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Environment: February 2022 Current Affairs | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC PDF Download

1. Draft Policy Framework for Distributed Renewable Energy 

Why in News? 

Recently, the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) released a draft policy framework on 14th February 2022 for DRE livelihood applications. 

  • The aim is to achieve the objective of a decentralised and distributed renewable energy supply in the country, particularly for rural populations with little or no access to power. 

What are Provisions of the Draft Policy Framework? 

  1. Committee to Monitor the Progress: 
    • MNRE proposed forming a committee to monitor the progress of DRE projects, which will meet at least once every six months. 
    • Within the committee, each member ministry shall nominate the main point of contact for inter ministerial collaboration.
    • Depending on the scheme being implemented on DRE livelihood application, the committee may co-opt additional ministries / departments as members. 
  2. Digital Catalogue of DRE-Powered Solutions: 
    MNRE will make available a digital catalogue of DRE-powered solutions to be used by various stakeholders to raise awareness. What are the main Objectives Outlined in the New Framework? 
    • Enabling a market-oriented ecosystem. 
    • Increasing the adoption of DRE-based livelihood solutions by enabling easy finance for the end-user. 
    • Encouraging development and management of high quality products. 
    • Developing effective DRE livelihood applications through innovation as well as research and development. 
    • Establishing energy-efficiency standards for high potential livelihood products 
    • Using applications powered by mini / micro-grids operating in hybrid mode along with the main grid. 

What is the Significance of Distributed Renewable Energy? 

  •  DRE and its downstream applications offer an opportunity to not only meet India’s climate and energy access targets, but also provide attractive returns to financial investors. 
  •  It also provides pathways for India to reduce impor tdependence on crude oil as well as create economic growth and jobs in the long run. 
  • In addition, addressing existing policy and financing gaps would not only allow for better targeting and risk-hedging of government spending programs, but would also allow capital to be recycled efficiently, thereby enhancing both the duration and magnitude of the impact

What are the Issues with DRE? 

  1. Lack of Technology: 
    • In order to use renewable energy in their livelihoods, people need access to technology and financing, which are not available to most rural households in India despite the existence of several technology options to deploy small-scale renewable energy-based livelihood applications. 
    • Local communities in the villages often find it difficult to pay upfront for these innovations. 
  2. Unique Challenge for Women: 
    • Microbusinesses, under-represented groups and women face unique challenges when it comes to acquiring assets. As a result, businesses that use operating expense-based financial models, such as pay-as-you-go or leasing, may be eligible for credit facilitation. 
  3. Others
    • Lack of proper financing channels, consumer awareness, consumer affordability and quality products / standards are some of the major challenges facing DRE in India.

2. Greater One-Horned Rhino 


Why in News? 
Recently, a case of poaching of the world-famous one-horned rhino has been suspected inside the Kaziranga National Park in Assam.
Environment: February 2022 Current Affairs | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

What are the Key Points related to One-Horned Rhino?
Environment: February 2022 Current Affairs | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

About: 

  • There are five species of rhino – white and black rhinos in Africa, and the greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran rhino species in Asia. 

IUCN Red List Status: 

  • Black Rhino: Critically endangered. Smaller of the two African species. 
  • White Rhino: Near Threatened. Researchers have created an embryo of the northern white rhino by using In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) process. 
  • One-Horned Rhino: Vulnerable 
  • Javan: Critically Endangered 
  • Sumatran Rhino: Critically Endangered. It has gone extinct in Malaysia. 
  • Only the Great One-Horned Rhino is found in India. 
  • Also known as Indian rhino, it is the largest of the rhino species. 
  • It is identified by a single black horn and a greybrown hide with skin folds. € They primarily graze, with a diet consisting almost entirely of grasses as well as leaves, branches of shrubs and trees, fruit, and aquatic plants. 

Habitat

  • The species is restricted to small habitats in IndoNepal terai and northern West Bengal and Assam. 
  • In India, rhinos are mainly found in Assam, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. 
  • Assam has an estimated 2,640 rhinos in four protected areas, i.e. Pabitora Wildlife Reserve, Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, Kaziranga National Park, and Manas National Park. 

What is Viral Load? 

  • It refers to the amount of genetic material, commonly RNA, of a virus present in an infected person’s blood. 
  • This is expressed as the total number of viral particles present in each millilitre of blood. 
  • A higher viral load in the blood means that the virus is replicating and the infection is progressing. 
  • An infected person with a high viral load is more likely to shed more virus particles, in the process known as “viral shedding”. About 2,400 of them are in the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR). 
  • Protection Status:
    (i) IUCN Red List: Vulnerable.
    (ii) CITES: Appendix I (Threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial, for instance for scientific research).
    (iv) Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I. 
  • Threats: 
    (i) Poaching for the horns
    (ii) Habitat loss
    (iii) Population density
    (iv) Decreasing Genetic diversity. 

What are the Conservation Efforts ? 

  • The five rhino range nations (India, Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia) have signed a declaration ‘The New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019’ for the conservation and protection of the species.
  • Recently, the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has begun a project to create DNA profiles of all rhinos in the country.
  • National Rhino Conservation Strategy: It was launched in 2019 to conserve the greater one-horned rhinoceros. 
  • Indian Rhino Vision 2020: Launched in 2005, it was an ambitious effort to attain a wild population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos spread over seven protected areas in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.

3. Sustainable Cities India Program 


Why in News? 

Recently, the World Economic Forum and the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) signed a MoU to collaborate on a jointly designed ‘Sustainable Cities India program’.  

  • The ‘Sustainable Cities India’ intends to enable cities to decarbonise in a systematic and sustainable way that will reduce emissions and deliver resilient and equitable urban ecosystems. 
  • This initiative is in synergy with India’s commitment to turn net zero by 2070 as a climate mitigation response at COP26. 

What are the Key Points of ‘Sustainable Cities India Program’? 

  • The program aims to create an enabling environment for cities to generate decarbonization solutions across the energy, transport, and the built environment sectors. 
  • The Forum and NIUA will adapt the Forum’s City Sprint process and Toolbox of Solutions for decarbonization in the context of five to seven Indian cities across two years.
    (i) City Sprint Process: The City Sprint process is a series of multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder workshops involving business, government, and civil society leaders to enable decarbonization, especially through clean electrification and circularity.
    (ii) Toolbox of Solutions: It provides a digital platform containing over 200 examples of clean electrification, efficiency and smart infrastructure best practices and case studies across buildings, energy systems and mobility from over 110 cities around the world. What is the Need for Decarbonisation? 
  • As per the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2022, densely populated countries that are highly dependent on agriculture, such as India, are especially vulnerable to climate insecurity. 
  • Decarbonization in cities is a real opportunity to keep global warming well below 2°C and cities in India can make an enormous contribution in reaching this goal. 
  • The World Economic Forum’s Net Zero Carbon Cities’ mission is to create an enabling environment for clean electrification and circularity, resulting in urban decarbonization and resilience. 
  • The program aims to do this by fostering public-private collaboration to bridge the gap across the energy, built environment and transport sectors. 

What is NIUA? 

  • Established in 1976, the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) is India’s leading national think tank on urban planning and development. 
  • As a hub for the generation and dissemination of cutting-edge research in the urban sector, NIUA seeks to provide innovative solutions to address the challenges of a fast urbanizing India, and pave the way for more inclusive and sustainable cities of the future.

What Initiatives are Taken by Government of India’s for Urban Development? Smart Cities Mission.

  • Atal Mission for Urban Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). 
  • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban (PMAY-U).  
  • Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs). 
  • Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework 2.0. 
  • TULIP-The Urban Learning Internship Program.

4. Carbon Capture and Utilisation Technologies 


Why in News? 

According to a study conducted by Radboud University, most Carbon Capture and Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) technologies, which suck carbon dioxide (CO2 ) from the atmosphere and convert it into fuel or other valuable products, might fail to help the world reach Net Zero emissions by 2050. 

  • The study noted that a majority of these systems are energy intensive and the resultant product can also release COinto the atmosphere. 
  • ‘Net zero emissions’ refers to achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and greenhouse gas emissions taken out of the atmosphere. 

What are CCUS? 

  • Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) encompasses methods and technologies to remove CO2 from the flue gas and from the atmosphere, followed by recycling the CO2 for utilization and determining safe and permanent storage options. 
  • CO2 captured using CCUS technologies is converted into fuel (methane and methanol), refrigerants and building materials. 
  • The captured gas is used directly in fire extinguishers, pharma, food and beverage industries as well as the agricultural sector. 
  • CCUS technologies can play an important role in meeting net zero targets, including as one of few solutions to tackle emissions from heavy industry and to remove carbon from the atmosphere. 
  • CCUS is considered an important tool to help countries halve their emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. 
  • These goals are crucial to meet the Paris Agreement targetsfor restricting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (°C), and preferable to 1.5°C, over preindustrial levels. 

What are Applications of CCUS?  

  • Mitigating Climate Change: Despite the adoption of alternative energy sources and energy efficient systems to reduce the rate of CO2 emissions, the cumulative amount of CO2 in the atmosphere needs to be reduced to limit the detrimental impacts of climate change. 
  • Agriculture: Capturing CO2 from biogenic sources such as plants and soil to boost crop growth in a greenhouse could work. 
  • Industrial Use: Combining CO2 with steel slag - an industrial byproduct of the steel manufacturing process — to make construction materials compatible with the Paris Agreement goals. 
  • Enhanced Oil Recovery: CCU is already making inroads into India. For instance, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation signed a MoU with Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) by injecting CO2 .
    Environment: February 2022 Current Affairs | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

What are the Challenges associated with CCUS? 

  • Expensive: Carbon capture involves the development of sorbents that can effectively bind to the CO2 present in flue gas or the atmosphere, which is expensive. oo Lesser Demand for Recycled CO2 : Converting CO2 into useful chemicals of commercial importance, or utilizing CO2 for oil extraction or remediation of alkaline industrial wastes, would add economic value to this greenhouse gas. 
  • However, the demand for CO2 is limited compared to the vast amount of CO2 that needs to be removed from the atmosphere, to reduce the detrimental environmental impacts of climate change.

5. Saltwater Crocodile 

Why in News? 

Saltwater Crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus), used to be found in Vietnam and southern China, became extinct in these areas due to human activity.
Environment: February 2022 Current Affairs | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

What do we know about the Saltwater Crocodile? 

About: 

  • It is the largest of the 23 species of ‘extant’ or living crocodilians. This includes ‘true crocodiles’, alligators and caimans. 
  • The saltie is also called the ‘estuarine crocodile’ and as the name suggests, is typically found in the brackish water of estuaries. 
  • It can also tolerate saltwater in the oceans and can travel long distances over the open ocean, making use of tidal currents. 
  • Habitat: The ‘saltie’ is today found in three locations in India — the Sundarbans, Bhitarkanika National Park and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. 
  • It is one of the three crocodiles native to the Indian Subcontinent, along with the mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) and the gharial (Gavialis gangeticus). 
  • It is also found in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Australia and the Solomon Islands. 
  • During antiquity the species’ range extended from the Seychelles and Kerala, India in the west through to southeastern China, Palau and Vanuatu in the east. 
  • Threats: Habitat destruction, fragmentation, and transformation, fishing activities and use of crocodile parts for medicinal purposes. 

What is the protection Status of Saltwater Crocodiles?  

  • IUCN List of Threatened   Species: Least Concern 
  • CITES: Appendix I (except the populations of Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, which are included in Appendix II). 
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I
The document Environment: February 2022 Current Affairs | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly.
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FAQs on Environment: February 2022 Current Affairs - Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

1. What are the major environmental challenges faced in February 2022?
Ans. As of February 2022, some major environmental challenges include climate change, deforestation, air pollution, plastic pollution, and loss of biodiversity. These issues have global impacts and require urgent attention and action.
2. What are some recent initiatives taken to address climate change in February 2022?
Ans. In February 2022, various initiatives have been taken to address climate change. These include countries committing to net-zero emissions targets, implementation of renewable energy projects, adoption of sustainable agriculture practices, promotion of electric vehicles, and international collaborations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
3. How is deforestation impacting the environment in February 2022?
Ans. Deforestation in February 2022 continues to have severe impacts on the environment. It leads to the loss of crucial habitats for wildlife, contributes to climate change by releasing carbon dioxide, disrupts water cycles, and reduces biodiversity. Deforestation also increases the risk of landslides, soil erosion, and floods.
4. What are the consequences of air pollution in February 2022?
Ans. The consequences of air pollution in February 2022 are significant and detrimental to human health and the environment. It can cause respiratory problems, heart diseases, and lung cancer. Air pollution also damages ecosystems, reduces agricultural productivity, and contributes to climate change by releasing greenhouse gases.
5. How is plastic pollution affecting marine life in February 2022?
Ans. Plastic pollution continues to be a major threat to marine life in February 2022. Marine animals often mistake plastic debris for food, leading to ingestion and entanglement. This can result in injury, suffocation, and death. Plastic pollution also disrupts marine ecosystems and poses risks to human health through the food chain.
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