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Daily Category  (Bio-diversity)

Tirthan Sanctuary, Great Himalayan National Park best performers among protected areas

CONTEXT:

India has a network of 903 Protected Areas covering about 5 per cent of its total geographic area of the country.

According to the survey, Tirthan Wildlife Sanctuary and Great Himalayan National Park in Himachal Pradesh have performed the best among the surveyed protected areas.

                                   The Great Himalayan National Park in Himachal Pradesh | Times of India  Travel

NEWS IN DETAILS:

Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar on Monday released Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of 146 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the country.

Minister Prakash Javadekar also announced that this year onwards,

  1. 10 best National Parks,
  2. Five coastal and marine parks and
  3. Top five zoos

in the country will be ranked and awarded every year.

Worst performer: The Turtle Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh was the worst performer in the survey.

Best Performers: Tirthan sanctuary, Great Himalayan National Park best performers among protected areas

India’s thriving biodiversity:

  • 70% of the global tiger population,
  • 70% of Asiatic lions and
  • 60% of leopard population

in India is a certificate of India’s thriving biodiversity as these big cats sit at the top of food chain and their growing numbers shows the well-being of the whole ecosystem.

Four categories of Protected Areas: India has systematically designated its Protected Areas in four legal categories under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

  1. National Parks,
  2. Wildlife Sanctuaries,
  3. Conservation Reserves and
  4. Community Reserves

903 formally designated Protected Areas: Under this Act, India has 903 formally designated Protected Areas with a total coverage 1,65,012.6 square km. Among these are

  • 101 National Parks,
  • 553 Wildlife Sanctuaries,
  • 86 Conservation Reserves and
  • 163 Community Reserves.

For the survey, 146 National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries across 29 states and Union territories were evaluated.

MANAGEMENT EFFECTIVENESS EVALUATION (MEE):

  • It has emerged as a key tool that is increasingly being used by governments and inter2: The Framework for assessing management effectiveness of protected areas (Source: Hockings et al., 2006) national bodies to understand strengths and weaknesses of the protected area management systems.
  • It is the assessment of how well protected areas such as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation reserves, community reserves and tiger reserves are being managed and their effectiveness in conserving target flora and fauna.
  • The results of present assessment are encouraging with overall mean MEE score of 62.01% which is higher than the global mean of 56%.
  • With this round of evaluation, the Ministry of Environment,Forest and Climate Change(MoEFCC) successfully completed one full cycle of evaluating all terrestrial National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries of the country from 2006 to 2019.

TIRTHAN WILDLIFE SANCTUARY:

Tirthan wildlife sanctuary is one of the most magnificent sanctuaries in Himachal Pradesh.

  • The Great Himalayan National Park adjoins the Tirthan wildlife sanctuary on the southern side.
  • It has one of the largest remaining populations of Himalayan Tahr.
  • Fauna: Jungle Cat, Brown Bear, Himalayan Brown Bear, Barking Deer, Snow Leopard, Himalayan Rhesus, Weasel etc.
  • Flora: Moist Deodar, Ban Oak, Alpine, mixed Conifer tress etc.

REAT HIMALAYAN NATIONAL PARK:Great Himalayan Natonal Park

  • The Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) is located in the Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh.
  • GHNP was formally declared a National Park in 1999, scattering area of 754.4 sq kms.
  • hey are protected under the strict guidelines of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972; hence any sort of hunting is not permitted.
  • 2014- UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
  • Fauna: blue sheep, snow leopard, Himalayan brown bear, Himalayan tahr, and musk deer.
  • Flora:
  • Rivers: Tirthan, Sainj, Jiwa Nal, and Parvati. (all get water from glaciers)
  • Sanctuaries near the park: Sainj, Tirthan

Source: Indian Express

Living with the earth in Kerala

CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

From Northern Himalaya to Southern plateaus and western ghat natural disaster are becoming the events of every year and State of kerala is not exception to this. Kerala has witnessed frequent floods and landslides in past few years.

NATURAL DISASTER IN KERALA

  • In Malappuram district, at Kavalappara 59 people died due to landlised in 2019.
  • The houses of estate workers were submerged due to the collapse of a hill at Pettimudi in Idukki district this year.
  • An unfortunate plane crash at Kozhikode airport.

NATURAL CAPITAL OF KERALA

  • The state of kerala lies between the Lakshadweep Sea and the Western Ghats.
  • It has humid tropical rainforest climate and is famous for its spices all over the world since ages.
  • It is a part of western ghat which is one of the world's eight "hottest hotspots" of biological diversity and is listed among UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • It is famous for its backwaters and lagoons which are helpful in transportation too.
  • It is rich in flora and fauna and have vast heritage of wetlands and national parks.

IMPORTANCE OF NATURAL CAPITAL

  • The stock of forests, food, clean air, water, land, minerals, etc. are the natural capital and provide valuable goods and services to humans.
  • These are the determiners for sustainable development which is the future of our upcoming generation.
  • The degradation of natural assets indirectly hurt the economy through floods, landslides, human lives and infrastructure loss.

IGNORING NATURAL CAPITAL

  • India in general and Kerala in particular are witnessing the economic growth at the cost of destroying the natural assets like forests, food, clean air, etc.
  • Kerala is famous for its performance on the social indicator fronts but missed its duty to protect the natural assets.
  • Kerala has done a lot in the human development front and people are educated enough to understand the emergency of climate change but still the earth has been violated everywhere in kerala.
    • The rivers in the state are polluted, the valleys are filled with garbage and the hills gouged out to accommodate residences and religious houses when they have not been dynamited for quarrying.

CONCERNS

  • Kerala needs a strong political will to conserve its natural assets.
  • Conservation of the State’s natural resources is crucially dependent upon a restraint on consumption but the pattern of political parties in kerala is not looking promising towards this.
  • On the name of development governments are reluctant to dampen the aspiration for greater consumption and the proposal for an airport serving Sabarimala is an example of this.
  • Kerala sees much greater traffic than say Kathmandu or Shimla, thus increasing the possibility of a mishap in general and monsoon season further escalate this.
  • Administrative fault: After the incident of a crash of a flight in Mangaluru, an airport with similar characteristics, in 2010, it has been apparent that flights to Kozhikode are vulnerable. But this appears to have been overruled by a political process which results into the Kozhikode incident.

CONCLUSION

The land of gods was once known for its geography, so now is the time to redefine the importance of nature to keralites.  For centuries People in kerala demonstrated a genius for conserving natural resources by restraining their consumption, now for their next generation people need to limit the consumption.

Sendai Framework for Disaster Reduction 2015-30

  • Sendai Framework was adopted at the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, held in 2015 at Sendai, Japan.
  • Four priorities for action to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risks under the Sendai Framework: (i) Understanding disaster risk; (ii) Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk; (iii) Investing in disaster reduction for resilience and; (iv) Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response, and to "Build Back Better" in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
  • It aims to guide the multi hazard management of disaster risk in development at all levels as well as within and across all sectors.
  • Earlier the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters was the instrument for disaster management.

Conservation Reserves (CRs)

Context:

State Board for Wildlife in Maharashtra (SBWL) has decided to declare ten new conservation reserves (CRs) along with a new sanctuary i.e. Kanhargaon sanctuary (the state’s 50th) in Chandrapur district.

Details:

  • The Board decided to establish 10 CRs at Mahendri, Amboli-Dodamarg (Sindhudurg), Jor-Jambhli (Satara), Muniya (Nagpur), and Chandgad, Panhalgad, Vishalgad, Gaganbawda, Mayni, and Ajra-Bhudargad.
  • The experts have argued that CR status makes little sense from the wildlife protection point-of-view as the 65-sq km reserved forest (RF) was an important wildlife corridor between Bor and Melghat tiger reserves.

Reserve Forest (RF):

  • The Reserve Forest (RF) can be directly notified as a sanctuary as there is no question of any grazing or firewood rights of people there.
  • Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) authorizes the Collector and not the Forest Department, to open dialogue with people for the rehabilitation of villages included in the sanctuary.
  • The Reserved forests are protected by the respective state governments unlike wildlife sanctuaries and national parks which are supervised by the Government of India.

Criteria to declare Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • The State Government may, by notification, declare its intention to constitute any area other than area comprised with any reserve forest or the territorial waters as a sanctuary if it considers that such area is of adequate ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological, natural. or zoological significance.
  • The collector shall inquire into, and determine the existence, nature, and extent of the rights of any person in or over the land comprised within the limits of the sanctuary.
  • No right shall be acquired in, or over the land comprised within the limits of the area specified in such notification, except by succession, testamentary or intestate.

Conservation Reserves (CRs):

  • The Conservation Reserves and community reserves in India are terms denoting protected areas of India which typically act as buffer zones.
  • It also acts as connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and reserved and protected forests of India.
  • Such areas are designated as conservation areas if they are uninhabited and completely owned by the Government of India but used for subsistence by communities and community areas if part of the land is privately owned.

Source: The Hindu

Apex Committee for Implementation of the Paris Agreement (AIPA)

Context:

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has constituted a high-level inter-ministerial Apex Committee for Implementation of the Paris Agreement (AIPA).

Details:

  • The purpose of AIPA is to generate a coordinated response on climate change matters that ensures India is on track towards meeting its obligations under the Paris Agreement including its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).
  • The senior officials from fourteen ministries will serve as Members of AIPA who will oversee the progress in the implementation of India’s NDC.
  • The key function of AIPA would be to operate as a National Authority to regulate carbon markets in India under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

Other functions:

  • Formulate guidelines for the consideration of projects or activities under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement,
  • Issue guidelines on carbon pricing, market mechanism, and similar instruments that have a bearing on climate change and NDCs.
  • The committee will take note of the contributions of the private sector as well as multi-/bi-lateral agencies in the field of climate change and provide guidance for aligning their climate actions with national priorities.

Significance of AIPA:

  • The year 2021 would mark the beginning of the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the constitution of AIPA is central to strengthening the national systems and institutional arrangements for implementation and monitoring of climate actions.
  • It will also ensure that India maintains its climate leadership as one of the few countries in the world whose climate actions are consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Commitments of India’s NDC:

  • There are 8 commitments made by India under the NDC, under which there are three quantitative goals:
  • Reduction in the emissions intensity of gross domestic product (GDP) by 33 to 35 % by 2030 from 2005 levels;
  • Achieving about 40 % cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030; and
  • Creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

Source: PIB

Peacock Soft Shell Turtle

Context:

Recently, a professor from Assam has rescued Peacock Soft Shell Turtle from being sold in a fish market.

Peacock Soft Shell Turtle:

  • The species is confined to India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan because it is widespread in the northern and central parts of the Indian subcontinent.
  • The Indian peacock softshell turtle has a large head, downturned snout with a low and oval carapace of dark olive green to nearly black.
  • It is found in rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds with mud or sand bottoms.
  • It is omnivorous because juveniles observed feeding on mosquito larvae and fish, while adults consume snails, earthworms, prawns, fish, frogs, carrion, and vegetation.

Protection:

  • It is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • It is protected under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • It is also listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

CITES:

  • It is also known as the Washington Convention. 
  • It is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals.
  •  It was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 
  • The convention was opened for signature in 1973 and CITES entered into force on 1 July 1975.
  • Appendices I, II, and III to the Convention are lists of species afforded different levels or types of protection from over-exploitation.

Source: The Hindu

Hornbill Festival

Context:

The first-ever virtual Hornbill festival begins on 1st December in Nagaland.

Hornbill Festival:

  • It is organized by the government of Nagaland annually in the first week of December.
  • It aims to encourage inter-tribal interaction and promote the cultural heritage of Nagaland.
  • It is called as ‘festival of festivals’.

About Hornbill:

  • Hornbills are the largest fruit-eating birds (also called frugivores) in Asian rainforests.
  • It is referred to as ‘forest engineers’ or ‘farmers of the forest’ for playing a key role in dispersing seeds of tropical trees.
  • There are three main areas of origin of hornbill species in the Indomalayan region, namely, species restricted to the South-east Asian mainland forests (but including parts of South Asia), species in the Sunda shelf forests, and species that occur in the various island archipelagos.
  • India is home to nine species of hornbills, of which two are endemic.
  • The Great Hornbill occurs in north, north-east, and south India, apart from Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.
  • Within India, the Wreathed Hornbill Rhyticeros undulatus, Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis, and the White-throated Brown Hornbill Anorrhinus austeni are restricted to north-east India.
  • The Great Hornbill is also the state bird of Arunachal Pradesh.

Conservation Status of Hornbills:

  • The Rufous-necked Hornbill is listed as 'Vulnerable' by the IUCN, while the Great Hornbill, Brown Hornbill, and the Malabar Pied Hornbill are listed under the Near-threatened category.
  • Other Hornbill species in India are listed as 'Least Concern'.
  • Six species of hornbills are listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of India (1972) i.e. the Great Hornbill, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, Narcondam Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill, and the Brown Hornbill.

Source: PIB

Bioluminescence

Context:

Visitors to beaches in Maharashtra have witnessed the spectacle of a Bioluminescence or light-emitting tide when the waves hit the shoreline.

Bioluminescence:

  • Bioluminescence is the property of a living organism to produce and emit light.
  • It is found in many marine organisms such as bacteria, algae, jellyfish, worms, crustaceans, sea stars, fish, and sharks.
    • Animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria show bioluminescence.
  • Luminescence is generally higher in deep-living and planktonic organisms than in shallow species.

Bioluminescent waves:

  • Bioluminescence has been an annual occurrence along the west coast since 2016 during the months of November and December.
  • Bioluminescence is not common in India but there are several tourist places across the world which is famous for the phenomenon.

Impact of Blue Tides:

  • While smaller blooms may be harmless, slow-moving larger blooms may have an impact on deep-sea fishing.
  • The occurrence of Blue Tides is an indicator of climate change.
  • The factors such as the pattern of the wind and the temperature of the ocean also determine the occurrence of bioluminescent waves.
  • It is an ecological indicator of degraded water quality.
  • The experts argued that bioluminescence could have been caused by heavy rain, fertilizers runoff, discharge of sewage into the ocean.

Source: Indian Express

Climate Emergency

Context:

New Zealand government has decided that it would take the decision of declaring a Climate Emergency or not.

Details:

  • Greenpeace New Zealand is urging the government to declare a climate emergency since people are facing more extreme weather events, catastrophic loss of wildlife, and a crisis over access to fresh water and food.
  • The world is in the midst of a climate crisis that will impact nearly every aspect of lives.
  • Some of the countries that have declared a climate emergency in recent years include the UK, Portugal, Canada, France, and, most recently, Japan.

Climate Emergency:

  • In 2019, the Oxford dictionaries declared “climate emergency” to be the word of the year which reflects the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance.
  • It defines climate emergency as a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it.
  • The climate emergency declaration refers to the act of naming a state of emergency.

Importance of 1.5°C:

  • At 1.5°C, over 70% of coral reefs will die, but at 2°C, all reefs over 99% will be lost.
  • Insects, vital for pollination of crops and plants, are likely to lose half their habitat at 1.5°C but this becomes almost twice as likely at 2°C.
  • The Arctic Ocean is completely bare of sea ice in summer would be a once per century likelihood at 1.5°C but this leaps to a once a decade likelihood at 2°C.
  • Over 6 million people currently live in coastal areas vulnerable to sea-level rise at 1.5°C degrees, and at 2°C, this would affect 10 million more people by the end of this century.
  • The sea-level rise will be 100 centimeters higher at 2°C than at 1.5°C.
  • The frequency and intensity of droughts, storms, and extreme weather events are increasingly likely above 1.5°C.

Source: Indian Express

The TX2 Conservation Excellence Award for 2020

Context:

The TX2 Conservation Excellence Award for 2020 has been given to the Transboundary Manas Conservation Area (TraMCA).

  • TX2 stands for “Tigers times two”, signaling the goal to double the population of wild tigers by 2022.

Details:

  • The recognition was for TraMCA comprising the 500 sq. km. Manas National Park in Assam and the 1,057-sq. km. Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan.
  • The number of striped cats in the Indian Manas increased from nine in 2010 to 25 in 2018 while that in the Bhutan Manas more than doubled from 12 in 2008 to 26 in 2018.
  • The award recognizes a site that has achieved excellence in two or more of five themes:
    • Tiger and prey population monitoring and research (tiger translocation/prey augmentation);
    • Effective site management;
    • Enhanced law enforcement, protection, and ranger welfare improvement;
    • Community-based conservation, benefits and human-wildlife conflict mitigation; and
    • Habitat and prey management

TX2 ‘Tigers times two’:

  • It is a goal that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) had set through the Global Tiger Initiative, Global Tiger Forum, and other critical platforms.
  • The population of tigers has been restricted to 13 countries, namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • The TX2 works across broad landscapes and encourages trans-boundary collaboration through a strategic, long-term approach that increases protection where the tigers are currently, maintains or restores wildlife corridors and connectivity between areas.

Manas National Park:

  • The park extends over an area from Sankosh River in the west to Dhansiri River in the east, with a core area of 500 Sq. Km. of the National park, which declared in 1990.
  • In 1985, the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary was inscribed as World Heritage Site.
  • In 1989, Manas acquired the status of a Biosphere Reserve.

Royal Manas National Park:

  • Royal Manas was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1966.
  • It is Bhutan’s oldest protected area. In 1993 it was upgraded to a National Park.
  • It is connected at the southern border with India’s Manas Tiger Reserve, a World Heritage Site.
  • It borders the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park in the north.

Source: The Hindu

UNESCO Global Geoparks

Context:

Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has taken various initiatives for the protection of various sites in Visakhapatnam.

Details:

  • The geopark consisting of Erra Matti Dibbalu (red sand dunes), natural rock formations at Mangamaripeta, million-year-old Borra Caves, and volcanic ash deposits.
  • Among the 34 notified National Geological Heritage Monument Sites of India by the Geological Survey of India, is the Erra Matti Dibbalu or coastal red sediment mounds located between Visakhapatnam and Bheemunipatnam.
  • In 2019, INTACH organized a campaign along with the Department of Tourism, Archaeology, and Visakhapatnam Metropolitan Region Development Authority to create public awareness on geo heritage spots in the region.

UNESCO Global Geoparks

  • A UNESCO Global Geopark is given this designation for a period of four years after which the functioning and quality of each UNESCO Global Geoparks are thoroughly re-examined during a revalidation process.
  • These are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education, and sustainable development.
  • It uses its geological heritage, in connection with all other aspects of the area’s natural and cultural heritage, to enhance awareness and understanding of key issues.
  • UNESCO Global Geopark status does not imply restrictions on any economic activity inside a UNESCO Global Geopark where that activity complies with indigenous, local, regional, and/or national legislation.

Significance:

  • UNESCO Global Geoparks are established through a bottom-up process involving all relevant local and regional stakeholders and authorities in the area.
  • These Geoparks give local people a sense of pride in their region and strengthen their identification with the area.
  • The creation of innovative local enterprises, new jobs, and high-quality training courses is stimulated as new sources of revenue are generated through sustainable geo-tourism.

Global Geoparks Network (GGN):

  • It is a legally constituted not-for-profit organization founded in 2004.
  • The membership of GGN is obligatory for UNESCO Global Geoparks.
  • It is a dynamic network where members are committed to work together, exchange ideas of best practices, and join in common projects to raise the quality standards of all products and practices of a UNESCO Global Geopark.

Source: The Hindu

Vulture Action Plan 2020-25

Context:

Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change has launched a Vulture Action Plan 2020-25 for the conservation of vultures in the country. The objective of the plan is to not just halt the decline but to actively increase the vulture numbers in India.

  • There are nine recorded species of vultures in India i.e. Oriental white-backed, long-billed, slender-billed, Himalayan, red-headed, Egyptian, bearded, cinereous and the Eurasian Griffon.

Background:

  • Since 2006, the ministry has been carrying out a conservation project for vultures and now the plan is to extend the project to 2025. 
  • The crash in vulture populations came into limelight in the mid-90s, and in 2004 the cause of the crash was established as diclofenac.
    • Diclofenac is a veterinary non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat pain and inflammatory diseases such as gout.
  • The MoEFCC released the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2006 with the DCGI banning the veterinary use of diclofenac in the same year and the decline of the vulture population being arrested by 2011.

Vulture Action Plan 2020-25:

  • The action plan aims to carry forth what has already been set in motion by ensuring that the sale of veterinary NSAIDs is regulated and livestock are treated only by qualified veterinarians.
  • The four rescue centres have been proposed for different geographical areas like Pinjore in the north, Bhopal in central India, Guwahati in Northeast and Hyderabad in South India for treatment of vultures in the country.
  • The plan includes instituting a system with the help of Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) which automatically removes a drug from veterinary use, such as Diclofenac if it is found to be toxic to vultures.
  • Under the 2020-25 plan, the ministry will also work for conservation breeding programme of Red-Headed Vulture and Egyptian Vulture, and help states in establishing at least one ‘Vulture Safe Zone’ in each state for the conservation of the remnant population.

Significance:

  • Vultures play a very important role in quickly disposing of carcasses that could harbour millions of pathogenic bacteria and fungus and cause serious implications for human and animal health.
  • The vulture numbers saw a steep slide (90 % in some species) in India since the 1990s in one of the most drastic declines in bird populations in the world.
  • Between the 1990s and 2007, numbers of three presently critically-endangered species (the Oriental white-backed, long-billed and slender-billed vultures) crashed massively with 99 % of the species having been wiped out.
    • Red-headed vulture: It is listed as critically endangered. Its population is declined by 91%.
    • Egyptian vulture: It is listed as ‘endangered’. Its population is declined by 80%.
    • Himalayan, bearded and cinereous vultures: These are listed as ‘near threatened’.

The Vulture Safe Zone programme:

  • It is being implemented at eight different places in the country where there were extant populations of vultures, including two in Uttar Pradesh.
  • The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) also established the Vulture Conservation Breeding Programme, which has been successful and had three critically-endangered species bred in captivity for the first time.

Source: Indian Express

New Ramsar Sites in India

Context:

Kabartal in Bihar’s Begusarai district and Keetham Lake in Agra have been added to the list of recognized Ramsar sites.

Kabartal:

  • It is a freshwater marsh of North Bihar.
  • It is also known as Kanwar jheel which covers 2,620 hectares of the Indo-Gangetic plains.
  • The site acts as a vital flood buffer for the region besides providing livelihood opportunities to the local communities.
  • Kabartal is also an important stopover along the Central Asian Flyway, with 58 migratory waterbirds using it as a wintering site.

Keetham lake:

  • It is also known as Sur Sarovar which was declared as a bird sanctuary in 1991.
  • The climatic condition of the lake area is typical of Uttar Pradesh plains with hot windy summers and extremely cold winters.
  •  Keetham Lake was named Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, after the great blind poet Surdas, who lived nearby nearly 500 years ago.
  • Sur Sarovar has the biggest Bear Rescue center for rescued dancing bears.

Ramsar Site:

  • Any wetland site which has been listed under the Ramsar Convention with an objective to conserve it and promote sustainable use of its natural resources is called a Ramsar Site.
  • Ramsar Convention was established in 1971 by UNESCO and came into force in 1975.
    • It is also known as the Convention of Wetlands.
  • India is a party to the Ramsar Convention and signed under it on 1st February 1982.

Montreux Record:

  • 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.

Source: The Hindu

Lonar Lake declared as a Ramsar Site

Context:

The Meteor lake at Lonar in Buldhana district has been declared a Ramsar site by International Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Now, the total number of Ramsar sites in India is 41.

  • Wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.

Why Lonar Lake has been declared as a Ramsar Site?

  • The lake is part of Lonar Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • The Lonar Lake is the second Ramsar site in the state of Maharashtra after Nandur Madhmeshwar Bird Sanctuary in Nashik district.
  • The lake is home to a large number of species including 160 bird, 46 reptile, and 12 mammal species.
  • The Ramsar status has been achieved due to sustained efforts by a team of Melghat Tiger Reserve that commands and controls the Lonar sanctuary.

Lonar Lake:

  • It is situated in the Deccan Plateau’s volcanic basalt rock which was created by the impact of a meteor 35,000 to 50,000 years ago.
  • The oval-shaped crater, which has a circumference of about five miles at the top, is both saline and alkaline, containing special microorganisms like anaerobes, Cyanobacteria, and phytoplankton. The perennial streams and springs feed into the lake.
  • It is home to a horde of algae and plankton species that thrive in its unusual ecosystem and give the water its vibrant color.
  • Because of its basaltic surface, scientists now use Lonar Lake to study craters and impact structures on other, more difficult to reach places like the Moon and Mars.
  • It was identified as a unique geographical site by a British officer CJE Alexander in 1823 and declared a notified National Geo-heritage Monument in 1979.
  • It was created by an asteroid collision with the earth's impact during the Pleistocene Epoch.

Significance of Ramsar Site status to Lonar Lake:

  • The Lonar will benefit in terms of international publicity and prestige and financial aid through the convention’s grant.
  • The Ramsar status to Lonar Lake would bring access to expert advice on national and site-related problems of Lonar wetlands.
  • The Ramsar status enhances protection for rare and endemic species.

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands:

  • The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty adopted on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar.
  • It is the first of the modern global intergovernmental treaties on the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
  • All Parties to the Convention have the obligations to include in the List at least one site that meets the criteria established by the Conference of the Parties.
  • It is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Source: Indian Express

Operation Thunder 2020

Context:

The India Customs intercepted an 18-tonne shipment of red sandalwood destined for the United Arab Emirates, during "Operation Thunder 2020".

Operation Thunder 2020:

  • It is a month-long operation coordinated by the Interpol and the World Customs Organisation (WCO), which involved law enforcement agencies in 103 countries.
  • The operation was organized against environmental crime.
  • It resulted in large seizures of protected wildlife and forestry specimens and products, triggering arrests and investigations worldwide.
  • The participating countries in Operation Thunder 2020 focused mainly on the species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
  • "Operation Thunder 2020" is the fourth in a series of "Thunder" operations carried out annually since 2017.

THUNDER Operations:

Operation Thunderbird (2017):

  • It is the code-name for INTERPOL’s multi-national and multi-species enforcement operation.
  • The operation brought about a unanimous approach by the state enforcement agencies in the fight against wildlife crime in India.

Operation Thunderstorm:

  • It targeted the people and networks behind global wildlife crime.
  • It involved police, customs, border, environment, wildlife, and forestry agencies from 92 countries.

Operation Thunderball:

  • It brought INTERPOL and WCO together as joint operational partners on the frontline to ensure wildlife trafficking is addressed comprehensively, from detection to arrest, investigation, and prosecution.
  • The operation saw half a tonne of pangolin parts bound for Asia seized in Nigeria, and the arrest of three suspects in Uruguay attempting to smuggle more than 400 protected wildlife species.

Source: The Hindu

Qilian Mountains

Context:

The researchers have observed that Glaciers in China's bleak Qilian Mountains are disappearing at a shocking rate.

Key Highlights:

  • The largest glacier in the 800-km mountain chain on the arid northeastern edge of the Tibetan plateau has retreated about 450 meters since the 1950s.
  • The 20-square kilometer glacier, known as Laohugou No. 12, is crisscrossed by rivulets of water down its craggy, grit-blown surface.
  • The loss of thickness is equally alarming with about 13 meters of ice disappearing as temperatures have risen.
  • The changes in Qilian reflect melting trends in other parts of the Tibetan plateau, the source of the Yangtze and other great Asian rivers.
  • The melting in the mountains could peak within a decade, after which snowmelt would sharply decrease due to the smaller, fewer glaciers.

Reasons: 

  • Global warming blamed for changes in the weather that have brought other unpredictable conditions.
  • Global warming also raises the prospect of crippling, long-term water shortages.
  • Snowfall and rain have been much less than normal, so even though the melting glaciers have brought more runoff.

Qilian Mountains:

  • It is a rugged mountain range on the border of Qinghai and Gansu provinces i.e. west-central China.
  • The vast ice reservoir is the most important water source for agricultural, industrial, and public use in the Hexi (Gansu) corridor to the north and the Qaidam Basin to the south.
  • It is also known as Chinese (Pinyin) Qilian Shan or Wade-Giles romanization and also called Nan Shan.
  • The range stretches from the south of Dunhuang to the southeast, forming the northeastern escarpment of the Tibetan Plateau and the southwestern border of the Hexi Corridor.
  • Its only mountain pass is known as Biandukou, which connects Minle County in Gansu to Qilian County in Qinghai.

 Source: The Hindu

Biodiversity Heritage Sites in Karnataka

Context:

The Karnataka Biodiversity Board has decided to declare four more areas in the State as biodiversity heritage sites.

Details:

  • The Karnataka Biodiversity Board has passed a resolution to declare four new sites as Biodiversity Heritage Sites are:
    1. Antaragange Betta in Kolar: It has a unique and perennial water source flowing all through the year
    2. Aadi Narayana Swamy Betta in Chickballapur: It had many dry-belt species protected by locals.
    3. Mahima Ranga Betta in Nelamangala, Bengaluru:  It is a prominent lung space surviving in Bengaluru.
    4. Urumbi area on the Kumaradhara river basin in Dakshina Kannada: It has a fragile environmental system and is located on the banks of the river Kumaradhara.

Guidelines for selection of the Biodiversity Heritage Sites:

  • Biodiversity heritage sites are considered unique and fragile ecosystems that can be marine ecosystems, coastal and inland waters, or terrestrial areas.
  • Under Section 37 of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 (BDA) the State Government in consultation with local bodies may notify in the official gazette, areas of biodiversity importance as Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS).

The areas having any of the following characteristics may qualify for inclusion as BHS:

  • Areas that contain a mosaic of natural, semi-natural, and man-made habitats, which together contain a significant diversity of life forms.
  • Areas that contain significant domesticated biodiversity components and/or representative agro-ecosystems with ongoing agricultural practices that sustain this diversity.
  • Areas that are significant from a biodiversity point of view also are important cultural spaces such as sacred groves/trees and sites, or other large community conserved areas.
  • Areas including very small ones that offer refuge or corridors for threatened and endemic fauna and flora, such as community conserved areas or urban greens and wetlands.
  • All kinds of legal land use whether government, community or private land could be considered under the above categories.
  • As far as possible those sites may be considered which are not covered under the Protected Area network under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 as amended.
  • Areas that provide habitats, aquatic or terrestrial, for seasonal migrant species for feeding and breeding.
  • Areas that are maintained as preservation plots by the research wing of the Forest department.
  • Medicinal Plant Conservation Areas.

Source: The Hindu

Purple Frog

Context:

A senior forest officer has given the proposal for declaring the purple frog as Kerala’s official amphibian. The proposal is in the active consideration of the state government.

  • The molecular evidence has found the purple frogs to be most closely related to a family of tiny frogs only found on Seychelles.

Purple Frog:

  • It is one of the rarest frog species endemic to the Western Ghats.
  • It has been recorded within protected areas including Anamalai Tiger Reserve, Periyar Tiger Reserve, and Silent Valley National Park.
  • It is also known as pignose frog and scientifically called Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis.
  • It is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Other details:

  • According to WWF, the purple frog has been acknowledged by bio-geographers all over the world as one of the rarest kinds and a “once in a century find".
  • It spends much of its life underground, emerging briefly for a few days each year at the start of the monsoons to breed.
  • The species requires loose, damp aerated soil in areas with good canopy cover and occurs at low elevation sites below 1,000 m above sea level.

World Wildlife Fund for Nature:

  • It is an international non-governmental organization.
  • It was established in 1961 and is headquartered at Gland, Switzerland.
  • Its mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.
  • Reports & programs: Living Planet Report, Earth Hour,  Debt-for-nature swaps, Healthy GrownPotato 

Source: The Hindu

Rare Species of Butterflies Sighted Across the country

Context:

The Branded Royal Butterfly found in the Nilgiris after a gap of over 130 years. This year many rare species such as Blue Mormon, Spotted Angle Butterfly, Liliac Silverline Butterfly, have been sighted across the country. 

Branded Royal Butterfly:

  • The Branded Royal (Tajuria melastigma) is a rare butterfly of lycaenid species.
  • It was last recorded in the Nilgiris in 1888 by G.F. Hampson and there is only one other record in Tamil Nadu.
  • It is found in the Indo-Malayan realm i.e. in India, Assam, Burma, and Thailand.
  • The Branded Royal is very rarely seen in India, with only four or five records in existence i.e. in the Nilgiris, Dindigul, and two in Kerala and Karnataka.
  • It is legally protected in India under Schedule II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Blue Mormon:

  • Blue Mormon (Papilio polymnestor) is a species of butterflies in the family swallowtail butterflies.
  • It is only found in Sri Lanka, the western ghats of Maharashtra, South India, and coastal belts of the country.
  • It is most common in heavy rainfall areas, such as evergreen forests.
  • In 2015, it was declared as the state butterfly of Maharashtra.

Spotted Angle Butterfly:

  • The spotted angle butterfly, with the scientific name Caprona agama, was spotted in the Bharamdeo reserve forest in Kawardha district in Chhattisgarh.
  • The species is migratory in nature.
  • It is a butterfly belonging to the family Hesperiidae.
  • It is found from southern India to Myanmar and in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, southern China, Java, and Sulawesi.

Liliac Silverline Butterfly:

  • It is a rare butterfly protected under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
  • The species has been reported first time from Aravali ranges in Kumbhalgarh in Rajasthan.
  • Aphnaeus lilacinus, the lilac Silverline, is a species of lycaenid or blue butterfly found in Asia.
  • The lilac Silverline is found in India, Myanmar, and Northern Thailand.
  • In India, this butterfly is found from Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh to southern Karnataka, with also one record each from Rajasthan and Assam.

Source: The Hindu

The US Formally Withdraws from the Paris Agreement

Context:

The US formally withdraws from the Paris climate agreement.

Details:

  • Now, the USA has become the first country to formally withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
  • The USA announced the move in 2017, but UN regulations meant that this decision only takes effect after the US election.
    • However, the US could rejoin it in the future.
  • No country could give the notice to leave the agreement until three years had passed from the date of ratification.
  • Even then, a member state still had to serve a 12-month notice period on the UN.
    • So, despite the USA announcement in 2017, it was only able to formally give notice to the UN in November 2019. The time has elapsed and the US is now out.
  • Its Effect
  • The US represents around 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • For the past three years, US negotiators have attended UN climate talks while the administration has tried to use these events to promote fossil fuels.

Paris Climate Agreement (COP 21):

  • The Paris deal was drafted in 2015 to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change.
  • Objective: To keep the global temperature rise this century well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5C.
  • It also aims to limit the number of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil, and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.
  • There is also provision for rich countries to help poorer nations by providing "climate finance" to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.

Agreement:

  • The deal unites all the world's nations in a single agreement on tackling climate change for the first time in history.
  • Coming to a consensus among nearly 200 countries on the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions is regarded by many observers as an achievement in itself and has been hailed as "historic".
  • In 1997 the Kyoto Protocol set emission cutting targets for developed countries, but the US pulled out and others failed to comply.
    • However, scientists point out that the Paris accord must be stepped up if it is to have any chance of curbing climate change.

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC):

  • It is the contributions that need to be done by each country to achieve the overall global goal.
  • Objective: To make sure that all countries have access to technical expertise and financial capability to meet the climate challenges.
  • The contributions need to be reported every 5 years to UNFCCC.
  • The contributions are not legally binding.

Source: The Hindu

Global Network of Biosphere Reserves

Context:

The Panna Tiger Reserve is included in the global network of biosphere reserves by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Details:

  • UNESCO's recognition has mentioned Panna Tiger Reserve as a critical tiger habitat.
  • The other Indian reserves recognized by UNESCO as global bio reserves are Nilgiri, Gulf of Mannar, Sunderban, Nanda Devi, Nokrek, Pachmarhi, Similipal, Achanakmar-Amarkantak, Great Nicobar, Agasthyamala, and Khangchendzonga.

Panna Tiger Reserve:

  • It is situated in the Vindhyan mountain range in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh.
  • The River Ken flows from the south to the north through the reserve.
  • It forms the northernmost tip of the natural teak forests and the easternmost tip of the natural Anogeissus pendula (Kardhai) forests.
  • Panna National Park was formed in 1981 and it was included as India’s 22nd tiger reserve in 1994.
  • It links the eastern and western populations of wild animals through the NE-SW running Vindhyan Hill ranges.

UNESCO's Biosphere Reserve:

Definition:

  • According to the United Nation, a biosphere reserve is where the international agency tries to reconcile the differences between human activity and the preservation of biodiversity.

The criteria for designation of Biosphere Reserve are:

  • A site that must contain an effectively protected and minimally disturbed core area of value of nature conservation.
  • The core area should be typical of a biogeographical unit and large enough to sustain viable populations representing all trophic levels in the ecosystem.
  • The management authority to ensure the involvement/cooperation of local communities to bring a variety of knowledge and experiences to link biodiversity conservation and socio-economic development while managing and containing the conflicts.
  • Areas potential for preservation of traditional tribal or rural modes of living for harmonious use of the environment.

Source: Hindustan Times

Water Risk Filter Report

Context:

According to the Water Risk Filter report, nearly a third of the 100 cities in the world susceptible to ‘water risk’ are in India.

Key findings:

  • 30 Indian cities will face ‘water risk’ by 2050.
  • Jaipur topped the list of Indian cities, followed by Indore and Thane. Mumbai, Kolkata, and Delhi also featured on the list.
  • The global list includes cities such as Beijing, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Mecca, and Rio de Janeiro.
  • The 100 cities that are expected to suffer the greatest rise in water risk by 2050 are home to at least 350 million people as well as nationally and globally important economies.
  • Globally, populations in areas of high-water risk could rise from 17% in 2020 to 51% by 2050.

Solutions:

  • The Smart Cities project could offer an integrated urban water management framework combining urban planning, ecosystem restoration, and wetland conservation for building future-ready, water-smart, and climate-resilient cities.
  • Urban planning and wetland conservation need to be integrated to ensure zero loss of freshwater systems in the urban areas.
  • There is a need to protect urban watersheds and wetlands because these are critical for maintaining the water balance of a city, flood cushioning, etc.

WWF Water Risk Filter:

  • It was launched in 2012 as a practical online tool that helps companies and investors assess and respond to water-related risks facing their operations and investments across the globe.
  • It was developed by WWF and the German finance institution DEG.
  • It has become a leading and trusted source of water risk data for thousands of users – from multinational corporations and SMEs to financial institutions – which have used it to evaluate hundreds of thousands of specific sites.
  • After a major upgrade in 2018 and a wealth of new functions, the Water Risk Filter 5.0 enables companies and investors to Explore, Assess, Value, and Respond to water risks.

Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF):

  • It was founded in 1961 as an international non-governmental organization.
  • WWF works in the field of wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment.
  • It is the world's largest conservation organization, with over five million supporters worldwide, working in more than 100 countries and supporting around 3,000 conservation and environmental projects.
  • It aims to “stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature."
  • The Living Planet Report is published every two years by WWF since 1998. It is based on the Living Planet Index and ecological footprint calculation.

Source: The Hindu

New Coral Reef Taller Than Eiffel Tower Found 

Context:

Australian scientists have found a detached coral reef on the Great Barrier Reef that exceeds the height of the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower.

  • Recently, three species of black coral have been discovered on the seabed of the northern Pacific Ocean.

Coral Reefs in Australia:

  • The “blade-like” reef is nearly 500 metres tall and 1.5 kilometres wide.
  • It lies 40 metres below the ocean surface and about six kilometres from the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • It is the first detached reef of that size to be discovered in over 120 years and that it was thriving with a “blizzard of fish” in a healthy ecosystem.

New Species of Corals discovered in the Pacific Ocean

  • The corals were discovered on deep seamounts and ridges in the mineral-rich Prime Crust Zone, which stretches from the Mariana Trench to the Hawaiian Islands.
  • The new black coral species are so named because of their black skeletons, but they can appear pink, white, or various other colours because of the living tissues growing over the skeleton.
  • The new species are long-living corals which are much like the redwoods of the ocean.
  • They are not only slow-growing and long-lived but also provide important habitat for many other species.

Coral Reefs:

  • These are large underwater structures composed of the skeletons of marine invertebrates called coral.
    • The coral species that build reefs are known as hermatypic, or "hard," corals because they extract calcium carbonate from seawater to create a hard, durable exoskeleton that protects their soft, sac-like bodies.
    • Species of corals those are not involved in reef-building are known as “soft” corals. 
  • Corals exhibit characteristics of plants, but are marine animals that are related to jellyfish and anemones.
  • Coral polyps are tiny and soft-bodied organisms.
  • The base of coral reef is a hard, protective limestone skeleton called a calicle, which forms the structure of coral reefs.
  • Reefs begin when a polyp attaches itself to a rock on the seafloor, then divides, or buds, into thousands of clones.
  • The polyp calicles connect to one another, creating a colony that acts as a single organism.

Significance:

  • According to the UN Environment programme, they provide at least half a billion people around the world with food security and livelihoods.
  • Coral reefs also act as ‘wave breakers’ between the sea and the coastline and minimise the impact of sea erosion.
  • In India, they are protected in the same way as the tiger or elephant, under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972.

Great Barrier Reef:

  • It runs 2,300 km down Australia's northeast coast spanning an area half the size of Texas.
  • It was world heritage listed in 1981 by UNESCO as the most extensive and spectacular coral reef ecosystem on the planet.

Source: The Hindu

Dashboard to Monitor Air Quality

Context:

A new dashboard has been launched to provide a comprehensive picture of India’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

  • NAAQS come under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP).

Background:

  • In 2019 the Centre had launched the National Clean Air Programme to address air pollution in 122 cities.
  • These cities are referred to as non-attainment cities as they did not meet the national ambient air quality standards for the period of 2011-15 under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme.

Details:

  • The dashboard set up by climate and energy news site CarbonCopy in association with Mumbai-based start-up Respirer Living Sciences.
  • The dashboard presents a comparative picture of particulate matter (PM) for all 122 cities since 2016. 
  • It establishes a three-year rolling average trend for PM2.5 and PM10 levels across the cities from 2016 to 2018.

Particulate Matter:

  • It is also called particle pollution, it is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air.
    • PM2.5: fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometres and smaller.
    • PM10: inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometres and smaller; and
  • Sources of PM: Some are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires.

Performance on PM 2.5 level:

  • A total of 59 of 122 cities had PM2.5 data available. Noida ranked the worst with 119, followed by Agra, Delhi, Lucknow, Ghaziabad, Muzaffarpur, Kanpur, Chandigarh, Howrah and Kolkata.

Performance on PM 10 level:

  • Delhi ranked as the most polluted state on an average of 3 years’ PM10 monitoring data, followed by Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Of the 23 states listed in the NCAP with non-attainment cities, only three states or Union Territories—Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab—accounted for above-average readings for all three years of PM10 monitoring.

Source: Indian Express

Aenigmachanna Gollum

Context:

Researchers in Kerala have discovered a type of fish in the watery underground rocks named “Aenigmachanna Gollum”. 

  • The fish looks like a dragon, swims like an eel, and has remained hidden for a hundred million years. 
  • The area where Aenigmachanna was collected is part of the Western Ghats, Sri Lanka Hotspot which is among the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world.

Aenigmachanna Gollum:

  • It belongs to an old family of fish, called dragon snakeheads.
  • Besides the Gollum, a sister species have also been discovered, called ‘Aenigmachanna mahabali’. 
  • It is a species of troglophilic snakehead fish that is endemic to the Indian state of Kerala.
  • It was named after the cave-dwelling character Gollum from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings book series.
  • It was discovered as a result of the 2018 Kerala floods,

Details:

  • The discovery of a new family of fish is very rare. The dragon snakeheads have evaded scientists till now because they live in subterranean aquifers and come to the surface only after heavy flooding from rain.
  • The closest relative of the family Aenigmachannidae is the Channidae, of which at least 50 species can be found in the streams and lakes of Asia and tropical Africa. 
  • The lack of evolution can be seen in the shortened swim bladder of the dragon snakeheads as well as fewer vertebrae with ribs. These indicate that the family is less specialized than regular snakeheads.
  • The family also has eyes and a reddish-brown pigmentation, which is unusual as most subterranean fish are pale and have no eyes.
  • Unlike the Channidae, the Aenigmachannidae also lacks the suprabranchial organ that allows the former to breathe air and proliferate widely.

Source: Indian Express

Echinops Sahyadricus

Context:

A student from Mumbai has discovered a new species of Echinops Sahyadricus in collaboration with researchers of Fabio Conti of the University of Camerino, Italy, and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).

Echinops Sahyadricus:

  • Its common name is Sahyadri Globe Thistle.
  • Echinops is a genus of about 130 species of flowering plants found in tropical and North Africa, the Mediterranean basin, and West Asia, extending eastwards to China and Japan.
    • The highest number of taxa (76) is concentrated in the Iranian plateau and five species are found in India including two in Maharashtra.
  • The new species is unique because of the size of its composite inflorescence which measures up to 9 cm in diameter that is relatively large compared to other Echinops species found around the world.
  • It has been discovered from the Rajgad Fort in the Sahyadri Mountains.
  • The species is endemic to Western Maharashtra and found only on a few open hilltops in the northern Western Ghats.
  • The new species is close to other Indian species called Echinops echinatus AKA Indian Globe thistle and one European species called Echinops sphaerocephalus.

Echinops:

  • It is commonly known as globe thistles.
  • It is a genus of about 130 species of flowering plants in the daisy family Asteraceae.
  • They are native to Europe, east to central Asia, and south to the mountains of tropical Africa.

Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS):

  • It is a pan-India wildlife research organization.
  • It has been promoting the cause of nature conservation since 1883.
  • Mission: Conservation of nature, primarily biological diversity through action based on research, education, and public awareness.
  • It is one of the largest non-governmental organizations in India.
  • It supports many research efforts through grants and publishes the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society.

Source: The Hindu

Project Snow Leopard (PSL)

Context:

On the International Snow Leopard Day 2020, the Minister of State for Environment has mentioned that the government is committed to landscape restoration for snow leopard habitat conservation.

Project Snow Leopard (PSL):

  • The project was launched in 2009
  • Objective: To protect the snow leopard and its habitat ensures protection of the major Himalayan rivers that support the teeming millions downstream. 
    • It also ensures that the ecological balance is maintained in these fragile ecosystems.
  • Under the project, the First National Protocol was launched on Snow Leopard Population Assessment which has been very useful for monitoring populations.
  • In 2009 the government hosted the 4th Steering Committee of the GSLEP program in New Delhi. 
  • This meeting resulted in the “New Delhi Statement” of strengthening the resolve of the snow leopard range countries towards conservation of the mountain ecosystems of Central and South Asia.

Initiatives:

  • Flagship Species: The Government of India has identified the snow leopard as a flagship species for the high-altitude Himalayas.
  • SECURE Himalaya: Global Environment Facility (GEF)-United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funded the project on conservation of high altitude biodiversity and reducing the dependency of local communities on the natural ecosystem. 

Snow Leopard:

  • The snow leopard is found in 12 countries India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Mongolia, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • The snow leopard is found along the upper reaches of the Himalayan range and, in India, it is found in Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.

Conservation status:

  • In IUCN red list it is under the Vulnerable category.
  • Schedule I in the Wild Life Protection Act 1972.
  • It is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

Source: The Hindu

Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary (RWS)

Context:

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has notified 250.66 sq km around Maharashtra’s Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary (RWS).

Background:

  • In October 2018, the Supreme Court ordered a mining company to stop operations at Durgmanwadi (within 10 km of RWS) as it was allegedly operating within the ESZ limits of the sanctuary without a wildlife clearance. 
  • In December 2018, the SC directed the MoEFCC to declare ESZs around 21 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries without buffer zones. In 2019, areas around Tungareshwar and Tansa wildlife sanctuaries in the state were also notified as ESZ.

Details:

  • The notified area is home to elephants and tigers, as an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ). The zone is meant to act as a buffer and a “shock absorber” for protected areas.
    • The ESZ is supposed to act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to less protection.
    • The National Wildlife Action Plan 2002-2016 had identified them as “vital ecological corridor links” and stressed that they must be protected to prevent isolation of fragments of biodiversity.
  • Areas around Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary located towards the southern hills of the Sahyadri range of Western Ghats were being considered by the mining lobby.
  • New mining projects, stone quarrying, major hydroelectric projects, setting up of brick kilns, and other red industries are prohibited in the ESZ.
  • Organic farming, agriculture, small-scale industries, and minor infrastructure work are permitted.

Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary:

  • It is a wildlife sanctuary and natural World Heritage Site, located in Kolhapur district, Maharashtra.
  • The sanctuary is spread across 351.16 sq km known to serve as a corridor for tigers and elephants moving between three states — Goa, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.
  • It lies at the southern end of the Sahyadri hills in the Western Ghats.
  • It is notable as the first declared wildlife sanctuary in Maharashtra, notified in 1958, as Dajipur Wildlife Sanctuary and is popularly known as the Bison Sanctuary.
  • RWS is home to 264 bird species (migratory and resident), 47 species of mammals, 59 species of reptiles, 20 species of amphibians, and 66 species of butterflies.
  • The Krishna River tributaries i.e. Bhogavati River, Dudhganga River, Tulshi River, Kallamma River and Dirba River flow through the sanctuary area.

Source: Indian Express

Migration of Butterflies 

Context:

In August 2020, an unusual phenomenon took place when thousands of butterflies were seen traveling from the Eastern Ghats to the Western Ghats.

Details:

  • The two seasonal butterfly migrations is an annual event that occurs between the Western and Eastern Ghats of the Indian peninsula in search of food and survival.
  • The Nilgiris are one hub for the migratory butterflies. Lakhs and lakhs of butterflies fly through the Nilgiri hills from the Kallaru corridor and Thengumorahada.
  • Dark blue tiger, blue tiger, common crow, and double branded crow are the common migratory butterflies between the Ghats

Reasons for migration:

  • Intense rain: The intense rain in the Western Ghats complex during the southwest monsoon makes it difficult for the butterflies to survive.
    • Before the onset of the southwest monsoon, butterflies start their first migration from the Western Ghats to the plains and to the Eastern Ghats in order to avoid the inclement weather.
    • In the Western and Eastern Ghats, it is clear that altered rain patterns have affected the migration patterns of butterflies.
  • Ideal climate: The Eastern Ghats provide the ideal climate for the butterflies to survive during the southwest monsoon.
    • The migratory adults become reproductive, breed, lay eggs, and die the successive generation starts to migrate back from the Eastern Ghats.
    • The second migration took place early in 2020 due to heavy rainfall in the Eastern Ghats during the southwest monsoon.
    • The butterfly offspring population would not have been able to survive in the Eastern Ghats with unviable weather conditions and a lack of food, forcing an early migration.

Butterflies: Indicators of Climate Change:

  • The Butterflies are bioindicators and the early migration means an early arrival of monsoon.
  • With climate change altering weather phenomena across the world, tracking and studying seasonal butterfly migrations have assumed greater significance.
  • The butterflies originate from Western Ghats ranges, such as Kodagu, Wayanad, Nilgiris, Siruvani, and Anamalai, and move toward the Eastern Ghats consisting of Yercaud, Pachamalai, Kolli, and Kalvarayan hills during the first migration.
  • The migration between the Ghats is a form of local migration but other types of migration are also prevalent among butterfly species in the hills of peninsular India.

Source: Indian Express

New Species of Sub-Aerial Diatoms

Context:

The seven new species of sub-aerial diatoms have been discovered from some areas of Western Ghats by city-based scientists from the Agharkar Research Institute (ARI).

Diatoms:

  • Diatoms are single-celled algae which generate nearly 25 % of global oxygen.
  • They are the only organism on the planet with cell walls composed of transparent, opaline silica.
  • They are commonly found in streams, rivers, lakes, and seas.

Significance:

  • Diatoms have light-absorbing molecules (chlorophylls a and c) that collect energy from the sun and turn it into chemical energy through photosynthesis.
  • The diatoms remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere through carbon fixation.
  • The CO2 is converted to organic carbon in the form of sugar, and oxygen (O2) is released.
  • Diatoms produce long-chain fatty acids.
  • Diatoms are an important source of energy-rich molecules that are food for the entire food web, from zooplankton to aquatic insects to fish to whales.
  • Zooplanktons depend on phytoplankton for their food and other matter found in the sea (heterotrophs).
    • Phytoplankton and zooplankton: ‘Phyto‘ is used for small plants like diatoms and algae and ‘zoo‘ is used for small animals like tiny fish, crustaceans, which are weak swimmers and just move along the currents.
    • Plankton refers to the smallest aquatic plants or animals that float and drift in the limnetic zone of water bodies.

Carbon fixation:

  • It is also called ?arbon assimilation.
  • It is the process by which inorganic carbon (particularly in the form of carbon dioxide) is converted to organic compounds by living organisms.
  • The organic compounds are then used to store energy and as building blocks for other important biomolecules.
  • Photosynthesis is the most prominent example of carbon fixation. Chemosynthesis can take place in the absence of sunlight.
  • Organisms that grow by fixing carbon are called autotrophs, which include photoautotrophs (which use sunlight), and lithoautotrophs (which use inorganic oxidation).
    • Heterotrophs are not themselves capable of carbon fixation but are able to grow by consuming the carbon fixed by autotrophs.

Source: Indian Express

Ratification of the Stockholm Convention

Context:

The Union Cabinet has approved the ratification of the Stockholm Convention by banning seven hazardous chemicals that are harmful to health and the environment.

  • The seven banned chemicals are listed as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) under the Stockholm Convention.
    • These are: (i) Chlordecone, (ii) Hexabromobiphenyl, (iii) Hexabromodiphenyl ether and Heptabromodiphenylether, (iv) Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and Pentabromodiphenyl ether, (v) Pentachlorobenzene, (vi) Hexabromocyclododecane, and (vii) Hexachlorobutadiene.

Details:

  • The Cabinet has delegated its powers to ratify chemicals under the Stockholm Convention to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MOEFCC) in respect of POPs already regulated under the domestic regulations thereby streamlining the procedure.

Impact:

  • Exposure to POPs can lead to cancer, damage to central and peripheral nervous systems, diseases of the immune system, reproductive disorders, and child development. 
  • The regulation prohibited the manufacture, trade, use, import, and export of these chemicals.
  • The ratification process would enable India to access the Global Environment Facility (GEF) financial resources in updating the National Implementation Plan (NIP).
  • The Cabinet further delegated its powers to ratify chemicals under the Stockholm Convention to Union Ministers of External Affairs and Environment with regard to POPs already regulated under the domestic regulations thereby streamlining the procedure.

The Stockholm Convention:

  • It is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from POPs, which are identified as chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate in living organisms, adversely affect human health/environment, and have the property of long-range environmental transport.
  • India had ratified the Stockholm Convention in 2006. The Ministry of Environment had notified the 'Regulation of Persistent Organic Pollutants Rules in 2018 under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • India had ratified as per Article 25 (4), which enabled it to keep itself in a default "opt-out" position such that amendments in various Annexes of the convention cannot be enforced on it unless an instrument of ratification/acceptance/approval or accession is explicitly deposited with the UN depositary.
  • POPs are listed in various Annexes to the Stockholm Convention after thorough scientific research, deliberations, and negotiations among member countries.

The Global Environment Facility:

  • It was established in 1991 as a pilot program with the World Bank.
  • Objective: To assist in the protection of the global environment and to promote environmental sustainability development.
  • It was restructured and become a permanent, separate institution in 1992 during the Rio Earth Summit with objectives to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems.

Source: All India Radio

Dust Responsible for Snowmelt in Western Himalayan Region

Context:

A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change has found that the dust is responsible for snow-melt in the Western Himalayan Region.

Details:

  • The dust particles transported from Saudi Arabia that get deposited in the Western Himalayan Region i.e. Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and western Himalaya ranges have a large role to play in the melting of snow.
  • It is the first time the role of long-distance transported dust in elevational heterogeneity of snow melting in the Himalayas has been made.
  • The dust transported as elevated aerosol layers get deposited at 1-5 km elevation and the black carbon emission is mostly a surface phenomenon and influences the melting of snow from the surface to about 3 km elevation.

Key findings:

  • The authors of the study show that the relative impacts of dust and black carbon vary with a surface elevation of the snowpack.
  • The black carbon has a larger snow albedo darkening effect than dust due to larger mass absorption efficiency.
    • Albedo is the measurement of the reflectivity of an object. It is the measure of the diffuse reflection of solar radiation out of the total solar radiation received by an astronomical body. Every object has a different albedo.
  • The study found that the radiative effects of dust deposited on snow are comparable to black carbon in the Western Himalayan Region at higher elevations.
    • It is mainly because the deposition of dust by mass is 100-1,000 times more than black carbon.
  • As the elevation increases, the influence of dust becomes greater than black carbon and the phenomenon coincides with the maximum intensity of snowmelt reduction seen at 3-5 km elevation.

Black Carbon:

  • The study found out that black carbon mainly contributes to snowmelt at lower elevation while dust is the major contributor for snowmelt at a higher elevation.
  • The Westerlies transport dust particles as elevated aerosol layers at maximum intensities mostly during the pre-monsoon period  and it gets deposited at higher elevations in the western Himalayan region.
  • The annual contribution of dust to snowmelt is likely to increase in the future as the black carbon effect at lower elevation weakens with dwindling snowpack due to the effect of global warming.

Source: The Hindu

India Celebrating Wildlife Week

Context:

India is celebrating Wildlife week from 2nd to 8th October.

  • Wildlife Week is celebrated every year in India between October 1 and 8. The annual theme of the campaign is to promote the preservation of fauna.

Background:

  • Wildlife Week was conceptualized in 1952 with the overall goal of raising awareness to serve the long-term goal of safeguarding the lives of wildlife through critical action. 
  • Indian Board of Wildlife was constituted in 1952; the wildlife day celebration started in 1955 and later upgraded to the wildlife week celebration in 1957. 
  • Indian Board of Wild Life works to improve awareness of the preservation of wildlife. 

Objectives:

  • To make people more aware of the conservation and protection of wildlife.
  • Throughout Wildlife Week, experts conduct hands-on workshops to bring the more complex aspects of wildlife conservation within the reach and understanding of all age groups. 

Theme: 

  • This year the 66th Wildlife Week was celebrated with the theme RoaR (Roar and Revive) - Exploring Human-Animal Relationships.
    • The theme aims at providing a platform to celebrate the special place of wild plants and animals in their many varied and beautiful forms.

Biodiversity in India:

  • India is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries in the world. With only 2.4% of the world’s land area, it contributes about 8% of the known global biodiversity.
  • The rich biodiversity is due to diverse ecological habitats namely Forest, Grassland, Wetland, Coastal, and Marine and Desert ecosystem.

Initiatives:

  • Central Zoo Authority has instituted the Prani Mitra awards to encourage the zoo officers and staff working towards captive animal management. 
  • A report titled “Economic valuation of ecosystem services, National Zoological Park” was also released during this occasion. This study, one of the first of its kind in India and perhaps the entire world.
  • Central Zoo Authority recognizes around 160 zoo and rescue centers that enforce global standards in animal housing and welfare. Over 567 captive animal species (with 114 species under the endangered category) with overall 56481 individual animals are currently housed in Indian zoos. 
  • The Government of India has initiated focused conservation of flagship species on Project Modes. The Project Tiger, Project Elephant, Project Snow Leopard are glimpses of this initiative. 

National Board for Wildlife (NBWL):

  • It is a statutory Board constituted officially in 2003 under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • It is chaired by the Prime Minister and is responsible for the promotion of conservation and development of wildlife and forests.
  • The board is ‘advisory’ in nature and can only advise the Government on policymaking for the conservation of wildlife.
  • The standing committee of NBWL is chaired by the Minister of Environment Forest and Climate Change.
  • The standing committee approves all the projects falling within protected wildlife areas or within 10 km of them.

Source: DD News

Strobilanthes Kunthiana

Context:

Recently, the experts have warned that the iconic flora native to the Nilgiris, including more than 30 species of Strobilanthes, could be under threat of being displaced with the continuing advance of invasive flora such as Cestrum aurantiacum and Lantana Camara.

Strobilanthes Kunthiana:

  • It is a rare plant that grows mainly in the shola grasslands of the Western Ghats in India.
  • The mass blooming of the Strobilanthes kunthiana, known commonly as the neelakurinji, gave the Nilgiris (the Blue Mountains) its iconic name.
  • Neelakurinji plant was first seen in the vicinity of the Kunthi River.
  • The Kurinjimala Sanctuary was made in Munnar exclusively to protect the Neelakurinji plants.
  • The habitat of the Strobilanthes plants in the upper Nilgiris is being eroded by the Cestrum aurantiacum and they are also threatened by other invasive species like Lantana Camara in the lower slopes.

The Kunthi River:

  • It is located in Kerala and flows through the Silent Valley National Park.
  • It is a tributary of the river Thuthapuzha, which is in turn one of the main tributaries of the Bharathapuzha River, the second-longest river in Kerala.
  • This river is mainly used by the people of Mannarkkad taluk of Palakkad district.
  • This river is known for the story of the bathing of Kunthi Devi, the mother of Pandavas. 

Lantana Camara:

  • It is a small perennial shrub, which forms extensive, dense, and impenetrable thickets.
  • It is a highly variable ornamental shrub, a native of the neotropics.
  • It is native to Central and South America but its original distribution is unclear due to the introduction of a number of ornamental varieties.
  • It is an invasive species that was introduced in tropical regions as an ornamental plant (introduced in India in 1807).
  • It is generally deleterious to biodiversity and has been reported as an agricultural weed resulting in large economic losses.

Cestrum Aurantiacum:

  • It is also known as Orange Cestrum.
  • It is native to North and South America.
  • It is an evergreen, half-climbing shrub reaching 10 ft tall.

Source: The Hindu

Suchindram Theroor Bird Sanctuary

Context:

The Suchindram Theroor Bird Sanctuary has come under threat with real estate sharks in the process of converting some wetlands into housing plots.

Suchindram Theroor Bird Sanctuary:

  • It is a protected area comprising the Suchindram Kulam wetlands and the Theroor Kulam wetlands in Tamil Nadu.
  • It is located between Nagercoil and Kanyakumari.
  • Being at the extreme southern tip of India, this area underlies the southernmost continental range of the Central Asian Flyway.
  • It is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) of India.
  • In 2015, the southernmost wintering ground of the migratory birds in the country comprising a host of wetlands in Suchindram, Theroor, and Manakudi estuary in Kanyakumari district has been declared as a conservation reserve.

Flora:

  • Suchindram pond has a large variety of aquatic vegetation including water Lilly, lotus, floating hearts, pistia, and other water plants. 

Fauna:

  • Suchindram is noted for the wide variety of migratory waterbirds that winter there, including near-threatened painted stork and spot-billed pelicans, cattle egrets, great cormorants, darters, purple swamphen, and Bronze-winged jacanas. 

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs):

  • IBAs concept is the brainchild of BirldLife International, a global partnership of conservation organization (NGOS) that strives to conserve birds, their habitats, and global biodiversity working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources.
  • Initially, IBAs were identified only for terrestrial and freshwater environments but over the past decade, the IBA has been adapted and applied in the marine realm also.

Features:

  • These are places of international significance for the conservation of birds and another biodiversity.
  • Recognized world-wide as practical tools for conservation.
  • Distinct areas are amenable to practical conservation action.
  • Identified using robust, standardized criteria.
  • Sites that together form part of a wider integrated approach to the conservation and sustainable use of the natural environment.

Criteria:

  • IBA was developed and sites are identified by BirdLife International. Currently, there are over 12,000 IBAs worldwide.
  • To be listed as an IBA, a site must satisfy at least one of the following rating criteria:
    • Globally threatened species
    • Biome-restricted species
    • Restricted-range species
    • Congregations

Source: The Hindu

‘Daring Cities 2020’ Conference

Context:

Chief Minister of Delhi will be among the five urban leaders from around the world to speak at the prestigious ‘Daring Cities 2020’ conference on October 7.

  • The conference is being hosted by the ICLEI and the City of Bonn, Germany, with the support of the German government.

Daring Cities:

  • It is a global forum on climate change for urban leaders tackling climate emergencies, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • It showcases and catalyzes exemplary local climate action to tackle the climate emergency, including ambitious resilience-building and climate mitigation efforts.
  • It was created by ICLEI and the Federal City of Bonn (Germany).
  • It builds upon the experience and network established during the Resilient Cities Congresses convened annually from 2010 to 2019 by ICLEI and the Federal City of Bonn.

Daring Cities 2020:

  • It will be a three-week event comprising high level and visionary speakers, a series of informative workshops, and personal networking opportunities in a variety of virtual formats to accommodate different topics, time zones, internet bandwidth limits, and languages.
  • The event will help to set the course to COP26, Daring Cities 2021, and beyond.
  • The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be held in 2021 in Glasgow, UK.

Details:

  • Delhi CM has been invited alongside urban leaders and decision-makers from Bogota (Colombia), Sao Paolo [Brazil], Los Angles, and Entebbe (Uganda) to discuss multilevel action to tackle the climate emergency and environmental sustainability.
  • The event recognizes these five as daring urban leaders who are going beyond the limits imposed by their respective local contexts to take bold climate action.
  • Delhi CM will speak on how Delhi has responded to the existing climate emergency, air pollution crisis, including recent innovative solutions such as the Pusa decomposer and the first-of-its-kind EV policy in India to tackle air pollution in the Capital.
  • The distinguished leaders from Latin America, Africa, North America, and Asia will also present their thoughts on the most essential changes that should be achieved in their respective city/region in the next five years so that their plans to tackle climate emergencies are accelerated.

Source: The Hindu

New Species of Pipeworts

Context:

Scientists from the Agharkar Research Institute have discovered two new species of pipeworts in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Pipeworts (Eriocaulon):

  • It is a plant group that completes its life cycle within a small period during monsoon. It exhibits great diversity in the Western Ghats.