IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 9th December, 2016
TOPIC:General Studies 3
Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation
Integrating Biodiversity with development
Recently, the PM himself made his environmental concerns clear when he asked people to use idols mad of clay then plaster of Paris which is more harmful to environment when immersed in water.
This should stimulate the environmental consciousness of people to encourage the preservation of precious natural resources.
It has to be understood and engraved in the attitude that an eco-friendly approach in every socio-economic activity should be followed.
Biodiversity is the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part of
This includes diversity within species (genetic diversity), between species (species diversity) and of ecosystems (ecosystem diversity).
It provides services such as water purification and supply, waste assimilation and the cleaning of air and water, regulation of pests and diseases, and soil nutrient cycling and fertility.
It also helps mitigate unpredictable global changes and natural disasters.
Therefore, a rich biodiversity is the basis for good health, food security, economic growth, livelihood security and moderation of climatic conditions.
Today, the annual contribution of biodiversity to the world is put at $33 trillion. More than 70% of the world’s poor live in rural areas and are directly dependent on the ecosystem/biodiversity goods and services for their survival.
Biodiversity forms the foundation of the vast array of ecosystem services that critically contribute to human well-being. They also act as a safety net to indigenous peoples, poor and vulnerable groups, women and children.
However, this unique and critical asset has come under pressure due to anthropogenic reasons.
India and biodiversity
India is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries which is rich in biodiversity and its associated traditional knowledge systems.
Due to its size, range of topography, altitude and climate, India exhibits a rich variety of ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, deserts, wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs.
These provide basic needs such as food, fibre, medicine, fodder, fuel wood and timber.
Around 1.2 billion people coexist with 8% of recorded species, which includes over 45,000 species of plants and 91,000 species of animals.
India’s tribal population is also dependent on forests and natural resources to a significant extent.
Bringing Biodiversity in foreground
Though India possess 18% of the world’s population but it has only 2.4% of land and 4.2% water resources.
For a higher GDP growth rate, rapid development that pertains to industry and infrastructure is required.
But the development activities have sought to greatly affect the biodiversity.
Natural resources such as water, forests, fisheries and marine resources are being overexploited, which in turn affects their renewability. A recent study has shown that India will become water scarce by 2025.
Also, the emissions from industry and the transport sectors are at a high level. There is indiscriminate discharge of solid wastes, industrial effluents and domestic sewage with considerable impact.
Therefore, there is a need of proactive efforts in ecosystem management that involve government and community as such work cannot be done in isolation.
Presence of biodiversity
Many economic sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, health, nutrition, water supply, energy, trade, industry, transport and tourism depend on biodiversity. As a result, the use of biodiversity also impacts biodiversity.
Biodiversity conservation has traditionally been the responsibility of the environment sector. Its enforcement is done by taking measures through legal decisions, ‘polluters pay’ principles as well as the incorporation of protected areas.
But, the development sector generally ignores its responsibility towards biodiversity conservation. With development in mind, the effects and impact on surroundings is generally ignored.
Many times this leads to harmful effect on environment. Hence a more responsible approach towards biodiversity management by mainstreaming it is required.
It means integrating actions related to conservation and promoting the sustainable use of biodiversity in strategies relating to production sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism, and mining.
It also refers to including biodiversity considerations in poverty reduction and national sustainable development plans.
Mainstreaming helps to reduce the negative impacts on biodiversity. For example, in agriculture, strategies to minimise the use of chemicals and optimise the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides reduce negative impacts on soil, groundwater, surrounding habitats and wildlife can be implemented.
What can be done?
Small-scale farming or aquaculture activities undertaken in a sustainable manner might prove to be a relief to wild species.
Positive biodiversity impacts might also be optimised through promoting people’s access to benefits derived from the use of biological resources.
Community-based joint forest management, promotion of traditional multi-species and multi-variety agricultural practices, securing access to medicinal resources for local use, strengthening traditional and cultural practices, and governing the use of wild resources are few examples
Fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of biological resources and the knowledge associated thereto (one of the objectives of the Convention of Biological diversity, or CBD, and the Biological Diversity Act of India) by users (industries) to the providers (communities) act as incentives to local communities in the conservation and sustainable use of bio-resources.
Each sector should understand its relationship with biodiversity and come up with appropriate mechanisms for conservation and sustainable biodiversity use.
Here, the involvement of Central/State Ministries and Departments is equally important and needed.
The research institutions should be more proactive and come up with appropriate management strategies, with budget options.
To achieve many national and international biodiversity goals such as the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans, Aichi Biodiversity Targets and CBD objectives, biodiversity integration into developmental sectors is a prerequisite.
This will promote holistic valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services thereby strengthening cases of investment in development sectors by governments and the private sector.
Connecting the dots:
Can biodiversity be integrated with development? Examine.
General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General Studies 3
Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology
The idea of Digital Democracy
The present government has shown one of the most digitally savvy administrative functioning that India has had till date.
The digital smarts and social media popularity of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet are now being actively leveraged to establish a direct connect between the Government and its citizens.
If compared to Akbar’s modern day diwan-e-aam, parallels can be drawn where an aggrieved citizen, however lowly he may be, can approach the government directly and report the injustices.
This is being made possible through the e-governance initiatives of the present NDA government through digital connectivity.
The examples are prompt replies from Union ministers of external affairs and railways to consumer grievances with respect to their portfolios via their Twitter handles. Many ministerial statements and policy decisions of the Centre are conveyed not just on the PIB website, but also through ministerial Twitter handles.
Also, if there are any sought of clarifications needed on dense policy subject, the secretaries to government solve the concern.
What happens in a democracy?
The democracy implies the limitation of state’s powers and evokes more of a bottom-up process.
In order to open way for a digital democracy, public action is necessary. The marketplace is not always the best mechanism to ensure basic values. Technological changes are ambivalent and may lead to different kinds of information society.
It largely depends on how ICTs are applied and how public authorities are able to frame their usage.
Propagating the idea of digital democracy
The central government is actively involved in soliciting the citizen’s participation in policymaking through three distinct digital initiatives.
If a citizen is keen to receive regular updates on what the Government is up to, the government has provided for a My Government portal (https://www.mygov.in)
This portal puts the subscriber on the mailing list to receive regular updates on new announcements, participate in government surveys and discussion boards, and even offer your services or suggestions to upcoming government projects or policy announcements.
The response to this initiative has been encouraging. The data shows that some 39 lakh citizens were registered with the MyGov portal and had posted 35 lakh comments on various discussions live on the site.
The union budget 2017 ideas had received about 2500 suggestions. Revenue ideas for the Indian Railways elicited 3,500 posts — ranging from fixing solar panels on the roofs of trains to ferrying fruits and vegetables in AC coaches!
Instant grievance redressal
There is a concerted push to transform the Twitter handles of different ministries into e-Sewa or grievance redressal platforms for citizens.
So, if a person faces any problem with any of public service and if the person has a twitter handle, the complaint can be tweeted straight to the concerned ministry.
Currently, ministries of railways, external affairs and communications are already on this platform. Also, there are police forces of few states who use this platform for prompt services.
The government has now begun to regularly update its draft policies and made it public to receive comments. This enhances public participation
Along with it, polls and surveys are taken so as to immediately identify people’s first reaction to administrative decisions taken.
For example, the controversial demonetisation decision had generated a poll via Narendra Modi app where 90% of the 5 lakh subscribers gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
Thus, there are many such future prospects to scale up the scope of this government-citizen interface to more areas of governance.
Power of the people
The digital outreach empowers citizens in three ways.
It enhances the accountability of elected representatives. After casting one’s vote, one need not be a passive spectator to the whims and fancies of the ruling regime until the next election crops up.
It bypasses the army of bureaucrats that stands between the Government and citizen, thereby reducing scope of corruption
People can express their views directly to the government via internet and need not belong to a powerful lobby group or be a crony capitalist.
Challenge- the limited internet
The most basic thing that has to be never forgotten is that the internet numbers do not reflect the reactions of a common man.
This is because the digital access is yet to be universalised in India where it is currently available with elite few.
As of June 2016, India was home to 35 crore internet subscribers (source: TRAI), with nearly 18 crore of those subscribers still on narrowband.
This can be very dodgy considering the fact that to post one’s thoughts on the MyGov portal, one needs uninterrupted internet access.
Broadband internet connections stood at 16 crore, just 12% of the Indian population. Only a fraction of those users own a Twitter handle (about 3% of the population) or Facebook account (about 15%)
The numbers may sound encouraging but it is beaucse of double counting. Businesses and well-to-do households in the metros own multiple internet connections and thus, real numbers need to be arrived by removing duplication.
A pew survey showed that internet usage in India varied widely based on age, gender and income levels. About 22% of Indians use the net, but usage is much lower for women (17%), people in the 35-plus age group (12%) and those in lower-income groups (11%).
Thus, given the cost of owning smartphone and available data packs, the % of population that is constantly on the internet is very low.
Expansion of networks to reach underserved population
Ensure affordable access
Promote good governance by removing digital and policy level obstacles
Create local content and capital, encourage local technical skills, support local entrepreneurs and use local institutions to further democratic principles.
The government should identify the challenges and work upon multiple mega-projects to make internet access more inclusive — from the rollout of pan-India optic fibre networks to the opening of wifi hotspots at gram panchayats.
A digital democracy is the future which will encourage literacy, freedom of communication and environment of transparency and accountability.
Connecting the dots:
What is digital democracy? How is it significant for the development of democracy? Critically analyse.