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SAND MINING IN INDIA - ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
Sand is an important mineral for our society in protecting the environment, buffer against strong tidal waves and storm, habitat for crustacean species and marine organisms, used for making concrete, filling roads, building sites, brick making, making glass, sandpapers, reclamations, and in our tourism industry in beach attractions. Sand mining is the process of removal of sand and gravel where this practice is becoming an environmental issue as the demand for sand increases in industry and construction.
Despite a Supreme Court order that prohibits sand mining without the requisite clearance from the required authorities and places limits on the quantities that can be mined, thousands of tonnes of sand is being illegally mined to meet the rising demand of construction industry and for extraction of minerals. Let’s discuss about the scenario of sand mining in India The environmental reasons for this ban and others across India are numerous.
Sand acts as an aquifer, and as a nat-ural carpet on the bottom of the river. Stripping this layer leads to downstream erosion, causing changes in channel bed and habitat type, as well as the deepening of rivers and estuaries, and the enlargement of river mouths.
As the river system lowers, local groundwater is affected, which leads to water scarcities aggravating agriculture and local livelihoods. In terms of legal measures, ground water shortages have been noted as the patent problem with river sand mining. Less considered in legal action, but centrally relevant, experts also note substantial habitat and ecological problems, which include “direct loss of stream reserve habitat, disturbances of species attached to streambed deposits, reduced light penetration, reduced primary production, and reduced feeding opportunities”.

Economic consequences of sand mining
1. Revenue loss to the exchequer For e.g.: It is estimated that in Noida and Greater Noida alone the loss to the exchequer is about Rs.1,000 crore, but the impact that sand mining, which is simply put theft on environment and ecology, cannot even be calculated.
Environmental consequences of sand mining

  • Forcing the river to change its course Sand and boulders prevent the river from changing the course and act as a buffer for the riverbed. 
  • Illegally dredged sand is equivalent to robbing water. Sand holds a lot of water, and when it is mindlessly mined and laden on to trucks, large quantities of water is lost in transit. 
  • Depletion of groundwater tables Sand, on a riverbed it acts as a link between the flowing river and the water table and is part of the aquifer. For e.g.: Illegal and excessive sand mining in the riverbed of the Papagani catchment area in Karnataka has led to the depletion of groundwater levels and environmental degradation in the villages on the banks of the river in both Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. 
  • Adversely impacting the habitat of micro-organisms There are a lot of micro-organisms that are not visible and widely known, but are critical to soil structure and fertility. When sand is dredged, literally it takes away their habitat. 
  • Increased river erosion When sand and boulders are removed in an unimpeded way using heavy machines, the erosion capacity of the river increases. 
  • Damage to roads and bridges For e.g.: In Vishnuprayag the boulders that came down with the river water damaged a side of the dam and the waters spread out across causing heavy damage. 
  • Threat to agriculture For e.g.: Despite numerous prohibitions and regulations, sand mining continues rapidly on the riverbed of the Bharathapuzha in kerala. Water tables have dropped dramatically and a land once known for its plentiful rice harvest now faces scarcity of water. In the villages and towns around the river, groundwater levels have fallen drastically and wells are almost perennially dry. 
  • Damage to coastal ecosystem This destructive illegal practice in beaches, creeks leads to erosion along the shoreline.
    Eg: Kihim Beach off Alibaug, Shore levels have reduced, forcing residents to build walls to protect themselves from the sea. It wrecks the intertidal area and creates the imminent danger of saline water ingress into fresh water. Coastal sand mining destroys fisheries, disturbs coral, mangroves, wetlands and has led to the near extinction of ghariyals, a crocodile species unique to India. A major impact of beach sand mining is the loss of protection from storm surges associated with tropical cyclones and tsunamis. 
  • Lesser availability of water for industrial, agricultural and drinking purposes. 
  • Loss of employment to farm workers. 
  • Threat to livelihoods

Current rules and policies in operation relation to sand mining

  • Kerala: Kerala Protection of River Banks and Regulation of Removal of Sand Act, 2001
  • Key features: To permit sand mining in select areas and each selected area or Kadavu will be managed by a Kadavu Committee which will decide on matters such as quantum of mining to be permitted, and to mobilise local people to oversee these operations and ensure protection of rivers and riverbanks.
  • Key rivers affected: Bharatapuzha, Kuttiyadi river, Achankovil, Pampa and Manimala, Periyar, Bhavani, Siruvani, Thuthapuzha, and Chitturpuzha, rivers in the catchments of Ashtamudi and Vembanad lakes
  • Tamil Nadu: Policy that ensures that quarrying of sand in Government poramboke lands and private patta lands will only be undertaken by the Government. Mechanised sand mining is prohibited. In 2008, this policy was countermanded by the government and private parties were given permits for mining.
  • Rivers affected: Cauvery, Vaigai, Palar, Cheyyar, Araniyar and Kosathalaiyar, Bhavani, Vellar , Vaigai Thamiraparani, Kollidam. coastal districts of Nagapattinam, Tuticorin, Ramanatha-puram and Kanyakumari. hill regions of Salem and Erode districts.
  • Karnataka: The Uniform Sand Mining Policy does not allow sand mining in Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) area and prohibits the use of machineries to mine sand from river. High Court of Karnataka banned mechanised boats for sand mining in the state from April 2011.
    From September 2011, according to Karnataka Minor Mineral Concession (Amendment) Rules 2011,the responsibility of oversight of sand mining has been transferred to the Public Works, Ports and Inland Water Transport Department.
  • Rivers affected: Cauvery, Lakshmanateerta, Harangi, Hemavathi, Nethravatai, Papagani 
  • Andhra Pradesh: In 2006, a new policy that allows only manual labour and bullocks to mine sand in riverbeds. Bullock carts, mules and other animals would be exempted from any mining tax. Contractors will be allotted sand through open bidding by a committee headed by district joint collectors. Sand can be sold only if it has a maximum retail price tag, otherwise there will be a penalty. Use of poclaines has been banned entirely, and mining will be disallowed below three metres.
  • Rivers affected: Godavari, Tungabhadra, Vamsadhara, Nagavali, Bahuda and Mahendratanaya 
  • Maharashtra: New policy, 2010, under which it is compulsory for contractors to obtain permission from the Gramsabha, for sand mining. Ban on use of suction pumps in dredging and sand mining licences can be given only through a bidding process. Also sand mining projects have to obtain environmental clearances.
  • Rivers affected: creeks at Thane, Navi Mumbai, Raigad and Ratnagiri 
  • Uttar-Pradesh: the Noida administration established a “Special Mining Squad,” charged with the specific task of impeding and ultimately extricating Greater Noida from the sand mafia’s degradation.
  • Rivers affected: Chhoti Gandak, Gurra, Rapti and Ghaghara.

Suggestions

  • The most viable alternative is ‘manufactured sand’. It is produced in a stone crushing plant. M-sand is produced from stones which is used for aggregates, and the quality is consistent and even better than river sand. M-sand is relatively cheaper too. 
  • Use of fly ash from industries as alternative should be promoted for construction purposes. 
  • The government should exercise prudence when it comes to leasing out the riverbed for mining activities and also demarcate areas clearly and monitor mining through a suitable institutional mechanism. 
  • Periodic assessment of how much sand can be sustainably mined, as the quantity can vary from a river to river and within a river from stretch to stretch has to be done. 
  • The use of intrusive techniques such as the use of explosives and heavy excavator machines in sand mining are largely destructive. 
  • In the mountain areas especially sand mining should be carried out manually and sustainably. 
  • A high level lobbying commit tee must be formed and Laws has to be enforced in an efficient and unbiased way and decisive steps are to be taken for environmental solution.

Guidelines for Sustainable Sand & Minor Mineral Mining

  • Where to mine and where to prohibit mining: District Survey Report for each district in the country, taking the river in that district as one ecological system. Use of ISRO, remote sensing data and ground truthing. 
  • Sustainable mining: Mining out material only that much which is deposited annually. 
  • Involvement of District authorities in the process: The District-level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) headed by District Collector. The District Collector is to be assisted by the District Level Expert Appraisal Committee (DEAC) headed by Executive Engineer (Irrigation Department) being assigned the responsibility of granting environment clearance up to 5 hectare of mine lease area for minor minerals , mainly sand. So district administration, which is the key in assessing the requirement of sand in a district and prohibiting illegal sand mining in district is being involved directly in environmental clearance. 
  • Monitoring using scientific tools: Stringent monitoring of movement of mined out material from source to destination using information technology tools, bar coding, SMS etc. Till date, there is no authentic data on how much sand is being mined, this system will generate real-time data on mined out sand. The movement of sand is controlled through Transit Permit.
    The monitoring of mined out mineral, Environmental Clearance, EC conditions and enforcement of Environment Management Plan (EMP) will be ensured by the District Collector and the State Pollution Control Board. The monitoring of enforcement of EC conditions can be done by the Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the agency nominated by Ministry for the purpose.
  • Exemptions: Proposal to exempt certain category from mining for the purpose of environmental clearance, like:
    (i) Extraction of ordinary clay or ordinary sand manually by hereditary Kumhars (potters) who prepare earthen pots on a cottage industry basis.
    (ii) Extraction of ordinary clay or ordinary sand manually by earthen tile makers who prepare earthen tiles on a cottage industry basis.
    (iii) Removal of sand deposited on agricultural field after flood by owner farmers.
    (iv) Customary extraction of sand and ordinary earth from sources situated in Gram Panchayat for personal use or community work in a village.
    (v) Community works like desilting of village ponds/ tanks, construction of village/rural roads, bunds undertaken in MGNREGS and other Governments-ponsored schemes.
    (vi) Dredging a nd desilting of dam, reservoirs, weirs, barrages, river and canals for the purpose of maintenance and upkeep, and the dredged material is used departmentally. If the dredging activities are undertaken for the purpose of winning of mineral and selling it commercially, it will be considered mining and prior EC will be required.
  • Guideline on handling cluster issues: The original EIA notification does not provide for the procedure to handle cluster situation, which has been proposed in this guideline and will become part of the Notification. One EIA/EMP will be prepared for one cluster irrespective of number and size of mining leases in that cluster, if the area is more than 5 hectares. Area less than 5 hectare will be B2.

PALM OIL – ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES AND INDIA’S ROLE IN IT
When forest shrink, so does the home of endangered species

  • Palm oil has emerged as the main global source of vegetable oil due to adequate availability, versatility in usage, higher yield and lower cost, as compared to other vegetable oils. Palm oil is generally sold in the name of vegetable oil. 
  • Palm oil forms 33% of the world vegetable oil production mix. Indonesia and Malaysia contribute almost 87% of production of palm oil, whereas China and India constitute 34% of imports. 
  • Global edible oil consumption has grown from 123 Million Metric tonnes in 2007 to 158 Mn MT in 2012. This growth has been fuelled by increased population, incomes and per capita consumption especially in developing countries like India, Indonesia and China, etc. Palm oil, at 48.7 Mn MT is the largest consumed edible oil in the world. 
  • As demand for palm oil increases, substantial tracts of tropical forests are often cleared to make room for large plantations. As per WWF’s estimates, the expansion of oil palm plantations is likely to cause four million hectares (more than twice the size of Kerala) of forest loss by 2020. 
  • Deforestation would most likely occur in high biodiversity areas, such as Borneo, Papua New Guinea, Sumatra and the Congo Basin in Africa. The felling and burning of forests impact populations of endangered wildlife such as Sumatran Tigers, Rhinos and Orangutans. It also has adverse impacts on people’s health and disrupts local livelihoods. 
  • At the global level, the impacts of forest loss are even more dramatic, including the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that contribute to global warming.

Applications of Palm Oil
(1) Food based applications Cooking oil, substitute for butter, vanaspati/vegetable ghee, margarine, confectionary and bakery fats, ice cream, coffee creamers, emulsifiers, vitamin E supplements among others.
(2) Non-food applications Cosmetics, toiletries, soaps and detergents. Oleo chemical industry, as a base material for laundry detergents, household cleaners and cosmetics.
According to USDA estimates, 75% of the global palm oil consumption is for food purposes, while 22% is for industrial/non-food purposes. The remaining, though currently, of marginal quantity, is used for biodiesel

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF PALM OIL PRODUCTION
1. Deforestation – Substantial tracts of tropical forests are cleared to make room for large plantations to service an ever increasing demand for palm oil. Studies show that the forest cover on the island of Borneo had declined from 73.7 percent in 1985 to 50.4 percent in 2005, while the projected cover in 2020 was 32.6 percent. Loss of forest cover in Sumatra, Indonesia, has also been very alarming.
2. Loss of biodiversity – Concerns about biodiversity loss are directly related to the loss of natural forests. In particular, orangutan habitats have been threatened by palm oil production. In 1900, there were around 315,000 orangutans in Indonesia and Malaysia. Today, fewer than 50,000 exist in the wild, split into small groups. The palm oil industry is the biggest threat to orangutans, with the species like to be driven to extinction within 12 years unless the devastation of their natural habitat is halted. A related problem has been that fragmentation of natural forest habitats and encroachment by palm oil development which has been resulted in serious human- wildlife (elephant, etc) conflicts.
3. Climate change – 15% of all human induced greenhouse gas emissions are caused by deforestation, forest degradation and peat land emissions. As land on mineral soil becomes less readily available, the expansion of oil palm is increasing on peat lands. . As these areas are drained, the peat is exposed to oxidation, resulting in significant CO2 release over an extended period. Other significant sources of GHG emissions associated with oil palm are the use of fires for land clearing and the emissions of methane from the effluent treatment ponds of palm oil mills. Forests are felled, peat swamps drained and burnt, creating a haze that covers large areas, affecting people’s health and disrupting economic activities.
4. Use of pesticides and fertilizers – Misuse of pesticides and fertilizers is frequently cited as a negative impact of oil palm cultivation. In general, pesticide use is low compared to many other crops, but some chemicals used, pose significant risks to operators and smallholders and the environment. Among these hazardous chemicals, the herbicide paraquat gives the most cause for concern, as it poses serious health hazards to the spray operators. The Pesticides Action Network-Asia & the Pacific has called for a ban on paraquat production and use on numerous occasions, but to no avail.

INDIA and OIL PALM
Indonesian palm oil companies produce palm oil by destroying virgin rainforests and tiger habitat in Indonesia. Indian huge palm oil imports from Indonesia is been accelerating the destroyal of rainforest. India’s palm oil demand destroying Indonesia’s rainforests.
The expansion of palm oil plantations to meet the global demand for vegetable oils (palm oil usually used in this name) happens at the expense of forest, wildlife and communities.

Consumption of palm oil in India
Palm oil has dominated Indian imports since the last two decades, for its logistical advantages, contractual flexibility, and consumer acceptance change in consumption patterns, availability, pricing, and policy changes. India is the largest importer of palm oil which is also the lowest priced oil. Palm oil contributes to around 74% (as of 2012) of the total edible oils that are imported into the country.
Almost 90% of the palm oil imported and produced domestically is used for edible/ food purposes, while the remaining is used for industrial/non-edible purposes. Palm oil is now the single largest consumed vegetable oil in India.

Palm oil in India – Production
Despite being the world’s fourth largest oilseed producing country, India’s share of palm oil production is small, accounting for 0.2% share in the total world produce Palm oil production in India has grown at 22.7% CAGR over the past five years in 2011. However, India would continue to be a net importer of palm oil.

State-wise Palm Oil Production in India
Andhra Pradesh is the leading palm oil producing state in India contributing approximately 86 % of country’s production, followed by Kerala (10%) and Karnataka (2%). Other palm oil producing states include Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Gujarat.

Major constraints in domestic cultivation of oil palm

  • Geographical location: The ideal locations for oil palm trees are within eight degrees latitude north and south of the Equator. 
  • Irrigation: Palms need regular rainfall throughout the year. However, they can withstand dry periods of 3-4 months depending on soils type without irrigation. Oil palm can be grown in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa and a few other areas, but only with irrigation. This places significant pressure on the hydrological system of the region.
  • Long gestation periods: Oil palm has very high productivity when compared to other oilseeds like mustard, however, the farmers would have to wait for four years for the trees in India to obtain yield. 
  • Small farm holdings with Indian farmers generally are challenging. 
  • Limited investments by corporate sector compared with Malaysia and Indonesia.

Policies Related to Production and Distribution of Palm Oil
Subsidies for distribution of imported palm oil
The Ministry of Food has been subsiding imported edible oil distribution under the public distribution system (PDS)

  • To provide relief, in particular BPL households, from the rising prices of edible oils, the Central Government introduced a scheme for distribution of upto 10 lakh tons of imported edible oils in 2008-09 at a subsidy of rs 15/- per kg through State Governments/UTs. 
  • The scheme was extended during 2009-10, 2010-2011 and in 2011-12. After the implementation of the scheme, edible oil prices have substantially declined and poorer sections were provided edible oils at subsidized rates.

Oil Palm Development Programme in India:

  • OPDP was launched during 1991- 92 under the “Technology Mission on Oilseeds and Pulses” (TMOP), with a focus on expansion of area under oil palm cultivation. 
  • From 2004-05, the scheme is being implemented as part of the “Integrated Scheme of Oilseeds, Pulses, Oil Palm & Maize” (ISOPOM) and provides support for oil palm cultivation in 12 states: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Tripura & West Bengal.

For the year 2011-12, the government rolled out the Oil Palm Area Expansion (OPAE) Programme in order to bring an additional 60,000 hectares area under oil palm cultivation.

  • The government has also announced various subsidies for oil palm growers for planting, buying pump set and drip-irrigation systems, partial compensation in case of loss during the gestation period and support for processing units.

Roundtable on Sustainable Oil (RSPO)
The RSPO was established in 2004 to promote the production and use of sustainable palm oil for people, planet and prosperity RSPO is a membership based organisation with oil palm growers, palm oil processers and traders, consumer good manufactures, NGOs and retailers.

8 principles for growers to be RSPO certified

  • Commitment to transparency 
  • Compliance with applicable laws and regulations 
  • Commitment to long term economic and financial viability 
  • Use of appropriate best practices by growers and millers 
  • Environmental responibility and conservation of natural resources and biodiversity 
  • Responsible considerat ion of employees, a nd of individuals and communities affected by growers and mills 
  • Responsible development of new plantings 
  • Commitent to continous improvement in key areas of activity

RSPO impact

  • Presently 14 % of palm oil globally is certified by RSPO 

It is however important to understand that palm oil itself is not the problem, but rather how palm oil is produced. When done right, palm oil can be a catalyst for development and to improve livelihoods. It can also enhance biodiversity and sequestrate carbon dioxide when planted on degraded lands.
To ensure an uninterrupted supply of ‘clean‘ palm oil that does not involve sacrificing the remaining tropical forests or contributing to global warming and other social problems, all companies that produce, trade or use palm oil need to move towards sustainable palm oil.
When forest shrink, so does the home of endangered species

COLONY COLLAPSE DISORDER
Bees are one of a myriad of other animals, including birds, bats, beetles, and butterflies, a called pollinators. Pollinators transfer pollen and seeds from one flower to another, fertilizing the plant so it can grow and produce food. Crosspollination helps at least 30 percent of the world’s crops and 90 percent of our wild plants to thrive. Without bees to spread seeds, many plants – including food crops – would die off.
Bees are not summertime nuisance, they are small and hard-working insects actually make it possible for many of your favorite foods to reach your table. From apples to almonds to the pumpkin in our pumpkin pies, we have bees to thank. Now, a condition known as Colony Collapse Disorder is causing bee populations to plummet, which means these foods are also at risk.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a new tagname presently being given to a condition that is characterized by an unexplained rapid loss of a Bee colony’s adult population.
Sudden loss of a colony’s worker bee population with very few dead bees found near the colony. The queen and brood (young) remained, and the colonies had relatively abundant honey and pollen reserves. But hives cannot sustain themselves without worker bees and would eventually die. This combination of events resulting in the loss of a bee colony has been called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Reduction or loss of bee population has been seen in the history and known by the name such as disappearing disease, spring dwindle, May disease, autumn collapse, and fall dwindle disease

Symptoms

  • Contain no adult bees, with few to no dead bees around the colony 
  • Contain capped brood 
  • Contain food stores that are not robbed by neighboring bees or colony pest 
  • Worker bees failed to return to colony from flight
The document Environmental issues - 2 | Environment for UPSC CSE is a part of the UPSC Course Environment for UPSC CSE.
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