The Hindu Editorial Summary

Topic-1 : Avian Influenza and the One Health Principle

GS-2 Mains Exam  : Health

Revision Notes


Question : Examine the scale of the biosecurity issue posed by H5N1 outbreaks, considering the contamination of environments and public health risks associated with intensive poultry farming practices.


Basic Concept

  • H5N1 is a subtype of the influenza A virus that causes avian influenza, also known as bird flu.

key points:

  • Strain: H5N1 is a specific combination of two proteins found on the surface of the influenza A virus: Hemagglutinin (H) and Neuraminidase (N). H5 refers to the type of hemagglutinin and N1 refers to the type of neuraminidase.
  • Host: Primarily birds – H5N1 is highly contagious among birds and can cause severe illness and death in many bird species.
  • Transmission to Humans: While rare, H5N1 can spread from infected birds to humans through close contact with infected live or dead birds, or contaminated environments.
  • Severity in Humans: H5N1 can cause a severe respiratory illness in humans with symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, respiratory failure, and even death. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates a fatality rate of around 52% for human cases of H5N1.
  • Public Health Risk: The biggest concern with H5N1 is its potential to mutate and become easily transmissible between humans. This could trigger a pandemic if the virus acquires the ability to spread efficiently from person to person.

Here’s some additional information to consider:

  • H5N1 outbreaks have occurred in birds worldwide, with several instances documented in India.
  • There have been documented cases of H5N1 transmission to humans, but sustained human-to-human transmission is not common.
  • Public health officials closely monitor H5N1 outbreaks and research efforts are ongoing to develop vaccines and treatments for the virus.

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 Historical Background:

  • 1997: First H5N1 infection in humans from chickens (Hong Kong)
  • 2006: First H5N1 case in India (Maharashtra)
  • 2020-2021: H5N1 outbreak across 15 Indian states
  • H5N1 has infected species beyond birds: polar bears, seals, seagulls

Public Health Risk:

  • H5N1 is highly contagious among birds.
  • Can cross species barriers and infect humans.
  • WHO estimates a 52% fatality rate for H5N1 in humans (463 deaths out of 888 cases since 2003).

Scale of the Biosecurity Issue

Contaminated Environments and Public Health Risks

  • Most human H5N1 infections are linked to contact with infected birds or contaminated environments.
  • Cramming chickens in battery cages creates these contaminated environments.
  • This leads to poor air quality, waste problems, and greenhouse gas emissions in India.
  • Regular antibiotic use in poultry, for prophylaxis and growth promotion, has negative consequences.
  • Experts predict a rise in antibiotic use in livestock due to increasing protein demand.
  • The WHO classifies some of these antibiotics as critically or highly important, yet they’re widely available to farmers for prevention.
  • Unsanitary conditions with high animal density harm animal welfare, consumer health, and facility workers/residents.
  • Emissions, effluents, and solid waste from these industries pollute the environment and harm human, animal, and environmental health.
  • Manure used as fertilizer often exceeds land capacity, becoming a pollutant.
  • Farmers experience crop damage and disease-carrying flies due to waste piles.
  • Residents are forced to use insecticides indoors, causing breathing problems and unpleasant smells.

Legal Loopholes and Weak Regulations

  • Confining animals intensively violates the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.
  • Industrial poultry operations cause unnecessary animal suffering through mutilation, starvation, overcrowding, etc., also violating the PCA Act.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) classifies poultry units with over 5,000 birds as polluting industries requiring compliance and permits.
  • The 269th Law Commission of India Report (2017) highlighted evidence from the Tata Memorial Centre showing antibiotic resistance due to non-therapeutic antibiotics in poultry.
  • The report suggests cleaner living spaces for poultry could reduce antibiotic dependence, making products safer for consumption.
  • Existing laws and international best practices could be used to create stricter guidelines for animal care, waste management, and antibiotic use.
  • However, the 2019 Draft Rules for the egg industry by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare are weak and ineffective.

The Path Forward

  • Strict oversight is essential to enforce environmental regulations, especially considering the CPCB’s reclassification of poultry as a highly polluting “orange category” industry.
  • Addressing this situation is crucial due to the public health crisis of bird flu and the climate emergency.



The Hindu Editorial Summary

Topic-2 : Unclassed Forests Missing: A Cause for Concern

GS-3 Mains Exam  : Environment Conversation

Revision Notes


Question : Evaluate the implications of the Forest (Conservation) Act Amendment (FCAA) 2023 on unclassed forests in India. How does this amendment affect the legal protection and diversion of unclassed forests for non-forest use?

Basic Concept :

Classified Forests:

  • Definition: Classified forests are government-controlled forests notified under the Indian Forest Act of 1927. These forests receive legal protection and are managed by the Forest Department of each state.
  • Categories: Classified forests are further divided into two main categories:
    • Reserve Forests: These are the most strictly protected forests with the highest level of legal protection. No activities like grazing or unregulated felling of trees are allowed in these forests. Examples include national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
    • Protected Forests: These forests have a slightly lower level of protection compared to reserve forests. Local communities may have some restricted rights for activities like grazing or collecting firewood.

Unclassed Forests:

  • Definition: Unclassed forests are not categorised under the Indian Forest Act, 1927. They may be owned by the government (forest department, revenue department, railways), communities, or even private entities.
  • Legal Status: Unlike classified forests, unclassed forests lack the legal protection provided by the Forest Act. This makes them more vulnerable to conversion for other land uses like agriculture, infrastructure development, or mining.
  • Importance: Despite the lack of legal protection, unclassed forests play a crucial role in India’s ecology. They contribute to biodiversity, soil conservation, and water regulation.

Key Points to Remember:

  • The distinction between classified and unclassed forests is significant for their level of protection and vulnerability to land-use changes.
  • The recent controversy surrounding the Forest (Conservation) Act Amendment (FCAA) 2023 pertains to the potential weakening of protection for unclassed forests.
  • The identification and proper management of unclassed forests are crucial for achieving India’s forest cover goals and environmental sustainability.

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  • MoEFCC uploaded State Expert Committee (SEC) reports on its website in April 2024 following a Supreme Court order (February 19, 2024).
  • This order responded to a PIL challenging the Forest (Conservation) Act Amendment (FCAA) 2023’s constitutionality.

Key Concern

  • The petition raised concerns about the unknown status of unclassed forests, which SEC reports were supposed to identify.

FCAA’s Impact on Unclassed Forests

  • FCAA would remove legal protection for unclassed forests (protected under the T.N. Godavarman Thirumalpad case, 1996).
  • SEC reports specify that ‘forests’ (as per dictionary definition) and all forest categories would be under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
  • Unclassed forests (also called deemed forests) would require central government approval for diversion for non-forest use.
  • Unclassed forests can be owned by forests, revenue departments, railways, communities, or private entities.

Identification of Unclassed Forests

  • In 1996, MoEFCC informed a Parliamentary Committee that SECs had identified unclassed forests.
  • MoEFCC assured the Committee that the amended Act would apply to SEC-identified unclassed forests.
  • Uploading SEC reports revealed a concerning situation:
    • No state provided verifiable data on identification, status, and location of unclassed forests.
    • Seven states/UTs (Goa, Haryana, J&K, Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal) didn’t constitute SECs.
    • Only 17 out of 23 states with reports complied with Court directives.
    • Many states cited time constraints (one month) and voluminous work for not conducting surveys or demarcating unclassed forests.

Information Revealed in Reports

  • Only nine states provided the extent of unclassed forests.
  • Almost no state/UT specified the geographic locations of these forests.
  • Any geographic information provided is only for reserve or protected forests (already available with Forest Departments).
  • SEC reports question the veracity of Forest Survey of India reports (the sole forest surveying agency).
    • Example: Gujarat – SEC report (192.24 sq km) vs FSI report (4,577 sq km, 1995-1999).
  • The lack of on-ground verification by SECs likely led to large-scale forest destruction.
  • No baseline data from 1996-1997 exists to measure unclassed forest loss.
    • Example: Kerala’s SEC report excluded the ecologically fragile Pallivasal area (devastated in 2018 floods).

Effects of FCAA

  • The potential loss of unclassed forests across states needs investigation.
  • Reports seem hastily prepared using incomplete and unverified data to meet the Court’s obligation.
  • The Godavarman order’s proper implementation is crucial to achieve India’s Forest Policy’s forest cover goals (33.3% in plains, 66.6% in hills).

Way Forward

  • MoEFCC’s lack of diligence in examining SEC reports before promulgating FCAA will have consequences for India’s ecosystems.
  • Accountability needs to be established, and the government needs to take action to re-identify, retrieve, and protect forest areas as per the 1996 judgement.


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