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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 6th June, 2016

  • June 6, 2016
  • 2
IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis, IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs June 2015, UPSC
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 6th June, 2016

 

ENVIRONMENT 

 

TOPIC:

General Studies 1:

  • Geography – Key natural resources across the world (including India), exploitation of natural resources

General Studies 3:

  • Environment and Ecology, Bio diversity – Conservation, environmental degradation, environmental impact assessment, Environment versus Development

 

New Draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016

Wetlands:

  • Wetlands are areas where water controls or regulates the environment, and any animal or plant life.
  • They occur where the water table is at or near the surface of the land, or where land is covered by water.
  • Wetlands are cradles of biological diversity and are among the world’s most productive environments.
  • They provide water upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for survival. Wetlands support high concentrations of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibian, fish and invertebrate species.
  • They are also important storehouses of plant genetic material. Rice, for example, which is a common wetland plant, is the staple diet for more than half of humanity.

There are six kinds of wetlands:

  1. Marine or coastal wetlands which include coastal lagoons, rocky shores, and coral reefs
  2. Estuarine wetlands including deltas, tidal marshes and mangrove swamps
  3. Lacustrine wetlands associated with lakes
  4. Riverine wetlands along rivers and streams
  5. Palustrine wetlands, essentially marshes, swamps and bogs
  6. Man-made wetlands like fish, shrimp and farm ponds, irrigated agricultural land, salt pans, reservoirs, gravel pits and canals.

Functions of wetland

  • Habitat to aquatic flora and fauna as well as numerous species of birds including migratory species
  • Filtration of sediments and nutrients from surface water
  • Nutrients recycling
  • Water purification
  • Floods mitigation
  • Maintenance of steam flow
  • Ground water recharging
  • Provide drinking water, fish, fodder, fuel etc
  • Control rate of runoff in urban areas
  • Buffer shorelines against erosion
  • Compromise an important resource for sustainable tourism, recreation and culture heritage
  • Stabilisation of local climate
  • Source of livelihood to local people
  • Genetic reservoir for various species of plants
  • Supporting specific diversity

 

Reasons for depletion

  • Conversion of lands for agriculture
  • Overgrazing
  • Removal of sand from beds
  • Aqua culture
  • Habitat destruction and deforestation
  • Pollution
  • Domestic waste
  • Agricultural runoff
  • Industrial effluents
  • Climate change

Mitigation

  • Survey and demarcation
  • Protection of natural regeneration
  • Artificial regeneration
  • Protective measures
  • Afforestation (percentage survival to be indicated)
  • Weed control
  • Soil conservation measures & afforestation
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Removal of encroachments
  • Eutrophication abatement
  • Environmental awareness

Critical analysis of Draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016

What the new rules intend to do?

  • The government is all set to change the rules on wetlands.
  • The new draft rules, is to replace the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules of 2010.
  • The new draft Rules, 2016 seeks to give full authority to the States to decide what they must do with their wetlands and also to decide which wetlands should be protected and what activities should be allowed or regulated, while making affable calls for ‘sustainability’ and ‘ecosystem services’.

Giving more power to the States: Will it be a viable solution?

  • The new Draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016 seek to give power to the States to decide what they must do with their wetlands.
  • They can also decide on which wetlands should be protected and what activities should be allowed or regulated
  • However, how states will identify and conserve the wetlands is not mentioned and required a rethink

In addition to that, ‘three issues’ are of immediate concern:

  1. The draft does away with the Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority, which had suo moto cognizance (which could take action on its own) of wetlands and their protection.
  2. The draft rules contain no ecological criteria for recognising wetlands, such as biodiversity, reefs, mangroves, and wetland complexes.
  3. And finally it has deleted sections on the protection of wetlands, and interpretation of harmful activities which require regulation, which found reference in the 2010 rules.


Case I: Experiments with water systems

Off lately, we have heard/read several news in regard to efforts made at engineering water systems and augmenting water supply. But what is the need for the hour is, “strengthening the capacities of ecological systems”. There have been many recent attempts at this sort of engineering —

For instance,

  • Karnataka had dredged its rivers, now other States may follow suit.
  • The Ken and Betwa rivers in Madhya Pradesh are to be interlinked, and we have a history of building dams and barrages to store water.
  • Parliament has already passed a Waterways Act, which will make navigation channels of 111 rivers, by straightening, dredging, and creating barrages.

All these above projects require serious ecological consideration and effective impact assessment.

Environmental impacts due to these projects

  • River dredging may increase the capacity of a river channel, but can also interfere with underground reservoirs. Over-dredging can destroy these reservoirs.
  • River interlinking changes hydrology and can benefit certain areas from a purely anthropocentric perspective, but does nothing to augment water supply to other non-target districts.
  • Constructions of barrages have impacts on ecosystems and economies: the commercially important hilsa fish are no longer found in the Padma river after the construction of the Farraka barrage across the Ganges.

Case II: Experiments with Wetland systems would be fiercer

  • In the case of wetlands like ponds, lakes and lagoons, the contestations are more fierce. Who owns the wetland is a common quandary — and what happens to the wetland also depends on this.
  • Asia’s largest freshwater oxbow lake, the Kanwar lake in Bihar, has shrunk to one-third of its size due to encroachment, much like Jammu and Kashmir’s Dal lake.
  • Water sources like streams, which go into lakes, also get cut off, as is the case of lakes in Bengaluru and streams in the Delhi Ridge.

The political pressure to usurp water and wetlands as land is high — and for this reason, States have failed to secure perimeters and catchment areas or notify wetlands.

Therefore, the new Draft Wetland Rules awarding full authority to the States will not be a viable solution to protect wetlands.

The way ahead:

  • Protecting wetlands is particularly a complex case and warrants more checks and balances.
  • In the present proposed scenario, where there is an absence of scientific criteria for identifying wetlands, it is imperative to have a second independent functioning authority.
  • What comprises a wetland is an important question that the Rules should answer. (which it has failed)

Identifying/recognizing a wetland

  • Historically, as wetlands did not earn revenue, they were marked as ‘wastelands’.
  • There are lakhs of wetlands which still needs to be identified by the government.
  • Significantly, the 2010 rules had outlined criteria for wetland identification including genetic diversity, outstanding natural beauty, wildlife habitats, corals, coral reefs, mangroves, heritage areas, and so on.
  • The Ramsar Convention rules are the loftiest form of wetland identification that the world follows. Ramsar has specific criteria for choosing a wetland as a Ramsar site, which distinguishes it as possessing ‘international importance’.
  • An important distinguishing marker is that Ramsar wetlands should support significant populations of birds, fish, or other non-avian animals.

The new draft Rules 2016 has removed the ecological and other criteria for wetland identification and protection and also the examples of activities that could hamper this physical functioning.

Use and non-use

  • Regulation of activities on a wetland and their “thresholds” are to be left entirely to local or State functionaries.
  • There are insufficient safeguards for the same, with the lack of any law-based scientific criteria or guidance.

(The 2016 Draft Wetland Rules also call for wise use of wetlands. ‘Wise use’ is a concept used by the Ramsar Convention, and is open to interpretation)

  • It could mean optimum use of resources for human purpose.
  • It could mean not using a wetland so that we eventually strengthen future water security.
  • It could also mean just leaving the wetland and its catchment area as is for flood control, carbon sequestration, and water recharge functions.

Finally, in a country which is both water-starved as well as seasonally water-rich, it is not just politics and use that should dictate how wetlands are treated. Sustainability cannot be reached without ecology.

Towards this end, our wetland rules need to reinforce wetlands as more than open sources of water, and there is a need to revise how wetlands should be identified and conserved.

Connecting the dots:

  • Critically analyze the newly drafted Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016. Give your own suggestions what strategies can the Indian government adopt to protect the wetlands.

 

ECONOMICS

TOPIC: General studies 2

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

 

A Global puzzling phenomenon—Between Innovations & Productivity

  • Productivity is commonly defined as a ratio between the output volume and the volume of inputs—measuring how efficiently production inputs, such as labour and capital, are being used in an economy to produce a given level of output
  • Productivity is considered a key source of economic growth and competitiveness and, as such, is basic statistical information for many international comparisons and country performance assessments—
    • To investigate the impact of product and labour market regulations on economic performance
    • To assess demand and inflationary pressures
    • Constitutes an important element for modelling the productive capacity of economies
    • Allows analysts to determine capacity utilisation, which in turn allows one to gauge the position of economies in the business cycle and to forecast economic growth

The Depressing Scenario of Productivity slowdown

Since the global financial crisis erupted in 2008, productivity growth in the advanced economies has been very slow both in absolute terms and relative to previous decades. Earlier waves of innovation in technology and management strategies have been fully put into place across America and other developed countries but the results have been dismal—they are no longer increasing productivity. This perspective stood at crossroads with the new thinking-order of new innovations—that these innovations would herald an increase in productivity growth and improve the way we live and work.

Breakthrough Innovations:

  • ET (energy technologies, including new forms of fossil fuels such as shale gas and oil and alternative energy sources such as solar and wind, storage technologies, clean tech, and smart electric grids)
  • BT (biotechnologies, including genetic therapy, stem cell research, and the use of big data to reduce health-care costs radically and allow individuals to live much longer and healthier lives)
  • IT (information technologies, such as Web 2.0/3.0, social media, new apps, the Internet of Things, big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality devices)
  • MT (manufacturing technologies, such as robotics, automation, 3D printing, and personalized manufacturing)
  • FT (financial technologies that promise to revolutionize everything from payment systems to lending, insurance services and asset allocation)
  • DT (defence technologies, including the development of drones and other advanced weapon systems)

 

Productivity Puzzle— Why have these innovations not yet led to a measured increase in productivity growth?

History wins: Technological innovations of the First and Second Industrial Revolutions were much better than the present day innovations. (The productivity-enhancing impacts of present-day inventions have been argued to have waned)

Measurement woes: It is difficult to measure the new information-intensive goods and services as well as- the standard measuring materials might just have been lagging behind in the age of globalised innovations and value system. For example, many experts argue that the free goods associated with free internet aren’t able to find a way to be measured (Productivity being at our fingertips and still not getting accounted— Under-measurement of output)

Permanent lag: The technological and the behavioural tools take time to complement each other and therefore, an innovation does not necessarily mean that it would reach the other end at the same speed, as the other end needs to develop itself as well to nurture that technology. Hence, a time lag is a permanent factor that has always existed.

Accompanying factors towards Stagnation: With the financial crisis leading to a meltdown in productivity, there are other factors as well— aging populations and lower investment in physical capital leading to a lower trend growth

Weak Recovery post the 2008 crisis:

  • If workers remain unemployed for too long, they lose their skills and human capital;
  • As technological innovation is embedded in new capital goods, low investment leads to permanently lower productivity growth

The Indian Ecosystem—

India ranks 54th in internal policy support to global innovation

Reasons behind poor performance of India in generating measurable innovative activity

Lack of investment in basic and applied science and technology that is essential for innovation which, in turn, accelerates the pace of intellectual property activities

No transmission of existing knowledge, which is the basis for the generation of new knowledge

  • Lack of rigorous scientific study
  • Lack of perspective building and prioritising
  • Religious system of beliefs
  • Climate fostering “un-questioning” undermining scientific inquiry and questioning

‘Costly’ Affair impeding Innovation: Diversion of funds from productive R&D towards litigation and discovery/licenses

Monopoly: Little choice and no incentive to work on the complaints as the market is captured, damaging society’s development

Restriction on Technological Progress& Legal Risks: More number of false claims, thereby diverting energy of innovators towards defending and not producing/discovering which, in turn, affects their creativity.

Low Inclusion of Indians: World Intellectual Property Organisation statistics states that only about 22 per cent of all patents granted by the Indian Patent Office were granted to Indian residents thus, questioning the strategic as well as economic sense behind the protection that excludes Indians from benefiting from it.

 

Promotion of Innovation by the Government—

President of India declared decade 2010-20 as the “decade of innovation”— to develop an innovation eco-system in the country to stimulate innovations and to produce solutions for the societal needs in terms of healthcare, energy, urban infrastructure, water and transportation.

Science technology and innovation (STI) policy 2013:

  • Promoting the spread of scientific temper among all sections of society
  • Establishing world class infrastructure for R&D for gaining global leadership in some select frontiers of science
  • Positioning India among top 5 global scientific powers by 2020
  • Seeding S&T based high risk innovation systems

NITI Aayog initiatives:

  • Atal Innovation Mission (AIM): AIM will be an Innovation Promotion Platform involving academics, entrepreneurs, and researchers- to draw upon national and international experiences to foster a culture of innovation, R&D in India. The platform will also promote a network of world-class innovation hubs and grand challenges for India to solve.
  • Self-Employment & Talent Utilization (SETU): SETU will be a Techno-Financial, Incubation and Facilitation Programme to support all aspects of start-up businesses, and other self-employment activities, particularly in technology-driven areas.
  • Recommendations by NITI Aayog panel on Innovation headed by Prof. Tarun Khanna:
  • Private sector should help fund R&D (research labs at universities and start-ups)
  • Improved tax benefits for investments equivalent to a percentage of corporate profits
  • Increase in investment in business incubators with up to 200 crore rupees public spending per year and roping in of the private sector for the same
  • ‘Make in Universities’ program (Setting up of 500 tinkering labs; create products that address local problems, with one 3D printer per institute)
  • ‘Grand Prizes Approach’ to finding ultra-low-cost solutions (to India’s most difficult and nagging problems)
  • All contracts with foreign defence companies above 5 billion dollars should include a clause for five percent of contract value to be directed to establish research-centric universities with strong emphasis on its core product areas
  • Establishing a fund-of-funds (FOF): To seed other early stage venture funds with a corpus of 5000 crore rupees

 

Bharat Innovation Fund:

  • A public-private-academia partnership set up by Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad’s Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) (managed and coordinated)
  • Launched by the PM during the Startup Konnect event in California—To support innovation and innovative startups in areas of healthcare and life-sciences, sustainability, and digital technologies

Connecting the Dots:

  1. Can slow productivity growth be viewed just as a down payment on a much brighter future? Discuss.
  2. Critically analyse the measures taken by the government to promote an ecosystem of innovation in India

 

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