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Environmental issues - 3 | Environment for UPSC CSE PDF Download

The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a single smoking gun behind CCD but a range of possible causes, including:

Global warming 
Global warming causes flowers to bloom earlier or later than usual. When pollinators come out of hibernation, the flowers that provide the food they need to start to start the season has already bloomed.
Pesticide (neonicotinoids, a neuroactive chemical) It’s not that the pesticides which are aimed at other insects are killing the bees outright. Rather that sublethal exposure of pesticides in nectar and pollen may be interfering with the honeybees internal radar, preventing them from gathering pollen and returning safely to the hive.

Varroa mite - parasites
European foulbrood (A bacterial disease that is increasingly being detected in U.S. bee colonies) microsporidian fungus Nosema.

Beekeepers collect (steal) bees honey so humans can consume it, they are taking away the insects’ food. They re-place it with high-fructose corn syrup, leaving the bees malnourished and weakening their immune systems. Researchers have identified some specific nutrients that bees need, get from honey, and don’t get from corn syrup.
When honeybees collect nectar from flowers, they also gather pollen and a substance called propolis, which they use to make waxy honeycombs. The pollen and propolis are loaded with three types of compounds that can help the bees detoxify their cells and protect themselves from pesticides and microbes.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is implementing various Schemes for Environmental Conservation. The funding under the Central Sector Schemes is 100 percent from the Government of India. Under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes, as per the revised funding pattern from 2015- 16 onwards, the Government of India’s share is 50 percent for rest of India and 80 percent for the North Eastern States and 3 Himalayan States i.e Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in environment sector. The share of the Government of India is 60 percent for rest of India in the schemes related to forestry and wildlife and 90 percent in respect of North Eastern States and 3 Himalayan States.

Metal Pollution 
Bees absorbing metal pollution from flowers that absorbed it from the soil that absorbed it from modern machines and vehicles 

The stress of shipping bees back and forth across the country, increasingly common in commercial beekeeping, may be amplifying the stress on the insects and leaving them more vulnerable to CCD. 

Habitat loss
Habitat loss brought by development, abandoned farms, growing crops without leaving habitat for wildlife and growing gardens with flowers that are not friendly to farmers.

How can we Protect Bees?

  • Policy makers must take action to protect the bees and other pollinators. 
  • Farmers must be rewarded for practices that help wild bee populations thrive.
  • Assistance should be provided to farmers who plan to support a wider variety of pollinators beyond just bees. 
  • Bee research must be strengthened, and must also be broadened to include research on pollinators besides honey bees. 
  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques should be used to minimize pesticide us and risk to bees. 
  • City dwellers can also practice IPM where t hey live, work, and play to protect our health, water quality, and pollinators.

And if CCD continues, the consequences for the agricultural economy — and even for our ability to feed ourselves — could be dire. “No more Bees, No more Pollination, No more Plants, No more Animals, No more Man”.

Neonicotinoids are a new class of insecticides chemically related to nicotine. The name literally means “new nicotine-like insecticides”. Like nicotine, the neonicotinoids act on certain kinds of receptors in the nerve synapse. They are much more toxic to invertebrates, like insects, than they are to mammals, birds and other higher organisms.
Neonicotinoids share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. One thing that has made neonicotinoid insecticides popular in pest control is their water solubility, which allows them to be applied to soil and be taken up by plants. Soil insecticide applications reduce the risks for insecticide drift from the target site, and for at least some beneficial insects on plants.
They include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. Uncertainties prevail since their initial registration regarding the potential environmental fate and effects of neonicotinoid pesticides, particularly as they relate to pollinators. Studies conducted in the late 1990s suggest that neonicotinic residues can accumulate in pollen and nectar of treated plants and represent a potential risk to pollinators.
There is major concern that neonicotinic pesticides play a role in recent pollinator declines. Neonicotinods can also be persistent in the environment, and when used as seed treatments, translocate to residues in pollen and nectar of treated plants. New research points out potential toxicity to bees and other beneficial insects through low level contamination of nectar and pollen with neonicotinoid insecticides used in agriculture. Although the low level exposures do not normally kill bees directly, they may impact some bee’s ability to foraging for nectar, learn and remember where flowers are located, and possibly impair their ability to find their way home to the nest or hive.
In April 2013, the European Commission decided to introduce a 2-year moratorium in EU on the 3 neonicotinod compounds—clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam—following reports by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) saying the substances pose an “acute risk” to honey bees essential to farming and natural ecosystems.

Such accidents pose a grave danger to wildlife, and to the conservation of our national biodiversity. Article 48A (DPSP) of the Indian Constitution, it is stated that the State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country.
Article 51A (Fundamental Duties) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures It is the duty of every citizen to preserve, protect and nourish our wildlife heritage, particularly since these animals are helpless in facing the challenge of biotic pressure.

What has to be done?

  • Coordination bet ween MoEF and Railways has to be enhanced to ensure the safety of wildlife. 
  • Vulnerable patches for wildlife to be identified as wild life crossing spots, and signage put up to warn train drivers and other railway personnel, to enable them to give directions for trains to slow down their speed in these patches in the normal course. 
  • Update the list of well known vulnerable patches for wild life, and conveying them to the Railways. 
  • Electronically tag prominent wildlife like elephants, leopards, etc particularly in high traffic areas, so that wildlife and forest personnel could keep track of their movements, and warn railway officials well in time to enable them to avoid accident. Once they are electronically tagged, forest personnel could track their movements, and keep them from harm. 
  • Improvement in infrastructure for forest and Railway staff, such as, equipped with walkie talkies, constant connection with the control room, etc.
  • In prominent wildlife areas, or wherever considered necessary, forest officials should be posted at Railway control rooms to coordinate with railway staff, informed regarding the movement of elephants, to enable railway authorities to take preventive action, well in advance. 
  • Strict instructions to all railway and forest field personnel, emphasizing the importance of the protection and conservation of wild life.

The remarkable increase in mobile phones users in the country and mushrooming of mobile tower installations in every nook and corner of cities and towns have raised concerns on its probable impact on wildlife and human health.

Health Impacts
Every antenna on cell phone tower radiates electro-magnetic power. One cell phone tower is being used by a number of operators, more the number of antennas more is the power intensity in the nearby area. The power level near towers is higher and reduces as we move away.
How the cell phone tower’s radiation affects the birds and bees?

  • The surface area of bird is relatively larger than their body weight in comparison to human body so they absorb more radiation. 
  • Also the fluid content in the body of the bird is less due to small body weight so it gets heated up very fast. 
  • Magnetic field from the towers disturbs birds’ navigation skills hence when birds are exposed to EMR they disorient and begin to fly in all directions. 
  • A large number of birds die each year from collisions with telecommunication masts.

How the cell phone tower’s radiation affects human?

  • EMR may cause cellular and psychological changes in human beings due to thermal effects that are generated due to absorption of microwave radiation. 
  • The exposure can lead to genetic defects, effects on reproduction and development, Central Nervous System behaviour etc. 
  • EMR can also cause non thermal effects which are caused by radio frequency fields at levels too low to produce significant heating and are due to movement of calcium and other ions across cell membranes.
  • Such exposure is known to be responsible for fatigue, nausea, irritability, headaches, loss of appetite and other psychological disorders. 
  • The current exposure safety standards are purely based on the thermal effects considering few evidences from exposure to non thermal effects.

What are the responsibilities of Stakeholders?

  • The MoEF has to notify the impacts of communication towers on wildlife and human health to the concerned agencies for regulating the norms for notification of standards for safe limit of EMR.

State/Local Bodies

• Regular monitoring and auditing in urban localities/ educational/hospital/ industrial/ residential/ recreational premises including the Protected Areas and ecologically sensitive areas. 

• Carry out an ‘Ecological Impact Assessment’ before giving permission for construction of towers in wildlife and ecologically important areas. 

State Environment and Forest Department 

  • State Environment and Forest Department are entrusted with the task of providing regular awareness among the people about the norms on cell phone towers and dangers of EMR from them. 

Department of Telecommunications

  • Avoid overlapping of high radiation fields. New towers should not be permitted within a radius of one kilometer of the existing tower. 
  • The location and frequencies of cell phone towers and other towers emitting EMR should be made available in the public domain 
  • GIS mapping of all the cell phone towers to be maintained to monitor the population of bird and bees in and around the wildlife protected area and the mobile towers. 
  • Need to refine the Indian standard on safe limits of exposure to EMR, keeping in view the available literature on impacts on various life forms 
  • To undertake Precautionary approaches to minimize the exposure levels and adopt stricter norms

Other agencies

  • Any study conducted on impact of EMF radiation on wildlife needs to be shared to facilitate appropriate policy formulations.

The proponents of biotechnology industry claim that trees that are genetically altered grow faster and yield better quality of wood in extreme temperatures. Thus they are a boon to forestry in dealing with climate change.

Historical background
The first field trials of GE trees were started in Belgium in 1988, when researchers began to develop poplar trees that were herbicide resistant and that could grow faster. In 2002, China established commercial GE poplar trees plantation as a strategy to address the issue of deforestation. Initially GE trees were established in 300 hectares, and now China has embraced the GE technology on a large scale, integrating this into forestry sector. Latin American countries like Brazil and Argentina, the forerunners in GM food crops are also working on GE trees to enhance the production of pulp and paper.

Is GE trees safer than GM crops?

The proponents of the technology claim that GE trees are safer and there is no need to fear about negative consequences. Already the United Nations has approved plantations of GE trees as carbon sinks under Kyoto Protocol’s clean development mechanism. With this stamp of approval, many countries would like to adopt the technology and establish GE plantations.


Environmentalists state that this technology poses as serious a threat as GM crops. The trees are perennial, that live longer than agricultural crops. The changes in the metabolism of trees may occur many years after they are planted, and trees are wild, undomesticated. This makes it difficult to decipher as to how the introduced gene will behave in natural environment. This fact implies that the ecological risks associated with GE trees are far greater than the agricultural crops. It has also been documented that the tree pollen travels a distance of more than 600 km.
The probability that the GE tree pollen is likely to contaminate vast expanses of native forests with a wide variety of destructive traits may be a threat to ecological balance and the existing biodiversity of the tropical forests in global south. The contaminated pollen might pose threat to honey bees, adversely impacting pollination in the wild and on agriculture crops.

Who are behind developing GE trees and why?
It is ArborGen a subsidiary of Monsanto, oil companies like British Petroleum and Chevron that are investing in this technology. For these companies GE trees offer a viable alternate to fossil fuels as GE trees could produce ethanol, a green fuel. As the ethanol produced from food stocks came under attack, the companies see bright future in non-food cellulose feedstock like GE trees.

The first experiment with genetically engineered tree was with rubber tree developed by the Rubber Research Institute in Kerala. The GE rubber are better adapted to drought resistance and increased environment stress tolerance. This will help to establish rubber in non traditional areas where the conditions are not favourable.
Ironically the field trials for GE rubber trees were approved by the then environmental minister (Mr. Jairam Ramesh). Ministry asserted that the genetically modified trees posed lesser threat in comparison to the food crops. This assumption is baseless as the seeds of rubber tree are used as cattle feed, that gets into the food chain through milk. Similarly, Kerala is one of those regions that produce large quantity of rubber honey from rubber plantations. Kerala, a GM free state worried about the implications of GE rubber on biodiversity, has voiced its concern about bio safety issues. Now the rubber trees are being experimented in Maharashtra.
These developments show the predominance of the western forestry science that lays emphasis on forests as a commercial entity to produce wood and pulp. Diverse forests were simplified by removal of multiple species and establishing monocultures that had commercial value. Already the country’s landscape is scarred with millions of hectares of teak and eucalypts mono culture plantations. This approach has had negative consequences for the environment, biodiversity and the local indigenous people. The same trend will be reinforced with the establishment of GE tree plantations, leading to further devastation of the natural environment and forests.

Ministry of Environment and Forests has banned dolphin captivity within India. This opens up a whole new discourse of ethics in the animal protection movement in India. The unprecedented decision is particularly significant because it reflects an increasing global understanding that dolphins deserve better protections based on who – rather than what – they are.

Dolphinariums in India
India’s only experience of keeping dolphins was in the late 1990s. Four dolphins were imported from Bulgaria to Chennai’s Dolphin City, a substandard marine-themed amusement show, where they died within 6 months of arrival.

New proposals 
Several state governments had recently announced plans for the state tourism development corporations to establish dolphinariums for commercial dolphin shows. Dolphins are a major tourist attraction at amusement parks abroad.
The major proposals that were made for similar establishments were by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, the Kerala fisheries department in Kochi and a few private hoteliers in Noida in the National Capital Region.

Why ban?
Cetaceans, including whales, dolphins and porpoises, are known to be highly intelligent animals. However, they do not adjust well to living in captivity. Confinement alters their behaviour and causes extreme distress. The captivity industry exploit the lives of dolphins by denying them freedom and being allowed to cause them harm and the captivity industry has become adept at hiding the harm they cause to dolphins in their care.
Despite the fact that some humane laws exist to prevent unnecessary cruelty, animals are still considered property and are usually denied the basic rights of life, liberty or freedom from harm. The rights include not to be captured, confined, or killed, in order to prevent the suffering that they most likely experience when these rights are violated.
Several countries, including Brazil, the United Kingdom and Chile, have banned dolphins in captivity. The move by MoEF came after months of protests against a proposed dolphin park in the southern state of Kerala and plans for several other marine mammal parks in other parts of the country.

MoEF order
According to the circular released by the Central Zoo Authority, states that because dolphins are by nature “highly intelligent and sensitive,” they ought to be seen as “nonhuman persons” and should have “their own specific rights.” It says that it is “morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purposes.”
MoEF has asked all states to reject proposals for dolphinariums either by private parties or by government agencies, asking them not to allow import or capture of cetacean species and their use for commercial entertainment, and private or public exhibition.
In India, the Gangetic Dolphin and Snubfin Dolphin are protected species as per the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The government has also declared Gangetic Dolphin as the national aquatic animal Various animal protection organisation under the banner of Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), has campaigned in the country to ban the establishment of dolphinariums.

With a view to stop the inhuman hunting of sharks and to enable the enforcement agencies to monitor the illegal hunting/poaching of the species of Sharks, Rays and Skates (Elasmobranchs) listed in Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, Minister of for Environment and Forests has approved a policy for prohibiting the removal of shark fins on board a vessel in the sea.
The policy prescribes that any possession of shark fins that are not naturally attached to the body of the shark, would amount to “hunting” of a Schedule I species. The Policy calls for concerted action and implementation by the concerned State Governments through appropriate legislative, enforcement and other measures.
They play an important the role in maintenance of the marine ecosystem like tigers and leopards in the forests. India is known to be home to about 40-60 species of sharks. However, the population of some of these have declined over the years due to several reasons including over exploitation and unsustainable fishing practices. Due to high demand of shark fines in the shark fin-soup industry, it has been reported that the fins of the sharks captured in the mid sea are removed on the vessel and the de finned sharks are thrown back in the sea to die.
This has resulted in in-human killing of large number of sharks and further decimated the population of Schedule I species. This practice prevailing on board the shipping vessels has led to difficulties in enforcement of provisions of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 as it becomes difficult to identify the species of sharks from the fins alone, without the corresponding carcass, from which the fins have been detached.

The annual cost of environmental degradation in India is about Rs. 3.75 trillion, or 5.7% of India’s 2009 gross domestic product (GDP), according to a report released by the World Bank. The impact of outdoor air pollution on GDP is the highest and accounts for 1.7% of the GDP loss, said the report. Indoor air pollution is the second-biggest offender and costs India 1.3% of GDP.
“The higher costs for outdoor/indoor air pollution are primarily driven by an elevated exposure of the young and productive urban population to particulate matter pollution that results in a substantial cardiopulmonary and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (heart ailments) mortality load among adults,” the report said. The study, titled Diagnostic Assessment of Select Environmental Challenges in India, has taken into account environmental damage in India from urban air pollution, including particulate matter and lead; inadequate water supply; poor sanitation and hygiene; and indoor air pollution.
Other factors that contribute to the loss include damage to natural resources because of worsening agricultural output because of an increase in soil salinity, water logging and soil erosion; rangeland degradation; deforestation and natural disasters.
“Environmental pollution, degradation of natural resources, natural disasters and inadequate environmental services, such as improved water supply and sanitation, impose costs to society in the form of ill health, lost income, and increased poverty and vulnerability,” the report said.
A significant portion of diseases caused by poor water supply, sanitation and hygiene affect children younger than five, the report said. It attributed 23% of child mortality in the country to environmental degradation.
Following the concept of growing economically now and cleaning up later will not be environmentally sustainable for the country in the long run, said the lead author of the report.
The possible policy options to reduce particulate matter pollution could be incentivizing technology upgradation, securing efficiency improvements, strengthening enforcement and enhancing technology and efficiency standards.

Steps taken by the Indian Government for control air pollution

  • Formulation of a Comprehensive Policy for Abatement of Pollution, 
  • Supply of improved auto–fuel, 
  • Tightening of vehicular and industrial emission norms, 
  • Mandatory environmental clearance for specified industries, 
  • Management of municipal, hazardous and bio-medical wastes, 
  • Promotion of cleaner technologies, 
  • Strengthening the network of air quality monitoring stations, 
  • Assessment of pollution load, 
  • Source apportionment studies, 
  • Preparation and implementation of action plans for major cities & critically polluted areas, 
  • Public awareness.
The document Environmental issues - 3 | Environment for UPSC CSE is a part of the UPSC Course Environment for UPSC CSE.
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