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Land Degradation/Soil Erosion/Deforestation


Land DegradationSoil Erosion Deforestation

Land Degradation

Land degradation is the process of deterioration of soil or loss of fertility of soil. The causes of land degradation can be divided into natural hazards, direct causes, and underlying causes. Natural hazards are the conditions of the physical environment which lead to the existence of a high degradation hazard, for example steep slopes as a hazard for water erosion.
Direct causes are unsuitable land use and inappropriate land management practices, for example the cultivation of steep slopes without measures for soil conservation. Underlying causes are the reasons why these inappropriate types of land use and management are practised; for example,-the slopes may be cultivated because the landless poor need food, and conservation measures not adopted because these farmers lack security of tenure.
There is a distinction, although with overlap, between unsuitable land use and inappropriate land management practices. Unsuitable land use is the use of land for purposes for which it is environmentally unsuited for sustainable use. For example- forest clearance and arable use of steeply sloping upper watershed areas which would have more value to the community as water sources, managed under a protective forest cover.

Inappropriate land management practices refer to the use of land in ways which could be sustainable if properly managed, but where the necessary practices are not adopted. For example- the failure to adopt soil conservation measures where these are needed. It can also refer to land use which is ecologically sustainable under low intensity of use but in which the management becomes inappropriate at higher intensifies (shifting cultivation and the grazing of semi-arid rangelands).
Causes of land degradation
• Population: The indirect activities included pressure on agricultural intensification and population growth. About 220 million hectares of tropical forest have been degraded 1975 and 1990 mainly for food production.
With the increase in population, more land is needed for producing food, fibre, and fuel wood leading to increasing pressure on the limited land resources. Therefore the land gets degraded due to over exploitation.
• Human Activities: Human induced causes many human activities are leads to land degradation directly or indirectly include deforestation, overgrazing by livestock, wrong irrigation practices, urban sprawl and commercial development, pollution from industries, quarrying, and mining activities, Problems arising from planning and management of canal irrigation etc.
• Urbanization: Increased urbanization due to population growth reduces the agricultural land. To compensate for loss of agricultural land, new lands comprising of natural ecosystems such as forests are cleared. Therefore, urbanization leads to deforestation which in-turn affects millions of plant and animal species.
• Fertilizers and Pesticides: Increased application of fertilizers and pesticides are needed to increase farm output in new lands thereby leading to pollution of land, water and soil degradation.
• Damage to top soil: Increase in food production generally leads to damage of top soil through nutrient depletion.
Some specific causes are:
a) Soil erosion:
• It is wearing away of the land surface by physical forces such as rainfall, flowing water, wind, ice, temperature change, gravity or other natural or anthropogenic agents.
b) Soil contamination:
• It includes contamination by heavy metals, acidification, nutrient surplus (eutrophication), etc.
c) Soil salinisation:
• The salts which accumulate include chlorides, sulphates, carbonates and bicarbonates of sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium.
d) Soil sealing:
• The covering of the soil surface with impervious materials as a result of urban development and infrastructure construction.
e) Overgrazing:
• Overgrazing occurs when plants are exposed to intensive grazing for extended periods of time, or without sufficient recovery periods.
f) Acidification of Soil:
• Acid soils are toxic to plants because they can release toxic levels of aluminium and other mineral elements.
g) Mining and quarrying activities:
• Due to this excavation process alter the structure of the land, stacking of top soil, loss of soil due to dumping of the mine wastes.
h) Improper crop rotations:
• It decreases fertility of soil.
Impact of land degradation
• Loss of soil organic matter and nutrients.
• Loss of soil structure.
• Loss of soil biodiversity.
• Loss of water holding capacity and water infiltration.
• Soil pollution.
• Reduced yields of crops.
• Reduced land value and resilience to future events.
• Impact on food security.
• Reduces ability to adapt to climate change.
Sustainable Land Management
Thus Sustainable Land Management (SLM) is crucial to minimizing land degradation, rehabilitating degraded areas and ensuring the optimal use of land resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
SLM is based on four common principles:
• land-user-driven and participatory approaches;
• Integrated use of natural resources at ecosystem and farming systems levels
• Multilevel and multi-stakeholder involvement; and
• Targeted policy and institutional support, including development of incentive mechanisms for SLM adoption and income generation at the local level.
Some of the methods for sustainable management of land are:
• Management on overgrazing: Management practices like water development, placement of salt and supplements, fertilizer application, fencing, burning can control the overgrazing.
• Managing irrigation: Irrigation system can be controlled like drip irrigation to reduce soil erosion. Using high and low salt water was most effective in maintaining the productive capacity of the clay soil.
• Managing urban sprawl: The urban planning is the most important factor, to control the urban sprawl. Fertile field near by the urbane area need to be protected by the local government rules. There should be a proper waste management system dumping of these waste generated as part of urban sprawling will degrade the land, can cause soil salinity, acidity and loss of it vegetative properties.
• Managing mining and quarrying: The impact can be reduced by proper management of mining process, using advanced technologies rather than conventional methods. After mining by proper back filling, spreading the soil back over the top, the land can be reclaimed.
• Managing agricultural intensification: Agricultural intensification need to be managed properly to reduce the environmental effect. This can be done through education of the farmers.

The Vardhanas


The Vardhanas

The Vardhanas

• After the decline of the Guptas dynasty north India again split up into several kingdoms.
• The Hunas established their supremacy over Kashmir, Punjab and western India from about A.D. 500 onwards.
• North and western India passed under the control of about half a dozen feudatories who parcelled out Gupta empire among themselves
• Gradually one of these dynasties ruling at Thanesar in Haryana extended its authority over all the other feudatories. The ruler who brought it about was Harshavardhana (A.D. 606-647).
• The source for information about the rise of the family of Pushyabhutis which first ruled from Thaneshwar in Haryana and later from Kanauj in Uttar Pradesh included the text Harshacharita of Banabhatta, accounts of Huen Tsang and some inscriptions and coins, etc.
• According to Banabhatta the founder king of this dynasty at Thaneshwar was Pushyabhuti and that the family was known as Pushyabhuti vamsa.
• However, the inscriptions of Harsha make no reference of Pushyabhuti.
• The Banskhera and Madhuvan plates and royal seals mention five earlier rulers among whom the first three are given the title of maharaja. This may indicate that they were not sovereign monarchs.
• The fouth king Prabhakarvardhana has been described as a Maharajadhiraja which makes means that he was an independent monarch and had established matrimonial relations with the Maukharis by marrying his daughter Rajyasri with Grahavarman.
• Thaneshwar, during this time (about 604) was threatened by the Hunas from the western side.
• Banabhatta has described Prabhakarvardhana as “a lion to the Huna deer”. According to him an army under Rajyavardhana was sent to defeat the Hunas but due to the sudden illness of his father he had to come back.
• With Prabhakarvardhana’s death, the family had to face troubled times for a while.
• The Malaya king Devagupta killed Grahavarman and took Rajyasri prisoner.
• The Malaya and the Gauda kings entered into alliance and even Thaneshwar was threatened.
• Rajyavardhana defeated the Malavas but was killed through treachery by Sasanka, the Gauda king and Harsha succeeded his brother at Thaneswar.
• His first responsibility was to rescue his sister and to avenge the killings of his brother and brother-in-law. He first rescued his sister when she was about to immolate herself.
Harsha’s Military Conquests
• In his first expedition, Harsha drove out Sasanka from Kanauj and made it his new capital.
• This made him the most powerful ruler of north India.
• Harsha fought against Dhuruvasena II of Valabhi and defeated him. Dhuruvasena II became a vassal.
• The most important military campaign of Harsha was against the Western Chalukya ruler Pulakesin II. Both the accounts of Hiuen Tsang and the inscriptions of Pulakesin II provide the details of this campaign. Harsha with an ambition to extend his kingdom south of the Narmada river marched against the Chalukya ruler. But the Aihole inscription of Pulakesin II mentions the defeat of Harsha by Pulakesin.
• Pulakesin after this achievement assumed the title Paramesvara. Hiuen Tsang’s accounts also confirm the victory of Pulakesin.
• Harsha led another campaign against the ruler of Sindh, which was an independent kingdom.
• Nepal had accepted Harsha’s overlordship.
• Harsha established his control over Kashmir and its ruler sent tributes to him.
• He also maintained cordial relations with Bhaskaravarman, the ruler of Assam.
• Harsha’s last military campaign was against the kingdom of Kalinga in Orissa and it was a success.
• Thus Harsha established his hold over the whole of north India. The regions modern Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa were under his direct control. But his sphere of influence was much more extensive.
• The peripheral states such as Kashmir, Sindh, Valabhi and Kamarupa acknowledged his sovereignty.
Harsha and Buddhism
• In his early life, Harsha was a devout Saiva but later he became an ardent Hinayana Buddhist.
• Hiuen Tsang converted him to Mahayana Buddhism.
• Harsha prohibited the use of animal food in his kingdom and punished those who kill any living being.
• He erected thousands of stupas and established travellers’ rests all over his kingdom.
• He also erected monasteries at the sacred places of Buddhists.
• Once in five years he convened a gathering of representatives of all religions and honoured them with gifts and costly presents.
• He brought the Buddhist monks together frequently to discuss and examine the Buddhist doctrine.}
Kanauj Assembly
• Harsha organized a religious assembly at Kanauj to honour the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang towards the close of his reign. He invited representatives of all religious sects.
• It was attended by 20 kings, 1000 scholars from the Nalanda University, 3000 Hinayanists and Mahayanists, 3000 Brahmins and Jains.
• The Assembly went on continuously for 23 days.
• Hiuen Tsang explained the values of Mahayana doctrine and established its superiority over others.
• However, violence broke out and there were acts of arson and there was also an attempt on the life of Harsha. Soon, it was brought under control and the guilty were punished.
• On the final day of the Assembly, Hiuen Tsang was honoured with costly presents.
Allahabad Conference
• Hiuen Tsang mentions in his account about the conference held at Allahabad, known as Prayag.
• It was the one among the conferences routinely convened by Harsha once in five years.
• Harsha gave away his enormous wealth as gifts to the members of all religious sects.
• According to Hiuen Tsang, Harsha was so lavish that he emptied the treasury and even gave away the clothes and jewels he was wearing. His statement might be one of admiring exaggeration.
Harsha’s Administration
• Harsha governed his empire on the same lines as the Guptas did, except that his administration had become more feudal and decentralized.
• It is stated that Harsha had 100,000 horses, and 60,000 elephants. This seems to be astonishing because the Mauryas, who ruled over practically the whole of the country except the deep south, maintained only 30,000 cavalry and 9,000 elephants.
• Harsha could possess a larger army only if he could mobilize the support of all his feudatories at the time of war Evidently every feudatory contributed his quota of foot soldiers and horses, and thus made the imperial army vast in numbers
• Land grants continued to be made to priests for special services rendered to the state.
• In addition Harsha is credited with the grant of land to the officers by charters.
• These grants allowed the same concessions to priests as were allowed by the earlier grants.
• According to the Chinese pilgrim Hsuan Tsang the revenues of Harsha were divided into four parts. One part was earmarked for the expenditure of the king, a second for scholars, a third for the endowment of officials and public servants, and a fourth for religious purposes.
• Hsuan Tsang also mentions that ministers and high officers of the state were endowed with land.
• The feudal practice of rewarding and paying officers with grants of land seems to have begun under Harsha. This is natural because not many coins have been issued by Harsha.
• In the empire of Harsha law and order was not well maintained. The Chinese pilgrim Hsuan Tsang, about whom special care may have been taken by the government, was robbed of his belongings, ,although he reports that according to the laws of the land severe punishments were inflicted for crime. Robbery was considered to be a second treason for which the right hand of the robber was amputated.
• It seems that under the influence of Buddhism the severity of punishment was mitigated, and criminals were imprisoned for life.
Society and Economy under Harsha
• Both Bana and Hiuen Tsang portray the social life in the times of Harsha.
• The fourfold division of the society – Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vysya and Sudra – was prevalent.
• The Brahmins were the privileged section of the society and they were given land grants by the kings.
• The Kshatriyas were the ruling class.
• The vysyas were mainly traders.
• Hiuen Tsang mentions that the Sudras practiced agriculture.
• Both Bana and Hiuen Tsang talk about the existence of many subcastes such as the class of vernacular poets, class of bards, class of betal-bearers, and so on. However, all those groups and subcastes were not new to this period and at least some of them existed in the earlier periods.
• The rise of those subcastes was due to the social violation in the code of marriages and general ethics, and also different occupations.
• Hiuen Tsang takes note of many outcastes and untouchables such as butchers, fishermen, executioners and scavengers, who were segregated and were not allowed to mix with the people of the higher varnas and had habitations marked by a distinguishing sign.
• The position of women was not satisfactory.
• The institution of Swyamvara (the choice of choosing her husband) had declined.
• Remarriage of widows was not permitted, particularly among the higher castes.
• The system of dowry had also become common.
• The practice of sati was also prevalent. Hiuen Tsang mentions three ways of disposal of the dead – cremation, water burial and exposure in the woods.
• The trade and commerce had declined during Harsha’s period. This is evident from the decline of trade centres, less number of coins, and slow activities of merchant guilds.
• The decline of trade in turn affected the handicrafts industry and agriculture. Since there was no large scale demand for goods, the farmers began to produce only in a limited way.
• This led to the rise of self-sufficient village economy.
• In short, there was a sharp economic decline as compared to the economy of the Gupta period.
Cultural Progress
• The art and architecture of Harsha’s period are very few and mostly followed the Gupta style.
• Hiuen Tsang describes the glory of the monastery with many storeys built by Harsha at Nalanda.
• Hiuen Tsang also speaks of a copper statue of Buddha with eight feet in height.
• The brick temple of Lakshmana at Sirpur with its rich architecture is assigned to the period of Harsha.
• Harsha was a great patron of learning.
• His biographer Banabhatta adorned his royal court. Besides Harshacharita, he wrote Kadambari.
• Other literary figures in Harsha’s court were Matanga Divakara and the famous Barthrihari, who was the poet, philosopher and grammarian.
• Harsha himself authored three plays – Ratnavali, Priyadarsika and Nagananda.
• Harsha patronised the Nalanda University by his liberal endowments. It attained international reputation as a centre of learning during his reign. Hiuen Tsang visited the Nalanda University and remained as a student for some time.



Draft on Prevention of Cruelty to Animals


Draft on Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has invited comments on the draft notification of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing Rules), 2016.
The objective of the Rules is to make dog breeders and their marketers accountable and to prevent infliction of any cruelty in this process.
The proposed Rules provide as under:-
• It defines the breeding requirements/conditions for sale.
• It will be mandatory for all dog breeders and the dog breeding establishments to register themselves with the State Animal Welfare Board of the respective State Governments.
• An inspector authorised by the State Board can inspect the establishment.
• It defines the requirements to be met by the breeders and the establishments used for breeding, or housing dogs, such as health-related requirements, housing facilities, manner of housing dogs, conditions for sale, breeding, micro-chipping, vaccination etc.
• Every dog breeder is required to submit yearly report to the State Board regarding animals sold, traded, bartered, brokered, given away, boarded or exhibited during previous year or any other information asked for by the State Board.
• It is mandatory for dog breeders to maintain proper records of both male and female dogs, their breed, micro-chip number, number of litters, sale, purchase, death, rehabilitation etc.
Non-compliance of the proposed Rules will lead to cancellation of the registration of the dog breeder.
The Ministry has implemented Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960 to prevent infliction of unnecessary pain, or suffering on animals.

Aichi Target


Aichi Target

The ‘Aichi Target’ adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at its Nagoya conference.
In the COP-10 meeting, the parties agreed that previous biodiversity protection targets are not achieved, So we need to do come up with new plans and targets
The short term plan provides a set of 20 ambitious yet achievable targets, collectively known as the Aichi Targets.
Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
1. Make people aware about the values of biodiversity
2. Integrated biodiversity values in development + poverty reduction plan
3. Subsidies which are harmful to biodiversity = and eliminate them, phase them out or reform them
4. Sustainable production and consumption
Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use.
5. Reduce the rate of natural habitat loss + forest loss by at least 50%
6. Reduce overfishing
7. Agriculture, aquaculture and forestry in sustainable manner
8. Reduce pollution and excessive use of fertiliser
9. Prevent invasive alien species (non-native)
10. Minimise the choral reflow destruction, ocean acidification
Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity
11. Conserve terrestrial and inland water, coastal – marine areas
12. Prevent extinction of threatened species
13. Maintain genetic diversity of agro-plants, domesticated animals and minimising genetic erosion
Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services
14. Safeguard ecosystems for women, tribals, and poor.
15. Combat desertification and restore the degraded ecosystem
16. Operationalise the nagoya protocol on genetic resources, via national legislations
Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building
17. National biodiversity strategy and action plans – update for participation
18. Integrate the knowledge of tribal communities
19. Scientific and technological knowledge sharing application
20. Financial resources mobilisation
The IUCN Species Programme provides advice to Parties, other governments and partners on the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and it’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets (2011 – 2020), and is also heavily involved in work towards the Targets themselves.

Open Waste Burning and its Impact


Open Waste Burning and its Impact

Open waste burning is an inefficient combustion process and releases significant amounts of air pollutants and ash, and dense white or black smoke.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed a complete ban on burning of waste in open places and announced a fine of Rs. 25,000 on each incident of bulk waste burning.
According to the NGT establishment and operationalisation of the plants for processing and disposal of the waste and selection and specifications of landfill sites which have to be constructed, be prepared and maintained strictly in accordance with the Rules of 2016.
Non-biodegradable waste and non-recyclable plastic should be segregated from the landfill sites and used for construction of roads and embankments in all road projects all over the country.
The negative impacts of Open Waste Burning are:
Health Effects:
• The pollutants are all toxic to humans, depending on their concentration, and may cause irritation, skin and respiratory problems some are carcinogenic.
• Those individuals with respiratory problems such as asthma or with allergies may be even more sensitive to the smoke.
Environmental Effects:
• The smoke from waste disposal ground fires may reduce visibility on local roads. This has the potential to cause traffic accidents.
• The ash, which may be dispersed by the wind or leached by water, may contain toxic contaminants.
• Toxins may be leached from any ash remaining which could lead to the contamination of surface water or ground water. There is always a risk of the fire burning out of control
• Pollutants from burn barrels vary depending on the type of waste materials burned but, typically, emissions include dioxins, ash, furans, halogenated hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, lead, barium, chromium, cadmium, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, arsenic or mercury. Burn barrels also often emit acid vapors and carcinogenic tars.
• Pound for pound, garbage burned in a burn barrel gives off twice as many furans, 17 times as much dioxin, and 40 times as much ash as a municipal incinerator.

Sai Praveen

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