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State PCS

Environment and ecology

24 Solved Questions with Answers
  • 2022

    18. Explain the causes and effects of coastal erosion in India. What are the available coastal management techniques for combating the hazard?

    The process of removal of coastal sand or displacement of land because of local sea level rise, strong wave action, heavy intrusion of sea water in coastal region can be termed as coastal erosion. The Ministry of Earth Sciences informed the Lok Sabha that of the 6,907.18 km long Indian coastline of the mainland, a significant area is under varying degrees of coastal erosion.

    Factors responsible for coastal erosion are:

    • Natural reasons
      • Global Warming- The increase in concentration of CO2 in atmosphere has led to warming of planet and has resulted in melting of glaciers which invariably has led to rise in sea level. Thus, threat of coastal erosion has increased manifold.
      • Planetary cycle- Planetary position of Earth and Moon cause tides in the sea every fortnight
      • Strong winds that blow across the planet generate huge energy; this generated energy is released by waves on the shores breaking rocks into sand in long run.
      • Warming of Sea Water- It has increased the formation of cyclones in Indian peninsula and contribute to destruction of coastal areas.
    • Anthropological reasons
      • Violation of Coastal Management Zones (CMZ) rules by builders
      • Energy production near coastal areas like nuclear energy, tidal energy plant
      • Dredging at shallow waters near coasts
      • Reduced flow of sand from river into ocean
    • Effect of coastal erosion are:
      • Rise of sea level has increased the threat submergence of small islands.
      • Destruction of coastal habitats thus increases vulnerability of coastal flora and fauna.
      • Loss of income from coastal ecosystems.

    Major coastal management techniques to prevent erosion are:

    Natural response

    • Coastal Shelter belts such as mangroves, coral reefs and lagoons are recognized as the best defence against sea storms and erosion, deflecting and absorbing much of the energy of sea storms. Therefore, it is important to maintain these natural habitats for shore protection as well as for environmental conservation.

    Artificial response

    • Use of Geo-synthetic Tubes / Bags- Geo-synthetic tube is a sizable, tube-shaped bag filled with sand slurry and fashioned with porous, weather-resistant geotextile that is used to create artificial coastal structures like breakwaters, dunes, or levees. They are aligned with the shoreline to weaken wave energy and protect against coastal erosion
    • Artificial Beach Nourishment- Often referred to as a “soft armoring” technique, beach nourishment, or beach filling technique is the practice of adding large quantities of sand or sediment to beaches to combat erosion and increase beach width.
    • Groynes - An active structure that protrudes into the sea from the shore and is often perpendicular to or slightly oblique to the shoreline is called a groyne. A groyne's primary job is to catch and hold back some of the sediment that is travelling through the surf zone, mostly in a longshore direction.

    With the alarming rise in climate change threats, rising sea level is a certain outcome of the process. As coastal areas across India are densely populated, it has become quintessential that coastal planning is given concrete thought by considering the option of displacement of people to safe havens.

  • 2023

    18. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted a global sea level rise of about one metre by AD 2100. What would be its impact in India and the other countries in the Indian Ocean region?

    Global warming and its associated problems, which were once educated assumptions have now become actual problems. The rise of global sea level and its impact has been widely talked about since the report by IPCC released.

    Impact on India and the region

    • Environmental impact:
      • Shrinkage of Coastline: India derives immense economic benefits from its vast coastline. It will be threatened if the coasts start submerging in ocean.
      • Costal Wetland Degradation: Wetlands near coastal zones have a threat of degradation and even extinction.
      • Coral Bleaching: Fresh water dilution resulting from an increased sea surface level is bound to cause coral bleaching.
      • Fauna Displacement: Animals and biodiversity gets displaced from their environment which causes distress.
      • Groundwater Salination: The water table gets contaminated by the incoming saltwater from the ocean, therefore reducing availability of usable groundwater.
    • Economic impact:
      • Property and Resource: Damage to the property and resource due to increased occurrence of costal disasters will incur a high cost for the nation.
      • Loss of Livelihood: Employment in costal based professions will take a hit as the people would have to relocate due to lack of livelihood options. Employment patterns will also change.
    • Social impact:
      • Displacement of People: Climate refugees are a group of people that have been displaced by the horrors of climate change. The number of people losing their houses to the impact of climate change is rising every year.
      • Stress on Inland Location: People displaced by the changes on the coastal areas are bound to move towards inland locations thereby putting pressure on already stressed resources.


    • Activities such as mangrove plantation can help in mitigating the problems of rising sea surface.
    • Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Rules and Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan seek to regulate the management and resource utilization in coastal areas.

    Various other researches predict an even early onset of these effects with much more devastating consequences. Considering the impacts of the rise of sea levels, the government must work on a policy to address the issues related specifically to the rising sea level.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 2020

    17. What are the key features of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) initiated by the government of India?

    National Clean Air Programme is a national framework for air quality management with a time-bound reduction target. The NCAP will be a mid-term, five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year.

    Features of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

    • To achieve a national-level target of 20-30% reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by 2024, keeping 2017 as base year.
    • Under NCAP, 122 non-attainment cities have been identified across the country based on the Air Quality data from 2014-2018.
    • The city specific action plans have been prepared which, inter-alia, include measures for strengthening the monitoring network, reducing vehicular/industrial emissions, increasing public awareness etc.
    • Implementation of the city specific action plans are regularly monitored by Committees at Central and State level namely Steering Committee, Monitoring Committee and Implementation Committee.
    • Air quality of cities is monitored by State Pollution Control Boards which publishes their results from time to time. Some Smart Cities have established Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs) which are also connected to Air Quality Monitors (AQMs) for effective monitoring.
    • It also proposes state-level plans of e-mobility in the two-wheeler sector along with rapid augmentation of charging infrastructure, stringent implementation of BS-VI norms, boosting public transportation system, and adoption of third-party audits for polluting industries.
    • To attain its desired objectives, NCAP follows the approach of Collaborative, Multi-scale and Cross-Sectoral Coordination between relevant Central Ministries, State Government and local bodies.

    NCAP is envisaged to be dynamic although the targets appear less ambitious. However, it is expected to evolve based on the additional scientific and technical information.

  • 2021

    17. Describe the major outcomes of the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). What are the commitments made by India in this conference?

    The COP26 summit held at Glasgow brought parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UNFCCC.

    Major outcomes of the 26th CoP are as follows:

    • Methane Pledge: The European Union and the US have launched a landmark pledge to slash emissions of greenhouse gas methane, a commitment that could prevent 0.2 degrees Celsius of global warming. The alliance’s members will seek to lower global emissions of methane (the second-largest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide) by 30% below 2020 levels by 2030. India did not sign it.
    • Deforestation Pledge: More than 100 national leaders pledged to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by the end of 2030. The agreement vastly expands a commitment made by 40 countries as part of the 2014 New York Declaration of Forests and promises more resources.
    • Call for Climate Finance: India noted that climate finance cannot continue at the levels decided in 2009 (100 billion USD) and emphasized that it should be at least USD 1 trillion to meet the goals of addressing climate change. India underlined the unity and strength of Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) as fundamental in the UNFCCC negotiations.
    • Infrastructure for Resilient Island States (IRIS): India launched it for developing the infrastructure of small island developing nations (SIDN). SIDN faces the biggest threat from climate change, India’s space agency ISRO will build a special data window to provide them timely information about cyclones, coral-reef monitoring, coastline monitoring etc.
    • One Sun One World One Grid Group (OSOWOG): It is an initiative by India and the United Kingdom to tap solar energy and have it travel seamlessly across borders. It includes a group of governments called the Green Grids Initiative (GGI) - One Sun One World One Grid group.

    India made the ‘Panchamrit’ commitments (five promises) at the CoP 26:

    • India will achieve net-zero emissions by 2070.
    • India will bring its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030.
    • India will bring its economy’s carbon intensity down to 45% by 2030.
    • India will fulfil 50% of its energy requirement through renewable energy by 2030.
    • India will reduce 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions from the total projected emissions by 2030.

    COP26 of Glasgow is a promising start on emissions reduction, however, on the part of global largest emitters, much more is expected to be done. In India’s context, it needs to work out a detailed plan of action with reference to phasing-down coal-based power generation and encouraging electric vehicles.

  • 2022

    17. Discuss global warming and mention its effects on the global climate. Explain the control measures to bring down the level of greenhouse gases which cause global warming, in the light of the Kyoto Protocol, 1997.

    Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth’s surface observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere.

    Effects on Global Climate

    • Early snowmelts, disappearing glaciers, and severe droughts are causing more water shortages.
    • Rising sea levels lead to more coastal flooding.
    • Heatwaves, heavy downpour, and increased flooding levels create trouble for farms, forests, and cities.
    • Disruption of coral reefs and alpine meadows could cause many plant and animal species to extinction.
    • Allergies, asthma, and infectious diseases will become more common due to higher levels of air pollution.

    Control measures to bring down the level of greenhouse gases which cause global warming

    • The Kyoto Protocol was an international treaty that commits state policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005.
    • The Kyoto protocol targets emission of six gases which includes Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (NO2), Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), group of hydrocarbons (HCFs), and groups of per fluorocarbons (PFCs).
    • There are various mechanism to reduce levels of greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol:
      • The clean development mechanism allows the country with emission-reduction commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to implement projects in developing countries.
      • Carbon credit is a tradable certificate which is equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide. It attempts to limit the growth of concentration of greenhouse gases. Carbon credits can be acquired through afforestation, carbon sequestration, methane capture, etc.
      • Joint implementation allows country with an emission reduction commitment under Kyoto Protocol to earn emission reduction units from emission reduction projects.
      • Emission trading allows countries to sell unused emission units to other countries which have exceeded their targets.

    The Kyoto Protocol is based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and is only global treaty with binding limits on greenhouse gases emissions.

  • 2023

    17. Comment on the National Wetland Conservation Programme initiated by the Government of India and name a few of India’s wetlands of international importance included in the Ramsar Sites.

    Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands. A wetland listed under the Convention is called wetlands international importance. Important Ramsar sites in India include the following:

    • Karikili bird sanctuary (Tamil Nadu): It is home to cormorants, grey heron and open-billed stork.
    • Pichavaram mangrove (Tamil Nadu): It is an island of vast mangrove forest.
    • Chandra Taal: It is one of the two high altitude Ramsar wetlands.

    The National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP) was initiated to protect wetlands considering the benefits provided by them such as freshwater supply, resource pool, biodiversity, flood control, groundwater recharge, and climate change mitigation. The NWCP seeks to conserve wetlands and prevent degradation while providing local communities access to the benefits provided by them.

    Importance of NWCP

    • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) has identified 115 wetlands that require urgent conservation and management.
    • It defines wetlands in the same way as prescribed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
    • While wetlands are administered by state governments, the central government is responsible for funds, technical assistance and overall coordination.

    Objectives of NWCP

    • Laying down policy guidelines for conservation and management of wetlands.
    • Preparing and maintaining inventory of wetlands.
    • Allocation of financial assistance to states.
    • Monitoring the implementation of the program.
    • Sponsoring multidisciplinary research by institutions.

    The National Wetlands Conservation Programme (NWCP) and National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP) were merged under National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems (NPCA) to synergise efforts and avoid overlap of administration. India had achieved a great deal in safeguarding its wetlands.

  • 2023

    15. The adoption of electric vehicles is rapidly growing worldwide. How do electric vehicles contribute to reducing carbon emissions and what are the key benefits they offer compared to traditional combustion engine vehicles.

    The adoption of electric vehicles has been on the rise globally due to increased environmental awareness and increasing government incentives for ensuring more sustainable transport options and controlling rising temperatures.

    Role of electric vehicles in reducing carbon emissions

    • EVs being more energy efficient consume less energy than traditional vehicles and emit less GHG emissions.
    • They reduce dependency on fossil fuels, particularly gasoline products and hence, diversify energy baskets.
    • EVs run on electricity which can be generated from cleaner sources like renewables. It reduces direct emissions of GHGs like carbon monoxide, CO2, etc.
    • The transition from internal combustion engines to electric motors reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and other pollutants, contributing to improved air quality and a greener future.

    Key benefits of EVs compared to traditional combustion engine vehicles

    • Having lower fueling and maintenance costs, EVs offer cheaper alternate than gasoline products.
    • They can reduce a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions, especially when charged from renewable sources.
    • EVs deliver instant torque, providing quick acceleration and a responsive driving experience.
    • They are quieter than traditional vehicles, which can lead to lower noise pollution promoting a more pleasant environment.
    • EVs generally have lower center of gravity which offers better handling and comfort.

    EVs offer numerous advantages over traditional vehicles but sustainable generation of electricity is still a cause for concern. However, with technological advancements, and government incentives, EVs can offer a potential solution for emission less future.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 2020

    8. What are the salient features of the Jal Shakti Abhiyan launched by the Government of India for water conservation and water security?

    The Jal Shakti Abhiyan is a time-bound, mission-mode campaign for water conservation and water security. It is a mass movement to bring all the stakeholders under one ambit of water conservation drive. The campaign was mainly focused on the water-stressed blocks and districts.

    Water Scarcity in India

    • India has nearly 17.7% of the world’s population which has access to only 4% of the usable water sources. Poor management of resources and lack of government attention has contributed as a major factor for water scarcity in India.
    • As per NITI Aayog report released in June 2019, India is facing the worst-ever water crisis in history. Approximately 600 million people or roughly around 45 % of the population in India is facing high to severe water str
    • As per the report, several Indian cities will run out of their main source of water e., groundwater by 2020. The report goes on to say that nearly 40% of the population will have absolutely no access to drinking water by 2030 and 6% of India’s GDP will be lost by 2050 due to the water crisis.

    The salient features of the Jal Shakti Abhiyan

    • The Jal  Shakti  Abhiyan  is  a  campaign  for  water  conservation  and  water  security  in  the  country  through  a collaborative effort of various ministries of the Government of India and state governmen
    • The focus of the campaign is on water stressed districts and block The teams of officers from the central government will visit and work with district administration in water stressed blocks and districts, to ensure five important water conservation interventions.
    • The important water conservation interventions are:
      • Water conservation and rainwater harvesting,
      • Renovation of traditional and other water bodies/tanks,
      • Reuse of water and recharging of structures,
      • Watershed development, and
      • Intensive afforesta
    • The water conservation interventions will also be supplemented with special interventions including the development of block and district water conservation plans, promotion of efficient water use for  irrigation and better choice of crops through Krishi Vigyan Kendr

    Following the massive water crisis across India in the summer of 2019, the Central government hurriedly launched the Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA). These kind of interventions would ensure water source sustainability in rural areas and would strengthen the ongoing Jal Jeevan Mission being implemented by the Ministry of Jal Shakti.

  • 2023

    8. What is oil pollution? What are its impacts on the marine ecosystem? In what way is oil pollution particularly harmful for a country like India?

    Oil pollution, also known as oil contamination or oil spills refers to the release of crude oil or refined petroleum products into the water bodies caused due to accidents involving oil tankers, pipelines, offshore drilling rigs, or other industrial processes.

    Its impacts on the marine ecosystem

    • Harm to Marine Life: It causes difficulty in regulating marine animals body temperatures by coating feathers of seabirds, fur with oil spills which leads to hypothermia.
    • Toxicity: Crude oil components are toxic to marine organisms and causes damage to their organs, impairing reproduction.
    • Habitat Destruction: Oil spills can damage coral reefs, seagrass beds, and marshes which are critical for marine life.
    • Disruption of Food Chain: Loss of biodiversity can have a cascading effect, as many species are interdependent. For example, phytoplankton, the primary producer can be killed due to oil contamination.

    Oil pollution is particularly harmful for a country like India for several reasons

    • Economic Impact: India is world's second-largest aquaculture nation and the third-largest fish producer after China. Oil pollution can disrupt fishing and tourism industries.
    • Environmental Consequences: India is home to diverse marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, mangroves etc., oil pollution can lead to loss of biodiversity.
    • Health Implications: India has a coastline of over 7500 km. Oil spill can pose a significant health threat to coastal communities and people who rely on sea food.

    Oil pollution is a matter of concern for India and efforts to prevent and mitigate the impacts of oil spills are essential to protect the country’s coastal environment, economy and well-being of its coastal communities.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 2020

    7. How doesthe draft EnvironmentImpact Assessment(EIA)Notification, 2020 differfrom the existing EIA Notification, 2006?

    Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has proposed a draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020, that seeks to replace the current notification which goes back to 2006. EIA is an important process for evaluating the likely environmental impact of a proposed project.

    Environmental Impact Assessment

    • Under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, India notified its first EIA norms in 1994, setting in place a legal framework for regulating activities that access, utilise, and affect (pollute) natural resources.
    • Every development project has been required to go through the EIA process for obtaining prior environmental clearance ever since.
    • It is a process whereby people’s views are taken into consideration for granting final approval to any developmental project or activity.

    Difference between draft EIA notification, 2020 and 2006

    • Public Consultation Process: The draft notification provides for a reduction of the period from 30 days to 20 daysfor the public to submit their responses during a public hearing for any application seeking environmental clearance.
    • Post-facto Approval: The new draft allowsfor post-facto approval for projects. It meansthat the clearancesfor projects can be awarded even if they have started construction or have been running phase without securing environmental clearances. It was not allowed in the 2006 notification.
    • Compliance Report: The 2006 notification required that the project proponent submit a report every six months, showing that they are carrying out their activities as per the terms on which permission has been given. However, the new draft requires the promoter to submit a report only once every year.
    • Central Government Powers: Through the draft notification, the central government gets the power to categorize projects as ‘strategic’. Once a project is considered as strategic, the draft notification states that no information related to such projects shall be placed in the public domain.

    Major concerns regarding the draft EIA 2020

    • Public consultation is exempted in a wide range of areas like modernization of irrigation projects, construction of buildings, standalone flyovers, bridges, national defence, and security projects etc. This provides people a limited scope to be a part of the EIA process.
    • The period of public hearing and obtaining objections has been reduced and that poses a grave problem in areas where access to information is difficult and where people are unaware about the EIA process.

    The new notification is being brought in order to make the process more transparent and expedient by the implementation of an online system, further delegation, rationalization and standardization of the process. But on the other hand, it is also evident that the draft seeks the growth of commercial projects at the cost of the environment.

  • 2021

    7. Describe the key points of the revised Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) recently released by the World Health Organisation (WHO). How are these different from its last update in 2005? What changes in India’s National Clean Air Programme are required to achieve revised standards?

    The World Health Organisation released an updated version of the Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs). The guidelines recommend new air quality levels to protect the health of populations, by reducing levels of key air pollutants. This is the first-ever update of WHO since 2005.

    The key updates of the new Global Air Quality Guidelines are:

    • WHO’s new guidelines recommend air quality levels for six pollutants – particulate matter (PM 2.5 & PM10), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and carbon monoxide (CO).
    • The annual average for PM2.5 and PM 10 should not exceed 5 micrograms and 15 micrograms per cubic metre of air respectively, while the 24-hour average should not exceed 15 micrograms and 45 micrograms per cubic metre.
    • The average levels of ozone, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide should not exceed 100 micrograms, 25 micrograms, 40 micrograms, 4 micrograms per cubic metre respectively over a 24-hour period.

    The new air quality guidelines mean that entire India would be considered a polluted zone for most of the year. The new WHO norms should push India to work harder to make its air cleaner and safer. The region has challenging meteorological and climatic conditions, with the added challenge of haze columns, heat island effects and exceedingly high base pollution.

    India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) aims for a 20% to 30% reduction in particulate matter concentrations by 2024 in 122 cities, keeping 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration. India’s air pollution standards are more relaxed in comparison to WHO’s prescribed guidelines. Thus, efforts are needed to make the guidelines more stringent with revised targets. Under the proposed Clean Air for All, the government tends to make targets of PM2.5 & PM10 more stringent. There is a need to adopt an airshed approach to take measures to deal with air pollution.

  • 2022

    7. Discuss in detail the photochemical smog emphasizing its formation, effects and mitigation. Explain the 1999 Gothenburg protocol.

    Photochemical smog also known as Los Angeles smog is a type of air pollution due to the reaction of solar radiation with airborne pollutant mixtures of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (hydrocarbons).


    The formation of photochemical smog is closely related to the concentration of primary pollutants (oxides of nitrogen such as nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, and nitrous oxide and most VOCs) in the atmosphere. In some cases, it is also related to the concentration of secondary pollutants (aldehydes, tropospheric ozone, and PAN).

    • Photochemical smog appears to be initiated by nitrogen oxides
    • Absorbing the visible or ultraviolet energy of sunlight, it forms nitric oxide (NO) to free atoms of oxygen (O), which then combine with molecular oxygen (O2) to form ozone (O3).
    • With hydrocarbons, certain other organic compounds, and sunlight, various chemical reactions take place to form photochemical smog.


    • Chemicals within it, when combined with hydrocarbons, form molecules which cause eye irritation.
    • Ground level ozone can prove to be extremely toxic to human beings.
    • Other negative symptoms include decreased vision and shortness of breath.
    • Acid rain and eutrophication.


    • Catalytic converters can reduce vehicle emissions of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons.
    • reducing greenhouse gas emissions and noxious urban emissions from transport through Biofuels.
    • cleaner options for vehicles such as Hydrogen powered and electric vehicles

    Gothenburg Protocol:

    • It is to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone was adopted by the countries of UNECE in Gothenburg (Sweden) on 30 November 1999.
    • It is also known as Muti-effect protocol.
    • It sets emission ceilings for 2010 for four pollutants: Sulphur, NOx, VOCs and ammonia.
    • These ceilings were negotiated on the basis of scientific assessments of pollution effects and abatement options.

    Currently, the protocol is under negotiation for a revised protocol. It was updated in 2012 to include particulate matter and black carbon.

  • 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.

  • 2021

    6. Explain the purpose of the Green Grid Initiative launched at World Leaders Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, 2021. When was this idea first floated in the International Solar Alliance (ISA)?

    The Green Grid or the One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG) initiative was announced at COP-26, Glasgow by India and the UK. The initiative is aimed at accelerating the development and deployment of interconnected electricity grids across continents, countries, and communities, and improving energy access of the poorest through mini-grids and off-grid solutions. The idea for the single global solar grid was first outlined at the International Solar Alliance in 2018, by the Prime Minister of India.

    The Green Grid Initiative aims:

    • To speed up the process of decarbonising energy production.
    • To create an international network of global interconnected solar power grid to ensure 24×7 supply of green power.
    • To help in increasing investment in R&D centers by pooling skill, technology and financial resources.

    As good as it sounds, the implementation of the Green Grid has to counter the following challenges:

    • The creation of global transmission infrastructure involves huge financing.
    • For connecting with the Green Grid, a global cooperation between the countries is needed.
    • As the grid will pass through several geographical locations, it will be sensitive to the security risks emanating from terror organisations.

    The Green Grid initiative is a transformational new programme, with the goal of making universal access to renewable energy a reality. It will ensure that clean power is the most affordable and reliable option for all countries to meet their energy needs efficiently by 2030.

  • 2022

    6. Each year a large amount of plant material, cellulose, is deposited on the surface of Planet Earth. What are the natural processes this cellulose undergoes before yielding carbon dioxide, water and other end products?

    Cellulose is being considered the most abundant organic compound on the earth. The chemical formula of cellulose as a chain is (C6H10O5)n. Cellulose is an important structural component of the primary cell wall of green plants, many forms of algae and the oomycetes. Some species of bacteria secrete it to form biofilms.

    Properties of Cellulose

    • Complex carbohydrate that consists of oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen.
    • A chiral, tasteless compound without any odour.
    • Biodegradable, insoluble in water and most organic solvents.

    Natural Processes of Cellulose


    • In plants, cellulose is synthesized at the plasma membrane by Rosette Terminal Complexes (RTCs).
    • The RTCs contain the cellulose synthase enzymes that synthesis the individual cellulose chains.

    Breakdown (Cellulolysis)

    • Cellulolysis is the process of breaking down cellulose into smaller polysaccharides called cellodextrins or completely into glucose units.
    • The breakdown products are then used by the bacteria for proliferation.
    • The bacterial mass is later digested by the ruminant in its digestive system (stomach and small intestine).

    Breakdown (thermolysis)

    • At temperatures above 350 °C, cellulose undergoes thermolysis (pyrolysis).
    • It decomposes into solid char, vapors, aerosols, and gases such as carbon dioxide.
    • The semi-crystalline cellulose polymers react at pyrolysis temperatures (350–600 °C) in a few seconds.
      • This transformation has been shown to occur via a solid-to-liquid-to-vapor transition.
    • Maximum yield of vapors which condense to a liquid called bio-oil is obtained at 500 °C.

    Generally, cellulose is mainly used to produce paperboard and paper. But its conversion from energy crops to biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol is under development as a renewable fuel source. The biofuel production from cellulose would be a revolutionary technology as it can fulfil India’s target in Paris Climate Agreement.

  • 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.

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