The ‘State of India’s Birds 2020’ Report

Paper: III

For Prelims: conference of Parties 13.

For Mains: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Context of News:

  • The ‘State of India’s Birds 2020’ report, the first comprehensive assessment of range, abundance and conservation status of birds in India, has underlined concerns about some bird species and good news about a few others.

Conference of Parties 13:

  • The Thirteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP13) together with the associated meetings of the Standing Committee was held in Gandhinagar, at the kind invitation of the Government of India from 15 to 22 February 2020.
  • The theme of CMS COP-13 is ‘Migratory species connect the planet and we welcome them home’.
  • The mascot for CMS COP-13 is Gibi – The Great Indian Bustard It is a critically endangered species (according to the IUCN) and has been accorded the highest protection status (listed in Schedule I) under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Outcomes of CMS 13:
  • Parties adopted the new strategic framework of the Convention for 2018–2030.
  • As adopted the new strategy responds to the five elements identified as essential for integrating SDG 15 and target 15.3 into the implementation of the Convention while leaving leeway and scope for adapting/ reacting to future developments.
  • Within the new framework the most important achievement is Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) as a concrete albeit voluntary target. Further elements: Focus on drought, migration, and gender-responsive polices and measures.

Details of the Report:

  • This Report was released during CMS COP13, the international conference held recently in Gandhinagar, the report was prepared as a partnership among 10 organisations including the World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Institute of India and Nature Biodiversity Authority-India.
  • Majority of its data is based on citizen science information provided by birdwatchers through various platforms.
  • 867 number of bird species, whose status was assessed. This assessment is based on three indices:
  1. Long-term trend in abundance (over 25+ years).
  2. Current annual trend in abundance (last 5 years).
  3. Distribution range size.
  • 261 The number of species for which long-term trends could be determined. Of these, 52% species have declined since 2000 (with 22% declining strongly), 43% showed a long-term stable trend, and 5% showed an increasing trend.
  • 146 are number of species for which current annual trends could be estimated. Nearly 80% are declining (almost 50% declining strongly), 6% are stable and 14% are increasing.

Species on long-term decline:

  • Small minivet; common woodshrike; short-toed snake eagle; cotton teal; large cuckooshrike; common greenshank; Rufous-tailed lark, oriental skylark, yellow-fronted pied woodpecker; Indian thick-knee; little pratincole; little stint, Sirkeer malkoha; blue rock thrush, crested treeswift, etc.
  • House Sparrow:
  • While the house sparrow has been in the news due to concerns about declining populations, with many people reporting seeing fewer sparrows than before, the report cites new analysis to show that the house sparrow has been fairly stable overall during the past 25+ years.
  • While data do indicate a gradual decline in their abundance in urban centres, the species has an extremely large range across the country. Due to lack of evidence for countrywide decline, it is classified as of low conservation concern.
  • Indian Peafowl:
  • The national bird since 1963, the species finds itself under the highest level of legal protection, placed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and further amendments. Peafowl are spread across plains and hills of India, except in extremely dry or wet regions. The abundance trend is that of a general increase, both long term and currently.

Why Bird populations in India dwindling at alarming rate?

  • Habitat Fragmentation:
  • Habitat fragmentation and chemical contamination have proved hazardous for those that have a short range and also a short life span.
  • Chemical scourge in wetlands Wetlands are among the main habitats of birds in India about 20 per cent of birds depend on them. These aquatic areas are under serious pressure. The problem gets compounded because no state in India includes wetlands in its land use statistics. So unprotected wetlands are vulnerable to land use change.
  • The climate factor:
  • Another threat is rivers getting flooded during breeding season nests in colonies on low sandbanks are destroyed. This is commonly attributed to deforestation in watersheds of major rivers and consequently rapid runoff. But another reason cannot be ruled out changing climate and consequent glacier retreat and change in monsoon patterns.
  • Exotic danger:
  • Exotic species render habitats (both grasslands and wetlands) unfit for birds. Water hyacinths are a major problem in wetlands and lakes. E.g The growth of lantana around Dehradun district was one factor responsible for the disappearance of the Himalayan quail (Ophrysia superciliosa). Invasive species are particularly threatening for short-range species.

Way forward:

  • Credibility of census is the main factor that is creating problems in conserving these birds species. There is no formal nationwide survey to count birds like the Common Bird Census in the uk and the Breeding Bird Census in the us. Accounts of decline in bird numbers are mostly impressionistic. Of course, there are population estimates of some flagship species. But these are based on individual research studies which are usually region-specific.
  • The lack of a nationwide census means that we do not have data on the national bird, or even common birds like the house sparrow (see box where have all the sparrows gone?). The disappearance of the house sparrow especially from urban areas is not something new, but so far there has been no response in India unlike the uk.
  • The failure to come up with credible policies to conserve birds population declining has ecological ramifications. The loss of birds doesn’t merely mean that our gardens are less redolent. Beyond aesthetics, birds perform crucial environmental services. Ecologists say that a region with a rich diversity of birds will also have a relatively high diversity of trees, shrubs, mammals, reptiles, frogs and invertebrates. This is why birds are recognised as ‘indicator species’ their presence indicates environmental health of an area.

Supreme Court lifts curbs on crypto currencies, junks RBI circular

Paper: II

For Prelims: About Crypto currency.

For Mains: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Context of News:

  • The Supreme Court recently set aside the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) April 2018 circular asking banks and entities the central bank regulated to stay away from dealing in crypto currencies, including Bit coin.

Details of Supreme Court Judgment:

  • The judgment said the RBI circular had been “set aside on the ground of proportionality”. This has given a major relief to exchanges dealing in these crypto currencies. It opens a window for developing a market for crypto currencies, which are formally traded in derivatives markets in the US, with CME allowing trade in them.
  • Supreme Court judgment in a way allowed trading and investment in crypto assets and exchanges offering these services in India.

What is crypto currency?

  • Crypto currency is an internet-based medium of exchange which uses cryptographically functions to conduct financial transactions.
  • Crypto currencies leverage block chain technology to gain decentralization, transparency, and immutability.
  • A defining feature of a crypto currency, and arguably its biggest allure, is its organic nature; it is not issued by any central authority, rendering it theoretically immune to government interference or manipulation.

Earlier Stand of India on crypto currency:

  • In India, the creation, trading or usage of crypto currencies including Bit coins, as a medium for payment were not authorized by any central bank or monetary authority.
  • Earlier RBI also reiterated its warnings in wake of significant spurt in the valuation of bit coins. RBI stated that “Attention of members of the public is drawn cautioning users, holders and traders of Virtual Currencies including Bit coins regarding the potential economic, financial, operational, legal, customer protection and security related risks associated in dealing with such Currencies.

What is crypto currency mining?

  • Crypto currency mining, or crypto mining, is a process in which transactions for various forms of crypto currency are verified and added to the block chain digital ledger.
  • In order to be competitive with other crypto miners, though, a crypto currency miner needs a computer with specialized hardware.

Benefits of Crypto currency:

  • Secure:
  • Crypto currency funds are locked in a public key cryptography system. Only the owner of the private key can send crypto currency.
  • Strong cryptography and the magic of big numbers make it impossible to break this scheme. A crypto currency is difficult to counterfeit because of this security feature.
  • Fast and global:
  • Transactions are propagated nearly instantly in the network and are confirmed in a couple of minutes. Since they happen in a global network of computers they are completely indifferent of your physical location.
  • Irreversible:
  • After confirmation, a transaction can‘t be reversed. By nobody. And nobody means anybody.
  • Not you, not your bank, not your miner, Nobody. If you send money, you send it.This benefit make it easier to secure the transaction by connecting peer to peer directly.
  • Crypto currency connect person to person eliminating the need of third person  for transaction approval.

Concerns of India:

  • All the crypto currencies have been created by non- sovereigns and are in this sense entirely private enterprises. Since their inceptions, crypto currencies have demonstrated extreme fluctuations in their prices.
  • There is no underlying intrinsic value of these crypto currencies back they lack all the attributes of a currency. There is no fixed nominal value of these private crypto currencies i.e. neither act as any store of value nor they are a medium of exchange.
  • These crypto currencies cannot serve the purpose of a currency. The private crypto currencies are inconsistent with the essential functions of money/currency, hence private crypto currencies cannot replace fiat currencies.
  • A review of global practices show that the currency have not been recognized as a LEGAL tender in any jurisdiction.
  • Virtual currency and crime, is the major concern for government all around the world. It is  stated that untraceable financial transactions facilitate crime. Drug trafficking, prostitution, terrorism, money laundering, tax evasion, and other illegal and subversive activity all benefit from the ability to move money in untraceable ways.

Suggestive Measures:

  • A clear approach must be revealed by GOI on the feasibility of use of crypto currency in India.
  • The currency is digital and  there’s nothing you can touch or hold, this makes the currency more secure .There is still a lot of analysis needs to be done regarding the effect of such a central bank-backed digital currency on factors such as inflation and price levels, before jumping the barrel of not using it.
  • It is also important that we learn from other countries, who have made any policy regarding the implementation of the crypto currency as legal tender currency.
  • The decision on launching the digital rupee must consider its impact on existing payments infrastructure and financial stability, the report said. The ability of banks and other lenders to deal with the disruptions caused due to the introduction of central bank digital currencies must also be factored in.

Conclusion:

  • Looking at the global growth of Digital transaction, crypto currency can act as panacea in controlling forgery and securing transaction on rapid pace.
  • With third party elimination crypto currency can make cartel of Illegal work by creating parallel economy of a country.so, government have to consider all these aspects too?