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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 25 May 2021

Contents

  1. Slew of bad law proposals in Lakshadweep, resentment
  2. NGT upholds rights of pastoralists in Banni grasslands
  3. Protected Planet Report 2020

Slew of bad law proposals in Lakshadweep, resentment

Context:

Discontent is simmering beneath the calm, verdant environs of the Lakshadweep group of islands over a slew of regulations introduced by the new administrator, Praful Khoda Patel in the last five months of his rule.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Government Interventions and Policies, Issues arising out of the Design and Implementation of such policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021 (LDAR 2021)
  2. COVID surge in Lakshadweep and relaxation of protocols
  3. New rules: Ban on contesting panchayat polls, Beef ban, Goonda Act
  4. Administration of Union Territories
  5. Power of parliament to make laws in UTs
  6. About Lakshadweep

Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021 (LDAR 2021)

  • The Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation, 2021 (LDAR 2021), notified on the administration’s website, proposes to change the existing land ownership and usage in Lakshadweep by giving sweeping, arbitrary, unchecked powers to the government (and all its bodies) to directly interfere with an islander’s right to possess and retain their property.
  • It empowers the government to pick any land for “development” activities provided under its regulation. Once picked, the land can be used as per the government sees fit, i.e., with no regards for the owner of the land.
  • The draft report raises concerns as it refers to “development” as activities including “building, engineering, mining, quarrying or other operations in, on, over or under, land, the cutting of a hill or any portion or the making of any material change in any building or land, or in the use of any building or land, and includes sub-division of any land.”
  • It also adds that “a development plan shall not, either before or after it has been approved, be questioned in any manner, in any legal proceedings whatsoever”.
  • The proposed developmental activities at such scale also threatens the fragile ecosystem of the coral islands.

COVID surge in Lakshadweep and relaxation of protocols

  • Reforms under the new administrator, Praful Khoda Patel saw the Lakshadweep archipelago descend from being a ‘COVID-free region’ for nearly a year into one with almost 7000 cases in May 2021.
  • The new administrator has been accused of diluting the standard operating procedure (SOP) which was in force on the island for preventing the spread of the pandemic.

New rules: Ban on contesting panchayat polls, Beef ban, Goonda Act

  • Another controversy is around the proposed ban under the Draft Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulation, 2021 for individuals to contest panchayat polls if a resident has more than two kids.
  • The administrator has also been accused of trying to interfere in the traditional life of the people of Lakshadweep by the proposed “animal preservation” rules that seek to ban slaughter, transportation, selling or buying of beef products.
  • The introduction of a Goonda Act in the island that has close to nil crime rate and revoking of restrictions on alcohol in the name of tourism also have attracted criticism from the islanders.
  • Further, the sheds where fishermen used to keep their nets and other equipment were demolished by the new administration on the grounds that they violated the Coast Guard Act.

Administration of Union Territories

Articles 239 to 241 in Part VIII of the Constitution deal with the union territories and there is no uniformity in their administrative system.

  • Every union territory is administered by the President through an administrator appointed by him.
  • Administrator of a union territory is an agent of the Central government and is not the head of state like a governor.
  • The President can also appoint the governor of a state as the administrator of an adjoining union territory.
  • Not all the UT’s have an administrator, some are directly governed by president.

Power of parliament to make laws in UTs

  • The Parliament can make laws on any subject of the three lists (including the State List) for the union territories.
  • The President can make regulations for the peace, progress and good government of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu.
  • A regulation made by the President has the same force and effect as an act of Parliament
  • The Parliament can establish a high court for a union territory

About Lakshadweep

  • India’s smallest Union Territory, Lakshadweep is an archipelago consisting of 36 islands with an area of 32 sq km.
  • There are three main group of islands: Amindivi Islands, Laccadive Islands, Minicoy Island.
  • All are tiny islands of coral origin (Atoll) and are surrounded by fringing reefs.
  • The Capital is Kavaratti and it is also the principal town of the UT.
  • These islands are a part of Reunion Hotspot volcanism.
  • The entire Lakshadweep islands group is made up of coral deposits.
  • Fishing is the main occupation on which livelihoods of many people depend.
  • The Lakshadweep islands have storm beaches consisting of unconsolidated pebbles, shingles, cobbles, and boulders.
  • Minicoy Island, located to the south of the nine-degree channel is the largest island among the Lakshadweep group.
  • 8 Degree Channel (8 degrees north latitude) separates islands of Minicoy and Maldives.
  • 9 Degree Channel (9 degrees north latitude) separates the island of Minicoy from the main Lakshadweep archipelago.
  • In the Lakshadweep region, there is an absence of forests.
  • Pitti Island is an important breeding place for sea turtles and for a number of pelagic birds such as the brown noddy, lesser crested tern and greater crested tern. The Pitti island has been declared a bird sanctuary.

-Source: The Hindu, Times of India


NGT upholds rights of pastoralists in Banni grasslands

Context:

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered all encroachments to be removed from Gujarat’s Banni grasslands within six months and directed a joint committe to prepare an action plan.

Thet NGT said that the Maldharis (Pastoralists) will continue to hold the right to conserve the community forests in the area, granted to them as per the provisions in Section 3 of Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006.

The region’s nomadic pastoralist community, the Maldharis, whose livelihoods are dependent on this protected shrub-savanna, welcomed the move.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues Relating to Development, Issues Related to SCs & STs, Management of Social Sector/Services)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. National Green Tribunal (NGT)
  2. Structure of National Green Tribunal
  3. Powers of NGT
  4. Significance of NGT
  5. About Banni Grassland
  6. About Maldharis
  7. About the Forest Rights Act 2006

National Green Tribunal (NGT)

  • The National Green Tribunal has been established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • Hence, NGT is a Statutory Body.
  • NGT Act draws inspiration from the India’s constitutional provision of (Constitution of India/Part III) Article 21 Protection of life and personal liberty, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
  • National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 is an Act of the Parliament of India which enables creation of a special tribunal to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues.

Structure of National Green Tribunal

  • Following the enactment of the said law, the Principal Bench of the NGT has been established in the National Capital – New Delhi, with regional benches in Pune (Western Zone Bench), Bhopal (Central Zone Bench), Chennai (Southern Bench) and Kolkata (Eastern Bench). Each Bench has a specified geographical jurisdiction covering several States in a region.
  • The Chairperson of the NGT is a retired Judge of the Supreme Court, Head Quartered in Delhi.
  • Other Judicial members are retired Judges of High Courts. Each bench of the NGT will comprise of at least one Judicial Member and one Expert Member.
  • Expert members should have a professional qualification and a minimum of 15 years’ experience in the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects.

Powers of NGT

The NGT has the power to hear all civil cases relating to environmental issues and questions that are linked to the implementation of laws listed in Schedule I of the NGT Act. These include the following:

  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
  • The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
  • The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991;
  • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.

This means that any violations pertaining ONLY to these laws, or any order / decision taken by the Government under these laws can be challenged before the NGT.

Significance of NGT

  • It protected vast acres of forest land, halted polluting construction activities in metros and smaller towns.
  • It has penalised errant officials who have turned a blind eye toward enforcing the laws, and held large corporate entities to account.
  • It protected the rights of tribal communities and ensure the enforcement of the “polluter pays” principle in letter and spirit.
  • Over the years NGT has emerged as a critical player in environmental regulation, passing strict orders on issues ranging from pollution to deforestation to waste management.
  • It helps reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts on environmental matters.
  • The Chairperson and members are not eligible for reappointment; hence they are likely to deliver judgements independently, without succumbing to pressure from any quarter.
  • The NGT has been instrumental in ensuring that the Environment Impact Assessment process is strictly observed.
  • Importantly, the NGT has NOT been vested with powers to hear any matter relating to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and various laws enacted by States relating to forests, tree preservation etc.

About Banni Grassland

  • Banni is the largest grassland of Asia situated near the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat – and it accounts for almost 45% of the pastures in Gujarat.
  • Two ecosystems, wetlands and grasslands, are mixed side by side in Banni and Vegetation in Banni is sparse and highly dependent on rainfall.
  • Banni is dominated by low-growing plants, forbs and graminoids, many of which are halophiles (salt tolerant), as well as scattered tree cover and scrub.
  • The area is rich in flora and fauna, with 192 species of plants, 262 species of birds, several species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

About Maldharis

  • Maldharis are a tribal herdsmen community inhabiting Banni.
  • Originally nomads, they came to be known as Maldharis after settling in Junagarh (mainly Gir Forest).
  • The literal meaning of Maldhari is keeper (dhari) of the animal stock (mal).
  • The Gir Forest National Park is home to around 8,400 Maldharis.

About the Forest Rights Act 2006

  • Under the provisions of the Forest Rights Act 2006, forest dwellers cannot be displaced unless the rights settlement process has been completed.
  • Moreover, the Act has a special provision for setting up ‘Critical Wildlife Habitats (CWH)’, for the conservation of the species.
  • It strengthens the conservation regime of the forests while ensuring livelihood and food security of the FDST(Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes) and OTFD (Other Traditional Forest Dwellers).
  • The Act identifies four types of rights:
    1. Title rights: It gives FDST and OTFD the right to ownership to land farmed by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares.
    2. Use rights: The rights of the dwellers extend to extracting Minor Forest Produce, grazing areas etc.
    3. Relief and development rights: To rehabilitate in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection.
    4. Forest management rights: It includes the right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine


Protected Planet Report 2020

Context:

The Protected Planet Report 2020 underlined the progress the world has made toward the ambitious goals agreed by countries in 2010 at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Conservation of Environment and Ecology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity
  2. Highlights of the Protected Planet Report 2020
  3. Findings of the Protected Planet Report 2020

United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity

  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a legally binding treaty to conserve biodiversity has been in force since 1993. It has 3 main objectives:
  1. The conservation of biological diversity.
  2. The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity.
  3. The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
  • Nearly all countries have ratified it (notably, the US has signed but not ratified).
  • The CBD Secretariat is based in Montreal, Canada and it operates under the United Nations Environment Programme.
  • The Parties (Countries) under Convention of Biodiversity (CBD), meet at regular interval and these meetings are called Conference of Parties (COP).
  • On 29 January 2000, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP5) adopted a supplementary agreement to the Convention known as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. It came into force on 11 September 2003. The Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.
  • The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted on 29 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan at COP10. It entered into force on 12 October 2014. It provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
  • Along with Nagoya Protocol on Genetic Resources, the COP-10 also adopted a ten-year framework for action by all countries to save biodiversity.
  • Officially known as “Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020”, provide a set of 20 ambitious yet achievable targets (divided into 5 sections: A to E), collectively known as the Aichi Targets for biodiversity.

Highlights of the Protected Planet Report 2020

  • The reports are released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with support from the National Geographic Society, a global non-profit.
  • These are biennial landmark publications that assess the state of protected and conserved areas around the world.
  • The report is the first in the series to include data on Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECM) in addition to protected areas. OECM are a conservation designation for areas that are achieving the effective in-situ conservation of biodiversity outside of protected areas.
  • The 2020 edition provides the final report on the status of Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, and looks to the future as the world prepares to adopt a new post-2020 global biodiversity framework. Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 aimed to conserve 17% of land and inland water ecosystems and 10% of its coastal waters and oceans by 2020.

Findings of the Protected Planet Report 2020

  • As many as 82% of countries and territories have increased their share of protected area and coverage of Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECM) since 2010. Protected areas covering almost 21 million sq. km. have been added to the global network.
  • Since OECMs were first recorded in 2019, these areas have added a further 1.6 million sq. km. to the global network. Despite being limited to only five countries and territories, the available data on OECMs show that they make a significant contribution to coverage and connectivity.
  • On an average, 62.6% of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) (sites that contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity) either fully or partially overlap with protected areas and OECMs. The average percentage of each KBA within protected areas and OECMs is 43.2% for terrestrial; 42.2% for inland water and 44.2% for marine (within national waters).

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

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