Showing posts with label Pollution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pollution. Show all posts

Sunday, July 27, 2014

India's forest cover is on the up – but are the numbers too good to be true?


Forest cover in India increased by 5871 sq km (2266 sq miles) between 2010 and 2012.

That’s the cheery headline news from the State of the Forest Report 2013 released this month by India’s environment minister, Prakash Javadekar. The findings appear to mark a turnaround from the previous survey, which had found a marginal decline in forests.

But the fine print reveals a less rosy picture. The bulk of the increase in forest cover – about 3800 sq km – was in just one state, the report shows, and is partly attributed to a correction in previous survey data.

In fact, India may be losing quality forests. Dense forests are degrading into scrub or sparsely covered forest areas in many states, says the report. “Moderately dense” forest cover – areas with a tree canopy density of between 40-70% – shrank by 1991 sq km in the two-year period, while “open forests” with less than 40% canopy increased by 7831 sq km.

Another potential worry: the Himalayan northeastern region, which holds one-fourth of the country’s forests, has seen a small decline of 627 sq km in forest cover.

India’s total forest cover now stands at 697,898 sq km or 21.23% of the country’s area. That’s well short of the official goal to get cover up to 30% of land area (in February, the government approved a £4.46m project to increase forest area).

Yet there’s been an overall rising trend in the recorded forest cover over the past decade – no mean feat given the dramatic acceleration in economic development in the same period.

This upward trend seems far-fetched to many conservationists, however. One environmental watchdog group, the Environment Impact and Assessment Resource and Response Centre, noted that an average of 135 hectares (333 acres) of forest land a day was given over for power, mining and other development projects last year. The group expressed dismay at the environment minister’s suggestion that degraded or open forests should be harvested to reduce wood imports.

Both conservationists and scientists have long questioned the Indian forest survey’s accuracy and methods. They’ve argued that the survey relies too heavily on low-resolution satellite imagery, which fails to capture small-scale deforestation, and that the definition of forest used by the report is too broad to be meaningful.

The forest cover data does not, for instance, distinguish between tree species, land use or ownership. A paper published in May by scientists led by NH Ravindranath of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore suggested that an almost seven-million-hectare recorded increase in forest cover between 1997 and 2011 could be accounted for by an increase in commercial plantations.

India could be potentially over-reporting the forest cover by including many plantation categories and fruit orchards…. Even the inclusion of plantations of Eucalyptus, Casuarina, Poplar, etc. under forest cover is questionable from a conservation perspective. India also could be potentially under-reporting deforestation by reporting only the gross forest area and changes at the national and state level, which may mask any forest loss, if the rate of afforestation is higher than deforestation rates.

With India seeking to tap international climate funds for afforestation, “there is need for a new approach to monitoring and reporting of forest area to meet the challenges of forest conservation, research and reporting to UN agencies,” the authors said.

Forest officials too have criticised the survey methods. In 2012, a joint director at the Forest Survey of India, which prepares the report, took on his own organisation when he flagged the discrepancy between the official forest data for the northeastern state of Meghalaya, which showed an increase in cover, and what he saw happening on the ground: forests being destroyed by illegal mills and mining.

Mining in this green, resource-rich region continues to be a concern. A recent report by India’s Comptroller and Auditor General found only one of 16 limestone mining licenses in the state of Meghalaya had obtained environmental clearances. “[T]he forest department has no idea as to whether the mining lease areas it granted forest clearance fall within forest area,” the report said.

Content Courtersy: theguardian

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bioaccumulation and Biomagnification


Heavy metals (mercury, lead, cadmium), pesticides and herbicides (such as DDT) and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (PCB’s and BPA’s) do not readily biodegrade. These are fat-soluble substances that are stored in organisms and are not quickly broken down by bacteria or other decomposers. Bioaccumulation is the process by which persistent pollutants accumulate in the fatty tissues of organisms. These pollutants are absorbed at a greater rate than they are released and therefore build up within the individual organism. Biomagnification is the process by which persistent pollutants increase in concentration up a food chain. So secondary and tertiary consumers have higher concentrations than producers and primary consumers.

This phenomena has been observed with DDT, causing the thinning of eggshells in raptors, such as the threatened Peregrine Falcon. Rachel Carson, a marine biologist and conservationist,  made the American public aware of the environmental problems caused by synthetic pesticides, such as DDT, in her famous book, “Silent Spring”. DDT is now prohibited in most developed countries.

Mercury has been shown to bioaccumulate in marine food webs, affecting higher order consumers, such as dolphins, sharks and swordfish. As such, Food Standards of Australia and New Zealand recommend that the intake of certain types of fish is limited.

Content Courtesy : vceenviroscience

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tips To Save Money & Save Energy in New Energy Saver Guide


Saving energy is a win for not only your wallet but also the environment. To help you make the most efficient choices in your home and on the road, the Energy Department recently updated its popular booklet Energy Saver: Tips on Saving Money and Energy at Home, reports Nicole Harrison for the DOE.

Updated Energy Saver Guide Helps You Save Energy and Money at Home

The latest version of the guide includes updated statistics and recommendations for 2014 — all designed to help you make smart decisions about improving your home’s comfort and lowering your energy use. Some of the tips are simple to do. Others require more effort and investment but promise big savings over the years.

The Energy Saver guide teaches you which systems and appliances in your home account for most of your energy bills and how you can reduce the costs to both you and the environment. There is also a section on transportation with driving tips to help you save money at the pump. Learn about the average energy usage and costs at home and on the road, then try out our tips to save energy and money.

There are a couple of ways to get your hands on the updated Energy Saver guide:

Download the updated PDF
Order hard copies in bulk or
Download the first-ever Energy Saver guide e-book.

Find out more about saving energy and money at home on the Energy Saver website. You can also check out these new do-it-yourself energy-saving projects:

Insulate Hot Water Pipes for Energy Savings
Lower Water Heating Temperature
Insulate Your Water Heater Tank
How to Seal Air Leaks with Caulk
How to Weatherstrip Double-Hung (or Sash) Windows
Install Exterior Storm Windows With Low-E Coating

Content Courtesy: 1sun4all

Small Plastics Pose Big Problem


A decade or so ago, scientists first discovered that tiny pieces of plastic debris discarded by human civilization — some only a few thousandths of a millimeter in size — were finding their way into the oceans. But since then, it’s become increasingly apparent that microplastics, as the miniscule trash is called, represent a potentially huge threat to aquatic animals, according to an article in the July 11 edition of the journal Science.

The article, by marine scientists Kara Lavender Law of the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Mass. and Richard C. Thompson of the UK’s Plymouth University, notes that researchers increasingly are focusing upon the danger from microplastics, because their size makes it possible for a huge range of organisms — from large marine mammals, fish and birds to zooplankton — to ingest them. (Indeed, a 2012 study found that they pose a health threat to Baleen whales.)

Photos: Life on the Ocean Floor Garbage Patch

A report issued in June by the Global Ocean Commission estimated that 10 million tons of plastic is dumped into the oceans each year. Some of the plastic is discarded into waterways and then is carried into the ocean, but it’s also lost or discarded at sea by ships, the article notes.

Larger plastic items degrade to form microplastic, but some of the particles also are being put directly into the sea, because bits of cosmetic beads and clothing fibers are small enough to pass through wastewater treatment systems.

Once in the oceans, the particles are transported far and wide in a complex pattern that is difficult to predict. However, scientists have found very high concentrations in the subtropical gyres -- that is, areas where currents rotate rapidly — and in basins such as the Mediterranean.

Microplastics are themselves toxic, but they also soak up harmful chemicals that contaminate the ocean, such as DDT and PBDEs, so that they deliver a concentrated dose to the animals who ingest them. Marine scientists also worry that microplastics will end up in seafood-eating humans as well.

Video: How Much Trash is in the Ocean?

Microplastics are just one of the environmental woes afflicting the world’s oceans, and pushing them perilously close to ecological collapse, according to an article published last week in Foreign Policy, a political science journal.

Solving the problem is difficult because 65 percent of the oceans are outside the territorial waters of individual nations, and have become the equivalent of a chaotic, lawless “failed state” such as Somalia on land, the Foreign Policy article argued.

Content Courtesy: Discovery