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Biodiversity & environment

10 Solved Questions with Answers
  • 2018

    1. “Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is the sine qua non to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” Comment on the progress made in India in this regard. (2018)

    Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy (SDG-7) is one of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDG), adopted by International community in 2015.

    It is the sine qua non to achieve SDGs as it is directly or indirectly linked to other sustainable goals such as industry, innovation and infrastructure, health and well being, gender equality, sustainable cities and communities etc.

    India has a crucial role to play in shaping the SDGs and has done a commendable job in providing clean and efficient energy to the people.

    • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) has provided 50 million connections till date and aims to provide 80 million LPG connections by 2020 to BPL households.
    • Government is committed to provide 24x7 reliable and quality power supply to the people by 2019. In this direction Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) scheme and SAUBHAGYA scheme have been launched to achieve 100% village electrification and last mile connectivity. Because of all these efforts till now around 78% rural households have been electrified.
    • India has increased the share of renewable energy which is around 3 times what it was in 2007. On 30th November, 2017 total installed capacity in India was around 330 GW out of which 18% was from renewable energy sources.
    • Ministry of Finance has issued guidelines for mandatory installation of energy efficient appliances in all Central Government buildings which is implemented by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) by 2020.

    According to Lawson, there is reduction in gender gap in India by half over the period 2008-17 which was the result of access to modern energy sources to the women and girl thereby leading to the positive impact on girl’s education and employment. But there are few cases raising question on accessibility of sustainable and affordable energy, like wide regional gaps in electrification of households. However on the basis of the pace of developmental work, we can say that India will be able to achieve the goal of SDG-7 within the decided time frame.

  • 2018

    6. What are the impediments disposing the huge quantities of discarded solid waste which are continuously being generated? How do we remove safely the toxic wastes that have been accumulated in our habitable environment? (2018)

    Presently in India, about 960 million tonnes of solid waste is being generated annually as by-products during industrial, mining, municipal, agricultural and other processes. Of this 350 million tonnes are organic wastes, 290 million tonnes are inorganic waste and 4.5 million tonnes are toxic in nature. But approximately 90% of waste generated is dumped rather than properly disposed.

    Impediments in disposing waste:

    • Lack of trained and qualified waste management professionals.
    • Lack of accountability in current Solid Waste Management (SWM) systems throughout India.
    • Limited budgetary support to cover the costs associated with developing proper waste collection, storage, treatment and disposal.
    • Limited environmental awareness combined with low motivation has inhibited innovation and the adoption of new technologies that could transform waste management in India.
    • Lack of coordination among govt. and civic agencies, local waste collection groups.
    • Public attitudes to waste are also a major barrier to improve SWM in India.

    Ways to remove safely the toxic wastes

    • Proper collection and segregation of plastics, e-wastes, bio-medical wastes & other solid wastes at the site of generation.
    • Recycling, waste to energy conversion, use of plastics in making road, and use of Green wastes as fertilizers can be a way in solving the problems of waste accumulation.
    • Replacing dumps with properly managed engineered landfills to reduce the environmental impact of waste and prevent toxic leaks.
    • Monitoring at ground by civic agencies, awareness campaigns on lines of Swachh Bharat mission.
    • Implementation of Solid waste management rule backed by proper legislation, participation of self-help group and NGD, promotion to Start-ups to use solid waste & create innovative solutions.

    Considering the pace of urbanization in India this is imperative that more waste will be generated in towns and cities and thus we need to take above mentioned steps keeping in mind the aspects of cleanness.

  • 2019

    7. Coastal sand mining, whether legal or illegal, poses one of the biggest threats to our environment. Analyse the impact of sand mining along the Indian coasts, citing specific examples.

    Sand consumption globally has been increasing and according to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), India is in the list of critical hotspots for coastal sand mining.

    Coastal sand mining poses one of the biggest threats to our environment:

    • It is very damaging to the beach fauna and flora and is ruinous to beach aesthetics.
    • Resulting in coastal erosion, it frequently causes environmental damage to other coastal ecosystems associated with the beach such as wetlands.
    • Another major impact of beach sand mining is the loss of protection from storm surges associated with tropical cyclones and tsunamis.

    Indian coasts are greatly affected by coastal sand mining:

    • For instance, in Periyasamypuram in Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu, fish catch has come down, the palm trees have dried up, ground water has turned brackish and the sea has entered the village due to coastal sand mining.
    • Seawater intrusion, inundation of coastal land and salinisation of groundwater have been observed along the coast of Kollam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Ernakulam due to sand mining.
    • Coastal sand mining also has many negative impacts on the society. It affects the livelihood of the people, health, science beauty, climate and damage infrastructure.

    Better spatial planning and reducing unnecessary construction, using green infrastructure, adopting recycled and alternative substitute materials such as oil palm shell, bottom ash, strictly adhering to Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), etc. can help in reducing coastal sand mining. Also strengthening standards and best practices to curb irresponsible extraction; investing in sand production and consumption measurement should be adopted at policy level.

  • 2018

    7. What is wetland? Explain the Ramsar concept of ‘wise use’ in the context of wetland conservation. Cite two examples of Ramsar sites from India. (2018)

    Wetlands are ecosystems saturated with water, either seasonally or permanently. They include mangroves, marshes, rivers, lakes, deltas, floodplains and flooded forests, rice-fields, and even coral reefs.

    Wetlands are vital for human survival as they are among the world’s most productive environments; cradles of biological diversity that provide water and productivity upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for survival.

    Wise Use

    According to Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, ‘Wise use’ of wetlands is the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the spirit of sustainable development. ‘Wise Use’ guidelines encourage Contracting Parties to:

    • adopt national wetland policies with legislations and institutional arrangements to deal with wetland;
    • develop programmes of wetland inventory, monitoring, research, training, education and public awareness; and
    • take actions involving the development of integrated management plans covering every aspect of the wetlands and their relationships with their catchments.

    India has 26 Ramsar Sites which are the Wetlands of International importance. The important Ramsar sites are: Chilika lake (Odisa), Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan), Loktak Lake (Manipur), Ashtamudi Wetland (Kerala) etc.

  • 2018

    8. Sikkim is the first ‘Organic State’ in India. What are the ecological and economical benefits of Organic State? (2018)

    Sikkim became India’s first ‘organic state’ by implementing organic practices - free of chemical pesticides and chemical fertilisers.

    Ecological Benefits of Organic State

    • Organic practices such as crop rotations, inter-cropping, symbiotic associations encourage soil fauna and flora, improving soil formation and structure and creating more stable systems.
    • This increases retentive abilities of the soil for nutrients and water. This also plays an important role in soil erosion control.
    • Pollution of groundwater due to synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is curtailed.
    • Organic practices like minimum tillage, returning crop residues to the soil, and the greater integration of nitrogen-fixing legumes contributes to mitigating the greenhouse effect and global warming through its ability to sequester carbon in the soil.
    • Reduce the risks of human, animal, and environmental exposure to toxic materials
    • Fine-tunes farming practices to meet local production conditions.

    Economical Benefits

    • Less dependency on terminator seeds will decrease the input cost of farmers.
    • Less consumption of fertilizers by farmers will lower the fertilizer subsidy burden on government.
    • The high demand for organic products and their higher sale prices will lead to higher farmer income.
    • It acts as a boon to tourist industry, with a growing market for eco-tours and farm vacations.

  • 2017

    8. Not many years ago, river linking was a concept but it is becoming reality in the country. Discuss the advantages of river linking and its possible impact on the environment. (2017)

    India is endowed with vast natural resources distributed unevenly across the country. National Perspective Plan for river linking was initiated with the objective of transferring water from surplus basins to deficit basins. The river linking project has many advantages as listed below–

    • Transfer of water from surplus regions like Assam and Bihar will help in solving the perennial flood problem that plagues these regions.
    • As a corollary many drought affected areas will be able to access sufficient water for irrigation, drinking and other purposes.
    • River linking project will provide additional irrigation benefits. According to estimates, around 35 Mha of additional irrigation potential will be created.
    • It has also been estimated that around 34,000 megawatt of hydroelectricity would also be produced that could be used for irrigation and other purposes.
    • The wide network of inland navigation proposed by the government will also be facilitated by the initiative. This move will ease pressure on rail and road transport.
    • Inter-state water dispute will also be resolved to a great extent.

    Possible impact on environment

    • It is feared that construction of big dams and long canals will destroy natural vegetation and will disturb the ecological balance.
    • The project will also be detrimental to mangroves in the delta region of West Bengal and will have implications for richest fisheries in India.
    • It will inundate large tract of fertile agricultural land and make them unsuitable for agriculture.

    The river link project is not without its disadvantages. The environmental angle needs to be taken into consideration such that minimum damage accrues to ecology and environment.

  • 2016

    14. Rehabilitation of human settlements is one of the important environmental impacts which always attracts controversy while planning major projects. Discuss the measures suggested for mitigation of this impact while proposing major developmental projects. (2016)

    Rehabilitation and Resettlement is one of the major challenges while planning the major developmental projects. To tackle this, Government has adopted National Rehabilitation and Resettlement policy to minimize displacement.

    • Its objectives are to promote as far as possible non-displacing or least-displacing alternatives, to ensure adequate rehabilitation package and expeditious implementation of the rehabilitation process with the active participation of affected families.
    • The right to fair compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2015 also addresses the issue such as if private company acquires or purchase more than 50 acres of land in urban areas or 100 acres in rural areas it is required to rehabilitate and resettle affected families. This threshold can be circumvented by a private company by purchasing multiple parcels of land, each under the prescribed limit, through other entities.
    • The Singur judgement by the Apex court centered around the inept and illegitimate handling of power of Eminent Domain by the then Government. The Court said that it should not be left unacknowledged that when Eminent Domain is exercised the displaced persons is not provided with anything but cash compensation.
    • The Morse and Berger 1992 Report said that of the total displaced in the case of Sardar Sarovar dam project 58% were adivasis. These people did not possess formal title to their land and therefore could not claim compensation anyway.
    • Apart from all these measures, education facilities, health facilities should be taken care of displaced families should be resettled in groups that would protect their cultural and traditional rights.

  • 2019

    17. Define the concept of carrying capacity of an ecosystem as relevant to an environment. Explain how understanding this concept is vital while planning for sustainable development of a region.

    Carrying Capacity (CC) can be defined as the population that can be supported indefinitely by its supporting systems.

    • In ecological terms, the carrying capacity of an ecosystem is the size of the population that can be supported indefinitely upon the available resources and services of that ecosystem.
    • In the broader sense, carrying capacity also means that all plants and animals which an area of the Earth can support at once. Change in carrying capacity for one species affects other populations in the area.
      • A simple example of carrying capacity is the number of people who could survive in a lifeboat after a shipwreck. Their survival depends on how much food and water they have, how much each person eats and drinks each day, and how many days they are afloat. If the lifeboat made it to an island, how long the people survived would depend upon the food and water supply on the island and how wisely they used it.
    • Sustainable development, which entails the maximum use of resources without damaging the system’s regenerative capacity, has a definite role to play in future policy planning. Sustainability requires managing all households -- individual, community, national, and global -- in ways that ensure that our economy and society can continue to exist without destroying the natural environment on which we all depend.
      • Population Control: The notion that resource limitation must eventually constrain the growth of population is appealing, but appropriate estimation of regional carrying capacity would help to forge a definite course for planning.
      • Women sensitization and education toward reproductive choices can play a dominant role in controlling pollution.
    • Economic Planning: By carefully assessing the present and future availability of local resources, economic zones can be planned, which will help in mitigating the adverse effects of economic activities.
      • For Example: The establishment of Coca-Cola bottling plant in Plachimada, Kerala in 2000, resulted in the depletion of groundwater in the area and was shut down in 2004 due to widespread protest. Careful assessment of regional carrying capacity can help us prevent such incidents
    • Agriculture Management: The concept of carrying capacity of an ecosystem can be very useful in proper crop management across the length and breadth of the country. It has been found that farmers are overutilizing the capacity of land without giving any due importance to its regeneration, which has led to the problem of desertification in Punjab and Harayana.
      • For Example: Farmers in water stress areas of Maharashtra are growing water intensive crops which have created drought like conditions in the region. Prior estimation of carrying capacity can help avert such chronic conditions.
    • Under-used capacity of Food Production & Biodiversity: Using appropriate technological advancement, sustainability in food production methods and diversifying the use of biological resources can help attain harmony between natural resource and their utilization.
    • Resource Management: Adaptive management is the most widely accepted solution for confronting the unpredictability of renewable resources. Natural resource management must consider the ever-changing interaction between physical and biological systems, and react according to acquired experience and historical knowledge in a continuous, iterative learning process.

    The current ethos of ‘sustainable development’ is slanted towards preservation of the replacement capability of natural systems, rather than maximum use. However, the unceasing growth of world population may eventually bring inequilibrium between the two. To face this future with confidence, humanity must endeavour to maintain the Earth’s carrying capacity at a productive yet sustainable level, through improved logistical foundations, a more cooperative political climate, and better scientific understanding.

  • 2018

    17. How does biodiversity vary in India? How is the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 helpful in conservation of flora and fauna? (2018)

    Biodiversity is defined as the variability among living organisms. Biogeographically, India is situated at the tri-junction of three realms namely Afro-tropical, Indo-Malayan and Paleo-Arctic realms, and therefore, has characteristic elements from each of them. This assemblage of three distinct realms probably is a fact which is believed to partly account for its rich and unique biological diversity.

    Variations according to bio-geographic regions are:

    • The Himalayan Region: The altitude gradient results in tremendous biodiversity of the region. There exist Tropical rainforests in the eastern Himalayas, dense subtropical and alpine forests in central and western Himalayas. Sambar, muntjac serow, goral, Himalayan thar, snow leopard and brown bear inhabit this region.
    • The Indian Desert: The natural vegetation consists of tropical thorn forests and tropical dry deciduous forests, sandy deserts with seasonal salt marshes and mangroves. Thar desert possesses most of the major insect species. 43 reptile species and moderate bird endemism are found here.
    • The Western Ghats: This zone displays diversity of forests from evergreen to dry deciduous. The Nilgiri langur, Lion tailed macaque, Nilgiri tahr, Malabar grey hornbill and most amphibian species are endemic to the Western Ghats.
    • The Deccan Peninsula: Large parts are covered by tropical forests. Tropical dry deciduous forests occur in the northern, central and southern part of the plateau. Fauna like tiger, sloth bear, wild boar, gaur, sambar and chital are found throughout the zone.
    • The Gangetic plains: It includes tropical dry deciduous forest, littoral and mangroves regions of the Sunderbans. The fauna includes elephants, black buck, gazelle, rhinoceros, Bengal florican, crocodile, freshwater turtle and a dense waterfowl community.
    • The North East: The tropical vegetation of northeast India is rich in evergreen and semi evergreen rain forests, moist deciduous monsoon forests, swamps and grasslands. Mammalian fauna includes 390 species of which 63% are found in Assam.
    • The Indian Islands: About 2,200 species of higher plants are found here of which many are endemic.

    The Biological Diversity Act, 2002

    It was enacted to preserve the biological diversity in India, and provides mechanism for equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of traditional biological resources and knowledge. It is helpful in conservation of flora and fauna as:

    • There are provisions for setting up National Biodiversity Authority, State Biodiversity Board, and Biodiversity Management Committee for proper management of biological resources.
    • It aims to respect and protect knowledge of local communities traditional knowledge related to biodiversity.
    • It secures sharing of benefits with local people as they are conservers of biological resources and holders of knowledge and information relating to the use of biological resources.
    • It also has provisions for notifying heritage sites by State Government in consultation with local body which will ensure better preservation.

  • 2017

    17. 'Climate change' is a global problem. How India will be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change? (2017)

    Climate change is referred to a change in average weather conditions, or in the time variation of weather within the context of longer-term average conditions.

    Climate change has attracted attention recently particularly due to the changes apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and it is attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.

    • India due to its peculiar geography and developmental stage is one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change.
    • India is already experiencing a warming climate and erratic monsoon pattern, unpredictable rainfall since last few years.
    • Droughts are expected to be more frequent in some areas, especially in north-western India, Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.
    • Climate change is expected to have major health impacts in India- worsening the already high malnutrition and related health disorders such as child stunting - with the poor likely to be affected most severely.

    Possible effects on Himalayan states

    • With rise in average temperature, most Himalayan glaciers have been retreating over the past century. This may have severe impact on the delicate Himalayan ecology.
    • The melting of glaciers and the loss of snow cover over the Himalayas is expected to threaten the stability and reliability of northern India’s primarily glacier-fed rivers systems, particularly major river systems like the Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. This will adversely impact the ecology, livelihood and overall economy of Himalayan states.

    Possible effects on coastal states

    • India is close to the equator, the sub-continent would see much higher rises in sea levels in comparison to higher latitudes and most of coastal states will face the heat of climate change.
    • Kolkata and Mumbai, both densely populated cities, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise, tropical cyclones, and riverine flooding
    • Sea-level rise and storm surges would lead to saltwater intrusion in the coastal areas, impacting agriculture, degrading groundwater quality and contamination of drinking water.

    Being one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, it is high time that India should take corrective and mitigating actions to cope up with the upcoming challenges of climate change.

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