Current Affairs : Environment
 

  • Describing the World Environment Day celebrations in India as historic, UN Environment chief Erik Solheim has praised India for demonstrating "global leadership" by announcing that it will phase out single-use plastics by 2022.
  • During an event to celebrate the WED-2018 on June 5 in New Delhi, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pledged to eliminate single-use plastics from India by 2022.
  • "WED was truly historic. As global host, India took charge, organising hundreds of events around the country, from beach and river cleanups, to awareness-building efforts with young people," Solheim said.
  • He said India made incredible announcements that will have a "definite impact" on the global fight against plastic pollution. "By announcing that the country will phase out single-use plastics by 2022, India has demonstrated global leadership and it's now up to other countries to follow India's lead," the UN Environment chief said.
  • Recalling that he was honoured to be present when PM Modi signed on to the UN Environment's Clean Seas campaign, he said the programme will be stronger with India's support, and send a clear message to other countries that they must come together to tackle the marine litter.
  • "While I know implementation is a challenge, I have absolutely no doubt that India will succeed and this will have a major impact on the world," Solheim said. He previously said the WED will be a call to action and leadership and asserted India is the "perfect" place for that to happen.
  • World Environment Day celebrations began in the national capital and across India with the start of this month. Several workshops and thematic sessions were held in Delhi. The pan-India events included cleanliness campaigns by state governments, cleaning of 24 beaches and 24 rivers in 19 states, making national parks and sanctuaries plastic free, media as well as social media campaigns and organising 'Envithon' mini-marathons in five cities, besides Delhi.

  • Tourists walk past a discolored wall of the Taj Mahal caused by environmental pollution. New Delhi: A four-seater solar car that can attain a top speed of 30 kmph has been developed by students of an engineering college here to protect the Taj Mahal which, as per some reports, is slowly turning brownish-yellow due to rising air pollution in the city.
  • Priced at Rs 50,000, the car named 'Nexgen' has been created by students of ACE college of engineering and management, Agra using recycled and and scrap materials.
  • However, the vehicle is sturdy enough to be used ion rural areas, Sanjay Garg, Chairman of the college told PTI.
  • With petrol and diesel vehicles contributing overwhelmingly to the city's already polluted skyline, the zero-fumes solar car can help clean up the air, Garg said.
  • "Our solar car can help a lot in bringing down pollution levels. It can be used in the night as well as a battery has been provided," said Sanyam Agarwal, project director."India has enough sunlight round the year. It can be widely used even in rural areas," Agarwal added.
  • The students said solar cars for one or two people have been developed abroad, but theirs can easily seat four.
  • The maximum speed is 30 kmph, more than enough for cities like Agra with perpetual traffic snarls, the students said.
  • The operational costs and the maintenance expenses are low and the spare parts are easily available, they added."If solar cars become popular, our dependence on petrol and diesel will reduce and emissions will remain under control," Akash Gupta, team leader said.

  • A new system devised by MIT engineers could provide a low-cost source of drinking water for parched cities around the world while also cutting power plant operating costs.
  • About 39 percent of all the fresh water withdrawn from rivers, lakes, and reservoirs in the U.S. is earmarked for the cooling needs of electric power plants that use fossil fuels or nuclear power, and much of that water ends up floating away in clouds of vapor. But the new MIT system could potentially save a substantial fraction of that lost water and could even become a significant source of clean, safe drinking water for coastal cities where seawater is used to cool local power plants.
  • The principle behind the new concept is deceptively simple: When air that's rich in fog is zapped with a beam of electrically charged particles, known as ions, water droplets become electrically charged and thus can be drawn toward a mesh of wires, similar to a window screen, placed in their path.
  • The droplets then collect on that mesh, drain down into a collecting pan, and can be reused in the power plant or sent to a city's water supply system.
  • The system, which is the basis for a startup company called Infinite Cooling that last month won MIT's $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, is described in a paper published today in the journal Science Advances, co-authored by Maher Damak PhD '17 and associate professor of mechanical engineering Kripa Varanasi. Damak and Varanasi are among the co-founders of the startup.
  • Varanasi's vision was to develop highly efficient water recovery systems by capturing water droplets from both natural fog and plumes of industrial cooling towers. The project began as part of Damak's doctoral thesis, which aimed to improve the efficiency of fog-harvesting systems that are used in many water-scarce coastal regions as a source of potable water.
  • Those systems, which generally consist of some kind of plastic or metal mesh hung vertically in the path of fogbanks that regularly roll in from the sea, are extremely inefficient, capturing only about 1 to 3 percent of the water droplets that pass through them. Varanasi and Damak wondered if there was a way to make the mesh catch more of the droplets and found a very simple and effective way of doing so.

  • The Mediterranean could become a "sea of plastic", the WWF warned on 8 june in a report calling for measures to clean up one of the world's worst affected bodies of water.
  • The WWF said the Mediterranean had record levels of "micro-plastics," the tiny pieces of plastic less than five millimetres (0.2 inches) in size which can be found increasingly in the food chain posing a threat to human health.
  • "The concentration of micro-plastics is nearly four times higher" in the Mediterranean compared with open seas elsewhere in the world, said the report, "Out of the Plastic Trap: Saving the Mediterranean from Plastic Pollution."
  • The problem, as all over the world, is simply that plastics have become an essential part of our daily lives while recycling only accounts for a third of the waste in Europe.
  • Plastic represents 95 percent of the waste floating in the Mediterranean and on its beaches, with most coming from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France, the report said.
  • To tackle the problem, there has to be an international agreement to reduce the dumping of plastic waste and to help clear up the mess at sea, the WWF said.
  • All countries around the Mediterranean should boost recycling, ban single-use plastics such as bags and bottles, and phase out the use of micro plastics in detergents or cosmetics by 2025
  • The plastics industry itself should develop recyclable and compostable products made out of renewable raw materials, not chemicals derived from oil.
  • Indidviduals too have their role to play, making personal choices such as to use combs or kitchen utensils made of wood, not plastic, the WWF said.

  • Plastic waste and toxic chemicals found in remote parts of the Antarctic this year add to evidence that pollution is spreading to the ends of the Earth, environmental group Greenpeace said on 7 june.
  • Microplastics - tiny bits of plastic from the breakdown of everything from shopping bags to car tyres were detected in nine of 17 water samples collected off the Antarctic peninsula by a Greenpeace vessel in early 2018, it said.
  • And seven of nine snow samples taken on land in Antarctica found chemicals known as PFAs (polyfluorinated alkylated substances), which are used in industrial products and can harm wildlife.
  • "We may think of the Antarctic as a remote and pristine wilderness," Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace's Protect the Antarctic campaign said in a statement about the findings."But from pollution and climate change to industrial krill fishing, humanity's footprint is clear," she said. "These results show that even the most remote habitats of the Antarctic are contaminated with microplastic waste and persistent hazardous chemicals."
  • The United Nations' environment agency says plastic pollution has been detected from the Arctic to Antarctica and in remote places including the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world's oceans in the Pacific.
  • On 5 june, it said that less than a 10th of all the plastic ever made has been recycled, and governments should consider banning or taxing single-use bags or food containers to stem a tide of pollution.

  • Somali refugee Adow Sheikh Aden, 32, was mocked when he started gathering empty plastic water bottles, broken buckets and old jerry cans around one of the world's largest refugee camps.
  • "We are refugees and we don't have any money, so we continue our work. That's why we continue our work," said Aden at the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya's Garissa County, near the Somali border.
  • Having fled war in Somalia, Aden is part of a small band of refugees who have taken up the fight against the plastic waste generated in Dadaab - and also earns an income from it.
  • Dadaab's waste recycling project, set up by the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) just over a year ago, has only eight refugee staff. But initial results are promising, and the plan is to grow, aid workers say.
  • In a cement-and-iron building equipped with a plastic shredder and compressor, the refugees have recycled about six tonnes of plastic waste so far, generating some 160,000 Kenyan shillings ($1,580) in revenue.
  • Nelly Saiti, KRCS project officer, said plastic recycling has huge potential as a sustainable business for refugees, and could be a model for other large camps such as Bidi Bidi in Uganda, Kakuma in Kenya and Nyarugusu in Tanzania.
  • Situated 475 km (300 miles) east of Kenya's capital Nairobi, Dadaab is home to more than 200,000 refugees, largely from Somalia, who depend on aid - much of it packed in plastic.
  • As Somalia descended into civil war, Dadaab was established by the United Nations in 1991, and has since mushroomed, with more refugees streaming in, uprooted by drought and famine as well as ongoing insecurity. Many have lived here for years.

  • After the news about black panther in Tadoba, Vidarbha region has recorded first-ever spot bellied eagle owl. The pair of birds was sighted in Saleghat range of Mansinghdeo Wildlife Sanctuary under Pench Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra.
  • Well-known bird expert Raju Kasambe from Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) confirmed there is no earlier record of the bird from Vidarbha. “It has been earlier recorded in Pench (MP), Kanha, Balaghat, Koyna and Bhimashankar sanctuaries in Western Maharashtra and Chorle Ghat (Maharashtra-Goa border),” said Kasambe.
  • Kapish S Rai, city birder and wildlife photographer, sighted the bird pair on May 20, around 6pm during an evening safari at Saleghat. “I spent last 12 days to get confirmation from bird experts and watchers,” he told TOI.
  • Veteran bird expert Gopal Thosar said, “I don’t recall of having record of this bird species here. Saleghat has beautiful ravines and much of the area is still unexplored. It is good indication and a formal study needs to be undertaken on bird species in the area.”
  • Another bird expert Nitin Marathe said he has never heard about the spot bellied eagle owl sighting, though 15 days ago he sighted an Egyptian vulture in Saleghat.
  • “It is a rare sighting as the owl species is mostly found in the south and parts of Northern India. The bird sighted is a juvenile, which indicates breeding of the species here,” says avid bird watcher Pushkar Kulkarni.

  • A Taj Declaration to Beat Plastic Pollution was adopted here today as part of which efforts would be made to make the 500-metre area around the historic ivory-white marble monument litter-free and phase out single-use plastic.
  • The adoption of the declaration - in presence of Minister of State for Environment Mahesh Sharma, UN Environment Programme Executive Director Erik Solheim, UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Diya Mirza - came ahead of the World Environment Day on June 5.
  • Before the adoption of the declaration, the Culture Ministry held a stake-holders' workshop chaired by Sharma.
  • The workshop focussed on curbing pollution near the 17th-century monument and drawing short-term and long-term plans to deal with the problem.
  • According to an official statement, a pledge was taken to make the 500-metre area around the Taj Mahal litter-free and take steps to phase out single-use plastic from the area.
  • Sharma said India and the whole world is today facing the problem of pollution caused by excessive use of plastics."It is a historic moment that the message of Beat Plastic Pollution is being given from the iconic Taj Mahal not only to the people of Agra and the country but to the whole world," he told reporters.
  • Sharma said it is an appropriate occasion to spread Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Swachch Bharat message from the Taj.
  • He said the government is committed to Agra's holistic development in which the Centre, the state, and the local administration will work together under a single umbrella.
  • Solheim expressed happiness that the UN slogan of Beat Plastic Pollution for this year's Environment Day on June 5 is being highlighted from the Taj Mahal. The coming together of all the stake-holders is heartening, he said.

  • A new survey has revealed the population of wild, endangered mountain gorillas living in central Africa has topped 1,000, a dramatic increase from the low numbers of previous decades
  • Fieldwork conducted from 2015-2016 meant finding trails and nest sites in The Virunga Volcanoes area on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Genetic analysis was also conducted of 1,100 fecal samples to identify individuals.
  • In the mid-1980s the Virunga Volcanoes area had approximately 250 gorillas and in 2010, 480 were counted.
  • The most recent survey counted a minimum of 604. When combined with the estimated 400 gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, there are now 1,004 mountain gorillas, the survey states.
  • In a tweet on 31May, Virunga National Park said: "Incredible news for conservation and much needed wonderful news for Virunga."
  • Mike Cranfield, Africa Director for veterinary project Gorilla Doctors which cares for injured and ill mountain gorillas, said on its website the results were "truly remarkable" and "far exceeding our expectations".
  • The survey was conducted by the park services of the three countries, non-governmental conservation organisations and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
  • Mountain gorillas, a subspecies of the eastern gorilla, have longer hair, jaws and teeth than most other species. Adult males grow a patch of grey hair on their back and hips, giving them the 'silverback' moniker.

  • The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has commissioned two very high resolution (12 km grid scale) state-of-the-art global Ensemble Prediction Systems (EPS) for generating operational 10-days probabilistic forecasts of weather. The EPS involves the generation of multiple forecasts using slightly varying initial conditions.
  • The EPS will enhance the weather information being provided by the current models by quantifying the uncertainties in the weather forecasts and generate probabilistic forecasts.
  • This critical service level augmentation became possible due to the consistent efforts made by the scientists at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), Noida and India Meteorological Department (IMD).
  • The frameworks of the new EPSs are among the best weather prediction systems in the world at present. Very few forecasting centres in the world use this high resolution for short-medium range probabilistic weather forecasts.
  • The probabilistic forecasts of severe weather events at 12 km grid scale across India will greatly help the disaster management authorities and other users in making better emergency response decisions by explicitly accounting for the uncertainty in weather forecasts.
  • The probabilistic forecasts will also be very useful for various sectors of the economy including agriculture, water resources, tourism and renewable energy.
  • The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) provides Weather and Climate Services to various users round the year and on 24/7 basis.
  • Both operational and research aspects for these services are implemented through its constituent units like IMD, NCMRWF, IITM and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS).

  • The asteroid that killed dinosaurs 66 million years ago, also led to the extinction of the first tree-dwelling birds, finds a study.
  • The asteroid that crashed to Earth with a force one million times more than the largest atomic bomb decimated the planet's forests as well as its canopies.
  • With no more perches, the perching birds went extinct. The ones that are alive today are descendants of a handful of ground dwelling species, like modern ground birds such as kiwis and emus, the researchers said.
  • "The temporary elimination of forests in the aftermath of the asteroid impact explains why arboreal birds failed to survive across this extinction event," said lead author Daniel Field, from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, UK.
  • "The ancestors of modern arboreal birds did not move into the trees until forests had recovered from the extinction-causing asteroid.
  • "Only a handful of ancestral bird lineages succeeded in surviving the mass extinction event 66 million years ago, and all of 25 may's amazing living bird diversity can be traced to these ancient survivors," Field added.
  • The study, appearing in the journal Current Biology, determined the destruction of the world's forests, by looking at microscopic fossils of pollen and spores.
  • The fossil record immediately after the asteroid hit shows the charcoal remains of burnt trees, and then, tons of fern spores, the researchers said."Our study examined the fossil record from New Zealand, Japan, Europe and North America, which showed there was a mass deforestation across the globe at the end of the Cretaceous period," said Antoine Bercovici, pollen expert at the Smithsonian Institution and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

  • A conservation agency has constructed what is believed to be the world's longest cat-proof fence in central Australia to save native wildlife and vegetation ravaged by the feline predators
  • Australia has the highest extinction rate in the world, while declining populations are affected by habitat loss as well as introduced creatures such as cats, foxes and rabbits going feral and killing native species across the vast continent.
  • The Australian Wildlife Conservancy this month finished building and electrifying the 44 kilometre (27 mile) long fence to create a predator free area of almost 9,400 hectares (23,200 acres) some 350 kilometres northwest of Alice Springs.
  • "Australia does not have an effective strategy for controlling cats," AWC chief Attius Fleming told AFP. "The only way we can save Australia's most endangered animals is by establishing these massive feral cat-free areas using conservation fencing."
  • Fleming said as part of the project which is funded by public and government donations, cats and other feral animals were being removed from the area, with threatened native mammals to be reintroduced next year.
  • The mammals set to be reintroduced in the area, which is owned by the AWC, include the western quoll, the numbat, the bilby and the central rock-rat.

  • Despite Argentine President Mauricio Macri's pro-business policies, international mining companies are still reluctant to invest in Argentina amid a lack of regulatory clarity.
  • More than two years into Macri's term, the country's dormant gold, silver, lithium and copper reserves some discovered more than half a century ago, remain mostly untapped. "Conditions in Argentina are not sufficient for a company to take on the risk of staying here 30 years," Mining Secretary Daniel Meilan told Reuters in an interview.
  • When pro-business Macri took office in late 2015 after 12 years of leftist rule, mining companies celebrated what they hoped would be a turning point.
  • Mining investments plummeted when former president Cristina Fernandez, who governed Argentina from 2007-2015, imposed a 5 percent tax on mining exports and banned companies from sending profits to foreign headquarters.
  • Macri's government has repealed both measures and declared mining a key industry. Investments in mining exploration, helped by rising mineral prices, rose to $300 million last year, up from $148 million in 2016, according to official data.

  • Hawaii's Kilauea volcano has created a potentially deadly new hazard for local residents as lava flows pouring into the Pacific Ocean Sunday could produce noxious clouds of acid fumes, steam and fine glass-like particles.
  • The Hawaii County Civil Defense warned the public to beware of caustic plumes of "laze" formed from two streams of hot lava gushing into the ocean after cutting across Highway 137 on the south coast of the Big Island late 19may and early 20May.
  • The laze - a term combining the words lava and haze - from the plume extended as far as 24 km west of where the lava met the sea. It was just offshore and running parallel to the coast.
  • Laze killed two people immediately adjacent to the coastal entry point in 2000, said the U.S. Geological Survey. Scientists said even a wisp can irrigate the skin and eyes and cause breathing problems.
  • Frankie Stapleton, a local resident, said they have not experienced such an eruption for decades."We had a fissure eruption in a populated area, which had not happened since 1960. When this eruption started on January 3, 1983, it started up way far away from any population. This having the fissures - 24 fissures open up in a community that has more than doubled in size since the last community was effected," she said.
  • Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, has been erupting continuously since January 1983. It started erupting over two weeks ago and has burned dozens of homes, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people.

  • In its bid to create over five lakh job opportunities by 2021 through green skills, the government on Monday launced mobile application to begin enrolments in 30 expert course under its Green Skill Development Programme (GSPD).
  • The GSPD-ENVIS app, which can be downloaded on mobile phones, is the easiest way to apply for the programmes, an official said.
  • The cost of the programmes which include 30 courses across 84 institutes like WII-Delhradun, Bombay Natural History Society in Mumbai, Botanical Survey of India in Pune and WWF in Delhi -- will be supported by the Union Environment Ministry.
  • "GSDP aims to get 80,000 people imparted green skills and filling the skill gaps in the environment sector... number of people to be employed under GSDP will be increased to cover 2.25 lakh people next year and to about 5 lakh people by the year 2021," Union Environment Minister Hash Vardhan said here.
  • Vardhan pointed out that the aim is to provide skills to the youth of India, especially dropouts. For this, the ministry is using its network and expertise of Environmental Information System hubs and Resource Partners for skill development in the environment and forest sector to enable youth to get employed or for self-employment.
  • "31 per cent of children are dropouts from school after the secondary stage itself... Priority is to develop skill sets with employability linkage," said Anandi Subramanian, Senior Economic Advisor, Environment Ministry.
  • Some of the courses to be conducted during 2018-19 include eco-tourism, scuba diving for marine conservation, propagation and management of bamboo, river dolphin conservation, forest entomology, pest control, paralegal practices in environment laws and forestry, and operation and management of sewage treatment plants.
  • "Some of these courses are unique... The ministry is spending on entire tuition and cost of the material. In some remote locations, we are also looking forward to bear the cost of boarding. However, no stipend will be paid," said a ministry official.
    • The Niagara Falls Aquarium in New York has started construction of a jellyfish exhibit that will be called "Aliens of the Sea.''
    • The $440,000 project will let the aquarium permanently house jellyfish for the first time in its history. Plans call for about 100 jellyfish representing four species. They will swim in tanks in a darkened exhibit space with dramatic lighting.
    • It's the second recent upgrade for the 53-year-old facility. The $3.5 million ``Penguin Coast'' exhibit opened in March.
    • About 270,000 people visit the aquarium every year. Officials hope the new exhibits will push the number to 300,000.
    • The jellyfish exhibit is getting funding from New York state and the First Niagara Foundation. It's expected to open early next year.

    • The 4.2 billion-year-old zircon in the rock offers fresh clues about the earth’s origins A rock sample recovered nearly eight years ago from Champua in Odisha’s Kendujhar district has put India at the forefront of geological research in the world.
    • Scientists have found in the rock a grain of magmatic zircon (a mineral that contains traces of radioactive isotopes) that is an estimated 4,240 million years old a discovery of great promise to study the earth’s early years.
    • Geologists from the University of Calcutta and Curtin University, Malaysia, along with researchers from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Beijing, made the discovery, which was published last week in the journal Scientific Reports.
    • Rajat Mazumder, geologist and one of the authors of the paper, said that the only instance of zircon older than this discovery was the one found in Jack Hill, Western Australia, which was 4,400 million years old and is the oldest known rock sample. But the zircon in this case was from metamorphosed sedimentary rock, unlike the Singhbhum one, which was formed from magma
    • “Thus, the Singhbhum rock from where the zicron was recovered is the second oldest and its zircon, the oldest magmatic zircon on earth,” Dr. Mazumder said.
    • Along with Dr. Mazumder, Trisrota Chaudhuri, a scholar with the University of Calcutta who is also associated with the Geological Survey of India (GSI), had spent years researching the Singhbhum rocks of Odisha.

    • Western Ghats’ forests yield as much as 3 mm per day of rainfall in August-September Researchers have found one more reason why urgent steps have to be taken to stop deforestation in the Western Ghats.
    • The dense vegetation in the Western Ghats determines the amount of rainfall that Tamil Nadu gets during the summer monsoon.
    • A team led by Prof. Subimal Ghosh from the Department of Civil Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay has found that dense forests of the Western Ghats contribute as much as 40% of moisture to the southwest monsoon rainfall over Tamil Nadu during normal monsoon years. The average contribution is 25-30%. But during monsoon deficit years, the contribution increases to as high as 50%.
    • The study found the forests of Western Ghats contribute as much as 3 mm per day of rainfall during August and September over a “majority of locations” in Tamil Nadu and 1 mm per day during June and July.
    • The study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters also found that deforestation of the Ghats led to 0.25 degree C increase in surface temperature across the State. The work was done in collaboration with Prof. Raghu Murtugudde of University of Maryland and Dr K. Rajendran from CSIR-Fourth Paradigm Institute (CSIR-4PI), Bengaluru.
    • To study the role of vegetation cover in the Western Ghats in supplying moisture to the southwest monsoon rainfall, the researchers used models to compare the contribution of Western Ghats with and without the forest cover.

    • A fresh warning about thunderstorm and squall hitting West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh may 4 has been issued, the home ministry said, and noted that 124 people were killed while more than 300 injured in five states due to thunderstorm and lightning in the last two days.
    • The maximum casualties were reported in Uttar Pradesh where 73 people were killed, while 91 others were injured.
    • Most of the deaths and injuries in the state took place in Agra region, a home ministry spokesperson said.
    • In Rajasthan, altogether 35 people were killed and 206 injured, while eight people were killed in Telangana, six in Uttarakhand and two in Punjab. Nearly 100 people were injured in Telangana, Uttarakhand and Punjab.
    • Following the thunderstorms, power supply was cut off in many areas as squall uprooted trees and snapped electricity cables. At least 12,000 electric poles were uprooted and 2,500 transformers were damaged in the affected states in the last two days.

    • European Union (EU) carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels increased in 2017, statistics office Eurostat said on 4 may, indicating that the reduction of emissions blamed for climate change remains a challenge.
    • Carbon emissions in the EU were up 1.8 percent from 2016, Eurostat said, with a double-digit increase in Malta and Estonia.
    • Finland and Denmark showed the sharpest declines while emissions in Germany, the bloc's largest economy and still dependent on coal for 40 percent of its electricity, was little changed
    • The European Union (EU) is vocal about trying to save the Paris Agreement on climate change after the United States said it would withdraw from the deal. The agreement seeks to keep increases in the planet's average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

    • Looking towards the conservation of Indus Dolphins one of the world's rarest mammals Punjab government along with WWF-India are conducting a first organised census, officials said on Thursday.
    • Found only in India and Pakistan, the Indus Dolphins are confined to only 185 km stretch between Talwara and Harike Barrage in India's Beas river in Punjab.
    • Officials from the Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, Punjab and WWF-India are currently working in two teams and will estimate their population over the five-day exercise.
    • "We are trying to establish their near accurate population as to plan their conservation accordingly. It is the first organised census, previously we had merely spotted them," Kuldeep Kumar, Chief Wildlife Warden, Punjab told IANS.
    • According to Suresh Babu, Director River Wetland and Water Policy, WWF-India, the most flourishing population of the Indus dolphin, platanista gangetica minor, is found across Pakistan where their numbers are estimated around 1,800 over a stretch of 1,500 km of the Indus river.
    • In India, a tiny population survives in this small stretch of Beas river. Experts say they were also found in Sutlej decades back, however, river pollution is believed to be a major cause of their extinction from the habitat.
    • "Dolphins are a key indicator of a river health if a river is healthy the dolphins will be there and if not, we have the example of Sutlej," Suresh Babu told IANS.

    • The Supreme Court has expressed concern over the change of colour of the iconic Taj Mahal at Agra and said the monument had become yellowish earlier and was now turning brownish and greenish.
    • The Apex Court suggested that the Centre take the assistance of experts from India and abroad to first assess the damage and then take steps to restore the historic monument.
    • The court perused the photographs placed before it by the petitioner and asked Additional Solicitor General, who was representing the government, as to why the colour of Taj Mahal has changed.
    • The apex court fixed the matter for further hearing on May 9.

    • The World Health Organization (WHO) said on 1 May that air pollution still kills 7 million people each year, almost all of them in poor countries in Asia and Africa, and that 9 out of 10 people on the planet breathe in polluted air, following the release of its latest data on air pollution worldwide.
    • According to the health institution, about a quarter of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer can be attributed to air pollution.
    • These numbers have remained unchanged in the past years, with, globally, outdoor air pollution remaining high and largely unchanged, while indoor air pollution has got worse, as people in many poorer countries continue to cook with solid fuel or kerosene, instead of cleaner fuels such as gas and electricity. Women and children are the most at risk.
    • WHO Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, director Dr. Maria Neira said, "Three billion people around the world, so almost half, 50% of the world global population, is still cooking and heating and lightening their house with solid fuels, wood, whatever they have available, which is not very clean fuels, and this is having a very negative impact on their health.
    • And this is something that we need to solve. We need to increase access to clean fuels, clean energy for this very important proportion of our population."

    • Ocean sciences experts from Hyderabad and the United States of America (USA) have now linked global warming to the unchecked bloom of a special type of algae in the Arabian sea. The algal bloom is leading to the death of commercially and ecologically important fish species.
    • A research study conducted by a joint team of Indian and American experts in ocean sciences revealed that harmful Noctiluca blooms in the Arabian Sea are thriving due to global warming. INCOIS is conducting more research to decode more secrets behind the fish mortality in the Arabian Sea.
    • The Noctiluca algae are often reported to occur in patches or blooms in the Northern Arabian Sea. These striking green blooms often appear to glow at night due to a special phenomenon called bioluminescence, earning them the nickname 'sea sparkle', the study said adding that “unfortunately, these beautiful patches, indicate zones of decline because fish cannot thrive and sometimes die because of these blooms.”
    • Noctiluca voraciously eats one of the most important planktonic organisms at the base of the fish-food chain, namely diatoms, and excretes large amounts of ammonia, linked with massive fish mortalities.

    • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) images of the past ten days show large parts of India are dotted with fires, stretching across Uttar Pradesh (UP), Madhya Pradesh (MP), Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and even some southern states.
    • In sweltering summer, these fires are intensifying heat and causing black carbon (a component of soot with high global warming effect) pollution.
    • Some of these dots may be forest fires but Hiren Jethva, research scientist at Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center, says fires in central India may be mostly crop fires as forest fires are usually uncontrolled and, therefore, produce more smoke and haze.
    • Agricultural scientists are linking the massive rise in the incidence of crop fires in recent years to the dependence of farmers on combine harvesters, which leave a short stubble behind. The practice of crop stubble burning is not limited to the northern states of Haryana and Punjab, where the problem is rampant.
    • While burning of paddy stubble has been a common practice among farmers since it is unsuitable as fodder, increasing incidence of wheat stubble burning is a relatively new trend. States with crop fires seen in Nasa maps have a dominant rice-wheat cropping system.
    • There are two choices of harvesting for farmers manual or by combine harvester. But with acute shortage of labour, combine harvesters are turning out to be the quickest and cheapest mode of harvesting and preparing the soil for paddy.

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