Down To Earth (September 16-30 2023)

Climate Warriors

Communities in the desert of Rajasthan made full use of the surplus rain without knowing climate agreements or adaptation goals.


  • Western Rajasthan is one of the driest parts of the country and it has been experiencing more wet days in recent years. It normally receives less than 300 mm of rain annually. But this year, the rain came before time and saw more than their annual rainfall in a matter of a month, leading to heavy rain and floods.
    • The excess water is utilised by tens of thousands of traditional water harvesting structures by local communities.
    • These people may not know the climate change agreements or adaptation goals, but they have knowledge to adapt to climate related crises.

Communities Participation:

  • Communities and individuals had built, rebuilt and rejuvenated thousands of water structures to capture every drop of rain by using traditional knowledge — from the talab (large pond) to the nadi (small ponds in fields) to the tanka (tanks collecting rainwater from small catchments) to rooftop collection in every house.
  • They dug trenches in the hill slope adjoining their village so that rain would not destroy their crops, but instead percolate into the ground.
  • Traditional knowledge for building decentralised water structures by communities were later supported by Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
    • Under MGNREGA, millions of water structures have been built across the country. Many of these structures have fallen into disuse or are just dysfunctional because of poor design.

Traditional Water Harvesting Systems:

Paar System in Western Rajasthan:

  • It is a common place where the rainwater flows from the agar (catchment) and percolates into the sandy soil. In order to access the percolated water (rajani pani) kuis or beris are dug in the agor (storage area).
  • The structure was constructed through traditional masonry technology.
  • Rainwater harvested through PAAR technique is known as Patali paani.


  • These can be natural, like ponds (pokhariyan) at Tikamgarh in the Bundelkhand region, and or human-made, like lakes in Udaipur.
  • A reservoir area of less than five bighas is called a talai; a medium sized lake is called a bandhi or talab; bigger lakes are called sagar or samand.

Saza Kuva:

  • It is the most important source of irrigation in the Aravalli hills in Mewar, and eastern Rajasthan.


  • These are small earthen check dams that capture and conserve rainwater, improving percolation and groundwater recharge.
  • Five rivers that used to go dry immediately following the monsoon have now become perennial, such as the River Arvari, has come alive.

Pat System of Madhya Pradesh:

  • It was devised according to the peculiarities of the terrain to divert water from swift-flowing hill streams into irrigation channels called pats.


Way Forward:

  • There is a need to understand the value of MGNREGA in our climate-risked world.
    • MGNREGA is perhaps the world’s biggest adaptation programme, where labour of people is paid for to provide a social safety net and this labour is used to build ecological wealth, which in turn builds resilience against variable weather.
  • In the age of extreme weather phenomena like drought and floods, there is a need to learn to capture every drop of rain using decentralised water structures.

Traditional Ikat Weavers

With NABARD stepping back, the traditional Ikat weavers of Odisha plan to take over the operations to improve incomes and lives.


  • Subarnapur or Sonepur district of Odisha is home to weaver communities known for the unique Bomkai design, popularly called as Ikat.
    • But over the years, without direct access to the market, remuneration for weavers stagnated and younger generations left home to seek work elsewhere.
  • With the help of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), and National Rural Development Council (NRDC), several changes were brought into the weavers' work.
    • To cut input costs and improve fabric quality;
    • The weavers are connected with entrepreneurs, designers and retail sellers.


Handloom Sector in India:

  • As per the latest data available with the All India Handloom Census (fourth), there are 26,73,891 handloom weavers and 8,48,621 allied workers in the country, with 31.45 lakh families engaged in handloom activities.
  • India produces 95% of the world's handwoven fabric.

Problem faced by Handloom Industry:

  • Lack of Knowledge and Skill;
  • Lack of quality raw materials;
  • Lack of credit facilities and capital;
  • Competition from mechanised powerloom.

Government initiatives:

  • The Office of the Development Commissioner for Handlooms, Ministry of Textiles is implementing following schemes for development of handlooms and welfare of handloom weavers across the country:
    • National Handloom Development Programme (NHDP)
    • Comprehensive Handloom Cluster Development Scheme (CHCDS)
    • Handloom Weavers’ Comprehensive Welfare Scheme (HWCWS)
    • Yarn Supply Scheme (YSS)

Drought in India

August 2023 is the driest month in 123 years with 36% deficit rainfall.


  • According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), August 2023 is the driest in 123 years with 36% deficit rainfall, and it has forecasted ‘normal’ rainfall for September, 2023 may be a drought year.
    • A drought year occurs when monsoon rainfall exceeds 10% deficit of the long term average.
  • There were 14 drought years, of which 10 were El Niño years in the past 123 years.
  • Occurrence of drought in consecutive monsoon seasons are common in northwest India, particularly west Rajasthan, Saurashtra & Kutch and Jammu & Kashmir and Rayalaseema in the Peninsular India.


  • It is a prolonged dry period in the natural climate cycle that can occur anywhere in the world. It is a slow-onset disaster characterised by the lack of precipitation, resulting in a water shortage.
  • It is often associated with climatic factors like high temperatures, high winds and low relative humidity that can aggravate the severity of the drought event.
    • It can have a serious impact on health, agriculture, economies, energy and the environment.
  • During 1965 and 1966, major parts of India were under prolonged and severe drought conditions due to deficient monsoon rainfall.

Types of droughts:

Meteorological Drought:

  • It is defined as a situation when the seasonal rainfall received over the area is less than 75% of its long term average value, and further classified as ‘moderate drought’ if the rainfall deficit is between 26-50% and ‘severe drought’ when the deficit exceeds 50% of the normal.

Hydrological Drought:

  • It can be defined as a period during which the stream flows are inadequate to supply established use of water under a given water management system.

Agricultural Drought:

  • It occurs when available soil moisture is inadequate for healthy crop growth and causes extreme stress and wilting.

Socio-economic drought:

  • Abnormal water shortage affects all aspects of the established economy of a region. This in turn adversely affects the social fabric of the society creating unemployment, migration, discontent and various other problems in the society.
    • Thus, meteorological, hydrological and agricultural drought often leads to what is termed as Socio-economic drought.


  • As per data released by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, there is a dip in sowing of kharif crops.
    • 11.9 million hectares (ha) of pulses in 2023, as against 13 million ha in 2022.
    • Area under oilseeds is lower by 0.18 million ha. Jute and cotton have also declined.
    • However, rice, sugarcane and cereals sown in 2022 have increased.

BRICS Expansion

BRICS has decided to extend membership to six nations that could change climate discourse.


  • BRICS has invited Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, and Ethiopia to become full members in its ongoing 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • It will strengthen the economies of the new and old member-nations, and put greater leverage to pressure rich countries to deliver on long-pending pledges of climate finance.
    • Countries of BRICS have already called for developed countries to honour a 2009 commitment to provide US $100 billion to developing nations as climate finance by 2020.
  • The larger alliance will also have the advantage of accounting for more than 40% of the world's crude oil production as well as 29% of the world's GDP, giving it greater clout in global energy transition.


  • BRICS is an important grouping bringing together the major emerging economies from the world, comprising 41% of the world population, 24% of the world GDP and over 16% share in world trade. Total combined area of 29.3% of the total land surface of the world.
  • Members: It is an association of five major emerging economies; Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
  • Origin: The term was coined by British Economist Jim O’Neill in 2001, representing emerging economies of the world.
  • The four countries (BRIC) arranged for an annual meeting of Foreign Ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in 2006.
  • Initially, the grouping was termed BRIC as South Africa was inducted in 2010 and from there on it has been referred to as BRICS.


  • The governments of the BRICS states have met annually at formal summits since 2009.
  • Over a period of time, BRICS countries have come together to deliberate on important issues under the three pillars of:
    • political and security,
    • economic and financial and
    • cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
  • New Development Bank: Formerly referred to as the BRICS Development Bank, is a multilateral development bank established by the BRICS states.
    • The Bank shall support public or private projects through loans, guarantees, equity participation and other financial instruments.

Fukushima Water Release

Japan releases treated radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.


  • Japan started to pump treated radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, destroyed in a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, into the Pacific Ocean.
    • In response, China announced it is suspending Japanese seafood imports with immediate effect.

Why is the water being released?

  • Several reactors at the nuclear power plant melted down after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Since then, workers have been cooling the reactors by using water, which becomes contaminated.
  • All the radioactive water stored in storage tanks at the site are nearing capacity, leading the workers to release water into the ocean after treatment.

Is the released water safe?

  • According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), discharges of the treated water would have a negligible radiological impact to people and the environment.
    • According to the Japanese government, Tritium isn’t dangerous — and even if it enters into the body, the risks are low, because its radiation is not energetic enough to penetrate human skin, but when ingested at levels above those in the released water it can raise cancer risks.

State of India's Birds 2023

According to the "State of India's Birds 2023" report, the long-term trends of bird species show a large-scale decline.

Highlights of the report:

  • It studied long-term trends of 342 bird species, and says 60% of them show declines.
  • Overall, the report analyses 942 bird species in India and highlights eight major threats they face, including forest degradation, avian disease and climate change.
  • 39% of species show clear declines over the past decades.
    • Species ‘specialising’ in a region like open habitats, including the Great Indian Bustard, show decline.
    • Shorebirds that breed in the Arctic have declined by nearly 80% as a whole.
    • Insectivorous birds and those that feed on other species, like raptors and vultures, are in peril.
    • Migratory birds, which face extreme weather events, predation, starvation and illegal hunting, are at greater risk.
    • Generalist species—which do not depend on a habitat or ecosystem—like the Indian peafowl and Asian koel are mostly stable or thriving.
  • The report classifies the 942 species into three categories for conservation action:
    • 178 species are high priority;
    • 323 moderate priority; and
    • 441 are low priority.
  • Some 90 of the high priority species are classified as globally of ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN's Red List for 2022.
  • 178 species classified as of High Conservation Priority, and require immediate attention.
  • 150% increase in the abundance of peafowl across the country over the past decades.
  • 217 species stable or increasing in the last eight years.

Report highlighted eight major threats:

  1. Monocultures;
  2. Environmental pollutants;
  3. Forest degradation;
  4. Urbanisation;
  5. Energy infrastructure (wind energy and power lines);
  6. Avian disease;
  7. Illegal hunting and trade; and
  8. Climate change

State of India’s Birds Report:

  • In 2020, India joined the set of countries that regularly assess the status of their birds, with the launch of the first report on the State of India’s Birds at the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species in Gandhinagar.
    • State of India’s Birds 2020 assessed 867 species out of the roughly 1,200 species that regularly occur in India, and classified 101 species as being of high conservation concern in India that include 34 species which are not considered globally threatened by the IUCN Red List.

Scrub Typhus

Scrub typhus, an infectious disease, outbreak in Western Odisha.

About Scrub Typhus