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Current Affairs 22 & 23 December 2020 for UPSC Exam


  1. NGT on saving Floodplains of Mahanadi river
  2. NGT on Biodiversity Management Committees and PBRs
  3. NFHS-5 on India’s need for two-child policy
  4. India-Vietnam virtual summit



The National Green Tribunal has formed a panel of experts for laying down norms to ensure that the planned expansion of a medical college and river front development takes place without damage to the floodplains of the river.


GS-I: Geography (Landforms and Drainage system of India), GS-III Environment and Ecology (Environmental degradation and Conservation of Rivers), GS-II Government policies and laws

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Present Threats to Mahanadi Floodplains and Possible Solutions
  2. What is a floodplain?
  3. Background: About Mahanadi River

Present Threats to Mahanadi Floodplains and Possible Solutions

  • The (Mahanadi) riverbed is likely to be affected by setting up of the medical college or other permanent constructions in the floodplain of the river.
  • Encroachment of Kathajodi and Mahanadi rivers and construction in floodplain area may adversely affect the riverine ecology.
  • There is no central legislation to regulate the floodplains, except a 2016 notification issued by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation, with respect to Ganga river, under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, prohibiting any construction in the active floodplain area of river Ganga or its tributaries.

What can be done to conserve the Floodplains?

  • There is a need to prevent irreversible damage to the riverine ecology by enforcing the applicable rules.
  • Floodplain zones need to be identified and demarcated in the light of such norms.
  • The Committee may identify the extent of floodplain zone/active floodplain zone from the edge of the river in order to ensure the floodplain is preserved without encroachment.

Scattered laws in existence for protection of floodplain and similar areas

  • There are some State Acts like Manipur Flood Zoning Act, 1978 and the Uttarakhand Flood Plain Zoning Act, 2012 which regulate construction on Floodplains.
  • The Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 prohibit any permanent constructions within 50 meters of the Wetlands, from the mean high flood level in the past 10 years from the commencement of the rules.
  • In Maharashtra, there are norms for demarcating regulatory and prohibitory zones in the floodplains of the rivers.
  • There are also similar restrictions in certain Master Plans like the Revised Master Plan of Bangalore restricting constructions in catchment area of the lakes.

What is a floodplain?

  • A floodplain is a generally flat area of land next to a river or stream.
  • Floodplain is formed mainly by flooding of rivers and deposition of sand sediments on the riverbanks.
  • It stretches from the banks of the river to the outer edges of the valley in which the river flows.

A floodplain consists of two parts:

  1. The Main Channel of the river itself – called the Floodway.
  2. The area that extends from the outer banks of the floodway to the bluff lines (Valley walls) of a river valley – called the Flood fringe.

How are floodplains formed?

  • There are two major processes involved in the natural development of floodplains: erosion and aggradation.
  • Erosion of a floodplain describes the process in which earth is worn away by the movement of a floodway.
  • Aggradation (or alluviation) of a floodplain describes the process in which earthen material increases as the floodway deposits sediment.

Background: About Mahanadi River

  • The Mahanadi is a major river in East Central India which flows through the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.
  • The Mahanadi River system is the third largest of peninsular India after Godavari and Krishna.
  • Major tributaries of the Mahanadi River include: Seonath, Hasdeo, Mand, Jonking.
  • Its basin is bounded by the Central India hills on the north, by the Eastern Ghats on the south and east and by the Maikala range on the west.


  • Like many other seasonal Indian rivers, the Mahanadi too is a combination of many mountain streams and thus its precise source is impossible to pinpoint.
  • The Bastar hills in Chhattisgarh (from which the farthest headwaters form the river) are an extension of the Eastern Ghats and are a source of many other streams which then go on to join the Mahanadi.

Floods in the past and Hirakud dam

  • The Mahanadi river is very well known for the Hirakud dam which is one of the first major multipurpose river valley projects started after India’s independence. (It is the Longest Major Earthen Dam in India)
  • The Mahanadi river deposits more silt than any other river in the Indian subcontinent. (Relate to the news regarding Floodplains).
  • The Mahanadi was notorious for its devastating floods for much of recorded history. Thus, it was called ‘the sorrow of Orissa’.
  • However, the construction of the Hirakud Dam has greatly altered the situation.

-Source: Hindustan Times



  • The National Green Tribunal has extended the time limit for the constitution of biodiversity management committees (BMCs) and preparation of people’s biodiversity registers (PBRs) on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The NGT was earlier informed that instead of the 2.5+ lakh panchayats where Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) were to be constituted – less than 1.5 lakh panchayats had BMCs constituted.


GS-II: Polity and Governance (Tribunals, Government laws and policies), GS-III Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Ecology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs)?
  2. What are People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBR)?
  3. About the Biological Diversity Act, 2002
  4. About the National Green Tribunal (NGT)

What are Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs)?

  • Biodiversity Management Committees are to be established under the Biological Diversity Act 2002, at LOCAL LEVEL
  • BMCs play a vital role in documenting biodiversity, their sustainable use and in dealing with Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) issues.
  • BMCs are created for “promoting conservation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity” by local bodies across the country.
  • The main function of the BMC is to prepare People’s Biodiversity Register in consultation with the local people.
  • PBR preparation is mandatory under BD Act and it is the primary responsibility of every BMC.
  • Analysis reveals that only near 7% of BMCs have prepared their PBRs. This implies that more than 90% have failed to perform their mandatory responsibility of preparing comprehensive biodiversity registers

What are People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBR)?

  • People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBR) consists of a complete documentation of biodiversity in the area plants, food sources, wildlife, medicinal sources, etc.
  • Hence, PBRs help in tracing how the habitats are changing, and to understand and estimate parts of our forests.
  • PBR is also a bottom-up exercise – hence, it is a means of understanding the overlap of cultural and natural biodiversity.

About the Biological Diversity Act, 2002

  • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 was enacted for preservation of biological diversity in India, and to provide a mechanism for equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of traditional biological resources and knowledge.
  • The Act was enacted to meet the obligations under Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to which India is a party.
  • The Act defined biodiversity as – “the variability among living organisms from all sources and the ecological complexes of which they are part, and includes diversity within species or between species and of eco-systems”.
  • The Act provides for a three-tiered institutional structure- at the national, state, and local levels.
  • The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is a statutory autonomous body established under the act at the national level to implement the provisions under the Act.

About the National Green Tribunal (NGT)

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) is a Statutory body established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
  • The primary purpose of the tribunal is to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues.
  • The inspiration is drawn from Article 21 – Protection of life and personal liberty, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
  • The stated objective of the Central Government was to provide a specialized forum for effective and speedy disposal of cases pertaining to environment protection, conservation of forests and for seeking compensation for damages caused to people or property due to violation of environmental laws or conditions specified while granting permissions.

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.

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.

-Source: Hindustan Times



Based on the latest data from National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) experts believe that the country’s population is stabilising and fears over a “population explosion” and calls for a “two-child policy” are misguided.


GS-II: Social Justice, Polity and Governance (Issues related to health, poverty and hunger, Population control, Government interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Pointers from the NFHS-5 regarding population control
  2. What is the ‘Two-child policy’?
  3. Family Planning in India

Pointers from the NFHS-5 regarding population control

The latest data from the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) provides evidences of:

  1. An uptake in the use of modern contraceptives in rural and urban areas
  2. An improvement in family planning demands being met
  3. A decline in the average number of children borne by a woman

The analysis of the data by the international non-profit Population Council (PC) shows that the Total Fertility Rate (number of children born per woman) has decreased across 14 out of 17 States and is either at 2.1 children per woman or less.

  • This also implies that most States have attained replacement level fertility, i.e., the average number of children born per woman at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next.
  • While during NFHS-3 and NFHS-4, conducted between 2005 and 2016, there was a decline in the use of modern methods of contraception (oral pills, condoms, intra-uterine device) across 12 of 22 States and UTs, in NFHS-5 as many as 11 out of 12 States where there was a slump have witnessed an increase in their use.
  • the indicator to gauge the demand met for contraception has also increased — only five States had more than 75% demand being met in NFHS-4, but now 10 States are able to cater to the demand for family planning by up to 75%.
  • The top performers here are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana.

Click Here to read more about the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5)

What is the ‘Two-child policy’?

Two-child policy is a government-imposed limit of two children allowed per family or the payment of government subsidies only to the first two children.

Implementation of two-child policy in other countries

  • A two-child policy has previously been used in several countries including Iran, Singapore, and Vietnam.
  • In British Hong Kong in the 1970s, citizens were also highly encouraged to have two children as a limit (although it was not mandated by law), and it was used as part of the region’s family planning strategies.
  • Since 2016, it has been re-implemented in China replacing the country’s previous one-child policy.

Family Planning in India

  • From 1965 to 2009, contraceptive usage has more than tripled (from 13% of married women in 1970 to 48% in 2009) and the fertility rate has more than halved (from 5.7 in 1966 to 2.4 in 2012), but the national fertility rate in absolute numbers remains high, causing concern for long-term population growth.
  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is the government unit responsible for formulating and executing family planning in India.
  • An inverted Red Triangle is the symbol for family planning health and contraception services in India.
  • In addition to the newly implemented government campaign, improved healthcare facilities, increased education for women, and higher participation among women in the workforce have helped lower fertility rates in many Indian cities.

Implementation of Two-child policies in India

  • In 2019, Assam state introduced a policy whereby those having more than two children would ineligible for government jobs.
  • Seven states — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand — have laws barring couples with more than two children from contesting local body elections.

Mission Pariwar Vikas

  • In 2017, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched Mission Pariwar Vikas, a central family planning initiative. The key strategic focus of this initiative is on improving access to contraceptives through delivering assured services, ensuring commodity security and accelerating access to high quality family planning services. its overall goal is to reduce India’s overall fertility rate to 2.1 by the year 2025.

Primary advantage of Family planning program:

  • Family planning program benefits not only parents and children but also to society and nation, by being able to keep the number of new births under control allows for less population growth.
  • With less population growth this will allow for more resources towards those already existing in the Indian population, with more resources comes longer life expectancy and better health.

-Source: The Hindu



India and Vietnam signed seven agreements for cooperation in areas such as defence, petrochemicals and nuclear energy and unveiled a joint vision for peace and prosperity against the backdrop of concerns in both countries about China’s aggressive actions across the region.


GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details and Significance of Agreements between India and Vietnam
  2. India–Vietnam relations

Details and Significance of Agreements between India and Vietnam

  • The seven agreements signed by the two countries cover diverse issues such as defence, nuclear power, petrochemicals, renewable energy and treatment of cancer.
  • New initiatives in the area of ​​ development cooperation and cultural conservation are also being undertaken.
  • Upgrading of bilateral ties between India and Vietnam to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2016 had bolstered trust and bolstered understanding of other’s vision and interests on international issues.
  • Vietnamese side had also agreed on India’s proposals for a further defence line of credit.

Significance of the meet

  • The meeting was held at a time when both countries are grappling with China’s aggressive actions in the region.
  • India is locked in a military standoff with China in Ladakh sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • Vietnam has major differences over Chinese claims within its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
  • In recent years, Vietnam has often turned to India for support over China’s increasing activities within its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

India and Vietnam will also concurrently serve as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council from 2021, and this has opened up new opportunities for cooperation and coordination on regional and international issues.

India–Vietnam relations

  • The Republic of India and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam enjoy strong bilateral relations as Cultural and economic links between India and Vietnam date back to 2nd century.
  • India supported Vietnam’s independence from France, opposed American involvement in the Vietnam War, and supported unification of Vietnam.
  • In 1955, India strongly condemned U.S. action during the Vietnam War and was also one of the few non-communist countries to assist Vietnam during the Cambodian–Vietnamese War.
  • India and North Vietnam established official diplomatic relations in 1972 and have since maintained friendly relations, especially in wake of Vietnam’s hostile relations with the People’s Republic of China, with which India had some diplomatic disputes.
  • India granted the “Most Favoured Nation” status to Vietnam in 1975.
  • In 1992, India and Vietnam established extensive economic ties, including oil exploration, agriculture and manufacturing.
  • The relations between the two countries, especially defence ties, benefited extensively from India’s Look East policy.
  • Bilateral military cooperation includes sale of military equipment, sharing of intelligence, joint naval exercises and training in counterinsurgency and jungle warfare.
  • India also regularly deploys its warships for goodwill visits to Vietnamese seas.
  • India is one of only three countries with which Vietnam has a comprehensive strategic partnership and state-owned ONGC Videsh is engaged in energy production in Vietnamese waters that have witnessed intrusions by Chinese vessels over the past year.
  • India and Vietnam also agreed to coordinate closely at multilateral forums, including the UN Security Council, where both countries will concurrently serve as non-permanent members in 2021, and at regional forums under the Asean framework.

-Source: Hindustan Times

March 2024