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

  • May 24, 2016
  • 2
IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis, IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs May 2016, Science and Technology, UPSC
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 24th May, 2016

 

ENVIRONMENT

 

TOPIC:   General Studies 2

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

 

Water Pricing Regime

  • Water scarcity is defined as the ratio of total surface/groundwater footprint to surface/groundwater availability in a given river basin.
  • If the ratio is 1, it means that available surface/groundwater is being fully utilized—moderate scarcity
  • WFN database recognizes four kinds of water scarcity situations:
  • Low (ratio<1),
  • Moderate (ratio between 1 and 1.5),
  • Significant (ratio between 1.5 and 2)
  • Severe (ratio>2).

Viability of moving towards an elaborate water pricing regime

Pricing the income-starved:

  • The most disadvantaged of the lot are the same people who are already reeling under severe economic hardship—in many cases, they being a part of the population who also waste the maximum water (case of wastages of water by domestic helps under the assumption that the water in their employer’s house is always available)
  • A 2015 study by the International Monetary Fund concluded that water subsidies provided through public utilities amounted to 0.6% of global gross domestic product in 2012 and is “also inequitable, disproportionately benefiting upper-income groups”.

 

Erosion of export-advantage:

Inefficient agricultural usage of water and exports of water-intensive crops makes India a large virtual exporter of water

  • In 2014-15, India exported 37.2 lakh tonnes of basmati. To export this rice, the country used around 10 trillion litres of water. To put it another way, India virtually exported 10 trillion litres of water. At least one-fifth of this would have been surface/groundwater.
  • While the country strives to increase manufacturing exports, care should be taken to maximize water use efficiency lest it ends up virtually exporting more water.

Agro-India—

Domestic usage accounts for less than 5% of India’s annual water consumption, while agriculture’s share is 90%

Water Footprint Network

  1. Classifies water usage into three types:
  1. Green (rain water);
  2. Blue (surface and groundwater);
  3. Grey (amount of water required to carry off pollutants)
  1. Gives data on water use for different purposes:
  • WFN data for 1996-2005 shows that crop production, grazing and animal water supply (broadly agricultural use) accounted for a little over 92% of total water use in the world.
  • Industry and domestic use accounted for another 4.4% and 3.6%, respectively.
  • India:
  • Way ahead of all countries in terms of usage of blue water, showing the high rate of exploitation of surface and groundwater in the country
  • India’s average water footprint (both direct and indirect use) and blue water (surface/groundwater) footprint for all major crops (wheat, paddy, maize, sugarcane and cotton) is higher than the global average—extremely inefficient

 

Political economy:

The public procurement policies promoting cultivation of water-intensive crops in those very states where the usage is most inefficient

  • Eg:
  • The severe water crisis in Latur was in stark contrast to flourishing fields of sugarcane, a water-guzzling crop, sustained with the patronage of politicians in the state of Maharashtra.
  • Punjab has the highest share of rice procurement in the country despite having a very high water footprint for the crop
  • Madhya Pradesh, despite having a much higher water footprint, has a higher procurement share of wheat than Uttar Pradesh

Designing Water Pricing:

Government does not exercise control over the sources of water as it does over other natural resources

Target: Irrigation sector

  • It alone comprises more than 78% of the total water usage in India
  • Irrigation consumption is an area where the scope for increase in efficiency is very high
  • Sixty-one per cent of the irrigation uses surface water which will require metering and appropriate pricing

Strategy for pricing should be such that—

  • The cost of migration from one method of irrigation to another—or from electricity to diesel—offsets the difference in cost between the two
  • Separation of electric feeders for agricultural and non-agricultural purposes
  • The pricing should also take into account income distribution of water users and hence, be accommodative towards poorer farmers or households

Therefore, water pricing should be designed in order to promote efficiency, leaving equity consideration to other policy tools.

 

IASbaba’s Views:

  • Setting appropriate prices is indispensable to providing adequate water to India’s growing population.
  • The under-pricing and reckless usage of water has damaging long-run consequences for households who have limited and poor quality water services and for water supplying entities that are unable to invest and expand water coverage.

 

Read:

The importance of Water Management

Managing India’s Freshwater

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

 

TOPIC:   General Studies 3

  • Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
  • Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
  • Space Technology and achievements of ISRO

 

ISRO’s Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD)

India (on May 23, 2016) successfully launched a Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) space shuttle

Launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh

Hypersonic Flight Experiment (RLV-TD HEX-01)

  • RLV-TD HEX-01 was flight tested successfully
  • The ‘dummy’ RLV was launched into the orbit around Earth, and then glided back onto a virtual runway in the Bay of Bengal, some 500 kilometres from the coast.
  • The launch vehicle began its descent followed by atmospheric re-entry at five times the speed of sound and then moved smoothly down to the landing spot in the Bay of Bengal.
  • This RLV-TD HEX-01 is described as “a very preliminary step” in the development of a reusable rocket. The successful demonstrator meant they can now plan for the next stage—a landing on earth.
  • The final version of the resuable rocket will take 10 to 15 years to build according to ISRO.
  • What distinguishes each of ISRO’s missions, however, is the cost: almost all the missions, including the Moon and Mars missions, have been executed at a fraction of the cost of similar missions by other space agencies.

RLV_TD-min

 

Benefits of reusable space shuttles

  1. Cost effective space missions in future: A reusable launch vehicle will be capable of taking satellites to space and then landing back on earth so that it can be used more than once and is expected to drastically reduce the cost of space missions in the future.
  2. More attractive player in the international market: A reusable launch vehicle will put India one among the only a handful of nations who possess the capability of developing its own space shuttle. It will make them more attractive player in the international market.
  3. Might be cheaper than PSLV and GSLV: ISRO argues that RLV will be substantially cheaper than the PSLV which it is likely to replace. The average cost of construction of PSLV is about Rs 120 crore. The heaviest version of PSLV, the XL, cost Rs 145 crore. GSLV costs about Rs 173 crore.

Comparison: PSLV, GSLV and RLV

  • India currently uses two kinds of launch vehicles — PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) and GSLV (Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle).
  • The PSLV is the older of the two and the more successful, having already clocked 30 successful launches.
  • GSLV, which began in earnest only during the 1990s, has had four successful flights but an equal number of failures too.
  • An advanced version of the GSLV, called Mk-III, that will be capable of putting very heavy satellites – up to about 4,000 kg — into space is still under development. The PSLV can carry satellites up to about 1,500 kg in weight.
  • The average cost of construction of PSLV is about Rs 120 crore. The heaviest version of PSLV, the XL, cost Rs 145 crore. GSLV costs about Rs 173 crore, according to information provided by the Department of Space.
  • Nearly 80 per cent of the cost of launch vehicles are structural and only 20 per cent are those of fuel or other expendables.
  • RLV’s development is an attempt to recover the structural costs involved in developing such technologies. The entire structure of the RLV can be used for future missions, thus substantially saving on the costs. The actual saving will depend on the number of missions the reusable vehicle can be used for.
  • The current development cost for the RLV has been put at about Rs 90 crore. In contrast, the development cost of GSLV, including the Mk-III version, has been somewhere close to Rs 3,000 crore. The final development cost of the RLV will only be known when it is operationalised in about ten years’ time. ISRO’s argument is that it will be substantially cheaper than the PSLV which it is likely to replace.

 

Challenges:

  • Series of experiments yet to be tested: hypersonic flight experiment (HEX) will be followed by the landing experiment (LEX), return flight experiment (REX) and scramjet propulsion experiment (SPEX).
  • Biggest challenge for ISRO next will be to land the shuttle on a runway, just like a plane.
  • In order to do that, ground infrastructure has to be built, including a runway, and the shuttle will need to have the capability to descend from hypersonic speed and land comfortably.

Connecting the dots:

  • There have been frequent allegations that ISRO’s missions are a waste of money given that India still struggles to provide people with the most basic of amenities. Critically comment.
  • What are the benefits of ISRO’s reusable space shuttles to India and how different is RLV space technology from PSLV and GSLV technology?

 

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