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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs [Prelims + Mains Focus] – 7th February 2018

  • IASbaba
  • February 7, 2018
  • 3
IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 7th February 2018

Archives


(PRELIMS+MAINS FOCUS)


Bhutan, Nepal & Bangladesh to be part of India’s Tiger Census

Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Environmental conservation

Key pointers:

  • India’s tiger census, which began late last year, will see coordination with Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh in estimating the territorial spread of the animal in the subcontinent.
  • In a first, all countries will jointly estimate big cat numbers
  • While India has engaged with Nepal and Bangladesh in previous tiger counts, this is the first time all countries are uniting in arriving at tiger numbers, particularly in regions with shared borders.
  • Since 2006, the WII — a Union Environment Ministry-funded body — has been tasked with coordinating the tiger estimation exercise.
  • The once-in-four-years exercise calculated, in 2006, that India had only 1,411 tigers. This rose to 1,706 in 2010 and 2,226 in 2014 in later editions on the back of improved conservation measures and new estimation methods.
  • Commissioned by the Union Environment Ministry’s National Tiger Conservation Authority, the ₹10 crore exercise this year involves 40,000 forest guards traversing 4,00,000 sq. km. of forests; wildlife biologists independently assessing them; approximately a year’s duration of field work; 14,000 camera traps; and coordination with 18 States.
  • Along with tigers, the survey also collects information on the prey population of deer and other animals.

Article link: Click here


India-EU to step up cooperation to counter terrorism

Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Internal Security

Key pointers:

  • India and the European Union have vowed to step up cooperation to counter terrorism as both sides seek to exchange information on terrorists organisations and their safe havens.
  • Both countires are in close contacts with Indian institutions on counter-terrorism efforts. Under the existing uncertainties and doubts, India and EU have a lot in common. Both are in favour of a rules-based international order.
  • The joint statement on cooperation in combating terrorism that was agreed upon during the last India-EU Summit that was held in October.
    In the statement, both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation to take decisive and concerted actions against globally proscribed terrorists and terror entities.
  • During the summit it was agreed that both India and EU will explore opportunities to develop cooperation between the relevant institutions on both sides, to share information, best practices, including on countering the on-line threat of radicalisation, and to engage in capacity building activities, such as training and workshops.

Article link: Click here


(MAINS FOCUS)


ENVIRONMENT

TOPIC:

General Studies 2:

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

General Studies 3:

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Reducing GHGs emissions from Solid waste management

Background:

GHG emissions from solid waste disposal as reported to the UNFCCC in 2015/16 by India increased at the rate of 3.1per cent per annum between 2000 and 2010.

GHGs:

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) create a natural blanket around the Earth’s atmosphere by preventing some of the sun’s heat energy from radiating back into space, thus keeping the Earth warm.
Over the last century-and-a-half, human activities have added considerably to GHGs in the atmosphere, and that continues to result in global warming.
The global warming potential of methane is 25 times as much and nitrous oxide 298 times as much as that of carbon dioxide, over the long run (100 years).

Solid waste management and GHGs:

Activities involved in the management of solid waste generate (GHGs) results into release of gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and small amounts of nitrous oxide.
GHG emissions from solid waste disposal as reported to the UNFCCC in 2015/16 by India increased at the rate of 3.1per cent per annum between 2000 and 2010, and by China at 4.6per cent per annum between 2005 and 2012.

Way out:

The volume of waste sent to the landfill sites can be reduced if biodegradable waste is processed locally.
Aerobic decomposition into compost:

  • Aerobic decomposition with the help of microbes or earthworms (vermicomposting) to produce compost or organicfertiliser.
  • Compost helps store carbon back in the soil. Its usage reduces the need for chemical fertilisers which emit large quantities of nitrous oxide — both during production and in application— and thereby helps mitigate emissions. Compost also improves moisture retention in the soil.
  • Only two per cent of the municipal solid waste in India is composted.
  • The Supreme Court order of 2006 directed fertiliser companies to co-market city compost with chemical fertilisers.
    However, the government incentive of market development assistance for city compost at Rs 1,500 per tonne to fertiliser companies is no match for the capital subsidy and transport subsidy provided to chemical fertilisers, which renders compost uncompetitive vis-a-vis chemical fertilisers.

Anaerobic decompostion:

An alternative to composting for biodegradable waste is biomethanation or anaerobic decomposition.
Biomethanation generates biogas which is a substitute for fossil fuel and produces slurry which is an excellent organic fertiliser, both helping to mitigate global warming.
Local processing also means that biomethanation saves on transportation.
Very few Indian cities are trying biomethanation because segregation at source and feeding biodegradable waste to the plants in time remain a major challenge.

Recycling of waste:

It helps reduce GHG emissions because the energy required to manufacture a product using virgin materials is higher than when using recycled materials.
While India has had a tradition of recycling paper, glass, metals, etc with the engagement of the informal sector, lack of segregation comes in the way of realising the full potential of recycling. This is particularly true for paper that soils easily when waste is mixed.
Only 27 per cent of paper in India is recycled, compared with 60 per cent in Japan and 73 per cent in Germany (CPPRI, 2013). Recycling requires up to 50 per cent less energy compared to production of paper based on wood pulp, and it also saves trees from being cut.

Refuse Derived Fuel:

The non-biodegradable and non-recyclable waste other than hazardous waste (batteries, CFLs, etc), can be converted into Refuse Derived Fuel for use in high-temperature furnaces, for example, in cement kilns and power plants.
Technologies are also available for controlled incineration and/or gasification for energy recovery from this waste. These are commonly referred to as “waste-to-energy” plants.

Landfills: Not a viable option
If incineration is not desirable or acceptable, the solution is not simply to dump untreated mixed waste at landfill sites.
Issues with landfills-

  • Landfills in India are neither scientifically engineered nor scientifically closed.
  • They serve as open dumpsites.
  • The discarded plastics in the mixed waste are a major contributor to dumpsite fires.
  • Disposal of mixed waste including biodegradable matter (sometimes as high as 60per cent) in these dumpsites provides a perfect anaerobic environment for generation of methane and leachate.
  • One tonne of biodegradable waste releases 0.84 tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions if left to decompose anaerobically.
  • The untreated disposal of mixed municipal solid waste at landfill sites is around 80per cent for Mumbai and Chennai, 50-60per cent for Delhi and Bengaluru, and 35per cent for Pune.
    This implies that Mumbai emitted 921 k-tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent of GHG gases from landfill sites in 2016, equal to annual emissions from 1,96,000 typical cars. For Delhi, the estimate is 137,000 cars.

Solution:

Bioremediation offers a relatively quick and inexpensive mitigation instrument for reducing the GHG emissions from landfill sites through aerobic decomposition of organic fraction of the waste.

Lessons from other countries:

GHG emissions from solid waste have been declining in Germany and Japan.
A ban on landfilling of non-pre-treated waste in Germany has led to 47 per cent of the waste being recycled, and 36 per cent incinerated.
In Japan, 75 per cent of the waste is incinerated, while 21 per cent is recycled.
The regulations in both countries ensure that incinerators have state-of-the-art emission control technologies, and the directly landfilled municipal solid waste is as low as one per cent.

Conclusion:

India needs to get its act together to improve its municipal solid waste management with the triple objective of resource recovery, improving public health conditions and mitigating the risks associated with human-induced global warming.

Connecting the dots:

  • What is the relation between solid waste disposal and GHG emissions? In this light, managing solid waste can help tackle climate change too. Discuss.

AGRICULTURE/ECONOMY

TOPIC:

General Studies 2:

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

General Studies 3:

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment
  • Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies

Farmers need economic freedom

Introduction:

Farm incomes have virtually stagnated for the past four years, mostly owing to – falling prices, an output glut, large untimely imports and demonetisation.

India with a huge population dependent on agriculture for livelihood, increasing their purchasing power becomes extremely important. Because the growth of larger economy depends on economic potential and power of this group itself.

Therefore, such slow growth in farm incomes doesn’t augur well for the government’s stated objective of doubling farmer incomes by 2022.

This article deals with –

  • How to improve their incomes and productivity?
  • How to wean away a big chunk of the workforce from agriculture?
  • What are the concerns in farm sector?
  • Recent Budget measures.

Recent Budget Measures:

Some of the Budget measures deserve applaud:

  • Government has decided to offer a minimum support price (MSP) of at least 1.5 times the expenses borne by farmers for all crops.
  • The tax holiday for farm producer companies, i.e. 100% tax deduction to farmer producer companies with annual turnover of Rs 100 crore for the period of 5 years.
  • Another farm-friendly measure was the announcement of 22,000 village-level mini-marts or Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs) – that would enable a direct link between farmer producers and consumers, and thus bypass the burdensome APMCs (agricultural produce market committees).
  • “Operation Green” – to promote Farmer Producers’ Organization (FPOs), agri logistics and processing. It aims to increase shelf-life of perishable commodities.

All these are a step in the right direction. However, there is need for a true solution than some of the piecemeal Band Aid-type fixes.

Concern:

The MSP has always been a political instrument. The recommendations of the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) have often been overruled in the cabinet, to accommodate the political demands of coalition partners from certain states.

The actual fiscal resource set aside for the large MSP hike is not very much. Besides, there is some lack of clarity on the base for calculating the cost of cultivation.

It is important to note that since 1950s, the farm story has been one of continuous and intrusive price and movement controls, monopoly food procurement, storage and distribution, with massive attendant leakages, with innumerable piecemeal Band Aid-type fixes.

Farming is never accorded the status of a business, to be run along capitalist principles, with unshackled economic freedom, so that the farmer can plan, sow, reap, sell and distribute as he deems best.

Most of the famers are denied direct access to consumers, to forward markets, to capital, technology and to corporate structure. And this is the basic flaw in our approach or farm policy. Farmers are not free to sell to any buyer they wish but must go through the APMC.

For example, for the past 10 years, all exports of pulses have been banned. This was presumably for food security and price stability. But this export ban has hurt farmers, who couldn’t take advantage of high prices.

Indeed, it’s in countries where bourgeois capitalism sprouted and flourished in agriculture (e.g. Japan, Switzerland) that farmers enjoy a high standard of living.

When prices of food crops go up, the Central government swings into action, clamping down on exports, bringing in zero-duty imports, imposing stocking and storage limits, and so on. But when the opposite happens, that is when prices crash, often, there is no corresponding reverse rescue. This is an example of the inherent urban bias in India’s agriculture policy, which persists to this day.

The real solution:

Export restrictions must go. Monopoly procurement must go. Essential Commodities Act restrictions must go. Arbitrary stocking limits must go.

Therefore, in order to truly unshackle the farmer and farm sector, it is important to accept the paradigm that what the farmer needs is more economic freedom, not more price and quantity controls, and cleverly designed subsidies.

For instance, removing the concept of a minimum export price for all crops is a step in that direction. It acknowledges the right of the farmer to tap into an international price, without constraint.

Doubling agricultural income by 2022 is a mammoth task but is also one that is the need of the hour. With majority of the country’s population dependant on agricultural activities, no true development can be said to be meaningful unless it incorporates the needs of this sector.

There are intense complexities and therefore, the focus of the government on this sector is much needed. The journey to double the farmers’ income is a long and very tedious but the journey has begun. The need is to ensure that the implementation in right direction by all stakeholders is uniform, effective and done whole heartedly.

Connecting the dots:

  • Critically analyze the strategies outlined by the Indian government to achieve the target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. Elaborate on the need to make structural changes in Indian agriculture and what more is required to achieve the target.

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