The Significance of the Color Green in Nature

by Prithvi Saravanabawan

The famous Spanish poet, playwright, and writer Pedro Calderon de la Barca said “ Green is the prime color of the world”. This encapsulates the love which we should hold in our hearts and our minds for nature, especially forests. But, with the advent of the 21st century, the color green has lost its natural stand in this world because of deforestation and encroachment. And, above its remains now stand the man-made towers of concrete and mortar. Although we might seem impervious to the penetrating fact that we don’t have anything to do with this current situation, we can’t escape the tenuous grip of reality in which people are the primary reason for this. So, this article aims to provide two reasons which might instigate people to open their eyes to the significance of the color green in the way nature intended it to be.

Firstly, viewing this from a scientific perspective, the color green holds a large portion of the visual spectrum. Furthermore, it enhances vision, stability, and endurance. Also, chlorophyll, the green pigment in leaves of trees and plants act as food repositories by converting and conflating the natural resources. Additionally, forests happen to be the largest food repositories. Nevertheless, they seem to be the aspect of the environment that takes the most ecological damage. Consequently, when forests are decimated, the animals and the insects which depend on the forests to an extensive magnitude lose their primary source of food. Thus, the color green in its natural state holds ecological and scientific significance of immense magnitude. 

Secondly, from a psychological perspective, experts associate the color green of plants with energy. Regardless of it being cleansing or soothing energy, there is no refuting the fact that it is an energy of positive circumstance. Furthermore, this color aids in alleviating major psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, etc. Also, speaking from an economical point of view, when a country or a nation of any size is in possession of a rich ecological background, it is often revered. Furthermore, it is placed in a “leveraging” position whereas other countries become dependent on it for various resources. Consequently, boosting the economic wealth and the social status of the country. Therefore, the possession of green forests and other resources has a wide plethora of advantages both psychologically and economically. 

In conclusion, there is empirical proof that green forests, meadows, gardens, and everything “green” which was given to us from nature not only have psychological and economical importance but also ecological and scientific significance. Nevertheless, wasting gifts that are given to us by the universe in an attempt to further our lifestyles and our civilization as a whole is gruesome yet a necessary notion. But, that does not mean that there is no hope for the future. If we start acting now with a goal to make our future better, we will succeed eventually.

Lessons Learnt from the Uttarakhand Flash Floods

On 7th February 2021, an ordinary day just like any other in Uttarakhand, little did people know that their lives were going to change on that particular day. A sudden flood in the Dhauli Ganga, Rishi Ganga and Alaknanda rivers caused widespread destruction in the mountainous areas.

More than 200 people were missing, and 60 bodies were recovered. The Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project of NTPC and the Rishi Ganga hydel project of the Rishi Ganga Hydel Project were both severely damaged, with scores of workers trapped in tunnels as the waters rushed in.  Scientists are debating the actual source of the flash floods that wreaked havoc in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on February 7. However, these incidents are likely to become more common in the near future, owed to the repercussions of human activity, such as the climate-problem, and recent developments like the construction of dams in the alpine terrain to generate energy.

But the impact of the floods is not limited to a region or a state – the calamity’s impact exceeds domestic borders. This rise in temperature in Uttarakhand is thought to have accelerated the melting of glaciers in the area. According to HT on February 8, scientists believe that glaciers in the Himalayas have been melting faster since the turn of the century. The Uttarakhand flash floods are not simply a “natural” disaster, but also a man-made tragedy to a large extent.

Many experts pointed out that the area of rampant neglect is the poor drainage system. At certain places, the local bodies have constructed small culverts when 1-2 meter spans are necessary. When drains are installed, they are frequently clogged with debris. The damage of the storm was compounded by infrastructure along the flood path, particularly hydropower projects. In fragile alpine areas, infrastructure development should be guided by a sustainability framework that includes environmental sustainability.

Infrastructure planning should take into account the likelihood of Uttarakhand-like events, according to Arun B. Shrestha, Regional Programme Manager for River Basins and Cryosphere at the intergovernmental International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), who was not involved in the review. According to him, the likelihood of such occurrences occurring in the future increases as the rate of climate change and socioeconomic changes continues to rise. Shrestha, who agreed with the review on in-situ measurements and monitoring, explained that a remote sensing-based study can provide a wide picture of the status of a glacier lake across a large area. This can be used to find lakes that are potentially dangerous (PD).

With innumerable lives lost, families bereaved, children orphaned, and massive destruction to the environment and property, the Chamoli floods have clearly shown us what our mistakes and negligence can cost us. None of us can be idle after this, we need to take responsibility for our actions and their impact on our environment.

Reference:
Source 1
Source 2
Source 3
Source 4

Report on the freshwater algae of Cherrapunjee and Mawsynram

by Rohan Nath

Introduction 

The Meghalayan plateau region adjacent to the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot is known for  Cherrapunjee and Mawsynram. With the second-highest annual average rainfall of 11,820 to  11,872 mm, these regions are hosting a bountiful of perennial water bodies (Fig 1).

Fig. 1. Overview map of Mawsynram and Cherrapunji. Image Source: qGIS.

The algal diversity of these water bodies remains unexplored. Algae belonging to  Cyanophyta (Cyanoprokaryota/Cyanobacteria) have been reported on the moist soil surfaces  and rice fields of the region. Several other species of algae have been reported from these  locations: 

i. Two species of Lyngbya and one species each of Schizothrix, SpirulinaStigonema and Scytonema have been reported by Biswas (1934) from moist soils  of the Khasi and Jaintia hills of the location. 

ii. Oscillatoria variabilis C.B. Rao has been reported from the field soil surface.

iii. One species of Cylindrospermum and two species of Nostoc from the rice  cultivation fields and Stigonema dendroideum Frémy have been reported from the  moist soils of Cherrapunjee. 

iv. Oinam et al. (2010) and Devi et al. (2010) reported five cyanophytes, namely, Phormidium tenue (Menegh.) Gomont, Anabaena doliolum Bharadwaja,  Plectonema nostocorum Bornet ex Gomont, Oscillatoria laevittae Buell and  Calothrix marchica Lemmerm. from the soil surfaces of the area

Locations 

The small town of Cherrapunjee is located in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya at a  distance of 59 km from Shillong and an altitude of 1484 m above mean sea level. It is known  as the wettest place on earth since it receives an average annual rainfall of 11,820 mm along  with the neighbouring village Mawsynram with an average annual rainfall of 11,872 mm. 

Severe deforestation has led to the loss of subtropical forest canopy resulting in soil erosion  due to the heavy rainfall. Grasslands now dominate this area with large trees only present in  protected sacred forests. 

Algal samples were collected from five different fresh waterbodies study sites (Fig 2). 

a. Seven Sister waterfall in Cherrapunjee 

b. Stream in Mawsynram 

c. Fish pond in Cherrapunjee 

d. Nohkalikai waterfall in Cherrapunjee 

e. Mawsynram waterfall

Fig. 2. Five different fresh waterbodies. A. Nohkalikai waterfall, B. Seven Sister  waterfall, C and D. Stream near Mawsynram, E. Fish Pond in Cherrapunjee, F.  Mawsynram waterfall. Image source: Das, S. K., & Adhikary, S. P. (2012). Freshwater  algae of Cherrapunjee and Mawsynram, the wettest places on earth. Phykos, 44(2),

Conclusion 

Forty-eight algal taxa were reported in total from the five different freshwater bodies of  Cherrapunjee and Mawsynram belonging to Chlorophyta (26), Cyanophyta (6), Euglenophyta  (1) and class Bacillariophyceae under Heterokontophyta (15) (Table 1). Most of these algae  occur as planktonic or inside the water as epilithic of the submerged stones.

Table 1.

Phylum Species Characteristics
CyanobacteriaPhormidium chlorinum No sheath, filaments solitary, cells almost  isodiametric and trichomes straight. 
Oscillatoria jenensis Trichomes without sheath, thallus dark  bluish-green, filament not constricted and  trichomes shortly attenuated at the ends.
Oscillatoria limosa  Filamentous, thallus bluish-green,  unsheathed, unbranched.
Scytonema ocellatum  Short false branches present and thallus  blackish to blackish-green in colour.
Calothrix marchica  The sheath is very thin, almost invisible and filaments yellowish in colour.
Stigonema minutum  Yellowish-brown in colour, filaments with  2 – 3 rows of cells and sheath thick.
ChlorophytaSpirogyra sp. Chloroplasts spirally arranged and  filaments are straight.
Cylindrocystis  subpyramidataCell apices sub pyramidal with rounded  ends and cells cylindrical.
Closterium calosporum Cells gradually attenuated to subacute  apices and cells small.
Closterium kuetzingii Cell median part fusiform, single and  attenuated towards each extremity into  long processes.
Closterium libellula Cells much longer than broad, single,  large and gradually attenuated from the  middle towards the apices.
Closterium navicula Cells are straight, solitary and gradually  narrowed towards both ends.
Euastrum ansatum Cells are deeply constricted, small and  sinus narrowly linear with dilated  extremity.
Euastrum dubium Cell green, solitary, basal angles broadly  rounded, upper and lower lateral margins  equally rounded.
Cosmarium awadhense Cells slightly longer than broad, small and  sinus narrowly linear towards the apex and  slightly open outwards.
Cosmarium decoratum Cells deeply constricted, slightly longer  than broad, semi cells semi-elliptic and  sinus narrowly linear.
EuglenophytaPhacus pleuronectes Cells posteriorly a stout caudus which is  obliquely turned to the right anterior end and ovoid to suborbicular in outline.
Aulacoseira granulata Frustules attached continuously to form  chain-like structures and cylindrical  structures.
Cyclotella meneghiniana Frustules rectangular and undulated in  girdle view and discoid in valve view.
Synedra cyclopum Frustules slightly bent, linear, the apical  area is attenuated to an obtuse end and the  middle portion is slightly wide.
Navicula tripunctata Frustules slightly constricted to form  rostrate apices and are elliptical – lanceolate in shape.

The low algal diversity can be attributed to the temperature at the study site which was  congenial with a range of 20 to 25°C and the pH which was acidic from 5.5 to 6.5. The  surrounding water bodies showed excessive algal growth due to the loading of anthropogenic  wastes. The habitat wise distribution pattern of algal diversity is as follows: waterfall> streams> ponds.  

Reference 1. Das, S. K., & Adhikary, S. P. (2012). Freshwater algae of Cherrapunjee and  Mawsynram, the wettest places on earth. Phykos, 44(2), 29-43.

Community Conservation

by Rahul Jayaraman

The very idea behind conserving something that is in danger, is because it has some value. But unless all of us understand that it is valuable and must be protected, conservation is a failed act. Hence, to derive maximum benefit and succeed in this act, it must be shared by those who are affected by it the most, thus involving local communities. 

What is Community Conservation?

Conservation is an activity that requires incentive, commitment, and capital. This has ensured that a significant number of people do not take the first step, and its often highly motivated non-profits, conservation groups and other communities that take up conservation practices. However, many times these groups do not tend to be from the region that they hope to work in, they often speak different languages, have different customs, and most importantly, different views about conservation itself. Community conservation is simply the act that bridges this divide between two sets of people, and the act that will sustain any conservation attempt in the long run.

Understanding affected communities

To understand this issue in a very simple way, we can have two sets of communities. Ones that support conservation practices like protecting a certain animal in that region and the communities against it. Either way, the next plan of action would be to involve them in your activities, but that begs the question, how are you going to convince people who don’t want you there. It is of prime importance that communities against conservation practices are the communities that everyone should focus on. It is really easy to succeed in an operation without challenges and ensure good results, but the conservation attempts that overlap with polarised communities are the ones that often fail miserably. Why? Simply because these operations either don’t effectively convince the locals that it is important to make those sacrifices, or this operation directly goes against what these locals desire. This could be something like man-animal conflict that is clearly on the rise. Hence, the first step would be to clearly raise awareness to these locals, try to make them understand why this would be in their benefit in the long run, and most importantly, convince them that this conservation attempt is here to stay, and should not be undone once it has been set up. All of this looks very simple on paper, but how should we execute it?

The Execution

In this stage, we will have to use the powerful tools that we clearly have control over, I have listed down a few:

1. Documentation and media – Use of visual content often helps us better persuade others to our ideas and thoughts that we cannot communicate by ourselves directly, and this forms the basis of the work done by conservation photographers, documentaries etc.

2. Mutual Benefits – A very common issue would be when farmers convert wetlands into cultivable land, and this destroys the habitats of Sarus Cranes and many other birds. The presence of these birds have often destroyed the rice produce that the farmers work for, however in many parts of north India, farmers continue to have them nearby and protect them, not because of their love for these birds but because having crane nests in the area would mean that their nocturnal alarm calls keeps intruders away and that is a big benefit to the farmers.

So such symbiotic relationships can be used to convince the locals to agree.

Importance of local participation 

Regardless, local participation is of immense importance because of the sheer amount of knowledge they can provide on the issue given that their livelihoods and occupation surround the region. This could either be information regarding the operation or even direct participation that we see happen in various animal reserves where the locals aid professionals in setting up, say, camera trap mechanisms to study and document endangered species and actively involve themselves in these efforts. This is information and aid that no money and capital can buy.

Build up of local participation also means that it is an accumulation of political capital towards the issue, meaning people can leverage this issue to get say protection status for a land or a river, ask for a compromise in man-animal conflict etc.

The heart of this issue lies in convincing more people that these issues are worth fighting for, just like how villagers in Paddapukur, West Bengal transformed from villagers who killed Fishing Cats in the region, (an endangered species and the state animal) to the animal’s protectors once conservation groups contacted them and persuaded them for the better.

References:

Media from https://sustain.round.glass/tag/community-based-conservation/
and other sources.

Need and cruelty

by Prithvi Saravanabawan

In recent times, India has been under tight scrutiny both as a country and as a democracy. Though I firmly believe that India has made herculean strides in many sectors, it still remains primitive in a few. For one thing, the Indian government has been focusing its attention on making India a haven for the people living here. But, people are not the only creatures that call India their home. In fact, we live in harmony with a wide array of flora and fauna. However, some people think that everything around them is theirs for the taking. Consequently, this hubris makes people feel empowered and entitled to think that they can tamper with nature without worrying about the ramifications of their actions. A classic yet grotesque example of this notion is animal cruelty. 

Firstly, the most notable thing about animal cruelty is that it is not a separate entity. In other words, it is a sort of a mixture of several violations against nature. Subsequently, when we ponder as to what qualifies as animal cruelty, many of us will be quick to settle on domestic brutality against animals. Contrary to popular beliefs, animal cruelty encapsulates a wide plethora of behaviors ranging from neglect to encroachment of their natural habitat. For example, while many consider malicious killing to be the epitome of animal cruelty it is not so different from human encroachment of their natural habitat. Also, the sole difference between these two has is only the  magnitude at which they were done. Nevertheless, a reprehensible act is a reprehensible act regardless of its magnitude or parameter. Ultimately, there is no refuting the fact that human need plays a huge part in this charade.

Secondly, viewing this archetype from a psychological standpoint, the human need for further improving their species and their environment is a subtle yet imminent factor. In particular, with the advent of the twenty-first century, the rate at which the human population is rising is almost exponential. In light of this fact, the growing population also demands more resources and space. Thus, even if we don’t have the desire to expand we are driven into a situation that incentivizes us to evolve. Even if it means we destroy forests and lakes. Nevertheless, this situation is not necessarily against nature because the drive to acquire the resources needed to ascertain survival is a basic instinct every species possesses. 

In conclusion, a problem like this where the very root of the problem confuses us is certainly difficult to navigate out of. However, It is also an unwavering fact that any crux can be solved with cooperation and optimism. Though this dichotomous problem stirs our minds, there is always hope for a new tomorrow.

Review of groundwater arsenic of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC)

by Rohan Nath

Introduction 

Arsenic contamination of groundwater has been a daunting threat for the public in different regions of the world for the past few decades. More than 200 million populations in 105  countries are exposed to arsenic contamination. Plains of Ganga-Meghna-Brahmaputra  (GMB) in India and Bangladesh are heavily polluted with arsenic. More than 100 million  inhabitants in the GMB plain are at risk from groundwater arsenic contamination.  

The groundwater arsenic contamination has a long history in India, and specifically West  Bengal (Table 1). 

Table 1.

Year Incident
1976 Arsenic contamination and its hazardous effect on human life were first reported  from Chandigarh in North India.
1984 The next arsenic contamination problem was observed in the plains of the Lower  Ganges in West Bengal.
1988 The School of Environmental Studies (SOES) began analysing the arsenic pollution  in the groundwater of West Bengal. 
1995 An international arsenic conference was held in Kolkata for 5 days with the help of  SOES.
2002 The groundwater arsenic contamination was reported in West Bengal and several  discussions were held regarding the attitude of the government and other  organizations towards this critical problem.
2009 The condition of groundwater arsenic contamination from 1988 to 2009 in West  Bengal was reported which also had an additional report on Kolkata city itself. i. 19 districts of West Bengal were analysed for 140,150 hand tube wells.  ii. The groundwater arsenic concentration exceeded the World Health  Organization (WHO) guideline value (10 µg/l) in 13 districts. iii. Arsenical skin symptoms are observed in 9 districts that had  groundwater arsenic concentration above 300 µg/l. iv. The percentage of hand tube-wells that had arsenic concentrations above  the WHO guideline value is 48.1%. v. Nine districts had tube-wells with an arsenic concentration above 300  µg/l: a. Bardhaman b. Hooghly c. Howrah d. Kolkata e. Malda f. Murshidabad g. Nadia h. North 24 Parganas i. South 24 Paraganas

Study area 

Three municipal corporations (KMC, Howrah and Chandhannagore) are situated in the  Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA). The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) is the major  Municipal Corporation in West Bengal covering an area of 185 km2 with a population of  4,496,694 and forms the financial and economical focal point of eastern India.

Fig. 1. An arsenic contaminated tube-well (60 µg/l) quenches the thirst of a child inside  Kalighat Kali Temple. Image Source: Chakraborti, D., Das, B., Rahman, M. M., Nayak,  B., Pal, A., Sengupta, M. K., … & Dutta, R. N. (2017). Arsenic in groundwater of the  Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), India: Critical review and modes of  mitigation. Chemosphere, 180, 437-447.

Kolkata lies 3.5-6 m above mean sea level in the lower deltaic plains of the Ganga-Bhagirathi  River system. Deltaic plain, younger levee, paleochannels and inter-distributary marsh constitute the typical geomorphological characteristics. Younger alluvial soil with silt and  clayey loams form the dominant soil type.  

141 wards of the KMC were investigated for groundwater samples between 1993 and 2015.  Acid pre-washed 10 ml polythene bottles were used to collect the water samples without  filtration. A preservative such as dilute nitric acid-water (7M) was used in the sample.  

During the groundwater samples collection, nail, hair and, urine samples were collected from  populations of KMC. The hair and nail samples were secured in zip lock bags whereas the  urine samples were refrigerated in an icebox and all of these samples were sent to the lab for  analysis. Inorganic arsenic and its metabolites were measured in the urine samples. Total  arsenic concentration was analysed in the hair and nail samples. 

Results 

The concentration of arsenic in the groundwater of KMC 

The arsenic contamination status in all 141 wards of KMC was studied (Fig 2).

Fig. 2. Arsenic contamination in Kolkata. Image Source: Chakraborti, D., Das, B.,  Rahman, M. M., Nayak, B., Pal, A., Sengupta, M. K., … & Dutta, R. N. (2017). Arsenic in  groundwater of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), India: Critical review and  modes of mitigation. Chemosphere, 180, 437-447.

The southern part of Kolkata Municipal Corporation had a higher concentration of arsenic  contamination compared to other parts of the city.  

Biological samples arsenic content 

All of the collected samples have hair and nail arsenic greater than that population who were  unexposed to arsenic-contaminated groundwater. 71.4% of the urine samples have arsenic  content above 100 µg/l. 

Conclusion 

The hazard of arsenic concentration is in the order – Murshidabad > North 24 Parganas >  Nadia > KMA > South KMC > the KMC. The low contamination of KMC might be due to a  greater average depth of the hand tube wells than other parts of West Bengal.  

Until a full-fledged surface water scheme is implemented, groundwater cannot be a  sustainable source for drinking water in the KMC due to quantity and quality issues. The  activity mapping of groundwater for each ward should be prepared. GIS method must be used  for identifying the bore wells and continuous monitoring. Installation of new tube wells in the  arsenic-contaminated area should be banned.  

The Hooghly River can provide an ample amount of surface water and proper infrastructure  must be constructed to make this sector financially and technologically sustainable. Pressure  monitoring systems and domestic meters need to be installed at the consumer level.  

The average annual rainfall in the KMC area is 1821 mm with annual net rainwater  availability of 247 Mm3. Roof-water harvesting method should be implemented to collect this  huge rainfall. The government of West Bengal built a rooftop harvesting system for building  greater than 60,000 sq. ft. or more than 100 flats which seem to be inadequate for such a huge  population. 

Reference 

1. Chakraborti, D., Das, B., Rahman, M. M., Nayak, B., Pal, A., Sengupta, M. K., … &  Dutta, R. N. (2017). Arsenic in groundwater of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation  (KMC), India: Critical review and modes of mitigation. Chemosphere, 180, 437-447.

Axing Kerala’s mangroves

While the pandemic has brought enumerable activities to an abrupt standstill, deforestation of Kerala’s mangroves is not one of them.

Mangroves are trees and shrubs that thrive on saltwater coasts and can withstand the ebb and flow of the tide. Supporting a luxuriant biodiversity, these vital components of the ecosystem are havens to threatened terrestrial and aquatic organisms and are a significant source of fodder and medicines, among other things.

Despite the many advantages offered by them, the mangroves of the Kannur district of Kerala are treated miserably. With deforestation belittling their importance and shrinking their numbers, humans are taking another step into murky waters.

45% of Kerala’s total mangrove forest cover is bountifully concentrated in the Kannur district of Kerala. However, 90% of these forests are privately owned and face the risk of getting wiped off. Paddy cultivation and shrimp farming are inducing individuals to axe privately-owned mangroves, threaten the lives of countless lifeforms and destabilise various waterbodies. Even the fact that the mangroves are protected by law cannot deter their inevitable fate with the reins being in our hands.

Over seventy-thousand hectares of mangrove forests have been reduced to a mere 1750 hectares through the annals of Kerala’s history. Replacing mangrove forests with coconut plantations or other agricultural land, real estate development, increasing populations, etc. – all these have drastically reduced the blanket of mangroves that once shrouded the southern state.

Recognizing the significance of mangroves, awareness campaigns have been launched and the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (Kufos) has proposed the establishment of an international centre on mangrove research. More of these highly appreciable measures are the need of the hour to protect the last standing mangroves of Kerala from ruin.

Risk of glacial lake outburst flood in Himachal Pradesh: current and future threats

by Rohan Nath

Introduction 

Climate change is adversely affecting the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR). The  disappearance of mountain glaciers and the expansion of large glacial lakes are physical  evidence of the dynamic impacts of climate changes in the environment. In addition to the  decrease instability of the ice walls and the surrounding rock, the threat from glacial lake outburst floods is increasing over the years. This is further worsened with tourism,  residential, and hydropower structure expanding into the mountain regions. Therefore,  strategies to diminish the glacial lake outburst flood risk is an urgent requirement.  

Glacial lake outburst flood is the sudden discharge of a water reservoir situated underneath,  in front, underneath, within, on the surface or at the side of a glacier, and related dam structures can be composed of moraine, ice, or bedrock. The catastrophic failure of moraine dammed lakes often leads to flooding hazard. Large impacts of ice or rock in the Himalayas  contribute to over 50% of moraine dam failures.  

The triggering potential of glacial lake outburst flood have been integrally modelled and  studies are being conducted on quantification of affected land areas, resulting flood paths,  and the investigation of the vulnerability of the society due to climate-related disasters and  also implement an assessment of glacial lake outburst flood risk across Himachal Pradesh  (Fig 1). 

Fig. 1. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concept of climate-related risk. Image Source: Allen, S. K., Linsbauer, A., Randhawa, S. S., Huggel, C., Rana, P., &  Kumari, A. (2016). Glacial lake outburst flood risk in Himachal Pradesh, India: an  integrative and anticipatory approach considering current and future threats. Natural  Hazards, 84(3), 1741-1763.

The area of study 

The study is conducted in the north-western Indian Himalaya in Himachal Pradesh (Table 1). 

Characteristics
State Himachal Pradesh
Population 6 million
Land area 55,000 km2
Elevation range 450 to 7000 m above sea level
Climate variation Lower hills – Tropical Middle Himalayan region – Temperate Upper hills – Cold and dry 

Agriculture, hydropower sectors and tourism primarily contribute to the economic growth  and employment in the state. There are four hydrological basins in the glaciated area, and all  of them flow into the Indus River (Fig. 2). 

Fig. 2. The distribution of glacial lake in Himachal Pradesh which comprises of glaciated  land area and four main hydrological basins. Image Source: Allen, S. K., Linsbauer, A.,  Randhawa, S. S., Huggel, C., Rana, P., & Kumari, A. (2016). Glacial lake outburst flood  risk in Himachal Pradesh, India: an integrative and anticipatory approach considering  current and future threats. Natural Hazards, 84(3), 1741-1763.

Risk Assessment and Factors 

The mass movements of rock or ice are important factors for assessing the changing potential  for glacial lake outburst flood. Parameters such as current glacial lake outburst flood hazard  and dam stability which include dam geometry and freeboard height, growth of the lake and  associated glacier retreat, the steepness of the lakefront area, permafrost conditions and the  vegetation coverage in the dam area are important for assessing the risk associated with  moraine-dammed lakes. Extreme hydrometeorological conditions can cause catastrophic  glacial lake outburst flood has been well exhibited in the 2013 Kedarnath flood disaster. For  ongoing research, the priority should be to constrain the temporal evolution of future lake  development.  

Two levels of information that can form a firm scientific basis for adaptation planning are: 

1. Areas, where communities are most exposed and vulnerable to glacier lake outburst  flood, is identified with the help of a standardized risk index. 

R = H.V.E 

where,  

R = Integrated assessment of glacial lake outburst flood risk 

H = Physical hazard 

V = Vulnerability  

E = Exposed People 

2. The early anticipation of where new threats is likely to occur over the next few  decades is assessed using classified hazard maps which focuses only on the physical  threat.  

The fluvial terraces and floodplain areas can be a prime site for assessment of loss and  damage from glacial lake outburst flood. Vital transportation links and significant agricultural  activities concentrated livelihoods and communities face high risk when the glacial lake  outburst flood paths converge with main river valleys. The potential frequency of glacial lake  outburst flood is likely to increase due to the formation of new lakes because the chances of  rock avalanches or falling ice entering into a lake increases leading to a catastrophic  overtopping wave.  

It is possible to form an improved basis for adaptation planning using the characterization of  glacial lake outburst flood exposure where mapped land cover data is available.  

Three situations are identified for opportunities for implementation of adaptation strategies: 

1. Sites currently threatened by glacial lake outburst floods but no new threats are  expected.  

2. Sites where new threats are expected. 

3. Sites that are currently threatened and new threats are expected to emerge.

Conclusion 

The climate risk perspective may be adopted to highlight the interacting social and physical  determinants that can cause glacial lake outburst flood events. The disaster can travel long  distances, throughout the district, states, as well as national boundaries. Hence, a proper  method to identify the risk and predict future challenges is required for the Himalayan region.  Few steps can be taken such as increased community awareness and preparedness, early  warning systems, and sustainable land use planning to overcome the future challenges  regarding glacial lake outburst floods.  

Reference 

1. Allen, S. K., Linsbauer, A., Randhawa, S. S., Huggel, C., Rana, P., & Kumari, A.  (2016). Glacial lake outburst flood risk in Himachal Pradesh, India: an integrative and  anticipatory approach considering current and future threats. Natural Hazards, 84(3),  1741-1763.

Mangroves in India

by Rahul J

With a coverage of almost 5000km², India is home to one of the most important ecosystems available – Mangroves. Present in tropical and subtropical areas, these are tree covers that grow along the coastlines in saline and brackish water. India is home to a significant number of them with their own unique characteristics and biodiversity.

Why are Mangroves Important? 

Being the margin between the land and the sea in these areas, mangroves are considered to be really crucial bio-resources to these coasts, providing tremendous amounts of ecological value such as regulating water quality, shoreline stability, and serving as a physical protection against storms and cyclones. So by taking this role of being in the frontlines, they protect vulnerable coastal communities from sea-level rise caused by climate change and other weather events. Similar to rainforests, they trap a lot of carbon energy and play a vital role against climate change. 

A Look at the Indian Mangrove Landscape

The first and the biggest example would be the Sundarbans mangrove region, which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site and house a Ramsar Wetland within. This forest is the home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, 180 species of trees, the Gangetic Dolphin and so much more. However, a huge chunk of this region has been converted to intensive agricultural lands and has been subject to intense human use – a common challenge that mangroves face, at least in India. 

Figure 2 – (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundarbans_National_Park#/media/File:Sundarban_Tiger.jpg)

The second biggest Mangrove along the same Eastern Coastline would be the Godavari Mangrove Forest, covering an estimated 332km².Despite being the area’s biggest protection against natural calamities, and trapping carbon – these mangroves are being cut back in exchange for firewood and coastal development and for a commercial aquaculture. Inland pollution, sewage and plastic waste is also a threat to this mangrove. Similar to the Sundarbans, this forest also houses an endangered feline – being the Fishing Cat which is seriously threatened by wetland destruction and human-animal conflict, and is possibly extinct in Kerala.

Challenges Faced By Mangrove Regions

Despite being a very resilient ecological region and showing extreme adaptational skills, mangroves are being burdened by many issues. The biggest of them being sea-level rise which directly affects the temperature and growth of these regions. E.g., Sea level rise is said to be the biggest factor in mangrove area loss in the Sundarbans, which has already lost 2km² of mangrove cover between 2017-19.

The second challenge faced, would be human interference for firewood, coal and other natural resources, which has a sharp detrimental impact on the wildlife of these regions as shown above.

Conservation and Conclusion

The successes that India has seen from attempts at Mangrove restoration should largely be attributed to the efforts of local communities, NGOs, and the local governments. A very good example would be the creation of a village level Forest Conservation Council responsible for the planting of 6000 saplings in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. The objective of any mangrove restoration project should be in the balanced use of coastal areas such as limits on harvesting and logging activities and holding a proper record of human involvement in these areas – both for human and ecological benefit.

Figure 4 – (Krishna Delta – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godavari%E2%80%93Krishna_mangroves#/media/File:Mangroves_W_IMG_6896.jpg)

References :

  1. Facts relating to Climate Change, mangrove importance and ecological issues:

https://maritimeindia.org/climate-change-impact-on-mangrove-ecosystems-in-indias-coastal-regions/#_ftn5