22nd Mar, 2019-IAS Current Affairs
‘Stubble burning’ (GS3: Environmental pollution)
Issue: A recent research has pointed out that the ban on stubble burning might not prove to be successful in the longer-term
Observations made by the researchers with regards to stubble burning
- The researches point out that the idea of educating farmers about the monetary costs of burning stubble can address the environmental crisis triggered every year in Punjab
- According to the team, the government’s efforts — earmarking funds for specialised farming equipment (for straw management) or enforcing the state-led ban on the practice — are unlikely to solve the problem.
- Farmer cooperative groups — a key link between government and farmers — ought to be playing a more active role in educating farmers
- On average, the input costs of farmers who burned straw were about ₹40,000 per acre and those who didn’t about ₹25,000 per acre but the incomes of those who burned and those who didn’t were closer — about ₹60,000 and ₹50,000 respectively.
Challenge of Stubble burning in India.
- On average, about 20 million tonnes of straw are generated in Punjab, and they barely have two to three weeks to dispose them of and prepare the fields for the next crop. Hence the popularity of deploying stubble-burning as a quick and cheap solution
- In 2013, the National Green Tribunal issued a directive to Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh asking them to ban such stubble burning. The environment ministers of these States as well as top officials at the Centre declared a “zero tolerance” policy on the burning of stubble, which has been estimated to contribute anywhere from 7% to 78% of the particulate matter-emission load in Delhi during winter.
- The Centre has spent about ₹600 crore in subsidizing farm equipment via village cooperatives to enable farmers to access them and avoid stubble burning. In 2018, Punjab had disbursed about 8,000 farm implements to individual farmers and set up 4,795 custom hiring centres, from where such machinery could be leased. The cost of hiring these machines was about ₹5,000 an acre
- However, the success of these efforts has been mixed, even though stubble-fires in 2018 were fewer than in 2017 and 2016
‘Indian growth story’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: International Monetary Fund (IMF) has asserted that India will be one of the fastest growing large economies in the world
Details about the Indian economy would be revealed in the upcoming World Economic Outlook (WEO) survey report to be released by the IMF ahead of the annual spring meeting with the World Bank. This report would be the first under Indian American economist Gita Gopinath, who is now IMF’s chief economist.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 189 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.
Created in 1945, the IMF is governed by and accountable to the 189 countries that make up its near-global membership.
The IMF’s primary purpose is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system—the system of exchange rates and international payments that enables countries (and their citizens) to transact with each other. The Fund’s mandate was updated in 2012 to include all macroeconomic and financial sector issues that bear on global stability.
Unlike the General Assembly of the United Nations, where each country has one vote, decision making at the IMF was designed to reflect the relative positions of its member countries in the global economy. The IMF continues to undertake reforms to ensure that its governance structure adequately reflects fundamental changes taking place in the world economy.
‘Golan heights’ (GS2: International news)
Issue: President Donald Trump declared the U.S. will recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights
The administration has been considering recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the strategic highlands, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967
The U.S. will be the first country to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, which the rest of the international community regards as disputed territory occupied by Israel whose status should be determined by negotiations between Israel and Syria.
Brief history of Golan Heights issue
The Six-Day War of June 1967 ended in decisive victories for Israel, which seized the Golan Heights from Syria. Syrian forces began a failed attempt to reclaim the territory in 1973. That war ended with an armistice that left most of the Golan Heights in Israeli hands. In 1981, Israel passed a law that effectively annexed it.
The Golan Heights is not densely populated. According to some estimates, there are around 50,000 people, with Israeli Jewish settlers making up nearly half. The rest are mostly people of Syrian ancestry who are Druze, a religion that has been described as an offshoot of Ismaili Islam.
‘World water day’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: World Water Day is an annual UN observance day that highlights the importance of freshwater
About the celebration
The day is used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. World Water Day is celebrated around the world with a variety of events. These can be educational, theatrical, musical or lobbying in nature. The day can also include campaigns to raise money for water projects. The first World Water Day, designated by the United Nations, was commemorated in 1993
UN-Water is the convener for World Water Day and selects a theme for each year in consultation with UN organizations that share an interest in that year’s focus. The theme for 2019 is “Leaving no one behind” and encourages people to consider marginalized groups as these are often overlooked and discriminated against when they try to access safe water
Some of the innovative measures around the world to conserve water
- The capital city of Germany is located in the country’s dry northeastern region and receives around 600 mm of annual rainfall. Yet it has managed to sustain on its groundwater, and not using surface water at all. It has done so by planning and managing its water resource for over a century now. In the 1890s, the city implemented artificial groundwater recharge techniques, such as bank filtration, to increase drinking water production. In this method, surface water is infiltrated into the groundwater by extracting it from near a waterbody. Since the 1980s, it has also encouraged “Green Roofs” (covering a conventional roof with a layer of vegetation planted over a waterproofing membrane to absorb rainwater). Between 1989 and 2008, it reduced its water demand by 50 per cent
- The Millennium Drought of 1997-2009 forced Melbourne to find ways to reduce water demand. It did so through residential and industrial water conservation programmes. In 2001, the government announced a target to recycle 20 per cent of the city’s water by 2010. Increasingly harsh water restrictions for certain actions were announced for households in 2006-07. The city also experimented with using recycled water, in place of surface water, for farming. In 2007, the government decided to build a desalination plant and a north-south pipeline. In 2008, the city achieved the 20 per cent recycling target ahead of schedule. In 2012, the government restricted the use of water for residential and commercial gardens and lawns and banned fountains.
- Gadarif, a city in south Sudan receives 600 mm of annual rainfall and has shallow aquifers which are rarely recharged by rain due to the presence of impermeable clay layers. Its groundwater revival started in 1995, when a small earth dam was constructed on a seasonal stream called Al-Saraf. Around 2 million cubic metres of water could be stored in the dam, which percolated through the soil to recharge the groundwater. The groundwater levels had increased by several metres and the impact had spread horizontally for about 20 km downstream. The dams have recharged abandoned dry wells and helped villages in the vicinity of the city to get more groundwater for drinking and farming. To tackle the water crisis, the people in Gadarif also harvest rainwater. The runoff is collected in artificial ponds called hafirs
- Singapore has a very high population density, but no aquifer, lakes or space to catch and store rainfall. In 1972, a water planning unit, set up under the prime minister’s office, wrote the Water Master Plan to develop the blue print of water resource planning. This resulted in a robust water supply system, which is known as the Four National Taps: water from local catchment areas; imported water (from Malaysia); reused water (known as NEWater); and desalinated water. NEWater is expected to meet 50 per cent of Singapore’s demand, and desalination will meet 30 per cent of the demand by 2060. The city has worked on the supply side by reducing water loss due to leaks to 5 per cent—one of the lowest in the world— in 2016. All water connections are legal and metered. The city has emphasized on the use of water efficient taps, urinals and washing machines and water efficiency labeling for such fixtures is a must.
‘Voluntary retention route (VRR)’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The RBI’s decision to infuse rupee liquidity through long term foreign exchange swap, a first of its kind in liquidity management policy, is likely to boost investments by foreign portfolio investors under the voluntary retention route (VRR).
Investments through the route will be free of the regulatory norms applicable to FPI investments in debt markets, provided investors maintain a minimum share of their investments for a fixed period.
The scheme which was proposed on October 5, 2018, has a minimum retention period of three years where investors need to maintain a minimum of 75% of their investments in India. FPIs registered with Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) are eligible to voluntarily invest through the route in government and corporate bonds.
Investments through the VRR are capped at `40,000 crore for government bonds and at `35,000 crore for corporate bonds. Allocation of investment amount to FPIs under this route shall be made on tap or through auctions.