(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: Prelims and GS-I -Culture
Context: The Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysala — the Hoysala temples of Belur, Halebid and Somananthpura in Karnataka — has been finalised as India’s nomination for consideration as UNESCO’s World Heritage for 2022-23.
About UNESCO’s World Heritage
- A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
- World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance
About Hoysala Architecture
- Hoysala architecture is the building style developed under the rule of the Hoysala Empire between the 11th and 14th centuries, mostly concentrated in southern Karnataka.
- Hoysala temples are sometimes called hybrid or vesara as their unique style seems between Dravida and Nagara styles.
- The Hoysala temples contain multiple shrines grouped around a central pillared hall and laid out in the shape of an intricately-designed star.
- They are made out of soapstone which is a relatively soft stone.
- They are easily distinguishable from other medieval temples by their highly original star-like ground-plans and a profusion of decorative carvings.
- Some of the famous temples are:
- Hoysaleshvara temple at Halebid, Karnataka that was built in dark schist stone by the Hoysala king in 1150
- Chennakeshava temple in Somnathpura, Karnataka built around AD 1268 under Narasimha III
- Kesava temple at Belur, Karnataka built by Vishnuvardhana.
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS-II International Relations
Context: The African Union recently suspended Burkina Faso a week after the volatile country suffered its latest coup.
Image courtesy: Researchgate
About African Union
- It is a continental union consisting of 55 countries of Africa.
- In 2017, the AU admitted Morocco as a member state.
- The AU was announced in the Sirte Declaration in Sirte, Libya in 1999.
- It was founded in 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- It was launched in 2002 in Durban, South Africa.
- The AU’s secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS-III Economy
Context: In a recent report, State Bank of India has stated that the stage is set for a reverse repo normalization.
What is monetary policy normalization in India?
- The Reserve Bank of India, keeps tweaking the total amount of money in the economy to ensure smooth functioning.
- As such, when the RBI wants to boost economic activity it adopts a so-called “loose monetary policy”.
- There are two parts to such a policy i.e., injecting more money (liquidity) into the economy and RBI also lowers the interest rate it charges banks when it lends money to them; this rate is called the repo rate.
- The reverse of a loose monetary policy is a “tight monetary policy” and it involves the RBI raising interest rates and sucking liquidity out of the economy by selling bonds (and taking money out of the system).
- When any central bank finds that a loose monetary policy has started becoming counterproductive (for example, when it leads to a higher inflation rate), the central bank “normalizes the policy” by tightening the monetary policy stance.
- Under normal circumstances, that is when the economy is growing at a healthy pace, the repo rate becomes the benchmark interest rate in the economy.
- However, the reverse repo had become the benchmark rate in India since the start of the Covid pandemic.
What is reverse repo normalization?
- Reverse repo normalization means the reverse repo rates will go up.
- Over the past few months, in the face of rising inflation, several central banks across the world have either increased interest rates or signaled that they would do so soon.
- In India, too, it is expected that the RBI will raise the repo rate. But before that, it is expected that the RBI will raise the reverse repo rate and reduce the gap between the two rates.
- This process of normalization, which is aimed at curbing inflation, will not only reduce excess liquidity but also result in higher interest rates across the board in the Indian economy — thus reducing the demand for money among consumers (since it would make more sense to just keep the money in the bank) and making it costlier for businesses to borrow fresh loans.
Repo vs Reverse repo rate
- Repo rate is the rate at which the Central Bank grants loans to the commercial banks against government securities.
- Reverse repo rate is the interest offered by RBI to banks who deposit funds with them.
News Source: IE
(Down to Earth: Climate Change)
Jan 27: Our broken system of environmental clearance – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/pollution/our-broken-system-of-environmental-clearance-81279
- GS-3: Environmental impact assessment
Context: The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has announced that it will rank the state environmental impact assessment authorities based on seven different criteria, which would exhibit their efficiency/on the speed at which environmental approvals are given. This received criticisms from all sides, leading the Ministry to state some clarifications –
- The move is aimed at encouraging the efficiency, transparency and accountability in the functioning of SEIAAs without diluting any regulatory safeguards.
- No SEIAA will be penalised for taking more time in granting permission. The SEIAAs are responsible for providing permissions and environmental clearance for more than 90 per cent infrastructure, developmental and industrial projects in the country, once they assess that these projects have little environmental impact.
- The ministry has taken several initiatives for streamlining the EC (environmental clearance) process and reduce the undue time taken in grant of clearances. As a step further new rating of SEIAAs has been introduced for encouraging the efficiency, transparency and accountability in the functioning of SEIAAs.
Why did it face backlash?
- Undermines the role of regulatory oversight in environmental protection — recognised in several Supreme Court verdicts as one of the key instruments to ensure the right to life.
- The ranking exercise will compromise the SEIAAs’ mandate to assess the impact of industrial, real estate and mining schemes on the environment and lead to an unhealthy competition amongst these agencies to swiftly clear projects without due diligence.
Instances where the Ministry has chipped away at key environmental regulation
- Extended the deadline for compliance with emission norms for most thermal power plants from 2022 to 2025 and planned to reduce the ecological protection accorded to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- Diluted the Coastal Zone Notification and proposed to amend the Forest Conservation Act to allow the use of forests for infrastructural projects in areas of “strategic importance”.
- Granted relaxations include thermal power plants, manufacturing and mining of coal, minerals and ordinary earth for linear projects.
- Inadequate capabilities: Lack of trained EIA professionals often leads to the preparation of inadequate and irrelevant EIA reports.
- Public Consultation: Public comments are not considered at an early stage, which often leads to conflict at a later stage of project clearance.
- Neglect of indigenous knowledge: The data collectors do not pay respect to the indigenous knowledge of local people.
- Communication issues: Most reports in English and not in the local language. Hence, local people do not understand the intricacies of the report.
- Poor review or monitoring: EIA review is not up to the mark. The review agency called Impact Assessment Agency (IAA) lacks inter-disciplinary capacity.
- Corruption: There are so many cases of fraudulent EIA studies where erroneous data has been used, same facts used for two totally different places etc.
- Distorted Focus: The focus of EIA needs to shift from utilization and exploitation of natural resources to conservation of natural resources.
- Exempt Categories: For defence and national security installations, the EMP (Environment Management Plan) are often kept confidential for political and administrative reasons.
- Considered as impediment to the ease of doing business: Industries and business interests have long regarded EIA as a thorn in their side increasing their transaction cost and complicating the business process.
At a time when climate change is driving home the ecological fragility of large parts of India and pollution and water scarcity are taking a serious toll on the well-being of people in cities, towns, and villages, regulatory bodies require enabling policies to perform their tasks with rigour. The grading exercise, instead, reduces them to clearing houses. The Centre must rethink its move.
Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)
- UNEP defines EIA as a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making.
- It aims to
- Predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design,
- Find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts,
- Shape projects to suit the local environment and
- Present the predictions and options to decision-makers.
- By using EIA both environmental and economic benefits can be achieved, such as reduced cost and time of project implementation and design, avoided treatment/clean-up costs and impacts of laws and regulations.
- EIA in India is statutorily backed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986 which contains various provisions on EIA methodology and process
- The assessment is carried out by an Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), which consists of scientists and project management experts.
What is the philosophy behind EIA?
- The basis in global environmental law for the EIA is the “precautionary principle”. Environmental harm is often irreparable — one cannot reverse an oil spill.
- It is cheaper to avoid damage to the environment than to remedy it.
- Also, we are legally bound to the precautionary principle under international treaties and obligations, as well as by Supreme Court judgments.
History of EIA in India
- The Indian experience with EIA began in 1976-77 when the Planning Commission asked the Department of Science and Technology to examine the river-valley projects from an environmental angle.
- Till 1994, environmental clearance from the Central Government was an administrative decision and lacked legislative support.
- In 1994, the Union Environment ministry under the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986, promulgated an EIA notification making Environmental Clearance (EC) mandatory for activity listed in Schedule 1 of the notification
- Since then there have been 12 amendments made in the EIA notification of 1994 the latest one being in 2006 which has put the onus of clearing projects on the state government depending on the size/capacity of the project.
- Additionally, donor agencies operating in India like the World Bank and the ADB have a different set of requirements for giving environmental clearance to projects that are funded by them
Can you answer the following questions?
- What are the main principles of environmental impact assessment (EIA)? Is EIA central to various infrastructure projects in India? Examine.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding reverse repo normalization:
- Reverse repo normalization means the reverse repo rates will go up.
- The process of normalization reduces excess liquidity and results in higher interest rates
Which of the above is or are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2 African Union was launched in which of the following country?
- South Africa
Q.3 Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysala belong to which of the following state of India?
- Andhra Pradesh
- Tamil Nadu
ANSWERS FOR 1st Feb 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)