Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 06 August 2022
- Himalayan India
- Domestic Carbon Markets
- The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), with its towering peaks, majestic landscapes, rich biodiversity, and cultural heritage, has long drawn visitors and pilgrims from the Indian subcontinent and around the world.
- These dynamics have elevated tourism to the status of a key driver of socioeconomic development.
GS Paper – 3: Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Geographical Features and their Location
Discuss the difficulties associated with the Himalayas in India. What role can Environmental Impact Assessment play in addressing the Indian Himalayas’ environmental issues? (250 Words)
Tourism’s Prevalent Model
- Tourism provides valuable economic and business opportunities for local mountain people, as well as revenue and profits for state governments and private entrepreneurs.
- However, the current tourism model in the IHR is viewed as a source of environmental damage and pollution, a threat to socio-cultural heritage, a heavy use of scarce resources, and a potential source of negative externalities in society.
The Himalayas’ Importance for India
- Rivers’ Origins: The Himalayas’ abundant rainfall, vast snowfields, and large glaciers serve as the feeding grounds for India’s mighty rivers.
- While descending from the Himalayas, the great rivers and their tributaries transport massive amounts of alluvium.
- This is deposited in the Great Plain of North India as fertile soil, making the plain one of the world’s most fertile lands.
- Critical for India’s Energy Security: River waters originating in the Himalayas account for nearly 33% of the country’s thermal electricity and 52% of its hydropower.
- These rivers receive a significant portion of their water from glacier melting, making them an important component of India’s energy and water security needs.
- Sustaining the Monsoon: The Himalayas play a significant role in influencing India’s climate. They effectively intercept the summer monsoons coming from the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea due to their high altitude, length, and direction, causing precipitation in the form of rain or snow.
- Furthermore, they keep cold continental air masses from Central Asia from entering India.
- Forest Resources: The Himalayan ranges are abundant in forest resources. The Himalayan ranges exhibit a succession of vegetal cover from tropical to Alpine in their altitude.
- The Himalayan forests supply fuel wood as well as a wide range of raw materials for forest-based industries. Furthermore, many medicinal plants grow in the Himalayas.
- Tourism: The Himalayan ranges have a large number of tourist spots due to their scenic beauty and healthy environment.
- When the neighbouring plains are reeling under the scorching heat of the summer season, the hilly areas of the Himalayas provide a cool and comfortable climate.
Difficulties associated with the Himalayas
- No Proper Waste Management: As cities in the Himalayas grow, they are experiencing the same issues as cities in the plains, such as mountains of garbage and plastic, untreated sewage, unplanned urban growth, and even local air pollution caused by vehicles.
- Most mountain villages lack a local, decentralised facility for safely disposing of garbage. As a result, they either burn or dump the trash on the slopes.
- Unsustainable Tourism: Unfortunately, our mountains are only treated as tourist destinations, with no understanding that over-draining resources can be disastrous.
- Mountains have their own microclimate as well. Its distinctive fauna and flora have short reproductive cycles and are sensitive to disturbance. Unsustainable tourism has the potential to disrupt the natural balance.
- Climate Change: As a result of climate change, melting ice and snow form new glacial lakes and increase the volume of existing ones. This may increase the risk of glacial-lake outburst floods.
- There are approximately 8,800 glacial lakes in the Himalayas, with over 200 of them classified as dangerous.
- Faulty Infrastructure Projects: Hydroelectricity development is important because it provides the country with a renewable source of energy as well as a revenue source for the state.
- However, it is clear that the flood’s impact is exacerbated by the number and poor construction of hydropower projects.
Char Dham Highway Development Project
- The Char Dham Highway Development Project is a central highway expansion project that was envisioned in 2016 to widen 889 km of hill roads to provide all-weather connectivity in the Char Dham circuit, which covers Uttarakhand’s four major shrines in the upper Himalayas: Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.
- While the project was conceived primarily to facilitate the Char Dham yatras (pilgrimage) and boost tourism, the highways would also facilitate troop movement to areas closer to the China border.
- In conclusion, a disaster-resilient road is much more important than a wider road prone to frequent blocks, landslides, and slope failures, which suggests a middle width for Himalayan highways that is more judicious for pilgrimage as well as
Our Future Strategy
- Environmental Impact Assessment: While the state should encourage tourism, the goal should be responsible tourism, which means that before opening up new tourism areas, an assessment of the impact of such endeavours must be performed.
- Pan-Himalayan Strategy: A pan-Himalayan strategy is required so that states can develop common policies and avoid a race to the bottom.
- These strategies should also consider the region’s natural resources, such as forests, water, biodiversity, organic and specialty foods, and nature tourism, as well as address specific threats to ensure that growth does not result in environmental degradation.
- The National Mission for the Sustainment of the Himalayan Ecosystem is an important step in this direction.
- Sustainable Infrastructure Projects: Building designs in Himalayan towns must reflect the local ecosystem while also incorporating seismic fragility and aesthetics. Unmanaged and unchecked urbanisation should be prohibited. All of this will necessitate the establishment of strong regulatory institutions in these towns.
- Furthermore, sustainable hydropower projects are required to maximise the use of available water for energy generation.
- Rivers cannot and must not be redesigned, but dams can be redesigned to make the best use of available water.
- Locals should benefit from projects utilising interactive grids as well.
- Revisiting Policies: By discussing agricultural practises in hilly regions, a common policy to improve forest value in Himalayan states should be developed.
- Sikkim, for example, has promoted organic cardamom crop, but finds that forest laws prevent it from reaping the benefits of cultivation on these lands without destroying forests.
- Sustainable Tourism: Appropriate mechanisms should be developed to assist in achieving tourism growth in the landscape in a sustainable manner that has a minimal impact on biodiversity while also providing sustainable livelihood options for the local community.
- The Uttarakhand Flood of 2013 teaches us the importance of developing sustainable models for pilgrim-based tourism in the fragile hills.
- The transition to ecotourism must be carefully promoted so that best practises can be learned and disseminated.
- Protected areas in the Himalayan region, such as Hemis National Park and the Karakoram Sanctuary in Ladakh, require vigilance and regular patrolling to reduce unwanted wildlife-tourist interaction as well as habitat destruction caused by off-road driving and encroachment.
- International Collaboration: Himalayan countries must establish an international network to monitor risks such as those posed by glacial lakes and provide early warning of hazards, similar to the tsunami warning systems that have been installed in the Indian Ocean over the last decade.
Domestic Carbon Markets
The Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which seeks to amend the 20-year-old Energy Conservation Act, was introduced in Parliament, and one of its significant provisions is the establishment of a domestic carbon market.
GS Paper 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
What exactly is carbon trading? What is the process of carbon trading? Is this a viable strategy for mitigating the effects of global warming? Examine critically. (150 Words)
Concerning carbon markets
- A carbon market converts emission reductions and removals into tradeable assets, creating incentives to reduce emissions or improve energy efficiency. Carbon markets can be either mandatory or voluntary.
- Demonstration: As a result, an industrial unit that exceeds emission standards stands to gain credits, allowing units that are struggling to meet their standards to purchase credits and demonstrate compliance with these standards.
- The unit that performed better on the standards earns money by selling credits, while the purchasing unit can meet its operating obligations.
India requires a carbon market
- With 2.88 gigatonnes of CO2, India was named the world’s third worst polluter in 2019. (Gt). China (10.6 Gt) and the United States (5 Gt).
- A carbon market would go a long way toward India’s goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2070.
- Carbon markets have proven to be one of the most effective drivers of emission reductions, providing the most cost-effective emission reductions.
- Incentives in the form of carbon credits for the deployment of clean technologies will encourage the private sector to participate in climate action.
- Carbon credits, according to reports, would incentivize entities with low reduction costs to reduce emissions beyond their mandate.
- It would encourage innovation and finance clean projects from Indian MSMEs, which have significant potential for reducing emissions.
- It will also increase the liquidity of Indian reduction certificates, encouraging more reductions globally.
Other carbon markets
- Kyoto Protocol: A carbon market was established on a global scale as part of the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change in 1997.
- The Kyoto Protocol’s emissions trading allowed countries with leftover emission units, i.e. emissions permitted but not “used,” to sell this excess capacity to countries that were over their targets.
- For example, if a developing country reduces its emissions by constructing a solar panel plant or planting trees, it may be able to sell a “credit” to a developed country.
- While this system worked well for a few years, the market collapsed due to concerns about environmental efficacy and a lack of demand for carbon credits.
- Paris Agreement: Under the Paris Agreement, a similar carbon market is being developed, but the details have not yet been finalised.
- Regional carbon markets: Both Europe and China have domestic carbon markets
- In California, the government limits the amount of greenhouse gases that a given industry or sector of the economy can emit.
- Indian context: PAT (perform, achieve, and trade) is a similar scheme in India that allows units to earn efficiency certificates if they outperform the prescribed efficiency standards. The laggards can purchase these certificates in order to continue operating.
Background (Energy Conservation Act, 2001)
- Description: The Energy Conservation Act of 2001 fueled the first phase of India’s transition to a more energy-efficient future by establishing the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) to promote the use of more energy-efficient processes and equipment.
- Scope: It established energy conservation and efficiency standards for a select group of industries and commercial complexes to follow. Equipment and appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators were also required to meet efficiency standards.
- Initiatives: The use of star ratings on various household appliances and the widespread adoption of LED bulbs resulted in massive energy savings over time.
2022 Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill
- Goals: It aims to make green energy mandatory for a select group of industrial, commercial, and residential consumers.
- A certain percentage of the energy they use must come from renewable or non-fossil fuel sources, such as Green Hydrogen.
- It aims to create a domestic carbon market and facilitate the trade of carbon credits.
- Broadens the scope: It broadens the scope of energy conservation to include large residential buildings, which was previously only applied to industrial and commercial complexes.
- New codes: New sustainable building codes will be defined, which will apply to any building with a certain threshold of energy consumption, whether industrial, commercial, or residential, with the goal of saving 300 billion units of electricity by 2030.
- Savings: It is estimated that an additional cost of 3-5 percent for buildings will be recovered within 4-5 years through energy cost savings.