Simply Put: Why a currency war is a worry

Headline : Simply Put: Why a currency war is a worry

Details :

Context

  • Recently, the RBI Governor warned that trade wars among various countries may lead to a currency war.

What is Currency War?

  • Currency war is a situation when economies, in order to maintain and preserve their export competitiveness, manage the exchange rates vis-à-vis hard currencies.
  • A hard currency is a monetary system that is widely accepted around the world as a form of payment for goods and services. It usually comes from a country that has a strong economic and political situation. The most common hard currencies include the US dollar (USD), UK pound sterling (GBP), the euro (EUR).
  • Generally, the economies are seen devaluing their currencies in order to preserve their export competitiveness.

Why do economies devalue their currencies?

Some Basics

  • If the demand for US dollar increases in India, we end up paying ‘more’ rupee to get the same amount of dollars. In such situations, the value of rupee is said have depreciated.
  • On the other hand, if ‘less’ rupee is offered to buy same amount of USD as a result of reduced demand for dollars, the value of rupee is said have appreciated.
  • If the rupee value is low, the exports from India become cheaper, thereby becoming competitive in the global market.
  • On the other hand, an appreciated rupee makes exports from India costlier.
  • Thus, some economies tend to manipulate their currencies by devaluing their currency in order to make exports from their economies cheaper.
  • This is done by buying out excess dollars in their economy in order create a slump in the supply of dollars thereby increasing the demand for dollars.
  • On the other hand, some economies having ‘pegged exchange rates’ – they directly peg a lower value to their currency vis-à-vis a hard currency.

What is the problem?

  • In a globalised world, free trade is promoted in order to maximize welfare for all.
  • However, as a result of managed exchange rates, some economies are able manipulate the global markets providing cheaper products thus stifling competition.
  • Further, cheaper products from other economies can arrest the growth in one’s own economy.
  • In such a situation, the negatively impacted economies sometimes adopt protectionist policies.
  • However, this leads to closing of economies which is against the principle of free trade in a globalised world.

Background

  • The 2008 global financial crisis led to sharp slide in growth curves of major economies of the world.
  • At the G20 Summit held in 2008, the countries decided to coordinate efforts for reviving of the global economy.
  • In order to revive growth, developed economies adopted expansionary fiscal and monetary policies.
  • Further, some countries also turned protectionist in order to revive growth in their own economies. They introduced non-tariff barriers, and also occasionally imposed higher duties on imports.
  • Thus, imports from some economies became expensive.
  • Many countries resorted to devaluing their currencies so that their exports remained cheaper and competitive in the world market.
  • China a major global exporter deliberately kept its currency value low.
  • Even Japan and South Korea stepped into the currency markets to keep their currencies low.
  • Such competitive lowering of currency values using monetary and exchange rate instruments was described as “international currency wars”.

Currency wars in play

  • The debates on protectionism have resurfaced.
  • In March 2018, the US President threatened to slap tariffs on Chinese goods.
  • Higher tariffs make Chinese products more expensive.
  • However, the Chinese yuan has depreciated almost 8% vis-à-vis the US dollar in the recent times, offsetting the impact.
  • Similarly, US imposed tariffs on European steel and aluminum in the beginning of June.
  • Higher customs duties on EU steel and aluminum make these expensive in the US.
  • This may entail the risk of countries using exchange rate and monetary policy instruments competitively to weaken or devalue their currencies.
  • Thus, trade skirmishes raise fears of a global currency war.

Impact on India

  • Indian economy is integrated with global markets.
  • Rising crude oil prices impacts major macro-economic indicators in India like fiscal deficit and current account deficit.
  • Further, if the macro-economic indicators worsen, it will adversely impact currency, inflation and interest rates.
  • This might lead to capital outflow from India.
  • This leads to increasing demand for USD thus depreciating the value of rupee.
  • In 2018, the Indian rupee has already depreciated or weakened 6.77% against the dollar.
  • This has the potential of creating a currency crisis or a free fall situation.
  • This might severely hurt India’s growth prospects too.
Section : Economics

Pushkaram

Pushkaram:
  • Pushkaram is an Indian festival dedicated to worshiping of rivers.
  • Celebrations/ceremonies include ancestor worship, devotional music and cultural programmes, spiritual discourses.
  • It is also known as Pushkaralu (in Telugu), Pushkara or Pushkar.
  • Hindus believe that taking a dip in the river during Pushkaram would wipe off all the sins.
Happens each year at one of 12 rivers:
  • Pushkaram is celebrated at shrines along the banks of 12 major sacred rivers (mentioned in ancient texts) in India.
  • Pushkaralu celebration happens annually at one of the 12 rivers, and thus happens at each river once in only 12 years.
  • Each river is associated with a zodiac sign, and the river for each year’s festival is based on which sign Jupiter (Guru) is in at the time.
  • This year, it is happening at Kaveri/Cauvery river.
Cauvery Pushkaram:
  • This year Jupiter has entered Libra zodiac sign (Tula raasi) and the river associated with it is Cauvery.
  • Cauvery pushkaram is most commonly stated as the festival of the river Kaveri.
  • The Cauvery Pushkaram also happens every 12 years.
River Cauvery:
  • It rises on Brahmagiri Hill of the Western Ghats.
  • It flows through the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
  • It breaks into a large number of distributaries forming a wide delta called the “garden of southern India.”
  • The Kaveri’s main tributaries are the Kabani, Amaravati, Noyil, and Bhavani rivers.
Section : History & Culture

:

  • Pushkaram is an Indian festival dedicated to worshiping of rivers.
  • Celebrations/ceremonies include ancestor worship, devotional music and cultural programmes, spiritual discourses.
  • It is also known as Pushkaralu (in Telugu), Pushkara or Pushkar.
  • Hindus believe that taking a dip in the river during Pushkaram would wipe off all the sins.
Happens each year at one of 12 rivers:
  • Pushkaram is celebrated at shrines along the banks of 12 major sacred rivers (mentioned in ancient texts) in India.
  • Pushkaralu celebration happens annually at one of the 12 rivers, and thus happens at each river once in only 12 years.
  • Each river is associated with a zodiac sign, and the river for each year’s festival is based on which sign Jupiter (Guru) is in at the time.
  • This year, it is happening at Kaveri/Cauvery river.
Cauvery Pushkaram:
  • This year Jupiter has entered Libra zodiac sign (Tula raasi) and the river associated with it is Cauvery.
  • Cauvery pushkaram is most commonly stated as the festival of the river Kaveri.
  • The Cauvery Pushkaram also happens every 12 years.
River Cauvery:
  • It rises on Brahmagiri Hill of the Western Ghats.
  • It flows through the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
  • It breaks into a large number of distributaries forming a wide delta called the “garden of southern India.”
  • The Kaveri’s main tributaries are the Kabani, Amaravati, Noyil, and Bhavani rivers.
Section : History & Culture

How Covid-19 lockdowns have impacted the global energy sector

  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a report, Global Energy Review 2020, detailing the impact of Covid-19 on global energy demands and CO2

Report Summary:

Covid-19 impact on global energy demands:

  • Decline in overall Energy demand:
    • The IEA is forecasting a 6% decline in energy demand for the year.
      • In absolute terms this is the largest on record.
      • Percentage wise, it’s the steepest decline in 70 years.
      • The demand hit is expected to be seven times greater than the decline in the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2008.

    • Under a faster return-to-business scenario, the IEA said demand loss could be limited to 3.8%, while a possible second wave of the virus could cause a greater than 6% decline.
    • Countries in full lockdown: There is average decline of 25 per cent in energy demand per week
    • Countries with a partial lockdown: The fall in energy demand is about 18 per cent per week.

  • Oil:
    • Oil has also been heavily impacted.
    • Roughly 60% of global demand for crude stems from driving and flying, so with people at home and planes grounded demand has fallen off a cliff.
    • The global demand for oil could drop by nine per cent on average this year, which will return oil consumption to 2012 levels.

  • Coal:
    • Global coal demand was hit the hardest, falling by almost 8% compared with the first quarter of 2019.
    • Reasons:
      • China – a coal-based economy – was the country the hardest hit by Covid‑19 in the first quarter;
      • Cheap gas and continued growth in renewables elsewhere challenged coal;
      • Mild weather also capped coal use.

    • Coal demand could decline by eight per cent this year.
    • The report expects increase in coal demand in some markets if recoveries are faster, such as in Southeast Asia, driven by Indonesia and Vietnam

  • Electricity:
    • Electricity demand has also contracted with factories shuttered and businesses closed as people work from home.
    • For the full year, the IEA expects electricity demand to fall 5%, which would be the largest decline since the Great Depression.

  • Natural Gas:
    • Because of reduced demand in power and industry applications, the gas demand could also fall much further than in the first quarter of 2020.
    • This decline is less than the anticipated fall in oil demand, reflecting the fact that natural gas is less exposed to the collapse in demand for transportation fuels.
    • But it nonetheless represents a huge shock to a gas industry that is used to robust growth in consumption

  • Nuclear Power:
    • Nuclear power demand would also fall in response to lower electricity demand.

  • Renewable energy:
    • The only energy source expected to grow this year is renewables.
    • The demand for renewables is expected to increase because of low operating costs and preferential access for many power systems.
    • The total global use of renewable energy is expected to rise by 1 per cent by 2020.
    • Renewable sources of energy have been the “most resilient” to Covid-19 lockdown measures

Impact of slump in demand on energy markets:

  • Oil prices have slumped
  • Brent crude trading near a 21-year low
  • US oil futures being pushed into negative territory – a historic feat.
  • The resultant glut in oil has overwhelmed the world’s limited storage facilities, with ships laden with surplus oil production idling at high seas.
  • Also, the historic collapse in energy prices has also hit the global commodity markets, threatening to tip the sluggish global economy into a deep recession.

Note: The projections are based on the assumption that shelter-in-place and social distancing measures will slowly ease in the coming months, with a gradual economic recovery following.

Covid-19 impact on CO2 emissions:

  • The worldwide halt in business has resulted in the largest drop in global CO2 emissions on record.
  • The decline in CO2 emissions witnessed in 2020 is largest since the end of World War II.
    • This year saw an 8 per cent decline in coal emissions, 4.5 per cent from oil and 2.3 per cent from natural gas.
    • Overall, the emissions decline in 2020 could be 8 per cent lower than in 2019.
    • It would be the lowest level of emissions since 2010 and the largest level of emission reduction(six times larger than what was witnessed during the 2009 financial crisis) and twice as large as the combined total of all reductions witnessed since World War II.

  • The decline in CO2 emissions was more than the fall in global energy demand
  • Reason for reduced demand: The most carbon-intensive fuels saw the biggest fall in demand.
  • In the first quarter of this year, carbon emissions were five per cent lower than during the same time in 2019.
  • Emissions declined the most in regions which were impacted the highest by the diseas
    • For instance, there was an 8 per cent decline in emissions in China and Europe, and a 9 per cent decline in the US.

  • It is expected that emissions will soar once economies restart, unless governments take a conscious decision to change the sources of energy.

Covid-19 impact on India’s energy demands

  • India’s 40-day long lockdown has resulted in a 30% fall in the country’s energy demand i.e. with each additional week of lockdown, annual energy demand is reduced by 0.6%.
  • However, the impact on first quarter of 2020, energy demand in India was modest, with demand increasing by 0.3 relative to first quarter of 2019.
  • As the lockdown continues, the impact on energy demand are set to be notably larger second quarter of 2020.

Note: China and India are the largest and third-largest electricity users in the world respectively, and coal use is dominant in both these countries shaping the global demand for this fuel.

About: Locusts

About: Locusts

  • Locusts are a group of short-horned grasshoppers, that are about the length of 6-8 centimeters.
  • According to the FAO, eggs can hatch in about two weeks, with locusts maturing to adulthood in two to four months on average.
  • They multiply in numbers as they migrate long distances in destructive swarms (up to 150 km in one day), which can contain as many as 80 million locusts per square kilometer. Swarms can vary from less than 1 square kilometer in size to several hundred square kilometers.
  • Four species of locusts are found in India:
    • Desert locust (Schistocercagregaria)
    • Migratory locust (Locustamigratoria)
    • Bombay Locust (Nomadacrissuccincta)
    • Tree locust (Anacridium sp.)

Desert Locusts:

  • The desert locust does not cause any harm while it moves about independently.
  • These winged insects differ from normal hoppers, and become dangerous only when their populations build up rapidly and the close physical contact in crowded conditions triggers behavioural changes.
  • They, then, enter the “gregarious phase”, by grouping into bands and forming swarms that can travel great distances (up to 150 km daily), while eating up every bit of vegetation on the way.
  • One locust can consume its own weight in food each day.
  • The swarms devour leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, bark and also destroy plants by their sheer weight as they descend on them in massive numbers.
  • As per some estimate, a small swarm of the desert locusts eats on average as much food in one day as about 10 elephants, 25 camels or 2500 people.
  • Threaten food security:
    • The Desert Locust is regarded as the most destructive pest in India as well as internationally.
    • If not controlled at the right time, these insect swarms can threaten the food security of countries.

Hurt India recently:

  • During late 2019 and early 2020, locusts have caused great damage to the growing rabi crops along western Rajasthan and parts of northern Gujarat.

Hurting Africa this year:

  • Desert Locusts, the destructive migratory pests, are currently devouring acres of maize, sorghum and wheat crops in East Africa.
  • Kenya is already reporting its worst locust outbreak in 70 years, while Ethiopia and Somalia haven’t seen one this bad in quarter of a century.

Background:

  • It is common to see locusts in India, but normally only during July-October and mostly as solitary insects or in small isolated groups.
  • But this year, the desert locusts appeared along the India-Pakistan border before mid-April.
  • The crop-eating pests had first entered Rajasthan from Pakistan in the second week of April.

News Summary:

  • After Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the swarm of desert locusts has reached the state of Uttar Pradesh.
  • In Uttar Pradesh, locusts are feared to affect 17 districts.
  • It is highly concerning as a big swarm of locusts can eat acres of crop within an hour.

Measures to counter them:

  • To deal with the situation, Uttar Pradesh’s agriculture department has launched a massive drive to educate farmers on how to keep the locust menace at a bay.
  • In Agra, the district administration has deployed 204 tractors mounted with chemical sprays.
  • Drone usage permitted:
    • The aviation ministry has permitted state government entities to use drones for anti-locust operations.
    • Battery-operated rotary-wing drones will be used for aerial surveillance, photography, public announcements and/or aerial spraying of anti-locust pesticides.

Whaling

Whaling:
  • Whaling is the hunting of whales for their usable products such as meat and blubber, which can be turned into a type of oil which became increasingly important in the Industrial Revolution.
  • Whaling is the hunting of whales for their usable products such as meat and blubber, which can be turned into a type of oil which became increasingly important in the Industrial Revolution.
  • The depletion of some whale species to near extinction led to the banning of whaling in many countries.
  • In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling because of the extreme depletion of most of the whale stocks.
  • Japan, Norway and Iceland are the major whaling countries.
Whale meat:
  • Whale meat was an affordable source of protein during the lean times after World War II, with consumption peaking at 223,000 tons in 1962.
  • But whale was quickly replaced by other meats.
  • Whale meat consumption was down to 6,000 tons in 1986, by the time commercial whaling moratorium was imposed by the IWC.
News Summary:
  • Resumption of whaling has been a long-cherished goal of traditionalists in Japan. Like other whaling nations, Japan argues hunting and eating whales are part of its culture.
  • Japan tried to convince the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to allow whaling under sustainable quotas, but failed.
  • Japan now withdrew from the IWC, and its whaling boats set out on their first commercial hunts since 1988.
Limited whaling for meat:
  • The commercial whaling will be restricted to the Japan’s exclusive economic waters.
  • The Fisheries Agency of Japan said the catch quota through the end of this year is set at 227 minkeBryde‘s and sei whales.
  • Note: According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, minke and Bryde’s whale are not endangered. Sei whale are classified as endangered, but their numbers are increasing.
Research whaling:
  • In 1988, Japan stopped commercial whaling, restricting itself only to research whaling, and even now Japan will continue it.
  • Since 1987, Japan has killed thousands of whales each year under an exemption to the ban allowing scientific research – which Japan said aimed to gather population data.
  • At its peak, Japan caught as many as 1,200 whales but has drastically cut back on its catch in recent years after international protests escalated and whale meat consumption slumped at home.
  • Japan hunted about 333 whales near the Antarctic in recent years under its scientific programme.
  • Critics say this was just a cover so Japan could hunt whales for food, as the meat from the whales killed for research usually did end up for sale.
Way ahead:
  • The fate of commercial whaling depends on whether whale meat is widely accepted by consumers since it won’t be getting as much subsidies as it used to get.
International Whaling Commission (IWC):
  • The International Whaling Commission is an Inter-governmental Organisation whose purpose is the conservation of whales, the management of whaling, and the orderly development of the whaling industry.
  • The IWC was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed in Washington DC in 1946.
    • The Convention includes a legally binding Schedule which, amongst other things, sets out catch limits for commercial and aboriginal subsistence whaling.
  • The IWC is responsible for setting catch limits for commercial whaling.
  • The IWC has a current membership of 89 Governments from countries all over the world.
Commercial whaling moratorium:
  • In 1982, the IWC decided that there should be a pause in commercial whaling on all whale species and populations (known as ‘whale stocks’) from the 1985/1986 season onwards.
  • This pause is often referred to as the commercial whaling moratorium, and it remains in place today.
  • The moratorium is binding on all other members of the IWC.
Exceptions to moratorium:
  • The only exception to commercial whaling are the exception of catches set by countries under objection or reservation to the current moratorium.
  • Norway and Iceland take whales commercially at present, either under objection to the moratorium decision, or under reservation to it.
  • These countries establish their own catch limits but must provide information on their catches and associated scientific data to the Commission.
    • Norway takes North Atlantic common minke whales within its Exclusive Economic Zone.
    • Iceland takes North Atlantic common minke whales and also North Atlantic fin whales, again within its Exclusive Economic Zone.
  • The Russian Federation has also registered an objection to the moratorium decision but does not exercise it.
Section : Environment & Ecology

About New English School (NES) and About Deccan Education Society (DES)

About New English School (NES):

Establishment:

  • Vishnu Krushna Chiplunkar, who is remembered as the poet of Maharashtra’s nationalist revival for his ornate literary style, quit government service in 1879 and issued a call for the creation of a school run by Indians.
  • Bal Gangadhar ‘Lokmanya’ Tilak, with Mahadev Ballal Namjoshi, volunteered as charter members of the school faculty; they were joined by Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, another great educationist and Tilak’s close friend.
  • The school was Founded in 1880 by educationists and revolutionaries Chiplunkar, Tilak and Agarkar.

 

Importance:

  • The establishment of the school was a significant event in the freedom movement.
  • It was not just a beginning of the effort to break the British hold on education, but one that used the English language to imbue nationalist thought.
  • It was started with the objective of ‘cheapening and facilitating education’.
  • There was the zeal of the promoters in making the school successful, and they took far lower salaries than they could have got elsewhere. In a few short years, NES became the biggest school in the Bombay Presidency.

 

Co-education:

  • The school was co-educational until 1936, when the Deccan Education Society (DES) which had taken over the management by then, moved the girls to its Ahilyadevi High School for Girls.
  • Recently, after 82 years, New English School (NES) has opened its doors to girls once more:

 

About Deccan Education Society (DES)

Establishment:

  • The founders (Chiplunkar, Tilak, and Agarkar, among others) founded the DES in 1884, with the goal of making education accessible to students by establishing schools and colleges run by Indians across what was then the Bombay Presidency.
  • In 1885, the Society was registered under Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860.

 

Expansion:

  • To fulfill the set objectives, DES established various educational institutions in Western Maharashtra.
  • DES expanded and since that time several institutions have been created and have been placed under the management of the Society.
  • Among the institutions it founded were Fergusson College, Pune (1885), Willingdon College, Sangli (1919) Brihan Maharashtra College of commerce (1943), Chintamanarao College of Commerce (1960).
Section : History & Culture

The five Ps of disaster management Editorial 26th May’20 HindustanTimes

The five Ps of disaster management Editorial 26th May’20 HindustanTimes

Destruction caused by Amphan cyclone:

  • Amphan was the first super-cyclone in the Bay of Bengal after 1999 (ie, wind speeds beyond 220 kph).
  • West Bengal chief minister (CM) even called Amphan “a bigger disaster than Covid-19”.
  • In less than two days, Bengal lost an estimated Rs 1 lakh crore.
  • The cyclone left 80 dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, uprooted trees, ravaged houses, marooned dwellings, knocked out electricity and phone lines, flooded cities and villages, plundered embankments, fencings and boundaries.
  • It wreaked ecological destruction and devastation, especially in the eco-sensitive Sundarbans.

Relief package announced is too small:

  • The Prime Minister (PM) made an aerial tour of the destruction and announced a relief package of Rs 1,000 crore ($132 million) for WB and Rs 500 crore ($66 million) for Odisha.
  • However, these figures underestimate both the size of the disaster and, consequently, the size of the package needed to deal with it.
    • In comparision, the 2001 Gujarat earthquake led to the central government releasing Rs 500 crore (at 2001 value, 20 years ago) plus ad hoc release of share in central taxes.
  • On top of it, the Centre is yet to release to Bengal the pending GST refunds of approx Rs 2,400 crore for last quarter of FY 2019-20.
  • Centre is also yet to release Rs 53,000 crore on account of social security refunds from central government schemes (such as the MGNREGS, Food Security Act and so on) owed to the state.

Emergency steps needed to ensure efficient rehabilitation and effective growth of the affected areas

  • We need five “Ps” to cope up with recurring disasters:
    • Prominence, as in the role of governments
    • Pool of funds
    • Planning, especially long-term, of rehabilitation and development
    • Policy qua institutional support
    • Preparedness qua countermeasures

Non-discriminatory approach to all states:

  • There is a need for a genuinely non-discriminatory and equal approach towards all states.
  • The Gujarat episode led many international agencies to come up with financial assistance including the European Union, United States (US) Agency for International Development (USAID), Canadian International Development Agency and World Bank ($300 m) and Asian Development Bank ($500 m).
  • Irrespective of a state’s eligibility or capacity, the Centre must specially reach out to international institutions.

Greater allocation to fight natural disasters:

  • There is a need to exponentially increase government allocation to fight natural disasters. 
  • As an aspiring global leader, India cannot pale when it comes to justifiable proportionate global comparisons.
  • For example, after the 2011 tsunami-earthquake, Japan allocated $167 billion for rehabilitation and recovery. It made a five-year plan to do so comprehensively.
  • Similarly, the US Congress allocated $121.7 billion in hurricane relief in 2005 and 2008. 

Targeted and focused relief measures needed:

  • Random allocation is far less useful than targeted and focused relief measures.
  • Japan’s targeted five-year plan focussed on each stakeholder — from fisheries to housing and power.
  • Grand mega-announcements immediately after natural disasters, but without specific sub-allocations, lose their limited vigour by the time they reach the ground target.

Robust institutional framework:

  • Planned and targeted measures need to be coupled with a robust institutional framework.
  • After 2011, the Japanese government enacted the “Act on the Development of Tsunami-resilient Communities”, to efficiently combine structural and non-structural measures to minimise damage.
  • All municipalities had to draft their reconstruction plans based on modelling and the plans were based entirely on urban planning, land management, structural mitigation and relocation.
  • Such innovations have barely been conceptualised in India, much less implemented.
  • Short-term ad hoc measures are more prominent in India that medium-term thinking or long-term planning.

Policy focus on pre-disaster countermeasures:

  • Despite our cyclical annual natural disasters, we have very little policy focus on pre-disaster countermeasures.
  • Prevention is always better than cure, and such countermeasures will be highly effective as well as cost-effective.
  • Many countries in their disaster-prone coastal regions have constructed high seawalls to protect vulnerable communities.
  • Odisha’s cyclone shelters are a praiseworthy-but-partial achievement, and must be followed elsewhere.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Disaster ManagementClick to View More

In brief: Most Trafficked Species

In brief: Most Trafficked Species

  • More than 6,000 turtles and tortoises are smuggled every year through Malaysia, India, or Bangladesh.
  • Indian Star tortoise
    • Most trafficked tortoise
    • High demand as exotic pet
    • Found in abundance in scrub jungles across the southern peninsula
    • Smuggled from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka to Southeast Asia via Chennai
    • Covered under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act
  • Red-eared slider
    • Semi-aquatic turtle smuggled into India from China and Thailand.
    • A popular pet that is kept for ‘luck and prosperity’
    • Not covered under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 or the CITES convention
  • The Indian Pangolin
    • One of the most trafficked animals in the world, with about 10,000 pangolins traded every year
    • Endangered species under IUCN Red list
    • Hunted for their meat and scales used in traditional oriental medicine
    • According to a report by TRAFFIC, about 5,772 pangolins were captured in India from 2009 to 2017 for illegal trade
    • Kolkata and Chennai serve as the main export hubs
  • The Patagonian seahorse
    • Trafficked for its use in medicine
    • Vulnerable under IUCN Red list
  • African horned pit viper
    • Near threatened under IUCN Red list
  • Exotic Birds
    • Macaws, cockatiels, Amazon parrots, conures and cockatoos are some of the exotic birds
    • They are in demand as pets.

 

 

Why Chennai has emerged as the hub of illegal wildlife trade?

  • Transit hub
    • Connectivity to Southeast Asian countries and cheap airfare makes it an attractive transit point for wildlife traffickers.
  • Network in the city
    • Students who are lured for quick money serve as couriers.
  • High Demand
    • High demand for these species within the country for a range of factors, including use in medicine, prized collections, possession as exotic pets, growing demand for animal trophies in India etc.
  • Loopholes in the law
    • Many species such as the pit viper are not covered under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, or CITES.
  • Weak enforcement
    • Biggest challenge is the implementation of laws due to the shortage of staff.

 

 

In Brief: Steps to curb wildlife trade

  • Section 2(37) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, defines ‘wildlife’ to include any animal, aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat.
  • Wildlife crime can be defined as taking possession, trade or movement, processing, consumption of wild animals and plants or their derivatives in contravention of any international, regional, or national legislation.
  • The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has included wildlife crimes in the list of Transnational Organized Crimes (TOC).
  • Two major wildlife crimes include
  • Hunting & poaching
  • Illegal trade

 

CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora)

  • India is a signatory to CITES which regulates international commercial wildlife trade.
  • CITES is a voluntary international agreement adopted in 1973.
  • It aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
  • It seeks to ban trade in endangered species and to regulate trade of other commercially exploited species.
  • Appendix 1 lists species of animals that are critically endangered or threatened with extinction whose trade is prohibited under CITES.

 

 Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972

  • In India, The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, is the umbrella legislation for wildlife crime enforcement.
  • Important provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 dealing with wildlife crimes include
  • Chapter VI A – Illegal Trade
  • Section 51 – Punishments for certain offences
  • Section 39 – Wildlife is government property
  • Trade in over 1800 species of wild animals, plants and their derivative is prohibited under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

 

TRAFFIC

  • TRAFFIC is an international NGO working on trade in wildlife.
  • TRAFFIC is wildlife trade monitoring network and a joint programme of WWF and IUCN.
  • It works closely with the governments to help study, monitor and influence action to curb illegal wildlife trade.
  • In 2014 it launched the Wildlife Crime Initiative along with WWF, to tackle the global poaching crisis.
Section : Environment & Ecology

What is a World Heritage Site?

Importance

What is a World Heritage Site?

  • A World Heritage Site is a place on earth having a special cultural or physical significance and outstanding universal value to the humanity.
  • It may be a building, a city, a complex, a desert, a forest, an island, a lake, a monument, or a mountain.
  • They have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

 

Listing of World Heritage Sites

  • It is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which is based in Paris, France.
  • The International World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee establishes the sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • The World Heritage Committee is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention (The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage or the World Heritage Convention), defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties.
  • It is composed of 21 state parties which are elected by the General Assembly of States Parties for a four-year term.

 

Selection of World Heritage Sites

  • The first step towards the listing is the nomination of a site by the respective government of a country.
  • The site should have an Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) for World Heritage nomination.
  • To determine the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) for World Heritage nomination, there are ten enlisted criteria.
  • The proposed nomination must satisfy at least one of these ten criteria.
  • The Nomination File is then evaluated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the World Conservation Union.
  • These bodies then make their recommendations to the World Heritage Committee.
  • The Committee meets once per year to determine whether or not to inscribe each nominated property on the World Heritage List and sometimes defers the decision to request more information from the country which nominated the site.

 

Ten criteria for determining Outstanding Universal Value (OUV)

  1. To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius
  2. To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a   cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design.
  3. To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
  4. To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological   ensemble or landscape which illustrates significant stage(s) in human history
  5. To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change
  6. To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria.
  7. To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
  8. To be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.
  9. To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.
  10. To contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

 

Importance of World heritage sites for countries

  • When a site is inscribed on the World Heritage List, the resulting prestige often helps raise awareness among citizens and governments for heritage preservation.
  • Greater awareness leads to a general rise in the level of the protection and conservation given to heritage properties.
  • Getting on the World Heritage List could be a major boon for the nominees, as being deemed of “outstanding universal value” can boost tourist numbers and bring in funding.

 

Section : History & Culture

In focus: Impatiens in India

In focus: Impatiens in India

Introduction

  • Impatiens is a group of about 1000 angiosperms (flowering plants) species.
  • They are commonly known by different names including balsams, touch me not, jewel weed etc.

Distribution

  • Impatiens is distributed in the tropical, sub-tropical and northern temperate regions of the world.
  • It is found mainly in India, China and Africa and some parts of Europe and North America.

Balsams in India

  • India is home to about 230 species of balsams with 2 balsam hotspots of the world namely
  • Eastern Himalayas
  • Western Ghats.
  • According to latest study, Easter Himalayas is home to about 83 species of Balsam mainly in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Sikkim.
  • In Western Ghats it is mainly concentrated in Shola Forests of Silent Valley National Park, Nilgiris in Kerala.

Characteristics

  • Balsam species are highly endemic and restricted to limited areas.
  • They are called Impatiens because when pressed the curled up flowers throw up the seeds violently.
  • Balsams being angiosperms are known for bright-coloured flowers and thus are important horticulture species.
  • Being highly endemic, they are climate-sensitive species.

Habitat

  • Balsams grow in rich moist soil.
  • Thus they are confined to wet rocks of evergreen forests, waterfalls, roadside drains, banks of rivers etc.
  • They grow best at altitudes of about 550m.
  • Due to its climate-sensitivity, balsams cannot withstand high temperatures and long exposure to sunlight.

 

Section : Environment & Ecology