Climate change and Coral Reefs

  • Coral Bleaching
    • When coral polyps are too hot, they expel their zooxanthellae.
    • Since zooxanthellae are responsible for the colors of many corals, when coral polyps expel their zooxanthellae, the coral turn white, a phenomenon called coral bleaching.
    • The zooxanthellae return to the polyps when the water cools, but repeated bleaching events lead to the death of the coral polyps.

Result of new study

  • Though warm waters as a result of global warming results in coral bleaching, it could be offset by diversity the algae renders to corals.

About coral reefs:

  • Coral reefs are large underwater structures composed of the skeletons of coral, which are marine invertebrate animals.
  • The coral species that build coral reefs are known as hermatypic or “hard” corals because they extract calcium carbonate from seawater to create a hard, durable exoskeleton that protects their soft, sac-like bodies.
  • Each individual coral is referred to as a polyp.


Mutualism between micro-algae and coral

  • A species interaction in which both species benefit from the interaction is called as mutualism.
  • The relationship between corals and photosynthetic algae living inside their tissues is the best example of mutualism.
  • Coral polyps can obtain most of their nutrition from algae, called zooxanthellae.
  • Zooxanthellae live symbiotically within the polyps.
  • These algae use the carbon dioxide produced by the polyps to conduct photosynthesis.
  • In turn zooxanthellae are responsible for the colors and diversity of them to polyps.


Ideal conditions for Coral Reefs

  • Sunlight
    • Corals need to grow in shallow water where sunlight can reach them.
    • Corals rarely develop in water deeper than 165 feet (50 meters).
  • Clear water
    • Corals need clear water that lets sunlight through; they don’t thrive well when the water is opaque.
    • Sediment and plankton can cloud water, which decreases the amount of sunlight that reaches the zooxanthellae.
  • Warm water temperature:
    • Corals generally live in water temperatures of 20–32° C.
  • Clean water
    • Corals are sensitive to pollution and sediments.
    • Sediment can create cloudy water and be deposited on corals, blocking out the sun and harming the polyps.
  • Saltwater
    • Corals need saltwater to survive and require a certain balance in the ratio of salt to water.
    • This is why corals don’t live in areas where rivers drain fresh water into the ocean (“estuaries”).

Threats to Coral Reefs:

Coral reefs are being degraded by an accumulation of stresses arising from anthropogenic activities and changes in the natural environment.

  • Over-fishing
    • Over-fishing of certain species on or adjacent to coral reefs can affect the reef’s ecological balance and biodiversity.
  • Destructive fishing methods
    • Fishing with dynamite, cyanide and other damaging methods can damage entire reefs and is 100% unsustainable.
  • Recreational activities
    • Physical damage to the coral reefs can occur through contact from careless swimmers, divers, and poorly placed boat anchors.
  • Coastal development
    • Sensitive habitats can be destroyed or disturbed by the dredging of deep-water channels or marinas, and through the dumping of waste materials.
  • Pollution
    • Coral reefs need clean water to thrive. From litter to waste oil, pollution is damaging reefs worldwide.
    • Pollution alters the natural flow of water, greater amounts of fresh water, nutrients and sediment can reach the reefs causing further degradation.
    • Nutrient-rich water causes phytoplankton to thrive in coastal areas, often causing algal blooms.
    • It also encourages the growth of algae, which compete with corals for space on the reef.
  • Plastic pollution
    • 8 million tones of plastic rubbish enters the world’s oceans every single year.
    • Many discarded plastic is broken down into what is known as microplastics, tiny pieces that are mistaken by coral polyps as food and ingested.
    • After years of campaigning, many countries are now changing policy; banning plastic bags, straws and single-use plastic packaging.
Section : Environment & Ecology

India’s Top 5 threatened turtles

India’s Top 5 threatened turtles

Most threatened top five turtles in India are:

  1. Batagurbaska: The northern river terrapin found in the Sundarbans.
  2. Batagurkachuga: Red-crowned roof turtle from the National Chambal Sanctuary, spread across Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
  3. Chitraindica: South Asian narrow-headed softshell turtle found in the gangetic river system.
  4. Nilssonianigricans: Black softshell turtle found in temple ponds of North Bengal and Assam.
  5. Pelochelyscantorii: Asian giant softshell turtle found in the eastern coast.



Turtle habitat is being lost due to:

  • Development
  • Expansion of agriculture
  • Land and water pollution
  • Consumption of the animals and their eggs


IUCN status 

IUCN status of the five most threatened turtles of India is as follows:

  • Critical endangered: The northern river terrapin, the red-crowned roof turtle and giant softshell turtle.
  • Endangered: The narrow-headed softshell is endangered.
  • Extinct: The black softshell is extinct in the wild.


Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA)

  • It was formed in 2001 as an IUCN partnership for sustainable captive management of freshwater turtles and tortoises.
  • It was formed in response to the Asian Turtle Crisis.
  • Since then it has become a recognised force in turtle and tortoise conservation globally.
  • According to TSA, India’s most threatened freshwater turtles are from Asia.
  • China has the highest number of threatened turtles in Asia.


Northern River Terrapin (Batagurbaska)

Physical features

  • It is a 60 cm long turtle recognized by 4 claws in front feet where as other turtles have 5.


  • The terrapin is found in tidal areas of large rivers, sandbars and riverbanks.


  • It is presumed to be extinct in several Southeast Asian countries.
  • It is described as the world’s second most endangered turtle (Yangtze giant soft shell turtle being the endangered freshwater turtle).
  • It is Critically Endangered as per the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • It is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, India.
  • It is included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, making international trade in this species illegal.


Related question, UPSC 2015


With reference to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. IUCN is an organ of the United Nations and CITES is an international agreement between governments
  2. IUCN runs thousands of field projects around the world to better manage natural environments.
  3. CITES is legally binding on the States that have joined it, but this Convention does not take the place of national laws.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

  1. a) 1 only
  2. b) 2 and 3 only
  3. c) 1 and 3 only
  4. d) 1, 2 and 3


Answer: b

National Clean Air Progamme

About NACP

  • In December 2017, the Union government announced the National Clean Air Progamme (NCAP) that proposes multiple strategies to combat air pollution across the country.
  • NCAP is India’s first attempt at working out a coordinated system to curb air pollution.
  • It requires the states to frame their own Clean Air Programmes.
  • The primary goal of NCAP is to meet the prescribed annual average ambient air quality standards across the country within a stipulated timeframe.




  • To augment and evolve ambient air quality monitoring network across the country to build a reliable database.
  • Ensuring public participation in planning and implementation of air pollution policies.
  • To have a feasible management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.


Components of NCAP

  • Tackle pollution from various sources including power plants, transport, industry, residential and agriculture sectors etc.
  • Increase number of manual air quality monitoring stations from 703 to 1,000.
  • Expand the network of the Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations (CAAQMS)
  • Set up Air Information Centre for data analysis, interpretation and dissemination through GIS platforms.

City-Specific Action Plans for non-attainment cities

  • NCAP has a city-specific action plans consisting pollution abatement measures for 102 non-attainment cities.
  • A non-attainment city is the one which has air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
  • Totally 102 cities have been identified 94 cities as non-attainment cities on the basis of 5-years data generated under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme.
  • All big metros are on the list including Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Kanpur, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Varanasi, Bhopal Jaipur etc.
  • The plan for 102 non-attainment cities will have three timelines to gradually reduce air pollution.
  • Under the timelines, air pollution in these cities will be reduced by:
  1. 35% in the next three years
  2. 50% in the next five years
  3. 70-80% in the next 10 years.
  • States are entrusted with the responsibility to frame their own city-specific plan.
  • Centre would assist states in building capacities to reduce pollution level in tune with the prescribed timelines.


Section : Environment & Ecology

Plastic waste in India

Plastic waste in India

  • According to Central Pollution Control Board of India data, India generates 15,342 tonnes of plastic waste per day (about 5.6 million tonnes annually), out of which Delhi alone contributes to 690 tonnes daily — making it the largest contributor, followed by the likes of Chennai (429.4 tonnes per day), Kolkata (425.7 tonnes) and Mumbai (408.3 tonnes).
  • 90% of this waste generated, is not recycled.



Impact of plastic waste

  • The adverse impacts of plastic bags are undeniable: When they’re not piling up in landfills, they’re blocking storm drains, littering streets, getting stuck in trees, and contaminating oceans, where fish, seabirds, and other marine animals eat them or get tangled up in them.
  • Plastic bags defy any kind of attempt at disposal, be it through recycling, burning or land filling.
  • Plastic bags, when dumped into rivers, streams and sea, contaminate the water, soil, marine life as well as the air we breathe.
  • When plastic is burned, it releases a host of poisonous chemicals, including dioxin into the air.
  • Plastic is a toxin that stays in the environment, marine animals ingest it, and it enters their bodies and then ours.
  • According to a 2014 toxics link study on plastic waste, plastic was contributing directly to ground, air and water pollution and ending up at landfill sites, where it stayed for centuries as it does not decompose easily.


Challenges in reducing plastic waste

  • 500-1000 years, it takes for plastic to degrade.
  • Despite multiple bans on plastic bags in the capital, including a recent NGT order that prohibited non-biodegradable plastic bags fewer than 50 microns in thickness, authorities are yet to fully clamp down on the menace.
  • While the bans resulted in an initial phase of heavy fines, the number came down considerably after a couple of months.
  • In the initial months of the ban, plastic usage fell drastically.
  • However, poor implementation meant plastic bags returned to the market again.
  • Fines are a big deterrent, but proper long-term planning is required.
  • The alternative proposed paper bags, that biodegrade eventually, also have some challenges.
  • One of the most comprehensive research papers on the environmental impact of bags, published in 2007 by an Australian state government agency, found that paper bags have a higher carbon footprint than plastic. That’s primarily because more energy is required to produce and transport paper bags.
  • The waste pickers could only send plastic for recycling if it was segregated but currently, almost 90% of the waste is not getting recycled as it is not being segregated at the household level.


Way ahead

  • “There’s no easy answer to plastic waste and there are so very many variables. However, the different solutions at different ends are required.
  • Use bags made of cloth or other environment friendly material; opt for sturdy glass or aluminum.
  • Segregate plastic waste at household level.
  • Introduce stricter waste management policy to ensure effective recycling.
  • The ideal city bag policy would probably involve charging for paper and plastic single-use bags, while giving out reusable recycled-plastic bags to those who need them, especially to low-income communities and seniors.
  • The larger takeaway is that no bag is free of environmental impact, whether that’s contributing to climate change, ocean pollution, water scarcity, or pesticide use. However, changing our lifestyle in the following way could help a lot:
    • Weanyourself off disposable plastics: Ninety percent of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and then chucked. Take note of how often you rely on these products and replace them with reusable versions.
    • Stop buying water: Each year, close to 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash. Carry a reusable bottle in your bag
    • Boycott microbeads: Those little plastic scrubbers found in so many beauty products—facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes, instead of them opt for products with natural exfoliants, like oatmeal or salt, instead.
    • Purchase items secondhand.
    • Recycle the plastic products.
    • Support a bag tax or ban: Urge your elected officials to introduce or supporting legislation that would make plastic-bag use less desirable.
    • Bring your own garment bag while going for shopping.
    • Put pressure on manufacturers to recycle the waste, considering the manufacturer responsibility.


World environment day

  • World Environment Day was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972.
  • World Environment Day occurs on the 5th of June every year and is aimed at encouraging awareness and action for the protection of our environment.
  • The theme for the world environment day 2018 is “Beat Plastic Pollution” and the host nation is India.
  • In 2018, by choosing this theme, it is aimed that people may strive to changes in their everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution.
  • People should be free from the over-reliance on single-use or disposables, as they have severe environmental consequences.
  • We should liberate our natural places, our wildlife – and our own health from plastics.
  • The theme for 2017 was ‘Connecting People to Nature – in the city and on the land, from the poles to the equator’ andthe host nation was Canada.


Section : Environment & Ecology

Kerala and Floods

Major causes of floods in Kerala

1. Natural causes:

  • Erratic Monsson
    • The floods are triggered by the monsoon rains.
    • According to the meteorological department, the cumulative rainfall in Kerala between this June 1 and August 15 was 2,087.67 mm, which is more than 30% of the normal 1,606.05 mm rainfall.
    • Some districts, such as Idukki, have received 83.5% excess rainfall.
    • The unusually short break between rains has exacerbated the problem.
  • Opening of Dams
    • Higher rainfall has forced the officials to release water from dozens of dams to prevent them from bursting.
    • For instance, the Idukki dam, had to open all its five shutters because of the incessant rain.
    • This has inundated places downstream.
  • Landslides
    • Swelled rivers have also triggered landslides.

2. Manmade causes:

  • Construction activities in Eco-Sensitive Zones
    • Landslides have occurred in ecologically sensitive areas due to construction activities.
    • Cities are expanded with buildings being constructed on leveled farmlands where water otherwise would naturally drain.
    • Dilution of Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008, leading to large-scale land reclamation, causing environmental degradation and groundwater depletion.
  • Deforestation
    • A study from IIT Bombay held deforestation mainly responsible for the phenomenon.
    • Unviable use of land and soil due to deforestation could be a reason the water was able to travel across land unhindered.
  • Mining and Quarrying
    • According to Madhav Gadgil, mining and quarrying are the major reasons for the mudslides and landslides.


Background: A timeline

  • In February 2010, Save the Western Ghats group had pointed out the threats to the ecosystem from construction, mining, industries, real estate, and hydropower in Western Ghats.
  • Following this the government set up the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel under Gadgil to make a set of recommendations for preserving the ecology and biodiversity of the fragile region.
  • The committee submitted the report in 2011.
  • Since none of the six concerned states agreed with the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee, the government in August 2012 constituted a High-Level Working Group on Western Ghats under Kasturirangan to “examine” the Gadgil Committee report.
  • This committee submitted its report in April 2013.
  • Consequently, Environment Ministry notified an area of 56,285 sq km in the Western Ghats as ESA.


Key Recommendations of Gadgil Panel

  • Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel defined the boundaries of the Western Ghats to be about 1,29,037 square km.
  • The entire area was designated as ecologically sensitive area (ESA).
  • Further the area was divided as ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) I, II or III.
  • About 75% of the area to be ESZ I and II with high level of protection.


General recommendations

  • Ban on cultivation of genetically modified in entire area.
  • Plastic bags to be phased out in three years.
  • No new special economic zones or hill stations to be allowed.
  • Western Ghats Ecology Authority to regulate these activities in the area.


Regulation of ESZ

  • Ban on diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes.
  • Restriction on mining licences in ESZ I and II area
  • No new dams in ESZ I
  • No new thermal power plants or large scale wind power projects in ESZ I
  • No new polluting industries in ESZ I and ESZ II areas
  • No new railway lines or major roads in ESZ I and II areas
  • Cumulative impact assessment for all new projects like dams, mines, tourism, housing
  • Phase-out of all chemical pesticides within five to eight years in ESZ I and ESZ II


ESZ in Kerala

  • In Kerala, an area 9,993.7 sq km was declared as part of ESA.
  • This was much less than what Gadgil Panel had recommended.
  • According to Gadgil panel report, Kerala has 15 taluks under ESZ-I, two in ESZ-II and eight within ESZ-III.



Gadgil on Kerala Floods

  • According to Gadgil the following activities have exasperated the disaster caused by erratic monsoon.
  • In ESZ-I which requires maximum protection following activities are undertaken
    • Use for non-forest purpose or agricultural activity.
    • Extension of village settlements
    • Road and public infra expansion
  • ESZ-II was allowed to renovate and extend existing structures such as hotels and resorts.
  • ESZ-III was allowed use of land for non-agri purpose.
Section : Environment & Ecology

When India became republic

Headline : When India became republic

Details :

Why in News? 

  • India is celebrating its 69th Republic Day.

History of Republic day

  • Republic Day in India is a day to remember when India’s constitution came into force on January 26, 1950, completing the country’s transition toward becoming an independent republic.
  • India acquired its long cherished independence on 15th August, 1947, after British government decided to lay down all claims of the Indian dominion. 
  • Post-independence, it was vital for India to frame a set of guidelines to abide by. 
  • Behind all these rosy and promising state of affairs, there was underlying the extreme dark side of post-independence India, in the terrible fate of Partition of India into India and Pakistan.
  • Indian government post-independence was to behave in a secular and sovereign manner, taking decisions pertaining to economy, foreign relations, border security and the likes. 
  • Keeping these sublime facts to mind and looking towards establishing India as a respected free nation worldwide, the country adopted its one of a kind Constitution on 26th November, 1949. 
  • The Constituent Assembly of India adopted the Constitution of India, drafted by a colossal committee, headed by the enigmatic B.R. Ambedkar. 
  • India from then onwards became a federal, democratic republic after its Constitution came to effect on January 26, 1950, the day which was declared henceforth as Republic Day.
  • The date of 26th January was chosen in honour of the Purna Swaraj declaration of independence of 1930.

Constitution of India

  • It is a document constituting the fundamental political principles, procedures, powers, duties of Government institutions and the fundamental rights, directive principles and duties of the citizens of the country.
  • It is the longest written Constitution in the world and there have been several amendments subsequently to this living document.

Solemnization of Republic Day

  • Republic Day is marked with paying tributes to the Armed Forces through military parades in
  • New Delhi at Rajpath and other State capitals. 
  • Regiments of Indian Army, Navy and Air Force march past in all their finery with the President of India, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces taking the salute. 
  • It is a day dedicated to honour all those brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the Nation with medals and bravery awards. 
  • It is a time for our Armed Forces to display the country’s artillery and any new additions to it during the year. 
  • The vibrant tableaus are displayed; each of them showcasing the cultural intricacies of their State during the Republic Day parade is a feast for eyes.
  • Our immortal principle of “Unity in Diversity” is best represented in this enriching parade of State-wise tableaus. 
  • Our tricolor- National Flag is hoisted in the Capital and in State Capitals on this day enumerates the struggles of our innumerable fellow country-men who have sacrificed their lives to get us a country free of bondage from foreign force.

Guest of Honour

  • Guest of Honour for the occasion is usually a Head of a State of another country and the selection of the guest depends on the strategic, economic and political interests of India each year. 
  • It is directed towards building up good relations with countries in the world and strengthening the already existing cordial relationships with certain other nations. 
  • Inviting the then American President, Barack Obama in 2015, initiated an era of trust between the two nations while inviting the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in 2017 deepened our ties with United Arab Emirates in terms of infrastructure investment, trade and geopolitics along with restraining the lurking terror threat in the world.
  • This year, for the first time in the history of India, the leaders of all 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries will be Chief Guests on the Republic Day. 
  • The list includes heads of the states of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.


  • Beating the retreat is the splashy concluding ceremony at Vijay Chowk that marks the end of Republic Day celebrations held in the evening of the third day of Republic Day, on 29th of January every year. 
  • The retreat with the Chief Guest as President of India is a witness to a brilliant display of Military Bands, Pipe and Drum Bands, Buglers and Trumpeters from various Army, Navy and Air Force Regiments. 
  • The tunes to the like of Sare Jahan Se Achcha fill the air with nationalistic fervor and coagulate the dutifulness in the minds of Indians. 

Post Independence struggle

  • In spite of various measures being taken to uplift the country after independence, dark forces still hovered around, in the form of the Jammu & Kashmir issue and its delimitations, one of the primary causes that lead to the Indo-China War in 1962. 
  • Additional Kashmir conflicts erupted in the form of Indo-Pak War in 1971, wherein Pakistan had dangerously come down onto Indian control line-ups, forcing Indian Army to take dire measures. 
  • The 1971 Indo Pak War was won by Indian brave hearts. 
  • Industrialisation and commercialisation of technology and general goods product was another domain that was laid primary emphasis by the post-independence Indian government to verily influence foreign trade and import. 
  • Despite the narrow basis and the class constraints on the democratic system in a developing capitalist society, it is creditable that parliamentary democracy has retained its vitality over the years. 
  • This is mainly due to the people and their struggles and democratic movements. 
  • One of the major achievements of independent India is the parliamentary democratic system that was instituted along with a Republican Constitution. 
  • The Constitution provided the scope for people’s participation and a voice in politics, which reflects the aspirations of the Indian people in their struggle for national independence. 
  • The participation of ordinary people in the elections at all levels is marked by sustained enthusiasm. 
  • But the political system cannot be said to have transformed the lives of people.
  • The assurances of securing their livelihood, abolition of poverty and the structures of exploitation providing equity with economic growth were still a long way to go.

Current Reforms

The current Government is taking up many new socio-economic, political and cultural reforms for the citizens of India. Few of them are:

  1. Focussing on the issue of unemployment through encouraging start-ups with Make in India initiative
  2. Welfare of farmers
  3. Digitalization
  4. Swachch Bharath initiative
  5. Women empowerment

Way forward

  • It is very apt that as citizens of a country with myriad cultures, we assure to remain united and acknowledge the sacrifices made by the soldiers in the Armed Forces, empathize with their integrity and contribute our bit for the betterment of our society and our Nation. 
  • This re-assurance to the self and to the fellow countrymen is the minimum we could do as responsible citizens of one of the largest democracies of the world.

Section : Polity & Governance

Loktak lake

News Summary
  • The model of a floating laboratory ties into a larger initiative by the Centre’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) to monitor the health of aquatic systems in the northeast.
  • Last September, the DBT announced plans to have multiple floating boats cruising the 3,500-km Brahmaputra river and collecting water samples to track its health.
Need of Laboratory in Loktak lake
  • There have been rising urbanisation and land-use change over the years in and around the Loktak Lake.
  • The lake has become a dump-yard for the city’s municipal waste, ranging from plastic refuse to chemical runoff from farming.
  • The situation worsens during years of floods.
  • Though the Loktak Lake is yet to see worrying levels of pollution, early signs suggest that there is a need to be wary.
  • Preliminary characteristics of the water are first measured on the boat with more follow up analysis in the labs.
  • Biochemical oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand, chloride test and nitrogen levels are measured on site.
  • Following are some of the major observations of the researchers:
    • Major Pollutant Instead of Carbon Dioxide, Nitrogen is a major pollutant in the lake.
    • pH of the lake: The pH of the lake, as per measurements so far, varies from 6.8-7.2 (ideally the pH of a healthy lake should be slightly below 7).
  • However, studies of ocean acidification have shown that even a 0.1 increase in pH can cause (harmful) decalcification.
Major Effects of pollution in Loktak lake
Calcium anomalies
  • There are signs of calcium anomalies in some of the mollusc and other aquatic life in the lake.
  • This is similar to the phenomenon of coral bleaching in oceans, where rising sea surface temperature cause organisms that live on corals to disengage, thereby killing the corals themselves.
Effect on Phumdis
  • The health of the lake also affects the Phumdis (the unique ‘floating islands’) of the Loktak lake.
  • These islands are made of a mix of vegetation and soil.
  • These coalesce to form a thick mat that, for centuries, have hosted huts and fishing settlements.
Loktak lake
  • It is the largest freshwater lake in North -East India and is famous for the phumdis (heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil and organic matters at various stages of decomposition) floating over it.
  • Keibul Lamjao is an integral part of the lake and is the only floating national park in the world.
  • It is located near Moirang in Manipur.
  • The etymology of Loktak is Lok = “stream” and tak = “the end”.
  • The largest of all the phumdis covers an area of 40 km2 (15 sq mi) and is situated on the southeastern shore of the lake.
  • This ancient lake plays an important role in the economy of Manipur.
  • It serves as a source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water supply.
  • The lake is also a source of livelihood for the rural fishermen who live in the surrounding areas and on phumdis and catch their fish by using various nets and indigenous traps.
  • Human activity has led to severe pressure on the lake ecosystem.
  • There are 55 rural and urban hamlets around the lake which have a population of about 100,000 people.
  • Considering the ecological status and its biodiversity values, the lake was initially designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on 23 March 1990.
  • It was also listed under the Montreux Record on 16 June 1993.
  • Montreux Record is a record of Ramsar sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring or are likely to occur.
Previously asked related questions in UPSC prelims
Question 1:
Which of the following National Park is unique in being a swamp with floating vegetation that supports a rich biodiversity?
    1. Bhitarkanika National Park
    2. Keibul Lamjao National Park
    3. Keoladeo Ghana National Park
    4. Sultanpur National Park
Answer: b
Question 2:
Consider the following pairs:
  1. Nokrek Biosphere Reserve : Garo Hills
  2. Loktak Lake : Barail Range
  3. Namdapha National Park : Dafla Hills
Which of the above pairs is/are correctly matched?
    1. 1 only
    2. 2 and 3 only
    3. 1, 2 and 3
    4. None
Answer: a
Section : Environment & Ecology

What is a National Disaster?

What is a National Disaster?

  • According to 10th Finance Commission (1995-2000) a disaster is a national calamity of rarest severity if it affects one-third of the population of a state.
  • Factors to be considered to classify a ‘calamity of rare severity’ are:
    • Intensity and magnitude of the calamity,
    • Level of assistance needed,
    • Capacity of the state to tackle the problem,
    • Alternatives and flexibility available within the plans to provide relief.
  • There is no legal provision to declare a natural calamity as a national calamity.


Purpose of declaration

Central Funding: Declaring a disaster “Calamity of rare severity” ensures

  • Support from the Central government.
  • Additional assistance from the National Disaster Response Fund
  • A Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) is set up, with the corpus shared 3:1 between Centre and state.
  • Additional assistance is considered from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF), funded 100% by the Centre.


‘Calamities of rare severity’ in the past

  • The following event are declared as “a calamity of unprecedented severity”:
    • The 1999 super cyclone in Odisha, 2001
    • Gujarat earthquake
    • Flash floods in Uttarakhand in 2013
    • Cyclone Hudhud in Andhra Pradesh in 2014



  • According to UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) India ranks third, after the US and China, hit the most by natural disasters over 20 years spanning 1995-2015.


Defining Disaster

UN definition of Disaster

  • Disaster is a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources.


As per the Disaster Management Act, 2005:

  • Disaster means a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area.
  • It occurs due to either natural or man-made causes,
  • It results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment.
  • The nature or magnitude of the destruction is beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.


Classification of disasters based on causes

According to UNISDR about 90% of major disasters in the world were caused by floods, storms, heat waves, droughts and other weather-related event.

  • Natural Disasters include floods, earthquake, tsunami, drought, cyclone, landslide, avalanche, hurricane, volcano eruption, cold wave, forest fire.
  • Manmade disasters include nuclear disasters, chemical disasters, biological disasters, pandemic emergencies, epidemics, Fire (Building, coal, forest, oil), pollution (Air, water, industrial), Deforestation, Accidents (Road, rail, sea, air), Industrial accidents, Riots, Hijacking, Terrorism.


Phases of Disaster management

  1. Before the Crisis: Preparedness
  • Preventing and mitigating the crisis,
  • Preparing for actual occurrence.
  1. During the Crisis: Emergency Response
  • Evacuation
  • Search and rescue
  • Provision of basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, medicines etc
  1. Post Crisis
  • Recovery
  • Rehabilitation
  • Reconstruction


Disaster management in India

National Disaster Management Act 2005 was enacted to provide an institutional mechanism

  • For drawing up and monitoring the implementation of disaster management plans
  • Ensuring measures for preventing and mitigating effects of disaster and
  • For undertaking a holistic, coordinated and prompt response to a disaster situation


India has integrated 3-tier administrative machinery for disaster management at the National, State, District levels.

  • The procedural mechanism and the allocation of resources is outlined in the Contingency Action Plan (CAP).
  • The Central Government supplements the States relief efforts by initiating supportive action.
  • National Crisis Management Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary deals with major crises that have serious or national ramifications.
  • State governments have the responsibility for undertaking rescue and relief measures in the event of a natural calamity through.
  • District Coordination and Review Committee led by the Collector ensures the participation of related agencies, departments and NGOs.



Section : Environment & Ecology

About Blue Flag certification

About Blue Flag certification

  • The tag is given to environment-friendly and clean beaches, equipped with amenities of international standards for tourists.
  • To achieve the Blue Flag standards, a beach had to strictly comply with 33 environment and tourism-related conditions, some of the conditions are given below:
    • To achieve the Blue Flag standards, a beach must be plastic-free and equipped with a waste management system.
    • Clean water should be available for tourists, apart from international amenities.
    • The beach should have facilities for studying the environmental impact around the area.
  • The Blue Flag programme is operated under the auspices of the Foundation for Environmental Education and the standards for blue tag certification were established by it in 1985.
  • The Blue Flag programme first started from Paris.
  • Within the next two years, almost all beaches in Europe were accorded the Blue Flag certification.
  • This campaign spread outside Europe, to South Africa, in 2001. Asia remains untouched by it till date.


Efforts for Blue tag certification in India

  • The Environment Ministry embarked on the Blue Flag project in December 2017.
  • This project has two main aims:
    • Firstly, to improve the aquatic habitat by cleaning the growing pollution and garbage in the Indian beaches.
    • Secondly, to develop ecological tourism with constant progress and development of tourist facilities.
  • The Indian beaches are being developed by the Society for Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM), an environment ministry’s body working for the management of coastal areas, according to the Blue Flag certification standards.
  • There is not a single Blue Flag beach in Asia so far.
  • Chandrabhaga beach of Odisha’s Konark coast was the first to complete the tag certification process.
  • Twelve more beaches in the country are being developed by the Society for Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM), an Environment Ministry’s body working for the management of coastal areas, in accordance with the Blue Flag standards.
  • Among them are the Chiwla and Bhogave beaches in Maharashtra and one beach each from Puducherry, Goa, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • These beaches are being developed in accordance with the Blue Flag beach standards under a Unified Coastal Areas Management Programme.


About Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE)

  • The FEE is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation promoting sustainable development through environmental education.
  • It was established in 1981.
  • It is headquartered at Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • It is active through five programmes; Eco-Schools, Blue Flag, Young Reporters for Environment (YRE),Green Key and Learning about Forests (LEAF).


About society of Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM)

  • It has been established under the aegis of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate change, Government of India. The main objectives of SICOM are as follows:-
    • To support implementation of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) activities in India.
    • To implement the World Bank assisted India ICZM Project.
    • To provide Research Development (R&D) and stakeholders participation in management of the Coastal areas in India.
    • To undertake any additional work or function as may be assigned by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change from time to time in the area of Coastal Management and other related activities.


Section : Environment & Ecology

About Pesticides

About Pesticides

  • The term pesticide covers compounds including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, molluscicides, nematicides, plant growth regulators and others.


Benefits of pesticides

  • Improving productivity: Food grain production has increased almost fourfold from an estimated 169 million hectares of permanently cropped land.
  • Protection of crop losses/yield reduction: Weeds reduce yield of dry land crops by 37–79%. Herbicides provided both an economic and labour benefit.
  • Vector disease control: Insecticides are often the only practical way to control the insects that spread deadly diseases such as malaria.
  • Quality of food: A diet containing fresh fruit and vegetables far outweigh potential risks from eating very low residues of pesticides in crops. Eating fruit and vegetables regularly reduces the risk of many cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic diseases.
  • Other areas: The transport sector makes extensive use of pesticides, particularly herbicides. Herbicides and insecticides are used to maintain the turf on sports pitches, cricket grounds and golf courses. Insecticides protect buildings and other wooden structures from damage by termites and wood-boring insects.


Hazards of Pesticides

  • There is now overwhelming evidence that some of these chemicals do pose a potential risk to humans and other life forms and unwanted side effects to the environment
  • Direct impact on human
    • The high risk groups exposed to pesticides include production workers, formulators, sprayers, mixers, loaders and agricultural farm workers.
    • During manufacture and formulation, the possibility of hazards may be higher because the processes involved are not risk free.
    • OC compounds could pollute the tissues of virtually every life form on the earth, the air, the lakes and the oceans, the fishes that live in them and the birds that feed on the fishes.
    • Low-dose exposure to certain environmental chemicals, including pesticides termed as endocrine disruptors are linked to human health effects such as immune suppression, hormone disruption, diminished intelligence, reproductive abnormalities and cancer.
  • Impact through food commodities
    • In India the first report of poisoning due to pesticides was from Kerala in 1958, where over 100 people died after consuming wheat flour contaminated with parathion (Karunakaran, 1958).
  • Impact on environment
    • Pesticides can contaminate soil, water, turf, and other vegetation.
    • In addition to killing insects or weeds, pesticides can be toxic to a host of other organisms including birds, fish, beneficial insects, and non-target plants.
    • Insecticides are generally the most acutely toxic class of pesticides, but herbicides can also pose risks to non-target organisms.
    • Pesticide sprays can directly hit non-target vegetation, or can drift or volatilize from the treated area and contaminate air, soil, and non-target plants.
  • Effect on soil fertility
    • Heavy treatment of soil with pesticides can cause populations of beneficial soil microorganisms to decline.
    • If we lose both bacteria and fungi, then the soil degrades.
    • Overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides have effects on the soil organisms that are similar to human overuse of antibiotics.


Challenges in banning the pesticides

  • Food security can be adversely impacted with reduction in productivity.
  • There is pressure from the fertilizer industry that the government is unable to take a decision to ban the entire 66 pesticides.


Government initiatives

  • The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is implementing a program for “Monitoring of Pesticide Residues at National Level” (MPRNL) under which samples of agriculture commodities are collected and analyzed for the presence of pesticide residues.
  • Central Integrated Pest Management Centres (CIPMCs) under the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare conduct Farmers Field Schools to sensitize farmers regarding safe and judicious use of pesticides, use of bio-pesticides etc.
  • A ‘Grow Safe Food’ campaign has also been initiated carrying the message of safe and judicious use of pesticides to farmers and other stakeholders.
  • Under Soil Health Management Scheme, financial assistance is provided to States for imparting training and demonstration to farmers on balanced use of fertilizers.
  • The Government is encouraging establishment of Bio-fertilizer units by providing financial assistance to State Governments.


Way forward

  • Our efforts should include investigations of outbreaks and accidental exposure to pesticides, correlation studies, cohort analyses, prospective studies and randomised trials of intervention procedures.
  • Valuable information can be collected by monitoring the end product of human exposure in the form of residue levels in body fluids and tissues of the general population.
  • Education and training of workers is a major vehicle to ensure a safe use of pesticides.