Category: Ecology Eco System

PROTECTING PEATLANDS CAN HELP ATTAIN CLIMATE GOALS

Why in News?

  • Peatlands, which play a crucial role in regulating global climate by acting as carbon sinks, are facing degradation and need to be urgently monitored, according to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations report released recently.

Highlights:

  • Peatlands cover only three per cent of Earth’s surface. However, their degradation due to drainage, fire, agricultural use and forestry can trigger release of the stored carbon in a few decades.
  • The report highlights important case studies from Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Peru in their attempts to map and monitor peatlands.  Peatlands contain 30 per cent of the world’s soil carbon.
  • When drained, these emit greenhouse gases, contributing up to one gigaton of emissions per year through oxidation, according to the report.

Mapping Peatlands:

  • Peatlands are formed due to the accumulation of partially decomposed plant remains over thousands of years under conditions of water-logging.
  • To prevent their further degradation, these areas should be urgently mapped and monitored.
  • Peatland mapping tells us where the peat is and what condition it is in.
  • Together, with conservation and restoration measures, mapping also helps in maintaining
  • water regulation services (reduction of flood intensities) and biodiversity.
  • For countries keen on reducing emissions, monitoring the ground water level of peatlands is vital, or else they can turn into carbon emission sources.
  • Mapping methodologies include both ground and remotely-sensed input data.
  • The monitoring exercise of Peatlands requires a mix of satellite and ground-based Exercises.

Degraded Peatlands:

  • Badly degraded peatlands that have been drained for a longer period of time, potentially burned and intensely managed can become hydrophobic.
  • In this case, their re-wetting would not occur via natural means.
  • Though peatlands in North America and the Russian Federation are still intact, about 25 per cent have degraded in Europe, Central and Southeast Asia, East Africa, southern  America and the Amazon.

Restoration Measures:

  • Indonesia, which has 40 per cent of all tropical peatlands, has taken corrective measures to alter drainage and deforestation since the 1980s.
  • Their government created the Peat Ecosystem Restoration Information System (PRIMS), an online platform that provides information on the condition of peatlands and restoration efforts undertaken.
  • Restoration work of highland peatlands was also conducted in the Hindukush Himalayan (HKH) region.
  • This was done to ensure water security for cities in their watersheds.
  • According to an ICIMOD report, the total peat area, excluding China, in the HKH region was 17,106 square kilometres in 2008. The degrading peat area was 8,236 square kilometres.
  • In India, peatlands occupy roughly 320–1,000 Square Kilometres Area.

Other Benefits:

  • Peatlands occur in different climate zones. While in tropical climate, they can occur inmangroves, in Arctic regions, peatlands are dominated by mosses. Some mangrove species are known to develop peatland soils under them.
  • Besides climate mitigation, peatlands are important for archaeology, as they maintain pollen, seeds and human remains for a long time in their acidic and water-logged conditions.
  • The vegetation growing on pristine peatlands provide different kinds of fibres for construction activities and handicrafts.
  • Peatlands also provide fishing and hunting opportunities. It is also possible to practise paludiculture or wet agriculture on rewetted peatlands.
  • According to the Greifswald Mire Centre Strategy 2018-2022, rewetting of peatlands reduces emissions and can play an important role in achieving the objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

MANY HYDROPOWER PROJECTS COULD FACE CLOSURE

Why in News?

  • Hydropower projects that do not comply with the Centre’s ecological flow notification could face closure.

Highlight:

  • The Natural Flow Regime is the characteristic pattern of a river’s flow quantity, timing, and variability.
  • Environmental flows/ ecological flows are the acceptable flow regimes that are required to maintain a river in the desired environmental state or predetermined state.

What is Ecological flow Notification?

  • Power producers generally hoard water to create reserves to increase power production.
  • The Centre’s ecological flow notification, 2018 mandates that project developers ensure a minimum supply of water all through the year.
  • The notification came into effect in October 2018 and gave companies three years to modify their design plans, if required, to ensure that a minimum amount of water flowed during all seasons.
  • The e-flow notification specifies that the upper stretches of the Ganga — from its origins in the glaciers and until Haridwar — would have to maintain: 20% of the monthly average flow of the preceding 10-days between November and March, which is the dry season; 25% of the average during the ‘lean season’ of October, April and May; and 30% of monthly average during the monsoon months of June-September.
  • It will apply to the upper Ganga River Basin starting from originating glaciers and through respective confluences of its head tributaries finally meeting at Devaprayag up to Haridwar and the main stem of River Ganga up to Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh.
  • In September 2019, the government advanced this deadline, from October 2021 to December 2019. This was after it tasked the Central Water Commission (CWC) to ascertain actual flows and the amount of water present in the river through 2019.

Details:

  • The Central Water Commission (CWC) will be the designated authority and the custodian of the data, and will be responsible for supervision, monitoring, regulation of flows and reporting of necessary information to the appropriate authority as and when required and also take emergent decisions about the water storage norms in case of any emergency.
  • Power projects will be assessed by the CWC quarterly for compliance after December 2019.
  • Projects that are not compliant will have to face closure.

INVASIVE SPECIES MAY SOON WIPE OUT SHOLA VEGETATION FROM NILGIRIS: REPORT

 Why in News?

  • According to a report filed by an expert committee formed by the Madras High Court, expanding plantations like tea and eucalyptus along with exotic and invasive species in the Nilgiris can wipe out Shola vegetation.

About Shola Vegetation:

  • The Shola vegetation are tropical montane forests found in the Western Ghats separated by rolling grasslands in high altitudes.
  • The word Shola is derived from the Tamil language word cÕlai meaning grove.
  • The shola forests are patches of forests that occur only in the valleys where there is least reach of the fog and mist.
  • This unique landscape is native only to the Southern Western Ghats.
  • They are found only in the high altitude mountains of the states Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Nowhere else in the world exist such a kind of forests.

Expert Committee Findings:

  • According to a report filed by an expert committee alarming expansion of exotic and tea plantations threaten native dry deciduous, moist deciduous and thorn forests and grasslands there.
  • This change in vegetation will result in loss of water sources and is already leading to massive landslides.
  • The committee recognises the deleterious impact of invasive species like eucalyptus, tea plantations and wattle and naturalised alien species like Lantana camara, Opuntia stricta, Chromolaena odorata, Parthenium hysterophorus and Senna spectabilis on the Shola forest and grasslands.
  • The wattle is replacing grasslands and Shola forests. The plantations of Eucalyptus, pines and cupressus have virtually wiped out grasslands and sholas. The massive tea gardens also replaced the vegetation.
  • The expert committee visited the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and found that around 60 per cent (690 square kilometres) of the entire core and buffer area of the reserve is under invasion.
  • The domination of invasive species in the Western Ghats was between 65 and 75 per cent, according to data presented by the state government.
  • No secondary or fresh growth of indigenous trees, plants or grass, which serve as food for elephants, was seen in areas occupied by invasive species. Moreover, the attempts made by the forest department to manage the invasive alien species has had little or no success, according to the report.

Committee Recommendations:

  • The committee suggested in the report, removal of exotics and invasive alien species and subsequent ecological restoration of weed-free landscapes. This will require well-knitted management structure and resources.
  • The committee recommended that there is an urgent need to map the extent of exotic plantations, spread of invasive alien species and loss of grasslands in each forest division of the Nilgiris.

GROWING BETTER: TEN CRITICAL TRANSITIONS TO TRANSFORM FOOD AND LAND USE

Why in News?

  • A new global study titled “Growing Better: Ten Critical Transitions to Transform Food and Land Use” has quantified the damage that the modern food industry does to human health, development and the environment costs.
  • The “hidden cost” to the world is $12 trillion a year — equivalent to China’s GDP — says the study by the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), a global alliance of economists and scientists.

Highlights of the Report:

  • The current methods of food production, consumption and land use systems incur ‘hidden’ environmental, health and poverty costs estimated at almost $12 trillion a year.
  • These hidden costs can cause irreversible damage to key ecosystems, fundamentally undermine food security in certain regions, and increase public health costs.
  • The report warned that if action is not taken timely the costs will rise to more than $16 trillion a year by 2050.
  • It will also put the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Agreement climate targets out of reach.
  • This can further unleash food scarcity, disrupt markets and cause political instability, particularly in poor countries, and greatly affect women and children.
  • Food and land use systems are defined as the way “land is used, food is produced, stored, packed, processed, traded, distributed, marketed, consumed and disposed of,”
  • These are the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions (up to 30 per cent) driving climate change.
  • They are responsible for the degradation of the world’s tropical forests, grasslands, wetlands and other remaining natural habitats. They are also the leading cause behind the ongoing ‘sixth extinction’ of biodiversity.
  • Global farm subsidies — more than $1m per minute — are triggering climate crisis and destruction of wildlife, while just 1 per cent of the $700 billion a year given to farmers is used to benefit the environment, the analysis found.
  • Much of the total is, instead, used to promote high-emission cattle production, forest destruction and pollution from overuse of fertilisers.
  • The current food systems are also driving widespread malnutrition, besides directly impacting public health.
  • Malnutrition leading to largest hidden cost: Today one-third of the world’s population is malnourished; by 2030 it is expected to rise up to 50 per cent. Since 2014, undernourishment has been rising and more than 820 million people are suffering from hunger.
  • The most affected are in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Climate-related extreme weather, conflict and economic slowdown are responsible for undernourishment.
  • The economic structure of the food system also perpetuates poverty and inequality. Of the 740 million people living in extreme poverty (with less than $1.90 a day purchasing power parity 2011) two-thirds are agricultural workers and their dependents. This indicates that the world is not on track to eradicate poverty by 2030 (SDG 1).

The report proposes a reform agenda — centred around 10 critical transitions — of real actionable solutions:

  • Healthy diets
  • Productive and regenerative agriculture
  • A healthy and productive ocean
  • Protecting and restoring nature
  • Diversifying protein supply
  • Reducing food loss and waste
  • Local loops and linkages
  • Harnessing the digital revolution
  • Stronger rural livelihoods
  • Gender and demography
  • According to the report these could enable food and land use systems to provide food security and healthy diets for a global population of over nine billion by 2050, while also tackling core climate, biodiversity, health and poverty challenges.

What the Report Says About India?

  • The report points out that India has 4 per cent of global freshwater resources to support 19 per cent of the world’s population. Some 80 per cent of water in India goes to agriculture, primarily from groundwater sources. This is unsustainable, it says.
  • FOLU observes that existing government policies already address critical transitions that the new report recommends.
  • Among various Indian initiatives, the report mentions the EatRight Movement of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India in 2017, the National Food Security Act of 2013, the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture, and the Zero Budget Natural Farming programme in Andhra Pradesh.

CONSERVATION OF WATERBODIES

Context:

  • In the last few decades, waterbodies have been under continuous and unrelenting stress, caused primarily by rapid urbanisation and unplanned growth.
  • Encroachment of waterbodies has been identified as a major cause of flash floods in Mumbai (2005), Uttarakhand (2013), Jammu and Kashmir (2014) and Chennai (2015).

Why India needs to conserve waterbodies:

  • India is endowed with extraordinarily diverse and distinctive traditional waterbodies found in different parts of the country, commonly known as ponds, tanks, lakes, vayalgam, ahars, bawdis, talabs and others.
  • They play an important role in maintaining and restoring the ecological balance.
  • They act as sources of drinking water, recharge groundwater, control floods, support biodiversity, and provide livelihood opportunities to a large number of people.

Water crisis:

  • Currently, a major water crisis is being faced by India, where 100 million people are on the frontlines of a nationwide water crisis and many major cities facing an acute water shortage.
  • United Nations and Niti Ayog reports
    • Demand for water will reach twice the available supply, and 40 per cent of India’s population will not have access to clean drinking water by 2030.

Administrative Negligence:

  • One of the reasons is our increasing negligence and lack of conservation of waterbodies. Since independence, the government has taken control over the waterbodies and water supply.
  • With a colonial mindset, authorities move further and further away in the quest of water supply, emphasing more on networks, infrastructure and construction of dams.
  • This, over time, has led to the neglect of waterbodies and catchments areas. As a result, we have started valuing land more than water.

Pollution of Water Bodies:

  • Waterbodies are being polluted by untreated effluents and sewage that are continuously being dumped into them.
  • Across the country, 86 waterbodies are critically polluted, having a chemical oxygen demand or COD concentration of more than 250 mg/l, which is the discharge standard for a polluting source such as sewage treatment plants and industrial effluent treatment plants.
  • The decline in both the quality and quantity of these waterbodies is to the extent that their potential to render various economic and environmental services has reduced drastically.

Government Actions:

  • Centre had launched the Repair, Renovation and Restoration of Water Bodies’ scheme in 2005 with the objectives of comprehensive improvement and restoration of traditional waterbodies.
    • These included increasing tank storage capacity, ground water recharge, increased availability of drinking water, improvement of catchment areas of tank commands and others. However, in this regard, not much has been seen on the ground.
  • The announcement of the Jal Shakti Abhiyan,
    • A Time-Bound, mission-mode water conservation campaign initiated by the new Jal Shakti ministry is a welcoming step focussing on rainwater harvesting, rejuvenation of waterbodies, reuse of treated wastewater, and intensive afforestation.

What need to be Done:

  • Experts say that cities may not run out of water if urban planning engages more critically with the city’s terrain, along with propagation of knowledge about the local history of lakes, meaningful community engagement and ownership of waterbodies.

City Delhi working on Waterbodies Conservation;

  • Many cities are working towards conservation of waterbodies like the steps initiated in the capital city of Delhi for instance.
  • In turning Delhi into a city of lakes, rejuvenation of 201 waterbodies has been finalised.
    • Delhi Jal Board (DJB) plans to revive 155 bodies while the Flood and Irrigation Department will revive 46. DJB claims that the aim is to achieve biological oxygen demand or BOD to 10ppm and total suspended solids to 10mg/l.
    • Establishment of the Wetlands Authority by the Delhi government is a welcome step towards notifying and conserving natural waterbodies.

Action needs to be taken towards:

Attaining sustainability.

  • Thus, emphasis on long-term goals, operation and maintenance should be included along with the allocation of budget.
  • Success of the lakes should be tested on all three fronts namely
    • Economic
    • Environmental
    • Social
    • Social front
    • Many studies point that a deliberate effort has to be made on the social front for which better publicity of the environmental benefits of the project and enhancing environmental awareness, especially among the local community is required.
  • Encouraging local people to collaborate with other stakeholders to successfully utilise resources and ensure the protection and conservation of waterbodies.
  • Traditionally, water was seen as a responsibility of citizens and the community collectively took the responsibility of not only building but also of maintaining the waterbodies. This needs to be brought back into the system.
  • Integrated approach taking into account the long-term sustainability, starting from the planning stage where looking at every waterbody along with its catchment, is required.

Way Forward:

  • To make it a reality, it is time to invest in governance, capacitating our institutions, strong regulations and enforcements or else we will fall back.
  • Let us not destroy our waterbodies in the name of development. Rather, we should value their importance.

NORMALIZED DIFFERENCE VEGETATION INDEX


Why in News?

  • Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) estimates the density of vegetation and amount of food abundance available for herbivorous animals, for example, elephants.
  • This index has a negative correlation with graminoids (grassy food – grasses, sedges, and rushes – preferentially consumed by elephants) in tropical forests.

Highlights:

  • NDVI calculates the difference between the red and near infrared components of light reflected by objects (like satellite).
  • Since healthy vegetation strongly absorbs red and reflects near-infrared light, this difference can indicate the presence of healthy vegetation and can be mapped into a colour code (green and red).
  • High NDVI value (bright green) indicates healthier vegetation whereas low value (red) indicates less or no vegetation.
  • Data obtained from satellites (like Sentinel-2, Landsat and SPOT) that produce red and near-infrared images are used for estimating NDVI.

Applications of the Index:

  • Foresters use NDVI to quantify forest supply and leaf area index.
  • Farmers use NDVI for precision farming and to measure biomass.
  • NDVI is used to inform the ecology of various species, from elephants and red deer to mosquitoes and birds.
  • NASA states that NDVI is a good indicator of drought when water limits vegetation growth, it has a lower relative NDVI and density of vegetation.

U.S.-CHINA TRADE WAR MAY REDUCE GLOBAL GROWTH RATE.

  • The ongoing U.S.-China trade war escalation could knock off 0.4 percentage points from world GDP growth by 2020, and possibly lead to the lowest growth since 2009, according to Fitch Ratings.
  • The imposition by the U.S. of 25% tariffs on the remaining $300 billion of imports from China would reduce world economic output by 0.4 percentage points in 2020.
  • Global GDP growth would slow to 2.7% this year and 2.4% next year, compared with our latest ‘Global Economic Outlook’ baseline forecasts of 2.8% and 2.7% respectively.
  • Global Economic Outlook: A Survey by the IMF staff usually published twice a year. It presents IMF staff economists’ analyses of global economic developments during the near and medium term.
  • For China and the U.S., the tariffs would initially feed through to lower export volumes and higher import prices, with the latter raising firms’ costs and reducing real wages.
  • These effects are expected to spill over to other trading partners not directly targeted by the tariffs.
  • While falling short of a global recession, this would be the weakest global growth rate since 2009 and slightly worse than 2012, when the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis was at its peak.

AMARANTHUS SARADHIANA

Why in News:

  • New species of ANARANTHUS SARADHIANA has been discoverd  in kerala

Background:

  • New species of Amaranthus saradhiana has been discovered in Kerala.
  • It is the first time that an Amaranthus species has been reported from Kerala. The species is endowed with high nutritional value, contributed by the rich presence of anthocyanin, a pigment which imparts the purple colour. The stem is hairy and purple in colour, the plant flowers and fruits during the period from June to December.

ONE BILLION YEAR OLD FUNGI IS FOUND TO BE EARTH’S OLDEST

Why in News:

  • Microfossils of a globular spore connected to a T-shaped filament excavated in an Arctic region of north-western Canada represent the oldest-known fungus, a discovery that sheds light on the origins of an important branch in earth’s tree of life.

Background: / Ourasphaira Giraldae:

  • Ourasphaira giraldae – forerunner to an immensely diverse group that today includes the likes of mushrooms, yeasts and molds – lived in an estuary environment about 900 million
  • to 1 billion years ago. Until now, the oldest-known fungus fossil was one about 410 million years old from Scotland. Fungi play a crucial role in global ecosystems such as in the organic decomposition process. Fungi belong to a broad group of organisms, called eukaryotes, that possesses a clearly defined nucleus and also includes animals and plants. A fundamental difference between fungi and plants is that fungi are incapable of photosynthesis, harnessing sunlight to synthesize nutrients.
  • Because of a close evolutionary relationship between fungi and animals, the researchers suspect that early forms of microscopic animal life may have lived at the same time as Ourasphaira. The earliest fossils of rudimentary animals are about 635 million years old. The microscopic fossils, contained in shale rock from the Northwest Territories of Canada, dated to the Proterozoic era before the advent of complex life forms.
  • In determining that the fossils were of fungi, the researchers identified the presence of a fibrous substance called chitin in Ourasphaira’s cell walls, a key fungal characteristic.

CIRCLE OF LIFE: ON ECONOMIC GROWTH FACTORING ECOSYSTEM

Why in News:

  • Biodiversity assessments must be factored into all economic activity

Details:

  • The overwhelming message from the global assessment report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is that human beings have so rapaciously exploited nature, and that species belonging to a quarter of all studied animal and plant groups on earth are gravely threatened
  • If the world continues to pursue the current model of economic growth without factoring in environmental costs, one million species could go extinct, many in a matter of decades Catastrophic erosion of ecosystems is being driven by unsustainable use of land and water, direct harvesting of species, climate change, pollution and release of alien plants and animals in new habitats. there is particular worry over the devastation occurring in tropical areas, which are endowed with greater biodiversity than others; only a quarter of the land worldwide now retains its ecological and evolutionary integrity, largely spared of human impact.
  • Nature provides ecosystem services, but these are often not included in productivity estimates: they are vital for food production, for clean air and water, provision of fuel for millions, absorption of carbon in the atmosphere, and climate moderation.
  • Expanding agriculture by cutting down forests has raised food volumes, and mining feeds many industries, but these have severely affected other functions such as water availability, pollination, maintenance of wild variants of domesticated plants and climate regulation.
  • IPBES assessment points out, marine plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, affecting at least 267 species, including 86% of marine turtles, 44% of seabirds and 43% of marine mammals

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

  • The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services or IPBES is an independent inter-governmental agency formed to reinforce the interface between science and policy for ecosystem and biodiversity services in order to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity, achieve long-term well-being for humans, and sustainable development.
  • 94 governments established the IPBES on 21st April 2012 in Panama City. Any member of the UN can join this body.
  • The organisation is dedicated to making IPBES as the pioneering inter-governmental body for evaluating earth’s biodiversity and ecosystems, and the basic services they provide to society

Report on Ganga Basin

  • An assessment commissioned by the World Bank which submitted to the Central Water Commission found that Ganga river basin could see crop failures rise three-fold and drinking water shortage go up by as much as 39% in some States between now and 2040.

About:

  • The report on the future of the Ganga basin comes at a time when experts have raised concerns over the lack of adequate safeguards to ensure the river’s health. The government has committed to reduce pollution in the Ganga by 70% by March 2019.

Finding:

  • If there is no intervention, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are likely to see a deficit in irrigation water of 28%, 10%, 10% and 15% respectively in 2040 as compared to the current levels.
  • Madhya Pradesh would see a 39%, Delhi 22% and Uttar Pradesh a 25% deficit in drinking water during the same period, the assessment released earlier this week noted.
  • The basin provides over a third of India’s available surface water and contributes more than half the national water use, of which 90% is for irrigation.
  • The report warned that volume of extracted groundwater is expected to more than double, leading to an increase in the critical blocks. Low flow values in the rivers are predicted to decline compared to present levels. Water quality and environmental flow conditions already critical will deteriorate further.
  • The report is based on a modelling study that simulates river flow, water quality and groundwater levels in the different States and regions within the Ganga river basin.
  • To extrapolate, the model considered land use, infrastructure, population, industry and agriculture settings as well as the precipitation and temperature settings.
  • The aim of the report was to strengthen the capacity for strategic basin planning, develop a set of scenarios for the development of the Ganga basin and build a strong and accessible knowledge base.

Concern:

  • The report on the future of the Ganga basin comes at a time when experts have raised concerns over the lack of adequate safeguards to ensure the river’s health. The government has committed to reduce pollution in the Ganga by 70% by March 2019.
  • There aren’t any easy solutions, the report cautioned, pointing out that there is no ‘silver bullet’ intervention that can solve all problems. Combinations of different interventions such as increasing water use efficiency and implementing a ‘more job per drop’ rather than striving for wholesale crop production are needed.

Way Forward:

  • There aren’t any easy solutions to overcome the crisis, the report cautioned pointing out that there is no ‘silver bullet’ intervention that can solves all problems. Combinations of different interventions such as increasing water use efficiency and implementing a ‘more job per drop’ rather than striving for wholesale crop production are needed, it said.
  • The intervention that will result in the most beneficial impact is improvement of municipal waste water treatment. Whether central or de-central, whether high or low tech, reduction in pollution loads provides a positive return on investment both in availability of clean water for downstream uses, including ecosystem services, as well as a drastic reduction in water-related illnesses and deaths.
  • Environmentalists say reducing pollution in the Ganga hinges on setting up sewage plants rather than ensuring that the natural flow of the river is not blocked, as that would hobble its propensity to clean itself.

Spontaneous fire on Bengaluru’s Varthur Lake

Context:

  • A huge plume of smoke was spotted emanating from the middle of Varthur lake, raising the spectre of severe pollution leading to seemingly spontaneous combustion.

Details

  • While Bellandur lake upstream has had multiple fires caused by chemicals and trapped hydrocarbons in its severely- polluted water, this is perhaps the first time a fire has been reported in the 450- acre Varthur lake.
  • On Sunday, residents observed a large plume of smoke within the lake. The fire started around 2.30 p.m. in the centre of the lake where a thick layer of weed covers the surface.
  • “The fire broke out about 200 feet from its boundary in Thubarahalli. While there is garbage burning close by, in this case, the spot is not accessible. Around 6 p.m., the smoke died out slowly naturally,” says a resident of an apartment adjacent to the lake.
  • Jagadish Reddy from Varthur Rising believes the same phenomenon that caused fires in Bellandur lake in the past could have caused Sunday’s blaze in Varthur. “Even fire officials could not douse the blaze. They were just not prepared for it. Over 20 acres has been charred causing immense damage to the eco-system,” he says.

Difficulty reaching the spot:

  • Fire officials sent three fire tenders from Whitefield, Mahadevapura and Sarjapur. “The fire spot was not accessible. We had to wait for a boat to arrive from Mahadevapura. But, by then, the fire started to fizzle out naturally,” said an official.
  • While the official said it was too early to ascertain the cause of the fire, the inaccessibility of the location casts a doubt whether it could be intentional or accidental.
  • “If we can’t reach it, I’m not sure how anyone else could… Chemicals in the lake could have caught fire due to the heat,” said the official.
  • In February 2017, a fire was reported in Bellandur lake. Trapped gases and chemicals in the lake were believed to have caused the blaze, which led to the National Green Tribunal taking up a suo motu case.
  • Bellandur lake receives over 480 million litres of raw sewage from the city daily, and much of this flow into Varthur lake.

Why the lake catches fire?

  • According to an IISc study, “Discharge of untreated effluents (rich in hydrocarbons) with accidental fire (like throwing cigarettes, beedi) has led to the fire in the lake.”
  • It added that the “Incidence of foam catching fire are due to compounds with high flammability, i.e., mostly higher hydrocarbons and organic polymers from nearby industries…
  • High wind coupled with high intensity of rainfall leads to upwelling of sediments with the churning of water as it travels from higher elevation to lower elevation forming froth due to phosphorous,” as per the report.

Animals begin to arrive at Wayanad Sanctuary

Context:

  • With the rise in mercury in the Nilgiri Biosphere, the seasonal migration of wild animals from wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) has begun.

Details:

  • Mammals such as elephants and gaurs migrate to the sanctuary from the adjacent Bandipur and Nagarhole national parks in Karnataka and the Mudumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu in search of food and water.
  • The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is a haven for migrating wild animals during summer owing to easy availability of fodder and water.

About Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is an animal sanctuary in Wayanad, Kerala, India.
  • A variety of large wild animals such as Indian bison, elephant, deer and tiger are found there.
  • There are also quite a few unusual birds in the sanctuary. In particular, peafowl tend to be very common in the area.
  • Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is the second largest wildlife sanctuary in Kerala. It is bestowed with lush green forests and rich wildlife. This wildlife area houses some of the rare and endangered species of both flora and fauna.
  • Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the safest havens for different species of vultures like the White-rumped Vultures and the Red-headed Vultures.
  • Established in 1973, the sanctuary is now an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. It is bounded by protected area network of Nagarhole and Bandipur of Karnataka in the northeast, and on the southeast by Mudumalai of Tamil Nadu.
  • The Western Ghats, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km²), including all of the sanctuary, is under consideration by the World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site

About Bandipur National Park:

  • Bandipur National Park established in 1974 as a tiger reserve under Project Tiger, is a national park located in the south Indian state of Karnataka, which is the state with the highest tiger population in India. Bandipur is known for its wildlife and has many types of biomes, but dry deciduous forest is dominant. Together with the adjoining Nagarhole National Park, Mudumalai National Park and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, it is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve making it the largest protected area in southern India and largest habitat of wild elephants in south Asia.

Nagarhole National Park:

  • Nagarhole National Park (also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park), is a national park located in Kodagu district and Mysore district in Karnataka state in South India.

Mudumalai National Park

  • The Mudumalai National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary also a declared tiger reserve, lies on the northwestern side of the Nilgiri Hills (Blue Mountains), in Nilgiri District, north-west of Coimbatore city in Tamil Nadu.
  • It shares its boundaries with the states of Karnataka and Kerala.
  • The sanctuary is divided into five ranges – Masinagudi, Thepakadu, Mudumalai, Kargudi and Nellakota. The protected area is home to several endangered and vulnerable species including Indian elephant, Bengal tiger, gaur and Indian leopard.
  • There are at least 266 species of birds in the sanctuary, including critically endangered Indian white-rumped vulture and long-billed vulture.

Punjab Government Bans sale of Herbicide

Why in News?

  • • The Punjab government has banned the sale of glyphosate, a herbicide which is extensively used in the State to control a wide variety of weeds in almost all the crops.

About the ban:

  • This chemical has been observed to be a Group 2A cancer-causing material. Besides cancer, this chemical is also known for causing other health problems and has the potential to damage human DNA as per the opinion of experts from PGIMER, Chandigarh,” said an official statement here.
  • Glyphosate is sold in the country under various trade names such as Round-up, Excell, Glycel, Glider, Glydon, etc. The Punjab State Farmers Commission had also recommended a ban on the sale of the chemical in Punjab.
  • State Agriculture Secretary K.S. Pannu on Wednesday said that the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee has recommended the use of the herbicide only for tea gardens and non-cropped areas and therefore there is a dire need for strict compliance under the Insecticides Act, 1968.

Manifold increase in usage of glyphosate:

  • As much as 8.6 billion kg of glyphosate has been used globally since it was introduced in 1974. Globally, total use increased from about 51 million kg in 1995 to about 750 million kg in 2014—nearly a 15-fold jump.
  • This jump has been attributed to introduction of herbicide tolerant GM plants. In India, about 0.866 million kg of glyphosate was sold in 2014-15, according to the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage.
  • In the US, over 4,000 lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto—the company which manufactured this herbicide. The first case, being heard in a court in San Francisco at present, is of DeWayne Johnson, a 46-year-old groundskeeper. He says the company failed to warn him of the dangers of using glyphosate, and as a result, he is suffering from terminal cancer.
  • Monsanto was acquired by Bayer, a German pharmaceutical company, on June 7 this year.

Why farmers continue to use Glyphosate?

  • Despite being aware of its toxicity, farmers in India want the chemical as it helps them control weeds in their farms at a lower cost. Cost of weeding can be as much as three times lower if glyphosate is used instead of manual labour.
  • Farmers use glyphosate on all kinds of crops; they cover the crop plant with plastic baskets to protect them and spray the chemical on the weeds around it.
  • However, for genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops, the usage is more as farmers spray it more liberally across fields to clear the weeds.
  • Farmers cannot afford to think about the long-term adverse health effects of the chemical. States are likely to fail in their effort to restrict the use of glyphosate as they do not have the power to ban a chemical.

Health impact of glyphosate:

  • In 2017, at least 23 people had died in the district after inhaling pesticides being sprayed on cotton crop.
  • An assessment by PAN suggests that this could be due to the cultivation of GM herbicide-tolerant cotton seeds. It seems that Roundup Ready Flex seeds were being illegally cultivated in the region.
  • The tall plants growing close to each other trapped the pesticide which the labourers inhaled. To prevent such deaths, the state authority banned five pesticides.
  • Though glyphosate was not one of these pesticides, there is no doubt that glyphosate is toxic.

Central Insecticides Board & Registration Committee (CIBRC):

  • Central Insecticides Board & Registration Committee (CIBRC) under the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage, Department of Agriculture & Cooperation was set up by the Ministry of Agriculture in the year 1970 to regulate the import, manufacture, sale, transport, distribution and use of insecticides with a view to prevent risks to human beings and animals and for other matters connected therewith. Insecticides Act, 1968 was brought into force with effect from 1st August, 1971 with the publication of Insecticides Rules, 1971.
  • The Central Insecticides Board (CIB) advises the Central Government and State Governments on technical matters arising out of the administration of this Act and to carry out the other functions assigned to the Board by or under this rule. Major functions are:
    • Advise the Central Government on the manufacture of insecticides under the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951 (65 of 1951).
    • Specify the uses of the classification of insecticides on the basis of their toxicity as well as their being suitable for aerial application.
    • Advise tolerance limits for insecticides residues and establishment of minimum intervals between the application of insecticides and harvest in respect of various commodities.
    • Specify the shelf-life of insecticides.

Moths are key to Pollination in Himalayan Ecosystem

Why in News?

  • Moths are widely considered as pests, but a recent study by scientists of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has revealed that these group of insects are pollinators to a number of flowering plants in the Himalayan ecosystem.

Highlights of the project:

  • Under the project titled “Assessment of Moths (Lepidoptera) As Significant Pollinators in the Himalayan Ecosystem of North Eastern India”, scientists collected moth samples from different ecosystem.
  • The analysis of proboscis, a long and thread-like organ used to suck flower sap, of a dozen moth species revealed the presence of pollen grains.
  • Most of the studies on plant pollinators or plant- pollinator network is focused on diurnal interactions between the insects and plants. This particular study is based on plant- moth interactions, as a nocturnal phenomenon.
  • Moths play a vital role as the indicator of our ecosystem. Their hairy bodies help them pick up the pollen from the flowers they land on and carry it far away. In fact, some moth-pollinated flowers, like the yucca (a native plant in the US) have fragrant and white flowers to help the moths see them in the dark.
  • The study was carried out in states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and West Bengal.
  • According to proboscis of different moths belonging to families of moths, such as Erebidae and Sphingidae, were found to contain pollen of several flowering plants, including Rhododendron.

Unique structure:

  • On observing the proboscis under scanning electron microscope, it is observed that these structures are not only meant for sap sucking, but are morphological designed for pollination.
  • In some species of moths, the organ is found to be modified into a spine like structure and in others, a lateral canal to arrest and disperse pollen.
  • Experts also pointed out that similar studies on ascertaining the role of moths in pollination are being undertaken different parts of the world.
  • Kailash Chandra, director of ZSI, emphasised that the study was unique, as scientist are looking at a new group of insects (moths) as pollinators. Usually bees, wasps and butterflies are considered as prominent pollinators.
  • About 90% of the world’s flowering plants are pollinated by animals. Therefore, pollinators are essential for the genetic exchange among flowering plants and the biodiversity among plants. In India, estimates put the number of moth species at nearly 12,000.
  • Researchers have pointed out that almost two-thirds of common large moth species have declined over the last 40 years in some parts of world. One of main reasons for the decline is light pollution (an increase in artificial light in moth habitats).

Indian Himalayan Region:

  • The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), with geographical coverage of over 5.3 lakh kilometre square, extends over 2,500 kilometres in length between the Indus and the Brahmaputra river systems.
  • The IHR physio graphically, starting from the foothills in the south (Siwaliks), extends up to Tibetan plateau in the north (Trans-Himalaya). Three major geographical entities, the Himadri (Greater Himalaya), Himanchal (Lesser Himalaya) and the Siwaliks (Outer Himalaya), extending almost uninterrupted throughout its length, are separated by major geological fault lines.
  • The region is responsible for providing water to a large part of the Indian subcontinent. Many rivers considered holy like the Ganga and Yamuna flow from the Himalayas.
  • NMSHE engages all the 12 states in the Himalayas in spirit of cooperative federalism for the purpose of strengthening their capacities for planning and implementation of climate change adaptation actions, undertaking vulnerability assessment and spreading awareness among the masses on climate change and its likely impacts.
  • The Himalayan states include 10 hill states- Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, and two partial hill states, namely Assam and West Bengal.

Facts About the Himalayas:

 

  • The Himalayas are the youngest mountain range in the world.
  • The Himalayas are the world’s highest mountain chain.
  • The Himalayan mountain range is home to nine of the ten highest peaks on earth.
  • The Indian Himalayan Region covers approximately 5.3 lakh sq. km. area.
  • The Indian Himalayan Region harbours about 1,740 medicinal plants.

Marine Wilderness Rapidly Shrinking

The team, led by researchers in Australia, found that just 13.2% of the world’s oceans could be classed as wilderness – most in international waters, away from human population.

What makes a wilderness?

  • A wilderness is an area of land that has been largely undisturbed by modern human development. Wilderness areas usually lack roads, buildings, and other artificial structures. They provide a natural environment for plant and animal species.
  • The places free from intense levels of human activity have really high levels of biodiversity and high genetic diversity.

How much is left?

  • As human activities increasingly threaten biodiversity, areas devoid of intense human impacts are vital refugia.
  • The team found that most of the areas they defined as wilderness fell within the Arctic, Antarctic and around Pacific Island nations, or in the open ocean, where human activity is more limited.
  • Global wilderness extent varies considerably across the ocean, with substantial wilderness in the southern high seas and very little in the northern hemisphere.
  • This difference is due to significant fishing and shipping activity occurring in the waters around northern Asia, Europe, and North America.
  • These wilderness areas contain high genetic diversity, unique functional traits, and endemic species; maintain high levels of ecological and evolutionary connectivity and may be well placed to resist and recover from the impacts of climate change.
  • Despite their conservation status, marine protected areas (MPAs) appear to host just 4.9% of global marine wilderness.

What can be done?

  • There are two different ways to manage a wilderness area. The first is conservation, which encourages sustainable use of natural resources.
  • The other type of wilderness management is preservation, which encourages people to preserve the wilderness by not using natural resources.
  • The UN are currently considering a legally binding addition to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which would mandate conservation and sustainable use of international waters – currently not protected.
  • Better enforcement of existing laws is needed to prevent illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which makes up 10%–30% of global catch
  • Although fishing is one of the most significant direct impacts that humans can have on ocean ecosystems, many of the problems being caused originate on land.
  • Runoff of nutrients from farming fertilizers, chemicals from poorly controlled industrial production, from rivers are all disrupting ocean life. • Plastic pollution is one of the big things that impact on the marine species.
  • Shipping , Pollution and over fishing have reduced areas of wilderness to just 13% of the world’s ocean, warning that untouched marine habitats could completely vanish within half a century.

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