Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

Environment Digest – 12 June- 18 June 2016

[1]Nurture waterbodies, keep floods at bay this monsoon

Issue

  • For effective steps, communities have a definite role in their localities to mitigate floods.

Role of the communities

  • There is a need for communities to understand the significance of waterbodies in their neighbourhoods and protect them.
  • Residents have to be aware of the lakes and ponds in their area, their inlets and outlets and how their surplus courses travel.
  • Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI), which is involved in protecting water resources, is now joining hands with residents in increasing water literacy and also helping people to conserve waterbodies.

Role played by EFI

  • The organisation recently launched ‘Green Gramam’ — a programme to reach out to people on water literacy and flood prevention through street plays and workshops for youngsters.
  • From following weather forecast and preparing emergency kits to keeping their stormwater drains and surplus courses free of garbage, it sensitise people to the significance of social responsibility, particularly towards safeguarding water resources.

Play your part

  • The organisation appeals that every individual in their own locality should contribute by restore waterbodies in their locality.
  • People need to voluntarily stop misusing water resources.
  • They can contribute by taking simple measures like clearing the garbage and debris that block floodwater entry into inlets and clearing vegetation around the waterbodies.
  • These simple measures would significantly reduce the impact of floods.

 

[2] Scientists turn atmospheric CO2 into rock

Revolutionary study

  • Scientists have turned carbon dioxide into rock in a matter of months by pumping it deep underground, offering a revolutionary new way of storing the greenhouse gas to tackle climate change.

Experiment

  • The pioneering experiment in Iceland mixed CO emissions with water and pumped it hundreds of metres underground into volcanic basalt rock — where it rapidly turned into a solid and it is permanently and rapidly locked away from the atmosphere

Key points

  • Measures to tackle the problem of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change are numerous.
  • One approach is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), where CO2 is physically removed from the atmosphere and trapped underground.
  • Geoengineers have long explored the possibility of sealing CO2 gas in voids underground, such as in abandoned oil and gas reservoirs, but these are susceptible to leakage.
  • So attention has now turned to the mineralisation of carbon to permanently dispose of CO2.
  • Until now it was thought that this process would take several hundreds to thousands of years and is therefore not a practical option.
  • But this study has demonstrated that it can take as little as two years.

How it was done?

  • The gas was injected into a deep well at the study site in Iceland.
  • As a volcanic island, Iceland is made up of 90 per cent basalt, a rock rich in calcium, magnesium and iron that are required for carbon mineralisation.
  • The CO2 is dissolved in water and carried down the well.
  • On contact with the target storage rocks, at 400-800 metres under the ground, the solution quickly reacts with the surrounding basaltic rock, forming carbonate minerals.
  • Carbonate minerals do not leak out of the ground, and it results in permanent and environmentally friendly storage of CO2 emissions.

Future potential

  • Basalt is one of the most common rock type on Earth, potentially providing one of the largest CO2 storage capacity.
  • Storing CO2 as carbonate minerals significantly enhances storage security which should improve public acceptance of Carbon Capture and Storage as a climate change mitigation technology.

[3] Climate change: Australian rodent may be first species to go extinct

Study

  • According to a study, Bramble Cay melomys, an Australian Great Barrier Reef rodent may be the first  mammal  lost to the global phenomenon of climate change.

Key points:-

  • The Melomys rubicola, considered the Great Barrier Reef’s only endemic (found nowhere else) mammal species, was first discovered on the cay in 1845 by Europeans .
  • Researchers said the key factor behind the extinction was “almost certainly” ocean inundation of the low-lying cay, likely on several occasions, over the last decade which resulted in dramatic habitat loss.
  • Available data on sea-level rise and weather events in the Torres Strait region point to human-induced climate change being the root cause of the loss of the Bramble Cay melomys.

[4] Marching onwards from Paris

Issue

Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA)

  • It is  the body now responsible for developing mechanisms and detailed steps for the implementation of the Paris deal.
  • These would include mitigation of global greenhouse gas emissions to meet the goal of staying well below 2°C; mechanisms that support adaptation on the ground; means for support through finance, technology and capacity building; and the development of specifics on the global stocktake agreed upon every five years.
  • Ensuring that countries set up the frameworks for implementing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), establishing processes for transparency across the board on a range of issues, and for dealing with loss and damage as a result of climate change are other matters to be addressed.

Bonn meeting

  • Since the historic Paris Agreement on climate change (COP-21) signed last December, the first meeting of parties took place in May in Bonn.
  • In the meeting, there was  overall difference in opinion between developed and developing countries on whether mitigation alone should be a part of the NDCs or whether adaptation and the means of implementation should also be included.
  • This controversial agenda item was later set aside by the chair to be discussed separately and not included in the negotiation.
  • Other points of contention appeared around interpretation of the Paris Agreement regarding differentiated transparency of action in developed and developing countries.

Differences between Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol discussed

  • An important point discussed in Bonn related to specifying the differences between the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol.
  • The Paris Agreement will be quite different from the Kyoto Protocol, since all parties have agreed to the Paris Agreement; the Kyoto Protocol was meant only for wealthier or Annex-1 countries. Significantly, there was no final clarity on what it means to “deliver an overall mitigation in global emissions”, which will likely determine at least one benchmark of a legally binding global target.
  • All of these concerns would require further discussion and have to be resolved before COP-22 in Marrakech, Morocco.

India’s Position at the meeting

  • It reiterated the importance of Article 3.1 of the Framework Convention (UNFCCC) which uses as a yardstick the common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC) of the parties in responding to climate change.
  • It asked for the need for clarity on the role of non-state actors in the Paris Agreement.
  • India’s concern was that there could be a conflict of interest in their participation, and the rules and guidelines on non-state actor engagement need to be clear so that their roles are transparent and the integrity of the UNFCCC process is safeguarded.

[5] Vermin or victim?

Issue

  • Conflict between Man and Animal.

Context

  • The Centre approved the culling of wild animals such as nilgai and wild boar in Bihar and rhesus monkey in Himachal Pradesh by declaring them ‘vermin’, under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, in December 2015, following requests from the respective States as they cause harm to the resident population.
  • The nilgai, wild boar and rhesus monkeys are abundant in population and figure in the IUCN Conservation list’s ‘least concern’ category.
  • India’s wild animals run the risk of ending up on a government approved “kill list” if State governments insist that they are ‘vermin’ or nuisance animals, attacking crops, property or people as such.

What the law says?

  • As per Section 62 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, States can send a list of wild animals to the Centre requesting it to declare them vermin for selective slaughter. The Central Government may by notification, declare any wild animal other than those specified in Schedule I and part 11 of Schedule H of the law to be vermin for any area for a given period of time.
  • As long as the notification is in force such wild animal shall be included in Schedule V of the law, depriving them of any protection under that law.

Have endangered species been declared vermin?

  • The Government  has not approved the culling of any endangered species like the elephant.

Animal is not the real problem

The reasons which are responsible for this conflict are following:-

Habitat loss: Deforestation and lowered green cover in cities has been driving animals into crop fields and human dwellings in search of food.

Fall in predator population: Fall in population of predators such as tigers and leopards leads to a consequential rise in population of herbivores such as nilgai and deer.

Drought: If natural calamities such as drought affect human beings, so is the case with animals in the forest. Drought dries up availability of food for foraging driving wild animals into nearby crop fields and human dwellings in search of food.

Humans feeding animals: Last but not the least, if you are a tourist offering a banana to a monkey you saw at the temple, you sure cannot complain when a troop of monkeys comes chasing after you asking for more.

Scientific management is required

  • Culling does not offer a meaningful solution.
  • There should be a  nation-wide policy framework to manage human-wildlife conflict.
  • Any scientific management policy for wildlife must be adapted to the population dynamics of the wild animal and be region specific.
  • Not all animals that come across as populated and create nuisance for humans, may be in need of culling.
  • Scientific monitoring of wild animals must be extended outside the reserved forest area and if necessary, animal census be conducted outside protected areas to understand why certain species are entering into greater conflict with humans.

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