This article deals with ‘Indoor Air Pollution – 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.
Apart from outdoor pollution, the peculiar situation in India is that it also suffers from indoor contamination caused by smoky chulhas. Such exposure to the smoke of Chulhas is equivalent to inhaling carcinogens from two packs of cigarettes a day. Moreover, they impact the health of pregnant women and newborns adversely.
Causes of Indoor Air Pollution
Charcoal & wood burning lead to an increase in the concentration of VOCs and PM 2.5 & 10. According to the Economic Survey of India, there is a lack of access to better forms of energy. 49% of households still use firewood for cooking.
Poorly ventilated dwellings (especially in slums)
Asbestos released from the construction material
Tobacco Smoking within the household.
Biological Pollution which includes pollen from plants, hair from pets, fungi etc.
1. Health impacts
It results in acute and chronic respiratory conditions, lung cancer and cataract.
It results in Sick Building Syndrome (a situation in which the occupants experience acute health issues due to time spent in the building).
2. Gender issues
Women are disproportionately impacted because they work on chulhas.
The impact on children is more because their coping capacity is low.
Steps taken by the Government
The government has launched Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) to provide LPG connection to BPL households (by the Petroleum Ministry and part of Swatch Bharat Abhiyaan).
Scientists have developed a graphene-based sensor to detect air pollution in homes.
Neerdhur: National Environmental and Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) has developed ‘Neerdhur’, a novel multi-fuel domestic cooking stove.
HEPA Filters (High Energy Particulate Arrestor): HEPA Filters are used as Indoor air filters. But they are just for particulate matter.
WAYU (Wind Augmentation Purifying Unit): WAYU is made by CSIR-NEERI. It has filters for removing Particulate Matter along with activated carbon (charcoal) and UV lamps for removing poisonous gases.
SDG 7 aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
This article deals with ‘Wildlife Protection Schemes – 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.
The government is running 3 schemes for wildlife protection
Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH)
1. Project Tiger
Tiger has eight subspecies in total, and three have been extinct of these. Of the five remaining subspecies, only one subspecies is found in India, i.e. Bengal Tiger (Panthera Tigris Tigris).
70% of the total tiger population in the world is found in India.
Tiger is the national animal of both India & Bangladesh
The government started Project Tiger to combat this alarming situation
About Project Tiger
is run as Core Scheme, i.e. union and state governments share expenses in
the 60:40 ratio.
administered by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
National Tiger Conservation Authority of India (NTCA)
It is a statutory body constituted under the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act.
Minister of Environment and Forests heads NTCA.
Procedure to make Tiger Reserve
The state government can notify any area as Tiger Reserve on the recommendation of NTCA.
Objective of Project Tiger
Ensuring the maintenance of a viable Tiger population in India for scientific, economic, aesthetic, cultural and ecological value
Parts of Tiger Reserves
– No human activity is allowed except anything that affects the rights of the scheduled tribes and forest dwellers.
– Limited non-commercial activity such as development is allowed. – There is a co-existence of man and wildlife Gram Sabha is consulted in the management of buffer areas.
Alteration in boundary
No alteration can be made except on the recommendation of NTCA and approval of the National Board for Wildlife.
Strengthening of anti-poaching activities by the deployment of anti-poaching squads involving ex-army personnel/home guards
Reintroduction of tigers has been done at Sariska (Rajasthan), Panna (MP), Satkosia (MP) and Rajaji Tiger Reserve (Uttarakhand) tiger reserves.
Problems with project tiger
Funds received by a majority of tiger reserves are usually inadequate & delayed.
Forest Guards are usually trained only once during the course of their employment. Proper training is also lacking.
Roads, wireless equipment, jeeps, arms and ammunition and other anti-poaching equipment are lacking.
4. Constitutional angle
Forests and Wildlife are placed under the concurrent list in the Indian Constitution. Hence, the Central Government has limited powers over the execution of Project Tiger. Thus, while the guideline issued by the Central Government may be sound, their translation into ground realities depends totally on the State Government’s commitment.
Tiger Reserves in India
Tiger Habitats in India can be
divided into 5 divisions i.e.
Because of Deforestation, the size of tiger prey (deer, sambar etc.) has declined.
Forest fires and floods are leading to habitat loss.
2. Disturbance in Tiger breeding/ reproduction
noise pollution, tourism etc., disrupt the tiger breeding, thus impacting
3. Area constraint/fragmentation of area
Tiger is a
territorial animal which advertises its presence in an area through urine
marking and maintains a territory. Hence, 80-100 tigers need a protected
and undisturbed area of 1000 sq km. In its absence, male tigers would
fight and kill each other. Due to the construction of highways and farming
activities, the habitats are getting fragmented.
4. Insurgency in North East and Naxals in Central India
The Forest departments cannot efficiently work and protect tigers.
Using illegal trade in these to fund their operations
5. Black market of tiger bones and organs
China has a big market for tiger bones and organs where these organs are used for enhancing male virality.
Why do we need to protect tigers?
Tiger is an “umbrella species“. It resides at the top of the forest food chain. A healthy tiger population indicates that the other ecological components in its habitat are equally robust since tigers need a large amount of prey and good habitat.
If the Umbrella species are protected, it will also ensure viable populations of other wild animals (co-predators like leopards and prey like dears) and the habitat (trees, shrubs, water).
1. Lion to Tiger Territory
There is a proposal to shift lion from Gujarat to Kuno-Palpur National Park, MP
Reason: All Lion population in Gujarat which makes them vulnerable.
Problem: Gujarat government considers it PRIDE OF THE STATE & refusing to share it with MP.
2. Interstate Tiger Cub transfer
From Bandhavgarh and Kanha in MP to Satkosia in Odisha.
Tigers were transferred in 2018. But this led to massive protests by the locals as they were not consulted in the whole process. One of the tigers started to raid human habitations leading to Man-Animal conflict. Hence, the project was shelved, and Tiger was transferred back to MP.
Tiger census is the
all India tiger estimation exercise happening since 2006. The Tiger Census is
carried out after a gap of every three years by NTCA.
M – STRiPES
M-STRiPES, or Monitoring System for Tiger Intensive Protection & Ecological Status, is software developed by the Wildlife Institute of India.
It is a software-based Monitoring system for tigers.
It uses e-Eye system using thermal cameras.
The Indian government launched it in 2010.
The Tiger Census is also conducted using M-STRiPES.
2. Project Elephant
25,000 in India
The elephant was declared National Heritage Animal in 2010
Project Elephant was launched
in 1992 as a centrally Sponsored Scheme
Protect elephants, their habitat and corridors
To address the issue of man-animal conflict
Ensure the welfare of the domesticated elephants
Strengthening of protection from the poachers and unnatural causes of death
Public education and awareness
Providing Veterinary care
There are a total of 30 elephant reserves in India.
Important ones are
Elephant Corridors are narrow land for the passage of elephants from one habitat to another.
There are 183 identified Elephant Corridors in India.
Reasons for decrease in population
Poaching for elephant ivory
Disruption of habitat
Man animal conflict
Mining activities in central India
Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Program
It was established in 2003 by CITES.
It is an international collaboration that tracks trends in information related to the illegal killing of elephants across Africa and Asia to monitor the effectiveness of field conservation efforts.
3. Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitat (IDWH)
Project Tiger is run as Core Scheme, i.e. union and state governments share expenses in the 60:40 ratio.
The aim of the scheme is protection of the wildlife.
Support the protected areas
Conservation of Wildlife outside protected areas
Recovering the critically endangered species as well as habitats.
Financial and technical assistance is given to states to protect
threatened 18 species like
The aim is to protect and conserve the world’s last ranging free population of Asiatic Lion.
It is funded under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitat (IDWH), with the contributing ratio being 60:40 of Central and State governments.
About Asiatic Loin
Asiatic Lion, Panthera Leo Persica is listed in
Schedule 1 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
Appendix-I of CITES
Endangered category under IUCN Red List
Asiatic Lions are found only in the 5 protected areas of Gujarat, the most famous of which is Gir.
Lion is only found in Gujarat, which makes it vulnerable to extinction in case of any disease or unwanted accident. Hence, the proposal is to transfer some lions to Kuno-Palpur National Park, Madhya Pradesh.
3.2 Project Snow Leopard
There are around 7400 snow leopards globally, and ~10% of them are present in India (750 in India ).
The snow leopard is the apex predator on the ecological pyramid. Hence, it plays an important role in sustaining the ecosystem in its habitat.
Snow Leopard is listed in
Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act
Vulnerable category under IUCN Red List
It is found in Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Arunachal and Sikkim.
In 2021, the newly created Union Territory of Ladakh declared it to be the state animal.
India is home to 9 out of 23 species of vultures. These include
White-rumped vulture (WRV)
Long-billed vulture (LBV)
Read-headed or king vulture
Egyptian vulture (EV)
Eurasian griffon (EG)
Himalayan griffon (HG)
Cinereous vulture (CV)
Slender-billed vulture (SBV)
Of these, 3 are Critically Endangered
White Backed Vulture
Slender Billed Vulture
Other points about Vultures
Vultures nest on tall trees and rocky cliffs.
They are slow breeders. Hence, the survival of every individual is essential.
They have excellent eyesight and smelling sense and can detect the presence of dead animals from great distances.
They don’t hunt and rely on other carnivores for carcasses. But they have strong bills and necks adapted to tear flesh from carcasses. Further, vultures have acidic stomachs, which help them to digest rotting carcasses.
Causes of their deaths
Bioaccumulation of Diclofenac leads to kidney failure in vultures culminating in their death.
Other minor reasons
Hunting and trading because of myths about the medicinal power of vultures.
Habitat destruction due to rapid urbanization.
Electrocution in the areas with lesser trees.
Program for Protection
The use of Diclofenac has been banned in India.
Vulture has been brought under Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitat (IDWH)
Vulture Safe Zones : 3 such zones have been created – from Uttarakhand to Nepal, Assam to Arunachal and Central India
Vulture Breeding Facilities: Breeding facilities have been created in Guwahati, Pinjore and Buxa (WB)
Ramadevarabetta Vulture Sanctuary: It is India’s only vulture sanctuary in Karnataka
‘Vulture Restaurants/Cafeteria’: These are elevated spots located strategically, for example, in Punjab and Maharashtra, where dead animals are kept for vultures to feed.
Consequences of these disappearances
The disappearance of vultures has allowed other species, such as rats and wild dogs, to take their place. These new scavengers, however, are not as efficient as vultures. Vulture’s metabolism is a true “dead end” for pathogens, but dogs and rats become carriers of the pathogens. Thus, they are directly or indirectly responsible for thousands of human deaths.
Rhino is listed in
Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act
Vulnerable category under IUCN Red List
There are around 3000 Rhinos in the world.
In India, Rhino is found in North Bihar, North West Bengal and the Brahmaputra valley of Assam. But 95% of the world population is found in Kaziranga & Orang National Park in Assam.
Reasons for poaching
The reason for poaching is a great demand of horns of Rhino due
Use of Rhino horn in Chinese medicines.
The Rhino horn is considered a status symbol in countries such as Vietnam.
3.5 Project Hangul/Kashmiri Stag
Hangul or Kashmiri Stag is a CRITICALLY ENDANGERED species under IUCN Red List.
There were only 160 mature individuals of Hangul in 2008
Project Hangul was started in 1975 by the J&K government, IUCN and WWF. Presently under IDWH
It is also the state animal of J&K.
The main population is in Dachigam National Park, Srinagar.
3.6 Gangetic Dolphin
In 2010, Government declared Gangetic Dolphin as the National Aquatic Animal.
It is listed in the
Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act
Endangered on IUCN Red List.
It is found in parts of the Ganga Brahmaputra river system. More than 50% of Gangetic Dolphin are found in Bihar.
The Gangetic Dolphin symbolizes the purity of Ganga as it can survive only in freshwater.
It is also known as Susu or Sushak, or Souns because of its noise.
Side Topic: River Dolphins
There are a total of 4 freshwater dolphins in the world i.e.
Baiji or Yangtze Dolphin (China)
Boto or Amazon Dolphin
Bhulan or Indus Dolphin
Susu or Gangetic Dolphin.
Main reasons for population decline
Poaching for oil
Habitat degradation due to declining flow
The construction of barrages causes population fragmentation due to physical barriers
Increasing traffic due to the declaration of Ganga as National Waterways
Steps taken for preservation of Gangetic Dolphin
Ministry of Environment announced it in 2020 on the lines of ‘Project Tiger’.
It involves the conservation of dolphins through the use of modern technology and engages local fishing communities in the conservation process.
National Dolphin Research Centre has been established at Patna University.
Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary has been established in Bihar.
Side Topic: Indus Dolphin
Indus Dolphin are endangered, freshwater, and functionally blind species of dolphins relying on echolocation for navigation, communication and hunting prey.
India has a population of around 30 Indus Dolphins in the Beas River. The rest of the population is found in the Indus river in Pakistan.
Punjab declared it as its state aquatic animal in 2019.
In 2021, the Punjab government, along with WWF-India, conducted the first organized census on the population of Indus Dolphin.
3.7 Nilgiri Tahr
Nilgiri Tahr is the state animal of Tamil Nadu.
It is listed in
Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act
Endangered on IUCN Red List
It is endemic to the narrow belt of the higher elevation of Shola Forest in the Western Ghats.
This article deals with ‘Legal Provisions regarding 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.
Wild Birds Protection Act was enacted by the British Government aimed to prohibit the trade and sale of scheduled wild birds. But the act remained merely a piece of legislation as wildlife protection wasn’t a priority for the British Indian government.
Indian Forest Act was enacted. But the act was not envisaged to protect Indian forests or the environment. Instead, the act was aimed to exploit Sal & Teak for making railway sleepers & export to Europe.
Indian Constitution came into force. It has various provisions for biodiversity conservation, such as Article 51-A(G), calling citizens should conserve Wildlife & Environment.
Regulating the access to biological and genetic resources.
Ensure equitable sharing of benefits arising by using those biological resources.
3 -tier system was established with
National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) at Centre.
State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) in each state.
Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) function with local governments (both municipalities and panchayats).
It also establishes the National and State Biodiversity Fund.
Functions of NBA, SBB & BMC
1. National Biodiversity Authority (NBA)
All foreign nationals require approval from NBA for obtaining Indian biological resources.
All Indian individuals/organizations must seek NBA approval before transferring knowledge/research to foreigners.
The NBA’s prior approval is required before applying for IPR based on research conducted on Indian biological material.
Advise the Central Government on matters relating to (1) conservation of biodiversity, (2) sustainable use of its components and (3) equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of biological resource
Advise the State Governments in the framing rules for managing Biodiversity Heritage sites.
2. State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs)
It advises state governments on the matter relating to the conservation of Biodiversity.
It regulates the commercial use of bio-resources in the state by Indians (i.e. companies using biodiversity resources for a commercial purpose need to take permission from SBB ), excluding 1) Vaids and Hakims, practising Indian medicinal system 2) Local People using the bioresources for local use.
It ensures equitable sharing of benefits arising from utilizing biological resources.
3. Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs)
BMCs are constituted by the local bodies within their area of jurisdiction.
BMC will promote conservation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity.
NBA and SBBs shall consult the BMCS while taking any decision relating to the use of biological resources and knowledge within the jurisdiction of the BMCS.
BMC is mandated to prepare the People’s Biodiversity Register in consultation with local people. These registers will have comprehensive information about local biological resources and knowledge about their medicinal and traditional uses.
Role of Indigenous & Local Community (ILC)
The act recognizes the role of ILCs in conserving biological resources over the years. Under the act, if the company uses local biological resources and has an annual turnover of more than Rs 3 crore, it will have to share 0.5% of sales with the local community.
It also provides for the involvement of ILCs through biodiversity management committees (BMCs) in the preparation of people’s biodiversity registers (PBRs).
Biodiversity Heritage Sites
Under the provisions of the Act, State Government, after consulting local bodies, can notify any area with biodiversity importance as Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS).
In consultation with the Central Government, the State Government may frame rules for the management and conservation of BHS.
Issues with Act
Lack of Local Representation: Neither NBA nor State Biodiversity Boards have any representation from indigenous communities, forest-dwelling communities, or traditional knowledge practitioners.
Corporate Collusion: Big players in this industry are yet not registered with the respective State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs). Hence, these corporations are able to bypass the provision of taking permission prior to using local biological resources and the subsequent requirement of sharing royalty.
Less than 16% of local bodies had constituted Biodiversity Management Committees till 2016.
Less than 3% of local bodies have prepared the People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs). The absence of PBRs puts several endangered species at the risk of extinction and denies benefits to locals from the commercial use of biological resources.
Uttarakhand High Court has directed Divya Pharmacy to share part of its profits with the indigenous communities under the provisions of the Biodiversity Act, 2002.
Judgement has said that both Indian and foreign companies are liable to pay indigenous and local communities for using the biological resources under the Biological Diversity Act, as the latter kept the traditional knowledge of biological resources alive over the years.
TKDL (Traditional Knowledge Digital Library)
TKDL was started in 2001.
It is a collaboration project between CSIR & Ministry of AYUSH and implemented by CSIR.
TKDL acts as a bridge between traditional knowledge information existing in local languages & patent examiners at IPO (International Patent Offices). Whenever any MNC or foreign company tries to get a patent on traditional knowledge of Indians, TKDL files a complaint against it to stop biopiracy.
In the late 1990s, after granting Turmeric and basmati rice patents by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the neem patent granted by the European Patent Office (EPO), respectively, the Indian Government successfully achieved their repudiation. Thereafter, the biopiracy and unethical bioprospecting issue made headlines. This led to the coming of more patent claims. Due to India’s vast traditional medicine knowledge in languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Tamil, it became impossible for patent examiners to verify such claims at the international patent offices. Thus, the Department of AYUSH, Government of India, was encouraged for the creation of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) in 2001.
Achievements Till 2010,
TKDL had transformed 148 books in the public sphere based on Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Yoga languages into information consisting of 34 million pages, and further translated them into five languages, namely, English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese.
TKDL has already received information on Ayurveda’s 80,000 formulations, Unani’s 1,000,000 and Siddha’s 12,000.
TKDL also signed an agreement with the world’s leading international patent offices, such as the European Patent Office (EPO), the United Kingdom Trademark and Patent Office (UKPTO) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office with the primary objective of protecting conventional knowledge from biopiracy and further giving access to the database of TKDL by the patent examiners at International Patent Offices for enabling the purpose of patent search and examinations.
Pangaea Labs Limited (a UK-based company) filed a patent for a product based on Turmeric, pinebark, and green tea to treat hair loss. TKDL objected to this and proved it to be part of the Indian system of medicines like Ayurveda and Unani. As a result, Pangaea Labs withdrew its application.
US company Colgate Palmolive applied for a patent for a mouthwash formula containing the herb Jayaphal (Nutmeg). The TKDL submitted proof against this, and the company withdrew the claim.
Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
this Act, India had only 5 designated National parks. This was the first
umbrella act that established schedules for plants & animals
The act extends to the whole of India.
Under the provisions of this law, hunting & harvesting of species were largely outlawed based on their names in Appendix.
Schedules of the Act
There are 6 schedules in this act, which give varying degrees of protection
Schedule 1 & Part 2 of Schedule 2
Absolute protection and the highest penalty.
Note: Animals in Schedule 1 cant be declared Vermin in any case.
Schedule 3 & 4
Less penalties, but animals are protected.
Schedule 5 is meant for vermin & pests.
No legal protection is provided to animals in Schedule 5.
It includes rats, common crow, fruit-bat etc.
Schedule 6 includes the plants prohibited from plantation and cultivation. These include
Ladies slipper orchards
for the Wildlife (Protection) Act has been introduced, which seeks to
rationalize the schedules from 6 to 4 by
Reducing the number of schedules for specially protected animals to two (one for greater protection level)
Removing the schedule for vermin species (Wild animals to be declared as Vermin by way of notification by the Central Government for any area and for a specified period.)
Inserting a new schedule for specimens listed in the Appendices under CITES
Statutory Bodies under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
Statutory bodies under Wildlife Protection Act include
1. National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)
NTCA works under the Environment Ministry.
It was made via amendment in 2006.
Its functions include strengthening tiger conservation.
State Governments can declare any area to be a Tiger Reserve on the recommendation of NTCA.
2. National Board for Wildlife (NBWL)
It was constituted in 2002 via an amendment in the act.
Its function includes
Advice Central Government on framing policies for the conservation of wildlife.
Approve projects around Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks.
Alteration in the boundaries of National Park and Wildlife Sanctuaries can be done only after the approval of NBWL.
3. Central Zoo Authority
Central Zoo Authority is the central body responsible for the oversight of zoos in India.
4. Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB)
It works under MoEFCC.
Its functions include
Collection, collation of intelligence.
Establishment of Wildlife Crime data bank.
Advise the Indian Government on wildlife crimes.
Other notes regarding the Act
It protects the hunting rights of the Scheduled Tribes in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
This article deals with ‘Organizations for 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
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
IUCN, established in 1948, is one of the world’s oldest global environmental organizations.
It is an organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
IUCN is headquartered in Gland (Switzerland).
Its members include both Nation States and NGOs.
It has observer status at United Nations General Assembly.
Main functions of IUCN
IUCN’s mission is to encourage, influence, and assist societies worldwide to conserve nature and ensure sustainable and equitable use of natural resources
It influences governments and industries through partnerships by providing information and advice.
The organization collects, compiles and publishes the IUCN red list of threatened species.
Red List of IUCN
The Red Databook or Red list is a system of classifying plants and animals on the basis of their likelihood of extinction.
The concept of the Red list was mooted in 1963. Each year, scientists worldwide assess or reassess species & IUCN Red List is subsequently updated. The latest list was released in 2021.
This list helps Governments and NGOs prioritize their efforts to save the particular plant, animal etc. Special emphasis should be paid to species on the red list, and their trade should be banned CITES.
It has divided all flora and fauna into 9 groups
1. Extinct (Ex)
The last individual has died.
2. Extinct in Wild (EW)
Only surviving in captivity.
3. Critically Endangered (CR)
If the organism
satisfies any one of the following conditions
(1) Reduction in
population over the last ten years
(2) Population size
number less than 50
(3) Probability of
extinction in wild
50% in ten years
4. Endangered (EN)
If the organism
satisfies any one of the following conditions
(1) Reduction in
population over the last ten years
(2) Population size
number less than
250 mature individuals
(3) Probability of
extinction in wild
20% in twenty years
5. Vulnerable (VU)
If the organism
satisfies any one of the following conditions
(1) Reduction in
population over the last ten years
(2) Population size
number less than
10,000 mature individuals
(3) Probability of
extinction in wild
10% in 100 years
6. Near Threatened (NT)
Doesn’t qualify above three but is close to qualifying in future.
7. Least Concern (LC)
These have widespread & abundant taxa.
8. Data Deficient
Enough data is not available to conclude.
9. Not Evaluated
Species that are not evaluated at all
Note: Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable are also known as Threatened Species.
Limitations of IUCN Redlist
IUCN Red List contains 9 groups & the 9th group is not evaluated. It contains thousands of species.
It is also likely that many species have or are in the process of becoming extinct but not receiving government protection efforts because they are in the 9th or 8th group.
CITES or Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna & flora is the brainchild of IUCN.
It is headquartered in Geneva.
It is an inter-governmental treaty to ensure that trade in the wildlife species doesn’t threaten their survival.
It is also known as Washington Convention.
Limiting the trade of wildlife flora and fauna has become even more important due to frequent epidemics in the past few years like the SARS epidemic (bats), MERS-CoV (camels), Ebola (bats or non-human primates) and Nipah virus (bats).
Why illegal trade?
According to WHO, more than 50% of people in the world still use traditional medicines derived from animals and plants. In traditional Chinese and Asian medicine, the bones, tissues, and blood of tigers and the ivory of elephants are used to treat diseases like arthritis and impotence.
It is a multibillion-dollar industry, just like narcotic drugs trade with large supply chains.
How CITES work?
has no enforcement authority of its own. It relies on the cooperation of
various nations and classifies species into 3
Appendices to regulate their trade
– Species threatened with extinction. E.g., Cheetah, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino etc. – Trade of these species is banned totally.
– Species that are not threatened with extinction, but maybe threatened if their trade is not controlled. Eg: Zebra, Black Bear, Queen Conch etc. – Trader is required to get a licence to export such plants and animals.
– Species that are listed as threatened in at least one country.
CITES and India
CITES has undertaken many projects, especially with the help of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau under the Ministry of Environment. E.g., Project MIKE (Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants), Haathi Mere Saathi etc.
In recent times
India has demanded to transfer Small Clawed Otters and Indian Star Tortoise from Appendix II to Appendix I.
On the opposite side, India has also proposed to remove Rosewood from Appendix II.
1. It has no enforcement agency of its own
Hence, it depends on the
agencies of different nations and their laws, which vary greatly
2. Arena of the fight between Developed nations vs Developing nations
CITES has become an arena of battle between developed nations, which promote a ban on trade in endangered species and developing nations, which see such trade as an economic resource.
3. Introduction of Non-Native species
Sometimes, confiscated endangered species are released into nature in a country where it is confiscated instead of sending it back to their native habitat. It has potential ecological impacts. E.g., Malayan Pangolin was released in China.
4. Placing species in the Appendix is counterproductive
If any species is included in Appendix I, it drives up the prices for that species, encouraging more hunting and poaching for trade. It was seen in the case of rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory, and tiger bone.
WWF = World Wide Fund for Nature.
It was established in 1961.
Mission: “To conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.”
Headquarters: Gland, Switzerland
It runs a large number of projects in partnership with governments and bodies.
It is also known as Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network.
TRAFFIC is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) co-founded by WWF and IUCN, working on the global trade of wild plants and animals.
The aim is to ensure that trade in the wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature.
Headquartered in Cambridge (United Kingdom).
One of the major programs of TRAFFIC was Project Shatoosh (for Chiru).
It also passed a resolution in United Nations for combatting the illegal wildlife trade.
It has also started a program for the protection of Indian Pangolins.
TRAFFIC’s latest campaign is the WANTED ALIVE series on the four Asian big cats- Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard and Clouded Leopard—all of them threatened by the illegal trade in their body parts.
Bombay National History Society (BNHS)
BNHS is an autonomous organization.
It deals with the conservation of flora and fauna, education and ecological conservation.
It is headquartered in Coimbatore.
It has partnered with the Government of India to establish Salim Ali Centre on Ornithology and Natural History, which is an institute of higher learning which gives MPhil and PhD in Ornithology and Natural History.
This article deals with ‘Conventions related to 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
Stockholm Meet / United Nations Conference on the Human Environment – It led to Stockholm Declaration, which (1) recognized human impact on the environment; (2) recognized the need for nations to design integrative development plans to lessen air, land, and water pollution and human impact on the environment; (3) create regulations for protecting wildlife and conserving the natural resources and (4) creation national population policies. – It also led to the establishment of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), headquartered in Nairobi. – India passed Wildlife (protection) Act, 1972 and started Project Tiger (in 1973) as a direct result of this.
Limits to Growth Theory – It is a pessimistic model of how humans will cause their own end by 2022 (given by the Club of Rome).
10th anniversary of UNEP.
Vienna Convention signed – To save the ozone layer. Subsequently, Montreal Protocol was signed.
Brundtland Report – Brundtland Commission published a report known as ‘Our Common Future’ in which it gave the concept of Sustainable Development.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed – By UNEP and World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). – The major work of IPCC is to provide an objective scientific view of climate change as well as its socio-economic impact. – The work of IPCC is to produce reports so that UNFCCC can work to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.
Rio Earth Summit held (on the 20th anniversary of UNEP) Three documents were opened for signature on 5th June 1992 at Rio Earth Summit 1. United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity 2. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 3. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
Global Environment Facility established – It works under World Bank.
Millennium Development Goals announced (on the 30th anniversary of the UNEP / Stockholm Declaration)
Sustainable Development Goals announced (on the 40th anniversary of the UNEP / Stockholm Declaration)
United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
It is an organization under the United Nations.
It was formed in 1972 as a direct result of the Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment.
It is headquartered in Nairobi.
1992 marked the 20th anniversary of the Stockholm Declaration (United Nations Conference on the Human Environment).
Earth Summit or United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro to commemorate this and discuss further steps.
It led to the following important conventions wrt Biodiversity, Climate Change and Desertification.
United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
Convention on Bio-Diversity (CBD)
It aims to
Safe use of biotechnology
Fair use of genetic resources
It is headquartered in Montreal, Canada.
CBD has a membership of 193 countries (the USA & Andorra are the only non-member countries).
It is a legally binding treaty.
CBD accepts the sovereign right of states on their biological resources but places the responsibility of conserving biodiversity on the states. States should create National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAP) for this.
CBD recognizes the close & traditional dependence of indigenous & local communities on biological resources & the need to ensure that these communities share the benefits arising from the use of their traditional knowledge & practices relating to conservation & sustainable use of biodiversity.
Funds are provided by GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT FACILITY (GEF), which works under World Bank.
Conference of Parties and Protocols
Signatories of CBD meet regularly at conferences known as the Conference of Parties (CoP).
In these CoPs, countries reach at various agreements known as Protocols. E.g., Under CBD, the Nagoya Protocol (for fair use of genetic resources) and Cartagena Protocol (for safe use of biotechnology) have been signed.
Timeline of various CoPs and
Protocols of CBD
CoP-1 was held in Nassau (Bahamas)
An extraordinary Conference of Parties (Ex-CoP) was held in Cartagena, and Cartagena Biosafety Protocol was signed.
CoP-10 was held in Nagoya (Japan), and Nagoya Protocol was signed.
COP was held in Hyderabad in India
CoP was held in Pyeongchang in South Korea
CoP was held in Cancun in Mexico
CoP was held in Sharm el-Sheik in Egypt
CoP-15 will be held in Kunming in China
India and CBD
India has ratified the CBD.
India has also enacted Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
India was President of CBD from 2012-to 201414 because in 2012, COP was held in Hyderabad. The present President is China.
Why the USA hasn’t ratified?
Provision of CBD that concerns the USA is that which calls for technology transfer for developing countries. USA thinks it would threaten its IPR.
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
Since the domestication of the first crops & farm animals, humans have altered their genetic makeup through selective breeding & cross-fertilization. But in recent years, advances in biotech techniques have enabled scientists to cross the species barrier. E.g., Tomato has been modified using a gene from cold-water fish to protect plants from frost.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have become part of an increasing number of products, including foods, food additives, beverages, drugs, fuels etc. It has raised concern about side effects on human health & environment, including risk to biodiversity.
Cartagena Protocol (under the Convention of Biodiversity) was signed in 2000 to address the potential risks posed by the cross border trade & accidental release of Living Modified Organisms (LMOs).
India is a member of the Cartagena Protocol.
1. Advanced Informed Agreement
Advanced Informed Agreement (AIA) is to ensure that member countries have access to the necessary information to make an informed decision before importing such organisms into their territory.
2. Biosafety Clearing House
To signal whether the country is willing to accept the import of agricultural commodities, including LMOs.
3. Clear Labelling
Commodities that may contain LMOs are to be clearly labelled when they are being exported.
Can a country ban import of LMO
The country can ban the import of genetically modified organisms if they feel there is not enough scientific evidence that the product is safe.
Full Name: Nagoya Protocol on the access to genetic resources & fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization.
The Protocol was signed at the Conference of Parties-10 (CoP-10) to Convention on Biodiversity, which was held in Nagoya (Japan) in 2010. If Kyoto entered history as a city where the climate accord was born, Nagoya would be remembered as a city where Biodiversity Accord was born. Subsequently, it became operational in 2014 at Pyeongchang CoP (South Korea).
It is a legally binding agreement.
Only those countries that are members of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) can sign the Nagoya Protocol. Hence, USA and Andorra are not the members.
What is sharing the benefits of genetic resources?
Most of the world’s biodiversity is found in developing countries which consider it a resource for fuelling their economic & social development. Foreign bio-prospectors have searched for natural substances to develop new commercial products such as drugs & medicines. The product such developed would often be sold & protected by patents or other IPR without giving fair benefit to source countries. Hence, in the whole process, all parties suffer because biopirates don’t share profit, and as a result, countries are unwilling to share their genetic resources with MNCs (biopirates).
The provision of access and benefit-sharing comes into the picture in such a situation. Under access and benefit-sharing, if any foreign or Indian company or any individual wants to get access to Indian biological resources like medicinal plants or traditional knowledge associated with that, that entity has to take consent from National Biodiversity Board. The board can impose a condition on the entity to share benefits in the form of royalty fees or profit-sharing arising from the commercialization of that product.
Basis of Nagoya Protocol
CBD recognizes national sovereignty on all genetic resources & provides that access to valuable biological resources be carried out on mutually agreed terms & subject to prior informed consent of the country of origin.
When a microorganism, plant or animal is used for a commercial application, the country from where it has come has the right to benefit.
Such benefits include
Samples of what is collected from the source country
Participation or training of national researchers
Transfer of biotech equipment & know-how
Shares of any profit from the use of resource
Nagoya protocol covers
Derivatives (antibodies, vitamins, enzymes, active compounds & metabolics)
Traditional Knowledge associated with genetic resources
It doesn’t apply on
Genetic resources covered under special access & benefit sharing agreements like (1) Framework for Pandemic Preparedness of WHO and (2) International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for food & agriculture.
Human genetic material
Genetic resources acquired before the protocol
Obligations of the country under Nagoya Protocol
Obligations related to access to genetic resources
Each party is required to create unambiguous & clear legal processes related to access to genetic resources.
Obligations related to benefit-sharing
It provides for fair & equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources with the contracting party providing genetic resources subject to mutually agreed terms.
The benefit may be monetary (royalties) or non-monetary (sharing of research results).
Party should cooperate in cases of the alleged violation of another contracting party’s requirement.
Implications of Nagoya Protocol on the economy such as India
India would benefit as it is the most genetically diverse nation in the world.
Now MNCs / bio-prospectors making use of Indian genetic resources in making commercial products would have to share profit with India.
Bonn Convention is the Convention on the conservation of migratory Species of Wild Animals.
It was established under the aegis of UNEP in 1983.
Bonn Convention brings together the States through which migratory animals pass and take coordinated conservation measures.
It has two Appendix
Appendix I – Migratory species threatened with extinction
Appendix II – Migratory species that need or would significantly benefit from international cooperation
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
of biodiversity is the protection and scientific management of biodiversity so
that present and future generations can derive sustainable benefits from it.
In-Situ Conservation meansconservation 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
Biodiversity Heritage Sites
Other steps for In-Situ Conservation of Biodiversity
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.
Date of notification
Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka (It was the first Indian Biosphere Reserve to be recognised under MAB)
Garo hills (Meghalaya)
& Nicobar Islands
Situated in West Bengal, Sundarbans are part of the delta formed by the Ganges and Brahmaputra river systems.
Kerala (mainly) and
Tamil Nadu (small part) .
and some parts in Chhattisgarh State.
(Protection) Act, 1972
(Protection) Act, 1972
(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.
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
– Bishnois consider trees sacred. – Involved in protecting the entire ecosystem, including animals & birds that exist in their villages.
– Involved in the Tiger Conservation
– Involved in Lion Conservation and played the leading role in increasing the number of Lions in Gir.
– Involved in the protection of endangered Bugun Bird
– 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
– Chat Patt Bani (Pathankot dist) – Baba Sukhaiya Ji ( Hoshiarpur Dist) – Dargah Peer Baba Manju Shah Ji (Ropar Dist)
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.
in India = 40
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)
Kaziranga National Park
Keoladeo Ghana National Park
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary
Nanda Devi National Park and Valley of Flowers
Sundarbans National Park
Tamil Nadu and
Great Himalayan National Park
11. Go Area & No Go Area
2010, Environment Ministry divided the areas into two parts for mining purposes,
i.e. Go Area & No Go Area.
– 10 % weighted Forest Cover or 30% Gross Forest Cover – No permission was given to doing miningin the No Go area.
– 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
Those areas which are Protected Area 1. Wildlife Sanctuary 2. National Park 3. Conservation Reserves 4. Community Reserves Or Forest with 70% Canopy
Areas that are not there in the No Go Area
12. Coastal Regulation Zone
CRZ Notification issued under Environment (Protection) Act
CRZ Regulation was updated and made more stringent. But various stakeholders were demanding revising these regulations and providing relaxation.
Shailesh Nayak Committee submitted a report regarding the revision of CRZ Regulations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
High heat and humidity which is optimum for metabolic activities
These regions have been climatically stable.
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.
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.
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 are the processes by which the environment
produces benefits useful to people akin to economic services. E.g.
Provision of clean water & air
Pollination of crops
Mitigation of environmental hazards
Preventing soil erosion
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
Conversion of land for agriculture
Land use for construction purposes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Effect on the timing of reproduction & migration.
Increased frequency of pest outbreaks and forest fires.
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.
If some of the rivets on the body are removed, nothing serious happens to the aeroplane.
But if rivets beyond a certain number are removed, the whole aeroplane will fall apart.
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.
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
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
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).
Misdirected light results in energy waste and creates GHG emissions.
Lights can attract or repel animals and insects into human areas.
It disturbs the migration of birds that navigate using the stars.
Light spill and sky glow interfere with astronomical equipment, making viewing faint celestial bodies difficult.
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.
The sky belongs to everyone and we should do what we can to make sure its the best possible sky we can see.
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
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.
1. Low water Solubility
They aren’t soluble in water.
2. High Lipid Solubility
They have high lipid solubility, which leads to bio-accumulation.
They either occur in nature in the vapour phase or are adsorbed on atmospheric particles, facilitating long-range transport.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
These are used in paints, varnishes, fuels, paper bleaching, cosmetics etc.
Mercury is infamous for Minamata disease.
Conventions regarding hazardous wastes and pollutants
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
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
Eg: Mosquito repellent oils and liquids.
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).