12, July 2017

1.Why is our air becoming dangerous?

Source: The Hindu

What is polluting cities?

  • It is now a part of record that several cities in India are among the most polluted in the world. The villain, in most cases, is aerosols and particulate matter.
  • It is a catch-all term for particles of a certain size that are suspended in the lower reaches of the atmosphere.
  • Aerosols emerge from a range of sources including dust, half-burnt carbon particles from vehicle exhaust and crop residues.
  • Natural sources of aerosol include fog and haze.
  • Studies, most of them in Europe, have drawn a link between particulate matter-levels and increased incidence of cardiovascular disease and respiratory problems. Now, it turns out, aerosols may be a grave threat to the Indian monsoon and maybe a bigger worry than greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide.

What about greenhouse gases?

  • There’s an ongoing debate on the relative role of greenhouse gases, such as water vapour and carbon dioxide, and aerosols in their influence over the South Asian monsoon.
  • Monsoon clouds gust into the mainland due to a pronounced difference in temperature between the land and the sea.
  • Greenhouse gases trap heat and, over time, cause temperatures to rise over the land and the sea. This affects the temperature gradient between them and, over the decades, leads to a rise in the frequency of extreme rainfall or long, rainless spells.
  • The IMD last year recorded 2016 to be the hottest year in India for over a century, and India has seen at least five drought years since 2002.

How are Aerosols different Green House Gas?

  • Aerosols, while responsible for air pollution, smog and asthma, are known to shield the land from solar radiation.
  • Though short-lived in the atmosphere compared to carbon dioxide, their absence would have made the earth hotter.
  • However, the enormity of these dust clouds means that they depress land and sea temperatures. Consequently, this reduces the strength of the monsoon circulation.
  • More than the quantity, it makes rain spells more erratic and because much of agriculture in India is still dependent on monsoon rains between June-September, they pose an additional threat to farmer livelihoods.

Why are aerosols a threat?

A study at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, led by climatologist  made us aware of aerosols. It is based on the institute’s ongoing work to forecast the effect of greenhouse gases — responsible for global warming and climate change — on Indian monsoon.

Climate Dynamics that a combination of greenhouse gases, aerosols and changes in forest-and-agricultural cover was weakening the monsoon over the last 50-odd years.

What does this mean for India?

  • The relative role of these climate-meddlers has consequences for India’s plans to mitigate the effects of climate change.
  • Measures to reduce aerosol emissions without curbing greenhouse gas emissions could mean a hotter land mass and more instances of untimely, extreme rainfall events.
  • Persistent aerosol emissions might lead to more instances of moderate rainfall but could mean anomalous weather and health hazards over large parts of north India.
  • The aerosol-greenhouse gas relationship in exacerbating climate change is an old area of research but teasing out the relative contribution of each is challenging and influences the costs countries must incur to address them.

India has generally maintained that man-made carbon dioxide pollution is largely due to the years of pollution by the developed West. However, such an argument might weaken if aerosols were brought into the picture because this is a largely South Asian concern. Were carbon dioxide and aerosol interactions proven to be strongly linked, India could be under pressure to adopt more stringent climate-proofing policies.

  1. SC stays cattle sale rules across nation

Source: The Hindu

The Supreme Court has stayed centre’s May 26th notification banning the sale of cattle in livestock markets for slaughter and religious sacrifices. The order came after the centre accepted that public outcry and objections from the states about the law’s impact on livelihoods made it realise that the rules need tweaking.

The court was taking up a bunch of petitions challenging the amendments to the rules framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

What are the Issues?

  • The centre, on May 26th, notified the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017. The notification banned the sale of cattle in livestock market for slaughter and religious sacrifices. This had dismayed cattle traders, butchers and beef eaters. Farmers were also hit as they were also barred from selling non-milch and ageing cattle thus being deprived of their traditional incomes. Various states too opposed the notification saying that it would impact the livelihoods of many.
  • The validity of the rules was challenged in various high courts and the SC. The Madurai bench of Madras HC had stayed the rules.

Way ahead

The centre has acknowledged that the law needs some tweaking keeping in mind the concerns raised by various stakeholders. It has also clarified that tweaking does not mean repeal. It would shortly come out with necessary amendments.

  1. Earth facing sixth mass extinction

Source: The Hindu

The sixth mass extinction of life on Earth is unfolding more quickly than feared, scientists have warned. Scientists call this as a case of biological annihilation occurring globally.

Globally, the mass die-off — deemed to be the sixth in the last half-billion years — is the worst since three-quarters of life on the Earth, including the non-avian dinosaurs, were wiped out 66 million years ago by a giant meteor impact. On an average, two vertebrate species disappear every year.

Supporting data

  • More than 30% of animals with a backbone — fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals — are declining in both range and population.
  • The mammal species that were monitored have lost at least a third of their original habitat. 40% of them — including rhinos, orangutans, gorillas and many big cats — are surviving on 20% or less of the land they once roamed. The loss of biodiversity has recently accelerated.
  • Several species of mammals that were relatively safe one or two decades ago are now endangered, including cheetahs, lions and giraffes. There are as few as 20,000 lions left in the wild, less than 7,000 cheetahs, 500 to 1,000 giant pandas, and about 250 Sumatran rhinoceros.
  • Tropical regions have seen the highest number of declining species. In South and Southeast Asia, large-bodied species of mammals have lost more than four-fifths of their historical ranges.
  • While fewer species are disappearing in temperate zones, the percentage is just as high or higher. As many as half of the number of animals that once shared our planet are no longer here, a loss described as “a massive erosion of the greatest biological diversity in the history of Earth”.

Key facts:

The main drivers of wildlife decline are habitat loss, overconsumption, pollution, invasive species, disease, as well as poaching in the case of tigers, elephants, rhinos and other large animals prized for their body parts. Climate change is poised to become a major threat in the coming decades.

  1. 5 States, a UT sign pact with Centre on e-Marketplace

Source: The Hindu

In a spirit of cooperative federalism, 5 States and a Union Territory (UT) have formally adopted the Centre’s initiative called the Government e-Marketplace (GeM).

The States and the UT that signed an MoU with the Centre include Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Telangana, Puducherry and Arunachal Pradesh.

GeM

  • It aims to ensure that public procurement of goods and services in India worth more than Rs. 5 lakh crore annually is carried out through the online platform for transparency and to eliminate corruption.
  • It aims to transform the way in which procurement of goods and services is done by the Government Ministries/Departments, PSUs, autonomous bodies etc.
  • DGS&D with technical support of NeGD (MeitY) has developed GeM portal for procurement of both Products & Services.
  • GeM is a completely paperless, cashless and system driven e-market place that enables procurement of common use goods and services with minimal human interface.

  1. Sensor network to map and predict pollution, effluents in Godavari

Source: The Hindu

 

 

  • A group of U.S. researchers is working on a system to map undulating pollution trends in the Godavari, India’s second longest river.
  • Using a mix of methods, including satellite-monitoring, traversing stretches of the river to collect water samples and using special sensors to measure bacterial and chemical pollution, the researchers are trying to develop a cost-effective forecast system.
  • Through cloud-based data collection and real-time mapping systems, the research and implementation teams intend to demonstrate the importance and value of detecting and anticipating pollutants that enter the river in the form of human waste, organic materials, and chemical contaminants.
  • The exercise is part of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation project to support the programme of the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) to provide city-wide sanitation improvements in urban Andhra Pradesh. Sensors to monitor river pollution are an emerging technological approach in India.

Objectives of the project

  • The long-term objective is to be able to inform State officials and citizens of a probable spike in, say, levels of dangerous microbes or effluents, similar to weather and air pollution forecasts.
  • Also, it is to be able to access “raw data” that could be used to inform the efficacy of a proposed faecal sludge treatment plant and whether behavioural interventions — including incentives or punishments — to restrict activities that pollute the river could actually work.

Godavari River

  • The Godavari is the second longest river in India after the river Ganges having its source at Tryambakeshwar, Maharashtra.
  • It starts in Maharashtra and flows east for 1,465 kilometres (910 mi) emptying into Bay of Bengal draining the Indian states Maharashtra (48.6%), Telangana(18.8%), Andhra Pradesh (4.5%), Chhattisgarh (10.9%), Madhya Pradesh (10.0%), Odisha (5.7%), Karnataka (1.4%) and Puducherry through its extensive network of tributaries.
  • Measuring up to 312,812 km2 (120,777 sq mi), it forms one of the largest river basins in the Indian subcontinent, with only the Ganges and Indus rivers having a drainage basin larger than it in India.
  • Important tributaries include Pravara, Purna, Manjira, Pranhita, Indravati and

  1. India to celebrate Falun Gong

Source: The Hindu

Falun Gong, the ancient Chinese holistic system that is banned in China, will be celebrated in India on July 15 with a parade and Human Word Formation in the capital. The event would highlight the persecution against the practitioners in China. The practice is banned in China.

  • Falun Gong is a Chinese spiritual practice that combines meditation and qigong exercises with a moral philosophy centered on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance.
  • The practice emphasizes morality and the cultivation of virtue, and identifies as a qigong practice of the Buddhist school, though its teachings also incorporate elements drawn from Taoist traditions.
  • Through moral rectitude and the practice of meditation, practitioners of Falun Gong aspire to eliminate attachments, and ultimately to achieve spiritual enlightenment.



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