WEF report on India’s declining soil biodiversity and pollinators population
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Environment and Biodiversity
According to the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas prepared by the World Wide Fund for Nature –
- India among nations whose soil biodiversity faces the highest level of risk.
- India, Pakistan, China, several countries in Africa and Europe, and most of North America – have been coloured red on the Atlas
Do you know?
- Soil biodiversity encompasses the presence of micro-organisms, micro-fauna (nematodes and tardigrades for example), and macro-fauna (ants, termites and earthworms).
- The WWF’s ‘risk index’ for the globe — indicates threats from loss of above-ground diversity, pollution and nutrient over-loading, over-grazing, intensive agriculture, fire, soil erosion, desertification and climate change.
According to the Living Planet Report (LPR) 2018 prepared by the World Wide Fund for Nature –
- Human activities pushing the planet to the brink.
- There has been a 60% decline in the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in just over 40 years.
- There has been drastic decline in populations of pollinators. (For instance, while 150 million bee colonies were needed to meet the pollination requirements of about 50 million hectares of agricultural land in India, only 1.2 million colonies were present.)
The above two recent studies by WWF have focused on the dramatic reductions in bee and other pollinator numbers and on the risks to soil biodiversity, critical to sustain food production and other ecosystem services.
The two key drivers of biodiversity loss were the over exploitation of natural resources and agriculture.
While India’s per capita ecological footprint was less than 1.75 hectares/person (the lowest band among countries surveyed), its high population made it vulnerable to an ecological crisis, even if per-capita consumption remained at current levels, the WWF warned.
Do you know?
- The majority of flowering plants are pollinated by insects and other animals. It has been estimated that the proportion of animal-pollinated wild plant species rises from an average of 78% in temperate-zone communities to 94% in tropical communities.
World Wildlife Fund “Living Planet” report 2018
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Environment and Biodiversity
The WWF Living Planet Index tracks more than 4,000 species spread across nearly 17,000 populations.
Below are the key findings:
- From 1970 to 2014, the number of animals with a backbone — birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and fish — plummeted across the globe, on average, by about 60%.
- For freshwater vertebrates, losses topped 80%. Geographically, South and Central America have been hit hardest, with 89% less wildlife in 2014 than in 1970.
- The index of extinction risk for five major groups — birds, mammals, amphibians, corals and an ancient family of plants called cycads — shows an accelerating slide towards oblivion.
- Depending on which categories are included, the current rate at which species are going extinct is 100 to 1,000 times greater than only a few centuries ago, when human activity began to alter the planet’s biology and chemistry in earnest.
- By definition, this means that Earth has entered a mass extinction event, only the sixth in half-a-billion years.
- In 2009, scientists weighed the impact of humanity’s expanding appetites on nine processes — known as Earth systems — within nature. Each has a critical threshold, the upper limit of a “safe operating space” for our species.
- The do-not-cross red line for climate change, for example, is global warming of 1.5°C, according to a new U.N. report.
- So far, we have clearly breached two of these so-called planetary boundaries: species loss, and imbalances in Earth’s natural cycles of nitrogen and phosphorous (mainly due to fertiliser use).
- For two others, climate and land degradation, we have one foot in the red zone. Ocean acidification and freshwater supply are not far behind. As for new chemical pollutants such as endocrine disruptors, heavy metals, and plastics, we simply don’t know yet how much is too much.
- More generally, the marginal capacity of Earth’s ecosystems to renew themselves has been far outstripped by humanity’s ecological footprint, which has nearly tripled in 50 years.
- Nearly 20% of the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest, has disappeared in five decades. Tropical deforestation continues unabated, mainly to make way for soy beans, palm oil and cattle.
- Globally, between 2000 and 2014, the world lost 920,000 sq. km of intact or “minimally disturbed” forest, an area roughly the size of Pakistan or France and Germany combined. Satellite data shows the pace of that degradation picked up by 20% from 2014 to 2016, compared with the previous 15 years.
- Since 1950, our species has extracted 6 billion tonnes of fish, crustaceans, clams, squids and other edible sea creatures. Despite the deployment of increasingly sophisticated fishing technologies, global catches — 80% by industrial fleets — peaked in 1996 and have been declining since.
- Climate change and pollution have killed off half of the world’s shallow water coral reefs, which support more than a quarter of marine life. Even if humanity manages to cap global warming at 1.5°C — which many scientists doubt is possible — coral mortality will likely be 70 to 90%.
- Coastal mangrove forests, which protect against storm surges made worse by rising seas, have also declined by up to half over the last 50 years.
Statue of Unity
- The Statue of Unity, a tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, is 177 feet higher than China’s Spring Temple Buddha, which was the tallest statue till now.
- It is located on the river island called Sadhu Bet near Rajpipla, Gujarat.
India and Italy: Defence Meeting
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – India and the World; International Relations
- India invited Italy to participate in the defence sector under the ‘Make in India’ scheme.
- India and Italy held the 9th Military Group Meeting earlier in October in which they agreed on cooperation in 2019.
- Both countries sign agreement to curb terror financing.
- First time the two countries have agreed on joint defence production since the AugustaWestland case exploded in 2013.
TOPIC:General studies 1 & 2
- Persons in the history, modern Indian history
- Governance and administration
The unifier of modern India
“By common endeavour we can raise the country to a new greatness, while a lack of unity will expose us to fresh calamities.”
These pragmatic but profound remarks defined the vision and the sterling character of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the principal unifier of modern India.
Force behind unification
- Sardar Patel’s foresight and tactful navigation of the most turbulent period in post-Independence, and the resolve he demonstrated in integrating the more than 500 princely States into the Dominion of India is an unparalleled accomplishment in modern history.
- Hailing Patel’s feat, Lord Mountbatten declared the unification of India as the first great success of the new independent government.
- Patel was a statesman with a strong sense of realpolitik, a realist to the core and an earthy politician whose sole aim was to build a strong and united India.
- The princely rulers had the option at that time to either accede to India or Pakistan or remain independent.
- Patel’s wisdom, foresight, patriotism, tact, persuasive powers and abiding commitment to fair play enabled him to untangle a highly complex political and social problem without triggering any kind of revolt or civil unrest.
Operation Polo (Hyderabad) and case of Junagarh
- Patel was also compelled to use coercion by launching ‘Operation Polo’ to liberate and integrate Hyderabad after the Nizam of Hyderabad entertained false hopes of either joining Pakistan or remaining independent.
- In a swift operation lasting five days, Hyderabad State was liberated in September 1948.
- It was the most critical time when the country’s political unity was in jeopardy, India found the man of the moment in Sardar Patel.
- He displayed amazing patience, tact and a steely determination in dealing with an intransigent ruler, who refused to see the writing on the wall and even wanted to take the issue to the United Nations.
- Displaying statesmanship of the highest order, Sardar Patel prevented the attempts to not only Balkanise India but internationalise the issue as well.
- The complicated case of Junagarh, Gujarat, was also handled with dexterity by Patel.
- The problem of Jammu and Kashmir may have been resolved long back had Sardar Patel been given a free hand to handle it at that time.
A builder of India
- Patel himself termed the entire exercise as a “bloodless revolution” when he wanted the Constituent Assembly to consider privy purse settlements for the surrender by the rulers of all their ruling powers and the dissolution of the States as separate units.
- Patel was an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi and never swerved in his loyalty to his mentor, although there were occasions when he differed with him.
- Similarly, he did not see eye-to-eye with Jawaharlal Nehru on certain issues, including the handling of Jammu and Kashmir.
- But he did not allow these differences or personal ego to come in the way of protecting the larger interests of the country.
- He worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Nehru in building a modern India.
- Patel was a multifaceted personality. He was a dynamic political leader, an organiser par excellence, a competent administrator and a skilful negotiator.
- After coming under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi, he became his loyal follower and successfully organised peasants against the imposition of taxes by the British at Kheda and Bardoli, Gujarat, and in the process he earned the title of ‘Sardar’ for his leadership qualities.
- The manner in which he marshalled the peasants and the unflinching stand taken by him eventually forced the authorities to roll back the taxes.
Architect of the steel frame
- The Iron Man of India was the chief architect of India’s steel frame — the civil services.
- Thus, the All India Services were seen as an important cementing force in promoting the unity and integrity of the nation.
- It will be relevant to recall his famous address to the civil service probationers in 1947. when Patel told them that the service will have to adopt its true role of national service without being trammelled upon by traditions and habits of the past.
- He said: “Your (officers’) predecessors were brought up in the traditions in which they felt out of touch and kept themselves aloof from the common run of the people. It will be your bounden duty to treat the common men in India as your own or to put it correctly, to feel yourself to be one of them.”
The man of integrity and intentions of “nation first”
- He readily accepted the Mahatma Gandhi’s advice to withdraw his candidacy for the post of Congress President in favour of Pandit Nehru in 1946, although a majority of State Congress committees supported his candidature.
- It was apparent that the Congress President would become the first Prime Minister of India. It once again proved his noble intention of placing the country’s interests above self.
- His love for the motherland was best described by Maulana Azad when he said: “He made his choice out of two courses that come before a man, namely would he live for his country or for himself? Sardar chose his country.”
- The 182-metre-tall ‘Statue of Unity’ is being unveiled on his birth anniversary at the Narmada dam site in Gujarat, in a tribute and recognition of Patel’s stupendous role in integrating and ensuring India’s unity.
- We must try to emulate his qualities and work towards realising his dream of providing ‘Suraaj’ in a new and prosperous India.
Connecting the dots:
- Sardar Vallabh Patel rightly named as Iron Man of India. Comment.
TOPIC:General studies 2 & 3
- Right to privacy
- Information technology
- National and global data protection regime
Facebook leaks redux: Data protection
- Barely six months after the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook data theft scandal, the world’s largest social network hit the headlines once again.
- Facebook announced that it had discovered a security breach that had compromised nearly 50 million accounts. The figure was subsequently revised to 30 million.
- It is also unclear how much personal data have been stolen, and how that data may end up being used in ways that could harm Facebook users.
- This announcement came after implementation of European Union General Data Protection Rules in May 2018.
Do you know?
What is GDPR?
- The law is a replacement for the 1995 Data Protection Directive, which has until now set the minimum standards for processing data in the EU.
- GDPR will significantly strengthen a number of rights for individuals as well as regulators.
- Individuals will find themselves with more power to demand companies reveal or delete the personal data they hold;
- Regulators will be able to work in concert across the EU for the first time, rather than having to launch separate actions in each jurisdiction;
- Enforcement actions will have real teeth, with the maximum fine now reaching the higher of €20m (£17.5m) or 4% of the company’s global turnover.
- These rules aim to create more consistent protection of consumer and personal data across the European Union.
- EU-GDPR mandates a baseline set of standards for companies that handle the EU citizens’ data to better safeguard the processing and movement of citizens’ personal data.
- India’s draft bill on data protection, which has been created on the suggestions of B.N Srikrishna committee recommendations, also draws inspirations from EU-GDPR.
Some highlights of EU-GDPR
- Requiring consent of the subject for data processing
- Anonymising the data collected to protect the privacy
- Providing data breach notifications
- Safely handling the transfer of data across the border
Impact of the EU-GDPR
- The European Union (EU)’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) forced Facebook to go public with the breach so promptly, even before the full extent of the damage could be assessed.
- The GDPR’s stringent guidelines require companies to make such events known within three days of their discovery.
- EU-GDPR has ensured not only awareness of such data breach, but also prompt corrective measures with respect to data security which institutions need to ensure.
- Many Tech giants such as Google and facebook also changed their privacy terms and conditions, to be agreed by users.
- In general, citizen-consumers have had to choose between two equally unsatisfactory options: either resign themselves to a post-privacy world or be perpetually scrambling to reskill themselves in order to be able to safely navigate the complicated and ever-evolving (mine)field of data privacy and safety.
- If data security for ordinary users is to become something more than a seminar topic, then an equitable regulatory regime such as the GDPR must become the universal norm, in force beyond the EU jurisdiction as well.
Universities and patents
Define ‘strategic partners’