Alarm over deadly pest in Karnataka
The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) has sounded the alarm after the invasive agricultural pest, Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), was discovered in Karnataka in July 2018. A major maize pest in North America, the Fall Armyworm arrived in Africa in 2016. Since then, it has threatened the continent’s maize crop, a staple which feeds 300 million people. The Karnataka finding is the first report of the pest in Asia. The discovery is more worrisome because the pest feeds on around 100 different crops, such as vegetables, rice, and sugarcane. Its discovery in Karnataka means its spread to the rest of the country, as well as neighbouring countries, could be just a matter of time. Africa’s experience shows how quickly the pest can colonise a new continent. The first line of defence against the Fall Armyworm will be insecticides like lambda-cyhalothrin. It’s efficacy is currently being studied in field trials. Also, the researchers have found some natural predators such as coccinellid beetles, that can aid biological control. A fungal species called Nomuraea rileyi also infects the Fall Armyworm.
To help clean the Ganga, visit an ATM
The cleaning of the Ganga is not only an environmental imperative but also an issue weighted by public sentiment and national prestige. In a bid to make it easier for the public to participate in the efforts, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is talking to the State Bank of India to make it possible to donate to the Clean Ganga Fund from ATMs. The NMCG, an affiliate of the Union Water Resources Ministry, is executing the government’s Rs. 20,000-crore commitment to clean the Ganga. The CGF is a separate corpus made up of donations from corporates and individuals. At present, it has Rs. 250 crore in its kitty, which is being managed by the NMCG. Since Ganga rejuvenation projects have been notified as Corporate Social Responsibility activities, donations to the CGF qualify for income tax exemption. As of now, about 90% of the CGF comes from State and Central government public sector units, according to information from the Lok Sabha. About Rs. 250 crore was collected as of July 2018, and projects worth Rs. 225 crore sanctioned.
World Network of Biosphere Reserves
The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve has become the 11th Biosphere Reserve from India to be included in the UNESCO designated World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR). This decision was taken at the recently concluded 30th Session of International Coordinating Council (ICC) of Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme of UNESCO held at Palembang, Indonesia.
Facts: India has 18 Biosphere Reserves. With the inclusion of Khangchendzonga, the number of internationally designated World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) has become 11, with 7 Biosphere Reserves being domestic Biosphere Reserves.
Biosphere reserves: Launched in 1971, UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) is an Intergovernmental Scientific Programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments. MAB combines the natural and social sciences, economics and education to improve human livelihoods and the equitable sharing of benefits, and to safeguard natural and managed ecosystems, thus promoting innovative approaches to economic development that are socially and culturally appropriate, and environmentally sustainable. Its World Network of Biosphere Reserves currently counts more than 600 sites in 122 countries all over the world, including 20 transboundary sites. The first of India’s reserves to make it to UNESCO’s list was Tamil Nadu’s Niligiri Biosphere Reserve in 2000. Protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region, but also to the human communities who inhabit these regions, and their ways of life.
Key facts on Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve: Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve is a National Park and a Biosphere Reserve located in Sikkim, India. The park is named after the mountain Kangchenjunga, which with a height of 8,586 metres (28,169 ft), is the third-highest peak in the world. The Biosphere Reserve is one of the highest ecosystems in the world, reaching elevations of 1, 220 metres above sea-level. It includes a range of ecolines, varying from sub-tropic to Arctic, as well as natural forests in different biomes, which support an immensely rich diversity of forest types and habitats. The core zone – Khangchendzonga National Park was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2016 under the ‘mixed’ category.
BIOSPHERE RESERVES- DEFINITION:
A Biosphere Reserve is a unique and representative ecosystem of terrestrial and coastal areas which are internationally recognized, within the framework of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme. The biosphere reserve should fulfill the following three objectives: In-situ conservation of biodiversity of natural and semi-natural ecosystems and landscapes. Contribution to sustainable economic development of the human population living within and around the Biosphere Reserve. Provide facilities for long term ecological studies, environmental education and training and research and monitoring. In order to fulfill the above objectives, the Biosphere Reserves are classified into zones like the core area, buffer area. The system of functions is prescribed for each zone.
It is an environmental single window hub for Environment, Forest, Wildlife and CRZ clearances launched recently. This Single-Window Integrated Environmental Management System has been developed in pursuance of the spirit of ‘Digital India’ initiated by the Prime Minister and capturing the essence of Minimum Government and Maximum Governance.
PARIVESH: Pro-Active and Responsive facilitation by Interactive, Virtuous and Environmental Single-window Hub.
“PARIVESH” is a workflow based application, based on the concept of web architecture. It has been rolled out for online submission, monitoring and management of proposals submitted by Project Proponents to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC), as well as to the State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA). It seeks to give various types of clearances (e.g. Environment, Forest, Wildlife and Coastal Regulation Zone Clearances) from Central, State and district-level authorities. The system has been designed, developed and hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, with technical support from National Informatics Centre, (NIC). It provides single registration and single sign-in for all types of clearances (i.e. Environment, Forest, Wildlife and CRZ), unique-ID for all types of clearances required for a particular project and a single Window interface for the proponent to submit applications for getting all types of clearances (i.e. Environment, Forests, Wildlife and CRZ clearances). PARIVESH offers a framework to generate economic growth and strengthens Sustainable Development through e- Governance.
Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act
The Centre has notified rules for operationalising a Rs 66,000 crore fund collected as compensations under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act passed in 2016 to promote the green cover in the country.
As per the new rules:
13 activities are permitted for funding. They include plantation, assisted natural regeneration of forests, forest fire prevention, pest and disease control in forests, soil and moisture conservation works and improvement of wildlife habitat.
Usage of funds: 80% of the compensatory afforestation amount will be utilised by states for plantations, assisted natural regeneration of forests, forest fire prevention, pest and disease control in forest, soil and moisture conservation works and improvement of wildlife habitat, among others, in the list of 13 permissible activities. The remaining 20% will be used for 11 listed works to strengthen forest and wildlife protection related infrastructure.
Role of gram sabhas: Besides enlisting the 24 activities which are to be taken up using the fund, the rules also specify that the working plan will be taken up “in consultation with the gram sabha or village forest management committee”. Over the last ten years, the fund had accumulated the amount as compensations by user agencies for diverting forest land for industries and infrastructure projects. The CAMPA was created as per a Supreme Court ruling in 2009. Much of the funds collected under the legislation had been left unspent with an ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) in absence of enabling rules. Until now, the funds were disbursed to states under a temporary and time consuming mechanism. With the relevant rules now in place, the implementation of the act is expected to gather pace.
Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act 2016: This act provides for setting up Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) at both central and state level to ensure expeditious and transparent utilization of amounts realized in lieu of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose. The act also seeks to establish the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of India, and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of each state. The payments into the funds include compensatory afforestation, NPV, and any project-specific payments.
Odisha to showcase its biodiversity
The Odisha government is setting up a world-class interpretation centre at Dangamal near Bhitarkanika National Park to showcase its efforts in protecting crocodiles and preserving its rich mangrove diversity. The centre will be developed both as a tourist attraction and a place for students to learn about the environment. The project, which has been approved under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project, will be taken up at an estimated cost of ₹3 crore.
Bhitarkanika and the need for conservation: Bhitarkanika, one of the State’s finest biodiversity hotspots, receives close to one lakh visitors every year. The tourist inflow has seen an increase lately. The park is famous for its green mangroves, migratory birds, turtles, estuarine crocodiles and countless creeks. It is said to house 70% of the country’s estuarine or saltwater crocodiles, conservation of which was started way back in 1975.
‘BAULA’ PROJECT AT DANGAMAL: ‘Baula’ is the Oriya term for Saltwater Crocodile. At Dangmal in Bhitarkanika sanctuary, salt-water crocodile eggs have been collected locally; and young crocodiles have been released in the creeks and the estuaries; and more than 2200 crocodiles have been released in phases since 1977. This operation has been reasonably successful and the crocodile population in the Bhitarkanika river system has gradually been built up. Above 50 released female Saltwater Crocodiles have laid eggs in the wild and bred successfully. The annual census conducted in the river systems of Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary in January 2004 indicated that there were 1308 Saltwater crocodiles and is on increasing trend.
Critically Endangered— IUCN Red List.
Gharial (Gavial or fish eating crocodile).
The male gharial has a distinctive boss at the end of the snout, which resembles an earthenware pot known in Hindi as Hence the name.
Habitat — foremost flowing rivers with high sand banks that they use for basking and building nests.
Gharials once inhabited all the major river systems of the Indian Subcontinent, from the Irrawaddy Riverin the east to the Indus River in the west. Their distribution is now limited to only 2% of their former range.
India: Girwa River, Chambal River, Ken River, Son River, Mahanadi River, Ramganga River.
Nepal: Rapti-Narayani River.
Schedule 1 species under Indian wildlife act, 1972.
Project Crocodile began in 1975 (Government of India+ United Nations Development Fund + Food and Agriculture Organization) — intensive captive breeding and rearing program.
International year of millets
Continuing its efforts to get ‘millets’ a global recognition for its promotion among consumers, India has written to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations proposing declaration of the upcoming year as “International Year of Millets”.
Significance of this move: Adoption of this proposal by FAO with the support of its member nations will enable it to be moved to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for declaration of the upcoming year as International Year of Millets. Dedicating a year for millets will not only increase awareness about its health benefits, but also result in higher demand for these drought-resistant varieties, resulting in remunerative prices for poor and marginal farmers.
Efforts by government to promote millets: In order to promote ‘millets’, India had on its part notified these climate resilient crops as “Nutri-Cereals” and allowed its inclusion in the Public Distribution System (PDS) for improving nutritional support in April. Recognising millets’ anti-diabetic properties, the notification called it a “powerhouse of nutrients” and identified several varieties of millets for promotion. The millets in the category of “Nutri-Cereals” include Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl Millet (Bajra), Finger Millet (Ragi), Foxtail Millet (Kangani/Kakun) and Buckwheat (Kuttu) among others. Besides, the government had in July substantially hiked the minimum support price (MSP) of millets so that more and more farmers may opt for cultivation of these less water consuming crops.
Millet is a common term to categorize small-seeded grasses that are often termed nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals, and includes sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.
Benefits of Millets: An important staple cereal crop for millions of small holder dryland farmers across sub-saharan Africa and Asia, millets offer nutrition, resilience, income and livelihood for farmers even in difficult times. They have multiple untapped uses such as food, feed, fodder, biofuels and brewing. Therefore, millets are Smart Food as they are Good for You, Good for the Farmer and Good for the Planet. Nutritionally superior to wheat & rice owing to their higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fiber & minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorous, millets can provide nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women. The anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency, pellagra (niacin deficiency) can be effectively tackled with intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich food grains like millets. Millets can also help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants. Adapted to low or no purchased inputs and to harsh environment of the semi-arid tropics, they are the backbone for dry land agriculture. Photo-insensitive & resilient to climate change, millets are hardy, resilient crops that have a low carbon and water footprint, can withstand high temperatures and grow on poor soils with little or no external inputs. In times of climate change they are often the last crop standing and, thus, are a good risk management strategy for resource-poor marginal farmers.
Managing fruit rot disease of areca nut
FRUIT ROT of areca nut, caused by the fungus Phytophthora meadii, is a serious disease that could lead to great economic losses. Also known as “mahali” in Malayalam and “koleroga” in Kannada, the disease may cause fruit drop of 50 to 100 per cent in individual palms.
Scientists at the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute’s (CPCRI’s) Regional Station at Vittal, Karnataka, have come out with suitable package of practices to effectively manage the disease and make areca nut cultivation more remunerative to the growers.
“This disease occurs during South West monsoon. Its symptoms are invariably noticed as dark green water-soaked lesions near the perianth (calyx). The infected fruits loose their natural green colour. The lesions on the fruits gradually spread covering the whole surface before or after shedding. The disease leads to heavy shedding of fruits,”explains Dr. N. Saraswathy, Senior Scientist at CPCRI’s Regional Station at Vittal. The infection of heartleaf results in bud rot and the outermost leaf sheath leads to crown rot. Both bud rot and crown rot are noticed during the South West monsoon season and continue in the cooler month falling in between October and February.
Favourable climate : The severity, persistence and spread of fruit rot are related to the pattern of rain. The disease appears usually 15 to 20 days after the onset of regular monsoon rains and may continue up to the end of the rainy season. Continuous heavy rainfall coupled with low temperature (20 to 23 degree Celsius), high relative humidity and intermittent rain and sunshine hours are factors that favour the occurrence of fruit rot. Disease spread is through heavy wind, rain splashes and flies. The fruit bunches infected towards the end of rainy season may remain mummified on the palm and such nuts provide inoculums for bud rot or crown rot or the recurrence of fruit rot in the next season, according to Dr. Saraswathy. Prophylactic spraying with one per cent Bordeaux mixture on the bunches is needed to prevent the incidence of the disease. The initial spray is to be done immediately after the onset of monsoon showers, and the second spray after an interval of 40 to 45 days. The spraying should be taken up when there is no rain. Care should be taken to prepare the mixture to get the right quality as other wise an acidic mixture will lead to copper injury and subsequent heavy shedding of nuts, according to the scientist. A fine spray will be needed for effective spread of spray fluid over the surface of the nuts.
Control measures: As mechanical control measure, the areca bunches can be covered with polythene covers before the start of the heavy monsoon showers. Phyto-sanitary measures such as removal of all dried and infected bunch attached to the palm and collection and destruction of all shed nuts will prove to be rewarding. It is essential to reduce the inoculums of the fungus and also check the incidence of other Phytophthora diseases like bud and crown rots, according to the scientist. The arecanut palm is the source of common chewing nut, popularly known as betel nut or Supari. In India it is extensively used by large sections of people and is very much linked with religious practices. India is the largest producer of arecanut and at the same time largest consumer also.Major states cultivating this crop are Karnataka (40%), Kerala (25%), Assam (20%), Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya and West Bengal.
It’s a calamity of a severe nature: Centre
The Centre has said that the Kerala floods were a “calamity of severe nature for all practical purposes”, keeping in view the intensity and magnitude of the floods and landslides. Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said the Kerala floods were being treated as natural calamity of severe nature but there was nothing to declare it as one. “When the situation becomes unprecedented and extremely difficult to handle in a normal rescue and relief operation we treat it that way [as natural calamity of severe nature]. The Guidelines of Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme has provision that in the event of ‘Calamity of severe nature’ in any part of the country, an MP can recommend works up to a maximum of Rs. 1 cr. for the affected district. The guidelines further say that from the day an MP makes such contribution, concerned authorities have to identify relief works in one month time and the same should be implemented within eight months.
NDRF aid only for severe calamities
There are no legal provisions to designate a disaster a ‘national calamity’
The Union government has declared the Kerala floods a “calamity of severe nature”. Here is a look at what this means, whether the State can expect additional help from the Centre and how the various disaster relief funds in the country are funded and deployed.
What are the classifications of disasters, and how does this affect funding?
According to the National Disaster Management Policy, the State governments have to provide disaster relief from their respective State Disaster Response Funds (SDRFs), and only for a “calamity of severe nature”, will additional assistance be provided from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
There is, however, no provision in the law or rules for the government to designate a disaster as a “national calamity”.
Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju informed Parliament recently that the guidelines of the NDRF and the SDRFs did not contemplate declaring a disaster a national calamity.
How are the NDRF and the SDRFs funded?
The NDRF is funded through a National Calamity Contingent Duty levied on pan masala, chewing tobacco and cigarettes, and with budgetary provisions as and when needed. A provision exists to encourage any person or institution to make a contribution to the NDRF. However, this source of funding has not been tapped so far, according to the government.
The 14th Finance Commission recommended changes to this structure once the cess was discontinued or subsumed within the Goods and Services Tax. However, the government, instead, decided to continue with the National Calamity Contingent Duty even in the GST regime. The SDRF corpus is contributed by the Union government and the respective State governments in a 75:25 ratio for general category States and 90:10 for Special Category States.
The allocation of the SDRF for each State is done by the Finance Commission, and the Centre contributes its specified share each financial year. The Central share of SDRF is released in two equal instalments, in June and then in December.
What has been the trend in budgetary allocations to the NDRF and SDRFs?
The Union government has maintained a steady flow of funds to the NDRF each year, ranging from Rs. 5,690 crore in 2015-16 to a budgeted amount of Rs. 2,500 crore for the current financial year. In addition, the Centre has also been contributing to the SDRFs every year, amounting to Rs. 8,374.95 crore in 2016-17 and Rs. 7,281.76 crore in 2017-18.
How have NDRF funds been allocated to States in the recent past?
In 2017-18, up to December 27, 2017, the Union government released NDRF funds to nine States — Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana — over and above its contributions to their respective SDRFs. The recipient of the highest amount was Karnataka, which got Rs. 913 crore that year.
Over the four years till December 27, 2017, the Centre has released the most cumulative funds to Maharashtra (Rs. 5,244.69 crore), Karnataka (Rs. 5,122.45 crore), Uttar Pradesh (Rs. 4,949.04 crore), Tamil Nadu (Rs. 3,115.31 crore), and Madhya Pradesh (Rs. 1,958.93 crore). For specific calamities, the Centre released Rs. 1,365.67 crore for the Chennai floods of 2015 and Rs. 218.76 crore after Cyclone Vardah in 2016. Andhra Pradesh received Rs. 400 crore and Rs. 230 crore after Hudud ravaged Visakhapatnam.
Ban on Petcoke
India has banned the import of pet coke for use as fuel, but has allowed shipments for use as feedstock in some industries.
What is allowed? Import of pet coke is allowed for only cement, lime kiln, calcium carbide and gasification industries, when used as the feedstock or in the manufacturing process on actual user condition. As the world’s largest consumer of pet coke, India imports over half its annual pet coke consumption of about 27 million tonnes, mainly from the United States. Local producers include Indian Oil Corp, Reliance Industries and Bharat Petroleum Corp. India is the world’s biggest consumer of petroleum coke, which is a dark solid carbon material that emits 11% more greenhouse gases than coal. Usage of pet coke, a dirtier alternative to coal, in the energy-hungry country has come under scrutiny due to rising pollution levels in major cities.
What is petcoke? Petroleum coke, the bottom-of-the-barrel leftover from refining Canadian tar sands crude and other heavy oils, is cheaper and burns hotter than coal. But it also contains more planet-warming carbon and far more heart- and lung-damaging sulphur. The country has seen a dramatic increase in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions in recent years, concentrated in areas where power plants and steel factories are clustered. Those pollutants are converted into microscopic particles that lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream, causing breathing and heart problems. Petcoke, critics say, is making a bad situation worse across India. About 1.1 million Indians die prematurely as a result of outdoor air pollution every year, according to the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and industry.
FSSAI notifies standards for honey & its products to curb adulteration
The regulator FSSAI has come out with food safety standards for honey and its products, in a bid to curb adulteration. At present, there are no separate quality standards for honey and its products. The move comes in the wake of government promoting farmers to venture into the beekeeping business to increase their income. The standards will help fetch farmers better prices for their products.
The standards notified:
Parameters: As per the FSSAI notification, honey should comply with 18 parameters like that of sucrose content, glucose ratio, pollen count, foreign oligosaccharides among others.
Limits and standards: The FSSAI has fixed maximum 5% limit for sucrose content in the honey, while 10% for carviacallosa and Honeydew honey. The moisture percentage should be maximum 20% and pollen count should be 25,000 per gram. With regard to by-products, the FSSAI has fixed standards for ‘Bees wax’ and ‘royal jelly’ also.
The regulator has defined honey as the natural sweet substance produced by honey bees from the nectar of blossoms or from secretions of plants, which honey bees collect, transform and store in honey combs for ripening.
No additives: If a product is sold as honey then food ingredient, including food additives should not be added to it. It should not be heated or processed to such an extent that its essential composition is changed and its quality is impaired.
Labelling: Honey can be labelled according to floral or plant source, if it comes from any particular source, and has the organoleptic, physicochemical and microscopic properties corresponding with that origin.
Pollen content: In the case of ‘Monofloral Honey’, the regulator said the minimum pollen content of the plant species concerned should not be less than 45 per cent of total pollen content. In case of ‘Multi Floral Honey’, the pollen content of any of the plant species should not exceed 45 per cent of the total pollen content. Bees wax is obtained from the honeycombs of bees of Apidae family after the honey has been removed by draining or centrifuging. Beeswax consists of a mixture of esters of fatty acids and fatty alcohols, hydrocarbons and free fatty acids. Minor amounts of free fatty alcohols are also present.
The combs are melted with hot water, steam or solar heat and the melted product is filtered and cast into cakes of yellow bees wax.
White bees wax is obtained by bleaching the yellow bees wax with oxidising agents.
Royal jelly is the mixture of secretions from hypopharyngeal and mandibular glands of worker bees, free from any additive. It is the food of larval and adult queens. It is a raw and natural food, unprocessed except for filtration which does not undergo addition of substances. The colour, taste and the chemical composition of royal jelly are determined by absorption and transformation by the bees fed with the following two types of foods during the royal jelly production time.
The ICOMOS, a global monument conservation body, has launched an initiative to assess the damage to the rich cultural and built heritage in flood-devastated Kerala and set up an emergency response platform. The initiative also aims at setting up a platform for emergency response to the cultural heritage damaged by the floods in Kerala. ICOMOS has also approached the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) to partner in the post-disaster work. Kerala is endowed with natural beauty, and is home to a number of iconic forts, palaces and other heritage buildings, which attract a huge number of tourists every year. The state is facing its worst floods in nearly a century.
ICOMOS: The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is a prestigious non-government organisation. It promotes the application of theory, methodology and scientific techniques for conservation of architectural and archaeological heritage across the world. ICOMOS is also an advisory body to the UNESCO for cultural heritage, in particular for implementation of the World Heritage Convention. Rome-based ICCROM is an inter-governmental organisation dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide through training, information, research, cooperation and advocacy programmes.
Sustainable Development in Indian Himalayan Region
NITI Aayog has launched 5 Thematic Reports on Sustainable Development in Indian Himalayan Region. The reports from the five working groups discuss the significance, the challenges, the ongoing actions and a future roadmap.
The themes include: Inventory and Revival of Springs in Himalayas for Water Security. Sustainable Tourism in Indian Himalayan Region. Transformative Approach to Shifting Cultivation. Strengthening Skill & Entrepreneurship Landscape in Himalayas. Data/Information for Informed Decision Making.
Highlights of the report:
Immediate Challenges: Nearly 30% of springs crucial to water security of people are drying and 50% have reported reduced discharge. Himalayan Tourism growing annually at 6.8% has created huge challenge related to solid waste, water, traffic, loss of bio-cultural diversity etc.
The call for actions include: Setting up of a Himalayan Authority for coordinated and holistic development of entire Himalayan region. Launching of “Himalaya Calling”: An Awareness to Action Campaign as people’s movement. Setting up of Mission on Spring Water Management in Himalayas, National Mission/Program on Transforming Shifting Cultivation in North Eastern States, demand driven network of skill and entrepreneurship development Centers in Himalayan States among others.
Conservation of Western Ghats
The six Western Ghats States, including Kerala, have been restrained by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) from giving environmental clearance to activities that may adversely impact the eco-sensitive areas of the mountain ranges.
Important directions issued by the NGT: The extent of Eco-Sensitive Zones of Western Ghats, which was notified by the Central government earlier, should not be reduced in view of the recent floods in Kerala. Any alteration in the draft notification of zones may seriously affect the environment, especially in view of recent incidents in Kerala.
Why was the Gadgil Committee set up?
Environment Ministry set up the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel under Gadgil. The panel was asked to make an assessment of the ecology and biodiversity of the Western Ghats and suggest measures to conserve, protect and rejuvenate the entire range that stretches to over 1500 km along the coast, with its footprints in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.
What did the Gadgil Committee say? It defined the boundaries of the Western Ghats for the purposes of ecological management. It proposed that this entire area be designated as ecologically sensitive area (ESA). Within this area, smaller regions were to be identified as ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) I, II or III based on their existing condition and nature of threat. It proposed to divide the area into about 2,200 grids, of which 75 per cent would fall under ESZ I or II or under already existing protected areas such as wildlife sanctuaries or natural parks. The committee proposed a Western Ghats Ecology Authority to regulate these activities in the area.
Important recommendations of Madhav Gadgil Committee: Ban on the cultivation of genetically modified in the entire area. Plastic bags to be phased out in three years. No new special economic zones or hill stations to be allowed. Ban on conversion of public lands to private lands, and on diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes in ESZ I and II. No new mining licences in ESZ I and II area. No new dams, thermal power plants or large-scale wind power projects in ESZ I. No new polluting industries in ESZ I and ESZ II areas. No new railway lines or major roads in ESZ I and II areas. Strict regulation of tourism. Cumulative impact assessment for all new projects like dams, mines, tourism, housing.
Why was Kasturirangan committee to set up? None of the six concerned states agreed with the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee, which submitted its report in August 2011. In August 2012, then Environment Minister constituted a High-Level Working Group on Western Ghats under Kasturirangan to “examine” the Gadgil Committee report in a “holistic and multidisciplinary fashion in the light of responses received” from states, central ministries and others. Its report revealed that of the nearly 1,750 responses it had examined, 81% were not in favour of the Gadgil recommendations. In particular, Kerala had objected to the proposed ban on sand mining and quarrying, restrictions on transport infrastructure and wind energy projects, embargos on hydroelectric projects, and inter-basin transfer of river waters, and also the complete ban on new polluting industries.
Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS)
The Bombay Natural History Society, founded on 15 September 1883, is one of the largest non-governmental organisations in India engaged in conservation and biodiversity research.
BNHS is the partner of BirdLife International in India. It has been designated as a ‘Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’ by the Department of Science and Technology.
Logo: The BNHS logo is the great hornbill.
Internet of Birds: IT consultancy firm Accenture and the Bombay Natural History Society have developed Internet of Birds platform that identifies bird species found in India using Artificial Intelligence technology, including machine learning and computer vision, from digital photos that are uploaded by the public.
The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), one of India’s premier avian research institutes, has started operating its first regional centre on the campus of Wetland Research and Training Centre near Chilika Lake.With opening up its branch in Odisha, the BNHS would be engaged in identifying the air route of the foreign birds flocking the Chilika lake during winter, sample collection, training related to bird census, publishing bird migration atlas books, examining various diseases among the birds and to review the condition of the Nalabana bird sanctuary along with counting the birds.
Chilika Lagoon: It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest lagoon in the world after The New Caledonian barrier reef in New Caledonia. It is the largest wintering ground for migratory waterfowl found anywhere on the Indian sub-continent. It is one of the hotspot of biodiversity in the country, and some rare, vulnerable and endangered species listed in the IUCN Red List of threatened Animals inhabit in the lagoon for atleast part of their life cycle. On account of its rich bio-diversity and ecological significance, Chilika was designated as the 1st “Ramsar Site” of India. The Nalaban Island within the lagoon is notified as a Bird Sanctuary under Wildlife (Protection) Act, the National Wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs Committee of Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, have also identified the lagoon as a priority site for conservation and management. Chilika Lagoon lies in the districts of Puri, Khurda and Ganjam of Odisha State along the eastern coast of India. It is well connected to the Chennai and Kolkata through National Highway No 5, and the Chennai Kolkata rail line passes along the western bank of the Lagoon Balugaon, with Balugaon, Chilika and Rambha being the main stations along the Western shoreline of the lagoon.
Cheetah reintroduction project
The Madhya Pradesh forest department has written to the National Tiger Conservation Authority to revive the plan to reintroduce cheetahs in the State’s Nauradehi sanctuary. The ambitious project, conceived in 2009, had hit a roadblock for want of funds. The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is one of the oldest of the big cat species, with ancestors that can be traced back more than five million years to the Miocene era. The cheetah is also the world’s fastest land mammal, an icon of nature. With great speed and dexterity, the cheetah is known for being an excellent hunter, its kills feeding many other animals in its ecosystem—ensuring that multiple species survive. The country’s last spotted feline died in Chhattisgarh in 1947. Later, the cheetah — which is the fastest land animal — was declared extinct in India in 1952.
Cheetah reintroduction programme in India: The Wildlife Institute of India at Dehradun had prepared a ₹260-crore cheetah re-introduction project six years ago. It was estimated that an amount of ₹25 crore to ₹30 crore would be needed to build an enclosure in an area of 150 sq km for the cheetahs in Nauradehi. The proposal was to put the felines in the enclosure with huge boundary walls before being released in the wild, he said. Nauradehi was found to be the most suitable area for the cheetahs as its forests are not very dense to restrict the fast movement of the spotted cat. Besides, the prey base for cheetahs is also in abundance at the sanctuary. According to the earlier action plan, around 20 cheetahs were to be translocated to Nauradehi from Namibia in Africa. The Namibia Cheetah Conservation Fund had then showed its willingness to donate the felines to India. However, the State was not ready to finance the plan contending that it was the Centre’s project.
NTCA: The National Tiger Conservation Authority is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change constituted under enabling provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006, for strengthening tiger conservation, as per powers and functions assigned to it under the said Act.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority has been fulfilling its mandate within the ambit of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for strengthening tiger conservation in the country by retaining an oversight through advisories/normative guidelines, based on appraisal of tiger status, ongoing conservation initiatives and recommendations of specially constituted Committees.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully launched Aeolus satellite that will measure winds around the globe and help improve weather forecasting. The Earth Explorer Aeolus satellite was launched into polar orbit on a Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Aeolus is the first satellite mission to acquire profiles of Earth’s wind on a global scale. These near-realtime observations will improve the accuracy of numerical weather and climate prediction and advance our understanding of tropical dynamics and processes relevant to climate variability. Aeolus is the fifth in the family of ESA’s Earth Explorer missions, which address key scientific challenges identified by the science community and demonstrate breakthrough technology in observing techniques. Named after Aeolus, who in Greek mythology was appointed ‘keeper of the winds’ by the Gods, this novel mission will not only provide much-needed data to improve the quality of weather forecasts, but also contribute to long-term climate research.
Close watch on climate change
The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) is considering a Rs. 79-crore proposal to study the impact of climate change on Kerala.
Proposed by: The project has been proposed by the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR) under the Council of Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR).
Objectives: The Kerala project will analyse the trends in climatic elements, their spatial pattern and its relationship with extreme events such as El Nino, cyclones etc. The objective of the project is to develop a framework and decision support tool to assess the climate change impact on livelihood and developmental processes.
Focus areas: The ambitious project, spread over a period of three years, will assess the impact of climate change on agriculture (including plantation crops and spices); fisheries (marine and inland); industries; health; transport — vehicular and inland water transports; tourism; biodiversity; forestry; and landslips.
The project involves experts from various scientific institutions across the country. It consists of 25 work packages and covers all the aspects of climate change adaptations for Kerala.
The experts will study the spatial and temporal changes in water resources (surface and groundwater — quantity and quality). Researchers will also assess the monsoonal variations and its impact, besides looking at the climate change scenario on the islets of Kerala. CSIR-NISCAIR is the nodal institute to develop climate change adaptation programmes for islands and coastal ecosystems as part of the 12th Five Year Plan programme approved by the CSIR.
Lakhwar Multipurpose Project
The Centre has signed MOU with Uttarakhand, UP, HP, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi for Construction of Lakhwar Multipurpose Project on Yamuna Near Dehradun. Project Will Generate 300 MW of Power Create 33,780 Hectare Irrigation Potential and 78.83 MCM Water Availability. Uttarakhand Will Bear the Cost of Power Component, Get the Total Benefit of Power Generation. Centre will Fund 90% of Irrigation Component, the Six States to the Fund Remaining 10% and Share Water Proportionately. Lakhwar Project is a multipurpose scheme, primarily a peaking power station, on river Yamuna in the district of Dehradun in Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi are the six Upper Yamuna Basin states. Upper Yamuna refers to the stretch of River Yamuna from its origin to the Okhla Barrage in Delhi.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Satya S Tripathi, an Indian development economist and lawyer, has been appointed assistant secretary general of the United Nations and will head the New York office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is an agency of United Nations and coordinates its environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded by Maurice Strong, its first director, as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference) in June 1972 and has its headquarters in the Gigiri neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya. UNEP has overall responsibility for environmental problems among United Nations agencies but talks on addressing global warming are overseen by the Bonn-based Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its activities cover a wide range of issues regarding the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance and green economy. UNEP has also been active in funding and implementing environment related development projects. IPCC: The World Meteorological Organization and UNEP established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. UNEP is also one of several Implementing Agencies for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol, and it is also a member of the United Nations Development Group. The International Cyanide Management Code, a program of best practice for the chemical’s use at gold mining operations, was developed under UNEP’s aegis.
NTCA to take over Corbett Tiger Reserve
Pointing to an “alarming trend” of tiger deaths, the Uttarakhand High Court has asked if the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) could take over the management of the Corbett Tiger Reserve “as an interim measure”. The court also asked the NTCA if the tigers could be relocated “to save them from poaching”. The court expressed dissatisfaction with the state government’s inaction in dealing with tiger poaching incidents. It said the state government had failed to constitute a Special Tiger Protection Force despite the court’s order. As a last/ extreme measure, the court has sought the response of the NTCA, being the expert body, to take over the management of Corbett Tiger Reserve, as an interim measure, till the state government becomes alive to its duties and starts taking concrete decisions. The court has also asked NTCA to suggest “whether few tigers can be relocated/ shifted to save them from poaching/ killing to other well-managed national parks/sanctuaries”.
Corbett tiger reserve: Corbett National Park is situated in the foothills of the Sub- Himalayan belt in Nainital districts of Uttarakhand state in India. Established in the year 1936 as Hailey National Park, Corbett has the glory of being India’s oldest and most prestigious National Park. It is also being honored as the place where Project Tiger was first launched in 1973. This unique tiger territory is best known as the father who gave birth of the Project Tiger in India to protect the most endangered species and the Royal of India called Tigers. Corbett National Park covers an area of 521 sq. km and together with the neighboring Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary and Reserve Forest areas, forms the Corbett Tiger Reserve. Corbett is one of the richest bird regions of the Country and has been declared as an ‘Important Bird Area’ (IBA) by Birdlife International.