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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

18 Jun, 2020

124 Min Read

Coral Reefs

GS-I : Human Geography Coral reefs

Coral Reefs

GS-Paper-1 Geography (PT-MAINS)

A coral reef is an underwater ecosystem characterized by reef-building corals. Reefs are formed of colonies of coral polyps held together by calcium carbonate. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, whose polyps cluster in groups.

  • Coral belongs to the class Anthozoa in the animal phylum Cnidaria, which includes sea anemones and jellyfish.
  • Unlike sea anemones, corals secrete hard carbonate exoskeletons that support and protect the coral.
  • Most reefs grow best in warm, shallow, clear, sunny and agitated water.
  • Sometimes called rainforests of the sea, shallow coral reefs form some of Earth's most diverse ecosystems.
  • They are most commonly found at shallow depths in tropical waters, but deep water and cold water coral reefs exist on smaller scales in other areas.
  • Coral reefs deliver ecosystem services for tourism, fisheries and shoreline protection.
  • Coral reefs are fragile, partly because they are sensitive to water conditions.
  • They are under threat from excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), rising temperatures, oceanic acidification, overfishing (e.g., from blast fishing, cyanide fishing, spearfishing on scuba), sunscreen use, and harmful land-use practices, including runoff and seeps (e.g., from injection wells and cesspools)(PT).

The distribution of coral reefs in India

Recovery of Coral reefs

The Gulf of Mannar (GoM), spread around 21 islands, suffers significant damage caused by livelihood-linked human threats and climate change. The islands and the reef areas collectively constitute the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park (GMMNP).

  • Corals in the GoM usually bleach in summer if the water temperature surpasses 30?C, but they recover when it drops in August.
  • According to recent study Cyclones Amphan and Nisarga that unleashed destruction in eastern and western India have saved the Gulf of Mannar corals from mass bleaching as windstorms along with two low pressures have significantly lowered seawater temperature in summer.
  • As the water temperature level reached 31.8? C in April, partial coral bleaching [less than 5%] was observed.
  • The high temperature levels persisted till May [the highest level being 31.9? C], when widespread bleaching was witnessed.
  • Average bleaching prevalence this summer is 28.20%. Shallow areas [0.5 and 2m deep] have a bleaching prevalence of 21.20%, while deep regions [2 and 6m] have only 7%.
  • Thoothukudi group islands have the highest bleaching prevalence (30.80%), followed by Mandapam and Keelakarai groups.
  • The brief coral bleaching event is almost over, and corals have already started recovering.
  • The water temperature dropped [28.6? C] in early June, which has helped corals restore their zooxanthellae.
  • It is expected that the bleached corals will completely recover by July-end without facing any mortality, provided the present climatic condition continues.
  • Reduction in sewage inflow, industrial and human activities and halt in fishing during the lockdown have also assisted in improvement of reef health, resulting in enhanced fish population and faster coral recovery.

Source: LM

National e-Governance Division (NeGD)

GS-II :

National e-Governance Division (NeGD)

Context

With a view to achieve atmanirbharata in the Coal sector, the Ministry of Coal in association with FICCI is launching the process for auction of 41 coal mines under the provisions of CM (SP) Act and MMDR Act. This auction process marks the beginning of opening of Indian coal sector for commercial mining. It will enable the country achieve self-sufficiency in meeting its energy needs and boost industrial development. The commencement of this auction process of coal mines for sale of coal is part of the series of announcements made by the Government of India under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. The event will take place virtually at 11 AM on 18th June, 2020. The event will be open to all to join virtually through various networks hosted by NIC, NeGD of MEiTY and FICCI.

About NeGD

In 2009, National e-Governance Division (NeGD) was created by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) as an Independent Business Division under the Digital India Corporation.

Since 2009, NeGD has been playing a pivotal role in supporting the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology in Programme Management and implementation of e-Governance Projects and initiatives undertaken by Ministries/ Departments, both at Central and State levels.

The envisioned roles and responsibilities of NeGD are as follows:

  • Providing strategic direction in gterms of framing policies and implementation strategy for the Digital India Programme in different domains of e-Governance
  • Proactive support to Central and State Governments for Mission Mode Projects (MMPs) and other e-Governance projects
  • Acting as a facilitator and catalyst for implementation of Digital India Program by various Ministries and State Governments
  • Providing technical assistance to Central Ministries/ State Line Departments in their e-Governance projects either directly or in collaboration with professional consultants
  • Undertaking technical appraisal of e-Governance projects for examining issues like overall technology, architecture, framework standards, security policy, service delivery mechanism, sharing of common infrastructure, etc
  • Developing generic / model Expression of Interest (EoI), Request for Proposal (RFP), Standard Contracts, PPP Models and other related documents for various stages and requirements of projects for use by the States
  • Ensuring effective citizen engagement and communication with all stakeholders using offline and Social Media channels
  • Impact assessment and e-Readiness measurement of e-Governance projects of all States / UTs
  • Recruitment, deployment and HR management of specialised resources in the State e-Governance Mission Teams (SeMTs) in all States and UTs
  • Training and development initiatives, including-
  1. Development of competency frameworks, training guidelines, case studies, etc
  2. Developing Online and Web based Training and set up Learning Management System
  3. Knowledge management and sharing through workshops, development of case studies, sharing best practises and creation of knowledge repositories, etc

Major Ongoing Projects-

  1. Digital Locker (DigiLocker)
  2. Unified Mobile App for New-Age Governance (UMANG)
  3. National Centre of Geo-Informatics (NCoG)
  4. Rapid Assessment System (RAS)
  5. OpenForge
  6. Programme Management Information System (PMIS)
  7. Learning Management System (LMS)
  8. Knowledge Management System (KMS)

Source: PIB

Finance Commission on Grant for Provision of Drinking Water & Sanitation Services

GS-II : Governance Cooperative federalism

Finance Commission Holds Meeting with The Ministry of Jal Shakti on Grant for Provision of Drinking Water & Sanitation Services

Context

  • The Chairman, Shri N. K. Singh and Members of the 15th Finance Commission today had a meeting with Shri Gajendra Singh, Minister of Jal Shakti and his team of officers on the issue of FC grants to Rural Local Bodies for provisions of drinking water & sanitation services .

Recommendations of Finance Commission

  • The Terms of Reference of the Commission mandates it to recommend “the measures needed to augment the Consolidated FUND OF a State to supplement the resources of the Panchayats and Municipalities in the State on the basis of recommendations made by the Finance Commission of the State”.
  • In this context the Finance Commission needed to understand whether the current experience of the submission of its report 2020-21 and its recommendations on grants for local bodies, was adequate enough to continue this type of grants for 2021-22 to 2025-26 – or there was requirement for improvement/ modification.
  • The specific concerns of the Commission were that approximately 2.5 lakh Panchayati Raj Institutions which have common issues on Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation and where coordination was required between the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the Ministry of Jal Shakti alongwith the States for effective implementation.
  • The 15th Finance Commission in its interim report for the year 2020-21, has identified water supply and sanitation as national priority areas for rural local bodies, and accordingly 50% of Rs. 60,750 crore i.e. Rs. 30,375 crore has been allocated as tied-grants to RLBs for:

(a) sanitation and maintenance of open-defecation free (ODF) status; and

(b) supply of drinking water, rain water harvesting and water recycling.

  • PRIs have to earmark one half of these tied grants for each of these two components.
  • However, if any (Gram Panchayat has fully saturated the needs of one category, the particular GP can utilize the funds from the other category).
  • The Finance Commission also requested the States to bring it to the notice of all the PRIs that while utilizing the 15th Finance Commission grants for water and sanitation, priority may be given to cover all the activities identified under JJM and SBM (G) so as to saturate the needs of drinking water and sanitation facilities in the rural areas of the country.

Source: PIB

Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC)

GS-II : International Relations Bilateral groupings and agreements

Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC)

  • ITEC Programme was launched in 1964 by the Ministry of External Affairs.
  • The ITEC Programme is fully funded by the Government of India.
  • The Programme is essentially bilateral in nature. However, in recent years, ITEC resources have also been used for cooperation programmes conceived in regional and inter-regional context such as Economic Commission for Africa, Commonwealth Secretariat, UNIDO and Group of 77.
  • Under ITEC and its sister programme SCAAP (Special Commonwealth African Assistance Programme), 161 countries in Asia, Africa, East Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean as well as Pacific and Small Island countries are invited to share in the Indian developmental experience acquired over six decades of India's existence as a free nation.

Components:

  • Training (civilian and defence) in India of nominees from ITEC partner countries;
  • Projects and project related activities such as feasibility studies and consultancy services;
  • Deputation of Indian experts abroad;
  • Study Tours;
  • Gifts/Donations of equipment at the request of ITEC partner countries; and
  • Aid for Disaster Relief.

Division of Development Partnership Administration (DPA) in the Ministry of External Affairs is the nodal division for handling all capacity building programmes.

Source: PIB

National Centre for Good Governance (NCGG)

GS-II : Governance Governance

National Centre for Good Governance (NCGG)

  • The National Centre for Good Governance (NCGG) is an autonomous institute under the aegis of Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, Government of India.
  • Its head office is at New Delhi and registered office at Mussoorie.
  • The NCGG has been set up to assist in bringing about governance reforms through studies, training, knowledge sharing and promotion of good ideas.
  • It seeks to carry out policy relevant research and prepare case studies; curate training courses for civil servants from India and other developing countries; provide a platform for sharing of existing knowledge and pro-actively seek out and develop ideas for their implementation in the government, both at the States and the Central level.
  • The National Centre for Good Governance traces its origin to the National Institute of Administrative Research (NIAR).
  • NIAR was set up in 1995 by the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA).
  • During its 19 years of existence it provided research and training support to the Academy in areas of public administration.
  • NIAR was subsequently rechristened with an expanded mandate, as National Centre for Good Governance, which was inaugurated on February 24th, 2014.

OBJECTIVES

  • To be a think tank for governance & policy reforms, working across administrative, social, financial and political arenas.
  • To initiate and participate in research and training on various aspects of regulatory and developmental administration, public policy, governance and public management.
  • To provide a platform for policy development debates and discussions.
  • To promote exchange of innovative ideas and best practices in Governance by organising, sponsoring and aiding seminars, workshops, study circles, working groups and conferences.
  • To interact with national and international organisations, in and outside government, engaged in research and training in subject areas of mutual interest.

Source: PIB

Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)

GS-III : Economic Issues Industry

Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)

Context

With a view to achieve atmanirbharata in the Coal sector, the Ministry of Coal in association with FICCI is launching the process for auction of 41 coal mines under the provisions of CM (SP) Act and MMDR Act. This auction process marks the beginning of opening of Indian coal sector for commercial mining. It will enable the country achieve self-sufficiency in meeting its energy needs and boost industrial development. The commencement of this auction process of coal mines for sale of coal is part of the series of announcements made by the Government of India under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. The event will take place virtually at 11 AM on 18th June, 2020. The event will be open to all to join virtually through various networks hosted by NIC, NeGD of MEiTY and FICCI.

About FICCI

  • The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) is an association of business organisations in India.
  • Established in 1927, on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi by GD Birla and Purshottamdas Thakurdas.
  • It is the largest, oldest and the apex business organization in India.
  • It is a non-government, not-for-profit organisation.
  • FICCI draws its membership from the corporate sector, both private and public, including SMEs and MNCs.
  • The chamber has an indirect membership of over 250,000 companies from various regional chambers of commerce.
  • It is involved in sector-specific business building, business promotion and networking.
  • It is headquartered in the national capital New Delhi and has a presence in 12 states in India and 8 countries across the world.

What Is a Chamber of Commerce?

  • A chamber of commerce is an association or network of businesspeople designed to promote and protect the interests of its members. A chamber of commerce, sometimes known as a "board of trade," is often made up of a group of business owners that share a locale or interests, but can also be international in scope. They will choose leadership, name representatives, and debate which policies to espouse and promote.

  • Chambers of commerce exist all over the world. They do not have a direct role in creating laws or regulations, though they may be effective in influencing regulators and legislators with their organized lobbying efforts.

Source: PIB

Benefits of commercial Mining

GS-III :

Benefits of commercial Mining

  • Upon attainment of Peak Rated Capacity of production of 225 MT, these mines shall contribute about 15% of the country’s projected total coal production in 2025-26.
  • Employment generation for more than 2.8 lakhs people: Direct employment to approximately 70,000 people and indirect employment to approximately 210,000 people.
  • Expected to generate approximately Rs 33,000 crore of capital investment in the country over next 5-7 years.
  • These mines will contribute Rs 20,000 crores revenues annually to the state governments
  • 100 per cent FDI is likely to bring in international practices, latest technologies and mechanisation in mining operations.
  • Self-reliance with substitution of imports by independent thermal power plants and captive power plants resulting in saving of foreign currency.
  • Boost to the regulated and non-regulated sector by ensuring sustained coal stocks for industries with greater reliability.
  • Moving towards a free market structure with implementation of the National Coal Index.
  • Promoting the practice of efficient use of clean energy and reduce the scourge of environmental pollution with incentive to Coal Gasification & Liquefaction.

Source: PIB

Jan Aushadhi Suvidha Oxo-Biodegradable Sanitary Napkin @Rs.1

GS-III :

Sanitary Napkins available for Rs. 1/- per pad at Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras

  • It may be stated that menstruation and menstrual practices still face some social, cultural, and religious restrictions which are a big barrier in the path of menstrual hygiene management.
  • In many parts of the country especially in rural areas girls and women do not have access to sanitary products or they do not opt for them as most of these items available in the market are bit costly.
  • This step ensured ‘Swachhta, Swasthya and Suvidha’ for the underprivileged Women of India.
  • This step has been taken by the Union Department of Pharmaceuticals to ensure the achievement of Prime Minister Shri Narendera Modi’s vision of Affordable and Quality Healthcare for All.
  • Sanitary Napkins are environmental friendly, as these pads are made with Oxo-biodegradable material complying with ASTM D-6954 (biodegradability test) standards.
  • Under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana, these pads are being sold at Rs 1/- per pad .
  • Jan Aushadhi Suvidha sanitary napkins are available across all Kendra's.
  • On the eve of World Environment Day 4th June 2018, Government of India proudly announced the launch of “Jan Aushadhi Suvidha Oxo-Biodegradable Sanitary Napkin” for women of India.

Source: PIB

Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region

GS-III :

Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region

GS- PAPER-3 Climate change (PT-MAINS-INTERVIEW)

Recently, the first Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region has been published by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES). It is India’s first-ever national forecast on the impact of global warming on the subcontinent in the coming century.

  • These projections, based on a climate forecasting model developed at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, will be part of the next report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), expected to be ready in 2022.
  • This is a significant step for climate science and policy in India because existing projections are put in the context of historical trends in land and ocean temperatures, monsoon rainfall, floods, droughts and Himalayan warming and glacier loss.

The report highlights are as follows

  • The report indicates a rise in worldwide average surface air temperatures by 5°C by the end of the century if human activities keep emitting GHGs at the current rate.
  • The global average temperature in the last century has gone up by 1.1°C, according to the latest estimates by the IPCC.
  • Another significant highlight of the assessment is the projected variability in the rainfall, especially during the monsoon season which brings 70% of the rainfall received by India and is one of the primary drivers of its rural agrarian economy.
  • Monsoon rainfall could change by an average of 14% by 2100 that could go as high as 22.5%.
  • It is not mentioned if this change will be an increase or a decrease but still represents variability.
  • Overall rainfall during the monsoon season has decreased by 6% between 1950 and 2015.

Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP)

  • According to Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region, in a worst-case scenario, average surface air temperatures over India could rise by up to 4.4°C by the end of the century as compared to the period between 1976 and 2005.
  • The worst-case scenario is defined by the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 that calculates a radiative forcing of 8.5 watt per square metre due to the rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere.
  • Radiative forcing or climate forcing is the difference between sunlight energy absorbed by the Earth (including its atmosphere) and the energy that it radiates back into space.
  • Under an intermediate scenario of RCP 4.5, the country’s average temperature could rise by up to 2.4°C.
  • The rise in temperatures will be even more pronounced in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region where the average could reach 5.2°C.
  • The region is already highly vulnerable to climate-related variability in temperatures, rainfall and snowfall.
  • By 2100, the frequency of warm days and warm nights might also increase by 55% and 70% respectively, as compared to the period 1976-2005 under the RCP 8.5 scenario.
  • The incidences of heat waves over the country could also increase by three to four times.
  • Their duration of occurrence might also increase which was already witnessed by the country in 2019.

Source: TH

China and Pangolin Protection

GS-III :

China and Pangolin Protection

Paper-3 Wild life protection

Why in news?

China accorded pangolin the highest level of protection and removed its scales from its list of approved traditional medicines.

  • The Chinese State Forestry and Grassland Administration had issued a notice upgrading its protection of pangolins.
  • It has also banned all commercial trade of the endangered mammal.
  • The move came about after the 2020 edition of the “Chinese Pharmacopoeia” excluded traditional medicines made from four species.
  • This 2020 edition also listed alternatives sourced from species which are not endangered.

What does Covid-19 have to do with China’s decision?

  • Back in February 2020, the reports linking the transmission of the virus to vet markets in Wuhan had emerged. So, China banned the consumption of wild animals, including pangolins, in an attempt to limit the risk of diseases being transmitted from animals to humans.
  • Before its latest decision, China has removed health insurance cover to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) recipes with pangolin products.
  • Also, pangolin meat is considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam.
  • Their scales, which are made of keratin are believed to improve lactation, are considered to promote blood circulation, and remove blood stasis.
  • These so-called health benefits are so far unproven.
  • The mere suspicion of unproven link between pangolins and Covid-19 has increased public discussion on health risks from human-wildlife interactions.
  • These discussions have raised awareness of the exploitation of pangolins.

What makes pangolins the most trafficked animals in the world?

  • Eight species of pangolins, the scaly insectivorous creatures, are distributed across Asia and Africa.
  • They have long been hunted for their meat and scales, which indigenous tribes in central and eastern India are also known to have worn as rings.
  • Two of these species are found in 15 states in India, although their numbers are yet to be completely documented.
  • The creatures are strictly nocturnal, repelling predators by curling up into scaly spheres upon being alarmed.
  • The same defence mechanism however, makes them slow and easy to catch once spotted.
  • They do not occur in large numbers and their shy nature makes encounters with humans rare.
  • Their alleged health benefits in TCM prompted a booming illicit export of scales from Africa over the past decade.
  • Conservation of pangolins received its first shot in the arm when the 2017 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) enforced an international trade ban.

Are the animals trafficked from India as well?

  • Law enforcement authorities in India have made seizures of pangolin scales from 2012 onward.
  • Once the demand for pangolins in China is known, indigenous tribes in India supply it to customers through middlemen in Bhutan and Nepal.
  • Once Pangolins are caught, killed and skinned, the exchange of scales typically takes place at Siliguri (West Bengal) or Moreh (Manipur).
  • Poachers use only trains and buses to avoid detection, and carry as much as 30 kg of scales at a time.
  • TRAFFIC study 2018 found that 5,772 pangolins had been detected by law enforcement agencies in India between 2009 and 2017.
  • The Madhya Pradesh Police’s Special Task Force is the leader in tracking pangolin poachers and traffickers.
  • It was formed in 2014 specifically to crack down the illicit export of the endangered creatures.
  • Given the fluctuating demand for scales, the price ranges between Rs 30,000 and Rs 1 crore for a single animal.

How will China’s decision impact pangolin trafficking?

  • Some experts say that the immediate impact would be pangolin scales losing their legitimacy in TCM.
  • However, some say that the history of the ban of wildlife trade in China is not encouraging.
  • There is a continued availability of tiger bone wine — believed to have health benefits — despite its ban on tiger products in 1993.
  • The price of the elephant ivory plummeted by two-thirds after China banned it.
  • The same trend would apply to pangolin scales.
  • India, where the trade largely remains local, has been registering a decline from before China’s ban.
  • This decrease is attributed to the border closures, shifts in law enforcement priorities, or decreased reporting on wildlife seizures.
  • This decrease may also be credited the decline to the disappearance of public transport due to the national lockdown.

Source: TH

SEBI eases fund-raising norms for firms

GS-III : Economic Issues SEBI

SEBI eases fund-raising norms for firms

  • As part of its attempts to make it easier for listed companies to raise funds in the current volatile scenario, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has allowed listed companies to raise funds at shorter intervals while also giving promoters the go-ahead to increase their stakes by a higher quantum without triggering an open offer.
  • As per a gazette notification, the capital markets regulator has allowed companies to make two qualified institutional placements (QIPs) with a gap of just two weeks between them.
  • This is a significant move as the earlier regulations mandated a minimum gap of six months between two such issuances.
  • In another important amendment, the regulator has said that promoters can increase their stakes in their companies through preferential allotments by up to 10% without triggering an open offer.
  • The cap was earlier set at 5%.
  • The regulator has, however, allowed this relaxation only for the current financial year.
  • Analysts said the twin moves would help in enhancing liquidity in the market as companies would be able to better time fund-raising while promoters could also acquire shares at a time when valuations were quite low compared with the historic highs.

Boosting liquidity

  • Relaxation from the takeover code could be a good opportunity for promoters who are looking to increase their stakes at attractive valuations, given the current market sentiments.
  • In April, the capital markets regulator had relaxed certain regulatory requirements related to rights issues and initial public offerings (IPOs) to make it easier for companies to raise funds at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic had made the secondary markets increasingly volatile.
  • The watchdog said any listed entity with a market capitalisation of at least ?100 crore could use the fast- track route for a rights issue.
  • Earlier, the norm was ?250 crore for such offerings.
  • Further, any company that had been listed for 18 months was permitted to raise funds through a fast- track rights issue. The eligibility had earlier been set at three years.
  • Also, the minimum subscription requirement to make an issue successful was lowered from the earlier 90% of the offer size to 75%.

What Is a Qualified Institutional Placement (QIP)

  • A qualified institutional placement (QIP) is, at its core, a way for listed companies to raise capital, without having to submit legal paperwork to market regulators.
  • It is common in India and other southeast Asian countries.
  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) created the rule to avoid the dependence of companies on foreign capital resources.
  • QIPs are helpful for a couple of reasons.
  • Their use saves time as the issuance of QIPs and the access to capital is far quicker than through an FPO.
  • The speed is because QIPs have far fewer legal rules and regulations to follow, making them much more cost-efficient.
  • Further, there are fewer legal fees, and there is no cost of listing overseas.

Source: TH

RBI to tighten rules for home finance firms

GS-III : Economic Issues RBI

RBI to tighten rules for home finance firms

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has proposed stringent norms for housing finance companies by mandating 75% of their home loans to individual borrowers by 2024.

Housing finance company

  • A housing finance company is considered a non-banking financial company (NBFC) under the RBI’s regulations.

A company is treated as an NBFC if its financial assets are more than 50% of its total assets and income from financial assets is more than 50% of the gross income.

  • The RBI proposed the definition of qualifying assets for housing finance companies (HFCs).
  • It said at least 50% of net assets should be in the nature of ‘qualifying assets’ for HFCs, of which at least 75% should be towards individual housing loans.
  • Such HFCs which do not fulfil the criteria will be treated as NBFC – Investment and Credit Companies (NBFC-ICCs) and will be required to approach the RBI for conversion of their Certificate of Registration from HFC to NBFC-ICC.
  • The NBFC-ICCs which want to continue as HFCs would have to follow a roadmap to make 75% of their assets individual housing loans.
  • The target has been set at 60% by March 31, 2022, 70% by March 31, 2023, and 75% by March 31, 2024.

Qualifying assets

The RBI defined ‘qualifying assets’ as loans to individuals or a group of individuals, including co-operative societies, for construction/purchase of new dwelling units, loans to individuals for renovation of existing dwelling units, lending to builders for construction of residential dwelling units.

Non-housing loans

  • All other loans, including those given for furnishing dwelling units, loans given against mortgage of property for any purpose other than buying/construction of a new dwelling unit/s or renovation of the existing dwelling unit/s, will be treated as non-housing loans.
  • The regulator said that a HFC could either undertake an exposure on a group company in real estate business or lend to retail individual homebuyers in the projects of group entities, but could not do both.

Double financing (Construction companies and Individuals)

  • “In order to address concerns on double financing due to lending to construction companies in the group and also to individuals purchasing flats from the latter, the HFC concerned may choose to lend only at one level.
  • Further, the RBI said if the HFC decided to take any exposure in its group entities (lending and investment), directly or indirectly, such an exposure could not be more than 15% of owned fund for a single entity in the group and 25% of owned fund for all such group entities.
  • As regards extending loans to individuals, who choose to buy housing units from entities in the group, the HFC would follow arm’s length principles in letter and spirit.
  • The central bank also proposed a minimum net-owned fund (NOF) of ?20 crore as compared to ?10 crore now.
  • Existing HFCs would have to reach ?15 crore within a year and ?20 crore within two years.

Source: TH

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

GS-II :

SIPRI

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) established in 1966 is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. Based in Stockholm the Institute provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

Highly Important

  1. Eight sovereign states have publicly announced successful detonation of nuclear weapons.
  2. Five are considered to be nuclear-weapon states (NWS) under the terms of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). In order of acquisition of nuclear weapons these are the United States, Russia (the successor state to the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom, France, and China.
  3. Since the NPT entered into force in 1970, three states that were not parties to the Treaty have conducted overt nuclear tests, namely India, Pakistan, and North Korea. North Korea had been a party to the NPT but withdrew in 2003.
  4. Israel is also generally understood to have nuclear weapons, but does not acknowledge it, maintaining a policy of deliberate ambiguity, and is not known definitively to have conducted a nuclear test. Israel is estimated to possess somewhere between 75 and 400 nuclear warheads. One possible motivation for nuclear ambiguity is deterrence with minimum political cost.
  5. States that formerly possessed nuclear weapons are South Africa (developed nuclear weapons but then disassembled its arsenal before joining the NPT) and the former Soviet republics of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, whose weapons were repatriated to Russia.

According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the worldwide total inventory of nuclear weapons as of 2019 stood at 13,865, of which 3,750 were deployed with operational forces. In early 2019, more than 90% of the world's 13,865 nuclear weapons were owned by Russia and the United States.

SIPRI year book

  • A new yearbook released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
  • The yearbook “assesses the current state of armaments, disarmament and international security”
  • The highlights of the yearbook are as follows
  • All nations that have nuclear weapons continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals, while India and China increased their nuclear warheads in the last one year.
  • China is in the middle of a significant modernization of its nuclear arsenal. China’s nuclear arsenal had gone up from 290 warheads in 2019 to 320 in 2020.
  • China is developing a so-called nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft.
  • India’s nuclear arsenal went up from 130-140 in 2019 to 150 in 2020.
  • Pakistan, too, is slowly increasing the size and diversity of the nuclear forces. It has reached 160 in 2020.
  • Both China and Pakistan continue to have larger nuclear arsenals than India.
  • Together the nine nuclear-armed states — the U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — possessed an estimated 13,400 nuclear weapons at the start of 2020, which marked a decrease from an estimated 13,865 nuclear weapons at the beginning of 2019.
  • The decrease in the overall numbers was largely due to the dismantlement of old nuclear weapons by Russia and the U.S., which together possess over 90% of the global nuclear weapons.
  • The U.S. and Russia have reduced their nuclear arsenals under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) but it will lapse in February 2021 unless both parties agree to prolong it.

Source: IE

New START

GS-II :

New START

New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation with the formal name of Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. It was signed in 2010 at Prague, and, after ratification entered into force in 2011, it is expected to last at least until 2021.

New START replaced the Treaty of Moscow (SORT), which was to expire in December 2012. It follows the START I treaty, which expired in December 2009; the proposed START II treaty, which never entered into force; and the START III treaty, for which negotiations were never concluded. The treaty calls for halving the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers.

A new inspection and verification regime will be established, replacing the SORT mechanism. It does not limit the number of operationally inactive nuclear warheads stockpiled by Russia and the United States, a number in the high thousands.

The deadlock over the New START and the collapse of the 1987 Soviet–U.S. Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty) in 2019 suggest that the era of bilateral nuclear arms control agreements between Russia and the U.S. might be coming to an end.

Source: IE

Committee to oversee Ownership of Private Banks

GS-III : Economic Issues Banking

Committee to oversee Ownership of Private Banks

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has constituted an internal working group to review the existing guidelines on ownership and corporate structure of private sector banks. The group will be headed by RBI executive director P.K. Mohanty.

  • The bank licensing rules mandated that a private bank’s promoter will need to pare holding to 40% within three years, 20% in 10 years and to 15% in 15 years.
  • The rules on promoter holding have changed over the years.
  • It is, therefore, felt necessary to comprehensively review the extant guidelines on ownership, governance and corporate structure in private sector banks, taking into account key developments which have a bearing on the issue.
  • The group will examine the existing licensing guidelines and regulations on ownership and control of private sector banks.
  • It will also suggest appropriate norms, keeping in mind the issue of excessive concentration of ownership and control.
  • Besides, it will examine and review the eligibility criteria for individuals or entities to apply for a banking licence, and review the promoter shareholding norms at the initial licensing stage.
  • It will also study the current regulations on holding of financial subsidiaries through a non-operative financial holding company (NOFHC) and suggest steps to migrate all banks to a uniform regulation.

Source: TH

PCPNDT Act

GS-II : Governance Acts and regulations

PCPNDT Act

In April Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued a notification which put on hold the implementation of certain rules of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex-Selection Rules) of 1996 till June 30, 2020.

  • One of the suspended provisions, Rule 8, is intrinsically connected with the statute’s provisions dealing with the mandatory registration of genetic counselling centres, laboratories and clinics, Non-compliance leads to penalty.
  • The rules require ultrasound clinics to maintain detailed records of pregnant women who undergo foetal scans in the clinics and submit them to local health authorities.
  • Sections of doctors representing ultrasound clinics have in the past complained that such record-keeping is time-consuming.
  • Ultrasound clinics, like other medical services, would be considered essential and could remain open during the lockdown.
  • Foetal medicine specialists point out that the suspension of rules would enable clinics to process patients faster and reduce their waiting time at clinics in line with social-distancing measures.
  • Suspending the rule means clinics need not produce any records till June 30.
  • This could be misused by unscrupulous sections to conduct sex determination tests freely.
  • By this Central government has arbitrarily and selectively weakened a legislation aimed at curbing the pernicious activity of sex-selection and sex-determination.
  • Supreme Court recently asked the government to explain its decision to suspend crucial rules of a parliamentary law against pre-natal sex determination and sex selection till June end, amid the COVID-19 national lockdown.

Source: IE

Guwahati - Urban Jungle

GS-III :

Guwahati - Urban Jungle

Assam State Zoo occupies 30 hectares of the 620-hectare Hengerabari Reserve Forest referred to as the city’s lungs. It has diverse fauna like Chinese pangolin, Nepal cricket frog, Bengal monitor lizard, Assamese cat snake, Eurasian moorhen, Asian elephant, Terai cricket frog and Ganges river dolphin. By this Guwahati redefines the term “urban jungle” with 334 and counting free-ranging faunal species living in the green spaces within concrete structures.

  • The 328-sq km Guwahati and its outskirts have 18 hills, eight reserve forests, two wildlife sanctuaries and a Ramsar site (Deepor Beel) besides the Brahmaputra river flowing past its northern edge.
  • This stretch of the river has a few Ganges river dolphin, which has the status of City Animal.
  • Over the years about 26 species of amphibians, 56 reptiles, 36 mammals and 216 birds has been recorded from the city. And 238 species of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles besides 610 species of flora in the Hengerabari reserve forest. ( without taking the captive animals in account)
  • More than 1,100 captive wild animals belonging to 107 species, of which 52 are highly protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, has also recorded.

Source: TH

Mobile Payments Market Report

GS-III : Economic Issues Banking

Mobile Payments Market Report

S&P Global Market Intelligence’s has launched 2020 India Mobile Payments Market Report. According to the report mobile payments and card transactions exceeded cash withdrawals from automated teller machines (ATMs) for the first time in 2019, indicating that the country’s push towards digital payments was bearing fruit.

The highlights of the report are as follows

  1. Mobile payments, initiated by payment apps comprising account-to-account transfers and payments made from stored-value accounts, rose 163% to $287 billion in 2019.
  2. By comparison, point-of-sale transactions completed using debit and credit cards, including online and in apps, rose 24% to $204 billion.
  3. Card and mobile payments as a percentage of GDP rose to 20% in the quarter ended December 31, 2019.
  4. The report estimated that card purchases and Unified Payments Interface (UPI)-led mobile payments represented 21% of the $781 billion in in-store transactions in 2019.
  5. Google Pay and PhonePe led the UPI payment space as the two handled more than 7 billion transactions in total, representing more than two-thirds of UPI transactions in 2019.

Source: IE

United Nation Security Council

GS-II :

United Nation Security Council

The United Nations Charter established six main organs of the United Nations, including the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Article 23 of the UN Charter concerns the composition of the UNSC. The UNSC has been given primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security to the Security Council, which may meet whenever peace is threatened. While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to member states, only the Security Council has the power to make decisions that member states are then obligated to implement under the Charter.

The UNSC is composed of 15 Members:

  • Five permanent members: China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • Ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.

Each year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members (out of ten in total) for a two-year term. The ten non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis:

  • Five for African and Asian countries.
  • One for Eastern European countries.
  • Two for Latin American and Caribbean countries.
  • Two for Western European and other countries.

Election to Non-Permanent members of UNSC

  • Election for five non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is being held on 17th June, 2020.
  • India is standing unopposed as the nominee for the Asia-Pacific seat, for the 2021-22 term and needs the vote of two-thirds of UNGA members (129 votes) to be confirmed.
  • In 2019, the candidature of India was unanimously endorsed by the 55-member Asia-Pacific grouping, which also included China and Pakistan.
  • This would be India's eighth term in the UNSC which will begin from January 2021.
  • India’s objective will be the achievement of N.O.R.M.S: a New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System.

Source: TH

Pashupatinath Temple and India - Nepal

GS-II : International Relations Nepal

Nepal-Bharat Maitri

Nepal-Bharat Maitri is a development partnership initiated by India as a high impact community development scheme.

  • This initiative is another milestone in strengthening cultural ties and people-to-people contacts between the two countries.
  • In 2018, Nepal-Bharat Maitri - Pashupati Dharmashala was inaugurated in Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • Recently, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed under Nepal-Bharat Maitri: Development Partnership, for the construction of a sanitation facility at the Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu.
  • The facility will be implemented by Kathmandu Metropolitan City and India has pledged to extend financial assistance amounting to Rs. 2.33 crore.
  • This comes amid a raging border row between the two countries.

Pashupatinath Temple

  • It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, Pashupatinath is one of the most important religious sites in Asia for devotees of Shiva.
  • It is the largest temple complex in Nepal and stretches on both sides of the Bagmati River.
  • Temples dedicated to several other Hindu and Buddhist deities surround the temple of Pashupatinath.
  • Only Hindus are allowed through the gates of the main temple.
  • It was conferred the status of a World Heritage Site in 1979 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Source: TH

Maramon Convention

GS-I : Art and Culture Festivals

Maramon Convention

Maramon Convention is the Asia’s largest weeklong annual Christian meet. The convention is organized in the vast river bed of Pampa near the Kozhencherry Bridge.

The ongoing 123rd convention at Maramon,Pathanamthitta, Kerala began with a call to conserve the river Pampa and the environment.

Source: Web

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

GS-III :

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

  • Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) is situated at the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.
  • The reserve straddles the Ooty -Mysore interstate national highway.
  • It is contiguous with Wyanaad Wildlife Sanctuary on the west, Bandipur Tiger Reserve on the north.

  • The Moyar river flows downstream into the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and is the natural line of division between Mudumalai and Bandipur Sanctuary.
  • The MTR also forms part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve
  • The Reserve has tall grasses, commonly referred to as “Elephant Grass”, Bamboos of the giant variety, valuable timber species like Teak, Rosewood.
  • Fauna found in the region are Tiger, Elephant, Indian Gaur, Panther, Barking Deer, Malabar Giant Squirrel and Hyena etc.,
  • Sathayamangalam,Kalakkad Mudunthurai and Anamalai are the other tiger reserves in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Source: TH

Wetlands International

GS-III :

Wetlands International

Wetlands International coordinates the International Water bird census of which Asian Water bird census is an integral part. It is a global not-for-profit organization dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wetlands.

It is one of the International Partner Organizations of the Ramsar Convention. It was formerly known as International Waterfowl & Wetlands Research Bureau (IWRB) and their scope included the protection of wetland areas.

Source: TH

Senior Citizen’s Welfare Fund

GS-I : Social issues Old age

Senior Citizen’s Welfare Fund

Insurance regulator IRDA has asked all insurers to transfer the deposits of policyholders that have been laying unclaimed for over 10 years to the Senior citizen’s welfare fund. The corpus of the Senior Citizens Welfare Fund comprise of any credit balance in any of the accounts under the small savings like Post Office Saving Schemes, Banks, etc. remaining unclaimed for 7 years from date of declaration as an inoperative account. The nodal Ministry for the administration of the Fund shall be the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The Fund shall be utilized for such schemes that are in line with the National Policy on Older Persons and the National Policy on Senior Citizens.

Source: PIB

Strategic Petroleum Reserves

GS-III : Economic Issues Oil diplomacy

Strategic Petroleum Reserves

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) will send ships carrying crude oil to fill half of the 1.5 million tonne strategic oil reserves India has built at Mangaluru. Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd has built 5.33 million tonnes of strategic crude oil storage at three locations — Padur (Kerala) and Mangaluru on the western coast and Visakhapatnam on the eastern coast The oil stored in the underground rock caverns at the three locations is to be used in an emergency.

Source: TH

Virtual Reality

GS-III :

Virtual Reality

The school children in United States experience exotic field trips through the virtual reality headsets. The definition of ‘virtual’ is near and reality is what we experience as human beings. So the term ‘virtual reality’ basically means ‘near-reality’.

Source: web

Baghjan natural gas Blowout

GS-III :

Assessment of OIL well blowout impact on environment begins

  • A team of The Energy and Research Institute (TERI) and an accredited private agency have begun assessing the impact on the environment around the Baghjan natural gas well that caught fire after a blowout, Oil India Limited (OIL) officials said on Wednesday.
  • The well in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district adjoins the sensitive Maguri-Motapung wetland and is close to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park that houses some wild horses.
  • A preliminary assessment by TERI team is in progress at the site for studying air quality and noise level.
  • Bioremediation of sludge is being done using a technology developed in-house by our research and development wing.
  • Bioremediation is the cleaning of polluted sites through naturally occurring or introduced microorganisms for breaking down environmental pollutants.
  • While a team from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-North East Institute of Science and Technology has been studying the reported tremors in the area, scientists from Assam Agricultural University assessed the impact on vegetation.

Heat shield

  • Certain steps such as erection of heat shield have been completed while a second set of equipment was awaited from the Rajahmundry operations of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited
  • Nine truckloads of material from an Army base in north-central Assam for constructing a Bailey bridge across a pond near the affected well were also being awaited.
  • Local pressure groups have continued to disrupt OIL’s operations across eastern Assam. This has resulted in a total production loss of 6,132 metric tonnes of crude oil and 7.97 million metric standard cubic metres of natural gas.

Source: TH

India State of Forest Report, 2019

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Forest

India State of Forest Report, 2019

Part of: GS-III- State forest report (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Volume I

  • It is the 16th biennial assessment of India’s forests by Forest Survey of India, an organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • FSI undertakes National Forest Inventory to assess the growing stock in forests and TOF (Tree Outside Forest), bamboo resource, carbon stock and to assess the dependence of the people living in Forest Fringe Villages for fuelwood, fodder, small timber and bamboo.
  • In the current ISFR, a new chapter ‘Forest Types and Biodiversity’ has been added which presents findings of the forest type mapping based on Champion & Seth classification (1968) and the results of the first ever rapid biodiversity assessment of plant species in the 16 Forest Type Groups.

Imp points

The Total Forest and Tree cover is 24.56% of the geographical area of the country.

    • The Total Forest cover is 7,12,249 sq km which is 21.67% of the geographical area of the country.
    • The Tree cover is 2.89% of the geographical area of the country.

As compared to ISFR 2017 the current assessment shows an increase of

    • 0.65% of forest and tree cover put together, at the national level
    • 0.56% of forest cover
    • 1.29% of tree cover
  • Change in Recorded forest Area/Green Wash (RFA/GW) as compared to previous assessment of 2017.
    • Forest cover within the RFA/GW: a slight decrease of 330 sq km (0.05%)
    • Forest cover outside the RFA/GW: there is an increase of 4,306 sq km.

The top five States (UT) in terms of increase in forest cover: Karnataka>Andhra Pradesh>Kerala>Jammu & Kashmir>Himachal Pradesh.

  • Forest cover in the hill districts is 40.30% of the total geographical area of these districts. An increase of 544 sq km (0.19%) in 140 hill districts of the country.
  • The total forest cover in the tribal districts is 37.54% of the geographical area of these districts.
  • Total forest cover in the North Eastern region is 65.05% of its geographical area. The current assessment shows a decrease of forest cover to the extent of 765 sq km (0.45%) in the region. Except Assam and Tripura, all the States in the region show decrease in forest cover.
  • Mangrove cover in the country has increased by 1.10% as compared to the previous assessment.
  • Wetlands cover 3.83% of the area within the RFA/GW of the country. Amongst the States, Gujarat has the largest area of wetlands within RFA in the country followed by West Bengal.
  • Dependence of fuelwood on forests is highest in the State of Maharashtra, whereas, for fodder, small timber and bamboo, dependence is highest in Madhya Pradesh.
  • It has been assessed that the annual removal of the small timber by the people living in forest fringe villages is nearly 7% of the average annual yield of forests in the country.

Introduction

  • Forest Cover: The forest canopy area covered on the ground irrespective of the legal status of land. It includes all tree patches which have canopy density more than 10% and area of 1 ha or more in size.
  • Canopy Density: It is defined as the proportion of an area in the field/ground, that is covered by the crown of trees.
  • Recorded Forest Area (RFA):
    • Forest Area (or recorded forest area) refers to all the geographic areas recorded as forest in government records.
    • Recorded forest areas comprises Reserved Forests (RF) and Protected Forests (PF), which have been constituted under the provisions of Indian Forest Act, 1927.
    • Besides RFs and PFs, the recorded forest area may include all such areas, which have been recorded as forests under any State Act or local laws or any revenue records.
  • TOF (Trees Outside Forest): Trees found outside the recorded forest areas. TOF refers to all trees growing outside RFA irrespective of patch size which could also be larger than 1 ha.
  • Tree cover: All patches of trees occurring outside RFA which are of size less than 1 ha including the scattered trees. Tree cover forms an important part of the trees outside forests (TOF). Therefore, tree cover can be considered as a subset of TOF.
  • According to the Global Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) done by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) once every five years, India has 2% of the Global forest area, standing at 10th position among the top ten countries in respect of forest area. Russia Federation tops the list with 20% of the global forest cover.

Chapter 2- Forest Cover

  • National Forest Policy of India, 1988 envisages a goal of achieving 33% of geographical area of the country under forest and tree cover.
  • The main objectives:
    • to monitor forest cover and changes therein at the National, State and District levels.
    • to generate information on forest cover in different density classes and changes therein.
    • to produce forest cover and other thematic maps derived from it for the whole country.
    • to provide a primary base layer for assessment of different parameters including growing stock, forest carbon etc.
    • to provide information for international reporting.
  • Forest cover: Includes all lands having trees more than one hectare in area with tree canopy density of more than 10%, irrespective of ownership, legal status of the land and species composition of trees.
    • Very Dense Forest: All lands with tree canopy density of 70% and above. The relative composition of forest cover under this category is 3.02%
    • Moderately Dense Forest: All lands with tree canopy density of 40% and more but less than 70%. Forest cover under this category is 9.39%
    • Open Forest: All lands with tree canopy density of 10% and more but less than 40 %. Forest cover of 9.26% falls under this category.
    • Scrub Forest: Lands with canopy density less than 10%. Geographical area under this category is 1.41%.
    • Non-forest: Lands not included in any of the above classes (includes water). Geographical area under the non-forest category is 76.92%.
  • Largest forest cover in India: Madhya Pradesh > Arunachal Pradesh > Chhattisgarh > Odisha > Maharashtra
  • Forest cover as percentage of total geographical area: Mizoram (85.41%) > Arunachal Pradesh (79.63%) > Meghalaya (76.33%) > Manipur (75.46%) > Nagaland (75.31%).
  • There is an overall gain of 3,976 sq km of forest cover in the country as compared with the ISFR 2017 report.
  • States/UTs showing significant gain in forest cover: Karnataka > Andhra Pradesh > Kerala > J&K
  • States showing loss in forest cover: Manipur > Arunachal Pradesh > Mizoram
  • There is an overall increase in forest cover in the tribal districts by 1,181 sq km.
  • There are 218 tribal districts in 27 States/UTs as identified by the Government of India under the Integrated Tribal Development Programme.
  • Gujarat has the largest area of the wetlands within RFA/GW in the country followed by West Bengal. Wetlands within forest areas form important ecosystems.
  • Among the smaller States/UTs, Puducherry followed by A&N Islands have large areas of wetlands within RFA/GW.
  • In the country as a whole there are 62,466 wetlands covering 3.83% of the area within the RFA/GW areas of the country.

Chapter 3- Mangrove Cover

  • Mangroves are a diverse group of salt-tolerant plant communities of tropical and subtropical regions of the world which can survive the limiting factors imposed by lack of oxygen, high salinity and diurnal tidal inundation.
  • According to Champion & Seth Classification (1968) Mangroves are included in Type Group-4 Littoral & Swamp Forests
  • IMPORTANCE OF MANGROVES
    • Mangroves have a complex root system which is very efficient in dissipating the sea wave energy thus protecting the coastal areas from tsunamis, storm surge and soil erosion. Their protective role has been widely recognized especially after the devastating Tsunami of 2004.
    • Mangrove roots slow down water flows and enhance sediment deposition. Therefore, they act as a zone of land accretion due to trapping of fine sediments including heavy metal contaminants. They also arrest coastal erosion and sea water pollution.
    • They act as a fertile breeding ground for many fish species and other marine fauna.
    • They act as an important source of livelihood for the coastal communities dependent on collection of honey, tannins, wax and fishing.
    • Mangroves are important carbon sink.
  • About 40% of the world's Mangrove Cover is found in South East Asia and South Asia.
  • The mangrove cover in India is 4,975 sq km, which is 0.15% of the country’s total geographical area.
  • Increase in the mangrove cover as compared to 2017 assessment: 54 sq km
  • Among the states and UTs, West Bengal has the highest percentage of area under total Mangrove cover followed by Gujarat and Andaman Nicobar Islands.
  • Top three states showing Mangrove cover increase: Gujarat > Maharashtra > Odisha

Forest Types & Biodiversity (DR Khullar)

  • A total of 16 types have been identified by Champion and Seth to classify the range of forest
    • Moist Tropical Forest:
      • Tropical Wet Evergreen Forest
      • Tropical Semi-Evergreen Forest
      • Tropical Moist Deciduous Forest
      • Littoral and Swamp Forest
    • Dry Tropical Forest
      • Tropical Dry Deciduous Forest
      • Tropical Thorn Forest
      • Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest
    • Montane Subtropical Forest
      • Subtropical Broadleaved Hill Forest
      • Subtropical Pine Forest
      • Subtropical Dry Evergreen Forest
    • Montane Temperate Forest
      • Montane Wet Temperate Forest
      • Himalayan Moist Temperate Forest
      • Himalayan Dry Temperate Forest
    • Subalpine Forest
      • Subalpine Forest
    • Alpine Scrub
      • Moist Alpine Scrub
      • Dry Alpine Scrub

States and UTs with maximum species diversity of;

    • Trees: Karnataka,
    • Shrubs: Arunachal Pradesh,
    • Herbs: Jammu & Kashmir.

State with maximum species richness for Maximum richness of species taking all the three types of plants: Arunachal Pradesh > Tamil Nadu > Karnataka

Forest Fire & Monitoring

National Action Plan on Forest Fires, 2018

  • MoEF&CC, has come up with the National Action Plan on Forest Fires, 2018 to revamp forest fire management in the country.
  • Main objectives
    • informing,
    • enabling and
    • empowering forest fringe communities and
    • incentivizing them to work in tandem with the State Forest Departments (SFDs).
  • The plan proposes nine strategies to address the issue, including establishment of a “Centre of Excellence on Forest Fire Management”at FSI.
  • A joint study report of MoEF&CC and World Bank titled “Strengthening Forest Fire Management in India” released in June 2018 revealed that in the year 2000, 20 districts, representing 3% of India’s land area and 16% of forest cover accounted for 44% of all fire detections.
  • The upgraded version of the Forest Fire Alert System version 3.0 (FAST 3.0) was released on16th January, 2019 with a separate activity of monitoring large forest fires.
  • Forest Cover of States & UTs under different fire prone classes:
    • Extremely Fire Prone: Mizoram > Tripura
    • Very Highly Fire Prone: Mizoram > Manipur
    • Highly Fire Prone: Nagaland > Manipur
    • Moderately Fire Prone: Punjab > Nagaland
  • It is seen that most of the fire prone forest areas are found in the northeastern region and the central part of the country.

Tree Cover

  • The total tree cover of the country has been estimated to be 95,027 sq km.
  • There is an increase of 1,212 sq km in the extent of tree cover as compared to the 2017 assessment.
  • State-wise estimates of Tree Cover:
    • Maximum Tree Cover: Maharashtra > Madhya Pradesh > Rajasthan > J&K
    • Maximum Tree Cover as percentage of geographical area: Chandigarh > Delhi > Kerala > Goa
  • State-wise estimates of Tree Outside Forest (TOF)
    • Maximum extent of TOF: Maharashtra > Odisha > Karnataka
    • Maximum extent of TOF as percentage of geographical area: Kerala > Goa > Nagaland.

National Forest Inventory (NFI)

  • It is a major forest resource assessment activity carried out by FSI.
  • The primary objective is to assess growing stock of trees, number of trees, bamboo, soil carbon, occurrence of NTFP (Non-Timber Forest Products) and invasive species and other parameters depicting growth & health of forest.
  • The NFI has three components, Forest Inventory, TOF (Rural) Inventory and TOF (Urban) Inventory.

Chapter 8- Bamboo Resources of the Country

  • In India, bamboo grows naturally throughout the country except in Kashmir region. India is home to about 125 indigenous and 11 exotic species of bamboo from 23 genera.
  • Bamboo contributes significantly to the social, economic & ecological development of any region.
  • Bamboo bearing area of the country: 16.00 million hectare.
  • Increase in bamboo bearing area: 0.32 million hectare, as compared ISFR 2017.
  • States with maximum bamboo bearing area: Madhya Pradesh > Maharashtra > Arunachal Pradesh > Odisha.
  • Maximum occurrence of pure bamboo: Maharashtra > Madhya Pradesh > Chhattisgarh.

Chapter 9- Carbon Stock in India’s Forest

  • Total carbon stock in the country's forest: estimated to be 7,124.6 million tonnes.
  • There is an increase of 42.6 million tonnes in the carbon stock of the country as compared to the last assessment of 2017.
  • State-wise Maximum carbon stock: Arunachal Pradesh > MadhyaPradesh > Chhattisgarh > Maharashtra
  • State-wise Maximum per hectare carbon stock: Sikkim > Andaman & Nicobar Islands > Jammu & Kashmir > Himachal Pradesh > Arunachal Pradesh
  • Soil organic carbon is the largest pool of forest carbon followed by Above Ground Biomass (AGB), Below Ground Biomass (BGB), Litter and dead wood.

Chapter 10- People & Forests

  • As per the Census 2011 nearly 1,70,000 villages are located in the proximity of forest areas and are termed Forest Fringe Villages (FFVs).
  • The study conducted by FSI assessed the dependence of the people living in proximity to forests in terms of removal of:
    • Quantity of fuelwood
    • Quantity of fodder
    • Quantity of small Timber
    • Quantity of bamboo
  • Top 3 states in dependence on forests for
    • Fuelwood: Maharashtra > Odisha > Rajasthan
    • Fodder: Madhya Pradesh > Maharashtra > Gujarat
    • Small Timber: Madhya Pradesh > Gujarat > Maharashtra
    • Bamboo: Madhya Pradesh > Chhattisgarh > Gujarat.

Source: PIB

Land use Change

GS-I : Human Geography Land use pattern

Land use Change

GS-Paper-1 Geography PT-MAINS

Land use change is a process which transforms the natural landscape by direct human-induced land use such as settlements, commercial and economic uses and forestry activities. It impacts the overall environment in terms of greenhouse gas emission, land degradation and climate change.

  • Land use change promotes zoonoses like Covid-19 as the interaction and physical distance between animals and humans get closer.
  • Land use change can be a factor in CO2 (carbon dioxide) atmospheric concentration, and is thus a contributor to global climate change.
  • It represents almost 25% of total global emissions.
  • According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate change and land, agricultural land for food, animal feed and fibre is behind the land use change.
  • According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the land use change, which prepares the ground for zoonoses like Covid-19, should be reversed.

Analysis

The ‘Global Resources Outlook 2019,’ a major global report on the status and trends of natural resource use and management, was released during the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4). The report shows that we are ploughing through this planet’s finite resources as if there is no tomorrow, causing climate change and biodiversity loss along the way. By 2010, land-use changes had caused a loss of global species of approximately 11 percent. The report calls for an urgent systemic reform of resource use, to go beyond resource efficiency.

Introduction

  • Land is a crucial natural resource and an important determinant of a country’s socioeconomic and ecological health. Given the finite supply of land resource, sustainable use and management of land resources is a necessity for the wellbeing of people of a country.
  • Land-use change has broad lines of impact, with a potential for influencing economic growth, quality of life, management of environmental resources and national food supply.
  • Land-use change takes place through human activity in several ways. For example, in Indonesia, about 500 sq km of forest area are cleared each year, much of which is replaced with oil palm plantations.
  • Another pattern of changing land use is seen in expanding cities. In many countries, including India, cities are expanding well beyond their formal limits, either along intercity corridors or in other directions. The specific patterns of urban growth of a city and its periphery have implications for poverty, food, water, health, jobs and access to services.
  • Various forces shape these patterns of urbanisation, transforming land use from agriculture and forests into industry, residential and commercial buildings and associated infrastructure and horticulture.
  • Often the contested spaces of peri-urban areas (outside city limits but not quite part of the rural hinterland) become sites from which groundwater is pumped and transported to the city, where new industrial zones are developed, where urban waste is dumped and where vegetables and other high-value crops are grown for nearby urban centres.
  • Interventions like converting agricultural land for housing or industry, filling up ponds and building housing complexes on lake beds, etc. impact ecosystem services and climate adaptation.
  • These especially affect the poor who are largely reliant on ecosystems for their livelihoods.

Changing Land use Pattern in India

Land-use in a region, to a large extent, is influenced by the nature of economic activities carried out in the region. However, while economic activities change over time, land, like many other natural resources, is fixed in terms of its area. At this stage, one needs to appreciate three types of changes that an economy undergoes, which affect land-use.

India has undergone major changes within the economy over the past four or five decades and this has influenced the land-use changes in the country, these changes between 1960- 61 and 2008-09 have been shown in figure. There are two points that we need to remember before we derive some meaning from this figure. Firstly, the percentage shown in the figure has been derived with respect to the reporting area. Secondly, since even the reporting area has been relatively constant over the years, a decline in one category usually leads to an increase in some other category.

While some categories have undergone increases, some have registered declines. Share of area under forest, area under non agricultural uses, net sown area and current fallow lands have shown an increase. The following observations can be made about these increases:

  1. The rate of increase is the highest in case of area under non-agricultural uses. This is due to the changing structure of Indian economy, which is increasingly depending on the contribution from industrial and services sectors and expansion of related infrastructural facilities. Also, an expansion of area under both urban and rural settlements has added to the increase. Thus, the area under non-agricultural uses is increasing at the expense of wastelands and agricultural land.
  2. The increase in the share under forest, can be accounted for by increase in the demarcated area under forest rather than an actual increase in the forest cover in the country.
  3. The trend of current fallow fluctuates a great deal over years, depending on the variability of rainfall and cropping cycles. The categories that have registered a decline are barren and wasteland, culturable wasteland, area under pastures and tree crops. The possible explanation can be:

As the pressure on land increased, both from the agricultural and non agricultural sectors, the wastelands and culturable wastelands have witnessed decline over time. The decline in land under pastures and grazing lands can be explained by pressure from agricultural land. Illegal encroachment due to expansion of cultivation on common pasture lands is largely responsible for this decline.

Interaction between Land Use Pattern and Climate Change

Land use and land use changes can significantly contribute to overall climate change. Vegetation and soils typically act as a carbon sink, storing carbon dioxide that is absorbed through photosynthesis. When the land is disturbed, the stored carbon dioxide—along with methane and nitrous oxide— is emitted, re-entering the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming. The clearing of land can result in soil degradation, erosion and the leaching of nutrients; which can also possibly reduce its ability to act as a carbon sink. This reduction in the ability to store carbon can result in additional carbon dioxide remaining in the atmosphere, thereby increasing the total amount of greenhouse gases.

There are two types of land use change: direct anthropogenic (humancaused) changes and indirect changes. Examples of anthropogenic changes include deforestation, reforestation and afforestation, agriculture and urbanization. Indirect changes include those changes in climate or in carbon dioxide concentrations that force changes in vegetation. A 2002 NASA study argued that human-caused land surface changes in areas like North America, Europe and Southeast Asia redistribute heat within the atmosphere both regionally and globally. On a global scale, carbon dioxide emissions from land use changes represent an estimated 18% of total annual emissions; one-third of that from developing countries and over 60% from the lesser developing countries.

The effect of land use on the climate primarily depends on the type of land cover present within an area. For example, if rainforest is removed and replaced by crops, there will be less transpiration (evaporation of water from leaves) leading to warmer temperatures in that area. On the other hand, if irrigation is used on farmland, more water is transpired and evaporated from moist soils, which cools and moistens the atmosphere. The additional transpiration can also affect levels of precipitation and cloudiness in an area.

In regions with heavy snowfall, reforestation or afforestation would cause the land to reflect less sunlight, resulting in the absorption of more heat on the land. This would, in turn, result in a net warming effect despite the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis during the growing season. Additional reforestation could increase transpiration, leading to more water vapor in the air. In the troposphere, water vapor is considered to be the biggest greenhouse gas contributor to global warming.

Urbanization is another change in land use that can affect the climate, sometimes significantly. Local climates tend to be warmer due to the increased amount of heat released within a densely populated area. Average temperatures in city centers can increase even more due to the high density of construction materials such as pavement and roofing materials since they tend to absorb, rather than reflect, sunlight. The phenomenon of higher urban temperatures, compared to lower temperatures in the surrounding rural areas, is known as the urban heat island effect. Forestry and land use practices hold considerable potential for counteracting the effect of greenhouse gas emissions, helping to prevent significant climate change. These practices include focusing on planting trees, preserving and properly managing forests and changing cultivation practices to account for increased carbon storage in the soil. Such practices could make it possible to increase carbon sinks while further reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.

  • It is the only convention stemming from a direct recommendation of the Rio Conference’s Agenda 21.
  • Focus Areas: The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
  • From India, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change are the nodal Ministry for this Convention.

Source: TH

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