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January 2020 - Environment News

  • Palau, the western Pacific Ocean country, has become the first country in the world to ban various types of sunscreen to protect coral reefs. The country has announced this step as strict environmental measures. This ban has been imposed on ‘reef toxic' or coral toxic sunscreens. Palau is famous for its marine life and renowned for its best diving destinations. As per the government orders, any reef-toxic sold or imported in Palau will be confiscated and fines will be imposed on the owner. 

    According to the orders, any tourist entering a country with banned sunscreen will have to face fines up to USD 1,000.
    Scientists have found that chemicals contained in sunscreen, which enters the ocean through different means, causes great harm to coral reefs.
    According to the President of Palau, Tommy Esang Remengesau, Jr. this decision has taken on the basis of a report published in 2017 that informed sunscreen products have harmful chemicals for coral reefs.

  • The Union Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change has recently notified the new Wetland Conservation Rules. These new conservations rules prohibit expansion or setting up of colonies or industries and disposal of demolition waste within the wetland areas. Apart from that, the Union Government has said that each state and union territory (UT) has to establish an authority to define strategies for wetland conservation and to the wise use of these wetlands within their jurisdiction. The authority will recommend mechanisms for preservation of ecological qualities of the area through promotional activities for land within the boundary of notified wetlands.

  • The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has announced to relax the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules to get Blue Flag certification. These rules restrict the construction work around sea beaches. MoEF selected 13 beaches of India for the Blue Flag certification in 2019. The CRZ rules of India do not allow any infrastructure on sea beaches and islands. Blue Flag certification asks to create some fundamental infrastructures at beaches like solar water plants, portable toilets, CCTV, etc. 

    ‘Blue Flag’ is an international certification of environmental properties and cleanliness on beaches. A ‘Blue Flag’ beach provides hygienic and clean bathing water, basic infrastructure to tourists and sustainable development in the area. This concept was started in France in 1985 while Europe adopted the ‘Blue Flag’ program in 1987. However, South Africa was the first outside European country that joined the program in 2001. Spain has the largest number of 566 Blue Flag beaches while Greece and France have 515 and 395 such blue flag beaches respectively. Chandrabhaga beach located on the Konark coast of Odisha is the first beach in the country to receive 'Blue Flag Certification'. 
    Highlights :
    • The central government has issued a notice that some construction activities and facilities will be allowed for Blue Flag certification.
    • However, the government has made it clear that these construction activities should have a distance of 10 meters from the High Tide Line.
    • Earlier, in 2019, the government selected 13 Indian beaches for Blue Tag certification.

  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has recently issued guidelines to establish petrol pumps. These instructions have been issued because of the poor impact of petrol pumps on the environment. The Central Pollution Control Board has issued new guidelines keeping in view the directives of the National Green Tribunal. 

    CPCB guidelines:
    • Oil marketing companies must ensure that new petrol pumps should be at least 50 meters away from schools, hospitals, and residential areas.
    • All these oil companies have been directed to install the Vapor Recovery System (VRS) at all those stations where about 300-kilo liters of oil is sold every month.
    • According to the new guidelines, the State Pollution Regulatory Board will impose an environmental penalty equal to the price of VRS in case of non-installation of VRS.
    • These guidelines have been issued by a committee consisting of members of IIT Kanpur, The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), CPCB and Ministry of Petroleum.

  • Jammu and Kashmir has figured among top five states of the country in terms of increase in its forest cover area over past two years which is a significant achievement in forest conservation. As per biennial report of Forest Survey of India, Dehradun, J&K has figured among the top five states that have registered a maximum increase in forest cover during the last two years. Dr. Mohit Gera, Pr. Chief Conservator of Forests, J&K informed that as per the report, J&K has tree growing stock of 144.16 cubic meter per hectare which is the highest among all the States and UT's of the country. Commissioner Secretary Forest, Ecology & Environment, Manoj K. Dwivedi appreciated the efforts of officers and frontline staff of the Forest Department in protecting and managing the forest effectively.

  • Environment and Forests Ministry has approved the release of Grant-in-Aid of 2.6 crore rupees to J&K Pollution Control Board. Under this scheme, the JK PCB shall provide financial assistance to 3742 number of Eco Clubs of registered schools in both the regions of J&K along with 96 Eco-Clubs for registered Colleges. The environment education, awareness and Training scheme of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India for National Green Corps (Eco-Clubs) which was closed for over a decade has been revived for J&K.

  • India for the first time ranks among the top ten in the Climate Change Performance Index, CCPI, which goes further to prove that all efforts and activities being currently undertaken by the government are setting a tone of vast improvements. Government aims to increase the share of non-fossil fuels to 175 GigaWatt by 2022 and further take it to 450 GW. A time bound national level strategy for pan India implementation to tackle the increasing air pollution problem in a comprehensive manner in the form of National Clean Air Programme was launched last year. India is among few countries in the world where forest cover is consistently increasing. The total forest and tree cover rises to over 24 percent of the total geographical area of the Country. Government is taking all possible steps to protect the tiger. According to the latest tiger census data -2018, the total tigers in India has risen to around three thousand. In a major boost towards promoting afforestation and achieving green objectives of the country, government handed over 47 thousand crore rupees of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority, CAMPA funds to various states in August last year.

  • Assam state zoo first to breed endangered Hargila. The Assam State Zoo cum Botanical Garden and Aaranyak has jointly attained a landmark achievement by successfully hatching a pair of Greater Adjutant chicks in an artificial platform within the zoo enclosure, in the first ever experiment of its kind. This rarest of storks, the Hargila is currently on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss stemming from indiscriminate felling of big trees and dwindling wetlands.

  • The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), has launched paperless licensing process for road tankers for transportation of petroleum. This is a significant move towards paperless and green India that will provide simpler mechanism, ease of living and business to the petroleum road tanker owners. Moving towards digitization, the process will include filing the applications online. Applicants, at each stage of processing of the application, will be intimated via SMS and email, whether discrepancy or grant of licence or approval. This initiative is directly going to benefit more than one lakh petroleum road tanker owners.

  • Department of Cane Development has started farmer awareness campaign to protect the sugarcane crop from locust or Grasshopper in Uttar Pradesh. In view of the outbreak of this pest in Gujarat and Rajasthan, state Commissioner, Cane and Sugar, Sanjay R. Bhoosreddy issued instructions to all departmental officers and scientists of Sugarcane Research Centers to conduct awareness campaign among farmers to protect the sugarcane crop from these pests in the state. Farmers have been advised to clean the grass on boundary of fields to protect it from Grasshoppers, as it lays eggs in the grass. Grasshoppers are afraid of noise. Therefore, in the event of their widespread outbreak, drum, plate etc should be played so that they run away out of fear.

  • The world's oceans were the warmest in 2019 than any other time in recorded human history. This was disclosed by a study published in the journal Advances inAtmospheric Sciences. The researchers noted that the year 2019 broke theprevious records set in prior years for global warming, and the effects arealready appearing in the form of more extreme weather, rising sea levels andharm to ocean animals. The study also found that the past ten years have been the warmest on recordfor global ocean temperatures, with the last five years holding the highestrecord.

  • The West Bengal government is planning to set up dedicated green corridors for hassle-free movements of transport during medical emergencies. According to State Transport Department sources, the step is being taken in coordination with the State Pollution Control Board and Kolkata Police following a rise in the number of organ transplantation cases in the city over last two years. The route for the corridors has been identified and work has begun to design a GPS supported mobile app to run the project. The dedicated corridor will ensure that patients reach hospitals at the shortest possible time.

  • Researchers have discovered the oldest ever mushroom fossil to be identified, a finding which pushes back the time when the fungal organisms first appeared on the Earth by about 300 million years. According to the scientists, including those from Universite Libre de Bruxelles in France, the oldest confirmed mushroom fossil until now was dated to 460 million years ago. In the current study, published in the journal Science Advances, researchers found fossilised remains of microscopic mushroom parts called mycelium in rocks whose age is between 715 and 810 million years. The scientists said these rocks were found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and likely formed in a lagoon or coastal lake environment.

  • India’s first e-waste clinic is being opened in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh on January 24, 2020. It would enable segregation, processing and disposal of waste from both household and commercial units. The e-waste clinic is jointly setting up by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC). "The e-waste clinic is being started on the basis of a three-month pilot project. If this project is successful, e-waste clinics will be established at other places in the country. BMC official informed that electronic waste will be collected door-to-door or could be deposited directly at the e-waste clinic. The CPCB will provide technical support to the clinic. The most interesting aspect of e-waste clinic is that the clinic has been prepared in junk low floor bus. The bus is decorated with e-waste material from outside and inside. A TV has been also installed in it, in which documentary films on the subject of environmental damage caused by e-waste will be shown.

  • GAIL India Ltd. plans to invest over Rs.45,000 crore over the next five years to expand the National Gas Pipeline Grid and city gas distribution network. The investment aims to boost the greater use of environment-friendly fuel. 

    Gas pipelines :
    1.) The gas pipelines are planned to take the fuel to the east and northeast regions and to consumers in the south.
    2.) The move is in line with the government's aim to raise the share of natural gas in India's energy basket to 15% by 2030 from the current 6.2%.
    3.) It also supports Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of creating a gas-based economy that is less reliant on polluting fuels for meeting its energy needs.
    4.) GAIL is currently operating 12,160 km of the pipeline network. It markets two-thirds of all natural gas sold in the country.
    5.) It is currently executing more than 5,500 km of pipeline projects in India.

  • India has successfully achieved the complete phase-out of Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-141 b. HCFC-141b is not produced in India and all the domestic requirements are met through imports. The government announced the prohibition of the import of HCFC-141 b and has completely phased out the important ozone-depleting chemical. HCFC-141b is a chemical used by foam manufacturing enterprises and one of the most potent ozone-depleting chemicals after Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). HCFC-141b is used mainly as a blowing agent in the production of rigid polyurethane (PU) foams.

  • A study led by UNSW Sydney's Centre for Ecosystem Science said that the prolonged drought and other climatic changes in Australia have caused a threat to the extinction of Platypus. The researchers studied the potentially devastating combination of threats to platypus populations, including land clearing, climate change, water resource development, and increasingly severe periods of drought. Platypus is referred to as the duck-billed platypus. It is a unique and enigmatic mammal endemic to Australia. The semi aquatic egg-laying mammal was earlier widespread across the eastern Australian mainland and Tasmania.

  • The Punjab Government has announced a ban on three-wheelers that are older than 15 years and run on fossil fuel. The vehicles will be replaced with electric or compressed natural gas (CNG) engines.

  • A new snake eel species residing in the Bay of Bengal has been discovered and documented this month (January) by the Estuarine Biology Regional Centre (EBRC) of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) at Gopalpur-on-sea in Odisha. This new marine species has been named Ophichthus kailashchandrai to honour the vast contributions of Dr.Kailash Chandra, Director of ZSI, to Indian animal taxonomy.

  • India secured 5th spot on the annual Carbon Disclosure Project 2019 report which was published by Global non-profit organization. Carbon Disclosure Project, an initiative of the Global Reporting Initiative, is aimed at measuring the carbon reduction activities undertaken by different companies and firms operating in various countries across the globe. The report surveys corporate commitments to science-based targets (SBT) and evaluates the climate change risk that they are exposed to. In the annual report, the United States of America secured the top spot followed by Japan, United Kindom and France.

  • The World Economic Forum has launched 'One Trillion Trees Initiative' to grow, restore and conserve 1 trillion trees across the world by 2030. The global initiative is aimed at restoring biodiversity and help fight climate change. The one trillion trees project is also aimed at uniting governments, non-governmental organisations, businesses and individuals in mass-scale nature restoration.

  • Five-day Ganga Yatra with an aim to create awareness about the holy river begins from Bijnor, Ballia in Uttar Pradesh. The Yatra inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to promote biodiversity and to make the villages situated on the banks of the holy river more developed and prosperous.

  • Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has said that government has released seven billion dollars to all the states for intensive afforestation activities to tackle Climate Change.Addressing the World Sustainable Development Summit 2020 in New Delhi on Jan 29, 2020, Mr Javadekar said, in the last four years India is the only country in the world which have grown its tree cover by 13 thousand square kilometre. He said, with growing population, people need to focus on sustainable consumption and changing their lifestyle. The Minister said, technology with innovation will be instrumental to tackle climate change. He also advocated for more joint research and joint collaboration in this regard.



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