Asiatic Golden Cat
The Asiatic golden cat (Catopuma temminckii) is listed as near threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species. It is found across eastern Nepal through north-eastern India to Indonesia.
Golden is no longer the only colour the elusive Asiatic golden cat can be associated with. Its coat comes in five other shades in Arunachal Pradesh, scientists have discovered.
Bhutan and China were known to have two morphs of the golden cat — one the colour of cinnamon and the other with markings similar to the ocelot, a small wild cat found in the Americas.
Indian scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), an international conservation charity, and University College London (UCL) have discovered six colour morphs of the golden cat in Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh – cinnamon, golden, gray, melanistic, ocelot and tightly rosette.
The findings have contributed to an evolutionary puzzle because no other place on earth has so many colours of wild cats of the same species.
The Idu Mishmis were aware of the different shades of the golden cat. The community believes that the cat, particularly its melanistic (dark pigmentation as opposed to albinism) morph, possesses great powers and thus observe a strict taboo on hunting the cat.
Within the six colour morphs recorded, an entirely new colour morph was also found in one of the community-owned forests. The “tightly-rosetted” morph named after the leopard-like rosettes on the coat, now sits alongside cinnamon, melanistic, gray, golden, and ocelot types.
ZSL scientists believe that the wide variation displayed in the cat’s coats provides them with several ecological benefits such as occupying different habitats at different elevations — from wet tropical lowland forests to alpine scrubs — and providing camouflage while preying on pheasants and rabbits.
Colour morphs are thought to arise from random genetic mutations and take hold in the population through natural selection. In this region, scientists suspect that the phenomenon is driven by competition with other big cats such as tigers and clouded leopards. Being melanistic in the misty mountains during nocturnal hunts, for example, may mean they are better concealed from their prey; making them more efficient predators.
IUCN Status – Least Concern
The Spotted Owlet is one of the most commonly sighted owls in our backyard. It is a nocturnal raptor (a bird of prey) found in the Indian Subcontinent, except for Sri Lanka.
The owl is largely crepuscular (appearing as it does around twilight) and nocturnal, but is sometimes seen during the daytime. It normally comes out before dusk and retires by sunrise to its roost in a tree hole or branch, where pairs or small family groups huddle together.
Its prey includes mostly beetles, moths, other insects and it also preys on earthworms, lizards, mice and small birds. At dusk, it perches on electrical wires or street lamp posts, fences or other such vantage points to look for prey, pouncing on an unwary insect, or occasionally launching an aerial
attack to seize a flying insect attracted to the light from street lamps. Owls as predators keep a balance in our ecosystem by keeping a check on rodent and insect population.
Tawang yields a new species of dung beetle
A new species of dung beetle has been discovered in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh. The species, Enoplotrupes tawangensis, is shining dark blue in colour and, measuring up to 27 mm, is relatively bigger than most of the dung beetles.
Dung beetles belong to the superfamily scarabaeoidea, having clubbed antennae and pro-tibiae (pro-legs) modified for burrowing dung inside the soil. This group of insects are considered beneficial to the environment as they help in nutrient cycling of the soil. Often referred to as little recyclers, these scavenger beetles require mammalian dung to survive.
Other than the relatively large size and distinct blue colour, another important distinguishing characteristic of this species is the strong sexual dimorphism, with the fronto-clypeal horn shorter in females than males. (Sexual dimorphism is the condition where the two sexes of the same species exhibit different characteristics beyond the differences in their sexual organs.).
Insects comprise almost 65% of all animal species on the planet. From India, approximately 65,000 species of insects are known, of them, more than 22,000 species are beetles. Dung beetles are one of the fascinating group of insects because of their ability to bury dung deep in the soil and are indicators of the ecological health of an ecosystem.
Black-crested Bulbul sighted after several years in Dudhwa National Park
IUCN Status – Least Concern
The black-crested Bulbul was spotted after several years in Dudhwa as the counting of birds during the summer season was held.
The black-crested Bulbul is a bird species with a black head and deep yellow body.
Notably enough, during the winter bird-count, the experts had sighted five new species of birds in Dudhwa which included Maroon Oriole, Eurasian sparrow hawk and short-eared eagle owl.
The summer bird count helped to discover the native bird species in Dudhwa as in winter migratory birds also join here.
Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, which is located on the India-Nepal border, is home to over 450 bird species, tigers, leopards, wild elephants, swamp deer, one-horned rhinos besides hundreds of other wild animals and reptiles. Its rich wildlife, massive forest cover and fabulous flora and fauna attract tourists and wildlife research scholars every year.
The Dudhwa Tiger Reserve is a protected area in Uttar Pradesh that stretches mainly across the Lakhimpur Kheri and Bahraich districts and comprises the Dudhwa National Park, Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary.
Piped water coverage to increase from 18 to 100% by 2024
The Central government has decided to increase coverage of piped water to households from the current 18 per cent to 100 per cent by 2024, according to Jal Shakti Minister.
The formulation of a plan under ‘Nal Se Jal’ (water from the tap) mission to provide tap water to 14 crore households was underway.
An emphasis will also be made on water conservation, citing the widening gap between water supply and demand.
But water is a state subject as per the Constitution and sought collective efforts and a public movement to achieve the target.
Sikkim had 99 per cent coverage of piped water to households, while some states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand had below five per cent.
According to Jal Shakti Ministry officials, the per capita water availability was over 5,000-litre cube in 1950 but it has now reduced to a 1,434-litre cube.
States like Punjab and Haryana consume water that is double the amount they actually store and harvest.
International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) has released India’s first Type Approval Certificate (TAC) for Bharat Stage – VI norms for the two-wheeler segment
This is India’s first certification in the two-wheeler segment for the BS – VI norms that are the latest emission norms as notified by the Government of India. ICAT has taken many steps in providing assistance and support to the automotive industry for the development, optimization and calibration of engines and vehicles for complying with these upcoming emission norms.
Bharat Stage norms are the automotive emission norms which the automotive manufacturers have to comply to sell their vehicles in India. These norms are applicable to all two wheelers, three wheelers, four wheelers and construction equipment vehicles.
To curb the growing menace of air pollution through the vehicle’s emission, the Government of India has decided to leapfrog from the exiting BS – IV norms to the BS- VI, thereby skipping the BS – V norms, and to implement the BS – VI norms with effect from 1st April 2020. Only those vehicles will be sold and registered in India from 1st April 2020 onwards, which comply with these norms. The norms are stringent and at par with global standards.
Last year, ICAT issued the approval for BS –VI norms to M/s Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles for the Heavy Commercial Vehicle segment which was also the first in its segment in India.
ICAT is the premier testing and certification agency authorized by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for providing testing and certification services to the vehicle and component manufacturers in India and abroad. It has the latest equipment, facilities and capabilities to develop, validate, test and certify the engines and vehicles for the latest norms in the field of emission and many other facilities like crash lab, NVH lab, EMC lab and test tracks.
El Salvador recognises forests as living entities
El Salvador has, in a historic move, recognised forests as living entities. Its citizens will now be required to preserve forests.
El Salvador has lost about 85 per cent of its native forests since the 1960s, while Earth has lost about 80 per cent of its native forests.
The pronouncement was made on World Environment Day, which is celebrated on June 5 every year, by the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador.
It states that each person must commit to caring for, preserving, and respecting forests. People should also promote concrete actions that expand forests in the country, it added.
Indian cities are simmering in their own waste heat
The joint 2017 analysis by India Meteorological Department and Indian Institute of Technology-Madras found Delhi’s heat index to have registered a higher growth rate compared to the national average. Delhi’s heat index has increased by 0.6 degrees Celsius per decade in summers and 0.55°Celsius per decade during monsoons. (The Heat Index, sometimes referred to as the apparent temperature, is a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored with the actual air temperature.)
Delhi’s summers and monsoons are hotter by 3.6°C and 3.3°C on the heat index compared to the 1950s. An analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment, a New Delhi-based non-profit, of weather data for 2010-2017 reveals that average heat index of both the seasons has witnessed a steady upward trend.
The heat index is said to be in the danger band when in the range 41-54°C. During such periods, it causes cramps and exhaustion, and there is a possibility of heat strokes with continued physical activity. Heat
index of Delhi has consistently been in the danger band during the summer (March-June) and monsoon (July-September) seasons since 2016 (See table: Average heat index during summer and monsoon).
A dramatic increase in the number of days on which the heat index of Delhi crossed into the extreme danger band — conditions when heat strokes are imminent—has been noted. The most severe heat wave ever recorded in India was in 2016 and it is reflected in the Delhi data as well with the heat index of the city shooting above 54°C mark on 51 days in that year.
Overall, it has been noted that Delhi is not only getting hotter in general but the intensity of the heat conditions is also becoming more severe.
At present, ACs are the most effective (and resource-intensive) means to cool indoor spaces to survive the urban hearth. However, rampant use of ACs is problematic as it adds fuel to the outdoor fire, making cities hotter.
The release of waste heat from ACs into the ambient environment exacerbates urban heat island effect in the immediate surroundings. A study in Tokyo found that waste heat from air conditioners alone caused a temperature rise of 1–2°C or more on weekdays in the office areas in Tokyo. The magnitude of urban heat island effect on weekends and holidays was found to be lesser due to abatement in the use of ACs. (An urban heat island is an urban area or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities)
Air conditioning is a key parameter of health problems due to heat waves because, on the one hand, it reduces mortality but, on the other hand, depending on the heat management, it can increase street temperature, thereby increasing the heat stress on people who don’t have access to an AC.
Further, traditional building design and urban form of Delhi (and most Indian cities) are of a low, close and dense network with shaded alleyways where people could keep cool during summers. The introduction of ACs in such an urban form ends up heating the entire neighbourhood.
On the other hand, the rapid constructions of high-rises and decreasing green spaces that embody new India are even worse off as they don’t have any passive means to keep cool and are, therefore, captive users of ACs, shooting out millions of mini-heat jets into the urban air shed, creating undue physical and economic stress in the city and reducing the overall quality of life.
Water reserves in 71 of India’s 91 reservoirs have dipped: CWC
There is a downward trend in water levels in at least 71 of 91 reservoirs across India according to data released by the Central Water Commission (CWC) on June 13.
The situation is particularly grim in the north-western region — in Gujarat and Maharashtra — and in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Maharashtra’s situation is especially grim with a deficiency in water reserves in its reservoirs at 68 per cent while Gujarat faced a shortage of 22 per cent.
Water stored in Kerala’s reservoirs depleted sharply in just one week — to 24 per cent on June 13 from 12 per cent on June 6.
In fact, water storage in important western and southern rivers like the Sabarmati, Godavari, Krishna, and Cauvery is deficient whereas it is ‘highly deficient’ in Tapti, an 80 per cent departure with respect to the average of the last 10 years.
Suggesting a worsening water crisis in these states, the CWC data highlights that water storage in reservoirs there has dipped to less than the average of the last 10 years.
Out of 91 reservoirs, 39 reservoirs reported more than 80 per cent of normal storage while there is a deficiency in at least 20 reservoirs.
However, according to CWC, the total live water storage is better than live storage of the corresponding period of last year and more than the average of the last ten years than the corresponding period.
A delay in the arrival of the monsoon, especially in western India, will worsen the water woes even further. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the delay has already pushed the country’s rainfall deficiency in the first nine days of June to 45 per cent