Environment, GS-3, Uncategorized

Environment Digest – 8th May – 14th May 2016

[1]Conserving the last drop


Water scarcity in parts of India

Theme 1 : Borewell Drilling in Latur

  • Regions such as Marathwada, Bundelkhand, Telangana, and northern Karnataka are reeling under drought-like conditions.
  • Parched villages and cities, driven to desperation, have plunged headlong into a borewell-digging spree. From Mumbai to Hyderabad, borewell operators are frenetically drilling, sometimes against municipal regulations and bans, to below 400 or 500 feet, yet not always hitting water.
  • The rules permit the digging of only five borewells every one square kilometre with a depth of not more than 200 feet. With the total district area of 715 sq km, the number of borewells in Latur should ideally not cross 3,575
  • Yet there are 90,000 borewells here even as the official count of the ground water survey authority stands at a measly 34,778
  • The government has undertaken schemes like Jal Yukta Shivar to artificially recharge depleting water bodies and make 5,000 villages drought free every year. But its impact will only be known after a good monsoon


Theme 2 : Tankers supply water in Telangana

  • 1.57 lakh hand pumps have also gone bone dry, Telangana’s monsoon rainfall deficit in was 30 per cent in 2014-15
  • Water supplied by the Rural Water Supply Department or private sources, tanker water comes at a steep price
  • Failure of three out of the last four successive monsoons not only affected most parts of the newly-formed State but also in the catchment areas of the Godavari and Krishna rivers originating in the Western Ghats and some of their tributaries taking off in Maharashtra and Karnataka.


Theme 3 : Water quality in the districts of Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu

  • This region has been seriously afflicted by fluoride-contaminated groundwater, with sometimes catastrophic health consequences for the population
  • On the Panchayat’s (Oddanur in Nagamarai Panchayat in Pennagaram) request water quality was tested by the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board and the hand pump was red-marked as highly contaminated.

Fluorosis Mitigation project

  • Multi-billion dollar Hogenakkal Drinking Water and Fluorosis Mitigation project
  • Japan-funded at a cost of Rs.1928.80 crore
  • Distribution loss-In many places, the pumping of the water cannot reach the people because the power supplied to the project is low without tampering of pipelines or pilferage at places.


Theme 4 – Interlinking of rivers

  • CWC divides India’s rivers into 12 major basins.
  • The most updated estimates of per capita water availability in India’s river basins show stark inequality


  • Being able to successfully transfer water through the interlinking of rivers will mean 35 million hectares of irrigation, raising the ultimate irrigation potential from 140 million hectare to 175 million hectare and generation of 34000 megawatt of power, apart from the incidental benefits of flood control, navigation, water supply, fisheries, salinity and pollution control, according to the Central government.


  • River interlinking will cost the government about Rs. 10 trillion and the number of projects that involve connecting 14 for Himalayan rivers and 16 in peninsular India implies that 15,000 km of new canals will have to be added to relocate 174 BCM of water.
  • Massive displacement of people
  • Since the Ganga basin’s topography is flat, building dams would not substantially add to river flows and these dams could threaten the forests of the Himalayas and impact the functioning of the monsoon system.
  • Climate change is another concern. In interlinking systems, it is assumed that the donor basin has surplus water that can be made available to the recipient basin, if the glaciers don’t sustain their glacier mass due to climate change then interlinking will not work


Theme 5 – Improper use of excess water in Mettur region of Tamil Nadu

  • Despite receiving excess rainfall during the months of November-December, the rural areas of Salem district are bracing for an acute water crisis with Mettur Dam and other water bodies drying up fast
  • The Mettur dam has “surplussed” more than 40 times in its 82 years of existence.Surplussing occurs during the southwest monsoon when five to 80 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water drains into the sea, while 70 per cent of lakes in Salem remain dry.
  • Water ends up as runoff, which is water that is wasted rather than channelled for any useful purpose.
  • Accumulation of silt has been a serious obstacle to attaining full storage potential at the Stanley reservoir in Mettur
  • The Reservoir was constructed in 1934. Yet it has not been desilted even once, silt accumulation accounting for 20 per cent of the storage capacity of the dam.

Theme 6 : Water conservation methods of ancient India

  • Ecologically safe engineering marvels of water conservation have existed in India for nearly 1,500 years, including traditional systems of water harvesting, such as the bawari, jhalara, nadi, tanka, and khadin.
  • In Jodhpur, Satyanarayan ki bawari, the small stepwell named after the temple next to it, is one of hundreds of similar structures, old Jodhpur has over 200 stepwells, little rain that the region receives between June and September water is diverted from canals built on the hilly outskirts of the city to man-made tanks or talabs.
  • Water seeps into the ground, recharging the aquifer, and the steps narrowing down to minimise the water that could evaporate


  • For India to resolve its acute shortage of water, it has to focus on water conservation, storage and groundwater recharge
  • Policies about the subsidies of crops that are water intensive such as sugarcane and other cash crops have to be reduced or totally done away with.
  • Old conserving methods (bawari, jhalara, nadi, tanka, and khadin) should be implemented to recharge our aquifers and water table

[2] Save Aravalli to save wildlife


7 Leopards have died in Gurgaon over 2 years


  • Aravalli provide unbelievable natural ambience to the Leopards
  • Leopard is at the top of food chain in Aravalli Range on Haryana side, they are the most adaptable of the large cats and typify wildlife that lives outside forests
  • After the ban on mining the Aravali habitat has improved, the Aravali is surrounded by Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary on Delhi side and a continuous Aravalli chain in Rajasthan which extends up to Sariska National Park

How did  it happened?

  • Although mining has been banned in the Aravalis, the encroachment in their habitat like the roads and highways that pass through the Aravalli range bifurcating the natural habitat of the leopard
  • Neither the departments concerned have provided safe passages to the animals to cross these roads nor any signages have been put for the motorists to drive slow in this area.

[3] ‘Plant kingdom faces increasing threats’


  • The “State of the World’s Plants” report was drawn up by botanists at the Kew Gardens research centre in west London, which has one of the world’s largest collections in its greenhouses and sprawling gardens.
  • Britain’s Royal Botanic Gardens has warned of the threats facing the world’s plant kingdom in the first global report of its kind aimed at drawing attention to often-overlooked species.
  • The 80-page report is intended to become a database and global reference point as it will be published annually and allow for comparisons on preserving the world’s plants.

Threats to plant kingdom

  • The threats to the plant kingdom come, above all, from farming.
  • House building, diseases and pesticides are also top killers.
  • Climate change  plays only  a marginal role for the moment.

[4] Centre’s afforestation bill faces Rajya Sabha stumble

What happened?

  • Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha but opposition has moved amendments to the bill in the Rajya Sabha, which has postponed the bill to the  monsoon session of Parliament.

Compensatory Afforestation

  • Compensatory afforestation pertains to development of new forests to compensate for loss of existing forest area due to their transfer for non-forestry purposes, such as setting up of industries, building roads, etc.
  • This is as per a provision under the Rules to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
  • The ‘user agency’ which seeks the diverted forest land is rule-bound to provide the land or the funds to plant the trees.
  • Currently, funds accumulated through the implementation of this provision are being managed by an ‘ad hoc’ authority set up by the Supreme Court.

Issues related to Bill

  • While on the face of it, developing forests through plantations might seem like an environment-friendly initiative, there appear to be several issues pertaining to this Bill which require closer attention.

What the Bill says:

  • Establish a Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Centre and the States for crediting monies received from various agencies under compensatory afforestation, penal compensatory afforestation, net present value (of forest) and all amounts recovered as per the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
  • The Fund is created as per Supreme Court ruling in 2002 in the Godavaram Thirumalpad vs. Union of India case
  • Besides artificial regeneration (Plantations), the Fund shall also be utilised for undertaking assisted natural regeneration, protection of forests, infrastructure development, wildlife protection and other related activities
  • An independent system of concurrent monitoring and evaluation be evolved and implemented through the Fund to ensure effective and proper utilisation
  • A group of experts appointed by the Centre shall monitor the activities undertaken from amounts released from the Fund
  • All funds realised from the user agencies involving cases of diversion of forest land in protected areas be used exclusively for undertaking protection and conservation activities in protected areas of the State including facilitating voluntary relocation from such protected areas

The objections to it

  • According to the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a federation of tribal and forest dwellers’ organisations from eleven States, this Bill allows states to plant a huge number of trees (or undertake other “forest management” projects) in natural landscapes – such as grasslands, natural open forests, grazing areas, common lands or people’s cultivated lands – without checking if people have rights over them, and without consulting them about where they should be planted, what species should be planted, and what impact this will have on their lives.
  • Plantations have been one of the major sources of conflict in forest areas, as forest bureaucrats routinely use them as a way to get more people’s land under their control, the organisation notes in a statement. As a result of loss of access to land, many tribal groups have been pushed to starvation, they note.
  • The amendment moved by the Opposition in Rajya Sabha will not block the spending of proposed afforestation funds but will only add one small check to ensure that people have one forum where they can defend their rights.
  • The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in 2006 found that the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) funds are being spent on all kinds of activities; for instance, the Uttarakhand Forest Department was spending CAMPA funds on office equipment, vehicles, etc.

[5] Delhi not ‘most polluted’, but dirty air fouls many cities


  • According to the  the ‘Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database (update 2016)’ ,  latest air quality report from the World Health Organization (WHO), Delhi is no longer the most polluted city in the world.


  • Delhi  now stands 11th among 3,000 cities in 103 countries in terms of fine particulate matter or PM 2.5.
  • It is placed on 25th place based on bigger particulate or PM 10 levels. Particulate matter affects everyone but causes harm faster to children and senior citizens.
  • Delhi’s place as the most polluted is taken by Zabol, in Iran.
  • Gwalior and Allahabad, meanwhile, come a close second and third in terms of PM 2.5, while Patna and Raipur are ranked 6th and 7th.

About the database

  • WHO used data from government and research organisations to prepare the database.
  • It is based on ground measurements of annual mean concentrations of particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5) .
  • It  aims at representing an average for the city or town as a whole, rather than for individual stations. Years of measurements range from 2010 to 2015, unless the latest available data was older.

Additional points:-

  • PM 2.5 refers to atmospheric particulates with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers. Exposure to fine particulates is linked to premature death from heart and lung disease. They trigger or worsen asthma, heart attack, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.
  • The WHO states that as urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma increases.
  • Common causes of air pollution include diesel-fuelled vehicles, heavy construction activities, temperature control in large buildings and use of coal or diesel generators.

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