UNESCO: Great Barrier Reef ‘in danger’


The UN World Heritage Committee said in a draft report that “there is no possible doubt” that the network of colourful corals off Australia’s northeast coast was “facing ascertained danger” and the committee’s proposal to downgrade the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage status has irked Australia.


Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment and Ecology, Environmental Pollution and Degradation)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Great Barrier Reef
  2. About Coral Reefs
  3. Highlights of the UN Committee’s report
  4. Why does Australia irked by the report?

Great Barrier Reef

  • The Great Barrier Reef, located in the Coral Sea (North-East Coast), off the coast of Queensland, Australia, is the world’s most extensive and spectacular coral reef ecosystem composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands.
  • This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps which are tiny, soft-bodied organisms and their base which is a hard, protective limestone skeleton called a calicle, forms the structure of coral reefs.
  • It was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.

About Coral Reefs

  • Indonesia has the largest coral reef area in the world and the Great Barrier Reef of the Queensland coast of Australia is the largest aggregation of coral reefs.
  • India, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Chagos have the maximum coral reefs in South Asia.
  • Coral Reefs protect humanity from natural calamities acting as a barrier, provide revenue and employment through tourism and recreation and also provide habitats for fishes, starfish and sea anemones.
  • Coral blocks are used for buildings and road construction, the lime supplied by corals is used in cement industries and coral reefs may also be used in jewellery.
  • India has four coral reef areas: Gulf of Mannar, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep islands and the Gulf of Kutch.

Risks and threats to coral reefs

  • Due to anthropogenic activities such as coastal development, destructive fishing methods and pollution from domestic and industrial sewage.
  • Due to increased sedimentation, over-exploitation and recurring cyclones.
  • Coral diseases such as black band and white band due to infectious microorganisms introduced by the human population that live on the coastal regions.

Highlights of the UN Committee’s report

  • Scientists say that the coral reef ecosystem has suffered three major bleaching events since 2015 due to severe marine heatwaves.
  • The report recommended that the world’s biggest coral reef ecosystem should be added to Unesco’s list of World Heritage in Danger when the committee considers that question in July.
  • Placement on the ‘‘in-danger list’’ is not considered a sanction and some nations have their sites added to gain international attention and help to save them.

Why does Australia irked by the report?

  • As many as 53 sites are currently on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
  • The latest recommendation by the UN committee comes as a setback as Australia lobbied furiously for years to stay off the endangered list.
  • The Great Barrier Reef losing its World Heritage Site status list could potentially reduce its attraction to tourists.
  • The threat of losing the World Heritage Site could also impact thousands of jobs dependent on about 5 million people who visit the Great Barrier Reef each year.

Bundi sanctuary as a tiger reserve


Rajasthan is all set to get its fourth tiger reserve in Bundi as the state government has received the go-ahead for it from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

NTCA’s technical committee has approved the proposal for converting Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary in Bundi, which is spread across 1,071 square km, into a tiger reserve.


Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Important Protected regions, Conservation of environment and Ecology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary in Bundi
  2. About the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)
  3. Project Tiger
  4. Project Tiger Reserves of India

About Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary in Bundi

  • Ramgarh Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary acts like a buffer for Ranthambore National Park, one of the most famous wildlife sanctuaries in India.
  • It is located almost 45 kilometers on Bundi-Nainwa Road and covers an area of 252 square kilometers approx.
  • It is rich in biodiversity & is home to various kinds of wild animals like Indian Wolf, Leopard, Striped Hyena, Sloth Bear, Golden Jackal, Chinkara, Nilgai & Fox.
  • Its flora consists of Dhok, Khair, Salar, Khirni trees with some Mango and Ber trees.
  • Once NTCA notifies it as a tiger reserve, this will be the 52nd Tiger Reserve of India and the 4th Tiger reserve of Rajasthan.

About the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)

  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) was established in December 2005 following a recommendation of the Tiger Task Force, constituted by the Prime Minister of India for reorganised management of Project Tiger and the many Tiger Reserves in India.
  • The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 was amended in 2006 to provide for constituting the National Tiger Conservation Authority responsible for implementation of the Project Tiger plan to protect endangered tigers.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority is set up under the Chairmanship of the Minister for Environment and Forests.
  • The Authority will have eight experts or professionals having qualifications and experience in wildlife conservation and welfare of people including tribals, apart from three Members of Parliament of whom two will be elected by the House of the People and one by the Council of States.
  • The Authority, interalia, would lay down normative standards, guidelines for tiger conservation in the Tiger Reserves, apart from National Parks and Sanctuaries.
  • It would provide information on protection measures including future conservation plan, tiger estimation, disease surveillance, mortality survey, patrolling, report on untoward happenings and such other management aspects as it may deem fit, including future plan for conservation.
  • The Authority would also facilitate and support tiger reserve management in the States through eco-development and people’s participation as per approved management plans, and support similar initiatives in adjoining areas consistent with the Central and state laws.
  • The Tiger Conservation Authority would be required to prepare an Annual Report, which would be laid in the Parliament along with the Audit Report.
  • Every 4 years the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) conducts a tiger census across India.

Project Tiger

  • Project Tiger is a tiger conservation programme launched in April 1973 by the Government of India.
  • The project aims at ensuring a viable population of Bengal tigers in their natural habitats, protecting them from extinction, and preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage forever represented as close as possible the diversity of ecosystems across the distribution of tigers in the country.
  • The project’s task force visualized these tiger reserves as breeding nuclei, from which surplus animals would migrate to adjacent forests. Funds and commitment were mastered to support the intensive program of habitat protection and rehabilitation under the project.
  • The government has set up a Tiger Protection Force to combat poachers and funded relocation of villagers to minimize human-tiger conflicts.

Project Tiger Reserves of India

The Project Tiger Reserves of India is administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Project Tiger ReservesLocated State
Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam KawalAndhra Pradesh
Namdapha Pakhui/PakkeArunachal Pradesh
Kaziranga Manas NameriAssam
Valmiki NagarBihar
Achanakmar Indravati Udanti and SitanadiChhattisgarh
Bandipur Bhadra Dandeli-Anshi Nagarhole B.R HillsKarnataka
Parambikulam PeriyarKerala
Bandhavgarh Kanha Panna Pench Sanjay Dubri SatpuraMadhya Pradesh
Melghat Pench ShahyadriTabola-AndhariMaharashtra
Satkosia SimplipalOrissa
Mukunda Hills Sariska RanthamboreRajasthan
Annamalai Kalakad-Mundathurai Mudumalai SathyamangalamTamil Nadu
Katerniaghat Extension DudhwaUttar Pradesh
Buxa SunderbanWest Bengal

Assam’s two-child policy will stall development goals


A coalition of civil society groups engaged in reproductive health has said Assam’s move to adopt a two-child policy for availing benefits under government schemes will hurt the poorest besides hindering the development goals of the State.


GS-I: Indian Society (Population and Associated Issues), GS-II: Polity and Governance (Government Policies and Interventions, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Two-Child Policy?
  2. Present status of two-child policies in India
  3. About Assam’s Policy
  4. About the ARC’s views on Assam’s Policies
  5. Two-Child Policy in Indian States
  6. Pointers from the NFHS-5 regarding population control
  7. Criticisms related to two- child policy:

What is the Two-Child Policy?

  • The two-child policy is a state-imposed limit of two children allowed per family or the payment of government subsidies only to the first two children.
  • A two-child policy has previously been used in several countries including Iran, Singapore, and Vietnam.
  • In British Hong Kong in the 1970s, citizens were also highly encouraged to have two children as a limit (although it was not mandated by law), and it was used as part of the region’s family planning strategies.
  • Since 2016, it has been re-implemented in China replacing the country’s previous one-child policy.

Present status of two-child policies in India

  • There is no national policy mandating two children per family.
  • A parliamentarian had tabled a Bill in the Rajya Sabha in 2019 on the matter, proposing incentives for smaller families.
  • PM in 2019 had appealed to the country that population control was a form of patriotism.
  • Months later, the NITI Aayog called various stakeholders for a national-level consultation on the issue, which was subsequently cancelled following media glare on it.
  • In 2020, the PM spoke about a likely decision on revising the age of marriage for women, which many stakeholders view as an indirect attempt at controlling the population size.

About Assam’s Policy

  • Assam Chief Minister said that barring the tea plantation workers, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, people with more than two children would gradually not be able to avail benefits under specific schemes funded by the State.
  • This will be in addition to the amendment made in 2018 to the Assam Panchayat Act, 1994, which requires a two-child norm along with minimum educational qualifications and functional sanitary toilets for contesting the rural polls.
  • It was critical that policy objectives catered to population stabilisation, enabling families, especially women, to exercise choices about having children.

About Assam’s Population

  • Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in Assam is 1.9, which is less than the national average of 2.2. Data from the NFHS-5 shows that 77% of the currently married women and 63% of men aged 15-49 years in Assam want no more children, are already sterilised or have a spouse who is already sterilized.
  • More than 82% of women and 79% of men consider the ideal family size to be two or fewer children and 11% of currently married women in Assam have an unmet need for family planning.

About the ARC’s views on Assam’s Policies

  • Recently, the ARC said that instead of imposing stringent population control measures, it would be far more effective for Assam to focus on delaying the age of marriage, improving spacing between children, and ensuring girls stay in schools.
  • The State also needed to invest in improving access to family planning services and expand the basket of contraceptive choices, especially long-acting reversible contraceptives, which were critical in view of the large population of adolescents and youth, the coalition advised.

Two-Child Policy in Indian States

  • Maharashtra: Maharashtra is one of the few states in the country that have a ‘two children’ policy for appointment in government jobs or even for the elections of some local government bodies. The Maharashtra Zilla Parishads And Panchayat Samitis Act disqualifies people who have more than two children from contesting local body elections (gram panchayats to municipal corporations). The Maharashtra Civil Services (Declaration of Small Family) Rules, 2005 states that a person having more than two children is disqualified from holding a post in the state government. Women with more than two children are also not allowed to benefit from the Public Distribution System.
  • Rajasthan: For government jobs, candidates who have more than two children are not eligible for appointment. The Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act 1994 says that if a person has more than two children, he will be disqualified from contesting election as a panch or a member. However, the previous BJP government relaxed the two-child norm in case of a disabled child.
  • Madhya Pradesh: The state follows the two-child norm since 2001. Under Madhya Pradesh Civil Services (General Condition of Services) Rules, if the third child was born on or after January 26, 2001, one becomes ineligible for government service. The rule also applies to higher judicial services.
  • Telangana and Andhra Pradesh: Under Section 19 (3) read with Sections 156 (2) and 184 (2) of Telangana Panchayat Raj Act, 1994, a person with more than two children shall be disqualified from contesting election. However, if a person had more than two children before May 30, 1994, he or she will not be disqualified.
  • Gujarat: In 2005, the government amended the Gujarat Local Authorities Act. The amendment disqualifies anyone with more than two children from contesting elections for bodies of local self-governance — panchayats, municipalities and municipal corporations.
  • Uttarakhand: The state government had decided to bar people with more than two children from contesting panchayat elections and had passed a Bill in Vidhan Sabha in this regard. But the decision was challenged in the High Court by those preparing for village pradhan and gram panchayat ward member elections, and they got relief from the court. Hence, the condition of two-child norm was applied to only those who contested the elections of zila panchayat and blocks development committee membership.
  • Karnataka: The Karnataka (Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Raj) Act, 1993 does not bar individuals with more than two children from contesting elections to local bodies like the gram panchayat. The law, however, says that a person is ineligible to contest “if he does not have a sanitary latrine for the use of the members of his family”.
  • Odisha: The Odisha Zilla Parishad Act bars those individuals with more than two children from contesting.
  • Assam: The Assam government announced in 2019 that people who have more than two children will not be eligible for government jobs, with effect from 1 January 2021.

Pointers from the NFHS-5 regarding population control

  • The latest data from the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) provides evidences of:
    1. An uptake in the use of modern contraceptives in rural and urban areas
    2. An improvement in family planning demands being met
    3. A decline in the average number of children borne by a woman
  • The analysis of the data by the international non-profit Population Council (PC) shows that the Total Fertility Rate (number of children born per woman) has decreased across 14 out of 17 States and is either at 2.1 children per woman or less.
  • This also implies that most States have attained replacement level fertility, i.e., the average number of children born per woman at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next.
  • While during NFHS-3 and NFHS-4, conducted between 2005 and 2016, there was a decline in the use of modern methods of contraception (oral pills, condoms, intra-uterine device) across 12 of 22 States and UTs, in NFHS-5 as many as 11 out of 12 States where there was a slump have witnessed an increase in their use.
  • The indicator to gauge the demand met for contraception has also increased — only five States had more than 75% demand being met in NFHS-4, but now 10 States are able to cater to the demand for family planning by up to 75%.
  • The top performers here are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana.

Criticisms related to two- child policy:

  • Critics argue that the population growth of India will slow down naturally as the country grows richer and becomes more educated.
  • There are already well-documented problems with China’s one-child policy, namely the gender imbalance resulting from a strong preference for boys and millions of undocumented children who were born to parents that already had their one child.
  • By interfering with the birth rate, India faces a future with severe negative population growth, a serious problem that most developed countries are trying to reverse. With negative population growth, the number of old people receiving social services is larger than the young tax base that is paying for the social services.
  • The law related may also be anti-women. Human rights activists argue that the law discriminate against women right from birth (through abortion or infanticide of female fetuses and babies).
  • A legal restriction to two children could force couples to go for sex-selective abortions as there are only two ‘attempts’.

IAF, Navy match skills with U.S. team


The Indian Navy and the Air Force began a two-day passage exercise with U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group (CSG) Ronald Reagan during its transit through the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).


GS-II: International Relations (Foreign developments affecting India’s Interests, India-U.S. relations)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the U.S. India 2-day passage exercise
  2. U.S. Security Cooperation With India

About the U.S. India 2-day passage exercise

  • The Indian Naval warships along with aircraft from Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) are engaged in joint multi-domain operations with the U.S. Carrier Strike Group.
  • The exercise aims to strengthen the bilateral relationship and cooperation by demonstrating the ability to integrate and coordinate comprehensively in maritime operations.

U.S. Security Cooperation With India

  • In 2016, the United States designated India as a Major Defense Partner.  Commensurate with this designation, in 2018, India was elevated to Strategic Trade Authorization tier 1 status, which allows India to receive license-free access to a wide range of military and dual-use technologies regulated by the Department of Commerce.
  • U.S.-India defense trade cooperation continues to expand with the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), and the Industrial Security Agreement (ISA) now in place.
  • Since 2015, the United States also authorized India over $3 billion in defense articles via the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) process, which licenses the export of the defense equipment, services, and related manufacturing technologies controlled under the 21 categories of the U.S. Munitions List (USML). 
  • From 2016 to 2019, India and the United States jointly taught the UN Peacekeeping Course for African Partners.  These courses, conducted in New Delhi and organized for officers from 23 African troop and police contributing countries, were co-sponsored by the U.S. Global Peace Operations Initiative, and taught by U.S., Indian, and African course alumni. 
  • In November 2019, the United States and India conducted Tiger Triumph, the first-ever tri-service (ground, naval, and air forces) exercise between the two countries. Such military exercises enhance U.S.-India relations and help create a more stable and secure Indo-Pacific region.


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