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1. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change Report

What is the IPCC?

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body with 195 member states for assessing the science related to climate change.

  • It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) & the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies.

 

Key findings of the Report

  • The report documents glaring evidence of the devastating impacts of climate change on the poor and on developing countries.

  • Present global warming status: Human-induced global warming has in 2017 already reached 1°C above pre-industrial levels; the current climate efforts of countries will take the world to 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052.

  • Since 2000, the estimated level of human-induced warming has been equal to the level of observed warming due to contributions from solar and volcanic activity over the historical period.

  • Impacts of global warming at 1.5°C: Impacts at 1.5°C are far greater than anticipated and estimated earlier. o Accordingly, the world would witness greater sea level rise, increased precipitation and higher frequency of droughts and floods, hotter days and heatwaves, more intense tropical cyclones, and increased ocean acidification and salinity.

  • Warming greater than the global average has already been experienced in many regions and seasons, with average warming over land higher than over the ocean.

  • Depending on the temperature dataset considered, 20-40% of the global human population live in regions that, by the decade 2006-2015, had already experienced warming of more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial in at least one season.

  • Impact of transition from 1.5°C to 2°C: The report points out that the risk transition from 1.5°C to 2°C is very high and that the effects at 2°C will be more devastating than what IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report had indicated.

  • Coastal nations and agricultural economies like India would be the worst affected.

  • Decline in crop yields, unprecedented climate extremes and increased susceptibility could push poverty by several million by 2050.

  • Limited availability of Carbon Budget: If global emissions continue as per the commitments made under Paris Agreement, the carbon budget (the amount of CO2 that the world can emit) for 1.5°C warming will be exhausted by 2030.

  • In order to limit warming at 1.5°C, the world will have to reduce CO2 emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 from the 2010 levels and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

  • Effect of limiting global warming to 1.5°C: The report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C, or more. For instance,

  • By 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C.

  • The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C.

  • Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2°C.

 

Way Forward

  • Keeping global warming within 1.5°C is very difficult but required: Keeping the focus on 2.0°C target would be disastrous for the poor and for developing countries. The following Pathways examined by the report to limit warming to 1.5°C can be considered:

  • India must take the lead in forming a global coalition for a 1.5°C world to save its poor and vulnerable population.

  • Investments in low-carbon energy technologies and energy efficiency would need to approximately double in the next 20 years and investment in fossil-fuel extraction and conversion decrease by about a quarter.

  • What happens at 2°C that does not happen at 1.5°C?

  • This could prevent around 3.3 million cases of dengue every year in Latin America and the Caribbean alone.

  • A World Bank report on Climate Change and Health (2015) that an additional 150 million people could be at risk from malaria if the temperature was allowed to increase beyond 2°C.

  • A study in the journal Climate Change in 2016 claimed that the world could have 25 million fewer undernourished people by the end of the century, if the 1.5°C goal was achieved.

  • As per Nature Climate Change (2018), 1.5°C could prevent 153 million premature deaths due to air pollution by 2100, as compared to the 2°C scenario.

  • About 350 million additional people could be exposed to deadly heat waves if the warming increased to 2°C as compared to 1.5°C.

  • A UNDP report in 2016 claimed that a 1.5°C strategy could create double the number of jobs in the energy sector by 2050.

  • Thus, limiting global warming to 1.5°C should be targeted because It would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being, making it easier to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal.

  • Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or ‘overshoot’ 1.5°C would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5°C by 2100. The effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development.

  • Require a UNFCCC-plus approach: Climate efforts cannot be restrictive to the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. The world needs to think and devise more forums and venues to address climate change.

  • Equity is essential and must be re-visited: IPCC Report points out that “social justice and equity are core aspects of climate-resilient development pathways that aim to limit global warming to 1.5°C”. The world, however, requires a new formulation of equity in which every country must act now and actively raise its level of ambition.

  • The developed countries must take the lead by rapidly de-carbonising their economies as well as reducing consumption.

  • Developing countries will have to pursue low-carbon pathways more vigorously and should limit addition of fossil fuel assets going ahead.

  • Enhancing sinks in natural ecosystem: All pathways to reduce emissions, to keep the warming within 1.5°C require Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) in the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector in varying degree. Sequestering CO2 in AFOLU sector will require incentivising billions of farmers and forest-dwellers to pursue sustainable practices that enhance carbon sinks. The world must come together to devise a mechanism to do this.

  • Acting on all fossil fuels is must: The IPCC report emphasises the need to reduce coal consumption rapidly, though it allows for the use of gas with carbon capture and storage. The world needs to act on all fossil fuels simultaneously.

 

2. OCEAN CLEANUP

Background

  • Situation in India: According to Litterbase database, seas near Mumbai, Kerala and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are among the worst polluted in the world.

  • Global Scenario: More than 8 million tonnes of plastic leaks into the ocean each year – equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute.

  • Every year Marine plastic gets trapped in the gyres (revolving water system in the world’s oceans) which breaks down into micro-plastic and becomes harmful for marine as well as human life. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean gyre.

  • Financial cost: US$13 billion a year is the cost of environmental damage as plastic wreaks havoc on fisheries, marine ecosystems and economies.

  • Composition: About 60-90 per cent of marine litter is made up of plastic polymers, plastic bags, fishing gear and food and beverage containers.

  • According to some estimates, at the rate we are dumping items such as plastic bottles, bags and cups after a single use, by 2050 oceans will carry more plastic than fish and an estimated 99 per cent of seabirds will have ingested plastic.

 

About Ocean Cleanup Project

  • Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organisation which is developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastics.

  • It is directed at cleaning The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) which is a zone between Hawaii and California. About 1.8 Trillion pieces of plastic float the surface of the GPGP.

  • Impact of Increasing level of Plastics in Ocean

  • Bio-accumulation: Many persistent organic pollutants (for example, pesticides, PCBs, DDT, and dioxins) float around the oceans at low concentrations, but their hydrophobic nature concentrates them on the surface of plastic particles. Marine animals mistakenly feed on the microplastics, and at the same time ingest the toxic pollutants. The chemicals accumulate in the animal tissues and then increase in concentration as the pollutants are transferred up the food chain.

  • Leaching of harmfull chemical: As the plastics degrade and become brittle, they leach out monomers like Bisphenol A which can then be absorbed by marine life, with relatively little known consequences.

  • Threat to Biodiversity: Beside the associated chemical loads, ingested plastic materials can be damaging for

 

Microplastics

  • Microplastics or Microbeads are plastic pieces or fibre which is very small, generally measuring less than 1mm.

  • They have a variety of use, most notably being personal care products like toothpaste, body creams, clothing and industrial use.

  • They have an ability to spread easily and provide silky texture and colours to the product. Thus, adding visual appeal of the cosmetic products.

  • marine organisms, as they can lead to digestive blockage or internal damage from abrasion. There is still much research needed to properly evaluate this issue.

  • Source of vector borne diseases: Being so numerous, microplastics provide abundant surfaces for small organisms to attach. This dramatic increase in colonization opportunities can have population-level consequences. In addition, these plastics are essentially rafts for organisms to travel further then they usually would, making them vectors for spreading invasive marine species.

 

Challenges in Tackling Plastics Debris

  • Ubiquitous Transboundary Movement of marine plastics and microplastics: It is becoming a major concern as their property of durability makes their debris remain intact for long period of time throughout the ocean.

  • Ineffective Waste Collection: Greatest burden of plastic waste entering the sea is likely to arise where waste collection systems are ineffective or even non-existent.

  • Lack of resources with less developed countries: Less developed and developing countries in particular may face challenges in managing the rapidly growing volume of plastic waste.

 

Other Steps taken for tackling Plastic Debris

  • Blue Flag Beach Certificate Standards

  • Certificate is given to environment-friendly and clean beaches, equipped with amenities of international standards for tourists. These standards were established by the Copenhagen-based Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) in 1985.

  • Chandrabhaga beach on the Konark coast of Odisha will be the first in Asia to get the Blue Flag certification

  • UN Environment launches #CleanSeas campaign: Its objective is to eliminate major sources of marine litter, Microplastics in cosmetics and the excessive, wasteful usage of single-use plastic by the year 2022.

  • Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal: It aims at preventing and minimizing the generation of wastes including those ending up in the ocean. Much of the marine liter and microplastics found in the sea may be determined as ‘waste’ as defined under the Convention.

  • Stockholm Convention on POPs: It aims to protect human health and the environment from POPs (organic chemicals that persist in the environment, bio accumulate in humans and wildlife, have harmful effects and have the potential for long-range environmental transport). Plastics can adsorb POPs such as PCB, DDT and dioxins and these are frequently detected in marine plastic liter.

  • The Honolulu Strategy: It is a framework for a comprehensive and global collaborative effort to reduce the ecological, human health, and economic impacts of marine debris worldwide.

 

3. Minimum River Flow For Ganga

Central Water Commission (CWC)

  • It is premier Technical organization under Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.

  • It undertakes measures for control, conservation and utilization of water resources throughout the country and has been monitoring water quality of river water since year 1963.

  • Recently National Mission for Clean Ganga has laid down the flow specifications for river Ganga to maintain a minimum river flow or ecological flow.

 

More on news

  • Central Water Commission would be the designated authority to collect relevant data and submit reports on a quarterly basis to the NMCG.

  • The compliance of minimum environmental flow is applicable to all existing, under-construction and future projects except the mini and micro projects which do not alter the flow characteristics of the river significantly.

  • The existing projects would have to comply with the norms within a period of three years

 

About Minimum River Flow

  • Minimum River Flow or Minimum Environmental Flow or E-flow is a regime of flow in a river that mimics the natural pattern. It refers to the water considered sufficient for protecting the structure and function of an ecosystem and its dependent species.

  • It means enough water is to be released in the downstream of the river system after utilizing the water for the development projects in order to ensure downstream environmental, social and economic benefits.

  • It is either defined in terms of percentage of the average flow (monthly average or average of any predefined number of days) or in terms of cubic meters of water flow per second.

  • It will also ensure demand side management of water as it will help to reduce water withdrawal from the river by adopting scientific practices in irrigation, reusing and recycling of water and regulating groundwater withdrawals for various purpose

  • Uninterrupted flow of water in Ganga is also important to keep it clean through its natural ecological functions and processes.

 

Concerns

  • Inadequate minimum flow norms: Under Draft Ganga Act, Justice Girdhar Malviya Panel suggested stricter provision than these specifications to increase accountability and responsibility for cleanliness and uninterrupted flow (Niarmalta and Aviralta).

  • Lack of guidelines for projects: Along with minimum flow, guidelines also need to be laid out for the modifications that projects need to make.

  • No mention of aquatic biodiversity: The very purpose of e-flow is to ensure free migration of these species. But the notification is completely silent on this aspect thus, seemingly defeating the purpose of this exercise.

  • Environmentalists view: Some environmentalists are of the view that all the hydroelectric projects as well as mining in Haridwar-Kumbh region should be banned completely to endure natural flow of the river.

 

4. Draft River Basin Management Bill, 2018

  • Principle governing River Basin Development, Management and Regulation according to Draft.

  • Cooperation: Basin States shall participate and cooperate in best interest of the nation, in the development, management and regulation of waters of inter-State river basin for the mutual benefit of the basin States and the Indian Union.

  • Equitable and Sustainable Utilisation of water: Basin States shall in their respective territories develop, manage and regulate the waters of an inter-State river basin in an equitable and sustainable manner.

  • Water as a Common Pool Community Resource: Water needs to be managed as a common pool community resource held, by the State, under public trust doctrine to achieve food security, support livelihood, and ensure equitable and sustainable development for all.

  • Demand Management: The demand management of water needs to be given priority, especially through:

  • Evolving an agricultural system which economizes on water use and maximizes value from water.

  • Bringing in maximum efficiency in use of water and avoiding wastages.

 

Background

  • Second Administrative Reform Commision (2008) had recommended that River Basin Organisations (RBOs) should be set up for each inter-State river, as proposed by National Commission for Integrated Water resources Development, 1999 by enacting a legislation to replace the River Boards Act, 1956.

  • River Basin: A geographical area determined by the watershed limit of the system of waters, flowing into

 

Advantage of River Basin Management (RBM)

  • Economic Importance: River Basin absorb and channel the run-off from snow-melt and rainfall, which can provide fresh drinking water as well as access to food, hydropower, building materials (e.g. reeds for thatching), medicines and recreational opportunities.

  • Control Water Pollution: They are natural 'filters' and 'sponges', and play a vital role in water purification, water retention and regulation of flood peaks.

  • Ecosystem Service: They act as a critical link between land and sea, providing transportation routes for people, and making it possible for fish to migrate between marine and freshwater systems.

  • Biodiversity Conservation: RBM combine both terrestrial (e.g. forest and grassland) and aquatic (e.g. river, lake and marsh) components, thereby providing a wide diversity of habitats for plants and animals. the ocean/sea either directly or through another sovereign nation or into a natural lake having no outlet.

  • It is considered as the basic hydrological unit for planning and development of water resources.

  • There are 13 Major river basins in India and cover 80 per cent of the population and 85 per cent of total river discharge.

  • The major river basin is the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna, which is the largest with catchment area of about 11.0 lakh km2 (more than 43% of the catchment area of all the major rivers in the country).

  • Need: A lack of integrated river basin management often results in decision-making dominated by powerful economic sectors such as navigation, dam construction and intensive agriculture.

 

Highlights of Bill

  • Objective: It proposes optimum development of inter-State rivers by facilitating inter-State coordination ensuring scientific planning of land and water resources taking basin/sub-basin as unit with unified perspectives of water in all its forms (including soil moisture, ground and surface water) and ensuring comprehensive and balanced development of both catchment and command areas.

  • Repeal River Boards Act: Bill seeks to repeal the River Boards Act, 1956, which was enacted with a declaration that centre should take control of regulation and development of Inter-state rivers and river valleys in public interest. However, not a single river board has been constituted so far.

  • River Basin Authorities (RBA): It seeks to establish 13 RBAs for development, management, and regulation of waters of an inter-state river basin, consisting of a Governing Council and an Executive Board.

  • Executive Board: It will comprise the Chairman and administrative secretaries of the concerned state governments to formulate a River Basin Master Plan for the inter-state river basin which analyze the river basin characteristics, environmental needs, assessment of the effects of existing legislation etc.

  • Governing Council: It will consist of Chief Ministers of basin states, and will approve the River Basin Master Plan, resolve conflicts among states, Review and give clearance to new water resources projects etc.

  • RBA will be setup for river basins of Ganga, Indus, Godavari, Mahanadi, Mahi, Narmada, Pennar, Cauvery, Krishna, Tapi, Subarnrekha, Brahmani-Baitarini and Brahamaputra- Barak-inter-state rivers of north-east.

  • Binding Decision: Recommendations of the authority will be binding on all states within the river basin, except those concerning sharing of inter-state river waters. The dispute between two or more states will go to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Tribunal only if governing council of the concerned authority fails to address it.

 

5. India’s 1st Soil Moisture Map

Details of Soil Moisture Map

  • This forecast is a joint exercise by IIT Gandhinagar and the India Meteorological Department (IMD) which provides soil moisture forecast at seven and 30-day lead times.

  • The product, termed ‘Experimental Forecasts Land Surface Products’ has been developed using the ‘Variable Infiltration Capacity’ model that takes into consideration soil, vegetation, land use and land cover among other parameters.

  • The countrywide forecast prepared at the end of the monsoon season suggests deficit soil moisture conditions are likely in Gujarat, Bihar, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and southern Andhra Pradesh.

  • It also indicates that soil moisture conditions in western Uttar Pradesh, Bundelkhand, and Chhattisgarh are

 

Importance of Soil moisture

  • It acts as a nutrient itself and regulates soil temperature.

  • It serves as a solvent and carrier of food nutrients for plant growth.

  • Yield of crop is more often determined by the amount of water available rather than the deficiency of other food nutrients.

  • Soil forming processes and weathering depend on water.

  • Microorganisms require water for their metabolic activities.

  • likely to be normal or surplus at the start of the Rabi sowing season.

 

Advantages of having Soil moisture forecast

  • Irrigation requirements: Soil moisture is crucial for agriculture since it directly affects crop growth and helps assess the irrigation requirement for the area. For e.g. Based on observed conditions parts of Andhra Pradesh are deficient in terms of soil moisture right now. This means that if there is not enough rainfall in one or two months, these are regions which will demand heavy irrigation whether that comes from groundwater or surface water storage.

  • Better planning: Timely soil moisture forecasts will help target interventions, like in terms of seed varieties for better planning in agriculture. For e.g. the total area sown under rabi crops is around 625 lakh hectares of which wheat takes up 300 lakh hectares. Timely forecasting will improve productivity and optimizing input cost for wheat.

  • Increase farmer’s income: In areas like Bundelkhand, Bihar, in low lying areas of Seemanchal and Kosi belt, where most farmers are dependent on rabi crop and keep their land fallow or just grow some fodder crop during the kharif season, the advance forecasting will help augment farmers’ income and provide livelihood security.

  • Understanding crop pattern: Essentially soil moisture gives us more information on what is needed for crop growth in different parts of the country such as crop pattern, type of crops to be grown etc.

 

6. Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas

  • Recently, the Global Soil biodiversity Atlas placed India among countries whose soil biodiversity faces the highest level of risk. o It is a joint venture of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative and the European Commission Joint Research Centre.

  • Its findings were published as part of the Living Planet Report, 2018 (published by WWF every two years).

  • Some of the important findings of the Living Planet Report, 2018 were: o The current rate of species loss is 100 to 1,000 times higher than only a few hundred years ago. Ten thousand years ago that ratio was probably reversed.

  • 60% of all animals with a backbone were wiped out due to human activity from 1970 to 2014. The report says that the Earth has entered the sixth mass extinction event in the last half-a-billion years.

  • There has been a decline in mangroves by 30% to 50% over the past 50 years.

  • Almost 50% of the globe’s shallow-water reefs have declined in the last 30 years.

 

7. Industrial Disasters In India

​​Industrial Disasters- A background

  • The ever-growing mechanisation, electrification, chemicalisation and sophistication have made industrial jobs more and more complex and intricate leading to increased dangers to human life in industries through accidents and injuries.

  • India has continued to witness a series of industrial disasters during the last 3 decades after the Bhopal gas tragedy, including a chlorine gas leak in Vadodara (2002) that affected 250 people, a toluene fire at Mohali (2003), a chlorine gas leak at Jamshedpur (2008), and more recently, boiler furnace explosion at the NTPC Unchahar power plant (2017) which killed 43, affecting more than 80 people.

  • A study by the British Safety Council based on ILO data found that 48,000 people on average die in the country per annum due to work-related hazards. It observed that as many as 38 fatal accidents take place every day in the construction sector in the country.

  • As per NCRB data, Electrical faults seem to be the major reason for 8% of the deaths in industries.

 

Reasons for Industrial disasters

  • On part of Industries

  • Low awareness: Most companies are not aware of the safe practices in terms of what is a safe machinery, or what environment it will be used in.

  • Unsafe practices: For eg- quarrying leading to roof collapse in coal mines, workers working without masks in areas prone to poisonous gas leakage, contract workers not given adequate personal protection equipment (PPE) etc.

  • Lack of regulations: Storing and handling hazardous chemicals by factories in unorganized sector poses serious and complex risks to people, property and the environment.

  • Poor management systems: Due to poorer reporting systems, many accidents and deaths go unreported.

  • Unawareness about disaster management: Industries do not regularly inform the larger public about the disaster management plan in case an accident occurs.

  • On part of Government

  • Lack of centre-state coordination: Labor falls in the concurrent list, so the Centre frames the laws while the states have the responsibility of implementing them. But the multiplicity of legislations and changing regulations from state to state often pose compliance problems.

  • Relaxation of Industrial Regulations: Industrial regulation has, unfortunately, come to be viewed as a barrier to ease of doing business in India. This is a result of inefficiency and corruption.

  • Safety audits: Owing to poorly staffed labour departments, safety audits of hazardous manufacturing units still remain a distant dream although the Factories Act prescribes a mandatory annual examination.

  • Capacity building at state level: The inability of states to strengthen their labour bureaus and environment protection units caused unsafe factories to mushroom to meet the growing demand for industrialization.

  • On part of workers and public

  • Lax attitude of workers: Even if workers are provided with PPEs they are generally reluctant to use them as they feel it hinder their comfort while on work. Also, most of the workers are inattentive while safety trainings.

  • Lack of Public awareness: Public outside the premises are unaware of the nature of industry and the hazards it poses to health and life. They are also not aware of what to do when an accident occurs around.

 

Government/Judicial Actions taken to tackle Industrial Disasters

  • Environment Impact Assessment: It introduced the concept of environmental appraisal of all projects and incorporating ecological and safety conditions while approving new ventures. Also, it has provisions for management of hazardous waste.

  • Extended Risk scope: In 1987, the Factories Act, 1948, was amended to extend the scope of risk from hazardous industries. What used to be a narrowly defined scope covering only workers and the premises of the factory was extended to the general public in the vicinity of the factory. The changes also provided for appraisal when hazardous industries were being set up or expanded.

  • Handling hazardous chemicals & wastes: o Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Substances Rules, 1989, details and catalogues chemicals deemed “hazardous” entering the country, the port of entry and the quantity imported.

  • The Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008, provide for means of safe storage and disposal of “hazardous waste” with the help of central and state pollution control boards.

  • Addressing chemical disasters o The Chemical Accidents (Emergency Planning, Preparedness, and Response) Rules, 1996, addresses gas leaks and similar events.

  • The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) guideline on chemical disasters was published in 2007 for a “proactive, participatory, well-structured, failsafe, multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach” to tackle chemical disasters.

  • Compensation liability

  • Concept of Absolute Liability: As defined by the Supreme Court in 1986, the enterprise owes an absolute and non-delegable duty to the community to ensure that no harm results to anyone on account of hazardous or inherently dangerous nature of the activity which it has undertaken. Compensation needs to have a “deterrent effect” and must reflect the “magnitude and capacity of the enterprise”.

  • Public Liability Insurance Act (1991): It was supposed to provide for immediate and interim relief to disaster victims till their claims of compensation were finally decided. Owners of industries dealing in hazardous substances are required to take out insurance policies under this Act.

  • The NGT Act provides for the “principle of no-fault liability”, which means that the company can be held liable even if it had done everything in its power to prevent the accident.

  • The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010, is the most recent law that has provision for compensation of more than Rs.100 crore, which could reach up to Rs.1,500 crore, depending on severity.

  • For worker safety: ILO’s Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006, ratified by India in 2017, aims at promoting a preventative safety and health culture and progressively achieving a safe and healthy working environment.

 

Way Forward

  • Creation of Buffer zone: It is essential for government to ensure an adequate buffer zone and not permit people to stay around in that zone or allow any business shops or constructions therein. Sufficient space must be kept in the buffer zone so that if something goes wrong or an accident occurs, the people are not affected.

  • Location of Industry: The EIA regulations mandated under Environment Protection Act must be strictly enforced. Local authorities especially Gram Sabha must be given adequate weightage for their inputs in regards to EIA assessment.

  • Disaster Management Plan: Industries should have disaster management plans that local authorities—which include hospitals, fire stations and the like—will know and should communicate to the local people what they are supposed to do in the event of a disaster. These plans are also needed to be updated regularly.

  • Consolidation of rules and laws: India should formulate and implement a comprehensive safety legislative framework in accordance with the current industry best practice and community expectations.

  • Enhance monitoring standards: India needs a single national authority to monitor workplace standards and increasing inspection as recommended by a Labour Working Group constituted by the Government back in 2008-09.

  • Safety Audit reforms: At present, safety audits are primarily focused on occupational safety and health issues and lack sufficient technical rigour. The audit scope and methodology should be expanded to include auditing of major incident event scenarios and controls identified and assessed for each scenario. The audits should seek evidence on performance assurance of safety controls.

  • Institutional capacity building: Investigative and technical rigour should be enhanced in the inspections that are being undertaken by the inspectorate.

  • There should be a national capacity building programmefor inspectors in process safety, incident investigation, and auditing and inspections.

  • Universities and professional institutions should contribute to the long-term skill development of inspectorates.

  • There should be international cooperation in research and training programmes related to safety and health inspections.

  • Identification of common safety incidents: Within the premises of the industries, the 5 most common causes of safety incidents and preventative measures have been identified as follows:

  • Moving machinery – Isolate, lock or pin all energy sources before any machinery is accessed.

  • Falling from height – Provide regular training, appropriate harnessing equipment and ensure checks are in place when working at height.

  • Falling objects – Ensure regular checks are in place to remove or secure objects in risk areas.

  • On-site traffic – Ensure all traffic on the site is operated safely, including road, rail and pedestrians, and remove all unnecessary traffic.

  • Process safety incidents – Identify potential process safety hazards that could cause explosions or fires and take adequate precautions.

  • Strict implementation of safety norms: Every factory management should set up a statutory safety committee responsible for ensuring the strict implementation of occupational safety norms.

 

8. EARMARKING ECO-SENSITIVE AREA

  • Background information

  • In 2010, the Central government began the process of declaring ESAs by constituting the Madhav Gadgil committee. The recommendations were not implemented after protest from all states, especially Kerala, saying that it hampered development and large habitations.

  • Subsequently, a High-Level Working Group (HLWG) under former ISRO chairman K Kasturirangan gave a report in 2013 recommending 37 per cent (about 60,000 sq km) of the Western Ghats as ecologically sensitive areas. However, the states were still at loggerhead.

  • Centre has issued 3 draft ESA notifications for consultation with states since 2014. This is the 4th such draft proposing 56,825 sq km of Western Ghats as ‘no go’ zone which covers nearly 37% of Western Ghats and is in line with Kasturirangan Committee recommendations.

  • The process to notify ESA delayed when Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu raised their objections on recommendation of the HLWG, leaving the ecologically fragile region in Western Ghats open for further exploitation.

  • The NGT on August 24, 2018 directed the ministry to finalise the notification within a period of six months without making any alteration in the draft of February last year. So, the Centre will now have to finalise it by February next year.

 

Eco Sensitive Zones (ESZ)/ Eco-Sensitive Area (ESA)

  • ESZs are ecologically important areas notified under the Environment Protection Act to be protected from industrial pollution and unregulated development. According to the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the government can prohibit industrial operations such as mining, sand quarrying and building thermal power plants in sensitive areas.

  • To categorise an area as ecologically sensitive, the government looks at topography, climate and rainfall, land use and land cover, roads and settlements, human population, biodiversity corridors and data of plants and animal species.

  • As per orders of the Supreme Court, no project can be allowed within 10 km of the boundary of national parks and sanctuaries without the approval of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), the highest body on wildlife regulatory issues, unless a site-specific Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) is notified around that park or sanctuary.

  • Purpose for declaring ESZ around National Parks and Sanctuaries is to create some kind of “shock absorber” for the protected areas.

  • They would also act as transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.

  • The activities in the ESZ would be of a regulatory nature rather than prohibitive nature, unless and otherwise so required.

  • Extent of ESZ: The width of the ESZ and type of regulations would differ from one protected area (PA) to other. However, as a general principle the width of the ESZ could go up to 10 kms around a PA (may not be uniform all around it) as provided in the Wildlife Conservation Strategy-2002.

  • In case where sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkages, are even beyond 10 kms width, these should be included in the ESZ.

  • Nature of Activities in ESZ: While some of the activities could be allowed in all the ESAs, others will need to be regulated/ prohibited. However, which activity can be regulated or prohibited and to what extent, would have to be PA specific. There are 3 categories of activities-

  • Prohibited- commercial mining, polluting industries, major hydroelectric projects etc.

  • Restricted with safeguards (Regulated) - Felling of trees, Establishment of hotels and resorts, Drastic change of agriculture system, widening of roads, introduction of exotic species etc.

  • Permissible- Rain Water Harvesting, Organic farming, Ongoing Agricultural Practices etc.

 

Problems associated with ESZ

  • States like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Goa etc. kept the mining areas out of ESZs, irrespective of their ecological value. Besides, no ground investigation has been done in most proposals. The areas are randomly marked on topographic sheets.

  • Most proposals do not follow ecological aspects of the objective of this exercise. In most of the proposals, distance from the PA boundary is made the only criterion for defining ESZ and factors such as habitat connectivity and ecological integrity of the region are rarely considered for identifying the zones.

  • States hesitate to finalize ESZ as it might hamper their finances due to closure of industries and tourism activities.

  • There are no quantifiable criteria defined for including or excluding an area in the ESZ, leaving it to the forest officials to arbitrarily take decisions.

  • People who are living in biodiversity rich areas are mostly excluded from the consultation process to identify the ESZ. However, they are the one who will be directly affected by regulated or restricted activities.

  • Though ESZ does not affect the ownership rights of people on land resources, it restricts land-use change. The tribal people who mostly reside in these areas are affected as their livelihood mostly depend on forest products.

 

Way Forward

  • As the experts are attributing the recent catastrophic floods in Kerala to the exploitative activities in Western Ghats, the issue of ESZ gains prominence. There needs to be a balance between the development and biodiversity conservation.

  • Centre should take all the states on board along with due representation from the local population in deciding the ESZ.

  • The declaration of ESZ should be in line with the rights given to tribal population under Forest Rights Act-2006 and The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996(PESA-1996).

 

9. Banni Grassland

About Banni grassland

  • The Banni grassland of Gujarat (near Rann of Kutch) is the largest natural grassland in the Indian subcontinent known for its scarce rainfall and semi-drought conditions.

  • The land of Banni is formed out of ocean clay, so it includes an element of salt from very beginning. This land is formed out of alluvial and clayey sand..

  • ChhariDhand ‘Chhari’ means salt affected and ‘dhand’ means shallow wetland.

  • Chhari-Dhand is a legally protected wetland conservation reserve.

  • The Banni Grasslands and Chhari-Dhand form one of the most important bird areas in the desert ecosystems of India.

  • Migratory pastoralism has been followed here from centuries with a broader geographical landscape that included Sindh in Pakistan and even extended into parts of Baluchistan and Afghanistan.

  • Now, Banni is divided into eastern and western parts separated by National Highway 341, which leads to the India-Pakistan International Border.

  • There are 22 ethnic communities living in the area called Maldhari pastoralists (’mal’ means animal stock and ‘dhari’ means keeper).

  • A huge freshwater lake locally known as Chhari-Dhandis a prominent feature of the Banni grassland.

  • It has been identified as one of the best area for reintroduction of Cheetah by Wild Life Institute of India as the area includes Kala Dungar or Black hills where large number of jackals are present.

 

10. Eurasian Otter

About Otter

  • They are carnivorous mammals and adapt to a variety of habitats ranging from marine to freshwater environments.

  • India is home to 3 of the 13 species of otters found worldwide. These are

  • Eurasian Otter (Lutralutra): IUCN: Near Threatened; CITES Appendix I; Wildlife (Protection) Act Schedule II.

  • Smooth-coated Otter (Lutraperspicillata): IUCN: Vulnerable; CITES Appendix II; Wildlife (Protection) Act Schedule II.

  • Small-clawed otter (Aonyxcinereus): IUCN: Vulnerable; CITES Appendix II; Wildlife (Protection) Act Schedule II.

  • Though the Eurasian otter has been recorded historically from the Western Ghats (Coorg in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiri and Palani hill ranges), this is the first photographic and genetic confirmation of its presence here

October Environmental Issues

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