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NGT seeks report on ‘illegal’ road in tiger reserve

Paper : General Studies 3

Why in news?

The National Green Tribunal constituted a committee to provide it a factual report on alleged illegal construction of a road for use by commercial vehicles in the Rajaji Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand.

What is the National Green Tribunal?

  • The NGT was established on October 18, 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010, passed by the Central Government.
  • The stated objective is to provide a specialized forum for effective and speedy disposal of cases pertaining to environment protection, conservation of forests and for seeking compensation for damages caused to people or property due to violation of environmental laws or conditions specified while granting permissions.
  • The Principal Bench of the NGT has been established in the National Capital – New Delhi, with regional benches in Pune (Western Zone Bench), Bhopal (Central Zone Bench), Chennai (Southern Bench) and Kolkata (Eastern Bench).
  • The Chairperson of the NGT is a retired Judge of the Supreme Court, Headquartered in Delhi. Other Judicial members are retired Judges of High Courts.
  • Each bench of the NGT will comprise of at least one Judicial Member and one Expert Member.
  • Expert members should have a professional qualification and a minimum of 15 years experience in the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects.
  • The NGT is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice. Further, NGT is also not bound by the rules of evidence as enshrined in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
  • While passing Orders/decisions/awards, the NGT will apply the principles of sustainable development, the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principles.


The NGT has the power to hear all civil cases relating to environmental issues and questions that are linked to the implementation of laws listed in Schedule I of the NGT Act. These include the following:

  1. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
  2. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
  3. The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;
  4. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
  5. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
  6. The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991;
  7. The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.


The NGT has not been vested with powers to hear any matter relating to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and various laws enacted by States relating to forests, tree preservation etc.


Secretariat reopens in Srinagar

Paper : Prelims Specific, General Studies 2


Why in news?

  • Civil Secretariat, the seat of Jammu and Kashmir Government, opened in Srinagar after functioning in the winter capital of Jammu for six months.
  • This practice of the ‘Darbar move’ is nearly 150 years old and was started by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1872 to escape the extreme weather conditions in the two regions of the state.
  • The practice has been continued even after independence to provide governance benefits to both Kashmir and Jammu regions of the State for six months in turns.


Nests of grizzled giant squirrel spotted in Tamil Nadu

Paper : Prelims Specific, General Studies 3

Why in news?

  • For the first time, researchers have sighted nests of grizzled giant squirrels, an endangered species listed under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 at the Pakkamalai Reserve Forests near Gingee in the Eastern Ghats.

About the Grizzled Giant Squirrel

  • Classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List
  • Listed under Schedule II of CITES
  • It is known to nest in the Western Ghats ranging from Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala to Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Palani Hills in Tamil Nadu.
  • Grizzled giant squirrels are named for the white flecks of hair that cover their greyish-brown bodies, giving them a grizzled look.
  • Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Shenbagathoppu, Srivilliputtur, Tamil Nadu, India.

What is CITES?

  • CITES stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
  • It  is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals.
  • It is also known as the Washington Convention
  • It was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature
  • CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls.
  • All import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a licensing system.


UNICEF cautions against child trafficking

Paper : General Studies 1, General Studies 3

Why in news?

  • UNICEF has said that children need to be safeguarded against trafficking when a disaster strikes in response to the impact of Cyclone Fani in Odisha.
  • Children, Elderly, Differently abled and women are the most vulnerable groups during and in the aftermath of a disaster

What is the UNICEF?

  • UNICEF is special program of UN devoted to aiding national efforts to improve the health, nutrition, education, and general welfare of children.
  • It is headquartered in New York City.
  • After 1950, it directed its efforts toward general programs for improvement of children’s welfare, particularly in less-developed countries and various emergency situations.
  • Since 1996 UNICEF programs have been guided by Convention on Rights of the Child (1989), which affirms right of all children to enjoyment of highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health.



External Affairs Minister to attend SCO meet

Paper : General Studies 2

Why in news?

  • The External Affairs Minister will be attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan later in May.

What is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation, which was founded in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan in the year 2001.

The aim of SCO is to establish cooperation between member nations on:

  • Security-related concerns
  • Resolving border issues
  • Military cooperation
  • Intelligence sharing
  • Countering terrorism
  • Countering American influence in Central Asia

The eight permanent members of the SCO are:

  1. China
  2. Kazakhstan
  3. Kyrgyzstan
  4. Russia
  5. Tajikistan
  6. Uzbekistan
  7. India
  8. Pakistan


1 million species at risk of extinction : UN

Paper : General Studies 3

Why in news?

  • 1,800 page Global Assessment Report, compiled by IPBES, a UN agency from more than 1500 academic papers says that the world’s life support systems are in trouble.
  • Relentless pursuit of economic growth, twinned with the impact of climate change has put one million species at risk of extinction.
  • Industrial farming and fishing are major drivers of the extinction.
  • The report identifies a range of risks from the disappearance of insects vital for pollinating crops to the destruction of coral reefs.
  • The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900.

Major findings:

  • 500,000 plants and animals currently have insufficient habitat for long term survival.
  • 40% of amphibian species are threatened with extinction, along with 33% of reef forming corals and 33% of marine mammals.
  • Loss of pollinators cause by intensive farming is putting $235 – $577 billion worth of annual crop output at risk.
  • Food cultivation uses 75% of all the freshwater on Earth.
  • 25% of man-made emissions come from agriculture, the vast majority from meat production.
  • 50% of all new agricultural land is taken from forests.
  • 93% of marine fish stocks are either overfished or fished to the limit of sustainability.
  • One third of all fishing is said to be illegal or unreported.
  • Humans dump up to 400 million tonnes of heavy metals, toxic wastes into oceans and rivers each year.
  • 75% of land, 40% of oceans and 50% of rivers manifest severe impacts of degradation from human activity.
  • Pollution from fertilizers has led to the formation of 400 low oxygen dead zones in coastal waters covering more than 245,000 sq km.
  • 5% of species are at risk of extinction if temperature rises just 2 degree Celsius, still within the targets of the Paris Agreement.
  • Business as usual scenario is predicted to warm the Earth by 4.3 degree Celsius by 2100 wiping out one sixth of the species.

What is Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)?

  • It is an independent intergovernmental body, established by member States in 2012.
  • The objective of IPBES is to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.

The work of IPBES can be broadly grouped into four complementary areas:

  • Assessments: On specific themes (e.g. “Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production”); methodological issues (e.g. “Scenarios and Modelling); and at both the regional and global levels (e.g. “Global Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services”).
  • Policy Support: Identifying policy-relevant tools and methodologies, facilitating their use, and catalyzing their further development.
  • Building Capacity & Knowledge: Identifying and meeting the priority capacity, knowledge and data needs of our member States, experts and stakeholders.
  • Communications & Outreach: Ensuring the widest reach and impact of our work.


Discom Debt to return to pre-UDAY levels

Paper : General Studies 3

Why in news?

  • Aggregate external debt of state-owned distribution companies (Discoms) is set to increase to pre-UDAY levels of Rs 2.6 lakh crore by the end of this fiscal according to Crisil’s analysis of discoms in 15 states
  • According to Crisil, continuous financial support to the discoms is difficult and they should become commercially viable through prudent tariff hikes and a material reduction in aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses.

What is Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY0?

  • Ujjwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) is the financial turnaround and revival package for electricity distribution companies of India (DISCOMs) initiated by the Government of India .
  • It allows state governments, which own the DISCOMs, to take over 75 percent of their debt as of September 30, 2015, and pay back lenders by selling bonds. DISCOMs are expected to issue bonds for the remaining 25 percent of their debt.
  • The debt transfer came with riders of initiating structural reforms by reducing AT&C losses by 900 basis points to about 15% in fiscal 2019 and implementing regular tariff hikes of 5-6% per annum.