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March 2017 Environment


  • Supreme Court bans sale, registration of BS-III vehicles from April 1
    In a blow to automobile firms, the Supreme Court on 29th March banned sale and registration of vehicles, which are not BS-IV compliant, in India from April 1 when the new emission norms come into force. The court prohibited registration of vehicles, which do not meet Bharat Stage-IV emission standards, from April 1 except on a proof that such a vehicle was sold on or before March 31. 

    Observing that health of the people is far, far more important than the commercial interests of the manufacturers, the apex court said that the makers of such vehicles have declined to take sufficient proactive steps despite being fully aware that the firms would be required to manufacture only BS-IV compliant vehicles from April 1, 2017. 


  • Govt of Assam to develop Majuli as biodiversity heritage
    Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal launched initiatives to develop Majuli as India’s first carbon neutral district and as a biodiversity heritage. 


  • WWF to undertake dolphin survey
    The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) will start its Ganges river dolphin count in November, after witnessing a dip in the number of the endangered species earlier in 2017. The survey will cover a 534-km stretch in West Bengal. Earlier surveys were based on sightings. The new exercise will be undertaken with equipment that will help accurate imaging. 

    This species of dolphins are seen in the Ganga-Brahmaputra river system in India and their total estimated number is 1,600, the number of Dolphins in the Ganga will be clear after the next survey.


  • Recycling waste water would ease global water shortages: United Nations
    The United Nations (UN) on the occasion of the World Water Day, 22 March 2017, published a report that stated that wastewater is a key to solving global water crisis. The report stated that two-thirds of human population currently lives in zones that experience water scarcity at least one month a year and half of them live in China and India. 

    On current trends, the United Nations Environment Programme predicts that water demand, for industry, energy and an extra billion people, will increase by 50 per cent by 2030. Waste water, runoff from agriculture, industry and expanding cities contribute to the problem. The problem is deeper in poor countries where very little, if any, waste water is treated or recycled. 

    High-income nations treat about 70 per cent of the waste water they generate. The figure drops to 38 per cent for upper middle-income countries. In low-income nations, only 8 per cent of industrial and municipal waste water undergoes treatment of any kind. 

    More than 800000 people die every year because of contaminated drinking water, and not being able to properly wash their hands. Water-related diseases claim nearly 3.5 million lives annually in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The figure is more than the global death toll from AIDS and car crashes combined. 


  • Natural swings partly responsible for Arctic sea ice loss
    Rapid loss of Arctic sea ice in recent decades is partly driven by natural swings, not just global warming triggered by human activities, says a study. A shift in wind patterns is responsible for about 60 per cent of sea ice loss in the Arctic Ocean since 1979, the researchers found. 

    Some of this shift is related to climate change, but the study showed that 30-50 per cent of the observed sea ice loss since 1979 is due to natural variations in this large-scale atmospheric pattern. "Anthropogenic forcing is still dominant -- it's still the key player," said the study's lead author Qinghua Ding, climate scientist at the University of California at Santa Barbara in the US. 

    The paper builds on previous work that found changes in the tropical Pacific Ocean have in recent decades created a "hot spot" over Greenland and the Canadian Arctic that has boosted warming in that region. The hot spot is a large region of higher pressure where air is squeezed together so it becomes warmer and can hold more moisture, both of which bring more heat to the sea ice below. 


  • Environment Ministry provides 6-months window to get environmental Clearance
    The Ministry of Environment has provided a six months window, as a one-time opportunity to the units to get environmental clearance. 

    The Ministry has been receiving proposals under the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 for grant of terms of reference and environmental clearance for projects which have started the work on site, expanded the production beyond the limit of environmental clearance or changed the product mix without obtaining prior clearance. 


  • Biofuels can reduce jet engine pollution
    Using biofuels to help power jet engines can reduce particle emissions in their exhaust by as much as 50 to 70%, according to a new NASA study that bodes well for airline economics and Earth’s environment. 

    The observations, published in Nature, quantify the impact of biofuel blending on aerosol emissions at cruise conditions and provide key microphysical parameters, which will be useful to assess the potential of biofuel use in aviation as a viable strategy to mitigate climate change. 

    Contrails are produced by hot aircraft engine exhaust mixing with the cold air that is typical at cruise altitudes several miles above Earth’s surface, and are composed primarily of water in the form of ice crystals. 

    Researchers are most interested in persistent contrails because they create long-lasting, and sometimes extensive, clouds that would not normally form in the atmosphere, and are believed to be a factor in influencing Earth’s environment. 


  • First ever survey in Ganga to determine population of aquatic life
    Centre has launched the first ever across-the-river survey in Ganga to determine the population of aquatic life, including that of the endangered Gangetic doplhin. 

    The study is crucial as the animal population in a river indicates the quality of its water. National Mission for Clean Ganga has said that the survey will create a baseline scientific data for the government to take suitable measures to improve quality of the river water. 

    The first leg of the census was launched on March 1 from Narora to Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh. A study to figure out fish species composition in the 2525 km-long river has been also been kick started from Harshil in Uttarakhand. 


  • 45 % of country's bird species in Himachal Pradesh: Great Backyard Bird Count
    In Himachal Pradesh, the state forest department participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) 2017. This is an event that engages bird watchers from the general public in counting birds. The event runs for four days in the month of February. Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Wildlife, S. K. Sharma, headed the initiative. 

    As per data total 564 bird species are reported from Himachal Pradesh. It is nearly 45 per cent of the 1,263 species found in whole country. Till date, 2833 bird check lists have been uploaded to e-Bird from all districts of the state with highest number of 453 bird species reported from the Kangra district only. 


  • Environmental pollution kills 1.7 million children each year: WHO
    The World Health Organisation (WHO) on 6 March 2017 announced that more than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years of age are attributable to unhealthy environments. 

    The revelations were made by the agency in its two new reports, titled Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment and Do not pollute my future! the impact of the environment on children's health. 

    The WHO went on to state that indoor and outdoor air pollution, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, second-hand smoke and inadequate hygiene take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5 years. 


  • Climate change may drive more migration in future, Europeans say 
    Climate change is not a driving force behind migration at present - but it could be in the future, residents in four European countries believe. 

    A survey of 4,000 residents of Britain, Germany, France and Norway found that most believe climate change is not a major reason for mass migration at present- but about 40 percent think it will lead to an increase of migrants in the future, according to results released on 8th March. 

    The study, coordinated by Cardiff University in Britain, collaborated with institutions in Germany, France and Norway to examine perceptions of climate change in the four countries as they relate to science, public policy, renewable energy and migration. 


  • Early signs of El Nino this year, warn forecasters
    International weather agencies have begun predicting an El Nino event in the second half of 2017. The latest update, from US state agency NOAA and its funded institutions, gives a 50-55% chance of an El Nino forming from July onwards. 

    The indication comes on the back of similar computer-model forecasts released by the India Meteorological Department as well as weather agencies of Australia, Europe and Japan over the past month or so. 

    El Nino is an abnormal warming of the ocean surface in central and eastern equatorial Pacific which alters weather patterns in many parts of the globe. In India, it's usually associated with weak monsoons. The last four El Nino events - in 2015, 2009, 2004 and 2002 - had led to poor monsoons and drought in the country. 


  • Above normal’ summer in 2017: IMD
    In line with the global trend, 2016 was one of the warmest years on record for India, the Met department said on 28th April, while predicting hotter than usual summer in 2017 till June at least. 

    In its summer outlook for this year, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said that temperatures minimum, maximum as well as the mean — are likely to be “above normal” till June in every meteorological sub-division of the country. 

    Northwest India and the plains near the Himalayas are likely to face particularly warmer summer this year with temperatures likely to be more than 1°C above normal. 

    The IMD said “border line” to “weak” La Nina conditions prevailing over the Pacific Ocean and these were likely to weaken further and become neutral ahead of the monsoon season. It said 2016 happened to be the warmest year for India since 1901.

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