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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 24th March, 2016

  • March 24, 2016
  • 7
IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis, IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs March 2016, International, Science and Technology, UPSC
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 24th March, 2016

 

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

 

TOPIC:  

  • General Studies 1:Urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
  • General Studies 2:Governance Issues
  • General Studies 3:Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation

 

E-waste Management in India

  • Industrial revolution followed by the advances in information technology during the last century has radically changed people’s lifestyle. Although this development has helped the human race, mismanagement has led to new problems of contamination and pollution.
  • With nearly 1.7 million tonnes of e-waste reportedly produced in India in 2014 and increasing annually at between four and five per cent, a variety of experts have warned of its dangers to the environment as well as health. This is because defunct laptops, phone and other electronic goods are usually broken down by hand for precious metals and hacked down manually or crudely burnt.
  • The residue is frequently thrown in rivers, drains and/or disposed in solid waste dumps that over time can contribute to degraded land and water quality as well neurological and skin diseases, genetic defects and cancer in the workers who deal with them
  • The technical prowess acquired during the last century has posed a new challenge in the management of wastes. Thus, proper management is necessary while disposing or recycling e­waste.

Waste minimization in industries involves adopting:

  • Inventory management: Proper control over the materials used in the manufacturing process is an important way to reduce waste generation (Freeman, 1989)- By reducing both
    • The quantity of hazardous materials used in the process
    • Amount of excess raw materials in stock

Can be done in two ways-

  • Establishing material-purchase review and control procedures
  • Inventory tracking system (only the needed quantity of a material is ordered)
  • Production-process modification: Changes to be made during the production process (more efficient use of input materials)

Three-fold—

  1. Improved operating and maintenance procedures-
    • by reviewing current operational procedures or lack of procedures and examination of the production process for ways to improve its efficiency
    • Instituting standard operation procedures
    • Strict maintenance program stressing on corrective maintenance
    • Employee-training program (correct operating and handling procedures, proper equipment use, recommended maintenance and inspection schedules, correct process control specifications and proper management of waste materials)
  1. Material change- minor process adjustments or extensive new process equipment
  2. Process-equipment modification:
    • To take advantage of better production techniques
    • To process materials more efficiently producing less waste
    • Reduces the number of rejected or off-specification products
  • Volume reduction: techniques that remove the hazardous portion of a waste from a non-hazardous portion

Categories: Source segregation and Waste concentration

  • Recovery and reuse:
    • Could eliminate waste disposal costs, reduce raw material costs and provide income from a saleable waste
    • Waste recovery: on-site, or at an off-site recovery facility, or through inter industry exchange

 

India: Manufacturers to set up collection centres for e-waste

Manufacturers of electrical and electronic items will have to

  • Set up “collection centres” to take back the e-waste generated through their products
  • Ensure that the e-waste, including hazardous electronic parts, thus collected is properly recycled

E-waste management rules (2011)

Had bound manufacturers by extended producer responsibility (EPR) to channelize the hazardous e-waste to registered recyclers

Issue: Lack of clarity on who was responsible for collecting such waste led to loose implementation of EPR rules

Steps taken:

The new rules have plugged a number of loopholes by addressing the specific responsibilities of various stakeholders. But, implementation will be the key.

  • Separate authorisation letters from the respective State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs), which were necessary for setting up such collection centres earlier; have now been done away with
  • The complicated process, which had been cited by manufacturers as an excuse for low compliance, has now given way to a collection mechanism that also allows buying back waste from consumers
  • Various producers can have a separate Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) and ensure collection of e-waste as well as its disposal in an environmentally sound manner.
  • Manufacturers have also been asked to submit detailed EPR plans whereby 30 per cent of the waste generated by them has to be collected back during the first two years, followed by 40 per cent in the third and fourth years and so on, to 70 per cent during the seventh year onwards.
  • A provision of penalty for violation of rules has been introduced and states have also been brought into the picture with the rules authorising industry departments to ensure space is allocated for recycling plants.
  • State labour departments have been asked to register workers involved in dismantling and recycling at such facilities, to ensure the safety of these workers by monitoring their health.
  • CFL and other mercury lamps have been brought within the ambit of the e-waste management rules 2016, a “Deposit Refund Scheme” has been introduced under which the producer of any computer, mobile phone or other electronic product will have to persuade consumers to return the products after usage for a small sum (The 2016 rules are in supersession of the e-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011)

IASbaba’s Views:

Government—

  • Governments should set up regulatory agencies in each district, which are vested with the responsibility of co-ordinating and consolidating the regulatory functions of the various government authorities regarding hazardous substances
  • Governments must encourage research into the development and standard of hazardous waste management, environmental monitoring and the regulation of hazardous waste-disposal.
  • Governments should enforce strict regulations and heavy fines levied on industries, which do not practice waste prevention and recovery in the production facilities.
  • Polluter pays principle and extended producer responsibility should be adopted.
  • Governments should encourage and support NGOs and other organizations to involve actively in solving the nation’s e-waste problems.

Industries:

  • Generators of wastes should take responsibility to determine the output characteristics of wastes and if hazardous, should provide management options.
  • All personnel involved in handling e-waste in industries including those at the policy, management, control and operational levels, should be properly qualified and trained.
  • Companies can and should adopt waste minimization techniques (“reverse production” system) that designs infrastructure to recover and reuse every material contained within e-wastes metals

Citizens: While buying electronic products opt for those that:

  • are made with fewer toxic constituents
  • use recycled content and are energy efficient
  • are designed for easy upgrading or disassembly
  • utilize minimal packaging and offer leasing or take back options
  • have been certified by regulatory authorities

Customers should opt for upgrading their computers or other electronic items to the  latest versions rather than buying new equipment.

Connecting the Dots:

  1. Is India a signatory to the Basel Convention? What are the fundamental aims of the Basel Convention and in light of the recent spell of ‘climate change’, how can developed countries be torchbearers of good e-waste management skills?
  2. It is imperative that developing countries and India in particular wake up to the monopoly of the developed countries and set up appropriate management measures to prevent the hazards and mishaps due to mismanagement of e-wastes. Critically examine

 

INTERNATIONAL

TOPIC:   General studies 2

  • Bilateral, regional , global groupings and agreement involving India and affecting its interest
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.
  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate

 

Building new alliances with BRICS

Background:

  • India’s assumption of the presidency of BRICS (the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa grouping) recently comes at a time when many are questioning the group’s existence.
  • The economic health of the group is patchy and the contemporary political trajectories of its members are, to put it mildly, pulling in different directions.
  • At this juncture there is a need for India to take a long view on the purpose of BRICS and the space it creates for India within the contemporary international order.

 

BRICS:

  • BRICS is the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The grouping was originally known as “BRIC” before the inclusion of South Africa in 2011
  • The BRICS members are all developing or newly industrialised countries, but they are distinguished by their large, fast-growing economies and significant influence on regional and global affairs; all five are G-20 members
  • The five nations have a combined nominal GDPof US$16.039 trillion, equivalent to approximately 20% of the gross world product, and an estimated US$4 trillion in combined foreign reserves
  • Bilateral relations among BRICS nations have mainly been conducted on the basis of non-interference, equality, and mutual benefit

 

 Significance and Relevance of BRICS:

  • The main reason for co-operation to start among the BRICs nation was the financial crises of 2008. The crises raised scepticism on the dollar-dominated monetary system. Already United States involvement in protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was being questioned. The 2008 financial crises further challenged the legitimacy of US/western dominated Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank & IMF)
  • The United States was squarely blamed for the crises. The loose monetary policy followed by then Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and the irresponsible lending practices coupled with lack of regulation was seen as root cause of the crises
  • While the United States and European economies suffered in wake of the financial crises, the BRICS economies showed resilience to a certain extent. BRICS saw this as an opportune moment to correct imbalances in the global economic governance as result of which the Bretton Woods institutions remained dominated by the US and Western Europe.
  • More importantly, the BRICs managed to push for institutional reform which led to International Monetary Fund (IMF) quota reform in 2010. Thus the financial crises had momentarily reduced western legitimacy and briefly let the BRICs countries become “agenda setters” in multilateral institutions
  • The BRICs called for the reform of multilateral institutions in order that they reflect the structural changes in the world economy and the increasingly central role that emerging markets now play.
  • BRICS continues to be a relevant group in its own right. It remains a coalition of emerging economies that will challenge western dominated discourses in some forums and hence provide an alternative idea of global governance.
  • BRIC economies will surpass the G-6 economies (the United States, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, France and Italy) by 2050 in US dollar terms. Therefore, originally the BRICs were meant to be a purely economic category bounded by the strength of their fast-paced economic growth. It was never thought to be a political category.

India’s role as a leader in BRICS:

  • BRICS is not a trading bloc or an economic union nor is it a political coalition — given the divergent geopolitical trajectories of each country.
  • Brazil, India and South Africa broadly orient themselves towards the liberal end of the political spectrum.
  • China pursues a trajectory that will, sooner than later, put it on a collision course with the U.S., even as it leverages the Atlantic economies in the medium term for its economic growth.
  • Russia has once again begun to be perceived by NATO as an all-out threat, and not just a “frenemy”.
  • From an Indian perspective, BRICS is a strategic geo-economic alliance that seeks to move the narrative emerging from the Bretton Woods institutions towards alternative models of development and governance — through the sheer weight of the incongruent collective.
  • BRICS should be an integral part of India’s grand strategy, and a vehicle in India’s journey from being a norm taker to a norm shaper. The bloc offers India greater bargaining space as India seeks to gain more prominence in institutions of global governance, and shape them in the liberal international tradition with a southern ethos.
  • For instance, India trades more with the global South than the global North. It is the only member of BRICS that is likely to foster an open and rule-based economic architecture with the global South. It is uniquely poised to do so, thanks to New Delhi’s leadership role among the G77 and G33 groupings at the World Trade Organization and the UN
  • BRICS gives India the room to continue being an important player in the liberal international order while being part of a group which, for the old guard, could potentially emerge as the single most important reason for its dramatic reform.
  • As with the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), India should not hesitate to join or create other BRICS initiatives that may have strategic implications for global trade, finance, cyberspace, and the larger economic system. Indeed, the U.S. and other European powers should encourage it.

 

Internal contradiction and competition:

  • Firstly, all these countries aspire to be regional powers and hence at some point will compete with each other.
  • Secondly, they have different political systems with Brazil, India and South Africa being democracies while Russia and China having authoritarian characteristics.
  • Thirdly, Brazil and Russia are commodity exporting countries and thus benefit from high commodity prices while India and China are commodity importers that benefit from low commodity prices.
  • Fourthly, China and India have outstanding territorial issues to resolve and India looks suspicious to any institution that has Chinese domination. Similarly, Russia looks suspiciously at China’s interest in its sparsely populated far eastern of Siberia.
  • Lastly, China economically dominates the BRICS and majority BRICS trade is concentrated with China. Therefore China gives economic muscle and bargaining power to BRICS. However, China has is deeply connected with United States economically as Chinese prosperity is tied to US (and European economic growth), hence that limits its capability to challenge the status quo. Therefore, competition will exist among the member states of this grouping.

 

Factors that will bolster co-operation among BRICS members:

  • Firstly, the common need among developing countries to construct economic order that reflects current situation will drive the BRICS on for conjuring up their efforts towards global economic governance. In this matter, the idea of development bank and CRA are defining and will have a huge geo-economic and geopolitical impact.
  • (Note: BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) is a framework for the provision of support through liquidity and precautionary instruments in response to actual or potential short-term balance of payments pressures)
  • Secondly, the BRICS alternative idea in the landscape of global governance will attract support from other countries.
  • Thirdly, the expansion of BRICS interaction to other sector will make it more strong partnership.
  • Fourthly, the common interest for economic growth will drive co-operation among BRICS countries.
  • Lastly, Chinese support to BRICS will make sure that group remains a force to reckon with in the future. Therefore BRICS is likely to remain an effective multilateral forum in a multi-polar international order.

 

Way ahead:

  • BRICS should be an integral part of India’s grand strategy, and a vehicle in India’s journey from being a norm taker to a norm shaper.
  • The bloc offers India greater bargaining space as India seeks to gain more prominence in institutions of global governance, and shape them in the liberal international tradition with a southern ethos.
  • Atlantic powers need to recognize that India’s role within BRICS is a bulwark against such impulses, and encourage its leadership in similar plurilateral forums.

Connecting the dots:

  • Is BRICS an effective Multilateral Forum in a Multi-polar International Order?

 

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