12th Sep, 2020


UN Special Rapporteurs on EIA 2020

Recently, a group of Special Rapporteurs to the United Nations (UN) has expressed concerns over the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2020.

The group has highlighted that the proposed notification appeared to have clauses that obstructed people’s rights to a safe, clean and healthy environment.

There are clauses which exempt several large industries and projects from the public consultation.

It does not require publication of information or holding of public consultation for projects labelled by the Central government as ‘involving strategic considerations’.

It allows for post-facto approval for projects. It means that the clearances for projects can be awarded even if they have started construction or have been running phase without securing environmental clearances.

The group has sought the government’s response on how the provisions of the notification are consonant with India’s obligations under international law.

Indian Government’s Response

The Environment Ministry has held that nothing in the proposed EIA, 2020 violates the UN

Declaration of Human Rights and that the rapporteurs’ concerns are misplaced.

It is still a draft and was issued for public consultation. 

The imperfections in the existing EIA would be amended in the new notification.

Special Rapporteurs are independent experts working on behalf of the UN. They work on a country or a thematic mandate specified by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).


Impact of Lockdown on Indian Corporates

Recently a credit rating agency analysis looked into the effect of prolonged nationwide lockdown on Indian corporate sector.

Around 500 companies were surveyed.

They have shown aggregate revenues contracting by 31.1% year-on-year basis in the first quarter of Financial Year 2021.

Sectors which were most-impacted: Consumer-oriented sectors, airlines, hotels, retail, automotive and consumer durables, Industrial and infrastructure-oriented sectors, non-pharma exporters, real estate and construction companies and Banking Sector.

Sectors which were less impacted: FMCG, consumer foods, IT, telecom, sugar and pharmaceuticals


Significance of Dead Coral Reef

According to a recent study by researchers from University of Queensland (UQ), Australia, more life can be supported by dead coral remains than live corals.

The researchers designed three-dimensional-printed coral stacks called RUbble Biodiversity Samplers (RUBS) to survey cryptic organisms.

The researchers found the missing link in the coral reef food webs. 

This data fills important knowledge gaps, such as how small cryptic animals support coral reefs from the bottom of the food chain, all the way up to bigger predators


Coral Reefs

They are large underwater structures composed of the skeletons of colonial marine invertebrates called coral.

Corals extract calcium carbonate from seawater to create a hard, durable exoskeleton that protects their soft, sac-like bodies. 

These exoskeleton remains of millions of corals pile up with time to form coral reefs.

The corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae called the zooxanthellae.

These algae live inside the coral polyp’s body and provide the coral with food. The polyps, in turn, provide a home and carbon dioxide for the algae.

These algae are responsible for the variety of colours of corals.

Coral reefs cover less than 1% of the ocean floor but they are among the most productive and diverse ecosystems on Earth.

They are referred to as “the rainforests of the sea” for their biodiversity,

When corals become stressed due to any changes, including pollution or global warming, they can expel algae and get bleached, meaning the ‘death’ of the coral reef.

Dead coral reefs support cryptic organisms like hidden sea creatures, including fishes, snails, tiny crabs and worms, who hide under its rubble to save themselves from predation.


Project Dolphin announced

The Indian Prime Minister had announced the government’s plan to launch a Project Dolphin in his recent Independence Day Speech.

Aim: To save both river and marine dolphins.

Implemented by: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

Project Dolphin will be on the lines of Project Tiger.

Gangetic Dolphin

Scientific Name: Platanista gangetica

These are generally blind. 

They catch their prey by emitting an ultrasonic sound which reaches the prey.

These are also called Susu.

It is found mainly in the Indian subcontinent, particularly in Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems and in the Ganga’s tributaries.

Threats: Construction of dams, Pollution, excessive silting and sand mining.

It has been recognized by the Indian Government as its National Aquatic Animal

It is the official animal of the Guwahati, Assam.

IUCN Status:  Endangered 

They are included in Appendix I (most endangered) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

They are also included in Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

The National Mission for Clean Ganga celebrates 5th October as National Ganga River Dolphin Day.


Ease Banking Reforms Index

Union Minister of Finance recently inaugurated Doorstep Banking Services by Public Sector Banks (PSBs).

Best performing banks on EASE Banking Reforms Index were also facilitated.

Doorstep Banking Services are part of EASE Reforms.

It is envisaged to provide convenience of banking services to the customers at their doorstep through the universal touch points of Call Centre, Web Portal or Mobile App.

Customers can also track their service request through these channels. 

The services shall be rendered by the Doorstep Banking Agents deployed by the selected Service Providers at 100 centres across the country.

The services can be availed by customers of Public Sector Banks at nominal charges.


EASE 2.0 Banking Reforms Index

It is a common reform agenda for PSBs.

Aim: Institutionalizing clean and smart banking. 

Launched in: January 2018. 

PSBs have shown a healthy trajectory in their performance over four quarters since the launch of EASE 2.0 Reforms Agenda.

Top Performing Banks: (1) Bank of Baroda, (2) State Bank of India, (3) Oriental Bank of Commerce 

Top Improvers: (1) Bank of Maharashtra, (2) Central Bank of India, (3) Corporation Bank.


Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework (CSCAF) 2.0 launched

Recently, Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework (CSCAF) 2.0 and ‘Streets for People Challenge’ were launched.

Ministry: Ministry for Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).

Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework (CSCAF) 2.0

Objective: (1) To provide a clear roadmap for cities towards combating Climate Change while planning and implementing their actions, including investments; (2) To inculcate a climate-sensitive approach to urban planning and development in India.

The framework has 28 indicators across five categories namely; (i) Energy and Green Buildings, (ii) Urban Planning, Green Cover & Biodiversity, (iii) Mobility and Air Quality, (iv) Water Management and (v) Waste Management.

Implemented by: The Climate Centre for Cities under National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) and MoHUA 

Streets for People Challenge

It is the response to the need for making the cities more walkable and pedestrian friendly.

It builds on the advisory issued by the MoHUA.

It will support cities across the country to develop a unified vision of streets for people in consultation with stakeholders and citizens.

Fit India Mission, under Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and the India program of the Institute for Transport Development and Policy (ITDP) have partnered with the Smart Cities Mission to support the challenge.


Living Planet Report 2020

The WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020 was recently released. 

There has been a reduction of 68 % in the global wildlife population between 1970 and 2016.

75 % of the Earth’s ice-free land surface has already been significantly altered.

Most of the oceans are polluted.

More than 85% of the area of wetlands has been lost during this period.

The most important cause of biodiversity loss: Land-use change – conversion of pristine habitats into agricultural systems and oceans have been overfished.

The highest biodiversity loss due to land use change:

(1) Europe and Central Asia at 57.9 %;

(2) North America at 52.5 %;

(3) Latin America and Caribbean at 51.2 %;

(4) Africa at 45.9 %;

(5) Asia at 43 %.

The largest wildlife population loss: Latin America at an alarming 94 %.

One of the most threatened biodiversity: Freshwater biodiversity (declining faster than that in oceans or forests).

Global mapping has recently revealed the extent to which humans have altered millions of kilometres of rivers.

India, a “mega diverse country” with over 45,000 species of plants in only 2.4 % of the world’s land area, has already lost six plant species to extinction, according to the IUCN Red List.

Hurricane Nana

Atlantic Hurricane Nana has made a landfall on the coast of Belize.

The country Belize is located on the northeast coast of Central America.

Few days back, Hurricane Laura made landfall in south-western Louisiana (South Central United States).