Down To Earth(December01-15 2022)
Note: Please note that some inputs have been given by our team in order to make the topic more relevant to UPSC
GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
GS-2: Important International institutions, agencies and fora - their structure, mandate.
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES): It is an independent intergovernmental body established to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.
It was established in Panama City, on 21 April 2012 by 94 governments.
UN Environment Programme (UNEP) provides secretariat services to IPBES, despite it not being a UN body.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): It is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species.
Appendix I: It lists species that are the most endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants. No commercial exploitation is allowed for these species. They can only be traded for scientific research.
Appendix II: It lists species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but may become so unless trade is closely controlled. Their trade requires permits granted by appropriate authorities.
Appendix III: It is a list of species included at the request of a party that needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation.
Context: Contrary to popular perception, allowing the local communities to kill and use the wild animals for their own benefit, provides an incentive to the tribals to aid in wildlife conservation.
Usage of Wildlife by Tribals
- Food and Nutrition: Almost 70% of the world’s poor, including many tribal communities, as well as rural dwellers, depend upon almost 10,000 species for their food. It is the chief source of proteins for the poor. As per the IPBES report, multiple communities around the world rely on 50,000 species of wild animals and plants for their survival. This includes 33,000 species of plants and fungi, 7,500 species of fish, and 9,000 species of animals and birds.
- Unavailability of Land: Almost 80 million tons of fish are consumed by the humans every year. In case of a ban on fish-hunting, the alternative source of protein would be plantation of soybean and pulses crops. This would require cutting down forests to make way for the agricultural land, which would be contrary to the goal of forest conservation.
- SDG Goals: As per the report, usage of wildlife has the potential to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDGs on poverty, hunger, health, reduction of inequality, access to clean energy as well as promotion of economic growth.
- Customs: The legal systems around the world recognize traditional hunting rights. For e.g., the Australian government has recognised the hunting rights of Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders, of bi including drowning of dugongs and harpooning of Turtles into title rights. Such customs are also observed in India:
- Aeda: In Rajasthan, a hunting festival is organised annually around Todgarh Raoli Wildlife Sanctuary. In this highly regulated event, which last for only 24 hours, youth from the village ventured to the forest and bring back wild meat, to be consumed at the festival.
- Akhand Shikhar: This is a tribal hunting festival in West Bengal, which is organised between January and June.
- Sendra: It is a tribal hunting festival organised in May every year in Jharkhand. The hunt is made through traditional weapons like knives, slingshots, bows and arrows.
- Other Events: Hunting rituals are practiced in Arunachal Pradesh during weddings and other events. Similarly, Bhil tribals in Rajasthan serve Jackal meat to newlywed couples. Kondh tribe gifts wild boars to newlywed couples which are then reared and sustainability consumed.
- Tribal Way of Life: Experts have claimed that it is urban consumption and indiscriminate hunt for trophies which has led to the extinction of species and not the tribal hand for food. Therefore, tribals are not at fault and should not be held responsible for exploitation of wildlife.
Banning of Wildlife Hunting
- IPBES Report: In its 9th plenary session at Bonn, Germany, Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES – see inset) released a report titled ‘Assessment Report on the Sustainable Use of Wild Species’. The report summarises the usage of wildlife by humans, as well as, methods to continue such usage in a sustainable manner.
- Exploitation of Wildlife: In the last century, due to the rapid increase in consumption and exploitation, unchecked hunting and collection of wildlife led to the extinction of many plants and animal species. For e.g., vicuna population in Latin America decreased to 3,000 in 1969. Similarly, the population of polar bears in Canada and saltwater crocodiles in Australia saw a dramatic decline. In fact, IPBES Report of 2019 had estimated that due to anthropogenic activity, almost 1 million plants and animal species are at the risk of extinction.
- Proliferation of Zoonoses: Researchers have claimed that the rapid increase in the spread of new infections can be attributed to wildlife exploitation. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in US states that 75% of recent infections are zoonoses, i.e., infections which began as diseases of animals and were later transferred to humans. This is a cause of concern, considering multiple sectors in many parts of the world are yet to recover from the effects of Covid-19 pandemic.
- Knee-Jerk Reaction: Governments around the world responded to the decline in population of wild animals by imposing a complete ban on hunting of wild animals and cutting of plants. This strategy was useful in recovering the wildlife from extinction, but led to the suffering of local tribes who were dependent on forests for ages.
- Legal Tenets to promote Conservation: In India, wildlife hunting is regulated by Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The Act prevents hunting of animals listed in Schedules 1 to 4. Only Schedule-5 animals are declared as vermin and are allowed to be hunted with proper permission. However, the bodies of such animals have to be returned to the wildlife authorities for postmortem.
- Poaching: The issue with imposition of such bans is that they promote poaching and illegal hunting for economic benefits. On the contrary, allowing regulated hunting not only deters poaching, but also provides financial returns for the State.
- Regulated Hunting: At the same time, continued wildlife conservation efforts have led to a vast increase in animal population. Sometimes, it becomes a threat to the balance of ecosystem due to the lesser carrying capacity. Therefore, several countries across the world allow trophy hunting to cull wildlife populations.
- Conservation through Consumption: The new strategy of conservation through consumption has emerged as a viable alternative to the strict ban on wildlife hunting. For e.g., Australia allows Kangaroo and Camel hunting to control population. Also, Canada and the USA have seasons of reindeer hunting. This provides incentives to the stakeholders for increasing the population of such animals for commercial benefit.
- Allowing Ranching/Commercial farming of wild species: The skin bones, hairs and meat of wild animals are in high demand in the international market. Commercial ranching of these wild animals could be a way to fulfil such demands. At the same time, it will discourage poaching and promote conservation. This can be manifested by following examples:
- Vicuna: Vicuna is a relative of llama and is found in the high altitudes of Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. It is known for its high-quality wool. Due to illegal exploitation, the population of Vicuna reached near extinction. However, due to the interventions of the government and people’s participation, the population has since recovered.
- Polar Bears and Saltwater Crocodiles: The Inuit people of Canada hunt Polar Bears, and use and sell the skin and meat of Polar Bears. Similarly, Saltwater Crocodiles are hunted for their skin, which is used in the production of luxury items. This had to led a drastic fall in the population of Polar Bears and Saltwater Crocodiles. However, allowing their commercial farming has not only recovered their population but even increased it multiple times.
- Wildlife Tourism: In this arrangement, local communities and villages act as service providers to the tourists in the form of tour guides, arranging transport and running restaurants and shops of minor forest produce to be bought as souvenirs. In return, the governments collect fees from such tourists and trophy hunters, and use the money for schemes to promote wildlife conservation and construction of infrastructure in such villages.
- Reduced Man-animal Conflict: Local communities’ participation with forest authorities ensures a decrease in the number of man-animal conflicts. For e.g., Indian railways has installed beekeeping boxes along the tracks in North-east India with the help of local people. Due to the buzzing of bees, animals do not come close to rail tracks, while locals get honey from the bee boxes.
- The IPBES Report holds significance as it would be used by multiple organizations like International Whaling Commission, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and Convention on Biological Diversity, to arrive at treaties concerning wildlife conservation. There is a need for more such reports which understand the needs of tribal communities, without deviating from the ultimate goal of wildlife conservation.
- Critically analyze whether a complete ban on wildlife hunting is against the traditional rights enjoyed by the tribal communities in the forests.
- Define the concept of carrying capacity of an ecosystem as relevant to an environment. Explain how understanding this concept is vital while planning for sustainable development of a region. (GS3 – 2019)
- ‘Climate Change’ is a global problem. How India will be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change? (GS3 – 2017)
GS-3: Major crops-cropping patterns in various parts of the country, - different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.
GS-3: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System-objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
Food Corporation of India: It is a statutory body set up for the procurement of food grains for the implementation of Public Distribution System (PDS).
It has been setup by the Food Corporation Act, 1964.
It has tripartite objectives of providing income support to farmers, distribution of food grains under PDS system and ensuring food security through buffer stocks.
Context: In recent years, India has witnessed severe heat waves, floods, frequent cyclones, landslides and drought. All these erratic weather events are directly or indirectly a consequence of global warming and have the potential to disrupt food security in the country.
Impact of Global Warming
- Change in climate: Global warming has disturbed the delicate balance of the Indian climate. The arrival of monsoons in India was earlier than usual. Also, Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has claimed that India will be receiving above average rainfall in this season. However, the monsoons arrived late in North India this year.
- Rainfall distribution: Rainfall in India is expected to increase by 10% due to global warming. However, the distribution and duration of rainfall may show changes across the country. The maximum increase in rainfall is expected in Northwestern India. Northern states such as Rajasthan, Gujrat and Punjab will receive 20% more rain than the average of years 1850-1900.
- Northeast India, South India and the Islands: On the other hand, the amount of rainfall in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Kerala, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands will decrease due to the shift of Jet stream towards northwest direction.
- Time period of rainfall: The summer monsoon in India starts from June and lasts till September, with Western and Central India receiving more than 90% of their total annual precipitation during this period. Similarly, Southern and North-western India receive 50-75% of their total annual rainfall during the monsoon season.
- Temperature distribution: Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 provides a global framework to avoid global warming and related climate change by limiting global temperature rise. The target for temperature rise under the Paris deal is 2°C with respect to the pre-industrial era, though it states that governments will pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.
- Impact on India: If the global temperature rises by 1.5 °C, different states in India will be impacted in a grave and, possibly, irreversible manner. For e.g., the Himalayan states of Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh will be severely impacted and the average temperature of Ladakh will rise by more than 2.23°C.
- Northern, Western and Eastern states: The states of UP, MP, Rajasthan and Gujarat will see a temperature rise of more than 1 °C, while the Northeastern states of West Bengal and Bihar will see an increase of less than 1°C. The reason for the difference in Eastern and Western states is pre-monsoon rains and high humidity due to the presence of Bay of Bengal.
Consequences of Delay in Sowing Season
- Agricultural output: Despite the amount of rainfall in India being above normal due to more than average rainfall in July, the month of June saw a deficit in rainfall. This is problematic for an agriculture-dependent country like India, as a delayed sowing season might lead to a shortfall in production. Combined with a shortfall in the production of wheat in the Rabi season, the production of food grains has decreased in India this year.
- PDS Procurement: A decrease in the production of both rice and wheat will throw challenges for the public distribution system of the country, as these two comprise the major staple crops and consequently, the bulk procurement of Food Corporation of India (FCI). As per the data, the government has been able to procure only 58 million tons of paddy in the current year, which is well below the comfort level of government to operate the welfare schemes.
- Encourage Sowing of Paddy: The shortfall in the production of wheat in the Rabi season has led to the Indian government being in a tricky situation. Contrary to its regular position of discouraging paddy and wheat production in the country, the Ministry of Agriculture has encouraged farmers to sow paddy this year.
- Food Inflation: Lesser production and availability of food crops might lead to food inflation in the coming times, which will be difficult to handle for the government. The shortfall in production has not been limited to rice and wheat, but also extends to Soybean, Maize, Cabbage and Onion. The government might need to tap into its buffer stocks to make up for the shortfall, especially in the election season.
- Farmer Income: A decrease in production will also lead to shortfall in the remuneration for farmers. At the same time, lack of rain would impact the small and marginal farmers more than the rich ones, as they do not have the means to operate the diesel pumps. This is compounded by the high prices of fuel in the country. It might also lead to challenges in the government’s stated objective of doubling farmer income.
- Food Security: As per media reports, there has been considerably less sowing of seeds in the Kharif season due to delayed monsoons. This might lead to a fall in production of food crops. In fact, there has been 30% less transplantation of paddy as compared to the last year. This does not correspond well with the growing population of the country.
- Recently, India has witnessed unseasonal rainfall in October, which destroys the standing crops that are ready for harvesting. In such a situation, the government needs to encourage the farmers to adopt the crops with lesser reaping time. The need of the hour is to promote technology and innovation for the benefit of farmers.
- Discuss the impact of global warming and climate change on Indian agriculture. Also, highlight the steps taken by the Indian government to enhance the resilience of agriculture to climate change.
- What are the major reasons for declining rice and wheat yield in the cropping system? How crop diversification is helpful to stabilize the yield of the crop in the system? (GS3 - 2017)
- How do subsidies affect the cropping pattern, crop diversity and economy of farmers? What is the significance of crop insurance, minimum support price and food processing for small and marginal farmers? (GS3 - 2017)