Down To Earth (March 16-31 2024)

Bengaluru Water Crisis


  • Bengaluru, the third most populous city in India, is facing the worst potable water crisis in its nearly 500-year history.

About the Bengaluru Water Crisis

  • Bengaluru, India’s Silicon Valley, is grappling with a severe water crisis, exacerbated by erratic monsoon patterns and rapid urbanisation.
  • The city, which once abounded in lakes and rivers, is now facing a water shortage that is set to deepen, with the state struggling with depleting resources.
  • The city, which lost its green cover by 66%, water bodies by 74%, and witnessed a growth of 584% in built-up area, buckled under the El Nino’s assault this summer.
  • The city needs 2,600 MLD of water, of which 1,450 MLD is coming from the Cauvery and 650 MLD from the underground water table through borewell.
    • There is a shortage of 500 MLD.


  • The water scarcity crisis is not a recent phenomenon but the result of a long-standing disregard for sustainable development.
    • The city’s rapid expansion has been largely fueled by migration.
  • However, the city’s administration has demonstrated a lack of foresight and resource planning, which is compounded by their inefficiency.


  • The city has seen a 1055% increase in built-up areas, i.e., concrete structure and paved surfaces, in the last few decades.
  • In addition, it has seen a staggering drop in the water spread area which has now been termed as the root cause of the depleting groundwater table across the city.
  • A study by the IISC’s Centre for Ecological Sciences says that water spread area has fallen from 2,324 hectares in 1973 to just about 696 hectares in 2023, a 70% drop.

Spatial Pattern of Water Crisis in India

  • India, with 18 percent of the world’s population but only 4 percent of its water resources, is among the most water-stressed countries in the world.

Regional Variations

  • The availability of water in India is largely dependent on hydro-meteorological and geological factors, leading to high temporal and spatial variation of precipitation.
  • As a result, water availability in some regions of the country is much below the national average, resulting in water-stressed or scarce conditions.
  • For instance, there are water surplus states such as Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and on the other side, there are water scarce regions like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and parts of Gujarat.

Groundwater Depletion

  • Groundwater is one of the most important sources for irrigation as well as for rural and urban domestic water supply.
    • However, overexploitation of this valuable resource has led to its depletion.
  • As per the 2020 assessment, out of 6,965 assessment units (Blocks/ Taluks/ Mandals/ watersheds/ Firkas) in the country, 1,114 units in 15 States/UTs have been categorised as ‘over-exploited’ where the Annual Ground Water Extraction is more than Annual Extractable Ground Water Resource.

Climate Change Impact

  • India’s dependence on an increasingly erratic monsoon for its water requirements increases the challenge.
  • Climate change is likely to exacerbate this pressure on water resources, even as the frequency and intensity of floods and droughts in the country increases.


  • Rainwater harvesting and wastewater treatment are considered the best options for Bengaluru.
  • The cumulative impact of these measures would meet the water requirement of 14 million people in Bengaluru, without any dependence on groundwater.


  • The water crisis in Bengaluru is a wake-up call for the need for sustainable water management practices.
  • The city’s administration, citizens, and businesses must come together to address this crisis and ensure the city’s future sustainability.

The Great Barrier Reef


  • Recently, it was found that the Great Barrier Reef has suffered its fifth mass coral bleaching event in eight years, linked to global heating.
    • It has faced repeated bleaching since 1998, reflecting record-high ocean temperatures globally.

About the Great Barrier Reef

  • The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system, stretches over 2,300 kilometres along Australia’s northeast coastline.
  • This complex of shallow water reefs and islands is home to thousands of species of fish, invertebrates, algae, reptiles, birds, and algae.
  • Despite its size and ecological importance, the reef is facing significant threats.

Economic Importance and Threats

  • The Great Barrier Reef contributes significantly to the economy, generating $4.6 billion annually through tourism and supporting around 64,000 jobs.
  • However, the ongoing environmental threats could potentially tarnish its allure for international visitors.
  • The reef’s health also has implications for the fishing industry, as it supports over 25% of marine biodiversity.

Coral Bleaching

  • One of the most pressing issues facing the Great Barrier Reef is coral bleaching.
  • It occurs when corals experience stress due to changes in temperature, pollution, or high levels of ocean acidity.
  • While bleached corals can survive depending on the levels of bleaching and the recovery of sea temperatures to normal levels, long-term bleaching or stress can lead to their mortality.
  • The Great Barrier Reef has experienced several mass bleaching events, with the worst event in 2016 affecting over 90% of the reef.
  • More recently, in 2024, a mass coral bleaching event was observed in the southern part of the reef, which was far worse than expected.
  • The bleaching extended to deeper parts of the reef, with corals at 18 metres of depth affected and even starting to die as record marine heatwaves scourge the ocean.


Do You Know?

  • Healthy Coral: Coral and algae depend on each other to survive. Corals have a symbiotic relationship with microscopic algae called zooxanthellae that live in their tissues. These algae are the coral’s primary food source and give them their colour.
  • Stressed Coral: If stressed, algae leaves the coral. When the symbiotic relationship becomes stressed due to increased ocean temperature or pollution, the algae leave the coral's tissue.
    • Under stressed conditions, the corals expel the colour-giving zooxanthellae from their polyps, which exposes their pale white exoskeleton, giving the corals a bleached appearance.
  • Bleached Coral: Coral is left bleached and vulnerable. Without the algae, the coral loses its major source of food, turns white or very pale, and is more susceptible to disease.


  • Change in ocean temperature Increased ocean temperature caused by climate change is the leading cause of coral bleaching.
  • Runoff and pollution Storm generated precipitation can rapidly dilute ocean water and runoff can carry pollutants — these can bleach near-shore corals.
  • Overexposure to sunlight When temperatures are high, high solar irradiance contributes to bleaching in shallow-water corals.
  • Extreme low tides Exposure to the air during extreme low tides can cause bleaching in shallow corals.

Impact of Climate Change

  • Climate change is the biggest threat to the world’s coral reefs, causing mass bleaching, among other things.
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states that the Great Barrier Reef is in crisis and suffering grave impacts from climate change, with frequent and severe coral bleaching caused by warming ocean temperatures.
  • Even if the global community achieves its goal of limiting future warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, that still wouldn’t be sufficient to prevent more frequent mass bleaching events.

Conservation Efforts

  • In response to these threats, scientists are exploring various conservation strategies.
  • One such method involves freezing and storing coral larvae, which could eventually help rewild reefs threatened by climate change.
  • Researchers are also leveraging citizen science and artificial intelligence to aid Great Barrier Reef conservation efforts.

Extreme Heat and Loss of Income


  • A recent report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reveals that in India and 23 other Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC), rural poor households suffer significant income losses during extreme heat.


  • A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has shed light on the unequal impact of climate change on different demographic groups.
  • The report, titled ‘The Unjust Climate’, reveals that women and youth, particularly those in LMICs, incur higher farm income losses due to climate stressors such as heat stress and floods.

Key Findings

  • The report provides concrete evidence from 24 countries, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Vietnam, Mongolia, Iraq, Armenia, Georgia, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Ecuador, and Peru.
  • The findings are based on socioeconomic data from over 100,000 rural households, representing more than 950 million people, integrated with 70 years of georeferenced daily precipitation and temperature data.

Impact on Women

  • The study found that every year, agricultural income losses due to climate stressors are higher in households headed by women than those where men are the primary breadwinner.
  • Women-headed households experience losses 8% higher due to heat stress and 3% higher due to floods, compared to men-headed households.
  • It translates to a per capita reduction of $83 due to heat stress and $35 due to floods, totalling $37 billion and $16 billion, respectively, across all LMICs.
  • If the average temperatures were to increase by just 1°C, these women would face a staggering 34% greater loss in their total incomes compared to men.
  • The study warns that if not addressed, climate change will greatly widen the existing differences in agricultural productivity and wages between women and men.

Impact on Agriculture

  • They lose 2.4% of on-farm incomes and face decreased crop and off-farm income values.
  • A 1°C temperature rise could force them into climate-sensitive agriculture, potentially leading to a 33% decrease in off-farm incomes.


Impact on Youth

  • Similarly, households headed by young people (younger than 35) were found to be more likely to lose agricultural income due to extreme weather events, relative to those headed by older people.
  • It happens because their capacity to react and adapt to extreme weather events is unequal.


  • The report underscores the urgent need to dedicate substantially more financial resources and policy attention to issues of inclusivity and resilience in global and national climate actions.
  • It highlights the powerful, yet poorly understood, impact of social differences based on locations, wealth, gender, and age on rural peoples’ vulnerability to the impacts of the climate crisis.
  • The findings of the report serve as a stark reminder of the social inequalities that climate change exacerbates.
    • It is crucial that climate policies and interventions are designed with a gender and age lens to ensure that they are inclusive and effective.



  • The recent sixth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) acknowledged the planetary ecological meltdown caused by ‘Polycrisis’.

About the Polycrisis

  • The term ‘Polycrisis’ has emerged as a critical concept in understanding the complex, interconnected challenges that the world is currently facing.
  • The term was first coined in the 1970s and has been popularised by historian Adam Tooze to describe the convergence of multiple crises.

Defining Polycrisis

  • A polycrisis is defined as any combination of three or more interacting systemic risks with the potential to cause a cascading, runaway failure of Earth’s natural and social systems that irreversibly and catastrophically degrades humanity’s prospects.
  • It is the term to define the state of the global environment, pointing at three crises wrecking the planet—the climate emergency, biodiversity loss and pollution.
  • It signifies a loss of control, as we can barely understand the complex things that are happening in the world around us, let alone control them.

Polycrisis in Action

  • In recent times, the world has been experiencing a state of polycrisis. The COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis, cost-of-living crisis, and climate change are all distinct crises that have come together to create a situation where everything seems to be impacting us all at the same time.
  • It is not a personal, private experience, but a collective one.
    • For instance, the war in Ukraine sent energy and food prices soaring.
  • The resulting inflationary pressures ignited a global cost-of-living crisis which has led to social unrest.
  • On top of all that, carbon emissions continued to rise as economies reopened after the pandemic.

Implications of Polycrisis

  • The implications of a polycrisis are far-reaching. It can lead to catastrophic consequences including armed conflict.
  • The interconnected risk landscape heightens the likelihood of polycrises.
  • The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023 uses the term to explain how present and future risks can interact with each other to form a polycrisis.

Addressing Polycrisis

  • Addressing a polycrisis requires a holistic approach that considers the interconnectedness of various crises.
  • It calls for global cooperation and a rethinking of our current systems and structures.
  • It also necessitates a shift from a reactive approach to a proactive one, where we anticipate and prepare for potential crises before they occur.

Definition of Forest

Syllabus: GS2/Governance; GS3/ Conservation



  • Nearly three decades have passed since the Supreme Court ruling in 1996, which mandated the use of dictionary definition to delineate forests. Still, India grapples with the challenge of accurately identifying its forests.

The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980


  • It was enacted to ensure the conservation of forests and their resources.
  • The term ‘forest land’ mentioned in Section 2 of the Act refers to reserved forest, protected forest, or any area recorded as forest in the government records.
  • Lands notified under Section 4 of the Indian Forest Act also come within the purview of the Act.
  • The provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 extend to all areas recorded as forest in government records and the areas which may be defined as forest as per its ‘dictionary meaning’ irrespective of ownership.

T.N. Godavarman Thirumalpad vs Union of India (1996)

  • The Supreme Court of India, in TN Godavarman Thirumalpad vs Union of India Case, observed that the ‘forest’ has to be understood in terms of its dictionary meaning.
    • It defined ‘forest’ to include any piece of land that resembles the dictionary meaning of forest for the purpose of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
  • It ruled that the Forest (Conservation) Act applies to all land parcels that were either recorded as ‘forest’, or which resembled the dictionary meaning of forest.
    • This definition was further clarified in an interim order passed by the Supreme Court.
  • It covers all statutorily recognized forests, whether designated as reserved, protected, or otherwise.
  • It is intended to ensure that the protection and conservation of forests are prioritised in India.

Forest Conservation (Amendment) Act of 2023 and related issues

  • Narrowing the Definition of Forest: It narrowed the definition of forest by inserting the Section 1A in the Act, and contradicts the Supreme Court’s 1996 order, potentially jeopardising legal safeguards for one-fifth to one-fourth of India’s forests.
    • According to it, a land has to be either notified as a forest or specifically recorded as a forest in a government record to qualify as a ‘forest’.
  • Infrastructure Vs Environment: It exempts linear projects near borders, supporting infrastructure development crucial for national security.
  • Private Players and Economic Exploitation: It encourages private entities to undertake afforestation projects, contributing to environmental conservation, and facilitates economic exploitation by removing certain forest areas from legal jurisdiction.
  • Limited Public Discourse: It has emerged with limited public discourse, raising concerns about its ramifications for forests and indigenous communities.



  • The issue of ‘definition of forest’ in India has the implications on forest conservation, rights of indigenous communities, and economic development.
  • It is crucial that any changes to the definition of ‘forest’ are made with careful consideration of their potential impacts on India’s rich biodiversity, the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities, and the country’s commitments to climate change mitigation.

Reverse Osmosis and Water Purification


  • Experts warn that RO water with dangerously low levels of mineral content can have adverse impact on health — it can even lead to micronutrient deficiency, joint pain and cardiovascular ailments.

About the Water Purification Techniques

  • Water is the essence of life, and access to clean, safe drinking water is a fundamental human right.
  • However, with increasing pollution and climate change, the quality of water sources worldwide is deteriorating.
  • This has led to the development of various water purification techniques to ensure the safety and cleanliness of water.
  • Water purifiers that use reverse osmosis (RO) are emerging as a popular choice for safe and clean drinking water in India.
    • But along with pathogens, the technology removes essential minerals from water. Besides, boiling water and using simple filters can ensure potable water in most areas.
  • Boiling: It is one of the oldest and most commonly used methods of water purification. It involves heating water to its boiling point to kill bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms.
    • However, boiling cannot remove chemical contaminants or suspended particles.


  • Filtration: It involves passing water through a porous material to remove suspended particles, bacteria, and certain chemicals.
    • Different types of filters, such as activated carbon filters and ceramic filters, are used depending on the contaminants present.
  • Chlorination: It involves adding chlorine to water to kill bacteria and other pathogens.
    • It is a widely used method due to its effectiveness and low cost. However, it can leave a residual taste and smell in the water.
  • Reverse Osmosis (RO): It is a process where water is forced through a semi - permeable membrane under pressure.
    • It is effective in removing dissolved salts, impurities, and harmful chemicals.
    • However, it also removes essential minerals and wastes a significant amount of water.

Ultraviolet (UV) Purification:It involves exposing water to UV light to kill bacteria and other microorganisms.

    • It is an effective method to disinfect water but does not remove chemical contaminants.
  • Traditional Water Harvesting Systems: In many parts of the world, traditional water harvesting systems like Naula (little depression aquifer), Dhara (springs), and Gul (traditional irrigation canals) are still used as the primary source of drinking water.
    • These systems, which have been considered sacred in many cultures, have been effective in providing clean and safe water for centuries.

Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES)


  • Recently, the Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) released the Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) for 2022-23.

About the Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES)

  • It is a significant tool that provides insights into the consumption patterns of households across India.
  • Conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), the survey aims to generate estimates of household Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure (MPCE) and its distribution separately for the rural and urban sectors of the country, for States and Union Territories, and for different socio-economic groups.
  • According to the latest findings, the MPCE stands at Rs 3,773 for rural areas and Rs 6,459 for urban areas, calculated at current prices.
    • It translates to a daily expenditure of Rs 126 for rural Indians and Rs 215 for urban dwellers on expenses ranging from food, medical care, education, childcare, transportation, to clothing, among others.

Key Findings

  • Increase in Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure (MPCE): The average MPCE in Indian households rose by 33.5% since 2011-12 in urban households to ₹3,510, with rural India’s MPCE seeing a 40.42% increase over the same period to hit ₹2,008.
  • Shift in Spending Pattern: The proportion of spending on food has dropped to 46.4% for rural households from 52.9% in 2011-12, while their urban peers spent just 39.2% of their overall monthly outgoes on food compared with 42.6% incurred 11 years earlier.
    • This reduction could translate into a lower weightage for food prices in the country’s retail inflation calculations.
  • Imputed Values of Items Received Free of Cost: The average MPCE, at 2011-12 prices, was a tad higher when items received free of cost by individuals through various social welfare programmes such as the PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) or State-run schemes, which were calculated separately, while including a few non-food items received through such schemes, including computers, mobile phones, bicycles, and clothing.


  • The HCES data serves as the base for assessing the income poverty level in the country.
    • However, there is currently no official estimation of poverty based on this survey.
  • Previously, the Planning Commission utilised HCES data for poverty estimation, but since its dissolution, its successor, NITI Aayog, has not undertaken this task nor established a new national poverty line.


  • The latest survey round presents a challenge as it deviates from the previous nine surveys conducted between 1972 and 2012, with changes in the items covered, questionnaire structure, periodicity of data collection, and mode of data collection.
  • B V R Subrahmanyam, chief executive officer of NITI Aayog, has still released a widely reported ‘personal assessment’ indicating that, based on the new consumption expenditure data, poverty levels are below 10%.

Way Forward

  • The full findings of the HCES 2022-23 are expected to be released by June.
  • The detailed report will provide a comprehensive understanding of the consumption patterns in India, which will be crucial for policy-making and planning.

Migratory Bird in Kashmir Valley


  • The wetlands of the Kashmir Valley become a sanctuary for countless migratory birds which arrive in October and stay until March.

About the Migratory Birds in the Kashmir Valley

  • The Kashmir Valley, with its picturesque landscapes and temperate climate, transforms into a winter wonderland every year, attracting a plethora of migratory birds from across the globe.
  • Every year, with the onset of winter, the wetlands of the Kashmir Valley play host to lakhs of migratory birds.
  • The migratory birds visiting Kashmir travel from the colder areas of the world, including Siberia, China, Philippines, Eastern Europe, and Japan.
  • The Valley presents them with a comparatively hospitable alternate habitat compared to the extreme freezing conditions in their natural habitats in the northern hemisphere.
  • Their primary destination is the region’s wetlands, including Hokersar, the second-largest wetland reserve in the region, which spans 8 square miles on the outskirts of Srinagar.
  • Over the years, more than 90 species of birds have made the trek to breed and feed at this crucial wintering ground, which is surrounded by freshwater marshes.

The Avian Visitors

  • The birds that arrive here every year include mallards, greylag geese, pochards, common teals, shovelers, pintails, and gharwals.
  • Some of the bird species that visit Kashmir are Monal, Jungle Bush Quail, Shikra, Himalayan Bulbul, Tragapon, common Kingfisher, Blue Whistling Thrush, Common Moorhen, Koklass Pheasant, Little Grebe, Himalayan Woodpecker, Tundra Swan Great Tit, Black Kite, Mallards, Greylag Geese, Pochard, Shovelers, Pintails, and Gharwals.

The Significance

  • The presence of these different types and colourful migratory birds in the water bodies of the Kashmir Valley, their chirping, and sweet dialects create a distinct sweetness in the air.
  • The arrival of these birds not only adds to the natural beauty of the valley but also plays a crucial role in maintaining the region’s ecological balance.

Concerns and Threats

  • Migratory bird hunting is a significant issue in India, posing a serious threat to the survival of these avian visitors.
  • Despite the country’s rich biodiversity and the critical role it plays in the migratory routes of various bird species, anthropogenic activities, including hunting, are leading to a decline in their numbers.
  • Migratory bird hunting continues across wetlands in the Kashmir Valley despite a blanket ban since 1972.
  • Apart from hunting, migratory birds in India face several other threats. These include habitat loss due to urbanisation, land acquisition, and climate change.
  • Changes in breeding areas, untimely rainfall, and early or late onset of winters also have a direct impact on the migration of birds in India.

Conservation Efforts

  • Despite the challenges, efforts are being made to protect migratory birds in India. Awareness campaigns are held on World Migratory Bird Day to highlight the need to conserve migratory birds and their habitats
  • Moreover, wetlands scientist S. Sivakumar has emphasised the critical role of wetlands in providing a safe habitat for migratory birds and the livelihood potential for urban and rural dwellers in the emerging tourism sector of bird watching.


Status of Donkey Population


  • Recently, UK-based non-profit ‘Donkey Sanctuary’ revealed that over half a million donkeys are slaughtered annually worldwide for their skin.

Key Findings

  • Declining Donkey Population: There has been a critical decline in donkey numbers in India due to a fall in demand as a beast of burden and illegal meat and skin trade.
    • The 20th Livestock Census released in 2019 reported that India has 0.12 million donkeys, which is 62% lower than the 0.32 million recorded in 2012.
  • Economic Impact: Donkeys have a significant financial impact on households and the economy.
    • They are used in places untouched by mechanisation, like brick kilns, where their small size helps them move quickly through narrow entrances.
    • Dairy suppliers in Gujarat use donkeys to carry milk across rough terrain, while potters in Lucknow use them to transport clay.
  • Illegal Slaughter: A 2019 study by Donkey Sanctuary India notes that 4-10 million donkeys are likely slaughtered every year to fulfil demand for the skin in China.
    • It has led to a shrinking donkey population in China, from 11 million in 1992 to 2.6 million in 2019.
  • Lack of Policies: Livestock policies have largely overlooked these animals and excluded communities that rear them from availing any incentives or subsidies other livestock farmers may receive.
  • Global Impact: Globally, at least 5.9 million donkeys are slaughtered every year to supply the Ejiao industry in China.
    • Ejiao is a traditional medicinal remedy made with the gelatin in donkey skin, believed to have health-enhancing and youth-preserving properties.

Drichu River


  • Recently, over a thousand Tibetans, including monks, have been arrested for protesting a hydropower dam on the Drichu river in eastern Tibet.

About Drichu River

  • It rises in the Tanggula mountain range in Amdo at around 5000 metres, and flows for 6,300km to China's east coast near Shanghai.
  • It is known as the Drichu (Tibetan), Chang Jiang (Chinese), or Jinsha Jiang (Chinese for the upper Yangtse).

Environmental Impact

  • The Drichu River is a significant ecological asset, and the construction of the dam is causing significant damage to the fragile natural environment.
  • At least 13 hydropower stations exist solely in the upper reaches of the Drichu on Tibetan land.
  • Six of these are massive dams with a power generation capacity exceeding a million kilowatts.
  • Two major landslides in recent years have affected the flow of the Drichu River.

Displacement of Tibetans

  • The construction of the dam is displacing thousands of Tibetans.
  • The decision to announce relocation of Tibetans was strategically aligned with the Tibetan New Year to divert public attention and minimise potential unrest.
  • The use of police force was done to intimidate, suppress, and arrest Tibetans.

James Webb Space Telescope


  • Recently, the James Webb Space Telescope has captured the oldest-known defunct galaxy, ceasing star formation 13 billion years ago.

About the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)

  • It is named after the former NASA administrator who crafted the Apollo program, and is a marvel of modern astronomy and engineering.
  • It was launched in 2021 and set to revolutionise our understanding of the universe.
  • The JWST is the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide.
    • It is designed to study every phase in the history of our Universe.
  • It includes observing the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, and the evolution of our own Solar System.
  • Unlike the Hubble Space Telescope, which orbits around the Earth, the JWST orbits the Sun 1.5 million kilometres (1 million miles) away from the Earth at what is called the second Lagrange Point (L2).
    • It allows the JWST to stay in line with the Earth as it orbits the Sun, providing a stable environment for observations.

Unprecedented Capabilities

  • The JWST is equipped with a 6.5-meter primary mirror, over two and a half times larger than the diameter of the Hubble Space Telescope’s primary mirror.
  • This larger size allows the JWST to collect more light and observe fainter objects that are beyond the reach of current telescopes.
  • The JWST operates primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range.
    • It allows the JWST to look further back in time to see the earliest galaxies that formed in the Universe, and to peer through dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today.

First Observations


  • The JWST has already started making observations. One of its first targets was the starburst galaxy Messier 82 (M82).
  • Located 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major, M82 is relatively compact in size but hosts a frenzy of star formation activity.
  • For comparison, M82 is sprouting new stars 10 times faster than the Milky Way galaxy.

Future Prospects

  • The JWST is expected to make significant contributions to a wide range of astronomical research areas, from understanding the atmospheres of exoplanets to studying the formation and evolution of galaxies.
  • With its unprecedented sensitivity and resolution, the JWST is set to open a new window on the universe for scientists and the public alike.

Global Resources Outlook 2024


  • Recently, the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) released the ‘Global Resources Outlook 2024 — Bend the trend: Pathways to a Liveable Planet as Resource Use Spikes’ in Nairobi highlighted that the global production and consumption of material resources has grown more than three times over the past 50 years.

Key Highlights of the Report

  • Triple Planetary Crisis: The world is in the midst of a triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste.
  • Increasing Resource Consumption: The global economy is consuming more natural resources than ever before, and the world is not on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Rising Trends in Resource Use: Since the 2019 edition of this report, rising trends in global resource use have continued or accelerated.
    • Extraction and processing of material resources, including fossil fuels, minerals, non-metallic minerals and biomass, account for the emission of over 55% greenhouse gases (GHG) and 40% of particulate matter.
    • Extraction and processing of agricultural crops and forestry produce account for 90% of land-related biodiversity loss and water stress and a third of GHG emissions.
  • Potential for Sustainability: The report describes the potential to turn negative trends around and put humanity on a trajectory towards sustainability.
    • The report reveals that upper middle-income countries have joined the wanton consumption bandwagon and have more than doubled their resource use in the past 50 years for infrastructure growth.
    • On the other hand, per capita resource use and related environmental impacts in low-income countries have remained comparatively low and almost unchanged since 1995.
  • Future Projections: Without urgent and concerted action, by 2060 resource extraction could rise by 60% from 2020 levels — from 100 to 160 billion tonnes, driving increasing damage and risks.
  • Need for Bold Policy Action: Bold policy action is critical to phase out unsustainable activities, speed up responsible and innovative ways of meeting human needs, and create conditions conducive to social acceptance and equity within the necessary transitions.
  • Closing Window of Opportunity: The pathway towards sustainability is increasingly steep and narrow, and the window of opportunity is closing.
  • Call for Transformation: The key question is no longer whether a transformation towards global sustainable resource consumption and production is necessary, but how to make it happen now.

Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy)


  • Recently, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare found that India has the highest leprosy prevalence in the world, contributing about 55% of the global cases reported each year.

About the Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy)

  • It is a chronic infectious disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium Leprae.
  • It predominantly affects the skin, peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes.
  • Despite its potential to cause severe physical impairments, leprosy is curable and early treatment can prevent disability.
  • Historically, seven states — Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal — contribute 70-80% of the cases, as per data available with the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Transmission and Symptoms

  • Leprosy is transmitted via droplets from the nose and mouth during close and frequent contact with untreated cases.
  • However, it is not easily spread and requires prolonged, close contact over many months to become infected.
    • Around 95% of all people are naturally immune to the disease.
  • The symptoms of leprosy include light-coloured or red skin patches, reduced sensation of touch, numbness, weakness in the hands and feet, pain in the joints, disfiguring skin sores, weight loss, eye damage (dryness, reduced blinking), and hair loss.

Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Leprosy is diagnosed clinically based on the characteristic features of the lesions.
  • A smear test, where a sample of affected skin is obtained and tested, can detect the bacteria in patients with multibacillary leprosy.
  • Treatment for leprosy includes multi-drug therapy (MDT) with antibiotics.
  • The antibiotics used include Dapsone, Rifampicin, and Clofazimine.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs like Aspirin and Prednisone are used to control nerve pain and damage.
  • Early treatment is crucial to avoid complications and mortalities.

Global Impact and Efforts

  • Leprosy is reported from all the six WHO Regions; the majority of annual new case detections are from South-East Asia.
  • Since the introduction of multidrug therapy (MDT), the registered prevalence has decreased substantially, from more than 5 million cases in the 1980s to 133,802 cases in 2021.
  • However, new cases continue to occur, indicating continuing transmission of infection.

The Global Leprosy Strategy 2021–2030

  • It was developed with the goal of eliminating leprosy, i.e., interruption of transmission.
  • It includes screening of contacts and chemoprophylaxis with single-dose rifampicin as a crucial step to break the chain of transmission.

The National Leprosy Eradication Programme

  • It has two specific targets for 2027:
    • Interruption of transmission at district level, or zero occurrence of new child cases for at least five consecutive years; and
    • Elimination of leprosy as a disease, or no new cases reported for at least three consecutive years.
  • For this, we need interventions on supply and demand sides of health systems.

Neglected Tropical Diseases


  • A report released by the Department of Science and Technology identified states that have a high endemicity of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) such as lymphatic filariasis, a vector-borne infection that causes swelling in the legs, arms and genitalia.

About the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)

  • NTDs are a diverse group of conditions that predominantly affect people living in impoverished communities, mainly in tropical areas.
  • These diseases are caused by a variety of pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and toxins.
  • They are responsible for devastating health, social, and economic consequences, affecting more than one billion people globally.

Understanding NTDs

  • NTDs include diseases such as Buruli ulcer, Chagas disease, dengue and chikungunya, dracunculiasis, echinococcosis, foodborne trematodiases, human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, mycetoma, chromoblastomycosis and other deep mycoses, noma, onchocerciasis, rabies, scabies and other ectoparasitoses, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiases, snakebite envenoming, taeniasis/cysticercosis, trachoma, and yaws.
  • These diseases thrive among people living in impoverished communities, where access to quality health services, clean water, and sanitation is scarce.
  • The epidemiology of NTDs is complex and often related to environmental conditions.
  • Many of them are vector-borne, have animal reservoirs, and are associated with complex life cycles, making their public health control challenging.

Global Impact and Efforts

  • NTDs impose a devastating human, social, and economic burden on more than one billion people worldwide.
  • They are mainly prevalent among impoverished communities in tropical areas, although some have a much larger geographical distribution.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a new road map for NTDs, proposing ambitious targets and innovative approaches to tackle these diseases.
    • The targets include the eradication of dracunculiasis (guinea worm) and yaws and a 90% reduction in the need for treatment for NTDs by 2030.

NTDs in India

  • In India, the most common NTDs are Lymphatic Filariasis, Visceral Leishmaniasis, Rabies, Leptospirosis, Dengue, and Soil-Transmitted Helminthic Infections (STH).
  • However, India has made tremendous progress in controlling many such neglected tropical diseases in recent years.

State of India’s Environment 2024


  • Recently, the ‘State of India’s Environment 2024’ Report was published by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) providing a comprehensive overview of the country’s environmental scenario.


Key Highlights of the Report

  • The report was officially launched at the Anil Agarwal Dialogue 2024, CSE’s annual conclave for journalists writing and reporting on environment and development.
  • The report presents data that says about 109 nations suffered losses due to extreme weather events in 2023, with countries in Africa, Europe and West Asia taking up the lion’s share.
  • In India, 2023 saw its warmest ever August and September in 122 years.
  • Through the year, the country witnessed an extreme weather event almost every day — over the 365 days, such events happened on 318 days.
  • They claimed 3,287 human lives, affected 2.21 million hectare (ha) of crop area, damaged 86,432 houses and caused 124,813 animal deaths.
    • All 36 states and Union territories were affected.


  • The report underscores the urgent need for a paradigm shift in environmental management. Technological fixes will not be enough.
  • There is a need to reinvent the narrative of environmental management, focusing on sustainable and equitable development using exhaustive data and well-researched facts.