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8th October – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. Playing catch up in flood forecasting technology
  2. Illegality of the cannabis plant and NDPS Act

PLAYING CATCH UP IN FLOOD FORECASTING TECHNOLOGY

Focus: GS-III Disaster Management

Introduction

The end users of flood forecast – i.e., local agencies like district administration, municipalities and disaster management authorities – are often faced with the difficult task of taking decisions when the flood forecast merely uses the words “Rising” or “Falling” above a water level at a river point and the time available to act is just 24 hours, there is no idea of the area of inundation, its depth, and when the accuracy of the forecast decreases at 24 hours and beyond.

Ensemble forecast

  • Another form of flood forecast “Ensemble forecast” provides a lead time of 7-10 days ahead, with probabilities assigned to different scenarios of water levels and regions of inundation.
  • An example of the probabilities ahead could be something like this: chances of the water level exceeding the danger level is 80%, with likely inundation of a village nearby at 20%.
  • The “Ensemble flood forecast” certainly helps local administrations with better decision-making and in being better prepared than in a deterministic flood forecast.

India’s Shortcoming

The United States, the European Union and Japan have already shifted towards “Ensemble flood forecasting” alongwith “Inundation modelling”.

India has only recently shifted towards “Deterministic forecast” (i.e. “Rising” or “Falling” type forecast per model run).

A case of multiple agencies

  • The India Meteorological Department (IMD) issues meteorological or weather forecasts while the Central Water Commission (CWC) issues flood forecasts at various river points.
  • The end-user agencies are disaster management authorities and local administrations.
  • Therefore, the advancement of flood forecasting depends on how quickly rainfall is estimated and forecast by the IMD and how quickly the CWC integrates the rainfall forecast (also known as Quantitative Precipitation Forecast or QPF) with flood forecast.
  • It also is linked to how fast the CWC disseminates this data to end user agencies.
  • Thus, the length of time from issuance of the forecast and occurrence of a flood event termed as “lead time” is the most crucial aspect of any flood forecast to enable risk-based decision-making and undertake cost-effective rescue missions by end user agencies.
  • Technology plays a part in increasing lead time. And it should also be noted that Advantage of advanced technology becomes infructuous because most flood forecasts at several river points across India are based on outdated statistical methods (of the type gauge-to-gauge correlation and multiple coaxial correlations) that enable a lead time of less than 24 hours.

Not uniform across India

  • A study by the National Institute of Technology, Warangal, Telangana shows that it is only recently that India has moved to using hydrological (or simply rainfall-runoff models) capable of being coupled with QPF.
  • Just as the CWC’s technological gap limits the IMD’s technological advancement, the technological limitations of the IMD can also render any advanced infrastructure deployed by CWC infructuous.

Conclusion

  • Therefore, outdated technologies and a lack of technological parity between multiple agencies and their poor water governance decrease crucial lead time.
  • Forecasting errors increase and the burden of interpretation shifts to hapless end user agencies.
  • The outcome is an increase in flood risk and disaster.
  • The developed world has shifted from deterministic forecasting towards ensemble weather models that measure uncertainty by causing perturbations in initial conditions, reflecting the different states of the chaotic atmosphere.
  • India has a long way to go before mastering ensemble model-based flood forecasting.

-Source: The Hindu


ILLEGALITY OF THE CANNABIS PLANT AND NDPS ACT

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology, GS-II Governance

Introduction

As potent as various parts of cannabis plant’s anatomy may be, not all of them amount to criminality under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.

What is the cannabis plant?

  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cannabis is a generic term used to denote the several psychoactive preparations of the plant Cannabis sativa.
  • The major psychoactive constituent in cannabis is Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
  • The Mexican name ‘marijuana’ is frequently used in referring to cannabis leaves or other crude plant material in many countries.
  • Most species of cannabis are dioecious plants that can be identified as either male or female.
  • The unpollinated female plants are called hashish.
  • Cannabis oil (hashish oil) is a concentrate of cannabinoids — compounds which are structurally similar to THC — obtained by solvent extraction of the crude plant material or of the resin.
  • The WHO says that cannabis is by far the most widely cultivated, trafficked and abused illicit drug in the world.

How does the NDPS Act define cannabis?

  • According to the NDPS Act “cannabis plant” means any plant of the genus cannabis.
  • The legislation that was enacted in 1985 succeeded the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1930.
  • It was introduced as lawmakers felt that the older legislation that entailed a maximum punishment of up to four years was not strict enough to check drug trafficking.
  • The NDPS Act covers separated raisin, in whatever form, whether crude or purified, obtained from the cannabis plant and also includes concentrated preparation and resin known as hashish oil or liquid hashish.
  • The Act also illegalises any mixture with or without any neutral material, of any of the two forms of cannabis – charas and ganja — or any drink prepared from it.

Are substances made from cannabis leaves also illegal under the NDPS Act?

  • No. As defined in the Act, the legislature left seeds and leaves of the cannabis plant out of the ambit of the NDPS Act.
  • The serrated leaves of the plant have negligible THC content.
  • THC is the psychoactive or intoxicating compound present in the cannabis plant that is mainly responsible for giving consumers the ‘high’.
  • ‘Bhang’, which is commonly consumed during festivals like Holi, is a paste made out of the leaves of the cannabis plant, and is hence not outlawed.

Why is the use of CBD oil still contentious in India?

  • The NDPS Act does not permit the recreational use of cannabis in India.
  • While CBD oil manufactured with a licence under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 can be legally used, it is not very common.
  • Cannabis content is very low and it has very low THC and has no addictive properties.
  • More than anxiety and depression, it has been found useful in cancer treatment like in multiple myeloma.

-Source: Indian Express

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