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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 16th November 2021

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  • November 16, 2021
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Chennai-Bengaluru road project

Part of: Prelims and GS-III- Infrastructure 

Context The Expert Appraisal Committee of the Environment Ministry has recommended phase-III of the eight-lane expressway between Chennai and Bengaluru for environment clearance.

Key takeaways 

  • Implemented by: National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
  • It passes through Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh and Vellore, Ranipet, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts of Tamil Nadu.
  • Objective: The project is meant to improve connectivity between Bengaluru and Chennai
  • It would also act as a link between the major commercial and industrial centres of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu
  • One animal underpass has also been proposed on the Forest Department’s recommendation

About Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Environment Ministry 

  • The EACs’ primary role in the environmental clearance (EC) process is to give recommendations to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on project proposals after considering the potential impacts of the project.
  • Based on these recommendations, the MoEFCC either rejects the proposal or grants a clearance with conditions which would mitigate the impacts or compensate for the same.

Monetary disbursement to States to sustain recovery

Part of: Prelims and GS-II – Center-state relations and GS-III- Economy

Context The Centre will remit Rs. 95,082 crore to States next week, which is double the funds due to them from the shareable pool of taxes to enable them to deploy more money on capital spending.

Key takeaways 

  • A meeting was held between the states and the Central government to figure out ways to sustain the economic recovery after the second COVID-19 wave and understand States’ concerns and plans
  • The context of the meeting: After the second wave, India is seeing a robust growth. However, it’s also a time where it plans to sustain the growth, take it as close as possible to a double-digit growth for which the Centre and States have to work together.

Suggested methods to achieve growth

  • States were urged to help India become the fastest growing economy in coming years.
  • Methods suggested 
    • Facilitating investment attractiveness 
    • Expediting ease of doing business measures 
    • Undertaking power sector reforms.
    • Smoothen land acquisition
    • Create land banks for investors 
    • Monetisation of public assets, 

Urban factors, the actual cause of pollution

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Environment 

Context In recent affidavits filed by the Centre and the Delhi Government to the Supreme Court, it has been highlighted that farm fires/stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh contributed to only 10% of the pollution.

Key takeaways 

  • Urban factors as major cause: Urban factors such as construction activities, industry, vehicular exhaust and road dust were actually the major causes of pollution in Delhi and not farmers’ stubble burning.
  • In the previous hearing, the court had questioned the narrow focus of the Centre and the Delhi Government on farmers.
  • Firm commitment needed: The SC, while insisting that stubble burning was not the major cause, urged the Centre, Delhi and the States towards a firm commitment to act against pollution.
  • Too few mechanised road sweepers: SC was shocked to realise that Delhi had only 69 mechanised road sweepers to cover all the streets of the Capital.
  • Urgent meeting: The court directed the Centre to call an urgent meeting in 24 hours with Punjab, Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to craft urgent and effective anti-pollution measures and their implementation.
  • The court also asked the Centre, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to introduce work from home for now.

Tech NEEV/नींव @75

Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Sci and tech

Context Union Minister of State for the Ministry of Science and Technology inaugurated “Tech NEEV/ नींव @75” as part of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav and interacted with successful start-ups including those from the tribal communities on the occasion of Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas.

Key takeaways 

  • Science Technology and Innovation (STI) Hubs: The Government will be setting up 30 Science Technology and Innovation (STI) Hubs in different parts of the country for Scheduled Tribes (STs) by end of 2022 to promote scientific talent among tribal communities and for their overall socio-economic development.
    • Out of 75 proposed STI Hubs for SCs/STs, 20 have already been established by Department of Science and Technology which will directly benefit 20,000 people through various interventions spreading across farm, non-farm and other allied livelihood sectors.
  • Tech NEEV is a year-long celebration highlighting the impact of Science Technology Innovation (STI) in empowering communities for creating equitable inclusive economic growth.
  • The 75 hour programme includes experience sharing of beneficiaries, community change leaders, societal changemakers conclave and round table discussions 

Exercise ‘SITMEX’

Part of: Prelims and GS-II – International Relations and GS-III – Defence and security

Context Indian Naval Ship (INS) Karmuk, an indigenously built Missile Corvette is participating in the 3rd edition of India, Singapore and Thailand Trilateral Maritime Exercise SITMEX – 21, from 15 to 16 Nov 21 in Andaman Sea.

Key takeaways 

  • SITMEX is being conducted annually since 2019 with an aim to enhance mutual inter-operability and imbibing best practices between Indian Navy (IN), RSN and RTN.
  • SITMEX-21 will fortify the long-standing bond of friendship and further enhance the cooperation between the participating navies towards augmenting the overall maritime security in the region.

Miscellaneous

Birsa Munda museum

  • Birsa Munda museum was recently inaugurated in Ranchi.
  • Nine other tribal museums — one each in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Manipur, Mizoram and Goa — would be opened soon.

Rani Kamalpati Railway Station

  • Habibganj railway station was recently renamed after Rani Kamlapati, an 18th century Gond queen.
  • The Gond community is the largest tribal group in India with more than 1.2 crore population.
  • The community is largely spread in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattsigarh and Jharkhand.

(News from PIB)


41st Scientific Expedition to Antarctica

Part of: GS Prelims and GS -II – International relations 

In News: India has successfully launched the 41st Scientific Expedition to Antarctica with the arrival of the first batch of its contingent at the southern white continent.

  • The first program encompasses geological exploration of the Amery ice shelf at Bharati station. This will help explore the link between India and Antarctica in the past.
  • The second program involves reconnaissance surveys and preparatory work for drilling of 500 meters of ice core near Maitri. It will help in improving the understanding of Antarctic climate, westerly winds, sea-ice and greenhouse gases from a single climate archive for past 10,000 years. The ice core drilling will be done in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey and the Norwegian Polar Institute. In addition to accomplishing scientific programs, it will replenish the annual supplies of food, fuel, provisions, and spares for operations and maintenance of life support systems at Maitri and Bharati.

The Indian Antarctic program

Began in 1981, and has completed 40 scientific expeditions, and built three permanent research base stations in Antarctica, named DakshinGangotri (1983), Maitri (1988) and Bharati (2012). As of today, Maitri and Bharati are fully operational. 

  • The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa—an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences—manages the entire Indian Antarctic program.
  • Dakshin Gangotri: First Indian scientific research base station established in Antarctica
  • Maitri: India’s second permanent research station in Antarctica. It is situated on the rocky mountainous region called Schirmacher Oasis. India also built a freshwater lake around Maitri known as Lake Priyadarshini.
  • Bharti: India’s latest research station operation since 2012. It is India’s first committed research facility.
  • Sagar Nidhi: In 2008, India commissioned the Sagar Nidhi, for research. An ice-class vessel, it can cut through the thin ice of 40 cm depth and is the first Indian vessel to navigate Antarctic waters.

News Source: PIB


India & ADB Sign $61 Million Loan

Part of: GS Prelims

In News: The Government of India and Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a $61 million loan to improve livability, harness technology, and promote new developments to accommodate the expanding population in Agartala city while building capacity of state agencies for improved service delivery.

  • The project is aligned to the vision of the Government of India’s Smart City Mission to upgrade urban infrastructure services and will improve livability in Agartala with provision of better road connectivity, flood resilient measures and making tourist places more attractive.
  • ADB will catalyze synergies with the smart city components being implemented in Agartala through an underground utility corridor with shifting of electrical lines, incorporating elderly, women, children, and differently abled responsive features, improving road geometry along with urban design interventions
  • The provision of an asset management and sustainability strategy, capacity-building of tourism operators and livelihood improvement of street vendors and artisans, will serve as a model to other assets and tourist attractions in Agartala, and other cities in the state of Tripura.

The Project 

  • Will build and upgrade 48 kilometers (km) of new or existing storm water drainage 
  • Construct 23 km of climate-resilient urban roads
  • Renovating open spaces and creating water recreation and lakeside walkways in the Maharaja Bir Bikram College lake and the Ujjayanta Palace which are major tourist attractions in the city.

News Source: PIB


(Mains Focus)


INTERNATIONAL/ ENVIRONMENT

  • GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests 
  • GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation 

Glasgow Climate Pact: Achievements & Disappointments

Context: The Glasgow Climate Pact was adopted on 13th Nov 2021 and, as was to be expected, it is a mixed bag of modest achievements and disappointed expectations. 

Modest Achievements

  • Tacit consensus on 1.5o target: The notional target of limiting the global temperature rise to 2 degrees celcius above pre-industrial levels (Paris Agreement) remains but the international discourse is now firmly anchored in the more ambitious target of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees to match the scale of the climate emergency.
  • Focus on Phasing down Coal: The Pact is the first clear recognition of the need to transition away from fossil fuels, though the focus was on giving up coal-based power altogether. The original draft had contained a pledge to “phase out” coal. India introduced an amendment at the last moment to replace it with “phase down”. 
    • The amendment from phase out to “phase down” came as a result of consultations among India, China, the UK and the US.
  • Recognition of the importance of Adaptation: World recognised that mere mitigation is not enough and that adaptation needs to be mainstreamed into developmental strategies. There is now a commitment to double the current finance available for this to developing countries.
  • Renewed Commitment for Climate Finance: The Paris Agreement target of $100 billion per annum between 2005-2020 was never met with the shortfall being more than half. There is now a renewed commitment to delivering on this pledge in the 2020-2025 period and there is a promise of an enhanced flow thereafter. 
  • Compensation for loss and damage for developing countries: This is now part of the multilateral discourse and the US has agreed that it should be examined in working groups. That is a step forward but is unlikely to translate into a meaningful flow of funds any time soon.
  • Methane Pledge: Agreement was signed among 100 countries to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
  • Reverse deforestation: Another group of 100 countries has agreed to begin to reverse deforestation by 2030. Since the group includes Brazil and Indonesia, which have large areas of forests that are being ravaged by legal and illegal logging, there is hope that there will be progress in expanding one of the most important carbon sinks on the planet. 
  • Clarity on Article 6 of Paris agreement– There is greater clarity on how bilateral carbon trades can proceed and the creation of a centralised hub that replaces Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism.
    • Criteria have been set out for countries to use CERs from projects registered after January 1, 2013 to meet their first NDC or first adjusted NDC. 
    • It also designates a 12-member Supervisory Body to oversee the emerging hub and to review the baselines of recognised credits
  • New commitments by India: PM announced India’s commitment to achieving net-zero carbon by 2070 that compared favourably with China’s target date of 2060. His announcements of enhanced targets for renewable energy were also welcomed. 
  • Pressure by Youth: There was incredible and passionate advocacy of urgent action by young people across the world. This is putting enormous pressure on governments and leaders and if sustained, may become irresistible

Disappoints

  • Inept Diplomacy by India: As the largest producer and consumer of coal and coal-based thermal power, China prefers a gradual reduction rather than total elimination. The word “phase down” also figures in the US-China Joint Declaration on Climate Change, announced on November 10. India introducing the amendment played negatively with both the advanced as well as a large constituency of developing countries.  It should made China to do so.
  • Inadequate Adaptation Finance: Climate finance for adaptation is currently only $15 billion, doubling will mean $ 30 billion. This remains grossly inadequate. According to UNEP, adaptation costs for developing countries are currently estimated at $70 billion annually and will rise to an estimated $130-300 billion annually by 2030. 
  • India declining to join new initiatives: India is not a part of the methane pledge group. India also did not join the reverse deforestation group due to concerns over a clause on possible trade measures related to forest products.
  • Bigger methane emergency in Permafrost Problem: Cutting methane emissions, which is generated mainly by livestock, is certainly useful but there is a much bigger methane emergency as the earth’s permafrost areas in Siberia, Greenland and the Arctic littoral begin to melt that would release huge volumes of carbon and methane.
  • US-China Declaration & India: The November 10 Joint declaration between US & China on Climate Change implies a shift in China’s hardline position. It appears both countries are moving towards a less confrontational, more cooperative relationship overall. This will have geopolitical implications, including for India, which may find its room for manoeuvre shrinking.
  • Lack of Concrete actions: There is more ambition in the intent to tackle climate change but little to show in terms of concrete actions. These have been deferred to future deliberations. Enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are expected to be announced at a meeting next year. There are no compliance procedures, only “name and shame” to encourage delivery on targets. 

Conclusion

  • The UK Presidency noted that as on 2019, only 30% of the world was covered by net zero targets and this had now moved close to 90%.
  • The text of the Glasgow agreement indicates that all countries should deliver climate plans to the UN on 5-year cycles starting from 2025 (submitting 2035 NDCs in 2025, 2040 NDCs in 2030) which is a step in right in ensuring accountability in climate actions.

Connecting the dots:


ENVIRONMENT/ ECONOMY

  • GS-3: Environmental Conservation
  • GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment. 

Deep-sea Mining for Building EV Batteries

Context: There is a growing concern on whether deep-sea mining for building electric vehicles is a sustainable approach or an invitation to another catastrophe? 

Almost 70% of our planet is an ocean and of that, 90% is the deep sea. It houses countless species ranging from minuscule zooplankton to the heaviest whales. This combination supports in maintaining the ecological cycle of our planet. 

However, human interferences have even reached that depth to disturb its peaceful state.

Mining investors are eying metals they can extract from the sea bed to build electric vehicle (EV) batteries. These talks are at their incipient stages but slowly making headlines. 

Deep Sea mining & E-Vehicles – A cause of concern

  • Rise in demand of E-Vehicles: The proponents of deep-sea mining claim that building EV batteries requires minerals such as cobalt, lithium, nickel, copper, vanadium and indium. Demand for these minerals will skyrocket with the rising demand for EVs. 
  • Sea offers alternative to Land minerals: The increased demand will put pressure on the existing land mineral ores, so there is a need to identify alternative sources to extract these minerals. Mineral deposited in deep sea, which can be extracted by deep sea mining technologies, can be this alternative source.
  • Consequences on Marine Ecosystem: However, deep-sea mining may potentially cause irreversible damage to aquatic life. 
    • So far, fluid jets are the most experimented machines for deep-sea mining that picks up nodules (a potato-size rock full of minerals required for EV batteries and takes millions of years to develop), along with a 15 centimetres sea-bed sediment layer. 
    • The unwanted sediments containing heavy metals are pumped back into the sea, creating sea pollution that can choke jellyfish and other species that transfer a significant amount of carbon back to the sea bed. 
    • There is also a possibility that we can lose species before even knowing that they exist. 

Deep Sea mining & E-Vehicles – An Opportunity

  • Reduces Batteries Cost: The market competition between land based mining and deep sea mining will foster innovation & also increases the supply in the market, thereby bringing down the cost of batteries & making Electric Vehicles affordable to common man.
  • Reduced Child Labour associated with Land Mining: A strategic claim made by the proponents of deep-sea mining is that it is a greener option than land-based mining and can significantly reduce child labour in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where abundant mineral mining sites are present

Also, the increasing demand for battery minerals will be moderated by following factors and hence the impact of deep sea mining on marine ecosystem is inflated:

  • Technological advancements in battery chemistry: Many projections assume use of current lithium-ion battery technology (incorporating cobalt and nickel) will continue despite the available and in-development alternatives of cobalt-free lithium-ion batteries such as lithium-iron-phosphate batteries. 
    • For example, Tesla’s EV battery requires neither cobalt or phosphate. General Motors in 2020 unveiled their battery system that uses 70 per cent less cobalt than current batteries. 
  • Advancements in Battery recycling: Simultaneously, the automobile sector is gearing up to invest in battery mineral recycling which will further reduce the future mineral demand. Battery recycling could reduce lithium demand by 25 per cent, cobalt by 35 per cent as well as nickel and copper by 55 per cent by 2040, according to the Institute of Sustainable Futures. 
    • China is leading this race with plans to set up a $5 billion recycling plant in Hubei province. Swedish startup Northvolt, a Volkswagen and BMW partner, plans to recycle 25,000 tonnes of batteries per year. 
    • The European Commission aims to cut down demand by 12 per cent for lithium, 4 per cent for cobalt and 4 per cent for nickel through battery recycling. 
  • Investment in public transport infrastructure: The future demand for minerals will also depend on the modal share of countries. In countries where governments bring down private motorised vehicle share by investing in and improving existing public transportation as well as implementing vehicle restraint measures, the demand for EV batteries will also be less. 

Way Ahead

  • We know there is a cost to both land and deep-sea mining. The former is known to cause severe environmental problems such as soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and pollution but the latter may also cause catastrophic disturbances in the deep sea, and a lot is yet to be known. 
  • However, we need to optimise the need for minerals in the first place
    • We should plan our cities where trips are more local in nature and can be made by walking and cycling so that there is little need to use a private electric car and hence, lower requirements of EV batteries.
    • Even if one goes for longer trips, we need to make sure that we have developed electricity-based public transportation for such purposes.
  • The developed and developing world assist the Democratic Republic of the Congo to eradicate child labor by questioning the origin of imported substances and boycotting them if child labour is involved in their production
  • We have just one planet and within this, we need to decide whether we should go ahead with our traditional approach of exploring, exploiting, depleting and then repeating or finding a more sustainable way out

Connecting the dots:


(Sansad TV: Perspective)


Nov 13: Investment in Green Technology – https://youtu.be/LqRFsfaLbf4 

TOPIC:

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS-3: Environmental Conservation
  • GS-3: Climate Change

Investment in Green Technology – Part 2

Click here for Part 1

Context: India has made significant commitments at COP26 towards climate action. These include fulfilling 50% of its energy requirement through renewable energy and bringing its non-fossil fuel energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030. All this will require huge investment in green technologies and big corporates are gearing up for this task. 

Green Hydrogen

Hydrogen is also emerging as an important source of energy since it has zero carbon content and is a non-polluting source of energy in contrast to hydrocarbons that have net carbon content in the range of 75–85 per cent. By moving to a hydrogen economy, India can not only reduce imports of oil, coal, and natural gas, but will also be able to export hydrogen to other countries in Europe and Asia.

Green hydrogen has specific advantages. 

  • Environment Friendly: Green Hydrogen as energy source is seen as the next big thing as its usage would lead to zero emissions
  • Potential to Decarbonise various sectors: It is a clean burning molecule, which can decarbonise a range of sectors including iron and steel, chemicals, and transportation. 
  • Efficient utilization of Renewable Energy: Renewable energy that cannot be stored or used by the grid can be channelled to produce hydrogen.
  • Reduced Dependence on Rare Minerals: Green Hydrogen also holds the key to clean electric mobility that doesn’t depend on rare minerals. Green Hydrogen helps achieve long-term vision of reduced dependency on minerals and rare-earth element-based battery as energy storage.
  • Helps Achieve Paris Goal: Green hydrogen energy is vital for India to meet its Nationally Determined Contributions and ensure regional and national energy security, access and availability
  • Energy Security: Green energy helps reduce import dependency on fossil fuels

How Hydrogen based vehicles are better than Battery based Electric Vehicles?

  • EV still has dependence on Coal: India’s electricity grid is predominantly coal-based and will continue to be so, thus negating collateral benefits from a large-scale EV push — as coal will have to be burnt to generate the electricity that will power these vehicles
  • In several countries that have gone in for an EV push, much of the electricity is generated from renewables — in Norway for example, it is 99 per cent from hydroelectric power.
  • Applicable to multiple sectors: Experts believe hydrogen vehicles can be especially effective in long-haul trucking and other hard-to-electrify sectors such as shipping and long-haul air travel. Using heavy batteries in these applications would be counterproductive, especially for countries such as India, where the electricity grid is predominantly coal-fired.
  • Efficiency: Hydrogen based vehicles enables a refuelling time of just five minutes, compared to 30-45 minutes charging for a Battery based EV. Also, consumers get about five times better energy storage per unit volume and weight

Conclusion

The challenges of green technological development is different in different settings, however, following approaches needs to be adopted to attain heights of excellence.

  • Investing more in research and development in the sustainable technological development sector.
  • Giving impetus to new ideas and imbibing a culture of scientific approach in students through missions such as Atal innovation mission.
  • Supporting the start-ups in the green/sustainable technological sector by providing them tax concessions, less interest loans and providing platform for the market exposure such as green technological expo.

Can you answer the following question?

Green hydrogen energy technologies come with their own problems. Is India ready? Critically examine.


(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note:

  • Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.

Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding Tech NEEV:

  1. The Government will be setting up 30 Science Technology and Innovation (STI) Hubs in different parts of the country for Scheduled Tribes (STs) by end of 2022 to promote scientific talent among tribal communities and for their overall socio-economic development.
  2. Tech NEEV is a year-long celebration highlighting the impact of Science Technology Innovation (STI) in empowering communities for creating equitable inclusive economic growth.
  3. It was launched under the Ministry of Education 

Which of the above is or are correct? 

  1. 1 and 2 only 
  2. 1 only 
  3. 2 and 3 only 
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Q.2 Which of the following would help India to become one of the fastest growing economies?

  1. Smooth and land acquisition 
  2. Create land banks for investors
  3. Monetisation of public assets 
  4. All of the above

Q.3 Gond community is the largest tribal group in India. The community is largely spread in which of the following states of India? 

  1. Madhya Pradesh 
  2. Chhattisgarh 
  3. Jharkhand 
  4. All of the above

ANSWERS FOR 15th Nov 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 B
2 C
3 A

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