- Down to Earth’s State of the Environment report
- India, Australia broaden ties in Key Sectors
- SC on joint plea: Moratorium interest waiver
- Sixth mass extinction threat grows
- Plea to bring PM CARES Fund under RTI
Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology, Disaster Management
Why in news?
- India had one in five of all internal displacements caused by disasters across the world in 2019, mostly caused by floods, cyclones and drought, according to the Down to Earth’s State of the Environment report released in June 2020.
- The “State of India’s Environment in Figures” is an annual quantified statement of environmental statistics and analysis put together by Down To Earth magazine, which Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) helps publish.
The Report on aftermath of the Pandemic
- The report said that the ongoing covid-19 pandemic has affected almost 1.6 billion informal economy workers, accounting for 76% of informal employment worldwide, 265 million people are at risk of starvation and poverty rate is due to climb.
- Containment measures for the COVID-19 pandemic would reduce global GDP by 2 per cent per month, or an annual rate of 24 per cent, predicts intergovernmental economic body OECD.
The Report on the Disasters and Internal Displacements
- Flooding caused by the south-west monsoon led to over 20 lakh displacements. Similar displacements during Cyclone Fani followed by the Cyclones Vayu and Bulbul were observed.
- Drought conditions, which mar several states along with migrations for work also take place
The Report on Environmental changes
- It notes that there were 747 more tigers in 2018 than in 2014, yet net area for tiger conservation shrunk.
The Report on Water Resources in India
- Forest cover has shrunk in 38% of districts, while five out of 21 river basins are now in a state of absolute water scarcity.
- The report shows that more than 57% of India’s groundwater is contaminated with nitrate, fluoride and arsenic.
- Groundwater is used in 80% rural and 50% urban households.
Other Highlights in the report
- 19 major extreme weather events also claimed over 1200 lives last year.
- There were more than 50 lakh internal displacements in India last year, the highest in the world. (50 Lakh refers to the number of movements, not people, as individuals can be displaced several times.)
- According to the report India continues to face major challenges in achieving 9 of the 17 goals which is pushing down its global ranking on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) preparedness.
-Source: Down to Earth magazine, Hindustan Times, Livemint
Focus: GS-II International Relations
Why in news?
India and Australia in June 2020 upgraded their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership and signed several agreements, spanning mining of critical elements, cybersecurity cooperation and defence.
It reflects India and Australia’s strong commitment to practical global cooperation to address major challenges like COVID-19.
- Cooperation across a broad spectrum of issues such as terrorism, maritime security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, reform in the World Trade Organization, and dealing with the coronavirus crisis were pledged.
- Defence science and technology, public administration, water resources management, and vocational training were some other areas the two countries shortlisted to deepen their partnership.
- A key takeaway was a pact on mining critical and strategic minerals.
- The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement will allow militaries of the two countries to use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of supplies besides facilitating scaling up of overall defence cooperation.
- India has already signed similar agreements with the US, France and Singapore.
- The document on cooperation in the Indo Pacific formalises maritime cooperation between India and Australia acknowledging both countries key priorities and imperatives.
Focus: GS-III Indian Economy
Why in news?
Petitions were filed before the SC regarding the waiver of interest rates accrues during the 6 month period offered by RBI due to COVID 19. The Court asked the RBI and the Finance ministry to respond regarding the same.
Two main issues: the first was whether interest should be charged during the moratorium period or not; the second issue was whether interest should be charged on the accrued interest.
What RBI said?
RBI said it does not consider it prudent or appropriate to forcefully waive interest, which would risk the financial viability of the banks, which the RBI said are already reeling under the pressure of Bad loans. RBI is mandated to regulate the banks and it has to protect the interests of the depositors.
Supreme Court’s Views
The Supreme Court bench even observed that a moratorium without an interest waiver is detrimental to the borrower. However, such a waiver on the interest accrued would have some major unpleasant outcomes.
Negative Impacts of a waiver
- It weakens the credit culture, even who are capable would be discouraged
- Another unfavourable outcome is that waivers would hurt the already battered balance sheet of banks, even as it would further stymie the ability of lenders to give attractive returns to depositors.’
- An increasing pile of bad assets and waivers typically limit a bank’s ability to pass on interest rate reductions faster.
Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology
Why in news?
A recent analysis of data has warned of an acceleration in the sixth mass extinction.
Scientists have found that 515 species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, have fewer than 1,000 individuals each and are on the brink of extinction including in India.
- Among those facing extinction, 243 (47%) are continental and 272 (53%) insular (island-dwelling).
- The analysis also shows that those pushed to the brink of extinction have lost their historic geographic range.
- Most of them are from South America, followed by Oceania, Asia, Africa, North and Central America, and then Europe with less than 1% of them.
- The greatest numbers of mammals on the brink extinction are in Asia and Oceania. Most such birds live in South America and Oceania.
- The distribution of species on the brink extinction shows they also include those in the biodiversity hotspots of the Himalayas and the Western Ghats.
What can India do?
- Indian experts said the analysis should drive home the message that India can help secure the hot spots and more species from going extinct.
- India can address concerns over a hydropower project in biodiversity rich Dibang Valley and the National Wildlife Board’s approval to coal mining inside Assam’s Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve.
- It said such major losses of populations and species will destroy the ecosystem, goods, and services, which will impact human well-being while citing the example of Covid-19. The analysis said the pandemic is linked to wildlife trade and has recommended a strict ban on it in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and other Asian countries.
- It has suggested that food be made available to the poor in Africa to prevent dependence on bushmeat.
Click Here to read more about Mass Extinction (3rd Article)
-Source: Hindustan Times
Focus: GS-II Governance, Indian Polity
Why in news?
A public interest litigation (PIL) petition has been moved before the Delhi High Court seeking greater transparency in the PM CARES Fund by bringing it under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
There were recent newspapers reports of the PM CARES Fund refusing to divulge information sought under the RTI Act by claiming that the fund is not a ‘public authority’ within the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005. Click Here to read more about the RTI refusal (1st Article)
The PM CARES Fund was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2020 and he urged all Indians to donate to the fund to help the country fight COVID-19. After two months, the total corpus of the fund stands at approximately ₹10,000 crore.
Right to Information (RTI) Act
- Right to Information (RTI) is an act of the Parliament of India which sets out the rules and procedures regarding citizens’ right to information.
- Under the RTI Act, 2005, Public Authorities are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning.
- disclosure on their organisation, functions, and structure,
- powers and duties of its officers and employees, and
- financial information.
- The intent of such suo moto disclosures is that the public should need minimum recourse through the Act to obtain such information.
- If such information is not made available, citizens have the right to request for it from the Authorities.
- This may include information in the form of documents, files, or electronic records under the control of the Public Authority.
- The intent behind the enactment of the Act is to promote transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities.
-Source: The Hindu