Category Archives: Environment & Ecology

What is Drought?, Global Assessment Report (GAR) on Drought 2021, Impact of Drought, Cost estimates of Drought, About United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

Impact of severe droughts on India GDP is 2-5%: UN

In News

  • The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) recently released a report titled Global Assessment Report (GAR) on Drought 2021.

What is Drought?

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines drought as a period of abnormally dry weather long enough to cause a serious hydrological (water) imbalance.
  • It results from a shortfall of precipitation (rainfall) over a certain period, from the inadequate timing or the ineffectiveness of the precipitation.
  • It also results from a negative water balance due to an increased atmospheric water demand following high temperatures or strong winds.
  • Human activities resulting in water scarcity and changes in the climate system play a key role in drought intensification and propagation.

Global Assessment Report (GAR) on Drought 2021

  • The report explores the current understanding of drought risk, its drivers and the ways in which people, economies and ecosystems are exposed and are vulnerable.
  • It looks into rising water stress across the globe and resulting migration and desertification.
  • The report also provides recommendations for reducing drought risks and mitigating the impacts on communities and economies.

Highlights of the report

  • Drought impacts are intensifying as the world moves towards being 2°C warmer. Climate change has already led to more intense and longer droughts in some regions of the world.
  • Projections indicate more frequent and more severe droughts over wide parts of the world, in particular most of Africa, central and South America, central Asia, southern Australia, southern Europe, Mexico and US.
  • The extent and severity of these projected droughts largely depend on the magnitude of the temperature rise.

Impact of Drought

  • Droughts affect large areas and populations, with widespread impacts on society, economy, the environment and hence sustainable development.
  • The risks resulting from droughts can increase severely, which may also affect societies and economies far from the drought event.
  • When not adequately managed, drought is one of the drivers of desertification and land degradation, increasing fragility of ecosystems, especially in rural communities.
  • Vulnerabilities of food, water and energy increase further by drought and can lead to social vulnerability and conflict.
  • Most of the world will be living with water stress in the next few years as increasing industrialisation and urbanisation would increase demand beyond supply.

Cost estimates of Drought

  • Drought has directly affected 1.5 billion people so far this century and this number will grow significantly unless the world gets better at managing this risk. However, global cost estimates of drought are significantly underestimated.
  • The report has estimated an annual loss of around $6.4 billion in the US due to drought and Euro 9 billion in Europe.
  • In Australia, the study found its agricultural productivity fell by 18% during 2002-2010 due to drought-like conditions.
  • The effect of severe droughts on India’s gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated at 2–5%.

Deccan case study

  • The report conducted case studies in the Deccan plateau, comprising 43% of India’s landmass. As per the findings, the Deccan region sees the highest frequency (of more than 6%) of severe droughts in all of India.
  • The study found significant drought conditions once in every three years in the Deccan plateau leading to large-scale migration and desertification.
  • For instance, in recent major droughts in Tamil Nadu, a 20% reduction in the primary sector caused an overall 5% drop in industry and a 3% reduction in the service sector.
  • Further, a 2019 case study revealed villages in Maharashtra and Karnataka’s districts were deserted (fell empty) as families left due to acute water crisis.

Recommendations

  • The governance and management of droughts must shift from the current reactive crisis management to proactive drought risk management.
  • Proactive drought risk management, includes drought monitoring, forecasting, early warning and measures to reduce vulnerability.
  • Measures for adapting to changing climate and actions to increase societal and environmental resilience should also be developed.
  • Increase in public awareness and development of water-saving practices and policies are needed for successfully introducing required changes.
  • A national drought resilience partnership that works to ensure a link between national and local levels with public, private and civil society partners should be developed.
  • Further, support should be generated for the establishment of a global mechanism for drought management focused on systemic risks.

About United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

  • Headquartered in Geneva, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) was created in 1999 to ensure the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.
  • It coordinates international efforts in disaster risk reduction and oversees the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.
  • The Sendai Framework is a 15-year voluntary people-centred approach to disaster risk reduction.
  • UNDRR brings governments, partners and communities together to reduce disaster risk and losses to ensure a safer, more sustainable future.

 Environment & Ecology

In Focus: Biodiversity Hotspots

In Focus: Biodiversity Hotspots

  • A biodiversity hotspot is a region with a high amount of biodiversity that experiences habitat loss by human activity.
  • The term “biodiversity hotspot” was coined by a British environmentalist Norman Myers in 1988.
  • For a region to qualify as a biodiversity hotspot, it must meet the following two criteria:
    • Contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants found nowhere else on Earth (known as “endemic” species).
    • Have lost at least 70 percent of its primary native vegetation.

  • There are currently 36 recognized biodiversity hotspots in the world.

    • These are Earth’s most biologically rich—yet threatened—terrestrial regions.
    • They represent just 4% of Earth’s land surface, but they support more than half of the world’s plant species as endemicsand nearly 43% of bird, mammal, reptile and amphibianspecies as endemics.

  • Several international organizations are working in many ways to conserve these biodiversity hotspots.

Biodiversity Hotspots concerning India:

  • There are four biodiversity hotspots in and around India. These are:
    • The Himalayas
    • The Western Ghats
    • Indo-Burma region
    • Sundaland

The Himalayas:

  • The Himalayas include the entire Indian Himalayan region (and that falling in Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar).
  • Of the estimated 10,000 species of plants in the Himalaya Hotspot, about 3,160 are endemic.
  • In spite of harsh winter conditions, there are records of vascular plants occurring at some of the highest elevations on Earth.
  • About 300 mammal species have been recorded in the Himalaya, including a dozen that are endemic to the hotspot—the Endangered golden langurand Critically Endangered pygmy hogamong them.

Indo-Burma region:

  • This hotspot includes entire North-eastern India, except Assam and Andaman group of Islands (and Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and southern China).
  • More than 300 million people live in Indo-Burma, more than any other hotspot.
  • The hotspot is noteworthy for its concentration of globally threatened primates, of which 20 are endemic to the hotspot.
  • The Critically Endangered lesser one-horned rhinocerosrecently disappeared from the hotspot, and now only survives in one location in Java.

Western Ghats:

  • This hotspot includes the entire Western Ghats and Sri Lanka.
  • It is estimated that there are four thousand species of flowering plants known from the Western Ghats and 1,500 (nearly 38 percent) of these are endemic.
  • The Nilgiri Mountains are one of the most important centres of speciation for flowering plants in the Western Ghats, with 82 species restricted to this area alone.
  • Wide-ranging and flagship mammal species such as the tiger and elephant have attracted significant conservation efforts.

Sundaland:

  • The hotspot covers a small portion of southern Thailand; nearly all of Malaysia; Singapore; Brunei; and the western half of Indonesia. The Nicobar Islands of India are also included.
  • The hotspot is one of the biologically richest regions on Earth, holding about 25,000 species of vascular plants, 60 percent of which are endemic.
  • Some 380 mammal species are found here, including two species of orangutans: the Critically Endangered Bornean orangutan, and the Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutan.
  • Other iconic species include the Endangered proboscis monkey, which lives only on Borneo, and two rhinoceros species: the Critically Endangered Javan rhino and the Critically Endangered Sumatran rhino.

Sunderbans and Mangrove

  • Sunderbans is the largest single block mangrove forest in the world.

About: Sundarbans:

  • Sundarbans is a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of the GangaBrahmaputra and Meghna Rivers in the Bay of Bengal.

  • It is the largest single block mangrove forest in the world.
  • The Sundarbans mangrove forest covers an area of about 10,000 sq. km, of which forests in Bangladeshextend over 6,017 sq. km and in India, they extend over 4,260 sq. km.
  • About half a million people of India and Bangladesh are dependent on the Sundarbans for their livelihood.
  • It is classified as a moist tropical forest dominated by “Sundri tree”.
    • It yields a hard wood, used for building houses and making boats, furniture and other things.

  • It acts as shelter belt to protect the people fromstorms, cyclones, tidal surges, sea water seepageand intrusion.
  • It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    • A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

  • It is the only mangrove reserve in the world inhabited by tigers.
  • There are five reserves in the Sundarbans:
    • The Royal Bengal Tiger Reserve
    • Sundarban National Park
    • Sajnekhali wildlife sanctuary
    • Lothian Island wildlife sanctuary
    • Holiday Island wildlife sanctuary

In Focus: Mangroves

What are Mangroves?

  • Mangroves are a group of trees and shrubs, also called halophytes, that live in the saline or brackish water of the coastal intertidal zone.
  • They are referred to as ‘tidal forests’ and belong to the category of ‘tropical wetland rainforest ecosystem’.
  • Mangrove forests occupy around 2,00,000 sq. km across the world in tropical regions of 30 countries. India has a total mangrove cover of 4,482 sq. km.

  • Mangrove forests only grow at tropical and subtropical latitudes near the equator because they cannot withstand temperatures below 5o
  • It is an interface between terrestrial forests and aquatic marine ecosystems.
  • There are about 80 different species of mangrove trees. All of these trees grow in areas with low-oxygen soil, where slow-moving waters allow fine sediments to accumulate.

What is the significance of mangroves?

  • The structural complexities of mangrove vegetation create unique environments which provide ecological niches for a wide variety of organisms.
  • Mangroves serve as breeding, feeding and nursery grounds for most of the commercial fishes and crustaceans on which thousands of people depend for their livelihood.

  • Mangroves act as shock absorbers. They reduce high tides and waves and help prevent soil erosion.
  • Mangroves give protection to the coastline and minimise disasters due to cyclones and tsunami.
  • Mangrove forests are able to store three to four times more carbon than the forests which are found on land.
    • They form ecosystems which scientists refer to as “blue carbon ecosystems” as opposed to “green carbon ecosystems” which are found on the land.

  • Mangroves are an intermediate vegetation between land and sea that grow in oxygen deficient waterlogged soils which have Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S).
    • They perform important ecological functions like nutrient cycling, hydrological regime, coastal protection, fish-fauna production, etc.

About Elephants: Elephant reserves, Project elephant, MIKE Programme, Conservation efforts, Threats faced

About: Elephants

  • The Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) occurs in 16 states of the country and in regions of central and southern Western Ghats, North-east India, eastern India and northern India and in some parts of southern peninsular India.The Indian elephant is one of three extant recognised subspecies of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and native to mainland Asia.
  • The Government of India has declared Indian elephant as National Heritage Animal.
  • Its habitat includes- subtropical broadleaf forest, tropical broadleaf moist forest, dry forest and grasslands.

Numbers:

  • As per the 2017 census of elephants, their population in the country is estimated at about 30,000. The Southern Region accounted for more than 14,000 followed by North East with little over 10,000 elephants.
  • The elephant census is conducted every five years in India by the MoEF&CC.
  • India is home to 60% of the global Asian elephant population.

Threats faced by Elephants in India:

  • Deaths of elephants in India have become commonplace. Primary reasons for this are-
  • Shrinkage of their forest ranges and habitat fragmentation- Shrinking forests means lesser availability of food for them. This incentivises the movement of elephants out of forested lands to crop lands. Thus, they indulge in crop raiding, which brings them into conflict with people. Human-elephant conflict is also a major challenge in elephant conservation.
  • Hunting and poaching- It is done for their body parts like ivory and also for captivity.
  • Climate Change- Other pressures are also arising indirectly due to climate change and altering habitats.

Conservation Efforts for Elephants in India:

  • The Asian Elephant is listed in Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act of India, 1972.
  • Asian Elephant (of which Indian Elephant is a subspecies) is also included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). Asian Elephant was included in Schedule I of CITES based on India’s proposal. This will ensure improved conservation of elephants along its migratory routes.
  • Note: The IUCN status of Indian Elephant is ‘Endangered’ .
  • Project Elephant:
    • Project Elephant (PE) is a Central Government sponsored scheme launched by the MoEF&CC in 1992.
    • Through the scheme, the Central Government provides financial and technical support to major elephant bearing States in the country for protection of elephants, their habitats and corridors.
    • Its objectives are:
      • To protect elephants, their habitat & corridors
      • To address issues of man-animal conflict;Welfare of captive elephants
    • It is mainly being implemented in 16 States/UTs in the country which includes Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.
  • Elephant Reserves:
    • Elephant Reserves are dedicated wildlife areas for elephant conservation in the country.
    • India’s first elephant reserve was created in Jharkhand in 2001 under Project Elephant.
    • Today, there are 32 notified Elephant Reserves in India.
    • However, while Tiger Reserves have legal sanctity, there is not such thing for Elephant Reserveds.
  • Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Programme:
    • It was launched by the CITES in 2003 in South Asia.
    • It is an international collaboration that measures the levels, trends and causes of elephant mortality, thereby facilitating in conservation of elephants in Asia and Africa.
    • Objectives of MIKE Programme:
      • To measure levels and trends in illegal hunting of elephants.
      • To determine changes in these trends overtime.
      • To determine the factors causing these changes and find solutions for elephant conservation.
    • In India, Project Elephant has been formally implementing MIKE.
  • ‘Gaj Yatra’ is a nationwide awareness campaign launched by MoEF&CC to celebrate elephants and highlight the necessity of securing elephant corridors.

Q. Forest Fires pose a threat not only to the forest wealth but also to the entire regime. In view of this statement discuss the various adverse impacts of Forest Fires.

Model Answer

Fires are a major cause of forest degradation and have wide ranging adverse ecological, economic and social impacts including:

Effects of forest fire:

  • Loss of valuable timber resources: Forest fires cause indispensable loss to timber and deteriorate its quality. Valuable timber species like teak, sal, chir, deodar, sheesam, rosewood etc. are adversely affected by fire. However, the adhesive impact of forest fire varies from species to species, depending upon its susceptibility.
  • Impact of forest fire on eco- system: Forest fires pose threat not only to the forest wealth but also to the entire regime to fauna and flora seriously disturbing the bio-diversity and the ecology and environment of a region.
  • Degradation of water catchments areas resulting into loss of water: After forest fire, the chemical and physical changes in upper layer of soil make it impervious and thus reduce water infiltration. The removal of litter also decreases water holding capacity of soil and most of the rainwater is washed away removing top fertile soil of the forest resulting into loss of soil fertility.
  • Loss of wildlife habitat and depletion of wildlife: Wildfire along with killing wild animals also destroys their habitat and thus makes their survival at stake.
  • Loss of natural vegetation and reduction of forest cover: As a result of fires, millions of hectares of the forest area turn to ashes and remains of no use. Among various degradation factors, forest fire is also one of the major factors for overall loss in forest cover. The wild fires also have adverse impact on forest tree growth.
  • Global Warming: Greenhouse gases released during the combustion of vegetations lead to an increased warming of the earth or human induced global climate change.
  • Microclimate change: The changed microclimate caused by removal of litter and duff, opening of the canopy by killing over storey shrubs and trees and darkening of the soil surface by residual soot and charcoal can increase insulation causing temperature increase. As a result the changed area becomes unhealthy for living of both wild habitats and local people.
  • Health problems leading to diseases: The fires in the forest are source of smoke that cause air pollution and rise in the temperature leading to various health issues.
  • Loss of livelihood: Forest fire also adversely affect livelihood resources, especially for tribals, who are directly dependent upon collection of non-timber forest products from forest areas for their livelihood.
  • Carbon sequestration potential: Trees act as carbon sinks when they absorb carbon dioxide from atmosphere and build up the same in the form of wood. However, burning of the vegetation release hundreds of years of stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and thus results into permanent destruction of important sink of carbon dioxide
  • Threat to Life and Property: Human life is at risk when fire crews fight fires either at the fire front or from conflict with animals, especially elephants. A forest fire that spreads outside the forest can consume buildings or infrastructure.
  • Reducing Tourism Values: Smoke due to fires affects the visibility and air quality which adversely affect tourism industry.

Taking into consideration the serious nature of the problem, there is urgent need to focus on key forest fire management elements like strategic fire centres, coordination among Ministries, funding, human resource development, fire research, fire management, and extension programmes.  

Q. What are the different types of ecological succession? In this light also discuss the significance of ecological succession?

Structure of the answer:

  • Introduction
  • Types of ecological succession
  • Significance of ecological succession
  • Way forward

Model Answer

Ecological succession is the steady and gradual change in a species of a given area with respect to the changing environment. The ultimate aim of this process is to reach equilibrium in the ecosystem. The community that achieves this aim is called a climax community. Further, in an area, the sequence of communities that undergo changes is called sere.

In this background there are following types of Ecological Succession:

  • Primary Succession: It is the succession that starts in lifeless areas such as the regions devoid of soil.
  • Secondary succession: It occurs when the primary ecosystem gets destroyed. For Ex- a climax community gets destroyed by fire. It gets recolonized after the destruction (secondary ecological succession).
  • Cyclic Succession: This is only the change in the structure of an ecosystem on a cyclic basis.
  • Autotrophic Succession: It is characterised by early and continued dominance of autotrophic organisms like green plants.
  • Allogenic Succession: In this the replacement of the existing community is caused largely by external condition and not by the existing organisms.
  • Autogenic Succession: In this the community itself, as a result of its reactions with the environment, modifies its own environment and thus causing its own replacement by new communities.

Ecological succession is a very important form of grown and development of an ecosystem as a whole. Some of the points signifying the same are as follows:

  • The sole purpose of ecological succession is for an ecosystem to reach a state of balance.
  • It is the process by which communities of an ecosystem changes in a defined and its directional way over time.
  • Through this process, a relatively unliveable land is slowly converted into a thriving and vibrant ecosystem.
  • It allows new areas to be colonized and damaged ecosystems to be recolonized, so organisms can adapt to the changes in the environment and continue to survive.

Thus, the ecological succession is important for the survival of the existing species as well as emergence of new species.

Q. India is currently facing the issue of rising tsunami of e-waste. In this light discuss the challenges being posed by increasing e-waste and also suggest the suitable measures to tackle these challenges.

Structure of the answer:

  • Introduction
  • Rise of e-waste and issues relating to it
  • Challenges posed by it
  • Measures to handle such an issue
  • Final analysis

Model Answer

Electronic waste/ e-waste is a term used for electronic products that have become unwanted, obsolete and have reached the end of their useful life. India generates near about 2 million metric tonne of e-waste annually and it would reach 5.2 mmt per annum by 2020. The main sources of e-waste in India are the government, public and private sectors, which account for almost 70% of total e-waste generation.

The rising e-waste pose multitude challenges in various forms such as:

  • E-waste also impact human health as dismantling and shredding of it releases dust, toxins, dioxins
  • There is huge gap between present recycling and collection facilities. According to ASSOCHAM study only 5% of the e-waste is formally recycled.
  • Cross-border flow of waste equipment into India is another major issue. For ex- uncontrolled asbestos imports from Canada, used batteries from European nations
  • Further, as per ASSOCHAM report (2014), about 5 lakh child labourers are engaged in e-waste activities and that too without adequate protection and safeguards.
  • Unscientific method of recycling and lack of proper safety gear in handling e-waste leads to occupational health hazards.
  • Finally, e-waste rules are blatantly violated and the informal sector remains unregulated.

To resolve the above issues, there is a need to adopt multiprong approach in following form:

  • There is a need to strengthen the domestic legal framework to address the issue of unregulated imports of e-waste.
  • Further, steps must be taken to formalize the informal sector by using strategy of incentivization.
  • Governments must also encourage research for development of better environmentally sustainable e-waste recycling techniques.
  • There is also a need of an effective take-back program for e-waste handling and collection.

Thus, in light of the above there is a need for creating a mass awareness programme to encourage consumers to reuse/ recycle electronic products. For ex- ‘Take-back’ and ‘Planet ke Rakwale’ campaign by Nokia.  

Fight against pollution: India set to achieve Paris targets Editorial 24th Dec’20 FinancialExpress

India and Paris Agreement:

  • The Paris agreement that India signed in 2015, was India’s inflexion point (moment of dramatic change) in its fight against pollution.
  • Specifically, under the Paris agreement, India committed to meet three targets by 2030:
    • Cut greenhouse gas emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% (vs 2005 levels)
    • Increase non-fossil fuel-based power capacity to 40%
    • Create an additional ‘carbon sink’ of 2.5-3 billion tonnes CO2 (higher than its emissions currently), by an increase in forest/tree cover

India is taking big leaps and not taking small incremental steps:

  • The important thing to note in India’s fight against pollution today is that we now plan to take a leap instead of eyeing incremental improvements.
  • This is already visible in many ways:
    • LPG penetration is at 97.5% vs 56% in 2015 to replace highly polluting alternative cooking fuels
    • City gas penetration is set to reach 70% of the population from less than 10% currently
    • Auto norms upgrade straight from BSIV to BSVI, skipping BSV
    • Aim to achieve 100% electrified rail network within three years to cut diesel use
    • Plans to step-up rail freight capacity by five times to curtail freight movement by roads
    • Plans to implement world’s largest renewable capacity addition programme
      • India’s renewable capacity doubled in past five years; with solar capacity shooting up nine times (albeit from a low solar capacity earlier)
    • Norms to curtail emissions from existing coal power plants
    • Raising taxes for diesel cars and cess on coal over time

India is on target to achieve Paris targets:

  • Based on current progress, India is expected to achieve its Paris targets much before 2030.
  • Already, emissions are down 21% vs 2005 levels (target of 33-35%), non-fossil capacity at 33% (target 40%).

India will perform beyond its targets:

  • There is easily scope for India to increase targets over time, aligning itself with other large global economies’ plans to go carbon neutral by 2050/2060.

India is outperforming most of the world on some indices:

  • In fact, in certain cases, India’s pace of execution or the stringency of pollution norms is now better than the world.
  • For instance, India leapt from BSIV to BSVI auto emission norms, within just three years compared to 5-10 years taken by Europe, China, Hong Kong and Singapore.
  • Similarly, India is already at par with global norms for emissions from power gensets and energy efficiency for ACs.
  • Going ahead, India is planning to implement the most stringent norms globally.

India’s efforts are also leading to savings in many ways:

  • Energy and emissions: 
    • Towards its green journey, with appropriate capital expenditure (capex), India could save over 106GW of energy and cut 1.1 billion tonnes of annual CO2 emissions by 2030 or over 45% of current its emissions.
  • Economic savings:
    • Most capex towards pollution curtailment also makes economic sense.
      • For instance, waste heat recovery based power projects being implemented by cement companies could achieve payback in less than three years, because they generate power at one-tenth the cost of captive coal-based projects.
    • Similarly, as logitics shift from road to rail as Railways’ rail freight capacity increases, logistics costs can reduce by 37% through freight cargo.
  • Also, it is leading to cost efficiencies in greener technologies, with
    • Cost of renewable power now cheaper than fossil fuel-based power
    • Operating cost for electrified rail cheaper than diesel
      Power cost for solar-powered agriculture pumps cheaper than diesel-powered pumps, etc.

Way ahead:

  • Over the next decade, India would continue to cut its diesel consumption, step-up natural gas and renewable power in the energy mix, upgrade emission and energy efficiency norms across sectors, and clean its water bodies.
  • Importantly, private sector participation is also growing, with 19 large corporates already announcing plans to go carbon neutral by 2030-50.

Conclusion:

  • The strong government resolve, rising global focus on climate change issues, investors’ importance to corporates’ environment scores etc. – all of these imply that fighting pollution would be a multi-decade theme.
  • India is well aligned, with the rest of the globe on this important issue and is also making great progress.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Environment Editorial Analysis

In Focus: Wetlands, Wetlands in India, Why are wetlands important?, Ramsar Convention, Ramsar Sites in India, Tso Kar

India adds Tso Kar wetland complex to Ramsar Site

In News:

  • India has added Tso Kar Wetland Complex in Ladakh as its 42nd Ramsar site, the second one in the Union Territory (UT) of Ladakh.

In Focus: Wetlands

What are Wetlands?

  • The wetlands are actually land areas covered by water, either temporarily/seasonally or permanently.
  • The wetlands play a key role in hydrological cycle and flood control, water supply andproviding food, fibre and raw materials.
  • It includes:swamps, marshesbillabongs, lakes, lagoonssaltmarshes, mudflatsmangroves, coral reefsbogs, fens, and peatlands.

Wetlands in India:

  • As per the National Wetlands Atlas given by ISRO, India has 15.26 million ha area underwetlands, roughly equal to 4.6% of its land area.
  • Of this, inland wetlands constitute 69.22% (10.56 million ha). Nearly 12% of the inlandwetland area is in the form of lakes and ponds (including those less than 2.25 ha).
  • Examples of India’s prominent wetlands are Chilika lake (Odisha), Wular lake (J&K), Sambhar lake (Rajasthan), Deepor Beel (Assam) and East Kolkata wetlands (West Bengal).

Why are wetlands important?

  • Wetlands are a critical part of our natural environment and are vital link between land and water.
  • Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources and ecosystem services such as food, water, fibre, groundwater recharge, water purification, flood moderation, erosion control and climate regulation.
  • They are a major source of water and India’s main supply of freshwater comes from an array of wetlands which help soak rainfall and recharge groundwater.
  • They prevent land degradation and desertification.
  • They protect shores from wave action, reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality.
  • They provide habitat for animals and plants hosting a huge diversity of life, including that of migratory birds.
  • Wetlands also provide important benefits for industry. For example, they form nurseries for fish and other freshwater and marine life and are critical to commercial and recreational fishing industries.

About: Ramsar Convention

  • Ramsar Convention(signed in 1971) is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
  • It is one of the oldest inter-governmental accord signed by members countries to preserve the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance.
  • 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.
    • Wetlands declared as Ramsar sites are protected under strict guidelines of the convention.
  • Criteria: Wetlands can be designated to the Ramsar List under any (one or more) of the nine criteria that ranges from uniqueness of the site to those based on species and ecological communities supported.
  • Globally, there are over 2,300 Ramsar sites around the world, covering over 2.1 million sq km.

About: Ramsar Sites in India

As of 2019, there were 27 Ramsar sites in India:

10 sites were included in the list in January 2020:

  • Nandur Madhameshwar bird sanctuary (Maharashtra- first site from the state)
  • Beas conservation reserve, Keshopur-Miani community reserve and Nangal wildlife sanctuary (Punjab)
  • Nawabganj bird sanctuary, Parvati Arga bird sanctuary, Saman bird sanctuary, Sarsai Nawar lake, Samaspur bird sanctuary and Sandi bird sanctuary (Uttar Pradesh)

4 more sites were included in October-November 2020 to take Ramsar sites to 41:

  • Kabartal (Bihar)
  • Asan Conservation Reserve (Uttrakhand)
  • Sur Sarovar, also known as Keetham lake (Uttar Pradesh)
  • Lonar Lake (Maharashtra)

News Summary:

  • In a significant development to conservation of biodiversity, India has added Tso Kar Wetland Complex in Ladakh as its 42nd Ramsar site or ‘Wetland of International Importance’.
  • This is the second one in the Union Territory (UT) of Ladakh, after Tsomoriri (Lake Moriri).
  • At 42, India has the highest number of Ramsar sites in South Asia.

About: Tso Kar

  • Tso Kar is at more than 4,500 metres above sea level in the Changthang region of Ladakh.
  • Tso Kar Wetland Complex includes two connected lakes, the freshwater lake “Startsapuk Tso” and the larger hypersaline lake “Tso Kar”.
  • The name Tso Kar (White Lake) refers to the white salt efflorescence on the margins of the lake caused by the evaporation of the saline waters.

  • The local climate is arid, and glacial meltwater is the primary water source for the lakes.
  • Biodiversity:
    • The lakes and in particular the presence of fresh water attract biodiversity in a biologically sparse region.
    • The site is habitat of numerous threatened species including:
      • the endangered saker falcon (Falco cherrug)
      • Asiatic wild dog or dhole (Cuon alpinus laniger)
      • the vulnerable snow leopard (Panthera uncia).
    • The Site also acts as an important stopover ground for migratory birds along the Central Asian Flyway and is one of the most important breeding areas in India for the black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis).

 Environment & Ecology

Is seawater the ultimate answer?

Headline : Is seawater the ultimate answer?

Details :

Context of the topic:

  • As per National Health Profile (NHP), India’s public health spend as a percentage of GDP has increased by 0.16 percentage points from 1.12% to 1.28% of GDP, between 2009-10 and 2018-19.
    • India’s target is 5% GDP on health spend.
    • The NHP is an annual stocktaking exercise on the health of the health sector.

In News

The key findings of NHP 2019 are as below:

  • Increase in cost of treatmentleading to inequity in access to health care services.
  • Increase in per capita public expenditure on health in nominal terms from Rs 621 in 2009-10 to Rs 1,657 in 2017-18.
  • There has been an improvement in sex ratio and a decline in birth and death rates

Health expenditure as percentage of GDP

  • Spending by states showed deviation with the highest average per capita public expenditure on health by Northeastern states and the lowest by Empowered Action Group (EAG) states plus Assam.
    • EAG states are the eight socio-economically backward states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
    • Among the NE states, highest GSDP spend was by Mizoram (4.20%) and Arunachal Pradesh (3.29%).
    • Tamil Nadu and Kerala though having better performers on health parameters, performed poorly on the health finance index with low GSDP spend (Tamil Nadu – 0.74% and Kerala – 0.93%).
  • Globally, India’s per capita health expenditure was only $16 in 2016. A comparison has provided against other countries that are on the UHC path.

 

Other Findings of NHP 2019

  • As per NHP 2019, there has been a change in disease profile of the country with a shift from communicable onestowards the non-communicable diseases (NCDs)such as cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, mental health disorder and injuries.
    • This was also documented by the State Level Disease Burden Study 2017. It highlighted an increase in disease burden from NCDs from 30 to 55% between 1990 and 2016.
    • Several initiatives have been taken in this regard. These include:
      • National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) launched in 100 districts across 21 states with the aim to prevent and control thesediseases thorough awareness generation, behavior and lifestyle changes.
      • Free door-to-door screening programme for early detection of cancer, heart disorders and diabetes.
    • As per the NHP, sex ratio in the country has improved from 933 in 2001 to 943 in 2011.
      • The sex ratio in rural areas has increased from 946 to 949, and in urban areas from 900 to 929.
      • Kerala has recorded the highest sex ratio (1,084), and Chandigarh has recorded the lowest sex ratio (690).
    • Also, the estimated birth ratedeath rate and natural growth rate are declining. During 2000 to 2016, the figures were as below:
      • The estimated birth rate reduced from 25.8 to 20.4.
      • The death rate declined from 8.5 to 6.4 per 1,000 population.
      • The natural growth rate declined from 17.3 to 14.
    • The total fertility rate in 12 States has fallen below 2 children per woman and nine States have reached replacement levels of 2.1 and above.
      • Delhi, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have the lowest fertility rate among other States.
    • There has been growth in medical education infrastructure.
      • The country has 529 medical colleges, 313 Dental Colleges for BDS & 253 Dental Colleges for MDS.

About: National Health Profile (NHP)

  • The NHP covers demographic, socio-economic, health status and health finance indicators, human resources in the health sector and health infrastructure.
  • It is an important source of information on various communicable and non-communicable diseases that are not covered under any other major programmes.
    • This information is essential for health system policy development, governance, health research, human resource development, health education and training.

Universal Health Coverage

  • In 2011, the High Level Expert Group of the erstwhile Planning Commission submitted its report on the rollout of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in India.
  • It recommended that the government (central government and states combined) should increase public expenditures on health from the current level of 1.2% of GDP to at least 2.5% by the end of the 12th plan and to at least 3% of GDP by 2022.
  • The benefit of increasing health expenditure would result in:
    • A five-fold increase in real per capita health expenditures by the government (from around Rs 650-700 in 2011-12 to Rs 3,400-3,500 by 2021- 22).
    • A corresponding decline in real private out-of-pocket expenditures(from around Rs 1,800-1,850 in 2011-12 to Rs 1,700-1,750 by 2021-22).
  • According to the WHO, Universal Health Coveragemeans “all people and communities can use the promotivepreventivecurativerehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.
  • The three objectives of UHC are:
    • Equity in access to health services;
    • Quality of health services should be good enough to improve the health of those receiving them;
    • People should be protected against financial-risk, ensuring that the cost of using services does not put people at risk of financial harm.

About: Central Bureau of Health Intelligence

  • Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI) was established in 1961 by the Act of Parliament on the recommendation of Mudaliar committee.
  • It is the Health Intelligence Wing under Directorate General of Health Services (Dte.GHS), Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW).
  • Vision–To havea strong Health Management Information System (HMIS) in entire country.
  • Mission –To strengthen Health Information System (HIS) in each of the district in the country up to the facility level for evidence based decision-making in the Health Sector.

Important Terms

  • Sex Ratio – The number of females per 1,000 males
  • Total fertility rate – The average number of children that will be born to a woman during her lifetime
  • Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) measures how much of a normal life span of an individual is taken away by a disease related morbidity of mortality.
    • It is an international standard of disease burden.
Section : Social Issues

About Asiatic Lion, Asiatic Lion Conservation Project

Headline : Vet institute, ambulances mooted in lion conservation plan

Details :

The News

  • In a bid to step up conservation and protection efforts of critically endangered ‘Asiatic Lions, the Centre and the Gujarat government have announced a 3-year dedicated ‘Asiatic Lion Conservation Project’.

Background

About Asiatic Lions

  • Asiatic Lions are critically endangered species, listed in the Schedule 1 of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, Appendix I of CITES and endangered on IUCN Red List.
  • Asiatic lions were once distributed in dry deciduous forests and scrublands from West Bengal in east to Rewa, MP in the west.
  • Currently, the last surviving population of the Asiatic lions is confined to Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, which is the only habitat of the Asiatic lion.
  • According to 2015 census, there are currently 523 Asiatic lion in India compared to about 50 in 1980s.

Need for the conservation project

  • In the recent years, there is a rise in number of deaths of Asian Lions due to various unnatural causes.
  • According to estimates, the numbers of deaths of Asiatic Lions are 104 and 80 in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
  • The main reason for death of Asiatic lions:
    • Construction of open wells in their habitat
    • Electrocution
    • A viral disease known as Canine Distemper Disease. (a majority of deaths in 2018 are reported to be due to CDD)
  • Further, Asiatic Lions are long-neglected with low allocation in conservation plans; Rs. 95000/ lion as compared to 15 Lakh/ individual in case of tigers.

About Asiatic Lion Conservation Project

  • Asiatic Lion Conservation Project will be a 3-year centrally sponsored scheme funded from CSS-Development of Wildlife Habitat (CSS-DWH) with centre-state contribution ratio of 60:40.
  • It focuses both on protection and conservation of the lion species.
  • It is mainly based on ‘species conservation over a large landscape” approach. Accordingly, Zone Plans and Theme Plans are developed.
  • Zone Plans include expansion of habitat and developing a Greater Gir region including Girnar, Pania and Mitiyala.
    • The Greater Gir region is then divided into Core Zone, the Sanctuary Zone, the buffer Zone for different levels of conservation.
  • Theme Plans include habitat improvement, protection, wildlife health service, addressing to man-wild animal conflict issues, research and monitoring, awareness generation, and ecotourism.

Main features of the project

  • Habitat improvement,
  • Bringing together multi-sectoral agencies for disease control.
  • Stepping up veterinary care by construction of veterinary hospitals
  • back-up stocks of vaccines that may be required
  • Increasing the number of lion ambulances.
  • ICT-driven monitoring and surveillance systems including
    • GPS Based Tracking
    • Automated Sensor Grid with magnetic sensors, movement sensors, infra-red heat sensors
    • Night vision capability enhancement
    • GIS based real time monitoring and reporting
  • A wildlife crime cell to step up protection
  • Creating a task force for the Greater Gir region
  • Establishment of additional water points

Section : Environment & Ecology

What impact will the thundershowers, hailstorm have on rabi crop?

Headline : What impact will the thundershowers, hailstorm have on rabi crop?

Details :

The topic

  • Recently, there was heavy rainfall and hailstorms in the many areas of northern India.
  • This articles assesses the impact of heavy rainfall and hailstorms on rabi crops.

Background

  • In early February, the National Capital Region, Punjab, Haryana, parts of Uttar Pradesh and northern Madhya Pradesh witnessed heavy rainfall and hailstorms.
  • According to the Meteorological department, the source of the thundershowers was a fresh Western Disturbance. Further fresh Western Disturbance are also expected.
  • This will affect the Rabi crops in these regions.

About Rabi crops

  • ”Rabi” is an Arabic word for “spring”.
  • Harvesting of the winter crops happens in the springtime, thus these crops are called as Rabi crops.
  • The Rabi season usually starts in November and lasts up to March or April.
  • Rabi crops are mainly cultivated using irrigation as monsoon rains are already over by November.
  • Moreover, the unseasonal showers in winter seasons can ruin the crops.
  • Wheat, barley, mustard and green peas are some of the major Rabi crops of India and different crops require different climatic conditions. For example:
    • Wheat
      • It requires cool temperatures during its growing season in the range of about 14°c to 18°c.
      • Rainfall of about 50 cms to 90 cms is most ideal.
      • However, during harvesting season in the spring, wheat requires bright sunshine and slightly warmer temperatures.
    • Mustard
      • It requires a subtropical climate to grow which is a dry and cool climate.
      • The temperature range to grow mustard is between 10°c to 25°c.
    • Therefore, the heavy rainfall and hailstorms differently impact various Rabi crops based on various stages of crop production.

Assessment of impact of rainfall and hailstorms on different Rabi crops this season

Negative impact

  • Heavy rains during this period have negative impact on the mustard, chana (chickpea) and potato crops that are about to mature or in early-harvesting stage.
  • Mustards
    • This crop that is usually planted during the first half of October, and in early February would be in the pod-filling stage (the beginning of the last stage ripening), where the flowers and seeds have already taken shape and size.
    • The kernels would have been accumulating starch, fat and protein matter.
    • Hence, rains during this time can impact the yields negatively.
    • Moreover, if the rain continues, the environment will become helpful for fungal diseases such as sclerotinia stem rot and alternaria blight.
    • Such diseases could result in the premature ripening of the crop or the pods producing dry, shrinking or discoloured seeds.
    • The rains are more likely to damage early-sown crops, sown in the last week of September, which would have been ready for harvesting.
  • Other crops:
    • Many other Rabi crops are harvested during February-March like Chana, Masur (lentil), Potato, Jeera (cumin-seed) and Dhania (coriander).
    • These might already be in its final stages of grain-filling or ripening stages.
    • The risk of rainfall and hailstorm is more for such crops.
  • In the worst scenario, experts are predicting the repeat of conditions as was in March 2015, when the winter rainfall and hailstorm affected the total area of 182 lakh hectares in North, West and central India.

Positive impact

  • The positive impact of winter rainfall can be predicted for Wheat, as this crop is sown by mid-November and currently would be in the late-tillering stage, when it produces multiple side stems.
  • Only the wheat crops sown early in the end of October may get negatively affected.
  • In fact, rains will have following benefits for the timely or late-sown wheat crops-
  • It will provide additional round of irrigation to the crops.
  • It will reduce the temperatures and prolong the winter, which is good for yields.

Section : Economics

Char Dham highway project

Headline : Supreme Court clears 900km Char Dham highway project

Details :

In News

  • The Supreme Court has cleared the Chardham highway project, by modifying an NGT order.
  • It has also ordered to constitute a fresh committee to look into environmental concerns related to the project.
  • It ordered the Ministry of Environment and Forests to form the high-powered committee (HPC).

Background

  • After the project got approval, petitions were filed at the National Green Tribunal (NGT), seeking a stay on the Char Dham project. They said the project violated the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2006.
  • In September, 2018, the NGT gave its conditional approval to the project in view of larger public interest.
  • Some non-profit group had filed a petition against the NGT order in the Supreme Court saying the project would cause an irreversible damage to regional ecology.

News Summary

Supreme Court’s decision

  • Supreme Court has only modified the September NGT order by constituting a fresh high-powered committee (HPC).
  • In addition to this, the court added representatives from Physical Research Laboratory under the government’s Department of Space, Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India, MoEF (from Dehradun regional office) and Defence Ministry to the HPC.
  • The top court asked the committee to submit its recommendations within four months.
  • The HPC shall hold quarterly meetings thereafter to ensure compliance and may suggest any further measures after each review meeting.

Committee’s mandate

  • The committee shall consider the cumulative and independent impact of the Chardham project on the entire Himalayan valleys.
  • It will give directions to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH).
  • The committee will consider whether revision of the full Chardham project should take place with a view to minimize the adverse impact on the environment and social life.
  • It will identify the sites where quarrying has started and recommend measures required to stabilise the area and for safe disposal of muck.
  • It will also assess the environmental degradation – loss of forest lands, trees, green cover, water resources etc. – on the wildlife and will direct mitigation measures.
  • The HPC will also suggest the areas in which afforestation should be taken and the kind of saplings to be planted.

About: Char Dham Highway Project

  • The Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna, or the Chardham highway project, is an initiative to improve connectivity to the Char Dham pilgrimage centres (Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath) in the Himalayas.
  • The Prime Minister had launched the construction of the Char Dham Mahamarg in December, 2016, as a tribute to those who died in the 2013 Kedarnath disaster. 
  • The project will develop around 900 km of national highways in Uttarakhand at an approximate cost of Rs 12,000 crore.
  • It involves widening the existing, geometrically deficient highway that connects the four abodes.
  • Apart from widening, it plans to improve the stretches to two-lane carriageway with paved shoulders, protect landslide hazard zones, construct bypasses, long bridges, tunnels and elevated corridors to ensure safety for the users.

Advantages

  • The project will make travel to Char Dham safer and more convenient. Connectivity & tourism will get a strong boost through the project.
  • Proper slope stabilisation will ensure protection against landslides.
  • The project is also important from a strategic point of view as it is close to the China border.
  • In the eventuality of any aggression, improved roads will facilitate movement of heavy weapons, equipments and artillery guns.

Concerns

  • It is an extremely fragile region. The area forms the Main Central Thrust of the Lesser Himalayan region. This is where the Indian tectonic plate goes under the Eurasian Tectonic Plate.
  • The phenomenon makes the region susceptible to earthquakes and landslides.
  • The Geological Survey of India corroborates this in its report prepared after the Kedarnath disaster.
  • It states that road construction in mountains reactivates landslides as it disturbs the toe of the natural slope of the hill.

About: Char Dham

  • Char Dham refers to the 4 pilgrimage centres – Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath – in the Himalayas, in the state of Uttarakhand.

Badrinath

  • Badrinath or Badrinarayan Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, and situated in the town of Badrinath in Uttarakhand.
  • The temple is located in Garhwal hill tracks in Chamoli district along the banks of Alaknanda River.
  • The temple and town form one of the four Char Dham sites.
  • The temple is also one of the 108 Divya Desams, the holy shrines for Vaishnavites, dedicated to Vishnu (who is worshipped as Badrinath).
  • It is open for six months every year (between the end of April and the beginning of November), because of extreme weather conditions in the Himalayan region.

Kedarnath

  • Kedarnath Temple is a Hindu temple (shrine) dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva.
  • It is located in the Garhwal Himalayan range near the Mandakini river, in Uttarakhand.
  • Kedarnath is seen as a homogenous form of Lord Shiva, the ‘Lord of Kedar Khand’, the historical name of the region.
  • Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open to the general public only between the months of April (Akshaya Tritriya) and November (Kartik Purnima, the autumn full moon).

Gangotri

  • Gangotri is a town and a Nagar Panchayat (municipality) in Uttarkashi district in the state of Uttarakhand.
  • It is a Hindu pilgrim town on the banks of the river Bhagirathi and origin of River Ganges. It is on the Greater Himalayan Range, at a height of 3,100 metres.
  • According to popular Hindu legend, it was here that Goddess Ganga descended when Lord Shiva released the mighty river from the locks of his hair.
  • The river is called Bhagirathi at the source and acquires the name Ganga (the Ganges) from Devprayag onwards where it meets the Alaknanda.
  • The origin of the holy river is at Gaumukh, set in the Gangotri Glacier, and is 19 kms from Gangotri. The temple is closed from Diwali every year and is reopened in May.

Yamunotri

  • Yamunotri Temple is situated in the western region of Garhwal Himalayas at an altitude of 3,291 metres in Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand.
  • River Yamuna originates at Yamunotri.
  • The temple is dedicated to Goddess Yamuna and has a black marble idol of the goddess.

Section : Environment & Ecology

What is the economics behind e-vehicle batteries?

Headline : What is the economics behind e-vehicle batteries?

Details :

In News

  • In May 2019 NITI Aayog had proposed to ban the sale of all internal combustion engine (ICE) powered 3-wheelers from 2023 and 2-wheelers below 150cc from March 2025, and called for them to be converted to electric vehicles (eVs).
  • To boost eVs, the Union Budget presented in July had also announced tax incentives for early adopters of eVs.
  • However, the automobile industry had objected to the some of the eV related proposals, especially the ban on ICE vehicles to push eVs, saying eVs are still not financially viable.

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Understanding the viability of Electric vehicles

Fuel in EVs:

  • In conventional Internal Combustion Engines, petrol or diesel is used as a fuel in the engine.
  • However, in EVs, batteries are not the fuel, instead electrons supplied by the battery fuel the vehicle.
  • The battery is a device that stores electrons/energy which is sourced from electricity.

Cost Structure of EVs:

  • Low cost of the drivetrain:
    • The cost of the drivetrain of EVs (the system in a motor vehicle which connects the transmission to the drive axles) in comparison to the cost of the entire vehicle is four percent lower when compared to ICE vehicles.
    • This low cost of the drivetrain is primarily due to less parts in the electric drivetrain.
  • High cost of batteries:
    • However, the battery pack takes up nearly half the cost of an electric vehicle. For any meaningful reduction in the cost of EVs, the cost of battery packs needs to reduce significantly.

Batteries prices falling:

  • The price of Li-ion battery packs has been falling consistently over the past few years.
  • This decrease is in part due to technological improvements, economies of scale and increased demand for lithium-ion batteries.
  • Strong competition between major manufacturers has also been instrumental in bringing down prices.
  • Given that raw materials account for 60% of the cost of the battery pack, the room for further cost reduction is limited.

Indian scenario

Two wheelers to lead the way:

  • According to NITI Aayog, 79% of vehicles on Indian roads are two-wheelers. Further, three-wheelers and cars that cost less than Rs 10 lakh account for 4% and 12% of the vehicle population, respectively.
  • In India, EV adoption will be driven by two-wheelers rather than cars because India’s mobility market is driven more by two wheelers.
  • Two-wheelers will also need smaller batteries when compared to cars and hence the overall affordable cost.

Battery manufacturing units expected to grow:

  • At present, cells are imported and assembled into batteries, as setting up a battery manufacturing unit requires high capital expenditure,
  • However, battery manufacturing in India is expected to grow as electric vehicles grow.

Environment friendliness of EVs also needs work

  • Presently, most of India’s electricity is generated using conventional sources.
  • In 2018-19, over 90% of India’s electricity was generated from conventional sources, including coal, and around 10% was produced from renewable sources such as solar, wind and biomass.
  • This means that even the Li-ion batteries are predominantly using the conventional polluting sources to power the technology.
  • While the rate of electricity generated from renewable sources has increased over the years, more needs to be done for their adoption.
  • This is because the EV-charging infrastructure needs to be powered through renewable sources to make it truly sustainable.

Section : Environment & Ecology

About: Climate Risk Index (CRI)

About: Climate Risk Index (CRI)

  • The global CRI, analyses impacts of extreme weather events – both in terms of the fatalities (deaths) as well as the economic losses.
  • However, the index does not consider slow-onset events like rising sea levels, glacier melting or ocean warming and acidification.
  • The index is based on data from the Munich Re NatCatSERVICE11, which is considered worldwide as one of the most reliable and complete databases on this issue.
  • In addition to this, the index uses the socio-economic data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • The most recent data available for 2019 and data from 2000 to 2019 was taken into account for CRI 2021.

Global Climate Risk Index 2021

Global findings:

  • As per the index, the top six most vulnerable countries in 2019 were Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Bahamas, Japan, Malawi and Afghanistan.
  • Vulnerable people in developing countries suffered the most from extreme weather events like storms, floods and heat waves.
  • The index highlighted that both the number of severe tropical cyclones and their severity will increase with every one-tenth (1/10th) of a degree increase in global average temperature.
  • Eight of the ten countries most affected between 2000 and 2019 are developing countries with low or lower middle income per capita.
  • Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti were the top three most affected countries during the 20-year period.
  • Between 2000 and 2019, over 475,000 people lost their lives as a direct result of more than 11,000 extreme weather events globally and losses amounted to around US $2.56 trillion.
  • The index also highlighted, that international climate financing to address these issues has remained inadequate.

Findings from India

  • India topped the list in terms of having highest number of fatalities (2,267) and the biggest economic loss (68,812 million USD) in 2019.
  • However, India’s overall CRI ranking in 2019 was at number seven, due to low fatalities per one lakh of inhabitants and losses per unit of GDP. In the long-term CRI accounting for effects from 2000-2019, India ranked at number 20.
  • In 2019, monsoon in India continued for a month longer than usual, with the surplus rain causing major hardships.
  • The floods caused by the heavy rains were responsible for 1, 800 deaths across 14 states and led to the displacement of 1.8 million people.
  • Overall, 8 million people were affected by the intense monsoon season with the economic damage estimated to be US$ 10 billion.

Issues in India

  • India has many different ecologies — glaciers, high mountains, long coastlines as well as massive semi-arid regions which are the hotspots for climate change.
  • Global warming is leading to an increase in the frequency of cyclones, the melting of glaciers at much faster rates, and heatwaves. In 2019, there were eight tropical cyclones in India. Six of the eight cyclones intensified to become very severe.
  • Moreover, majority of the Indian population is dependent on agriculture, which is being severely affected by the impacts of climate change. However, efforts to deal climate change in India are still inadequate.
  • A national adaptation plan was prepared in 2008 followed by state action plans. However, most of the plans lack resources so that they can be integrated into the district development and disaster risk reduction plan.
  • Thus, the government must urgently develop state\ district specific climate-risk maps to to understand which areas need more focus.