On the table, a climate ‘rulebook’
Air pollution is now the fourth-highest cause of death worldwide. Long-term exposure to air pollution contributed to the death of 6.1 million people in 2016. According to the UN Emissions Gap Report 2018, “global greenhouse gas emissions show no signs of peaking.” Total annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reached a record high in 2017. While there has been steady progress in the number of countries that have peaked their GHG emissions or have pledged to do so in the future, the 49 countries that have so far done so, and the 36% share of global emissions they represent, is not large enough to enable the world’s emissions to peak in the near term.
Paris Agreement “Rule Book” Deadline: Two years ago, at the COP22 meeting in Marrakech, countries had set themselves a 2018 deadline for the completion of the “rulebook”. That is because most of the issues to be dealt with and agreed upon, notably those relating to finance, technology, and MRV, are highly contentious, and the negotiators face an uphill task in their attempt to wrap it up in the next two weeks. The World Meteorological Organization reported that global average surface temperatures in 2018 was all set to be the fourth highest ever recorded. The 20 warmest years have all been in the last 22 years, with the top four being the last four years.
Climate negotiators from around the world have gathered in Poland to renew their efforts towards finalising a global action plan to prevent adverse impacts of climate change. The annual meeting, informally called COP24 (short for the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), is being organised this time in Katowice, an important city in southern Poland’s coal belt.
The Summit will focus on delivering three key outcomes: Raising real ambition; Transformative action in the real economy; and An unprecedented citizen and youth mobilization. The Summit will focus on driving action in six areas: Transition to renewable energy; Funding of climate action and carbon pricing; Reducing emissions from industry; Using nature as a solution; Sustainable cities and local action; and Climate change resilience.
Agenda for COP24:
The main task on the hands of negotiators gathered in Katowice (locate in map as well) would be to finalise the “rulebook” for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and came into effect the following year after the required number of countries had ratified it.
For the last two years, negotiators have been working on formulating the rules, procedures, guidelines, and institutional mechanisms through which the provisions of the Paris Agreement would be implemented.
These include such things as agreeing on accounting standards:
To measure emissions,
Processes for monitoring,
Reporting and verification (commonly referred to as MRV in climate negotiation circles) of actions being taken by individual countries, mechanisms to raise financial resources and
Ensure the flow of funds for climate projects, and
Institutions to facilitate the diffusion of appropriate technologies to countries and regions that need them.
At the same time, there is a growing noise about the need to aim for a 1.5°C target instead of 2°C. Countries would need to do much more to achieve that. A recent special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the pathways to the 1.5° target is an important item on the agenda for discussions in Katowice.
Cutting through the smog
Air pollution is a worry especially in north India. Stubble burning is said to be a key factor behind the formation of a dense cover of smog in this part of India though its contribution is less than 20%. Farmers are held responsible for the crisis but what is at fault are the flawed and short-sighted policies of the Central and State governments. Incidents of stubble burning following the harvest of paddy crop in Punjab and Haryana cannot be averted by imposing fines, or giving notice or giving farmers capital subsidy. Burning leads to the ground temperature rising and the soil drying up, necessitating additional water for irrigation. And last, but not the least, livestock is impacted by crop burning, with milk yields reducing up to 50 per cent during the two months. This results in less earnings through selling milk.
Instead, the issue requires long-term vision and strategic policy interventions.
Reasons for failure for current methods (using Policy of rotation):
The sowing of paddy is incentivised in Punjab and Haryana whereby the share of paddy (rice) in the gross cropped area in Punjab has increased from 6.8% in 1966-67 to almost 36.4 % in recent years, while it has increased from 4.97% to 20% in Haryana. The policy of minimum support price for crops, in tandem with their assured procurement and input subsidy, have left farmers with no option but to follow this wheat-paddy rotation which has caused the increase at the cost of other crops such as maize, cotton, oilseeds and sugarcane. Punjab has enacted a water conservation law in 2009 which mandates paddy sowing within a notified period (June instead of earlier practice of May).
A shorter period of sowing days prohibits transplantation before a notified date, which in turn limits the window available for harvesting paddy to between 15 and 20 days. As a result, farmers who are pressed for time to sow wheat and to maintain crop yield, farmers find stubble burning to be an easy and low-cost solution. Haryana and Punjab face labor shortage for removal of stubble and therefore find stubble burning an easier option. The purchase of the ‘happy seeder’ which mechanically removes the paddy stubble adds to the cost incurred by farmers, wherein stubble burning is a much cheaper option.
Happy Seeder: A solution to agricultural fires in north India: A ‘happy’ solution:
A machine called the ‘Happy Seeder’ has been developed in the last few years that can plant the wheat seed without getting jammed by the rice straw. The Happy Seeder is a tractor-mounted machine that cuts and lifts rice straw, sows wheat into the bare soil, and deposits the straw over the sown area as mulch. Happy Seeder is a zero-tillage technology. Research shows that Happy Seeder is a viable alternative to conventional tillage. What is needed for its rapid adoption is a major government push to publicise and popularise the Happy Seeder. Currently the Happy Seeder machine costs about Rs. 1.3 lakh with a subsidy of 33%. There is a need to propose at least that the subsidy on Happy Seeder machine be raised to 50% because it would then be significantly more profitable than the conventional practice. The No Burn Farm campaign is also trying to communicate to farmers that crop burning is not the best method to remove stubble and has negative implications for the food system. For one, the nutrients present in the stubble are wasted in burning and farmers have to spend on chemical fertilisers to maintain soil quality.
Happy Seeder should not be another burden: Farmers have already made investments in seed drill machines for sowing wheat after paddy harvest. Increasing pressure by the government on farmers to purchase the ‘happy seeder’ to abate stubble burning adds to the cost incurred by farmers. Even if the machine is available at a subsidised rate of nearly ₹1 lakh, it would remain idle the whole year and become a liability in terms of maintenance. It is not a viable option for small and marginal farmers who hardly earn ₹60,000 in a year. Imposing a fine for burning straw is again unreasonable. The fine imposed per hectare is much lower than the cost incurred on a ‘happy seeder’.
Indian Pavillion at COP-24.
The Union Environment Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan participated in the inauguration of Indian Pavilion at the 24th meeting of Conference of Parties (COP-24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held at Katowice, Poland.
Theme of India Pavilion – “One World One Sun One Grid”.
Minister’s Statement: The Ministry has launched a nationwide campaign in preserving and protecting the environment called the Green Good Deeds Movement. This campaign was prepared to inspire, encourage and involve each and every individual of the society to realize people’s participation in accomplishing the goals. India’s leadership in global climate action has been recognized and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been bestowed with “Champion of Earth Award” this year by the United Nations in promoting International Solar Alliance and resolve to make India plastic free by 2022.
What is the ‘Champions of the Earth award’?
It was launched in 2005. “Champions of the Earth”, the UN’s highest environmental honour, celebrates outstanding figures from the public and private sectors and from civil society whose actions have had a transformative positive impact on the environment. In 2018, the award was received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron for their leadership in promotion of solar energy.
What is COP 24?
COP24 is the informal name for the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The COP takes decisions to ensure effective implementation of the provisions of the Convention and regularly reviews the implementation of these provisions.
UNFCCC: UNFCCC is an international environmental treaty, entered into force on 21 March 1994. Now, it has near-universal membership. The UNFCCC has 197 parties as of December 2015.
Aim of the UNFCCC: To prevent ‘dangerous’ human interference with the climate system.
Tiger in the snow
Wildlife Institute of India has found Royal Bengal Tiger in the snow-capped regions of the Eastern Himalaya.
IUCN Red List status: Endangered
Tiger only have one species in the world but it is divided into six subspecies: Bengal (Indian), Sumatran, Amur (Siberian), Malayan, Amoy (South China) and Indochinese. Bengal tiger habitats usually are tropical rainforests, marshes, and tall grasses however recently they have also been traced in the snow-capped region of Eastern Himalaya in Arunachal Pradesh’s Dibang Valley A large part of the Dibang Valley is home to the Mishmi tribes who have found to co-exist with the animals. The mangroves of the Sundarbans shared between Bangladesh and India—are the only mangrove forests where tigers are found. Smaller populations are also found in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar. It is the most numerous of all tiger subspecies.
Threats and Conservation
The main threats are: poaching and conflicts with humans. Since the 1970s India began to establish reserves through the Tiger Project that helped stabilize the Number of tigers. Also, the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 empowers the government to take conservation measures. The Wildlife Protection Society of India continues watching all allegations of tiger poaching. Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and World Land Trust (WLT) are working together to secure safe passage for elephants, tigers and other threatened species away from humans.
Namdapha National Park: It is located between the Dapha bum range of the Mishmi Hills and the Patkai range. Noa-Dihing River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra which flows westwards through the middle of Namdapha. Country’s only reserve to have four big cat species — the tiger, leopard and the severely endangered clouded and snow leopards. Namdapha was originally declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1972, then a National Park in 1983 and became a Tiger Reserve under the Project Tiger scheme in the same year. Chakma, Tangsa and Singpho and Lisu tribal settlement found around the park.
Project Tiger: Tiger conservation programme was initiated in 1973 in the Corbett national park of Uttarakhand by the government of India with the help of World Wildlife Fund . The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body of the Ministry, with an overarching supervisory / coordination role, performing functions as provided in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. There are 50 tiger reserves in India which are governed by Project Tigers. In 2005, The Prime Minister of India set up the Tiger Task Force to strengthen the conservation of Tigers in the country.
World Wide Fund for Nature: WWF is world’s largest international non-governmental organization for conservation founded in 1961. The Living Planet Report is published every two years by WWF since 1998; it is based on a Living Planet Index and ecological footprint calculation. Currently, their work is organized around these six areas: food, climate, freshwater, wildlife, forests, and oceans
UN selects Noida for Global Sustainable Cities 2025 initiative
The United Nations selected Uttar Pradesh’s Noida and Greater Noida to participate in its Global Sustainable Cities 2025 initiative. The twin-cities in Gautam Buddh Nagar district, adjoining the national capital, have been selected in the “University City” category ahead of Mumbai and Bengaluru as the only invitee from India. Overall 25 cities across the world have been selected in five categories by the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) cities initiative. Noida (along with Greater Noida) will participate in this showcase ‘Race to Sustainability’ among 25 global cities to become fully compliant with the Sustainable Development Goals by 2025 under the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) cities initiative.The goal is to work together with other participating university cities like Cambridge, Palo Alto, Trondheim, Espoo and Heidelberg to create Sustainability Innovation and Research Hubs. The SDGs, otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Sustainable Development Goals Commitment Report (SCR) overcomes the limitations of current evaluation systems, such as inadequate transparency on evaluation criteria and methodology, inexperienced analysts, backward looking analysis with limited prognosis, and potential conflicts of interest. SDG cities initiative will lead to an “unprecedented inflow” of global knowledge, resources and capacity-building into Noida and Greater Noida via various UN agencies, partners and corporate supporters. Agreeing to the invitation for the long term project would entitle Noida-Greater Noida for multi-million US dollars finance and implementation know-how for each of the 17 SDGs along the defined KPIs (key performance indicators).
Accounting methods of climate fund questioned
In a paper titled “3 Essential “S” of Climate Finance- Scope, Scale and Speed: A Reflection”, submitted at the COP24, the Indian Finance Ministry has questioned climate finance values being reported by the developed countries as having being transferred to developing countries.
Various issues highlighted in the paper:
Inconsistency in definition: Definitions of climate change finance used in various reports by developed countries were not consistent with the provisions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Low Finance: The finance provided by the developed nations till date is far lower than that originally promised by developed nations. According to the paper, the growth in the reported climate specific finance slowed down from 24% between 2014 and 2015 to 14% between 2015 and 2016
Over reporting: The ministry paper has referred to an assessment by Oxfam (2018) which states that the value of loans is being over reported
Issue of moral responsibility: The developing nations have been demanding that the developed nations (particularly USA) take historical and moral responsibility for being among the largest greenhouse gas emitters. Moral responsibility includes transfer of funds and technology to aid developing nations in adapting to climate change. However, India has argued that this has not been taken care of.
Among Himalayan states, Assam and Mizoram face the biggest climate threat
According to a study presented by a team of Indian scientists at the COP 24 climate conference, Assam and Mizoram are the most vulnerable to climate change among the Himalayan states. 12 western and eastern Himalayan states were studied on various parameters crucial for adaptation to climate change such as irrigated area, per capita income (for 2014-15), area under crop insurance, forest cover and the extent of slopes
Highlights of the Study: Assam has the highest vulnerability because: It has one of the lowest areas under irrigation and lowest forest area per 1,000 rural households among the states assessed, It has lowest per capita income, Lowest area under crop insurance, Relatively low participation in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Scheme (The schemes provides 100 days of unskilled employment to at least one adult member of every poor rural household)
Mizoram (ranked 2nd) is highly vulnerable because of the same issues faced by Assam and because 30% of its geographical area is under slope.
Jammu and Kashmir has third highest vulnerability primarily because: has no area under crop insurance, least road density,low percentage of area under horticulture crops,low livestock to human ratio,low percentage of women in the overall workforce
Sikkim has performed the best with lowest vulnerability as It has the highest per capita income among the 12 states assessed, good coverage of dense forests,large area under orchards,low population density.
Significance of the study: The study and vulnerability rankings will aid the government in detecting vulnerable states and districts within a state and take appropriate and targeted actions
Dual-Fuel Usage for Agricultural and Construction Equipment Vehicles
The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has notified dual-fuel usage for agricultural and construction equipment vehicles. It will give a boost to vehicles run on bio-fuel, and help in reducing both cost and pollution.
List of Dual-Fuel Vehicles (diesel as primary and CNG, Bio CNG as secondary): Tractors, power tillers, construction equipment vehicles and combine harvesters which have originally been manufactured as dual-fuel or have been converted as such from in-use diesel vehicles.
World Bank unveils US $200 billion in climate action investment for 2021-25
World Bank has unveiled US $200 billion in climate action investment for 2021 to 2025 to fight impact of climate change. The move coincides with Conference of Parties-24 (COP24) United Nations Climate Summit in Katowice, Poland. The breakdown of US $200 billion will comprise approximately 100 billion in direct finance from World Bank. Around one-third of remaining funding will come from two World Bank Group agencies and rest will be private capital mobilised by the World Bank Group. This US $200 billion in climate action investment, amounts to World Bank’s doubling of its current five-year funding. It also represents significantly ramped up ambition of World Bank to tackle climate change and sends an important signal to the wider global community to do the same. This amounts is also double of World Bank’s earlier commitment for ts current five-year funding.
World Bank: It is international financial institution that provides loans to countries of the world for capital projects. Its official goal is reduction of poverty by providing loans to developing countries for capital programmes. It is one of five institutions created at Breton Woods Conference in 1944. It is headquarter is situated at Washington DC, US. World Bank comprises two institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and the International Development Association (IDA). It is component of World Bank Group, which also includes three more subsidiary organisations viz. International Finance Corporation (IFC), Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). World Bank is part of United Nations system, but its governance structure is different.
Global Carbon Project
Global carbon emissions are set to hit an all-time high of 37.1 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2018, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Global Carbon Project.
Highlights of the study: India, the third-highest contributor, is projected to see emissions rise by 6.3% from 2017. The 2.7% projected global rise in 2018 has been driven by appreciable growth in coal use for the second year in a row, and sustained growth in oil and gas use. The 10 biggest emitters in 2018 are China, U.S., India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Canada. The EU as a region of countries ranks third. China’s emissions accounted for 27% of the global total, having grown an estimated 4.7% in 2018 and reaching a new all-time high. Emissions in the U.S., which has withdrawn from its commitment to the Paris Agreement, account for 15% of the global total, and look set to have grown about 2.5% in 2018 after several years of decline. Limiting global warming to the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of keeping the global temperature increase this century to well below 2°C, would need carbon dioxide emissions to decline by 50% by 2030 and reach net zero by about 2050. Though coal use contributed to the rise in 2018 from last year, it still remains below its historical high in 2013 but may exceed that if current growth continues.
Global Carbon Project: The Global Carbon Project was formed in 2001 to help the international science community to establish a common, mutually agreed knowledge base that supports policy debate and action to slow the rate of increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is a Global Research Project of Future Earth and a research partner of the World Climate Research Programme. It was formed to work with the international science community to establish a common and mutually agreed knowledge base to support policy debate and action to slow down and ultimately stop the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The Global Carbon Project works collaboratively with the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, the World Climate Programme, the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change and Diversitas, under the Earth System Science Partnership.
Beach pollution in India
The National Centre of Coastal Research (NCCR) has released a report on beach pollution in India.
Highlights of the report: The NCCR conducted a qualitative analysis of the litter on six different beaches on the eastern and western coasts. The study notes that beach pollution is on rise in the country. Tourism and fishing are the biggest culprits, contributing most of the plastic litter on beaches. The study found that plastic litter from tourism alone accounted for 40%-96% of all beach litter. At Chennai’s Elliot’s Beach, for instance, plastics left by tourists accounted for 40% of all the litter, while at Gopalpur in Odisha, it was as high as 96%. As for the other four beaches, plastics formed 66% of the overall litter on Fort Kochi Beach, 60% at Karnataka’s Karwar beach, 87% at Visakhapatnam’s R.K. Beach, and 81% at Andaman Island’s Rangachang beach. After tourism, fishing was the next biggest source of litter. While fishing nets were a major contributor, the processing of fish on the beach also produced a lot of litter. Also, the proportion of biomedical litter was high in urban areas, such as Elliot’s Beach and Fort Kochi Beach. Other than the plastic litter dropped by tourists, similar waste from creeks and inlets made its way into the sea in the monsoon. Most of the litter consisted of plastic bottles, cutlery, and thermocol. India needs a national marine litter policy to control and manage waste on land and prevent its entry into the marine environment. Experts suggest installation of debris booms and fin deflectors upstream as measures to reduce the quantity of floating solid waste entering coastal waters. India also needs to start blue-flagging its beaches. The ‘blue flag’ is a globally recognised eco-label awarded to beaches and marinas that adhere to strict environmental and safety norms.
More about ‘Blue Flag’ project: Launched in December 2017 by the Environment Ministry, the prime objective of the project is to enhance standards of cleanliness, upkeep and basic amenities at beaches. Under the project, each state or union territory has been asked to nominate a beach which will be funded through the ongoing Integrated Coastal Management Programme.
Criteria for certification: To achieve the Blue Flag standards, a beach has to strictly comply with 33 environment and tourism-related conditions. The standards were established by the Copenhagen-based Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) in 1985. For example- a beach must be plastic-free and equipped with a waste management system. Clean water should be available for tourists, apart from international amenities. The beach should have facilities for studying the environmental impact around the area.
Method to simulate, predict solar activity over ten years developed
A team of researchers from IISER Kolkata have developed a way of predicting the intensity of activity in the next solar cycle (approximately from 2020 to 2031) using data spread over the last 100 years. Astronomers have observed sunspots on the surface of the sun for nearly 400 years. It is known that sunspots follow a cyclic pattern of growing in number and disappearing in approximately 11 years, known as the sunspot cycle or the sun’s activity cycle. We are currently in the 24th sunspot cycle since the observation began in 1755.
Findings: The researchers found that the sun’s activity would not dip during the next cycle, but it would be similar to the current cycle, perhaps even stronger. They expect the cycle to peak around 2024.
How was it found? The researchers simulated the behaviour of the sun using magnetic field evolution models and observational data. They simulated solar activity, and using inputs from observed data from one cycle, predicted the behaviour of the sun over the next cycle, about ten years in advance.
What are Sunspots? Sunspots are temporary phenomena on the Sun’s photosphere that appear as spots darker than the surrounding areas. They are regions of reduced surface temperature caused by concentrations of magnetic field flux that inhibit convection. Sunspots usually appear in pairs of opposite magnetic polarity.
Why study sunspots? For the understanding of the long-term variations of the sun and its impact on our climate which is one of the science objectives of Aditya mission. The forecast will be also useful for scientific operational planning of the Aditya mission. To know the effects on space weather. This refers to the effect of radiation, particle flux and magnetic flux in the region around the sun. During extreme events, space weather can affect electronics-driven satellite controls, communications systems, air traffic over polar routes and even power grids. Sunspots are correlated with climate on earth. A lot of the research in this area focuses on predicting the way the next sunspot cycle will shape up – whether the sun will be extremely active and produce many sunspots or not.
There have been predictions that the next cycle (cycle 25) will show reduced sunspot activity. There have even been speculations that the sun may be heading towards a period of prolonged low activity – what solar physicists describe as a ‘Maunder-like minimum’.
The Maunder minimum refers to a period from 1645 to 1715 where observers reported minimal Sunspot activity — the number of sunspots reduced by a factor of nearly 1,000, over a period of 28 years. During this and other such periods of low activity, some parts of Europe and North America experienced lower-than-average temperatures. While the connection between the Maunder minimum and the climate on earth is still debated, it gives another reason to watch the sunspots.
Ministry of New and Renewable Energy conferred Skoch Award for National Significance.
Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has been conferred the Skoch Award for National Significance. The award has been conferred considering its purpose and critical role played in installing about 73 GW renewable energy capacity in the country. With 21 per cent of total installed capacity, within the year renewable energy grossed one billion units of electricity in the country.
India’s ranking: India ranks fourth in the world in wind energy capacity, and India ranks fifth in solar & total energy capacity installed in the world. India had played a critical role in setting up of international solar alliance.
Skoch Group: It is a think tank dealing with socio-economic issues with a focus on inclusive growth since 1997. It has instituted India’s highest independent civilian honours in the field of governance, finance, technology, economics and social sector.
Skoch Award 2018 Who can nominate? Central government, State government, Local body, Municipality, City/District administration, State Owned Enterprises/Undertakings
SKOCH Award celebrates excellence of governance delivery by domain departments. This includes having sufficient familiarity, capacity and knowledge about the functionality of their systems, processes and outcomes.
Clean Sea-2018: Indian Coast Guard conducts Exercise at sea off Port Blair
Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has conducted Regional Level Marine Oil Pollution Response Exercise titled ‘Clean Sea– 2018’ at sea off Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar (A&B) Islands. The objective of exercise was to ascertain preparedness of IGC, resource agencies and other stakeholders in responding to major oil spill in line with provisions of National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOS-DCP). ICG ships Viswasth, Vijith, Rajveer, Rajshri, 4 interceptor boats and its air assets Dornier and Chetak helicopters participated in the exercise. Great Channel between Nicobar Islands and Northern Sumatra that leads into Malacca Straits is marine drive of high seas. Almost 200 ships cross 160-km wide Straits daily making it among busiest sea routes of world. Considering, high intensity of oil tanker traffic through this route, the area is highly vulnerable to oil spills. So there is need for robust national system for oil spill response is critical.
Highlights of Clean Sea-2018
The exercise was planned to evaluate preparedness for Response Operations for any such oil pollution incident in highly sensitive area of A&B islands. The exercise was conducted in two phases for synchronizing support and cooperation provided by all stakeholders for combating oil spills in such ecologically sensitive areas. The exercise saw participation of ICG Pollution Control Vessel and integration of ICG Dornier/Chetak aircraft into Oil Spill Disaster Management System for aerial assessment and delivery of Oil Spill Dispersant for mitigation of spilled oil.
Bioplastics not an eco-friendly alternative to plastic- Study
A study was conducted by the University of Bonn in Germany on the use of bioplastics and its effects on the environment.
Bioplastics — often promoted as a climate-friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastics — may lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Bioplastics are in principle climate-neutral since they are based on renewable raw materials such as maize, wheat or sugar cane. These plants get the CO2 that they need from the air through their leaves. Producing bioplastics therefore consumes CO2, which compensates for the amount that is later released at end-of-life. Overall, their net greenhouse gas balance is assumed to be zero. Bioplastics are thus often consumed as an environmentally friendly alternative.
However, at least with the current level of technology, this issue is probably not as clear as often assumed. This is because the production of bioplastics in large amounts would change land use globally. This could potentially lead to an increase in the conversion of forest areas to arable land. However, forests absorb considerably more CO2 than maize or sugar cane annually, if only because of their larger biomass.
Concerns over the increased use of plastics:
Plastics are usually made from petroleum, with the associated impacts in terms of fossil fuel depletion but also climate change. The carbon embodied in fossil resources is suddenly released to the atmosphere by degradation or burning, hence contributing to global warming. This corresponds to about 400 million metric tonnes of CO2 per year worldwide, almost half of the total greenhouse gases that Germany emitted to the atmosphere in 2017. It is estimated that by 2050, plastics could already be responsible for 15% of the global CO2 emissions.
Main advantages of bioplastics:
They can reduce our carbon footprint. Less consumption of non-renewable raw materials. A reduction of non-biodegradable waste, which contaminates the environment. Increased energy savings in terms of production. Fewer harmful additives such as phthalates or bisphenol A. No adverse change to flavour or scent in food stored in bioplastic containers.
Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) 2018
World Bank has released its report — Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) 2018 — charting global progress on sustainable energy policies. The report was released on the sidelines of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change(COP24).
Highlights of the report:
Many of the world’s largest energy-consuming countries significantly improved their renewable energy regulations since 2010.
Progress was even more marked in energy efficiency, with the percentage of countries establishing advanced policy frameworks growing more than 10-fold between 2010 and 2017.
Among countries with large populations living without electricity, 75 per cent had by 2017 put in place the policies and regulations needed to expand energy access. But there were still significant barriers to global progress on sustainable energy.
While countries continue to be focused on clean energy policies for electricity, policies to decarbonize heating and transportation, which account for 80 per cent of global energy use, continued to be overlooked.
This momentum was particularly marked in renewable energy. Among the countries covered by RISE, only 37 per cent had a national renewable energy target in 2010. By 2017, that had grown to 93 per cent.
By last year, 84 per cent of countries had a legal framework in place to support renewable energy deployment, while 95 per cent allowed the private sector to own and operate renewable energy projects.
Among the four SDG7 target areas — renewable energy, energy efficiency, electricity access and access to clean cooking — the last one continued to be the most overlooked and underfunded by policymakers.
There has been little progress on standard-setting for cookstoves or on consumer and producer incentives to stimulate adoption of clean technologies.
India has gained a great success in renewable energy auctions that delivered record-setting low prices for solar power. However, to realize its full potential, the country needs to address critical gaps, such as failing utilities, clean cooking, and the slow progress on decarbonizing heating and transport.
The Supreme Court has directed the Union Environment Ministry to declare 10 km area around 21 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the country as ‘eco-sensitive zones’. The court took the initiative after its amicus curiae informed the court that the State governments have taken no effort to protect the area around these sanctuaries and parks.
What are Eco-sensitive zones?
The Environment Protection Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-sensitive Zones”.
The section 3(2)(v) of the Act, says that Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards
Besides the section 5 (1) of this act says that central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of considerations like the biological diversity of an area, maximum allowable limits of concentration of pollutants for an area, environmentally compatible land use, and proximity to protected areas. The above two clauses have been effectively used by the government to declare Eco-Sensitive Zones or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFA). The same criteria have been used by the government to declare No Development Zones.
Criteria: The MoEF (Ministry of Environment & Forests) has approved a comprehensive set of guidelines laying down parameters and criteria for declaring ESAs. A committee constituted by MoEF put this together. The guidelines lay out the criteria based on which areas can be declared as ESAs. These include Species Based (Endemism, Rarity etc), Ecosystem Based (sacred groves, frontier forests etc) and Geomorphologic feature based (uninhabited islands, origins of rivers etc).
UN ‘Momentum for Change’ climate action award
An Indian private project, HelpUsGreen is one of 15 ground-breaking projects from around the world that has won this year’s UN climate action award.The other 14 projects which won the UN ‘Momentum for Change’ climate action award showcase how ideas, big and small, are successful in tackling climate change.
HelpUsGreen: The project collects flowers from temples and mosques across many cities\towns in Uttar Pradesh and recycles them to produce natural incense, organic fertilizers and biodegradable packaging material. The project currently employs 1,260 women in Uttar Pradesh, helps in preventing chemical pesticides from entering into the river through temple waste. Developed as the world’s first profitable solution to the monumental temple waste problem, the HelpUsGreen’s products are handcrafted by women who earlier used to be manual scavengers. The HelpUsGreen aims to provide livelihoods to 5,100 women and recycle 51 tonnes of temple waste daily by 2021. Under HelpUsGreen, 11,060 metric tonnes of temple-waste has, so far, been recycled. As a result,110 metric tonnes of chemical pesticides that enter the river through temple waste have been offset.
‘Momentum for Change’ initiative: Momentum for Change is an initiative spearheaded by the UN Climate Change secretariat to shine a light on the enormous groundswell of activities underway across the globe that are moving the world toward a highly resilient, low-carbon future. Momentum for Change recognizes innovative and transformative solutions that address both climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges.
Guidelines for ground water extraction
The Central Ground Water Authority of the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation on December 12, 2018 notified revised guidelines for ground water extraction. The revised guidelines, which will be effective from June 1, 2019, aim to ensure a more robust ground water regulatory mechanism in the country. The guidelines were revised in the wake of the directions issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to address various shortcomings in the existing guidelines of ground water extraction.
The revised guidelines provide for the: Encouraged use of recycled and treated sewage water by industries. Provision of action against polluting industries. Mandatory requirement of digital flow meters, piezometers and digital water level recorders, with or without telemetry depending upon quantum of extraction. Mandatory water audit by industries abstracting ground water 500 m3/day or more in safe and semi-critical area and 200 m3/day or more in critical and over-exploited assessment units. Mandatory roof top rain water harvesting except for specified industries. Measures to be adopted to ensure prevention of ground water contamination in premises of polluting industries/ projects.
Exemptions under the revised guidelines:
The revised guidelines exempt the requirement of NOC for agricultural users, users employing non-energised means to extract water, individual households (using less than 1 inch diameter delivery pipe) and Armed Forces Establishments during operational deployment. Other exemptions have been granted to strategic and operational infrastructure projects for Armed Forces, Defence and Paramilitary Forces Establishments and Government water supply agencies.
Water Conservation Fee:
One of the important features of the revised guidelines is the introduction of the concept of Water Conservation Fee (WCF), the fee charged on extraction of ground water. The WCF payable varies with the category of the area, type of industry and the quantum of ground water extraction.
Implications of Water Conservation Fee:
The high rates of WCF are expected to discourage setting up of new industries in over-exploited and critical areas as well as may limit large scale ground water extraction by industries, especially in over-exploited and critical areas. In India, extracted groundwater is mainly used for irrigation and accounts for about 228 BCM (billion cubic metre) — or about 90% of the annual groundwater extraction. The rest, 25 BCM, is drawn for drinking, domestic and industrial uses. India is the largest user of groundwater in the world, and accounts for about 25% of the global water extraction.
ECO Niwas Samhita 2018
Ministry of Power has launched the ECO Niwas Samhita 2018, an Energy Conservation Building Code for Residential Buildings (ECBC-R). The code was launched on National Energy Conservation Day 2018.
Aim of ECO Niwas Samhita 2018: To benefit the occupants and the environment by promoting energy efficiency in design and construction of homes, apartments and townships.
Energy Conservation Building Code: It is prepared after extensive consultations with all stakeholders, consisting of architects & experts including building material suppliers and developers. The parameters listed have been developed based on large number of parameters using climate and energy related data. The code is expected to assist large number of architects and builders who are involved in design and construction of new residential complexes. It has potential for energy savings to the tune of 125 Billion Units of electricity per year by 2030, equivalent to about 100 million ton of Co2 emission.
National Energy Conservation Awards: Ministry of Power in association with Bureau of Energy Efficiency celebrates the National Energy Conservation Day on every 14th December. On this day, 26 industrial units from various sectors were given awards for their excellent performance in energy efficiency.
Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE): A statutory body under Ministry of Power created in March 2002 under the provisions of the nation’s 2001 Energy Conservation Act . To implement policy and programmes in energy efficiency and conservation.
Objective of BEE – To reduce energy intensity in our country by optimizing energy demand and To reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), responsible for global warming and climate change. India has committed to reduction of 33-35% GHG emission by 2030 as part of the document submitted to UNFCCC.
Kyasanur Forest Disease
Karnataka is currently reeling under an outbreak of monkey fever or Kyasanur forest disease (KFD). Authorities are taking measures, including vaccination to combat the disease and spread of it in the state. KFD is caused by the Kyasanur Forest Disease Virus (KFDV). The virus was identified in 1957 when it was isolated from a sick monkey from the Kyasanur Forest. Since then, between 400-500 humans cases per year have been reported. Hard ticks (Hemaphysalis spinigera) are the reservoir of the KFD virus and once infected, remain so for life. Rodents, shrews, and monkeys are common hosts for KFDV after being bitten by an infected tick. KFDV can cause epizootics with high fatality in primates.
Transmission: Transmission to humans may occur after a tick bite or contact with an infected animal, most importantly a sick or recently dead monkey. No person-to-person transmission has been described. The disease as of now is stated to be transmitted through monkeys. Large animals such as goats, cows, and sheep may become infected with KFD but play a limited role in the transmission of the disease. These animals provide the blood meals for ticks and it is possible for infected animals with viremia to infect other ticks, but transmission of KFDV to humans from these larger animals is extremely rare. Furthermore, there is no evidence of disease transmission via the unpasteurised milk of any of these animals.
Symptoms: After an incubation period of 3-8 days, the symptoms of KFD begin suddenly with chills, fever, and headache. Severe muscle pain with vomiting, gastrointestinal symptoms and bleeding problems may occur 3-4 days after initial symptom onset. Patients may experience abnormally low blood pressure, and low platelet, red blood cell, and white blood cell counts. After 1-2 weeks of symptoms, some patients recover without complication. However, the illness is biphasic for a subset of patients (10-20 %) who experience a second wave of symptoms at the beginning of the third week. These symptoms include fever and signs of neurological manifestations, such as severe headache, mental disturbances, tremors, and vision deficits.
Vulnerable Group: People with recreational or occupational exposure to rural or outdoor settings (e.g., hunters, herders, forest workers, farmers) are potentially at risk for infection by contact with infected ticks. Seasonality is another important risk factor as more cases are reported during the dry season, from November through June.
Diagnosis: Diagnosis can be made in the early stage of illness by molecular detection by PCR or virus isolation from blood. Later, serologic testing using enzyme-linked immunosorbent serologic assay (ELISA) can be performed.
Prevention: Doctors say there is no specific treatment for KFD, but early hospitalisation and supportive therapy is important. Supportive therapy includes the maintenance of hydration and the usual precautions for patients with bleeding disorders. A vaccine does exist for KFD and is used in endemic areas of India. Additional preventative measures include insect repellents and wearing protective clothing in areas where ticks are endemic.
National space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched the UNNATI (UNispace Nano-satellite Assembly and Training by ISRO) programme at the U R Rao Satellite Centre, Bengaluru. UNNATI is a capacity building programme on nanosatellite development.
UNNATI Programme: The UNNATI Programme is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE+50). UNNATI programme is planned to be conducted by U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) of ISRO for 3 years in 3 batches and will target to benefit 90 officials from 45 countries.
The primary objectives of the programme are: To offer a simplified and increased exposure to satellite fabrication technologies, as part of the UNISPACE initiative. To provide theoretical course on satellite technology. To provide hands-on training to assemble, integrate and test a low cost, modular nano satellite.
Sustainable Catchment Forest Management launched in Tripura
Tripura has launched the Sustainable Catchment Forest Management (SCATFORM) project which is undertaken with the assistance of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency).
Sustainable Catchment Forest Management (SCATFORM) project:
The SCATFORM project aims to address issues such as forest cover loss and forest degradation have been mainly caused by shifting cultivation, which increases soil erosion risks on hill slopes especially in upper catchment areas.
Implementation: It would be implemented mainly in upper catchments where forest degradation and soil erosion are severe and livelihood improvement needs are high. The project aims to the improve quality of forest in the catchment area by sustainable forest management, soil and moisture conservation and livelihood development.
The activities undertaken under the project involves promotion of bamboo plantation, agroforestry based livelihood, eco-tourism development, development of value addition for bamboo and other Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) in order to create alternate livelihood opportunities for local communities.
Cost sharing: The 80 per cent of the cost is contributed by JICA and the rest would be funded by the state and central governments.
Methanol-blending in petrol reduces carbon dioxide emission: ARAI study
Methanol (M-15) blended with petrol used in BS IV cars lead to reduced CO2 emission in real world condition. Provide evidence based alternative fuel option to India’s huge crude oil import worth 7 Lakh Crore per year. Base for Indigenous pollution-free technology to substitute import and save money. Adopting methanol in this scale would bring down pollution in country by more than 40%. India’s can have its own Indigenous fuels at cost about 19/liter which would be about 30% cheaper than any available fuel
Methanol?: Methanol can be produced from Natural Gas, Indian High Ash Coal, Bio-mass, MSW, stranded and flared gases. Methanol is a clean burning fuel which can replace both petrol & diesel in transportation, LPG. Methanol burns efficiently producing no particulate matter and almost nil (SO)x and (NO)X emissions
Niti Aayog Road Map for Methanol Blending: NITI Aayog has drawn comprehensive plan to replace 20% of crude import from methanol . Production of methanol from Indian high ash coal from indigenous technology would reduce CO2 emission and meet Paris Agreement target of CO2 sequestration (2.5-3bn tonne). Almost 40% of Methanol Production can be produced through bio-mass, stranded gas and municipal solid waste
Government Efforts: Government aims to increase fuel blending to 20% by 2030. Ensured assistance in all research efforts in methanol blending. Government has commissioned Scania buses running on 100% bio-ethanol
Rajasthan’s State bird may be extinct soon
The state bird of Rajasthan, Great Indian Bustard (GIB) has been declining in numbers over the past several years
Great Indian Bustard: The Great Indian Bustard, one of the heaviest flying birds, was categorised as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2011
Habitat in India: Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary (Gurgaon), Desert National Park (Rajasthan) and the Lala-Parjau sanctuary in western Kutch (Gujarat)
Concerns: With rampant hunting and declining grasslands, the population of the Great Indian Bustard has dwindled. Project Bustard launched in 2013 by the Rajasthan government have not made significant progress. No progress has yet been made on the proposal for establishing a captive breeding centre at Sorsan in Kota district and a hatchery in Jaisalmer’s Mokhala village for conservation
Suggestions: A group of wildlife conservationists has advocated setting up an incubation unit at Jaisalmer district’s Sudasri (considered the sanctum sanctorum of the Desert National Park) so as to step up recruitment rate of the bird species.
Desert National Park Sanctuary — Rajasthan.
Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary – Andhra Pradesh.
Karera Wildlife Sanctuary– Madhya Pradesh.
Volcano erupts on Kuchinoerabu island of Japan
A volcano has erupted on Kuchinoerabu Island of Japan. The eruption occurred on Mount Shindake. Mount Shindake had experienced explosive eruption in 2015. Japan’s Meteorological Agency has alerted people for volcanic rocks and pyroclastic flows.
Kuchinoerabu Island belongs to Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. The entire island lies within the borders of the Kirishima-Yaku National Park and the islanders are mainly dependent on fishing, agriculture and seasonal tourism. The island is of volcanic origin and has an area of approximately 38 square kilometres. The Island has an active volcano. Increased seismic activity in 2015 and an eruption resulted in an ash cloud. Eruptions in December 2018 and January 2019 led to pyroclastic flows.
Kagoshima Prefecture (Prefecture is the first level of jurisdiction and administrative division in Japan) located on the island of Kyushu in Japan. This prefecture includes a chain of islands stretching further to the southwest of Kyushu for a few hundred kilometres.
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)
The National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) has released a report tiger mortality in the country. The NTCA maintains the official database of tiger mortality in the country, and compiles figures from reports sent by different States on the basis of recovery of bodies or seizure of body parts. According to the records till December 15, 2018, there were 95 cases of tiger deaths in the country. Of this, 41 cases of tiger deaths outside tiger reserves have been reported. Of them, 14 occurred in Maharashtra, which accounted for over 34% of all deaths outside tiger reserves in the country. A total of 19 tiger deaths were recorded in Maharashtra in 2018, so deaths outside tiger reserves comprise more than 70% of all tiger deaths in the State.
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 functions of NTCA are as follows: Ensuring normative standards in tiger reserve management, Preparation of reserve specific tiger conservation plan, Laying down annual/ audit report before Parliament, Instituting State level Steering Committees under the Chairmanship of Chief Minister and establishment of Tiger Conservation Foundation. According approval for declaring new Tiger Reserves.
Campaign launched to save the Great Indian Bustard from extinction
Wildlife organisations have got together to launch a campaign to save the Great Indian Bustard which in recent years has come under the critically endangered list. With the total global population of the Great Indian Bustard reaching and all time low at fewer than 150 individuals, this campaign is the need of the hour. The wildlife organisations that have launched the campaign are The Corbett Foundation in collaboration with Conservation India and Sanctuary Nature Foundation. The campaign aims at highlighting the overhead power transmission lines that result in the death of these low flying birds with a limited field of vision. This is the primary threat to the survival of the species especially in the Great Indian Bustard Habitat.
Significant threats to the GIB: Reduction in the extent of undisturbed arid grassland habitat. Degradation and disturbance in existing grassland habitat. Lack of importance for natural grassland conservation in policy, law and PA network due to incorrect perception on ecological value vis-a-vis forests. Lack of protection for many ‘lekking’ and nesting sites. Lack of cooperation between different departments/stakeholders in GIB habitats. Lack of awareness and support from local communities. Livestock overgrazing and feral dogs. Disturbance by photographers — there is now enough anecdotal evidence to show that photography of the species causes significant disturbance.
Great Indian Bustard: Great Indian Bustard is listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection)Act, 1972, in the CMS Convention and in Appendix I of CITES, as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. It has also been identified as one of the species for the recovery programme under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. Project Great Indian Bustard — state of Rajasthan — identifying and fencing off bustard breeding grounds in existing protected areas as well as provide secure breeding enclosures in areas outside protected areas
Protected areas: Desert National Park Sanctuary — Rajasthan. Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary – Andhra Pradesh. Karera Wildlife Sanctuary– Madhya Pradesh.
Cyclone Phethai to make landfall in Andhra Pradesh
Cyclone Phethai heading northward from the Bay of Bengal makes landfall in Andhra Prades. Cyclonic storm Phethai has made a landfall at Katrenikona in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district. This is the third cyclone to hit the state this year after Cyclone Daye and Cyclone Titli. Phethai is relatively less severe when compared to Titli that ravaged Srikakulam district in north coastal Andhra region
What is a cyclone? A “Cyclone” is an intense vortex or a whirl in the atmosphere with very strong winds circulating around it in anti-clockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere and in clockwise direction in the Southern Hemisphere.
Tropical Cyclones: It is a system of low pressure occurring in tropical latitudes. The differential heating over land and sea probably causes a small area of low atmospheric pressure to develop. Tropical cyclone activity is at its maximum in late summer and early autumn. Tropical cyclones follow a parabolic path; their axis being parallel to the isobars.
Characteristics: Cyclones are intense low pressure areas – from the centre of which pressure increases outwards. The amount of the pressure drop in the centre and the rate at which it increases outwards gives the intensity of the cyclones and the strength of winds.
Cyclones are of two types: Temperate cyclone and Tropical cyclone. Tropical Cyclones are among the most destructive phenomena.
Necessary Conditions for development of a tropical cyclone and Formation: Continuous supply of abundant warm and moist air, Sea temperature in lower latitudes should be around 27°C, A distance from the Equator is necessary, so that it allows the Coriolis effect to deflect winds blowing toward the low pressure centre. They develop in inter-tropical convergence zone, Pre-existence of weak tropical disturbances, Presence of anticyclonic circulation at the height of 9 to 15km above the surface, Low vertical wind shear between the surface and the upper troposphere. Vertical wind shear is the magnitude of wind change with height.
All is not lost: Dutch building artificial islands in a lake to bring wildlife back
The Netherlands has come up with the ingenious solution of building a string of new islands in Markermeer Lake. The newly opened island, one of five created in the Markermeer as part of the Netherlands-based Marker Wadden rewilding project, attracted crowds of nature lovers by creating new habitat and improving water quality, the project is reconnecting people with wild nature and boosting biodiversity. The project, initiated by Natuurmonumenten, a Dutch nongovernmental organisation working for the preservation of nature, The Dutch used an innovative technique, forming the islets with silt, a sedimentary formation halfway between clay and sand.
It is “one of the largest rewilding operations in Europe
Rewilding – is large-scale conservation aimed at restoring and protecting natural processes and core wilderness areas, providing connectivity between such areas, and protecting or reintroducing apex predators and keystone species)
Dredgers – Dredging is a displacement of soil, carried out under water. It serves several different purposes. One of the applications meets the need to maintain minimum depths in canals and harbors by removing mud, sludge, gravel and rocks.
Markermeer Lake : One of the largest freshwater lakes in western Europe, It used to be part of the Zuiderzee, a saltwater inlet of the North Sea, which was dammed off in 1932. Following the abandonment of a land reclamation project in the 1980s, the Markermeer became a valuable ecological and recreational asset. Unfortunately, the biodiversity of Markermeer has declined drastically over the last few decades. Due to the separation of the lake by dykes, Sediment which was once carried away on currents now falls to the bottom of the lake, making the water turbid and negatively impacting fish and bird populations, as well as plants and mollusks.
Significance: Solving the problem of siltation by changing water dynamics and creating deeper gullies where suspended silt can settle out, Improved water quality is benefitting many species of birds, fish and macro fauna by boosting ecological productivity, as well as those involved in recreational activities on the Markermeer. The scheme created an inland lake and polders, land reclaimed from the sea. Explosion of plankton guarantees a large amount of food for the birds. Greylag goose, common tern, several species of waders such as the great egret and the night heron have also returned, In the distance a dredger is helping to create the final dunes of the archipelago.
COP24 IN KATOWICE: Main Outcomes
The 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference that took place between 2 and 15 December 2018 in Katowice, Poland, is the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24). It is also referred to as the Katowice Climate Change Conference or Katowice Climate Talks. The most important outcome of COP24 was that the countries have agreed on rules for the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Main Outcomes of COP 24 in Katowice: The participating nations agreed on the rules to implement the Paris Agreement that will come into effect in 2020. The rules are regarding how the member nations will measure the carbon-emissions and report on their emissions-cutting efforts. This ‘rulebook’ can be called as the detailed “operating manual” of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The members of the conference did not agree to “welcome” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on 1.5°C. The US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait refused to “welcome” the IPCC report. The parties to the conference agreed to record the pledges in a public registry, as per the existing interim portal. The public registry will continue to include a search function, although many attempts have been made to get it deleted. It was also agreed among the members that future pledges should cover a “common timeframe” from 2031. The number of years for the timeframe will be decided later. Many difficult matters could not reach an agreement and have been postponed to next year for resolution. This includes questions such as ways to scale up existing commitments on emission reduction, different ways of providing financial aid to the poor nations, wording that prevents double counting and whether member nations are doing enough to cut their respective emissions.
Animal in news: Pangolin
The pangolin, which can be found all over India, seems doomed because of its scales, which are said to have medicinal value and are more expensive than gold, are sheared ruthlessly. Its meat too is in demand in China. Illegal trade continues not just in parts where there are tigers but also in parts where there are musk deer, otter, mongoose and other animals. It is an insectivore, feeding on ants and termites, digging them out of mounds and logs using its long claws, which are as long as its fore limbs. It is nocturnal and rests in deep burrows during the day. Pangolins are the most trafficked mammals in the world, despite an international ban on their trade.They are trafficked both for their meat, and the unfounded belief that their keratinous scales have medical properties used in traditional medicine. IUCN Conservation status: Endangered
Indian Forest Act 1927
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has started the process of “comprehensively amending” the backbone of forest governance in India—the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA).
Expected outcomes: The process would involve the examination of all the sections of the Act. The obsolete provisions will be weeded out and provisions fit for the present will be introduced. Currently there is no definition of forest in any Indian law pertaining to forest or its governance. Therefore, the amendments will also include definitions of terms like forests, pollution, ecological services etc. The legal definition of forests will have huge ramifications on the conservation of forests as well as the implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. The amendments will include changes to punishments and fines prescribed in the IFA, incorporate provisions related to carbon sequestering, ecological services etc.
The current practice:
According to the 1996 Supreme Court order, the dictionary definition of the word forest is taken to be the legal definition too. It covers all statutorily recognised forests, whether designated as reserved, protected or otherwise for the purpose of Section 2(i) of the Forest Conservation Act (1980). As per the Court order, the term forest land, occurring in Section 2, will not only include forest as understood in the dictionary sense, but also any area recorded as forest in the government record irrespective of the ownership.
Indian Forest Act, 1927:
The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was largely based on previous Indian Forest Acts implemented under the British. The most famous one was the Indian Forest Act of 1878. Both the 1878 act and the 1927 one sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and duty leviable on timber and other forest produce. It also defines the procedure to be followed for declaring an area to be a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest. It defines what a forest offence is, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act.
The need for review:
Many reports like the MB Shah report of 2010 and the TSR Subramanian report of 2015, have talked about amending the IFA.
NGT raps Ministry over groundwater notification
The National Green Tribunal shows concern over Union Water Resources Ministry for its notification pertaining to groundwater extraction. India is the largest user of groundwater in the world, which is about 25% of the global groundwater extraction. Ground water extraction in India is used primarily for irrigation in agricultural activities
Important Features of New Draft: The draft guidelines make it mandatory for the industries, mining and infrastructure projects, other than those of government, to obtain a no-objection certificate for withdrawing groundwater. The government has decided to exempt farmers from taking NOC for extracting water on ground that “livelihood of farmers is dependent on agriculture’. The draft guidelines also call for a ‘Water Conservation Fee’ based on quantum of ground water extraction to be paid to states Government infrastructure projects, government water supply agencies and group housing societies/private housing societies with only basic amenities will be exempted from such fees and Government mining projects will also be exempted from paying such fees. The experts working in the field are not happy and say this will further deteriorate the groundwater situation in the country.
Criticism: The guidelines levy a paltry fee but have totally done away with the need to recharge the groundwater. This means pay and keep exploiting the ground water.
According to the ministry, there was a need for a uniform regulatory framework for groundwater usage keeping in mind increased number of litigations over water in various courts. Uniform guidelines across the country will help in mitigating discriminatory practices in regulation.
WCF and its Impact:
The WCF payable varies with the category of the area, type of industry and the quantum of ground water extraction. The high rates of WCF are expected to discourage setting up of new industries in over-exploited and critical areas as well as act as a deterrent to large scale ground water extraction by industries, especially in over-exploited and critical areas. The WCF would also compel industries to adopt measures relating to water use efficiency and discourage the growth of packaged drinking water units, particularly in over-exploited and critical areas.
Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA)
Constituted under the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986. It Has the mandate of regulating groundwater development and management in the country. CGWA has been regulating ground water development for its sustainable management in the country through measures such as issue of advisories, public notices, grant of No Objection Certificates (NOC) for ground water withdrawal.
Wildlife institute all for hydel projects in Arunachal tiger zone
Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has cleared the way for two proposed mega hydel power projects in Arunachal Pradesh’s Dibang Valley and Lohit districts. The move by the WII comes at a time when a three-year survey conducted by the WII’s own researchers reported sightings of tigers in the high-altitude forests of the Dibang Valley. WII was asked by Environment Ministry to conduct a hydrology/ecology for Etalin hydel project which is jointly developed by Jindal Power and the Arunachal government and National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) was asked to conduct study for Lower Demwe hydel project in Lohit district.
Wildlife Institute of India (WII)
Established in 1982 as an attached office of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Subsequently, it was granted autonomous status in 1986. It is an internationally acclaimed Institution, which offers training program, academic courses and advisory in wildlife research and management. It carries research in areas of Biodiversity, Endangered Species, Wildlife Policy, Wildlife Management, Wildlife Forensics, Spatial Modelling, Eco-development, Habitat Ecology, Climate Change, Forensics, Remote Sensing and GIS, Laboratory, Herbarium, and an Electronic Library are the spheres of research too.
National Board for Wildlife (NBWL)
Due to the rapid decline in wildlife population, the Government of India during 1952 had constituted an advisory body designated as the Indian Board for Wildlife (IBWL). As per the amendment of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 in 2002, a provision was incorporated for the constitution of the National Board for Wildlife, replacing the Indian Board for Wildlife. National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) is a statutory Board constituted in 2003. The Indian Board for Wildlife is chaired by the Prime Minister.
Asiatic Lion Conservation Project’ launched by Government
The “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” has been launched by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change(MoEFCC). The main objective of this project is to work for the conservation of the world’s last ranging free Asiatic Lion population and the ecosystem associated with it. The total budget of the “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” for 3 years stands at about Rs. 9784 lakh. The project will be funded under the ‘Development of Wildlife Habitat (CSS-DWH)’ scheme which is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme. The cost will be borne in the 60:40 ratio by the Central and State government.
Asiatic Lions are listed as ‘Endangered’ under the IUCN Red List. Its population is restricted to the state of Gujarat in India. With serious conservation efforts of the State and the Union Government, the population of Asiatic lions have increased to over 500 which used to be around 50 by late 1890s. As per the 2015 census, there were a total of 523 Asiatic Lions in Gir Protected Area Network
The Gir Protected Area Network of Gujarat includes Gir National Park, Gir Sanctuary, Pania Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary and adjoining forests. It has an area of 1648.79 sq. km. The main activities under the ‘Asiatic Lion Conservation Project’ include habitat improvement of the Lions, controlling of diseases among the population, scientific interventions and adequate veterinary care. It will be supplemented with sufficient eco-development works ensuring a stable and viable Lion population in India.
Polavaram multi-purpose project
Andhra Pradesh government has launched works for erection of the first radial gate – the 41st one – at the Polavaram project site. The state hopes that the project works would be completed by May 2019 and water would be released to canals under gravity by December 2019. The Polavaram project was accorded national status in 2014 in the Andhra Pradesh Bifurcation Act and its design was changed.
Polavaram project: Polavaram Project is a multi-purpose irrigation project. The dam across the Godavari River is under construction located in West Godavari District and East Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh state and its reservoir spreads in parts of Chhattisgarh and Orissa States also. The project is multipurpose major terminal reservoir project on river Godavari for development of Irrigation, Hydropower and drinking water facilities to East Godavari, Vishakhapatnam, West Godavari and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh. The project is likely to displace over 1.88 lakh people across 222 villages and so far, 1,730 persons in six villages have been rehabilitated by the government.
The latest information obtained by an activist under the Right to Information (RTI) has revealed that Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project may turn out to be a loss-making proposition and burden Maharashtra’s already dwindling finances.
Concerns over the project: Several objections have been raised by various departments over the economic viability of the Shinkansen train, which could result in losses in the form of wasted Floor Space Index (FSI) and delayed loan repayment in the absence of proper frameworks. Some part of the FSI at the station proposed at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) in Mumbai could “remain unutilised because of the height restrictions, leading to revenue losses”.
Criticisms: The government is being criticised for clearing a project which has no practical benefit for the State and would add financial stress. Moreover, the ministerial committee headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has not met to discuss the project since being incorporated in February 2017. The committee was tasked with carrying out an in-depth study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency report and the project’s feasibility.
Need of the hour:
Both Planning and Finance departments have called for a thorough study of bullet train economics in other countries before a decision is taken on its feasibility in India. Additionally, the departments said the Centre must clarify the formula for sharing the loan burden if the project remains loss-making for a long period of time. Since the State is coping with serious loss in income and further burden of loans, the impact of this project on government finances needs to be considered. The train, with a capacity of 750 passengers, will travel at speeds between 320 km/hr and 350km/hr and is expected to reduce travel time between Ahmedabad and Mumbai to three-and-a-half hours or less from the present eight. The project is expected to be completed in seven years.
How India benefits from bullet train?
High-speed connectivity – This will facilitate economic growth. Smaller cities along the way can also be connected with high-speed transit facility to these economic Centres through the bullet train network.
The bullet train project is expected to create 4,000 direct job opportunities, along with 20,000 indirect jobs. 20,000 construction workers will also be employed during the set up period of Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train.
Urban expansion – New bullet train stations set to come up along the route will attract urban growth. This will again shift the pressure of urbanisation from the existing urban Centres.
Open new avenues – When completed, the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project will present as a favorable destination for high-speed train technologies, attracting other parties working in the field.
The geostrategic importance of Bullet trains is: The bullet train is symbol of strong trust between the India and Japan as it involves the technology transfer at the core of this deal. The bullet train will create substantial positive impact on Indian economy thus building the economic influence of country in Asia and thus all over the world. In longer duration of time, this technology will reduce the dependence of India on Middle East countries for oil and other fuel products. Being the clean technology India will set an example for cleaner methods for mass transportation, especially for other developing countries. For Japan too, this deal has geostrategic meaning. Earlier Japan has lost with China in export of Bullet trains in Thailand and Indonesia. This deal is diplomatic win for Japan.
ZSI report on Andaman & Nicobar Islands fauna
A recent publication by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) titled Faunal Diversity of Biogeographic Zones: Islands of India has for the first time come up with a database of all faunal species found on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, putting the number at 11,009.
The documentation proves that the islands, comprising only 0.25% of India’s geographical area, are home to more than 10% of the country’s fauna species. It has 11,009 species.
Endemic species: The Narcondam hornbill, its habitat restricted to a lone island; the Nicobar megapode, a bird that builds nests on the ground; the Nicobar treeshrew, a small mole-like mammal; the Long-tailed Nicobar macaque, and the Andaman day gecko, are among the 1,067 endemic faunal species found only on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and nowhere else.
Among birds, endemism is quite high, with 36 among 344 species of birds found only on the islands. Many of these bird species are placed in the IUCN Red List of threatened species under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA).
Endemic reptiles: Eight species of amphibians and 23 species of reptiles are endemic to the islands, and thus are at high risk of being threatened.
Marine faunal diversity: Includes coral reefs and its associated fauna. In all, 555 species of scleractinian corals (hard or stony corals) are found in the island ecosystem, all which are placed under Schedule I of the WPA. Similarly, all species of gorgonian (sea fans) and calcerous sponge are listed under different schedules of the WPA.
Concerns: The publication cautions that tourism, illegal construction and mining are posing a threat to the islands’ biodiversity, which is already vulnerable to volatile climatic factors. Some of the species in A&N Islands are restricted to a very small area and thus more vulnerable to any anthropogenic threat. Any stress can have a long-lasting impact on the islands’ biodiversity, devastating the population size of any endemic fauna, followed by extinction within a limited span of time.
Vulnerable species: Of the ten species of marine fauna found on the islands, the dugong/sea cow, and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, are both classified as Vulnerable under the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species. Among the 46 terrestrial mammalian species found, three species have been categorised as Critically Endangered — Andaman shrew (Crocidura andamanensis), Jenkin’s shrew (C. jenkinsi) and Nicobar shrew (C. nicobarica). Five species are listed as Endangered, nine species as Vulnerable, and one species as Near Threatened, according to the IUCN.
The total area of the A&N Islands, which comprises of 572 islands, islets and rocky outcrops, is about 8,249 sq. km. The population of the islands, which includes six particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) — Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa, Sentinelese, Nicobarese and Shompens — is not more than 4 lakh.
SSB to patrol Dudhwa tiger reserve
Dudhwa Tiger Reserve and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) have joined hands to provide security to Dudhwa forests and its rich wildlife.
How will it be done?
It has been agreed that joint long route patrolling comprising SSB, Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) and Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (DTR) field staff would be held at regular intervals. Stress will be laid on intelligence and information sharing among various security agencies about activities of wildlife and forest criminals. A mechanism to establish SSB border outpost level communication and information sharing will be developed to strengthen the safety of Dudhwa.
Dudhwa Tiger Reserve: It is protected area in Uttar Pradesh that stretches mainly across the Lakhimpur Kheri and Bahraich districts. It comprises Dudhwa National Park, Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary. It shares north-eastern boundary with Nepal, which is defined to large extent by Mohana River. The area is vast Terai alluvial floodplain traversed by numerous rivers and streams flowing in south-easterly direction. Faunal diversity: Apart from tigers, it is also home to swamp deer, sambar deer, barking deer, spotted deer, hog deer, Indian rhinoceros, sloth bear, ratel, jackal, civets, jungle cat, fishing cat, etc.
Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB): It is Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) entrusted with guarding country’s border with Nepal and Bhutan. It was established in 1963 and functions under administrative control of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Its headquarters are in New Delhi. It has specialist jurisdictions for national border patrol, security, and integrity.
Scientists mull stratospheric barrier to curb global warming
Scientists have found that spraying sun-dimming chemicals high above the earth to slow global warming could be remarkably inexpensive costing about $2.25 billion a year over a 15-year period. This geo-engineering technique known as stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) could limit rising temperatures that are causing climate change.
What are Stratospheric Sulphur Aerosols?
Stratospheric sulfur aerosols are sulfur-rich particles which exist in the stratosphere region of the Earth’s atmosphere. The layer of the atmosphere in which they exist is known as the Junge layer, or simply the stratospheric aerosol layer. These particles consist of a mixture of sulfuric acid and water. They are created naturally, such as by photochemical decomposition of sulfur-containing gases, e.g. carbonyl sulfide. Sulfur aerosols are common in the troposphere as a result of pollution with sulfur dioxide from burning coal, and from natural processes. Volcanoes are a major source of particles in the stratosphere as the force of the volcanic eruption propels sulfur-containing gases into the stratosphere.
What is Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI)?
Under SAI delivery of precursor sulfide gases such as sulfuric acid, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) or sulfur dioxide (SO2) are sprayed by artillery, aircraft and balloons. It would involve the use of huge hoses, cannons or specially designed aircraft to spray large quantities of sulphate particles into the upper layer of the atmosphere to act as a reflective barrier against sunlight. Total costs estimated to launch a hypothetical SAI effort 15 years from now would be $3.5 billion and average annual operating costs would be about $2.25 billion a year over 15 years.
This proposed method could counter most climatic changes, take effect rapidly, have very low direct implementation costs, and be reversible in its direct climatic effects.
Benefits of the SAI: Mimics a natural process. It is technologically feasible. The method is economically feasible and efficient.
Possible side effects:
Tropospheric Ozone depletion. Whitening of the sky. Tropopause warming and the humidification of the stratosphere. Involves Health effects. Stratospheric temperature rise and circulation change.
Sources: the hindu.
Impact Based Forecasting Approach
A new technology called ‘Impact Based Forecasting Approach’ has been developed by IMD to assess the rise of water level in rivers and reservoirs by rain and can help state governments to minutely monitor the impact of rainfall. The technique is designed to forecast the expected impact as a result of expected weather. Hazard and vulnerability are taken into consideration in this forecast approach. The heavy downpour had led to floods in Kerala and was result of climate change. State Government had blamed IMD for lapses in its part for wrong rain forecast. IMD had forecasted estimated 98.5 mm rain in the state between 9 and 15 August, 2018 but Kerala received was 352.2 mm of rainfall resulting in severe flooding. Pre-event scenario will help state governments authorities to minutely monitor impact of rainfall and take real-time decisions. It will help to avoid disastrous situation similar to Kerala floods. It can generate scenario to help take decisions to release water or not from reservoirs after heavy downpour. It will be helpful for every state authority to take decision. This system can be run in pre-event scenario.
India Meteorological Department (IMD): It is national meteorological service of the country and chief government agency dealing in everything related to meteorology, seismology and associated subjects. It was formed in 1875. It functions under Ministry of Earth Sciences. It is headquartered in New Delhi.
Mandate: Undertake meteorological observations and provide current information and forecasting information for most favourable operation of weather-dependent activities such as irrigation, agriculture, aviation, shipping etc. Offer warning against severe weather phenomenon such as tropical cyclones, norwesters, dust storms, heat waves, cold waves, heavy rains, heavy snow, etc. Provide met-related statistics needed for agriculture, industries, water resources management, oil exploration, and any other strategically important activities for the country. Engage in research in meteorology and allied subjects. Detect and locate earthquakes and evaluate of seismicity in various parts of the country for developmental projects.
New species of shark identified in Indian Ocean:
A new species of a deep sea shark- the Pygmy false catshark, has been found in the northern Indian Ocean, the first such discovery in India since 2011 when the Mangalore houndshark was identified. The Pygmy false catshark is currently known only from deep waters (200-1000m depth) and has a length of about 65cm. It is dark brown without any prominent patterns.
The new species was found off the southwestern coast of India and north of Sri Lanka. Its scientific name is Planonasus indicus – from ‘planus’ meaning flat and ‘nasus’ meaning nose. The new species was first observed was on April 26, 2008, when it was caught in fishing nets in Kochi, Kerala.
Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi , Kenya
The first Sustainable Blue Economy Conference was held in Nairobi, capital of Kenya. It was organized by Kenya and co-hosted by Japan and Canada. “India endorses the growth of the Blue Economy in a sustainable, inclusive and people centered manner through the framework of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)”.
Sagarmala Programme – It has identified 600 plus projects entailing a huge investment of $120 billion (nearly Rs. 8 lakh crore) by 2020. It saves India $6 billion per annum in logistics costs besides creating 10 million new jobs and boosting port capacity by 800 Million Metric Tonne per Annum (MMTPA) to an overall 3500 MMTPA.
Coastal Economic Zones (CEZs) – It is developed with a proposed investment of $150 Million per location. It will become a microcosm of the blue economy, with the growth of industries and townships that depend on the sea and contribute to global trade through sea connectivity. It also focuses on the development of coastal communities and people through skill gap analysis, skill development centers to train coastal communities in the sustainable use of ocean resources, modern fishing techniques and coastal tourism. Several green initiatives were taken in the coastal regions like 31 MW of captive solar power generation at various ports, installation of oil spill response facilities, and Study to identify ways to re-use waste water at ports.
The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference is the first global conference on the sustainable blue economy. It builds on the momentum of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris and the UN Ocean Conference 2017 “Call to Action”. The world has rallied around the enormous pressures facing our oceans and waters, from plastic pollution to the impacts of climate change. At the same time, there is international recognition that we need to develop our waters in an inclusive and sustainable manner for the benefit of all.
Indian scientists have discovered in India an endangered sub-species of hog deer (Axis porcinus annamiticus), earlier believed to be confined to the eastern part of central Thailand. Researchers reported the presence of a small population of hog deer in Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP), Manipur. The population genetically resembles A. p. annamiticus. The study indicates that the western limit of hog deer is Manipur; not central Thailand as believed. Since hog deer is losing habitat in other countries, the genetically distinct and evolutionarily significant population found in KLNP— considered a biodiversity hotspot on the India-Myanmar border—is significant for conservation. The hog deer or Pada is an endangered species in the IUCN Red List and is protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. The species has lost ground in most of its distribution range. A small and isolated population of under 250 was reported from Cambodia. However, it was widely distributed throughout the Southeast Asian countries at the beginning of the 20th century. Two sub-species of hog deer have been reported from its range. The western race is distributed from Pakistan and the terai grasslands (along the Himalayan foothills, from Punjab to Arunachal Pradesh), while the eastern race of hog deer is found in Thailand, Indo-China, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.