Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 29 August 2023

Bird species plummeting in India

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

large number of bird species in India are either currently declining or projected to decline in the long term, according to a report based on data from about 30,000 birdwatchers that was released. Out of the 942 bird species that were assessed, 142 are diminishing and only 28 are increasing. While raptorsmigratory shorebirds, and ducks have declined the most, birds living in habitats like open ecosystemsrivers, and coasts are among the worst affected, the State of India’s Birds (SoIB) report added.


Climate change

  • The average global temperature has risen by over 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times, resulting in catastrophic consequences not only for humans but also for other living beings, like birds.
  • Climate change affects bird reproduction and survival through the disruption of species interactions by phenological mismatches — it occurs when the timing of annual events like breedingnesting and migration become out of sync.
  • Mismatches in seasonal timing (of migration, breeding, emergence) between birds and their prey can reduce survival and reproduction and also lead to fatal competition with other species, the report said.
  • Soaring temperatures force sedentary birds to go through rapid adaptive changes. For instance, Amazonian birds over 50 years lost body weight to lose heat more efficiently, the report said.
  • Moreover, sapping heat compels birds to change their behaviour. They tend to spend more time looking for shade instead of searching for food. This can have an adverse effect on their survival and reproduction.
  • Climate change leads to new and dangerous interactions between different species.
  • A case in point is Hawaii, where with rising mercury, mosquitoes have colonised higher altitudes. This has given rise to malaria among mountain birds (Yes, humans aren’t the only ones who get malaria from mosquitoes).


  • The most urbanised regions in India have the least number of bird species, the least number of rare species, and the fewest insectivorous species, according to the report.
  • It’s because urbanisation results in loss of natural habitat for birds and it exposes them to more air pollution and high temperatures.


  • Monoculture is the practice of growing one type of seed in a field at a time. In India, commercial monoculture plantations of rubber, coffee, and tea have been rapidly expanding in recent years. For example, tea plantations have grown from 5,214 sq km to 6,366 sq km from 2003 to 2020, the report said.
  • Oil palm plantations have also increased across the country with expanding hotspots located in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the northeastern Himalaya.
  • However, such plantations are detrimental to the well-being of birds. The report mentioned: “Commercial monocultures are known to harbour fewer bird species than natural forests within the same biome.”

Energy infrastructure

  • In the context of the looming climate crisis, countries have started to generate power using renewable resources instead of depending on conventional methods like coal-fired power plants.
  • It has led to an increase of wind turbines in a country like India, where they have been installed in a wide range of landscapes including coastal areasWestern Ghats mountaintopsopen arid landsagricultural lands, and grasslands.
  • Although wind turbines are eco-friendly, they have emerged as a threat to birds, the report has revealed.
  • wide range of species are known to have been killed due to collisions with wind turbines. Several of them have migrated to regions where there aren’t such giant devices.
  • The report said the transmission lines have also led to the death of many large-bodies species because of collision and numerous small-bodies species have been electrocuted.


Crew-7 mission to space station

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

Four astronauts from four countries, including the USDenmarkJapan, and Russia, launched aboard a SpaceX rocket towards the International Space Station (ISS) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This was the first US take-off in which all the astronauts atop the spacecraft belonged to a different country — until now, NASA had always included two or three of its own on its SpaceX flights. The mission has been known as Crew-7.

Why has such a diverse group of astronauts gone to the ISS?

  • The Crew-7 mission is a result of the ongoing cooperation among different countries in space, especially since the launch of the space station in 1998.
  • The International Space Station Program involves the US, Russia, Canada, Japan, and the participating countries of the European Space Agency, and is one of the most ambitious international collaborations ever attempted.
  • The program “brings together international flight crewsmultiple launch vehiclesglobally distributed launch, operations, training, engineering, and development facilities; communications networks, and the international scientific research community”.

What is the mission?

  • The Crew-7 is the eighth flight operated by NASA and Elon Musk-owned SpaceX as part of the agency’s commercial crew program, which has been taking astronauts to the ISS since SpaceX’s first crewed mission in 2020.
  • During their stay at the space station, the Crew-7 astronauts will conduct more than 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations to prepare for missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
  • The research will include a collection of microbial samples from the exterior of the space station.
  • The team will also analyse how sleeping in the microgravity environment differs from Earth by examining astronauts’ brain waves while they sleep.
  • Yet another experiment will look at the formation of biofilms in wastewater on the space station, which could be key to finding better ways to recycle water for drinking and hygiene while in space (Yes, astronauts have long used recycled sweat and urine to drink and shower on the station).


Water shortages reduce from wastewater

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

Europe has experienced severe heat and drought over the last few summers, and 2023 has been no different. Vast swathes of Central and Southern Europe are simply too dry from a lack of rainfall. Human-induced climate change has led to more heat waves and drought and is one reason for Europe’s growing water crisis. At the same time, demand for the resource is growing, with industry and agriculture extracting more water from the ground, rivers and lakes than can be replenished.

Who uses the most water?

  • Industry uses half of Europe’s water resources, while a further 40% is hoovered up by agriculture and 10% by households.
  • In the European Union, water scarcity impacts 11% of all citizens. Falling water supplies can lead to households facing use restrictions. But the problem also impacts the energy sector.
  • In 2022French authorities had to switch off some nuclear power plants because river water used for cooling them was too warm.
  • Last year, the dry summer also reduced hydropower in Norway. Farmers, though, who use large amounts of water for crop irrigation, are also hard hit by water shortages and drought.

Could using industry wastewater help farmers?

  • One solution for agriculture could be to use more treated industrial and domestic wastewater for irrigation and protect valuable freshwater supplies. Six times more waste water could be reused across the EU than current levels.
  • Freshwater resources are scarce and increasingly under pressure. In times of unprecedented temperature peaks, we need to stop wasting water and use this resource more efficiently.
  • New EU regulations on minimum requirements for water reuse for agricultural irrigation came into force this summer.
  • The regulations stipulate that EU member states must process communal and industrial wastewater so it can be used by farmers.
  • Processing and reusing water could replace a fifth of irrigation that currently uses groundwater in Spain and Portugal, said the European Commission.
  • In FranceItaly and Greece, it could be as much as 45%. Wastewater could cover all irrigation needs in EU countries with smaller agricultural sectors.

Leaky pipes lead to massive water waste

  • One way to save water that is often overlooked is maintaining the pipes that shuttle the resource to homes and businesses.
  • On average, a quarter of the EU’s freshwater is lost during transport to taps because of leaks and broken pipes.
  • Currently, countries most affected by drought and a lack of rain — such as SpainItaly and Bulgaria — invest the least amount of money per citizen to fix leaky water infrastructure.

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