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Environment & Ecology: November 2021 Current Affairs | Environment & Additional Topics for State PSC Exams - BPSC (Bihar) PDF Download

1. Landslides

Month of October was marked by incessant rain that continued to batter Uttarakhand, leading to floods, landslides, and massive destruction of property especially in the hills of Kumaon, the situation in the area, especially Nainital is getting better as most of the roads have either been repaired or under the process of being repaired.

Landslide is rapid movement of rock, soil and vegetation down the slope under the influence of gravity. These materials may move downwards by falling, toppling, sliding, spreading or flowing. Such movements may occur gradually, but sudden sliding can also occur without warning. They often take place in conjunction with earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions. The extent and Intensity of landslide depends upon number of factors- Steepness of the slope, amount of vegetation cover, tectonic activity, bedding plane of the rocks etc.

Types of Landslides

  • Falls: Abrupt movements of materials that become detached from steep slopes or cliffs, moving by freefall, bouncing, and rolling. 
  • Creep: Slow, steady downslope movement of soil or rock 
  • Debris flow: Rapid mass movement in which loose soils, rocks, and organic matter combine with water to form slurry that then flows down slope. Usually associated with steep gullies 
  • Mudflow: Rapidly flowing mass of wet material that contains at least 50 percent sand-, silt-, and clay-sized particles 
  • Flows: General term including many types of mass movement, such as creep, debris flow, mudflow etc.

Causes of Landslides

  • Geological Causes: Weak, Sensitive and Weathered material, Sensitive material, Presence of Joints and Fissures, Variation in physical properties such as Permeability. 
  • Morphological Causes: Tectonic or volcanic uplift, Erosion due to Wind and Water, Higher deposition of load on the slope or its crest, Removal of Vegetation 
  • Physical Causes: Intense rainfall, Earthquake/Volcanic eruption, Rapid snow melt/freeze 
  • Human Causes: Excavation of the slope or its toe, Deposition of load on the slope, Drawdown of Reservoir, Deforestation, Mining, Irrigation and artificial vibration.

Landslide Prone Areas in India

As highlighted before, as per Geological Survey of India (GSI), about 0.42 million sq.km covering nearly 12.6% of land area of our country is prone to landslide hazards.
The major landslide prone areas in India include

  • Western Ghats and Konkan Hills (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra) 
  • Eastern Ghats (Araku region in Andhra Pradesh) 
  • North-East Himalayas (Darjeeling and Sikkim) 
  • North West Himalayas (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir).

Environment & Ecology: November 2021 Current Affairs | Environment & Additional Topics for State PSC Exams - BPSC (Bihar)

The Himalayan mountain ranges and hilly tracts of the North-Eastern region are highly susceptible to slope instability due to the immature and rugged topography, fragile rock conditions, high seismicity resulting from proximity to the plate margins, and high rainfall. Extensive anthropogenic interference, as part of developmental activities, is another significant factor. Similarly, the Western Ghats, though located in a stable domain, experiences landslides due to number of factors- steep hill slopes, high intensity rainfall and anthropogenic activities. The Nilgiris hills located at the convergence zone of the Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats experiences a number of landslides due to high intensity and protracted rainfall.

Impact of Landslides

Short run: Loss and damage to property, loss of lives, Destruction to agriculture crops, Damage to Vegetation, Obstruction of vehicular movement leading to Traffic jam, temporary loss of livelihood for the poor people etc.

Long-run:

  • Increase in the sediment load of the river which can lead to floods. Early Warning Systems for Landslides: This includes the continuous monitoring of movements, development of stresses and the transmission of this data at regular time intervals. Investigations for Landslide Risk Assessment: Multidisciplinary investigations of landslide risk assessment leading to formulation of Standards to mitigate impact of landslides. 

Landslide Risk Mitigation and Remediation: 

  • Restricting Development in Landslide-Prone Areas through Land use planning. 
  • Laying down standards to be followed for Excavation and Construction 
  • Protecting Existing Developments through Restraining walls and rock anchors 
  • Slope Stabilisation measures: Generally, include works involving modification of the natural landslide conditions such as topography, geology, ground water, and other conditions that indirectly control portions of the entire landslide movement. These include drainage improvement works, soil/debris removal works etc. 
  • Landslide Insurance and Compensation for Losses Regulation and Enforcement: The state governments/SDMAs will adopt the model techno-legal framework for ensuring compliance with land use zoning Early Warning Systems for Landslides: This includes the continuous monitoring of movements, development of stresses and the transmission of this data at regular time intervals. 
  • Investigations for Landslide Risk Assessment: Multidisciplinary investigations of landslide risk assessment leading to formulation of Standards to mitigate impact of landslides. Awareness and Preparedness: Comprehensive awareness campaigns targeting diverse groups of people living in landslide prone areas should be carried out systematically Capacity Development (Including Education, Training and Documentation): 
  • Introduction of curriculum related to Disaster Management, including Landslides in the Schools 
  • Training of the Administrators to plan, respond and mitigate the impact of Landslides 
  • Technical institutes located in vulnerable areas should develop adequate technical expertise on the various subjects related to landslide management. Immediate Response: Put in place Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) which should ensure coordinated and sustained action from various agencies in the aftermath of landslides. 
  • Research and Development: Government should encourage, promote, and support R&D activities to address current challenges, offer solutions, and develop novel investigation techniques, with the application of the latest developments in remote sensing, communications, and instrumentation technologies.

2. E-Waste

Electronic waste (e-waste), that is, waste arising from end-of life electronic products such as computers and mobile phones, is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world today.

Current Status

  • Annual global production of e-waste is estimated to surpass 50 million tons in 2020. 
  • India is among the top five e-waste producing countries in the world with estimated annual production of 2 million tons. 
  • Like some of the other developing countries, e-waste management in India is dominated by the informal sector with estimates of more than 90 per cent of the waste being processed in this sector.

Importance of E-Waste and its Sound Management

  • All e-waste is valuable as it is highly rich in metals such as copper, iron, tin, nickel, lead, zinc, silver, gold, and palladium. Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) contain rare and precious metals such as ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium and platinum – which are together referred to as the Platinum Group Metals (PGM). 
  • E-waste, if handled and disposed of in an inefficient manner can lead to extremely damaging impact on human health and the environment. 
  • This is mainly because e-waste comprises hazardous constituents such as lead, cadmium, chromium, brominated flame retardants or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that contaminate soil, water and food.

The Problem of E-Waste Management

(i) Primarily conducted by informal sector: 

  • Unfortunately, the collection and recycling of e waste is predominantly being done by the informal or unorganized labour through highly environmentally degradative ways, which cause serious health hazards. 

(ii) High rate of collection but low recovery: 

  • The rate of e-waste collection is very high in India owing to its valuable content. 
  • But since most of the e-waste recycling is done by the informal sector in India, wherein recovery of valuable materials ranges between 10–20% only. 

(iii) Exposure of vulnerable section to toxic elements: 

  • The informal sector comprises of unskilled workers, sometimes even children who live near dumps or landfills of untreated e-waste and work in dangerous working conditions without any protection or safety gear. 

(iv) Environmental degradation: 

  • Non-environmentally sound practices – such as burning cables to recover copper and unwanted materials in open air – caused environmental pollution and severe health hazards to the operators. 
  • Practices like disposal of unsalvageable materials in fields and riverbanks have led to leaching of heavy metals/chemicals into land and water. 
  • Some of the e-waste is extremely complex in constitution and hence difficult to recycle, while the other does not even have environmentally sound recycling technologies.

Emerging Issues Apart from The Large Informal Sector, India Faces a Number of Other Challenges in Effective Management of E-Waste, Such As:

Lack of infrastructure: 

  • The gap between e-waste that is being collected and recycled by authorized dismantlers/recyclers and the total quantum of e-waste being generated is huge. 
  • The existing recycling facilities face issues from lack of suitable environmentally sound technologies to lack of steady supply of raw materials. 
  • This is mainly because consumers, owing to lack of awareness about the hazardous impact of inappropriate e-waste recycling, sell their electronic waste to informal recyclers for quick money as it is easier and faster. 
  • Thus, registered recycling units are deprived of a regular supply of e-waste which is crucial for their sustenance. Currently, the authorized e-waste recycling facilities in India capture only a small amount of the total e-waste generated and the rest makes its way into informal recycling. 

High cost of setting up recycling facilities: 

  • Advanced recycling technology is expensive and makes large investments risky, especially when sourcing of e-waste is a challenge. 
  • Most of the formal recycling companies in India limit their role to only pre-processing of e-waste, wherein the crushed e-waste with precious metals is exported to smelting refineries outside India. An end-to-end solution for e-waste recycling is still not available in India. 
  • Practices like disposal of unsalvageable materials in fields and riverbanks have led to leaching of heavy metals/chemicals into land and water. 
  • Some of the e-waste is extremely complex in constitution and hence difficult to recycle, while the other does not even have environmentally sound recycling technologies.

Addressing the informal sector

  • Bridging the gap between formal and informal sectors. 
  • Improving the working conditions and minimising the work related to toxic exposure at the e-waste collection, processing, recovery and disposal sites.

Access to Environmentally Sound Technologies

  • Cost-effective technologies for recycling e-waste such as Li-ion batteries, printed circuit boards, etc. 
  • R&D on innovative technologies for Processing e-waste and effective metal extraction methodologies.
  • Development of sustainable e-waste business models and implementation of pilot projects for different innovations.

3. Allium Negi Anum

A team of researchers found "Allium Negi Anum," a new species of the genus Allium, in the Uttarakhand Himalayan area of India
Environment & Ecology: November 2021 Current Affairs | Environment & Additional Topics for State PSC Exams - BPSC (Bihar)

What is Allium?

Allium is one of the largest genera in Amaryllidaceae, a family of herbaceous, mainly perennial and bulbous flowering plants. 

Recent Discovery: The specific name of Allium Negi Anum honors Dr. Kuldeep Singh Negi, an eminent explorer and Allium collector from India.

Distribution

  • The genus has about 1,100 species distributed worldwide, including onion, garlic, scallion, shallot and chives. 
  • It naturally occurs in dry seasons in the northern hemisphere and South Africa. 
  • Allium negianum is restricted to the region of the Western Himalayas. It grows in Malari region of Niti valley in Chamoli district and Dharma valley of Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand. 
  • It grows at 3,000 to 4,800 m above sea level and can be found along open grassy meadows, sandy soils along rivers, and streams forming in snow pasture lands along alpine meadows. 
  • Threat: The indiscriminate harvest of its leaves and bulbs for seasoning may pose a threat to its wild populations.

4. Western Ghats/Restless Mountains, Shattered Lives

Flash floods and back-to-back landslips in Kerala bring into focus, once again, the fragile ecosystem of the mountain chain that runs almost parallel to India’s western coast.

Western Ghats

  • The Western Ghats are a mountain range running nearly parallel to India's western coast. It stretches 1,600 kilometres from the mouth of the Tapti River near the Gujarat-Maharashtra border to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, India's southernmost tip. 
  • It stretches over the six States of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat. 
  • The Ghats are second only to the Eastern Himalaya as a treasure trove of biological diversity in the country.

Significance of Western Ghats

Biodiversity:

  • The forests of the Western Ghats include some of the best representatives of non-equatorial tropical evergreen forests in the world. 
  • At least 325 globally threatened (IUCN Red Data List) species occur in the Western Ghats.

Environment & Ecology: November 2021 Current Affairs | Environment & Additional Topics for State PSC Exams - BPSC (Bihar)

  • The Western Ghats contain more than 30 per cent of all plant, fish, herpeto-fauna, bird, and mammal species found in India. 
  • They also include the unique shola ecosystem which consists of montane grasslands interspersed with evergreen forest patches. Ecological significance: 
  • The chain’s forests, which are older than the Himalayas, influence the Indian monsoon weather pattern. 
  • It is recognised as one of the world’s eight “hottest hotspots' ' of biological diversity. 
  • It was added to the world heritage list by the United Nations Educational Organization (UNESCO). It had classified the 142 taluks in the Western Ghats boundary into three Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZs). 
  • Hydrological significance: The Western Ghats perform important hydrological and watershed functions. Approximately 245 million people live in the peninsular Indian states that receive most of their water supply from rivers originating in the Western Ghats. 
  • Economic Significance: The Western Ghats are rich in iron, manganese and bauxite ores in parts of their ranges. 
  • It hosts several plantation crops and an important source of timber. It also harbours a number of wild relatives of cultivated plants, including pepper, cardamom, mango, jackfruit and plantain.

Threats

  • Illegal hunting: Illegal local hunting driven by tradition or demand for wild meat is pervasive across the Western Ghats. 
  • Human-wildlife conflicts: Very high human population densities in several parts of the hotspot further exacerbate the intensity of conflict. 
  • Extraction of fuelwood and fodder: o The extraction of fuelwood and fodder constitutes a significant and pervasive consumptive use within the Western Ghats. o Human communities living within and adjacent to protected areas in the Western Ghats hotspot are frequently dependent on the extraction of non timber forest products (NTFP) to meet a diversity of subsistence and commercial needs. 
  • Plantations: Over the years, plantations of cash crops have displaced extensive patches of natural forests throughout the Western Ghats and are frequently associated with encroachment of surrounding forest areas.

Important Committees

Madhav Gadgil committee

  • The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report, popular as Gadgil report, had designated the entire hill range as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA). 
  • It recommended that “no new dams based on large scale storage be permitted in the Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1”. 
  • It suggested that development activity needs to be decided through a participatory process involving the gram sabhas in these zones. 
  • It recommended the establishment of a Western Ghats Ecology Authority, as a statutory authority under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, with the powers under Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Kasturirangan Report:

  • 37% of the total area of the Western Ghats is ecologically sensitive. 
  • It distinguished between cultural and natural landscapes in the region. Cultural landscapes, which include human settlements, agricultural fields and plantations, covered 58.44% of the Western Ghats. Of the remaining area marked as natural landscape, about 90% was identified as ESA, where the panel called for a complete ban on mining, quarrying and sand mining.

Conclusion

There is a need for exempting areas of very high susceptibility in the Western Ghats from any types of constructions while urging the government and the local communities to increase the vegetative cover as a first defence against the landslide vulnerability.

5. Biodiversity Financing


Recently, China announced the creation of Kunming Biodiversity Fund at the 15th Conference of Parties of the UN Convention of Biodiversity with a contribution of about $230 billion. However, according to estimates $700 billion financing annually is needed to halt the decline of biodiversity. Removing all agricultural, fisheries, and forestry subsidies that are harmful to nature would account for more than USD 500 billion. Still, an additional USD 200 billion would be needed.

Issues With Biodiversity Financing

  • There seems to be a trend towards providing environment finance as loans and debts, many of them to some of the poorest countries, which already highly indebted. 
  • Some finance is inaccurately reported as climate finance, which inflates the numbers. 
  • Counting private and non-grant finance as climate finance. 
  • Counting finance that is not climate-relevant as climate finance. 
  • Applying non-transparent and inconsistent methodologies to count mobilised private finance, resulting in overstating finance volumes. 
  • Shortfalls in the quality and composition of finance from what is suggested by the accords. 
  • Spending on biodiversity is far less than that for climate change. 
  • Relative dearth of financial resources in low- and middle-income countries. 
  • More than half of all climate funds take the form of loans while 86% of biodiversity funding comes from public sources. 
  • Public & Private investors know that in financing projects such as solar energy plants or batteries R&D, they will earn some return on investment. However, protecting a watershed or a wetland is more of a public service, hence needs to be funded by governments.

Contours of Ideal Biodiversity & Climate Financing

  • Financing for biodiversity should be given out as grants and not loans. 
  • Financing should be provided for research and development of local biodiversity in the Least Developed Countries. 
  • Funding should be pooled and managed through international organisations. 
  • Rules for access need to be transparent and fair to all applicants.
The document Environment & Ecology: November 2021 Current Affairs | Environment & Additional Topics for State PSC Exams - BPSC (Bihar) is a part of the BPSC (Bihar) Course Environment & Additional Topics for State PSC Exams.
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FAQs on Environment & Ecology: November 2021 Current Affairs - Environment & Additional Topics for State PSC Exams - BPSC (Bihar)

1. What causes landslides?
Ans. Landslides can be caused by a variety of factors, including heavy rainfall, earthquakes, volcanic activity, and human activities such as deforestation and construction. When the stability of a slope is compromised, the force of gravity causes the material to move downhill, resulting in a landslide.
2. How can landslides be prevented?
Ans. Landslide prevention measures include slope stabilization techniques such as retaining walls, terracing, and drainage systems to control water runoff. Additionally, land-use planning and zoning regulations can help avoid construction in high-risk areas. Early warning systems and monitoring devices can also be installed to detect signs of slope instability and evacuate residents in advance.
3. What is e-waste?
Ans. E-waste refers to electronic waste, which includes discarded electronic devices such as computers, smartphones, televisions, and appliances. These devices contain hazardous materials like lead, mercury, and cadmium, which can pose serious environmental and health risks if not properly managed.
4. How can e-waste be properly managed?
Ans. Proper e-waste management involves a combination of recycling, reuse, and responsible disposal. Recycling facilities can extract valuable materials from electronic devices, while proper disposal methods ensure that hazardous components are safely disposed of without causing harm to the environment. Governments and organizations also play a crucial role in implementing regulations and initiatives to promote e-waste management.
5. What is the significance of biodiversity financing?
Ans. Biodiversity financing refers to the financial resources and mechanisms dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It plays a crucial role in supporting conservation efforts, preserving ecosystems, and promoting sustainable development. Biodiversity financing can provide funding for protected areas, restoration projects, research, and community-based initiatives, ultimately helping to preserve the Earth's rich biodiversity for future generations.
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