India strides in climate action

2023: India strides in climate action and wildlife conservation but also faces criticism

In 2023, India took significant strides towards addressing the pressing issues of climate change and bolstering wildlife conservation efforts. While commendable progress was made, certain aspects of the nation’s initiatives drew scrutiny. One noteworthy proposal from India was to host the United Nations Climate Conference in 2028, also known as COP33. This indicated the country’s commitment to being at the forefront of global efforts to combat climate change and foster sustainable practices.

Green Credit Initiative

Concurrently, India launched the “Green Credit Initiative” a pioneering program designed to create carbon sinks, aiming to mitigate the challenges posed by the escalating threats of a warming planet. The initiative focuses on two primary objectives: water conservation and afforestation.

The environment ministry says this initiative is like a system in the market. It encourages people, communities, businesses, and companies to voluntarily take actions to help the environment. The program entails assigning green credits to specific environmental actions. These credits will be considered as tradable commodities, allowing them to be sold on domestic market platforms.

India’s Carbon dioxide emissions

During the landmark climate summit in Dubai in December, developing nations, including India, urged wealthier countries to free up carbon space by achieving negative carbon emissions. This means removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they release, instead of just aiming for a net-zero status by 2050.

In December, a team of global scientists reported that India’s per capita carbon dioxide emissions increased by approximately five percent in 2022, reaching two tonnes. However, these emissions still are less than half of the worldwide average, which stands at 4.7 tonnes. As reported by the Global Carbon Project, a consortium of international researchers, the United States ranked highest in per capita carbon emissions, with each person in the country releasing 14.9 metric tonnes of Carbon dioxide. Following closely were countries like Russia with 11.4 metric tons, Japan (8.5), China (8), and the EU (6.2).

Rise in tiger population

tiger conservation in India

According to the most recent government data unveiled on International Tiger Day, the tiger population in India has surged from 2,967 in 2018 to 3,682 in 2022. This data reflects an annual growth rate of 6 percent in Tiger population. Union Minister of State for Forest, Environment, and Climate Change, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, announced in Ramnagar that India now harbors around 75 percent of the global tiger population.

This information was disclosed during the release of the “Status of Tigers 2022,” commemorating the 50th anniversary of “Project Tiger,” led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April. Contrary to earlier statements indicating at least 3,167 tigers in India, the latest census for 2022 revealed a higher count. Over the past four years, Madhya Pradesh has witnessed a remarkable 50 percent growth. MP has the highest number of tigers in the country at 785. These numbers are followed by Karnataka (563), Uttarakhand (560), and Maharashtra (444).

The comprehensive estimation exercise reveals an upward trend in tiger numbers in the Shivalik Hills-Gangetic Plains landscape, Central India, and the Sundarbans. However, the Western Ghats and the Northeast-Brahmaputra Plains have experienced a decline in tiger population. This happened due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and poaching over the years.

Criticism of cheetah conservation

The reintroduction of cheetahs, previously extinct in India, marks its first anniversary this month. On September 17 last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi released African cheetahs into the wild. Kuno National Park of MP is chosen for this monumental moment of India’s wildlife conservation of cheetahs.

A total of 20 cheetahs were imported from Namibia and South Africa, and among them, 14 adults are in excellent health and thriving. Six of them died due to non suitable environment of India. Additionally, four cheetahs were born in India, with one of them now reaching six months of age and doing well. Unfortunately, three cubs got succumbed to adverse heat stress, shared Yadav with ANI.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), responsible for executing Project Cheetah, asserted that all cheetahs perished from “natural causes.” However, during a parliamentary response on July 20, the Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change acknowledged the deaths of three cheetahs named Daksha, Tejas, and Suraj, attributing their demise to “traumatic shock” without specifying the initial cause of the shock.

International Big Cat Alliance

On April 9, 2023, at a big event in Mysuru, Karnataka, celebrating 50 years of Project Tiger. Here honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi introduced the International Big Cat Alliance (IBCA). This alliance focuses on protecting seven big cats. Tiger, Lion, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Cheetah, Jaguar, and Puma that live on our planet is protected under this alliance.

India has a lot of experience in dealing with tigers and conserving other big cats like lions, snow leopards, and leopards. Now, efforts are being made to bring back the extinct big cat, the Cheetah, by relocating it to its natural habitat. The goal of the alliance is to involve 97 countries where these big cats live naturally. Aiming to strengthen global cooperation and initiatives to safeguard these wild animals, particularly the big cats.

Introduction of new forest laws

The Union Minister for Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, Shri Bhupender Yadav, introduced the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill 2023 in Lok Sabha. The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 is an important law at the national level for safeguarding forests in the country. According to this law, activities like de-reserving reserved forests, using forest land for non-forest purposes, leasing forest land to private entities, and cutting naturally grown trees for reforestation require prior approval from the Central Government.

In simpler terms, the changed law says that certain forest lands and areas near international borders can be used for important national projects related to security. As long as it’s within 10 hectares for security infrastructure and 100 km from borders for strategic projects.

Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Mizoram, and Assam expressed concerns that this action might cover significant portions of their forest land. These states are worried about this law because this might affect large parts of their forests and impact tribal and traditional communities.

Another law was also modified to protect plants and resources in India. The aim is to promote the cultivation of medicinal plants instead of harvesting them from the wild. This will support traditional Indian medicine, make research and patents easier, and attract more foreign investments without harming the country’s interests.

However, some concerns arise because the new law states that people using traditional knowledge or practicing certain types of medicine don’t have to share benefits with local communities holding that knowledge. Earlier, breaking these rules could lead to jail, but now it’s mostly about paying fines, ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 50 lakh, and in serious cases, up to Rs 1 crore.

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