9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – October 23rd, 2021

Dear Friends
We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:

  1. Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
  2. We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
    1. The Hindu  
    2. Indian Express  
    3. Livemint  
    4. Business Standard  
    5. Times of India 
    6. Down To Earth
    7. PIB
  3. We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
  4. Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
  5. It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.
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Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Mains Oriented Articles

GS Paper 2

Beyond percentages: A test for promises on women’s representation

Source: This post is based on the article “Beyond percentages: A test for promises on women’s representation” published in the Times of India on 23rd October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2 Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted for Protection & Betterment of These Vulnerable Sections.

Relevance: Understanding the need of providing reservation women in Legislature.

Synopsis: There is a need to give women candidates the required power which they deserve in legislature.

Introduction

Recently, Congress announced to allot 40% of seats for women in the coming UP elections. This initiates the debate of women giving the required representation in Parliament.

What is the status of women in politics?

Legislature: There is the reservation of 1/3rd or half of the seats for women in the Panchayats, while it is absent in the Parliament. Women Reservation bill was passed by Rajya Sabha a long time ago, but still awaiting the nod of Lok Sabha.

Read more: Pass women quota bill in Lok Sabha’: Women MPs to Modi government

Party: In spite of having lakhs of women members in the parties, political parties gave barely a tenth of their tickets to women.

Stagnancy: About 10 lakh women are elected to local bodies every five years, but their careers remain confined at that level.

What do the studies say regarding women candidates?  

Election Commission studies have shown that if women candidates come from viable parties, they have good chances of winning. Studies have also shown that for the Panchayat that is led by women, social issues like health, education and sanitation are prioritized and prejudices lessen.


Is there a good way for a political party to achieve internal democracy

Source: This post is based on the article “Is there a good way for a political party to achieve internal democracy?” published in the Indian Express on 23rd October 2021.

Syllabus: GS 2  Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

Relevance: Understanding the need to have internal democracy in the party system.

Synopsis: Democratic functioning may be an ideological imperative, operational choice, or legitimising tactic, but it is not an end in itself for a political party.

Introduction

Political parties play a key role in any democratic setup. Interestingly, the distribution of power within the political party plays a very important role in the functioning of the party.

What is the role of political parties in democracy?

A political party is a collaborative platform consisting of people who have a similar vision for society and the country. It is designed to capture state power to achieve that vision for society.

In any country, there are sharp differences between citizens on the vision and values. Firstly, the role of democracy is to create a framework to negotiate conflict. Secondly, it should also ensure that the state is represented. So it is obvious that institutions like political parties in a representative democracy must themselves be democratic.

Read more: Making parties constitutional
How can India achieve internal democracy within political parties?

The simplest method is through internal elections for the posts of party leadership. This mechanism has the potential to hold the party leadership accountable.

What are the challenges with internal elections?

All the levels within the political party will align to vertically consolidate the power. Moreover, such elections are fruitful when the electorate is independent. But in indirect elections, the electorate aligns itself to mirror the existing balance of power. One such example was Donald Trump hijacking the power of the Republican Party in the USA.

Internal elections may factionalize power but cannot establish accountability. This is because Political parties are repositories of hard power. They draw a mix of people who are driven by the same ideology and personal interest. Over the period of time, this balance has tilted towards the latter. This has led to irreconcilable internal conflicts of interests, which cannot be resolved through debates and discussions in open meetings.

What should be the way forward?

Instead of looking at internal party processes, one way to decentralize power is by getting rid of the anti-defection law. This will help to create room for negotiation during the voting process in the party organization. It further helps to bring changes in the overall political culture.

Terms to know


GS Paper 3

Why drones are tracking wildlife in Kashmir

Source: This post is based on the article “Why drones are tracking wildlife in Kashmir” published in Livemint on 23rd Oct 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Relevance: Increasing instances of Human-wildlife conflict in Kashmir

Synopsis: Analysis of the increasing instances of human-widlife conflict in Kashmir region, reasons behind such incidents and how administration is responding.

Introduction

In July, a four-year-old girl in a car was grabbed and killed by a leopard in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal area. In June, another four-year-old girl had beenm auled to death by a leopard in Budgam district.

As fears of wild animals, particularly leopards and bears, straying into inhabited areas rise, wildlife officials in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) are worried.

What are the reasons behind the human-widlife conflict in Kashmir?

The present human-widlife conflict is a result of a mix of policies:

– Changes in land-use pattern: Orchards have intruded into areas adjacent to forests, wastelands and pastures that have been inhabited historically by large animals such as leopards, black and brown bears. Temporary Paddy fields have given way for orchards that occupy lands permanently.. Moreover, they extend to the fringes of forests. Without any buffer b/w them and the forests, they tempt bears and other animals out of their habitats. It’s estimated that over 80%of the bear attacks take place during the fruiting season, from September-December.

– Growing population of dogs, which offer an easy prey and are preferred food for leopards is also leading to increased human-wildlife conflict

– Deforestation: Forests outside the protected areas have seen large-scale deterioration leading to the loss of forest undergrowth. This undergrowth (different from the ground vegetation in orchards) also supports the natural prey of larger wild carnivores like the leopard and the absence of such cover depletes the natural prey base and compels the animals to come out of the forests to hunt.

Habitat fragmentation

– Increase in human population: This has led to encroachments into wildlife habitats and forest buffer areas

– Shift towards horticulture, with dense nurseries being set up adjacent to urban habitats. These dense nurseries have created ideal habitats for leopards, for example, to breed in large numbers.

Moreover, Kashmir, has an additional element of friction: the presence of army and paramilitary camps and patrols, sometimes inside forests

Due to all of the above reasons, animals find their natural prey base decreasing and omnivores have to move out of their usual habitats in search of food.

What is the scale of human-wildlife conflict in Kashmir?

Almost 90% of human-wildlife conflict occurs outside protected areas, in and around the adjacent villages.

From 2006 to August this year, 230 people had been killed and 2,860 injured in such conflicts in the Kashmir region.

Children make for easy targets. The worst years have been 2011-12 and 2013-14: Each saw 28 deaths. These years also saw the highest number of injuries: 315 in 2011-12 and 333 in 2013-14.

What steps are being taken by the administration?

Since last year the J&K authorities have begun using drones to monitor the movement of animals.

The department of wildlife protection is even pushing for an increase in the number of food-bearing plants of local pear and apple species in protected areas. It is being hoped that such “habitat enrichment” will help check the number of animals, particularly the black bear, venturing for food outside their usual habitats.

Administration is also planning to establish 10 model joint control rooms where forest protection and wildlife staff will work together.

Leopards straying into city areas have been captured and translocated from conflict sites to core forest areas.

Why translocation is not the answer?

The entire process of capture, handling, transportation and release into a new landscape occupied by other animals of the same species is stressful. This is particularly true for territorial animals like leopards. As per studies, animals try to return to their original territory after translocation to a new landscape. This leads to increased probability of human-widlife conflict. Moreover, translocation can also make animals aggressive.

What is the way forward?

All the steps being taken need to be accompanied by landscape interventions outside these areas to reduce the chances of conflict.


Glasgow climate meet. India doesn’t rule out ‘net zero’ commitment

Source: This post is based on the article “Glasgow climate meet. India doesn’t rule out ‘net zero’ commitment” & “India won’t commit to ‘net zero’ goal at COP26” published in The Hindu and ToI, respectively, on 23rd Oct 2021. 

Syllabus: GS3 – Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment. 

Relevance: Upcoming CoP26 UN Climate meet, Net zero emissions targets, and India

Synopsis: In the coming CoP26, India should insist on earlier pledges made by developed countries. 

Introduction 

The 26th meeting of United Nations’ Conference of Parties (CoP) is set to begin on November 1 in Glasgow. The focus of the meet (CoP 26) will be to have all nations commit to a ‘net zero’. 

All countries doing this by 2050, scientists say, would mean a chance of restricting average temperature rise to 1.5 Celsius provided emissions fall to around 45% of 2010 levels by 2030.  

This, however, means deep and significant cuts to fossil fuel use that could affect the development trajectory of India and other developing countries. 

The CoP 26 climate meet would also try to finalise rules for Article 6 (carbon markets) of the Paris Agreement and discuss different aspects of ‘loss and damage’ (concept of compensating poor and vulnerable countries hit by natural disasters). Though the rule-book for the Paris Agreement was finalised in 2018, the countries could not reach a consensus on Article 6 mechanism the only left-over part of the climate deal.  

Must Read: Net zero emissions target for India – Explained, pointwise
What is India’s situation w.r.t Greenhouse gas emissions? 

India is the world’s third largest emitter of Greenhouse gases. India’s average per capita emissions was 1.96 tons/person/annum whereas the European Union’s was 8.4 and the United States was 18. 

How can India achieve ‘Net Zero’ emission? 

A study by the think tank Council for Energy Environment and Water projects that for India to achieve net-zero target even by 2070, usage of coal especially for power generation would need to peak by 2040 and drop by 99% between 2040 and 2060.  

And, the consumption of crude oil across sectors would also need to peak by 2050 and fall substantially by 90% between 2050 and 2070. 

What has been India’s stand on committing to ‘Net Zero’ emissions? 

India’s long-term position in climate talks has always been that it will gradually limit the use of fossil fuel use as it cannot compromise on its development goals.

Also, India’s disagreement on committing to ‘Net Zero’ emissions is because it goes against the core principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’. The principle requires that developed countries, who are responsible for the climate crisis, to take on deeper cuts. Further, it requires them to pay developing countries for the environmental damage from rising temperature as well as finance their transition to clean energy sources. 

What stand India is likely to take at CoP 26? 

As per the government sources, India will not commit to the 2050 ‘net zero’ goal. Rather India would ask the affluent nations to go for carbon neutrality much before mid-century keeping in view their own cumulative historical emissions. 

India will strongly underline its demand for the developed world sticking to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and the need to deliver on climate change mitigation finance. 

India may make some additional commitments or announcements, factoring in its over-achievement of 2030 pledges and ambitious renewable energy goals of 450 GW, and align it with the 2047 timeline, coinciding it with 100 years of independence. 

This position had got traction when ministers of both India and China along with 23 other nations as part of ‘like-minded developing countries’ (LMDC) group unanimously agreed to take a common stand at COP26.  

The LMDC is a climate negotiation group of 25 developing countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. 

What is the way forward? 

Irrespective of India’s stand on net zero emissions, India should demand from developed nations on making good on previous commitments, such as  

– An annual $100 billion to developing countries for mitigating the impacts of climate change, 

– Facilitating technology transfer  

– Putting in place a tangible market-based mechanism to activate the moribund carbon credit markets. 

Moreover, India should insist that those countries who emitted substantially in the past 150 years must go for a ‘net negative emission’ goal before 2050 to limit the global average temperature rise within 1.5 degree Celsius. 


Post-Covid economy needs intellectual re-evaluation

Source: This post is based on the article “post-Covid economy needs intellectual re-evaluation” published in Indian Express 23rd Oct 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Relevance: Role of central banks in controlling inflation

Synopsis: Central banks across the world are facing a great challenge to control inflation

Introduction

The global financial crisis and the current pandemic are likely to reorient our thinking on conventional macroeconomics. For example, there are now serious doubts on the long-standing wisdom that the economy functions best with an “invisible hand” and with minimum government “intervention”.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is currently being faced by central banks across the world as they are struggle to bring inflation down. Annual inflation is running at 5.2% in the US, 3.2% in the UK and 3.3% in the EU.

Why it is expected that elevated inflation will sustain for more time?

In the last decade, due to very minimal investments in commodities exploration due to ESG (Environmental, social, and governance) constraints, supply chains are significantly unprepared to meet the current demand.

With respect to semiconductor shortage, there are no closed plants to reopen.

These supply side issues are largely structural in nature (meaning they’ll take time to go away), hence it’s correct to assume elevated inflation expectations will likely fuel a global inflation cycle.

On the same lines, independent research by the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis has concluded that higher inflation in the US is a broader, not a transient phenomenon.

Why Central banks are struggling to bring down inflation?

There is now a perceptible difference in what is driving inflation. It is neither wage increases nor fiscal expansion. It is global supply shocks.

Two problems confront the central banks

One, they cannot raise interest rates because they have got everyone addicted to low or no rates.

Two, inflation caused by supply disruption is not responsive to monetary treatment.

So, how can we explain the current inflation upswing?

One of the important tools for understanding inflation behaviour through standard economics textbooks is the Phillips curve. It presumes that inflation is partly driven by gap variables measuring how much economic activity deviates from its potential.

Gap variables can include the per cent deviation of real GDP from potential GDP, also known as the output gap/domestic slack.

Any central bank monetary policy statement, including that of the RBI, always identifies the gap variable as a significant determinant of inflation.

In the modern version of the Phillips curve, inflation depends not only on gap variables but also on expected inflation. However, recent research indicates that with improved anchoring, the expected inflation term in the Phillips curve becomes more stable.

Consequently, movements in the level of inflation are driven less by expected inflation and more by the output gap. Herein lies the missing link, with reference to India.

Based on research, in India the link between inflation change and output gap was never strong . Interestingly, the link is completely lost with the emergence of Covid-19.

Thus, the concept of output gap is grossly inadequate to explain the inflation behaviour in India.

If the output gap is not the cause, then what are the factors responsible for inflation?

It is possible to hypothesise that inflation in India reflects an economy that is supply-constrained with productivity of enterprises held back by a license-compliance-inspection (LIC) system.


A clean energy transition plan for India

Source: This post is based on the article “A clean energy transition plan for India” published in The Hindu on 23rd October 2021.

Subject: GS3 – Infrastructure and Energy.

Relevance: Understanding India’s energy security dynamics.

Synopsis: As India’s energy demand grows, India needs to adopt a comprehensive policy to meet the present and future demands.

Introduction

Energy security is a condition where affordable power is available to everyone. As India grows and its energy demands increase, it faces the twin challenge as apart from energy generation it also has to meet the climate obligations.

What is the energy mix of India?

India enacted the Electricity Act in 2003. India also has doubled the coal-fired thermal power plant (TPP) capacity from 94 GW to 192 GW between 2011 and 2017. This has enabled the government to increase per capita electricity consumption by 37% while reducing the peak demand deficit from 9.8% (2010-11) to 1.6% (2016-17).

Why thermal power is the core for India?

Coal is an affordable source of energy for India. It happens to be the one fossil fuel that is abundantly available in India. Moreover, given India’s geopolitics, gas pipelines are not a viable option for India.

Read more: Coal crisis in India – Explained, pointwise

Thus, TPPs contributed 71% of electricity generated by utilities in India during FY 2020-21, though they accounted for only 55% of the total installed generation capacity of 382 GW (as of March 2021).

What is the status of renewable energy in India?

Variable renewable energy (VRE) sources (primarily, wind and solar) account for 24.7% of the total installed generation capacity. They also contributed 10.7% of the electricity generated by utilities during FY 2020-21.

However, though VRE generation capacity has increased, growth in electricity demand has not. This has resulted in lower utilization of TPPs whose fixed costs must be paid by the distribution companies (DISCOMs) which are in turn passed through to the final consumer.

Read more: Problems with discoms need radical reforms

The current level of VRE in the national power grid is increasing the cost of power procurement for DISCOMs. This has led to tariff increases for electricity consumers.

So the government must implement a plan to increase energy efficiency and reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and airborne pollutants from TPPs without making power unaffordable to industries.

Read more: [Yojana October Summary] Energy Security: Nuclear Power – Explained, pointwise
What should be the future plan of India?

India should begin a progressive retirement of 36 GW of installed generation capacity in 211 TPPs that is having the unit size of 210 MW and below.

This resulting shortfall can be made up through two means. First, by increasing the utilization of existing High-Efficiency-Low-Emission (HELE) TPPs that are currently under-utilized to accommodate VRE.

Second, India should commission the 47 government-owned TPPs (total capacity of 31.6 GW) that are at an advanced stage of construction.

In addition, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is also constructing 11 nuclear power plants with a total generation capacity of 8,700 MW that will supply 24×7 power without any CO2 emissions.

What will be the estimated benefits of this plan?

HELE TPPs minimize emissions of particulate matter (PM), SO2, and NO2, which offer operational, economic, and environmental benefits.

This plan prioritizes the installation of high-efficiency electrostatic precipitators that can remove 99.97% of the PM pollution without long-term shutdowns or hiking tariffs unlike expensive, imported FGDs (flue gas desulphurization plants).

Thus, this plan will enable India to safeguard its energy security and ensure efficient grid operations with lower water consumption, PM pollution, and CO2 emissions. This will pave the path of sustainable development for India


Vax milestone and a K-shaped problem

Source: This post is based on the article “Vax milestone and a K-shaped problem” published in Business Standard on 23rd October 2021.

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Relevance: To understand the K-shaped problem in Indian economy.

Synopsis: The Indian economy is facing a K-shaped problem even before the pandemic. But the pandemic worsened the K-shaped problem more.

Introduction

India has administered more than one billion Covid vaccines since it started its Covid vaccination drive in January. Out of India’s population of about 1.3 billion, 78%, or just over 1 billion, are adults and eligible for vaccination. According to the government, over 31% has received a second dose. According to this, one can assume that around 300 million eligible Indian adults do not receive any vaccine dose and remain unprotected.

Read more: One billion Covid Vaccines and beyond – Explained, pointwise
Why does India’s covid vaccination face a K-shaped problem?

Smartphone penetration is 450-500 million and concentrated in higher-income groups. The vaccination campaign’s “smart design” (CoWin) made it hard for people without smartphone access to sign up. Hence, higher income groups received more vaccine doses. But the lower-income groups majorly comprise the unvaccinated sections.

Note: K-shaped Recovery occurs when an economy recovers unevenly and there’s a separate trajectory for two segments of the society.

Indian economy and the K-shaped problem

India already had a very K-shaped economy, prior to the pandemic. According to the annual Credit Suisse Global Wealth report, by the end-2020, the top 1% rich sections held 40.5% of assets. The GINI Coefficient, a measure of income equality, stayed at a very high 82.3.

But the Unemployment spiked in the April-June 2020 lockdowns, and employment has still not recovered to 2018-19 levels. Furthermore, these employment losses were mostly in the unorganised sector.

Read more:Issue of K-shaped recovery: How government budget can deal with it?
What sectors face the K-shaped problem at present?

The K-shaped problem in education: Higher-income groups with smartphone and broadband coverage have far better access to remote learning. Hence, education, which was inherently K-shaped, has become even more so. This reduces the likely future productivity and much-vaunted demographic dividend of a young workforce.

The K-shaped problem in employment: Corporate results from the last four quarters indicates the organised sector (which is higher-income) has made a much faster recovery than the unorganised sector (which is lower-income and a much larger generator of employment).

The government has to acknowledge these K-shaped recoveries and start focusing on the improvement of sectors that are facing issues.

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)

Climate Change: code red for public health

Source: This post is based on the article “Climate Change: code red for public health” published in the Livemint on 23rd October 2021.

What is the news?

Lancet released its yearly Countdown on Health and Climate Change report. It tracks the relationship between climate change and public health. It highlights that there is a rapid increase in heatwave and wildlife exposure, drought and sea-level rise.

What are the key findings of the report?

Heatwaves: According to the reports, India, the US, China, Japan and Indonesia suffered the highest exposure over the past 5yrs. The effect of heat waves is highest on vulnerable populations. In 2020, the elderly suffered 3.1 bn person-days of heat exposure, compared to an average of 2.9 bn days a year over the previous decade.

Rising Temperature and food security: Temperature rise shortens the time in which plants reach their maturity, leading to smaller yields and strain on the food system. An increase of 70% is also seen in average sea surface temperature in the territorial waters of coastal countries as compared to 2003-05. This has an impact on marine food security.

Infectious Diseases:  According to the report, climate change is creating the ideal conditions for transmission of infectious diseases like zika, malaria, cholera etc.

The potential for an outbreak of these diseases is increasing most rapidly in countries with a very high development index, like Europe. But their health care system is not prepared for it. In 2021, only 45/91 countries had carried out climate change and health vulnerability and adaptation assessments.


UPSC candidates have no right to cadre of choice: Supreme Court

Source: This post is based on the article “UPSC candidates have no right to cadre of choice: Supreme Court” published in Indian Express on 23rd October 2021.

What is the news?

The Supreme Court has ruled that the successful UPSC aspirants have no right to be allocated to a cadre of their choice.

About the case

An IAS officer from Kerala was allotted to the Himachal Pradesh cadre. Kerala government was not considered during the allocation of cadre. This is seen as a violation of the allocation circular and a case has been filed in Kerala High Court.

Note: Under Rule 5(1) of the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954, the allocation of cadre officers to the various cadres has to be made by the Central Government in consultation with the State Government or the State Government concerned.

Kerala High Court has asked the Centre to grant the Kerala cadre to an IAS officer instead of the allotted cadre. The Centre filed an appeal challenging the HC decision in 2017. Now, the SC set aside the Kerala High Court order.

What are the SC’s observations regarding cadre allocation?

Previous cases: The court pointed out that the judgment in Union of India and Ors v. Rajiv Yadav, IAS and Ors case, 1995. According to the case judgment, the allotment of cadre is not a matter of right.

Allocation was an incidence of service: The court also said that “a selected candidate had a right to consider the appointment of the IAS, but he/she had no such right to be allocated to the cadre of his/her choice or to his/her home state. Allocation of cadre was an incidence of service.”

Nature of All India Service: The court also mentioned that as a candidate for All-India Service, the candidate has opted to serve anywhere in the country.

Home State has no discretion: The court held that the State has “no discretion of allocation of a cadre at its whims and fancies”, and “therefore, the Tribunal or the High Court should have refrained from interfering with the allocation of the cadre”.

Not a violation of allocation circular: The court held that the Cadre Rules are satisfied when the consultation was made with the State to which allocation was made (Not with the state to which the candidate belongs).


High-Speed Expendable Aerial Target ABHYAS successfully flight-tested by DRDO

Source: This post is based on the articleHigh-Speed Expendable Aerial Target ABHYAS successfully flight-tested by DRDO published in PIB on 22nd October 2021.

What is the News?

Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) has successfully flight-tested Abhyas High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT) from the Integrated Test Range in Chandipur, Odisha.

What is Abhyas?

Abhyas is an indigenously developed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle(UAV) that will be used as a target for the evaluation of various missile systems.

Developed by: It has been designed and developed by DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment(ADE).

Read more: Threats Posed by UAVs – Explained, Pointwise
What are the key Features of Abhyas?

Abhyas is powered by a small gas turbine engine to sustain a long endurance flight at subsonic speed.

It is also equipped with a MEMS-based Inertial Navigation System(INS) for navigation, along with the Flight Control Computer(FCC) for guidance and control.

Moreover, the Abhyas vehicle is programmed for fully autonomous flight. The check-out of air vehicle is done using a laptop-based Ground Control Station (GCS)


Plastic pollution in aquatic systems may triple by 2040: UNEP

Source: This post is based on the article “Plastic pollution in aquatic systems may triple by 2040: UNEP” published in Down To Earth on 22nd October 2021.

What is the News?

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a report titled “From Pollution to Solution: a global assessment of marine litter and plastic pollution”.

What is the purpose of the report?

The report examines the magnitude and severity of marine litter and plastic pollution and reviews existing solutions and actions. 

What are the key findings of the report?
Recycling of Plastic Waste

Of the seven billion tonnes of plastic waste generated so far, an estimated 10% was recycled, 14% incinerated and the remaining 76% went into landfills, dumps and litter in the natural environment.

Growing Problem of Marine Plastic

The microbial community on plastic debris also known as the plastisphere now covers the multiple biomes on Earth.

Currently, the amount of plastics in the oceans has been estimated to be around 75-199 million tonnes at present. By 2040, it will nearly triple, adding 23-37 million metric tons of waste into the ocean per year. This means about 50 kg of plastic per meter of coastline. 

Because of this, all marine life faces the grave risk of toxification, behavioral disorder, starvation and suffocation. 

The human body is similarly vulnerable. Plastics are ingested through seafood, drinks and even common salt. They also penetrate the skin and are inhaled when suspended in the air.

Main Sources of Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution

The main sources of marine litter and plastic pollution are land-based. Approximately 7,000 million of the estimated 9,200 million tonnes of cumulative plastic production between 1950 and 2017 became plastic waste.

Impact of Plastic Waste on Climate

In 2015, greenhouse gas emissions from plastics were 1.7 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent. By 2050, they’re projected to increase to approximately 6.5 gigatonnes. That number represents 15%  of the whole global carbon budget.

Plastic can also alter global carbon cycling through its effect on plankton and primary production in marine, freshwater and terrestrial systems. 

Impact of Plastic Waste on Economy

By 2040, there could be a $100 billion annual financial risk for businesses if governments require them to cover waste management costs. It can also lead to a rise in illegal domestic and international waste disposal. 


Odisha to relocate 420 families from Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary in Bargarh district

Source: This post is based on the article “Odisha to relocate 420 families from Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary in Bargarh districtpublished in “Down To Earth” on 22nd October 2021.

What is the News?

The Odisha Government has decided to relocate around 420 families from four zero-connectivity villages in Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary. The relocation is aimed at reducing man-animal conflict and providing better living conditions to the displaced families.

About Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary

Debrigarh wildlife sanctuary is located in Odisha. A third of the sanctuary’s area is bound by the Hirakud Dam, thus forming a mini catchment for the reservoir.

The sanctuary is also an important biogeographic zone from both the ecological and environmental points of view. 

Significance: The sanctuary finds a special mention because of noted freedom fighter Veer SurendraSai. During his rebellion against the British Veer SurendraSai made his base at ‘Barapathara” located within the sanctuary.

Vegetation: The sanctuary comprises dry deciduous forests.

Fauna: The sanctuary is known for sightings of animals particularly four-horned antelope, leopards, elephants, gaur, wild boar, Sambar, deer among others.


Fourth Assembly of the International Solar Alliance closes with a promise to achieve $1 trillion global in solar investments by 2030

Source: This post is based on the articleFourth Assembly of the International Solar Alliance closes with a promise to achieve $1 trillion global in solar investments by 2030 published in PIB on 22nd October 2021.

What is the News?

The fourth general assembly of the International Solar Alliance(ISA) was held virtually.

About the fourth general assembly of ISA

Who chaired the Fourth ISA assembly? It was presided over by the Union Minister for Power, New and Renewable Energy, Government of India and the President of the ISA Assembly.

Who attended it? A total of 108 countries participated in the Assembly, including 74 Member Countries and 34 Observer & Prospective Countries, 23 Partner Organizations and 33 Special Invitee Organisations.

What are the key Highlights of the Fourth General Assembly of ISA?

To achieve $1 trillion global solar investments by 2030: International Solar Alliance (ISA)  announced a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies to mobilize $1 trillion in global investments for solar energy across ISA’s member countries. 

Solar Hydrogen Programme: The initiative is aimed at enabling the use of solar electricity to produce hydrogen at a more affordable rate than what is available currently (USD 5 per KG), by bringing it down to USD 2 per KG.

An initiative of demonstration solar projects: Under this initiative, ISA will provide technical and financial support to The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDs) member countries of ISA to undertake Demonstration Solar projects.

Go ahead for OSOWOG: ISA Assembly gives a green light to the “One Sun”political declaration for the launch of Green Grids Initiative-One Sun One World One Grid (GGI-OSOWOG) at COP26.

About One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG) initiative

Origin: The concept of the OSOWOG Initiative was first outlined at the First Assembly of the ISA in late 2018.

Aim: It envisions building and scaling interregional energy grids to share solar energy across the globe, leveraging the differences of time zones, seasons, resources, and prices between countries and regions. 

Benefits: The initiative will help decarbonise energy production, which is today the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions.

OSOWOG-GGI Initiative:

OSOWOG has joined hands with UKs Green Grids Initiative(GGI) to form a unified GGI-OSOWOG initiative. This initiative aims to contribute to the collaborative, rapid development of resilient grids globally – building on continental, regional and national grid infrastructure programs. 

The UK COP Presidency, the Government of India, and the Presidency of the ISA, are expected to announce this collaboration at the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow.


India, UK begin first-ever joint tri-services exercise

What is the News?

India and UK have started the Exercise Konkan Shakti 2021 from October 21, 2021.

About Exercise Konkan Shakti

Exercise Konkan Shakti is the first-ever tri-services joint exercise between India and the UK.

Aim: To derive mutual benefits from each other’s experiences and also showcase the continuing cooperation between the two countries.

What are the components of Exercise Konkan Shakti?

The maritime component of the exercise will be conducted off India’s west coast in two phases: the Harbour phase and the sea phase.

The land phase of the exercise will be held at Chaubatia in Uttarakhand.

The Indian ​​Air Force had already participated in an operational engagement with the UK Carrier Strike as part of the exercise.

What are the other exercises between India and UK?

Exercise Konkan: It is a bilateral maritime exercise between the Indian Navy and the Royal Navy of the UK.

Exercise Indradhanush: It is a joint bilateral air exercise between India and the UK started in 2006.

Exercise Ajeya Warrior: It is a joint military exercise between India and the UK. It was held for the first time in 2013.

Source: This post is based on the articleIndia, UK begin first-ever joint tri-services exercise published in Indian Express on 22nd October 2021.


Save hornbills, for they are the gardeners of tropical forests: Study

What is the News?

Scientists from two organisations studied how fruiting plants and hornbills influenced each other’s distribution in the Namdapha Tiger Reserve. 

Hornbills and their importance

Hornbills are of prime importance since they have a symbiotic relationship with several canopy trees in tropical forests. 

They are attracted to such trees for food and in turn, they scatter their seeds, creating orchards.

Example: The forest patches that have rare trees, like Canarium, attract hornbills in large numbers. In turn, hornbills end up dispersing seeds of a diverse array of plant species in higher numbers in these patches with some of these hornbill food trees. In the longer term, this likely create orchards that continue attracting hornbills.

What is the significance of this study?

The study strengthens the popular image of hornbills being gardeners or farmers of the forest, demonstrating that they farm their own food-rich patches through their seed dispersal.

About Hornbills

Hornbills get their name from the horn-like structure on the top of their beak—the casque. 

Habitat and Range: Hornbill distribution is globally limited to Sub-Saharan Africa, Indian-Subcontinent, Philippines, Indonesia and the Solomon Islands. In India, they are found in the Western Ghats and the northeastern states.

Diet: Hornbills are one of the biggest frugivores (fruit-eating birds) in the Asian rainforest. Around 40-70%  of their diet consists of large ficus fruits, figs, drupes and berries, usually red or black in colour. 

Types of Hornbills: India is home to nine species of Hornbill. These species are:

  1. Indian Grey Hornbill (Least Concern)
  2. Malabar Grey Hornbill (Vulnerable)
  3. Malabar Pied Hornbill (Near Threatened) 
  4. Great Hornbill (Vulnerable)
  5. Narcondam Hornbill (Vulnerable) is found only in the Narcondam Island of Andaman Sea. 
  6. Rufous-necked Hornbill (Vulnerable)
  7. Wreathed-Hornbill (Vulnerable)
  8. White-throated Hornbill (Near Threatened) and 
  9. Oriental Pied Hornbill (Least Concern) 

Source: This post is based on the article “Save hornbills, for they are the gardeners of tropical forests: Studypublished in “Down To Earth” on 22nd October 2021.


Arunachal college spots 3 new fish species

What is the News?

Department of Zoology of Dera Natung Government College of Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh has discovered three new species of fish of genus Aborichthys of family Nemachelidae.

What are these three fish species named?

The three fish species discovered have been named as Aborichthys uniobarensis, Aborichthys barapensis and Aborichthys palinensis. 

These fish species are distributed in streams like Senki, Barap and Palin, which are the tributaries of Brahmaputra river system.

What is Aborichthys?
Source: Seriously Fish

Aborichthys is an elongate and slender-bodied bottom-dwelling freshwater stone loach fish that inhabits the moderate-to-fast flowing water of mountain rivers, streams and drainages of the Brahmaputra river basin. These fishes are endemic to the eastern Himalayas

The fishes of this species are characterised by narrow oblique bars on the body, with a black ocellus at the upper extremity of the caudal-fin base and a rounded or truncated caudal fin.

About Arunachal Pradesh and its Rich Biodiversity

Arunachal Pradesh is known for its rich biodiversity. It is located in the Eastern Himalaya which is one of the four major biodiversity hotspots of India. The region is endemic to more than 20% of fauna of India, including the fish species.

Source: This post is based on the article “Arunachal college spots 3 new fish species” published in “Down To Earth” on 22nd October 2021.


Introduce a digital currency soon, says Garg

What is the News?

According to former finance secretary Subhash Chandra Garg, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) must expedite the floating of the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) or should collaborate with other nations for an international digital currency.

Must read: Introducing National Digital Currency in India – Explained, Pointwise
What are Former Finance Secretary views on Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is indeed the future and the technology is robust. But he expressed doubts over whether the private cryptocurrencies would stay relevant in the future.

This is because governments will soon come up with a digital currency. Once the official digital currency comes in, most private currencies, including stable coins, will disappear.

Further, on physical currency, or notes, he said that it will continue to survive as it is difficult to implement changes in one go in a country like India.

Moreover, he favoured bringing in a cryptocurrencies transactions law on the lines of securities contract transactions to regulate assets platform services of cryptocurrencies and not for every cryptocurrency.

What are Stablecoins?

Stablecoins are a form of cryptocurrency. However, unlike Bitcoin and other speculative coins, stablecoins are nominally pegged to fiat currencies such as the dollar in order to limit price fluctuations. This stability has made them the currency of choice for buying other cryptocurrencies.

But the stablecoins are still privately held, something that poses a systemic challenge.

Source: This post is based on the articleIntroduce a digital currency soon, says Garg published in Business Standard on 22nd October 2021.

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