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Category: Geography / Environment

BHARAT STAGE – VI

Why in News?

  • International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) released India’s first Type Approval Certificate (TAC) for Bharat Stage – VI (BS – VI) norms for the two-wheeler segment.

Highlights:

  • Bharat stage norms are the emission norms which the automotive manufacturers have to comply to sell their vehicles in India. These norms are applicable to all two wheelers, three wheelers, four wheelers, and construction equipment vehicles.
  • To curb the growing menace of air pollution through the vehicle’s emission, the Government of India has decided to leapfrog from the existing BS – IV norms to the BS- VI, thereby skipping the BS – V norms, and to implement the BS – VI norms with effect from 1st April 2020. From 1st April 2020, only those vehicles will be sold and registered in India which complies with these norms.
  • The norms are stringent and at par with global standards.

Difference between BS-IV and the new BS-VI:

  • The major difference in standards between the existing BS-IV and the new BS-VI auto fuel norms is the presence of sulphur.
  • The newly introduced fuel is estimated to reduce the amount of sulphur released by 80%, from 50 parts per million to 10 ppm.As per the analysts, the emission of NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars is also expected to reduce by nearly 70% and 25% from cars with petrol engines.

International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT):

  • ICAT is the premier testing and certification agency authorized by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for providing testing and certification services to the vehicle and component manufacturers in India and abroad.
  • It has the latest equipment, facilities, and capabilities to develop, validate, test and certify the engines and vehicles for the latest norms in the field of emission and many other facilities like crash lab, NVH lab, EMC lab and test tracks.

BHARAT STAGE – VI

GS 3: Environment

Why in News?

International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) released India’s first Type Approval Certificate (TAC) for Bharat Stage – VI (BS – VI) norms for the two-wheeler segment.

Highlights:

  • Bharat stage norms are the emission norms which the automotive manufacturers have to comply to sell their vehicles in India. These norms are applicable to all two wheelers, three wheelers, four wheelers, and construction equipment vehicles.
  • To curb the growing menace of air pollution through the vehicle’s emission, the Government of India has decided to leapfrog from the existing BS – IV norms to the BS- VI, thereby skipping the BS – V norms, and to implement the BS – VI norms with effect from 1st April 2020. From 1st April 2020, only those vehicles will be sold and registered in India which complies with these norms.
  • The norms are stringent and at par with global standards.

Difference between BS-IV and the new BS-VI:

  • The major difference in standards between the existing BS-IV and the new BS-VI auto fuel norms is the presence of sulphur.
  • The newly introduced fuel is estimated to reduce the amount of sulphur released by 80%, from 50 parts per million to 10 ppm.As per the analysts, the emission of NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars is also expected to reduce by nearly 70% and 25% from cars with petrol engines.

International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT):

  • ICAT is the premier testing and certification agency authorized by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for providing testing and certification services to the vehicle and component manufacturers in India and abroad.
  • It has the latest equipment, facilities, and capabilities to develop, validate, test and certify the engines and vehicles for the latest norms in the field of emission and many other facilities like crash lab, NVH lab, EMC lab and test tracks.

INDIA BACKS DHANAURI FOR RAMSAR SITE TAG

GS 3: Environment

Why in News?

The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate change has asked Uttar Pradesh forest department,to propose Dhanauri in Greater Noida as a wetland of international importance under Ramsar convention.

Dhanauri as Ramsar site:

Dhanauri supports a large population of the vulnerable Sarus cranes. It has more than 1% of the biogeographic population of one species: the Sarus crane. The wetland meets two criteria (out of nine)to be declared a Ramsar site: The area supports congregation of more than 20,000 waterfowl and other species. Once approved, it will be the 28th wetland in India, and only the second from UP (after the Upper Ganga river), to be declared a Ramsar site.

Ramsar Site:

  • The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The Convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. Since then, almost 90% of UN member states, from all the world’s geographic regions, have acceded to become “Contracting Parties”.
  • The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”. The Convention uses a broad definition of wetlands. It includes all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans. Under the “three pillars” of the Convention, the Contracting Parties commit to: work towards the wise use of all their wetlands; designate suitable wetlands for the list of Wetlands of International Importance (the “Ramsar List”) and ensure their effective management; cooperate internationally on transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems and shared species.

INDIAN NAVY ENVIRONMENT CONSERVATION ROADMAP (INECR)

Why in news?

  • The Indian Navy has formulated an environment conservation roadmap aimed at reducing energy consumption and diversifying its supply, an official statement

INECR:

  • Under the INECR, numerous policies aimed at reduction of energy consumption and environment sustenance have been formulated and disseminated to all ships, as well as shore establishments, it added
  • The Indian Navy Environment Conservation Roadmap (INECR), with specific action plans, covers the entire gamut of operations, maintenance, administration and infratructure, and community living
  • The roadmap envisions reduction in energy consumption and diversification of energy supply as key result areas
  • Navy has pledged 1.5 per cent of its ‘Works’ Budget towards renewable energy generation, it added
  • Solar photovoltaic projects have been one of the focus areas of the Navy since the inception of the INECR
  • Similarly, pilot projects utilising wind or a mix of both solar and wind (hybrid) are also being taken up progressively, which will not only reduce carbon footprint but also help achieve self-sustenance in energy security

INDIA’S FIRST EMISSION TRADING SCHEME

Why in News?

  • Gujarat has launched India’s first trading programme to combat particulate air pollution on World Environment Day 2019, which has air pollution as its theme.

Gujarat Emission Trading Scheme (ETS):

  • The programme is a market-based system where the government sets a cap on emissions and allows industries to buy and sell permits to stay below the
  • It is initiated by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB).
  • It was designed with the help of a team of researchers from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), the Economic Growth Center at Yale University and others.

Using Cap and Trade system:

  • The government has set a cap on concentration of emissions for each industrial unit at 150 microgramme per cubic metre (ug/m3), which is the 24-hour average for emission standard set by the Central government for industrial
  • Globally, cap-and-trade systems have been used to reduce other forms of pollution, such as programmes that have successfully reduced sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the
  • But the Gujarat programme is the first in the world to regulate particulate air

How actual trading happens?

  • Under the cap and trade system, the regulator first defines the total mass of pollution that can be put into the air over a defined period by all factories put
  • Then, a set of permits is created, each of which allows a certain amount of pollution, and the total is equal to the
  • These permits are the quantity that is bought and
  • Each factory is allocated a share of these permits (this could be equal or based on size or some other rule).
  • After this, plants can trade permits with each other, just like any other commodity on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Limited (NCDEX).

Benefits of ETS:

  • The reason for trading is that in a cap and trade market, the regulator will measure pollution over a period of time and industries must own enough permits to cover their total
  • Factories who find it very expensive to reduce pollution, will seek to buy more
  • Those who can easily reduce pollution are encouraged to do so because then they have excess permits to
  • Eventually, after buying and selling by plants that find it cheap to cut pollution and those for whom it is expensive, most pollution is taken care
  • Whatever the final allocation, the total number of permits does not change so the total pollution is still equal to the predefined cap. And yet the costs to industry are

Existing regulations:

  • Under existing regulations, every industry has to meet a certain maximum concentration of pollutants when it is
  • They are tested occasionally and manually (one or two times a year). However, there is widespread non-compliance across
  • This is partly because penalties are rarely applied, in large part because they involve punishments such as closing down the entire plant which is not necessarily appropriate for small violations.

HEAT WAVE

GS 3: Environment -Environmental impact assessment

Why in News?

Severe heat wave conditions will continue in many parts over the next couple of days, especially in Rajasthan and several parts of north and central India.

What is Heat Wave?

  • A Heat Wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the North-Western parts of India.
  • Heat Waves typically occur between March and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July. The extreme temperatures and resultant atmospheric conditions adversely affect people living in these regions as they cause physiological stress, sometimes resulting in death.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) criteria for Heat Waves:

  • Heat Wave need not be considered till maximum temperature of a station reaches atleast 40*C for Plains and atleast 30*C for Hilly regions
  • When normal maximum temperature of a station is less than or equal to 40*C :-Heat Wave Departure from normal is 5*C to 6*C, Severe Heat Wave Departure from normal is 7*C or more
  • When normal maximum temperature of a station is more than 40*C :-Heat Wave Departure from normal is 4*C to 5*C Severe Heat Wave Departure from normal is 6*C or more
  • When actual maximum temperature remains 45*C or more irrespective of normal maximum temperature, heat waves should be declared.
  • Higher daily peak temperatures and longer, more intense heat waves are becomingly increasingly frequent globally due to climate change.
  • India too is feeling the impact of climate change in terms of increased instances of heat waves which are more intense in nature with each passing year, and have a devastating impact on human health thereby increasing the number of heat wave casualties.

Causes:

A heat wave is caused by a high pressure system that hovers over an area. It traps heat beneath it like an oven. High-pressure systems force air downward. Hot air on the ground cannot escape into higher levels. Without rising air, there are no rain or clouds. The sun just bakes the area until a new pressure system is strong enough to push the high-pressure system away.

Effects:

  • Heat stress causes dehydration and loss of body salt.
  • It can also lead to failure in people with heart conditions.
  • When the core body temperature rises beyond 104 F, organs fail. The gut leaks toxins into the body, creating an inflammatory response called heat stroke.

SURFACE OZONE POLLUTION

Why in News?

  • According to a forecast by the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), with rising temperatures, surface ozone pollution is expected to increase in Delhi in the next three days.

Highlights:

  • Ozone, a key component of photochemical smog, is formed by a complex reaction between nitrogen dioxide and hydrocarbons in the presence of sunlight.
  • Ozone is considered to be a criteria pollutant in the troposphere — the lowermost layer of the atmosphere — but not in the upper atmosphere, where it occurs naturally and serves to block harmful ultraviolet rays from the Sun.
  • When temperature increases, the rate of production of surface ozone also increases.
  • Surface Ozone can lead to cough, shortness of breath, throat pain in the short term and cause corrosion of linings of lungs and make lungs vulnerable to further infections in case of long-term exposure.
  • Photochemical smog is produced when pollutants from the combustion of fossil fuels react with sunlight. The energy in the sunlight converts the pollutants into other toxic chemicals. In order for photochemical smog to form, there must be other pollutants in the air, specifically nitrous oxides and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

CRESTED IBISES

GS 3 : Environment- Conservation

Why in News?

An endangered bird was reintroduced to the wild by South Korean authorities on Wednesday, four decades after it went extinct on the peninsula.

Crested ibises:

  • The crested ibis was last seen in the wild in 1979 in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean peninsula.
  • Its head is partially bare, showing red skin, and it has a dense crest of white plumes on the nape
  • Threats : China and Japan are also part of the species’ natural range, but the species was driven to the edge of extinction — partially because pesticide use eliminated its food sources — until captive breeding programmes were set up.
  • IUCN Status – Endangered

RISAT-2B

GS 3 : Science & Technology – Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology

Why in News?

  • Radar Imaging Satellite 2B is an Indian radar reconnaissance satellite that is part of India’s RISAT programme. It is built by Indian Space Research Organisation and will be launched by PSLV-C46 rocket on May 22, 2019 from the launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

Applications:

  • In India radar imaging are used for crop estimation because our main crop growing season of kharif is in May-September when it rains and gets
  • We have used this data extensively for forestry, soil, land use, geology and during floods and
  • Due to an all-weather seeing feature, the satellite becomes special for security forces and disaster relief

Features:

  • The satellite has a mass of 615 kg and feature an X-band SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar).
  • RISAT 2B will be launched into a 37° inclined orbit at 555 km orbital
  • RISAT 2B, RISAT 2BR1 and RISAT 2BR2 will be launched in 2019 on Indian PSLV launch vehicle.

BRS CONVENTIONS

GS 3 : Environment- Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Why in News?

  • The 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to Basel Convention (COP 14) was held along with the 9th meeting of the COP to Rotterdam Convention and the 9th meeting of the COP to Stockholm Convention in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Theme: “Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste”.

Basel Convention:

  • The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was created to protect people and the environment from the negative effects of the inappropriate management of hazardous wastes worldwide.  It is the most comprehensive global treaty dealing with hazardous waste materials throughout their lifecycles, from production and transport to final use and disposal.

Rotterdam Convention:

  • The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for certain hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in international trade provides Parties with a first line of defence against hazardous chemicals.  It promotes international efforts to protect human health and the environment as well as enabling countries to decide if they want to import hazardous chemicals and pesticides listed in the Convention.

Stockholm Convention:

  • The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from highly dangerous, long-lasting chemicals by restricting and ultimately eliminating their production, use, trade, release and storage.

NOT ALL ANIMALS MIGRATE BY CHOICE’ CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED

GS 3 : Environment- Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Why in News?

Ahead of the International Day of Biological Diversity celebrated on May 22, UN Environment India and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) of India launched an awareness campaign ‘Not all animals migrate by choice’ to be displayed at major airports across the country.

Highlights:

  • Campaign launched by Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of India and UN Environment aimed at airports across India.
  • The campaign ‘Not all animals migrate by choice’ aims at creating awareness and garnering public support for the protection and conservation of wildlife, prevention of smuggling and reduction in demand for wildlife products.
  • The campaign also complements worldwide action on illegal trade in wildlife through UN Environment’s global campaign, Wild for Life.
  • This campaign is an important step forward in creating much-needed awareness on wildlife trafficking which threatens the very survival of these species.

Significance of these species:

  • In the first phase of the campaign, Tiger, Pangolin, Star Tortoise and Tokay Gecko have been chosen as they are highly endangered due to illegal trading in International markets.
  • Tiger is traded for its skin, bones and body parts;Pangolin, the most illegally traded wild mammal on the planet is trafficked for its meat and its scales are used in traditional medicines;
  • Star Tortoise for meat and pet trade and Tokay Gecko in traditional medicine mostly into South East Asia and particularly Chinese Markets.

INDIA’S SMALLEST ORCHIDS DISCOVERED IN ASSAM

GS 3: Environment &BD

Why in news?

  • Lecanorchis Taiwaniana (the parasitic bloom), a type of Orchid was accidentally discovered in Assam by Assam’s forest officer named Jatindra Sarma.
  • He is also the Member Secretary of State Medicinal Plants Board.

Lecanorchis Taiwaniana:

  • The orchid species is already known in Japan, Taiwan and Laos.
  • This is the first time it is discovered in India.
  • Its discovery was published in the Japanese Journal of Botany with the title as “New record for the flora in India”.
  • Lecanorchis Taiwaniana is a mycoheterotroph, which means it is one of the two known types of parasitic plants which have abandoned photosynthesis and derives nutrients and its energy from fungus.It is a variant of a Japanese orchid.
  • It is India’s one ofsmallest botanically recorded Orchids in terms of size and duration of bloom.
  • The discovery of Lecanorchis Taiwaniana adds to the Orchid wealth of North East India (NEI).
  • India has about 1,300 species of orchids out of which 800 are found in NEI, about 300 species are found in the Western Ghats and 200 in North Western Himalayas.

COASTAL REGULATION ZONE (CRZ) RULES

GS 3: Environment-Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Why in news?

The Supreme Court last week ordered the demolition, within a month, of five apartment complexes in Maradu municipality in Ernakulam, Kerala, for violating Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ) norms. The order came on a special leave petition (SLP) filed by the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA).

What are CRZ Rules?

  • CRZ Rules govern human and industrial activity close to the coastline, in order to protect the fragile ecosystems near the sea.
  • The Rules, mandated under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, were first framed in 1991.
  • They sought to restrict certain kinds of activities, like large constructions, setting up of new industries, storage or disposal of hazardous material, mining, or reclamation and bunding, within a certain distance from the coastline.
  • The basic idea is: because areas immediately next to the sea are extremely delicate, home to many marine and aquatic life forms, both animals and plants, and are also threatened by climate change, they need to be protected against unregulated development.
  • While the CRZ Rules are made by the Union Environment Ministry, implementation is supposed to be done by state governments through their Coastal Zone Management Authorities. The states are also supposed to frame their own coastal zone management plans in accordance with the central Rules.

CRZ rules 2018:

  • The Environment Ministry issued fresh CRZ Rules in December 2018, which removed certain restrictions on building, streamlined the clearance process, and aimed to encourage tourism in coastal areas.
  • For the so-called CRZ-III (Rural) areas, two separate categories have been stipulated. In the densely populated rural areas (CRZ-IIIA) with a population density of 2,161 per sq km as per the 2011 Census, the no-development zone is now 50 m from the high-tide level, as against the 200 m stipulated earlier.
  • In the CRZ-IIIB category (rural areas with population density below 2,161 per sq km) continue to have a no-development zone extending up to 200 m from the high-tide line.
  • The new Rules have a no-development zone of 20 m for all islands close to the mainland coast, and for all backwater islands in the mainland

NEW UN ACCORD TO CURB EXPORT OF PLASTIC WASTE

GS 3 : Environment-Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Why in news?

Around 180 governments agreed on a new UN accord to regulate the export of plastic waste.

Highlights:

  • The Geneva meeting amended the 1989 Basel Convention on the control of hazardous wastes to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework.
  • The new amendment would empower developing countries to refuse “dumping plastic waste.
  • It aims to eliminate two toxic chemical groups —Dicofol and Perfluorooctanoic Acid, plus related compounds.

Basel Convention:

  • The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, usually known as the Basel Convention, is an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs).The overarching objective of the Basel Convention is to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes.
  • Its scope of application covers a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous wastes” based on their origin and/or composition and their characteristics, as well as two types of wastes defined as “other wastes” –household waste and incinerator ash.

Aims and provisions:

  • the reduction of hazardous waste generation and the promotion of environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes, wherever the place of disposal;
  • the restriction of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes except where it is perceived to be in accordance with the principles of environmentally sound management; anda regulatory system applying to caseswhere transboundary movements are permissible.

DNA DATABASE FOR INDIAN RHINOS

GS 3: Environment-Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Why in News?

The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has begun a project to create DNA profiles of all rhinos in the country.

Highlights:

  • The project is a subset of the Centre’s larger, ongoing rhino conservation programme.
  • By 2021, the project’s deadline, the Indian rhino could be the first wild animal species in India to have all its members DNA-sequenced.
  • The project will help in curbing poaching and gathering evidence in wildlife crimes involving rhinos.
  • The database will be hosted in the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) headquarters in Dehradun.

Rhinos:

  • There are three species of rhino in Asia —Greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran. Javan and Sumatran Rhino are critically endangered and the Greater one-horned (or Indian) rhino is vulnerable In IUCN Red List.
  • They are spread across India, Nepal, Bhutan, Indonesia and Malaysia. These countries are also known as Asian Rhino Range Countries.
  • Only the Great one-horned rhino is found in India.
  • At present, there are about 2,600 Indian rhinos in India, with more than 90% of the population concentrated in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park.

National Rhino Conservation Strategy:

  • It calls for active engagement between India and Nepal to conserve the Greater one-horned rhinoceros.
  • The plan said the single population of rhinos in Sukla-Phanta (Nepal), Valmiki Tiger Reserve (India) and Chitwan National Park (Nepal) and Dudhwa (India) is separated by the political boundary between the two countries.
  • It asks for the management of the two population under the same protocol, instead of managing the two population separately.The plan calls for expanding distribution range as the occurrence of 90% of the rhino in one protected area is a cause of concern and conservation of existing and potential rhino habitats need to be made a national priority.

Indian Rhino Vision 2020:

Launched in 2005, Indian RhinoVision 2020 is an ambitious effort to attain a wild population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos spread over seven protected areas in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.Seven protected areas are Kaziranga, Pobitora, Orang National Park,Manas National Park, Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary, Burachapori wildlife sanctuary and Dibru Saikhowa wildlife sanctuary.It is a collaborative effort between various organisations, including the International Rhino Foundation, Assam’s Forest Department, Bodoland Territorial Council, World Wide Fund –India, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

PURPLE FROG SET TO BE CROWNED KERALA’S STATE AMPHIBIAN

Why in news?

  •  There is an ongoing campaign in Kerala to declare ‘Maveli’, the purple frog as Kerala’s State Amphibian, making it first of its kind in India.

Roots in mythology:

  •  Mahabali, or Maveli, was a benevolent asura king who ruled over the region of Kerala but was banished into the netherworld by Lord Vishnu in order to appease the gods.
  •  But Maveli was granted one wish: he could return to Kerala for a single day and meet his subjects.
  •  This day in Kerala came to be celebrated as ‘Thiruvonam’, the most auspicious day of Onam when people would greet their old king.

Purple Frog:

  • Quite similar to the lore of King Maveli, researchers have found that the Purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis), which lives almost its entire life in underground tunnels, comes out to the surface for a single day in a year to breed.
  •  Once it lays it’s eggs, the bloated frogs characterized by a protruding snout and powerful hind legs return to the earth’s deepest layers.
  •  This intriguing frog species is listed as Endangered on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  •  It feeds mostly on soil-mites, ants and termites using its fluted tongue.
  •  The male and female frogs mate underground and once in a year, they come out on the surface to lay thousands of eggs near seasonal streams in the months of May-June.
  •  How they time their emergence onto the surface along with the onset of early rains is a mystery that continues to baffle naturalists.

Why is it so special?

  •  It’s endemic to this part of the southern Western Ghats and cannot be found anywhere else.
  • Described for the first time in 2003 by two scientists in the jungles of Kerala, the species sparks feverish imagination among herpetologists worldwide for a number of reasons.
  •  It’s evolutionary roots suggest it could have shared space with dinosaurs going back almost 70 million years ago.
  •  This could help scientists understand how it’s population may have evolved and learned to overcome the challenges of shifting land masses.
  •  A year after it was documented, the frog’s closest relatives were found in Seychelles, an island in the Indian Ocean off East Africa.
  •  This discovery led many to ask whether the species could indeed be living proof of the theory of Gondwanaland.

Another proof for continental drift:

  •  Mammals and rodents have often travelled the seas through ships and with voyagers. But amphibians can’t tolerate salinity.
  • So it’s a possibility that the landmass could have been connected (for the species’ close relatives to be found on two continents today).

INDIA CEO FORUM ORGANIZED TO DISCUSS CLIMATE CHANGE ISSUES

Why in News?

  •  India CEO Forum on Climate Change organized by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).  The pioneering initiative of the government, inviting industry representatives, exchanged views on climate change issues and discussed opportunities to collaborate in regard to fulfilling India’s national as well as international climate change commitments.

Objectives of Forum:

  • Secretary MoEFCC highlighted that the forum was being conducted to create a mechanism for the government and businesses to formally talk about climate change issues
  • Develop a common voice at global forums so that there is no disconnect between the stand of the government and that of the industries.
  • Forum will help the government move from a language-based narrative on climate change to an action-based narrative.
  • Highlight the important role that businesses play in dealing with global warming issues and a platform like this will help share best practices and facilitate cross-learning.

Outcomes of the Forum:

  • Businesses are recognised as crucial to meeting global climate change goals and forum on Climate Change focused on driving transition to a low-carbon economy.
  • It delivered powerful messages as leaders from the private and public sector gathered to showcase their commitment to tackle climate change.  The sessions voiced deliberations from the government on India’s international commitments to fighting climate change.
  •  The forum was successful in clearly communicating to the industry leadership the government’s vision on climate change and for the first time, seeking the views of the industries on the same.

UK HAS BECOME THE FIRST COUNTRY TO DECLARE A ‘CLIMATE EMERGENCY’

Why in news?

  • UK Parliament has passed an extraordinary measure: a national declaration of an Environment and Climate Emergency.
  • The UK is the first national government to declare such an Emergency

Why such move?

  • The decision marks a renewed sense of urgency in tackling climate change, following a visit to Parliament by teenage activist Gret Thunberg
  • There are now some 49 million people living under national, city and local declarations of  a climate emergency around the world.
  • The UK is legally committed to a 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 (relative to their 1990 levels).
  • It was recently recognised as one of just 18 developed economies that have driven down carbon dioxide emissions over the last

The cost of inaction:

  • Research in Australia has investigated the cost to the global economy if the Paris Agreement is not met and the world hits 4˚C
  • The values are eye-watering: an estimated $23 trillion a year over the long-term.
  • This has been likened to the world experiencing four to six global financial crises on the scale of 2008 every year

What is a climate emergency?

  • There is no precise definition of what constitutes action to meet such an emergency, the move has been likened to putting the country on a “war footing”.
  • This has put the climate and the environment at the very centre of all government policy, rather than being on the fringe of political Decisions

Counting down to 2030:

  • The year 2030 is an important
  • In spite of what climate contrarians might voice very loudly, five of our planet’s warmest years on record have occurred since 2010, whilst 2018 experienced all manner of climate extremes that broke numerous global records
  • It’s sobering to realize that, because the oceans are a major sink of heat, the estimated 40- year delay in the release of this energy back into the atmosphere means the conditions of the last decade are in part a consequence of our pollution from the 1970s

Way Forward:

  • At a time when politicians discuss the need to “live within our means” when it comes to national finances, this does not appear to translate to the environment when we’re considering future Generations
  • Instead we seem to be caught in a debate surrounding the costs of action rather than inaction.
  • The welcome announcement from the UK is a major step in the right direction and potentially a watershed moment for a more sustainable global Future

IPBES GLOBAL ASSESSMENT REPORT

Why in News?

  • The health of ecosystems that humans and other species depend on is “deteriorating more rapidly than ever”, with up to one million species threatened with extinction, many within decades, a large-scale global assessment by a United Nations body has Found

Details of the Report:

  • Based on a review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources and compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries, the global report is the first comprehensive look in 15 years at the state of the planet’s Biodiversity
  • Report includes, for the first time, indigenous and local knowledge as well as scientific studies.
  • The authors say they found overwhelming evidence that human activities are behind nature’s decline.
  • Natural habitats are being destroyed at an accelerating pace, adding that the current rate of global species extinction is “tens to hundreds of times” higher compared to the average over the last 10 million Years
  • Even for global warming of 1.5 to 2 degrees, the majority of terrestrial species ranges are projected to shrink profoundly Comminities
  • It ranks “five direct drivers” that cause changes in nature that have the largest relative global impact. In descending order, these include: changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and “invasive alien species”.
  • The report finds that “three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions”. Notably, “On average these trends have been less severe or avoided in areas held or managed by indigenous peoples and local ” Extinctions

IPBES:

  • The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an independent intergovernmental body, established by member States in 2012
  • The objective of IPBES is to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable
  • Much like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which provides scientific assessments of climate change, the IPBES was set up in 2012, to provide a larger sustainability framework informed by the latest Science
  • India is a member of IPBES

GRIZZLED GIANT SQUIRREL

Why in News?

  • For the first time, researchers have sighted nests of the grizzled giant squirrel

Grizzled Giant Squirrel:

  • Grizzled giant squirrel is a large tree squirrel found in the highlands of the Central and Uva provinces of Sri Lanka, and in patches of riparian forest along the Kaveri River and in the hill forests of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala states of southern India
  • It is an endangered species listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
  • The grizzled giant squirrel is usually known to nest in the Western Ghats in Southern India ranging from Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary in Kerala to Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Palani hills in Tamil Nadu. Habitat loss coupled with hunting for its fur and bushmeat by the locals are said to be the major threats to this species,
  • Owing to habitat loss and poaching, the species has been categorised as near threatened by the Red List and listed under Schedule II of CITES

Pakkamalai Reserve Forest:

  • Pakkamalai Reserve Forest is a sacred mountain located about 45 kms from Gingee in Villupuram district. Several diverse and endangered species including the Golden Gecko, Bamboo Pit Viper and Mouse Deer have also been spotted in the Pakkamalai Reserve Forests.

PACIFIC DECADAL OSCILLATION (PDO)

Low monsoon rainfall in NE:

  • Northeast India, one of the wettest places on the Earth has been experiencing rapid drying, especially in the last 30
  • Some places which used to get as high as 3,000 mm of rain during the monsoon season have seen a drop of about 25-30%.
  • This decreasing monsoon rainfall is associated with natural changes in the subtropical Pacific Ocean
  • The team used observed rainfall and sea surface temperature data for the period 1901-2014 for the
  • The results show out that the reduction in rainfall during a major part of the last 114 years may be associated with global man-made factors, while the trend during the last 36 years is associated with natural phenomena.
  • Only about 7% of the rainfall in this region is associated with local moisture recycling, which means that anthropogenic activities can affect only this small Percentage
  • So the rapid drying is a part of inter-decadal variability of monsoonal rainfall which is strongly associated with the PDO

Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO):

  • PDO is a long-lived El Niño-like pattern of Pacific climate
  • Both PDO and ENSO have similar spatial climate fingerprints yet the major difference is that PDO persists for 20-30 years while the typical ENSO persists for 6 to 18
  • The PDO, like ENSO, consists of a warm and cool phase which alters upper level atmospheric
  • During a “warm”, or “positive”, phase, the west Pacific becomes cooler and part of the eastern ocean warms; during a “cool” or “negative” phase, the opposite pattern
  • Shifts in the PDO phase can intensify or diminish the impacts of ENSO according to its phase.
  • If both ENSO and the PDO are in the same phase, it is believed that El Niño/La Nina impacts may be
  • This in turn affects the northeast Indian summer monsoon during its negative
  • Conversely, if ENSO and the PDO are out of phase, it has been proposed that they may offset one another, preventing “true” ENSO impacts from occurring.

ROSS ICE SHELF

Why in News?

  • Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest ice shelf roughly the size of France is melting rapidly.

Ross Ice Shelf:

  • An international team of scientists has found out that this ice shelf is melting 10 times faster than the overall average, due to solar heating of the surrounding ocean surface
  • The melting ice shelf has led to global sea-level rise of around 13.8mm over the last 40 years.
  • Solar heating of the surrounding ocean surface spurred the rate at which the ice is melting
  • Using instruments deployed through a 260 metre-deep borehole, the team measured temperature, salinity, melt rates and ocean currents in the cavity under the ice
  • Earlier, scientists believed that heat radiating to the bottom melted the underside of the shelf, while the ocean surface cooled downQuickly
  • However, the latest findings show that heat in the ocean surface plays a crucial role

Why is it alarming?

  • Antarctica comprises 90 per cent of the world’s
  • The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf of Antarctica (as of 2013 an area of roughly 500,809 square kilometres and about 800 kilometres across: about the size of France)
  • If this situation continues, sea-levels would rise up to 60 metres by 2050 — and the ocean would engulf coastal cities across the Globe

KASHMIR STAG (HANGUL)

Why in News?

  •  A massive decline in the population of Kashmir’s iconic wildlife species, the Hangul (Cervus hanglu hanglu), also known as the Kashmir stag, continues to be a big concern.

Kashmir Stag (Hangul):

  •  Hangul, the state animal of Jammu & Kashmir, is restricted to the Dachigam National Park some 15 km north-west of Jammu & Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar. Environmental Information System (ENVIS) of the MoEFCC.

Why is Hangul crucial?

 

  •  From a population of 5,000 in the early 1900s, the Hangul’s numbers have constantly  declined over the decades.
  •  The Hangul is considered equally significant to the state of Jammu & Kashmir as the tiger is to the whole of India.
  •  It is the only Asiatic survivor or sub-species of the European red deer. But the state animal’s decreasing population remains a big concern.
  •  According to the latest survey in 2017, the population of Hangul is 182 in Dachigam and adjoining areas. Earlier population estimates suggest that there were 197 deer in 2004 and 186 in 2015.
  •  The IUCN Red Data Book — which contains lists of species at risk of extinction — has declared the Hangul as one of three species that were critically endangered in J&K.
  •  The other two are the Markhor — the world’s largest species of wild goat found in Kashmir and several regions of central Asia — and the Tibetan antelope or ‘Chiru’.

Various threats:

  •  The biggest challenges which have been identified by experts in the way of conservation and population growth of Hangul are habitat fragmentation, predation and very low fawn-female ratio.
  •  Lack of desirable breeding and fawn survival is a grave concern for the population growth.
  •  Another challenge is the male-female and fawn-adult disparity in the Hangul population.
  •  Influx of livestock herds of nomadic communities in the Dachigam National Park has been a challenge for years.
  •  After the closing down of their traditional routes leading to over a dozen alpine pastures (in Gurez) by the army after the inception of armed conflict in Kashmir, nomads have not been able to graze their herds in those pastures.
  •  So, they are taking their large herds of livestock to the upper reaches of Dachigam during summers.
  •  Other dangers for the Hangul population include excessive predation of fawns by the Common Leopard, the Himalayan Black Bear and nomads’ dogs.

A CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE FOR WASTE TO WEALTH TECHNOLOGIES

Why in News?

  •  To commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) and IIT Delhi have come together to bring the best of science and technology to implement waste management in India.

Highlights:

  •  A Memorandum of Understanding was signed for setting up a Centre of Excellence for Waste to Wealth Technologies for implementation of sustainable, scientific and technological solutions for waste management.
  •  This will be implemented through validation and deployment of available technologies for transformation of waste to wealth.
  •  The waste to wealth mission project has been approved under the recently constituted Prime Minister’s Science Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC).
  •  The partnership will provide an effective platform for stakeholders to bring together integrated approaches for effective recycle, reuse and resource recovery of waste.

Goals of the initiative:

  •  The immediate objective is to implement technologies that are available with various national and international academias, industries, research laboratories and other agencies.
  •  Then setting up pilot projects on-site effectively and successfully, and demonstrating the proof of concept of the technology under Indian condition.
  •  The long-term goal is to create circular economic models for waste management, by leveraging big data analytics and frontier technologies to streamline waste in India.
  •  The overall outcomes would involve treating waste and generating different forms of energy, thereby making India a waste free nation, with zero greenhouse gas emission and no health hazard.

Prime Minister’s Science Technology and Innovation Advisory Council:

  •  Chairperson: Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India
  •  The PM-STIAC is an overarching Council that facilitates the PSA’s Office to assess the status in specific science and technology domains, comprehend challenges in hand, formulate specific interventions, develop a futuristic roadmap and advise the Prime Minister accordingly.
  •  PSA’s Office also oversees the implementation of such interventions by concerned S&T Departments and Agencies and other government Ministries.
  •  The other important terms of reference of the Council is to formulate, converge, collaborate, co-ordinate and implement multi-stakeholder policy initiatives, mechanisms, reforms and programmes aimed at:
    • Synergizing S&T covering fundamental to applied research in collaboration with multiple stake holders both in central and state governments
    •  Enabling future preparedness in emerging domains of science and technology
    • Formulating and coordinating major inter-ministerial S&T missions
    • Providing an enabling ecosystem for technology led innovations and techno- entrepreneurship
    • Driving innovation and technology delivery towards solving socio-economic challenges for sustainable growth
    • Fostering effective public-private linkages for driving research and innovation
    •  Developing innovation clusters with multiple stakeholders including academia, industry and government
    •  Skilling in current and futuristic technologies.

NEPAL COLLECTED 3000 KG WASTE FROM EVEREST

GS 3: Environment |Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Why in News?

Nepal has collected about 3,000 kilograms of solid waste from Mt. Everest since when Nepal launched an ambitious Everest Cleaning Campaign.

Highlights:

  • The 45-day Everest Cleaning Campaign was launched on April 14, on Nepali New Year, and seeks to clean up ‘world’s highest garbage dump.’
  • About 2,000 kg of garbage had been sent to Okhaldhunga while the remaining 1,000 kg were brought to Kathmandu using Nepali Army helicopters for disposal.
  • Items left behind by climbers and Sherpas include discarded fluorescent lights, climbing and camping equipment, empty gas canisters, food packaging, beer bottles, and a huge amount of human excrement.

Everest Cleaning Campaign:

  • Every year, hundreds of climbers, Sherpas and high altitude porters make their way to Everest, leaving behind tonnes of both biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste.
  • The campaign will conclude on May 29, the day marked every year to commemorate the first summit of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953
  • The collected waste will then be “showcased” in Namche town, before being ferried down to Kathmandu, where it will once again be showcased on World Environment Day on June 5.
  • Under this campaign Nepal is trying to collect around 5,000-kg of garbage from Base Camp area, while 2,000-kg of garbage will be collected from the South Col region and around 3,000-kg will be collected from Camp II and Camp III area.
  • There have been attempts in the past to clean up Everest, including a 2014 government-mandated provision making it mandatory for every climber to come down the peak with at least 8 kilogramme of garbage the amount of trash estimated to be produced by one climber.

INDIAN SUBCONTINENT’S COLLISION WITH ASIA BOOSTED OXYGEN IN WORLD’S OCEANS

GS 1: Geographical Features & Their Locations

Why in News?

When the landmass that is now the Indian subcontinent slammed into Asia about 50 million years ago, the oxygen in the world’s oceans increased, altering the conditions for life.

Impact of Indian Plate:

  • The collision was already known to have changed the configuration of the continents, the landscape, global climate and more.
  • Researchers used microscopic seashells to create a record of ocean nitrogen over a period from 70 million years ago – shortly before the extinction of the dinosaurs – until 30 million years ago.
  • Nitrogen dating to find Oxygen level.
  • Every organism on Earth requires “fixed” nitrogen – sometimes called “biologically available nitrogen.”
  • Nitrogen has two stable isotopes: 15N and 14N. In oxygen-poor waters, decomposition uses up “fixed” nitrogen.
  • This occurs with a slight preference for the lighter nitrogen isotope, 14N, so the ocean’s
    15N-to-14N ratio reflects its oxygen levels.
  • That ratio is incorporated into tiny sea creatures called foraminifera during their lives, and then preserved in their shells when they die.
  • By analysing their fossils researchers were able to reconstruct the 15N-to-14N ratio of the ancient ocean, and therefore identify past changes in oxygen levels.

Why study oxygen?

  • Oxygen controls the distribution of marine organisms, with oxygen-poor waters being bad for most ocean life.
  • Many past climate warming events caused decrease in ocean oxygen that limited the habitats of sea creatures, from microscopic plankton to the fish and whales that feed on them.
  • Scientists trying to predict the impact of current and future global warming have warned that low levels of ocean oxygen could decimate marine ecosystems, including important fish populations.
  • The researchers found that in the 10 million years after dinosaurs went extinct, the 15N-to-14N ratio was high, suggesting that ocean oxygen levels were low.
  • They first thought that the warm climate of the time was responsible, as oxygen is less soluble in warmer water.
  • Global climate was not the primary cause of this change in ocean oxygen and nitrogen cycling.

Movement of Indian Plate:

  • Until roughly 140 million years ago, the Indian Plate formed part of the supercontinent Gondwana. It was a large island situated off the Australian coast, in a vast ocean.
  • The Tethys Sea separated it from the Asian continent till about 225 million years ago.
  • India is supposed to have started her northward journey about 200 million years ago at the time when Pangaea.
  • India collided with Asia about 40-50 million years ago causing rapid uplift of the Himalayas.
  • The positions of India since about 71 million years till the present are shown in the Figure. It also shows the position of the Indian subcontinent and the Eurasian plate.
  • About 140 million years before the present, the subcontinent was located as south as 50◦ S. latitude. The two major plates were separated by the Tethys Sea and the Tibetan block was closer to the Asiatic landmass.
  • During the movement of the Indian plate towards the Asiatic plate, a major event that occurred was the outpouring of lava and formation of the Deccan Traps. This started somewhere around 60 million years ago and continued for a long period of time.
  • Note that the subcontinent was still close to the equator. From 40 • Many past climate warming events caused decrease in ocean oxygen that limited the habitats of sea creatures, from microscopic plankton to the fish and whales that feed on them.
  • Scientists trying to predict the impact of current and future global warming have warned that low levels of ocean oxygen could decimate marine ecosystems, including important fish populations.
  • The researchers found that in the 10 million years after dinosaurs went extinct, the 15N-to-14N ratio was high, suggesting that ocean oxygen levels were low.
  • They first thought that the warm climate of the time was responsible, as oxygen is less soluble in warmer water.
  • Global climate was not the primary cause of this change in ocean oxygen and nitrogen cycling.

Movement of Indian Plate:

  • Until roughly 140 million years ago, the Indian Plate formed part of the supercontinent Gondwana. It was a large island situated off the Australian coast, in a vast ocean.
  • The Tethys Sea separated it from the Asian continent till about 225 million years ago.
  • India is supposed to have started her northward journey about 200 million years ago at the time when Pangaea
  • India collided with Asia about 40-50 million years ago causing rapid uplift of the Himalayas.
  • The positions of India since about 71 million years till the present are shown in the Figure. It also shows the position of the Indian subcontinent and the Eurasian plate.
  • About 140 million years before the present, the subcontinent was located as south as 50◦ S. latitude. The two major plates were separated by the Tethys Sea and the Tibetan block was closer to the Asiatic landmass.
  • During the movement of the Indian plate towards the Asiatic plate, a major event that occurred was the outpouring of lava and formation of the Deccan Traps. This started somewhere around 60 million years ago and continued for a long period of time.

GLOBAL DEAL FOR NATURE (GDN)

GS 3: Environment |Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Why in News?

  • Saving the diversity and abundance of life on Earth may cost $100 billion a year, say scientists who have proposed a policy to prevent another mass extinction event on the planet.
  • There have been five mass extinctions in the history of the Earth.

Global Deal for Nature (GDN):

  • Scientists have proposed new science policy to reverse the tide, called A Global Deal for Nature (GDN).
  • It is a time-bound, science-based plan to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth.
  • The GDN campaign is being driven by One Earth, an initiative of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation that aims to gather support from international institutions, governments, and citizens of planet Earth to support ambitious conservation goals.
  • The policy’s mission is to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth — for the price tag of $100 billion a year.

What would GDN do?

  • Societal investment in the GDN plan would, for the first time, integrate and implement climate and nature deals on a global scale to avoid human upheaval and biodiversity loss.
  • The study outlines the principles, milestones and targets needed to avoid the disastrous extinction threats of a two degrees Celsius global warming forecast.

Why GDN?

  • Scientists now estimate that society must urgently come to grips this coming decade to stop the very first human-made biodiversity catastrophe.

Goals:

  • To protect biodiversity by conserving at least 30% of the Earth’s surface by 2030;
  • Mitigate climate change by conserving the Earth’s natural carbon storehouses; and
  • Reduce major threats.

BHARAT STAGE VI

GS 3: Environment |Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Why in News?

Maruti Suzuki Ltd has launched its popular Baleno and Alto hatchbacks with engines compliant with the Bharat State 6 emission norms, a year before the new norms will be introduced.

Bharat Stage norms:

  • The Bharat Stage are standards instituted by the government to regulate emission of air pollutants from motor vehicles. The norms were introduced in 2000.
  • With appropriate fuel and technology, they limit the release of air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, particulate matter (PM) and sulphur oxides from vehicles using internal combustion engines.
  • As the stage goes up, the control on emissions become stricter.
  • Bharat Stage VI norms are two stages ahead of the present Bharat Stage IV norms in regulating emissions. These norms are based on similar norms in Europe called Euro 4 and Euro 6.

Differences between two stages:

  • The extent of sulphar is the major difference between Bharat Stage IV and Bharat Stage VI norms. BS-IV fuels contain 50 parts per million (ppm) sulphur, the BS-VI grade fuel only has 10 ppm sulphur.
  • BS VI can bring PM in diesel cars down by 80 per cent .
  • The new norms will bring down nitrogen oxides from diesel cars by 70 per cent and in petrol cars by 25 per cent.
  • BS VI also make on-board diagnostics (OBD) mandatory for all vehicles. OBD device informs the vehicle owner or the repair technician how efficient the systems in the vehicle are.

Impact on automakers:

Compliance with BS-VI norms will require higher investment in technology to upgrade vehicles in stock and making new vehicles. This will also mean fewer launches till the deadline.

Impact on buyers:

Those who buy Bharat Stage VI-compliant vehicles will have to pay more since such vehicles will cost automakers more and they will pass on the additional cost to the buyers. The Bharat Stage VI-compliant fuel too will be more expensive

A NEW LANDSCAPE ON THE HORIZON

Why in News?

  • The recent scientific evidence has given a glimpse of the Earth’s changing contours—the African continent is splitting into

Africa is splitting:

  • A place near Nairobi, Kenya had a large crack on the ground that appeared during an intense spell of rain and Flooding
  • The crack is 57 km long which is a locus of a future ocean Formation
  • Such an event happened 138 million years ago when the South American and African continents separated to give rise to the current South Atlantic Ocean
  • All such signs on Earth’s surface point to a totally new landscape, which resembled how it looked like when it was formed 4.5 billion years ago one huge continent
  • The farthest scientists can predict is that 250 million years from now all continents will unite again in one supercontinent and then will break apart again along the future rift systems.

Why such cracks?

  • At first, geologists thought the crack in Kenya was formed due to “erosion of soft soils infilling an old rift-related fault.
  • They later revealed that the crack had existed for quite some time, but was filled with ash from Mount Longmont, a volcano Nearby
  • The rain had washed away the ash to expose the crack. This triggered a debate whether the crack was a part of the East African Rift System

Rift in systems:

  • Rifts are the regions of extension of the crust and the lithosphere
  • Continental changes take place at the boundaries of tectonic plates which are divisions of the uppermost layer of the Earth and swim around on the fluid mantle layer below it The extension may develop to a stage when two plates split apart, like in the example of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. So continental rifts are potential places where new oceans are expected to form.
  • These plates periodically crash into each other, giving rise to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions when the intensity is less over short periods of
  • Over longer periods of time, they create all the geological and geographical features that we find on Earth like mountains, valleys and Oceans

Intra-Continental drifting:

  • One of these processes is an intra-continental rift system which acts between tectonic plates and can give rise to rift valleys or even new Oceans
  • The African Rift Valley, which is between Ethiopia and Kenya, is a classical example of this geodynamic Process
  • There, volcanism, earth-quakes and fracturing of the Earth’s surface result from the enormous forces that tear the eastern portion of the African continent apart.

East African rift system:

    • The East African rift system is more active in terms of volcanism and it is connected to the global ocean rift (ridge) system through the Afar-Red Sea—Gulf of Aden triple Junction
    • The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden are the rifts along which two continents break apart and new oceanic flow is formed.
    • There are numerous rift systems around the world but the most active ones are the East African rift, Baikal rift, West Antarctic rift, Rio Grande rift, the Rhine Graben rift system in Europe and Shanxi rift system in China
    • When such geographical features become prominent enough they reshape the way the planet Looks
    • The rifts undergo massive geological changes—shoulders of rifts grow and get eroded by rain and melting Snow
    • At the same time, the axial parts of rifts subside and get filled with sediments, which gets eroded from the Shoulders

UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARKS

Why in News?

  • UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable

Highlights:

  • At present, there are 147 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 41 countries
  • UNESCO Global Geoparks is given this designation for a period of four years after which the functioning and quality of each UNESCO Global Geoparks are thoroughly re- examined during a revalidation Process
  • In 2018 Lonar Lake in Maharashtra and Mary’s Island and Malpe beach in coastal Karnataka are listed for UNESCO Global Geopark Network status.

Significance:

  • To enhance awareness and understanding of key issues facing society in the context of the dynamic planet we all live on
  • Mitigating the effects of climate change
  • Reducing the impact of natural disasters
  • By raising awareness of the importance of the area’s geological heritage in history and society today, UNESCO Global Geoparks give local people a sense of pride in their region and strengthen their identification with the area
  • The creation of innovative local enterprises, new jobs and high quality training courses is stimulated as new sources of revenue are generated through sustainable geotourism, while the geological resources of the area are Protected

SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT OF MANGROVES IS NEED OF THE HOUR

Why in News?

  • Mangroves are salt-tolerant vegetation that grows in intertidal regions of rivers and estuaries.
  • They are referred to as ‘tidal forests’ and belong to the category of ‘tropical wetland rainforest ecosystem’.
  • Mangroves are trees and shrub species that grow at the interface between land and sea in tropical and subtropical regions of the world

Mangroves in India:

  • Mangrove forests occupy around 2,00,000 square kilometres across the globe in tropical
  • Sundarbans in the Gangetic delta with an area of 2.12 lakh hectares (ha) supports 26 plant species of mangrove with a maximum height of more than 10 meters
  • Pichavaram in Tamil Nadu with an area of 1,100 ha supports 12 plant species growing to a height of 5 metres

Significance of Mangroves:

  • The structural complexities of mangrove vegetation create unique environments which provide ecological niches for a wide variety of
  • Mangroves serve as breeding, feeding and nursery grounds for most of the commercial fishes and crustaceans on which thousands of people depend for their
  • Mangroves give protection to the coastline and minimize disasters due to cyclones and tsunami.
  • Recent studies have shown that mangroves store more carbon dioxide than most other forests.
  • Mangroves are intermediate vegetation between land and sea that grow in oxygen deficient waterlogged soils which have Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S).
  • They perform important ecological functions like nutrient cycling, hydrological regime, coastal protection, fish-fauna production,
  • Mangroves act as shock absorbers. They reduce high tides and waves and help prevent soil

Threats:

  • Mangroves are being destroyed and facing severe threats due to urbanisation, industrialisation, and discharge of domestic sewage, industrial effluents and
  • Saltpans and aquaculture also pose major threat to the
  • 40 per cent of mangrove forests in West Coast of India have been converted into farmlands and housing colonies over the last three
  • Some of the mangrove species like Bruguiera cylindrica and Sonneratia acida are at the verge of
  • Due to shrimp farming, about 35,000 ha of mangroves have been lost in

Conserving Mangroves:

  • Suitable sites are to be identified for planting mangrove species. Mangrove nursery banks should be developed for propagation purpose
  • Environmental monitoring in the existing mangrove areas should be taken up systematically and periodically
  • Various threats to the mangrove resources and their root causes should be identified, and earnest measures should be taken to eliminate those cause
  • The participation of the local community should be made compulsory for conservation and management
  • Floristic survey of mangroves along the coast is to be taken up to prepare biodiversity atlas for mangroves
  • Potential areas are to be identified for implementing the management action plan for mangroves, especially in cyclone prone areas
  • Coastal industries and private owners need to be persuaded to actively participate in protecting and developing mangrove biodiversity
  • The forest department officials should be trained on taxonomy, biology and ecology of mangrove

Way Forward:

  • So far, none of the mangrove species has been included in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • A scientific study reported that 100 per cent of mangrove species, 92 per cent of mangrove associates, 60.8 per cent of algae, 23.8 per cent of invertebrates and 21.1 per cent of fish are under threat.
  • Periodical monitoring of the mangrove forest is very much necessary to assess the status. The impact of environmental and human interference on marine flora and fauna needs tobe assessed.
  • The traditional rights of coastal communities to use the natural resources in their surrounding natural habitats for their livelihood should also be recognised on priority basis

RESILIENT CITIES ASIA-PACIFIC (RCAP) CONGRESS

Why in News?

  • The 4th Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific (RCAP) Congress 2019 was organized by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).

Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific:

  • RCAP is the annual global platform for urban resilience and climate change
  • It is convened by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and co-hosted by the World Mayors Council on Climate Change and the City of
  • It was launched in 2010 with the goal of forging partnerships and dialogues that
  • The success of the series ‘Resilient Cities – The Annual Global Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation’ that attracts hundreds of participants to Bonn, Germany, every year since 2010 is a clear indication of how pressing the issue of adaptation and resilience is perceived among local governments worldwide.
  • The RCAP is a response to heightened demand from the Asia Pacific Region, which encouraged ICLEI to expand the congress series to include Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific, bringing the event and the focus to the Asia-Pacific region, catering to the situation, challenges and opportunities of local governments specifically in this
  • It aims to provide an Asian platform for urban resilience and climate change adaptation where partnerships are forged and concrete dialogues are happening, with the ultimate goal of identifying solutions and creating lasting impacts for cities in the

YANGTZE GIANT SOFTSHELL TURTLE

Why in News?

  • The last female of rare Yangtze Giant Softshell turtles died in China

Highlights:

  • The only known female member of one of the world’s rarest turtle species has died at a zoo in southern China
  • The animal was one of four Yangtze giant softshell turtles known to be remaining in the world. The turtle was over 90 years old and had undergone a fifth attempt at artificial insemination shortly before she died. The species is often referred to as the most endangered turtle in the world. Loss of habitat and poaching are among the reasons for the decline of the species’ population.

 

India Stares at Pile of Solar E-Waste

Why in News?

  • According to a recent study conducted by an energy consultancy firm Bridge To India
  • (BTI) Ltd., India’s PV (photovoltaic) waste volume is estimated to grow to 2,00,000 tonnes by 2030 and around 1.8 million tonnes by 2050.

Highlights:

  • PV waste recycling is still at a nascent stage globally, both in terms of technical standards and physical infrastructure. The waste is usually sent to laminated glass and metal recyclers that recover 70-80% of the material by weight.
  • PV module recycling is still not commercially viable as total estimated cost including transportation can vary between USD 400-600/ tonne, far exceeding value of the recovered material.

India’s status:

  • India is among the leading markets for solar cells in the world, buoyed by the government’s commitment to install 100 GW of solar power by 2022.
  • So far, India has installed solar cells for about 28 GW and this is largely from imported solar PV cells.
  • India’s e-waste rules have no laws mandating solar cell manufacturers to recycle or dispose waste from this sector.
  • Issues in dealing with Solar e-waste:
  • Lack of a policy framework is coupled with the fact that even basic recycling facilities for laminated glass and e-waste are unavailable.
  • These modules are 80% glass and aluminium, and non-hazardous.
  • Other materials used, including polymers, metals, metallic compounds and alloys, and are classified as potentially hazardous.

Suggestions:

  • Mandating module manufacturers to use environmentally sustainable design and materials with end-of-life in mind (similar to the eco-design initiative of the EU).
  • Specifying liability and responsibility of each stakeholder for waste management and treatment.
  • Laying down standards for PV waste collection, treatment and disposal.
  • Encouraging mutual recycling responsibility agreements between module suppliers, project developers and power purchasers.
  • Undertaking regular surveys of recycling facilities to understand technology and capacity levels.
  • Identifying investment and technical requirements for dedicated PV recycling facilities with focus on high-value recovery.

NET-ZERO ENERGY COMPLEX

Why in News?

  •  To achieve sustainable living standards, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy  (MNRE) has conceptualised a “net-zero energy complex” for its new headquarters.

Net-zero energy complex concept:

  •  The building has been conceived as a flagship project to showcase the use of renewable energy, as well as a cutting-edge energy efficient building.
  •  The campus will utilize technologies such as solar energy, on-site waste management, rainwater harvesting among others to get “off the grid”, thereby reducing the pressure on municipal infrastructure.
  •  Reducing air conditioning, maintaining a higher ambient temperature, optimising artificial light by reducing individual cabins and blocking out an entire portion of the building to prevent heat gain, were some of the lifestyle changes that needed to be adopted.

CORAL BLEACHING

GS 3: Environment |Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Why in News?

  • The world’s southernmost coral reef has been hit by bleaching this summer, Australian scientists said, as they warned rising sea temperatures from climate change were affecting even the most isolated ecosystems.
  • The corals off Lord Howe Island — some 600 km offshore from Sydney — were affected by elevated temperatures this summer, despite escaping severe bleaching that damaged the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017.

Coral bleaching:

  • The stunning colours in corals come from a marine algae called zooxanthellae, which live inside their tissues.
  • This algae provides the corals with an easy food supply thanks to photosynthesis, which gives the corals energy, allowing them to grow and reproduce.
  • When corals get stressed, from things such as heat or pollution, they react by expelling this algae, leaving a ghostly, transparent skeleton behind.
  • This is known as ‘coral bleaching’. Some corals can feed themselves, but without the zooxanthellae most corals starve.

Can coral recover from bleaching:

  • In some instances, corals can recover from bleaching. If conditions return to normal, and stay that way corals can regain their algae, return to their bright colours and survive. However prolonged warmer temperatures and other stressors, like poor water quality, can leave the living coral in a weakened state.
  • It can struggle to regrow, reproduce and resist disease – so is very vulnerable to coral diseases and mortality.
  • It can take decades for coral reefs to fully recover from a bleaching event, so it is vital that these events do not occur frequently.
  • If we continue burning fossil fuels at our current rate then severe bleaching events are likely to hit reefs annually by the middle of the century. This would be devastating for coral reefs as they would have no chance to recover.

Causes:

  • Change in Ocean Temperature
  • Runoff and Pollution
  • Overexposure to sunlight
  • Extreme low tides

GLOBAL COOLING COALITION

GS 3: Environment |Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Why in News?

The first-ever global coalition on clean and efficient cooling was launched at the First Global Conference on Synergies between the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Global Cool Coalition:

  • The Global Cool Coalition is a unified front that links action across the Kigali Amendment, Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals.
  • It is expected to inspire ambition, identify solutions and mobilise action to accelerate progress towards clean and efficient cooling. Besides the UN, it is supported by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL). It includes government officials from Chile, Rwanda, Denmark as well as leaders from civil society, research and academia.

Significance:

  • Throughout the world, 2018 was the fourth hottest year, preceded by 2017, 2015 and 2016.
  • With increasing incomes and urbanisation, number of air conditioning units across the globe is set to increase from 1.2 billion to 4.5 billion by 2050, and India alone may account for one billion units. In the next 20 years, India’s cooling requirement will increase by eight times, with air conditioners alone consuming more than half of the total energy required for cooling in the country by 2037-38.
  • India has already developed a national cooling action plan that was launched by the Union environment ministry on March 8, 2019.

The State of Global Air 2019 report

GS 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Why in News?

The State of Global Air 2019 was released by US-based organisation Health Effects Institute (HEI). As per the report over 1.2 million people died in India due to air pollution in 2017.

Highlights:

  • The overall long-term exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution contributed to nearly 5 million deaths from stroke, diabetes, heart attack, lung cancer, and chronic lung disease in 2017.
  • Out of these, 3 million deaths are directly attributed to PM2.5, half of which is from India and China together.
  • The analysis found that China and India together were responsible for over half of the total global attributable deaths, with each country facing over 1.2 million deaths from all air pollution in 2017.
  • Air pollution is the third highest cause of death among all health risks in India, ranking just above smoking.
  • As per the report, the life of a South Asian child born today will be shortened by two years and six months growing up in current high levels of air pollution, while the global life expectancy loss is 20 months.

Earth Hour 2019

GS 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Why in News?

  • The Earth Hour 2019 was observed on March 30 from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm local time.
  • Theme: #Connect2Earth.

Earth Hour:

  • World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Earth Hour is an annual global celebration in which people switch off their lights for one hour to show they care about the future of our planet.
  • It began in Sydney, Australia in 2007, the number of countries taking part in Earth Hour has grown to over 180 countries and territories.
  • It aims to put the spotlight on the issues facing the planet, and to inspire millions across the world to live more sustainably.
  • The Earth Hour India carried hashtag#Bee4ThePlanet.

World Wildlife Fund:

  • The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961,working in the field of wilderness preservation, and the reduction of humanity’s footprint on the environment.
  • It was formerly named the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in Canada and the United States.
  • Headquartered in Gland, Switzerland.
  • The group’s mission is “to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature”.

Malham Caves

GS 1: Geography | Geographical features & their location

Why in News?

Israel unveils world’s longest salt cave.

Malham Caves:

  • Malham is one of 150 caves in Mount Sodom, at the southern part of the Dead Sea, that are made of pure salt.
  • Mount Sedom sits near the Dead Sea, a shrinking salt lake (and lowest point on Earth) that extends into Jordan, Israel and the occupied West Bank.
  • A large part of the cave’s interior is covered by a fine dust that blows in from the desert.
  • Massive slabs of salt, some amber-colored from dust and minerals, stick out in dramatic formations.
  • A thin slab appearing to have been sliced out is nicknamed “The Guillotine,” while twin slabs that look like a pair of tablets in a different hall have earned the title of “The Ten Commandments.”
  • Israeli researchers say they have discovered the world’s longest salt cave near the desert site where, according to the Bible, Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt.
  • Radiocarbon dating suggests it’s about 7,000 years old, its many passages carved by the very occasional rain storms that pass through the region.
  • Even now, Malham continues to grow when water flows in and dissolves more of the salt.

India’s first carbon-positive settlement

GS 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Why in News?

Phayeng, a small village in Imphal West district of, Manipur has developed itself as India’s first carbon-positive settlement.

Highlights:

  • Phayeng is a scheduled caste village of the Chakpa community in Imphal West district and its conservation efforts are mainly linked to the belief that the forest is a sacred grove.
  • The transformation of the village from the dry and denuded village in the 1970s and 80s was funded under the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC).
  • A village is given the carbon-positive tag if it sequesters more carbon than it emits, slowing the accumulation of greenhouse gases and mitigating the effects of climate change

Measures taken:

  • The hunting is completely banned in the village except once a year when a deer is usually killed as sacrifice to the “forest gods”.
  • Restriction on outsiders’ entry into the forest without permission
  • Forest fires are carefully monitored
  • Only dry twigs are extracted for firewood
  • The entire 200 acres is patrolled by at least six people every day.

NAFCC:

  • The National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC) is a Central Sector Scheme which was set up in the year 2015-16.
  • The aim of NAFCC is to support concrete adaptation activities which mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.
  • The activities under this scheme are implemented in a project mode. The projects related to adaptation in sectors such as agriculture, animal husbandry, water, forestry, tourism, etc. are eligible for funding under NAFCC.
  • National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is the National Implementing Entity (NIE).
  • Ban on Single-Use Plastic Products

    GS 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

    Why in News?

    The European Parliament has voted for an EU-wide ban on single-use plastic products such as the straws, cutlery and cotton buds that are clogging the world’s oceans.

    Highlights:

    • The law on single-use plastic ban sets a target to gather 90 per cent of plastic for recycling by 2029 and mandates the production of plastic bottles with 25 per cent recycled material by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030.
    • The law also insists on polluters pay principle by insisting polluters to pay the costs of a clean-up.
    • The measures are strengthened, particularly for cigarette manufacturers, who will have to support the recycling of discarded filters.
    • The “polluter pays” principle will be extended to manufacturers of fishing nets so that companies, not fishing crews pay the cost of nets lost at sea.
    • The products prohibited under the law represent 70 per cent of the waste that pours into the world’s oceans, posing a threat to wildlife and fisheries.

    Single-use Plastics:

    • Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.
    • They are not usually biodegradable and goes into a landfill where it is buried or it gets into the water and finds its way into the ocean.
    • They degrade into tiny particles after many years.
    • In this process of degradation, they release toxic chemicals (additives that were used to shape and harden the plastic) which make their way into our food and water supply.

    Asiatic Wild Dogs (Dhole)

    GS 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

    Why in News?

    A recent study has discovered a reduction in Dhole occupancy in Karnataka’s Western Ghats, from 62 percent in 2007 to 54 percent in 2015.

    Asiatic Wild Dogs (Dhole) & threats:

    • The dhole is on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species and is protected under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 in India.
    • Globally, dholes have disappeared from approximately 82 percent of their former range.
    • The Western Ghats perhaps supports the largest dhole population in the world and is therefore a critical conservation landscape for the species.
    • Massive infrastructural initiatives in the area, human intrusion in protected zones, change in land-use pattern, forest fragmentation and loss of forest cover are some of the reasons for the decline in dhole population.
    • The presence of semi-feral, free-ranging domestic dogs in unprotected forest areas might be another reason for the decline in dhole occupancy.
    • Free-ranging dogs affect dholes as they compete with dholes for similar resources like prey animals.
    • Moreover, these dogs often carry lethal and non-lethal disease pathogens that could result in the spread of diseases in the dhole population.

    PROTECTING THE SUNDARBAN WETLANDS

    GS 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

    Why in News?

    The Indian Sundarban was accorded the status of ‘Wetland of International Importance’ under the Ramsar Convention.

    Sundarban wetlands:

    • The Sundarbans comprises hundreds of islands and a network of rivers, tributaries and creeks in the delta of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal in India and Bangladesh.
    • Located on the southwestern part of the delta, the Indian Sundarban constitutes over 60% of the country’s total mangrove forest area.
    • It is the 27th Ramsar Site in India
    • The largest protected wetland in the country.
    • The Indian Sundarban, also a UNESCO world heritage site, is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger.

    Importance of Sundarbans:

    • The Indian Sundarban met four of the nine criteria required for the status of ‘Wetland of International Importance’ — presence of rare species and threatened ecological communities, biological diversity, significant and representative fish and fish spawning ground and migration path.
    • The Indian Sundarban, also a UNESCO world heritage site, is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger.
    • The Ramsar website points out that the Indian Sundarban is also home to a large number of “rare and globally threatened species, such as the critically endangered northern river terrapin (Batagur baska), the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), and the vulnerable fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus).
    • Two of the world’s four horseshoe crab species, and eight of India’s 12 species of kingfisher are also found here.
    • Recent studies claim that the Indian Sundarban is home to 2,626 faunal species and 90% of the country’s mangrove varieties.

    Importance of Ramsar recognition:

    • The Ramsar status will help to highlight conservation issues of the Sundarbans at the international level.
    • The part of the Sundarban delta, which lies in Bangladesh, was accorded the status of a Ramsar site in 1992, and with Indian Sundarban getting it too, international cooperation between the two countries for the protection of this unique ecosystem will increase.
    • This could lead to a better conservation strategy for flagship species such as the tiger and the northern river terrapin.

    Causes of wetlands degradation:

    • Major changes in land use for agriculture
    • Grazing
    • Water diversion for dams and canals
    • Water diversion for dams and canals

    How did it qualify?

    • The Indian Sundarban met four of the nine criteria required for the status of ‘Wetland of International Importance’ — presence of rare species and threatened ecological communities, biological diversity, significant and representative fish and fish spawning ground and migration path.
    • The Ramsar website points out that the Indian Sundarban is also home to a large number of “rare and globally threatened species. The Indian Sundarban is home to 2,626 faunal species and 90% of the country’s mangrove varieties.

    Will the status help?

    • It will help to highlight conservation issues of the Sundarbans at the international level.
    • The international cooperation between India and Bangladesh for the protection of this unique ecosystem will increase.
    • Better conservation strategy for flagship species such as the tiger and the northern river terrapin.

    What are the threats?

    • Concerns have been raised about natural ecosystems being changed for cultivation of shrimp, crab, molluscs and fish.
    • Fishing and harvesting of aquatic resources as a “high impact” actual threat to the wetland. Dredging, oil and gas drilling, logging and wood harvesting, hunting and collecting terrestrial animals.

    Vulnerable to climate change

    Ramsar Convention:

    • The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (better known as the Ramsar Convention) is an international agreement promoting the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
    • It is the only global treaty to focus on a single ecosystem. The convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.Traditionally viewed as a wasteland or breeding ground of disease, wetlands actually provide freshwater and food, and serve as nature’s shock absorber.
    • Wetlands, critical for biodiversity, are disappearing rapidly, with recent estimates showing that 64% or more of the world’s wetlands have vanished since 1900.
    • Major changes in land use for agriculture and grazing, water diversion for dams and canals and infrastructure development are considered to be some of the main causes of loss and degradation of wetlands.

    FLOOD MANAGEMENT AND BORDER AREAS PROGRAMME (FMBAP)

    Why in News?

    The Government has approved the “Flood Management and Border Areas Programme (FMBAP)” for Flood Management Works in entire country and River Management Activities.

    Highlights of the programme:

    • The Scheme “FMBAP” has been framed by merging the components of two continuing XII Plan schemes titled “Flood Management Programme (FMP)” and “River Management Activities and Works related to Border Areas (RMBA)”.
    • The aim of the Scheme is to assist the State Governments to provide reasonable degree of protection against floods in critical areas by adopting optimum combination of structural and non-structural measures and enhancing capabilities of State / Central Government official in related fields. The scheme will protect valuable land from erosion and flooding and help in maintaining peace along the border.
    • The Scheme aims at completion of the on-going projects already approved under FMP.
    • The scheme also caters to Hydro-meteorological observations and Flood Forecasting on common rivers with the neighbouring countries.

    Funding pattern:

    The funding pattern for FM Component for works in general category States will continue to be 50% (Centre): 50% (State). For projects of North Eastern States, Sikkim, J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the funding pattern will continue to be 70% (Centre): 30% (State). River Management Activities and Works related to Border Areas component being specific to activities in border areas with neighbouring countries and in accordance with bilateral mechanisms, the projects / works will continue to be funded as 100% grant-in-aid / central assistance.

    Benefits:

    It will be implemented throughout the country for effective flood management, erosion control and anti-sea erosion. It will benefit towns, villages, industrial establishments, communication links, agricultural fields, infrastructure etc. from floods and erosion in the country. The catchment area treatment works will help in reduction of sediment load into rivers.

    RED SANDERS IS NOW FREE OF EXPORT RESTRICTIONS

    GS 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

    Why in News?

    • The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), an agency of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has revised its export policy to permit its export if it is obtained from cultivated land.
    • All red sanders farmers, who were not allowed to export their produce as the foreign trade policy prohibited it, now can.

    Highlights:

    • Ironically, the Indian government had itself asked for quotas to export red sanders from CITES as the tree is categorised as a species that needs protection. Estimates suggest that there are more than 3,000 farmers across India who were unable to sell their produce due to the earlier export policy.
    • Earlier, only seized logs from smugglers were being exported depending on state government rules. However, red sanders remain listed in the Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

    Restrictions:

    • The tree is endemic to several districts in Andhra Pradesh and some parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. But over-exploitation prompted the Union government in the 1980s to recommend inclusion of red sanders in Appendix II of CITES.
    • The Appendix II says that trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
    • The species was listed in Appendix II of CITES in 1995, and subsequently export of red sanders was prohibited in 2004.

    Lifting restrictions:

    • In 2010, when the CITES was planning to suspend trade of red sanders obtained from India, the government submitted a Non-Detriment Finding (NDF) report saying it must be allowed to export from cultivated sources.
    • So in 2012, India got an export quota on red sanders from CITES, under which the country could export 310 tonnes of red sanders obtained from “artificially propagated” sources and 11,806 tonnes of wood from seized sources.

    Boosting Farmers and exports:

    • Though a farmer can grow the tree, he/she requires permits to fell and transport the wood, which was difficult to obtain. Moreover, the price of this wood in the domestic market is less than half of what it is in the international market as the demand is low.
    • At the same time, the farmer could not even export it earlier as the foreign trade policy prohibited it. The GoI should also create a separate Timber Development Board under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare as a single-window system for all farming activities to facilitate export process.

    Red Sanders:

    • Red sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus), known for its rich hue and therapeutic properties, is high in demand across Asia, particularly in China and Japan.
    • It is used in cosmetics and medicinal products as well as for making furniture, woodcraft and musical instruments. Its popularity can be gauged from the fact that a tonne of red sanders costs anything between Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore in the international market.

    THE NEW DELHI DECLARATION ON ASIAN RHINOS 2019

    GS 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

    Why in News?

    The five rhino range nations signed a declaration ‘The New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019’ for the conservation and protection of the species at the recently held Second Asian Rhino Range Countries meeting.

    Highlights:

    • India will collaborate with Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia to increase the population of three species of Asian rhinos, including the Greater one-horned rhinoceros found in the Indian sub-continent.
    • The declaration was signed to conserve and review the population of the Greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran rhinos every four years to reassess the need for joint actions to secure their future.
    • Undertaking studies on health issues of the rhinos, their potential diseases and taking necessary steps.
    • Collaborating and strengthening wildlife forensics and strengthening of transboundary collaboration among India, Nepal and Bhutan for conservation of the Greater one-horned rhino.

    Asian Rhinos:

    • There are three Asian rhino species, all of which have been pushed to the brink of extinction. The greater one-horned is slowly recovering thanks to years of successful conservation efforts but the Sumatran and Javan rhinos remain at great risk.
    • They’re now found in the wild in just four countries – India, Nepal, Bhutan and Indonesia.
    • Poaching for their horns and habitat loss are the two greatest threats to the survival of Asia’s remaining rhinos.

    106 COASTAL SITES PICKED FOR CONSERVATION

    GS 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

    Why in News?

    The Centre has identified over 100 coastal and marine sites as conservation reserves under its National Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031, says a biennial report released by the government.

    Highlights:

    Under the National Wildlife Action Plan for the period 2017 to 2031, the government is working towards the conservation of coastal and marine ecosystems from the impacts of climate change. In the last four and a half years, India has not only been able to sustain but also increase its mangrove cover at a time when these ecosystems are disappearing at an alarming rate across the world.

    India’s rich marine wealth:

    • As per the report, India has rich coastal and marine wealth along the eastern and western coasts as well as the Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands. The coastal and marine sector is also a source of valuable fish protein not only for the growing population but also contributes to the global food basket and in turn provides valuable foreign exchange to the country. “India produced 3.8 million metric tonnes of seafood during 2017, valued at Rs 5.28 lakh million at landing centre and Rs 8 lakh million at the retail level.
    • The fisheries sector supports around 9.3 lakh active and part-time fishers, one of the largest workforces of fishers in the world, the report said.
    • India is encouraging participation of local communities in governance by recognising the conservation reserves.
    • India is implementing measures to sustainably harness the potential of blue economy while building the climate resilience of the ecosystems and local coastal communities.

    3rd NWAP 2017-2031:

    • Mitigation of human-wildlife conflict, coastal and marine ecosystem conservation and a focus on wildlife health are among the key areas.
    • The draft emphasises on aspects like preservation of genetic diversity and sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems. This has a direct bearing on the country’s scientific advancements and support to millions of rural communities.
    • The first NWAP was adopted in 1983, while the second was adopted in 2002, which ended in 2017.

    CONVENTION ON THE CONSERVATION OF MIGRATORY SPECIES OF WILD ANIMALS (CMS)

    GS3: Environment | Conservation

    Why in News?

    The 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the conservation of migratory species of wild animals (CMS), an environmental treaty under the aegis of United Nations Environment Programme, is going to be hosted by India during 15th to 22nd February, 2020 at Gandhinagar in Gujarat.

    CMS:

    • In order to protect the migratory species throughout their range countries, a Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), has been in force, under the aegis of United Nations Environment Programme.
    • It also referred to as the Bonn Convention.
    • It provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats and brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States.
    • It lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures
      throughout a migratory range.
    • The convention complements and co-operates with a number of other international organizations, NGOs and partners in the media as well as in the corporate sector.

    India’s contribution:

    • India has signed non-legally binding MOU with CMS on the conservation and management of Siberian Cranes (1998), Marine Turtles (2007), Dugongs (2008) and Raptors (2016).
    • India is temporary home to several migratory animals and birds.
    • The important among these include Amur Falcons, Bar headed Gheese, Black necked cranes, Marine turtles, Dugongs, Humpbacked Whales, etc.
    • India has launched the National Action Plan for conservation of migratory species under the Central Asian Flyway.
    • The Indian sub-continent is also part of the major bird flyway network, i.e, the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) that covers areas between the Arctic and Indian Oceans, and covers at least 279 populations of 182 migratory water bird species, including 29 globally threatened species.

    Migratory species:

    • Migratory species are those animals that move from one habitat to another during different times of the year, due to various factors such as food, sunlight, temperature, climate, etc.
    • The movement between habitats, can sometimes exceed thousands of miles/kilometres for some migratory birds and mammals.
    • A migratory route can involve nesting and also requires the availability of habitats before and after each migration.

    NUCLEAR WASTE DISPOSAL

    GS3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

    Why in News?

    All radioactive waste facilities are designed with numerous layers of protection to make sure that people remain protected for as long as it takes for radioactivity to reduce to background levels.

    Types of nuclear waste:

    • Low-level waste is made up of lightly-contaminated items like tools and work clothing from power plant operation and makes up the bulk of radioactive wastes. It represent 90% of the total volume of radioactive wastes, but contain only 1% of the radioactivity.
    • Intermediate-level wastes might include used filters, steel components from within the reactor and some effluents from reprocessing.
    • High-level wastes from nuclear generation, but they contain 95% of the radioactivity arising from nuclear power.


    Types of nuclear waste
    VolumeRadioactive content
    High-level waste3% 95%
    Intermediate-level waste7% 4%
    Low-level waste 90% 1%

    Waste disposal:

    • Intermediate- and low-level wastes are disposed of closer to the surface, in many established repositories. Low-level waste disposal sites are purpose built, but are not much different from normal municipal waste sites.
    • Low-level and intermediate wastes are buried close to the surface.
    • High-level wastes require shielding and cooling, low-level wastes can be handled easily without shielding. High-level wastes can remain highly radioactive for thousands of years. They need to be disposed of deep underground in engineered facilities built in stable geological formations.
    • The regular monitoring is done as per the requirements which are in line with the guidelines of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
    • The monitoring of various environmental matrices such as air, water, soil etc., in and around the waste disposal facilities is carried out by independent Environmental Survey Laboratories (ESL) of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) which are stationed at all the nuclear sites.

    RASHTRIYA KAMDHENU AAYOG

    GS 3: Agriculture | Economics of animal-rearing

    Why in News?

    The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal for establishment of Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog for Conservation protection and development of cows and their progeny.

    Highlights:

    • The creation of Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog for the conservation, protection and development of cows and their progeny will provide the policy framework and direction to the cow conservation and development programmes in the country and for ensuring proper implementation of laws with respect to the welfare of cows.
    • The setting up of Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog will lead to conservation, protection and development of cattle population in the country including development and conservation of indigenous breeds. It will result in increased growth of livestock sector which is more inclusive, benefitting women, and small and marginal farmers.
    • The Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog will work in collaboration with Veterinary, Animal Sciences or Agriculture University or departments or organizations of the Central/State Government engaged in the task of research in the field of breeding and rearing of cow, organic manure, biogas etc.

    CATEGORISATION OF FARMERS

    GS 3: Agriculture | Land reforms in India

    Why in News?

    As per the results (provisional) of latest Agriculture Census 2015-16, the operational holdings are categorised in five size classes as follows:

    S.NoCategorySize-class
    1MarginalBelow 1.00 hectare
    2Small1.00-2.00 hectare
    3Semi-medium2.00-4.00 hectare
    4Medium4.00-10.00 hectare
    5Large10.00 hectare and above

    The operational holdings are also classified in three social groups, viz., Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Others.

    Measures to double the farmers’ income by 2022:

    • To improve the condition of Small and Marginal farmers and to double the income of farmers by 2022, Government is realigning its interventions from production-centric approach to farmers’ income-centric initiatives, with focus on better and new technological solutions.
    • These include implementation of schemes like, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), Soil Health Card, Neem Coated Urea, Rainfed Area Development under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), National Agriculture Market scheme (e-NAM), National Food Security Mission (NFSM), National Mission on Oilseeds & Oilpalm (NMOOP), Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH),Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), National Mission on Agriculture Extension & Technology (NMAET) etc.
    • In addition, farmers are provided information through Focused Publicity Campaigns, Kisan Call Centres (KCCs), Agri•-Clinics and Agri-Business Centres (ACABC) of entrepreneurs, Agri Fairs and exhibitions, Kisan SMS Portal.

    CATEGORISATION OF FARMERS

    GS 3: Agriculture | Land reforms in India

    Why in News?

    As per the results (provisional) of latest Agriculture Census 2015-16, the operational holdings are categorised in five size classes as follows:

    The operational holdings are also classified in three social groups, viz., Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Others.

    Measures to double the farmers’ income by 2022:

    • To improve the condition of Small and Marginal farmers and to double the income of farmers by 2022, Government is realigning its interventions from production-centric approach to farmers’ income-centric initiatives, with focus on better and new technological solutions.
    • These include implementation of schemes like, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), Soil Health Card, Neem Coated Urea, Rainfed Area Development under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), National Agriculture Market scheme (e-NAM), National Food Security Mission (NFSM), National Mission on Oilseeds & Oilpalm (NMOOP), Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH),Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), National Mission on Agriculture Extension & Technology (NMAET) etc.
    • In addition, farmers are provided information through Focused Publicity Campaigns, Kisan Call Centres (KCCs), Agri•-Clinics and Agri-Business Centres (ACABC) of entrepreneurs, Agri Fairs and exhibitions, Kisan SMS Portal.

    BHRINGRAJ PLANTS REMOVE LEAD FROM SOIL

    GS3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

    Why in news?

    Researchers have identified a native roadside plant known as ‘Bhringraj’ that can take up
    lead from the soil and thus help in removing the metal from the environment.

    Highlights:

    • The plant may be using the lead to protect itself from the pests, or other predators. Tribal people use it an antidote for snake bites and treatment of scorpion stings.
    • Hi-tech microscopic analysis showed that the lead travelled to the leaves and was deposited as lead nanoparticles in its cell wall, cytoplasm, and chloroplast.
    • The plants can be burned up after they have taken up the lead. In this way, the metal can be effectively contained and later disposed off safely.
    • The plant was found to accumulate lead at about 12,000 microgram/g of dry weight in the root and 7,000 microgram/g of dry weight in its shoot.
    • These plants grow in soils that are continuously exposed to lead from vehicle exhausts.
    • It is a significant further step in using the plant for bioremediation of lead-contaminated soil.

    Effects of Lead:

    • Affects health particularly young children affecting the development of the brain and nervous system
    • Biodiversity
    • Affects ecosystem
    • Affects soil productivity
    • Agricultural productivity will decrease

    Bioremediation:

    Bioremediation is a process used to treat contaminated media, including water, soil and subsurface material, by altering environmental conditions to stimulate growth of microorganisms and degrade the target pollutants.

    WASTE-TO-ENERGY PLANTS THREATS

    GS3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

    Why in news?

    The Waste-to-Energy (WtE) plants that use solid waste as feedstock pose threat to environment as per the recent study.

    Highlights:

    • WtE plants process municipal solid waste to generate electricity through incineration
    • There are 5 municipal WtE plants operational in India with a total capacity of 66.4 MW electricity per day, of which 52MW per day is generated in Delhi by its three existing plants.

    The problem:

    • WtE plants in India burn mixed waste.
    • The presence of chlorinated hydrocarbons like PVC results in the release of dioxins and furans when the waste is burnt at less than 850-degree C.
    • Dioxins and furans are known to be carcinogenic and can lead to impairment of immune, endocrine, nervous and reproductive systems. They are extremely difficult and costly to measure, as the experience of Okhla shows. The large amounts of flue gases, mercury vapour and lead compounds are released.
    • About 30 per cent residue from incineration in the form of slag (bottom ash) and fly ash (particulate matter), which are also known to be serious pollutants of air and water.

    Measures taken:

    Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules 2016 require that PVC be phased out in incinerators by April 2018. SWM policy requires that wet and dry wastes should not be mixed so that only non-compostable and non-recyclable wastes with at least 1,500 kcal/kg should reach WtE plants. As a preventive measure, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests to consider the phase out of such single-use short-life PVC and issue appropriate directions by July 2017.

    Way forward:

    • Wet and dry wastes segregation at source
    • Awareness about the harmful effects of WtE technologies
    • There should be adequate use of activated charcoal to filter out dioxins, furans and mercury from the emissions in plants.
    • Strict penalties for non-compliance.
    • Exploration of low-cost options such as composting and bio-methanation
    • Proper implementation of SWM policy
    • Follow NGT directions

    PRADHAN MANTRI KISAN SAMMAN NIDHI

    GS 3: Agriculture | Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support price

    Why in News?

    To provide an assured income support to the small and marginal farmers, the Government is launching the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN).

    Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi:

    • Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land upto 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs. 6,000 per year.
    • This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal installments of Rs. 2,000 each.
    • This programme will be funded by Government of India.
    • Around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to benefit from this.
    • The programme would be made effective from 1st December 2018 and the first installment for the period upto 31st March 2019 would be paid during this year itself.
    • It will entail an annual expenditure of Rs.75, 000 crore.

    Expected Outcome:

    • It would not only provide assured supplemental income to the most vulnerable farmer families, but would also meet their emergent needs especially before the harvest season.
    • It would pave the way for the farmers to earn and live a respectable living.

    First Captive Elephant Survey

    Why in news?

    • The details of the first survey of captive elephants in the country were submitted in an affidavit by the MoEFCC to the Supreme Court.
    • The affidavit comes in the wake of rising elephant deaths and human-elephant conflicts, particularly in Kerala and Assam.

      Highlights:

    • According to the affidavit, there are 2,454 elephants in captivity, of which 560 are in possession with forest departments and 1,687 with private individuals.
    • However, 664 of the total captive elephants in the country are without ownership certificate while there are 85 in zoos, 26 in circuses and 96 in temples. The affidavit covers data for 28 states and Union Territories. It shows that Assam and Kerala account for more than half the nationwide total of 2,454.
    • Assam has 37% of these captive elephants and Kerala has 21%.
    • Concentration in two states means a wide gap with the count in other states — the third highest is Karnataka’s 184, roughly one-fifth of Assam’s 905 and a little over one-third of
    • Kerala’s 518. Of these, one-third are in private custody without any ownership certificate mandated by law; zoos, circuses and temples account for 207 elephants in captivity.

    139 polluted cities not o n clean air plan: Green Peace report

    Why in News?

    • There are 139 Indian cities that breach air pollution standards but are not included in the Centre’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), says a report by Greenpeace.
    • The NCAP was launched by the government earlier this month and is a ₹300 crore initiative to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.

    Highlights of the Report

    :

    • Airpocalypse III, as the Greenpeace report is titled, analyses air pollution data of 313 cities and towns for the year 2017.
    • Of these 313 cities, 241 (77%) had PM10 levels beyond the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). These specify upper limits to a range of airborne chemicals and compounds. While 102 of these cities were included in the NCAP, the remaining 139 cities were left out. That’s because the government’s list of 102 cities relied on average pollution data until 2015, whereas Airpocalypse III used data updated up to 2017.
    • Even if the NCAP were to able to reduce pollution by 30% by 2024, 153 cities would still be left with pollution levels exceeding the NAAQS.
    • Of the 139 cities that have not been included in the non-attainment list under the NCAP, there are several cities that have a population of more than 1 million, and PM levels (recorded in 2017) above NAAQS. These include: Ranchi, Dhanbad (Jharkhand); Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh); Chennai, Madurai (Tamil Nadu); Meerut (Uttar Pradesh); Pimpri-Chindwar, Thane, (Maharashtra); Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara (Gujarat); and Howrah (West Bengal).

    National Clean Air Programme (NCAP):

    • The Centre has launched the programme to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.
    • It is envisaged as a scheme to provide the States and the Centre with a framework to combat air pollution.
    • Overcome the deficits of the ongoing government initiatives targeted towards air pollution control
    • Expand existing air quality monitoring network by – increasing number of existing manual and continuous monitoring stations and introducing rural monitoring stations, identifying alternative technology for real-time monitoring network and
    • Strengthening the capabilities of existing monitoring stations to measure Particulate matter (PM) 2.5 concentration.
    • Devise air quality management plans for the cities calls for detailed source apportionment (identification of pollution sources) studies for each city
    • Constitute a high-level apex committee and working group under the Indian Council of Medical Research and the MoEF&CC;
    • Set up an Air Information Centre that would analyse and disseminate monitored data; a technology assessment cell for evaluation of new pollution prevention and control technologies; and an Air Quality Forecasting system.

    NGT Dissatisfied With State Governments Over Cleaning of River Yamuna

    Why in news?

    • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked for a performance guarantee of Rs 10 crore each from the governments of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh expressing dissatisfaction over the cleaning of river Yamuna.

    Highlights:

    • The order comes after the interim report filed by the monitoring committee comprising of expert member B S Sajwan and former Delhi Chief Secretary Shailaja Chandra.

    Recommendations of the Monitoring Committee:

    • A study to assess the environmental flow of the river Yamuna for the stretch between Hathanikund and Okhla and notes that it would not be possible to rejuvenate it unless minimum environmental flow was provided.
    • Creating ponds and pits in various localities to facilitate idol immersion.
    • Building awareness about why the floodplains are sacrosanct and why they need conservation.
    • Involvement of citizens by dissipating knowledge about why the river is important and why it is worth preserving and restoring.
    • River Yamuna is a unique birding destination and there is a need for the Delhi Development Authority to preserve the birding hot spots.

    Other observations:

    • The performance guarantee would be forfeited if the work was not carried out as per the recommendations of the monitoring committee.
    • The monitoring committee was asked to expeditiously submit its final report.
    • Steps to be taken by the three states at the earliest for disposal of municipal solid waste, cleaning of drains and ensuring cleaning of garbage.
    • Haryana pollution control board to conduct a study of water quality and the flow of Yamuna at the point it enters Haryana, and submit the list of industries located in the catchment area.

    International Stock Taking Conference on Tiger Conservation

    Why in News?

    • The 3rd Stock Taking Conference on Tiger Conservation was inaugurated in New Delhi. Third in a series of Stock Taking Conferences, this is the second to be held in India after 2012 and is expected to have wide-ranging discussions on the status of the Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP) by the 13 tiger range countries besides deliberations on combating wildlife trafficking.

    Highlights:

    • Tigers are part of our planet’s natural heritage, a symbol of Earth’s biodiversity. They are a key species, crucial for the integrity of the ecosystems in which they live.
    • As top predators, they keep populations of prey species in check, which in turn maintains the balance between herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed.
    • In short, when tigers thrive, the whole ecosystem thrives. This, in turn, provides important financial, cultural and spiritual benefits for local communities who live with or near tigers.
    • This is the second stock-taking conference to be held in India after 2012, wherein progress against resolution adopted by tiger range countries in 2010 at St. Petersburg, Russia, is measured against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as decided by the said countries.
    • Global and National Tiger Recovery Programs (GTRP/NTRP) were formulated by respective tiger range countries as a consequence of this historic decision.

    St. Petersburg Declaration in 2010:

    • During the St. Petersburg declaration in 2010, tiger range countries had resolved to double tiger numbers across their range by 2022.
    • At the time of deliberations at St. Petersburg, India’s tiger estimate stood at 1411, which after the third cycle of the All India Tiger Estimation, 2014 has nearly been doubled to 2226.
    • This has largely been possible because of strides made against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), predominant among them being legislation to ensure protection of tiger habitat and enhancement of penalties, besides providing a statutory basis for inviolate space.

    Tiger range countries:

    • The 13 Tiger Range Countries (TRCs) are Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

    Crocodylus palustris – a crocodile species that is being removed from the Narmada

    Why in News?

    • The Gujarat Forest Department has started evacuating muggers from two ponds on the Sardar Sarovar Dam premises on the Narmada, to facilitate a seaplane service at the Statue of Unity.

    Narmada Crocodile:

    • The mugger crocodile, also called marsh crocodile or broad-snouted crocodile, is a species (Crocodylus palustris) native to freshwater habitats from southern Iran and Pakistan to the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka.
    • Already extinct in Bhutan and Myanmar, the mugger has been listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1982.
    • In India, it is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
    • Vadodara, 90 km from the Narmada dam, is the only city in the country where crocodiles live in their natural habitat amidst human population.

    Legal provisions for relocation of species:

    • Among the six schedules in the Act, Schedule I and part II of Schedule II provide the highest degrees of protection to listed species, with the most stringent penalties for offenders.
    • For animals listed in Schedule I, any of kind of population control activity, capture for captivity, or transportation can involve cumbersome processes.
    • This includes even transportation of crocodiles. So its relocation or capture is definitely illegal without permission.
    • Experts say crocodiles were listed under Schedule I not because of the fear of extinction but to prevent their trade.
    • However, state governments have the authority to give permissions in some situations where they become a danger for the human population.

    Study on nitrogen pollution

    Why in news?

    • Eighteen research institutions in India are among a group of 50 institutions — called the South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH) — in the United Kingdom and South Asia that have secured £20 million (about ₹200 crore) from the U.K. government to assess and study the quantum and impact of “nitrogen pollution” in South Asia.
    • While nitrogen is the dominant gas in the atmosphere, it is inert and doesn’t react. However, when it is released as part of compounds from agriculture, sewage and biological waste, nitrogen is considered “reactive”, and may pollute and even exert a potent greenhouse gas (heat trapping) effect.

      Nitrogen Pollution:

    • Nitrogen compounds running off farmland have led to water pollution problems around the world, while nitrogen emissions from industry, agriculture and vehicles make a big contribution to air pollution.
    • Over 80% of the nitrogen in soil is not utilised by humans. While over four-fifths of the nitrogen is used to feed livestock, only about six per cent reaches humans in case of non-vegetarian diet, as compared to the 20% that reaches the plate of a vegetarian.
    • Nitrogen becomes a pollutant when it escapes into the environment and reacts with other organic compounds. It is either released into the atmosphere, gets dissolved in water sources such as rivers, lakes or groundwater, or remains in the soil.
    • While it might lead to favourable growth of species that can utilise this nutrient, nitrogen as a pollutant is often detrimental to the environment and health.
    • According to the World Health Organization, nitrate-contaminated drinking water can cause reduced blood function, cancer and endemic goiters. Surplus inputs of nitrogen compounds have been found to cause soil acidification.
    • The lowering pH, as a result of the acidification, can lead to nutrient disorders and increased toxicity in plants. It may also affect natural soil decomposition.
    • It creates of harmful algal blooms and dead zones in our waterways and oceans; the algae produce toxins which are harmful to human and aquatic organisms (and indirectly affects fisheries and biodiversity in coastal areas)
    • Over 10 million people in Europe are potentially exposed to drinking water with nitrate concentrations above recommended levels. This can have an adverse effect on human health.
    • Excessive nitrogen fertiliser application contributes to soil nutrient depletion. As the world needs to feed an ever growing population loss of arable land is major global problem.
    • The release of Nitrous Oxide is essentially a greenhouse gas which is harmful to the environment.

    Bio – Jet fuel for Military Aircraft

    Why in News?

    • After months of exhaustive ground and flight trials, the indigenous produced bio-fuel has been finally cleared for use by the premier airworthiness certification agency of the country.

    Bio-Jet Fuel for Military Aircrafts:

    • The Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) conducted various checks and tests conducted on bio-jet.
    • It has formally granted its approval for use of this fuel, produced from non-conventional source i.e. non-edible vegetable/ tree borne oil to be used on military aircraft.
    • The bio-jet fuel has been produced from seeds of Jatropha plant sourced from Chhattisgarh and processed at CSIR-IIP’s lab at Dehradun.
    • This approval enables the IAF to fulfil its commitment to fly the maiden IAF An-32 aircraft with a blend of bio-jet fuel. Any hardware or software which is to be used on Indian military aircraft, including those operated by Indian Navy or Army has to be cleared for use by CEMILAC before being inducted for regular use. This clearance is a major step for continued testing and eventual full certification of the bio-jet fuel for use on a commercial scale by civil aircraft as well.

    Significance:

    • Increased demand of bio-jet fuel would give impetus to increase in collection of tree-borne non-edible oil seeds.
    • It will help generate ancillary income, increase remuneration for tribal and marginal farmers, and enthuse cultivation/ collection of oilseeds.

    Global alliance of companies to eliminate plastic waste

    Why in News?

    • An alliance of global companies launched a new organisation to help eliminate plastic waste, especially in the ocean.

    Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW):

    • The AEPW comprises of about 30 companies, which pledged over $1 billion to eliminate plastic waste across the world.
    • The aim is to develop solutions to mitigate plastic pollution and promote a circular economy by utilising used plastics.
    • The Alliance has been working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development as a founding strategic partner.
    • Designed as a non-profit organization, the Alliance includes companies from across North and South America, Europe, Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa as well as the Middle East are part of the Alliance.
    • Member companies include those that make, use, sell, process, collect and recycle plastics, as well as chemical and plastic manufacturers, consumer goods companies, retailers, converters, and waste management companies, also called the plastics value chain.
    • From India, Reliance Industries will advance efforts towards a sustainable future.
    • Infrastructure development to collect and manage waste and increase recycling
    • Innovation to advance and scale up new technologies that make recycling and recovering plastics easier and create value from post-use plastics
    • Education and engagement of governments, businesses, and communities to mobilize action;
    • Clean-up of concentrated areas of plastic waste in the environment, particularly the major conduits of waste, such as rivers, that carry land-based waste to the ocean

    Great Indian Bustard may be extinct soon

    Why in News?

    • The GIB’s last remnant wild population of about 50 in Jaisalmer district accounts for 95% of its total world population.
    • No progress has been made on the proposal for establishing a captive breeding centre at Sorsan in Kota district and a hatchery in Jaisalmer for conservation of the State bird of Rajasthan.

    Great Indian Bustard:

    • The Great Indian Bustard, one of the heaviest flying birds, can weigh up to 15 kg and grow up to one metre in height.
    • It is considered the flagship grassland species, representing the health of the grassland ecology.
    • For long, conservationists have been demanding to secure this population, warning that the bird might get extinct in the coming decades.
    • It would become the first mega species to disappear from India after Cheetah in recent times.
    • Till 1980s, about 1,500-2,000 Great Indian Bustards were spread throughout the western half of India, spanning eleven states.
    • However, with rampant hunting and declining grasslands, their population dwindled.
    • In July 2011, the bird was categorised as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

    Protection Measures:

    • Birdlife International uplisted this species from Endangered to Critically Endangered (2011). Protection under CITES Appendix I. Protection under Schedule I Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2002. Project Great Indian Bustard (Rajasthan): aims at identifying and fencing off bustard breeding grounds in existing protected areas as well as provide secure breeding enclosures in areas outside protected areas.

     

    Tripura launches Sustainable Catchment Forest Management Project

    Why in news?

    • Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb launched the Sustainable Catchment Forest Management (SCATFORM) Project which is undertaken with the assistance of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency).

    Sustainable Catchment Forest Management (SCATFORM) Project:

    • The SCATFORM project aims to address issues such as forest cover loss and forest degradation that have been mainly caused by shifting cultivation, which increases soil erosion risks on hill slopes especially in upper catchment areas.
    • The SCATFORM project would be implemented mainly in upper catchments where forest degradation and soil erosion are severe and livelihood improvement needs are high.
    • The project aims to the improve quality of forest in the catchment area by sustainable forest management, soil and moisture conservation and livelihood development.
    • The activities undertaken under the project involves:
      • Promotion of bamboo plantation Agroforestry based livelihood.
      • Eco-Tourism Development
      • Development of value addition for bamboo and other Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) in order to create alternate livelihood opportunities for local communities
      • The 80 per cent of the cost is contributed by JICA and the rest would be funded by the state and Central Governments.

    Japan International Cooperation Agency:

    • Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) aims to promote international cooperation as the Japanese Governmental Agency in charge of official development assistance implementation.
    • JICA which is an incorporated administrative institution under the Government of Japan is the world’s largest bilateral donor agency.

    Census of Estuarine Crocodiles

    Why in news?

    • The number of crocodiles rose to 1742 from last year’s census of 1698 in the Bhitarkanika National Park in Odisha’s Kendrapara district.

    Census of Estuarine Crocodiles:

    • The latest census figure of these reptiles, which was released by forest department, has come out with an encouraging trend of rise in the number of estuarine crocodiles. The census of estuarine or saltwater crocodiles was carried out along the water-bodies of Mahanadi deltaic region in and around the Bhitarkanika National Park between Thursday and Monday.
    • The enumerators sighted 619 hatchlings, 347 yearlings, 273 juveniles, 178 sub-adults and 325 adults, according to the census report.
    • The giants included a 21 feet long croc which finds a pride of place in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest living crocodile, he said.
    • Four decades ago when the Govt. of India and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had thought of saving crocodiles in Bhitarkanika area.
    • The population was then estimated to be 95, including 34 adult but now, it stands to 1742.
    • Since 1977, salt-water crocodile eggs have also been collected locally, and young crocodiles have been released in the creeks and the estuaries.

    Estuarine crocodiles in India:

    • Estuarine crocodiles are also found in West Bengal’s Sunderbans, having the country’s largest mangrove cover.
    • The mangrove wetlands in Andaman Islands are also home to these species, but those cannot match the density and population of crocodile available in wild habitats of Bhitarkanika.
    • The region is criss-crossed by innumerable water inlets, creeks and nullahs all forming the part of Bhitarkanika river system.

    Conference on micro irrigation

    Why in news?

    • Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India is organizing the 9th International Micro Irrigation Conference on Modern Agriculture at Aurangabad in Maharashtra in association with International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID), Indian National Committee on Surface Water (INCSW) and WAPCOS Limited.The government of Fiji will be the Special Invitees.

    Highlights:

    • The event will be a multi-disciplinary dialogue in the form of a conference discussing issues related to micro irrigation for modern agriculture and various related issues like new techniques in micro irrigation for increased crop productivity, micro irrigation in cluster level farming etc. A large group of eminent international and national experts and local farmers will be sharing their experiences in the fields of latest developments in micro irrigation technology to enhance crop production and water management for optimal use in agriculture, technical and sociological interventions for sustainable water, food & agriculture. The Conference will provide a forum for discussions and deliberation through seminars, exhibitions and sessions and will serve to build awareness regarding large-scale use of micro irrigation, strategies for water conservation, advanced crop technology, engineering techniques, etc.

    Shifting north magnetic pole

    Why in news?

    • Rapid shifts in the Earth’s north magnetic pole are forcing researchers to make an early update to a model that helps navigation by ships, planes and submarines in the Arctic.

    Shifting Magnetic North Pole:

    • Magnetic North Pole wanders, and every few hundred thousand years, the polarity flips so that a compass would point south instead of north.
    • Liquid churning in Earth’s core generates most of the magnetic field, which varies over time as the deep flows change.
    • However, the magnetic field has been changing so quickly and erratically that while conducting a routine check in early 2018, British and US researchers realized drastic steps were needed.
    • The shift they observed was so large it was on the verge of exceeding the acceptable limit for navigation errors.
    • Scientists must periodically update the World Magnetic Model to map this process, and the most recent version – produced in 2015 – was intended to last until 2020.

    Tracking the movement:

    • The wandering pole is driven by unpredictable changes in liquid iron deep inside the Earth.
    • It’s moving at about 50 km (30 miles) a year.
    • It didn’t move much between 1900 and 1980 but it’s really accelerated in the past 40 years.
    • On the contrary, the South magnetic pole drift is very slow (less than 10 km per year).
    • It has not changed much over the past few decades, and hence provided a much smaller contribution to the overall model declination error.

    What causes the Drift?

    • The Earth’s magnetic field is in a permanent state of change.
    • Magnetic north drifts around and every few hundred thousand years the polarity flips so a compass would point south instead of north.
    • The strength of the magnetic field also constantly changes and currently it is showing signs of significant weakening.

    Effect on Life:

    • Life has existed on the Earth for billions of years, during which there have been many reversals.
    • There is no obvious correlation between animal extinctions and those reversals. Likewise, reversal patterns do not have any correlation with human development and evolution.
    • It appears that some animals, such as whales and some birds use Earth’s magnetic field for migration and direction finding.
    • Since geomagnetic reversal takes a number of thousands of years, they could well adapt to the changing magnetic environment or develop different methods of navigation.

    Effect on Climate:

    • Earth’s magnetic field, which has existed for at least 3.45 billion years, provides a shield from the direct impact of solar radiation. Even with Earth’s strong magnetic field today, we’re still susceptible to solar storms that can damage our electricity-based society.
    • The fluctuations in the number of cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere directly alter the amount of cloud covering the planet.

    World Magnetic Model:

    • The World Magnetic Model (WMM) is a large spatial-scale representation of the Earth’s magnetic field. It consists of a degree and order 12 spherical harmonic expansion of the magnetic potential of the geomagnetic main field generated in the Earth’s core.
    • The charts are used to convert between compass measurements of magnetic north and true north. It can be found in the navigation systems of ships and airplanes as well as geological applications (such as drilling and mining).
    • Researchers from the U.S.’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maintain the WMM.
    • The charts, known as the World Magnetic Model (WMM), are used to convert between compass measurements of magnetic north and true north
    • The WMM is also part of map applications in smartphones, including the Google Maps App.

    Indus Food 2019

    Why in news?

    • INDUS FOOD-II with the theme of ‘World Food Supermarket’ will be held on 14th and 15th January, 2019, at India Expo Mart, Greater Noida.

    INDUS FOOD:

    • INDUS FOOD is a platform of its kind exclusively devoted to enhancing Indian exports in F&B sector. It enables B2B engagements of buyers and suppliers, after careful business matchmaking, which takes care of precise business requirements of each participant, and enables him to pick and choose whom to meet. The event is aimed at promoting India as a strong and reliable exporter of food and beverage products to the world.

    Indus Food 2019:

    • INDUS FOOD 2019 will promote value addition to India’s agriculture exports and integrate Indian farmers and agricultural products with global value chains.
    • After the success of the first edition of INDUS FOOD in 2018, Trade Promotion Council of India (TPCI) has scaled up the Reverse Buyers-Sellers Meet (RBSM) with the financial assistance under Market Access Initiative (MAI) scheme of Department of Commerce.
    • With more than 700 buyers from 70 countries visiting INDUS FOOD-II and more than 500 food suppliers, the event will lead to greater interaction of Indian exporters with global customers.
    • It will bring business opportunities to the doorstep of Indian producers and manufacturers and help small exporters, who cannot afford participation in overseas fairs, to have a direct interface with foreign buyers who visit India for this show.
    • The event is divided into 15 product display zones viz. sweets & confectionary, dairy, dry fruits, fruits & vegetables, Indian ethnic food & snacks, meat poultry & seafood, non-alcoholic beverages, oil & oil seeds, organic & health food, pulses grain and sugar, spices, tea & coffee, wine & alcoholic beverages, consumer food, and ingredients and fragrances & extracts.

    National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

    Why in news?

    • Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, launched a time-bound national level strategy for pan India implementation to tackle the increasing air pollution problem across the country in a comprehensive manner in the form of National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

    Objective:

    • “Overall objective of the NCAP is comprehensive mitigation actions for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution besides augmenting the air quality monitoring network across the country and strengthening the awareness and capacity building activities.”

    Highlights:

    • Today cities occupy just 3% of the land, but contribute to 82% of GDP and responsible for 78% of Carbon dioxide emissions; cities though are engines of growth and equity but they have to be sustainable and it is in this context that NCAP being a very inclusive program holds special relevance.
    • The tentative national level target of 20%–30% reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by 2024 is proposed under the NCAP taking 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration.
    • City specific action plans are being formulated for 102 non-attainment cities identified for implementing mitigation actions under NCAP. In addition, sectoral working groups, national level Project Monitoring Unit, Project Implementation Unit, state level project monitoring unit, city level review committee under the Municipal Commissioner and DM level Committee in the Districts are to be constituted under NCAP for effective implementation and success of the Programme. Collaborative and participatory approach involving relevant Central Ministries, State Governments, local bodies and other Stakeholders with focus on all sources of pollution forms the crux of the Programme.

    National Workshop on Agri Export Policy

    Why in news?

    • Minister of State for Commerce & Industry hosted a workshop on new agri export policy.
    • This is the first time that an agri export policy has been formulated and it is comprehensive involving all related sectors like R&D, clusters, logistics and transportation. Workshops like these will help to identify bottlenecks, get feedback and suggestions to improve and overcome difficulties in the implementation of the policy.

    Aim:

    • To harness the export potential of Indian agriculture, through suitable policy instruments and make India a global power in agriculture and double farmers income by 2022.

    Objectives:

    • To double agricultural exports from present USD 30 billion to USD 60 billion by 2022 and reach USD 100 billion in the next few years.
    • To diversify export basket, destinations and boost high value and value-added agricultural exports including a focus on perishables,
    • To promote novel, indigenous, organic, ethnic and non-traditional agri products, institutional mechanism for pursuing market access, tackling barriers/SPS,
    • To strive to double India’s share in world agri exports by integrating with GVC and enable farmers to get the benefit of export opportunities in overseas markets.

    Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2019

    Why in News?

    • The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2019 recently released shows that only few countries have started working towards limiting global warming below 2°C or even at 1.5°C.

    CCPI:

    • The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) is an annual publication by Germanwatch, NewClimate Institute and Climate Action Network Europe.
    • Its aim is to put political and social pressure on those countries that have, until now, failed to take ambitious action on climate protection, and to highlight those countries with best practice climate policies.
    • It evaluates the climate protection performance of 60 countries, responsible for over 90% of global energy-related CO2 emissions.

    India’s Performance:

    • India ranks 11th in this year’s CCPI, improving its standing by three places compared to the previous edition.
    • Most notably India improved its performance in the Renewable Energy category, joining the group of medium
    • However, national experts argue that plans to build new coal-fired power plants may pose a risk of offsetting positive developments in the renewable energy sector.
    • Comparatively low levels of per capita GHG emissions and a relatively ambitious mitigation target for 2030 give India an overall high rating in the emissions category.

    Global Performance:

    • Morocco has been named the second best performing country after Sweden in the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI).
    • With the connection of the world’s largest solar plant to the grid, Morocco is on track for achieving its target of 42% installed renewable energy capacities by 2020.
    • Sweden is in top position, followed by Morocco and Lithuania in the CCPI 2019.
    • The bottoms five in the list are Saudi Arabia, U.S., Iran, South Korea and Taiwan.

    PARIVESH – Portal for environmental clearance

    Why in news?

    • An ambitious web-based single-window system ‘Parivesh’ will be rolled-out at state levels by January 15, bringing an end to the clearance nightmare for entrepreneurs.
    • This automated clearance has already been implemented at the Central level, while various States starting from Gujarat will begin to implement the scheme by January 15.

    PARIVESH Portal:

    • It is a Single-Window Integrated Environmental Management System which stands for Pro-Active and Responsive facilitation by Interactive, Virtuous and Environmental Single-window H
    • It is a workflow based application and portal, based on the concept of web architecture.
    • The system has been designed, developed and hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, with technical support from National Informatics Centre, (NIC).
    • It automates the entire process of submitting the application and tracking the status of such proposals at each stage of processing.

    Utility of the portal:

    • It facilitates for online submission, monitoring and management of proposals submitted by Project Proponents to the MOEFCC, as well as to the State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA).
    • It will also help seek various types of clearances (e.g. Environment, Forest, Wildlife and Coastal Regulation Zone Clearances) from Central, State and district-level authorities.

    Key highlights of PARIVESH:

    • Single registration and single sign-in for all types of clearances (i.e. Environment, Forest, Wildlife and CRZ),
    • Unique-ID for all types of clearances required for a particular project and Single Window interface for the proponent to submit applications for getting all types of clearances (i.e. Environment, Forests, Wildlife and CRZ clearances)
    • The facility of Geographic Information System (GIS) interface will help them in analyzing the proposal efficiently, automatic alerts (via SMS and emails) at important stages to the concerned officers, committee members and higher authorities to check the delays if any.

    Shift to Tobacco Farming

    Why in News?

    • The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW) had made budgetary allocations from 2015-16 onwards as Central share under Crop Diversification Programme (CDP), an ongoing sub-scheme of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) to encourage tobacco growing farmers to shift to alternative crops/cropping system in tobacco growing states.

    Crop Diversification Programme:

    • Under CDP, tobacco growing States have given flexibility to take suitable activities/interventions for replacing the tobacco to alternative crops/cropping system as per the cost norms approved under any Centrally Sponsored Scheme/State Scheme.
    • The States may also organize study tours/ exposure visits and campaigns etc. for highlighting harmful effects of tobacco and long term benefits of alternative crops under CDP.
    • In order to encourage tobacco growing farmers to shift to other crops, a National Seminar on Crop Diversification sponsored by DAC&FW was organized by the ICAR-Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI) at Rajahmundry to exchange information and experiences of various stakeholders on various issues relating to tobacco diversification.
    • The research work carried out by ICAR- CTRI, Rajahmundry revealed that a remunerative cropping system rather than a sole crop can be a viable alternative to sole tobacco crop.
    • Alternative crops/cropping systems like maize, wheat, ragi, cotton, soybean, mustard, castor, groundnut, black gram, red gram, green gram, chilly, chickpea, potato, ginger, sugarcane, turmeric, moringa, oil palm etc. have been identified for the tobacco growing areas in different states.

    Green – AG project

    Why in news?

    • The government has launched a Global Environment Facility (GEF) assisted project namely, “Green – Ag: Transforming Indian Agriculture for global environment benefits and the conservation of critical biodiversity and forest landscapes” in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in high-conservation-value landscapes.

    Highlights:

    • The project seeks to mainstream biodiversity, climate change and sustainable land management objectives and practices into Indian agriculture.
    • The overall objective of the project is to catalyze transformative change of India’s agricultural sector to support achievement of national and global environmental benefits and conservation of critical biodiversity and forest landscapes.
    • The project will support harmonization between India’s agricultural and environmental sector priorities and investments so that the achievement of national and global environmental benefits can be fully realized without compromising India’s ability to strengthen rural livelihoods and meet its food and nutrition security.
    • The project is to be implemented in high-conservation-value landscapes of five States namely
      • Madhya Pradesh : Chambal Landscape,
      • Mizoram: Dampa Landscape,
      • Odisha: Similipal Landscape,
      • Rajasthan: Desert National Park Landscape
      • Uttarakhand: Corbett-Rajaji Landscape.

    Hornbill Festival 2018

    Why in news?

    •  Union Home Minister has inaugurated hugely popular Hornbill Festival 2018 in Kohima, coinciding with the Formation Day of Nagaland.

    Hornbill Festival 2018:

    • The Hornbill Festival is a celebration held every year from 1 – 10 December, in Kohima, Nagaland.
    • The first festival was held in the year 2000.
    •  Nagas celebrate this festival to revive, protect, sustain and promote the richness of the Naga heritage and traditions.
    •  The festival is named after the Indian hornbill, the large and colourful forest bird which is displayed in the folklore of most of the state’s tribes.
    •  The festival pays tribute to Hornbill, the most admired and revered bird for the Nagas for its qualities of alertness and grandeur.
    •  Organized by the Nagaland State Tourism and Art & Culture Departments, the Festival showcases a mélange of cultural displays under one roof.
    •  Festival highlights include the traditional Naga Morungs exhibition and the sale of arts and crafts, food stalls, herbal medicine stalls, flower shows and sales, cultural medley – songs and dances, fashion shows etc.

    Great Indian Hornbill:

    • The great hornbill (Bucerosbicornis) also known as the great Indian hornbill or great pied hornbill, is one of the larger members of the hornbill family.
    • The great hornbill is long-lived, living for nearly 50 years in captivity.
    •  It is predominantly fruit eating, but is an opportunist and preys on small mammals, reptiles and birds.
    •  Its impressive size and colour have made it important in many tribal cultures and rituals.
    •  IUCN status: Vulnerable (uplisted from Near Threatened in 2018). It is also listed in Appendix I of CITES.

    Sixth National Report to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD)

    Why in news?

    • India submitted its Sixth National Report (NR6) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The report was submitted by the Union Environment Minister, during the inaugural session of the 13th National Meeting of the State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) organized by the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA).

    Sixth National Report (NR6):

    • The NR6 provides an update of progress in achievement of 12 National Biodiversity Targets (NBT) developed under the Convention process in line with the 20 global Aichi biodiversity targets.
    • The Report highlights that while India has exceeded/overachieved two NBTs, it is on track to achieve eight NBTs and in respect of the remaining two NBTs also, India is striving to meet the targets by the stipulated time of 2020.
    • India has exceeded the terrestrial component of 17 percent of Aichi target 11, and 20 percent of corresponding NBT relating to areas under biodiversity management.

    Aichi Target:

    • The ‘Aichi Targets was adopted at the Nagoya conference of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
    • In the conference of parties (COP-10), the parties agreed to come up with new plans and targets as the previous targets on biodiversity protection were not achieved.
    • The short-term plan which consists of 5 strategic goals and further sub divided into 20 ambitious targets is collectively known as Aichi targets.
      • Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
      • Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use
      • Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity
      • Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services
      • Strategic Goal E:Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building

    India to submit 2nd biennial report on greenhouse gas inventory to UNFCC

    Why in News?

    •  India is mandated to submit a biennial update report containing updates of national greenhouse gas inventories and information on mitigation actions, needs and support received as a party to UNFCC.
    • The Union Cabinet chaired by PM Modi has approved the submission of second Biennial Update Report (BUR) to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), giving India’s national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory of 2014.

    India’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2014:

    • The BUR reports following figures about India’s greenhouse gas emissions:
    • In India, a total of 26,07,488 gigagram (Gg) CC-2 equivalent or around 2.607 billion tonnes of CC-2 equivalent of GHGs were emitted from all activities , excluding ‘land use, land use change and forestry’ (LULUCF) in 2014.
    • Net national GHG emissions after including LULUCF were 23,06,295 Gg CO2 equivalent or around 2.306 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
    • Energy sector accounted for 73 per cent, industrial processes and product use (IPPU) 8 per cent, agriculture 16 per cent and waste sector 3 per cent of emissions.
    • India is on course for achieving the target for emission intensity of the economy and share of non-fossil fuel-based power capacity.

    India’s commitments under the Paris Agreement:

    •  Reducing greenhouse gas emission intensity of India’s GDP by 33-35 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030
    • 40 per cent of India’s power capacity would be based on non-fossil fuel sources.
    •  Creating an additional ‘carbon sink’ of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

    India lost $79.5 billion due to climate-related disasters in last 20 years: UN

    Why in news?

    • India lost $79.5 billion to climate-related disasters in the last two decades a/c to UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction report.

    Report findings:

    • The UNISDR highlighted that there has been a “dramatic rise of 251%” globally in direct economic losses from climate-related disasters in the last 20 years.
    • In the period 1998-2017, disaster-hit countries reported direct economic losses of $2.9 trillion, 77% out of which was caused by climate-related disasters.
    • The report comes in the wake of the IPCC alarm sounding a rise in extreme weather events, if warming is not limited to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
    • At least 91% of all major disasters recorded from 1988 to 2017 were climate-related says the report.
    • The 2 billion people were affected by floods, which accounted for 43.4% of these disasters, followed by droughts, which affected a further 1.5 billion people.
    • The average number of disasters per year has increased to 329 in the latest 20-year period, with climate change increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather related events.
    • Storms were among the most frequently occurring disasters, along with floods.
    • US recorded the biggest monetary losses reflecting high asset values, while China suffered a significantly higher number of disasters.

    Impact on Indian economy:

    • The report shows that while absolute economic losses might be concentrated in high income countries, the human cost of disasters falls on low- and lower middle-income countries.
    • India is among five countries after the US, China and Japan and Puerto Rico, which have witnessed the greatest economic losses due to climate-related disasters.
    • The findings suggest that an average of 130 people died per million living in disaster-affected areas in low income countries, compared to 18 in high-income countries, in disasters since 2000.
    • That means people exposed to natural hazards in the poorest nations were more than seven times more likely to die, than equivalent populations in the richest nations.
    • This report highlights the protection gap between rich and poor.
    • The analysis shows that people in low-income countries are six times more likely to lose all their worldly possessions or suffer injury in a disaster than people in high-income countries.
    • The report’s analysis makes it clear that economic losses from extreme weather events are unsustainable and a major brake on eradicating poverty in hazard-exposed parts of the world.

    FAO Council approves India’s proposal to observe International Year of Millets in 2023

    Why in news?

    • The 160th session of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Council, currently underway in Rome, approved India’s proposal to observe an International Year of Millets in 2023.

    Highlights:

    • This international endorsement comes in the backdrop of India celebrating 2018 as the National Year of Millets for promoting cultivation and consumption of these nutria-cereals.
    • This is further supported by increase in Minimum Support Prices (MSP) of millets.
    • Millets consists of Jowar, Bajra, Ragi and minor millets together termed as nutria-cereals.
    • Through the Department of Food and Public Distribution, State Governments are allowed to procure jowar, bajra, maize and ragi from framers at MSP.
    • This will enhance global awareness to bring back these nutri-cereals to the plate, for food and nutrition security and hence increase production for resilience to challenges posed globally by climate change.

    Significance of Millets consumption:

    • Millets are nutritionally superior to wheat and rice owing to their higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fibre and minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorous.
    • It provides nutritional security and act as shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.
    • Pellagra (niacin deficiency), Anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency can be effectively tackled with intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich food grains like millets.
    • It can also help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten free and also have low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.

    FAO Council:

    • Established by the Conference at its Third Session (1947) to replace the original “Executive Committee of FAO” in accordance with a recommendation of the Preparatory Commission on World Food Proposals.
    • The Council, within the limits of the powers, acts as the Conference’s executive organ between sessions.
    • It exercises functions dealing with the world food and agriculture situation and related matters, current and prospective activities of the Organization, including its Programme of Work and Budget, administrative matters and financial management of the Organization and constitutional matters.

    Dual-Fuel Usage for Agricultural and Construction Equipment Vehicles

    Why in News?

    • The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has notified dual-fuel usage for agricultural and construction equipment vehicles.

    Usage of Dual-fuel:

    • Usage include tractors, power tillers, construction equipment vehicles and combine harvesters which have originally been manufactured as dual- fuel with diesel as primary fuel and CNG, Bio CNG as secondary, or have been converted as such from in -use diesel vehicles.
    • Rules 115A and 115 B of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 have been amended to incorporate new rules 115 AA and 115 BB for the purpose.
    • This move will give a boost to vehicles run on bio-fuel, and help in reducing both cost and pollution.
    • The emission norms for smoke and vapour from these dual fuel vehicles will be same as the prevailing mass emission norms for the diesel mode.
    • The mass emission standards for these CNG/ Bio CNG/ LNG dual fuel engines of the agriculture tractors, power tillers, construction equipment vehicles and combine harvesters will be the same as the emission standards for the diesel engines of these vehicles with the exception that the HC (Hydrocarbon) shall be replaced by NMHC (Non-Methane Hydrocarbon) on measurement basis as detailed in rule 115 A.

    Significance of Dual-fuel:

    • Most of the construction and agricultural equipment which were running on diesel fuels now runs with these cleaner alternate bio-fuels.
    • With dual fuel usage of vehicles the advantage is that they will use 60% diesel and 40% bio-CNG or LNG and hence cause less pollution and also turn out to be cost effective.

    COP24: 24th Conference of Parties to UNFCCC

    Why in News?

    • The COP-24 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be held at Katowice, Poland from 2nd December 2018 to 14th December 2018.
    • COP-24 is very significant as it is expected to finalise guidelines for implementation of the Paris Agreement adopted in 2016.

    India-COP24:

    • India strongly supports the objective of the Paris Agreement to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change.
    • India is committed towards keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
    • India considers it important from the point of view of eradicating poverty and caring for the poor and the marginalized.
    • The issue of pre-2020 commitments under Kyoto Protocol of developed countries to fulfill their climate finance commitments of mobilizing USD 100 billion per annum by 2020, will remain a priority for India in COP-24.

    Conference of Parties (COP):

    • COP is the supreme decision-making body of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
    • All States that are Parties to UNFCCC are represented at COP. ‎At COP, all parties review implementation of Convention and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of Convention.

    Responsibility for Developed Countries :

    • These implementation gaps will present an additional burden to developing countries in the post-2020 period.
    • Therefore, the key concern for India is to ensure that no undue burden is shifted onto developing countries in the post-2020 period.
    • India is of the view that enhanced provision of new, adequate and predictable finance, technology development and transfer, as well as capacity-building support, is key enablers to achieve higher ambition in their climate actions.
    • Therefore, PAWP must have mechanisms to ensure new, adequate and predictable support for developing country parties.

    Asiatic Lion Conservation Project

    Why in news?

    •  The free-population of Asiatic Lions and the ecosystem of their habitation will be protected and conserved under ‘Asiatic Lion Conservation Project,’ an initiative taken by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on December 20, 2018.
    •  Under the project, the stability, and viability in the population of Asiatic Lions will be ensured through scientific intervention, disease control, veterinary control, and adequate eco-development works.
    •    A total of Rs. 9784 Lakh for three years has been allocated for this project which will provide monetary support to the centrally-sponsored scheme-Development of Wildlife Habitat (CSS-DWH). The state and Union government will share the total cost of the project at 60:40.

    Objectives of the project:

    •   The project activities is envisaged in a manner to cause habitat improvement, scientific interventions, disease control and veterinary care supplemented with adequate eco development works for the fringe population in order to ensure a stable and viable Lion population in the Country.
    •  The project will strengthen the ongoing measures for conservation and recovery of Asiatic Lion with the help of state-of-the –art techniques/ instruments, regular scientific research studies, disease management, Modern surveillance/ patrolling techniques.

    Asiatic Lion Conservation Project:

    •   The MoEFCC has launched the “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” with an aim to protect and conserve the world’s last ranging free population of Asiatic Lion and its associated ecosystem.
    •    The project will be funded from the Centrally Sponsored Scheme- Development of Wildlife Habitat (CSS-DWH) with the contributing ratio being 60:40 of Central and State share.
    •    The conservation of Asiatic Lions has always been a priority of Government of India.
    • The Ministry in the past has supported Asiatic Lion in Gujarat by including it in list of 21 critically endangered species under the species recovery component of CSS-DWH.

    Asiatic Lions and Their Population:

    •  Asiatic lions that once ranged from Persia (Iran) to Palamau in Eastern India were almost driven to extinction by indiscriminate hunting and habitat loss.
    •  A single population of fewer than 50 lions persisted in the Gir forests of Gujarat by late 1890s.
    •  With appropriate and stringent protection offered by the State Government and the central Government, Asiatic lions have increased to the current population of over 500 numbers.
    • The last census in the year 2015 showed the population of 523 Asiatic Lions in Gir Protected Area Network of 1648.79 square Kilometers that includes Gir National Park, Gir Sanctuary, Pania Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary adjoining reserved forests, Protected Forests, and Unclassed Forests.
    • The Asiatic Lions have already been included in the list of 21 critically endangered species for recovery programme and financial assistance under the species recovery component of CSS-DWH by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

    Soil Health Cards (SHC) for optimal utilization of fertilizers

    Why in news?

    • Soil Health Card Scheme has been taken up for the first time in a comprehensive manner across the country.
    • Under the scheme soil health cards are provided to all farmers so as to enable the farmers to apply appropriate recommended dosages of nutrients for crop production and improving soil health and its fertility.

    Highlights:

    • Collecting soil samples at a grid of 2.5 ha in irrigated area and 10 ha in un-irrigated areas
    • Uniform approach in soil testing adopted for 12 parameters viz. primary nutrients (NPK); secondary nutrient (S); micronutrients (B,Zn, Mn. Fe & Cu); and other (pH, EC & OC) for comprehensiveness.
    • GPS enabled soil sampling to create a systematic database and allow monitoring of changes in the soil health over the years.
    • In the 1st cycle which was implemented in year 2015 to 2017, 2.53 crore soil samples were analysed and 10.73 crore soil health cards distributed to farmers.
    • The 2nd cycle (2017-19) was started from 1st May, 2017 and against target of 2.73 crore soil samples, 1.98 crore samples tested and 6.73 crore cards have been distributed to farmers.
    • The target is to cover 12.04 crore farmers.
    • To enable quick soil sample testing and distribution of soil health cards, the soil test infrastructure has been upgraded, 9263 soil testing labs have been sanctioned to States.
    • In addition, 1562 village level soil testing projects have been sanctioned to generate employment for rural youth.

    Soil Health Card Scheme:

    • Soil Health Card Scheme is a scheme launched by the Government of India in 19 February 2015.
    • Under the scheme, the government plans to issue soil cards to farmers.
    • The SHC will carry crop-wise recommendations of nutrients and fertilizers required for the individual farms to help farmers to improve productivity through judicious use of inputs.
    • All soil samples are to be tested in various soil testing labs across the country.
    • Thereafter the experts will analyse the strength and weaknesses (micro-nutrients deficiency) of the soil and suggest measures to deal with it.

    Ministry of Finance releases Discussion Paper entitled “3 Essential “S”s of Climate Finance

    Why in news?

    • Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, released a Discussion Paper entitled “3 Essential “S”s of Climate Finance – Scope, Scale and Speed: A Reflection” on the sidelines of COP 24 to UNFCCC at Katowice, Poland.

    Highlights:

    • The Discussion Paper examines analytically the scope, scale and speed required in climate finance. While the financial requirements of developing countries run into trillions of Dollars, the commitments made by the developed countries for enhancement and support in relation to climate finance is not clearly translated into reality. Equally important is the issue of reporting and tracking of climate finance.
    • The Discussion Paper finds serious concerns with the various numbers on climate finance reported by the developed countries. Definitions of climate change finance used in various reports were not consistent with the UNFCCC provisions. Methodologies used were also questionable.
    • This Paper attempts to identify the essential elements, step by step, for a robust and transparent accounting of climate finance flows from developed to developing countries.
    • Climate change issues have taken centre-stage in the recent times with various scientific reports pointing to the serious effects of climate change and global warming. The urgency for global climate action cannot be overemphasised.

    India Water Impact Summit-2018

    Why in news?

    • Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Shri Nitin Gadkari will inaugurate India Water Impact Summit 2018.

    India Water Impact Summit-2018:

    • Summit is being jointly organized by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and the Centre for Ganga River Basin Management and Studies (cGanga) from 5-7 December 2018 in New Delhi.
    • The India Water Impact Summit is an annual event where stakeholders get together to discuss, debate and develop model solutions for some of the biggest water-related problems in the country.
    • A number of Indian Central Government Ministries, as well as all key decision makers responsible for delivering the rejuvenation of the Ganga, will also be present at the Summit.
    • The Summit will focus on three key aspects:
    • Spotlight on 5 states: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi and Bihar. The objective is to showcase the efforts and works going on within the respective states.
    • Technology and Innovation: Implementation of the pilot/demonstration programme known as the Environment Technology Verification (ETV) process.
    • Ganga Financing Forum: The 2018 Summit also introduces the inaugural Ganga Financing Forum that will bring a number of institutions to a common knowledge, information and partnership platform. The Hybrid Annuity Model has redefined the economic landscape of water and waste-water treatment in India.

    Sikkim’s 100% organic farming wins FAO’s Future Policy Gold Award

    Why in news?

    • Sikkim has won the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Future Policy Gold Award for its achievement in becoming the world’s first totally organic agriculture state.

    Objective of Future Policy Gold Award:

    • The Future Policy Award celebrates policies that create better living conditions for current and future generations.
    •  The aim of the award is to raise global awareness for these exemplary policies and speed up policy action towards just, sustainable and peaceful societies.
    •  The Future Policy Award is the first award that celebrates policies rather than people on an international level.

    Award for Sikkim:

    •  The award recognizes the world’s best laws and policies promoting agroecology.
    •  Sikkim beat out 51 other nominees from around the world for the award.
    •   Brazil, Denmark, Quito and Ecuador shared the Silver award.
    •  Sikkim is the first organic state in the world and all of its farmland is certified organic, reads the award announcement.
    •  The state has totally banned the sale and use of chemical pesticides.
    •  The award is co-organised with the FAO by The World Future Council (WFC) and IFOAM – Organics International.

    Sikkim Organic Mission:

    • Starting with a political commitment to support organic farming in 2003, Sikkim designed in 2010 the Sikkim Organic Mission.
    • It is a road map that clearly detailed all the measures necessary to achieve the target of becoming a fully organic state by 2015.
    • At the time, officials reasoned that per hectare consumption of fertilizers in Sikkim was already among the lowest in the country (at 5.8 kg per hectare).
    •   Farmers had also traditionally never used chemicals in the cultivation of cardamom, one of Sikkim’s main cash crops.
    •  From 2003, the state began reducing the subsidy on chemical pesticides and fertilizers by 10 per cent every year and banned them completely in 2014.
    • Their sale and use was made punishable by law with an imprisonment of up to three months or a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh or both

    India lost $79.5 billion due to climate-related disasters in last 20 years: UN

    Why in news?

    • India lost $79.5 billion to climate-related disasters in the last two decades a/c to UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction report.

    Report findings:

    • The UNISDR highlighted that there has been a “dramatic rise of 251%” globally in direct economic losses from climate-related disasters in the last 20 years.
    • In the period 1998-2017, disaster-hit countries reported direct economic losses of $2.9 trillion, 77% out of which was caused by climate-related disasters.
    •  The report comes in the wake of the IPCC alarm sounding a rise in extreme weather events, if warming is not limited to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
    •   At least 91% of all major disasters recorded from 1988 to 2017 were climate-related says the report.
    •  The 2 billion people were affected by floods, which accounted for 43.4% of these disasters, followed by droughts, which affected a further 1.5 billion people.
    •   The average number of disasters per year has increased to 329 in the latest 20-year period, with climate change increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather related events.
    •  Storms were among the most frequently occurring disasters, along with floods.
    •  US recorded the biggest monetary losses reflecting high asset values, while China suffered a significantly higher number of disasters.

    Impact on Indian economy:

    •  The report shows that while absolute economic losses might be concentrated in high income countries, the human cost of disasters falls on low- and lower middle-income countries.
    •  India is among five countries after the US, China and Japan and Puerto Rico, which have witnessed the greatest economic losses due to climate-related disasters.
    •  The findings suggest that an average of 130 people died per million living in disaster-affected areas in low income countries, compared to 18 in high-income countries, in disasters since 2000.
    •  That means people exposed to natural hazards in the poorest nations were more than seven times more likely to die, than equivalent populations in the richest nations.
    •  This report highlights the protection gap between rich and poor.
    •  The analysis shows that people in low-income countries are six times more likely to lose all their worldly possessions or suffer injury in a disaster than people in high-income countries.
    • The report’s analysis makes it clear that economic losses from extreme weather events are unsustainable and a major brake on eradicating poverty in hazard-exposed parts of the world.

    FAO Council approves India’s proposal to observe International Year of Millets in 2023

    Why in news?

    • The 160th session of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Council, currently underway in Rome, approved India’s proposal to observe an International Year of Millets in 2023.

    Highlights:

    • This international endorsement comes in the backdrop of India celebrating 2018 as the National Year of Millets for promoting cultivation and consumption of these nutria-cereals.
    •  This is further supported by increase in Minimum Support Prices (MSP) of millets.
    •   Millets consists of Jowar, Bajra, Ragi and minor millets together termed as nutria-cereals.
    • Through the Department of Food and Public Distribution, State Governments are allowed to procure jowar, bajra, maize and ragi from framers at MSP.
    •  This will enhance global awareness to bring back these nutri-cereals to the plate, for food and nutrition security and hence increase production for resilience to challenges posed globally by climate change.

    Significance of Millets consumption:

    •  Millets are nutritionally superior to wheat and rice owing to their higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fibre and minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorous.
    •    It provides nutritional security and act as shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.
    •  Pellagra (niacin deficiency), Anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency can be effectively tackled with intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich food grains like millets.
    •  It can also help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten free and also have low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.

    FAO Council:

    •  Established by the Conference at its Third Session (1947) to replace the original “Executive Committee of FAO” in accordance with a recommendation of the Preparatory Commission on World Food Proposals
    •  The Council, within the limits of the powers, acts as the Conference’s executive organ between sessions.
    •   It exercises functions dealing with the world food and agriculture situation and related matters, current and prospective activities of the Organization, including its Programme of Work and Budget, administrative matters and financial management of the Organization and constitutional matters.

    Soil Health Cards (SHC) for optimal utilization of fertilizers

    Why in news?

    • ·         Soil Health Card Scheme has been taken up for the first time in a comprehensive manner across the country.
    • ·         Under the scheme soil health cards are provided to all farmers so as to enable the farmers to apply appropriate recommended dosages of nutrients for crop production and improving soil health and its fertility.

    Highlights:

    • Collecting soil samples at a grid of 2.5 ha in irrigated area and 10 ha in un-irrigated areas
    • Uniform approach in soil testing adopted for 12 parameters viz. primary nutrients (NPK); secondary nutrient (S); micronutrients (B,Zn, Mn. Fe & Cu); and other (pH, EC & OC) for comprehensiveness.
    •  GPS enabled soil sampling to create a systematic database and allow monitoring of changes in the soil health over the years.
    •  In the 1st cycle which was implemented in year 2015 to 2017, 2.53 crore soil samples were analysed and 10.73 crore soil health cards distributed to farmers.
    • The 2nd cycle (2017-19) was started from 1st May, 2017 and against target of 2.73 crore soil samples, 1.98 crore samples tested and 6.73 crore cards have been distributed to farmers.
    •  The target is to cover 12.04 crore farmers.
    •   To enable quick soil sample testing and distribution of soil health cards, the soil test infrastructure has been upgraded, 9263 soil testing labs have been sanctioned to States.
    •  In addition, 1562 village level soil testing projects have been sanctioned to generate employment for rural youth.

    Soil Health Card Scheme:

    • Soil Health Card Scheme is a scheme launched by the Government of India in 19 February 2015.
    • Under the scheme, the government plans to issue soil cards to farmers.
    • The SHC will carry crop-wise recommendations of nutrients and fertilizers required for the individual farms to help farmers to improve productivity through judicious use of inputs.
    •  All soil samples are to be tested in various soil testing labs across the country.
    • Thereafter the experts will analyse the strength and weaknesses (micro-nutrients deficiency) of the soil and suggest measures to deal with it.

    Ministry of Finance releases Discussion Paper entitled “3 Essential “S”s of Climate Finance

    Why in news?

    • Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, released a Discussion Paper entitled “3 Essential “S”s of Climate Finance – Scope, Scale and Speed: A Reflection” on the sidelines of COP 24 to UNFCCC at Katowice, Poland.

    Highlights:

    • The Discussion Paper examines analytically the scope, scale and speed required in climate finance. While the financial requirements of developing countries run into trillions of Dollars, the commitments made by the developed countries for enhancement and support in relation to climate finance is not clearly translated into reality. Equally important is the issue of reporting and tracking of climate finance.
    • The Discussion Paper finds serious concerns with the various numbers on climate finance reported by the developed countries. Definitions of climate change finance used in various reports were not consistent with the UNFCCC provisions. Methodologies used were also questionable.
    • This Paper attempts to identify the essential elements, step by step, for a robust and transparent accounting of climate finance flows from developed to developing countries.
    •  Climate change issues have taken centre-stage in the recent times with various scientific reports pointing to the serious effects of climate change and global warming. The urgency for global climate action cannot be overemphasised.

    Dual-Fuel Usage for Agricultural and Construction Equipment Vehicles

    Why in News?

    • The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has notified dual-fuel usage for agricultural and construction equipment vehicles.

    Usage of Dual-fuel:

    • Usage include tractors, power tillers, construction equipment vehicles and combine harvesters which have originally been manufactured as dual- fuel with diesel as primary fuel and CNG, Bio CNG as secondary, or have been converted as such from in -use diesel vehicles.
    •  Rules 115A and 115 B of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 have been amended to incorporate new rules 115 AA and 115 BB for the purpose.
    • This move will give a boost to vehicles run on bio-fuel, and help in reducing both cost and pollution.
    • The emission norms for smoke and vapour from these dual fuel vehicles will be same as the prevailing mass emission norms for the diesel mode.
    •   The mass emission standards for these CNG/ Bio CNG/ LNG dual fuel engines of the agriculture tractors, power tillers, construction equipment vehicles and combine harvesters will be the same as the emission standards for the diesel engines of these vehicles with the exception that the HC (Hydrocarbon) shall be replaced by NMHC (Non-Methane Hydrocarbon) on measurement basis as detailed in rule 115 A.

    Significance of Dual-fuel:

    •  Most of the construction and agricultural equipment which were running on diesel fuels now runs with these cleaner alternate bio-fuels.
    • With dual fuel usage of vehicles the advantage is that they will use 60% diesel and 40% bio-CNG or LNG and hence cause less pollution and also turn out to be cost effective.

    India Water Impact Summit-2018

    Why in news?

    •  Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Shri Nitin Gadkari will inaugurate India Water Impact Summit 2018.

    India Water Impact Summit-2018:

    • Summit is being jointly organized by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and the Centre for Ganga River Basin Management and Studies (cGanga) from 5-7 December 2018 in New Delhi.
    • The India Water Impact Summit is an annual event where stakeholders get together to discuss, debate and develop model solutions for some of the biggest water-related problems in the country.
    •   A number of Indian Central Government Ministries, as well as all key decision makers responsible for delivering the rejuvenation of the Ganga, will also be present at the Summit.
    •  The Summit will focus on three key aspects:
    • Spotlight on 5 states: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi and Bihar. The objective is to showcase the efforts and works going on within the respective states.
    •   Technology and Innovation: Implementation of the pilot/demonstration programme known as the Environment Technology Verification (ETV) process.
    •  Ganga Financing Forum: The 2018 Summit also introduces the inaugural Ganga Financing Forum that will bring a number of institutions to a common knowledge, information and partnership platform. The Hybrid Annuity Model has redefined the economic landscape of water and waste-water treatment in India.

    COP24: 24th Conference of Parties to UNFCCC

    Why in News?

    • The COP-24 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be held at Katowice, Poland from 2nd December 2018 to 14th December 2018.
    •  COP-24 is very significant as it is expected to finalise guidelines for implementation of the Paris Agreement adopted in 2016.

    India-COP24:

    •   India strongly supports the objective of the Paris Agreement to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change.
    •   India is committed towards keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
    •  India considers it important from the point of view of eradicating poverty and caring for the poor and the marginalized.
    •   The issue of pre-2020 commitments under Kyoto Protocol of developed countries to fulfill their climate finance commitments of mobilizing USD 100 billion per annum by 2020, will remain a priority for India in COP-24.

    Conference of Parties (COP):

    • COP is the supreme decision-making body of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
    • All States that are Parties to UNFCCC are represented at COP. ‎At COP, all parties review implementation of Convention and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of Convention.

    Responsibility for Developed Countries :

    • These implementation gaps will present an additional burden to developing countries in the post-2020 period.
    •  Therefore, the key concern for India is to ensure that no undue burden is shifted onto developing countries in the post-2020 period.
    • India is of the view that enhanced provision of new, adequate and predictable finance, technology development and transfer, as well as capacity-building support, is key enablers to achieve higher ambition in their climate actions.
    •  Therefore, PAWP must have mechanisms to ensure new, adequate and predictable support for developing country parties.

    3rd Decadal International Year of Reefs – 2018

    Why in News?

    • The International Conference on Status and Protection of Coral Reefs (STAPCOR – 2018) with the theme “Reef for Life” was inaugurated by the Union Environment Ministry at Bangaram coral Island of Territory of Lakshadweep.

    STAPCOR:

    • The effect of climate change and global warming along with El-Nino on the corals has led to heavy bleaching internationally during the year 1998.
    • This led to the foundation of STAPCOR with a decision to have a international conference in every 10 years to review the status and progress of coral reefs all over the world.

    3rd International Year of the Reef 2018:

    • The first IYOR was designated in 1997 in response to the increasing threats on coral reefs and associated ecosystems.
    • The hope was to increase awareness of the value of and threats to coral reefs, and to promote conservation, research and management efforts on a global scale.
    • Over 225 organizations in 50 countries and territories participated, publishing over 700 articles in papers and magazines and undertaking hundreds of scientific surveys.
    • This effort was repeated 11 years later, when 2007 was designated as the second IYOR.

    The goals of the 3rd IYOR – 2018 are to:

    • Strengthen awareness about ecological, economic, social and cultural value of coral reefs and associated ecosystems
    • Improve understanding of the critical threats to reefs and generate both practical and innovative solutions to reduce these threats
    • Generate urgent action to develop and implement effective management strategies for conservation and sustainable use of these ecosystems.

    Corals:

    • Corals are invertebrates belonging to a large group of colourful and fascinating animals called Cnidarians. Other animals in this group include jellyfish and sea anemones.
    • Each individual coral animal is called a polyp, and most live in groups of hundreds to thousands of genetically identical polyps that form a ‘colony’. The colony is created by a process called budding, where the original polyp literally grows copies of itself.

    Coral reefs:

    • Coral reefs have evolved on earth over the past 200 to 300 million years, and have developed a unique and highly evolved form of symbiosis.
    • Coral polyps have developed this relationship with tiny single-celled algae known as zooxanthellae. Inside the tissues of each coral polyp live these zooxanthellae, sharing space and nutrients. This symbiosis between plant and animal also contributes to the brilliant colors of coral that can be seen while diving on a reef.
    • It is the importance of light that drives corals to compete for space on the sea floor, and so constantly pushes the limits of their physiological tolerances in a competitive environment among so many different species.

    Harit Diwali-Swasth Diwali Campaign

    Why in News?

    • Keeping in view the detrimental effects of bursting Crackers and also the importance of the festival, MoEFCC has initiated a “Harit–Diwali” campaign.

    Harit Diwali-Swasth Diwali:

    • This campaign was initiated in 2017-18 in Delhi wherein large number of school children especially from eco-clubs participated and took pledge to minimize bursting of crackers.
    • During this intensive campaign, the children were advised to celebrate Diwali in an environment-friendly manner by gifting plant sapling to their relatives and friends along with sweets etc.
    • The children were encouraged to light up their houses and their schools with candles and diyas. The above campaign was extremely successful and the air quality had not deteriorated post Diwali in 2017 unlike what was experienced in 2016.

    A pan-India Campaign:

    • On the above lines, the Ministry has initiated the similar campaign, but this year the campaign has been extended Pan-India.
    • The “Harit Diwali-Swasth Diwali” campaign is now merged with “Green Good Deed” movement that has been initiated as a social mobilization for conservation and protection of environment.
    • The Ministry encourages all schools and colleges to be part of this campaign.

    Sikkim World’s First 100 Percent Organic State

    Why in News?

    • North-eastern state Sikkim on October 12, 2018 won the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Future Policy Award 2018 for being the world’s first 100 percent organic state.
    • Sikkim defeated 51 nominated policies from 25 countries, winning the Gold Prize of the Future Policy Award 2018, also known as “Oscar for Best Policies”.
    • This year’s award is co-organised by the FAO, the World Future Council (WFC) and IFOAM – Organics International. Brazil, Denmark and Quito shared the silver award.

    Sikkim’s policy and achievement:

    • Sikkim’s transition to organic farming “has benefited over 66,000 family farmers, reaching beyond just organic production to include socioeconomic aspects such as consumption and market expansion, rural development and sustainable tourism with its comprehensive and inclusive approach. Sikkim implemented a phase out policy of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and achieved a total ban on sale and use of chemical pesticides in the state. Sikkim tourism sector got benefitted greatly from the state’s transition to 100 percent organic as the number of tourists increased by over 50 percent between 2014 and 2017.

    Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi

    Why in News?

    • Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi launched.

    Highlights:

    • The System is designed to predict extreme air pollution events
    • Give alerts to take necessary steps as per Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) of the Government of India.
    • A new website developed for archiving all the observational and prediction products was also launched

    Air pollution system:

    • The air pollution system has been developed jointly by the scientists at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, India Meteorological Department and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF). Real time observations of air quality over Delhi region and details about natural aerosols like dust (from dust storms) and particulate matter using different satellite data sets.
    • Predictions of air pollutants from two different air quality prediction systems based on state-of-the-art atmospheric chemistry transport models
    • Warning Messages and Alerts and Bulletins.

    Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP):

    • Graded Response Action Plan denes the measures to taken based on-air quality on the basis of PM 2.5 and PM 10 in the atmosphere.
    • Based on the air quality the grades have been classified as Emergency, Severe, Very Poor and Moderate poor. It will be enforced by Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA).
    • Under this plan emergency measures will be automatically enforced in NCR if level of PM2.5 breaches 300 micrograms per cubic metre (μgm/m3) and PM10 levels stay above 500 (μgm/m3) for two consecutive days.
    • The plan recommends measures like odd-even car rationing scheme and ban on construction activities to combat air pollution. During ‘very poor’ air quality, it recommends banning diesel generators and parking fee increased by three to four times.
    • It also lists a number of other measures such as closing brick kilns, stone crushers, hot mix plants and intensifying public transport services and increasing the frequency of mechanised cleaning and sprinkling of water on roads. For enforcement of the action plan, the Union Government has assigned the task of implementation of the Graded Response Action Plan to the EPCA (Environment Pollution Control Authority) in pursuance of sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (29 of 1986).

    Who’s First Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health

    Why in News?

    • The first Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health will be held at WHO Headquarters in Geneva on 30 October – 1 November 2018.

    Key Highlights:

    • The conference is being held in collaboration with UN Environment, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
    • The conference responds to a World Health Assembly mandate to combat one of the world’s most significant causes of premature death, causing some 7 million deaths annually. Air pollution in most cities exceeds recommended WHO Air Quality levels and household air pollution is a leading killer in poor rural and urban homes. Up to 1/3 of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution.
    • Affordable strategies exist to reduce key pollution emissions from the transport, energy, agriculture, waste and housing sectors.
    • Health-conscious strategies can reduce climate change and support Sustainable Development Goals for health, energy and cities.

    CSIR Develops Green Crackers and E-Crackers

    Why in News?

    • CSIR scientists have developed Less Polluting Firecrackers which are not only environment friendly but 15-20 % cheaper than the conventional ones.

    Less Polluting Crackers:

    • CSIR scientists has developed Less Polluting Firecrackers which are not only environment friendly but 15-20 % cheaper than the conventional ones
    • These crackers have been named as SWAS, SAFAL and STAR.
    • It has unique property of releasing water vapour and /or air as dust suppressant and diluent for gaseous emissions and matching performance in sound with conventional crackers.

    SWAS (Safe Water Releaser):

    • SWAS crackers eliminates usage of (KNO3) Potassium nitrate and Sulphur with consequent reduction in particulate matter (30-35%) SO2 and NOx. It has matching sound intensity with commercial crackers in the range of 105-110 dBA. STAR eliminates usage of KNO3 and S with consequent reduction in particulate matter (35-40%), SO2 and NOx. It has matching sound intensity with commercial crackers in the range of 105-110 dBA.
    • SWAS has been tested for shelf life upto 3 weeks with consistent performance.

    SAFAL (Safe Minimal Aluminium):

    • SAFAL has minimal usage of aluminium (only in flash powder for initiation) with consequent significant reduction in particulate matter (35-40 %) compared to commercial crackers. It has matching sound intensity with commercial crackers in the range of 110-115 dBA. PESO has been approached to analyse and test SWAS/STAR/SAFAL from point of view of safety, stability and other related issues.
    • Also, functional prototypes of flower pots for substitution of BaNO3 (Barium nitrate) by low cost eco-friendly materials have been developed with significant reduction in particulate matter (30-35%).

    STAR (Safe Thermite Cracker):

    • STAR has the capability to eliminate the usage of KNO3 and S with a consequent reduction in particulate matter (35-40 per cent), SO2 and NOx.

    E-Crackers:

    • CSIR-CEERI, being an electronics laboratory, is developing safe and pollution free technology of electronic crackers (E-crackers) to meet latent social aspiration of enjoying fireworks.
    • It includes various products like E-Ladi, E-Anar, system for E-cracker show etc. At present CSIR-CEERI is ready with the laboratory level prototype of E-Ladi.
    • E-Ladi is based on high-voltage electrostatic discharge to generate light/sound effect.
    • It is triggered by providing heat to the thermal switch which will give the excitement of firing the conventional cracker.
    • The E-Ladi is also programmable to give various light/sound effect.

    Working of E-Ladi:

    • High voltage generator is capable of producing very high voltage using the concept of tesla coil. These pods are connected in parallel to achieve desired light/sound pattern. The controller block consists of a pulse generator and a solid-state device-based circuit to control the switching of these pods.
    • The second version of this prototype will include compact form factor and thermal actuation arrangement.

    IPCC Report: How to Reach A 1.5-Degree World

    Why in News?

    • Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet.
    • The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its gloomy report at a meeting in Incheon, South Korea.
    • Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate, the report states.

    IPCC:

    • IPCC is a scientific government body under the UN established in 1988 by two UN organizations, the WMO and the UNEP and later endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly.
    • The IPCC produces reports that support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is the main international treaty on climate change.
    • IPCC reports cover the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.
    • Membership of the IPCC is open to all members of the WMO and the UNEP.

    Findings of the Report:

    • Half as many people would suffer from lack of water.
    • There would be fewer deaths and illnesses from heat, smog and infectious diseases.
    • Seas would rise nearly 4 inches (0.1 meters) less.
    • Half as many animals with back bones and plants would lose the majority of their habitats.
    • There would be substantially fewer heat waves, downpours and droughts.
    • The West Antarctic ice sheet might not kick into irreversible melting.

    And it just may be enough to save most of the world’s coral reefs from dying.

    The 1.5 Goal:

    • In 2010, international negotiators adopted a goal of limiting warming to 2°C since pre-industrial times. It’s called the 2° goal.
    • In 2015, when the nations of the world agreed to the Paris climate agreement, they set dual goals — 2°C and a more demanding target of 1.5°C from pre-industrial times.
    • The 1.5° was at the urging of vulnerable countries that called 2°C a death sentence.
    • The world has already warmed 1°C since pre-industrial times, so the talk is really about the difference of another half-degree C from now. There is no definitive way to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 above pre-industrial levels.

    Advantages of warming below 2

    • The IPCC studies have looked at the physical impact on the land and ocean, as well as at the socio-economic impact, like health, malnutrition, food security and employment.
    • Some examples:
    • Limiting global warming to 1.5°C 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 said 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.
    • A study published in PNAS in March 2017 said 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 study in Nature Climate Change in March 2018 said the 1.5°C could prevent 153 million premature deaths due to air pollution by 2100, as compared to the 2°C scenario.
    • 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.
    • Also, compared to the 1.5°C scenario, extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall and heat waves are likely to become more severe and frequent, and freshwater supply could fall sharply, in a 2°C world.

    How to reach the 0.5 target?

    • As of now, the world is striving to prevent the temperature rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius, in accordance with the stated objective of the Paris Agreement of 2015.
    • To meet that target, the aim is to reduce greenhouse gases by only 20 per cent, from 2010 levels, by the year 2030 and achieve a net-zero emission level by the year 2075.
    • Net-zero is achieved when the total emissions is balanced by the amount of absorption or removal of carbon dioxide through natural sinks or technological interventions.

    Is the 1.5°C target attainable?

    • The IPCC report suggests possible pathways to attain the 1.5°C objective.
    • Any such path would involve much sharper and quicker emission cuts by big emitters like China, the US, the European Union and India, than what these countries currently plan to do.
    • However, their publicly declared planned actions currently are not big enough to achieve even the 2°C target.
    • In Paris in 2015, the countries had acknowledged that if they failed to do more, annual emissions of carbon dioxide could touch 55 billion tonnes in 2030.

    Problem of CO2:

    • Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, stays in the atmosphere for 100-150 years.
    • That means even if all greenhouse gas emissions were to somehow miraculously stop all of a sudden, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would remain at the current levels for many years to come.
    • That is why there is a significant interest these days in technologies that can physically remove the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and store it somewhere, either temporarily or permanently.
    • Caron Dioxide Removal (CDR) would be used to compensate for residual emissions.reduce its concentrations.
    • But the technologies for CDR are still undeveloped and untested.

    Way Forward:

    • Limiting warming to the lower goal is not impossible but will require unprecedented changes
    • To limit warming to the lower temperature goal, the world needs “rapid and far-reaching” changes in energy systems, land use, city and industrial design, transportation and building use, the report said.
    • Meeting the more ambitious goal would require immediate, draconian cuts in emissions of heat-trapping gases and dramatic changes in the energy field.
    • It is up to governments to decide whether those unprecedented changes are acted upon.

    Crop Damages in Animal Attacks put Under Pmfby on Pilot Basis

    Why in News?

    • The Union government has decided to cover damages to crops in wild animal attacks under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna in select districts on an experimental basis.

    New Provisions to the PMFBY:

    • Several parliamentarians have been raising this issue from time to time and demanding insurance cover for damages to the crops in animal attacks under the Centre’s scheme.
    • The government has also brought under the PMFBY ambit certain horticultural crops on an experimental basis, the minister said.
    • Damages to individual or limited number of cultivators in localised events like water logging, land slide, hailstorms etc did not fall under the ambit of PMFBY scheme earlier.
    • However, they too are being covered now under new provisions.
    • Now damages to the individual fields due to incidents of local disasters like cloud bursts and fire too are being taken up now for insurance claims.

    Easing Insurance Claims settlements:

    • The amended provisions for the scheme also stipulate fines in cases of delay in clearing the insurance claims for crop damages.
    • In case a firm now delays the clearances beyond two months, it will have to pay an annual interest of 12 per cent.
    • Similarly, the state government too will have to pay an interest of 12 per cent in case of delay in release of state’s share of subsidy in premium to insurance firms.
    • The insurances firms will also have to spend 0.5 per cent of their earnings from annual premium to advertise the provisions of the PMFBY among the peasants.

    India’s First Dolphin Research Centre to Come up Soon in Patna

    Why in News?

    • The much-awaited National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC), India’s and Asia’s first is set to be established in Patna.
    • It will play an important role in strengthening conservation efforts and research to save the endangered mammal.University will shift it to Bhagalpur where the number of dolphins is higher.

    Threats to Dolphins:

    • The water level has been decreasing and the flow has slowed down. Besides, siltation is increasing in the river. All this is not favourable for dolphins.
    • The Gangetic river dolphin is India’s national aquatic animal but frequently falls prey to poachers and is sometimes killed inadvertently after being trapped in plastic fishing nets and hit by mechanized boats.
    • The mammals are being killed at an alarming rate with wildlife officials saying poachers covet them for their flesh, fat and oil.

    Habitat of Gangetic Dolphins:

    • The mammal’s presence signals a healthy river ecosystem. Dolphins prefer water that is at least 5-8 feet deep. They are usually found in turbulent waters where there is enough fish for them to feed on. Gangetic dolphins prefer deep water with adjoining shallow water.
    • They live in a zone where there is little or no current that helps them save energy. If they sense danger, they can go into deep waters. The dolphins swim from the no-current zone to the edges to hunt for fish and return.
    • The Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary, India’s only dolphin sanctuary, spread over 50 km along the Ganges, is located in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district.
    • Bihar is home to around half of the country’s estimated 3,000 dolphin population.

    Gangetic Dolphin:

    • Gangetic river dolphins fall under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act.
    • It has been declared an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Gangetic river species found in India, Bangladesh and Nepal is almost completely blind. It finds its way and prey using echoes with sound being everything for them to navigate, feed, escape danger, find mates, breed, nurse babies and play. The Gangetic river dolphin is one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world. The other three are found in the Yangtze river, the Indus river in Pakistan and the Amazon river.

    Dairy Processing &Infrastructure Development fund (DIDF)

    Why in News?

    • Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has inaugurated the Dairy Processing & Infrastructure Development Fund (DIDF).
    • Vast opportunities exist today for dairy entrepreneurs and in order to concretize these opportunities and help double the income of dairy farmers, huge outlay is needed to operationalize the National Action Plan (Vision-2022).

    Dairy Processing & Infrastructure Development Fund (DIDF):

    • As announced in Union Budget 2017-18, the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (DADF) started the DIDF with an outlay of Rs 10881 crore.
    • Under this scheme, milk cooperatives will be provided financial assistance of Rs 8004 crore in the form of a loan at 6.5% interest, which will be reimbursed over a period of 10 years.
    • Additional milk processing capacity of 126 lakh litre per day, milk drying capacity of 210 MT per day, milk chilling capacity of 140 lakh litre per day shall be created.
    • The government has also given a provision of interest subsidy on loans.
    • With this scheme, 95, 00,000 farmers in about 50,000 villages will be benefitted.
    • In addition to this, many skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers will get employment, directly and indirectly.

    Implementing National Dairy Plan Phase-I Scheme:

    • Implementation of the World Bank-funded National Dairy Plan Phase-I scheme is also being done by the NDDB through the state government’s cooperative milk organizations/milk federations.
    • On the other hand, the implementation of the National Programme for Dairy Development (NPDD) is being done by the state’s cooperative/milk federations.
    • Under this scheme special assistance was given for the development of cooperative milk committees, incentives to increase the number of milk producers and increase processing and refrigeration capacity.

    Revitalizing the RashtriyaGokul Mission:

    • The ministry has said that in order to increase production, under the RashtriyaGokul Mission, 10 semen centers have been identified for the production of Sex Sorted Semen for the production of more female animals.
    • Also, 20 Embryo Transfer Technology (ETT) centers are being set up for the production of high genetic merit bulls of indigenous bovine breeds.
    • Besides, INDUSCHIP has been developed for genomic selection of indigenous breeds and 6000 dairy animals have been genetically evaluated using INDUSCHIP.
    • Under the flagship scheme 20 Gokul Grams are also being established.
    • Apart from this, for the conservation of indigenous breeds, two National Kamdhenu Breeding Centres, one in Andhra Pradesh at Chintaladevi and other in Madhya Pradesh at Itarsi are being established.

    e-Pashuhaat portal:

    • The e-Pashuhaat portal is a landmark initiative, launched in 2016.
    • It is playing an important role in connecting breeders and farmers.

    National Action Plan Vision 2022:

    • The Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (DAHDF) is working on a National Action Plan Vision 2022
    • Under the plan, suitable provisions are being made to build additional milk processing infrastructure for processing additional volume of milk(expected on account of higher milk production and meeting the increased demand for value-added products).

    Integrated development of wildlife Habitats scheme

    Why in News?

    • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved continuation of the Centrally Sponsored Umbrella Scheme of Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-IDWH) beyond the 12thPlan period from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

    Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-IDWH):

    • The Scheme consists of Centrally Sponsored Scheme of-
      • Project Tiger (CSS-PT)
      • Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-DWH) and
      • Project Elephant (CSS-PE)
    • A total of 18 tiger range States, distributed in five landscapes of the country would be benefitted under the Project Tiger scheme.
    • Similarly, for other two schemes, the coverage is entire country in case of Development of Wildlife Habitats (DWH) and 23 elephant range States for Project Elephant.

    Benefits of the Scheme:

    • The schemes would result in overall strengthening/ consolidation of tiger, elephant and wildlife conservation in the country.
    • The schemes would address the human wildlife conflict effectively.
    • These schemes would generate employment opportunities resulting in economic upliftment of people in and around tiger reserves/ Protected Areas.
    • It will generate direct employment of about 30 lakh mandays annually which shall include many local tribes besides non-tribal local workforce.
    • Local populace would get opportunities to serve as guides, driver, hospitality personnel and in other ancillary jobs.
    • These schemes would foster imparting various skills towards making people self-dependent through various eco-development projects, thereby enabling them to go for self-employment.
    • These schemes would result in resource generation through tourist visits, thereby fostering in securing tiger source areas.

    Cooling Action Plan

    Why in News?

    • On the eve of the World Ozone Day (17th Sept.), MoEFCC underlined the need to work consistently under the aegis of the Montreal Protocol to phase out Ozone Depleting Substances.

    India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP):

    • MoEFCC released the draft India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) and a booklet on ‘Montreal Protocol – India’s Success Story’.
    • India is the first country in world to develop such a document (ICAP), which addresses cooling requirement across sectors and lists out actions which can help reduce the cooling demand.
    • The overarching goal is to provide sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all while securing environmental and socio-economic benefits for the society.
    • The goals emerging from the suggested interventions stated in ICAP are:
    • Reduction of cooling demand across sectors by 20% to 25 % by year 2037-38,
    • Reduction of refrigerant demand by 25% to 30% by year 2037-38,
    • Reduction of cooling energy requirements by 25% to 40% by year 2037-38, and
    • Training and certification of 100,000 servicing sector technicians by the year 2022-23, in synergy with Skill India Mission.

    Long -term objectives of ICAP:

    • The broad objectives of the India Cooling Action Plan include –
    • Assessment of cooling requirements across sectors in next 20 years and the associated refrigerant demand and energy use,
    • Map the technologies available to cater the cooling requirement including passive interventions, refrigerant-based technologies and alternative technologies such as not-in-kind technologies,
    • Suggest interventions in each sector to provide for sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all,
    • Focus on skilling of RAC service technicians, and
    • Develop an R&D innovation ecosystem for indigenous development of alternative technologies.

    Montreal Protocol:

    • It is the only environmental treaty which enjoys universal ratification of 197 UN numbers countries.
    • The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer has been recognized as the most successful international environment treaty in history.
    • Its implementation has not only led to the phase-out of around 98% of ozone depleting chemicals, but also averted more than 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.
    • Nearly 2 million cases of skin cancer per year have been averted globally.

    India’s National REDD+Strategy

    Why in News?

    • ·         Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has released National Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation REDD+) strategy for India.
    • ·         It aims at achieve climate change mitigation by incentivizing forest conservation.
    • ·         This strategy will soon be communicated to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

    REDD+ Strategy:

    • In simple terms, REDD+ means “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation”, conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.
    • REDD+ aims to achieve climate change mitigation by incentivizing forest conservation.
    • The strategy seeks to address drivers of deforestation and forest degradation and also developing a roadmap for enhancement of forest carbon stocks and achieving sustainable management of forests through REDD+ actions.
    • The National REDD+ Strategy will soon be communicated to the UNFCCC.

    Involving Tribal Cooperation:

    • MoEFCC has emphasized that the cooperation and involvement of the tribals, other forest dwelling people and the society as a whole, is crucial for the implementation of the REDD+ strategy.
    • India’s National REDD+ strategy is one of the tools to achieve   India’s commitment to Paris Agreement.
    • The REDD+ strategy will help the country to fulfill its NDC commitments and will also contribute to the livelihood of the forest dependent population.

    Governing under REDD+:

    • A National Governing Council of REDD+ chaired by the Union Environment Minister at the national level and two technical committees are being established for supporting the REDD+ implementation in the country.
    • The REDD+ actions at the State level will be coordinated by the committee headed by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) & Head of Forest Force (HOFF) of the States.
    • Paris agreement on climate change also recognizes role of forests in climate change mitigation and calls upon country Parties to take action to implement and support REDD+.

    India’s NDC:

    • India has communicated in its Nationally Determined Contribution under Paris Agreement, that it will capture 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of Carbon dioxide through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
    • India’s first biennial update report to UNFCCC has revealed that forests in India capture about 12% of India’s total GHG emissions.
    • Thus, forestry sector in India is making a positive cost-effective contribution for climate change mitigation.
    • Complying with the UNFCCC decisions on REDD+, India has prepared its National REDD+ Strategy.
    • The strategy includes India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change, Green India Mission and India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to UNFCCC.

    Pradhan Mantri FASAL BIMA Yojana (PMFBY)

    Why in News?

    • The Government has decided to incorporate the provision of penalties for States and Insurance Companies for the delay in settlement of insurance claims under the Pradhan MantriFasalBimaYojana (PMFBY). This crucial provision is part of the new operational guidelines issued by the Govt for the implementation of PMFBY.

    New Provision against Delay in Settlement:

    • The Government has decided to incorporate the provision of penalties for States and Insurance Companies for the delay in settlement of insurance claims under the PMFBY.
    • The farmers will be paid 12% interest by insurance companies for the delay in settlement claims beyond two months of prescribed cut-off date.
    • State Governments will have to pay 12% interest for the delay in release of State share of subsidy beyond three months of prescribed cut-off date submission of requisition by insurance companies.
    • The guidelines also detail a Standard Operating Procedure for evaluation of insurance companies and remove them from the scheme if found ineffective in providing services.

    Insuring Horticulture Crops:

    • The Government has also decided to include perennial horticultural crops under the ambit of PMFBY on a pilot basis.
    • The scheme as per the new guidelines provides add on coverage for crop loss due to attack of wild animals, which will be implemented on a pilot basis.
    • Aadhaar number will be mandatorily captured to avoid duplication of beneficiaries.

    Insuring more Non-loanee Farmers:

    • The insurance companies are given a target of enrolling 10% more non-loanee farmers than the previous corresponding season.
    • They will have to mandatorily spend 0.5% of gross premium per company per season for publicity and awareness of the scheme.

    Settlement of Claims:

    • The much demanded rationalization of premium release process has been incorporated in the new guidelines.
    • As per this, the insurance companies need not provide any projections for the advance subsidy.
    • Release of upfront premium subsidy will be made at the beginning of the season based on 50% of 80% of total share of subsidy of corresponding season of previous year as GOI/State subsidy.
    • Balance premium will be paid as a second installment based on the specific approved business statistics on the portal for settlement of claims.
    • Final installment will be paid after reconciliation of entire coverage data on portal based on final business statistics. This will reduce the delay in settling the claims of farmers.

    WAYU- Air Pollution mitigation device

    Why in News?

    • Recently air pollution control device WAYU (Wind Augmentation Purifying Unit) for traffic junctions was inaugurated in Delhi today.

    WAYU (Wind Augmentation Purifying Unit):

    • WAYU is developed by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) as a part of Technology Development Project funded by Department of Science and Technology.
    • The device that has been indigenously developed has the capacity to purify air in an area of 500-meter square.
    • The device consumes only half a unit of electricity for 10 hours of running and has a maintenance cost of only Rs. 1500 per month.

    Working of the Device:

    • The device works on two principles mainly Wind generation for dilution of air pollutants and Active Pollutants removal.
    • The device has filters for Particulate Matter removal and activated carbon (charcoal) and UV lamps for poisonous gases removal such as VOCs and Carbon Monoxide.
    • The device has one fan and filter for sucking and removing Particulate Matter.
    • There are two UV lamps and half kg of activated carbon charcoal coated with special chemical Titanium Dioxide.

    AGMARK Online System

    Why in News?

    • Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has launched the online software for Agmark.

    Agmark Online System:

    • The application processes related to Agmark certification are being done online by the Directorate of Marketing & Inspection (DMI).
    • The process of application will be simple, quick, transparent and 24×7.
    • The Agmark online system is being implemented across the country to conduct quality control functions.
    • Through the Agmark online system, certificate of authorisation (domestic), permission of printing press, permission of laboratories (domestic) and services related to laboratory information management system will be provided online.

    Move for speedy certification:

    • The existing procedures for Agmark certification were in physical form and time consuming.
    • The use of modern technologies by the National Informatics Center has made these processes easy, reliable and cost effective by providing online electronic mode.
    • In the new online application system, there are provisions for online receipt of fees from the applicants.
    • Payment will be received in digital mode through bharatkosh.gov.in website.

    Financial inclusion index

    Why in News?

    • The Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs has launched the Financial Inclusion Index.

    Financial Inclusion Index:

    • Department of Financial Services (DFS), Ministry of Finance will release an Annual Financial Inclusion Index (FII).
    • The index will be a measure of access and usage of a basket of formal financial products and services that includes savings, remittances, credit, insurance and pension products.
    • The index will have three measurement dimensions:
      • Access to financial services
      • Usage of financial services
      • Quality
    • The single composite index gives a snap shot of level of financial inclusion that would guide Macro Policy perspective.

    Utility of the Index:

    • The various components of the index will help to measure financial services for use of internal policy making.
    • Financial Inclusion Index can be used directly as a composite measure in development indicators.
    • It enables fulfillment of G20 Financial Inclusion Indicators requirements.
    • It will also facilitate researchers to study the impact of financial inclusion and other macro-economic variables.

    Pradhan Mantri ANNADATA AAY SANRAKSHAN Abhiyan (PM-AASHA)

    Why in News?

    • Giving a major boost to the pro-farmer initiatives of the Government and in keeping with its commitment and dedication for the Annadata, the Union Cabinet has approved a new Umbrella Scheme “Pradhan MantriAnnadataAaySanrakshanAbhiyan’ (PM-AASHA).

    Why such Scheme?

    • Increasing MSP is not adequate and it is more important that farmers should get full benefit of the announced MSP.
    • For this, government realizes that it is essential that if price of the agriculture produce market is less than MSP, then govt. should purchase either at MSP or work in a manner to provide MSP for the farmers through some other mechanism.

    PM-AASHA:

    • The Scheme is aimed at ensuring remunerative prices to the farmers for their produce as announced in the Union Budget for 2018.
    • Government has already increased the MSP of kharif crops by following the principle of 1.5 times the cost of production.
    • It is expected that the increase in MSP will be translated to farmer’s income by way of robust procurement mechanism in coordination with the State Governments.
    • The new Umbrella Scheme includes the mechanism of ensuring remunerative prices to the farmers and is comprised of-
    • Price Support Scheme (PSS),
    • Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS)
    • Pilot of Private Procurement & Stockist Scheme (PPPS).
    • The other existing schemes of Department of Food and Public Distribution (DFPD) for procurement of paddy, wheat and nutri-cereals/coarse grains and of Ministry of Textile for cotton and jute will be continued for providing MSP to farmers for these crops.

    Pilot of Private Procurement & Stockist Scheme (PPPS):

    • Cabinet has decided that for oilseeds, states have the option to roll out Private Procurement Stockist Scheme (PPSS) on pilot basis in selected district/APMC(s) of district involving the participation of private stockiest.
    • The pilots district/selected APMC(s) of district will cover one or more crop of oilseeds for which MSP is notified.
    • Since this is akin to PSS, in that in involves physical procurement of the notified commodity, it shall substitute PSS/PDPS in the pilot districts.
    • The selected private agency shall procure the commodity at MSP in the notified markets during the notified period from the registered farmers in consonance with the PPSS Guidelines.
    • But whenever the prices in the market fall below the notified MSP maximum service charges up to 15% of the notified MSP will be payable.

    Price Support Scheme (PSS):

    • In Price Support Scheme (PSS), physical procurement of pulses, oilseeds and Copra will be done by Central Nodal Agencies with proactive role of State governments.
    • It is also decided that in addition to NAFED, Food Cooperation of India (FCI) will take up PSS operations in states /districts.
    • The procurement expenditure and losses due to procurement will be borne by Central Government as per norms.

    Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS):

    • Under PDPS it is proposed to cover all oilseeds for which MSP is notified.
    • In this direct payment of the difference between the MSP and the selling/modal price will be made to pre-registered farmers selling his produce in the notified market yard through a transparent auction process.
    • All payment will be done directly into registered bank account of the farmer.
    • This scheme does not involve any physical procurement of crops as farmers are paid the difference between the MSP price and Sale/modal price on disposal in notified market.

    KHANGCHENDZONGA Biosphere Reserve to be included in the world Network of Biosphere Reserves

    Why in News?

    The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve has become the 11th Biosphere Reserve from India that has been included in the UNESCO designated World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR).

    Key Facts:

    • The decision to include it in WNBR was taken at the 30th Session of International Coordinating Council (ICC) of Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme of UNESCO held at Palembang, Indonesia.
    • India has 18 Biosphere Reserves and with the inclusion of Khangchendzonga, the number of internationally designated WNBR has become 11, with 7 Biosphere Reserves being domestic Biosphere Reserves.
    • With its inclusion in the WNBR list, the reserve joins other Indian biospheres such as Nandadevi, Simlipal, Sunderbans, and Nilgiri.
    • In total, India has 18 biosphere reserves, among which 11 have been internationally designated WNBR.
    • The remaining seven are domestic designated biosphere reserves and the Indian government is trying for their inclusion in the list as well.

    Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve:

    • Khangchendzonga in Sikkim is one of the highest ecosystems in the world, reaching elevations of 1, 220 metres above sea-level.
    • It includes a range of ecolines, varying from sub-tropic to Arctic, as well as natural forests in different biomes that support an immensely rich diversity of forest types and habitats.
    • The core area of the Biosphere Reserve is a major transboundary Wildlife Protected Area.
    • The southern and central landscape, which makes up 86% of the core area, is situated in the Greater Himalayas.
    • The northern part of the area accounts for 14% is characterized by trans-Himalayan features.
    • Buffer zones are being developed to promote eco-tourism activities.
    • The core zone – Khangchendzonga National Park was designated a World Heritage Site in 2016 under the ‘mixed’ category.
    • Many of the mountains, peaks, lakes, caves, rocks, Stupas (shrines) and hot springs function as pilgrimage sites.
    • The transition zone is targeted for eco-development activities, afforestation, plantation of medicinal herbs and soil conservation measures.
    • Flora
      • Over 118 species of the large number of medicinal plants found in Dzongu Valley in north Sikkim are of ethno-medical utility.
      • The vegetation includes temperate broadleaf and mixed forests consisting of oaks, fir, birch, maple, willow etc.
      • The vegetation of the park also includes alpine grasses and shrubs at higher altitudes along with many medicinal plants and herbs.
    • Fauna
      • The park contains many mammal species including musk deer, snow leopard, Himalayan tahr, wild dog, sloth bear, civet, Himalayan black bear, red panda, Tibetan wild ass, Himalayan blue sheep, serow, goral and takin etc.
      • A recent study revealed, that the Asiatic wild dog has become very rare in the area.

    Recognised under MAB:

    • Biosphere reserves are sites established by countries and recognized under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme to promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science.
    • The programme of Biosphere Reserve was initiated by UNESCO in 1971.
    • Comprising 669 biosphere reserves in 120 countries, including 20 transboundary sites, the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of the MAB Programme consists of a dynamic and interactive network of sites of excellence.
    • The purpose of the formation of the biosphere reserve is to conserve in situ all forms of life, along with its support system, in its totality, so that it could serve as a referral system for monitoring and evaluating changes in natural ecosystems.

    Significance of Admission

    • Betterment of State: The news has brought cheers to the state of Sikkim, already feted for its conservation, ecotourism and organic farming policies. The renewed attention is expected to help put in place measures to address gaps in conservation, development and livelihood challenges.
    • Conservation and development: The new designation will broaden the possibility of engaging and co-operating with biosphere reserves in the MAB network internationally in order to look for conservation and development in a holistic manner.
    • Research: It will give importance to research and development activities so to find out gap areas in conservation, in development and in livelihood so they can be addressed.

    Understanding Biosphere Reserve:

    • According to UNESCO, “Biosphere Reserves are the areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are internationally recognized, nominated by the national government and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located”.
    • Biosphere Reserve has three interrelated zones that aim to fulfil three complementary and mutually reinforcing functions:
    • Core area: It comprises the strictly protected ecosystem that contributes to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystem, species and genetic variation.
    • Buffer Zone: It surrounds or adjoins the core areas, and it is used for activities compatible with sound ecological practices that can reinforce scientific research, education, monitoring, and training.
    • Transition Zone: It is the part of the reserve where the greatest activity is permitted, fostering economic and human development that is ecologically sustainable.

    Objectives of BRs:

    • The biosphere reserve should fulfil the following three objectives:
    • In-situ conservation of biodiversity of natural and semi-natural ecosystems and landscapes
    • Contribution to sustainable economic development of the human population living within and around the Biosphere Reserve.
    • Provide facilities for long term ecological studies, environmental education and training and research and monitoring.
    • In order to fulfil the above objectives, the Biosphere Reserves are classified into zones like the core area, buffer area. The system of functions is prescribed for each zone.

    UNESCO’s Man & Biosphere Programme:

    • UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) is an Intergovernmental Scientific Programme that was launched in 1971.
    • UNESCO’s Man & Biosphere Programme logo
    • It aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments.
    • It proposes interdisciplinary research, demonstration and training in natural resources management.
    • Its World Network of Biosphere Reserves currently counts more than 600 sites in 122 countries all over the world, including 20 transboundary sites.
    • The first of India’s reserves to make it to UNESCO’s list was Tamil Nadu’s Niligiri Biosphere Reserve in 2000.
    • Under the programme, Protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region, but also to the human communities who inhabit these regions, and their ways of life.

    National wildlife Genetic Resource Bank dedicated to Nation

    Why in News?

    • Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan today dedicated to the nation, the National Wildlife Genetic Resource Bank in the city.
    • Genetic resources from 23 species of Indian wild animals have been collected and preserved.

    Genetic Resource Bank:

    • The state-of-the-art bank is equipped with sophisticated equipment to preserve the genetic resources that could be utilised to virtually resurrect an animal species in case it goes extinct.
    • This facility would increase the collection of genetic resources from wildlife through collaboration with zoos in India
    • The Genetic Resource Bank will store genetic material of Indian species. It will also help in protecting India’s biodiversity and environment.
    • This would facilitate the exchange of genetic material between Indian zoos for maintaining genetic diversity and conservation management made accessible to scientists and wildlife managers for implementing conservation programmes.

    Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES):

    • The Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) is a dedicated laboratory of the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.
    • CCMB-LaCONES is the only laboratory in India that has developed methods for collection and cryopreservation of semen and oocytes from wildlife and successfully reproducing endangered blackbuck, spotted deer and Nicobar pigeons.
    • Wildlife Genetic Resource Banking (GRB) is the systematic collection and preservation of tissues, sperm, eggs and embryos, genetic material (DNA/RNA).
    • It helps prevent the loss of valuable individuals to the gene pool.

    Reintroducing Indian Mouse Deer:

    • The Telangana Forest Department, Central Zoo Authority, Nehru Zoological Park and CCMB have joined hands to conduct.
    • The first-ever planned reintroduction of the Indian spotted chevrotain (Moschiola indica), also known as Indian mouse deer.
    • This follows more than seven years of conservation breeding of the elusive species at a dedicated facility in the premises of Nehru Zoological Park.
    • This helped increase the captive mouse deer population to around 230 individuals till March this year.

    PARIVESH – a single window hub Environment Management system

    Why in News?

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched PARIVESH (Pro-Active and Responsive facilitation by Interactive, Virtuous and Environmental Single-window Hub) on the occasion of World Biofuel Day.

    PARIVESH – Hub:

    • It is a Single-Window Integrated Environmental Management System which stands for Pro-Active and Responsive facilitation by Interactive, Virtuous and Environmental Single-window.
    • It is a workflow-based application and portal, based on the concept of web architecture.
    • The system has been designed, developed and hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, with technical support from National Informatics Centre, (NIC).
    • It automates the entire process of submitting the application and tracking the status of such proposals at each stage of processing

    Utility of the portal PARIVESH:

    • PARIVESH is a workflow-based application, based on the concept of web architecture.
    • It has been designed, developed and hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change with technical support from National Informatics Centre, New Delhi.
    • It facilitates for online submission, monitoring and management of proposals submitted by Project Proponents to the MOEFCC, as well as to the State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA).
    • The main highlights of PARIVESH include
      • Single registration and single sign-in for all types of clearances (i.e. Environment, Forest, Wildlife and CRZ),
      • unique-ID for all types of clearances required for a particular project and
      • single Window interface for the proponent to submit applications for getting all types of clearances (i.e. Environment, Forests, Wildlife and CRZ clearances)

    Significance of PARIVESH:

    • With PARIVESH, the Environment Ministry has become more of a facilitator than a regulator.
    • PARIVESH offers a framework to generate economic growth and strengthens sustainable development through e-governance.
    • PARIVESH automates the entire process of submitting the application and tracking the status of such proposals at each stage of processing.
    • With automatic highlighting of non-compliance by the system, PARIVESH helps in improving the overall performance and efficiency of the whole appraisal process.
    • PARIVESH also helps the processing authorities, as it has a single window system for central, state and district-level clearances and auto-generation of agenda (based on first come, first served principle), minutes of the meetings and online generation of approval letters.
    • The facility of Geographic Information System (GIS) interface for the Appraisal Committee will help them in analyzing the proposal efficiently, automatic alerts (via SMS and emails) at important stages to the concerned officers, committee members and higher authorities to check the delays, if any.
    • It also enables project proponents, citizens to view, track and interact with scrutiny officers, generates online clearance letters, online mailers and alerts to state functionaries in case of delays beyond stipulated time for processing of applications

    India’s first Biofuel Flight

    Why in News?

    • India has now joined the small league of nations with the US and Australia to have flown a biofuel-powered aircraft.
    • The Spicejet flight, featuring a latest generation Q400 aircraft, had been flagged off from the Dehradun airport to New Delhi.

    Significance of the move:

    • The experiment is first-of-its-kind in India. With this, India joins the exclusive club of nations using biofuel in aviation.
    • Its successful implementation provides a significant boost to encourage alternative fuels in transport and aviation sector, as envisaged in the National Biofuel’s Policy.
    • India has been attempting to promote biofuels to reduce dependence on fossil fuel. The environment-friendly initiative is expected to reduce the country’s import bills.
    • The biofuel was developed by Indian Institute of Petroleum- Dehradun.

    Usage of Biofuels on flights:

    • The use of bio jet fuel, apart from reducing greenhouse gas emissions by about 15 percent and sulfur oxides (SOx) emissions by over 99 percent, is expected to provide indigenous jet fuel supply security, possible cost savings as feedstock availability at farm level scales up, superior engine performance and reduced maintenance cost for the airline operators.
    • Biofuel flights could make air travel cleaner and more efficient, thus drastically reducing the cost of airline operations by reducing the dependency on aviation turbine fuel.
    • The biofuel is made partially from renewable resources such as agricultural residues, non-edible oils and bio-degradable fractions of industrial and municipal wastes.

    Background:

    • The genesis of this development goes back several years to an Indo-Canadian consortium project from 2010 to 2013 involving CSIR-IIP, Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum, IIT Kanpur and IISc Bangalore, in which research was directed towards the production of Bio-aviation fuel by CSIR-IIP from jatropha oil and its evaluation under various conditions.
    • The test culminated in a detailed engine test by Pratt and Whitney in Canada that showed fitness for purpose.
    • Spicejet and Chhattisgarh Biofuel Development Authority, which supplied the jatropha oil for the flight after sourcing from over 500 farmers, received considerable policy and regulatory support from the MOPNG Working Group on Biofuels and the Directorate General Civil Aviation (DGCA) in making the flight happen.