Down To Earth(June16-30 2022)

Note: Please note that some inputs have been given by our team in order to make the topic more relevant to UPSC.


Prelims FOCUS

Unconventional Water Resources: In a Report published by UN University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health, six categories of unconventional water sources have been identified. These sources are unusual and underutilized. The sources are as below:

Harvesting Water from the Air through cloud seeding and fog harvesting

Tapping Fresh and Brackish Groundwater offshore and onshore through desalination

Reusing Municipal wastewater and agricultural drainage

Micro-scale capture of Rainwater, mostly recommended in dry regions

Moving water physically through towing polar sea caps or using ballast water used by cargo ships for balance at sea

Desalination, which already supports 5% of the global population


Thermal Comfort

Topics covered from the syllabus:

GS-3: Awareness Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

GS-3: Disaster and disaster management.


Prelims Facts

Climate Risk Atlas for India: The report summarizes and predicts the impact of global warming on India’s climate, food and water systems, ecosystems and people of India.

The report is a science-based tool to support decision making and policy formulation in the country.

It has been released by G20.


Context: An increase in average global temperature would affect the urban poor disproportionately higher leading to a rise in health-related issues and decrease in productivity.

Reasons for Increasing Heat Waves

Urbanization: Urban areas suffer disproportionately due to the impact of heat waves. This is due to the very structure of Urban areas. For instance, they have higher percentage of concrete, densely packed buildings, presence of greenhouse effect due to glass structure and higher density of people, which together contribute to the formation of heat islands in the urban areas. According to UN Environment Programme (UNEP), cities worldwide could warm up 4°C on an average by 2100.

Unsustainable Lifestyle: Urban lifestyle including bigger cars, which have higher emissions, as well as lead to traffic congestion, have led to an increase in average temperature of urban areas.

Rapid Increase: Similarly, poorly designed buildings and irrational use of air conditioning, has compounded the effect of higher temperature. This is slated to increase further as per UN estimates which says that India’s urban population would double to 877 million between 2018 and 2050.

Growth of Residential dwellings: As per India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP), about 178 million sq m of area is added every year in the Indian residential sector. Similarly, PM Away Yojana- Urban (PMAY-U) seeks to add about 1.12 crore dwelling units for the low income groups within the next few years.

Lack of Proper Ventilation: With the rapid growth of air conditioners, there is an increasing trend of confinement and closed spaces for active cooling, against the earlier preferred naturally ventilated buildings. This was also flagged as one of the factors for the rapid spread of viral load during the pandemic.

Deforestation: Trees have the capacity to decrease the impact of heatwaves and high temperatures. However, an expansion in the residential requirements as well as commercial complexes has meant fewer trees and nearby forests in the urban areas. As per an estimate, urban areas are 4-12 °C warmer than the surrounding areas with green cover.

Global Warming and its Impacts

Global Warming: Heatwaves are defined by IMD as a condition when the maximum temperature departure is 4.5°C or more from normal and can last for several days. The intense heatwaves and the rising temperatures point out to an increase in global warming across the globe. In fact, this March was recorded as the hottest in 122 years.

Uncharted Territories: Similarly, Himachal Pradesh saw its first intense heatwave since 1970. 17 States and Union territories have recorded heatwaves this year till the month of June. As per the Climate Risk Atlas for India (see inset), heatwaves in India could be 25 times longer between 2036 and 2065.

Decrease in Productivity: Heatwaves can increase the risk of fatality for humans as well as other organisms. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says that heatwaves have killed more than 20,000 people in the last 20 years. International Labour organization has warned that heat stress may lead to a loss of millions of jobs.

Fatal Loss: The problem with Indian weather is presence of humidity along with heatwave. In normal heat, perspiration mechanism of the body leads to a release of sweat and cools down the temperature of body as the sweat evaporates. However, a high relative humidity means that sweat does not evaporate, leading to defeating of the perspiration mechanism and discomfort for the person. This can sometimes get aggravated and lead to serious damage to the bodily integrity.

Energy Costs: A rise in temperature creates a vicious cycle of energy spending. As mentioned earlier, poorly designed glass buildings have a pronounced greenhouse effect, increasing the need for air conditioning. At the same time, exhaust from air conditioning tends to increase the outside temperature, further enhancing the consumption of electricity required for air conditioning.

Electricity Requirements: This is corroborated by the NITI Aayog report which sees an increased penetration of air conditioners: from 1 per 100 persons in 2015 to 15 per 100 persons in 2047. This would also lead to a sevenfold increase in the requirement of electricity by 2032.

Impact on Urban Poor: The problem is more severe for the Urban poor, who live in overcrowded slums or ghettos, with no ventilation and open areas. As per a UNEP report, 24 cities in India will see the average summertime temperature of 35 °C by 2050. The impact will be disproportionately higher for the urban poor as compared to the richer class.

Interventions in Residential Sector

India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP): This is an initiative of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. It was launched in 2019. The plan seeks to decrease the cooling demand of the country by 20-25% and cooling energy requirement by 25-40% by 2037-38. It mandates thermal comfort standards for buildings, influenced by factors like natural ventilation, shading and bio-climatic features.

Building Plans: The current regulations involving the construction of buildings include Eco Niwas Samhita 2018, which is the energy efficiency building code for residential buildings, and National Building Code 2016. Both these provisions address energy efficiency concerns by prescribing strategies including building envelope, day lighting, material, orientation and ventilation.

Design Changes: As per the Report, changes in building construction and design have major impacts on the thermal comfort in a building. For instance, changing the orientation of the building such that the front is in the north-south alignment can decrease the heat absorbed by the building by almost 20%.

Construction Material: Similarly, using fly-ash bricks instead of concrete blocks also decreases the heat gain of building by almost 40%. At the same time, appropriate shading, combined with wall mass, can also increase the number of thermally comfortable inside the dwelling unit.

Effect of Colour: Experts have also indicated the effect of colouring on thermal comfort. For e.g., experts favour work on dark surfaces including roofs and pavements. At the same time, the top of the building should be such that it has high albedo. This can be achieved by the use of green roofs, white roofs, planting etc.

Overall Environment: By assessing various projects, experts have concluded the efficacy of building design in improving thermal comfort of a building. For instance, staggered buildings, having mid-rise height, clustered diagonally to the wind flow and having adequate distance between the blocks have better air flow.

Effect of Building Plan: Height of the buildings and distance between them also plays a role in daylight penetration inside the building. Similarly, tall buildings constrict the wind movement, trapping the heat and contributing to the formation of isolated heat islands in the city.

Use of Local Materials: There is a need to understand the importance of traditionally-used local materials and designs in building construction. For instance, the use of mud, bamboo, wild grass from riverine, highlands and coastal plains, laterite bricks from coastal areas and stones from highland regions has the potential to decrease heat gain. Similarly, by-product of crops like rice-thatch can be used for roof construction.

A mix of Modern and traditional construction: While the use of local material has evolved over time to address the need for thermal comfort, the use of modern technology is needed for increasing the resilience of building and making it strong enough to withstand disasters like earthquake.

Improving the Micro-Environment: Experts have contended that rather than being prescriptive in the guidelines, the focus should be on being contextual. The issue of thermal comfort in the buildings needs to be addressed holistically so as to provide a healthy and productive environment.


An increase in urbanization has led to rise in demand of residential buildings and congestion in India. This has also increased the thermal discomfort in the homes. There is a need to address the issue of thermal comfort by making use of local traditional knowledge as well as modern design innovations in the construction of residential buildings. It can play an important role in India’s pathway towards faster, but energy-efficient economic development.

Practice Question

Analyze the effect of urbanization on decreasing thermal comfort in the design of newly constructed buildings. Suggest changes to the building codes in order to decrease the heat gain in the buildings.


‘Climate Change’ is a global problem. How India will be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change? (GS3 – 2017)

Vulnerability is an essential element for defining disaster impacts and its threat to people. How and in what ways can vulnerability to disasters be characterized? Discuss different types of vulnerability with reference to disasters. (GS3 – 2019)

Fodder Price Rise

Topics covered from the syllabus:

GS-3: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System-objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.

GS-3: Major crops-cropping patterns in various parts of the country, - different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.


Prelims Facts

20th Livestock Census 2019: Livestock Census is conducted by Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying under Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying. Livestock Census has been conducted in India every 5 years since 1919. Key Highlights of the 20th Livestock Census are as follows:

535.78 million: Total Livestock population in the country

302.79 million: Total bovine population (including Buffalo, Cattle, Mithun and Yak)

192.49 million: Cattle population

109.85 million: Buffalo population

125.34 million: Total milch animals (in-milk and dry) including cows and buffalos

135.17 million: Goat population

State with largest livestock population: Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh


Context: Indian dairy farmers are struggling due to an increase in the prices of inputs as well as a scarcity in the availability of fodder for the livestocks.

State of Dairy Industry in India

Famine of Fodder: As per the dairy farmers, they are suffering a double whammy of unavailability of fodder as well as a rise in its prices. This is more acute in the areas where farmers have a dependency on dairy industry. For instance, 10 western districts of Rajasthan account for most of the State’s Livestock population. As per 20th Livestock Census 2019 (see inset), 20% of the earnings of people in these districts is from livestock.

Abandoning of Cattle: If the issues of scarcity of fodder persist, the dairy farmers would be pushed into either abandoning the cattle on the streets or selling them to the butchers at throwaway prices. This would also result in an increase in the number of stray cattle on the streets, which is a traffic nightmare as well as affects the aesthetics and cleanliness of a city.

Livestock Census: As per the 20th Livestock Census 2019, Uttar Pradesh has 1.18 million stray cattle. Out of these, 0.85 million cattle are in government supported gaushalas. However, they are unable to continue providing support to them due to rise in fodder prices.

Starvation Deaths: Media reports have pointed to the death of cattle in gaushalas due to starvation. The issue of rise in fodder prices snowballed into a controversy recently when Uttar Pradesh government issued orders to the government teachers to motivate people to donate fodder to the gaushalas. It was later clarified by the authorities that the order was voluntary.

Issues faced by Dairy Farmers

Fodder Price Rise: As per Media reports, fodder prices have risen threefold in last six months. Considering that food prices constitute one of the major inputs in the dairy industry, the price rise has led to decreasing profits for the dairy farmers. The rise in input prices has not been offset by an increase in the Milk prices.

Distress Sales: Rise in input prices and decrease in margins has led to an increase in sales of cows and buffalos by the farmers. However, the same issues have also caused a downfall in the demand of milch animals, leading to less than adequate compensation for sale of animals. Therefore, it has become difficult for the farmers to sustain the dairy industry.

Food Inflation: Like other sections of the society which have been affected by the rise in price of commodities like edible oil, farmers also feel the pinch. This is complicated by the relative stagnation of wholesale prices of agricultural commodities. Farmers lament that it is the traders and middlemen, who have benefited from the price rise, as they corner the increasing margins, leaving little for the actual farmer.

Extreme Weather Events: As most dairy farmers are also agriculturists, any issues related to agriculture also affect them, besides problems with the dairy industry. For instance, heatwaves in the current year have led to battering of their crops and reduced their earnings.

Double Whammy: Farmers lose out due to a decrease in output from agricultural diseases or extreme weather events. However, it is a paradoxical situation for them in case of a bumper crop. The resulting glut in the market again decreases the prices because of increased supply and constant demand, leading to reduction of prices.

Issues related to Fodder Price Rise

Reasons for Increase in Price: As per the farmers, the prices of both dry and green fodders have increased due to unavailability of fodder in the market. In fact, it is not just the fodder for cattle and buffalo, but even the plants used as fodder for sheep and goat are unavailable in the market. This has been attributed to the low yield of wheat in the Northern states. It has been indicated that the shortage in production can be attributed to unseasonal rains in the Rabi season as well as heat waves at the start of Kharif season in 2022.

Change of Crops: Apart from the extreme weather events, the shift of crops from wheat and paddy to mustard has also played a role in the decrease in production of fodder. This is corroborated by the data from Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, which says that wheat acreage is down by 0.584 million hectares (ha) as compared to the last season.

Collapse of Barter System: Traditionally, villagers exchange goods which they need from each other. For instance, cattle owners collect fodder from farmers and in return the cattle owners provide milk for personal consumption to the latter. However, the unavailability of fodder in the market has meant collapse of this system, as farmers are unable to provide fodder in return for milk from dairy farmers.

Unavailability of Workers: The farmers also lament decrease in the availability of people for grazing of cattle. It was a common practice earlier to engage people for grazing of cattle in nearby fields or market based fodder. However, the scarcity of fodder and the resultant rise in prices has also played a role in people giving up on this occupation.

Export Ban: Multiple districts including Sirsa and Rohtak in Haryana took steps to increase the availability of fodder for livestock. This included a ban on transport of fodder outside the district, ban on the use of fodder in cardboard factories and brick kilns and even imposition of section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, to prevent traders from taking fodder out of the district.

Shortage in other States: Imposition of these bans led to a shortage of fodder in states like Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh etc. as they import fodder from Haryana.

Lack of Monitoring: India is the largest producer of Milk and has one of the largest dairy industry in the world. Despite this, there is no central authority for monitoring the input prices of dairy industry across major milk-producing states viz. Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.


In the largest milk producing country across the world, it is unfortunate that the cattle in gaushalas are dying due to starvation. Though the government has plans to announce a fodder security policy, it is critical to ensure that the cattle are taken care of in such shelters. At the same time, the government must take appropriate steps to ensure affordable supply of fodder to dairy farmers in order to promote animal husbandry as a backup option for the farmers.

Practice Question

Discuss the importance of dairy farming in India, with special emphasis on its socio-economic contribution to the livelihood of farmers, as well as towards decreasing malnutrition in the country.


How far is the Integrated Farming System (IFS) helpful in sustaining agricultural production? (GS3 – 2019)

How Livestock rearing has a big potential for providing non-farm employment and income in rural areas. Discuss suggesting suitable measures to promote this sectors in India. (GS3 – 2015)