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Deep Diamonds

Diamonds are forever… This phrase may bring the famous James Bond spy movie to our minds, but the reality is, our Earth’s crust and deep-water ecosystems that gave birth to these magnificent stones are under severe threat of destruction.

Diamonds are made from carbon placed under high pressure, but that carbon can come from different sources: either organic carbon, from once-living matter, or inorganic carbon – like carbonate minerals, which are commonly found in rocks. Diamonds are mined in several ways: Open-pit and underground mining where layers of sand and rock are removed, and diamonds mined from the earth’s crust; Alluvial mining occurs in riverbeds and beaches from diamond deposits or Marine mining where diamonds are extracted from the deep seabed.

It is not just diamonds, but the ocean floor and several riverbeds contain millions of polymetallic nuggets (black lumps looking like coal) that are rich in minerals such as manganese, cobalt, nickel and copper.

Marine mining of these metallic morsels is in exponential demand as large amounts of these minerals are required to build electric cars, produce high-tech applications such as in smartphones and green technologies such as wind turbines, solar panels and electric storage batteries.

Alluvial mining in Orange river in Namibia

The Orange river, South Africa’s longest waterway has been called ‘The River of Diamonds’, as over the millennia, stones from the heart of Africa have been carried its length, passing through the delta and into the ocean, where strong currents carry them northwards and cast them up onto the beaches.

Crawler ships are custom built mining vessels that dredge material from the riverbeds and this rich sediment containing precious gems, minerals are dumped overboard and scoured for diamonds by machines with the left-over gravel returned to the ocean. Marine species such as whales, dolphins and seals , entire habitats of aquatic animals are heavily impacted as it takes anywhere between two to ten years for the seabed to recover due to heavy machinery disturbance. The Ramsar convention is an international treaty to conserve wetlands and the ‘Orange River Mouth’ on the border of South Africa and Namibia off the Atlantic coast is a protected site with mining prohibited . But despite all these environmental guardrails, mining operations continue downstream across the Atlantic coast with Namibia coast generating around a million carats annually.

The largest diamond producing countries are Russia, Canada, Botswana, South Africa with Australia leaving this list as their largest mine (Argyle mine) is closed due to depletion of its reserves.

India’s deep ocean mining:

India has embarked on deep ocean missions in the central Indian Ocean for its mineral and energy security. Experiments would focus on exploring and identifying potential sites of “multi-metal hydrothermal sulphides mineralization along the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges.” Technologies for deep-sea mining and a manned submersible will be developed to carry three people to a depth of 6,000 meters in the ocean with a suite of scientific sensors and tools.

While collecting the metallic nodules from the deep-sea , marine organisms at the top layer would die, habitats altered and destroyed, and scientists are working on a design that can incorporate a balance between conservation of marine areas and development of mining technology.

Environmental costs of Electric Vehicles (EV):

All eyes are now on deep-water mining as the transition to clean energy has been complex with a purposeful shift from ‘dirty’ coal /gas to mining exclusive metals from the deep ocean needed for electric vehicles.

Minerals especially cobalt, lithium and nickel are the core ingredients of electric vehicle batteries. Electric vehicles (EV) do consume far less minerals when compared to diesel/petrol vehicles and this study highlights that over its lifetime, any car that runs on traditional engines burns around 300-400 times more than the total quantity of battery cell minerals in EVs.

The good news is that technology has evolved so much that less raw material is needed to produce each kWh of an electric battery. Also recycling of battery materials ensure that primary demand for virgin materials (mined underground or from waterways) will reduce pressure on mining the environment. The table below shows top producers of raw materials for EV’s, and cobalt production is expected to zoom 50% by 2050 to meet turbines and battery requirements.

In conclusion:

Be it diamonds, precious metals or minerals from land or water, the demand for such raw materials will continue to see an exponential growth due to the sheer size of the world’s population that require latest technologies in electronics, solar panels, wind turbines, and electric cars to name a few. And it is quite impossible to stop mining or fossil fuel extraction as the world runs on this energy and transition to cleaner fuel is a long-drawn journey.

Development and conservation of the environment to run hand-in-hand as countries race for strategic supremacy to secure international waters that make deep-water mining commercially viable. Another interesting observation is that countries that are ‘resource and mineral’ wealthy often have weaker institutions and spend less on education and are more corrupt. So, it is critical that revenue earned from raw materials are ploughed back into health, education and infrastructure.

Land resources are running out and soon deep-water resources will also be depleted if we do not strike that environmental balance.

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Dusty and ‘Tyred’

So, you thought that smoke spewing from vehicle exhaust pipes are the worst polluters making air thick with smog and smoke dust dirtying the environment? Guess again, tyres are the leading highest polluter of water resources and leaching of chemical compounds from tyre wear and tear are found in air, water, and soil samples posing a huge threat to marine life.

Microplastics is a term commonly used to describe extremely small pieces of plastic debris in the environment resulting from the disposal and breakdown of products and waste materials. The EU-Commissioned research paper ‘Plastics in the Marine Environment’ found that tyres were the main single cause of marine microplastics, amounting to 270 million tonnes per annum and as an analogy if we melt enough Arctic snow to get about 3 liters of water, “it might contain as many as 53,000 pieces of microplastic.”

Tyres on vehicles are made from a complex blend of different materials and chemicals including several types of plastic in addition to their rubber base. Every time we brake, accelerate our vehicle, or turn a corner, tyres spew microplastics with the average car tyre losing a total of 4kg of plastic throughout its lifetime due to wear. These particles become airborne affecting our lungs and ending up in our waterways and oceans eventually entering our food chain. It’s estimated that we eat about a credit card’s worth of plastic every week .

Wear and tear of tyres by country:

Calculating wear and tear can be approached in a few ways, by using emission factors per vehicle-km multiplied by the total mileage or by gauging the number of tyres multiplied by the weight loss of these tyres during use.

Looking at data from countries such as China, India, Australia, the USA and Brazil on the amount of wear and tear emitted into the environment, data on mileage and number of vehicles, below are some findings:

India has the lowest wear and tear estimate, i.e., 0.23 kg/capita/year, while the USA has the highest, i.e., 4.7 kg/capita/year. The 20-fold difference can partly be explained by the fact that USA has 0.82 cars per capita, while in India there are 0.13 cars per capita. Car density in India is only 16% of that in the USA. The amount of wear and tear per vehicle in the USA is 6.8 kg/year compared to 1.8 kg/year for India, a 3.8-fold difference. Americans are leading in wear and tear emissions because they have more vehicles while they also travel longer distances per vehicle, especially with their trucks(lorries). China at 0.55 kg/capita/year, Australia at 0.87 kg/capita/year and Brazil at 1.4 kg/capita/year are comparable estimates. Other countries data can be found here in this paper.

In India and China, the number of vehicles per capita are lower which explains the lower emission per capita per year.

Do new Electric Vehicles (EV) make this better?

Electric vehicles are 24% heavier than their conventional counterparts and so tyre wear and tear would be higher. But new technologies in braking such as regenerative braking in electric vehicles reduces usage of brakes and pads and the big tyre brands and companies are specifically working towards reducing pollution from tyres.

Natural solutions:

We can use nature’s tools to clean up urban rivers and other waterways and estuaries that bear the brunt of the micro plastic pollution and improve water quality by restoring fragile ecosystems.

Scientists are focusing on organisms like bivalves (such as oysters and mussels) and aquatic plants (such as celery grass, eel grass beds) to cleanse the water. Bivalves and aquatic vegetation improve water clarity by arresting suspended particles, allowing more light to penetrate deeper. They also have an exceptional capacity to cycle nutrients — both by absorbing them as food and by making them more available to other organisms. Thriving underwater plant meadows act as carbon sinks absorbing heat and provide food and habitat for small fish, crabs, and other bottom-dwellers.

Riparian buffers are strips of vegetation (trees, shrubs, or grass) planted next to streams or other waterbodies. These spaces are planted with native species of water tolerant trees and large shrubs and filter pollutants such as microplastics before entering the water.

In Conclusion: As individuals, we can reduce tyre footprint by choosing to walk, cycle or share vehicles, buy smaller cars, driving carefully, avoiding high-speed braking, and using public transport systems, but with a growing population and expanding infrastructure there needs to be a broader approach to microplastic pollution problems.

Tyre materials contain natural rubber tree latex as well as synthetic rubber polymers and switching to natural latex would lead to expansion of rubber trees and further deforestation. Rubber plantations need huge volumes of water to grow, with Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India the top rubber producing countries in the world grappling with natural plantation degradation. It is a consumption-based problem that needs responsible consumers and sellers who consciously switch to ‘sustainable’ rubber. And our community has to come together and implement nature-based solutions to proactively protect our water bodies across ecosystems and build climate resilience.

Latex collected from natural rubber tree
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Community Conservancy: Case Study on the Island of Jambudwip, Sundarbans

This piece narrates the story of a transient fishing community and their vast knowledge base in dry fish production. However, when the state intervenes, these fisherfolk are subjected to loss of livelihoods.

Jambudwip is an uninhabited fishing island in the South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. The island is located at the southwestern tip of the Sundarbans delta, on the Bay of Bengal. The island remains uninhabited throughout the year, except for the four months when fishermen travel to the island. These four months is the prime fishing season, from October to February. About 10,000 fishermen travel 28 miles from their native villages in and around Kakdwip to Jambudwip for the fishing season.

The main factor that made Jambudwip an ideal spot for dry fish production was the availability of vast, empty spaces on the island for drying fish. The island’s natural topography proved advantageous for the fisherfolk as the presence of mangroves and other plantations provided them safety from cyclones. Next, the presence of a natural creek on the island enabled the fishermen to use either side of the creek as drying grounds. They steer their boats through the creek and deposit the catches on the drying grounds on either side. Finally, the community used the ample open area with grass as drying beds and cut the grass to spread fishing nets to dry the catches.

These traditional fisherfolk practice antique methods of fishing which are highly non-mechanized and sustainable in nature. The island is demarcated based on the different needs and uses of fishing production and processing. The makeshift camps comprise living areas, kitchens, and storage areas. These temporary residential camps are constructed in Jambudwip during the fishing season and are made of Hogla, a type of grass found in Kakdwip. The fishermen also leave some temporary implements back at Jambudwip to reduce recurring costs every season. Traditional skills and thorough knowledge of the island help the fishermen locate the perfect fishing ground. Following this, the nets made of bamboo are pitched in deep sea beds and left undisturbed for acquiring a good catch. The fishing nets characteristic of this fishing community is known as bindi jal, funnel-shaped bag nets that decrease in size from mouth to tip to balance the flow of water. The tip of the net was made of fine mesh is the most significant part of the net as they help trap the fish. The fishermen constantly monitor the pitched nets awaiting the tide to change from high to low or vice versa. In such a situation, the net moves to a sleeping position signaling a haul of catches; 3 to 4 hauls are expected in every 24-hour cycle. While the fishing boats stay in the deep seas to monitor the nets, the carrier boats transport the catches for drying. As mentioned earlier, the boats enter the island through the creek. The boats are anchored beside the camp so the catches can be washed fresh before it is dried. The drying area is covered with dry grass over which nets are spread to keep the catches free from sand dust. Afterward, the fresh catch is laid in single rows to dry under the sun in the drying area.

Image 1: A representative image of fishes Pic: fish coop.PNG

These tools, methods, and practices have given rise to a sustainable fishing culture practiced by a distinctive fishing community. The fish are cleaned, dried, packed, and sold sustainably without the addition of any preservatives. Therefore, it is evident that the dry fish production process is environment-friendly in nature. Nonetheless, after 50 years of sustainable fish harvest at Jambudwip, the community’s livelihoods were in jeopardy.

On 3rd May 2002, the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) issued a directive that by 30th September 2002, all illegal encroachments on forest lands across the country were to be evicted. Following the order, the West Bengal Forest Department, which had been issuing passes to the fishermen since the 1950s, stopped issuing entry passes in 2002. The forest department asserted that the fishermen destroyed the mangrove forest, and their unsustainable actions affected the biodiversity. Furthermore, the department argued that the fishermen had settled in the islands while their visit was only transient during the fishing seasons. Hence, to prevent the fishermen’s visit to the island, the forest department burnt down all the temporary hutments claiming the fishermen to be illegal encroachers attempting to cut down the mangrove reserves. In addition, the department blocked the creek with RCC pillars, probating fishermen’s entry into the island. With these checkpoints in place, boats found it difficult to entire the creek during the cyclone resulting in the death of 10 fishermen. In this intermittent period, the socio-economic conditions of fisherfolk declined massively, their income levels halved, and their livelihoods were threatened.

Though the dry fish market in India is considerably tiny, its existence is vital. The industry generated Rs.10 crores per annum at the time; it supplied rich protein food to poor masses and employed numerous ancillary sectors. Therefore, the eviction of fishermen from Jambudwip directly impacts the livelihoods of the transient fishing community and indirectly impacts the other livelihoods supported by the fishing industry. Thus, the Supreme Court stepped in and delegated the Central Empowerment Committee (CEC) in December 2002 to advise on the issue. CEC, alongside the state forest department, stated that the fishing community destroyed the mangrove reserves and should be strictly prohibited from entering the island. Regardless, there was no substantial evidence of what they destroyed. The report also suggested that Haribhanaga can be used as an alternative fishing site. However, it is not as huge as Jambudwip and does not have the space to incorporate the 40+ fishing units of the Jambudwip fishers. Additionally, what made Jambudwip attractive was the creek and its tree cover, which helped dry fish and protected the fishermen. But Haribhanga’s reality was much different – it was full of sand, with no creeks or tree cover. Also, as the island had a high tide level, fishing was often done near the shore. Thus, the quality of dry fish produced at Haribhanga is only suitable for poultry feed, not human consumption. Proving that, in reality, alternative sites are never appropriately selected.

Image 2: Creek at Jambudwip Pic: sunderban_forest_pop_up.jpg

Jambudwip was classified as a reserve forest area protected under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, which restricts the use of forest land by any entity settled in the region post-1981. Now comes the question: why didn’t the Namkhana forest office issue pass to the fishermen even post the enforcement of the Forest Conservation Act? In addition, Indian anthropologist Bikash Raychaudhuri studied the fishing community across an entire season from 1967-68 and recorded his observation in his 1980 book The Moon And Net. This proves that fishing activity had been happening in the area even before the enforcement of the Forest Conservation Act. This makes one ponder why the fishermen are evicted now and not before. The answer to these questions became apparent when the West Bengal Forest Department signed an MoU with a leading real estate company in the state to convert 750 hectares of the Virgin Islands from the Sundarbans reserve into a global ecotourism hotspot, and Jambudwip – was a part of this expanse. But isn’t it true that tourism could also be detrimental to the mangrove reserves and affect the ecological balance? But that did not matter to the forest department, they declared that ecotourism initiatives without disturbing the area’s ecological balance would always be welcome.

In conclusion, the final issue of Community Conservancy discusses a case of artisanal fishing in Bengal and their plight when decisions are made based on vested interests by a handful of people with no regard for nature and people. It is time that all actors must realize that nature is common to everyone and that all elements of nature must coexist. Moreover, none of the actors involved wanted to understand how the fishing community and the use of their indigenous wisdom helped preserve sea biodiversity. Practices such as fishing during the non-breeding seasons and using simple fishing techniques that are not as destructive as mechanized fishing are examples of how the fisherfolk are users and not violators.

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Community Conservancy: The Bharatpur Case Study

The current issue of Community Conservancy analyses a classic example from Bharatpur, Rajasthan. The case shows how the application of the universal conservation model in the region may not be as effective and attempts to understand the significance of local community presence.

Image 1: Animals at Bharatpur Sanctuary Pic: 1603868634_shutterstock_1363884176.jpg.jpg

India’s rich geographical and cultural diversity is the primary reason for various human-nature conflicts. For example, people residing near forests and wetlands have constantly used the reserve’s natural resources for livelihood purposes. These intricate links between culture, local groups, and their dogmatic beliefs, coupled with politics and scientific knowledge, lead to complex socio-ecological issues. This case discusses an exciting story of the conservation of an artificially built wetland in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. The Keoladeo Ghana National Park (KGNP), also known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, is located in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. The national park, which is almost 250 years old, hosts innumerable residents and migratory birds during the winter. According to a report by the Wildlife Institute of India, “KGNP’s flora consists of over 375 species of angiosperms, of which 90 species are wetland species. The fauna includes more than 350 species of birds which include 42 species of raptors and nine species of owls, 27 species of mammals, 13 species of reptiles, seven species of amphibians, 58 species of fishes and 71 species of butterflies, and more than 30 species of dragonflies and more than 30 species of spiders inhabit the park. Owing to the abundance of birds, KGNP is often referred to as Birders Paradise.[1]

Managing wetland ecosystems is seldom done due to their rugged terrain making them one of the least protected natural ecosystems worldwide. However, they can be highly productive agricultural fields; most of the Ganges wetlands have been converted into agricultural land in the post-independence era. Thus, there are only a few wetlands left in the country. Nevertheless, the wetlands in Bharatpur are a result of dam construction in the 1890s by the Maharaja of Bharatpur. Due to the scarcity of wetlands in the region, an exceptionally high number of birds flock their way into Bharatpur. The human-made characteristic makes KGNP unique from the other wetlands, it was created by the Maharaja of Bharatpur in the 1890s to be used as a waterfowl hunting ground for the royals and their acquaintances. A pre-existing marsh was carefully chosen and expanded to attract birds. Canals were also built to regulate the water level. The wetland turned out to be hugely successful in attracting wintering birds. Unexpectedly, Bharatpur wetlands were helpful to many poor villagers by providing them with firewood, thatch grass, fodder, berries, etc., for their survival and livelihood needs. Furthermore, the villagers also used a portion of the wetland for grazing their cattle. Initially, the Maharaja allowed the villagers to use the wetland as grazing grounds. When India attained independence, a large portion of the princely assets was transferred to the Union Government; however, Bharatpur Maharaja managed to retain exclusive ownership and shooting rights for his pleasure. The Maharaja’s pact with the government led to massive opposition from localities residing in the nearby areas.

As mentioned earlier, owing to its resource and use value, Bharatpur was saved from being converted into agricultural lands, despite the local political pressure. Nevertheless, the farmers’ happiness did not last long enough. Despite putting hundreds of livelihoods at stake, the head of Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Ali, was determined to protect one of the only existing wetlands in north India. Therefore, he approached Prime Minister Nehru to make him aware of the current situation of KGNP. Following his move in 1956, Rajasthan Forest Department took over the authority over the wetlands for management and maintenance purposes. As Bharatpur was receiving huge attention, Maharaja’s deal also suffered; though he managed to retain shooting rights, it was restricted only to non-breeding seasons.

Until being declared a sanctuary, the wetland supported most of the livelihoods in the area. However, in 1981, the site was designated as a National Park, and according to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, all national parks are necessitated to be a no-human zone. While villagers continued grazing in the wetlands, the Indian Board for Wildlife issued an order for a complete ban on grazing in the park. The Indira Gandhi government enforced the ban and built a stone wall to keep the cattle away from the park. The action resulted in riots killing nine people. Though the ban on cattle hit the villagers’ incomes terribly, many ecologists and environmentalists from across India and the world supported the move. According to them, cattle grazing was the main reason for the degradation of natural resources at Bharatpur or in any other national park or wildlife sanctuary. Several international experts from academia and the world of practice claimed that eliminating domesticated animals would be the best solution to manage natural resources. Hence, the park managers were instructed to remove livestock if found within the park premises. They viewed domesticated livestock as a disease that spread and believed in protecting pristine areas by making them free of human and livestock activities. Many also treated the local population from these areas like cattle, and it is obvious that these people were not politically or monetarily influential. Therefore, their stories and struggles were muted.

Simultaneously, in 1980, a ten-year ecological study of the KGNP was initiated to understand Bharatpur’s resource value, hydrology, vegetation, fish, mammals, and bird population dynamics. Scientists assumed that cattle grazing was the problem fueling the declining bird count as they destroyed the bunds which were essential in bringing water to the wetlands. The ban was enforced, resulting in a bloody clash between local people and the government. Post the ban; the study wanted to analyze the before and after cattle ban situation in the park. But to their shock, a mid-study report indicated that the bird count was reduced rapidly since the cattle ban. The investigation revealed that Bharatpur was being attacked by the growth and spread of a few invasive weed species, which affected the vegetation, bird, and fish populations. The weeds had invaded the marshes to a dangerously great extent that canals were clogged, which decreased water levels. Soon after, the BNHS realized cattle was necessary to improve Bharatpur’s bird population and encouraged the reintroduction of cattle, especially buffaloes, to rectify the situation. Thus, proving that an artificially made wetland necessarily needed human intervention and the support of livestock to mitigate and re-establish the loss of resources at Bharatpur.

Image 2: Birds at Bharatpur Sanctuary Pic: bharatpur-bird-sanctuary-feature-image.jpg

Bharatpur’s fortress conservation model is a definitive example of how Indian policymakers are convinced of the American conservation model. The Yellowstone National Park in the US was convinced that fortress conservation was the best management practice to preserve national parks — hoping the removal of human interference would undo the negative actions and strike a balance. The model was followed like the gospel for the natural restoration of ecosystems. Yellowstone’s model of conservation was hailed and practiced across the globe, including Indian policymakers with a colonial mindset. Yellowstone, too, was confronted with a similar problem when it witnessed uncontrollable growth of the elk population in the absence of traditional predators like wolves. But, the reintroduction of these animals did not change the impact its absence had caused. The idea that domesticated animals are mundane creatures that would not go extinct and can survive in non-wild, common, unprotected areas makes them less exciting for ecologists to invest their time. Subsequently, scientists decided that no discussion was required on understanding their significance in the ecosystem. The common notion of conservation is often based on the assumptions of the fortress or universal model of conservation. Experts in favour of community conserved areas claim that the findings from KGNP may be true to all national parks in terms of grazing and fodder collection. Natural ecosystems have adapted and evolved with the existence of humans as a core element of their system – just like Bharatpur’s habitat was heavily dependent on livestock grazing and fodder collection for supporting its avian population. This piece elaborates on how imposing an international model of conservation based on one ecological context and its experiences when applied to other ecosystems could go wrong. Bharatpur case exhibits the lack of deep understanding of local practices and how the application of such assumed models is accompanied by elitist decision-making, ignoring local truths

References

Lewis, M. (2003b). Cattle and Conservation at Bharatpur: A Case Study in Science and Advocacy. Conservation and Society, 1–21. https://www.conservationandsociety.org.in/temp/ConservatSoc111-2036161_053921.pdf

Wildlife Institute of India. (2009, July). A Bibliographical Review for Identifying Research Gap Areas – Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Bharatpur: A World Heritage Site. http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/bioliographical_keoladeo_ghana_np.pdf


[1] Quoted from Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Bharatpur:

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Community Conservancy: The Andhra Pradesh Case Study

The piece talks about collective action by various community in Andhra Pradesh for sustainable groundwater management and its impact.

Globally, groundwater is treated as a CPR (Common Property Resource), with exceptionally high use value. Countries like the United States, Indonesia, Peru, and Australia have legalized groundwater as a public good, unlike India, where it is regarded as private property. Additionally, groundwater as a resource in India is linked with land ownership rights, leading to overexploitation and degradation of the resource. It is well known that groundwater is India’s single largest source of fresh water, and in a country like ours, it is used for irrigation and all other domestic and essential needs. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the dynamics of groundwater resources, the implementation and enforcement of groundwater development, and its sustainable management in the country. As the resource is privately managed, there is often huge inequity and injustice in gaining access to groundwater. It is usual to study groundwater through the lens of hydrogeology and the socio-economic status of the communities involved. Nevertheless, looking at the sustainability aspect of groundwater management is extremely significant. This piece attempts to compile the sustainable community practices involved in groundwater management in Andhra Pradesh.

Andhra Pradesh Farmer-Managed Groundwater Systems (APFAMGS) The first case of participatory groundwater management is based on the Andhra Pradesh Farmer-Managed Groundwater Systems (APFAMGS) project. It is one of the longest-running community-driven groundwater resource development and management program. Over the years, it has successfully engaged the community and made them aware of sustainable groundwater management practices to avoid droughts. The impact of its achievement was felt when it spread to over 650 villages from 7 drought-prone districts across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The origin of APFAMGS was from APWELL, which was started in 1987. The Government of India initiated the APWELL (Andhra Pradesh Groundwater Bore-well) project in collaboration with the Netherlands Government. APWELL was implemented in 7 districts across AP, namely Chittoor, Cuddapah, Kurnool, Nalgonda, Anantapur, Prakasam, and Mahbubnagar. One of APWELL’s essential objectives was to improve the socio-economic status and the quality of life for small and marginal farmers in the specified locations. However, APFAMGS aimed at improving groundwater capacity for agriculture and crop production through community practices.

Image: Participatory groundwater practices in Andhra Pradesh Pic: 32_1(2).jpg

The project was designed and operated through a participatory approach called participatory hydrological monitoring (PHM). APFAMGS, through its PHM strategy, attempts to change the behaviour of farmers towards the development and management of the resource. The project focused on equipping the farmers with the required awareness, skills, and knowledge through training to manage groundwater resources sustainably. Providing the farmers with an understanding of the local groundwater situation in their region and demarcating the hydrological units in use helped convince them that practices like pumping out groundwater and digging new wells would worsen the situation. Furthermore, this was also useful in changing their perspective about groundwater as a public resource rather than someone’s private property. These measures were worthwhile in enhancing farmers’ cooperation in making them aware of water-saving techniques and other sustainable practices. The awareness about water-saving techniques promotes a voluntary behavioural change in the farmers wherein they come to a consensus to use water efficiently, thereby analyzing and managing their own demand and building resilience for dry seasons. One of the other noteworthy activities of the APFAMGS is crop water budgeting (CWB), a joint exercise for farmers to plan crop production based on water availability in the region. This incredible community practice encourages collective decision-making. CWB, as an activity, displays the importance of community knowledge, increasing the responsibility of managing groundwater as a common good. Skills provided during training help make informed decisions about groundwater, and CWB offers an opportunity for the farmers to change their behaviour towards the resource. A village groundwater committee was formed to promote crop diversification, incorporate other changing production practices, and for governing purposes. Thus, APFAMGS demonstrates the need for equity in using shared resources such as groundwater with complex land-water interlinkages. The initiative has established the need for adopting location-specific participatory methods to increase community awareness and knowledge about groundwater management.

Social Regulations in Water Management (SRWM)

The current case is based on the Social Regulations in Water Management (SRWM), an action project at the Community Level in AP. In the project’s initial phase, it was implemented in 4 villages, and as the project progressed, its scope expanded across 15 more villages in AP. The project transformed the livelihoods of these village communities and has reduced migration in the area to a tremendous extent. Though regular rainwater irrigation is the most common method used to irrigate agricultural fields, groundwater plays a substantial role in irrigating the fields during dry periods. Subsequently, numerous borewells were dug out across these villages, and the groundwater level reached a point where further extraction was restricted owing to the rapidly declining groundwater level. This dependency on groundwater affected the socio-economic status and livelihoods of farmers from these villages as they started taking loans to dig new wells. As the condition of these villages was becoming uncontrollable, a series of meetings were set up by the Center for World Solidarity (CWS) in partnership with local civil society organizations, thus, initiating SRWM in 2004. SRWM focuses on building community resilience against droughts and promoting efficient water management for all with the support of the local government and NGOs. The project incorporated Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methods to analyze the groundwater situation and its various uses. The primary objective of SRWM is to manage groundwater so that everyone has equal or at least minimum access to water for essential purposes. The project aims to engage the community and Panchayat Raj Institutions to decentralize decision-making and vouch for policy-driven community practices. As a result, the community has agreed upon the “social regulation,” wherein there is equitable access to groundwater for all. Hence, the project has successfully increased groundwater levels by educating the community about groundwater resource knowledge and changing their perception that it is a common property resource.

Image 2: Groundwater pits in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh Pic: RECL-watershed.jpg

Now, the community members share the common benefit from the resource. This has also led to conserving the resources keeping in mind the community’s best interest. Farmers believe that the help of scientific knowledge has enhanced their practices, which is vital in changing the groundwater situation in their area. As a result, this has increased the expanse of agricultural land in the area, and the communities are slowly moving towards producing less water-intensive crops to save water. Some key takeaways from this case are: prioritizing water usage for essential purposes, stocktaking of water resources, water-saving cropping patterns, and participatory groundwater monitoring mechanisms that set norms for water regulation. These achievements have positively impacted the lives of people from these villages by bringing an elevation to their socio-economic conditions.

Andhra Pradesh Drought Adaptation Initiative Project (APDAI)

The final case is based on the Andhra Pradesh Drought Adaptation Initiative (APDAI), again a program to address the situation of frequent droughts in the state. The origin of the project was established in 2005 when the World Bank wanted to study the cause and consequences of the state’s drought problem. The study recommended that locally based solutions be adopted to mitigate droughts and improve climate resilience. Consequently, the government of AP launched the APDAI as a pilot project in the subsequent year in the most drought-prone districts of the state – Anantpur, and Mahbubnagar. The World Bank financed the project’ in 6 villages in the Mahbubnagar district. The second phase absorbed nine more villages from the same district alongside ten villages from the Anantpur district. Another reason for implementing the pilot in these districts was that they heavily relied on groundwater and grew water-intensive crops such as rice. Therefore, there was a crucial need to create alternative livelihoods for these communities by helping them create better production systems and judicious use of common pool resources.

APDAI’s challenges in these districts were similar to that of APFAMGS and SWRM in terms of equal access to water for all households, crop diversification, and the need for other livelihood opportunities. In order to resolve these issues, an integrated participatory approach was required to include all stakeholders, village institutions, and the local government. Furthermore, APDAI wanted to install the idea of sharing groundwater as a CPR through solid local leadership from all levels of government, namely, the Mandals, districts, and the state government. A portion of the project’s success can be attributed to the local grassroots-level organizations that facilitated the planning, implementing, and monitoring processes. Besides, they also played a significant role in mobilizing the community through Self Help Groups that provided representation and support on behalf of the communities. This sign of inclusion of even the poorest of people from these drought-prone villages was a critical factor in managing the natural resources in the region.

Farmers, marginalized people, community representatives, village institution representatives, and government representatives come together for a dialogue to adopt efficient solutions for managing groundwater water resources. Soon after, the villages adopted micro-irrigation techniques that expanded the agricultural area and the crop yield. Likewise, the community enforced a complete ban on digging new wells and discouraged groundwater pumping, reducing it by 25 to 30%, saving groundwater and electricity. Additionally, technical and financial support was offered to the communities for livelihood diversification resulting in the adaptation of resilient climate measures, which focuses on conserving and regenerating natural resources. Hence, the APDAI strategy is an excellent example of good governance in drylands that engages with the local communities for sustainable development of natural resources and agricultural management.

In this issue of Community Conservancy, we discuss the impact of Community-Based Groundwater Management across different geographical locations in Andhra Pradesh. All the cases describe groundwater beyond its capacity. It was becoming difficult for the community to cope as water availability decreased by the day, and the status of groundwater in these areas was pathetic. The programs mentioned above are designed to mitigate droughts and fight dry spells in arid and semi-arid regions like these villages in AP. The strategies of the programs have brought awareness to the farmers in managing groundwater. These programs have united the community to a large extent and have made them realize that ‘groundwater’ is a shared resource. Moreover, these participatory models of groundwater management have helped the communities access groundwater and conserve it for future use. Therefore, community practices for groundwater management in Andhra Pradesh have efficiently provided sustainable, equal, and equitable access to groundwater resources.

References

Foundation for Ecological Security. (2016, March). COMMON POOLS AND COMMON KNOWLEDGE (Working Paper 33). https://fes.org.in/resources/studies-&-reports/working-papers/wp33.pdf

German Agro Action & Rural India. (2009, May 14). Social regulations in water management in a village in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh- a case study on livelihood transformation | India Water Portal. India Water Portal. https://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/social-regulations-water-management-village-anantapur-district-andhra-pradesh-case-study

Reddy, M. S., Reddy, V. R., & Mohan, R. V. R. (n.d.). Institutionalising Groundwater Management: A Tale of Three Participatory Models in Andhra Pradesh (RULNR Working Paper No. 15). CENTRE FOR ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL STUDIES & RESEARCH UNIT FOR LIVELIHOODS AND NATURAL RESOURCES. https://www.academia.edu/9819286/Institutionalising_Groundwater_Management_A_Tale_of_Three_Participatory_Models_in_Andhra_Pradesh

The World Bank. (2011, April). India: Andhra Pradesh Drought Adaptation Initiative. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/2775/645070ESW0whit0APDAI000Final0Report.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

World Bank Group. (n.d.). Can Participatory Groundwater Management Enhance Drought Resilience?https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/479511579804284753/pdf/Can-Participatory-Groundwater-Management-Enhance-Drought-Resilience-The-Case-of-the-Andhra-Pradesh-Farmer-Managed-Groundwater-Systems-Project.pdf

Featured

Community Conservancy: The Alwar Case Study

This case talks about the role of rural communities in sustainable and equitable water resource conservation and management in the Alwar district of Rajasthan.

In 2019 after being monsoon deficient for two consecutive years, the city officials of the Chennai Municipal Corporation declared “Day Zero,” or the day that there is no water left in the city’s reservoirs for its consumption. However, in the Alwar district of Rajasthan, which is considered the driest part of the country, Day Zero was once an everyday reality. With water being the most vital resource for human existence, this piece talks about how people who live in this region of India manage to have access to water. 

It is well known that Rajasthan is the driest state in India, and in most parts of this water-scarce state, annual rainfall is the only source of water. Located in Northwest India, about 150 km south of Delhi, Alwar also depends on yearly rainfall as the primary water source. As the five rivers flowing through this region do not start from snow peaks, they are left out and dry if the southwest monsoon fails to provide enough water. Therefore, the five rivers flowing in this region are often dry. Though there has been no significant change in the rainfall in the last few decades, rainfall in the area is mostly less. However, according to the Pre-Monsoon water level data for the district, records claim that there is a 25cm decline rate in groundwater level annually across various blocks.[1] Hence, the usage of groundwater and its gradual decline posed a massive concern to the villagers of the area.

Generationally, agriculture is the local livelihood of the villagers of Alwar. In such a water-scanty area, extracting groundwater via borewells is the primary water source for irrigation. Regardless, the agricultural practices at Alwar showed a growing dependence on groundwater, which resulted in unsustainable over-extraction of the resource. The water crisis has persuaded the agriculturalists in the area to cultivate only a certain kind of crop owing to the lack of water. This has resulted in villagers comprising a diverse nutritional basket. Consequently, in the last few decades, the youth from these villages have been moving to explore other livelihood opportunities. The reason behind this shift is the lack of water for irrigation purposes, pushing people away from pursuing agriculture in the region. Therefore, this leaves the villagers with the urgent necessity to devise workable water harvesting techniques to save the day. Alwar is an ancient Indian city with a great history of water conservation through traditional water harvesting processes. For example, Kui, to minimize water runoff; Tanki and Bawari (step wells) for rainwater storage; and so on. Of these, Johads are pond-like structures prominently found in water-stressed districts like Alwar and are dug-out pits primarily used to collect rainwater and recharge groundwater. Johads are useful in replenishing groundwater by allowing rainwater to percolate directly into the soil.

Image : A representative image of a Johad Pic:A_Nadi_(small_johad)_in_village_Laporiya,_Rajasthan.jpg

As mentioned earlier, the region of Alwar is known for its rich water conservation systems. Along with it, the neighbouring forest lands of the Aravalli range have helped replenish the underground aquifers. In ancient times, the rulers of the region funded the building of johads while holding a portion of the harvest as tax. Local kings slowly gambled away the forest lands to British invaders leading to deforestation and soil erosion. Thus, rainfall runs off through the area along with the eroded topsoil, which is observed to be washed down into these old johads. Post-independence, the government of India ventured into technologically advancing agriculture and irrigation techniques. Modern technologies were used to fetch groundwater via bore wells and tube wells for agricultural activities and other essential needs in such arid parts of the country. These modern initiatives seemed to ease the water-stressed situation of villages like Alwar. However, a repeated cycle of this resulted in groundwater depletion in the district. The condition worsened further in 1985-86 when Alwar faced a severe drought. The period was arid, and water levels dropped drastically, so the villagers could not dig deeper.

This was when Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS), a not-for-profit organization that seeks to restore socio-ecological welfare via community governance and community-driven sustainable management of natural resources, came into play. TBS is headquartered in the Bheekampura block of the Alwar district and has been working in the region since the late 1980s. The founder of TBS, Rajendra Singh, popularly referred to as the Waterman of India, started rejuvenating the johads across the villages of Alwar. Soon after, in 1986, their efforts began paying off when the region’s wells started filling with water. TBS also facilitated in creation of the Arawari River Parliament in 1999, a non-legal governing body for community water management. The function of this parliament is to regulate water across the villages and conserve the resource. In addition, the body has regular meetings to resolve issues of conflict between villages or people regarding the resource.

One such area of Alwar that has flourished due to this successful johad management is — Gopalpura. In 1986, the village, with the help of villagers, renovated the damaged silted johads. Ten years later, more earthen dams or johads were constructed, and the water level had risen to 162 million gallons. The agricultural capacity of the region also increased manifold from 33 hectares to 108 hectares, leading to double cropping. Moreover, as part of the social forestry initiative, the villagers revived forest resources around Gopalpura, and compensation was also enforced as a penalty for anyone found cutting trees. Currently, johad-based conservation has spread across Rajasthan and has been proven effective in groundwater management. Construction of numerous johads by the community all over the state has been contributing to providing groundwater to the people in the area during the dry seasons and improving water quality. Today, there are 8,600 johads across 1086 villages in the Alwar district. In addition, the community has also tasked social forestry to increase the area’s green cover.

Image 2: Community meetings Pic: 1237084_1088155261215938_942889094146866102_n-1.jpg

The impact of this success is felt across such arid regions in the country. In 2014, Kohar village in Alwar, too, faced the wrath of water. A check dam was built to reduce water flow velocity by engaging the community in dam construction. Hence, the renovation of johads through rural communities was successful, and additionally, it also left a positive impact on the community and ecology. Now that agriculture seems possible, migration has reduced, and the villagers’ socio-economical status has also improved drastically. This piece illustrates the success of community practices in conserving the precious resource, which is the elixir of human life.

Reference:

[1] Based on Ground water information report of Alwar district, Rajasthan http://cgwb.gov.in/District_Profile/Rajasthan/Alwar.pdf


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Community Conservancy

An introduction to the series and community-based conservation and the recent trends in Indian conservationism

Ecology and people complement each other, and their constant interconnection is what makes the earth a fascinating place for humans to live on. However, today human developmental activities are carried out at the expense of the environment, and it is often poor and marginalized communities that pay the price for it. Hence, the Community Conservancy series aims to illustrate how conservation, biodiversity, and local livelihoods are mutually affected due to these complex socio-ecological conflicts.

The Community Conservancy series will shed light on the current Indian environmentalist and conservationist trends. However, this series mainly focuses on bringing on accounts of specific community-based conservation (CBC) approaches that have proved effective in preserving natural resources and views the same through the lens of sustainability. Finally, the series will also point out some of the sufferings and failures of such models.

Humans have generally turned their backs on the environment, and often their willing blindness prevents them from seeing how their actions towards the environment turn out to be destructive in nature. Although India has always been known for its rich geographical diversity since time immemorial, the urge to preserve its natural resources started only during the 1970s. The Chipko movement in 1973 was the stepping stone for igniting the environmental movement in India. Simultaneously, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, owing to her love for nature and wildlife, introduced the Project Tiger, a tiger conservation program that gained momentum and helped strengthen the environmental movement in India. So now comes a critical question, how is India planning to conserve its environment and natural resources?

Image: A representative image of forest women carrying fuelwood Pic: 875823-87844-bevqvztxiz-1524409752.jpg

The Government of India plays the predominant role in governing and regulating natural resources resulting in public neglect of these resources. For a long time, India has adapted most of its ideas and approaches to conservation from the West, and – Western Environmentalism strongly believes in preserving and conserving natural resources for the sake of maintaining environmental aesthetics (it isn’t surprising that fortress conservation strategies are dominant globally). Therefore, conservation in India also meant creating inviolate spaces to protect natural resources and biodiversity. Consequently, even today, colonial attitudes of Indian policymakers play a significant role in influencing environmentalism in the country. But, in recent times, community-based conservation is receiving increasing attention. But to understand the same, one must know how the creation of protected fortresses affects socio-ecological systems.

Protected areas (PAs) strictly prohibit the inclusion of humans, particularly local people, in planning for creating these spaces. They are often not allowed to enter these zones and are usually evicted from these places if necessary. Due to its exclusionary nature, this type of conservation approach is referred to as fortress conservation. Fortress conservation is based on the notion that resources and biodiversity are gradually diminishing in sites of active human intervention. According to fortress conservationists, human intervention creates fragmentation inducing the loss of resources and species. It is believed that when left undisturbed, nature tends to thrive, and the entire ecosystem will organically go back to its natural state. Thus, these conservationists justify their claim to eliminate poor rural indigenous people to protect the environment. On the other hand, fortress conservation can disastrously impact the local communities that depend on natural resources from the protected area. The lack of access to these resources has left numerous such communities in a state of dismay costing their livelihoods and, in the worst case, even their shelter. Nevertheless, experts in favour of community-based conservation practices argue that over the years, human activity around these critically protected zones has been a catalyst in improving the biodiversity in the region. Though localities use some of the resources for survival or livelihood purposes, their actions do not tend to harm them. Yet, it is essential to understand the threshold of this partnership and draw clear boundaries that do not harm either of the entities.

Image : Community meetings Pic: file7kl4pspt8ie1ltggad2l.jpg

This form of exclusionary conservation cuts humans from the scene of protecting resources and biodiversity. Furthermore, the idea is supported by various stakeholders like the government, environment foundations, think tanks, NGOs, industrial leaders, and civilians, whose stance is sometimes considered more valuable than that of people living in the region generationally. Such a case fuels the need for a much-needed development debate that poses a moral dilemma — whether to leave natural spaces untouched for conserving them or evict the local people who depend on this resource. Should the world follow the Western model of fortress conservation or community-based conservation? The answer to this question is not simple. In a country like ours with ten diversely unique biogeographic zones, thrusting a single universal conservation model does not help preserve natural resources. The public must take an informed stand on the issue because we also fundamentally depend on nature, and neither entity can exist without the other. Moreover, it is crucial to realize the presence of a complex nexus between resources, biodiversity, poverty, and local livelihoods. Therefore, it becomes tough for actors like the state to design an intervention that serves the combined needs of both community and conservation. It is time that policy stakeholders realize the same and chart out conservation models specific to each region based on local realities. This piece tries to bring out the reality of Indian environmentalism. It attempts to point out that merely the idea of exclusionary and inclusive conservation is not enough to address the problem of conservation in today’s era.

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Let Nature Sing

Where have the sparrows gone? That’s something people living in cities are quick to notice. House sparrow populations have been declining worldwide due to modern buildings, disappearing home gardens and air pollution wreaking havoc on the bird’s habitat and food sources. House sparrows have been considered the most adaptable of birds capable of thriving in cities, farms, and suburbs. Though it is an aggressive little bird that pushes out native birds, its world-wide decline has listed it as a species very important as part of urban conservation. As record heatwaves dry up India’s water sources, dehydrated birds are falling from the sky with animal rescuers treating thousands of birds in animal hospitals.

Need for biodiversity and green spaces management:

Biodiversity loss has serious implications beyond just species loss and the deteriorating health of our ecosystems are eroding the foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.

Covid-19 resulted in empty streets and made city life quieter. The acoustic quality of bird songs improved as birds did not have to sing louder to compete with the noise of traffic. The lockdowns had a positive impact on migratory birds using cities as ‘rest stops’ as they made long journeys across continents.

Birds are messengers and teachers of our environment and are indicators of wealth and prosperity. Where there are birds, you have insects, vegetation, grass, and plants to sustain the earth that we humans live off. Bird sounds have deeply influenced our societies and increased exposure to bird sounds have shown to improve physical and mental health.

Birds make us appreciate nature and are a natural alarm to wake-up each morning and the onus is on each one of us to make our homes and surroundings greener and more diverse. Our cities need to be ’restorative environments’ that facilitate recovery from everyday fatigue, negative mood and stress and exposure to sounds of nature specifically bird songs have shown to be very effective. Read this interesting study that shows participants who experienced a virtual reality forest environment with birds and water sounds showed significantly reduced pulse rate, muscle tension, whereas those who listened to classical music or silence showed lesser stress recovery.

India’s water bodies for birds:

There are thousands of bird species with India having almost 12% of the bird species found on the planet. Over 60 species are unique to the Indian sub-continent. Though wild-life experiences in India brings tigers and elephants to our minds, the foothills of the Himalayas, flood plains of the Ganges, and the off-beaten track of the tropical paradise of the Andaman Islands are bird paradises.

Here are a few popular bird sanctuaries in India and the water bodies that support it.

Arunachal Pradesh and Assam:

The eastern most state of India, Arunachal Pradesh is one of its kind because of the abundance of birds and some of the most important bird species found in the Namdapaha national park, Mishmi hills and Eaglenest Bird Sanctuary. With over 500 recorded species, these are declared as Important Bird Area (IBA). IBAs are an important indicator of bio-diversity richness holding threatened bird species.

Assam, the land of mystique blue hills and valleys serve as a rare refuge for as many as 109 species of birds as part of the Dehing Patkai, Maguri Beel wetlands and Kaziranga national park.

The rivers of Sunderbans and the Santrgachi Jheel in Howrah and the Kulik Bird Sanctuary are few of the well-known spots where thousands of migratory birds visit every year in winter.

Laughing Thrush (Local name: Bugun Liochicla) threatened with extinction in the Eaglenest bird sanctuary – Arunachal Pradesh, India

In conclusion:

We are biologically connected to bird songs. Researchers point to a ‘universal grammar’ that indicate common acoustic patterns between bird sounds and human speech giving us a better grasp on the communication patterns of other species and may even help us perfect natural speech for future robots and Artificial Intelligence (A.I).

Our lessons learnt from Covid-19 among others is how reduced human disturbances have been a positive story around linkages between bird songs, mental health, and alignment with nature. We must do our bit to increase bird diversity and its abundance in urban areas.

More varied bird songs are needed and how do we keep up that momentum? By educating ourselves, inspiring our younger generation to forge that connection with nature, visiting those precious waterbodies that sustain these birds, creating an emotional connection with them, listening to them, treating them like our loved ones and experiencing the calmness that comes with the sense of freedom and playfulness that birds exhibit.

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The Eastern Ghats of India – In Depth

Eastern Ghats, an ancient orogenic belt formed by the collision of crustal rocks during the Archean Eon and became a part of the Indian sub continent during the Gondwana period because of continental drift which makes it way older than the Western Ghats. It contains rocks aging 2.9 billion years to 900 million years old. The Eastern Ghats holds a rich, complicated and interesting geological history may be because they evolved through long processes of magmatism, metamorphism and deformation.

This discontinuous mountain range passes through Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu sharing 25%, 40%, 5%, 5% and 25% of the Ghats respectively with a highest peak of 1822 m called Kattahi Betta in BR hills, Karnataka. These Ghats are made up of charnockites, granite gneisses, khondalites, metamorphic gneisses and quartzite rock formations with rich limestone, bauxite and iron ores.

The Eastern Ghats have a very unique mix of forest types like–

  • Dry evergreen forests,
  • Semi-evergreen forests,
  • Southern tropical dry mixed deciduous forests,
  • Dry savannah forests,
  • Southern tropical dry scrub forests,
  • Southern tropical thorn forests,
  • Carnatic umbrella thorn forests,
  • Southern subtropical hill forests,
  • Southern thorn scrub, and
  • Mangrove forests.

The rivers originating from the Eastern Ghats are–

  • Baitarani,
  • Budhabalanga,
  • Rushikulya,
  • Vamsadhara,
  • Palar,
  • Nagavali,
  • Champavathi,
  • Gosthani,
  • Sarada,
  • Sabari,
  • Sileru,
  • Tammileru,
  • Gundlakamma,
  • Pennai Yaru,
  • Swarnamukhi,
  • Kundu,
  • Vellar and,
  • Penna.

Brahmani, Godavari, Kaveri, Krishna, Mahanadi, Subarnarekha, Tungabhadra rivers flow through these Ghats.

Eastern Ghats is rich in biodiversity with 97 species of mammals, 490 species of birds, 119 species of reptiles, 34 species of amphibians, xx species of invertebrates and 2500 species of flowering plants.

These Ghats harbors many endemic species like the–

  • Large Rock Rat (Cremnomys elvira)- CR,
  • Jerdon’s Courser (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus)- CR ,
  • Sharma’s Mabuya (Eutropis nagarjuni)- NT,
  • Ashwamedh supple skink (Eutropis ashwamedhi)- EN,
  • Madras Spotted Skink (Barkudia insularis)- EN,
  • Russell’s Legless Skink (Barkudia melanosticta)- DD,
  • Spotted Eastern Ghats Skink (Sepsophis punctatus)- LC,
  • Vosmer’s writhing skink (Riopa vosmaeri)- DD,
  • Golden Gecko (Calodactylodes aureus)- LC,
  • Nagarjunsagar Racer (Coluber bholanathi)- DD,
  • Gower’s Shieldtail (Rhinophis goweri)- CR,
  • Shevaroy Hills Earth Snake (Uropeltis shorttii)- CR.
  • Atylosia cajanifolia- EN,
  • Ceropegia spiralis- VU,
  • Crotalaria longipes- EN,
  • Cycas beddomei- VU,
  • Decaschistia rufa- EN,
  • Eriolaena lushingtonii- VU,
  • Heterostemma deccanense- EN,
  • Hildegardia populifolia- EN,
  • Indigofera barberi- DD,
  • Parahyparrhenia bellariensis- DD,
  • Phlebophyllum jeyporense- EN,
  • Phyllanthus narayanaswamii- EN,
  • Toxocarpus roxburghii- EN,
  • Trichosanthes anaimalaiensis- CR,
  • Vanilla wightiana- DD,
  • Wendlandia angustifolia- EX
  • Cycas beddomei- CR,
  • Decalepis hamiltonii- EN,
  • Hildegardia populifolia- VU,
  • Phyllanthus indofischeri- VU,
  • Pimpinella tirupatiensis- EN,
  • Pterocarpus santalinus- EN,
  • Shorea tumbaggaia- EN,
  • Syzygium alternifolium- EN,
  • Terminalia pallida- EN,
  • Urginea nagarjunae- EN,
  • Zingiber roseum- EN,
  • 57 species of Poaceae,
  • 55 species of Papilionaceae,
  • 47 species of Acanthaceae,
  • 36 species of Orchidaceae,
  • 25 species of Euphorbiaceae,
  • 18 species of Asclepiadaceae,
  • 17 species of Rubiaceae,
  • 16 species of Lamiaceae,
  • 17 species of Crotalaria,
  • 11 species of Habenaria,
  • 11 species of Leucas,
  • 9 species of Alysicarpus,
  • 9 species of Barleria,
  • 7 species of Andrographis,
  • 7 species of Argyreia,
  • 7 species ofChrysopogon,
  • 6 species of Dendrobium, and
  • 6 species of Rhynchosia.

In this 1131kms stretch of Ghats, lies 3 National parks, 24 Sanctuaries and 4 Reserves which
are –

  • Bhitarkanika National Park, Odisha,
  • Simlipal National Park, Odisha,
  • Sri Venkateswara National Park, Andhra Pradesh,
  • Balukhand-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha,
  • Balimela Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha,
  • Baisipalli Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha,
  • Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha,
  • Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, Odisha,
  • Hadagarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha,
  • Kapilash Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha,
  • Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha,
  • Kondakameru Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha,
  • Kotagarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha,
  • Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha,
  • Lakhari Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha,
  • Saptasajya Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha,
  • Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha,
  • Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh,
  • Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh,
  • Koundinya Wildlife Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh,
  • Kambalakonda Wildlife Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh,
  • Papikonda Wildlife Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh,
  • Rollapadu Bird Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh,
  • Sri Lankamalleswara Wildlife Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh,
  • Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka,
  • Cauvery North Wildlife Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu,
  • Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu,
  • Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana,
  • Satkosia Tiger Reserve, Odisha,
  • Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu, and
  • Sunabeda Tiger Reserve, Odisha.

Such rich in biodiversity and endemism forest regions are facing a major threat because of
fragmentation of forests, encroachment of lands, agricultural practices, invasive species, climate
crisis, poaching, mining, tourism, negligence and the list goes on. From the way of formation,
geology to the diversity of species Eastern Ghats is filled with treasures of the natural world and
should not be looked down upon and should never be called the “poor” sister of the Western
Ghats.

References:
http://suvratk.blogspot.com/2019/04/eastern-ghats-new-kid-on-block.html#:~:text=The%20Easte
rn%20Ghats%20on%20the,location%20within%20the%20Indian%20continent.
https://www.iucnredlist.org/species
https://scialert.net/fulltext/?doi=rjb.2007.176.185#:~:text=Endemic%20tree%20species%20distri
buted%20in,Dimorphocalyx%20kurnoolensis%2C%20Eriolaena%20lushingtonii%2C%20Hildeg
ardia
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Thiruvengadam-Venkatesan/publication/322331835_Insect
_Community_Associated_with_the_Wetland_Ecosystem_of_Terai_Region_West_Bengal_India
_Diversity_and_Conservation_Approach/links/5a54a3780f7e9bbc105a6706/Insect-Community-
Associated-with-the-Wetland-Ecosystem-of-Terai-Region-West-Bengal-India-Diversity-and-Cons
ervation-Approach.pdf#page=144
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sudhakar-Reddy-C/publication/259005936_Vegetational_D
iversity_and_Endemism_in_Eastern_Ghats_India/links/00b49535cae3fe6156000000/Vegetation
al-Diversity-and-Endemism-in-Eastern-Ghats-India.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Ghats

Featured

Agumbe – The Cobra Capital

by Aakanksha Komanduri

Agumbe- a small village with an area of 3 sq kms with an elevation of 2,700 ft also called the Cherrapunji of southern India because of its rainfall. Surrounded by waterfalls, hills of the Western Ghats and with a population of 600, Agumbe is a hotspot for biodiversity and haven for wildlife enthusiasts from all the taxonomic groups. Fungi species like Meliola agumbensis, Tarenna agumbensis, Hygroaster agumbensis and Dactylaria agumbensis are discovered here and named after Agumbe. Agumbe is home for many endemic species of Western Ghats like Malabar Gliding Frog (Rhacophorus malabaricus), Malabar Hornbill (Ocyceros griseus), Malabar pit viper (Craspedocephalus malabaricus) and many more. It is also a territory of a melanistic Leopard and a tusker Elephant. The King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is the flagship species. The Agumbe Rainforest Research Station was started by Padmashree Romulus Whitaker in Agumbe where the radio telemetry project on King Cobras started.

As a herpetofauna enthusiast, I was elated to find Snakes and Frogs in every 2 steps. The day in Agumbe starts with the singing of Whistling Thrushes, sightings of Mabuyas, basking of diurnal snakes when the sun is out, innumerable invertebrates and the clouds floating through our body. My favorite time in Agumbe is at night where I feel the jungle comes alive with croaking of frogs, crepitation of cicadas and the pitvipers everywhere! The Malabar Pitvipers in green, orange, brown, yellow and orange morphs come out slithering, looking for prey. The pretty Humpnosed Pitvipers camouflaging in the leaf litter, Molluscs and glow worms crawling all over and never forget the leeches of rainforests. Agumbe looks like a different world itself with extremely tall trees and life everywhere.

The most beautiful sight is a female King Cobra making her nest with the leaf litter. She chooses a slope so that water doesn’t get stagnant, using her long body to collect the leaf litter by pulling her mid body towards the tail, dragging the litter and piling it up to 2 feet. After the 2 feet litter is collected like a heap she enters into it and constantly moves in circles to compress the litter making it like a bowl to lay her eggs. She lays the eggs and comes out but it is still not done yet! She patches the opening she came out from with some more leaves, waits there for less than a week and leaves. She bears her eggs, builds the nest and consumes nothing but water during this. Unlucky females get eaten up by passing by males during her construction work. Sad? But that’s how the population of species with almost no predators is kept in check. Alas! The King Cobras are not only the longest venomous snake in the world but also amazing nest builders where the temperature inside the nest is always constant and not a water drop can enter inside. Me, who could never imagine reptiles can be loving and caring was dumbfounded with this behavior displayed by these snake eaters and will be my forever favorite sight.

Agumbe also has a success story of educating the locals not to kill the wildlife. It was hopeful to see the locals protecting the nests of King Cobras in their backyards calling it “Namma Kaalinga” (our King Cobras).

But increasing population is always a threat to wildlife and places like these attract a lot of tourism killing hundreds of individuals of various species because of roadkills. Few years ago the whole stretch of Western Ghats was rich with diverse species but now because of fragmentation of habitat only few pockets of wilderness are left which have to be protected from extinction.

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कबूतरों की अनियंत्रित बढ़ती आबादी एवं दुष्परिणाम

कबूतर (रॉक पिजन), जिसे वैज्ञानिक भाषा में कोलम्बा लिविआ के नाम से जाना जाता है, पक्षी की ऐसी प्रजाति है जो सहारा मरुस्थल व ध्रुवो के अलावा पूरे विश्व में पाई जाती है।  यूँ तो इंसानो का कबूतरों के साथ संबंध काफी पुराना है जहां इसे सबसे समझदार पक्षियों में से एक माना गया तथा संदेशो के आदान प्रदान के लिए उपयोग में लिया गया।  परन्तु पिछले कुछ दशकों में कबूतरों की अनियंत्रित बढ़ती आबादी एक चिंता का विषय है। इससे न सिर्फ अन्य छोटे पक्षियों की संख्या पर प्रतिकूल प्रभाव पड़ा है तथा स्थानीय जैव विविधता में भारी कमी आई है बल्कि कबूतर कई प्रकार के वायरस का भी संवहन करते है जो अस्थमा व साँस की बीमारियों से प्रभावित लोगो, बच्चो व बुजर्गो के स्वास्थ्य के लिए काफी खतरनाक है। 

जंगलो में कबूतर चट्टानों, दरारों तथा विभिन्न वृक्षों पर अपना घोंसला बनाते है जो  कि मौसम तथा अन्य भक्षी जानवरो के चलते नियंत्रण में रहता है।  जबकि शहरों की ऊँची इमारतों, पुराने भवनों तथा पर्यटनो स्मारकों में बनाये गए घोंसलों में ये वर्ष भर अंडे दे पाते है तथा दाने की पर्याप्त मात्रा के चलते इनकी जनसँख्या त्वरित रूप से बढ़ती है। धार्मिक रुझानों के चलते लोगो की दाना डालने की प्रवृति से इन्हे वर्ष भर समुचित मात्रा में भोजन मिलता है। साथ ही झुण्ड में रहने के कारण ये अन्य भक्षी पक्षियों व जानवरो से अपनी सुरक्षा आसानी से कर पाते है तथा छोटे पक्षिओ जैसे गोरैया, तोते व अन्य के भोजन भी चट कर जाते हैं। जिससे इन अन्य पक्षिओ की संख्या में बेहद कमी आई है, कुछ वर्षो पहले तक सुनाई देने वाली चिडियो की चहचहाहट आज कम ही सुनने को मिलती है।  जबकि कबूतरों को की बढ़ी तादाद भवनों, पुराने किलो, स्मारकों में आसानी से देखी जा सकती है। चुग्गा डालने के सभी निर्धारित स्थानों पर मुख्य रूप से सिर्फ कबूतर ही देखे जाते है न कि अन्य पक्षी।

छोटी चिड़िया जो कीटो का भक्षण करके कृषि में सहायक होती थी आज विलुप्त प्राय है तथा कबूतरों के बचे दाने से आकर्षित होकर चूहों की संख्या में वृद्धि भी कृषि के लिए हानिकारक है। इस प्रकार विभिन्न प्रजातियों का यह संतुलन आज कबूतरों की तीव्र जनसँख्या वृद्धि के चलते गड़बड़ाया हुआ है।

एक मादा कबूतर वर्ष भर में 48 बच्चो को जन्म दे सकती है तथा इनका जीवनकाल लगभग 20 से 25 वर्ष होता है। औसतन एक कबूतर एक वर्ष में 12 किलोग्राम बीट उत्सर्जित करता है जो की अत्यधिक अम्लीय तथा जहरीली होती है। सूखने के बाद यह हवा में धूल के साथ मिलकर आसानी से प्रसारित होती है।  मुख्यतया यह शरीर में एक्यूट हाइपर सेंसिटिविटी न्यूमोनाइटिस नामक स्थिति का निर्माण करती है जो गंभीर मामलो में जानलेवा तक साबित हो सकती है।  इस बीमारी के बारे में बहुत कम जानकारी उपलब्ध होना इसे अत्यधिक दुष्प्रभावी बनाती है, यहाँ तक की चिकित्सको में भी इसके बारे में बहुत अधिक जागरूकता नहीं है तथा सीटी स्कैन के अतिरिक्त अन्य सामान्य जांचो से इसका पता लगाना संभव नहीं है। कबूतरों के निकट रहने वाले, नियमित दाना डालने वाले लोगो में यह काफी खतरनाक स्थिति पैदा कर सकता है तथा तेजी से फ़ैल कर फेफड़ो को नुकसान पहुंचाता है। कबूतर न सिर्फ इंसानो में बल्कि अन्य पक्षिओ तथा जानवरो में भी इसका संचरण कर सकते हैं। 

इनकी अम्लीय बीट ऐतिहासिक भवनों तथा स्मारकों को नुकसान पहुँचाती है तथा उनके मूल सौंदर्य, पत्थरो व रंग पर प्रतिकूल प्रभाव डालती है। जलाशयों के निकट इनकी उपस्थिति, पंखो से गंदगी, बीट निष्कासन छोटी मछलियों व अन्य जलीय जीवो के लिए जहरीली साबित होती है। कबूतरों के विशाल झुण्ड न सिर्फ ऐतिहासिक स्मारको को कुरूप बना रहे है बल्कि जानवर जैसे कुत्ते, बिल्लियाँ इनके शिकार के लालच में कई बार पानी में गिरकर अपनी जान से हाथ धो बैठते है। पुलों के नीचे व चौराहो पर रहने वाले कबूतरों के झुंडो का अचानक से  सड़क से गुजरना दुर्घटना का कारण भी बनता है। राजस्थान के जयपुर स्थित अल्बर्ट हॉल, अलवर स्थित पौराणिक त्रिपोलिया मंदिर, बाला किला, होप सर्कस तथा देशभर के असंख्य ऐसे ही विरासत से परिपूर्ण धरोहर आज कबूतरों की बढ़ती आबादी के कारण जर्जर हालत में रहने को मजबूर है।

वैश्विक स्तर पर भी इस परेशानी से बचने के लिए कई उपाय अपनाये गए है।  ऑस्ट्रिया के वियना में कुछ वर्षो पहले कबूतरों को दाना डालने पर 36 यूरो का जुर्माना निर्धारित किया गया है।  स्पेन के कई शहरों में ओविस्टोप नामक ड्रग का प्रयोग इनके दाने में मिलाकर किया जाता है जो एक प्रकार का गर्भ निरोधक है।  लन्दन के मशहूर ट्राफलगर स्क्वायर पर कबूतरों को दाना डालने पर 2001 से पूर्णतया प्रतिबन्ध लगा दिया गया है।  इसी प्रकार इटली के वेनिस शहर में सेंट मार्क स्क्वायर पर दाना बेचने वालो पर कठोर जुर्माने का नियम 2008 में लाया गया। 

भारत में भी इस प्रकार के नियमो की सख्त आवश्यकता है ताकि समय रहते इनकी अनियंत्रित आबादी पर काबू पाया जा सके तथा अन्य पक्षियों की संख्या में आ रही भारी गिरावट को रोककर जैव विविधता का संतुलन पुनः स्थापित किया जा सके। 

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Tow that Iceberg?

Our water situation is getting worse by the day with a sad reality that conventional water sources are not enough to meet growing freshwater demands of our population. Rainfall, snowfall, river run-offs, accessible ground water are falling short of providing equal distribution of water across the world with climate change adding to the complexity of rainfall uncertainty and extended drought periods.

But more importantly, the quality of water is deteriorating and here are some hard hitting facts:

  • 2 billion people (26% of world’s population) lacked safely managed drinking water services in 2020.
  • Agriculture uses high amount of chemicals (herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides) and the run-off of excess nutrients such as reactive nitrogen and phosphorus and other contaminants have worsened in almost all rivers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America (UNEP, 2016a) with detrimental effects on people’s health. Adverse impact on human health has been found in people living within a 5 km radius of lakes with extreme turbidity levels that indicates high water pollution such as metals and bacteria.
  • Aquifers are key water reserves, and most groundwater comes from aquifers but due to pumping out of ground water at greater rates than it can be naturally replenished, countries like India are digging deeper wells and paying greater energy costs to pump and treat the lower-quality water that is often found deeper within the aquifers. Since 2012 the number of groundwater pumps has more than quadrupled to over 20 million.

Need to look for unconventional water sources:

For sustainable food production and our livelihood’s overall needs, unconventional water sources are being evaluated as a critical response to deteriorating water quality/scarcity and the good news is that such water resources exist ranging from the Earth’s seabed to its upper atmosphere.

Some of the time-tested methods of generating water are listed here:

  • Rain enhancement through cloud seeding: Several countries have attempted rainmaking by injecting salt/silver iodide crystals into the base of clouds that has shown an increased precipitation of around 15% of the annual norm, but complex physical process and technology limitations are slowing down experiments and more scientific research is needed.
  • Fog harvesting: Capturing atmospheric water vapor for domestic and agricultural use is an ancient practice. The low-impact technology uses material such as mesh nets to capture water droplets from the air, relying on weather systems and physics to collect water rather than requiring energy or other inputs.
  • Rainwater harvesting: Runoff water from rainfall can be captured and stored at household and farm levels. Rooftops in households and small bunds, runoff basins in farm and landscape systems catch the water to be harvested for later use.

Iceberg towing:

Imagine towing an iceberg that measures 3000 feet long, 1500 feet wide and 750 feet deep, weighing around 100 million tons and convert the iceberg to municipal water that can feed 20% of a city’s water needs for one year. Sounds impossible, but climate change has fast tracked the breaking of huge chunks of icebergs in the polar regions with these icebergs drifting across the ocean. In today’s world where we are desperate to look for alternate sources of freshwater, the concept of harnessing icebergs from polar ice caps to drought regions in Africa and Middle East is generating a lot of interest.

Let us look at the impact of icebergs calving away from its parent ice shelves mainly due to earth warming. More than 100,000 Antarctic icebergs melt into the ocean each year. As they drift and its base melts, they release cold fresh melt water altering local ocean properties in several ways. They could block access of penguin colonies to feeding grounds, carry debris , may have several bacteria and viruses that could be infectious to humans, leave plough marks on the sea floor or impact the marine habitat by colossal releases of fresh water. Read this interesting article on a giant iceberg named A-68 that travelled 3 years and drifted close to the Scotia sea(edge of South Atlantic ocean) and released 152 billion tons of fresh water.

Rather than waste this water, if we could get water from Antarctic icebergs to drought-stricken areas with minimal environmental impact, that would be a huge win-win. Tabular icebergs are good candidates for towing rather than icebergs that look like a typical mountain with a peak as those could be dangerous and unstable for sea transportation.

Sounds feasible or not , but a group of glaciologists, oceanographers and engineers are working towards towing enormous icebergs to Cape Town in South Africa and convert iceberg freshwater into municipal water at an estimated project cost of $200 Million.

In Germany, a company called Polewater locates table icebergs in Antarctica via satellite imagery, uses tugboats to maneuver icebergs and bring the icebergs closer to suitable coastal regions such as South America, South Africa and Australia , extracts freshwater by using the cold energy of the sea , pumps out the water into huge waterbags and organizes distributing fresh water to people.

In Conclusion:

Antarctica is covered by ice and is the largest reservoir of drinking water on Earth. As you read this article, billions of liters of pure drinking water are flowing just like that into the open sea. We, and our next generations need clean fresh water and forcing ourselves to treat our existing water over and over or drilling deeper into the ground for new water is not sustainable. India and other water starved nations with its steadily growing population need to look at such unconventional water sources as reliable sources of water in times of climate uncertainty and towing that ‘Titanic’ iceberg may just be a matter of time …Only time will tell …

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What are Floating Treatment Wetlands (FTW)?

A sustainable and environment-friendly approach is quickly taking hold as an efficient and long-lasting remedy for the rising pollution in urban water bodies. The man-made islands called Floating Treatment Wetlands (FTW) are the ones that float on water bodies. They are man-made islands covered with plants that floats to purify the water body, creating a cleaner and better water body for organisms that depend on it.

Selected filter plants are attached to a wooden structure that floats. Presence of hydroponic mat supports the water flow beneath and through the plants, and the roots serve as a natural filter.

Floating islands

Water quality is improved by floating treatment wetlands in a number of ways. They begin by consuming nutrients from the water’s upper layers, which mainly come from surface runoff. Such runoffs remove a lot of anthropogenic pollutants from reservoirs and from agriculture. Studies have suggested that the effects of this type of pollution are less where the islands are deployed. The filter islands draw heavy metals from the water that have accumulated in plant tissues.

These plant structures are also a great place for microorganisms that are beneficial to the aquatic ecosystem, which also contribute to water treatment.

While the primary goal of FTW is to purify water by removing extra minerals and contaminants, there are other benefits too. Furthermore, the reservoir is shaded by the filter islands, which is quite helpful if the water heats up too much due to increase in temperature. This, in turn, directly and indirectly threatens aquatic organisms. They also aid in the oxygenation of the water body as they release and transport oxygen.

Plants’ roots in the island start to grow extensively and densely like forests.  It makes a great home for young animals and serves as an insect sanctuary by attracting them. The rhizome zone of the root of the plants of wetland may expand to the point where support in the form of a frame and buoyancy components would be no longer required over time. Additionally, the vegetation on the island can prove to be beneficial to a variety of native species, thereby enhancing the local biodiversity. Reports suggest that a few birds are already residing in some of the floating treatment islands.

The FTW is a bamboo rafts with thermocol or plastic water bottles on the sides to add to buoyancy.  These materials are chemically inert when it is in contact for a long duration of time. A layer of gunny bags that stretch can be attached to the bottom of the raft to create a tray that holds 2 cm layer of gravel. Saplings have to be planted such that its roots reach into water. Saplings can be planted with a distance of 3-4 feet. The saplings that can be planted include:

  • Mosquito repellent and ornamental plants such as Marigold
  • Hibiscus
  • Canna
  • Tulsi
  • Ashwagandha
  • Flowering herbs
Marigold
Canna
Ashwagandha

These plants absorb high levels of Phosphorous and Nitrogen in the sewage water that is present in the water body. In addition, the FTW is significantly less expensive than a conventional sewage treatment facility.

Several studies have concluded that, for an FTW to be effective, it must take up at least 0.37% of the area of the water body. For a lake having area of 1 acre, FTW of 15m2 must suffice.

There are reports that the FTWs are already successfully implemented in Hauz Khas Lake in Delhi and Neknampur lake in Hyderabad. In addition to the clean water bodies by the use of FTWs, it can contribute to the biodiversity, beautification and also the locals. It is a no secret that water pollution is one of the greatest threats to the biodiversity. Hence FTW can be considered as a simple, natural and effective solution.  

FTW in Neknampur lake, Hyderabad

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Jal Jeevan – Sundaleri Lake

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

The Sundaleri Lake is located in the North-Eastern part of the Kanchipuram District in the village of Vallakotai. The Kanchipuram District is well-known for its traditional clothing industry and historical significance.

Rapid urbanization and industrialization, and no maintenance led to the Lake being polluted with solid waste and invasive weeds. This severely affected the ecosystem and biodiversity of the surrounding area.

With the support of the government of Tamil Nadu and the Hinduja Foundation under the Jal Jeevan initiative, the Environmental Foundation of India took on the task of restoring the Sundaleri Lake.

The Lake underwent a rigorous transformation in 2021, which included the removal of weeds, desilting of the Lake, bund strengthening and dual embankment and the construction of islands and recharge pits. A C-shaped bund was also constructed to strengthen the structure of the Lake.

The lake is now all set to become a biodiversity hotspot for indigenous flora and fauna.  

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Jal Jeevan – Sathangadu Lake

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

The Sathangadu Lake is located in Manali, Chennai. It is surrounded by industries, and was found to be deteriorating due to pollutants like sewage and weeds. Lack of maintenance also contributed to its deterioration. The lake is integral to our ecosystem as it hosts several species of endemic and migratory birds. These birds can be spotted nesting along the bunds of the lake.

The Government of India, along with the Hinduja Foundation under the Jal Jeevan initiative and the Environmentalist Foundation of India took on the task of restoring this lake.

The restoration process consisted of de-weeding, de-silting, and regulation of the sewage in-flow through the construction of a sedimentary pit. Five islands have been roosted in this lake and about 245 native species have been planted across it. The restored lake is now more beneficial to the ecosystem than it was prior to the restoration.

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Jal Jeevan – Senguttai Pond

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

Located in the east of the village of Kattampatti is the Senguttai Pond. It is a natural spring-based pond, surrounded by windmills and agricultural land. This pond plays a major role in recharging the groundwater table of the surrounding area. Over the years, the pond fell into disuse, and was soon forgotten by the people, which led to growth of invasive weeds and an accumulation of excess silt.

The restoration was undertaken by the Environmentalist Foundation of India along with the Hinduja Foundation and IndusInd Bank.

The restoration of the pond included the removal of invasive weeds, de-silting and deepening of the water body, constructing and strengthening of the earthen bunds, inlet and outlet regulation in the pond area, construction of recharge pits, fencing of the water body and native tree plantation along the bunds.

With all of its new features, the Senguttai pond is now ready to support of life forms. The pond id well protected and has an increased water holding capacity.

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Jal Jeevan – Nandiambakkam Pond

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

In the town of Minjur, located in the outskirts of North Chennai is the Nandiambakkam Pond. This pond is vital in sustaining the lives of the community and controlling floods. Hence, it can be classified as a community pond. Community ponds are just as important as lakes and reservoirs as a source of water. This pond was polluted with solid and liquid waste. There were multiple invasive species that lived there along with algae. The accumulation of a lot of the waste was due to the urbanization and industrialization over the years. The quality of water in the pond impacts the nearby citizens, which are nearly 5,000 in number. Under the Jal Jeevan initiative, the task of restoring this pond has been undertaken. This has been done by E.F.I in association with the Government of India, and Ashok Leyland, part of the Hinduja foundation. The restoration has led to a cleaner, safer pond for its residents instead of the health hazard that it was.

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Jal Jeevan – Nagachery Lake

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

Nagachery Kulam is located in the town of Chidambaram. The town is between the Vellar river in the North and the Kollidam river in the South. The town uses water from the water bodies around it. Nagachery Kulam is one of these water bodies which support the town. Before restoration, the lake was polluted, filled with silt and weeds. It was not properly maintained.

Chidambaram Sub Col. Thiru L. Madhu Balan IAS, IndusInd Bank and the Hinduja Foundation funded this initiative to restore Nagachery Lake which was undertaken by the Environmentalist Foundation of India.

During restoration, the silt removed was used to strengthen the lake and construct dual embankments. The strengthening of the bund has improved resilience of the lake against floods. Recharge pits were made to help restore ground water. A sluice gate and regulator shutters were constructed to prevent erosion and control the velocity of the water.

Chidambaram town still depends on water bodies like this lake for water and the restoration of the Nagachery Kulam has helped the community realize its importance.

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Dammit! – Tehri Dam

A mini series that brings to light the stories of India’s dams 

📍Tehri Dam, Uttarakhand

 टिहरी डैम

टिहरी बांध भारत का सबसे ऊंचा बांध है और उत्तराखंड में स्थित है।

India’s highest dam, the Tehri Dam is a 260.5m tall earth and rock fill dam built over Bhagirathi river with an installed capacity of 1,000 MW. Power generated by this project benefits the states of Uttarkhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi. It also supplies Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi with about 250 million gallons of water.

The design of Tehri dam was completed in 1972 but construction after feasibility studies began only in 1978. It was completed only in 2006 due to various financial, social and environmental impacts. There were numerous protests relating to construction of this dam as it would obstruct the natural flow of Bhagirathi river. The reservoir thus created would lead to complete submergence of 24 villages while affecting 88 others, including the town of Tehri.

हमें बांध नहीं चाहिए। बांध पहाड़ का विनाश है। – सुन्दरलाल बहुगुणा

Total cost of building this dam was approximately 1 billion USD. India National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) conducted a cost-benefit analysis which stated that the cost of constructing the dam is about twice the benefits reaped from the project.

Another interesting point to note is that such a huge structure is built on the Central Himalayan Seismic Gap, which is considered to be a vulnerable segment prone to earthquakes. It also implies that impoundment of water in its reservoir is likely to create more pressure and trigger landslides. If an earthquake of very high magnitude breaks the dam, it would lead to submergence of highly productive and populated valleys of Uttarakhand(including Rishikesh and Haridwar),destroying lives, forests and agricultural resources. If a catastrophic event like this occurred, over a million people could lose their lives.

Did you know?

SOURCE: kafaltree.com

The Ghantaghar, which was a symbol of the splendor of the princely state of Tehri during the reign of the monarchy, was submerged as a result of the Tehri dam. It stands proud even after 11 years of drowning in the Tehri Lake.

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Jal Jeevan – Morai Lake

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

The Morai village is located in the district of Tiruvallur. It is surrounded by many bodies of water. Due to the presence of the Krishna canal, the region is agriculture rich. A large lake provides water to the farmers for irrigation. This is the Morai lake. It also provides a habitat for the local flora and fauna. Over the years, due to no maintenance, the lake deteriorated rapidly. Invasive weeds and excess siltation were some of the major problems faced by the lake.

The Tamil Nadu Government, the Hinduja Foundation under the Jal Jeevan Initiative and the Environmentalist Foundation of India together took up the effort to restore the Morai lake.

The restoration consisted of removal of invasive weeds, desilting of the lake, bund strengthening and dual embankment, construction of a check dam and breaking bunds, construction of nesting islands and recharge pits, percolation trenches, protective fencing and plantation of native saplings. After restoration, the Morai lake is now once again a viable source of water to nearby farms and villages as it used to be.

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Jal Jeevan – Moosi Rani Sagar

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

The Moosi Rani Sagar, an ancient stepwell is located in the city of Alwar, Rajasthan. A stepwell is a well or pond which is reached by descending a set of stairs. The Sagar has been a major provider of water to the city for thousands of years. The sandstone-marble memorial, Moosi Rani ki Chhatri was built in 1815 by Raja Vinay Singh in memory of Maharaja Bakhtawar Singh and Rani Moosi. This site, along with the City Palace has great historical significance.

The stepwell is part of a water system, which includes water collection, a sedimentation tank and a canal that links both. Over the years, the Sagar has deteriorated due to lack of maintenance. Solid waste and contaminated water found its way into the stepwell.

The restoration of this body of water was carried out by Ashok Leyland, the Environmentalist Foundation of India, the Hinduja Foundation (under the Jal Jeevan initiative) and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.

On the 22nd of March, 2022, on World Water Day, Moosi Rani Sagar, newly restored, was revealed to the public.

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Jal Jeevan – Kinhi Gadegaon Reservoir

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

The Kinhi-Gadegaon Reservoir is located in Vidharbha, Maharashtra. It is an important source of water for nearby farmers for their fields and the animals of the adjacent forest.

The Environmentalist Foundation of India in association with the Bhandara District Administration and Ashok Leyland decided to take on the task of reviving this lake.

Prior to the beginning of the revival, the level of the lake was quite uneven. Through the process of scrape silting, it was levelled and an embankment was made between the two water bodies this reservoir comprises of. The soil dug out from the lake to deepen it was used for the embankment to prevent floods. The reservoir is filled by a freshwater stream flowing from the forest behind.

After the project, the reservoir’s water holding capacity has increased by almost sixty percent. This is a unique restoration project that has focused on providing water for all life forms. This deepened water body is once again earning its name as the life line if the surrounding region.

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Dammit! – Teesta Dam

A mini series that brings to light the stories of India’s dams 

📍Teesta Dams-West Bengal, Sikkim

तीस्ता बांध – बंगाल, सिक्किम

The Teesta river originates in the Eastern Himalayas and flows through the states of Sikkim, West Bengal and through Bangladesh before it enters the Bay of Bengal. It has a beautiful blue-green tinge owing to the presence of dolomite and limestone in this river. There are 6 hydroelectric projects being developed on the Teesta River, spread over the states of West Bengal and Sikkim.

SOURCE: indiawaterportal.org

तीस्ता नदी 414 किमी लंबी है।

There are five parts to the Teesta Hydro power project. The Teesta-VI hydroelectric power project is expected to be commissioned in 2024.This project is to be situated in Sirwani village of Sikkim and is undertaken by Lanco Teesta Hydro Power (LTHPL),which is a subsidiary of the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC).With a capacity of 500MW,the Teesta-VI hydroelectric power project is expected to utilise the potential of this river basin to produce a lot of electricity for Sikkim and it neighbouring states.

What are the consequences that come along?

There are numerous dams on this mighty river. They have already tampered with the natural flow of this river, causing erratic and extreme bursts of rainfall in those areas. The soil has also become less fertile over a period of time. Not only this, Teesta has lost over 15 species of fish that used to inhabit this river.

Constructing more dams will increase the pressure on the Darjeeling-Sikkim sensitive seismic zone triggering earthquakes.Teesta carries high sediment load and rise in water-table will also make the towns and cities on the lower reaches more vulnerable and prone to disasters.

A survey published by the International Mountain Development Society reveals that most participants belonging to the Teesta river basin had a negative perception of such projects. They stated that it lead to loss of jobs and quality of life, decreased their feeling of security as they would be more prone to floods and landslides.

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Dammit! – Mini Dams of TN

A mini series that brings to light the stories of India’s dams 

ஐந்து ரத்தினங்கள், தமிழ்நாடு

📍 Adavinainar Dam,Tenkasi district

அடவி நயினார் அணை, தென்காசி

Built over Hanumantha river,this dam is 670m long.There is a specific reason for its construction: in 1992 there was exceptionally high rainfall in Tirunelveli and Tenkasi.This resulted in flooding,landslides and huge damage to life and property.Following this the Government of Tamilnadu decided to build the  Adavinainar to regulate floods and supply water for agricultural purposes.

Construction of the dam was completed in 2002.Currently the dam benefits several agricultural villages of Tenakasi and Tirunelveli districts.

Did you know?

In 2019, one of the sluices of the dam was damaged which resulted in water from the dam flowing onto the road and causing partial damage. This was followed by backlash from farmers who said that the damage caused more water to be released from the dam than inflow to the dam, which could result in the dam drying faster.

SOURCE: timesofindia

📍 Manimuthar Dam,Tirunelveli district

மணிமுத்தாறு அணை, திருநெல்வேலி

Built in 1958 over Thamirabarani river, Manimuthar dam has the biggest reservoir of the district of Tirunelveli.

The purpose of building this dam was to prevent rainwater from mixing with Bay of Bengal during monsoon. It can hold upto 118 feet of water.

This dam stretches over 3km and has helped in irrigation of over 65,000 acres of land including villages of Viravikulam, Therku Paapankulam, Ayan Singampatti and Therku Kallidaikurichi.

📍 Rama Nathi Dam,Tirunelveli district

ராமநதி அணை, திருநெல்வேலி

Constructed in 1974 in Melakadayam village across the Ramanadhi river, the Ramanadhi dam has a storage capacity of 152 Mcft. Located at the foothills of the Western Ghats, this dam is built out of earth and stone masonry structures.

SOURCE: maalaimalar.com

முழு கொள்ளளவை எட்டி கடல் போல் காட்சியளிக்கும் ராமநதி அணை.

This dam is a tourist attraction and picnic spot due to its scenic beauty.

📍 Kadana Nathi Dam,Tirunelveli district

கடனா நதி அணை, திருநெல்வேலி

Located between Agasthiya Hill and Kuravanchi Hill, the Kadana nadhi dam receives water through two waterfalls namely Thoniyar and Kallaru.

The 85-foot embankment has now been renovated and expanded by the Public Works Department, with seven sluices. This dam is the main water support for the surrounding farmlands. It was inaugurated in 1969 by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Mr. M. Karunanidhi.

📍 Motai Dam,Tirunelveli district

மோட்டை அணை, திருநெல்வேலி

மேற்கு தொடர்ச்சி மலை அடிவார பகுதியில் பெய்த தொடர் மழையால் மோட்டை அணைக்கு நீர்வரத்து அதிகரிக்க தொடங்கியது.

Motai Dam is situated at the foothills of the Western Ghats, about 5 km from Sengottai.This dam has a catchment area of ​​about 1.35 square miles. It has a capacity of about 27 feet. Through this dam, 366.15 acres of land is directly irrigated through 22 ponds. Also, 100 acres of land in Motai, Thavanai, Kaduvetti, Urapatu district areas are indirectly being used for irrigation.

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Dammit! – Idamalayar Dam

A mini series that brings to light the stories of India’s dams

📍Idamalayar Dam, Ernakulam district, Kerala

 ഇടമലയാർ അണക്കെട്ട്

നിർമ്മിച്ച ഈ അണക്കെട്ടിനു 373 മീറ്റർ നീളവും 102 മീറ്റർ ഉയരവുമുണ്ട്.

The Idamalayar Dam is built on Idamalayar river, one of the major tributaries of the Periyar river which originates from the Anaimalai Hills. It is a 102.4m high concrete gravity dam managed by the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB).

Construction began in 1970 and was completed after 17 years in 1987, the delay caused due to unorganized labour. The construction of this dam cost Rs. 539.50 crores to the Kerala Government.

Idamalayar is a multi-purpose dam. However, the main motive behind its construction was to meet the state’s power generation requirements. The Idamalayar Hydroelectric Power Station generates about 380 million units of power every year. Idamalayar is the source of water for the Idamalayar Irrigation Development Project which aims at improving agriculture of the surrounding regions. It also enhances industrial and domestic water supply while also providing recreational benefits like boating, trekking and bird watching.

With the Thattekkadu Bird Sanctuary located closeby, one can find the areas surrounding the dam inhabited by Plum Headed Parakeets, Asian Openbills, Belied Eagle, Little Heron, Chestnut Tailed Starling etc.

SOURCE: ebird.org

The structure of this Very High Dam consists of 22 blocks and has 4 gates. Idamalayar dam has a storage capacity of 1032.2 million cubic metres and the spillway is capable of releasing 3012.8 metre cube of water per second.

RED ALERT was issued when the water level rose above 166.8 m.When rains cause havoc in Kerala, the dam has been opened on several occasions with the motive of controlling water levels.

SOURCE:indiatvnews.in

ഇടമലയാർ ഡാമിന്റെ ഷട്ടറുകൾ തുറന്നു

After 2013,all shutters of the dam were opened during the 2018 Kerala floods as water reached dangerous levels.Water gushed out of the spillways in great force leaving surrounding areas submerged.This was coupled with landslides in a number of locations in the state leading to loss of life and property.

Did you know?

The Bhoothathankettu dam is only a 14 km drive from Idamalayar. It has an interesting story-its name literally translates to ghost dam. Very close to the man-made dam is an old dam which seems to have been created naturally through settling of huge rocks. Legends say that demons tried to build this dam in order to submerge the Thrikkariyoor Temple of Shiva. Lord Shiva, being witty, faked the appearance of dawn and caused the demons to run away.

SOURCE: keralatourism.org
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The Autonomous Farmer

India is poised to become the world’s most populous nation in a few years, surpassing China (which is witnessing a steady drop in birth rates recently). The agricultural sector in India only accounts for 14% of its GDP but employs close to 50% of the country’s workforce and hence from a view of national income generation via employment, agriculture is very important. Currently, around 38% of total land surface is used for crop production and with degrading soil health and water scarcity, how do we ensure that we continue to feed and employ our burgeoning population?

‘Smart’ agriculture has an answer as we see a lot of technologies that are transforming industrial agriculture across the world. These new technologies leverage how human brain thinks, how humans learn, make decisions, and work while solving a problem, with intelligent software and systems that are fed with training data and these intelligent devices provide us with desired output for every valid input, just like the human brain. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the science behind making intelligent machines and its use in industrial farming has transformed today’s agriculture systems to a new level all together.  

How do these robots work and where?

Agriculture uses more than 70% of all global fresh water supplies, and yet 4 billion people live in global regions with water scarcity. By 2050, majority of world’s population will live in urban areas, and hence there is a need to lessen the burden on farmers, automate several agri-processes and provide farmers with comparatively easy and efficient farming methods. In India, weather plays a key role in agriculture, with short periods of drought and flooding combined with its unpredictability making it extremely hard to optimize water usage for irrigation.

This is where the robots come in.

Field robots are already being deployed to help farmers measure, map, and optimize water and irrigation use. Likewise, robots that use precision technologies to apply fertilizers and pesticides, automatic crop monitoring via drones, smart agricultural equipment are here to help that are backed by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Weeding Operations:

Weeds are the strongest competitors for water, they grow tall and block light for regular plants and it is estimated that India loses agricultural produce that is more than the government’s annual budgetary allocation for agriculture due to weeds . So, to remove weeds from fields is the greatest priority in farming. The table below shows a summary of agri-applications that benefit from robots, use AI algorithms for crops such as Rice, Sugarcane, Cotton etc.  

Drones in agriculture:

In precision agriculture, drones are a boon to farmers to see things that are not in the noticeable range. Drones are being implemented for irrigation equipment and crop health monitoring, weed identification, herd and wildlife monitoring, and disaster management to name a few. Equipped with sensors and micro-controllers, these un-manned vehicles have been extremely popular as substance sprayers with high precision. Read this scenario where manual spraying of fertilizers and pesticides in an acre of land takes 150 liters of water and when farmers use drones, the same job can be done with just with 10 liters of water.

Vertical farming:

Vertical farms can be installed in densely populated areas with minimal water consumption (up to 95% less water than traditional farming) providing year-long fresh and healthy food to millions of people. These farms are setup in a closed environment and use smart sensors to monitor temperature, CO2,oxygen,lighting, humidity, pest control etc. utilizing cameras, thermal imaging and AI technologies and have been highly effective in growing leafy greens, herbs, vegetables such as tomatoes, melons, sweet corn, peppers, cucumbers to name a few.

India is one of the most promising markets for vertical farming with a 29% growth rate and an increasing demand for organic products resulting in more companies and startups entering the vertical farming market each year.

Vertical Indoor Farming
Feasibility in Indian environment:

India has embraced robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) as solutions to several practical problems that are facing farmers today. Given the acute water shortage, risks associated with climate change and the good reason that new technologies would also help attract skilled workers and graduates to the sector, agriculture in India is being re-vamped.

But precision agriculture and robot-aided operations are happening in smaller farms. Prohibitive costs and limited real-world data that prove these methods work in large scale agriculture are main challenges. When farmers realize they can make more profit through more sustainable techniques and leveraging AI based tools would help reduce fertilizer and herbicide costs while improving the quality of land, keeping yield up, then adoption of these methods will increase exponentially. Government policies will boost adoption of AI technologies, but an increased demand from consumers like us for more sustainably produced agricultural products will drive farmers to embed latest technology in their daily work.

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Jal Jeevan – Thamaraikulam Lake

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies 

Ennore is a region in Chennai located in the Kosathalaiyar basin area. This basin houses several bodies of water close to each other that are the primary sources of water for the region. The area consists of many factories and ports. This urbanisation led to the deterioration of many of these water bodies. The water became polluted with domestic waste and untreated sewage.

The Thamarai Kulam is one among these water bodies. Dumping of large amount of solid waste along its bunds and the inflow of untreated sewage contaminated it, making it unfit for local aquatic fauna to survive.

The Government of India, along with the Hinduja Foundation under the Jal Jeevan initiative and the Environmentalist Foundation of India worked together to restore this water body.

The restoration process consisted of the removal of invasive weeds and garbage, dredging and de-silting along the periphery of the lake, construction and strengthening of the bund and plantation along the bund.                             

After restoration, the lake is now once again becoming a beautiful water body.

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Dammit! – Cheruthoni Dam

A mini series that brings to light the stories of India’s dams

📍 Cheruthoni Dam, Idukki District, Kerala

ചെറുതോണി അണക്കെട്ട്

ഇടുക്കിയും കുളവും അണക്കെട്ടും ഉൾപ്പെടുന്ന പദ്ധതിയുടെ ഭാഗമാണ് ചെറുതോണി അണക്കെട്ട്

Built over river Periyar, Cheruthoni Dam is a concrete gravity dam just 1km to the west of Idukki Arch Dam.Constructed in 1976 with aid from Government of Canada, it was built along with the Idukki and Kulamavu Dam as a part of the Idukki Hydroelectric Project.

Idukki Dam,which is the tallest arch dam of India does not have any shutters. It is Cheruthoni Dam which helps to regulate the water level of the common reservoir.

Water from the artificial lake created by these dams is spread over an area of 60 sq.km and is used for producing hydroelectricity in the Moolamattom Power House which is one of India’s largest power house.The dams provide electrivity and enhance agriculture in the surrounding villages by supplying water for irrigation.

During the 2018 Kerala floods several dams including Cheruthoni were opened as water in reservoirs reached dangerous levels due to heavy rainfall.In order to avoid the disaster of the dam breaking, all 5 floodgates of this dam were opened for the first time in history.This left water gushing at high speed in regions near the dam-the Cheruthoni private bus stand and small shops nearby were completely submerged.There were also  landslides resulting in the loss of land,lives and displacement of people living in low-lying areas.

SOURCE: hindustantimes

ചെറുതോണി അണക്കെട്ട് തുറന്നതിനാൽ ഇടുക്കി, പത്തനംതിട്ട ജില്ലകളിൽ അതീവ ജാഗ്രതാ നിർദേശം.

There was a similar situation in 2021 when 3 shutters of the Cheruthoni dam were opened letting out about 100 cubic metre of water per second in the wake of heavy rains in the district.

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Jal Jeevan – Alasanatham Lake

The ambitious collaboration between the Hinduja Group and E.F.I to conserve and protect India’s water bodies

To the east of the city of Hosur is the Alasanatham Lake. Hosur was ruled by several revered kings in the Sangam age. It is on the banks of the Thenpenniyar river and is today bustling with industrial activity. This lake receives and shares water in every direction. Over the years, it became polluted with solid waste. In 2019, the Environmentalist Foundation of India along with the Krishnagiri District administration and Ashok Leyland took on the task of restoring this body of water. Over the course of nearly a year the lake was ecologically restored and transformed into a suitable habitat for various forms of life. The lake was dug up, bunds were made, native plants were planted to strengthen the bunds. Sedimentation tanks and a recharge pit were made as a part of the natural filtration system. Protective fencing was built around the lake and efforts were made to clean the land surrounding the lake. The restoration of this lake is now complete.

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Plastics are Vessels for Land Pathogens

A lot is talked about the effects on marine wildlife, formation of microplastics, toxic containments due to prolonged exposure to sea water and damaging the aesthetic value of tourist destination caused by the careless disposal of plastic waste in the oceans, but what is less known is that this same plastic serves as carrier for harmful land-based pathogens.

According to a study published in 2014, gelatinous polymers such as extracellular polymeric substances (EPSs) or other aquatic polymers bring forth their own mechanisms for carrying and transmission of pathogens into the food webs of these ecosystems (with particle aggregates and biofilms), more specifically EPS biofilms on macroalgae such as kelp capture Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan parasite that infects animals and humans worldwide which is transported to the coastal waters through fresh water runoff. These are obtained, concentrated and retained by kelp-grazing snails which are then transmitted through consumption to California Sea otters.

Toxoplasma gondii

As a result of this research, it is logical to be concerned whether synthetic polymers have similar capabilities of ‘trapping’ pathogens due to the ubiquitous nature of microplastic and protozoan pathogen pollution in sea water. These concerns were raised in a recent study conducted in 2022 whose main purpose was to investigate the association of zoonotic protozoa with microplastic surfaces in contaminated sea water. Cryptosporidium parvum, Giardia enterica and Toxoplasma gondii (similar protozoan parasite examined in the 2014 study) were the pathogens selected for this experiment due to their recognition by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an underestimated cause of illness due to shellfish, and due to their persistence in the marine environment, and the synthetic plastics taken into consideration for the bench experiment were two types: polyethylene microbeads and polyester microfibers.

The results demonstrated that over a 7-day period, in the case of microbeads the parasite count increased for all three of the test pathogens while in the surrounding seawater the parasite count decreased with the exception of Cryptosporidium parvum that remained relatively the same. Similar findings were found in the microfibers with parasite count associated with it, generally increasing over time but Cryptosporidium parvum remained the same till the third day, and this variation by Cryptosporidium parvum was also observed in the seawater count where it decreased significantly on the third day. Another set observations were noted in this experiment in regards to size of plastic, where it was overall observed that more protozoan oocysts tended to adhere to larger microfibers than the other microplastics.

Upon looking at available research, the implications of this readily occurring phenomenon’s severity cannot be understated. Microplastics have a pandemic ability to be consumed by a bulk of the living organisms in an ecosystem and that combined with the deadly symptoms brought about by these aforementioned pathogens create an alarming cycle that effect both aquatic organisms and the humans that consume them, that minimal effort has been done to combat

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Story of Hidden Deep Sea Monsters

Story of hidden Deep Sea Monsters

Deep sea monsters or the Deep sea creatures are the animals that live below the photic zone of the ocean.

What is the photic zone of the ocean?

Photic zone also known as sunlight zone or limnetic zone is the uppermost layer of the ocean receiving sunlight and allowing photosynthesis to happen, forming the basis of food chain in the upper water column. The zone is 80m(260 feet) in depth and is home to majority of aquatic life.

What is deep sea? How deep is the deep sea?

Deep sea is the lower most layer of the ocean existing below thermocline and above the seabed. It is the darkest region of the ocean. The water is between 3-10 degree Celsius and has low or no oxygen. About three-fourths of the area covered by ocean is deep, cold, and permanently dark. Pressure of upto 1,000 atmosphere can be experienced in this zone.

The ocean is divided into three vertical zones of the water column based on the amount of light and pressure it experiences and these are: Sunlight zone, Twilight zone, Midnight zone.

Twilight zone – only faint light reaches this zone. Due to lack of sunlight, bioluminescence can be observed in creatures. No plants grow in this layer, one can find some strangest sea animals such as octopus, crab, krill, swordfish, wolf eel, and catshark.

Midnight zone or the deep sea consists of two zones abyssal or hadal zone.

Abyssal zone is 4,000-6,000 metres in depth with perpetual darkness with very little oxygen. Has higher concentration of nutrient salts, like nitrogen, phosphorus, and silica, due to the large amount of dead organic material that drifts down from the above ocean zones and decomposes.

Abyssal zone is above Hadal zone. Hadal zone is lying within oceanic trenches. Found at the depth of around 6,000-11,000 metres, making it a deepest region of the ocean.  Most hadal habitat is found in the Pacific Ocean.

How do the deep sea creatures survive without light?

As there is no sunlight, the microbes depend on chemicals that come out of the vents. The process is termed as chemosynthesis and the microbes capable of this process are called chemoautotrophs. The chemoautotrophs oxidizes hydrogen sulphide, hydrogen and methane, readily available from the hydrothermal fluids and creates an energy surplus In the form of sugar which the bacteria then utilizes to produce organic matter. The bacterial mats formed in this process serve as  sole food source for the crustaceans, that then in turn are eaten by larger organisms, which then are also eaten by even larger organisms.

What is bioluminescence which the creatures in deep sea exhibit? What is its relevance?

Bioluminescence is the ability of living organisms to produce light. The light is produced by bacteria within light-emitting cells called photophores. It is the same phenomenon which is observed in fireflies and mushrooms. In the deep sea ocean it is commonly observed in squids, siphonophores, jellyfish, and comb jellies.

Bioluminescence helps organisms to deter or hide from predators, helps them to find food by luring the prey and to find a mate for reproduction.

                     Deep Sea Creatures exhibiting bioluminescence

What is deep sea gigantism observed in deep sea creatures?

Deep sea gigantism refers to the large body size of the creatures. There are multiple factors causing gigantism in deep sea creatures.

  • The drastic fall in temperatures leads to increased cell size which results in continual growth of the organisms through out their life.
  • Lack of oxygen at greater depths leads to a slower metabolism rate, helping them to conserve energy which is another factor behind their increased body sizes.
Colossal squid – weighs 750kg
Lion’s Mane Jellyfish – 120 feet
                                                   Giant spider

How have deep sea creatures adopted to such high pressures?

The pressure at Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of all the world’s oceans is around 1,000 bars or more. Deep sea creatures here have adapted to such pressure and this is because deep sea creatures are largely made of water having minimal or no air gaps in the body. Water, being in-compressible, leaves their bodies unaffected by such great underwater pressure.  

Example: Hadal snailfish, the deepest dwelling species of fish which can be found at about 8,200m depth.

How are creatures in the deep sea living at such lower temperature?

According to researchers, an antifreeze protein is observed in fish’s blood which affects the water molecules in its vicinity such that they cannot freeze, and everything remains fluid.

Are deep sea creatures immune to threats?

Despite living at such greater depths, deep sea creatures are not immune to anthropogenic threats.

  • Deep sea mining is scooping away the sea beds damaging the deep sea ecosystem.
  • Global warming is making the ocean temperatures warm and it’s affect has been felt at the deep sea as well. Deep sea creatures have adapted to cold waters since centuries, sudden rise in temperature will disrupt their biological cycle leading to their death.
  • Fertilizers, pesticides, oil spills are other issues which badly damages the deep sea ecosystem killing the marine life instantly.
  • Microplastic is another menace to deep sea creatures.

Given the vast size, only 4% of the ocean is explored.

Introducing some of the deep sea creatures:

Frilled shark

Prefer to remain in the depths up to 5,000 feet (1,500 meters). They are considered living fossils, who swam the seas in the time of the dinosaurs. It’s a 5.3-foot species.

Fangtooth

The fangtooth is the deepest-living fish ever living at a depth of 6,500 feet-16,500 feet. It’s about 6 inches long.

Six-Gill Shark

Six-gill sharks is found at 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) depth and surface at nights to feed. These  are of 16 feet(4.8 meters) long.

Pacific Viper fish

Pacific Viper fish has jagged, needlelike teeth so outsized it can’t close its mouth. These are only about 8 inches (25 centimeters) long. They troll the depths up to 13,000 feet (4,400 meters) below.

References:

https://www-zmescience-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.zmescience.com/science/biology/deep-sea-giant-creature/amp/?amp_gsa=1&amp_js_v=a9&usqp=mq331AQKKAFQArABIIACAw%3D%3D#amp_tf=From%20%251%24s&aoh=16557548020134&referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&ampshare=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.zmescience.com%2Fscience%2Fbiology%2Fdeep-sea-giant-creature%2F

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/facts/light-distributed.html

https://www.livescience.com/why-deep-sea-animals-are-giants

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Let the water not runoff …

Our world’s soil is facing an existential crisis, its health has declined sharply and ruptured the fragile skin of the Earth. Land degradation has affected over 33% of top-soil and 90% could become degraded by 2050. An astonishing fact: It can take up to 1000 years to naturally form just two to three centimeters of top-soil.

Soil health decline can be due to a variety of causes: Soil erosion, excessive usage of chemical fertilizers without organic manure and an imbalance in fertilizer nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) to name a few. Widespread soil erosion due to water, wind induced erosion and chemical degradation affects both arable and open forest lands with estimates that suggest annual loss of 5.3 billion tons of top-soil and 8.0 metric tons of plant nutrients through water erosion in India.

Sponge cities as solutions: Green + Blue + Grey Infrastructure:

Our future is moving more towards urbanization and the proportion of world’s population living in cities is projected to grow two-thirds. Increased opportunities in cities, the flight from conflict, poverty and climate change events are driving more people to live or move to urban areas.

Is there an answer to livable cities that are sustainable despite frequent flood disasters, environment deterioration, water resource shortage and water ecological destruction?  There is good potential in the concept of ‘Sponge’ cities.

Sponginess of a city is determined by its natural ability to absorb rainwater and have least water run-off. A city’s assets can be classified as green and blue assets: its grass, trees, bushes, lakes, ponds, water bodies and grey assets: buildings, hard paved surfaces, concrete pipes etc. By calculating the % of green, blue, grey infrastructure, soil type and water runoff potential, a city’s natural absorbency from its green and blue spaces gives a higher sponginess ranking.

India faces extreme climates and Mumbai has a history of flooding during the monsoons with the heaviest-ever recorded 24-hour rainfall figures in the world. But the city benefits from a large quantity of green infrastructure, particularly tree cover. This is driven by large areas of woodland to the northeast and a large quantity of trees interspersed around buildings. The integration of green infrastructure across the urban areas helps give Mumbai city some resilience to storms but also urban heat island effects. Let us look at the sponginess score of Mumbai when compared to Auckland, Singapore, and few others.

Sponginess of Top Cities

Agricultural run-offs:

India has very high arable land (land that has a lot of crop rotation and is ploughed or tilled regularly) and hence the topic of soil erosion due to water, wind, deforestation, overgrazing and faulty methods of agriculture is critical to address.

Soil is eroded at an average annual rate of 16.35 tons per hectare which means around 5 billion tons per year for the country. Out of this, about 29 per cent is permanently lost to the sea, nearly 10 per cent is deposited in reservoirs (which means the storage capacity in lakes/rivers and waterbodies is reduced by 1-2 per cent annually) and the remaining 61 per cent of the eroded soil is merely shifted from one site to another.

Conservation or regenerative agriculture:

Conservation agriculture as a strategy to invert the soil degradation spiral is the preferred method adopted by most countries today. No-tillage systems which eliminates intensive tillage, maintaining crop residue cover to ensure water does not run-off with the soil, and proper crop rotation using native and perennial crops have reported to improve soil organic matter (SOM) levels with carbon accumulation in diverse soils that are resilient to climate change. The recent heat wave in India resulted in an abrupt decline in wheat outputs (The average temperature in April was consistently above the 40°C mark across Punjab) and all exports of wheat was prohibited. Sustainable residue management options where crop residues were not burnt making the land bare and exposed to soil erosion, but rather keeping the soil surfaces covered with crop residue during heavy rainfall/erratic heat conditions, nutrients in the soil would make the crops more resilient to such heat waves.

Parched land due to water runoff

Natural solutions for sustainable water resilience:

Our cities are not equipped to cope with the amount of water that needs to be treated in a short period of time during extreme rainfall. Our sewer systems cannot be stretched as in most cases it is financially unfeasible, and so what is the solution?

Stone wool usage in water management of urban areas:

Stone wool is a natural product made from rock basalt and sourced directly from our earth. It is sustainable and almost inexhaustible as basalt is produced naturally and 100% recyclable. Stone wool elements have been used in largescale water storage facilities in public areas and as infiltration systems in wadis and under large, paved surfaces. Stone wool has a remarkable insulation capacity that it does not absorb water but provides resistance that delays the water to be pushed down to sewer systems in a delayed manner.

Due to the delayed discharge, water slowly permeates below the ground and thanks to its high load bearing capacity even small spaces can be designed with stone wool filtration elements in urban areas to prevent flash flooding. Instead of dealing with water by trying to get rid of it quickly, sponge cities slow water, absorb rain and halt runoff, a major source of pollution in urban waterways.

Bio-diversity parks in cities, restoring our water bodies, installing rain gardens, green roofs , green infrastructure combined with strict urban planning that prevent encroachments can help save our ever-expanding cities.

In Conclusion: Moving away from traditional hard infrastructure methods of flood barriers, concrete walls, old sewer systems, traditional methods of farming and over application of chemical fertilizers , we need to bring in solutions that mimic nature as a sustainable way of securing our soil future. Natural disasters when they happen are overwhelmingly destructive and mother nature has shown us the right path and we just need to follow it.

Sponge city construct
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Day Zero: Avoiding a Global Water Crisis

From the air we breathe to the water we drink, pollution has pervaded every activity essential for human beings. With the current state of water pollution and climate-change-induced drought, the world may be heading towards a water crisis. Certain pockets of the world have already confronted severe water shortages, leading up to Day Zero. Day Zero refers to the “day when a city’s taps run completely dry, forcing people to stand in queues to collect their daily quota of water.” Several cities such as Cape Town in Africa and Chennai in India have been the closest victim of the crisis. Day Zero has been prominently occurring in multiple cities such as Cape Town and Chennai, India.

The first crisis

In 2018, South Africa’s Cape Town suffered from severe water shortages and received worldwide attention. It was at this point that Cape Town was heading towards Day Zero. The city has a high demand for water and inadequate supply which is the major cause of the water shortage.

The pertinent question as to how Cape Town tackled the water shortage is of utmost relevance. If there had been in action, 4 million inhabitants could have been left without water (Harding, 2021). One of the foremost and the most logical measures taken by the city was to ration water at 50 liters per person per day, with punitive tariffs for those who exceeded the rationed amount, which proved to be effective in keeping Day Zero at bay (Khan, 2019). The rationed quote of water was far less than the global average of 185 liters per day per person. Additionally, water consumption was also drastically reduced by 40 percent for agricultural activities. Collectively, these efforts helped the city overcome Day Zero.

As per predictions for January 2020, some rain has been recorded across Southern Africa which has filled up reservoirs. But, the forecast is for dry weather which does make several cities in the African subcontinent vulnerable to the water crisis making them face Day Zero. Some cities have even taken to cutting down trees – deforestation – so as to divert the water from these plants towards human consumption. Sadly, these are not effective long-term measures. The key issue to be targeted is the gap between the supply and demand of water. Second, the management of water within the city through effective policies and taking preventive action to conserve water.

Thus, Day Zero is any city’s worst nightmare. With climate change getting worse, it is important to raise more awareness about the situation. The city of Chennai is also in no better position to tackle water shortages.

Chennai’s crisis

It was not too long ago when Chennai invited Hollywood’s Oscar-winning actor Leonardo di Caprio’s attention owing to its water crisis. Di Caprio’s tweet, “’Only rain can save Chennai from this situation” (‘Only Rain Can Save Chennai From This Situation’: Leonardo DiCaprio, n.d.) in 2019 was probably the talk of the country back then until Covid-19 took over.

Chennai as a city has been confronted with water shortages ever since the colonial days and it has become more pronounced with climate change. Due to its geographical location, it is highly dependent on external support to procure water from neighboring states like Kerala and Karnataka. In 2019, the city officials on June 19th declared Day Zero when almost no water was left for the inhabitants. The primary cause of the water crisis was the shortage of rainfall during the preceding two monsoon seasons which was further made worse by the heat waves that summer. That very year Chennai witnessed good rainfall, but getting past the summer drought was an arduous task on the city’s part. The entire situation was further aggravated by the mismanagement on the government’s part.

Regardless of the area under consideration, water shortages are a concern worldwide and these two cases of Cape Town and Chennai are a lesson to be learned by cities. Day Zero is almost a reality for several countries owing to the present demand for water, climate change, pollution, and other allied environmental concerns.

References

Avoid another “Day Zero” water crisis by Saving Water. (2021, March 21). EarthFokus. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://earthfokus.com/blog/day-zero/

Harding, A. (2021, November 10). Cape Town’s Day Zero: ‘We are axing trees to save water’. BBC. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-59221823

Heggie, J. (n.d.). Day Zero: Where next? National Geographic. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/partner-content-south-africa-danger-of-running-out-of-water

Khan, A. (2019, January 17). Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’: Where Are We Now? China Water Risk. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.chinawaterrisk.org/opinions/cape-towns-day-zero-where-are-we-now/

‘Only rain can save Chennai from this situation’: Leonardo DiCaprio. (n.d.). Twitter. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://twitter.com/i/events/1144122363971330048?lang=en Sunder, K. (2021, January 6). How to stop another ‘Day Zero’. BBC. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210105-day-zero-how-chennais-wetlands-could-save-it-from-drought

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The Tragedy of Commons

The concept of Tragedy of Commons revolves around an individual’s motives to act according to benefit oneself without taking into account the interest of the whole community or society. The theory of Tragedy of Commons was first developed by the American ecologist, Garret Hardin who defined it as “a situation where shared environmental resources are overused and exploited, and eventually depleted, posing risks to everyone involved.” (Earth.org, 2020)

Background

The model developed by Hardin can be understood with the following example. Let us take a piece of land, a common good that every individual has access to. If the common resource, in this case, the land, is devoid of regulations to monitor the usage of the land by the people, then it will be exploited by one and all in the pursuit of short-term benefits in the short run. This action, in the long run, will result in the destruction of the resource (Boston University, n.d.). This is the basic idea of the tragedy of commons, wherein the common good faces destruction due to the over-exploitation by individuals which reflects on the society in a negative way.

The theory of commons may have its roots in the Classicists. The Classical Economics believed that if every individual worked in the self-interest of his own well-being, then collectively the society would be benefited. The tragedy of commons is a model, which defies the ideology of the Classical Economists.

The theory is well-established in the field of environmental Economics and Science and lays out a strong foundation for the most-pivotal concern of the 21st century – Climate Change. If you would take a country, every country acts in its own self-interest to have a strong economy, thriving industry, and the cheapest energy possible. But, chasing the goal with a parochial outlook results in a disastrous result for the only planet we know life exists. It is indeed crucial to understand the importance of an international community collaborating to solve burning issues like Climate Change.

According to Ashurian, a research scientist, “issues of global climate change have to do with the people that are in charge of different countries, the decisions that they make and the moral outlooks of people. Philosophy is just the understanding of the ethical viewpoint, and political science is about looking at this modern issue from an international and political standpoint.”, thus emphasizing the need to combine the knowledge of philosophy and political economy to make sense of the environment and our world.

The Tragedy of Commons is typically individuals acting in their self-interest without collectively looking at the resource and population as a whole. The COVID-19 pandemic is in itself a suitable example of the tragedy of commons. During the initial days of the health crisis, people were scared to step out of the comfort of home as they were suspicious of everyone. Although this was the scenario on one hand, parallelly, the pandemic was also the time when individuals started stocking up on essentials. Every person thought that everybody will stock and possibly tried to solve the problem by overstocking. People thought logically, from an individualistic point of view, rather than collectively. Hence, the relevance to the tragedy of commons. Individuals took their own benefit into account at the cost of consumption in society.

Chennai’s groundwater

As mentioned earlier, the primary cause of the tragedy of commons is the lack of clear property rights over the resource. The tragedy of commons can also be understood with an example of Chennai’s groundwater resource. A person owning a piece of land in Chennai, claims ownership over the groundwater below that piece of land. Though ownership over the groundwater is not legally established, he/she digs a bore and consumes the groundwater on the assumption that he/she has a right over the water flowing below the land he/she owns. The primary reason why such a scenario occurs is due to the fact that the property rights over a public good/ common pool resource like that groundwater are not clearly defined. As a result, every individual goes on consuming without paying any cost for it, as the good is non-excludable. Ultimately as every individual keeps consuming for his/her benefit, it leads to the depletion of the groundwater resource and the entire society suffers.

Tackling the issue of Tragedy of Commons

The possible solutions to counter the issue of the tragedy of commons include the enforcement of laws and regulations that give property rights to private individuals in such a way that the private parties take ownership of the environmental resource. Secondly, legal institutions should be strengthened in order to ensure that anybody exploiting an environmental resource (in the present case, illegal construction of borewells in Chennai) without prior approval from the Government, or the respective regulatory authority faces legal sanctions in terms of penalty or imprisonment.

 References:

A Look at Undergraduate Research: Tragedy of the Commons & Climate Change. (n.d.) Boston University of General Studies. https://www.bu.edu/cgs/2017/04/05/a-look-at-undergraduate-research-tragedy-of-the-commons-climate-change/

Anukwonke, C. (2015). The Concept of Tragedy of the Commons: Issues and Applications.

ResearchGate. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4977.9362 What is ‘Tragedy of the Commons’? (25th August 2020). Earth.org. https://earth.org/what-is-tragedy-of-the-commons

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The Montreal Protocol

Depletion of the ozone layer began in the 1960s and there was an immediate need to draw the world’s attention to it. Some of the primary warnings on the threats to the ozone layer came from the Nobel laureates Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina in 1974 in their publication “Stratospheric sink for chlorofluoromethanes: chlorine atom catalyzed destruction of ozone” (Rowland & Molina, 1974). Post their findings, there was a universal cry to bring forth legislation to regulate the usage of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS). Emanating in this backdrop was one of the earliest global conventions on environmental protection – the Montreal Protocol (1987).

The Montreal Protocol falls under the ambit of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, 1985 (Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer – DAWE, 2021). The Vienna Convention initiated the academic discussions and scientific discoveries in the province of human activities and their impact on the stratosphere. Ensuing the Convention, the Protocol came into force.

Purpose

The Montreal Protocol, the only treaty to have been ratified by all the 198 United Nations member countries, is an environmental global treaty that aims toward the gradual elimination of substances that lead to the depletion of the ozone layer (About Montreal Protocol, n.d.). The ozone (O3) is the atmospheric layer that protects the Earth and the life on it from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Many chemical substances including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) have the potential to break down the ozone layer.

Essentially, these ODS were largely used in the manufacturing of refrigerators, foams, and aerosol sprays, and the supply chain was congested with them in the 1950s and 60s (History of the Ozone Layer, n.d.). To offset this growth and break the chain of causation in the damage to the ozone layer, the Montreal Protocol came into existence and identified close to 100 such man-made ODS. Under the treaty, each member was bestowed with a specific duty with the goal of phasing out the usage of ODS.

Historical Significance

One of the first nations to identify the threat to the ozone layer was the United States of America who was largely influenced by Rowland and Molina’s study (International Regime Formation: The Politics of Ozone Layer Depletion and Global Warming – LSE Theses Online, n.d.). While the European countries were still working on the uncertainties that revolved around the ozone layer and the impact of CFCs on them, the US had already begun ozone protection policy regulations. Likewise, the Japanese joined the negotiations only in 1986 because certain compounds of CFCs were used in the electronic industry, a vital source of income for the Japanese economy.

In 1977, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) addressed the first international meeting on ODS in Washington DC.  Subsequently, the US industry started working towards alternatives for CFCs and initiated several restrictions, especially the aerosol ban. The ban alone cost the US economy over USD 3 billion.

In light of this, more studies were being conducted across the world. In 1986, there was a report submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency of the US highlighted the prevalence of skin cancer among people due to the use of consumer products made of CFCs. Several companies were afraid that lawsuits would be filed against them on the grounds that their products caused lung and skin care diseases. This also persuaded the American industries to look for alternatives. Additionally, scientist Susan Solomon’s expeditions in Antarctica reiterated the threats of ODS in 1986 and ‘87 (Waxman, 2019). Thus, the push from the US played a major role in executing the Montreal Protocol.

Citizen Activism

Both prior to and post the Montreal Protocol, citizen activism played an active role in environmental policy-making (Cook, 1990). Consumers of the day as a mark of protest, even before the government introduced the ban, had boycotted the spray cans.

April 22, 1970, marks the day when millions of US citizens demonstrated on the streets to voice out against corporations and organizations that harmed the Earth. It was a milestone in the drive toward environmental protection which led to the enactment of the Clean Air Act, of 1970 in the US. Similarly, when the US decided to build supersonic transport planes (SSTs) during the same period, environmentalists refused to fund the project for the sole reason that SSTs flown into the stratosphere can damage the ozone layer. These actions culminated and reflected the mission of the Montreal Protocol.

Targets and Funding

The targets set by the Protocol are of several stages (Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer – DAWE, 2021) . The first target was to get rid of CFCs. The developing countries achieved it by 1995 while the developing countries by 2010. Every year, the members met and set their goals towards gradually phasing out a particular percentage of ODS from the system. One of the ongoing targets among developed and developing countries includes the phasing out of hydrofluorocarbons (HCFs) by 2036 and 2045, respectively. Thus all countries, both developing and developed, have equal and diversified commitments which are “binding, time-targeted and measurable” in nature (About Montreal Protocol, n.d.).

To smoothen the transition towards an ozone-friendly production and consumption methods, in 1991 the Protocol established a Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol to provide technical and monetary aid to developing countries. Ever since it came into being, it has funded over USD 3.9 billion in more than 8,600 projects across the world (About Montreal Protocol, n.d.).

The way-forward

The success of the Montreal Protocol is evident from its long-standing impact in the field of environmental protection. It has lived through three decades and it continues in its purpose with the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030. Not only has it paved the way for the protection of the ozone layer, but the Protocol has also indirectly helped in fighting global warming and climate crisis (Velders et al., 2007).

With the Protocol, it is expected that the ozone layer will replenish by the middle of the 21st century. The coronavirus pandemic has also catalyzed the process. With the lockdown across the world, man-made emissions into the atmosphere were halted, including ODS. Consequently, a small hole spotted in the ozone above Antarctica in 1982 closed last year (Coronavirus Lockdown Helped the Environment to Bounce Back, 2020). These developments are proof that the Montreal Protocol is a commendable environmental initiative for a sustainable future.

References

(n.d.). Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from http://www.multilateralfund.org/default.aspx

About Montreal Protocol. (n.d.). UNEP. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://www.unep.org/ozonaction/who-we-are/about-montreal-protocol

Cook, E. (1990, October). Global Environmental Advocacy: Citizen Activism in Protecting the Ozone Layer. Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4313729?origin=JSTOR-pdf

Coronavirus lockdown helped the environment to bounce back. (2020, June 29). NCBI. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7323667/

History of the Ozone Layer. (n.d.). Ozone Layer History. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://www.albany.edu/faculty/rgk/atm101/o3histor.htm

International regime formation: the politics of ozone layer depletion and global warming – LSE Theses Online. (n.d.). LSE Theses Online. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/122/

Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer – DAWE. (2021, October 3). Agriculture.gov.au. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/ozone/montreal-protocol

NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory – Halocarbons and other Atmospheric Trace Species. (n.d.). NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory – Halocarbons and other Atmospheric Trace Species. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://gml.noaa.gov/hats/publictn/elkins/cfcs.html

Rowland, S., & Molina, M. (1974, June 28). Stratospheric sink for chlorofluoromethanes: chlorine atom catalysed destruction of ozone. 1974 Nature Publishing Group. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://websites.pmc.ucsc.edu/~pkoch/EART_206/09-0312/Molina%20&%20Rowland%2074%20Nature%20249-810.pdf

Velders, G. J. M., Andersen, S. O., Daniel, J. S., Fahey, D. W., & McFarland, M. (2007). The importance of the Montreal Protocol in protecting climate. Retrieved 2022, from https://www.pnas.org/doi/pdf/10.1073/pnas.0610328104 Waxman, O. B. (2019, September 23). In the 1980s, the World Acted to Save the Ozone Layer. Here’s Why the Fight Against Climate Change Is Different. TIME. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://time.com/5681661/climate-change-ozone-history/

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Principle of Preventive Action

Among the several principles of environmental studies, preventive action is an important principle that focuses on the oft-quotes proverb, “Prevention is better than cure.”

Historical significance

The approach to Preventive Action can be traced back to the London Convention, named ‘Convention Relative to the Preservation of Fauna and Flora in their Natural State’, of the year 1933 (Convention Relative to the Preservation of Fauna and Flora in Their Natural State, n.d.). This multilateral treaty was signed by 11 countries, including the United Kingdom, Belgium, South Africa, Italy, and India, among others. The basic aim of the treaty was to preserve the natural fauna and flora from exploitation and extinction across various parts of the world, particularly Africa.  This was to be achieved through the establishment of National Parks and Natural Reserves, and by regulating hunting practices and collection of species for commercial purposes. All these activities point toward a Preventive Approach as flora and fauna protection is beginning early and is aimed to mitigate future concerns of extinction and irreversible damage.

Preventive Action in Conventions

The Principle of Prevention laid the foundation for the “Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal” (1989) which addressed the issue of hazardous waste and its disposal (Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, n.d.). The discharge of toxic substances into the environment needs to be reduced to an environmentally sound level, to prevent serious or irreversible damage to the ecosystem. The Convention suggests that action should be taken at an early stage before any actual harm has ensued rather than waiting to restore the damaged resources. This principle plays an important role in “laws regarding generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste and laws regulating the use of pesticides.” Additionally, the concept of Transboundary Effects was also introduced to the Principle of Prevention via the Basel Convention; this concept states that a state may be under the obligation to prevent damage within its own jurisdiction’ (General Principles Of International Environmental Law, n.d.).

Preventive Action also featured in The Stockholm Declaration on Environment (1972) where

Principle 6 and 7 of the Declaration address the actions to be undertaken by the citizens and the state towards halting the dumping of harmful substances and also necessary steps to be adopted to reduce the pollution levels (More, 2019).

The Indian context

As far as India is concerned, the Preventive Action principle has been adopted in many contexts. One such scenario is the case of Ajeet Mehta v State of Rajasthan (Mathur, n.d.). In this case, the defendant lived in a residential part of Rajasthan and was involved in the provender business. Due to his employment, he was responsible for creating pollution from the transportation and stoking of his fodder. A petition was filed against the defendant on the grounds that the inhalation of dry and burnt fodder particles was a hazard to the health of the residents living in the surrounding area. The City Magistrate acknowledged the same and ordered the defendant to stop stoking fodder and the business to be shut down. In response, the defendant filed a revision petition before the Sessions Court and the Additional Sessions Judge reversed the order thus ruling in favor of the Defendants. Thereafter another revision petition was the complainant’s wife and that judgment was in favor of the complainant. Followingly, the High Court of Rajasthan also ruled against the defendant, showing how the principle of preventive action was upheld by the state in order to prevent more damage.

In essence, preventive action as a principle lays down an important foundational pillar to the study of the environment and its conservation. It has the potential to catalyze the fight against the climate crisis as it is primarily based on the idea of acting before the damage is caused. Preventive action is crucial in addressing environmental concerns, as it wholly is intended to prevent risks of acts that may have an impact on the environment, rather than reacting after the environmentally unfriendly act has been done.

References

Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. (n.d.). ECOLEX. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.ecolex.org/details/treaty/basel-convention-on-the-control-of-transboundary-movements-of-hazardous-wastes-and-their-disposal-tre-001003/?q=Basel+Convention+on+the+Control+of+Transboundary+Movements+of+Hazardous+Wastes+and+their+Disposal

Convention Relative to the Preservation of Fauna and Flora in their Natural State. (n.d.). ECOLEX. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.ecolex.org/details/treaty/convention-relative-to-the-preservation-of-fauna-and-flora-in-their-natural-state-tre-000069/

General Principles Of International Environmental Law. (n.d.). NSUWorks. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://nsuworks.nova.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1069&context=ilsajournal

Mathur, A. (n.d.). Smt. Ajeet Mehta And Ors. vs State Of Rajasthan And Ors. on 9 May, 1989. Indian Kanoon. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1423131/ More, H. (2019, April 9). 26 Principles of Stockholm Declaration on Environment Protection. The Fact Factor. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://thefactfactor.com/facts/law/civil_law/environmental_laws/stockholm-declaration/871/

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Tobacco is killing us and the planet

As of 31st May 2022, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised concern over the impact of the Tobacco Industry on the environment and human health. Annually, “the tobacco industry costs the world more than 8 million human lives, 600 million trees, 200 000 hectares of land, 22 billion tonnes of water, and 84 million tonnes of CO2 (WHO Raises Alarm on Tobacco Industry Environmental Impact, 2022).” They have raised an alarm calling out for the industry to become more environmentally conscious. In this light, it makes it necessary to bring attention to this industry and the issues emanating from the operation of the industry.

Environmental impacts of the tobacco industry

Most of the tobacco units are set up in developing countries and the industry is highly carbon-intensive. Many forest areas are cut down to provide space for tobacco harvesting which inevitably impacts the environment. Approximately, 200,000 hectares of land are cleared for tobacco agriculture which is equivalent to almost half the entire land area of Cabo Verde, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. 

Most of these tobacco plants are deadly in the sense that it harms the domestic indigenous biodiversity of a region. Secondly, the entire industry, both production, and consumption of tobacco emit large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere amounting to 80 million tonnes per year.

Thirdly, tobacco agriculture is also highly dependent on water. According to the WHO, a single cigarette consumes close to 3.7 liters of water during its entire life cycle from growing to disposal after usage (Tobacco: Poisoning Our Planet, 2022). Roughly, every year 22 billion tonnes of water are used globally for the production of tobacco. Sadly, as mentioned earlier, since most of these tobacco units are set up in developing countries, it is these countries that are the most vulnerable. With the global targets of climate change, these countries are under the burden of meeting the climate targets with limited resources and maximum vulnerability.

Tobacco’s negative externalities

Tobacco as an industry has several environmental hazards that can also affect human health. At the outset, tobacco whether it is smoked or smokeless can cause cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, diabetes, hypertension and other allied health issues. But, the larger issue with tobacco is that it also affects passive smokers who may constitute a good number of the population. These are also called negative consumption externalities in economics. These externalities arise when the consumption of good results in the social cost outweighing the private benefit. Consumption of a cigarette causes damage to the environment and also to passive smokers, which collectively constitute the societal impact. These social costs outweigh the benefits procured from the industry in terms of economic profits. Tobacco may generate good income for private parties, but in the long run, it will completely destroy the environment and the society within it.

However, despite their negative impact on the environment and human health, tobacco companies engage in greenwashing tactics to put out to the world they are eco-friendly.

Greenwashing strategies

Tobacco companies engage in greenwashing tactics to cover up the detrimental effects of tobacco on the environment and human health by the usage of words like “organic” and “natural” in advertisements which misleads smokers and the general public that these are relatively harmless. ‘Greenwashing’ in simple words refers to the advertising strategy adopted by industries and organizations and companies to better market their goods as environmentally friendly, by diverting the public’s attention from their environmentally damaging acts.

These tobacco companies often as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fund schools, health systems, environmental and disaster relief organizations, and clean-up programs for tobacco product waste. The irony is, that it is these very tobacco companies that are one of the root causes for issues faced in these institutions and other environmental concerns arising from it. They are part of both the problem and the solution which inevitably nullifies the efforts taken toward resolving the issue.

In this backdrop, it is an alarm raised by the WHO towards targeting this tobacco industry in the larger public interest and for the world to hasten the process of climate mitigation by cutting down on carbon footprints, concerning water, and overall building a more sustainable world for the future.

References

Leppan, W., Lecours, N., & Buckles, D. (n.d.). Greenwashing – TobaccoTactics. Tobacco Tactics. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://tobaccotactics.org/wiki/greenwashing/

Negative Externalities – Overview, Types, and Remedies. (n.d.). Corporate Finance Institute. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/knowledge/economics/negative-externalities/

Tobacco: poisoning our planet. (2022, May 30). WHO | World Health Organization. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240051287 WHO raises alarm on tobacco industry environmental impact. (2022, May 30). WHO | World Health Organization. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from https://www.who.int/news/item/31-05-2022-who-raises-alarm-on-tobacco-industry-environmental-impact

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The Global Menace of E-waste: A General Overview

Annual e-waste production is estimated to exceed 74,000,000 tonnes in 2030 and is expected to weigh more than 203 Empire State buildings (Graham, 2020). It is alarming and there is a dire need to address the global menace of e-waste in light of the growing advancements in the field of science and technology.

What is e-waste?

E-waste includes the waste materials from any product with a power source such as a cable or battery which has reached its end of life. According to the International Labour Organisation’s report of 2012 (The Global Impact of E-Waste: Addressing the Challenge, n.d.), it was recorded as the largest growing waste stream that is harmful to the planet as well as those who call it home.

Eventhough there is not a standard definition for the term e-waste, the well-established one is “electrical or electronic equipment, which is waste … including all components, subassemblies, and consumables, which are part of the product at the time of discarding” (The Global Impact of E-Waste: Addressing the Challenge, n.d.) given by the European Commission. The lack of a universal definition leads to challenges around quantification, identification, and categorization of waste under electronic waste. This raises the need for a common definition at the international level. Nevertheless, e-waste in its ordinary sense needs attention in terms of management with the exponential rate of growth in the electrical and technical industry in the past few decades.

Problem statement

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) or e-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). E-waste is made up of more than 1000 diverse materials of which some are hazardous and others non-hazardous. Materials like plastic, glass, wood, circuit boards, and rubber among others are used in building an electronic product, of which 50 percent is made of iron and steel, 21 percent from plastic, and 13 percent from other non-ferrous materials (copper, gold, palladium, tantalum, etc.) (ELWASTE VOLUME I, n.d.). These are extremely toxic and can impact both human health and the environment if improper management and recycling of e-waste are adopted. However, recycling is a profitable business and there are trade associations that work in the industry to recycle e-waste.

E-waste generated is often traded to developing countries as they are easy and cheap to recycle (Electronic Waste Facts, n.d.). Unfortunately, they are not recycled due to lack of infrastructure, financial constraints, and ineffective anti-dumping policies. They either end up in landfills or are burnt down which degrade the quality of the soil and the ecology. 

The world over

China is the largest producer of e-waste worldwide with over 10,000 metric tonnes followed by countries including the United States, India, Japan, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and France (Tiseo, 2021). However, countries like China and India have a huge population and the per-capita generation is not as worrisome as the rest (Which Countries Produce the Most E-Waste? 2018). The per capita generation of e-waste is the highest in Europe with 16 kilograms per person while Africa has the lowest with 1.7 kilograms per person (Electronic Waste Facts, n.d.). With the expected increase in population, the distribution of e-waste will only increase further.

Regardless of the per-capita production of e-waste, safe recycling of e-waste is imperative to protect the environment and those dependent on the natural environment. As mentioned earlier, e-waste is a global problem and there is a strong linkage between the developed and developing worlds. According to the ILO, the transboundary mobilization of e-waste places the burden on developing countries with a lack of infrastructure to recycle the waste. This is primarily due to the cost of recycling being cheaper in developing countries. Meanwhile, the developed countries use the opportunity to avoid disposal responsibilities on the domestic front. This further raises the issue of equity and questions the disproportionate burden placed on developing countries to recycle as against each country taking account of their production of e-waste and the subsequent management of the same.

The United Nation’s Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste was one of the significant international initiatives to protect human health and the environment from the production, transboundary movement, and management of hazardous and toxic waste (Electronic Waste: A Growing Concern in Today’s Environment, n.d.). In addition, several national legislations also aim to address the same, the most well-known being the European Union’s directive on the use of certain substances in electrical equipment (RoHS) (Electronic Waste: A Growing Concern in Today’s Environment, n.d.), which provides the guidelines on the management of a few chemical substances used in the electrical devices. Despite these regulations, the supply chain does not fully come under the purview of the legislation and there is still a high flow of e-waste from countries like the US, Canada, Europe, Japan, and Korea to developing countries such as China, India, Pakistan, and several African countries.

Figure 1 gives a brief illustrative framework that countries can adopt to address the recycling of e-waste (Electronic Waste: A Growing Concern in Today’s Environment, n.d.).

Source: M. Khurrum S. Bhutta et. al. (2011)

References

Bhutta, M. S., Omar, A., & Yang, X. (2011). Electronic Waste: A Growing Concern in Today’s Environment. Economics Research International. https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/474230

Electronic Waste: A Growing Concern in Today’s Environment. (n.d.). Hindawi. Retrieved June 1, 2022, from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecri/2011/474230/

Electronic Waste Facts. (n.d.). The World Counts. Retrieved June 1, 2022, from https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/planet-earth/waste/electronic-waste-facts/story

ELWASTE VOLUME I. (n.d.). greene.gov.in. Retrieved June 1, 2022, from https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/7857/EWasteManual_Vol1.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y

The global impact of e-waste: addressing the challenge. (n.d.). Green Jobs. Retrieved June 1, 2022, from https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_dialogue/@sector/documents/publication/wcms_196105.pdf

Graham, E. (2020, September 29). 10 Shocking facts from The Global E-waste Monitor – S2S News. S2S Electronics. Retrieved June 1, 2022, from https://s2s.uk.com/news/10-shocking-facts-from-the-global-e-waste-monitor/

Tiseo, I. (2021, March 4). • E-waste generation globally by key country 2019. Statista. Retrieved June 1, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/499952/ewaste-generation-worldwide-by-major-country/ Which Countries Produce the Most E-Waste? (2018, June 25). Envirotech Online. Retrieved June 1, 2022, from https://www.envirotech-online.com/news/health-and-safety/10/breaking-news/which-countries-produce-the-most-e-waste/46470

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Climate Finances – A brief overview

In order to meet the global targets of climate change and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, every member nation requires funds in order to meet the objectives. These funds allocated towards climate change mitigation are called climate finances.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defined climate finances as those “local, national or transnational financing—drawn from public, private and alternative sources of financing—that seeks to support mitigation and adaptation actions that will address climate change.” (Introduction to Climate Finance, n.d.)

The rationale for climate financing

The primary raison d’etre for climate change financing is that large investments are required in order to reduce global carbon emissions. There are some countries that are economically sound while others that are not so financially sound. However, regardless of financial stability, every country is required to meet the global climate targets of the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. This makes it necessary even for the poor countries to make efforts toward climate change mitigation. In order to bridge the economic inequalities between countries, the developed and developing world come together towards equitable reallocation of funds to make investments for climate change mitigation. These funds can be towards developing environmentally sound technologies, initiating policies in countries that address climate change, or even building resilience against climate change.

Green Climate Fund

In order to engage in climate financing at the global level, Green Climate Fund was founded under the aegis of the UNFCCC in 2010. It is a platform established by 194 governments that aim to respond to climate change by investing in low-emission and climate-resilient development. The funds raised by the GCF target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries by seeking economic aid from developing countries. These funds would not only address the larger goal of climate change but also help in supporting vulnerable and marginalized communities from the impact of climate change.

Commitments made by the developed countries

The industrialized parts of the world have made several commitments toward climate finances. At the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference of 2009, the industrialized countries had committed to mobilizing as of 2020 an additional annual 100 billion US dollars from public and private sources for climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. Similarly at the Paris Conference which led to the Paris Agreement of 2015, developed countries promised to continue to provide 100 billion US dollars per annum until 2025 which has increased further in the recent past owing to the urgency of the climate crisis.

References

(n.d.). Green Climate Fund (GCF). Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://www.greenclimate.fund/

Climate finance: Germany remains a reliable partner. (n.d.). Climate finance | BMZ. Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://www.bmz.de/en/development-policy/climate-change-and-development/climate-financing Introduction to Climate Finance. (n.d.). UNFCCC. Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://unfccc.int/topics/climate-finance/the-big-picture/introduction-to-climate-finance

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What Ghazipur’s Trash-Mountain can Learn from Brazil’s Estructural Dump?

Brazil and India may have their differences, but they are surely similar on one point. While Brazil’s capital had the Estructural dump, India’s capital is home to the Ghazipur trash mountain.

With an increase in population and urbanization, the amount of garbage has also increased over the years across the world. The problem of garbage dumping has risen owing to the lack of infrastructure to meet the disposal needs in comparison to the rate of consumption. In other words, the rate of consumption and waste generation is much higher than the rate of disposal. This slowly paves the way for dumping grounds and trash mountains, the most unpleasant and gloomy sight to watch. It is from such a background that the Ghazipur trash mountain and Brasilia’s Estructural dump came into existence. Of the two, one has been closed and the other continues to grow. It is in light of the same that we need to understand how the story of one dump can help the other to make the environment a better place to live in.

The Estructural dump

The place was known for processing close to 1000 tonnes of garbage per day (BBC, 2018) and was considered the largest dumping site in Latin America. After over 60 years of providing a space for garbage accumulation, it was closed in 2018 by the Government of Brazil with the help of local scavengers.

The entire dump was to be transferred to a new landfill so as to close the open wound of the country. The local government’s idea was to employ local pickers at new centers in warehouses where the accumulated garbage can be segregated for recycling. The initiative primarily sought to provide monetary compensation to all the scavengers who worked in the zone in cleaning up the mess in better working conditions. Though the scavengers of the region were not too happy about the move, considering relocation of the dump would reduce their earnings from scavenging on the garbage, it eventually happened. The entire process provided a source of livelihood for the scavengers in achieving a goal that brings overall benefits to society. By the fag end of the clean-up, many of the scavengers were even given government jobs which unfortunately had generated lesser income for them compared to the scavenging (Boadle, 2018). This move was again not welcomed by the scavengers.

Figure 1: The Estructural dump at Brasilia, Brazil

Source: (BBC, 2018)

Despite criticism faced by the local communities, this is a commendable initiative by the Government toward addressing environmental issues. With Brazil known for its Amazon forest and destruction of the same, this is a laudable effort. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that countries should also respect and take into account the concerns of the public. Brasilia is one example where a policy initiative brought a good result alongside making a few members of the community unhappy. For the reason that members are unhappy, it should not be the sole ground for not taking action toward environmental conservation and protection. In fact, after the closure of the dumping ground, the country has also taken initiatives toward sustainable waste management, making it a role model for other cities to adopt their strategies (Kopsch, 2019). 

India is no exception in taking inspiration from Brazil in clearing dumps, especially the one growing in the heart of the city of Delhi, the Ghazipur trash mountain.

Ghazipur trash-mountain

The Ghazipur center was opened for garbage collection in 1984 and ever since then it has only grown and is probably now as high as the Taj Mahal in Agra. It is called a mountain for it resembles one to a large extent. No tourist can be blamed if they happen to go back to their hometowns and tell their friends and family about the presence of a mountain in a place like Delhi.

It reached its full capacity in 2002 and it ought to have been closed then. Sadly, it has been two decades since then. In addition to the air pollution that looms over the city, the garbage mountain has bestowed Delhi with the title, ‘one of the most polluted capitals’. The garbage produces large amounts of methane and has caught fire on many occasions, the most recent being the three fires that broke out in a month from March to April 2022.

Figure 2: Ghazipur trash mountain on fire

Source: (Dhar, 2022)

One thing Ghazipur can learn from Brazil is to take environmental action to protect and conserve the biodiversity of the planet and the natural resources. There are going to be groups of communities dependent on the trash mountain for their livelihoods. But that cannot be a ground to not clear the dump. Just like how trash accumulated over 60-odd years was cleared in Brazil by involving local residents, the same has to be implemented in Delhi using the support of the government and the public. The cleaning efforts can happen in a phased manner. The efforts should also ensure the locals are provided an alternative source of livelihood with sufficient monetary compensation. With these initiatives, environmental concerns of waste dumping among others can be tackled paving the way for a cleaner and greener Delhi.

References

BBC. (2018, January 20). Huge Brazil rubbish dump closes after six decades. BBC. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-42757085

Boadle, A. (2018, January 19). Brasilia closes Latin America’s largest rubbish dump. Reuters. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-dump-idUSKBN1F82VI

Dhar, A. (2022, April 20). Another major fire breaks out at Delhi’s Ghazipur dumping yard; eight fire tenders at spot. Hindustan Times. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/delhi-news/another-major-fire-breaks-out-at-delhi-s-ghazipur-dumping-yard-eight-fire-tenders-at-spot-101650458592565.html

France-Presse, A. (2019, June 4). Garbage mountain at Delhi’s Ghazipur landfill to rise higher than Taj Mahal by 2020. Hindustan Times. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/garbage-mountain-at-delhi-s-ghazipur-landfill-to-rise-higher-than-taj-mahal-by-2020/story-RC0kwZdUmdHHfDs3rJGngI.html

Kopsch, B. (2019, November 13). Cleaning up Brazil′s waste management | Global Ideas. DW. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.dw.com/en/cleaning-up-brazils-waste-management/a-51136452

Reeves, P. (2018, January 20). As A Massive Garbage Dump Closes In Brazil, Trash-Pickers Face An Uncertain Future. NPR. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2018/01/20/579105943/as-a-massive-garbage-dump-closes-in-brazil-trash-pickers-face-an-uncertain-futur

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Pallavaram’s Open Dump Cannot Become the Next Trash Mountain

While on one hand, Chennai Corporation has collected an estimated amount of INR 24 lakh from the imposition of penalty on open garbage dumping (The Hindu, 2021), the same entity is ironically a contributor to a growing garbage mound in Pallavaram. This is of serious concern. Chennai has been confronted with the problem of waste management for decades now. Despite initiatives of the Corporation like open dumping penalty and collaborative efforts by tying up with Spanish company Urbaser Sumeet to better manage solid waste, the problem of accumulation of garbage and an overall reduction in waste has not been addressed. Starting with Pallavaram, the pertinent questions are what is the situation in Pallavaram, how did it come to grow as an open dump, and what are steps to be undertaken to clean the same.

The roadblock

Close to 150 metric tonnes of garbage per day is reported to have been dumped along the Pallavaram-Thoraipakkam radial road (MD, 2022). This is how sadly a trash mountain comes into existence. It is even sadder to know that the trash mountain is growing in the middle of a road in an urbanized center that commuters use day in and day out.

It has to be noted that this is not the first time Pallavaram is confronted with this issue. A couple of years ago, garbage was dumped daily on the Thoraipakkam-Pallavaram radial road. This garbage dumped daily on the radial road was shifted to the Vengadamangalam dump yard every week. However, owing to protests from the local residents, it was closed and consequently, garbage began to accumulate on the radial road. The Vengadamangalam dump was closed in the direction of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). In light of the same, the District Collector of Chengalpattu (though Pallavaram now comes under Tambaram jurisdiction) ordered for the garbage to be relocated from the Pallavaram-Thoraipakkam road to Aapur on a daily basis. This initiative, it provided a decent model for waste management whereby the waste is at least not dumped on the road causing a roadblock.

It is unfortunate that the same mistake has repeated itself with the recent dumping at the radial road. It is a breeding ground for diseases and health hazards alongside making the entire environment look unpleasant.

Figure 1 captures the growing garbage mound at Pallavaram. The waste dumped in the region comes largely from the nearby interior locations of Pallavaram and Pallikarnai.

Figure 1: Garbage mound at Pallavaram

Source: Times of India (MD, 2022)

Infrastructural challenges

One of the biggest challenges Pallavaram faces is the lack of infrastructure to segregate garbage and manage the waste. This was the reason why initially the garbage had to be sent to the Vengadamangalam dump. Even though there were promises made to set up incinerators in Pallavaram to manage the waste efficiently, it has not yet come into operation. As of May 2022, according to news reports, activists have voiced that neither segregation is carried out by the Greater Chennai Corporation nor there is sufficient manpower and infrastructure to carry out the same in Pallavaram. These challenges further aggravate the situation in Pallavaram.

What can be done?

Firstly, there must be efforts taken by the State Government to ensure no local district corporations fail in their duty to keep the city clean while discharging their daily functions. Like how penalties are imposed on the residents and local public for dumping garbage in the open, the same must be done at the district level against local authorities in order to bring accountability and transparency to the entire system. Thirdly, the urban local bodies must be entrusted with the task of finding regions to safely discard and dispose of waste. One of the primary root causes of the creation of waste mounds is poor city planning. If cities are well-planned, then the allocation of land resources and other natural resources would be well-distributed. Further, more investments should flow into solid waste management technology. Lastly and most importantly, every person should work towards reducing waste. The state must bring awareness about solid waste management among the public and set targets for reducing the per capita waste generated in the State. From these initiatives, not only will Pallavaram become clean, but the entire State.

References

AHMED, M. (2021, April 28). Pallavaram-Thoraipakkam road dump yard closed for good || Pallavaram-Thoraipakkam road dump yard closed for good. dtnext. Retrieved May 22, 2022, from https://www.dtnext.in/city/2021/04/28/pallavaramthoraipakkam-road-dump-yard-closed-for-good

Chennai Corporation imposes Rs 13.85 lakh fine on those dumping garbage in open | Chennai News – Times of India. (2022, May 6). Times of India. Retrieved May 22, 2022, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/chennai-corporation-imposes-rs-13-85-lakh-fine-on-those-dumping-garbage-in-open/articleshow/91376951.cms

The Hindu. (2021, October 27). Chennai Corporation collects ₹26.4 lakh in fines for dumping of garbage, debris in public. The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chennai-corporation-collects-264-lakh-in-fines-for-dumping-of-garbage-debris-in-public/article37185941.ece MD, O. (2022, May 3). pallavaram: ‘garbage On Pallavaram Radial Road A Health Risk’ | Chennai News – Times of India. Times of India. Retrieved May 22, 2022, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/garbage-on-pallavaram-radial-road-a-health-risk/articleshow/91272680.cms

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Impact of Heatwaves in India on Bird Mortality

Climate change has made heat waves a normal event and a household conversation. But, the impact is not just on human health. It has dehydrated and exhausted birds too (Clarke, 2022). In India temperatures across the country have reached close to 49 degrees causing heatwaves in several cities. It has been reported that bird mortality has been on the rise with birds coming down with heat strokes (Carleton, 2022).

Heatwaves and impact on biodiversity

Heatwaves are essentially unusually high temperatures outside of the usual temperature range that last for a few days over a particular region. They are primarily caused by the movement of high atmospheric pressure into an area and winds are almost non-existent making the environment hot. These heat waves have the potential to be fatal to human health as they can dehydrate and change the potassium-sodium ratio of the body, confusing the nervous system and leading to even a stroke (Explained: What Are Heatwaves & How Do They Occur? 2022).

Several reports reveal that the temperatures in India have already risen by 0.7 degrees celsius which is expected to further increase four-fold by 2100. If the temperature continues to rise causing heatwaves in the country, then several regions which are global biodiversity hotspots with numerous endemic species of plants and animals would face a rapid unusual pace of evolutionary adaptability which may threaten their very existence (Aggarwal, 2020).

The impact on biodiversity is thus inevitable in a region. Heatwaves affect the biodiversity of a region. As far as marine life is concerned, warmer waters can change their food habits, and lifestyle and affect the competition that exists between invasive and native species of fish and underwater plants. Furthermore, extreme heat can also cause psychological stress affecting the growth patterns of plants (Macinnis, 2022).

Bird mortality in India

The impact of heatwaves on birds has been on the rise in the northern part of the country in cities like Ahmedabad and Gurgaon. In Gurgaon, hospitals reported an increase of 50 percent in the number of bird patients to the hospital tracing the illness to the heat. In Gujarat, dehydrated and exhausted birds were reported to have fallen from the sky inviting treatment from animal hospitals across the state. Rescuers recorded a ten percent increase in the number of birds rescued amidst the heatwave (Clarke, 2022). The heatwaves have specifically affected the high-flying birds like kites and pigeons. Health officials across the state have advised hospitals to set up wards to particularly treat heat strokes and other illnesses caused due to heat waves both for animals and humans.

Way forward

One of the foremost solutions to tackle the heat is obviously to address the primary challenge of climate change. However, this is a long-term solution. Some of the ways to protect these birds from becoming victims to the heatwave are to keep water on the terrace and veranda for birds to rest and drink water to keep themselves hydrated. Secondly, lesser consumption of air coolers and conditioners can also prevent the heat generated from the appliances from aggravating the heat which inevitably affects the birds. Thirdly, as mentioned earlier, hospitals should be equipped with all the wherewithal needed in order to treat these birds affected by the heat, requiring treatment.

References

Aggarwal, M. (2020, June 23). India’s heatwaves will intensify four-fold by 2100, says its first climate assessment report. Scroll.in. Retrieved May 20, 2022, from https://scroll.in/article/965275/indias-heatwaves-will-intensify-four-fold-by-2100-says-its-first-climate-assessment-report

BirdLife Data Zone. (n.d.). BirdLife Data Zone. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from http://datazone.birdlife.org/sowb/casestudy/catastrophic-bird-mortality-events-will-increrase-during-extreme-heat-waves

Carleton, A. (2022, May 5). India Is Getting So Hot That Birds Are Coming Down With Heatstroke. VICE. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.vice.com/en/article/qjbyk5/birds-heat-stroke-deadly-heat-wave-india

Clarke, B. (2022, May 12). Dehydrated birds falling from sky in India amid record heatwave. Al Jazeera. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/12/dehydrated-birds-falling-from-sky-in-india-amid-record-heatwave

Explained: What are heatwaves & how do they occur? (2022, April 30). Hindustan Times. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/explained-what-are-heatwaves-how-do-they-occur-101651295233710.html

Macinnis, C. (2022, January 18). How do heatwaves affect biodiversity? The Big Q. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.thebigq.org/2022/01/18/how-do-heatwaves-affect-biodiversity/

Wallace, D. (2022, May 17). Opinion | Climate Change Has Made Deadly Heat Waves Normal. The New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/17/opinion/india-heat-wave-pakistan-climate-change.html

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The Basel Convention

Introduction

The 1980s witnessed a tremendous leap in the global commitments toward environmental protection. One such initiative to counter the problem of environmental dumping, countries adopted the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal in 1989, under the mandate of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (Basel Convention, n.d.). The Convention, named after the location at which it was adopted, came into effect in 1992. Today, 188 member states are parties to the Convention (UNTC, n.d.). The Convention is also supplemented by a Protocol on Liability and Compensation for Damage Resulting from Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes. The Protocol elaborates an already extensive Convention by bringing into action the 13th Principle of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which mandates the development of domestic laws regarding liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damage, as well as calls for “expeditious” and “determined” cooperation among states to further international law regarding liability and compensation for adverse environmental impacts (Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 2006). Basel Convention emanated in the backdrop of environmental dumping. Environmental dumping is the act of shipping waste generated from one country to another to get rid of the same. The Convention provides universal guidelines for the transshipment of waste.

The COP and the Secretariat

To enhance the prospect of global exchange of information and cooperation on the matter, Articles 15 and 16 of the Convention establish a ‘Conference of the Parties’ (hereby referred to as COP) and a Secretariat respectively (The Convention > Conference of the Parties > Overview and Mandate, n.d.). The main function of the COP is to oversee implementation of the Convention, the Protocol, and their provisions.  Further, if the need for an amendment to the Convention arises, the party states will have the opportunity to discuss the nature and relevance of the amendment through a COP, and then route the consensus through the Secretariat and incorporate it into the Convention text. Fifteen COPs have been conducted so far, the latest being in July 2021.

Convention

The aim of the Convention is to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects resulting from the generation, transboundary movements, and management of hazardous wastes and other wastes. It regulates the movements of hazardous wastes and other wastes (toxic, poisonous, explosive, corrosive, flammable, ecotoxic, and infectious wastes) across boundaries and makes it binding on its Parties to ensure that such wastes are managed and disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. Since the Convention is binding on the parties, each member has an obligation to minimize the quantity of waste generated within their jurisdiction and further treat, transport, and then dispose of the waste to other countries.  The Convention also underwent amendments.

The Amendments to the Convention

The Ban Amendment was introduced to the Convention during the 1994 COP and adopted in 1995. It specifically bans the export of hazardous wastes from three entities, namely the European Union, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and Liechtenstein (a European principality) (Implementation > Legal Matters > Ban Amendment > Overview, n.d.). The amendment mandated so because the mentioned entities collectively contributed to the largest amounts of hazardous waste exports in the world, especially electronic and plastic wastes that led to pollution in receiving states across Africa and Asia. In 2019, the Amendment came into force and became Article 4A of the Convention. In the 14th COP in 2019, the Convention underwent another amendment to expand the scope of hazardous plastic waste (Overview, n.d.).  Titled the “Plastic Waste Amendment,” it came into force on 24 March 2020.

India’s Commitments to Basel

India became a party to the Basel Convention in 1992 itself, and since then, has rallied for various provisions of the Convention as its foreign policy priority. India enacted the Hazardous Waste (Management & Handling) Rules in 1989 under the mandate of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), even before the Basel Convention came into the picture, to regulate the transboundary and internal movement of hazardous wastes. After ratifying the Convention, India upgraded the Hazardous Waste rules in 2000 and 2003, and finally, in 2008, the MoEFCC released the final notification of the Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling, and Transboundary Movement) Rules, in line with the Basel provisions. The 2008 rules were once amended in 2016 as well (CPCB, 2021).

Since the beginning of discussions on the transboundary movement of hazardous waste, India has been a significant voice for developing countries across various Basel COPs, as well as joint COPs for Basel, Stockholm, and Rotterdam Conventions. India’s main arguments on hazardous waste revolve around the opposition to the export of such waste to developing countries (India Sets the Tone at COP Meetings of Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions Held in Geneva., 2019). India banned the dumping of solid plastic waste into the country and has taken significant steps to phase out the use of single-use plastics as well. The renewed focus of the MoEFCC and other Ministries like Agriculture, Chemicals, and Electronics and Information Technology is on phasing out e-waste dumping in developing countries as well. To that end, India established the 2016 E-Waste Management Rules.

Conclusion

The Convention also addressed the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.  The Convention is a landmark international instrument to regulate and control the transboundary movement of hazardous waste. Its various COPs have yielded significant technical and academic reports that expand our legal and political understanding of waste traffic management in the international arena. The Convention does not cover radiological and nuclear waste material, because it relies on other multilateral and regional arrangements to cover the movement and control of such hazardous wastes. Nonetheless, the provisions of the Convention are essential standards to help in waste management and climate change mitigation.

References

Basel Convention. (n.d.). Cambridge Dictionary | English Dictionary, Translations & Thesaurus. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://www.basel.int/Portals/4/Basel%2520Convention/docs/text/BaselConventionText-e.pdf

The Convention > Conference of the Parties > Overview and Mandate. (n.d.). Basel Convention. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from http://www.basel.int/TheConvention/ConferenceoftheParties/OverviewandMandate/tabid/1316/Default.aspx

CPCB. (2021, December 28). CPCB | Central Pollution Control Board. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://cpcb.nic.in/rules/

Implementation > Legal Matters > Ban Amendment > Overview. (n.d.). Basel Convention. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from http://www.basel.int/Implementation/LegalMatters/BanAmendment/Overview/tabid/1484/Default.aspx

India sets the tone at COP meetings of Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions held in Geneva. (2019, May 16). Press Information Bureau. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=190019

Overview. (n.d.). Basel Convention. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from http://www.basel.int/Implementation/Plasticwaste/Amendments/Overview/tabid/8426/Default.aspx

Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. (2006, November 13). Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://www.cbd.int/doc/ref/rio-declaration.shtml

UNTC. (n.d.). UNTC. Retrieved May 24, 2022, from https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XXVII-3&chapter=27

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Wangari Maathai: Environmental Conservation, Women’s Rights and World Peace

Throughout history, women have taken up prominent roles in spearheading environmental activism. Led by Amrita Devi, 363 people lost their lives saving Khejri trees by hugging them. It was their form of peaceful protest against the king’s men who were ordered to axe down the Khejri trees. In central India, Medha Patkar headed the Narmadha Bacho Andholan to give voice to the people who were affected by the Sardar Sarovar dam project. In the late 90s, Julia Butterfly sat on a 180-foot tall California Redwood tree for over two years to guard it against the loggers of a rubber company. The 110-year-old Karnataka woman Saalumarada Thimakka single-handedly planted more than 8000 trees, especially banyan. Today, 19-year-old Greta Thunberg confronts world leaders to give climate change the attention it needs. Innumerable contributions by women are buried unearthed in history under the vice of patriarchy.

In a quintessentially patriarchal setting, from collecting water to gathering fuel and firewood for cooking, women often bear the task of providing nourishment for the family. As primary caretakers, women act as a bridge between nature and the health of their families. Thanks to gender roles, when there’s water scarcity or water pollution in the local well, or difficulty in acquiring fresh herbs or vegetables, women are going to be the first to notice. Natural resource depletion and deterioration, therefore, become their problem to deal with to meet their basic needs.

Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Muta Maathai initiated the Green Belt Movement in Africa which went forth to plant more than 51 million trees across the nation to date. She not only became the first African to receive a Nobel Prize, but it was also the first peace prize given to an activist who was concerned with environmental preservation.

Several scholars and common folk alike were skeptical of the 2004 Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to name an environmentalist as a global peacemaker. Conventionally, Peace prizes have always been reserved for people involved in humanitarian action. From Nelson Mandela to Aung San Suu Kyi, peace prize winners were deeply and politically engaged in their struggle for democracy and equality between people.

So how exactly does Wangari Maathai, whose contribution to the community ends with the seemingly non-political practice of planting trees, fit into this narrow category? To this hungry question, Maathai answers in her Nobel acceptance speech, “In this year’s prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has placed the critical issue of environment and its linkage to democracy and peace before the world. For their visionary action, I am profoundly grateful. Recognizing that sustainable development, democracy, and peace are indivisible is an idea whose time has come.”

Acknowledging that environmental deterioration unfairly and systemically marginalizes the women and the poor more than it does an archetypal upper-class man is crucial for challenging inequality amidst people. The United Nations Millenium Development Goals (MDG) lays out its targets for holistic socio-economic and political upliftment. Gender equality and a Sustainable environment are named to be two of the key objectives of MDG. Essentially, Maathai claims that the ties between these three intersectional entities – gender, democracy, and the environment – are intricate.

The Green Belt Movement was purely women-driven. “Tree planting became a natural choice to address some of the initial basic needs identified by women,” says Maathai. From this statement, we can derive that the catalyst for the Green Belt Movement may not solely be rooted in eco-conservation itself. Tree plantations cleared a number of obstacles that African women were facing, especially acquiring food and firewood. Additionally, since tree planting is simple and guarantees successful results within a reasonable time period, Maathai was able to hold the interest and commitment of the local women.

Through their involvement in the movement, several women got to attain financial freedom, and that not only gave them dignity and purpose in the society but also promoted solidarity amidst these women and allowed them to question their agency within the patriarchal setup for the first time.

By also questioning the apathy of a government that deprioritizes the welfare of the women and the poor (since they are the most affected by climate change and resource depletion), Maathai’s movement is a fight for democracy and human rights itself. With time, the tree turned into an emblem for peace and conflict resolution. GBM used these peace trees to reconcile disputing communities during the ethnic conflicts in Kenya as well as during the re-writing of the Constitution to foster cultural peace.

References

  1. Wangari Maathai – Wikipedia
  2. Green Belt Movement – Environmental Justice and Women’s Rights: A Tribute to Wangari Maathai by Mechthild Nagel, SUNY Cortland and IAD fellow, Cornell University
  3. Green Belt Movement – Wikipedia

https://www.open.edu/openlearn/nature-environment/environmental-studies/wangari-maathai-standing-women-and-the-environment

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The Brainy Octopus is a Quick Adapter to Climate Change, But the News is Not as Good as You May Think

Did you know that an octopus has 3 hearts and 9 brains? These mollusks have complex cardiovascular and nervous systems. Two hearts regulate blood to the gills, and the other pumps blood to the rest of its body. One brain is located in the organism’s head, and the others are distributed across its eight arms. This allows each limb to act independently to some extent. Even limbs that are fully detached from the rest of the octopus are reported to show mobility and sense smells and tastes.

With great memory retention, and the capability to navigate mazes and distinguish between even human faces, Octopuses stand their ground as one of the most intelligent species on Earth. Not only can they camouflage by changing colors within spans of milliseconds, but they can also rearrange their body to imitate other fish species or the texture of the rocks they hide among. These truly mind-boggling cephalopods have shown clever adaptability based on their evolving living conditions, and some of these are telltales of the present and future scenarios of the world in terms of climate change. 

With the astronomical amount of garbage that is getting dumped into our oceans and other water bodies, it is no surprise that these artificial, human wastes are infiltrating the living habitats of these octopuses. New studies reveal that several species of these cephalopods are inclining toward taking these discarded human junk like glass bottles, ceramics, metal pipes, plastic pots, beer cans, etc as their shelter. As soft-bodied and flexible organisms that can contort into really small spaces, bottles especially provide them a comfortable environment that additionally provides safety from deep-sea predators.

However, in recent decades, several octopus species, especially the coconut octopus and pygmy octopus, seem to be preferring human waste as their shelter more than their natural counterparts – like seashells. Ironically, the Coconut Octopus was named this way because of their affinity towards using coconut shells as shelter.

Although scientists expected different results, most Octopus seemed to favor glass bottles over any other type of waste as their humble abode. This poses the threat of injury to these soft-bodied creatures if the glass breaks. The biggest menace to the species population itself is that in conditions where human wastes are scarce, these octopuses are recorded to be competing for these artificial shelters. This man-made situation is pushing its limits to a point where only the fittest of the kind can survive.

Similarly, due to the rising temperature of seawater, Octopus vulgaris, typically known as the Common Octopus due to how prevalent they are found in the sea, might become uncommon in the coming boiling years. High ocean temperature is also detrimental to the octopus eggs. These mollusks habitually lay eggs in shallow regions where the temperature is higher than the deep sea. When climate change additionally elevates heat in these regions, the eggs are maturing in a dangerous environment where all conditions aren’t optimal for healthy growth. To combat this challenge, the clever adults swim searching for places with a more appropriate location for egg-laying and hatching, thereby endangering themselves to predators in previously unexplored places.

Ocean suffocation, meaning the startlingly increasing amount of carbon dioxide choking our oceans due to global warming and the growing release of greenhouse gases, leads to ocean acidification. Marine biologist Dr. Kirt Onthank warns “If we continue on the path we are going right now emitted carbon dioxide, by the end of this century, our oceans are going to be two and a half times more acidic than they are right now.” After an initial period of shock, the octopuses under survey – Octopus rubescent Ruby Octopuses – showed remarkable realignment to the conditions within two weeks.

However, what we need to keep in mind (or minds, if you’re an octopus) is that the stride of climate change every year is larger and scarier than the last. Quick adjustments to unexpected change consume immense energy to let them regulate their physiology. The adaptability of such creatures may reach a threshold, after which point they might not be able to keep up with the race.

References

  1. https://theswaddle.com/octopuses-are-using-human-garbage-for-shelter/
  2. Octopuses and climate change with Kirk Onthank – Youtube
  3. https://adapt136.ucsc.edu/taxa/invertebrates/the-common-octopus-may-stop-being-common-due-to-climate-change#:~:text=With%20higher%20temperatures%20due%20to,with%20slight%20changes%20in%20temperatures.
  4. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210113144507.htm
  5. Octopus – Wikipedia
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Mother Nature’s Locus standi Recognised by Madras High Court

Only when there is a right, can one seek remedy. The Latin maxim “ubi jus ibi remedium” is a principle that means that the law provides one remedy when there is a violation of a right. However, the question of whether the environment can have the status of personhood to seek remedy when its rights are violated is a scope of discussion. When environmental resources are destroyed for human benefit, the remedy is often from an anthropocentric angle. For example, if an oil leak happens due to the negligence of a ship in the ocean, the remedy will largely take into account the impact on human life in the region. Victims seeking compensation and clearing the split oil will be two of the most significant burdens placed on the polluter. But, the question remains – does the environment have a locus standi in court?

In a judgment dated 19th April 2022, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court invoked the principle of “parens patriae jurisdiction” and recognized Mother Nature as a person with rights, duties, and liabilities to protect, preserve and conserve the environment (Madras High Court Grants Mother Nature ‘Living Being’ Status With Rights and Duties, 2022). 

Jurisprudentially, with the ever-growing environmental challenges, recognizing the rights of nature has been a subject of debate across the world. This has resulted in the development of ‘ecocide’ over the years which is soon expected to be introduced into the Roman Statute as a fifth international crime after the genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Such is the relevance of the rights of nature. With climate change being a critical issue for this century, there is a need for understanding what the rights of nature are and the importance of recognizing the same in mitigating environmental problems. 

‘Rights of Nature’ movement

It is important to fundamentally change the relationship between humans and the environment for the larger good of the planet which is precisely what the “Rights of Nature” movement does. According to this doctrine, just like how a human has the right to approach a court of law when his/her rights are violated, an ecosystem is entitled to the status of legal personhood with rights which can protect itself by defending in a court of law when harm is caused (Challe, 2021). In several countries, nature has been recognized as a person. An example is a mountain named Mount Taranaki in New Zealand was bestowed with legal personhood status in 2017 (Satish & Satish, 2021). This implies that if the mountain is exploited or damaged for any reason, it has the right to approach a court of law and defend itself. Thus, the rights of nature provide room for nature to exist, flourish, rejuvenate and evolve without human interference. The primary objective of bestowing nature with such rights is to provide the natural environment with the highest level of protection in order to ensure the ecosystem is not disrupted.

But, how exactly does nature go to court and represent itself? When ‘nature’ goes to court, it is represented by a guardian who acts and argues the case on behalf of the environment. This is the principle of parens patriae which the Madras High Court discussed.

What did the Madurai Bench have to say?

The case decided by the Madurai Bench was a common order for two writ petitions filed by the petitioner, A.Periyakaruppan against the respondents the Principal Secretary to Government of Tamilnadu and the Additional Chief Secretary and Commissioner of Revenue Administration seeking for payment of pension which was cut by the respondents as a punishment for the petitioner’s act of giving land deed (pattas) for forest land (A.Periyakaruppan V. Principal Secretary to Government of Tamilnadu & Ors., 2022). In discussing the case, the court identified nature has the right to be represented by the State by the doctrine of “parens patriae jurisdiction” and directed the State and Central governments to undertake initiatives to protect the environment. In the present matter, the court observed that the petitioner, a government official, had failed in duty to take the necessary steps to protect the Government lands. According to the acts done against nature, the court held that sanction must be imposed on the petitioner whereby “compulsory retirement ought to be modified as stoppage of increment for six months without cumulative effect and consequential monetary benefits shall be conferred on the petitioner.” (A.Periyakaruppan V. Principal Secretary to Government of Tamilnadu & Ors., 2022)

This judgment has the potential to pave the way for more judges and judgments to align towards protecting and conserving mother nature. This judicial activism of the courts shows the role of the judiciary in hastening the process of environmental conservation. When more issues are addressed from the perspective of the environment, it becomes easier to bring forth accountability and proactivism towards climate change mitigation for after all mitigation measures are collective efforts of humankind.

References

A.Periyakaruppan v. Principal Secretary to Government of Tamilnadu & Ors. (2022, April 19). Live Law. Retrieved May 15, 2022, from https://www.livelaw.in/pdf_upload/mother-nature-416320.pdf

Challe, T. (2021, April 22). The Rights of Nature — Can an Ecosystem Bear Legal Rights? State of the Planet. Retrieved May 15, 2022, from https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2021/04/22/rights-of-nature-lawsuits/

Kalia, S., Naraharisetty, R., & Rakshit, D. (2022, May 2). Madras HC Grants Nature ‘Living Being’ Status, Noting Its Legal Rights. The Swaddle. Retrieved May 15, 2022, from https://theswaddle.com/madras-hc-grants-nature-living-being-status-noting-its-legal-rights/

Madras High Court grants mother nature ‘living being’ status with rights and duties. (2022, May 1). The Indian Express. Retrieved May 15, 2022, from https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chennai/madras-high-court-grants-mother-nature-living-being-status-with-rights-and-duties-7895543/

Satish, K., & Satish, H. (2021, September 6). Nature’s locus standi: Taking the Environment to Court – The FinReg Blog. Duke Law Sites. Retrieved May 15, 2022, from https://sites.law.duke.edu/thefinregblog/2021/09/06/natures-locus-standi-taking-the-environment-to-court/ Surma, K., & Gross, L. (2022, May 4). Indian Court Rules That Nature Has Legal Status on Par With Humans—and That Humans Are Required to Protect It. Inside Climate News. Retrieved May 15, 2022, from https://insideclimatenews.org/news/04052022/india-rights-of-nature/

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How can Biodiversity Parks help in Urban Green Recovery?

With cities ever-expanding, rivers, lakes, and floodplains within urban stretches are encroached upon leading to the destruction of the water body and its biodiversity. This is a growing concern and in order to rehabilitate and restore such regions, biodiversity parks can be established to bring a balance between economic development and environmental conservation. 

Conceptualizing a biodiversity park

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is an agency of the Government that is responsible for authorizing, planning, developing, and monitoring land-owning, land management, and development projects in the city. In 2012, the DDA and the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems (CEMDE) of the University of Delhi collaborated with a team of scientists under the guidance of Professor C.R. Babu to develop Biodiversity Parks.

Biodiversity parks are a holistic methodology developed by the DDA to rejuvenate rivers and restore their water quality, volume, and floodplain (Singh & Rosencranz, 2022). It usually works with a three-stage action plan which includes restoring the urban water bodies, bioremediation the wastewater, and using the land adjacent to the waterbody to clean and store floodwater. These efforts will not only help in reviving the biodiversity but also aid in keeping the floodplains and waters clean. In the long run, this initiative can help recharge the groundwater and also ensure that there is a sufficient supply of water throughout the year. Essentially biodiversity parks, with the benefits they offer, will create a self-sustaining ecosystem which will further pave the way for improving the urban environment. (Kumar & Sinha, 2015)

There are 6 biodiversity parks developed across Delhi namely – (i) Yamuna Biodiversity Park, (ii) Aravalli Biodiversity Park, (iii) Neela Hauz Biodiversity Park, (iv) Northern Ridge (Kamla Nehru Ridge), (v) Tilpath Valley Biodiversity Park and (vi) Tughlaqabad Biodiversity Park. (Biodiversity Parks: Examples of Innovation and Best Practices for Biodiversity Conservation Centre for Environmental Manageme, n.d.). Among these 6 parks, the pilot project was the Yamuna Biodiversity Park which has significantly helped in rejuvenating the floodplains.

Components of a biodiversity park

Biodiversity includes flora and fauna and all the other living species of the region. A biodiversity park can consist of a “nature conservation zone that has terrestrial biological communities, and a mosaic of wetlands interspersed with grasslands all of which represent the natural heritage.” (Kumar & Sinha, 2015). Further, the parks can also include botanical gardens, herbal gardens, and conservatories to house threatened species of plants in the region. This way a biodiversity park can hasten the process of rejuvenation of the urban water bodies.

In October 2020, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change published an extensive guideline for setting up biodiversity parks across rivers in India including River Ganga. The guideline was a result of the order passed by the Principal Bench National Green Tribunal (NGT) dated 14th May 2019 which recognized the environmental objectives of biodiversity parks and directed the CPCB and MoEFCC to delineate the approach to be adopted to set up biodiversity across India using the Delhi model and provide a framework for stakeholders to design such parks in urbanized locations. Biodiversity parks come under the forest ministry and thus, the development of parks can add to the forest cover and render multiple services including “carbon sequestration, recharge of groundwater aquifers and educational as well as recreational benefits to the urban society” (Concept of Biodiversity Parks, 2021).

Aravalli Biodiversity Park: A success project

On the occasion of World Wetlands Day, 2022, the Aravalli Biodiversity Park was declared India’s first “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECM) site (Kumar & Roy, 2022). This shows the success and potential benefits of a biodiversity park.

Aravalli Biodiversity Park is located in Gurugram spread across 390 acres and is home to approximately 300 native plants, 101,000 trees, 43,000 shrubs, and several species of birds. It was initially a barren mining site that was transformed into an urban green cover with the help of the Biodiversity Park initiative by the Government. Other organizations also lent their support towards protecting and preserving the ecology of the Aravalli considering it is the lungs of the Delhi-NCR region providing up to 7.07% of the oxygen required (Kumar & Roy, 2022).

With the example set by the Aravalli Biodiversity Park, biodiversity parks have ecological implications that can bring back flora and fauna into the urban infrastructure paving the way for greener and cleaner cities.

References

Biodiversity Parks: Examples of Innovation and Best Practices for Biodiversity Conservation Centre for Environmental Manageme. (n.d.). Delhi University. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from http://du.ac.in/uploads/06032018_Biodiversity_Parks.pdf

Concept of Biodiversity parks. (2021, July 14). DDA. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://dda.gov.in/concept-biodiversity-parks

Kumar, V., & Roy, S. (2022, February 3). Aravalli Biodiversity Park in Gurugram declared as India’s first OECM site. Hindustan Times. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/gurugram-news/aravalli-biodiversity-park-in-gurugram-declared-as-india-s-first-oecm-site-101643834401345.html

Kumar, V., & Sinha, R. (2015). Biodiversity Park: An innovative approach for conservation and protection of natural heritage. The Biobrio. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from http://www.thebiobrio.in/contentj/3_%20Biodiversity_Park.pdf Singh, G., & Rosencranz, A. (2022, April 29). Urban floodplains must become biodiversity parks. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www-deccanherald-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.deccanherald.com/amp/opinion/urban-floodplains-must-become-biodiversity-parks-1105153.html

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The Science of Biomimicry

India enters summer and has been recording one of the highest temperatures in decades across cities. Whether ice-creams are part of the day or not, air conditioners have become indispensable. Sadly, air conditioners are one of the most unsustainable innovations of humankind for they emit ozone-depleting substances into the atmosphere. Though air conditioners may temporarily relieve us of the heat, in the long run we are warming the planet every time we switch it on.

We as a species, the homo sapiens, have over centuries learned the art of protecting ourselves at the cost of the environment which has inevitably led to climate change and us acquiring, in the words of Richard Dawkins, the ‘selfish gene’. This raises a curious question: how do other animals that have lived on this planet humans have exploited for years, counter the heat? How do termites fight the heat in the desert in their mounds and how do giraffes not sweat despite living in warm and arid regions of the globe? If we throw our minds into understanding how nature works, we will learn to protect ourselves and nature, without compromising one for another, paving the way for sustainable living.

Nature is a tool for human development and taking inspiration from nature enables the establishment of a balanced relationship. One such way to bring sustainable development is by adopting the science of biomimicry.

Biomimicry: Imitating nature

Mimicking ideas from our environment through engineering creates a medium to resolve human needs in a sustainable and nature-friendly manner. Such technology that comes into existence by learning and copying natural processes is called biomimicry. For example, the spider’s web-spinning method is nature’s way to deter collisions and the spider’s technique can be used by man to spin silk and other materials.

Architecture from the 6th and 7th centuries are probably some of the olden day examples wherein biomimicry was used. Much of the rock sculptures and wood carvings present today from centuries ago incorporate natural beauty into the structures. The interiors at the Gloucester Cathedral in the United Kingdom represent rib-like structures that were inspired by tree forms. Similarly, the columns of the Temple of Luxor in Egypt are inspired by the buds of a papyrus tree. The pillars of the rock-cut caves of Aurangabad, India take inspiration from lotus.  However, much of the architecture took only inspiration from nature in terms of the design but did not consciously aim to incorporate the sustainable processes. Nevertheless, the fact that architectural designs had a component of natural beauty shows that the aspect of biomimicry has been existent for long enough.

One of the earliest human inventions through biomimicry was velcro, developed by Swiss engineer George de Mestral in 1941 which was inspired by burrs clinging to his trousers while going out on a walk in the woods. (Elakhya, n.d.) Biomimicry scientists with the present advancements in technology and engineering are constantly looking for materials and mechanics that nature has adopted in order to build products and machines for meeting human needs.

Some of the recent innovations using biomimicry include air-cleaning equipment inspired by marine creatures developed by Tunghai University in Taiwan; a coastal defense system based on tide pools and oyster beds by Israel’s Tel-Aviv University and a mosquito controlling device by Cornell University (Banchariya, 2020). India too has joined the race and the Indian Institute of Technologies offer courses to bring more specialized engineers into this science.

Nature teaches sustainability

Today, a large number of industries, companies, and organizations have taken interest in biomimicry to research natural processes not only for its designs, but also for innovating eco-friendly technology to do away with unsustainable practices and bring forth a paradigm shift to promote sustainable mechanics that provide solutions for better products, recycling, and economic systems (Bonime, 2020).

Some of the modern technologies like the Japanese Bullet train, on account of creating noise pollution, were redesigned by engineers by replacing the nose of the train to resemble the beak of a Kingfisher which helps the birds dive into water silently. Similarly, PowerCone Wind Turbines looked at maple tree seeds to design better airflow. Likewise, many technological advancements have taken place over the years consciously or unconsciously by looking at how natural ecosystems function. Instead of just using biomimicry to bring about innovations based on design and appearance, it can be used to specifically target sustainability and environmental protection that can help in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals of 2030. With the field of biomimicry entering mainstream science, it has prospects to ensure conscious efforts are undertaken to bring man and nature closer and bring sufficient harmony between economic development and environmental conservation. 

Biomimicry is not a product, but a process that seeks to emulate and imitate nature’s forms and ecosystem. Instead of air conditioners, if we can seek to develop a technology that uses the termite’s technique to keep ourselves cool during summers, nothing more would be sustainable than that. 

References

Banchariya, S. (2020, August 18). Biomimicry can be the road to sustainable development. Times of India. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/biomimicry-can-be-the-road-to-sustainable-development/articleshow/77608721.cms

Bonime, W. (2020, July 12). Biomimicry: Using Nature’s Perfect Innovation Systems To Design The Future. Forbes. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/westernbonime/2020/07/12/biomimicry-using-natures-perfect–innovation-systems-to-design-the-future/?sh=1e193cb4174e

Carlson, R. (2016, May 4). From an “aha” moment to a thriving network: A look at Biomimicry India – Biomimicry Institute. The Biomimicry Institute. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://biomimicry.org/blog-biomimicry-india/

Elakhya, N. (n.d.). Biomimicry – Better Ideas Inspired By Nature – Lavasa. EcoIdeaz. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://www.ecoideaz.com/innovative-green-ideas/biomimicry-better-ideas-inspired-nature

Sharma, A. (n.d.). 15 Instances of Biomimicry In Ancient Architecture. RTF | Rethinking The Future. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/rtf-fresh-perspectives/a950-15-instances-of-biomimicry-in-ancient-architecture/

20 Incredible Ways Animals Keep Cool. (n.d.). The Air Conditioning Company. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://www.airconco.com/news/20-incredible-ways-animals-keep-cool/What is Biomimicry? (n.d.). Biomimicry 3.8. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://biomimicry.net/what-is-biomimicry/

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Adaptive Reuse: A Path to Sustainability

It is possible that we might have heard engineers suggest refurbishing a shelf in a room using discarded wood from other furniture. It essentially promotes the idea of recycling. But this very same technique can be extended to the field of architecture wherein buildings can be entirely transformed from one purpose to another with minimal modifications. This method of reusing and repurposing in the field of architecture is called adaptive reuse or building reuse wherein old buildings are repurposed for a use other than for which it was originally built or designed. Adaptive reuse is a prospective field of study in terms of sustainability and circular economy.

To cite an illustration, we can take the example of Switzerland. Back in the 1940s, fearing Nazi invasion of the country, the Government built several underground bunkers for military use. Even today there are more than 20,000 bunkers that are spread across the region (Shahrestani, 2022). Many of these bunkers have over decades been transformed into residences and restaurants. This is adaptive reuse. The benefits emanating from such modifications for commercial use include economic, cultural, and ecological benefits. It provides a source of income, helps in the preservation of cultural and historical heritage, and also adopts an eco-friendly developmental approach that reduces the dependence on the extraction of virgin materials.

Sustainable architecture

Architecture requires the need for constructions, born out of it, to be strong and durable. But, building such an architecture consumes a large amount of energy, contributing to the existing environmental concerns. It becomes even more polluting and environmentally destructive when an old building needs to be demolished to sand and dust. However, when an old building is redesigned, modified, and repurposed, it consumes a lesser amount of energy and raw material. With carbon emissions also cut down, it acts as an attractive alternative for new constructions. It does take creativity to find new purposes for existing constructions, but the benefits arising from the technique can aid in fighting the climate crisis by providing a path to building a circular economy and in achieving sustainable development. 

Advantages of adaptive reuse

As mentioned above, adaptive reuse has economic, social, and ecological benefits. Since adaptive reuse is based on reusing and recycling materials, the process is cost-efficient. It saves on demolition costs, labor charges, and costs involved in procuring virgin raw materials. Secondly, the adaptive reuse technique also helps in preserving cultural heritage, especially in areas rich in historical buildings. The original architecture and culture can be preserved by making minor latent changes. In Switzerland, the bunkers are not only valued for their commercial earnings but also are known for their role in history. In fact, it is by virtue of their association with the past that also attracts tourists and travelers. Further, they also help speed up the entire construction process owing to no structural changes to be incorporated while repurposing the building. Thirdly, by slowing down ‘urban sprawl’ it reduces environmental destruction and exploitation of natural resources. Urban sprawl refers to rapid urbanization which involves procuring new lands for expanding cities to meet the demands of population growth. In other words, since it largely relies on used raw materials, it dramatically impacts the environment and prevents over-dependence on virgin materials.

The Indian jugaad

As a country, we have always managed to find multiple purposes for a single object which over the years has become a separate field of innovation called the Indian jugaad. Jugaad is a generic term applicable to any frugal innovation or engineering. This concept can be extrapolated to the field of architecture since India has its own set of records in adaptive reuse. The reason why India is rich in these adaptive reuse methods can be attributed to the rich cultural heritage and history of the country.

Some of the earliest buildings which adopted adaptive reuse were the grand palaces of Rajasthan. The Neemrana Fort built in the 15th century was converted into a luxury hotel in the 1990s (Sinha, 2019). Many such palaces which were once residences of kings, queens, and nizams, are now transformed into museums, restaurants, and hotels. The chain of luxury hotels owned by the Tata Group, the Taj Hotel, has established its hotels across the country in locations that were palaces earlier. One such palace-turned-hotel restored and owned by the Tata Group is the Taj Lake Palace at Udaipur, which once belonged to Maharana Jagat Singh, in 1746. Similarly, in Delhi, Haveli Dharampura, more than 200 years old was restored and is now a luxury heritage hotel (Sinha, 2019).

Thus, adaptive reuse has several prospects in bringing collective benefit to society. With India having adequate infrastructure and knowledge in this area, it can help meet the global targets of climate change and build a circular economy. The Budget 2022 had also highlighted the need for transforming into a circular economy, and addressing infrastructural projects to adopt adaptive reuse methodologies can help in achieving the same without compromising on economic development.

References

Baldwin, E. (2021, November 2). Adaptive Reuse: Rethinking Carbon, Sustainability and Social Justice. ArchDaily. Retrieved May 8, 2022, from https://www.archdaily.com/971194/adaptive-reuse-rethinking-carbon-sustainability-and-social-justice

Experience Royalty at Heritage Palace Hotels in India – Travel Inspiration | Taj Holidays. (n.d.). Taj Hotels. Retrieved May 8, 2022, from https://www.tajhotels.com/en-in/blog/travel-inspiration/experience-royalty-at-heritage-palace-hotels-in-india/

Shahrestani, V. (2022, April 5). 16 haunting pictures of Switzerland’s secret bunkers. Time Out. Retrieved May 8, 2022, from https://www.timeout.com/switzerland/things-to-do/swiss-bunkers-tours-and-museums

Sinha, D. (2019, December 7). Check out breathtaking examples of adaptive reuse in five Indian cities. Hindustan Times. https://www.hindustantimes.com/art-and-culture/check-out-breathtaking-examples-of-adaptive-reuse-in-five-indian-cities/story-AuXRN4ydcDyvOEF4FFEDrK.html

What Is Adaptive Reuse Architecture and Why It’s Important – 2022. (2020, November 8). MasterClass. Retrieved May 8, 2022, from https://www.masterclass.com/articles/adaptive-reuse-architecture-guide#how-does-adaptive-reuse-work

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Cows and Pigs have no Wings …

P G Wodehouse was an English author and one of the most read humorists of the 20th century. His book ‘Pigs have Wings’ was a classic and in a hilarious set of plots, his pet pig named ‘Empress of Blandings’ wins the first prize in the ‘Fat Pigs’ category and was a much loved and an adored pig …………..Moving from fiction to reality, the world’s farmers now annually raise roughly 1.7 billion cows and buffalo, 1 billion pigs, 2.2 billion sheep and goats, and 61 billion chickens, and use more than 3 billion hectares of pastureland and hundreds of millions of hectares of cropland to do so.

Indeed, cows, pigs and chickens have no wings to fly away from slaughter!

The real food-gap:

As our population crosses 9 billion by 2050, overall food demand is expected to increase by more than 50%. Simply increasing land usage to produce additional food is not sustainable as deforestation is most destructive to the environment. Most of the land cleared for agriculture (in the tropics) does not contribute much to the world’s food security but is instead used to produce cattle, soybeans for livestock (cattle, sheep, and goats), timber, and palm oil. Another important factor is the increased prosperity of people across the world especially India and China increasing the demand for higher meat, eggs, and dairy consumption.

We are in a catch-22 situation to close the food-gap we need to achieve the almost impossible :

  1. increase food production without increasing agricultural land and
  2. reduce growth in demand for food and other agricultural products

Shifting to more sustainable diets :

Around the world and in India, diets are increasingly more processed foods, refined carbohydrates, added sugars, fats, and animal-based foods. As people become richer, they are looking to eat more dairy and meat and convenient access to food outside the home encourages ‘fast food’. The per capita consumption of beans and other pulses, vegetables, coarse grains, and fiber is declining.

This is creating the following challenges:

  1. Consumption of meat, poultry, pork, farmed fish, and dairy are by far the most resource intensive food requiring more land, water and generating more green-house gas emissions when compared to pulses, staple crops, fruits, vegetables, and vegetable oils.
  2. Most people also consume more protein than they need, while the average daily protein requirement is around 50 grams per day, its consumption is around 71 grams/day and expected to increase resulting in an over consumption of protein from animal-based foods

Meat from beef, sheep, and goat is by far the most resource-intensive food (needs more land and water to grow). Meat requires over 20 times more land and generates over 20 times more GHG emissions than pulses per gram of protein. Relative to dairy, it requires four to six times more land and generates four to six times more GHG emissions per calorie or gram of protein ultimately consumed by people.

Water-footprint of plant and animal based foods:

The table below shows the water consumption between diary,animal and plant based foods . Beef,fish,sheep and goat consume highest water . Nuts (Pistachios,almonds,walnuts,cashews) require more water and deplete ground water fast and dairy,pork and poultry need a lot of water not only for feeding and growing ,but clean-up of facilities and handling of waste water.

Social concerns on treatment of animals :

The livestock sector in India has grown over 8% in the last five years with dairy the single largest agri-commodity in India contributing to 5% of GDP employing around 80 million dairy farmers directly . Industrial beef, pig and poultry farming is one of the most profitable livestock business and a lot has been written around the poor treatment of farm animals that are reared for slaughter. More recently McDonalds, the fast food giant was sued for sourcing bacon and pork products from suppliers who continue with a practice of using crates to house pregnant pigs so they cannot move.

Factory farming is the main cause of animal suffering and government supported meat-reduction strategies are required that enable farmers reduce animal stocking densities and move to free-range organic farming such as cage-free pigs, hens, grass-fed cows and avoiding use of antibiotics for their growth and disease prevention.

Gold Rush in Cow manure and poultry droppings :

Old-fashioned animal manure is now a hot commodity due to a global shortage of commercial fertilizers made worse by the Russia-Ukraine war (with Russia being a major Potash producer- a key ingredient in producing nitrogen fertilizer). Apart from being used as fertilizer, usage of cow manure for biogas is gaining popularity.

Cow manure is flushed out from the cow farms into a covered lagoon called as a digester, and the emitted raw biogas which has over 60% of methane is collected and piped to a central facility that collects biogas from all dairy farms in that area and purified, sent to the local utility pipelines. India is planning to build 5000 bio-plants by early next year to offset demand for natural gas.

In Conclusion:

Agricultural waste from poultry, cow and pig farms result in too much of nitrogen and phosphorus entering the environment and damaging the quality of groundwater , reducing oxygen in the water, killing aquatic life as well as causing gastrointestinal illnesses , skin reactions and neurological effects in people.

Even if India and the developing world were to reduce meat consumption in the coming decade, the demand for global meat consumption is expected to grow 32% by 2050 due to the sheer growing population. Hence several strategies can be tried out by consumers : Consciously balance protein and meat consumption with plant-based foods , explore alternate plant-based protein foods and be aware of the health risks associated with red meat. Strict guidelines around industrial farming with animal waste management plans and usage of biofuels such as biogas from decomposing animal manure can go a long way in making our food more sustainable from the farm to our plate and saving water for our thirsty population.