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28th February – Editorials/Opinions Analyses


  1. A Browning East
  2. Aadhaar, No Standout Performer in Welfare Delivery
  3. Lessons from Los Angeles that can help India fight air pollution


Why in news?

  • A new research findings arguing that the Eastern Ghats face a serious threat from climate change, and temperature variations
  • The Eastern Ghats spread across some 75,000 sq. km. from Odisha to southern Tamil Nadu, play an important dual role: fostering biodiversity and storing energy in trees
  • About 3,000 flowering plant species, nearly 100 of them endemic, occurring in the dry deciduous, moist deciduous and semi-evergreen landscapes are present in Eastern Ghats.
  • Many parts of the mountains, primarily in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, provide forest
  • produce and ecosystem services to millions

Extent of threats

Some findings say that the Ghats have shrunk by 16% over the past century, and just one region, Papikonda National Park, lost about 650 sq. km. in two decades from 1991.

Why necessary to protect?

  • Protecting the Eastern Ghats, which are separated by powerful rivers — the Godavari and Krishna, to name just two — is an ecological imperative.
  • India is committed, under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes through enhanced forest and tree cover.
  • Disruption of the annual average temperature and diminished rainfall would rob the productivity of these forests, in terms of their ability to store carbon, and provide subsistence material. 

What can be done?

  • Schemes for restoration of forest peripheries through indigenous plant and tree species, matching national commitments, could qualify for international climate finance, and must be pursued
  • Improving tree cover nationally is certain to confer multiple benefits, including modulation of the monsoon, improved air quality and wider spaces for biodiversity to persist.
  • Relieving the pressure on forests can be done through policies that reduce extraction of scarce resources and incentivise settled agriculture


Why in news/Context?

Recently a new working paper has been published in the prestigious National Bureau of Economic Research, with details findings from an extensive empirical study of the impact of Aadhaar in reducing leakages and accruing fiscal savings.

Objective of Aadhar

India spends nearly three trillion rupees a year across several core welfare programmes such as Public Distribution System (PDS), LPG, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act etc; roughly 30-40% of this is lost in leakages; leakages are largely due to ‘ghost’ and ‘duplicate’ beneficiaries using fake identities to avail these benefits

Cost of availing benefit

  • Aadhaar-based biometric authentication increased transaction costs for beneficiaries.
  • For a ration worth ₹40, beneficiaries in the Aadhaar system incurred an additional ₹7 of costs than those in the old system, because of multiple trips to authenticate themselves and the opportunity cost of time spent
  • Aadhaar-based biometric authentication also introduced what empirical scientists call Type I error of exclusion.

In summary, the study states that there was no direct impact of Aadhaar in reducing leakages but it denied ration to 10% of genuine beneficiaries and increased costs by 17% to those that were forced to get their ration using Aadhaar. 


Background and context

  • Despite evidence that dirty air was killing Americans, it was not until 1955 that the US passed its first federal air pollution legislation.
  • It took an additional 15 years for Congress to pass the Clean Air Act of 1970, which established nationwide monitoring and oversight
  • As a result, from 1970 to 2017, aggregate national emissions of six common pollutants dropped an average of 73%. Today, the US has some of the cleanest air in the world.

Steps to be taken

  • India now faces some of the same challenges LA faced in the past.
  • However, if India learns from LA’s experiences, it might be able to accomplish in much less time what took them 40 years to do
  • First, we need to develop a scientific understanding of what causes air pollution in each geographic area.
  • Second, we need to develop local, regional, and national-level legislation to enforce clean air initiatives—and the technologies to help companies comply.
  • Third, we need to monitor and adjust our approach, because air pollution is a long-term challenge.
  • Through Haagen-Smit’s research, it became clear that if Los Angeles wanted clean air, it had to reduce the number of cars on the road or make them run more cleanly.
  • This lead to the second key to combatting air pollution—regulation and technological advancement


  • A recent EPA study found that, taking median estimates, every dollar invested in clean air resulted in a $30 benefit.
  • During the 47 years in which LA’s six common pollutants dropped an average of 73%, gross domestic product grew by 324%.
  • Much of this economic benefit is attributable to fewer lost school days and workdays due to illness, lower medical costs, and fewer premature deaths associated with lower levels of ambient particulate matter.
  • The economic benefits of clean air are not limited to improved health and productivity.
  • Clean air improves crop and timber yields, benefiting farmers and foresters.
  • It also encourages tourism, recreation, and healthy living.

What is Smog?

  • Smog = smoke + fog (smoky fog) caused by the burning of large amounts of coal, vehicular emission and industrial fumes (Primary pollutants).
  • Smog contains soot particulates like smoke, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and other components.
  • At least two distinct types of smog are recognized: sulfurous smog and photochemical smog.

London smog:

  • Sulfurous smog is also called “London smog,” (first formed in London).
  • Sulfurous smog results from a high concentration of SULFUR OXIDES in the air and is caused by the use of sulfur-bearing fossil fuels, particularly coal (Coal was the mains source of power in London during nineteenth century. The effects of coal burning were observed in early twentieth century).
  • This type of smog is aggravated by dampness and a high concentration of suspended particulate matter in the air.

Los Angeles smog:

  • Photochemical smog is also known as “Los Angeles smog”.
  • Photochemical smog occurs most prominently in urban areas that have large numbers of automobiles (Nitrogen oxides are the primary emissions).
  • Photochemical (summer smog) forms when pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (primary pollutant) and organic compounds (primary pollutants) react together in the presence of SUNLIGHT. A gas called OZONE (Secondary pollutant) is formed.

Nitrogen Dioxide  +  Sunlight  +  Hydrocarbons  =  Ozone (Ozone in stratosphere it is beneficial, but near the earth’s surface it results in global warming as it is a greenhouse gas)

  • The resulting smog causes a light brownish coloration of the atmosphere, reduced visibility, plant damage, irritation of the eyes, and respiratory distress.
April 2024