Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 20 August 2019
Relevant articles from PIB:
GS Paper 2:
- Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
What to study?
For Prelims: About UNSC- composition, objectives and functions.
For Mains: Role and significance of UNSC, need for UNSC reforms, why India should be given permanent membership?
Context: Vice President calls for renewed efforts for India to gain permanent membership of the UN Security Council.
What is it?
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions; it is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
Members: The Security Council consists of fifteen members. Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States—serve as the body’s five permanent members. These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General.
The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members.
Role and Significance of UNSC:
- The Security Council is the United Nations’ most powerful body, with “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
- Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions.
- It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
- Under the UN Charter, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council s decisions.
Reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) encompasses five key issues: categories of membership, the question of the veto held by the five permanent members, regional representation, the size of an enlarged Council and its working methods, and the Security Council-General Assembly relationship. There is also a proposal to admit more permanent members.
India has been calling for the reform of the UN Security Council along with Brazil, Germany and Japan for long, emphasising that it rightly deserves a place at the UN high table as a permanent member.
Why India should be given a permanent seat in the council?
- India was among the founding members of United Nations.
- It is the second largest and a one of the largest constant contributor of troops to United Nations Peacekeeping missions.
- Today, India has over 8,500 peacekeepers in the field, more than twice as many as the UN’s five big powers combined.
- India, since long time, has been demanding expansion of UNSC and its inclusion as permanent member in it. It has been a member of UNSC for 7 terms and a member of G-77 and G-4, so permanent membership is a logical extension.
GS Paper 3:
- Conservation related issues.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key features of the policy.
For Mains: Resource efficiency- need, significance, challenges and means to achieve it, NITI Aayog’s strategy on resource efficiency.
Context: Driven by serious sustainability concern, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change had proposed a draft National Resource Efficiency Policy 2019.
It aims to streamline the efficient use of these resources with minimum negative impact on environment.
Key features of the policy:
- It seeks to set up a National Resource Efficiency Authority (NREA) with a core working group housed in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and a members group with representations from different ministries, state/union territory, and other stakeholders.
- The authority would be supported by an Inter-Ministerial National Resource Efficiency Board to guide on the aspects critical to its implementation.
- It also plans to offer tax benefits on recycled materials, green loans to small and medium Enterprises (SMEs) and soft loans to construct waste disposal facilities, apart from setting up Material Recovery Facilities (MRF).
- Manufacturers and service providers would also be required to use more recycled or renewable materials and awareness would be created among consumers to indicate the shift.
- Idea of the national policy is to drive the country towards circular economy through efficient use of available material resources, based on principle of 6R and ‘green public procurement’.
- The 6R stands for reduce, reuse, recycle, redesign, re-manufacture and refurbish while the very premise of ‘green public procurement’ is to procure products with lower environmental footprints such as secondary raw materials and locally sourced materials.
- It also pitches for moving towards ‘zero landfill’ approach in the country, hinting at possibility of imposing ‘landfill taxes’ and ‘high tipping fees’ for bulk generators of waste so that they can move towards optimal use of materials and better waste management.
Functions of NERA:
- Develop and implement resource efficient strategies for material recycling, reuse and land-filling targets for various sectors.
- Set standards for reuse of secondary raw materials to ensure quality.
- Maintain a database of material use and waste generated, recycled and land filled, across various sectors and different regions and monitor the implementation.
What is Resource Efficiency?
Resource efficiency very simply put is making more with fewer materials. In practice, through a life-cycle approach, it leads to minimizing impact on environment & the associated societal burdens, transforming ‘waste’ into ‘resources’ fostering circular economy, and strengthening resource security.
Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy are important goals and central principles for achieving sustainable development. Sustainability is a global priority and SDGs commitment and 11th Five year plan also clearly enunciate importance of Resource efficiency (RE).
Why ensure resource efficiency?
India’s large population, rapid urbanization and expanding industrial production have led to exploitation of available limited natural resources with concerns regarding resource depletion and future availability becoming more pronounced.
Therefore, Enhancing resource efficiency (RE) and promoting the use of secondary raw materials (SRM) is a pertinent strategy to address these challenges and reduce dependence on primary resource.
Challenges before India:
- According to data available, India’s resource extraction of 1580 tonnes/acre is much higher than the world average of 450 tonnes/acre, while material productivity remains low.
- Water is fast becoming scarce while deteriorating air quality has emerged as a major threat to human life.
- There has been massive soil degradation, with 147 million hectares (Mha) of a total of 329 Mha land area hit.
- Import dependency is nearly 100% for the majority of the ‘most critical’ materials -cobalt, copper and lithium that find extensive application in high-end technology industry.
- Over 80% of crude oil that is processed in the economy is imported, alongwith 85% of its coking coal demand. Extraction of non-metallic minerals is crippled with challenges.
- To add to the problems, the country’s recycling rate is just about 20-25% compared with 70% in developing countries in Europe. The situation will only aggravate as India is likely to double its material consumption by 2030.
Strategy on Resource Efficiency:
- NITI Aayog in collaboration with the European Union delegation to India have released the Strategy on Resource Efficiency. The strategy aims to promote resource efficiency in India.
- This strategy is the first policy document to emphasize resource productivity in the country. The Strategy emphasizes on Sustainable Public Procurement (SSP) as an action agenda which will be the market transformation tool to transform to a resource efficient economy.
- It is developed with the recommendations from the Indian Resource Efficiency Programme (IREP), launched by the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and Indian Resource Panel (InRP) in April 2017.
GS Paper 2 and 3:
- Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
- Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key facts on IOR.
For Mains: IOR- significance, potential, challenges to its security and the need for international collaboration.
Context: The capabilities of Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) are being enhanced under the National Maritime Domain Awareness (NMDA) Project.
The NMDA project was launched in accordance with the vision of PM on SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region).
About IFC- IOR:
The IFC-IOR was established with the vision of strengthening maritime security in the region and beyond, by building a common coherent maritime situation picture and acting as a maritime information hub for the region.
The IFC has been established at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram, which is the single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.
Through this Centre, information on “white shipping”, or commercial shipping, will be exchanged with countries in the region to improve maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean.
- The IOR has a diverse set of littorals and island nations, each with their unique needs, aspirations, interest and values.
- It is necessary to counter the Rise in maritime piracy in the region.
- IFR-IRO would also ensure that the entire region is benefited by mutual collaboration and exchange of information and understanding the concerns and threats which are prevalent in the region.
Why is the Indian Ocean is important?
- It enjoys a privileged location at the crossroads of global trade, connecting the major engines of the international economy in the Northern Atlantic and Asia-Pacific. This is particularly important in an era in which global shipping has burgeoned.
- Indian Ocean is also rich in natural resources. 40% of the world’s offshore oil production takes place in the Indian Ocean basin.
- Fishing in the Indian Ocean now accounts for almost 15% of the world’s total.
- Mineral resources are equally important, with nodules containing nickel, cobalt, and iron, and massive sulphide deposits of manganese, copper, iron, zinc, silver, and gold present in sizeable quantities on the sea bed.
- Indian Ocean coastal sediments are also important sources of titanium, zirconium, tin, zinc, and copper. Additionally, various rare earth elements are present, even if their extraction is not always commercially feasible.
Relevant articles from various news sources:
GS Paper 3:
- Awareness in space.
What to study?
For prelims: Beresheet mission- objectives and key features.
For mains: Interplanetary pollution- concerns, effects and solutions.
Context: On April 11, the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet attempted to land on the Moon, but crashed on the surface. It was carrying a number of items — including thousands of specimens of a living organism called tardigrade.
The question is: did the thousands of dehydrated tardigrades on Beresheet survive the crash? And if they did, are they now living on the Moon?
- The tardigrade, also known as water bear, is among the toughest and most resilient creatures on Earth.
- The tardigrade can only be seen under a microscope.
- Half a millimetre long, it is essentially a water-dweller but also inhabits land and, a 2008 study found, can survive in the cold vacuum of outer space.
- The tardigrade can endure extreme hot and cold temperature levels.
- They themselves expel water from their bodies and set off a mechanism to protect their cells, and can still revive if placed in water later. The organism is known to “come back to life” on rehydration.
- The tardigrade derives its name from the fact that it looks like an eight-legged bear, with a mouth that can project out like a tongue.
- A tardigrade typically eats fluids, using its claws and mouth to tear open plant and animal cells, so that it can suck nutrients out of them.
- It is also known to feast on bacteria and, in some cases, to kill and eat other tardigrades.
Did any of them survive the impact? If they did, what happens to them now?
- When the tardigrades were placed on the Israeli moon mission Beresheet, they were in a tun state — dehydrated, with their chubby limbs and heads retracted and all metabolic activity temporarily suspended.
- Their arrival on the moon was unexpectedly explosive; Beresheet’s crash landing on April 11 may have scattered the microorganisms onto the lunar surface.
- But as long as the tardigrades remain on the moon, their chances of spontaneously awakening are low. Without liquid water, the tiny creatures will remain in a tun state, and while there’s evidence of ice on the moon, liquid water is nowhere to be found.
- Even if the lunar tardigrades did somehow encounter liquid water while still on the moon, without food, air and a moderate ambient temperature, they wouldn’t last very long once they revived.
What’s the concern now? Are we polluting the moon’s atmosphere?
Scientists have yet to find any evidence that the moon ever hosted living organisms(other than visiting astronauts and microbial hitchhikers from Earth) that could be threatened by microscopic invaders. However, contamination could carry serious consequences for missions to planets where life might yet be found.
There is already a fairly sizeable amount of debris from redundant spacecraft and litter left behind by astronauts. As more missions are planned to the moon, eventually with human passengers and perhaps even settlements, we must learn to clean up as we go along. Otherwise, we are going to have the sort of crisis that we are seeing on Earth with the outcry about environmental damage from plastics.
- Israel’s First Lunar Lander- Beresheet– was launched on board Falcon 9.
- Beresheet attempted to become the first Israeli spacecraft, and the first privately-operated mission, to land on the Moon.
- So far, only three other nations have carried out controlled “soft” landings on the moon – the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.
Sources: the Hindu.
GS Paper 3:
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Context: India is the largest emitter of anthropogenic sulphur dioxide in the world, as per the data released by environmental NGO Greenpeace on August 19, 2019.
Anthropogenic sulphur dioxide is produced from burning of coal and it is known to largely contribute to air pollution.
- SO2 hotspots across the world have been mapped.
- The SO2 hotspots were detected by the OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) satellite.
- India has over 15 percent of all anthropogenic sulphur dioxide (SO2) hotspots in the world.
- The main SO2 hotspots in India include Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh, Korba in Chhattisgarh, Talcher and Jharsuguda in Odisha, Neyveli and Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Kutch in Gujarat, Ramagundam in Telangana and Chandrapur and Koradi in Maharashtra.
- Norilsk smelter complex in Russia is the largest SO2 emission hotspot in the world, followed by Kriel in Mpumalanga province in South Africa and Zagroz in Iran.
How to control the SO2 emission?
- SO2 emission is a significant contributor to air pollution and the largest source of SO2 in the atmosphere is burning of fossil fuels in power plants and other industrial facilities.
- The primary reason for India’s high emission output is the expansion of coal-based electricity generation over the past decade.
- India should take stricter action against coal power plants and should not give them a free to hand to continue polluting the atmosphere and cause a public health emergency.
Efforts in this regard:
- The Environment Ministry had introduced SO2 emission limits for coal power plants in December 2015 and set the initial deadline to control SO2 emissions from power generation by December 2017.
- The deadline was later extended till December 2019 after a request from the Ministry of Power and power plant operators in Delhi-NCR and till 2022 for some other power plants across the country through a Supreme Court order.
Sources: Indian Express.
GS Paper 2:
Schemes for the vulnerable sections of the society.
What to study?
For Prelims: PMU- key features.
For Mains: PMUY- objectives, features, significance and measures needed to sustain the momentum.
Context: The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana is hailed as a timely intervention to rectify the harm caused by Household Air Pollution (HAP).
Challenges that India is currently facing:
- The single greatest contributor to air pollution in India is the burning of solid fuels in households.
- Burning of such solid fuels, like firewood, impacts the health of household members and accounts for somewhere between 22% to 52% of all ambient air pollution in India.
- One of the many pollutants produced on the burning of such solid fuels is fine particulate matter. Such particles can travel deep into the respiratory system, and exposure to them can cause several adverse health effects, both short-term and long-term, including respiratory problems and heart disease.
About Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:
It aims to provide LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) connections to poor households.
Who is eligible? Under the scheme, an adult woman member of a below poverty line family identified through the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) is given a deposit-free LPG connection with financial assistance of Rs 1,600 per connection by the Centre.
Identification of households: Eligible households will be identified in consultation with state governments and Union territories. The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.
Key objectives of the scheme are:
- Empowering women and protecting their health.
- Reducing the serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuel.
- Reducing the number of deaths in India due to unclean cooking fuel.
- Preventing young children from significant number of acute respiratory illnesses caused due to indoor air pollution by burning the fossil fuel.
What makes LPG adoption necessary?
- A large section of Indians, especially women and girls, are exposed to severe household air pollution (HAP) from the use of solid fuels such as biomass, dung cakes and coal for cooking.
- A report from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare places HAP as the second leading risk factor contributing to India’s disease burden.
- According to the World Health Organization, solid fuel use is responsible for about 13% of all mortality and morbidity in India (measured as Disability-Adjusted Life Years), and causes about 40% of all pulmonary disorders, nearly 30% of cataract incidences, and over 20% each of ischemic heart disease, lung cancer and lower respiratory infection.
The PMUY is a bold and much-needed initiative, but it should be recognised that this is just a first step. The real test of the PMUY and its successor programmes will be in how they translate the provision of connections to sustained use of LPG or other clean fuels such as electricity or biogas.
Truly smokeless kitchens can be realized only if the government follows up with measures that go beyond connections to actual usage of LPG. This may require concerted efforts cutting across Ministries beyond petroleum and natural gas and including those of health, rural development and women and child welfare.
Sources: Indian Express.
Facts for Prelims:
What is Debenture Redemption Reserve (DRR)?
It is a provision stating that any Indian corporation that issues debentures must create a debenture redemption service in an effort to protect investors from the possibility of a company defaulting.
- This provision was tacked onto the Indian Companies Act of 1956, in an amendment introduced in the year 2000.
- Why in News? Government removes Debenture Redemption Reserve requirement for Listed Companies, NBFCs and HFCs by amending the Companies (Share Capital & Debentures) Rules.
- Significance: The measure has been taken by the Government with a view to reducing the cost of the capital raised by companies through issue of debentures and is expected to significantly deepen the Bond Market.
Context: Iceland’s Okjokull glacier commemorated with plaque.
The glacier was officially declared dead in 2014 when it was no longer thick enough to move.