Environment Current Affairs 2017

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Earth Hour observed across the World

The eleventh edition of the Earth Hour was observed across the world on 25 March 2017 to take a global call on climate change. To mark this day, cities worldwide turned their lights off from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm local time.

This year millions of people from some 170 countries and territories had taken part in the annual event in a bid to highlight global warming caused by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas to drive cars and power plants.

Environmental activists this year also have focused to raise awareness on another problem that gets far less attention: Light Pollution.

About Earth Hour

  • Earth Hour is an annual international event organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The first Earth Hour was held on March 31, 2007 in Sydney, Australia.
  • It is held annually in end of March month to encourage everyone to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.
  • The event encourages households and businesses to turn off their lights and electrical appliances for one hour at the appointed time to raise awareness about the need to take action on climate change.
  • Its goal is to raise awareness for sustainable energy use and create a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle.
  • Since its inception, it has become annual global environmental event (movement). Now it has grown to engage more than 7,000 cities and towns across 172 countries worldwide.
What is Light Pollution?

Light pollution is artificial brightening of the night sky caused by man-made lightening sources, which has a disruptive effect on natural cycles and inhibits the observation of stars and planets. It is also known as photo pollution or luminous pollution and basically is the misdirected or obtrusive of natural light by excessive artificial light. More than 80% of humanity lives under skies saturated with artificial light.

Components of light pollution
  • Glare: excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort.
  • Skyglow: brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas.
  • Clutter: bright, excessive and confusing groupings of light sources.
  • Light trespass: light falling where it is not intended or needed. 
Effects of Light Pollution
  • Disturbs the reproductive cycles of some animals.
  • Disturbs migration of birds that navigate using the stars and to disorient night-flying insects.
  • In humans, it disturbs circadian rhythms that regulate hormones and other bodily functions.
  • Excessive blue light emitted form LEDs directly affects sleep pattern in Human by suppressing the production of the hormone melatonin, which mediates the sleep-wake cycle in humans.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF): It is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) working in the field of the biodiversity conservation, and the reduction of humanity’s footprint on the environment.

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Environment Ministry official to chair Animal Welfare Board of India

Government has notified that Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), a statutory advisory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF) will now be permanently chaired by a senior MoEF official.

Recently, new Board of 18 members, chaired by Sharad Singh Negi, Special Secretary and Director-General (Forests), MoEF came into effect for three years term.

Background

Previously in AWBI’s 55-year history, it was always chaired by somebody outside government, such as veterinarians, animal welfare activists or retired judges. But in recent times due to differences between AWBI and MoEFCC, especially on the conduct of the Jallikattu, Central Government exerted its primacy in the management of the organisation.

About Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI)

  • The AWBI is a statutory advisory body established in 1962 under Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
  • It frames a range of rules on how animals ought to be humanely treated everywhere. It has also frequently litigated to have stricter laws to ensure animals were not unduly harassed or tortured.
  • Initially it was within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Later in 1990, the subject of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was transferred to the MoEFCC.
  • Well-known humanitarian and former parliamentarian (late) Rukmini Devi Arundale was instrumental in setting up the board and was its first chair.
  • The Board consists of 28 Members, who serve for a period of 3 years. Its headquaters is located at Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
  • Several government organisations, along with animal rights activists and parliamentarians, are represented on the Board.
  • Some Functions of AWBI: Recognition of Animal Welfare Organisations: It oversees Animal Welfare Organisations (AWOs) by granting them recognition if they meet its guidelines.
  • It also appoints key people to the positions of (Hon) Animal Welfare Officers, who serve as the key point of contact between the people, the government and law enforcement agencies.
  • Financial assistance: It provides financial assistance to recognised AWOs, who submit applications to the Board.
  • Categories of grants include Regular Grant, Cattle Rescue Grant, Provision of Shelter House for Animals, Animal Birth Control (ABC) Programme, Ambulance for animals in distress and Natural Calamity grant.
  • Animal welfare Laws and Rules: It suggests changes to laws and rules about animal welfare issues. It also offers guidance to organisations and officials such as police to help them interpret and apply the laws.
  • Raising awareness: It issues publications to raise awareness of various animal welfare issues. Its education team gives talks on animal welfare subjects, and trains members of the community to be Certified Animal Welfare Educators

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Sea ice hits record winter low at both poles: Scientists

According to US and European scientists, the extent of sea ice at both poles has hit new record lows for this time of the year.

The disappearing sea ice comes as the Earth marks three consecutive years of record-breaking heat and temperature rise, raising fresh concerns about the accelerating pace of global warming. 

Key Findings 
  • Artic region: The ice floating in the Arctic Ocean grows and shrinks on a seasonal cycle every year, reaching its largest size in March and smallest at the end of the summer melt in September.
  • But this year’s Arctic maximum spanned 14.42 million sq.km i.e. 95,829 sq.km below the previous record low in 2015. This year’s ice cover is 12,19,884 sq.km smaller compared to average sea ice extent for 1981-2010.
  • The Arctic sea ice maximum has dropped by an average of 2.8% per decade since 1979. There was a lot of open ocean water and very slow ice growth because the water had a lot of accumulated.
  • Antartic region: The ice in the Antarctic also follows a seasonal cycle but its maximum comes in September and its minimum around February (summer in Southern Hemisphere).
  • In the Antarctic, this year’s annual sea ice was 21,10,840 sq.km, about 1,83,889 sq.km below the previous lowest minimum extent in the satellite record, which occurred in 1997.
  • For the past two years, Antarctica saw record high sea ice extents and decades of moderate sea ice growth.

Ice level

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