Biodiversity is us and we are biodiversity
The observance of International Biodiversity Day (May 22) was yet another reminder of the pivotal role our natural world plays in resolving the climate change crisis, which, along with the decline of biodiversity, poses an existential threat to our future. Biodiversity, the rich variety of life forms and their interconnections with each other and the environment, is everywhere: inside our bodies as ubiquitous microbiomes, in our backyards, villages, towns, and cities, and in remote wild places as well-organised ecological communities and ecosystems. Maintaining and enhancing biodiversity on land and in oceans is perhaps the least expensive mechanism to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere so as to cool our land and oceans.
Mitigation of climate change is but one of the several benefits we derive from biodiversity. It also fulfils our basic needs for food, shelter, medicines, mental health, recreation, and spiritual enrichment. To face the continuing decline in the quality of our environment, we will need to rely more and more on solutions that draw upon biodiversity or nature, also called nature-based solutions to secure our future. It is biodiversity that will restore our degraded lands and polluted rivers and oceans and sustain our agriculture in the face of climate change. It is biodiversity that will form the basis of a new sustainable green economy. And it is biodiversity that will inspire our children to opt for a more humane, just, and hopeful future, which accords primacy to the living world.
Despite the importance of biodiversity that ultimately sustains all human endeavours, we have been poor stewards for caring and nurturing life on earth. Globally as well as in India, we have failed to adequately conserve and manage our precious, irreplaceable natural heritage. Biodiversity is declining worldwide, and our last remaining, largely isolated ecosystems are degrading due to changes happening around them, such as loss of species, climate stressors, and continuous human pressures.
In India, the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill will further weaken our resolve to sustain the remaining biodiversity.
Nurturing and managing biodiversity
In many ways, biodiversity is us and we are biodiversity. Thus, civil society must play a critical role in sustaining our biodiversity. A paradigm shift in the care of biodiversity, long overdue, must begin now, flowing from this International Biodiversity Day.
Let us first change the way we manage our biodiversity. Currently, the main custodian of the natural world is the Indian Forest Service. But the term “Forest” to describe our immense and unique natural heritage is flawed. India’s biodiversity is not only on land but also in waterbodies, rivers, deltas, and oceans. A rich array of our ecosystems is in the form of grasslands, savannas, alpine pastures, deserts, and other types of ecological communities. Even in the 20th century, people had started to talk about living organisms and the interconnectedness manifested as ecosystems and ecosystem services in multifunctional landscapes dominated by humans. In the 21st century, the basic terms “forests” and “wildlife” have limited meaning or usefulness.
We must think of multifunctional landscapes, where aspirations, beliefs, traditional knowledge, and direct participation of local communities are central to the notion of conserving and sustaining life on earth. In 2006, policymakers in India enacted the Forest Rights Act, that called for an increase in the stake of indigenous groups in ownership as well as management of biodiversity. However, the Act largely remains on paper, yet to be implemented on the ground. Seventeen years later, it is time to even move beyond the Act’s steps to fundamentally alter the way we manage our biodiversity. If biodiversity is everywhere, as it is, we must mainstream it into our daily actions — in every development programme, in every government department, in every public and private institution. And it is time to decentralise the management of biodiversity by bringing together multiple stakeholders, especially local communities, through gram sabhas and biodiversity management committees.
This very mainstreaming of biodiversity is the goal of the proposed National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Wellbeing, an idea this writer has referred to in earlier columns. India’s leading conservation biologists, working under the umbrella of the Biodiversity Collaborative based in Bengaluru, conceptualised the idea and developed a road map for the Mission approved in principle by the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Council.
The Mission will enable our country to meet critical challenges in climate change, natural and regenerative agriculture, and ecosystem and public health using biodiversity and ecosystem services — usually referred to as nature-based solutions. The ultimate goal is to enhance and conserve biodiversity to foster human well-being; more specifically, to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals related to poverty alleviation, nutrition and health, and environmental protection, and support an era of new green economy.
People will be at the centre of the Mission, the goal of which is to have all citizens engaged in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, embed consideration of biodiversity in every development-oriented programme of the public and private sectors, and arouse curiosity about nature and a sense of responsibility for safeguarding biodiversity — and our very future — in the minds of every child and every student. Undertaking such a pledge would be a fitting celebration of our precious and irreplaceable natural world.
The views expressed are personal
The engagement of all citizens will be key to the enhancement and protection of the world’s natural heritage
Facts about News
The term biodiversity was coined by Walter G. Rosen in the year 1986.
- In simple terms, biodiversity is the number and variety of living organisms present in a specific geographical region. It includes various plants, animals and microorganisms, the genes they have and the ecosystems formed by them.
- It relates to the diversity among living organisms on the earth, including the diversity within and between the species and that within and between the ecosystems they form.
Types of Biodiversity
Biodiversity can be categorized into three main types:
1.Genetic Diversity (Diversity within species)
2.Species Diversity (Diversity between species)
3.Ecosystem Diversity (Diversity between ecosystem)
National Mission on Biodiversity and Human Well-Being:
- The mission was approved in 2018 by the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) in consultation with MoEF&CC and other Ministries.
- It aims to strengthen the science of restoring, conserving, and sustainably utilising India’s natural heritage.
Benefits of Mission:
- It will empower India to restore, and even increase, our natural assets by millions of crores of rupees.
- It will help in rejuvenating agricultural production systems and increase rural incomes from biodiversity-based agriculture
- It will also result in creating millions of green jobs in restoration and nature tourism. For instance, Restoration activities across India’s degraded lands (1/3rd of our land area), alone could generate several million jobs.
- The Mission will help India to meet its international commitments under the new framework for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and UN SDGs by facilitating poverty alleviation, justice and equity.
- It will facilitate the creation of climate-resilient communities by offering nature-based solutions to numerous environmental challenges.
- It will aid in conservation and ecosystem management by gaining from the Scientific inputs related to geospatial informatics and policy.
The National Biodiversity Mission has two major components as discussed below:
This is titled NISARG Bharat (National Initiative for Sustained Assessment of Resource Governance). This component documents, catalogues, maps, monitors and manages biodiversity for conservation and sustainable utilization of biological resources. This has three sub-programs under it.
1.Exploration, Discovery and Genetic Characterization of India’s Biodiversity
2.National Framework for Electronic People’s Biodiversity Registers (e-PBRs)
3.Cataloguing and Mapping Life of India
The second major component consists of six Programs, each with field-based projects to realize the identified Sustainable Development Goals.
The six programs are on the following:
2.Climate Change and Disaster Risk
6.Capacity Building and Outreach
Is India missing the graphene bus?
What Artificial Intelligence (AI) is to software and quantum computing is to computers, graphene is to materials. These three emerging technologies will disrupt the existing human-machine interface in the next couple of decades. While India is among the leaders in AI and a potential challenger in quantum computing, it needs to catch up in the area of graphene.
A wonder material
Graphene is the world’s thinnest, strongest, and most conductive material of both electricity and heat. It conducts electricity better than copper. It is 200 times stronger than steel but six times lighter. It is almost perfectly transparent as it absorbs only 2% of light. It is impermeable to gases, even those as light as hydrogen and helium. It has the potential to revolutionise electricity, conductivity, energy generation, batteries, sensors and more. Also, when added to other materials, graphene even in small quantities produces composite materials with dramatically transformed qualities. Graphene composites are used in aerospace, automotive, sports equipment and construction. It is used for high-performance batteries and super-capacitors, touchscreens, and conductive inks. Graphene-based sensors are used for environmental monitoring, healthcare and wearable devices. Graphene oxide membranes are used for water purification and desalination. Graphene-based masks were made during COVID.
Graphene is important for defence and aerospace as well. Its exceptional strength makes it promising material for armour and ballistic protection. Graphene has the potential to absorb and dissipate electromagnetic waves, making it valuable for developing stealth coatings and materials that reduce radar signatures and electromagnetic interference. Graphene is highly sensitive to environmental changes, which makes it an excellent candidate for sensing chemical and biological agents, explosives, radiation, and other hazardous substances. Besides, graphene-based materials can also protect us against chemical and biological attacks. Better energy storage and electronics properties make graphene attractive in defence and aerospace as well as in civil and commercial applications.
Never has one material had such an impact on so many sectors. Materials define an age — the stone age, iron age, plastic age and silicon age. There are reasons to believe that we are entering the graphene age. According to the Grand View Research, the global graphene market size was valued at $175.9 million in 2022 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 46.6% between 2023 and 2030.
Although graphene was discovered in 2004, it was difficult to produce high-grade large-scale graphene. However, things are changing fast. As per a report, at least one graphene-enhanced product was launched every week in 2022. Over 300 companies are now producing graphene or its derivatives.
Among the leading countries in graphene research are China, the U.S., the U.K., Japan, South Korea, Russia, and Singapore. Till 2012, graphene-related patent filing was dominated by the U.S. From 2013 to 2016, South Korea and China matched the U.S. After 2017, China surged ahead. In 2018, China filed 218 patents while the other leading countries together filed 79. India had eight filings.
China and Brazil are global leaders in the commercial production of graphene. At the Beijing Graphene Institute, set up in 2018, several companies produce industry-grade graphene products. India produces about one-twentieth compared to China and one-third compared to Brazil.
But India’s progress has been better than many nations. The Centre for Nano Science and Engineering at IISc Bangalore along with KAS Tech produced a graphene-based system several years ago. Some start-ups and foreign subsidiaries have started graphene or graphene derivatives in India. Notably, Tata Steel has succeeded in growing graphene (about 50 micrometers large domains) using annealing and extracting atomic carbon from steel surface. It has also mixed graphene with used plastic products to recycle them as new. India’s niche is going to be innovation using graphene. It figured out how graphene oxide-based wrappers loaded with preservatives can increase the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. The IIT Roorkee-incubated Log 9 has patented a technology for graphene-based ultracapacitors, and the IIT Kanpur-incubated RF Nanocomposites has developed EMI shielding and stealth technology using graphene-based nanotubes. But this trickle needs to be converted into a torrent. A laudable step in this direction was the setting up of the India Innovation Centre for Graphene in Kerala. It is being implemented by the Digital University Kerala in partnership with Tata Steel and C-MET, Thrissur. The Centre needs to become the nodal point to spur large-scale innovation activity around graphene.
Governments have a crucial role to play. China declared graphene a priority in its 13th Plan. Europe set up the Graphene Flagship, with a budget of €1 billion in 2013. Can India not have a national graphene mission? A nodal Ministry needs to be entrusted with this responsibility; else the subject will fall through the cracks. India needs to be among the leaders in graphene because we may experience the ‘winner takes the most’ situation here. Given the high cost-to-volume ratio for high-grade graphene, its production may get concentrated in a few locations in the world, as in the case of semiconductors. India missed the semiconductor bus in the mid-1990s. The time to step on the graphene pedal is now.
India needs to catch up in the research and production of graphene, which is the defining material of this age.
Facts about News
What is Graphene?
- Graphene is a one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. It is the building-block of Graphite, but graphene is a remarkable substance on its own with a multitude of astonishing properties.
- It is the thinnest, most electrically and thermally conductive material in the world, while also being flexible, transparent and incredibly strong.
- Often referred to as a wonder material for its extraordinary electrical and electronics properties, graphene could replace Indium and thereby bring down the cost of OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screens in smartphones, studies have shown.
- Graphene has a lot of promise for additional applications: anti-corrosion coatings and paints, efficient and precise sensors, faster and efficient electronics, flexible displays, efficient solar panels, faster DNA sequencing, drug delivery, and more.
NOTE- The Kerala government announced the country’s first Graphene Innovation Centre, a joint venture of Digital University of Kerala, Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology (C-MET) and Tata Steel Limited.
Treatment worth ₹61,501 cr. provided under PM-JAY scheme
Cancer treatment, emergency care, orthopaedic and urology (kidney-related ailments) top the tertiary care specialities treatment availed by beneficiaries under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY) till date, as per data released by the Health Ministry on Wednesday. The yojana has now recorded five crore hospital admissions amounting to ₹61,501 crore under the scheme.
Approximately 49% of Ayushman card recipients are women and over 48% of total authorised hospital admissions under the AB PM-JAY scheme have been availed by women, noted the data.
“Also, over 141 medical procedures under the PM-JAY are exclusively earmarked for women,” it said, adding that AB PM-JAY beneficiaries can avail treatment corresponding to a total of 1,949 procedures under 27 different specialities The flagship scheme being implemented by the National Health Authority (NHA) provides health cover of ₹5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation to 12 crore beneficiary families.
The AB PM-JAY is being implemented in 33 States and Union Territories except Delhi, Odisha, and West Bengal. Till date, 23.39 crore beneficiaries have been verified and issued Ayushman cards for availing free treatment under the scheme.
The PM-JAY empanelled hospital network consists of 28,351 hospitals, including 12,824 private hospitals, across the country.
A senior Health Ministry official said the AB PM-JAY was launched with the vision to achieve Universal Health Coverage.
The scheme being implemented by the NHA provides health cover of ₹5 lakh per family per year.
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Facts about News
- The scheme was launched in 2018 to achieve the vision of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
- It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme.
- PM-JAY was earlier known as the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) before being rechristened. It subsumed the then-existing Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) which had been launched in 2008.
- It is the largest health assurance scheme in the world, which aims at providing a health cover of Rs. 5 lakhs per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization to over 10.74 crores poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crores beneficiaries) that form the bottom 40% of the Indian population.
- There are no restrictions on the number of family members, age, or gender.
- Households included are based on the deprivation and occupational standards of the Rural and Urban Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 (SECC 2011).
- It provides the point of service, the beneficiaries in the hospital, with cashless access to medical services.
- The program has expanded its reach to 33 states/regions in the Union, making the lives of beneficiaries easier while receiving treatment.
- Under the program, more than one crore of treatment is available to beneficiaries. More than half of the total number of beneficiaries who receive benefits under this system are female.
OTT platforms mandated to show anti-tobacco warnings
OTT platforms will be required to display anti-tobacco health spots at the beginning and middle of the programme. REUTERS
If the streaming apps fail to comply, a notice shall be issued to explain such failure, says Centre’s notification; industry executives complain that they were not consulted before the decision
It’s now mandatory for over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms to display anti-tobacco warnings as seen in movies screened in theatres and TV, as per a Union Health Ministry notification on Wednesday amending the rules under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2004.
OTT platforms like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hotstar and ZEE5 did not respond to The Hindu’s request for comment, but an industry executive said that the companies would collectively reach out to the government to articulate their view that static smoking warnings on small screens for content that is explicitly being requested by users may not be appropriate.
“The streaming industry was not consulted before the notification,” the executive said.
Meanwhile, as per the notification released on World No Tobacco Day, publishers of online curated content displaying tobacco products, or their use will be required to display anti-tobacco health spots at the beginning and middle of the programme.
They shall also be required to exhibit an anti-tobacco health warning as a prominent static message at the bottom of the screen when tobacco products or their use are displayed during the programme.
It added that the anti-tobacco health warning message as specified in clause(b) of sub-rule (1) shall be legible and readable, with font in black colour on white background and with the warnings ‘Tobacco causes cancer’ or ‘Tobacco kills’.
Besides warning messages, health spots and audio-visual disclaimers will have to be in the same language as used in the show.
“Additionally, if the publisher of online curated content fails to comply with the provisions, an inter-ministerial committee shall issue notice giving reasonable opportunity to explain such failure and make appropriate modification in the content,” the notification said.
The expression “online curated content” means any curated catalogue of audio-visual content, other than news and current affairs content, which is owned by, licensed to, or contracted to be transmitted by a publisher of online curated content, and made available on demand, including but not limited through subscription, over the internet or computer networks, and includes films, audiovisual programmes, television programmes, serials, series and other such content.
World’s largest grain storage plan: Centre to implement pilot project in 10 districts
Farmers could sell their crops to PACS by receiving some advance payment at the Minimum Support Price.NAGARA GOPAL
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the constitution and empowerment of an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) for facilitation of the “world’s largest grain storage plan in cooperative sector” by convergence of various schemes of the Ministries of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Food Processing Industries.
A government statement said that to ensure timely and uniform implementation of the plan in a professional manner, the Ministry of Cooperation would implement a pilot project in at least 10 selected districts of different States.
The committee will be chaired by Cooperation and Home Minister Amit Shah. It will lay guidelines for creation of infrastructure such as godowns, for agriculture and allied purposes, at selected ‘viable’ Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS).
The plan would be implemented by utilising the available outlays provided under the identified schemes of the respective Ministries.
Welcoming the decision, Mr. Shah said in a tweet, “Lack of agricultural storage capacity leads to wastage of food grains and farmers are forced to sell their crops at low prices. With this decision, farmers will now get modern grain storage facilities in their blocks through PACS, so that they will be able to get fair price for their grains.”
He said PACS were an important pillar of the rural economy. “With this plan, the country will get food security and crores of farmers associated with cooperatives will be benefited,” he said.
The statement said that farmers could sell their crops to PACS by receiving some advance payment at the Minimum Support Price (MSP), and get the balance after the PACS sold the food grains in the market.
Cabinet nod for second phase of CITIIS programme
The Union government on Wednesday approved the second phase of the City Investments to Innovate, Integrate and Sustain (CITIIS) project, a programme under the ambit of the Smart Cities Mission, which aims to promote integrated waste management and climate-oriented reform actions.
The CITIIS 2.0 will be implemented in 18 cities which would be selected based on a competition.
The programme, which was approved at a meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aims to support competitively selected projects promoting circular economy with a focus on integrated waste management at the city level, climate-oriented reform actions at the State level, and institutional strengthening and knowledge dissemination at the national level.
It would span over a period of four years from 2023-2027 and has been conceived and would be implemented in partnership with the French Development Agency (AFD), Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), the European Union (EU), and National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA).
The funding for CITIIS 2.0 would include a loan of ₹1,760 crore from AFD and KfW, split equally, and a technical assistance grant of ₹106 crore from the European Union.
The CITIIS 2.0 has three major components which are financial and technical support for developing projects focused on building climate resilience, adaptation and mitigation in up to 18 smart cities, and interventions at centre, State and city levels to further climate governance.
The project aims at promoting integrated waste management and climate-oriented reform actions.
- An all-India Challenge named CITIIS (Cities Investments to Innovate Integrate and Sustain) was launched in July 2018 in partnership with Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and European Union.
- A Loan of EUR 100 million will be extended by Agence Française de Développement (AFD), which shall be given as a grant to Smart Cities for implementation of 15 innovative projects selected through the All-India Challenge.
- The projects would be in four sectors – sustainable mobility, public open spaces, urban governance & ICT and social and organizational innovation in low-income settlements.