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Environment and you

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You could weave anout-of-the-ordinary answer on the environment during the personality test of the civil services. The third in the serieson theUPSC exam.

Out-of-the-box:Discussing the Taj.PHOTO: P.V.SIVAKUMAR
Out-of-the-box:Discussing the Taj.PHOTO: P.V.SIVAKUMAR

Environment is a topic which occupies a crucial position in the personality test of the civil services exam. The dichotomy between modern development and environment is at the heart of umpteen problems such as climate change, acid rain, ozone depletion, el nino, and deforestation. Civil servants, especially those belonging to the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service and Indian Foreign Service grapple with different deleterious consequences arising from the conflict between environment and development. Therefore, the Union Public Service Commission devotes much attention to the environment in the recently modified syllabus and pattern of the exam both in the preliminary test and the main exam.

The domain of environment is important in the personality test from five different angles — as part of general studies, as an aspect of current affairs, as hobby and extracurricular activities, as a subject of academic study and also as part of the optional subject in the main exam.

On hobbies

Whenever the interview board comes across a candidate with environment-related hobbies, it is inclined to ask a few related questions. For example, a couple of years ago, a candidate attended the personal interview and cited bird watching as his hobby. The interview panel exhaustively asked him questions on a wide variety of issues concerning the avian biodiversity such as the impact of chemical agriculture on birds, extinct birds, endangered birds, evolution of birds, zoological names of some common birds, ornithology as a discipline and the use of diclofenac and its impact on vulture population.

The panel asked him to describe the beauty of birds for a couple of minutes. The candidate began to speak about the most spectacular avian phenomenon of North American skies, the flight of the flock of the passenger pigeons. He said that the passenger pigeons, which are similar to our doves, in many ways dominated the American skies for many millenniums till the end of the 19th Century.

Monsoons and more

The interview panel asked a student with a geography background to identify a major geographical phenomenon and how it had been affected by global warming.

The candidate chose to highlight the impact of climate change on the monsoons — the most important climatic phenomenon of India. It was caused by the differential heating of the Indian subcontinent and Indian Ocean, he said referring to the tropical and sub tropical seasonal reversal in surface winds and related precipitation.

The heat equation was the fundamental driving force of the monsoons, and global warming undermined this equation and derailed the course of the monsoon winds. Their erratic arrival and departure would undermine agriculture, industries and wildlife, and any artificially induced alterations in their behaviour would spell doom for the country, the candidate answered scoring high marks.

Chemical pollution

A chemistry graduate attended the civil services interview and was asked to explain the chemical process involved in the pollution-related phenomena like acid rain, ozone depletion and plastic pollution.

The board discussed with him the chemical pollution threat to the Taj Mahal.

The sulphur dioxide produced in the oil refinery of Mathura travelled, airborne, to get dissolved in rain water to produce sulphuric acid that threatened to corrode the Taj Mahal, a pollution-induced decay, the candidate explained. A good strategy would include the following points:

1. The candidates should provide answers and arguments reflecting a judicious balance between developmental requirements and environmental imperatives.

2. The equity principle must guide their answers especially when the interview discussion swirls around multilateral environmental summits. For example, on quantitative emission reduction targets, the students ought to argue for lenience in curbing subsistence or developmental emissions of the post-colonial world even while supporting drastic targets for luxury-based emissions of the developed nations.

3. The aspirants should not dwell deeply on the science of pollution hazards and ought to pay attention to the socio-economic implications of environmental hazards.


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