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Down to Earth Magazine Analysis – 1st to 15th October 2021 Part 1 – Free PDF Download


  • The Delhi Jal Board has set up more than 2,000 floating rafters on lakes at Sanjay Van (pictured here), Sonia Vihar, Jaffarpur Kalan, Rani Khera and Nangloi in the first phase of its City of Lakes project that aims to rejuvenate at least 50 waterbodies in the national capital.
  • These rafters, made from PVC pipes and nets, hold plants such as pampas grass, spider lily, yellow and red canna, elephant ear and soft rush whose roots house bacteria that can absorb organic pollutants from water. To expedite the lakes’ rejuvenation process, the water utility also plans to install aeration techniques to raise dissolved oxygen levels in the water.

Delhi Jal Board’s ‘City of Lakes’

  • The ‘City of Lakes’ project was launched on December 24, 2018, by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who approved Rs 376 crore for the rejuvenation of 159 lakes in Delhi and Rs 77 crore towards the creation of two mega lakes at Rohini and Nilothi.
  • This project aims to increase water supply to meet the city’s daily demand of 1,140 million gallons (MGD).
  • The purpose of the revitalisation project was to create a reservoir to stop urban flooding and to avoid choked drainage. The government also wants to enhance the aesthetic value of the landscape by ecologically reviving it and restoring the flora and fauna of the area around it.

  • Recovery from covid-19 has boosted demand for coal-based thermal power in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in India, China and New Zealand. This has raised doubts on their ability to phase out the energy source in the face of climate change.

  • Indonesia and Australia, the biggest exporters of coal globally, were already facing scrutiny for failing to make robust plans to reduce their productions. Now the pressure to supply has increased with additional demand.
  • For instance, China, which unofficially banned supplies from Australia in October 2020 over pandemic tensions, and leans heavily on Mongolia and Indonesia for supply.
  • It has in fact imported 36 per cent more coal annually in August this year, according to data with its General Administration of Customs. This is despite China’s own pledge to cut down on coal consumption from 2026 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

What the India’s pledge in this regard?

India’s five pledges are:

    1. net-zero emissions by 2070,
    2. by 2030 achieving non-fossil fuel energy capacity of 500 GW,
    3. 50% energy requirements from renewable sources,
    4. reducing total projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes and
    5. reducing the carbon intensity of the economy to less than 45%.

Coal surge impact on India

  • A surge in coal demand has resulted in India raising both imports and production, despite an ambitious target of meeting 60 per cent of electricity production from renewables by 2030.
  • While the country’s overall imports rose by nearly half in June, state-owned producer Coal India increased output by 15 per cent in August.

  • Carbon emissions from intense wildfires that tore across many parts of the Northern Hemisphere this summer broke records, according to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service of the EU.

Key Findings

  • Dry conditions and heatwaves in the Mediterranean contributed to a wildfire hotspot with many intense and fast developing fires across the region, which created large amounts of smoke pollution.
  • Its data shows wildfires have released 1.3 giga tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) in August, which was the highest since the organisation began measurements in 2003. North America and Russia were the largest contributors to emissions from burning forests.
  • Between June and August, fires in taiga forests of Siberia pumped 970 megatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
  • The Arctic Circle, which has warmed more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet and is increasingly reporting wildfires, released 66 million tonnes of CO2 this summer.
  • Estimated CO2emissions from wildfires in Russia as a whole from June to August amounted to 970 megatonnes, with the Sakha Republic and Chukotka accounting for 806 megatonnes.

BITS Global Terminology

Named Orca:

  • It is a plant which has started running in Iceland. It is considered as the world’s largest plant to directly remove Carbon dioxide from the air. This plant will capture 4,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, which is equivalent to the emissions from 870 cars.

How it works?

  • Once absorbed using chemical filters, the company Climeworks AG hands over the gas to another firm, Carbfix, which mixes CO2 with water and injects the carbonated water into Iceland’s basalt rock, at a depth of 1,000 metres. These basalts contain minerals that react with CO2 to form calcium carbonate, a white crystal found in rocks such as limestone.

South Africa to Import Plastic Waste

  • South Africa will soon import plastic waste to meet the domestic industry’s needs.
  • These imports will be regulated under the 1992 Basel Convention for transport of hazardous waste, and recycled.
  • However, a World Wide Fund for Nature report in August this year shows the country already produces 2,730 tonnes of plastic waste each year, but only 14 per cent is recycled.

A New Species

Scenopinus jerei:

  • Researchers from Finland have described a new species of window fly from the country.
  • Named Scenopinus jerei, the fly lives in boreal forest habitats. Globally, there are only 420 species of window flies; they can be beneficial as their larvae prey on other household pests.

India’s Wealth Gap

  • “All India Debt and Investment Survey-2019”: The disparity in terms of assets and debt distribution between different economic strata in rural and urban areas.
  • “Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households and Land and Livestock Holdings in Rural India-2019”: Income from farming, which is the primary source of livelihood for more than half of all rural households in the country, is diminishing.

  • The two reports have been released as part of the 77th round of the decennial National Sample Survey (NSS).
  • The survey uses the Gini index —a statistical measure of distribution of income or wealth that ranges from a score of 0 for perfect equality to a score of 1 for perfect inequality— to highlight the overall scenario in India, with urban regions (0.678) faring worse than rural areas (0.615).
  • One of the primary impacts of such unequal asset distribution is that while the rich take loans to build assets (capital expenditures), the poor take loans to survive (revenue expenditures).
  • Agricultural households have seen an almost 60 per cent increase in debt in the past six years due to higher input cost and land fragmentation.

  • The virtual United Nations (UN) Food Systems Summit started on September 23, the reality of our food systems disrupting the planet’s health and our own had set in. Some 90 countries “committed” to reform the food systems.
  • Food systems influence at least 12 of the 17 sdgs. Since then, the UN claims, there have been dialogues at community, national and international levels involving more than 100,000 people to generate ideas that would reform the food systems to meet the sdgs in the next nine years.

Other Events

  • The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in November in Glasgow, Scotland, is expected to take up the food and agriculture systems from the perspective of climate change.
  • On December 7-8, 2021, Japan hosted the Nutrition for Growth (n4g) Summit that will focus on improving nutrition within global food systems. The UN Food Systems Summit this year provides the context to these events to take up reforms in the food systems.

Adequate Food?

  • Every year the world produces enough to feed 10 billion people, much more than the current world population. Yet the world will not be able to meet the SDG of eradicating hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030.
  • In 2020, some 2.37 billion people, or a third of the world’s population, could not access adequate food.
  • This was an increase of 320 million from the 2019 figure. Inequality in access to adequate and healthy food is widening, precipitating a pandemic of malnutrition.
  • Intense agriculture, processing and delivering food produce account for 25% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
  • The UN Food Systems Summit on September 23 aimed to build a consensus on altering our food production systems to reduce the sector’s huge emissions without cutting down funding.
  • This system of food production and consumption comes with a heavy toll on the planet’s health. As per Living Planet Report 2020 by World Wide Fund for Nature, a Switzerland-based international non-profit, earmarking increasingly more land for agriculture to produce more has caused 70 per cent of global biodiversity loss and 50 percent of all tree cover.
  • The hidden cost of the contemporary food systems to the environment and public health is humongous: $12 trillion per year which is expected to rise to $16 trillion by 2050. Over 50 percent of this “hidden costs” is due to the impacts of obesity, under-nutrition and pollution.

A Multi-Billion-Dollar Opportunity:

  • Repurposing agricultural support to transform food systems
  • A report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme identifies governments’ support system for farmers and agriculture as first target for reform.
  • Currently, countries pump in $540 billion a year as support to farmers. This is expected to triple by 2030 to $1.759 trillion.
  • “Yet 87 percent of this support, approximately $470 billion, is price distorting and environmentally and socially harmful,” the report says.
  • Of the total support, $294 billion is paid in the form of price incentives and around $245 billion as fiscal subsidies to farmers. Most of the support and incentives are tied to the production of a specific commodity.
  • The report has three conclusions that make the food systems so detrimental to the planet and its people, and also fail to achieve the objective of making healthy food available to all, adequately.
    • First, most of the support is targeted at a few commodities and does not benefit all farmers.
    • Second, the support is for the most emission-intensive sectors like sugar and beef production.
    • Third, the current support systems invariably help corporate more than producers.
  • To meet the Paris Agreement goals, high-income countries needed to shift their massive support to the outsized meat and dairy industry that accounted for 14.5 percent of global GHG emissions in 2020, says the UN report.
  • Similarly, for low income countries, the report suggested, governments must reconsider the support to chemical pesticides and fertilisers and also to discourage monoculture.
  • To kick start the reforms, the UN has a six-step recommendation. For governments, it suggests:
    • measuring the support provided;
    • understanding its positive and negative impacts;
    • identifying repurposing options;
    • forecasting their impacts;
    • refining the proposed strategy and detailing its implementation plan; and,
    • finally, monitoring the implemented strategy.

  • On August 30, the Sri Lankan President declared an economic emergency. Sri Lanka is under a pandemic-induced economic crisis, with a rising foreign debt, depleted foreign exchange reserves and a devaluing currency.
  • Media reports have linked the food shortage and economic crisis to a government decision earlier this year. In April, the President announced that only organic farming would be allowed in Sri Lanka, aiming to become the first country to do so.
  • Before the president’s announcement, the government’s National Agriculture Policy 2021 planned to increase organic fertiliser use in Sri Lanka from 1 per cent to 30 percent within three years.
  • Only 2.8 per cent of Sri Lanka’s total agricultural land is organic, as per “World of Organic Agriculture 2020”, published by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement. About 27% of Sri Lanka’s economically active population is involved in farming.
  • A smooth transition from chemical-based farming to organic or natural farming needs a well-thought plan. Sri Lanka lacks a roadmap and transition plan, and it seems that the decision to shift to organic farming has been taken under economic compulsion.

  • The tragic death of nine tourists in a landslip in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh is a pointer to the fragility of the ecology of the Himalayan States.
  • Extraordinarily heavy rain hit Himachal Pradesh recently, leaving the hill slopes unstable and causing floods in built-up areas. The descending boulders from destabilised terrain, which crushed a bridge like a matchstick, are a source of worry for cautious local residents, and the visitors.
  • Several residents of Thatch and Nigulsari blame it on the 1,500 MW Nathpa Jhakri Power Project on the Sutlej.
  • The project has a 27.4 km long headrace tunnel for conveying water to the underground power station. This tunnel, dubbed one of the longest in the world, passes under Nigulsari and Thatch and is not far away from the spot where the landslide occurred.
  • More than 90 Per cent Hydropower Projects with 25 MW or more capacity are concentrated in eight highly vulnerable districts of the state.

  • Every adversity contains within it the seeds of opportunity and growth. Following this philosophy, a handful of tribal villages in Chhattisgarh’s kanker district rewrote their destiny, when the covid-19 pandemic hit the country and the government imposed lockdowns to contain the spread of the infection.

  • Chhattisgarh villages reuse domestic waste water to grow crops at home, attain food security amid COVID.
  • Residents of three villages in Chhattisgarh’s Kanker district use a C-trap and a silt chamber to remove impurities from wastewater for use in their kitchen gardens.
  • Water flows through the C-trap and gets stored in the concrete box, where the impurities settle at the bottom and the foam and grease layer floats up.
  • While the silt chamber is constructed in a way so that water automatically flows out through gravity, the outlet pipe is placed 15 cm below the chamber cover to ensure that the grease layer does not escape into the garden.



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