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Insights Daily Current Events, January 15, 2014

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January 15, 2014

NATIONAL & SOCIAL ISSUES

Forest STs to get additional 50 days wage employment under MGNREGA .

  • The Union Ministry of Rural Development decided to provide an additional wage employment of 50 days beyond the stipulated 100 days under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, MGNREGA for Scheduled Tribe (ST) households in forest areas.
  • This means that the ST households in forest areas will receive the wages of 150 days.
  • As per the Rural Development Minister those tribals who have received the land rights under the Forest Rights Act 2006 will be eligible for the additional benefit.
  • The additional man-day payment through MGNREGA also allows the households to undertake work on their land.
  • Under the Forest Rights Act 2006, about 14 lakh individuals and community titles were distributed and of them about 8 lakh titles as individuals were given in Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattishgarh and Andhra Pradesh.
  • The Forest Rights Act has been included under the Indira Awaas Yojana for assistance.

INTERNATIONAL

CHINA’S ASSERTIVE FOREIGN POLICY AND JAPAN’S GROWING MILITARIZATION

China’s growing nationalism and assertive foreign policy particularly over territorial disputes have made Tokyo to think over its pacifist constitution particularly article 9.

The constitution, also known as the “postwar constitution or the “peace constitution”, is most characteristic and famous for the renunciation of the right to wage war contained in article 9.

The constitution was drawn up under the Allied occupation that followed World War II and has intended to replace Japan’s previous militaristic and absolute monarchy system with a form of liberal democracy. Currently, it is a rigid document and no subsequent amendment has made to it since its adoption. Due to this pacifist constitution, Japan relies on US for external security matters.

After returning to power in 2012, Abe has set about transforming Japan’s foreign policy. He has emphasized on three pillars of Japan’s foreign policy, which are strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance, deepening cooperative relations with neighboring countries, and strengthening economic diplomacy as a means to promoting the revitalization of the Japanese economy.

To counter the rising dominance of China on Asia Pacific, Abe has put stress on transforming Japan’s military strategy and forming close alliances with US, ASEAN, India, Australia and South Korea.

Japan’s growing militarization

Abe has proposed a 5 percent increase in defence spending to $240 billion for the next five years. As Abe is very well aware that Tokyo can never match Beijing’s rapidly growing defense budget or the size of the PLA (People’s liberation Army), he therefore, wants a military doctrine that will leverage the Japanese lead in technology, focus on Chinese vulnerabilities and let Tokyo stare in the Beijing in the Eye.

The second most important development in this regard is release of country’s first-ever national security strategy. This comes just weeks after China declared a new air-defense identification zone in the East China Sea, covering the disputed islands that Japan calls the Senkaku and the China the Diaoyus. Abe has underlined the importance of a “dynamic deterrence” and “active defense” against the growing Chinese military challenge. Japan will now develop a marine corps of its own, integrate unmanned drones into defense plans, strengthen its capacity for real-time military intelligence, and respond effectively and immediately to Chinese intrusion into the disputed air and maritime spaces.

Abe is complementing changes in the military strategy with policy change and institutional innovation. HE wants to lift the ban on Japan’s arms export in order to strengthen the domestic defense industrial base. He is also trying to dismantle the many self-imposed political constraints on Japan’s ability to cooperate with other nations in securing the region from military threats.

Alliances

Abe is very well aware that Japan on its own can’t balance China, whose comprehensive power is growing by day. Therefore he is focusing on making closer alliances with US, India, ASEAN, and Australia. Alliances, therefore, are central to Abe’s strategy, specially the longstanding one with the US.

As the China’s dominance on the region is growing and that of US is declining, some in Japan are indeed questioning the overreliance on US for security. Some in Japan also doubts the US commitments. Will the US defend Japan against China, when Washington’s stakes in a good relationship with Beijing have risen so much in recent years?

Abe is now focusing more on developing strategic partnerships with key ASEAN neighbors. In an intense round of diplomacy over the last year, Abe travelled to all the 10 countries of Southeast Asia and held a summit meeting with the leaders of ASEAN in Tokyo in December. The message from Abe was that Japan was not going to stand by and quietly watch Southeast Asia slide into China’s sphere of influence.

China and Korea have reacted harshly to this development while the ASEAN countries are eager to see Japan contribute actively to the construction of a stable regional balance.

Abe’s “Democratic Security Diamond”

The day after Shinzo Abe was elected for a second time as Prime Minister of Japan, He proposed “Democratic Security Diamond” in Asia Pacific whereby Australia, India, Japan and the US form a diamond to safeguard maritime commons stretching from Indian Ocean to the western Pacific.

Some has marked this attempt as a revival of his controversial and short-lived 2007 initiative, the quadrilateral dialogue or quadrilateral cooperation.  The proposal was not materialized at that time because of strong protest from Beijing.

Image url:

http://www.simplydecoded.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Japanese-security-diamond.jpg

Reference: Based on Editorials published on Indian Express.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

India’s Future projects in Space Technology

India has made remarkable progress in Space Technology and Planetary Exploration in the last decade and took major strides in utilizing the operational space systems in various fronts of national development – commercial, strategic, societal and economic.

The major focus will be on the development of next generation launch vehicle GSLV Mk III, which currently is in advanced stage. GSLV Mk III will provide the capability to launch 4 T class communication satellite into orbit. Research and Development on critical technologies related to Semi-cryogenic engine, Re-usable Launch Vehicles, Air breathing Propulsion and Human Space Flight will pave the way for realisation of advanced launch vehicles.

Satellite Navigation is an emerging area of Space Applications. The first of the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS-1A) has been successfully launched in July 2013. The completion of the IRNSS constellation with seven satellites will lead to the introduction of satellite-based positioning and timing services in the country. The Satellite Communication services in the country are planned to be expanded with more powerful INSAT/GSAT satellites operating in new frequency bands.

Earth Observations are planned with the development of Geo imaging Satellite (GISAT) to provide near real time images of large areas of the country and hyper spectral imaging systems for natural resources survey and disaster management applications.

Space technology is a powerful catalyst for social development in the areas of natural resources management, food security, rural development, education and literacy, health-care and environment. Innovations in space based communications and earth observations will be pursued to achieve faster delivery of information to remote areas and finer observation of planet earth.

Several exciting missions in Space Science and Planetary Exploration have been planned in the near future including Chandrayaan-2, with a lander and a rover intended for in-situ investigations of the Lunar Surface; multi-wavelength Astronomy observatory satellite ASTROSAT-1 for observation of celestial objects covering optical, UV and X-ray bands and India’s first space- borne solar coronagraph mission ADITYA-1 for studies on coronal mass ejections.

Achievements made by department of Space in the last decade which are as follows:

Indian Cryogenic Engine & Stage and GSLV – D5

The successful flight testing of indigenous cryogenic stage onboard GSLV-D5 Flight on January 5, 2014 was a major land mark technological milestone in achieving self-reliance in India’s Cryogenic Launch Vehicle technology. Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is capable of placing 2 Tonne class communication satellite into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) and India is one among six countries in the world to demonstrate such launch capability to GTO with the use of complex cryogenic technology. This success, coming after two consecutive failures of previous flights of GSLV-D3 and GSLV- F06 in 2010, has demonstrated the ability of the organization to cope-up with setbacks, implement objectively the corrective actions with determination and accomplish the goal.

GSLV-D5 has successfully put a communication satellite GSAT-14 into a precise GTO orbit. The health of the satellite is normal.

Mars Orbiter Mission

India’s first inter planetary mission, the Mars Orbiter Spacecraft was successfully launched on November 5, 2013 onboard PSLV-C25. The voyage of the spacecraft towards Mars, following crucial orbital maneuver of Trans-Mars Injection on December 01, 2013, made India to become one of the four nations in the world to send space mission to Planet Mars. Mars Orbiter spacecraft has been realized on fast track mode in a record time of less than 18 months to meet the earliest launch opportunity (the next opportunity would have been only after 26 months). Mars Orbiter Mission is mainly intended to establish the Indian technological capability to reach Martian orbit and to explore Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere by indigenous scientific instruments. Besides the scientific and technological challenges, Mars Orbiter Mission is a vital step in enthusing the younger generation in the country in scientific research in general and planetary exploration in particular. The injection of the spacecraft in to Mars Orbit would take place on September 24, 2014.

PSLV – A Workhorse Launch Vehicle

India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), with a proven track record of 24 successful flights, has provided the country the crucial autonomy in ‘access to space’. During the last decade, PSLV had 15 successively successful flights and has placed 23 Indian satellites and 31 foreign satellites into orbit. The versatile vehicle PSLV has been successfully used for launching lighter communication and navigation satellites into GTO, apart from launching remote sensing satellites to Low Earth Orbit and Interplanetary missions. PSLV, to its credit, has the successful launch of India’s first Inter-planetary Mission to Mars in November 2013 as well India’s first Lunar Mission Chandrayaan-1 earlier in September 2008. PSLVs launch capability has been progressively enhanced with ability to place multiple satellites into varied orbits. A noteworthy achievement of PSLV is the successful launch of TEN satellites into multiple orbits during PSLV C9 flight in 2008 demonstrating the versatility of the vehicle.

Space Capsule Recovery

A leap-frog in Indian Launch Vehicle Technology was achieved in 2007 through the Space Capsule Recovery Experiment Mission SRE-1 which established India’s technological capability to recover an orbiting satellite with precise re-entry trajectories. SRE-1, demonstrated several advanced technologies such as thermal protection system, deceleration and recovery system, etc.; of relevance for future Human Space Flights.

India’s Mission to Moon

India’s maiden moon exploration mission ‘Chandrayaan-1’ was launched in October 2008 for mapping the lunar surface with high resolution remote sensing and study the chemical and mineralogical composition. This mission has enabled to detect the presence of Hydroxyl (OH), a molecule consisting of oxygen and hydrogen atoms and water molecules on the lunar surface, which has set new directions of lunar explorations in the global community.

Remote Sensing and National Natural Resource Management System

The Indian Remote Sensing Satellites (IRS) System, with currently 11 satellites in orbit, is one of the largest constellations of remote sensing satellites in operation in the world today. It provides inputs for management of natural resources and various developmental projects across the country using space based imagery. IRS Satellites provide data of varied spatial resolutions and improved repetivity to suit many spectra of applications.

During the last decade, 13 remote sensing satellites have been launched and operationalized. The imaging technology of the country witnessed a quantum jump with the successful launch of Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT-1) in 2012. RISAT-1 gave the all-weather day and night imaging capability for the country, crucial for applications in Agriculture and Disaster Management. The advanced cartography satellite, Cartosat-2 launched in 2007, enhanced the imaging capability to sub-meter high resolution in tune with the global trend and provided immense services for cartographic applications. To study the climate of tropical regions, a joint Indo-France satellite Megha-Tropiques was launched in October 2011. With the launch of advanced meteorological satellite INSAT-3D in July 2013, an atmospheric sounder payload has been placed over the Indian Ocean for the first time which enabled detailed climatic studies over this region. The Scatterometer on Oceansat-2 satellite launched in September 2009 is the only operational instrument providing data not only for India, but also for the global agencies like NASA and NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) of US. Data from IRS satellites are used for meeting varieties of societal needs – locating sources of drinking water in remote areas, potential fishing zone advisories, environmental monitoring, agricultural crop forecasting, disaster management – to name a few. The fact that data from IRS satellites is also received and marketed through international ground stations across the world is a testimony for the quality products generated by IRS.

INSAT System

INSAT system has grown as one of the largest domestic communications satellite constellations in the Asian region, providing services of telecommunication, television broadcasting, meteorology and disaster management to a cross section of users in the country including strategic sector. In the last decade, INSAT system has been augmented with the launch of 12 INSAT/GSAT communication satellites providing together 232 transponder capacity covering C, Ext-C, Ku and S bands for meeting national demands for communication transponders. A vital application of INSAT system in the last decade has been in the field of education with the launch of thematic satellite EDUSAT in 2004. EDUSAT was specially designed to spread education (formal and informal) at all levels and regions of the country and about 25 States were covered by the footprint of EDUSAT with more than 55,000 EDUSAT class rooms. INSAT system was also instrumental in taking the benefits of space technology to the doorsteps of common man through the initiatives of Tele-medicine and Village Resource Centres in the country.

Satellite Navigation

A vital space technology initiative of the last decade has been the Satellite based Navigation System. India is pursuing satellite navigation programme to provide position and navigation information for various applications. Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) is being developed to provide accurate position information service to users in India as well as the region extending up to 1500 km from its boundary. The first satellite of this 7-satellite constellation, IRNSS 1A was successfully launched in July 2013. In addition ISRO and Airports Authority of India have jointly taken up GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) programme, as a forerunner for the operational Satellite based Augmentation System (SBAS) over the Indian Airspace. GAGAN payloads are already incorporated in GSAT 8 and GSAT 10 satellites. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has provisionally certified the GAGAN system, so as to enable the aircraft fitted with SBAS equipment to use GAGAN signal in space for En-Route Navigation and Non-Precision Approaches over Indian air space.

Space Commerce/Antrix

India’s Space capability is being marketed globally by Antrix Corporation Limited. As the commercial and marketing arm of ISRO, Antrix is engaged in providing Space products and services to international customers worldwide. By using the launch services of ISRO’s workhorse launch vehicle, PSLV, 31 satellites belonging to 17 countries have been launched on commercial terms during the last 10 years. An important achievement of the last decade is realising two high power communication satellites, viz. W2M and HYLAS for European customers – contracts bagged by Antrix against tough competition. Additionally, the data from Indian Remote sensing satellites are commercially disseminated to users globally. Antrix leases transponders of the INSAT system for commercial purpose.

International Co-operation

India’s maiden mission to moon Chandrayaan-1 carried six scientific instruments from USA and Europe. Two satellite missions viz. (Megha-Tropiques and SARAL (Satellite with ARgos and ALtica) were realized through India-France Co-operation. YOUTHSAT, a satellite for space weather studies has been realized by young scientists of India and Russia. India has co-operation with Jet Propulsion Laboratory of USA for ground stations support for Mars Orbiter Mission and India and USA together are planning to develop a dual band Radar Imaging Satellite to be launched by 2019-2020. During the last decade India has signed 10 new co-operative instruments with various countries and space agencies.

ENVIRONMENT/ECOLOGY

Rishave Verma

ENVIRONMENT

Understanding Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

Recently the Ministry of Environment and Forest granted environmental clearance to POSCO’s Steel plant, while rejected the proposal of Vedanta’s Bauxite mining projects. What was the procedure and why one was granted clearance while the other was not? What is their relation with the Environmental Impact Assessment?

To answer these questions, there is a need to analyze the entire process of Environmental clearance and the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006.

Environmental Impact Assessment Notification (EIA) ,2006.

The EIA notification categorizes all kinds of developmental projects in various schedules. The project proponent/investor has to identify to which schedule his proposed project belongs to. All the projects coming under Schedule 1 require environmental clearance. Schedule 1 contains two Categories A and B, Category B is further classified as B1 and B2 by respective State Level Expert Appraisal Committee.

The EIA notification establishes four stages for obtaining Environmental Clearance.

  1. SCREENING
  2. SCOPING
  3. PUBLIC HEARING
  4. APPRAISAL

NOTE:

  • B1 Categories project require Environmental Impact Assessment while B2 category projects are exempted from EIA.

NOTE:

  • Technically, this is the first step for A category projects, which requires Environmental clearance from Central govt. along with B 1 projects, while B 2 projects need clearance only from state governments.
  • The proponent has to now conduct EIA and submit the report to State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) and State Forest Department (SFD) (If the project covers forest lands).
  • The SPCB and SFD evaluates the report qualitatively and quantitatively to assess if it complies with the prescribed effluent and emission standards. If so, a NOC is granted.

NOTE:

  • Public Hearing is exempted for projects like modernization of irrigation, expansion of roads and highways, all B2 category projects etc.

Jan 12, 2014

Understanding Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

Now we will try to analyze the process of EIA by raising four fundamental questions i.e. What, Who, Why and How.

WHAT is EIA?

  • It is a study to evaluate and identify the predictable environmental consequences and the best combination of economic and environmental costs and benefits of the proposed project.

  • On the basis of EIA, an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) is prepared, which is a description of the means by which the environmental consequences as pointed out in the EIA will be mitigated. Together the whole draft is termed as EIA-EMP report.

WHO does EIA?

  • The project proponent or
  • Independent agencies like NEERI, TERI, WAPCOS, E & Y, NCAER etc.

WHY is EIA conducted?

  • To systematically examine both beneficial and adverse consequences of the proposal.
  • To ensure that those consequences are taken into account during project design.
  • To identify possible environmental effects of the proposal and means to mitigate them.
  • To predict whether there will be significant adverse effects even after the mitigation.
  • To lessen conflicts by promoting community participation and informing decision makers.

How is EIA done?

  • IDENTIFICATION of the consequences of the proposal.
  • PREDICTION of the extent of consequences.
  • EVALUATION of the predicted consequences. (Significant or not)
  • MITIGATION of the adverse consequences.
  • DOCUMENTATION to inform decision makers what needs to be done.

Issues related to EIA

Though it seems a very simplified process, but the whole process of EIA encompasses numerous structural and procedural flaws. All the associated issues can be classified in two categories.

  • Report Issues
  • Public Hearing Issues.

Report Issues.

  1. Screening and Scoping not well defined—-In the EIA notification 2006, there is a lack of clarity in overall conductance of the Screening process. As it is discretion of the State Level committee to decide which projects are B1 and which are B2, many a times the bias of respective State Governments come into play. The Scoping process faces same types of issues because of lack of clarity in guidelines.

  2. Misleading EIA reports—Sometimes the EIA reports lack the expected degrees of honesty, owing to bias, corruption, exaggeration and wrong claims. Due to poor knowledge of the project area the agencies lift paragraphs and sentences from other sources, thus presenting contradictory, inconsistent and outdated information. Moreover there is no process for punishing the agencies tabling such dishonest EIA reports.
  3. Insufficient EIA reports—-Agencies or project proponents also prepare incomplete EIA reports, which include incomplete surveys, arbitrary demarcation of EIA study area and unsubstantiated statements. Sometimes the impact with respect to flash floods, landslides, peak precipitation etc. round the year is grossly ignored in reports.
  4. Poor quality of EIA professionals— This happens mostly when the proponents themselves conduct the EIA. They intentionally hire local and incompetent professionals to save cost over the whole process or some other vested reasons. These poor professionals prepare a poor quality of EIA reports.

Public hearing issues

  1. Lack of awareness—-There is a gross lack of awareness among the local people, about the process of EIA, its significance for them, role of various players and their own rights and responsibilities. Moreover there is a communication gap between authorities and local people because the notice for Public hearing is issued in local newspapers only and no separate notices are sent to individual concerned panchayats. Most of the times local people are unaware of the Public hearing meetings.

  2. Unavailabilty of EIA in local languages— Most of the time EIA reports are unavailable in local languages, thus local people are unable to decipher the reports, and are misled by the proponents. This can be interpreted as a clear violation of the right to information on their part. The irony is local people are totally unaware of such implications.
  3. Ignorance of officials—The concerned officials for example those in Public Hearing committee are ignorant of their roles and responsibilities. Sometimes they don’t even get a copy of EIA report and it is passed without their consent, owing to gross corruption of the system.
  4. Over involvement of Public hearing consultants— In the public hearing meeting, the consultants should not be allowed to have a dominant say, except responding to the issues of the people. On the contrary, they get involved in public hearings beyond requirements and thus mislead the local people.
  5. Unaddressed issues persist—-The issues raised by people in public hearings remains unanswered and they do not know what happens to the issues, nor do they know if the issues raised are reflected in public hearing reports that is presented to Ministry of Environment and forests.