Biodiversity Conservation

Biodiversity Conservation

This article deals with ‘Biodiversity Conservation  – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Science and technology, you can click here


Introduction

Conservation of biodiversity is the protection and scientific management of biodiversity so that present and future generations can derive sustainable benefits from it.

Biodiversity Conservation

In-Situ Conservation

  • In-Situ Conservation means conservation in the natural habitat.
  • It involves the conservation of the whole ecosystem to protect threatened species at all levels.
  • It is done by establishing a ‘PROTECTED AREA NETWORK‘ backed by legislation. These Protected Area Networks are 
    1. National Parks 
    2. Wildlife Sanctuaries 
    3. Biosphere Reserves
    4. Conservation Reserves 
    5. Community Reserves 
    6. Sacred Grooves 
    7. Eco-Sensitive Zone
    8. Biodiversity Heritage Sites 
  • Other steps for In-Situ Conservation of Biodiversity
    1. ICMBA (Important Coastal & Marine Biodiversity Areas) 
    2. UNESCO World Heritage Sites 
    3. Go Area and No Go Areas 
    4. Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)

1. National Park

  • National Park is a natural habitat notified by the state government due to its ecological, faunal, floral, geomorphological, or zoological association of importance. 
  • These are declared under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. 
  • It works on the principle of ‘Everything is prohibited unless permitted.’
  • No human interference is allowed. Activities such as development, forestry, hunting, cultivation and grazing are not permitted.
  • There are 104 national parks in India (1.23% area of India).

Ranking (for prelims)

  • Maximum Area: Uttarakhand  
  • Maximum number: Madhya Pradesh and Andaman & Nicobar with 9 each.
  • Punjab, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Delhi and Lakshadweep have zero National Parks.

List of National Parks

State National Parks (NP)
Jammu Kashmir – Dachigam
Hemis
Kishtwar  
Himachal – Great Himalayan
Khirganga
Simbalbara
Pin Valley  
Haryana Kalesar
Sultanpur   
Uttarakhand – Jim Corbett 
– Valley of flowers 
Gangotri
Nanda Devi 
Rajaji National Park  
Uttar Pradesh – Dhudwa  
Bihar Valmiki   
Jharkhand Hazaribagh  
Rajasthan – Desert National Park
– Mukundra Hills
– Ranthambhore
 
Gujarat – Black Buck
– Gir forest
Marine National Park, Gulf of Kutch
Vansda  
Madhya Pradesh – Bandhavgarh
– Kanha
Madhav
Mandla Plant Fossil
Omkareshwar
Satpura
Sanjay Gandhi 
Pench  
Chhattisgarh Guru Ghasidas
Indravati
Kanerghati  
Maharashtra Chandoli
Gugamal
Tadoba
Sanjay Gandhi    
Goa – Molem   
Karnataka Anshi
– Bandipur
Bannerghata
Kudremukh 
Rajiv Gandhi / Rameswaram
Nagarhole
Kerala – Silent Valley
– Periyar  
Anamudi Shola
Eravikulam 
Mathikettan Shola  
Tamil Nadu  Madumalai
Guindy
Gulf  of Mannar
Mukkurthi  
Andhra Pradesh Papikonda
Srivenkateshwara   
Telangana Kasu Brahmananda Reddy
Mahavir Harin Vanasthali
Mrugavani  
Odisha – Simlipal
– Bhitarkanika  
West Bengal  Singalila National Park
– Gorumara National Park
Jaldapara
Neoral valley
– Sundarbans  
Assam – Dibru Saikhowa
– Kaziranga 
– Manas
Nameri
Orang  
Meghalaya Balprakham
– Nokrek  
Arunachal Mouling
– Namdapha  
Nagaland Itanki
Ngtangki  
Mizoram Murlen 
Phwangpui Blue Mountain  
Manipur – Keibul Lamjao
– Sirohi  
Tripura Rajbari National Park
Clouded Leopard National Park  
Andaman & Nicobar Campbell bay
Galathea
– Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park
Middle Button Island
North Button Island
South Button Island
Saddle Peak
Rani Jhansi
– Mount Harriet  

2. Wildlife Sanctuaries

  • Wildlife Sanctuary is an area of adequate ecological, floral, faunal or zoological significance notified by the State Government as a sanctuary.
  • The purpose behind the formation of the wildlife sanctuary is to protect endangered species. 
  • The Wildlife Sanctuaries are declared under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • It works on the principle of ‘Everything is permitted unless prohibited .’
  • Restricted human activities such as grazing, firewood collection, settlement of Adivasis, ecotourism etc., are allowed inside Wildlife Sanctuary as long as animal life is undisturbed.
  • There are 544 Wildlife Sanctuaries in India (3.62 % area of India).

Ranking (for prelims)

  • The maximum area under Wildlife Sanctuaries is in Gujarat.
  • The maximum number of Wildlife Sanctuaries is in Andaman & Nicobar (96), followed by Maharashtra (40).

List of important Wildlife Sanctuaries

Note: The list is not exhaustive.

State Wildlife Sanctuary
Jammu Kashmir Karakoram
Lachipora
Gulmarg 
Surinsar Mansar
Nandini
Hokersar
Changtang    
Punjab Bir Motibagh
Harike Pattan  
Himachal Pong dam
Gobind Sagar
Naina Devi
Shikari Devi
Manali
Kalatop and Khajjiar
Renuka  
Haryana Chautala
Bir Shikargarh  
Delhi Indira Priyadarshini  
Uttarakhand Kedarnath 
Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary  
Uttar Pradesh Chandraprabha
Okhla bird sanctuary
National Chambal sanctuary  
Bihar Barela Salim Ali Zubba Saheni WLS
Gautam Buddha
Kaimur
Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary  
Jharkhand Palamau
Gautam Buddha
Kodarma  
Rajasthan Mount Abu  
Chambal
– Darrah
Jaswant Sagar
Jawahar Sagar
Keladevi
Kumbhalgarh
Nahargarh
Phulwari
Swai Mansingh  
Gujarat Kutch desert
– Indian Wild Ass
Jessore
Purna
Nalsarovar   
Madhya Pradesh  Bori
Gandhi Sagar
Narsinghgarh
National Chambal
Panchmarhi
Kuno
– Singhori
Maharashtra Melghat
Koyna
Wainganga
Kalsubai Harishchandra
Great Indian Bustard  
Chhattisgarh Achanakmar 
Sitanadi  
Goa Salim Ali
Bird Sanctuary  
Karnataka Ghatprabha Bird Sanctuary 
Cauvery
– Ranganathitoo Bird Sanctuary
Shravati valley  
KERALA Waynad
Parambikulam 
Chinmoy
Idukki
Thattekkad bird sanctuary
Malabar  
Tamil Nadu Point Calimere 
Sathyamangalam
Shenbagathoppu Grizzle Squirrel WLS  
Andhra Pradesh Nellattu Bird Sanctuary
Kolleru Lake
Srivenkateshwara
Pulicat lake 
Krishna
Koudinya  
Telangana Pranhita
Manjira  
Odisha – Satkosia Gorge
Gahirmatha
Chilika bird sanctuary
Bhitarkanika  
West Bengal   Lothian island
Haliday island  
Assam Deepor Bil
– Sonai Bupai   
Sikkim Barsey Rhododendron
Shingba Rhododendron  
Arunachal Kamlang
Eagle nest
Itanagar 
Sessa Orchid  
Tripura Gumti  
Andaman&Nicobar Ross Island

3. Biosphere Reserves

  • Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial & coastal ecosystems that promote biodiversity conservation with its sustainable use. They are internationally recognized within the framework of UNESCO’s Man & Biosphere (MAB) Programme & nominated by national governments under the Wildlife (Protection) Act.
  • The stress of MAB is to protect the threatened habitats and not the particular species.
  • Living is not permitted in National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, but Biosphere Reserves have very low restrictions on the residence. Biosphere Reserves are living examples of how human beings and nature can co-exist while respecting each other’s needs.

Biosphere Reserves in India

  • India has 18 Biosphere Reserves. Out of these 18, 12 are recognized under the UNESCO MAB network.
Name Date of notification Location
Nilgiri 1986 Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka
(It was the first Indian Biosphere Reserve to be recognised under MAB)
Nanda Devi  1988 Uttarakhand 
Nokrek  1988 Part of Garo hills (Meghalaya)
Great Nicobar  1989 Andaman & Nicobar Islands 
Gulf of Mannar 1989 Tamil Nadu
Manas 1989 Assam 
Sundarbans 1989 Situated in West Bengal, Sundarbans are part of the delta formed by the Ganges and Brahmaputra river systems. 
Simlipal 1994 Orissa  
Dibru-Saikhowa 1997 Assam
Dehang-Dibang 1998 Arunachal Pradesh. 
Panchmarhi 1999 Madhya Pradesh. 
Kanchendzunga  2000 Sikkim.
Agasthyamalai 2001 Kerala (mainly) and Tamil Nadu (small part) . 
Achanakamar – Amarkantak 2005 M.P. and some parts in Chhattisgarh State.
Kutch 2008 Gujarat State
Cold Desert 2009 Himachal Pradesh
Seshachalam Hills 2010 Andhra Pradesh
Panna 2011 Madhya Pradesh   

  National Park Wildlife Sanctuary Biosphere Reserve
Act Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972   Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Reserve Program  
Level of Human interference allowed No human interference is allowed. Limited human interference is allowed. The purpose is both conservation and sustainable use of the forest by the local community.  
Permitted activities Everything prohibited unless permitted. Everything permitted unless prohibited. Established for
1. Conservation 
2. Education and recreation
3. Logistic support, i.e. exchange of information on the world network of Biosphere Reserves.
Changing the boundary The boundary is sacrosanct, i.e. can’t be altered except by legislation.   The boundary can be altered by executive order. Boundary can’t be altered except by legislation.
Focus of conservation The focus is on the conservation of selected (few) species. The focus is on the conservation of a few  (selected) species. The focus is on the conservation of the entire ecosystem.

4. Conservation Reserves

  • The State Government declares conservation Reserves in consultation with local communities in any Government-owned area, especially in the areas lying adjacent to National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and areas linking one Protected Area with another to protect landscapes, seascapes, flora and fauna. 
  • These are declared under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. (added via Amendment in 2002)
  • The declaration of the area as a Conservation Reserve doesn’t affect the rights of people living inside a Conservation Reserve.
  • There are 97 Conservation Reserves in India. You can check their names by CLICKING HERE


5. Community Reserves

  • The State Government declares Community Reserves in any area owned by any private person or community where an individual or a community has volunteered to conserve wildlife and its habitat. 
  • These are declared under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. (added via Amendment in 2002)
  • The declaration of the area as a Community Reserve doesn’t affect the rights of people living inside a Conservation Reserve.
  • There are 214 Community Reserves in India. Almost all of them are in North-East. You can check their names by CLICKING HERE

Side Topic: Tribes playing important role in Biodiversity Preservation

Bishnoi Rajasthan & Punjab Bishnois consider trees sacred.
Involved in protecting the entire ecosystem, including animals & birds that exist in their villages.
Chenchu Andra Pradesh Involved in the Tiger Conservation
Maldhari Gujarat – Involved in Lion Conservation and played the leading role in increasing the number of Lions in Gir.
Bugun Arunachal Involved in the protection of endangered Bugun Bird
Nyishi Arunachal Involved in the protection of Hornbills

6. Sacred Groves

  • Sacred Groves, also known as Sacred Woods, are groves of trees having some special religious or cultural importance.
  • These are protected areas under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (added via amendment in 2002).

A list of Sacred Groves are

Punjab Chat Patt Bani (Pathankot dist)
Baba Sukhaiya Ji ( Hoshiarpur Dist)
Dargah Peer Baba Manju Shah Ji (Ropar Dist)
Uttarakhand Devbhumi
Bugyals  (Sacred Alpine Meadows)
Rajasthan Orans
Kenkris
Jogmaya
Jharkhand Sarana
Maharashtra Devrai
Devgudi
Devrahati
Goa Deorai
Pann
Karnataka Devara Kadu
Kerala Kavu
Sara Kavu
Tamil Nadu Swami shoal
Koikadu
Puducherry Kovil Kadu
Andhra Pradesh Pavithravana
Odisha Jahera
Thukuramma
West Bengal Garamthan
Harithan
Jahera
Sabitrithan
Santalburithan
Meghalaya Ki Law Lyngdoh
Ki Law Kyntang
Ki Law Niam
Arunachal Pradesh Gumpa forests (attached to Buddhist Monasteries)
Manipur Gamkhap
Mauhak (sacred bamboo reserve)


7. Biodiversity Heritage Sites

  • “Biodiversity Heritage Sites” (BHS) are terrestrial, coastal or inland areas rich in biodiversity, with some of the following characteristics.
    1. Richness of species 
    2. High endemism
    3. Presence of keystone species, rare species, threatened species etc.
    4. Presence of past biological components
  • They are declared under National Biodiversity Act, 2002.


8. Eco-Sensitive Zones

  • Eco-Sensitive Zones are the areas within a 10 km radius of Protected Areas.
  • They are declared under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • The aim of declaring any area as an Eco-Sensitive Zone is to minimize the impacts of activities carried out in the areas surrounding protected areas on the fragile ecosystem of protected areas.


9. ICMBA (Important Coastal & Marine Biodiversity Areas)

  • These are declared under AICHI BIODIVERSITY TARGETS.
  • The aim is to conserve a substantial portion of the Coastal and Marine Areas
  • Towards achieving this target, 106 coastal and marine sites have been identified and prioritized as Important Coastal and Marine Areas (ICMBAs) by the Wildlife Institute of India. 


10. UNESCO World Heritage Site

The UNESCO World Heritage Sites are the places listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)  as places of special cultural or physical significance.


Total in India = 40 

  • 7: Physical
  • 1: Mixed 
  • 32: Cultural (2021: Dholavira = Latest entry)

The largest number of World Heritage Sites are in Italy, followed by China. India is ranked 6th.


Related to Physical Significance = 7 + 1 (mixed)

Name State Notified
Kaziranga National Park Assam 1985
Keoladeo Ghana National Park Rajasthan 1985
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary Assam 1985
Nanda Devi National Park and Valley of Flowers Uttarakhand 1982 2005
Sundarbans National Park West Bengal 1984
Western Ghats Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala 2012
Great Himalayan National Park Himachal Pradesh 2014
Kanchendzunga  (mixed) Sikkim 2016

11. Go Area & No Go Area

In 2010, Environment Ministry divided the areas into two parts for mining purposes, i.e. Go Area & No Go Area. 

Cat A (No Go) 10 % weighted Forest Cover or 30% Gross Forest Cover 
No permission was given to doing miningin the No Go area. 
Cat B (Go) Those areas which are not in Cat A are categorised as Cat B.
Mining can be done here.

The concept of Go and No-Go Area was for mining projects, but NGOs started to file PIL arguing to extend it to activities such as tourism, settlement etc., and restrictions in the No Go areas should be made more stringent. All this led to the problem of environmental clearances. 


TSR Subramanium Committee suggested the whole concept of Go & No-Go areas in the following way

No Go Area Those areas which are Protected Area
1. Wildlife Sanctuary
2. National Park
3. Conservation Reserves
4. Community Reserves
Or Forest with 70% Canopy
Go Area Areas that are not there in the No Go Area

12. Coastal Regulation Zone

Timeline

1991 CRZ Notification issued under Environment (Protection) Act
2011 CRZ Regulation was updated and made more stringent. But various stakeholders were demanding revising these regulations and providing relaxation.
2015 Shailesh Nayak Committee submitted a report regarding the revision of CRZ Regulations.
Dec 2018 New CRZ Notification issued by the government

CRZ Notification, 2018

  • CRZ Notification divided the Coastal area into 4 Zones vis Zone 1 to Zone 4.
Coastal Regulation Zone
  • No development zone (NDZ) was reduced to 50 meters from the High Tide Line on the landward side, decreasing it from 200 metres in 2011 notifications.
  • Tourism infrastructure: The notification allows temporary tourism facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks, change rooms etc., on beaches at a minimum distance of 10 m from HTL.
  • CRZ clearances are needed only for projects located in CRZ-I (eco-sensitive zones areas and intertidal zones) and CRZ IV (12 NM from LTL towards the sea).
  • Defence and strategic projects have been accorded necessary dispensation.

On one side, these regulations will help in promoting economic development and tourism. But, it has also made the coastal ecology and communities vulnerable.


Ex-Situ Methods of Conservation

  • The Ex-Situ conservation method involves conserving the selected plant or animal species outside their natural habitation.
  • These include
    1. Seed Banks
    2. Gene Banks
    3. Zoo
    4. Botanical Gardens


1. Seed Banks

  • In Seedbanks, the seeds can be stored at low temperature and humidity as a backup in the case of any unforeseen circumstances. 
  • Important Seedbanks are Global Seedbank Vault at Svalbard (Norway) and Indian Seed Vault at Chang La (Ladakh).
  • Although useful, this strategy faces issues like seeds have a finite life and need to be replaced. Along with that, seed banks of private companies like Monsanto are only concerned with storing commercially viable seeds. 

Examples of Seed Banks

1. Global Seed Vault at Svalbard (Norway)

  • It is a state-of-the-art seed protection facility, famously called the ‘Doomsday’ or the ‘Apocalypse’ Seed Bank or ‘Noah’s Ark for seeds’.
  • It is situated in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago (part of Norway).
  • It was established in 2008.
  • It is located 1000m deep inside the mountain.

2. India’s Seed Vault

  • It is situated at Chang La, Ladakh, in the Institute of High Altitude Research.
  • It was made in 2010 by ICAR, CSIR and the Department of Biotechnology.
  • In India, the seed bank is managed by the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Research.
  • The Indian seed vault is the second largest vault in the world, after Global Seed Vault.

3. NAVDANYA

  • It is a community-based seed bank that has a presence in around 17 states in India.
  • In this, the farmers grow the seeds as well as supply the seeds.
  • In the Navdanya, the farmers are encouraged to grow their own seeds, taught the traditional farming method, and at the end of the season, they should return25% of the seeds.
  • Navdanya is also promoting eco-feminism. 

2. Gene Banks

  • Gene banks act as biorepository by preserving the genetic material.
  • In Gene banks, cryopreservation techniques can preserve genetic strains of threatened species for long periods.


3. Zoo

  • Zoos can be used to raise some endangered species, try to breed them & reintroduce their offspring back into the jungle. 
  • The Zoological Survey of India declares zoos under Wildlife Protection Act. 
  • But Zoos face many issues like 
    • All the species can’t breed in captivity.
    • If an animal is reintroduced to its natural habitat, the animal finds it difficult to survive in the wild. Hence, the captive breeding of animals should be used only in exceptional circumstances. 
    • Zoos concentrate on big & popular species like tigers, pandas etc., which can attract a large population. They are least interested in protecting small species.


4. Botanical Gardens

  • Botanical Gardens are set up to facilitate ex-situ conservation and propagation of the country’s rare & threatened indigenous plants.
  • The Botanical Survey of India declares them under Wildlife Protection Act. 
  • Examples: BOTANIC GARDEN OF THE INDIAN REPUBLIC (BGIR), NOIDA 

Introduction to Biodiversity

Introduction to Biodiversity

This article deals with ‘Introduction to Biodiversity – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Science and technology, you can click here


Biodiversity

According to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), Biodiversity is the variability among the living organisms, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems. It also includes diversity between species and within species. 


Genetic Diversity, Species Diversity and Ecosystem Diversity

There are three levels of biodiversity, i.e. Genetic diversity, Species diversity and Community/Ecosystem diversity.

1. Genetic Diversity

Genetic diversity is the diversity that is found at the level of genes. Genetic diversity is the differences in the genetic make-up within a single species.

Some points to note about Genetic Diversity

  • The greater the genetic diversity, the more capable are the genes to face different threats, therefore increasing the chances of an organism surviving in adverse conditions. 
  • India has more than 50,000 different varieties of rice. But these rice varieties have faced the onslaught of monoculture promoted by the Green Revolution resulting in more diabetes in the Indian population.
  • Generally, the tropics have greater genetic diversity.

2. Species Diversity

Species diversity denotes the number of species per unit area. It signifies the richness of species in a given habitat.

Some points to note about Species Diversity

  • The Eastern Himalayas are especially rich in species biodiversity because high temperature, humidity and rainfall promote different biogeographic zones, causing the development of flora and fauna in these biogeographic zones.  
  • Species diversity is also greater in the tropics because of the following reasons. 
    1. High heat and humidity which is optimum for metabolic activities 
    2. These regions have been climatically stable.  
    3. As weathering and erosion are greater in the tropics, the soil mantle is greater. Therefore, floral and faunal diversity is high.
  • Generally, smaller islands have more endemism than species richness. In other words, there will be unique species on the islands, but different varieties aren’t found on the islands. Therefore, the general rule is that islands are poorer in species richness than the mainland areas. 
  • Most of the islands are unique in the way that they have a high degree of endemism, but the species are threatened because an invasive alien species can easily colonize the island.

3. Ecosystem / Community Diversity

Ecosystem Diversity refers to the ecosystem level diversity due to the diverse niches, trophic levels and ecological processes such as nutrient cycles, energy flow etc.

Introduction to Biodiversity

Alpha, Beta and Gamma Biodiversity

1. Alpha Biodiversity

  • Alpha biodiversity is measured by counting the number of species within a particular area, community or ecosystem. 

2. Beta Biodiversity

  • Beta biodiversity is the comparison of biodiversity between ecosystems. It is the change in the number of species between ecosystems.

3. Gamma Biodiversity

  • It is the measure of the overall biodiversity of the total landscape or geographical area.
Alpha, Beta and Gamma Biodiversity

Points to remember

  • Walter Rosen coined the term biodiversity in 1986.
  • Terrestrial biodiversity is 25 times more than that of ocean biodiversity.
  • Terrestrial biodiversity is highest near low latitudes or the equator. The reason behind this is the warm climate & high primary productivity. 
  • Marine biodiversity is highest in the Western Pacific Ocean & in the mid-latitudinal band, where surface temperature is highest.
  • Biodiversity declines to move northwards from the tropics. For example, northernmost regions such as Tundra and Taiga regions in Canada, Northern Europe and Alaska have less than 12 species. 


Do you know? International Biodiversity Day

22 May is celebrated as International Biodiversity Day to commemorate the adoption of the text of the Convention of Biological Diversity at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya 

  • The theme for IBD 2021: We’re part of the Solutions
  • The theme for IBD 2020: Our solutions are in nature


Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services are the processes by which the environment produces benefits useful to people akin to economic services. E.g.

  1. Provision of clean water & air
  2. Pollination of crops
  3. Mitigation of environmental hazards  
  4. Preventing soil erosion
  5. Cultural services such as cultural advancement of people (like inspiration for music, painting etc.), recreation and building of knowledge

Insects and Ecosystem

  • Insects play an important role in sustaining life and food security by acting as pollinators and natural recyclers. 
  • The population of insects has been reduced at the rate of 9% in the previous three decades due to various reasons like the introduction of broad range insecticides like DDT, climate change, honey hunting etc. For example, the US lost half of its butterfly population due to the introduction of DDT in the 1940s. 
  • It is important to arrest this development. Otherwise, it will imperil the world food supply as pulses, oilseeds, and fruits depend on pollination. 

Inter-Governmental  Platform  On  Biodiversity and Ecosystem  Services (IPBES)

  • It was created in 2012
  • Its secretariat is situated in Germany and is administered by the UN.

Causes of Biodiversity loss

Biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented scale, as pointed out by WWF’s Living Planet Report (2018), which stated that between 1970 and 2014, 60% of the world’s vertebrate population (animals with a backbone) was wiped out by human activity. 

1. Habitat destruction or fragmentation

  • Habitat destruction and fragmentation are happening due to the following reasons 
    1. Conversion of land for agriculture
    2. Land use for construction purposes 
    3. Damage to coastal and marine systems for the construction of ports and infrastructure 
  • The aptest example of habitat loss is the Amazon rainforest, also known as the “Lungs of the planet”, which is destroyed and being replaced by agriculture and human settlements.
  • Habitat fragmentation leads to biodiversity loss because mammals and birds require a large minimum territory to sustain their population.

2. Pollution

  • Nutrient loading into the ecosystems leads to Algal blooms and Eutrophication.
  • Air pollution has a detrimental effect whole ecosystem. 

3. Invasion of Exotic Species

  • Invasive species are introduced – intentionally or unintentionally – to an ecosystem in which they don’t naturally appear & which threaten habitats, ecosystems or native species. 
  • They become invasive due to high reproduction rates & absence of natural predators to control their population.
  • Examples include 
    • Tilapia fish: It was introduced in the inland waters of Kerala in 1952 from the eastern coast of South Africa because of its higher productivity. But the fish became invasive, resulting in the extinction of native species. 
    • Nile Perch: The fish was introduced in Lake Victoria, which grew at an exponential rate and led to the extinction of more than 200 species.

4. Over-exploitation

  • Due to population overgrowth, humans are overexploiting biological resources. E.g. due to increased demand for fish, 50% of world commercial fisheries are fully exploited, and 25% are overexploited. 
  • Species such as Dodo and Steller’s sea cow have already become extinct in the last 200-300 years due to over-exploitation by humans.

5. Hunting

  • Animals are hunted for commercial exploitation as well as for sport.
  • For example, in 2021, Pakistan gave a permit to Dubai Royals to hunt Houbara Bustard Bird (status: vulnerable) for money.

6. Climate Change

Climate change and global warming have led to the following detrimental impacts on biodiversity 

  1. Species redistribution
  2. Effect on the timing of reproduction & migration.
  3. Increased frequency of pest outbreaks and forest fires. 

7. Co-extinction

  • Co-extinction is the process in which the extinction of one species leads to the extinction of another species, which has a mutually beneficial relationship with the extinct species. For example, the extinction of fish leads to the extinction of parasites that feed on the host fish. 
  • The most famous example of co-extinction is that of the Calvaria tree and Dodo (extinct bird of Mauritius Island). Both were mutualistic associated as Dodo helped germinate tough endocarp of the seeds of the Calvaria tree through its digestive juices and stones in the bird’s gizzard. Thus the extinction of Dodo led to the extinction of the Calvaria tree as well.

8. Use of Hybrid Seeds

  • Hybridization between native and non-native species and subsequent loss of native species. 

9. Natural disasters

  • Natural disasters like tsunamis, forest fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions etc., also cause irreparable damage to the region’s biodiversity.

10. Jhum cultivation

  • Jhum cultivation involves slashing down and burning the natural vegetation to prepare the land for cultivation. The farming is done on the plot for 2 to 3 seasons, after which the tribal farmers move to another plot due to the reduction of the fertility of the given land.

The loss of biodiversity is dangerous for the whole ecosystem. The ‘River Popper Hypothesis‘ by ecologist Paul Ehrlich beautifully explained the perilous impacts of biodiversity loss. He compared the species in an ecosystem with the rivets in the aeroplane’s body.

  1. If some of the rivets on the body are removed, nothing serious happens to the aeroplane.
  2. But if rivets beyond a certain number are removed, the whole aeroplane will fall apart.
  3. Which rivet is removed matters as well. If the key rivet is removed, the whole aeroplane can collapse with the removal of a single rivet.

Light Pollution

Light Pollution

This article deals with ‘Light Pollution – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Science and technology, you can click here


Introduction

Light Pollution
Light Pollution
  • Light Pollution is excessive & misdirected artificial (usually outdoor) light in the environment. 
  • It is also known as photo pollution or luminous pollution. 
  • 2017 WWF Earth Hour has highlighted the issue of Light Pollution.

Causes of Light Pollution

  • Unnecessary use of artificial lights
  • Poorly designed residential, commercial, and industrial outdoor lights. 
  • Unshielded light fixtures that emit more than 50% of their light skyward or sideways. 


Effect of Light Pollution

Effect of Light Pollution

1. Environment

  • Photo pollution increases air pollution by suppressing a naturally occurring Nitrate radical that cleans the air at night. (Nitrate prevents ground level Ozone formation). 

2. Human Health

  • Light Pollution affects the circadian rhythms (biological watch). 

3. Energy

  • Misdirected light results in energy waste and creates GHG emissions.

4. Wildlife

  • Lights can attract or repel animals and insects into human areas. 
  • It disturbs the migration of birds that navigate using the stars.

5. Astronomy

  • Light spill and sky glow interfere with astronomical equipment, making viewing faint celestial bodies difficult.

International Steps

  • 2017 WWF Earth Hour Highlighted the issue of Light Pollution.
  • Various NGOs like International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) (US-based NGO), Globe at Night, The World at Night etc., are also working in this regard.
  • Various local governments are also taking steps in this regard. For example, Philadelphia city (USA) has decided to dim the lights of Skyscraper buildings at night to prevent the migratory birds from getting disoriented and crashing into the glass.  


Conclusion

The sky belongs to everyone and we should do what we can to make sure its the best possible sky we can see.

Persistent Organic Pollutants

Persistent Organic Pollutants

This article deals with ‘Persistent Organic Pollutants – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Science and technology, you can click here


Introduction

  • Organic compounds that resist photolytic, biological & chemical degradation are known as Persistent Organic Pollutants or POPs. 
  • Due to persistence, pollutants are capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulation & biomagnification.
  • POPs include pesticides, industrial solvents, polyvinyl chloride & pharmaceuticals.
Persistent Organic Pollutants

Common Characteristics

1. Low water Solubility

  • They aren’t soluble in water.

2. High Lipid Solubility

  • They have high lipid solubility, which leads to bio-accumulation.

3. Semi-Volatile

  • They either occur in nature in the vapour phase or are adsorbed on atmospheric particles, facilitating long-range transport. 

4. Toxicity

  • POPs with higher molecular weights are toxic.

5. Chemical structure

  • Most of the POPs are halogenated & many have chlorine as a component.

Bioaccumulation and  Biomagnification

  • The process by which a pollutant enters the food chain and accumulates in the body of a living organism is known as Bioaccumulation.
  • The tendency of the pollutant to increase in concentration as it moves from lower to higher trophic levels in the food chain is known as Biomagnification.
Biomagnification
Biomagnification
  • Example
    1. The sewage containing POPs such as DDT is dumped into rivers and oceans, entering the food chain through phytoplankton and zooplankton. The concentration continues to increase in the successive trophic levels. 
    2. Commercial agriculture requires more application of insecticides and pesticides. Hence, pesticides and insecticides enter the food chain and continue to accumulate at successive trophic levels.

Properties of bioaccumulants and biomagnification

  • The bioaccumulants tend to move upwards in a food chain.
  • They are non-biodegradable, and therefore they have a longer life.
  • They are not soluble in water, and therefore they can’t be thrown away by the body through urine and excreta. 
  • Most of the bioaccumulants are fat-soluble, i.e. lipogenic, and hence they are transferred easily from mother’s milk to infants or transferred to the meat and fish-eating population. (example includes mercury poisoning or Minamata disease).


Some of the important bioaccumulants are

1. DDT

  • DDT is used as a pesticide and insecticide to control the mosquito population. 
  • DDT is the major bioaccumulant and has been banned under the Stockholm convention. But it is still used in tropical countries like India to control the spread of malaria, dengue etc. 
  • Its effects include nausea, headache, fatigue, neurological disorders, eggshell thinning (loss of fertility), congenital disabilities, and cancer.

2. Endosulfan

  • It is an insecticide that is used on cashew, rubber and tea plantation.
  • It is a cheap but dangerous bioaccumulant because it is associated with congenital disabilities including cryptorchidism, neurological disorders including autism, neurobehavioral disorders, lower testosterone and cancer. Therefore, Endosulphan was added to the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) list.
  • Supreme Court banned the use of Endosulfan in India after PIL was registered against it due to peculiar health impacts seen after aerial spray in cashew plantations to combat tea mosquitoes in Kerala. Even after that, it is manufactured in India, and India is the biggest consumer of Endosulphan in the world.

3. VOCs

  • These are used in paints, varnishes, fuels, paper bleaching, cosmetics etc.

4. Mercury

  • Mercury is infamous for Minamata disease.

Conventions regarding hazardous wastes and pollutants

There are following conventions

  1. Stockholm Convention 
  2. Rotterdam Convention 
  3. Basel Convention
  4. Bamako Convention

1. Stockholm Convention on POPs

  • It is the convention on bioaccumulants, also known as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
  • It deals with banning the pollutants known as ‘DIRTY DOZENS’. 
  • The convention was signed in 2001 under the aegis of the United Nations. Consequently, India became a party to the convention in 2005. Presently, it has 179 members. 
  • The global Environmental Facility (GEF) is the designated interim financial mechanism for the Stockholm Convention.

Dirty Dozen or 12 listed POPs  

Dirty Dozen

Note

Most of India’s commonly used insecticides and pesticides have to be mandatorily labelled under the Insecticide Act of 1968 and the rules of 1971. Four colours are used to indicate the toxicity level of insecticide or pesticide

Green Colour Slightly Toxic Eg: Mosquito repellent oils and liquids.
Blue Colour Moderately Toxic Eg: Glyphosate
Yellow Colour Highly Toxic Eg: Endosulphan
Red Label Extremely Toxic Eg: Zinc Phosphide

2. Basel Convention

  • Basel Convention is on the transboundary movement of hazardous waste and its disposal. It was signed to stop the dumping of hazardous chemicals from developed to developing nations. 
  • Most of the pollutants are covered under Basel Convention except radioactive waste.
  • Basel Convention is against the ‘TOXIC COLONIALISM’ (epitomised by KOKO CASE, where Italy used to transport 8,000 barrels of most toxic waste per month to Nigeria in return for the rent of $100 till 1988).
  • It was signed in 1989 and came into effect in 1992. 

3. Rotterdam Convention on International Trade in  Hazardous Substances

  • Rotterdam Convention is on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for certain Hazardous Chemicals & Pesticides in International Trade.
  • It was signed in 1998 and became effective in 2004.
  • Under the convention, while trading in hazardous chemicals and pesticides, the country has to take prior consent before exporting it to another country. 
  • In the recent meeting of the Rotterdam Convention, Canada has objected to listing asbestos fibres as pollutants. 

4. Bamako Convention

  • It is a convention on controlling transboundary movement and managing hazardous waste, including radioactive waste within Africa (only).

Oil Spills

Oil Spills

This article deals with ‘Oil Spills – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Science and technology, you can click here


Introduction

The intentional or unintentional release of oil into ocean /coastal waters is known as oil spill.

Scene of Oil Spill 
civilspedia.com

Impact of Oil Spills

  • Damage to fish, turtles, and crabs, among other marine animals. 
    • Decrease insulating capacity of the plumage of birds  
    • Ingestion by seabirds leads to kidney failure, dehydration, metabolic disorders etc.
    • Exposure to toxic petroleum products often results in lower reproductive rates.
Impact of Oil Spills
  • Loss of fisherman’s livelihood as venturing out into the sea is not safe. 
  • Consumers show reluctance to buy seafood, adding to the woes of fishermen.
  • Local tourism is impacted negatively as tourists avoid such places.
  • Heavy metals released along with oil starts to bioaccumulate in fishes and impact the whole food chain, including humans.
  • A variety of health effects may develop when an oil spill occurs close to where people live or work and may come in contact through breathing gaseous oil compounds.

India & Oil Spill: Response & Preparedness

  • The National Oil Spill-Disaster Contingency Plan (NOS-DCP) adopted in 1996 has routinely been updated and revised.  
  • India has ratified the Bunker Convention, 2001, regarding the civil liability for bunker oil pollution in 2015.
  • The government provides a subsidy to the pollution response equipment to the tune of 50%.


Recovery

Recovery of oil spills is difficult & depends on many factors 

  1. Type of oil spilled 
  2. The temperature of the water that may affect evaporation & biodegradability 
  3. Type of shoreline involved 

Bioremediation

Bioremediation or Biodegradation is the use of natural or genetically modified microbes to degrade pollutants (pesticides or hydrocarbons) in the presence of oxygen.

The only problem with bio-remediation is that it can’t be used to break down heavy metals such as mercury, lead etc. But bioremediation is the most crucial technique to clear oil spills.


Bioremediation Techniques

1. Oil Zapper

  • It is essentially a cocktail of five different bacterial strains that feed on crude oil and change it to carbon dioxide and water. 
  • It is developed by the TERI.

2. Oilivorous – S

  • Oilivorous-S has an additional bacterial strain that is effective in destroying Sulphur. Hence, it can be used to contain oil spills in case crude oil has high sulphur content.
  • It is developed by Indian Oil’s research and development wing.

Both Oil zapper and Oilivorous can be used in situ, thus eliminating the need to transfer the pollutant to a centralized plant.

Bioremediation

Some latest oil spills in the news

1. Mauritius Oil Spill (2020)

  • Japanese ship struck a coral reef resulting in an oil spill of over 1,000 tons.

2. Ennore/Kamarajar Port Oil spill (2017)

  • Oil Tankers collided, resulting in the Oil Spill wasn’t quickly contained, destroying marine life especially Olive Ridley Turtles and Migratory birds.

3. Sundarbans Oil Spill (2015)

  • An Oil Tanker passing through the Sela River in the Sundarbans met with an accident resulting in an oil spill. It did irreparable damage to the fragile economy of Sundarbans.

4. British Petroleum / Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (2010)

  • British Petroleum’s oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, causing huge oil spills in 2010.
  • It is the biggest oil spill ever happened in the history of mankind, in which 4 million barrels of oil spilt into the Gulf of Mexico. 
  • British Petroleum had to pay $18.7 billion as a fine to the coastal states of the USA. 

Namami Gange

Namami Gange

This article deals with ‘ Namami Gange – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Science and technology, you can click here


Introduction

Namami Gange
  • Till now, various programs have been started by the government to clean Ganga, but all proved to be a failure. These programs include 
1986 Ganga Action Plan (GAP)
1992 Ganga Action Plan – 2 (GAP 2)
2008 Ganga declared as a National River
2009 National Ganga River Basin Authority established
  • 2014: Modi started “Namami Gange” to clean Ganga. It focuses not merely on the main river but also on the tributaries (like Ramganga, Kali and Yamuna as a first priority).  
  • 2016Girdhar Malviya committee formed to prepare a draft law to maintain the Nirmalta (cleanliness) and Aviralta (uninterrupted flow) of Ganga 
  • 2017-18: Chital Committee formed by the government on Desiltation of the river Ganga submitted its report. It recommended a region-specific approach instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.

Institutional Structure

Union Level

  1. National Ganga Council: Headed by Prime Minister and includes Chief Ministers of Ganga Basin States.
  2. Empowered Task Force: Headed by Union Minister of Water Resources.
  3. National Mission For Clean Ganga: Headed by Director-General

State Level

  • State Ganga Committee

District Level

  • District Ganga Committee

Why have all Programs till now failed?

  1. Faulty Area-specific Approach: The previous approaches were specific to a very small area. Only certain cities and clusters were selected and not the entire basin.
  2. No Coordination: Different bodies were involved in these schemes without any coordination.
  3. Identification of sources that pollute Ganga: All programs focussed on sewage to a large extent and completely missed agriculture pollutants (non-point pollutants) in policymaking.
  4. Neglected Tributaries: Various tributaries of Ganga like Yamuna, Gomti, Damodar, Mahananda etc., were not given adequate importance in cleaning efforts. 


Special Case of Ganga / Challenges wrt Cleaning Ganga 

  • Ganga flows through 5 states (Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal). It isn’t easy to take all states on board (Note: River Rhine in Europe flows through six countries and yet cleaned)
  • About 1,650-gram panchayats lie directly on the banks of the Ganga. The sewage they generate is almost entirely untreated.  
  • 750 grossly polluting industries lie on the banks of the Ganga. Effluents from all these flow untreated into the river. 
  • Ganga has pressure to sustain the religious faith and historical and social beliefs (e.g., cremation along rivers and immersion of remains).
  • Due to global warming, there is increased apprehension of adverse effects on the riverGlaciers, the source of water, are melting rapidly. 


Focus of Namami Gange

Components of Namami Gange

Namami Gange is different from previous schemes because it focuses on following things 

  • Namami Gange focuses on all sources that pollute Ganga, i.e. Sewage, Industrial Discharge, Open Defecation, non-point sources from Agriculture etc.
  • Ganga is not only getting polluted but is also dying due to numerous Hydel Plants and other man-made projects. To tackle this, Namami Gange has two specific components i.e. Aviral Dhara (Uninterrupted flow) and Nirmal Dhara (Clean flow).
  • It focuses not merely on the main river but also on the tributaries (like Rāmgangā, Kali and Yamuna as a first priority).
  • Instead of selecting a few cities or clusters, Namami Gange has taken the entire Ganga Basin into its ambit.
  • Coordinated approach: The program focuses on coordination between different Central Ministries & State Governments.

Features of Namami Gange

  • Sewage Treatment Plants will be installed
  • Riverfronts will be developed
  • Special emphasis will be placed on protecting the biodiversity of Ganga, especially of species such as Gangetic Dolphin.
  • Ganga Gram, i.e. villages located on Ganga, will be made open defecation free  
  • Ashes can’t be immersed in shallow banks
  • No sewage pipe will have an outlet into the river
  • Ganga Task Force to ensure that industry and civilians do not pollute the river
  • Cleanup of Ganga and its tributaries under one umbrella
  • Ganga Manthan to dialogue with stakeholders: Spiritual Leaders, NGOs, Policymakers, Academicians, Environmentalists etc.
  • Industries will have to install Common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) 
  • New Hydel plants to have a minimum environmental impact 
  • Build electric crematoriums


Case Study: Revival of Kali Bein River and Baba Seechewal

  • About 1,650-gram panchayats lie directly on the banks of the Ganga. The sewage they generate is almost entirely untreated.
  • The model of Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal of Punjab, who is credited with the successful cleaning of the Kali Bein river (Tributary of Beas) with public participation, can be used in Namami Gange. 
  • Seechewal Model includes 
    • Segregation of solid and liquid waste
    • Wastewater is treated through oxidation ponds & used for irrigation 
    • Solid waste is used to make compost 
    • The whole process is done with community participation => this has strengthened the feeling of ownership  
    • The government is now using this model in Ganga Gram Yojana. 
  • Baba Seechewal was awarded Padma Shri in 2017 for his contribution.


Case Study: Revival of Kuttemperoor and River (Kerala)

  • In 2017, the village Panchayat in Kerala revived Kuttemperoor, a channel of the Pamba and Achankovil rivers.
  • Earlier, the river was thick with weeds and heavily polluted.
  • It was revived after 70 days of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) & can be used for cleaning other rivers as well.


Issues with Namami Gange Scheme

  • There is a delay in the construction of the sewage treatment plants. Additionally, concerns have been raised regarding the poor performance of treatment plants constructed under Namami Gange.
  • There is a decrease in the flow of the Ganga due to the construction of Hydroelectric plants. Since the 1970s, the flow has decreased by 56%. Presently, Ganga cannot maintain the Minimum Ecological Flow except during the monsoon.
  • According to CAG Report, 60% of the funds allocated under the Nanami Ganga program have remained unutilized.
  • Meetings of the National Ganga Council are not held regularly. 

Eutrophication and Algal Bloom

Eutrophication and Algal Bloom

This article deals with ‘Eutrophication and Algal Bloom – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Science and technology, you can click here


What is Eutrophication?

  • The syndrome, in response to the addition of artificial or natural substances such as nitrates and phosphates through fertilizers, sewage, etc., fertilizes the aquatic ecosystem, causing algal bloom, which ultimately results in the death of aquatic plants and animals.
  • It is primarily caused by the leaching of phosphates or nitrates containing fertilizers from agricultural lands to lakes or rivers.

Eutrophication and Algal Bloom

Algal Bloom

  • The sudden growth of algae, especially in shallow water bodies, which causes the blocking of sunlight, is known as an algal bloom.
  • Algal blooms increase the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) as they produce toxins causing anoxic conditions and death of the lakes. 
  • But sometimes, algal and phytoplankton blooms are helpful because they form the base of the food chain providing food to marine organisms.

Causes of Algal Bloom 

  • Nitrates and phosphorus fertilization due to excessive use of fertilizers in the agriculture
  • Excessive dumping of biological waste in the water bodies
  • Direct sewage disposal in the water bodies
  • Disposal of industrial waste in the water bodies 
  • Aquaculture (i.e. technique of growing fish in an artificial atmosphere as it involves a direct application of nutrients) 
  • Natural events such as floods which take excessive nutrients due to enhanced weathering and erosion

Solutions

  • Reducing the use of fertilizers by using Nutrient Management Policy
  • Switching to composting in which organic matter is converted to manure. The nutrients present in the compost are deficient in nitrates and phosphates because the essential elements are broken down, thus stopping the cycle of eutrophication. 
  • Precision agriculture, i.e. the use of information communication technology in crop and farm management to provide agro-inputs according to the specific requirement of the different parts of the farm. 
  • Strengthening the laws and regulations for the point and non-point sources of water pollution.
  • Construction of riparian buffers and restoration of wetlands as the riparian buffer acts as a transition water-body or wetland between surface runoff and main water body. 


Effects of Eutrophication and Algal Bloom

1. Changes in ecosystem

  • The waterbody is eventually reduced to a marsh.

2. Decreased biodiversity

  • It results in the death of flora and fauna.

3. New species invasion

  • It may make the ecosystem competitive by transforming the normal limiting nutrient to an abundant level. It causes shifting in the species composition.

4. Toxicity

  • Neuro or hepatotoxic released by some algal blooms 
  • Loss of corals 
  • Colour smell & water treatment problems 

Mitigation

  • Minimize non-point pollution, especially from agriculture. 
  • Treat industrial effluents before dumping.
  • Treatment of sewage before dumping.


Case Study: Sea of Marmara

The Sea of Marmara faces the issue of sea snot. Sea Snot is characterized by a large amount of algae formed due to nutrients from untreated waste (from Istanbul), and agricultural runoff is drained straight into the sea. It has also resulted in mass deaths among the fish population


Side Topic: Dead Zones

Dead zones or Hypoxic zones are regions in the ocean or lakes where the oxygen level falls to such a low level that marine life can’t even survive in them.

Causes

There are two leading causes

  • Rising sea temperatures:  Temperature rise reduces the solubility of oxygen in the water.
  • Eutrophication: The algal bloom results in the reduction of oxygen levels.

Note – Dead zones are reversible if their causes are reduced or eliminated.

Impact

  • Impact on Global Warming: It triggers the release of chemicals like nitrous oxide, which have high GHG potential. 
  • Impact on Corals: The low levels of oxygen in the aquatic ecosystem results in the death of coral reefs.
  • Impact on food security: It results in the loss of marine food resources.

Water Pollution

Water Pollution

This article deals with ‘Water Pollution – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Science and technology, you can click here


Introduction

Water pollution occurs when there is a change in the chemical, physical or biological quality of water that has a harmful effect(s) on living organisms that consume it or live in it.

When is water said to be polluted?

  • When it is impaired by contaminants 
  • Doesn’t support human use like drinking
  • Undergoes a marked shift in the ability to support its constituent biotic communities like fish (For example, almost all the fishes in Ulsoor Lake (Bangalore) died due to water pollution)

Sources of Water Pollution

There are two main types of sources: point sources and non-point sources 

1. Point sources

  • Contaminants that enter a waterway from a single and identifiable source.
  • Examples: from a sewage plant, a factory etc. 

2. Non-Point Sources

  • Non-Point Sources are the sources of water pollution that cannot be traced to a single source.
  • For Example, Acid rain, chemical runoff, and leaching out of nitrogen compounds from fertilized agricultural lands.

Apart from that, Groundwater aquifers are susceptible to contamination from sources that may not directly affect surface water bodies. E.g., chemical spill into the soil may not pollute any surface water body but pollute the underground water aquifer.


Causes of water pollution 

Water Pollution

1. Agricultural

  • Agricultural wastes include fertilizer and pesticide runoff from agricultural fields, food processing waste, tree and sawdust from logging operations and sewage from livestock operations.

2. Industrial Sector

  • Industrial discharge (effluents) may contain various compounds such as heavy metals (cadmium, chromium, lead) and organic and inorganic chemicals. These discharges can affect the temperatures of the water bodies and dissolved oxygen levels.

3. Domestic/Municipal Sector

  • The majority of domestic waste generation makes sewage which is dumped into water bodies without treatment. 

4. Thermal Pollution

  • When water at elevated levels of temperature used to run turbines in Power plants is discharged into rivers, streams or oceans, it increases the temperature of the water body. Also, it decreases dissolved oxygen in the water, which adversely affects aquatic life.

Why should India be worried about Water Pollution?

  • India should worry because India is already a water-deficient country. India has almost 18 % of the global population but only 4 % of freshwater.
  • Just 8% of domestic and industrial wastewater is released into the environment after treatment. It pollutes the natural waterbodies, making them unfit for human consumption.
  • The phenomenon of global warming has modified the ecology of major rivers of India. For instance, Ganga and Indus suffer significant-to-severe levels of water scarcity for 7 to 11 months in a year. 


Measurement of Water Pollution

1. Physical Testing

Standard physical tests of water include 

  1. Temperature
  2. Solid concentrations (e.g. Total Suspended Solids (TSS))
  3. Turbidity

2. Chemical Testing

Water samples may be examined using the principles of analytical chemistry. Frequently used methods include 

  • pH
  • Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD): It measures oxygen used by micro-organisms in the oxidation of organic matter. 
  • Chemical Oxygen Demand(COD): It measures oxygen equivalent to the oxidation of total organic matter present in water.
  • Metals (like cadmium and lead), oil & grease and pesticides.

3. Biological Testing

  • Involves the use of the plant, animal, and microbial indicators to monitor the health of an aquatic ecosystem. 
  • Example: Copepods 

Effects of water pollution

Water pollution strongly impacts humans, animals, vegetation, and the entire ecosystem. These effects can be classified into

On Ecosystem

  1. When sewage water and agriculture runoff containing organic material is discharged into freshwater, it increases the growth of algae, causing eutrophication and death of the whole aquatic ecosystem.
  2. If warm water is disposed of in coastal areas containing corals, it leads to the destruction of the whole ecosystem.
  3. A steep increase in Biological Oxygen Demand turns the lake or sea into a dead zone, killing all the organisms in the ecosystem.

On Animal Health

  1. Fishes and aquatic animals are poisoned by the dumping of industrial wastes in water bodies. 
  2. Oil spills kill a number of animals in the affected area.
  3. It leads to bioaccumulation and biomagnification across various trophic levels.

On Human Health

  1. Humans suffer from diseases like hepatitis by eating seafood contaminated due to water pollution.
  2. Heavy metal poisoning of the fishes due to water pollution can cause diseases in humans. E.g., Minamata disease due to mercury poisoning impacted humans as well.
  3. Consumption of polluted water results in cholera and typhoid.
  4. Nitrate contamination of water can prove to be disastrous for infants as it can restrict the oxygen to reach the brain causing the ‘blue baby syndrome.

Control of water pollution

Control of Domestic Sewage

  • It can be treated in urban areas by centralized sewage treatment plants.

Control of Industrial wastewater

  • Industrial waste can be treated with the help of Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETP) in industrial areas.

Control of agriculture wastewater

  • Farmers may utilize erosion controls to reduce runoff flows and retain soil on their fields. ‘
  • Farmers should use nutrient management plans to prevent the application of excess nutrients. 

3R Approach to manage wastewater

Government, organizations and individuals can adopt the ‘3R Approach’ to reduce wastewater which includes  

  1. Reduce (water wastage)
  2. Reuse (after treatment)  
  3. Recycle
3R Approach to manage wastewater

World Examples

  • In Singapore and  San Diego, residents already drink recycled water. 
  • Japan’s sewage operators use bio-solids as a carbon-neutral form of energy.

Side Topic: Waterman of India (Rajendra Singh)

  • Rajendra Singh is India’s noted environmentalist and is nicknamed the “Waterman of India” Rajendra Singh
  • He was awarded the Stockholm Water Prize in 2015 and Magsaysay Award in 2001 for community-based water management.
  • He was born in UP but worked in Rajasthan for decades to solve the drought issue in Indian villages. 
  • He runs the “Jal Jan Jodo” campaign to spread the water conservation message.
  • He is the proponent of community-based water management as the best way to manage water. 

Stubble Burning

Stubble Burning

This article deals with ‘Stubble Burning – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Environment, you can click here.


Why do farmers burn stubble?

  • Time Factor / Cropping Pattern: The paddy wheat system leaves farmers with a sowing time of less than a month between the two crops. Delay in sowing means a decline in yield.  
  • Government Policies: Punjab & Haryana directed their farmers to delay paddy transplantation to save groundwater, but now when they harvest rice, there is no time to grow wheat. 
  • Cost Factor: Straw management equipment is costly, and the government doesn’t consider the cost of stubble management while deciding on MSP. 
  • Farm Mechanization: Earlier, farmers used to cut the paddy close to the ground, and the issue of stubble wasn’t there. But the harvesters cut the paddy from height and leave behind one-foot-tall stalks.
Stubble Burning

Side Topic: Stubble burning leads to the formation of Smog in Delhi because 

The concentration of PM 2.5 particles increases in the air due to stubble burning, which provides condensation nuclei for smog formation.


Problems caused by Stubble Burning

  • Bad for soil health: Burning leads to a decline in the bacterial and fungal population in the top 2.5cm of the soil, thus decreasing the soil fertility and increasing farmers’ dependence on fertilizers. 
  • Health Impacts: Stubble burning releases air pollutants, especially particulate matter (PM), CO2 and ash. 
  • It impacts the health of the general population, especially pulmonary disorders. 
  • Increase the cost of agriculture: According to research conducted by ICRISAT, the nutrient loss from soil caused by stubble burning in Punjab amounts to 220 crores worth of urea. 


Carrot & Stick Approach is required

Carrot & Stick Approach of Stubble Management

Carrot Approach 

  • MS Swaminathan suggested commercializing the paddy straw by using it for making cardboards, animal feed, paper, energy generation etc.
  • Government should subsidize farm machinery for stubble management, such as Happy Seeder, Rotavator etc.
  • Economic Survey (2020) suggests setting up Biomass Depots for storing crop residues and making Biochar Briquettes out of them, which can be further used in thermal power plants and coal or as fuel in local industries and brick kilns. 
  • Provide market to farmers to produce electricity from Biomass. For this, Punjab has operationalized the first such powerplant Jalkheri Biomass Powerplant (Patiala District).  
  • Encourage Farmers to change cropping patterns: Government should also procure pulses and oilseeds at MSP.

Stick Approach

  • Fine those farmers who burn the straw even after that.  
  • Authorities in Punjab plan to use satellite technology to keep a vigil on illegal burning. 

Steps already taken by the Government

1. Subsidy for buying In-Situ Crop Residue Management Technologies (like Happy Seeder)

The government is giving 50% subsidy to the individual farmers and 80% subsidy to Cooperative Societies to buy In-Situ Crop Residue Management technologies. These technologies include

Happy Seeder With Happy Seeder, the next crop can be sown in the standing stubble.
Rotavator Prepare the land for the next crop by incorporating the stubble into the soil.
Baler Make the bales of stubble

2. PUSA Decomposer

  • PUSA Decomposer is a set of 4 tablets developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa. The tablets contain the fungi strains, which increase the rate of decomposition of paddy straw.

3. Project to convert Paddy Straw into Bio-Energy

  • Punjab Government has signed an MoU with Chennai based company ‘NEWAY‘ under which 400 Plants for converting paddy straw to electricity will be constructed.

4. Making stubble burning a punishable offence

  • Stubble burning has been made a punishable offence under Section 188 of IPC and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981.

Air Pollution in Indian Cities

Air Pollution in Indian Cities

This article deals with ‘Air Pollution in Indian Cities – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Environment’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles on Environment, you can click here


Data about Air Pollution

  • A study published in Lancet Journal says that polluted air is a cause of one in eight deaths in India and decreases average life expectancy in the country by 1.7 years. 
  • According to Lancet’s Study, air pollution is linked to type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. India has the greatest risk.


Timeline of Delhi Pollution

Air Pollution in Indian Cities

Reasons for rising in Urban Pollution (Delhi in Particular) 

1. Anthropogenic Causes

  • Stubble Burning in Punjab & Haryana by farmers.  
  • An explosion of personal vehicles.    
  • Massive-scale construction work, leading to an increase in the concentration of PM 2.5 & PM 10.

2. Geographical Causes

  • Westerlies: North India is under the influence of westerlies in winter, and these winds take pollutants of stubble burning to Delhi NCR. 
  • Due to the degradation of Aravallis, frequent dust storms from the Thar Desert have now started to reach New Delhi.
  • Temperature Inversion creates a sort of blanket and doesn’t allow air to circulate in winter.
  • Delhi is a continental city & situated on a ridge.

3. Socio-Economic Factors

  • Population Pressure: Delhi acts as an urban magnet due to the presence of job opportunities. 

4. Faulty Policies / Governance Factors

  • Fuel Subsidy on diesel has distorted people’s preference towards buying diesel cars, although Diesel cars emit 4 to 7X more pollutants. 

5. Reasons for the exponential rise in pollution during winters

  • Dip in temperatures: Due to temperature inversion in the winters, the pollutants can’t disperse upwards, thus increasing the concentration of pollutants. 
  • Dip in wind speed: The winds blow at very moderate speeds during winters compared to summers. Due to stagnant winds, these pollutants get locked in the air and affect weather conditions, resulting in smog. 
  • Biomass burning in neighbouring states: Delhi is landlocked between its adjoining areas. Stubble burning in these states, especially in Punjab and Haryana, is considered a significant cause of environmental pollution. 
  • Combustion caused by firecrackers may not be the top reason for the smog, but it contributes to its build-up. 

Measures needed

1. Improve Public Transport

  • A massive system of Public Transport needs to be built, including metros, BRTS and Public Buses.
  • Last Mile Connectivity should also be looked. 

2. Change in Tax Regime

  • Congestion tax should be introduced in the form of high parking rates. The city of London uses this method. 
  • Instead of a one-time registration tax for 15 years, Vehicle tax should be paid annually with registration fees increasing each passing year.    
  • Polluter paysGovernment should impose more tax on vehicles & factories with higher emission levels.

3. Governance Issues

  • India should adopt yearly registration of vehicles instead of 15 years of registration. 
  • Government should educate people to use public transport. For example, Delhi Government’s Ab Bus Karein—let us take a bus Campaign.

4. Road Design innovations

  • Car Pool Lane (CPL) / High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Facility: CPL formula reserves one lane, the fastest, for cars carrying more than one occupant.  

5. Stubble Burning Management

  • Explained in a separate article (click here)

6. Reform Pollution Control Boards

Following changes are required in Pollution Control Boards. 

  • There is a need for a larger cadre of scientists in the Central and State Pollution Control Boards and more monitoring equipment.  
  • Empower Pollution Control Boards to levy graduated fines depending on the seriousness or repeatability of the offence.

7. Other measures

  • Install flue gas de-sulphurizers in all coal power plants. 
  • Reduce pollution from brick kilns: Kilns should be upgraded to cleaner technologies like Zig Zag kiln.

Initiatives already taken by the Government

1. Air Quality Index


2. Graded Response Action Plan

  • It is applicable in Delhi only.
  • A graded response lays down stratified actions that are required to be taken as and when the concentration of pollutants reaches a certain level.

3. Bharat Stage-VI norms from 2020


4. Western and Eastern Peripheral Expressway

  • The Peripheral Expressways have been built to divert the traffic destined for Delhi to bypass Delhi without entering the city.

5. Odd-Even Policy

  • Under the policy, Odd-numbered vehicles are allowed to run on odd dates and even-numbered vehicles on even dates. 
  • (BUT) Delhi is not the first city to introduce this system & earlier, Mexico city, along with many metropolitans, had introduced this but with bitter results. It is seen that these types of policies work well for a limited time but gradually, people lose their enthusiasm and find loopholes to avoid this.  

6. Tree Sapling

  • After Supreme Courts’ order, New  Delhi will get a tree wall of 31 lakh saplings of specialized trees like pipal, mahua, etc., to get rid of dust storms from its western neighbours due to western disturbances.

Examples from other cities

1. Mexico City: Project Via Verde 

  • Following the alarming levels of Pollution in 2016, Mexico city undertook the initiative of turning its 1000 plus columns supporting flyovers and elevated roads into ‘vertical gardens’.

2. Paris

  • In Paris, a Helium balloon hovers over the skyline and changes colour depending on pollution levels.