Category Archives: Environment

Critically Endangered Forest Owlet in Western Ghats

owl

Researchers have found the critically endangered ‘Forest Owlet’ in the northern part of the Western Ghats around 100 km from Mumbai in Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra’s Palghar district. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List has named this bird as the one facing a high risk of extinction (critically endangered) and the current population has been estimated at less than 250.

Till now, Forest Owlet was known endemic to Satpuda mountain ranges in central India. Its discovery in the Western Ghats has brought new hope about its survival. This clearly highlights the need to conserve crucial avian habitats such as Tansa and other areas which are potential homes of Forest Owlet.

The place where it was located is a dry deciduous forest, with open patches, which is very similar to the typical Forest Owlet habitat in the Satpuda ranges. However, this location is partially degraded due to human disturbances.

Environment ministry clears Kerala demand on Western Ghats

Western_Ghats

The centre has accepted the Kerala government’s recommendations to keep agricultural land, plantations, and habitations out of the ecologically sensitive areas (ESAs) identified by an expert committee on the conservation of the Western Ghats.

“Recommendations of the state government were examined by the ministry of environment and forests and it has been decided to accept these recommendations in respect of Kerala, regarding ESA boundaries,” the ministry said in a release.

The state government constituted an expert committee to study the impact of the Kasturirangan Committee recommendations. It also set up panchayat-level committees in 123 villages falling within the ESAs as identified by the high-level working group, for undertaking field verification.

The ministry also decided to consider similar proposals of other states in Western Ghats region if forwarded within 60 days of the draft notification, it said. The Kasturirangan Committee recommendations led to a major controversy last year, with people complaining that it was prohibiting even plantation activities in the Western Ghats.

Feltering Clean Water from Xylem

wood_logs

Researchers from MIT have been able to filter water using plant xylem. In tests conducted with deionised water in which bacteria and dye were introduced, the xylem filter effectively removed both when subjected to pressure.

Xylem is a transport tissue in vascular plants that conducts water and dissolved nutrients upwards from the roots. Tracheids, which are cells in the xylem, are shorter and have smaller diameters in conifers, thereby offering higher resistance to flow but a greater cross-sectional area of the stem to conducting xylem tissue. This likely makes it the most suitable xylem tissues for filtration at the micron or larger scale.

The researchers prepared the xylem filter by removing the bark of pine tree branches and then inserting it into a tube. The pressure that was used for this study suggests that it is easily achievable using a gravitational pressure head. The device construction therefore seems to be simple, considering that the wood might have to be replaced often.

While these initial results are cause for optimism, the fact remains that these tests were conducted under laboratory conditions. This filter should work with real-world water samples.

Bio-Jet-Fuel: For Green and Sustainable Aviation

bio jet

Based on pilot plant studies of a state-of-the-art process developed by the Indian Institute of Petroleum here, a unit in a refinery is being revamped to yield 40,000 tonnes a year of bio-aviation turbine fuel at competitive rates. It will be blended with fossil jet fuel for running commercial flights.

M.O. Garg, Director of the Institute, disclosed this at a National Science Day workshop on ‘Bio-Jet Fuel-A Key to Future Green and Sustainable Aviation’ held here on Saturday.

He said that under the recently developed process, renewable aviation fuel was produced fromJatropha curcas oil through a non-noble metal catalyst. Pratt & Whitney, Canada, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. are collaborating in the project. They have tested our fuel for its physio-chemical and performance characteristics.

Mr. Garg said there was a worldwide interest in reducing the carbon footprint of civil aviation. The carbon tax imposed by Australia and the European Union on the aviation indus-try prompted airlines to run their flights on bio-fuel.

[Credit – The Hindu]

Air Quality Monitoring @ Major Cities

air pollution

All State Pollution Control Boards have agreed to set up ambient air quality monitoring stations in all cities with a million-plus population, to continuously monitor air quality in their respective regions.

The decision was taken at the 58th National Conference of the Pollution Control Boards held here on 22nd Feb 2014. During the session, CPCB Chairman, Susheel Kumar, presented a set of nine resolutions to Union Minister for Petroleum, Environment and Forests, M Veerappa Moily.

Along with air quality monitoring stations, the State Pollution Control Boards have also proposed to develop a uniform Air Quality Index (AQI) so that air quality experts as well as health professionals can use it as a standard.

Water quality monitoring stations will also be set up on polluted stretches of rivers. The Central and State Groundwater Boards will enter into MoUs to assess the quality of groundwater and also evolve plans to manage the problem.

Other decisions include installing continuous effluent monitoring devices by March 13, 2015. The State Pollution Control Boards will enforce this rule on industries.

They have also agreed to an amendment to the Environment (Protection) Act, particularly for imposing penalties. All these decisions will be monitored closely at the district, State and national levels.

Govt clears plan for New Forest Cover

forest

A proposal of the Ministry of Environment and Forests to create new forest cover and improve the quality of existing forests has been cleared by Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 20th Feb 2014. The proposed National Mission for a Green India (GIM) as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme will also strive to achieve increased forest-based livelihood income of households living in and around the forests.

The objectives of the Mission during 12th Plan period includes increased forest/tree cover and improved quality of forest cover in two to eight million hectares, along with improved ecosystem services including biodiversity, hydrological services, increased forest-based livelihood income of households, living in and around the forests, and enhanced annual CO2 sequestration.

Of the total expenditure of Rs 13,000 crore envisaged in the 12th plan, the plan outlay is Rs 2000 crore. The source of funding for the scheme would be from the Plan outlay, and convergence with MGNREGA activities, Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) and the National Afforestation Programme (NAP).

The sharing pattern for the plan outlay would be 90 for Centre and 10 State for the North Eastern States and 75 Centre and 25 State for the rest of the States. Mission implementation will be on a decentralized participatory approach with involvement of grass root level organisations in planning, decision making, implementation and monitoring. The gram sabha and the committees mandated by the gram sabha, including revamped Joint Forest Management Committees will oversee implementation at the village level.

New Earthworm to clean River basin

earthworm

A new earthworm species has been developed by the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) that can get rid of the wild aquatic plant Jal Kumbhi (Pistia stratiotes) growing on the banks of river Brahmaputra. The plant is a big menace in the region since it spreads very fast and impairs the movement of fishermen besides causing widespread pollution. IVRI has recently signed a MOU with IIT Guwahati to free the Brahmaputra basin of the plant’s menace.

This new earthworm, Jai Gopal (Perionyx ceylanesis), has the ability to eat wild vegetation very fast and convert it into organic fertilizer that is suitable for use in farming. It can also withstand different temperature variations ranging from 0 degrees celsius to 43 degrees.

The organic fertilizers produced after the consumption of Jal Kumbhi by the earthworm would be used by tea garden owners in Assam valley to boost the quality of their products and make it more organic.

The earthworm would also benefit the sugarcane industry to find ways for effective disposal of waste generated by sugar mills. Waste products rich in phosphorous, calcium, potassium and other minerals would soon be transformed into organic fertilizers once they become fodder for the earthworm.

[Credit – Times of India]

New way to reduce Green House Gas

air pollution

A team of researchers at the University of Delaware has developed a highly selective catalyst capable of electro-chemically converting carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) to carbon monoxide with 92 percent efficiency. The resulting carbon monoxide can be used as an industry feedstock for producing synthetic fuels, while reducing industrial carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 40 percent.

It was found that when a nano-porous silver electro-catalyst was used, it was 3000 times more active than polycrystalline silver, a catalyst commonly used in converting carbon dioxide to useful chemicals.

Silver is considered a promising material for a carbon dioxide reduction catalyst because of it offers high selectivity approximately 81 percent and because it costs much less than other precious metal catalysts. Additionally, because it is inorganic, silver remains more stable under harsh catalytic environments.

Green House Gases

A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.

[The researchers recently reported their findings in Nature Communications.]

2 Feb : World Wetlands Day

Wetland

2 February each year is World Wetlands Day. It marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands, called Ramsar Convention, on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. World Wetlands Day was celebrated for the first time in 1997 and made an encouraging beginning.

Each year since 1997, the Ramsar Secretariat has provided materials so that government agencies, non-governmental organizations, conservation organizations, and groups of citizens can help raise public awareness about the importance and value of wetlands.

What are Wetlands?

Wetlands are habitats that fall between the environmental spectrum of land and water. Since wetlands lie at the interface of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, they are among planet’s most diverse and varied habitats. Wetlands are highly productive and rich in nutrients, they provide ideal habitat for fish, amphibians, shellfish, and insects. Additionally, many birds and mammals rely on wetlands for food, water, breeding grounds, and shelter.

Wetlands are characterised by the soils, hydrology, and species that occur within them. Wetland soils, known as hydric soils, are shaped by water. These soils are saturated or even submerged all or part of the year. Wetlands occur in all ecological regions throughout the world except Antarctica.

Ramsar International Wetland Conservation Treaty

The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands and their resources. The Ramsar Convention is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem.

The types of wetlands covered in its mission includes lakes and rivers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands and peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, near-shore marine areas, mangroves and coral reefs, and human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans.

[Credit – ramsar.org]

Old Trees hold more Carbon

old-tree

Large, older trees have been found to grow faster and absorb carbon dioxide more rapidly than younger, smaller trees, despite the previous view that trees’ growth slowed as they developed. Research published in the journal Nature shows that in 97% of tropical and temperate tree species, growth rate increases with size. This suggests that older trees play a vital role in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Prior to the study, the common assumption was that as trees aged, their growth rate and carbon absorption decreased because the leaves of older trees are less efficient at photosynthesising than the leaves of younger trees. But the new study led by authors from the US Geological Survey, re-examined carbon storage in individual trees. The findings highlight the value of large, older trees as important carbon sinks. They are not only storing lots of carbon but they are also sequestering more carbon and faster than smaller trees.

This study reinforces the importance of large, older trees for absorbing carbon and reducing the mega-effects that are going to arise from massive climate change. This study also highlights flaws in forest policy where old-growth forest is often cleared for pulp and timber purposes.

[Based on the article  published at The Conversation.]

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