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July 2018 Environment

  • SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting) It is an Air Quality and Weather Forecast System

    It was developed indigenously by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune and operationalized by India Meteorological Department (IMD). 

    SAFAR will accelerate public awareness and preparedness of air pollution and weather extremes. It will also lead to better understanding of linkages among emissions, weather, pollution and climate. It will monitor all weather parameters like temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind speed and wind direction. 

    In addition to regular air quality parameters like PM2.5, PM10, Sulfur Dioxide, Ozone, Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxide, the system will also monitor the existence of Benzene, Toluene and Xylene. 

    Benefits SAFAR system would benefit cost savings to several other sectors like agriculture, aviation, infrastructure, disaster management skill, tourism and many others, which directly or indirectly get affected by air quality and weather. 
  • Solar-powered Cochin Airport gets UN’s highest environmental accoladeThe Cochin International Airport in Kerala, the first fully solar-powered airport in the world, has been chosen for the prestigious Champion of Earth Prize – 2018 instituted by the United Nations (UN). 

    The Champion of Earth Prize is considered the UN’s highest environmental accolade. 

    A massive solar plant, adjoining the airport’s cargo complex, produces 50,000 to 60,000 units of electricity every day taking care of its energy needs. 

    The airport, the first to be built in India under the public-private-partnership model, had logged 10 million passengers in the last financial year. It currently operates 25 airlines to several domestic and international destinations. In FY 2017-18, it had witnessed a 22% increase in domestic passenger volume and 4% increase in foreign passenger arrivals compared to the previous financial year. 
  • PSUs biggest donors to Clean Ganga FundThe government has committed to cleaning nearly 70-80% of the river by March next year. 

    Nearly 90% of the dedicated fund that the Water Ministry has collected as part of donations for various projects to clean the Ganga is sourced from State and Central government public sector units (PSU) 

    Features
    • The Water Minister Nitin Gadkari has directed that focus should be on getting money from the private sector.
    • Director-General for National Mission for Clean Ganga, which coordinates programme activities. The government will be putting in place nearly 288 projects, worth Rs.20,000 crore, and clean up 70%-80% of the river by March next year (2019).


    Clean Ganga Fund (CGF)
    • The Clean Ganga Fund (CGF) was created in 2014 and envisioned as a source of funds from private companies, individuals and institutions.
    • Minister of State Satyapal Singh reported that Rs.220 crore was donated to the CGF as of January 2018.
    • Private companies contributed around Rs.20 crore and the public sector, Central public sector and Government Departments contributed about Rs.177 crore. The rest were from individual donations.

  • India to give flash flood warning to Asian nationsIndia has been designated as a nodal center for preparing flash-flood forecasts by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). 

    That means India will have to develop a customized model that can issue advance warning of floods in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. 

    On the sidelines of the Earth Sciences Foundation Day, the IMD would be working to customize a weather model, developed by the United States and donated to the WMO, to warn of flash floods at least six hours in advance. 

    The Central Water Commission, which monitors India’s dams, warns of rising water levels in the reservoirs, which are usually taken to be signs of imminent floods. The organisation has recently tied up with Google to develop a software application to visualise rising water levels during heavy rains. 

    The WMO says flash floods account for 85% of flooding incidents across the world, causing some 5,000 deaths each year. 

    Who all availing?
    • Like India, several South-East Asian countries depend on the monsoon and are prone to its vagaries.
    • The proposed model would provide forecasts by computing the likelihood of rainfall and the soil moisture levels to warn of possible floods.
    • Though Pakistan was among the list of countries that would benefit from the forecast, it had refused to participate in the scheme


    How it works?Using a combination of satellite mapping and ground-based observation, this system — called the Flash Flood Guidance System — aims to provide forecasts six hours in advance. 
  • NITI Aayog in talks with water ministry to set-up authority for cleaning YamunaNITI Aayog said that it is in discussions with the water resources ministry for establishing an authority to clean and rejuvenate the Yamuna River in the capital. 

    Almost 60-70 per cent of the pollution in Yamuna comes from the Najafgarh drain alone and if that single drain could be handled, it is possible to enliven the river again. 

    NITI Aayog have decided to formulate/establish Yamuna Water Management Authority. 

    The government is planning to use the funds of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme to desilt water bodies such as ponds in villages an in hinterlands to conserve water in a better way. 
  • International Tiger Day – July 29 2017‘International Tiger Day’ is celebrated every year on 29th July. This year’s International Tiger Day was celebrated with the slogan ‘Fresh Ecology for Tigers’ Protection’. 

    Background Information: The conference of the heads of 13 countries – where tigers are available – held at Saint Petersburg of Russia in 2010 took the decision to mark the world tiger day on July 29 every year.
    • The goal of the day is to promote a global system for protecting the natural habitats of tigers and to raise public awareness and support for tiger conservation issues.
    • Various events to raise awareness about tiger protection are organized in Bangladesh, Indiaand Nepal where the animal is found in large numbers.
    • Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation too organized various programs to mark the seventh World Tiger Day on July 29, 2017 in India.

  • Arsenic contamination in paddy is rising in Bengal, says studyRecent study reveals not only rise in arsenic contamination of paddy plants from ground water in West Bengal, but also that concentration of ‘arsenic accumulation’ depends on the variety of paddy and its stage in the crop cycle.
    • The study titled ‘Arsenic accumulation in paddy plants at different phases of pre-monsoon cultivation’ highlights the processes and dependencies of arsenic trans-location in rice from contaminated irrigation water.
    • Samples for the study were taken from the West Bengal an area that’s worst affected by ground water arsenic contamination.
    • It is found that arsenic contamination in paddy was higher than in previous studies.
    • It shows that arsenic uptake in the paddy plant reduces from root to grain, and that its concentration is related to the variety of the rice cultivated.
    • It was carried out on two commonly consumed rice varieties — Minikit and Jaya — and the latter was found to be more resistant to arsenic.
    • The uptake of arsenic is faster in young roots in a vegetative state than in older tissues with a higher concentration of iron in root soil in the reproductive phase.
    • Raised concerns over the disposal of the contaminated rice straw which is used as animal fodder or burnt or sometimes left in the field itself to serve as fertiliser.

  • Harrier birds visit to India declined as grasslands disappearsHarrier birds, a migratory raptor species that regularly visits vast swathes of India, are declining. India has one of the largest roosting sites in the world for Pallid Harriers and Montagu’s Harriers. The researchers focused on six of the 15 major roosting sites in six States, where consistent observations had been made for over five years. 

    The study observed that there is a general decline in all the monitored sites and researchers noted the most dramatic changes at the Rollapadu Bustard Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh's Kurnool district, one of the largest. 

    The gravest concern is the loss of grasslands, either to urbanization or to agriculture. Of the 15 roosting sites surveyed, eight no longer exist as grasslands, and only five are protected. 
  • A mysterious epidemic causes mass death of turtles in AlappuzhaAn unknown epidemic caused mass death of tortoises in areas like Kanjikuzhi, Mararikulam South, Cherthala, Mannancherry, Thakazhi, Edathua, and Mararikulam. 

    The sudden mass turtle deaths have sparked fears of a disease outbreak. The dead turtles include Softshell turtle and Indian black turtle. 

    The Animal Husbandry Department has collected the carcass of a turtle and sent it to a laboratory at Thiruvalla for examination. The cause of death could not be examined as the carcass was in a decayed condition. 
  • Odisha police to approach Interpol for help in busting global pangolin smuggling operationA special unit of Odisha Police said it will soon approach Interpol to bust the international smuggling operations of pangolin, the world’s most illegally traded mammal. 

    The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has earlier released a circular advising against sharing of prices as it attracts many other poachers. 

    Pangolin: Pangolin, the only scaly mammal on the planet, is also said to be the most illegally traded vertebrate within its class (Mammalia) by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international agreement between 183 countries to ensure trade in animals and plants does not threaten their survival. 

    Of the eight species of pangolin worldwide, two are found in India. 

    The Chinese pangolin (manispentadactyla), mostly found in northeast India, has been listed as “critically endangered” by the UN affiliated International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List, while the Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) has been listed as “endangered”. 

    The Indian Pangolin is also a Schedule I category protected animal, under the Wildlife Protection Act (1972). 
  • India Accounts for a Fifth of Global Deaths from FloodsWorld Bank study that says climate change will lower the standards of living of nearly half of India’s population by 2050. 

    India accounts for one-fifth of global deaths due to floods

    As many as 107,487 people died due to heavy rains and floods across India over 64 years between 1953 and 2017, according to Central Water Commission data presented to the Rajya Sabha (Parliament’s upper house) on March 19, 2018. 

    Damage to crops, houses and public utilities was reported to be Rs 365,860 crore – or as much as 3% of India’s current gross domestic product as the data shows. 

    India could see a six-fold increase in population exposed to the risk of severe floods by 2040, with the number of people at risk rising to 25 million from 3.7 million between 1971 and 2004. 

    Out of the total geographical area of 329 million hectares (mha), more than 40 mha is flood prone.” 

    Most deaths (11,316) due to floods/heavy rains in India were reported in 1977, while the least were recorded in 1953 (37). 

    Reasons for high floods: high intensity rainfall in short duration
    poor or inadequate drainage capacity
    unplanned reservoir regulation and
    failure of flood control structures
  • Government Sets Noise Standards for Airports across IndiaThe Union Environment Ministry has issued a notification setting noise standards for all airports across the country. The limits, however, exclude defense aircrafts, and those that are landing and taking off. 

    The rules state that busy airports a civil airport with more than 50,000 aircraft movements per year (take-off or a landing) should not exceed noise levels beyond 75 dB(A) Leq (decibels) during the daytime (6am to 10pm) and 65 dBA during the night (10pm to 6am). 

    All other airports an airport having more than 15,000 but less than 50,000 movements annually should not exceed levels beyond 65 dBA during the day and 60 dBA during the night. Proposed airports however, are excluded so far. 
  • Seven new wasp species discovered in the Amazon forestsA team of researchers have discovered seven new wasp species belonging to the genus Clistopyga from Peru, Venezuela and Colombia. 

    The most notable among them is Clistopyga crassicaudata, named after its distinctly thickened ovipositor. 

    The other new species include C.kalima, C. panchei and C. taironae, named in honour of Kalimas, Panches and Toiranas, indigenous tribe groups of Colombo. 

    Another species was named C. nigriventri, indicating its entirely black body, 

    Another species C. splendida because of its multi-colored body. 

    The 7th species, which has white and brown body, was named C.isayae. 
  • Western Ghats bags 4th best tourist spot in Lonely Planet’s best Asia destinations listThe Western Ghats has figured in Lonely Planet’s top five “2018 Best in Asia” list, a collection of 10 of the best destinations to visit in the continent for the year. 

    Hottest Biodiversity Hotspots and UNESCO World Heritage site, the Western Ghats has come 4th in the list of the Lonely Planet. 

    Significance of Western Ghats: 
    Western Ghats are similar to Shimla and Darjeeling, with added jungle appeal. 

    It is spread across Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, are UNESCO listed as one of the top spots for biodiversity in the world, protecting everything from wild elephants and tigers to the Neelakurinji flower, which blooms only once every 12 years. 

    It 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 insect species and 290 freshwater fish species. 
  • Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik orders ban on plastic in some areas from October 2Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik announces complete ban on use of plastic in several parts of Odisha starting from October 2, this year (2018). 

    The first phase of the ban would include cities like Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Berhampur, Sambalpur, and Rourkela

    The entire state would be made plastic-free over the next two years. 
  • Climate change threatens the Nilgiri tahrThe antics of the sure-footed Nilgiri tahr are a treat to watch, but these endangered wild mountain goats – found only in high altitudes in India’s Western Ghats — could be losing their footing with increasing climate change. 

    Scientists tried to predict how climate change can affect Nilgiri tahr habitat in the Ghats by mapping Nilgiri tahr distribution (using existing information and field surveys) and then using climatic factors of these locations to see where tahrs would be able to survive, given current and future climate change scenarios. 

    They found that Nilgiri tahr strongholds such as Chinnar, Eravikulam and Parambikulam in Kerala will still be stable habitats under different climate change scenarios. 

    However, other regions, including parts of Tamil Nadu’s KalakkadMundanthurai Tiger Reserve and the wildlife sanctuaries of Peppara, Neyyar, Schenduruny and Srivilliputhur, could experience severe habitat loss in future; in total, approx. 60% of Nilgiri tahr habitat could be lost across the Ghats from 2030s onwards. 

    There are only around 2,500 tahrs left in the wild and their population — small and isolated, making them vulnerable to local extinction — shows a decreasing trend, as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 
  • Environment Ministry to launch three pilot projects to tackle air pollutionThe Environment Ministry has lined up a host of measures to tackle dust pollution, including three launching three pilot projects — mounting filters on buses, using dust separation chemical sprays and installing equipment to suck in particulate matters. 

    It is also said the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) is likely to be finalized by the end of this month and sent to states so that they can make plans to curb air pollution. 

    A draft NCAP with an objective to come up with a comprehensive plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution, and to augment the air quality monitoring network across the country

    The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute will run the pilot project on installing equipment to suck in particulate matters. 

    These schemes have come up keeping in mind November and December months when air pollution is high in Delhi. 
  • Cows kill leopard in MaharashtraCows attacked a leopard for killing their calf, died yesterday (13th July, 2018). 

    This incident happened in Gautala wildlife sanctuary in Aurangabad. 

    Gautala wildlife sanctuaryGautala Autramghat Sanctuary is a protected area of Maharashtra state, India. 

    It lies in the Satmala and Ajantha hill ranges of the Western Ghats, and administratively is in Aurangabad District and Jalgaon District. 

    The wildlife sanctuary was established in 1986 in an existing reserved forest area. 
  • NBWL Added Four Species for Critically Endangered SpeciesThe National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has given its nod to include four diverse species — Northern River Terrapin (riverine turtle), Red Panda, Clouded Leopard and Arabian Sea Humpback Whale — in the recovery programme for critically endangered species. 

    They fall in the critically endangered to vulnerable categories as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

    The species recovery programme of the Union Environment Ministry is implemented under Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats — a centrally sponsored umbrella scheme for management and conservation of parks, wildlife habitats and conservation. 

    National Board for Wild Life is a “Statutory Organization” constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. 
  • UNESCO to set up Gaming University in Andhra PradeshUnited Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will be setting up a 'Design University for Gaming' in Visakhapatnam. 

    UNESCO delegation entered into an agreement with Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board (APEDB) for the establishment of 'Gaming Digital Learning Hub'. 

    The UNESCO delegation asked the Chief Minister for an allocation of 100 acres of land in Visakhapatnam. 
  • Scheme to provide financial aid to BCs, MBCs in Telangana rolling out soonIn a review meeting in Hyderabad on issues including welfare schemes and HarithaHaaram, Telangana CM KCR issued orders to implement the programme aimed at providing financial assistance to BCs and MBCs for starting self-employment schemes. 

    It is also said that 119 BC residential schools besides the existing ones should be started in every Assembly segment from the next academic year (2019). 

    The report submitted by the Cabinet sub-committee in regard with the implementation of self-employment schemes for BCs and MBCs, the Chief Minister instructed officials to implement schemes worth Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh per unit as grant without bank linkage.
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