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18th December 2020 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Content:

  1. Shackles and ties
  2. Converting waste to energy

Editorial: Shackles and ties

Context:

With the transition period of the U.K.’s exit from the EU (or Brexit) ending this month, the Boris Johnson government is beginning to firm up its partnerships outside its region, and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s Delhi visit came with a declaration of immediate and longer-term goals for the India-U.K. relationship.

Relevance:

GS Paper 2: Bilateral, Regional, Global groupings & Agreements (involving and/or affecting India)

Mains Questions

  1. India and the U.K. must not allow concerns of the moment to dominate their relationship. Discuss. 15 Marks
  2.  A new chapter in their post-COVID-19, post-Brexit relationship would necessarily entail the U.K. to be more sensitive to India’s concerns, and for India to be less sensitive when Britain expresses its concerns. Discuss. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Overview of India-UK Relationship
  • Issues between two Countries
  • Way forward

Overview of India-UK Relationship

UK-India relationship is rooted in India’s colonial history with the British and the relationship shared by both countries even after India’s independence. The bilateral relationship was upgraded to a strategic partnership in 2004. Key areas of relation between two are:

  • Trade and investments:
    • Trade between India and UK touched $15.5 billion with a $2 billion trade surplus in favour of India. UK is the 4th largest inward investor in India accounting for around 7% of all foreign direct investment into India. India is the second largest investor in the UK.
    • There are 842 Indian companies in the UK, employing more than 110,000 people.
    • This year, both sides agreed to establish ‘Enhanced Trade Partnership’, which is the first step towards a free trade agreement.
  • Defence Relations
    • Ajeya Warrior (army-to-army biennial exercise), the Konakan (joint navy-to-navy annual exercise) and the Indradhanush (joint air-to-air exercise) happens between India and UK.
    • A bilateral Defence Consultative Group (DCG) meeting has taken place annually between the top officials of the Defence Ministry since 1995.
  • Science and Technology
    • Joint investment in UK-India research has grown from less than £1 million in 2008 to over £200 million.
    • By 2021, the UK-India Newton-Bhabha programme will provided with more than £400m on joint research and innovation.
  • Cultural and Diaspora Relations
    • The year 2017 was declared as UK India year of Culture. The 2011 census records approximately 1.5 million people of Indian origin in the UK equating to almost 1.8 percent of the population and contributing 6% of the country’s GDP.
    • In 2017 almost one million Britons visited India. Also, there has been a gradual mainstreaming of Indian culture and absorption of Indian cuisine, cinema, languages, religion, philosophy, performing arts, etc. in UK.

Issues in India-UK relations

  • The UK does not have a government-to-government framework for arms sales to India, relying instead on commercial-led transactions.
  • UK is an active participant in Belt and Road Initiative of China for which India raised sovereignty issues.
  • Colonial hangover in public is affecting the policy makers of India to take decisions for close relations with UK.
  • Brexit raises major issues for Indian business: o Political uncertainty and oscillating business policy along with fluctuating market share and prospect. o Restructuring to set up EU subsidiaries of Indian companies.

Way forward

  • Two sides should reinvigorate the crucial bilateral relationship, with Britain supporting India’s greater international role, and its global aspirations for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
  • Britain looks at Commonwealth (group of 53 states, with majority part of the former British Empire) as a sort of post-Brexit lifeboat. Britain and India could work the Commonwealth in concert and to mutual benefit.
  • UK and India can engage with the Indian ambitions for urbanization, digitization and skill development. There is scope for collaboration in areas of education, science, and creative industries etc.
  • For India, post-Brexit cover a range of highly desirable scenarios such more employment opportunities in Britain for skilled Indian workers. Also, India can conclude an FTA directly with UK as India-EU FTA talks are stalled over the years.
  • Enhancing Cooperation: Strategic Partnership to a “Comprehensive” Strategic Partnership, which will envision closer military ties, cooperation in Indo-Pacific strategies, counter-terrorism and fighting climate change.

A new chapter in their post-COVID-19, post-Brexit relationship would necessarily entail the U.K. to be more sensitive to India’s concerns, and for India to be less sensitive when Britain expresses its concerns.


Editorial: Converting waste to energy

Context:

On December 2, Karnataka Chief Minister laid the foundation stone for a 11.5 MW waste-to-energy plant near Bidadi. This plant is expected to process 600 tonnes per day of inorganic waste.

Relevance:

GS Paper 3: Environmental conservation; Environmental pollution and degradation; Environmental Impact Assessment.

Mains Questions:

  1. What is waste to energy? How it will help to address waste pollution in cities and also provide renewable energy. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is Waste to Energy?
  • Techniques related to Waste to Energy
  • Significance of Waste to Energy
  • Challenges related to Waste to Energy
  • Way Forward

What is Waste to Energy?

Waste-to-energy (WtE) or energy-from-waste (EfW) is the process of generating energy in the form of electricity and/or heat from the primary treatment of waste, or the processing of waste into a fuel source. WtE is a form of energy recovery. Waste contains:

  • Biomass, or biogenic (plant or animal products), materials such as paper, cardboard, food waste, grass clippings, leaves, wood, and leather products
  • Non-biomass combustible materials such as plastics and other synthetic materials made from petroleum
  • Non-combustible materials such as glass and metals

Techniques related to Waste to Energy:

  • Incineration: It uses MSW as a fuel, burning it with high volumes of air to form carbon dioxide and heat. In a waste-to-energy plant that uses incineration, these hot gases are used to make steam, which is then used to generate electricity.
  • Gasification: It is a process that converts organic or fossil fuel based carbonaceous materials into carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
  • Pyrolysis It involves application of heat with no added oxygen in order to generate oils and/or syngas (as well as solid waste outputs) and requires more homogenous waste streams.
  • Bio methanation: It is a process by which organic material is microbiologically converted under anaerobic conditions to biogas. It involves fermenting bacteria, organic acid oxidizing bacteria, and methanogenic archaea.

Significance of Waste to Energy:

  • Waste Disposal: Waste-to-Energy (or energy-from-waste) facilities provide a safe, technologically advanced means of waste disposal that reduces greenhouse gases, generates clean energy and recycles metal.
  • Mitigate Climate Change: Waste-to-Energy (WTE) is widely recognized as a technology that can help mitigate climate change. This is because the waste combusted at a WTE facility doesn’t generate methane, as it would at a landfill; the metals that would have been sent to the landfill are recovered for recycling instead of being thrown out; and the electricity generated offsets the greenhouse gases that would otherwise have been generated from coal and natural gas plants.
  • Net Greenhouse Gas Reducer: Methane is a greenhouse gas which is mostly emitted from decomposing waste in landfills. WtE facilities avoid the production of methane while producing almost ten times more electricity from each ton of waste compared to landfills.
  • Resource savings and recovery greatly expanded: Metals left in the municipal solid waste stream can be extracted from the ash resulting from incineration and the metals can be recycled.
  • 24*7 Electricity: WTE facilities, unlike wind and solar, are capable of providing 24*7 renewable electrical power.
  • Landfill usage and expansion greatly reduced: Waste to energy facilities typically reduce waste volumes by 90%. Fewer and smaller landfills are needed to process.
  • Transportation of waste long distances can be greatly reduced with a waste to energy facility in a community, resulting in less air pollution.

Challenges related to Waste to Energy:

  • Low Calorific Waste: Municipal waste in India is often not segregated properly. It has a very high biodegradable (wet) waste content ranging anywhere between 60 and 70 per cent of the total, compared with 30 per cent in the West. This gives our waste a high moisture content and low calorific value. In Delhi, for example, only 12 per cent of the waste can be thermally treated through incineration technologies.
  • High Toxic Waste: Incinerators develop toxic ash or slag, containing heavy metals and gas pollutants which are toxic (corrosive impact) and pollute underground water. · Expensive power: Compared to Rs 3-4 per kWh from coal and solar plants, WTE plants sell electricity at about Rs 7/kWh.
  • Lack of Finance for Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) affects institutional capacity necessary for integrated management of municipal solid waste, which requires investments for WtE projects.
  • Other Challenges include irregular and inadequate quantity of supply; non-payment of agreed fee and non-marketability of waste processed projects, including power.

Way Forward

  • Improved MSW collection system: Separate collection and transportation of domestic waste (including trade & institutional waste), inert wastes such as street sweepings, silt from surface drains and Construction & Demolition wastes should be ensured by the municipal authorities.
  • Encourage Private Partnership in building WtE plants as recommended by Task force on WtE (2014) headed by K Kasturirangan.
  • Amendment to Electricity Act-2003 to include a provision for State Electricity Discoms to mandatorily purchase all power generated from municipal solid waste at a tariff decided through competitive bidding.
  • Strict enforcement to ensure the waste is not mixed at the source of generation and then that the handling of waste is in unmixed streams.
  • Alternative to WtE Plants: Since WtE technologies are being phased out in the West, they should not be allowed unless the waste offered meets the criterion specified by the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016. Other option could be explored like composting and bio-methanation.
  • Role of urban local bodies (ULBs): Standing Committee on Energy report on Power Generation from Municipal Solid Waste suggested for increased grants to states and ULBs to maximise waste collection efficiency and also recommended to integrate ragpickers and kabadiwalas within the formal system.
    • Setting up of Monitoring Committee, consisting of representatives from all the central ministries along with the representatives of the state governments and ULBs, to coordinate efforts at each level, and suggest methods and technologies to be adopted to make the waste-to-energy plants successful.
  • Participation of civil society: Municipal Authorities should make concerted efforts to involve civil society in managing their waste and motivate Resident Welfare Associations (RWA), Community-Based Organisations/ NGO’s to take up work of community awareness and door to door collection to facilitate resource recovery and waste minimization by implementing the ‘5R’ Concept: reduce, reuse, recover, recycle and remanufacture.
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