Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

Environment Digest – 1st May – 7th May 2016

[1] Western Ghats under threat: Report

Case Study

  • According to a report ‘Protecting people through nature,’ prepared by the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),  many natural and mixed World Heritage Sites,are threatened by harmful industrial activities such as mining.

What kind of harmful industrial activities?

  • The harmful industrial activities include oil and gas exploration and extraction, mining, illegal logging and large-scale constructions, according to the report.
  • The harmful industrial development poses a threat to these ‘ecosystem services and the communities that depend on them.

Indian sites under threat

Three of the seven such Indian sites have been listed as being under threat.

  • Serial sites of Western Ghats, the report says the sites are facing “extractive threats” in the form of “oil and gas concessions” and “mines and mining concessions.”
  • The Manas Wildlife Sanctuary faces unsustainable water use.
  • Sundarbans has issues related to water management.

Indian response

Responding to the assessment, V.B. Mathur, Director, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, said the methodology of the report and its outcome were too generic in nature.

[2] A long and hot summer ahead

News

  • On April 22, representatives from 175 countries gathered in New York to affix their signatures on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which was adopted by consensus by the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP-21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which met in December 2015.

Road Ahead

  • The scene will now shift to obtaining enough instruments of ratification to bring the agreement into force before 2020, the first year of its proposed implementation.
  • The agreement will enter into force with the ratification of at least 55 countries, whose aggregate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions constitute at least 55 per cent of global emissions.

Should India ratify it?

  • One will need to watch what happens in the United States after the forthcoming presidential elections.
  • There is a real risk that the Kyoto Protocol drama may be repeated with the U.S. Congress rejecting an agreement that the U.S. administration has signed.
  • Were this to happen, other countries may withhold ratification since the U.S. is the second largest emitter of GHGs after China.
  • India should not be in a hurry to ratify the Agreement until there is clarity on the U.S. position.

Still a work in progress

  • The Paris Agreement represents only a skeletal framework which will now have to be fleshed out in post-Paris negotiations.
  • Several major concepts and provisions were deliberately left ambiguous and open to differing interpretations in order to reach consensus.
  • Further negotiations are necessary to reach a common understanding to enable implementation.
Issue Developed countries Developing countries
Transparency Developed countries claim that transparency requires a “common and unified system” to compare climate action undertaken as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) by Parties. The Expert Review Teams (ERTs) under the UNFCCC currently evaluate the achievement of quantitative reductions in GHGs by developed countries only. There are demands that this should be modified to enable a common template to review national GHG emissions and removal (by carbon sinks) data for all countries after 2020. Developing countries, on the other hand, point to the “flexibilities” available to them in recognition of the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” (the well-known CBDR principle) and insist that this should be reflected in the application of the transparency provision.
Evaluation Developed countries want to make the mitigation aspect specific and measurable while keeping other aspects such as finance and technology transfer to developing countries as indeterminate as possible so as not to be held accountable for what they have pledged in these areas. Developing countries should question the rationale for such a registry ahead of a negotiated outcome on this issue.

 

Back-pedalling

  • While trying to impose specific and onerous commitments on developing countries, the developed countries continue to evade providing any clarity on what they intend to contribute by way of finance, technology and capacity building to fulfil their Paris Agreement pledges.
  • On finance there has been backsliding. When the agreement talks of “financial flows” rather than public resources in the form of official transfers, it is not clear what would be the constituents of these flows and the value assigned to each.
  • On technology transfer, there is already an offensive by the U.S. corporate sector to ensure that in the post-Paris negotiations there is no concession on intellectual property (IP) issues.

What India should do?

  • India has already made substantial concessions to enable a consensus and successful outcome at Paris.
  • Now it must ensure that it is not caught in a relentless attrition process where each concession becomes an argument for making the next one.
  • The post-Paris negotiations will determine more precisely the shape of the climate change architecture for the next several decades.
  • We must ensure that India’s vital interests are safeguarded and the principle of equity and equitable burden-sharing is reflected across this architecture.

[3] Hospitals yet to master handling of biomedical waste

Why in news?

  • Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has conducted  surprise inspections  in hospitals across the city and it has revealed alarming discrepancies in segregation and treatment of biomedical waste.

Key findings:-

  • In several hospitals, KSPCB found medical waste being stored in black bags meant for general waste, and biomedical waste being mixed with unsegregated waste.

 

The law regarding biomedical waste

  • The Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998, state that ‘no untreated bio-medical waste shall be kept stored beyond a period of 48 hours’.
  • But KSPCB found that not all hospitals are complying with this rule.

Notices issued

  • The board has issued notices to all the hospitals and given them three months to comply with the norms, failing which they risk criminal charges. That said, closure of hospitals is not being considered as it would affect the treatment of patients.
  • On an average, hospitals can generate between 350 gm and 500 gm of biomedical waste per bed.
  • If such waste is handled by personnel at the waste management plant, it could make them sick.

[4] Rare sighting of Amur falcon near Nagpur

What happened?

Amur falcon — has been spotted at the Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary near the Pench Tiger Reserve, 60 km from Nagpur.

Its importance

  • The Amur falcon (Falco amurensis) is a small raptor of the falcon family. It breeds in south-eastern Siberia and Northern China before migrating in large flocks across India and over the Arabian Sea to winter in Southern Africa.
  • The raptor (bird of prey) — the size of a pigeon — makes its home in Nagaland, flying a staggering 22,000 km from there to South Africa, then onto Mongolia and back to Nagaland.
  • The bird has one of the longest and most fascinating migratory paths in the avian world.
  • The falcon breeds in south-eastern Siberia and north-eastern China, where the Amur River divides the Russian Far East and China.
  • Amur falcons typically begin their annual journey from north-eastern Siberia and northern China, heading to north-east India and roosting in Nagaland, before leaving for Africa, where they spend their winters.

[5]Loss of vultures damaging for humans, ecosystem: study

Case Study

According to  findings  published in the journal Biological Conservation, decline in vulture populations in some parts of the world, including India, may have serious consequences for ecosystems and humans alike.

Risk

Poisoning is the greatest extinction risk facing vultures, and impacts 88 per cent of threatened vulture species.

How do vultures become victims of Poison?

  • In many continents, vultures are the unfortunate victims of poisoned carcasses — especially impactful because dozens, or even hundreds — of vultures can feast on a single carcass.
  • Populations of most vulture species around the world are now either declining or on the brink of extinction.

Their make could be their unmaking

The results suggest several inherent ecological traits that likely contribute to vultures’ extinction risk, including their large body masses, slow reproductive rates and highly specialised diets, researchers said.

Indian experience

  • In the mid-1990s India experienced a precipitous vulture decline, with more than 95 per cent of vultures disappearing by the early 2000s.
  • The cause was eventually traced to diclofenac, a veterinary anti-inflammatory drug that relieved pain in cattle, but proved highly toxic to vultures.
  • Hundreds of vultures would flock to each cattle carcass.
  • And if the cattle had recently been treated with diclofenac, hundreds of vultures would die.
  • Because of this highly gregarious feeding behaviour, less than one per cent of cattle carcasses contaminated with diclofenac could account for the steep vulture decline.

How does it affect humans?

  • Losses of vultures can allow other scavengers to flourish.
  • Proliferation of such scavengers could bring bacteria and viruses from carcasses into human cities.
  • Following the decline of vultures, India experienced a strong uptick in feral dogs — by an estimated seven million.
  • The increase in dogs, potentially feeding on disease-ridden carcasses, is thought to have at least partially caused the rabies outbreak that was estimated to have killed 48,000 people from 1992-2006 in India — deaths that may have been avoided if not for the disappearance of vultures.

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