[Editorial Analysis] Environment and Forest

Mains Paper 3: Environment
Prelims level: National Clean Air Action Plan
Mains level: Highlights the National Clean Air Action Plan

Context:

• According to the WHO, 91% of the world’s population breathes polluted air which causes cancers, strokes and heart diseases, stunting children’s growth and development.
• The world Bank estimates that air pollution costs India the equivalent of 8.5% of GDP a huge
drain on resources.

Indian Steps:

• The Government of India in 2019 launched a five-year National Clean Air Action Plan (NCAP) a time bound national-level strategy to achieve 20-30% reduction in concentration of particulate matter by 2024.
• The plan was to focus on 102 non-attainment cities with consistent poor air quality than the national ambient Air Quality Standards.
• Annual budget 2020-21 allocation of MoEFCC is enhanced by nearly 5% from the Budget 2019-20 with no change in the outlay to pollution abatement and climate change action plan.
• The Union Finance Minister while delivering budget speech, made several announcements for the environment and climate change.
• The ‘Clean Air policy’ has been allocated Rs. 4,400 crore.
• It was announced that all coal-fired power plants not meeting prescribed standards will be closed down.

Analysis:

• Experts have lauded the big step up in the allocation of clean air policy but significant investment is needed for transition to clean fuel.
• However, this announcement does need a clear road map with clarity from MoEFCC in emission reduction. Role of stakeholders, regulatory agencies, local government, etc.
needs to be clearly established. Selection of technology and pollution control equipment would need to be vetted by an independent panel of experts.

Forests in India:

• According to Economic survey 2019-20, our forest cover was 24.56% of the total geographical area of the country.
• The key findings of the Indian Forest Survey Report (ISFR), 2019 are that the carbon stock in forest has increased as compared to 2017 but is still far away from our Paris Agreement
commitment of 2.05 to 3 billion tons.
• The objective of the Green India Mission (GIM) is to increase green cover in India to the extent of five million hectares (mha) and improve the quality of existing green cover on another 5 mha.

Way ahead:

• So far, the afforestation done under the mission was only aimed at increasing tree count without considering the soil and weather conditions.
• Trees like eucalyptus were planted which seem to aggravate environmental problems. Planting of unsuitable trees may cause drought, and prevent biodiversity in the regions, points out the lok sabha Committee on Estimates 30th report.
• The institutions engaged in regulatory functioning both at the Central Government and States level lack capability in maintaining environmental regulation standards in large cities/urban centres.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the hantaviruses, consider the following statements:
1. A person can get infected if he/she comes in contact with a rodent that carries the virus.
2. The hantavirus is not novel and its first case dates back to 1993.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Describe the objectives of the National Clean Air Action Plan.

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