INSTC members discuss dry runs along Caspian Sea

With an eye on enhanced trade opportunities, 13 members of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) recently reviewed the status of the dry run study between India, Iran and Russia via the Caspian Sea.

  • The international transport corridor is expected to substantially reduce cargo transportation time between India and Central Asia and Russia.
  • The dry run between Nhava Sheva (Mumbai) – Bandar Abbas (Iran) – Baku (Azerbaijan) and Nhava Sheva – Bandar Abbas (Iran) – Amirabad (Iran) – Astrakhan (Russia) via the Caspian Sea was conducted in August last year.
  • Once the North-South Corridor becomes operational, India will have better connectivity with Russia, bringing down the freight rates.
  • India, which recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Iran for the development of the Chabahar port which is its anticipated gateway to Afghanistan, is keen to tap the trading potential with countries in the region and has been pushing for providing connectivity.

The International North–South Transport Corridor is the ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia. The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road. The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali and etc.

The Caspian Sea, surrounded by the five littoral countries, is the largest land-locked body of water on earth. The isolation of the Caspian basin, its climate and its sea characteristics like salinity gradients, have created a unique ecological system. The coastlines of the Caspian are shared by Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan. The Caspian Sea, like the Aral Sea, Black Sea, and Lake Urmia, is a remnant of the ancient Paratethys Sea.

Sources: The Hindu, caspianinfo.net, Wiki.

Advertisements

Tipaimukh project

Prime Minister Modi recently made it clear that the Indian government will not take any unilateral decision on the Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric Power Project which may adversely affect Bangladesh. This was stated in a joint declaration between Bangladesh and India.

  • Bangladesh has been demanding to stop the construction of the Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric Power Project on the Barak River on the eastern edge of Bangladesh.

About Tipaimukh project:

  • The project aims to construct a dam on the river Barak in Manipur, India.
  • The purpose of the dam is flood control and hydroelectric power generation.
  • It has been subject to repeated delays as the project developed, as there has been controversy between India and Bangladesh over water rights, in addition to questions of environmental effects of the huge project, as well as the need to relocate Manipuri people to make way for a vast reservoir.

  • Bangladeshis say that the massive dam will disrupt the seasonal rhythm of the river and have an adverse effect on downstream agriculture and fisheries.
  • The Tipaimukh area lies in an ecologically sensitive and topographically fragile region. It is within one of the most seismically volatile regions on the planet.
  • Green activists say that Tipaimukh area is a habitat of many endangered species including barking deer, gibbons, leopards, grey sibia, serow and the rufous-necked hornbill–the state bird of Manipur.
  • Experts say that the construction of the proposed 1500 MW Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project (HEP) downstream of the confluence of river Barak and the Tuivai in Manipur would lead to massive destruction of ecology.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

Nepal snow leopard gets a radio collar

Nepalese conservationists recently announced that they had successfully radio-collared a second snow leopard near Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain.

  • Data received from the satellite collar will enable conservationists to identify critical habitats for the elusive species, including trans boundary links across India and China.
  • The collaring expedition was led by the government of Nepal in partnership with the WWF, the National Trust for Nature Conservation, the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area Project and citizen scientists from the local Snow Leopard Conservation Committee.
  • The radio collaring was especially vital in helping identify snow leopard hotspots and managing local logistics.
  • There is an estimated 350 to 590 snow leopards in Nepal as per 2009 population data on the species.

Snow Leopards – Quick Facts:

  • They are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • They inhabit alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m (9,800 to 14,800 ft). In the northern range countries, they also occur at lower elevations.
  • The snow leopard is the National Heritage Animal of Pakistan.
  • Their habitat extends through twelve countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. China contains as much as 60% of all snow leopard habitat areas.
  • In India, their geographical range encompasses a large part of the western Himalayas including the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas.
  • The snow leopard, like all big cats, is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which makes trading of animal body parts (i.e., fur, bones and meat) illegal in signatory countries. It is also protected by several national laws in its range countries.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, WWF.

Suit against Karnataka for polluting rivers

The Tamil Nadu government recently moved the Supreme Court, accusing the State of Karnataka for dumping untreated sewage and industrial effluents in the Cauvery and Pennaiyar rivers, considered life-giving water sources for Tamil Nadu.

Details:

  • The Tamil Nadu government, in a suit for permanent and mandatory injunction, blamed Karnataka for “gross dereliction of duty as a welfare State under the Constitution” by denying the people of Tamil Nadu the right to access clean water. It has also contended that Karnataka government’s inaction has become a threat to lives and crops in Tamil Nadu.
  • Tamil Nadu has sought the right to claim damages from Karnataka for discharging polluted water into Tamil Nadu.
  • The Kerala State government has made the Union also a party in the suit, saying it failed in its legal and constitutional duty to ensure that Karnataka complied with its social obligation and responsibility to comply with the prescribed standards before letting effluents into rivers.
  • The suit also quotes Karnataka’s Minor Irrigation Minister as saying that around 889 million litres of sewage water enters Tamil Nadu through the Pinakini and South Pennar river courses and the remaining sewage water flows to Cauvery through the Arkavathi River on a daily basis into Tamil Nadu.

Cauvery River:

Cauvery is a sacred river of southern India, rising on Brahmagiri Hill in the Western Ghats in Coorg district of Karnataka state.

  • It flows in a south-easterly direction for 765 km through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states across the Deccan Plateau, and descending the Eastern Ghats in a series of great falls.
  • Before emptying into the Bay of Bengal south of Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, it breaks into a large number of distributaries forming a wide delta.
  • It is also known as “Daksina Ganga” (But, River Godavari is widely considered as Dakshin Ganga)
  • The Kaveri basin is estimated to be 81,155 square kms with many tributaries including the Shimsha, the Hemavati, the Arkavati, Honnuhole, Lakshmana Tirtha, Kabini, Bhavani River, the Lokapavani, the Noyyal and the Amaravati River.
  • The river’s basin covers four states and Union Territories: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry.
  • After the river leaves the Kodagu hills and flows onto the Deccan plateau, it forms two islands, Srirangapatna and Shivanasamudra in Karnataka. At Shivanasamudra the river drops 98 metres (320 ft), forming the famous Shivanasamudra Falls known separately as Gagana Chukki and Bhara Chukki. Asia’s first hydroelectric plant (built in 1902) was on the left falls and supplied power to the city of Bangalore.
  • Tamil Sangam literature (300BCE to 500CE) mentions the kaveri and Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

Half of mammals face habitat loss: ZSI

Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) recently published a book containing a consolidated documentation and listing of all the scheduled or protected species of mammals found in India.

  • The book, An Identification Manual for Scheduled Mammals of India, provides detailed information on scheduled mammals, their status as per IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red list of Threatened Species.

Mammalian fauna of India:

  • India is home to 428 species of mammals out of which more than 60%— about 251 species — are under protected or scheduled categories of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • 428 species of mammals in India contribute to about 8% of the total mammal species found in the World.
  • About 50% of mammalian fauna of India have shrunk in their distributional range due to various anthropogenic pressures.
  • Four mammal species — Cheetah, Banteng, Sumatran Rhinoceros and Javan Rhinoceros — are extinct in India.
  • Out of the 251 Schedule mammals species listed under the India Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, about 180 fall under the “lesser-known” category, and very little information is available about their habitat, behaviour, and population.
  • Around 78 species of mammals are included in Schedule I of Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, implying that highest priority is placed on the conservation of these animals in the country.
  • While the Schedule I mammals constitute well known species like tiger, elephant and Indian rhinoceros, “lesser known” species such as clouded leopard, snow leopard, gaur, desert cat, Niligiri tahr, swamp deer, sloth bear and Tibetan, sand fox are also included in the list.
  • The mammals that fall in the “Critically Endangered” category of the IUCN, according to the book are: pygmy hog, Malabar civet, large rock rat and kondana rat.
  • As per the IUCN status 29 mammals (such as, Chinese Pangolin, fishing cat, Gangetic dolphin, golden langur, hispid hare etc.) in the country come under the “endangered” category.

About ZSI:

Established in 1961, it is a premier organisation in zoological research and studies. It was established to promote the survey, exploration and research of the fauna in the region.

  • The activities of the ZSI are coordinated by the Conservation and Survey Division in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.

Main objectives:

  • Exploration and Survey of Faunal Resources
  • Taxonomic Studies
  • Status Survey of Endangered Species
  • Publication of Results through Departmental Journals
  • Publication of Fauna of India
  • Maintenance and Development of National Zoological Collections

Red Data Book:

  • Similar to the Red Data Book produced by IUCN, ZSI also releases a Red Data Book on Indian Animals. It was first published in 1983.

The ZSI also participates in the Indian Antarctic Program, since its inception in 1989.

Sources: The Hindu, ZSI.gov.in.

Kasturirangan report to be implemented by year-end

Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar recently said that the recommendations made by the Kasturirangan Committee report on eco-sensitive zones in the Western Ghats would be implemented by this year-end.

  • He said that the Union government had asked the State governments concerned to hold consultation with the local population and submit their comments.
  • While Kerala has submitted its comments, Karnataka is yet to do so. Tamil Nadu, Goa, Maharashtra, and Gujarat are expected to submit their reports shortly.

Kasturirangan Report:

The Kasturirangan panel was set up to study the Gadgil committee report on the Western Ghats. The Gadgil panel report had faced unanimous opposition from state governments for recommending that almost three-fourth of the hills, including plantations, cultivated lands and large habitations, be turned into a restricted development zone with an over-arching authority to regulate the region superseding the elected authorities’ role.

Kasturirangan Panel Vs Gadgil report

Recommendations made by the Kasturirangan panel:

  • Around 60,000 sq km of Western Ghats, spread across six states, should be turned into a no-go area for commercial activities like mining, thermal power plants, polluting industries and large housing plans.
  • It has suggested that 90% of the natural forests left in the Western Ghats complex – adding upto 60,000 sq km and constituting 37% of the entire hilly belt — be conserved under the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) provisions of the green law. The forest area falling within the ESA would also cover 4,156 villages across the six states. The villages falling under ESA will be involved in decision making on the future projects. All projects will require prior-informed consent and no-objection from the gram sabha (village council) of the village.
  • The panel has recommended that there should be a complete ban on mining activity in this zone and current mining activities should be phased out within five years, or at the time of expiry of the mining lease.
  • It has banned development of any township or construction over the size of 20,000 sq m in the ESA zone. It has not recommended a ban on hydroelectric projects in the zone, but put a regime of stricter clearances for dams and other projects.
  • The report suggests doing away with the complete moratorium on industrial and mining activity in the two Maharashtra districts of Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri. It has suggested persisting with the ban only on the area of the two districts falling within the ESA and a strict regulation in the rest.
  • The report has steered clear from demanding a strict ecological control over the Western Ghat complex requiring changes and regulations on agricultural practices the way Gadgil committee report had suggested.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, Wiki.

New species of frog, fish found in Western Ghats

Researchers have discovered a new fish species and three types of tadpoles in Western Ghats of India.

Details:

Newly discovered fish species: Pethiastriata- it was found along the streams of the Tunga in the Kudremukh National Park, Karnataka.

Pethiastriata

  • Pethiastriata is described as a small fish, with a length of around 4 cm. The male is reddish in colour and the female, greyish.
  • The species thrive in shallow pools of gently flowing water and are found in small groups of around four.
  • The fish differ from existing species on seven characteristics, including dark outer edges of scales that give them a distinct striped pattern.

Species of tadpoles: They belong to the species of Nyctibatrachus (meaning ‘night frog’) — N. kumbara (‘potter frog’), N. kempholeyensis (named after the Kempuhole stream) and N. jog (named after the waterfall).

  • These species of tadpoles were found for the first time in the narrow streams of the Sharavati in Karnataka.

Sources: The Hindu.