otherwise have long-term monogamous relationships.
  • The “divorce rate” in the study population varied substantially across years and was directly modulated by environmental variability at different times.
  • Higher “divorce rates” were recorded in lower-quality years.

How exactly can a changing environment cause these birds to split up?

  • Split is considered an adaptive strategy between albatrosses partners.
  • It is triggered by breeding failure and also for some reproductive benefits, particularly for females which are more likely to find new partners and attain a higher breeding success.

About Albatross:

  • The wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) are large flying seabirds. Their species of the genus Diomedea (great albatrosses) have the longest wingspans of any extant birds.

Range:

  • They are found widely in the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific. They are absent from the North Atlantic.

IUCN status:

  • Of the 22 species of albatrosses recognized by the IUCN, all are listed as at some level of concern.

Critically endangeredEndangeredNear threatenedVulnerable-7.

Threat:

  • The numbers of albatrosses have declined in the past due to harvesting for feathers.
  • They are also threatened by introduced species, like rats and feral cats that attack eggs, chicks, and nesting adults.
  • By pollution and serious decline in fish stocks in many regions largely due to overfishing.
  • Longline fishing-It poses the greatest threat, as feeding birds are attracted to the bait, become hooked on the lines, and drown.

Landraces

Context:

  • Recently, Rahibai Popere, popularly known as Seed mother, from Maharashtra won this year’s Padma awards. It was in recognition of her work that has helped save hundreds of landraces (wild varieties of commonly grown crops at the village level).

How Landraces are different from commercially grown crops?

  • Landraces refer to naturally occurring variants of commonly cultivated crops.
  • These are different from commercially grown crops, which are developed by selective breeding (hybrids) or through genetic engineering to express a certain trait over others.

Why preserving landraces is important?

  • Adaptation to environmental stress: Genetic diversity ensures a natural mechanism for crops to develop traits to face challenging situations. However, given the large-scale human interference in crop selection and breeding, that ability is now lost in most commercial crops.
  • On the other hand, naturally occurring landraces still have a large pool of still untapped genetic material, which can provide solutions to climate change-induced biotic and abiotic stress factors.

Nutritional security:

  • Landraces are richer in nutrients than commercially grown variants.

Threats:

  • Today, landraces survive in only a few rural and tribal pockets.
  • Loss of traditional knowledge about the way these varieties need to be grown, or how seeds are to be saved, is also being lost over time.
  • Since 2008, BAIF Development Research Foundation has initiated a community-led programme to preserve landraces in villages of Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Gujarat.
  • It aims to identify germplasm available and, through community participation, create seed banks. So far, it has deposited 150 landraces of paddy, finger millet, and little millet to the National Bureau Plant Genetic Resource. A network of 5,000 seed savers has also been developed.

Beavan Swift

Context:

  • A recent assessment of butterflies across the seven biodiversity parks in Delhi revealed the presence of the Beavan’s swift, a species that has previously not been spotted in the city.

Where it is found?

  • The Beavan’s swift is distributed throughout northern India, but it was never encountered earlier in Delhi.

Why seen in Delhi?

  • Good rains this year meant that the population of grasses, which are the Beavan’s swift’s host plant, increased.
  • The availability of host plants might be the reason for its presence here.

Do we have a National Butterfly? No

Campaign for recognising National Butterfly:

  • Butterflies are ambassadors of nature conservation, and they are important biological indicators that reflect the health of our environment.
  • Butterfly enthusiasts and nature-lovers from all over the country have gathered as a National Butterfly Campaign Consortium.
  • National Butterfly Campaign Consortium is aimed at nominating India’s National Butterfly.
  • Considering the ecological importance, conservation significance, and growing popularity of butterflies among the general public, it is high time we nominated the National Butterfly.
  • Top Contenders:
    • Indian Jezebel (Delias Eucharis)
    • Orange Oakleaf (Kallima Inachus)
    • Krishna Peacock (Papilio Krishna)

Swallowtail Butterfly

Context:

  • A swallowtail butterfly carrying ‘India’ in its name will become the State butterfly of Arunachal Pradesh.

About Kaiser-i-Hind:

  • The butterfly is also known as Kaiser-i-Hind.
  • Pakke Tiger Reserve 2047 declaration.
  • The State Cabinet also adopted the Pakke Tiger Reserve 2047 declaration on climate change-resilient and responsive Arunachal Pradesh aimed at lowering emissions and sustainable development.
  • Kaiser-i-Hind ( Teinopalpus imperialis ) literally means Emperor of India.
  • This butterfly with a 90-120 mm wingspan is found in six states along the eastern Himalayas at elevations from 6,000-10,000 feet in well-wooded terrain.

Countries:

  • The butterfly also flutters in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and southern China.

Protection:

  • It is protected under Schedule II of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Threats:

  • It is hunted for supply to butterfly collectors.
  • The species is confined to very few pockets of Arunachal Pradesh and could become extinct if not conserved. The implication of the tag: The State butterfly tag can translate into its habitat conservation.

About Pakke Tiger Reserve:

  • It is also known as Pakhui Tiger Reserve.
  • It is located in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Falls within the Eastern Himalaya Biodiversity Hotspot.
  • Known for its amazing sightings of four resident hornbill species.
  • This Tiger Reserve has won India Biodiversity Award 2016 in the category of 'Conservation of threatened species' for its Hornbill Nest Adoption Programme.
  • It is bounded by Bhareli or Kameng River in the west and north, and by Pakke River in the east. It is surrounded by contiguous forests on most sides.

Two plant species discovered in Kerala

  • Context:
    • Researchers have reported two new plant species from the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats regions in Thiruvananthapuram and Wayanad districts.
  • About:
    • They have been christened Fimbristylis sunilii and Neanotis prabhuii.
    • Collected from the grasslands of Ponmudi hills, Thiruvananthapuram, Fimbristylis sunilii has been named after plant taxonomist C.N. Sunil. It has been provisionally assessed as data deficient (DD) under the IUCN Red List categories.
    • Neanotis prabhuii has been discovered in the Chembra Peak grasslands of Wayanad. It hails from the family Rubiaceae and grows on high-altitude grasslands. It has been categorised as data deficient (DD).

Eastern swamp deer

  • Context:
    • The population of the vulnerable eastern swamp deer, extinct elsewhere in South Asia, has dipped in the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve.
    • Officials attributed the decrease from 907 individuals in 2018 to 868 during the Eastern Swamp Deer Estimation on January 10 and 11 to two high floods in 2019 and 2020.
  • About swamp deer:
    • The barasingha also called swamp deer, deer is endemic to Kaziranga.
    • The eastern swamp deer was once concentrated in the central Kohora and Bagori ranges of Kaziranga.
    • IUCN status: Vulnerable.
    • State animal of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
    • Range: central and northern India and southern Nepal.
    • India: Assam, Jumna River, Ganges River, Brahmaputra River, Madhya Pradesh, Utter Pradesh, and Arunachal Pradesh.

Two species of fungi associated with basal stem rot were found

  • Context:
    • Researchers from Kerala have identified two new species of fungi from the genus Ganoderma that are associated with coconut stem rot disease.
  • About:
    • The two Fungi species have been named Ganoderma Keralense and Ganoderma Pseudoapplanatum.
    • The basal stem rot of coconut is known by several names in different parts of India:
      1. Ganoderma wilt in Andhra Pradesh.
      2. Anaberoga in Karnataka.
      3. Thanjavur wilt in Tamil Nadu

White Cheeked Macaque 

Why in News?

  • Scientists recently found white-cheeked macaque in Arunachal Pradesh. The discovery adds a new species to the mammal list of India.

About:

  • Scientific Name: Macaca leucogenys.
  • Background: It was first discovered in 2015 by a group of Chinese scientists from southeastern Tibet.
  • Physical Characteristics: This macaque is distinct from other macaques found in the region as it displays white cheeks, long and thick hairs on the neck area and a longer tail.
  • It is also the last mammal to have been discovered in Southeast Asia.
  • Arunachal macaque, as well as the White Cheeked Macaque, exist in the same biodiversity hotspot in the eastern Himalayas.

 What is the significance of this discovery? 

  • Firstly, with this discovery, India’s mammal count increases from 437 to 438.
  • Secondly, this discovery will lay the foundation of the species being covered by the Wildlife Protection Act of India, which presently doesn’t cover it simply because we didn’t know it existed in India.
  • Other Macaques in India: Apart from the white cheeked macaque, India has Arunachal macaque, Assamese macaque, Rhesus macaque.

Koala 

Why in News?

  • Australian government declared the koala as ‘Endangered’ in the states of Queensland and New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

About

Scientific Name: Phascolarctos cinereus.

  • Koala is a marsupial which is a mammal with a pouch for the development of offspring.
  • They are endemic to Australia. They are found in the eucalyptus forests of eastern Australia.
  • They have grey fur with a cream-coloured chest, and strong, clawed feet, perfect for living in the branches of trees.
  • It is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ as per the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. There are now fewer than 500,000 left in the wild.

Threats:

  • Climate change, habitat destruction and loss increased disturbance by humans, disease and most of all, bushfires as well as forest and wildfires.
  • Chlamydia, a bacterial disease, has wrought havoc on koala populations by forming cysts inside breeding adults, leading to infertility.
  • But the biggest culprit has been the bushfire season of 2019-20, known in Australia as ‘Black Summer’.

 

Pollution and Conservation:

Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)

  • Context:
    • Russia has called for a Security Council meeting on the issue of biological laboratories in Ukraine.
    • Russia had requested the meeting to discuss claims it made of chemical and biological weapon labs in Ukraine supported by the U.S.
    • India has emphasized that any matters relating to obligations under the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) should be addressed through consultation and cooperation between the parties concerned.
  • Biological Weapons Convention:
    • The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), or Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), is a disarmament treaty that effectively bans biological and toxin weapons by prohibiting their development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling, and use.
    • A biological weapon is a bacterium, virus, protozoan, parasite, fungus, chemical, or toxin that can be used purposefully as a weapon in bioterrorism or biological warfare.
    • More than 1,200 different kinds of potentially weaponizable bio-agents have been described and studied to date.
    • It entered into force on 26 March 1975.
    • The BWC was the first multilateral disarmament treaty to ban the production of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.
    • The convention is of unlimited duration.
    • As of January 2022, 183 states have become parties to the treaty.

Heritage trees

  • Context:
    • The Maharashtra government will make amendments to the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act of 1975, to introduce provisions for the protection of ‘heritage trees’.
  • What are heritage trees?
    • Under the proposed amendment, a tree with an estimated age of 50 years or more shall be defined as a heritage tree.
    • It may belong to specific species, which will be notified from time to time.
    • Experts believe that in addition to the age, the state climate change department (which will be implementing the Tree Act), should also consider a tree’s rarity, its botanical, historical, religious, mythological, and cultural importance in defining a heritage tree.
    • The local Tree Authority will have to ensure tree census to be carried out every five years along with counting of heritage trees.
  • How is the age of the tree determined?
    • The most common method of determining the age of the tree is Dendrochronology – or tree-ring dating also called growth rings.
    • Each year, roughly a tree adds to its girth, the new growth is called a tree ring.
    • By counting the rings of a tree, the age can be determined.
    • However, the process is invasive.
    • To analyze the rings, core samples are extracted using a borer that’s screwed into the tree and pulled out, bringing with it a straw-size sample of wood.
    • The hole in the tree is then sealed to prevent disease.
  • Why was the concept of heritage trees introduced?
    • A heritage tree will get special protection.
    • Crucially, the tree’s age will determine the number of trees be planted as part of the compensatory plantation – that is anyone cutting a heritage tree will need to plant trees in the same numbers as the cut tree’s age.
    • Through the introduction of a heritage tree, the state environment wants to discourage the cutting of heritage trees.

Green hydrogen

  • Context:
    • India pitched for common international standards for green hydrogen at the BRICS Green Hydrogen Summit, to ensure safe transportation and storage of the new age emission-free fuel.
  • About the summit:
    • India had organized the two-day summit on green hydrogen involving Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, also referred to as the BRICS nations, on their initiatives around green fuel.
    • The summit started on 22 June and was organized by state-run NTPC Ltd.
  • About Green hydrogen:
    • As the world rapidly moves to decarbonize the entire energy system, hydrogen is poised to play a vital role and build on the rapid scale-up of renewable resources across the world.
    • Hydrogen when produced by electrolysis using renewable energy is known as Green Hydrogen which has no carbon footprint.
    • Green hydrogen has innumerable applications.
    • Green chemicals like ammonia and methanol can directly be utilized in existing applications like fertilizers, mobility, power, chemicals, shipping etc.
    • Green Hydrogen blending up to 10% may be adopted in CGD (city has distribution) networks to gain widespread acceptance.

Global Nitrogen Conference

  • Context:
    • Recently, the 8th International Nitrogen Initiative Conference (INI2020) was held virtually
  • About the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI):
    • It is an international program, set up in 2003 under the sponsorship of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) and from the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP).
    • The key aims of the INI are to:
      • optimize nitrogen’s beneficial role in sustainable food production, and
      • minimize nitrogen’s negative effects on human health and the environment resulting from food and energy production.
    • The program is currently a sustained partner of Future Earth.
  • Nitrogen pollution:
    • Reactive nitrogen compounds like NOx, ammonia and the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide impact air, water and soil quality, health, biodiversity and climate change, among others.
    • Nitrous oxide has up to 300 times higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide. 
    • These compounds are lost from fertilizers, manures, and sewage as well as from fuel burning in transport and industry.
    • Fertilizers are a predominant source of nitrous oxide and ammonia pollution.
    • Assessing and managing them sustainably will be crucial to achieving the 17 UN SDGs targeted for 2030.
  • South Asia and nitrogen pollution:
    • South Asia is one of the global hotspots for nitrogen pollution.
    • The Indian nitrogen assessment of 2017 has provided a huge impetus to the UN resolution, as well as to the ongoing South Asian nitrogen assessment.
    • Millions of lives and livelihoods are affected by nitrogen pollution, apart from the loss of fertilizers worth billions of dollars from farms.
    • India championed the UN nitrogen resolution and Sri Lanka championed the Columbo declaration, which called for a global ambition to halve the nitrogen waste.
    • These are developments of huge importance in meeting the nitrogen challenge.

Black carbon

  • Context:
    • Black carbon (BC) deposits produced by human activity which accelerate the pace of glacier and snowmelt in the Himalayan region can be sharply reduced through new, currently feasible policies by an additional 50% from current levels, new research by World Bank (WB) specialists has said.
  • About Black carbon:
    • It is a short-lived pollutant that is the second-largest contributor to warming the planet behind carbon dioxide (CO2).
    • Unlike other greenhouse gas emissions, BC is quickly washed out and can be eliminated from the atmosphere if emissions stop.
    • Unlike historical carbon emissions, it is also a localized source with greater local impact.
  • Impact:
    • Deposits of BC act in two ways hastening the pace of glacier melt:
      • By decreasing surface reflectance of sunlight
      • By raising air temperature
    • Glacier melt produces flash floods, landslips, soil erosion, and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF), and in the short run, the higher volumes of meltwater could replace receding groundwater downstream.
    • But in the long run, decreased water availability would aggravate water shortage.
  • Cutting black carbon:
    • Enhancing fuel efficiency standards for vehicles
    • Phasing out diesel vehicles
    • Promoting electric vehicles
    • Accelerating the use of LPG for cooking
    • Upgrading brick kiln technologies

Land degradation neutrality

  • Context:
    • Recently, the prime minister held that India will achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030.
  • Definition:
    • It is defined by the Parties to the Convention as: A state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems
  • Role of India:
    • India holds the current presidency of the UN Convention of Combating Desertification (UNCCD).
    • India is establishing a center of excellence to develop a scientific approach to combat land degradation and is on track to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 to achieve land degradation neutrality.
    • With this initiative, India would create a carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
    • The Delhi Declaration, adopted at the 14th Conference of Parties to UNCCD in 2019, called for better access and stewardship of the land and emphasized gender-sensitive transformative projects.
    • In India, over the last 10 years, around 3 million hectares of forest cover has been added, enhancing the combined forest cover to almost one-fourth of the country’s total area.

Sea snot outbreak

  • Context:
    • There has been growing environmental concern in Turkey over the accumulation of ‘sea snot’.
  • What is ‘sea snot’ and how did it cause the present crisis?
    • ‘Sea snot’ is marine mucilage that is formed when algae are overloaded with nutrients as a result of water pollution combined with the effects of climate change.
    • The nutrient overload occurs when algae feast on warm weather caused by global warming.
    • Water pollution adds to the problem.
    • Environmental experts have said that the overproduction of phytoplankton caused by climate change and the uncontrolled dumping of household and industrial waste into the seas has led to the present crisis.
  • Where did the outbreak take place?
    • Turkey’s Sea of Marmara, which connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, has witnessed the largest outbreak of ‘sea snot’.
    • The sludge has also been spotted in the adjoining Black and Aegean seas.
    • The thick slimy layer of organic matter has spread through the sea south of Istanbul and also blanketed harbors and shorelines.
    • A ‘sea snot’ outbreak was first recorded in the country in 2007.
    • Back then, it was also spotted in the Aegean Sea near Greece.
    • But the current outbreak in the Sea of Marmara is by far the biggest in the country’s history.
  • How badly can the crisis affect the marine ecosystem?
    • The mucilage is now covering the surface of the sea and has also spread to 80-100 feet below the surface.
    • If unchecked, this can collapse to the bottom and cover the seafloor, causing major damage to the marine ecosystem.
    • It has already caused mass deaths among the fish population, and also killed other aquatic organisms such as corals and sponges.
    • Over a while, it could end up poisoning all aquatic life, including fishes, crabs, oysters, mussels and sea stars.
  • Impact on people:
    • Besides aquatic life, the ‘sea snot’ outbreak has also affected the livelihoods of fishermen.
    • It can cause an outbreak of water-borne diseases such as cholera in cities like Istanbul.

Great Barrier reef (GBR)

  • Context:
    • The reef system faces severe environmental threats, and this year, the World Heritage Committee has sounded a warning by drawing up a resolution to inscribe the reef on the 'List of World Heritage in Danger.
  • About GBR:
    • It is the world's largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 km over an area of approximately 344,400 sq km.
    • The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
    • It won a place on the World Heritage List in 1981 under the World Heritage Convention, 1972, as it has outstanding universal value.
  • Threat to Corals:
    • 2019 Outlook Report of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, said that the long-term state of the ecosystem has further deteriorated from poor to very poor.
    • At the heart of the crisis is climate change, which has led to three big events of coral bleaching in 2016, 2017 and 2020.
    • Warmer water temperatures can result in coral bleaching.
    • When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white.
    • This is called coral bleaching.
    • In 2018, coral larvae declined by 89% averaged across the region, arising from consecutive bleaching events, as the adult broodstock was reduced.
    • Coral growth is also endangered by the proliferation of crown-of-thorns starfish, which consumes them — the starfish population has shot up as predators declined due to overfishing.
  • Other threats due to climate change:
    • Harm to the abundance and health of many species from the rising sea temperatures and thermal extremes due to global warming.
    • Warmer temperatures led to feminization of green turtles originating from nesting beaches in the Northern Region, potentially leading to significant scarcity or absence of adult males in the future.

Fit for 55

  • Context:
    • The European Commission's plan, “Fit for 55,” calls for its 27 member states to cut their output of greenhouse gases by 55% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. 
  • About:
    • As part of the European Green Deal, with the European Climate Law, the EU has set itself a binding target of achieving climate neutrality by 2050.
    • This requires current greenhouse gas emission levels to drop substantially in the next decades.
    • As an intermediate step towards climate neutrality, the EU has raised its 2030 climate ambition, committing to cutting emissions by at least 55% by 2030.
    • The EU is working on the revision of its climate, energy, and transport-related legislation under the so-called 'Fit for 55 packages' to align current laws with the 2030 and 2050 ambitions.
    • Several new proposals are also included in the package.
    • The package of proposals aims at providing a coherent and balanced framework for reaching the EU's climate objectives that are fair and socially just, maintains and strengthens innovation and competitiveness of EU industry while ensuring a level playing field vis-à-vis third country economic operators and underpins the EU's position as leading the way in the global fight against climate change.

Project BOLD 

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) launched a project named Bamboo Oasis on Lands in Drought (BOLD) from the village NichlaMandwa in Udaipur, Rajasthan.
  • About:
    • It is a unique scientific exercise serving the combined national objectives of reducing desertification and providing livelihood and multi-disciplinary rural industry support.
    • 5000 saplings of special bamboo species – BambusaTulda and BambusaPolymorpha specially brought from Assam – have been planted over 25 bighas(16 acres approx) of vacant arid Gram Panchayat land.
    • KVIC has thus created a world record of planting the highest number of bamboo saplings on a single day at one location.
    • KVIC has judiciously chosen bamboo for developing green patches.
    • Bamboos grow very fast and in about three years, they could be harvested.
    • Bamboos are also known for conserving water and reducing evaporation of water from the land surface, which is an important feature in arid and drought-prone regions.

Bill on Air Quality commission

  • Context:
    • The Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021, was recently passed by both Houses.
  • Monitoring and management of air quality in the Delhi-NCR region:
    • It has been done in pieces by multiple bodies, including the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the state pollution control boards, the state governments in the region, including Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, and the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) of the National Capital Region.
    • They, in turn, are monitored by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEF), and the Supreme Court which monitors air pollution as per the judgment in the ‘MC Mehta vs Union of India’ case in 1988.
  • What is the Bill all about?
    • The Bill seeks to create an overarching body to consolidate all monitoring bodies and to bring them on one platform so that air quality management can be carried out in a more comprehensive, efficient, and time-bound manner.
    • The Centre also seeks to relieve the Supreme Court from having to constantly monitor pollution levels through various cases.
  • What will the new commission replace?
    • It has replaced the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) which had been running for 22 years.
    • Over the years, the EPCA’s powers had been waning.
    • While dissolving the body, the Centre felt that the EPCA had become redundant and had been ineffective in addressing issues related to air pollution.
    • The EPCA also did not have penal provisions that the commission will now have.
  • What are the powers of the commission?
    • The Commission is the most powerful air pollution monitoring body set up by the Centre to date.
    • The rulings by the commission on air pollution will override anything contained in any other law.
    • The powers of the commission will also supersede that of any other body in matters of air pollution including the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
    • It will also coordinate action taken by states on air pollution and will lay down parameters for air quality and emission or discharge of environmental pollutants.
    • It will also have powers to restrict industries in any area, carry out random inspections of any premises including factories and be able to close down an industry or cut its power and water supply in case of non-compliance.
    • It will also be monitoring the measures taken by the states to prevent stubble burning.
    • The orders of the commission can only be contested before the National Green Tribunal.
  • Concerns associated:
    • Parliamentarians have opposed this move to collect environmental compensation from farmers and have demanded that the Ministry should reconsider this provision.
    • Environmentalists have raised concerns over the concentration of power with the Central Government.

Buxwaha diamond mining project 

  • Context:
    • The proposed diamond mine in the Buxwaha protected forest region in the Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh may have a greater ecological impact on the region than projected so far. 
  • The project will make Bundelkhand’s water scarcity worse:
    • The project threatens to further deplete the already scarce water reserve of the drought-prone Bundelkhand region to excavate about five million tonnes of diamond-bearing kimberlite ore per annum.
    • Diamond mining is a water-intensive process.
    • The water requirement for the Bunder mine and ore processing plant is about 16,050 cubic meters per day (5.9 million cubic meters in a year), according to the pre-feasibility report of the project.
    • The project is estimated to go on for 14 years.
    • The Chhatarpur was categorized as a semi-critical region by the Central Ground Water Authority in 2017.
    • In 2020, the district recorded a rain deficit of 24%, according to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).
    • Low rainfall has been the trend in the district as well as in the Bundelkhand region.
    • Around 200,000 trees also will be felled for the excavation.
    • Environmentalists and local communities have been protesting against the project for over a month. 
  • Waste from tailing ponds and water pollution:
    • Two major kinds of waste are generated during the excavation of any ore.
    • One, overburden (OB) waste which lies over the ore, such as rocks and soil.
    • The other is tailings or the remains of the mineral after the economically valuable components have been extracted from the finely milled ore.
    • Under the Bunder project, five metric tonnes of kimberlite ore will be excavated per annum.
    • Its mining would generate about 3.70 metric tonnes of soil waste, 16.34 metric tonnes of OB waste and 5 metric tonnes of tailing waste annually.
    • A large part of the auctioned forest land will be used for dumping waste.
    • Soil and OB wastes are not contaminated and thus are easy to dispose of.
    • But tailings are disposed of in dams or ponds usually built around the mining site.
    • The tailing ponds contain process-affected water, dissolved metals, and various toxic ore processing reagents that can seep into the ground

Harit Dhara

  • Context:
    • Recently, an Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institute has developed an anti-methanogenic feed supplement ‘Harit Dhara’
  • Methane emissions:
    • Belching cattle, buffaloes, sheep, and goats in India emit an estimated 9.25 million tonnes (mt) to 14.2 mt of methane annually, out of a global total of 90 mt-plus from livestock.
    • And given methane’s global warming potential – 25 times of carbon dioxide (CO2) over 100 years, making it a more potent greenhouse gas – that’s cause for concern.
    • Methane is produced by animals having rumen, the first of their four stomachs where the plant material they eat – cellulose, fiber, starch, and sugars – gets fermented or broken down by microorganisms before further digestion and nutrient absorption.
    • Carbohydrate fermentation leads to the production of CO2 and hydrogen
    • These are used as a substrate by archaea – microbes in the rumen with a structure similar to bacteria – to produce methane, which the animals then expel through burping.
  • Status of India:
    • The 2019 Livestock Census showed India’s cattle population at 193.46 million, along with 109.85 million buffaloes, 148.88 million goats, and 74.26 million sheep.
    • Being largely fed on agricultural residues – wheat/paddy straw and maize, sorghum, or bajra stover – ruminants in India tend to produce 50-100% higher methane than their industrialized country counterparts that are given more easily fermentable/digestible concentrates, silages, and green fodder.
  • Benefits of Harit Dhara:
    • When given to bovines and sheep, it not only cuts down their methane emissions by 17-20% but also results in higher milk production and body weight gain.
    • In other words, win-win for both the environment and livestock farmers.
  • How does it work?
    • Harit Dhara acts by decreasing the population of protozoa microbes in the rumen, responsible for hydrogen production and making it available to the archaea for reduction of CO2 to methane.
    • Tropical plants containing tannins – bitter and astringent chemical compounds – are known to suppress or remove protozoa from the rumen.

Oil spills

  • Context:
    • A new study has confirmed that Stimulating Bacteria (Bioremediation) with nutrients in the cold seawaters of the Canadian Arctic can help decompose diesel and Other Petroleum Oil after Oil Spills.
    • Earlier in 2020, the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Chnnai has developed an Eco-Friendly Crude Oil Bioremediation mechanism technology.
  • Oil-Spill:
    • An oil spill refers to any uncontrolled release of crude oil, gasoline, fuels, or other oil by-products into the environment.
    • Oil spills can pollute land, air, or water, though it is mostly used for oceanic oil spills.
  • Major Causes:
    • Oil spills have become a major environmental problem, chiefly as a result of intensified petroleum exploration and production on continental shelves and the transport of large amounts of oils in vessels.
    • Oil spills that happen in rivers, bays and the ocean most often are caused by accidents involving tankers, barges, pipelines, refineries, drilling rigs and storage facilities, but also occur from recreational boats and natural disasters.
  • Environmental Impacts:
    • Threat to Indigenous people:
      • Oil pollution poses health hazards for the indigenous population who depend on seafood.
    • Harmful to aquatic life:
      • Oil on ocean surfaces is harmful to many forms of aquatic life because it prevents sufficient amounts of sunlight from penetrating the surface, and it also reduces the level of dissolved oxygen.
    • Hypothermia:
      • Crude oil ruins the insulating and waterproofing properties of feathers and fur of birds, and thus oil-coated birds and marine mammals may die from hypothermia (decrease in body temperature to below-normal levels).
    • Toxic:
      • Moreover, ingested oil can be toxic to affected animals, and damage their habitat and reproductive rate.
    • Threat to Mangroves:
      • Saltwater marshes and Mangroves frequently suffer from oil spills.
  • Economic Impacts:
    • Tourism:
      • If beaches and populated shorelines are fouled, tourism and commerce may be severely affected.
    • Power Plants:
      • The power plants and other utilities that depend on drawing or discharging sea water are severely affected by oil spills.
    • Fishing:
      • Major oil spills are frequently followed by the immediate suspension of commercial fishing.
  • Remedies:
    • Bioremediation:
      • Bacteria can be used to clean up oil spills in the ocean through bioremediation. Specific bacteria can be used to bioremediate specific contaminants, such as hydrocarbons, which are present in oil and gasoline.
      • Using bacteria such as Paraperlucidibaca, Cycloclasticus, Oleispira, Thalassolituus Zhongshania and some others can help remove several classes of contaminants.
    • Containment Booms:
      • Floating barriers, called booms, are used to restrict the spread of oil and to allow for its recovery, removal, or dispersal.
    • Skimmers:
      • They are devices used for physically separating spilled oil from the water’s surface.
    • Sorbents:
      • Various sorbents (e.g., straw, volcanic ash, and shavings of polyester-derived plastic) that absorb the oil from the water are used.
    • Dispersing agents:
      • These are chemicals that contain surfactants, or compounds that act to break liquid substances such as oil into small droplets. They accelerate its natural dispersion into the sea.
  • Related Laws in India:
    • Presently, there is no law covering oil spill as such and its consequential environmental damage in India but India has “the National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan of 1996 (NOS-DCP)” to handle such situations.
    • The document was issued by the Ministry of Defense in 1996; it was last updated in March 2006.
    • It gives the Indian Coast Guard the mandate to coordinate with state departments, ministries, port authorities and environmental agencies to assist in oil spill cleaning operations.
    • In 2015 India ratified the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001 (Bunker Convention). Convention ensures adequate, prompt and effective compensation for damage caused by oil spills.
    • It was administered by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Forum for Decarbonisation of Transport Sector

  • Context:
    • Recently, Forum for Decarbonizing Transport was jointly launched by NITI Aayog and World Resources Institute (WRI), India.
    • WRI India is an independent charity legally registered as the India Resources Trust which provides objective information and practical proposals to foster environmentally sound and socially equitable development.
    • NITI Aayog serves as an advisory think tank for the government and is chaired by the Prime Minister. It replaced the Planning Commission.
  • About:
    • The forum is a part of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)-Transport Initiative for Asia (NDC-TIA) project, which focuses on developing a coherent strategy of effective policies and the formation of a multi-stakeholder platform for decarbonising transport in the region.
    • NDC-TIA is a joint programme of seven organisations that will engage China, India, and Vietnam in promoting a comprehensive approach to decarbonising transport in their respective countries. The project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI).
    • The IKI is a key element of Germany’s climate financing and the funding commitments in the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
    • It will act as the conduit for bringing diverse voices and needs to adopt an integrated approach for greening the transport sector in India.
  • Aim:
    • To Bring down the peak level of GreenHouse Gas emissions (transport sector) in Asia (in line with a well below 2-degree pathway), resulting in problems like congestion and air pollution.
  • Expected Benefits:
    • It will help in the development of innovative business models for targeted results and the holistic growth of the electric mobility space in India.
    • It will also provide a platform to initiate dialogues for the development of uniform policies and help achieve specific results in reducing emissions from the transport sector.
  • Need:
    • India has a massive and diverse transport sector, which is also the third most CO2 emitting sector.
    • Data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), 2020 and Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, 2018 suggests that within the transport sector, road transport contributes to more than 90% of the total CO2 emissions.
    • With increasing urbanisation, the fleet size i.e. the number of sales of vehicles is increasing rapidly. It is projected that the total number of vehicles will be doubled by 2030.
    • Therefore, the transition to a decarbonisation path for the transport sector in India is essential to achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement for 2050.
  • Related Initiatives:
    • FAME Scheme:
      • It is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. Its main thrust is to encourage electric vehicles by providing subsidies.
    • Incentives under PLI Scheme:
      • Last year the scheme was rolled out for various industries including an outlay of over Rs. 5700 crore for the automobile and auto-component industry over a period of five years.
      • Around Rs.18,000 crore was approved for the development of advanced cell chemistry battery storage manufacturing.
      • These incentives further aim to encourage indigenous development of Electric Vehicles (EVs) so as to bring down their upfront cost.
    • Renewable Automotive Industry:
      • India is currently engaged in building a domestic renewable automotive industry with the aim to become the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturing and supplying hub.
      • Battery electric vehicle and fuel-cell vehicle technologies are all set to overtake fossil-run vehicles in the country by 2050.

Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021

  • Context:
    • The Environment Ministry has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, which prohibit specific single-use plastic items which have “low utility and high littering potential” by 2022. 
  • The New Rules: 
    • What is banned? The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of the identified single-use plastic will be prohibited with effect from the 1st July, 2022. 
    • The ban will not apply to commodities made of compostable plastic. 
    • For banning other plastic commodities in the future, other than those that have been listed in this notification, the government has given industry ten years from the date of notification for compliance. 
    • The permitted thickness of the plastic bags, currently 50 microns, will be increased to 75 microns from 30th September, 2021, and to 120 microns from the 31st December, 2022. 
    • The Central Pollution Control Board, along with state pollution bodies, will monitor the ban, identify violations, and impose penalties already prescribed under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986. 
    • The plastic packaging waste, which is not covered under the phase out of identified single use plastic items, shall be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) of the Producer, importer and Brand owner (PIBO), as per Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. 
  • What is single-use plastic? 
    • It is a form of plastic that is disposable,which is only used once and then has to be thrown away or recycled like water bottles,straw,cups etc. 
  • Facts: 
    • India’s per capita consumption of plastic at 11 kilograms (kg) per year is still among the lowest in the world against global average is 28 kg per year. 
    • Close to 26,000 tons of plastic waste is generated across India every day and 10,000 tons uncollected. 
  • A dilemma: 
    • Some intellectuals argue that plastic is not harmful if it is managed, collected and recycled properly to other uses. On the other hand, some are in favour of a total ban on the plastics fearing its irreversible impact on them. 
  • Reasons to ban:  
    • According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), plastic is harmful to the environment as it is non-biodegradable, takes years to disintegrate.
  • India’s efforts:
    • India has won global acclaim for its “Beat Plastic Pollution” resolve declared on World Environment Day last year, under which it pledged to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022. 
    • At the fourth United Nations Environment Assembly in 2019, India piloted a resolution on addressing pollution caused by single-use plastic products.

Leaded Petrol Eradicated Globally: UNEP

  • Context: 
    • Recently, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced that the use of leaded petrol has been eradicated from the globe.
  • About:
    • It is a milestone that will prevent more than 1.2 million premature deaths and save world economies over USD 2.4 trillion annually. It is a huge milestone for global health and the environment.
    • UNEP warned that fossil fuel use, in general, must still be drastically reduced to stave off the frightening effects of climate change.
  • The era of Leaded Petrol:
    • Until the 1970s, almost all the gasoline sold across the globe contained lead.
    • When UNEP launched its campaign named Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV) against leaded petrol in 2002, many major economic powers had already stopped using the fuel, including the United States, China and India. But the situation in lower-income nations remained dire.
    • More than 100 countries around the world were still using leaded petrol, despite studies linking it to premature deaths, poor health and soil and air pollution. Concerns were first raised as early as 1924.
    • In July 2021, it was eradicated from Algeria – the last country using leaded petrol.
  • Need of Eradication:
    • Pollution:
      • The transport sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of energy-related global greenhouse gas emissions and is set to grow to one third by 2050.
      • Adding that 1.2 billion new vehicles would hit the streets in the coming decades.
      • It includes millions of poor-quality used vehicles exported from Europe, the United States and Japan, to mid-and low-income countries.
    • Global Warming:
      • Recently, a report named Climate Change 2021 by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that Earth's average temperature would be 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer around 2030 compared to pre-industrial times.
      • A decade earlier than projected, the rise has raised alarm bells about the use of fossil fuels.
    • Health:
      • Leaded petrol causes heart disease, stroke and cancer. It also affects the development of the human brain, especially harming children.
    • Significance:
      • The end of leaded petrol is expected to support the realization of multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including good health and well-being (SDG3), clean water (SDG6), clean energy (SDG7), sustainable cities (SDG11), climate action (SDG13) and life on land (SDG15).
      • It also offers an opportunity for restoring ecosystems, especially in urban environments, which have been particularly degraded by this toxic pollutant.
  • Leaded vs Unleaded Petrol:
    • The main difference between leaded and unleaded fuel is the additive tetraethyl lead.
    • The combustion of leaded petrol causes the lead to be released into the air.
    • Lead is a heavy pollutant that does damage not only to the environment but also to the people who are exposed to it.

Ubreathe Life

  • Context:
    • IIT Ropar’s startup company has developed a living plant-based air purifier, “Ubreathe Life” that amplifies the air purification process in indoor spaces.
  • About:
    • Scientists of Indian Institutes of Technology, Ropar in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Delhi University have developed a living-plant based air purifier ‘Ubreathe Life’. This amplifies the air purification process in indoor spaces.
    • IIT Ropar’s startup company, Urban Air Laboratory has developed the product. It to be the world’s first, state-of-the-art ‘Smart Bio-Filter’ that can make breathing fresh. It has been incubated at IIT Ropar, which is a designated iHub – AWaDH (Agriculture and Water Technology Development Hub) by the Department of Science and Technology.
    • The technology works through the air-purifying natural leafy plant. The room air interacts with leaves and goes to the soil-root zone where maximum pollutants are nullified. According to a World Health Organization report, indoor air spaces are five times more polluted than outdoor air spaces.
    • The novel technology used in this product is the ‘Urban Munnar Effect’ along with ‘Breathing Roots’ to exponentially amplify the phytoremediation process of the plants. Phytoremediation is a process by which plants effectively remove pollutants from the air.

India’s Tallest Air Purifier: Chandigarh

  • Context:
    • India’s tallest air purifier will be inaugurated in Chandigarh on the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies.
    • Earlier, in August 2021 country's first 'smog tower’ was inaugurated in Connaught Place, New Delhi.
  • About:
    • It is a 24-meter long outdoor air purification tower and is capable of purifying the air of a radius of around 1 km.
    • It will also show the quality index of the air it inhales and the quality index of the air it will exhale. It functions through electricity.
    • Air purifiers are structures designed as large-scale air purifiers to reduce air pollution particles.
    • Chandigarh is one of the non-attainment cities in the country according to National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) norms, which means it has over a five-year period not consistently met the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for harmful PM 10 (particulate matter that is 10 microns or less in diameter), PM 2.5 or NO2 (nitrogen dioxide).
    • After remaining “satisfactory” and “moderate” during the lockdown period and a few months after, the Air Quality Index (AQI) had again turned “poor” for the first time in November 2020.
  • International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies:
    • The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in December 2019, adopted a resolution by which 7th September became the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies.
    • It aims to prioritize the need for healthy air for all while keeping conversations broad enough to encompass other critical issues such as climate change, human and planetary health as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.
    • The resolution was adopted in recognition of the necessity to bring down the number of casualties and ailments from pollutants like chemicals in the air, water and soil by the year 2030.
    • For 2021 the theme is Healthy Air, Healthy Planet.

Improved Air Quality of Indian Cities and Prana Portal

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, while speaking at the International Day of Clean Air For Blue Skies, informed that the number of cities with improved air quality had increased.
    • On the occasion, he also inaugurated the first functional Smog Tower at Anand Vihar in Delhi and launched Portal for Regulation of Air-pollution or ‘Prana’.
    • Earlier, a Smog Tower was installed in Delhi’s Connaught Place and India’s Tallest Air Purifier was also inaugurated in Chandigarh.
  • About:
    • Air Quality Status:
      • In 2020:
        • Cities with improved air quality had increased to 104 in 2020 from 86 in 2018.
      • From 2015-2019:
        • Particulate Matter (PM) 10 levels: 23 cities marking a “decreasing trend”, 239 cities a “fluctuating trend” & 38 cities an “increasing trend”.
        • PM 2.5 levels: 11 cities showed a decreasing trend, 79 cities a fluctuating trend and 9 cities an increasing trend.
    • Reason for Improvement:
      • Covid-19 related lockdown had resulted in a “temporary improvement” of air quality in many cities due to closure of industries, fewer vehicles plying, drop-in construction activities and absence of human activities.
      • Government initiatives to tackle air pollution also helped in improving air quality in recent years.
  • Prana Portal:
    • It was launched under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) in Non-Attainment Cities (NAC), cities that didn’t meet Ambient Air Quality Standards under NCAP.
    • It is targeted to achieve a 20-30% reduction in particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) concentrations across the country by 2024.
    • It will support tracking of physical as well as the financial status of city air action plan implementation and disseminate information on air quality to the public.
  • Related Initiatives:
    • System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research:
      • Known as “SAFAR”, for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location-specific information on air quality in near real-time.
    • Air Quality Index:
      • AQI is a tool for effective communication of air quality status to people in terms, which are easy to understand.
      • Graded Response Action Plan for Delhi and NCR has been prepared for implementation under different AQI categories.
      • AQI has been developed for eight pollutants viz. PM2.5, PM10, Ammonia, Lead, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide.
    • For Reducing Vehicular Pollution:
      • The introduction of BS-VI vehicles, push for Electric Vehicles (EVs), Odd-Even as an emergency measure and construction of the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways to reduce vehicular pollution.
    • New Commission for Air Quality Management:
      • It is made for better coordination, research, identification, and resolution of problems related to air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas.
      • Subsidy to farmers for buying Turbo Happy Seeder (THS) which is a machine mounted on a tractor that cuts and uproots the stubble, in order to reduce stubble burning.

Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue: India-US

  • Context:
    • Recently, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, along with India’s Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change launched the Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue (CAFMD) between the two countries.
    • India has so far abstained from committing to a net-zero goal but is on a climate pathway that is compatible with keeping global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
  • About:
    • It is one of the two tracks of the India-US Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 partnership launched at the Leaders' Summit on Climate in April 2021.
    • Earlier, the revamped US-India Strategic Clean Energy Partnership SCEP (first track) was launched.
    • It will provide both countries with an opportunity to renew collaborations on climate change while addressing financing aspects and deliver climate finances primarily as grants and concessional finance as envisaged under the Paris Agreement.
    • It will also help to demonstrate how the world can align swift climate action with inclusive and resilient economic development, taking into account national circumstances and sustainable development priorities.
  • Pillars to the CAFM:
    • Climate Action Pillar:
      • It would have joint proposals looking at ways in which emissions could be reduced in the next decade.
    • Finance Pillar:
      • Through this, the US will collaborate in attracting capital and enhancing the enabling environment to deploy 450 GW of renewable energy capacity in India and demonstrate and scale innovative clean energy technologies and promote bilateral clean energy investment and trade.
    • Adaptation and Resilience:
      • The two countries will collaborate in building capacities to “measure and manage climate risks”.
    • Opportunities for India:
      • There’s never been a better time to invest in the energy transition. Renewable energy is cheaper than ever.
      • In fact, it is cheaper to build a solar farm in India than anywhere else on the planet.
      • Investors are now moving to clean energy all around the world and the energy transition is already rebounding after the worst of the pandemic and is now on track to smash the pre-pandemic record of 8.4 billion USD invested in one year.
      • The International Energy Agency forecasts that if India seizes the clean energy opportunity, it could become the world’s largest market for batteries and solar panels.
      • Currently, India's installed power capacity is projected to be 476 GW by 2021-22 and is expected to rise to at least 817 GW by 2030
  • Air Quality

    • Context:
      • Updating its already strict air quality guidelines (AQGs), the WHO last month sent out a stark message: that the impact of poor air quality on public health is at least twice as bad as previously estimated.
    • Indian perspective:
      • India has 37 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities, despite its air quality standards being laxer.
      • India’s air pollution-influenced mortality rates are among the worst. The Global Burden of Disease estimates that India lost 1.67 million lives in 2019 directly as a result of breathing polluted air, or because of pre-existing conditions exacerbated by air pollution.
    • Air Quality Early Warning System(AQEWS):
      • Developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune.
      • This system uses data of stubble burning incidents from the last 15 years for predicting the date and place of the next burning. This data is then correlated with wind speed for predicting air pollution levels for the next 72 hours.
      • AQEWS can also forecast the level of pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) 2.5, PM10, and dust, which come from sources other than stubble burning.
    • WHO tightens global air quality norms:
      • The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its first-ever update since 2005 has tightened global air pollution standards in a recognition of the emerging science in the last decade that the impact of air pollution on health is much more serious than earlier envisaged.
      • The move doesn’t immediately impact India as the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) don’t meet the WHO’s existing standards. The government has a dedicated National Clean Air Programme that aims for a 20% to 30% reduction in particulate matter concentrations by 2024 in 122 cities, keeping 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration.

DELHI'S AIR POLLUTION

  • Context:
    • Delhi’s average air quality index for November was 377 – the worst in six years, data by the Central Pollution Control Board. Between 2015 and 2020, the average air quality index was 344.
  • About Central pollution control board:
    • A statutory organisation which was constituted in September 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
    • It was entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
    • It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
    • CPCB is led by its Chairman followed by the Member Secretary, and other members. The CPCB performs its various functions through the following nine major project budget heads.
      • Pollution control enforcement
      • Mass awareness and publications
      • Hazard waste management
      • Information database management and library
      • Pollution control technology
      • Development of standards and guidelines for industry-specific emissions and effluent standards
      • Training
      • Pollution assessment (survey and monitoring).
      • R&D and laboratory management
    • Powers and Functions of CPCB:
      • Advising the Central and State Government on matters related to prevention, improvement and control of Air and Water pollution.
      • Planning and organising training programs for people involved in activities for the prevention, improvement and control of Air and Water pollution. Planning various programs to control and prevent Air & Water pollution.
      • Planning various programs to control and prevent Air & Water pollution.
      • Preparing manuals, codes and guidelines relating to treatment and disposal of sewage and trade effluents as well as for stack gas cleaning devices, stacks and ducts.
  • About The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR):
    • A national initiative was introduced by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) to measure the air quality of a metropolitan city, by measuring the overall pollution level and the location-specific air quality of the city.
    • The system is indigenously developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune and is operationalized by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
    • The objective is to provide a real-time air quality index on a 24×7 basis with colour coding along with a 72-hour advance weather forecast.
    • SAFAR is an integral part of India’s first Air Quality Early Warning System operational in Delhi.
    • It monitors all weather parameters like temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind speed, and wind direction, UV radiation, and solar radiation.
    • Pollutants monitored: Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), PM2.5, PM10, Ozone, Benzene, Toluene, Xylene, and Mercury.

NATURAL GAS

  • Context:
    • Seeking to address Delhi’s air pollution woes, the Supreme Court Friday asked the Centre and states in NCR to submit a proposal “to switch all industrial units” in the region “to piped natural gas (PNG) or cleaner fuels in a time-bound manner”, failing which, it said, such units should be closed down.
  • About Natural gas:
    • Natural gas is found with petroleum deposits and is released when crude oil is brought to the surface.
    • Consists primarily of methane and
    • Propane, butane, pentane, and hexane are also present.
    • In India, Jaisalmer, Krishna Godavari delta, Tripura and some areas offshore in Mumbai have natural gas resources.
  • Uses of Natural Gas:
    • Used in rubber compounding operations.
    • Ammonia is manufactured using hydrogen derived from methane. Ammonia is used to produce chemicals such as hydrogen cyanide, nitric acid, urea, and a range of fertilizers.
    • Many buses and commercial automotive fleets now operate on CNG.
    • It is an ingredient in dyes and inks.
    • Electric power generation.
    • Industrial, domestic, and commercial usage.
  • Advantages of natural gas:
    • Versatility & Abundance: Natural gas has multiple uses and it is the “greenest” of all fossil fuels. Also, it is abundantly available in and within the Indian subcontinent.
    • Easy Transition Energy Option: Natural gas is a feasible prospect because it will not generate the headwinds due to the shutting down of coal mines.
    • Excess Usage of Fossil Fuels: The average global share of fossil fuels in the energy basket is 84% which is even more for India.

 

KERELA'S SILVERLINE

  • Context:
    • Protests are taking place across Kerala against SilverLine, a semi high-speed railway project.
  • About Silverline project:
    • A semi high-speed railway project.
    • The proposed 529.45-km line will link Thiruvananthapuram in the south to Kasaragod in the north, covering 11 districts through 11 stations. 
    • One can travel from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram in less than four hours at 200 km/hr. 
    • Estimated to cost Rs 63,940 crore.
    • The deadline for the project is 2025.
  • What was the need for the SilverLine project?
    • The existing railway infrastructure in Kerala cannot meet the demands of the future.
    • Most trains run at an average speed of 45 km/hr.
    • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
    • Help in the expansion of Ro-Ro services
    • Produce employment opportunities
    • Integrate airports and IT corridors, and enable faster development of cities it passes through.
  • What are its features?
    • the project will have trains of electric multiple unit (EMU) type, each with preferably nine cars extendable to 12.
    • A nine-car rake can seat a maximum of 675 passengers in business and standard class settings.
    • Why are there protests against the project?
    • The project was an “astronomical scam in the making” and would sink the state further into debt.
    • The project was financially unviable and would lead to the displacement of over 30,000 families.
    • It would cause great environmental harm as its route cuts through precious wetlands, paddy fields and hills.

Methane Emissions

Where does India stand on methane emissions?

  • They plan to cut down emissions by 30% compared with the 2020 levels. At least 90 countries have signed the Global Methane Pledge, with India and China abstaining so far.
  • Separately, 133 countries have signed a Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use — a declaration initiated by the United Kingdom to “halt deforestation” and land degradation by 2030. China, too, is a signatory to this but India has stayed out.

Why is methane potent as a greenhouse gas?

  • Methane accounts for about a fifth of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and is about 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere.
  • In the last two centuries, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled, mainly due to human-related activities. Because methane is short-lived, compared with carbon dioxide, but at the same time potent, the logic is that removing it would have a significant positive impact.
  • Methane is emitted from a variety of anthropogenic (human-influenced) and natural sources. The human sources include landfills, oil and natural gas systems, agricultural activities as well as livestock rearing, coal mining, stationary and mobile combustion, wastewater treatment, and certain industrial processes.
  • Sources of methane can be harnessed for energy and in principle reduce dependence on energy sources that emit high carbon dioxide but the lack of incentives and efficient energy markets to realise this is an impediment to curtailing methane emissions.

Why hasn’t India signed the pledge?

  • India is the third-largest emitter of methane, primarily because of the size of its rural economy and by virtue of having the largest cattle population. India has stated earlier that it plans to deploy technology and capture methane that can be used as a source of energy.
  • In a communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, India said approximately 20% of its anthropogenic methane emissions come from agriculture (manure management), coal mines, municipal solid waste, and natural gas and oil systems.
  • To tap into this “potential,” the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) claims to have invested heavily in a national strategy to increase biogas production and reduce methane emissions.
  • The biogas strategy includes many policy initiatives, capacity-building, and public-private partnerships. In addition to promoting biogas development, the strategy supports goals for sustainable development, sanitation improvements, and increased generation of renewable energy.

What does the Glasgow Declaration on forest and land use entail?

  • The Glasgow Declaration was signed by 133 countries, which represent 90% of the globe’s forested land. The declaration is also backed by a $19-billion commitment, though whether this translates into legally binding flows remains to be seen.
  • The Glasgow Declaration is a successor to a failed 2014 New York Declaration for Forests — that for a while saw significant global traction — and promised to reduce emissions from deforestation by 15%-20% by 2020 and end it by 2030. However, deforestation has only increased and is responsible for about 20% of the total carbon emissions.
  • One of the goals of the pledge, to halt deforestation, is to ensure that natural forests aren’t cleared out for commercial plantations.
  • It also aims to halt industrial logging, though several independent estimates say the demand for wood pellets, which stokes deforestation, is only expected to increase.
  • Finally, the declaration seeks to strengthen the rights of indigenous tribes and communities to forestland.

Why hasn’t India signed up?

  • There is again no official reason accorded but reports suggest that Indian officials are unhappy with the wording that suggests meeting the obligations under the pledge could also mean restrictions in international trade. That is unacceptable, they say, as trade falls under the ambit of the World Trade Organization, of which India is a member.
  • India is also mulling changes to its forest conservation laws that seek to encourage commercial tree plantation as well as infrastructure development in forestland.
  • India’s long-term target is to have a third of its area under forest and tree cover, but it is so far 22%. It also proposes to create a carbon sink, via forests and plantations, to absorb 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

U.S Joins India led Solar Alliance 

Context:

  • The United States of America(USA) has joined the International Solar Alliance (ISA) as a member country.

What is the significance of the US joining ISA?

  • The US is now the 101st member to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
  • Not only this would ensure ISA’s financial sustainability but would also and enhance its global climate change role. 

About International Solar Alliance

  • ISA is an intergovernmental treaty-based international organization. It was jointly launched by India and France on the sidelines of COP 21 in 2015.
  • Aim: To catalyze global solar growth by helping to reduce the cost of financing and technology for solar.
  • HQ: The ISA is headquartered in Gurugram, India.

India launches Infrastructure for the Resilient Island States (IRIS)

Context:

  • This initiative has been launched by India for developing the infrastructure of small island nations vulnerable to climate change.
  • The new initiative is the result of cooperation between India, the U.K. and Australia and included the participation of leaders of small island nations such as Fiji, Jamaica and Mauritius.

Implementation:

  • The IRIS initiative is a part of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI)which would focus on capacity building especially in small island developing states.

Need for:

  • The last few years have shown that every nation is vulnerable to Climate Change. Whether they are developed countries or countries rich in natural resources. But, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face the biggest threat from climate change.
  • One-third of the entire population of SIDS lives on lands that are less than five metres below sea level. This makes them highly vulnerable to sea-level rise, storm surge and coastal destruction.
  • These countries contribute to only 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions yet are among the first to experience the worst impacts of climate change.
  • Agricultural production, fisheries, and related sectors are declining as the climate changes, threatening livelihoods and economic growth.

What is CDRI?

  • The CDRI is an international coalition of countries, UN agencies, multilateral development banks, the private sector, and academic institutions that aim to promote disaster-resilient infrastructure.

Objective:

  • To promote research and knowledge sharing in the fields of infrastructure risk management, standards, financing, and recovery mechanisms.

Launched:

  • By the Indian PM Narendra Modi at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019.

Aim:

  • To achieve substantial changes in member countries’ policy frameworks and future infrastructure investments, along with a major decrease in the economic losses suffered due to disasters.
  • CDRI’s initial focus is on developing disaster resilience in ecological, social, and economic infrastructure.

Small Island Developing States:

  • Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are a distinct group of 38 UN Member States and 20 Non-UN Members/Associate Members of United Nations regional commissions that face unique social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities.
  • The SIDS were recognized as a distinct group of developing countries in June 1992, at the UN Conference on Environment and Development.
  • SIDS’ unique and particular vulnerabilities are highlighted in “The Future We Want”, adopted at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (also known as Rio+20) that took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012.
  • The geographical regions in which SIDS are located are the Caribbean, the Pacific, and the AIS (Atlantic, Indian Ocean and the South China Sea).
  • The Barbados Programme of Action was produced in 1994 in order to assist the SIDS in their sustainable development efforts.
  • The United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) represent this group of states.

Conclusion:

  • Unsurprisingly, several small island states have joined the IRIS platform and drawn up plans for implementation. 
  • The bulk of the work would involve mobilising and directing financial resources towards building resilient infrastructure, retrofitting existing infrastructure, development of early warning systems, and development and sharing of best practices.

 

Stockholm Convention on POPs

  • Context:
    • European Commission has proposed to tighten limits for a range of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to tackle contamination in recycled products, health and the environment.
  • What are POPs?
    • In 1995, the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called for global action
    • to be taken on POPs, which is defined as “chemical substances that persist in the environment, bioaccumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment”.
  • The uniqueness of POPs:
    • POPs are lipophilic, which means that they accumulate in the fatty tissue of living animals and human beings.
    • In fatty tissue, the concentrations can become magnified by up to 70 000 times higher than the background levels.
    • As you move up the food chain, concentrations of POPs tend to increase so that animals at the top of the food chain such as fish, predatory birds, mammals, and humans tend to have the greatest concentrations of these chemicals.
  • About Stockholm Convention on POPs:
    • Signed in 2001 and effective from May 2004 (Ninety days after the ratification by at least 50 signatory states).
    • Aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
  • The 12 initial POPs under the Stockholm Convention:
    • Initially, twelve POPs have been recognized as causing adverse effects on humans and the ecosystem and these can be placed in 3 categories:
      1. Pesticides: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene;
      2. Industrial chemicals: hexachlorobenzene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); and
      3. By-products: hexachlorobenzene; polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/PCDF), and PCBs.
    • Since then, additional substances such as carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and certain brominated flame-retardants, as well as organometallic compounds such as tributyltin (TBT) have been added to the list of Persistent Organic Pollutants.
  • Sources of POPs:
    • Improper use and/or disposal of agrochemicals and industrial chemicals.
    • Elevated temperatures and combustion processes.
    • Unwanted by-products of industrial processes or combustion
  • Is it legally binding?
    • Yes. Article 16 of the Convention requires that the effectiveness of the measures adopted by the Convention is evaluated in regular intervals.
  • Other Conventions dealing with POPs:
    • Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollutants (LRTAP), Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
  • Recent developments:
    • The Union Cabinet, in 2021, approved the Ratification of seven chemicals listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
    • The Cabinet has also delegated its powers to ratify chemicals under the Stockholm Convention to the Union Ministers of External Affairs (MEA) and Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in respect of POPs already regulated under the domestic regulations.

Artificial snow needs to be pumped to pull off Beijing Winter Olympics

Why in news:

  • The promise of a ‘green and clean’ winter Olympics by China is one that looks increasingly unlikely with the start of the Games looming closer. A combination of global warming and poor water conservation policies have cast a shadow on not just Beijing’s attempt at holding the Winter Olympics, but the event’s future in general.
  • A report released by Sport Ecology Group at Loughborough University and Save Our Winters has stated the dangers of artificial snow on athletes’ bodies and the amount of water wastage that happens inevitably for the snow at these games to be produced.

What is artificial snow?

  • Snow that is injected with water to harden it and then treated with chemicals to keep the hardened snow in place is a form of artificial snow that is recommended for winter competitions.

How is artificial snow produced?

  • High volumes of water and energy are required to create slopes of artificial snow that are competition-ready. In a world where natural snowfall is steadily reducing, the usage of artificial snow, especially for sports, has significantly increased.
  • For the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Russia used 80% of artificial snow for competitions. That figure rose to 90% for the Pyongyang Winter Games. The 2010 Vancouver Games were also infamous for having to use helicopters to fly in snow for the competitions.
  • For the Beijing Winter Games, snowmaking machines from an Italian company called TechnoAlpin have been brought in. Since November 2021, these machines have been pumping out artificial snow.
  • These machines produce this snow by pumping out ice particles at the same time as a thin mist of water vapour. Both these particles are launched upto 60 metres in the air where they combine to become snow and then fall to the ground. TechnoAlpin has been using 290 snow cannons in Beijing.

Why is it problematic that Beijing is producing artificial snow?

  • The region of Beijing is notoriously low on water. This has been achieved through an over-reliance on groundwater coupled with the ice glaciers around the area steadily melting since the 1950s at an unsustainable rate.
  • According to a Greenpeace study in 2018, China’s glaciers had melted by 82% and one-fifth of the ice cover had been lost since the 1950s. The report also estimated that the water ‘shortage’ will hit a critical point around the year 2030 when the demand will outstrip the supply considerably.

Is it beneficial for competition?

  • There are pros and cons to artificial snow. India’s lone entrant to the Beijing Winter Games Arif Khan has said that artificial snow helps in improving technique.
  • The cons are that artificial snow creates harder and faster slopes and therefore the risk of athletes falling and hurting themselves is higher.

Extended Producers Responsibility on Plastic Packaging

Why in News?

  • The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified the Guidelines on Extended Producers Responsibility on plastic packaging under Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.

About

  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) means the responsibility of a producer for the environmentally sound management of the product (plastic packaging) until the end of its life.
  • India had first introduced EPR in 2011 under the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, and EWaste Management and Handling Rules, 2011.

Salient Features:

Specify three categories of plastic packaging:

  1. Category I: Rigid plastic packaging;
  2. Category II: Relates to flexible plastic packaging of single layer or multilayer,
  3. Category III: Covers multi-layered plastic packaging and one of material other than plastic).

Mandatory provisions: 

  1. Reuse of rigid plastic packaging material to reduce the use of fresh plastic material for packaging,
  2. Registering with the central and state pollution control boards has also made mandatory.
  • For the first time, the guidelines allow for the sale and purchase of surplus extended producer responsibility certificates. Thus setting up a market mechanism for plastic waste management.
  • After recycling the mandated percentage of plastic, a company would have to submit a certificate to the relevant authority. and if more than the mandated amount is recycled, it could be sold to other companies.
  • To ensure monitoring on fulfilment of EPR obligations, the guidelines have prescribed a system of verification and audit of enterprises.
  • Levy of environmental compensation: In cases like non-fulfilment of EPR obligations, purposes such as protecting and improving the quality of the environment, a framework for the levy of environmental compensation has been prescribed based upon the polluter pays principle.
  • Producers, importers & brand owners, may operate schemes such as deposit-refund system or buyback or any other model, in order to prevent the mixing of plastic packaging waste with solid waste.
  • Implementation: Done through a customized online platform. The platform will act as the digital backbone of the system. The online platform will allow tracking and monitoring of EPR obligations and will reduce the compliance burden for companies through online registration and filing of annual returns.

Fire Ready Formula 

Why in News?

  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has called on global governments to adopt a new ‘Fire Ready Formula,’ as it warned that incidences of wildfires would rise in the future.

About

  • This formula envisages that 66% (two-thirds) of spending must be devoted to planning, prevention, preparedness, and recovery. The remaining 34% (one-third) can be spent on response.
  • Currently, direct responses to wildfires typically receive over half of the related expenditures, while planning receives less than 1%. The true cost of wildfires includes financial, social, and environmental.
  • Findings: The UNEP report projected that the number of wildfires is likely to increase by up to 14% by 2030. It is projected to spike by 33% by 2050. It would rise by 52% by 2100.
  • Objective: The UNEP in its report has called for strengthening international and regional cooperation on wildfires.
  • It has also been recommended for the development of an international standard for wildfire management.
  • It has also been recommended that integrated wildfire management is the key to adapting to current and future changes in global wildfire risk.

Area in news:

Sultanpur, Bhindawas wetlands

  • Context:
    • Two wetlands of Haryana — Sultanpur National Park and Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary — have been included in the Ramsar list. With this, the number of protected Ramsar sites in India has now gone up to 46.
  • About Sultanpur NP:
    • Sultanpur National Park is situated in the Gurgaon district of Haryana. The park is spread across 353 acres.
    • The park is an important wetland that harbours rich plant and animal life. It supports more than 220 species of resident, winter migratory and local migratory waterbirds at critical stages of their life cycles.
    • More than ten of these are globally threatened, including the critically endangered sociable lapwing.
  • Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary:
    • Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Jhajjar district of Haryana. In 2009, it was declared as a bird sanctuary by the Indian Government.
    • The sanctuary is an important part of the ecological corridor along the route of Sahibi River which traverses from Aravalli hills in Rajasthan to the Yamuna. The sanctuary is located just 1.5 km from Khaparwas Wildlife Sanctuary.
    • The sanctuary is an important wetland that provides a safe habitat to numerous animals and plants.
    • A total of 265 species of birds have been reported from the site. More than 30,000 migratory birds belonging to over 250 species visit Bhindawas throughout the year.

Kaziranga National Park: Assam

  • Context:
    • Kaziranga has become the first in the country to use satellite phones, which are generally used by the law-enforcing agencies.
    • The satellite phones will give an edge to the forest personnel over the poachers and also during emergencies like floods.
    • The public is barred from using satellite phones in India. Satellite phones can connect from anywhere as they are directly connected to satellites around the world and do not depend on terrestrial mobile networks, as cellphones do.
  • Location:
    • It is located in the State of Assam and covers 42,996 Hectare (ha). It is the single largest undisturbed and representative area in the Brahmaputra Valley floodplain.
  • Legal Status:
    • It was declared as a National Park in 1974.
    • It has been declared a Tiger Reserve since 2007. It has a total tiger reserve area of 1,030 sq km with a core area of 430 sq. km.
  • International Status:
    • It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
    • It is recognized as An Important Bird Area by Bird Life International.
  • Biodiversity:
    • It is the home of the world's most one-horned rhinos.
    • Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary has the highest density of one-horned rhinos in the world and second highest number of Rhinos in Assam after Kaziranga National Park.
    • Much of the focus of conservation efforts in Kaziranga are focused on the 'big four' species— Rhino, Elephant, Royal Bengal Tiger and Asiatic water buffalo.
    • The 2018 census had yielded 2,413 rhinos and approximately 1,100 elephants.
    • As per the figures of tiger census conducted in 2014, Kaziranga had an estimated 103 tigers, the third highest population in India after Jim Corbett National Park (215) in Uttarakhand and Bandipur National Park (120) in Karnataka.
    • Kaziranga is also home to 9 of the 14 species of primates found in the Indian subcontinent.
    • The park has more than 250 seasonal water bodies, besides the Diphlu River running through it.
  • Other National Parks in Assam are:
    • Manas National Park,
    • Dibru-Saikhowa National Park,
    • Nameri National Park,
    • Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park.
    • Dehing Patkai National Park.
    • Raimona National Park.

 

 

Dihing Patkai and Raimona National parks

  • Context:
    • Recently, two new national parks, Dihing Patkai and Raimona, notified in Assam.
  • About National park:
    • According to the Indian Ministry of Environment & Forests, a national park is an area, whether within a sanctuary or not, that can be notified by the state government to be constituted as a National Park, because of its ecological, faunal, floral, or zoological importance, needed for protecting & propagating or developing wildlife therein or its environment.
    • No human activity is permitted inside the national park except for the ones permitted by the Chief Wildlife Warden of the state under the conditions given in WPA (Wildlife Protection Act) 1972.
    • Some human activities can be allowed inside a wildlife sanctuary, but no human activity is allowed in a national park.
    • National parks in India are IUCN category II protected areas.
    • India's first national park was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park, now known as Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand.
  • National parks in Assam:
    • Assam now is the state with the second-highest number of national parks (7) in the country, after Madhya Pradesh (12).
    • The Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar has 9 national parks.
    • Other 5 National parks of Assam are- Kaziranga, Nameri, Orang, Manas and Dibru-Saikhowa.
    • Kaziranga and Manas are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • About Dihing Patkai National Park:
    • Location- It is located within the larger Dihing Patkai Elephant Reserve, which spreads across the coal- and oil-rich districts of Upper Assam.
    • The oldest refinery of Asia in Digboi and ‘open cast’ coal mining at Lido are located near the sanctuary.
    • The Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary is also known as the Jeypore Rainforest.
    • Naming- Dehing is the name of the river that flows through this forest and Patkai is the hill at the foot of which the sanctuary lies.
    • Flora and Fauna- It is believed to be the last remaining contiguous patch of lowland rainforest area in Assam.
    • Rare fauna found in the region includes Chinese pangolin, flying fox, wild pig, sambar, barking deer, gaur, serow, and Malayan giant squirrels.
    • It is the only sanctuary in India that is home to seven different species of wild cats – tiger, leopard, clouded leopard, leopard cat, golden cat, jungle cat, and marbled cat.
    • Assamese macaque, a primate found in the forest, is on the red list of Near Threatened species.
    • It has the highest concentration of the rare endangered White Winged Wood Duck.
  • About Raimona National Park:
    • Location– The Raimona National Park is within the Bodoland Territorial Region.
    • It is bounded on the west by the Sonkosh river and the Saralbhanga river on the east.
    • Both the rivers are tributaries of the Brahmaputra.
    • The Pekua river defines Raimona’s southern boundary.
    • Flora and Fauna-With 11 different forest types and subtypes, Raimona is home to the golden langur, elephant, tiger, clouded leopard and Indian gaur besides sustaining several species of orchids, more than 150 species of butterflies, 170 species of birds and 380 species of plants.
    • Golden Langur is endemic species that has been named the mascot of the Bodoland region.

 

World’s First ‘Five-Country Biosphere Reserve’

  • Context:
    • Recently, Mura-Drava-Danube (MDD) was declared as the world’s first ‘five-country biosphere reserve’ by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
  • About MDD:
    • The biosphere reserve covers 700 kilometres of the Mura, Drava and Danube rivers and stretches across Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia.
    • The total area of the reserve is a million hectares – in the so-called ‘Amazon of Europe’, which is now the largest riverine protected area in Europe.
    • The biosphere “represented an important contribution to the European Green Deal (climate action plan) and contributed to the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy in the Mura-Drava-Danube region.”
    • The strategy’s aim is to revitalise 25,000 km of rivers and protect 30% of the European Union’s land area by 2030.
  • Importance of the MDD:
    • The area is one of the richest in Europe in terms of species diversity.
    • It is home to floodplain forests, gravel and sandbanks, river islands, oxbows and meadows.
    • The area is home to the highest density in Europe of breeding pairs of white-tailed eagles and endangered species such as the little tern, black stork, otters, beavers and sturgeons.
    • It is also an important stepping stone for more than 2,50,000 migratory waterfowl every year.
  • Biosphere Reserve (BR):
    • About:
      • BR is an international designation by (UNESCO) for representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large areas of terrestrial or coastal/marine ecosystems or a combination of both.
      • BR tries to balance economic and social development and maintenance of associated cultural values along with the preservation of nature.
      • BRs are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located.
      • These are designated under the intergovernmental MAB Programme by the Director-General of UNESCO following the decisions of the MAB International Coordinating Council (MAB ICC).
      • The Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme is an intergovernmental scientific programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for enhancing the relationship between people and their environments.
      • Their status is internationally recognized.
      • There are 727 biosphere reserves in 131 countries, including 22 transboundary sites.
  • Three Main Zones:
    • Core Areas: It comprises a strictly protected zone that contributes to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation.
    • Buffer Zones: It surrounds or adjoins the core area(s), and is used for activities compatible with sound ecological practices that can reinforce scientific research, monitoring, training and education.
    • Transition Area: The transition area is where communities foster socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable economic and human activities.
  • Biosphere Reserves in India:
    • Presently, there are 18 Biosphere Reserves in India, among which 12 Biosphere reserves in India find their place in UNESCO’s List of Man & Biosphere Reserves Programme.
    • The latest included under the MAB was ‘Panna Biosphere Reserve’ (Madhya Pradesh).

India's first cryptogamic garden

  • Context:
    • Recently, India's first cryptogamic garden was inaugurated in Deoban area of the Dehradun district in Uttarakhand.
  • About:
    • At an altitude of 2,700 meters, spanning over an area of 3 acres, Deoban has majestic pristine forests of Deodar, Oak.
    • Being a pollution-free area, it also supports the ample growth of Cryptogams.
    • Uttarakhand is a rich state in terms of biodiversity regarding Cryptograms with 539 species of lichens, 346 species of algae, 478 species of bryophytes, and 365 species of pteridophytes.
  • Cryptogams
    • Cryptogamae means 'hidden reproduction' referring to the fact that no seed, no flowers are produced, thus cryptogams represent the non-seed bearing plants.
    • Cryptogams require moist conditions to survive.
    • The group comprises algae, fungi, mosses, lichens, and ferns among other types of plant species
    • Cryptogams are one of the oldest groups of plant species, existing since the Jurassic era.
    • These species have immense contributions to our environment and ecology and are imperative to sustain life on Earth.

Lemru Elephant Reserve

  • Context:
    • The proposed Lemru Elephant Reserve in Chhattisgarh, in the pipeline for 20 years, has become the subject of yet another controversy.
    • In a letter on June 26, the state Forest and Environment Department asked the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) to make a presentation for decreasing the area of the proposed reserve from 1,995 sq km to 450 sq km.
  • What is Lemru Elephant Reserve?
    • The proposal for the reserve, in the Korba district, was passed unanimously by the Assembly in 2005 and got central approval in 2007.
    • Lemru is one of two elephant reserves planned to prevent human-animal conflict in the region, with elephants moving into Chhattisgarh from Odisha and Jharkhand.
    • Its area was then proposed to be 450 sq km.
  • Human-animal conflict
    • Elephants are found in five divisions of the state.
    • North Chhattisgarh alone is home to over 240 elephants.
    • More than 150 elephants have died in the state over the last 20 years, including 16 between June and October 2020.
    • Elephants in Chhattisgarh are relatively new
    • While MP had a policy of pushing back the animals coming from Jharkhand, after Chhattisgarh was formed, the lack of a formal policy allowed elephants to use as a corridor a route in the north and central parts of the state.
    • Since these animals were relatively new, the human-animal conflict started once elephants started straying into inhabited areas, looking for food.

Pilibhit Tiger Reserve

  • Context:
    • Recently, angry villagers attacked forest guards after a tiger killed two in Pilibhit Tiger Reserve.
  • About:
    • It is situated in the Pilibhit district and Shahjahanpur District of Uttar Pradesh, forming part of the Terai Arc Landscape, in the upper Gangetic Plain Biogeographic Province.
    • It is one of the finest examples of the exceedingly diverse and productive Terai ecosystems.
    • Pilibhit Tiger Reserve was declared in September 2008 based on its special type of ecosystem with vast open spaces and sufficient feed for the elegant predators.
    • It is India’s 45th Tiger Reserve Project.
    • The northern edge of the reserve lies along the Indo-Nepal border while the southern boundary is marked by the river Sharada and Khakra.
    • The study done by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) shows that the Dudhwa-Pilibhit population has high conservation value as it represents the only tiger population with the ecological and behavioral adaptations of the tiger unique to the Terai region.
    • The area of Pilibhit Tiger Reserve has a dry and hot climate which brings a combination of dry teak forest and Vindhya mountain soils.
    • The major forest types found here include open woodlands, grasslands, and a riverine covered with thorny woodlands and tall grass.
    • The dry deciduous forests of the area exhibit lush green color in monsoons while in summers, they undergo a dynamic change and turn to desolate grey shade.
    • The habitat is characterized by sal forests, tall grasslands, and swamps maintained by periodic flooding from rivers.

Mhadei wildlife sanctuary

  • Context:
    • Recently, the first tiger was spotted in Goa’s Mhadei after four big cats were poisoned in 2020
  • About:
    • It is a protected area in Goa in the Western Ghats.
    • The sanctuary is an area of high biodiversity.
    • The protected areas of Goa (Mhadei WLS and Mollem WLS) are part of the Western Ghats landscape complex which has the unique distinction of having the world’s largest tiger population.
    • This landscape has several interconnected tiger reserves and protected areas along with reserve forests.
    • However, factors like plantations, agriculture, industrial and infrastructure development activities like the widening of roads and railway lines are threatening the existing habitat connectivity in the Western Ghats.
    • Without upgrading the legal status of Goa’s protected areas to that of a tiger reserve and putting in place a strong protection regime in place, the state may become a death trap for tigers dispersing in this landscape.

Vansda National Park (VNP)

  • Context:
    • To increase the herbivore population in the wild especially in and around Vansda National Park, seven more spotted deer were soft released recently.
  • About:
    • The VNP, which falls under the Dang (South) forest division, is spread over 23.99 sq km and is situated on hilly terrain with moderate altitudes.
    • These hills are extensions of the Sahyadri range.
    • The Park represents the northern part of Western Ghats in Gujarat.
    • Located in the Navsari district of the state of Gujarat, Vansda National Park got established as a National park in the year of 1979.
    • The park got named after the Maharaja of Vansda who privately owned the area.
    • Interestingly, some parts of the park are dark even during the daytime.
    • That is because it has a supremely dense plant growth.
    • And during monsoon, since there's heavy rainfall, it just adds to the already abundant park.
    • The beautiful river Ambika flows through the northeastern boundary of the park.
    • The park also has a fairly large number of tribes living in and around such as the Bhil, Gamit, Warli, Kokni, Kunbi, and Dangi tribes.
    • Vansda National Park is Home to Biodiversity Not Seen Anywhere Else in Gujarat.

 

Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary

Why in News?

  • On the occasion of World Wetlands Day, Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary in Gujarat and Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh have been included as Ramsar Site from India. The National Wetland Decadal Change Atlas was also launched.

About Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary

  • Location: located in Gujarat. It is a freshwater wetland located near the coast of the Gulf of Kutch.
  • It was formed following the creation of a bund (dike) in 1920 by the then ruler of the erstwhile princely state of Nawanagar to protect farmlands from saltwater ingress.
  • The sanctuary is now part of Marine National Park, Jamnagar, the first marine national park in the country. The sanctuary is also part of the Central Asian Flyway.
  • The site provides habitat to endangered Pallas’s fish-eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus) and Indian skimmer (Rynchops albicollis), and the vulnerable common pochard (Aythya ferina).
  • The site also regularly supports more than 1% of the south and south-west Asian population of Dalmatian pelicans, more than 2% of greylag goose, and more than 20% of common crane

National Wetland Decadal Change Atlas

  • It has been prepared by the Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad. The original Atlas was released by SAC in 2011.
  • The Atlas highlights the changes which have happened in Wetlands across the country in the past decade.
  • The Atlas has been used extensively by all the State Governments in their planning processes

World Wetlands Day 2022

  • Observed every year on February 2 to raise awareness about the importance of wetlands and the need to preserve them. 
  • The day commemorates the date when the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in 1971.
  • The World Wetlands Day 2022 is significant as this is the first time that the day will be observed as a United Nationals International Day.
  • World Wetlands Day 2022 theme is “Wetlands Action for People and Nature”.
  • India now has 49 Ramsar sites which are the highest in South Asia

Kakoijana Reserve Forest

Why in News?

  • Villagers in Assam’s Bongaigaon district have opposed a move by the State government to upgrade Kakoijana Reserve Forest to a wildlife sanctuary.

About:

  • Located in Bongaigaon district of Assam.
  • It was constituted in the year 1966 as a reserve forest.
  • The reserve is one of the better-known homes of the golden langur (Trachypithecus geei).

What is the Issue? 

  • Once the Kakoijana Reserve Forest is converted to a wildlife sanctuary, stricter rules will be applied and this will impact the customary and traditional practices and consequently result in villagers losing the rights over the forest.
  • Instead, the villagers have demanded that the reserve forest should be converted into a community forest reserve using Forest Rights Act, 2006. This is because some of the areas inside the forest are sacred, and their sanctity should be maintained

What is the Difference between Wildlife Sanctuary, Reserve Forest and Community Forest Resource?

  • Wildlife Sanctuary: It is the place that is reserved exclusively for wildlife use, which includes animals, reptiles, insects, birds, etc. wild animals, especially those in danger of extinction and the rare ones, so that they can live in peace for a lifetime and keep their population viable.
  • The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 empowers the central and state governments to declare any area a wildlife sanctuary, national park, or closed area.
  • Reserve forests: They are the most restricted forests and are constituted by the State Government on any forest land or wasteland which is the property of the Government. In reserved forests, local people are prohibited, unless specifically allowed by a Forest Officer in the course of the settlement.
  • Community Forest Resource: According to Section 2(a) of the Forest Rights Act, it is the customary common forest land within the traditional or customary boundaries of the village or seasonal use of landscape in the case of pastoral communities, including reserved forests, protected forests and protected areas such as sanctuaries and national parks to which the community had traditional access.

Basai Wetland

Why in News?

  • The Basai Wetlands in Gurugram has shrunk to a quarter of their original size over the years.

About

  • Basai wetland, located in Basai village in Gurgaon Haryana is a flora and fauna rich water body.
  • It lies in one of the paleochannels of the Sahibi River, a tributary of the Yamuna which originates from the Aravalli range in Rajasthan and flows through the region.

Significance:

  • It houses 20,000 birds of over 280 species including migratory birds and endangered birds.
  • It is recognized as a key biodiversity area by the IUCN and the Wildlife Institute of India
  • It is also recognized globally as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International.
  • However, it has not yet been declared a protected wetland by the Government of Haryana

Threats:

  • Given the accelerated expansion of the city of the future, the wetland continues to disappear under newly laid roads, modern housing constructions, and other infrastructure development.

India’s first OECM site

Why in News?

  • On World Wetlands Day, that is, on February 2, the Aravalli Biodiversity Park was announced as the first Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures site, the OECM site.

About

  • The OECM tag is given by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • The tag is conferred upon areas that have achieved effective in-situ conservation of biodiversity but are outside protected areas like national parks and sanctuaries.
  • The OECM tag does not bring any legal, financial, or management implications but designates the area as a biodiversity hotspot on the international map.

Background: 

  • The proposal to declare Aravalli Biodiversity Park an OECM site was sent by the National Biodiversity Authority to the IUCN in 2020.

Aravalli Biodiversity Park:

  • The Aravalli Biodiversity Park is located in Gurugram. It has semi-arid vegetation with lots of native plants, trees, shrubs, and several species of birds.
  • The park was transformed into a city forest from a 40-year-old mining site through the efforts of citizens, ecologists and scientists along with the help of the urban local body of Gurugram.
  • Aravallis are considered the green lungs of Delhi. They support leopards, fox, sambhar and jackals. The Aravallis provide 7.07% of oxygen to Delhi.

Blue Flag Certification

  • Context:
    • Recently, Foundation for Environment Education (FEE), Denmark has awarded the Blue Flag Certification to Kovalam (Tamil Nadu) and Eden (Puducherry), taking the total number of such beaches in the country to 10.
    • A waving “Blue Flag” is an indication of 100% compliance to the 33 stringent criteria and sound health of the beach.
  • About:
    • It is an internationally recognised eco-label that is accorded based on 33 criteria. These criteria are divided into 4 major heads namely:
      • Environmental education and information
      • Bathing water quality
      • Environmental management
      • Conservation and safety services on the beaches
    • Blue Flag beaches are considered the cleanest beaches in the world. It is an eco-tourism model endeavouring to provide the tourists/beachgoers clean and hygienic bathing water, facilities, a safe and healthy environment and sustainable development of the area.
    • It is accorded by the international jury composed of eminent members – United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Denmark-based NGO Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
    • On the lines of Blue Flag certification, India has also launched its own eco-label BEAMS (Beach Environment & Aesthetics Management Services).
  • Other Eight Beaches which have Received the Certification:
    • Shivrajpur in Gujarat,
    • Ghoghla in Daman & Diu,
    • Kasarkod in Karnataka and,
    • Padubidri beach in Karnataka,
    • Kappad in Kerala,
    • Rushikonda in Andhra Pradesh,
    • The golden beach of Odisha,
    • Radhanagar beach in Andaman and Nicobar.
  • BEAMS:
    • Beach Environment & Aesthetics Management Services comes under ICZM (Integrated Coastal Zone Management) project.
    • This was launched by the Society of Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM) and the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • The objectives of the BEAMS program is to:
    • Abate pollution in coastal waters,
    • Promote sustainable development of beach facilities,
    • Protect & conserve coastal ecosystems & natural resources,
    • Strive and maintain high standards of cleanliness,
    • Hygiene & safety for beachgoers in accordance with coastal environment & regulations.
    • It has helped in saving 1,100 ml/year of municipal water through recycling; educating around 1,25,000 beachgoers about responsible behaviour at the beaches; providing alternate livelihood opportunities to 500 fishermen families through pollution abatement, safety and services and has also increased footfall for recreation activities at the beaches by approximately 80% leading to economic development.

Corbett National Park

  • Context:
    • The Union Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change has recently proposed to change the name of Corbett National Park to Ramganga National Park.
  • Jim Corbett:
    • Born in Nainital in 1875, Edward James Corbett lived in India till Independence, after which he left for Kenya where he died in 1955.
    • India’s best-known hunter, Corbett earned fame after he tracked down and killed a number of man-eating tigers and leopards (he is said to have killed over a dozen).

  • Corbett National Park:
    • Jim Corbett National Park is a national park in India located in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand state, spread over 520 sq km and is part of the Corbett Tiger Reserve.
    • The first national park in India, it was established in 1936 during the British Raj and named Haily National Park after a governor of the United Provinces in which it was then located.
    • It was renamed Ramganga National Park, named after the river that flows through it, shortly after Independence and was rechristened yet again as Corbett National Park in 1956
    • The park was the first to come under the Project Tiger initiative.
      • The tiger reserve: The national park along with the neighbouring 301-sq km-Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary together make the critical tiger habitat of the Corbett Tiger Reserve.
      • The place from where Project Tiger was launched in 1973, with its tiger population at 163, boasts of a single largest tiger population in a tiger reserve and one of the highest tiger densities in the country.

 

Biodiversity And Conservation:

Warmest March in 122 Years

  • Context:
    • India recorded its warmest March with a severe heatwave scorching several parts of the country. 
    • The average maximum temperature of 33.10 degrees Celsius recorded in March 2022 is the highest ever in the last 122 years.
  • Reasons For This Unusual Heat:
    • The main reason for this unusually hot month is an active Western Disturbance over North India and the absence of any major eastern system over South India.
    • It leads to less rainfall and very few thunderstorm activities over most parts of the country.
    • The rainfall recorded last month in the country as a whole was 8.9 mm, which was 71% less than its long period average rainfall of 30.4 mm. 
    • Also, the sky was cloudless due to which the earth was directly exposed to the sun's rays, which increased the temperature.
  • About Heat Wave:
    • A Heat Wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season.
    • It typically occurs between March and June, and in some rare cases even extends till July.
    •  According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), heatwaves need not be considered till the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C for Plains and at least 30°C for Hilly regions.
    • Without a concomitant increase in rainfall, heatwaves, especially in arid regions, can lead to water scarcity and increased stress for plants.

IPCC: Part Three of Sixth Assessment Report

  • Context:
    • Recently, the United Nations’ climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the third part of its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).
  • Key Findings of the Report?
    • Greenhouse Gas Emissions:
      • In 2019, global net anthropogenic Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were at 59 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), 54% higher than in 1990.
      • Net emissions refer to emissions accounted for after deducting emissions soaked up by the world’s forests and oceans.
      • Anthropogenic emissions refer to emissions that originate from human-driven activities like the burning of coal for energy or cutting of forests.
      • This emissions growth has been driven mainly by CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and the industrial sector, as well as methane emissions.
      • But the average annual rate of growth slowed to 1.3% per year in the period 2010-19, compared to 2.1% per year in the period 2000-09.
      • At least 18 countries have reduced GHG emissions for longer than 10 years on a continuous basis due to decarbonisation of their energy system, energy efficiency measures and reduced energy demand.
    • Emission by the Least Developed Countries:
      • Carbon inequality remains pervasive as ever with Least Developed Countries (LDCs) emitting only 3.3% of global emissions in 2019.
      • Their average per capita emissions in the period 1990-2019 were only 1.7 tonnes CO2e, compared to the global average of 6.9 tCO2e.
      • LDCs contributed less than 0.4% of total historical CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry in the period 1850-2019.
      • Globally, 41% of the world’s population lived in countries emitting less than 3 tCO2e per capita in 2019.
    • Pledges to the Paris Agreement:
      • Upon adding up the NDCs announced by countries till October 2021, the IPCC finds that it is likely that warming will exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C) in this century, thereby failing the Paris Agreement’s mandate.
      • Current pledges made by countries who have signed the Paris Agreement are known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
      • The CO2 emissions from existing and planned fossil fuel infrastructure — coal, oil, and gas — contribute greatly to this projected failure.
      • In its best-case scenario, known as the C1 pathway, the IPCC outlines what the world needs to do to limit temperatures to 1.5°C, with limited or no ‘overshoot’.
      • Overshoot refers to global temperatures crossing the 1.5°C thresholds temporarily, but then being brought back down using technologies that suck CO2 out of the atmosphere.
      • To achieve the C1 pathway, global GHG emissions must fall by 43% by 2030.
    • Low Emissions Technologies:
      • Widespread ‘system transformations’ are required across the energy, buildings, transport, land and other sectors, to achieve the 1.5°C targets and this will involve adopting low-emission or zero-carbon pathways of development in each sector. And solutions are available at affordable costs.
      • The costs of low emissions technologies have fallen continuously since 2010. On a unit costs basis, solar energy has dropped 85%, wind by 55 %, and lithium-ion batteries by 85%.
      • Their deployment, or usage, has increased multiple folds since 2010 — 10 times for solar and 100 times for electric vehicles.
      • Reducing fossil fuel use in the energy sector, demand management and energy efficiency in the industrial sector and adopting the principles of ‘sufficiency’ and efficiency in the construction of buildings are among the plethora of solutions.
      • Demand-side Mitigation:
      • It also adds that demand-side mitigation, ie, behavioural changes such as adopting plant-based diets or shifting to walking and cycling “can reduce global GHG emissions in end-use sectors by 40-70% by 2050 compared to baseline scenarios” and improve wellbeing.
      • Most of the potential for demand-side mitigation currently lies in developed countries.
    • Impact on GDP:
      • The IPCC states that low-cost climate mitigation options could halve global GHG emissions by 2030. In fact, the long-term benefits of limiting warming far outweigh the costs.
      • Investing in decarbonisation would have a minimal impact on global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
      • Short Fall of Finances:
      • Financial flows fall short of the levels needed to achieve the ambitious mitigation goals, however.
      • The gaps are the widest for the agriculture, forestry, and other land uses (AFOLU) sector and for developing countries.
      • But the global financial system is large enough and “sufficient global capital and liquidity” exist to close these gaps.
      • For developing countries, it recommends scaled-up public grants, as well as “increased levels of public finance and publicly mobilised private finance flows from developed to developing countries in the context of the USD 100 billion-a-year goal; increase the use of public guarantees to reduce risks and leverage private flows at a lower cost; local capital markets development and building greater trust in international cooperation processes”.

Tree City of The World 

  • Context:
    • Mumbai has been recognised as ‘2021 Tree City of the World’ by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (UN) jointly with Arbor Day Foundation.
    • This is the first time Mumbai has made it to the list.
    • Hyderabad has been featured on this list for the second consecutive year.
  • Why does Mumbai Gets The Recognition?
    • In 2018, residents of the city fought to save their mangrove forests from decomposing and their efforts saved more than 5,000 mangroves over the years.
    • Another example was to save the rich Aarey Forest. The 800-acre land area was under the Metro Car Shed project, but after protests, it was declared a reserve forest and the project was redesigned.
    • Sanjay Gandhi National Park acts as the lungs of Mumbai, providing fresh air.
  • About Tree City of the World tag
    • The programme was started by the UN-FAO and Arbor Day Foundation, an American non-profit organisation. 
    • The programme provides direction, assistance, and worldwide recognition for communities’ dedication to their urban forest, and provides a framework for a healthy, sustainable urban forestry programme in a city or a town.

Declining Nitrogen Levels

  • Context:
    • According to a new Report, Nitrogen levels are on a decline in the ‘nitrogen-rich world’ and plants and animals may face consequences.
  • Key Findings:
    • Imbalance in Availability: 
      • An imbalance in nitrogen availability has been reported across the globe, with some places having an excess and others a shortage of the element. 
    • Shrinking Locations: 
      • Nitrogen availability has been shrinking in grasslands in central North America for a hundred years. 
      • Many forests in North America and Europe have also suffered from nutritional declines for several decades or longer due to the same reason.
      • Tropical and boreal forests may be particularly vulnerable.
    • Factors responsible for Nitrogen decline:
      • CO2 and nitrogen: Plants grow quickly when exposed to high carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations. Thus, their demand for nitrogen also goes up.
      • High CO2 levels dilute plant nitrogen, triggering a cascade of effects that lower the availability of nitrogen. 
      • Warming and disturbances, including wildfire.
    • Eutrophication:
      • When excessive nitrogen accumulates in the streams, inland lakes and coastal bodies of water, it could sometimes result in eutrophication
    • Negative effects: 
      • Imbalance of nitrogen has been hurting aquatic and terrestrial life that feed on it. 
      • Cattle grazing these areas have had less protein in their diets over time.
      • Slower and smaller growth: Without nitrogen, an essential nutrient, plants grow slowly and produce smaller flowers and fruits. Their leaves turn yellowish and are less nutritious to insects, birds and animals.
    • Insect apocalypse:
      • Plants with low nitrogen levels can encourage swarming in some species of locusts.
      • Low nitrogen availability could limit plants’ ability to capture CO2 from the atmosphere. 
      • Eutrophication leads to harmful algal blooms, dead zones and fish kills.
  • Production by Human:
    • Human production of nitrogen is now five times higher than it was 60 years, according to a 2017 study.
    • Effects in Human: In humans, high levels of nitrogen in the groundwater are linked to intestinal cancers and miscarriages and can be fatal for infants.
  • Declining nitrogen in natural ecosystems:
    • Nitrogen (N) availability is key to the functioning of ecosystems and the cycling of nutrients and energy through the biosphere. 
    • The productivity of ecosystems and their capacity to support life depends on access to reactive nitrogen. 
    • Over the past century, humans have more than doubled the global supply of reactive N through industrial and agricultural activities. 
    • However, long-term records demonstrate that N availability is declining in many regions of the world. 
    • Reactive N inputs are not evenly distributed, and global changes—including elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and rising temperatures—are affecting ecosystem N supply relative to demand. 

Nitrogen Cycle

  • It is the circulation of nitrogen in various forms through nature. 
  • Nitrogen, a component of proteins and nucleic acids, is essential to life on Earth. Although 78 percent by volume of the atmosphere is nitrogen gas, this abundant reservoir exists in a form unusable by most organisms. 
  • Through a series of microbial transformations, however, nitrogen is made available to plants, which in turn ultimately sustain all animal life. 
  • The steps, which are not altogether sequential, fall into the following classifications: 
    • nitrogen fixation, 
    • nitrogen assimilation, 
    • ammonification, 
    • nitrification, and 
    • denitrification.

State Energy and Climate Index

  • Context:
    • Recently, the NITI Aayog launched the State Energy and Climate Index (SECI).
    • It is the first index that aims to track the efforts made by states and UTs in the climate and energy sector.
  • State Energy and Climate Index:
    • The States have been categorized based on size and geographical differences as larger and smaller States and UTs.
    • The index is based on 2019-20 data.
    • The states and UTs are categorized into three groups: Front Runners, Achievers, and Aspirants.
  • The objectives of the index are:
    • Ranking the States based on their efforts towards improving energy access, energy consumption, energy efficiency, and safeguarding the environment.
    • Helping drive the agenda of the affordable, accessible, efficient and clean energy transition at the State level.
    • Encouraging healthy competition among the states on different dimensions of energy and climate.
  • It ranks the states’ performance on 6 parameters, namely:
    • DISCOM’s Performance.
    • Access, Affordability and Reliability of Energy.
    • Clean Energy Initiatives.
    • Energy Efficiency.
    • Environmental Sustainability.
    • New Initiatives.
    • The parameters are further divided into 27 indicators.
  • Performance of various states:
    • Gujarat, Kerala and Punjab have been ranked as the top three performers in the category of larger States, while Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were the bottom three States.
    • Goa emerged as the top performer in the smaller States category followed by Tripura and Manipur.
    • Among UTs, Chandigarh, Delhi and Daman & Diu/Dadra & Nagar Haveli are the top performers.
    • Punjab was the best performer in discom performance, while Kerala topped in access, affordability and reliability category.
    • Haryana was the best performer in clean energy initiative among larger States and Tamil Nadu in the energy efficiency category.

IPCC Sixth Assessment Report

  • Context:
    • IPCC has recently reported the second part of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR 6 WGII) that lays focus on climate change impacts, risks and vulnerabilities and explores options to adapt.
  • IPCC: About the sixth assessment report:
    • The first part of the report was released in August 2021. It talked about the scientific basis of climate change.
    • IPCC will release its third and final part of the report in April 2022.
    • The first Assessment Report by IPCC had come out in 1990.
    • The reports were then released in 1995, 2001, 2007 and 2015, which form the basis of the global response to climate change.
  • Key findings:
    • Impact on health:
      • IPCC has for the first time included the regional and sectoral impacts of climate change and the health impacts.
      • For example, the report states that Mumbai will be affected by sea-level rise, while Kolkata is at risk of storms. It provides a clearer vision on what needs to be done regarding these threats and was not done in previous reports.
      • The report states that climate change and related extreme events will significantly increase ill-health and premature deaths in the near- to long term.
      • The report also says that vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria will increase.
      • Besides, mental health challenges, including anxiety and stress, are expected to increase under further global warming in all assessed regions, particularly for children, adolescents, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions.
    • Impact on food system:
      • As far as India is concerned, rice production can witness a decrease from 10 to 30 percent whereas maize production can witness a decrease from 25 to 70 percent assuming a range of temperature increase from 1 degree Celsius to 4 degrees Celsius.
      • The report has cautioned that climate-related risks to agriculture and food systems in Asia will further escalate with the changing climate.
    • Wet-bulb temperatures:
      • The report has also warned that if emissions continue to rise, wet-bulb temperatures will approach or exceed the unsurvivable limit of 35 degrees Celsius over much of India, with the majority of the country reaching wet-bulb temperatures of 31 degrees C or more.
      • Wet-bulb temperature is a measure that combines heat and humidity.
      • A wet-bulb temperature of 31 degrees Celsius is extremely dangerous for humans, while a value of 35 degrees Celsius is unsurvivable for more than about six hours, even for fit and healthy adults resting in the shade.
      • Currently, wet-bulb temperatures in India rarely exceed 31 degrees Celsius, with most of the country experiencing maximum wet-bulb temperatures of 25-30 degrees Celsius.
    • Impact on water stress:
      • The international transboundary river basins of Amu Darya, Indus, Ganges and inter-state Sabarmati-river basin in India could face severe water scarcity challenges due to climate change.
      • The report further says that both climatic and non-climatic drivers such as socio-economic changes have created water stress conditions in both water supply and demand in all sub-regions of Asia.
    • Impact on economy:
      • The report highlights that high levels of warming could cause a global GDP decline of 10-23 percent by the end of the century, compared to a world without warming.
      • Several major economies could see even larger economic declines because of climate change.
      • According to a study cited in the report, if emissions are high, GDP losses by the end of the century could be up to 42 percent in China and 92 percent in India.

SIMBA: Software to Identify Asiatic Lion

  • Context:
    • Recently, Gujarat Forest Department has decided to use SIMBA software to identify the Asiatic lions for their proper management and conservation.
  • About
    • SIMBA or Software with Intelligent Marking Based identification of Asiatic lions is a photo-identification software, specifically designed to distinguish patterns or marks.
    • Through this software, the forest department will assign different names to the lions by identifying marks on their body parts.
    • The veterinary record will also be maintained using this database.
    • The SIMBA works with a deep machine learning technique that matches a point pattern for pairwise comparisons and that automates the individual identification, based on the variability in the individual’s whisker spot pattern, the presence of scars on the face, notches on the ears and other metadata of the photograph.
    • The software also extracts the uniqueness from the photograph and can cluster similar patterns.

Tiger density in Sundarbans

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Wildlife Institute of India has told the state forest department in its preliminary report that the Sunderbans in West Bengal have more tigers than the mangrove delta can carry.
    • The density of tigers in the Sunderbans may have reached the carrying capacity of the mangrove forests, leading to frequent dispersals and a surge in human-wildlife conflict.
  • Key Highlights:
    • In the 2014 national census, 76 tigers were traced in the zone.
    • In 2018, the number of big cats was 88.
    • The 2020-2021 Census conducted by the state forest department found 96 tigers in the delta.
    • The increase in the number of tigers could arguably be one major reason for the rise in straying incidents.
    • The report suggests that when there are too many tigers in a particular forest, the “young adults” might be compelled to move out in search of new territory.
    • As per the WII report, the carrying capacity in Sunderbans is three to five tigers per 100 sq km and in multiple blocks, the density is more than that.

Sunderbans

  • Sundarbans is a vast contiguous mangrove forest ecosystem in the coastal region of Bay of Bengal spread over India and Bangladesh on the delta (world’s largest) of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers.
  • It contains the world's largest mangrove forests.
  • It is the only mangrove forest in the world inhabited by tigers.
  • It is also home to Royal Bengal Tigers.
  • Sundarbans Tiger Reserve and National Park were created in 1973 and 1984 respectively.
  • It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 and designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2001.
  • Sundarban Wetland, India was recognized as the ‘Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in January 2019.
  • Parameters Affecting Peak Density of Tiger Population:
  • The peak density of the tiger population depends on several parameters like prey base, human interference, and the male-female ratio of the tigers.
    • Prey, eat, breed:
      • Availability of food and space is the primary factor that determines how many tigers a forest can hold. And often, food is space for the tiger.
      • While they are known to establish vast ranges — the male in particular strives to control multiple females with typically smaller ranges — how far a tiger will range is determined by the abundance of prey in its forest.
      • In the Terai and Shivalik hills habitat — think Corbett tiger reserve, for example — 10-16 tigers can survive in 100 sq km.
      • This slides to 7-11 tigers per 100 sq km in the reserves of the north-central Western Ghats such as Bandipur.
      • 6-10 tigers per 100 sq km in the dry deciduous forests, such as Kanha, of central India.
      • The correlation between prey availability and tiger density is fairly established.
      • As per the All-India Tiger report 2018, the carrying capacity in the Sunderbans is “at around 4 tigers” per 100 sq km.
      • The low density of tigers in the Sundarbans is an inherent attribute of the hostile mangrove habitat that supports low tiger prey densities.
    • Human Interference:
      • The consequence is the frequent dispersal of tigers leading to higher levels of human-wildlife conflict in the reserve peripheries.
      • How the dispersal of wildlife is tolerated by people — from the locals who live around them to policymakers who decide management strategies also plays a crucial role in a reserve’s carrying capacity of tigers.
      • Social carrying capacity assumes wider significance for wildlife living outside protected forests, it is an equally important factor in human-dominated areas bordering reserves where the periodic human-wildlife interface is inevitable.
      • More so when different land uses overlap and a good number of people depend on forest resources for livelihood.
      • Perceived conflict can squeeze the tiger’s domain, which the animal is bound to overstep from time to time, leading to further conflict with no immediate winners.

Boma Capturing Technique

  • Context:
    • An uncommon experiment with Africa’s Boma technique was undertaken at Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan for capturing and translocating spotted deer to Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve.
  • About: 
    • The funnel tapers into an animal selection-cum-loading chute, supported with grass mats and a green net to make it opaque for animals, which are then herded into a large vehicle for transport to another location.
    • The Boma capturing technique, which is popular in Africa, involves luring animals into an enclosure by chasing them through funnel-like fencing.
    • This old technique was earlier utilized to capture wild elephants for training and service.
    • Significance of this transfer: This transfer will lead to herbivores populating the Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve ahead of the proposed shifting of two tigers to Mukundara
  • Keoladeo National Park:
    • Located in Bharatpur, Rajasthan.
    • It is a man-made and man-managed wetland. It was declared a protected sanctuary in 1971. It is also a world heritage Site.
    • One-third of the Park is a wetland with mounds, dykes, and open water with or without submerged or emergent plants.

Frontiers 2022: Noise, Blazes and Mismatches

  • Context:
    • In the UNEP Annual Frontier Report 2022 which is titled ‘Noise, Blazes and Mismatches’, Dhaka has been ranked as the noisiest city in the world.
  • About:
    • Released by: UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
    • The report measured noise levels in 61 cities of the world.
  • Permissible sound levels?
    • According to the WHO’s recommendations, the permissible noise level limits are 55 dB for outdoor residential areas and 70 dB for commercial areas and where there’s traffic. 
    • WHO says that a sound with noise above 70 dB over a prolonged period of time can increase the risk of hearing loss.
  • Key finding: 
    • Noisiest City: All the top three noisiest cities are from South Asia. Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka is the noisiest city 
    • in the world, with a noise level of 119 decibels (dB).
    • India: Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh has emerged as the second noisiest city in the world.
    • Other Indian cities which recorded a higher decibel than the permissible levels were Delhi (83 dB), Kolkata and Asansol (both 89 dB) in West Bengal and Jaipur (84 dB).
    • Quitiest City: The report found that Irbrid (Jordan) at 60 dB is the world’s quietest city in the world, followed by Lyon (France).

India unveils its Arctic policy, focuses on combating climate change 

  • Context:
    • The Centre released India’s Arctic Policy, with the aim of enhancing the country’s cooperation with the resource-rich and rapidly transforming region.
  • Need for such a Policy:
    • The relevance of the Arctic for India can be broadly explained under three categories: 
      1. Scientific Research, Climate Change and Environment
        • Monsoons:
        • The changes occurring in the Arctic are yet to be understood fully, but it is clear that they have been impacting global weather, climate and ecosystems including the monsoons in India.
        • Rising Sea Level:
        • The ice loss in the Arctic is a major contributor to global sea-level rise and it can have a significant impact on India, especially over its 1,300 island territories and maritime features
        • Himalayas:
        • The Arctic and the Himalayas, though geographically distant, are interconnected and share similar concerns. The Arctic meltdown is helping the scientific community to better understand the glacial melt in the Himalayas, which has often been referred to as the ‘third pole’ and has the largest freshwater reserves after the North and South poles
      2. Economic and Human Resources:
        • Mineral Resources and Hydrocarbons
        • The Arctic region has rich deposits of coal, gypsum and diamonds and also substantial reserves of zinc, lead, placer gold and quartz.10 Greenland alone possesses about a quarter of the world’s rare earth reserves.
        • India is the third-largest energy-consuming country in the world, the third-largest oil importer (83 per cent) and the fourth-largest importer of gas which caters to almost half of the total gas consumption.
  • India’s Arctic Policy:
  • The six pillars of the Policy are as follows:
    1. Economic and Human Development Cooperation
    2. Science and Research
    3. Climate and Environmental Protection
    4. Transportation and Connectivity
    5. Governance and International Cooperation
    6. National Capacity Building

National Mission on use of Biomass in coal-based thermal power plants

  • Context: 
    • Commission for Air Quality Management recently reviewed the progress of Biomass Co-firing.
    • Though some progress has been made towards co-firing, the CAQM finds the progress not up to the desired levels. 
  • Background:
    • In May 2021, to address the issue of air pollution due to farm stubble-burning and to reduce the carbon footprints of thermal power generation, the Ministry of Power decided to set up a National Mission on the use of Biomass in coal-based thermal power plants.
  • Objectives of the mission: 
    • To increase the level of co-firing from the present 5% to higher levels to have a larger share of carbon-neutral power generation from the thermal power plants. 
    • To take up R&D activity in boiler design to handle the higher amount of silica, alkalis in the biomass pellets. 
    • To facilitate overcoming the constraints in the supply chain of biomass pellets and agro-residue and its transport up to the power plants. 
    • To consider regulatory issues in biomass co-firing.
  • Implementation: 
    • The Mission would have a Steering Committee headed by the Secretary (Power) comprising of all stakeholders including representatives from the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoPNG), Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) etc. 
    • The Executive Committee would be headed by Member (Thermal), CEA. NTPC will play a larger role in providing logistic and infrastructure support in the proposed National Mission. 
  • What is Biomass Cofiring? 
    • It refers to the concurrent blending and combustion of biomass materials with other fuels such as natural gas and coal within a boiler, which reduces the use of fossil fuels for energy generation and emissions without significantly increasing costs and infrastructure investments. 
  • Benefits of Cofiring: 
    • Biomass cofiring is a promising technology to decrease the use of fossil fuels for energy generation and hence mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. 
    • Coal and biomass cofiring accounts for the relevant advantages of relative ease of implementation and an effective reduction of CO2 and another pollutant (SOx, NOx) emissions to the atmosphere. 
    • Cofiring biomass with coal may record no loss in total boiler efficiency after adjusting combustion output for the new fuel mixture.

A permanent Body constituted to prevent elephant deaths on railway tracks

  • Context:
    • The Union Environment Ministry has constituted a “permanent” coordination committee that includes the 
    • Ministry of Railways and the Environment Ministry to prevent elephant deaths on railway tracks. 
  • Background:
    • 19 elephants were killed across the country on railway tracks in 2018-19, 14 in 2019-20 and 12 in 2020-21. 
  • Concern:
    • Railway collisions were the second-largest reason for the unnatural deaths of elephants despite tracts being specifically demarcated and notified as elephant passages. 
  • Key measures are taken: 
    • Setting up a Permanent Coordination Committee between the Ministry of Railways (Railway Board) and the MoEFCC for preventing elephant deaths in train accidents. 
    • Clearing of vegetation along railway tracks to enable clear view for loco pilots. 
    • Using signage boards at suitable points to alert loco pilots about elephant presence.
    • Moderating slopes of elevated sections of railway tracks. 
    • Setting up underpass/overpass for safe passage of elephants.
    • Regulation of train speed from sunset to sunrise in vulnerable stretches. 
    • Regular patrolling of vulnerable stretches of railway tracks by the frontline staff of the Forest Department and wildlife watchers. 
  • Eco Bridges as a solution: 
    • Eco Bridges are wildlife corridors also known as wildlife crossings that are a link of wildlife habitat which connects two larger areas of similar wildlife habitat. 
    • It connects wildlife populations that would otherwise be separated by human activities or structures such as roads and highways, other infrastructure development, logging and farming, etc. 
    • Eco Bridges aims at enhancing wildlife connectivity. 
    • These are made up of native vegetation i.e., it is overlaid with planting from the area to give a contiguous look with the landscape.

Elephants Radio-Collared in Assam

Context:

  • Recently, a wild elephant was radio-collared for the first time in Assam’s Sonitpur district by the state’s Forest Department, in collaboration with NGO World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-India. 
  • The joint initiative is being described as a step to study and mitigate human-elephant conflict in the state. 

Radio-collars:

  • Radio collars are GPS-enabled (roughly 8 kg) collars that can relay information about an elephants’ whereabouts. 
  • An accelerometer is also attached to the collar to “understand what exactly an elephant is doing at any given time (running, walking, eating, drinking, etc)”.

Objective:

  • The objectives are twofold, 
  • Information provided by the GPS would help track and study the movement patterns of the herd, across regions and habitats, 
  • Forest officers will know where they are moving, which corridors they frequently use, if the habitat is sufficient if it needs protection, etc. 
  • Would help in understanding the cause of the conflict.
  • The collars would serve as an early warning system, and if people know which direction an elephant is moving, they can prepare accordingly. 
  • Villagers and forest officials will know about approaching elephants very much how weather forecasting works which would help mitigate conflict incidents.
  • Gradually, as habitats are shrinking and traditional corridors are not in use anymore, it is imperative to study the range of travels and make an inventory of the new habitats.

Is it easy collaring an elephant?

  • Experts say it is an extremely time-consuming and challenging exercise. 
  • There is a risk — for both our life and the elephant’s life. 

Challenges/Drawbacks?

  • Officials said all components for radio-collaring are not available in India, including collars and tranquilising drugs. These have to be imported and are quite expensive.
  • They also have to take into account that elephants grow in size. “Collars may become tight.
  • The state’s topography, marked by hills and rivers, including the Brahmaputra that runs across it, can be a challenge. 
  • Each state has its own peculiar problems. We have elephants that are long-ranging and have a diverse topography.
  • Many times elephants are not able to keep the collar on. They will have it on for a maximum of six months before it falls off, there may be technical glitches with the device too.

How bad is human-elephant conflict in Assam?

  • From 2010-2019, 761 people and 249 elephants were killed in Assam as a direct consequence of human-elephant conflict, stated the WWF blog.
  • More than 65% of the habitat north of the river has been lost in the past few decades to agriculture and settlements, and conflict between humans and elephants has been steadily increasing ever since.
  • There are currently about 6,000 wild elephants in Assam.

 

GREAT GREEN WALL INITIATIVE

  • Context:
  • Recently, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations said in a study, that Africa’s Great Green Wall (GGW) programme is an important contribution towards combating climate change.
  • About the Great Green Wall:
    • It was launched in 2007 by the African Union.
    • Objective:
      • To restore 100 million hectares of degraded land, sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon and create 10 million jobs for the people in the Sahel region of Africa by 2030.
      • Intervention zones:
      • Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.

HAIDERPUR WETLAND

  • Context:
    • Recently Haiderpur Wetland of Western Uttar Pradesh has been recognized as 47th Ramsar site in the country and 10th in Uttar Pradesh and 2463rd in the world.
  • About Haiderpur Wetland:
    • It was formed in 1984.
    • Human-made wetland situated on the Muzaffarnagar-Bijnor border in Uttar Pradesh. 
    • It was formed by the construction of Madhya Ganga Barrage at the confluence of Solani and Ganga rivers and is a part of Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Species:
    • Critically endangered: Gharial
    • Endangered: Indian skimmer, gold mahseer, hog deer, black-bellied tern, steppe eagle.

 

India’s first OECM site

Why in News?

  • On World Wetlands Day, that is, on February 2, the Aravalli Biodiversity Park was announced as the first Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures site, the OECM site.

About

  • The OECM tag is given by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • The tag is conferred upon areas that have achieved effective in-situ conservation of biodiversity but are outside protected areas like national parks and sanctuaries.
  • The OECM tag does not bring any legal, financial, or management implications but designates the area as a biodiversity hotspot on the international map.

Background: 

  • The proposal to declare Aravalli Biodiversity Park an OECM site was sent by the National Biodiversity Authority to the IUCN in 2020.

Aravalli Biodiversity Park:

  • The Aravalli Biodiversity Park is located in Gurugram. It has semi-arid vegetation with lots of native plants, trees, shrubs, and several species of birds.
  • The park was transformed into a city forest from a 40-year-old mining site through the efforts of citizens, ecologists and scientists along with the help of the urban local body of Gurugram.
  • Aravallis are considered the green lungs of Delhi. They support leopards, fox, sambhar and jackals. The Aravallis provide 7.07% of oxygen to Delhi.

Indian Environment Service

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court asked the Centre whether it was planning a dedicated Indian Environment Service in the national bureaucratic set-up, as recommended by a committee headed by former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian in 2014.

About

  • The Court was hearing a PIL that alleged destruction of environment and forests and also executive apathy that had resulted in measures for environment protection emerging mostly from judicial intervention.
  • The court recounted the recommendations of the TSR Subramanian Committee, which had been rejected by a parliamentary standing committee on the ground that a dedicated all-India service may lead to multiplicity of institutions and won’t serve the desired purpose.

Background:

  • The high-level committee was constituted in 2014 under the chairmanship of Subramanian by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to review environmental laws in the country and to bring them in line with the current requirements.
  • The report recorded the fact that India had a strong environmental policy and legislative framework but weak implementation has resulted in environmental governance being criticized by conservation experts and the judiciary.
  • As a step for the future, the committee said, “An Indian Environment Service may be created, as an all-India Service, based on qualifications and other details prescribed by MoEF&CC/ DoPT/ UPSC.”
  • The committee also proposed that a necessary institutional framework be created for this purpose.
  • Officers dealing with environment clearances and policies currently come from the all-India civil services conducted by the UPSC. 

Heat dome

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Pacific Northwest and some parts of Canada recorded temperatures around 47 degrees, causing a “historic” heatwave.
    • This is a result of a phenomenon referred to as a “heat dome”.
  • Heat dome and its formation:
    • A heat dome occurs when the atmosphere traps hot ocean air like a lid or cap.
    • Hot air masses, born from the blazing summer sun, expand vertically into the atmosphere, creating a dome of high pressure that diverts weather systems around them.
    • As high-pressure systems become firmly established, subsiding air beneath them heats the atmosphere and dissipates cloud cover.
    • The high summer sun angle combined with those cloudless skies then further heat the ground.
    • But amid drought conditions, the vicious feedback loop doesn’t end there.
    • The combination of heat and a parched landscape can work to make a heatwave even more extreme.
    • With very little moisture in soils, heat energy that would normally be used on evaporation — a cooling process — instead directly heats the air and the ground.
  • Climate change and heat domes:
    • Weather scientists have been highlighting the effects of climate change on more extreme heatwaves.
    • According to a 2017 NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) survey, average US temperatures have increased since the late 19th century.
    • However, Scientists are usually wary of linking climate change to any contemporary event mainly because of the difficulty in completely ruling out the possibility of the event having been caused by some other reason, or being a result of natural variability.

Antarctic Treaty

  • Context:
    • The 1959 Antarctic Treaty recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.
  • About:
    • Negotiated during the middle of the Cold War by 12 countries with Antarctic interests, it remains the only example of a single treaty that governs a whole continent.
    • It is also the foundation of a rules-based international order for a continent without a permanent population.
    • The treaty is remarkably short and contains only 14 articles.
  • Main provisions:
    • Promoting the freedom of scientific research.
    • The use of the continent only for peaceful purposes.
    • Prohibition of military activities, nuclear tests, and the disposal of radioactive waste.
  • What does the treaty say about territorial claims?
    • The most important provision of the treaty is Article IV, which effectively seeks to neutralize territorial sovereignty in Antarctica.
    • This meant a limit was placed on making any new claim or enlargement of an existing claim.
    • Likewise, no formal recognition was given to any of the seven territorial claims on the continent, by Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom.
    • And one sector of Antarctica is not subject to the claim of any country, which effectively makes it the last unclaimed land on earth.
    • The treaty also put a freeze on any disputes between claimants over their territories on the continent.

Genetically modified rubber

  • Context:
    • Recently, World's first-ever genetically modified rubber planted in Assam.
  • About:
    • The world’s first genetically modified (GM) rubber plant is tailored for the climatic conditions in the Northeast.
    • The GM rubber has additional copies of the gene MnSOD, or manganese-containing superoxide dismutase, inserted in the plant.
    • It was developed at the Kerala-based Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII).
  • Importance:
    • Natural rubber is a native of warm humid Amazon forests and is not naturally suited for the colder conditions in the Northeast, which is one of the largest producers of rubber in India.
    • The growth of young rubber plants remains suspended during the winter months, which are also characterized by progressive drying of the soil.
    • This is the reason for the long immaturity period of this crop in the region.
    • The MnSOD gene can protect plants from the adverse effects of severe environmental stresses such as cold and drought.
    • Laboratory studies conducted at the RRII showed the GM rubber plants overexpressed the MnSOD gene as expected, offering protection to the cells.
    • The plant is thus expected to establish well and grow fast in the region.
    • Officials said, there is no risk of genes flowing from the GM rubber into any other native species, a concern often raised by environmental groups against GM plants in general.

 

Miscellaneous

The Earth shot Prize 2021

  • Context:
    • Vidyut Mohan, a Delhi-based entrepreneur, won the inaugural edition of The Earth shot Prize.
    • He won it for his innovative technology that recycles agricultural waste to create fuel.
  • About:
    • It is an award set up by Prince William and the Royal Foundation, the charity founded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and historian David Attenborough.
    • Earlier, Sir David Attenborough has also been conferred with the Indira Gandhi Peace Prize for 2019.
    • The award will honour five finalists between 2021 and 2030 for developing solutions to fight the climate crisis.
    • They will receive a prize of one million Euros. The winners will be chosen by the Earth shot Prize Council.
  • Each year five winners will be selected, one for each of the Five United Nations Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) :
    • Restoration and protection of nature
    • Air cleanliness
    • Ocean revival
    • Waste-free living
    • Climate action.
  • Eligibility:
    • Prizes could be awarded to a wide range of individuals, teams or collaborations – scientists, activists, economists, community projects, leaders, governments, banks, businesses, cities, and countries – anyone whose workable solutions make a substantial contribution to achieving the Earth shots.
  • Objectives:
    • To encourage and support the development of solutions for Earth’s environmental problems.
    • To incentivise change and help repair the planet over the next ten years.
    • To turn the current pessimism surrounding environmental issues into optimism, by highlighting the ability of human ingenuity to bring about change, and inspire collective action.
  • The Earth shot Prize 2021 Indian Winner:
    • “Clean our Air” Takachar, India: A portable machine created to turn agricultural waste into fertiliser so that farmers do not burn their fields and cause air pollution.
    • This technology will help convert crop residues into sellable bio-products like fuel and fertilizers.
    • The technology reduces smoke emissions by 98%.
    • The burning of agricultural waste causes air pollution that in some areas has reduced life expectancy by a decade.

Green Energy Corridor

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the scheme on Green Energy Corridor (GEC) Phase-II for Intra-State Transmission System (InSTS).
  • GEC-1:
    • Phase 1 of the Green Energy Corridor is already under implementation in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan.
    • It is working for the grid integration and power evacuation of about 24GW of Renewable Energy.
  • GEC-2:
    • It will facilitate grid integration and power evacuation of approximately 20 GW of Renewable Energy (RE) power projects in seven States namely, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
    • The transmission systems will be created over a period of five year from Financial Year 2021-22 to 2025-26.
    • It is targeted to be set up with a total estimated cost of Rs. 12, 031 crores, and the Central Finance Assistance (CFA) will be 33% of the project cost.
    • The CFA will help in offsetting the Intra-State transmission charges and thus keep the power costs down.
  • Objectives:
    • It aims at synchronizing the electricity produced from renewable resources, such as wind and solar, with the conventional power stations in the grid.
    • It aims to achieve the target of 450 GW installed RE capacity by 2030.
    • The objective of the GEC is to evacuate approx. 20,000 MW of large-scale renewable power and improvement of the grid in implementing states.
  • Significance:
    • It will contribute to the long-term energy security of India and will promote ecologically sustainable growth by reducing carbon footprint.
    • It will facilitate in generating large direct and indirect employment opportunities for both the skilled and unskilled personnel.

State of Forest Report 2021

  • Context: 
    • The report showed a continuing increase in forest cover across the country, but experts flagged some of its other aspects as causes for concern, such as a decline in forest cover in the Northeast, and degradation of natural forests.
  • Highlights of the Report:
    • India’s forest and tree cover has risen by 2,261 sq km in the last two years with Andhra Pradesh growing the maximum forest cover of 647 sq km.
    • The states that have shown the highest increase in forest cover are Telangana (3.07%), Andhra Pradesh (2.22%) and Odisha (1.04%).
    • India’s forest cover is now 7,13,789 sq km, 21.71% of the country’s geographical area, an increase from 21.67% in 2019. Tree cover has increased by 721 sq km.
    • India’s total forest and tree cover is now spread across 80.9 million hectares, which is 62% of the geographical area of the country.
    • The top five states in terms of increase in forest cover are Andhra Pradesh (647 sq km), Telangana (632 sq km), Odisha (537 sq km), Karnataka (155 sq km) and Jharkhand (110 sq km).
    • Five states in the Northeast – Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland have all shown loss in forest cover.
    • Among the megacities in the country, Ahmedabad has been the biggest loser when it comes to forest cover.
    • Mangroves have shown an increase of 17 sq km. India’s total mangrove cover is now 4,992 sq km.
    • The total carbon stock in the country’s forests is estimated at 7,204 million tonnes, an increase of 79.4 million tonnes since 2019.
  • Forest Survey of India (FSI), founded in June 1981 and headquartered at Dehradun in Uttarakhand, is a Government of India Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change organization for:
    • conducting forest surveys,
    • studying and researching to periodically monitor the changing situation of land and forest resources and
    • presentation of the data for national planning, conservation and sustainable management of environmental protection and the implementation of social forestry projects.

Read more: https://samajho.com/upsc/indian-state-of-forest-report-2021/

4th Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation

  • Context:
    • Recently, the 4th Asia Ministerial Conference on tiger conservation was held.
    • India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority has also decided to introduce guidelines for the reintroduction of tigers that can be used by other Tiger Range Countries.
  • About:
    • A conference is an important event for reviewing progress towards the Global Tiger Recovery Programme and commitments to tiger conservation.
    • It was organized by Malaysia and Global Tiger Forum (GTF).
    • India will facilitate Tiger Range Countries towards the finalisation of the New Delhi declaration for the Global Tiger Summit to be held in Russia later this year (2022).
    • A “Pre-Tiger Summit” meeting was held at New Delhi in 2010, wherein the draft declaration on tiger conservation for Global Tiger Summit was finalised.
    • India is one of the Founding members of the intergovernmental platform of Tiger Range Countries – Global Tiger Forum.
    • Over the years, GTF has expanded its programme on multiple thematic areas, while working closely with the Government of India, tiger states in India and tiger range countries.
  • Tiger Range Countries in GTF: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Cambodia, Nepal, Myanmar and Vietnam.
  • Significance of Tiger Conservation:
    • Vital in Regulating Ecological Processes:
      • Tigers, the top predators in the ecosystem, are vital in regulating and perpetuating ecological processes.
      • Forests are known to provide ecological services like clean air, water, pollination, temperature regulation etc.
    • Maintaining Food Chain:
      • It is a top predator which is at the apex of the food chain and keeps the population of wild ungulates (primarily large mammals) in check.
      • Thus, Tiger helps in maintaining the balance between prey herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed.
  • Conservation Status of Tiger:
    • Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I
    • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List: Endangered.
    • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Appendix I

World Lion Day, 2021

  • Context:
    • Every year, World Lion day is observed on 10th August to raise awareness about the conservation of lions.
  • About:
    • The initiative to protect the big cats started in 2013 and the first World Lion Day was celebrated that year.
    • There has been a decline in 80% of the population of lions in the past 100 years.
    • This is the major reason for the observance of the day to protect these wild cats in their natural habitat.
    • This also works on the safety measures of the lion communities.
  • Lion:
    • Scientific Name: Panthera leo
    • The lion is divided into two subspecies: the African lion (Panthera leo leo) and the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica).
  • Role in the Animal Kingdom:
    • Lions hold an indispensable place in the ecosystem, they are an apex predator of their habitat, responsible for checking the population of grazers, thus helping in maintaining the ecological balance.
    • Lions also contribute to keeping the population of their prey healthy and resilient as they target the weakest members of the herd. Thus, indirectly helping in disease control in the prey population.
    • Threats: Poaching, genetic inbreeding arising from a single population inhabiting one place, diseases such as plague, canine distemper or a natural disaster.
  • Protection Status:
    • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
    • Asiatic Lion – Endangered.
    • CITES: Appendix I for populations of India, all other populations are included in Appendix II.
    • Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972: Schedule I
  • Status in India:
    • India is home to the majestic Asiatic Lion, who inhabit the protected territory of Sasan-Gir National Park (Gujarat).
    • According to the data from 2020, there are 674 lions in India, which were 523 in 2015.
  • Conservation Efforts:
    • Project Lion: Six new sites apart from the Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary (Madhya Pradesh) have been identified under Project Lion that was announced in August 2020, on the lines of Project Tiger and Project Elephant.
    • The programme has been launched for the conservation of the Asiatic Lion, whose last remaining wild population is in Gujarat’s Asiatic Lion Landscape (ALL).
    • Earlier, the “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” was launched by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC). It was approved for three financial years from 2018 to 2021.
    • It envisaged scientific management with the involvement of communities in coordination with multi-sectoral agencies for disease control and veterinary care for overall conservation of Asiatic lions.
    • The Lion census is conducted once every five years.
    • The other biggest cats found mostly in India, including the Royal Bengal Tiger, Indian leopard, Clouded Leopard, and Snow leopard.

World Elephant Day

  • Context:
    • On the occasion of World Elephant Day (12th August) the Union Environment Minister made public the population estimation protocol to be adopted in the all-India elephant and tiger population estimation in 2022.
    • World Elephant Day was launched in 2012 to bring attention to the urgent plight of Asian and African elephants.
  • Current Data on Elephants in India:
    • According to the last count in 2017, there were 29,964 elephants in India. Which is a slight increase from 2012’s mean of 29,576 elephants.
  • Asian Elephants:
    • About:
      • There are three subspecies of Asian elephant which are the Indian, Sumatran and Sri Lankan.
      • The Indian subspecies has the widest range and accounts for the majority of the remaining elephants on the continent.
    • Global Population:
      • Estimated 20,000 to 40,000.
    • Protection Status:
      • IUCN Red List: Endangered.
      • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I.
      • CITES: Appendix I
  • African Elephants:
    • About:
      • There are two subspecies of African elephants, the Savanna (or bush) elephant and the Forest elephant.
    • Global Population:
      • Around 4,00,000.
      • Earlier in July 2020, Botswana (Africa) witnessed the death of hundreds of elephants.
    • Protection Status:
      • IUCN Red List Status:
        • African Savanna Elephant: Endangered.
        • African Forest Elephant: Critically Endangered
      • CITES: Appendix II
  • Concerns:
    • Escalation of poaching.
    • Habitat loss.
    • Human-elephant conflict.
    • Mistreatment in captivity.
    • Abuse due to elephant tourism.
    • Rampant mining, Corridor destruction.
  • Steps Taken for Conservation:
    • Plans and programmes to arrest their poachers and killers.
    • Declaration and establishment of various elephant reserves across the states. For example, Mysuru and Dandeli elephant reserves in Karnataka.
    • Cleaning areas from lantana and eupatorium (invasive species) as they prevent the growth of grass for elephants to feed on.
    • Barricades to prevent man-elephant conflicts.
    • Measures for the establishment of a cell to study forest fire prevention.
    • Gaj Yatra is a nationwide awareness campaign to celebrate elephants and highlight the necessity of securing elephant corridors.
    • The Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme, launched in 2003, is an international collaboration that tracks trends in information related to the illegal killing of elephants from across Africa and Asia, to monitor the effectiveness of field conservation efforts.
  • Project Elephant:
    • It is a centrally sponsored scheme and was launched in February 1992 for the protection of elephants, their habitats and corridors.
    • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change provides financial and technical support to major elephant range states in the country through the project.
    • Even mahouts (people who work with, ride and tend an elephant) and their families play an important part in the welfare of elephants.
    • Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the 2011 order of the Madras High Court (HC) on the Nilgiris elephant corridor, affirming the right of passage of the animals and the closure of resorts in the area.

DragonFly Census 2021

  • Context:
    • The Fourth Edition of the Dragonfly Census 2021 will start from Delhi-NCR.
  • DragonFly Census 2021:
    • Conducted by: World Wide Fund for Nature(WWF-India) in partnership with Bombay Natural History Society(BNHS), United Nations Environment Programme, Zoological Survey of India and others.
    • Aim: To spread awareness about the importance of the Dragonfly species to the overall ecosystem.
    • First Census: The first Dragonfly census was carried out in 2018 which revealed a total of 51 different species of these insects in New Delhi and NCR.
  • Dragonfly:
    • Dragonfly is an insect belonging to the order Odonata. They are most commonly found near freshwater habitats throughout most of the world.
  • Significance:
    • Dragonflies act as important bio-indicators of the ecological health of an area. As they feed on mosquitoes and other insects that are vectors to life-threatening diseases like Malaria and Dengue.
  • Bioindicators:
    • Bioindicators are living organisms such as plants, plankton, animals and microbes which are used to assess the health of the natural ecosystem in the environment. For instance,
    • Lichens are powerful Bioindicators of air quality.
    • Algae blooms are often used to indicate large increases of nitrates and phosphates in lakes and rivers among others.

India Decides to Ratify the Kigali Amendment

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Union Government approved the ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on phasing down climate-damaging refrigerant Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
    • It comes close on the heels of similar decisions by the United States and China, the world’s largest producers and consumers of HFCs. 122 countries had ratified the Kigali Amendment by the end of July 2021.
  • About:
    • The United States, China and India are in separate groups of countries, with different time schedules to phase out their HFCs and replace them with climate-friendly alternatives.
    • India has to reduce its HFC use by 80% by the year 2047, while China and the United States have to achieve the same target by the years 2045 and 2034 respectively.
    • India will complete its phasedown of HFCs in four steps from 2032 onwards with a cumulative reduction of 10% in 2032, 20% in 2037, 30% in 2042 and 80% in 2047.
    • Amendments to the existing legislation framework, the Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Rules to allow appropriate control of the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons to ensure compliance with the Kigali Amendment will be done by mid-2024.
  • Background:
    • The 1989 Montreal Protocol is not a climate agreement. It is instead aimed at protecting the earth from Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODSs) like the ChloroFluoroCarbons (CFCs), that were earlier used in the air-conditioning and refrigerant industry.
    • The widespread use of CFCs had caused a hole in the Ozone layer of the atmosphere, which allowed some harmful radiation to reach the earth. These radiations were considered potential health hazards.
    • The Montreal Protocol led to the replacement of CFCs with Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which do not destroy the Ozone layer.
    • But they were later found to be extremely potent in causing Global Warming. So, the HFCs solved one problem but were contributing in a major way to another.
    • But these could not be eliminated under the original provisions of the Montreal Protocol which was meant to phase out ODSs only.
    • The Kigali Amendment enabled the Montreal Protocol to mandate the elimination of HFCs as well.
    • In October 2016, with the United States’ leadership, 197 countries adopted an amendment to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol in Kigali, Rwanda.
  • Kigali Amendment to Montreal Protocol:
    • The Kigali Amendment aims for the phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by cutting their production and consumption.
    • The goal is to achieve an over 80% reduction in HFC consumption by 2047.
    • Given their zero impact on the depletion of the ozone layer, HFCs are currently used as replacements of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in air conditioning, refrigeration and foam insulation, however, they are powerful greenhouse gases.
  • Under the amendment :
    • Developed countries will reduce HFC consumption beginning in 2019.
    • Most developing countries will freeze consumption in 2024,
    • Some developing countries including India with unique circumstances will freeze consumption in 2028.
    • The plan also provides financing to certain countries, to help them transition to climate-friendly alternatives.
    • With the Kigali Amendment, the Montreal Protocol has become an even more powerful instrument against global warming.
  • Significance:
    • This important instrument is crucial to achieving the target of restraining the increase in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.
    • As pointed out by a recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the average temperature of the planet has already risen by about 1.1 degrees Celsius.
    • The collective action is expected to prevent emissions of up to 105 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases helping to avoid up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global temperature rise by 2100 while continuing to protect the ozone layer.
    • Because HFCs were not ozone-depleting, they have not controlled substances under the Montreal Protocol. They were part of the problematic greenhouse gases whose emissions are sought to be curtailed through climate change instruments such as the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and the 2015 Paris Agreement.
    • But the Montreal Protocol has been a far more effective and successful agreement than the climate change instruments. It has already resulted in the phase-out of 98.6% of ozone-depleting substances. The remaining 1.4% are the HCFCs that are in the process of being transitioned.

 

Namami Gange Programme

  • Context
    • Chacha Chaudhary is now the mascot of the Namami Gange Programme.
    • The Centre will use Chacha Chaudhary, the popular comic book character, for sensitising children and youths about the cleaning of the Ganga and other rivers
  • Namami Gange Programme:
    • Namami Gange Programme is an Integrated Conservation Mission, approved as a ‘Flagship Programme’ by the Union Government in June 2014 to accomplish the twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution and conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga.
    • It is being operated under the Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti.
    • The program is being implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organizations i.e State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).
    • NMCG is the implementation wing of the National Ganga Council (set in 2016; which replaced the National Ganga River Basin Authority – NGRBA).
  • The Ganga River System: 
    • The headwaters of the Ganga called the ‘Bhagirathi’ are fed by the Gangotri Glacier and joined by the Alaknanda at Devprayag in Uttarakhand.
    • At Haridwar, Ganga emerges from the mountains to the plains.
    • The Ganga is joined by many tributaries from the Himalayas, a few of them being major rivers such as the Yamuna, the Ghaghara, the Gandak and the Kosi.

Elephant Corridors

  • Context: 
    • As instances of human-elephant conflict rise, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has embarked on a massive project to identify and secure elephant corridors in the country.
  • Elephant Corridors:

  • Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that connect two large habitats of elephants.
  • Elephant corridors are crucial to reducing animal fatalities due to accidents and other reasons. So fragmentation of forests makes it all the more important to preserve migratory corridors.
  • Elephant corridors need protection:
    • The movement of elephants is essential to ensure that their populations are genetically viable. It also helps to regenerate forests on which other species, including tigers, depend.
    • Nearly 40% of elephant reserves are vulnerable, as they are not within protected parks and sanctuaries. Also, the migration corridors have no specific legal protection.
    • Weak regulation of ecotourism is severely impacting important habitats. It particularly affects animals that have large home ranges, like elephants.
    • Forests that have turned into farms and unchecked tourism are blocking animals’ paths. Animals are thus forced to seek alternative routes resulting in increased elephant-human conflict.
    • Ministry data on human-elephant conflict released last year showed 1,025 elephant deaths and 4,642 human deaths from 2009 until September 2019. The most human deaths were in West Bengal (821; 18%).
  • Recent developments:
    • The Supreme Court has appointed conservationist Nandita Hazarika as Member of a Technical Committee constituted by it on October 14 last year to hear complaints by landowners against the action taken by the Nilgris Collector, which included the sealing of their buildings and allegations about the “arbitrary variance in the acreage of the elephant corridor.”
    • Nilgiris Elephant Corridor:
      • The corridor is situated in the ecologically fragile Sigur plateau, which connects the Western and the Eastern Ghats and sustains elephant populations and their genetic diversity.
      • It is situated near the Mudumalai National Park in the Nilgiris district.

COP26 Climate Conference

  • Context:
    • The COP 26 United Nations Climate Change Conference will be hosted by the UK from 31st October to 12th November.

  • COP:
    • The Conference of Parties comes under the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC) which was formed in 1994. The UNFCCC was established to work towards “stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.”
    • COP members have been meeting every year since 1995. The UNFCCC has 198 parties including India, China and the USA.
    • The first conference (COP1) was held in 1995 in Berlin.
  • Kyoto Protocol:
    • At COP3 held in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, the famous Kyoto Protocol was adopted. It commits the member states to pursue limitation or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It entered into force on 16 February 2005 and there are 192 Parties in the Kyoto Protocol.
    • India hosted the eighth COP from October 23 to November 1, 2002, in New Delhi.
  • COP21:
    • One of the most important conferences, COP21 took place from November 30 to December 11, 2015, in Paris, France.
    • Member countries agreed to work together to ‘limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.’
  • Goals of COP26:
    • According to the UNFCCC, COP26 will work towards four goals:
      • Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.
      • Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.
      • Mobilise finance: To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020.
      • ‘Finalise the Paris Rulebook’: Leaders will work together to frame a list of detailed rules that will help fulfil the Paris Agreement.
  • UNFCCC:
    • The UNFCCC was adopted in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, which marked the beginning of the international community’s first concerted effort to confront the problem of climate change.
    • Known also as the Rio Convention, the UNFCCC established a framework for action to stabilise concentrations of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere.
    • The UNFCCC entered into force in 1994, and nearly all of the world’s nations have now signed on.
    • It is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Agreement. It is also the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Nobel Prize for Climate Science

  • Context:
    • First Nobel for climate science.
  •  Nobel Prize for Climate Science
    • The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2021 has been awarded to climatologists Syukuro Manabe of Princeton University, U.S., and Klaus Hasselmann of Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany, and physicist Giorgio Parisi of Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. 
    • The prize has been given for their “groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex physical systems”. 
      • These are systems with a very high degree of randomness; weather and climate phenomena are examples of complex systems.

 

Redefining Forest

  • Context:
    • Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) published proposed amendments to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, easing diversion of forests and exempting certain categories of development from the need to take clearance from the Ministry.
  • Why is the Act being amended now?
    • The current definition of forests has locked land across the country; even private owners cannot utilise their own property for non-forestry purposes.
    • Under the Act, any diversion of any forest land for any purpose, including assignment of leases, needs prior approval of the Centre.
    • The amendment is proposed to “streamline provisions of the Act”. The identification of forest land is subjective and arbitrary and that the “ambiguity” has “resulted into a lot of resentment and resistance particularly from private individuals and organisations”.
  • Deemed forest:
    • Refer to land tracts that appear to be a “forest”, but have not been notified so by the government or in historical records.
    • Comprising about 1% of India’s forest land, the concept of deemed forests has not even been clearly defined in any law including the Forest Conservation Act 1980.

Miyawaki Method

Context:

  • Japan-inspired Miyawaki forests have emerged as a popular solution to restoring degraded habitats in the country, in recent times.

About Technique

  • Invented by and named after Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, the ‘Miyawaki Method’ is a unique technique to grow forests.
  • Under the approach, dozens of native species are planted in the same area, close to each other, which ensures that the plants receive sunlight only from the top, and grow upwards than sideways.
  • It requires very little space (a minimum of 20 square feet), plants grow ten times faster, and the forest becomes maintenance-free in three years.

This technique is a 6 step process:

Indentify the native species

  • Division- For a multi-layered process, choose different species of plants like shrub layer (6 feet), sub-tree layer (6-12 feet), tree layer (20-40 feet) and canopy layer (above 40 feet). Do not place the same species next to each other.
  • Prepare the soil
  • Plant- Dig a one-metre-deep pit and plant 3-5 native saplings per square metre. Maintain a distance of 60 centimetres between the saplings and level the soil around the stem of the plant.
  • Insert sticks-To ensure that plants do not bend in the initial period, insert support sticks inside the soil.
  • Monitor

Advantage of this technique

  • Faster, denser and diverse: Mini forests grow 10 times faster and become 30 times denser and 100 times more bio-diverse than those planted through conventional methods.
  • Easy maintenance: It is not a garden, which needs long-term maintenance, where grass needs trimming or watering is done regularly.
  • Re-generation of land: Miyawaki forests are designed to regenerate land in far less time than the time it takes a forest to recover on its own, which is over 70 years.
  • Solving environmental problems: The urban forests also help lower temperatures in concrete heat islands, reduce air and noise pollution, attract local birds and insects, and create carbon sinks.
  • Strengthening biodiversity: Besides contributing to the green cover, the presence of urban forests also aids in strengthening the biodiversity in the neighbourhood. 

 

Phase Down of Coal

Context:

  • On the final day of the UN Climate Change Conference held in Glasgow, India’s Minister for Environment read out a statement promising to “phase down” rather than “phase out” the use of coal. 
  • This caused many to raise questions about India’s commitment to tackling climate change.

Why must dependence on coal be reduced?

  • Since carbon emissions are considered the main culprit in global warming, countries have been committing themselves to turn carbon neutral by various dates. 
  • One key way to achieve carbon neutrality is to reduce dependence on coal. 
  • Coal is the most polluting among fossil fuels, and hence, its use, in particular, has come under scrutiny.

Why is it difficult?

  • Coal meets over 70% of India’s electricity needs. Most of this coal comes from domestic mines. 
  • In FY 2020-21, India produced 716 million tonnes of coal, compared with 431 million tonnes a decade ago. 
  • Since FY 2018-19, domestic production has stagnated and has been unable to meet the rising domestic demand, leading to a rise in imports. 
  • Most of the country’s coal production is limited to Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh with a total production of over 550 million tonnes.
  • The Prime Minister promised to increase non-fossil fuel energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030, meet 50% energy needs from renewable sources and reduce carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes in a decade. 
  • According to the Centre for Science and Environment, the call to reduce emissions by 1 billion tonnes means that India would need to reduce its carbon output by 22% by 2030. 
  • India now meets about 12% of its electricity needs from renewable sources, and increasing it to 50% by 2030 will be difficult. 
  • While some renewable energy sources like solar are cheap, they are unreliable because of the intermittency problem. They thus require the use of storage batteries, which adds to the cost. 
  • Further, the damage that coal causes to commonly owned resources like the environment is not factored into its cost. So, there is not much economic incentive for countries to limit or to end their massive reliance on coal.

Should India Phase out Coal?

  • India has fought attempts by developed countries to impose a cap on its emissions. 
  • Adopting stringent steps to reduce carbon emissions can drag down growth and affect efforts to reduce poverty in India. 
  • It must be noted that the per capita carbon emissions of countries like India and China are still lower than those of many developed countries.
  • Experts believe India’s commitment to phase down coal and become carbon neutral may actually be a rather generous commitment than what developed countries have committed themselves to. 
  • Critics have also pointed out that the focus on ending the use of coal deflects attention from other fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas that are heavily used by developed countries. 
  • They also say developed countries have not made good on their climate finance promise made at COP15 in Copenhagen to offer $100 billion every year to developing countries to achieve net-zero emissions.
  •  

Climate Equity Monitor

Context:

  • India has officially endorsed a website, Climate Equity Monitor, made by Indian climate experts.

About:

  • The website lists the historical carbon dioxide emissions of developed countries.
  • The website was conceptualised and developed by the Climate Change Group at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Department at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru, with other independent researchers.

Key takeaways:

  • It is aimed at monitoring the performance of Annex-I Parties under the UNFCCC (developed countries) based on the “foundational principles” of the Climate Convention.
  • It aims to highlight the disparity between the emissions of developed and developing countries.
  • Countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia and those in Western Europe are shown as having a net carbon debt while developing countries such as India and China have net credit.
  • It highlights that it is only fair that developed countries must commit to steeper targets towards curbing emissions than developing countries.

Implications:

  • Its focus on equity & climate action from a data and evidence-based perspective will encourage vigorous discussion on the crucial issue and engage experts from all nations.
  • The website shall debunk the narrative provided by many developed countries, and global NGOs that focus attention continually on what developing countries must do, constantly demanding greater commitment and action from them.

Status of India as Carbon emitter:

  • India is the third-largest emitter of carbon emissions annually but the sixth-largest when historical emissions are considered.
  • When accounting for the size of its population it is among the lowest per capita emitters.
  • This underlines India’s demands for climate justice being at the heart of negotiations at COP26 and its reluctance to agree to a fixed time frame.

Net-Zero emissions by 2070

Context: 

  • India announces achieving its net-zero emissions by 2070

About:

  • By 2030, India will ensure 50% of its energy will be sourced from renewable sources.
  • India will also reduce its carbon emissions by 2030 by a billion tonnes.
  • It will also reduce its emissions intensity per unit of GDP by less than 45%.
  • India would also install systems to generate 500 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030, a 50 GW increase from its existing target.

India made five big-ticket announcements at the climate change meeting in Glasgow:

  • First– India will increase its non-fossil energy capacity to 500GW (India had earlier extended its target to 450GW out of which 100GW is already installed) by 2030.
  • Second– India will meet 50% of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030. Please note that renewable energy sources are different from non-fossil sources. Non-fossil sources also include scalable nuclear power and hydroelectricity.
  • Third– India will reduce the total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now onwards till 2030.
  • Fourth– By 2030, India will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 45%.
  •  India has achieved a 25% of emission intensity reduction of GDP b/w 2005 -2016 and is on the path to achieving more than 40% by 2030.
  • Fifth– By the year 2070, India will achieve the target of Net-Zero.
  • India has also given the slogan of One LIFE, One World, at Glasgow.
  • LIFE is shorthand for Lifestyle For Environment Today which entails the need for all of us to come together with collective participation, to take Lifestyle For Environment (LIFE) forward as a campaign.
  • With the new Nationally Determined Contribution announcement, India will occupy 9% of the remaining IPCC 400 Gt carbon budget for 1.5°C by 2030.

India's calls for the World:

  • Significantly enhancing climate finance.
  • The structured process towards post-2025 finance target; lack of serious approach to this will jeopardise enhanced ambition.
  • India wants a mandate for Standing Committee on Finance to continue working
  • The Developed world should ensure that financial responsibility remains for developed countries.
  • Under Article 6: India wants to see a deal on the transition of Kyoto credits (the share of proceeds for adaptation).
  • Finance has to be sustainable and drives ambition for developing countries.

The outcome of COP 26:

Mitigation:

  • The Glasgow agreement has emphasised that stronger action in the current decade was most critical to achieving the 1.5-degree target. Accordingly, it has:
  • Asked countries to strengthen their 2030 climate action plans, or NDCs (nationally-determined contributions), by next year
  • Established a work programme to urgently scale-up mitigation ambition and implementation
  • Decided to convene an annual meeting of ministers to raise the ambition of 2030 climate actions
  • Called for an annual synthesis report on what countries were doing
  • Requested the UN Secretary-General to convene a meeting of world leaders in 2023 to the scale-up ambition of climate action
  • Asked countries to make efforts to reduce the usage of coal as a source of fuel, and abolish “inefficient” subsidies on fossil fuels.

The confrontation on Coal

  • Has called for a phase-down of coal, and phase-out of fossil fuels. This is the first time that coal has been explicitly mentioned in any COP decision.
  • It also led to big fracas at the end, with a group of countries led by India and China forcing an amendment to the word “phase-out” in relation to coal changed to “phase-down”.
  • Despite the dilution, the inclusion of language on the reduction of coal power is being seen as a significant move forward.

Adaptation:

  • Smaller and poorer countries due to their lower capacities, are already facing the worst impacts of climate change, and require immediate money, technology and capacity building for their adaptation activities. Hence, the Glasgow Climate Pact has:
  • Asked the developed countries to at least double the money being provided for adaptation by 2025 from the 2019 levels. 
  • Created a two-year work programme to define a global goal on adaptation. This has been a long-pending demand of developing countries and the Paris Agreement also asks for defining such a goal.

Finance:

  • Due to their historical responsibility in emitting greenhouse gases, Developed countries are under an obligation to provide finance and technology to the developing nations to help them deal with climate change.
  • In 2009, developed countries had promised to mobilise at least $100 billion every year from 2020, reaffirmed during the Paris Agreement.
  • The 2020 deadline has long passed but the $100 billion promise has not been fulfilled. The developed nations have now said that they will arrange this amount by 2023.

Carbon Markets:

  • Carbon markets facilitate the trading of emission reductions. Such a market allows countries, or industries, to earn carbon credits for the emission reductions they make in excess of their targets.
  • These carbon credits can be traded to the highest bidder in exchange of money. The buyers of carbon credits can show the emission reductions as their own and use them to meet their reduction targets.
  • A carbon market existed under Kyoto Protocol but is no longer there because the Protocol itself expired last year. A new market under Paris Agreement is yet to become functional. Developing countries like India, China or Brazil have large amounts of carbon credits left over because of the lack of demand as many countries abandoned their emission reduction targets.
  • The developing countries wanted their unused carbon credits to be transitioned to the new market, something that the developed nations had been opposing on the grounds of the quality of the credits.
  • The Glasgow Pact has offered some reprieve to the developing nations. It has allowed these carbon credits to be used in meeting countries’ first NDC targets.
  • These cannot be used for meeting targets in subsequent NDCs. That means, if a developed country wants to buy these credits to meet its own emission reduction targets, it can do so till 2025. Most countries have presented climate targets for 2025 in their first NDCs.

Parallel Processes:

  • A lot of substantial action in Glasgow happened in parallel processes that were not a part of the official COP discussions. 
  • India announced a Panchamitra (a mixture of five elements) of climate actions. It raised the targets for two of its existing climate targets, announced two new ones, and also promised to turn net-zero by the year 2070. 
  • Several other countries also announced enhanced climate actions. Brazil, for example, said it would advance its net-zero target year from 2060 to 2050. China promised to come out with a detailed roadmap for its commitment to let emissions peak in 2030, and also for its 2060 net-zero target. Israel announced a net-zero target for 2050.
  • Over 100 countries pledged to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% from present levels by 2030. Methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential nearly 80 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20-year time period.
  • This pledge, if achieved, is estimated to avoid about 0.2 degrees Celsius temperature rise by the middle of the century. This is seen as one of the biggest successes at COP26.
  • Another set of over 100 countries promised to arrest and reverse deforestation by 2030.
  • Over 30 countries signed on to a declaration promising to work towards a transition to 100% zero-emission cars by the year 2040, at least in the leading car markets of the world.
  • What is COP26?
    • The Conference of Parties (COP) comes under the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC) which was formed in 1994. 
    • 2021 marks the 26th Conference of Parties (thus the name COP26) and will be held in the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow.
    • The UNFCCC was established to work towards “stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.”
    • It laid out a list of responsibilities for the member states which included:
    • Formulating measures to mitigate climate change
    • Cooperating in preparing for adaptation to the impact of climate change
    • Promoting education, training and public awareness related to climate change
    • India hosted the eighth COP from October 23 to November 1, 2002, in New Delhi.
    • One of the most important conferences, COP21 took place in 2015, in Paris, France. Member countries agreed to work together to ‘limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.’

Important Conference of Parties meetings

Location Session Year
Glasgow, UK CoP 26 2021

Katowice, Poland

COP 24 2019
Paris, France COP 21 2015
Doha, Qatar COP 18 2012
Durban, South Africa COP 17 2011
Bali, Indonesia COP 13 2007
New Delhi, India COP 8 2002
Marrakech, Morocco COP 7 2001

 



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