Environment Current Affairs 2017

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Uttarakhand HC recognise Ganga and Yamuna Rivers as living entity

The Uttarakhand High Court has recognized the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers as so-called living entities. It is for the first time any court in India has recognized a non-human as a living entity.

The two rivers are sacred for the Hindus, sustain millions of people in the country but have seen years of damage at the hands of humans.

The HC Division Bench comprising Justice Alok Singh and Justice Rajiv Sharma gave a landmark judgment while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition filed by one Mohammad Salim in 2014.

Uttarakhand HC verdict
  • Ganga and Yamuna, all their tributaries, streams are declared as legal persons [or] living persons in order to protect the recognition and the faith of society.
  • They will have the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person in order to preserve and conserve them.
  • State government failed to fulfil its responsibility regarding the rivers. Central government must constitute Ganga Management Board to look into the issue of cleaning and maintaining these rivers.
  • The Director, Namami Gange project and the Chief Secretary and the Advocate General of Uttarakhand have been charged to protect, conserve and preserve the rivers and their tributaries.

legal entities

What does it means?

In India, animals, for instance, are not considered living entities by law. Only humans are. But recognizing these rivers as a living entity, grants them new legal identity and all rights laid out in the Constitution of India. Thus, they have the right to be legally protected and not be harmed and destroyed. They also can be parties to disputes as their rights can be used to protect the interests of the rivers. It also means that if someone pollutes these rivers, the law will see it equal to harming a human being.

Interesting Facts
  • Earlier in March 2017, New Zealand Parliament passed a bill declaring 145km long Whanganui River as ‘legal person’, making it first river to get this status.
  • Ecuador was first country to recognize Rights of Nature in its Constitution adopted in September 2008. The new Ecuadorian Constitution includes a Chapter: Rights for Nature.

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Four States come together for elephant census

For the first time in India, four states Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have decided to conduct a synchronised elephant census in May 2017.

These four together have the maximum number of human-elephant conflict-prone regions in India. This decision was taken by senior Forest Department officials of the four States during a regional workshop.

Key Facts
  • These states will conduct the census based on an identical set of rules using the direct and indirect counting methods
  • The direct counting method is based on sighting of elephants while the indirect method uses the elephant ‘dung decay’ formula, in which the analysis of dung is used to estimate the population.
  • The indirect method has already been used by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Direct method can be used alone because it is not possible to cover entire area during the census
  • As per the 2015 census, Odisha has 1,954 elephants while Jharkhand has 700, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal had approximately 275 and 130 elephants, respectively.

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India launches Stage II of HCFC Phase Out Management Plan

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has launched Stage II of HCFCs Phase Out Management Plan (HPMP) for the 2017-23 period.

It aims to phase out use of Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), harmful ozone-depleting substances (ODS) by switching over to non-ozone depleting and low global warming potential technologies.

Under HPMP-II
  • India has secured $44.1 million from Multilateral Fund for implementation of Montreal Protocol for phasing out 8,190 MT of HCFC consumption between 2017 to 2023 to meet targets under the protocol for 2020.
  • More than 400 enterprises, including MSMEs in foam manufacturing sector and 6 large air-conditioning manufacturing enterprises will be supported for conversion to non-HCFC technologies from HCFCs.
  • Energy efficiency, development building codes, cold chain development with non-HCFC alternatives and development of standards for new non-ODS and low GWP alternatives will be promoted.
  • Adequate attention to synergize the Refrigeration and Servicing (RAC) servicing sector trainings will be given with the Skill India Mission, in order to multiply the impact of skilling and training.
  • Nearly, 16, 000 service technicians will be trained under HPMP-II. It will result in net direct CO2-equivalent emission reductions of about 8.5 million metric tonne annually from 2023.
Background

Under the Montreal Protocol, the accelerated phase out of Hydrochlorofluorcarbons (HCFCs) is underway with a aim to complete phase out by 2030 of these chemicals that result in ozone depletion and aid global warming.  At present, HCFCs are used in various sectors like refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC), polyurethane foam manufacturing and cold chains sectors etc. These sectors are directly related to urban development, agriculture through cold chain, and industrial development. India is undertaking phase-out of HCFCs through the implementation of HPMP. The Stage-I of HPMP has been already implemented in the country and has successfully met all the ODS phase-out targets, including those of HPMP Stage-I.

Montreal Protocol: It seeks to cut the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances (ODS) in order to protect the earth’s fragile ozone layer. It also aims at phase out HCFCs by 2030. It came into force in 1989 and has been ratified by 197 parties making it universally ratified protocol in UN history. It is also highly successful international arrangement, as it has phased-out more than 95% of the ODS so far as per its main mandate in less than 30 years of its existence.

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