Current Affairs - Biodiversity
Four more sites of India added to Ramsar List
Four more wetlands from India got recognition from the Ramsar Secretariat as Ramsar sites.
- These sites are Thol and Wadhwana from Gujarat and Sultanpur and Bhindawas from Haryana.
- Now, the number of Ramsar sites in India is 46.
- While Haryana got its first Ramsar site, Gujarat got two more after Nalsarovar which was declared in 2012.
Brief about the New Ramsar Sites
- Thol Lake Wildlife Sanctuary from Gujarat lies on the Central Asian Flyway and more than 320 bird species can be found here. The wetland supports more 30 threatened waterbird species, such as the critically endangered White-rumped Vulture and Sociable Lapwing , and the vulnerable Sarus Crane, Common Pochard and Lesser White-fronted Goose.
- Wadhvana Wetland from Gujarat is internationally important for its birdlife as it provides wintering ground to migratory waterbirds, including over 80 species that migrate on the Central Asian Flyway. They include some threatened or near-threatened species such as the endangered Pallas’s fish-Eagle, the vulnerable Common Pochard, and the near-threatened Dalmatian Pelican, Grey-headed Fish-eagle and Ferruginous Duck.
- Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest wetland in Haryana is a human-made freshwater wetland. Over 250 bird species use the sanctuary throughout the year as a resting and roosting site. The site supports more than ten globally threatened species including the endangered Egyptian Vulture, Steppe Eagle, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, and Black-bellied Tern.
- Sultanpur National Park from Haryana supports more than 220 species of resident, winter migratory and local migratory waterbirds at critical stages of their life cycles. More than ten of these are globally threatened, including the critically endangered sociable lapwing, and the endangered Egyptian Vulture, Saker Falcon, Pallas’s Fish Eagle and Black-bellied Tern.
- The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. It is named after the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the Caspian Sea, where the treaty was signed on February 2, 1971.
- The aim of the Ramsar list is “to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits”.
Importance of Wetlands
- Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources and ecosystem services such as food, water, fibre, groundwater recharge, water purification, flood moderation, erosion control and climate regulation. They are, in fact, are a major source of water and our main supply of freshwater comes from an array of wetlands which help soak rainfall and recharge groundwater.
- On 5th October, 2020, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)released an assessment according to which the annual economic value of ecosystem services provided by the Delhi Zoo works out to be Rs 426 crore.
- The study was commissioned by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA).
- The ecosystem services constitute heads such as biodiversity conservation, employment generation, education and research, carbon sequestration and recreational and cultural contributions.
- When one-time ecosystem services are considered, such as carbon storage, the surrogate value of land and land value of Delhi Zoo, their contribution climbs to nearly Rs55,209 crore.
- The study is ‘first-of-its-kind’ in India which gave a “powerful baseline assessment” of the important ecosystem services provided by the zoo.
- These estimates could be used to compute value provided by zoos across India.
- These are the benefits provided by ecosystems that contribute to making human life both possible and worth living.
- Examples of ecosystem services include products such as food and water, regulation of floods, soil erosion and disease outbreaks, and non-material benefits such as recreational and spiritual benefits in natural areas.
- As per the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), 2005,ecosystem services are "the benefits people obtain from ecosystems".
MEA categorizes ecosystem services in four main types-
- Provisioning Services: These are the products obtained from ecosystems such as food, fresh water, wood, fiber, genetic resources and medicines.
- Regulating Services: These are defined as the benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes such as climate regulation, natural hazard regulation, water purification and waste management, pollination or pest control.
- Habitat Services: These highlight the importance of ecosystems to provide habitat for migratory species and to maintain the viability of gene-pools.
- Cultural Services: Theseinclude non-material benefits that people obtain from ecosystems such as spiritual enrichment, intellectual development, recreation and aesthetic values.
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA)
- A recent study by scientists of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has proved that Himalayan Ibex is a distinct species from the Siberian Ibex.
- The paper, ‘Genetic evidence for allopatric speciation of the Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica) in India,’ has recently been published in Endangered Species Research, an international peer-reviewed journal.
About the Findings
- The study reveals that Siberian ibex is a polytypic species, plausibly formed by lumping of at least 2 species and or 3 to 4 sub-species.
- The researchers, under a project funded through the National Mission on Himalayan Studies undertook field surveys and collected faecal samples from Lahaul and Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
- The genetic analysis conducted with the inclusion of the sequences available from all across the distribution ranges in Central Asia, Tajikistan, Altai Mountains, Mongolia and Russia provided first evidence to claim that Himalayan Ibex is genetically different from all other ranges of Siberian Ibex.
- The samples collected from India clustered with the sequences from Tajikistan in a phylogenetic analysis, which were adequately different from the other two clades: KZ clade of Tajikistan (which broadly represents one of the clusters in the phylogeny) and AMR clade of Altai Mountains, Mongolia and Russia.
- Based on the findings, it was estimated that the Siberian Ibex diverged from Alpine Ibex during the Pleistocene epoch (2.4 million years ago).
Reasons for Diversion
- The scientists are now working to understand how the mountain oscillations might have led to this allopatric speciation with the inclusion of sophisticated tools of genomics and GIS.
- It was presumed that the ‘montane systems’, formed by a series of climatic oscillations and temporal topographic metamorphosis, have broken up the contiguous distribution of widespread species and accelerated allopatric speciation.
Significance of Study
- The study is going to be the breakthrough in the global understanding of the Ibex distribution and evolution.
- It will grab the attention of the global experts so that the species can be evaluated under IUCN.
- The identification of Indian Tajikistan Ibex as a distinct species will prioritize the conservation of the species at global level.
Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica)
- It is a species of wild goat and is distributed in diverse habitats, ranging from cold deserts, rocky outcrops, steep terrain, high-land flats and mountain ridges to low mountains and foothills.
- Most Siberian ibexes are seen in central and northern Asia, Afghanistan, western and northern China (Primarily Xinjiang), north-western India, south-eastern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, eastern Uzbekistan, Mongolia, northern Pakistan, and south-central Russia.
- IUCN Status: Least Concerned
Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica hemalayanus)
- They are found in the western Himalaya in Pakistan and India, usually at elevations of 3800m and higher.
- In India, the Ibex is distributed mainly in the trans-Himalayan ranges of the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh up to the river Sutlej.
- Ibexes can be a significant prey item for many species.
- Siberian ibexes host many different species of ectoparasites and endoparasites. The presence of ectoparasites on Siberian ibexes creates a symbiotic relation with magpies (Pica pica), and other birds These birds benefit from food that is supported on the body of Siberian ibex, while Siberian ibexes benefit from being groomed.
- Throughout their distribution, ibexes browse and graze, impacting vegetation communities.
Snow Leopard Population Assessment Of India
- On the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day (23rd October, 2019), Union Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI).
- The launch was made at the Inaugural session of the 4th steering committee meeting of the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) Program.
- To help the Snow Leopard double its population.
About the Protocol
- This protocol is evolved from the international efforts to develop a global protocol for the Population Assessment of World's Snow Leopards (PAWS) under the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) of the twelve countries.
- It has been developed by scientific experts in association with the Snow Leopard States/UTs namely, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunanchal Pradesh and the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysuru.
- The Indian survey will extensively use camera traps, artificial intelligence, drones and genetic tools to find out the numbers of not only the snow leopard, but also its prey base like ungulate prey base like markhor, argali, urial, ibex, blue sheep (bharal), Tibetan wild ass, wild yak, Tibetan antelope, Tibetan gazelle and possibly Hangul or Kashmir red deer, musk deer, and Himalayan tahr.
Challenges to Assessment
- Vast Habitat Area: Snow leopards occur over a vast, relatively remote and difficult to access mountainous area which will pose a major challenge to the estimation.
- Unclear Distribution: Even their distribution remains unclear. For example, recent surveys show that they do not occur in 25 % of the area that was thought to be their range in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Variation in density across space also poses the risk of biased sampling.
- Elusive Nature of Species: Snow leopard are known as the ghost of the mountains are due to their most elusive nature. This makes a complete population census of snow leopards an unfeasible goal.
Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP)
Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopards(PAWS)
- Will Provide First National Estimation: The protocol will help the snow leopard range states to estimate distribution and population of the big cats and prey in a uniform manner to arrive at a national estimate for the first time.
- Guiding Document: This protocol will now serve as the main guiding document for the snow leopard range States in India and other agencies interested in snow leopard distribution and abundance estimation. This will provide crucial basis to design our management and conservation interventions and assess the effectiveness of the same in the long-term for better planning and management.
- Site Identification: The program is expected to help identify sites in need of greater protection as well as how the species is responding to climate change.
- Contribution to PAWS Initiative: will contribute to the global ‘Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopard’s (PAWS) initiative.
Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia)
- The snow leopard inhabits the higher Himalayan and trans-Himalayan landscape at an altitude between 3,000 and 5,400 metres.
- In India, it is found in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
- India contributes to about 5% of the global snow leopard population.
- In 2017, IUCN changed the status of Snow leopard in its Red List from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’.
- Listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
- Listed in Appendix I of the CITES.
- Snow leopards are apex predators, meaning they play a key role in maintaining the biodiversity in an ecosystem. Through population dynamics and trophic cascades, snow leopards are an important indicator of the health of the environment at high altitude.
- As the top predator in the high mountains of Inner Asia, the snow leopard plays an important ecological role in controlling the populations of the wild ungulate species it preys on, thus balancing the food chain system in the region.
Project Snow Leopard
SECURE Himalaya Project
Threats to Snow Leopard
- The snow leopard habitat range continues to decline from human settlement and increased use of grazing space. This development increasingly fragments the historic range of the species.
- Climate change, such as the increasing climate aridity observed in Central Asia, is another emerging threat to high-mountain ecosystems, with the potential to directly or indirectly reduce habitat for snow leopards and their prey.
Increasing Livestock and Overgrazing
- Although human population density in the snow leopard’s ecosystems is relatively low, its habitats are heavily used by people whose livelihoods depend on traditional pastoralism and agro-pastoralism.
- The resulting overgrazing leads to degradation of pastureland and wildlife habitats and serious soil erosion. This reduces wild prey numbers, which already live at relatively low densities due to the low productivity of the habitat, thereby impacting the snow leopard population.
- Illegal trade and illicit demand for snow leopard products exists at national and international levels, including in the West.
- Snow leopards are killed and traded for their fur and other body parts, including teeth, claws, and bones.
- Snow leopards are often killed by local farmers because they prey on livestock such as sheep, goats, horses, and yak calves. As their natural prey becomes harder to find, snow leopards are forced to kill livestock for survival, which leads to retaliatory killing of leopards.
Lack of Transboundary Cooperation
- A lack of transboundary cooperation for snow leopard conservation threatens protection, law enforcement, and habitat connectivity as well as recovery efforts for the snow leopard and its prey.
- It is estimated that up to a third of the snow leopard’s known or potential range is located either along or less than 50‐100 km from the international borders of the 12 range countries.
Suggestive Conservation Measures
- Enhance the role of local communities in snow leopard conservation.
- Take firm action to stop poaching and illegal trade of snow leopards by adopting comprehensive legislation, strengthening national law-enforcement systems, enhancing national, regional, and international collaboration
- Encourage meaningful participation of industry and the private sector in snow leopard conservation.
- Ensure that infrastructure projects and other development programs are fully sensitive to the conservation needs of snow leopards and their ecosystems.
- Increase bilateral and regional cooperation for snow leopard conservation in transboundary landscapes.
- Strengthen capacity for community-based conservation, law enforcement support, and wildlife and ecosystem management, among policy makers and civil society by supporting knowledge exchange and communities of practice and communication and cooperation among stakeholders.
- Snow leopard symbolizes the rich natural and cultural heritage of the Indian high-altitudes. The unique high-altitude ecosystem inhabited by snow leopards offer invaluable livelihood, ecosystem and economic services to millions of local and national populace.
- Snow leopard habitat forms the source of most of the life sustaining rivers of Asia, including Indus, Satluj, Brahmaputra, and Ganga.
- Snow leopard itself is a major attractor of tourism in the Himalayas, thereby, contributing to the local economy. Although challenges are many, it is on us to grab the opportunities of working together and help this unique, fascinating species persist in the future.
Forest-PLUS 2.0 Programme
- Recently, India's Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in collaboration with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) launched the Forest-PLUS 2.0 programme.
- It is the second set of pilot projects, is meant to enhance sustainable forest landscape management after Forest-PLUS completed its five years in 2017.
- It aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhance sequestration through afforestation, conservation, and sustainable management of
Need for Forest-Plus Programme
- India has communicated in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under Paris Agreement (2015)to capture 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of Carbon dioxide through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
Key Actions under Forest 2.0
To Develop Tools for Managing Forests for Multiple Services:
- Under the project, forestry management tools to enhance the flow of ecosystem services (water, in particular) will be developed in addition to development of model forest management plans based on an established ecosystem approach.
- It help respond to increasing recognition of the need to manage forested watersheds to enhance water flow and quality, and improve the livelihood opportunities and resilience of forest-dependent communities.
Market-Based Instruments for Enhancing Finance:
- The program will develop tools to better monitor and value ecosystem services, and will also demonstrate market-based mechanisms for efficient delivery of these services.
- For example, a municipality or industry would make payments to upstream forest communities for using water flowing down from the forests because of improved forest management.
Conservation along Economic Opportunities:
- USAID will focus on modeling and setting up conservation enterprises to provide viable economic opportunities to forest-dependent people (rather than subsistence-scale livelihoods) and will leverage considerable investment by the private sector.
Target Area for Forest-Plus 2.0
- It comprises pilot project in three landscapes — Gaya in Bihar, Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Medak in Telangana.
- The choice of these sites was driven by the contrast in their landscapes – Bihar is a forest deficit area, Telangana is a relatively drier area where there is ample scope for community livelihood enhancement and Kerala is rich in biodiversity.
Targets to be achieved
- 1,20,000 hectares of land under improved management
- New, inclusive economic activity worth $12 million
- Measurable benefits accrued to 800,000 households
- Three incentive mechanisms( Strategy, Capacity and Support) demonstrated in managing landscapes for ecosystem services
Forest-Plus (Partnership for Land Use Science)
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+)
- Maintaining Ecosystem Health: Over the past few years, ithas helped target households reduce fuel wood use by almost 50 percent and improve management of about 1 million hectares of forests.
- Enhanced Forest Monitoring:The project has helped the Government of India to develop a robust forest carbon monitoring system so that it can participate in the global forest carbon market.
- Securing Livelihoods of Weaker Sections:The project has contributed to the betterment of the vulnerable USAID works with poor and marginalized forest communities in some of the remotest regions of India. For ex. in the Koraput district of Odisha, community members learned new skills for the sustainable harvest and processing of non-timber forest products. Then they invested in five women-led producer companies, boosting incomes for 4,000 families by 40 percent.
- Innovative Private-sector Engagement: It has brought together local communities, government agencies, civil society groups, and the private sector for afforestation activities. This model enables the private sector to provide timely and effective inputs for forest management. Because India’s current forest policy framework does not include roles for private sector in all aspects of forest management, this partnership model will enable the private sector to scale-up its vital engagement in forest management within the current policy constraints.
- Increased pressure on forest resources of the country over the last few decades has threatened the livelihoods of millions of forest-dwellers and other poor people living in the vicinity of the forests. Forest resources have been important for the prosperity of any nation and its communities.
- They are an essential natural resource providing multiple benefits to people besides other important functions such as biodiversity conservation, global carbon storage and a storehouse for future option values. The richand the poor alike are dependent on forest resources, directly or indirectly, and forestry in many developing countries, including India is also seen as a means for eradicating rural poverty and achieving sustainable development goal (SDG).
India Identifies 130 Wetlands For Priority Restoration
- On 7th September, 2019, theGovernment identified 130 wetlands for priority restoration in the next five years.
- The key decision came on the sidelines of the ongoing fourteenth session of the Conference of Parties (CoP) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) at Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
- The identified wetlands will be restored under a comprehensive scheme of the National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems (NPCA) for conservation and restoration of wetlands and lakes.
- Concerned states have been asked to submit their respective integrated management plan.
- A new concept of 'Wetland Health Card' would be introduced to monitor the entire ecosystem based on multiple parameters.
- Wetland Mitras (group of self-motivated individuals) will be formed for taking care of the identified wetlands
Wetlands in India
- Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) in 2011 came out with a national wetlands atlas on the basis of satellite images, mapping over two lakh wetlands covering around 63% of the total geographic area of India
- The highest number of such identified wetlands are in Uttar Pradesh (16) followed by Madhya Pradesh (13), Jammu & Kashmir (12), Gujarat (8), Karnataka (7) and West Bengal (6).
- India's prominent wetlands include Chilika lake areas (Odisha), Wular lake (J&K), Renuka (Himachal Pradesh), Sambharlake (Rajasthan), DeeporBeel (Assam), East Kolkata wetlands (West Bengal), NalSarovar (Gujarat), Harika (Punjab), RudraSagar (Tripura) and Bhoj wetland (Madhya Pradesh).
- A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally and it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem.They include:
- swamps, marshes
- billabongs, lakes, lagoons
- saltmarshes, mudflats
- mangroves, coral reefs
- bogs, fens, and peatlands
- It may support both aquatic and terrestrial species. The prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favor the growth of specially adapted plants (hydrophytes) and promote the development of characteristic wetland (hydric) soils.
Threats to Wetlands
- Drainage for irrigation and agriculture
- As a source of drinking water
- Using the wetlands waters for electricity generation
- Human settlements
- Dredging sediments and exploiting mineral resources
- Intensive harvesting of wetland goods
- Industrial Pollution
- Climate change
- Land fillings
Importance of Wetlands
- Carbon Sequestering Systems: Wetlands have the ability to store excess carbon (via photosynthesis) from the atmosphere, one of the primary components of greenhouse gases and a driver of climate change.
- Water Store House:Wetlands work like giant sponges. They store water and then slowly release it, and this helps to deal with dry seasons with little rainfall.
- Water Purification:Wetlands acts as water filter by filtering out sedimentation, decomposing vegetative matter and converting chemicals into useable form.
- Flood Barriers:Wetlands can store the excess water, and slow it down so it distributes more evenly over a floodplain. The roots of trees and other vegetation also help slow the speed of flood waters.
- Ground Water Recharge: Wetlands allow water to soak into the ground, and to replenish the natural ground-water supply.
- Erosion Control: Wetland vegetation binds the soil on stream banks and riparian wetlands, preventing excessive erosion and sedimentation downstream.
- Biological Supermarket: Wetlands can be regarded of as biological supermarkets. As they harbor a variety of species of microbes, plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, fish and mammals can be part of a wetland ecosystem.
- Food for Livestock:Wetlands provide good areas for grazing, and the variety of grasses, along with a supply of running water, can be beneficial to farming livestock.
- Other Economical Value:Wetlands yield fuel wood for cooking, thatch for roofing, fibers for textiles and paper making industries and timber for building. Medicines are extracted from their bark, leaves, and fruits, and they also provide tannins and dyes, used extensively in the treatment of leather.
- Recreational Opportunities: Many wetlands contain a diversity of plants, animals and water features that provide beautiful places for sightseeing, hiking, fishing, hunting, boating, bird watching, and photography, providing a better chance for development of tourism industry in any country.
- Wetlands are ecosystems that provide numerous goods and services that have an economic value, not only to the local population living in its periphery but also to communities living outside the wetland area.
- Restoring damaged wetlands should be a high prioritynot only for Indian government but for any government all over the world.
- Recognizing the economic importance of wetlands in addition to their biodiversity, scientific value, climate regulation, potential tourism, socio-cultural and other important wetland values is yet another good reason to reverse global wetland loss.
Effort To Preserve Sunderbans Mangrove
- On 19th August, 2019, Discovery India and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-India partnered with the West Bengal government and local communities in the Sundarbans in a bid to help save the world’s only mangrove tiger habitat.
- WWF India and Discovery India are working with government agencies, civil society partners and scientific institutions to incorporate climate resilience into development planning, thereby helping secure livelihoods, biodiversity and ecosystem services.
- The preservation effort aims to create climate-smart villages in the Sundarbans area.
Initiatives under the Project
- Use of Technology in Dealing with Climate Change: It will make use technology to solve several of the issues faced in the region. This includes building datasets on impacts of climate change on the estuarine ecosystem.
- Establishing Ecological Observations: Two Sundarbans Ecological Observatories will be set up, each featuring data loggers, monitoring buoys and an onsite laborator, in partnership with the West Bengal Forest Directorate and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata.
- Enhancing Farmland Productivity: It also focuses on enhancing farmland productivity through low-cost measures and adjusting crop calendars to deal with climate change.
- Securing Tiger Habitat: It will also include work towards securing habitats for tigers and prey species, under the Project Conserving Acres for Tigers (CAT), aimed at building healthy habitats for Tigers.
Sunderbans Mangrove Forest
Climate Smart Village (CSV)
Significance of the Initiative
- Better Community Development: The partnership between WWF India and Discovery India is significant as it brings together different institutions for the benefit of communities and wildlife of Sundarbans by providing scientific inputs for proper management and preservation.
- Conserving Biodiversity: It will help to develop a climate resilient Sundarbans that supports biodiversity, ecosystems services and sustainable development.
- Reducing Human-Animal Conflict: It will help to reduce instances of human-wildlife conflict, thus, helping in better conservation of wildlife thriving in the forest.
Issues in Sunderbans Forest
- Rising Sea Level: Situated in the low coastal zone, the Sundarbans are more vulnerable to the consequences of the changing climatic conditions such as floods, cyclones, relative sea-level rise, and coastline erosion. Rising sea levels are swallowing the forest, and increasing water salinity is damaging plant and marine life with worse effect on larger animals like Bengal Tigers and crocodiles.
- Increasing Poaching and other Illegal Activities: Under the strain of land loss, poverty, limited livelihood options and unavailability of adequate infrastructure, communities living in the area are encroaching on the animal’s habitat, tearing down trees to make space for farmland poaching activities. This biotic pressure and unsustainable exploitation of forest resources causes degradation of the natural habitat, which results in loss of biodiversity.
- Human-Wildlife Conflict: The human population in the Sundarbans is very much dependent on biodiversity resources for their subsistence. They are even more prone to biotic hazards such as snakebites and tiger attacks, due to their proximity to the forests. On the other hand, incidents of wildlife straying into the villages are also increasing resulting in death of endangered species.
- Increasing Pollution: A variety of anthropogenic activity, including intensive boating and fishing, dredging, tourism, port activities, operation of mechanized boats, excavation of sand from the riverbed and the establishment of power plants has led to increase in water pollution, impacting badly the entire mangrove ecosystem.
- Sundarbans are highly productive mangrove wetland ecosystems, contributing several social, financial and environmental benefits. While it supports a sizeable population of wild tigers and other wildlife, it is also an ecologically fragile and climatically vulnerable region that is home to over 4.5 million people.
- Inspite of several laws, policies and management plans, clear signs of degradation are showing up in the forest.
- Proper implementation of the proposed resilient strategies i.e. incorporate all stakeholders to protect the forest, awareness programs, reduced forest dependency of local people, access to clean and sustainable energy, strengthen monitoring, effective human wildlife conflict management, ecological restoration, implementation of legal bindings, disaster management and adequate research and planning can be helpful for sustainable management of Sundarbans and its people.
Gogabeel: Bihar's First Community Reserve
- On 8th August, 2019, Gogabeel in Bihar’s Katihar district which is an ox-bow lake,was announced as the state’s first Community Reserve(CR).
- The water body was notified as a 57 hectare Community Reserve and a 30 hectare Conservation Reserve on August 2, 2019 by Department of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Bihar.
- It is the 15th Protected Area (PA) in Bihar.
- Gogabeel was initially notified as a ‘Closed Area’ by the state government in the year 1990 for five years.
- In 2004, Gogabeel, including the neighbouringBagharBeel and BaldiaChaur, were given the status of an Important Bird Area of India (IBA) by the Indian Bird Conservation Network(IBCN).
About Gogabeel Lake:
- Situated in Amdabad block of Katihar district,it stretches to nearly an area of 217.99 acres, of which 143.84 acres is lake possessedby the Government of Bihar.
- It is formed from the flow of the rivers Mahananda and Kankhar in the north and the Ganga in the south and east.
- During monsoons and winter, close to 300 migratory birds come to the lake and its vicinity from the Caspian Sea and Siberian region.
- Among the threatened species, the Lesser Adjutant Stork is listed as ‘Vulnerable’by the IUCN while the Black Necked Stork, White Ibis and White-eyed Pochard are ‘Near Threatened’.
- Other species reported from this site include Black Ibis, Ashy Swallow Shrike, Jungle Babbler, Bank Myna, Red Munia, Northern Lapwing and Spotbill Duck.
What is a Community Reserve(CR)?
Criteria to be declared as CR:
Need for CR:
Importance of Protected Areas:
Ecosystems and Species Conservation:
- Theseconserve a variety of species and ecosystems. They have been established in forests, grassland,wetlands, coastal and marine areas, high-altitude pastures or a combination of land types.Their purpose may be to protect a landscape, a patch of forest, ora specific species or its habitat.
- It offer special conservation benefits for species and ecological processes that cannot survive outside these landscapes and support good numbers of rare and threatened species not found elsewhere.
Helps in Minimising Natural Hazards:
- These are crucial in minimising the impacts of a wide range of natural disasters in different habitat types. They absorb excessive rainfall and control stream flows by gradually releasing the water into the soil and the streams and rivers of the watershed.
- They provide space for the escape of floodwaters, weakening their damaging potential. Ecological loss from uncontrolled fires is kept to a minimum in P.As through effective fire-protection measures.
- PAs can reduce or prevent the disastrous effects of hurricanes and storms, for example, the Sunderbans is credited with shielding inland areas from cyclones. Mangroves can reduce the impact of storm waves, and coastal areas with this type of vegetation suffer less than those areas without.
Helps in Maintaining Forest Cover:
- They are a proven instrument to maintain forest cover in large areas and can strengthen the resilience of ecosystems and landscapes to climate change and provide safety through their genetic resources and ecosystem services. For example, while bamboo has disappeared from many areas of central India owing to heavy cattle grazing and frequent fires, the species is supported in several P.As.
Role in Water Conservation:
- These maintain water supplies in a region of fragmented or denuded areas because they can absorb and then gradually release water into the soil, plants and streams. This makes them capable of capturing and storing rainfall during the rainy season and ensuring water availability throughout the year.
- These areas minimise their net water flow, resulting in low run-off. They are sources of many important rivers and streams.
Reducing Water Contamination:
- Natural wetlands and grasslands play an important role in reducing contamination levels in water. The quality of such water is generally better than that obtained from ordinary catchment areas. In addition, effectively managed P.As may also help control the emergence and rapid spread of a wide range of diseases, including malaria, trypanosomiasis and filariasis, which are reported to be caused by massive ecological disturbances.
Source of Livelihood:
- PAs play a vital role in the rural economy. In many areas, forests and trees are among the few resources that are available to rural dwellers. They provide different kinds of benefits: jobs and incomes often needed to supplement inadequate returns from agriculture; produce such as fuel wood, food, fodder and building poles for the home; and a range of environmental benefits, without which other activity, such as agriculture might be impossible.
Conservation of Wild Relatives of Crops:
- The wild relatives of crops are conserved by P.As. These plant species are the main source of much of the genetic material used for crop breeding. Also, these are vital sources of important traditional medicines and support a wide range of natural genetic resources, providing material for commercial medications.
- Protected areas are important tools for the conservation of biological diversity and are cornerstones of sustainable development strategies. They are tried and tested approach that have been put in application for centuries to conserve nature and related cultural resources by local communities, indigenous peoples, governments and other organisations.
- As the world is keeping up with constant developmenttaking place rapidly, constraints on ecosystems and natural resources are escalating. Protected areas, when administeredrightly and embedded in development strategies, can offer nature-based solutions to this problem, and take their place as an integral component of sustainable development.
Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas
- On 6th August, 2019, the World Resources Institute released a report- Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, according to which seventeen countries, home to 25% of the global population are facing "extremely high" water stress.
- Of the 17 nations, 12 are in the Middle East and North Africa. Two countries–India and Pakistan are in Asia. The remaining hotspots are San Marino in Europe, Botswana in Africa and Turkmenistan in Central Asia.
Key Findings of the Report
- 17 countries i.e. India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,Turkmenistan,Qatar, Israel, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Kuwait, Eritrea, UAE, San Marino, Bahrain, Oman and Botswana, face the risk of extremely high water stress.
- Almost a quarter of the world's population lives in these countries facing extremely high water stress, close to "day zero" conditions when the taps completely run out of water.
- While the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is hot and water supply can be low to begin with, rising demand has pushed countries into extreme stress, according to WRI. Qatar, the most at risk from water scarcity, depends heavily on seawater desalination systems to supply drinking water to people and industries.
- The report states that even nations with low average water stress can have alarming hotspots. For instance, the US ranks 71 on the list, the state of New Mexico faces water stress much the same as UAE.
India’s Water Woes
- Of all the water-stressed countries, India has the highest population at risk.
- India, which is ranked 13thon the list of countries with extremely high water risk, has more than three times the population of the other 16 countries in this category combined. The country, followed by neighbouring Pakistan, was under ‘extremely high’ levels of baseline water stress.
- The problem in India is not isolated to the southern states. Northern India is facing extreme groundwater depletion.
- Both surface water and groundwater in India was highly exploited. Groundwater levels, in fact, declined at more than eight centimetres per year between 1990 and 2014 in northern India.
Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas(AWRA)
World Resources Institute (WRI)
Steps to Avoid Future Water Woes
- Change Consumption and Lifestyles through Education:Education to motivate new behaviors will help in changing the face of this crisis. Major revamping of various forms of consumption, from personal use to the industrial use, leading to judicious and better use of water resources is much needed for coping up with coming era.
- New Water Conservation Technologies:Innovation in areas where aquifers are drying up and rainwater is increasingly uncertain. Key factors contributing to this strategy are smart technology, regulation, metering and water-sensitive design.
- Recycle Wastewater:Wastewater recycling helps customers optimise water costs and minimise their environmental footprint. Some countries, like Singapore, are trying to recycle to reduce water imports and become self-sufficient. The rich East Asian republic is a leader in developing advanced technology that cleanses wastewater for drinking and other uses.
- Improve Irrigation and Agricultural Practices:Nearly 70 percent of the world’s freshwater is used for agricultural purposes. Narrowing the supply and demand gaps can be done by making improvements in irrigation. Applying a more intelligent approach to water management by deploying precision irrigation systems and computer algorithms and modelling is already beginning to bring benefits to farmers in water scarce countries.
- Develop Energy Efficient Desalination Plants:To date, desalination has been an energy-intensive way out to water scarcity. Typically the Middle East has capitalized on its huge energy reserves to construct desalination plants. But Saudi Arabia could be bringing up a new kind of desalination with its announcement to use solar-powered plants.But these innovations highlight another required resource - the capital for technological experimentation.
- Improve Water Catchment and Harvesting:Water catchment systems are crucial for areas with no other dependable water sources. Countries like India and Pakistan, struggling with some of the worst effects of climate change, are revamping rainwater harvesting systems. These efforts offerunconstrained control of water resources.
- Holistically Manage Ecosystems:Holistic management applies to a practical approach to manage natural resources that takes into account economic, cultural, and ecological objectives. In essence, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and each facet is related to and influences the others. Good examples of holistic management are communities that operate sewage treatment plants while pursuing partnerships with clean energy producers to use wastewater to fertilize algae and other biofuel crops. The crops, in turn, soak up nutrients and purify wastewater, significantly reducing pumping and treatment costs.
- R&D / Innovation: Access to water in a water-scarce world will become a much higher priority in business decisions. Communities are likely to pursue public-private partnerships that draw on the innovative capacities of companies. One example - cities that operate sewage treatment plants are likely to pursue partnerships with clean energy producers to fertilize algae and other biofuel crops with wastewater.
- Pollution Prevention: Less pollution creates more opportunity for water reuse and conserves natural water reserves. Regulatory policies are introduced on water discharging facilities. Also, numerous technologies exist to treat the effluents from domestic and industrial facilities.
- Population Growth Control:Because of the accelerating growth in global population, parts of the world could see a supply-demand gap of up to 65 percent in water resources by 2030. Currently, more than one billion people don’t have access to clean water. And with 70 percent of the world’s freshwater used for agriculture, water’s critical role in food production must be considered as climate and resource conditions change.
We can all be more efficient with the water that we use and help the environment along with helping with the scarcity problem. It is going to take a big change in politics to avoid one the biggest natural disasters of all time but we can all do our bit to try to help solve this major issue.
All India Tiger Estimation – 2018
- KOn the occasion of Global Tiger Day(29th July), Prime Minister released the results of the fourth cycle of All India Tiger Estimation – 2018 in New Delhi.
- The once-in-four-year survey, conducted by National Tiger Conservation Authority(NTCA) in collaboration with the State ForestDepartments, Conservation NGO's andcoordinated by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), shows that the country witnessed a 33 percent increase in population since 2014.
- Report Name: Status of Tigers Co-predators & Prey in India
- In 2006, when the survey was first conducted, India had only 1,411 tigers and since then the population has increased at six percent per annum.
- In 2010, at the Tiger Summit of St. Petersburg, Russia, group of countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russian Federation, Thailand and Vietnam) agreed to put in efforts to double the tiger population by
Need for Census
- To Ensure Well-Being of Forest Ecosystem:The tiger sits at the peak of the food chain, and its conservation is important to ensure the well-being of the forest ecosystem.
- Parameter of Government’s Conservation Efforts:The numbers reflect the success or failure of conservation efforts. This is an especially important indicator in a fast-growing economy like India where the pressures of development often run counter to the demands of conservation. More than 80% of the world’s wild tigers are in India, and it’s crucial to keep track of their numbers.
- To Achieve the International Goal:The Global Tiger Forum, an international collaboration of tiger-bearing countries, has set a goal of doubling the count of wild tigers by 2022.
Major Findings of the Survey
Reasons for Decline in Population of Tigers
Conflict with Humans
Poaching & Illegal Trade
Reasons for Increase in Tiger Population in India
Increased Conservation Efforts:
- Sustained conservation efforts through continued "political will" have resulted in an increase in tiger numbers. The success owes a lot to increased conservation efforts by the Forest Department. From 28 in 2006, the number of tiger reserves went up to 50 in 2018, extending protection to larger numbers of tigers over the years.
- Healthy increases in core area populations eventually lead to migrations to areas outside the core; this is why the 2018 census has found tigers in newer areas.
- Over the years, there has been increased focus on tigers even in the areas under the territorial and commercial forestry arms of Forest Departments.
Increased Vigilance and Protection:
- The other important reason is increased vigilance, and the fact that organised poaching rackets have been all but crushed.
- According Wildlife Protection Society of India, there has been no organised poaching by traditional gangs in Central Indian landscapes since 2013.
- The increased protection has encouraged the tiger to breed. According to Wildlife Institute of India, tigers are fast breeders when conditions are conducive.
More Availability of Space for Tigers:
- The rehabilitation of villages outside core areas in many parts of the country has led to the availability of more inviolate space for tigers.
- In the last five years, the number of protected areas (for tigers) increased from 692 to over 860 and community reserves from 43 to over 100.
Use of Technology and Digital Techniques:
- Also, because estimation exercises have become increasingly more accurate over the years, it is possible that many tigers that eluded enumerators in earlier exercises were counted this time.
- In this SURVEY, recording of primary field data digitally through mobile phone application like M-STrIPES (Monitoring System for tigers - intensive protection and ecological status), that uses GPS to geotag photo-evidences, and survey information made this exercise more accurate, with smaller margins of human error.
- Maintaining the source values of tiger reserve populations through good management, protection and making the core areas inviolate through incentivized voluntary relocation of human habitation has been the most important reason for continued improvement in the status of tigers in India in the recent years.
- Managing conflict promptly and providing economicincentives from tigers will foster coexistence in these multiple use forests and ensure the long-term future of tigers in India.
- Further, India has managed to develop without compromising on the conservation of its natural heritage and has once again lived up to its expectations and contributed significantly to the common goalof the Global Tiger Recovery targets.