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Why only crackers, what about vehicles, asks Supreme Court

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After closing down the firecracker industry in the name of curbing pollution, the Supreme Court on Tuesday realised that its priority was misplaced as the real culprit behind the spike in pollution is the automobile industry.

Taking a relook into its order banning the existing firecrackers and introducing green crackers, a bench of Justices SA Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer asked the Centre whether it had done any comparative study by which it could be fairly stated that vehicles pollute more than firecrackers.

There was another reason too for the change of heart. So far, the matter was pending with a bench which had ordered the ban last October. On Tuesday, the case was listed before a new bench that considered the issue afresh.

The judges felt that its order had brought the entire firecracker industry to a grinding halt. This meant that scores of people lost jobs. The Court said that a ban on firecrackers cannot be indefinite as it affects the livelihood of those families living on it.

The Court’s views have given a ray of hope to the cracker manufacturers who have been at odds explaining to the Court that they are minor defaulters compared to the automobile industry. Moreover, the manufacturers claimed that firecrackers is used extensively during certain days of the year while the real contributors to pollution are vehicles, crop burning, dust from construction activity among other sources.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) ANS Nadkarni told the Court that he will take instructions on whether any comparative study exists on pollution caused by fireworks vis-a-vis vehicles. The bench said, “It seems you are running after firecrackers while the bigger contributor to pollution is perhaps vehicles.”

The bench said that the Court must be mindful of citizens’ right to life which includes right to employment, right to carry out trade as well. “We do not want to generate unemployment. This trade (firework manufacturing) is not illegal as it is a licensed business. How can it be stopped? At best, it can be regulated.”

Referring to its own orders, the SC bench said, “Nobody has tested this case in relation to Article 19(1)(g) giving citizens right to practise any profession, occupation, trade or business. We cannot leave people unemployed.”

Meanwhile, ASG Nadkarni informed the Court that the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) along with environment experts of NEERI are expected to meet this week to finalize the chemical formulation of ‘green crackers’ which are low on light and smoke emission. The product approval for improved firecrackers will be released by March 21.

The petitioners represented by advocate Gopal Shankarnaraynan told the Court that pollution caused by fireworks accounted for 2.5 per cent of Delhi’s pollution and the very idea of Court banning crackers was to replace production of polluting crackers with green and improved ones. The matter will now be heard next on April 3.

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Nisha Shiwani hails from the pink city of Jaipur and is a prolific writer. She loves to write on Real Estate/Property, Automobiles, Education, Finance and about the latest developments in the Technology space.



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Most Common Environmental Concerns of General Public

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Today the entire world is focused on more than 30 environmental concerns that the Earth is currently facing. However, according to research conducted in 2016, people are most concerned about these six environmental issues.

Drinking-Water Contamination

Contamination of groundwater which is primarily used for household needs, including pollution of natural water bodies such as lakes, rivers, and other reservoirs, ranks top on the list of environmental issues.

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In order to limit the levels of groundwater pollutants such as microorganisms, disinfectants, and their byproducts, inorganic/organic compounds, and radionuclides, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set standards and guidelines to ensure the quality of drinking water to safeguard the public health. However, levels of toxic fluorinated compounds are reported to cross over the minimum levels set by EPA in 33 states across the United States.

Water Pollution

Water pollution is one of the major environmental issues. Most of the water resources such as rivers, streams, and oceans are polluted and associated issues include acid rain, ocean dumping, nutrient pollution, urban runoff, ocean acidification, oil spills, and wastewater.

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As per the research conducted in 2016, half the rivers in Asia, Africa, and South America are contaminated. According to the report, there are 12 to 18 million water-borne diseases reported yearly in the United States, half of which are transmitted through rains.

Air Pollution

Over the last decade, air pollution remained a steady concern for the entire world. Indoor, as well as outdoor air quality, has been deteriorating due to the carbon emissions, and other pollutants such as particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, sulfur oxides, refrigerants, and radon.

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According to the World Health Organization report (2016), around ninety-two percent of the world population lives with the polluted air. Approximately, three million deaths per year occur due to outdoor air pollution.

Wildlife Conservation and Species Extinction

The next major global issue is Wildlife conservation and associated environmental problems, such as the extinction of fauna and flora, endangered species, the introduction of invasive species, coral bleaching, poaching, and loss of natural animal habitats.

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As per the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world is currently witnessing its sixth extinction event primarily led by human activities. The rate of extinction is estimated to be 1000-10,000 times faster than natural extinction rates, which in turn leads to the extinction of around 200-2000 species yearly. According to Mother Nature Network (MNN), around 38% of all terrestrial animals and 81% of freshwater vertebrates went extinct between 1970 -2012.

Loss of Tropical Rainforests

According to research reports, rainforests cover only 2% of the land, however, it supports 50% of its species.

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Despite this fact, among the tropical forests, the area of rainforests cleared is the maximum, and most of it is export-driven.

Climate Change/Global Warming

Climate change and global warming issues which majorly include tropospheric ozone depletion are primarily caused by CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons). The rise in the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has resulted in global warming. NASA reported a decrease of 13% per decade in Arctic ice cover and around a 7-inch increase in sea levels over the last 100 years.

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Additionally, according to NASA, melting down of glaciers on the mountain tops, warmer oceans, and the increase in extreme events in the United States and other countries are some of the evidence of climate change.

Approach to Save Earth from Deforestation

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Solar Energy in India: Scope, Advantages and Disadvantages

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India with more than 1 billion population is witnessing a huge demand for energy. The nation ranks at fifth position in the world for the production as well as the consumption of electricity. Undoubtedly, electricity production has increased over the years; however, the population of the country is also increasing, resulting in an unbalance between demand and supply.

In India, the electrical energy is produced mostly from coal which accounts for approximately 53% and it is estimated that the nation’s coal reserves won’t last beyond 2040-50. Over 72% of India’s population resides in villages and half of these villages remain without electricity. Therefore, it is essential for the Indian Government to focus more on energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy. One of the efficient ways to meet this increasing demand for energy is the production and consumption of solar power.

Solar Energy in India

The country has an incredible scope for generating solar power. The geographical position of the nation stands to its advantage for generating solar power. India being a tropical country receives solar radiation almost throughout the year, which accounts approximately 3,000 hours of sunshine, which in turn is equivalent to over 5,000 trillion kWh. Almost all the regions of the nation receive 4-7 kWh of solar radiation per sq meter, which equals to 2,300–3,200 sunshine hours per year. Due to the geographical location, some of the states including Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, and West Bengal have great potential for generating solar power. Usage of solar energy can reduce the use of firewood and dung cakes by the rural household.

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Advantages of Solar Energy in India

Here are some of the advantages of solar power which makes it suitable for India.

  1. Solar power is an inexhaustible source of energy and the best substitute to other non-renewable resources of energy in India.
  2. Energy generated from solar radiation is environment-friendly since it does not release poisonous air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
  3. The usage of solar energy can be used for various purposes such as heating, cooling, drying, or for electricity consumption in the rural areas in India. Additionally, solar power can also be utilized in motor vehicles, large powerboats, planes, satellites, calculators and many more such gadgets and objects, suitable for the urban population.
  4. In India, where energy is deficient and power generation is costly, solar energy is the best alternative mean of power generation since it is inexhaustible.
  5. There is no requirement of power or gas grid to obtain solar energy. Installation of the solar energy system can be done anywhere and the solar panels can be easily placed in houses. Therefore, it is a cost-effective energy production system as compared to other sources of energy.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy in India

  1. Solar power cannot be generated during the night time.
  2. During the day time, if the weather is cloudy or rainy or there is little or no solar radiation, solar energy panels become less reliable.
  3. Only regions receiving good amount of sunlight are the regions most suitable for generating solar energy.
  4. Solar panels require storage batteries and inverters to convert direct electricity to alternating electricity so as to generate electricity. Although solar panels installation is quite cheaper, installing other equipment becomes a bit costly.
  5. The land space which is required to install a solar plant with solar panel should be quite large and remains occupied for many years altogether and thus cannot be utilized for other purposes.
  6. Power production is quite low as compared to other forms of energy.
  7. Solar panels need considerable maintenance since they are fragile and can be easily damaged. So insurance costs incurred on these are an extra cost.

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Solar Energy Power in India: Future

In India, there are many large solar projects have been proposed.

  1. Thar Desert has some of India’s best solar power projects, estimated to generate 700 to 2,100 GW.
  2. On March 1st, 2014, India’s biggest solar power plant was inaugurated in Neemuch district of Madhya Pradesh by the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi.
  3. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) launched by the Centre is estimating to generate 20,000 MW of solar energy power by 2022.
  4. Gujarat’s pioneering solar power policy aims at 1,000 MW of solar energy generation.
  5. In July 2009, a $19 billion solar power plant was launched which projected to generate 20 GW of solar power by 2020.

India is gradually gaining its prominence in the production of solar power due to the comprehensive solar policies and projects by the Government and the National Solar Mission.

What is Sustainability of Resources?

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What is Sustainability of Resources?

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Sustainability of natural resources is defined as the ability to maintain or sustain a resource at a certain level. And this is based on three scientific principles as below.

  1. Increased dependence on renewable energy
  2. Biodiversity
  3. Chemical cycling

Typically, it involves intervention to place limits on usage or to enforce standards of replacement. It encompasses the following areas.

Forestry and landscape sustainability

Forestry and landscape signify some of the oldest environmental protection laws across the world. Towards the end of the 19th century and beyond, the US and several other countries established National Parks or the protected natural spaces to promote ecology. Although terms, conditions, and policy differ by nation, the idea and approach to national parks mean protection of the environment from many destructive activities including construction and urban development. The government takes on the task for enforcing the law, setting policies, deciding the punishments and mitigating problems.

Impact assessment and monitoring

Environmental impact assessments analyze the potential outcomes under specific scenarios for the consequences of any activity. This can and includes the more extensive environmental impacts of development and advancement or expanded industrial output, but it can also incorporate the potential positives, for example, how land may recuperate from ecological issues or what the long haul environmental impacts will be of reforesting with a particular sort of tree canopy. Impact evaluation examines issues critically and with a view of the evidence and potential consequences. Governments usually require a formalized report before granting planning permission.

Mineral resource sustainability

Minerals are valuable metals, sold and fluid non-renewable energy sources, for example, oil and coal, are assets that require permitting and insurance for appropriate administration. These are limited assets and as they exist on government land, organizations wishing to work them must look for a permit. Mining is an untidy and conceivably risky business. Maintainability doesn’t matter to the asset itself (as it is limited) however the concerned needs to guarantee natural norms in its extraction and preparation, and the adherence of well being and security models for those removing it.

Water resource sustainability

Water is a sustainable asset yet when taken care of inadequately, can prompt deficiencies. In particular, water resource sustainability refers to the process of harnessing and utilizing it, in drought territories, managing its usage with minimal or no wastage. As water and water overflow doesn’t regard political limits, universal laws on preservation and use are normal and applied, particularly where there is shared use and duty or contending cases to it. Laws here apply to surface water, for example, waterways, lakes and seas, floodwater and ice meltwater, groundwater and the water table.

Wildlife and fishery sustainability

Laws protect wildlife and seek to control and restrict the impact of destructive activities of humans on animal species say by expansion and to prevent disturbances in natural food chains. Also, there are laws to protect plant species, particularly those vital to a local ecology or those that are endangered or threatened, or otherwise considered scientifically significant. It can include conservation status, quotas on the numbers that may be caught/hunted or a complete ban, or international ban on the commercialization of certain items. Ivory is one of such example.

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Ozone Layer Depletion: Cause, Impact and Solution

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Ozone depletion refers to the gradual thinning of Earth’s ozone layer in the upper atmosphere. The primary reason for the ozone layer depletion is the release of chemical compounds that contain gaseous chlorine or bromine from various industries and other human activities. The thinning of the layer is most prominent in the Polar Regions, particularly over Antarctica.

Ozone depletion is a major environmental concern since it increases the amount of ultraviolet (UV) rays that reach the Earth’s surface. As a consequence, excess of UV rays increases the rate of eye cataracts, skin cancer, genetic and immune system disorders.

Impact on Human Health

Ozone layer depletion increases the rate of UVB penetration into the Earth’s atmosphere. According to epidemiological studies, UVB causes non-melanoma skin cancer and promotes malignant melanoma development. UVB is also linked to the development of cataracts commonly referred to as the clouding of the eye’s lens.

Impact on Flora

Some crops species are vulnerable to strong UV rays and overexposure to this radiation may inhibit plant growth, photosynthesis, and flowering. The vulnerable crop species include barley, corn, wheat, rice, oats, tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower among others.

Effects on Marine Ecosystems

Certain marine life, especially phytoplanktons is greatly affected by exposure to strong UV rays. As a consequence, a decrease in the number of phytoplanktons may disrupt the aquatic food chain in many ways. Further, certain species of marine life have been greatly impacted by overexposure to ultraviolet rays at a very early stage. For example, it has been observed that excess UV rays may disrupt early developmental stages of shrimp, fish, crab, amphibians, and other marine animals. The most adverse impact includes decreased reproductive ability and impaired larval development in aquatic animals. Slight increases in UVB exposure may result in population reductions for marine organisms with implications for the entire aquatic food chain.

Effects on Materials

Materials such as wood, plastics, fabrics, rubber are massively degraded by excess exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

Solutions to Ozone Layer Depletion

Avoid pesticides usage

Pesticides contribute enormously to ozone layer depletion. Therefore, pesticides should be avoided and natural methods should be implemented to get rid of pests and weeds. Some of the natural methods include weeding the farm manually and use of alternative eco-friendly chemicals to control pests.

Minimize vehicles on the road

Another easiest way to minimize ozone depletion is to limit the number of vehicles on the road. Vehicles emit a lot of greenhouse gases which in due course form smog, a catalyst in the depletion of the ozone layer.

Usage of eco-friendly cleaning agents

Most of the household cleaning agents are packed with harmful chemicals that find the route to the atmosphere, ultimately contributing to the degradation of the ozone layer. People should give up the usage of such chemicals and instead use natural and environmentally friendly cleaning agents.

Prohibition on the use of nitrous oxide

Another harmful compound responsible for ozone depletion is nitrous oxide. Governments must take action to outlaw nitrous oxide usage to reduce the rate of ozone depletion.

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SAVE WATER: It’s high time

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This is a well-known fact that water is essential for the existence of life on earth. Although we are surrounded by vast water bodies which account around three-fourth of the Earth’s surface, however freshwater on the earth accounts only 2.5% in the form of glaciers out of which only 1% is suitable for drinking. So it becomes necessary for us to save water and avoid its wastage.

Reason for Fresh Water Scarcity

The primary reason for water pollution is inappropriate waste management. Dumping of industrial waste materials into the water bodies on a regular basis is one of the major factors of freshwater getting polluted. Another factor for contamination of groundwater is the use of powerful pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture. Reckless usage of water and excess of water wastage have also reduced the accessibility of fresh and clean water.

Prevention of Water Scarcity

  1. Implementation of appropriate water management systems in the industries, buildings, school, apartments, and hospitals is necessary to ensure efficient usage of water so that no drop of it gets wasted.
  2. General awareness programs should be arranged for the common people to bring consciousness about the significance of water and methods of its usage in a limited amount without wasting it.
  3. Rainwater harvesting projects should be promoted in all areas so that rainwater can be used in various purposes and helps to stock up groundwater.

How to avoid wastage of water?

Here are some better ways to save water on a daily basis

  1. People should water their gardens and lawns only when they need water.
  2. Sprinkling water is a better way to save gallons of water per month as compared to watering the garden with the pipe.
  3. Keeping drought-resistant plants at home is another way to save water as these plants need less water.
  4. Leakage of plumbing joints or faucets or water taps should be fixed immediately. This actually saves around 20 gallons of water per day.
  5. For car or vehicle washing it is better to use a bucket and mug instead of a pipe. This may save up to 150 gallons of water from each wash.
  6. Showers bath saves much more water than bathing in a bathtub or even with a bucket.
  7. Fully loaded washing machines and dishwashers help in minimal usage of water and save around 300 to 800 gallons of water per month.
  8. Minimum usage of water per toilet also helps in saving more water on a daily basis.
  9. Washing vegetables and fruits in a water-filled container instead of washing under the running water save more water.
  10. Rainwater harvesting is another way of saving freshwater. With this method water from rain can be stored and used for various purposes.
Ground Water Depletion crisis is going to surface…

Ground Water Depletion in India: The crisis which is going to surface everywhere

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Approach to Save Earth from Deforestation

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Forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Trees are being sacrificed for making a profit, as the industrialists are pushing through forests in order to gain land for commercial purposes.

As per the surveys conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, 33 million acres of forestland are lost annually around the globe. The major factors responsible for deforestation include wood and paper products, mining and oil exploitation, urbanization, acid rain, and wildfires. Besides these, supplying wood timber for wood and paper products and clearing land for crops, cattle and housing purposes are some of the other reasons for deforestation.

Deforestation causes serious impact on air and water pollution, soil erosion, climate change, loss of biodiversity. In this scenario, as an individual and being a part of the global community, one can at least plant a tree to combat deforestation. Apart from this, we can also take another step forward to alter our shopping, eating, or even driving habits. This small step can lead to giant leaps towards a global battle against deforestation.

Here are some exceptional ways that you can help in stopping or preventing deforestation.
  1. Start planting trees around you and promote tree plantation in your neighborhood.
  2. Go paperless and avoid printing. Whether at work or at home, most people still have the habit of using paper or hardcopy files. Cultivate a habit of using electronic files and folders properly.
  3. While shopping, shift your preference towards buying recycled products. At home, try to recycle or repurpose waste things as much as possible. By doing this, you will help in knocking down the demand for clearing land.
  4. Cut down your meat intake and try to eat vegetarian meals instead. This is healthy as well as a best practice as it remains problematic and time-taking to source meat products that are completely devoid of being harvested on land that once was covered with trees. Avoid buying meat products sourced from land where forests have been cleared.
  5. Stop using firewood to heat up fireplaces. It takes merely a few hours to burn the firewood but it takes several years to grow a tree. Try to change your approach to living your life in such a way that your daily activities cause the least impact on the environment.
  6. Bring awareness among people to live in a way that doesn’t impact the environment. Try to form a community and let other people know about the alarming rate of deforestation and the control measures to minimize our carbon footprint on the environment.
  7. Support and encourage companies that manufacture products by causing minimal or no damage to the environment.

 

Know amazing facts about the world’s second-largest rainforest.

Amazing Congo Rainforest

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Ground Water Depletion in India: The crisis which is going to surface everywhere

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Global warming has been a concern for the dwellers on the earth. Its repercussions are many folded in variegated forms in recent times, especially the depletion of the groundwater level. As India is the second-most populous nation across the globe it shoulders the maximum burnt to his capacity. We as a citizen of India must prepare for the worst and hope for the best to overcome such inconceivable extreme situation.

Groundwater is the water that seeps through rocks and soil and is stored below the ground. The rocks in which groundwater is stored are called aquifers. Aquifers are typically made up of gravel, sand, sandstone or limestone. India accounts for almost one-fourth of the total groundwater extracted globally, more than that of China and the US combined thus using the largest amount of groundwater 24 per cent of the global total, according to sources. Over the past fifty years, the use of groundwater for irrigation has dramatically increased in developing countries like India and China.

Increased groundwater irrigation has enabled higher and more consistent crop yields, which in turn has improved food security and reduced poverty. However, this increase in groundwater use has led to falling water levels and widespread concern about the long-term sustainability of irrigated agriculture.

These concerns are especially dire in India, where groundwater use has increased by 500% over the past fifty years. With 230 billion metre cube of groundwater drawn out each year for irrigating agriculture lands in India, many parts of the country are experiencing rapid depletion of groundwater. The total estimated groundwater depletion in India is in the range of 122–199 billion metre cube. The Indo-Gangetic Plain, north-western, central and western parts of India account for most intensive groundwater-based irrigation. And among these regions, western India and the Indo-Gangetic Plain have more than 90% of the area irrigated using groundwater.

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India is an agrarian economy where 58.4% of people depend upon agriculture. The most popular cereals that have been cultivated are rice and wheat. These water-guzzling crops are heavily dependent upon irrigation which why the situation has been becoming alarming down the line. The report said that one kg of wheat and rice required an average 1,654 and2,800 litres of water respectively. So, just for rice, a family of four consumes approximately 84,600 litres of virtual water in a month. According to the report by Water Aid India, In 2014-15, India exported 37.2 lakh tonnes of basmati.

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To export this rice, the country used around 10 trillion litres of water, meaning India virtually exported 10 trillion litres of water .it is calling for production of these goods to be made more sustainable and for consumers to be more thoughtful in their purchasing habits.

Lack of access to clean water further pushes the marginalised and vulnerable communities towards an inhuman circle of poverty. The burden of accessing water to meet daily needs prevents them from reaching their full potential by inhibiting their education, health and livelihood opportunities.

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There is a dire need to invest in making clean water within the household accessible to everyone, everywhere. India’s success in providing its citizens with access to clean water will significantly impact the success of global goals that the government has committed to.

India’s over-exploitation of groundwater is contributing to—as stated by NITI Aayog—“the worst water crisis in its history”. Groundwater is one of the most important water sources in India accounting for 63% of all irrigation water and over 80% of the rural and urban domestic water supplies. In fact, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Water Development Report states that India is the largest extractor of groundwater in the world. Fifty-four percent of India’s groundwater wells have declined over the past seven years, and 21 major cities are expected to run out of groundwater by 2020.

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Thus, India faces a dual challenge: to regulate the growing demand for groundwater while replenishing its sources.

Research indicates that although MSP has led to assured incomes, it has also led to groundwater depletion, income inequality and unsustainable agriculture. On the supply side, the performance of state governments has not been satisfactory, with the NITI Aayog Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) report stating that the majority of states have scored less than 50% in the source augmentation of groundwater resource index.

Given this scenario, we require policies that promote the judicious use of groundwater. Although there are a number of potential interventions in the area of groundwater conservation, there are hardly any rigorous evaluations. In absence of rigorous research, such as randomized evaluations, which can establish the causal impact of an intervention, it is a challenge to identify solutions that are highly effective.

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However, researchers could draw lessons from existing solutions, and use them to design interventions that could later be rigorously evaluated.

One of the proposed ways to reduce groundwater extraction is by reducing electricity subsidies. Subsidies on electricity are thought to play another major role in the Indian groundwater crisis. The vast majority of groundwater pumps are unmetered, and if charged, are billed at a flat, non-volumetric, and highly subsidized tariff. This flat rate is responsible, at least in part, for inefficient usage and excessive withdrawal of groundwater. In addition, the government encourages farmers to produce water-intensive crops like rice and sugarcane through increased minimum support prices (MSP).

An analysis of panel data across 370 districts in India found that a reduction in electricity subsidy was correlated with a decrease in groundwater extraction. On average, a 10% reduction in electricity subsidy generated a 6.7% decrease in groundwater extraction. However, reducing electricity subsidies for farmers could be politically unpopular. One possible way to overcome this challenge is by limiting the electricity subsidy offered to farmers and compensating them with a direct cash transfer for every unit they save. This provides farmers with an incentive to use groundwater judiciously without any additional cost to the government.

Creating sustainable change would require a bottom-up approach by empowering the local community to become active participants in managing groundwater. In line with this, the central government in its 12th five-year plan proposed a policy of participatory groundwater management (PGM), which involves a collaborative approach among government departments, researchers, NGOs and community members. The plan involves training community workers to carry out aquifer mapping and implement innovative ways to use groundwater conservatively with the local community.

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The PGM has been implemented in different states, albeit with some variations, such as the Andhra Pradesh Farmer Managed Groundwater Systems (APFAMGS) programme in Andhra Pradesh and Pani Panchayats in Maharashtra.

Advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources, World Water Day is celebrated every year on March 22. It was established in the year 1993 to build public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world.

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Today, billions of people are still living without safe water – their households, schools, workplaces, farms and factories struggling to survive and thrive. Marginalized groups – women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, disabled people and many others – are often overlooked, and sometimes face discrimination, as they try to access and manage the safe water they need.’ Safe water’ is shorthand for a ‘safely managed drinking water service’: water that is accessible on the premises, available when needed, and free from contamination.

The theme for World Water Day 2019 is ‘Leaving no one behind’. This is an adaptation of the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: as sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit.

India is currently ranked 120 among 122 countries in the water quality index. In 2015, the Indian government committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6, which promises that by 2030 everyone will have access to clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene. The human right to water must take priority ahead of other competing demands.

However, there is almost no research study evaluating its impact. While this void is disconcerting, it also presents an opportunity for researchers and policymakers to design and test different interventions ranging from awareness campaigns to training programmes that effectively mobilize and equip the local community to work towards groundwater conservation.

Groundwater has helped India overcome food shortage in the 1960s by playing an instrumental role in ushering in the green revolution. However, the NITI Aayog CWMI report is a timely reminder of the need for policymakers and researchers to come together and conduct rigorous evaluations in order to understand what works and what doesn’t work for groundwater conservation.

No single action whether community-based, legislation, traditional water harvesting systems or reliance on market forces will in itself alleviate the crisis in India. The effective answer to the freshwater crisis is to integrate conservation and development activities – from water extraction to water management – at the local level; making communities aware and involving them fully is, therefore, critical for success.

All this will ultimately pave the way for combining conservation of the environment with the basic needs of people. Unless we take urgent measures to avert this crisis, we may find ourselves faced with an environmental catastrophe of our own making.

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Perils of the plastic pollution: alarming time ahead!

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Every piece of plastic ever disposed of (this includes the toothbrush your great-grandfather used) is damaging the earth. It’s lying somewhere in the earth, floating in the ocean, or been broken down into micro-particles and in the food chain. Although a fraction of the plastic disposed of is recycled, most of it eventually ends up in the ocean or in dumpsites outside city limits. The best way to reduce plastic pollution is to reduce and phase out its consumption. Solutions range from carrying your own reusable steel glass, box, spoon and cloth bag while eating out or shopping for groceries to using alternatives to plastic for household items.

Plastics are organic polymers of high molecular mass and often contain other substances. They are usually synthetic, mainly derived from petrochemicals. Their low cost, ease of manufacture, versatility, non-corrosiveness, and imperviousness to water, plastics make them useful for multiple purposes at different scales. Further, many chemists, including Nobel laureate Hermann Staudinger (father of polymer chemistry) and Herman Mark (father of polymer physics), have contributed to the materials science of plastics. However, these scientists could not have anticipated such exponential growth of plastic production.

 

India consumes an estimated 16.5 million tonnes, about 1.6 million trucks full of plastic annually, as per this June 2018 report in Down to Earth that cites data provided by PlastIndia Foundation, a conglomeration of associations and institutions that deal in plastic. Of this, 43% is plastic manufactured for single-use packaging material that will mostly find its way into garbage bins, the report said. In all, 80% of the total plastic produced in India is discarded. It mostly ends up choking landfills, drains, and rivers and flows into the sea where it is ingested by marine animals. It leaches into soil and water, contaminating the natural environment with poisonous dioxins.

National Green Tribunal rapped 25 states and union territories for not following its orders on submitting a plan by April 30, 2019, on how they would comply with the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has pulled up 52 companies — including Amazon, Flipkart, Danone Foods and Beverages and Patanjali Ayurved Limited — for not specifying a timeline or a plan to collect the plastic waste that results from their business activities.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018. In 2016, the Union government implemented the Plastic Waste Management Rules and Solid Waste Management Rules. But the rules faced various challenges. Based on representations received from various stakeholders, MoEF&CC had constituted a committee to resolve such issues.

At least 40% of the plastic waste generated every day–25,940 tonnes or about 2,594 truckloads, as per this 2015 CPCB study for the year 2011-12–goes uncollected. Thin plastic bags and films do not have enough value in the recycling market–they fetch no more than Rs 4 a kg–to be collected by rag pickers.

There are numerous reasons for Plastic Pollution.  The vast network of unlicensed units manufacturing low-grade plastic bags and other material such as Styrofoam and the indifferences of municipal authorities to waste management is certainly the main causes of the pollution. Another important factor which is adding to the injury is India able to recycle only about 4 million tonnes and at the same time before the re-imposition of the plastic waste import ban in March 2019, Indian recycling firms were importing plastic waste from China, Italy, Japan, and Malawi.

Plastic Pollution can have some serious repercussion such as it can upset the food chain as it comes in sizes large and small, polluting plastics even affect the world‘s tiniest organisms such as plankton. When these organisms become poisoned due to plastic ingestion, this causes problems for the larger animals that depend on them for food and water conservation is already a concern in places ranging from California to parts of India, but the world‘s water is in great danger because of leaking plastics and waste. Similarly land is critically polluted when plastic is dumped in landfills; it interacts with water and forms hazardous chemicals. When these chemicals seep underground, they degrade the water quality. The wind carries and deposits plastic from one place to another, increasing the land litter. Recently as we experience the menace of air pollution, burning of plastic in the open air, leads to environmental pollution due to the release of poisonous chemicals. The polluted air when inhaled by humans and animals affect their health and can cause respiratory problems. It also kills animals despite countless TV ads over the years showing ducks or dolphins trapped in six-ring plastic can holders, these items are still used and discarded en masse each day. It is heavily poisonous. Man artificially makes plastic by using a number of toxic chemicals. Therefore, the use of and exposure to plastics has been linked to a number of health concerns affecting people around the world.

India is reckoned to generate over 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day. The residues can stain the environment and natural resources for hundreds of years. Plastic toxicity is known for its enduring adverse effects on territorial and aquatic life. In food, it can alter human hormones to cause major life-threatening diseases. Plastic materials, especially bags and bottles strewn on roads, have been noticed to cause flooding by blocking drains. They also kill stray cattle by choking.

Plastics are not totally dispensable as their use seems desirable in certain situations. In fields like agriculture and automobiles, packaging, information technology, and biomedical industries, they are relevant. But their non-degradability and emission of toxic gases on combustion and incineration are growing concerns. It is thus imperative to manage plastic debris appropriately and at the same, It would be advisable to reassess the new set of rules and switch back to the 2016 plastic waste management norms.

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Avoid constructions on river banks in hilly areas to stay safe

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The havoc created by the ongoing rains and the cloud burst incidents have led to excessive swelling of rivers and dangerous landslides.
This has not only damaged roads and washed away houses but has killed several people and domestic animals. The colossal loss to people and properties in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh has taught the people and the respective governments a good number of lessons.
In Uttarakhand, during the last week, the toll had crossed fifty numbers. The massive ecological disaster of 2013 that took place in Kedarnath and its surrounding areas due to massive cloud bursts and excessive rain, killed thousands of people. This incident had also sent several signals of the impending dangers to the people, successive governments of the state and to the center.
Whenever there is overflooding of rivers and massive deluges, the inhabitants living alongside the river banks and plains suffer the most. At the very first instance, they lose their agricultural fields, houses, domestic animals and also their lives. The reason being that builders, Dhabawallas, hoteliers and local residents deliberately forget the risks involved in constructing their houses and buildings near the river banks. All this for immediate gains.
When the rivers swell beyond capacity because of incessant heavy rains and accumulate a humongous quantity of water due to cloud bursts the buildings, commercial establishments, shops, etc built on these river banks are directly affected. The inhabitants living in them are the direct victims. They get washed away, get pressed under huge debris of landslides or even under the damaged houses because their foundations get badly eroded. During the ecological disaster of June 15, 2013, even multistorey houses and hotels constructed on the river banks of the Alaknanda river fell like a pack of cards and killed several people. Hundreds of vehicles, even trucks, tempos and trolleys got swept away.
There are clear cut instructions in Uttarakhand and the ruling from the ministry of environment also mentions that no structure should come up within a specified parametre or distance from the rivers or on its adjoining banks or plains. This is probably up to 500 meters. Despite several horrific ecological disasters and monsoon tragedies, it seems that the people of Uttarakhand and its administration have not learned any lesson. This is a dangerous trend and has led to several deaths till date. It is not wise to blame nature, it is the attitude of these human beings and the state administration who can be blamed for these tragedies. The occupants and the tourists throw their rubbish, plastic, faecal, construction material and other dirt into the pious rivers and make them squeezed and polluted. Human beings embrace death and devastation by encroaching and going too near these rivers. First and foremost, the mining mafia which cuts down trees on these river banks and thus makes them hollow should be thrown out fiercely.
Eminent Environmentalist Sunder Lal Bahuguna’s son Rajeev Nayan Bahuguna who is a senior journalist,
while advising the people of Uttarakhand after the tragic death of about fifty people wrote: ‘Never ever build houses on the banks/plains of rivers and the monsoon rivulets. The ancestors never built their houses on these river banks. Residing on riverbanks leads to destruction and devastation for sure. There used to be Gharaats on river banks in an earlier era and that too at quite a distance. Construction of houses, hotels, restaurants has started since a decade. The political class and the lawmakers allegedly siphon off huge funds in the name of new construction. They are least worried about the safety and the well being of people. Therefore we should give up constructing structures on river banks and avoid these tragedies.’
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Amazing Congo Rainforest

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Located in central Africa, the world’s second-largest rainforest widely known as The Congo Basin Rainforest covers about 1.5 million square miles. Although a major portion of the Congo Rainforest is in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), substantial areas fall in Gabon, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and the Central African Republic.

Common Facts of Congo Rainforest

  1. The Congo rainforest is considered as one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.
  2. The second largest river of the world, The Congo River, runs through the rainforest.
  3. Though the climate is warm and wet with an average temperature of 25°C, the average rainfall is over 58 inches annually.
  4. Five of the national parks in the Congo Rainforest are declared as UN World Heritage Sites.
  5. Pygmies are the group of tribal ethnicities mostly found in Congo Basin. The short stature people with an average height of 4- 4.5 feet survive by foraging and hunting.

Amazing Fauna Facts

  1. The Congo rainforest is home to approximately 450 species of mammals, 200 types of amphibians, 300 species of reptiles, and over 1,000 species of birds.
  2. It is the only place on earth where all types of gorillas can be seen. The types include all three subspecies the lowland gorilla, the mountain gorilla, and the eastern lowland gorilla. Bonobos, an endangered great ape, which is considered to be the closest relatives to human beings are found here only.

3. The Congo rainforest is also a habitat for the African forest elephant. The distinguishable characteristics of the African forest elephant are its smaller frame and downward-projecting tusks.

4. Okapi is an African mammal that appears like a crossbreed of a giraffe and a horse. Therefore, it is often called zebra giraffe or forest giraffe. Its brown color body with white striped legs provides the mammal a totally mesmerizing appearance. The animal is found only in the rainforest of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

5. The black colobus or satanic black colobus is a species of Old World monkey of the genus colobus. These are large in size and covered with black fur with no thumb as in all other colobus monkeys. Owing to hunting and habitat destruction, the black colobus species has encountered large declines in population and was consequently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List in 1994. These endangered species are found in high canopies of the Congo rainforest.

Congo Rainforest Plant Facts

  1. The Congo rainforests is also a habitat to over 11,000 species of flora. The vegetation here is so dense that in most of the parts only 1% of the sunlight reaches the ground.
  2. Many cancer Institutes have identified about 1,400 plants in the rainforest could potentially be used to fight cancer.
  3. Lianas, which appear like more of vines, are common in the Congo rainforest and can grow up to three thousand feet or 914 meters long.

4. Another common flora found in these rainforests is the teak trees that grow up to 50 meters or 154 feet high. Since teak trees are always in high demand for its wood, it has become the primary reasons for the alarming rate of deforestation in the forest.

These amazing facts help understand why this rainforest is one of the most incredible African landforms.

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