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December 2016 Environment


ENVIRONMENT

Union Cabinet approves India’s position in Kigali conference.
Cabinet approves India's position at recent negotiations at Kigali, Rwanda over the issue of phasing down the climate-damaging refrigerants hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). 

  • In Kigali India had successfully negotiated the baseline years and freeze year for phasing down the use of HFCs. 
  • It was agreed at Kigali that there would be two set of baselines years for developing countries. India along with nine other countries will have baseline years of 2024-26 while other developing countries including China (largest producer of HFCs in the world), Brazil and South Africa will have 2020-22 baselines. 
  •  The developed countries, led by the US, will on the other hand reduce use of HFCs over a 2011-13 baseline. 
  • The freeze year for India will be 2028, with a condition that there will be a technology review in 2024/2025 and, if the growth in the sectors using refrigerants is above certain agreed threshold, India can defer its freeze up to 2030.

Environment Ministry issues final notification on Eco-Sensitive Zone(ESZ) in Sanjay Gandhi National Park
The Government issued the Final Notification for an Eco-Sensitive Zone area of 59.46 sq kms of which 19.25 sq km is forest land and 40.21 sq km is non-forest land in Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai suburb.

About ESZ

  • Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs) are areas notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC),  Government  of India around Protected Areas to prevent ecological damage caused due to developmental activitiesaround National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. 
  • The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.
  • They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection. The basic aim is to regulate certain activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries so as to minimize the negative impacts of such activities on the fragile ecosystem encompassing the protected area.
  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-Sensitive Zones”. However, Section 3(2)(v) of the Act, says that Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards. 

List of activities in ESZ
•    Prohibited : Commercial mining, setting of saw mills and industries causing pollution, commercial use of firewood and major hydro-power projects, tourism activities like flying over protected areas in an aircraft or hot air balloon, and discharge of effluents and solid waste in natural water bodies or terrestrial areas.

•    Regulated : Felling of trees, drastic change in agriculture systems and commercial use of natural water resources including groundwater harvesting, use of polythene bags by shopkeepers, widening of roads, movement of vehicular traffic at night, introduction of exotic species and setting up of hotels and resorts are the activities regulated in the areas.

•    Permitted : Activities permitted in the areas include ongoing agriculture and horticulture practices by local communities, rainwater harvesting, organic farming, adoption of green technology and use of renewable energy sources.

Cancel illegal salt pans in Sambhar Lake:NGT bench to Rajasthan govt
The central zonal bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Rajasthan government to cancel allotments of salt pans in Sambhar Salt Lake that fall within the wetland and run contrary to the mandate of Wetland Rules, 2010.

The bench also directed the State government not to make any further allotments or permit new salt pans within the wetland areas or in the ‘no construction zone’ identified for the said purpose in accordance with the Wetland Rules, 2010.

Why cancellation
PIL filed had alleged that in and around the Sambhar Lake, commercial and other activities detrimental to the eco-system of the wetland were being carried out contrary to the provisions of the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules framed under the Environment Protection Acts of 1986 and 2010.

About Sambhar Lake

  • The Sambhar Salt Lake, India's largest inland salt lake, a bowl shape lake encircles historical Sambhar Lake Town
  • Sambhar has been designated as a Ramsar site (recognized wetland of international importance) because the wetland is a key wintering area for tens of thousands of flamingos and other birds that migrate from northern Asia.

About NGT

  • The National Green Tribunal has been established on 18.10.2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
  • National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 (NGT) is an Act of the Parliament of India which enables creation of a special tribunal to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues. It draws inspiration from the India's constitutional provision of Article 21, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment
  •  Origin is related to  Rio de Janeiro summit of United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in June 1992, India vowed the participating states to provide judicial and administrative remedies for the victims of the pollutants and other environmental damage.
  •  The tribunal shall consist of a full time chairperson, judicial members and expert members. The minimum number of judicial and expert member prescribed is ten in each category and maximum number is twenty in each category.
  • The Tribunal has Original Jurisdiction on matters of "substantial question relating to environment" (i.e. a community at large is affected, damage to public health at broader level) & "damage to environment due to specific activity" (such as pollution).

Majuli to be India's first ever carbon neutral district
Assam government has initiated a project to make river island Majuli ,the country's first ever Carbon Neutral district by 2020.

  •  The project titled 'Sustainable Action for Climate Resilient Development in Majuli' (SACReD, Majuli) has been initiated by Assam's department of Environment and Forest
  • It aims to combat climate change & reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Mitigation through forestry activities & biodiversity conservation will be the      starting points for the carbon neutral agenda.
  • The project will be designed and implemented in partnership with other departments of the district for which a district level committee under the chairmanship of Deputy Commissioner has been constituted.

About Majuli

  •  It is the biggest river island in the world in the Brahmaputra River, Assam, India and also 1st island district of the country.
  • The island is formed by the Brahmaputra river in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti , an anabranch of the Brahmaputra, joined by the Subansiri River in the north. Majuli Island is accessible by ferries from the city of Jorhat.
  • It was formed due to course changes by the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries, mainly the Lohit. 
  • Majuli is the abode of the Assamese neo-Vaisnavite culture

Centre Announces Notification of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, 2016 
The Government has issued the notification for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, 2016 to regulate pet shops.

  • Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has the mandate to implement the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, to prevent infliction of unnecessary pain, or suffering on animals.  
  • The provisions of the PCA Act are general in nature, and rules dealing with specific situations have to be notified from time to time.

Highlights 

  •  The objective of these rules is to make pet shops accountable and to prevent cruelty inflicted on animals kept in such pet shops. 
  •  It will be mandatory for all pet shop owners to register themselves with the State Animal Welfare Board of the respective State Governments/Union Territories.
  •  The rules define space requirement for birds, cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pig, hamster, rats and mice in the pet shops.
  •  It defines the basic amenities, power back-up, general care, veterinary care and other operational requirement for animals kept in pet shops.
  • It is mandatory to maintain proper records of sale, purchase, death of animals in pet shop, sick animals etc.
  • Every pet shop owner is required to submit yearly report to the State Board regarding animals, sold, traded, bartered, brokered, given away, boarded or exhibited during previous year, or any other information asked for by the State Board.

NCRPB tells States to submit action plan to curb pollution
With air quality deteriorating on a daily basis, the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) asked Delhi and adjoining States to submit action plans to control air pollution in the Capital.

Major highlights

  • The Board will soon file an affidavit before the Delhi High Court regarding the matter.
  • Emphasising on increasing tree cover Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have been asked to increase forest and tree cover in the NCR in a phased manner to 20 per cent of total geographical area.
  • The Board also authorised the NCRPB Secretariat to initiate preparation of Regional Plan-2041 for the National Capital Region.
  • The Board also discussed 14 inter-State links with the aim of facilitating seamless travel in the NCR, which includes Kalindi by-pass road from Ashram Chowk to Faridabad by-pass, development of Mehrauli–Guragaon Road as NH-236 to ease traffic on NH-8 and connecting Nelson Mandela T-Point at Vasant Kunj with the existing Gurgaon-Mehrauli Road to reduce travel time.
  • The Board also discussed forest cover in the National Capital Region, definition of forests and Aravalli Range and delineation of Natural Conservation Zones (NCZs).

Too hot to handle-alarming rise in forest fires this years
Parliamentary committee report highlights alarming rise in forest fires. 

  •  The committee was formed after a series of devastating forest fires earlier this year, including the prolonged one that charred 4,000 hectares of forest land across 13 districts of Uttarakhand.
  • The report primarily focuses on the prevention and containing of fires in the Himalayan forests spread across Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir.

Major highlights

  • With fires raging across Central Indian forests and the Himalayan Pine forests, the frequency of such blazes has risen by a drastic 55 per cent in the past year.
  • The number has touched 24,817 in 2016, a “really alarming” rise, from around 15,937 fires in 2015.
  • The three central States of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh contribute a third of the forest fires. Madhya Pradesh has seen a nearly ten-fold increase, from just 294 in 2015 to more than 2,600 in 2016.
  • The committee has suggested a national policy on managing forest fires.
  • In Himanchal and Uttarakhand,  accumulated Chir pine needles — which are inflammable due to their high-resin content — are believed to be a “prominent factor in occurring and spreading of forest fires”.
  • The committee has recommended the procurement of sweeping machines to clear roadsides of Chir pine needles, while advocating large-scale incentives and programmes (including under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) to collect pines for use as fuel, and other incineration.
  • The committee has also observed that a large number of posts of front line forest staff were lying vacant, while, fire-fighting equipment is rudimentary in many cases.

Chinese launched TanSat to monitor global carbon emission
China launched a global carbon dioxide monitoring satellite to understand climate change, hours after it lifted nearly a week-long red alert for the worst smog that engulfed about 40 cities in the country.

Background

  •  Earlier Beijing has issued the red alert for air pollution as cold air dispersed the smog that has affected the city ,which even drew strong criticism from public as it disrupted the normal life.
  • According to scientists concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased from 280 ppm to 400 ppm over the past 150 years, leading to an increase in average global temperatures of about 0.7 degrees Celsius over the last century.
  • China’s CO2 emissions are to peak around 2030, with emissions per unit of GDP cut by 60 percent of 2005 levels by the same date.
  • Keeping all these in mind china launched Tansat to monitor emission.

About satellite

  •   China is the third country after Japan and the US to monitor greenhouse gases through its own satellite. 
  •  The satellite was sent into a sun synchronous orbit about 700 kms above the earth and will monitor the concentration, distribution and flow of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.
  • TanSat means a louder voice for China on climate change, carbon reduction and in negotiations with a bigger say on carbon trading

How it is beneficial

  •  The satellite will help understanding of climate change and provide China’s policy makers with independent data.
  • The Paris agreement on climate change came into force on November 4, with more than 100 countries committed to reducing their carbon emissions. In this regard it will enable China to obtain emissions data first-hand and share it with researchers worldwide.
  • The satellite can trace the sources of greenhouse gases and help evaluate whether countries are fulfilling their commitments.

NGT bans waste burning in open areas across country
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed a complete ban on burning of waste in open places and announced a fine of Rs. 25,000 on each incident of bulk waste burning including landfill sites.

For each such incident, violators, including project proponent, concessionaire, any person or body responsible for such burning, shall be liable to pay environmental compensation of Rs. 5,000 in case of simple burning, while Rs. 25,000 in case of bulk waste burning.

Other guidelines

  • Every State and Union Territory must enforce and implement Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.
  • The green panel also asked the Environment Ministry and all States to pass appropriate directions in relation to the ban on short-life Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and chlorinated plastics within a period of six months.
  • All State governments and Union Territories shall prepare an action plan in terms of the Rules of 2016.
  • Plants for processing and disposal of waste and selection and specifications of landfill sites which have to be constructed, be prepared and maintained strictly in accordance with the Rules of 2016.
  • It also recommended that non-biodegradable waste and non-recyclable plastic should be segregated from the landfill sites and used for construction of roads and embankments in all road projects.

Cabinet approves International Solar Alliance (ISA): Signing of the Framework Agreement 
The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has given its ex-post facto approval to the proposal of Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) for ratification of ISA’s Framework Agreement by India.

International Solar Alliance

  • ISA was launched jointly by the Prime Minister of India and the President of France on 30th November, 2015 at Paris on the side-lines of the 21st CoP meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 
  • The ISA will strive to bring together more than 121 solar resource rich nations for coordinated research, low cost financing and rapid deployment.
  • ISA will put India globally in a leadership role in climate and renewable energy issues. It will also give a platform to showcase its solar programmes. 
  • Will help to achieve India’s INDC declared during Paris meet.


Sample Questions
Q1.Consider the following statement regarding National Green Tribunal.
1.    NGT is a statutory body ,being established by National Green Tribunal Act,2010.
2.    Tribunal’ origin is related to Rio+20 summit held in 2012.
Choose the correct option
a)Only 1                    b)Only 2
c)Only 1,2                 d)None


Q2.Majuli to be India's first ever carbon neutral district,consider the following statements regarding Majuli.
1.    It is the biggest river island in the world in the Brahmaputra River.
2.    Majuli is the abode of the Assamese neo-Vaisnavite culture.
3.    It has been declared as first island district.
4.    It was formed due to course changes by the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries, mainly the Lohit. 
Choose the correct Option:
a)Only1,2,3                   b)Only 2,3,4
c)Only 1,2                     d)All

 

Answers:
Q1. a             Q2.d