Petcoke Ban Issue

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Petcoke

  • It is one of the many industrial by products produced during oil refining.
  • It is categorized as bottom of the barrel fuel as it is a residual waste material which is obtained after refining crude oil to extract lighter fuels like petrol.
  • It is used as a source of energy and carbon for various industrial applications.
  • It is abundantly used in India in several manufacturing industries such as cement, steel and textile as it is significantly cheaper that coal, has high calorific value and is easier to transport and store.
  • There are two kinds of pet coke produced viz. Fuel grade pet coke (80%) and calcined pet coke (20%) during oil refining.

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Pet Coke in India:

  • India is the world’s biggest consumer of petcoke.
  • It gets over half its annual petcoke imports of around 27 million tonnes from United States.
  • Local producers include Indian Oil Corp, Reliance Industries and Bharat Petroleum Corp.  
  • Cement companies in India account for about three-fourths of country’s petcoke use.
  • Usage of pet coke in energy-hungry India recently had come under scrutiny due to rising pollution levels in major cities.

 

Hazards of Pet Coke

  • Petcoke is much more potent pollutant than coal and causes greater harm to the environment and health.
  • It contains whopping 74,000 PPM of sulphur content which is released into atmosphere as emissions which is much higher than vehicular emissions.
  • It is also source of fine dust, which can get through filtering process of human airway and lodge in lungs which can cause serious health problems.
  • Apart from sulphur, petcoke also releases cocktail of other toxic gases after burning such as nitrous oxide, mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel, hydrogen chloride and greenhouse gases (GHG) which contribute to global warming.

 

Court Observations

  • The court has been urging the government since December 2017 to move forward towards a nationwide ban on the use of petcoke and furnace oil to power up industries, in a bid to fight pollution.
  • The court had by then, in October 2017, already ordered a ban on the industrial use of petcoke and furnace oil in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.
  • The ban on use came after an EPCA Report, including the ban on sale, distribution and use of furnace oil and petcoke in the NCR. Their use is already prohibited in Delhi.
  • Pursuant to the Supreme Court ban, both the Environment Ministry and the Central Pollution Control Board had brought into immediate effect a prohibition on the use of petcoke and furnace oil by any industry, operation or processes within the States of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan until further orders.
  • The court had even highlighted how petcoke is being imported from countries like the United States and China, which have already stopped using them after due consideration of its harmful effects on human beings and environment.

 

Import Ban on Pet coke:

Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) under Ministry of Commerce and Industry has banned import of pet coke for use as fuel. But it has allowed its import of only for use as feedstock in some select industries such as cement, lime kiln, calcium carbide and gasification industries.

Nilgiri tahr

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  • It is state animal of Tamil Nadu.
  • It is endemic to Western Ghats from the Nilgiris to Kanyakumari.
  • It is confined to a narrow belt of higher elevation (altitudes) of Shola Forests in Western Ghats.
  • Protection Status:
    • IUCN in its red data book has classified it as Endangered (number fewer than 2,500 mature individuals).
    • Besides it is protected species under Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972.

nilgiri-tahr-nilgiritragus-hylocrius

 

 

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.

Measures taken by government:

The Central government has initiated following steps to reduce and eradicate the stubble burning in the neighbouring states of NCR:

  • In the budget of the 2018-19, the central government had announced a special scheme’ to encourage farmers in these states to shift to alternative ways of dealing with agricultural waste.
  • In pursuance of the announcement in the budget, the government announced a central sector scheme on ‘Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi’.
  • The scheme provides for in-situ crop residue management machinery to the farmers on subsidy, the establishment of Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs) of in-situ crop residue management machinery and undertaking Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities for creating awareness among farmers to avoid stubble burning.
  • The Union Ministry of Power has brought out a policy for biomass utilization for power generation through co-firing in pulverized coal-fired boilers. The Ministry of Power has decided that the States of Haryana and Punjab shall issue bids for all coal based Thermal Power Plants to use a minimum of 5 per cent of biomass pellets and up to 10 per cent to be co-fired with coal.
  • The government is also taking steps to popularize zero tillage farming where the crop seed will be sown through drillers without prior land preparation and disturbing the soil where previous crop stubbles are present.

These measures have made a positive impact. The satellite data indicates that paddy residue burning events in 2018 have reduced by 29.5 per cent, 24.5 per cent and 11.0 per cent in the States of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, respectively when compared with the paddy residue burning events in the year 2017.

Bharat Stage Norms

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  • Bharat stage norms are emission standards instituted by Government to regulate output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles.
  • The standards and timeline for implementation are set by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) under Ministry of Environment & Forests and climate change.
  • The standards are based on European regulations and were first introduced in 2000.
  • Since then, various stages Bharat Stage compatible fuel and ungraded and modified vehicles were introduced throughout the country.
  • The harmful emissions that are identified for regulations in different Bharat Stages (BS) are carbon monoxide (CO), unburnt hydrocarbons (HC), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Particulate matter (PM).
  • Each stage specifies a certain limit on the pollutants released, Higher the Bharat Stage goes lesser it emits pollutants. BS-I, BS-II and BS-III stages were launched in 2000, 2005 and 2010 respectively.

BS VI Norms

  • The BS-IV compliant fuels have Sulphur concentration of 50 parts per million (ppm).
  • It will come down to 10 ppm in BS-VI compliant fuels and auto engines.
  • It will result in lower level of harmful emissions and reduced incidence of lung diseases.
  • Moreover, switch to BS-VI norms will also reduce concentration of carbon monoxide (CO), unburnt hydrocarbons, nitrous oxide (NOx) and particulate matter from emissions.

Blackbuck

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  • Indian Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) is an antelope and is the only living species of the genus Antilope.
  • It is considered to be the fastest animal in the world next to Cheetah.
  • The horns of the blackbuck are ringed with one to four spiral turns and the female is usually hornless.

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  • Habitat: 
    • Blackbuck inhabits grassy plains and slightly forested areas.
    • Due to its regular need of water, it prefers areas where water is perennially available.
    • It is found in Central- Western India (MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Odisha) and Southern India (Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu).
  • Protection Status: 
    • Hunting of blackbuck is prohibited under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
    • It has been categorised least concerned in IUCN Red Data Book.
  • The Bishnoi community of Rajasthan is known worldwide for their conservation efforts to blackbuck and Chinkara.
 
Why in news?
  • Blackbuck’s population is on rise.
  • The Uttar Pradesh State Cabinet has approved Blackbuck Conservation Reserve in trans-Yamuna belt near Allahabad. It will be first of its kind conservation reserves in India exclusively dedicated to blackbuck.

Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)

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  • CMS is an international treaty concluded under aegis of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), concerned with conservation of wildlife and habitats on a global scale.
  • It is commonly abbreviated as Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) or the Bonn Convention.
  • CMS aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range.
  • It was signed in 1979 in Bonn (hence the name), Germany and entered into force in 1983.
  • Its headquarters are in Bonn, Germany.
  • Since its entry into force, its membership has grown steadily to include over 120 Parties from Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Europe and Oceania.
  • CMS is only global and UN-based intergovernmental organization established exclusively for conservation and management of terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range.

Global Environment Facility (GEF)

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gef_ID_V2

Global Environment Facility

  • It is an independently operating financial organization
  • GEF is multilateral financial mechanism that provides grants to developing countries for projects that benefit global environment and promote sustainable livelihoods in local communities.
  • It was setup as a fund under World Bank in 1991
  • In 1992, at the Rio Earth Summit, the GEF was restructured and moved out of the World Bank system to become a permanent, separate institution.
  • Since 1994, however, the World Bank has served as the Trustee of the GEF Trust Fund and provided administrative services.
  • It is based in Washington DC, United States.
  • It addresses six designated focal areas:
    • biodiversity,
    • climate change,
    • international waters,
    • ozone depletion,
    • land degradation and
    • Persistent Organic Pollutants.
  • The program supports an active portfolio of over 200 investments globally.
  • GEF serves as financial mechanism for :
    • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
    • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
    • UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
    • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
    • Minamata Convention on Mercury
  • India is both donor and recipient of GEF.

Gangetic River Dolphin

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Gangetic River Dolphin

  • National Aquatic Animal of India
  • They are freshwater dolphins.
  • It is one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world. The other three are found in Yangtze river, Indus river in Pakistan and Amazon river.
  • It is found in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
  • IUCN Status : Endangered
  • It is also placed in Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Major threats:
    • Fishing nets
    • Hunting for their oil and meat
    • Water pollution
  • MoEFCC had launched Ganges River Dolphin Conservation Programme in 1997 to build a scientific database of their population status and also study their habitat quality of the dolphins’ distribution range.
  • Fresh water dolphin species are practically blind. They rely on bio-sonar method to move around and catch their prey. 
  • Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary located in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district of Bihar is India’s only dolphin sanctuary is spread over 50 km along the Ganges.
  • National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC) will be set up on the banks of the Ganga river in Patna University campus in Patna.

Project Snow Leopard

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Project Snow Leopard:

  • Snow Leopard is globally endangered species as well as the most important flagship species of the mountain region
  • Project aims to conserve biodiversity with community participation
  • The project will be operational in five Himalayan States viz. Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh with active support from wildlife institute of India and the Mysore based Nature Conservation Foundation.
  • The project stresses on a landscape approach to conservation wherein smaller core zones with relatively conservation values will be identified and conserved with support and the larger landscape will be managed in such a way that it allows necessary development benefits to the local communities.
  • The project thus places greater importance to careful and knowledge-based management planning of the landscapes.
  • Species such as Snow Leopard, Asiatic Ibex, Tibetan Argali, Ladakh Urial, Chiru, Takin, Serow and Musk Deer will particularly benefit from this project.
     

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Snow Leopard:

  • Snow leopard (Panthera uncial) is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia- including Himalayas, and Russia’s remote Altai mountains.
  • Snow Leopard is found in 11 countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. These countries formed the Global Snow Leopard Forum (GSLF) and signed the Bishkek Declaration to acknowledge its importance as the indicator of the health and sustainability of mountain ecosystems.
  • It is the State animal of Himachal Pradesh.

 

Threats: It is threatened by poaching for their fur, habitat destruction by infrastructure developments and climate change.

 

Protection Status: 

  • It has been listed in Schedule I under Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, Appendix I of Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and Appendix I Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).
  • In September 2017, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had downgraded conservation status of snow leopard to “vulnerable” from “endangered”.
  • The change in status comes 45 years after snow leopard was first declared endangered in 1972. However, experts have warned that snow leopard species still faces serious threats from poaching and habitat destruction.
  • It is National Heritage Animal of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Green Climate Fund

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  • It is a fund within the framework of UNFCCC
  • UN backed fund.
  • It is founded to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.
  • Formed in 2010
  • First mention of concept in Copenhagen Accord in CoP-15
  • Formally in CoP-16 at Cancun.
  • WB is chosen as a temporary trustee of the fund.
  • HQ : Incheon, South Korea
  • It is intended to be the centrepiece of efforts to raise Climate Finance of $100 billion a year by 2020. This is not an official figure for the size of the Fund itself, however.
  • No clarity about from where money will come in this fund.
  • Why in news? GCF has approved US $43.4 million for enhancing climate resilience for millions of people living in India’s coastal communities as part of its efforts to combat extreme impacts of climate change.