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1. Green Bonds

What is Green Bond?

  • Green bonds are debt instruments like normal bonds, but the proceeds are used for renewable energy projects, or for services that are ecologically sustainable.

  • The bond is voluntary and may be issued by a financial institution, the government or even a company to raise funds for a defined period.

  • Asia as a whole issued $65 billion in green bonds over 2015-17 and China is the dominant issuer of green bonds internationally.

 

Why Green bonds?

  • They can attract environmentally-conscious investors who may not otherwise invest.

  • Accessible and powerful instrument for financing a sustainable, low-carbon economy.

  • They are generally found to be an economical and convenient financing model by project developers.

  • They help project the company as an environmentally-conscious organization, thereby enhancing the brand.

 

The Indian Green Bond Market

  • BSE launched the Green Index called Greenex, carbon-efficient live index.

  • India entered the green bond market in 2015 with the YES Bank issuing the first green bond for financing the renewable and clean energy projects particularly, for wind and solar.

  • Gradually, the green bond market has expanded to several public sector undertakings, state-owned commercial banks, state-owned financial institutions, corporates, and the banking sector.

  • Green bond issuance is expected to zoom from India as the government is awarding big projects in the renewable energy space to private companies, especially in the solar power sector.

  • However, the Indian green bond market hasn’t been able to diversify itself much in the nature of assets for funding, which are still focused on the ‘pure play’ renewable energy projects.

 

SEBI guidelines on Green Bond

  • In January 2016, the SEBI published its official green bonds requirements for Indian issuers making India the second country (after China) to provide national level guidelines. As per the guidelines, a debt security shall be considered as ‘Green’ or ‘Green Debt Securities’, if the funds raised through issuance of the debt securities are to be utilized for project(s) and /or asset(s) falling under any of the following broad categories:

  • Renewable and sustainable energy including wind, solar, bioenergy, other sources of energy which use clean technology, etc.

  • Clean transportation including mass/public transportation, etc.

  • Sustainable water management including clean and/or drinking water, water recycling, etc. There are different types of definitions and indexes that can be leveraged: o Climate change adaptation

  • Energy efficiency including efficient and green buildings, etc.

  • Sustainable waste management including recycling, waste-to-energy, efficient disposal of wastage, etc.

  • Sustainable land use including sustainable forestry and agriculture, afforestation, etc.

  • Biodiversity conservation

 

Challenges

  • Underdeveloped bond market: In particular Corporate Bond Market remains underdeveloped despite recent steps taken by RBI and Govt to develop corporate bond market.

  • Defining an investment as “green”: It is likely that a prescriptive standard set of definitions of “green” will not meet every investor’s needs.

  • Lack of concentrated measures to support this nascent instrument: Due to the newness and lack of understanding of all its implications, the average domestic investor is wary of investing in these, and perceives them as high–risk investments.

  • Additional cost required to issue a Green bond, while providing returns similar to a normal bond. These costs may include additional expenditure for defining the green criteria, monitoring and maintaining the proceeds as green, and transparently communicating performance to investors over the lifetime of the bonds.

 

Way forward

  • Need for government support to drive the segment to its full potential by o Strengthening the disclosure and transparency aspects with a level of standardization

  • Providing concessions, including tax-exemptions; issuing a sovereign green bond could also be done.

  • There is scope for involving national development banks, SIDBI and NABARD, to design projects with elements of aggregation and credit enhancement, to direct funding to the untapped sectors.

  • There is a large scope for green bonds to be issued across a wide-range of sectors such as the unconventional investment sectors like forestry and marine conservation, innovative transport.

  • Develop business models to provide pricing benefits to green bond issuers by combining funding support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

  • RBI may consider expanding its priority sector lending guidelines to include some of the sectors that are currently part of SEBI guidelines to make them lucrative to the bond issuers.

 

2. Private Participation In Wildlife Conservation

  • Amazon Region Protected Areas Program (ARPA): a model of private participation in Wildlife protection

  • WWF brought together private corporations, philanthropic individuals, and the Brazilian government to create a $1 billion fund to preserve over 100 protected areas in the Amazon Basin.

  • The private sector contributes capital to the fund, but the money is only released if the government upholds its end of the bargain, matching it with public funds and management.

  • WWF provides expertise on which areas to protect and how best to manage the newly created reserves.

 

More about the news

  • Under the rules, anyone who has a minimum of 100 acres of land bordering a national park can convert it to a “Wildlife Private Conservancy”.

  • Of this land, 5% can be used to construct buildings for ecotourism; the rest has to be kept for flora and fauna.

 

Need for private participation in wildlife conservation

  • Funds: The conservation activities need huge investments, such as in law enforcement, conflict mitigation, habitat consolidation, village relocation and research and monitoring. Current spending on conservation and management of protected areas is far less than what is needed, particularly in the developing world. The private sector may help fill this funding gap.

  • Expertise and efficient management: Private sector can provide expertise often missing from government agencies. And, also, the bureaucratic management of government can be less flexible than non-governmental employees, this makes them a poor match for the operational side of parks management, and an expensive.

  • Buffer for wildlife protection: The privately maintained forest areas around the protected area can act as buffer for wildlife protection and they may also act as extended corridors to connect two protected areas which is very important for conservation of large animals like tiger, elephants etc.

  • Generate income and employment: The various activities associated with wildlife management and the opportunities of ecotourism would generate income and employment, this would be especially beneficial for forest dwelling communities and arrest their distressed migration.

  • Reduce pressure on traditional forest: Development of stock for commercial lumbering will reduce pressure on the traditional forests. Commercial development of forest can also reduce clearing of forest for agricultural expansion.

  • Other benefits: It will increase the percentage of forest area (from current 21% towards ideal 33% ); Conservation of water bodies and soil in and around wildlife protected areas which is vital to protect the same; increase carbon sequestration capacities among others.

 

Concerns

  • Fragmentation of wildlife habitat: The development of supporting infrastructure for tourism like roads , hotels , sport in the garb of developing ecotourism would lead to fragmentation of natural habitat and restrict movement of wildlife.

  • Narrow view of conservation: Conservation is a complex exercise which must involve the interest of multiple stakeholders associated with it. The main purpose of private sector is profit, thus their participation may result into a top down mechanical way of conservation while ignoring the ground realities.

  • Poaching and illegal trade: The privately managed buffer areas may act as conduit of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife and other wildlife crimes such as hunting specially because of lack of clear regulations.

  • Exclusion of forest dwelling communities: The commercial development of forests may further alienate the traditional communities living around them as they would not be able to assert their claim due to politico- bureaucratic and private sector nexus.

  • Development of monoculture: The development of forest with commercial motive may lead to development of monoculture which will be devoid of ecosystem services.

  • Ethical issues: There are ethical issues involved in using wildlife for commercial purposes which is equivalent to objectification of a living entity.

 

Way forward

  • Conservation should be a partnership between commerce (tourism), communities (land owners and skill suppliers), and the government (often, a benign overseer). Without a fine balance between these three, any one stakeholder can take a wrong direction which will harm conservation.

  • Countries allowing private partnership need to have very clear governance, very clear legislation regarding these partnerships. In nations where the government’s authority is weak. For example, in Colombia’sTayrona National Natural Park the company operating tourist concessions has been accused of land grabbing and controversial development within the national park.

 

3. Action Plan To Deal With Air Pollution

Context

  • A recent WHO database (2018) has identified several of India’s top cities with some of the highest levels of air pollution. Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Varanasi and Patna are the top five most polluted cities in the world.

  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) global air pollution database, India has 14 out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM 2.5 concentrations.

  • According to Health of the Nation’s States, household air pollution was responsible for 5% of the total disease burden in India in 2016, and outdoor air pollution was responsible for 6% of the burden.

 

Action Points

  • 1. Drive Mobility through Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEVs): 

  • Increase distribution of electric and hybrid vehicles

  • The procurement of electric vehicles (EVs) should be mandatory for vehicles for Central Government use and public facilities.

  • Encourage electric 2 and 3 wheelers

  • 2. Enact Strong Measures to Curb Vehicular Emissions:

  • Implement a large scale Feebate program from 2020 onwards: A feebate is a policy by which inefficient or polluting vehicles incur a surcharge while efficient ones receive a rebate

  • Issue guidelines for vehicle ownership and usage: Measures like congestion pricing, escalation of taxes and insurances, higher costs of parking etc. need to be employed to reduce private vehicle usage

  • Switch to low Sulphur fuel (10 ppm) and implement Bharat VI standards for engine emissions

  • Introduce a scrapping policy and ensure fleet modernisation

  • 3. Reduce Emissions by Optimizing the Power Sector:

  • Expedite strategic decommissioning of old and inefficient power plants

  • Push rooftop solar and distributed generation

  • Ensure high grade low polluting coal to the power plant

  • Emphasis on improved power reliability in urban areas to eliminate the operation of DG sets

  • 4. Reform Regulatory Framework for Industrial Air Pollution

  • Revise standards and practices: The ambient air quality standards of CPCB as well as individual categories of industrial emissions should be considered for revision.

  • Incentivise law enforcement: Incentivising the performing states will be instrumental to speed up corrective action against air pollution.

  • Improve audit process

  • 5. Adopt Cleaner Construction Practices

  • Mandate Environmental Risk Assessment for construction projects

  • Revise parameters of Green Building Ratings to include construction process

  • Set up smog free towers: It is an innovative technological solution deployed across Europe, which cleans the polluted air in an area around it

  • 6. Tackle City Dust through Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) by adopting mechanical dust removal and mitigation measures. For example, deploying dust absorbing and water spraying vehicles on roads, or mechanized road sweeping machines.

  • 7. Implement a Business Model to Utilize Crop Residue:

  • Direct procurement of crop residue by large agro-waste management companies

  • Mandate an inter-State trading model: Centre must direct, on pilot basis, inter-state trading for paddy stubble.

  • Reward PRIs with performance-based incentives

  • 8. Implement a National Emissions Trading System:

  • Introducing a market-based instruments within a regulatory framework based on the concept of ‘polluters pay’ should be implemented

  • 9. Implement an Integrated Waste Management Policyo Enact Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR):

  • It holds the manufacturers responsible for safe disposal of their products and it also encourages producers to use less polluting materials.

  • Adopt landfill taxes and regulation: It can shift more landfilling to treatment/processing methods

  • Incentivise waste to energy systems

  • Decentralize waste processing: Alternatives to landfilling such as waste segregation in Bengaluru, pipe and aerobic composting in Alappuzha etc. can be effectively implemented.

  • 10. Integrate Efforts to Tackle Forest Fires

  • Undertake measures to prevent forest fires: A comprehensive National Policy for Prevention and Control of Forest Fires being prepared by MoEFCC should be finalized urgently.

  • Ensure mitigation of forest fires: Provision of fire breaks and fire lines that act as barriers in propagation of forest fire should be made mandatory.

  • 11. Encourage Clean Cooking Practices

  • Encourage the use of cleaner fuels: This includes fuels such as LPG, biogas, solar energy and electricity

  • Promote and distribute of fuel efficient chulhas: This is to be targeted towards households.

  • Ensure well-ventilated homes by formulating guidelines and provisions for building designs.

  • 12. Drive Public Ownership through Behavioural Change

  • Agricultural Pollution: Through the existing Krishi Vigyan Kendras(KVKs), campaigns must be set-up to provide farmers with information tools such as in-situ mulching and on-farm management techniques

  • Indoor Pollution: A culture of clean cooking among households by informing the public about the impact on health needs to be promoted

  • City Dust: Construction companies for curbing generation of construction waste should be sensitized

  • 13. Develop Consistent and Quantified National, Sub-National and Sectoral Plans

  • A comprehensive Action Plan at the national-level should be complemented with well-designed and well-researched State-level and city-level plans, with strong implementation and monitoring mechanisms to ensure achievement

  • 14. Improve Air Quality Monitoring Systems

  • Accurately and comprehensively monitor air pollution levels

  • Develop air pollution abatement plans based on monitoring data

 

4. Climate Change And Indian Coastline

About the study

  • Researchers used newly released data on projections of a large number of climate variables in the future, which included Wind- generated waves around Indian coastline as a key variable.

  • According to the study different locations would face different kinds of impacts.

  • The winds are likely to intensify, and there is likely to be greater attack on our beaches, and coasts in the future than we had so far imagined.

 

Vulnerability of Indian Coasts

  • India has a nearly 7500 Km coastline which is experiencing rapid changes as coastal areas experience population growth and expansion of settlements, urbanization and agriculture. These changes are accompanied by an overall phenomena of climate change that has resulted in various other concerns like-

  • Vulnerability to frequent disasters: Coastal communities remain at a constant risk of disasters and climate change impacts such as Storm surges, Sea- level rise and flooding, heat waves, cyclones and other extreme weather events that are projected to increase with the global warming.

  • Rising sea level is also accompanied by stronger waves and currentsthat are likely to reshape the coastlines and potentially submerge many low-lying areas. This has also resulted in shoreline erosion which is higher on the eastern coast due to turbulent nature of Bay of Bengal.

  • Vulnerability to extreme temperature rise: According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), extreme temperatures are expected to increase in India by 1 – 4 degree Celsius with maximum increase projected in coastal regions by 2030s.

  • Highly populated coastal areas: In terms of population share approx 14% of India’s population reside within 50 Km of India’s coastline with important cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai further increasing the vulnerabilities of the region.

  • Economic Significance: Various economically important activities crucial for India’s ongoing economic growth and development occur in coastal zones including oil and gas industries, power plants, ports and harbours, aquaculture, agriculture, fisheries, tourism and mining among others.

  • Wide range of ecosystem along the coasts: such as mangroves, seagrass beds, salt marshes, coral reefs, lagoons, estuaries, and other important coastal and marine habitats form part of a complex ecosystem. These provide various ecological services including livelihood opportunities, shoreline protection against disasters and help in climate change mitigation as they form carbon reservoirs.

  • Warmer water temperatures and acidifying oceans can degrade the ecology of coral reefs and threaten the artisanal and commercial fisheries that nourish many seaboard communities.

  • Impact on food security: Increase in the variability and unpredictability of monsoon rainfall, saltwater intrusion caused by sea level rise affect agriculture along coastal areas, hence affecting food security.

  • Climate change also impacts migratory patterns of marine fishery resources, quality of aquatic habitats and the distribution and abundance of aquatic competitors, predators and diseases.

 

Steps taken by India

  • After the Tsunami of 2004, authorities seized the opportunity to develop coastal zone management guidelines that include reducing the risks of coastal flooding from climate change–related drivers. Various other steps taken are-

  • NAPCC identifies several priority areas for India’s coastal zones, including:

  • Developing an air-ocean circulation modeling system especially for the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, to simulate regional climate change and, in particular, monsoon behavior.

  • Carrying out high-resolution ocean-atmosphere variability studies in tropical oceans, in particular the Indian Ocean.

  • Engineering a high-resolution storm surge model for coastal regions.

  • Developing salinity-tolerant crop cultivars.

  • Raising community awareness on coastal disasters and necessary action.

  • Establishing timely forecasting and cyclone and flood warning systems.

  • Increased planting and regeneration of mangroves and coastal forests.

  • Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project: by establishing a Society of Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM). Under the project, SICOM would be implementing the four components, namely, (i) National Coastal Management Programme; (ii) ICZM-West Bengal; (iii) ICZM-Orissa; (iv) ICZM-Gujarat.

  • Comprehensive Vulnerability Map: India is in the process of preparing a Comprehensive Vulnerability Map of its coastline which will be used to finalize a Coastal Zone Management Plan. Further, Coastal Vulnerability Index was prepared by the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS).

  • New National Coastal Mission: is being established under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) which would include ecosystem-centred and community-based approaches to adaptationin the coastal zones. Its objectives include promoting vulnerability mapping, sustainable coastal development, resilient communities and settlements, environmental conservation and mitigation of Green House Gas emissions.

 

Challenges

  • Though coastal zone regulations amended from time to time are meant to preserve the sea shore , yet their implementation remains below par.

  • In contrast to more developed regions of the world, national-scale awareness of the impending climate risks, special vulnerabilities of particular populations, and responsibilities of individuals and groups in mitigation remain very low.

  • Forecast patterns for energy needs, water use, and natural resource consumption suggest pressures on ecosystems and ecosystem services in the region will be exacerbated by climate change, yet a survey of the literature shows that interest in economic development of the coastal zone has overridden concerns regarding climate change, natural disasters, or environmental quality.

  • Despite slowly increasing levels of awareness among the general public, the level of debate and discussion is woefully inadequate.

  • Political considerations at one level— local, regional, national—often ignore effects on other levels and in other domains, such as the social or environmental. This contributes to conflicts over governance, management, and responsibilities for adaptive responses.

 

Way Forward

  • Apart from various steps taken, there remains a need for further actions including-

  • More studies based on projected data and using new and sophisticated climate models need to be undertaken for better assessment of potential impacts.

  • Well planned urbanization and sustainable development should be ensured along the coastal regions along with monitoring of blue carbon storage and sequestration to mitigate Climate Change.

  • Strict reinforcement of current regulations such as Coastal Regulation Zone rules must be followed along with adaptation can help reduce the long-term costs of climate change impacts.

 

5. Uranium Contamination Of Ground Water In India

Related information

  • Uranium contamination in groundwater has been a persistent problem in Punjab, which came to the fore as early as 1990s.

  • Possible causes of contamination of soil and ground water in Malwa region of Punjab are believed to be the fly ash from coal burnt at thermal power plants, which contains high levels of uranium and ash.

 

More on findings of the study

  • The majority of high-uranium levels were located in Rajasthan and parts of Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat

  • The results showed that most of the wells tested in Rajasthan and Gujarat had more uranium than the WHO’s recommended limit of 30 μg/L. The levels in a few tens of wells in Rajasthan were close to 300μg/L.

  • Similar high levels contamination was also found in other districts of northwestern India and southern and southeastern India especially in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

  • The primary source of uranium is geogenic, i.e., main source of uranium is granite, which is common in the Himalayan range. Over the years, uranium may have slowly leached into the water.

  • However, anthropogenic factors such as over-exploitation of groundwater for agricultural irrigation and nitrate pollution due to overuse of nitrogenous fertilizers may have further enhanced uranium mobilization.

 

Issues associated with uranium contamination

  • The Bureau of Indian Standards’ Drinking Water Specifications does not prescribe any limit for uranium which makes quality monitoring of water table impossible.

  • Uranium in drinking water raises concerns not because of radioactivity but mainly because of chemical toxicity, chronic kidney problems etc.

 

6. Global Environment Facility (Gef)

More about the summit

  • It announced GEF replenishment of $4.1 billion, a cut in the funding from USD 4.4 billion in 2014. This will be the first time GEF’s budget has been reduced since its origin.

  • The cut is because US has pledged to slash its contribution to GEF by almost half.

  • The GEF has proposed certain changes in the light of funding cut from US o Increased co-financing requirement for the poorest countries to 5 times and larger developing countries to 9 times the original grant.

  • A new “index of development” for restricting countries from accessing funding that have developed beyond a certain point according to this index.

  • Large countries whose avg. GDP growth is more than 5% over the last four years to be ineligible to receive any GEF funding.

  • BOBLME project aims to promote sustainable fishing, reduce marine pollution and improve the lives of approximately 400 million people who live along its coasts.

 

About GEF

  • It is a financial mechanism established under the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems.

  • It is managed by World Bank.

  • Presently, it involves an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues.

  • The Council is the GEF's main governing body, comprises 32 Members appointed by and from among GEF member countries (14 from developed countries, 16 from developing countries and 2 from economies in transition).

  • The GEF Assembly is composed of all 183 member countries which meets every four years to review general policies, GEF’s operation and the membership of the Facility.

  • Environmental Conventions under GEF financial mechanism o Convention on Bio diversity (CBD)

  • o Convention to combat desertification (UNCCD)

  • o Framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC)

  • o Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants

  • o Minamata Convention

  • o Montreal Protocol (provides support)

  • Its significance

  • Since its inception, the GEF has provided over $17.9 billion in grants mobilized an additional $93.2 billion in co-financing for a whole range of projects that combat climate change, restore degraded farmlands, protect biodiversity etc.

  • Its small grants programme has helped farmers in various developing countries adapt to climate change impacts, especially water shortages.

  • It strongly supports inclusion of national agencies in the GEF partnership to build suitable capacities in the country and improve the efficiency.

  • The GEF Gender Mainstreaming Policy has strengthened role of gender in the operations in a more systematic manner.

  • It approved a grant of USD 15 million for the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem (BOBLME) project, started by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2009, involving all eight countries along its coastline - Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

  • On the sidelines of the assembly, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the GEF have also agreed to take joint steps to improve climate finance flows to best meet the needs of developing countries.

 

Issues with GEF

  • The cut in funding is a serious setback because GEF has been one of the world’s major sources of green funding for developing countries.

  • The proposed new development index is seen as another attempt by industrialized countries at abdication of their own responsibilities for the harm they have caused to the world.

  • Risks of exchange rate volatility: The GEF encountered about a 15 percent shortfall in available financial resources due to it as GEF has no financial mechanism available to manage these risks.

  • Operational restrictions and lack of awareness of the GEF have resulted in limiting or not fully realizing the potential for successful engagement with the private sector.

  • There is a need to distinguish its engagement and financing from that of others to be well positioned to continue to play a pivotal role for the global environment:

  • o Linking more resources to advisory services, technical assistance, and capacity building.

  • o Going beyond how much money is going towards the different focal areas and concentrate on the outcomes achieved.

  • o Considering greater flexibility and fungibility of resources within country allocations.

  • o Enhancing the operational efficiency and transparency to make GEF more agile and responsive to recipient demands.

  • o Enabling technology transfer from developed countries.

 

7. Meghalayan Age

Geological Time Scale

  • The geological time scale is the “calendar” for events in Earth history.

  • It subdivides all time into named units of abstract time called—in descending order of duration—eons, eras, periods, epochs, and ages.

  • Eons are the largest intervals of geologic time and are hundreds of millions of years in duration. For e.g. Phanerozoic Eon is the most recent eon and began more than 500 million years ago.

  • Eons are divided into smaller time intervals known as eras. For e.g. the Phanerozoic is divided into three eras:

  • Cenozoic, Mesozoic and Paleozoic. o The names of eras were chosen to reflect major changes of the development of life on the Earth: Paleozoic (old life), Mesozoic (intermediate life), and Cenozoic (recent life).

  • Eras are subdivided into periods. For e.g. the Paleozoic is subdivided into the Permian, Pennsylvanian, Mississippian, Devonian, Silurian, Ordovician and Cambrian periods.

  • Periods are further subdivided into epochs which are further divided into ages. o Each period corresponds to significant events such as the break-up of continents, shifts in climate, and the emergence of particular types of animals and plant life.

  • These units of the geologic time scale are based on sedimentary strata that have accumulated over time.

 

Meghalayan Age

  • The Meghalayan Age, which is the subdivision of the Holocene Epoch, began about 4,200 years ago.

  • It has been officially ratified as the most recent unit of the Geologic Time Scale by the International Union of Geological Sciences, an international NGO.

  • The International Commission on Stratigraphy, which is responsible for standardising the Geologic Time Scale, approved the definition of the beginning of the youngest unit of the Geologic Time Scale based on the timing of this event.

  • The Commission then forwarded these proposals to its parent body, the IUGS, for consideration and ratification.

  • The other two subdivisions of the Holocene Epoch — the Early Holocene Greenlandian (11,700 years ago), Middle Holocene Northgrippian (8300 years ago) were also approved.

  • The Meghalayan Stage has been defined at a specific level in a stalagmite in the Mawmluh caves — one of the India’s longest and deepest — in Cherrapunji, Meghalaya.

  • The onset of the age was marked by a severe 200-year drought that resulted in the collapse of civilisations and human migrations in Egypt, Greece, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and the Yangtze River Valley.

  • The lower boundary of the Greenlandian and Northgripppian stages are defined at specific levels in Greenland ice cores.

  • Both the ice cores and the stalagmite are now defined as “international geostandards”,

  • The International Chronostratigraphic Chart, the famous diagram depicting the timeline for Earth's history will be updated.

 

8. Legal Entity Status For All Animals

More on News

  • Related information

  • In common law jurisprudence, there are two types of persons — natural persons or human beings and artificial person, which are also known as juristic persons, juridical entity or a legal person other than a natural person.

  • Legal or juristic persons are created by law and recognised as a legal entity, having distinct identity, legal personality and besides duties and rights. They include private business firm or entity, non-governmental or government organisations, trusts and societies, besides others.

  • The court was hearing a PIL filed in the year 2014 where the petitioner had sought directions to restrict the movement of horse carts, or tongas between Indian and Nepal through Banbasa in Uttarakhand’s Champawat district.

  • However, the High Court enlarged the scope of the petition in larger public interest to promote the protection and welfare of the animals.

  • It gave guidelines for the protection and welfare of the animals in state. For example, it directed the state that no animal, including horses moving between India and Nepal, carries excess weight, banned the use of any “sharp equipment” throughout the state, “to avoid bruises, swelling, abrasions or severe pain” to animals, etc.

 

9. Recovery Programme For Wildlife Species

About National Board for Wildlife (NBWL)

  • It is a statutory Board constituted under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

  • It is chaired by the Prime Minister. Its vice chairman is Minister of Environment.

  • It is involved in framing policies and promoting wildlife conservation and controlling poaching and illegal trade of wild life.

  • It makes recommendations on the setting up of and management of national parks, sanctuaries and other protected areas and restriction of activities in those areas.

  • Its concurrence is needed for creation of tourist lodges, alteration of the boundaries of Protected Areas, de-notification of Tiger Reserves, etc.

  • It may appoint a standing committee which provides clearances to projects that pass through or are located near protected areas.

  • The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) recently added four species- the Northern River Terrapin, Clouded Leopard, Arabian Sea Humpback Whale, Red Panda- to a Recovery Programme for Critically Endangered Species.

 

More about Recovery Programme

  • It is one of the components of centrally sponsored scheme - Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH) which provides assistance to the State/UT governments for activities aimed at wildlife conservation.

  • The other two components:

  • Support to Protected Areas (National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves except tiger reserves)

  • Protection of Wildlife Outside Protected Areas

  • IDWH also covers various activities which include:

 

About the Species

  • Northern River Terrapin, which is a species of riverine turtle found in the rivers that flow in Eastern India, is hunted for its meat and carapace. It is a native of Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

  • (IUCN-Critically Endangered)

  • Clouded Leopard, found in the Himalayan foothills, is threatened due to habitat loss, poaching for its skin and is also as a live pet trade.

  • (IUCN-Vulnerable)

  • Arabian Sea Humpback Whale is a species found in all of major oceans but ship strikes, unforgiving fishing gear and seismic explorations pose grave threat to it.

  • (IUCN-Endangered)

  • Red Panda which is closely associated with montane forests with dense bamboo-thicket, is found Sikkim, West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh. It is poached for its meat, and for use in medicines, and as a pet.

  • (IUCN-Endangered)

  • Management Planning and capacity building

  • Anti-poaching & infrastructure development

  • Restoration of habitats

  • Eco-development and community oriented activities

  • The four species recently added under recovery program are in addition to 17 other species already identified under the recovery programme - Snow Leopard, Bustard (including Floricans), Dolphin, Hangul, NilgiriTahr, Marine Turtles, Dugongs, Edible Nest Swiftlet, Asian Wild Buffalo, Nicobar Megapode, Manipur Brow-antlered Deer, Vultures, Malabar Civet, Indian Rhinoceros, Asiatic Lion, Swamp Deer and Jerdon’s Courser.

  • Implementation issues include: poor recovery chances of the species at the last stage as process of implementation on ground starts after 2-3

  • years of planning, simultaneous destructive anthropogenic actions nullifying conservation efforts, environmentally unsound government policies (e.g. coastal regulation zone notification) etc.

 

10. Gangetic Dolphin

Ganges River Dolphin

  • The Ganges River dolphin inhabits the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.

  • The Ganges Dolphin is among the four freshwater dolphins found in the world – the other three are found in the Yangtze River (China), the ‘bhulan’ of the Indus (Pakistan) and the ‘boto’ of the Amazon River (Latin America).

  • It is National Aquatic animal of India.

  • It has been categorised as endangered on the Red List of Threatened Species by the IUCN.

  • It is also protected under the Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).

  • A long thin snout, rounded belly and large flippers are characteristics of the Ganges River dolphin.

  • It is a mammal and cannot breathe in the water and must surface every 30-120 seconds. Because of the sound it produces when breathing, the animal is popularly referred to as the 'Susu'.

  • The presence of the Dolphin in a river system signals its good health and biodiversity.

  • Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary (VGDS) in Bihar is India's only sanctuary for the Gangetic dolphin.

 

Reasons for decline

  • Habitat loss and degradation: due to increased human interference. Siltation and decreasing water flow and water level in the river due to construction of dams and irrigation projects have impacted the habitat.

  • Pollution: from industrial waste and pesticides; municipal sewage discharge and noise from vessel traffic have threatened the gangetic river dolphin population. Due to effective blindness of dolphins and, dependence on echolocation, the Gangetic dolphins suffer from the noise pollution created by large ship propellers, and by dredging.

  • Directed harvest: through illegal killing for dolphin oil, which is used as a fish attractant and for medicinal purposes.

  • Bycatch in gillnets and line hooks is also a major source of mortality for this subspecies mainly due to the widespread use of non-selective fishing gear.

 

Steps taken

  • A Conservation Action Plan for the Gangetic Dolphin 2010-2020 has been formulated by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. It provides following recommendations:

  • Potential sites for intense dolphin conservation should be demarcated in the Ganga River System.

  • Each state with Gangetic Dolphin populations should have a regional Dolphin Conservation Center, with a nodal agency responsible for its operation.

  • The use of nylon monofilament fishing gillnets in stretch of rivers having dolphin population should be banned.

  • Universities and research organisations should be encouraged to develop dolphin research programs.

  • The establishment of Trans-boundary Protected Areas for Gangetic Dolphins may also be considered between India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

  • Intensive development projects proposed in the river basins that have direct impacts on the dolphins and their habitat need to be identified. Environmental Impacts Assessments (EIAs) of such projects need to focus and indicate the possible impact of the proposed activities on dolphins.

  • Critical water flow and minimum depths for all river dolphin habitats should be determined, and management actions should be set in place to ensure such flow and depth.

  • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) in its efforts of biodiversity conservation in Ganga River basin has been working further on the Ganges River Dolphin Conservation Action Plan and has taken up steps to coordinate with various institutions to:

  • build capacity for Ganga River Dolphin Conservation and Management;

  • minimize fisheries interface and incidental capture of Ganga River Dolphins;

  • restore river dolphin habitats by minimizing and mitigating the impacts of developmental projects;

  • involve communities and stakeholders for sustainable efforts in Ganga River Dolphin conservation;

  • educate and create awareness and set off targeted research.

 

12. NilgiriTahr

About NilgiriTahr

  • The Nilgiritahr inhabits the open montane grassland habitats at elevations from 1200 to 2600 m (generally above 2000 m) of the South Western Ghats.

  • Their range extends over 400 km from north to south, and Eravikulam National Park is home to the largest population.

  • Listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and as Endangered on IUCN Red List.

  • Adult males develop a light grey area or “saddle” on their backs and are hence called “saddlebacks”.

  • It is state animal of Tamil Nadu.

 

More on News

  • Scientists found that tahr strongholds such as Chinnar, Eravikulam and Parambikulam in Kerala will still be stable habitats under different climate change scenarios.

  • Other regions, including parts of Tamil Nadu’s KalakkadMundanthurai Tiger Reserve and the wildlife sanctuaries of Peppara, Neyyar, Schenduruny and Srivilliputhur, could experience severe habitat loss in future causing the loss.

 

Conservation Issues

  • Nilgiritahrs exist only in small, isolated populations due to extreme habitat fragmentation and illegal hunting. They are, as a result, vulnerable to local extinction.

  • The species has always been under severe stress on account of the construction of numerous hydroelectric projects, timber felling and monoculture plantation of eucalyptus and wattles.

  • All these development activities, especially the plantation activities affect the heart of the tahr habitat, which are the grasslands – sholas.

July Environmental Issues

12. Harrier Birds

About the Harrier Birds

  • Harrier Birds are the only diurnal ‘Raptor group or Birds of Prey’ nesting and roosting on the ground.

  • These birds regularly visit vast swathes of Indian Subcontinent grasslands during winter to escape frigid Central Asia.

  • Six of the 16 Harrier species in the world migrate to India every year, these are

  • (i) Eurasian Marsh Harrier

  • (ii) Eastern Marsh Harrier

  • (iii) Hen Harrier

  • (iv) Pallid Harrier

  • (v) Pied Harrier

  • (vi) Montagu’s Harrier.

  • Montagu’s, Marsh and Pallid Harriers are widely distributed in India while Pied and Eastern Marsh Harriers are confined to the eastern parts of India. Hen Harriers are commonly seen in Northern India and up to Upper Assam in North Eastern India.

 

Ecological Role

  • Birds of Prey: being top predators, these are a vital indicator of ecosystem health especially of grassland and wetland ecosystem.

  • Natural Controlling agents: of rodents, grasshoppers and birds which form their major prey base and hence their decline impacts farm productivity.

 

Reasons for Decline

  • Habitat destruction: loss of grasslands either due to rapid urbanization or large-scale monocultures and extensive reclamation of wetlands causes change in land use patterns declining their suitable foraging and roosting habitats in many parts in India.

  • Extensive pesticide use: in farms in and around roosting sites causing bioaccumulation of poisonous substances in food-chain leading to mortality of the birds.

 

13. Red Sanders Not Endangered Anymore

Red Sanders

  • It is an endemic tree of South India.

  • They are found in Tropical Dry Deciduous forest of the Palakonda and Seshachalam hill ranges of Andhra Pradesh and also found in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

  • It occurs in hot, dry climate with a rainfall of 88-105 cm.

  • It prefers lateritic and gravelly soil and cannot tolerate water logging.

  • It is used for various purposes such as immunity medicine, furniture, radiation absorbent, musical instrument, food dyes and spices, Ayurveda and Sidha medicine, decorative and ornamental purposes etc.

  • It is a rare kind of sandalwood, high in demand internationally due to its red colored wood. The major markets for the wood are – China, Japan, Middle East, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal.

  • Its export is banned in India in accordance with the CITES and Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Further, Andhra Pradesh Government formed a Joint Task Force called Red Sanders Anti–Smuggling Task Force (RSASTF). However, its smuggling is rife and is rampant in the southern states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

 

14. Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve

UNESCO: MAB  (Man and Biosphere reserve)Programme

  • Launched in 1971, it is an Intergovernmental Scientific Programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments.

  • It combines the natural and social sciences, economics and education to improve human livelihoods and the equitable sharing of benefits, and to safeguard natural and managed ecosystems.

 

World Network of Biosphere Reserve (WNBR) and India

  • It covers internationally designated protected areas, each known as biosphere reserves, that are meant to demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature.

  • India has 18 biospheres reserves, of which 11 have been included in the WNBR.

  • The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve was the first reserve from the country to be included in the WNBR.

 

Others MAB -WNBR site in India

  • Gulf of Mannar- Tamilnadu

  • Sundarban- West Bangal

  • Nanda Devi-Uttrakhand

  • Nokrek- Meghalaya

  • Pachmarchi-Madhya Pradesh

  • Simlipal- Orisa

  • Achanakmar-Amarkantak- Madhya Pradesh

  • Great- Nicobar- Andaman and Nicobar Island

  • Agasthyamala- (Western Ghat) Kerala &Tamilnadu

  • Recently, Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve was included in the UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserve (WNBR) under the Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB).

 

More on news

  • UNESCO also announced the registration of 23 other new sites in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

  • Now the total number of Biosphere reserves under MAB programme has reached to 686.

 

About Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve

  • It is one of the highest ecosystems in the world and located at trijunction of India (Sikkim), bordering Nepal to the west and Tibet (China) to the north-west.

  • The site is one among the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots.

  • The Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP), which comprises the core area of the KBR, was inscribed as India’s first ‘Mixed World Heritage Site’ in 2016.

  • Over 118 species of the large number of medicinal plants found in Dzongu Valley in north Sikkim are of ethno-medical utility.

  • Fauna: Red Panda, Snow Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear and herbivores species of Musk deer, Great Tibetan Sheep, Blue Sheep, Boral and Barking Deer.

  • Over 500 species and sub-species of birds, including; Monal Pheasants, Tragopan Pheasants and Blood Pheasants (the State Bird) — are also found in the reserve.

 

15. Ganga Vriksharopan Abhiyan

Importance of Afforestation in Ganga Basin-

  • Forests cause higher rainfall and raise water level in the rivers.

  • Healthy forest cover along the river provides self-cleaning ability to the river.

  • Through their foliage, craggy bark and abundant leaf litter, trees and forests decrease the speed of water dispersion and favour slow but greater infiltration of rainwater to ensure smooth functioning of the hydrological cycle.

 

More on news

  • The campaign has been initiated as part of the Forest Interventions in Ganga component of NamamiGangeprogramme.

  • It aims to bring greater awareness among people and other stakeholders regarding the importance of afforestation for the task of Ganga Rejuvenation.

  • Schools, colleges and departments have been requested to “Adopt a Plant” to make this campaign into a people’s movement.

  • State Forest Departments of respective states have been made the nodal agencies for the smooth and effective execution of the campaign.

  • Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) have been designated as the district level Nodal Officers and Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) at the State level for organizing the events.

  • In Uttar Pradesh, the programme is dovetailed with the Ganga Haritima Abhiyan.

 

NamamiGangeProgramme

  • It is an Integrated Conservation Mission to accomplish the twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga.

  • Main pillars of the mission are: o River front development

  • o Conservation of Aquatic life and biodiversity

  • o Improvement of coverage of sewerage infrastructure in habitations on banks of Ganga.

  • o River Surface cleaning for collection of floating solid waste from the surface of the Ghats and River

  • o Afforestation

  • o Industrial Effluent Monitoring

  • o Development of Ganga Gram

  • o Creating Public Awareness

  • Under the aegis of National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) & State Programme Management Groups (SPMGs), States and ULBs and PRIs will be involved in this project.

 

National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)

  • The objectives of NMCG is to accomplish the mandate of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA):

  • To ensure effective abatement of pollution and rejuvenation of the river Ganga by adopting a river basin approach to promote inter-sectoral co-ordination for comprehensive planning and management and

  • To maintain minimum ecological flows in the river Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development.

  • To achieve the objectives, NMCG shall carry out the following key functions namely: o Implement the work programme of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).

  • o Implement the World Bank supported National Ganga River Basin Project.

  • o Coordinate and oversee the implementation of projects sanctioned by Government of India under NGRBA.

  • o Undertake any additional work or functions as may be assigned by MoWR, RD &GR in the area of conservation of river Ganga.

 

16. Sagarnidhi

About the India – US mission

  • Sagar Nidhi will sail through the Bay of Bengal collecting data on Ocean conditions at different depths and locations and study the underlying principles of interaction of the uppermost layer of ocean with the atmosphere. It will also use radiosondes to gather meteorological data.

 

Significance

  • Help better prepare for the monsoon: Intra-seasonal variability of the monsoon is a major problem in India where long dry spells have been associated with droughts, while long wet spells have caused floods, landslides, loss of life and damage to property. Skilful prediction of these varying patterns could help officials better prepare for annual monsoon.

  • Overcome flaws with current models: presently, models of high clouds and interaction of atmosphere with the ocean are not well represented in computer models thus limiting the forecasting abilities.

  • Crucial for policy makers and farmers: Bay of Bengal fed South West monsoon accounts for 70% of India’s annual rainfall, thus better prediction would result in better planning and policy making. Also getting monsoon forecasts right is essential for more than 230 million Indian farmers who still rely on the rains to water more than half the country’s farmlands.

  • Why it is difficult to forecast monsoon in India?

 

CUSAT Stratosphere Troposphere-205 Radar:

  • Situated at Cochin, it is fully indigenously built radar to scan stratosphere over the Indian Ocean for movement of air and monsoon winds.

  • Weather radars detect perturbations in wind and water content of atmosphere. CUSAT-ST radar scans the sky using radio waves to create a three-dimensional picture of the atmosphere. The scan produces a spectrum of densities of air, from which it is possible to compute the actual winds. Accuracy of ST radar observations can be as high as 99% and will add to further the precision of weather, especially the monsoon.

  • Huge variability of monsoon: Many factors seem to affect the duration and intensity of monsoon, which include: o El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO): A climatic phenomenon associated with warming up of eastern Pacific Ocean. Other factors temper or boost the impact of El Nino such as the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) which is the difference in the Sea Surface Temperature between the western Indian Ocean near Arabian Sea and the Eastern part near the Bay of Bengal. A warmer western  pole leads to a positive IOD that can act as a neutralizing factor to El Nino and result in normal rainfall. Other factors include - Equatorial Indian Ocean Oscillation (EQUINOO), Madden Julian Oscillation etc. Moreover, they share complex relations between themselves thus further complicating the scenario.

  • Anthropogenic Emissions affect rain patterns: Warmer atmosphere has direct correlation with greater variability in the monsoon.

  • Air Pollution: complicates the rainfall variability as aerosols such as black carbon interact with sunlight resulting in either scattering or absorbing sunlight. Scattering prevents the light from warming the earth surface while absorbing causes the particles to warm the air around them which ultimately alters the heating pattern of atmosphere and heating up of the land relative to Ocean.

  • Forest Cover: in August and September around a quarter of the precipitation in the large basin of eastern India comes from land surface, mainly through the evapotranspiration in the forests. Large scale deforestation around the world can lead to an 18% decrease in the Indian Monsoon.

  • Other factors: for instance dust over North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula absorbs sunlight, warms the air and strengthens wind carrying moisture eastwards which later cause heavy rainfall in India. Similarly, climate change further complicates the phenomena.

  • Monsoon Depressions: these are the depressions formed over Bay of Bengal and are known for producing heavy rainfall during monsoons. In recent years, these are reducing due to anomalous moisture convergence over the western Indian ocean due to rapid sea surface warming.

  • Need for better understanding the role of Jet streams: During monsoon, strong winds known as low level monsoon jet stream appear around the southern part of India at an altitude of about 1.5 Km above the ground. Similarly, around 14 Km altitude (very near to stratosphere) there is another jet stream from the East. The speed, along with the North South movement of these two Jet streams controls the distribution of rainfall over the Indian region.

 

17. Deep Ocean Mission

About the DOM blueprint

  • DOM aims to explore the depths of the Ocean for the possibilities of deep-sea mining. Its focus will be on technologies for deep-sea mining, under water vehicles, under water robotics and ocean climate change advisory services, among others. Key deliverables to achieve these goals:

 

Significance of DOM for India

  • India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) spreads over 2.2 Million Km2. EEZ are boundaries prescribed by the UNCLOS which give special rights to a state regarding the exploration and use of marine resources.

  • India has been allotted a site of 75,000 Km2 in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploitation of Poly-Metallic nodules (PMN). A First Generation Mine-site (FGM) with an area of 18,000 Km2 has been identified. Latest technologies for extraction of metals from the minerals have also been developed.

  • Researches and studies about the Ocean floor can help us to make informed decisions on Climate change.

  • It will help in innovating technologies about the field from underwater vehicles to under water robotics, hence improving India’s position in ocean research field.

  • It will create huge jobs and business opportunities in Ocean science.

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