Environment Notes: August 05-July 31, 2020

What is ammonium nitrate?
  • Ammonium nitrate has the chemical formula NH₄NO₃. Produced as small porous pellets, or ‘prills’, it’s one of the world’s most widely used fertilisers.
  • It is also the main component in many types of mining explosives, where it’s mixed with fuel oil and detonated by an explosive charge.
  • For an industrial ammonium nitrate disaster to occur, a lot needs to go wrong. Tragically, this seems to have been the case in Beirut.
CRSI Bronze Medal

Srihari Pabbaraja, senior principal scientist working in the Department of Organic Synthesis and Process Chemistry, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad, has been selected for the Chemical Research Society of India (CRSI) Bronze medal 2021 for his contributions on the total synthesis of natural products and method development for new chemical entities.

Ethanol from Sugarcane Juice
  • Producing ethanol from sugarcane juice instead of molasses can help India meet its nutrition requirements and make resources like land and water more sustainable, said a July 24, 2020 study published in journal Environmental Research Letters.
  • Sugarcane cultivation uses up more land and water, and, thus, reduces the use of these resources for foods that are rich in micro-nutrients, said the study.
  • India’s biofuel policy only recently allowed the use of sugarcane juice in ethanol production, in addition to molasses, the study pointed out.
  • The study found sugarcane occupied only four per cent of Maharashtra’s total cropped area, but guzzled 61 per cent of the state’s irrigation water in 2010-11.
Groundwater Extraction
  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has called for commercial entities to follow new rules for getting permission to extract groundwater.
  • Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) will now form the basis of granting such permissions, the NGT bench said.
  • India was at the bottom of the water quality index, at 120 among 122 countries, according to a June 12 NITI Aayog report cited by the NGT.
  • Most states achieved less than half the total score in augmentation of groundwater resources, highlighting a growing national crisis.
  • Almost none of the states have built the infrastructure required to recharge groundwater in over-exploited and critical areas wither, while Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh lack in any regulatory framework for managing the groundwater.
  • In a ranking of the latest assessment in categories of OCS areas cited by the NGT, Delhi had the most assessed units (82 per cent), followed by Punjab and Rajasthan (81 per cent), Haryana (75 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (50 per cent).
Black swan genome
  • Australian scientists have mapped the genome of the black swam, a species highly susceptible to the avian flu virus, in order to better understand immune response and protect public health.
  • The Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) usually occurs in birds and can sometimes spill over to humans.
  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization considers six countries to be endemic for the HPAI virus in poultry as of 2011, namely Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Coastal flooding

Coastal flooding is set to rise by about 50 per cent over the next 80 years and could threaten assets worth 20 per cent of global gross domestic product, according to a study, published in  Springer Nature’s Scientific Reports.

Lead Poisoning
  • A third of the world’s children — around 800 million — are affected by lead poisoning, with India accounting for 275,561,163 of these cases, said a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and non-profit Pure Earth.
  • Lead exposure during childhood is linked to several issues, including mental health and behavioural problems, including an increase in crime and violence.
  • The parents of children who work in lead-based factories also brought home contaminated dust, increasing exposure to children in such households.
  • The report also listed folk remedies and cosmetics used by households that contained lead. Ghasard, an Indian folk medicine in the form of a brown powder used as a tonic, contained lead.
  • Sindoor (vermillion), a traditional cosmetic powder used by women in the Indian subcontinent, also has traces of lead.

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