The beautiful coral reefs surrounded by blue tropical seas are not just coloured rocks but are thriving ecosystems with live corals that attach their skeletons to rocks and live there. The colours indicate the presence of single-celled algae-like zooxanthellaewithin their tissues that provide them with the essential nutrients through photosynthesis and in turn, the corals provide them with the required carbon dioxide and ammonium (NOAA, 2017)
Even though reefs cover only a tiny area of the oceans (less than 0.1 per cent) they support the survival of almost a quarter of the marine creatures and over 500 million people on the planet (Underwater Earth, 2015) who are dependent on it for food, fishery, livelihood and culture.
In the last two decades, the corals around the globe have been experiencing massive bleaching, wherein they lose their colours and turn pale / white as they are unable to support the algae within them because of changes in sea water temperatures (very high or very low), high solar irradiance (too much of light), lowering of nutrients and salinity due to too much of surface run-off or mixing of fresh water near the coast, overfishing, heavy storms or pollution (oil drilling/spilling, coral trading, chemicals in agriculture, marine activities).
Figure 1. The various stages of coral bleaching
Corals can survive without the algae for short periods and revert back to original health with the re-entrance of the algae once the sea conditions return to normal, but if the stress factors stay longer, the corals begin to starve and die. The coral reefs, eventually, collapse due to erosion. A healthy coral reef system can even resist coral bleaching, but increasing global warming and frequent episodes of bleaching weaken even the healthy reef systems.
Global Extent of Coral Bleaching and Clive Wilkinson Report:-
Mass coral bleaching and mortality has become a global phenomenon covering all oceans. The first global event was observed in 1998 due to an underwater heat wave of a great magnitude triggered by El-Nino conditions (warm current spreading from Pacific to Indian Oceans), resulting in the death of about 16 per cent of the coral reefs around the world. And before the reefs could recover fully, the second mass bleaching event occurred in 2010.
Within just 4 years, the world saw the longest mass coral bleaching ever from 2014-2017. In the Great Barrier Reef of Australia (that runs for almost 4,000 kilometers along the north-eastern coastline) which is one of the best managed marine protected areas in the world, among the 500 observed reefs, only about 4 did not experience any bleaching in 2016 (hitting about 90 per cent of the reefs, and killing between 29 – 50 per cent of the reef’s coral) (Underwater Earth, 2015).
Figure 2. Coral bleaching in various locations globally
Clive Wilkinson Report:-
The first report on the ‘Status of Coral Reefs of the World’was published in 1998 by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, edited by Clive Wilkinson. Since then the report was published regularly (2000, 2002, 2004 and 2008) with updates on reef status in different regions and countries of the world, including- Indian Ocean, Asia and Australia, Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean, Atlantic Ocean and South America with contributions from scholars of different countries. The reports predicted that almost all the reefs would soon be coming in the threatened stage (NOAA Coral Reef Watch, 2017).
The initial report focussed more on pollution, over-fishing and other human stresses to corals, however, the increasing frequency, scale and the severity of the events led scholars to conclude that coral reefs are one of the first ecosystems where the impacts of unexpected global warming and ocean acidification are clearly visible to everyone around. Rather, these are just the beginnings of a human-ecological crises waiting to snowball and require strong protective measures to preserve the biodiversity as well as local life systems.
Coral Reefs in India:-
Coral reefs are found in the Lakshadweepand Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Gulfs of Kutch, Mannar and Khambat, Malwan Reef and Angria Bank (Maharashtra) and Netrani Island (Karnataka).
A May 2016 news report by S. Dasgupta has revealed that Indian coral reefs are experiencing massive coral bleaching and death mainly due to heat stress and population pressure, increasing inundation and making the scarce fresh water unfit for consumption, especially in low-lying atolls like- Lakshadweep (S. Dasgupta, 2016).
Figure 3. Coral Reefs in India
What is Being Done To Protect Coral Reefs?:-
There are as such no standard or strict laws to protect the reefs globally, but there are many alliances and organizations like– Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – which are involved in preventing damage to healthy reefs and restoring damaged ones through assessment, conservation and restoration programmes (that include- coral nurseries, marine protected areas and awareness campaigns) world-wide involving local communities.
In India, Panini, in her paper titled “Law and Policy for Conservation and Management of Coral Reef Areas in India”, states – the coral reefs come under the ecologically sensitive areas (Coastal Regulation Zone, CRZ-I) and Wildlife Protection Act. So, no new activities related to construction/ underwater blasting/ use of corals or sand from beaches are permitted. There is a National Committee on Wetlands, Mangroves and Coral Reefs, but it has no strict policies that stop harmful activities or pollution on the seaward side (Panini, FAO, 1997).
Immediate reductions in CO2 emissions, overfishing, sedimentation and pollution, and promoting sustainable tourism and education are the only ways to save reefs from vanishing completely.
Darknet, also known as dark web or darknet market, refers to the part of the internet that is not indexed or accessible through traditional search engines. It is a network of private and encrypted websites that cannot be accessed through regular web browsers and requires special software and configuration to access.
The darknet is often associated with illegal activities such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services, although not all sites on the darknet are illegal.
Examples of darknet markets include Silk Road, AlphaBay, and Dream Market, which were all shut down by law enforcement agencies in recent years.
These marketplaces operate similarly to e-commerce websites, with vendors selling various illegal goods and services, such as drugs, counterfeit documents, and hacking tools, and buyers paying with cryptocurrency for their purchases.
Anonymity: Darknet allows users to communicate and transact with each other anonymously. Users can maintain their privacy and avoid being tracked by law enforcement agencies or other entities.
Access to Information: The darknet provides access to information and resources that may be otherwise unavailable or censored on the regular internet. This can include political or sensitive information that is not allowed to be disseminated through other channels.
Freedom of Speech: The darknet can be a platform for free speech, as users are able to express their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship or retribution.
Secure Communication: Darknet sites are encrypted, which means that communication between users is secure and cannot be intercepted by third parties.
Illegal Activities: Many darknet sites are associated with illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services. Such activities can attract criminals and expose users to serious legal risks.
Scams: The darknet is a hotbed for scams, with many fake vendors and websites that aim to steal users’ personal information and cryptocurrency. The lack of regulation and oversight on the darknet means that users must be cautious when conducting transactions.
Security Risks: The use of the darknet can expose users to malware and other security risks, as many sites are not properly secured or monitored. Users may also be vulnerable to hacking or phishing attacks.
Stigma: The association of the darknet with illegal activities has created a stigma that may deter some users from using it for legitimate purposes.
AI, or artificial intelligence, refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence, such as recognizing speech, making decisions, and understanding natural language.
Virtual assistants: Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are examples of virtual assistants that use natural language processing to understand and respond to users’ queries.
Recommendation systems: Companies like Netflix and Amazon use AI to recommend movies and products to their users based on their browsing and purchase history.
Efficiency: AI systems can work continuously without getting tired or making errors, which can save time and resources.
Personalization: AI can help provide personalized recommendations and experiences for users.
Automation: AI can automate repetitive and tedious tasks, freeing up time for humans to focus on more complex tasks.
Job loss: AI has the potential to automate jobs previously performed by humans, leading to job loss and economic disruption.
Bias: AI systems can be biased due to the data they are trained on, leading to unfair or discriminatory outcomes.
Safety and privacy concerns: AI systems can pose safety risks if they malfunction or are used maliciously, and can also raise privacy concerns if they collect and use personal data without consent.