TAPASYA Answers 8 October 2022
Q 1-Mineral extraction is important for development, but we also need to conserve environment. Describe measures taken in this regard.
Mining vs development
- As per the latest data released by the Ministry of Mines, Government of India, mineral production in India rose by 10.9 per cent year-on-year in May 2022 led by a sharp jump in the output of coal, gold, phosphorite, and bauxite.
- India’s mining sector has vast potential given it produces 95 minerals, including 10 metallic and 23 non-metallic.
- The Government is keen on prioritising coal and mining sectors as they are the major contributors to making India one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
- The sector contributed about 2.6% of GDP in 2015-16, with barely 20% of reserves mined.
- The total mineral production is valued at 1,299,500 million, and 18,963,480 million of mineral exports in 2020.
- The sector plays a vital role in the economy since it employs more than half a million persons, and contributes to the country’s revenue through exports, royalty (tax paid in return for the right to use), dead rent, cess, sales tax, and duties.
- Exports in the mining sector stood at US$ 24.66 billion for FY 20.
Mining vs environment
- Bad mining practices can ignite coal fires release fly ash and smoke laden with greenhouse gasses and toxic chemicals. Furthermore mining releases coal mine methane which is a greenhouse gas which affects climate change.
- It destroys landscapes, forests and wildlife habitats causing displacement from the site of the mine when trees, plants, and topsoil are cleared from the mining area. Thus, it leads to soil erosion and destruction of agricultural land.
- Mining sediments pollute waterways when they are washed away by rainwater. The fish and other smaller plant life are badly affected, and cause disfiguration of river channels and streams, which leads to flooding. EX – The Lilagar river, tributary of the Mahanadi near coal mine in chattisgarh
- It results in chemical contamination of ground water when minerals in upturned earth seep into the water table, and watersheds are destroyed when disfigured land loses the water it once held. It lowers the water table, changing the flow of groundwater and streams and produces also greenhouse gas emissions.
- It also causes dust and noise pollution when top soil is disrupted with heavy machinery and coal dust is created in mines.
- Another type of mining called as ‘Underground mining’ causes huge amounts of waste earth and rock to be brought to the surface – waste that often becomes toxic when it comes into contact with air and water.
- Toxic levels of arsenic, fluorine, mercury, and selenium are emitted by coal fires, entering the air and the food chain of those living nearby.
Examples- The rampant coal mining in Nagaland, coupled with waste discharge from tea estates and encroachment , contaminated waters of River Bhogdoi in Assam.
Assam’s Dikhow River turns Green, Fishes Dying
- Mineral Conservation and Development Regulations (Mineral Conservation and Development Regulations): These regulations set the standards to be met to ensure that mining is done in a scientifically sound manner while also protecting the environment.
- The Coal Mines (Conservation & Safety) Act, 1974, is aimed at improving the efficiency of coal, promoting technology for reducing damage to the environment, conservation of coal resources and others.
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977.
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
- The Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1986 (amended in 2006) and the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
- These are aimed at monitoring mining activities for the protection of the environment during all the phases of a mineral resource extraction cycle including planning, production process, and closure.
- Hazardous and Other Wastes Rules 2016, Solid Waste Management Rule 2016, Noise Pollution Rules 2000, Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules 2016, and Ozone Depleting Substances Rules 2000 are some other rules regulating the sector to protect the environment.
- The implementation of the National Mineral Policy- NMP in 2019 presents a significant investment opportunity in India and incorporates the public trust doctrine, intergenerational equity principle, and ownership of natural resources as commons.
- NMP 2019- Reduce resource inputs for effective mining practices, Replenishing environment like cleaning excess waste ,replanting trees , proper waste disposal, dust suppression process, shutting down illegal mines.
Q 2- Deforestation poses some serious threats to environment. What are those? What measures have been taken for afforestation?
Deforestation can be defined as the large-scale removal of trees from forests (or other lands) for the facilitation of human activities. It is a serious environmental concern since it can result in the loss of biodiversity, damage to natural habitats, disturbances in the water cycle, and soil erosion. Deforestation is also a contributor to climate change and global warming.
How Does Deforestation Affect the Environmen
Increased carbondioxide in atmosphere:Forests serve as carbon sink.Since carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, deforestation is a direct contributor to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
Deforestation and the Water Cycle: Deforestation is accompanied by reduced humidity, owing to the absence of transpiring trees. The water content in the soil and the groundwater levels also decline in the cleared land. It is common for deforested land to experience extremely arid climates. In fact, deforestation has been linked to desertification and droughts.
Soil Erosion as a Consequence of Deforestation: Deforestation of sloped lands is often accompanied by landslides, which can be explained by the loss of soil adhesion due to the absence of trees. The extent of erosion is amplified by certain natural calamities such as floods
Effects of Deforestation on Biodiversity:Result in the extinction of several desirable species. Approximately 50,000 species (consisting of plants, animals, and insects) are lost every year as a consequence of deforestation. Studies suggest that over 40% of all plant and animal species in the Southeast Asian region will undergo extinction over the course of the 21st century.
It would have an adverse effect on the food web. Also cause co-extinction.
Deforestation on economy:However, the overexploitation of wood and timber can have a negative impact on the economy. The short-term economic gains made from deforestation are accompanied by reduced long-term productivity. According to some reports, the global GDP may see a 7% decline by the year 2050 due to deforestation and other factors.
Deforestation and Human Health:Deforestation can, directly or indirectly, provide a channel for the propagation of many infections.
In Malaysia, the geographic shift of the fruit bat population (as a consequence of deforestation) facilitated the transmission of the Nipah virus. Fruit bats, which are known to be vectors of the disease, lost their natural habitat due to deforestation and started feeding in the orchards surrounding habited areas. Through proximity, the Nipah virus spread from fruit bats to pigs, and then to humans.
Increased soil erosion (due to deforestation) can result in the formation of pools of stagnant water. These pools serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which are vectors of several deadly diseases such as malaria and yellow fever.
Afforestation measures in India:
- The conservation and development of forest primarily involves three strategies – afforestation through natural/artificial regeneration, protection and management.
- The ministry is implementing three major schemes for development of forest areas i.e. National Afforestation Programme (NAP) scheme, National Mission for a Green India (GIM) and Forest Fire Prevention & Management Scheme (FFPM).
- NAP is being implemented for afforestation of degraded forest lands.
- GIM aims at improving the quality of forest and an increase in forest cover besides cross-sectoral activities on a landscape basis.
- The FFPM takes care of forest fire prevention and management measures.
About National Afforestation Programme (2000): With the aim of Sustainable development and management of forest resources.
- The overall objective of the National Afforestation Programme (NAP) scheme is the ecological restoration of degraded forests and to develop the forest resources with peoples’ participation.
- Implementation is implemented by three-tier institutional setup
- The major components of the scheme includes Afforestation under Seven plantation models, Maintenance of previous years plantations and Ancillary Activities like soil and moisture conservation activities (SMC), Fencing, overheads, Micro-planning, Awareness-raising, Entry Point Activities (EPA) etc.
- Funding: Centrally sponsored scheme which is implemented with the fund sharing pattern of 60: 40 % between Centre and States wherein the sharing pattern for Northeastern and hilly States is 90:10.
National Forest Policy, 1988: It aims to maintain 33% of total geographical area under forest and tree cover to prevent soil erosion, land degradation and maintain ecological balance.
National Mission for a Green India (GIM), 2015: It is one of the eight missions launched under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). It targets increasing the forest and tree cover by 5 million ha, and increasing the quality of the existing forest and tree cover in another 5 million ha of forest/non-forest lands in 10 years.
National Green Highways Mission, 2016: It aims to provide a green canopy along 100,000km of highways.
Nagar Van-udyan Yojana, 2015:It aims to create “city forest” in each City with Municipal Council.
Q 1-UNHRC has always been at forefront for upholding human rights. What is its composition? What functions does it perform? What are challenges ahead of it?
UNHRC was reconstituted from its predecessor organisation, the UN Commission on Human Rights to help overcome the “credibility deficit” of the previous organisation.
- Headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
Forefront of human rights
- HRC has a fair track record of taking up human rights agenda.
- It has facilitated the evolution of human rights norms.
- There are many less tangible gains from having such a body in place.
- Resolutions adopted have highlighted rights violations, despite resistance by some members.
- The situation in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, and North Korea are few examples.
- Issues that have been the source of much controversy have been addressed at the HRC, including LGBTIQ rights.
- It is also a forum to monitor international obligations of a state based on international law.
- Its sustenance with credibility is significant for handling global human rights issues.
Recent resolutions– a resolution at the UNHRC promoting human rights in Sri Lanka. Draft resolution at the UNHRC calling for a debate on the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang region.
- The UNHRC has 47 members serving at any time with elections held to fill up seats every year, based on allocations to regions across the world to ensure geographical representation.
- Each elected member serves for a term of three years.
- Countries are disallowed from occupying a seat for more than two consecutive terms.
- The UNHRC passes non-binding resolutions on human rights issues through a periodic review of all 193 UN member states called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
- It oversees expert investigation of violations in specific countries (Special Procedures).
Challenges and Need for reforms:
- The human rights record of the member-states such as Saudi Arabia, China and Russia in the council has also not been in line with the aims and mission of the UNHRC, which has led to critics questioning its relevance.
- Despite the continued participation of several western countries in the UNHRC, they continue to harbour misgivings on the understanding of Human rights.
- Non-compliance has been a serious issue with respect to the UNHRC’s functioning.
- Non-participation of powerful nations such as the US.