Notes - Current Ecological Developments
Category : UPSC
Current Ecological Developments
There have been several ecological developments in India and around the world. The ecological changes have profound impact on the flora and fauna of terrestrial and aquatic environments. Ecological balance is necessary for achieving sustainable environment. In this chapter, we will discuss the current ecological developments in India and around the world.
Ecological balance is a theory which highlights that natural conditions, including numbers of various animal and plant species, remain stable on their own through variations over time. The theory, also known as balance of nature, also holds that natural equilibrium can be changed significantly by new species entering an ecosystem, the disappearance of some species, man-made changes to the environment or natural disasters.
Ecological Imbalance in India is governed by the following factors:
(a) Conservation of Land and Soil
(b) Forest density
(c) Utilization of water resources
(d) Mining Practices
(e) Level of Industrial and Atmospheric Pollution,
Fig: An overview of the goals of ecological balance.
Blue Economy refers to the integration of ocean economy development with the idea of social inclusion, environmental sustainability and innovative, dynamic business models. It is an approach wherein renewable and organic inputs are fed into sustainably designed systems to promote "blue growth". Such "blue growth" has solved the problems of resource scarcity and waste disposal, while ensuring sustainable development that enhances human welfare in an holistic manner. Blue Economy has also led to creating a healthy ocean environment, supporting higher productivity.
The concept of Blue Economy is introduced by entrepreneur Gunter Pauli. Bilateral and multilateral work, involving the environment, energy, defense and food production can be achieved with Blue Economy. The newly set up Blue Economy Strategic Thought Forum India, under the guidance of the National Maritime Foundation, has focuses on multiple ways in which the blue economy will influence human activities. The central principle of the blue economy is the idea of integrating nutrients and energy the way ecosystems do. Cascading energy and nutrients leads to sustainability by reducing or eliminating inputs, such as energy, and eliminating waste.
Coastal Area Conservation
The coastal environment is facing a number of pressures, arising out of the needs of people, and the multiple uses that coastal and marine areas can be put to. Coastal area in India has seen major developmental changes in recent years as given below:
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1986, notification was released in 1991 for regulation of activities in the coastal area by Ministry of Environment and Forests. These notification known as Coastal Regulation Zone Notification defined the Coastal Regulation Zone or CRZ as coastal land up to 500m from the High Tide Line and a range of 100m along banks of creeks, estuaries, backwaters and rivers subject to tidal fluctuations is CRZ. According to Coastal Regulation Zone notifications, it is divided into 4 zones given below:
Authorized structures are not allowed to be constructed in this zone.
Agenda 21 requires new approaches to marine and coastal area management and development, at the national, sub-regional, regional and global levels.
The following areas are highlighted under agenda 21:
A case study on Bhitarkanika Mangroves, East coast of India
The study was carried out to classify the mangrove vegetation as well as erosion and accretion rate along coastal tract of Bhitarkanika, east coast of India using Landsat 7 and 8 satellite data from the year 1989 to 2013, The study led to the classification of mangroves into dense mangroves, sparse mangroves and mangroves scrub of mangrove environment. Erosion and accretion rate of Bhitarkanika coast, were identified through supervised classification technique. Result of classified image concluded that the changes of sparse mangroves were +2892.78 ha, dense mangroves -350.55 ha. and mangrove scrub +1792.35 ha. The rate of erosion was 35.6238 sq.km. towards Gahirmatha beach and the deposition of 8,2134 sq.km. near the Maipura river of Bhitarkanika ecosystem from 1989 to 2013.
Coastal Ocean Monitoring and Prediction System Extensive monitoring of marine pollution along the coastal waters was initiated at 76 locations and it has been shown that the disposal of untreated sewage from towns, cities and villages cause decrease of dissolved oxygen and increase of nitrate and pathogenic bacteria in the sea close to the shore. The data collected revealed that pollution problems are confined up to 1 km in the sea except at Mumbai where the pollution problem prevails up to 3 km in the sea. Model to predict the movement of oil during oil spills has been developed for the coasts of Mumbai and Chennai. Works to develop similar models for the coasts of Goa, Kerala and Visakhapatnam have been undertaken.
Ecological and environmental parameters play a primary role in the formation of fish biomass. Periodic changes in such natural phenomena as ocean currents, water temperature and oxygen layers affect the ecological and environmental balance. Ecological imbalances due to fishing in India are given below:
(a) Ecological damage caused by inshore mechanized fishing in state like Kerala, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Orissa.
(b) Indo-Norwegian Project leading to the development of mechanized fishing.
(c) Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu fully exploiting their maximum sustainable yield (MSY).
(d) Adverse impact on marine ecology due to introduction of exotic fish such as Brown Trout, Loch Leven Trout, Rainbow Trout.
Harmful Algal Blooms
A number of harmful algal blooms have been found in various coastal waters of India such as Noctiluca bloom in Kochi, Noctiluca bloom in Goa, bloom of Gonyaulax in Manglore. Efforts are underway to monitor the spatial and temporal variations of blooms using Ocean Colour Monitor sensors available on board both Indian and foreign satellites.
Island Development Activities
Ornamental fish culture was established in 2009 at Kavaratti to commercialize in the Agatti Island of Lakshadweep. Other activities such as live-bait culture, pearl culture, biodiversity studies, etc. of Lakshadweep have been taken up.
Ecosystem Modelling: Under the programme on Ecosystem modelling, hydrodynamic modelling of Chilika and Kochi backwaters have been initiated. Field investigations for ecosystem modelling for Sundarbans have been started. Water quality criteria for copper, cadmium and mercury have been determined and are referred to the Central Pollution Control Board. Over 20 training programmes on hazard -mapping, satellite oceanography, and marine pollution have been conducted.
Fig: Ecological model showing the dependence of organisms on each other
Project Green Ports
Ministry of Shipping has started 'Project Green Ports' to make major ports across India cleaner and greener. It will have two verticals - one is 'Green Ports Initiatives' related to environmental issues and second is 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan'. Under 'Green Ports Initiatives', 12 initiatives will be implemented. Some of the initiatives focus on acquiring equipment required for monitoring environmental pollution, acquiring dust suppression system, setting up of waste water treatment plants, developing projects for producing renewable energy, completion of shortfalls of Oil Spill Response (OSR) facilities, prohibition of disposal of almost all kind of garbage at sea, improving the quality of harbour wastes etc. Under Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan initiative, few activities are identified promoting cleanliness at the port premises.
The recent oil spill in Chennai occurred due to a collision between two ships, affecting marine life and livelihoods of coastal communities. The immediate impact of an oil slick is the mass death of fish and turtles and of birds. Tourism industry is severely affected by oil spills and oil pollution.
Oil Spill Prevention
Extinction of Dolphins from Ganges River: This vast area of Ganga has been altered by the construction of more than 50 dams and other irrigation-related projects, with severe consequences for the river dolphins. The population of the Ganges River Dolphin has declined to less than 1,800 from 6,000 in 1982 due to construction of dams and water pollution caused by pesticides, fertilizers, and industrial effluents.
Ganga Cleaning Campaign
Ganga is India's largest river basin. It occupies 26% of the country's landmass and supports 43% of its population. In 1986, the government of India launched the Ganga Action Plan (GAP). In August 2009, GAP was re-launched with a reconstituted National Ganga River Basin Authority. The objectives of the authority was to improve the water quality of the river to acceptable standards (defined as bathing water quality standards) by preventing pollutants reaching it by intercepting the sewage and treating it before discharge into the river. Recent initiatives such as 'River Development' and 'Ganga Rejuvenation' by the Minister of Water Resources, and the establishment of the National Mission for Clean Ganga, show a commitment to address some of the concerns with special attention given to pollution control. Under the Namami Gange Programme, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has identified 1,000 polluting industries that need to treat industrial effluents before releasing them into the river.
Clean Ganga Fund
A wetland is an area of land whose soil has high water content. Wetlands include swamps, marshes and bogs, among others. The water found in wetlands can be saltwater, fresh water, shallow water or brackish water. These accounts for 18.4% of India's total geographical area. Wetlands are one of the most productive eco-system, comparable to tropical evergreen forests in the biosphere and play a significant role in the ecological sustainability of a region.
It is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference. It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List.
It is a global organisation that is responsible for sustaining and restoring wetlands and their resources for people and biodiversity. It is an independent, not-for-profit, global organisation, supported by government and NGO membership from around the world.
Some wetlands of international importance
Development in Wetland Ecology
Recent developments in the wetland ecology are given below:
Conservation of wetlands
Several steps have been taken to prevent wetland degradation as given below:
Ecosystem at Peril
Encroachments, siltation in the canals and fishponds and drop in the quantity of sewage the wetlands received have impacted the ecology of East Kolkata Wetlands
How the System Works
Through an integrated canal network, partly-natural partly- manmade, the sewage reaches the fishponds, where wastewater gets treated by algae- bacteria symbiosis in a span of 21-28 days. Simultaneously, fishes grow profusely without requiring any food supplement any food supplement.
The treated water is then released m Kultigang, near the Sunderbans ecosystem, through a network of canals. Low cost pisciculture in the wetlands is the reason Kolkata gets fishes for cheap.
How it is threatened
Siltation of fishponds and canals have affected the basic hydrological functioning, while decrease in sewage quantity is affecting the livelihood of the people preserving it.
What is being done
Remsar senior advisor Law Young has recommended a thorough review of population increase, loss of area due to encroachment, socio-economic study of the fishing community, review of the map drawn in 1985 and clear demarcation of its boundaries.
The ecology of the Himalayas changes with climate, rainfall, altitude, and soils. The climate ranges from tropical at the base of the mountains to permanent ice and snow at the highest elevations. Recent ecological developments in the Himalayan region are given below:
Current steps to protect Himalayan ecosystem also include:
(a) balancing glaciers and associated hydrological cycles;
(b) predicting and managing natural hazards;
(c) biodiversity conservation and protection;
(d) wildlife conservation and protection;
(e) regulating science to help governance issues related to sustenance of the Himalayan ecosystem;
(f) assisting in restoration and rehabilitation process of Uttarakhand.
Western Ghat Ecology
Western Ghats is a mountain range that runs parallel to the western coast of the Indian peninsula. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight "hottest hot-spots" of biological diversity in the world. The Western Ghats are home to thousands of animal species including at least 325 globally threatened species.
Madhav Gadgil Committe Report on Western Ghats
Gadgil Commission is named after its chairman Madhav Gadgil. The Commission was formally known as Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP). The Commission submitted the report to the Government of India on 31 August 2011. The Gadgil Report highlights:
Building rating systems are a popular tool to bring momentum in achieving energy efficiency and sustainability in buildings. India has currently two rating systems namely, LEED and GRIHA. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System gives ratings of platinum, gold, silver, or "certified", based on green building attributes. The Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy have adopted a national rating system- GRIHA, which was developed by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
In India, the concept of Eco cities was introduced in 2000 and starting 2001 six medium and small Eco-cities were planned by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in association with Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and with technical assistance from German technical cooperation (GTZ). The focus of the project is pollution control, improvement of environmental quality, protection of environmental resources like rivers and lakes, improving sanitary conditions, improving the needed infrastructure and creating aesthetic environs in the chosen towns. The cities included Tirupathi, Vrindavan, Kottayam, Ujjain, Puri and Thanjavur.
The Government of India has planned to develop 'Smart Cities' with an aim to maintain balance in urban ecology. Urban expansion has degraded and destroyed natural habitats across most Indian cities and small towns, transforming urban forests, lakes, and wetlands into polluted areas, and converting them into vast expanses of concrete construction. Smart Cities will ensure that urban development do not lead to negative ecological impact on the environment.
Automobile Emission Control: Recent Supreme Court ruling has asserted that auto manufacturers cannot sell BS-III vehicles from April 1, 2017 when BS -IV compliance comes into force. BS -IV vehicles are relatively less polluting than BS-III vehicles. National Green Tribunal (NGT) has proposed ban diesel vehicles that are at least 10 years old from plying in the national capital region (NCR) centred on Delhi. Vehicular pollution can be controlled if the exhaust outlets of all motor vehicles are installed on the top instead of near the base. BS-IV trucks are 80% cleaner than BS-III.
Cochin International Airport is the first green airport where 46,000 solar panels are installed. Vadodara's Harni Airport in Gujarat, is India's second green airport after Kochi. This new facility has rainwater harvesting systems and energy-saving cooling mechanisms that was designed and built by the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
The proposed bio-toilets in Indian railway is ecologically more efficient than conventional system of direct discharge toilets that leads to public health issues and environmental hazards.
Majuli, the world's biggest river island, is going to become India's first carbon neutral district. It is also now a biodiversity heritage site. It is formed by Brahmaputra river, in Assam. It is also first island district of the country.
Ecological Developments of the Mining Industry
The ecological impact of mining is monitored by National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development. Recent developments in the mining ecology are given below:
In 2002, India set up a National Forest Commission to review and assess India's policy and law, its effect on India's forests. Indian forests are home to a wide variety of animal and plant species which are vital to maintaining ecological balance. Indian forests have seen a lot of changes in recent as given below:
Forest Carbon Partnership Facility
It is a global partnership of governments, businesses, civil society, and indigenous peoples focused on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, forest carbon stock conservation, the sustainable management of forests, and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (activities commonly referred to as REDD+).
Indian Forest Survey 2013
The highlights of the survey are given below:
1 The forest is classified as very dense forest, moderately dense forest, open forest, scrub and non-forest land.
Continuous efforts have been made in India and around the globe to promote clean energy that create a balance in ecology. Some developments in the clean energy sector are given below:
International Solar Alliance
It is an alliance of more than 120 countries, most of them being sunshine countries, which come either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The alliance's primary objective is efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The launching of such an alliance in Paris shows the efforts of the global communities to mitigate climate change and to switch to a low-carbon growth path. India has pledged a target of installing 100GW by 2022 and reduction in emission intensity by 33-35% by 2030 to let solar energy reach to the most unconnected villages and communities and also towards creating a clean planet. India's pledge to the Paris Summit offered to bring 40% of its electricity generation capacity from non-fossil sources (renewable, large hydro, and nuclear) by 2030.
Energy consumption and efficiency
Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) is an Indian government agency of, under the Ministry of Power created in March 2002 under the provisions of the nation's 2001 Energy Conservation Act. The agency's aim is to develop programmes which will increase the conservation and efficient use of energy in India. The government has proposed to make it mandatory for certain appliances in India to have ratings by the BEE starting in January 2010.
Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA)
It was launched on 1 May 2015, replacing the "Bachat Lamp Yojana". The scheme reduced their electricity consumption by 55 billion (US$820 million). The scheme was announced as "Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme (DELP)" which focused on the use of bulbs in place of incandescent bulbs, tube lights and CFL bulbs as they efficient, long lasting and economical in their life cycle duration. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has introduced a new star rating methodology called Indian Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (ISEER) for air conditioners. This provides rating methodology factors in variance in higher temperature in India and rates air conditioners accordingly. Consumers can now purchase air conditioners with higher efficiency leading to lower electricity bills. Ratings based on ISEER have been introduced on a voluntary basis for Variable Speed (Inverter) Air Conditioners since June 2015 and proposed to be merged with fixed speed air conditioners in the mandatory regime from January 2018.
Figure 1. China and India account for about half of the world increase in energy use
Source EIA International Energy Outlook 2011
Scientists in Juelich, Germany, have developed the world?s largest artificial sun, called Synlight, for using it to develop climate-friendly fuels. The Synlight consists of 149 spotlights all together resembling a gigantic honeycomb. The lights, which are xenon short-arc lamps that's usually found in cinemas, simulate natural sunlight during a season that doesn't get much sunlight
Land Use and Soil Ecology
Land-use change has important implications for sustainable livelihood of local communities. Several initiatives has resulted in the change in the land use and soil ecology. These are as follows:
Wind Erosion: It is a serious environmental problem attracting me attention of many across the globe. It is a common phenomenon occuring mostly in flat, bare areas; dry, sandy soils: or anywhere the soil is loose, dry, and finely granulated.
Efforts have been made to prevent desertification in India by being a party to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Rajasthan accounts for the most desertified land, followed by Gujarat, Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir and Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. Following steps have been taken to prevent desertification:
Ø Every year, under the 'Operation Guerrilla Green' movement, a month-long ecologically important campaign/festival is held by Gond and Korku communities/tribes in Madhya Pradesh, where they plant saplings of fruit-bearing trees on government, forest, private or panchayat land.
Ø Agronomical trial on paddy and wheat crops with Neem coated urea as source of Nitrogen has produced higher yield at research and farm level. Looking into the importance of Neem Coated urea and its acceptance by the farmers, Ministry of Agriculture included the Neem coated urea in Fertiliser Control Order (FCO).
Drip irrigation is a type of irrigation that saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of many different plants, either onto the soil surface or directly onto the root zone, through a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters. It is achieved through narrow tubes that deliver water directly to the base of the plant. It preferred over surface irrigation for various reasons, often including concern about minimizing evaporation.
Advantages of Drip Irrigation:
In the recent year, it has been found that there is a growing trend towards travel to eco-tourism destinations like National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. Ecotourism deals with interaction with biotic components of the natural environments. Ecotourism focuses on socially responsible travel, personal growth, and environmental sustainability. Ecotourism involves travel to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Ecotourism is intended to offer tourists insight into the impact of human beings on the environment. The Indian Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) is forming new guidelines for responsible tourism in the country's 733 different wildlife sanctuaries and national parks which include alpine and flower valleys, bird habitats, and marine, reptile and coastal parks.
Ecotourism have the following characteristics
Goals of Ecotourism
World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) 2014 Living Planet Report has revealed that wildlife populations of vertebrate species such as mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish, have declined by 52% over the last 40 years. Several initiatives have been taken to protect wild life as given below:
It was launched in April 1973 under the Wildlife Conservation Act to address the problem of shrinking tiger population in India. It aimed at ensuring a viable population of Bengal tigers in their natural habitats and also to protect them from extinction, and preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage forever represented as close as possible the diversity of ecosystems across the tiger's distribution in the country.
Operation Thunder Bird
Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) has the programme from January 30 to February 19, 2017 to end poaching of India's wildlife animals. It also had convened Operation Save Kurma, a species specific operation on turtles between 15 December 2016 and 30 January 2017. It is code-name of INTERPOL's (International Criminal Police Organization) multi-national and multi-species enforcement operation for wildlife protection.
The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has India's first repository on tigers, under its new Tiger Cell. The repository consists of huge database on tiger conservation and population estimation which has been prepared with collaborated effort with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). India's first tiger cell was set up at the WII campus in Dehradun, Uttarakhand.
South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN)
India is a member of South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN). It aims at combating wildlife crime by strengthening its ties with the member countries for controlling the trans-boundary wildlife crimes through coordination, communication, collaboration, cooperation and capacity building in the region.
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB): It is a study by environmental economist Pavan Sukhdev. It is an international initiative that focuses on global economic benefits of biodiversity. Its objective is to highlight the growing cost of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation and to draw together expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy to allow practical actions. TEEB aims to assess, communicate and mainstream the urgency of actions through its five deliverables ? D0: science and economic foundations, policy costs and costs of inaction, D1: policy opportunities for national and international policy-makers, D2: decision support for local administrators, D3: business risks, opportunities and metrics and D4: citizen and consumer ownership.
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