Environment & Biodiversity

Current News

Total Polar Compounds

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has brought in new regulations for monitoring “used cooking oils” that have come into force from July 1, 2018.

From July 1, onwards, all Food Business Operators (FBOs) would be required to monitor the quality of oil during frying by complying with the said regulations. FSSAI, said effective implementation of used cooking oil standards require “Triple E strategy” and a coordinated effort.

“First ‘E’ in the ‘Triple E Strategy’ is ‘Education’ that is educating both the consumers and food businesses about public health consequences of spoiled ‘used cooking oil’. Second ‘E’ is ‘Enforcement’, particularly amongst large food processing plants, restaurants and fast-food joints that are frying food in large quantities; and the third ‘E’ is developing an ‘Ecosystem’ for collection of used cooking oil and producing biodiesel from it.

FSSAI further added that about 23 million tonnes cooking oil is consumed in India annually and there is potential to recover and use about 3 million tonnes of this for production of bio-diesel. As of now, used cooking oil is either not discarded or disposed in an environmentally hazardous manner and sometimes even finds its way to smaller restaurants, dhaabas and street-vendors.

During deep frying, oil undergoes degradation due to elevated temperatures above 180 degrees which results in changes in the physicochemical, nutritional and sensory properties of the oil and the release of polar compounds. The estimation of Total Polar Compounds (TPC) is an accepted parameter to decide whether the oil is safe for further use.

The new regulations have set the maximum permissible limit of Total Polar Compound (TPC) in edible oil at 25 per cent. Repeated frying and usage of edible oil changes its physiochemical and nutrition properties and leads to the formation of TPC, which makes it unfit for human consumption.

The consumption of Used Cooking Oil (UCO) poses adverse health effects. During frying, several properties of oil are altered, Total Polar Compounds (TPC) are formed on repeated frying. The toxicity of these compounds is associated with several diseases such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, liver diseases. Repeated heating of oil also reduces the natural antioxidant level. Regular consumption of foods prepared using reheated oil can compromise antioxidant defence system in body. Long-term ingestion of food prepared using reused oil can cause hypertension, diabetes, acidity, stroke and cancer.  Therefore, it is essential to monitor the quality of vegetable oils during frying.

FSSAI has also launched RUCO (Repurpose Used Cooking Oil), an initiative that will enable collection and conversion of used cooking oil to biodiesel. The regulator believes India has the potential to recover 220 crore litres of used cooking oil for the production of biodiesel by 2022 through a coordinated action.

Survey on Snow Leopard

India will commission its first-ever survey to estimate the population and geographical range of the snow leopard, an elusive and endangered predator.

The snow leopard is found along the upper reaches of the Himalayan range and, in India, it is reported to have a presence in Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. However, the inhospitable terrain and the reclusive nature of the animal have so far made a scientific estimation impossible. The snow leopard is found in 12 countries — India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Mongolia, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

National Tiger Conservation Authority, which is part of the Union Environment Ministry, will play a crucial role in coordinating the survey.

In the year 2017, snow leopard lost its endangered status in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The argument offered for a downgrade to vulnerable status from endangered was that conservation actions have reduced the threat to the cat.

As a major range country, India has worked to protect these animals, and even launched a programme on the lines of Project Tiger for its conservation, covering 128,757 sq. km of habitat in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

India handled the problem of the cat preying on goats, sheep, donkeys and other animals by roping in communities in conservation and compensating them for any losses. An insurance programme in which residents of a part of Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh participated also worked well.  

Experts, however, maintain that the factors that pose a threat to the species remain unchanged and the IUCN down-listing, which changes the classification since 1986, should not be misread by policymakers. If conservation has protected the cat, it must be strengthened by enlarging protected areas in all the range countries and keeping out incompatible activities such as mining and human interference. A more fundamental worry, however, is over the likely loss of habitat owing to changing climate patterns.

Meanwhile, at a recent meeting of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) programme was organised by Union Environment Ministry. “We will strive to double the snow leopard population in the world in the coming decade,” Union Environment Minister, said. “We must start thinking about capacity building, livelihood, green economy, and green pathway even in the snow leopard areas of the Himalayan range and cross-country cooperation.”

The Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) seeks to address high-mountain development issues using the conservation of the charismatic and endangered snow leopard as a flagship. The GSLEP is a range-wide effort that unites range country governments, nongovernmental and inter-governmental organizations, local communities, and the private sector around a shared vision to conserve snow leopards and their valuable high-mountain ecosystems.

ICIMOD Assessment Report on Hindu Kush Region

The Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region — spread over 3,500 square kms across eight countries including India, Nepal and China — is warming faster than the global average. It would continue to warm through this century even if the world is able to limit global warming at the agreed 1.5 degrees Celsius, says the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment, the first-ever assessment of impacts of climate change on the ecologically important but fragile region. On February 4, 2019, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) – a regional intergovernmental body – released the assessment.

As it has been the case with climate change, the per capita fossil fuel carbon dioxide emission from the HKH countries is one-sixth of the global average though it is disproportionately impacted.

The HKH region — part of the Third Pole due to its largest permanent snow cover after the North and South poles — sustains the livelihoods of 240 million people living in the mountains and hills. It also houses the origin of 10 river basins that include the Ganga, Brahmaputra and the Mekong. Some 1.5 billion people depend on these basins for sustenance.

Usually identified with its extreme cold climate, the region is already showing disruptive signs of changes diametrically opposite to it. In the last 60 years, extreme cold events have become lesser while extreme warm weather events have become more pronounced. Both minimum and maximum temperatures are also changing: they are moving north, indicating overall warming.

Warming in HKH region has ramifications for the global climate. This region is a heat source in summer and a heat sink in winter. Along with the Tibetan Plateau, this influences the Indian summer monsoon. So, any changes in this region would have a bearing on the monsoon itself that already shows signs of changes in spread and distribution.

“Such large warming could trigger a multitude of biophysical and socio-economic impacts, such as biodiversity loss, increased glacial melting, and less predictable water availability—all of which will impact livelihoods and well-being in the HKH,” warns the assessment report.

Faster snow and glacier melting due to warming is already manifesting in formation of glacial lakes. Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) are becoming frequent and causing huge casualties and loss to local infrastructures. Glaciers in HKH have been retreating faster, and consistently causing greater water flows in rivers. In Tibetan Plateau, river run off has increased by 5.5 per cent. Most of the lakes in high altitudes have also reported water level rise by 0.2 m/year besides their surface areas expanding.

Global Conventions, Treaties & Organisations

UNCCD

It is one of three Conventions that came out of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro including UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Convention on Biological Diversity.

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. 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.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) was established by the Convention as the supreme decision-making body; it comprises ratifying governments and regional economic integration organizations, such as the European Union. To date, the COP had held fourteen sessions; it has been meeting biennially since 2001. COP14 took place in 2019 in New Delhi, India. 

National Action Programmes (NAPs) are the key instruments to implement the Convention. The NAPs are developed through a participatory approach involving various stakeholders, including relevant governmental offices, scientific institutions and local communities. They spell out the practical steps and measures to be taken to combat desertification in specific ecosystems.

The Global Mechanism (GM) of the UNCCD was established to assist countries in the mobilization of financial resources to implement the Convention and address desertification, land degradation and drought. As an operational arm of the Convention, the GM provides advisory services and works together with developing countries, private sector and donors to mobilize substantial resources for the implementation of UNCCD.  

The UNCCD  2018-2030 Strategic Framework is the most comprehensive global commitment to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) in order to restore the productivity of vast expanses of degraded land, improve the livelihoods of more than 1.3 billion people, and reduce the impacts of drought on vulnerable populations to build a future that avoids, minimizes, and reverses desertification/land degradation and mitigates the effects of drought in affected areas at all levels _ to achieve a land degradation-neutral world consistent with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The permanent secretariat of the Convention has been located in Bonn, Germany since January 1999. The UNCCD was adopted on 17 June 1994. The Convention entered into force in December 1996. The UNCCD currently has 197 Parties.

CITES

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union). On 1 July 1975 CITES entered in force.

CITES is an international agreement to which States and regional economic integration organizations adhere voluntarily. States that have agreed to be bound by the Convention (‘joined’ CITES) are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties – in other words they have to implement the Convention – it does not take the place of national laws. Rather it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.

The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices according to the degree of protection they need.

Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.

Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.

Appendix III contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade.

A State or regional economic integration organization for which the Convention has entered into force is called a Party to CITES. Currently there are 183 Parties. The Conference of the Parties to CITES is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention and comprises all its Parties.

The CITES Secretariat is administered by UNEP and is located at Geneva, Switzerland.

Indian Acts, Authorities & Organisations

NTCA

The National Tiger Conservation Authority is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change constituted under enabling provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006, for strengthening tiger conservation, as per powers and functions assigned to it under the said Act.

Environment Minister is the Chairman of the NTCA. Below chairman are eight experts or professionals having qualifications and experience in wildlife conservation and welfare of people including tribals, apart from three Members of Parliament (1 Rajya Sabha, 2 Lok Sabha).  The Inspector General of Forests, in charge of project Tiger, serves as ex-officio Member Secretary.

As per the Wildlife (Protection) Act, every State Government has the authority to notify an area as a tiger reserve. However, the Tiger Conservation Plans sent by state government need to be approved by the NTCA first. Alternatively, Central Government via NTCA may advise the state governments to forward a proposal for creation of Tiger Reserves. Every year, the Central Government puts the annual report of the National Tiger Conservation Authority in each House of Parliament.

Powers and functions of the National Tiger Conservation Authority as prescribed under section 38O of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006 are as under:

  • to approve the tiger conservation plan prepared by the State Government under sub-section (3) of section 38V of this Act;
  • evaluate and assess various aspects of sustainable ecology and disallow any ecologically unsustainable land use such as, mining, industry and other projects within the tiger reserves;
  • lay down normative standards for tourism activities and guidelines for project tiger from time to time for tiger conservation in the buffer and core area of tiger reserves and ensure their due compliance;
  • provide for management focus and measures for addressing conflicts of  men and wild animal and to emphasize on co-existence in forest areas outside the National Parks, sanctuaries or tiger reserve, in the working plan code;
  • provide information on protection measures including future conservation plan, estimation of population of tiger and its natural prey species, status of habitats, disease surveillance, mortality survey, patrolling, reports on untoward happenings and such other management aspects as it may deem fit including future plan conservation;
  • approve, co-ordinate research and monitoring on tiger, co-predators, prey habitat, related ecological and socio-economic parameters and their evaluation;
  • ensure that the tiger reserves and areas linking one protected area or tiger reserve with another protected area or tiger reserve are not diverted for ecologically unsustainable uses, except in public interest and with the approval of the National Board for Wildlife and on the advice of the Tiger Conservation Authority;
  • facilitate and support the tiger reserve management in the State for biodiversity conservation initiatives through eco-development and people’s participation as per approved management plans and to support similar initiatives in adjoining areas consistent with the Central and State laws;
  • ensure critical support including scientific, information technology and legal support for better implementation of the tiger conservation plan;
  • facilitate ongoing capacity building programme for skill development of officers and staff of tiger reserves, and
  • perform such other functions as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this Act with regard to conservation of tigers and their habitat.
CPCB

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), statutory organisation, was constituted in September, 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. Further, CPCB was entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

Principal Functions of the CPCB, as spelt out in the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 are

  • to promote cleanliness of streams and wells in different areas of the States by prevention, control and abatement of water pollution, and
  • to improve the quality of air and to prevent, control or abate air pollution in the country.

Functions of the Central Board at the National Level

  • Advise the Central Government on any matter concerning prevention and control of water and air pollution and improvement of the quality of air.
  • Plan and cause to be executed a nation-wide programme for the prevention, control or abatement of water and air pollution;
  • Co-ordinate the activities of the State Board and resolve disputes among them;
  • Provide technical assistance and guidance to the State Boards, carry out and sponsor investigation and research relating to problems of water and air pollution, and for their prevention, control or abatement;
  • Plan and organise training of persons engaged in programme on the prevention, control or abatement of water and air pollution;
  • Organise through mass media, a comprehensive mass awareness programme on the prevention, control or abatement of water and air pollution;
  • Collect, compile and publish technical and statistical data relating to water and air pollution and the measures devised for their effective prevention, control or abatement;
  • Prepare manuals, codes and guidelines relating to treatment and disposal of sewage and trade effluents as well as for stack gas cleaning devices, stacks and ducts;
  • Disseminate information in respect of matters relating to water and air pollution and their prevention and control;
  • Lay down, modify or annul, in consultation with the State Governments concerned, the standards for stream or well, and lay down standards for the quality of air; and
  • Perform such other function as may be prescribed by the Government of India.

Mr. S.P. Singh Parihar, a 1986 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, is the chairperson of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

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