Benefits of Vegetarianism : WRI Report

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Facts:

  • WRI estimates that the global demands for beef may increase by a whopping 95% by the year 2050.
  • There are 1.3 billion cattle across the world today (and India rears 300 million of them).
  • We would need over 2.6 billion cattle 30 years from now!

WRI Report:

  • The World Resources Institute (WRI), based in Washington, DC, USA, has recently suggested that people should reduce (if not abandon) eating beef
  • This is despite the fact that beef-eating in the US has dropped, due to health concerns about eating “red meat.”
  • Word cattle here includes cows and bulls, buffaloes, horses, sheep and goats – in effect farm animals.
  • Need of pastures: Breeding cattle impacts the climate conditions on earth, contributing to global warming. It also takes up lot of land for pasturing (it is estimated that 25% of the earth’s land mass (minus the Antarctica) would be needed for pasture).
  • Water intensive: It is also estimated that a third of the global water is needed for farm animal production .
  • Greenhouse Gases: On top of this, cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats and other “ungulates” belch a lot; this alone emits enormous amount of greenhouse gases that contribute over 60% to global warming.
  • In contrast, plants such as wheat, rice, maize, pulses, roots and tubers need no pasture land, demand far less water and, more importantly, generate little or no “greenhouse gases”.
  • We have promised to cut down global warming to no more than 1.5°C within the next 20 years, but with the projected demand for increase the number of cattle, the situation can only worsen.
  • Overeating: Today about 20% of the world overeats, leading to obesity and being overweight, and there are consequent health problems.
  • Cutting the calories down to the optimal level will lead to both health benefits and saving in land and water use.
  • Include more plant-based proteins and cut down animal-based ones. Traditional Mediterranean diet (fish and poultry meat, at low levels) and vegetarian meals (with legumes-based proteins) are suggested.
  • Reduce beef consumption specifically – Cutting down beef (cattle in general) in daily diet will offer both dietary and environmental benefit. The environmental benefits are clear; it saves agriculture for land use and reduces greenhouse gases. Rather than beef, one can turn to pork, poultry, fish and, of course, legumes.
  • History: The move to vegetarianism, which started around 1500-500 BCE by the Indians and the Greeks, was connected with the idea of nonviolence towards animals, and promoted by religion and philosophy. The Tamil scholar-poet Thiruvalluvar, the Mauryan kings Chandragupta and Ashoka, and the Greek sage Pythagoras (of the theorem fame) were vegetarians.

Environmental Tipping Points

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What are ‘Tipping points’?

‘Tipping points’, are essentially the  thresholds beyond which the earth’s systems are no longer able to stabilise.  

The danger in crossing tipping points becomes higher with more warming.

Such tipping points include: 

  1. melting of Greenland ice, 
  2. collapse of Antarctic glaciers (which would lead to several metres of sea level rise),
  3. destruction of Amazon forests, 
  4. melting of all the permafrost and so on.

Living Planet Report (LPR) 2018

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About Report:

  • Published by World Wide Fund for Nature(WWF)
  • It is published every 2 years

 

Highlights of report

  • Soil Biodiversity: 
    • It encompasses presence of micro-organisms, micro-fauna (nematodes and tardigrades for example), and macro-fauna (ants, termites and earthworms).
    • Millions of microbial and animal species live and make up soils, from bacteria and fungi to mites, beetles and earthworms. Soil biodiversity, thus is total community from genes to species, and varies depending on environment.
    • The immense diversity in soil allows for great variety of ecosystem services that benefit species that inhabit it, the species that use it and its surrounding environment.
  • WWF’s ‘risk index’ for globe:
    • It indicated threats from loss of above-ground diversity, pollution and nutrient over-loading, over-grazing, intensive agriculture, fire, soil erosion, desertification and climate change.
    • India was coloured red on atlas and is among countries whose soil biodiversity faces the highest level of risk. Other countries in this category include Pakistan, China, several countries in Africa and Europe, and most of North America.
  • India’s per capita ecological footprint: It was less than 1.75 hectares/person (it is in lowest band among countries surveyed). India’s high population made it vulnerable to ecological crisis, even if per-capita consumption remained at current levels.
  • Pollinators: 150 million bee colonies were needed to meet the pollination requirements of about 50 million hectares of agricultural land in India, only 1.2 million colonies were present.
  • Ecological loss: Population of fish, mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles has dwindled by average of 60% from 1970 to 2014 and fresh-water species have declined by 83% in same period. Globally, extent of wetlands os estimated to have declined by 87% since 1970.

Biodiversity-loss

India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)

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India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)

  • ICAP addresses cooling requirement across sectors and lists out actions which can help reduce cooling demand.
  • Its thrust is to look for synergies in actions for securing both environmental and socio-economic benefits.
  • ICAP’s overarching goal is to provide sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all while securing environmental and socio-economic benefits for the society.
  • India is the first country in world to develop such document.
  • It provides a 20-year perspective, with projections for cooling needs in 2037-38.

 

Goals suggested in ICAP are

  • Reduce refrigerant demand by 25% to 30% by year 2037-38.
  • Reduce cooling demand across sectors by 20% to 25 % by year 2037-38.
  • Reduce cooling energy requirements by 25% to 40% by year 2037-38.
  • Train and certify 100,000 servicing sector technicians by 2022-23, in synergy with Skill India Mission.
  • Recognize cooling and related areas as thrust area of research under national science and technology programme to support development of technological solutions and encourage innovation challenges.

 

Broad objectives of ICAO include

  • Assessment of cooling requirements across sectors in next 20 years and the associated refrigerant demand and energy use.
  • Map the technologies available to cater the cooling requirement including passive interventions, refrigerant-based technologies and alternative technologies such as not-in-kind technologies.
  • Suggest interventions in each sector to provide for sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all.
  • Focus on skilling of refrigeration and air-conditioning (RAC) service technicians.
  • Develop R&D innovation ecosystem for indigenous development of alternative technologies.

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WGEEP Vs Kasturirangan Panel

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Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP):

  • In the year 2010, Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) was constituted by the Central Government, under the chairmanship of Madhav Gadgil.
  • WGEEP issued recommendations for the preservation of the fragile western peninsular region.

 

Highlights of Gadgil Report

  • Recommended that the entire stretch of the Western Ghats should be declared as Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA).
  • It recommended the division of region into three zones – ESZ1, ESZ2, ESZ3 and gave a broad outline of certain restrictions for each zone.
  • The committee recommended the division of region into zones at the block/taluk level.
  • It recommended that no new polluting industries (red and orange) were to be permitted in ESZ1 and ESZ2 and gradual phasing out of such existing industries by 2016.  Complete ban on mining in ESZ1 and regulation of mining in ESZ-2.
  • It was recommended that bottom to top approach be followed for conservation of Western Ghats.
  • Western Ghats Ecological Authority was proposed to be set up as a statutory body and given powers under the Environment protection Act 1986.

 

Criticism of WGEEP:

There were many criticisms of the Gadgil Committee Report. Some among them were :

  • The report was not prepared keeping in mind the ground realities. If the report is implemented, the development and the energy requirements in the states coming within the boundary of Western Ghats would be adversely affected.
  • There is no need to set up a new body while there are many such bodies for the protection of environment.

 

Madhav Gadgil has said the recent havoc in Kerala is a consequence of short-sighted policymaking, and warned that Goa may also be in the line of nature’s fury.

 

Kasturirangan Panel:

Following severe resistance to the implementation of Gadgil Committee report, Kasturirangan Panel was set up in 2012 to advise the government on Gadgil Committee Report.

 

Highlights of Kasturirangan Report:

  • Divide the Western Ghats into Natural Landscape and Cultural Landscape
  • Of the natural landscape, it picked out 37% as “biologically rich” and with “some measure of contiguity”. Restrictions were placed in this area.
  • It proposed the demarcation of ESZ be done at the village level.
  • Only red category (heavy polluting) industries were restricted.
  • Hydro power project would be given the green signal on a case to case basis, post assessment of its benefits and the possible damage it could cause.

 

Gadgil Vs Kasturirangan :

  • Gadgil report laid too much importance to the environment, Kasturirangan report was biased towards development.
  • Kasturi Rangan report was criticized by many as that it provided loopholes for mining, which if allowed would turn detrimental to the environment, in long-term will affect development too. 
  • Kasturirangan report got the tag as anti-environmental soon after its release.
  • The WGEEP had earlier proposed “much larger areas for being included in the eco-sensitive zone” though the Kasturirangan panel had reduced it.

 

The Ministry had accepted the Kasthurirangan report and issued the draft notifications on ecologically sensitive zones.

 

NGT action:

  • Now, the six Western Ghats States, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat have been restrained by the NGT from giving environmental clearance to activities that may adversely impact the eco-sensitive areas of the mountain ranges.
  • The panel directed that the extent of Eco-Sensitive Zones of Western Ghats, which was notified by the Central government earlier, should not be reduced, in view of the recent floods in Kerala.
  • The Tribunal Bench, in its order, noted that any alteration in the draft notification of zones may seriously affect the environment.

 

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National REDD+ Strategy

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What is Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)?

  • REDD is set of steps designed to use market and financial incentives in order to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation.
  • It is collaborative programme of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • Its original objective is to reduce greenhouse gases but it is claimed that it can deliver co-benefits such as biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation.

 

What is REDD+?

  • REDD+ initiative goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
  • It aims at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.
  • It gives emphasis to activities that will help in sustainable livelihood of local communities and also in conservation of biodiversity.

 

National REDD+ Strategy

  • It aims at achieve climate change mitigation by incentivizing forest conservation.
  • This strategy will soon be communicated to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • It has been prepared by Indian Council of Forestry Research & Education (ICFRE), Dehradun.
  • It is one of tools to further supplement India’s commitment to 2015 Paris agreement.
  • It will support empowerment of youth cadres as community foresters to lead charge at local level.
  • Under it, Green Skill Development programme will be launched for imparting forestry-related specialised skills among the youth.
  • Significance: 
    • National REDD+ strategy will help India to fulfil its nationally determined contribution (NDC)  commitments and will also contribute to livelihood of forest dependent population.
    • It will help to enhance efforts for forest conservation and enhance productivity of forest eco-systems.
    • It takes into consideration important role played by tribal, other forest dwelling people and society as whole in reiterating India’s commitment to Paris Agreement.

 

Why REDD+ is important?

  • Paris Agreement on Climate Change recognises role of forests in climate change mitigation and calls upon participating nations to take action to implement and support REDD+.
  • India in its NDC to this agreement has committed to capture 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) through additional efforts in forestry sector.
  • India’s first biennial update report to UNFCCC has revealed that forests in India capture about 12% of India’s total GHG emissions.
  • Thus, forestry sector in India is making positive cost effective contribution for climate change mitigation.

 

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Cheetah Reintroduction Project

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Cheetah:

  • Cheetah, fastest land animal was declared extinct in India in 1952.
  • India’s last spotted Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) had died in Chhattisgarh in 1947.
  • This species was hunted into extinction by British colonial officers and Indian royalty.

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Cheetah Reintroduction Project:

  • According to earlier action plan, around 20 cheetahs were to be translocated to Nauradehi from Namibia in Africa.
  • Namibia Cheetah Conservation Fund had then showed its willingness to donate felines to India.
  • However, State was not ready to finance plan contending that it was the Centre’s project.
  • Madhya Pradesh forest department has written to National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to revive its Cheetah Reintroduction Project to reintroduce Cheetahs in Nauradehi sanctuary located in Sagar district of state.

 

Background

  • In 2011, NTCA, a statutory body under Union Environment Ministry had committed Rs.50 crore to State for this project.
  • Dehradun based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) also had prepared Rs. 260 crore Cheetah Re-introduction Project in 2012.
  • It was estimated that Rs. 25 crore to Rs. 30 crore will be needed to build enclosure with huge boundary walls in area of 150 sq km for introduction and protection of Cheetahs in Nauradehi before releasing them in wild.
  • Nauradehi sanctuary was found to be most suitable area for reintroduction of Cheetahs as its forests are not very dense to restrict fast movement of Cheetahs and also has abundant prey base.

 

Compensatory Afforestation Fund Rules

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Context:

  • Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has notified rules for utilisation of more than Rs 66,000 crore afforestation funds by states/UTs and for setting up authorities to monitor its use for afforestation and conservation.
  • The rules have been framed two years after Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act, 2016 to this effect was enacted.

 

About the fund:

  • The fund is accumulated amount which user agencies have been depositing as compensation for diverting forest land for non-forest purposes such as setting up industries or creating infrastructure, over the past 10 years.
  • Since rules for utilisation of fund have been notified, unspent amount will now be transferred to National Compensatory Afforestation Fund (NCAF) at Centre and respective State Compensatory Afforestation Funds in phased manner, depending on its utilisation.
  • The national and state compensatory afforestation funds are both non-lapsable and have been established under Public Account of India and Public Account of each state.
  • They can be utilised for only activities listed under the CAF Act.

 

Key Features of Rules

  • The rules specify that 80% of compensatory afforestation amount will be utilised by states for plantations, assisted natural regeneration of forests, pest and disease control in forest, forest fire prevention, soil and moisture conservation works and improvement of wildlife habitat, among other things from list of 13 permissible activities.
  • The remaining 20% will be used for 11 listed works to strengthen infrastructure related forest and wildlife protection.
  • The list includes third-party monitoring of works, development of certification standards, forest certification and casual hiring of local people to assist forest department staff.
  • It also specifies that working plan will be taken up in consultation with the gram sabha or village forest management committee.

 

Need of Rules:

  • Though Parliament had enacted Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act, 2016 to utilise money, it could not be implemented in absence of enabling rules within Act for two years.
  • As result, only Rs 14,418 crore out of Rs 80,716 crore were disbursed to states/UTs under temporary and time-consuming mechanism.
  • The remaining Rs 66,298 crore therefore has been lying unspent with ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) created by Supreme Court order in 2009.
  • Among states, Odisha has highest share (Rs 9,725 crore) in accumulated fund, followed by Chhattisgarh (Rs. 7,288 crore), Madhya Pradesh (Rs 6,353 crore) and Jharkhand (Rs 5,193 crore).

Criticism of rules:

  • Former Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has objected to the rules.
  • He alleged that the CAF Rules “undermined” several aspects of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA).
  • In the current form, they significantly reduced the authority of gram sabhas in having a say in their local compensatory afforestation projects and reduced them to the role of “consultants”.
  • Much power instead was vested with the State-level forest bureaucracy.

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Water Scarcity

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Facts:
  • There are millions of people all over the world who don’t have access to water, or, if they have access, that water is unable to be used.
  • About 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water and 3% of it is actually freshwater that is fit for human consumption.
  • Around two-thirds of that is tucked in frozen glaciers and unavailable for our use.
  • According to WWF, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to water, and a total of 2.7 billion find water scarce for at least one month of the year.
  • Water scarcity involves water crisis, water shortage, water deficit or water stress.
  • Water scarcity can be due to physical water scarcity and economic water scarcity.
  • Physical water scarcity refers to a situation where natural water resources are unable to meet a region’s demand and economic water scarcity is a result of poor water management resources.
  • India is in the midst of a suicidal water crisis as urban and rural landscapes go thirsty.
 
The scale of loss
  • First, cities today are vast agglomerations that continue to spread, with bursting populations of tens of millions.
  • They are huge parasites on water, food, energy and all other resources.
  • High densities of our cities do not allow for water harvesting to fill the gap.
  • Until now, invasive schemes like dams to service these large cities and the huge needs of agriculture have caused extreme ecological devastation.
 
Solutions for Water Scarcity
  • Education: There are plenty of opportunities out there that people can use in order to learn more about the world around them. By educating those who are not dealing with water scarcity, they can be in a position to help. Those who are dealing with it can get educated on how they can prevent the problem from becoming even worse in the future.
  • Recycle Water: There are plenty of technologies out there that allow you to recycle rainwater and other water that you may be using in your home. Consider learning about how you can recycle water. Not only does it help to prevent scarcity, but it can save you some money as well.
  • Advance Technology Related to Water Conservation: There has been a lot of work in the world of water conservation, but there is also a lot that needs to be done in order to ensure that the rest of the world is able to conserve water. Putting money and effort into conservation could be life-saving.
  • Improve Practices Related to Farming: Farming and irrigation are often a huge culprit when it comes to water scarcity. Because of that, we need to improve practices so that we don’t use as much water and those who are using water are using it to its fullest potential. Technology also needs to advance in this manner.
  • Improve Sewage Systems: Clean drinking water starts with a good sewage system. Without proper sanitation, the water in an area becomes ridden with disease and any number of other problems. By improving the sewage systems in these areas, we can prevent water scarcity from becoming any worse.
  • Support Clean Water Initiatives: There are organizations located all over the world that are looking to bring clean water to areas that don’t have it.
 
Source:

Stubble Burning

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What Is Stubble Burning?

  • Stubble burning is, the act of removing paddy crop residue from the field to sow wheat.
  • It’s usually required in areas that use the ‘combine harvesting’ method which leaves crop residue behind.
  • It is mainly carried out in Haryana and Punjab.
  • Open burning of husk produces harmful smoke that causes pollution. Open burning of husk is of incomplete combustion in nature. Hence large amount of toxic pollutants are emitted in the atmosphere. Pollutants contain harmful gases like Methane, Carbon Monoxide (CO), Volatile organic compound (VOC) and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

What is combine harvesting?

  • Combines are machines that harvest, thresh i.e separate the grain, and also clean the separated grain, all at once.
  • The problem, however, is that the machine doesn’t cut close enough to the ground, leaving stubble behind that the farmer has no use for.
  • There is pressure on the farmer to sow the next crop in time for it to achieve a full yield. The quickest and cheapest solution, therefore, is to clear the field by burning the stubble.

Why do Farmers Burn?

  • Cost Factor: The straw management equipment is costly and process is time consuming. Also, the cost of stubble management is not taken into account while determining the minimum support price (MSP).
  • Increasing mechanization of agriculture: Stubble problem was not as severe when paddy was harvested manually because the farmers use to cut it as close to the ground as possible. Due to mechanization the crop residue that remains in the field is of larger quantity;
  • Labour costs are very high now
  • Combine harvester machines to tide over the labour scarcity- The machine appears to be the key reason behind the problem because it only reaps the grains, leaving stalks or stubble of around 40 cm. Those who want fodder have to get the stubble removed manually or use specialised machines to do the job. But that is costly. For every 0.4 ha of wheat crop, the cost of renting a combine harvester is just Rs 800. Once the machine has harvested, the cost of getting the stubble removed is Rs 3,500/ha.
  • Time Factor: Delay in sowing means yield decline, this leaves very little time to clear the farm for sowing.
  • Monoculture of wheat and paddy. In Andhra, bean gram and black gram are planted while rice stubble decomposes on its own.
  • Unlike wheat stalks that are used as animal fodder, the paddy straw has high silica content that animals can’t digest.
  • Since farmers need to sow wheat within a fortnight of harvesting paddy, they burn the straw to save time, labour and money.

Analysis of the issue

  • The assured irrigation-based agriculture of north-west India produces a large quantity of wheat and paddy to ensure food security of the country. This region produces an equally large quantity of crop residue.
  • During late October to middle November, the whole of the north-west region appears to be burning and the sky is filled with gases injurious to health.
  • This makes children and the elderly prone to sickness, which often proves fatal in many cases. With decline in visibility due to smog, road/rail accidents also take place frequently, snatching away thousands of lives.
  • Due to high levels of pollution in the air, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has been issuing directions to governments of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to take concrete steps to check this menace.
  • The governments have been issuing orders to fine those farmers found burning crop residue. But, until now, these orders have been largely defied by farmers who find no other alternative to burning.
  • They hold the view that alternatives are costly. Zero tillage technology through the use of Happy Seeder machines or mixing of crop residue in the soil through mulching requires purchase of costly machines beyond their reach. The operation of these machines requires tractors with stronger horsepower than those possessed by most of the farmers.