DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 18th May 2022

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  • May 18, 2022
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Urban Heat Islands

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  • GS1: Geophysical Phenomenon
  • GS3: Environment

Why in News: Several parts of the country are reeling under heat wave conditions. Cities, especially, are a lot hotter than rural areas.

  • 15th May 2022: Two areas in Delhi recorded temperatures close to 50 degrees Celsius. Temperatures around these cities, however, were not as high.
  • This is due to a phenomenon called an “urban heat island”. The sun’s heat and light reach urban and rural areas in the same way but the difference in temperature is mainly because of the surfaces in each environment and how they absorb and hold heat

NASA’s Observation

NASA’s Ecosystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment (Ecostress) captured an image shortly before midnight of May 5, covering an area of about 12,350 square kilometres, which showed a large red patch around Delhi and smaller red patches around neighbouring cities of Sonipat, Panipat, Jind and Bhiwani. These red patches, implying higher temperatures, were the heat islands, while the rural areas around the cities witnessing lower temperatures.

  • Ecostress is an instrument with a radiometer, can measure temperatures on the ground, as opposed to the air temperature.
  • Tasked with measuring the temperature of plants and understanding their water requirements and the impact of the climate on them.

What is an Urban Heat Island (UHI)?

  • A local and temporary phenomenon experienced when certain pockets within a city experience higher heat load than surrounding or neighbouring areas on the same day.
  • The variations are mainly due to heat remaining trapped within locations that often resemble concrete jungles.
  • The temperature variation can range between 3 to 5 degrees Celsius.

Why are cities hotter than rural areas?

Rural areas have relatively larger green cover in the form of plantations, farmlands, forests and trees as compared to urban spaces.

  • This green cover plays a major role in regulating heat in its surroundings.
  • Transpiration is a natural way of heat regulation: This is the scientific process of roots absorbing water from the soil, storing it in the leaves and stems of plants, before processing it and releasing it in the form of water vapour.

On the contrary, urban areas lack sufficient green cover or gardens and are often developed with high-rise buildings, roads, parking spaces, pavements and transit routes for public transport.

  • As a result, heat regulation is either completely absent or man-made.
  • Black or any dark coloured object absorbs all wavelengths of light and converts them to heat, while white reflects it.
  • Cities usually have buildings constructed with glass, bricks, cement and concrete — all of which are dark-coloured materials, meaning they attract and absorb higher heat content.
  • Water cannot flow easily through/via them
  • Without a cycle of flowing and evaporating water, these surfaces have nothing to cool them down.
  • Heat is also released by numerous human activities – vehicles, factories, household appliances, release heat in the environment and cause a spike in temperature.

Thus, forms temporary islands within cities where the heat remains trapped. These are urban heat islands that record higher day temperatures than other localities.

Impacts of UHI

Power/Energy costs: Increases energy costs (e.g., for air conditioning), air pollution levels, and heat–related illness and mortality.

Poor water and air quality: As there are more pollutants, they are blocked from from scattering and becoming less toxic by the urban landscape. Warm water from the UHI stresses the native species that have adapted to life in a cooler aquatic environment.

Colonization by heat-loving species: UHI increases the colonization of species that like warm temperatures, such as lizards and geckos. Insects such as ants are more abundant here than in rural areas; these are referred to as ectotherms.

Heatwaves: Affect human and animal health, leading to exhaustion, dehydration and increased mortality rate.

How can urban heat islands be reduced?

  • By increasing the green cover: filling open spaces with trees and plants.
  • Appropriate choice of construction materials
  • Promoting terrace and kitchen gardens
  • Painting white or light colours on terraces wherever possible to reflect heat.

Previous Year Questions (PYQs)

Q.1) Bring out the causes for the formation of heat islands in the urban habitat of the world (5 marks, 100 words) (UPSC Mains 2013)

Source: Indian Express

Air Pollution in India

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  • GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

In News: Air pollution was responsible for 16.7 lakh deaths in India in 2019, or 17.8% of all deaths in the country that year. This is the largest number of air-pollution-related deaths of any country

  • Globally, air pollution alone contributes to 66.7 lakh deaths.
  • Overall, pollution was responsible for an estimated 90 lakh deaths in 2019 (equivalent to one in six deaths worldwide), a number that has remained unchanged since the 2015 analysis.
  • Ambient air pollution was responsible for 45 lakh deaths, and hazardous chemical pollutants for 17 lakh, with 9 lakh deaths attributable to lead pollution.

Pollution in India

Out of the majority of the air pollution-related deaths in India

  • 8 lakh were caused by PM2.5 pollution
  • 1 lakh by household air pollution.
  • Although the number of deaths from pollution sources associated with extreme poverty (such as indoor air pollution and water pollution) has decreased, these reductions are offset by increased deaths attributable to industrial pollution (such as ambient air pollution and chemical pollution).
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has lowered the guideline value for PM2.5 from 10 micrograms per cubic metre to 5. This means that there is hardly any place in India which follows the WHO norms.
  • Air pollution is most severe in the Indo-Gangetic Plain.
  • Burning of biomass in households was the single largest cause of air pollution deaths in India, followed by coal combustion and crop burning.

Major Issues:

Lack of a strong centralised administrative system to drive its air pollution control efforts:

  • The number of deaths remains high despite India’s considerable efforts against household air pollution, including through the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana programme.
  • India has developed a National Clean Air Programme, and in 2019 launched a Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region.
  • Therefore, improvements in overall air quality have been limited and uneven.

The Way Forward

  • Need for a radical shift in the approach to pollution management efforts: Towards a green recovery model that is less emissions-intensive
  • Governance: Along with political will and the ability to reduce corruption at the planning in monitoring level, air pollution control of Indian cities has to be tackled at the city governance level – not at the central level.
  • Need integrated surveillance platforms for health and exposure survf-eillance: Population exposure surveillance via biological and environmental monitoring can inform risk attributions within health programmes already in place to reduce the burden of maternal and child health as well as non-communicable diseases.
  • Capacity Building: Public and media discussions are needed for the longer-term adverse health effects of chronically high pollution levels throughout the year. More awareness needs to be created among policymakers and the general public about the slow but substantial impact of ambient particulate matter and household air pollution.
  • A viable public transport system strategy: While the Metro has provided massive relief to Delhi’s commuters, it is not viable for all economic classes. Therefore, Delhi needs an active bus service that runs on electricity. Regardless of the high initial cost, such vehicles offer other advantages like low maintenance cost, longer service life and lower operational costs per kilometre. More importantly, they reduce pollution levels.
  • Electric mobility is a definitive way towards cleaner air, without compromising functionality. A shift to electric mobility is long-overdue.

Lead pollution

  • An estimated 9 lakh people die every year globally due to lead pollution and this number is likely to be an underestimate.
  • Globally more than 80 crore children (India alone contributes to 27.5 crore children) are estimated to have blood lead concentrations that exceed 5 µg/dL — which was, until 2021, the concentration for intervention established by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This concentration has now been reduced to 3.5 µg/dL.
  • Earlier the source of lead pollution was from leaded petrol which was replaced with unleaded petrol.
  • However, the other sources of lead exposure include unsound recycling of lead-acid batteries and e-waste without pollution controls, spices that are contaminated with lead, pottery glazed with lead salts and lead in paint and other consumer products.

Report referred to in the article: Report on pollution and health published in The Lancet Planetary Health

Source: Indian Express


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  • Prelims – Economics
  • Mains – GS 3 (Economy)

Context: Since the start of the inflation-targeting regime of RBI, most of the focus has been on consumer price inflation. That’s because that is the inflation rate that RBI seeks to target and keep at the 4% mark. But over the past year, the inflation in wholesale prices has been surging in a rather unprecedented manner.

  • Since April last year, WPI (wholesale price index) based inflation has been above 10% in every single month.
  • In April 2022, WPI inflation crossed another psychological mark: it went beyond 15%.

With such high levels of headline inflation, it is clear that most components of WPI are witnessing high inflation.

What’s fuelling WPI inflation?

  • While the highest inflation has been in fuel prices, it is the smallest contributor to the overall index (Much before the Ukrainian crisis).
  • While manufactured product inflation is the least, it is likely to have had almost six times the impact on the overall inflation because of the weight.
  • The heatwave led to a spike in prices of perishables such as fruits, vegetables and milk, which along with a spike in tea prices pushed up the primary food inflation.
  • Much of the inflation spike is being seen as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, with the contribution in retail inflation being seen at three-fourths of the index.

What next?

An increase in WPI-food inflation leads to higher food prices for consumers as well. With WPI inflation remaining in double-digits, the probability of a repo hike in the June monetary policy has risen further.

  • One can expect retail food prices to possibly increase further simply on account of higher food inflation in the wholesale market.
  • Higher retail prices of food tend to spike wholesale food prices in turn. In other words, one can get into a vicious cycle if inflation is left unaddressed.
  • Imported inflation in the form of high energy and commodity prices is a fact of life, and it will continue to force RBI to take action. High WPI inflation will further convince RBI to raise interest rates and do so urgently.
  • Tough Act for RBI:
  • The flip-side of raising interest rates sharply, however, is that they will dampen the overall demand in the Indian economy at a time when overall consumer demand is still fledgling.
  • The RBI, thus, has a tough balancing act to perform: contain inflation (especially from sources over which it has no control, such as high fuel prices) while ensuring not snuffing out domestic economic recovery.

Some of the likely impacts of inflation:

  • Reduces people’s purchasing power: Restrict people’s ability to purchase things, but coupled with reduced incomes and job losses, households would struggle even more. The poor are the worst affected because they have little buffer to sustain through long periods of high inflation.
  • Reduces overall demand: The eventual fallout of reduced purchasing power is that consumers demand fewer goods and services. Typically, non-essential demands such as a vacation get curtailed while households focus on the essentials.
  • Harms savers and helps borrowers: High inflation eats away the real interest earned from keeping one’s money in the bank or similar savings instruments. Earning a 6% nominal interest from a savings deposit effectively means earning no interest if inflation is at 6%. By the reverse logic, borrowers are better off when inflation rises because they end up paying a lower “real” interest rate.
  • Helps the government meet debt obligations: In the short term, the government, which is the single largest borrower in the economy, benefits from high inflation. Inflation also allows the government to meet its fiscal deficit targets. Fiscal deficit limits are is expressed as a percentage of the nominal GDP. As the nominal GDP rises because of inflation (without necessarily implying an increase in overall production), the same amount of fiscal deficit (borrowing) becomes a smaller percentage of the GDP.
  • Mixed results for corporate profitability. In the short term, corporates, especially the large and dominant ones, could enjoy higher profitability because they might be in a position to pass on the prices to consumers. But for many companies, especially smaller ones, persistently higher inflation will reduce sales and profitability because of lower demand.
  • Worsens the exchange rate: High inflation means the rupee is losing its power and, if the RBI doesn’t raise interest rates fast enough, investors will increasingly stay away because of reduced returns.
  • Leads to expectations of higher inflation: Persistently high inflation changes the psychology of people. People expect future prices to be higher and demand higher wages. But this, in turn, creates its own spiral of inflation as companies try to price goods and services even higher.

Consumer Price Index

  • A measure that examines the weighted average of prices of a basket of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food and medical care.
    • FOOD ITEMS, which account for 46% of the index;
    • FUEL & LIGHT, with a weight of 7%;
    • CORE, all other items, which make up the remaining 47%.
  • It is calculated by taking price changes for each item in the predetermined basket of goods and averaging them.
  • Changes in the CPI are used to assess price changes associated with the cost of living;
  • The CPI is one of the most frequently used statistics for identifying periods of inflation or deflation.
  • Headline inflation is calculated using the Consumer Price Index.

In the current financial year, it is estimated that all three components will experience an inflation rate of 6% or more.

Wholesale Price Index (WPI)

  • WPI measures the changes in the prices of goods sold and traded in bulk by wholesale businesses to other businesses. In other words, WPI tracks prices at the factory gate before the retail level.
  • The numbers are released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry
  • Even as the WPI is used as a key measure of inflation in some economies, the RBI no longer uses it for policy purposes, including setting repo rates.

Difference between WPI & CPI?

  • WPI, tracks inflation at the producer level and CPI captures changes in prices levels at the consumer level.
  • Both baskets measure inflationary trends (the movement of price signals) within the broader economy, the two indices differ in which weightages are assigned to food, fuel and manufactured items.
  • WPI does not capture changes in the prices of services, which CPI does.

Headline Retail Inflation vs Core Inflation

  • Headline inflation is the raw inflation figure reported through the Consumer Price Index (CPI) that is released by CSO. The headline figure is not adjusted for seasonality or for the often-volatile elements
  • Core inflation removes the CPI components that can exhibit large amounts of volatility from month to month, which can cause unwanted distortion to the headline figure. The most commonly removed factors are those relating to the cost of food and energy.

Previous Year Questions (PYQs)

Q.1) Consider the following statements in respect of the Laureus World Sports Award which was instituted in the year 2000:

  1. American golfer Tiger Woods was the first winner of this award.
  2. The award has been received mostly by ‘Formula One’ players so far.
  3. Roger Federer received this award the maximum number of times compared to others.

Select the correct code:

  1. 1 and 2 Only
  2. 2 and 3 Only
  3. 1 and 3 Only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Source: Indian Express

Focusing on Public Health Engineering

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  • GS-2: Governance
  • GS-3: Conservation

Context: Globally, around 80% of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused, according to the United Nations. This can pose a significant environmental and health threat.

  • In the absence of cost-effective, sustainable, disruptive water management solutions, about 70% of sewage is discharged untreated into India’s water bodies.
  • A staggering 21% of diseases are caused by contaminated water in India, according to the World Bank
  • One in five children die before their fifth birthday because of poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, according to Startup India.

As we confront these public health challenges emerging out of environmental concerns, expanding the scope of public health/environmental engineering science becomes pivotal.

Expanding the cadre

Objective: For India to achieve its sustainable development goals of clean water and sanitation and to address the growing demands for water consumption and preservation of both surface water bodies and groundwater resources, it is essential to find and implement innovative ways of treating wastewater.

To achieve the objective: The specialised cadre of public health engineers, also known as sanitation engineers or environmental engineers, is best suited to provide the growing urban and rural water supply and to manage solid waste and wastewater.

  • Combine engineering and public health fields together: Together, these fields can offer a wide range of opportunities for
    • The development of advanced wastewater treatment systems
    • Understanding complex quality and monitoring processes
    • Designing and managing septic tank systems
    • Supplying good quality water in adequate quantities
    • Maintaining hygiene and access to water
    • Ensuring that water supply is sustainable, including the study of relevant industry standards and codes of practices.
  • Courses to develop skills of Civil Engineers and Public Health professionals: Most often, civil engineers do not have adequate skills to address public health problems. And public health professionals do not have adequate engineering skills. The goal of reaching every rural household with functional tap water can be achieved in a sustainable and resilient manner only if the cadre of public health engineers is expanded and strengthened.

Following international trends – The Way Forward

In India, public health engineering is executed by the Public Works Department or by health officials. This differs from international trends. To manage a wastewater treatment plant in Europe, for example, a candidate must specialize in wastewater engineering.

The need to introduce public health engineering as a two-year structured master’s degree programme or through diploma programmes for professionals working in this field must be considered to meet the need of increased human resource in this field.

  • Refresher courses for health and engineering institutes with an updated knowledge in areas of environment science should be made available.
  • Public health professionals can be groomed through in-service training.
  • Public health engineering should be developed as an interdisciplinary field.
    • Engineers can significantly contribute to public health in defining what is possible, identifying limitations, and shaping workable solutions with a problem-solving approach.
    • Similarly, public health professionals can contribute to engineering through well-researched understanding of health issues, measured risks and how course correction can be initiated.
    • Once both meet, a public health engineer can identify a health risk, work on developing concrete solutions such as new health and safety practices or specialised equipment, in order to correct the safety concern.
  • Enable contextualised decision-making regarding water management in India.
    • From promoting a robust understanding of processes, trends, and the latest technology in water and wastewater quality monitoring, treatment, and management, public health engineering can help decision/policy makers explore the available options.
    • Given the population growth, diminishing resources and risky exploitation of natural resources, various State governments and not-for-profit organisations are looking to hire environmental engineers through whom public health problems can be addressed.


  • There is no doubt that the majority of diseases are water-related, transmitted through consumption of contaminated water, vectors breeding in stagnated water, or lack of adequate quantity of good quality water for proper personal hygiene.
  • Diseases cannot be contained unless we provide good quality and adequate quantity of water. Most of the world’s diseases can be prevented by considering this.
  • Training our young minds towards creating sustainable water management systems would be the first step.

Source: The Hindu

Baba’s Explainer – Sikh Separatism

Sikh Separatism


  • GS-1: Post-Independence Issues
  • GS-2: Federal Challenges

Why In News:Symbols of Sikh separatism that appeared at the Himachal Pradesh Assembly complex in Dharamshala suggest that forces promoting it are active and capable of mischief.

Read Complete Details on Sikh Separatism – CLICK HERE

Daily Practice MCQs

Daily Practice MCQs

Q.1) Consider the following statements

  1. Walking inflation is the one which hovers between 3-10% a year and is harmful to the economy because it heats up economic growth too fast
  2. During Galloping inflation money loses value so fast that business and employee income can’t keep up with costs and prices
  3. Stagflation is when economic growth is stagnant but there still is price inflation

Select the correct code:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. All of the above

Q.2) Which of the following phenomenon contradicts the economic theory of Philips curve?

  1. Deflation
  2. Re-inflation
  3. Stagflation
  4. Core inflation

Q.3) Consider the following statements

  1. Cost-push inflation occurs due to increases in the cost of wages and raw materials while demand for the affected product remaining constant
  2. Inflation can erode a consumer’s purchasing power
  3. Demand-pull inflation is characterized by “too many rupees chasing too few goods”

Choose the correct statements:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. All of the above

Q.4) Which of the following can be the causes for demand-pull inflation?

  1. A growing economy
  2. A low unemployment rate
  3. Increased Government spending
  4. Inflation expectations
  5. Asset inflation

Choose the correct statements:

  1. 1, 2, 3 and 5 only
  2. 2, 3, 4 and 5 only
  3. 1, 3, 4 and 5 only
  4. All of the above

Q.5) Which of the following is considered to be the advanced form of “mixed inflation”?

  1. Mark-Up Inflation
  2. Stagflation
  3. Dis-inflation
  4. Hyperinflation

ANSWERS FOR 18th MAY 2022 – Daily Practice MCQs

Answers- Daily Practice MCQs

Q.1) – d    Q.2) – c    Q.3) – d    Q.4) – d,    Q.5) – a

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