Mains Question for UPSC Aspirants

Mains Question for UPSC Aspirants

04 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT     
Question :
Q. How does the renewable revolution help in mitigating the climate crisis and strengthening energy security?

Decode the Question:
  • Start the Introduction with the current situation of climate leading to the need for a renewable revolution . 
  • Discuss the role of renewable revolution in helping to mitigate the climate crisis and strengthening energy security.
  • Conclude with providing a way forward. 

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As the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ripples across the globe, the response of some nations to the growing energy crisis has been to double down on fossil fuels, pouring billions more dollars into the coal, oil and gas that are deepening the climate emergency.
Meanwhile, all climate indicators continue to break records, forecasting a future of ferocious storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and unliveable temperatures in vast swathes of the planet.
Fossil fuels are not the answer, nor will they ever be. In such a scenario, renewable revolution can help in mitigating the climate crisis and strengthening energy security.

In mitigation of Climate crisis: 
Fossil fuels are the cause of the climate crisis. Renewable energy can limit climate disruption and boost energy security. Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century. The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a liveable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.
Renewables could supply four-fifths of the world’s electricity by 2050, massively cutting carbon emissions and helping to mitigate climate change.
Mitigating the effects of climate change will require us not only to reduce our future emissions of greenhouse gases but also capture some of the carbon already in the atmosphere.
Renewable energy development helps us achieve the first objective – reducing future emissions.  For example, hydropower instead of traditional fossil fuels has contributed to the avoidance of more than 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in the past 50 years alone. That’s roughly equivalent to the total annual carbon footprint of the United States for 20 years.
With increasing amounts of renewable energy penetrating energy markets, the number of avoided emissions will only continue to grow.

Strengthening Energy Security: 
Global geopolitics may threaten energy security. In this vein, renewable energy is considered a potential game changer in energy security. Key geopolitical actors (the United States, Russia, China, Germany, and Denmark) have increased electricity production from renewable energy by a combination of different renewable sources.
Despite any social acceptability issues and negative environmental impacts, renewable energy will help countries become more energy secure. At the same time, they will make themselves more resistant to geopolitical strife and more independent of the vagaries of fossil fuel markets.
While oil and gas prices have reached record price levels, renewables are getting cheaper all the time. The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade. The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent. And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels.
As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the benefits will be vast, and not just to the climate.
Energy prices will be lower and more predictable, with positive knock-on effects for food and economic security. When energy prices rise, so do the costs of food and all the goods we rely on. So, let us all agree that a rapid renewables revolution is necessary and stop fiddling while our future burns.

Way Forward:
Making renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer, improving global access to supply chains for renewable energy technologies, components and raw materials, cutting the red tape that holds up solar and wind projects by making fast-track approvals and more effort to modernise electricity grids are necessary steps.
The world must shift energy subsidies from fossil fuels to protect vulnerable people from energy shocks and invest in a just transition to a sustainable future.
Triple investments in renewables which includes multilateral development banks and development finance institutions, as well as commercial banks is a prerequisite for renewable revolution. For climate action, energy security, and providing clean electricity to the hundreds of millions of people who currently lack it, renewable revolution is a hope.

Source: Indian Express

03 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT      
Question : Q. Discuss the issues around ecological concerns of western ghats. Also analyse the Gadgil Committee recommendations.

Decode the Question:
  • Start the Introduction with western ghats and its biodiversity significance. 
  • Discuss the issues around ecological concerns of western ghats.
  • Highlight the Gadgil Committee recommendations and point out the criticism associated with this report.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion.

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Western Ghats lie parallel to the western coast. They are continuous and can be crossed through passes only. These are one of the top biodiversity hotspots in the world, housing a large number of indigenous species of plants and animals, and are a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Forming one of the four watersheds of India, the Ghats also attract large amount of rainfall and are at the heart of water conflicts in six states (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu). The Western Ghats contain more than 30% of all plant, fish, herpeto-fauna, bird, and mammal species found in India.
Many species are endemic. Fragmentation and deterioration of forests, biodiversity loss, pollution (air, water and soil), soil erosion and landslides, soil infertility and agrarian stress, depleting groundwater resources, climate change and introduction of alien species, to name just a few, caused by developmental and mining projects have raised the alarm in recent years.
Issues around ecological concerns of western ghats:
  • Illegal mining: illegal mining of iron ore in areas around Uttar Kannada. The result of this undocumented mining is iron ore so low in quality that India doesn’t even use it. Sand mining has emerged as a major threat in Kerala. Unsustainable mining has increased vulnerability to landslides, damaged water sources and agriculture, thus negatively affecting the livelihoods of the people living in those areas.
  • Pollution: the population here depends on agriculture in the area, fertilizer runoff is causing pollution in the rivers. 
  • Deforestation: Along with mining, large scale deforestation is further threatening the environment. Conversion of forest land into agricultural land or for commercial purposes like tourism, illegal logging for timber have had significant negative effects on biodiversity.
  • Power projects: In Southern Maharashtra, the districts of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg have been severely impacted both environmentally and socially all due to rampant mining, power projects in the area and polluting industries.
  • Livestock grazing: The rise in human settlements has led to the over-exploitation of forest products through activities such as livestock grazing.
  • Fish industry: The fish industry also has its own set of problems. Traditional methods such as use of poison and electricity etc are used till date, to easily catch some exotic species. This has reduced the fish population and their availability.
  • Monoculture plantation practices: Large scale plantations of Eucalyptus & Acacia that were started in 1980’s have proved this and much more deterioration across the Ghats.
  • Hydropower projects: large dam projects in Western Ghats have resulted in environmental and social disruption despite cost benefit analyses and environmental impact assessments being done by the government and companies
  • Encroachment by human settlements: Human settlements where legal and/or traditional rights of land ownership occur both within and outside protected areas all across the Western Ghats and represent a significant landscape level threat.
Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), also known as Gadgil Committee and Kasturirangan Committee are associated with the protection of western ghats. The Ministry of Environment & Forests had constituted the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) under the Chairmanship of Prof Madhav Gadgil in 2010 to primarily demarcate ecologically sensitive areas in Western Ghats and recommend measures for management of these ecologically sensitive areas.
  • It designated the entire Western Ghats as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) and, had classified the Western Ghats into Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ) 1, 2 and 3 of which ESZ-1 is high priority, almost all developmental activities (mining, thermal power plants etc) were restricted in it.
  • It recommended the establishment of Western Ghats Ecology Authority through a broad-based participatory process.
  • It specified that the system of governance of the environment should be a bottom to top approach (right from Gram sabhas) rather than a top to bottom approach.
  • It recommended that no new dams based on large scale storage be permitted in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 as defined by the Panel. It also called for Establishment of fully empowered Biodiversity Management Committees in all local bodies.
The report had also asserted that, "A policy shift is urgently warranted curtailing the environmentally disastrous practices and switching over to a more sustainable farming approach in the Western Ghats."
It was primarily criticised for being too environment friendly and impractical to implement. Gadgil faced heavy criticism for this report and was called an ‘eco terrorist with a hidden agenda’.
A complete eco-sensitive cover for the Western Ghats would hamper the states on energy and development requirements, therefore, no state is ready to accept such recommendations. It was also criticised for vehemently opposing construction of dams, ignoring the importance of dams for generating power.
The report put forward a democratic approach towards ecological governance. It suggested discussing ecological issues and development concerns and initiatives at the grassroots level of grama sabhas rather than adopting a top-down approach.
Even a decade after the report, the democratic spirit of ecological governance is yet to percolate down the system.

Source: The Hindu

28 Jun 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT     
Question :
Q. Climate change and poor planning can be cited as main reasons for recent floods in the Northeast part of India. Discuss and suggest effective measures.

Decode the Question:
  • Start with the reasoning why floods occur in the Northeast part of India.
  • Discuss the climate factors and planning factors responsible for floods.
  • Suggest some measures to mitigate the effects of floods.
  • Conclude with a suitable note.
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The North Eastern region of India is extremely vulnerable to natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, landslides etc.
Every year during the monsoon season, the region experiences worst fury of nature in the form of Brahmaputra River flooding and erosion along its banks, devastating large areas of habituated landform and damaging agrarian lands, especially Guwahati city experiences its worst impact in the form of flash floods every year.
Apart from incessant rainfall during the monsoon, there are many contributory factors, natural and man-made. Silt deposited by the river Brahmaputra in floodplains surrounded by hills on all sides leading to erosion and floods. Habitation, deforestation, population growth in catchment areas (including in China) lead to higher sedimentation.
It is common for people to settle in such places, which restricts the space the river has to flow. When rainfall is heavy, it combines with all these factors and leads to destructive floods. This happens very frequently. The north-eastern regions are becoming increasingly fragile due to the exponential rise in climate extremes.
Main reasons for recent floods in Northeast part of India:
Climatic factors:
  • A combination of La Nina in the Pacific and a negative Indian Ocean Dipole in the Indian Ocean has strengthened the winds blowing from the southwest to the northeast (southwesterlies) in the Bay of Bengal.
  • These strong monsoon winds in the Bay of Bengal can now carry much more moisture than ever before, in response to global warming. The volume of atmospheric moisture increases with rising temperature because warmer air holds more moisture and for longer.
  • These winds dumping rains over Bangladesh and northeast India have been exceptionally strong.
Planning Factors:  
  • Poor embankment construction:  These are weak and are regularly breached. Embankments are a temporary solution, and they are as good as their management. Usually when embankments are breached, villages inside embankments (between the river and embankments) are affected and are supposed to be evacuated. But this year, villages lying outside embankments in Darrang district, the very land the embankments were supposed to protect, were engulfed by floods. No preparation is done for such villages.
  • Not updated District Disaster Management Plans (DDMP): Ensuring updation of the DDMPs and, more importantly, its practical implementation can help manage floods better. But these are not updated regularly. Only 7 per cent of the districts have updated their disaster management plans (DDMP) until 2020 in Assam. These types of poor planning factors led to diminish the mitigation efforts.
  • Strengthen embankments along the Brahmaputra and other rivers: Most embankments built in the 1980s are not strong enough. Since they were temporary measures, the government did not spend on high-specification embankments. These are weak and are regularly breached.
  • Dredging of rivers:  increasing the water-holding capacity of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries by dredging may help. This could be done in consultation with all stakeholders. This would also boost and benefit the state’s economy.
  • Modern weather stations set up: Centre to set up modern weather stations in the upstream catchment of all dams in the North East and install sirens on river banks near dams. This would alert downstream populations in the event of floods.
  • Afforestation and rejuvenation of wetlands: These measures can help to mitigate floods.
  • Inclusion of river erosion in the admissible list of calamities: The government should consider the inclusion of river erosion in the admissible list of calamities for availing assistance under the National Disaster Response Fund / State Disaster Response Fund.
  • Manpower strengthening: Brahmaputra Board, which has been functional since 1982, does not have enough manpower. It had asked the board to fill up all vacant posts on a priority basis
  • Enactment of flood plain zoning bill: The bill envisages the zoning of the flood plain of a river according to flood frequencies and defines the type of use of flood plains.
  • Setting up of River Basin Organizations: These would effectively provide immediate, short-term and long-term solutions in addition to the overall development of the river basin.
  • River Basin Management Authority: prioritise and enact the River Basin Management Authority for holistic management of water resources of each river basin.
  • Integrated basin management system: bring in all the basin-sharing countries on board. For that, interstate relationships, political cooperation and the role of the government are important.
Despite significant outlay on flood control, flood protection and catchment protection works, it has been found that there is no complete solution to providing total protection. Flood cushions in the reservoirs and flood embankments have provided good solutions for recurring floods and have provided relief to large-scale flood damage.
Flood forecasting provided by the Central Water Commission has played a significant role in minimizing flood damage and saving human lives.
The Odisha model to deal with natural calamity can be helpful.

References: Down To Earth    Down To Earth

18 May 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT     
Question : What are the emerging opportunities and threats for efforts to conserve biodiversity in India?

(GS Mains; Paper 3)
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16 May 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT      
Question : Discuss the criteria employed for dispersal of pollutants in marine ecosystems.

(GS Mains; Paper 3)
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13 May 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT      
Question : Describe the principle of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). What are its potential and advantages in India?

(GS Mains; Paper 3)
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21 Mar 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT      
Question : What do you think should be improved in nature conservation systems and biodiversity of natural ecosystems in addition to just increasing financial outlays on nature conservation policies conducted by government agencies and ministries of the environment?

(GS Mains; Paper -3)
Biodiversity Conservation

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22 Oct 2021 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT 
Question : Forests are difficult geographies to regulate as they must meet the competing regulatory requirements of conservation, development, and recognition of forest rights. In this background, debate on the Proposed amendments to the Forest Conservation Act.
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03 Sep 2021 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT 
Question : Equitable cumulative emission targets and not net zero is the key to achieving the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals. Debate.

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26 Aug 2021 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT 
Question : What is environmental impact assessment (EIA)?
Do you think that conversion of land for Oil Palm or any other such large scale commercial plantation in India must require an EIA based environment clearance as is mandated for highways, dams or Industries ? Support your answer.

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25 Aug 2021 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT 
Question : What is Integrated River Basin management? What are the challenges and mechanisms to implement IRBM in India?

(GS MAINS - Geography Paper-1/ Environment Paper-3)
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07 Aug 2021 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT 
Question :

Discuss the ways in which National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) project is going to minimize the climatic change impacts on agriculture.


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Climate change poses complex challenges like multiple abiotic stresses on crops and livestock, shortage of water, land degradation and loss of biodiversity. Apart from these, extreme weather events like Floods, droughts causing shortage of food grains resulting in price rise and inflation affecting poor the most. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to enhance the resilience of Indian Agriculture to climate change. Both application of improved technologies and new policies will contribute to resilience.
In National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) Project it is contemplated both to develop climate resilient technologies through short term and long term research, and also demonstrate the existing technologies on farmers’ fields for enhancing the resilience. The scheme attempts to develop and promote climate resilient technologies in agriculture which will address vulnerable areas of the country.

Some of Features of Project:
  • It includes comprehensive field evaluation of new and emerging approaches of crop cultivation like aerobic rice, conservation Agriculture practices etc., for their contribution to reduce the GHG emissions.
  • It gives special emphasis to livestock and fishery sectors including aquaculture by Identification and characterization of adaptive traits in the indigenous resilient breeds
  • It is to enhance resilience in agriculture by demonstrating site specific climate resilient agricultural practices and to adopt these practices by farmers.
  • It promotes in-situ moisture conservation, biomass mulching, residue incorporation instead of burning, brown and green manuring, water harvesting and recycling for supplemental irrigation, improved drainage in flood prone areas, conservation tillage where appropriate, artificial ground water recharge and water saving irrigation methods
  • It promotes drought/temperature tolerant varieties, advancement of planting dates of Rabi crops in areas with terminal heat stress, water saving paddy cultivation methods (SRI, aerobic, direct seeding), frost management in horticulture through fumigation, staggered community nurseries for delayed monsoon, custom hiring centers for timely completion of farm operations, location specific intercropping systems with high sustainable yield index.
  • It includes Institutional interventions either by strengthening the existing ones or initiating new ones relating to community seed bank, fodder bank, commodity groups, custom hiring center, collective marketing group, introduction of weather index based insurance and climate literacy through a village weather station. The program also aims at development of an enabling mechanism at the village level for continued adoption of such practices in a sustainable manner.
  • Experiences of NICRA project are to be disseminated to all concerned development departments for upscaling the interventions across the country. Capacity building on various resilient practices/ technologies, location specific mitigation and adaptation strategies, use of farm machinery, seed bank, fodder bank etc.
With its new approach, the project is expected Enhanced resilience of agricultural production in vulnerable regions of the country.

30 Jun 2021 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT     
Question : “Forest restoration is an important climate mitigation strategy which can lead to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.” Discuss how India can become a leader in forest restoration.

(GS Mains Paper 3)

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In the last few years, India has witnessed a degradation of its dense forest cover at an unprecedented rate. Despite having strong policy framework and much financial aid forest cover in the country has grown by just 0.56 percent or 3,976 km2 since 2017. It is essential to revisit India’s forest governance to become a leader in Forest restoration.
There is need to redefine ‘forests’ and how to measure them. Rather than rely on satellite mapping of canopy cover or hectares of trees, focus should shift to the measurement of the relative density of a ‘thriving forest’ or an ‘ecosystem’. There is also a need to delineate areas under orchards, bamboo, and palm cultivation (such as coconut) for an exact assessment of carbon stocks of forest. Employing the latest satellite or aerial remote sensing and GIS technologies for real-time mapping of the forest land, would offer an important solution.
There is need for new policy formation to provide an overarching framework and direction for the management and regulation of forests. It should also focus on forest management aimed at curtailing deforestation and land use change. Employing a science-based methodology with a participatory approach will help government agencies determine the right type of tree-based interventions most suitable to certain land use. The Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) framework could be adopted at scale for rigorous analysis of spatial, legal, and socio-economic data to plan for the best interventions for forest restoration.
Numerous petitions have been filed with the National Green Tribunal and Supreme Court on the misuse of CAMPA funds and negligent monitoring by the states. The state governments must put in place robust action plans for appropriate fund management, conduct an inventory of interventions, and create transparent information systems for relevant stakeholders. Geo-tagging technology would prove a valuable tool for online recording, monitoring, and checking leakages as well as efficient mapping of forest landscapes.
Role of Local communities is critical when it comes to decide what and how to plant and regenerate degraded lands should be placed in the hands of local communities, who have greater capacity to undertake adaptive management. For example, The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development’s ‘Wadi’ model is an excellent example of community-managed plantations that have delivered significant ecosystem and economic benefits. A performance monitoring system created through a combination of remote sensing and GIS technologies and ground-level verification would be immensely useful to evaluate the impacts.
Although becoming a world leader in forest restoration would be tough target in context of India, but with a long term sustainable approach, strong political will and application of technology can take near to it.