OCTOBER 2018 (16-31)

Green Climate Fund approves $1 billion to assist poor countries to tackle climate change
Green Climate Fund (GCF) has approved more than $1 billion new investments for 19 new projects to help developing countries tackle climate change. The decision was taken during four-day meeting of GCF in Manama, Bahrain. The funding was approved for projects linked to geothermal energy in Indonesia, greener cities in Europe and Middle East and protection for coastal communities in India. GCF is UN-backed fund considered as key vehicle for climate-related development programs. It is guided by the principles and provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It aims to help developing countries to finance clean energy projects other mitigation efforts, practices and adaptation to counter climate change.  It was formally established by UNFCCC decision in Durban, South Africa in December 2011. It is based in new Songdo district of Incheon, South Korea. It is governed by a Board of 24 members and initially supported by a Secretariat. GCF was central to the Paris climate agreement signed in 2015. GCF’s assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change by redistributing money contributed by the developed countries. It supports projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country Parties using thematic funding windows. It was intended to be the centrepiece of efforts to raise Climate Finance of $100 billion a year by 2020.

‘Cockroaches of the ocean’ are eating away California’s underwater forests
The purple urchins are commonly being called as ‘Cockroaches of the ocean’ owing to the dangers they pose to the danger to the underwater kelp forests. The climate change has helped trigger a 60-fold explosion of purple urchins off Northern California’s coast in Albion Cove. Moreover the disappearance of predators of purple urchins, e.g. Sunflower starfish and Sea otters have further increased its numbers. The kelp forests have declined by 93 percent in Northern California, due to purple urchins. The Tasmania kelp forests have already succumbed to a purple urchin outbreak. The purple urchin pose dangers as Kelp forests exist along the cooler coastlines of every continent. The underwater Kelp forests absorb carbon emissions and provide critical habitat and food for a wide range of species.

International Conference on Status and Protection of Coral Reefs (STAPCOR – 2018)
The International Conference on Status and Protection of Coral Reefs (STAPCOR – 2018) is being held at Bangaram coral Island of Territory of Lakshadweep.
Theme: “Reef for Life”
Organizers: It was jointly organized by Department of Environment and Forest, Union Territory of Lakshadweep Administration with the technical support of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and in association with Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Environmental Information System (ENVIS) in consonance with declaration of year 2018 as 3rd decadal International year of Reefs.
What is STAPCOR?
The effect of climate change and global warming along with El-Nino on the corals has lead to heavy bleaching internationally during the year 1998. This led to the foundation of STAPCOR with a decision to have a international conference in every 10 years to review the status and progress of coral reefs all over the world.
The goals of the 3rd IYOR – 2018 are to:
Strengthen awareness about ecological, economic, social and cultural value of coral reefs and associated ecosystems.
Improve understanding of the critical threats to reefs and generate both practical and innovative solutions to reduce these threats.
Generate urgent action to develop and implement effective management strategies for conservation and sustainable use of these ecosystems. The first IYOR was designated in 1997 in response to the increasing threats on coral reefs and associated ecosystems. The hope was to increase awareness of the value of and threats to coral reefs, and to promote conservation, research and management efforts on a global scale.
What are Corals?
Corals are invertebrates belonging to a large group of colourful and fascinating animals called Cnidarians. Other animals in this group include jellyfish and sea anemones. Each individual coral animal is called a polyp, and most live in groups of hundreds to thousands of genetically identical polyps that form a ‘colony’. The colony is created by a process called budding, where the original polyp literally grows copies of itself.
Hard and Soft Corals:
Corals are generally classified as either “hard” or “soft”. There are around 800 known species of hard coral, also known as ‘reef building’ or scleractinian corals. Soft corals, or octocorals, which include seas fans, sea feathers and sea whips, don’t have the rock-like calcareous skeleton, instead they grow wood-like cores for support and fleshy rinds for protection.
Soft corals also live in colonies, that often resemble brightly coloured plants or trees, and are easy to tell apart from hard corals as their polyps have tentacles that occur in multiples of 8, and have a distinctive feathery appearance. Soft corals are found in oceans from the equator to the north and south poles, generally in caves or on ledges. Here, they hang down in order to capture food floating by in the currents.
What are coral reefs?
Coral reefs have evolved on earth over the past 200 to 300 million years, and have developed a unique and highly evolved form of symbiosis. Coral polyps have developed this relationship with tiny single-celled algae known as zooxanthellae. Inside the tissues of each coral polyp live these zooxanthellae, sharing space and nutrients.
This symbiosis between plant and animal also contributes to the brilliant colors of coral that can be seen while diving on a reef. It is the importance of light that drives corals to compete for space on the sea floor, and so constantly pushes the limits of their physiological tolerances in a competitive environment among so many different species. However, it also makes corals highly susceptible to environmental stress.
BS Norms
The Supreme Court has banned the sale and registration of motor vehicles conforming to the emission standard Bharat Stage-IV in the entire country from April 1, 2020.
What are BS norms?
The BS — or Bharat Stage — emission standards are norms instituted by the government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles. India has been following the European (Euro) emission norms, though with a time-lag of five years.
Difference between BS-IV and the new BS-VI:
The major difference in standards between the existing BS-IV and the new BS-VI auto fuel norms is the presence of sulphur. The newly introduced fuel is estimated to reduce the amount of sulphur released by 80 per cent, from 50 parts per million to 10 ppm. As per the analysts, the emission of NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars is also expected to reduce by nearly 70 per cent and 25 per cent from cars with petrol engines.
Why is it important to upgrade these norms?
Upgrading to stricter fuel standards helps tackle air pollution. Global automakers are betting big on India as vehicle penetration is still low here, when compared to developed countries. At the same time, cities such as Delhi are already being listed among those with the poorest air quality in the world. The national capital’s recent odd-even car experiment and judicial activism against the registration of big diesel cars shows that governments can no longer afford to relax on this front.
With other developing countries such as China having already upgraded to the equivalent of Euro V emission norms a while ago, India has been lagging behind. The experience of countries such as China and Malaysia shows that poor air quality can be bad for business. Therefore, these reforms can put India ahead in the race for investments too.
The government could face two key challenges in implementing the decision:
First, there are questions about the ability of oil marketing companies to quickly upgrade fuel quality from BS-III and BS-IV standards to BS-VI, which is likely to cost upwards of Rs 40,000 crore.
Second, and more challenging, is the task of getting auto firms to make the leap. Automakers have clearly said that going to BS-VI directly would leave them with not enough time to design changes in their vehicles, considering that two critical components — diesel particulate filter and selective catalytic reduction module — would have to be adapted to India’s peculiar conditions, where running speeds are much lower than in Europe or the US.
Migratory birds start arriving at Chilika, numbers are down
Migratory birds arriving in Chilika lake this year winters have declined than their usual numbers.
Chilika lake: Chilika Lake, Odisha is one of the largest wintering grounds in Asia, where close to one million birds congregate on the mudflats of the lake during winter. The Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon, spread over 1,000 sq km, is home to 230 bird species, out of which 97 are intercontinental migrants from the Arctic and Eurasian regions. The lake has been a designated Ramsar site (a wetland of international importance) since 1981. The arrival of migratory birds is awaited with the onset of winter every year on Chilika lake. This year, however, fewer winged visitors have descended in the lake. One of the reasons behind the low turnout is the flooding after incessant rain triggered by cyclone Titli that hit the Odisha coast in the second week of October. The Winged visitors on Chilika lake are likely to increase once the mudflats below the lake are exposed.
Migratory birds on Chilika lake:
Migratory birds fly thousands of miles across continents, from snow-covered Siberia, Caspian Sea, Baikal Lake to remote parts of Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Ladakh, US and Canada, to the marshy lands of Nalabana inside Chilika.
The major species that can be witnessed are White bellied sea eagles, Graylag geese, purple moorhen, flamingo jacana and herons.
Chilka Lake Bird Sanctuary is also one of biggest breeding places of flamingos in the world.
Steps to ensure birds safety:
The forest officials have taken several steps to ensure the security of birds.
They have set up 19 camps and formed a mobile squad to oversee the security of birds.
The mobile squad will keep a tab on poaching and serving of bird meat in various dhabas and hotels.
Every camp will be equipped with a motorised boat and will be manned by a forester or forest guard and three members of the bird protection committee comprising villagers adjoining the Chilika lake.
That apart various awareness programmes to sensitize villagers against bird poaching are being conducted.

Siberian visitors freeze Assam-Meghalaya border dispute
Pangti village at Doyang in Nagaland’s Wokha district is selected as the venue of the inaugural edition of the Amur Falcon Conservation Week & Festivals from 8 to 10 November this year.
Important Facts: The festival this year, an initiative of the Nagaland government’s tourism department. It offers a comprehensive package to tourists:  bird-watching, nature treks and photography, screening films on wildlife, indigenous cultural events and game, a music and a food festival, trekking etc.
About Amur Falcon:
The Amur falcon (Falco amurensis) is a small raptor of the falcon family.
The raptors breed in southeastern Siberia and northern China, and migrate in millions across India and then over the Indian Ocean to southern Africa before returning to Mongolia and Siberia, making their 22,000-kilometre migratory route one of the longest amongst all avian species.
IUCN Status: Least Concern
Friends of Farmers: The falcons eat various winged termites and other insects that destroy crops thus helping farmers.
Earlier destruction of Amur Falcons:
In the past, hundreds of trussed up Amur falcons used to be on sale in village markets and towns, while some were sold fried or smoked.
Earlier Conservation Efforts of Amur Falcons:
Community-level programs in Nagaland such as the Amur Falcon Roosting Areas Union (AFRAU) encouraged community vigilance and patrols during roosting seasons.
Conservation bodies like the Birdlife International, Bombay Natural History Society, and Raptor Research and Conservation Foundation got together to fund a comprehensive project to stop the entrapment and killing of the Amur falcons.
‘Friends Of The Amur Falcon’ campaign gave the local community a sense of ownership of the conservation effort along with the Nagaland government.
The Tyrso Valley Wildlife Protection Society is an NGO formed by the villagers of the Meghalaya village adjoining Umru (On Assam-Meghalaya border). The group has been organising the Amur Falcon Festival since 2015 to celebrate the Amur falcon birds.
Amur Falcon uniting people:
Umru is one of 12 disputed areas along the Assam-Meghalaya border, since Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in 1972.
Umru village acts as a as a stopover for the Amur falcons during their annual migration.
Assam claims the Umru village is under Baithalangso Assembly constituency of East Karbi Anglong district while Meghalaya asserts it is under Mawhati Assembly constituency of its Ri-Bhoi district.
However disputes are forgotten when the village welcomes the falcons in mid-October, uniting to ensure a safe stay for the birds.
Both communities have made common cause in protection of the Amur falcons and have fixed a fine of ₹25,000 for anyone caught ensnaring or killing the birds.

Namami Gange programme
The Executive Committee (EC) of the National Mission for Clean Ganga has approved 12 projects worth Rs. 929 Crore under the Namami Gange programme in its 16th meeting held recently.
Namami Gange Programme: Namami Gange programme was launched as a mission to achieve the target of cleaning river Ganga in an effective manner with the unceasing involvement of all stakeholders, especially five major Ganga basin States – Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal.
The programme envisages: River Surface Cleaning, Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure, River Front Development, Bio-Diversity, Afforestation and Public Awareness.
Implementation:
The program would be implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organizations i.e., State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).
In order to improve implementation, a three-tier mechanism has been proposed for project monitoring comprising of a) High level task force chaired by Cabinet Secretary assisted by NMCG at national level, b) State level committee chaired by Chief Secretary assisted by SPMG at state level and c) District level committee chaired by the District Magistrate.
The program emphasizes on improved coordination mechanisms between various Ministries/Agencies of Central and State governments.

CSIR develops Less Polluting Firecrackers
CSIR develops Less Polluting Firecrackers named – safe water releaser (SWAS), safe minimal aluminium (SAFAL) and safe thermite cracker (STAR).
Technical Details:
These crackers have unique property of releasing water vapour and /or air as dust suppressant and diluent for gaseous emissions and matching performance in sound with conventional crackers.
SWAS crackers eliminates usage of (KNO3) Potassium nitrate and Sulphur with consequent reduction in particulate matter (30-35%) SO2 and NOx. It has matching sound intensity with commercial crackers in the range of 105-110 dBA. SWAS has been tested for shelf life upto 3 weeks with consistent performance.
STAR eliminates usage of KNO3 and S with consequent reduction in particulate matter (35-40%), SO2 and NOx. It has matching sound intensity with commercial crackers in the range of 105-110 dBA.
SAFAL has minimal usage of aluminium (only in flash powder for initiation) with consequent significant reduction in particulate matter (35-40 %) compared to commercial crackers. It has matching sound intensity with commercial crackers in the range of 110-115 dBA.
Benefits: Indian Fireworks industry is over 6000-crore worth of annual turnover and provides employment opportunities to over 5 lakh families directly or indirectly. This endeavour of CSIR aims at addressing the pollution concerns at the same time protecting the livelihoods of those involved in this trade. These Firecrackers are not only environment friendly but 15-20 % cheaper than the conventional ones.

Moths are key to pollination in Himalayan ecosystem
A study was conducted recently by the  Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) to reveal the moths as pollinators in the ecosystem.
Important Facts: Under the project titled “Assessment of Moths (Lepidoptera) As Significant Pollinators in the Himalayan Ecosystem of North Eastern India”, scientists collected moth samples from different ecosystem to analyse the proboscis (elongated sucking mouthpart) of moths. Moths are widely considered as pests, but the recent study has revealed that these group of insects are pollinators to a number of flowering plants in the Himalayan ecosystem. The study was carried out in states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and West Bengal. The study was unique, as scientist are looking at a new group of insects (moths) as pollinators. Usually bees, wasps and butterflies are considered as prominent pollinators. In India, estimates put the number of of moth species at nearly 12,000.
Proboscis as pollinating organ: The analysis of proboscis, a long and thread-like organ used to suck flower sap, of a dozen moth species’ revealed the presence of pollen grains. On observing the proboscis under scanning electron microscope, it was found that these structures are not only meant for sap sucking, but are also morphologically designed for pollination. According to the study , proboscis of different moths belonging to families of moths, such as Erebidae and Sphingidae, were found to contain pollen of several flowering plants, including Rhododendron. In some species of moths, the organ is found to be modified into a spine like structure and in others, a lateral canal to arrest and disperse pollen.
Importance of pollination: About 90% of the world’s flowering plants are pollinated by animals. Therefore, pollinators are essential for the genetic exchange among flowering plants and the biodiversity among plants.
Decline in moth population: Researchers have pointed out that almost two-thirds of common large moth species have declined over the last 40 years

Living Planet Report 2018
The bi-annual Living Planet Report 2018 has been released by the World Wide Fund for Nature. The Report tracked more than 4,000 species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.
Highlights of the report:
Global wildlife population shrank by 60% between 1970 and 2014.
Declines are worst in the tropics, according to the data, as South and Central America saw an 89% decrease. Also, freshwater species saw an 83% drop, threatened by factors including overfishing, pollution and climate change.
The report estimates that only a quarter of the world’s land is untouched by humans, who are increasing food production and use of natural resources.
Since 1960, the global ecological footprint has increased by more than 190%. Globally, the extent of wetlands was estimated to have declined by 87% since 1970.
The two key drivers of biodiversity loss were the over exploitation of natural resources and agriculture.
Threat to soil biodiversity and pollinators:
A key aspect of this year’s report is the threat to soil biodiversity and pollinators.
Soil biodiversity encompasses the presence of micro-organisms, micro-fauna (nematodes and tardigrades for example), and macro-fauna (ants, termites and earthworms).
The report notes that India’s soil biodiversity is in grave peril. The WWF’s ‘risk index’ for the globe — indicating threats from loss of above-ground diversity, pollution and nutrient over-loading, over-grazing, intensive agriculture, fire, soil erosion, desertification and climate change — shows India among countries whose soil biodiversity faces the highest level of risk.
What needs to be done?
To address these challenges, the WWF suggests three necessary steps: “clearly specifying a goal for biodiversity recovery; developing a set of measurable and relevant indicators of progress; and agreeing on a suite of actions that can collectively achieve the goal in the required time frame.”
The WWF has called for an international treaty, modelled on the Paris climate agreement, to be drafted to protect wildlife and reverse human impacts on nature.

WHO’s First Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health:
The first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health will be held at WHO Headquarters in Geneva.
Organizers: The conference is being held in collaboration with UN Environment, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
Participants will include Ministers of Health and Environment and other national government representatives; representatives of intergovernmental agencies, health professionals, other sectors (e.g. transport, energy, etc.), as well as from research, academia and civil society. The conference responds to a World Health Assembly mandate to combat one of the world’s most significant causes of premature death, causing some 7 million deaths annually. Air pollution in most cities exceeds recommended WHO Air Quality levels and household air pollution is a leading killer in poor rural and urban homes. Up to 1/3 of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution.
in some parts of world. One of main reasons for the decline is light pollution (an increase in artificial light in moth habitats).