OAS Mains-2019 Daily Answer Writing-25/05/2020

Paper:   General Studies Paper-I

Section:  Geography of India

Topic:  Economic Geography of India

Question 1

What the role of sand mining in economy? Highlight its impact

Sample Answer

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently released a report, Sand and Sustainability: Finding new solutions for environmental governance of global sand resources, that highlights a problem that has largely stayed under the radar: sand consumption globally has been increasing and we are extracting it at rates exceeding natural replenishment rates.

Role of sand mining in economy:

Sand is created by slow geological processes, and its distribution is not even. Desert sand, available in plenty, is not suited for construction use because it is wind-smoothed, and therefore non-adherent. While 85% to 90% of global sand demand is met from quarries, and sand and gravel pits, the 10% to 15% extracted from rivers and sea shores is a severe concern due the environmental and social impacts.

  • Infrastructure projects and construction activities.
  • To meet the rising need of housing construction.
  • Livelihood of sand miners.


  • Their extraction often results in  river and coastal erosion  and  threats to freshwater and marine fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, instability of river banks leading to increased flooding, and lowering of ground water levels.
  • The report notes that  China and India head the list of critical hotspots  for sand extraction impacts in rivers, lakes and on coastlines.
  • Most large rivers of the world have  lost between half and 95% of their natural sand and gravel delivery to ocean the report says.
  • The damming of rivers for hydro-electricity production or irrigation is reducing the amount of sediment flowing downstream.
  • This broken replenishment system exacerbates pressures on beaches already threatened by sea level rise and intensity of storm-waves induced by climate change, as well as coastal developments.
  • loss of local livelihoods : There are also indirect consequences, like loss of local livelihoods — an ironic example is that construction in tourist destinations can lead to depletion of natural sand in the area, thereby making those very places unattractive — and safety risks for workers where the industry is not regulated
  • Mining which leads to the removal of channel substrate, resuspension of streambed sediment, clearance of vegetation, and stockpiling on the streambed, will have ecological impacts. These impacts may have an effect on the direct loss of stream reserve habitat, disturbances of species attached to streambed deposits, reduced light penetration, reduced primary production, and reduced feeding opportunities.

To help states deal with the sand mining issues, including demand supply deficit and illegal extraction, the Union Government has launched a framework prepared after intensive consultations with all stakeholders. There is a need to reduce demand to responsible levels and stop environmentally damaging practices to protect sensitive ecosystems and meet biodiversity conservation goals.

Question 2

Give reasons for forest fires in India? Discuss the Role of forest fire in aggravating climate change.

Sample Answer

Forest fires are the most common hazard to forests. It is defined as unclosed and freely spreading combustion that consumes the natural fuels. Forest fires pose a threat not only to the forest wealth but also to the entire regime to fauna and flora. The India State of Forest Report states that about 21.40% of forest cover in India is prone to fires.

In the  summer months,  there is a dearth of rain for months. The forests are littered with dry leaves and twinges, which could burst into flames ignited by the slightest spark. Forest fire causes imbalances in nature and endangers biodiversity by reducing faunal and floral wealth.

Reasons for forest fires in India:

Natural Causes

  • Lightening during thunderstorms may lead to forest fires. India has experienced lightning-induced fire throughout history.
  • In the dry season, friction from rolling stones in the mountainous areas may lead to forest fires.
  • In bamboo growing areas, forest fires may occur by the rubbing together of clumps of dry bamboos.
  • Volcanic eruptions also lead to forest fires naturally.

Anthropogenic Causes

More than 90% of forest fires are caused by human negligence or may be due to an accident. Few instances are as follows:

  • Shifting Cultivation: In the northeastern parts of India, the practice of shifting cultivation is the leading cause of forest destruction.
  • Many times villagers set small fires to clear off the path from dry litter i.e. tree twigs, branches, leaves, etc. This fire may become disastrous.
  • Many times in order to collect Non-Timber Forest Produce the collectors ignite a fire, which may accidentally result in a major forest fire.
  • Not extinguished cigarettes, match sticks accompanied by wind may result in forest fires.
  • Negligence in extracting resin from Chir Pine cones and careless burning of torchwood of Chir by pedestrian during the night also result in forest fires.
  • Forest tribal for searching wild animals and their nests/ homes often set wild grass on fire. For preventing the growth of leeches also, fires are ignited by local inhabitants.
  • Fireworks are used by humans for various reasons such as festivals. However, their explosive nature can start wildfires.

Role of forest fire in aggravating climate change:

Fires are one of the major reasons aggravating climate change. The very fine soot, known as black carbon, that is released into the atmosphere by fires also contribute to global warming and climate change. Forest fires affect the global carbon cycle, and thus the climate, in three main ways:

  • First, fire releases large quantities of carbon into the atmosphere through the combustion of plant material and surface soil organic matter.
  • Second, fire-killed vegetation decomposes over time emitting carbon.
  • Third, the vegetation on newly burned sites may not absorb as much carbon from the atmosphere as the decaying vegetation emits, or as much as the pre-fire vegetation absorbed, for several years or decades after a fire.
  • Increased fire frequency generally causes a net reduction in biosphere carbon storage. This increases global warming and leads to climate change.  

Destruction of forests due to fires need immediate action. Fast initial measures to address the destruction caused by forest fires are required with vigorous follow-up action. Special emphasis should be given to research, training, and development in order to minimize the ill effects of forest fires.

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