You are on page 1of 11

Information Resources on Environmental Studies An Overview

0.

Introduction
The growing concerns on environment have prompted governments,

organizations and individuals to evolve environmental friendly policies and take up


research on environmental issues. This resulted in the production of large volume of
data / information on various aspects of environment. Any research activity primarily
depends on information and hence every piece of data and information produced should
be properly documented in an organized manner for further dissemination to the
researchers, scientists, institutions and all those who are engaged in environmental
issues.
As computers became more available (both in term of cost and ease of use) and
as more and more environment-related data was collected through various remote
sensing programmes - ranging from satellites to air pollution sensors - the need to
handle, store, analyse and present this information gained importance.
The growing volume of information on the Internet has resulted in Information
overload. Hence need was felt for evolving Environment Information System in order
to facilitate to capture, store, retrieve and disseminate the environment information both
at National and International levels.
As environment is the concern of all people, every individual has a right to
know and have access to the information on environment. (Public Access to
Information).
Environment regulatory practices adopted by the governments, environmental
assessment surveys etc. require information on different aspects of the environment.
Environmental studies being a multi disciplinary subject, large volume of
information is generated on different aspects which is scattered and it is felt that there
should be a single platform to access the data/information.
I.

Objectives
The specific objectives of this study are to
Discuss the Importance of Environmental Information System
Explore the Information Resources on Environmental Studies
Examine the challenges and issues in the management of EIS.

II.

Methodology
Information for the present study is obtained by making an intensive search on

the Internet. The websites of all the important International organizations such as
UNESCO, UNEP, World Bank, FAO etc. and websites of Indian institutions such as
CSIR, NISCAIR, CIMAP, NEERI etc. are scanned and details about their knowledge
repositories/ data / library and information services are recorded. Based on the
information, some observations are made for improving the environment information
systems.
III.

Information Resources International

3.1. Infoterra
The Stockholm conference on the Human Environment (1972) is commonly
used as the starting point for this awareness. The main outcome of this conference
was the creation of the United Nations Environmental Programme - UNEP (Strong,
1997). From its inauguration, UNEP saw the collection of data and information about
the state of the environment as its most urgent task (Wallen, 1997). Since then, UNEP
has been a catalyst and co-ordinator in the field of environmental data collection and
exchange. As commonly happens in this situation, considerable knowledge gaps have
been found, and UNEP have focused on filling them - a project supervised by the
Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS) unit. By the end of the 1970s, GEMS
had created INFOTTERA the International Environmental Information System probably the first of its kind. Infoterra began its operations in 1977. Primarily it
functioned as a referral system. Later it expanded and included substantive information
and document delivery services through its 170 national focal points and 11 regional
science centres and 34 special sectoral centres.
3.2.

UNEP: UNEP website has several multi media resources such as TV & Videos,
photos, Animations, Podcasts and posters. UNEP Knowledge Repository is another
valuable resource which hosts research content and knowledge products generated
by UNEP. Access to abstracts of the various publications is given. Provides Basic
and Advanced Search Options.
http://www.unep.org/publications/

3.3.

UNESCO United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization

Established in 1945, Unesco strives to build networks to enable education, inter


cultural understanding and scientific cooperation among nations. UNESCO is known as
the "intellectual" agency of the United Nations. Unesco believes that people must rely
on power of intelligence to innovate, expand their horizons to achieve peace and
sustainable development.
With an ever-evolving outlook on the planets wellbeing UNESCOs science
educational activities in Environment strive to better understand the Earth as well as
spread this understanding. UNESCOs actions in Water Education inspire a more
responsible attitude towards the planets most important resource.

The theme

Environment is further classified into sub themes such as water; Ecological Sciences;
Earth sciences and Marine Sciences. Several reports, publications are available under
each of these sub themes for open access. Some of the Unesco resources include
Unesco World Water Development Reports (WWDR) 2015 To be released on
March 20 in New Delhi
WWDR 2014
WWDR 4th Edition 2012
WWDR 3rd Edition 2009
WWDR 2nd Edition 2006
WWDR- 1st Edition - 2003
Apart from the WWDRs, Man and Biosphere (MAB) official documents are
also available.
Recently published document on Biosphere reserves and climate change: A
collection of good practice case studies also is available as open access
publication.

3.4.

Food and Agricultural Organization- FAO


FAO functions with the important goals of Eradication of hunger, food

insecurity and malnutrition; the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of
economic and social progress for all; and, Sustainable management and utilization of
natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the
benefit of present and future generations.

FAO Document Repository is FAOs online archive for collecting, preserving


and disseminating digital copies of the Organizations knowledge outputs to ensure that
they are available to the widest possible audience. It contains publications, journals,
official meeting documents, technical reports and information materials produced by
FAO offices worldwide. http://www.fao.org/documents/en/
3.5.

UNDP United Nations Development Programme


UNDP works in more than 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the

eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion. We help


countries to develop policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional
capabilities and build resilience in order to sustain development results. Publishes
Millennium Development Goals MDG Reports country wise and are available on
open access.
3.6.

CEC - Commission for environmental Cooperation


Three countries working together to protect our shared environment. Since

1994, Canada, Mexico and the United States have collaborated in protecting North
America's environment through the North American Agreement on Environmental
Cooperation (NAAEC). Accordingly, the NAAEC established an intergovernmental
organization - the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) - to support
cooperation among the NAFTA partners to address environmental issues of continental
concern, including the environmental challenges and opportunities presented by
continent-wide free trade. Green Building Library has several open access documents
on environment.

3.7.

The Club of Rome


The Club of Rome founded in the year 1968 is a non-profit organisation. Its

essential mission is to act as a global catalyst for change through the identification and
analysis of the crucial problems facing humanity and the communication of such
problems to the most important public and private decision makers as well as to the
general public. Its activities should: adopt a global perspective with awareness of the
increasing interdependence of nations. They should, through holistic thinking, achieve a
deeper understanding of the complexity of contemporary problems and adopt a trans-

disciplinary and long-term perspective focusing on the choices and policies determining
the destiny of future generations. The Limits to Growth by Donella H Meadows..
Is available open access on its web site - http://www.clubofrome.org/?p=199
3.8.

UN Documents
www. UN documents.net hosts a body of global agreements on various fields.
The important Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development :
Our Common Future is also available here for open access.
3.9.

World Watch Institute


The Worldwatch Institute works to accelerate the transition to a sustainable

world that meets human needs. The Institutes top mission objectives are universal
access to renewable energy and nutritious food, expansion of environmentally sound
jobs and development, transformation of cultures from consumerism to sustainability,
and an early end to population growth through healthy and intentional childbearing.
Most

of

its

publications

including

world

State

of

the

Art

reports

(http://www.worldwatch.org/bookstore/state-of-the-world ) are for sale.


3.10.

OECD - Organization for Economic Cooperation and Developent


The Environment Directorate of OECD functions to Help countries to design

environmental policies that are both economically efficient and effective at achieving
their environmental objectives. OECD Data provides access to charts, maps, tables and
related publications of OECD. OECD provides lot of statistical data on environment.
The database provides search facilities by topic and by country. http://data.oecd.org/

IV.
4.1.

Information Resources National

Envis Environmental Information System


http://wgbis.ces.iisc.ernet.in/biodiversity/Envis/aboutenvis.htm
Established in 1982 by GOI as a plan programme to provide environmental

information to decision makers, policy planners, scientists and engineers, research


workers, etc. all over the country.
Since Environment is a multi disciplinary subject, envis

involves the

participation of all concerned institutions / organizations engaged in work relating to


different aspects of environment. A large number of nodes, known as ENVIS Centres,

have been established in the network to cover the broad subject areas of environment
with a Focal Point in the Ministry of Environment & Forests. 85 Envis centres are set
up in different organizations /institutions/Universities/Government working in areas of
environment across the country. These Centres have been set up in the areas of pollution
control, toxic chemicals, central and offshore ecology, environmentally sound and
appropriate technology, bio-degradation of wastes and environment management, etc.
ENVIS acts as the National Focal Point (NFP) for INFOTERRA, a global
environmental information network of the United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP). In order to strengthen the information activities of the NFP, ENVIS was
designated as the Regional Service Centre (RSC) of INFOTERRA of UNEP in 1985 for
the South Asia Sub-Region countries.
Envis is established to discharge the responsibilities of
Establishment of linkages with all information sources, and creation of data
bank on selected parameters in the subject area assigned;
Identification of information gaps;
Publish newsletters and Bulletins;
Develop library facility and provide support to the focal point on the subject
area; and
Most importantly serve as interface for the users on the assigned subject.
Envis comprises a database named Sahyadri Western Ghats Biodiversity
Information system. It provides access to WG Maps; Literature; and a search interface
to search the bibliographical information in the latest and earlier versions of the
database.
Sustainable development is another database, a programme on strengthening of
sustainable development and environmental information system in India funded by
India-Canada Environment Facility(ICEF), implemented by the Environmental
Information System (ENVIS), Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of
India, New Delhi. The database link provides information about different international
agencies working on sustainable development.
Apart from the above, envis provides links to other digital libraries of CES,
JRD Tata Memorial Library of IISC, MET, NBHM etc.

4.2.

TKDL - Traditional Knowledge Digital Library


http://www.csir.res.in/External/Utilities/Frames/career/main_page1.asp?
a=tkdl_topframe.htm&b=tkdl_left.htm&c=../../../Heads/TKDL/main.htm
Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) is a pioneer initiative of India to

prevent misappropriation of countrys traditional medicinal knowledge at International


Patent Offices on which healthcare needs of more than 70% population and livelihood
of millions of people in India is dependent. Its genesis dates back to the Indian effort on
revocation of patent on wound healing properties of turmeric at the USPTO. Besides, in
2005, the TKDL expert group estimated that about 2000 wrong patents concerning
Indian systems of medicine were being granted every year at international level, mainly
due to the fact that Indias traditional medicinal knowledge which exists in local
languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Urdu, Tamil etc. is neither accessible nor
comprehensible for patent examiners at the international patent offices.

At present, access of TKDL is available to nine International Patent Offices


(European Patent Office, United State Patent & Trademark Office, Japan Patent Office,
United Kingdom Patent Office, Canadian Intellectual Property Office, German Patent
Office, Intellectual Property Australia, Indian Patent Office and Chile Patent
Office).Negotiations are under way to conclude the Traditional Knowledge Access
Agreement with Intellectual Property Office of Russia and Malaysia. As per the terms
and conditions of the Access agreement, examiners of patent office can utilize TKDL
for search and examination purposes only and can not reveal the contents of TKDL to
any third party unless it is necessary for the purpose of citation. TKDL Access
Agreement is unique in nature and has in-built safeguards on Non-disclosure to protect
Indias interest against any possible misuse.
Traditional Knowledge Digital Library has overcome the language and format
barrier by scientifically converting and structuring the available contents (till date 0.29
million medicinal formulations) of the ancient texts on Indian Systems of Medicines i.e.
Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Yoga, into five international languages, namely, English,
Japanese, French, German and Spanish, with the help of information technology tools
and an innovative classification system - Traditional Knowledge Resource
Classification (TKRC).

4.3. NISCAIR National Institute of Science Communication and Information


Resources
NISCAIR evolved in 2002 with the merger of INSDOC (Indian National
Science Documentation Centre) and NISCOM (National Institute of Science
Communication), the two premier institutes of CSIR. The main objective of NISCAIR
is to collect/store, publish and disseminate S&T information through a mix of
traditional and modern means, for the benefit different segments of society.
NISCAIR Online Periodicals Repository (NOPR)
http://nopr.niscair.res.in/simple-search?query=biodiversity&submit=Go
NOPR provides access full text articles from research journals published by
CSIR-NISCAIR! Full text facility is provided for all eighteen research journals viz.
ALIS, BVAAP, IJBB, IJBT, IJC-A, IJC-B, IJCT, IJEB, IJEMS, IJFTR, IJMS,
IJNPR, IJPAP, IJRSP, IJTK, JIPR, JSIR and JST.
NOPR also hosts three Popular Science Magazines viz. Science Reporter (SR),
Vigyan Pragati (VP) & Science Ki Duniya (SKD), and a Natural Products Repository
(NPARR).

National Science Digital Library NSDL


http://nsdl.niscair.res.in/jspui/
National Science Digital Library (NSDL) aims at providing comprehensive
S&T information to students of science, engineering and technology in the country.
Begun as a

Tenth Five Year Plan Network Project of Council of Scientific and

Industrial Research (CSIR), NSDL is the only one of its kind that provides curriculum
based content to address the information needs of the undergraduate students of science.
The content creation and development for NSDL has gone through rigorous procedures
to make available quality content for the students. Authored by eminent teachers and
validated by renowned faculty in Indian universities and colleges, NSDL envisages to
bring finest content to the students. The discussion forum has been provided for
interactions amongst NSDL users. Full text can be downloaded in pdf format.

Climate Change Informatics CCI


http://www.niscair.res.in/cci.htm
Started as a division of CSIRNational Institute of Science Communication &
Information Resources, NISCAIR, in the year 2011, under Director NISCAIR, CCI has
reached new heights, with its aim being to contribute to this ever changing paradigm of
climate, wherein Anthropogenic activities and its effects on Nature & Climate can be
Predicted, Reported, and Adapted to/ Mitigated.
MAPA Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Abstracts
http://124.124.221.23/mapa/
Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Abstracts (MAPA) is a bimonthly abstracting
journal covering global current literature on all aspects of medicinal, aromatic and
allied plants, including lower plants. It was started in 1979 as a printed publication. It
involves scanning, selection and abstracting relevant research papers from primary
journals and patents published from different countries in English language. Each
record contains information about author(s), author affiliation, title of the paper,
bibliographic details and an informative abstract. It also covers information on
forthcoming conferences /seminars /meetings and latest published books on Medicinal
Plants.
Apart from these, valuable resources are also available in the National
Knowledge Resource Consortium and Digital Information Resource Facility for which
access is restricted to the members of CSIR.
5.3. National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI)
Knowledge Resource Centre (NEERI)
http://www.neeri.res.in/divisonal_details.php?DIV=12
Knowledge Resource Center(KRC) is a specialised domain in environmental
science and engineering providing access to bibliographic and full text digital and
printed information resources. The KRC has a specialized collection of 45400
information resources comprising books, reference resources, conference
documents, reports and 200 international and national peer reviewed current
periodicals on environmental science and engineering and related disciplines, CD
resources and audiovisual films

Statistical Sources on Environmental Studies


World Bank Data
http://data.worldbank.org/topic/environment
Indian State Level Basic Environmental Information Database (ISBEID)
www.isbeid.gov.in
World Resources Institute CAIT 2.0 Explorer
http://cait2.wri.org/wri/Country GHG Emissions?indicator[]=Total GHG
Emissions Excluding Land-Use Change and Forestry&indicator[]=Total GHG
Emissions Including Land-Use Change and Forestry&year[]=2011&chartType=geo
Compendium of Environment Statistics India 2013, (Ministry of Statistics &
Programme Implementation)
http://mospi.nic.in/mospi_new/upload/compendium_2013_13feb14.htm

5. Challenges & Issues in Providing Information Services


Since Environment is a multi disciplinary area, several agencies across the
disciplines are involved in the generation and consumption of
environmental data and information. From the study of information
resources, it is evident that information is scattered and it will be a
herculean task for the user to obtain right information at the right time.
Further, it can also be observed that there is no single organization that

tracks the environmental data and information.


Environment Information comprises the data that is recorded on various
aspects of the environment. Information is also generated as a by-product of
the environmental research by various institutions and organizations. There
is no concerted effort to network all the organizations that are engaged in

environmental research.
Lot of research is also taking place in the institutes of higher education such
as Agricultural Universities and other Universities. However, these
information unless reported in the primary journals and reports will go
unnoticed by the environmentalists as there is no single platform to access
this information.
Organizations, Institutes, Government and Public are all stakeholders in the
protection of environment. Information should percolate to all the sections
in order to facilitate better decision making, safeguard and implement the
environmental protection programmes.

Institutional Repositories are seen only in some research institutes like


NISCAIR. Hence all the Institutions engaged in environmental studies
should be encouraged to develop institutional repositories to facilitate
access to environment information.
6. Conclusion
While lot of data and information is generated both at National and International
levels, most of the information is available only to the expert group. In order to improve
awareness among the public, it is necessary that information should be accessible to the
public as well, taking into consideration the factors of confidentiality and security
issues.
Developments in Information technologies facilitated easy capturing, storage
and retrieval of data. Taking advantage of these technologies, a single portal connecting
all the institutions, organizations and public involved in environment activities.

Bibliography
1. Chavan Vishwas and Krishnan S (2006).Biodiversity Information in India
Challenges and Potentials. Data Science Journal. Vol.5. Available at
https://www.academia.edu/201652/OPEN_ACCESS_AND_BIODIVERSITY_
CONSERVATION_CHALLENGES_AND_POTENTIALS_FOR_THE_DEVE
LOPING_WORLD (accessed on 14.3.2015)
2. Haklay, Muki (1999). Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (1999).
Environmental Information Systems to Environmental Informatics Evolution
and Meaning. London: CASA. Available at http://www.casa.ucl.ac.uk (accessed
on 14.3.2015)
3. On networking Indian Biodiversity databases In: Report of the BD DB

Networking
Workshop
(2004).
Available
at
http://ces.iisc.ernet.in/hpg/cesmg/nibddraftapr2004.pdf (accessed on 14.3.2015)