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Current Affairs 15 December 2021 for UPSC Exam | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. The status of the Smart Cities Mission
  2. India votes against U.N. draft resolution on climate change
  3. Zero budget natural farming back on top of agenda

The Status of the Smart Cities Mission

Context:

The Centre used a competitive process to select 100 cities for upgradation with significant investments through the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) launched in 2015.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Smart Cities Mission
  2. Definition of “Smart Cities” according to Smart Cities Mission
  3. Concerns regarding the Smart Cities Mission (SCM)

About the Smart Cities Mission

  • National Smart Cities Mission is an urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India with the mission to develop smart cities across the country, making them citizen friendly and sustainable.
  • The Union Ministry of Urban Development is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with the state governments of the respective cities.
  • While the mission initially included only 100 cities, the government later announced to expand the mission to all 4,000 cities in India.
  • Smart Cities Mission is supporting interested cities in raising finance through Municipal Bonds.
  • The Urban Learning Internship Program (TULIP) is designed for all ULBs (Urban Local Bodies) and Smart City SPVs (Special Purpose Vehicles) to engage fresh graduates as interns.
  • Climate Smart Cities and Data Smart Cities are two important programs under Smart Cities Mission.
  • The use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is at the core of enhancing the city’s liveability, workability, and sustainability.
  • The Ministry of Urban Development has identified 24 key areas that cities must address in their ‘smart cities’ plan.
  • Of these 24 key areas, 3 are directly related to water and 7 are indirectly related to water – Smart-metre management, leakage identification, preventive maintenance, and water quality modeling.
  • Smart Cities Mission is one of the mechanisms that will help operationalize the nationwide implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) priorities like poverty alleviation, employment, and other basic services.

Definition of “Smart Cities” according to Smart Cities Mission

  • Some definitional boundaries are required to guide cities in the Mission.
  • In the imagination of any city dweller in India, the picture of a smart city contains a wish list of infrastructure and services that describes his or her level of aspiration.
  • To provide for the aspirations and needs of the citizens, urban planners ideally aim at developing the entire urban eco-system, which is represented by the four pillars of comprehensive development-institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure.
  • This can be a long-term goal and cities can work towards developing such comprehensive infrastructure incrementally, adding on layers of ‘smartness’.

Concerns regarding the Smart Cities Mission (SCM)

  • Many projects under the SCM remain incomplete beyond the original deadlines. This will lead to cost overruns.
  • Under the scheme, the citizens’ aspirations were to be captured in the Smart City Proposals (SCPs). However, the preparation of smart city plans has lacked wide public discussion. Project finalisation has thus far only involved State governments, the bureaucracy and independent experts.
  • There also have been criticisms regarding the poor planning and execution of the proposed projects. Some projects have been criticized for their environmental unsustainability. Ongoing smart city plans face the pressure of designing for climate change.
  • There seems to be poor accountability in terms of timelines and deliverables from the scheme. The Smart City Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), constituted to implement, operate and monitor the projects and empowered to take decisions on Mission projects under the overall guidance of the State High Powered Steering Committees are not required to submit projects for approval to the Ministry. This effectively puts the onus on these entities to complete the work according to the deadlines, and the Centre does not bear responsibility for delays.
  • A core factor of sustainability is inclusivity, which seems to be overlooked in the overall planning and execution of the proposed projects.

-Source: The Hindu


India votes against U.N. draft resolution on climate change

Context:

  • India voted against a draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) linking climate to security, saying it was an attempt to shift climate talks from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to the Security Council and a “step backward” for collective action on the issue.
  • This was the second time that India went against the tide to block a climate change-related proposal that it did not agree with. At the Glasgow COP, India had forced a last-minute amendment in the final draft agreement to ensure that a provision calling for “phase-out” of coal was changed to “phase-down”.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology, GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. United Nations Security Council
  2. Membership
  3. Functions and Powers of UNSC
  4. About the UNSC draft resolution on Climate Change
  5. Why did India vote against the resolution?

United Nations Security Council

The Security Council is one of the six main organs of the United Nations.

  • The Permanent Residence of UNSC in the UN Headquarters New York City, USA.
  • Its primary responsibility is the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to member states, only the Security Council has the power to make decisions that member states are then obligated to implement under the Charter- Hence, it is the only body of the UN with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • Resolutions of the Security Council are typically enforced by UN peacekeepers, military forces voluntarily provided by member states and funded independently of the main UN budget.

Membership

  • It has 15 Members (5 as Permanent Members and 10 as Non- Permanent Members), and each Member has one vote.
  • The Five permanent members are: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Each of the Permanent Members has Veto Power over every decision of UNSC.
  • The Ten non-permanent members are Elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.
  • Each year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members (out of ten in total) for a two-year term. The ten non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis.
  • As per the rules of procedure, a retiring member is not eligible for immediate re-election and the election is held by secret ballot and there are no nominations.
  • The presidency of the Council rotates monthly, going alphabetically among member states.

Functions and Powers of UNSC

Under the United Nations Charter, the functions and powers of the Security Council are:

  1. to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations;
  2. to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction;
  3. to recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of settlement;
  4. to formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments;
  5. to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken;
  6. to call on Members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression;
  7. to take military action against an aggressor;
  8. to recommend the admission of new Members;
  9. to exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in “strategic areas”;
  10. to recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and, together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice.

About the UNSC draft resolution on Climate Change

The objective of the draft was to examine how terrorism and security risks could be linked to climate change.

Arguments in favor of UNSC in climate talks

  1. Preventing conflicts: The UNSC exists primarily to prevent conflicts and maintain global peace.
  2. International security: A few EU countries, led by Germany, have been pushing for a role for UNSC in climate change discussions citing international security dimensions.
  3. Climate-led conflicts: Climate change-induced food or water shortage, loss of habitat or livelihood, or migration can exacerbate existing conflicts or even create new ones.
  4. UN Peacekeeping: This can have implications for the UN field missions that are deployed across the world in peacekeeping efforts.

Why did India vote against the resolution?

  • While India acknowledged the link between climate change and threat to international peace and security, it argued against the proposal to bring climate negotiations under the UNSC framework based on the following reasons.
  • The shift of climate talks from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to the Security Council would adversely affect collective action on the climate action issue. Bringing climate talks to the Security Council would allow climate decisions to be taken without consensus or the involvement of most developing countries.
  • Such a development would also go against the principle of “common but differentiated” responsibilities, a fundamental tenet of climate action.

-Source: The Hindu


Zero budget natural farming back on top of agenda

Context:

Zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) is back on top of the Government’s agenda with Prime Minister Narendra Modi set to highlight it at a national conclave in Gujarat.

Relevance:

GS-III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Zero Budget Natural Farming?
  2. The Need for Zero Budget Natural Farming
  3. Four wheels of ZBNF to be implemented practically
  4. Is ZBNF effective?
  5. Advantages of Zero Budget Natural Farming
  6. Disadvantages of Zero Budget Natural Farming
  7. Which are the States with big plans?

What is Zero Budget Natural Farming?

  • Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a method of farming where the cost of growing and harvesting plants is zero.
  • This means that farmers need not purchase fertilizers and pesticides in order to ensure the healthy growth of crops.
  • It is, basically, a natural farming technique that uses biological pesticides instead of chemical-based fertilizers.
  • Farmers use earthworms, cow dung, urine, plants, human excreta and such biological fertilizers for crop protection. It reduces farmers’ investment. It also protects the soil from degradation.

The Need for Zero Budget Natural Farming

  • From the (NSSO) National Sample Survey Office data, 70% plus of farmers spend more they earn, and most farmers have debt.
  • The indebtedness level is around 90% in states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where each household has an average debt of Rs 1 lakh.
  • To achieve the promise of the central government to double the income of farmers by 2022, one factor being considered is natural farming methods zero budget natural farming.

Four wheels of ZBNF to be implemented practically

The “four wheels” of ZBNF are ‘Jiwamrita’, ‘Bijamrita’, ‘Mulching’ and ‘Waaphasa’, says Palekar, a Padma Shri awardee.

  1. Jiwamritais a fermented mixture of cow dung and urine (of desi breeds), jaggery, pulses flour, water and soil from the farm bund. This isn’t a fertiliser, but just a source of some 500 crore micro-organisms that can convert all the necessary “non-available” nutrients into “available” form.
  2. Bijamritais a mix of desi cow dung and urine, water, bund soil and lime that is used as a seed treatment solution prior to sowing.
  3. Mulching, or covering the plants with a layer of dried straw or fallen leaves, is meant to conserve soil moisture and keep the temperature around the roots at 25-32 degrees Celsius, which allows the microorganisms to do their job.
  4. Waaphasa, or providing water to maintain the required moisture-air balance, also achieves the same objective.

Is ZBNF effective?

  • A limited 2017 study in Andhra Pradesh claimed a sharp decline in input costs and improvement in yields. However, reports also suggest that many farmers have reverted to conventional farming after seeing their ZBNF returns drop after a few years, in turn raising doubts about the method’s efficacy in increasing farmers’ incomes.
  • ZBNF critics, including some experts within the central policy and planning think tank NITI Aayog, note that India needed the Green Revolution in order to become self-sufficient and ensure food security. They warn against a wholesale move away from that model without sufficient proof that yields will not be affected. Sikkim, which has seen some decline in yields following a conversion to organic farming, is used as a cautionary tale regarding the pitfalls of abandoning chemical fertilizers.

Advantages of Zero Budget Natural Farming

  • Zero budget natural farming reduces the initial cost of farmers.
  • Farmer’s income automatically increases.
  • The soil ecosystem improves.
  • Cow dung adds soil value. It is full of nutrients value and available locally.
  • Bacteria of cow dung decompose the organic matter in soil and make soil for the plants.
  • It requires less electricity and water.
  • ZBNF improves the productivity of the soil.
  • It decreases the disease attack risk on the crop.

Disadvantages of Zero Budget Natural Farming

  • This farming method used in some parts of India.
  • The type of farming being debated, and there is not much scientific research under evaluation.
  • This farming technique used in negligible areas.

Which are the States with big plans?

  • The Centre has sanctioned the proposals of eight States for support under the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana scheme this year. Andhra Pradesh has the biggest ambition to bring one lakh additional hectares of land under ZBNF under the scheme, followed by Chhattisgarh, with 85,000 additional hectares and Gujarat, with 71,000 additional hectares.
  • The Agriculture Secretary said the proposals being implemented under the scheme would be used to showcase the benefits of the method. “Because it is unproven does not mean it is not good. Scientific studies have not been completed, but in the field it is being proven. It is the farmers’ own practices which are showcasing this,” he said.

-Source: The Hindu

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