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10th November Current Affairs

Contents

  1. NGT order on firecrackers
  2. Western Ghats ESA draft notification
  3. National Agricultural Education Policy
  4. Nutraceutical industry seeks policy changes

NGT ORDER ON FIRECRACKERS

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed that there would be a total ban on sale or use of all kinds of firecrackers in the month of November in all cities and towns across the country where the average ambient air quality in November fell under the ‘poor’ and above category.
  • In places where the ambient air quality fell under the ‘moderate’ or below category, only green crackers would be permitted to be sold and timings restricted to two hours for bursting of crackers.
  • The Tribunal also directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State pollution control boards and committees to regularly monitor the air quality during this period and upload the data on their respective websites.

More from the report regarding areas in Bengaluru

  • Bengaluru, Kalaburagi, Davangere, and Hubballi-Dharwad are cities and towns in the State that have been deemed as “non-attainment cities” by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
  • Such cities are defined as ones where the air quality, as per the records maintained by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), is polluted beyond the prescribed National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Ambient Air Quality Standards in India

  • Ambient air quality refers to the condition or quality of air surrounding us in the outdoors.
  • National Ambient Air Quality Standards are the standards for ambient air quality set by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that is applicable nationwide.
  • The CPCB has been conferred this power by the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

National Green Tribunal (NGT)

  • The National Green Tribunal has been established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • Hence, NGT is a Statutory Body.
  • NGT Act draws inspiration from the India’s constitutional provision of (Constitution of India/Part III) Article 21 Protection of life and personal liberty, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
  • National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 is an Act of the Parliament of India which enables creation of a special tribunal to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues.

Structure of National Green Tribunal

  • Following the enactment of the said law, the Principal Bench of the NGT has been established in the National Capital – New Delhi, with regional benches in Pune (Western Zone Bench), Bhopal (Central Zone Bench), Chennai (Southern Bench) and Kolkata (Eastern Bench). Each Bench has a specified geographical jurisdiction covering several States in a region.
  • The Chairperson of the NGT is a retired Judge of the Supreme Court, Head Quartered in Delhi.
  • Other Judicial members are retired Judges of High Courts. Each bench of the NGT will comprise of at least one Judicial Member and one Expert Member.
  • Expert members should have a professional qualification and a minimum of 15 years’ experience in the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects.

Powers of NGT

The NGT has the power to hear all civil cases relating to environmental issues and questions that are linked to the implementation of laws listed in Schedule I of the NGT Act. These include the following:

  1. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
  2. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
  3. The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;
  4. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
  5. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
  6. The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991;
  7. The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.

This means that any violations pertaining ONLY to these laws, or any order / decision taken by the Government under these laws can be challenged before the NGT.

Significance of NGT

  • It protected vast acres of forest land, halted polluting construction activities in metros and smaller towns.
  • It has penalised errant officials who have turned a blind eye toward enforcing the laws, and held large corporate entities to account.
  • It protected the rights of tribal communities and ensure the enforcement of the “polluter pays” principle in letter and spirit.
  • Over the years NGT has emerged as a critical player in environmental regulation, passing strict orders on issues ranging from pollution to deforestation to waste management.
  • It helps reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts on environmental matters.
  • The Chairperson and members are not eligible for reappointment; hence they are likely to deliver judgements independently, without succumbing to pressure from any quarter.
  • The NGT has been instrumental in ensuring that the Environment Impact Assessment process is strictly observed.
  • Importantly, the NGT has NOT been vested with powers to hear any matter relating to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and various laws enacted by States relating to forests, tree preservation etc.

National Air Quality Index (AQI)

  • The National Air Quality Index (AQI) was launched in New Delhi in 2014, under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board along with State Pollution Control Boards has been operating National Air Monitoring Program (NAMP) covering 240 cities of the country having more than 342 monitoring stations.
  • An Expert Group comprising medical professionals, air quality experts, academia, advocacy groups, and SPCBs was constituted and a technical study was awarded to IIT Kanpur.
  • IIT Kanpur and the Expert Group recommended an AQI scheme in 2014.
  • The continuous monitoring systems that provide data on near real-time basis are installed in New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad.

Understanding the scale

  • There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe.
  • The proposed AQI will consider eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb) for which short-term (up to 24-hourly averaging period) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed.
  • Based on the measured ambient concentrations, corresponding standards and likely health impact, a sub-index is calculated for each of these pollutants.
  • Likely health impacts for different AQI categories and pollutants have also been suggested, with primary inputs from the medical experts in the group.

-Source: The Hindu


WESTERN GHATS ESA DRAFT NOTIFICATION

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

  • A Kerala-based NGO for farmers moved the Supreme Court regarding the draft notification of the Centre demarcating more than 50 thousand square kilometers as ‘Western Ghats Ecologically Sensitive Area’ – asking the SC to declare it as unconstitutional.
  • The petition has also sought a direction to the government to not implement the Madhav Gadgil and K. Kasturirangan committees’ reports on the conservation of Western Ghats and demarcation of ‘no-go’ zones.

Details

  • The plea said the Centre had wrongly branded people who had been residing in the Western Ghats area, following government norms on agricultural practices, as the “destroyers of the biodiversity and agents of ecological damage.”
  • The ‘Western Ghats Ecologically Sensitive Area’ is spread across Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala according to the notification.
  • The petition said of the 50-lakh people who would be affected across the six States, 22 lakhs reside in Kerala alone.

Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP)

  • The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), also known as Gadgil Committee, and the Kasturirangan Committee, a High-Level Working Group, were constituted to conserve and protect the biodiversity of Western Ghats while allowing for sustainable and inclusive development of the region.
  • They recommended that identified geographical areas falling in the six States of Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu should be declared as ESA.
  • A draft notification related to the same was issued in 2018 mentioning the areas to be notified in the ESA.

Gadgil Committee

  • It recommended that all of the Western Ghats should be declared as the ESA with only limited development allowed in graded zones.
  • It classified the Western Ghats into ESA 1, 2 and 3 of which ESA-1 is a high priority zone where almost all of the developmental activities (mining, thermal power plants, etc) should be restricted.
  • It also recommended the constitution of Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA), as a statutory authority under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) with the powers under Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • It was criticised for being more environment-friendly and not in tune with the ground realities.

Kasturirangan Committee

It sought to balance the development and environment protection in contrast to the system proposed by the Gadgil report.

The committee’s major recommendations were:

  1. Instead of the total area of Western Ghats, only 37% of the total area to be brought under ESA.
  2. A complete ban on mining, quarrying and sand mining in ESA.
  3. No thermal power projects to be allowed and hydropower projects to be allowed only after detailed study.
  4. Red industries (highly polluting industries) to be strictly banned.
  5. Exclusion of inhabited regions and plantations from the purview of ESAs making it a pro-farmer approach.

What is ‘No-Go’ Area?

  • In 2009, the Environment and Coal Ministries had jointly placed the country’s forested areas under two categories – Go and No-Go zones.
  • ‘No-Go’ areas are regions that were classified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change as containing very dense forests and hence closed to coal mining.
  • The exercise is aimed at prioritising forest areas under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
  • ‘No Go’ areas are those having either more than 10 per cent weighted forest cover (WFC) or more than 30 per cent gross forest cover (GFC).

-Source: The Hindu


NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION POLICY

Focus: GS-III Social Justice

Why in news?

The first National Agricultural Education Policy is set to bring academic credit banks and degree programmes with multiple entry and exit options to the 74 universities focussed on crop sciences, fisheries, veterinary and dairy training and research.

National Agricultural Education Policy

A six-member committee of Vice-Chancellors has been asked to submit a draft policy document to the Agriculture Ministry, and the new policy based on the recommendations is set to usher in some changes to the academic lives of more than 45,000 students that are admitted into agricultural universities every year.

Connection with National Education Policy (NEP)

  • In many ways, agricultural education is ahead of its time, and already aligned with the NEP.
  • The NEP wants a shift to four-year undergraduate degrees, and all our agricultural degrees are already four-year programmes.
  • Similarly, the NEP mentions experiential education, and we have already mandated that since 2016.

Student READY

  • The Student READY (Rural Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana) programme requires all students to undertake a six-month internship, usually in their fourth year, to gain hands-on training, rural awareness, industry experience, research expertise and entrepreneurship skills.

Challenges

  • One major challenge is how to ensure that this experiential learning is made available to all students if we implement the multiple entry-exit system.
  • Another major challenge for agricultural universities could be the push for multi-disciplinarity.

Click Here to read more about the National Education Policy NEP 2020

-Source: The Hindu


NUTRACEUTICAL INDUSTRY SEEKS POLICY CHANGES

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

With demand for natural immunity-boosting products growing during the pandemic, the nutraceuticals industry has called for policy and regulatory changes to spur sales to $25-$30 billion in 10 years from about $3 billion currently.

Current Scenario

  • The recent consumer preference trends show an increasing focus on nutritious food and food safety globally.
  • This shift offers a variety of opportunities to the Indian nutraceutical industry, which can lead this business globally due to our natural advantages.
  • This industry has potential to grow to the size of $25-30 billion in ten years but we need a lot of regulatory push to create a cohesive ecosystem for the industry players across the value chain.
  • Nutraceuticals sector currently falls within the ambit of the FSSAI, an authority under the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MOFPI).

Nutraceutical

  • A nutraceutical or ‘bioceutical’ is a pharmaceutical alternative which claims physiological benefits. Nutraceuticals are treated differently in different jurisdictions.
  • A market research report produced in 2018 projected that the worldwide nutraceuticals market would account for over US$ 80,700 million in 2019, defining that market as “Dietary Supplements (Vitamins, Minerals, Herbals, Non-Herbals, & Others), and Functional Foods & Beverages”.
  • Nutraceuticals are products derived from food sources that are purported to provide extra health benefits, in addition to the basic nutritional value found in foods.
  • Depending on the jurisdiction, products may claim to prevent chronic diseases, improve health, delay the aging process, increase life expectancy, or support the structure or function of the body
  • Because nutraceuticals and bioceuticals are largely unregulated, these supplements are the subject of more of marketing hype than actual clinical testing, and for many, it is not even yet known whether they provide more benefits than risks for consumers.

Way forwards

  1. A separate regulatory body,
  2. Independent HSN [Harmonized System of Nomenclature] code structure,
  3. Specific financial packages and tax breaks for manufacturing, research and clinical studies

Would give the industry a significant boost and allow it to contribute substantially for the public healthcare.

A PPP model could be explored to drive higher domestic penetration of nutraceutical products and enhance nutrition levels amongst the undernourished segments of the population.

-Source: The Hindu

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