How to Prepare Environment and Ecology for UPSC?

The UPSC has announced the new dates for the Prelims Exam 2020 as October 4. This means, you have additional time on your hands to prepare for the IAS exam, which you must use to the fullest. In this article, you can get tips on how to prepare for the Environment and Ecology sections of the UPSC syllabus.

Environment in UPSC Syllabus

Let us first check what the UPSC syllabus tells about this section.

UPSC Prelims General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization General Science.
UPSC Mains Paper-III General Studies-III 250 Marks (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)

As you can see from the above table, the syllabus specifically mentions environment as one of the subjects. Hence, it is important. Also, another factor which makes it important and tricky is that it is strongly linked to UPSC current affairs.

  • Terms like climate change, ecosystem, sustainable development, natural disaster, etc. are regularly featured in the news.
  • Environment topics can be interlinked with core concepts of other subjects like geography, biology, botany, zoology and also the economy.
  • Environment can also overlap with policy and governance since many government schemes are linked towards preserving the natural resources and environment, conservation of flora and fauna, and reducing pollution, etc.

Importance of Environment Section in UPSC

The environment section is important for the UPSC exam, both from prelims and a mains perspective.

  1. In the UPSC Prelims, at least 15 – 20 questions can be linked to the environment section directly or indirectly. Know more about the number of questions asked from environment and ecology in the previous years in the IAS Prelims here.
  2. In the UPSC Mains, you can expect 2 – 3 questions from this section. And, also in other subjects, a good knowledge of environmental concepts can help you write better answers.
  3. Even in the IAS Interview, questions are asked from the environmental angle.

How to Prepare for Environment and Ecology for UPSC

The problem with the environment section of UPSC is that there is no defined syllabus like in history or geography. Another issue is that there is no time-tested book like conventional subjects. The strong link to current affairs makes it prudent for you to scan the daily newspapers and then make the correlation with any topic in the prescribed books.

A good method to begin the study of UPSC environment is to first go through the previous years’ question papers and analyse the environment questions. We can then classify the topics to be studied in the following six headings:

  • International initiatives: This is the most important section in the environment section of UPSC. Under this comes the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and other international conventions and organisations (both UN and non-UN), Ramsar Convention, etc.
  • National initiatives: This section includes all the governmental initiatives on the environment such as the National Solar Mission, the National Mission for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem, the National Mission for Sustainable Habitat, etc. You can get notes on these missions from the table at the end of this article.
  • Environment theory: For this section, you should take up a good book on the environment for UPSC and look up the important concepts that are frequently seen in the news. For example, food chain, ecotone, biogeochemical cycle, biological oxygen demand, oligotrophy, etc. For this, many IAS toppers suggest the environment compilation of Poor Man’s Friend Book. You can also check our Environment & Ecology Notes at the linked article.
  • National Parks, reserves, etc.: This is also an important source of questions in the IAS exam. For this, you should try to plot the most important parks on a map. This will help you remember where they are located. Apart from this, you should also make notes of a few important points of the frequently-occurring national parks in the news. You can regularly follow our daily news analysis in which we cover all the national parks, reserves, etc. that feature in the news.
  • Species: While studying about species, remember to use a book that gives vivid images of the species as well. This will help you remember the points easily. To know what species to read about, scan the daily news. You can also watch our daily The Hindu video news analysis.
  • Chemicals and pollutants: The UPSC can ask about the various pollutants that are effused from various sources/industries. You should also study the chief greenhouse gases.

UPSC Environment Books

The study material for UPSC environment is a mixed bag of textbooks, newspapers, magazines and basic books like the NCERTs. You can get a list of books to follow from the link below:

Environment and Ecology Books for IAS.


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