Sunderbans denizen staves off extinction

Why in News ?

A critically endangered resident of the Sunderbans is set to get a new home, beginning a slow journey to recovery from a disastrous decline in the wild. It is more threatened than the Bengal tiger, but far less known.

Northern river terrapin (Batagur baska)

  • The northern river terrapin (Batagur baska) is a species of riverine turtle native toBB4 Southeast Asia.
  • It is classified Critically Endangered by the IUCN and considered extinct in much of its former range.
  • Northern river terrapin is one of Asia’s largest freshwater and brackwater turtles, reaching a carapace length of up to 60 cm and a maximum weight of 18 kg.
  • The species is currently found in Bangladesh (in the Sundarbans),  Cambodia,  India  (parts- West Bengal & Odisha),  Indonesia and Malaysia.
  • It is regionally extinct in Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Source : The Hindu

GS III : Environmental conservation


Killing the environmentalist

In News

A report released tells the stories of countless people who stand up to the might of multinationals, paramilitaries and even their own governments in the most dangerous countries on earth to be a defender. It also analyses why they are facing increased threats, and explores what can be done to keep activists safe.

The Report

  • Killings of defenders are not only growing, they’re spreading too.killing of land and environmental
  • In 2016, documented 200 killings across 24 countries, compared to 185 across 16 in 2015.
  • Almost 40% of those murdered were indigenous.
  • A lack of prosecutions also makes it hard to identify those responsible, but found strong evidence that the police and military were behind at least 43 killings, with private actors such as security guards and hitmen linked to 52 deaths.
  • Report says India has seen killings spike against a backdrop of heavy-handed policing and the repression of peaceful protests and civic activism.
  • Brazil, the world’s deadliest country in terms of sheer numbers killed, though Honduras remains the most dangerous country per capital over the past decade followed by Colombia and Philippines.

Suggestion made in the report for protecting defenders

  • Tackle the root causes of risk – guaranteeing communities can make free and informed choices about whether and how their land and resources are used.
  • Support and protect defenders – through specific laws, policies and practices.
  • Ensure accountability for abuses – going beyond prosecuting  those responsible for ordering or carrying out an attack, by ensuring that those actors, like international investors, who failed to support threatened defenders face consequences for their inaction.

Source : The Hindu

GS II : Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders

6,000 Antarctic iceberg splits

In News

One of the biggest icebergs ever recorded has just broken away from Antarctica. The giant block is estimated to cover an area of roughly 6,000 sq. km.

About the split

  • U.S. satellite observed the berg while passing over a region known as the Larsen C Ice Shelf.
  • The new Larsen berg is probably in the top 10 biggest ever recorded.

Larsen C Ice Shelf

  • An object measuring some 9,000 sq. km came away in 1986.iceloss-leadimage
  • The Larsen C shelf is a mass of floating ice formed by glaciers that have flowed down off the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula into the ocean.

Two nearby smaller shelves, Larsen A and Larsen B, disintegrated around the turn of the century and a warming climate very probably had a role in their demise.

Sensor network to map and predict pollution, effluents in Godavari

Why in news ?

U.S. researchers is working on a system to map undulating pollution trends in the Godavari, India’s second longest river.

About Sensor network

  • Using a mix of methods, including satellite-monitoring, traversing stretches of the
    Source : The Hindu

    river to collect water samples and using special sensors to measure bacterial and chemical pollution, the researchers are trying to develop a cost-effective forecast system.

  • Long-term objective is to be able to inform State officials and citizens of a probable spike in levels of dangerous microbes or effluents, similar to weather and air pollution forecasts.
  • The research and implementation teams intend to demonstrate the importance and value of detecting and anticipating pollutants that enter the river in the form of human waste, organic materials, and chemical contaminants
  • Sensors to monitor river pollution are an emerging technological approach in India.


The exercise is part of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation project to support the programme of the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) to provide city-wide sanitation improvements in urban Andhra Pradesh.

Source : The Hindu

GS III: environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Asmara and Hoh Xil in world heritage list of UNESCO

In News

UNESCO declared the Hoh Xil nature reserve in China’s Qinghai Province a natural heritage site and the Eritrean capital of Asmara has been listed as a Unesco world heritage site.

Eritrean Capital Asmara

  • Asmara is the capital city of Eritrea, a country in the Horn of Africa.
  • Asmara is a former Italian colony .Eritrea
  • Architects whose designs were unwelcome in conservative European cities found a place in Asmara at a time when about half of the city’s population was Italian and the city was known as Piccola Roma or Little Rome.
  • Modernist architecture of other Eritrean cities was destroyed during a decades-long war of liberation from Ethiopia, Asmara’s survived and was declared a national monument by the government in 2001.

Eritrea : Border with Sudan in the North-West, Ethiopia in the South and Djibouti in the South East. Coastal Border with Red Sea in the East.

China’s Hoh Xil

  • Hoh Xil nature reserve, an isolated region in the northwestern part located on the china Hoh XilQinghai-Tibet Plateau, is home to over 200 animal species.
  • More than 20 of them are state-protected, including the Tibetan antelope.
  • It is China’s largest world natural heritage site, covering an area of 45,000 sq. kilometers

Decision challenged by pro-Tibet activists : Giving Hoh Xil heritage status could have consequences for Tibet including the displacement of Tibetan nomads from their land.

Source : The Hindu

Prelims : Paper 1

Scientists find out why Chennai flood

The extreme El Nino conditions in 2015 and the warming trend in the Bay of Bengal contributed equally to the unprecedented heavy rainfall witnessed in Chennai for three days from November 30 to December 2, 2015.

A study by the University of Hyderabad and the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay suggests that the extreme El Nino that occurred in 2015 played an important role in Chennai’s heavy rainfall.

Reason for flood

  • Another factor that seems to have played an important role is the consistent warming of the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
  • The extreme El Nino that occurred in 2015 played an important role in Chennai’s heavy rainfall.
  • After 1982 and 1997, the 2015 event also turned out to be an extreme El Nino event.

El Nino generally causes less than normal rainfall in the case of the southwest monsoon. In contrast, it brings about above-normal rainfall during the northeast monsoon. This is because of the difference in seasonal wind patterns between the two monsoons.

El Nino Effect

  • El Nino events are associated with a warming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific.
  • El Nino occurs when the normal trade winds weaken (or even reverse), which lets the warm water that is usually found in the western Pacific flow instead towards the east.
  • This warm water displaces the cooler water that is normally found near the surface of the eastern Pacific, setting off atmospheric changes that affect weather patterns in many parts of the world.
  • These consequences include increased rainfall across the southern tier of the US and in Peru, and drought in the West Pacific.

El Nino effects on Indian Monsoon

  • El Nino signal shows up in atmospheric circulation, the local sea surface temperature can also change.
  • It generally causes less than normal rainfall in the case of the southwest monsoon.
  • In contrast, it brings about above-normal rainfall during the northeast monsoon.
  • This is because of the difference in seasonal wind patterns between the two monsoons.

Source : The Hindu

GS II : Important Geophysical phenomena

Climate change impact on Sunderbans mangroves

In News 

Mangrove Forest Cover Changes in Indian Sundarban (1986-2012) Using Remote Sensing and GIS, a publication by the School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University, reveals that from 1986 to 2012, 124.418 sq. km. mangrove forest cover has been lost.

About the Study

  • In a development, for both environmentalists and policy makers, the mangrove forest cover in the Indian Sunderbans has been depleting alarmingly over the past few decades.
  • The loss in the mangrove forest in the Indian Sunderbans is about 5.5 %.sunderban
  • The continuation of this process in response to climate change and sea level rise poses a serious threat to the carbon sequestration potential and other ecosystem services of this mangrove forest in future.
  • The mean sea level rise at the Sagar Island Station, measured from 1985 onward till 2010, shows a rise by 2.6-4 mm a year, which can be considered a driving factor for coastal erosion, coastal flooding, and an increase in the number of tidal creeks.
  • The erosion of at least 18 mangrove forested islands of the Indian Sunderbans from 1986 to 2012.

Source : The Hindu

GS III : Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment


Aerosols ‘shrinking’ India’s monsoon

Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, studying the monsoon impact of GHGs over the next century has come to this conclusion that aerosols may be weakening rainy season even more than GHGs.

Study on Monsoon

  • Greenhouse gases are causing concern about the long-term fate of the Indian monsoon.
  • Researchers think aerosols from vehicular exhaust, half-burnt crop residue, dust and chemical effluents may be weakening the life-giving rainy season even more than GHGs.
  • a mix of GHGs, aerosols and changes in forest and agricultural cover was affecting the strength of the monsoon, which was known to be weakening over the last 50 years.
  • New simulations suggest that aerosols may be a far more important factor than GHGs.
  • The scientist used an upgraded forecasting model that was used this year by the India Meteorological Department for forecasts.
  • The model will help prepare India’s first home-grown forecast of climate change from global warming, and be part of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.


  • Aerosol is a colloid of fine solid particles or liquid droplets, in air or another gas.
  • Aerosols can be natural or anthropogenic.
  • Examples of natural aerosols are fog, forest exudates and geyser steam.
  • Examples of artificial aerosols are haze, dust, particulate air pollutants and smoke.

Source : The Hindu

GS III : Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Dolphins to the rescue of endangered porpoise

In News

Mexico announced plans to use trained dolphins to corral the last remaining vaquita marina porpoises into a protected breeding ground.

Vaquita Marina Porpoises

  • The world’s most rare marine mammal, is on the edge of extinction.Vaquita
  • Scientists estimate there are just 30 remaining vaquitas, the world’s smallest porpoise, a species found only in the waters of the Gulf of California.
  • The vaquita has a large dark ring around its eyes and dark patches on its lips that form a thin line from the mouth to the pectoral fins.
  • Vaquita are often caught and drowned in gillnets used by illegal fishing operations in marine protected areas within Mexico’s Gulf of California.
  • The population has dropped drastically in the last few years.

Rescue Measures taken

  • The authorities would deploy dolphins trained by the U.S. Navy to herd as many vaquitas as possible into a marine refuge.
  • Guarantee to capture the largest possible number of vaquitas to have an opportunity to save them.
  • The government also announced it has permanently banned the fishing nets in which vaquitas are often killed.
  • Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto signed a deal in June with Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim to increase efforts to save the vaquita.

Source : The Hindu

GS III : Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment


Ice-free areas of Antarctica to increase by 2100

In News

Ice free areas may increase in Antarctica by 25% due to climate change, leading to drastic changes in the continent’s biodiversity, a study warns.

About the Study

  • Researchers, including those from University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia, investigated how ice-free areas in Antarctica may be affected by climate change.
  • Melting ice could create up to 17,000 square kilometre of new ice-free area across Antarctica – a 25% increase on current levels.
  • The majority of this melting would occur on the Antarctic Peninsula where the climate had already rapidly warmed.

Effect of ice-free area

  • Expansion of ice-free habitat could lead to new opportunities for Antarctic biodiversity.
  • The warmer conditions will also encourage invasive species to establish.

Source : Live Mint

GS I : Salient features of world’s physical geography

GS III : Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment


Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary star tortoises

Project of the Kerala Forest Department at the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) to rehabilitate Indian star tortoises (Geochelone elegans) seized from smugglers has turned into a major success. This makes the CWS the only rehabilitation centre for star tortoises in the country.

Indian Star Tortoise

  • Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) is a threatened species of tortoise found in dry areas and scrub forest in India and Sri Lanka.tortoise
  • The main reason for threaten is the exotic pet trade.
  • They range from India,  extending west to Sindh province (Pakistan), and Sri Lanka.
  • Indian star tortoises are considered auspicious for gaining wealth.
  • It is the reason why Indian star tortoises, which are protected under the Wildlife Act, are poached and smuggled.

Rehabilitation of tortoises

  • CWS is the only place in Kerala where star tortoises are known to occur in the wild.
  • Sanctuary is now a haven for at least 450 such tortoises seized from poachers in less than two years.

Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS)

  • Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) is located in the Idukki district of Kerala state.
  • It is one of twelve wildlife sanctuaries among the protected areas of Kerala.
  • The Chinnar and Pambar rivers are the major perennial water resources in the sanctuary.

Source : The Hindu

General Information


Science exhibition train

A Science Express Climate Action Special (SECAS) train will hold exhibitions at four stations under East Coast Railway (ECoR). It’s aim is to create awareness about climate change and similar issues.

Key Facts

  • The exhibition is at Bhadrak, Puri, Chhatrapur and Kottavalasa between 9 and 23 May.
  • 16-coach train is an initiative of the Centre’s department of science & technology in collaboration with the ministry of environment, forest & climate change, department of bio-technology and ministry of railways.train
  • Exhibition will convey a message about climate change and provide an opportunity to generate dialogue and discussion.
  • It will create awareness among various sections of society as to how climate change can be combated through mitigation and adaptation.
  • 8 coaches developed by MoEFCC, is exclusively devoted to information, case studies and material related to various aspect of climate change.

Source : Livemint

GS III : Environment Awareness – Climate Change


Swachh Survekshan Survey 2017

Centre released the list of cleanest cities of the country as a part of Swachh Survekshan Survey. Every year, cities and towns across India are awarded with the title of ‘Swachh Cities’ on the basis of their cleanliness and sanitation drive as a part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Key Facts

  • Union Urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu released the list which was finalised by the Quality Council of India.
  • Indore and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh have emerged as the cleanest cities in the country
  • The dirtiest city is Gonda in Uttar Pradesh.

swach report

  • Survey, Swachh Survekshan-2017, was carried out by the Quality Council of India across 434 cities and includes the feedback of 18 lakh respondents.
  • The top 10 cleanest cities : Indore, Bhopal, Visakhapatnam, Surat, Mysuru, Tiruchi, Delhi’s New Delhi Municipal Council area, Navi Mumbai, Tirupati and Vadodara.
  • Gujarat has 12 cities among the top 50, followed by Madhya Pradesh – 11, Andhra Pradesh with eight,  Tamil Nadu and Telangana four each..

Criteria for survey

Criteria of the rankings are as follows : 45 per cent marks for open defecation free, solid waste management, education and capacity building, another 25 per cent marks for field inspection and 30 per cent for citizen feedback. At least 18 lakh citizens across the cities gave their feedback about the sanitation in their respective cities and towns.

Source : The Hindu

GS III : Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

New balsams add to Nilgiris biodiversity colours

Three new species of plants belonging to the Balsaminaceae family were identified in the Mukurthi National Park in the Nilgiris recently.

The three Balsams

  • Named : (1) Impatiens kawttyana (2) Impatiens taihmushkulni (3) Impatiens nilgirica
  • Found by Tarun Chhabra and Ramneek Singh a few years ago, were formally classified recently.
  • Impatiens kawttyana : Identifiable by its large, white flowers, glandular hairs followed by white hairs at the throat, and has been named after a Toda deity hill, ‘Kawtty’.
  • Impatiens taihmushkulni : Named after the Toda deity hill Taihmushkuln.
  • Impatiens nilgirica : Variant nawttyana differs slightly from a previously identified species, with the newly found variety having longer scape  and petioles with white flowers among other small variations. This variety was named based on on Todas members of the Balsaminaceae family Nawtty.
  • Sacred deity hills of the Todas are located inside the park and they have played a tremendous role in protecting the area.
  • Three new species were found in isolated pockets of the Mukurthi National Park and Porthimund reserve forests, and while I.taihmushkulni has been tentatively classified by researchers to be endangered.
  • There was not enough data on the other two species.
  • The new species throw light on the continued importance and diversity of the Nilgiris.

The Nilgiri


  • An International Biosphere Reserve in the Western Ghats and Nilgiri Hills ranges of South India.
  • Reserve spreads over in the states of Tamil Nadu,  Karnataka and Kerala.
  • The Western Ghats, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster conjoining the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, is a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO in 2012.
  • It includes the Mudumalai, Mukurthi, Sathyamangalam, Nagarhole, Wayanad, and Bandipur national parks.
  • Major Tribal groups : Todas, Kotas, Irullas, Kurumbas, Paniyas, Adiyans, Edanadan Chettis, Cholanaickens, Allar,Malayan.
  • There are more than 135 endemic species of plants in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, of which the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu forms the core, with over 90 endemics.

Source : The Hindu, Wikipedia

GS III : Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Achieving climate change goals

Report on climate change : In order to have a good chance of meeting the limits set by the Paris Agreement, it will be necessary to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions while preserving carbon sinks, with net emissions peaking in the next 10 years. These 10 years are crucial for achieving climate change goals.

Details of the Study

  • Published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).
  • They used a global model of the carbon system that accounts for carbon release and uptake through both natural and anthropogenic activities.
  • Study shows that the combined energy and land-use system should deliver zero net anthropogenic emissions well before 2040 in order to assure the attainability of a 1.5°C target by 2100.
  • Fossil fuel consumption would likely need to be reduced to less than 25% of the global energy supply by 2100, compared to 95% today.
  • At the same time, land use change, such as deforestation, must be decreased.
  • This would lead to a 42% decrease in cumulative emissions by the end of the century compared to a business as usual scenario.
  • In a “high-renewable” scenario wind, solar, and bioenergy increase by around 5% a year, net emissions could peak by 2022

Significance of study

  • Paris Agreement set a target of limiting average temperature increase to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to even further limit the average increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • The timing and details of these efforts were left to individual countries.
  • This study gives a broad accounting of the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, where it comes from and where it goes.
  • Considering emissions from fossil fuels not enough , but the agriculture, land use, food production, bioenergy, and carbon uptake by natural ecosystems.
  • Without substantial negative emissions technologies lead to a global average temperature rise of 2.5°C, missing the Paris Agreement target
  • Continued reliance on fossil fuels would cause carbon emissions, causing an estimated 3.5°C global temperature rise by 2100.

Source : Science Daily , Wikipedia

GS III : Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment