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8th August Current Affairs

Illegal Mining of Minor Minerals

(GS-III: Environment Conservation)

In News:

India has grossly underestimated the issue of illegal mining, which damages the environment and causes revenue loss.

Status:

Demand for minor minerals such as sand and gravel has crossed 60 million metric tons in India.

While laws and monitoring have been made stringent for the mining of major minerals consequent to the unearthing of several related scams across the country, rampant and illegal mining of minor minerals continues unabated.

The United Nations Environment Programme, in 2019, ranked India and China as the top two countries where illegal sand mining has led to sweeping environmental degradation.

Examples: There have been numerous cases of the illegal mining of dolomite, marble and sand across the States. In Andhra Pradesh’s Konanki limestone quarries alone, 28.92 lakh metric tonnes of limestone have been illegally quarried.

Issue with the regulation of Minor Minerals:

Under different state laws: Unlike major minerals, the regulatory and administrative powers to frame rules, prescribe rates of royalty, mineral concessions, enforcement, etc. are entrusted exclusively to the State governments.

Issue with EIA 2016: EIA was amended in 2016 which made environmental clearance mandatory for mining in areas less than five hectares, including minor minerals. The amendment also provided for the setting up of a District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (EIAA) and a District Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC).

However, a State-wise review of EACs and EIAAs in key industrial States such as Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, shows that these authorities review over 50 project proposals in a day and the rejection rate at the State level has been a mere 1%.

Environmental issues: In the Yamuna riverbed in UP, increasing demand for soil has severely affected soil formation and the soil holding ability of the land, leading to a loss in marine life, an increase in flood frequency, droughts, and also degradation of water quality.

Such effects can also be seen in the beds of the Godavari, the Narmada and the Mahanadi basins.

In the Narmada basin, sand mining has reduced the population of Mahseer fish from 76% between 1963 and 2015.

Loss to state exchequer: As per an estimate, U.P. is losing revenue from 70% of mining activities as only 30% area is legally mined.

Poor implementation of recommendations: The report of the Oversight Committee by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Uttar Pradesh (where illegal sand mining has created a severe hazard) has either failed or only partially complied with orders issued regarding compensation for illegal sand mining. Such lax compliance can be seen in States such as West Bengal, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh too.

Reasons for poor compliance: A malfunction of governance due to weak institutions, a scarcity of state resources to ensure enforcement, poorly drafted regulatory provisions, inadequate monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, and excessive litigation that dampens state administrative capacity.

Conclusion:

Protecting minor minerals requires investment in production and consumption measurement and also monitoring and planning tools. To this end, technology has to be used to provide a sustainable solution e.g., Satellite imagery can be used to monitor the volume of extraction and also check the mining process.

Recently, the NGT directed some States to use satellite imagery to monitor the volume of sand extraction and transportation from the riverbeds.  Additionally, drones, the internet of things (IoT) and blockchain technology can be leveraged to monitor mechanisms by using the Global Positioning System, radar and Radio Frequency (RF) Locator.

Forecasting by IMD

In News:

IMD said that Climate Change has hampered the ability of forecasting agencies to make predictions accurately.

Tools used for forecasting:

Radars (The number of radars will increase from 34 at present to 67 by 2025): Radars are preferred because they have a higher resolution and can provide observations every 10 minutes.

Automatic weather stations and rain gauges and satellites

Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) also plans to upgrade its high-performance computing system — from a capacity of 10 petaflops currently to 30 petaflops in the next two years.

IMD uses the Long Period Average (LPA) as a base to predict the expected amount of Monsoon rainfall in a particular year.

Based on LPA, IMD categorizes yearly monsoon rainfall on an all-India basis in below five categories-

  • Normal or Near Normal: percentage departure of actual rainfall is +/-10% of LPA (rainfall between 96-104% of LPA).
  • Below Normal:When the departure of actual rainfall is less than 10% of LPA, that is 90-96% of LPA.
  • Above Normal: When actual rainfall is 104-110% of LPA.
  • Deficient: When the departure of actual rainfall is less than 90% of LPA.
  • Excess: When the departure of actual rainfall is more than 110% of LPA.

Forecasting model:

Dynamical Monsoon Forecast Model: It was recently adopted by IMD which uses the evolving weather patterns to predict monsoon (better on smaller spatial and temporal scales)

About IMD:  Established in 1875, (HQ: Pune), IMD comes under the Ministry of Earth Sciences and is the principal government agency responsible for meteorological observations, weather forecasting, and seismology.

Ten More Ramsar Sites Added

(GS-III: Environmental Conservation)

In News:

India has added 10 more Ramsar sites, or wetlands of international importance (taking the total number of such sites to 64)

Details:

Importance: Many of the sites are already notified under the Union government’s Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017 meaning development activities within the water body as well as within its zone of influence are regulated.

Being designated Ramsar Site means now the sites will be on the global map for their importance in providing ecological services.

Criteria: The site has to test across nine criteria, including its services as a habitat.

Ten sites are:

Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary (TN): It is the largest reserve for breeding resident and migratory water birds and an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area forming part of the Central Asian Flyway.

Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve (TN): This will be the first Marine Biosphere Reserve in South & South -East Asia.

Vembannur Wetland Complex (Kanya kumari, TN): It is an artificial human-made inland tank and part of the Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). It forms the southernmost tip of peninsular India.

Vellode Bird Sanctuary (TN): It lies near the temple town of Erode in the State of Tamil Nadu and is considered a paradise for bird lovers.

Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary (TN): This also comes under the Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA).

Udhayamarthandapuram Bird Sanctuary (TN): Notable species observed at the site are oriental darter, glossy ibis, grey Heron & Eurasian spoonbill.

Satkosia Gorge (Odisha): The wetland is located over the Mahanadi River. Satkosia is the meeting point of the Deccan Peninsula and the Eastern Ghats (two biogeographic regions of India), thus is a very important place for biodiversity.

Nanda Lake (Goa): The lake in South Goa had already been notified as a wetland. This will be Goa’s 1st Ramsar site.

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary (Karnataka): It is a bird sanctuary in the Mandya District of the state of Karnataka in India. It is the largest bird sanctuary in the state on the bank of the Kaveri River. It is designated as an Important Bird area (IBA).

Sirpur Wetland (Madhya Pradesh): Situated on the Sirpur Lake (created by the Holkars of Indore State in the early 20th century), the wetland is situated in Indore City.

Previously, 5 new sites were added: Three wetlands (Karikili Bird Sanctuary, Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest & Pichavaram Mangrove) in Tamil Nadu, one (Pala wetland) in Mizoram and one wetland (Sakhya Sagar) in Madhya Pradesh.

Ramsar convention:

It is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.

It is named after the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the Caspian Sea, where the treaty was signed on 2 February 1971.

Known officially as ‘the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat’ (or, more recently, just ‘the Convention on Wetlands’), it came into force in 1975.

 Montreux Record:

Montreux Record under the Convention is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.

It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List.