The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released their annual report on crimes in India on August 30, 2016. The report, pertaining to 2015 data, brought out statistics on green crimes and provided satisfying data for India as compared to the data released in 2014 – NCRB’s first report on green crimes. Environmental crimes in India shows an eleven per cent drop between the two time periods.
Laws under which violators are booked are Forest Act, 1927, Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986, Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
The statistics entirely rely on crimes reported and recorded under five laws. This does not mean that violations have not occurred in the first place. Therefore there is a limitation in stating that crimes have gone down. More importantly whiles rates of environmental crimes and violations are critical to record, they have to be understood along with impacts. A legal violation related to environment or related people’s livelihoods has long lasting and often irreversible impacts which have to be taken into account.
According to the report, the number of green crimes in 2015 came down to 5,156 from 5,835 in 2014. Rajasthan contributed in large measure to the decrease with the number of green violations coming down substantially from 2,927 in 2014 to 2,074 last year.
In contrast, the number of green crimes in Uttar Pradesh increased from 1,597 in 2014 to 1,779 in the same year.
Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh together accounted for nearly 74 per cent of such crimes in the country last year.
Analysis of the NCRB data showed that nearly 77 per cent of the crimes were related to violations of the Indian Forest Act where the offenders were booked for illegally cutting trees in forest areas, encroaching upon forest land and moving forest produce without required permission.
The number of green crimes also increased in Jharkhand from 148 in 2014 to 233 last year. Similarly, it increased in Assam from 83 to 105 and in Uttarakhand from 40 to 55.
Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura are the only states which have no reported green crime in both the years.
Governmental initiatives on climate change
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) in its Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report published in 2015 states that increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions together with other anthropogenic drivers such as aerosols, land cover and solar radiation are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since mid-20th century.
To cater to this the Indian government launched National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in 2008, which outlines India’s strategy to meet the challenge of Climate Change.
Two of the eight National Missions, i.e., National Solar Mission and National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency relate to mitigation of emissions and include ambitious programmes aimed at generating solar power and conserving energy. Energy Efficiency mission envisages setting norms for achieving energy efficiency with perform, achieve and trade scheme. Further, public and private sector entities participate in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol, which helps in reducing emissions.
These initiatives have the effect of reducing carbon emissions. In addition, the government has initiated a range of policies and programmes to respond to the challenge of climate change. Some of them are:-
a) More than five times increase in renewable capacity from 35 GW (upto March 2015) to 175 GW by 2022.
b) National Solar Mission scaled up five-fold from 20 GW to 100 GW by 2022. Kochi Airport is the World’s first airport to fully run on solar power.
c) Solar powered toll plazas envisaged for all toll collection booths across the country.
d) Green energy corridor projects being rolled out to ensure evacuation from renewable energy plants.
e) Nationwide campaign for energy conservation launched with the target to save 10 per cent of current energy consumption by the year 2018-19.
f) Smart Cities Mission to develop new generation cities by building a clean and sustainable environment.
g) Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) is a new urban renewal mission for 500 cities across India.
h) ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ (Clean India Mission) to make country clean and litter free by 2019 and promote waste management.
i) Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles (FAMEIndia) to promote faster adoption and manufacturing of hybrid and electric vehicles.
j) Under ethanol blending programme, the government has scaled up blending targets from 5 to 10 per cent to promote blending of ethanol with petrol and its use as an alternative fuel.
k) Leapfrogging to BS-VI emission norms by 1st April 2020.
l) Eight-fold increase of coal cess in a short span of two years.
m) Initiation of project green ports to make major ports cleaner and greener.
FAO charts action plan to combat antimicrobial resistance in food and agriculture
The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations released its Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance on September 14. The release of the plan follows the adoption of a resolution on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) at FAO’s 39th Conference in June 2015 which recognised AMR as a serious threat to both public health and sustainable food production.
The FAO Action Plan aims to provide support to the agriculture and food sectors by focusing on four areas of action:
Improving awareness of AMR among farmers, producers, veterinarians, policymakers and consumers
Building surveillance and monitoring systems of antimicrobial resistance and consumption
Strengthening governance related to antimicrobial use and resistance
Promoting good practices in food and agricultural systems for hygiene, biosecurity, animal care and handling and the prudent use of antimicrobials
Antimicrobial drugs, specifically antibiotics, play a critical role in the treatment of diseases in farm animals. However, the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in animals accelerates the rise of AMR.
In intensive food-animal production settings, as in poultry, pig and fish farms, antibiotics are routinely used for non-therapeutic purposes such as growth promotion or mass disease prevention. Such rampant use can lead to greater transfer of antibiotic residues and resistant bacteria into humans through food, direct contact and the environment.
The risks from AMR in agriculture are higher in countries where laws, regulations and monitoring systems are less stringent. Except some champion countries within the European Union, the surveillance systems for antimicrobial use and resistance in livestock in many countries are weak and there is not much data available. Despite evidence, the focus on limiting the environmental spread of AMR into farm waste is limited.
Globally, there has been a rise in efforts to address the threat from rising AMR. The Global Action Plan to contain AMR adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015 recognises the need to limit AMR in humans and animals.
The WHO-OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health)-FAO collaboration is addressing AMR across multiple sectors. A high-level meeting on AMR is scheduled for September 21 in New York at the UN General Assembly with the objective of garnering strong global political commitment on the issue.
The FAO Action Plan is timely and draws attention towards the terrestrial, aquatic animal and agriculture sectors. However, the plan is broad and does not detail specific steps which should be taken by developed as well as developing countries to reduce antibiotic use in food and agriculture. It largely focuses on extending assistance and support to countries or regional organisations to help them combat AMR.
India has slowly begun to recognise and address the problem of antibiotic resistance. In his monthly radio programme, Mann ki Baat, on July 31, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “The government is committed to stopping antibiotic resistance.” He asked citizens to take antibiotics only when prescribed by doctors. But Indian efforts must now go beyond limiting antibiotic use in humans and focus on antibiotic misuse in animals.
Non-therapeutic antibiotic use in animals, unrestricted use of human grade antibiotics in animals, easy over-the-counter availability of antibiotics, lack of monitoring of antibiotic resistance or use in animal farms or their passage into the environment are important areas of concern.
Experts warn of ‘do or die’ situation for many animals ahead of CITES meet
Pangolins are the most trafficked wild mammal, with all eight species threatened with extinction due to poaching mainly for their scales used in traditional medicine.
Humane Society International (HSI) wildlife experts warn that decisions taken at the CITES international wildlife trade meeting can be “do or die” for some of the world’s most iconic and threatened species such as the African elephant, rhinoceros and pangolin.
HSI is a global body that addresses illegal trade in wildlife among other issues.
India is one of the oldest parties to have signed the CITES convention. For CITES CoP 17, the Government of India has submitted a proposal for the up listing of Indian pangolins to Appendix 1 of CITES. It has also co-proposed the inclusion of nautilus species in Appendix 2, along with Fiji and USA.
Support has been expressed for the greater protection of Sunda pangolin, Chinese pangolin, thresher and silky sharks. The Chinese and Indian pangolins as well as nautilus are listed on India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, but populations of all these animals are threatened.
With so many of our wild animal and plant species facing serious threats from rapacious poaching and commercial trade, this CITES meeting represents a “do or die” moment for iconic animals such as elephants, rhinos, lions, and pangolins.
The meeting will run from September 24 to October 5, 2016. Key proposals to be discussed include:
Increased protection for African elephants: despite the major poaching crisis facing African elephants, Zimbabwe and Namibia are proposing to legalise their ivory trade while others are seeking approval for a mechanism to trade ivory in future. Their proposals are opposed by the 29-country-strong African Elephant Coalition, representing 70 per cent of African elephant range states, which is advocating a return to full Appendix I protection for all African elephant populations, closure of domestic ivory markets and an end to any discussion on re-opening ivory trade in future
Swaziland’s proposal to legalise international rhino horn trade (from its southern white rhinos): only about 25,600 rhinos of five species exist today, and all rhino species, are threatened by poaching. HSI hopes to see this proposal defeated, as it could undermine worldwide efforts to eliminate demand for rhino horn
Increased protection for African lions by transferring them from Appendix 2 to Appendix 1: there may be as few as 20,000 wild lions left in Africa. International trade in lion parts, particularly lion bones, is growing, incentivising the poaching of tigers and other big cat species. HSI supports this proposal, but a number of countries, including the European Union bloc, currently oppose it as written
Transfer of all eight species of pangolins from Appendix 2 to Appendix 1: pangolins are the most trafficked wild mammal, with all eight species threatened with extinction due to poaching mainly for their scales used in traditional medicine. China, the main consumer of pangolin, is expected to oppose the proposal
Listing the silky shark, thresher sharks and devil rays on CITES Appendix 2: silky and thresher sharks are threatened by commercial trade in their fins, used in shark fin soup in Asia, and devil rays by trade in their gill plates, used in health tonics in Asia
Listing chambered nautiluses on CITES Appendix 2: these unusual marine invertebrates are being overfished for their beautiful shells for decorative purposes
Providing increased international protection for the helmeted hornbill: Poaching for the “ivory” in its bill is threatening to wipe out Asia’s largest hornbill, already listed on Appendix 1
BBIN Road Initiative Takes Off As India Approves $1 Billion Transnational Connectivity Project
To increase inter-regional trade and ease passenger and cargo movement, the Government of India recently approved a $1 billion project to construct and upgrade nearly 558 km of roads. It will provide connectivity to Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
The Ministry of Finance has given its nod to the project, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will be funding around 50 percent of it. For now, the Indian side will include roads in Manipur and West Bengal.
Apart from this billion-dollar project, a 100 km long road will also come up along the Imphal-Moreh corridor.
This development follows a landmark agreement signed by the four nations, namely India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, in 2015 to promote easy movement between their respective territories to aid in trade and tourism.