Ecology & Environment Notes: September 12, 2020

Environmental Regulatory System

  • The pandemic presents an opportunity for us to think of a new recovery path.
  • This new path should decouple economic growth and environmental degradation.
  • Indian cities feature high in the list of polluted cities in the world.
  • It also features very low on quality of life.
  • There is no dearth of environmental regulations. The biggest gap lies in monitoring and implementing them.
  • Take the municipal solid waste rules. Two decades after the regulations came into effect, their status is for all to see.
  • A comparatively recent regulation, centred around Extended Producer Responsibility, has also posed challenges in monitoring and implementation.
  • In a recent ruling, the judiciary not only ruled against the industry but also blamed officials responsible for implementing the regulations.
  • Regulatory infrastructure should act as a bridge of trust between the community and industry.
  • If the bridge is not stable, the community and industry feel the impact, which, over a period of time, spreads to the nation.
  • No community wants an industrial facility shut unless there are very serious issues. Other than an accident, such problems don’t happen over a day.
  • When early signs from the environment are neglected, they reach thresholds leading to a community upsurge. Then the political system intervenes. It is a battle that nobody wins.
  • Diluting regulatory requirements will create more long-term losses.
  • The focus has to be to improve the system’s capabilities to monitor and implement regulatory requirements.
  • There needs to be greater transparency and accountability; there is no dearth of technology to facilitate this.

Source: Environmental regulatory system should be bridge between community, industry (Indian Express, September 1)

Zero Budget Natural Farming

  • The country’s agriculture sector already consumed over 83 per cent of the available water resources, according to the Central Water Commission. And the demand will increase in new future.
  • Demand has been growing to shift to sustainable farming systems, such as zero-budget natural farming (ZBNF).
  • India introduced ZBNF in its Union Budget 2019-20.
  • ZBNF is the adaptation of an ancient practice that reduces farmers’ direct cost and encourages them to use natural inputs, such as cow dung and cow urine.
  • The inputs help manage soil nutrition, fertility, pests and seeds.
  • The technology involves less tilling and no use of inorganic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides.
  • It is gives importance to optimal use of water.
  • Of late, all these benefits were popularised, but in 2019, a group of researchers tried to quantify it.
  • Researchers at Bengaluru-based technology-policy think-tank Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy conducted an exploratory study in Andhra Pradesh to compare ZBNF and non-ZBNF techniques in paddy, groundnut, chilli, cotton and maize farming.
  • The comparison was made on six parameters: Water, electricity, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, yield and net revenue.
  • It found maximum benefits of ZBNF in paddy farming, with a saving of 1,400 to 3,500 cubic metres of water per acre per paddy cropping period (one acre equals 0.4 hectare).
  • ZBNF advocates mulching of crop residues to promote moisture retention in soil and increase humus. It also involves waaphasa (soil aeration) to reduce water consumption.
  • Traditional flood irrigation was plagued with inconsistent spread of nutrients — with excess water use — something that can also drop crop productivity.
  • In India, 70 per cent of the farms rely on groundwater, which depletes reserves.
  • ZBNF can avoid the current drawing of groundwater by 50-60 per cent, ensure adequate groundwater reserve, improve water table and reduce financial and labour stress on farmers.
  • ZBNF farming can also solve disputes between farming communities where upstream farmers employ canal irrigation and end up guzzling more water, leaving downstream farms with insufficient volume.
  • ZBNF does show water-saving potential and can address India’s food and security in the long run.

Source: Down To Earth, September 4

Project Dolphin

  • In his Independence Day Speech this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the government’s plan to launch a Project Dolphin.
  • The proposed project is aimed at saving both river and marine dolphins.
  • Project Dolphin will be on the lines of Project Tiger, which has helped increase the tiger population.
  • So far, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has been taking some initiatives for saving dolphins.
  • Now, Project Dolphin is expected to be implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
  • The Gangetic river system is home to a vast variety of aquatic life, including the Gangetic dolphin (Platanista gangetica).
  • The Gangetic dolphin is one of five species of river dolphin found around the world.
  • It is found mainly in the Indian subcontinent, particularly in Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems.
  • Aquatic life is an indicator of the health of river ecosystems. As the Gangetic dolphin is at the top of the food chain, protecting the species and its habitat will ensure conservation of aquatic lives of the river.
  • Have other governments used aquatic life as an indicator of the health of a river system?:
  • Globally, there have been such examples. For instance, the Rhine Action Plan (1987) of the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) — representing Switzerland, France, Germany, Luxemburg and the Netherlands — brought back the salmon. The return of the migratory fish is taken as an indicator of the river’s improved health.
  • After the launch of Ganga Action Plan in 1985, the government on November 24, 1986 included Gangetic dolphins in the First Schedule of the Indian Wildlife (Protection), Act 1972.
  • The government also prepared The Conservation Action Plan for the Ganges River Dolphin 2010-2020, which “identified threats to Gangetic Dolphins and impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on Dolphins populations”.
  • In 2009, the central government declared the Gangetic river dolphin as the national aquatic animal.
  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga celebrates October 5 as National Ganga River Dolphin Day.

Source: Project Dolphin: Why it is important to save a declining river species (India Express; September 5)

Image by David Mark from Pixabay