FEBRUARY 2019 (1-28)

Science or habit? Study examines effectiveness of Green India Mission
A recent study has critically analysed the effectiveness of Green India Mission
Green India Mission
Green India Mission (GIM), is one of the eight Missions outlined under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). It is aimed at protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures.
Objectives: To increase forest/tree cover to the extent of 5 million hectares (mha) and improve quality of forest/tree cover on another 5 mha of forest/non-forest land. Eco-restoration/afforestation of scrub, shifting cultivation areas, cold deserts, mangroves, ravines and abandoned mining areas. To increase forest based livelihood income for about 3 million households in and around these forest areas; and Enhanced annual CO2 sequestration by 50 to 60 million tonnes in the year 2020.
Issues with mission
According to the study, afforestation targets set under the Green India Mission are arbitrary and not based on sound science. It observes that the approach to forestry is flawed and commitment to fixed rates of forest cover encourages tree plantations in ecologically inappropriate sites and conditions which may give rise to diminished precipitation, warming temperatures, soil erosion, and decreasing biodiversity. The study states that afforestation extends the authority of Indian state forest departments in a way that it undermines local livelihoods rather than supporting them. Aggressive afforestation projects in India do not address drivers of widespread and large-scale deforestation

Elephant corridors
Asian Elephant Alliance, an umbrella initiative by five NGOs, has come together to secure 96 out of the 101 existing corridors used by elephants across 12 States in India. The joint venture aims to secure the 96 remaining elephant corridors, old and new, in the next ten years. The alliance joined hands to raise the mammoth sum as money was the main constraint in securing the land. NGOs Elephant Family, International Fund for Animal Welfare, IUCN Netherlands and World Land Trust have teamed up with Wildlife Trust of India’s (WTI) in the alliance.
What are Elephant Corridors?
Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that connect two large habitats of elephants. Elephant corridors are crucial to reduce animal fatalities due to accidents and other reasons. So fragmentation of forests makes it all the more important to preserve migratory corridors.
Why protect elephant corridors?
The movement of elephants is essential to ensure that their populations are genetically viable. It also helps to regenerate forests on which other species, including tigers, depend. Nearly 40% of elephant reserves are vulnerable, as they are not within protected parks and sanctuaries. Also, the migration corridors have no specific legal protection. Forests that have turned into farms and unchecked tourism are blocking animals’ paths. Animals are thus forced to seek alternative routes resulting in increased elephant-human conflict. Weak regulation of ecotourism is severely impacting important habitats. It particularly affects animals that have large home ranges, like elephants.
Need of the hour:
Efforts should be to expand elephant corridors, using the successful models within the country. This includes acquisition of lands using private funds and their transfer to the government. Ending human interference in the pathways of elephants is more a conservation imperative.
Gaj Yatra: ‘Gaj Yatra’, a nationwide campaign to protect elephants, was launched on the occasion of World Elephant Day in 2017. The campaign is planned to cover 12 elephant range states. The elephant is part of India’s animal heritage and the Government celebrates this day to spread awareness about the conservation of the species. The 15 months campaign will be led by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). The campaign aims to create awareness about elephant corridors to encourage free movement in their habitat.

World Soil Day
World Soil Day is celebrated every year on 5th of December by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations.
Aim: To communicate messages on importance of soil quality for food security, healthy ecosystems and human well-being.
Theme for year 2018: ‘Be the Solution to Soil Pollution’.
Historical background of World Soil Day: An international day to celebrate Soil was recommended by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002. Under the leadership of the Kingdom of Thailand and within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership, FAO has supported the formal establishment of WSD as a global awareness raising platform. The FAO Conference unanimously endorsed World Soil Day  in June 2013 and requested its official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly. In December 2013 the UN General Assembly responded by designating 5 December 2014 as the first official World Soil Day.
Why December 5 was chosen?
The date of 5 December for WSD was chosen because it corresponds with the official birthday of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, who officially sanctioned the event.
Soil pollution- concerns:
These days pollution is a worry – and soil is also affected. Soil pollution is a hidden danger that lurks beneath our feet. 1/3 of our global soils are already degraded. Yet we risk losing more due to this hidden danger. Soil pollution can be invisible and seems far away but everyone, everywhere is affected. With a growing population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, soil pollution is a worldwide problem which degrades our soils, poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. The entity of the problem is still unknown as not certain data are available on a global scale. Soils have a great potential to filter and buffer contaminants, degrading and attenuating the negative effects of pollutants, but this capacity is finite. Most of the pollutants originate from human activities, such as unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environmental friendly practices. As technology evolves, scientists are able to identify previously undetected pollutants, but at the same time these technological improvements lead to new contaminants being released into the environment.
SDGs: In the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals 2, 3, 12, and 15 have targets which commend direct consideration of soil resources, especially soil pollution and degradation in relation to food security.
Need for conservation and protection of soil: Soil holds three times as much carbon as the atmosphere and can help us meet the challenges of a changing climate. 815 million people are food insecure and 2 billion people are nutritionally insecure, but we can mitigate this through soil. 95% of our food comes from soil. 33% of our global soils are already degraded.

India Water Impact Summit 2018
India Water Impact Summit 2018 was jointly organized by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and the Centre for Ganga River Basin Management and Studies recently in New Delhi.
India Water Impact Summit: It is an annual event where stakeholders get together to discuss, debate and develop model solutions for some of the biggest water-related problems in the country. The discussions this year will be on the rejuvenation of the Ganga River Basin. There will be multi-country dialogue on the subject, with showcasing of technological innovations, research, policy frameworks and funding models from India and abroad. The efforts may take various forms including (but not limited to): data collection (sensors, LIDAR, modelling etc), hydrology, e-flows, agriculture, wastewater and more.
Ganga Financing Forum: The Summit introduced the inaugural Ganga Financing Forum that will bring a number of institutions to a common knowledge, information and partnership platform. The Financing Forum will bring together financial institutions and investors interested in Namami Gange programmes.

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.
‘Maunder-like minimum’:
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. 

Flamingo sanctuary:
A committee, chaired by Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan, has accorded wildlife clearance to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed train corridor that encroaches upon a flamingo sanctuary and the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, the home to leopards, in Mumbai.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park: Sanjay Gandhi National Park is spread over three districts – Palgar, Thane and Mumbai Suburb. The National Park is home to a number of endangered species of flora and fauna and harbours approximately 800 species of flowering plants, 45 species of mammals, 43 species of reptiles among others.
Flamingo sanctuary: Western side of the Thane creek is a dedicated flamingo sanctuary. Thane Creek is home to flamingos as well as other migratory and residential bird species. It is Maharashtra’s second marine sanctuary after the one at Malvan.

Thailand names Siamese Fighting Fish its National Aquatic Animal
The government of Thailand has approved the proposal to name Siamese fighting fish as the National Aquatic Animal. The decision for based on the recommendation of the National Identity Committee of Thailand which promotes Thai cultural pride forwarded its endorsement of the fighting fish. The government has approved the proposal owing to the cultural and historical significance of the Siamese fighting fish for Thailand. The Siamese fighting fish was chosen as it’s a native, unique species to the kingdom’s waters and an important animal for Thailand’s economy.
Siamese Fighting Fish
The Siamese fighting fish commonly known as the betta is a popular fish in the aquarium trade. The Siamese fighting fish is native to the Mekong basin of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and mostly found at Chao Phraya river in Thailand. The Siamese fighting fish was registered as intangible cultural heritage by the Cultural Ministry in 2013. The designation of Siamese fighting fish as Thailand’s national aquatic animal could help boost both conservation efforts and commercial breeding. The IUCN status of the Siamese fighting fish is Vulnerable. The threats to the Siamese Fighting Fish include Human intrusions & disturbances, Natural system modifications through the construction of Dams Presence of Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases, Pollution due to domestic & urban wastewater, Industrial & military effluents and Agricultural & forestry effluents.

Asiatic Lion Conservation Project
The Centre and the Gujarat government have announced a Rs. 97.85 crore Asiatic Lion Conservation Project. Key aspects of the conservation project include undertaking “habitat improvement” measures, making more sources of water available, creating a wildlife crime cell, and a task force for the Greater Gir region. ‘Greater Gir’ that includes, other than the existing Gir National Park, sanctuaries in Girnar, Pania and Mitiyala. It would also involve having in place a GPS-based tracking system, which would look at surveillance tracking, animal and vehicle tracking. There would also be an automated sensor grid that would have magnetic sensors, movement sensors and infra-red heat sensors. A key outcome of the project is to have a dedicated veterinary institute, lion ambulances and back-up stocks of vaccines that may be required.
Relocation of lions:
The Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh was identified to be the most suitable for reintroducing the species, according to a Supreme Court-appointed technical expert committee, but there has been no progress on the proposal.
There is a committee of experts from both States examining the suitability of Madhya Pradesh as a potential lion reserve.
The SC in April 2013 had ordered the translocation of some lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh within six months, but this hasn’t happened. This was ordered after several recommendations by expert groups, including the Wildlife Institute of India.
It emphasised that the long-term survival of the lion as a species was best served if they could be present outside Gujarat, too, so that they are protected against, say, a forest fire, a disease, or calamities.
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.

Great Indian Bustard is the Mascot for COP-13 on Migratory Species
The Union Government has announced the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) as the mascot for the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Convention on the conservation of migratory species (CMS) to be held in Gujarat next year. The logo, mascot and the website for the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) was launched by the Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Harsh Vardhan. The mascot for the event, Great Indian Bustard has been fondly named as ‘Gibi’.
Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)
CMS is an international treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It is also known as the Bonn Convention. CMS aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range. CMS is only global and UN-based intergovernmental organization established exclusively for conservation and management of terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range. The convention provides a global platform for deliberations on the conservation and sustainable use of migratory wild animals and their habitat. The convention was signed in 1979 at Bonn (hence the name Bonn Convention), Germany and entered into force in 1983. Its headquarters are in Bonn, Germany. Since its entry into force, the membership has grown steadily to include over 120 Parties from Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

Health Ministry conducts 8th round of National Deworming Day campaign
The Health Ministry undertook the 8th round of National Deworming Day campaign across the country on 8th February to reduce the prevalence of parasitic intestinal worms among children.
National Deworming Day
National Deworming Day is aimed at deworming all preschool and school-age children (enrolled and non-enrolled) between the ages of 1-19 years through the platform of schools and Anganwadi Centers to improve their overall health, nutritional status, access to education and quality of life. Albendazole tablets are orally administered for the children during the programme. The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the nodal agency for the implementation of the National Deworming Day. The National Deworming Day is implemented by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in association with the Department of School Education and Literacy under the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Urban Development, and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). Bi-annual round of deworming is recommended in the States where the prevalence of Soil-Transmitted Helminths infection is more than 20% and annual round in other states. Only two States namely Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have reported less than 20% prevalence and have been recommended for the annual round.

India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to launch the ‘India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative’.
India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative:
The Initiative will combat marine pollution, which is one of the fastest growing environmental concerns. Both countries will share experiences, competence and collaborate on efforts to develop clean and healthy oceans. Both the sides will jointly collaborate for sustainable use of ocean resources and growth in the blue economy. Through a range of implementing partners, this initiative will seek to support local governments in implementing sustainable waste management practices, develop systems for collecting and analysing information about sources and scope of marine pollution. They will also work towards beach clean-up efforts, awareness raising campaigns and pilot project using plastic waste as fuel substitution for coal in cement production.
Bilateral efforts in this regard:
In January, 2019, the Indian and Norwegian governments agreed to work more closely on oceans by signing a MoU and establishing the India-Norway Ocean Dialogue during the Norwegian Prime Minister’s visit to India in January.
A joint Task Force on Blue Economy with government officials, researchers and experts as well as private sector was established to develop sustainable solutions within strategic areas of the blue economy, such as maritime and marine sector in addition to energy sector.
Causes of marine pollution:
Major sources of marine pollution are the inflow of chemicals, solid waste, discharge of radioactive elements, industrial and agricultural effluents, man-made sedimentation, oil spills, and many such factors. The majority portion of the marine pollution comes from the land that contributes to 80% of the marine pollution, air pollution also carries pesticides from farms and dust into the marine waters.
Types of marine pollution:
1.Eutrophication
2.Acidification
3.Toxins
4.Plastics
Effects of Marine Pollution:
The contamination of water by excessive nutrients is known as nutrient pollution, a type of water pollution that affects the life under water. When excess nutrients like nitrates or phosphates get dissolved with the water it causes the eutrophication of surface waters, as it stimulates the growth of algae due to excess nutrients. Most of Benthic animals and plankton are either filter feeders or deposit feeders take up the tiny particles that adhere to potentially toxic chemicals. In the ocean food chains, such toxins get concentrated upward. This makes estuaries anoxic as many particles combine chemically depletive of oxygen. When the marine ecosystem absorbs the pesticides, they are incorporated into the food webs of the marine ecosystem. After getting dissolved in the marine food webs, these harmful pesticides causes mutations, and also results in diseases, which can damage the entire food web and cause harm to the humans. When toxic metals are dumped or flown into the oceans through drains, it engulfs within the marine food webs. These can cause a change to tissue matter, biochemistry, behavior, reproduction, and suppress and alter the marine life’s growth. Marine toxins can be transferred to several animals feeding on the fish or fish hydrolysate as a meal, toxins are then transferred to dairy products and meat of these affected land animals.

Formalin in Fish
With many in Odisha’s dried-fish industry continuing to use formalin despite being warned, the state government is planning to take measures including punishments, awareness and introduction of new hygenic methods.
Formalin:
Formalin is a toxic, colourless solution that is derived by dissolving formaldehyde gas in water. It is a cancer-inducing chemical used to preserve fish and is used as a disinfectant. It is used in the manufacture of pesticides, fertilisers, glue, paper and paint, among other products. Formalin causes irritation in the eyes, throat, skin and stomach. In the long run continued exposure causes harm to the kidneys, liver and can even cause cancers. Formaldehyde is a highly reactive, flammable gas, which means it can become a fire hazard when exposed to flame or heat.
Why is fish laced with formalin?
Fish is a highly perishable commodity. If it isn’t maintained at the proper temperature of 5 degree Celsius, it gets spoilt. To avoid that and increase its shelf life, the sellers now use chemicals such as formalin and ammonia.
If the point of sale is far from the place of catch, formalin is used as a preservative. Meanwhile, ammonia is mixed with the water that is frozen to keep fish fresh.
Operation Sagar Rani:
In June 2018, Kerala food safety department officials seized nearly 9,600 kg of fish preserved in formalin at a border check post in Kollam district. The seized fish included 7,000 kg of prawns and 2,600 kg of other species. The seizure was part of ‘Operation Sagar Rani’ launched by the state.

Actions undertaken to tackle climate change
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released a publication titled “India – Spearheading Climate Solutions” on climate actions in India. The publication mentions the key initiatives undertaken by India under various sectors towards combating and adapting to climate change.
Major initiatives of the Government towards combating climate change:
National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC): The Action plan covers eight major missions on Solar, Enhanced Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Habitat, Water, Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, Green India, Sustainable Agriculture and Strategic Knowledge on Climate Change.
International Solar Alliance (ISA): ISA was jointly launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the then President of France, Francois Hollande in Paris on the side-lines of CoP 21 in 2015. The vision and mission of the alliance is to provide a dedicated platform for cooperation among solar resource rich countries that lie completely or partial between the Tropics of Capricorn & Cancer.
State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC): State governments have drafted climate strategies aligned with the eight National Missions under the NAPCC. The strategies focus on issues ranging from climate mitigation, energy efficiency, and resource conservation to climate adaptation.
FAME Scheme for E-mobility: Union Government in April 2015 launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) – India Scheme with an aim to boost sales of eco-friendly vehicles in the country. It is a part of the National Mission for Electric Mobility.
Atal Mission for Rejuvenation & Urban Transformation (AMRUT) for Smart Cities.
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana: The scheme provides LPG connections to five crore below-poverty-line beneficiaries. The connections are given in the name of women beneficiaries to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and conventional fuel like cow dung for cooking food, thus reducing air pollution.
UJALA scheme: The scheme was launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2015 with a target of replacing 77 crore incandescent lamps with LED bulbs. The usage of LED bulbs will not only result in reducing electricity bills but also help in environment protection.
Swachh Bharat Mission: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Movement) is a campaign that was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014. The campaign seeks to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country’s 4041 statutory cities and towns.

National Board for Wildlife (NBWL)
India’s apex National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has cleared 682 of the 687 projects (99.82%) that came up for scrutiny. Only five projects were rejected since August 2014.
National Board for Wildlife: It is a “Statutory Organization” constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Its roles is “advisory” in nature and advises the Central Government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country. Primary function of the Board is to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests. It has power to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries. No alternation of boundaries in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries can be done without approval of the NBWL.
Composition: The NBWL is chaired by the Prime Minister. It has 47 members including the Prime Minister. Among these, 19 members are ex-officio members. Other members include three Members of Parliament (two from Lok Sabha and one from Rajya Sabha), five NGOs and 10 eminent ecologists, conservationists and environmentalists.

Dolphin census
Annual Dolphin census was recently carried out in Odisha by the state’s forest and environment department.
The census covered important aquatic ecosystems in the state including the Chilika lake, India’s largest brackish water lagoon, spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts, the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary and its nearby areas within the Bhitarkanika National Park in Kendrapara district, Balasore district and the mouth of the Rushukulya River in Ganjam district.
Important findings:
Population declined from 469 in 2018 to 259 this year. The reduction in the number of dolphins compared to last year could be due to the migration of species from the Chilika Lake and other water bodies to the deep sea.
Gahirmatha is the home of the state’s largest dolphin population, having 126 animals. More dolphins were found in Gahirmatha than Chilika due to its bigger areas. 
After Gahirmatha, Chilika had the next largest population at 113, followed by the Rushukulya River in Ganjam district, with 15 dolphins and finally, Balasore, with 5 individuals.
The dolphin species sighted during the state-wide census included the Irrawaddy, the Bottle Nose and the Humpback.
Key facts:
Dolphins have been included in Schedule I of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972, in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and categorised as ‘Endangered’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.

Wasted effort: half of India’s waste-to-energy plants defunct
An analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment has revealed that nearly half of India’s waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, meant to convert non-biodegradable waste, are defunct. Further, the country’s inability to segregate waste has resulted in even the existing plants working below capacity.
Key findings: Since 1987, 15 WTE plants have been set up across the country. However, seven of these plants have since shut down. Apart from Delhi, these include plants at Kanpur, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Vijayawada and Karimnagar. The key reasons for closure are the plants’ inability to handle mixed solid waste and the high cost of electricity generated by them that renders it unattractive to power companies. This track record, however, has not stopped the government from betting big on WTE. The NITI Aayog, as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, envisages 800 megawatt from WTE plants by 2018-19, which is 10 times the capacity of all the existing WTE plants put together. It also proposes setting up a Waste-to-Energy Corporation of India, which would construct incineration plants through PPP models. Currently, there are 40-odd WTE plants at various stages of construction.
Reasons for the inefficiency:
The fundamental reason (for the inefficiency of these plants) is the quality and composition of waste. MSW (municipal solid waste) in India has low calorific value and high moisture content. As most wastes sent to the WTE plants are unsegregated, they also have high inert content. These wastes are just not suitable for burning in these plants. To burn them, additional fuel is required which makes these plants expensive to run.
Why Waste to Energy?
Most wastes that are generated find their way into land and water bodies without proper treatment, causing severe water and air pollution. The problems caused by solid and liquid wastes can be significantly mitigated through the adoption of environment-friendly waste to energy technologies that will allow treatment and processing of wastes before their disposal. The environmental benefits of waste to energy, as an alternative to disposing of waste in landfills, are clear and compelling. Waste to energy generates clean, reliable energy from a renewable fuel source, thus reducing dependence on fossil fuels, the combustion of which is a major contributor to GHG emissions. These measures would reduce the quantity of wastes, generate a substantial quantity of energy from them, and greatly reduce pollution of water and air, thereby offering a number of social and economic benefits that cannot easily be quantified.
Some of the strategic and financial benefits from waste-to-energy business are:
Profitability – If the right technology is employed with optimal processes and all components of waste are used to derive value, waste to energy could be a profitable business. When government incentives are factored in, the attractiveness of the business increases further.
Government Incentives – The government of India already provides significant incentives for waste to energy projects, in the form of capital subsidies and feed in tariffs. With concerns on climate change, waste management and sanitation on the increase, the government incentives for this sector is only set to increase in future.
Related Opportunities – Success in municipal solid waste management could lead to opportunities in other waste such as sewage waste, industrial waste and hazardous waste. Depending on the technology/route used for energy recovery, eco-friendly and “green” co-products such as charcoal, compost, nutrient rich digestate (a fertilizer) or bio-oil can be obtained. These co-product opportunities will enable the enterprise to expand into these related products, demand for which are increasing all the time.
Emerging Opportunities – With distributed waste management and waste to energy becoming important priorities, opportunities exist for companies to provide support services like turnkey solutions. In addition, waste to energy opportunities exist not just in India but all over the world. Thus, there could be significant international expansion possibilities for Indian companies, especially expansion into other Asian countries.
The growth of this sector has been affected on account of the following limitations/ constraints:
Waste-to-Energy is still a new concept in the country; Most of the proven and commercial technologies in respect of urban wastes are required to be imported; The costs of the projects especially based on bio-methanation technology are high as critical equipment for a project is required to be imported. In view of low level of compliance of MSW Rules 2000 by the Municipal Corporations/ Urban Local Bodies, segregated municipal solid waste is generally not available at the plant site, which may lead to non-availability of waste-to-energy plants. Lack of financial resources with Municipal Corporations/Urban Local Bodies. Lack of conducive policy guidelines from State Governments in respect of allotment of land, supply of garbage and power purchase / evacuation facilities.

World Sustainable Development Summit
The World Sustainable Development Summit 2019 is being held in New Delhi. It is organized by The Energy and Resources Institute – TERI.
World Sustainable Development Summit: The World Sustainable Development Summit is the annual flagship event of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). World Sustainable Development Summit is the sole Summit on global issues taking place in the developing world. It provides a platform for global leaders and practitioners to discuss and deliberate over climatic issues of universal importance. It strives to provide long-term solutions for the benefit of the global community by assembling the world’s most enlightened leaders and thinkers on a single platform. It is continuing the legacy of Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) which was initiated in 2001 with the aim of making ‘sustainable development’ a globally shared goal.
The Energy and Resources Institute – TERI:
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is a leading think tank dedicated to conducting research for sustainable development of India and the Global South. TERI was established in 1974 as an information centre on energy issues. However, over the following decades, it made a mark as a research institute, whose policy and technology solutions transformed people’s lives and the environment.

Global Tiger Recovery Program
3rd Stocktaking Conference on the Global Tiger Recovery Program held in New Delhi, January 2019, highlights the world to fall short of its targets of doubling the tiger population.
Petersburg Declaration on doubling the tiger population was signed in 2010 under which all 13 tiger range countries in Asia and partner organizations of the Global Tiger Initiative agreed to a Global Tiger Recovery Program, the first-ever coordinated, range-wide and international effort to save the world tigers. The tiger range countries that are part of the Global Tiger Recovery Program are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam. However, China and Indonesia were not present at the conference. The Declaration in turn established 29 July as the International Tiger Day (also known as Global Tiger Day) to be observed annually to raise awareness for tiger conservation.
Major concerns
Nearly a decade has passed since the governments of these 13 tiger home range countries came together to double the global tiger population (T X 2)by 2022 as envisaged by the Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservationissued at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit. However the progress on the targets envisaged by the declaration has not been at par.
Moreover, over one-third of tiger conservation sites in the world are severely at risk of losing their wild tigers — the majority of which are in Southeast Asia. Known hot spots for illegal trade in tiger parts include the Indo-Nepalese border, South India, Central India, Mekong-China, Indonesia-China and Russia-China
As per the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CATS) survey of tiger sites done in 2018 many of these areas lack basic plans for effective management, with over 60 per cent of the sites facing several limitations in anti-poaching.
It is has been founded that in the last century 97% of all wild tigers had disappeared, with only around 3,000 left alive.
Tigers are on the brink of extinction. Many factors have caused their numbers to fall, including habitat loss, hunting and poaching, climate change.Only 12.5 percent of the tiger conservation areas meet the globally agreed upon science-based standards.
However, countries like India, Nepal and Russia have shown that tiger recovery is possible, despite challenges in poaching, funding and sustaining community livelihoods, which can be overcome with strong political commitment.
The efforts to step up global commitment to protect the remaining wild tiger populations should therefore be assisted by centralized data bank of all tiger range countries, stringent law enforcement and enhanced cross-country cooperation between countries where there is high demand for tiger parts as well as countries which are home to tiger populations. Nepal has already proved that zero poaching is possible with a professionalized approach to wildlife protection. Effective management is thus the single most important action and to achieve this, long-term investment in tiger conservation areas is absolutely essential.
Goa State Biodiversity Board’s Tag
Goa State Biodiversity Board (GSBB) issued a tagging system to ensure communities residing within the biodiversity zone get Access Benefit Share (ABS) from their profits. This product tagging is a new system however, paying ABS has already been a part of the Biodiversity Act 2002.
The tag indicates that the ingredients used therein are sourced from the nature. The sellers are supposed to pay 0.01% of their annual profit to the GSBB and the board will then use this amount to protect the habitat from where the ingredients are. The amount sourced from the biodiversity zones by the organization will be submitted annually along with payments. The industries will pay profits obtained from only those products which have been sourced from that zone. More than 300 industries were approached to join the scheme, but currently only three organizations Tanshikar Spice Farm, Krishna Plantation and Raika Honey have agreed for the same.
Tanshikar Spice Farm, a restaurant in Goa, collects pollens from bee hives for making pollen smoothies. Raika Honey produces lip balms and soaps using honey and bee wax. The initiative will further enhance the credibility of the product and boost the products’ sale. Help generate revenue for the sellers as well as the GSBB.
Black soft shell turtle
Recently, black softshells hatchlings were released into the Haduk Beel (wetland) of Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam.
The rare turtle species are being bred in the ponds of various temples and shrines of the State.
Black soft shell turtle
It is a freshwater turtle that is found in India and Bangladesh. Of the 29 species of freshwater turtles identified in India, 20 are found in Assam, and temple ponds are known to house a dozen species. It is omnivorous, with a diet ranging from aquatic plants to aquatic insects and carrion. Indian black turtles may sometimes be seen to aggregate alongside the carcass of a large dead animal. The black softshell turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) figures in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List as “extinct in the wild” since 2002. Consumption of turtle meat and eggs, silt mining, encroachment of wetlands and change in flooding pattern have had a disastrous impact on the State’s turtle population. Turtles occupy a unique position within the food web. They consume an assortment of prey, including puffer fish, crustaceans, sponges, tunicates, sea grasses, and algae. The unusual life cycle of the animal plays a vital role in transportation of nutrients from the highly productive marine habitats such as sea-grass beds to energy-poor habitats like sandy beaches. This helps reverse the usual flow of nutrients from land to sea. They further help to maintain healthy fish stocks in the water bodies. Unhatched eggs, eggshells and fluids help foster decomposes and create much needed fertilizer. As turtle populations in general decline, so does their ability to play a vital role in maintaining the health of the world’s aquatic ecosystems.
Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary is situated in the flood plains of river Brahmaputra in the district of Morigaon. It has the second highest concentration of rhinos in Assam after Kaziranga National Park. It also serves as a birder’s heaven in winters with thousands of waterfowls thronging the wetlands. Other animals found in the region are, leopard, wild boar, barking deer, wild buffalo, etc.

Amazon River dolphins now listed as ‘Endangered’ by IUCN
As per reports published by the IUCN Red List in November 2018, it was found that, freshwater dolphins found in the Amazon River Basin were “dying off fast” and could face extinction unless they were more vigorously protected against fishing.
Amazon River dolphin
There are two types of Amazon River dolphins namely, the “boto” (Inia geoffrensis) and the “tucuxi” (Sotalia fluviatilis), which were once considered abundant in the Amazon.
The Amazon River dolphin is the largest river dolphin. Adult males reach average 2.32 metres and 154 kilograms, while females reach average 2 metres and 100 kilograms. It has very evident sexual dimorphism, with males measuring and weighing between 16% and 55% more than females, making it unique among cetaceans (‘Cetaceans’ is the collective name for all whales, dolphins and porpoises who between them form a single group, known as an order), where females are generally larger than males.
Besides the Amazon dolphins, freshwater dolphins in other parts of the world are also facing extreme pressures. In the Indian Subcontinent, the Gangetic or Indus River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica) found in the Ganga and Indus River Basins is considered “Endangered” by the IUCN. In China, the Yangtze River dolphin was declared functionally extinct in 2006 due to human activities like overfishing, dam building, pollution and boat traffic.
What is the threat?
The primary reason for the decrease in numbers is use of the dolphins’ flesh and blubber as bait for catfish, which have become widely available commercially. Killing the dolphins endangered their survival, particularly since the females bear a single calf on average every four to five years.
Increasing pollution and gradual destruction of the Amazon rainforest add to the vulnerability of the species. Captive breeding is not considered a conservation option for this species due to intra-species aggression and low longevity.

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.

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.
Protected areas:
Desert National Park Sanctuary — Rajasthan.
Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary – Andhra Pradesh.
Karera Wildlife Sanctuary– Madhya Pradesh.

Satyarup Siddhanta becomes world’s youngest to climb 7 highest volcanoes, 7 highest mountains in 7 continents
Satyarup Siddhanta, 35-year-old Kolkata mountaineer has set the world record of youngest to climb 7 highest volcanoes, 7 highest mountains in 7 continents in 7 years. He is also the first Indian to conquer the seven mountain peaks and seven volcanic summits.
Highest Mountains scaled by Satyarup Siddhanta
Mount Everest (8,848 m) – Nepal Mt Aconcagua (6,961 m) – Argentina Mt McKinley/Mt Denali (6,194 m) – USA Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895 m) – Tanzania Mt Elbrus (5,642 m) – Russia Mt Blanc (4,808.7 m) – France Mt Vinson Massif (4,892 m) – Antarctica Puncak Jaya/ Carstensz Pyramid (4,884 m) – Indonesia Mt Kosciuszko (2,228 m) – Australia
Seven volcanic peaks scaled by Satyarup Siddhanta
Ojos del Salado (6,893 m) – Chile Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895 m) – Tanzania Mount Elbrus (5,642 m) – Russia Mount Pico de Orizaba (5,636 m) – Mexico Mt Damavand (5,610 m) – Iran Mt Giluwe (4,368 m) – Papua New Guinea Mt Sidley (4,285 m) – Antarctica
Satyarup Siddhanta who is 35 years and 262 days broke the record of Australia’s Daniel Bull who was 36 years 157 days when he achieved the feet. Software engineer by profession, Satyarup Siddhanta hails from Haridevpur in South Kolkata and is based at the Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru. Reports suggest that had to work different shifts in two companies to raise funds for his mountaineering trips.

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
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
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.

Blackbuck:
The blackbuck (Antelope cervicapra) is an antelope indigenous to the India plains. Also found in India, Nepal and Pakistan. The Females are generally hornless. It is considered to be the fastest animal next to Cheetah. It is of Least Concern according to the IUCN red list

International Solar Alliance
Argentina has signed the Framework Agreement of the International Solar Alliance. Argentina is the 72nd country to sign the Framework Agreement of the International Solar Alliance. The agreement of the International Solar Alliance was opened for signature during the COP22 at Marrakech on November 15, 2016. The signatories of the agreement include India, France, Australia, UAE, UK, Japan amongst others.
ISA: The Paris Declaration establishes ISA as an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries.
Objectives: The ISA’s major objectives include global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity and mobilisation of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030.
What it does? As an action-oriented organisation, the ISA brings together countries with rich solar potential to aggregate global demand, thereby reducing prices through bulk purchase, facilitating the deployment of existing solar technologies at scale, and promoting collaborative solar R&D and capacity building.
When it entered into force? When the ISA Framework Agreement entered into force on December 6th, 2017, ISA formally became a de-jure treaty based International Intergovernmental Organization, headquartered at Gurugram, India.

Synthetic fibres contribute to plastic pollution
According to a recent study, synthetic fibres like nylon and polyesters are major contributors of micro plastic pollution in the environment. Synthetic fibres are petroleum-based products. They are not recyclable and biodegradable like natural fibres such as wool, cotton and silk. Microplastics are plastics which are less than five mm in diameter in size. Sources of micro plastic include clothing, cosmetics, industrial processes etc. Microplastic pollution has become a major environmental concern. According to a 2017 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report, microplastics are estimated to constitute up to 30% of marine litter polluting the oceans. In the oceans, pieces of microscopic plastic are consumed by plants and animals and enter the human food chain through harvested fish. The ingestion of microplastics is very dangerous as these substances contain high concentrations of toxic chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls. The recent study has suggested measures to prevent microplastic pollution; such as a) minimise the use of synthetic fibres, b) substitution of synthetic fibres with biosynthetic fibres and natural fibres, c) large scale use of bacteria that could aid in biodegradation of the fibres for reuse and d) blending synthetic fibres with natural fibres to increase durability and make them recyclable.

Company under Department of Space
The Union Cabinet has given its approval to the Setting up of a new company under Department of Space (DoS), to commercially exploit the research and development work carried out by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Centers and constituent units of DOS. The following areas/avenues provide opportunities for commercial exploitation of ISRO programmes: Small satellite technology transfer to industry, wherein the new company shall take license from DoS/ISRO and sub-license to industries;
Manufacture of small satellite launch vehicle (SLV) in collaboration with the Private Sector; Productionisation of Polar SLV through industry; Productionisation and marketing of Space-based products and services, including launch and applications; Transfer of Technology developed by ISRO Centers and constituent units of DoS; Marketing of some spin-off technologies and products, both in India and abroad; and Any other subject which Government of India deems fit.

Green India Mission
According to a Parliamentary committee report, Green India Mission, aimed at “protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change”, is grossly underfunded.
Concerns highlighted by the report:
Underfunded: The scheme is proposed for 10 years with an outlay of Rs 60,000 crore. During 2017-18, Rs 47.8 crore has been allocated for the scheme which is grossly insufficient as the committed liability for 2015-16 and 2016-17 is Rs 89.53 crore which is much more than the budget allocated.
Concerns over INDC targets: The panel also raises concerns about the targets set by GIM on India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. According to the NDC, India has a target to sequester 2.523 billion tonnes of carbon by 2020-30. Our current forest cover is 75 million hectare and to meet our target of carbon sequestration, 30 million hectares of additional land would be required for forests. The mission document does not mention from where will this land be arranged.
The report also found that in 2015-16 and 2016-17, the GIM missed its targets by 34%. Instead of the targeted 67,956 hectares, only 44,749 hectares of land got green cover.
The committee also points out that the afforestation done under the mission was only aimed at increasing tree count without considering the soil and weather conditions. Trees like eucalyptus were planted which make environmental problems worse rather than solving it. Planting of unsuitable trees may cause drought, and prevent biodiversity in the regions.
Green India Mission:
GIM is one of the eight missions launched under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
GIM’s launch was supposed to coincide with the starting of the 12th five-year plan in 2012. But, owing to financial delays the mission was finally launched in 2015. The objective of the mission is to increase green cover to the extent of 5 million hectares (mha) and improve quality of existing green cover on another 5 mha, improve eco-system services like carbon sequestration, hydrological services and biodiversity and provisioning services like fuel, fodder, and timber and non-timber forest produces (NTFPs). It also has to increase forest-based livelihood income for about 3 million households.

Bramble Cay melomys is first mammal to go extinct due to climate change:
Climate change induced by human beings has claimed its first victim in ‘Class Mammalia’ of the ‘Animal Kingdom’: the Bramble Cay melomys — a ‘little brown rat’ found in Australia. The government of Australia’s Queensland province reported the species to be extinct in June 2016. It was placed in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.

Why Bangladesh sees golden rice as a threat
Bangladesh farmers and environment groups are angry over the government’s decision to allow commercial cultivation of the controversial genetically modified (GM) rice, popularly called as the golden rice.
What’s the issue?
Bangladesh completed the confined field testing of golden rice at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), Gazipur, in early 2017. It has already allowed commercial production of BT Brinjal in the country. Locals fear that the introduction of golden rice will impact their traditional agriculture system. It is alleged that field trials were marred with controversy over the lack of transparency and credible independent safety studies. Even claims made after field trial concerns remain as on the lack of credible and independent safety studies, transparency and public participation. Activists fear that commercial cultivation would lead to the loss of Bangladesh’s rich bio-diversity. This could further push for public acceptance of genetically-modified crops and erode our food diversity and our local and traditional seeds, as well as increase corporate control on our agriculture system.
What is Golden rice?
In 1999, a group of European scientists led by Dr Ingo Potrykus tried to change traditional rice by developing genetically-engineered rice that contains beta-carotene — by inserting bacteria and daffodil and maize genes into it. This is the golden rice, called so because of the golden colour of its grains. The golden rice was introduced in 2000 and argued to be the panacea for world’s malnutrition problem. It was claimed that the rice is bio-fortified, and is supposedly high in Vitamin A, Iron and Zinc. It was considered as a significant breakthrough in biotechnology, with its first field trials conducted by the agriculture centre of Louisiana State University in 2004. Later, it has been claimed that field trials were conducted in the Philippines, Taiwan and Bangladesh.
What is a GM crop?
A GM or transgenic crop is a plant that has a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.
For example, a GM crop can contain a gene(s) that has been artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring it through pollination. The resulting plant is said to be “genetically modified” although in reality all crops have been “genetically modified” from their original wild state by domestication, selection, and controlled breeding over long periods of time.
GM is a solution to hunger problem: Data from a large number of peer-reviewed publications have shown that, on average, GM technology adoption has reduced pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yield by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%. Data from a billion animals fed on GM corn have not indicated any health hazards. Those in the Americas and elsewhere consuming Bt corn or soybean for over 15 years have not reported any health issues. Genetically modified (GM) crops can withstand pests and droughts. Genetic modification in crops involves altering a seed’s DNA in order to increase its resistance to pests and insects. These changes can mean a huge boost to productivity and overall food supply. Adopting technology that will lead to higher crop productivity is essential to feeding the growing Indian population. Higher crop yields, reduced farm costs, increased farm profit and improvement in health and the environment are some of the benefits of introducing GM crops.
There are some concerns as well:
GM food involves taking genes (DNA) from different organisms and inserting them in food crops.
There are concerns that this ‘foreign’ DNA through Genetically Modified products may lead to risks such as toxicity, allergic reactions, and nutritional and unintended impact. It costs people’s health and our national food and health sovereignty. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India [FSSAI], the apex food regulator, has failed to curb the illegal sales of GM food. Its draft regulations on GM food labelling are weak and impractical to implement.
Lack of clarity: It is clear that the technology of genetic engineering is an evolving one and there is much, especially on its impact on human health and environment that is yet to be understood properly. The scientific community itself seems uncertain about this. There is also a potential for pests to evolve resistance to the toxins produced by GM crops and the risk of these toxins affecting nontarget organisms. There is also the danger of unintentionally introducing allergens and other anti-nutrition factors in foods.

World’s largest bee spotted for the first time since 1981:
The world’s largest bee — a giant insect roughly the size of a human thumb — has been rediscovered in a remote part of Indonesia in its first sighting in nearly 40 years. The Wallace’s giant bee (Megachile pluto), which lives in the Indonesian island region of North Moluccas, makes its nest in termite mounds, using its large fang-like mandibles to collect sticky resin to protect its home from the termites. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the bee as “vulnerable”, meaning that while its numbers are relatively solid, the remoteness of its population makes it hard to study.

Cheetah reintroduction project
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) recently told a bench of the Supreme Court that African cheetahs would be translocated in India from Namibia and would be kept at Nauradehi wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has given a ‘no objection’ for the translocation.
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.
Hindu Kush Himalayan Assessment Report
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a regional intergovernmental body has released the first-ever assessment of climate change impacts on the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region. The ICIMOD is pursuing 8 countries, including India, to set up an inter-governmental body to protect the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, known as the water tower of Asia.
Hind Kush Himalayas
Part of the great Himalayan range, and spread over 3,500 square kilometres, the HKH region is shared by eight countries, including India and China. It is also known as Third Pole due to its largest permanent snow cover after the North and South Poles — sustains the livelihoods of 240 million people living in the mountains and hills. It also houses the origin of 10 river basins that include the Ganga, the Brahmaputra and the Mekong.
Main findings of the report
HKH region is warming faster than the global average. It would continue to warm through this century even if the world is able to limit global warming at the agreed 1.5 degrees Celsius. The per capita fossil fuel carbon dioxide emission from the HKH countries is one-sixth of the global average though it is disproportionately impacted. In the last 60 years, extreme cold events have become lesser while extreme warm weather events have become more pronounced. Both minimum and maximum temperatures are also changing: they are moving north, indicating overall warming.
Every decade HKH loses one cold night and half a cold day. While warm nights have increased by 1.7 per decade, the region gets 1.2 warm days every decade.
Alarmingly, changes in surface temperature (relative to 1976-2005) in this Himalayan region are higher than the global average, and even the South Asian region.
The projected changes in the surface mean temperature over the HKH region are larger compared to the global mean change by the end of the 21st century.
Although the climate of the region has changed significantly in the past, it is projected to change more dramatically in the near future.
The number of glaciers in the Himalayan area has increased in the last five decades and this is an indicator of how severe glacier melting has been due to global warming.
The increase in the number of glaciers is primarily due to glacier fragmentation — that big ones are splitting into smaller ones. And this is happening due to consistent loss in areas the glaciers occupy.
Smaller glaciers are shrinking faster than larger ones, although the smaller glaciers of Ladakh show a lower rate of retreat than other Himalayan glaciers. However, the assessment makes clear that despite the surety of glaciers in the Hindu Kush Mountains losing length since 1973, no studies have been done to examine area change in this region.
In 1998-2014, when the global warming slowed down, this region continued to warm.
In the 20th century, the HKH region oscillated between warming and cooling phases. In the first 40 years, it reported warming to be followed by a cooling phase in 1940-1970.
However, since 1970 it has been warming, and as assessed it would continue to be through the current century.
Warming may be good news for agriculture as the length of the growing season has increased by 4.25 days per decade — a positive change for agriculture.
Consequences of warming of Hind Kush
It has ramifications for the global climate. This region is a heat source in summer and a heat sink in winter.
Along with the Tibetan Plateau, this influences the Indian summer monsoon. So, any changes in this region would have a bearing on the monsoon itself that already shows signs of changes in spread and distribution.
It could trigger a multitude of biophysical and socio-economic impacts, such as biodiversity loss, increased glacial melting, and less predictable water availability—all of which will impact livelihoods and well-being in the HKH.
Faster snow and glacier melting due to warming is already manifesting in formation of glacial lakes. Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) are becoming frequent and causing huge casualties and loss to local infrastructures.
Glaciers in HKH have been retreating faster, and consistently causing greater water flows in rivers. In Tibetan Plateau, river run off has increased by 5.5 per cent.
Most of the lakes in high altitudes have also reported water level rise by 0.2 m/year besides their surface areas expanding.
 International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development
It is a regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge sharing centre serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalaya – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan – and based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
It aims to assist mountain people to understand these changes, adapt to them, and make the most of new opportunities, while addressing upstream-downstream issues.

New campus of Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology Inaugurated
Union Minister for Earth Sciences, Dr Harsh Vardhan inaugurated Atal Bhavan,  the new campus of Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE), at Puthuvype, Cochin, in Kerala.
Centre for Marine Living Resources & Ecology
The Centre for Marine Living Resources & Ecology (CMLRE) under the Ministry of Earth Science is organizing, coordinating and promoting ocean development activities in the country which includes mapping of the living resources, preparing inventory of commercially exploitable living marine resources, their optimum utilization through ecosystem management and R&D in basic sciences on Marine Living Resources and Ecology.
Mandate of CMLRE
To develop management strategies for marine living resources through Ecosystem monitoring and modelling efforts.
Evolving, coordinating and implementing time targeted national /regional R&D programmes in the field of marine living resources and ecology through effective utilisation of Fishery and Oceanographic Research Vessel Sagar Sampada.
Strengthening of research on marine living resources and Ecology including the establishment of a data centre for storage and dissemination of data/ information to end users.
Coordinating the national programmes relating to Southern Ocean Living Resources (Antarctic marine living resources).
CMLRE was established at Kochi in 1998 by upgrading the erstwhile Sagar Sampada Cell with exclusive facilities for implementing the Marine Living Resources Programme.
Marine Living Resources Programme envisages survey, assessment and exploitation of the marine living resources and studies on the response of marine resources to changes in the physical environment. The studies are undertaken with an objective of developing an ecosystem model for the management of the living resources in the Indian EEZ. The Fishery Oceanographic Vessel Sagar Sampada is fully utilized for these studies.

Science or habit? Study examines effectiveness of Green India Mission
A recent study has critically analysed the effectiveness of Green India Mission
Green India Mission
Green India Mission (GIM), is one of the eight Missions outlined under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). It is aimed at protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of adaptation and mitigation measures.
Objectives: To increase forest/tree cover to the extent of 5 million hectares (mha) and improve quality of forest/tree cover on another 5 mha of forest/non-forest land. Eco-restoration/afforestation of scrub, shifting cultivation areas, cold deserts, mangroves, ravines and abandoned mining areas. To increase forest based livelihood income for about 3 million households in and around these forest areas; and Enhanced annual CO2 sequestration by 50 to 60 million tonnes in the year 2020.
Issues with mission
According to the study, afforestation targets set under the Green India Mission are arbitrary and not based on sound science. It observes that the approach to forestry is flawed and commitment to fixed rates of forest cover encourages tree plantations in ecologically inappropriate sites and conditions which may give rise to diminished precipitation, warming temperatures, soil erosion, and decreasing biodiversity. The study states that afforestation extends the authority of Indian state forest departments in a way that it undermines local livelihoods rather than supporting them. Aggressive afforestation projects in India do not address drivers of widespread and large-scale deforestation

Elephant corridors
Asian Elephant Alliance, an umbrella initiative by five NGOs, has come together to secure 96 out of the 101 existing corridors used by elephants across 12 States in India. The joint venture aims to secure the 96 remaining elephant corridors, old and new, in the next ten years. The alliance joined hands to raise the mammoth sum as money was the main constraint in securing the land. NGOs Elephant Family, International Fund for Animal Welfare, IUCN Netherlands and World Land Trust have teamed up with Wildlife Trust of India’s (WTI) in the alliance.
What are Elephant Corridors?
Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that connect two large habitats of elephants. Elephant corridors are crucial to reduce animal fatalities due to accidents and other reasons. So fragmentation of forests makes it all the more important to preserve migratory corridors.
Why protect elephant corridors?
The movement of elephants is essential to ensure that their populations are genetically viable. It also helps to regenerate forests on which other species, including tigers, depend. Nearly 40% of elephant reserves are vulnerable, as they are not within protected parks and sanctuaries. Also, the migration corridors have no specific legal protection. Forests that have turned into farms and unchecked tourism are blocking animals’ paths. Animals are thus forced to seek alternative routes resulting in increased elephant-human conflict. Weak regulation of ecotourism is severely impacting important habitats. It particularly affects animals that have large home ranges, like elephants.
Need of the hour:
Efforts should be to expand elephant corridors, using the successful models within the country. This includes acquisition of lands using private funds and their transfer to the government. Ending human interference in the pathways of elephants is more a conservation imperative.
Gaj Yatra: ‘Gaj Yatra’, a nationwide campaign to protect elephants, was launched on the occasion of World Elephant Day in 2017. The campaign is planned to cover 12 elephant range states. The elephant is part of India’s animal heritage and the Government celebrates this day to spread awareness about the conservation of the species. The 15 months campaign will be led by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). The campaign aims to create awareness about elephant corridors to encourage free movement in their habitat.

World Soil Day
World Soil Day is celebrated every year on 5th of December by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations.
Aim: To communicate messages on importance of soil quality for food security, healthy ecosystems and human well-being.
Theme for year 2018: ‘Be the Solution to Soil Pollution’.
Historical background of World Soil Day: An international day to celebrate Soil was recommended by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002. Under the leadership of the Kingdom of Thailand and within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership, FAO has supported the formal establishment of WSD as a global awareness raising platform. The FAO Conference unanimously endorsed World Soil Day  in June 2013 and requested its official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly. In December 2013 the UN General Assembly responded by designating 5 December 2014 as the first official World Soil Day.
Why December 5 was chosen?
The date of 5 December for WSD was chosen because it corresponds with the official birthday of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, who officially sanctioned the event.
Soil pollution- concerns:
These days pollution is a worry – and soil is also affected. Soil pollution is a hidden danger that lurks beneath our feet. 1/3 of our global soils are already degraded. Yet we risk losing more due to this hidden danger. Soil pollution can be invisible and seems far away but everyone, everywhere is affected. With a growing population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, soil pollution is a worldwide problem which degrades our soils, poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. The entity of the problem is still unknown as not certain data are available on a global scale. Soils have a great potential to filter and buffer contaminants, degrading and attenuating the negative effects of pollutants, but this capacity is finite. Most of the pollutants originate from human activities, such as unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environmental friendly practices. As technology evolves, scientists are able to identify previously undetected pollutants, but at the same time these technological improvements lead to new contaminants being released into the environment.
SDGs: In the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals 2, 3, 12, and 15 have targets which commend direct consideration of soil resources, especially soil pollution and degradation in relation to food security.
Need for conservation and protection of soil: Soil holds three times as much carbon as the atmosphere and can help us meet the challenges of a changing climate. 815 million people are food insecure and 2 billion people are nutritionally insecure, but we can mitigate this through soil. 95% of our food comes from soil. 33% of our global soils are already degraded.

India Water Impact Summit 2018
India Water Impact Summit 2018 was jointly organized by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and the Centre for Ganga River Basin Management and Studies recently in New Delhi.
India Water Impact Summit: It is an annual event where stakeholders get together to discuss, debate and develop model solutions for some of the biggest water-related problems in the country. The discussions this year will be on the rejuvenation of the Ganga River Basin. There will be multi-country dialogue on the subject, with showcasing of technological innovations, research, policy frameworks and funding models from India and abroad. The efforts may take various forms including (but not limited to): data collection (sensors, LIDAR, modelling etc), hydrology, e-flows, agriculture, wastewater and more.
Ganga Financing Forum: The Summit introduced the inaugural Ganga Financing Forum that will bring a number of institutions to a common knowledge, information and partnership platform. The Financing Forum will bring together financial institutions and investors interested in Namami Gange programmes.

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.
‘Maunder-like minimum’:
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. 

Flamingo sanctuary:
A committee, chaired by Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan, has accorded wildlife clearance to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed train corridor that encroaches upon a flamingo sanctuary and the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, the home to leopards, in Mumbai.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park: Sanjay Gandhi National Park is spread over three districts – Palgar, Thane and Mumbai Suburb. The National Park is home to a number of endangered species of flora and fauna and harbours approximately 800 species of flowering plants, 45 species of mammals, 43 species of reptiles among others.
Flamingo sanctuary: Western side of the Thane creek is a dedicated flamingo sanctuary. Thane Creek is home to flamingos as well as other migratory and residential bird species. It is Maharashtra’s second marine sanctuary after the one at Malvan.

Thailand names Siamese Fighting Fish its National Aquatic Animal
The government of Thailand has approved the proposal to name Siamese fighting fish as the National Aquatic Animal. The decision for based on the recommendation of the National Identity Committee of Thailand which promotes Thai cultural pride forwarded its endorsement of the fighting fish. The government has approved the proposal owing to the cultural and historical significance of the Siamese fighting fish for Thailand. The Siamese fighting fish was chosen as it’s a native, unique species to the kingdom’s waters and an important animal for Thailand’s economy.
Siamese Fighting Fish
The Siamese fighting fish commonly known as the betta is a popular fish in the aquarium trade. The Siamese fighting fish is native to the Mekong basin of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and mostly found at Chao Phraya river in Thailand. The Siamese fighting fish was registered as intangible cultural heritage by the Cultural Ministry in 2013. The designation of Siamese fighting fish as Thailand’s national aquatic animal could help boost both conservation efforts and commercial breeding. The IUCN status of the Siamese fighting fish is Vulnerable. The threats to the Siamese Fighting Fish include Human intrusions & disturbances, Natural system modifications through the construction of Dams Presence of Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases, Pollution due to domestic & urban wastewater, Industrial & military effluents and Agricultural & forestry effluents.

Asiatic Lion Conservation Project
The Centre and the Gujarat government have announced a Rs. 97.85 crore Asiatic Lion Conservation Project. Key aspects of the conservation project include undertaking “habitat improvement” measures, making more sources of water available, creating a wildlife crime cell, and a task force for the Greater Gir region. ‘Greater Gir’ that includes, other than the existing Gir National Park, sanctuaries in Girnar, Pania and Mitiyala. It would also involve having in place a GPS-based tracking system, which would look at surveillance tracking, animal and vehicle tracking. There would also be an automated sensor grid that would have magnetic sensors, movement sensors and infra-red heat sensors. A key outcome of the project is to have a dedicated veterinary institute, lion ambulances and back-up stocks of vaccines that may be required.
Relocation of lions:
The Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh was identified to be the most suitable for reintroducing the species, according to a Supreme Court-appointed technical expert committee, but there has been no progress on the proposal.
There is a committee of experts from both States examining the suitability of Madhya Pradesh as a potential lion reserve.
The SC in April 2013 had ordered the translocation of some lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh within six months, but this hasn’t happened. This was ordered after several recommendations by expert groups, including the Wildlife Institute of India.
It emphasised that the long-term survival of the lion as a species was best served if they could be present outside Gujarat, too, so that they are protected against, say, a forest fire, a disease, or calamities.
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.

Great Indian Bustard is the Mascot for COP-13 on Migratory Species
The Union Government has announced the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) as the mascot for the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Convention on the conservation of migratory species (CMS) to be held in Gujarat next year. The logo, mascot and the website for the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) was launched by the Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Harsh Vardhan. The mascot for the event, Great Indian Bustard has been fondly named as ‘Gibi’.
Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)
CMS is an international treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It is also known as the Bonn Convention. CMS aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range. CMS is only global and UN-based intergovernmental organization established exclusively for conservation and management of terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range. The convention provides a global platform for deliberations on the conservation and sustainable use of migratory wild animals and their habitat. The convention was signed in 1979 at Bonn (hence the name Bonn Convention), Germany and entered into force in 1983. Its headquarters are in Bonn, Germany. Since its entry into force, the membership has grown steadily to include over 120 Parties from Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

Health Ministry conducts 8th round of National Deworming Day campaign
The Health Ministry undertook the 8th round of National Deworming Day campaign across the country on 8th February to reduce the prevalence of parasitic intestinal worms among children.
National Deworming Day
National Deworming Day is aimed at deworming all preschool and school-age children (enrolled and non-enrolled) between the ages of 1-19 years through the platform of schools and Anganwadi Centers to improve their overall health, nutritional status, access to education and quality of life. Albendazole tablets are orally administered for the children during the programme. The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the nodal agency for the implementation of the National Deworming Day. The National Deworming Day is implemented by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in association with the Department of School Education and Literacy under the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Urban Development, and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). Bi-annual round of deworming is recommended in the States where the prevalence of Soil-Transmitted Helminths infection is more than 20% and annual round in other states. Only two States namely Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have reported less than 20% prevalence and have been recommended for the annual round.

India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to launch the ‘India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative’.
India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative:
The Initiative will combat marine pollution, which is one of the fastest growing environmental concerns. Both countries will share experiences, competence and collaborate on efforts to develop clean and healthy oceans. Both the sides will jointly collaborate for sustainable use of ocean resources and growth in the blue economy. Through a range of implementing partners, this initiative will seek to support local governments in implementing sustainable waste management practices, develop systems for collecting and analysing information about sources and scope of marine pollution. They will also work towards beach clean-up efforts, awareness raising campaigns and pilot project using plastic waste as fuel substitution for coal in cement production.
Bilateral efforts in this regard:
In January, 2019, the Indian and Norwegian governments agreed to work more closely on oceans by signing a MoU and establishing the India-Norway Ocean Dialogue during the Norwegian Prime Minister’s visit to India in January.
A joint Task Force on Blue Economy with government officials, researchers and experts as well as private sector was established to develop sustainable solutions within strategic areas of the blue economy, such as maritime and marine sector in addition to energy sector.
Causes of marine pollution:
Major sources of marine pollution are the inflow of chemicals, solid waste, discharge of radioactive elements, industrial and agricultural effluents, man-made sedimentation, oil spills, and many such factors. The majority portion of the marine pollution comes from the land that contributes to 80% of the marine pollution, air pollution also carries pesticides from farms and dust into the marine waters.
Types of marine pollution:
1.Eutrophication
2.Acidification
3.Toxins
4.Plastics
Effects of Marine Pollution:
The contamination of water by excessive nutrients is known as nutrient pollution, a type of water pollution that affects the life under water. When excess nutrients like nitrates or phosphates get dissolved with the water it causes the eutrophication of surface waters, as it stimulates the growth of algae due to excess nutrients. Most of Benthic animals and plankton are either filter feeders or deposit feeders take up the tiny particles that adhere to potentially toxic chemicals. In the ocean food chains, such toxins get concentrated upward. This makes estuaries anoxic as many particles combine chemically depletive of oxygen. When the marine ecosystem absorbs the pesticides, they are incorporated into the food webs of the marine ecosystem. After getting dissolved in the marine food webs, these harmful pesticides causes mutations, and also results in diseases, which can damage the entire food web and cause harm to the humans. When toxic metals are dumped or flown into the oceans through drains, it engulfs within the marine food webs. These can cause a change to tissue matter, biochemistry, behavior, reproduction, and suppress and alter the marine life’s growth. Marine toxins can be transferred to several animals feeding on the fish or fish hydrolysate as a meal, toxins are then transferred to dairy products and meat of these affected land animals.

Formalin in Fish
With many in Odisha’s dried-fish industry continuing to use formalin despite being warned, the state government is planning to take measures including punishments, awareness and introduction of new hygenic methods.
Formalin:
Formalin is a toxic, colourless solution that is derived by dissolving formaldehyde gas in water. It is a cancer-inducing chemical used to preserve fish and is used as a disinfectant. It is used in the manufacture of pesticides, fertilisers, glue, paper and paint, among other products. Formalin causes irritation in the eyes, throat, skin and stomach. In the long run continued exposure causes harm to the kidneys, liver and can even cause cancers. Formaldehyde is a highly reactive, flammable gas, which means it can become a fire hazard when exposed to flame or heat.
Why is fish laced with formalin?
Fish is a highly perishable commodity. If it isn’t maintained at the proper temperature of 5 degree Celsius, it gets spoilt. To avoid that and increase its shelf life, the sellers now use chemicals such as formalin and ammonia.
If the point of sale is far from the place of catch, formalin is used as a preservative. Meanwhile, ammonia is mixed with the water that is frozen to keep fish fresh.
Operation Sagar Rani:
In June 2018, Kerala food safety department officials seized nearly 9,600 kg of fish preserved in formalin at a border check post in Kollam district. The seized fish included 7,000 kg of prawns and 2,600 kg of other species. The seizure was part of ‘Operation Sagar Rani’ launched by the state.

Actions undertaken to tackle climate change
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released a publication titled “India – Spearheading Climate Solutions” on climate actions in India. The publication mentions the key initiatives undertaken by India under various sectors towards combating and adapting to climate change.
Major initiatives of the Government towards combating climate change:
National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC): The Action plan covers eight major missions on Solar, Enhanced Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Habitat, Water, Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, Green India, Sustainable Agriculture and Strategic Knowledge on Climate Change.
International Solar Alliance (ISA): ISA was jointly launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the then President of France, Francois Hollande in Paris on the side-lines of CoP 21 in 2015. The vision and mission of the alliance is to provide a dedicated platform for cooperation among solar resource rich countries that lie completely or partial between the Tropics of Capricorn & Cancer.
State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC): State governments have drafted climate strategies aligned with the eight National Missions under the NAPCC. The strategies focus on issues ranging from climate mitigation, energy efficiency, and resource conservation to climate adaptation.
FAME Scheme for E-mobility: Union Government in April 2015 launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) – India Scheme with an aim to boost sales of eco-friendly vehicles in the country. It is a part of the National Mission for Electric Mobility.
Atal Mission for Rejuvenation & Urban Transformation (AMRUT) for Smart Cities.
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana: The scheme provides LPG connections to five crore below-poverty-line beneficiaries. The connections are given in the name of women beneficiaries to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and conventional fuel like cow dung for cooking food, thus reducing air pollution.
UJALA scheme: The scheme was launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2015 with a target of replacing 77 crore incandescent lamps with LED bulbs. The usage of LED bulbs will not only result in reducing electricity bills but also help in environment protection.
Swachh Bharat Mission: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Movement) is a campaign that was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014. The campaign seeks to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country’s 4041 statutory cities and towns.

National Board for Wildlife (NBWL)
India’s apex National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has cleared 682 of the 687 projects (99.82%) that came up for scrutiny. Only five projects were rejected since August 2014.
National Board for Wildlife: It is a “Statutory Organization” constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Its roles is “advisory” in nature and advises the Central Government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country. Primary function of the Board is to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests. It has power to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries. No alternation of boundaries in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries can be done without approval of the NBWL.
Composition: The NBWL is chaired by the Prime Minister. It has 47 members including the Prime Minister. Among these, 19 members are ex-officio members. Other members include three Members of Parliament (two from Lok Sabha and one from Rajya Sabha), five NGOs and 10 eminent ecologists, conservationists and environmentalists.

Dolphin census
Annual Dolphin census was recently carried out in Odisha by the state’s forest and environment department.
The census covered important aquatic ecosystems in the state including the Chilika lake, India’s largest brackish water lagoon, spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts, the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary and its nearby areas within the Bhitarkanika National Park in Kendrapara district, Balasore district and the mouth of the Rushukulya River in Ganjam district.
Important findings:
Population declined from 469 in 2018 to 259 this year. The reduction in the number of dolphins compared to last year could be due to the migration of species from the Chilika Lake and other water bodies to the deep sea.
Gahirmatha is the home of the state’s largest dolphin population, having 126 animals. More dolphins were found in Gahirmatha than Chilika due to its bigger areas. 
After Gahirmatha, Chilika had the next largest population at 113, followed by the Rushukulya River in Ganjam district, with 15 dolphins and finally, Balasore, with 5 individuals.
The dolphin species sighted during the state-wide census included the Irrawaddy, the Bottle Nose and the Humpback.
Key facts:
Dolphins have been included in Schedule I of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972, in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and categorised as ‘Endangered’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.

Wasted effort: half of India’s waste-to-energy plants defunct
An analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment has revealed that nearly half of India’s waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, meant to convert non-biodegradable waste, are defunct. Further, the country’s inability to segregate waste has resulted in even the existing plants working below capacity.
Key findings: Since 1987, 15 WTE plants have been set up across the country. However, seven of these plants have since shut down. Apart from Delhi, these include plants at Kanpur, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Vijayawada and Karimnagar. The key reasons for closure are the plants’ inability to handle mixed solid waste and the high cost of electricity generated by them that renders it unattractive to power companies. This track record, however, has not stopped the government from betting big on WTE. The NITI Aayog, as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, envisages 800 megawatt from WTE plants by 2018-19, which is 10 times the capacity of all the existing WTE plants put together. It also proposes setting up a Waste-to-Energy Corporation of India, which would construct incineration plants through PPP models. Currently, there are 40-odd WTE plants at various stages of construction.
Reasons for the inefficiency:
The fundamental reason (for the inefficiency of these plants) is the quality and composition of waste. MSW (municipal solid waste) in India has low calorific value and high moisture content. As most wastes sent to the WTE plants are unsegregated, they also have high inert content. These wastes are just not suitable for burning in these plants. To burn them, additional fuel is required which makes these plants expensive to run.
Why Waste to Energy?
Most wastes that are generated find their way into land and water bodies without proper treatment, causing severe water and air pollution. The problems caused by solid and liquid wastes can be significantly mitigated through the adoption of environment-friendly waste to energy technologies that will allow treatment and processing of wastes before their disposal. The environmental benefits of waste to energy, as an alternative to disposing of waste in landfills, are clear and compelling. Waste to energy generates clean, reliable energy from a renewable fuel source, thus reducing dependence on fossil fuels, the combustion of which is a major contributor to GHG emissions. These measures would reduce the quantity of wastes, generate a substantial quantity of energy from them, and greatly reduce pollution of water and air, thereby offering a number of social and economic benefits that cannot easily be quantified.
Some of the strategic and financial benefits from waste-to-energy business are:
Profitability – If the right technology is employed with optimal processes and all components of waste are used to derive value, waste to energy could be a profitable business. When government incentives are factored in, the attractiveness of the business increases further.
Government Incentives – The government of India already provides significant incentives for waste to energy projects, in the form of capital subsidies and feed in tariffs. With concerns on climate change, waste management and sanitation on the increase, the government incentives for this sector is only set to increase in future.
Related Opportunities – Success in municipal solid waste management could lead to opportunities in other waste such as sewage waste, industrial waste and hazardous waste. Depending on the technology/route used for energy recovery, eco-friendly and “green” co-products such as charcoal, compost, nutrient rich digestate (a fertilizer) or bio-oil can be obtained. These co-product opportunities will enable the enterprise to expand into these related products, demand for which are increasing all the time.
Emerging Opportunities – With distributed waste management and waste to energy becoming important priorities, opportunities exist for companies to provide support services like turnkey solutions. In addition, waste to energy opportunities exist not just in India but all over the world. Thus, there could be significant international expansion possibilities for Indian companies, especially expansion into other Asian countries.
The growth of this sector has been affected on account of the following limitations/ constraints:
Waste-to-Energy is still a new concept in the country; Most of the proven and commercial technologies in respect of urban wastes are required to be imported; The costs of the projects especially based on bio-methanation technology are high as critical equipment for a project is required to be imported. In view of low level of compliance of MSW Rules 2000 by the Municipal Corporations/ Urban Local Bodies, segregated municipal solid waste is generally not available at the plant site, which may lead to non-availability of waste-to-energy plants. Lack of financial resources with Municipal Corporations/Urban Local Bodies. Lack of conducive policy guidelines from State Governments in respect of allotment of land, supply of garbage and power purchase / evacuation facilities.

World Sustainable Development Summit
The World Sustainable Development Summit 2019 is being held in New Delhi. It is organized by The Energy and Resources Institute – TERI.
World Sustainable Development Summit: The World Sustainable Development Summit is the annual flagship event of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). World Sustainable Development Summit is the sole Summit on global issues taking place in the developing world. It provides a platform for global leaders and practitioners to discuss and deliberate over climatic issues of universal importance. It strives to provide long-term solutions for the benefit of the global community by assembling the world’s most enlightened leaders and thinkers on a single platform. It is continuing the legacy of Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS) which was initiated in 2001 with the aim of making ‘sustainable development’ a globally shared goal.
The Energy and Resources Institute – TERI:
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is a leading think tank dedicated to conducting research for sustainable development of India and the Global South. TERI was established in 1974 as an information centre on energy issues. However, over the following decades, it made a mark as a research institute, whose policy and technology solutions transformed people’s lives and the environment.

Global Tiger Recovery Program
3rd Stocktaking Conference on the Global Tiger Recovery Program held in New Delhi, January 2019, highlights the world to fall short of its targets of doubling the tiger population.
Petersburg Declaration on doubling the tiger population was signed in 2010 under which all 13 tiger range countries in Asia and partner organizations of the Global Tiger Initiative agreed to a Global Tiger Recovery Program, the first-ever coordinated, range-wide and international effort to save the world tigers. The tiger range countries that are part of the Global Tiger Recovery Program are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam. However, China and Indonesia were not present at the conference. The Declaration in turn established 29 July as the International Tiger Day (also known as Global Tiger Day) to be observed annually to raise awareness for tiger conservation.
Major concerns
Nearly a decade has passed since the governments of these 13 tiger home range countries came together to double the global tiger population (T X 2)by 2022 as envisaged by the Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservationissued at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit. However the progress on the targets envisaged by the declaration has not been at par.
Moreover, over one-third of tiger conservation sites in the world are severely at risk of losing their wild tigers — the majority of which are in Southeast Asia. Known hot spots for illegal trade in tiger parts include the Indo-Nepalese border, South India, Central India, Mekong-China, Indonesia-China and Russia-China
As per the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CATS) survey of tiger sites done in 2018 many of these areas lack basic plans for effective management, with over 60 per cent of the sites facing several limitations in anti-poaching.
It is has been founded that in the last century 97% of all wild tigers had disappeared, with only around 3,000 left alive.
Tigers are on the brink of extinction. Many factors have caused their numbers to fall, including habitat loss, hunting and poaching, climate change.Only 12.5 percent of the tiger conservation areas meet the globally agreed upon science-based standards.
However, countries like India, Nepal and Russia have shown that tiger recovery is possible, despite challenges in poaching, funding and sustaining community livelihoods, which can be overcome with strong political commitment.
The efforts to step up global commitment to protect the remaining wild tiger populations should therefore be assisted by centralized data bank of all tiger range countries, stringent law enforcement and enhanced cross-country cooperation between countries where there is high demand for tiger parts as well as countries which are home to tiger populations. Nepal has already proved that zero poaching is possible with a professionalized approach to wildlife protection. Effective management is thus the single most important action and to achieve this, long-term investment in tiger conservation areas is absolutely essential.
Goa State Biodiversity Board’s Tag
Goa State Biodiversity Board (GSBB) issued a tagging system to ensure communities residing within the biodiversity zone get Access Benefit Share (ABS) from their profits. This product tagging is a new system however, paying ABS has already been a part of the Biodiversity Act 2002.
The tag indicates that the ingredients used therein are sourced from the nature. The sellers are supposed to pay 0.01% of their annual profit to the GSBB and the board will then use this amount to protect the habitat from where the ingredients are. The amount sourced from the biodiversity zones by the organization will be submitted annually along with payments. The industries will pay profits obtained from only those products which have been sourced from that zone. More than 300 industries were approached to join the scheme, but currently only three organizations Tanshikar Spice Farm, Krishna Plantation and Raika Honey have agreed for the same.
Tanshikar Spice Farm, a restaurant in Goa, collects pollens from bee hives for making pollen smoothies. Raika Honey produces lip balms and soaps using honey and bee wax. The initiative will further enhance the credibility of the product and boost the products’ sale. Help generate revenue for the sellers as well as the GSBB.
Black soft shell turtle
Recently, black softshells hatchlings were released into the Haduk Beel (wetland) of Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam.
The rare turtle species are being bred in the ponds of various temples and shrines of the State.
Black soft shell turtle
It is a freshwater turtle that is found in India and Bangladesh. Of the 29 species of freshwater turtles identified in India, 20 are found in Assam, and temple ponds are known to house a dozen species. It is omnivorous, with a diet ranging from aquatic plants to aquatic insects and carrion. Indian black turtles may sometimes be seen to aggregate alongside the carcass of a large dead animal. The black softshell turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) figures in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List as “extinct in the wild” since 2002. Consumption of turtle meat and eggs, silt mining, encroachment of wetlands and change in flooding pattern have had a disastrous impact on the State’s turtle population. Turtles occupy a unique position within the food web. They consume an assortment of prey, including puffer fish, crustaceans, sponges, tunicates, sea grasses, and algae. The unusual life cycle of the animal plays a vital role in transportation of nutrients from the highly productive marine habitats such as sea-grass beds to energy-poor habitats like sandy beaches. This helps reverse the usual flow of nutrients from land to sea. They further help to maintain healthy fish stocks in the water bodies. Unhatched eggs, eggshells and fluids help foster decomposes and create much needed fertilizer. As turtle populations in general decline, so does their ability to play a vital role in maintaining the health of the world’s aquatic ecosystems.
Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary is situated in the flood plains of river Brahmaputra in the district of Morigaon. It has the second highest concentration of rhinos in Assam after Kaziranga National Park. It also serves as a birder’s heaven in winters with thousands of waterfowls thronging the wetlands. Other animals found in the region are, leopard, wild boar, barking deer, wild buffalo, etc.

Amazon River dolphins now listed as ‘Endangered’ by IUCN
As per reports published by the IUCN Red List in November 2018, it was found that, freshwater dolphins found in the Amazon River Basin were “dying off fast” and could face extinction unless they were more vigorously protected against fishing.
Amazon River dolphin
There are two types of Amazon River dolphins namely, the “boto” (Inia geoffrensis) and the “tucuxi” (Sotalia fluviatilis), which were once considered abundant in the Amazon.
The Amazon River dolphin is the largest river dolphin. Adult males reach average 2.32 metres and 154 kilograms, while females reach average 2 metres and 100 kilograms. It has very evident sexual dimorphism, with males measuring and weighing between 16% and 55% more than females, making it unique among cetaceans (‘Cetaceans’ is the collective name for all whales, dolphins and porpoises who between them form a single group, known as an order), where females are generally larger than males.
Besides the Amazon dolphins, freshwater dolphins in other parts of the world are also facing extreme pressures. In the Indian Subcontinent, the Gangetic or Indus River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica) found in the Ganga and Indus River Basins is considered “Endangered” by the IUCN. In China, the Yangtze River dolphin was declared functionally extinct in 2006 due to human activities like overfishing, dam building, pollution and boat traffic.
What is the threat?
The primary reason for the decrease in numbers is use of the dolphins’ flesh and blubber as bait for catfish, which have become widely available commercially. Killing the dolphins endangered their survival, particularly since the females bear a single calf on average every four to five years.
Increasing pollution and gradual destruction of the Amazon rainforest add to the vulnerability of the species. Captive breeding is not considered a conservation option for this species due to intra-species aggression and low longevity.

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.

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.
Protected areas:
Desert National Park Sanctuary — Rajasthan.
Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary – Andhra Pradesh.
Karera Wildlife Sanctuary– Madhya Pradesh.

Satyarup Siddhanta becomes world’s youngest to climb 7 highest volcanoes, 7 highest mountains in 7 continents
Satyarup Siddhanta, 35-year-old Kolkata mountaineer has set the world record of youngest to climb 7 highest volcanoes, 7 highest mountains in 7 continents in 7 years. He is also the first Indian to conquer the seven mountain peaks and seven volcanic summits.
Highest Mountains scaled by Satyarup Siddhanta
Mount Everest (8,848 m) – Nepal Mt Aconcagua (6,961 m) – Argentina Mt McKinley/Mt Denali (6,194 m) – USA Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895 m) – Tanzania Mt Elbrus (5,642 m) – Russia Mt Blanc (4,808.7 m) – France Mt Vinson Massif (4,892 m) – Antarctica Puncak Jaya/ Carstensz Pyramid (4,884 m) – Indonesia Mt Kosciuszko (2,228 m) – Australia
Seven volcanic peaks scaled by Satyarup Siddhanta
Ojos del Salado (6,893 m) – Chile Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895 m) – Tanzania Mount Elbrus (5,642 m) – Russia Mount Pico de Orizaba (5,636 m) – Mexico Mt Damavand (5,610 m) – Iran Mt Giluwe (4,368 m) – Papua New Guinea Mt Sidley (4,285 m) – Antarctica
Satyarup Siddhanta who is 35 years and 262 days broke the record of Australia’s Daniel Bull who was 36 years 157 days when he achieved the feet. Software engineer by profession, Satyarup Siddhanta hails from Haridevpur in South Kolkata and is based at the Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru. Reports suggest that had to work different shifts in two companies to raise funds for his mountaineering trips.

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
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
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.

Blackbuck:
The blackbuck (Antelope cervicapra) is an antelope indigenous to the India plains. Also found in India, Nepal and Pakistan. The Females are generally hornless. It is considered to be the fastest animal next to Cheetah. It is of Least Concern according to the IUCN red list

International Solar Alliance
Argentina has signed the Framework Agreement of the International Solar Alliance. Argentina is the 72nd country to sign the Framework Agreement of the International Solar Alliance. The agreement of the International Solar Alliance was opened for signature during the COP22 at Marrakech on November 15, 2016. The signatories of the agreement include India, France, Australia, UAE, UK, Japan amongst others.
ISA: The Paris Declaration establishes ISA as an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries.
Objectives: The ISA’s major objectives include global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity and mobilisation of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030.
What it does? As an action-oriented organisation, the ISA brings together countries with rich solar potential to aggregate global demand, thereby reducing prices through bulk purchase, facilitating the deployment of existing solar technologies at scale, and promoting collaborative solar R&D and capacity building.
When it entered into force? When the ISA Framework Agreement entered into force on December 6th, 2017, ISA formally became a de-jure treaty based International Intergovernmental Organization, headquartered at Gurugram, India.

Synthetic fibres contribute to plastic pollution
According to a recent study, synthetic fibres like nylon and polyesters are major contributors of micro plastic pollution in the environment. Synthetic fibres are petroleum-based products. They are not recyclable and biodegradable like natural fibres such as wool, cotton and silk. Microplastics are plastics which are less than five mm in diameter in size. Sources of micro plastic include clothing, cosmetics, industrial processes etc. Microplastic pollution has become a major environmental concern. According to a 2017 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report, microplastics are estimated to constitute up to 30% of marine litter polluting the oceans. In the oceans, pieces of microscopic plastic are consumed by plants and animals and enter the human food chain through harvested fish. The ingestion of microplastics is very dangerous as these substances contain high concentrations of toxic chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls. The recent study has suggested measures to prevent microplastic pollution; such as a) minimise the use of synthetic fibres, b) substitution of synthetic fibres with biosynthetic fibres and natural fibres, c) large scale use of bacteria that could aid in biodegradation of the fibres for reuse and d) blending synthetic fibres with natural fibres to increase durability and make them recyclable.

Company under Department of Space
The Union Cabinet has given its approval to the Setting up of a new company under Department of Space (DoS), to commercially exploit the research and development work carried out by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Centers and constituent units of DOS. The following areas/avenues provide opportunities for commercial exploitation of ISRO programmes: Small satellite technology transfer to industry, wherein the new company shall take license from DoS/ISRO and sub-license to industries;
Manufacture of small satellite launch vehicle (SLV) in collaboration with the Private Sector; Productionisation of Polar SLV through industry; Productionisation and marketing of Space-based products and services, including launch and applications; Transfer of Technology developed by ISRO Centers and constituent units of DoS; Marketing of some spin-off technologies and products, both in India and abroad; and Any other subject which Government of India deems fit.

Green India Mission
According to a Parliamentary committee report, Green India Mission, aimed at “protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change”, is grossly underfunded.
Concerns highlighted by the report:
Underfunded: The scheme is proposed for 10 years with an outlay of Rs 60,000 crore. During 2017-18, Rs 47.8 crore has been allocated for the scheme which is grossly insufficient as the committed liability for 2015-16 and 2016-17 is Rs 89.53 crore which is much more than the budget allocated.
Concerns over INDC targets: The panel also raises concerns about the targets set by GIM on India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. According to the NDC, India has a target to sequester 2.523 billion tonnes of carbon by 2020-30. Our current forest cover is 75 million hectare and to meet our target of carbon sequestration, 30 million hectares of additional land would be required for forests. The mission document does not mention from where will this land be arranged.
The report also found that in 2015-16 and 2016-17, the GIM missed its targets by 34%. Instead of the targeted 67,956 hectares, only 44,749 hectares of land got green cover.
The committee also points out that the afforestation done under the mission was only aimed at increasing tree count without considering the soil and weather conditions. Trees like eucalyptus were planted which make environmental problems worse rather than solving it. Planting of unsuitable trees may cause drought, and prevent biodiversity in the regions.
Green India Mission:
GIM is one of the eight missions launched under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
GIM’s launch was supposed to coincide with the starting of the 12th five-year plan in 2012. But, owing to financial delays the mission was finally launched in 2015. The objective of the mission is to increase green cover to the extent of 5 million hectares (mha) and improve quality of existing green cover on another 5 mha, improve eco-system services like carbon sequestration, hydrological services and biodiversity and provisioning services like fuel, fodder, and timber and non-timber forest produces (NTFPs). It also has to increase forest-based livelihood income for about 3 million households.

Bramble Cay melomys is first mammal to go extinct due to climate change:
Climate change induced by human beings has claimed its first victim in ‘Class Mammalia’ of the ‘Animal Kingdom’: the Bramble Cay melomys — a ‘little brown rat’ found in Australia. The government of Australia’s Queensland province reported the species to be extinct in June 2016. It was placed in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.

Why Bangladesh sees golden rice as a threat
Bangladesh farmers and environment groups are angry over the government’s decision to allow commercial cultivation of the controversial genetically modified (GM) rice, popularly called as the golden rice.
What’s the issue?
Bangladesh completed the confined field testing of golden rice at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), Gazipur, in early 2017. It has already allowed commercial production of BT Brinjal in the country. Locals fear that the introduction of golden rice will impact their traditional agriculture system. It is alleged that field trials were marred with controversy over the lack of transparency and credible independent safety studies. Even claims made after field trial concerns remain as on the lack of credible and independent safety studies, transparency and public participation. Activists fear that commercial cultivation would lead to the loss of Bangladesh’s rich bio-diversity. This could further push for public acceptance of genetically-modified crops and erode our food diversity and our local and traditional seeds, as well as increase corporate control on our agriculture system.
What is Golden rice?
In 1999, a group of European scientists led by Dr Ingo Potrykus tried to change traditional rice by developing genetically-engineered rice that contains beta-carotene — by inserting bacteria and daffodil and maize genes into it. This is the golden rice, called so because of the golden colour of its grains. The golden rice was introduced in 2000 and argued to be the panacea for world’s malnutrition problem. It was claimed that the rice is bio-fortified, and is supposedly high in Vitamin A, Iron and Zinc. It was considered as a significant breakthrough in biotechnology, with its first field trials conducted by the agriculture centre of Louisiana State University in 2004. Later, it has been claimed that field trials were conducted in the Philippines, Taiwan and Bangladesh.
What is a GM crop?
A GM or transgenic crop is a plant that has a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.
For example, a GM crop can contain a gene(s) that has been artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring it through pollination. The resulting plant is said to be “genetically modified” although in reality all crops have been “genetically modified” from their original wild state by domestication, selection, and controlled breeding over long periods of time.
GM is a solution to hunger problem: Data from a large number of peer-reviewed publications have shown that, on average, GM technology adoption has reduced pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yield by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%. Data from a billion animals fed on GM corn have not indicated any health hazards. Those in the Americas and elsewhere consuming Bt corn or soybean for over 15 years have not reported any health issues. Genetically modified (GM) crops can withstand pests and droughts. Genetic modification in crops involves altering a seed’s DNA in order to increase its resistance to pests and insects. These changes can mean a huge boost to productivity and overall food supply. Adopting technology that will lead to higher crop productivity is essential to feeding the growing Indian population. Higher crop yields, reduced farm costs, increased farm profit and improvement in health and the environment are some of the benefits of introducing GM crops.
There are some concerns as well:
GM food involves taking genes (DNA) from different organisms and inserting them in food crops.
There are concerns that this ‘foreign’ DNA through Genetically Modified products may lead to risks such as toxicity, allergic reactions, and nutritional and unintended impact. It costs people’s health and our national food and health sovereignty. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India [FSSAI], the apex food regulator, has failed to curb the illegal sales of GM food. Its draft regulations on GM food labelling are weak and impractical to implement.
Lack of clarity: It is clear that the technology of genetic engineering is an evolving one and there is much, especially on its impact on human health and environment that is yet to be understood properly. The scientific community itself seems uncertain about this. There is also a potential for pests to evolve resistance to the toxins produced by GM crops and the risk of these toxins affecting nontarget organisms. There is also the danger of unintentionally introducing allergens and other anti-nutrition factors in foods.

World’s largest bee spotted for the first time since 1981:
The world’s largest bee — a giant insect roughly the size of a human thumb — has been rediscovered in a remote part of Indonesia in its first sighting in nearly 40 years. The Wallace’s giant bee (Megachile pluto), which lives in the Indonesian island region of North Moluccas, makes its nest in termite mounds, using its large fang-like mandibles to collect sticky resin to protect its home from the termites. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the bee as “vulnerable”, meaning that while its numbers are relatively solid, the remoteness of its population makes it hard to study.

Cheetah reintroduction project
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) recently told a bench of the Supreme Court that African cheetahs would be translocated in India from Namibia and would be kept at Nauradehi wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has given a ‘no objection’ for the translocation.
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.
Hindu Kush Himalayan Assessment Report
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a regional intergovernmental body has released the first-ever assessment of climate change impacts on the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region. The ICIMOD is pursuing 8 countries, including India, to set up an inter-governmental body to protect the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, known as the water tower of Asia.
Hind Kush Himalayas
Part of the great Himalayan range, and spread over 3,500 square kilometres, the HKH region is shared by eight countries, including India and China. It is also known as Third Pole due to its largest permanent snow cover after the North and South Poles — sustains the livelihoods of 240 million people living in the mountains and hills. It also houses the origin of 10 river basins that include the Ganga, the Brahmaputra and the Mekong.
Main findings of the report
HKH region is warming faster than the global average. It would continue to warm through this century even if the world is able to limit global warming at the agreed 1.5 degrees Celsius. The per capita fossil fuel carbon dioxide emission from the HKH countries is one-sixth of the global average though it is disproportionately impacted. In the last 60 years, extreme cold events have become lesser while extreme warm weather events have become more pronounced. Both minimum and maximum temperatures are also changing: they are moving north, indicating overall warming.
Every decade HKH loses one cold night and half a cold day. While warm nights have increased by 1.7 per decade, the region gets 1.2 warm days every decade.
Alarmingly, changes in surface temperature (relative to 1976-2005) in this Himalayan region are higher than the global average, and even the South Asian region.
The projected changes in the surface mean temperature over the HKH region are larger compared to the global mean change by the end of the 21st century.
Although the climate of the region has changed significantly in the past, it is projected to change more dramatically in the near future.
The number of glaciers in the Himalayan area has increased in the last five decades and this is an indicator of how severe glacier melting has been due to global warming.
The increase in the number of glaciers is primarily due to glacier fragmentation — that big ones are splitting into smaller ones. And this is happening due to consistent loss in areas the glaciers occupy.
Smaller glaciers are shrinking faster than larger ones, although the smaller glaciers of Ladakh show a lower rate of retreat than other Himalayan glaciers. However, the assessment makes clear that despite the surety of glaciers in the Hindu Kush Mountains losing length since 1973, no studies have been done to examine area change in this region.
In 1998-2014, when the global warming slowed down, this region continued to warm.
In the 20th century, the HKH region oscillated between warming and cooling phases. In the first 40 years, it reported warming to be followed by a cooling phase in 1940-1970.
However, since 1970 it has been warming, and as assessed it would continue to be through the current century.
Warming may be good news for agriculture as the length of the growing season has increased by 4.25 days per decade — a positive change for agriculture.
Consequences of warming of Hind Kush
It has ramifications for the global climate. This region is a heat source in summer and a heat sink in winter.
Along with the Tibetan Plateau, this influences the Indian summer monsoon. So, any changes in this region would have a bearing on the monsoon itself that already shows signs of changes in spread and distribution.
It could trigger a multitude of biophysical and socio-economic impacts, such as biodiversity loss, increased glacial melting, and less predictable water availability—all of which will impact livelihoods and well-being in the HKH.
Faster snow and glacier melting due to warming is already manifesting in formation of glacial lakes. Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) are becoming frequent and causing huge casualties and loss to local infrastructures.
Glaciers in HKH have been retreating faster, and consistently causing greater water flows in rivers. In Tibetan Plateau, river run off has increased by 5.5 per cent.
Most of the lakes in high altitudes have also reported water level rise by 0.2 m/year besides their surface areas expanding.
 International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development
It is a regional intergovernmental learning and knowledge sharing centre serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalaya – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan – and based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
It aims to assist mountain people to understand these changes, adapt to them, and make the most of new opportunities, while addressing upstream-downstream issues.

New campus of Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology Inaugurated
Union Minister for Earth Sciences, Dr Harsh Vardhan inaugurated Atal Bhavan,  the new campus of Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE), at Puthuvype, Cochin, in Kerala.
Centre for Marine Living Resources & Ecology
The Centre for Marine Living Resources & Ecology (CMLRE) under the Ministry of Earth Science is organizing, coordinating and promoting ocean development activities in the country which includes mapping of the living resources, preparing inventory of commercially exploitable living marine resources, their optimum utilization through ecosystem management and R&D in basic sciences on Marine Living Resources and Ecology.
Mandate of CMLRE
To develop management strategies for marine living resources through Ecosystem monitoring and modelling efforts.
Evolving, coordinating and implementing time targeted national /regional R&D programmes in the field of marine living resources and ecology through effective utilisation of Fishery and Oceanographic Research Vessel Sagar Sampada.
Strengthening of research on marine living resources and Ecology including the establishment of a data centre for storage and dissemination of data/ information to end users.
Coordinating the national programmes relating to Southern Ocean Living Resources (Antarctic marine living resources).
CMLRE was established at Kochi in 1998 by upgrading the erstwhile Sagar Sampada Cell with exclusive facilities for implementing the Marine Living Resources Programme.
Marine Living Resources Programme envisages survey, assessment and exploitation of the marine living resources and studies on the response of marine resources to changes in the physical environment. The studies are undertaken with an objective of developing an ecosystem model for the management of the living resources in the Indian EEZ. The Fishery Oceanographic Vessel Sagar Sampada is fully utilized for these studies.