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Q 19- What are the most significant sources of black carbon emissions? Examine its effects on the Himalayan Ecosystem. (250 words)

  Paper & Topic: GS III à Conservation, Environmental Pollution and

  Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.



  • Model Answer:


  • Introduction:


  • The incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, wood, and other fuels produces black carbon, a powerful climate-warming component of particulate matter.
  • The concentration of black carbon on Gangotri glacier has nearly doubled in the last few years, according to a study conducted by the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, owing to agricultural burning and forest fires.


  • Body:


  • Major Black Carbon Sources:


  • Forest fires, domestic and commercial fuel wood burning, seasonal agricultural residue burning, and developmental operations (according to the Forest Survey of India, forest fire activity is normally documented in Uttarakhand from February to June, with a peak in fire incidents in May and June.)
  • Pollution from local, regional, and global sources, which builds up over the Himalayan region and raises black carbon concentrations.
  • Emissions of black carbon from cook stoves and diesel engines.
  • Environmental Impact on the Himalayan Ecosystem According to a recent study, tarballs made up about 28% of the particles collected from air samples at a research site in the Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau.
  • According to new World Bank study, black carbon (BC) deposits produced by human activity that accelerate the rate of glacier and snow melt in the Himalayan region can be decreased by an extra 50% from current levels with new, currently achievable policies (WB).
  • Light and nearly a million times more energy are absorbed by fine particles than by carbon dioxide.
  • Solar energy is absorbed by black carbon, which heats the atmosphere.
  • It darkens the surface of snow and ice when it falls to earth as precipitation, diminishing its albedo (reflective power), warming the snow, and hastening melting.
  • Forest fires and stubble burning from agricultural waste caused black carbon concentrations near the Gangotri glacier to rise 400 times in the summer, triggering glacial melt.
  • Dark colours absorb more light and emit infrared radiation, raising the temperature.
  • As a result, if there is an increase in black carbon in the higher Himalayas, the Himalayan glaciers will melt faster.
  • Glacier melt causes flash floods, landslides, soil erosion, and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF), and larger melt volumes could temporarily replace receding groundwater downstream.
  • Reduced water availability, on the other hand, would exacerbate the water deficit in the long run.
  • Changes in the high Himalayan atmospheric composition would affect weather patterns (such as rain and snow precipitation patterns) and, as a result, natural resources and socio-economic activities of Himalayan inhabitants in the long run.
  • Changing rain patterns can have far-reaching repercussions for ecosystems and human lives, including as disrupting monsoons, which are essential for agriculture in much of Asia and Africa.


  • Human Health Effects:


  • The placentas of women who are most exposed to airborne pollution in their daily lives have the highest concentration of black carbon particles.
  • Inhalation of these particles by the mother causes them to be translocated from the mother's lungs to the placenta, causing life-long alterations in the baby's development as well as lasting lung tissue damage.
  • This study found a correlation between unclean air exposure and an increased risk of miscarriages, premature deliveries, and low birth weights, all of which raise the risk of diabetes, asthma, stroke, heart disease, and a variety of other illnesses.
  • The WB said in its research report titled "Glaciers of the Himalayas, Climate Change, Black Carbon, and Regional Resilience" that full implementation of current policies to mitigate BC can achieve a 23 percent reduction, but enacting new policies and incorporating them through regional cooperation among countries can achieve enhanced benefits.


  • Conclusion:


  • Because of their light-absorbing properties, black carbon (BC) aerosols contribute greatly to global warming.
  • Their existence in environmentally vulnerable areas, such as the Himalayan glacier valleys, is a cause for concern and must be carefully monitored.
  • BC is a short-lived pollutant that, after carbon dioxide, is the second-largest contributor to global warming (CO2).
  • BC, unlike other greenhouse gases, is quickly washed out and can be completely removed from the atmosphere if emissions are reduced.


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