Ecology & Environment Examination

  Nov 29, 2021

Ecology & Environment Examination

Main Examination Pattern


Que. 1. Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 Report of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a wakeup call. Discuss.

Que. 2. Low-carbon economy can be encouraged by a Carbon Tax or Cap and Trade mechanism. Clarify and compare the merits and demerits of the two.

Que. 3. The Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) use is crucial for sustainable development. Critically examine the CAF rules that were notified in 2018 based on the observation. 

Que. 4. Wetland conservation in India is a mixed bag. There are achievements as well as challenges. Critically comment.

Que. 5. How is climate change affecting plant pests and with what impact?

1. Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 Report of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a wakeup call. Discuss.
Answer: The Aichi Biodiversity targets were included in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity for the 2011-2020 period adopted by the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
These targets are about increasing awareness about the importance of biodiversity, incorporation of biodiversity values into local and national development and poverty reduction strategies, removal of incentives and subsidies which are harmful to biodiversity, sustainable production and consumption etc.
The targets were formed keeping in mind the underlying drivers for biodiversity loss and for setting benchmarks for improvements across drivers, pressures, the state of biodiversity, the benefits derived from it and the implementation of relevant policies and enabling conditions.
UN Convention on Biological Diversity recently released its fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook report showing how none of the 20 agreed conservation targets of the past 10 years could be fully met by the world.
It blamed human pressure on resources and unsustainable policies. On the progress of the 20 global biodiversity targets, the report concludes that the world has “not achieved” 14 targets (relating to sustainable agriculture, reducing pollution and subsidies harmful to biodiversity, and conservation of species, corals, fish/oceans, forests/habitats, genetic materials and ecosystems among others) while only “partially achieved” six of the targets within the deadline. 
Though the report speaks about few success stories in terms of conserving few species, expansion of protected areas and reduction in the global rate of deforestation, it paints a gloomy picture in terms of pollution of oceans due to accumulation of huge plastic waste, the disappearance of wetlands, continued threat to over 60% corals due to overfishing and risk of extinction to 1,940 local domesticated animal breeds out of 7,155 whose risk status are known across the globe. 
The Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-5) should serve as a call to action for leaders across the globe. The world cannot afford another decade without major progress in biodiversity conservation.
Experts believe that such crisis may push the world towards more disasters like Covid-19 pandemic, a zoonotic disease transmitted between animals and humans, massive wildfires and water crisis if the countries don't accept the growing scientific consensus over an ambitious new target of protecting at least 30% of the planet by 2030 – popularly known as 30x30 target – under the UN Convention. 
The report comes as the COVID-19 pandemic challenges people to rethink their relationship with nature, and to consider the profound consequences to their own wellbeing and survival that can result from continued biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystems.
2. Low-carbon economy can be encouraged by a Carbon Tax or Cap and Trade mechanism. Clarify and compare the merits and demerits of the two.
Answer. A carbon tax directly establishes a price on greenhouse gas emissions—so companies are charged for every ton of emissions they produce—whereas a cap-and-trade program issues a set number of emissions, “allowances”, each year. These allowances can be auctioned to the highest bidder as well as traded on secondary markets, creating a carbon price.
First the common advantages. Carbon taxes and cap-and-trade programs share several major advantages. Both reduce emissions by encouraging the lowest-cost emissions reductions; encourage investors and entrepreneurs to develop new low-carbon technologies; generate government revenue that can be used in productive ways. 
A carbon tax has major advantages because it allows for carbon price certainty, is less costly to administer and is a substantial source of revenue. But carbon taxes can disincentivise investment; can lead to tax evasion; can shift investment to tertiary sector and to other jurisdictions.
Cap and Trade policy offers its own advantages in that emissions allowances can be allocated so as to minimize the policy’s negative effects on competitiveness and prevent emissions leakage. However, it is difficult to administer; there may not be a market for the credits; the government may not get revenue as much.
The preferred choice should be a mix of both- hybrid policy.  

3. The Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) use is crucial for sustainable development. Critically examine the CAF rules that were notified in 2018 based on the observation. 

Answer: The CAF that has a corpus of thousands of crores, is money paid by developers who have razed forest land for their construction projects, and the idea is that forest destroyed needs to be restored by regenerating forest elsewhere on non-forest land. The amount to be paid depends on the economic value of the goods and services that the razed forest would have provided. These include timber, bamboo, firewood, carbon sequestration, soil conservation, water recharge, and seed dispersal. Industrialists pay this money and this is eventually transferred to the States concerned to carry out afforestation.  
Important activities on which the fund will be utilised will be for the Compensatory Afforestation, Catchment Area Treatment, Wildlife Management, Assisted Natural Regeneration, Forest Fire Prevention and Control Operations, Soil and Moisture Conservation Works in the forest, Improvement of Wildlife Habitat, Management of Biological Diversity and Biological Resources, Research in Forestry and Monitoring of CAMPA works etc.
These activities are critical for eco-friendly development.
The 2018 CAF Rules lay down the dos and don’ts for utilisation of the fund. The rules make specific mention of the highly neglected Biological Diversity Act of 2002, and have the ‘management of biological diversity and biological resource’ added to it. 
Also, documentation of biological diversity and conservation of land and folk varieties and cultivars, domesticated stocks and breeds of animals can be taken up through the compensatory funds. 
The scope of the funds has, therefore, been enhanced to look beyond forest regeneration, wildlife protection, etc to include biodiversity management and its documentation as an important area of spending. The utilisation of funds for forest certification and development of certification standards have also found a mention in the final version of the rules.
Critics, however, say that CAF Rules undermined several aspects of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA). Also, that the Rules vest greater powers in the department than on resident tribal people; the possible violation of tribal rights, and gram panchayats not having the final say in deciding what kind of forests could be grown. Also, new rules significantly reduced the authority of the gram sabhas in having a say in their local compensatory afforestation projects and reduced them to the role of “consultants”. Consequently, there would be great control exerted by the State authorities in the disbursal of the fund. Some raised doubts on whether it would lead to an ecologically sustainable replenishing of forests.
4. Wetland conservation in India is a mixed bag. There are achievements as well as challenges. Critically comment.
Answer: India has a wealth of wetland ecosystems that support diverse and unique habitats. These wetlands provide numerous ecological goods and services but are under tremendous stress due to anthropogenic pressures, including land use changes in the catchment; pollution from industry and households; encroachments; tourism; and over exploitation of their natural resources. 
India is signatory to Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and has drafted Wetland (Conversation and Management) Rules in 2010. Recently, Kabartal Wetland (Bihar) and Asan Conservation Reserve (Uttrakhand) have been designated as Ramsar sites. Now, the total number of Ramsar sites in India is 39, the highest in South Asia.
Efforts to conserve wetlands in India began in 1987 and the main focus of governmental efforts was on biological methods of conservation rather than adopting engineering options. 
A national wetland-mapping project has also been initiated for an integrated approach on conservation. 
In certain wetland sites it is heartening to see the Government, NGOs and local community coming together to save our wetlands and thus realize the objectives of Ramsar Convention.
But still no significant progress has been made on the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
There are many reasons: majority of research on wetland management in India relates to ecological/environmental economics of wetland management. But, the physical (such as hydrological and land use changes in the catchment) and socio-economic processes have not been explored substantially.
Also, only selected number of wetlands has received significant attention (by way of financial and technical assistance from the central government) under the wetland conservation programmes (like NWCP and NLCP) while the remaining ones continue to be in neglected state. The challenge is to take care of all of them equally well.
Further, the institutional aspects (policies, rules, regulation and organizations) of wetland management have received limited attention. Wetlands jurisdiction is diffused and falls under various departments like agriculture, fisheries, irrigation, revenue, tourism, water resources and local bodies. For instance, all mangroves in the country fall under the direct control of forest department. The lack of a comprehensive wetland policy, with each department having its own developmental priorities, works against the interests of conservation of wetlands resulting in intended or unintended spill-over that further aggravates the problem. Wetland ecosystems are interconnected and interactive within a watershed. In India, unplanned urbanization and a growing population have taken their toll on wetlands. To counter these, management of wetlands has to be an integrated approach in terms of planning, execution and monitoring. 
Effective tie-ups of trained academicians and professionals, including ecologists, hydrologists, economists, watershed management specialists, planners and decision makers must be linked with local expertise for overall management of wetlands. All these would increase knowledge and understanding of wetlands and evolve more comprehensive and long-term conservation and management strategies.
Spreading awareness by initiating educational programs about the importance of wetlands in local schools, colleges and among the general public in the vicinity of the water bodies, besides constant monitoring of wetlands for their water quality, would provide vital inputs to safeguard the wetlands from further deterioration.
5. How is climate change affecting plant pests and with what impact?
Answer: Pests are major causes of crop yield losses. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), significant amounts of global crop yields are reduced each year due to damage caused by plant pests (insects and diseases). Climate change is exacerbating food insecurity, and its negative impacts are likely to worsen over time. This is happening via several pathways, among which plant pests are a leading cause.
Climate change will have a significant bearing on the behavior of insects, as insects are cold-blooded organisms and are particularly sensitive to temperature changes. Through direct effects on the life cycle of insects, climate change will impact the distribution and severity of infestations of crops, in addition to indirect climatic effects on hosts, natural enemies, competitors, and insect pathogens.
Host plant tolerance or resistance to pests may decrease because of climate change. Relationships between insect pests and their natural enemies will change, resulting in both increases and decreases in the status of individual pest species. As a combined result of these effects, the annual grain harvest loss due to insects and diseases is increasing.
It has been projected that global yield losses of major staple crops—such as wheat, rice, and maize—due to insects and diseases will increase by 10 to 25 percent for each degree of global mean surface warming.