About Pondicherry shark

About Pondicherry shark

  • Known as ‘Pala Sora’ in the local parlance, the Pondicherry Shark is on the verge of extinction.
  • Scientifically known as Carcharhinus hemiodon, it belongs to the Carcharhinidae family with a growth of 3.3 feet.
  • It is identified by its black tips of dorsal, pectoral and Tai fins. The front teeth are distinctly serrated at the base and smooth at the tip.
  • The Pondicherry shark was once found throughout Indo-Pacific coastal waters from the Gulf of Oman to New Guinea, and is known to enter fresh water.
  • Until now, the only known sightings of this species since the 1980s are in rivers in Sri Lanka.
  • Fewer than 20 specimens are available for study, and most aspects of its natural history are unknown.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the Pondicherry shark as Critically Endangered.
  • It is probably threatened by intense and escalating fishing pressure throughout its range.
  • The shark is among the 25 “most wanted lost” species that are the focus of Global Wildlife Conservation’s “Search for Lost Species” initiative

 

IUCN Red List or Red Data List or Red Book

  • The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, founded in 1964, is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species.
  • When discussing the IUCN Red List, the official term “threatened” is a grouping of three categories: Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable.

 

When is a species considered as critically endangered?

  • Critically endangered is the highest risk category assigned by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List to wild species.
  • There are five quantitative criteria to determine whether a taxon is threatened.
  • A taxon is critically endangered when the best available evidence indicates that it meets any of the following criteria:
  1. Populations have declined or will decrease, by greater than 80% over the last 10 years or three generations.
  2. Have a restricted geographical range.
  3. Small population size of less than 250 individuals and continuing decline at 25% in 3 years or one generation.
  4. Very small or restricted population of fewer than 50 mature individuals.
  5. High probability of extinction in the wild.

 

Section : Environment & Ecology

About Great Indian Bustard

About Great Indian Bustard

• The Great Indian Bustard is one of the largest flying birdsin the world.
• It is also one of the heaviest flying birds that weigh up to 15 kg.
• It is considered to be the flagship grassland speciesbeing endemic to the grasslands of India.
• Further the great Indian bustard is classified as “critically endangered” in the IUCN Red List.
• Accordingly it a “schedule I species” in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, requiring similar attentiongiven to tiger in India.
• Desert National Park being the primary habitat of the critically endangered GIB, it is declared the state bird of Rajasthan.

Habitat

• As mentioned Great Indian Bustard is endemic to grasslands of India.
• Till 1980s, about 1,500-2,000 Great Indian Bustards were spread throughout the western half of India, spanning eleven states.
• The Desert National Park of Rajasthan is a natural habitat for the Great Indian Bustard.
• Being a ‘nomad’, the bird moves around the landscape spanning about 8,000 sq km in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmerdistrict which is aptly called the Great Indian bustard arc.
• In the Thar, the Great Indian Bustard is concentrated mainly about 250 sq km of 3,162 km of the Desert National Park.
• Gujarat’s Kutch province is another home to the bird species which houses India’s second-largest bustard population.

Dwindling population

• While in 1980s there were about 1500-2000 GIBs, this number has dwindled to around 125 birds of which about 100 are in Rajasthan.
• The main reasons for dwindling populaion of Great Indian Bustard are:
✓ Loss of habitat due to declining grasslands
✓ Rampant poaching
✓ Renewable energy projects
✓ Lackadaisical approach in their conservation

Recovery and Conservation Plans

• In 2011, the bird was categorised as “critically endangered” in IUCN Red list.
• The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests prepared a species recovery programme for the Great Indian Bustard in 2017.
• The Rajasthan state government Rajasthan also launched the Project Great Indian Bustard to recover the population of the critically endangered bird. 
• Further it has been classified as schedule 1 species(endangered, threatened or of special concernunder Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 with same level of protection as tiger.

Failure of Conservation Plans

• Though GIB is classified as ‘schedule 1’ species under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, they have not received adequate attention like tiger.
• In 2016, the Central government decided to set up captive breeding and hatchery centres in Rajasthan. 
• However captive breeding is challenging for a large bird that is easily injured by living in cages.
• Captive breeding also prolongs the time taken to reach reproductive maturity leading to very low fertility rate.
• Further it is difficult to save GIB in situ as msost of the time it’s outside the protected areas where we have no control over grazing and the laying of the pipelines, wires and roads.

Way Forward

• Setting up the conservation breeding centres as per the 2017 plan.
• Necessary support for setting up of breeding centresshould be extended in expeditious way including land allotment and deploying a scientist to facilitate breeding training.
• While the breeding centres take time, incubation units, which take only few weeks, should be set up in the GIB arc.
• GIB should get the highest priority in the conservation plans.
Section : Environment & Ecology

About Harrier (Bird)

About Harrier (Bird)

  • Harrier, any of about 11 species of hawks of the subfamily Circinae (family Accipitridae).
  • They are plain-looking, long-legged, and long-tailed birds of slender build that cruise low over meadows and marshes looking for mice, snakes, frogs, small birds, and insects.
  • Harriers are about 50 cm (20 inches) long, have small beaks, and their face feathers are arranged in facial discs.
  • They nest in marshes or in tall grass and lay four to six dull whitish or bluish eggs.
  • The best-known harrier is the hen harrier (British), called the northern harrier or marsh hawk in the United States (Circus cyaneus), which breeds in temperate and boreal regions throughout the Northern Hemisphere and in southern South America.
  • Also common are the marsh harrier (C. aeruginosus) and Montagu’s harrier (C. pygargus) ranging over most of Europe and from the Mediterranean shores of North Africa to Mongolia.
  • The pallid harrier (C. macrourus) breeds from the Baltic to southeastern Europe and Central Asia.
  • Allied species include the cinereous harrier (C. cinereus), found from Peru to the Straits of Magellan; the long-winged harrier (C. buffoni), ranging over all of South America, especially east of the Andes; the South African marsh harrier (C. ranivorus), ranging north to Uganda on the east; and the pied harrier (C. melanoleucus), of central eastern Asia.
  • Many of the 14 species in this group, such as the pallid harrier and Montagu’s harrier, are migratory and move to warmer climates for the winter.
  • Some species, such as the African marsh harrier, remain in their breeding territories all year.
  • Every winter, several species of harrier birds travel thousands of kilometres to escape frigid Central Asia for the grasslands of the subcontinent.

 

Highlights of the news

  • The “poorly studied” harrier species is the focus of a study by two researchers from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), who compared previous records of sightings with more current observations to determine what many had feared.
  • Researchers collated the data on roosting harriers to analyse trends in their population since the mid-1980s.
  • At least five species of harriers were recorded in India over the years; India has one of the largest roosting sites in the world for Pallid Harriers and Montagu’s Harriers.
  • The researchers focused on six of the 15 major roosting sites in six States, where consistent observations had been made for over five years.
  • In the mid-1990s, an estimated 1,000 birds roosted here.
  • By 2016, the number was down to less than 100 birds.
  • While a general declining trend was observed in all the monitored sites, researchers noted the most dramatic changes at the Rollapadu Bustard Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district, one of the largest.
  • In Hessarghatta on the outskirts of Bengaluru, Western Marsh Harriers declined significantly, leaving the area nearly deserted.
  • The importance of area protection can be seen in the number of birds. While there is a median count of 125 harriers in protected areas, it’s less than half that number — 48 — in unprotected areas.
  • However, the study notes that the population of the species in Central Asia has not seen any drastic changes.
  • So, these results indicates possibilities of:
    • The migrant birds have found better places to roost than India, which the researchers think is improbable.
    • Considering the overall decline is spread out, the numbers could signify a lowering trend in populations.
    • Remarked on the possibility of a combination of multiple factors for the fall.

 

 

Possible reasons for decline

  • The gravest concern is the loss of grasslands, either to urbanisation or to agriculture.
  • In February-March, peak season for the arrival of the birds, farmlands are burnt or over-grazed.
  • Of the 15 roosting sites surveyed, eight no longer exist as grasslands, and only five are protected.
  • Excessive use of pesticides in farms in and around the roosting sites could also be a reason for the lowered population counts.
  • In crops such as cotton, the use of pesticides kills grasshoppers, the harriers’ primary prey, and could lead to mortality of the birds themselves as they are on the top of the food chain.

 

Way forward

  • Globally, of the 16 harrier species, only two are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, even though most of them are declining.
  • Hence, more intensive research on the bird is needed.
  • The conservation of India’s grasslands could be a start in protecting the magnificent migrators.
Section : Environment & Ecology

Water striders

Water striders
  • They are small insects that are adapted for life on top of still water.
  • By using surface tension to their advantage, they can walk on water.
    • Water acts different at the surface.
    • Water molecules are attracted to each other and like to stay together, especially on the surface where there is only air above.
    • The attraction between water molecules creates tension and a very delicate membrane.
  • Water striders walk on this membrane.

Physical features
  • They are about a half-inch long with a thin body and three sets of legs.
  • They have three pairs of legs.
  • The legs have tiny hairs that repel water and capture air.
  • By repelling water, the tiny water striders stand on the water’s surface and the captured airs allows them to float and move easily.
  • The striders possess needle-like mouth parts that are used for sucking the juice of prey.
Food
  • There front legs are relatively shorter than the mid and hind legs and used to catch and hold prey.
  • They eat insects and larvae on the surface of water, such as mosquitoes and fallen dragonflies.
Importance
  • Water striders act as a water quality indicator as they are found on water surface.
  • They play an important role in the food chain by feeding on mosquito larvae.
 
Subgenus Ptilomera
  • Water striders have many subgenus, one of them is Ptilomera.
  • They are only found in rocky, fast flowing streams and rivers that are not exposed to a lot of sunlight.
  • They  have hair on the middle legs that help the insects resist the strong current of streams.
 
Ptilomera nagalanda Jehamalar and Chandra
  • It was found in the river Intanki of Peren district.
  • It has orange with black stripes on the dorsal side and a pale yellowish brown ventral part of the body.
  • The presence of black stripes on the dorsal side differentiates this species from other known species of the subgenus Ptilomera.
  • It has long slender legs and measures about 11.79 mm.
 
Water striders of subgenus Ptilomera found in India
  • So far, only five species of water striders under the subgenus  Ptilomera were known in India. These include:
    1. Ptilomeraagriodes: It is found in peninsular India
    2. Ptilomeraassamensis: It is found in northeastern India
    3. Ptilomeralaticaudata : It is found in northern and northeastern India
    4. Pltilomeraoccidentalis : It is found in Uttarakhand.
    5. Ptilomeratigrina : It is found in the Andaman islands.
  • With the discovery of Ptilomera nagalanda, the number of species of water striders belonging to the subgenus has increased to six.
Section : Environment & Ecology
 

About Bio-plastics

About Bio-plastics

  • Bioplastic are a category of plastics derived from renewable bio-based resources.
  • Conventional plastics are made from petroleum-based raw materials, bioplastics are made from 20 percent or more of renewable materials.
  • Bioplastic can be both biodegradable and non-biodegradable.
  • Bio-plastics can also be non-biobased but biodegradable.

 

 

 

Types of Bioplastics

Depending on the feedstock used for making bioplastics there are two main types of bioplastics:

PLA (polyactic acid)

  • It is typically made from the sugars in corn starch, cassava or sugarcane.
  • The starch is comprised of long chains of carbon molecules; similar to the carbon chains in plastic from fossil fuels form a long-chain polymer (a large molecule consisting of repeating smaller units) that is the building block for plastic.
  • Hence, it is biodegradable, carbon-neutral and edible.

PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate)

  • It is made by microorganisms, sometimes genetically engineered, that produce plastic from organic materials.
  • The microbes are deprived of nutrients like nitrogen, oxygen and phosphorus, but given high levels of carbon.
  • They produce PHA as carbon reserves, which they store in granules until they have more of the other nutrients they need to grow and reproduce.
  • Companies can then harvest the microbe-made PHA, which has a chemical structure similar to that of traditional plastics.
  • Because it is biodegradable and will not harm living tissue.
  • PHA is often used for medical applications such as sutures, slings, bone plates and skin substitutes; it is also used for single-use food packaging.

 

Advantages of Bioplastics

  • Reduced use of fossil fuel resources.
  • Smaller carbon footprint.
  • Bioplastics do produce significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional plastics over their lifetime.
  • Faster decomposition.
  • Bioplastic is also less toxic and does not contain bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disrupter that is often found in traditional plastics.

 

Bioplastics in India

  • In India there are 16 companies that make bioplastics.
  • In Indian case, bioplastics are those that are biodegradable.

 

Challenges

  • Bioplastics are relatively expensive.
  • PLA can be 20 to 50 percent more costly than comparable materials.
  • Since they are made from the byproducts of food crops a bioplastic carry bag could cost almost thrice as much.
  • In order to decompose biodegradable bioplastics we need industrial composter.
  • However, most Indian cities lack facilities to compost bioplastics.
  • Further the raw material used for bioplastics manufacture in India is imported mostly from Europe or China. This makes manufacture of bioplastic expensive in India.
  • While bioplastics degradation is fast in industrial composting facilities, it takes years in the natural environment.
  • This might increase the litter due to wrong perception that bioplastics are naturally decomposed.
  • Bioplastics production results in pollutants, due to the fertilizers and pesticides used in growing the crops.
  • The bioplastics also contributes to more ozone depletion than the traditional plastics, and required extensive land use.

 

Way Forward

  • Indian companies should manufacture raw material indigenously to bring down the cost.
  • Innovation in feedstock is another way to reduce the cost of industrial composting like use of ‘second-generation” and “third-generation” feedstock
  • For example, feedstock made from tapioca starch and vegetable oil is naturally compostable.
  • The most important innovation is the use of non-food crops like saw dust, organic mixed-waste etc.
  • Another feedstock is algae like it is done in Israel.
  • Further India should have a policy including sops like subsidies for electricity consumption, lower rates of Goods and Services Tax and lower import duties for bioplastic manufacturers.
  • Municipalities should step up in improving composting infrastructure.
  • Further separate recycling streams are necessary to be able to properly discard bioplastics.

 

Section : Environment & Ecology

Tannery

Tannery

  • A tannery is the place where the skins are processed.
  • Tanning hide into leather involves a process which permanently alters the protein structure of skin.
  • The alteration makes it more durable and less susceptible to decomposition and also possibly coloring it.
  • Tanning is a widespread, global industry that works with both light and heavy types of leather.
  • Light leather is generally used for shoes and other soft products such as purses, and heavy leather is used for straps, belts and in various machineries.

 

Pollution from Tanneries

  • The two main types of tanning are:
  1. Chrome tanning
  2. Vegetable tanning
  • Chromium compounds are applied to protect hides from decay and to make them more durable against moisture and aging.
  • Other materials that may also be used in the pre-treatment and tanning processes include sulfuric acid, sodium chlorate, limestone, and limestone soda ash.
  • Due to the repeated processes of soaking raw hides and wringing them out, the tanning process creates large amounts of wastewater that is contaminated with many different chemicals.
  • Chromium from leather tanning can make its way into air, soil, food, and water, and the most common forms of exposure are through inhalation of dust or fumes and ingestion of or contact with contaminated water.

 

Pollution hazards of tanaries

  • Continuous discharge of untreated effluents from tannery areas has an adverse effect on water quality, soil and human health.
  • If tannery effluents are discharged on land it may affect ground water quality due to presence of high concentration of chromium and chlorides. It renders the land unsuitable for cultivation due to high salt content.
  • The suspended solids, in the form of lime, hair, flesh etc. settle to the bottom and both lowered dissolved oxygen and suspended solids can harm aquatic life.
  • Tannery effluents are very toxic in nature and have an obnoxious smell. It has alarming levels of Arsenic, Cadmium, Mercury, Nickel and Chromium VI.
  • According to the World Health Organisation, these heavy metals have a lethal impact on public health when they enter the food/ water chain.
  • Diseases caused by heavy metals include Minamata by Mercury, Itai-Itai by Cadmium, Nickel-Itch by Nickel, Black-foot disease by Arsenic and respiratory distress by Chromium VI.
  • Cadmium is a potent kidney toxicant and Mercury is a potent neurological toxicant. Chromium VI is a known human carcinogen.

 

The Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP)

  • Effluent treatment plants need land for construction, capital cost, power and specialized manpower for their operation and maintenance.
  • Because of these constraints, small scale tanneries cannot afford to have their own effluent treatment facilities and therefore, combined effluent from all tanneries is to be brought to a centralized place for treatment. This facility is called a Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP).
  • For operation and maintenance of CETP, small scale tanners formed a co-operative society. The expenses for operation and maintenance of CETP are being shared by participating tanneries.
  • Thus Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) is a way by which the small tanneries can treat pollution at cheaper way.

 

What is no- development zone?

  • ‘No-development zones’ are areas where no construction including commercial or residential buildings can come up.

What is In-Stream Mining?

  • In- Stream Mining involves the mechanical removal of gravel and sand directly from the active channel of rivers and streams. In-stream mining commonly results in opening of the channel bed, which can spread upstream and downstream as well.
Section : Environment & Ecology

Disease Burden due to Air pollution

Key Findings

  • According to the report every 1 in 8 deaths in India occur due to air pollution.
  • About 1.24 million deaths in India in 2017 occurred due to air pollution.
  • This makes India is the leader in deaths and disease burden due to air pollution with 26% of the global deaths and disease burden due to air pollution.

 

Disease Burden due to Air pollution

  • While India had 18% of the global population, it had 26% of global DALYs attributable to air pollution in 2017.
  • 8% of the total disease burden in India and 11% of premature deaths are attributed to air pollution.
  • An estimated 1.24 million deaths in India in 2017 occurred due to air pollution.
  • Out of 1.24 million, 0.67 million deaths occurred due to ambient particulate matter pollution and 0.48 million deaths due to household air pollution.
  • About 38% of the disease burden due to air pollution in India is from cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
  • Air pollution in India is the leading cause for disease burden from ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer, which are commonly associated with smoking.

 

Sources of Air pollution

Ambient Air pollution

  • Sources are both anthropogenic and natural. In urban settings, the main sources are
    • Fossil fuel combustion for energy production
    • Transport
    • Residential cooking
    • Heating and waste incineration
  • In rural communities
    • Household burning of kerosene
    • Biomass and coal for cooking, heating and lighting
    • Agricultural waste incineration
    • Agro-forestry activities
  • Pollutants include
    • Carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), lead, arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide (SO2), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and particulate matter (PM).

 

Ambient particulate matter pollution in India

  • India has one of the highest annual average ambient particulate matter PM 2.5 exposure levels in the world.
  • Further no state in India had an ambient particulate matter PM2.5 levels less than the WHO recommended level of 10 μg/m3,
  • 77% of India’s population was exposed to mean PM 2.5 more than 40 μg/m3, which is the recommended limit set by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards of India.
  • According to the report the highest PM 2.5 exposure level was in Delhi, followed by the other north Indian States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana.

 

Household pollution

  • In 2016, household air pollution from solid fuel and kerosene use resulted in an estimated 3.8 million premature deaths.
  • Out of this 4lakh were among children under the age of 5.
  • Household air pollution is also an important source of ambient air pollution contributing 12% of global PM2.5 to ambient air.

 

Household air pollution in India

  • 56% of India’s population was still exposed to household air pollution from solid fuels in 2017.
  • The low SDI (socio-economic development index) states in north India had some of the highest levels of both ambient particulate matter and household air pollution, especially Bihar, UttarPradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand

 

Life expectancy

  • According to the report life expectancy in India would have been increased by 1.7 years if the pollution levels had been lower than the minimum levels.

 

India’s pledge in Paris Agreement

  • About two-thirds of the electricity in India is produced from fossil fuels, mainly coal.
  • However India has pledged in the Paris Climate Agreement to generate 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
  • India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions under Paris Agreement targets to reduce particulate matter emission intensity by 33–35% by 2030.

 

Steps to reduce Particulate Matter pollution

  • Reduction in particulate matter emissions by coal power plants
  • Setting emission standards for the brick manufacturing industry
  • Facilitating management of agricultural residues to reduce stubble burning
  • Stricter vehicle emissions regulation
  • Upgrading of vehicles to more fuel-efficient standards like BS VI
  • Enhancing availability of public transport
  • State-specific policies such as use of compressed natural gas by vehicles in Delhi.
  • Mandatory use of fly ash in the construction industry within 100 km from coal or lignite thermal plants in Maharashtra to control particulate matter emissions.
  • Clean Air for Delhi Campaign launched in early 2018, led to the launch of the National Clean Air Programme to sensitise the public and enhance coordination between the implementing agencies.
  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana can substantially reduce solid fuel use and thus reducing household air pollution.

 

Section : Environment & Ecology

About Indian Himalayan region

About Indian Himalayan region

  • The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) is stretched across a length of 2,500 km and width of 250 to 300 km.
  • The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) spans 10 hill States viz., Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and two partial hill States – Assam and West Bengal.
  • The physical bearing of these mighty mountains the Himalayas are of great social, cultural and economic significance for the people of India.
  • The IHR is home to over 50 million people who eke out their lives and livelihoods in these mountains.
  • Most of northern India’s river systems originate in the Himalayan region, fed either by glacial melt or the many springs that dot the mountainous landscape.
  • The Himalayas, aptly known as ‘the water tower of the earth’, are therefore a major source of fresh water for perennial rivers such as the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra.

 

About the Himalayan Springs and its significance

  • Mountain springs are the primary source of water for rural households in the Himalayan region.
  • For many people, springs are the sole source of water.
  • As per a rough estimate, there are five million springs across India, out of which nearly 3 million are in the IHR alone.
  • Also, with almost 64% of the cultivable area in the Himalayas fed by natural springs, they are often the only source of irrigation in the region.
  • Both rural and urban communities depend on springs for their livestock and for the drinking, domestic, and agricultural water needs.

 

Threats to the Himalayan springs

  • Despite the key role that they play, springs have not received their due attention and many are drying up.
  • It is reported that half of the more than three million perennial springs in IHR States have either already dried up or become seasonal, resulting in acute water shortages across thousands of Himalayan villages.
  • Almost 60% of low-discharge springs that provided water to small habitations in the Himalayan region have reported clear decline during the last couple of decades.
  • With climate change and rising temperatures, rise in rainfall intensity and reduction in its temporal spread, and a marked decline in winter rain, the problem of dying springs is being increasingly felt across the Indian Himalayan Region.
  • Besides, water quality is also deteriorating under changing land use and improper sanitation.
  • The extent of the crisis plaguing the mountainous region was recently evident when more than half a dozen districts of Himachal Pradesh and the State capital Shimla faced a severe drinking water crisis.
  • While poor water management is said to be the key cause, reduced snowmelt and depressed flow from springs also contributed to the crisis.
  • Growing urbanisation is increasing demographic pressure on the region’s water resources.
  • The report noted that there were also multiple sources of pollution in springs and these were due to both geogenic, or ‘natural’ causes and anthropogenic, or man-made, ones.
    • Microbial content, sulphates and nitrates were primarily because of anthropogenic reasons and contamination from fluoride, arsenic and iron was mainly derived from geogenic sources.
    • Coliform bacteria in spring water could originate from septic tanks, household wastewater, livestock facilities, and manure lagoons in the source area or in the aquifers feeding springs.
    • Similarly, nitrate sources were septic tanks, household wastewater, agricultural fertilisers, and livestock facilities.

 

Way forward

  • The most important recommendation of the group is to launch a National Programme on Regeneration of Springs in the Himalayan Region.
  • The group mooted an 8-year programme to overhaul spring water management.
  • The programme could be designed on the concept of an action-research programme as part of a hydrogeology-based, community-support system on spring water management.
  • This includes: preparing a digital atlas of the country’s springsheds, training ‘para-hydrogeologists’ who could lead grassroots conservation and introduction of a ‘Spring Health Card.
  • The programme will entail several short, medium and long-term actions.
  • Short-term actions: Phase I – for first 4 years. This phase will involve the following broad set of activities:
    • Systematic mapping of springs across the IHR States.
    • Creation of a web-enabled database/web portal on which the springs can be mapped/tagged.
    • Capacity building activities taken up through Skill India Initiative.
    • Organising a national level workshop for policymakers and decision-makers in order to sensitize them on the issue of drying-up of springs.
    • Awareness and education of communities regarding spring water management under a changing climate.
  • Medium-term actions: Phase II – 5th – 8th years
    • Mainstreaming and convergence of springshed management with other developmental programmes will be required to facilitate greater synergies with government schemes.
    • A digital atlas of springsheds could be developed as a clear output in the second phase.
    • This would also help in the periodic assessment of groundwater resources in the country. ƒ
  • Long-term actions: Phase III – Beyond 8th year
    • Linking the livelihoods of communities with interventions related to revival of springs in ensuring the sustainability of such interventions beyond the lifespan of the project.
    • Building local institutions and institutional mechanisms for springshed management.

Conclusion

  • Springshed revival contributes to meeting commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 6 (including safe water).
  • The link to SDGs could facilitate multi-stakeholder collaborations required for effective implementation of springshed management.

 

About Springs     

  • A spring is a point at which water flows from an aquiferto the Earth’s surface.
  • It is a component of the hydrosphere.
  • A spring may be the result of karst topography where surface water has infiltrated the Earth’s surface (recharge area), becoming part of the area groundwater.
  • The groundwater then travels through a network of cracks and fissure—openings ranging from intergranular spaces to large caves.
  • The water eventually emerges from below the surface, in the form of a karst spring.
  • Types of springs
    • Seepage or filtration spring: The term seep refers to springs with small flow rates in which the source water has filtered through permeable earth.
    • Fracture springs, discharge from faults, joints, or fissures in the earth, in which springs have followed a natural course of voids or weaknesses in the bedrock.
    • Tubular springs, in which the water flows from underground caverns.
Section : Environment & Ecology

About Heavy-Metals contamination

About Heavy-Metals contamination

  • Heavy metals are metallic elements with an atomic number greater than 20.
  • They are trace elements having a density at least five times that of water.
  • Some of these elements are necessary for growth, development and functioning of living organisms
  • These include Copper, zinc, chromium, iron etc.
  • Those which are unnecessary include cadmium, lead, mercury.
  • However, beyond a certain limit all of them are toxic for plants, animals and humans.
  • These elements penetrate the body by inhalation, ingestion and skin absorption.
  • If heavy metals accumulate in body tissues faster than the body’s detoxification a gradual build-up of these toxins occurs.
  • Vegetables provide the trace elements and heavy metals.
  • Minor or trace elements are essential for good health if they come from an organic or plant source.
  • In contrast, if they come from an inorganic or metallic source, they become toxic.
  • Vegetables and fruits accumulate higher amounts of heavy metals because they absorb these metals in their leaves.

Effects of heavy metals in food

  • cardiovascular, kidney, nervous, bone diseases,
  • decreasing immunological defences,
  • intrauterine growth retardation,
  • impaired psychosocial faculties,
  • disabilities associated with malnutrition
  • upper gastrointestinal cancer

Effects of heavy metals in air

  • Manganese, lead and nickel are neurotoxins that damage the brain.
  • Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead.
  • Exposures to even low levels of lead early in life have been linked to effects on IQ, learning, memory and behavior.
  • Toxic metals are responsible for rising cases of brain strokes among youngsters in the city.

Section : Environment & Ecology

Plastic pollution: A background

Plastic pollution: A background

  • The world has produced over nine billion tons of plastic since the 1950s.
  • 165 million tons have reached the oceans, with almost 9 million more tons being added each year.
  • According to UN Environmental Programme, UNEP, a staggering 6.5 million tonnes of plastic are being dumped alone in our oceans each year.
  • Of all the plastic manufactured in the world, almost 33 % is made for one-time use only.
  • According to an estimate only about 9 percent of plastic gets recycled.
  • Rest of it pollutes the environment or sits in landfills, where it can take up to 500 years to decompose while leaching toxic chemicals into the ground.

 

 

About Bioplastics

  • While traditional plastics are made from petroleum-based raw materials, bioplastics which are made from 20 percent or more of renewable materials.
  • Bioplastic is a specific type of plastic derived from renewable biobased resources.
  • Bioplastic can be any combination of being non-biobased, partially biobased, fully biobased, non-biodegradable, biodegradable and compostable.
  • The global bioplastic market is projected to grow from $17 billion this year to almost $44 billion in 2022.

 

 

Types of Bioplastics

There are two main types of bioplastics:

1. PLA (polyactic acid)

  • It is typically made from the sugars in corn starch, cassava or sugarcane.
  • The starch is comprised of long chains of carbon molecules, similar to the carbon chains in plastic from fossil fuels form a long-chain polymer (a large molecule consisting of repeating smaller units) that is the building block for plastic.
  • It is biodegradable, carbon-neutral and edible.

 

2. PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate)

  • It is made by microorganisms, sometimes genetically engineered, that produce plastic from organic materials.
  • The microbes are deprived of nutrients like nitrogen, oxygen and phosphorus, but given high levels of carbon.
  • They produce PHA as carbon reserves, which they store in granules until they have more of the other nutrients they need to grow and reproduce. Companies can then harvest the microbe-made PHA, which has a chemical structure similar to that of traditional plastics.
  • Because it is biodegradable and will not harm living tissue.
  • PHA is often used for medical applications such as sutures, slings, bone plates and skin substitutes; it is also used for single-use food packaging.

 

Advantages of Bioplastics

  • Reduced use of fossil fuel resources.
  • Smaller carbon footprint.
  • Bioplastics do produce significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional plastics over their lifetime.
  • Faster decomposition.
  • Bioplastic is also less toxic and does not contain bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disrupter that is often found in traditional plastics.

 

Potential side effects of Bioplastics

  • According to a study done in 2010 University of Pittsburgh bioplastics production resulted in greater amounts of pollutants, due to the fertilizers and pesticides used in growing the crops and the chemical processing needed to turn organic material into plastic.
  • The bioplastics also contributed more to ozone depletion than the traditional plastics, and required extensive land use.
  • B-PET, the hybrid plastic, was found to have the highest potential for toxic effects on ecosystems and the most carcinogens because it combined the negative impacts of both agriculture and chemical processing.
  • Since bioplatics need high temperature industrial composting facilities to break down, lack of infrastructure can lead to bioplastics ending up in landfills.
  • In the absence of oxygen in the landfill they may release methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
  • When bioplastics are not discarded properly, they can contaminate batches of recycled plastic and harm recycling infrastructure.
  • Separate recycling streams are necessary to be able to properly discard bioplastics.
  • Bioplastics are also relatively expensive. PLA can be 20 to 50 percent more costly than comparable materials.

 

Section : Environment & Ecology
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