Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hydropower reservoirs emit much more methane than it was thought!

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

In my today's pick section, sharing this just published article by Bobby Magill.  Hydropower projects are not really green projects, reinforces this article.  It also brings some new perspectives into debate. 

Some of my takes from the article are as follows:

-  Until recently, it was believed that about 20 percent of all man-made methane emissions come from the surface of reservoirs.  New research suggests that figure may be much higher than 20 percent. 
-  As per a 2013 study by researchers from Singapore, large reservoirs globally could emit up to 104 teragrams of methane annually. By comparison, NASA estimates that global methane emissions associated with burning fossil fuels totals between 80 and 120 teragrams annually.

-  Scientists have long thought reservoirs in warmer climates in the tropics emitted more methane than reservoirs in cooler climates, but the research at Harsha Lake shows that may not be the case.

-  Warning from the Singapore researchers:  Rapid hydropower development and increasing carbon emissions from hydroelectric reservoirs to the atmosphere should not be downplayed. 

In fact, we have also been warning the same citing examples of several other studies done so far on methane emission from man-made reservoirs of hydro-power projects.

Hope you will find this interesting.

Thanks and regards,

Hydropower May Be Huge Source of Methane Emissions

Bobby Magill, October 29th, 2014

 Harsha Lake, a large reservoir near Cincinnati, Ohio, emitted as much methane in 2012 as roughly 5,800 dairy cows would have emitted over an entire year. Credit: Firesign/flickr

Imagine nearly 6,000 dairy cows doing what cows do, belching and being flatulent for a full year. That’s how much methane was emitted from one Ohio reservoir in 2012.

Reservoirs and hydropower are often thought of as climate friendly because they don’t burn fossil fuels to produce electricity. But what if reservoirs that store water and produce electricity were among some of the world’s largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions?

Scientists are searching for answers to that question, as they study how much methane is emitted into the atmosphere from man-made reservoirs built for hydropower and other purposes. Until recently, it was believed that about 20 percent of all man-made methane emissions come from the surface of reservoirs.

New research suggests that figure may be much higher than 20 percent, but it’s unclear how much higher because too little data is available to estimate. Methane is about 35 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide over the span of a century.

Think about man-made lakes in terms of cows passing gas: Harsha Lake, a large reservoir near Cincinnati, Ohio, emitted as much methane in 2012 as roughly 5,800 dairy cows would have emitted over an entire year, University of Cincinnati biogeochemist Amy Townsend-Small told Climate Central.

Methane emissions from livestock are the second-largest source of methane emissions in the U.S., behind crude oil and natural gas, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But the EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions estimates do not yet account for methane emissions coming from man-made reservoirs.

Part of the reason is that, generally, very little is known about reservoirs and their emissions, especially in temperate regions, such as in the U.S., where few studies have been conducted.
In 2012 study, researchers in Singapore found that greenhouse gas emissions from hydropower reservoirs globally are likely greater than previously estimated, warning that “rapid hydropower development and increasing carbon emissions from hydroelectric reservoirs to the atmosphere should not be downplayed.”

Those researchers suggest all large reservoirs globally could emit up to 104 teragrams of methane annually. By comparison, NASA estimates that global methane emissions associated with burning fossil fuels totals between 80 and 120 teragrams annually.

But how much reservoirs contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions is “still a big question mark,” because the issue remains relatively unstudied and emission rates are highly uncertain, said John Harrison, an associate professor in the School of the Environment at the Washington State University-Vancouver whose research focuses on how reservoirs can be managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“So I don’t think we really know what the relative greenhouse gas effect of reservoirs is compared to other sources of energy in the U.S.,” he said.

Research at Harsha Lake may help scientists better understand how reservoirs contribute to climate change.

In a study published in August, Townsend-Small and researchers from the EPA found that Harsha Lake emitted more methane into the atmosphere in 2012 than had ever been recorded at any other reservoir in the U.S.

“When you compare the annual scale of the methane emission rate of this reservoir (Harsha Lake) to other studies, it’s really much higher than people would predict,” EPA research associate and Harsha Lake study lead author Jake Beaulieu told Climate Central.

Scientists have long thought reservoirs in warmer climates in the tropics emitted more methane than reservoirs in cooler climates, but the research at Harsha Lake shows that may not be the case, Townsend-Small said.

“We think this is because our reservoir is located in an agricultural area,” she said.
Methane is generated in reservoirs from bacteria living in oxygen-starved environments.

“These microbes eat organic carbon from plants for energy, just like people and other animals, but instead of breathing out carbon dioxide, they breathe out methane,” Townsend-Small said. “These same types of microbes live in the stomachs of cows and in landfills, which are other sources of methane to the atmosphere.”

Runoff from farmland around Harsha Lake provides more nutrients in the water, allowing algae to grow, just like numerous other reservoirs surrounded by agricultural land across the country.
Methane-generating microbes feed on decaying algae, which means that lakes catching a lot of nutrient-rich agricultural runoff generate a lot of methane.

“There are a very large number of these reservoirs in highly agricultural areas around the U.S.,” Townsend-Small said. “It could be that these agricultural reservoirs are a larger source of atmospheric methane than we had thought in the past.”

Emissions from reservoirs in all climates could be underestimated because of a discovery Beaulieu’s team found at Harsha Lake: The area where a river enters a man-made lake emits more methane than the rest of the lake overall.

Nobody has measured that before, Beaulieu said.

Most other research studying reservoir methane emissions doesn’t account for how emissions may vary across the surface of a lake, he said.

The EPA is about to begin a more comprehensive study measuring methane emissions from 25 reservoirs in a region stretching from northern Indiana to northern Georgia, with sampling beginning next year, Beaulieu said.

That study will help the EPA eventually include reservoir methane emissions in its total estimates of human-caused methane emissions.

Until that and other studies are complete, scientists can only speculate on the impact hydropower is having on the climate.

“We’re still in the very early days here of understanding how these systems work with respect to greenhouse gas production,” Harrison said.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Good Morning Thought - 28th October 2014!

If you stick to ethics and truth, the mainstream human society may disassociate with you; but you will always stay connected with the divine. That is more fulfilling...

Good Morning!

India stands at 49 among 60 countries in Global Green Economy Index 2014!

The 4th edition of the Global Green Economy Index (GGEI) is just published.  It is claimed to be an in-depth look at how 60 countries perform in the global green economy, as well as how expert practitioners rank this performance. The publishers inform that, “like many indices, the GGEI is a communications tool, signaling to policy makers, international organizations, the private sector and citizens which countries are successfully orienting their economies toward greener growth pathways and which ones are not. Importantly, the GGEI also generates perception values, offering unique insights into how communications and information exchange can be leveraged to further advance green economic growth”.  While Sweden tops the performance list, India ranks at 49 among the 60 countries that were studied.

The highlights from the 2014 Global Green Economy Index results include:


Germany (perception) and Sweden (performance) top the 2014 GGEI, confirming a trend observed in prior editions of strong results by Germany and the Nordic states. Besides performing well on both the economic and environmental areas of the GGEI, these nations display consistent green leadership and receive global recognition for it;

Covered for the first time in this edition, Costa Rica performs extremely well, ranking third on the GGEI performance measure behind Sweden and Norway and receiving strong recognition on the perception survey, an impressive result for such a small country;

Like in 2012, Copenhagen is the top green city as ranked by our survey of global experts, reinforcing the continued strength of the Danish green brand. Tracked for the first time this year, Vancouver and Singapore also rank in the top 10 of green cities.


Many of the fastest growing economies in the world rank poorly on the GGEI performance measure, highlighting an urgent need to reorient their economies to greener growth pathways. Regionally, these countries are mostly in Africa (Ghana), the Gulf (Qatar, United Arab Emirates), and Asia (Cambodia, China, Thailand, Vietnam);

There are concerning results related to more developed countries as well – notably Australia, Japan, the Netherlands and the United States – where perceptions of their green economic performance dramatically exceed their actual performance on the GGEI. These countries appear to receive more credit than they deserve, an information gap that requires further exploration;

Despite its leadership founding the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), South Korea continues not to register as a green country brand on our survey and performs poorly, ranked 39th out of 60 on this year’s GGEI. Despite better perception results, Japan also performs poorly on the 2014 GGEI, ranked 44th out of 60;

While the United Kingdom performs adequately in most areas of the GGEI, it doesn’t excel on any one topic, possibly due to inconsistent political rhetoric and policy related to green economy there. While gradually improving in each successive GGEI edition, the UK still lags behind its northern European and Nordic competitors;

Five European nations - Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Portugal and Spain – reveal performance scores that exceed their perception ones significantly – signaling an urgent need for better strategic communications and information exchange of their green merits and associated investment opportunities;

The GGEI results reveal a similar observation for a variety of non-European states - including Ethiopia, Mauritius, Rwanda in Africa and Colombia, Chile and Peru in Latin America – again suggesting a need for these states to better position their green economies on the international stage.

I am yet to make an analysis of this report.  However, thought to share with you these briefs as soon as the report was released. The report can be accessed at

Hope you will find it useful.

Thanks and regards,

Ranjan Panda

Clear India's Environment Mission - Update I

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

India's development has reached a defining moment.  The govt., with the intention of making India investment friendly, has put the environment virtually at a Clearance Sale.  The latest in the series are as follows.

Thanks and regards,


1. Now green clearance even without acquiring necessary land for projects. This has been happening illegally already. Now, the companies get legal route to destroy our environment even without fulfilling the basic criteria for investments...

‘Full land acquisition not a must for green sanction’

Clara Lewis & Vijay Pinjarkar,TNN | Oct 27, 2014, 02.19 AM IST
NAGPUR/MUMBAI: Full land acquisition will no longer be a pre-requisite for a project seeking environment clearance (EC). The Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has said credible documents will be considered adequate by the environment appraisal committees (EAC) and state environment appraisal committees (SEAC) while scrutinizing proposals.

The MoEF also made seeking environment clearance for development projects within 10km from national parks and wildlife sanctuaries easier. The proposals will now be directly dealt by the National Board for Wildlife standing committee, led by Union environment minister, instead of the state wildlife boards. The ruling is in line with the Modi government giving a leg-up to infrastructural projects and reducing "unnecessary rules" that hindered "general growth". It is likely to expedite works relating to mining, road widening, irrigation, industries, power plants and installation of transmission lines.

In an office memorandum issued early this month, the MoEF has said that in case the land for a project is proposed to be acquired through government intervention, then a copy of preliminary notification issued by the state government concerned for land acquisition as per the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, can be submitted. In case the land is being acquired through private negotiations with land owners, then credible document showing intent of the land-owners to sell it for the proposed project is to be submitted.

The office memorandum has been issued as there were no guidelines on the criteria to be followed with regard to the extent of land needed to be acquired to obtain an EC for a project. All EACs/SEACs had been applying different criteria. The MoEF has warned that the EC will be invalid in case the actual land for the project turns out to be different from the one considered at the time of appraisal and mentioned in the EC. The Confederation of Indian Industry welcomed the move and said it will help fast-track the clearance process.

If land for a project is being acquired through govt intervention, then a copy of preliminary notification issued by the state can be submitted. If it is being acquired through private negotiations, then a document showing intent of the land-owners to sell it for the project is to be submitted.

1. India's fast paced mission to clear remaining good forests and wildlife continues in full swing. Now, wings of state wildlife boards clipped...

MoEF clips wings of state wildlife boards

Vijay Pinjarkar,TNN | Oct 27, 2014, 03.40 AM IST

NAGPUR : The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has made seeking environment clearance for development projects within 10km from national parks and wildlife sanctuaries easier by approaching the National Board for Wildlife directly instead of the state wildlife boards. The proposals will now be directly dealt by the NBWL standing committee headed by union environment minister.

MoEF has clarified that the need of NBWL standing committee's recommendation for projects outside the limits of national parks and sanctuaries is not governed by the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. "Any proposal for environment clearance outside parks need not be taken up for processing at the state level. Wherever applicable, such a proposal will be referred to the ministry itself and then NBWL," said ML Srivastava, deputy inspector general of forests.

As reported by TOI on September 15, the NBWL now comprises retired forest officials who, wildlife experts claimed, "can easily be manipulated to toe the government line". Many experts who have spent decades in wildlife conservation seem to have been deliberately kept out. There is no representation from Central India which has 13 tiger reserves and over 30 wildlife sanctuaries.

The new ruling is in line with the Modi government giving a leg-up to infrastructural projects and reducing "unnecessary rules" which hindered "general growth". The implications, however, will be huge and environmental losses can only be gauged once the process is set into motion. The rule is likely to expedite works relating to mining, road widening, irrigation, industries, power plants, installation of transmission lines etc.

Vidarbha will feel the benefit and loss of this move straightaway. The controversial four-laning of 37-km NH7 by National Highway Authority Limited (NHAI) between Mansar and Khawasa will now be out of the purview of state board for wildlife (SBWL). The road widening has already been granted environment clearance way back in 2006. Now many project proponents will bypass SBWL.

The road widening cuts Mansinghdeo wildlife sanctuary and also Central India's biggest tiger corridor between Pench-Nagzira-Kanha-Tadoba. Maharashtra's chief wildlife warden Sarjan Bhagat has already forwarded the proposal to SBWL in August with a condition to follow Wildlife Institute of India recommendations.

MoEF issued a memorandum on October 26, asking states to advise the projects proponents accordingly. The ministry stated that it had issued a circular on February 27, 2007 based on a December 4, 2006 Supreme Court order on a PIL (460/2004).

The last line of the circular stated that projects will be granted EC subject to proponents obtaining clearance under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. However, MoEF says "the phrase obtaining clearance under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, may be read as prior clearance from the standing committee of NBWL". "It implies that till now the circular was being misinterpreted by the state forest departments. It is a good move as SBWL meets once a year or even more. This delays the projects," said one of the proponents.

With the fresh MoEF directive, NHAI officials feel four-laning of stalled NH7 will be expedited as matters will be solved in Delhi. However, Bhagat said it is true that NH7 road widening proposal will not be placed before SBWL now, but said, "If NBWL has cleared road widening on MP side considering WII recommendations, it will have to follow the same principle on Maharashtra side. Law of land should prevail."

On MP side, NHAI has scaled down its demand for forest land from 71 hectares to 36 hectares. If MP chief Narendra Kumar is to be believed, NBWL has already cleared road expansion subject to WII recommendation which calls for elevated structures in vulnerable forest patches.


With a view to facilitating early decision-making by the standing committee of NBWL in respect of development projects requiring wildlife clearance and located within 10km of national parks & sanctuaries following procedure has been decided.

* While prescribing terms of references (TORs) for projects requiring wildlife clearance, henceforth, additional TORs shall be mandatorily incorporated.

* Copies of such TORs issued to projects will be endorsed to wildlife division in the ministry.

* After examining the proposal for EC, the expert appraisal committee will make appropriate recommendations and if need felt may invite chief wildlife wardens of states concerned to give views on the proposals.

* The wildlife division in MoEF will record NBWL recommendations and return to the impact assessment division for further processing and approval of EC to the project.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Good Morning Thought - 27th October 2014!

Only a true friend can dissect through your smile and understand when it is actually not...

Good Morning!

Good Morning Thought - 26th October 2014!

Ordinary human beings often say great words, but we ignore them. In the contrary, ordinary talks of celebrities make big headlines. Our minds are tuned to follow what sells even if that is not any real worth...

Good Morning!

Have a Great Sunday!!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Access to electricity in India contributes marginally to country's GHG emissions. Green energy could reduce it drastically!

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

In my today’s analysis section, sharing below news about an interesting study conducted by Sonali Pachauri of the Austria based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).  The author claims that improving household electricity access in India over the last 30 years contributed only marginally to the country's total carbon emissions growth during that time.  However, low carbon energy options would have made this contribution still very marginal. 

In my opinion, the inequitable distribution of electricity access between urban and rural areas needs to be urgently addressed with more locally produced renewable energy sources that would make it easier to distribute locally.  In fact, the amount of electricity we produce at the moment is sufficient to provide basic electricity security to all households of the nation.  However, around 400 million people are still deprived of this facility. 

Renewable sources would help make access possible for all those who have not been covered, and reduce the carbon emission further.  However, our policy makers are hell bent on burning coal through centralized systems of production. 

India also needs to work sincerely on energy austerity measures rather than just thinking about increased production and distribution. 

Hope you will find this post an interesting read.

Thanks and regards,


Access to electricity in India has no impact on climate change

LONDON: Improving household electricity access in India over the last 30 years contributed only marginally to the country's total carbon emissions growth during that time, according to a new study.
While increased energy access is widely agreed to be an important goal for development efforts, such as the UN Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, the climate impacts of increased access to electricity have been unclear.

The study is the first to examine the impact of electricity access on carbon dioxide emissions using two sources of retrospective data.

"This study shows that the climate impacts of expanding access are in fact very small," said Shonali Pachauri, from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis ( IIASA) in Austria, who conducted the study.

However, she added, expanding low-carbon energy technologies in developing countries would bring many co-benefits beyond climate mitigation.

While India still lacks electricity access for much of its population - around 400 million people - the country has vastly increased access in the last 30 years, researchers said.

From 1981 to 2011, household electricity access in the country improved from around 25 per cent to between 67-74 per cent of the population, an increase of approximately 650 million people.

"India is at a similar stage to many other developing countries in terms of energy access, So we believe that these findings will be applicable on a broad scale to other developing countries," said Pachauri.

Using two data sources, the study found that improved electricity access in India from 1981 to 2011 accounted for approximately 50 million tonnes of CO2, or 3-4 per cent of the rise in total national CO2 emissions.

Since electrification also tends to lead to increased wealth and participation in the economy, it can also lead to additional increases in emissions from indirect energy use through consumption.

Pachauri found that when she took these factors into account, household electricity use would account for 156 to 363 million tonnes CO2, or 11 to 25 per cent of emissions growth in the country.
However, even with increased electricity use, Indian households still use less electricity than Chinese households, and less than 10 per cent of households in the US.

Researchers said that even though the emissions growth from expanded energy access is small, low carbon energy sources have additional benefits for developing countries and should be encouraged.
"Energy access is fundamental to development: it brings improvements to all aspects of life, including education, communication, and health," said Pachauri.

The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

- PTI Oct 20, 2014, 02.24PM IST


ADB’s Loan to improve Rajasthan water and sewerage services: Less Loan, More Politics?

Half of ADB’s 500 Million USD Loan to Rajasthan Water and Sewerage upgrades to go for formation of corporate-style state body.  Only half to be utilised in improving real services.  A latest release from ADB informs this.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on 24th October 2014 informed, in a press release, that it has approved two loans worth half a billion dollars to help the government in India’s largest state of Rajasthan to better manage essential urban services and finance water and sewerage upgrades.

This, according to ADB’s Director of the South Asia Urban and Water Division Fei Yue, is for the first time in India that they have coupled a policy loan to support urban sector reforms with a project loan for infrastructure development.  The loan is meant for improvements to urban services like water and wastewater maintenance over the long term.  ADB claims that reliable urban services will improve health, the quality of life and, ultimately, support economic growth in India’s towns and cities. 

ADB informs that the $250 million policy loan will be used to help the Government of Rajasthan finance the creation of a new corporate-style state body to oversee urban services development and an independent utility in Jaipur to oversee water and wastewater operations in the state capital.  Such reforms include delegating water and sewerage operations from the state government to the municipal bodies. They will also rationalize water tariffs and property tax to ensure the institutions have a fair and sustainable revenue stream to finance urban services and improvements.  I am sure, the unwritten texts talk about privatising these services further and actually weakening the municipal bodies. 

The rest $250 million, that comes as a project loan, will support water system improvements in five cities— Hanumangarh, Jhunjhunu, Pali, Sri Ganganagar, and Tonk—which currently have low piped water coverage and high losses, says ADB. These upgrades will include nearly 200,000 new house connections with proper metering to cut losses. Around a third of the connections will be in low-income households. Moreover, in those five cities, plus Bhilwara, sewer pipelines and treatment plants will be upgraded and expanded, wastewater recycling schemes put in place, and sludge will be used to generate electricity.

We have to see what impacts these reforms will have on the low income groups in reality. 

The full program—expected to be completed by the end of 2019—aims to expand water supply in the cities from just 2 hours a day to 24 hours by 2019, as well as sharply increase the collection and treatment of sewage and septage waste.

On top of ADB’s $500 million in loans and a $1 million grant from its Technical Assistance Special Fund to finance capacity building in state institutions, there will be a $2 million grant from the Sanitation Financing Partnership Trust Fund, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The trust fund will finance innovative sanitation improvements, including septage management and decentralized wastewater treatment, in non-sewered areas for low-income households in two of the cities.

Whatever may be the written intentions of the project, we are sure that ADB’s knowledge creation game to support privatisation of basic services is going to impact the urban poor badly.  The loan has more politics in agenda than real services, it seems.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Good Morning Thought - 25th October 2014!

The immoral changes loyalty at drop of the hat, and justifies it as a change for better. This, to the common world, is known as opportunist to the core...

Good Morning!

Enjoy your Weekend!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My latest article: 'Arrest Mangrove Destruction or Prepare for Disaster' published in Odishasuntimes.Com


By Ranjan Panda*
Although mangroves make up less than one percent of all tropical forests worldwide, their contribution to mitigation of climate change is huge. Unfortunately, however, they are facing the fastest ever rate of destruction. Any further delay in corrective action to protect and conserve mangrove ecosystems would not only mean huge loss of livelihood of a large number of coastal communities in the developing world, but also make us more vulnerable to devastations caused by the increasing number of cyclones.
Mangrove- asource of livelihood in Bhitarkanika ( Pic-Ranjan Panda)
Mangrove- asource of livelihood in Bhitarkanika
( Pic-Ranjan Panda)
A just published report on mangroves by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) titled, “The important of mangroves to people: A call to Action” reinforces this point.
Several research studies have now conclusively established that mangroves act as significant carbon storage systems, sequestering vast amounts of carbon – about 1,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare – over thousands of years. With continuing deforestation, this coastal “blue carbon” is at risk of being released back into the atmosphere when mangroves are cut down and converted into shrimp ponds or replaced by hotels, ports or used as landfill, says this report.
More importantly, emissions from deforestation of the same mangroves that act as one of the best carbon sinks make up nearly one-fifth of all global emissions due to deforestation. In fact, mangroves continue to be lost at a rate 3-5 times faster than global deforestation rates. The report estimates economic damages on account of mangrove destruction at about US$ 6-42 billion annually.
Actually, the losses to the communities dependent on mangrove ecosystems are much more than anyone can estimate. Tropical mangroves around the world connect our land and its people with the sea, providing millions with food, clean water, raw materials and resilience against future climate change impact, including increasing storm intensity and sea level rise.
Together with coral reefs, seagrass meadows and intertidal mudflats and marshes, these complex interconnected ecosystems are home to a spectacular range of visiting and resident species of birds, mammals, invertebrates and fish, all of which help maintain the ecological functioning of mangroves. In turn, this rich mosaic of biodiversity supports people through fisheries, tourism and cultural heritage, the report points out in its introduction.
Gone in 100 years?
It is estimated that people dependent on mangrove ecosystems may be deprived of the services in just about 100 years making life of these dependent communities miserable. This means the world may lose all its vital mangrove ecosystems in just a century’s time, if the current rate of degradation continues.
MangroveIt could actually be faster than that. This loss would result in serious consequences for the local people in the form of degraded economies, impoverished livelihoods, declining human security and therefore poor quality of life for the already vulnerable coastal communities in developing countries.
While a prosperous coastal community is directly dependent on a healthy mangrove ecosystem, loss of mangroves would mean disastrous consequences to the nation and the globe as a whole. The UNEP reports that over 100 million people around the world live within 10 kilometres of large mangrove forests, benefiting from a variety of goods and services such as fisheries and forest products, clean water and protection against erosion and extreme weather events. These ecosystem services are worth an estimated US$ 33-57,000 per hectare per year to the economies of developing countries with mangroves.
However, mangroves are one of the most undervalued ecosystems in the world. There are very few studies available on the small systems and hence it is virtually impossible to quantify the value of ecosystem services of all the mangrove forests. My own view is that it is not necessary to quantify each and every ecosystem service. The fact that millions of people and other species depend on mangroves calls for our urgent attention. As humans, even if we want to become selfish and count only our own benefits, the experience of recent cyclones must stir our minds further to know the important role mangroves play in managing cyclones, sea surges and related disasters. To understand this, we need to know the basic composition of mangrove forests.
Mangroves, our wall against disasters
Uniquely positioned at the dynamic interface of land and sea, mangroves form the foundation of a highly productive and biologically rich ecosystem which provides a home and feeding ground for a wide range of species, many of which are endangered. The complex network of mangrove roots can help reduce wave energy, thus limiting erosion and shielding coastal communities from the destructive forces of tropical storms.
Mangrove cleared for prawn farming
Mangrove cleared for prawn farming
Mangroves offer natural and low-cost risk reduction mechanisms against rising sea levels and changes in the frequency and intensity of storms.
The UNEP report, citing studies already done on this, says that mangroves can rapidly reduce wave energy as they pass through the trees. The extent of reduction in the height of relatively small waves due to this natural barrier has been found to be anywhere in the range of 13% to 66% over a 100 m wide mangrove belt. The effectiveness is largely dependent on the density of the mangrove vegetation. Waves passing through dense aerial roots and tree canopies will be reduced most effectively. The provision of shelter by mangroves is not only important for people on land, but also for those operating at sea.
In case of storm surges, the report suggests – again citing studies – that mangroves can reduce storm surge levels by up to 50 cm per km width of mangroves. While large areas of mangroves are needed to significantly reduce peak water levels, even relatively small changes in water depth may result in large areas being saved from flooding, particularly in areas of low relief that are typical for mangroves.
The report further finds out that coastal forests such as mangroves cannot completely stop a tsunami, but they can absorb some of the energy of the flowing water and thus reduce the force of the impact, saving lives and reducing damage to property. Mangrove trees can also disrupt the huge flows of water as the wave recedes and block property and people from being swept back to the sea.
The Odisha Case
The UNEP report has a case study on the Bhitarkanika forests and mentions that this protected mangrove area provides important ecosystem services to dependent communities, and is also home to 300 plant species and 263 species of birds, including five different species of kingfishers of which two (Brown-winged and Ruddy Kingfisher) are globally threatened. In addition, it provides a home for the globally threatened Olive Ridley Turtles, the Saltwater Crocodiles and the Irrawaddy Dolphins.
Ranjan Panda
Studies on the role of Bhitarkanika Mangrove Ecosystem in protecting villagers against the 1999 super cyclone have found out that villages which were protected by mangrove forests suffered less than the ones which had no protection from these unique forests. In fact, the report comes out with a very interesting finding that compares the loss suffered by villages with embankments with villages having mangrove forests.
A study that was referred to by the report has found out the following: The loss incurred per household was greatest (US$ 154) in the village, which was surrounded by the embankment (as a result of the embankment breaching and the flood water being slow to recede, increasing damage to crops), followed by the village that had neither mangrove nor an embankment (US$ 44).
The village which was protected by mangrove forests incurred the lowest loss per household (US$ 33). Embankments near mangrove forests were not breached while those further away were breached at a number of places, implying that mangroves may have helped to protect these defences. The local people were aware of and appreciated the functions performed by the mangrove forests in protecting their lives and property from cyclones and were willing to cooperate with the forest department in mangrove restoration.
In fact, the Odisha coast has lost a huge chunk of its mangrove forests. Since the Bay of Bengal is increasingly vulnerable to cyclones and storms, future disasters will be much more fatal and devastating unless we take prompt and massive measures to restore, plant and conserve mangrove forests.
Call for Action
Philippines, which was hit by one of the worst typhoons – the Yolanda – in November 2013, has now started a massive effort to revive mangrove forests. It is reported that this country has lost over 50 per cent of its mangroves since 1918. It has now taken up a programme with an investment of over twenty million US Dollars under which it is promoting mangrove replanting, developing greenbelts of mangrove and beach forests as natural protection against storms. India too has been investing in mangrove restoration.
Mangroves 1However, the effort seems to be lacking the required urgency.
To restore Mangrove Ecosystems, one needs to understand the real causes of their destruction. In 2010, a report of the Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA) revealed that the shrimp industry accounted for almost 38 per cent of the destruction of mangrove forests globally. It reported that at least 26 per cent of global mangrove forests have been cleared for fuel wood and timber production.
In India, as per this report, 40% of the country’s mangroves have already been converted to agricultural land or lost to urban sprawl. In fact, this report apprehended a faster rate of destruction of the mangroves in the coming days and said that at the current rate, mangroves may vanish by the end of this century as against the 100 years estimated in the UNEP report.
The loss rate of mangroves has accelerated since the 1980s and the future looks really grim. Roads, infrastructure, tourism industry, ports and embankment walls have come up at a massive rate in the last few decades. The pace of such ‘mangrove destructive development’ is going to be faster in coming years leading thereby causing direct destruction through deforestation as well as indirect destruction of mangroves through pollution.
The UNEP report suggest some measures for restoration of mangroves and their protection – both through direct field action and policy intervention and is hopeful that time is still there to turn the tide and avert the considerable ecological, social and economic costs now, and in the future. I would say, we need to act now or perish as cyclones and storms increase in their frequency and intensity.

*The author is a Sambalpur based water rights activist and Convenor of Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO)

Good Morning Thought - 24th October 2014!

We are always concerned with who or what drives our life at a particular time rather than who brought us to what we are...

Good Morning!

Happy Diwali Wishes - 23rd October 2014!

Let's celebrate the festival of lights to spread love, peace, friendship & joy; not pollution...

Wish you, family and friends a Happy Diwali!!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Good Morning Thought - 18th October 2014!

Putting a price on everything, including relationships, is reducing the society to a market place. As value erodes, the decay is visible in increasingly impatient and abusive greedy characters...

Good Morning!

Have a nice Weekend!!

Good Morning Thought - 17th October 2014!

If you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you... (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Good Morning!

Good Morning Thought - 16th October 2014!

Time tells you what your most trusted well wishers don't dare to...

Good Morning!

At COP 12 Governments commit additional resources to biodiversity conservation

In the just concluded 12th meeting of the Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity at Pyeongchang in Korea, governments committed to step up actions to achieve, by the end of the decade, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets agreed four years ago, and contribute to the sustainable development agenda.

A release from the Montreal based Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity said that “A key outcome was the agreement by Governments on the financial resources to support achievement of the Strategic Plan”.

“Responding to the call initiated at COP-10 in Nagoya, governments today reaffirmed their agreement made at COP-11 in Hyderabad to double total biodiversity-related international financial resource flows to developing countries, in particular least developed countries and small island developing States, as well as countries with economies in transition by 2015, and at least maintain this level until 2020”, it was informed.

The basis for calculating this is to use average annual biodiversity funding for the years 2006-2010 as a baseline.

Domestic Finance to Increase:

Governments are said to have agreed to increase domestic financing for biodiversity and have identified a set of actions to allow the increased mobilizations of financial resources from all sources.  The decisions incorporate actions that demonstrate a re-commitment to implement the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and achieve its Aichi Biodiversity Targets, agreed by the international community in 2010.

Key decisions, including those on resource mobilization, capacity building, scientific and technical cooperation linking biodiversity and poverty eradication, and on monitoring of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, form the “Pyeongchang roadmap for the enhanced implementation of the strategic plan and achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.” These actions will strengthen capacity and increase support for countries and stakeholders to implement their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans, it has been said.

The decisions were bolstered by the call in the Gangwon ministerial declaration, the result of two days of high level talks, to link the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda to other relevant processes such as the UN Development Assistance Framework process and the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans. The declaration emphasized the relevance and key contribution of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets and Vision for 2050 to the post-2015 development agenda at all levels, and invite the United Nations General Assembly to integrate them effectively in the post-2015 development agenda.

“Parties have listened to the evidence, and have responded by committing themselves to redoubling their efforts in support of the vision of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, including the financial resources needed to make this a reality” said United Nations Assistant-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias.
“Their commitments show the world that biodiversity is a solution to the challenges of sustainable development and will be a central part of any discussions for the post-2015 development agenda and its sustainable development goals” he said further.

Inaction to hat biodiversity loss to cost huge economic loss to tune of US $14 trillion by 2050:
UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme Achim Steiner, said, "From food and water security to livelihoods and disasters risk reduction, biodiversity is a powerful engine that underpins the delivery of current and future sustainable development objectives. The cost of inaction to halt biodiversity decline would give rise to increasing and cumulative economic annual losses to the value of around US $14 trillion by 2050."

"The decisions made at COP 12 here in Pyeongchang will leapfrog efforts to achieve the Aichi targets and put biodiversity on a stronger footing for decades to come. The outcome of this meeting shows that plausible pathways exist to realize a reduction in biodiversity loss and in turn address broader global priorities in the context of the Post-2015 development agenda," he added.

Mr. Yoon Seong-kyu, the Minister of Environment for the Republic of Korea, which holds the presidency of the COP for the next two years, said “The Gangwon Declaration has just been adopted during the High-Level Segment, reflecting a strong message from the Parties that the importance of biodiversity should be highlighted in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. We are planning to report and submit it to the UN General Assembly.”

Further, the Minister pledged that the Republic of Korea will fully assume its responsibility to bridge the gap between developed and developing countries by tapping into the creative economy approach in the field of biodiversity.

The Republic of Korea announced four new initiatives in support of the Pyeongchang roadmap and Parties’ efforts to implement these and other decisions of the Conference of the Parties: the Biobridge initiative in support of technical and scientific cooperation, the Forest Ecosystem Restoration Initiative (FERI), and the peace and biodiversity initiative in support of transboundary cooperation, as well as further support for the Sustainable Ocean Initiative.

Post 2015 engagements discussed:

The outcomes of the meeting build on growing recognition of the critical role of biodiversity in the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs). Governments were encouraged to fully engage in discussions on the post-2015 United Nations development agenda and SDGs, with the goal of integrating and mainstreaming the objectives of the Convention and the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 into relevant goals, targets and indicators.

Other decisions taken during the COP reinforced the contribution of biodiversity conservation to social and economic goals of the post-2015 development. A decision on health and biodiversity which will see increased collaboration between the CBD and the World Health Organization. Decisions related to disaster risk reduction and ecosystem restoration, will not only contribute to the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity but also goals related to sustainable development.

The meeting also adopted milestones for the full implementation of Aichi Biodiversity Target 3 on incentives. The decision includes a timetable and concrete activities for the elimination, phasing out or reform of incentive policies that are harmful to biodiversity, as well as the promotion of positive incentive policies.

Governments devoted considerable efforts towards the marine agenda, including: The COP reviewed the results of seven regional workshops for describing ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs) and encouraged efforts and collaboration to address knowledge gaps and lack of scientific information regarding areas meeting the EBSA criteria. Together with the results of COP-11, nearly some 75% of the world’s oceans have now been assessed scientifically analysed through technical workshops to describe address the worlds’ most special ocean areas.

Concerns over threats to marine diversity:

COP also took a decision addressing key threats to marine biodiversity, namely anthropogenic underwater noise and ocean acidification, and encouraged action to enhance knowledge regarding these threats and to mitigate their impacts on marine and coastal biodiversity. COP invited relevant organizations to advance their work on enhancing methods and tools for marine spatial planning. COP also requested additional capacity building workshops and partnership activities within the framework of the Sustainable Ocean Initiative to address priority issues identified for respective regions concerning the achievement of Aichi Biodiversity Targets in marine and coastal areas.

This decision also adopted priority actions to achieve Aichi Biodiversity Target 10 for coral reefs and closely associated ecosystems, focused on enhancing the resilience of these important ecosystems and facilitating the achievement of Target 10. Some of the actions include reducing land based pollution, promoting sustainable fisheries and improving the design of marine protected area networks for coral reefs, implementing poverty reduction programmes for reef-dependent coastal communities, and developing socioeconomic incentives for coral reef conservation.

Parties also adopted decisions to strengthen the role of business, subnational and local governments, and stakeholders, as well as how to more effectively consider gender in implementation of the Convention.

The meeting also agreed on ways to integrate the work under the Convention and the Protocols, including holding concurrent meetings of the Convention and its protocols, and established a subsidiary body on implementation, replacing the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Review of Implementation of the Convention, to serve all three instruments under the Convention.

Traditional knowledge and role of indigenous and local communities:

The issue of traditional knowledge and the role of Indigenous and local communities under the CBD was also discussed extensively. The programme of work on this issue was endorsed, as was the plan of action on customary sustainable use of biological diversity. Parties also decided to use the terminology “indigenous peoples and local communities” in future decisions and documents under the Convention.

The Conference of the Parties addressed the issues of synthetic biology, urging Parties to have in place risk assessment procedures and regulatory systems to regulate environmental release of organisms, components or products resulting from synthetic biology techniques. It also urged Parties to approve organisms resulting from synthetic biology techniques for field trials only after appropriate risk assessments have been carried out.

In addition, it set out a comprehensive plan for further work on this matter under the Convention.

The meeting also adopted decisions that related to the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing from the Utilization of Genetic Resources. With the entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol, the third objective of the Convention has now been fulfilled.


Aichi Biodiversity Targets: In decision X/2, the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, held from 18 to 29 October 2010, in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, adopted a revised and updated Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, including the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, for the 2011-2020 period. Parties agreed on implementation of the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan, and progress achieved towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): Opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and entering into force in December 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty for the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. With 194 Parties up to now, the Convention has near universal participation among countries. The Convention seeks to address all threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including threats from climate change, through scientific assessments, the development of tools, incentives and processes, the transfer of technologies and good practices and the full and active involvement of relevant stakeholders including indigenous peoples and local communities, youth, NGOs, women and the business community. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing are supplementary agreements to the Convention. The Cartagena Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology. To date, 167 countries plus the European Union have ratified the Cartagena Protocol. The Nagoya Protocol aims at sharing the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies. It entered into force on 12 October 2014 and to date has been ratified by 53 countries plus the European Union. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Scientists and Climate Change: interesting lines from State of the World 2014!

“When it comes to avoiding a 2°C rise [in average global temperatures], ‘impossible’ is translated into ‘difficult but doable’, whereas ‘urgent and radical’ emerge as ‘challenging’—all to appease the god of economics (or, more precisely, finance).” With the exception of outspoken individuals like James Hansen—who served as head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies until 2013—most scientists have been reluctant to engage in the fierce, polarized political debates of how society should respond to distressing scientific findings."

(Even though I am yet to get a full copy of The Worldwatch Institute's signature publication 'State of the World 2014', the promo brings the first chapter and I found out these interesting lines about how scientists are engaging in climate change debate.  Thought of sharing with all of you.)

Thought on World Food Day: Let's protect and promote small farmers!

95% of the World's farms are small-scale. 2-billion people depend on small farms for their livelihoods. 1-billion people in rural areas live on less than $1.25/day. Most are small farmers. Small-scale farmers produce 70% of the World's food on 25% of the World's farmland. (USC, Canada)

Let's protect and promote small farmers!

Happy World Food Day!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sanitation is not just about toilets: study confirms WIO’s views!

Dear Friends/Co-sailors,

A recent study by researchers from Emory University USA and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine UK confirms many of our views on sanitation.  We at Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) have been emphasising, for more than two decades that ‘Sanitation is not just about Toilets.’ 

Sharing below link to a news published in the study for your information. 

Would draw your notice to the following few lines from the news as they bring forth the real issues quite correctly:

During the study period, average proportion of households with latrine in intervention villages increased from nine per cent to 63 per cent compared to 12 per cent from eight per cent in control villages. However, researchers found no evidence that access to latrines protected against diarrhoea in children. Week-long prevalence of diarrhoea reported among children in intervention group was 8.8 per cent while it was 9.1 per cent in control group.

What is more, the intervention also did not reduce prevalence of parasitic worms that are transmitted through soil and affect physical growth and lead to impaired cognitive function in children. There was also no marked improvement on child weight or height, as measures of nutritional status, among the intervention group.

We have been advocating, toilets alone won’t ensure good health and hygiene.  WIO believes that ecological health of villages and urban areas is a precursor to healthy living.  The focus of all programmes therefore should not just be in building toilets but on promoting ‘ecological health’ that includes safe and healthy water bodies, clean drinking water, natural forest diversity and organic agriculture. 

Thanks and regards,


Link to the news on the study: Source:

Total Sanitation Lacks Thrust in Odisha: Study

BHUBANESWAR: Increasing coverage of the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) and equipping more number of households with latrines has not guaranteed the health benefits associated with sanitation. TCS, the world’s largest sanitation initiative, might be taking giant strides in enhancing access to latrines in India. But, it has not brought any significant reduction in exposure to faecal pathogens or decreased occurrence of diarrhoea, parasitic worm infections or child malnutrition, an extensive study in rural Odisha published in the latest issue of the prestigious ‘Lancet Global Health’ journal has found.

The study led by Professor Thomas Clasen from Emory University, Atlanta, USA and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, in collaboration with Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California-Davis, USA, Xavier University, Bhubaneswar and School of Biotechnology, KIIT University, Bhubaneswar, took into consideration about 100 villages in Puri district.

Involving as many as 9,480 households with at least one child below four years or a pregnant women, the study conducted from mid-2010 to 2013-end has brought the perception-busting facts to the fore. Households in half the villages were randomly assigned for immediate sanitation interventions while others were controlled to receive such interventions after a 14-month surveillance period.
During the study period, average proportion of households with latrine in intervention villages increased from nine per cent to 63 per cent compared to 12 per cent from eight per cent in control villages. However, researchers found no evidence that access to latrines protected against diarrhoea in children. Week-long prevalence of diarrhoea reported among children in intervention group was 8.8 per cent while it was 9.1 per cent in control group.

What is more, the intervention also did not reduce prevalence of parasitic worms that are transmitted through soil and affect physical growth and lead to impaired cognitive function in children. There was also no marked improvement on child weight or height, as measures of nutritional status, among the intervention group.

These results are in contrast to the assumptions of significant health gains from rural household sanitation interventions. Household sanitation leads to other benefits as convenience, dignity, privacy and safety but health benefits cannot be derived simply by constructing latrines.

“The programme is effective in building latrines but not all households participate. Moreover, many householders do not always use the latrines. This, combined with continued exposure from poor hygiene, contaminated water and unsafe disposal of child faeces may explain lack of health impact,” Prof Clasen said. While further studies are needed to pinpoint reasons behind low positive health impact, the researchers have suggested some possible explanations including inconsistent use of latrines, lack of proper handwashing practices, good personal hygiene, and even animal faeces. Along with efforts to expand sanitation coverage, approaches need to not only meet coverage-driven targets but also achieve levels of uptake, the researchers have stressed.

By SN Agragami Published: 15th October 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Good Morning Thought - 15th October 2014!

Settling for less even when you have the ability to grab more makes a meaningful contribution to someone somewhere for sure. It also does good to Mother Earth...

Good Morning!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Good Morning Thought - 14th October 2014!

The farmers who produce our food and the villagers who protect our forests are as brave & important soldiers as the ones who guard our borders...

Good Morning!