Background on plastic pollution in India

Background on plastic pollution in India

  • According to the recent CPCB data, India generates more than 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day, of which 40% remains uncollected and ends up as waste.
    • This uncollected causing choking of drainage and river systems, littering of the marine ecosystem, soil and water pollution, ingestion by stray animals, and open air burning leading to adverse impact on human health and environment.
  • About 67% of the plastic waste generated in India is High Density Polyethylene (HDP) (Tupperware, shampoo bottles etc.) and Low Density Polyethylene (LDP) (plastic bags for computer components, juice cartons, plastic wraps etc.).
  • India is doing well in recycling common plastic waste from PET plastic waste (from drinking water and soft drink bottles, plastic jars, plastic sheets etc).
  • However, HDP/LDP plastic waste recycling is extremely low in India.
  • One reasons of low level of recycling is that about 40% of HDP/LDP plastic waste in India goes uncollected.
  • In this backdrop, KVIC launched the REPLAN project in 2018.

 

REPLAN (Reducing Plastic in Nature)

  • REPLAN is a project of KVIC that aims to use plastic waste in a semi-permanent manner in order to reduce the availability of plastic in nature.
  • Under the REPLAN project, plastic is collected, chopped into fine pieces and mixed with cotton fibre rags in the ratio 80:20 (80-cotton rags pulp & 20-plastic waste) which undergoes multiple stages of treatment to produce a pulp that is turned into paper, or the “the plastic paper”.
  • Because of its strength and durability, this “plastic paper” to make useful products like paper bags, notebooks and other household items.
  • At present, the plastic paper is being produced at Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute, a KVIC unit in Jaipur. More units are planned for localised production of the paper.

 

Advantages

  • REPLAN project can go a long way in reducing plastic waste in India by increasing collection of HDP/LDP plastic waste.
  • Thus, it can potentially increase the rate of recycling in India.
  • Further, the carry bags made out of REPLAN were found to be more durable, and cheaper.

Organophosphates

Organophosphates

  • Organophosphates are a group of human-made chemicals, esters of phosphoric acid,  that poison insects and mammals.
  • Organophosphates are used in agriculture, homes, gardens and veterinary practices.
  • In the past decade, several OPs have been discontinued for use.
  • Common organophosphates include:
    • Parathion
    • Malathion
    • Methyl parathion
    • Chlorpyrifos
    • Diazinon
    • Terbufos

 

Toxicokinetics: Mechanism of organophosphate toxicity

  • The chemical can enter the body through ingestion, inhalation, or contact with skin.
  • Once inside the body, the organophosphates inhibit cholinesterase, which is an enzyme in the human nervous system that breaks down acetylcholine.
  • Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that carries signals between nerves and muscles.
  • When cholinesterase is inactivated, acetylcholine builds up in the nerves, which become overactive, affecting the functioning of nervous system, heart, immunity and reproductive system.

 

Anti-pesticide Gel

  • The gel developed by researchers will not act as physical barrier, but will chemically deactivate the organophosphates.
  • The base of the gel is chitosan, a natural substance extracted from the waste shells of crabs and shrimps.
  • The gel was found to cleave a wide range of commercially available pesticides before they enter the bloodstream, thus reducing the pesticide-induced enzyme inhibition.
Section : Environment & Ecology

Elephant Corridors in India

Elephant Corridors in India

  • Elephant corridors are essentially linear patches of natural vegetation that connect two habitats which is important for jumbo movement and to maintain a healthy population.
  • However, sprouting of roads, railway lines, electricity towers, canals, and human settlements in these corridors are forcing elephants to stray from their natural paths, causing conflict situations with disastrous results for both man and animal.
  • According to census of elephants (2017), there are 27, 312 elephants in India.
  • Karnataka (6,049) has the highest elephant population followed by Assam (5,719) and Kerala (3,054).
  • Currently 110 elephant corridors are identified in the country.
  • Wildlife Trust of India and MOEF’s Project Elephant has identified ‘
  • of passage’ in 101 elephant corridors and pressed for greater surveillance and protection of elephant corridors.

 

 

Man-animal conflict in General

Definition

  • Man-animal is defined as interaction between humans and wildlife where negative consequences, whether perceived or real, exists for both humans and animals when action of one has an adverse effect on the other.

Impact of Man-animal conflict

  1. Injury and loss of life of humans and wildlife
  2. Crop damage, livestock depredation, predation of managed wildlife stock.
  3. Damage to human property
  4. Trophic cascades
  5. Destruction of habitat
  6. Collapse of wildlife populations
  7. Reduction of geographic ranges

 

Man-animal conflict in India

  • Conflict-prone species include tiger, leopard, Asian elephants, sloth bear, Himalayan black bear, wild pig, nilgai and gray wolves.
  • In the Gir forests, livestock of Maldhari community is severely affected by Asiatic lion.
  • Snow leopard causes huge economic loss to the local communities through livestock predation in the Trans-Himalayan ecosystem.
  • Asiatic elephant is known to cause large scale damage to crops and human lives across its range in India
  • In north-east, the incidences of conflict have increased due to reduction of forest cover below 30-40%.
  • ‘Vermin’ or ungulate species including wild pig, nilgai, barking deer, spotted deer, and wild ass cause damage to both food crops and young shoots of other crops and plantations.

 

Reasons for Man-animal conflict

  • Growing human settlements has resulted in shrinking habitats of animals.
  • Changing land-use patterns
  • Wildlife corridors are being blocked by linear infrastructure projects like highways, railway tracks etc.
  • Degradation and fragmentation of wild habitats: A main reason for the increasing human-animal conflicts is the presence of a large number of animals and birds outside the notified protected areas.

 

Section : Environment & Ecology

What is landfall?

What is landfall?

  • Landfall is the event of a storm or waterspout moving over land after being over water.
  • A tropical cyclone is classified as making landfall when the center of the storm moves across the coast; in strong tropical cyclones this is when the eye moves over land.

 

Reason for cyclone development in the Bay of Bengal

  • The Bay of Bengal is lying adjacent to the northwest Pacific, which is one of the world’s most active basins for typhoons.
  • The region receives the remnants of major landfalls in the Philippines, China and South Asia.
  • From these places come low-pressure systems that develop into a monsoon depression or a cyclone.

 

Why these cyclones hit mostly in October ?

  • The reason that cyclones such as Titli, Phailin (2013) and Hudhud (2014) typically strike in October is that wind shear (the difference within wind speeds and direction at two different levels) is low during this time.
  • Low wind shear, when combined with surface sea temperatures greater than 26°C, raises the likelihood of cyclones.
  • In monsoon season, cyclones are rare because of high wind shear.

 

Why it was hard to predict the landfall of Cyclone Titli?

  • The prediction is difficult because of budgetary and meteorological factors.
  • In the Atlantic basin, the US has dedicated aircraft that fly directly into the clouds to study moisture levels and gather various data on cyclone profile.
  • For Indian cyclones developing over the ocean, scientists have to largely rely on satellite images (a top view) that reveals little data on moisture content and intensity.
  • Indian scientists get a more detailed picture only when a cyclone is 300-400 km from the coast, which reduces preparation time; Cyclone Titli was additionally hard to read because it turned into a recurving cyclone (it changed direction).
  • India acquires storm prediction models from the US and Europe but lacks the resources to upgrade the models regularly.

 

How evacuation is done?

Researchers classify evacuation exercises as preventive, vertical, and shelter-in-place.

  • In preventive (or horizontal) evacuation, the impact area is meant to be completely evacuated, but this is a measure rarely taken in India because of poor roads and inadequate public transportation.
  • Shelter-in-place evacuation involves fortification of existing houses and community buildings, which again required financial resources.
  • In vertical evacuation, people are directed to specially designed buildings within the impact area. This strategy was largely followed during Cyclone Titli.

 

Few Important Facts

  • During Titli, Hudhud or Phailin, lives were saved because, unlike the 1999 Supercyclone, there was no storm surge (A storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm).

How are cyclones named?

  • In September 2004, an international panel on tropical cyclones decided that countries from the region would each put in names, which would be assigned to storms in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.
  • Eight countries — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Sri Lanka and Thailand – participated and came up with a list of 64 names.
  • In the event of a storm, the Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre, New Delhi, selects a name from the list.

Why it is necessary to name cyclones?

  • The purpose of the move was also to make it easier for “people easily to understand and remember the tropical cyclone/hurricane in a region, thus to facilitate disaster risk awareness, preparedness, management and reduction.
Section : Environment & Ecology

About Blackbuck

About Blackbuck

  • Blackbucks are herbivore antelope species usually found in open grasslands, dry scrub areas and thinly forested areas.
  • Its predators include Feral dogs, wolf, Hyena, Jackal, Wild Pigs etc. (Cheetah, when found in India, was the important predator of Blackbuck).
  • In India, they are found in arid and semi-arid short grass plains of Punjab, Haryana, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat up to Tamil Nadu.
  • India has 95% of the Blackbuck population. Some Blackbucks are also found in arid areas of Nepal and Pakistan.

 

Threatened Species

  • As a result of large scale conversion of grasslands for agriculture and habitat fragmentation, the Blackbuck population is on the decline.
  • Thus, IUCN included Blackbuck under ‘Near Threatened’ status in the Red List.
  • Given the declining number, Blackbuck is included in Schedule 1 list of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, being accorded highest protection.

 

 

 

Important sanctuaries in India

  • The Velavadar Blackbuck National Park, Gujarat has the highest number of blackbucks.
  • Other importance sanctuaries include Tal Chhapar Blackbuck Sanctuary, Rajasthan, Point Calimere Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu, Rehekuri Blackbuck Sanctuary, Maharashtra, Bishnoi-dominated areas in Haryana and Punjab.
  • Except in Rajasthan, their habitat coincides with the habitat of Great Indian Bustard.

 

Abohar wildlife sanctuary in Punjab seeing decline in population:

  • Blackbuck presence in Punjab is confined to Abohar wildlife sanctuary (AWS) due to the unique habitat of semi-arid plains consisting agricultural fields, intermittent fallow-barren lands, scattered sand dunes, sand mounds and ridges.
  • In AWS, the land in mainly owned by the Bishnoi community, and they protect the Blackbuck with great zeal.
  • Despite that, due to various reasons like habitat fragmentation, barbed fences and attacks by stray dogs, the population of Blackbucks in on the decline. 

 

Reasons for decline

  • Habitat destruction and Habitat fragmentation as a result of land-use change to agriculture.
  • Attacks by stray dogs
  • Urbanisation and increasing automobiles leading to road accidents
  • Falling into water storage tanks, and concrete drains
  • Fencing of agricultural lands with barbed wire especially ‘cobra wires’ – into which the blackbucks run into when chased by dogs and get trapped and seriously injured
Section : Environment & Ecology

About Seaweed

About Seaweed

Seaweed is increasingly seen as a solution to nutritional deficiency in population. However seaweed cultivation has not taken off in India.

 

About Seaweed

  • Seaweeds are photosynthetic algae.
  • They are primitive plants and roots, stems and leaves are absent in seaweed.
  • They are macrophytic algae which mean they live in water or moist land surfaces.
  • They grow in the shallow waters in the tidal zone.
  • Seaweeds exhibit highest photosynthesis efficiency due to moist conditions. As a result they contribute to about 50% of all photosynthesis in the world.

Types of seaweed

  • Based on the pigments present in seaweed they are of 3 types:
    • Brown algae
    • Red algae
    • Green algae

Habitat

  • Red and Green seaweeds are found in subtropical and tropical waters.
  • Brown seaweeds are common in cooler, temperate waters.
  • Asia is prominent in seaweed cultivation with China, Korea and Japan contributing to 80%

Uses

  • Seaweeds are used as food, renewable source of energy, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, textiles, fertilizers

Benefits of Seaweed

  • Edible Seaweeds are low-calorie and nutrient-dense food items.
  • They are rich in vitamins A and C.
  • They are a good source of minerals such as Ca, Mg, Zn, Se and Fe.
  • They also have a high level of vegetable proteins and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
  • Since Seaweeds live in water they do not require irrigation.
  • They do not require pesticides, fertilizers.
  • Categorised under vegan diet, they are easily acceptable.

 

Seaweed Cultivation: Global Scenario

  • China tops the list of countries in seaweed cultivation.
  • Other leaders in seaweed cultivation include North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Chile, Norway, Indonesia, USA and India.
  • Seaweed is the staple food in many parts of South East Asia including Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, Korea and Japan.

 

In brief: Seaweed Cultivation: Potential in India

 

  • About 844 seaweed species are reported from India which has a coast line of 7,500 km.
  • Tamil Nadu, Gujarat coasts, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar islands are abundant in seaweed.
  • Rich seaweed beds are also found around Mumbai, Ratnagiri, Goa, Karwar, Varkala, Vizhinjam and Pulicat inTamil Nadu and Chilka in Orissa.
  • Gulf of Mannar is home to more than 240 seaweed varieties out of which at least 185 are edible ones.

 

Challenges to seaweed harvesting in India

  • Lack of livelihood security due to low wages and during bad weather
  • Risky as they have to be collected from depths of more than 25 to 30 feet to collect seaweed.
  • Over-exploitation: While India has rich source of seaweed varieties we have focused only on harvesting not cultivation thus leading to over-exploitation.
  • Lack of awareness about health benefits act as hindrance to nutrition transition among population.
  • In the aftermath of 2004 tsunami, the volume of harvest has fallen.

 

Commonly known seaweed products (important for prelims)

  • Agar-agar
    • Made of red algae
    • Used as food additive as a thickener, emulsifier etc.
    • They are used to absorb glucose and thus used in weight loss diets.
  • Alginates
    • Made of brown algae
    • Form non-toxic gels and are often used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, processed food etc.
  • Carrageenans
    • Made of brow algae
    • Used in gelation in ice creams

 

Section : Environment & Ecology

About Western Ghats

About Western Ghats

  • The Western Ghats extends over a distance of approx. 1,500 km from Tapti river in the north to Kanyakumari in the south.
  • It extends along the West Coast of India covering area of 150,000 square kilometres.
  • It is a UNESCO world Heritage site.
  • It is one of the hottest hotspots of biological diversity.
  • The significance of Western Ghats is that along with its rich biodiversity, it also supports a rich environment dependent civilisation of several thousand years.
  • The total area is less than 6% of the land area of India, but contains more than 30% of all plant, fish, fauna, bird, mammal species found in India.
  • It has high proportion of endemic species and supports the life of 7,402 species of flowering plants, 1814 species of non-flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species, 6000 insects species and 290 freshwater fish species.
  • The Western Ghats contain numerous medicinal plants and important genetic resources. It is home to diverse social, religious and linguistic groups.
  • Western Ghats perform important hydrological and watershed functions
  • States covering Western Ghats include Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
  • The largest proportion 45% of the area protected with the Western Ghats lies within 19 protected areas in the State of Karnataka.
  • There are four major forest types in Western Ghats:-
  1. Evergreen
  2. Semi- evergreen.
  3. Moist deciduous.
  4. Dry deciduous
Section : Environment & Ecology

About Green India Mission

About Green India Mission

  • The National Mission for a Green India is one of the 8 Missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) introduced in 2010-2011.
  • The mission emphasizes the role of afforestation in the context of climate change adaptation and mitigation.
  • It aims at addressing climate change by
    • Enhancing carbon sinks
    • Adaptation of vulnerable species
    • Adaptation of forest dependant local communities

 

Objective of Green India Mission

  • Increase the area to be taken up for afforestation in India from 2010-2011 to 2019-2020 by 10 million ha including
    • Increase forest cover on 5 mha of forest/non-forest lands.
    • Improve quality of forest cover on another 5 mha
    • Increase the carbon sequestration by forests 43 million tons CO2 annually by 2020.

 

Green India Mission Strategy

  • Holistic view to afforestation beyond plantations including restoration of eco-systems and habitat diversity.
  • Key role for local communities by strengthening Gram Sabha , Joint Forest Management Committees, Van Panchayats etc.
  • Robust and effective monitoring framework.

 

Problems of Green India Mission as per the study

  • The targets set in Green India Mission are arbitrary and exported from colonial forestry approaches.
  • The afforestation drive is imposed upon unsuitable areas such as arid and semi-arid ecosystems.
  • Afforestation in unsuitable areas leads to growth of invasive species threatening the ecology of the place. For instance, the kikar (Prosopis julifloara) on the Delhi Ridge area which became invasive was introduced by the British in 1930s.
  • The strategy of afforestation under Green India Mission also represents the encroachment of rights of local populace and extending unimpending authority to forest authorities.
Section : Environment & Ecology

What is fake news?

Why in news?

  • Recently ‘fake news’ has become a catch to discredit genuine stories that make the people in power uncomfortable. It has been co-opted to mean anything the reader or the observer doesn’t want to hear.
  • Even while the US grapples with the issue of whether Russia influenced its elections, experts have warned that the Indian elections are at risk too.

 

What is fake news?

  • Fake news is ‘news’ that has been created knowing full well that it isn’t true.
  • It is not accidental or a genuine mistake. It isn’t even bias.
  • It is a deliberate lie or a half-truth circulated with the intention to mislead people, or worse, cause harm to a section of people or a community.
  • The most common fake stories revolve around politics and the attempt is to polarise society, particularly during political events.
  • Examples:
  • There is a variety of fake news that’s innocuous, made-up nonsense, which is circulated as jokes.
  • There is also a form of fake news that can take lives — like it has been doing in India with such shocking regularity over rumours about child-lifters and cattle thieves.

 

Note- Unintentional errors must be pointed out, admitted to and corrected quickly and publicly, is not fake news.

 

 

 

Side-effects of Fake News

  • They can gradually brainwash you into believing lies, or unfairly skew fair debate on crucial issues.
  • They can lull you into believing that your illness will be cured if you follow that apple juice therapy you read about in a WhatsApp forward.
  • More importantly, fake news leads to harassment and intimidation of innocent people and damages reputations.

 

 

Section : Miscellaneous

About: Tardigrades

About: Tardigrades
  • Also known as water bears or moss piglets, tardigrades are microscopic organisms considered one of the toughest animals on the planet that can easily survive in any environment.
  • They can live in water or on land, and are capable of surviving temperatures as high as 150° Celsius and as low as minus 272° Celsius albeit for a few minutes.
  • They can also withstand extreme radiation, and survive decades without food.
  • Tardigrades were sent to the moon on Israel’s Beresheet probe because they are microscopic, multicellular, and one of the most durable forms of life on planet Earth.
  • These diminutive creatures, which are under a millimetre (0.04 inches) in size, had been dehydrated to place them in suspended animation, then “encased in an epoxy of Artificial Amber, and should be revivable in the future”.
  • The eight-legged animals can come back from being dried out to a lifeless husk for decades, withstand near-zero pressure in outer space and the crushing depths of the Mariana Trench.
News Summary:
Beresheet probe with tardigrades:
  • Beresheet was a demonstrator of a small robotic lunar lander and lunar probe by an Israeli private non-profit organisation SpaceIL, supported by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
  • Beresheet successfully reached the Moon, but crash-landed on the moon’s surface in April, 2019.
  • In addition to providing high-resolution imagery from the surface, Beresheet would have measured the magnetic field at its landing site.
  • As a part of the lunar mission, the spacecraft carried along with it SpaceIL’s first lunar library – a DVD-sized archive consisting of about 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, plant cells, animal cells, and thousands of tardigrades.
Sruvival of tardigrades:
  • Now, as per the analysis of the launch company, the tardigrades might have survived the Beresheet lunar crash.
  • And if they are let out on space, it essentially means that there is now life on the moon.
  • But to become active, to grow, eat, and reproduce they would need water, air and food, so it would not be possible for them to multiply and form a colony
  • However, their exact survival time would depend on the condition of the impact site and the temperatures to which they are exposed. “
No rescue mission:
  • Even if the creatures lived on for several years, there is no crewed mission to the Moon planned until NASA’s Artemis program in 2024 at the south pole.
  • Even that mission will be far from Beresheet’s crash site, so the tardigrades even if they survive probably won’t make it home.
Section : Science & Tech