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Current Affairs 15 March 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Landfills catching fire
  2. Ban on blood donations by gay people
  3. Curative Petition
  4. Doha Political Declaration
  5. Bumchu Festival

Landfills Catching Fire


Context:

The Kochi landfill site around Brahmapuram that caught fire earlier this month is a stark reminder that Indian cities need to be prepared for more such incidents as summer approaches.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Landfills?
  2. How do landfills catch fire?
  3. Managing Landfill Fires: Permanent Solutions
  4. Immediate Measures for Landfill Management

What are Landfills?

  • Landfills are designated areas where waste materials are buried and left to decompose over time.
  • They are essentially large pits or excavated areas in the ground that are lined with a protective layer to prevent contamination of the soil and groundwater.
  • The waste materials are then deposited in the landfill and compacted to reduce the volume of the waste and make space for additional waste.
  • Once a section of the landfill is full, it is covered with a layer of soil or other materials to prevent odors and litter.

How do landfills catch fire?

  • India’s municipalities have been collecting more than 95% of the waste generated in cities but the efficiency of waste-processing is 30-40% at best.
  • Municipal solid waste consists of about 60% biodegradable material, 25% non-biodegradable material and 15% inert materials, like silt and stone.
  • Municipalities are expected to process the wet and dry waste separately and to have the recovered by-products recycled.
  • Unfortunately, the rate of processing in India’s cities is far lower than the rate of waste generation, so unprocessed waste remains in open landfills for long periods of time.
  • This openly disposed waste includes flammable material like low-quality plastics, which have a relatively higher calorific value of about 2,500-3,000 kcal/kg, and rags and clothes.
  • In summer, the biodegradable fraction composts much faster, increasing the temperature of the heap to beyond 70-80°C.
  • A higher temperature coupled with flammable materials is the perfect situation for a landfill to catch fire. Some fires go on for months.

Managing Landfill Fires: Permanent Solutions

There are two possible permanent solutions for managing landfill fires:

Complete Capping and Closure
  • This solution involves capping the landfill material using soil and closing the landfill in a scientific manner.
  • However, this approach may not be suitable in the Indian context as the land cannot be used again for other purposes.
  • Closed landfills have specific standard operating procedures, including managing methane emissions.
Bioremediation
  • The second solution involves clearing piles of waste through bioremediation.
  • This process involves excavating old waste and using automated sieving machines to segregate flammable refuse-derived fuel (RDF) from biodegradable material.
  • The RDF can be sent to cement kilns as fuel, while the bio-soil can be distributed to farmers to enrich soil. The inert fraction will have to be landfilled.
  • However, implementing a bioremediation project usually takes up to two or three years, which necessitates a short-term solution for summertime landfill fires.

Immediate Measures for Landfill Management

When faced with the challenge of managing landfill sites, there are immediate measures that can be taken to mitigate the risk of fires. These measures include:

Dividing the site into Blocks
  • Divide the landfill site into blocks based on the nature of the waste.
  • Separate fresh waste blocks from blocks with flammable material, and those that have already been capped with soil.
Cap Vulnerable Portions with Soil
  • Cap vulnerable portions of the landfill, such as areas with lots of plastics and cloth, with soil.
  • Provide enough moisture to the fresh-waste block by sprinkling water, and turn the material regularly for aeration to cool the waste heap.
Classify Incoming Waste and Dispose of in Designated Blocks
  • Classify incoming waste upon arrival and dispose of it in designated blocks instead of dumping mixed fractions.
  • Send already segregated non-recyclable and non-biodegradable waste to cement kilns instead of allowing it to accumulate.
Clear Dry Grass Material and Trees
  • Clear dry grass material and dry trees from the site immediately.

While these measures can help reduce the damage caused by fires, they are not long-term solutions. The permanent solution is to ensure cities have a systematic waste-processing system where wet and dry waste are processed separately, and their byproducts treated accordingly.

Source: Indian Express


Ban On Blood Donations By Gay People


Context:

After a member of the transgender community, moved the Supreme Court seeking to strike down the prohibition on gay and transgender people donating blood in the country, the Centre justified their exclusion by asserting that their inclusion in the “at-risk” category for HIV, Hepatitis B, or C infections is premised on scientific evidence.

Relevance:

GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are the guidelines which restrict gay and transgender people from donating blood in India?
  2. International Rules for Blood Donation by Gay and Transgender People

What are the guidelines which restrict gay and transgender people from donating blood in India?

  • The ban on blood donations by gay people was introduced in the 1980s — when information available on the detection and transmission of HIV/AIDS was much less than today.
  • The ban applied to all sexually active gay men, as well as sexually active bisexual men and transgender women who had sex with men.
  • In India, clause 12 of the ‘Guidelines for Blood Donor Selection & Blood Donor Referral, 2017’ mandates the donor to be free from diseases that are transmissible by blood transfusion, and not “at risk for HIV, Hepatitis B or C infections,” such as transgender, gay people, and female sex workers among others.
  • The fitness of the individual for blood donation is determined by the medical officer.
  • Moreover, another clause still permanently defers those “at risk for HIV infection”, including gay and transgender people, from donating blood in the country.
  • Issued by the National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC) and the National Aids Control Organisation in October 2017, these guidelines were approved in an attempt to bring in a Blood Transfusion Service which offers a “safe, sufficient and timely supply of blood and blood components to those in need”.
  • Singh, in his plea, had challenged the constitutional validity of these clauses, stating that they violate “Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India to the extent they exclude transgender persons, men having sex with men and female sex workers from being blood donors”.

International Rules for Blood Donation by Gay and Transgender People

United States
  • FDA introduced a deferral period of a year for gay and transgender men in 2015
  • In 2020, the deferral period was reduced to three months due to COVID-19 pandemic
  • FDA proposed guidelines to ease restrictions on gay and transgender people from donating blood in 2023
  • Proposal eliminates time-based deferrals for MSM and women who have sex with MSM
  • Donor questionnaire will be revised to ask all prospective donors about new or multiple sexual partners in the past three months
United Kingdom
  • NHS Blood and Transplant assesses eligibility based solely on individual experiences
  • All donors asked if they have had a new sexual partner or multiple partners in the last 3 months
  • Anyone who has had anal sex with a new partner or multiple partners in the last three months cannot give blood at that time
Canada
  • Donor selection criteria excluded MSM in the 1980s
  • In 2022, Health Canada approved and implemented the use of sexual behaviour-based screening criteria for all donors, regardless of gender or sexual orientation
  • Deferral period has been reduced from five years to three months
Other Countries
  • Countries such as the Netherlands, Israel, Argentina, France, Greece, and Germany have moved away from restricting specific groups from donating blood
  • Australia imposes restrictions for gay and bisexual men if their sexual abstinence period is less than three months
  • Czech Republic and Switzerland have a deferral period of a year, whereas Denmark, Estonia, and Finland have a deferral period of four months for MSM and female sex partners of MSM
  • Belgium will reduce the deferral period for MSM to four months from July 1, 2023
  • India
  • Court case over exclusion of gay and transgender people from donating blood is ongoing
  • Petitioner argues exclusion is arbitrary and discriminatory, while the government argues it falls within the ambit of public health

Source: Indian Express


Curative Petition


Context:

Recently, The Supreme Court dismissed a curative petition filed by the Centre, seeking additional funds from Union Carbide Corporations’ successor firms for extending higher compensation to victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, which led to the deaths of 3,000 people and caused significant environmental damage.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Curative Petition:
  2. Criteria for acceptance of a Curative Petition:
  3. Procedure for Hearing Curative Petitions:

About Curative Petition:

  • Background: The concept of curative petition originated from the case of Rupa Ashok Hurra Vs. Ashok Hurra and another case (2002) where the question arose before the court of law- ‘whether an aggrieved person is entitled to any relief against the final judgment/order of the Supreme Court, after the dismissal of a review petition?’.
  • Definition: A curative petition is the final and last option for people to acquire justice as mentioned and promised by the Constitution of India. It may be filed after a review plea against the final conviction is dismissed.
  • Objective: The objective of a curative petition is to ensure there is no miscarriage of justice and to prevent abuse of process.

Criteria for acceptance of a Curative Petition:

  • The petitioner must demonstrate that there was a violation of the principles of natural justice, and that they were not given a hearing before the court passed its order.
  • The court will also consider petitions where a judge failed to disclose facts that raise the apprehension of bias.
  • The Supreme Court has emphasized that curative petitions should be rare and considered with caution.
  • A curative petition must be accompanied by a certification from a senior advocate, outlining substantial grounds for its consideration.

Procedure for Hearing Curative Petitions:

  • A curative petition is initially circulated to a bench of the three senior-most judges, and the judges who passed the concerned judgment if they are available.
  • The matter will only be listed for hearing if a majority of the judges conclude that it requires further consideration.
  • The decision is usually made by judges in chambers, unless a specific request for an open-court hearing is granted.
  • The Bench may ask a senior counsel to assist as amicus curiae at any stage of consideration of the curative petition.
  • If the Bench determines that the petition is without merit and vexatious, it may impose exemplary costs on the petitioner.

Source: The Hindu


Doha Political Declaration


Context:

Doha Political Declaration was adopted by the head of the states at the recently concluded Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5).

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Doha Political Declaration
  2. What is the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA)?
  3. Least developed countries (LDCs)

About Doha Political Declaration:

  • The Doha Political Declaration is a significant outcome of the second part of the LDC5 conference, which took place in Qatar under the theme “From Potential to Prosperity.”
  • Commitment to Doha Programme of Action: The declaration welcomed the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA) and expressed a strong commitment to implementing it throughout the next decade.
  • UN Coordination: The declaration requested the UN Secretary-General to ensure that all parts of the UN system are fully mobilized and coordinated to facilitate the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action in a coordinated manner.

What is the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA)?

  • The DPoA is a plan for the Least Developed Countries that was adopted at the first part of the LDC5 conference in New York.
  • Its goal is to help the 46 most vulnerable countries achieve the UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goals over the course of 10 years.
  • The DPoA (2022-2031) focuses on six key areas:
    • Eradicating poverty
    • Leveraging the potential of science and technology
    • Addressing climate change
    • Tackling environmental degradation
    • Recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic
    • Building resilience against future shocks for risk-informed sustainable development.
Need for the Doha Political Declaration
  • The 46 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are facing multiple crises including the Covid-19 pandemic, climate crisis, growing inequalities, rising debt burdens, and economic shocks.
  • Despite contributing minimally to Carbon Dioxide emissions, LDCs are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change.
  • Many LDCs, including 33 African nations, struggle with high debt costs and inadequate liquidity to provide essential services.
  • The Sustainable Development Report 2022 shows that LDCs are the worst performers in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • The Doha Political Declaration is necessary to address the urgent needs and challenges faced by LDCs and to ensure their progress towards sustainable development.

Least developed countries (LDCs):

  • Least developed countries (LDCs) are countries with low-income levels that face significant challenges in achieving sustainable development due to structural barriers.
  • LDCs are highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks, such as natural disasters, economic downturns, and health crises.
  • The United Nations Committee for Development Policy (CDP) reviews the list of LDCs every three years and currently, there are 46 countries on the list.
  • LDCs have access to special support measures, particularly in the areas of development assistance and trade, to help them overcome the challenges they face in achieving sustainable development.

Source: The Hindu


Bumchu Festival


Context

Recently, the Bumchu Festival was celebrated in the Tashiding Monastery, located in the state of Sikkim.

Relevance:

GS I: Festivals, Facts for Prelims

About Bumchu Festival:

  • The Bumchu Festival is an important annual ritual held at the Tashiding Monastery in Sikkim, India.
  • It commemorates a supernatural event that occurred in the 18th century under Chogyal Chakdor Namgyal.
  • Bumchu means “pot of sacred water” in Tibetan, and during the festival, the vase containing the holy water is opened and shared among worshippers.
  • The water is believed to possess healing qualities and to bring good luck and wealth to those who drink it.
  • The festival takes place on the 14th and 15th of the first lunar month, which typically falls in February or March.
  • The Bumchu Festival is a popular event, drawing pilgrims from all over India and neighboring countries such as Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

Source: The Hindu


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