Environment laws and initiatives in India


On this page, we will provide you with all updates and news related to the legislations that are linked to environment sections of UPSC examination:

Environment legislations and government initiatives in India updates/news
  • Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India

    What is the news?

    ‘Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India’ was released recently by Ministry of Environment. It was released on the occasion of World Day to Combat Desertification.

    Note: Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations.

    About Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas of India

    • Published by: The Atlas has been published by Space Application Centre, ISRO, Ahmedabad.
    • Prepared using: The Atlas was prepared using IRS Advanced Wide Field Sensor (AWiFS) data of 2011-13 and 2003-05 time frames in the Geographical Information System (GIS) environment.
    • The Atlas provides a state-wise area of degraded lands for the time frame 2018-19.
    • It also provides the change analysis for the duration of 15 years from 2003-05 to 2018-19.

    Significance of the Atlas

    • It is helpful in prioritizing areas to be taken up for minimizing the impact of desertification and land degradation.
    • Moreover, the Atlas will also be helpful in strengthening the proposed National Action Plan for achieving land restoration targets by providing important inputs.
    Also read: Land Degradation – Causes and Consequences
    Efforts to Combat Desertification
    • India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD) and is committed to achieving the land degradation neutral status by 2030.
    • India hosted the 14th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in September 2019.
    • Further, India is striving towards achieving the national commitments of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and the restoration of 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.
      • The concept of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) emerged from the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012. LDN responds to an immediate challenge: intensifying the production of food, fuel and fiber to meet future demand without further degrading our finite land resource base.  
      • In other words, Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) envisions a world where human activity has a neutral, or even positive, impact on the land. 
      • The UNCCD Secretariat launched this Land Degradation Neutrality initiative, which has been enshrined in the SDGs as target 15.3 on achieving a land degradation neutral world by 2030.
    • The Government of India has set up a Desertification Cell under the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC). The cell represents India in UNCCD.
    About World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought
    • World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed every year on 17th June.
    • The day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1995 after the day when the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification(UNCCD) was drafted.
    • Aim: The day is observed every year to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification.
    • The theme for 2021: “Restoration. Land. Recovery. We build back better with healthy land”.

    Source: PIB

  • Flaws in Haryana Government’s order demanding demolition of Khori Gaon Jhuggis
    Synopsis:

    The Haryana government’s order demanding the demolition of Khori Gaon Jhuggis is surrounded by multiple flaws. It would result in brutal violations of human rights. Therefore, the government should provide alternative land and reasonable facilities to those facing eviction.

    Background:
    • The Haryana government has ordered to break 10,000 jhuggis in Khori Gaon without providing any rehabilitation plan.
      • Khori Gaon is located on the Delhi-Haryana border and comes under the Faridabad Municipal Corporation (FMC) jurisdiction.
    • The demolition is imperative as the jhuggis are located in a forest area and the residents don’t have any ownership over them. However, the order is surrounded by multiple flaws.
    Issues associated with the Order:
    • First, it will put unprecedented stress on the residents, who are already facing immense uncertainties during the pandemic. Eviction may endanger the health, economic well-being, and lives of thousands.
      • Recently, a construction labourer (named Ganeshilal) committed suicide on hearing the demolition news.
    • Second, the order doesn’t extend to big high-rise buildings located in the same forest area. This includes The Taj Vivanta Hotel, the Sarovar Portico Hotel, the Pinnacle Business Tower, and the Radha Soami Satsang Centre.
    • Third, it undermines the right to shelter under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution as no prudent plan for rehabilitation is given.
      • In the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation case, the Supreme Court held that it would be the duty of the state to provide the right to shelter for the poor and needy.
      • In the Shantistar Builders case, the Supreme Court held that the right to life includes the right to have reasonable accommodation.
    • Fourth, it violates India’s international obligation. The country has ratified the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights which guarantees a right to housing for all irrespective of income.

    Apart from this, there exist other issues that make the situation worse for the poor dwellers.

    Other Concerning issues:
    • First, the cut-off date for rehabilitation hasn’t been updated by Haryana Urban Development Authority since 2010. The cut-off date was fixed as 2003 but since then massive migration has taken place in the state, but the date hasn’t been updated.
      • Gujarat has a cut-off date of 2010 while Rajasthan and Bihar use 2009, and Karnataka requires just a one-year stay.
    • Second, several of those residents who settled before the cut-off date don’t possess the requisite documents. Thus, 90% of the 10,000 houses of the settlement of Khori Gaon will be denied rehabilitation.
    • Third, the multiple housing schemes of the government including the current PM Awas Yojana have not been implemented properly.

    Read Also :-Higher Education in India: An Analysis 

    Way Forward:
    • The Haryana government should do rehabilitation of the jhuggi-dwellers prior to their removal. This would involve 
      • conducting a detailed survey prior to the eviction, 
      • drawing up a rehabilitation plan and 
      • ensuring that upon eviction the dwellers are immediately rehabilitated
    • The Haryana government should update its rehabilitation policy by learning from other states’ progressive housing policies.
      • For instance, the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board Act provides for a survey, removal and resettlement plan.
      • Under this, removal is done only when land is required for a public purpose; else the jhuggis are upgraded and improved in-situ.
      • An alternate house is provided if the family is staying in the jhuggi since 2015.

    Source: Click Here

  • “Operation Olivia” to Protect Olive Ridley Turtles

    What is the News? Indian Coast Guards (ICG) are using an aircraft for ‘Operation Olivia’ to protect Olive Ridley turtles.

    About Operation Olivia:
    • Operation Olivia was launched by the Indian Coast Guard in the early 1980s.
    • Purpose: The operation aims to protect Olive Ridley turtles when they arrive at the Odisha coast for breeding and nesting from November to December.
    • Indian Coast Guards(ICGs) execute this operation. As part of the operation, ICGs conducts round-the-clock surveillance. Assets of Indian Coast Guards such as fast patrol vessels, air cushion vessels, interceptor craft, and Dornier aircraft are used in this operation to enforce laws near the rookeries (colony of breeding animals).
    About Olive Ridley Turtles:
    • The Olive Ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world.
    • They are found in warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans.
    • Conservation status:
      • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable
      • CITES: Appendix I (It prohibits trade in turtle products by signatory countries)
      • Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I

    Click Here to Read more About Olive Ridley Turtles

    Nesting Habitat of Olive Ridley Turtle:
    • Olive ridley turtles have a unique habit of mass nesting called Arribada. Under this, thousands of female turtles come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
    • The Odisha coast has three arribada beaches at Gahirmatha, the mouth of the Devi river, and in Rushikulya, where about 1 lakh nests are found annually.
      • Recently, a new mass nesting site has been discovered in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. As per reports, it has more than 5,000 nests in a season.
    Need of Operation Olivia:
    • Firstly, damage to Olive Ridley Turtles Eggs: There are three main factors that damage Olive Ridley turtles and their eggs:
      • heavy predation of eggs by dogs and wild animals,
      • indiscriminate fishing with trawlers and gill nets and
      • beach soil erosion
    • Secondly, dense fishing activity along the coasts of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal.
    • Thirdly, development and exploitation of nesting beaches for ports, and tourist centers.
    • And lastly, poaching for their meat, shell, and leather.

    Source: The Hindu

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  • Issues with NTCA Circular on Shutting Down Tourism in Tiger Reserves

    Synopsis: The recent NTCA Circular on tiger reserves shut down the tourism activities in tiger reserves. But the circular needs course correction.

    Introduction:

    India’s Project Tiger program is a globally successful initiative to conserve tigers. At present, India has 51 tiger reserves now boasts of at least 3,000 tigers.

    The entire country is gearing up to relax the lockdown norms. However, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) closed the tourism activities in tiger reserves till further announcement. This deserves a wider public discussion.

    The reason behind the NTCA Circular on tiger reserves:
    • A lion at Chennai’s Vandalur Zoo has died of suspected coronavirus infection. Similarly, a tiger died at Jharkhand’s Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park after suffering from fever. This raised the suspicion regarding  Covid-19 disease transmission from human beings to captive wild animals.
    • This is why the NTCA issued a circular to chief wildlife wardens of all the tiger range states.
    Issues with the NTCA Circular on tiger reserves:
    1. Encroachment into the power of States: Forests and wildlife reserves fall under the concurrent list. The state chief wildlife wardens are the ultimate deciding authority for most issues concerning state forests. Thus, the recent NTCA Circular violates decentralized decision-making. For example, the Madhya Pradesh government has challenged the decision of NTCA.
    2. Against Vaccination Policy of locals: Tiger reserves were closed for almost two months during the second wave. Government and civil society organizations used this lockdown time to propagate the uses of vaccines, educate the nearby community towards testing, treating the Covid-19 diseases. All this done with one incentive, that is, faster reopening of forest reserves to the public to boost their economic activity. If this is reversed by the recent NTCA Circular, then the vaccination policies might delay in and around the tiger reserves.
    3. Research on the vulnerability of animals to Covid-19The transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to zoo animals and domestic pets has been documented earlier. But these studies mention that the fatality rate in the animal is a rare case.
      • Further, these studies also point out that, direct contact with infected humans is the primary cause for infection in wild animals. That is not feasible in the majority of the wildlife reserves in the world. As Jeeps and people are required to keep a distance from park animals. Not only that, In India the masks are mandatory for visiting the tiger reserves. So, the NTCA circular failed to look into the scientific aspects of disease transmission.
    4. Loss of revenue and biodiversity: The wildlife tourism economy brings in substantial revenue to the state governments. When the governments are opening up their economy, the revenues from wildlife tourism is very essential for their economic recovery.
      • The role of tribal people to live close to or inside the protected areas is very important. As they collect minor forest produce and help to conserve the forests.
      • The cost-benefit analysis shows the entire biodiversity also faces losses during the lockdown. This is due to reasons such as uncontrolled fires, poaching, etc.
    5. The arbitrary reason to exclude other protected areas: The NTCA circular only protects the 51 tiger reserves in India. In India, there is an enormous presence of wildlife outside the tiger reserves.
    Read more: “Srivilliputhur-Mudumalai Tiger Reserve is the 51st tiger reserve in India”
    Suggestions to improve the recent NTCA Circular on tiger reserves:
    1. Training the local forest officials: Instead of a blanket ban, the government can train the local officials to decide whether to allow safaris for people based on local conditions.
    2. Utilizing the opportunity: Forest departments should prepare the protected areas against future pandemics by implementing steps such as
      • Setting up Non-invasive, bio-safe protocols for Covid-19 vulnerable species under wildlife surveillance.
      • Creating Early warning systems for preventing the Covid-19 spread if any wild animal died from Covid-19.
    3. Encouraging the role of environmental research organizations in conserving species during the pandemic.
    4. Launching scientific research and prevention measures: State government should launch these measures to decide whether to open the protected area or not.

    Read Also :-Stressed assets circular to be revised soon

    The NTCA circular on tiger reserves is a centralized, non-scientific-based decision. This decision has to be replaced with decentralized, science-based decision-making to protect the bio-diversity of India. 

    Source: The Indian Express 

  • Maharashtra govt clears an amendment to protect “heritage trees”

    What is the News?

    The Maharashtra Government has cleared an amendment to the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act,1975.

    What are the key features of the amended act? The key features are:

    • Concept of Heritage Tree: A tree with an estimated age of 50 years or more shall be defined as a heritage tree. It may belong to specific species which will be notified from time to time.
    • Method to determine the age of the tree: The environment department in consultation with the forest department will issue guidelines to determine the age of the tree.
    • Compensatory Plantation:
      • Compensatory plantation will include planting the number of trees equivalent to the age of trees to be cut.
      • The saplings need to be six to eight feet in height while planting, and they will undergo geo-tagging with seven years of caring period.
      • The option of monetary compensation has also been given, instead of the compensatory plantation.
    • Formation of Maharashtra Tree Authority:
      • The Tree Authority will have responsibility related to the protection and conservation of trees, including heritage trees.
      • The chairman of the tree authority in the case of a municipal council shall be the chief officer of the council. Experts will also be part of the authority.
      • The authority will hear applications seeking permission to cut 200 or more trees that are five or more years old.
      • The local tree authorities will come under this body. These bodies will ensure that the tree census is conducted after every five years.
      • They will also be in charge of
        • Counting heritage trees,
        • Ensuring the preservation of trees,
        • Keeping tabs on tree plantation,
        • Pruning and caring for trees and
        • Ensuring that 33% of government land is used for tree plantation.
    • Tree Cess: The State authority will issue directions for the use of tree cess. The fine amount cannot be more than ₹1 lakh per tree in case of violations.

    Source: The Hindu

  • Haryana’s “Pran Vayu Devta Pension Scheme” and “Oxy Van” (Oxygen Forests)
    What is the News?

    Haryana Government has launched the Pran Vayu Devta Pension Scheme (PVDPS) and Oxy Van(Oxygen Forests) on the occasion of World Environment Day.

    About Pran Vayu Devta Pension Scheme(PVDPS):

    Read Also :-“Pradhan Mantri VAN DHAN Yojana” (PMVDY)

    • Pran Vayu Devta Pension Scheme(PVDPS) is an initiative to honour all those trees which are of the age of 75 years and above. As they have served humanity throughout their life by producing oxygen, reducing pollution, providing shade and so on.
    • Such trees will be identified throughout the state and these will be looked after by involving local people in this scheme.
    • For the maintenance of these trees, a “pension amount” of Rs 2,500 would be given per year.
    • The pension shall be given to the Village panchayats and Urban Local Bodies department for the upkeep of the trees installing plates, grilles among others.
    • This ‘tree pension’ shall continue to increase every year on lines similar to the Old Age Samman Pension Scheme in the state.
    About Oxy Van:
    • Oxy Van are identified pieces of land on which as many as 3 crore trees would be planted.
    • The Oxy Vans will occupy 10% of the 8 lakh hectares of land across Haryana.
    • The total cost of the project shall be Rs 1 crore.

    Read Also :Issue of Pension System in India

    Source: Indian Express

  • Role of National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being on India’s Biodiversity

    Synopsis: The pandemic has exposed the dysfunctional relationship between humanity and nature. The National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being will help India to restore that dysfunctional relationship.

    Background
    • Globally, there is a decline in biodiversity. Since 2000, 7% of intact forests have been lost.
    • Further, Climate change and the ongoing pandemic will add additional stresses to our natural ecosystems.
    • Protecting Biodiversity loss is critical for India’s development. Effective implementation of The National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being can safeguard and reclaim India’s Biodiversity
    Significance of Biodiversity

    India is home to nearly 8% of global biodiversity on just 2.3% of the global land area. India contains four of the 36 global biodiversity hotspots. The varied ecosystems across land, rivers, and oceans provide us with the following benefits

    • Food security
    • Enhanced public health security
    • Protection from environmental disasters.
    • Source of spiritual enrichment, catering to our physical and mental well-being.
    • The economic value provided by ecosystem services.

    Thus, preserving biodiversity is directly relevant to the social, economic, and environmental well-being of our people

    Significance of National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being (NMBHWB)
    • The mission was approved in 2018 by the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) in consultation with MoEF&CC and other Ministries.
    • The Mission will strengthen the science of restoring, conserving, and sustainably utilising India’s natural heritage.
    • It will enable biodiversity as a key consideration in all developmental programmes, particularly in agriculture, ecosystem services, health, bio-economy, and climate change mitigation.
    • It will establish a citizen and policy-oriented biodiversity information system.
    • The Mission will enhance capacity across all sectors for the realisation of India’s national biodiversity targets and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
    • Furthermore, it will allow India to emerge as a leader in demonstrating the linkage between the conservation of natural assets and societal well-being.
    • Above all, the Mission offers a holistic framework, integrated approaches, and widespread societal participation.

    Read Also :-Nutritional Security

    Effective implementation of the mission will benefit India in many ways
    • The Mission’s comprehensive efforts will empower India to restore, and even increase, our natural assets by millions of crores of rupees.
    • It will help in rejuvenating agricultural production systems and increase rural incomes from biodiversity-based agriculture.
    • It will also result in creating millions of green jobs in restoration and nature tourism.
      • For instance, Restoration activities across India’s degraded lands (1/3rd of our land area), alone could generate several million jobs.
    • The Mission will help India to meet its international commitments under the new framework for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and UN SDGs by facilitating poverty alleviation, justice and equity.
    • It will facilitate the creation of climate-resilient communities by offering nature-based solutions to numerous environmental challenges.
    • Further, it will aid in conservation and ecosystem management by gaining from the Scientific inputs related to geospatial informatics and policy.
    • More importantly, it has the potential to curtail future pandemics. Since, the mission encompasses the “One Health” Programme, integrating human health with animal, plant, soil and environmental health.
    Way forward

    To improve the results of the National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being further, India can implement the following suggestions. Such as

    • India needs to build an extensive cadre of human resources required to meet the enormous and complex environmental challenges of the 21st century.
    • Capacity building of professionals in sustainability and biodiversity science.
    • Investment in civil society outreach.
    • Public engagement, in the exploration, restoration and conservation of biodiversity, is critical.

    Source:  The Hindu

  • 186 Elephants killed by Trains in Over 10 Years: MoEFCC Data

    What is the News?

    Project Elephant Division of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has published data. It highlights the number of elephants killed by trains on railway tracks.

    Key Highlights from the Published data:
    • There was killing of a total of 186 elephants after being hit by trains across India between 2009-10 and 2020-21.
    • Assam accounts for the highest number of elephant casualties on railway tracks. It was followed by West Bengal, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh.
    •  In the year 2012-13, 27 elephants were killed in 10 States. It is the highest number of elephants killed in a year due to trains.
    Measures taken to avoid elephant casualties on railway lines:

     Permanent Coordination Committee to prevent elephant deaths by trains:

    • A Permanent Coordination Committee has been constituted between the Ministry of Railways(Railway Board) and the MoEFCC for preventing elephant deaths in train accidents.
    • Composition: The committee comprises officers from the Indian Railways and State Forest Departments.
    • Steps Taken: The committee has taken steps such as:
      • clearing of vegetation along railway tracks to enable clear view for loco pilots;
      • signage boards at suitable points to alert loco pilots about elephant presence;
      • moderating slopes of elevated sections of railway tracks; underpass/overpass for safe passage of elephants;
      • regulation of train speed from sunset to sunrise on vulnerable stretches; and
      • regular patrolling of vulnerable stretches of railway tracks by the frontline staff of the Forest Department and wildlife watchers.
    Funds released under Project Elephant:
    • The MoEFCC has released 212.49 crores between 2011-12 and 2020-21 to elephant range States under Project Elephant to:
      • Firstly, to protect habitats and corridors of elephants
      • Secondly, to address issues of man-elephant conflict and
      • Thirdly, to protect captive elephants.
    • Kerala stood at the top in getting funds during the above period. On the other hand, Punjab received the lowest of the funds.

    Source: The Hindu

     

  • “National Bamboo Mission” launches MIS module for Agarbatti industry

    What is the News?

    National Bamboo Mission has launched an MIS (Management Information Systems) based reporting platform for strengthening the domestic agarbatti industry.

    About MIS System for agarbatti industry:
    • MIS (Management Information Systems) has been launched to help collate data on
      • Agarbatti stick production,
      • The locations of stick making units,
      • Availability of raw material,
      • Functioning of the units, production capacity, marketing among others.
    About National Bamboo Mission:

     Background:

    • National Bamboo Mission(NBM) was initially started as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in 2006-07.
    • The mission was later subsumed under Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture(MIDH) during 2014-15 and continued till 2015-16.
    Restructured National Bamboo Mission:
    • The restructured National Bamboo Mission(NBM) was launched in 2018-19 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

    Objectives of the mission:

    • Firstly, to increase the area under bamboo plantation in non-forest Government and private lands. This is to supplement farm income and contribute towards resilience to climate change.
    • Secondly, to improve post-harvest management through the establishment of innovative primary processing units. These units were particularly located near the source of production, primary treatment, and seasoning plants, and market infrastructure.
    • Thirdly, to promote product development at micro, small and medium levels and feed bigger industry.
    • Fourthly, to rejuvenate the underdeveloped bamboo industry in India.
    • Fifthly, to promote skill development, capacity building, awareness generation for the development of the bamboo sector.
    • Lastly, to re-align efforts to reduce dependency on the import of bamboo and bamboo products.
    Key Features of the mission:
    • Firstly, Hub and Spoke Model: The Mission is being implemented in a hub (industry) and spoke model. The main goal is to connect farmers to markets. This enables farmers to get a ready market for the bamboo.
    • Secondly, Subsidy: Under the mission, a direct subsidy of 50% is given to farmers at Rs 1.00 lakh per ha. The Direct subsidy is provided 100% to Government agencies. There is also a subsidy for entrepreneurs to set up various product development units.
    • Thirdly, Implementation: The Mission is presently implemented by 21 States. This includes all the 9 States of the North Eastern Region(NER). In NER the Mission is implemented through the respective State Bamboo Missions.

    Source: PIB


     

    Government Schemes and Programs

  • EAC Recommends the Great Nicobar Development Plan for EIA Study

    Synopsis: The Environment Appraisal Committee has recommended the  Great Nicobar Development plan for grant of terms of reference for EIA studies. The committee also flagged a few critical concerns.

    Introduction 

    The Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) had raised serious concerns about NITI Aayog’s ambitious project for the Great Nicobar Development plan. However, the EAC has also recommended the plan for a term of reference (TOR) for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies. 

    About the NITI Aayog’s Great Nicobar Development plan:

    NITI Aayog developed a ‘Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island at Andaman and Nicobar Islands’ plan. 

    The plan proposal includes construction of the following,

    • An international container trans-shipment terminal,
    • A greenfield international airport,
    • A power plant and a township complex spread over 166 sq. km
    • Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO) will be the nodal agency for the implementation of the Great Nicobar Development plan.

    A Gurugram-based consulting agency, Aecom India Private Limited, prepared the ‘pre-feasibility report of the Great Nicobar Development plan for NITI Aayog. The report mentioned the implementation of the plan will require an estimated cost of ₹ 75,000 crores.

    About the Environment Appraisal Committee:
    • A 15 member EAC headed by a marine biologist and former director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Deepak Apte was formed to study the pre-feasibility report.
    • Recently, the EAC made their decision and uploaded the documents on the MoEFCC’s Parivesh portal.
    • In that, it recommended the plan for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies.
    • Apart from that, the committee also raises few concerns with the plan.
    What were the concerns of the committee?

    The committee held two meetings one in March and the other in April. During that, it raises both technical and practical concerns. There was a delay in the discussion of the March meeting because of the incomplete submission of documents.

    1. The incomplete information includes the details of the township, information on seismic and tsunami risks, freshwater requirement details for projects and settlements, etc. Apart from that, the impact on the Giant Leatherback turtle was also incomplete.
      • After the completion of projects, the expectation are that nearly 6.5 lakh people will live on the island. The current population is only 8,500 on Great Nicobar. The current total population of the entire island chain is less than 4.5 lakh.
    2. The committee also pointed that there were no details of chopping off the trees. 130 sq. km. of the project area has some of the finest tropical forests in India. Hence, the numbers of chopped trees could run into millions.
    3. The committee asked for details of the corporate environment policy of the implementing agency. Similarly, the EAC also asks whether the company has an environmental policy, a prescribed standard operating procedure to deal with environmental and forest violations.
    4. AECOM’s pre-feasibility report has proposed 2022-23 for the start of work on the site. However, one year is not enough if the government and project proponents follow the EAC’s recommendations in letter and spirit. 
    5. Galathea Bay of Great Nicobar forms the centrepiece of the NITI Aayog proposal. The Plan aims to construct a port in Galathea Bay. But, this has a number of issues in the plan.
      • Firstly, ecological surveys have reported a number of new species, many restricted to just the Galathea region. These include the critically endangered Nicobar shrew, the Great Nicobar crake, the Nicobar frog etc. These are not mentioned in AECOM’s pre-feasibility report.
      • Secondly, the beaches at the mouth of the river Galathea in South Bay are among the most prominent nesting sites of Giant leatherback turtles.
      • Thirdly, the EAC highlighted that the site selection for the port had been done on technical and financial criteria. The environmental aspects were ignored.
      • Fourthly, so the EAC has asked for an independent evaluation for the aptness of the proposed port site with a specific focus on Leatherback Turtle.
    6. At present, the ANIIDCO is involved in activities such as tourism, trading and infrastructure development for tourism and fisheries. Its annual turnover for 2018-19 was ₹ 379 crore. But to manage the infrastructure project valued to cost ₹75,000 crore is way beyond its capacity.
    Action points suggested by the Environment Appraisal Committee:

    More than 100 specific points of action are listed out by the committee. The important ones include, 

    1. The need for an independent assessment of terrestrial and marine biodiversity
    2. A study on the impact of dredging, recovery and port operations, including oil spills.
    3. Analysis of risk-handling capabilities and a disaster management plan.
    4. Details of labour, labour camps and their requirements.
    5. The need for studies of alternative sites for the port with a focus on environmental and ecological impact
    6. Conducting a hydro-geological study to assess the impact on ground and surface water regimes. 

    Source: The Hindu

  • ZSI research helps in categorising “Indian and Chinese Pangolin” scales

    What is the News?

    Researchers at the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Kolkata have developed tools to differentiate the scales of Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) and Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla).

    About the Research:
    • The researchers characterised the morphological features of the Indian and Chinese Pangolin.
    • They also investigated genetic variations between the two species. The researchers investigated this by sequencing 624 scales of pangolins. After sequencing, they compared the sequences with all eight pangolin species.
    • Based on the size, shape, weight and ridge counts on the scales, the team was able to categorise the difference between the Indian and Chinese Pangolin.
    Difference between Indian and Chinese Pangolin:

    Indian vs Chinese Pangolin

    Source: The Hindu

    • The Chinese Pangolin has smaller scales compared to the Indian pangolin.
    • A terminal scale is present on the lower side of the tail in the Indian Pangolin. But the terminal scale is absent in the Chinese Pangolin.
    • The dry weight of the scales from one Chinese pangolin is roughly about 500 to 700 grams. However, in the case of Indian pangolin, it goes up from 1.5 kg to 1.8 kg.
    Significance of this research:
    • The wildlife officers during the confiscation of Pangolin scales can just weigh and estimate how many pangolins might have been killed.
    • These findings will also helpful for law enforcement agencies to identify the pangolin species on the spot during large seizures.
    About Pangolin:
    • Firstly, Pangolins are scaly anteater mammals of the order Pholidota. They have large, protective keratin scales covering their skin. They are the only known mammals on earth to have this feature.
    • Secondly, Pangolins in India: Out of the eight species of pangolin, the Indian Pangolin and the Chinese Pangolin are found in India.
    • Thirdly, Indian Pangolin:
      • Distribution of Indian Pangolin is wide in India, except in the arid region, high Himalayas and the North-East. The species also occurs in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
      • IUCN Status: Endangered
      • Wildlife Protection Act,1972: under Schedule I.
    • Fourthly, Chinese Pangolin:
      • Distribution of Pangolins happen widely in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and the northeastern part of India.
      • IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
      • Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Under Schedule I
    • Fifthly, Threats:
      • Between 2000 and 2019, an estimate of about 8.9 lakh pangolins was trafficked globally. This mainly involved Asian and African pangolins. This has led to a drastic decline of the species.
      • Traditional East Asian medicines also use the Pangolins scale. So, Pangolins are killed for their scales.
      • All this has led to an estimated illegal trade worth $2.5 billion every year.

    Click Here to Read more about Pangolins

     Source: The Hindu


    Wildlife Crime Control Bureau(WCCB)

  • GOA Infra Project Red Flagged- Key Findings and Recommendation by the CEC Panel

    Synopsis – The Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) recommended changes to the rail track doubling project in GOA.  The project would have destroyed the fragile ecosystem of Western Ghats.

    Introduction –
    • The Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (SC-NBWL) gave clearance to linear infrastructure projects within the boundaries of Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park in Goa.
    • The Goa Foundation filed an application against this decision before SC -CEC.
    • The CEC examined the proposal cleared by the SC-NBWL for the three linear projects in Goa —
      • Doubling of railway tracks.
      • Four laning of a nationwide freeway.
      • Goa Tanmar Transmission Project.
    • These Projects included the diversion of about 170 hectares of forest land and sanctuary land, and the felling of an estimated 37,000 trees. It was impacting the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary (BMWS) and Mollem National Park (MNP) in Goa [Western Ghats].
    What are the key findings by the CEC panel?
    • Environment impact- The project will destroy the Western Ghats ecosystem, which is one of the country’s most valuable wildlife corridors. It is also a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot.
    • Not justifiable- The doubling of railway tracks will only marginally enhance the capacity of the most inefficient section of the railway network.
      • The estimate by the railways is not based on facts, despite the change in policy on the import of coal.
    • Difficulty in animal movement- The wider openings through the Western Ghats will further fragment the habitat and will make the movement of wildlife across the railway line much more difficult and dangerous.
      • The width of underpasses/overpasses in the proposal, providing for the free movement of wildlife animals, was also inadequate.
    What are the recommendations by the CEC panel?

    Following are the recommendations by the apex court-appointed panel –

    • Revocation of approval granted by SC-NBWL for doubling of the railway tracks that run through the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats.
    • Re-alignment of the Goa Tamnar Transmission Project: The CEC also recommended redrawing and modify the alignment for Goa Tamnar power transmission project, this will help in-
      • Protecting forest cover in order to make way for the 400 KV line.
      • Protecting wildlife- The CEC suggested an elevated structure at strategic locations leaving the surface terrain free for movement of all types of wildlife.
    • Furthermore, the project of making four lanes of existing NH-4A needs to obtain environment clearance [EC] under Environment Impact Assessment notification, 2006.
    Conclusion

    The implementation of recommendations in the proposal would be beneficial. It would aid in the conservation of the valuable forest cover and wildlife in the ecologically fragile and biodiversity-rich Western Ghats.

    Source – The Indian Express

  • Government inaugurates “The Hydrogen Economy – New Delhi Dialogue 2021”
    What is the News?

    The Union Minister inaugurated The Hydrogen Economy – New Delhi Dialogue 2021.

    About Hydrogen Economy – New Delhi Dialogue 2021:
    • The Energy Forum(TEF), an independent think tank in India in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Petroleum Industry(FIPI), is organizing New Delhi Dialogue 2021. FIPI is under the patronage of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
    • Aim: The dialogue aims to discuss emerging hydrogen ecosystems and further explore opportunities for collaboration, cooperation, and coalition.
    • The dialogue will comprise a High-level Ministerial Session, which would be followed by a panel discussion by eminent policymakers. The dialogue focus on policy roadmaps and mapping the demand and supply of Hydrogen.
    About National Hydrogen Energy Mission:
    • The Union Budget for 2021-22 has announced a National Hydrogen Energy Mission(NHM). The mission will draw a road map for using hydrogen as an energy source.
    • The mission will focus on the generation of hydrogen from green power resources.

    Click Here to Read about Hydrogen as a Fuel

     Source: PIB

     

  • “Indian Rhino Vision 2020” – Last 2 Rhinos Translocated


    What is the News?

    Indian Rhino Vision 2020(IRV 2020) came to an end with the release of two rhinos. An adult male and a female rhino transported to Assam’s Manas National Park from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary about 185 km east.

    Indian Rhino Vision Plan 2020:
    • Indian Rhino Vision Plan 2020 was launched in 2005.
    • Vision: The vision of IRV is to:
      • Increase the Rhino Population in Assam from about 2000 to 3000 by 2020.
      • Ensure that one-horned rhinos are spread over seven protected areas in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.
    • Seven Protected Areas: The seven protected areas are Kaziranga, Pobitora, Orang National Park, Manas National Park, Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary, Burachapori wildlife sanctuary, and Dibru Saikhowa wildlife sanctuary.
    • Implementation: The Department of Environment and Forest, Assam in partnership with Bodo Autonomous Council implemented the plan.
    • Supported by:  WWF India, WWF areas (Asian Rhino and Elephant action strategy) program, the international rhino Foundation(IRF), US fish and wildlife service, and others support the plan.
    Achievements of Indian Rhino Vision Plan 2020:
    • The Indian Rhino Vision Plan 2020 has likely achieved its target of attaining a population of 3,000 rhinos in Assam.
    • However, the plan to spread the one-horned rhinos across four protected areas beyond Kaziranga National Park, Orang National Park, and Pobitora could not materialize.
    Reasons for the launching of the Indian Rhino Vision plan:
    • Assam had at least five rhino-bearing areas till the 1980s. Better conservation efforts helped maintain the population of the one-horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga, Orange and Pobitora National Parks.
    • But the encroachment and poaching wiped out the one-horned rhinos from Manas and Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary.
    • This led to the Manas National Park (known for the near-extinction of the pygmy hog) losing the World Heritage Site tag it received in 1985 along with Kaziranga from UNESCO.
    • However, the translocated rhinos helped Manas National Park get back its World Heritage Site status in 2011.

    Source: The Hindu

  • UN observes “International Day of Forests”
    What is the News?

    The United Nations observes March 21 as the International Day of Forests.

    About International Day of Forests:
    • The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 21 as the International Day of Forests (IDF) in 2012.
    • Aim: The day celebrates and raises awareness about the importance of all types of forests.
    • Celebrated by: The United Nations Forum on Forests and the Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO) celebrates the day. The celebrations happen in collaboration with governments, Collaborative Partnership on Forests(CPF), and other relevant organisations in the field.
    • On this day, the UN encourages the countries to undertake local, national, and international activities for forests and trees. For example tree-planting campaigns.
    • The theme for 2021: “Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being”.
    Forest cover in India
    • Since Independence, one-fifth of India’s land has consistently been under forests. This is significant as the population increased more than three times at the same time.
    • According to the biennial State of Forest Report,2019, India’s forest cover increased by 3,976 Sq. km or 0.56% since 2017.
    • In 2017, the tree and forest cover together made up 24.39%. At present, it is raised to 25.56% of India’s area.
    • The top three states showing an increase in forest cover are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala.
    • However, the sharpest decline in forest cover was seen in the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Mizoram.

    Click Here to Read more about State of Forest Report 2019

    About United Nations Forum on Forests:
    • Established by: Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC).
    • Objective: To promote the management, conservation, and sustainable development of all types of forests. Further, It aims to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end.
    • Membership: The Forum has universal membership, and is composed of all Member States of the United Nations and specialized agencies.
    • Headquarters: New York, United States.

    About Collaborative Partnership on Forests(CPF):

    • It is an informal, voluntary arrangement among 15 international organizations and secretariats. These organizations run substantial programs on forests.
    • Purpose: The mission of the CPF is to help enhance the contribution of all types of forests and trees outside forests. It aims to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other internationally agreed development goals.

    Source: Indian Express

  • The first “Inter-State Tiger Relocation Project” Suspended
    What is the News?

    The first inter-state tiger relocation project has been suspended.

    About the First Tiger Relocation Project:
    •  The National Tiger Conservation Authority(NTCA) launched the first Tiger Relocation Project in 2018.
    • Under the Project, two tigers a male (Mahavir) from Kanha Tiger Reserve and a female (Sundari) from Bandhavgarh from MP, were relocated to Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Odisha.

    Why Relocation of Tigers? The relocation serves two purposes:

    1. To reduce the tiger population in areas with excess tigers to majorly reduce territorial disputes
    2. To reintroduce tigers in areas where the population has considerably reduced due to various reasons.
    About Satkosia Tiger Reserve, and why was it chosen for Relocation?
    • Satkosia Tiger Reserve comprises two adjoining sanctuaries of central Odisha named Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary and Baisipalli Sanctuary.
    • The reserve lies in a transitional zone extending between the Chhota Nagpur Plateau and the Deccan Plateau.
    • Satkosia was declared as a Tiger Reserve in 2007. It had a population of 12 tigers then. However, the numbers reduced to two in 2018.
    • Hence, the purpose of the relocation was to repopulate tigers in the reserve areas. Also, Satkosia was found to fall under reserves where there is a potential for increasing tiger populations.

    Why has then the Tiger Relocation Project suspended? The project got suspended due to the following reasons:

    • Protests by villagers living on the sidelines of the forest as they felt that their lives and livestocks were endangered.
    • Lack of confidence and trust-building between the forest department and the villagers.
    • One of the tigers, Mahavir was found dead and a field inspection report claimed poaching as the cause of death.
    • Further, the tigress Sundari was blamed for the death of a woman and another person. Hence, the tigress Sundari was then tranquilized and was shifted.
    • Following this, the National Tiger Conservation Authority(NTCA) suspended the first tiger relocation project.

    Source: Indian Express

     

  • NITI Aayog’s Great Nicobar Development plan – Explained, Pointwise
    Introduction

    NITI Aayog’s  Great Nicobar Development plan aims to promote the holistic development of Greater Nicobar. Based on that, the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) denotified the entire Galathea Bay Wildlife Sanctuary for building port and other related infrastructure.

    This would facilitate the realization of NITI Aayog’s master plan for the development of the great Nicobar island. However, experts have expressed concern that this rapid development can lead to disastrous consequences.

    Background
    • The Island Development Agency(IDA) was constituted in 2017 under the aegis of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The IDA looks into the holistic development of islands.
      • Home Minister of India is its chairman. CEO of NITI Aayog acts as its convener.
      • The other members of IDA include Secretary- Tourism, Tribal affairs, the Home Secretary, Secretary Ministry of Environment, and Cabinet secretary.
    • NITI Aayog has been mandated with the task to steer the holistic development of the islands sustainably. The program aims to attain sustainable development in the identified Islands without damaging the pristine biodiversity.
    • In this regard, the NITI Aayog came up with a Great Nicobar Development plan.
    Information about Great Nicobar Island

    • Great Nicobar is the southernmost and largest of the Nicobar Islands of India. The island of Sumatra has located 180 km to the south of Great Nicobar. It has an area of about 1045 sq. km.
    • According to the 2011 census, it has a population of about 8,069. The island is home to one of the most primitive tribes of India — the Shompens.
    • The island includes the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve (GNBR) comprising the Galathea National Park and the Campbell Bay National Park.
    • Indira Point in the Great Nicobar Island is the southernmost point of India’s territory.
    Current Scenario
    • The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) denotified the entire Galathea Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. 
      • The sanctuary is one of the ‘Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas’. Further, it is also an ‘Important Marine Turtle Habitats’ in the country as per National Marine Turtle Action Plan. 
    • Another Environment Ministry expert committee approved a “zero extent” Ecologically Sensitive Zone (ESZ) for the Galathea National Park. This would allow the use of land in the south-eastern and south-western parts of the island for the Great Nicobar Development plan. 
    About the Great Nicobar Development plan
    • Firstly, The overall Great Nicobar Development plan envisages the use of about 244 sq. km. region for development purposes.
    • Secondly, Phase 1 of the plan will cover:
      • 22 sq. km. airport complex, 
      • Transshipment port (TSP) at South Bay 
      • Parallel-to-the-coast mass rapid transport system and 
      • Free trade zone and warehousing complex on the southwestern coast.  
    • Thirdly, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO) will be the nodal agency for the implementation of the Great Nicobar Development plan.
    Significance of the Great Nicobar Development plan
    1. Job opportunities for locals: The plan involves the creation of infrastructure (ports, airports, etc.). This will help in creating satisfactory jobs for the locals.
    2. Economic Development: It will help in creating tourism prospects in the region. This will aid the income generation in the region. 
      • The per capita income in Andaman & Nicobar Islands for the year 2015-16 was Rs. 1,24,361. This was much lower than the per-capita income of other Union Territories (Chandigarh, Delhi, and Puducherry.)
    3. Connectivity: The development of world-class infrastructure will help in improving inter-island connectivity. Thereby, improving governance and boosting export potential.
    4. Social Benefits: It would further create affordable state-of-the-art facilities for healthcare, quality education, and adequate air, sea and web infrastructure.
      • It will facilitate the delivery of e-governance services such as telemedicine and tele-education, as a part of the Digital India initiative.
    5. Strategic benefit: The Nicobar island located in proximity to the strait of Malacca. This demands the creation of robust infrastructure for meeting geopolitical interests in the region.
      • The islands are also home to India’s only tri-services command – the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC). 
      • The command holds immense relevance due to rising Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific region. 
    Concerns with the Great Nicobar Development plan
    1. Firstly, a threat to biodiversity: Any construction in the region threaten the survival of certain important organisms. Such as,
      • The beaches at the mouth of the river Galathea in South Bay are among the most prominent nesting sites of Giant leatherback turtles.
      • Similarly, 90% of the Nicobar megapode’s nesting sites are within a distance of 30 m from the shore.
    2. Secondly, jeopardizing environment for economics: Galathea sanctuary lies in Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)-I (the zone with maximum protection). But still, a slew of high-value projects got precedence over the pristine biodiversity.
    3. Thirdly, neglecting tribal rights: The proposed project areas are important grounds for the hunter-gatherer nomadic community especially Shompen. Initiation of work would make large forest areas inaccessible and useless for the Shompen.
    4. Fourthly, geological volatility: Andaman & Nicobar Islands are located in seismic zone V. Further,  The Andaman & Nicobar observe frequent storms and cyclones. This can easily destroy constructed structures.
      • For instance, In 2004 Tsunami caused a 3-4  metre land subsidence. This is the reason for the submergence of a lighthouse located at Indira point.
    5. Fifthly, undermining international obligations: The Galathea Bay Wildlife Sanctuary forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So preservation of this pristine biodiversity is an International Obligation of India. 
    6. And lastly, information Deficit: The rationale, process of creation, and other relevant provisions of the plan are still not publicly available. 
    Suggestions
    1. Firstly, the work must be carried out with due regard to tribal rights. This would involve proper adherence to policies like the Shompen Policy of 2015. 
      • The Shompen Policy of 2015 calls for giving priority to tribal rights over large scale development proposals.
    2. Secondly, any construction under the Great Nicobar Development plan should involve a proper Environment impact assessment (as mandated by the Environment Protection Act 1986). This will make development more feasible. Further, It will minimise the threat of excessive environmental degradation.
    3. Thirdly, construction of infrastructure should be done using eco-friendly practices like strict adherence to GRIHA code for building construction.
      • GRIHA means Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment. It is the National Rating System of India. 
      • It has been conceived by TERI and developed jointly with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India.
    4. Fourthly, NITI Aayog and the agencies participating in planning should maintain transparency in data. The government should release the data on the rationale, the process of creation, consulted groups etc. in public domain. This will give a holistic view to critics and supporters.
    5. Finally, India should enhance Cooperation with countries like Japan, South Korea etc. This will help in developing successful island development models.   
    Conclusion

    India needs to achieve the Vision of “Happy and Prosperous Islanders on ecologically-protected Islands”. To achieve that, India needs to adopt development plans that are technically feasible, economically profitable and socially acceptable.

     

  • Parliamentary Standing Committee report on Environment Ministry

    What is the news?

    The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment, Forests and Climate Change chaired by a Rajya Sabha member has tabled its report. The report demands more grants to the Environment ministry.

    What were the key highlights of the report?

    On Budget allocation for Environment Ministry:

    • In Budget 2020-21, Government has reduced the revised budgetary estimates for the Environment Ministry by 35% due to adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has resulted in the non-release of funds for the proposed schemes.
    • Moreover, the budget estimates for the Environment Ministry are the lowest in the last three years. The ministry requires additional funds of Rs 900 crore to carry out its programs.

    On Measures needed to Control Air Pollution:

    • Central Mechanism: The control of pollution projects is carried out by different agencies at the Centre and by state governments. Hence, a central mechanism should be set up to monitor all central and state agencies.
    • Capacity Building exercises should be undertaken at the municipal level to ensure proper implementation of the National Clean Air Programme(NCAP).
    • The government should allocate grants based on the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission. It recommended for the installations of air quality monitoring systems in smaller cities and towns.
    • Invest in Infrastructure: Government should invest in setting up infrastructure for pollution abatement measures. It includes installing superchargers for electric vehicles, establishing effective microorganism bio-digester units for waste treatment and biogas production in urban areas.

    Other Key Findings and suggestions:

    • Man Animal Conflict: Ministry of Environment should take measures to minimise man-animal conflicts.
    • Low Expenditure on Conservation and Development: The committee has expressed concern over low expenditure on R&D in Conservation and Development. The ministry has spent 16.3%, 35.8%, and 23.5% of its allocated amount in the last three years.

    Source: Indian Express

  • “Miyawaki method” to create dense green patches

    What is the News?

    Bombay Municipal Corporation(BMC) has been using the Miyawaki method to create tiny urban forests in the Metropolitan areas of Mumbai.

    What is the Miyawaki Method?
    • Miyawaki is an afforestation method based on the work of Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki in the 1980s.

    Process of Miyawaki Method:

    • Initially, native trees of the region are identified and divided into four layers — shrub, sub-tree, tree, and canopy.
    • After that, The quality of soil is analysed and biomass is mixed with it. Biomass mixing help to enhance the perforation capacity, water retention capacity, and nutrients.
    • A mound is built with the soil and the seeds are planted at a very high density. Furthermore, the ground is covered with a thick layer of mulch.
    • Multi-layered saplings are planted close to each other. This blocks sunlight from reaching the ground and prevents weeds from growing. It also keeps the soil moist.
    • The close cropping also ensures that the plants receive sunlight only from the top. It enables them to grow upwards rather than sideways.
    Benefits of Miyawaki Method:
    • Faster Process and Dense Forest: This method creates mini forests. They grow 10 times faster and become 30 times denser and 100 times more biodiverse than those planted through conventional methods.
    • Faster Regeneration of Land: Miyawaki forests are designed to regenerate land in far less time. It takes over 70 years for a forest to recover on its own.
    • Self Sustainable: The saplings become self-sustainable after the first three years.
    • Environmental Benefits: These mini forests help lower temperatures in concrete heat islands, reduce air and noise pollution, attract local birds and insects, and create carbon sinks.

    Source: Indian Express

     

    Anthropology Syllabus

  • “Swachhta Saarthi Fellowship”

    What is the News?
    The Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India has launched the Swachhta Saarthi Fellowship.

    About Swachhta Saarthi Fellowship:

    • The fellowship was launched by the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser under the “Waste to Wealth” Mission.
    • Aim: To recognize students, community workers or Self-Help Groups (SHG), and municipal or sanitary workers engaged in tackling the enormous challenge of waste management, scientifically and sustainably.  Up to 500 fellows will be recognised under this fellowship initiative.

    Eligibility Criteria: There are three categories of awards under the Swachhta Saarthi Fellowship. Each category has included a few specific sections. They can apply for the fellowship and get awards. They are,

    • Category-A: School students from 9th to 12th standards engaged in waste management community work.
    • Category-B: College/University/Institution students belongs to UG, PG & Research engaged in waste management community work.
    • Category-C: Individual Citizens working in the community can apply in this category. Apart from that, Persons working through SHGs, municipal or sanitary workers working beyond the specifications of their job requirement/descriptions can also apply.

    Significance of Swachhta Saarthi Fellowship initiative:

    • This initiative will encourage interested students and citizens to continuously engage in their attempts to reduce wastes in cities and rural areas.

    Waste To Wealth Mission:

    • The Waste to Wealth Mission is one of the nine national missions of the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC).
    • Aim: To identify, develop, and deploy technologies to treat waste and generate energy, recycle materials and extract value from waste.
    • The mission is the “scientific arm” of the Swachh Bharat Mission.
    • Objectives of the Waste To Wealth Mission:
      • To support the development of new technologies that can help create a cleaner and greener environment.
      • To boost and augment the Swachh Bharat Mission and Smart Cities Project by leveraging science, technology and innovation.
      • To create circular economic models that are financially viable for waste management.
      • To streamline waste handling in India.
    • Significance: The benefits of effective waste management is huge. As it is predicted that India has the potential to generate 3GW of electricity from waste by 2050.

    Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Government of India:

    • It was set-up in 1999 by the Cabinet Secretariat. It is currently a Secretary level position.
    • Mandate: It is the chief advisor to the government on matters related to scientific policy. The policies will focus on critical infrastructure, economic and social sectors.
    • PM-STIAC: It is an overarching council. The Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) is the chairman of the council. The council will perform functions such as,
      • Assess the status of specific S&T domains
      • Comprehends challenges in S&T domains
      • Formulates immediate, mid and long term interventions and presents a roadmap to the Prime Minister.

    Source: AIR

    [Answered]“Protection of Privacy is must in the age of rising cyber crimes.” In light of this critically examine salient features of the ‘Data Protection Bill, 2019’.

  • What is Carbon Watch App?

    What is the news?

    Chandigarh becomes the first state or Union Territory in India to launch Carbon Watch App. It is a mobile application to assess the carbon footprint of an individual.

    About Carbon Watch App:

    • The app allows users to assess their carbon footprint. It also suggests ways to reduce Carbon Footprint.
      • Carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gas (especially carbon dioxide) released into the atmosphere by particular human activity.
    • The application can be downloaded through a QR code in Android-supported smart cell phones.

    How does the app work? When a person downloads the application, they will need to fill details in 4 parts:

    1. Water category: The person requires providing data about the consumption of water.
    2. Energy category: The person needs to enter the details regarding the electricity units consumed every month at the house.
    3. Waste category: The individual needs to inform about the waste generated by her/him and family.
    4. Transport Category: The individual will provide data about the mode of transport used i.e. – four-wheeler, two-wheeler, or bicycle.

    Solutions provided by the Carbon Watch App:

    • The mobile application will automatically calculate the carbon footprint of the individual and suggest ways to reduce it.
      • For instance, if a user says they usually travel in a car, the app would suggest taking public transport or a bicycle.
    • It will also provide information such as the national and world average of the emission.

    Source: Indian Express

  • “Giant Leatherback Turtle” nesting sites threatened by Andamans development project

    What is the News?
    In the Andaman and Nicobar(A&N) Islands tourism and port development projects are under the proposal. However, it is threatening some of the most important nesting populations of the “Giant Leatherback turtle”.

    Giant Leatherback turtle

    • Giant Leatherback turtles are named for their shell. Their shells are leather-like rather than hard, like other turtles.
    • They are the largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet and also the most long-ranging.
    • Found in: They are found in all oceans except the Arctic and the Antarctic.
    • IUCN Status: Vulnerable
    • India’s Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Schedule I

    Characteristics:

    • Nesting: In the Indian Ocean, their nesting sites are only in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
      • Further, the surveys conducted in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are of the view that it could be among the most important colonies of the Leatherback globally.
    • Uniqueness: Leatherbacks have been viewed as unique among extant reptiles. They are able to maintain high body temperatures using metabolically generated heat.
    • Swimming Pattern: A project was set up at West Bay in A&N islands to monitor the leatherback turtle. It has been found that the numbers of females turtle nesting here are significant. After that, they swim towards the western coast of Australia and southwest towards the eastern coast of Africa.

    Concerns:

    • Nesting Beaches under Threat: At least three key nesting beaches are under threat due to mega-development plans. Two of these are on Little Andaman Island and one on Great Nicobar Island.
      • NITI Aayog has set an ambitious tourism vision for Little Andaman. It also proposed a mega-shipment port at Galathea Bay on Great Nicobar Island.
    • Tourism in Little Andaman: For the implementation of this plan, NITI Aayog has sought the de-reservation of over 200 sq km of pristine rainforest. And about 140 sq km of the Onge Tribal Reserve. These two sites are key nesting sites.

    National Marine Turtle Action Plan:

    • Released by: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
    • The plan notes that India has identified all its important sea turtle nesting habitats as ‘Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas’ and included them in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) – 1.
    • South Bay and West Bay on Little Andaman and Galathea on Great Nicobar find a specific mention as “Important Marine Turtle Habitats in India”.
    • The plan also identifies coastal development, including the construction of ports, jetties, resorts and industries, as major threats to turtle populations. It also asks for assessments of the environmental impact of marine and coastal development that may affect marine turtle populations and their habitats.

    Source: The Hindu

  • PCRA launches ‘SAKSHAM’ campaign for green and clean energy awareness

    News: Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) has launched a month-long campaign “SAKSHAM”.

    Facts:

    • SAKSHAM: It is a people-centric fuel conservation mega campaign that aims to highlight the adverse health and environmental impacts of increasing carbon footprints. The idea is to convince consumers to switch to cleaner fuels and bring in behavioral change to use fossil fuel intelligently.
    • Campaign: The campaign through various pan-India activities such as cyclothon, farmer workshops, seminars, painting competition, CNG vehicle driving contest will spread awareness among masses about the advantages of using clean fuels.
    • Seven Key Drivers: The campaign will also spread awareness about 7 key drivers that the Prime Minister mentioned saying that collectively these would help India move towards cleaner energy.
      • The key drivers include 1) moving towards a gas-based economy, 2) cleaner use of fossil fuels 3) greater reliance on domestic sources to drive biofuels 4) achieving renewable targets with the set deadlines 5) increased use of electric vehicles to decarbonize mobility 6)increased use of cleaner fuels like Hydrogen and 7) digital innovation across all energy systems.

    Additional Facts:

    • PCRA: It is a registered society set up under the aegis of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
    • Objective: As a non-profit organization, PCRA is a national government agency engaged in promoting energy efficiency in various sectors of the economy.
    • Functions: It helps the government in proposing policies and strategies for petroleum conservation aimed at reducing excessive dependence of the country on oil requirements.

    Article source

     

  • Government released Management Effectiveness Evaluation Report for protected areas

    News: Union Environment Minister has released Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of 146 National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.

    Facts:

    What is Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE)?

    • Management Effectiveness Evaluation(MEE) tool is increasingly being used by governments and international bodies to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the protected area management systems.
    • It is defined as the assessment of how well National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries are being managed—primarily, whether they are protecting their values and achieving the goals and objectives agreed upon.
    • Indicators: There are 30 ”Headline Indicators” developed under six elements of MEE framework suitable in Indian context for evaluation. The ratings are assigned in four categories, as Poor – upto 40%; Fair – 41 to 59%; Good – 60 to 74%; Very Good – 75% and above.
    • What was the need of this tool? At present, India has a network of 903 protected areas covering about five per cent of the total geographic area of the country. India also has 70% of the global tiger population, 70% of Asiatic lions and more than 60% of leopards global population. Hence, in order to assess the efficacy of protected areas, evaluation of management effectiveness is required.
    • Results:
      • The results of the present assessment are encouraging with an overall mean MEE score of 62.01% which is higher than the global mean of 56%.
      • Jaldapara national park (West Bengal), Raiganj wildlife sanctuary (West Bengal), Sainj Wildlife Sanctuary (Himachal Pradesh), Tirthan wildlife sanctuary(Himachal Pradesh) and Great Himalayan national park (Himachal Pradesh) have been declared as top five national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India.
      • Turtle Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh was the worst performer in the survey.

    Other Initiatives launched:

    • MEE of Marine Protected Areas: A new framework for MEE of Marine Protected Areas has been also jointly prepared by Wildlife Institute of India(WII) and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
    • Management Effectiveness Evaluation of Indian Zoos(MEE-ZOO): It is a framework which proposes guidelines, criteria and indicators for evaluation of zoos of the country through Management Effectiveness Evaluation Process(MEE-ZOO) in a manner which is discrete, holistic and independent.
      • The assessment criteria and indicators look beyond the traditional concepts including issues of animal welfare, husbandry and sustainability of resources and finance.

    Article Source

    To read about Protected Areas(PA) Networks: https://blog.forumias.com/all-about-protected-area-networks/

     

  • Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of the Ecosystem Services (NCAVES) India Forum-2021

    News: Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation(MoSPI) is organising the Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of the Ecosystem Services (NCAVES) India Forum-2021.

    Facts:

    • NCAVES India Forum: It is being organized by MoSPI in collaboration with the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), European Union and UN Environment.
    • Objectives: The objectives of the National Forum would be:
      • To present India’s achievements in the domain of Natural Capital Accounting (NCA);
      • To prioritize the emerging opportunities for NCA in India;
      • To familiarize stakeholders with the work undertaken by the different international agencies in the area of NCA and
      • To provide a platform to selected Research Institutions to present their research conducted in the valuation of ecosystem services.

    What is NCAVES Project?

    • The project has been launched by the United Nations Statistics Division, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the European Union.
    • Aim: To assist the five participating partner countries, namely Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, to advance the knowledge agenda on environmental-economic accounting, in particular ecosystem accounting.
    • Funding and Duration: The project is funded by the European Union(EU) and will have a duration until the end of 2021.
    • Implementation of Project in India: In India, the NCAVES project is being implemented by the MoSPI in close collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and the National Remote Sensing Centre(NRSC).

    Significance of NCAVES Project for India:

    • EnviStats India: The participation in the project has helped MOSPI commence the compilation of the Environment Accounts as per the UN-SEEA framework and release environmental accounts in its publication “EnviStats India” on an annual basis since 2018.
    • India-EVL Tool: The project has also helped India develop the India-EVL Tool which is essentially a look-up tool giving a snapshot of the values of various ecosystem services in the different States of the country based on about 80 studies conducted across the country.
      • An additional benefit of this tool is that it provides a critical view on the literature that is available and the applicability of estimates spatially across India according to bio-geographical areas.

    Article Source

     

  • First tiger translocation occurred in Uttarakhand

    Source: The Indian Express

    News: Rajaji Tiger Reserve is set to welcome the first tiger from Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve in the first such relocation in Uttarakhand aimed at tiger population management.

    Facts:

    Why translocations of tigers needed?

    • The western portion of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, which occupies more than 60% of the total reserve area has only two tigresses presumed to be unfit for reproduction as they are above 18 years.
    • Despite Rajaji having 37 tigers, the eastern part cannot boost numbers in the western portion as the two are divided by a traffic corridor which makes it difficult for the big cats to migrate.
    • Hence, with this relocation, a rise in tiger numbers can be expected in the western part next year.

    Additional Facts:

    • Jim Corbett National Park: It was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park- the first national park in India.It is located in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand. The Corbett national park has highest tiger count from single reserve in the recent Tiger census(carried once in 4 years)
      • The park was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1973- the first to come under the Project Tiger initiative.
      • The tiger reserve is situated in the Shivalik hills of Himalayas while administratively it spreads over Pauri Garhwal, Nainital and Almora districts of Uttarakhand State in India.
    • Rajaji National Park: It is a national park and tiger reserve that encompasses the Shivaliks, near the foothills of the Himalayas.
      • It was declared as a tiger reserve in 2015 and is the second tiger reserve in the Uttarakhand and 48th Tiger Reserve of India.
      • The park extends over the Shivalik Range in the north-west to the Rawasan River in the southeast with the Ganges dividing it into two parts.
      • Some of the basic features of the Shivalik formations are to be seen in the park and is rightly known as a veritable storehouse of Shivalik biodiversity and ecosystems.
      • The western part of the Park consists of the Ramgarh, Kansrao, Motichur, Hardwar, Dholkhand and Chillawali Ranges.
    • Project Tiger: It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Government of India launched in 1973 for in-situ conservation of wild tigers in designated tiger reserves.
    • Madhya Pradesh (526) has maximum tigers in our country followed by Karnataka (524) and Uttarakhand (442).
    • Global Tiger Forum(GTF): It is the only inter-governmental international body established in 1993 with members from willing countries to embark on a global campaign to protect the Tiger. It is located in New Delhi, India.
    • Global Tiger Initiative(GTI): It was launched in 2008 as a global alliance of governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector with the aim of working together to save wild tigers from extinction. In 2013, the scope was broadened to include Snow Leopards.
  • Transport Ministry invites comments for introducing adoption of E20 fuel

    Source: Click here

    News: Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has published a notification seeking comments from the public for adoption of E20 fuel to promote green fuel like ethanol.

    Facts:

    • E20 Fuel: It means blending 20% of ethanol with gasoline as an automotive fuel.
    • Significance: The blending will help in reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and will also help in reducing the oil import bill, thereby saving foreign exchange and boosting energy security.

    Additional Facts:

    • Ethanol: Ethanol having chemical formula of C2H5OH can be produced from crops like sugarcane, maize, wheat which have high starch content. In India, ethanol is mainly produced from sugarcane molasses by the fermentation process,Hence, since ethanol is produced from plants that harness the power of the sun, ethanol is also considered as green fuel.

     

  • 12th GRIHA summit

    Source: Click here

    News: The Vice President of India has virtually inaugurated the 12th GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment) Summit.

    Facts:

    • GRIHA Summit: It is the annual flagship event organized by GRIHA Council in association with key stakeholders in the construction industry to discuss and deliberate on furtherance of Sustainable Habitat Development in India.
    • Theme: “Rejuvenating Resilient Habitats”

    Additional Facts:

    • Building Fitness Indicator(BFI): It is a self-assessment online tool launched by GRIHA Council to assess safety and hygiene standards for workplaces in India.
    • Global Housing Technology Challenge India(GHTC-India): It was organised by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in 2019 with an aim to identify and mainstream best available and proven construction technologies that are sustainable, green and disaster-resilient to enable a paradigm shift in housing construction.
    • GRIHA: It is an independent, not-for-profit society jointly setup by The Energy and Resources Institute(TERI) and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
      • Purpose: It evaluates the environmental performance of a building holistically over its entire life cycle, based on quantitative and qualitative criteria, thereby providing a definitive standard for green buildings and sustainable habitats.

     

  • 5th India Water Impact Summit(IWIS)

    Source: Click here

    News: The 5th India Water Impact Summit(IWIS) has commenced in a virtual mode.

    Facts:

    • Organized by: The summit has been organised by the National Mission for Clean Ganga and Center for Ganga River Basin Management and Studies(cGanga).
    • Objective: To bring together various stakeholders to discuss, debate and develop model solutions to some of the biggest water related issues in the country.
    • Theme: “Arth Ganga: River Conservation Synchronised Development”

    Additional Facts:

    • NMCG: It is the implementation wing of National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga (referred as National Ganga Council).It was established in the year 2011 as a registered society under Societies Registration Act,1860.
  • Minor Forest Produce (MFP)

    Minor Forest Produce

    News: Union Minister of State for Tribal Affairs has informed Lok Sabha about the Minor Forest Produce(MFP).

    Facts:

    About Minor Forest Produce:

    • Minor Forest Produce(MFP) is a subset of forest produce. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act,2006 defines minor forest produce as all non-timber forest produce of plant origin.
    • These include bamboo, brushwood, stumps, canes, cocoon, honey, waxes, Lac, tendu leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, roots among others.

    About MSP for MFP scheme:

    • The Minimum Support Price(MSP) for the MFP scheme was started by the Government of India in 2013 to ensure fair and remunerative prices to MFP gatherers. It is a Centrally Sponsored scheme.

    Objectives: The scheme has been started with the following objectives:

    • To provide a fair price to the MFP gatherers for the produce collected by them and enhance their income level
    • To ensure sustainable harvesting of MFPs.
    • The Scheme will have a huge social dividend for MFP gatherers, majority of whom are tribals.

    Implementation:

    • Ministry of Tribal Affairs,Government of India is the Nodal Ministry for implementation of the scheme.
    • TRIFED acts as the Central Nodal Agency for implementation and monitoring of the scheme through State level implementing agencies.
    • Further,the State designated agencies will undertake procurement of notified MFPs directly from MFP gatherers at haats notified procurement centers at grass root level at prefixed Minimum Support Price.

    Additional information:

    About MSP:

    • MSP is the minimum price paid to farmers for procuring food crops.It is announced by the Government at the beginning of the sowing season.
    • There are two objectives of the Minimum Support Price system (a)To prevent distress sale by the farmers in case of a bumper crop and (b)To procure the grains for public distribution by fair price shops.

    About TRIFED:

    • Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) was established in 1987.It functions under the administrative control of Ministry of Tribal affairs.
    • The basic objective of the TRIFED is to provide good price to the products made or collected from the forest by the tribal people.
  • Centre drops plan to bring in changes to Forest Act of 1927

    News: The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has withdrawn a draft amendment that proposed updates to the Indian Forest Act 1927. In March 2019, the government proposed the draft law called as Indian Forest Act, 2019.

    Facts:

    Key features of Draft Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill of 2019

    • Definition of Forests: It defines forest as any government or private or institutional land recorded or notified as forest/forest land in any government record and the lands managed by government/community as forest and mangroves. It also includes any land which the central or state government may by notification declare to be forest for the purpose of the Act.
    • Definition of community: The amendment defines community as “a group of persons specified on the basis of government records living in a specific locality and in joint possession and enjoyment of common property resources, without regard to race, religion, caste, language and culture”
    • New category of forest- Production Forests: forests with specific objectives for production of timber, pulp, pulpwood, firewood, non-timber forest produce, medicinal plants or any forest species to increase production in the country for a specified period.
    • Forest development cess: It proposes a forest development cess of up to 10% of the assessed value of mining products removed from forests, and water used for irrigation or in industries. This amount would be deposited in a special fund and used for forest restoration, conservation and protection.
    • Empowering Forest Bureaucracy:
      • The bill brings in forest bureaucracy to manage “village forests” through joint forest management committee (JFMC).
      • Forest Officers can issue search warrants, enter and investigate land within their jurisdiction
      • Forests officers will get indemnity for using arms to prevent forest related offences.
      • Forest officials will get powers to remove tribals from areas earmarked for conservation

    Issue: According to activists, the amendment to Indian Forest Act undermine the rights of tribal as it empowers forest bureaucracy and would lead to conflicts during implementation, particularly when seen in the context of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

    Additional Information:

    The Indian Forest Act, 1927

    • It was enacted after repealing Indian forest Act 1878 to ‘consolidate the law related to forest, the transit of forest produce, and the duty liable on timber and other forest produce’.
    • The Act gave the Government and Forest Department the power to create Reserved Forests, and the right to use Reserved Forests for Government use alone.

    Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006

    • It seeks to recognize forest rights of Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been occupying and are dependent on the forest land for generations.
    • It envisions the forest rights committee of a village as the central unit in managing forest resources.
  • Forest Rights Act Case: What is at stake?
    1. There were protests in districts with sizeable tribal populations. The protests took place over two issues- a) proposed amendments to the Indian Forest Act (IFA), 1927, and b) a Forest Rights Act (FRA) case that will be heard in the Supreme Court.
    2. In February 2019, the Supreme court had ordered the eviction of more than 10 lakh Scheduled Tribe and other forest-dwellers (OTFDs) households from forestlands across 21 states after their claims over forest land rights under the FRA, 2006 were rejected by states. Later, the SC had stayed its order.
    3. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 seeks to recognize forest rights of Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been occupying and are dependent on the forest land for generations. It envisions the forest rights committee of a village as the central unit in managing forest resources.
    4. In March 2019, the government proposed the draft law called as Indian Forest Act, 2019. The act is seeks to amend the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
    5. The draft law proposes greater policing powers to the Forest Department including the use of firearms, and veto power to override the FRA.
    6. According to the proposed act, village forests are defined as forestland or wasteland, which is the property of the government. It would be jointly managed by the community through the Joint Forest Management Committee or Gram Sabha.
    7. According to activists, the amendment to Indian Forest Act undermine the rights of tribal and experts would lead to conflicts during implementation, particularly when seen in the context of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.