Explained: Tiger Conservation Foundation (TCF)

In news: Thanks to concerted efforts by the Tiger Conservation Foundation (TCF), the number of tigers in the Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve (NSTR) in Andhra Pradesh has gone up, reversing the steady decline in the number of the endangered species over a period.

The TCF has decided to hike the Environment Maintenance Charge (EMC) and use the funds for anti-poaching activities, which included development of an intelligence network and reforestation of the degraded patches in the Nallamala forests.’ Tiger conservation gets a boost in A.P.

 The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006

The State Government shall establish a Tiger Conservation Foundation for tiger reserves within the State in order to facilitate and support their management for conservation of tiger and biodiversity and, to take initiatives in eco-development by involvement of people in such development process.

 The Tiger Conservation Foundation shall, inter alia have the following objective:—

  • (a) to facilitate ecological, economic, social and cultural development in the tiger reserves;
  • (b) to promote eco-tourism with the involvement of local stakeholder communities and provide support to safeguard the natural environment in the tiger reserves;
  • (c) to facilitate the creation of, and or maintenance of, such assets as may be necessary for fulfilling the above said objectives;
  • (d) to solicit technical, financial, social, legal and other support required for the activities of the Foundation for achieving the above said objectives;
  • (e) to augment and mobilise financial resources including recycling of entry and such other fees received in a tiger reserve, to foster stake-holder development and eco-tourism;
  • (f) to support research, environmental education and training in the above related fields.

As of today (10-11-2019 ) there are 41  Tiger Conservation Foundation (TCF) in the country.

Sl. No.
Tiger Reserve/State
Pakke Tiger Conservation Foundation, Arunachal Pradesh
Namdapha Tiger Conservation Foundation, Arunachal Pradesh
Dampa Tiger Conservation Foundation. Tuikhuahtlang, Mizoram
Andhra Pradesh Tiger Conservation Foundation, Andhra Pradesh (for Nagarjunasagar Srisailam TR)
Bandipur Tiger Conservation Foundation, Karnataka
Bhadra Tiger Conservation Foundation, Karnataka
Dandeli Anshi (Kali) Tiger Conservation Foundation, Karnataka
Kalakakad Mundanthurai Tiger Conservation Foundation, Tamil Nadu
Mudumalai Tiger Conservation Foundation, Tamil Nadu, Udhagamandlam.
Anamalai Tiger Conservation Foundation, Tamil Nadu
Madhya Pradesh (Kanha, Satpura, Pench, Panna, Bandhavgarh & Sanjay-Dubri)
Buxa Tiger Conservation Foundation Trust, West Bengal
Sundarban Tiger Conservation Foundation Trust, West Bengal
Manas Tiger Conservation Foundation, Assam
Kaziranga Tiger Conservation Foundation, Assam
Nameri Tiger Conservation Foundation, Assam
Achanakmar Tiger Conservation Foundation, Chhattisgarh
Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Conservation Foundation, Chhattisgarh
Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve Conservation Foundation, Maharashtra
Indravati Tiger Conservation Foundation, Chhattisgarh
Ranthambhore Tiger Conservation Foundation, Rajasthan
Sariska Tiger Conservation Foundation, Alwar, Rajasthan
Corbett Tiger Conservation Foundation, Uttarakhand
Pench Tiger Conservation Foundation, Maharashtra
Melghat Tiger Reserve Conservation Foundation, Maharashtra
Similipal Tiger Conservation Foundation, Odisha
Satkosia Tiger Reserve, Orissa
Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, Karnataka
Periyar Foundation, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kerala
Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, Kerala
Valmiki Tiger Conservation Foundation, Bihar
BRT Tiger Conservation Foundation, Karnataka
Sahyadri Tiger Reserve Conservation Foundation, Kohlapur, Maharashtra
Palamau Tiger Reserve Conservation Foundation, Jharkhand
Bor Tiger Conservation Foundation, Maharashtra
Nawegaon-Nagzira Tiger Conservation Foundation, Maharashtra
Kawal Tiger Conservation Foundation, Telangana
Amrabad Tiger Conservation Foundation, Telangana
Sathyamangalam Tiger Conservation Foundation, Tamil Nadu
Mukandra Hills Tiger Conservation Foundation, Rajasthan
Dudhwa Tiger Reserve Conservation Foundation, Uttar Pradesh

Pending TCF :-

1.     Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, Uttar Pradesh
2.     Rajaji Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand
3.     Orang Tiger Reserve, Assam
4.     Kamlang Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh

Iceland holds funeral for Okjökull glacier

Iceland has marked its first-ever loss of a glacier to climate change as scientists warn that hundreds of other ice sheets on the subarctic island risk the same fate.
  • As the world recently marked the warmest July ever on record, a bronze plaque was mounted on a bare rock in a ceremony on the barren terrain once covered by the Okjökull glacier in western Iceland.
  • The plaque bears the inscription “A letter to the future”, and is intended to raise awareness about the decline of glaciers and the effects of climate change.
  • “In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it,” the plaque reads.

  • Iceland loses about 11bn tonnes of ice per year, and scientists fear all of the island’s 400-plus glaciers will be gone by 2200
  • Glaciologists stripped Okjökull of its glacier status in 2014, a first for Iceland. In 1890, the glacier ice covered 16sq km (6.2 square miles) but by 2012 it measured just 0.7sq km, according to a report from the University of Iceland in 2017.
  • It is also labelled “415 ppm CO2”, referring to the record level of carbon dioxide measured in the atmosphere last May.

  • The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit 415.39 parts per million (ppm) over the weekend — the highest level seen in some 3 million years, before humans existed, according to scientists at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.
  • CO2 levels are now rising 3 ppm each year, up from an average 2.5 ppm over the last decade, the scientists said.
  • Based on current emissions, scientists estimate CO2 levels could hit 500 ppm in as little as 30 years.
  • The last time CO2 levels were this high was during the Pliocene Epoch, 5.3 to 2.6 million years ago, when the Earth was several degrees warmer, sea levels were an estimated 50 feet higher than they are today, and forests grew as far north as the Arctic.

Beach pollution and Blue Flag certification

  • In addition to air and water pollution, India can now add one more category to its pollution worries: beach pollution.
  • Tourism and Fishing are contributing most of the plastic litter on beaches, according to a study by the National Centre of Coastal Research (NCCR).
  • The NCCR conducted a qualitative analysis of the litter on six different beaches on the eastern and western coasts. It found that plastic litter from tourism alone accounted for 40%-96% of all beach litter.
  • While fishing nets were a major contributor, the processing of fish on the beach also produced a lot of litter. Waste from fishing was high in three of the six beaches studied.
  • Other than the plastic litter dropped by tourists, similar waste from creeks and inlets made its way into the sea in the monsoon. 
  • Most of the litter consisted of plastic bottles, cutlery, and thermocol.

Way Forward: 

  • Experts suggest installation of debris booms and fin deflectors upstream as measures to reduce the quantity of floating solid waste entering coastal waters.
  • India needs a national marine litter policy to control and manage waste on land and prevent its entry into the marine environment.
  • India need to start blue-flagging its beaches. The ‘blue flag’ is a globally recognised eco-label awarded to beaches and marinas that adhere to strict environmental and safety norms.

Blue Flag certification

  • The Chandrabhaga beach on the Konark coast of Odisha will be the first in Asia to get the Blue Flag certification.
  • The tag given to environment-friendly and clean beaches, equipped with amenities of international standards for tourists.
  • It  was awarded the honour on World Environment Day on June 5.
  • Twelve more beaches in the country are being developed by the Society for Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM), an Environment Ministry’s body working for the management of coastal areas, in accordance with the Blue Flag standards.

Blue Flag standards:

  • The standards were established by the Copenhagen-based Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) in 1985.
  • It challenges local authorities and beach operators to achieve high standards (33 standards) in the four categories of: water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety.
  • A beach must be plastic-free and equipped with a waste management system.
  • Clean water should be available for tourists, apart from international amenities. 
  • The beach should have facilities for studying the environmental impact around the area.

Environment and Biodiversity May 2018

Air quality
  • India is tying up with the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Finland Meteorological Institute to develop a pollution-forecast system that will help anticipate particulate matter (PM) levels at least two days in advance and at a greater resolution than what is possible now.
  • At present the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), is run by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, the organisation is  under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).
  • It is apex forecaster of pollution trends in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad. It generates a likely air quality profile, a day in advance, for these cities.
  • SAFAR will continue to be the backbone for pollution forecast, the new system will use a different method of analysis, leading to better resolution and more accurate forecasts.
  • Recently Union Environment Ministry released a draft of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) that aims to improve air quality monitoring in India by increasing the number of pollution monitoring stations and, incorporating it into a pollution forecast system.
Chinese Giant Salamander
  • According to new research the world’s largest amphibians, giant Chinese salamanders, which were once widespread  now face imminent extinction due to illegal poaching and hunting as a luxury food.
  • Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered
  • The report in the journal Current Biology says that they cannot confirm survival of wild Chinese giant salamander populations at any survey sites, and consider the species to be extremely depleted or functionally extinct across the huge surveyed area.
UK Plastics Pact
  • More than 40 British companies, including major retailers and soft drinks companies, on Thursday pledged to eliminate unnecessary plastic packaging as part of an anti-pollution push.
  • Corporate giants such as Coca-Cola, Asda, Procter & Gamble and Marks & Spencer have all signed up the “UK Plastics Pact” amid growing concern over plastic pollution, particularly in the oceans.
Goa New frog species
  • plateaus of the Western Ghats parts of Goa, scientists have identified a new species of frog called Fejervarya goemchi.
  • The new species is named after the historical name of the state of Goa.
  • The scientists provide an overview of the group and recommend additional sampling across the Asian continent in a a Zoological Survey of India report.
  • The new species is found in the high elevation areas of laterite plateaus, temporary water bodies and paddy fields of Goa.
.Draft National Energy Storage Mission
  • The draft National Energy Storage Mission expects to kick-start grid-connected energy storage in India, set up a regulatory framework, and encourage indigenous manufacture of batteries.
  • The draft sets a “realistic target” of 15-20 gigawatt hours (GWh) of grid-connected storage within the next five year.
  • Power grids do not currently use storage options that would help in smoothly integrating renewable energy sources.
  • The NITI Aayog has proposed a three-stage solution for promoting battery manufacturing in the country.
  • The incentives on offer include land grants for direct awarding of land free of charge or at highly discounted cost to companies to develop manufacturing capacity.
The need for storage : 
  • solar energy generation may be at its peak at noon, but unless stored, it will not be available when needed to light up homes at night.
  • Renewable sources are inherently intermittent: there are days when the wind doesn’t blow or the sky is cloudy.
  • As the share of solar and wind energy increases in the power grids, the problem still remains that the peak supply of renewable sources does not always meet peak demand.
  • Batteries could help store surplus energy during peak generation times, but are more immediately needed to stabilise the grid when shifting between renewables and the baseload thermal capacity.
  • Once the installed capacity of renewables reaches 100 GW [from the current 65 GW], it will become critical to incorporate storage options.
Great Barrier Reef
  • Australia pledged half-a-billion dollars to restore and protect the Great Barrier Reef.
  • The World Heritage-listed site, which attracts millions of tourists, is reeling from significant bouts of coral bleaching due to warming sea temperatures linked to climate change. The reef is also under threat from the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish, which has proliferated due to pollution and agricultural runoff.
  • The bulk of the new funding — just over 200 million dollars — was earmarked to improve water quality by changing farming practices and adopting new technologies and land management.
  • Scientists said the site suffered a “catastrophic die-off” of coral during an extended heatwave in 2016, threatening a broader range of reef life than previously feared.
  • A study in the journal Nature said some 30 per cent of the reef’s coral perished, the first of an unprecedented two successive years of coral bleaching along the 2,300-kilometer reef.
Sariska National Park
  • The number of tiger cubs in the Sariska National Park in Rajasthan’s Alwar district has risen to 14 with the birth of two cubs.
  • Prelims remember the location of the park.
Thwaites Glacier
  • Britain and the United States launched a $25 million project to study the risks of a collapse of a giant glacier in Antarctica that is already shrinking and nudging up global sea levels.
  • The five-year research, involving 100 scientists, would be the two nations’ biggest joint scientific project in Antarctica since the 1940s.
  • The scientists would study the Thwaites Glacier, which is roughly the size of Florida or Britain, in West Antarctica.
  • Thwaites and the nearby Pine Island Glacier are two of the biggest and fastest-retreating glaciers in Antarctica. If both abruptly collapse, allowing ice far inland to flow faster into the oceans, world sea levels can rise by more than a metre (3 feet), threatening cities from Shanghai to San Francisco and low-lying coastal regions.
Lake Victoria biodiversity under threat
  • Three quarters of freshwater species endemic to East Africa’s Lake Victoria basin face the threat of extinction.
  • A fresh report backed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assessed the extinction risk of 651 freshwater species like fish, molluscs, dragonflies, crabs and aquatic plants native to Africa’s largest lake.
  • The report titled “Freshwater biodiversity in the Lake Victoria Basin”. “Three-quarters (76%) of these endemics are at risk of extinction,” IUCN warned.
  • In its report, the IUCN pointed out that freshwater species are important sources of food, medicine and construction material for the millions of people living in the area surrounding the lake.
  • The lake, which stretches into Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and whose catchment also touches Burundi and Rwanda, is known for its high-level of unique biodiversity.
  • main threats to biodiversity in the region: overfishing, poor fishing practices and environmental degradation as wetlands are converted to agricultural land. Industrial and agricultural pollution, over-harvesting and land clearance.
  • Lake Victoria, also called Victoria Nyanza, largest lake in Africa and chief reservoir of the Nile, lying mainly in Tanzania and Uganda but bordering on Kenya.Among the freshwater lakes of the world, it is exceeded in size only by Lake Superior in North America.
India had 14 out of world’s 20 most polluted cities
  • Delhi and Varanasi are among the 14 Indian cities that figure in a list of 20 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM2.5 levels in 2016, data released by the WHO shows.
  • Nine out of 10 people in the world breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.
  • In terms of PM10 levels, 13 cities in India figure among the 20 most polluted cities of the world in 2016.
  • The WHO has called upon member-countries in its Southeast Asia region to aggressively address the double burden of household and ambient (outdoor) air pollution, the region, which comprises India, accounts for 34% or 2.4 million of the seven million premature deaths caused by household and ambient air pollution together globally every year.
  • Of the 3.8 million deaths caused by household air pollution globally, the region accounts for 1.5 million or 40% deaths, and of the 4.2 million global deaths due to ambient air pollution, 1.3 million or 30% are reported from the region.
  • The PM2.5 includes pollutants like sulfate, nitrate and black carbon, which pose the greatest risk to human health.WHO’s global urban air pollution database measured the levels of fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5)
  • WHO recognize air pollution is a critical risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), causing an estimated 24% of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25% from stroke, 43% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29% from lung cancer.
  • Many of the world’s mega cities exceed WHO’s guideline levels for air quality by more than 5 times, representing a major risk to people’s health.
  • Responding to the air pollution data released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) , the government claimed that various measures have led to pollution levels actually falling in 2017.
  • At 143 microgrammes/cubic metre, Delhi’s PM (2.5) levels in 2016 — as reported by the WHO — made it the sixth most polluted city in the world. The government, citing Central Pollution Control Board data, said it was 134 microgrammes/cubic metre in 2016 and 125 microgrammes/cubic metre in 2017.
  • The CPCB data based on Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations (CAAQMS) also noted that PM (10) figures were 289 microgrammes per cubic metre in the year 2016 and 268 microgrammes per cubic metre in the year 2017.
  • The WHO had cited numbers from CPCB, along with other peer-reviewed sources, to assess pollution levels in Delhi in 2016.
Glow-in-the-dark algae
  • The phenomenon of Mumbai’s beaches glowing in the dark maybe a consequence of global warming and not industrial pollution, according to a year-long investigation by Indian and American scientists.
  • The Noctiluca algae, commonly known as sea tinkle, is a parasite and occurs in patches or ‘blooms’ in the Northern Arabian Sea. They glow at night due bioluminescence, and have earned them the nickname ‘sea sparkle’.These patches are a sign of decline because they compete with fish for food and choke their supply.
  • Noctiluca devours one of the most important planktonic organisms at the base of the fish-food chain, namely diatoms, and also excretes large amounts of ammonia, which is linked with massive fish mortalities.
  • Researchers from the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS)—a Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) body—and the US’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – “global warming conditions” may be instead be responsible.
  • A warming ocean means greater temperature differences among layers of the sea water and this slows the upward transport of nutrients like silicate from the ocean bottom, lowering its concentration at the surface. Diatoms growing in surface water need both sunlight and silicate to build their glass skeletons and thus, will fail to thrive when silicate becomes less available. On the other hand, Noctiluca remains unaffected by these changes and additionally will prey on the remaining diatoms.
Taj Mahal discolouration
  • Supreme Court said that Taj Mahal is browning, experts say that the discolouration is due to a mix of weathering as well as industrial pollution but thorough studies are required before remedial measures are implemented.
  • In 2014, a study by Indian and US researchers argued that the key culprits responsible for the discolouration were: particulate matter; carbon from burning biomass and refuse; fossil fuels; and dust possibly from agriculture and road traffic.
Western Ghats forest cover vital for Tamil Nadu’s South-West monsoon
  • The dense vegetation in the Western Ghats determines the amount of rainfall that Tamil Nadu gets during the summer monsoon.
  • A team led by Prof. Subimal Ghosh from the Department of Civil Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay has found that dense forests of the Western Ghats contribute as much as 40% of moisture to the southwest monsoon rainfall over Tamil Nadu during normal monsoon years. The average contribution is 25-30%. But during monsoon deficit years, the contribution increases to as high as 50%.
  • The study found the forests of Western Ghats contribute as much as 3 mm per day of rainfall during August and September over a “majority of locations” in Tamil Nadu and 1 mm per day during June and July.
  • The Western Ghats acts as a capacitor. The forest land and vegetation gets recharged with water during the wet spell and during the break periods moisture is released and which contributes to rainfall to the State.
New snake found in Western Ghats
  • New snake found in Western Ghats , it is just 40 cm long and iridescent brown, named Bhupathy’s shieldtail .
  • The snake, currently observed only in the forests of the Anaikatty hills in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore district, has been named Uropeltis bhupathyi, after the late herpetologist S. Bhupathy, for his contributions to the field.
  • The reptile belongs to a family of snakes found only in peninsular India and Sri Lanka. They are non-venomous, burrowing and mostly earthworm-eating, and are called shieldtails after the large, flat tips of their tails, which make them appear almost sliced off.
  • The discovery takes the number of known species of shieldtails in India to 41. The country is home to more than 300 snake species.
addiction to plastic
Mains Value addition : When the rest of the world, particularly India and China, stepped on the growth pedal, the use of plastic rose exponentially. In 1950, annual plastic production was less than half a million tonnes. By 2002, when India and China were well into their high growth trajectory, production reached 200 million tonnes a year!
  • In 2016, 335 million tonnes of plastic were synthesised, most of which has been disposed of within days, if not hours. Some 80 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since 1950, of which about 60% has been discarded and a meagre 9% recycled.
  • when exposed to salt water and sunlight, plastics fragment into tiny little pieces called microplastics that find their way into fishes and other aquatic life, entering the food chain.Added to this are microbeads, tiny pieces of polyethylene plastic that are added to health and beauty products such as cleansers and toothpaste.
  • India is producing some 5.5 million tonnes of plastic every year,  most of it is finding its way into the natural environment. A 2015 study conducted by the Central Pollution Control Boardfound that plastic waste has become a serious problem in as many as 60 cities across the country. These cities are generating 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste everyday
fall in water reserves
Mains Value addition
  • India’s groundwater resources have been over exploited
  • According to a sample assessment in 2011, groundwater in 19 of India’s 71 districts — about 26% — were critical or exploited, meaning that nearly as much or more water was being pulled out than their reservoirs’ natural recharge ability.
  • In another assessment in 2013, they included groundwater blocks in districts that had gone saline, and this percentage was up to 31%.
  • Groundwater is exploited unequally. The maximum overdraft is in the northwestern States of Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana.
  • The overall contribution of rainfall to the country’s annual groundwater resource is 68%, and the share of other resources, such as canal seepage, return flow from irrigation, recharge from tanks, ponds and water conservation structures, taken together is 32%.
  • national per capita annual availability of water has reduced from 1,816 cubic metre in 2001 to 1,544 cubic metre in 2011, a 15% reduction.
  • Reasons: India has registered a sharp decline in its pre-monsoon rainfall this year. Between March 1 and the first week of May, the country should have got at least 70 mm of rain, but has only got 55 mm, or a 20% deficit.
  • Outcomes: According to figures from the Central Water Commission, India’s key reservoirs are, as of this week, 10% short of their decadal average for this time of the year.
  • Policy: The Centre has a ‘model’ groundwater Bill that is not binding on the States. However, 11 States and four Union Territories have adopted it. But the legislation has had limited impact on groundwater exploitation.
New technology purifies water using sunlight
  • Scientists have developed a new technology that uses the sunlight to purify water with near-perfect efficiency.
  • The idea of using energy from the sun to evaporate and purify water was reportedly described by Greek philosopher Aristotle over 2,000 years ago.
  • By draping black, carbon-dipped paper in a triangular shape and using it to both absorb and vaporise water, researchers have developed a method for using sunlight to generate clean water with near-perfect efficiency.
  • The technique has many advantages. It is simple, and the power source  the sun  is available just about everywhere.Using this set-up, researchers evaporated the equivalent of 2.2 litres of water per hour for every square metre of area illuminated by the regular sun.
Tourism behind 8% of CO2 emissions
  • The world’s domestic and international tourism industry contributes to 8% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Small islands attract a disproportionate share of carbon emissions, considering their small populations, through international arrivals, while the U.S. is responsible for the majority of tourism-generated emissions overall.
Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano
  • Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano that has been oozing lava and burping steam for days.
  • Kilauea is one of the most active volcanos in the world and one of five on the island. A magnitude 5 earthquake under its south flank preceded an initial eruption and several severe aftershocks followed.
  • is a currently active shield volcano.
U.S. cancels carbon monitoring project
  • A NASA programme that cost $10 million per year to track carbon and methane, key greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, has been cancelled.
  • The end of the programme called the Carbon Monitoring System (CMS)  which tracked sources and sinks for carbon and made high-resolution models of the planet’s flows of carbon — was first reported by the journal Science.
climate variations recorded in stalagmite
  • A stalagmite is a type of rock formation that rises from the floor of a cave due to the accumulation of material deposited on the floor from ceiling drippings. Stalagmites may be composed of lava, minerals, mud, peat, pitch, sand, sinter and amberat.
  • Analysing bits of a stalagmite from Kotumsar cave in Central India, a collaboration involving researchers from Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, has revealed variations of the Indian summer monsoon over some 3,000 years, starting from 8,500 years ago to 5,600 years ago.
  • The Kotumsar cave is 35 metres below ground level and located in the Kanger Valley National Park of Chhattisgarh. It formed by slow dissolution of the Kanger limestone by water from the Indian summer monsoon (June to September) over hundreds of thousands of years.
  • The team used Uranium–Thorium dating to study the sample.
  • The team found that at the beginning of the mid-Holocene, from 8,500 years ago to 6,500 years ago, the monsoon had started declining. The team also noticed 70–100-year-long mega drought events. They also noticed that, gradually, the summer monsoon increased between 6,500 years ago to 5,600 years ago.
Bengal florican
  • The critically endangered Bengal florican  a grassland bird more threatened than the tiger use not just protected grasslands but agricultural fields, too.
  • This suggests that conserving these cultivated areas could be as important as protecting the grasslands where these birds breed.
  • Fewer than 1,000 adult Bengal floricans remain in the world in two, very fragmented populations. One of them is in the grasslands of the terai, the fertile foothills of the Himalayas, which spans across Nepal and Indian states such as Uttar Pradesh.
  • During the monsoon (the non-breeding season), the birds had far larger home ranges. They moved out of protected grasslands and into low-intensity agricultural fields along large rivers.
Multiple threats to Himalayan biodiversity
  • The Indian Himalayas, which constitute about 12% of the country’s landmass, is home to about 30.16% of its fauna, says a new publication (Faunal Diversity of Indian Himalaya) from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).
  • Spread across six States  from Jammu and Kashmir in the west through Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and West Bengal’s Darjeeling to Arunachal Pradesh in the far east the Indian Himalayas are divided into two bio-geographic zones  the Trans-Himalaya and the Himalaya, based on physiographic, climatic and eco-biological attributes.
  • The Indian Himalayas also have 131 protected areas, which cover 9.6% of the entire protected area of the country, almost the same as the Western Ghats (10% of protected areas), another biodiversity hotspot in the country.
  • The protected areas include 20 national parks, 71 wildlife sanctuaries, five tiger reserves, four biosphere reserves and seven Ramsar Wetland sites.
  • The publication lists 133 vertebrate species of the region cited as threatened in the IUCN Red List. This includes 43 species of mammals like the critically endangered Pygmy Hog, the Namdapha flying squirrel and the endangered Snow leopard, the Red Panda and the Kashmir Gray Langur.
  • Fifty-two species of birds are also in the threatened category like the critically endangered White-Bellied Heron and Siberian crane and vulnerable species like the Black Necked crane and the Indian Spotted eagle, among others.
  • The Indian Himalayas host 1,249 species/subspecies of butterflies, with the highest density recorded in Arunachal Pradesh. Some of the rare high-altitude butterflies found in the Himalayas are Parnassius stoliczkanus (Ladakh banded Apollo) and Parnassius epaphus (Red Apollo), listed under Schedule I and Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, respectively.
Threats to this Himayalan biodiversity
  • Climate change is the major threat as far as mammals and birds are concerned. The impact is visible in the shifting distribution of sensitive species like the Asiatic Black Bear, the Snow leopard, and the Himalayan Marmot.
  • Habitat loss due to land use change, illegal wildlife trade, forest fires and increasing anthropogenic activities
Protected lands under urbanisation pressure
Mains Value addition points: 
  • Protected lands may be legally protected on paper, but one-third of the world’s protected areas are under intense pressure from human activities such as road construction, grazing for livestock and urbanisation said a study published in Science..
  • Using global “human footprint” maps to quantify the intensity of human pressure in 41,927 protected areas  in 213 countries. Their results show that 32.8% of protected land worldwide is highly degraded. 55% of protected areas created before the ratification of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD, a multilateral treaty with 196 countries as signatories) in 1992 have experienced increases in pressure from human activities.
  • 80% of protected land in India has been heavily modified by human activity.
  • The report warns that CBD goals  such as the Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 which mandates including at least 17% of terrestrial areas of a country as protected by 2020  will be undermined if widespread human pressure continues inside protected areas.
India’s freshwater stocks in danger
  • Scientists led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in the U.S. used data on human activities to map locations where the availability of freshwater is rapidly changing.The team used 14 years of observations from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) spacecraft mission, a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, to track global trends in freshwater in 34 regions around the world.
  • The study, published in the journal Nature, found that wetter parts of the earth’s were getting wetter and dry areas getting drier due to a variety of factors, including human water use, climate change and natural cycles.
  • Areas in northern and eastern India, West Asia, California and Australia are among the hotspots where overuse of water resources has caused a serious decline in the availability of freshwater.
UGC directs universities to ban plastic bottles on campus
  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) has directed all universities and higher educational institutions to ban the use of plastic cups, lunch packets, straws, bottles and bags on their campuses.
  • The directive comes after the Environment Ministry issued an advisory, saying that India is the host of this year’s World Environment Day celebrations, the largest United Nations-led event on environment, and the theme is ‘Beat Plastic Pollution.’
International Biodiversity Day 2018
  • Every year May 22 is observed as The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase awareness on various biodiversity issues such as habitat destruction, marine pollution and climate change.
  • It was first observed in 1993 by the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly. In 2000, May 22 was chosen as the The International Day for Biological Diversity to commemorate the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity. It is an international legal agreement ratified by 196 nations for “the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources”.
  • The theme for 2018 is “Celebrating 25 Years of Action for Biodiversity.
Worsening air quality major cause of premature deaths
  • Worsening air quality in the last two decades has emerged as one of the major reasons for high numbers of premature deaths, says a new study conducted in 11 north Indian cities.
  • The findings titled ‘Know what you breathe’, released here on Tuesday, were researched by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Delhi in collaboration with environmental NGO Centre for Environment and Energy Development (CEED). The report found annual mortality linked to air pollution to be in the range of 150-300 persons per 1 lakh population.
  • The study calculated the annual “mortality burden” through averages of recorded deaths caused due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Acute Lower Respiratory Infection (ALRI), coronary disease, stroke, and lung cancer, in these cities. COPD was the largest cause of the deaths (at 29.7%) and lung cancer the lowest (0.6%).
  • Premature mortality burden would reduce by 14%-28% annually with the achievement of Indian air quality standards in these cities, the report said.
Humans form a minuscule part of life on earth
  • according to a first-of-its-kind global census of the footprint of life on the planet ,The planet’s real heavyweights are plants.
  • Plants outweigh people by about 7,500 to 1, and make up more than 80% of the world’s biomass.
  • Bacteria are nearly 13% of the world’s biomass. Fungi yeast, mold and mushrooms make up about 2%.
  • Domesticated cattle and pigs outweigh all wild mammals by 14 to 1, while the world’s chickens are triple the weight of all the wild birds.
  • Taking water out of the equation and measuring only dry carbon makes it easier for scientists to compare species. About one-sixth the weight of a human is dry carbon. Humans are about two-thirds water.

SDG The Global Goals for Sustainable Development

UN general assembly has formally adopted new development goals,Agenda consists of 17 goals designed to end poverty and hunger by 2030,new goals expected to shape political policy worldwide for next 15 years.

Twenty years after the Rio Summit, the world met in June 2012 at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, the so-called Rio+20. The key takeaway was a document titled The Future We Want, in which the idea of a new agenda for the post-2015 era was posted. World leaders committed to migrate from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the SDGs. An Open Working Group of nations was set up, and the next three years saw negotiations leading to a 24-page document including 17 Sustainable Development Goals with 169 targets. The SDGs are to be achieved between January 2016 and 2030.

What are these 17 goals?

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development

  • 1) End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • 2) End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • 3) Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • 4) Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • 5) Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • 6) Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • 7) Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • 8) Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • 9) Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • 10) Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • 11) Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • 12) Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • 13) Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  • 14) Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • 15) Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  • 16) Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • 17) Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

How are SDGs different from MDGs?

To begin with, much of the world, including the developing world for whom the MDGs were designed, heard of them towards the end of the 15-year period during which they were to be achieved. SDGs have seen much more effective consultation. According to co-chair of the Open Working Group Macharia Kamau, “No one can say they were not consulted. There was wide consultation and therefore there is accountability.” SDGs are also wider in nature, and include, for the first time, specific goals on economic indicators. They also offer a paradigm shift in tune with a world in flux, where new groupings of nations seem set to render the old world order of western dominance obsolete. But most significantly, the SDGs are universal — they are for all nations, not just for the developing world.

While this ensures unprecedented accountability, the universality principle has also become contentious: the G77 and China, or the “developing nations”, expect the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) to apply to the SDGs. [CBDR means that while the responsibility towards the Earth is commonly shared, it is the developed countries, in view of their historical and greater contribution to environmental degradation, that must do the heavy-lifting of responsibility.] Additionally, as resource mobilisation for implementing the SDGs will focus on nations’ capacities instead of the traditional categorisation of ‘developed’ or ‘developing’, the old North-South relationship could be challenged over the next 15 years.

What will be the constraints?

The UN’s description of the MDGs as the most effective anti-poverty initiative in history notwithstanding, there has been little international assessment of their overall impact. The SDGs, for now, also suffer from lack of clarity on evaluation, accountability and transparency, though these are to be addressed soon. There are other worries: 17 seems too many, and 169 target indicators might be difficult to monitor even for countries with good data collection mechanisms. The big concern, though, remains resources. The inclusion of the chapter on the ‘Means of Implementation’ — basically a framework of financial resources and technology transfer to developing nations, and structural reform of international financial and trade architectures — nearly caused the three-year negotiations on the SDGs to collapse when the developed world resisted.

Is organic farming the answer to climate change?

Organic farming, as an adaptation strategy to climate change is a concrete and sustainable option and has additional potential as a mitigation strategy. The careful management of nutrients and carbon sequestration in soils are significant contributors in adaptation and mitigation to climate change.

Organic agriculture is a holistic production management system. It emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions. This is accomplished by using, where possible, cultural, biological, and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials. An organic production system is designed to a) enhance biological diversity within the whole system; b) increase soil biological activity; c) maintain long-term soil fertility; d) recycle wastes of plant and animal origin in order to return nutrients to the land, thus minimizing the use of nonrenewable resources; e) rely on renewable resources in locally organized agricultural systems; f) promote the healthy use of soil, water, and air, as well as minimize all forms of pollution thereto that may result from agricultural practices;

Organic farming increases resilience to respond to the risk of climate variability. Where a region relies predominantly on rain fed agriculture, organic farming can respond well to droughts. In India, 60% of agriculture depends on rains. They are prone to drought.Climate change may make drought conditions even more common in the future thereby increasing food insecurity and migration rates.

From field trials conducted in arid, semi-arid, sub-humid and humid regions of India, it was found that organic farming techniques can improve soil carbon levels by five per cent to 25 per cent and increase the water holding capacity of soils between two per cent to 17 per cent. Organic agriculture provides environmental benefits through the sequestration of atmospheric carbon in soil organic matter.

Soils with higher concentration of carbon content are better able to absorb and retain water because the organic matter acts like `sponge` absorbing excess water and retaining it in the soil. More moisture in the soil is particularly valuable for farmers in drought prone, dry regions.

Organic farming systems also increase biodiversity by cultivating different genetically diverse crop varieties.

Together with using adaptation strategies such as water efficient irrigation techniques and drought tolerant seed varieties, organic farming can help farmers cope with the impacts of the changing climate.

India National Agroforestry Policy

Agroforestry  is an integrated approach of using the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops. It combines agricultural and forestry technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy, and sustainable land-use systems. A narrow definition of agroforestry is “trees on farms.”

Read moreIndia National Agroforestry Policy

Backgrounder Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific intergovernmental body, set up at the request of member governments. It was first established in 1988 by two United Nations organizations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and later endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly.

Read moreBackgrounder Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)