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Environment & Climate Current affairs 2022


Following the current events and news in the area of geography is very very important for the general studies paper in the UPSC exam. In recent times questions are set on only those topics that have made news. Regular study of Environment from NCERT books or otherwise is no longer required. The idea is to follow the current affairs news related to Environment and understand the Environment behind those issues. This is true for all levels of teh IAS exam - prelims, mains and also the interview.

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Environment Current Affairs - September 2022

International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer 2022: The International Day for the preservation of the Ozone Layer also known as World Ozone Day is observed on the 16th of September every year.

Key Points:

  • The day aims to raise awareness about the importance and need of the Ozone layer which is the single protection on Earth against UV rays coming out from the sun.

Theme:

The theme announced by the UN Environment Programme for International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer 2022 is "Montreal Protocol @35: global cooperation protecting life on earth" for international ozone layer protection in order to encourage sustainable development.

Note: This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol.

History:

  • The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)proclaimed September 16 as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer in 1994.
  • The day marks the signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that deplete the Ozone Layer, in 1987, to preserve the ozone layer and prevent further damage to it.
  • This protocol, which curbs the use of ozone-depleting chemicals like aerosols, halons and chlorofluorocarbon, halons, was the first-ever to be ratified by all 197 members of the UN.

What is Ozone Layer?

  • The Ozone layer, also known as the Ozone shield, is a fragile layer of gas in the Earth’s stratosphere.
  • Life is not possible on Earth without the ozone layer.
  • Sunlight makes life, but the ozone layer creates life as we know it today.
  • It absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet rays, which is harmful to human life and other life forms.
  • These rays can cause numerous skin diseases like cancer etc.
  • The layer absorbs about 97 to 99 percent of ultraviolet rays and maintains the ozone-oxygen cycle.

About the Montreal Protocol:

  • The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (the Montreal Protocol) is an international agreement made in 1987 where countries from across the globe decided to curb substances such as:
  • Aerosols
  • Chlorofluorocarbon
  • Halons.
  • It was designed to stop the production and import of ozone depleting substances and reduce their concentration in the atmosphere to help protect the earth's ozone layer.
  • These substances are widely used for cooling and refrigerating purposes.
  • As a result of the usage of these harmful substances, a hole in the ozone layers in Antarctica was discovered back in 1970, which ultimately led to acute global warming in the past 20 years.
  • Although the 1985 convention that gave rise to the Montreal deal did make progress in conserving the Ozone layer and further in January 2021, the Antarctic hole caused by Ozone-depletion was finally closed as a result of the collaborative efforts by these countries, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

Shoonya Forum: NITI Aayog, the Think Tank of India, held a day-long forum today to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Shoonya, India’s zero pollution e-mobility campaign.

  • The event was attended by G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant, NITI Aayog CEO Param Iyer, MyGov CEO Abhishek Singh, Delhi Government Principal Secretary Ashish Kundra, Mahindra Electric Mobility CEO Suman Mishra and others.  

Key Points:

  • On the occasion, in order to improve air quality for Indian citizens, more than 25 Shoonya partners pledged to accelerate India’s clean mobility story with Electric Vehicles.
  • A three-report series detailing the economic advantages of India's domestic battery industry was released during the event.
  • The National Programme on Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC) Energy Storage (Part III) report was also launched at this occasion.  
  • The report highlighted India’s 2.5 billion USD production linked incentive (PLI) scheme for advanced chemistry cell (ACC) energy storage’s key role in meeting the estimated cumulative battery demand of 106 to 260 GWh by 2030 to successfully realize the country’s vision for EV adoption and grid decarbonization.

About Shoonya Campaign:

  • Shoonya is a consumer awareness campaign to reduce air pollution by promoting the use of electric vehicles (EVs) for ride-hailing and deliveries.
  • It was launched by NITI Aayog in September 2021 with the support of Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) based in the United States and RMI India.
  • It aims to promote the use of EVs for ride hailing and delivery services and minimise air pollution caused by these services.
  • The campaign has 130 industry partners, including ride-hailing, delivery and EV companies.
  • Through the Shoonya campaign, the estimated number of electric deliveries and rides completed by corporate partners was close to 20 million and 15 million, respectively.
  • This results in a reduction of over 13,000 tonnes in carbon dioxide emissions.

Significance:

  • In India, urban freight vehicles account for 10 percent of freight transportation-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and these emissions are expected to grow by 114 percent by 2030.
  • EVs emit no tailpipe emissions it can contribute immensely to improved air quality.
  • They emit 15% to 40% less CO2 compared to their Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs) counterparts and have lower operational cost even during their manufacture.
  • The Shooniya initiative will facilitate India in achieving its five-point plan (Panchamrit) to reduce carbon emissions and meet its 2070 climate goals, as laid out at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (COP 26).

Cheetah Reintroduction: Cheetahs have been reintroduced to India - a controversial move that comes seven decades after being declared extinct.

Key Points:

  • Over 70 years after they went extinct, eight cheetahs landed in India on September 17 from Namibia.
  • The big cats (five females and three males) were flown 5000 miles from Namibia as part of a 13-year project to restore the species to the country.
  • The modified passenger B-747 Jumbo Jet, with the big cats took off from Hosea Kutako, International Airport in Windhoek and landed in Madhya Pradesh’s Gwalior.
  • It is the first time the animals have been moved across continents to be released.
  • The eight radio-collared African cheetahs were released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the occasion of his birthday, at Kuno National Park.
  • Another 12 cheetahs are expected to join the group next month from South Africa amid hopes the population will eventually reach 40.

Project Cheetah:

  • Project Cheetah aims to bring back independent India’s only extinct large mammal – the cheetah.
  • As part of the project, 50 cheetahs will be introduced in various National Parks over five years.
  • The plan to reintroduce cheetahs in India was endorsed in 2009 by then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh but was shot down by the Supreme Court in 2013.
  • The idea was revived in 2017 by the Narendra Modi government, and the SC cleared the move in 2020 “on an experimental basis”.
  • Experts from across the world, officials of the Government of India including Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and representatives of the state governments met and decided to conduct site surveys to explore the reintroduction potential.

Significance:

  • Conservation of Cheetahs has a very special significance for the national conservation ethic and ethos.
  • Cheetah happens to be the only large carnivore that got completely wiped out from India, mainly due to over-hunting and habitat loss.
  • They live in open plains.
  • Their habitat is predominantly where their preys live - grasslands, scrubs and open forest systems, semi-arid environments and temperatures that tend to be hotter compared to cooler regimes.
  • In saving cheetahs, one would have to save not only its prey-base comprising certain threatened species, but also other endangered species of the grasslands and open forest ecosystems, some of which are on the brink of extinction.
  • It is also observed that among large carnivores, conflict with human interests is lowest for Cheetahs. They are not a threat to humans and do not attack large livestock either.

Cheetahs and Ancient Indian History:

  • The cheetah has an ancient history in the country, with a Neolithic cave painting of a ‘slender spotted feline being hunted’ having been found at Chaturbunj Nala in Mandasur, Madhya Pradesh.
  • The very name 'Cheetah' (Acinonyx Jubatus Venaticus) originates from Sanskrit and means 'the spotted one'.

How did Cheetahs go extinct in India?

  • The cheetah population in India used to be fairly widespread.
  • The animal was found from Lucknow and Jaipur in the north to Mysore in the south, and from Kathiawar in the west to Deogarh in the east.
  • The last three known Asiatic cheetahs in India were chased down and killed by Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo of the Koriya princely kingdom in 1947, and it is believed that this is when the cheetah vanished from the country's landscape.
  • The Indian Government officially declared the cheetah extinct in 1952.
  • Along with over-hunting the other major contributing factor for the cheetah’s extinction was the decimation of its relatively narrow prey base species and the loss of its grassland-forest habitat also played a role.

Himalaya Diwas 2022: Himalaya Diwas or Himalayan Day is celebrated on September 9th every year.

Key Points:

  • The day is observed with the aim of conserving Himalayan ecosystem and region.
  • It is celebrated to mark the importance of the Himalayas.
  • National Mission for Clean Ganga in collaboration with Naula Foundation organized Himalaya Diwas on 9th September, 2022.
  • This year special events were held in nine Himalayan states as well as in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi.

Theme of 2022:

The theme of 2022 is ‘Himalayas will be safe only when the interests of its residents are protected’.

History:

  • In 2015, 9th September was officially declared as Himalaya Diwas by the then Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Harish Rawat to be celebrated across the State to spread the message of conservation of the Himalayan ecosystems.

Significance:

  • This day is observed to mark the significance of Himalayas.
  •  The Himalayas play an important role in saving and maintaining nature and protecting the country from adverse weather conditions.
  • Apart from being rich in biodiversity of flowers and fauna, the Himalayan range is also responsible for bringing rain to the country.
  • However, the himalayan hill towns face several challenges due to poor building planning & designs, poor infrastructure like roads, water supply, sewage etc and unprecedented cutting of trees.
  • This result into serious ecological issues. The day is observed highlighting that there is an urgent need to develop eco-sensitive hill town plans and designs.
  • Himalayas are the source of strength and a valuable heritage for entire world. thus, it needs to be preserved.
  • The day helps in raising awareness and community involvement besides instilling scientific knowledge.

Additional Key Info:

About the Himalayas:

  • The Himalayas is a mountain range in Asia separating the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau.
  • The word Himalaya comes from two Sanskrit words: Him (snow) and Aalay (abode).
  • The Himalayas are home to the world’s largest mountains, including the highest peak – Mount Everest, standing at an incredible 8,848m tall.
  • The summits of several—Kangchenjunga (from the Indian side), Gangkhar Puensum, Machapuchare, Nanda Devi and Kailas in the Tibetan Transhimalaya—are off-limits to climbers.
  • This incredible mountain range is a result of tectonic plate movement that collided India into Tibet.
  • It stretches for 2,400km in length from the Indus river in Pakistan, through India, Nepal, and Bhutan, and ends at the Bramaputra River in eastern India.
  • It passes through India, Pakistan, Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal.
  • There are the Outer Himalayas, the Lower Himalayas, the Tibetan Himalayas, the Trans-Himalayas and the Great Himalayas.
  • The beauty of the Himalaya, which are one of the youngest chains of mountains in the world harbouring a diverse ecosystem, lies in its intriguing complexity.
  • The region is among the 36 world biodiversity hotspots.
  • They are home to the highest mountains, deepest gorges and the greatest biodiversity on the planet including the majestic snow leopard.
  • The Himalaya is characterized by a complex geologic structure, snowcapped peaks, large valley glaciers, deep river gorges and rich vegetation.

Importance of Himalayas:

Strategic position:

The Himalayan ecosystem is vital to the ecological security of the Indian landmass and occupies the strategic position of the entire northern boundary (NorthWest to North-East) of the country.

 A reliable source of clean energy:

The immense hydropower potential of the Himalayas makes it a reliable source of clean energy thus reducing the carbon emissions.

Maintaining Weather:

  • These mountain ranges guard our country against the cold and dry winds coming from Central Asia the absence of these mountains, India would have been a dry desert.
  • They also cause most of the rainfall in northern India by acting as a barrier for the monsoon winds.

Source of Forest and Water:

  • These mountains are the source for 10 major river systems in Asia, a lifeline for almost half of humanity.
  • This is important not only for Himalayan states but for the future of all North Indian states dependent on rivers originating from there.
  • Local communities are dependent on forests for their agriculture and basic needs.

Cultural Importance:

  • The Himalayas have profoundly shaped the cultures of South Asia and Tibet.
  • Many Himalayan peaks are sacred in Hinduism and Buddhism.
  • The significance of the Himalayas is mentioned in nearly all Indian cultural and traditional writings, including the tale of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the Bhagavad Gita, and many more.

Several challenges and Concern:

The major challenges facing the Himalayas are as follows:

  • Increasing population,
  • Rampant urbanisation,
  • Unchecked deforestation,
  • Melting of glaciers,
  • Construction of roads, 
  • Establishment of hydroelectric projects
  • Unscientific disposal of plastic etc.

Carelessness toward environment leads to frequent natural disasters.

Demographic shifts, weak institutional capacity, poor infrastructure, and a lack of adequate information on mountain-specific climate change pose challenges to capacity-building in the region.

Steps were taken for conservation of the Himalayas:

National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Eco-system:

  • The National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Eco-system is aimed at understanding scientifically the complex processes affecting the eco-system.
  • It is also aimed at evolving suitable management and policy measures for sustaining and safeguarding the Himalayan eco-system including Himalayan glaciers.

SECURE Himalaya project:

  • SECURE Himalayas project is spread over 6 years.
  • The main goal of the project is to secure people’s livelihood, restore, conserve and use sustainably the high range ecosystems of the Himalayas.
  • This project focuses on improving the enforcement to ensure the reduction in wildlife crime, protection of snow leopard and other endangered species and ensuring a secure livelihood to the people in the region.

About the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG):

  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) or Namami Gange Project was established in 12th August 2011 under the Societies Registration Act,1860 as a registered society.
  • It was implemented by the National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga also known as the National Ganga Council.
  • The NMCG under National Ganga Council is supported by the State level Programme Management Groups (SPMGs) in the state of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and Jharkhand.
  • It is an initiative taken by the Government of India (GoI) to address the pollution of the river Ganga by providing financial and technical assistance.

Eurasian H5N1: A bottlenose dolphin was recently found dead in a Florida canal in the spring.

Key Points:

  • According to the scientists, the dolphin tested positive for a highly virulent strain of bird flu.
  • This strain of bird flu is known as Eurasian H5N1.
  • This version of the virus, which has spread widely among North American and European birds, has affected an unusually broad array of species.
  • But these findings represent the first two documented cases in cetaceans, a group of marine mammals that includes dolphins, porpoises and whales.
  • The experts say that the expansion of the virus to other species poses potential threats to wildlife and gives the virus additional opportunities to mutate and adapt to mammalian hosts.
  • However, according to them the risk to humans remains low.

What are cateceans?

  • Cetaceans is a group of marine mammals that includes dolphins, porpoises and whales.
  • They breathe air, give birth to live young, produce milk, and have hair- all features of mammals.

Ghatiana Dwivarna: A new species of crab, "Ghatiana Dwivarna", has recently been discovered in Yellapur forest of Uttara Kannada district in the Western Ghats region.

Key Points:

  • The dual-toned crab, with white head and purple body, has been named Ghatiana Dwivarna (dichromatic).
  • The name of this new species of crab is derived from a Sanskrit word ‘dwivarna’ where ‘dwi' means 'two' and 'varna' means 'colour' i.e., two colour.
  • This fresh water crab that lives under small rock was found by Gopal Krishna Hegde, a wildlife enthusiast and photographer and Forest Guard Parashuram Bhajantri in the dense forestsof Bhare of the Western Ghats of Karnataka.
  • Coincidentally, Dwivarna, the 75th species of crab in the nation, received scientific recognition on August 15, the day the nation commemorated its 75th anniversary of independence.
  • The discovery was published in Nauplius, the journal of the Brazilian Crustacean Society.
  • Following the discovery, Hegde and Bhajantri have been conferred the title ‘Citizen Scientists.’’
  • They saw the crab for the first time on June 30, 2021.

The indigenous "Kunabi" tribe in this area was already aware of this crab.

About Dwivarna:

  • Dwivarna is a freshwater crab which belongs to the Ghatianagenus.
  • In terms of size a male Dwivarna crab is 24 x 13 mm while a female crab is about 29 x 15 mm.
  • The most distinctive physical characteristic of the crab is its colour; the crab has white head and a purple body.
  • It thrives on moss and lichens as well as small insects of the mosquito family.
  • It is a venomous crab and is definitely non-edible species of crab.
  • It is found in the holes found in laterite rocks on the elevated mountains of the Central Western Ghats (south of Goa-Niligiris) region.

Crab Species in India:

  • The discovery of Dwivarna takes the total tally of Crab species in the world to 125 out of which 75 are found in India.
  • Of the 75 Indian Carb Species, 13 are from the Ghatiana genus in India.
  • Dwivarna is the 14th freshwater crab to be found under the Ghatiana genus.

Super Typhoon Hinnamnor: The strongest tropical storm of 2022, dubbed Super Typhoon ‘Hinnamnor’, has been barrelling across the Western Pacific Ocean.

  • It is presently hurtling back towards the islands of Japan and South Korea, picking wind speeds of upto 241 kilometres per hour.

Key Points:

  • Typhoon 'Hinnamno' is a category 5 typhoon, the highest classification on the scale.
  • As of September 1, 2022, this typhoon which has been classifies as 'violent' was about 230 km away from Japan’s Okinawa prefecture.
  • The storm, according to a forecast from Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), is expected to move towards parts of Southwestern Japan, Eastern China and South Korea over the next few days,
  • One of the factors contributing to the Super Typhoon rapidly intensifying and expanding is the fact that it has started absorbing other local meteorological systems.
  • Furthermore, the warm tropical waters and other pre-existing meteorological disturbances have also led to the system’s escalation.

What is a cyclone:

  • Cyclones are a type of low-pressure environment with rapid inward air circulation.
  • In the Northern Hemisphere, air flows counter clockwise, while in the Southern Hemisphere, it circulates clockwise.

What is a typhoon?

  • A typhoon is a mature tropical cyclone also called hurricane in the northeast Pacific and northern Atlantic is an intense circular storm that originates over warm tropical oceans and is characterized by low atmospheric pressure, high winds, and heavy rain.
  • Elsewhere this is called a tropical cyclone, severe tropical cyclone, or severe cyclonic storm.
  • The term ‘Tropical Cyclone’ is used by the World Meteorological Organization to describe weather systems with winds greater than ‘Gale Force’ (minimum of 63 km per hour).
  • They’re large-scale weather systems that form over tropical or subtropical oceans and coalesce into surface wind circulation.
  • The tropical cyclones are among the most destructive weather phenomena.

Origin of Tropical Cyclones:

  • They originate over warm tropical oceans in late summers and have a thermal origin (August to mid-November).
  • Because of the Coriolis effect, the powerful local convectional currents take on a whirling motion at these regions.
  • These cyclones form and move until they reach a weak place in the trade wind belt.
  • They develop between 180° and 100°E in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • This region is referred to as the North-western Pacific Basin.
  • It is the most active tropical cyclone basin on Earth, accounting for almost one-third of the world's annual tropical cyclones.

For organizational purposes, the northern Pacific Ocean is divided into three regions:

  1. The Eastern (North America to 140°W),
  2. The Central (140°W to 180°), and
  3. The Western (180° to 100°E).

Characteristics:

Characteristic features of tropical cyclones are the

  • Eye, a central region of clear skies, warm temperatures, and low atmospheric pressure;
  • Eyewall, the most dangerous and destructive part where winds are strongest and rainfall is heaviest; and
  • Rainbands, secondary cells that spiral into the center of the storm.
  • They are characterized by low atmospheric pressure, high winds, and heavy rain.
  • They have maximum sustained wind speeds exceeding 119 kilometres per hour and heavy rains.
  • In extreme cases winds may exceed 240 km per hour, and gusts may surpass 320 km per hour.
  • Along with these powerful winds, there may be torrential rains and a destructive phenomenon called a storm surge, which causes the sea surface to rise by up to 6 metres (20 feet) beyond typical levels.
  • Such a combination of high winds and water in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, cyclones pose a major threat.

Favorable Conditions for the Formation of Tropical Cyclone:

There are six main requirements for tropical cyclogenesis:

  1. A large area of water surface with a temperature above 27° C
  2. Atmospheric instability,
  3. High humidity in the lower-to-middle levels of the troposphere,
  4. Enough Coriolis effect to develop a low pressure center,
  5. A pre-existing low-level focus or disturbance, and
  6. A low vertical wind shear.

When do tropical cyclones occur?

  • Tropical cyclones occur every year during the late summer months: July–September in the Northern Hemisphere and January–March in the Southern Hemisphere.

Names of Tropical Cyclones:

Tropical cyclones have various names.

  • In the North Atlantic Ocean and the eastern North Pacific, they are called hurricanes.
  • In the western North Pacific, the storms are referred to as typhoons.
  • In the western South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, they are variously referred to as severe tropical cyclones, tropical cyclones, or simply cyclones.

World Water Week 2022: World Water Week is celebrated by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) every year in order to highlight the global water issues and related concerns of international development since 1991.

World Water Week 2022 is being observed between 23rd August to 1st September, 2022.

Theme of 2022:

The theme of the 2022 World Water Week is: “Seeing the unseen: The value of water”, which helps us view water in new and fascinating ways.

The theme focusses on three main perspectives:

  1. The value of water for people and development.
  2. The value of water for nature and climate change.
  3. The financial and economic value of water

World Water Week 2022: Significance

  • A community of changemakers known as World Water Week collaborates together to find solutions to the biggest water-related issues around the world.
  • The Week is a meeting place to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and other international processes.
  • Here, individuals can also test their ideas, learn from peers in other countries, and share their knowledge.
  • This year’s World Water Week is an important milestone on the way the UN 2023 Water Conference.

About World Water Week:

  • It is a week-long global water conference held each year in late August or early September.
  • The weeklong event is attended by some 4,000 participants from 135 countries.
  • During the week, awards such as the Stockholm Water Prize, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, and the Stockholm Industry Water Award are given out at their respective award ceremonies.
  • The event consists of a broad array of parallel activities convened by leading international organizations on a broad array of water-related topics, ranging from food security and health to agriculture, technology, biodiversity, and the climate crisis.

Stockholm Water Prize:

  • The world-famous Stockholm Water Prize is awarded during World Water Week which is presented by SIWI.
  • In 2022, the prize was won by Wilfried Brutsaert. Wilfried received the award for his work on “Effects of climate change on water resources and local rainfall”.
  • He provided a tool to predict the availability of water resources in the future and also to measure the local rainfall.

History:

  • The World Water Week was started in Stockholm, Sweden as the Stockholm Water Symposium in 1991.
  • In 2001, the Stockholm Water Symposium was officially named as the World Water Week.

About Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI):

  • SIWI was founded in 1991.
  • It is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • The current Executive Director is Torgny Holmgren.

World Water Day:

  • Every year World Water Day is celebrated on March 22.
  • The day is celebrated to spread the significance of freshwater.

Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydro Electric Project (VPHEP): The residents of a village in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district have had a significant victory in a dispute regarding the construction of a dam in the area.

Key Points:

An independent panel of the World Bank has agreed to look into environmental damage from the under-construction Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydro Electric Project (VPHEP) on the Alaknanda River in Uttarakhand.

The committee has considered the request for an enquiry after accepting the Complaints from 83 Local Communities.

What are the complaints?

  • The villagers claimed that muck-dumping from the dam threatens the architecture of the temple walls, which is an ancient heritage site.
  • The locals claimed to have a sacred bond with Laxmi Narayan Temple, which was allegedly established by Adi Shankaracharya in the 19th century.
  • The temple is deemed to be of historical and cultural importance by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
  • Apart from the ecological damage the project had caused forced resettlement, loss of livelihoods and, in several instances, the amount of compensation offered was inadequate.
  • The temple is a cultural resource for the locals and is the source of their livelihood.
  • A mid-day cloudburst in Kedarnath in 2013 and the Chamoli disaster of 2021 were also ignored.

About VPHEP:

  • The 444-MW VPHEP is being built by the Tehri Hydropower Development Corporation (THDC), a partially Centre-owned enterprise.
  • This project has been designed as a 444-megawatt, run-of-river hydropower scheme which, when completed, will generate an estimated 1,665 gigawatt-hours.
  • The project is primarily funded by the World Bank and was sanctioned in 2011. It is proposed to be completed in June 2023.
  • About 40% of the funds for the $792 million project (₹64,000 crore approx.) has already been disbursed.
  • The project will build a 65-meter diversion dam near Helang village in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand to create a small reservoir in the Alaknanda River.

Key Info:

Other Hydro Power Projects in Uttarakhand:

  • Vishnugadh Pipalkoti: 444 MW on Alaknanda River
  • Singoli Bhatwari: 99 MW on Mandakini River
  • Tehri Stage 2: 1000 MW on Bhagirathi River
  • Tapovan Vishnugadh: 520 MW on Dhauliganga River
  • Phata Bhuyang: 76 MW on Mandakini River
  • Madhyamaheshwar: 15 MW on Madhyamaheshwar Ganga
  • Kaliganga 2: 6 MW on Kaliganga River

About Alaknanda River:

  1. The Alaknanda is a Himalayan river in the Indian state of Uttarakhand.
  2. It is one of the two headstreams of the Ganges which is the major river of Northern India and the holy river of Hinduism.
  3. It rises at the confluence and feet of the Satopanth and Bhagirath glaciers in Uttarakhand and meets the Bhagirathi River at Devprayag after which it is called the Ganga.
  4. Its main tributaries are the Nandakini, Mandakini and Pindar rivers.
  5. The Alaknanda system drains parts of Tehri, Chamoli, and Pauri districts.
  6. At Its origin, Lake Satopanth is a triangular lake located at a height of 4402 m and named after the Hindu trinity Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva.
  7. The Hindu pilgrimage center of Badrinath and the natural spring Tapt Kund lie along the banks of the Alaknanda River.

Panch Prayag:

Several rivers in the Garhwal region merge with the Alaknanda at five sites in Uttarakhand called prayag or 'holy confluence of rivers'.

In Hindi, 'panch' means five and 'prayag' means confluence.

These are:

  1. Vishnuprayag, where the Alaknanda is met by the Dhauliganga River.
  2. Nandaprayag, where it is met by the Nandakini River.
  3. Karnaprayag, where it is met by the Pindar River.
  4. Rudraprayag, where it is met by the Mandakini River.
  5. Devprayag, where it meets the Bhagirathi River and officially becomes the Ganges.

New bent-toed Gecko Species: A group of researchers has discovered a new species of bent-toed gecko from Agasthyamalai hills in the Western Ghats.

Key Points:

  • This new gecko has been given the name Aravind's ground gecko in honour of renowned malacologist N.A. Arvind.
  • Cyrtodactylus aravindi is the scientific name given to this new species.
  • It has been described based on its distinctness in the morphological and molecular DNA data.
  • This ground gecko has so far been found only at two locations, Muppanddal and Thuckalay, in Kanyakumari district falling within the Agasthyamalai biosphere reserve in Tamil Nadu.
  • The details of the new species were described in the journal, Vertebrate Zoology.
  • Its colour pattern distinguishes it apart from all other members of the Cyrtodactylus collegalensis species complex, and its general coloration is similar to that of the Sri Lankan endemic C. yakhuna.

About Geckos:

  • Geckos are reptiles and are found on all continents except Antarctica.
  • They are colourful lizards.
  • They have adapted to habitats ranging from rainforests, deserts, to cold mountain slopes.
  • Most of the geckos are nocturnal, i.e., they are active at night.
  • However, day geckos are active during the day.
  • They depend on fruits, flower nectar and insects.
  • Over a long period of time, geckos have developed special physical features to help them survive and avoid predators.
  • Their tails serve many purposes such as -
  • It helps balance their weight as they climb branches,
  • It acts as fuel tanks to store fat,
  • It can camouflage to help them disappear into their environment.
  • Geckos are also able to shed their tails if a predator grabs them.
  • Geckos are unique among lizards.
  • They are unique for their vocalization.
  • They use chirping and clicking sounds for their social interactions.
  • Most geckos make noises such as barking, and hissing when threatened or alarmed.

Family of Geckos:

Geckos are spread across six families namely -

  1. Carphodactylidae,
  2. Gekkonidae,
  3. Eublepharidae,
  4. Diplodactylidae,

 

  1. Sphaerodactylidae and
  2. Phyllodactylidae.

Species of Gecko in India:

  • Indian Golden Gecko, belonging to family Gekkonidae, is native to India states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.
  • It is listed in Schedule 1 of Wildlife Protection Act.
  • In IUCN list, it is categorized as Least Concern (LC) species.
  • At present, Gecko belonging to family Gekkonidae is widespread in Indo-Malayan region.
  • It is a schedule 4 species of wild life protection act and Least Concern (LC) species of IUCN list.

Environment Current Affairs - August 2022

Protection of Odisha's Coastal Areas: The Government of Odisha recently signed an  Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Chennai-based National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) for the protection of coastal areas from various natural calamities like cyclone, flood, soil erosion and high tide, etc.

National Institute of Ocean Technology, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, is a premier institute in the country specialising in the field of ocean engineering and coastline protection.

Key Points:

  • The Odisha coastal areas face natural calamities every year due to the effects of climate change.
  • Seven districts namely Ganjam, Puri, Khordha, Baleswar, Kendrapada, Bhadrak and Jagatsinghpur will get benefitted out of the initiative.
  • This will help these districts to get technological knowledge and design  from the NIOT, Chennai, for coastal area protection.
  • The districts have already faced cyclones like Amphan, Phailin, Hudhud,Titli, Yash, Gulab,Bulbul,   Jawad, etc., in the past years.
  • In the first phase, work will be carried out in 199 km coastal areas of  Kendrapada, Jagatsinghpur,Baleswar, Bhadrak   and Puri.
  • In the next phase, Ganjam and Khordha will be included.
  • The expenditure will be made by the State Government from its own resources.

Odisha’s Concerns:

  • Odisha has a vast coastline of about 480 km and the coastal areas are exposed to natural disasters. Cyclones cause high tidal surges with very high wind speed, resulting in loss of lives and properties. Such erosion of the coastline has been observed at many places in the recent past.

Way Forward:

  • The state government has planned to take up climate-resilient coastal protection measures, raising and strengthening of saline embankments using the latest technology available in the country as a permanent and sustainable solution.

About Odisha:

  • Odisha (formerly Orissa), an eastern Indian state on the Bay of Bengal, is known for its tribal cultures and its many ancient Hindu temples.
  • The region is also known as Utkala and is mentioned in India's national anthem, "Jana Gana Mana."

Geography:

  • Odisha has an area of 155,707 km2, which is 4.87% of total area of India, and a coastline of 450 km.
  • In the eastern part of the state lies the coastal plain.
  • It extends from the Subarnarekha River in the north to the Rushikulya River in the south.
  • The famous lake Chilika is part of the coastal plains.
  • The plains are rich in fertile silt deposited by the six major rivers flowing into the Bay of Bengal:
  1. Subarnarekha,
  2. Budhabalanga,
  3. Baitarani,
  4. Brahmani,
  5. Mahanadi and
  6. Rushikulya.
  • The stretch between Puri and Bhadrak in Odisha juts out a little into the sea, making it vulnerable to any cyclonic activity.
  • Three-quarters of the state is covered in mountain ranges.
  • Odisha also has plateaus and rolling uplands, which have lower elevation than the plateaus.
  • The highest point in the state is Deomali at 1,672 metres in Koraput district.

Some other high peaks are:

  • Sinkaram (1,620 m),
  • Golikoda (1,617 m), and
  • Yendrika (1,582 metres)

Elephant Reserve at Agathiyamalai: The Government of Tamil Nadu Government recently notified its 5th Elephant Reserve in the state at Agathiyamalai in Tirunelveli district.

Key Highlights

  • The proposal to designate 1,197.48 sq.km in Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli as the Agasthiyarmalai Elephant Reserve was approved by the Union Environment Ministry.
  • This will be India's India’s 31 elephant reserve and the the 5th elephant reserve in Tamil Nadu.
  • The Agasthiyamalai Elephant Reserve will be spread across 1,197.48 sq.km of land and will cover Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli areas.
  • Tamil Nadu will oversee this Agasthiyarmalai Elephant Reserve.
  • The forest department may be eligible for additional financing through the centrally sponsored Project Elephant after notifying the Agasthiyarmalai Elephant Reserve.

Key Points:

  • The Periyar-Agasthyamalai region spans 5,600 sq km and 16 forest divisions in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • It is home to the elephant population to the south of this.
  • Asian elephant numbers in the Periyar-Agasthyamalai landscape are estimated to be 1,800 (Census 2010).
  • About 300 of them are found alone on the southern side in the Agasthiyarmalai Elephant Reserve and Mahendragiri hill ranges in the Shendurney, Neyyar, and Peppara Wildlife Sanctuaries and Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, all located in Thiruvananthapuram Forest Division.
  • The southern portion of the Periyar Plateau and its eastern spur, the Varushnad and Meghamalai hill ranges, the Achankoil valley, and the Agasthiyarmalai Elephant Reserve and Mahendragiri hill ranges on the southern side make up the elephant habitat in the landscape.

Significance:

  • Notifying Agasthiyarmalai Elephant Reserve area as an elephant reserve will put more of an emphasis on protecting and conserving elephants as indicator animals that indicate a healthy ecosystem, even when the area is already protected as a reserve forest or wildlife sanctuary.
  • Identification of elephant corridors will allow for the adoption of improved management techniques.
  • It will result in more focused management of this area, secure the corridors that are crucial for Asian elephant genetic dispersion in this area, and connect the populations to other areas in the Srivilliputhur Meghamalai tiger reserve and with the Periyar landscapes.

About Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve (ABR):

  • ABR is situated at the southern-most end of the Western Ghats and spread over two southern states Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
  • Its area consists of 3,500.36 sq km of which the area located in Kerala is 1,828 sq km, and the area located in Tamil Nadu is 1672.36 sq km.
  • The biosphere is home to 2,254 species of higher plants and it has about 400 endemics in the area. 
  • It is named after the Agastya Mala peak that rises up to almost 1868 metres above sea level, in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
  • In March 2016, it was included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of UNESCO.
  • It is the 18th biosphere reserve in India.
  • It covers Peppara and Shendurney wildlife sanctuaries and parts of the Neyyar sanctuary in Kerala and the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu.
  • It is also home to the Kanikaran tribe which is one of the oldest surviving ancient tribes in the world.

World Elephant Day:

  • World Elephant Day was started as an initiative by two Canadian filmmakers, Patricia Sims and Michael Clark of Canazwest pictures along with the Thailand-based Elephant Reintroduction Foundation.
  • The day was first observed on August 12, 2012.
  • Year 2022 World Elephant Day theme is 'Elephants never forget.'

Project Cheetah: The Government of India (GoI) has recently undertaken the ambitious Project Cheetah.

Key Points:

  • This project aims to re-establish the species in its historical range in India.
  • Cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal which was declared extinct in India in 1952.
  • The reintroduction of the wild species particularly Cheetah is being undertaken as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN guidelines.
  • The date for Cheetah introduction/ translocation has not been decided as yet.
  • As per the Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), the processes such as disease screening, quarantine of the release candidates as well as the transportation of live wild animals across the continents require careful planning and execution.
  • Upon arrival, the Cheetahs will be kept under quarantine and observed before release.
  • While the agreement has been signed with the Republic of Namibia, the process of signing MoU with South Africa is underway.

World Lion Day 2022: World Lion Day is observed on 10th August annually throughout the world to spread awareness and educate people about lions and their conservation.

The day is celebrated to commemorate the existence of the ‘king of the jungle' in the biodiversity and raise awareness about the need for its conservation.

Objectives:

  • The day is celebrated to fulfill the following three major objectives:
  • To raise awareness about the plight of the lion & other issues that the species faces in the wild
  • To find ways to protect its natural habitat and for creating more such habitats like national parks.
  • To educate people who live near wild cats on the dangers and how to protect themselves.
  • Humans and large species like cats can live in harmony together, but only if they understand how to do so.

History:

  • World Lions Day is celebrated across the world since 2013.
  • The World Lion Day was established by 'Big Cat Rescue' - world’s largest accredited sanctuary for big cats.
  • The day was co-founded by Dereck and Beverly Joubert of the Big Cat Initiative and National Geographic in a partnership.
  • Also known as the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, the partnership aims to protect these wild cats in their natural habitat.
  • Furthermore, the initiative also works on safety measures with communities that live near wild cats.

Significance:

  • Lions are the top predators of their habitat, and checking browsers and grazing populations can help maintain ecosystem balance.
  • They also target the weakest members of the herd, keeping prey populations healthy and robust and indirectly helping control prey population diseases.
  • Their conservation also helps protect natural forest areas and habitats, which in turn helps manage biodiversity.
  • They have been at the heart of human fascination from time immemorial, beyond national borders and across cultures.
  • From guarding temples to adorning national flags, decorating coins to beautifying ancient Indian pillars, Lions have commanded symbolic importance throughout the ages.

Significance of Lion in Indian History:

  • The lions have an illustrious place in India’s history and culture, with their earliest known references found in the pillars of the Mauryan Empire.
  • The Indian national emblem too is adorned by the majestic lion on all four sides.
  • They are also a part of Indian mythology.

Threat:

  • Among the many other threats that face the mighty animal, today, the most prominent of them are trophy hunting and loss of natural habitat

IUCN List:

  • Currently, they are listed as endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.
  • In West Africa, the species is now classified as “critically endangered.”
  • According to reports, over a century ago there were more than 2,00,000 wild lions living in Africa.
  • Recent surveys estimate that in the last two decades, lion numbers have declined from approximately 30,000 to about 20,000.
  • The Asiatic Lion is listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 and as Endangered on IUCN Red List.
  • They are slightly smaller than African lions.

Asiatic Lions:

  • India is home to the majestic Asiatic Lion, who inhabit the protected territory of Sasan-Gir National Park (Gujarat).
  • However, in the past, they roamed across the Indo-Gangetic plains, extending from Sindh in the west to Bihar in the east.
  • Several paintings, literature and the records of lion hunt reveal that the lions were part of Indian mythology, royal emblems and a part of its cultural identity.
  • It was only during the British colonial rule when lions were hunted on a large scale and their numbers depleted from most of their distribution range.

Efforts by India for Conservation of Lions:

  • The Indian government is already making efforts to protect the king of the jungle through various schemes and projects.
  • According to the census of the majestic big cats that was conducted by the Gujarat government in June 2020, it showed a rise.
  • India recorded the highest ever increase of 29 per cent in its lion population from 523 in 2015 to 674 in 2020.
  • The report also cited that their distribution expanded from 22,000 sq. km in 2015 to 30,000 sq. km in 2020.

About Lions:

  • Lions, one of the largest animal species on earth are scientifically named ‘Panthera Leo’.
  • The king of the jungle lives in a large group known as pride.
  • It is like the wolves’ pattern of living.
  • Lions live only in grasslands and plains.
  • The male lion weighs more than 500 pounds and grows up to eight feet in length.
  • The male lions have dignified manes; long thick hair around they head, neck and shoulder which makes them appear larger and more intimidating.
  • Unlike the female cubs, the male cubs are responsible for their own living post maturity.
  • The female lions are smaller and faster.
  • The female lions and their sisters live together.
  • Even the female cubs are joined in the pride.
  • The roar of the male lion can be heard from up to 5 miles away.
  • Their roar is the loudest amongst the big cat species.
  • A lion usually lives for maximum 16 years in the wild and 25 years in captivity.
  • Mostly lions hunt at night because of the adaptation skills of their eyes over dark. This gives them huge advantage over the prey.
  • The coloration of these animals varies from light yellow to dark brown.
  • The lion is armed with claws, which can be almost 10 cm each.

The overall intention to celebrate the World Lion Day is to find sustainable solutions to protect and save wild lion populations from extinction globally.

World Elephant Day 2022: World Elephant Day is an international annual event observed on August 12 every year.

  • The day aims to spread awareness about the plight of elephants and to identify their importance in our ecosystem.

History:

  • World Elephant Day was co-founded by a Canadian filmmaker Patricia Sims and the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation of Thailand, an initiative of HM Queen Sirikit of Thailand on 12 August 2012.
  • The first World Elephant Day was observed in the year 2012 to bring attention to the urgent plight of Asian and African elephants.
  • Since then, the day is being observed every year on 12 August.
  • This is not just a day but a movement in itself.
  • Since 2012, Ms Sims has been leading World Elephant Day.

Significance:

  • World Elephant Day plays a very important role in raising awareness about problems faced by elephants.
  • According to World Elephant Society various threats including, poaching, habitat loss, mistreatment in captivity hover over elephants, especially Asian and African.
  • On this day, they encourage individuals and organizations around the world to work towards elephant conservation.

IUCN Status:

  • The IUCN Red List of threatened species has listed African elephants as ‘Critically Endangered’ and Asian elephants as ‘Endangered’.
  • An estimated 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking ivory, meat and body parts, leaving only 400,000 remaining.

Causes for Decline in the Populations of Elephants:

  • Elephants are shot by hunters and they die in extreme pain and agony.
  • Because of this, their tribes are damaged which leads to populations decline.
  • Elephants are killed by poachers for their ivory which is used in making tableware, sculptures, jewellery, and Chinese traditional medicines, and other things.
  • Wild Asian elephants suffer severe habitat loss in some of the most densely human-populated regions on the planet.
  • Many elephants fall prey to electrocution, train accidents and poisoning.

What can be done to save the elephants?

Never buy ivory products.

  • Donate to reputed organizations like World Wildlife Fund (WWF), The Elephant Society, Wildlife SOS, and others as these organizations work tirelessly towards the rescue. So, donations will help support their activities better and faster.

Protect wild elephant habitat.

  • Provide sanctuaries and alternative habitats for domestic elephants to live freely.

Conservation and protection of Elephants in India:

Project Elephant:

  • In 1992, the Government of India (GoI) launched Project Elephant as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme to protect elephants and their habitats, address issues of human-elephant conflict, and ensure the welfare of captive elephants.
  • The funding is provided by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change for the project across the country.
  • The project has been implemented in 16 states across India namely Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.

Hathi mere Sathi:

  • The Ministry of Environment and Forests, in 2011, collaborated with Wildlife Trust of India to launch the campaign ‘Hathi Mere Sathi’.

Elephant Reserves in India:

  • India has 32 Elephant reserves, as stated by the GoI.
  • The Singhbhum Elephant Reserve of Jharkhand was the first elephant sanctuary in the country.
  • This day is dedicated to the preservation and protection of the world's elephants.

About Elephants:

  • Elephants are the largest land mammals on earth and have distinctly massive bodies, large ears, and long trunks.
  • They use their trunks to pick up objects, trumpet warnings, greet other elephants, or suck up water for drinking or bathing, among other uses.

There are three species of elephants —

  1. The African Forest elephant,
  2. African Savanna (bush) elephant, and
  3. Asian Elephant.
  • They are the only surviving members of the family Elephantidae and the order Proboscidea.
  • The animals can be differentiated by their ears and trunks.
  • African elephants are larger.
  • Their ears are also larger and shaped like Africa.
  • They are scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia and are found in different habitats, including savannahs, forests, deserts, and marshes.

Scientific classification of Elephants:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Proboscidea

Superfamily: Elephantoidea

Family: Elephantidae

 

75 Ramsar sites in India: India recently added 11 more wetlands to the list of Ramsar sites to make total 75 Ramsar sites.

Key Points:

The Ramsar sites covers an area of 13 lakh 26 thousand 677 Hectare in the country in the 75th year of Independence.

The 11 new sites include,

  • 4 in Tamil Nadu,
  • 3 in Odisha,
  • 2 in Jammu and Kashmir and
  • 1 each in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

The new Ramsar Sites are: -

  1. Chitrangudi Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu;
  2. Suchindram Theroor Wetland Complex in Tamil Nadu;
  3. Vaduvur Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu;
  4. Kanjirankulam Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu;
  5. Tampara Lake in Odisha;
  6. Hirakud Reservoir in Odisha;
  7. Ansupa Lake in Odisha;
  8. Yashwant Sagar in Madhya Pradesh;
  9. Thane Creek in Maharashtra;
  10. Hygam Wetland Conservation Reserve in Jammu and Kashmir;
  11. Shallbugh Wetland Conservation Reserve in Jammu and Kashmir.

Tamil Nadu has maximum number of Ramsar sites which is 14, followed by Uttar Pradesh which has 10 numbers of Ramsar sites.

The Ramsar Convention:

  • The Ramsar Convention was signed on 2nd February, 1971.
  • It is one of the oldest inter-governmental accords signed by member countries.
  • Its main objective is to preserve the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance.
  • It is named after Ramsar, the Iranian city where the treaty was signed.Places chosen for conservation under it are given the tag ‘Ramsar site’.

What is the aim of the Ramsar list?

  • The aim of the Ramsar list is “to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits".

India and Ramsar Convention:

  • India is one of the Contracting Parties to Ramsar Convention, signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971.
  • India signed it on 1st February 1982.
  • During 1982 to 2013, a total of 26 sites were added to the list of Ramsar sites.
  • However, during 2014 to 2022, the country has added 49 new wetlands to the list of Ramsar sites.
  • A total of 28 sites have been declared as Ramsar sites this year.

What are wetlands?

  • A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail.
  • It is an area where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season.
  • Water saturation (hydrology) largely determines how the soil develops and the types of plant and animal communities living in and on the soil.
  • Wetlands may support both aquatic and terrestrial species.
  • The prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favour the growth of specially adapted plants (hydrophytes) and promote the development of characteristic wetland (hydric) soils.

Different Types of Wetlands:

Five major wetland types are generally recognized:

1. Marine (coastal wetlands including coastal lagoons, rocky shores, and coral reefs);

2. Estuarine (including deltas, tidal marshes, and mangrove swamps);

3. Lacustrine (wetlands associated with lakes);

4. Riverine (wetlands along rivers and streams); and

5. Palustrine (meaning “marshy” - marshes, swamps and bogs).

Significance of Wetlands:

  • Wetlands play a critical role in maintaining many natural cycles and supporting a wide range of biodiversity.
  • They purify and replenish our water, and provide the fish and rice that feed billions.
  • They serve as a natural sponge against flooding and drought, protect our coastlines and help fight climate change.

Note: About one quarter of the Earth's rain runs off as flood water, causing loss of life and billions of dollars in damage.

Indian Antarctic Bill: The Rajya Sabha on has passed the Indian Antarctic Bill 2022 amid sloganeering by the opposition MPs which forced the adjournment of the House.

Highlights:

  • The Indian Antarctic Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by Earth Sciences Minister Jitendra Singh.
  • The bill was passed with a voice vote after a brief discussion amid protests by the opposition members.

Key Points about the Bill:

  • The main purpose of this bill is to protect the South Pole.
  • The bill seeks to provide national measures to protect the Antarctic environment and associated ecosystems.
  • It proposes to prohibit Indian expedition to Antarctica without a permit or written authorisation of another party to the Antarctic Treaty.
  • It provides for inspection by an officer appointed by the government and for a penalty for contravention of certain provisions of the legislation.
  • The Bill will also give effect to the Antarctic Treaty, the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.

What will happen to this bill?

  • The Antarctic region is currently governed by international law, but after this bill is passed into law, those connected to the Indian territory and its mission will be subject to Indian law, and will be brought before Indian courts.
  • If any wrongs, crimes, irregularities are committed by people in or for the territory of the Indian Mission will be dealt with under Indian laws.

Importance of Antarctica:

  • Antarctica is the southernmost continent of the earth.
  • Although snow is always frozen at this place, it is very important for humans.
  • The global climate is directly impacted by the changes occurring here.
  • In addition to this, there have still been a lot of discoveries about this continent.
  • In such a situation, many countries have established their research centers here.

India also has two active research centers there –

  1. Maitri in Shirmakar Hills (opened in 1989) and
  2. Bharti in Larsman Hills (opened in 2012).

New Wetlands Designated as Ramsar Sites: The Union environment ministry on recently announced that India has added 10 more wetlands, taking the total Ramsar sites to 64.

Key Highlights:

  • So far, 64 wetlands covering an area of 12,50,361 ha have been designated as Ramsar Sites of International Importance from India.
  • The new sites include six wetlands from Tamil Nadu and one each from Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.
  • Now, India stands at first position jointly with China.

The 10 new designated sites are

  • Koothankulam Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.
  • Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve in Tamil Nadu.
  • Vembannur Wetland Complex in Tamil Nadu.
  • Vellode Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.
  • Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.
  • Udhayamarthandapuram Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.
  • Satkosia Gorge in Odisha.
  • Nanda Lake in Goa.
  • Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary in Karnataka.
  • Sirpur Wetland in Madhya Pradesh.

About:

Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary:

  • Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary is a man-made wetland in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu.
  • It is the largest reserve for breeding resident and migratory water birds in south India.
  • It is also an important bird and biodiversity area forming part of the central Asian flyway.
  • The wetland also irrigates about 190 acres of paddy.

Satkosia gorge:

  • The Satkosia gorge, which has also been included, spreads along the Mahanadi river in Odisha.
  • It was established in 1976 as a wildlife sanctuary.
  • It is the meeting point of two biogeographic regions of India – the Deccan Peninsula and the Eastern Ghats, contributing immense biodiversity,
  • The Satkosia gorge wetland is a mosaic of marshes and evergreen forests.
  • The forests of these catchments play a vital role in the prevention of the gorge siltation.
  • They also help in maintaining a desirable depth of water crucial for the endangered gharial population.

Nanda Lake:

  • The Nanda Lake in Goa has freshwater marshes that lie adjacent to one of the major rivulets of the Zuari river.
  • This enables the locals to store water during the off-monsoon season.
  • The stored water is also utilised to cultivate paddy downstream of the lake and supports fishing and recreation.
  • The lake is a habitat for Black-headed ibis, Common kingfisher, Wire-tailed swallow, Bronze-winged jacana, Brahminy kite among others.

Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve (GoMBR):

  • Among seven others that have been included in the list, the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve (GoMBR).
  • It is one of the most important, located on the southeastern coastline.
  • It is unique for its rich marine environment.
  • The reserve area is also home to several globally important and highly threatened species such as the Dugong, whale shark, green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle seahorses, balanoglossus,, dolphins, sacred chanks, etc.

Ramsar Convention:

  • Ramsar Convention was signed on 2nd February, 1971.
  • It is one of the oldest inter-governmental accords signed by member countries.
  • Its main objective is to preserve the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance.
  • It is named after Ramsar, the Iranian city where the treaty was signed.
  • Places chosen for conservation under it are given the tag ‘Ramsar site’.

Aim:

  • The aim of the Ramsar list is to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits.

Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC): The Union Cabinet has approved India’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to be communicated to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Key Points about the Updated NDC:

  • The updated NDC seeks to enhance India’s contributions in strengthening global response to the threat of climate change, as agreed under the Paris Agreement. 
  • This in turn will help India usher in low emissions growth pathways. 
  • On the basis of the UNFCCC's principles and provisions, it would also safeguard the nation's interests and future development needs.
  • Updated NDC translates the ‘Panchamrit’ into enhanced climate targets.
  • India at the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Glasgow, United Kingdom had expressed to intensify its climate action by presenting to the world five nectar elements (Panchamrit) of India’s climate action.
  • The update is also a step towards achieving India’s long term goal of reaching net-zero by 2070.
  • According to the updated NDC, India has pledged to reduce Emissions Intensity of its GDP by 45% by 2030 as compared to 2005 level.
  • It also seeks to attain a cumulative electric power installed capacity of 50% from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030.
  • Furthermore, it aims to achieve a total installed electric power capacity of 50% from non-fossil fuel-based energy sources by 2030.
  • The updated NDC reads "To put forward and further propagate a healthy and sustainable way of living based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation, including through a mass movement for ‘LIFE’– ‘Lifestyle for Environment’ as a key to combating climate change".
  • India’s updated NDC has been prepared after carefully considering our national circumstances and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC).

The updated NDC will be implemented over the 2021-2030 period through programmes and schemes of relevant ministries and departments and with support from states and union territories.

Background:

Earlier, on October 2, 2015, India had submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to UNFCCC.

The 2015 NDC comprised eight goals; three of these have quantitative targets upto 2030 namely-

  1. Cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil sources to reach 40%.
  2. To reduce the emissions intensity of GDP by 33 to 35 percent compared to 2005 levels.
  3. To create additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover.

What are Nationally determined contributions?

  • A nationally determined contribution (NDC) or intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) is a non-binding national plan highlighting climate change mitigation, including climate-related targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • Nationally determined contributions (NDCs) are at the heart of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of these long-term goals.
  • These plans also include policies and measures governments aim to implement in response to climate change and as a contribution to achieve the global targets set out in the Paris Agreement.
  • The Paris Agreement requests each country to outline and communicate their post-2020 climate actions, known as their NDCs.
  • NDCs are the first greenhouse gas targets under the UNFCCC that apply equally to both developed and developing countries.

History:

All countries that were parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) were asked to publish their intended nationally determined contributions at the 2013 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Warsaw, Poland, in November 2013.

After the Paris Agreement entered into force in 2016, the INDCs became the first NDC when a country ratified the agreement unless it decided to submit a new NDC at the same time.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):

  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is another projected legally binding agreement produced at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) or Earth Summit 1992.

COP 21 of the UNFCCC:

During the COP 21 of the UNFCCC, in which the Paris Agreement was signed. The following INDCs was submitted:

  • China: targeted a 60-65% reduction of greenhouse gases emitted.
  • European Union: Sough to reduce greenhouse gases by 40%
  • India: Submitted a target of 33-35% per unit of GDP
  • United States: aimed to reduce greenhouse gases by 26-28%

What are the key elements and focus areas of India's INDC?

The key elements and focus areas of India's INDC are as follows:

  • Reducing Emission intensity of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - To reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 level.
  • Increasing the Share of Non-Fossil Fuel Based Electricity - To achieve about 40 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030 with the help of transfer of technology and low cost international finance including from Green Climate Fund (GCF).
  • Sustainable Lifestyles - To put forward and further propagate a healthy and sustainable way of living based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation.
  • Cleaner Economic Development - To adopt a climate friendly and a cleaner path than the one followed hitherto by others at corresponding level of economic development.
  • Enhancing Carbon Sink (Forests) - To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
  • Adaptation - To better adapt to climate change by enhancing investments in development programmes in sectors vulnerable to climate change, particularly agriculture, water resources, Himalayan region, coastal regions, health and disaster management.
  • Technology Transfer and Capacity Building - To build capacities, create domestic framework and international architecture for quick diffusion of cutting-edge climate technology in India and for joint collaborative R&D for such future technologies.
  • Mobilizing Finance - To mobilize domestic and new & additional funds from developed countries to implement the above mitigation and adaptation actions in view of the resource required and the resource gap.

Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021: The Lok Sabha recently passed the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021.

Key Highlights:

  • The bill was moved by the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav.
  • The Bill amends the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • The bill aims to further implement CITES, an international agreement between governments

Key Provisions of the Bill:

  • The Act regulates the protection of wild animals, birds and plants.
  • The Bill seeks to increase the species protected under the law, and implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
  • Currently, the Act has six schedules for specially protected plants (one), specially protected animals (four), and vermin species (one).
  • The Bill reduces the total number of schedules to four.
  • Schedule for vermin species has been removed.
  • A new schedule has been added for specimens listed under CITES.
  • The Bills empowers the central government to regulate or prohibit the import, trade, possession or proliferation of invasive alien species.
  • Invasive alien species refers to plant or animal species which are not native to India and whose introduction may adversely impact wildlife or its habitat.
  • Penalty for violations of provisions of the bill has increased from Rs 25000 (Under 1972 act) to Rs 1,00,000.
  • The Act entrusts the Chief WildLife Warden appointed by the state government to control, manage and maintain all sanctuaries in a state.
  • The Bill states that the Chief Warden's actions must follow the sanctuary management plans.
  • For sanctuaries falling under special areas, the management plan must be prepared after appropriate consultation with the concerned Gram Sabha.
  • Special areas include a Scheduled Area or areas where the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is applicable.
  • Scheduled Areas are economically backward areas with a predominantly tribal population, notified under the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution.

5 New Ramsar Sites: India has designated five new wetlands of International importance as Ramsar Sites.

The Ramsar sites have been increased from 49 to 54 Ramsar sites.

The five newly designated wetlands are:

  1. Karikili Bird Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu
  2. Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest, Tamil Nadu
  3. Pichavaram Mangrove, Tamil Nadu
  4. Pala wetland, Mizoram
  5. Sakhya Sagar, Madhya Pradesh.

About:

Karikili Bird Sanctuary:

  • Karikili Bird Sanctuary is a 61.21-hectare protected area located in the Kancheepuram District of Tamil Nadu.
  • The sanctuary is about 75 km from Chennai, south of Chengalpattu.

Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest:

  • Pallikaranai wetland is a freshwater marsh located in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
  • It is the only surviving wetland ecosystem of the city and among the few and last remaining natural wetlands of South India.

Pichavaram Mangrove:

  • Pichavaram mangrove is located in a village near Chidambaram in Cuddalore District of Tamil Nadu.
  • The mangrove is one of the largest mangrove forests in India, covering 1100 hectares.

Pala wetland:

  • The Pala wetland is the largest natural wetland in Mizoram.
  • The renowned landmark is surrounded by green woodlands and home to rich diversity of animal species including a range of animals and birds.

Sakhya Sagar:

  • Sakhya Sagar Lake is an integral part of the beautiful ecology of the Madhav National Park in Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh.

Ramsar Wetlands in India:

  • India’s Ramsar wetlands are spread over 11,000 sq.km — around 10% of the total wetland area in the country — across 18 States.
  • No other South Asian country has as many sites, though this has much to do with India’s geographical breadth and tropical diversity.
  • The main goal of the Ramsar wetlands in India is to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands that are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and sustaining human life.

What is Ramsar Site?

  • A Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

About Ramsar Convention:

  • The Ramsar convention is an intergovernmental environmental treaty that was established by UNESCO on February 2, 1971.
  • The convention got its name from Ramsar city in Iran on the Caspian Sea, where the treaty was signed.
  • The Ramsar convention came into force in 1975.
  • It provides for international cooperation and national action regarding conservation of wetlands and sustainable use of their resources.
  • The Ramsar convention identifies wetlands of international importance across the globe, especially those that are home to diverse biodiversity.

American bullfrog and the Brown tree snake: According to a study published in Scientific Reports, two invasive species, the American bullfrog and the brown tree snake, cost the world an estimated $16 billion between 1986 and 2020, by causing problems ranging from crop damage to power outages.

Key points:

  • Scientists have discovered two invasive species that are responsible for economic damage caused by invading pests than any other.
  • The American bullfrog and brown tree snake have collectively caused $16.3bn (£13.4bn) in global damage since 1986.
  • In addition to ecological harm, the invasive pair have ruined farm crops and triggered costly power outages.
  • The brown tree snake, or boiga irregularis, has multiplied uncontrollably on Pacific islands including Guam and the Marianna Islands, where the species was introduced by U.S. troops in World War II.
  • The snake's massive population now causes mass power cuts because they slither over electrical wires and cause expensive damage.
  • In Europe exploding numbers of American bullfrogs have required ambitious and costly management programmes.
  • Officials have been obliged to erect pricey frog-proof fencing around known mating locations in order to stop the spread of the brown-and-green frog known as lithobates catesbeianus, which can grow up to 30cm (12 inches) in length and half a kilo (17.6oz) in weight.
  • The amphibian is said to eat nearly anything, including other bullfrogs.
  • Another species, the common coqui frog, was blamed for causing economic damage in a different way: their extremely loud mating song is believed to have triggered a decline in property values in the areas where they have infested.

This signals the need for investment controlling global transport of invasive species in order to prevent having to pay for mitigation after the invasions happen.

International Tiger Day 2022: The International Tiger Day also known as World Tiger Day is celebrated across the world on July 29 every year.

Key Points:

  • This day is observed to raise awareness among the people to protect natural habitats of tigers, raising public awareness on risks and challenges faced by tigers worldwide.
  • This year marks the 12th International Tiger Day.

History of the day:

  • It was decided to observe 29th July every year as International Tiger Day on 23rd November 2010, during Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit 2010 held in Russia.
  • During the summit, representatives from 13 countries declared that; tiger-populated countries will start initiatives to double the population of tiger by 2022.
  • In 2010 the number of tigers in India was approximately 1700.

Significance of International Tiger Day:

  • International Tiger Day is celebrated so that people get conscious and take measures to conserve the tigers.
  • Tigers play a crucial role in global ecology.
  • They are, in fact, the largest species of the cat family and are crucial to preserving the planet's diversity and health.
  • Tigers can dwell in a broad range of natural settings, including harsh, icy woods in the Russian Far East, grasslands, mangrove swamps, and wooded areas.
  • From the Terai Arc Landscape in the north to the Western Ghats in the south, India houses more wild tigers than any other nation.
  • Although they are thought to be extinct in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam, their numbers are declining in mainland southeast Asia.
  • On International Tiger Day, countries come together and discuss various ways to conserve the tiger. Events and campaigns are organized on International Tiger Day to create awareness among the public.

Risks faced by Tigers:

  • Tigers are placed in the category of endangered species as their Population are declining rapidly due to climate change, trees are being cut down so they are losing their dwelling place and they are also being traded and hunted illegally.
  • As per World Wildlife Fund (WWF), number of wild tigers have decreased by over 95% and only 3900 wild tigers are left in the world.

Tigers in India:

  • Tiger is the national animal of India and is home to more than half of world’s wild tigers, with an estimated 2,226 number of Tigers.
  • However, since 2012, India has lost 1,059 tigers.
  • Since 2012, India has lost 1,059 tigers. Madhya Pradesh also known as ‘tiger state’ of India recorded highest number of deaths.
  • As per National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), 75 tigers have lost life so far in 2022.

India's Theme for International Tiger Day 2022:

India's Theme for International Tiger Day 2022 is “India launches Project Tiger to revive the tiger population”.

Spiny Horntail Dragonfly: Dragonfly enthusiasts have recorded the presence of a rare dragonfly that was hitherto unseen in Kerala.

About the Dragonfly:

  • They spotted the Spiny Horntail, Burmagomphus chaukulensis Joshi, Ogale & Sawant, 2022 (or B. chaukulensis), during a recent expedition to the Kottiyoor forests of Kannur.
  • The species that is known to be endemic to the Western Ghats was discovered in Maharashtra earlier this year.

Prior to their finding, the dragonfly genus Burmagomphus was represented by three species –

  1. B. cauvericus,
  2. B. pyramidalis and
  3. B. laidlawi.
  • While B. laidlawi is found throughout the Western Ghats, B. cauvericus is more restricted in its distribution. B. pyramidalis is found in the Western Ghats as well as in Peninsular India.
  • All other species of the genus are found in the Western and Eastern Himalayas.
  • The new species can be separated from its congeners by the markings on the lateral thorax and peculiar shape of anal appendages.

Azooxanthellate Corals: Scientists have recorded four species of corals for the first time from Indian waters.

Key Points:

  • The study was carried out in reef ecosystems of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Tamal Mondal, the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) scientist behind these new records, said that all the four groups of corals are from the same family Flabellidae.
  • The study was published recently in Thalassas which is an International Journal of Marine Sciences.

These new four species of azooxanthellate corals are -

  1. Truncatoflabellum crassum,
  2. T. incrustatum,
  3. T. aculeatum, and
  4. T. irregulare.

Corals species in India:

  • These coral reefs are one of the most productive, sustainable and pristine ecosystems of the world’s oceans, especially in shallow coastal waters.
  • There are about 570 species of hard corals found in India and almost 90% of them are found in the waters surrounding Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • The pristine and oldest ecosystem of corals share less than 1% of the earth’s surface but they provide a home to nearly 25% of marine life.

Distribution:

Truncatoflabellum crassum (Milne Edwards and Haime, 1848), T. incrustatum (Cairns, 1989), T. aculeatum (Milne Edwards and Haime, 1848), and T. irregulare (Semper, 1872) under the family Flabellidae were previously found in Japan, the Philippines and Australian waters, while only T. crassum was reported with the range of Indo-West Pacific distribution.

Azooxanthellate Corals:

  • The azooxanthellate corals are a group of corals that do not contain zooxanthellae.
  • They derive nourishment not from the sun but from capturing different forms of planktons.
  • They are found in dark habitats, especially within caverns.
  • Their distribution is not limited to the upper layer of ocean alone, but are known from the tropical seas to polar seas and from the intertidal zone to over 6,328 metres depth.
  • They are a group of are a group of hard corals and the four new records are not only solitary but have a highly compressed skeletal structure.
  • Hard corals are the prime and intrinsic part of the coral reef ecosystem.

Amrit Sarovar Mission: In a move that could expedite the implementation of railway and highway projects across the country, the Center has instructed the Ministry of Railways and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to use the soil or silt excavated from ponds and tanks in all districts covered by the Amrit Sarovar mission for their infrastructure projects.

Key Points:

  • Amrit Sarovar Mission is a water conservation mission launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 24.
  • It aims at developing and rejuvenating 75 waterbodies in each district in all States as part of the celebrations of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.
  • At least 50,000 waterbodies are expected to be rejuvenated during the nationwide programme that would culminate on August 15, 2023.
  • Since the project would involve excavation of several thousands of tonnes of earth in the form of soil or silt, the Ministry of Rural Development has told the Ministry of Railways and the NHAI to map its infrastructure projects with the Amrit Sarovar sites in all States and UTs.

About NHAI:

  • The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) was constituted by an act of Parliament, the National Highways Authority of India Act, 1988.
  • It is responsible for the development, maintenance, and management of National Highways entrusted to it and for matters connected or incidental thereto.
  • The Authority was operationalized in February 1995 with the appointment of a full-time Chairman and other Members. 
  • The current Chairman of NHAI is Shri Raghav Chandra.

Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF): The Union Minister for Environment, Shri Bhupender Yadav recently represented India at the virtual meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF).

Key Highlights:

  • MEF was hosted by U.S. President Joseph Biden.
  • The meeting was attended by twenty three major economies across the world and the Secretary General of United Nations.
  • The MEF leaders shared the initiatives being taken by them to deliver on their respective climate change commitments.
  • The MEF meeting was aimed at galvanising actions that are to strengthen energy security and tackle the climate crisis thereby building momentum for COP27.

Initiatives by India on climate change:

  • At the meet, Shri Bhupender Yadav emphasised that India's initiatives, such as the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, extend beyond its national borders.
  • He mentioned that 159 GW of non-fossil fuel-based energy generation capacity has already been installed in India. India's installed solar energy capacity has expanded more than 18 times over the past 7.5 years.
  • He highlighted that India’s annual per capita emissions are only a third of the global average and its cumulative GHG emissions are less than 4 percent.
  • He said that India’s Panchamrit goals are being fructified through one of the largest clean energy development plans in the world.
  • He also said that India is on track to meet its commitments, through the adoption of low carbon policies across key sectors of our economy ranging from the green hydrogen mission to e-mobility.
  • He called upon the members of MEF to launch a global movement on LIFE i.e. Lifestyle for Environment as espoused by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi at the COP26 in Glasgow.

About MEF:

  • The Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) was launched by US President Barack Obama on March 28, 2009.
  • MEF is aimed at facilitating candid dialogue among major emitting countries, both developed and developing, to garner the political leadership needed to advance efforts against climate change.

Chenkurinji: Environmentalists are emphasising on the need for protecting Chenkurinji from Climate Change.

About Chenkurinji:

  • Chenkurinji (Gluta travancorica) is a species endemic to the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve.
  • Belonging to the Anacardiaceae family, the tree was once abundant in the hills on the southern parts of the Aryankavu Pass in Kerala’s Kollam district, but its presence has been fast receding from the area over the years.
  • The Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary derives its name Chenkurinji.

Threats:

  • Gluta travancorica is very susceptible to climate change and the present condition of the species is quite bad with low regeneration performance.
  • Though the flowering usually happens in January, of late, the species has reported a tendency to extend the process due to climate change.
  • It’s an adaptation strategy to increase the chances of germination and maintain a minimum viable population.
  • Though the tree is also seen inside the shola forests near Ponmudi, effective pollination hardly takes place in the habitat.

Significance of Chenkurinji:

  • It’s reported to have medicinal properties and is used to lower blood pressure and treat arthritis.
  • The heartwood is quite sturdy with deep red colour, and several trees were felled for wood during earlier days.

Save Chenkurinji:

  • The department is beginning the "Save Chenkurinji" campaign, which will be executed in several places under the Achencoil Forest Division, in light of the fact that previous conservation efforts weren't entirely successful.
  • The department plans to plant tens of thousands of saplings as part of the programme in the ghat sectors of the Kollam and Pathanamthitta districts.
  • The officials have identified around 75 schools in the area where Chenkurinji will be grown with the support of students.
  • Apart from schools, saplings will be planted in public places.
  • The department has already cultivated thousands of seedlings for Save Chenkurinji.
  • The campaign will be officially launched next week.

About Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve (ABR):

  • The Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve (ABR) was established in 2001.
  • Located in the Western Ghats it straddles the border of Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram Districts inKerala and Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari Districts in Tamil Nadu, South India at the southern end of the Western Ghats.
  • It consisting mostly of tropical forests
  • It is also a unique genetic reservoir of cultivated plants especially cardamom, jamune, nutmeg, pepper and plantain.
  • Three wildlife sanctuaries, Shendurney, Peppara, Neyyar and KalakadMundanthurai Tiger reserve are included in the site.
  • Agastyamalai is also home to the Kanikaran, one of the oldest surviving ancient tribes in the world.

Environment Protection Act, 1986: The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) recently proposed amendments in the Environment Protection Act, 1986 (EPA, 1986).

Key Points:

  • Incidentally, the current EPA provisions will govern the penalties in case of the single-use plastic ban that came into force recently.
  • Enacted under Article 253 of the Constitution, the EPA came into force on November 19, 1986.
  • The Act establishes “the framework for studying, planning, and implementing long-term requirements of environmental safety and laying down a system of speedy and adequate response to situations threatening the environment.”
  • In case of any non-compliance or contravention of the current provisions of the EPA, or of the rules under this Act, the violator can be punished with imprisonment up to five years or with a fine up to Rs 1,00,000, or with both.
  • In case of continuation of such violation, an additional fine of up to Rs 5,000 for every day during which such failure or contravention continues after the conviction for the first such contravention can be levied.

Key Amendments Proposed in the Environment Protection Act:

  • MoEFCC proposed to decriminalise the existing provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
  • The ministry has proposed to replace imprisonment with monetary penalty for the “less severe” contraventions under the EPA, an overarching law that supersedes other environment laws such as the Water and Air Act, which will also be decriminalised.
  • However, serious violations of EPA which lead to grievous injury or loss of life shall be covered under the provision of Indian Penal Code.
  • The changes proposed include the appointment of an ‘adjudication officer’ who will decide on the penalty in cases of environmental violations such as reports not being submitted or information not provided when demanded.
  • The amendments also propose the creation of an “Environmental Protection Fund’’ in which the amount of penalty will be remitted.
  • In case of contraventions of the Act, the penalties could extend to anywhere from five lakh to five crores, the proposal notes, but the clause on provision of a jail term for the first default has been sought to be removed.

Derecho: States of Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois in the US were recently hit by a storm system called a derecho.

Key Highlights:

  • When the storm hit, it turned the skies green.
  • Many experienced storm chasers claimed that they had never seen such atmospheric optics.

About Derecha:

  • According to the US’s National Weather Service, Derecho,  is “a widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm” that is associated with a “band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms”.
  • The name comes from the Spanish word ‘la derecha’ which means ‘straight’.
  • Straight-line storms are those in which thunderstorm winds have no rotation unlike a tornado.
  • These storms travel hundreds of miles and cover a vast area.
  • A derecho which is a warm-weather phenomenon, usually strikes in June and July but can happen at any time of year starting in May.

For a storm to be classified as a derecho -

  • It must have wind gusts of at least 93 km per hour.
  • Wind damage swath extending more than 400 km.
  • The time gap between successive wind damage events should not be more than three hours.

Bird Village of Udaipur:  Recognised as the “bird village” following community driven conservation efforts, Menar in Udaipur district in Rajasthan is set to be notified as the state’s new wetland.

Key Points:

  • This will pave the way for getting the Ramsar site status for this village.
  • The Forest Department of Rajasthan State Government has initiated the process for notification of Menar as a wetland, which will recognise its role in the storage of sediment and nutrients and enable the local authorities to maintain the Brahma and Dhandh lakes.
  • Currently, Rajasthan has two wetlands recognised as Ramsar sites – Keoladeo Ghana in Bharatpur district and Sambhar Salt Lake in Jaipur district.

About Menar:

  • Menar is a village located in Udaipur district, Rajasthan.
  • It is situated 45 km away from Udaipur.
  • It is recognised as bird village following community-driven conservation efforts.
  • The village has two lakes – the Brahma and Dhandh.
  • Lakes Brahma and Dhandh plays host to a large number of migratory birds in the winter season every year.
  • Migratory and local birds include greater flamingo, white-tailed lapwing, bar headed goose, common teal, greenshank, pelican, marsh harrier pintail, wagtail, green sandpiper and red-wattled lapwing.
  • These lakes are maintained as safe haven for birds by volunteers known as Pakshi Mitras (friends of birds).

About the wetland:

  • A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail.
  • It is an area where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season.
  • Water saturation (hydrology) largely determines how the soil develops and the types of plant and animal communities living in and on the soil.
  • Wetlands may support both aquatic and terrestrial species.
  • The prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favor the growth of specially adapted plants (hydrophytes) and promote the development of characteristic wetland (hydric) soils.

Five major wetland types are generally recognized:

1. Marine (coastal wetlands including coastal lagoons, rocky shores, and coral reefs);

2. Estuarine (including deltas, tidal marshes, and mangrove swamps);

3. Lacustrine (wetlands associated with lakes);

4. Riverine (wetlands along rivers and streams); and

5. palustrine (meaning “marshy” - marshes, swamps and bogs).

Significance of wetland:

  • Wetlands are a critical part of our natural environment.
  • They mitigate floods, protect coastlines and build community resilience to disasters, reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality.
  • Wetlands are critical to human and planet life.
  • More than 1 billion people depend on them for a living and 40% of the world’s species live and breed in wetlands.
  • They are a vital source for food, raw materials, genetic resources for medicines, and hydropower.
  • 30% of land-based carbon is stored in peatland.
  • They play an important role in transport, tourism and the cultural and spiritual well-being of people.
  • Many wetlands are areas of natural beauty, and many are important to Aboriginal people.

The Ramsar Convention:

  • It was signed on 2nd February, 1971.
  • It is one of the oldest inter-governmental accords signed by member countries.
  • Its main objective is to preserve the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance.
  • It is named after Ramsar, the Iranian city where the treaty was signed.
  • Places chosen for conservation under it are given the tag ‘Ramsar site’.
  • The aim of the Ramsar list is to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits.

Significance of Ramsar Tag:

  • Ramsar tag makes it incumbent upon authority to strengthen the protection regime there and creates defenses against encroachment.
  • It is like an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification.

International Asteroid Day 2022: World Asteroid Day (also known as International Asteroid Day) is observed to mark the anniversary of the Tunguska impact over Siberia, 1908.

Key Points:

  • It is an annual UN-sanctioned global awareness campaign event observed on June 30th.
  • The observance of this day raises public awareness about the hazards of an asteroid impact.
  • It’s also a day to inform the public about crisis communication actions necessary in the event of a credible near-Earth object event.

Theme:

The theme of Asteroid Day 2022 is “small is beautiful.”

World Asteroid Day history:

  • In December 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in order to "observe each year at the international level the anniversary of the Tunguska impact over Siberia, Russian Federation, on 30 June 1908, and to raise public awareness about the asteroid impact hazard.”
  • Tunguska event is the most harmful known asteroid-related event on Earth in recent history.

Significance:

  • On World Asteroid Day or International Asteroid Day, the potentially catastrophic implications of an asteroid impact on Earth are highlighted.
  • Also, the part asteroids have played in the creation of our cosmos, potential uses for their resources, how asteroids pave the way for more research, and how we might shield the earth from asteroids’ effects.

About Asteroids:

  • They are small rocky bodies that orbit around the Sun.
  • Considered minor planets, some asteroids even have a companion moon. 
  • Most of the asteroids are found in the asteroid belt.
  • The asteroid belt is the region between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter.
  • Asteroids are also leftover materials from the formation of the solar system.
  • Size of asteroids vary and can be hundreds of miles in diameter and various asteroids are as small as pebbles also.
  • The currently known asteroid count is 958,915. 

Asteroid Classes:

The three classes of asteroids include:

  1. C-type (chondrite) – This most common type of asteroid consists of clay and silicate rocks.
  2. S-type (stony) – This asteroid consists of silicate rocks and nickel-iron.
  3. M-type (metallic) – Nickel-iron composes these asteroids.

Note: On 29 April 2020, the biggest asteroid passed relatively close to Earth. At a distance of 4 million miles, asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 passed. That is it is about 16 times the Earth-Moon distance.

Impact of Asteroid collision:

  • An asteroid collision would cause environmental impacts, such as shock waves, heat radiation, earthquakes, and tsunamis.

Environment Current Affairs - July 2022

“Egg-in-Egg” Phenomenon: A team of researchers from the University of Delhi (DU) has discovered a unique set of fossilized dinosaur eggs with ovum-in-ovo (one egg inside another egg) in Madhya Pradesh which is probably the first time in the fossil history.

Key Highlights:

  • The Ovum-in-ovo (one egg inside another egg) was found at the Dinosaur Fossil National Park, Madhya Pradesh.
  • The rare phenomenon of eggs-within-eggs is far known to occur only in birds so far and have never been known in reptiles until now.
  • This discovery brings out newer connections between reptilian and avian evolution.
  • The findings have been published in the latest issue of the journal Scientific Reports.

What did the scientists discover?

  • The Upper Cretaceous Lameta Formation of Central India is long known for its dinosaur fossils  (both skeletal and egg remains).
  • Researchers, in this region have recently discovered 52 titanosaurid dinosaur nests at the Dinosaur Fossil National Park in Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh.
  • One of these Sauropod dinosaur nests consisted of 10 eggs, including the abnormal egg which had two continuous and circular eggshell layers separated by a wide gap reminiscent of ovum-in-ovo (one egg inside another egg) pathology of birds.
  • The microstructure of the pathological egg as well as that of an adjacent egg in the same nest identified it with that of Titanosaurid Sauropod dinosaurs.

Significance of this discovery:

  • The eggs-within-eggs are rare phenomena.
  • Until this discovery, no egg-in-egg fossil egg was found in dinosaurs and other reptiles such as turtles, lizards and crocodiles.
  • This discovery brings out newer connections between reptilian and avian evolution.
  • The recent discovery highlights the potential for dinosaur fossils in central and western India, which may provide crucial details on the diversity of dinosaur species, nesting behaviour, and reproductive biology.

About Titanosaurs:

  • Titanosaurs (or titanosaurians; members of the group Titanosauria) were a diverse group of sauropod dinosaurs, including genera from all seven continents.
  • The family of Sauropod dinosaurs, which includes some of the biggest terrestrial animals ever to have existed, was widely distributed millions of years ago in the region that is now India.
  • Fossils of these animals have been found in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and in Meghalaya as well.

Glischropus meghalayanus: A team of scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Shillong, and Natural History museums of Europe have discovered a new species of bamboo-dwelling bat in Ri Bhoi district of Meghalaya.

Key Points:

  • The discovery has been published in the latest issue of the prominent taxonomic journal Zootaxa on June 15.
  • This new species of thick-thumbed bat has been found near the forested patch of bamboo forest near Lailad in Ri-Bhoi district in Meghalaya, which is adjoining to Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • It has been named Glischropus meghalayanus, where it was discovered and also in celebration of the 50th anniversary of statehood of Meghalaya in 2022.
  • Previously, four species of thick-thumbed bats were known globally and all are distributed in the Southeast Asian region.
  • The present discovery is the first report of a thick-thumbed bat from India and also from South Asia.
  • Bamboo-dwelling bats are a particular kind of bats living in the internodes of bamboos with specialised morphological characters that help them to adopt to the life inside a bamboo.
  • With this new discovery, the total number of bat species known from India stands at 131 species with Meghalaya harbouring the highest bat diversity with 67 species.

About Glischropus meghalayanus:

  • Thick-thumbed bats of the genus Glischropus are currently composed of four recognised species from Southeast Asia.
  • The newly discovered species is small in size and has a dark brown colour with sulphur yellow belly.
  • This bat has typical fleshy pads on the thumb and soles of feet which aid them to crawl over smooth surfaces of bamboo internodes.

Note: Scientists discovered another species of disk-footed bat, Eudiscopus denticulus, a new record for India, in the same forested regions outside the Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary.

Thiomargarita magnifica: In a significant development, researchers have discovered the largest bacterium named 'Thiomargarita magnifica'in the Caribbean, which is an organism that resembles vermicelli.

Key Highlights:

  • The bizarre bacterium has been found in several locations in Guadeloupe, a French archipelago in the Caribbean.
  • While most bacteria are microscopic, this unique organism is big enough to be seen with the naked eye.
  • The thin white filament, approximately the size of a human eyelash, is by far the largest bacterium known to date.
  • The organism is roughly 50 times larger than all other known giant bacteria and is the first to be visible with the naked eye.
  • A normal bacterial species measures 1-5 micrometers long.
  • This species averages 10,000 micrometers (four-tenths of an inch/1 cm) long, with some twice that length.
  • The discovery has been detailed in a study published in the journal Science.

When was Thiomargarita magnifica first discovered?

  • This bacterium, known as Thiomargarita magnifica, or "magnificent sulphur pearl," was discovered in 2009 clinging to submerged mangrove leaves in the Guadeloupe archipelago by co-author and scientist Olivier Gros.
  • But he didn't immediately know it was a bacterium because of its surprisingly large size, just over a third of an inch (0.9 centimeters) long.

Only later genetic analysis revealed the organism to be a single bacterial cell.

What are Bacteria?

  • Bacteria are single-celled organisms that reside nearly everywhere on the planet, vital to its ecosystems and most living things.
  • Bacteria are thought to have been the first organisms to inhabit Earth and remain quite simple in structure billions of years later.
  • The bodies of people are teeming with bacteria, only a relatively small number of which cause disease.

Additional Info:

Below are the 5 of the largest kinds of bacteria in the world:

Oscillatoria princeps:

  • It was discovered by Vaucher ex Gomont in 1892.
  • Its size is 69.1 µm in width.
  • It is long and cylindrical in shape.
  • Over 100 distinct species of filamentous cyanobacteria belong to the genus Oscillatoria.
  • This genus is also referred as oxygenic photosynthetic bacteria or "blue-green algae."
  • Blue-green algae inhabits fresh, marine, and brackish waters.
  • Oscillatoria princeps is a symbiotic species that, like certain other flora species, may only reproduce asexually, through fragmentation, or through spore development.

Note:

  • Blue-green algae occasionally release poisons when they "bloom," or rapidly proliferate on the water's surface.
  • A toxic algae bloom can cause severe illness or death in animals that drink contaminated water, or come into contact with the algae.

Spirochaeta plicatilis:

  • It was discovered by C.G. Ehrenberg in 1835.
  • Its size is 250 µm in length.
  • It is long and helically coiled in shape.
  • This species of bacteria is believed to be nonparasitic, often inhabiting aquatic environments, and able to survive in both freshwater and saltwater.
  • In addition to giving it an edge in the water, Spirochaeta plicatilis' distinctive flagella enable it to traverse surfaces as gliding bacteria do.
  • This bacterium has the ability to make its way through higher-viscosity liquids than other varieties as well.

Leptospira interrogans:

  • It was discovered by Ryokichi Inada and Yutaka Ido in 1915.
  • Its size is 500 µm in length.
  • It is long and helically coiled in shape.
  • The majority of spirochetes prefer an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment.
  • They can grow as long as 500 m on occasion.
  • Particularly Leptospira interrogans thrives inside the bodies of animals, away from the dry air.

Note:

  • The capacity of these bacteria to proliferate is strongly influenced by the climate because of which leptospirosis outbreaks are most frequent in tropical regions.
  • This bacterium causes Leptospirosis, or “Swineherd’s Disease,” an acute systemic illness that inflames the blood vessels.
  • This disease primarily affects animals, but it can still be transmitted to humans.

For instance, in the recent years this disease has sprung up in areas such as India, Brazil and Southeast Asia.

Epulopiscium fishelsoni:

  • It was discovered by Lev Fishelson in 1985.
  • Its size is 600 µm in length.
  • It is elliptical coiled in shape.
  • It has the widest range of cell sizes of any bacterial species.
  • IT is found mainly in the waters of the Red Sea and the coastal waters of Australia.
  • These bacteria were thought to be protists for years after their discovery because of their massive size.
  • The largest specimens of Epulopiscium fishelsoni were originally discovered in the intestinal tracts of Brown Surgeonfish.
  • A symbiotic relation exists A symbiotic relation exists between the bacteria and several varieties of Surgeonfish with the bacteria aiding in the digestion of algae and detritus.

Thiomargarita namibiensis:

  • It was discovered by Heide Schulz and research team in 1997.
  • Its size is 750 µm in width.
  • It is chain of cocci in shape.
  • It is found among the sediments of the continental shelf of Namibia, Africa.
  • In reference to the way the bacterial strands appear, the term Thiomargarita means "sulphur pearl."

Industrial Decarbonization Summit 2022: The Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari recently inaugurated the Industrial Decarbonization Summit 2022 (IDS-2022) – Road Map for Carbon Neutrality by 2070 in New Delhi.

Key Details:

  • The ‘Industrial Decarbonization Summit 2022’ was inaugurated to overcome power shortage because it is necessary to develop alternative fuels.  
  • Minister Gadkari emphasized on maintaining equilibrium between ecology, environment and development.
  • While Inaugurating the IDS-2022 he stated that in the coming days, India would have to strengthen its economy and at the same time also save the environment.
  • He said that the Central Government’s priority is green hydrogen and by using biotechnology, the productivity of biomass can be increased.
  • He pointed out that pollution would decrease by usage of methanol and ethanol.
  • The Union Minister further added that Biomass can be used to produce bio-ethanol, bio-LNG, and bio-CNG.
  • The Minister also said that a focused road map should be created and adequate research must be done so that we reduce our imports and increase exports.  

What is Decarbonization?

Decarbonisation means the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions through the use of low carbon power sources, achieving a lower output of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

Note:

  • ‘Decarbonisation’ tends to refer to the process of reducing ‘carbon intensity’, lowering the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Generally, this involves decreasing CO2 output per unit of electricity generated.
  • Reducing the amount of carbon dioxide occurring as a result of transport and power generation is essential to meet global temperature standards set by the Paris Agreement and UK government.

What is a low-carbon economy?

  • A low-carbon economy (LCE) or decarbonised economy is an economy based on energy sources that produce low levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • GHG emissions due to human activity are the dominant cause of observed climate change since the mid-20th century.
  • The long-term goal of decarbonization is to create a CO₂-free global economy.

2021 Tree City of the World: The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN-FAO) and Arbor Day Foundation have jointly recognised Mumbai and Hyderabad as the ‘2021 Tree City of the World.

Key Points:

  • The two Indian cities have won the recognition due to their commitment to growing and maintaining urban trees and greenery in building healthy, resilient and happy cities.

In 500 volunteer hours, Hyderabad planted around 3.5 crore trees, whereas Mumbai planted 42,5000 trees in 25,000 volunteer hours.

  • This is the first time Mumbai has made it to the list while Hyderabad has been recognised for a second consecutive year.
  • In 2021, Hyderabad was the only city in India to be recognised as a ‘ 2020 Tree City of the World’.
  • Apart from Hyderabad and Mumbai 136 other cities from 21 countries have been recognised in the third edition of the Tree City of the World list.

In 486,015 volunteer hours, the 138 cities planted 38,787,795 trees. The United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada have the most tree cities, with 37, 19, and 18 cities, respectively.

About Tree Cities of the World’ tag:

  • The United Nations’ ‘Tree City of the World’ programme was started by the UN-FAO and Arbor Day Foundation, an American non-profit organisation.
  • It is a global initiative “to recognise cities and municipalities that are committed to ensuring that their urban forests and trees are properly preserved, sustainably managed, and rightly acknowledged.”
  • The initiative provides guidance, assistance, and worldwide recognition for communities’ dedication to its urban forest
  • The programme establishes the foundation for a healthy, long-term urban forestry programme in a town or city.
  • It provides a framework for a healthy, sustainable urban forestry.

Criteria for being awarded the title of Tree City:

To be recognized as a ‘Tree City,’ a city needs to satisfy five fundamental conditions that show its commitment to caring for its forests and trees.

  1. To be recognised as a Tree City, a city must have a written statement delegating responsibility for the care of trees within the municipal boundary to a staff member, a city department, or a group of citizens – called a Tree Board.
  2. The city should have in place a law or an official policy to govern the management of forests and trees.
  3. The third core criterion is to have an updated inventory or assessment of the local tree resource so that an effective long-term plan for planting, care, and removal of city trees can be established.
  4. The city should have a dedicated annual budget for the implementation of the tree management plan.
  5. To be recognised as a Tree City, it should organise an annual celebration of trees to raise awareness among people and to acknowledge citizens who carried out the tree programme.

NTPC's Biodiversity Policy 2022: NTPC Ltd, India’s largest integrated energy producer recently issued a renewed Biodiversity Policy 2022 to establish a comprehensive vision and guiding principle for conservation, restoration, and enhancement of biodiversity.

Key Points:

  • It is an integral part of NTPC’s Environmental Policy.
  • Its objectives are aligned with environmental and sustainability policies.
  • The policy is aimed towards establishing a comprehensive vision and guiding principle for conservation, restoration, and enhancement of biodiversity.
  • It also aims to adopt systematic consideration of local threats to biodiversity beyond the company’s business activities.
  • The policy is designed to support all the professionals of the NTPC Group to help them contribute toward the achievement of the targets set in this field.

About NTPC:

  • NTPC Ltd is India’s largest integrated energy producer.
  • It has always been mindful about avoiding operations in areas with the highest biodiversity value and judiciously selecting project sites.
  • It seeks to adopt a precautionary approach for sustainable management of biodiversity in all the decision-making processes to ensure the Earth's variety of life in and around the business units of NTPC.
  • NTPC was the first PSU to issue a Biodiversity Policy in 2018.
  • In the same year, NTPC became a member of the India Business & Biodiversity Initiative (IBBI).
  • As part of its capacity building, NTPC is raising awareness among local communities, employees, and its associates across the supply chain about biodiversity through project-specific and national level trainings in collaboration with experts.
  • In a major initiative undertaken by NTPC, it has signed a five-year agreement with Andhra Pradesh Forest Department for conservation of Olive Ridley Turtles in the coastline of Andhra Pradesh.

World Environment Day 2022: The World Environment Day (WED) 2022 was observed Jun 05, 2022.

  • This year marks the 50th year of the World Environment Day.

Theme of World Environment Day 2022:

Sweden is the host this year and the theme is ‘Only One Earth,’ focusing on the need to live sustainably in harmony with nature.

The theme is set to focus on “living sustainably in harmony with nature.”

About WED:

  • WED is observed globally on 5th June every year.
  • This day is observed in order to raise awareness about protecting the environment and to remind people not to take nature granted.
  • It is the biggest international day for the environment.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the nodal agency that organises and supports events across the world.

History:

  • The idea of ‘World Environment Day' was first introduced at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment - also kn own as the Stockholm conference in 1972.
  • The conference had become the first world to have ‘environment’ on its agenda. Along with the day, the conference saw the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme.
  • First held in 1973, the day is a global platform for public outreach, with participation from over 143 countries annually.
  • Each year, the program has provided a theme and forum to advocate environmental causes.
  • A different country hosts the day every year.

Significance:

  • WED has been a platform for raising awareness on environmental issues such as marine pollution, overpopulation, global warming, sustainable consumption and wildlife crime.
  • The day aims to focus on the importance of the environment and to remind people that nature should not be taken for granted.

WED 2022 in India:

  • Meanwhile, in India, on the occasion of World Environment Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a global initiative called ‘LiFE’, short for 'Lifestyle for the Environment Movement', to invite ideas and suggestions from scholars around the globe on ways to adapt an environmentally conscious lifestyle.
  • The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) launched a 'Clean and Green' campaign. Under this campaign, Urban Local Bodies across the country will hold awareness programmes to free the country from single-use plastic and contribute to improve the environment.

 Save Soil Movement: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently attended a programme on ‘Save Soil Movement’ in New Delhi on the occasion of World Environment Day.

  • Prime Minister’s participation in the programme will be reflective of the shared concerns and commitment towards improving the health of soil in the country.

About Save Soil Movement:

  • Save Soil Movement is a global movement to increase awareness about deteriorating soil health and bring about a conscious response to improve soil.
  • The movement was started by Sadhguru in March this year, who embarked on a 100-day motorcycle journey passing through 27 countries.
  • This movement strives to rally the environmentally-conscious around soil conservation, advocating the power of individual actions for policy change and public engagement.

 

Mass Coral Bleaching: The management authority of the world’s largest coral reef system, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, confirmed on March 25 that the reef is experiencing a mass coral bleaching event.

  • This is the sixth time that the coral reef system is being hit by a widespread and damaging bleaching event and the fourth time in six years that such an event has occurred.

About The Great Barrier Reef:

  • The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system.
  • The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia and can be seen from outer space.
  • It is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms.
  • The structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps.
  • It supports a wide diversity of life.
  • It hosts 400 different types of coral, gives shelter to 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc.
  • It was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.
  • It was also labeled as one of the seven natural wonders of the world by CNN.
  • It was named as a state icon of Queensland by the Queensland National Trust.

About Coral reef:

  • A coral reef is an underwater ecosystem characterized by reef-building corals.
  • Reefs are formed by colonies of coral polyps that are held together by calcium carbonate.
  • Most of the reefs are built from stony corals, whose polyps cluster in groups.
  • Coral belongs to the class Anthozoa in the animal phylum Cnidaria which includes sea anemones and jellyfish.
  • Corals secrete hard carbonate exoskeletons that support and protect the coral.
  • Corals share a symbiotic relationship with single-celled algae called zooxanthellae.
  • The algae provide the coral with food and nutrients, which they make through photosynthesis, using the sun’s light.
  • In turn, the corals give the algae a home and key nutrients.
  • The zooxanthellae also give corals their bright colour
  • Most reefs grow best in warm, shallow, clear, sunny and agitated water.
  • Corals are also called as rainforests of the sea.
  • Shallow coral reefs form some of Earth's most diverse ecosystems. 
  • Corals comprises of less than 0.1% of world’s ocean area.
  • They are commonly found at shallow depths in tropical waters.
  • In deep water and cold water, coral reefs exist on smaller scales.

Note: First ever coral reefs were appeared some 485 million years ago.

Types of Coral:

 

Corals are of two types i.e., hard coral and soft coral:

I.Hard corals, also called hermatypic or ‘reef building’ corals extract calcium carbonate (also found in limestone) from the seawater to build hard, white coral exoskeletons.

II.Soft coral polyps, however, borrow their appearance from plants; attach themselves to such skeletons and older skeletons built by their ancestors. Soft corals also add their own skeletons to the hard structure over the years and these growing multiplying structures gradually form coral reefs. They are the largest living structures on the planet.

About Coral Bleaching:

  • Coral Bleaching occurs when corals experience stress in their environment due to changes in temperature, extremely low tides, pollution, or too much sunlight, dumping of dredging sludge and cyclic population.
  • Under stressed conditions, the zooxanthellae or food-producing algae living inside coral polyps start producing reactive oxygen species, which are not beneficial to the corals.
  • So, the corals expel the colour-giving zooxanthellae from their polyps, which expose their pale white exoskeleton, giving the corals a bleached appearance.
  • Bleached corals continue to live but begin to starve after bleaching.

Why are Coral reefs under threat?

They are under threat from excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), rising temperatures, oceanic acidification, overfishing (e.g., from blast fishing, cyanide fishing, spearfishing on scuba), sunscreen use, and harmful land-use practices, including runoff and seeps (e.g., from injection wells and cesspools).

 

International Day of Plant Health: The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) designated 12 May the International Day of Plant Health (IDPH) to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect biodiversity and the environment, and boost economic development.

Key Points:

  • The Day is an important legacy of the International Year of Plant Health 2020, which took place between 2020 and 2021.
  • The observance was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly in a resolution (A/RES/76/256) co-signed by Bolivia, Finland, Pakistan, the Philippines, Tanzania and Zambia in March 2022.

Significance:

  • The resolution states that healthy plants are essential for all life on Earth, as well as ecosystem services, food security, and nutrition, and that plant health is critical for agriculture's long-term sustainability in order to feed a growing global population by 2050.

Objectives of IDPH:

  • To raise awareness about the need of maintaining plant health in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger).
  • To reduce the risk of plant pests spreading through international travel and trade.
  • To protect plant health by strengthening early warning systems.
  • To ensure long-term pesticide management and plant health.
  • To encourage investment in plant health research and development.

Significance of Protection Plant Health:

  • Life on earth depends on plants as well as plant health as plants contribute to 80% of food needs and 98% of oxygen.
  • But, the plants are under threat as about 40% of food crops are lost due to plant pests and diseases every year.
  • This is affecting both food security and agriculture, which is the primary source of income for rural populations.
  • Climate change and destructive human activities are also altering the plant ecosystems contributing to the loss of biodiversity while creating new niches for pests to thrive.
  • Pests and diseases are increasing as a result of increased international travel and trade, which has tripled in volume in the last decade.

Therefore, there is a need to take corrective action by all to protect plants both for people and the planet.

Amrit Sarovar: Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Swatantra Dev Singh, Uttar Pradesh Jal Shakti Minister inaugurated India’s first Amrit Sarovar in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh on May 13, 2022.

Overview:

  • Amrit Sarovar at Rampur’s Gram Panchayat Patwai has been constructed under the inspiration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the guidance of the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath.
  • The participation and cooperation of the common people, villagers and District Administration also played an important role in the opening of India’s first Amrit Sarovar in Uttar Pradesh.
  • In just a few weeks, a pond that had previously been clogged with garbage in Rampur was cleaned and revived.

Amrit Sarovar Initiative:

  • PM Modi launched a new initiative named Mission Amrit Sarovar on 24th April 2022 with a view to conserve water for the future.
  • As part of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, 75 water bodies will be developed and regenerated as part of the Amrit Sarovar initiative.
  • PM Modi had given a call for every district to have 75 ponds (Amrit Sarovar) during the 75th anniversary of India's independence, described as "Azadi Ka Amrit Kaal", to give a boost to water conservation and environment.
  • He had emphasized water conservation in the country saying it is critical to the country’s prosperity and also namechecked Patwai in his 88th monthly radio address, ‘Mann ki Baat’.

Significance:

  • The pond will not only help in protecting environment and conserving water but will also be an attraction for people of the nearby areas.
  • Besides food court, fountains and lighting and other amusements, boating has also been made available there.

Ramgarh Vishdhari: Ramgarh Vishdhari Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan has recently been notified as Rajasthan’s 4th and the 52nd tiger reserve of India.

The other 3 tiger reserves in Rajasthan are -

  1. Ranthambore Tiger Reserve (RTR) in Sawai Madhopur
  2. Sariska Tiger Reserve (STR) in Alwar
  3. Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve (MHTR) in Kota.

Key Points:

  • This was announced by the Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had given in-principle approval to make Ramgarh Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary and adjoining areas as tiger reserves on July 5 last year.
  • It will help to conserve biodiversity and bring ecotourism and development to the area.

Status of Tigers in India:

  • According to the “Status of Tigers in India” report released in 2019, there are 2,967 tigers in 20 states across the country.

About Ramgarh Vishdhari Tiger Reserve:

  • Ramgarh Vishadhri reserve is located mostly in the Bundi district and in part in Bhilwara and Kota districts.
  • The Ramgarh Vishdhari Tiger Reserve will span across an area of 1,501.89 sq km.
  • The Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary includes the tiger habitat between Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in the northeast and Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve on the southern side.
  • The reserve has been called 'critical' by wildlife experts and conservationists for the movement of Tigers between Ranthambore and Mukundra reserves.
  • Apart from Tigers, the reserve is also home to other animals including leopard, Indian wolf, Nilgai, Striped hyena, Sloth bear, Golden jackal, Chinkara and fox.

 

Environment Current Affairs - June 2022

Indian Antarctic Bill: Nearly 40 years after India first signed the Antarctic Treaty, the government has brought in a draft Indian Antarctic Bill, 2020.

Key Highlights:

The draft Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh.

After a voice vote and the ‘ayes’ getting a majority, the Bill was introduced in the house.

About the Indian Antarctica Bill:

  • India officially joined the Treaty System in 1983 and is one of the 54 members of the Antarctic Agreement, which was formed in 1959.
  • The draft bill is the first domestic legislation with regard to Antarctica in India.
  • The Bill puts into place a comprehensive list of regulations related to Antarctica, for such scientific expeditions, as well as for individuals, companies and tourists.
  • A domestic legislation will further provide more validity to the Antarctic Treaty, and subsequent protocols, of which India is a signatory.
  • The proposal also calls for the establishment of the Antarctic Eunu, which will be used to conserve the Antarctic ecosystem.
  • It extends the jurisdiction of Indian courts to Antarctica, for crimes on the continent by Indian citizens, or foreign citizens who are a part of Indian expeditions.
  • The Bill introduces an elaborate permit system for any expedition or individual who wishes to visit the continent.
  • The committee on Antarctic Governance and Environmental Protection is also established by the legislation.
  • The Bill further enlists elaborate standards for environmental protection as well as waste management.
  • The Bill prohibits drilling, dredging, excavation or collection of mineral resources or even doing anything to identify where such mineral deposits occur — the only exception is for scientific research with a granted permit.

Penalty system proposed in the draft bill:

  • The draft Bill proposes the setting up of a separate designated court to try crimes committed in Antarctica.
  • The bill also includes harsh penalties, with the minimum penalty ranging from one to 2 years in jail and a fine of Rs 10-50 lakh.
  • The exploitation of any Antarctic species or transfer of an exotiç breed to the region can result in a seven-year prison term and a penalty of Rs 50 lakh.
  • For dumping of nuclear waste or a nuclear explosion, the imprisonment can range between 20 years to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs 50 crore.

Aim:

  • The Bill aims at having India’s own national measures for protecting the Antarctic environment and its dependent and associated ecosystem.

Note: Antarctica has already been covered by local laws in twenty-seven other nations.

Research stations set up by India in Antarctica:-

1. Dakshin Gangotri (1983-84), 

2. Maitri (1988),

3. Bharati(2015)

About Antarctic Treaty:

  • In 1961, the Soviet Union, United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Island, and The U.S were among the 12 countries that signed the Antarctic Treaty.
  • The treaty entered into force in 1961.
  • The Agreement applies to the region south of 60 degrees South latitude.
  • The main goals of the agreement are to demilitarise Antarctica and develop it as a region for peaceful research, as well as to lay any geographical sovereignty conflicts to rest, guaranteeing global cooperation.

Members:

  • The Antarctic Treaty now has 54 members.
  • However, only 29 countries have voting rights at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings, including India.

The Antarctic Treaty Protocol on Environmental Conservation was signed in 1991 and entered into force in 1998.

Antarctica is designated as a “natural reserve dedicated to peace and science,” according to the treaty.

 

Environment Current Affairs - April 2022

Mass Coral Bleaching: The management authority of the world’s largest coral reef system,Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, confirmed on March 25 that the reef is experiencing a mass coral bleaching event.

  • This is the sixth time that the coral reef system is being hit by a widespread and damaging bleaching event and the fourth time in six years that such an event has occurred.

About The Great Barrier Reef:

  • The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system.
  • The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia and can be seen from outer space.
  • It is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms.
  • The structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps.
  • It supports a wide diversity of life.
  • It hosts 400 different types of coral, gives shelter to 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc.
  • It was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.
  • It was also labeled as one of the seven natural wonders of the world by CNN.
  • It was named as a state icon of Queensland by the Queensland National Trust.

About Coral reef:

  • A coral reef is an underwater ecosystem characterized by reef-building corals.
  • Reefs are formed by colonies of coral polyps that are held together by calcium carbonate.
  • Most of the reefs are built from stony corals, whose polyps cluster in groups.
  • Coral belongs to the class Anthozoa in the animal phylum Cnidaria which includes sea anemones and jellyfish.
  • Corals secrete hard carbonate exoskeletons that support and protect the coral.
  • Corals share a symbiotic relationship with single-celled algae called zooxanthellae.
  • The algae provide the coral with food and nutrients, which they make through photosynthesis, using the sun’s light.
  • In turn, the corals give the algae a home and key nutrients.
  • The zooxanthellae also give corals their bright colour
  • Most reefs grow best in warm, shallow, clear, sunny and agitated water.
  • Corals are also called as rainforests of the sea.
  • Shallow coral reefs form some of Earth's most diverse ecosystems. 
  • Corals comprises of less than 0.1% of world’s ocean area.
  • They are commonly found at shallow depths in tropical waters.
  • In deep water and cold water, coral reefs exist on smaller scales.

Note: First ever coral reefs were appeared some 485 million years ago.

Types of Coral:

 

Corals are of two types i.e., hard coral and soft coral:

I.Hard corals, also called hermatypic or ‘reef building’ corals extract calcium carbonate (also found in limestone) from the seawater to build hard, white coral exoskeletons.

II.Soft coral polyps, however, borrow their appearance from plants; attach themselves to such skeletons and older skeletons built by their ancestors. Soft corals also add their own skeletons to the hard structure over the years and these growing multiplying structures gradually form coral reefs. They are the largest living structures on the planet.

About Coral Bleaching:

  • Coral Bleaching occurs when corals experience stress in their environment due to changes in temperature, extremely low tides, pollution, or too much sunlight, dumping of dredging sludge and cyclic population.
  • Under stressed conditions, the zooxanthellae or food-producing algae living inside coral polyps start producing reactive oxygen species, which are not beneficial to the corals.
  • So, the corals expel the colour-giving zooxanthellae from their polyps, which expose their pale white exoskeleton, giving the corals a bleached appearance.
  • Bleached corals continue to live but begin to starve after bleaching.

Why are Coral reefs under threat?

They are under threat from excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), rising temperatures, oceanic acidification, overfishing (e.g., from blast fishing, cyanide fishing, spearfishing on scuba), sunscreen use, and harmful land-use practices, including runoff and seeps (e.g., from injection wells and cesspools).

Earth Hour 2022: The 15th edition of Earth Hour was observed on March 26, 2022 (Saturday) from 8:30 to 9:30 PM.

Key Highlights:

  • Earth Hour is organized every year by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) encouraging individuals, communities, corporates, and households to turn off their lights for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.
  • The Earth Hour is celebrated worldwide on the last Saturday of March month to show support for the fight against climate change and commitment towards a better planet.

Theme for 2022:

  • The “theme for the year 2022's global event was "Shape our Future”, highlighting our collective responsibility towards the environment.

Earth Hour India:

  • India also participated in Earth Hour 2022 as many of its famous monuments and sites switched off their lights in order to show their support for the global cause.
  • The Earth Hour India anthem, "Humari Prithvi", was released by the World Wide Fund-India on this occasion.
  • It is composed by the celebrated composer Shantanu Moitra and sung by Mohit Chauhan.
  • The anthem calls on Indians to take prompt action on climate change.

Background:

  • Earth Hour is the world's largest grassroots movement for the environment where people around the globe unite to take a stand against climate change by turning off non-essential lights for one hour.
  • The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and its partners launched Earth Hour on 31st March 2007 in Sydney, Australia.
  • It started out as a symbolic lights-out event.
  • It has come to be observed every year on the last Saturday of March in more than 180 countries uniting millions of people in the effort to decarbonise the planet both collectively and individually.

Earth Hour in India:

  • India joined the Earth Hour campaign in 2009.
  • It was celebrated by around 5 million people across 58 cities, towns and even far-flung villages of rural India.
  • Iconic monuments of the country like the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Gateway of India, India Gate, Howrah Bridge and the Victoria Memorial, among others, switch off their non-essential lights in support of this global campaign.

Note: Actor Aamir Khan was the first Earth Hour Ambassador for Earth Hour India.

About World Wide Fund (WWF):

  • World Wide Fund (WWF) was established on 29 April 1961.
  • It is headquartered in Gland, Switzerland.
  • The current President and CEO of WWF is Carter Roberts.

 

Rhino Bond: The World Bank has issued the Wildlife Conservation Bond (WCB) also known as “Rhino Bond” to support of South Africa’s efforts to conserve endangered species of Black Rhino.

Overview:

  • It is the world's first wildlife conservation bond.
  • It is a five-year $150 million Sustainable Development Bond.
  • It includes a potential performance payment from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
  • The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, IBRD of the World Bank announced that the returns paid by the five-year bond will be determined by the rate of population growth of animals in two reserves of South Africa namely the Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) and the Great Fish River Nature Reserve (GFRNR).
  • If this program is successful it could be expanded for the protection of black rhinos in Kenya along with other wildlife species like lions, tigers, gorillas and orangutans.

Note: Similar bonds have earlier been issued to finance various outcomes from education of girls in rural India to the marine projects in Seychelles.

About Black Rhinos:

  • There are five rhino species globally, with most of the animals in South Africa and almost all them white rhino.
  • Black rhinoceroses are two-horned members of the endangered rhinoceros family that can only be found in Africa.
  • According to documentation from the World Bank, their numbers have dropped to about 2,600 from 65,000 in 1970, and may once have been as high as 850,000.  
  • These black rhinos can weigh as much as 1.4 tons and are much smaller than the white rhino.
  • Rhinos are under threat from poaching, mostly because of demand in Vietnam and China for the powder from their horns, which is believed to cure cancer and improve virility.

Identification of New Carangid Species: The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has identified a new carangid (Vatta) species from the Indian coast of Kerala.

Overview:

  • Following extensive taxonomic and genetic analysis, CMFRI confirmed it as a new species.
  • When compared to closely related species, the fish has a distinct deep ovate body, concave dorsal head profile, and stoutness, as well as fewer gill rakers on the first gill arch.
  • It belongs to the ‘queen fish’ group and is named scomberoides pelagicus.’
  • The fish is locally known as pola vatta.
  • There are more than sixty species of carangids in the Indian ocean.
  • Out of the 60 species, 4 belong to the ‘Queen Fish’ group and the newly identified fish is number five.

Significance:

  • Identifying Scomberoides pelagicus would help better Indian marine biodiversity status.
  • The identification would greatly assist policy makers, marine scientists and other stakeholders to work on management and conservation efforts.
  • Three queen fishes are extinct due to a lot of reasons like climate change, overfishing, etc. across the globe.
  • The fish, which is found along the country's coasts, including Kerala, is highly regarded and in high demand in domestic markets.

About Queen Fish:

  • The queenfish (Seriphus politus) is a type of fish in the Sciaenidae family, which also includes drums and croakers.
  • This is the only species in the monotypic genus Seriphus.
  • When compared to closely related species, the fish has a distinct deep ovate body, concave dorsal head profile, and stoutness, as well as fewer gill rakers on the first-gill arch.
  • It is native to the eastern Pacific Ocean.
  • It is also known commonly as the queen croaker.
  • This is the only species in the monotypic genus Seriphus.
  • This species is up to 30 centimeters long and has an elongated, compressed body.
  • It feeds on marine invertebrates and small fish.
  • It is blue-grey to tan in colour with a shiny silver belly and a dark horizontal line running the length of the body.
  • The pectoral fin is dark and the other fins are yellowish.
  • The mouth contains one or two rows of pointed teeth.
  • It occurs in coastal waters, such as bays and sloughs, moving to deeper waters at night.

About CMFRI:

  • The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI)  was established by the Government of India in 1947 under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
  • It was later joined the ICAR family in 1967.
  • It is headquartered in Kochi, Kerala.
  • The current Director of CMFRI is Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan.

Acheivements of CMFRI:

  • During the course of over 65 years, the Institute has emerged as a leading tropical marine fisheries research institute in the world.
  • One of the major achievements of CMFRI is the development and refinement of a unique method for estimation of fishery catch and effort from the over 8000 km coastline called the “Stratified Multistage Random Sampling Method”.
  • With this methodology, the Institute maintains the National Marine Fisheries Data Centre (NMFDC) with more than 9 million catch and effort data records from all maritime states of India of above1000 fished species.

National Dolphin Day: Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) Shri Bhupendra Yadav announced that the 5th of October will be celebrated as National Dolphin Day every year to be celebrated every year as a historic step in creating awareness for the conservation of Dolphins.

Overview:

  • The decision to designate October 5 as National Dolphin Day was taken at the 67th meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) on March 25, 2022.
  • The first-ever National Dolphin Day will be observed on 5th October 2022.
  • The aim of the government is to generate awareness and encourage community participation in the conservation of dolphins including the Gangetic Plain.
  • The focus will also be given to improving the Ganga and its tributaries’ water quality and flow so that Gangetic dolphins can survive.

Importance of Dolphins:

  • Healthy aquatic ecosystems help in maintaining the overall health of the Planet.
  • Dolphins act as a perfect indicator of a healthy aquatic ecosystem, thus the conservation of dolphins is of utmost importance.
  • Their conservation will help the species' existence as well as the people who rely on the aquatic system for their livelihood.

About Gangetic Dolphins:

  • The Gangetic dolphin acts as an indicator species.
  • The Uttar Pradesh forest department along with WWF- India, in 2012 and 2015 recorded 1,272 dolphins in the Ganga, Chambal, Yamuna, Betwa, Ken, Sharda, Son, Gahagra, Geruwa, Rapti, and Gandak.
  • The majority of Gangetic dolphins, a species of freshwater dolphin, are spotted in deep river reaches in Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, and West Bengal in India.
  • According to official data, there are about 3,700 Gangetic dolphins in the Indian River system.
  • Gangetic Dolphins have been categorized as endangered species under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List.
  • The Gangetic Dolphins are threatened due to water diversion, pollution, habitat fragmentation, etc.
  • In 2010, the Ganges river dolphin has designated a national aquatic species.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced ‘Project Dolphin’ in August 2020 to conserve both freshwater and marine dolphins.

More about the 67th Standing Committee Meeting:

  • The Standing Committee also discussed several important policy issues and the proposals for wildlife clearances forwarded by the State Governments and the Union Territory administrations prior to declaring the day of national importance.
  • The Environment Ministry has been taking up several activities for the protection and conservation of dolphins and their habitats.
  • The Standing Committee also considered 46 proposals for wildlife clearance and recommended several projects such as providing electricity in remote villages in Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh and drinking water supply to villagers in Karnataka.
  • Projects of strategic importance such as road and border outpost in Ladakh were also recommended during the meeting.
  • The Standing Committee recommended 4 proposals for the construction of earthen dams in Haryana to improve irrigation facilities.
  • It recommended a road project under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) in Uttarakhand in order to provide connectivity to remote villages with appropriate animal passage structures.

Note: The MoEF&CC has already undertaken the pan-India enumeration project for dolphins, the report for which is expected by June-July 2022.

 

Environment Current Affairs - March 2022

River Rejuvenation Project: The Ministry for Forest, Environment and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has recently announced the project for the rejuvenation of 13 major rivers in the country.

About the selected Rivers:

The 13 rivers that will form part of the rejuvenation project cover nearly 57.45% of India’s geographical area. These rivers are:

1)Himalayan Rivers: Jhelum, Chenab, Sutlej, Ravi, Beas, Yamuna, and Brahmaputra.

2)Deccan or Peninsular Rivers: Narmada, Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, & Cauvery.

3)Inland drained Category River: Luni.

Goals:

The river rejuvenation project aims to achieve the following four goals:

1)Sustainable management of rivers and their landscapes.

2)Biodiversity conservation and ecological restoration.

3)Improving sustainable livelihoods.

4)Knowledge management.

About the project:

  • The detailed project reports (DPRs) of the 13 rivers selected for rejuvenation were prepared by the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE).
  • The cost of the project is projected to be 19,342.62 crores.
  • It will take five years to be implemented.
  • As per the plan, the rivers will be revitalized by constructing riparian forests or planting trees along their banks.
  • These riparian forests are expected to increase the cumulative forest cover by 7,417.36 square kilometers in the vicinity of these 13 rivers.

Note: Riparian forests act as natural buffers and biofilters, assisting rivers in their self-purification process.

  • These trees in the forest will act as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and assisting India in attaining its carbon sequestration targets.
  • According to DPRs prepared by ICFRE, these ‘forestry’ interventions would prevent 50.21 million tonnes of CO2–equivalent in 10–year–old plantations and 74.76 million tonnes CO2–equivalent in 20–year–old plantations.
  • They would also help in recharging groundwater, reducing sedimentation; generating ₹449.01 crore from non-timber and other forest produce as well as providing employment of 344 million man-days.

Targets set by India:

  • By 2030, India has set a target to develop a carbon sink with a capacity of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2.
  • As part of the Bonn Challenge in 2015, India has vowed to rehabilitate 5 million hectares of damaged land by 2030.

Daylight Saving Time: The United States Senate unanimously passed a law (Sunshine Protection Act) making daylight saving time (DST) permanent.

Key Details:

  • This law that was passed on 15 March 2022 will scrap the practice of changing clocks forward and back coinciding with the arrival and departure of winter.
  • If the legislation, Sunshine Protection Act, passes in the House of Representatives as well and is signed into law by President Joe Biden, it will come into effect in November 2023.
  • Once the law is passed, the practice of turning clocks back by an hour to standard time in November will stop and DST which now starts in March will be in effect throughout the year.

The consequence of this Act:

  • With clocks in the US going back an hour, the time difference between New York and India will increase from nine and a half hours to ten and a half hours
  • In the Southern Hemisphere, where countries have “sprung forward”, the time difference with India has reduced.

What is DST?

  • Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the practice of resetting clocks ahead by an hour in spring, and behind by an hour in autumn (or fall).
  • During these months, countries that follow this system get an extra hour of daylight in the evening.
  • Because the spring to fall cycle is opposite in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, DST lasts from March to October/November in Europe and the US, and from September/October to April in New Zealand and Australia.
  • By law, the 28 member states of the EU switch together — moving forward on the last Sunday of March and falling back on the last Sunday in October.
  • In the US, clocks go back on the first Sunday of November.

Imp Info: During World War I, Germany and Austria introduced DST in April 1916 to reduce the usage of artificial illumination. Many countries are gradually adopting it.

How many countries use DST?

  • DST is currently followed by some 70 countries twice a year.
  • Except for two states in the United States, all other states observe Daylight Saving Time (DST) and change their clocks twice a year.
  • The DST is observed in all European Union (EU) countries, as well as several additional European countries.
  • Other countries outside Europe like Paraguay, Cuba, the Levant, New Zealand, parts of Australia, Iran, Mexico, Argentina and Haiti also follow the DST.

Note: India does not follow DST; since countries near the Equator do not experience high variations in daytime hours between seasons.

Purpose of DST:

  • The key argument is that DST is meant to save energy.
  • The rationale behind setting clocks ahead of standard time, usually by one hour in the spring, is to ensure that the clocks show a later sunrise and later sunset, resulting in a longer evening daytime.
  • Individuals will finish their daily work routines an hour earlier, and the extra hour of daylight will (or should) result in lower energy use.
  • It helps to achieve sustainable development goals by conserving electricity and other resources.
  • It saves energy, encourages outdoor leisure activity in the evening (during the summer), and is thus beneficial for physical and psychological health, reduces traffic accidents, reduces crime, and is good for business.

Concern:

  • However, DST clock shifts sometimes complicate timekeeping and can result in disrupted travel, billing, record keeping, medical devices, and sleep patterns.
  • There can be health problems as a result of disruption of the circadian rhythm (body clock).

Global Recycling Day 2022: Global Recycling Day is observed every year on March 18 every year to create awareness among the masses about the rapid pace at which our natural resources are being used.

Key Facts:

  • The day also promotes the concept and practice of recycling.
  • The goal of the day is to persuade world leaders that recycling should be a global concern and to inspire people to be inventive rather than wasteful when it comes to the goods around us.
  • It's a day to promote awareness about the necessity of recycling in conserving our natural resources and ensuring our planet's future.

Theme of 2022:

  • According to the Global Recycling Foundation, the year 2022 event’s focus will be on the “recycling fraternity” – those who put themselves on the frontline to collect waste and recycling during the multiple lockdowns.

History:

  • Global Recycling Day was created in 2018 by the Global Recycling Foundation founded by Ranjit Baxi.
  • Ranjit Baxi is also the founder of International Recycling Ltd, an international business that exports waste materials from Europe and the USA for recycling into new products in Asia.
  • Global Recycling Day was for the first time celebrated in 2018 to help, recognize, and celebrate, the importance of recycling in preserving the Earth’s natural resources.
  • The Global Recycling Foundation works together towards these awareness programmes in collaboration with the United Nations.

Significance:

  • Most importantly, six types of natural resources are most important, i.e. air, water, oil, natural gas, and minerals.
  • All of these natural resources are finite, and if they are not managed wisely, they will vanish from the face of the Earth, that is why recycling is so crucial.
  • Recycling is the process of taking dwindling natural resources and putting them to the best possible use.

According to the Global Recycling Day Foundation, recycling is the seventh resource.

 Mangalajodi: The Odisha government has proposed to ban the movement of mechanized fishing boats in the Mangalajodi area of the Chilika lake with an aim to provide the winged guests an undisturbed ecosystem for six months every year.

Key Points:

  • The Orissa High Court has also directed that the ban be strictly implemented till further orders.
  • The ban was proposed by the govt as the Mangalajodi area of the Chilika Lake is an important haunt of migratory birds.
  • Mangalajodi is an Ecotourism destination.
  • It is an olden village under Tangi, Odisha block in Khordha district of Odisha at the northern edge of Chilika Lake.
  • This village is recognized as globally important for the conservation of birds.
  • Migratory birds arrive there for roosting.
  • However, no statutory rules and regulations are there for protecting the 8.3-sq.km marshland with emergent vegetation.

More about Mangalajodi:

Many occasions and festivals are celebrated in Mangalajodi.

  • Danda Yatra is one of the oldest ritual occasions celebrated in the month of Chaitra.
  • Paika Akhada is another dance performed by some villagers.

About Chilika Lake:

  • Located in Odisha, Chilika lake is Asia’s largest and world’s second-largest lagoon, located in Odisha.
  • Migratory Birds such as northern pintail, common coot, gadwall, shovellers, and several others have been found visiting the lake in the past.
  • The major attraction at Chilika is Irrawaddy dolphins which are often spotted off Satpada Island.
  • In 1981, Chilika Lake was designated the first Indian wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
  • The large Nalabana Island (Forest of Reeds) covering about 16 sq km in the lagoon area was declared a bird sanctuary in 1987.

International Day of Action for Rivers 2022: The International Day of Action for Rivers is celebrated globally on the 14th of March every year.

  • The year 2022 marks the 25th anniversary of the International Day of Action for Rivers.

Aim:

  • The day aims to raise awareness about the value and importance of rivers.
  • Its aim is also to bring people from across the world together to discuss and spread awareness about conserving rivers, river management, pollution, and equitable access to clean and flowing water.

Theme:

  • The theme in 2022 is “The Importance of Rivers for Biodiversity”.

Significance of the day:

  • 'The International Day of Action for Rivers is a day dedicated to solidarity - when diverse communities around the world come together with one voice to say that rivers matter,' according to the International Rivers organization.
  • The day raises and spreads awareness about how rivers sustain our lives.
  • It focuses on restoring and maintaining rivers, as well as on freshwater ecosystems (rivers) as a source of clean water for irrigation and drinking.

History:

The International Day of Action For Rivers was adopted by the participants of the First International Meeting of People Affected by Dams, March 1997 in Curitiba Brazil.

The main aim is as follows:

  • To raise voices in unison against destructive water development projects,
  • To reclaim the health of watersheds, To demand the equitable and sustainable management of rivers.

Important Info:

What is a River?

  • A river is a naturally flowing watercourse that flows towards an ocean, sea, lake, or another river.
  • It is usually freshwater.

How is the longest river in the world determined?

There are a few crucial elements to determine the longest river in the world. They are -

  1. The origin of the river (the point or source where the river starts).
  2. The river mouth (the point at which the river ejects and the sea/ocean/estuary begins)

Top 10 Longest Rivers Of The World 2022:

1)Nile River (6650 Km) is located in North-East Africa.

2)The Amazon River (6575 Km) is located in South America.

3)Yangtze River (6300 Km) is located in China.

4)Mississippi River (6275Km) is located in The USA.

5)Yenisei River (5539 Km) is located in Russia, Mongolia.

6)Yellow River (5464 Km) is located in China.

7)Ob-Irtysh River (5410 Km) is located in Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia.

8)Parana River (4880 Km) is located in South America.

9)Congo River (4700 Km) is located in Central Africa.

10)Amur River (4480 Km) is located in Russia, China, Mongolia.

Syllipsimopodi Bideni: Recently, a fossil of a species called Syllipsimopodi bideni was recently discovered in central Montana (US).

Key Highlights:

  • It is the earliest known related of today's octopuses, with ten limbs, two of which are twice as long as the other eight.
  • It has been named after the US president, Joe Biden.

About Syllipsimopodi bideni:

  1. Syllipsimopodi is about 4-3/4 inches (12 cm) long.
  2. It had a torpedo-shaped body and a squid-like appearance.
  3. It also is the oldest-known creature with suckers, which enable the arms to better grasp prey and other objects.
  4. It represents the only member of the octopus lineage with 10 arms, meaning two were lost in later evolution.
  5. The fossil helps in understanding how octopuses evolved.
  6. The preserved fossil reveals two parallel rows of suckers up and down each arm, dating to about 328 million years ago.
  7. Syllipsimopodi pushes back by 82 million years the origins of a group called vampyropods that includes today's octopuses.

Note: Vampyropods are soft-bodied cephalopods typically characterized by eight arms and an internalized chitinous shell or fin supports.

  1. "Syllipsimopodi" means "prehensile foot" - its arms are an evolutionary modification of the foot of mollusks -- and "bideni" recognizes U.S. President Joe Biden, who had just been inaugurated when the study was submitted for publication.
  2. Capture of prey is facilitated by the two longer tentacles with the eight shorter arms helping to manipulate the prey and transport it to the beak.
  3. Syllipsimopodi prowled the warm waters of a tropical bay - Montana at the time was situated close to the equator.
  4. It may have been a mid-level predator, eating smaller invertebrates.
  5. Syllipsimopodi lived during the Carboniferous Period, a time of important evolutionary changes in other marine life that included the appearance of more modern-looking fishes.

About Octopuses:

  1. Octopuses are the most intelligent invertebrates, and among the most intelligent animals overall.
  2. Octopuses, ranging from the one-inch (2.5 cm) star-sucker pygmy octopus to the 30-foot (9-meter) giant Pacific octopus, are known for their otherworldly appearance, with bulbous heads, large eyes and beak-like jaws.
  3. They have three hearts and blue blood, they squirt ink to deter predators, and being boneless, they can squeeze into (or out of) tight spaces.
  4. They are adept at camouflage - changing colors and even textures to mimic their surroundings - and can maneuver their bodies into tiny cracks and crevices.
  5. They also are capable of tool use and problem-solving.
  6. They are cephalopods, a marine invertebrate group dating back to roughly 530 million years ago and distinguished by having arms or tentacles.

Note: Cephalopods are a group of marine invertebrates that include octopuses, squids and cuttlefish.

 

2041 Climate Force Antarctica Expedition: Aarushie Verma, a national level shooter in Pistol and trap shooting has been selected to represent India at the 2041 Climate Force Antarctica Expedition to be held in March 2022.

Key Highlights:

  • Aarushie is a multi-time State & Northern India Champion & National medalist, and an active environmentalist.
  • She has been actively working and volunteering with NGOs like Center for Science & environment & Chintan.
  • In 2017, she had conducted a soap recycling project, where she collected used soap bars from hotels and sanitized and recycled them into new bars and distributed them to kids at Anganwadis along with educating them about the importance of hand hygiene.
  • In this initiative, she will be fully supported and sponsored by The Hans Foundation (THF).
  • THF is a public charitable trust that works towards creating an equitable society and work primarily for health, education, Livelihood and disaster relief interventions in rural and underdeveloped areas in the country.

2041 Climate Force Antarctica Expedition:

2041 Climate Force Antarctica Expedition is a global initiative to train and develop the next generation of sustainability champions and to help corporations with their sustainability solutions.

The carbon negative expedition aims to raise awareness and work for the preservation of Antarctica through the promotion of recycling, renewable energy and sustainability solutions to combat the effects of climate change.

It also aims to inspire, develop and train the next generation of leaders to promote a more sustainable future.

The participants of the expedition are selected from among thousands of applicants from around the world.

They will comprise of scientists, sustainability leaders and practitioners from different regions of the world.

They will journey to the South Pole on the most dynamic Antarctic sea expedition, a unique 12 day educational journey by ship to the 'last great wilderness on earth'.

Key Points of this expedition:

  • The Climate Force initiative is also a 7-year commitment to clean up 360 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere through strategic offsetting partnerships.
  • 2041 Climate Force is derived from the year which marks the Madrid Protocol protecting Antarctica from exploitation would come up for debate, revision, and/ or possible cancellation. The participants of the expedition will graduate as ‘Ambassadors for the Antarctic’.

Acetabularia jalakanyakae: In a new discovery, a team of marine biologists from the Central University of Punjab have discovered a plant species with an umbrella-like cap on the Island of Andaman & Nicobar.

Key Points:

  • The new algae species found in the Andamans archipelago has been named ‘Acetabularia jalakanyakae’, after the Sanskrit word ‘Jalakanyaka’ meaning the ‘goddess of oceans’ or ‘mermaid’.
  • The marine species has been named as inspiration from Hans Christian Anderson’s fictional character, The Little Mermaid fairy tale.
  • Though the scientists sighted the species in 2019 during their trip to Andamans but it took two years for scientists to sequence its DNA and confirm the species.
  • Its discovery is published in the Indian Journal of Geo-Marine Sciences.

Main features of the species:

  • Acetabularia jalakanyakae is morphologically similar to Acetabularia crenulata, a Florida-based green algal species.
  • The green seaweed is very delicate and has an intricate umbrella-like design.
  • The uniqueness of this species is that the whole plant is made up of just one gigantic cell with only one nucleus.
  • The main body of Acetabularia jalakanyakae comprises of following three regions:

1)A basal part with a rhizoidal holdfast.

2)A middle region with a long stalk.

3)The topmost upper part with an umbrella-shaped circular cap.

  • The plant’s gigantic cell with a nucleus distinguishes it from other similar species.
  • Another special feature is the regenerative potential of the plant. For example, if the top part of the algae is cut off, it can regrow the structure.

Importance of marine algae:

  • Single-celled marine species are key to all the life forms on Earth.
  • Algae convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into food for the marine ecosystem through photosynthesis.
  • As a result, they serve as the cornerstone for the food chain.
  • Marine algae produce over two-thirds of the oxygen in the air humans breathe.
  • When marine algae die, they fall to the ocean floor, eventually becoming petroleum.
  • Algae is not only important for the environment but for studies and research too.

Note: Andaman & Nicobar Islands are home to some of the last remaining healthy coral reefs in the world. In addition to that, algal diversity is one of the highest in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Glycosmis Albicarpa: A team of scientists from the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) has discovered a new gin berry species 'Glycosmis albicarpa' has recently been discovered from the Kanyakumari Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu by a team of scientists from the Botanical Survey of India (BSI),

Key Highlights:

  • It was discovered as undergrowth in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli semi-evergreen forests at the Panagudi forest section of the Kanyakumari Wildlife Sanctuary as a single population that covers around 2 sq. km. area.
  • These recent findings have been published in the latest issue of Nordic Journal of Botany, Sweden.

About Glycosmis albicarpa:

  • The species belongs to the Orange family Rutaceae.
  • It is an evergreen small tree with short and broad leaves and large white fruits.
  • The species, Glycosmis albicarpa, is endemic to the southern Western Ghats.
  • Many of the related plants of these taxonomic groups are being utilised for their medicinal values and food.
  • It is popular as an edible fruit because of its unique characteristic of ‘gin aroma’.
  • The species is also a larval host plant for butterflies like other species of Glycosmis.

About Botanical Survey of India (BSI):

  • Botanical Survey of India (BSI) is the apex taxonomic research organization of the country under the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India (GoI).
  • It was established on 13th February 1890 by East India Company (EIC) under the direction of Sir George King.
  • It is responsible for survey, research and conservation of plant wealth of India, flora and endangered species of India, including by collecting and maintaining germplasm and gene bank of endangered, patent and vulnerable plant species.
  • It is headquartered in Kolkata, West Bengal.

Global Plastics Treaty: World leaders, ministers and other representatives from nearly 200 countries at a United Nations conference in Kenya have recently agreed to work together in the biggest-ever push to stem the flood of plastic pollution.

Key Points about the treaty:

  • The resolution, entitled: “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an internationally legally binding instrument,” was adopted at the conclusion of a three-day fifth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) meeting.
  • UNEA 5.2 was held from 28th February 2022 to 2nd March 2022 in Nairobi.
  • The U.N. Environment Assembly voted to adopt a resolution that paves the way for a legally binding agreement on plastic pollution by 2024.
  • The resolution, based on three initial draft resolutions from various countries, establishes an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC), which will begin its work in 2022.
  • According to the agreed mandate, the treaty makes it legally binding for the signatories to tackle the whole life cycle of plastic, from production to disposal and not just post-consumer waste.
  • The text also recognizes the significant contributions of workers and waste pickers and in the informal economy, which are vulnerable to occupational health risks.
  • However, the details of the final treaty are yet to be negotiated, but could include a ban on producing new plastic, and will take into account all aspects of plastic pollution — including particles in the ocean, soil and food chain.
  • The resolution, which addresses the full lifecycle of plastic, including production, design and disposal, will be developed over the next two years.
  • Inger Andersen, who is the Head of the U.N. Environment Programme, said that the plastics treaty would be the most significant environmental pact since the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • Earlier approaches focused on plastic as a “marine litter” issue.

Need for the treaty:

  • By 2050 greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic production, use and disposal would account for 15% of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (34.7°F).
  • More than 800 marine and coastal species are affected by this pollution through ingestion, entanglement, and other dangers, while around 11 million tonnes of plastic waste flow each year into the ocean. This could triple by 2040.
  • Toxic chemicals from plastic have been entering the human body through a variety of routes, causing infertility, cancers, metabolic dysfunction, and other disorders.

What is Plastic Pollution?

  • Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic objects and particles (e.g. plastic bottles, bags and microbeads) in the Earth's environment that adversely affects humans, wildlife and their habitat.
  • Plastics that act as pollutants are categorized by size into micro-, meso-, or macro debris.

Why is plastic so polluting?

  • Plastic has become one of the most used substances.
  • Plastics are inexpensive and durable making them very adaptable for different uses; as a result, humans produce a lot of plastic.
  • It is also very easy to use as it can be used for almost anything either liquid or solid. Moreover, it comes in different forms which we can easily mold.
  • The single-use plastics are cheap enough that it is used and thrown away without thinking about ways to reuse them.
  • The chemical structure of most plastics renders them resistant to many natural processes of degradation and as a result, they are slow to degrade plastic that gets into ecosystems stays there for hundreds of years.
  • Plastic pollution can afflict land, waterways and oceans.
  • It can choke fish, entangle birds and leak toxins.

How big a problem is a plastic pollution?

  • Plastic is one of the most useful materials on the planet.
  • It's used in everything from food packaging to making up the fibers in the clothes.
  • Its applications stretch to building materials and medical masks.
  • But plastic is also responsible for destroying ecosystems and polluting waterways.
  • In 1950 the world produced nearly 2 million tons of plastic.
  • Annual production at present is more than 200 times greater.
  • A landmark study in 2017 found that only 9% of the plastic that has been produced throughout history has been recycled and about 12 percent has been burned.
  • The rest has been thrown away — either as litter or in landfills.

Causes:

  • The trade-in plastic waste has been identified as "a main culprit" of marine litter.
  • Countries importing waste plastics often lack the capacity to process all the material.
  • As a result, the United Nations has imposed a ban on the waste plastic trade unless it meets certain criteria.

India’s initiatives:

  • The Government of India (GoI) recently issued fresh guidelines for manufacturers, brand owners, importers of plastics making it mandatory to recycle plastic.
  • GoI has drawn up a pathway to incorporate the large informal sector, which is involved in plastic recycling, in a more formal circular economy.
  • The creation of this mandate recognizes the urgency of addressing the plastic crisis.
  • Solving the plastic problem is crucial to protect human rights and achieve UN sustainable development goals (SDG).
  • India has also banned single-use plastic, which will come into effect on July 1, 2022.

About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP):

  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)  is the leading global voice on the environment.
  • It was founded on 5 June 1972 by Canadian businessman and philanthropist Maurice Strong.
  • It is responsible for coordinating the UN's environmental activities and assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices.
  • It is the global champion for the environment with programmes focusing on sustainable development, climate, biodiversity and more.
  • It is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • The current Executive Director of UNEP is Inger Andersen and the current Regional Director and Representative for Asia and the Pacific, UNEP is Dechen Tsering.

Bomb Cyclone: Another violent bomb cyclone is grazing north just west of Ireland and UK with violent, hurricane winds and major waves.

  • Thanks to still a very powerful southern lobe of the Polar Vortex aloft, the North Atlantic is yet to produce more dangerous storms this week.
  • Earlier this year, a Bomb cyclone (Nor’easter) had hit the eastern US, which triggered transport chaos, outages.

What is a Bomb cyclone?

  • Explosive cyclogenesis is referred to as a bomb cyclone or bombogenesis.
  • It is also referred to as a weather bomb, meteorological bomb.
  • It is a mid-latitude cyclone that intensifies rapidly.
  • It has low pressure at its center, weather fronts and an array of associated weather, from blizzards to severe thunderstorms to heavy precipitation.
  • Bomb cyclones put forecasters on high alert because they can produce significant harmful impacts.

How do bomb cyclones form?

  • It becomes a bomb when its central pressure decreases very quickly—by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours quickly increasing in intensity.

Note: A millibar measures atmospheric pressure.

  • This can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters.
  • The formation of this rapidly strengthening weather system is a process called bombogenesis.
  • The vast majority of such storms occur over the ocean.
  • The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.
  • The storm can be tropical or non-tropical in nature.
  • Most cyclones don’t intensify rapidly in this way.

Key features of Bomb Cyclones:

  • Bomb cyclones have cold air and fronts.
  • They form during winters.
  • They occur over midlatitudes.

How does a Bomb Cyclone differ from a Hurricane?

  • Bomb cyclones generally occur during colder months because cyclones occur due to cold and warm air meeting while hurricanes tend to form in tropical areas and are powered by warm seas.
  • Bomb cyclones form over the northwestern Atlantic, northwestern Pacific and sometimes the Mediterranean Sea while Hurricanes form in tropical waters.

What is a polar vortex?

  • A circumpolar vortex or simply polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the Earth’s poles.
  • It always exists near the poles, but weakens in summer and strengthens in winter.

Features:

  • The polar vortex spins in the stratosphere.
  • The term polar vortex can be used to describe two distinct phenomena;

1. The stratospheric polar vortex

2. The tropospheric polar vortex

  • The stratospheric and tropospheric polar vortices both rotate in the direction of the Earth's spin, but they are distinct phenomena that have different sizes, structures, seasonal cycles, and impacts on weather.
  • When the vortex weakens, the stratosphere warms sharply in an event known as sudden stratospheric warming, in just a few days, miles above the Earth’s surface.
  • The warming weakens the polar vortex, shifting its location somewhat south of the pole or, in some instances, ‘splitting’ the vortex up into ‘sister vortices’.

New Species of Orchid: Researchers have recently discovered an astounding new species of orchid in the cloud rainforest of Northern Ecuador.

The study is published in the open-access journal PhytoKeys.

Key Highlights:

  • The new species of orchid has been scientifically named Maxillaria anacatalina-portillae.
  • This plant is unique with its showy, intense yellow flowers.
  • It was described by Polish orchidologists in association with an Ecuadorian company working in orchid research, cultivation and supply.
  • The discovery was aided by the local commercial nursery, involved in cultivating these orchids.

Critically endangered species:

  • Known from a restricted area in the province of Carchi, the orchid is presumed to be a critically endangered species because its rare populations already experience ill effects of climate change and human activity.

Genus Maxillaria:

  • In the past few years, scientists have been working on classification and species delimitations within the Neotropical genus Maxillaria.
  • It is one of the biggest genera in the orchid family.
  • Scientists have investigated materials deposited in most of the world’s herbarium collections in America and Europe.
  • They have conducted several field trips in South America to search for astonishing plants.
  • The first specimens of Maxillaria anacatalina-portillae were collected in 2003 in Maldonado, Carchi Province of northern Ecuador.

About Orchidaceae:

  • Orchidaceae are commonly called the orchid family.
  • It is a diverse and widespread family of flowering plants.
  • Its blooms are often colourful and fragrant.
  • They are one among the two largest families of flowering plants. Orchidaceae have around 28,000 currently accepted species.
  • They are distributed in 763 genera.

Sambhav and Svavlamban: Union Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma recently launched two special initiatives - Sambhav and Svavlamban initiatives.

About the initiatives:

  • Sambhav and Svavlamban are the initiatives to tackle the issue of plastic waste in India.
  • These initiatives were launched at the International Summit on Plastics Recycling and Waste Management.
  • These initiatives aim to encourage young entrepreneurs, especially from the aspirational districts of India.

About International Summit on Plastics Recycling and Waste Management:

  • It is a 2-day summit (4th – 5th March 2022), inaugurated by Union Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma.
  • This summit is being organized in New Delhi by the MSME Ministry in association with the All India Plastics Manufacturers’ Association (AIPMA).
  • Around 1350 MSMEs are expected to attend the summit, which is being conducted in hybrid mode.

Motto of the Summit:

  • The motto of the summit is “Know your Waste and how Recycling is the right thing to do, which is to be done in a right way”.

Significance:

  • This summit provides a platform for entrepreneurs, experts, businessmen, and other stakeholders to deliberate challenges and solutions in the MSME sector and plastics sectors.
  • It will also create new livelihood and business opportunities in the plastics sector, at the same time helping India tackle the issue of plastic pollution and meet environmental goals.
  • Thus, the ‘Sambhav’ and ‘Svavlamban’ initiatives and the summit will have multiple benefits i.e. formalizing the informal waste sector, job creation in the MSME sector, and reduction in plastic waste.

Financing for Decarbonization of Transport: A virtual consultation workshop on ‘Financing for Decarbonization of Transport was recently conducted.

Key Highlights:

  • This workshop was conducted by India's think tank NITI Aayog and World Resources Institute (WRI), India, with the support of GIZ India as part of the NDC-Transport Initiative for Asia (NDC-TIA) project.
  • Green financing will enable low-interest-cost financing of electric vehicles.

Aim of the workshop:

  • The main aim of the workshop is to identify actionable strategies and bring together financing institutions and transport organizations to collectively work towards furthering innovative financing policies for the decarbonization of transport.

Note:

  • The Indian Government is actively working towards the decarbonization of transport, with a major focus on the adoption of sustainable mobility.
  • It is working towards balancing the needs and aspirations of the citizens, improving liveability and productivity by improving connectivity, bringing down the cost of logistics and accelerating clean mobility while taking a climate-centric and sustainable approach.

About NDC-TIA:

  • The NDC-TIA is a joint programme of seven organizations that engages India, China and Vietnam in promoting a comprehensive approach to decarbonizing transport in their respective countries.
  • The project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI).
  • The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) support the initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.
  • NITI Aayog is the implementing partner for the India component of the project.

Char Chinari Island: Two tall chinar trees were planted on the iconic island Char Chinari in the middle of the Dal Lake in Srinagar with the Zabarwan hills in the backdrop.

The 2014 floods had left two mighty chinars damaged.

About Char Chinar:

  • Char Chinar, also sometimes called Char Chinari, Ropa Lank, or Rupa Lank, is an island in Dal Lake, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Dal Lake includes 3 islands, 2 of which are marked with beautiful Chinar trees.
  • The island located on the Lakut Dal (small Dal) is known as Roph Lank (Silver Island).
  • It is marked with the presence of majestic Chinar trees at the four corners, thus known as Char-Chinari (Four Chinars).
  • These four trees were planted by Emperor Jahangir in such a way that the island will always have a shadow from these trees.
  • The second Chinar Island, known as Sone Lank (Gold Island), is located on the Bod Dal (Big Dal) and overlooks the holy shrine of Hazratbal.

Fun Fact: The Island became famous in the 1970s after the Bollywood song Accha To Hum Chalte Hai, starring Rajesh Khanna and Asha Parekh, was shot there for the movie Aan Milo Sajna.

About Chinar trees:

  • Chinar trees characteristically grow in Eastern Himalayas.
  • Their botanical name is Platanus orientalis.
  • The Old World sycamore or Oriental plane is a large, deciduous tree of the Platanaceae family.
  • It is known for its longevity and spreading crown.
  • In autumn, its deep green leaves may change to blood red, amber, and yellow.
  • It is called Chinar or Chenar in Asia.

Chinar all over Jammu and Kashmir have been affected due to various reasons such as indiscriminate tree felling and floods.

Euphlyctis jaladhara: A new frog species growing in the freshwater regions along all the states spanning the Western Ghats has recently been discovered by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Pune.

Key Highlights:

  • This discovery was the ZSI India’s (WGRC, Kozhikode) part of a faunal exploration and documenting effort in the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary.
  • Scientists from the ZSI, the National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER), Bhubaneswar, Mount Carmel College (MCC), Bengaluru, tied up on the discovery.
  • The discovery of Jaladhara skittering frog over such a wide geographical area along the western coastal plains is being reported after a gap of several years.
  • This new species looks quite similar to the common skittering frog (Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis), which is found generally in the eastern coastal plains, the Western Ghats, and the Deccan Plateau.
  • The latest study was published in the journal Zootaxa.
  • The study involved the researchers adopting an integral taxonomy approach, wherein the morphology, genetic studies and geographical mapping were undertaken.

About Euphlyctis jaladhara:

  • The common name of this frog is Jaladhara skittering frog while the scientific name is Euphlyctis jaladhara.
  • Among the characteristics that distinguish Jaladhara from other skittering frogs are larger-sized females than the males, equal head size and width, and colour patterns on the ventral side.
  • This species of frog was was first spotted in the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary in Ernakulam District of Kerala in 2017.
  • This is the second skittering frog species discovered in this area.
  • The Kerala Pond Frog (Phrynoderma Kerala) was also discovered in the same area.
  • It was later spotted during the subsequent forest surveys focusing on freshwater bodies in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and the Union Territories of Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

Since the newly discovered amphibian survives in freshwater, water pollution and drying of the sources remain a threat to their existence so conservation plans have to be made so that the population grows.

About Zoological Survey of India (ZSI):

  • It is a subordinate organization of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • It was established in 1916.
  • It is a national centre for faunistic survey and exploration of the resources leading to the advancement of knowledge on the exceptionally rich faunal diversity of the country.
  • It has its headquarters in Kolkata.
  • 16 regional stations located in different geographic locations of the country.

Environment Current Affairs - February 2022

New species of Spider and Millipede: Researchers of the Department of Zoology from Christ College, Irinjalakuda, recently discovered a new species of spider and Millipede.

These new species of spider and millipedes were discovered from Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and from the campus of the University of Calicut, Tenhipalam respectively.

Carrhotus tholpettyensis:

  • These new species of spiders have been named Carrhotus tholpettyensis after forest range Tholpetty, from where it was collected.
  • Carrhotus tholpettyensis, the new species of spider was found from the moist deciduous forest of Tholpetty range of the wildlife sanctuary in Western Ghats.
  • The wildlife sanctuary in Western Ghats is a robust biodiversity hotspot.
  • It is a nocturnal jumping spider, which retreats to hide under leaves during day time.
  • It comes out only during nighttime for feeding.

Characteristics of Carrhotus tholpettyensis:

  • The length of its female is 6 mm while that of the male is 5 mm.
  • Dark bodies of both male and female sport have scattered white spots and marks.
  • They have white crescent marks on the head and abdomen in males as well as females.
  • Orange scales are present across the eyes.

Note: As of now, 287 species of jumping spiders have been reported from India.

Delarthrum anomalans:

  • The new species of millipedes have been named Delarthrum anomalans.
  • It belongs to the family Paradoxosomatidae.

Characteristics of Delarthrum anomalans:

  • The length of male species ranges up to 17 mm while in females it is up to 15mm.
  • It has a glossy dark body and light-yellow coloured ventral side. The body comprises of 20 segments with 52 legs.
  • They live under leaf litter.
  • They hide beneath the soil during the dry period and resurface only during the wet season.

Note: To date, 275 species of millipedes are reported from India.

Koalas Designated as Endangered Species: Australia has designated its much-loved koalas an endangered species.

Key Points:

  • It has been officially classified as ‘endangered’ after widespread bushfires, drought and land clearing destroyed much of their eucalyptus-rich habitat.
  • The Australian Government upgraded the conservation status of the marsupials from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’ in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, based on the recommendation of the threatened species scientific committee.

Background:

  • Proposal to list Koalas in the Endangered category was given by WWF-Australia, Humane Society International and International Fund for Animal Welfare, in April 2020.
  • This proposal was made after research found a decline in population by 62 percent in New South Wales and 50 percent in Queensland since 2001.

Why were Koalas designated as endangered species?

  • A WWF report states that Koala species have inhabited parts of Australia for at least 25 million years.
  • Now only one species remains which is the Phascolarctos cinereus.
  • They are found in the wild in the southeast and eastern sides of Australia — in coastal Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.
  • The reason for their decline is habitat loss, black summer bushfires, the impact of prolonged drought, Urbanization and cumulative impacts of the disease.
  • In 2019-2020, thousands of koalas have been killed in fires that swept Australia’s eastern and southern states.

Note: The raging Australian bushfires, one of the worst in its history, have killed at least 26 people, burned over 10 million hectares of land, destroyed over 2,000 homes and pushed many species towards extinction.

  • Therefore, this designation aims to provide more protection to the species.

About Koala:

  • The koala or, inaccurately, koala bear is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia.
  • Its scientific name is Phascolarctos cinereus.

Genus: Phascolarcto – phaskolos meaning pouched; arktos meaning bear (derived from Greek).

Species: cinereus meaning ashy-grey (derived from Latin).

Classification:

  • Koalas are a type of mammal called marsupials, which give birth to underdeveloped young.
  • They are so different from any other marsupial, however, that they have been classified into their own family, called Phascolarctidae.
  • They share a number of characteristics with wombats, who are their closest living relatives, including a backward-facing pouch.

Habitat:

  • The koala is found in coastal areas of the mainland's eastern and southern regions, inhabiting Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.

Features:

  • It is recognized by its stout, large head, tailless body, round & fluffy ears and large, spoon-shaped nose.
  • It has a body length of 60–85 cm while and weighs 4–15 kg.
  • The fur colour of the Koala ranges from silver grey to chocolate brown.

Conservation status:

  • Under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992, koalas are listed as vulnerable state-wide and are a protected species.
  • In 2012, the Commonwealth Government listed the koala as ‘vulnerable’ in Queensland under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth).
  • It has now been listed as 'Endangered' by the Australian Government.

One Ocean Summit: The Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi recently addressed the high-level segment of the 11th One Ocean Summit virtually.

Key Highlights:

  • French President Emmanuel Macron held a high-level summit aimed at protecting the world’s oceans, with representatives of more than 100 countries.
  • The One Ocean Summit in Brest brought together heads of state and government, leaders of multilateral institutions, shipping companies and civil society policymakers to unite in supporting the “Brest Commitments for the Oceans
  • The high-level segment of the Summit was also addressed by several Heads of States and Governments including Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan, Canada, among others.
  • One Ocean Summit was organized by France from 9-11 February, in Brest, France, in cooperation with the United Nations and the World Bank.
  • It is the first major event, which has taken place in the first year of the decade dedicated to the ocean.
  • The Summit was held in light of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Objective:

The objective of the Summit is to mobilize the international community to take tangible action towards preserving and supporting healthy and sustainable ocean ecosystems.

Aim:

It also aims to raise the international community’s level of ambition on maritime issues and translate our shared responsibility for the Ocean into concrete actions.

Focus:

It focuses in particular on the protection of marine ecosystems and sustainable fisheries, the fight against pollution (especially plastic), climate change, and ocean governance.

PM Modi's address at the summit:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing the One Ocean Summit, said that India would back France in launching a global initiative against single-use plastics.
  • He said 300,000 young people had collected almost 13 tonnes of plastic waste during the drive launched by India.
  • He noted that India's navy has been directed to contribute100 ship-days this year to cleaning plastic waste from the seas.
  • Modi pointed out that India has “always been a maritime civilization”, and the country’s ancient scriptures and literature talk about the gifts of the oceans, including marine life.
  • He said that at present, security and prosperity are linked to oceans and India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative contains marine resources as a key pillar, and the country supports the French initiative of a “High Ambition Coalition on Bio-diversity Beyond National Jurisdiction.

Key Points about One Ocean Summit:

  • UNESCO, on this occasion, pledged to have at least 80% of the seabed mapped by 2030 as compared to the current 20% for understanding the location of ocean faults, the workings of ocean currents and tides and the transport sediments.
  • The UN Agency called for the mobilization of 150 member states of its IOC (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission) and the private sector to carry out the exercise.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) hosted two workshops on February 9 during the summit, they are

1. Sustainable Tourism in the Blue Economy workshop and

2. The Marine Protected Areas (MPA) workshop.

  • UNESCO organized two thematic workshops on 10 February 2022 to advance ocean science knowledge and support the conservation and sustainable management of the ocean. The two thematic workshops are :- 

1. The Science we Need for the Ocean we Want and

2. Educate to the Sea, Ocean for Youth

  • Several important initiatives were launched on this occasion in favour of marine ecosystem protection and sustainable fisheries, intended to fight pollution, in particular from plastics, respond to the impacts of climate change, as well as advocate for improved governance of the oceans.
  • The Summit contributes to the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) that seeks to support transformative ocean science solutions for sustainable development, connecting people and our ocean.

About Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030):

  • United Nations has designated the decade between 2021 and 2030 as the ‘Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, in a bid to restore declining marine life and raise awareness.
  • Its mission is transformative ocean science solutions for sustainable development, connecting people and our ocean.
  • The 7 Ocean Decade Outcomes are:

1) A clean ocean where sources of pollution are identified and removed Or reduced.

2) A healthy and resilient ocean where marine ecosystems are understood, protected, managed and restored.

3) A productive ocean supporting sustainable food supply and a sustainable ocean economy.

4) A safe ocean where life and livelihoods are protected from ocean-related hazards.

5) An accessible ocean with open and equitable access to data, information and technology and innovation.

6) An inspiring and engaging ocean where society understands and values the ocean in relation to human wellbeing and sustainable development.

7) Also, a predicted ocean where society understands and can respond to changing ocean conditions.

OECM Site: The Aravalli Biodiversity Park (ABP) in Gurugram, Haryana, has been declared as India’s first “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECM) site.

Key Highlights:

  • The park was announced as the OCEM Site on World Wetlands Day, i.e., on February 2.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) gives OECM tag to those areas that are not protected but support rich biodiversity.
  • The tag designates the area as a biodiversity hotspot on the international map.
  • The Aravalli hills are the first OECM site in the country.
  • The proposal to make Aravallis as the OECM was made by the National Biodiversity Authority.
  • The park, which once was an abandoned mining pit, was transformed into a lush green forest patch in 10 years. Now, it has about 400 native species of plants.

About the Aravalli Biodiversity Park:

  • The Aravalli Biodiversity Park is spread over 390 acres.
  • It is located near the Guru Dronacharya metro station in Gurgaon, Haryana, India.
  • The park contains ecologically restored and semi-arid land vegetation.
  • It has more than 43,000 shrubs, 101,000 trees and 300 endemic plant species.
  • Reptiles like Bengal monitor and mammals like northern or five-striped palm squirrel, nilgai, golden jackal, Indian hare, common palm civet, and Indian grey mongoose, are found in the park.
  • They support leopards, fox, sambhar and jackals.

Background:

  • Earlier, the park was a mining site.
  • Mining and stone crushing came to a halt after a Supreme Court ban in 2002. It was implemented only since 2009.
  • It was transformed into a city forest through immense efforts of environmentalists, scientists, ecologists along with the local population.

Note: The Park was opened to the public on World Environment Day, 5 June 2010.

Significance of Aravallis:

  • The Aravallis act as a barrier between the desert in the west and the fertile land in the east.
  • The hill stops the monsoon clouds and brings rains to Nainital and Shimla.
  • It functions as the groundwater recharge for the region.
  • Aravallis are considered  the green lungs of Delhi as they provide 7.07% of oxygen to Delhi.

What is OECM?

OECM is a status for a place that has achieved effective in-situ conservation of biodiversity outside protected areas like forests.

The OECM areas were defined at the Convention on Biological Diversity that was held in 2018. They are:-

1. Simple lay man terms:

  • OECM is not a protected area.
  • It is governed to achieve positive outcomes.
  • The outcomes are conservation of biodiversity, giving importance to cultural, socio-economic and spiritual values.

2. Technical Definition:

The technical definition mainly covers three main areas which are:-

I.Ancillary conservation:

  • Ancillary conservation is providing in–situ conservation.
  • This includes freshwater protection zones, protected war graves. 

II.Secondary conservation:

  • The secondary conservation is active conversation.
  • For instance, creating conservation corridors is secondary conservation. 

III.Primary conservation:

  • Primary conservation is those areas that the governing authorities are not willing to declare as protected areas.
  • The governing authorities shall be indigenous people, religious groups, or private landowners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Septemeranthus: A new genus of a parasitic flowering plant has recently been discovered from the Nicobar group of islands.

The plant was found on the periphery of the tropical forest in one of the biodiversity hotspots referred to as the Nicobar group of islands separated from the Andaman group of Islands by a wide gap of 160 km with heavy tidal flows.

About Septemeranthus:

  • The name Septemeranthus is derived from the Latin word ‘Septem’ meaning ‘seven’, referring to the arrangement of flowers.
  • The genusSeptemeranthus grows on the plant species Horsfieldia glabra (Blume) Warb.
  • The parasitic flowerings plants have a modified root structure spread on the stem of the tree and are anchored inside the bark of the host tree.
  • It has a distinct vegetative morphology, inflorescence architecture and floral characters.
  • The leaves of the plant are heart-shaped with a very long tip and the ovary, fruit and seeds are ‘urceolate’ (earthen pot-shaped).
  • Birds consume the viscous seeds of this new genus.
  • Its seeds have potential of pseudo viviparous germination that deposits on the leaves and branches of their same plant which is already attached to host plants.

Key Features:

  • The genus belongs to the family Loranthaceae, a hemi-parasite under the sandalwood order Santalales.
  • They are important in forest ecology, pathology and medicine.
  • They play an important role as they provide food for frugivorous birds.
  • Plants which are hemi-parasites are partially dependent on their host plants for nutrition.
  • For instance, the newly discovered plant that derives nutrients from its hosts has green leaves capable of photosynthesis.

World Wetlands Day 2022: World Wetlands Day (WWD) is observed every year on February 2 to raise awareness about the importance of wetlands and the need to preserve them.

Key Facts:

  • The day commemorates the date when the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran.
  • It is also popularly called the Ramsar Wetland Convention.
  • The day aims to raise awareness about the crucial role played by wetlands for people and our planet.
  • The day calls for more human, financial and political capital investment to preserve the world’s wetlands and save them from disappearing and restoring those that have been degraded.

Key Highlights:

  • The WWD 2022 is significant as this is the first time that the day will be observed as a United Nationals International Day.
  • The UN Decades of Ocean Science and Ecosystem Restoration begins in 2021.
  • 2022 marks 51 years of the Convention on Wetlands.

WWD 2022 Theme:

  • The international theme for World Wetlands Day 2022 is ‘Wetlands Action for People and Nature’.
  • The theme aims to highlight the importance of actions that ensure that wetlands are conserved and sustainably used.

History:

  • The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution to mark World Wetlands Day on February 2nd every year.
  • WWD was first celebrated in 1997.

The Ramsar Convention:

  • It was signed on 2nd February 1971.
  • It is one of the oldest inter-governmental accords signed by member countries.
  • Its main objective is to preserve the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance.
  • It is named after Ramsar, the Iranian city where the treaty was signed. Places chosen for conservation under it are given the tag ‘Ramsar site’.
  • The aim of the Ramsar list is to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits.

What is a wetland?

  • A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail.
  • It is an area where water covers the soil or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season.
  • Water saturation (hydrology) largely determines how the soil develops and the types of plant and animal communities living in and on the soil.
  • Wetlands may support both aquatic and terrestrial species.
  • The prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favor the growth of specially adapted plants (hydrophytes) and promote the development of characteristic wetland (hydric) soils.

Five major wetland types are generally recognized:

I.Marine (coastal wetlands including coastal lagoons, rocky shores, and coral reefs);

II.Estuarine (including deltas, tidal marshes, and mangrove swamps);

III.Lacustrine (wetlands associated with lakes);

IV.Riverine (wetlands along rivers and streams); and

V.Palustrine (meaning “marshy” - marshes, swamps and bogs).

Wetlands in India:

  • India has about 49 wetlands. Their total surface area is 10,93,636 hectares, the highest in South Asia.
  • India has lost 30% of its wetlands in the last thirty years.

Note: India follows Ramsar convention definition of wetlands.

Ramsar Definition of Wetlands:

  • Ramsar convention defines wetlands as natural and manmade sites.

Natural wetlands include Coastal wetlands like mangroves, estuaries, saltwater marshes, lagoons etc. and

Inland wetlands like marshes, fens, lakes, swamps, rivers, floodplains and ponds.

Man-made wetlands include Fish ponds, saltpans, and rice paddies.

Classification of wetlands:

The wetlands are classified as follows:-

  • Marshes are those Wetlands that are dominated by emergent vegetation such as reeds, cattails and sedges.
  • Swamps are those Wetlands that are dominated by woody vegetation such as shrubs and trees.
  • Salt pan is formed when seawater evaporates rapidly. It is then replenished by rainwater.
  • Tidal Wetlands are those wetlands that are formed due to oceanic tides.
  • Estuaries are those wetlands that are formed from tides and river waters.
  • Floodplains are those wetlands that are formed from excess water from overflowed rivers or lakes.
  • Springs are those wetlands that are formed from the discharge of groundwater on the surface.
  • Vernal ponds, bogs are those wetlands that are formed from rainfall or melted water.

Importance of wetlands:

  • The wetlands play a major role in water security.
  • They are primary sources of fresh water.
  • They provide barriers against natural disasters such as flooding.
  • They prevent soil erosion and help fight against climate change.
  • The wetlands act as carbon stores.
  • They minimize the impact of climate change. They act as one of the best sinks for greenhouse gases, especially carbon monoxide.
  • They nurture complex ecosystems
  • They are reservoirs of biodiversity, a primary habitat for fish, plants and many animals.
  • They also play a crucial role in the hydrologic cycle, as they receive, store, and release water in various ways, replenishing both ground and surface water supply.

Two New Ramsar sites added: Two new Ramsar sites (Wetlands of International Importance) namely Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat and Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary in U.P. were added recently.

Key Points:

  • This was announced by Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Bhupender Yadav on the occasion of World Wetlands Day.
  • At the event the, "National Wetland Decadal Change Atlas” prepared by the Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad was also released highlighting the changes which have happened in Wetlands across the country in the past decade.
  • The original Atlas was released by SAC in 2011 and has over the years been used extensively by all the State Governments also in their planning processes.

Ramsar Sites in India:

India now has a network of 49 Ramsar sites covering an area of 10,93,636 hectares, the highest in South Asia.

About the New Ramsar Sites:

About Bakhira Wildlife sanctuary:

  • Bakhira Wildlife sanctuary was established in 1980.
  • The sanctuary is the largest natural flood plain wetland in India.
  • It is that part of the river valley that gets flooded with water periodically.
  • The sanctuary is located to the west of Gorakhpur.
  • It is a breeding ground for resident birds and a staging ground for number of migratory birds.
  • The Siberian birds visit the wetland during winter.
  • Also, birds from China, Europe, Tibet and Siberia come to the lake during winters. There are more than 30 fish species.
  • The dominant ones are Chana and Labeo rohita.
  • The wetland is the breeding ground for the grey-headed swamphen.
  • It is also called purple swamp hen or Indian purple moorhen.
  • It is locally called Kaima.
  • The wetland is connected to the Bakhira canal.
  • The canal runs 15 kms supplying water for irrigation to the nearby villages.

About Khijadia Bird Sanctuary:

  • It is located in Jamnagar, Gujarat.
  • More than 300 migratory birds visit the sanctuary.
  • It has freshwater marshlands, freshwater lakes and saltwater marshlands.
  • It is fed by the river Ruparel.
  • It also has creeks that support mangroves. It is located in the Gulf of Kutch region.
  • The sanctuary is home to 309 species of birds- resident and migratory birds.
  • The sanctuary is known for different types of nests such as floating nests, on-ground nests and the ones built on trees.
  • Endangered bird species such as Dalmatian Pelican, Asian Open Bill Stork, Black-Necked Stork, Darter, Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian spoonbill, and Indian Skimmer can be spotted here.  
  • The black-necked storks are found in abundance in the sanctuary.
  • It is not found anywhere else in India.

About World Wetlands Day:

  • World Wetlands Day is observed annually on 2nd of February all over the world.
  • It is celebrated to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and our planet.
  • This day also marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar.
  • The theme of World Wetlands Day 2022 is “Wetlands Action for People and Nature”. This theme highlights the importance of actions to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands for humans and planetary health.

Definition of Forest: Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change informed Rajya Sabha about the Definition under State of Forest Report.

Key Details:

  • As per decision 19/Conference of Parties (CP) 9-Kyoto Protocol, the forest can be defined by any country depending upon the capacities and capabilities of the country as follows:-
  • Forest is defined structurally on the basis of -
  1. Crown cover percentage: Tree crown cover- 10 to 30% (India 10%)
  2. Minimum area of stand: the area between 0.05 and 1 hectare (India 1.0 hectare) and
  3. Minimum height of trees: Potential to reach a minimum height at maturity in situ of 2 to 5 m (India 2m)
  • India’s definition of forest has been taken on the basis of above three criteria only and very well accepted by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for their reporting/communications.
  • The forest cover is defined as ‘all land, more than one hectare in area, with a tree canopy density of more than 10 percent irrespective of ownership and legal status. Such land may not necessarily be a recorded forest area. It also includes orchards, bamboo and palm’.
  • The definition of forest cover has clearly been defined in all the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) and in all the International communications of India.
  • In ISFR 2021 recently published by the Ministry on 13th January 2022, the forest cover figures are divided as ‘Inside Recorded Forest Area’ and ‘Outside Recorded Forest Area’.
  • At present, there is no plan to change the definition of forest cover and very dense forest. The definition of forest cover in ISFR represents the true picture as described.

Source: PIB

Melting on Mount Everest:  A new study, led by the University of Maine has found that climate change is causing the highest glacier on Mount Everest to melt at a rapid pace.

Key Findings:

  • Researchers found that the South Col Glacier has lost more than 180ft (54m) of thickness in the last 25 years.
  • The glacier, which sits around 7,906m (25,938 ft) above sea level, is thinning 80 times faster than it first took the ice to form on the surface.
  • The rate of decline has been blamed on warming temperatures and strong winds.
  • The scientists found out that since the 1990s, ice that took around 2,000 years to form has melted away.
  • They also noted that the glacier's thick snowpack has been eroded, exposing the underlying black ice to the sun and accelerating the melting process.
  • A team of 10 scientists had visited the glacier.
  • There they had installed the world's two highest weather monitoring stations and extracted samples from a 10-meter-long (around 32 feet) ice core.

About South Col Glacier:

  • This glacier is located between Mount Everest and Lhotse, the highest, and fourth-highest peaks in the world respectively.
  • It sits at around 7,906m (25,938 ft) above sea level.

Concern:

  • It is said to be melting 80 times quicker than it took for the ice to originally form.
  • The major climatic factors that are inducing the glacier melting are strong winds and warming temperatures.
  • The erosion of the snowpack on the mountain has exposed the underlying black ice in some areas.
  • Black ice is the coating over the surface of the mountain.
  • If black ice melts, the mountain is exposed to the sun which leads to the retaining of more heat mountain for a longer duration as compared to that of ice.

Impact:

  • Millions of people are dependent on the Himalayan mountains for drinking water.
  • If the glaciers are melting like that of the South col, then their capacity to provide water for irrigation and drinking will fall significantly.
  • It will also impact the climbers, as future expeditions to the mountain could face more exposed bedrock and ice cover, making it more difficult to climb.
  • The study further shows that the melting of Mount Everest glaciers will bring bad climate impacts in India and other Himalayan countries.
  • It will have a great effect on the monsoon.
  • The avalanches too will increase.
  • More water sources will dry up.

New Study on Tree Species: In a first-of-its-kind, landmark effort to make an estimate of the number of different species of trees existing around the world, around hundred scientists from different parts of the world came together and studied different tree species.

Key Findings:

  • Scientists found out that there are 73,000 tree species in the world.
  • Of these only 64,000 are known to humans.
  • As per their findings, 43% of the tree species in the world occur in South America. 22% occur in Eurasia. 16% occur in Africa. 15% occur in North America. 11% occur in Oceania.

Tree species in South America:

  • 40% of the undiscovered tree species are in South America.
  • Also, South America has the largest number of rare tree species i.e., 8,200 and the highest number of endemic species.
  • Endemics species are those tree species that occur only in that region and nowhere else in the world.
  • Most of the undiscovered tree species in South America were found in the tropical and subtropical moist forests of the continent that are located in the Amazon River basin.
  • Some of these rare species are also found in the Andean forests at altitudes between 1000 metres and 3500 metres.

How were the tree species counted?

  • The Global Forest Biodiversity Initiative (GFBI) database was used.
  • As part of the study, two massive sets of data from the GFBI and TreeChange were pooled together to get a consolidated account of years of tree cataloging on the ground.

Note: The GFBI has records of 38 million trees.

  • The combined data sets provided information about 64,100 tree species.

About GFBI:

  • GFBI is a multi-stakeholder research collaboration.
  • It works around forest sciences.
  • It is a platform for international forest education and research dissemination.

Important info:

  • The forests of South America should be protected largely.
  • However, the forests here are threatened by fires, climate change, deforestation and other anthropogenic activities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spot-billed pelicans: A nematode infestation has led to mass mortality of spot-billed pelicans (Pelicanus philippensis) at Telineelapuram Important Bird Area (IBA) in Andhra Pradesh (AP).

Key Details:

  • Over 150 spot-billed pelicans have succumbed to the infestation since December, based on Forest officers, with 21 birds dying up to now 72 hours alone.
  • Solely grown-up birds have succumbed to the infestation until date.
  • Preliminary inquiry suggests that nematode infestation is the cause for the death of the spot-billed pelicans.
  • Note: The nematode parasite is suspected to be transferred through fish and snails in particular, when the birds prey in the aqua ponds.
  • The spot-billed pelican is capable of hunting huge fish from the water bodies and swamps and thus, it is vulnerable to infestation.
  • Till now, in South India, the Telineelapuram IBA is the prime winter sojourn for the spot-billed pelican for breeding. The identical IBA can be a breeding habitat for the painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala).
  • However, as per the studies carried out by experts in Karnataka State, the nematode infestation would not spread from one species to another species.
  • Thousands of spot-billed pelicans and a few hundred painted storks migrate from the Siberian region to breed in the Telineelapuram IBA and a majority of them prefer to stay here instead of going back home.

About spot-billed pelican:

  • The spot-billed pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) is also called grey pelican.
  • It is a member of the pelican family.
  • It breeds in southern Asia from southern Iran across India east to Indonesia.
  • It is a bird of large inland and coastal waters, especially large lakes.

Features:

  • The spot-billed pelican is a relatively small pelican but still a large bird.
  • It is 125–152 cm (49–60 in) long and has a weight of 4.1–6 kg (9.0–13.2 lb).
  • It is mainly white, with a grey crest, hindneck and a brownish tail.
  • The feathers on the hind neck are curly and form a greyish nape crest.

Habitat:

  • It is not migratory but is known to make local movements and are more widely distributed in the non-breeding season.
  • The species is found to breed only in peninsular India, Sri Lanka and Cambodia.
  • The main habitat is in shallow lowland freshwaters.

Conservation status:

Near Threatened under IUCN Red List.

Red Sanders: The Red Sanders (or Red Sandalwood) has recently fallen back into the ‘endangered’ category.

Key Highlights:

  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently reclassified Red Sanders as 'endangered' on its Red List.

Note: A fictional account of red sandal smuggling is provided by the recently released and trending Telugu movie plot.

  • In 2018, it was designated as a 'near threatened' species.
  • When a species was removed from the endangered list for the first time since 1997, it was a cause for celebration.
  • For the past three generations, the Red Sanders species has seen its population drop by 50-80%.
  • As a result, it was once again placed in the endangered category.
  • About Red Sanders:
  • Pterocarpus santalinus is the scientific name for the Red Sanders species.
  • It is an Indian endemic tree species, with a restricted geographical range in the Eastern Ghats.
  • The species is only found in a small area of woodland in Andhra Pradesh.

Significance of Red Sanders:

  • Red Sanders are prized for their deep color and medicinal benefits.
  • They are in considerable demand in Asia, particularly in China and Japan, for usage in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
  • Furniture, woodcraft, and musical instruments are all made using it.

Status of legal protection in India:

The Union Environment Ministry had decided to keep Red Sanders (red sandalwood) OUT of the Schedule VI of Wild Life Protection Act, 1972, arguing that this would discourage the cultivation of the rare plant species.

Note: Schedule VI regulates and restricts the cultivation, possession, and sale of a rare plant species.

CITES Status:

  • The Red Sanders is listed in CITES Appendix II. As a result, foreign trade is prohibited.
  • The tree's harvest is likewise regulated throughout states, yet there is still unlawful commerce.

IUCN Red List:

  • IUCN is in charge of maintaining the Red List.
  • It is a list of flora and fauna species that are classified according to their conservation status.

The following are the current conditions:

Least concern: It is for the species, which are abundant in numbers.

Extinct:  It is for those species, which have completely disappeared from the planet.

Critically endangered: This category is for threatened species.

Endangered: Threatened species are added to this list

Vulnerable: The category is reserved for threatened species.

 

Songs of Frog Species: Recently researchers, in a new study, documented the songs of frog species.

Key Highlights:

  • This study was conducted by researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune.
  • It has been published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

Key points:

  • The new study found that frogs have different types of calls to suit different occasions.
  • It was known that birds sing different songs depending on the context, yet this kind of behaviour has not been documented among the so-called simpler animals, the anurans (frogs and toads).
  • The group studied two species of frog – Humayun’s Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus humayuni) and Amboli Bush Frog (Pseudophilautus amboli).
  • As per the study, the N. humayuni produces calls with two notes (ascending and descending) while P. amboli produces calls with six-note types.
  • Both species of anurans are endemic to the Western Ghats.
  • This is the first study to examine “sequences” of vocalizations in frogs.

Environment Current Affairs - January 2022

Icefish Breeding Colony: Researchers exploring Antarctica’s seabed have found an icefish breeding colony in the Weddell Sea of Antarctica.

Highlights:

  • The species was discovered in February 2021 but their breeding nests were discovered recently.
  • Their discovery was published in the journal Current Biology.

Key Points about the discovery:

  • The ice fish nests were found in a warm patch of water.
  • The temperature of the water here was 35 degrees Fahrenheit which the scientists found to be strange and unique.
  • The nests persisted for the entire four-hour dive, with a total of 16,160 recorded on camera.
  • The scientists estimated the colony of Neopagetopsis ionah icefish stretched across 92 square miles of the serene Antarctic sea.
  • Currently, there are 60 million active nests.
  • The researchers described the site as the largest fish breeding colony discovered in the world.

About the icefish nests:

  • Each of the newly discovered nests held, on average, 1,735 large eggs.
  • About three-quarters of the colony’s nests were guarded by a single male icefish.
  • Near the edges of the colony, many unused or abandoned nests cradled several icefish carcasses, many with starfishes and octopuses feasting on their eyes and soft parts.

About the Ice Fish:

  • The scientific name of the icefish is Neopagrtopsis ionah.
  • Icefishes thrive in waters just above freezing with enormous hearts and blood that runs clear as vodka.
  • Their blood is transparent because they do not have any red blood cells and hemoglobin to transport oxygen throughout the body.
  • Icefishes’ loss of hemoglobin genes was is an evolutionary adaptation rather than a happy accident.
  • They absorb the oxygen-rich Antarctic waters through their skin.

About Weddell Sea:

  • The Weddell Sea is located between the land boundaries of the Antarctic Peninsula to the west and Coats Land to the east.
  • It is a part of the Southern Ocean and contains the Weddell Gyre.
  • The easternmost point is Cape Norvegia at Princess Martha Coast, Queen Maud Land.
  • To the east of Cape Norvegia is the King Haakon VII Sea. Much of the southern part of the sea is covered by a permanent, massive ice shelf field, the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf.
  • The sea has the clearest water.

Note: In 2002, more than 10,000 square kilometers of ice in the Weddell Sea disappeared.

Gretathunbergae: Scientists have recently named a new species of rainfrog after Greta Thunberg.

Key Highlights:

  • The new species of rainfrog was discovered in the Panama jungle.
  • The species has been named as Pristimantis gretathunbergae, or popularly known as the Greta Thunberg Rainfrog.
  • The frog was originally discovered in 2012 and was thought to be part of the already categorized Pristimantis family.
  • The new specimen of the tropical amphibian was discovered by an international team of biologists led by doctors Abel Batista, from Panama, and Konrad Mebert (Switzerland) in Cerro Chucantí, a private reserve located in the province of Darién.
  • However, the recent DNA analysis confirmed that the frog is a new species, according to the scientific journal Zookeys.
  • It was named after Greta Thunberg when conservation nonprofit The Rainforest Trust held an auction that allowed the winner to name new species.

Note: This isn’t the first time a newly discovered species has been named in honour of the “School Strike for Climate Action” activist. In 2019, the National History Museum named a tiny new species of beetle after the high-schooler.

  • The frog was discovered at a reserve established by the conservation organization AdoptaBosque with support from Rainforest Trust.

About Gretathunbergae:

  • The Greta Thunberg Rainfrog has distinctive features that help it to be identifiable from rest by its “unusually prominent black eyes, a contrasting light upper lip, commonly a single conical to the spine-like tubercle on the upper eyelid, and a larger head.

 

Collarwali Tigress: The State of Madhya Pradesh's Forest Department recently performed the last rites of the Collarwali tigress.

Key Highlights:

  • India’s “Supermom” tigress, popularly known as ‘Collarwali’, passed away at Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Madhya Pradesh, due to old age.
  • The official name given to the tigress by the forest department was T-15.
  • She gained the Collarwali title as she became the first tigress in the park to be fitted with a radio collar in 2008.

About Collarwali Tigress:

  • The tigress died when she was 16 years old.
  • Collarwali tigress, born in 2005 was instrumental in increasing the tiger inhabitants in the Pench Tiger Reserve.
  • During her lifetime, she gave birth to 29 cubs.
  • Only 25 of the 29 pubs survived.
  • She managed to give birth to three pubs in 2005 but they did not make it.
  • She gave birth to five pubs in 2010.
  • She gave birth to four cubs in 2018, and this was her last time delivering pubs.
  • Note: Tigresses who have more than 3 or 4 pubs are extremely rare.
  • As a result, she was dubbed "Supermum." She was also referred to as "Mataram," which means "Respected Mother.

 

Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya: The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has underlined some green rules for the living root bridges of Meghalaya to get the UNESCO World Heritage Site tag.

Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma pitched for UNESCO recognition as the hill State marked its 50th year of creation.

About living root bridge:

  • A living root bridge is like a suspension bridge formed by guiding the pliable roots of the rubber fig tree ( Ficus elastica ) across a stream or river and allowing the roots to grow and strengthen over time.
  • They are common in the southern part of the Northeast Indian state of Meghalaya.
  • Such a bridge is locally called jingkieng jri.
  • Most of the bridges grow on steep slopes of subtropical moist broadleaf forest between 50m and 1150m above sea level.
  • Khasi and Jaintia tribes have mastered the art of wrapping thick roots together to form a structure that has the capacity to hold more than 50 people.
  • It has a lifespan of up to 150 years.
  • It is an example of a symbiotic relationship between people and nature.

ISFR 2021: Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Shri Bhupendra Yadav recently released the ‘India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021’.

Note: ISFR provides comprehensive information about the forest and tree cover, bamboo resources, carbon stock and forest fires.

Key Highlights:

  • The report has been prepared by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) which has been mandated to assess the forest and tree resources of the country.
  • The 2021 report is the 17th edition since the Indian government floated the exercise in 1987.

Major Findings of ISFR 2021:

  • According to the IFSR survey, the total forest and tree cover of India is 80.9 million hectares which is 24.62 percent of the geographical area.
  • The forest and tree cover has increased by 2,261 sq. km since the last assessment as compared to the 2019 assessment.
  • Out of this, the increase in the forest cover has been observed as 1,540 sq km and that in tree cover is 721 sq km.
  • The increase in forest cover has been observed in the open forests followed by very dense forests.
  • The top three states have shown an increase in forest cover.
  • They are Andhra Pradesh (647 sq km) followed by Telangana (632 sq km) and Odisha (537 sq km).
  • Area-wise Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover in the country followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra.
  • In terms of forest cover as percentage of total geographical area, the top five States are
  1. Mizoram (84.53%)
  2. Arunachal Pradesh (79.33%)
  3. Meghalaya (76.00%)
  4. Manipur (74.34%)
  5. Nagaland (73.90%)
  • 17 states/UT have above 33% of the geographical area under forest cover.
  • Out of these states and UT’s, five states/UTs namely Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya have more than 75% forest cover.

Mangroves:

  • The total mangrove cover in the country is 4,992 sq km.
  • An increase of 17 sq Km in mangrove cover has been observed as compared to the previous assessment of 2019.
  • The top three states showing mangrove cover increase are Odisha (8 sq km) followed by Maharashtra (4 sq km) and Karnataka (3 sq km).

Carbon stock:

  • Total carbon stock in the country’s forests is estimated to be 7,204 million tonnes and there is an increase of 79.4 million tonnes in the carbon stock of the country as compared to the last assessment of 2019.
  • The annual increase in carbon stock is 39.7 million tonnes.

What do forest cover and tree cover mean?

  • Forest cover means all land with a tree canopy density, or fraction of area covered by the crowns of trees, of more than 10% and area of more than one hectare.
  • Tree cover means the trees outside forests occupying less than one hectare, across the country.

How does the FSI map the forest cover?

  • The FSI maps these data using remote sensing.

Methodology:

  • FSI, in tune with the Government of India’s (GoI) vision of digital India and the need for integration of digital data sets, adopted using the vector boundary layers of various administrative units up to districts level as provided by Survey of India along with digital open series top sheets, in order to ensure comprehensive compatibility with the geographical areas as reported in Census, 2011.
  • The biennial assessment of forest cover of the country using mid-resolution Satellite data is based on interpretation of LISS-III data from Indian Remote Sensing satellite data (Resourcesat-II) with a spatial resolution of 23.5 meters with the scale of interpretation 1:50,000 to monitor forest cover and forest cover changes at District, State and National level.
  • Satellite data for the entire country was procured from NRSC for the period October to December 2019.

Significance of biennial assessment of forest cover:

  • This information provides inputs for various global level inventories, reports such as GHG Inventory, Growing Stock, Carbon Stock, Forest Reference Level (FRL) and international reporting to UNFCCC targets under CBD Global Forest Resource Assessment (GFRA) for planning and scientific management of forests.

Note: Earlier, up to the year 1999, the forest cover mapping was done largely by the visual interpretation method.

About FSI:

  • Forest Survey of India (FSI) was founded in June 1981.
  • It is headquartered at Dehradun in Uttarakhand.
  • It is the Government of India Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change organization.
  • It conducts forest surveys, studies and researches to periodically monitor the changing situations of land and forest resources and present the data for national planning, conservation and sustainable management of environmental protection as well for the implementation of social forestry projects.

Katrol Hill Fault: A study conducted on sediment samples revealed that major earthquake events in the last 30,000 years have resulted in spectacular changes in the landscape of the Katrol Hill Fault.

Katrol Hill Fault lies in the Kachchh region in Gujarat.

Key Points:

  • This was observed by a team of geologists from the Department of Geology, the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.
  • The study was carried out by using field mapping and sophisticated instruments like Ground Penetrating Radar and laboratory equipment like Scanning Electron Microscope for examining the sediment samples collected from the faultline.

Note: A faultline is a line on the rock surface that traces the geological fault

  • This research was published in the journal ‘Engineering Geology’ and ‘Earth Surface Processes and Landforms’.
  • The research was made possible through high-end scientific equipments funded mainly under the FIST Programme of the Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India.

About Seismicity in Kachchh Region:

  • Seismicity in the Kachchh region is highly complex as it is characterized by multiple seismic sources in the form of several East-West trending fault lines, which release continuously accumulating tectonic stresses at intervals producing earthquakes.
  • Real-time monitoring of earthquakes since the occurrence of the devastating 2001 Bhuj earthquake indicate that most of the faults in the region are –
  • Kachchh Mainland Fault (KMF),
  • South Wagad Fault (SWF),
  • Gedi Fault (GF), and
  • Island Belt Fault (IBF)
  • These faults are seismically active.
  • However, seismic activity along other faults like the Katrol Hill Fault (KHF) is not apparent, thus making the task of seismic hazard estimation and mitigation in the region a scientifically complex process.

Additional Info:

Who is the official agency for publishing the seismic hazard maps and codes?

  • The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is the official agency for publishing seismic hazard maps and codes.
  • It has brought out versions of seismic zoning map: a six-zone map in 1962, a seven-zone map in 1966, and a five-zone map in 1970/1984.

 Seismic Zones in the Indian Subcontinent:

In the Indian subcontinent, the seismic zones are divided into four seismic zones based on scientific inputs relating to seismicity, earthquakes that occurred in the past and the tectonic setup of the region.

They are -

  1. Seismic Zone II
  2. Seismic Zone III
  3. Seismic Zone IV
  4. Seismic Zone V

Major earthquakes in India:

More than 60 percent of the land in India is prone to moderate to very high-intensity earthquakes.

Some major past earthquakes in India were in -

  • 2005 Jammu Kashmir Earthquake
  • 2001 Bhuj: 7.7 magnitude
  • 1967 Koyna Earthquake: 6.5 magnitude
  • 1934 Bihar-Nepal Earthquake: 8.4 magnitude

What are the causes of earthquakes in India?

The causes are as follows:

North – East region:

  • Collision zones of the Himalayan belt and Sumatran belt.
  • Kopili fault is currently the most active seismic zone in North East India.

Himalayan belt:

  • The collision between Indo-Austral plate with Eurasian plate and Burma Plate with Java Sumatra.

Deccan Plateau:

  • Fault line and energy build-up along the fault line of the river Bhima (Krishna) near Latur and Osmanabad (Maharashtra).

Andaman and Nicobar Islands:

  • Seafloor displacement and underwater volcanoes.

Anthropogenic:

  • Increasing population and unscientific land use in construction.

 Definition of Earthquake:

  • An earthquake is an intense shaking of the surface of the Earth.
  • The shaking is caused by movements in the Earth's outermost layer resulting from a sudden release of energy in the Earth's lithosphere that creates seismic waves.
  • The emanation of energy occurs along a fault.
  • A fault is a sharp break in the crustal rocks.
  • Rocks along a fault generally move in opposing directions.
  • Earthquakes can range in size from those that are so weak that they cannot be felt to those violent enough to propel objects and people into the air, and wreak destruction across entire cities.
  • The seismicity, or seismic activity, of an area, is the frequency, type, and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time.
  • The word tremor is also used for non-earthquake seismic rumbling.
  • There are different types of earthquakes. They are -

Tectonic earthquakes:

  • The most common form of earthquake is caused by the movement of loose fragmented pieces of land on earth’s crust known as tectonic plates.

Volcanic Earthquake:

  • The less prevalent compared to the tectonic variety, these earthquakes happen before or after the eruption of a volcano.
  • It is caused when magma leaving the volcano is filled by rocks being pushed to the surface.

Collapse Earthquake:

  • This earthquake occurs in underground mines.
  • The main cause is the pressure generated within the rocks.

Explosion Earthquakes:

  • The occurrence of this type of earthquake is artificial.
  • High-density explosion such as nuclear explosions is the primary cause.

Reservoir induced Earthquakes:

  • These occur in the areas of huge reservoirs like dams.

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano: An undersea volcano erupted near the Pacific nation of Tonga on 15th January 2022, sending large tsunami waves crashing across the shore and people rushing to higher ground.

Key Highlights:

  • The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai volcano sent shockwaves across the South Pacific.
  • The explosion sent plumes of smoke into the air and about 12 miles above sea level.
  • The sky over Tonga was darkened by the ash.
  • Tonga is an island nation with around 105,000 residents. It lies 2,383 kilometers (1,481 miles) northeast of New Zealand.
  • A tsunami advisory was in effect for Hawaii, Alaska and the US Pacific coast, with reports of waves pushing boats up in the docks in Hawaii.
  • Tsunami waves were observed in the southern Japanese island of Amami-Oshima and many other places along the coastline the next day.
  • Tsunami warnings were issued in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Russia, Chile and the United States.

About Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai:

  • Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai is a volcanic island in Tonga.
  • It is located about 30 km south of the submarine volcano of Fonuafoʻou and 65 km north of Tongatapu, the country's main island.
  • The volcano is part of the highly active Tonga–Kermadec Islands volcanic arc, a subduction zone extending from New Zealand's north-northeast to Fiji.
  • The island arc is formed at the convergent boundary where the Pacific Plate subducts under the Indo-Australian Plate.

 

 

 

Non-Fossil Fuel Milestone: According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy  (MNRE), India has met its non – fossil fuel target much ahead of 2030.

Key Highlights:

  • At COP-21, as part of its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), India had committed to achieving 40% of its installed electricity capacity from non-fossil energy sources by 2030.
  • However, India achieved this target in November 2021.
  • The total installed electric capacity of India is 392.01 GW.
  • Of this, the total non – fossil- fuel-based energy is 157.32 gigawatts (GW).
  • This is 40.1 percent of the total installed energy capacity of 392.01 GW.
  • The achieved target is a part of NDCs.

How did India achieve the target so early?

  • India’s non-fossil fuel-based capacity target was met under its nationally determined contribution (NDC) at COP 21.
  • The NDCs were pledged in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • Since the signing of the agreement, India has been sincerely committed to implementing NDC.
  • India is the only G-20 country that has been meeting its climate goals, As a result, India achieved the target ahead of time.
  • Under NDC, India pledged to increase its total electricity generation from fossil fuel to 40% of the total electricity generation in the country.
  • India has also already reached an emission reduction of 28%.
  • India had also pledged to reduce the emissions by 33% as compared to 2005 levels.

Steps taken to achieve the target:

  • According to the REN21 Renewables 2020 Global Status Report, India has invested $64.6 billion in renewable energy.
  • In 2019 alone, India invested 11.2 billion USD in the sector.
  • Government data shows that India's non-conventional energy sector received USD 7.27 billion through foreign direct investment from the year 2014-15 up to June 2021.

Role of AGC in achieving an early target:

  • The full form of AGC is Automatic Generation Control.
  • AGC, by 2030, aims to install 500 GW of non-fossil-fuel electricity.
  • POSOCO is in charge of AGC (Power System Operation Corporation). Under AGC, 51 GW of power has been installed so far.

What does AGC do?

  • AGC transmits signals (frequency monitoring data) from the National Load Dispatch Centre to 50 power facilities.
  • The data is sent every 4 seconds.
  • The frequency of electric current varies with supply and demand.
  • It is critical to maintaining the National Power System's frequency steady.
  • The Frequency of Indian electricity is 50 Hz.
  • All the domestic commodities run on this frequency and if there is any change in frequency it will damage the commodities.
  • The Indian Electricity Rules, 1956, allow for a 3 percent difference in frequency between 48.5 and 51.5 Hz.
  • When the demand rises, the frequency falls, and vice versa.
  • As more electricity is added to the grid, it is increasingly essential to maintain the frequency.
  •  If not, new infrastructure will have to be installed.

 

Chilika Water Bird Status Survey–2022: A bird census was recently conducted in Chilika Lake by the Odisha Wildlife Organization.

About the survey:

  • The census was conducted jointly by Odisha Wildlife Organization, Chilika Development Authority (CDA) and Bombay Natural History Society.
  • Chilika is the world's largest brackish lake. Birds migrate to the lake for the winter.
  • A total of 106 people were deployed including Bird experts from both non-governmental and government groups.
  • The lake was divided into 21 segments to conduct the census.
  • Inside Chilika Lake is the Nalabana Bird Sanctuary where 3,58,889 birds were sighted.
  • In comparison to the previous census, the number of birds in the reserve has reduced by 65,000.
  • The decline is due to the rise in the high water levels in the lake and its environs. Waterbirds love to permeate muddy areas.

Key Findings:

  • The 2022 survey witnessed 10,74,173 birds.
  • This featured the uncommon and rare Mongolian gull as well.
  • Around 107 waterbird species and 76 wetland-dependent species were spotted. The count was 12 lakhs in 2021.
  • The three major bird species in the lake such as Northern pintail, Eurasian wigeon and gadwall accounted for a total of one lakh birds.
  • Gadwall and Eurasian wigeon populations were less than the previous year.
  • There was an increase in the population of common coot, northern pintail, and common pochard but there was a decline in Tufted duck, northern shoveler, and red-crested pochard populations.
  • In 2022 count, the greater flamingo count reached the highest in the decade. This is mainly due to the restoration of mudflats in Nalabana.
  • The local species such as purple heron, Indian moorhen and jacanas were found in high numbers.
  • The lake hosts migratory birds from the Himalayas, Ladakh, Southeast Asia, the Aral Sea, parts of Russia, the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal.
  • They arrive at Chilika Lake for its muddy waters and abundant fish varieties.

About Chilika Lake:

  • It is a saltwater lake.
  • It spreads across the Khudra, Ganjam and Puri regions of Odisha on the east coast of India.

 

Fimbristylis sunilii and Neanotis prabhuii: Researchers from SNM College Maliankara, the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, and the Payyanur College have recently reported two new plant species from the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats regions.

Key Highlights:

  • Both the species have been collected from the Thiruvananthapuram and Wayanad districts of Kerala.
  • They have been christened Fimbristylis sunilii and Neanotis prabhuii.

About Fimbristylis sunilii:

  • Collected from the grasslands of Ponmudi hills, Thiruvananthapuram, Fimbristylis sunilii has been named after plant taxonomist C.N. Sunil, retired professor and research guide of Botany, SNM College.
  • It is a perennial plant of the Cyperaceae family.
  • It stands 20-59 cm tall and was collected from an elevation of 1,100 meters.
  • Fimbristylis sunilii has been provisionally assessed as data deficient (DD) under the IUCN Red List categories.

Neanotis prabhuii:

  • Neanotis prabhuii is a prostrate perennial herb named after K.M. Prabhukumar, Senior Scientist at CSIR-NBRI, Lucknow, in recognition of his research on flowering plants of the Western Ghats.
  • It was discovered in the Chembra Peak grasslands of Wayanad.
  • It hails from the family Rubiaceae and grows on high-altitude grasslands.

 

  • Neanotis prabhuii grows up to 70 cm in length and is many-flowered with the petals pale pink in colour.
  • It has been categorized as data deficient (DD) in the absence of any detailed observations and data on populations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Environment Current Affairs - December 2021

Alkaline Electrolyser Technology: As part of the India’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) has collaborated with Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) to scale up Alkaline Electrolyser technology for Green Hydrogen production.

Note: Currently, electrolyser plants are imported.

  • This is a first of its kind initiative to support the country's commitment to achieve renewable energy targets and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The country aims to reach net zero emissions by 2070 and wants to raise the share of renewables in its energy mix to 50 per cent by 2030 from the current 38 per cent.

Why is there a need for Alkaline Electrolyser Technology?

  • India is the world’s third biggest greenhouse gas emitter.
  • Refineries use large quantities of hydrogen for de-sulfurization to make petrol, diesel and other chemicals. Currently, hydrogen is made at the refinery via. steam reforming of natural gas, but this results in high CO2 emission.
  • Therefore, refiners are setting up large scale electrolysers to produce green hydrogen from water and thereby decarbonize hydrogen production.

Way Forward:

  • Bharat Petroleum has plans to expand its portfolio of renewable energy with solar, wind and biofuels.
  • The company plans to achieve Net Zero Emissions by 2040. Furthermore, the company intends to meet power requirements for new projects in its Refineries, primarily from renewable sources.

About BPCL:

  • Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) is a ‘Maharatna’ and a Fortune Global 500 Company.
  • BPCL is an Indian government-owned oil and gas corporation.
  • It is under the ownership of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India (GoI).
  • It was founded in 1952.
  • It is headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

About BARC:

  • It is an acronym for Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.
  • BARC is India's premier nuclear research facility, headquartered in Trombay, Mumbai, Maharashtra.
  • It is a multi-disciplinary research centre with extensive infrastructure for advanced research and development covering the entire spectrum of nuclear science, engineering and related areas.
  • Previously, the Government of India (GoI) created the Atomic Energy Establishment, AEET with Homi J. Bhabha (also known as the "Father of Indian Nuclear Programme"), as the founding director on 3 January 1954.
  • After Homi Jehangir Bhabha's death in 1966, the centre was renamed as the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre on 22 January 1967. 

Samudrayaan Project: Under the Deep Ocean Mission launched by the Government of India, a manned scientific submersible has been proposed to be developed for deep ocean exploration.

  • The project is named as Samudrayaan.

About Deep Ocean Mission

  • Deep Ocean Mission, undertaken by the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), is an initiative to explore Deep Ocean for resources and develop deep sea technologies for sustainable use of ocean resources.
  • With its launch India joins six other countries (USA, Russia, Japan, France & China) engaged in exploring the ocean depths for studies and research.

About NIOT

  • National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) is an autonomous Institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences,
  • It is under Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).

Progress made:

  • NIOT had developed and tested a ‘personnel sphere’ for a manned submersible system for 500 metre water depth rating.
  • Personnel Sphere of 2.1m diameter to be used as a crew module up to 500 m water depth has been developed using mild steel and tested up to 600 m water depth in the Bay of Bengal using the research Vessel Sagar Nidhi during October, 2021.

Following the success of the trial, the “Samudrayaan” program was formally launched on 29 October 2021.

National Energy Conservation Day 2021: National Energy Conservation day is celebrated in India annually on the 14th of December.

Key Points:

  • The day has been celebrated since 1991 and is headed by the by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE).
  • This day is led by the Union Ministry of Power's Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) to raise awareness about global warming and climate change and also to promote efforts towards saving energy resources. 
  • This occasion has been celebrated since 1991 when is led by the Ministry of power.
  • The Ministry of Power celebrated Energy Conservation Week (8-14 Dec) in 2021 under Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.
  • As part of celebrations, the BEE under the Ministry of Power has organized various programs.

Significance of the day:

  • The day is celebrated to raise awareness of the importance of energy conservation and also to raise awareness regarding the importance of energy and resources conservation.
  • Energy conservation is a big necessity that is required of our future well-being so it  should be a practice for everyone to indulge in energy conservation to make the future of our earth even better.
  • Conserving energy means wisely using energy rather than indiscriminately misusing it.

How can energy be conserved?

  • Energy can be conserved by avoiding unnecessary use of energy and using least energy like switching off lights and fans when not being used – or reducing the use of a particular service that uses energy – like driving less and using public transport instead so that energy sources can be saved for future uses.
  • To make energy conservation plans more effective, every person should include energy conservation in their behaviour.

Energy Conservation Act, 2001:

  • The Energy Conservation Act, 2001, defines the actions and strategies that are to help with the conservation of energy.
  • The act was executed by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE).
  • It provides regulatory mandates for:
  • Standards & labeling of equipment and appliances
  • Energy conservation building codes for commercial buildings
  • Energy consumption norms for energy intensive industries

History of the day:

  • Back in 2001, the Indian bureau of energy efficiency implemented the Indian energy conservation act which focused on formulating policies regarding energy conservation.
  • Since then on every 14th December various discussions, conferences, and workshops are organized to raise awareness regarding energy conservation.
  • These events are organized across the country.

About Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE):

  • The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) is an agency of the Government of India (GoI), under the Ministry of Power.
  • This statutory body was created in March 2002 under the Energy Conservation Act, 2001 under the provisions of the nation's 2001 Energy Conservation Act.

It functions are as follows:

  • Formulating policies regarding energy conservation.
  • Assisting in developing policies and strategies with the primary objective of reducing the energy intensity of the Indian economy.
  • Coordinating with designated agencies, designated consumers, and other organizations to identify and utilize the existing resources and infrastructure, in performing its functions.

National Energy Conservation Awards:

  • The Ministry of Power had launched the National Energy Conservation Awards in 1991, to give national recognition to industries and establishments that have taken special efforts to reduce energy consumption while maintaining their production.
  • It recognizes the energy efficiency achievements in 56 sub-sectors across industry, establishments and institutions.

Chocolate-bordered Flitter: A new species of butterfly, now named the Chocolate-bordered Flitter, has been discovered at Dzongu in north Sikkim.

Key Facts:

  • The new species of butterfly carries the scientific name Zographetus dzonguensis, after Dzongu in north Sikkim, the place where it was discovered.
  • It is a golden yellow butterfly with brown borders and spots.
  • The physical appearance of the species differs slightly and the internal structures of the males also differ slightly.
  • Its closest relatives are Zographetus pangi in Guangdong, and Zographetus hainanensis in Hainan, both in southeastern China, close to Hong Kong
  • It is mentioned on the ‘Butterflies of India’ website which is maintained by the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru.
  • The details were published in a paper in Zootaxa.

Flatbill flycatchers: A New Species of Bird named Flatbill flycatchers have been discovered in South America.

Key Facts:

  • Flatbill flycatchers are members of rubric Rhynchocyclusin simply New World family Tyrannidae.
  • Four given species in this rubric are distributed across southern Mexico to north-eastern Bolivia, Brazil and eastern Venezuela.
  • The four Species of Genus Rhynchocyclus are -
  1. Olivaceous flatbill (Rhynchocyclus olivaceus),
  2. Pacific flatbill (Rhynchocyclus pacificus) and
  3. Fulvous-breasted flatbill (Rhynchocyclus fulvipectus).
  4. Eye- ringed flatbill (Rhynchocyclus brevirostris)
  • Two of these species, Rhynchocyclus pacificus & Rhynchocyclus fulvipectus are monotypic, while other two are polytypic.
  • There are nine sub-species of Rhynchocyclus olivaceus.
  • All the subspecies are very similar to each other and they have a remarkable constancy in morphometric characters and plumage colour patterns.
  • It evidences their cryptic nature.
  • All the species are large-headed and flat-billed.

About Cryptic flatbill:

  • The recently discovered species has been named as cryptic flatbill (Rhynchocyclus cryptus) after its remarkable morphological cryptic nature.
  • It strongly contrasts with its high levels of vocal and genetic differentiation.
  • The species prefers seasonally flooded floodplain forests (varzea), including degraded patches near to human settlements.
  • It can be found towards south of the Amazon River, banks of Madeira River in Amazonas & Acre in Brazil, west of Maranon River in Peru, and south to north or central Bolivia in the Mamore.

Threats for Rhynchocyclus cryptus:

The threats are as follows:

  • Deforestation due to rapid progress of livestock farms
  • Monocultures and implementation of large hydroelectric dams on the Madeira River which affects the flow of sediments.

66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Embryo: Recently, researchers have discovered a perfectly preserved dinosaur embryo inside a fossilised dinosaur egg.

Key Facts:

  • The embryo was discovered in Ganzhou in southern China and researchers estimate it is at least 66 million years old.
  • The embryo was found inside a 17-cm long egg and the creature is estimated to be 27 cm long from head to tail.
  • The specimen is now housed in China’s Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum.
  • This egg was first uncovered in 2000 and put into storage for 10 years.
  • It is believed to be a toothless theropod dinosaur, or oviraptorosaur, and has been named Baby Yingliang.
  • Oviraptorosaurs lived during the Cretaceous period(145 to 66 million years ago) in Asia and North America.
  • The discovery of embryo has also provided researchers a greater understanding of the link between dinosaurs and modern birds.
  • The most interesting find was the posture of the embryo.
  • The fossil shows the embryo was in a curled position known as "tucking", which is a behaviour seen in birds shortly before they hatch.
  • Their findings were published in iScience.

About Oviraptorosaurs:

  • Oviraptorosaurs means “egg thief lizards”.
  • They were feathered dinosaurs, which lived-in present-day Asia and North America during Late Cretaceous period, some 100 million to 66 million years ago.
  • They are distinct for their short, beaked, parrot-like skulls.

Lesser Floricans: In a major discovery, the longest in-country migration route of lesser floricans has been tracked for the first time from Rajasthan to Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district.

Key Facts:

  • Lesser floricans are the endangered birds of the bustard group.
  • The mystery of the fast-disappearing birds may soon be resolved with the help of satellite transmitters fitted on them.
  • The telemetry exercise was undertaken in the Shokaliya landscape of Ajmer district to trace the journey of lesser floricans from their breeding grounds to their places of origin, presumably in down South.
  • The experiment for fitting the U.S.-made satellite transmitters with solar-powered batteries was taken up near Shokaliya village in Ajmer district’s Bhinai tehsil.

About Lesser florican:

  • Lesser florican is taxonomically classified as Sypheotides indicus.
  • It is also known as the likh or kharmore and is the smallest in the bustard family.
  • It is a small and slender bird species belonging to the bustard group
  • It is found in tall grasslands, for which Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has launched a recovery programme.
  • The endangered bird is observed in Rajasthan, Gujarat Madhya Pradesh and some other regions during the monsoon season, when it breeds and later disappears with its chicks to unknown places.

IUCN List:

  • The Lesser Florican is protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, Lesser Florican
  • The bird is listed as “critically endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species and its population has been identified as “decreasing”.

Threats:

It is threatened both by hunting and habitat degradation.

The species is highly endangered and has been officially hunted to extinction in some parts of its range such as Pakistan.

Additional Info:

About Bustards:

  • They are among the heaviest birds
  • They have a horizontal body and long bare legs giving it an ostrich like appearance.
  • Their habitat is Arid and semi-arid grasslands, open country with thorn scrub, tall grass interspersed with cultivation.
  • It avoids irrigated areas.

There are 4 species of bustards found in India. They are-

  1. Great Indian Bustard (GIB) - It is the largest of all.
  2. Macqueen’s Bustard,
  3. Lesser Florican
  4. Bengal Florican

Project RE-HAB: After its success in Karnataka, the Project RE-HAB (Reducing Elephant-Human Attacks using Bees) has now been launched in Assam by Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).

What is Project RE – HAB?

  • Under the Project RE – HAB “bee fences” are created to mitigate human – elephant conflicts in the country.
  • The objective of Project RE-HAB is to ward off elephant attacks in human habitations using honey bees.
  • These honey bees in the fences are used to dissuade elephants without causing any harm to them.
  • The process is extremely cost-effective as compared to other measures like digging trenches or erecting fences.
  • Simultaneously, it increases honey production and increases farmer income.
  • Also, the project has multi-pronged benefits like increasing farmers’ income through beekeeping, addressing climate change and regenerating forest cover.

How does the project work?

  • Under the project, the bee boxes are placed on the passageways of elephants.
  • The buzz of the bees irritates the elephants the most.
  • They fear that the honey bees might sting them in the inner side of their trunks and eyes. And therefore, they do not walk ahead of the boxes.
  • The boxes are connected with a string.
  • When the elephants try to pass through the string, a pull or tug causes the bees to swarm towards the elephant.

Implementation of Project RE – HAB:

  • The Project RE – HAB is implemented by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).

About KVIC:

  • The KVIC is a statutory body established under Khadi and Village Industries Commission Act, 1956.
  • It functions under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
  • The main function of KVIC is to plan, promote, organize and implement programmes for the development of Khadi and village industries in rural areas.

Project RE – HAB a sub – mission to National Honey Mission:

  • The Project RE – HAB is a sub mission to National Honey Mission of KVIC.
  • It was launched to provide awareness and training in using bee boxes along the bee colonies.
  • The mission was launched in 2017 and is in line with Sweet Revolution.
  • The Project was first launched in Karnataka.

Buoyed by the huge success in the state and its launch in Assam, it will also be implemented in West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

What is the need for the project?

  • Between 2014 and 2019, around 403 deaths occurred due to elephant – human conflict.
  • 397 deaths occurred in Odisha, 349 in Jharkhand, 332 in Assam, 170 in Karnataka and 289 in Chhattisgarh.
  • Also, around 500 elephants died in human – elephant conflict in the last five years alone.

Environment Current Affairs - November 2021

India Commits to Net-Zero emissions by 2070: At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced 2070 as the target for India to reach net zero carbon emissions.

Key Points

• It is for the first time at the Glasgow summit that India has set a net zero target. Net zero means not adding to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

• India’s announcement came as a surprise to delegates in Glasgow, as India had earlier rejected calls to announce such target.

• US, UK & Japan have net zero target by 2050; EU by 2060; Saudi Arabia, China & Russia by 2070.

What is net-zero target?

A net-zero target is defined as date by which a country will only emit carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases that can be absorbed by forests, soil, crops, and developing technologies such as carbon capture technology.

Which countries are the top Greenhouse Gas Emitters?

China, United States, India and Russia are the top greenhouse gas emitters. India is the third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and is among the countries which are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. As per Global Climate Risk Index 2021, India is the seventh-most affected nation by extreme weather events.

India’s net zero pledge:

With a view to achieving India’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2070, Prime Minister Modi made four other aggressive pledges, all of them to be achieved by 2030. These short-term ambitions targets to be achieved by 2030 are:

• 50% of power will come from renewables by 2030.

• 500 GW of installed renewable energy capacity will be reached by 2030.

• Reduction in carbon intensity by 45% by 2030.

• Reduction in projected total carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes by 2030.

India further seeks to reduce its projected total carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes by the end of the decade.

O-SMART: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the continuation of the umbrella scheme, Ocean Services, Modelling, Application, Resources and Technology (O-SMART) of Ministry of Earth Sciences for implementation during the period from 2021-26 at an overall cost of 2 thousand 177 crore rupees.

Key Notes
• The O-SMART scheme encompasses seven sub-schemes:

  1. Ocean Technology
  2. Ocean Modelling and Advisory Services (OMAS)
  3. Ocean Observation Network (OON)
  4. Ocean Non-Living Resources
  5. Marine Living Resources and Ecology (MLRE)
  6. Coastal Research
  7. Operation and Maintenance of Research Vessels.

• All of the sub-schemes are being implemented by autonomous institutes of the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

What is O-SMART scheme?
Launched on August 29, 2018 with a view to promoting ocean research and setting early warning weather systems, the O-SMART is a government scheme. O-SMART scheme also aims to address ocean development activities like technology, services, science, resources, and observations. This scheme is implemented by Ministry of Earth Sciences.

 

Objectives of O-SMART Scheme
The objectives of the O-SMART scheme include:

  1. To provide forecast & services based on continuous observation of oceans,
  2. To develop technologies & exploratory surveys to harness ocean resources sustainably.
  3. To promote front-ranking research in ocean sciences.

Significance of the scheme
O-SMART is a multidisciplinary continuing scheme. It will augment the capacity building of the nation at the international-level in oceanographic field through extensive research and technology development activities. This scheme will provide further comprehensive coverage by strengthening ongoing activities to delivering cutting edge technology which will be applicable for marine domain, understanding biodiversity towards conservation strategy, forecast & warning services etc. in next five years.

World Fisheries Day: World Fisheries day is celebrated every year on 21 November throughout the world.

Key Facts:
• The first World Fisheries Day was celebrated on November 21, 2015.
• This year the World Fisheries day in India was celebrated in Bhubaneswar in Odisha.

World Fisheries day is celebrated every year on 21 November throughout the world to highlight the critical importance of healthy ocean ecosystems and to ensure sustainable stocks of fisheries.

In India this year the day was celebrated in Bhubaneswar in Odisha.

At the World Fisheries Day Celebration in Bhubaneswar World Fisheries Day awards were presented by Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and the Dairying, Parshottam Rupala

Andhra Pradesh bagged the Best Marine State award.

 

The Indian government has set a target to achieve one lakh crore export from the marine sector by 2024-25.

Note: Paradip in Odisha is among the five major ports being developed as Major Fishing Harbours.

Clean Ocean Manifesto: The Clean Ocean International Expert Group of the UN Decade for Ocean Science for Sustainable Development has come up with a “Clean Ocean Manifesto” during a three-day online conference on achieving a clean ocean that is concluding on November 19.

The United Nations has proclaimed the years 2021 – 2030 the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. This “Ocean Decade” is an opportunity for ocean actors for supporting efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support countries in creating improved conditions for sustainable development of the Ocean.

Key Points
• The Clean Ocean International Expert Group has set up two essential aims among others with a view to helping the UN achieve the goal of a clean ocean by 2030. They are:

  1. Reducing marine debris by 50-90 per cent and
  2. Globe circling & high-tech system of monitors.

• The Clean Ocean International Expert Group is co-chaired by Angelika Brandt of Germany, a southern ocean and Antarctica biodiversity expert, and Elva Escobar Briones of Mexico, a deep sea biodiversity expert.
• The group concisely outlines “the challenges and some of the opportunities that the Ocean Decade can provide for a clean ocean.”
• The expert group also underlines that, this process should aim to define and attract financial support in order to meet the initial set of goals for 2025. It should then be followed by goals of 2030.

 

Goals for a Clean Ocean in 2030:
The statement notes direct route to a clean ocean, highlighting following objectives for 2030:

  1. Enlarge understanding of pathways for spread & fate of pollutants,
  2. Reduce and remove top-priority forms of pollution up to 90 per cent and
  3. To prevent recurrence, reduce sources or emission of pollutants.

Three-day online conference
The three-day online conference is also highlighting around 30 activities in place or in development across the world, which can make significant contributions by 2030 to clean ocean. These include initiatives of:

  1. Successfully and consistently monitoring marine debris from space
  2. Operating deep sea observatories in Atlantic
  3. Observing vast Southern Ocean to provide early warnings of possible

Top 10 World’s Most Polluted Cities: Three Indian cities- Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai- are among the world’s top 10 cities with the worst air quality, according to air pollution data released by IQAir, a Switzerland-based climate group.

While Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI) at 556 made it to the top of the list, Kolkata and Mumbai recorded an AQI of 177 and 169, respectively, at fourth and sixth position, on the list.

Lahore in Pakistan and Chengdu in China are the other cities in the list of the world’s top 10 cities with the worst AQI indices.

A real-time air quality information platform, IQAir is a technology partner of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).

Environment Current Affairs - October 2021

Eco Oscars:

  An Indian Project, Takachar’s Innovation, that recycles agricultural waste into fuel has won the “Prince William’s inaugural Earthshot Prize”, which is also dubbed the ‘Eco Oscars’, in London on October 17, 2021.

Key Highlights:

  • Eco Oscars honours people trying to save the planet.
  • Takachar won the £1 million prize for its cheap technology innovation that converts crop residues into sellable bio products in the "clean our air" category.
  • Takachar was named among the five worldwide winners of Prince William's inaugural Earthshot Prize.
  • Established in 2020, 2021 was the first year when awards were handed out to finalists for their contributions towards the five UN Sustainable Development Goals — restoration and protection of nature, air cleanliness, ocean revival, waste free living and climate action.
  • Their aim is to provide assistance to and inspire innovative local solutions amid the growing climate crisis faced globally.

Takachar’s Innovation:

  • Vidyut Mohan led Takachar’s innovation was recognized for its affordable technology to convert crop residues into sellable bio products.
  • It reduced smoke emissions by 98% and calls for improving air quality.
  • Takachar has developed a cheap, small scale, portable technology that attaches to tractors in remote farms.
  • The machine converts crop residues into sellable bio products like fuel and fertilizer.
  • This innovation aims at helping improve the air quality that currently reduces the affected population’s life expectancy by up to 5 years.

Significance of the technology:

  • Around USD 120 billion of agricultural waste is generated in the world per year which is often burned as farmers fail to sell them.
  • This has disastrous consequences for both human health as well as the environment.
  • Burning causes air pollution, which has reduced life expectancy in some areas by a decade.
  • Thus, this technology will prove very significant in mitigating this challenge.

About Earthshot Prize:

  • Dubbed as the “Eco Oscars”, the Earthshot Prize is an award set up by Prince William and the Royal Foundation, the charity founded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and historian David Attenborough.
  • This prize was launched in the year 2020 by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and David Attenborough.
  • The Earthshot Prize is a prize awarded annually from 2021 to 2030.
  • A £1 million prize will be awarded annually between 2021 and 2030 to a winner in each of the five categories  supported by the UN Sustainable Development Goals:
  • These categories are as follows:
  • The restoration and protection of nature
  • Air cleanliness
  • Ocean revival
  • Waste free living
  • Climate action
  • The Prize is given by the Royal Foundation, headquartered in London, England.
  • Each year for the next decade, the Earthshot Prize will award 1 million pounds each to five projects that have been working to find solutions to the Earth’s environmental problems.

Note: The Earthshot Prize’s name is a reference to the ‘Moonshot’ ambition of 1960s America, which saw then President John F Kennedy pledge to get a man on the moon within a decade.

                                                                                          

Georissa Mawsmaiensis: A new micro snail species named Georissa Mawsmaiensis has recently been discovered from Mawsmai, a limestone cave in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya.

Key Highlights:

  • The latest discovery was made by NA Aravind and Nipu Kumar Das, scientists of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore.
  • This new species has been named as Georissa Mawsmaiensis’ after the limestone cave, Mawsmai.
  • The last time a species of the Georissa genus was discovered in India was 170 years ago in 1851.
  • It was in 1851 that Georissa saritta, a member of the same genus as the latest find, was collected and described from the Musmai (Mawsmai today) valley near Cherrapunjee by WH Benson.
  • The discovery this time has been reported in the Journal of Conchology.
  • Until now, five snail species have been found from the Meghalaya caves and there could also be more.

About Georissa Mawsmaiensis:

  • The snails, ‘Georissa mawsmaiensis’ are so small in size that an adult measures less than 2 millimeters in length.
  • It has four very prominent spiral striations on the body whorls of the shell in comparison to seven in Georissa Saritta.
  • Georissa is found in soil or subterranean habitats in lowland tropical forest as well as high altitude evergreen forests or on rock surfaces rich in calcium.
  • The members of the Georissa genus are widely distributed across and reported from Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.
  • However, they are confined to microhabitats consisting of limestone caves or karst landscapes formed by the dissolution of limestone.

About Mawsmai Cave:

  • The Mawsmai cave is situated in the small village of Mawsmai, around four kilometres from Cherrapunjee (Sohra) in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya.
  • The term ‘Mawsmai’ means ‘Oath Stone’ in the Khasi language.
  • The Khasi people use the local term ‘Krem’ for the cave.
  • Mawsmai cave is located at an altitude of 1,195 metres above sea level.
  • It is indirectly influenced by the streams of the Kynshi River originating from the East Khasi Hills.
  • It is one of the most popular historical Caves in Meghalaya and is one of the major tourist attractions.
  • Mawsmai Caves are formed out of limestone and enjoy the distinction of being the only caves in Meghalaya that are lit enough so that the tourists can enjoy its natural formations.
  • The cave is home to various flora and fauna and makes a good home for bats and insects.

About Meghalaya:

  • It is a state in northeastern India.
  • Meghalaya was formed by carving out two districts from the state of Assam: the United Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills, and the Garo Hills on 21 January 1972.
  • It is one of the 7 sister states of North East India.
  • Meghalaya means the "Abode of Clouds" in Sanskrit.
  • Shillong and Cherrapunjee are the highlights of Meghalaya for its weather and climatic conditions.
  • Its pristine beauty, perpetual clouds, mists, huge waterfalls, limestone caves, lush green and dense forests, amazing living root bridges are major attractions of this state.
  • Meghalaya is not only the home to a large variety of fruits, vegetables, spices, and medicinal plants but is also famous for its large variety of orchids — nearly 325 of them.
  • Its capital is Shillong.
  • The current Governor and Chief Minister of Meghalaya are Satya Pal Malik and Conrad Sangama respectively.

                                                                                                      

Allium Negianum: Recently, a plant discovered in Uttarakhand in 2019 has been newly confirmed as a new species of Allium.

Note: Allium is the genus that includes many staple foods such as onion and garlic, among 1,100 species worldwide.

Key Highlights:

  • The new species found in Uttarakhand has been described in journal PhytoKeys.
  • In 2019, Dr Anjula Pandey, Principal Scientist at ICAR National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources in New Delhi, together with scientists Drs K Madhav Rai, Pavan Kumar Malav and S Rajkumar, came across plants of this onion species, which they have named Allium negianum.
  • It was discovered in the border area of Malari village, in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.

Key Points about Allium Negianum:

  • The scientific name Allium negianum honours the late Dr Kuldeep Singh Negi, an explorer and Allium collector from India.
  • This plant is restricted to the region of the Western Himalayas and and hasn’t yet been reported from anywhere else in the world.
  • It grows in Malari region of Niti valley in Chamoli district and Dharma valley of Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand.
  • It grows at 3,000 to 4,800 m above sea level.
  • It can be found along open grassy meadows, sandy soils along rivers, and streams forming in snow pasture lands along alpine meadows, where the melting snow helps carry its seeds to more favourable areas.

Note: Although new to science, this species has long been known under domestic cultivation to local communities.

  • However, indiscriminate harvest of its leaves and bulbs for seasoning may pose a threat to its wild populations.

About Allium:

  • Allium is one of the largest genera in Amaryllidaceae.
  • Amaryllidaceae is a family of herbaceous.
  • Note: Herbaceous means connected with plants that have soft stems, mainly perennial and bulbous flowering plants.
  • The genus Allium contains about 1,100 species worldwide, including many staple foods like onion, garlic, scallion, shallot and chives.
  • It naturally occurs in dry seasons in the Northern Hemisphere and South Africa.

Allium in India:

  • There are 30 to 40 species of Allium in India.
  • They are distributed in the temperate and alpine regions of the Indian Himalayas.
  • Many of the Allium species in India are of Chinese origin.
  • There are two Allium centres of Allium diversity in India.
  • They are eastern Himalayas and the western Himalayas.
  • In the eastern Himalayas, they are spread in the alpine temperate zone which holds 6% of the country’s diversity and in the western Himalayas it holds 85% of the total diversity.

                                                                                                            

AQEWS: Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr. Jitendra Singh has launched Air Quality Early Warning System (AQEWS) for Delhi NCR.

Key Points:

  • AQEWS was launched on the occasion of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav week organized by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune has developed a new ‘Decision Support System’ (DSS) and enhanced the existing AQEWS to have better air quality management in the region.

Note: IITM Pune is an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

  • The institute has also developed a dedicated website for DSS, to deliver quantitative information about the contribution of emissions from Delhi and surrounding districts to the air quality.

The website is designed to deliver quantitative information about the following:

  • The contribution of emissions from Delhi and the surrounding 19 districts to the air quality in Delhi.
  • The contribution of emissions from 8 different sectors in Delhi their contribution.
  • The contribution from biomass burning activities in the neighbouring states to the degradation of air quality in Delhi.
  • The possible quantitative effects of interventions at the on the forecast air quality event in Delhi. All this information would assist in managing the air quality in a timely manner.  

                                                                        

International Snow Leopard Day: The International Snow Leopard Day also called the World Snow Leopard Day is observed globally on 23rd October every year.

Key Points:

This day is celebrated to create awareness about conservation and preservation of Snow Leopards.

The day also emphasizes the importance of taking measures to stop poaching, as well as consolidating efforts in terms of an environmental organization in the countries of the snow leopard range.

History of Snow Leopard Day:

  • The first International Snow Leopard Day was celebrated in 2014.
  • International Snow Leopard Day came into being on 23rd October, 2013, with the adoption of the Bishkek Declaration by 12 countries on the conservation of snow leopards.
  • This happened in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, at the very first Global Snow Leopard Forum.
  • The 12 countries included India, Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Note: The Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme (GSLEP) was also launched on the same day to address high mountain development issues using conservation of the snow leopard as a flagship.

About Snow Leopards:

  • The Snow Leopard also known as Ghost of the mountains is a felid in the genus Panthera native.
  • These animals are distributed sparsely across 12 different countries in Central Asia.
  • The Snow Leopard lives at high altitudes between 3,000 and 4,500m in the steep mountains of Central and Southern Asia, and in an extremely cold climate.

Snow Leopards in India:

  • In India, the Snow Leopards are spread in Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and eastern Himalayan areas.
  • Hemis National Park in Ladakh is the biggest national park of India and also has a good presence of Snow Leopard.

Conservation:

  • The IUCN Status of Snow Leopard is “vulnerable”.
  • It was changed from “endangered” to “vulnerable” in 2017.
  • It is listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Under CITES, it is listed in Appendix I.
  • Schedule I provides absolute protection and offences under this have the highest penalties.

Project Snow Leopard:

  • Project Snow Leopard (PSL) was launched in 2009 to promote an inclusive and participatory approach to conserve snow leopards and their habitat.
  • PSL project was launched in states of Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh where the populations of snow leopard are found.

                                                                                                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

International E Waste Day (IEWD): The International E Waste Day (IEWD) is celebrated on 14 October every year since 2018.

Key Highlights:

  • IEWD is celebrated to promote the correct disposal of e waste throughout the world with the aim to increase re use, recovery and recycling rates.
  • The theme for 2021 IEWD is “Consumer is the key to Circular Economy!”.
  • The year 2021 International E Waste Day will focus on the crucial part each of us has in making circularity a reality for e products.
  • The fourth edition of the International E Waste Day was observed in the world this year.

History:

  • The day was developed in 2018 by the WEEE Forum, an international association of e waste collection schemes, with the support of its members.

About E Waste:

  • E Waste is an abbreviation of "electronic and electrical waste".
  • E Waste is a term used to cover items of all types of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and its parts that have been discarded by the owner as waste without the intention of re use.
  • Some of the common e waste are Mobile goods, Laptops, Televisions, Washing machines etc.
  • According to the United Nations Global E Waste Moniter 2020, about 53.6 Mt (million Metric tonnes) of e waste has been generated in 2019 worldwide.
  • Only 17.4% of the above said waste were collected and recycled.
  • As per the reports it is estimated that by 2030 about 74 Mt will be generated.
  • The volume of e waste, in the last 5 years has increased by 21% globally.

What is the reason for high level of e waste?

  • The rapid expansion of technology and the consumption driven society has resulted in the creation of a very large amount of e waste.
  • E waste is generated as a result of any of the below mentioned reasons:
  • Rapid changes in technology
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Changes in media (tapes, software, MP3) Falling prices
  • End of the intended usage
  • Planned obsolescence
  • As of 2019, only 78 countries had sound policy for management of e waste.

India and E Waste:

  • In 2019, India generated 3.2 MT of e waste.
  • According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), there are 312 registered e waste recyclers in India.
  • They have the capacity to handle 782,080.62 tonnes of E Waste every year.
  • In 2016, the MoEFCC (Ministry of Environment, forest ad Climate Change) notified the E Waste Management Rules, 2016.
  • The E Waste Management Rules enforces Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
  • Under EPR, the producers will be responsible for a certain percentage of E Waste generated from their goods once the products have reached the 'end of life'.

About WEEE Forum:

  • The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) Forum is the world's largest multi national centre of competence as regards operational know how concerning the management of waste electrical and electronic equipment.
  • It is a not for profit association of 43 WEEE producer responsibility organizations across the world and was founded in April 2002.
  • It is headquartered in Brussels (Belgium).

                                                                                                    

Plastic Waste Recycling: The Ministry of Environment, forest ad Climate Change (MoEFCC) has recently issued draft rules that mandate producers of plastic packaging material to collect all of their produce by 2024.

Key Points:

  • As per the draft rules, these Producers of plastic have to ensure that a minimum percentage of it be recycled as well as used in subsequent supply.
  • It has also specified a system whereby makers and users of plastic packaging could collect certificates — called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) certificates — and trade in them.
  • The notification was expected to come into force by December 6 and, as of now, was open to public feedback.
  • Only a fraction of plastic that cannot be recycled such as multi layered multi material plastics would be eligible to be sent for end of life disposal such as road construction, waste to energy, and waste to oil and cement kilns.
  • Only methods prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) would be permitted for their disposal.
  • The producers of plastic will have to declare to the government, via a centralized website, how much plastic they produce annually.
  • The companies would have to collect at least 35 per cent of the target in 2021 22, 70% by 2022 23 and 100% by 2024.

What if entities cannot fulfil the rules?

  • If entities cannot fulfill their obligations, then they will be permitted to buy certificates on a “case by case” basis.
  • They can make up for their shortfall from organizations that have used recycled content in excess of their obligation. The CPCB will develop a “mechanism” for such exchanges on a centralized online portal.
  • Non compliance would not invite a traditional fine.
  • Instead, an “environmental compensation” would be levied.

Categories of Plastic packaging:

Plastic packaging, as per the rules made public on October 6, fall into three categories.

  • The first Category is “rigid” plastic.
  • The second Category  is “flexible plastic packaging of single layer or multilayer (more than one layer with different types of plastic), plastic sheets and covers made of plastic sheet, carry bags (including carry bags made of compostable plastics), plastic sachet or pouches.
  • The third Category is called multilayered plastic packaging, which has at least one layer of plastic and at least one layer of material other than plastic.

                                                                                  

 Geography:

Dussehra in Drass: President Ram Nath Kovind recently celebrated the occasion of Dussehra with soldiers of the Indian Army in Kargil’s Drass area.

About Drass:

  • Drass is known as “the Gateway to Ladakh” and is famous for its high altitude trekking routes and tourist sites.
  • It is situated between the Zoji La pass and Kargil town.
  • It is one of the coldest places in the world where temperatures can drop to less than  40°C.
  • The average temperatures in Drass range to less than  20 degrees Celsius in winter and is often called the “coldest inhabited place” in India.
  • From the National security point of view, it is also a strategically significant military point, one where the Indian Army personnel have to brave the soaring altitudes and freezing temperatures all year long to guard the LoC.

 

HAC for Nature and People:

 India, on 7 October 2021 officially joined the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People at a ceremony held between the French and Indian Governments in New Delhi.

Key Highlights:

India & French Government signed the HAC for Nature and People agreement to protect at least 30% of the planet’s lands and seas by 2030.

India’s announcement comes in the lead up to a high level biodiversity meeting, hosted by China.

The virtual meeting will take place on 11th   15th October, 2021.

It will tackle key aspects of the biodiversity treaty to be finalized in 2022.

The global 30x30 goal is currently a centre piece of the treaty.

About HAC:

High Ambition Coalition (HAC) is a group of more than 70 countries which encourages the adoption of global goal to protect 30×30 (30 percent of the world’s land and ocean by 2030).

HAC is co chaired by Costa Rica and France, and by the United Kingdom as Ocean co chair.

Members:

Currently, HAC members comprise of a mix of countries in global north and south.

Asia, Africa, European and Latin American countries are among the members of HAC.

India became the first emerging economy from BRICS bloc to join the HAC.

Background:

India’s decision to join the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People was initiated at the “One Planet Summit” in Paris in January 2021.

Objective:

The main objective of HAC is championing a global deal for people and nature.

HAC has the central goal of protecting at the least 30% of the world’s land and ocean by 2030.

The 30x30 target is the global target that aims to stop the accelerating loss of the species as well as protect the vital ecosystems that are the source of economic security.

About 30×30 target:

30×30 target is mainly a global biodiversity protection goal.

As per scientist, presently, an estimated 15% of the world’s land and 7% of the ocean are protected.

However, experts around the world agree that in order to prevent mass extinctions and bolster resilience to climate change, at least 30% of the earth’s lands, lakes, rivers, and wetlands must be protected by 2030.

Also, At least 30% of the oceans must be highly and fully protected by 2030 to help safeguard marine ecosystems and fisheries that provide jobs, food, and cultural sustenance to billions around the world.

                                                                                         

Central Asian Flyway (CAF): Recently, a two day virtual Central Asian Flyway (CAF) range countries’ meeting was held.

Key Highlights:

  • This meeting was organized by India on 6th  7th October 2021 with CAF Range Countries, anchored in Wildlife Institute of India.
  • The meeting began with a resolve to strengthen the conservation actions for migratory birds and their habitats in the Central Asian Flyway.

Background:

  • At the 13th meeting of the Conference of Parties (CoP) to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), held at Gandhinagar in February, 2020, a resolution (UNEP/CMS/Resolution 12.11 (Rev.COP13) and Decision 13.46 were  adopted  initer alia  providing for establishing, by COP14, under the umbrella of CMS an institutional framework, under the leadership of India with the aim to agree on conservation action for migratory birds.
  • With a view to fulfill its commitment, this meeting was organized.

About Central Asian Flyway (CAF):

  • The Central Asian Flyway (CAF) covers a large area of Eurasia between the Arctic and Indian Oceans.
  • This flyway comprises several important migration routes of birds.
  • Including India, there are 30 countries under the Central Asian Flyway.
  • The CAF comprises several important migration routes of waterbirds, most of which extend from the northernmost breeding grounds in Siberia to the southernmost non breeding wintering grounds in West Asia, India, the Maldives and the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Why do countries need to protect Flyways?

  • Approximately one in five of the world's 11,000 bird species migrate, some covering enormous distances.
  • Conserving migratory birds requires cooperation and coordination along the entire flyway between countries and across national boundaries.
  • Safeguarding flyways means protecting the birds from poachers, rejuvenating wetlands among others. Saving the wetlands, terrestrial habitats help in fulfilling the bigger purpose of saving an ecosystem.

About Flyway:

  • A flyway is a geographical region within which a single or a group of migratory species completes its annual cycle – breeding, moulting, staging and non breeding.

What is bird migration?

  • Bird migration is the regular seasonal movement, often north and south along a flyway, between breeding and wintering grounds.
  • The migration flights of birds follow specific routes, sometimes quite well defined over long distances.
  • Many species of bird migrate.
  • Migration carries high costs in predation and mortality, including from hunting by humans, and is driven primarily by availability of food.

Significance of Bird Migration:

  • It is well established that the migration of birds is very important to the health of the ecosystem.
  • Saving migratory birds means saving the following:
  • The wetlands,
  • The terrestrial habitats
  • The ecosystem,
  • The benefiting communities dependent on wetlands.

Challenges faced by migratory birds:

  • Hazards during migration include storms, hunting, collisions with manmade objects such as wind turbines, and starvation.
  • However, by far the largest threat to birds is the loss of habitat such as deforestation, the draining of wetlands, planting of non native trees, the loss of areas to urban developments and intensive agriculture are major threats to birds.  
  • Numbers of many species are in serious decline as a result of habitat loss and these losses are particularly serious on islands, where bird populations are often small and very fragile.
  • In addition, Oil spills too constitute a major threat to birds too, particularly for those that spend a lot of time on the surface of the water such as loons, alcids and waterfowl.

CMS or the Bonn Convention:

  • Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) or the Bonn Convention is an intergovernmental treaty, concluded under the aegis of UNEP.
  • It was signed in 1979 in Bonn, Germany. It entered into force in 1983.
  • It is the only global convention specializing in the conservation of migratory species, their habitats and migration routes.

                                                                                                      

World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) 2021: World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) is officially celebrated twice in a year annually.

Key Points:

  • It is held on the Second Saturday of May and then again on the Second Saturday of October.
  • In 2021, the WMBD fell on May 08, 2021, and October 09, 2021.
  • The WMBD is celebrated by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) together with Environment for the Americas (EFTA).
  • The day aims to raise global awareness about the ecological importance of migratory birds, threats faced by them, and the need to conserve them and their habitation.

Theme of WMBD 2021:

  • The theme for 2021 WMBD is “Sing, Fly, Soar – Like a Bird!”
  • This year's annual global campaign focuses on the phenomena of “bird flight” and “bird song” to connect and inspire people across the world who share a common desire to celebrate migratory birds and to team up in a global effort to protect the habitats of these birds so that they can survive.

Significance:

  • The number of migratory birds is decreasing with each passing day due to various threats including destruction of natural habitat, illegal killing, and toxins released in the environment.
  • Most importantly, migratory birds connect nations, people, and ecosystems.
  • Therefore, this day is observed to raise global awareness about threats faced by migratory birds, their ecological importance, and need for international cooperation to conserve them.

History:

  • The WMBD was initiated in 2005 on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the AEWA which was held in Africa, Europe and parts of Asia.
  • The first WMBD was celebrated in 2006.
  • The World Migratory Bird Day was conceptualized as a part of the UN’s agreement on the Conservation of African Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds.
  • However, in 1993, the initial thought of raising awareness to eliminate the threat faced by this particular species was developed in the United States.

About migratory species:

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

                                                                 

New Tiger Reserve in Chhattisgarh: The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has recently designated the combined areas of the Guru Ghasidas National Park and Tamor Pingla Wildlife Sanctuary as a Tiger Reserve.

Key Points:

  • The proposal to declare the combined areas as tiger reserves was put forward by the Chattisgarh Government.
  • This will be the fourth Tiger Reserve in Chhattisgarh.
  • The other 3 Tiger Reserves are Udanti Sitanadi, Achanakmar, and Indravati Reserves.
  • The proposal was considered by the NTCA on September 1.
  • The approval was granted a month later under Section 38V (1) of The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Note: This section says that the State Government shall, on the recommendation of the Tiger Conservation Authority, notify an area as a tiger reserve.

About the new Tiger Reserve:

  • The new Reserve is located in the northern part of the state, bordering Madhya Pradesh & Jharkhand.
  • This new Tiger Reserve is spread over an area of 1,44,000 hectares (1,440 sq km) of Guru Ghasidas National Park and 60,850 hectares (608.5 sq km) of Tamor Pingla Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Guru Ghasidas National Park is situated in the Koriya district while Tamor Pingla is in Surajpur district in the Northwestern Corner of Chhattisgarh.

Significance:

  • Guru Ghasidas National Park was the last known habitat of the Asiatic cheetah in India.
  • It was originally part of the Sanjay Dubri National Park. It was created as a separate entity in Chhattisgarh’s Sarguja region after the state was formed in 2001.
  • It connects Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh and provides a corridor for tigers to move between the Bandhavgarh (Madhya Pradesh) and Palamau Tiger Reserves (Jharkhand).

About NTCA:

  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • The NTCA was established in December 2005.
  • It was established following a recommendation of the Tiger Task Force, constituted by the Prime Minister of India for reorganized management of Project Tiger and the many Tiger Reserves in India.
  • It was constituted under enabling provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006, for strengthening tiger conservation, as per powers and functions assigned to it.

Objectives of NTCA:

The main objective of NTCA is as follows:

  • To provide authority to Project Tiger so so that its recommendations are implemented to its fullest extent.
  • To Nurture accountability in the management of Tiger Reserves either by the state or Central governments through providing a basis of operations within the federal structure.
  • To address the livelihood interests of local people in areas surrounding Tiger Reserves.

Project Tiger:

  • A programme for protection called, 'Tiger Protection Program' (popularly known as Project Tiger) was started in 1973, by the Government of India in co operation with WWF.
  • The ‘Project Tiger’ is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) of the MoEFCC providing funding support to the tiger States for tiger conservation in designated tiger reserves.

About Chhattisgarh:

  • Chhattisgarh is a heavily forested state in central India known for its temples and waterfalls.
  • It is one of the fastest developing states in India.
  • The state was formed on 1st November 2000 by partitioning ten Chhattisgarhi and six Gondi speaking southeastern districts of Madhya Pradesh.
  • The capital city of Chattisgarh is Raipur.
  • The current Chief Minister and Governor of Chhattisgarh are Bhupesh Baghel and Anusuiya Uikey respectively.

                                                   

 

Environment Current Affairs - September 2021

Sea Cucumbers:

 In a swift operation, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) team at Mandapam, Tamil Nadu seized two tonnes of sea cucumber worth Rs 8 crores after following a suspected boat.

Highlights:

  • Working on a tipoff about illegal transhipment of sea cucumber, the ICG team swung into action and tracked the suspect boat involved in likely smuggling.
  • Sea Cucumbers is a banned marine species.
  • They are in high demand in China and Southeast Asia.
  • In India it is treated as an endangered species listed under schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
  • It is primarily smuggled from Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka in fishing vessels from Ramanathapuram and Tuticorin districts.

About Sea Cucumbers:

  • Sea cucumbers are echinoderms from the class Holothuroidea.
  • They are marine animals with a leathery skin and an elongated body containing a single, branched gonad.
  • Sea cucumbers are found on the sea floor worldwide.
  • There are around 1,717 holothurian species worldwide, with the Asia Pacific area having the most.
  • Many are harvested for human consumption, while some are raised in aquaculture systems.

 

General Sherman: The world’s largest tree, General Sherman is threatened by California wildfires.

Key Facts:

  • Two wildfires in California – one called the Colony fire and the other called Paradise – are burning through the Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada
  • The place is home to some of the largest trees known in the world and this is the only place in the world where giant sequoias grow naturally.
  • General Sherman, the world’s largest tree, is also under threat and firefighters are trying hard to save the tree from the blaze.
  • As per the report by the Associated Press, although the sequoia trees are fireresistant, the intensity of wildfire can be too much for the trees, leaving the trees ablaze.

Key Points about General Sherman:

  • The General Sherman tree is the world’s largest in terms of volume and exists in the Giant Forest sequoia grove of the national park.
  • As per recent estimates, General Sherman is estimated to be between 2,200 years old and 2,700 years old.
  • The tree stands at a height of 275 feet (taller than the leaning tower of Pisa) and has a diameter of 36 feet at the base.
  • It is located in the U.S. state of California.
  • This tree was named in 1879 after the American Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman who had served as a lieutenant in the 9th Indiana Cavalry under Sherman.
  • The emblematic tree honors a general who killed Native Americans.

 

Plant Discoveries 2020: The Botanical Survey of India (BSI), in its new publication Plant Discoveries 2020 has added 267 new taxa/ species to the country’s flora.

Key Details:

  • The 267 new discoveries include 119 angiosperms; 3 pteridophytes; 5 bryophytes, 44 lichens; 57 fungi, 21 algae and 18 microbes.
  • Of these 202 plant species are new to science while 65 others had never been reported from India.
  • With these new discoveries the latest estimate of plant diversity in India stands at 54,733 taxa including 21,849 angiosperms, 82 gymnosperms, 1,310 pteridophytes, 2,791 bryophytes, 2,961 lichens, 15,504 fungi, 8,979 algae and 1,257 microbes.
  • India has about 45,000 species of plants, already identified and classified, which account for about 7% of the total plant species of the world.
  • About 28 percent of the Indian plants are endemic to the country.
  • There are 14 new macro and 31 new micro fungi species recorded from various parts of India.
  • An assessment of the geographical distribution of these newly discovered plants reveals that 22% of the discoveries were made from the Western Ghats followed by the Western Himalayas (15%), the Eastern Himalayas (14%) and the Northeast ranges (12%).
  • The west coast contributed 10% while the east coast contributed (9%) in total discoveries; the Eastern Ghats and south Deccan contribute 4% each while the central highland and north Deccan added 3% each.

New discoveries:

Few examples among the new discoveries are:

  • 9 new species of balsam (Impatiens) and 1 species of wild banana (Musa pradhanii) were discovered from Darjeeling.
  • 1 species each of wild jamun (Syzygium anamalaianum) from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.
  • Fern species (Selaginella odishana) Kandhamal in Odisha.

About BSI:

  • Botanical Survey of India (BSI) is the apex taxonomic research organization of the country under the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India (GoI).
  • It was established on 13th February 1890 under the direction of Sir George King.
  • It is responsible for survey, research and conservation of plant wealth of India, flora and endangered species of India, including by collecting and maintaining germplasm and gene bank of endangered, patent and vulnerable plant species.
  • It is headquartered in Kolkata, West Bengal.

 

La Palma volcano: Thousands of people evacuated La Palma, a Spanish island, after Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted.

Key Points:

  • Yellow alert for Cumbre Vieja has been declared.
  • No casualties have been reported, but there was extensive damage to property, infrastructure, and farmland.
  • According to the Volcanology Institute of the Canary Islands (INVOLCAN), the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma in Spain is expected to last between 24 and 84 days.
  • Shortly after the new eruption vent opened, four tremors struck the island.
  • In the area where the lava is headed, marine authorities have created a twonauticalmile (3.7kilometer) exclusion zone at sea.
  • The previous two eruptions on the island were in the 20th century, in 1949 (Volcán San Juan) and in 1971 (Volcán Teneguía).

Note: La Palma is a volcanic ocean island located on the African Plate.

About Cumbre Vieja:

  • The Cumbre Vieja is a mountain range and an active volcano on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain.
  • The ridge of the Cumbre Vieja trends in an approximate north–south direction and covers the southern twothirds of the island.
  • Several volcanic craters are located on the summit ridge and flanks.

 

World Ozone Day 2021:

 World Ozone Day, also known as International Day is observed every year on September 16 to commemorate the signing of the Montreal Protocol.

  • It is celebrated to spread awareness among people about the depletion of the Ozone Layer and search for possible solutions to preserve it.

Theme of World Ozone Day 2021:

  • The theme for International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer fot the year 2021 is Montreal Protocol  'Keeping us, our food and vaccines cool.'

History:

  • In order to keep in check on substances that deplete the Ozone layer, a deal named Montreal Protocol was signed by almost every country on September 16, 1987 and subsequently, in 1994, the UN General Assembly proclaimed this day as the World Ozone Day.

World Ozone Day 2021 in India:

  • India observed the 27th Global Ozone Day this year.
  • The Ozone Cell, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Government of India (GoI) has been celebrating the World Ozone Day since 1995 at the National and State levels.

About the Montreal Protocol:

  • The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (the Montreal Protocol) is an international agreement made on 16th September, 1987, where countries from across the globe decided to curb substances such as:
  • Chlorofluorocarbon
  • Aerosols
  • Halons
  • It was designed to stop the production and import of ozone depleting substances and reduce their concentration in the atmosphere to help protect the earth's ozone layer.
  • These substances are widely used for cooling and refrigerating purposes.
  • As a result of the usage of these harmful substances, a hole in the ozone layers in Antarctica was discovered back in 1970.
  • This ultimately led to acute global warming in the past 20 years.
  • According to the World Meteorological Organization, the Antarctic hole caused by Ozonedepletion was finally closed as a result of the collaborative efforts by these countries.

About Ozone Layer:

  • The ozone layer or ozone shield is a region of Earth's stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun's ultraviolet radiation.
  • Life is not possible on Earth without the ozone layer.
  • It contains a high concentration of ozone in relation to other parts of the atmosphere, although still small in relation to other gases in the stratosphere.
  • Sunlight makes life, but the ozone layer creates life as we know it today.
  • It protects life on Earth by absorbing Sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation and so is also known as Ozone Shield.
  • Ultraviolet rays can cause several skin diseases.

 

Permafrost: The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has warned that increasing global warming will result in reductions in Arctic permafrost and the thawing of the ground is expected to release greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide.

  • The IPCC report titled ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis’ which was recently released said that heatwaves and humid heat stress will be more intense and frequent during the 21st century over South Asia.

What is Permafrost?

  • Permafrost or permanently frozen ground  is defined as ground (soil, rock and any included ice or organic material) that remains at or below zero degree Celsius for at least two consecutive years.
  • Permafrost is spread across an area of over 23 million square kilometers, covering about 15% of the land area of the globe.
  • Permafrost is mainly found near the poles, covering parts of Greenland, Alaska, Northern Canada, Siberia and Scandinavia.
  • The Arctic region is a vast ocean, covered by thick ice on the surface (called sea ice), surrounded by land masses that are also covered with snow and ice.

Effects of permafrost melting due to increasing global temperatures:

  • The Arctic is in the process of disintegrating as we know it, and the permafrost is one major component with some pretty grave implications.
  • The warming Arctic tundra will make it harder for the world to curb climate change, as thawing permafrost and wildfires release greenhouse gases that are not fully accounted for in global emissions agreements.
  • As temperatures rise and permafrost thaws, carbon dioxide and methane trapped within the longfrozen soil are released.
  • The deeper the thaw, the more gas is released.
  • This threatens to create a feedback loop which contributes more and more warming of the atmosphere.

 

  • Scientists have warned in a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Why a matter of concern?

  • The first impacts that are very rapid will affect countries where roads or buildings were constructed on permafrost.
  • For example, the Russian railways.
  • But the biggest international problem is to do with the potential for organic material, which is now entombed and frozen in the ground.
  • If the ground begins to thaw, this material will become available for microbiota to break down.
  • In some environments, the biota will release carbon dioxide, and in others release methane which is about 25 to 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
  • The total quantity of carbon that is now buried in the permafrost is estimated at about 1,700 billion tonnes and the top three meters of the ground has about 1000 billion tonnes.
  • Even if half of it were to be released to the atmosphere, it would be game over for the climate.

Impact in India:

  • The IPCC has indicated that the glacial retreat in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, compounding effects of sealevel rise and intense tropical cyclones leading to flooding, an erratic monsoon; and intense heat stress are likely to impact India in recent years.
  • The Indian Ocean, which includes the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal, has warmed faster than the global average.
  • The oceans factsheet released by IPCC indicates that sea surface temperature over Indian ocean is likely to increase by 1 to 2 degrees C (°C) when there is 1.5°C to 2°C global warming.

About IPCC:

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations.
  • It is responsible for advancing knowledge on humaninduced climate change.
  • It was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and later endorsed by United Nations General Assembly.
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • It is comprised of 195 member states.

Objectives:

  • The main objective of the IPCC is to provide governments at all levels with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies.
  • IPCC reports are also a key input into international climate change negotiations.

Note: The IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for contributions to the human understanding of climate change.

 

International Coastal Cleanup Day 2021: The International Coastal Cleanup Day is traditionally held on the third Saturday in September.

Highlights:

  • In 2021, the day is being held on 18 September.

Theme of the day for 2021:

  • International Coastal CleanUp Day 2021 is being celebrated under the theme: “Keep trash in the bin and not in the ocean”.
  • Coastal Cleanup Day was established by the Ocean Conservancy, an organization that works to help protect the ocean from the challenges it faces every year.

International Coastal Cleanup Day 2021 in India:

  • The 36th International Coastal Cleanup Day was celebrated for the tenth consecutive year by the Eastern Naval Command (ENC).
  • As part of the day, ENC carried the Coastal Cleanup Drive at Yarada Beach, Bheemili Beach and other sea fronts in the premises of Naval units of Visakhapatnam.
  • About 500 Naval personnel, Defence Civilians and their families overtook the cleanup drive by complying with the COVID19 protocols.

Aim of the drive:

  • The main aim of launching a cleanup drive was to create awareness among people to keep beaches clean, safeguarding our environment and inculcating the habit of respecting the coastlines which ultimately nurtures the marine biodiversity.

History of the day:

  • The International Coastal Cleanup was started by the Ocean Conservancy, in 1986.
  • During that time, communities rallied together with a common goal of collecting and documenting the trash lying on their coastline.
  • Since then, International Coastal Cleanup Community encourages people across the world to remove trash and debris from waterways, beaches & other water bodies, on the third Saturday of September, each year.
  • The day aims to increase public awareness about the accumulation and negative impacts of litter in oceans, on coastlines and on beaches.

 

EV Chargers: The British government has recently announced that it will introduce legislation in 2021.

Key Points about the legislation:

  • Under this new Legislation, all the newly built homes and offices would require to feature Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers in England.
  • This law will make England the first country to mandate new homes to install EV chargers.
  • According to this new legislation, new office blocks will require to install a charging point for every five parking spaces.
  • The legislation is part of the movement that seeks to rapidly boost the number of chargers in England ahead of UK’s 2030 ban of new fossilfuel vehicles.
  • Home and office EV charger proposal is expected to start in 2022.

Significance of the legislation:

  • It will also boost confidence in helping those who transition from gas cars to overcome range anxiety, as so many homes in England don't have offstreet parking or garages.

Background:

  • The British government had originally announced a proposal to mandate that all new homes have a charge point with a parking space in 2019.

UK’s 2030 ban of new fossilfuel vehicles:

  • United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had recently announced to ban the sale of gasolinepowered vehicles from 2030, nothing the future of personal mobility on electric vehicles.
  • The ban on gasoline vehicles had initially been proposed for 2040.
  • But it has been brought forward by ten years under the tenpoint plan of UK of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • Hybrid vehicles would be phased out by 2035.

 

International Red Panda Day 2021: The International Red Panda Day (IRPD) is celebrated every year on ‘Third Saturday of September’.

Key points:

  • This day is celebrated to raise public awareness and support for red panda conservation issues.
  • In 2021, the IRPD is being observed on 18 September.
  • International Red Panda Day is dedicated to the red pandas—a mammal species native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China.

History:

  • The day was launched by the Red Panda Network (RPN) in 2010.
  • The first international Red Panda day was celebrated on 18th September 2010.

Facts about Red Panda:

  • Discovered about 50 years before giant pandas, red pandas are the only species left in the Ailuridae family.
  • Red Panda and the Gaint Panda, though having similar names, are not closely related.
  • There are two distinct species of red pandas. They are:
  • Ailurus fulgens is commonly known as Himalayan Red Panda.
  • Ailurus fulgens styani commonly known as Chinese Red Panda.
  • Red panda is also known as lesser panda, panda, red catbear, or red bearcat.
  • It is a reddishbrown, longtailed, raccoonlike mammal and has soft thick fur, above is rich reddishbrown and black underneath.
  • The face of the red panda is white, consisting of a stripe of redbrown, and from each eye to the corners of the mouth. Also, the bushy tail is faintly ringed.
  • Its size is about the size of a large domestic cat.
  • These are mostly found in the Eastern Himalayan region and southwestern China.
  • They live high within the mountains among rocks, and trees and climb with agility.
  • They are nocturnal and may live alone, in pairs, or in family groups.
  • Genetically the red pandas belong to the order of Carnivora, but mostly eat bamboo shoots, mushrooms etc and also eat birds, eggs, and insects.
  • The average lifespan of these red pandas is 23 years and the female pandas stop breeding after the age of 12.

 

Brahmani River: Environmentalists have recently expressed concern over the massive diversion of freshwater from the Brahmani river basin, which could pose a grave threat to the famous mangrove vegetation in Odisha.

Key Points:

The Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO), an environmental pressure group, had drawn public attention on the excess water allocation for industries, which is likely to reduce fresh water discharge to the sea.

The Talcher Angul coal mines, steel and power plants as well as the Kalinganagar steel and power hub are drawing enormous quantities of fresh water from the Brahmani river.

Concerns:

  • The reduction in water flow would lead to drastic changes in the water regime of the Bhitarkanika mangroves.
  • The Sunderbans mangrove forest was drastically affected after the Farraka barrage was commissioned.
  • The lack of normal flow of fresh water would increase saline ingression upstream, which in turn would affect the local flora and fauna as well as the livelihoods of the farmers and fishermen dependent upon the Brahmani and the Kharasrota.
  • In addition, there could be a quantum increase in the man–crocodile conflict since the estuarine crocodiles would leave the core sanctuary area and migrate upstream once salinity increases.

About Brahmani:

  • The Brahmani is a major seasonal river in the state Odisha of eastern India.
  • It is formed by the confluence of the Sankh and south Koel.
  • Together with the river Baitarani, it forms a large delta before emptying into the Bay of Bengal at Dhamra.

About Bhitarkanika:

  • Bhitarkanika is a notified Ramsar wetland.
  • It is spread over 195 sq. km and is home to 62 mangrove species.
  • Besides, 1,600 salt water crocodiles crawl on the mudflats of the Bhitarkanika mangrove forest.

About Mangroves:

  • A mangrove is a shrub or small tree that grows in coastal saline or brackish water.
  • Proportionate freshwater flow from the Brahmani river basin and the Kharasrota River keeps the salinity level of the water along the shore down.
  • The brackish water becomes ideal for the mangroves to grow and stay healthy.

                                                                                           

 

International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies: The International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies is celebrated across the world every year on 7 September.

  • This day is facilitated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Theme of 2021:

  • The 2021 theme for the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies is “Healthy Air, Healthy Planet”.
  • This theme emphasizes the health aspects of air pollution, especially considering the COVID 19 pandemic.

Objective:

  • The main objective this year will be to prioritize the need for healthy air for all, while keeping the conversation broad enough to encompass other critical issues such as climate change, human and planetary health as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • The official events and ceremonies will be conducted in cities like Nairobi, Bangkok and New York.

History:

  • On 19 December, 2019, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), adopted a resolution that stated that 7 September will be observed as the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies.
  • This big move happened at the 52nd plenary meeting of UNGA’s 74th session on sustainable development.
  • The year 2020 marked the first international observance of the day and its theme was “Clean Air for All”.
  • The day is observed by the UN organizations, governmental and non governmental organizations, and UN member states.

About UNEP:

  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was founded on 5 June 1972 by a Canadian businessman and philanthropist Maurice Strong.
  • It is responsible for coordinating the UN's environmental activities and assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices.
  • It is the global champion for the environment with programmes focusing on sustainable development, climate, biodiversity and more.
  • It is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • The current Executive Director of UNEP is Inger Andersen and the current Regional Director and Representative for Asia and the Pacific, UNEP is Dechen Tsering.

                                                                                                            

 

Behler turtle conservation Award: An Indian biologist Shailendra Singh recently won the Behler Turtle Conservation Award.

Highlights:

  • He has been awarded for bringing three critically endangered turtle conservation species back from the brink of extinction.
  • The award was given by several global bodies involved in turtle conservation such as Turtle Survival Alliance, IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Turtle Conservancy, and the Turtle Conservation Fund.

Key Points:

These three critically endangered turtles are being conserved as a part of TSA India’s research, conservation breeding and education programme in different parts of the country.

  • The Red crowned Roofed Turtle (Batagur kachuga) at Chambal.
  • The Black Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) at different temples in Assam.
  • The Northern River Terrapin (Batagur baska) is being conserved at the Sunderbans.

About Behler Turtle Conservation Award:

  • The Behler Turtle Conservation Award also referred to as the “Nobel Prize” of Turtle Conservation was established in 2006.
  • It is a major annual international award honoring excellence in the field of tortoise and freshwater turtle conservation and biology, and leadership in the chelonian conservation and biology community.
  • It is co presented by Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, Turtle Conservancy, and Turtle Conservation Fund.

Key Details about the turtle species:

About Red Crowned Roofed Turtle:

  • Habitat: Red Crowned Roofed Turtle is a species of freshwater turtle endemic to South Asia. The last known stronghold for this river turtle is on the Chambal River in central India, however, small isolated populations may still exist in the Ganges and Brahmaputra river basins.
  • IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
  • Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972: Schedule I
  • Threats: Loss or degradation of habitat due to pollution and large scale development activities like water extraction for human consumption and irrigation and irregular flow from the upstream dams and reservoirs.

Black Softshell Turtle:

  • Habitat: They are found in ponds of temples in northeastern India and Bangladesh. Its distribution range also includes the Brahmaputra River and its tributaries.
  • IUCN Red List: Critically Endangered
  • CITES: Appendix I
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: No legal protection
  • Threats: Consumption of turtle meat and eggs, silt mining, encroachment of wetlands and change in flooding pattern.

About Northern River Terrapin:

  • Habitat: The species is currently found in Bangladesh (in the Sundarbans), Cambodia, India (parts  West Bengal & Odisha), Indonesia and Malaysia. It is one of Asia’s largest freshwater and backwater turtles.
  • IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
  • Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972: Schedule I
  • Threats: Exploited for local subsistence and ritualistic consumption as well as some regional trade, including supply to the Calcutta markets in the 19th and 20th centuries.

About Turtle Conservation Fund (TCF):

  • TCF was established in 2002 as a partnership initiative of Conservation International, IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (TFTSG), and Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA).
  • Later, it was joined by other organizations.
  • The fund is focused on ensuring the long term survival of tortoises and freshwater turtles.

About Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA):

  • It was formed in 2001 as an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) partnership for sustainable captive management of freshwater turtles and tortoises.

About IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group (TFTSG):

  • TFTSG is one of the more than 100 Specialist Groups and Task Forces that constitute the working network of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC).
  • It provides expertise and science based recommendations with conservation relevance covering all species of freshwater and terrestrial turtles and tortoises.

Note:

  • The SSC is a science based network of more than 7000 appointed volunteer specialists and experts from almost every country of the world.
  • They all work together towards achieving the vision of “a world that values and conserves present levels of biodiversity.”

                                                                                   

 

Dugong Conservation Reserve: Government of Tamil Nadu recently announced its plan to set up India’s first Dugong Conservation Reserve in the Palk Bay on the southeast coast for the conservation of Dugong.

Key Highlights:

Dugongs are commonly known as sea cows.

According to Wildlife Institute of India (WII) estimates, only 200 250 Dugongs are left in the wild, of which 150 are found in the Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu.

This marine animal has been enlisted vulnerable to extinction on a global scale by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

About the reserve:

  • The reserve will spread over an area of 500 km in Palk Bay on the southeast coast of Tamil Nadu from Adiramapattinam to Amapattinam.
  • Dugong is generally found in two places in Tamil Nadu  Gulf of Mannar and Palki Bay.
  • Gulf of Mannar is a shallow bay area between the south eastern tip of Tamil Nadu and the western part of Sri Lanka.
  • Palk Bay is a semi enclosed shallow water body with a water depth maximum of 13 meters.
  • Located between India and Sri Lanka along the Tamil Nadu coast, the dugong is a flagship species in the region.

Note: Dugong or the sea cow is the State animal of Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

  • It is believed that, an estimated 200 individuals live in the Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar area which would largely benefit from Tamil Nadu government’s recent decision to establish conservation reserve.

About Dugong: The sea cow

  • Dugong is a sea mammal and is the only living species of the order Sirenia.
  • This endangered species is herbivorous and primarily feeds on seagrasses and spends most of its time in seagrass beds.
  • It is strictly marine and is the only extant species in the family Dugongida
  • Dugongs are usually about three meter long and weigh about 400 kg.
  • Dugongs have an expanded head and trunk like upper lip.
  • They have very small brain in comparison to their body size and have a distinct dolphin like tail.  
  • The closest relative of the species was the Steller's Sea cow, which was hunted to extinction in the eighteenth century.
  • However, unlike dolphins and other cetaceans, sea cows have two nostrils and no dorsal fin.
  • Distributed in shallow tropical waters in the Indo Pacific region, in India, they are found in the Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay, and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Conservation of Dugong:

  • Dugongs are protected in India under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Act 1972 which bans the killing and purchasing of dugong meat.
  • Conservation measures like the proposed conservation area can help revive the sea cow population.
  • The proposed reserve area has the highest concentration of dugongs in the country.
  • In addition, studies suggest that simultaneous effort towards seagrass meadow restoration, reduction of dugong mortalities, and community participation in dugong conservation can help in helping the dugong population recover.
  • It also calls for creating awareness among the people, involving the local communities.
  • The IUCN has listed dugong as a “vulnerable to extinction species”.
  • On the other hand, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species has limited or banned the trade of derived products.

Causes of extinction:

  • Studies have suggested the reasons for the extinction of the animal such as slow breeding rate, fishing, and the loss of habitat.
  • Dugongs are long living animals that have a low reproductive rate, long generation time, and high investment in each offspring.
  • The female dugongs do not bear their first calf until they are at least 10 and up to 17 years old.
  • Due to natural and human induced activities, the natural habitat of the animal is on a risk.
  • The herbivorous mammal feeds on sea grass, which is at a loss.
  • Human activities such as riding of speed boats cause death of the animal due to boat and propellor strikes.
  • Further, habitat loss is also attributed to the increase in conversion of coastal forests to banana, areca nut, and coconut plantations and high boat traffic.
  • Natural factors are also responsible for the decline in dugongs population.
  • According to study (Das & Dey 1999), extreme weather events such as cyclones and high energy tidal storms may also contribute to the loss of seagrasses in the region.
  • Dugongs are also known to suffer due to accidental entanglement and drowning in gill nets.

                                                                           

Manda Buffalo: The National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR) has recognised the Manda buffalo as the 19th unique breed of buffaloes found in India.

Key Highlights about Manda Buffaloes:

  • The Manda buffaloes are found in the Eastern Ghats and plateau of Koraput region of Odisha.
  • The Manda are resistant to parasitic infections, less prone to diseases and can thrive on modest resources.
  • These small, sturdy buffaloes are used for ploughing in their native habitat.
  • They have ash grey and grey coats with copper coloured hair.
  • Some animals are silver white in colour.

Recognition and its significance:

  • This buffalo germ plasm was first identified through a survey conducted by the Animal Resource Development (ARD) department of Odisha in collaboration with the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT).
  • The Centre and the state will make efforts to preserve this special buffalo genetic resource of Odisha and beautify their productivity through breeding strategy.
  • Furthermore, the governments will help in advertising and marketing the produce  milk, curd and ghee at a top class price ensuing in the enhancement of the livelihood of the stakeholders in the native tract.

Note: Four breeds of cattle   Binjharpur, Motu, Ghumusari and Khariar   and two breeds of buffalo   Chilika and Kalahandi   and one breed of sheep, Kendrapara, have already obtained NBAGR recognition.

About NBAGR:

  • ICAR National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources, Karnal (NBAGR) is the nodal agency for the registration of newly identified germplasm of livestock and poultry of the country.
  • The NBAGR is affiliated to Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR).

                                          

 

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: The global conservation body, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently stated that Some 28% of the 1,38,374 species assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for its survival watchlist are now at high risk of vanishing forever.

Key Details:

  • This New red list was released through IUCN at world conferences with the purpose of protecting dwindling species.
  • IUCN reported that habitat loss, overexploitation and illegal trade have hammered global wildlife populations for decades, and climate change is now kicking in as a direct threat as well.
  • Indonesia’s fearsome Komodo dragons, the largest living lizards, which are found only in the World Heritage listed Komodo National Park and neighbouring Flores, were listed as “endangered”.
  • The species is increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change and with rising sea levels it is expected to shrink its tiny habitat by at least 30% over the next 45 years.
  • According to a new red list by IUCN, the world's sharks and rays have been witnessing declines in their populations since 2014 and are now threatened with extinction.
  • Some 37% of the 1,200 shark and ray species assessed by experts are directly threatened by extinction, a third more than only seven years ago.
  • Oceanic shark populations have also decreased by 71% since 1970.
  • The IUCN officially launched its “green status” — the first global standard for assessing species recovery and measuring conservation impacts. It makes the invisible work of conservation visible.
  • IUCN highlighted that; progress can be made towards reviving tuna populations and other species, if states and other actors take right actions.

About International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN):

  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN; officially International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
  • It was founded on 5 October 1948 in Fontainebleau, France.
  • The representatives of governments and conservation organizations spurred by UNESCO signed a formal act constituting the International Union for the Protection of Nature (IUPN).
  • The initiative to set up the new organization came from UNESCO and especially from its first Director General, the British biologist Julian Huxley.
  • It was initially called the International Union for the Protection of Nature and Natural Resources (1948–1956) and has also been known as the World Conservation Union (1990–2008).

IUCN Red List Unit:

  • The red list by IUCN reassesses hundreds of species each year.

What is The IUCN Red List?

  • Established in 1964, the IUCN red list of threatened species is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species.
  • The IUCN Red List is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity.
  • Far more than a list of species and their status, it is a powerful tool to inform and catalyze action for biodiversity conservation and policy change, critical to protecting the natural resources we need to survive.
  • It provides information about range, population size, habitat and ecology, use and/or trade, threats, and conservation actions that will help inform necessary conservation decisions.

The IUCN Red List Categories:

The IUCN Red List Categories define the extinction risk of species assessed. Nine categories extend from NE (Not Evaluated) to EX (Extinct).

Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN) and Vulnerable (VU) species are considered to be threatened with extinction.

What is the significance of red list?

  • IUCN's red list brings into focus the ongoing decline of Earth’s biodiversity and the influence humans have on life on the planet. It provides a globally accepted standard with which to measure the conservation status of species over time.
  • Scientists can analyze the percentage of species in a given category and how these percentages change over time; they can also analyze the threats and conservation measures that underpin the observed trends.

 

Indian Satandard Time (IST): On September 1, 1947, the phenomenon of Indian Standard Time (IST) was introduced to the country as its official time.

Key Points:

  • IST is observed throughout the country, with a time offset of UTC + 5.30.

  • As per IST, India is five and a half hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GST).

  • India does not follow Daylight Saving Time, like other countries in the world.

  • Indian Standard Time is adopted from the 82.5 degrees East longitude, the approximate location of a clock tower in Mirzapur near Allahabad and closest to the corresponding longitude reference line.

Background:

  • All the states and Union Territories across India, currently, share the same time, the Indian Standard Time. But, this is not the case pre-independence.

  • Before independence, Kolkata and Mumbai retained their own local time (known as Calcutta Time and Bombay Time) until 1948 and 1955, respectively.

  • Due to this, there was a huge confusion among the passengers who travel across the time zones.

  • To avoid such confusion, Indian Government took up a decision bring the whole country under one Time zone, the Indian Standard Time Zone(GMT+5:30).

  • This time is the average of Bombay Time and Calcutta Time.

  • The Madras Observatory was established by the British East India Company in 1792 primarily because of the efforts of Michael Topping, a sailor and astronomer.

  • In 1802, the first official astronomer of the British East India Company, John Goldingham established the longitude of Chennai as 13°5′24″N, 80°18′30″E, which was five hours and thirty minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

  • It was after this advancement that, for the first time, India's day began at 12 midnight, instead of sunrise - which was an initial practice.

  • Despite Goldingham's advancement, most towns and cities continued to rely on their own local time measurement systems until the railway system was established in the 1850s.

  • In 1884, Mumbai and Kolkata became major centres for the British in India and as they gained prominence, they were established as time zones.

  • Kolkata was set at 5 hours and 30 minutes ahead of GMT, and Mumbai at 4 hours and 51 minutes ahead.

  • The Central observatory was moved from Chennai to a location at Shankargarh Fort in Prayagraj district, so that it would be as close to UTC+05:30 as possible.

  • In 1905, the meridian passing east of Allahabad was declared as a standard time zone for the country and was declared as IST in 1947.

Important Info:

Daylight Saving Time (DST) was used briefly during the China–India War of 1962 and the Indo-Pakistani Wars of 1965 and 1971.

IST in Ancient Times in India:

About Surya Siddhanta:

  • Surya Siddhanta is a Sanskrit treatise in Indian astronomy in fourteen chapters.

  • Earlier in the 4th century CE, an astronomical treatise “Surya Siddhanta” had mentioned about Standard Time in India.

  • Assuming to which, the earth is spherical.

  • The book outlined that the Prime Meridian passed through Avanti (ancient name for the city of Ujjain) at 23°11′N 75°45′E and Rohitaka (ancient name for Rohtak) at 28°54′N 76°38′E.

  • The book also elaborates that Rohatika and Avanti are situated on a line which passes through the Equator (76° E) and the North Pole.

  • A sidereal day in ancient India began with sunrise at the Prime Meridian in Ujjain and then was divided into smaller time units.

  • Despite these early advancements standard time they were mostly used for astrological calculations, and not actual time keeping. Instead, the local kings used the Hindu calendar to keep time in their territories.

  • The Jantar Mantar, completed in 1733 in Jaipur, Rajasthan, is evidence of this with its 90-foot-tall sundials used to accurately calculate local time.

Environment:

Odisha’s Kendrapara district: Kendrapara district of Odisha has become the only district in India where all three species of crocodiles viz., salt-water, gharial and mugger are found.

Highlights:

  • Kendrapara district is crisscrossed by rivers, creeks and water inlets.

  • The district has already claimed fame for its successful conservation programme for salt-water or estuarine crocodiles at the Bhitarkanika National Park

  • The Bhitarkanika National Park comprises of 1,768 estuarine crocodiles and is home to 70 per cent of India’s estuarine crocodiles.

  • Now, with the sighting of mugger and gharial crocodiles, all three species of crocodiles are found in the river systems of Kendrapara district.

  • Gharial hatchling was rescued from Paika River which is a tributary of Mahanadi on August 29, 2021.

  • In 2016, a 14-feet-long mugger was sighted.

Background:

The State forest department began conservation of these crocodile species in 1975 by establishing three rearing centres.

  1. Tikarpada for gharials in Angul district.

  2. Ramatirtha for muggers in Mayurbhanj.

  3. Bhitarkanika for saltwater crocodiles in Kendrapara district.

Bhitarkanika River Systems:

  • Bhitarkanika river systems are home to saltwater crocodiles.

  • On the other hand; Mahanadi River, Brahmani Rivers and their tributaries are inhabited by muggers and gharials.

  • Sighting of the crocodiles is significant because conservation of these species (Muggers and Gharials) has not been as successful as that of the estuarine crocodiles.

Ramsar Site - Bhitarkanika National Park:

  • This larger national park is located in the northeast Kendrapara district of Odisha.

  • It obtained the status of a Ramsar site in 2002.

  • The area is the second Ramsar site of Odisha after the Chilika Lake.

  • The Park is surrounded by Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, Gahirmatha Beach, Marine Sanctuary, separating swamp region as well as mangroves from the Bay of Bengal.

  • Park is home to saltwater crocodile, king cobra, Indian python, black ibis, darters and other species of flora and fauna.

Note:

  • The crocodilian family consists of 27 different species that are subdivided into three families: True crocodiles, alligators and caimans and gharials.

  • All three species of crocodilians in the river systems of Odisha were on the verge of extinction by the 1970s.

  • Piecemeal efforts were being made from the 1960s onwards to save them.

About the 3 crocodile species are found in India:

Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus):

  • They are found in coastal areas of Odisha, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

  • They have the broadest distribution of any modern crocodile, ranging from the eastern coast of India, throughout most of Southeast Asia, and northern Australia.

  • They are apex predators.

  • Least Concern in IUCN Red List.

Gharials:

  • It is the longest and rarest Crocodile.

  • Their major population remains in three tributaries of the Ganges River, the Chambal and the Girwa Rivers in India, and the Rapti-Naryani River in Nepal.

  • The gharial reserves of India are located in three States of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh.

  • National Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary is in Chambal.

  • Critically endangered in IUCN Red List.

Mugger Crocodile:

  • Medium-sized crocodile that mostly inhabits freshwater lakes, ponds, sluggish rivers, swamps and marshes.

  • Found throughout the Indian subcontinent.

  • Vulnerable in IUCN Red list.

Neelakurinji: Neelakurinji flowers have recently bloomed in Kodagu district of Karnataka after 12 years.

Note: This kind of mass flowering is known as gregarious flowering.

The two hills of Mandalpatti and Kote Betta and Kumara Parvata in Karnataka have been witnessing the blossoming of Neelakurinji for the last few days.

About the flower:

  • It is a shrub that is found in the shola forests of the Western Ghats in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

  • Neelakurinji flower symbolises love and is also known as "flower of love". Locally, they are called "Kurinji" flowers.

  • The Neelakurinji`s name originated from the River Kunthi.

  • This rare flower has 250 varieties and they bloom at varied times.

  • While some bloom in a gap of 5 years, 12 years and some varieties take 14 years to bloom

  • These flowers grow at an altitude of 1,300 to 2,400 metres.

  • Nilgiri Hills, which literally means the blue mountains, got their name from the purplish blue flowers of Neelakurinji.

  • Kurinjimala Sanctuary of Kerala protects the kurinji in approximately 32 km2 core habitat in Kottakamboor and Vattavada villages in Idukki district.

  • Kurinji Andavar temple located in Kodaikanal of Tamil Nadu dedicated to Tamil God Murugan also preserves these plants.

  • The Paliyan tribal people living in Tamil Nadu used it as a reference to calculate their age.

  • As many as 46 varieties of Neelakurinji flowers are found in India, which also possesses medicinal value.

  • Besides the Western Ghats, Neelakurinji is also seen in the Shevroy in the Eastern Ghats, Sanduru hills of Bellary district in Karnataka.

SUJALAM Campaign 2021:

The Ministry of Jal Shakti recently began ‘SUJALAM’, a ‘100 days campaign.

Highlights:

  • The launch of SUJALAM campaign started on 25 August 2021 as part of the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations and will continue to run for 100 days.

  • The Jal Shakti began SUJALAM campaign to create more Open Defecation Free (ODF) plus villages by undertaking waste water management at the village level.

About the Campaign:

  • The campaign will not only build desired infrastructure like soak pit for management of greywater in villages but will also aid in sustainable management of water bodies.

  • As the disposal of waste water and clogging of water bodies in the villages or on the outskirts of the villages remain one of the major problems so the campaign would help in management of the wastewater which in turn would help to revive the water bodies.

  • Furthermore, the campaign would boost the momentum of SBMG (Swachch Bharat Mission Grameen) phase II activities through community participation and will increase awareness about ODF-plus activities. Hence ensuring long-term maintenance and sustainability of built infrastructure

Aim:

  • The main aim of the SUJALAM’ Campaign is to achieve ODF Plus Status for villages across India in an accelerated manner in a short time.

Focus:

  • The focus area of this campaign is to ensure that all newly emerging Households in the village have access to toilets.

Significance:

  • The Campaign would help in management of the wastewater and in turn would help to revive the water bodies through creation of 1 million Soak-pits and also other Grey water management activities.

What are the key activities that will be organized under SUJALAM campaign?

  1. The key activities that will be organized in the villages under SUJALAM campaign include:

  2. Organizing Community consultations, Khuli Baithaks and Gram Sabha meetings to analyze the current situation

  3. Pass resolution to maintain ODF sustainability and achieve needed number of soak pits to manage the grey water

  4. Develop a 100 days’ plan to undertake sustainability and soak pit construction related activities

  5. Construct requisite number of soak pits

  6. Retrofit toilets where needed through IEC and community mobilization and

  7. Ensure all newly emerging Households in the village have access to toilets.

About Jal Shakti Ministry:

  • Ministry of Jal Shakti is a ministry under Government of India.

  • It was founded in May 2019 under the second Modi ministry.

  • This was formed by merging of two ministries which are Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.

  • The ministry was formed with an aim not only to clean the river Ganges but also encompass any international or national disputes between inter-state water bodies and the rivers which are shared by India along with other neighboring countries.

  • Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is the Minister of Jal Shakti.

World Water Week 2021:

World Water Week is celebrated by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) every year in order to highlight the global water issues and related concerns of international development since 1991.

About World Water Week:

  • It is a week-long global water conference held each year in late August or early September.

  • The weeklong event is attended by some 4,000 participants from 135 countries.

  • During the week, awards such as the Stockholm Water Prize, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, and the Stockholm Industry Water Award are given out at their respective award ceremonies.

  • The event consists of a broad array of parallel activities convened by leading international organizations on a broad array of water-related topics, ranging from food security and health to agriculture, technology, biodiversity, and the climate crisis.

Key Points:

World Water Week 2021 is being observed between August 23rd, 2021 and August 27th, 2021.

Theme of 2021:

The theme for World Water Week 2021 is ‘Building Resilience Faster’.

History:

The World Water Week was started in Stockholm, Sweden as the Stockholm Water Symposium in 1991.

In 2001, the Stockholm Water Symposium was officially named as the World Water Week.

Water+ city:

  • Recently, Surat city was awarded a ‘Water+ certification’ under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).

  • It was the first city from Gujarat to get recognition.

  • It was awarded by the ministry of housing and urban Affairs (MoHUA) in the field of adopting best practices in waste water management.

Important Info:

  • SMC was the only civic body from India that was invited at the panel discussion on the topic “Zero Liquid Discharge Cities”.

  • SMC was invited to discuss at SWWW because, Surat’s achievement in treating sewage water and reusing it has been recognized by world’s top institute in water governance.

  • Surat treats about 1,400 MLD sewage water out of which 320 MLD (33%) is reused.

Note: According to City municipal commissioner, Banchhanidhi Pani, by 2030, the city would be able to reuse 100% of sewage water after treatment.

About SIWI:

  • Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) is a Stockholm-based policy institute.

  • It generates knowledge and guides decision-making towards water wise decisions.

  • It was founded in 1991.

Acetabularia jalakanyakae:

A team of marine biologists from the Central University of Punjab (CUP) recently discovered a new species of marine green algae from Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Key Points:

  • It has been named Acetabularia jalakanyakae.

Note: Jalakanyaka in Sanskrit literally means mermaid and a goddess of oceans.

  • The scientists say they were influenced by the fictional character Little Mermaid in the the fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” by Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson.

  • It will be published in the Indian Journal of Geo-Marine Sciences, published by CSIR.

About Acetabularia jalakanyakae:

  • The newly discovered algae are small and resemble an umbrella or a mushroom in bright green colour with a size of 20 to 40 mm.

  • They have grooves on its cap measuring 15 to 20 mm in diameter.

  • The main feature of the newly discovered species is that the plant is made up of a single gigantic cell with one nucleus.

  • An important characteristic of Acetabularia genus is that they are regenerative (able to regrow a part again even if it is cut off) in nature.

  • This discovery is significant because the last new algae species found in Andaman and Nicobar Islands was in 1984.

Background:

  • In May 2019, Professor Felix Bast had discovered this new species and after various studies and analysis with other species it was confirmed as a new species.

Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano:

Scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory recently noticed a surge of earthquakes and the ground swelling at the southern part of the crater at Kilauea’s summit.

Key Details:

  • There are indications magma is shifting about a half-mile to a mile (1 to 2 kilometers) below the surface.

  • This has caused the scientists to warn that the mountain could once again disgorge lava.

  • However, there is no indication an eruption is imminent because the volcano, which is among the world’s most active, has behaved similarly in the past without any magma breaking the surface.

Where is this activity occurring?

  • The activity is occurring at the summit of Kilauea volcano, an uninhabited area within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.

  • This is about 200 miles southeast of Honolulu, which is on a different island called Oahu.

About Kilauea:

  • Kilauea also known as Mount Kilauea is an active shield volcano in the Hawaiian Islands.

  • It is located on the southeastern part of the island of Hawaii, Hawaii state, U.S.

  • The volcano is between 210,000 and 280,000 years old and emerged above sea level about 100,000 years ago.

  • The volcano’s 4,090-foot (1,250-metre) summit has collapsed to form a caldera, a broad shallow depression nearly 3 miles (5 km) long and 2 miles (3.2 km) wide with an area of more than 4 square miles (10 square km).

  • Kilauea’s slopes merge with those of the nearby volcano Mauna Loa on the west and north.

  • Kilauea has erupted 34 times since 1952. From 1983 to 2018, it erupted almost continuously, in some cases sending streams of lava that covered farms and homes.

  • Its most recent eruption began on December 20, 2020 and ended on May 23, 2021 creating a lake with enough lava to fill 10 Hoover dams.

Additional Info:

  • The most famous Hawaiian volcanoes are the shield type volcanic landforms.

  • The shield type volcanic landforms are mostly made up of basalt, a type of lave that is very fluid when erupted.

  • These volcanoes are not steep.

What is a volcano?

  • A volcano is an opening in the earth’s crust through which lava, volcanic ash, and gases escape.

  • Beneath a volcano, liquid magma containing dissolved gases rises through cracks in the Earth's crust.

  • As the magma rises, pressure decreases, allowing the gases to form bubbles.

  • When volcanoes erupt they can spew hot, dangerous gases, ash, lava and rock that can cause disastrous loss of life and property, especially in heavily populated areas.

Where are the volcanoes found on earth?

  • On Earth, volcanoes are most often found where tectonic plates are diverging or converging, and most are found underwater.

  • For example, a mid-oceanic ridge, such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, has volcanoes caused by divergent tectonic plates whereas the Pacific Ring of Fire has volcanoes caused by convergent tectonic plates.

  • Volcanoes can also form where there is stretching and thinning of the crust's plates, such as in the East African Rift and the Wells Gray-Clearwater volcanic field and Rio Grande Rift in North America.

About Volcano Eruption:

  • A volcano can be active, dormant or extinct.

  • Volcanic eruptions happen when lava and gas are discharged from a volcanic vent.

  • An eruption takes place when molten rock called magma rises to the surface.

  • Magma is formed when the earth's mantle melts.

  • Although there are several factors triggering a volcanic eruption, three predominate: the buoyancy of the magma, the pressure from the exsolved gases in the magma and the injection of a new batch of magma into an already filled magma chamber.

  • Melting may happen where tectonic plates are pulling apart or where one plate is pushed down under another.

  • Magma is lighter than rock so rises towards the Earth's surface.

  • As the magma rises, bubbles of gas form inside it.

  • Runny magma erupts through openings or vents in the earth's crust before flowing onto its surface as lava.

  • Another way an eruption happens is when water underneath the surface interacts with hot magma and creates steam.This can build up enough pressure to cause an explosion.

The material that is expelled in a volcanic eruption can be classified into three types:

  1. Volcanic gases, a mixture made mostly of steam, carbon dioxide, and a sulfur compound (either sulfur dioxide, SO2, or hydrogen sulfide, H2S, depending on the temperature).

  2. Lava, the name of magma when it emerges and flows over the surface.

  3. Tephra, particles of solid material of all shapes and sizes ejected and thrown through the air.

Environment Current Affairs - August 2021

Ramsar List:

The Union Environment Ministry recently announced that 4 more wetlands from India have been added to the Ramsar list.

Key Points:

The wetlands that the Ramsar Convention has designated as wetlands of global importance are:

  1. Thol from Gujarat

  2. Wadhwana from Gujarat,

  3. Sultanpur from Haryana and

  4. Bhindawas from Haryana.

  • India is home to more than a dozen of threatened and near threatened bird species and these sites are home to endangered Egyptian Vulture, Saker Falcon, Sociable Lapwing, and near threatened Dalmatian Pelican.

  • With this, the number of Ramsar sites in India is 46 and the surface area covered by these sites is now 1,083,322 hectares.

About the Chosen Wetlands:

Thol Lake Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • It lies on Central Asian Flyway in Gujarat.

  • It supports more than 320 bird species and more than 30 threatened waterbird species like critically endangered white-rumped vulture, Sociable Lapwing, Common Pochard etc.

Wadhwana Wetland:

  • It is an internationally important wetland situated in Gujarat.

  • It is famous for its birdlife because it provides wintering ground to migratory waterbirds, migrating on Central Asian Flyway.

  • Some of the species include endangered Pallas’s fish-Eagle, vulnerable Common Pochard, and near-threatened Dalmatian Pelican.

Sultanpur National Park:

  • This Park from Haryana provides support to more than 220 species of resident, winter migratory and local migratory waterbirds.

Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • It is the largest wetland in Haryana.

  • This human-made freshwater wetland comprises of more than 250 bird species.

  • The bird species use the sanctuary throughout the year for resting and roosting.

  • It also supports more than ten globally threatened species such as Steppe Eagle, endangered Egyptian Vulture, Black-bellied Tern and Pallas’s Fish Eagle.

The Ramsar Convention:

  • It was signed on 2nd February, 1971.

  • It is one of the oldest inter-governmental accords signed by member countries.

  • Its main objective is to preserve the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance.

  • It is named after Ramsar, the Iranian city where the treaty was signed.

  • Places chosen for conservation under it are given the tag ‘Ramsar site’.

What is the aim of the Ramsar list?

  • The aim of the Ramsar list is “to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits".

What are wetlands?

  • A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail.

  • It is an area where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season.

  • Water saturation (hydrology) largely determines how the soil develops and the types of plant and animal communities living in and on the soil.

  • Wetlands may support both aquatic and terrestrial species.

  • The prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favor the growth of specially adapted plants (hydrophytes) and promote the development of characteristic wetland (hydric) soils.

Different Types of Wetlands:

Five major wetland types are generally recognized:

1. Marine (coastal wetlands including coastal lagoons, rocky shores, and coral reefs);

2. Estuarine (including deltas, tidal marshes, and mangrove swamps);

3. Lacustrine (wetlands associated with lakes);

4. Riverine (wetlands along rivers and streams); and

5. Palustrine (meaning “marshy” - marshes, swamps and bogs).

Significance of Wetlands:

  • Wetlands play a critical role in maintaining many natural cycles and supporting a wide range of biodiversity.

  • They purify and replenish our water, and provide the fish and rice that feed billions.

  • They serve as a natural sponge against flooding and drought, protect our coastlines and help fight climate change.

Note:About one quarter of the Earth's rain runs off as flood water, causing loss of life and billions of dollars in damage.

Earthquakes in Haiti:

Recently, powerful earthquake in Haiti have killed hundreds and injured thousands more.

The earthquakes have been wreaking havoc in Haiti since at least the 18th century, when the city of Port-au-Prince was destroyed twice in 19 years.

What is the cause of earthquakes in Haiti?

  • The Earth’s crust is made up of tectonic plates that move and Haiti sits near the intersection of two of them, they are:

  1. The North American plate

  2. The Caribbean plate.

  • Earthquakes can occur when those plates move against each other and create friction.

  • Multiple fault lines between those plates cut through or near the island of Hispaniola, which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic.

  • The worst part is that not all of those fault lines behave the same way.

Why can earthquakes in Haiti be so devastating?

  • Haiti is also densely populated.

  • In addition, many of its buildings are designed to withstand hurricanes, not earthquakes.

  • Those buildings can survive strong winds but are vulnerable to collapse when the ground shakes.

About Haiti:

  • Haiti officially the Republic of Haiti, formerly known as Hayti, is a Caribbean country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea, to the east of Cuba and Jamaica and south of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

  • It occupies the western three-eighths of the island which it shares with the Dominican Republic.

  • The capital of Haiti is Port-au-Prince.

  • The currency used here is Haitian gourde.

Colorado River Basin:

The federal government in the US, for the first time has declared a water shortage for the Colorado River basin due to a historic drought.

This shortage in turn will lead to water cuts in some southwestern states starting October 2021.

About Colorado River:

  • The Colorado River is one of the principal rivers (along with the Rio Grande) in the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

  • It is about 1,450 miles long, with headwaters in Colorado and Wyoming, and eventually flows across the international border into Mexico.

  • The river is the primary source of water for a region that receives little annual rainfall.

  • More than 1,000 years ago, Native Americans irrigated their crops with the waters from the river.

  • Today, the Colorado River is still used for irrigation and also used to generate hydroelectric power and to supply water to distant urban areas.

About Colorado River Basin:

  • The Colorado River Basin offers a major renewable water supply in the southwestern United States.

  • About two-thirds of the water flowing in the Colorado River and its tributaries is used for irrigation, and the other one-third supplies urban areas, evaporates into the atmosphere, or provides water to riparian (streamside) vegetation.

  • The Colorado River system, including the Colorado River, its tributaries, and the lands that these waters drain, is called the Colorado River basin, or watershed.

  • The Colorado River Basin is divided into the Upper (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and northern Arizona) and Lower Basins (parts of Nevada, Arizona, California, southwestern Utah and western New Mexico).

  • The entire Colorado River system is managed with a series of dams and canals to regulate flood control, water conservation and hydropower benefits.

  • In the Lower Basin, the Hoover Dam controls floods and regulates water delivery and storage.

  • Apart from the Hoover dam, there is the Davis Dam, Parker Dam and the Imperial Dam that regulate the release of water from the Hoover Dam.

  • Water is released from these dams and used by residents in California, Nevada, Arizona and Mexico.

Kigali Amendment:

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval for ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer for phase down of Hydroflurocarbons (HFCs) by India, adopted by the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on October, 2016 at 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol held at Kigali, Rwanda.

Implementation strategy and targets:

  • National strategy for phase down of Hydrofluorocarbons as per the applicable phase down schedule, India has said that it will draw up a national strategy for the phase-down of HFCs by 2023, in consultation with all the industry stakeholders.

  • Amendments to the existing legislation framework, the Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Rules to allow appropriate control of the production and consumption of Hydrofluorocarbons to ensure compliance with the Kigali Amendment will be done by mid-2024.

  • India will complete its phase down of HFCs in 4 steps from 2032 onwards with cumulative reduction of 10% in 2032, 20% in 2037, 30% in 2042 and 80% in 2047.

Background:

  • India became a Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer on 19 June 1992 and since then has ratified the amendments to the Montreal Protocol.

  • Through the present approval of the Cabinet, India will be ratifying the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol for phase down of Hydrofluorocarbons.

  • India has successfully met the phase out targets of all the Ozone Depleting Substances as per the Montreal Protocol Schedule.

What is Kigali Amendment to Montreal Protocol?

  • It is a legally binding agreement designed to create rights and obligations in international law.

  • Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol enables the phase-out of the hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

  • The Kigali Amendment to Montreal Protocol was made in 2016.

  • The amendment has been named after Rwanda Capital where it was negotiated.

Montreal Protocol:

  • The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is an international environmental treaty for protection of the Ozone Layer by phasing out the production and consumption of man-made chemicals referred to as ozone depleting substances (ODS).

  • It came into force in 1989.

  • It has 197 member parties to the protocol and become a first international treaty with complete ratification.

  • It has undergone several amendments and Kigali amendment is the eighth amendment to this protocol.

  • Under the Kigali Amendment; Parties to the Montreal Protocol will phase down production and consumption of Hydrofluorocarbons, commonly known as HFCs.

  • Hydrofluorocarbons were introduced as non-ozone depleting alternative to Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

  • While HFCs do not deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, they have high global warming potential ranging from 12 to 14,000, which have adverse impact on climate.

  • Recognizing the growth in use of HFCs, especially in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning sector the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, reached agreement at their 28th Meeting of the Parties (MOP) held in October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda to add HFCs to the list of controlled substances and approved a timeline for their gradual reduction by 80-85 percent by the late 2040s.

What are the Ozone Depleting Substances?

Ozone-depleting substances are chemicals that destroy the earth’s protective ozone layer. They include:

  1. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

  2. Halons

  3. Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)

  4. Methyl bromide (CH3Br)

  5. Bromochloromethane (CH2BrCl)

  6. Methyl chloroform (CH3CCl3)

  7. Hydrobromofluorocarbons (HBFCs)

  8. hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)

Where are they used?

The main uses of ozone depleting substances include:

  1. CFCs and HCFCs in refrigerators and air conditioners

  2. CFCs and HCFCs in foam

  3. CFCs and HCFCs as aerosol propellants

  4. HCFCs and halons in fire extinguishers

  5. Methyl bromide for fumigation of soil structures and goods to be imported or exported

Negative Effects of the Depletion of the Ozone Layer:

  • Ozone layer depletion causes increased UV radiation levels at the Earth's surface, which is damaging to human health.

  • Negative effects include increases in certain types of skin cancers, eye cataracts and immune deficiency disorders.

World Lion Day 2021: World Lion Day is celebrated annually throughout the world on August 10.

The day is celebrated to commemorate the existence of the ‘king of the jungle' in the biodiversity and raise awareness about the need for its conservation.

Objectives:

The day is celebrated to fulfill the following three major objectives:

  1. To raise awareness about the plight of the lion & other issues that the species faces in the wild

  2. To find ways to protect its natural habitat and for creating more such habitats like national parks.

  3. To educate people who live near wild cats on the dangers and how to protect themselves. Humans and large species like cats can live in harmony together, but only if they understand how to do so.

History:

  • World Lions Day is celebrated across the world since 2013.

  • The World Lion Day was established by 'Big Cat Rescue' - world’s largest accredited sanctuary for big cats.

  • The day was co-founded by Dereck and Beverly Joubert of the Big Cat Initiative and National Geographic in a partnership.

  • Also known as the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, the partnership aims to protect these wild cats in their natural habitat.

  • Furthermore, the initiative also works on safety measures with communities that live near wild cats.

Significance:

  • Lions are the top predators of their habitat, and checking browsers and grazing populations can help maintain ecosystem balance.

  • They also target the weakest members of the herd, keeping prey populations healthy and robust and indirectly helping control prey population diseases.

  • Their conservation also helps protect natural forest areas and habitats, which in turn helps manage biodiversity.

  • They have been at the heart of human fascination from time immemorial, beyond national borders and across cultures.

  • From guarding temples to adorning national flags, decorating coins to beautifying ancient Indian pillars, Lions have commanded symbolic importance throughout the ages.

Significance of Lion in Indian History:

  • They have an illustrious place in India’s history and culture, with their earliest known references found in the pillars of the Mauryan Empire.

  • The Indian national emblem too is adorned by the majestic lion on all four sides.

Threat:

  • Among the many other threats that face the mighty animal, today, the most prominent of them are trophy hunting and loss of natural habitat

IUCN List:

  • Currently, they are listed as endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.

  • In West Africa, the species is now classified as “critically endangered.”

  • According to reports, over a century ago there were more than 2,00,000 wild lions living in Africa.

  • Recent surveys estimate that in the last two decades, lion numbers have declined from approximately 30,000 to about 20,000

Asiatic Lions:

  • The Asiatic lions are found in India in the restricted Gir Forest and National Park and its surrounding areas.

  • However, in the past, they roamed across the Indo-Gangetic plains, extending from Sindh in the west to Bihar in the east.

  • Several paintings, literature and the records of lion hunt reveal that the lions were part of Indian mythology, royal emblems and a part of its cultural identity.

  • It was only during the British colonial rule when lions were hunted on a large scale and their numbers depleted from most of their distribution range.

Efforts by India for Conservation of Lions:

  • The Indian government is already making efforts to protect the king of the jungle through various schemes and projects.

  • According to the census of the majestic big cats that was conducted by the Gujarat government in June last year, it showed a rise.

  • India recorded the highest ever increase of 29 per cent in its lion population from 523 in 2015 to 674 in 2020. The report also cited that their distribution expanded from 22,000 sq. km in 2015 to 30,000 sq. km in 2020.

About Lions:

  • Lions, one of the largest animal species on earth are scientifically named ‘Panthera Leo’.

  • The king of the jungle lives in a large group known as pride. It is like the wolves’ pattern of living.

  • Lions live only in grasslands and plains.

  • The male lion weighs more than 500 pounds and grows up to eight feet in length.

  • The male lions have dignified manes; long thick hair around they head, neck and shoulder which makes them appear larger and more intimidating.

  • Unlike the female cubs, the male cubs are responsible for their own living post maturity.

  • The female lions are smaller and faster. The female lions and their sisters live together. Even the female cubs are joined in the pride.

  • The roar of the male lion can be heard from up to 5 miles away. Their roar is the loudest amongst the big cat species.

  • A lion usually lives for maximum 16 years in the wild and 25 years in captivity.

  • Mostly lions hunt at night because of the adaptation skills of their eyes over dark. This gives them huge advantage over the prey.

  • The coloration of these animals varies from light yellow to dark brown.

  • The lion is armed with claws, which can be almost 10 cm each.

Note: The overall intention to celebrate the World Lion Day is to find sustainable solutions to protect and save wild lion populations from extinction globally.

Greece Wildfires-Evia: Wildfires are continuing to rip through the Greek island of Evia with strong winds driving flames towards villages.

Key Details:

  • More than 2,000 people have already been evacuated from the island, many of those by ferry.

  • Greece and neighbouring Turkey is experiencing its most severe heatwave in 30 years in which temperatures have spiked to 45C (113F) in Greece.

  • A number of wildfires have struck the country in recent days.

  • On Evia, two fire fronts have destroyed thousands of hectares of land, along with a number of houses and businesses.

  • One blaze in the northern suburb of Athens is said to have subsided.

Causes:

  • Heatwaves such as this are becoming more likely and more extreme because of human-induced climate change.

  • The subsequent hot, dry weather is likely to fuel wildfires.

About Euboea:

  • Evia or Euboea is the second-largest Greek island in area and population, after Crete.

  • It is located in the Central Greece in the Aegean Sea.

  • The narrow Euripus Strait separates Evia from Boeotia in mainland Greece.

  • Euboea was believed to have originally formed part of the mainland, and to have been separated from it by an earthquake. This is fairly probable, because it lies in the neighbourhood of a fault line.

AMOC: A study recently published in Nature Climate Change notes that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is losing its stability.

Key Points:

  • According to the IPCC’s Report (AR6) released on August 9, it is very likely that AMOC will decline over the 21st century.

  • Modelling studies have shown that an AMOC shutdown would cool the northern hemisphere and decrease rainfall over Europe.

What is AMOC?

  • The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a major ocean current system transporting warm surface waters toward the northern Atlantic.

  • It is the Atlantic branch of the ocean conveyor belt or Thermohaline circulation (THC). It distributes heat and nutrients throughout the world’s ocean basins.

  • AMOC carries warm surface waters from the tropics towards the Northern Hemisphere, where it cools and sinks.

  • It then returns to the tropics and then to the South Atlantic as a bottom current.

  • From there it is distributed to all ocean basins via the Antarctic circumpolar current.

What happens if AMOC collapses?

  • A collapse from the currently attained strong to the weak mode would have severe impacts on the global climate system and further multi-stable Earth system components.

  • Modeling studies have shown that an AMOC shutdown would cool the northern hemisphere and decrease rainfall over Europe.

  • It can also have an effect on the El Nino.

  • Gulf Stream which is a part of the AMOC is a warm current responsible for mild climate at the Eastern coast of North America as well as Europe.

  • Without a proper AMOC and Gulf Stream, Europe will be very cold.

World Elephant Day 2021: The World Elephant Day is observed every year on 12 August across the globe.

The day aims to spread awareness about the plight of elephants and to identify their importance in our ecosystem

History:

  • World Elephant Day was co-founded by a Canadian filmmaker Patricia Sims and the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation of Thailand, an initiative of HM Queen Sirikit of Thailand on 12 August 2012.

  • The first World Elephant Day was observed in the year 2012 to bring attention to the urgent plight of Asian and African elephants.

  • Since then, the day is being observed every year on 12 August.

  • This is not just a day but a movement in itself.

  • Since 2012, Ms Sims has been leading World Elephant Day.

Significance:

  • World Elephant Day plays a very important role in raising awareness about problems faced by elephants.

  • According to World Elephant Society various threats including, poaching, habitat loss, mistreatment in captivity hover over elephants, especially Asian and African.

  • On this day, they encourage individuals and organizations around the world to work towards elephant conservation.

IUCN Status:

  • The IUCN Red List of threatened species has listed African elephants as ‘Critically Endangered’ and Asian elephants as ‘Endangered’.

  • An estimated 100 African elephants are killed each day by poachers seeking ivory, meat and body parts, leaving only 400,000 remaining.

Causes for Decline in the Populations of Elephants:

  • Elephants are shot by hunters and they die in extreme pain and agony. Because of this, their tribes are damaged which leads to populations decline.

  • Elephants are killed by poachers for their ivory which is used in making tableware, sculptures, jewellery, and Chinese traditional medicines, and other things.

  • Wild Asian elephants suffer severe habitat loss in some of the most densely human-populated regions on the planet.

  • Many elephants fall prey to electrocution, train accidents and poisoning.

What can be done to save the elephants?

  • Never buy ivory products.

  • Donate to reputed organizations like World Wildlife Fund (WWF), The Elephant Society, Wildlife SOS, and others as these organizations work tirelessly towards the rescue. So, donations will help support their activities better and faster.

  • Protect wild elephant habitat.

  • Provide sanctuaries and alternative habitats for domestic elephants to live freely.

Conservation and protection of Elephants in India:

Project Elephant:

  • In 1992, the Government of India (GoI) had launched Project Elephant as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme to protect elephants and their habitats, address issues of human-elephant conflict, and ensure the welfare of captive elephants.

  • The funding is provided by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change for the project across the country.

  • The project has been implemented in 16 states across India namely Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.

  • India has 32 Elephant reserves, as stated by the GoI.

  • The Singhbhum Elephant Reserve of Jharkhand was the first elephant sanctuary in the country.

  • The Ministry of Environment and Forests, in 2011, collaborated with Wildlife Trust of India to launch the campaign ‘Hathi Mere Sathi’.

Coral-Damaging Sunscreens: Thailand has banned sunscreens containing chemicals that damage coral from all of its marine national parks.

Key Details:

  • Concerns are that the slow-growing corals are being harmed by the lotions the tourists use for sun protection.

  • The banned lotions are those containing oxybenzone, octinoxate, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor or butylparaben.

  • According to Thai Department of Conservation, the four ingredients found in sun creams were destroying coral larvae, obstruct coral reproduction and cause reef bleaching.

  • A fine of 100,000 baht will be put on people violating the rule.

  • Similar bans have been introduced by the Pacific island of Palau and the US state of Hawaii.

About Coral Reef:

  • A coral reef is an underwater ecosystem characterized by reef-building corals.

  • Reefs are formed by colonies of coral polyps that are held together by calcium carbonate. Most of the reefs are built from stony corals, whose polyps cluster in groups.

  • Coral belongs to the class Anthozoa in the animal phylum Cnidaria. which includes sea anemones and jellyfish.

  • It comprises sea anemones and jellyfish. Corals secrete hard carbonate exoskeletons that support and protect the coral.

  • Most reefs grow best in warm, shallow, clear, sunny and agitated water.

  • Corals are also called as rainforests of the sea.

  • Shallow coral reefs form some of Earth's most diverse ecosystems.

  • Corals comprises of less than 0.1% of world’s ocean area.

  • They are commonly found at shallow depths in tropical waters.

  • In deep water and cold water, coral reefs exist on smaller scales. Great Barrier reefs of Australia is the largest reef of World.

Note: First ever coral reefs were appeared some 485 million years ago.

Why are Coral reefs under threat?

They are under threat from the following:

  1. Excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus),

  2. Rising temperatures,

  3. Oceanic acidification,

  4. Overfishing (e.g., from blast fishing, cyanide fishing, spearfishing on scuba),

  5. Use of sunscreen and harmful land-use practices,

  6. Runoff and seeps (e.g., from injection wells and cesspools).

How does coral bleaching occur?

  • Coral bleaching occurs when coral polyps expel algae that live inside their tissues living in their tissues which drain them of their vibrant colours.

  • Normally, coral polyps live in an endosymbiotic relationship with these algae, which are crucial for the health of the coral and the reef.

  • The algae provides up to 90 percent of the coral's energy.

  • Bleached corals continue to live but begin to starve after bleaching.

  • Coral may bleach for other reasons, like extremely low tides, pollution, or too much sunlight, dumping of dredging sludge and cyclic population.

Net Zero’ Carbon Targets: Recently, the Independent charitable organization 'Oxfam' has said that ‘net zero’ carbon targets that many countries have announced may be a “dangerous distraction” from the priority of cutting carbon emissions.

What does the report say?

  • Oxfam has said in a new report titled “Tightening the Net” that the "Land-hungry ‘net zero’ schemes could force an 80% rise in global food prices and more hunger while allowing rich nations and corporate to continue “dirty business-as-usual.”

  • The report also says that if the challenge of change is tackled only by way of planting more trees, then about 1.6 billion hectares of new forests would be required to remove the world’s excess carbon emissions by the year 2050.

Which countries have recently announced net-zero targets?

  • In 2019 the Parliament of United Kingdom (UK) passed a legislation requiring the government to reduce the UK’s net emissions of greenhouse gases by 100 per cent relative to 1990 levels by the year 2050.

  • In the same year,, the New Zealand government passed the Zero Carbon Act, which committed the country to zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner, as part of the country’s attempts to meet its Paris climate accord commitments.

  • United States (US) also recently announced that the country will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

  • The European Union through plan, called “Fit for 55”, has asked all of its 27 member countries to cut emissions by 55 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.

  • China also announced that it would become net-zero by the year 2060 and that it would not allow its emissions to peak beyond what they are in 2030.

What does net-zero mean?

  • "Net zero" refers to achieving an overall balance between emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere.

  • Net-zero is also referred to as carbon-neutrality but it does not mean that a country would bring down its emissions to zero.

  • That would be gross-zero, which means reduction of emissions from all sources uniformly to zero.

  • In contrast to a gross-zero target, a net-zero emissions target is more realistic because it allows for some residual emissions.

  • Therefore, net-zero is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorption and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

  • One way by which carbon can be absorbed is by creating carbon sinks.

Geography:

Gopalpur: Indian Naval Ship (INS) Khanjar recently became the first Indian Navy ship to call at the heritage coastal port of Gopalpur in Odisha.

Highlights:

  • The two-day visit was organised as part of Aazadi ka Amrit Mahotsav as well as Swarnim Vijay Varsh celebrations to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Independence and the 50th anniversary of the 1971 War.

  • It concluded on 02 Aug 21.

Key Points:

  • The visit of the ship was aimed at enhancing ties and spreading awareness with the local populace on aspects of coastal security and maritime operations.

  • The ship’s team undertook a cleanup drive at Gopalpur beach and tree plantation in the port premises.

  • In addition, books and dry provisions were also distributed to Samarth Orthopedically Handicapped Welfare Association, at Chatrapur in Ganjam district.

About Gopalpur:

  • Gopalpur is a coastal town and a Notified Area Council on the Bay of Bengal coast in Ganjam district in the southern part of Odisha.

  • During ancient times, Gopalpur served as an important port for the seafarers of ancient Kalinga.

  • It is identified with the site Mansurkota located near Gopalpur, just below the mouth of the Rushikulya River.

  • It was an important military port during the World War –I where soldiers used to embark on a journey to Burma.

Anaimalai Flying Frog: Frog enthusiast in Kerala has constructed two ponds at Windermere Estate to restore the habitat for the Anaimalai flying frog.

  • He sought support from the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), which took it up as its first rapid action project for amphibian conservation and offered to fund it.

About Anaimalai Flying Frog:

  • The scientific name of the Anaimalai flying frog is Racophorus pseudomalabaricus.

  • It is also known as the false Malabar gliding frog and false Malabar tree frog.

  • It is a species of frog in the family Rhacophoridae.

  • The frog is endemic to the southern part of the Western Ghats.

  • The numbers of these frogs have declined rapidly due to the loss of habitat.

  • This frog species is known from at least two covered areas, Indira Gandhi National Park and Parambikulam Tiger Reserve.

Characteristics of the Frog:

  • The frog is usually larger than bush frogs.

  • It is a slender-bodied frog.

  • It has a concave head and a rounded, laterally-oriented snout that projects slightly beyond its lower jaw.

  • The fingers and toes are extensively webbed and the webbing is light yellow.

  • The female can grow up to three inches.

  • Juveniles have a distinctive black zebra-like pattern that becomes fainter in adults, resembling venation of leaf.

Reproduction:

  • Mating takes place usually between June and October during the rainy season.

  • The female creates foam nests on leaves, into which the eggs are laid and the male fertilizes them.

  • The outer layer of foam protects the eggs from bacteria, predators and weather changes.

  • When the eggs hatch, the nest disintegrates and tadpoles drop into the water body below.

Conservation Status:

  • IUCN Status: Critically Endangere

15,000 Years Old Viruses: A team of scientists have discovered nearly 15,000-year-old viruses while studying glacier ice.

Key Highlights:

  • These viruses have been discovered in two ice samples taken from the Tibetan Plateau in China.

  • The findings, published on July 20, 2021, in the journal Microbiome.

  • Most of them are unlike any viruses that have been catalogued to date.

  • The ice samples were collected from the cores at high altitudes – the summit of Guliya, where this ice originated, is 22,000 feet above sea level.

Key Details about the Study:

  • For the study, the scientists also created a new, ultra-clean method of analyzing microbes and viruses in ice without contaminating it.

  • The findings may help scientists understand how viruses evolved over centuries.

  • Glaciers begin forming in places where more snow piles up each year than melts.

  • Each year, new layers of snow bury and compress the previous layers along with dust and gases, many viruses are also deposited in the ice.

  • Ice cores are like time capsules that scientists have used to understand more about climate change, microbes, viruses and gases throughout history.

  • The researchers analyzed ice cores taken in 2015 from the summit of Guliya in western China, which were collected from a height of nearly 22,000 feet above sea level.

  • Using a combination of traditional and new techniques to date the ice core, the researchers determined that the ice was nearly 15,000 years old.

  • After detailed investigation, the team found genetic codes for 33 viruses in the core. While four of them have already been identified by the scientific community, at least 28 of them are novel.

  • About half of them seemed to have survived because of the ice, not inspite of it.

  • This implies that the viruses thrived in extreme environments.

  • The analysis also showed that the viruses likely originated from soil or plants, not animals or humans, based on both the environment and the databases of known viruses.

  • This study was an interdisciplinary effort between Ohio State’s Byrd Center and its Center for Microbiome Science.

  • Funding came from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

World Mangrove Day: The International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem also known as World Mangrove Day is celebrated annually on 26 July every year.

Aim:

The day is celebrated to raise awareness of the importance of mangrove ecosystems as “a unique, special and vulnerable ecosystem” and to promote solutions for their sustainable management, conservation and uses.

History:

The day was adopted by the General Conference of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2015.

It was on this day in 1998, that a Greenpeace activist Hayhow Daniel Nanoto, died of a heart attack during a massive protest to re-establish the mangrove wetlands in Muisne, Ecuador.

Key Facts:

  • According to UNESCO, mangroves are disappearing at a rate that is three to five times faster than overall losses of global forest cover in the face of infrastructure development, urbanisation and agricultural land conversion.

  • The global coverage of the mangrove forests have reduced by 50% in 40 years.

  • In May 2020, when Cyclone Amphan hit Bakkhali in Bengal’s Sundarbans region, it left a trail of destruction reminiscent of the 1999 Super Cyclone that killed thousands in Odisha.

  • As per the experts, Amphan’s devastation could have been limited had it not been for the rampant deforestation, human activity, including tourism and finishing, and changes in land use reduced the health and the extent of the Sundarbans mangrove cover.

Note: Sundarbans is home to the world’s largest mangrove cover — a prolific ecosystem between the land and the sea/ocean.

  • Sundarbans apart, India is home to several other swathes of mangrove cover, including the Godavari-Krishna Mangroves, Bhitarkanika Mangrove Wetland, Baratang Island in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the Pichavaram Mangrove Forest in Chidambaram.

  • During the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Pichavaram Mangrove Forest protected several hamlets in Tamil Nadu, by preventing the seawater from entering the villages and minimising loss of property.

  • Rows of mangroves near the sea reduced the impact of the tsunami by reducing the velocity and volume of the tsunami water.

  • The largest mangrove forests between Sundarbans and Bangladesh is being monitored by UNESCO.

Importance of Mangroves:

  • Coastal communities all over the world depend on these ecosystems for their wellbeing, protection, and food security.

  • They are breeding grounds for several estuarine and marine organisms as well.

  • But their biggest contribution towards these coastal communities is to act as a natural barrier against tsunamis, storm surges, a rising sea, and erosion.

Mangroves for the Future (MFF):

  • MFF was initiated by International Union for conservation of Nature and co-chaired by the United Nations Delvelopment Programme (UNDP) to restore the mangrove forests.

  • The project covers places like India, Srilanka, Indonesia, Maldives, Thailand and Seychelles.

International Tiger Day: Global Tiger Day, often called International Tiger Day, is an annual celebration to raise awareness for tiger conservation, held annually on 29 July.

Key Points:

  • The day is observed to spread awareness about dangers faced by tigers.

  • According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), "As top predators, wild tigers play an important role in maintaining the harmony of the planet's ecosystems.

  • By preying on herbivores, tigers help to keep the balance between the prey animals and the forest vegetation which they feed upon."

History:

  • World Tiger Day was first observed in the year 2010 at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in Russia.

  • A total of thirteen tiger range countries came together and decided a global goal to double the number of wild tigers by the year 2022.

Significance:

  • According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), there may have been 100,000 tigers at the beginning of the 20th century. The number was drastically reduced to 3,200 in the year 2010. Therefore, it becomes extremely important to save these wild cats.

  • International Tiger Day play a important role in it by spreading awareness and by working towards conservation of tigers.

  • The governments of all 13 tiger range countries came together at the world’s first-ever global tiger summit and agreed on a “TX2” commitment to double the number of wild tigers by 2022.

  • Since then the tiger population has increased in several countries including India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Russia.

Project Tiger in India:

  • In 1973, Project Tiger was started in India which was a unique plan to save tigers on the planet.

  • Since it formative years there were 9 tiger reserves but the Tiger Project coverage has increased to 50.

  • The Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR) and the Uttar Pradesh Forest department last year bagged the first-ever international award, TX2, for doubling the number of tigers in four years against a target of 10 years.

  • India prepares the tiger estimation report every four years and last report was released in 2018.

Royal Bengal Tiger:

  • The Bengal tiger is also known as the Royal Bengal tiger.

  • It is a tiger from a specific population of the Panthera tigris tigris subspecies that is native to the Indian subcontinent.

  • Felis tigris was the scientific name used by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 for the tiger.

  • It was subordinated to the genus Panthera by Reginald Innes Pocock in 1929.

  • It is threatened by poaching, loss, and fragmentation of habitat.

  • It was estimated at comprising fewer than 2,500 wild individuals by 2011.

  • The Bengal tiger ranks among the biggest wild cats alive today.

  • It is considered to belong to the world's charismatic megafauna.

  • By 2018, the population had increased to estimated 2,603–3,346 individuals.

  • Around 300–500 tigers are estimated in Bangladesh, 220–274 tigers in Nepal and 103 tigers in Bhutan.

Global Conservation Assured Tiger Standards Recognition: On 29th July 2021, Union Minister for Environment, Forest, and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav announced that 14 tiger reserves in India have got accreditation of the Global Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA|TS).

The 14 tiger reserves, which have been accredited, are:

  • Dudhwa – Uttar Pradesh

  • Pench – Maharashtra

  • Sunderbans – West Bengal

  • Manas, Kaziranga, and Oran – Assam

  • Satpura, Panna and Kanha – Madhya Pradesh

  • Valmiki Nagar – Bihar

  • Parambikulam – Kerala

  • Mudumalai and Annamalai – Tamil Nadu

  • Bandipur – Karnataka

About accreditation of the Global Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA|TS):

  • It is a globally accepted conservation tool that aims to set best practices and standards to manage tigers and encourages assessments to benchmark progress.

  • It also sets minimum standards for effective management of target species and encourages assessment of these standards in relevant conservation areas.

Geography:

Typhoon In-fa: It is a very large tropical cyclone inland over China.

This Typhoon In-fa is known in the Philippines as Typhoon Fabian.

Key Details:

  • The system was first noted as an area of low pressure, located east of the Philippines on July 14.

  • Favorable conditions helped the storm to intensify, becoming a tropical depression, two days later and a tropical storm on July 17.

  • The storm has exacerbated and played a part in starting the 2021 Henan floods.

  • Since 17 July 2021, China's Henan province has been affected by severe flooding, caused by a period of prolonged heavy rainfall.

  • It has brought record amounts of rainfall to China becoming the second-wettest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the country.

  • It was also the first storm to impact the city of Shanghai since Typhoon Mitag of 2019.

  • According to projections, In-fa would beat Typhoon Fitow of 2013 as the costliest typhoon to strike China, and the third costliest typhoon on record (a total of $14.7 billion) when adjusted for inflation.

What is a typhoon?

  • A typhoon is a mature tropical cyclone that develops between 180° and 100°E in the Northern Hemisphere.

  • This region is referred to as the Northwestern Pacific Basin,.

  • It is the most active tropical cyclone basin on Earth, accounting for almost one-third of the world's annual tropical cyclones.

  • Within the northwestern Pacific, there are no official typhoon seasons as tropical cyclones form throughout the year.

  • Like any tropical cyclone, there are few main requirements for typhoon formation and development:

(1) Sufficiently warm sea surface temperatures

(2) Atmospheric instability

(3) High humidity in the lower to middle levels of the troposphere

(4) Enough Coriolis effect to develop a low pressure center

(5) A pre-existing low level focus or disturbance

(6) A low vertical wind shear

What is the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon?

  • The only difference between a hurricane and a typhoon is the location where the storm occurs.

  • In the North Atlantic, central North Pacific, and eastern North Pacific, the term hurricane is used.

  • The same type of disturbance in the Northwest Pacific is called a typhoon.

Phosphorus Rocks: Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers Shri. Mansukh Mandaviya informed the Parliament that India will explore indigenous deposits of phosphatic rock, a step towards becoming AatmaNirbhar in fertilizer production.

What are phosphorus rocks?

  • Phosphorus rocks or phosphate rocks are unprocessed ores.

  • Phosphate rock deposits can be sedimentary (formed from sediment deposited by water or air) or igneous (having solidified from lava or magma).

  • However, the easiest way to obtain phosphorus is by way of mining and concentrating phosphate rock from the phosphate deposits.

Use of Phosphorous rock:

  • Phosphorous rock is used in fertilizers.

  • More than 85% of the phosphate rock mined is used to manufacture phosphate fertilizers worldwide.

  • All common fertilizers have an “N-P-K” rating. Phosphorus is the “P” in fertilizers, which is essential for plants.

Where is it found?

  • Phosphate rock deposits can be sedimentary or igneous and are mined from sedimentary deposits formed by the deposition of phosphate-rich materials in marine environments.

  • Large sedimentary deposits are located in United States, China, Middle East, and in Northern Africa.

  • Meanwhile, the igneous deposits are mined in Brazil, Canada, Finland, Russia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

Phosphorus in India:

  • Phosphate rocks are majorly produced only from two States in India, namely Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

  • Currently, there exists 30 lakh MT of phosphorite deposits in the country, for which important steps are being taken by the Government to ramp up its production.

  • These deposits are available in Rajasthan, central part of peninsular India, Hirapur (Madhya Pradesh), Lalitpur (Uttar Pradesh), Mussoorie syncline, and Cuddapah basin (Andhra Pradesh).

Environment Current Affairs - July 2021

Russia's Wildfires: Russia’s coldest city Yakutsk, most of Europe, and several parts of the US are engulfed by uncontrollable wildfires causing heat waves in the countries.

Key Highlights:

  • More than 6.5 million acres of land in Yakutia has been charred and the smoke of the wildfires is traveling to Alaska due to strong wind currents.

  • Russia is experiencing a condition that scientists have been warning about for years.

  • As per the experts climate change and poor land management are the possible causes for this climatic disaster.

Impacts of wildfire smoke plumes on regional air quality:

  • According to atmospheric monitoring agencies, a heatwave in one of the world's coldest areas has triggered forest fires and threatened the Siberian city of Yakutsk with an "airpocalypse" of thick poisonous smoke.

  • Yakutsk's live air quality sensors recorded PM 2.5 readings of 395 micrograms.

  • This was classified as an "airpocalypse," which is described as having "immediate and severe impacts on everyone."

  • High amounts of particulate matter and pollutants such as ozone, benzene, and hydrogen cyanide are expected to make this one of the worst air pollution disasters in history.

  • The 320,000 people have been advised to stay indoors to prevent inhaling the suffocating fumes from the fires, which are on track to exceed last year's record.

  • According to satellite analysts, regional levels of PM2.5 - tiny particles that may enter the bloodstream and harm human organs - have risen to more than 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter in recent days, which is more than 40 times the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommended safe threshold.

What is fueling wildfires in Russia’s coldest city?

  • The head of Greenpeace Russia says poor forest management, inadequate regulation, and budget cuts have increased the fire dangers.

  • Experts state that climate change is fueling the massive wildfires in the Siberian republic of Sakha, also known as Yakutia.

  • The regional officials highlighted that the average temperatures in June 2021 in the region crossed 20 degrees Celsius which is 5 degrees Celsius more than the average temperature in the region.

  • Rising temperature coupled with record drought and precipitation levels 16 times lower than normal has fueled the wildfires in Yakutia.

Other wildfires across world:

British Columbia Wildfire:

  • British Colombia in Canada has declared a state of emergency due to wildfires.

  • It is struggling to push down such wildfires.

  • Thomas Smith, an Assistant Professor in Environmental Geography, London School of Economics said that the fire season is getting longer, the fires are getting larger, and they are burning more intensely than ever before.

Bootleg wildfire:

  • The Bootleg wildfire in Oregon, US has burned nearly 475,000 acres of land and the dense smoke is traveling around 3,000 miles across the other end of the continent.

  • Extreme dry, heat conditions and strong winds are fueling the wildfires in the Western US all the way to the East Coast including New York City.

  • The New York City next morning encountered an intense red sunrise with scents of burning woods and haze.

  • Most of Europe, the Western US, southwest Canada and some regions of South America also experienced drier-than-average conditions in June.

About Wildfires:

Definition:

A wildfire is defined as an uncontrollable fire that engulfs forests, grasslands, peatlands, etc.

Causes:

  • Wildfires can be caused by natural factors such as global warming, dry humid climate, dried-out vegetation, lightning, volcanic eruption, and also human activities.

Wildfire Season:

  • Historically, the wildfire season occurs between May and October when the conditions become extremely hot, dry, and humid.

  • Mostly wildfires have been prevalent during summers but climate change, heatwaves, droughts have increased the occurrence and duration of wildfires dramatically.

Climate change is increasing risk of wildfires:

  • Studies by experts have shown that climate change is increasing the risk of wildfires at an alarming rate globally.

  • Climate change is assisting in the creation of circumstances conducive to greater fires in northern boreal forests in Siberia, Canada, and northern Europe, which are all warming faster than the world average.

  • This follows a global pattern of fires shifting from grasslands to fuel-rich woods, which produce more carbon.

  • As per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change increases the possibilities of storms, droughts, and other weather anomalies.

  • Weather events that were once happening every 100 years are now occurring every 10 years.

  • This is leading to an increased frequency of fires.

  • As the temperature of the planet increases, the rate of evaporation increases thus drawing out more moisture from plants and causing drying out of vegetation.

  • Such conditions coupled with droughts, dry, hot, and humid weather conditions can increase the risk of severe and longer wildfires.

Creation of New Lakes on Alps: The rapid climatic change in the Swiss Alps has dramatically altered its landscape at a quicker pace than expected.

Key Points:

  • Glaciers in the Swiss Alps are in steady decline, losing a full two percent of their volume last year alone, according to an annual study published by the Swiss Academies of Science.

  • Melting glaciers in Swiss Alps have created more than 1,000 new lakes across the mountains.

  • Almost 1,200 new lakes have formed in formerly glaciated regions of the Swiss Alps since the end of the Little Ice Age around 1850.

  • According to the study published by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), around 1,000 of them still exist today.

Concern:

  • Even if the world were to fully implement the 2015 Paris Agreement two-thirds of the Alpine glaciers will likely be lost, according to a 2019 study by the ETH technical university.

  • Based on such basic information, researchers can estimate hazards, including the risk of a sudden emptying in the event of a dam failure.

  • Eawag warned that the growing number of glacial lakes increases the risk of such outbursts and thus the danger of flood waves for the settlements below.

Possible Causes of the Little Ice Age:

  • Little Ice Age (LIA) is the climate interval that occurred from the early 14th century through the mid-19th century.

  • Scientists have tentatively identified seven possible causes of the Little Ice Age:

  1. Orbital cycles

  2. Decreased solar activity

  3. Increased volcanic activity

  4. Altered ocean current flows

  5. Fluctuations in the human population in different parts of the world causing reforestation, or deforestation

  6. The inherent variability of global climate

About Swiss Alps:

  • The Alpine region of Switzerland is conventionally referred to as the Swiss Alps.

  • The Swiss Alps represents a major natural feature of the country and is, along with the Swiss Plateau and the Swiss portion of the Jura Mountains, one of its three main physiographic regions.

  • The Swiss Alps extend over both the Western Alps and the Eastern Alps, encompassing an area sometimes called Central Alps.

  • While the northern ranges from the Bernese Alps to the Appenzell Alps are entirely in Switzerland, the southern ranges from the Mont Blanc massif to the Bernina massif are shared with other countries such as France, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein.

  • The Swiss Alps comprise almost all the highest mountains of the Alps, such as:

  • The Dufourspitze (4,634 m)

  • The Dom (4,545 m)

  • The Liskamm (4,527 m)

  • The Weisshorn (4,506 m)

  • The Matterhorn (4,478 m)

Great Indian Bustards (GIB): The Government of India recently informed the Rajya Sabha that there was no Great Indian Bustards (GIB) in Kutch Bustard Sanctuary (KBS) in Gujarat as on January 1, 2021.

GIBs are the largest among the four bustard species found in India, the other three being MacQueen’s bustard, lesser florican and the Bengal florican.

About Great Indian Bustard (GIB):

  • Great Indian bustard or Ardeotis nigriceps is a large bird having a horizontal body and long bare legs.

  • It has an ostrich like appearance.

  • It is one among the heaviest flying birds.

  • The GIPs are found on Indian subcontinent but currently it has now shrunken to just 10 per cent of it.

  • These large birds prefer grasslands as their habitats.

  • Being terrestrial birds, they spend most of their time on the ground with occasional flights to go from one part of their habitat to the other.

  • They feed on insects, lizards, grass seeds etc.

  • The GIB lays one egg every 1-2 years and the success rate of these eggs is 40-50 % due to predators like foxes and dogs.

GIBs on the Brink of Extinction:

  • In February 2020, the Central government at the 13th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) had stated that the GIB population in India had fallen to just 150.

  • Of them 128 numbers of GIBs are found in Jaisalmer and the Indian Army controlled field firing range near Pokhran, Rajasthan.

  • 10 in Kutch district of Gujarat and a few in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

  • Pakistan is also believed to host a few GIBs.

  • The bird is listed as “Critically Endangered” and is protected under the Government of India Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.

IUCN Status:

  • Due to the species’ smaller population size, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorized GIBs as critically endangered, thus on the brink of extinction from the wild.

Bryum Bharatiensis: A group of polar biologists from India stumbled upon a plant species, during an expedition to Antarctica, in 2017.

However, it was only recently, that the scientists could confirm that the plant species had been discovered for the first time.

About Bryum Bharatiensis:

  • On the 36th expedition undertaken by Indian scientists in the icy continent, the scientists from the Central University of Punjab discovered a rare, dark green plant species.

    •  

  • The plant species were found at the Larsemann Hills, overlooking the Southern Ocean, near one of the world’s remotest research stations, Bharati.

  • The novel plant species, discovered by Indian scientists in Antarctica is hailed Bryum Bharatiensis, by the scientists.

  • The plant species was later recognized as mosses.

  • The newly found moss species is named after the Hindu goddess, Bharati, who also lends her name to India’s research station in Antarctica.

  • In addition, it is named so by the scientists to pay tribute to their country of origin, i.e., India.

Traversing the discovery:

  • After strenuous research of five long years, spent collecting, sequencing, and comparing samples of plant DNA, the Indian scientists unanimously reached a conclusion that the discovered species was indeed novel.

  • It is the first time, since the launch of the first research station in Antarctica, four decades ago, that India discovered a new plant species.

  • The breakthrough discovery featured in a peer-reviewed paper which has been accepted in the leading international journal- the ‘Journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity.’

Significance:

  • The tedious research being conducted is very significant for India and Science, at large, as it opens new doors for more such studies in the region.

  • It will also be interesting to know how these mosses survive one of the world’s toughest weather in temperatures going as low as -70 degrees.

Concern:

  • However, the discovery is also a matter of concern as it indicates the changing topography of the icy continent, due to the effects of global climate change. “Antarctica is getting greenified.

  • According to Prof Bast in a BBC report, many temperate species of plants that previously could not survive in this frozen continent are now seen everywhere because of the warming up of the continent.

  • Adding to the grave concerns regarding the perils of climate change, the scientists further noticed melting glaciers, crevasse-infested ice sheets, and glacial melt-water lakes on top of ice sheets, during their expedition.

Flash Floods: Flash flood caused by the heaviest rainfall has left dozens dead and several thousand missing in Western Europe.

Record rainfall in Western Europe caused rivers to burst their banks, devastating the region.

Germany:

  • Germany has been the worst affected with fast moving torrents of water inundating entire towns and villages in western and southern parts.

  • The country is experiencing one of its worst weather disasters since World War II.

  • At least 80 people have died and hundreds more are unaccounted for in Germany after some of the worst flooding in decades.

  • The Rhineland-Palatinate state in Germany is one of the worst-affected regions with around 1,300 people "assumed" to be missing in the district of Ahrweiler, as per the local government.

  • Along with the Rhineland-Palatinate state, the German regions of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Saarland have also been heavily affected.

  • Some 15,000 police, soldiers and emergency service workers are at the scene to aid with search and rescue, while helicopters picked stranded residents from roof tops and tanks cleared roads of fallen trees and debris.

Belgium:

  • Belgium has also reported at least 12 dead after the extreme weather, which political leaders have blamed on climate change.

  • The village of Schuld was almost entirely destroyed. Officials say, a major dam near the Belgian border, the Rurtalsperre, is overflowing slightly.

  • Around 1800 people had to evacuate in the town of Chaudfontaine, in Liège province.

Netherlands:

  • The Netherlands is also badly affected, with further flooding in Luxembourg and Switzerland.

  • The Meuse River in Limburg was predicted to burst out of its banks and reach its highest level in 200 years.

  • Several municipalities in Limburg province have declared a state of emergency making evacuation compulsory.

Luxembourg:

  • The Luxembourg government has set up a crisis cell to respond to emergencies triggered by heavy rains overnight.

  • Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel reported that "several homes" have been flooded and were "no longer inhabitable".

Background:

  • Scientists have repeatedly warned that human-induced climate change would bring pulses of extreme rainfall such as this one.

About Flash Floods:

A flash flood is a rapid flooding of low-lying areas: washes, rivers, dry lakes and depressions.

Cause:

  • It may be caused by heavy rain associated with a severe thunderstorm, hurricane, tropical storm, or meltwater from ice or snow flowing over ice sheets or snowfields.

  • Huge amounts of water flowing in rivers are due to incessant heavy rains and melting of snow, resulting in severe flooding.

  • They can also occur even if no rain has fallen, for instance after a levee or dam has failed, or after a sudden release of water by a debris or ice jam.

  • They can occur within minutes or a few hours of excessive rainfall.

Impact:

  • Flash floods induce severe impacts in both the built and the natural environment.

  • Flash floods can rip through river beds, urban streets, or mountain canyons sweeping everything before them.

  • Especially within urban areas, the effects of flash floods can be catastrophic and show extensive diversity, ranging from damages in buildings and infrastructure to impacts on vegetation, human lives and livestock.

  • An impact severity scale is proposed in 2020 providing a coherent overview of the flash flood effects through the classification of impact types and severity and mapping their spatial extent in a continuous way across the floodplain.

  • Depending on the affected elements, the flood effects are grouped into 4 categories:

  1. Impacts on built environment

  2. Impacts on man-made mobile objects,

  3. Impacts on the natural environment (including vegetation, agriculture, geomorphology, and pollution)

  4. Impacts on the human population (entrapments, injuries, fatalities).

The scale was proposed as a tool on prevention planning, as the resulting maps offer insights on future impacts, highlighting the high severity areas.

Amazon rainforest: The Amazon forests in South America, which are the largest tropical forests in the world, have started emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) instead of absorbing carbon emissions.

Key Details:

  • A significant amount of deforestation in eastern and southeastern Brazil has turned the forest into a source of CO2 that has the ability to warm the planet.

  • Not only the Amazon rainforests, but some forests in Southeast Asia have also turned into carbon sources in the last few years as a result of the formation of plantations and fires.

  • This study was published in science journal, Nature.

  • The study was conducted by making 600 flights over four areas of Amazon.

  • It was led by researchers from Brazil National Institute for Space Research to collect data on amount of carbon dioxide present in atmosphere.

Key Findings:

  • As per research, role of Amazon rainforest as a carbon sink appears to be in decline.

  • According to study, four areas were emitting 410 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

  • Four regions absorbed roughly 120 million metric tons of carbon.

  • Thus, sections of Amazon were giving off 290 million metric tons as net emissions.

Causes and Impact:

  • Changes in Amazon are being driven by factors such as deforestation, wildfires, and climate change.

  • Emissions were the result of fires, often set intentionally by humans.

  • This could devastate the ecosystem and is a troubling sign for fight against climate change.

  • In 2019, fires in the Amazon were visible from space.

Amazon Rainforest:

  • Alternatively called as Amazon jungle or Amazonia, is a moist broadleaf tropical rainforest in Amazon biome covering major portion of Amazon basin in South America.

  • The Amazon basin is huge with an area covering over 6 million square kilometres, it is nearly twice the size of India.

  • About 5,500,000 km2 areas are covered by rainforest.

  • Territory in this region belongs to nine nations. Majority of forest is contained within Brazil (60% of rainforest).

  • It is followed by Peru (13%), Colombia (10%,) and rest in Bolivia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana and Venezuela.

  • Amazon represents half of Earth’s remaining rainforests and comprises largest & most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest worldwide.

  • The Amazon rainforests cover about 80 % of the basin and as per NASA’s Earth observatory, they are home to nearly a fifth of the world’s land species and are also home to about 30 million people including hundreds of indigenous groups and several isolated tribes.

  • Other than this, the basin produces about 20 per cent of the world’s flow of freshwater into the oceans.

Giant Pandas: According to the Chinese officials, the giant pandas are no longer classified as endangered but are still vulnerable.

Key Details:

  • The classification was downgraded as their number in the wild has reached 1,800.

  • The new classification comes years after the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had already removed the animal from its endangered species list and re-labelled it as vulnerable in 2016.

  • At the time, however, Chinese officials had disputed the decision, saying that it could mislead people into believing that conservation efforts could be relaxed.

  • The announcement by China's environmental ministry is the first time the animal's status was changed on its own endangered species list, which uses similar standards as the Swiss-based IUCN.

  • Experts say that the country managed to save its iconic animal through its long-term conservation efforts, including the expansion of habitats.

  • China considers pandas a national treasure, but have also loaned them to other countries as diplomatic tools.

  • Bamboo makes up some 99 per cent of their diet, without which they are likely to starve.

About Gaint Panda:

  • The giant panda, also known as the panda bear, is a bear native to South Central China.

  • It is characterised by its bold black-and-white coat and rotund body.

  • They have great camouflage for their environment.

  • Their eyes are different to normal bears.

  • The name "giant panda" is sometimes used to distinguish it from the red panda, a neighboring musteloid.

  • Pandas live mainly in temperate forests high in the mountains of southwest China, where they subsist almost entirely on bamboo. They must eat around 26 to 84 pounds of it every day, depending on what part of the bamboo they are eating.

  • They use their enlarged wrist bones that function as opposable thumbs.

Flora of Sikkim: A recent publication by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) recently revealed that Sikkim, the smallest State with less than 1% of India’s landmass, is home to 27% of all flowering plants found in the country.

Key Points:

  • Flora of Sikkim – A Pictorial Guide, released earlier this week, lists 4,912 naturally occurring flowering plants in the tiny Himalayan State.

  • The total number of naturally occurring flowering plants in the country is about 18,004 species, and with 4,912 species, the diversity of flowering plants in Sikkim, spread over an area of 7,096 sq. km, is very unique.

  • According to Dr, Gogoi, the publication details 532 species of wild orchids (which is more than 40% of all orchid species found in India), 36 species of rhododendron and 20 species of oak, and more than 30 species of high-value medicinal plants, among other species.

  • What is the reason for such a diversity of flora in sikkim?

  • The State, which is a part of the Kanchenjunga biosphere landscape, has different altitudinal ecosystems, which provide opportunity for herbs and trees to grow and thrive.

  • From subalpine vegetation to the temperate to the tropical, the State has different kinds of vegetation, and that is the reason for such a diversity of flora.

  • Along with unique geographical features, the people of Sikkim have a unique bond with nature and trees. The Minister referred to the notification titled Sikkim Forest Tree (Amity & Reverence) Rules, 2017 notification that encouraged people to adopt a tree “as if it was his or her own child in which case the tree shall be called an adopted tree”.

About Sikkim Forest Tree (Amity & Reverence) Rules, 2017:

  • Sikkim Forest Tree (Amity & Reverence) Rules, 2017, states that “the State government shall allow any person to associate with trees standing on his or her private land or on any public land by entering into a Mith/Mit or Mitini relationship.”

About Sikkim:

  • Sikkim is a state in northeastern India It borders China in the north and northeast, Bhutan in the east, Nepal in the west, and West Bengal in the south.

  • It is the least populous and second smallest among the Indian states and is also located close to India's Siliguri Corridor near Bangladesh.

  • A part of the Eastern Himalaya, Sikkim is notable for its biodiversity, including alpine and subtropical climates, as well as being a host to Kangchenjunga, the highest peak in India and third highest on Earth. It is also home to glaciers, alpine meadows and thousands of varieties of wildflowers.

  • Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Indian Union on 16 May 1975.

  • Gangtok is the capital of Sikkim.

  • The current Governor and the Chief Minister of Sikkim are Ganga Prasad and Prem Singh Tamang respectively.

Sea Snot' outbreak in Turkey: Turkey’s Sea of Marmara, which connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, recently witnessed the largest outbreak of ‘sea snot’.

Highlights:

  • The sludge has also been spotted in the adjoining Black and Aegean seas.
  • A ‘sea snot’ outbreak was first recorded in the country in 2007.
  • Back then, it was also spotted in the Aegean Sea near Greece.
  • The President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that considerable steps will be taken to solve the problem and protect the country’s seas.

Steps taken by Turkey to contain its spread:

  • Turkey has decided to declare the entire Sea of Marmara as a protected area.
  • Steps are being taken to reduce pollution and improve treatment of waste water from coastal cities and ships.
  • A disaster management plan is being prepared.

What is sea snot?

  • ‘Sea snot’ is marine mucilage, which floats up on the surface of the sea like a brown phlegm.
  • This thick slimy layer of organic matter looks like a viscous, brown and foamy substance.
  • It can cause considerable damage to the marine ecosystem.
  • It is formed when algae are overloaded with nutrients.
  • Overloading of nutrients happens because of warm weather caused by global warming, water pollution, uncontrolled dumping of household and industrial waste into the seas etc.

Impacts and concerns of Sea Snort:

It has spread through the sea south of Istanbul and also blanketed harbours and shorelines. The impacts and concerns of sea snot are as follows:

Livelihoods of Fishermen Affected:

  • The ‘sea snot’ outbreak has affected the livelihoods of fishermen.
  • The collection of sludge in their nets is making them so heavy that they break or get lost.
  • Moreover, the mucilage coating the strings makes the nets visible to fish and keeps them away.

Water-borne Diseases:

  • It can also cause an outbreak of water-borne diseases such as cholera in cities like Istanbul.

Threat to the Marine Ecosystem:

  • The most important factor is that it is posing a severe threat to the marine ecosystem of the country.
  • It has caused mass deaths among the fish population, and also killed other aquatic organisms such as corals and sponges.
  • If unchecked, this can collapse to the bottom and cover the sea floor, causing major damage to the marine ecosystem.
  • Over a period of time, it could end up poisoning all aquatic life, including fishes, crabs, oysters, mussels and sea stars.

International Day of the Tropics: The International Day of the Tropics is observed every year on 29 June to celebrate extraordinary diversity of tropics.

The Day also highlighting unique challenges the Tropical nations face.

Aim:

  • It aims to raise awareness about specific challenges faced by tropical regions across the world, far-reaching implications of issues affecting world’s tropical zone and to underline important role that topical countries will play in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Theme of International Day of the Tropics 2021:

  • As per the State of the Tropics Report 2021, the theme this year is ‘The Digital Divide in the Tropics’.

Significance of International Day of the Tropics:

  • It provides opportunity to take stock of progress across tropics, to share tropical stories and expertise.
  • It also acknowledges diversity and potential of tropics region.

History:

  • On June 14th, 2016 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that declared June 29th as the International Day of the Tropics.
  • The UN chose the date June 29th to mark the anniversary of the inaugural “State of Tropics Report” (SOTT).
  • The report was launched in 2014 by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from Myanmar (Burma).

About Tropics:

  • Tropics are a region of Earth, defined as area between tropic of Cancer (23°27 N) and the tropic of Capricorn (23°27 S).
  • The Tropics account for 36 percent of the Earth’s landmass.
  • It includes the Equator and parts of North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Climatic Condition of the Tropics:

  • This region is warm all year round.
  • The temperature in the Tropics ranges from 77 to 82 degrees F.
  • The Tropics get a lot of sun and only have two seasons i.e., the wet season and dry season.
  • Some parts of the Tropics, like the Amazon Basin, get nearly 9 feet of rain per year while other areas, such as the Sahara Desert, get only 2 to 10 centimeters of rain a year.
  • This difference in precipitation affects which plants and animals live in the different parts of the Tropics.

Important Facts of Tropics:

  • The Tropics are home to approximately 80% of world’s biodiversity (much of its language and cultural diversity).
  • It hosts about 95% of world’s mangrove forests by area and 99% of mangrove species.
  • Although since 1980, area of mangrove forest has decreased in all tropical regions. 
  • The Tropics are important because of the number of economic exports come from these regions.
  • Also, about 40 percent of the world’s population lives within the tropical zone.

Loss of Biodiversity:

  • While biodiversity is greater in the Tropics, the loss of biodiversity is also greater here than in the rest of the world.
  • This loss of biodiversity is partly attributed to human activity, such as:
  • Destruction of forests and marine ecosystems
  • Spread of diseases and invasive species
  • Overexploitation of industrial fishing fleets
  • Commercial hunters
  • Growing impacts of climate change
  • Due to the reasons given above, many species of plants and animals in the Tropics face the loss of their habitats. They become vulnerable and endangered.
  • Humans too living in the Tropics face many challenges as well.
  • More people live in slums in the Tropics than in the rest of the world.

Heat Dome: Canada and parts of United States are experiencing extreme temperatures, due to which hundreds of people have died.

Highlights:

  • The abnormal heat wave caused the temperature in Canada to rise to 49.5 degrees Celsius, an all-time record.
  • According to the weather experts the heat dome effect is the cause for the sudden rise in temperature.
  • Apart from the US, cities as far north as the Arctic Circle broke heat records this week.

What is heat dome?

  • According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of US department of commerce, a heat dome occurs when the atmosphere traps hot ocean air like a lid or cap.
  • It is created when strong high-pressure atmospheric conditions combine with weather patterns like La Niña, creating vast areas of sweltering heat that get trapped under the high-pressure "dome".
  • The phenomenon begins when there is a strong change (or gradient) in ocean temperatures.
  • In the process known as convection, the gradient causes more warm air, heated by the ocean surface, to rise over the ocean surface.
  • As prevailing winds move the hot air east, the northern shifts of the jet stream trap the air and move it toward land, where it sinks, resulting in heat waves.
  • A heat dome typically lasts a week.

Effects of heat domes:

  • The trapping of heat can also damage crops, dry out vegetation and result in droughts, according to weather experts.
  • The sweltering heat wave also leads to rise in energy demand, especially electricity, leading to pushing up rates.
  • The heat domes can also act as fuel to wildfires, which destroys a lot of land area in the US every year.
  • Those living without an air conditioner see the temperatures of their homes rising to unbearably high, leading to sudden fatalities like those which are being reported in Canada and parts of the US.

Glacial Lake Atlas: The Secretary, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (DoWR, RD & GR) Pankaj Kumar recently released the Glacial Lake Atlas of Ganga Basin.

The Atlas was released in a virtual event, in the presence of Secretary, Department of Space & Chairman, ISRO, Dr. K. Sivan, senior officers of DoWR, RD & GR, Department of Space, and National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC).

Key Details about Glacial Lake Atlas:

  1. It is an initiative under National Hydrology Project (NHP)a Central Sector Scheme implemented by DoWR, RD & GR.
  2. The present glacial lake atlas is based on the inventoried glacial lakes in part of Ganga River basin from its origin to foothills of Himalayas covering a catchment area of 2,47,109 sq. km.
  3. The study portion of Ganga River basin covers part of India and transboundary region.
  4. In the present study, glacial lakes with water spread area greater than 0.25 ha have been mapped using Resourcesat-2 (RS-2) Linear Imaging Self Scanning Sensor-IV (LISS-IV) satellite data using visual interpretation techniques.
  5. Based on its process of lake formation, location, and type of damming material, glacial lakes are identified in nine different types, majorly grouped into four categories.
  6. A total of 4,707 glacial lakes have been mapped in the Ganga River basin with a total lake water spread area of 20,685 ha.

Note: Ganga basin is the biggest river basin in the country draining an area of 8,61,452 sq.km.

  1. In total, Ganga has 11 basin states. They are Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.
  2. The Atlas is available on Bhuvan portal of NRSC, ISRO, India WRIS Portal and National Hydrology Project (NHP) web site of DoWR, RD & GR.

Utility of the Atlas:

  1. The atlas provides a comprehensive and systematic glacial lake database for Ganga River basin with size > 0.25 ha
  2. In the context of climate change impact analysis, the atlas can be used as reference data for carrying out change analysis, both with respect to historical and future time periods
  3. The atlas also provides authentic database for regular or periodic monitoring changes in spatial extent (expansion/shrinkage), and formation of new lakes
  4. The atlas can also be used in conjunction with glacier information for their retreat and climate impact studies.
  5. The information on glacial lakes like their type, hydrological, topographical, and associated glaciers are useful in identifying the potential critical glacial lakes and consequent GLOF risk.
  6. Central and State Disaster Management Authorities can make use of the atlas for disaster mitigation planning and related program.

National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Hyderabad as one of the Implementing Agency under the National Hydrology Project (NHP).They are carrying out hydrological studies using satellite data and geospatial techniques.

Explained: Why Glacial Lakes and Water Bodies in Himalayan Region need to be closely monitored?

About Glaciers:

  1. Glaciers are made of layers of compressed snow that move or “flow” due to gravity and the softness of ice relative to rock.
  2. A glacier's “tongue” can extend hundreds of kilometers from its high-altitude origins, and the end, or “snout," can advance or retreat based on snow accumulating or melting.
  3. Glaciers are found on every continent except Australia and some are hundreds of thousands of years old.
  4. A large cluster of glaciers are in the Himalayas

What is a Glacial Lake?

  1. A glacial lake is a body of water with origins from glacier activity.
  2. Glacial lakes are common in the high elevation of glacierised basin.
  3. They are formed when a glacial ice or moraines erodes the land, and then melts, filling the depression created by the glacier.
  4. There are varieties of such lakes, ranging from melt water ponds on the surface of glacier to large lakes in side valleys dammed by a glacier in the main valley.
  5. These lakes normally drain their water through seepage in front of the retreating glacier.
  6. The moraine creates topographic depression in which the melt water is generally accumulated leading to formation of glacial lake.
  7. When this lake is watertight, melt waters will accumulate in the basin until seepage or overflow limits the lake level.
  8. Such moraine-dammed lakes appear to be the most common type of glacial lakes.
  9. The impoundment of the melt may sometimes be unstable, leading to sudden release of large quantities of stored water.
  10. Failure of these ice or moraine dams leading to disastrous destruction events has been documented throughout the world.
  11. Flash floods caused by the outburst of glacial lakes, called as Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF), are well known in Himalaya where such lakes had often been formed by landslides.
  12. GLOFs have immense potential of flooding in downstream areas, causing disastrous consequences due to release of large volumes of water in very short interval of time.
  13. Most often, the consequences arising out of such situations are highly unpredictable primarily due to lack of availability of sufficient data regarding rainfall intensity, location of landslide, impounded volume and area and physical conditions of lakes/ water bodies.
  14. Therefore, Glacial Lakes and Water Bodies in Himalayan Region need to be closely monitored.

Geography:

Sardar Sarovar Dam: For the first time in history, Sardar Sarovar Dam is providing irrigation water in summer.

Key Details:

  • According to the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), as many as 35 dams and reservoirs, close to 1,200 check dams and 1000 village tanks have been filled with Narmada water.
  • The dam released about 1.3 Million Acre Feet (MAF) water for irrigation between April 1 and May 31 in its command area of 21.29 lakh hectares.

About Sardar Sarovar Dam:

  • Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam is a terminal dam built on the Narmada river at Kevadia in Gujarat’s Narmada district.
  • The dam is called the ‘lifeline of Gujarat’.
  • The four Indian states namely Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan receive water and electricity supply from the dam.
  • According to the 1979 award of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal, the power benefits from the project are to be shared in the following ratio:
  • Madhya Pradesh at 57 per cent,
  • Maharashtra at 27 per cent, and
  • Gujarat at 16 per cent.

Background:

  • The Sardar Sarovar project was a vision of the first deputy prime minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
  • The foundation stone of the dam was laid out by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961.
  • However, the construction of the dam was stopped by the Supreme Court of India in 1995 over concerns of displacement of people.
  • Then in 2000–2001, the project was again revived but with a lower height under directions from SC.
  • But its height was later again increased to 139 metres in 2017.
  • The dam was then inaugurated in 2017 by the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

About Narmada River:

  • The Narmada River, also called the Reva and previously also known as Narbada or anglicized as Nerbudda is the 5th longest river in India, the largest west-flowing River and largest flowing river of Madhya Pradesh.
  • This River rises from Narmada Kund, located at Amarkantak range of mountains and traverses Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat between Vindhya and Satpura hill ranges before and falling into Gulf of Cambay in the Arabian Sea.
  • This river is located in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat state of India.

Importance of river Narmada in Indian Culture:

  • Narmada is considered the mother and giver of peace.
  • The river basin is home to India's best teak and hardwood forests.
  • The sacred Narmada River, the lifeline of Central India, is worshipped as Narmada maiyya (mother) or Ma Rewa (derived from “rev” meaning leaping one).
  • She is one of the five holy rivers of India.
  • It is the only one which has the tradition of being circumambulated from source to sea and back, on a pilgrimage or yatra.

Additional Info:

About Garudeshwar weir:

  • Garudeshwar weir is being constructed on the river Narmada near the Statue of Unity.
  • Located at Garudeshwar at a distance of 9 kilometre from Sadhu bet island and 12 kilometre downstream from  Sardar Sarovar dam; Garudeshwar weir will increase visual beauty of both – the Statue of Unity and the Valley of Flowers by creating a small reservoir or lake.
  • The total height of the weir will be 31.75 metre.
  • Hydro electricity will be produced through this weir.
  • The reservoir formed will also provide a navigation channel of 7 kilometre for ferry service from the Shreshtha Bharat Bhawan to the Statue of Unity.

Environment Current Affairs - June 2021

International Day of the Celebration of the Solstice: International Day of the Celebration of the Solstice is observed globally on 21st June every year.

Highlights:

  • The day is observed to create awareness about Solstices and equinoxes and to highlight their significance in various religious and ethnic cultures.
  • Recently, June 21 was observed as International Yoga Day which coincided with the summer solstice this year.
  • June 21- this day is referred to as the summer solstice, the longest day of the summer season.
  • It occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer.
  • The solstices and equinoxes symbolize the fertility of the land, agricultural and food production systems, cultural heritage and their millenary traditions.

Background:

  • The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) acknowledged that the celebration of those events is a mark of the unity of the cultural heritage and centuries-long traditions, and further play a significant role in strengthening the ties among peoples on the basis of mutual respect and the ideals of peace and good-neighbourliness.
  • Therefore, UNGA adopted the resolution A/RES/73/300 on 20th June 2019 and proclaimed the 21st June of every year as the International Day of the Celebration of the Solstice in its different manifestations.

About Solstice:

  • Solstice is that the point at which the Sun is at its greatest distance from the world and equinox is when space is that the lowest.
  • Solstice is a word derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).
  • Solstice is an astronomical event, caused by Earth’s tilt on its axis and its motion in orbit around the sun.
  • There are 2 solstice that occur in a year. They are Summer solstice and Winter solstice.

Summer Solstice:

  • Summer Solstice falls on 21 June which marks the longest day of the year.
  • The summer solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer which is located at 23.5° latitude north and for every place north of the Tropic of Cancer, the sun is at its highest point in the sky.
  • It occurs at the moment when the earth’s tilt toward the sun is at a maximum, therefore, on the day of the summer solstice, the sun appears at its highest elevation with a noontime position that changes very little for several days before and after the summer solstice.

Winter solstice:

  • Winter solstice that falls on 21 December.
  • It marks the shortest day and longest night of the year.
  • It is also known as the ‘first day of winter’ in the Northern Hemisphere as well as ‘Hiemal solstice or Hibernal solstice’.
  • It occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, which is located at 23.5° south of the equator.

Equinoxes:

  • An equinox is an event in which a planet’s subsolar point passes through its Equator.
  • The Earth’s axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun, resulting in a “nearly” equal amount of daylight and darkness at all latitudes.
  • The equinoxes are the only time when both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere experience roughly equal amounts of daytime and night time.
  • The word Equinox is derived from the Latin aequinoctium, from aequus (equal) and nox (genitive noctis) (night).
  • This occurs twice each year.
  • Around 20 March known as Spring Equinox marks the begining of Spring while around 23 September known as Autumn Equinox marks the begining of Autumn.

World Hydrography Day 2021: Every year the World Hydrography Day is observed on 21 June every year globally.

The day is observed to make the public aware of hydrography and the essential role that it plays in everyone’s life.

Theme of 2021:

The theme for 2021 WHD is “One hundred years of international cooperation in hydrography”.

Objective:

  • The main objective of this day is to attract people’s attention to the work of the IHO at the international level.
  • It is also celebrated to urge countries to work together to protect the marine environment and seek safe international navigation around the world.

History:

  • The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) accepted a resolution to celebrate World Hydrography Day on every June 21 in 2005.
  • The day is organized by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) since 2006 to publicise the work of hydrographers and the importance of hydrography.

What is hydrography?

Hydrography is the branch of applied sciences which deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of oceans, seas, coastal areas, lakes and rivers, as well as with the prediction of their change over time, for the primary purpose of safety of navigation and in support of all other marine activities, including economic development, security and defense, scientific research, and environmental protection.

  • Note: Alexander Dalrymple is the first Hydrographer of the Navy in the United Kingdom. He was appointed in 1795.

Difference between hydrography and oceanography:

  1. The goal of hydrography is to map underwater topography (water levels and relief). It deals with the entire information chain, from data gathering at sea to map making.
  2. Oceanography is concerned with the dynamic mechanisms of the water column: currents, waves and tides.

About IHO:

  • The International Hydrographic Organization is an intergovernmental organization representing hydrography.
  • The present name was adopted in 1970, as part of a new international Convention on the IHO adopted by the then member nations.
  • The former name was International Hydrographic Bureau.
  • The organization works to ensure all the world's seas, oceans and navigable waters are surveyed and charted.
  • It coordinates the activities of national hydrographic offices and promotes uniformity in nautical charts and documents.
  • It was established on 21 June 1921.
  • It is headquartered in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
  • The current Secretary-General of IHO is Dr. Mathias Jonas.

Blue Water Operations with a Green Footprint: Indian Navy has adopted a comprehensive ‘Indian Navy Environment Conservation Roadmap (INECR)’ for synergizing the aim of ‘Blue Water Operations with a Green Footprint’.

Highlights:

  • As a voluntary and environmentally responsible force, the Navy has always been involved in environmental and environmental protection initiatives.
  • As a guardian of the sea, the Navy employs a large number of high-energy ships, submarines and aircraft.
  • The Navy’s collaborative efforts to formulate and implement a number of policies aimed at energy efficiency and environmental protection have had clear positive results at all Navy facilities.

Initiatives for Clean Green Navy:

Some of the notable initiatives for Clean and green navy are as follows:

  • Indian Navy commissioned one of its largest solar plant with a capacity of 3MW at Indian Naval Academy (INA), Ezhimala in July 2020.
  • Another 2MW solar power plant was installed at Naval Station Karanja, Mumbai in July 2020.
  • With this, the overall installed solar plant capacity at Naval Stations is 11 MW.
  • The installation of SPVs are in line with Navy’s objective of fulfilling Govt of India’s ‘Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM)’ mission.
  • Further, viability of setting up urban forests concepts such as Miyawaki forests is being emphasised to match the theme of World Environment Day 2021- ‘Ecosystem Restoration’

About Miyawaki method of forest creation:

  • Miyawaki is a technique pioneered by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki (born 1928), that helps build dense, native forests.
  • The approach is supposed to ensure that plant growth is 10 times faster and the resulting plantation is 30 times denser than usual.
  • It involves planting dozens of native species in the same area, and making them maintenance-free after the first three years.
  • In July 2020, Union Environment Minister inaugurated a unique urban forest at the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in New Delhi.
  • This would be a dense urban forest with multiple tree layers including 12000 saplings of 59 indigenous species in another year or so.
  • The Miyawaki method of forest creation is employed.

About the INECR:

  • The Indian Navy formulated an environment conservation roadmap The Indian Navy Environment Conservation Roadmap’ (INECR).
  • The INECR is aimed at reducing energy consumption and diversifying its supply
  • It has been the guiding document and key enabler for progressively achieving this vision of the Indian Navy to add a Green Footprint to its Blue Water operations.
  • In efforts to reduce carbon footprint, measures have been brought in force for a steady increase in utilisation of e-vehicles such as e-cycles, e-trolley and e-scooters.
  • To promote the same, units observe ‘No Vehicle Days’ regularly and the concept of a ‘Vehicle Free Base’ is also being introduced in some Naval establishments.
  • Solar photovoltaic projects have been one of the focus areas of the Navy since the inception of the INECR.
  • Similarly, pilot projects utilizing wind or a mix of both solar and wind (hybrid) are also being taken up progressively, which will not only reduce carbon footprint but also help achieve self-sustenance in energy security.

Operation Olivia: The Indian Coast Guards have recently enforced laws and started operation Olivia to protect Olive Ridley turtles in Odisha.

About Operation Olivia:

  • Operation Olivia was started by the Indian Coast Guard (ICG), first in early 1980s.
  • This operation helps protect Olive Ridley turtles as they congregate along the Odisha coast for breeding and nesting.
  • There are three beaches along the Odisha coast including Gahirmatha, the mouth of the Devi River, and Rushikulya.
  • The Coast Guard carries out round-the-clock surveillance from November till May utilizing Coast Guard assets like Fast patrol vessels, Interceptor craft, Air cushion vessels and Dornier aircraft to enforce laws near the rookeries
  • The Orissa Marine Fisheries Act empowers the Coast Guard as one of its enforcement agencies.

Measures taken :

  • The compulsory use of turtle excluder devices (TED) by trawlers in the waters adjoining nesting areas.
  • Prohibiting the use of gill nets on turtle approaches to the shore.
  • Curtailing turtle poaching.

Conservation status:

  • Olive Ridley turtles are listed as vulnerable under International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
  • All five species of sea turtles found in India are included in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and in the Appendix I of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora which prohibits trade in turtle products by signatory countries.

Olive Ridley turtle:

  • The Olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), also known commonly as the Pacific Ridley sea turtle, is a species of turtle in the family Cheloniidae.
  • The species is one of the most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world.
  • It is primarily found in warm and tropical waters, primarily in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but also in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Nestling Habits:

  • This turtle and the related Kemp's ridley turtle are best known for their unique mass nesting sites called arribadas, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
  • Breeding and nesting of the Olive Ridley Turtles is observed from November to December.

Threat:

  • Dense fishing activity along the coasts of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Bengal, especially ocean-going trawlers, mechanized fishing boats and gill-netters pose a severe threat to turtles.
  • Heavy predation of Olive Ridley turtle eggs by dogs and wild animals.
  • Beach soil erosion.

About Indian Coast Guard:

  • It is an Armed Force, Search and Rescue and Maritime Law Enforcement agency under the Ministry of Defence.
  • It was established in 1978.
  • It has a wide range of task capabilities for both surface and air operations. 
  • It is one of the largest coast guards in the world.

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought 2021: World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed on June 17 every year.

Highlights:

  • This year, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) celebrates the 25 years of progress made by countries on sustainable land management.
  • The UN-designated day is all about a green planet, sustainable development, and health and welfare of people.
  • Its purpose is to raise awareness of the presence of desertification and drought, highlighting methods of preventing desertification and recovering from drought.

Theme of 2021:

The theme for 2021 World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is “Restoration. Land. Recovery. We build back better with healthy land”.

History:

  • In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 17 the “World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought” to market public awareness of the difficulty.
  • The United Nations, NGOs and countries organize events to spread awareness about the cooperation required to combat desertification and drought.

Significance:

  • Restoring degraded land brings economic resilience, creates jobs, raises incomes and increases food security.
  • It also helps biodiversity to recover.
  • Besides, it locks away the atmospheric carbon warming the Earth, slowing climate change.
  • A green planet can also lessen the impacts of climate change and underpin a green recovery from the pandemic.

Desertification and the Sustainable Development Goals:

  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development declares that "we are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations".
  • Specifically, SDG Goal 15: Life on Land states the resolve of the United Nations and the SDG signatory nations to halt and reverse land degradation.

India's Efforts to Combat Desertification and Drought:

  • India has set a target of restoring 2.6 crore hectares of degraded land by 2030.
  • The South Asian giant also assists developing countries to develop land restoration strategies.

What is Desertification?

  • Desertification is the degradation of land in various areas like arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid.
  • It is caused primarily by human activities and then by climatic variations.
  • However, desertification does not refer to an expansion of existing deserts.
  • It is caused due to dryland ecosystems, deforestation, overgrazing, bad irrigation practices, etc. which affects the productivity of the land.

Bharitalasuchus Tapani: In the mid 20th century, researchers from the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, carried out extensive studies on rocks of the Yerrapalli Formation in what is now Telangana, uncovering several fossils.

Highlights:

  1. By studying a number of these specimens stored at the Institute, a world team has now thrown light on a carnivorous reptile that lived 240 million years ago.
  2. They named it Bharitalasuchus tapani.
  3. In the Telugu language, Bhari means huge, Tala means head, and Suchus is the name of the Egyptian crocodile-headed deity.
  4. The species is named after paleontologist Tapan Roy Chowdhury in honour of his extensive work on the Yerrapalli Formation tetrapod fauna.

About Bharitalasuchus Tapani:

  1. Studies have revealed that the reptile belonged to a family of extinct reptiles named Erythrosuchidae.
  2. Bharitalasuchus tapani were robust animals with big heads and large teeth, and these probably predated other smaller reptiles.
  3. They were approximately the size of an adult male lion and might have been the largest predators in their ecosystems.

About Erythrosuchidae:

  1. Erythrosuchidae (meaning red crocodiles) are a family of large basal archosauriform carnivores.
  2. They lived from the later Early Triassic to the early Middle Triassic.
  3. The Triassic is a geologic period and system which spans 50.6 million years from the end of the Permian Period to the beginning of the Jurassic Period. It is the first and shortest period of the Mesozoic Era.
  4. The first Erythrosuchidae remains were discovered in South Africa in 1905 and more were found in China and Russia.
  5. The South African one is about 245 million years old, while those from China and Russia are around 240 million years old.
  6. Therefore, the Indian one is one among the youngest fossil records of an erythrosuchidae.

Why it was not identified earlier?

  1. A precise identification had not been possible earlier because the family was not known from other examples in India.
  2. It was neglected because the fossil specimen was not as complete as those of other erythrosuchids from other countries.
  3. Also, because few paleontologists expertly within the family had not examined the fossil or administered the detailed comparative work needed.

About Yerrapalli Formation:

  1. The Yerrapalli Formation is a Triassic rock formation consisting primarily of mudstones that outcrops in the Pranhita–Godavari Basin in Telangana.
  2. Apart from this erythrosuchid reptile, the fossil assemblage of the Yerrapalli Formation includes many other extinct creatures such as ceratodontid lungfish, rhynchosaur and allokotosaurian.

Geography:

Umling La Pass: Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh recently flagged off the first ever Solo Woman Motorcycle Expedition by Ms Kanchan Ugursandi to Umling La Pass, Ladakh and back.

About Umling La Pass:

  1. Umling La Pass is located at an altitude of 19,300ft.
  2. The Pass, stretching to a distance of almost 86km, connects Chisumle and Demchok villages.
  3. Both these villages lie in close proximity to the Indo-China border in the eastern sector.
  4. It has overtaken Khardung La Pass to become the highest motorable road in the world.
  5. The construction of this road has been achieved by the BRO (Border Road Organization) as part of “Project Himank”

Pyrostria Laljii: A 15-metre-tall tree that belongs to the genus of the coffee family has recently been discovered from the Andaman Islands.

Key Points:

  1. The species has been named Pyrostria laljii after Lal Ji Singh, Joint Director and Head of Office, Andaman and Nicobar Regional Centre, Botanical Survey of India.
  2. The new species, Pyrostria laljii was first reported from the Wandoor forest in South Andaman.
  3. The other places in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands where the tree could be located are the Tirur forest near the Jarawa Rerserve Forest and the Chidia Tapu (Munda Pahar) forest.
  4. The new species is also the first record of the genus Pyrostria in India. Plants belonging to genus Pyrostria are usually found in Madagascar.

Features:

  1. The tree is distinguished by a long stem with a whitish coating on the trunk and oblong-obovate leaves with a cuneate base.
  2. Other physical features that distinguish the tree from other species of the genus is its umbellate inflorescence with eight to 12 flowers.

IUCN status:

  1. Pyrostria laljii has been assessed as ‘Critically Endangered’ based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List criteria.

World Sea Turtle Day: World Sea Turtle Day is celebrated on 16 June.

Highlights:

  1. World Turtle Day is an annual event that has been taking place since 2000.
  2. It was founded by American Tortoise Rescue (ATR).
  3. The day is dedicated to Dr.Archie Carr, the father of sea turtle biology and the founder of the Sea Turtle Conservancy.
  4. This day coincides with the birthday of Dr.Carr.
  5. The purpose of World Turtle Day is to educate people about the things that they can do to protect the habitats of turtle and tortoises.
  6. The day highlights the importance of sea turtles in the marine system.

About American Tortoise Rescue (ATR):

  1. American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) was founded in 1990 by husband and wife team Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson.
  2. It is a nonprofit organization that rescues and rehabilitates all species of tortoise and turtle.
  3. It also does a lot of work on protecting the environments in which these animals live.

Key facts about sea turtles:

  1. Turtles are the world’s oldest reptile groups in existence, across the world found even before lizards and snakes.
  2. Turtles don’t have teeth but have sheaths made of keratin in their upper and lower jaws.
  3. The first few years of their lives are referred to as lost years.
  • That’s because the time between when the hatchlings emerge until they return to coastal shallow waters to forage is incredibly difficult to study.
  • The lost years they spend at sea – which can be up to 20 years – largely remain a mystery to humans.
  1. The sea turtle is very huge in size and can weigh about 500kgs.
  2. It is estimated that 1 out of 1000 sea turtle eggs survives to adulthood.
  3. Turtles prefer red, orange, and yellow coloured food.
  4. They migrate long distances and have great navigation skills to the Earth’s magnetic field.
  5. Six out of seven species of marine turtle are threatened with extinction because of plastic pollution.
  6. They have remained on earth for more than 100 million years.

IUCN Status:

  1. The International Union for the conservation of nature (IUCN) has considered it as endangered.
  2. The seven species of sea turtle are Loggerhead, Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, Kemp’s Ridley, and Flatback.
  3. Out of these seven, two species, Hawksbill and Kemps Ridley are considered critically endangered.

About Sea turtles of India:

Turtles are found in India, in the coastal states of Odisha, Chennai, and Maharashtra.

The country is home to five exquisite varieties of turtles, namely:

  1. Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)
  2. Leathery Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
  3. Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
  4. Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate)
  5. Eastern Mud turtle (Kinosternun subrubum subrubum)

India’s famous Green Sea turtles are the largest hard-shelled sea turtles and are about 120 cms in length and 136-159 kgs in weight.

E-100 project: Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the E-100 pilot project in Pune to mark the World Environment Day on 5 May 2021.

Highlights:

  • The E-100 project aims to set up a network for production and distribution of ethanol across the nation.
  • PM Modi also released the 'Report of the Expert Committee on Road Map for ethanol blending in India 2020-2025'.
  • The report is in line with the theme for World Environment Day this year - promotion of biofuels for a better environment.

Ethanol Sector in India:

  • According to PM Modi, India has taken several steps for development of ethanol sector.
  • Ethanol has become a major priority of 21st century India because ethanol has a better impact on environment and lives of farmers.
  • In the line, Government resolved to achieve target of 20 percent ethanol blending in petrol by 2025.
  • Earlier the resolve was to achieve the target by 2030 which is now preponed by 5 years.
  • Till 2014, about 1.5 percent of ethanol used to be blended in India.
  • Now it has reached to 8.5 percent.

Adoption of Ethanol blending:

Ethanol blending in petrol is being adopted by many countries including India in a bid to reduce vehicle exhaust emissions and reduce import burden on crude petroleum.

Presently, bioethanol blending in petrol stands at 5%, which can replace around 1.8 million Barrels of crude oil.

What is Ethanol Blending?

An ethanol blend is defined as a blended motor fuel containing ethyl alcohol that is at least 99% pure, derived from agricultural products, and blended exclusively with gasoline.

Ethanol-blended fuels are one pathway to compliance with elements of the federal renewable fuel standard (RFS).

Significance of Ethanol Blending:

Ethanol molecule comprises oxygen which allows engine to completely combust fuel. This result in fewer emissions and reduces environmental pollution.

Ethanol, being a by-product of sugar industry, is a renewable source that leads to net reduction in emission of Carbon dioxide, Carbon Monoxide and hydrocarbons.

What is ethanol?

  • The chemical formula of Ethanol is C2H5OH.
  • It is the organic compound Ethyl Alcohol which is produced from biomass.
  • It is also an ingredient in alcoholic beverages.
  • It has a higher octane number than gasoline, hence improves the petrol octane number.
  • Ethanol has insignificant amount of water in it.

World Ocean's Day 2021: World Ocean Day is observed globally on 8th June every year. Owing to the pandemic, all the celebrations on 8th June 2021 will happen virtually.

Highlights:

  • On the occasion of World Oceans Day 2021 the United Nations (UN) has called for sustainable efforts and stopping plastic pollution in order to save the oceans.
  • Speakers from different fields, including scientists, environmentalists, oceanographers, geologists, experts in solid waste management, marine biologists, volunteers, NGO representatives and others will participate in the World Ocean Day celebrations.
  • Tadi Deepika, a native of Antarvedi in East Godavari district, has got an opportunity to represent India in a virtual meeting being organised by the United Nations Organisation (UNO) on the occasion of World Oceans Day-2021.
  • She works with an NGO on waste management in coastal villages.

World Ocean Day 2021 Theme:

  • The theme of World Ocean Day 2021 is 'The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods'.
  • This year's theme is especially relevant in the lead-up to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, Goal 14, “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”, which will run from 2021 to 2030
  • The Decade will strengthen international cooperation to develop scientific research and innovative technologies that can connect ocean science with the needs of society.

About World Ocean Day:

  • The day is observed annually on June 8.
  • This day is observed to raise global awareness about the importance of the ocean in our lives and the ways through which we can protect it
  • The day provides governments across the world an opportunity to inform people about impact of economic activities and human actions on ocean.

World Ocean Day History:

  • This was first suggested in 1992 during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
  • The aim behind this was to not only celebrate the vast water body and its benefits in our lives but also to raise awareness about what can be done to make it a part of sustainable development.
  • On December 5, 2008, a resolution was passed by the UN General Assembly to designate this day.
  • The first World Oceans Day was observed in the year 2009 with the theme ‘Our Oceans, Our Responsibility’.

World Ocean Day Significance:

  • Oceans, seas and coastal areas form an integrated and essential component of the Earth’s ecosystem and are critical to sustainable development.
  • UNESCO states that this day is observed to remind everyone that oceans are the lungs of our planet.
  • In order to preserve them, it is necessary to spread awareness, World Oceans Day informs people about the crucial role the ocean plays in our lives and the important ways they can help protect it.
  • Awareness is raised about how to conserve it and rescue it from the eventual degradation that is caused by our careless activities.

About International Marine Organization:

  • International Marine Organization was formed in 1973.
  • The organization was formed to address issues of pollution from ships by oil, noxious liquid substances which are carried in bulk, garbage, sewage, garbage and to check air pollution from ships.

Mission Innovation 2.0: India along with the Governments of 23 nations have collectively launched a bold new plan called Mission Innovation 2.0.

The new plan has been launched to catalyze action and spearhead a decade of innovation for global investment in clean energy research, development and demonstrations.

About Mission Innovation 2.0:

  • Mission Innovation 2.0 is the second phase of the global Mission Innovation initiative, launched alongside the Paris Agreement at the 2015 COP21 conference.
  • The new initiative was launched at the Innovating to Net Zero Summit, hosted by Chile.
  • The main objective of launching this bold plan is to make clean energy affordable, attractive and accessible throughout this decade; To accelerate action towards the Paris Agreement; and Net-zero pathways.
  • Under this new MI 2.0, a series of new Missions will be undertaken, which will be supported by a new global Innovation Platform to strengthen confidence and awareness in emerging innovations and maximize the impact of national investments.

India’s Effort:

  • As a part of this Platform, India has launched the Mission Innovation CleanTech Exchange, to create a network of incubators across member countries.
  • The network will provide access to the expertise and market insights needed to support new technologies to access new markets globally.

Dihing Patkai: Assam Government recently notified Dihing Patkai as a National Park which was the last remaining stretches of the Assam Valley tropical wet evergreen forests.

Key points:

  • This notification comes four days after creating 422-sq. km Raimona National Park in Kokrajhar district of Assam.
  • Assam now has 7 parks which is the third most National Parks in India.
  • Madhya Pradesh with 12 national parks maintains the top slot and it is followed by Andaman & Nicobar Islands having 9 national parks.

National Parks in Assam:

Assam has five older National Parks including-

  • Kaziranga National Park
  • Manas National Park
  • Dibru-Saikhowa National Park
  • Nameri National Park
  • Orang National Park

Among them, Kaziranga & Manas are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and tiger reserves.  

Nameri and Orang are also designated tiger reserves.

About Dihing Patkai:

  • Dihing Patkai is a 234.26-sq. km stretch covering Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts of Assam.
  • It is a major elephant habitat.
  • It has recorded 310 species of butterflies. Park also comprise of 47 species of reptiles & mammals, including tiger and clouded leopard.
  • It will be administered by Soraipung Range of Digboi Forest Division & Jeypore Range of Dibrugarh Forest Division.
  • Dihing Patkai was in focus for illegal coal mining in its vicinity comprising of erstwhile Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, Jeypore Reserve Forest and western block of Upper Dihing Reserve Forest.

Geography:

Aravalli: The Supreme Court of India recently ordered the Haryana government and the Faridabad Municipal Corporation to take “all essential measures” to remove encroachments, including about 10,000 residential constructions, in the ecologically fragile Aravali forest land near Lakarpur Khori village.

Key Points:

  • The Aravalli Range (also spelled Aravali) is a mountain range in Northwestern India.
  • It runs approximately 670 km (430 mi) in a south-west direction, starting near Delhi, passing through southern Haryana and Rajasthan, and ending in Gujarat.
  • The highest peak is Guru Shikhar at 1,722 metres (5,650 ft). Guru Shikhar is a peak in the Arbuda Mountains of Rajasthan.
  • It is 15 km from Mount Abu.
  • Three major rivers and their tributaries flow from the Aravalli, namely Banas and Sahibi rivers which are tributaries of Yamuna, as well as Luni River which flows into the Rann of Kutch.

Fun Fact: Aravalli, a composite Sanskrit word from "ara" and "vali", literally means the "line of peaks".