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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 7 July 2021

Contents

  1. Reports on open defecation in India
  2. How India can face the tidal wave of marine plastic?
  3. Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)
  4. WB resolution to set up Legislative Council

Reports on open defecation in India

Context:

  • According to a new Joint Monitoring Programme Report on water, sanitation and hygeine by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF – India was responsible for the largest drop in open defecation since 2015, in terms of absolute numbers.
  • Besides open defecation, the Joint Monitoring Report also emphasised universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to achieve the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 in achieving universal access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Management of Social Sector, Issues regarding health)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is WASH?
  2. Important facts regarding WASH
  3. Highlights of the latest reports
  4. India’s Initiatives against open defecation

What is WASH?

  • WASH is an acronym that stands for the interrelated areas of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) WASH Strategy has been developed in response to Member State Resolution (WHA 64.4) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG 3: Good Health and Well Being, SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation).
  • It is a component of WHO’s 13th General Programme of Work 2019–2023 which aims to contribute to the health of three billion through multisectoral actions like better emergency preparedness and response; and one billion with Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
  • It also takes on board the need for progressive realization of the human rights to safe drinking-water and sanitation, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2010.

Important facts regarding WASH

  • A 2019 joint global baseline report by WHO and UNICEF had pointed out that globally, one in four healthcare facilities lacked basic water servicing and one in five had no sanitation service and 42% had no hygiene facilities at point of care.
  • A 2012 WHO report had calculated that for every dollar invested in sanitation, there was USD 5.50 to be gained in lower health costs, more productivity and fewer premature deaths.
  • A WHO document on WASH in healthcare facilities points out that more than 8 lakh people in low- and middle-income countries die as a result of inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene each year.
  • The WHO document also points out that the death of almost 3 lakh children under five years can be prevented each year if better WASH could be provided.

Highlights of the latest reports

  • Within India, open defecation had been highly variable regionally since at least 2006 and in 2006 the third round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) found open defecation to be practiced by less than 10 per cent of the population in four states and the Union Territory of Delhi, but by more than half the population in 11 states.
  • By 2016, when the fourth round of the NFHS was conducted, open defecation had decreased in all states, with the largest drops seen in Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.

Global data

  • Between 2016 and 2020, the global population with access to safely managed drinking water at home increased to 74 per cent, from 70 per cent. There was an increase in safely managed sanitation services to 54 per cent, from 47 per cent between 2016 and 2020.
  • Globally, access to safely managed sanitation services increased over the 2000-2020 period by an average of 1.27 percentage points per year.

India’s Initiatives against open defecation

National rural sanitation strategy:

  • The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS) under the Ministry of Jal Shakti has launched the 10-year Rural Sanitation Strategy starting from 2019 up to 2029.
  • It lays down a framework to guide local governments, policy-makers, implementers and other relevant stakeholders in their planning for Open Defecation Free (ODF) Plus status, where everyone uses a toilet, and every village has access to solid and liquid waste management.

Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen Phase-II:

  • It emphasizes the sustainability of achievements under phase I and to provide adequate facilities for Solid/Liquid & plastic Waste Management (SLWM) in rural India.
  • Under the Swachh Bharat Mission (G) Phase-I, more than 10 crore individual toilets have been constructed since the launch of the mission; as a result, rural areas in all the States have declared themselves ODF as on 2nd October, 2019.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine


How India can face the tidal wave of marine plastic?

Context:

According to the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) Annual Report on Implementing the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, the plastic waste generated in 2018-19 was around 9,200 tonnes per day.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Pollution Control and Waste Management, Environmental Degradation)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. How do plastics reach water bodies?
  2. Impact of Plastic Pollution in the Marine environment
  3. Measures taken so far in India
  4. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)
  5. Way Forwards

How do plastics reach water bodies?

  • Mismanagement of plastic waste generated in coastal cities and urban centres are leading to this reaching the water bodies.
  • Land-based sources are the main cause (up to 80% of total marine debris) of marine plastic pollution.
  • The common leakage routes are litter accumulated and carried via open drains into rivers and water bodies.
  • Other upstream routes contributing to this cause include waste directly dumped into water bodies and waste from dump yards carried into local rivers or lakes.

Sources of Marine Plastic

  • The main sources of marine plastic are land-based, from urban and storm runoff, sewer overflows, beach visitors, inadequate waste disposal and management, industrial activities, construction and illegal dumping.
  • Ocean-based plastic originates mainly from the fishing industry, nautical activities and aquaculture.
  • Under the influence of solar UV radiation, wind, currents and other natural factors, plastic fragments into small particles, termed microplastics (particles smaller than 5 mm) or nanoplastics (particles smaller than 100 nm).
  • In addition, microbeads, a type of microplastic, are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants in health and beauty products, such as cleansers and toothpastes. These tiny particles easily pass-through water filtration systems and end up in the ocean and lakes.

Impact of Plastic Pollution in the Marine environment

  • Plastic can take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose depending on the type of plastic and where it has been dumped.
  • The most visible and disturbing impacts of marine plastics are the ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species.
  • Floating plastics also contribute to the spread of invasive marine organisms and bacteria, which disrupt ecosystems.
  • According to a forecast made in March 2020, the direct harm to the blue economy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be USD 2.1 billion per year.
  • Enormous social costs accompany these economic costs. Residents of coastal regions suffer from the harmful health impacts of plastic pollution and waste brought in by the tides.
  • Boats may become entangled in abandoned or discarded fishing nets or their engines may become blocked with plastic debris.

Measures taken so far in India

  • Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 state that every local body has to be responsible for setting up infrastructure for segregation, collection, processing, and disposal of plastic waste.
  • Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018 introduced the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
  • Ban on Single-Use Plastics in a bid to free India of single-use plastics by 2022.
  • World Environment Day, 2018 hosted in India, the world leaders vowed to “Beat Plastic Pollution” & eliminate its use completely.

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a Statutory Organisation under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
  • It was established in 1970s under the Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Act.
  • CPCB is the apex organisation in country in the field of pollution control.
  • It is also entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  • It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • It Co-ordinates the activities of the State Pollution Control Boards by providing technical assistance and guidance and also resolves disputes among them.

Way Forwards

  • Identifying plastic items that can be replaced with non-plastic, recyclable, or biodegradable materials is the first step.
  • Plastics are inexpensive which provide fewer economic incentives to employ recycled plastics. Balancing price structure with environmental health should be a priority.
  • Developing tools and technology to assist governments in measuring and monitoring plastic garbage in cities.
  • All single-use goods can be replaced with reusable items or more sustainable single-use alternatives.
  • Existing international instruments should be further explored to address plastic pollution. The most important are:
    1. The 1972 Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping Wastes and Other Matter (or the London Convention).
    2. The 1996 Protocol to the London Convention (the London Protocol).
    3. The 1978 Protocol to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).
  • Recycling and reuse of plastic materials are the most effective actions available to reduce the environmental impacts of open landfills and open-air burning that are often practiced to manage domestic waste.
  • Governments, research institutions and industries also need to work collaboratively redesigning products, and rethink their usage and disposal, in order to reduce microplastics waste from pellets, synthetic textiles and tyres.
  • Government ministries at the national and local levels must collaborate in the development, implementation and oversight of policies related to plastic waste management.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine


Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)

Context:

Saudi Arabia has thrown its weight behind Egypt and Sudan in their bitter dispute with Ethiopia over a massive hydropower dam built by the latter on the Blue Nile, the Nile River’s main tributary.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-I: Geography (Maps)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)
  2. About the Nile River
  3. Significance of the dam for Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)

  • The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) was formerly known as the Millennium Dam and sometimes referred to as Hidase Dam and it is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia under construction since 2011.
  • The primary purpose of the dam is electricity production to relieve Ethiopia’s acute energy shortage and for electricity export to neighboring countries.
  • With a planned installed capacity of 6.45 gigawatts, the dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa when completed, as well as the seventh largest in the world.

About the Nile River

  • The River Nile is in Africa originating in Burundi which is south of the equator, and flows northward through northeastern Africa, eventually flowing through Egypt and finally draining into the Mediterranean Sea.
  • The source of the Nile is sometimes considered to be Lake Victoria, but the lake itself has feeder rivers of considerable size like the Kagera River.
  • The Nile is formed by three principal streams which are- the Blue Nile, the Atbara, and the White Nile.
  • The Nile basin is huge and includes parts of Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo (Kinshasa), Kenya.
  • The Nile River forms an arcuate delta as it empties into the Mediterranean Sea.

Significance of the dam for Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan

  • Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populated country and a manufacturing hub, views the mega dam as a symbol of its sovereignty.
  • Ethiopia has an acute shortage of electricity, with 60% of its population not connected to the grid. The energy generated will be enough to have its citizens connected and sell the surplus power to neighbouring countries.
  • There is an element of national pride in the timely completion of the GERD, as Ethiopia’s recent economic resurgence has revived the old vision of Great Ethiopia.
  • There is also a lot at stake for the government of Mr. Ahmed (PM of Ethiopia), who faces a difficult general election this year after the euphoria of the 2018 peace process with Eritrea has largely faded.

Concerns Raised by Egypt

  • Egypt fears the project will allow Ethiopia to control the flow of Africa’s longest river
  • Hydroelectric power stations do not consume water, but the speed with which Ethiopia fills up the dam’s reservoir will affect the flow downstream.
  • The longer it takes to fill the reservoir, the less impact there will be on the level of the river.
  • Heart of the dispute: Ethiopia wants to fill the reservoir in 6 years whereas Egypt wants to fill the reservoir, between 10 and 21 years, and for the release of a minimum of 40 billion cubic metres annually.
  • Egypt, which relies on the Nile for 90% of its freshwater supply, is apprehensive that a rapid filling of the reservoir in upstream Ethiopia would cause a drastic reduction in supplies.
  • Egypt perceives that the project would lead to diversion of waters to its own High Aswan Dam.
  • Ethiopia has said it should not be bound by the decades-old treaty and went ahead and started building its dam at the start of the Arab Spring in March 2011 without consulting Egypt.

Sudan’s Stand

  • Sudan too is concerned that if Ethiopia were to gain control over the river, it would affect the water levels Sudan receives.
  • However, Sudan is likely to benefit from the power generated by the dam.
  • The regulated flow of the river will save Sudan from serious flooding in August and September. Thus, it has proposed joint management of the dam.

-Source: The Hindu


WB resolution to set up Legislative Council

Context:

The West Bengal Assembly passed a resolution to set up Legislative Council with a two-thirds majority.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Legislature, Bicameralism)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About State Legislative Council – Vidhan Parishad
  2. Creation of a Legislative Council for a State
  3. Who can abolish a legislative council?

About State Legislative Council – Vidhan Parishad

  • Legislative Council or Vidhan Parishad is the upper house in bicameral legislatures in some states of India.
  • While most states have a unicameral legislature with only legislative assembly, currently, six states viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh have legislative councils.
  • Strength of the Legislative Council: The total number of the Legislative Council should not exceed 1/3rd of the total number of members of the Legislative assembly, but it should not be less than 40 (Article 171).

Creation of a Legislative Council for a State

  • Article 168 of the Constitution of India provides for a Legislature in every state of the country. The same Article mentions that there are some states where there is a legislative council as well. Thus, the Indian Constitution does not adhere to the principle of bicameralism in the case of every legislature.
  • The framers of the Constitution as well as members of the Constituent Assembly had in mind that it may not be possible for all the states to support two houses, financially as well as for other reasons. For example, some of the members of the Constituent assembly criticized the idea of a bicameral legislature in the states as a superfluous idea and a body that is unrepresentative of the population, a burden on the state budget and causing delays in passing legislation.
  • That is why, whether there should be a legislative council in the state or not, is decided by the Legislative Assembly of the state itself.
  • But it does not mean that the Legislative Assembly can itself create a legislative council. The Constitution of India has full provisions about the creation of a Legislative Council and its abolishment.

Who can abolish a legislative council?

  • The power of abolition and creation of the State legislative council is vested in the Parliament of India as per Article 169.
  • But again, to create or to abolish a state legislative council, the state legislative assembly must pass a resolution, which must be supported by 50% majority of the total strength of the house and 2/3rd majority of the members present and voting (Absolute + Special Majority).
  • When a legislative council is created or abolished, the Constitution of India is also changed.
  • However, still, such type of law is not considered a Constitution Amendment Bill. (Article 169).
  • The resolution to create and abolish a state legislative council is to be given assent by the President as well.

-Source: The Hindu

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