Environment is an issue of major concern to governance at national, state and local levels. The concerns are now multi-dimensional and no longer confined only to protection or conservation. In particular, the economic significance of environmental resources is being increasingly recognized, related to both the costs incurred in preserving the environment and the role of the environment in sustaining productive activity such as agriculture, including the indirect economic benefits that it generates. Environmental governance, particularly economic policy in relation to the environment is also affected by the policy environment at all levels. For a state rich in natural resources such as Kerala, and whose economy is significantly related to its natural wealth, environmental issues are particularly a source of concern.
The Government of Kerala implements several regulatory and promotional measures for environmental protection and conservation through various departments including the Departments of Environment, Science and Technology, Health and Family Welfare, Forests and Wildlife, Factories and Boilers, Industries Mining and Geology and Groundwater.
As per the latest environment assessment carried out by the Central Pollution Control Board, the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) score of Greater Kochi Area, one of the critically polluted areas in the country is 57.94 which was 75.08 in 2011. When compared to most of the other states, Kerala has much safer air quality with better forest cover, according to a recent national ranking. As per the Pollution Control Board's Water and Air Quality Directory (2015), the Respirable Suspended Particle Matter (RSPM) values exceeded the permissible level of 60 micro gram per cubic meter at Kannur (63) followed by Nagambadam (60) and Vadavathoor (60), while the lowest RSPM was recorded in Makkankunnu in Pathanamthitta (24) followed by Irumpanam (25) and Thodupuzha (29).
As per Crime India 2015 Statistics (National Crime Records Bureau India, Ministry of Home Affairs) a total of 5156 cases were registered in the country under environment related offences during 2015. It was 5835 in 2014. The number of environmental related offences reported in Kerala during 2014 was 8 and in 2015 it is only 2 and these two cases are registered under the Forest Act.
However a large number of environmental issues continue to demand attention, ranging from river pollution by sewage and other waste generated by urban and rural settlements to intense noise pollution. Such a wide range of issues demand concerted attention by regulatory authorities especially the Pollution Control Board, whose functioning must be streamlined and strengthened with adequate capacity for implementation, enforcement and the pursuit of punitive legal action where necessary.
The inauguration of the Haritha Keralam mission by the Government of Kerala in 2016 is set to intensify efforts on protecting and conserving Kerala's environment in all its respects. However, as an integrated mission, its scope will include the efforts of multiple departments and not only specifically the Department of the Environment.
The year 2015 witnessed a significant achievement as a new international agreement on climate change was evolved. On December 2015,196 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) endorsed the Paris Agreement, a universal, legal framework for climate change. The Paris Agreement establishes the obligation of all counties to develop plans on how to contribute to climate change mitigation and should communicate their ‘nationally determined contributions' to the Secretariat of the Convention. Subsequently the Agreement has been ratified by a large number of countries, including all the members of the G-20, including India, China and the United States. The Paris Agreement establishes a challenging collective goal to hold the global warming well below 2 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels with efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Centigrade. It is expected that countries will step forward with ambitious national targets on mitigation and adaptation planning, and based on this planning countries should strengthen their national efforts as well as international cooperation.
India's contribution to cumulative global CO2 emissions so far is approximately only 3 per cent, The per capita CO2 emission in the country increased steadily during 1900-2014. Its per capita greenhouse gas emissions is also low, amounting to only 1.56 tons of CO2equivalent in 2010. India is one of the countries on course to achieve the voluntary goal of reducing the Green House Gas (GHG) emission intensity of GDP (Emission Gap Report, 2014, UNEP). India's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) focuses on reducing the GHG emission intensity of GDP to 35 per cent by 2030, a reduction of 33 per cent from 2005 level.
The country has also initiated efforts in climate change adaptation actions. It is universally acknowledged that India will be one of the nation's that will bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change across many sectors, particularly those closely connected to the biosphere such as crop production, plantations, fisheries, and forests. Kerala needs to pay particular concern to climate adaptation while the scope for mitigation action is less than many other parts of the country.
A major tool proposed to deal with climate change is the introduction of carbon taxes, though globally concerns have been expressed regarding the negative distributional impact of carbon taxes in developing countries. The relatively high cost of fossil fuels in India has acted as an effective carbon tax. The Government of India in its submission of the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the Paris talks has noted that oil prices amounted to an effective carbon tax of USD 140 per tonne of CO2 for petrol and USD 64 per tonne of CO2 from diesel. This is well above the internationally expected “reasonable” tax of USD 25-35 per tonne. Government of India introduced clean energy cess on coal in 2010. Through Finance Bill 2010-11 a corpus called National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) was created out of cess on coal produced/imported for the purpose of financing and promoting clean energy initiatives, funding research in the area of clean energy or for any other purpose relating thereto. The cess on coal has been increased from 50 to 100 per tonne in Budget 2014-15. The coal cess has been increased to 400 per tonne in the Union Budget 2016-17 and the same has been renamed as Clean Environment Cess. From the figures provided in the INDC, this would approximate to a cess of USD 4 per tonne of CO2 on coal.
There are various national and international funds available to effectively manage and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Some of the important funds available are 1.Adaptation Fund 2. Green Climate Fund (GCF) 3.International Climate Initiative (IKI) 4.Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) and National Adaptation Fund on Climate Change (NAFCC) .
The objective of the NAFCC established by the Government of India under the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF and CC) is to assist State and Union Territories that are vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change in scaling up climate change adaptation interventions, in accordance with the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) and State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCCs). It has a budget provision of 350 crores for the year 2015-16 and 2016-17. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has been appointed National Implementing Entity and is responsible for implementation of adaptation projects. The State Government Departments are the Executing Entities and can submit proposals for accessing NAFCC funds.
The project from Kerala under the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC) titled “Promotion of Integrated Farming System of Kaipad and Pokkali in Coastal Wetlands of Kerala” with a budget of 25 crore has been approved by National Steering Committee on Climate Change (NSCCC). The period of the project is four years (2015-19). The Agency for Development of Aquaculture (ADAK), Department of Fisheries, Government of Kerala, is the Executing Entity of the project. The project envisions integrated farming methods as climate smart practices to enhance resilience of aquaculture communities to climate change especially sea-level rise that results in severe intrusion of salinity. The proposed area of the project is 600 hectares (300 hectares in Kannur District and 300 hectares in Ernakulam, Thrissur and Alappuzha districts). The proposals for coastal sea shore protection and KSEB's renewable energy concepts are under discussion.
Kerala is rich in biodiversity but the high density of human population and major transformation of the landscape since the mid-18th century emphasize the urgency for conservation of the floral and faunal diversity and sustainable use of its resources. The State contains more than 4,500 species of flowering plants of which above 1,500 are endemic in nature. Of 1,847 vertebrates of Kerala, 205 (approximately11 per cent) species are listed as threatened in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species of which 23 are Critically Endangered, 90 are Endangered and 92 are Vulnerable. 98 per cent of fishes and 87 per cent of amphibians of Kerala have not been included under any Schedule of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act (19 72) (WPA). Of the 173 reptile species endemic to Western Ghats, 17 per cent are listed in various threat categories of IUCN. Nine hundred and five species of fishes are recorded from inland and marine waters of which 30 per cent of fresh water fishes are endemic to state. Out of 779 marine species 93 per cent is not included in any schedules of wildlife protection act. The highest level of endemism (between 77-102 species per sub basin) and highest species richness (133-160 species per sub basin) is found in the west flowing rivers Chaliyar, Bharatapuzha, Chalakkudy, Periyar, and Pamba with point endemics in certain cases.
The fragile nature of ecosystem in Kerala is a concern and many natural and man-made causes pose a great threat to its biodiversity. The following conservation initiatives are are being undertaken in the State.
Significant efforts though are still required to implement biodiversity related initiatives based on the information and knowledge obtained through the PBRs. There is also considerable scope for enhancing revenue from the access and benefit-sharing provisions of biodiversity legislation and rules.