Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

Environment Digest – 5 June- 11 June 2016

[1]Nature’s answer to climate risk

News

  • Gaumukh, the snout of the Gangotri glacier, named after its shape like the mouth of a cow, has retreated by over 3 kilometres since 1817.

Analysis

  • Though a three-kilometre retreat over a period of two centuries might seem insignificant at first glance, but study shows that the rate of retreat has increased sharply since 1971.
  • The rate of retreat is 22 metres per year.
  • The retreat points to lesser ice formation each year than its current rate of melting, a process that is continuing.
  • Winter precipitation is when the glacier receives adequate snow and ice for maintaining itself.
  • About 10-15 spells of winter snow as part of western disturbances feed the glacier.
  • But last year Gangotri received very little snowfall.
  • It has  also been observed that more rainfall and a slight temperature rise in the region, both of which transfer heat on to the glacier, has contributed to the warming of the glacier.
  • In summer, the melting of the glacier feeds the Bhagirathi River, the source stream of the Ganga.
  • However, dwindling snowfall levels have also affected the volume of water discharged during summer into the river, compared to peak levels.

[2]After 1,00,000 years, Arctic may turn ice-free again

Case study

  • According to a study, a scientist has predicted that Arctic may become ice-free this year or next for the first time in more than 1,00,000 years.

Key points:-

  • The last time the Arctic was clear of ice is believed to be about 1,00,000 to 1,20,000 years ago.
  • The scientist has predicted that  Arctic ice may well disappear, that is, have an area of less than one million square kilometres for September of this year.
  • Sea ice is usually at its lowest in September and starts to build again when the winter sets in.
  • Even if the ice does not completely disappear, it is very likely that this will be a record low year.

[3]‘Mulugu will soon become seed hub’

Key points:-

  • Minister for Agriculture Pocharam Srinivas Reddy said Mulugu (Mulugu is a Mandal in Medak district of Telangana State,) would become the seed hub of India.
  • The horticulture university would be established soon that would give a fillip to research activity.
  • Cultivation of vegetables and fruits would be taken up on a large scale with the help of research activity in the university.

[4]Preparing cities for high water

Context

  • In recent past, we have noticed that at time of floods induced by heavy rainfall experienced in Mumbai (2005) and Chennai (2015) caused severe damage of life and property.
  • It is estimated that by the end of the year 2030, India will have  14 major clusters of cities accounting for 40 per cent of its GDP.
  • So, as India is marching towards urbanisation, so we need to prepare our cities to withstand the vagaries of monsoons and other weather events.

Man made disaster

  • The Chennai floods exposed the mindless permissions for construction in floodplains, and the high tolerance to commercial encroachment of wetlands.
  • They also highlighted the indifference among policymakers over providing decent housing for migrants.
  • This approach is eroding the economic gains of urban India.
  • It has been noted that after such incidents of flooding, a substantial amount is spent on reconstruction, mainly of roads.
  • And least attention is given to creation of new assets.

What needs to be done?

  • Prevention is better than cure. And it applies aptly to disaster management.
  • Governments should now draw up integrated plans to make cities and growing towns resilient to weather events and disasters.
  • This should begin with the creation of information systems that tell administrators about weather patterns, anomalies, flooding data and population impacts.
  • If megacities that face seasonal storms are to be strengthened, they should be provided with more water harvesting facilities in the form of urban wetlands with connected drains.
    Suburban lakes have to be revived.
  • City administrators should not make the mistake of letting the precious rain water flow into the sea, rather it should be used to revive the suburban lakes.
  • Governments need to ensure that during the monsoon, basic requirements of urban living such as transport, safe water supply, energy and health systems are not severely disrupted

[5]NASA takes 23,000-ft view of the world’s coral reefs

News

  • NASA and top scientists from around the world are launching a three-year campaign to gather new data on coral reefs by using specially designed instruments mounted on high-flying aircraft.

Objective of the Study:-

  • The scientists plan to map large swaths of coral around the world in hopes of better understanding how environmental changes are impacting these delicate and important ecosystems.
  • The researchers hope to discover how environmental forces including global warming, acidification and pollution impact coral reefs in different locations by creating detailed images of entire reef ecosystems.
  • Reefs are among the first ecosystems to be dramatically and directly impacted by global warming, according to the researchers.

About the project:-

  • CORAL (Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory) is an airborne mission to survey reefs at select locations across the Pacific.
  • The CORAL team will study the reefs of Hawaii, Palau, the Mariana Islands, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef over the next three years.

[6]Missing the wetlands for the water

News

  • The Draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016, will replace the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules of 2010.

Main feature of this draft

  • It seeks to give power to the States to decide what they must do with their wetlands.
  • This includes deciding which wetlands should be protected and what activities should be allowed or regulated, while making affable calls for ‘sustainability’ and ‘ecosystem services’.

Provisions which requires immediate concern

  • First, the draft does away with the Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority, which had suo moto cognisance of wetlands and their protection.
  • Second, the draft rules contain no ecological criteria for recognising wetlands, such as biodiversity, reefs, mangroves, and wetland complexes.
  • The 2010 rules outlined criteria for wetland identification including genetic diversity, outstanding natural beauty, wildlife habitats, corals, coral reefs, mangroves, heritage areas, and so on.
  • Third,  it has deleted sections on the protection of wetlands, and interpretation of harmful activities which require regulation, which found reference in the 2010 rules.
  • Fourth, regulation of activities on a wetland and their “thresholds” are to be left entirely to local or State functionaries. There are insufficient safeguards for the same, with the lack of any law-based scientific criteria or guidance.
  • Fifth, the only clause which talks about Restriction of Activities in Wetlands is so broad-based and nonspecific, that it is nearly unimplementable: “Restrictions of activities in wetlands.—(I) The wetlands shall be conserved and managed in accordance with principle of ‘wise use’ for maintaining their ecological integrity.” Now, the principles of Wise Use, Ecosystem Approach and Ecologic Integrity etc., though used rampantly in Ramsar parlance, are slippery terms which have no specific application. Use of such words ensures that the Act lacks any specificity and teeth.

Experiments with water systems

Dredging:-

  • Dredging is an excavation activity usually carried out underwater, in shallow seas or freshwater areas with the purpose of gathering up bottom sediments and disposing of them at a different location.
  • River dredging may increase the capacity of a river channel, but can also interfere with underground reservoirs. Over-dredging can destroy these reservoirs.

River interlinking :-

  • It changes hydrology and can benefit certain areas from a purely anthropocentric perspective, but does nothing to augment water supply to other non-target districts.

Barrage:-

  • A barrage is a type of low-head, diversion dam which consists of a number of large gates that can be opened or closed to control the amount of water passing through the structure, and thus regulate and stabilize river water elevation upstream for use in irrigation and other systems.
  • Constructions of barrages have impacts on ecosystems and economies.

Why  do the Draft Wetland Rules award full authority to the States? And, is there is real decentralisation of power?

  • It has been argued that one of the main reasons for diluting Wetlands Rules was to give more authority to States as land and water are state subjects.
  • This reason alone is unacceptable for a number of reasons.
  • Firstly, Wetlands are far more than state subjects of “water” and “land”. To see wetlands only limited to land and water shows environmental bankruptcy, since wetlands are much more than that.
  • Secondly, The Rules of 2010 required Centre Government to overlook any work done by the State Government for the betterment of wetlands by the States. But the Center seems to have abdicated its responsibility.
  • Thirdly, wetlands are an important ecological entity giving multiple services to the society and their protection lies firmly in the realm of Environment, which is under the concurrent purview as per Indian Constitution. Ironically, there is no decentralization here either. There is no role for the local community to play, unlike the Framework Rules. So it is still as centralized as ever.
  • The State Wetland Authority does not have Powers to Prohibit any activity in the Wetlands, only regulate them.
  • State Wetland Authority does not have any authority to take Penal Action against parties who violate the Rule

Conclusion

  • In the proposed scenario, with an absence of scientific criteria for identifying wetlands, it is imperative to have a second independent functioning authority.
  • Sustainability cannot be reached without ecology. Towards this end, our wetland rules need to reinforce wetlands as more than open sources of water, and we need to revise how wetlands should be identified and conserved.

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