Environment Current Affairs 2017

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Fact Box: Cobra Lily

The rare cobra lilies scientifically known as Arisaema translucens has been rediscovered in the western Nilgiris by nature enthusiasts K.M. Prabhu Kumar and Tarun Chhabra after a gap of 84 years. One species of the lilies were found in Thia Shola while the other was spotted in the Pennant Valley forest area of the Nilgiris. It was last collected by E. Barnes in 1932 and described by C.E.C Fischer in 1933.

Salient features

The cobra lilies have a distinctive translucent spathe. The indigenous Toda tribals of Nilgiris are capable of predicting the early arrival of monsoon from the blooming of the cobra lily’s ‘translucens’. The Toda tribals have an embroidery motif called ‘podwarshk’ resembling the cobra lilies.

It is estimated that only a few hundred cobra lily plants are found in the wild that too in a very small area measuring less than 10 square kilometres in the Nilgiris. Of the lilies present in the Nilgiris, only two are endemic. These lilies are found in shola tree patches. Along with the disapperance of the Shola tree patches, the lilies too have disappeared in the past few decades.

The plant prized for its beauty around the world are at greater risk of extinction from the commercial trade in exotic plants.

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May 23: World Turtle Day

Every year May 23 is celebrated as the World Turtle Day as an annual observance aimed at protecting turtles and tortoises and their rapidly disappearing habitats across the world. The celebrations was started in 2000 by the American Tortoise Rescue (ATR). Since then it is celebrated every year to create awareness about the world’s oldest living reptiles in the world.

Threats in India

Smuggling 

The greatest threats faced by the turtles and tortoises in India is smuggling. They are smuggled every year in large numbers to East Asian and Southeast Asian markets. They are smuggled live to these countries. Apart from the live specimens, the eggs of sea turtle are dug up and sold as delicacies in the South Asian countries. The state of West Bengal has emerged as one of the focal points of turtle smuggling. Despite efforts of the government, turtle smuggling remains as a lucrative business in India.

Other Threats 

Turtles also threatened by several man made issues. One of the major threat is habitat destruction. The turtles which are found in Ganges and other major rivers in the country faces habitat destruction as these rivers are increasingly getting polluted. Sea turtles also suffers from the pollution of seas and beaches. Many turtles are dying every year by eating plastics.

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Madhya Pradesh bans Sand Excavation in Narmada River

The State Government of Madhya Pradesh has put an indefinite ban on the sand excavation in the Narmada River. This announcement has been made by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Bhopal. The government has also set up a committee to suggest the scientific ways of mining the rivers. This committee will submit the report to state government after exploring ways for sand excavation without harming rivers. The government will also promote manufactured sand (made by mixing stones).

Background

Illegal sand mining is one of the serious law & order and environmental issues in several states of India including Madhya Pradesh. The business has flourished mainly because of nexus between sand mafia, officers and politicians. Many people including police officers and activists have lost their lives while making attempts to check this illegal activity. The Chief Minister was has been travelling along side Narmada River to make “Save Narmada” a people’s movement through his “Namami Narmada Yatra”. However, in February 2017, his government had faced embarrassment when a company belonging to nephew of chief minister was alleged to be engaged in illegal mining.

The issue of illegal mining in Narmada was sub-judice in state High Court but in July 2015, it was transferred to National Green Tribunal. On the basis of a complaint by Medha Patkar (of Narmada Bachao Aandolan), the NGT had sent a team to investigate the matter. After investigation, NGT had directed state government to take strong measures and report the progress.

About Narmada River

Narmada (giver of pleasure), is one of the largest rivers of India, originating in Amarkantak Hills and flowing through Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. It is third largest river after Ganga and Godavari to flow within political boundaries of India. It flows in a rift valley between the Satpura and Vindhya Ranges; and serves as lifeline of Madhya Pradesh.  Its basin covers large areas in the states of Madhya Pradesh (86%), Gujarat (14%) and a smaller area (2%) in Maharashtra. In the river course of 1,312 km, there are 41 tributaries, out of which 22 are from the Satpuda range and the rest on the right bank are from the Vindhya Range. Geologically, Narmada River is older than the river Ganges. In Puranas, it has been mentioned as Rewa. In Indian history, the river has played role to divide North India (Uttarpatha) from South India (Dakshinpatha). The Chalukya emperor Pulakeshin-II had defeated emperor Harshavardhana on the banks of Narmada River, thus forcing him to agree this river as his southern border after this war.

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