Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

Environment Digest – 3 April – 9 April 2016

[1] Ballast water bringing invasive species to coasts

The expansion of seaports and minor ports could pave the way for the arrival of invasive species in coastal areas.

What are invasive species?

An invasive species is a plant, fungus, or animal species that is not native to a specific location (an introduced species), and which has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health.

What invasive species arrived on coast of Kerala

10 invasive species in the biodiversity-rich intertidal habitats of the Kerala coast

  • one seaweed
  • one species of bryozoan
  • one species of mollusc
  • seven species of ascidian.

How did they arrive

  • The distribution of invasive species reported from the Kerala coast is likely to have been assisted by shipping.
  • The paper says that the expansion of ports in Kerala has opened ways for the introduction of alien species in marine and coastal areas.
  • Ballast water is one of the biggest transporters of non-native marine species

Other things that arrive

  • Ships could transport fish, viruses, bacteria, algae, zooplankton and benthonic invertebrates to harbours at a faster pace.
  • The survey also recorded the presence of a sea slug called Winged Thecacera ( Thecacera Pennigera ) in the southwest coast of India. Originally reported from the Atlantic coast of Europe, the presence of sea slug is currently reported from South Africa, West Africa, Pakistan, Japan, Brazil, eastern Australia and New Zealand.

What is ballast water

  • Ballast water carried by ocean-going vessels for stability and safety. Ballast water is discharged when the ship enters a new port, releasing alien organisms into the local waters.
  • Ballast water is also considered a vehicle for toxic algae causing red tides and harmful algal blooms.

[2] Why Ustad must be in captivity


The Supreme Court has dismissed the petition which questioned putting the tiger named “Ustad” in captivity

Why an animal turns a man killer

  • When a tiger becomes too old to hunt its fleet-footed natural prey, or is disabled as a result of an injury, it might, in sheer desperation brought on by hunger, turn to killing humans.
  • Once it learns how easy this is, it proceeds to deliberately target us to assuage its hunger.
  • After a few such kills, it loses its innate fear of man, rendering it extremely dangerous to anyone living in the area.
  • It is only on rare occasions that one of them might be provoked to attack in self-defence — for example, when someone stumbles upon a sleeping tiger or gets too close to a mother with young cubs.


  • A star attraction at the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan
  • Ustad lost all fear of humans and deliberately killed the forest guard, when he could have simply moved away like any normal wild tiger.
  • He was neither past his prime nor incapacitated in any way. His human kills were made far apart, and he was perfectly capable of bringing down wild prey
  • Given how dangerous he had become, the forest authorities had no option but to move him to captivity.

Why the tiger was put in captivity

  • Putting the tiger back in the wild would not only put Ustad’s life in danger but the lives of other tigers too
  • Regular occurrences of man-animal conflict would have seen poisoning of Usatad and killing of other tigers that have never harmed a human

How the problem is solved by State forest departments

  • Trapping man-eaters in one area and dumping them in another, simply transferring the problem
  • In some cases, the releases are done along inter-State boundaries, in the hope that the problematic animal will slip over the border and become the neighbouring State’s headache

How to do Conservation

  • The goal of conservation is not the preservation of every individual of a species, but the safeguarding of the species as a whole
  • Protecting wild tigers and their prey from poaching — and preventing the destruction of their habitat — will ensure healthy tiger numbers in our forests
  • Removing a few confirmed man-eaters will not negatively impact the overall population of tigers in any way.

[3] Govt. notifies new rules on waste management

Rules will be applied to

  • Hotels, residential colonies, bulk producers of consumer goods, ports, railway stations, airports and pilgrimage spots
  • The recycling and treatment of a variety of refuse, including biomedical, plastic and electronic waste among others

Why the new rules

  • To ensure that the solid waste generated in their facilities are treated and recycled
  • Only 70 per cent of garbage is collected and of that 30 per cent is treated, the rest is what you see around you
  • The rules on solid waste management have been amended after 16 years and a key provision is to formalise the profession of rag-picking, because they form a critical arm of the society
  • Nearly 62 million tonnes of waste are generated annually in India, of which only 11.9 million are treated and nearly half — 31 million — is dumped in landfill sites.
  • According to the new rules, local bodies with a population of one lakh or more were required to set up solid waste processing facilities within two years, census towns below a lakh would be given three years and old and abandoned dump sites would have to be closed or bio-remedied within five years.
  • By 2031, municipal solid waste is expected to increase to 165 million tonnes and, if untreated, would require 1240 hectares of land.

How will they work

  • Though the onus on garbage management would continue to be the responsibility of municipal bodies, they would be allowed to charge user fees and levy spot fines for littering and non-segregation.
  • A “transition period” of two to five years, beyond which fines would be imposed

[4] Making a hollow in the Forest Rights Act


Forged gram sabha resolutions are making the people of the forest suffer in Odisha

Across mineral-rich, forested Adivasi landscapes, governments are hollowing out the Forests Rights Act(FRA) to favour miners.

What happened

  • Copycat resolutions depicted adivasis as saying they had no ties to the forest and that they “requested” the government to divert the sought area to OMC
  • OMC valued the ore it would sell from this proposed mine at Rs.79,000 crore. Such fictions manufacture on file the legal requirement of villagers’ participation and consent

Who submitted the resolutions

  • Odisha government and Odisha Mining Corporation(OMO) submitted forged gram sabha resolutions to the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC)
  • The submissions were part of the proposal to enable OMC to acquire and turn 1,400 hectares of forest into an iron ore mine.

Why Gram sabhas are involved in decision making in forests for mining

  • Gram sabhas mandated by the landmark Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA), are the only officially-recognised space for Adivasi and forest-dwelling communities to participate in State decision-making around the enclosure and destruction of forests for mining.

Other examples where this has taken place

  • In Jharkhand’s Chatra district, the Oraon village of Jala has had to move the High Court to challenge the denial of their community forest rights (CFR) claim, and forged gram sabha consent submitted towards clearance for a coal mine.
  • In Chhattisgarh’s Kanker district’s Rowghat area, the administration, in response to an RTI request, has stated that there is “a bar” on recognising FRA claims or granting such titles in 12 Adivasi villages, since a rail line for a proposed iron ore mine is planned in their area!
  • Further north, in Surguja district is Hasdeo Arand, among India’s best forests. Months ago, Gond villagers wistfully narrated how, in order to mine the area for coal, Adani Mining staff were uprooting soaring sal trees, and fencing off stretches of forest villagers had traditionally used. This January, local officials cancelled the CFR title awarded in 2013 to the area’s Ghatbarra village. The sole purpose: to enable Adani to mine.

What the agencies are doing

  • MoTA, the nodal ministry for FRA and the spokesperson for Adivasi interests, is yet to effectively address the hollowing out of this crucial law.
  • The MoEFCC’s conduct also causes concern. Entrusted with stewarding our forests, it has instead concentrated great energy on how to hasten their felling (through the forest clearances it awards).
  • In doing this, it has, among other things, mounted a prolonged effort to see if and how meaningful community participation can be eliminated from the clearance process.

How FRA-mandated gram sabhas can be vital

  • To outline the full costs and gains of mining, and more crucially, how these get distributed can be the ways of an truly participative gram sabha

[5] Can crowdfunding help wildlife conservation?


Finding funds to aid wildlife conservation is difficult, especially if you are trying to save a species that may be lower down the food chain. Conservationists are turning to crowdfunding to conserve threatened and endangered species.

What is crowdfunding?

  • Crowdfunding provides an innovative online platform that provides small businesses and start-ups with opportunities to raise investment
  • There are three ways in which crowdfunding works—by donating, lending or taking an equity stake in the company
  • Donations are the most commonly used method in India
  • Renowned TV personality David Attenborough in 2013 turned to crowdfunding to help raise £110,000 to save the mountain gorilla.
  • Crowdfunding could help reboot the entire business of non-governmental organizations working on conservation and social issues.

What are dholes

  • An endangered canid, as per the IUCN Red List
  • There are only 1,000-1,500 adult dholes left in the world.
  • Canids are members of the dog family Canidae and include wolves, jackals, hyenas and domestic dogs.
  • The red, rust-coloured dhole, which has a bushy black tail and stands around 50cm tall, is considered one of the least-studied carnivores.

Who launched DonateforDholes

  • Arjun Srivathsa, currently pursuing his PhD at the University of Florida

Who crowdfunded

  • The project attracted funds and supporters from all over the world (Japan, Australia, US, UK and India).
  • Srivathsa turned to a crowdfunding platform to raise $2,000 to help fund field surveys, pay local field assistant salaries and for local travel within India.
  • Srivathsa says he spent a month to make information about himself freely available in case people wanted to do background checks

What he advices

  • Raise funds for projects that are ongoing, where field updates, live feeds and field anecdotes can help drive people to the site.
  • For Srivathsa, crowdfunding worked as a platform not just for raising funds but also creating awareness about the endangered animal.

[7] Initiative about Fishing Cat

What is fishing cat?

  • The fishing cat is a medium-sized wild cat of South and Southeast Asia.
  • In 2008, the IUCN classified the fishing cat as Endangered.
  • Fishing cat populations are threatened by destruction of wetlands and declined severely over the last decade
  • Today, the fishing cat is confined to small pockets, thanks to rapid changes in habitat.

Who crowdfunded

  • Tiasa Adhya is another wildlife biologist who took to crowdfunding to focus on a similar lesser-known species: the fishing cat.
  • Adhya’s aim was to raise funds for a documentary film on this species and use that as a tool to build awareness

What she recommends

Making an effort to personally reach out to potential donors and keep the entire process transparent and apolitical

[8] Solar boat makes its debut in Andhra Pradesh


An eco-friendly solar-powered boat was launched on the pristine waters of River Krishna


The 12-seater pontoon-shaped boat can cruise at a speed of 7 knots for an estimated range of over 35 miles.


  • To include an eco-friendly boat in our fleet of watersports operating in Krishna
  • An effective and attention-grabbing demonstration of the sun’s power.
  • NO noise pollution and disturbance to the local habitat endangering the ecological balance of the surrounding areas

Imported from China

The solar boat, facilitating clean and efficient cruise, has been imported from China.

Solar-powered boats get their energy from the sun. Using electric motors and storage batteries charged by solar panels fitted to the roof, these boats can significantly reduce or eliminate use of fossil fuels.

First solar boat in 2008

The first solar boat designed in India was named Surya, a 25-seater, by Kerala-based TeamSustain in 2008. It operated in the backwaters of Kerala ferrying passengers and in 2010, it was included in the Limca Book of Records as Asia’s largest solar-powered passenger boat.

[9] Welcome waste as new wealth


Ministry of Environment and Forests has notified the new Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 with clear responsibilities assigned to various classes of consumers.

What are the rules

  • To ensure that the solid waste generated in their facilities are treated and recycled.
  • Garbage management would continue to be the responsibility of municipal bodies, they would be allowed to charge user fees and levy spot fines for littering and non-segregation.

Who will do job

Cities and towns would then have to provide the logistical chain to evacuate waste, with a cash compensation system in place for the consumer.

How communities would help

The local bodies in charge of implementation should appeal to the rational impulses of communities — a small effort at segregating trash at source would be a good thing for their household budgets.

What happened earlier

Urban municipal bodies found it convenient to merely transport waste to the suburbs, sometimes through private agencies that secured lucrative long-term contracts.

What is worrying

  • Estimated 62 million tonnes of waste a year is not fully collected or treated.
  • It will go up to some 165 million tonnes in 2030, and dramatic episodes of air and water pollution from mountains of garbage as seen in Mumbai and Bengaluru in recent times could be witnessed in more places.
  • Less than a third of the collected waste is being processed.
  • Even where environmentally conscious citizens segregate at source, the chain of management dumps it all in landfills.

What might help

  • Rules regarding  the provisions in the new rules for hotels and restaurants to support composting, and biomethanation, and for large housing societies, commercial establishments and other bulk producers to segregate waste
  • Cess funds collected for the Swachh Bharat programme could be deployed to scale up infrastructure for composting, biomethanation and recycling
  • The central monitoring committee under the Ministry should ensure that local bodies do not continue functioning in business-as-usual mode.
  • Align their operations, including waste management contracts, with the new rules under the annual operating plan.
  • To enlist the services of ragpickers under formal systems such as cooperatives.
  • Although there are provisions for fines for littering and non-segregation, this should be a second-order priority for municipalities, which should focus principally on creating reliable systems to handle different waste streams.
  • If India could start with the separation of its ‘wet’ waste from the rest and produce good compost, that could transform cities and towns into clean and green havens filled with trees, gardens, lakes and rivers.
  • It would also salvage millions of tonnes of recyclable plastic, precious metals and other materials. Garbology studies confirm that landfills swallow precious wealth every day.

[10] Ministry to rate tech best suited to manage waste


Solid waste management in India

Who will mitigate solid waste management

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will soon undertake an assessment of the technologies that can be best used to address the problem of waste management in India.

What technology will be used

The most common technologies to treat waste are converting waste to biogas(or bio methanation) or converting it to other fuels and harnessing the heat energy for productive purposes.

What is Biomethanation

Biomethanation is a process by which organic material is microbiologically converted under anaerobic conditions to biogas. Three main physiological groups of microorganisms are involved: fermenting bacteria, organic acid oxidizing bacteria, and methanogenic archaea.

Problem with waste to heat

The bulk of the waste in India is organic and of low calorific value, making several waste-to-heat technologies uneconomical

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