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Nitrogen Cycle/Sulphur Cycle /Hydrological Cycle


Nitrogen Cycle Sulphur Cycle Hydrological Cycle

Nitrogen Cycle

Nitrogen is an essential component of protein and required by all living organisms including human beings. Nitrogen is needed for our DNA, RNA and proteins and is critical to human agriculture. Nitrogen, a component of proteins and nucleic acids, is essential to life on Earth.
Although 78 percent by volume of the atmosphere is nitrogen gas, this abundant reservoir exists in a form unusable by most organisms. Through a series of microbial transformations, however, nitrogen is made available to plants, which in turn ultimately sustain all animal life.
The steps, which are not altogether sequential, fall into the following classifications:
• Nitrogen fixation, in which nitrogen gas is converted into inorganic nitrogen compounds, is mostly (90 percent) accomplished by certain bacteria and blue-green algae (see nitrogen fixation). A much smaller amount of free nitrogen is fixed by abiotic means (e.g., lightning, ultraviolet radiation, electrical equipment) and by conversion to ammonia through the Haber-Bosch process.
• Nitrates and ammonia resulting from nitrogen fixation are assimilated into the specific tissue compounds of algae and higher plants. Animals then ingest these algae and plants, converting them into their own body compounds.
• The remains of all living things and their waste products are decomposed by microorganisms in the process of ammonification, which yields ammonia. (Under anaerobic, or oxygen-free, conditions foul-smelling putrefactive products may appear, but they too are converted to ammonia in time.) Ammonia can leave the soil or be converted into other nitrogen compounds, depending in part on soil conditions.
• Nitrification, a process carried out by nitrifying bacteria, transforms soil ammonia into nitrates, which plants can incorporate into their own tissues.
• Nitrates also are metabolized by denitrifying bacteria, which are especially active in water-logged, anaerobic soils. The action of these bacteria tends to deplete soil nitrates, forming free atmospheric nitrogen.
Human Impact on the Nitrogen Cycle:
Humans have contributed significantly to the nitrogen cycle by artificial nitrogen fertilization (primarily through the Haber process, using energy from fossil fuels to convert N2 to ammonia gas (NH3) and planting of nitrogen fixing crops. In addition, humans have significantly contributed to the transfer of nitrogen gases from Earth to the atmosphere.
N2O has risen in the atmosphere as a result of agricultural fertilization, biomass burning, cattle and feedlots, and other industrial sources. N2O has deleterious effects in the stratosphere, where it breaks down and acts as a catalyst in the destruction of atmospheric ozone. NH3 in the atmosphere has tripled as the result of human activities.
It is a reactant in the atmosphere, where it acts as an aerosol, decreasing air quality and clinging on to water droplets, eventually resulting in acid rain. Fossil fuel combustion has contributed to a 6 or 7 fold increase in NxOx flux to the atmosphere. NxOx actively alters atmospheric chemistry, and is a precursor of tropospheric (lower atmosphere) ozone production, which contributes to smog, acid rain, and increases nitrogen inputs to ecosystems.
Ecosystem processes can increase with nitrogen fertilization, but anthropogenic input can also result in nitrogen saturation, which weakens productivity and can kill plants. Decreases in biodiversity can also result if higher nitrogen availability increases nitrogen-demanding grasses, causing a degradation of nitrogen-poor, species diverse heath lands.



Mauryan Empire/ Mauryan Administration / Mauryan Economy


Mauryan Empire Mauryan Administration Mauryan Economy

Mauryan Empire

• The foundation of the Mauryan Empire opens a new era in the history of India and for the first time, the political unity was achieved in India.
• The history writing has also become clear from this period due to accuracy in chronology and sources. Besides plenty of indigenous and foreign literary sources, a number of epigraphical records are also available to write the history of this period.
Literary Sources
A. Kautilya’s Arthasastra
• Arthasastra in Sanskrit was written by Kautilya, a contemporary of Chandragupta Maurya. Kautilya was also called ‘Indian Machiavelli’.
• The manuscript of Arthasastra was first discovered by R. ShamaSastri in 1904.
– The Arthasastra contains 15 books and 180 chapters but it can be divided into three parts: the first deals with the king and his council and the departments of government;
– The second with civil and criminal law; and
– The third with diplomacy and war. It is the most important literary source for the history of the Mauryas.
B. Visakadatta’sMudrarakshasa
• The Mudrarakshasa written by Visakadatta is a drama in Sanskrit.
• Although written during the Gupta period, it describes how Chandragupta with the assistance of Kautilya overthrew the Nandas.
• It also gives a picture of the socio-economic condition under the Mauryas.
C. Megasthenes’ Indica
• Megasthenes was the Greek ambassador in the court of Chandragupta Maurya.
• Megasthenesbook Indica has survived only in fragments. Yet, Indica gives details about the Mauryan administration, particularly the administration of the capital city of Pataliputra and also the military organization.
• His picture on contemporary social life is notable.
D. Other Literature
• Apart from these three important works, the Puranas and the Buddhist literature such as Jatakas provide information on the Mauryas.
• The Ceylonese Chronicles Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa throw light on the role Asoka in spreading Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
E. Archaeological Sources
• Among the archaeological sources of the Mauryan period, a considerable amount of numismatic (the study of coins) evidence, some artifacts from archaeological excavations and art objects are avilable.
• A large number of silver and copper coins which are punch-marked are also available. These appear to have been in circulation throughout the Mauryan period. These coins provide some knowledge of socio-economic life of the Mauryan period. For example, Chandragupta was depicted standing with a Greek queen in one of his coins which reveals friendly relations between Magadha and Greece.
• Remarkable inscriptions of Asoka engraved on rocks and pillars which notwithstanding the ravages of time have supplied us with authoritative details of inestimable value. Asokan edicts were found not only in the Indian sub-continent but also in Kandhar in Afghanistan.
• These inscriptions are in the form of 44 royal orders and each royal order has several copies. The inscriptions were composed in the 2 Prakritlanguage and written in the Brahmi script (written from left to right) throughout thereafter part of the empire.
• In the northwestern part, they appear in the Kharoshti script written from right to left and in Kandhar in the Greek and Aramaic script.
• These inscriptions were generally placed on highways.
• They throw light on the career of Asoka, his external and domestic policies and the extent of his empire.
• Cunningham published Corpus . Inscriptions Indicarum in 1879, which is a series of collection of inscriptions bearing on the history of Maurya, post-Maurya and Gupta times.
• Gimar inscription of Rudradaman (150 AD) also offers some useful inputs into the provincial administration of Gujarat under the Mauryas.
POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE MAURYAS
Chandragupta Maurya (322 – 298 B.C.)
• Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Mauryan Empire. Chandragupta is called Sandrocottus by the Greek scholars.
• He captured Pataliputra from the last ruler of the Nanda dynasty, Dhanananda.
• In this task he was assisted by Kautilya, who was also known as Chanakya or Vishnugupta.
• After firmly establishing his power in the Gangetic valley, he marched to the northwest and subdued the territories up to the Indus. Then he moved to central India and occupied the region north of Narmada river.
• In 305 B.C., he marched against SelukasNiketar, who was Alexander’s General controlling the northwestern India. Chandragupta Maurya defeated him and a treaty was signed. By this treaty, SelukasNiketar ceded the trans-Indus territories – namely Aria, Arakosia and Gedrosia – to the Mauryan Empire. He also gave his daughter in marriage to the Mauryan prince. Chandragupta made a gift of 500 elephants to Selukas. Megasthenes was sent to the Mauryan court as Greek ambassador.
• Chandragupta embraced Jainism towards the end of his life and stepped down from the throne in favour of his son Bindusara. Then he went to SravanaBelgola, near Mysore along with Jain monks led by Bhadrabhagu and starved himself to death.}
Bindusara (298 – 273 B.C.)
• Bindusara was called by the Greeks as “Amitragatha” meaning slayer of enemies.
• He is said to have conquered the Deccan up to Mysore. Taranatha, the Tibetan monk states that Bindusara conquered 16 states comprising ‘the land between the two seas.
• The Sangam Tamil literature also confirms the Mauryan invasion of the far south. The MauryanEmpire underBindusara extended up to Mysore.
• Bindusara received Deimachus as ambassador from the Syrian king Antiochus I. Bindusara wrote to Antiochus I asking for sweet wine, dried figs and a sophist. The latter sent all but a sophist because the Greek law prohibited sending a sophist.
• Bindusara supported the Ajivikas, a religious sect. Bindusara appointed his son Asoka as the governor of Ujjain.
Asoka the Great (273 – 232 B.C.)
• Asoka acted as Governor of Ujjain and also suppressed a revolt in Taxila during his father Bindusara’s reign.
• There was an interval of four years between Asoka’s accession to the throne (273 B.C.) and his actual coronation (269 B.C.). Therefore, it appears from the available evidence that there was a struggle for the throne after Bindusara’s death.
• The Ceylonese Chronicles, Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa state that Asoka captured power after killing his ninety-nine brothers including the his elder brother Susima. The youngest brotherTissa was spared.
• According to Taranatha of Tibet, Asoka killed only six of his brothers.
• Asoka’s Edict also refers to his brothers acting as officers in his administration.
• The most important event of Asoka’s reign was his victorious war with Kalinga in 261 B.C.
• Although there is no detail about the cause and course of the war, the effects of the war were described by Asoka himself in the Rock edict XIII: “A hundred and fifty thousand were killed and many times that number perished…” After the war he annexed Kalinga to the Mauryan Empire.
• Another most important effect of the Kalinga war was that Asoka embraced Buddhism under the influence of Buddhist monk, Upagupta.

Extent of Asoka’s EmpireExtent of Asoka’s Empire
• Asoka’s inscriptions mention the southernmost kingdoms – Cholas, Pandyas, Satyaputras and Keralaputras as border states. Therefore, these states remained outside the Mauryan Empire.
• According to Rajatarangini, Kashmir was a part of the Mauryan Empire. Nepal was also within the Mauryanempire. The northwestern frontier was already demarcated by Chandragupta Maurya.
Asoka and BuddhismAsoka and Buddhism
• Asoka appointed special officers called Dharma Mahamatras to speed up the progress of Dhamma.
• In 241 B.C., he visited the birth place of Buddha, the Lumbini Garden, near Kapilavastu.
• He also visited other holy places of Buddhism like Sarnath, Sravasti and Kusinagara.
• He sent a mission to Sri Lanka under his son Mahendra and daughter Sangamitra who planted there the branch of the original Bodhi tree.
• Asoka convened the Third Buddhist Council at Pataliputra in 240 B.C. in order to strengthen the Sangha. It was presided over by MoggaliputtaTissa.
Asoka’s DhammaAsoka’s Dhamma
• Although Asoka embraced Buddhism and took efforts to spread Buddhism, his policy of Dhamma was a still broad concept. It was a way of life, a code of conduct and a set of principles to be adopted and practiced by the people at large.
• His principles of Dhamma were clearly stated in his Edicts.
• The main features of Asoka’s Dhamma as mentioned in his various Edicts may be summed as follows:
a) Service to father and mother, practice of ahimsa, love of truth, reverence to teachers and good treatment of relatives.
b) Prohibition of animal sacrifices and festive gatherings and avoiding expensive and meaningless ceremonies and rituals.
c) Efficient organization of administration in the direction of social welfare and maintenance of constant contact with people through the system of Dhammayatras.
d) Humane treatment of servants by masters and prisoners by government officials.
e) Consideration and non-violence to animals and courtesy to relations and liberality to Brahmins.
f) Tolerance among all the religious sects.
g) Conquest through Dhamma instead of through war.
• The concept of non-violence and other similar ideas of Asoka’s Dhamma are identical with the teachings of Buddha.
• Asoka did not equate Dhamma with Buddhist teachings.
• Asoka’sDhamma signifies a general code of conduct. Asoka wished that his Dhamma should spread through all social levels.


• Asoka was “the greatest of kings” surpassing Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar and other renowned Emperors of the world.
• According to H.G. Wells “Amidst the tens and thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, the name of Asoka shines and shines almost alone, a star”.
• Asoka Dhamma is so universal that it appeals to humanity even today.
• He was an example in history for his benevolent administration and also for following the policy of non-aggression even after his victory in the war. His central ideal was to promote the welfare of humanity.
• Later Mauryas Asoka’s death in 232 B.C. was followed by the division of the Mauryan Empire into two parts – western and eastern. The western part was ruled by Kunala, son of Asoka and the eastern part by Dasaratha, one of the grand sons of Asoka.
• Due to the Bactrian invasions, the western part of the empire collapsed. The eastern part was intact under Samprati successor of Dasaratha.
• The last Mauryan king was Brihatratha, who was assassinated by PushyamitraSunga.
Foreign RelationsForeign Relations
• The Asokan inscriptions are one of the main sources in this regard which mention contemporary rulers in other parts of the world.
• The foreign relations of the Mauryas can be divided into distinct phases- the initial phase of the expansion and the latter phase or the phase of consolidation.
• The initial phase was marked by an aggressive foreign policy and a policy of securing trade routes and subjugating the Greek settlements in the north and north-west regions.The incorporation of central India gave them control over Dakshinapatha and brought them into the peninsula. The initial phase of expansion came to an end after the Kalinga war.
• During the second phase, the emphasis shifted to consolidation and having friendly relations with immediate neighbours and also with far off countries. Asoka was the main proponent of such a policy and he was probably influenced by diplomatic requirements. geographical proximity and trade needs.
• In Rock Edict XIII Asoka has referred to five contemporary rulers.
1. Antiyoka (Antiochus II of Syria);
2. Turmaya (Ptolemy II philadelphus of Egypt);
3. Antikini (Antigonas of Macedonia);
4. Maka (Magas of Cyrene), and
5. Aliksudaro (Alexander of Epirus).
• The reference to these rulers is in the context of dhammavijata (victory by dhamma) indicating that missions were sent to these rulers with the message of dhamma.
• These missions successfully established friendly contact for the Edict mentions that the greatest victory, i.e., victory.by dhamma had been achieved in these regions.
• The relations of the Mauryas with the powers in the south have been cordial.
• No Asokan inscriptions have been discovered so far in the regions ruled by the Cholas, Pandyas, Keralaputras and Satyaputras- the major independent powers in the south.
• Rock Edict XIII mentions about dhammaiVuya in these regions as well.
• Sri Lanka remained another friendly neighbour again due to the policy of dhamma.

Kigali Agreement


Kigali Agreement

Countries came to an agreement in Kigali, Rwanda to phase out a family of potent greenhouse gases by the late 2040s and move to prevent a potential 0.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperature by the end of the century. In all, 197 countries, including India, China and the United States, agreed to a timeline to reduce the use of HFCs by roughly 85 per cent of their baselines by 2045.
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are a family of greenhouse gases that are largely used in refrigerants in home and car air-conditioners. They are currently the world’s fastest growing greenhouse gases, with emissions increasing by up to 10 per cent each year. They are one of the most powerful, trapping thousands of times more heat in the Earth’s atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2).
Significance of Kigali Agreement
• It amends the 1987 Montreal Protocol.
• Montreal Protocol initially conceived only to plug gases that were destroying the ozone layer, but now the latest agreement includes gases responsible for global warming.
• This agreement along with the recently ratified Paris agreement pushes countries to cap global warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” by 2100.
• The richest countries, including the U.S. and those in the European Union, will freeze the production and consumption of HFCs by 2018, reducing them to about 15 per cent of 2012 levels by 2036.
• China, Brazil and all of Africa, will freeze HFC use by 2024, cutting it to 20 percent of 2021 levels by 2045.
• India is part of a group that will only be freezing HFC use by 2028 and reducing it to about 15 per cent of 2025 levels by 2047.
• Paris agreement that will come into force by 2020 doesn’t legally bind countries to their promises to cut emissions but the currently amended Montreal Protocol will bind countries to their HFC reduction schedules from 2019.
• There are also penalties for non-compliance as well as clear directives that developed countries provide enhanced funding support estimated at billions of dollars globally.
• Grants for research and development of affordable alternatives to hydrofluorocarbons will be the most immediate priority.
With the recent agreement, India gets to participate in a positive global climate action, while gaining time to allow its heating, ventilation and air-conditioning sectors to grow and refrigerant manufacturers to find a comfortable route to transition and cost of alternatives to fall. Analysts also concluded that Kigali agreement is fair to the realities of India’s future economic development.


Bureau of Energy Efficiency


Bureau of Energy Efficiency

Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) was established in March 2002, as a statutory body by the Government of India under the Energy Conservation Act 2001.
It is responsible for spearheading the improvement of energy efficiency of the economy through various regulatory and promotional instruments. The primary goal of BEE is to reduce the energy intensity in the Indian economy.
It coordinates with State level agencies and energy consumers to perform functions and exercise powers that may be necessary for efficient use of energy and its conservation in India.
The broad objectives of BEE are as under:
• To exert leadership and provide policy recommendation and direction to national energy conservation and efficiency efforts and programs.
• To coordinate energy efficiency and conservation policies and programs and take it to the stakeholders.
• To establish systems and procedures to measure, monitor and verify energy efficiency results in individual sectors as well as at a macro level.
• To leverage multi-lateral and bi-lateral and private sector support in implementation of Energy Conservation Act and efficient use of energy and its conservation programs.
• To demonstrate delivery of energy efficiency services as mandated in the EC bill through private-public partnerships.
• To interpret, plan and manage energy conservation programs as envisaged in the Energy Conservation Act.


Biomass Energy


Biomass Energy

• Biomass, a renewable energy source, is biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms, such as wood, waste, and alcohol fuels.
• Biomass is commonly plant matter grown to generate electricity or produce, heat. For example, forest residues (such as dead trees branches and tree stumps), clippings and wood chips may lie used as biomass.
• Biomass also includes plant or animal matter used for production of fibers or chemicals: Biomass may also include biodegradable wastes that ‘ burnt as fuel. It excludes organic material such as fossil fuel which has been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum.
• Industrial biomass can ‘be grown from numerous types of plant, including miscanthus, switchgrass. Hemp, corn, poplar, willow, sorghum, sugarcane, and a variety or tree species, ranging from eucalyptus palm (palm oil).
• Although fossil fuels have their origin in ancient biomass, they are not considered biomass by the generally accepted definition because they contain carbon that has been “out” of the carbon cycle fora very long time. Their combustion therefore disturbs the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere.
Biomass Sources
• Biomass energy is derived from three distinct energy sources : wood, waste, and alcohol fuels.
1) Wood energy is derived both froth direct use of harvested wood as a fuel and from Wood waste streams. The largest source of energy from wood is pulping liquor or “black liquor”, a waste product from processes of the pulp, paper and paperboard industry.
2) Waste energy is the second largest source of biomass energy. The main contributors of waste energy are municipal solid waste (MSW), manufacturing waste, and landfill gas.
3) Biomass alcohol fuel, or ethanol, is derived almost exclusively from corn. Its principal use it as an oxygenate in gasoline. For biomass fuels, the most common feedstocks used today are corn grain (for ethanol) and soybeans (for biodiesel).
Biomass can be converted to other usable forms of energy like methane gas or transportation fuels like ethanol and bio-diesel. Methane gas is the main ingredient of natural gas. Smelly stuff, like rotting garbage, and agricultural and human waste, release methane gas also called “landfill gas” or “bio-gas”.
Biomass to liquids (BTLs):- Crops like corn and sugar cane can be fermented to produce the transportation fuel, ethanol. Bio-diesel, another transportation fuel, can be produced from left-aver food products like vegetable oils and animal fats. Also, Biomass to liquids (BTLs) and cellulosic ethanol are still under research. In China, more than 8 million bio-gas digesters convert manure and other organic wastes into methane. In rural India also, bio-gas plants are a popular source of energy.
How is biomass converted into energy?
1) Burning: Burning stuff like wood, waste and other plant matter releases stored chemical energy in the form of heat, which can be used to turn shafts to produce electricity. Let’s see this simple illustration of how biomass is used to generate electricity.
2) Decomposition: Things that can rot, like garbage, human and animal waste, dead animals and the like can be left to rot, releasing a gas called biogas (also known as methane gas or landfill gas). Methane can be captured by a machine called Microturbine and converted into electricity. Sometimes, animal waste (poop) can also be converted into methane by a machine called ‘Anaerobic Digester’.
3) Fermentation: Ethanol can be produced from crops with lots of sugars, like corn and sugarcane. The process used to produce ethanol is called gasification.
4) Biorefinery: develop technology for biorefineries that will convert biomass into a range of valuable fuels, chemicals, materials, and products-much like oil refineries and petrochemical plants do.
Advanced technologies for the biomass energy applications:
• Biofuels – Converting biomass into liquid fuels for transportation
• Biopower – Burning biomass directly, or converting it into gaseous or liquid fuels that burn more efficiently, to generate electricity
• Bioproducts – Converting biomass into chemicals for making plastics and other products that typically are made from petroleum.
Benefits of Biomass Energy:-
1) No Harmful Emissions:- Biomass energy, for the most part, creates no harmful carbon dioxide emissions.
2) Clean Energy: It does release carbon dioxide but captures carbon dioxide for its own growth.
3) Abundant and Renewable: Since they come from living sources, and life is cyclical, these products potentially never run out, so long as there is something living on earth and there is someone there to turn that living things components and waste products into energy.
4) Reduce Dependency on Fossil Fuels: It has developed as an alternate source of fuel for many homeowners and have helped them to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels.
5) Reduce Landfills: Another benefit of this energy is that it can take waste that is harmful to the environment and turn it into something useful. For instance, garbage as landfill can, at least partially, be burned to create useable biomass energy.
6) Can be Used to Create Different Products: Biomass energy is also versatile, as different forms of organic matter can be used to create different products. Ethanol and similar fuels can be made from corn and other crops. With so many living things on the planet, there is no limit to how many ways it can be found and used.
Disadvantages of Biomass Energy:-
1) Expensive: Firstly, its expensive. Living things are expensive to care for, feed, and house, and all of that has to be considered when trying to use waste products from animals for fuel.
2) Inefficient as Compared to Fossil Fuels: Ethanol, as a biodiesel is terribly inefficient when compared to gasoline.
3) Harmful to Environment: Using animal and human waste to power engines may save on carbon dioxide emissions, but it increases methane gases, which are also harmful to the Earth’s ozone layer.
4) Consume More Fuel: Using trees and tree products to power machines is inefficient as well.
5) Require More Land: Combustion of biomass products require some land where they can easily be burnt.
Biomass Energy in India
About 32% of the total primary energy use in the country is still derived from biomass and more than 70% of the country’s population depends upon it for its energy needs. The current availability of biomass in India is estimated at about 500 millions metric tones per year. India has over 5,800 MW biomass based power plants comprising 4,760 MW grid connected and 927 MW off-grid power plants.
Bottlenecks faced by the Indian Biomass Industry
1) Lack of adequate policy framework and effective financing mechanisms
2) Lack of effective regulatory framework
3) Lack of technical capacity
4) Absence of effective information dissemination
5) Limited successful commercial demonstration model experience
Government incentives and Subsidies for Biomass Energy Production
• The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) provides Central Financial Assistance (CFA) in the form of capital subsidy and financial incentives to the biomass energy projects in India.
• Biomass Energy for Rural India (BERI) Project sponsored by GEF-UNDP, ICEF. The Project aims at developing and implementing a bio-energy technology package to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and to promote a sustainable and participatory approach in meeting rural energy needs.

Sai Praveen

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