Down To Earth (May 01-15-2024)


  • The world is fast-tracking the transition to a green economy and moving towards renewables, like solar and wind, to replace coal and gas in energy systems.
About the Green Economy
  • It is a transformative approach to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication by reorienting decision-making in both public and private sectors.
  • It aims to facilitate economic growth and sustainable, inclusive development while reducing environmental degradation.
Shift to Renewables
  • The world is rapidly transitioning to a green economy, moving towards renewables like solar and wind to replace coal and gas in energy systems, towards electric vehicles to replace oil for transportation, and towards hydrogen to replace fossil fuels in industry and energy.
  • The world needs to move quickly and at scale, but the business model for this new green world is still under question due to the inherent problems with the old model of resource utilisation and its social and environmental fallouts.
Need for Minerals in the Green Economy
  • In the new green economy, the world will still need minerals, though different ones—lithium, nickel, copper, cobalt, graphite—but still those that are found under forests and on the lands of the most marginalised.
United Nations’ Perspective
  • The UN has been at the forefront of promoting the Green Economy as a means to accelerate progress towards sustainable development.
  • The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and other UN agencies have initiated various programs to demystify the concept of the Green Economy and address knowledge gaps.
  • The UN has recognized the Green Economy as an important tool for sustainable development that can drive economic growth, employment, and poverty eradication, while maintaining the healthy functioning of the Earth’s ecosystems.
India’s Approach to the Green Economy
  • As per the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook, India is projected to grow at 6.8% in 2022, one of the fastest among major economies.
  • Major steps taken for reducing carbon emission and moving towards sustainable development goals include permitting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) up to 100% under the automatic route for renewable energy projects, waiver of Inter State Transmission System (ISTS) charges for inter-state sale of solar and wind power for projects to be commissioned by 2025, and launching of schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM), Solar Rooftop Phase II, 12000 MW CPSU Scheme Phase II, etc.


Key Issues
  • Issue of Mineral Extraction: The mining of raw materials, needed for energy and industry, have led to massive environmental fallouts.
    • In India, this mineral wealth is often under forests, wildlife habitats, and tribal homes, leading to deforestation and displacement of local communities.
    • The green transition will mean an exponential growth in the need for these critical minerals.
  • Environmental and Social Justice in India: In India, efforts to make mineral extraction environmentally and socially just have not yielded solutions that work. The grand idea of sharing benefits or making people partners in mineral development got reduced to an additional cess on minerals.
  • Issue of Project Location: The location of projects has always led to contests in the old economy because communities feared that pollution would jeopardise their life and livelihood.
  • The Green Economy is not just a concept, but a pathway to a sustainable future. It requires a global effort, with countries like India and the United States leading the way.
  • By reorienting our economic systems towards sustainability, we can ensure a healthier planet for future generations.


  • Recently, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), typically known for their arid desert climate, have recently experienced unprecedented rainfall i.e. highest rainfall in 75 years.
Record Rainfall in UAE
  • The UAE, host of the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) to the UNFCCC, has received its highest rainfall in 75 years.
  • The Khatm al-Shakla area in Al Ain witnessed 254.8 mm of precipitation in less than 24 hours, marking an exceptional event in the country’s climatic history.
  • Dubai experienced major flooding as 1.5 year’s worth of rain fell in a single day1. Scenes from Dubai showed the megacity flooded with water.
Reason Behind the Rainfall
  • The primary reason for these heavy rains was a storm system, which was passing through the Arabian Peninsula and moving across the Gulf of Oman.
  • It brought record rainfall that flooded highways, inundated houses, grid-locked traffic and trapped people in their homes.
Role of Climate Change and Global Warming
  • Climate change, fuelled by anthropogenic activities, is leading to more extreme weather events around the world, including intense rainfall.
  • A low pressure system in the upper atmosphere, coupled with low pressure at the surface had acted like a pressure ‘squeeze’ on the air, intensified by the contrast between warmer temperatures at ground level and colder temperatures higher up, creating the conditions for the powerful thunderstorm.
  • Global Warming: According to the World Weather Attribution initiative, climate change was causing extreme rainfall events in the two countries — which typically fall during El Niño years — between 10 and 40% more intense than they would have been without global warming.
    • The atmosphere in a 1.2-degree warmer world can now hold 8.4% more moisture, which is making extreme rain events more intense.
    • Changing circulation patterns driven by global warming are also increasing rainfall intensity.
  • El Nino: The rainfall happened after months of hotter-than-average sea surface temperatures partly caused by El Niño – which is when warm waters rise to the surface of parts of the Pacific Ocean.
    • The higher ocean temperatures added more moisture to the atmosphere, making heavy rainfall more likely.
  • Infrastructure and Soil of the Region: Cities built without adequate storm management combined with very dry soils in the region that struggle to absorb excess water also made the impact worse.
    • The UAE and Oman floods have shown that even dry regions can be strongly affected by precipitation events, a threat that is increasing with increasing global warming due to fossil fuel burning.


  • Recently, the Supreme Court of India recognised that citizens have a right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change, saying it is intertwined with the fundamental rights to life and equality.
About the Protection from Climate Change
  • Climate change, a global concern, has far-reaching implications for human rights. In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court of India recognized the right to be free of the adverse effects of climate change as a distinct fundamental right.
Constitutional Rights and Climate Change
  • Article 48A mandates that the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.
  • Similarly, Clause (g) of Article 51A imposes a duty on every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment.
  • Right to Equality: Climate change disproportionately affects underserved communities, violating the right to equality.
    • Examples include the impact of food and water shortages on poorer communities, and the differential impact of sea-level rise on people living in different geographical locations.
  • Right to Life: Climate change impacts the right to life and health, as recognized under Article 21, through factors such as air pollution, shifts in vector-borne diseases, rising temperatures, droughts, food shortages due to crop failure, storms, and flooding.
  • Right to a Clean Environment: The Supreme Court of India has long recognized the right to live in a clean environment as part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
    • However, given the increasing threat from climate change, the Court has now reasoned that the right to be protected from climate change and the right to a wholesome environment are two sides of the same coin.

Related Supreme Court Judgement

  • Virender Gaur Vs State of Haryana (1995): SC recognised the right to a clean environment while observing that ecological balance is critical for Right to Life (Article 21), and that any actions that pollute the environment should be regarded as amounting to violation of Article 21.
  • Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board Vs Kenchappa (2006): SC took note of the adverse effects of rising sea levels and rising global temperatures.
  • Bombay Dyeing Vs Bombay Environmental Action Group (2006): SC recognised that climate change posed a ‘major threat’ to the environment.
  • MC Mehta Vs Kamal Nath (2000): SC held that Articles 48A and 51A(g), which say that the protection and improvement of the natural environment is the duty of the State and every citizen, must be interpreted in light of Article 21.


Legislative Measures and Climate Change
  • India has enacted several laws to protect the environment, including the Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, and the National Green Tribunal Act 2010, and amendments to the Energy Conservation Act 2001.
    • Despite numerous policies and regulations, there is no single or umbrella legislation in India that specifically addresses climate change and its concerns.
Impact of Climate Change on Fundamental Rights
  • Climate change impacts the right to life and health, as recognized under Article 21, through factors such as air pollution, shifts in vector-borne diseases, rising temperatures, droughts, food shortages due to crop failure, storms, and flooding.
  • Climate change disproportionately affects underserved communities, violating the right to equality.
  • Impact on Indigenous Communities: Climate change poses a significant threat to the livelihood, culture, and religion of indigenous communities, thereby impacting their right to equality.
Pressing Challenges
  • India faces several near-term challenges that directly impact the right to a healthy environment, particularly for vulnerable and indigenous communities.
  • Right to a Healthy Environment: The right to a healthy environment encapsulates the principle that every individual is entitled to live in an environment that is clean, safe, and conducive to their well-being.
    • It is particularly relevant in the context of climate change and environmental degradation
  • The recognition of the right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change as a distinct fundamental right is a significant step towards a sustainable future.
  • It underscores the need for comprehensive climate change legislation and highlights the importance of environmental protection in realising the fundamental rights to life and equality.


  • Driven by surge in global trials and low success rate of current medications in treating mental health problems, researchers call for home-grown clinical trials of psychedelic drugs
What Are Psychedelic Drugs?
  • Psychedelic drugs alter a person’s thoughts and perceptions, often inducing intense hallucinations.
  • The word ‘psychedelic’ comes from Greek words denoting ‘mind’ or ‘soul’ and ‘manifesting’.
  • Psychotropic Substances: These substances are a subset of psychotropic compounds that can significantly affect mental states.
Global Research
  • Approximately five psychedelics are currently under global clinical research for treating mental health problems are Psilocybin, Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methamphetamine (MDMA), Ketamine, and N, N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
How Psychedelics Differ from Conventional Medications
  • Serotonin Interaction: Most psychedelics work by increasing serotonin availability in the brain. They bind to serotonin receptors more strongly than selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), commonly used for depression and anxiety.
  • Faster Mode of Action: Psychedelics tend to act faster due to their stronger receptor interaction.
  • Emotional Release: Unlike SSRIs, which reduce limbic responsiveness, psychedelics often bring about emotional release. Combined with psychological support, this emotional release may have therapeutic benefits.
Subject of Study
  • Known Psychedelics: Around 100 substances exhibit psychedelic properties globally.
  • Focus of Research: Five psychedelics have been the subject of research in the past two decades are LSD, MDMA, DMT, Ketamine, and Psilocybin.
  • Clinical Trials Status
    • MDMA: Completed phase 3 trials for PTSD
    • Ketamine: Under evaluation for treatment-resistant depression
    • Others: Currently in phases 1 and 2 trials
Mechanisms of Action
  • Neuroplasticity: Scientists believe psychedelics induce neuroplasticity, allowing neurons and neural networks to rewire in response to new stimulation.
  • Shift in Perception: Another theory suggests that psychedelics decrease connectivity within the differential mode network, altering self-perception from an individual-centred view to a broader perspective.
Global Crackdown on Psychedelics
  • Research on psychedelics faced significant obstacles due to a global crackdown from the 1970s to the 2000s.
  • Legislation and Treaty: The US introduced legislation in 1970 to prohibit psychedelics, followed by the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1971. The convention categorised psychedelics based on their addictive potential and medical applications.
  • Limited Use: Despite restrictions, the convention allowed scientific and limited medical use of psychedelics with government authorization.
  • India’s NDPS Act: India enacted the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act in 1985, listing all psychotropic drugs under one schedule. State drug controllers monitor their use.
  • Nonprofits Organisation' Role: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and Heffter Research Institute played a crucial role in legitimising psychedelic research.
  • Industry Interest: MAPS, initially a non-profit, has become more industry-oriented. It collaborates in clinical trials and influences drug approvals.
Industry-Sponsored Clinical Trials and Conflict of Interest
  • Circumspection: Researchers express caution about industry-sponsored clinical trials due to conflicts of interest.
  • MAPS Influence: MAPS’ studies may have influenced Australian regulators to approve MDMA for PTSD treatment.
Australian Case
  • Regulatory Change: In 2023, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration downgraded MDMA (for PTSD) and psilocybin (for treatment-resistant depression) from Schedule 9 to Schedule 8.
  • Rationale: Clinical trials supported the efficacy of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD, while psilocybin showed positive evidence for treatment-resistant depression.


Do You Know?

  • Research on psychedelic drugs had stopped in the 1970s and started again around 2000
    • 1912: A German company develops 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methamphetamine (MDMA) to develop a new compound to control bleeding;
    • 1938: Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman synthesises lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), a derivative of ergot fungus;
    • 1943: Hoffman accidentally ingests LSD; discovers its psychoactive effect;
    • 1949: LSD introduced in the US;
    • 1956: English writer Aldous Huxley coined the term ‘psychedelic’;
    • 1957: Psilocybin isolated from mushrooms
    • 1960s: Recreational use of psychedelics widespread in the US
    • 1962: US introduces rigid criteria to evaluate drugs; no new studies approved;
    • 1950-1965: Over 1,000 papers produced on LSD, other hallucinogens; LSD prescribed to some 40,000 patients;
    • 1970: US classifies LSD as schedule I drug, a category of compounds with little medical value and high abuse potential;
    • 1971: The United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances classifies LSD, mescaline, psilocybin as schedule 1 drugs. MDMA not a part of the list yet;
    • 1975: India ratifies the UN Convention;
    • 1976: The Convention comes into force;
    • 1970- 1980s: Psychiatrists begin using MDMA in therapy;
    • 1985: MDMA placed in Schedule 1 by the US due to widespread nonmedical use and concerns of abuse potential;
    • 1985: India introduces Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, which puts nearly all drugs in the 1971 UN Convention under its ‘The Schedule’.
    • 1986: MDMA added to the 1971 UN Convention as a Schedule I substance
    • 1970s-2000s –Research on psychedelics paused; US rejects most research applications
    • 2000: Second wave of research, as Johns Hopkins University gets approval to resume studies on psychedelics


Clinical trials involving psychedelics for various mental health disorders:

Anxiety Disorders

  • Common Medications: Benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
  • Psychedelics Under Exploration: MDMA, Ketamine, Psilocybin, and LSD
  • Countries Conducting Trials: Switzerland, Israel, Canada, China, Egypt, Brazil, Poland, Turkey, France, Austria, and UK


  • Common Medications: SSRIs, SNRIs, NASSAs, TCAs, SARIs, and MAOIs.
  • Psychedelics Under Exploration: Psilocybin, LSD, Ketamine
  • Countries Conducting Trials: Switzerland, US, Germany, Canada, China, and UK

Bipolar Disorder

  • Common Medications: Mood stabilisers (e.g., lithium), atypical antipsychotics, and SSRIs.
  • Psychedelics Under Exploration: Psilocybin, N-N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), Ketamine
  • Countries Conducting Trials: China, Canada, US, and Germany

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Common Medications: SSRIs.
  • Psychedelics Under Exploration: Psilocybin, Ketamine, MDMA
  • Countries Conducting Trials: US, Netherlands, Norway, and Israel


  • Common Medications: Typical and atypical antipsychotics.
  • Psychedelics Under Exploration: Ketamine, MDMA
  • Countries Conducting Trials: US, Finland, Hong Kong

Eating Disorders

  • Common Medications: Antidepressants (e.g., SSRIs).
  • Psychedelics Under Exploration: Psilocybin, Ketamine, MDMA
  • Countries Conducting Trials: US, and UK

Disruptive Behaviour and Dissocial Disorders

  • Common Medications: Second-generation antipsychotics, stimulants, and non-stimulant ADHD medications.
  • No Clinical Trials of Psychedelics Listed.

Neurodevelopmental Disorders

  • Common Medications: Stimulants, antidepressants, antipsychotics.
  • Psychedelics Under Exploration: MM120 (LSD-based) for ADHD, Ketamine for autism spectrum disorder, Psilocybin for autism, MDMA for social anxiety in autistic adults
  • Countries Conducting Trials: US, Switzerland, Netherlands, China, UK


Possible Side Effects of Psychedelic Drugs
  • Hallucinatory Perceptual Persistence Disorder (HPPD): A very uncommon condition where symptoms experienced during acute hallucinogen intoxication reemerge even after drug cessation.
    • Both MDMA and LSD could potentially lead to HPPD.
  • Psychosis: Unregulated consumption of MDMA and LSD has been associated with cases of psychosis.
    • Individuals may experience altered perceptions, disconnection from reality, and other severe mental health symptoms.


Clinical Trials and Regulatory Considerations
  • Global Developments: The USFDA’s approval of a drug often influences other countries. If a drug receives approval in the US, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) may consider conducting an initial study or granting fast-track approval based on large-scale evidence.
  • While clinical trials and regulatory pathways are essential for evaluating safety and efficacy, it’s crucial to balance potential benefits with risks when exploring new treatments.


  • Recent study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found that the rising temperatures are pushing human tolerance to the limit, especially in urban areas.
About Urban Heat Islands (UHIs)
  • These are areas within cities that experience significantly higher temperatures than their surroundings.
  • These heat-trapping zones have direct and indirect effects on human health, exacerbating the challenges posed by rising temperatures.
  • Urban heat islands refer to localised areas in cities where temperatures are notably elevated compared to nearby rural or suburban regions.
Factors Contributing to UHIs
  • Built Environment: Poorly planned infrastructure, dense buildings, and heat-absorbing materials contribute to UHIs.
  • Reduced Green Spaces: Urbanisation often leads to the loss of natural vegetation, reducing cooling effects.
  • Human Activities: Increased use of vehicles, air conditioners, and industrial processes intensifies heat retention.
Health Impacts of Urban Heat Islands
  • Direct Effects on Health:
    • Heat-Related Mortality: UHIs contribute to higher daytime temperatures, leading to heat-related deaths during extreme heat events.
    • Heat-Related Illnesses: Residents experience discomfort, respiratory difficulties, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and non-fatal heat stroke.
    • Vulnerable Populations: Elderly individuals and low-income communities are particularly at risk in UHI-affected areas.
  • Indirect Effects:
    • Air Pollution: UHIs worsen air quality, exacerbating respiratory problems and cardiovascular diseases.
    • Altered Rainfall Patterns: UHIs can disrupt local weather patterns, affecting water availability and quality.
    • Climate Change Amplification: UHIs, combined with global climate change, may intensify future heat impacts.
Why Are Cities Heating Up?
  • Cities worldwide are experiencing rising temperatures, leading to heat stress and health risks for their inhabitants. The root causes of this urban heating phenomenon lie in poorly planned infrastructure and human activities.
Factors Driving Urban Heat Islands
  • Grey Infrastructure that includes buildings, roads, and other man-made structures.
    • Heat Retention: Poorly designed buildings with materials like concrete and inadequate roofing and walling contribute to heat retention.
    • Inefficient Layouts: Uninformed building layouts hinder heat mitigation and disrupt natural wind flow.
  • Decline in Blue-Green Spaces:
    • Natural Heat Sinks: Blue-green spaces, such as water bodies and vegetation, act as natural heat sinks.
    • Loss of Surface Water and Green Cover:

Example: Kolkata lost 39% of its surface water and 18.7% of its green cover between 1999 and 2021.

Pune lost 31.8% of surface water and a massive 91.3% of green cover during the same period.

Jaipur and Delhi also faced significant losses in surface water and green cover.

Anthropogenic Activities and Their Impact
  • Excessive Vehicle Use: Private motorised vehicles contribute to air pollution and heat emissions.
    • Increased vehicle use exacerbates urban heat.
  • Refrigerators and Air-Conditioners:
    • Refrigeration and air-conditioning systems emit greenhouse gases.
    • Responsible for 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
    • Growing Demand: By 2037-38, 40% of urban households in India are expected to own room air conditioners, up from less than 10% currently.
Signs of Thermal Inequity: Vulnerability to Urban Heat
  • While cities worldwide grapple with heat stress, the impact on different population groups varies significantly. Children, the elderly, and the poor face heightened health risks due to extreme heat.


Vulnerable Age Groups
  • Elderly Population:
    • Risk Factors: Comorbidities and reduced adaptability to temperature changes.

Heat-related deaths among adults over 65 have increased by 85% since the 1990s.

    • Projected Impact: If global mean temperature rises to just under 2°C, annual heat-related deaths in this age group may increase by 370% by midcentury1.
  • Children:
    • Dependence on adults for hydration.
    • Early start or extension of summer vacations in schools due to heat concerns.
  • Impact on the Poor
    • Congested and Polluted Locations: Poor communities often reside in overcrowded, highly polluted areas.
    • Lack of access to electricity, water, sanitation, and healthcare compounds vulnerability.
    • Outdoor work increases prolonged heat exposure for the poor.
Future Risks
  • Climate change and urban expansion may amplify heat-related health risks
  • By 2100, heat-related mortality in Europe could increase significantly due to climate change and urban growth.
Mitigating Urban Heat Islands
  • Green Infrastructure: Increase green spaces, plant trees, and create urban parks to provide natural cooling.
  • Cool Roofs and Pavements: Use reflective materials to reduce heat absorption.
  • Urban Planning: Optimise building layouts and materials to minimise heat retention.
  • Public Awareness: Educate residents about heat risks and preventive measures.


  • Significant presence of microplastics in Puducherry’s agricultural soil raises concerns for soil and crop health.
  • Microplastics, tiny plastic particles measuring less than 100μm, have infiltrated agricultural ecosystems, posing risks to soil health, plant growth, and human well-being.
  • As plastic waste accumulates in the environment, it breaks down into smaller fragments, eventually forming microplastics.
  • Microplastics, minuscule fragments measuring less than 0.5 cm, have become widespread in the environment due to improper disposal of plastics.
  • India, where plastic waste generation has doubled in five years, faces significant microplastic contamination across various ecosystems, including agricultural lands.
Sources and Distribution
  • Plastic Waste Accumulation: Only about 20% of plastics are recycled globally; the remaining 80% accumulates in soil, rivers, and oceans.
    • Larger plastic debris in landfills gradually breaks down into microplastics.
    • Data from European farms indicates an annual deposition of approximately 50,000 tonnes of microplastics into the soil.
    • Over two decades, plastic mulch usage in China’s agricultural fields has increased fourfold, leading to higher microplastic contamination in the soil.
Impact on Soil Health and Nutrient Cycling
  • Microorganisms and Earthworms: Microplastics alter soil biogeochemical processes, affecting soil microorganisms.
    • Microplastics can be consumed by soil microorganisms critical for soil health.
  • Earthworms, crucial for nutrient cycling, can ingest and accumulate microplastics.

Microplastics and Soil Health

  • Global Impact: Microplastics pollute land worldwide, affecting soil properties and ecosystems.
  • Soil health is crucial for crop productivity and local livelihoods.
Plant Roots:
  • Microplastics are not directly absorbed by plants.
  • Accumulation at root tips hinders root system development.
  • Ecological Consequences and Human Health Risks
Transport and Leaching:
  • Microplastics can be transported by winds, potentially affecting regions beyond their immediate vicinity.
  • Leaching into groundwater introduces harmful chemicals into water resources.
Irrigation Water Contamination:
  • Irrigation water contains 50-144 microplastic particles per litre.
  • Microplastics enter the soil through irrigation, impacting crop growth and the food chain.
Mitigation Strategies
  • Effective Waste Management: Strict waste management practices are essential to prevent plastic accumulation.
    • Promote recycling and reduce plastic usage.
  • Plastic Alternatives: Explore sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics.
    • Educate communities about responsible plastic disposal.



  • Recently, the US EPA designated widely used industrial chemicals as hazardous substances under the country's Superfund programme, accelerating a crackdown on toxic compounds known as ‘forever chemicals’.
About the Forever Chemicals ( Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances)
  • These are a group of man-made chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s.
  • They are used in a wide range of consumer products, from non-stick pans and waterproof clothing to makeup and fire fighting foams.
    • However, these chemicals pose a significant threat to human health and the environment due to their persistence and toxicity.
  • PFAS are called ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not naturally break down and can persist in the environment for decades.
  • They are made up of chains of carbon and fluorine atoms held together by some of the strongest chemical bonds in nature.
  • It makes them highly resistant to heat, water, and oil, properties that have made them popular in a wide range of applications.
Health Risks
  • Chronic exposure to PFAS has been linked to a host of health issues, including cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease, and reduced immune responses.
  • They have also been associated with low birth weights and several kinds of cancer.
  • PFAS are pervasive in the environment and have been detected in soil, dust, and drinking water around the world.
  • Studies suggest they’re in 98% of Americans’ bodies.
Efforts to Destroy Forever Chemicals
  • Scientists are working on methods to capture these synthetic chemicals and destroy them, but it isn’t simple.
  • The latest breakthrough, published in the journal Science, shows how one class of PFAS can be broken down into mostly harmless components using sodium hydroxide, or lye, an inexpensive compound used in soap.
  • It isn’t an immediate solution to this vast problem, but it offers new insight.


  • According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the levels of the three most important human-caused greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide — continued their steady climb during 2023.
About the Greenhouse Gases
  • These are a group of gases in Earth’s atmosphere that have the unique ability to trap heat, thereby maintaining the Earth’s atmosphere at a habitable temperature.
  • The three main greenhouse gases emitted by human activity that are the most significant contributors to climate change are Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), and Nitrous Oxide (N2O).

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

  • It enters the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil), solid waste, trees and other biological materials, and also as a result of certain chemical reactions (e.g cement production).
  • Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere (or ‘sequestered’) when it is absorbed by plants as part of the biological carbon cycle.
  • The global surface average for CO2 rose by 2.13 parts per million (ppm) to 417.06 ppm, roughly the same rate observed during the last decade.
  • Atmospheric CO2 is now 50% higher than pre-industrial levels.

Methane (CH4)

  • It is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil.
  • Methane emissions also result from livestock and other agricultural practices, land use, and by the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills.
  • Atmospheric methane, which is far less abundant but much more potent than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere, increased to an average of 1,911.9 parts per billion (ppb).
  • The 2022 methane increase was 14.0 ppb, the fourth-largest annual increase recorded since NOAA’s systematic measurements began in 1983, and follows record growth in 2020 and 2021.
  • Methane levels in the atmosphere are now more than two and a half times their pre-industrial level.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O)

  • It is emitted during agricultural, land use, and industrial activities; combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste; as well as during treatment of wastewater.
  • In 2022, levels of the third-most significant anthropogenic greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, rose by 1.24 ppb to 335.7 ppb, which is tied with 2014 as the third-largest jump since 2000 and a 24% increase over its pre-industrial level of 270 ppb.
  • The two years of highest growth occurred in 2020 and 2021.
  • Increases in atmospheric nitrous oxide during recent decades are mainly from use of nitrogen fertiliser and manure from the expansion and intensification of agriculture.
Impact of Greenhouse Gases
  • The concentrations of these greenhouse gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere rose to record levels in 2022.
  • The rise in concentrations of GHGs is mainly due to the use of fossil fuels for various human activities.
  • These increases in greenhouse gas concentrations are the drivers of increasing planetary temperatures.
  • Periodic analysis of emissions data is a crucial step for implementing the convention and progressing on tackling the climate crisis. 



  • Recently, it was found that Veeranam Lake — one of Chennai city’s primary water sources—has run dry.
About Veeranam Lake
  • Veeranam Lake (aka Veeranarayanapuram Lake) is located in the Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, India.
  • It spans an area of approximately 16 square kilometres and has a storage capacity of around 1,465 million cubic metres of water.
  • It gets water from the Kollidam River via the Vadavaru River1. The lake remains dry for the major part of the year.
Historical Importance
  • It was built in the 10th century during the time of Greater Cholas (907–955 CE).
  • It was constructed by Rajaditya Chola with his soldiers during leisure times, when they had camped at Thirumunaipadi for a war against Pallava kings.
  • He named it after the Vishnu temple located nearby and it was also his father’s Parantaka I 's title name ‘Veeranarayanan’.
In Literature
  • The opening chapter of the book Ponniyin Selvan is set on the banks of the Veera Narayana Lake.
  • Kalki gives an elaborate description of the features of the lake and the way multiple rivers flow into the lake.
Role in Water Supply
  • Veeranam Lake is one of the water reservoirs from where water is supplied to Chennai city.
  • The lake can hold up to 1,465 mcft of water.
  • Though the level in the Veeranam lake has dipped to 323 million cubic feet (mcft), the same amount of 180 mld (million litres a day) was being drawn for supply to Chennai City.


  • Recently, the CCPA has turned its attention to the food industry, specifically focusing on the sugar content in food products
  • The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) of India has been actively involved in safeguarding consumer rights and ensuring fair trade practices.
  • The CCPA, established under the Consumer Protection Act of 2019, regulates matters relating to violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and false or misleading advertisements.
  • It has the power to pass orders of discontinuation of practices that are unfair and prejudicial to consumers’ interests and impose penalties in case of false or misleading advertisements.
Issue at Hand
  • The CCPA has recently asked the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to take appropriate action concerning the sugar limit set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • It is seen as a significant step towards regulating sugar content in food products and aligning it with international standards.
WHO’s Stand on Sugar Intake
  • The WHO has been vocal about the health risks associated with high sugar intake.
  • It has set guidelines for sugar consumption, recommending that both adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake.
  • A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.
FSSAI’s Role
  • The FSSAI, under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety.
  • The FSSAI has been working on various fronts to ensure that food products sold in India meet certain standards.
  • It has been actively involved in setting food standards, compliance, and inspection, licensing food business operators, and conducting food analysis and quality control.


  • Two years after becoming the only state to be excluded from the Centre’s rural employment guarantee scheme, villages in West Bengal grapple with distress migration and debt traps.
  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) was designed to provide livelihood security to rural households by guaranteeing 100 days of work at minimum wages.
  • However, in recent years, the absence of MGNREGS in West Bengal has had severe repercussions on the socio-economic fabric of rural communities.
Absence of MGNREGS in West Bengal
  • Approximately two years ago, the MGNREGS program in West Bengal ground to a halt due to a funding dispute between the central and state governments.
  • As a result, at least 13.2 million MGNREGS workers were left without any alternative employment opportunities.
  • The absence of this vital support system has exacerbated the already precarious socio-economic conditions prevalent in rural areas.
Migration and Debt Traps
  • Emergence of ‘Ghost Villages’: Parts of West Bengal are witnessing the emergence of what locals refer to as ‘ghost villages.’
  • Able-bodied individuals, unable to find work locally, have migrated in search of employment opportunities elsewhere.
  • Those who have left lament the loss of their identity and dignity, while those who remain struggle to meet their basic needs.
Impact on Livelihoods
  • Former MGNREGS workers in West Bengal relied on the scheme for stable income during lean agricultural seasons.
    • The 100 days of assured work provided a lifeline for rural households.
  • However, the absence of MGNREGS has forced many inhabitants to borrow money to meet their basic needs, pushing them into a vicious cycle of debt from which escape seems increasingly elusive.
Health and Nutrition
  • The deprivation of 100 days’ assured work and non-payment of due wages have not only increased debt but also had a direct impact on diet and nutrition.
  • Residents across villages in Jalangi, Raninagar, and Akhriganj Panchayat Samiti have reported worsening socio-economic conditions due to the lack of MGNREGS support.


  • In early April, the US confirmed the first case of avian influenza in livestock, along with cow-to-human transmission of the virus disease.
About Avian Influenza (H5N1)
  • Avian influenza, commonly known as ‘bird flu’ is a highly infectious respiratory disease that primarily affects birds.
    • Among the various strains of avian influenza, H5N1 stands out due to its potential impact on both birds and humans.
  • Human Infections: While primarily affecting birds, H5N1 infections in mammals, including humans, have been documented.
  • Severity: H5N1 can cause a range of diseases in humans, from mild to severe, and in some cases, it can be fatal.
Spread and Concerns
  • Geographical Spread: Earlier this year, a new strain of H5N1 explosively spread to new regions, affecting wild birds and various mammal species.
  • Contagiousness: The strain is highly contagious among wild birds.
  • Human Risk: Although there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission, mutations in the H5N1 virus raise concerns about a potential pandemic among humans.
Symptoms and Safety Measures
  • Human Symptoms: H5N1 infection symptoms vary but can include fever, cough, sore throat, and difficulty breathing.
  • Eating Safety: It is generally safe to consume eggs, chicken, and other meats from areas with H5N1 outbreaks in animals.
  • Safe Preparation: Properly cooking meat and eggs from affected areas minimises the risk of infection.
  • Dairy Products: Drinking milk and consuming dairy products from areas with infected animals is generally safe.


Treatment and Vaccination
  • Treatment: H5N1 virus infection in humans is treated symptomatically, and supportive care is crucial.
  • Vaccine Availability: Currently, there is no widely available vaccine to prevent human infection with H5N1 viruses.
  • Seasonal Flu Vaccination: Seasonal influenza vaccines do not specifically protect against H5N1 viruses.
Global Response
  • WHO’s Role: WHO plays a critical role in monitoring and responding to H5N1 influenza outbreaks.
  • Investigations: WHO guidelines help public health authorities investigate human cases of A(H5N1) and other novel influenza viruses.
  • Research and Preparedness: Ongoing research and preparedness efforts are essential to prevent potential pandemics and protect global health.


  1. How can India accelerate its transition toward a more sustainable and environmentally friendly economy while addressing the challenges posed by rapid urbanisation, industrial growth, and climate change?
  2. What are the key strategies and initiatives that India should prioritise in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change and promote sustainable development?
  3. What are the potential therapeutic benefits and risks associated with the use of psychedelic substances in treating mental health conditions like depression and anxiety?
  4. How do Urban Heat Islands affect the well-being of residents in densely populated cities, and what strategies can be implemented to mitigate their adverse effects on physical and mental health?
  5. How do microplastics impact soil health, crop productivity, and overall ecosystem resilience in agricultural areas? What measures can farmers and policymakers take to reduce the presence of microplastics in soil and safeguard food security?