Conservation of Western Ghats
The six Western Ghats States, including Kerala, have been restrained by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) from giving environmental clearance to activities that may adversely impact the eco-sensitive areas of the mountain ranges.
Important directions issued by the NGT: The extent of Eco-Sensitive Zones of Western Ghats, which was notified by the Central government earlier, should not be reduced in view of the recent floods in Kerala. Any alteration in the draft notification of zones may seriously affect the environment, especially in view of recent incidents in Kerala.
Why was the Gadgil Committee set up?
Environment Ministry set up the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel under Gadgil. The panel was asked to make an assessment of the ecology and biodiversity of the Western Ghats and suggest measures to conserve, protect and rejuvenate the entire range that stretches to over 1500 km along the coast, with its footprints in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.
What did the Gadgil Committee say? It defined the boundaries of the Western Ghats for the purposes of ecological management. It proposed that this entire area be designated as ecologically sensitive area (ESA). Within this area, smaller regions were to be identified as ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) I, II or III based on their existing condition and nature of threat. It proposed to divide the area into about 2,200 grids, of which 75 per cent would fall under ESZ I or II or under already existing protected areas such as wildlife sanctuaries or natural parks. The committee proposed a Western Ghats Ecology Authority to regulate these activities in the area.
Important recommendations of Madhav Gadgil Committee: Ban on the cultivation of genetically modified in the entire area. Plastic bags to be phased out in three years. No new special economic zones or hill stations to be allowed. Ban on conversion of public lands to private lands, and on diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes in ESZ I and II. No new mining licences in ESZ I and II area. No new dams, thermal power plants or large-scale wind power projects in ESZ I. No new polluting industries in ESZ I and ESZ II areas. No new railway lines or major roads in ESZ I and II areas. Strict regulation of tourism. Cumulative impact assessment for all new projects like dams, mines, tourism, housing.
Why was Kasturirangan committee to set up? None of the six concerned states agreed with the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee, which submitted its report in August 2011. In August 2012, then Environment Minister constituted a High-Level Working Group on Western Ghats under Kasturirangan to “examine” the Gadgil Committee report in a “holistic and multidisciplinary fashion in the light of responses received” from states, central ministries and others. Its report revealed that of the nearly 1,750 responses it had examined, 81% were not in favour of the Gadgil recommendations. In particular, Kerala had objected to the proposed ban on sand mining and quarrying, restrictions on transport infrastructure and wind energy projects, embargos on hydroelectric projects, and inter-basin transfer of river waters, and also the complete ban on new polluting industries.
More tests required for release of GM mustard: GEAC
The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has demanded more tests for genetically modified mustard- Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH -11) for “commercial cultivation. It has called for ‘field demonstrations’ of GM mustard in an area of 5 acres at two or three different locations across the country to study possible impact transgenic crop could have on honey bees and seeks additional data on these and other pollinators and also on soil microbial diversity. There has been strong opposition from various organisations and also from within government to the approval given to GM mustard. Even high-powered panel on Doubling Farmers’ Income (DFI) in recently released report said Genetic Engineering is ‘powerful’ tool for developing future crop, but for now it should be adopted only for non-food crops. For transgenic food crops, questions on its safety must be addressed and settled first before their accepting commercial cultivation.
Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH -11): DMH -11 is transgenic mustard had been developed by a team of scientists Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University led by former Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental under Government sponsored project. It is genetically modified variety of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) mustard. It was created by using “barnase/barstar” technology for genetic modification by adding genes from soil bacterium that makes mustard self-pollinating plant. DMH -11 contains three genes viz. Bar gene, Barnase and Barstar sourced from soil bacterium. The bar gene had made plant resistant to herbicide named Basta.
Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC): GEAC is apex body under Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change for regulating manufacturing, use, import, export and storage of hazardous micro-organisms or genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) and cells in the country. It is also responsible for giving technical approval of proposals relating to release of GMOs and products including experimental field trials. However, Environment Minister gives final approval for GMOs.
Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved continuation of the Centrally Sponsored Umbrella Scheme of Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-IDWH) beyond the 12thPlan period from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats: The Scheme consists of Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger (CSS-PT), Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-DWH) and Project Elephant (CSS-PE). The implementation of the schemes would be done through the respective States in designated Tiger Reserves, Protected Areas and Elephant Reserves. The activities covered under the scheme include the staff development and capacity building, wildlife research and evaluation, anti-poaching activities, wildlife veterinary care, addressing man-animal conflicts and promoting eco-tourism. Financial assistance is also provided to States for relocation of communities from within protected areas to other areas.
The scheme has following three components: Support to Protected Areas (National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves). Protection of Wildlife Outside Protected Areas. Recovery programmes for saving critically endangered species and habitats.
Significance and benefits of the scheme:
A total of 18 tiger range States, distributed in five landscapes of the country would be benefitted under the Project Tiger scheme. Similarly, for other two schemes, the coverage is entire country in case of Development of Wildlife Habitats (DWH) and 23 elephant range States for Project Elephant. It would foster wildlife conservation in general with specific inputs for tiger in Project Tiger area and elephant in Project Elephant area. Besides immense environmental benefits and effective implementation of tiger conservation inputs in and around tiger reserves under Project Tiger, wildlife conservation inputs in Protected Areas & nearby areas under Development of Wildlife Habitats and Elephant conservation inputs in Project Elephant areas, the schemes would result in overall strengthening/ consolidation of tiger, elephant and wildlife conservation in the country. The schemes would address the human wildlife conflict effectively. Besides, the communities opting for voluntary relocation from the Core/Critical Tiger Habitat (6900 families) would be benefitted under Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger (CSS-PT) and 800 families under Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Development of Wildlife Habitat. These schemes would generate employment opportunities resulting in economic upliftment of people in and around tiger reserves/ Protected Areas besides leading to reduction in natural resource dependency with substitution by clean energy use. People living in vicinity would also get indirect benefits. Local populace would get opportunities to serve as guides, driver, hospitality personnel and in other ancillary jobs. These schemes would foster imparting various skills towards making people self-dependent through various eco-development projects, thereby enabling them to go for self-employment. These schemes would result in resource generation through tourist visits, thereby fostering in securing tiger source areas and other areas important for wildlife conservation, besides being helpful in sustaining life support systems as well as ensuring the food, water and livelihood security.
Mobilise Your City (MYC) programme
India and France have signed an implementation agreement on “MOBILISE YOUR CITY” (MYC) programme.
Based on a proposal made by AFD in 2015, the European Union has agreed to provide funds of Euro 3.5 million through the AFD to contribute to specific investments and technical assistance components within the Mobilise Your City (MYC) programme in India.
Mobilise Your City (MYC): MobiliseYourCity (MYC) is a global climate initiative for integrated urban mobility planning, and one of 15 international transport initiatives of the UN Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA). Mobilise Your City (MYC) is part of an international initiative which is supported by the French and the German Governments and was launched at 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) meeting in December, 2015. The MYC is an initiative combining urban mobility objectives and climate considerations. It aims at providing solutions in a fully integrated manner, analysing different modes of transportation within the urban fabric, with the objective of providing people long-term, sustainable, adequate, reliable and cost-efficient transportation opportunities. The project seeks to back 100 cities worldwide in three years, which are engaged in sustainable urban mobility planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In India, the MYC aims at supporting three pilot cities viz. Nagpur, Kochi and Ahmedabad in their efforts to reduce their Green House Gas (GHG) emissions related to urban transport by implementing urban mobility plans at local level and to help India at national level to improve their sustainable transport policy. The three pilot cities selected under the programme as well as MoHUA will benefit from the Technical Assistance activities.
The main components of the proposed assistance are: To support planning and implementation of sustainable urban transport projects. Support to strengthening institutional capacity for regulating, steering and planning urban mobility. Learning and exchange formats with other cities across India for exchanges on best practices.
Eight Avian Species Declared “Extinct” in New Study
Scientists have declared eight species of birds to be extinct in what are being seen as the first avian extinctions of the 21st century.
The study was conducted by non-profit “BirdLife International”. It assessed 51 species judged “critically endangered” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) “Red List” by using a new statistical method. The species gone extinct include Spix’s macaw, the Alagoas foliage-gleaner, the cryptic treehunter, the Pernambuco pygmy-owl, the poo-uli, or black-faced honeycreeper and the glaucous macaw. Five of these new extinctions have occurred in South America and have been attributed by scientists to deforestation. Four out of the eight species declared extinct belong to Brazil.
Birdlife International: BirdLife International (formerly the International Council for Bird Preservation) is a global partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. It is the world’s largest partnership of conservation organisations, with over 120 partner organisations. BirdLife International publishes a quarterly magazine, World Birdwatch, which contains recent news and authoritative articles about birds, their habitats, and their conservation around the world. BirdLife International is the official Red List authority for birds, for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs): The IBAs are “places of international significance for the conservation of birds and other biodiversity” and are “distinct areas amenable to practical conservation action,” according to BirdLife International. Declaring a site as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area does not ensure that the site gets legal protection or becomes inaccessible to people. Instead BirdLife International encourages national and State governments to recognise the areas as sites of vital importance for conservation of wildlife and to empower local community-based conservation initiatives.
It was said that winters begin after dasara and end after lohri, but it is no longer true. Sudden delays in rainfall and droughts, all these events are marking India’s climate these days. Climate change takes place over centuries and decades which mean there is a permanent shift in the weather conditions that is rainfall patterns, temperature patterns, cyclones, droughts and hailstorms. What we are observing at present is climate variability. For example December was the warmest than the last 8 years, which was 25 degree centigrade which was 6 degrees above normal. The minimum temperature did not dip below 7.6 degree centigrade. This was because of the 90% deficit in the rainfall. The minimum temperature in January 2016 was 9.2 degree centigrade which was higher than the average temperature of 7.6 centigrade. This year December was very warm and in 2014 the summer was the warmest since 1880. It is the erratic behaviour we are witnessing at present.
Officials from Himachal State Wildlife Department have spotted snow leopard in Lippa-Asra wildlife sanctuary in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. This finding indicates that snow leopards are inhabiting new areas.
Key facts: They are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They inhabit alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m (9,800 to 14,800 ft). In the northern range countries, they also occur at lower elevations. The snow leopard is the state animal of Uttarakhand and the National Heritage Animal of Pakistan. Their habitat extends through twelve countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. China contains as much as 60% of all snow leopard habitat areas. In India, their geographical range encompasses a large part of the western Himalayas including the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas. The snow leopard, like all big cats, is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which makes trading of animal body parts (i.e., fur, bones and meat) illegal in signatory countries. It is also protected by several national laws in its range countries. Global Snow Leopard Forum, 2013: 12 countries encompassing the snow leopard’s range (Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan). Bishkek Declaration: To protect the species and it’s environment. Global Snow Leopard and Eco-system Protection Program: It is a joint initiative of range country governments, international agencies, civil society, and the private sector. Goal — secure the long-term survival of the snow leopard in its natural ecosystem.
Animal Welfare Board of India
Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has locked horns with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), accusing it of being lax in enforcement of rules that specify how wild animals can be depicted in films and television programmes.
What’s the issue?
The minister has listed “blatant errors” by the AWBI subcommittee that screens applications from film-makers. She alleged that the committee did not seek details of the species being used, which were required to determine whether they were protected. It had even allowed their depiction in scenes that could promote cruelty to animals. This is against the Supreme Court’s orders.
Animal Welfare Board of India:
Established in 1962 under Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960, the Animal Welfare Board of India is a statutory advisory body advising the Government of India on animal welfare laws, and promotes animal welfare in the country of India. Animal Welfare Board of India was started under the stewardship of Late Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale, well known humanitarian. The Board was initially within the jurisdiction of the Government of India’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture. In 1990, the subject of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was transferred to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, where it now resides. The Board consists of 28 Members, who serve for a period of 3 years. It works to ensure that animal welfare laws in the country are followed and provides grants to Animal Welfare Organisations. The Board oversees Animal Welfare Organisations (AWOs) by granting recognition to them if they meet its guidelines.
International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer
The International Day for Preservation of Ozone Layer (or World Ozone Day) is observed every year on September 16 for the preservation of the Ozone Layer.
2018 Theme: ‘Keep Cool and Carry On: The Montreal Protocol’.
In 1994, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 16 September the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, commemorating the date of the signing, in 1987, of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The ozone layer absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet light which is harmful to human life and other life forms. The layer absorbs about 97 to 99% of ultraviolet rays and maintain the ozone-oxygen cycle. Dobson unit is a unit which is used to measure the ozone in the atmosphere at a standard temperature and pressure.
Montreal protocol: The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was designed to reduce the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances in order to reduce their abundance in the atmosphere, and thereby protect the earth’s fragile ozone Layer. The original Montreal Protocol was agreed on 16 September 1987 and entered into force on 1 January 1989.
The Montreal Protocol includes a unique adjustment provision that enables the Parties to the Protocol to respond quickly to new scientific information and agree to accelerate the reductions required on chemicals already covered by the Protocol. These adjustments are then automatically applicable to all countries that ratified the Protocol. Montreal Protocol stipulates that the production and consumption of compounds that deplete ozone in the stratosphere-chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, carbon tetrachloride, and methyl chloroform-are to be phased out by 2000 (2005 for methyl chloroform). These compounds significantly deplete the stratospheric ozone layer that shields the planet from damaging UV-B radiation.
CPCB report on river pollution
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has released a report on the extent of pollution in rivers in India. Based on the recommendations of the National Green Tribunal, the CPCB last month apprised the States of the extent of pollution in their rivers.
Increase in numbers: The number of polluted stretches of the country’s rivers has increased to 351 from 302 two years ago, and the number of critically polluted stretches — where water quality indicators are the poorest — has gone up to 45 from 34.
Several of the river’s stretches — in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh — are actually far less polluted than many rivers in Maharashtra, Assam and Gujarat. These three States account for 117 of the 351 polluted river stretches.
The most significant stretches of pollution highlighted by the CPCB assessment include the Mithi river — from Powai to Dharavi — with a BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) of 250 mg/l; the Godavari — from Someshwar to Rahed — with a BOD of 5.0-80 mg/l; the Sabarmati — Kheroj to Vautha — with a BOD of 4.0-147 mg/l; and the Hindon — Saharanpur to Ghaziabad — with a BOD of 48-120 mg/l. The CPCB, since the 1990s, has a programme to monitor the quality of rivers primarily by measuring BOD, which is a proxy for organic pollution — the higher it is, the worse the river. The health of a river and the efficacy of water treatment measures by the States and municipal bodies are classified depending on BOD, with a BOD greater than or equal to 30 mg/l termed ‘priority 1,’ while that between 3.1-6 mg/l is ‘priority 5.’ The CPCB considers a BOD less than 3 mg/l an indicator of a healthy river.
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB): Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), statutory organisation, was constituted in September, 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.Further, CPCB was entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
Functions: To promote cleanliness of streams and wells in different areas of the States by prevention, control and abatement of water pollution. To improve the quality of air and to prevent, control or abate air pollution in the country.
Biochemical oxygen demand (Bod): Biochemical oxygen demand is the amount of oxygen required for microbial metabolism of organic compounds in water. BOD value is most commonly expressed in milligrams of oxygen consumed per litre of sample during 5 days of incubation at 20 °C. BOD can be used as a gauge of the effectiveness of wastewater treatment plants.
National Policy on Bio fuel, 2018
There has been a proposal to frame a policy to promote the use of bio fuels for civil aviation
What are Bio fuels?
Bio fuels are liquid or gaseous fuels produced from biomass resources and used in place of, or in addition to, diesel, petrol or other fossil fuels for transport, stationary, portable and other applications.
Why we need Bio fuels?
India’s Energy Security: India’s energy security would remain vulnerable until alternative fuels to substitute petro-based fuels are developed.
High Demand: Petro-based oil meets about 95% of the requirement for transportation fuels, and the demand has been steadily rising. The domestic crude oil is able to meet only about 23% of the demand
Socio-Economic Development: Energy is a critical input for socio-economic development.
Availability: Conventional or fossil fuel resources are limited, non-renewable, polluting.
Resources: India is endowed with abundant renewable energy resources.
Price:The crude oil price has been fluctuating in the world market leading to instability in an economy.
1948- Power Alcohol Act: The main objective was to use ethanol from molasses to blend with petrol to bring down the price of sugar, trim wastage of molasses and reduce dependence on petrol imports.
2000- The Act was repealed in 2000
2003: The Government of India launched the Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme (EBPP) in nine States and four Union Territories promoting the use of ethanol for blending with gasoline and the use of biodiesel derived from non-edible oils for blending with diesel (5% blending).
2003-National Mission on Biodiesel was launched by the Government to achieve 20% biodiesel blends by 2011–2012. It identified Jatropha carcass as the most suitable tree-borne oilseed for biodiesel production.
2004-05: Due to ethanol shortage the blending mandate was made optional
2006: Bending and resumed in the second phase of EBPP. These ad-hoc policy changes continued till 2009
2009: Government launched National Policy on Biofuels formulated by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), calling for blending at least 20% biofuels with diesel and petrol by 2017
Issues with Biofuel policies in Past
Policy did not address production of domestic feedstock for Biofuel such as (molasses a by-product of sugar production) is the main raw material for ethanol in India. Because of supply shortages and global concerns over food security the Biofuel programs experienced setback. Lack of Government support in terms of taxes and other infant farm industry incentives. The supply chain infrastructure to take the biofuels to end consumers is inadequate. To address the issues, Government has enacted National Policy to Biofuel in 2018.
National Policy on Biofuel,2018
Goal: Achieve 20% blending of ethanol in petrol and 5% blending of biodiesel in diesel is proposed by 2030.
Objectives: Reinforcing ongoing ethanol/biodiesel supplies through increasing domestic production. Setting up Second Generation (2G) bio refineries. Development of new feedstock for biofuels. Development of new technologies for conversion to biofuels. Creating suitable environment for biofuels and its integration with the main fuels.
The Policy categorises biofuels as:
“Basic Biofuels” – First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel
“Advanced Biofuels” – Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels
Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc.
The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
The Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee. Under the policy, a viability gap funding scheme for 2G ethanol Bio refineries of Rs.5000 crores in 6 years in addition to additional tax incentives, higher purchase price as compared to 1G biofuels will be provided. The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.
Benefits: Reduce Import Dependency, Cleaner Environment, Health benefits, Municipal Solid Waste Management, Infrastructural Investment in Rural Areas, Employment Generation, Additional Income to Farmers,provide cheaper alternatives to consumers
Issues/Challenges with Implementation of Policy:
Other biofuels, such as jatropha, have often proven to be commercially unviable. Achieving 20% blend rate would require India to divert an extra one-tenth of its net sown area towards sugarcane. Any such land requirement is likely to put a stress on other crops and has the potential to increase food prices.
Criticisms of the policy:
Efforts taken to achieve Biofuel production could lead to food security and strain water resources. According to critics, the policy is overly ambitious. Given the constraints in technology and current abysmally low status of blending (2%), the targets of the 2018 policy are too ambitious to be fulfilled. The policy is totally silent on octane (which is blended with petrol) which has direct consequences of air quality and pollution. The policy advocates the use of untested technologies like the production of 2G ethanol. Relying technology which is commercially untested is not a viable option. According to critics, the ways in which companies are selected to develop and boost Biofuel in India is not transparent.
Recent government initiatives:
Government plans to set up 12 modern biofuel refineries across the country. It has set a target to save Rs. 12,000 crores in the next four years by the use of ethanol. The government has also been planning to formulate a separate policy for the use of biofuel in the aviation sector
International best practice: BRAZIL
Since 1976, the Brazilian government made it mandatory to blend anhydrous ethanol with gasoline, fluctuating between 10% and 25%. However, in 2017, it raised blending of ethanol to gasoline to 27%. In 2010, Environment Protection Agency (EPA) designated Brazilian sugarcane ethanol as an advanced Biofuel due to its 61% reduction of total life cycle greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil has advanced Agri-Industrial technology which has contributed to its success in Biofuel generation. Brazil uses modern equipment and cheap sugar cane as feedstock, the residual cane-waste (bagasse) is used to produce heat and power, which results in a very competitive price and also in a high energy balance (output energy/input energy).