Important Environmental Initiatives – International and Domestic | Current Affairs Compilation for Prelims 2022 | Nov. 2021 to March 2022

Dear Friends,

This post is a part of our current affairs series for the UPSC IAS Prelims 2022. In this post, we have covered the all Important Environmental initiatives in news. This post covers current affairs from Nov. 2021 to 31st March 2022. In the 2nd part, we will cover the rest of the current affairs from July 2021 to 31st April 2022.


To Read Other Current Affairs Compilations for Prelims 2022Click here


Mass tagging mission of Olive Ridley Turtles

News: Scientists have resumed the Project of tagging Olive Ridley turtles at Rushikulya rookery along the Odisha coast.

About the Project

Launched: It is a collaborative project of the Zoological Survey of India in association with the Odisha Forest and Environment Department.

Nesting Sites Covered: The project of tagging the Olive Ridleys is being carried out at three mass nesting sites — Gahirmatha, Devi River mouth, and Rushikulya. The project is being undertaken after a span of about 25 years.

Purpose: The tagging of the turtles will help in finding the extent of travel and location of the turtles after congregation, nesting, etc for further research on turtle behaviour.

The tags on the turtles are also uniquely numbered, containing details such as the name of the organisation, country code and email address. If researchers in other countries come across the tagged turtles, they will email their location in longitude and latitude.

Moreover, the metal tags attached to turtles are non-corrosive, and they do not harm their body. It can be removed later.

Note:

Rushikulya River: It is one of the major rivers in the state of Odisha. The River originates in the Daringbadi hills of the Eastern Ghats range. The place from where the river originates, Daringbadi is called the ‘Kashmir of Odisha‘. The river meets the Bay of Bengal at Puruna Bandha in Ganjam.

Devi River: It is one of the principal distributaries of Mahanadi. It flows through Jagatsinghpur district and Puri district across Odisha state in India and joins the Bay of Bengal.


Gharial Reintroduction in Beas River

News: The Critically Endangered Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) has been successfully reintroduced in the Beas River of Punjab where it had become extinct half a century ago.

About Gharial Reintroduction in Beas River

The Gharial reintroduction in the Beas Conservation Reserve is an ambitious programme of the Punjab government. The reptiles were commonly sighted in the Beas River till the 1960s, but later became extinct.

Now, as part of the programme, 94 gharials have been released in the reserve since 2017.

Reason behind their extinction in Beas River

Gharials may have gone extinct due to a) change in the hydrology due to the construction of dams and barrages b) significantly reduced water flow c) rapid land-use change of floodplains and d) rampant overfishing that slowly led to the extinction of the gharial from the Beas.

About Beas Conservation Reserve

It is located in Punjab and spreads over a 185-km stretch of the Beas River. The reserve has been notified as a Ramsar Site in January 2020.

The reserve hosts the only known population in India of the endangered Indus River dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor).

Further, threatened species in the reserve include the endangered masheer (Tor putitora) and hog deer (Axis porcinus) as well as the vulnerable smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata).


Operations conducted by WCCB against illegal wildlife trade

Operation Save Kurma: It focuses on the poaching, transportation and illegal trade of live turtles and tortoises.

Operation Turtshield: It was taken up to tackle the illegal trade of live turtles.

Operation Softgold: To tackle illegal trade in Shahtoosh shawls (made from Chiru wool).

Operation Lesknow: To bring the attention of the enforcement agencies within the country to the illegal wildlife trade in lesser-known species such as Deer, Wild Boar, Jackal, Mongoose, Monitor Lizard, Sea cucumber, and Pangolin.

Operation Clean Art: To drag the attention of enforcement agencies towards the illegal wildlife trade in Mongoose hairbrushes.

Operation Thunderbird: It concentrated mainly on illegal trade in species such as Tigers and other Asian big cats, Bears, Pangolins, Reptiles, Red Sanders, Sea-cucumber, and seahorses.

Operation Birbil: To curb illegal trade in wild cat and wild bird species.

Operation Wildnet: It was aimed to draw the attention of the enforcement agencies within the country to focus their attention on the ever-increasing illegal wildlife trade over the internet using social media platforms.

Operation Freefly: It was conducted to check the illegal trade of live birds.

Operation Wetmark: It was taken up to ensure the prohibition of the sale of meat of wild animals in wet markets across the country.


Global Methane Initiative (GMI)

News: India co-chaired the Steering Leadership meeting of the Global Methane Initiative (GMI).

About the Global Methane Initiative (GMI)

GMI is an international public-private initiative launched in 2004.

Aim: To achieve a global reduction in anthropogenic methane emission through a partnership among developed and developing countries having economies in transition.

Members: It is a voluntary Government and an informal international partnership having members from 45 countries including the United States and Canada. India has been one of the members since its inception.

Secretariat: It is currently hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Current Chairperson: Canada

Vice-Chairmanship: India has taken up Vice-Chairmanship for the first time in the Steering Leadership along with the USA.


Project RE-HAB

News: Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has launched Project RE-HAB (Reducing Elephant-Human Attacks using Bees) in Assam.

About Project RE-HAB

Under this Project, “Bee-fences” are created by setting up bee boxes in the passageways of elephants to block their entrance to human territories.

The boxes are connected with a string so that when elephants attempt to pass through, a tug or pull causes the bees to swarm the elephant herds and dissuade them from progressing further.

It was earlier launched in Kodagu district of Karnataka in March 2021. In just 6 months, this project has reduced elephant attacks by over 70%.

It is a sub-mission of KVIC’s National Honey Mission.

Significance of this Project

Firstly, this project is a cost-effective way of reducing human-wild conflicts without causing any harm to the animals.

Secondly, it is scientifically recorded that elephants are annoyed by the honey bees. Elephants also fear that the bee swarms can bite their sensitive inner side of the trunk and eyes. Hence, this project will force elephants to return and prevent Elephant – Human Conflicts.


Kerala Bird Atlas (KBA)

News: The Kerala Bird Atlas (KBA) has been released recently.

About Kerala Bird Atlas (KBA)

It is the first-of-its-kind state-level bird atlas in India. The Atlas is arguably Asia’s largest bird atlas in terms of geographical extent, sampling effort, and species coverage.

It was conducted as a citizen science-driven exercise with the participation of over 1000 volunteers of the bird watching community.

The atlas has created data about the distribution and abundance of various bird species across all major habitats for futuristic studies.


Asian Waterbird Census

News: The findings of the Asian Waterbird Census 2022 have been released.

About Asian Waterbird Census

Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) was started in 1987. It is an annual exercise to count the waterbirds and monitor the wetlands for conservation of migratory birds and their habitats along the Central Asian Flyway.

Conducted by: Wetlands International

In India, AWC is coordinated by the Wetlands International South Asia and the Bombay Natural History Society.

Significance: It is part of a global waterbird monitoring program called the International Waterbird Census (IWC).


Sustainable Cities India program

News: The World Economic Forum (WF) and the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on a jointly designed ‘Sustainable Cities India program’.

About the Sustainable Cities India program

Aim: To enable cities to decarbonize in a systematic and sustainable way that will reduce emissions and deliver resilient and equitable urban ecosystems.

WEF and NIUA will adapt the WEF’s City Sprint process and Toolbox of Solutions for decarbonization in the context of five to seven Indian cities across two years.

City Sprint process: It is a series of multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder workshops involving business, government, and civil society leaders to enable decarbonization, especially through clean electrification and circularity.

Toolbox of Solutions: This sprint process uses the Toolbox of Solutions. It is a digital platform containing over 200 examples of clean electrification, efficiency, and smart infrastructure best practices and case studies across buildings, energy systems, and mobility from over 110 cities around the world.

Note: WEF has launched a Net Zero Carbon Cities Mission to create an enabling environment for clean electrification and circularity, resulting in urban decarbonization and resilience. The program aims to do this by fostering public-private collaboration to bridge the gap across the energy, built environment and transport sectors.


Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) technologies

News: According to a study, most Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) technologies that suck carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and convert it into fuel or other valuable products, might fail to help the world reach Net Zero emissions by 2050.

About Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) technologies

CCU technologies either capture carbon dioxide directly from the air or absorb it from polluting sources. The technologies then use the captured carbon dioxide in processes such as making fuel, plastics, and concrete.

Contrary to straightforward carbon capture technology, CCU does not store the carbon dioxide for long periods but converts it into fuels or uses it to drive other industrial processes such as oil extraction or growing plants.

India and CCU Technologies

The Indian government has announced that it would establish two Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) centers.

Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has signed an MoU with Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) by injecting CO2 captured from IOCL’s Koyali refinery, Gujarat.

Fly Ash Management and Utilisation Mission

News: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in its recent order has directed the constitution of a ‘Fly Ash Management and Utilisation Mission’.

About Fly Ash

Fly ash is an unwanted unburnt residue of coal combustion in a coal thermal power plant. It is emitted along with flue gases during the burning of coal in a furnace and collected using electrostatic precipitators.

The fly ash collected with the help of precipitators is converted into a wet slurry to minimize fugitive dust emissions. It is then transported to the scientifically designed ash ponds through slurry pipelines.

However, the gross under-utilization of this by-product over the years has led to the accumulation of 1,670 million tonnes of fly ash.

About Fly Ash Management and Utilisation Mission

Aim: a) To coordinate and monitor issues relating to the handling and disposal of fly ash and associated issues, and b) To make the roadmaps and progress in fly ash utilisation available for all thermal power plants and their clusters.

Headed by: The Mission is to be jointly headed by the Secretaries of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and Union Ministry of Coal and Power. There will also be Chief Secretaries of concerned states on board.

Nodal Agency: The secretary of MoEF&CC will be the nodal agency for coordination and compliance.


Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)

News: According to a study, India can slash emissions of volatile organic molecules (VOC) by 76% in the next eight years by swapping all two- and three-wheelers with electric vehicles and all diesel-fuelled ones with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

About Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)

They are organic chemical compounds whose composition makes it possible for them to evaporate under normal indoor atmospheric conditions of temperature and pressure.

Common examples of VOCs: Benzene, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, tetrachloroethylene, toluene and xylene.

Source of VOCs: VOCs are released by petrol and diesel vehicles. They impact air quality and human health. However, VOCs can also have a natural origin. Plants emit these chemicals to attract pollinators, defend themselves from pests and predators and adapt to environmental stress.

Effect of VOCs on Health: VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, damage body organs, and cause cancer. Long-term exposure to VOCs is not good because the majority of the VOCs are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). It is also linked to medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.

Note: Benzene, a chemical that induces cancer, is the only VOC included in the ambient air-quality standards.

Formation of Dangerous Pollutants: VOCs can drive the formation of other dangerous pollutants. For instance, they react with sunlight and nitrogen dioxide to form ground-level ozone.

VOCs also trigger the formation of Particulate Matter (PM2.5), a pollutant that reaches deep into the lungs, affecting their normal functioning. They also react in the air to produce secondary organic aerosols, minute particles suspended in the air.

How shifting to EVs will reduce VOCs?

The gases escaping out of a vehicle’s exhaust account for 65-80% of an automobile’s emissions. Hence, replacing all petrol, diesel, LPG, and CNG fuelled two- and three-wheelers with electric vehicles in 2030 will slash emissions of VOCs by 76%. Further, It could also lower the emissions of black carbon — a sooty black material coming from gas and diesel-powered vehicles — by 50%.


Compensatory Afforestation Fund

News: The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) has so far disbursed 48,606 crores to 32 States.

Chhattisgarh and Odisha had the maximum amount transferred to them, followed by Jharkhand and Maharashtra.

About Compensatory Afforestation

It is defined as the process of afforestation, and associated regeneration activities, done to compensate for destroyed forest land that has been diverted to non-forest activities.

Under the Forest Conservation Act 1980, every time forest land is diverted for non-forest purposes such as mining or industry, the project developer is supposed to identify non-forest land of an equal area and also pay for planting forests over this.

About Compensatory Afforestation Fund

The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act was passed by the government in 2016 and the related rules were notified in 2018.

The Act was enacted to manage the funds collected for compensatory afforestation, which till then was managed by the ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).

Key Provisions of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016

The act established a National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of India and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of each state.

These Funds will receive payments for (i) compensatory afforestation, (ii) net present value of forest (NPV), and (iii) other project-specific payments. The National Fund will receive 10% of these funds, and the State Funds will receive the remaining 90%.

These Funds will be primarily spent on afforestation to compensate for the loss of forest cover, regeneration of the forest ecosystem, wildlife protection, and infrastructure development.

The Act also establishes the National and State Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authorities to manage the National and State Funds.

 

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