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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 03 May 2023


Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 03 May 2023


Contents

  1. India needs to be vigilant against harmful gases
  2. The rights of our rivers

India Needs To Be Vigilant Against Harmful Gases


Context

A toxic gas was allegedly inhaled by eleven people, including three children, in the densely populated Giaspura neighbourhood of Ludhiana. High levels of hydrogen sulphide were found in the air.

Relevance:

GS Paper-3: Disaster Management; Chemical Disaster

Mains Question

What factors are worrying about chemical disasters in India? Discuss any relevant government regulations as well. (150 Words)


Highlights:

  • In 2020, dangerous styrene vapours from an LG Polymer India unit caused hundreds of people to become ill and lose a number of lives in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.
  • In a nation where the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, widely regarded as the worst industrial disaster ever, occurred, it should be a matter of ‘never again’ resolve when it comes to lives lost to poisonous fumes.
    • Safety regulations should be impenetrable.
  • Nevertheless, recurring incidents demonstrate how far short we have come.

Causes for Concern:

  • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) reports that over 130 significant chemical accidents have been reported in the nation in recent years, causing over 600 people to suffer serious injuries as well as about 260 fatalities.
  • There are thousands of registered hazardous factories and unorganised sectors dealing with a wide range of hazardous materials, posing serious and complex levels of disaster risks. There are over 1861 Major Accident Hazard (MAH) units dispersed across 301 districts, 25 states, and three Union Territories in all zones of the country.
  • Industrial effluents are allegedly sneaked into drains or rivers in different parts of India, posing numerous risks to both people and aquatic life.
    • The Ganga and Yamuna are two examples of rivers whose water has become unfit for uses that have been taken for granted by many generations due to industrial waste.

National Disaster Management Authority

  • The National Disaster Management Authority is the highest administrative body of the Indian government, charged with formulating guidelines for disaster management.
  • The Disaster Management Act of 2005 established it.
  • It is charged with formulating policies, outlining rules and best practises, and coordinating with the State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) to ensure a comprehensive and decentralised approach to disaster management. It is headed by the Prime Minister of India and can have up to nine other members.

Provisions pertaining to the Indian Chemical Disaster:

  • The Indian Penal Code (IPC), the only applicable law defining criminal liability for such incidents, was in effect at the time of the Bhopal gas tragedy.
  • Immediately following the tragedy, the government passed a number of laws governing the environment and establishing safeguards and penalties.
    • The Bhopal Gas Leak (Processing of Claims) Act of 1985: This law gives the federal government the authority to handle claims resulting from or related to the Bhopal gas tragedy in a prompt and equitable manner.
    • Environment Protection Act of 1986: It grants the central government the authority to implement measures for environmental improvement, establish standards, and inspect industrial units.
    • Public Liability Insurance Act of 1991: This law mandates the purchase of insurance to protect those injured in accidents involving hazardous materials.
  • The National Environment Appellate Authority can hear appeals regarding the restriction of areas in which any industries, operations, or processes—or class of industries, operations, or processes—shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
    • National Green Tribunal 2010: It calls for the creation of a National Green Tribunal to handle cases involving the preservation of the environment and forests in an efficient and timely manner.

Way Ahead:

  • Routine Scanning of All Waste Disposal: o Punjab’s pollution authorities reportedly started scanning all waste disposal routines in the region in parallel with the police response.
  • However, an examination of these procedures would benefit the entire nation given the likelihood of sloppy attitudes towards safety in chemical processing.
  • Effective Preparedness: Being adequately prepared for such chemical disasters is the only way to reduce the number of fatalities.
  • Fixing Responsibilities: Gases are typically silent killers. While this makes it even more crucial that accountability be fixed and justice be served, the concern that corporations have the power to get away with their wrongdoing has also existed ever since December 1984, when a gas leak in Bhopal resulted in thousands of deaths.
  • Emergency Response Capability:
    • Increasing the capacity for emergency response in high-risk areas.
  • NDMA Recommendations:
    • The NDMA recommendations for handling chemical disasters must be followed to the letter and spirit.

Conclusion:

  • As we work towards “Make in India,” our industrial landscape cannot afford any type of deadly accident.
    • There is often no room for error in processes.
  • To effectively handle such cases, we must keep a close eye on things.

The Rights Of Our Rivers


Context

  • Rivers are crucial elements of our natural ecosystem, supplying essential resources like drinking water, sediment for floodplains and valleys, and enhancing the diversity of life.
  • But due to dams that alter our rivers’ natural flow and pollution from untreated sewage and industrial effluents, rapid urbanisation and economic development have led to their degradation.

Relevance:

GS Paper-3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution, and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment

Mains Question

What are the main issues that India’s rivers are facing, and what can be done to ensure their preservation and renewal? Talk about the idea of river rights and how it can be applied to the management of rivers in a sustainable manner. (250 Words)


The need for river conservation:

  • Dams built across rivers frequently change their normal flow and mess with the sediment distribution patterns.
  • For rivers to have self-cleaning properties and ecological flows throughout the year, there should be constant flow in both time and space.
  • Due to inadequate river flow, untreated sewage discharge, industrial effluent discharge, leaching of agrochemicals, encroachments, indiscriminate mining of sand and pebbles from riverbeds, and pollution from non-point sources, the majority of rivers in India unfortunately serve as sewage-carrying drains.
  • The CPCB report (2022) suggests that out of 1920 river locations monitored between 2019 and 2021, about 43 percent do not comply with the Biological Oxy

Effective river basin management includes the following three key components:

  • The Responsibility of Citizens and Stakeholders: Article 51 A (g) of the Indian Constitution states that every citizen has a responsibility “to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.”
    • It is the duty of all parties involved to prevent river water pollution.
  • River Basin Organisations: Effective river management necessitates making choices regarding all facets of river basin management. The establishment of River Basin Organisations (RBOs) is necessary to achieve this.
  • RBOs help in the formulation and implementation of policies for river conservation and they offer a platform for coordination between various stakeholders, which is essential in addressing the complex issues of river management.
  • The National Water Policy 2012: The National Water Policy 2012 mentions the necessity of river conservation, forbids encroachments and river diversion, and acknowledges the environmental requirements of the floodplain.
    • In line with this policy, some States, such as Maharashtra, have crafted their policies while taking into account aspects of river management.
  • The integrated development and management of river basins is covered in the draught National Framework Bill from May 2016.
    • A river basin master plan must be developed, managed, and regulated by each state government.
    • The bill has not yet been passed into law, which is unfortunate.
  • The Urban River Management Plan: The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) proposed the Urban River Management Plan and adopted the River City Alliance (2021), which is commendable. The plan will select a small number of cities to plan sustainable management of urban rivers.

The idea of river rights:

  • Many nations have made efforts to treat rivers as living things, which has aided in their preservation and renewal.
  • As more nations adopt this strategy, the concept of river rights is gaining popularity all over the world.
  • New Zealand (2017), Bangladesh (2018), Bolivia (2011), Ecuador (2008), and Bangladesh (2011) have all recognised their rivers as separate legal entities.
  • Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh City is a living entity with rights comparable to persons, according to a ruling made by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in India in 2020.
  • The Uttarakhand High Court recognised the Ganga, Yamuna, and their tributaries as legal entities in 2017.

Universal Declaration of River Rights

  • The Universal Declaration of River Rights, which was created by the Earth Law Centre in 2017, outlines the fundamental rights that every river should have.
  • Among them are: o The right to flow;
    • The ability to perform necessary tasks within its ecosystems;
    • The right to be free from pollution;
    • The ability to draw water from and be drawn water from sustainable aquifers;
    • Rejuvenation and restoration;
    • The right to facilitate biodiversity management.

Context

The concept of river rights offers a promising strategy to ensure that our rivers are protected and returned to their natural state. Improving river basin management, adopting a river reservation zone policy, and implementing river rights are crucial steps that must be taken to ensure the integrity of our rivers and ensure sustainable development of our society.


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