About National Moth Week

About National Moth Week

  • National Moth Week is a global citizen science project focusing on moths.
  • The first National Moth Week took place in July 2012.
  • National Moth Week celebrates the beauty, life cycles, and habitats of moths.
  • “Moth-ers” of all ages and abilities are encouraged to learn about, observe, and document moths in their backyards, parks, and neighborhoods.
  • National Moth Week is being held, worldwide, during the last full week of July.
  • NMW offers everyone, everywhere a unique opportunity to become a Citizen Scientist and contribute scientific data about moths.
  • Through partnerships with major online biological data depositories, NMW participants can help map moth distribution and provide needed information on other life history aspects around the globe.

 

Background

  • Scientific contributions by non-professionals are well documented, particularly in fields of study where observation is important
  • Moth biodiversity is remarkably high as these insects are one of the most successful lineages of organisms on earth
  • Global climate change and habitat destruction create an urgency to map moth species’ distributions and describe their phenology
  • Until recently, resources for moth identification were limited to highly technical manuals and journals.
  • This provides an excellent opportunity for non-professional citizen scientists to make meaningful scientific contributions about moths.
  • National Moth Week provides a global venue for these efforts by creating a platform focused on awareness, appreciation and data collection of moths.

 

About Moths

  • Moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth.
  • Scientists estimate there are 150,000 to more than 500,000 moth species.
  • Moths belong to phylum of arthropods (Arthropoda).
  • Butterflies and moths have 120,000 species, out of which moth is estimated between 150,000 to more than 500,000 species.
  • India is home to more than 10,000 moth species, including the large and flamboyant Indian moon moth Actias selene.
  • As an important food sources for many animals, moths can be indicators of ecosystem health.

 

 

Importance of Moth

  • They are a major part of our biodiversity and play vital roles in the ecosystem, affecting many other types of wildlife.
  • Both adult moths and their caterpillars are food for a wide variety of wildlife, including other insects, spiders, frogs, toads, lizards, shrews, hedgehogs, bats and birds.
  • Night-flying adult moths form a major part of the diet of bats.
  • Many birds eat both adult moths and their caterpillars, but the caterpillars are especially important for feeding the young.
  • Moth caterpillars have a great impact on plants by eating their leaves.
  • Moths also benefit plants by pollinating flowers while feeding on their nectar, and so help in seed production.
  • This not only benefits wild plants but also many of our food crops, which depend on moths as well as other insects to ensure a good harvest.
  • Moths also play a vital role in telling us about the health of our environment, like the canary in the coalmine.
  • Since they are so widespread and found in so many different habitats, and are so sensitive to changes, moths are particularly useful as indicator species.
  • Monitoring their numbers and ranges can give us vital clues to changes in our own environment, such as the effects of new farming practices, pesticides, air pollution and climate change.

 

Reason behind diversity

  • If diversification is a measure of evolutionary success, the arthropods are unmatched.
  • One characteristic of insects has been central to their success: the way they cope with the change in body size as they grow.
  • Usually baby animals are smaller than adults.
  • As a result a tiny baby cannot feed themselves.
  • Mammals solve that problem by supplying milk to infants and providing parental care until the young animal has grown large enough to feed and take care of itself.
  • Many insects have a different way of solving the problem by a process called metamorphosis.

 

Metamorphosis

The life history of insects is divided into three completely different stages

  1. An egg hatches into a larva, which looks completely different from an adult. A caterpillar is the larval stage of a butterfly or moth. A larva’s job is to eat and grow large enough to enter the next life stage, the pupa.
  1. pupa is covered by a case, and inside that covering the body structures of the larva are broken down to molecules and then reassembled into the adult form. This rebuilding process is called metamorphosis.
  1. When the adult form hatches from the pupa, it is at its full size. Insects do not grow after they emerge from their pupae. For this reason, some adults do not even eat. Rather than eating and growing, the job of an adult insect is reproduction.

 

 

Section : Environment & Ecology

About Bhitarkanika mangrove conservation area

About Bhitarkanika mangrove conservation area

  • Bhitarkanika is a unique habitat of Mangrove Forests criss-crossed with numerous creeks and mud flats located in Kendrapara district of Orissa.
  • It is one of the largest Mangrove Eco systems in India,Bhitarkanika is home to diverse flora and fauna.
  • The Bhitarkanika mangrove conservation area comprises of Bhitarkanika National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary and Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary approximating around 3000 km2 area of which around 4.8% (145 km2 ) area has mangrove cover.
  • Bhitarkanikais located in the estuary of Brahmani, Baitarani, Dhamra& Mahanadi river systems.
  • Bhitarkanika, one of the State’s finest biodiversity hotspots, receives close to one lakh visitors every year. The tourist inflow has seen an increase lately.
  • The park is famous for its green mangroves, migratory birds, turtles, estuarine crocodiles and countless creeks.
  • It is said to house 70% of the country’s estuarine or saltwater crocodiles, conservation of which was started way back in 1975.
  • In 1999 when coastal Odisha was battered by Super Cyclone, the rich mangrove forests had then acted as a bio-shield.
  • There was very little impact of the cyclone in the mangrove-forested regions.

 

Flora and Fauna

  • This deltaic, estuarine-mangrove wetland system, harbours the highest diversity of Indian mangrove flora, the largest known rookery of the olive ridley sea-turtles in the world, the last of the three remaining population of salt-water crocodiles in India, the largest known population of king cobra, one of the largest heronry along the east coast of India and one of the highest concentration of migratory waterfowls – both ducks and waders.

 

About Mangroves in India

  • A mangrove is a shrub or small tree that grows in coastal salineor brackish water.
  • The term is also used for tropical coastal vegetation consisting of such species.
  • Mangroves occur worldwide in the tropicsand subtropics, mainly between latitudes 25° N and 25° S.
  • Mangroves are salt-tolerant trees, also called halophytes, and are adapted to life in harsh coastal conditions.
  • They contain a complex salt filtration system and complex rootsystem to cope with salt water immersion and wave action.
  • They are adapted to the low oxygen (anoxic) conditions of waterlogged mud.
  • As per the ISFR 2017 report, the total area of mangrove cover of India is 4921 km2, which contributes 3.3% to the global mangrove cover.
  • The deltas of the Ganges, Mahanadi, Krishna, Godavari, and Kaveririvers contain mangrove forests in India.

 

Challenges in protecting the wetland

  • The loss of mangrove of Bhitarkanika is mainly due to human encroachment and reclamation of land for agriculture and unsustainable resources use practices such as aquaculture activities.
  • Around 307 villages having 1.5 lakh people depend for fuel, fodder and other non-timber forest produce from the Bhitarkanika mangrove ecosystem.
  • Recent development activities such as construction of jetties, roads and the proposal of a major port at Dhamra threaten the existence of this ecosystem.
  • Declaration of the mangrove forests of Bhitarkanika as a Protected Area has affected the local people living around this forest due to lost access of their life support systems.
  • On the other hand the unsustainable resource use in the area is a major threat to continued existence of it.
  • The resulting scenario is one of conflicts between the forest department and the local people, fueled by the man animal conflict.

 

Way forward

  • Eco-development initiatives: Eco-development seeks to conserve biodiversity through economic development of local people and by developing alternatives to forest resources, thereby weaning them away from dependence on forests.
  • Reducing dependency of people: It is crucial to address the dependence of the local communities on the PA resources. It can be done through income generation programs/schemes.
  • Involving local people in tourism: It is imperative to involve local communities in tourism by training them as guides. This will provide employment for the local population and will give them a sense of responsibility.
  • Develop an effective public awareness program: Sustainability of conservation management approaches will depend on awareness of the values of conservation being perceived by local communities, governments and other stakeholders. Environmental awareness is a powerful tool for gaining support for conservation.
  • Integrated conservation planning:Integrated coastal zone management has been endorsed but there is a need of the legal and institutional frameworks necessary for this purpose.
  • Authorities can do the following:
    • Set standards and objectives for the integrated management of the Bhitarkanika Conservation Area as a single unit and determine the cost of achieving these objectives.
    • Establish a process of cooperation and collaboration among various stakeholders in theBhitarkanika Conservation Area.
    • Collect and collate existing information on physical, biotic, and socioeconomic characteristics of the Bhitarkanika Conservation Area.
    • Identify status and trends of landscape level processes and functions within the Bhitarkanika Conservation Area.
    • Identify current and future landscape disturbance regimes that are affecting or may affect the ecosystem.
    • Select the best among a number of development alternatives by identifying costly and environmentally unstainable effects of the possible alternative projects.
    • Establish a series of strategies, with timetables and benchmarks with detailed financial goals and budget projections, as well as criteria and methods for evaluating progress towards meeting the established goals.
    • Prioritize strategies and specific actions to carry out required policy and legal changes and monitoring of compliance at regular intervals.
  • For effective conservation and management of the Bhitarkanika Conservation Area, it is important to go beyond protection measures for certain areas, habitats or landscape features, and impose binding requirements for coordination of sectoral policies at the scale of an ecological unit.
Section : Environment & Ecology

Distinction between OBCs and SCs

Distinction between OBCs and SCs

  • The yardsticks for recognising specific castes as SC and OBC are distinct.
  • While extreme social, educational and economic backwardness are common qualifications for both groups, SCs draw such backwardness from untouchability.
  • For OBCs, apart from social, educational and economic backwardness, lack of adequate representation in government posts and services is a criterion.
  • The positive rights guaranteed under the Constitution to SCs are to correct the historical wrongs of untouchability, and critics argue that addition of other castes in the group dilutes that guarantee.

 

Constitutional Provisions

  • The name ‘Scheduled Caste’ derives from the fact that this is annexed as a Schedule to the Constitution.
  • The Constitution of India provides certain privileges/concessions to the members of Scheduled Castes which are notified under the provisions of Article 341 of the Constitution.
  • The first list of Scheduled Castes in relation to a State or Union Territory is to be issued by a notified Order of the President after having consultation with the State Government concerned.
  • Any subsequent inclusion in or exclusion from the list of Scheduled Castes can be effected through an Act of Parliament as envisaged under clause (2) of Article 341.
  • Process: The State governments first propose to modify the Schedule. Only proposals agreed by both the Registrar General of India and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes are introduced as a Bill in Parliament. This procedure was adopted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 1999 and was amended in 2002.
  • A similar provision exists for Scheduled Tribes under Article 342.

 

Impact

  • These 17 castes are socially most backward, and many survive on small occupations in rural areas. For example, Nishads earn from fishing and Kumhars from making earthen pots.
  • According to an estimate by the UP Backward Classes Welfare Department, these 17 castes make up around 15% of the state’s population. A caste in the SC list gets more government benefits than one in the OBC list.
  • Also, since the OBC population is large, there is close competition among OBC groups for reservation benefits. If these 17 castes are moved to the list of SCs, it will leave greater space in the OBC quota for the remaining OBC caste groups.
  • However, SC groups fear that such a move might impact their quota as the new entrants will consume their share if the reservation limit is not expanded.

About Dhole

About Dhole

  • The dhole is a canidnative to Central, South and Southeast Asia.
  • Other English names for the species include Asiatic wild dog, Indian wild dog, whistling dog, red dog, and mountain wolf.
  • The dhole is a highly social animal, living in large clans without rigid dominance hierarchies and containing multiple breeding females.
  • Such clans usually consist of 12 individuals, but groups of over 40 are known.
  • It is a diurnal pack hunter which preferentially targets medium and large sized ungulates.
  • In tropical forests, the dhole competes with tigersand leopards, targeting somewhat different prey species, but still with substantial dietary overlap.
  • It is listed as Endangeredby the IUCN as populations are decreasing and are estimated at fewer than 2,500 adults.
  • At present, only 949 to 2,215 mature dholes survive in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • Native: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand.
  • Possibly extinct: Viet Nam
  • Regionally extinct: Afghanistan; Kazakhstan; Korea, Republic of; Kyrgyzstan; Mongolia; Russian Federation; Singapore; Tajikistan; Uzbekistan.

 

 

 

Dholes in India:

  • Dholes occur in several regions of India, and undoubtedly contains the largest numbers of Dholes.
  • Though Dholes have disappeared from 60% of their historic range in India during the past 100 years, relatively high populations of Dholes are still found in the Western Ghats and central Indian forests, due to high prey numbers and extent of protected forests, whereas lower numbers of Dholes are found in the Eastern Ghats.
  • Dholes are also found in the northeastern states, although numbers are low and decreasing in this region due to a decreasing prey base and retaliatory killings from livestock predation.
  • Dholes are found in some areas of Terai region in northern India, although their exact distribution there is unknown.
  • In the Himalayan region, Dholes were recently reported from Sikkim, and in 2008 near TsoKar in Ladakh, thus they may occur in other areas of Ladakh as well.

 

Importance of Dholes

  • Because of the charisma of tigers, this species is completely ignored, even though it has a very important role.
  • The species is the key in cleansing weaker genes in nature by predating on them.
  • The species helps in reducing the biotic pressure on a patch of forest, as, wherever it goes, certain species of predators flee, giving a breather to many other species of flora and fauna.

 

Protection

  • It is included in CITES – Appendix II (2013).
  • Dholes are legally protected in the countries where they occur.
  • It is listed as Endangeredby the IUCN.
  • The dhole is protected under Schedule 2 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • The creation of reserves under Project Tiger provided some protection for dhole populations sympatric with tigers.
  • In 2014, the Indian government sanctioned its first dhole conservation breeding centre at the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park (IGZP) in Visakhapatnam.

 

Major threats

  • Depletion of prey base: This may be the single greatest factor that contributed to the range collapse of Dholes in the northern half of their former distribution, and might be the primary factor for the continued decline of Dholes in the southern half of their distribution.
  • Habitat loss and transformation: Habitat loss and degradation are serious threats to Dholes in southern Asia, particularly because this threat is closely associated with prey depletion and high levels of human disturbance.
  • Persecution: Persecution of Dholes stems mainly from retaliatory killings due to livestock predation, and this factor is driving some Dhole populations towards local extinction. Dholes appear to be especially susceptible to poisoning of carcasses using strychnine or other rodenticides, which often are readily available to rural people in southern Asia.
  • Disease and pathogens: Dholes are susceptible to rabies, canine distemper, canine parvovirus and sarcoptic mange among others, which are usually contracted from domestic village dogs that act as reservoirs.
  • Competition with other species: Aside from humans, the main competitors of Dholes for limited resources are Tigers and Leopards.

 

Way forward

  • Both Project Tiger and Project Elephant in India have the potential to conserve populations of Dholes and their prey in areas where they coexist with tigers and elephants.
  • However, Dholes require up to five times the land area as tigers to maintain viable long-term populations. Thus, relatively large (>750 km2) reserves in India might be the most effective for conserving Dhole populations.
  • Currently little is known about the species and ecologists are either dependent on the information based on decades-old research or from conclusions drawn from the African Wild Dogs, which are the closest relatives of the dholes.
  • More research is needed on Dholes to better understand their ecology and assist conservation efforts, which includes
    • Develop cost-effective surveys to determine the abundance of Dholes, as data on Dhole numbers would allow us to better understand their conservation status.
    • Determine the area and prey requirements needed to maintain a viable Dhole population.
    • Investigate the effects of disease on Dhole population dynamics.
    • Investigate effects of Dholes on ecosystems, specifically their interactions with other large carnivores, and their impacts on prey and smaller carnivores.
Section : Environment & Ecology

About Biofuels

About Biofuels

Conventional Biofuels

  • Conventional Biofuels are produced from food crops.
  • The feedstock used for biofuels include lignocelluloses, algae, corn, maize, jatropha, palm, soybeans, sugarcane, sweet sorghum.

 

Ethanol

  • Ethanol is produced by fermentation of sugar from cane or beets, starch from corn or wheat, or
  • root crops like cassava.
  • It has a higher-octane rating than conventional gasoline and improves combustion properties which translate into less pollution.
  • Ethanol is used as a fuel additive in gasoline at roughly 10%.

 

Biodiesel

  • Produced through an esterification/trans-esterification reaction of vegetable oils (soybean, palm) or animal fats.

 

Advanced Biofuels

  • Advanced Biofuels are produced typically from non-food crops and residues or waste materials.
  • Common forms include ‘drop-in fuels’ and biobutanol.
  • Drop-in fuels are renewable diesel and gasoline that are derived from lipids (i.e., vegetable oils, animal fats, greases, and algae) or cellulosic materials (i.e., crop residues, and woody biomass).
  • Biobutanol is a biomass-based fuel that is produced by fermenting the same feedstock as ethanol, but is mediated by different microorganisms.

 

Emissions from biofuels

  • Biofuels are also reported to reduce GHG emissions by 60%–94% relative to fossil fuels.
  • Biodiesel can favorably reduce particulate matter by nearly 88% relative to petroleum-based diesel.
  • However biofuels release greater amounts of nitrogen oxides negatively impacting the environment.

 

Policy interventions

  • National Biofuels policy, 2009 envisaged the use of renewable energy in transport, with an aim to replace 20% of petroleum-based fuel with biofuels by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan in 2017.
  • Under the policy Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) had been directed to sell Ethanol Blended Petrol with percentage of ethanol up to 10 per cent.
  • However, due to insufficient supply the OMCs could only manage a national average of less than 3 per cent ethanol blending.
  • In 2014, diesel prices were deregulated, enabling more favorable conditions for biodiesel production.
  • The government announced a blending requirement of 10% ethanol in gasoline, beginning with the October 2015/2016 sugarcane season.
  • Discussions are now focused on amending the 2009 biofuels law, including coverage of a mandatory blend for biodiesel.
  • A recent push for alternative fuels to become a Methanol Economy is to be watched in the coming years.
  • National Policy on Biofuels was launched in May 2018 to promote production of biofuels.

 

 

  • The Policy categorises biofuels as
  1. Basic Biofuels viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol, biodiesel and Advanced Biofuels
  2. Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels
  3. Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc.
  • The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
  • It includes from lignocellulosic biomass as against the conventional approach of molasses based ethanol production.
  • The Ethanol Blending Programme(EBP) aims 20 percent ethanol blending in petrol by 2030.
Section : Environment & Ecology

About the Kaziranga National Park

About the Kaziranga National Park

  • Kaziranga had an area of 232sq.m when it began its journey as a proposed reserve forest on June 1, 1905.
  • Kaziranga National Park lies partly in Golaghat District and partly in Nagaon District of Assam.
  • It is the oldest park in Assam, which now covers an area of 430 Sqkms along the river Brahmaputra on the North and the KarbiAnglong hills on the South.
  • Kaziranga National Park a world heritage site is famous for the Great Indian one horned rhinoceros; the landscape of Kaziranga is of sheer forest, tall elephant grass, rugged reeds, marshes & shallow pools.
  • It has been declared as National Park in 1974.
  • It is inhabited by the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinoceroses, as well as many mammals, including tigers, elephants, panthers and bears, and thousands of birds.
  • The KNP is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
  • The National Highway 37 passes through the park area and tea estates, hemmed by table-top tea bushes.
  • According to the last rhino census in March, the KNP has an estimated 2,413 rhinos.
  • The park also has 57% of the world’s wild water buffalo population, one of the largest groups of Asian elephants and 21 Royal Bengal tigers per 100sq.km – arguably the highest striped cat density.

 

About the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros

  • The Greater One-horned Rhinoceros populations are increasing overall due to strict protection, especially in India.
  • However, some populations are decreasing, especially in Nepal and parts of northeastern India.
  • The species is currently confined to fewer than ten sites, with a total extent of occurrence of less than 20,000 km².
  • Historically, the Indian rhinoceros once existed across the entire northern part of the Indian subcontinent, along the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra River basins, from Pakistan to the Indian-Burmese border, including parts of Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan.
  • It may also have existed in Myanmar, southern China, and Indochina, though this is uncertain.
  • Currently, the Indian rhinoceros exists in a few small subpopulations in the Nepal and India (West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Assam).

 

Threats

  • This species is harvested illegally for its horn and other products used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
  • This species declined to near extinction in the early 1900s, primarily due to widespread conversion of alluvial plains grasslands to agricultural development, which led to human-rhino conflicts and easier accessibility for hunters.
  • Sport hunting became common in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
  • Poaching, mainly for the use of the horn in Traditional Chinese Medicine has remained a constant and the success is precarious without continued and increased support for conservation efforts.
  • The species is inherently at risk because over 70% of its population occurs at a single site, Kaziranga National Park.
  • This area, is subject to poaching and tensions with the surrounding high human population due to human-wildlife conflicts (including conflicts with rhinos).
  • The level of poaching in Kaziranga has generally not been at a level to prevent the ongoing increase in the population, but constant vigilance is required.
  • Clearly, any catastrophic event in Kaziranga (such as disease, civil disorder, poaching, habitat loss, etc) would have a devastating impact on the status of this species.

 

IUCN Status

  • The species has been included in the caetegory of vulnerable species under IUCN red list.
  • The species has been included on CITES Appendix I since 1975.
  • The Indian and Nepalese governments have taken major steps towards Indian Rhinoceros conservation, especially with the help of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and other non-governmental organizations.
  • Indian Rhino populations occur almost exclusively within and around protected areas.
  • In India, the species occurs in Kaziranga National Park (World Heritage Site), Manas National Park (World Heritage Site in danger), Dudhwa National Park (re-introduced population), Karteniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, Orang National Park, Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, and Gorumara National Park.
  • With the support of the IUCN SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group, an Indian Rhino Vision 2020 has been developed.

 

Way forward

  • Translocating rhinos to bolster struggling populations.
  • Start new populations;
  • Improve security around rhino populations and reduce poaching;
  • Assesse habitat status and management needs;
  • Expand available habitat through active management;
  • Improving protected area infrastructure;
  • Train staff in specific rhino conservation techniques;
  • Reducing human-wildlife conflicts and involve local people in rhino conservation;
  • Implement education and awareness programmes.
  • Overall, there is a need for further reintroductions, thereby reducing the concentration of over 70% of the individuals in one large population.
Section : Environment & Ecology

About CBD and other related agreements

About CBD and other related agreements

  • At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, world leaders agreed on a comprehensive strategy for sustainable development- meeting our needs while ensuring that we leave a healthy and viable world for future generations.
  • One of the key agreements adopted at Rio was the Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • The Convention establishes three main goals: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources.
  • India is one of the 196 countries that has committed to the CBD and ratified it in February 1994.
  • In India, the National Biodiversity Authority primarily implements provisions of access and benefit sharing of India’s biological resources.
  • It was followed by the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity.
  • It was adopted on 29 January 2000 and entered into force on 11 September 2003.
  • The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international agreement which aims at sharing the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way.
  • It entered into force on 12 October 2014, 90 days after the date of deposit of the fiftieth instrument of ratification.

 

Need for biological diversity conservation and CBD

  • The Earth’s biological resources are vital to humanity’s economic and social development.
  • As a result, there is a growing recognition that biological diversity is a global asset of tremendous value to present and future generations.
  • At the same time, the threat to species and ecosystems has never been as great as it is today.
  • Species extinction caused by human activities continues at an alarming rate.
  • In response, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) convened the Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Biological Diversity in November 1988 to explore the need for an international convention on biological diversity, which culminated into CBD in 1992.

 

The problems with CBD

  • The goal of access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefitsof CBD was delineated in the Nagoya Protocol, which came into effect in 2014 but this has generated unintended consequences for research.
  • Due to national-level legislations instituted by countries under the CBD, obtaining field permits for access to specimens for non-commercial research has become increasingly difficult.
  • It is almost impossible to collect [specimens for research] in South America now one of the researchers said.

 

Way forward

  • Though the convention has created some difficulty for non-commercial researchers but we should not see regulation as restriction.
  • Under government-approved international collaborative projects, material can be exchanged freely; there are also “facilitative processes” to send specimens for taxonomic identification to other countries.
  • It is suggested that a treaty for exchange of biological materials for non-commercial research on the lines similar to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture or the “Seed Treaty”, which ensures worldwide public accessibility of genetic resources of essential food and fodder, could be adopted.
  • Another solution may be to add an explicit treaty or annex in the CBD to promote and facilitate biodiversity research, conservation, and international collaboration.

‘Gaj Yatra’ campaign

‘Gaj Yatra’ campaign

  • It is a nationwide campaign launched in 2017 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, on the occasion of World Elephant Day, to protect elephants. Gaj Yatra in Meghalaya is part of this initiative.
  • It is a “journey celebrating India’s national heritage animal”, which is aimed at securing 100 elephant corridors across India.
  • The national campaign is planned to cover 12 elephant range states to provide ‘Right of Passage’ on elephant corridors in India.
  • During the period of the campaign, artists and craftsmen will create life-size works on the theme of elephants in places along the route of the roadshow, covering 12 states that have wild elephants, using local art and craft.
  • The ‘Gaju’ mascot, which was released by the Ministry in 2012, will helm the campaign across districts frequented by jumbo herds for generating awareness among the people.
  • The campaign will be led by the Wildlife Trust of India.

 

Background for campaign in Meghalaya

  • There have been 14,700 cases of man-animal conflicts in Meghalaya state that may have occurred due to space constraint and less food available.
  • Also, expansion of human settlements in the state has resulted in fragmented elephant habitats in the Garo Hills, leading to conflicts.
  • Considering that, in 2014, villagers in Meghalaya’s Garo Hills set aside a part of their community-owned land to create village reserve forests, giving right of passage to the elephants.Four of these 100 corridors are in Meghalaya,including the Siju-Rewak corridor that some 1,000 elephants use to travel between the Balpakram and Nokrek National Parks in the State.
  • In acknowledgement of that gesture, ‘Gaj Yatra’ from Tura, the principal town of Garo Hills was rolled out.

 

Threats to elephants in India

  • Wild elephants in India are facing a variety of problems in India.
  • Habitats and corridors of elephants are under tremendous pressure in many States on account of deforestation, encroachment and other biotic factors.
  • In some regions, poaching of tuskers has disturbed the sex-ratio in elephant populations to alarming proportions.
  • Human-elephant conflict has become a serious issue and the people are turning hostile to elephants and the forest staff.

 

Glimpse of Initiatives Taken for Elephant Conservation in India

  • Efforts for the conservation of the Elephant in India were initiated in 1873 with the promulgation of the Madras Wild Elephant Preservation Act, 1873 but the laws were quite liberal and the resultant was decline in elephant population.
  • Considering the decline in elephant population, the elephant was included in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 on 5.10.1977 to provide absolute protection to the elephants, meaning offences under these are prescribed the highest penalties.
  • Attempts for the conservation of elephants got a big boost in February 1992 when Government of India launched Project Elephant, as the scheme was intended to preserve habitat and establish elephant corridors, allowing for the traditional migration patterns of established elephant herds.
  • Project Elephant has also established the MIKE (Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants) programme of CITES, which has uncovered a significant increase in the poaching of bull tuskers.
  • As a result of various conservation measures, elephants now enjoy a comprehensive legal support and their population has gone up.
  • There has also been some reduction in the cases of human deaths caused by elephants but the overall status of elephants and their habitat continues to be precarious.

 

Way ahead

  • It is necessary to make systematic and sustained efforts to deal with various problems concerning conservation of elephants.
  • The conservation strategies should also strive to nurture and encourage the love and sympathy that a large number of people in India still have for elephants.

 

Additional Information

IUCN status of Elephants

  • African elephants are listed as “vulnerable” and Asian elephants as “endangered” in the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
  • As per the available population estimates, there are about 400,000 African elephants and 40,000 Asian elephants.

 

World Elephant Day

  • World Elephant Day is an annual global event celebrated across the world on August 12, dedicated to the preservation and protection of elephants.
  • World Elephant Day is celebrated to focus the attention of various stakeholders in supporting various conservation policies to help protect elephants, including improving enforcement policies to prevent illegal poaching and trade in ivory, conserving elephant habitats, providing better treatment for captive elephants and reintroducing captive elephants into sanctuaries.

 

Section : Environment & Ecology

About Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve

About Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve

  • The Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve (KBR) is the highest biosphere reserve in India reaching elevations of 1,220 m to 8,586 m above sea level.
  • It covers 41% of the entire geographical area of Sikkim.
  • It falls within the Himalaya global biodiversity hot spot, one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots.
  • It has a range of sub-tropical to alpine ecosystems.

 

Core area

  • The southern and central landscape, which makes up 86% of the core area, is situated in the Greater Himalayas which constitutes the Alpine zone.
  • The northern part of the area accounts for 14% is characterized by trans-Himalayan features which includes Himalayan wet temperate and sub tropical moist deciduous forest.
  • The Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP), situated in the core area was inscribed as India’s first “Mixed World Heritage Site” in 2016.

 

 

Natural Habitat: Flora and Fauna

  • It is home to 4,500 species of flowering plants including 424 medicinal plants, 62 species of ferns, 36 rhododendrons, 60 species of primulas and 11 varieties of oaks 3.
  • The fauna of KBR includes the Red Panda, Snow Leopard, Himalayan Black Beer, herbivores species of Musk deer, Great Tibetan Sheep, Blue Sheep, Barking Deer, snow leopard, red panda and Himalayan Tahr.
  • The reserve also has more than 500 species and sub-species of birds.
  • It includes high-altitude pheasants — Monal Pheasants, Tragopan Pheasants and Blood Pheasants (the State Bird).

 

Cultural Habitat of KNP:

The cultural significance of KNP is portrayed by three different facets:

  1. KNP is home to a sacred site of one of the world’s leading religious traditions. The notion of beyul or hidden sacred land, extends to all of Sikkim and has its heart in the territory of Khangchendzonga National Park.
  2. The multi-layered sacred landscape of Khangchendzonga and the cultural and religious relevance of the hidden land (beyul in Tibetan Buddhism and Mayel Lyang, in Lepcha tradition) is specific to Sikkim and is a unique example of co-existence and exchange between different religious traditions and people.
  3. The indigenous religious and cultural practices of the Lepcha with regard to the ecology and the specific properties of local plants stand as an outstanding example of traditional knowledge and environmental preservation.

 

What are Biosphere Reserves?

  • Biosphere Reserves are specified areas of natural and cultural landscapes that include minimally disturbed, man-modified and degraded ecosystems.
  • These are meant for preserving genetic diversityin various natural biomes.

 

Objectives

  • Conserve the diversity and integrity of plant and animals within ecosystems.
  • Safeguard genetic diversity of species through long-term in-situ conservation.
  • Promote and facilitate basic and applied research and monitoring.
  • Provide opportunities for education and training.
  • Promote appropriate sustainable management of the living resource through most suitable technology.

 

Biosphere Reserves in India

  • India has 18 biospheres reserves.
  • 11 of these 18 are included in the WNBR.
  • They are
  1. Nilgiri
  2. Gulf of Mannar
  3. Sunderban
  4. Nanda Devi
  5. Nokrek
  6. Pachmari
  7. Similipal
  8. Achanakmar-Amarkantak
  9. Great Nicobar
  10. Agastyamala
  11. Khangchendzonga

 

Section : Environment & Ecology

About Tigers

About Tigers

  • The Tiger is listed as Endangered under IUCN red list.
  • In 1998, the global Tiger population was estimated at 5,000 to 7,000 Tigers. A comparison of these population estimates of the 1990s to similar current ones suggests a decline of about 50% i.e. approximately 3,500 in 2014.
  • As per the assessment of the Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey (2014), the number of tigers in India is estimated at 2,226 as compared to the 2010 estimate of 1,706.
  • The 2018 All India Tiger Estimation is currently underway and is said to be theworld’s largest wildlife survey in terms of “coverage, intensity of sampling and quantum of camera trapping.

 

Threats to Tigers

  • The Ministry of Environment recently said that 45% of the tiger deaths between 2012 and 2017 could be attributed to unnatural reasons.
  • Of the 45%, 22% of the deaths were due to poaching, 15% due to seizures of body parts and the remaining could be attributed to road and railway accidents.
  • Over the past few years, instances of tigers travelling hundreds of kilometres looking for territory have come to the fore.
  • In 2017, 115 tigers died and in 2016, the number of deaths was 122.

 

Tiger conservation efforts

  • The government started Project Tiger program to protect the animal, and in 1973 and created reserves throughout India with rangers to patrol them.
  • Since then, the big cat has seen a steady revival.
  • Some reports suggest that the final findings of the ongoing national census, to be released in January 2019, could put the population at more than3,000 across 50 reserves.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority was created in 2005, which oversees nation-wide conservation efforts now.
  • A “Tiger Summit” was held in St Petersburg, Russia in 2010, where the 13 Tiger Range Countries adopted a Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP 2010).
  • The group also decided to annually mark July 29 as Global Tiger Day.
  • The goal is to effectively double the number of wild Tigers by 2022 through actions to:
    • Effectively preserve, manage, enhance and protect Tiger habitats.
    • Eradicate poaching, smuggling and illegal trade of Tigers, their parts and derivatives.
    • Cooperate in trans-boundary landscape management and in combating illegal trade.
    • Engage with indigenous and local communities.
    • Increase the effectiveness of Tiger and habitat management.
    • Restore Tigers to their former range.

 

Success stories of Tiger conservation in India

  • India’s track record with tiger populations has been encouraging.
  • Numbers have steadily risen in census reports since 2006 with the 2014 survey finding an estimated2,226 wild tigers across the country.
  • A few months ago, the first successful inter-state translocation of a pair of tigers was carried out from tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh to Satkosia in Odisha.

 

Challenges in tiger conservation

  • Poaching for illegal trade in high-value Tiger products including skins, bones, meat and tonics is a primary threat to Tigers.
  • The conviction rate in poaching cases is less than 1% and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is not empowered enough.
  • Reserves are often short staffed and guards are not trained sufficiently or given proper equipment to fight poachers.
  • Many times, poachers aren’t outsiders but villagers living in tribal communities within the tiger reserves and national parks.
  • Conversion of forest land to agriculture and silviculture, commercial logging, and human settlement are the main drivers of Tiger habitat loss.
  • Tiger attacks on livestock and people can lead to intolerance of Tigers by neighbouring communities and presents an ongoing challenge to managers to build local support for Tiger conservation and can lead to high rates of retaliatory killing of Tigers.
  • Protests against relocation to make way for proposed tiger corridors because of inadequate compensation.
  • Another major threat to the tiger in India is habitat fragmentation and destruction.
  • India has been pushing countless infrastructure projects, some of which, environmentalists say, disturb the ecological balance. For example, theKen-Betwa river-linking
  • Similarly, there are plans and proposals for highways, canals and railway tracks through vital tiger corridors and forests in other parts of the country.
  • Tiger tourism pumps some money into local communities and stirs interest in conservation, but despite good intentions it also encroaches on wildlife habitats.

 

 

Way forward

  • A lot more needs to be done on the conservation front.
  • The tiger is a collective responsibility of all stakeholders and it cannot be left to the forest staff alone.
  • There is a need for surveillance and maintenance of tiger corridors.
  • There is a need for capacity building of the forest staff.
  • We need to reinvent tiger tourism in a way that leaves a minimal footprint.
  • Experts should figure out how to balance commerce and conservation in a way that ensures India’s tiger population will continue to grow.
  • Tigers might still be recovered if government commitment to Tigers, staff capacity for law enforcement and legal frameworks for Tiger protection can be established.
  • India being home to 70% of the tiger population in the world can be a global leader in tiger conservation.
Section : Environment & Ecology
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