Nature & India : News, Views and Discussions

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India Has Enhanced Forest Cover To Almost One-Fourth Of Country's Total Area Over Last 10 Years: PM Modi At UN​

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday (14 June) told the United Nations that over the last 10 years, around 3 million hectares of forest cover has been added in India.

In his keynote virtual address on 'High-Level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought' at the UN, PM Modi further said that India has raised the total combined forest cover to almost one-fourth of the country's total area.
 

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China, India miss UN deadline to submit plans for cutting emissions​

China and India have missed a UN deadline to submit fresh plans for cutting their greenhouse gas emissions in time for the global body to include their pledges in a report for governments at this year's global climate summit, according to officials.

The world's two most populous countries are among dozens that failed to provide an update on their targets for curbing the release of planet-warming gases to the UN climate change agency by July 31, they said on Saturday.

China is the country with the world's highest emissions, while India is third. The United States (US), which submitted its new target in April, is the second-biggest global emitter.

UN Climate Chief Patricia Espinosa welcomed that 110 signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change had met the cut-off date, which was extended from the end of 2020 due to the pandemic. But she said it was far from satisfactory that only 58 per cent had submitted their new targets in time.

Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Syria and 82 other nations also failed to update their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in time to include them in a report Espinosa's office is preparing for the UN climate change conference in November.

Espinosa noted that a previous report found countries were doing too little to meet the goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared with pre-industrial times, let alone the more ambitious target of capping warming at 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).

Recent extreme heat waves, droughts and floods across the globe are a dire warning that much more needs to be done, and much more quickly, to change our current pathway, said Espinosa. This can only be achieved through more ambitious NDCs.

Under the 2015 Paris climate accord, countries set their own emissions reduction goals but are required to be transparent about them and jointly raise their targets over time to ensure that global warming remains at agreed acceptable levels.

China did announce last year that it aims for its emissions of carbon dioxide the main greenhouse gas to peak before 2030, and to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. The target has yet to be formally included in its submission to the UN, however, meaning it can't yet be counted toward the global effort.

Earlier this month, the chair of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Alok Sharma of Britain, met with environment ministers from more than 50 countries, including the US and China. Speaking to reporters after the meeting the first physical meeting of its kind since the start of the pandemic Sharma said participants had agreed the 1.5 degrees C goal must stay within reach.

Between now and COP26 we must, and I promise you we will, make every single day count, he said.
 

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Govt bans manufacture, sale and use of identified single-use plastic items from July 1, 2022​

The government has notified Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, prohibiting identified single-use plastic items by 2022.


ON THICKNESS

The thickness of plastic carry bags will be increased from 50 microns to 75 microns from September 30, 2021, and to 120 microns from December 31, 2022, according to the notification dated August 12. This will also allow the plastic carry bags to be reused, it stated.

Non-woven plastic carry bags should not be less than 60 gram per square metre (GSM) with effect from September 30, 2021, the notification said.

"The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of following single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited with effect from July 1, 2022: ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene (thermocol) for decoration; plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays; wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, and cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers," it read.

The provisions will not apply to commodities made of compostable plastic, the notification said.

MODI'S PLAN SINCE 2018

In June 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that India will eliminate all single-use plastics in the country by 2022.

In the fourth United Nations Environment Assembly held in 2019, India piloted a resolution on addressing single-use plastic products pollution, recognising the urgent need for the global community to focus on this issue.

In a statement, the Environment Ministry said plastic packaging waste not covered under the phase-out of identified single-use plastic items should be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the Extended Producer Responsibility of the producer, importer and brand owner (PIBO) as per Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.

For effective implementation of the Extended Producer Responsibility, the guidelines being brought out have been given legal force through the amended rules, it said.

EXTENDED PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY

Extended Producer Responsibility is a policy approach in which producers take responsibility for management of the disposal of products they produce once those products are designated as no longer useful by consumers.

The Centre had earlier asked states and union territories to constitute a special task force under the chief secretary or the administrator for elimination of SUP and effective implementation of the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.

Fourteen states and UTs had constituted the special task force by July 23, according to a reply given by Minister of State for Environment Ashwini Choubey in Parliament.

The Environment Ministry has also set up a national-level task force for making coordinated efforts in this direction.

The state and the UT governments and the central ministries and departments concerned have also been asked to develop a comprehensive action plan for elimination of SUP and effective implementation of the rules in a time-bound manner.
 

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India decides to ratify Kigali Amendment to Montreal Protocol​

Following similar decisions by the United States and China in the past few months, India on Wednesday decided to ratify a key amendment to the 1989 ozone-saving Montreal Protocol negotiated five years ago. The Kigali Amendment, named after the Rwadan capital where it was negotiated, enables the phase-out of hydroflurocarbons, a set of chemicals notorious for their capacity to warm the planet.

The 2016 amendment was seen as one of the most important breakthroughs in the global efforts to fight climate change, because the HFCs, a set of 19 gases used extensively in the air-conditioning and refrigerant industry, are known to be hundreds, even thousands, of times more potent than carbon dioxide in their ability to cause global warming. It is estimated that a complete phase-out of HFCs by 2050 would prevent about 0.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures by the end of this century.

This important instrument, therefore, is crucial to achieving the target of restraining the increase in global temperatures to 2 degree Celsius from pre-industrial times. As pointed out by a recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the average temperatures of the planet has already risen by about 1.1 degree Celsius.

Ozone-saving provisions​

The 1989 Montreal Protocol is not a climate agreement. It is instead aimed at protecting the earth from ozone-destroying chemicals like the chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, that were earlier used in the air-conditioning and refrigerant industry. The widespread use of CFCs had caused a hole in the Ozone layer of the atmosphere, which allowed some harmful radiations to reach the earth. These radiations were considered potential health hazards. The Montreal Protocol led to the replacement of CFCs with HFCs which do not destroy the Ozone layer. But they were later found to be extremely potent in causing global warming. So, the HFCs solved one problem, but were contributing in a major way in another. But theses could not be eliminated under the original provisions of Montreal Protocol which was meant to phase-out ozone-destroying chemicals only. The Kigali Amendment enabled the Montreal Protocol to mandate the elimination of HFCs as well.

The decision to ratify the amendment was taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet on Wednesday. It comes close on the heels of similar decisions by the United States and China, the world’s largest producers and consumers of HFCs. According to a recent factsheet issued by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a US-based environmental organisation, and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), 122 countries had ratified the Kigali Amendment by the end of July.

Under the Kigali amendment, the United States, China and India are in separate group of countries, with different time schedules to phase out their HFCs and replace them with climate-friendly alternatives. India has to reduce its HFC use by 80 per cent by the year 2047, while China and the United States have to achieve the same target by the year 2045 and 2034 respectively.

India on Wednesday said it will draw up a national strategy for phase-down of HFCs by the year 2023 in “consultation with all industry stakeholders”. It said that existing domestic laws that govern the implementation of the Montreal Protocol would be amended by the middle of 2024 to facilitate the HFC phase-down. India’s reductions have to begin only after 2028.
 
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RISING SUN

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‘Garbage mountains’ in cities to be removed: PM Narendra Modi​

The “mountains of garbage” in Indian cities will be wiped out, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised Friday as he launched the second phases of the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation.

The Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 intends to make India’s cities garbage-free. AMRUT 2.0 aims at ramping up sewage treatment as well as providing 100 per cent water supply coverage to all households.

Speaking on urban water security, Prime Minister Modi said the target is to expand sewage and septic management, and ensure that no untreated sewage is released into the rivers. “When sewage water treatment increases, urban water bodies will get clean and then our rivers will also be clean,” he said.

Referring to the Ghazipur landfill in Delhi, Prime Minister Modi said: “There is one such mountain of garbage in Delhi which has been sitting here for years and waiting to be removed,” Modi told Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, who nodded in agreement. “This movement in India will create numerous ‘green jobs’ as well,” he said.

Prime Minister Modi said around 1 lakh tonnes of urban waste is processed every day in India. “In 2014 less than 20 per cent waste in India was processed. Now, India processes almost 70 per cent of its waste every day. We have to take it to 100 per cent,” he said. The Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban 2.0 has an outlay of Rs 1.41 lakh crore Invoking BR Ambedkar, Modi said “Babasaheb” considered urban development a major medium to eradicate inequality.

“Those who migrate to cities from villages in search of a better life may get jobs in the cities but their standard of living is worse than what it was in the villages. It’s a two-fold blow on them to be away from their villages and not getting a good life in cities,” he said.
The two missions will improve the life of migrants in cities, the urban poor and the middle class, he said.

Identifying street vendors as a important stakeholders in urban development, Modi said they have received loans worth Rs 2,500 crore by banks so far under the government’s PM-Street Vendors Atmanirbhar NIDHI scheme and through over 7 crore digital transactions, street vendors are building their credit history with banks, something that was not done before.

The Prime Minister also termed cleanliness workers and garbage collectors “superheroes”.

He said in the seven years preceding 2014, the government had spent around Rs 1.25 lakh crore on urban development. The NDA government in the seven years since has budgeted around Rs 4 lakh crore for it, he said. “New metro routes, housing for the urban poor are all being made from this.”
 
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RISING SUN

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India backs move to designate East Antarctica, Weddell Sea as Marine Protected Areas​

India has extended its support for protecting the Antarctic environment and co-sponsoring a proposal of the European Union for designating East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the Ministry of Earth Sciences said on Thursday.

Addressing a high-level ministerial meeting held virtually on Wednesday, which saw participation from different countries of the European Union, Earth Sciences Minister Jitendra Singh said the two proposed MPAs are essential to regulate illegal unreported and unregulated fishing.

He urged the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) member countries to ensure that India remains associated with the formulation, adaptation and implementation mechanisms of these MPAs in future. “India supports sustainability in protecting the Antarctic environment,” Singh said.

“India has extended support for protecting the Antarctic environment and for co-sponsoring the proposal of the European Union for designating East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs),” the MoES said.

Singh said the proposal to designate East Antarctica and the Weddell Sea as MPAs was first put forth to the commission in 2020 but a consensus could not be reached at that time. He said, since then, substantial progress has been made with Australia, Norway, Uruguay and the United Kingdom agreeing to co-sponsor the proposal. The minister added that by the end of October 2021, India would join these countries in co-sponsoring the MPA proposals.

Singh informed the EU delegates that India had embarked on Antarctic expedition in 1981, through the Southern Indian Ocean sector and since then, there has been no turning back. He said till date, India had completed 40 expeditions with plans for the 41st expedition in 2021-22.
Singh said this is the first time India is considering co-sponsoring an MPA proposal at CCAMLR and getting aligned with countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Korea, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA, which are also proactively considering supporting the MPA proposals.

The minister said India’s decision to consider extending support and co-sponsoring the MPA proposals is driven by conservation and sustainable utilisation principles and adhering to the global cooperation frameworks such as Sustainable Development Goals, UN Decade of Oceans, Convention on Biodiversity, etc., to which India is a signatory.

The high-level ministerial meeting was hosted virtually by Virginijus Sinkevicius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, EU. It was attended by ministers, ambassadors and country commissioners from nearly 18 countries. The meeting aimed to increase the number of co-sponsors of the MPA proposals and reflected on a joint strategy and future actions for their swift adoption by CCAMLR.

CCAMLR is an international treaty to manage Antarctic fisheries to preserve species diversity and stability of the entire Antarctic marine ecosystem. It came into force in April 1982. India has been a permanent member of CCAMLR since 1986. Work pertaining to CCAMLR is coordinated in India by the Ministry of Earth Sciences through its attached office, the Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology (CMLRE) in Kochi, Kerala.

A marine protected area provides protection for all or part of its natural resources. Certain activities within an MPA are limited or prohibited to meet specific conservation, habitat protection, ecosystem monitoring, or fisheries management objectives. Since 2009, CCAMLR members have developed proposals for MPAs for various regions of the Southern Ocean. CCAMLR’s scientific committee examines these proposals. After CCAMLR members agree upon them, elaborate conservation measures are set out by the commission.
 

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Coming soon, a project to secure India’s elephant corridors​

As instances of human-elephant conflict rise, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has embarked on a massive project to identify and secure elephant corridors in the country.

The corridors could also be notified in order to give legal protection to the movement of elephants.

According to Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, the Ministry has “recently initiated the verification exercise of elephant corridors and is also working on mapping land use and land cover of elephant reserves in the country using GIS technology which will also aid conservation”.

Experts said elephant corridors have been changing over the years. Eighty-eight corridors were identified jointly by the Ministry and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), and published in 2005. In 2015, a second round of identification took place — and when published two years later, the number of corridors had gone up to 101.

“The number of corridors increased because of fragmentation of existing corridors. Elephants were finding new routes for their journeys. Over the last decade, seven corridors have disappeared because of fragmentation and impaired animal movement — they are no longer being used by elephants. If these could be included, there would be 108 corridors now,” Dr Sandeep Kumar Tiwari, Deputy Chief of Conservation at WTI, said.

Dr Tiwari, who is on a committee that was set up by the Ministry earlier this year to look into the issue of elephant corridors, said fragmentation could take place either due to linear infrastructure such as roads and railways, or a change of land use, including the development of plantations or agricultural patches.

Dr Prajna Panda of the Ministry’s Project Elephant said the lists of elephant corridors prepared by the central and state governments do not match. “So we are going back to the drawing board to match the Ministry and state lists, and come out with a comprehensive list of corridors,” she said.

“Earlier this year, the Ministry for the first time laid down parameters on what exactly an elephant corridor is, and how they are to be identified. This will eliminate the confusion around identification and subsequent preservation. The identification of the corridors, as well as checking land-use patterns in these corridors, will help us formulate policies and prioritise action on how the corridors need to be conserved,” Dr Panda added.

The corridor identification process will be undertaken in four elephant-rich regions: North West, North East, East-Central, and South. The Ministry will launch an awareness campaign among forest officials and other stakeholders in UP and Uttarakhand (North West region) on Friday. Similar campaigns will be held in other regions as well, before a final identification process is kicked off on October 18.

“One of the main things that we will look at is land use in these corridors, and in elephant reserves. When corridors were first identified, many already had human habitation; in others, habitation has now come up. Habitation has expanded in corridors that had hardly any earlier. Elephant areas have been encroached upon. Notifying the corridors will give them legal sanctity and help us preserve animal movement,” Dr Tiwari said.

He said fragmentation often happens because the corridors pass through private land. “A notification would ensure that land use is not changed within the private property or, if that does happen, it is not of a kind that impedes the movement of animals,’’ Dr Tiwari added.

Ministry data on human-elephant conflict released last year showed 1,025 elephant deaths and 4,642 human deaths from 2009 until September 2019. The most human deaths were in West Bengal (821; 18%).

The largest number of elephant deaths were caused by electrocution (640; 62% of total in 10 years), followed by train accidents (170; 17%), poaching (153; 15%), and poisoning (62; 6%), the data show.

According to the WTI’s 2017 report for the Ministry, 400-450 people are killed every year as a result of such conflict in India, and “around 100 elephants are killed in retaliation for the damage they cause to human life and property.’’

In terms of land use, only 12.9% of the corridors were totally under forest cover compared to 24% in 2005, the report said.