Current Affair-April 23, 2021

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CURRENT AFFAIRS

Disaster Management Act Management Act 2005

  • The Centre invoked the Dis­aster Management Act, making the Dis­trict Magistrates and Senior Superintendent of Police personally liable to ensure unhindered inter­State movement of vehicles carry­ing medical oxygen and to not restrict the supply to a particular State where the oxygen plant is located.

What is the Disaster Management Act?

  • DMA into being in 2005 in the wake of the tsunami disaster.
  • It provides the administrative framework to take measures to deal with such incidents and allows the government to access funds set up for this purpose.
  • The stated object and purpose of the DM Act is to manage disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and more.
  • The Union Home Secre­tary is the Chairman of the National Executive Commit­tee under the DM Act, 2005.

Definition of disaster

  • The Act defines a disaster as “a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man made causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.”
  • This would ordinarily be understood to include incidents such as an earthquake, flood or fire, rather than a disease.
  • However, in March 2020, the Central government has included the Covid-19 outbreak as “Notified disaster” ” as a “critical medical condition or pandemic situation” .

Invocation of DMA

  • The Centre invoked the DMA for the first time in March 2020 to direct states to enforce a lockdown and restrict public movement.
  • Section 10 (2)(l) of the Act allows the National Executive Committee to give directions to governments regarding measures to be taken by them.
  • The Union home secretary, who is the chairman of the National Executive Committee, delegated power to the Union health secretary in this regard.

Punitive measures

  • Sections 51 to 60 of the Act lay down penalties for specific offences.
  • Anyone found obstructing any officer or employee from performing their duty will be imprisoned for a term which may extend to one year or fined, or be both.
  • Further, if such an act of obstruction leads to loss of lives or imminent danger, then the person can be jailed for up to two years.
Source: The Hindu

Report on Air pollution in India

  • A new report on Air Pollution has been released jointly by UK-based non-profit Clean Air Fund, management firm Dalberg Advisors and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
  • This is the first major study that goes beyond the realms of health impacts of air pollution and quantifies the financial losses faced by Indian business due to the perpetual lack of clean air.

Findings of Report

  1. Air pollution in India has caused losses of up to Rs 7 lakh crore annually. This is 40% of the cost of tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and about 3% of India’s GDP.
  2. The losses caused by air pollution manifest themselves in six different ways:
  3. Labour productivity (both in terms of absenteeism and presenteeism)
  4. Diminishing consumer footfall
  5. Premature mortality
  6. Lower asset productivity
  7. Increased health expenses.

Analysis of Losses

Productivity

  1. Productivity costs goes beyond mere absenteeism. On days of higher air pollution, employees tend to feel unwell, with mild discomfort while breathing, even in white collar jobs.
  2. Traditionally, the Indian workforce would never take time off for mild discomfort, let alone due to air pollution. Hence, these habits of presenteeism take an increasing toll on the physical and cognitive performance at work.

Consumer Footfall

  • Air pollution directly impacts revenues due to reduced consumer footfall.
  •  Poor air quality discourages shoppers to not venture out of their homes and this manifests in the account books, especially for businesses that have a direct consumer interface.
  • The common concern among international tourists is that of air pollution, thereby leading to them reconsidering their plans to travel to India.

Premature mortality

  • There is a massive opportunity cost associated with premature mortality due to air pollution and this very factor affects India the most. About $225 million of global income was lost annually due to early deaths caused by air pollution.
  • These losses were the highest in South Asia, amounting close to 1% of the regional GDP.

Asset Productivity

  • Air pollution reduces the efficiency and lifespans of solar panels.
  • This have ramifications in the market viability of solar panels in India in the future, particularly in the residential sector.
  • At the industrial level, the productivity loss led to a rise in energy production costs from Rs 2.61 per kilowatt hour to Rs 2.91 per kWh. This increase is staggering as it offsets 67% of the cost advantage associated with solar panels over coal.

Health expenses

  • Air pollution losses culminate impacts worth $95 billion in India. This is about 3%  of India’s 2019 GDP and twice the amount of India’s annual public health expenditure.
  • Indirect pathways of impact include increase in healthcare expenditure and non-market welfare loss. Poorer air quality leads to higher number of hospitalisations, particularly in high pollution periods.
  • It also increases welfare spending.
  • Non-market welfare costs primarily cover the inability of workers to participate in activities beyond their jobs. For instance, higher pollutant concentration might prevent volunteers and caregivers from travelling to engage with beneficiaries.

Way forward

  • The cost of increased air pollution to businesses is only about 43% of the pandemic. However, this is and will be a recurring cost annually, till actual steps towards mitigation are put in place.
  • While vaccines might be able to suppress the pandemic in a few years, air pollution, unless addressed will continue to play havoc on health and business across India.
Source: Downtoearth

#FOSS4GOV Innovation Challenge

  • A virtual roundtable discussion ‘Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in Government’ was organized by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) in collaboration with Omidyar Network India.
  • It aimed to increase awareness about the usage of FOSS in governance and Government functioning, and adoption of FOSS.
  • FOSS is as a key component of GovTech 3.0, which is about building secure and inclusive Open Digital Ecosystems (ODEs) that harness the potential of social innovators to help solve India’s toughest problems.

About the innovation challenge

  • The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology also announced a #FOSS4GOV Innovation Challenge to accelerate adoption of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) In Government.
  • It will harness the innovation potential of the FOSS community and start-ups to solve for critical issues in GovTech.
  • The #FOSS4GOV Innovation Challenge calls upon FOSS innovators, technology entrepreneurs and Indian Startups to submit implementable open source product innovations in CRM and ERP with possible applications for Govtech in Health, Education, Agriculture, Urban Governance etc.

Significance

  • India is well positioned to become a vibrant hub for Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) innovations, due to the large number of 4G data subscribers in India, 96% of whom access the digital world via open-source based mobile operating systems (primarily Android).
  • Some of India’s largest-government projects (including Aadhaar) and many technology start-ups have also been built using FOSS.
  • Acknowledging the huge potential of FOSS, the Government of India had issued a Policy on Adoption of Open Source Software in 2015.
Source: PIB

India­-U.S. climate and clean energy Agenda 2030 partnership

PM Narendra Modi announced that India and the U.S. were launching an energy and climate partnership during U.S. President Joe Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate.

Goal of partnership:

  1. To mo­bilise finance and speed clean energy deployment
  2. Demonstrate and scale inno­vative clean technologies needed to decarbonise sec­ tors, including industry, transportation, power, and buildings
  3. Build capaci­ty to measure, manage, and adapt to the risks of climate­ related impacts
  4. To proceed along two main tracks: the strategic clean energy partnership and the climate action and finance mobilisation dialogue, which will build on and sub­sume a range of existing processes.

Nationally De­fined Contributions(NDCs)

  • It was reinterated that India and US are among the few countries whose NDCs are 2 ­degree­ Celsius compatible.
  • NDCs are tar­gets defined by each country to help achieve the Paris Agreement’s objective of keeping global warming to considerably below 2 de­grees Celsius, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • India is targeting a 2030 GDP emissions intensity that is 33%­-35% below 2005 levels. GDP emission intensity is the volume of emissions per unit of GDP.
  • It also seeks to have 40% of power generated from non­fossil fuel sources by 2030.
Source: The Hindu

State of the Global Climate for 2020

  • World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released its annual State of the Global Climate for 2020.
  • Irrespective of the widespread surmise that lockdowns and shutdowns to curb the COVID-19 pandemic would lower emissions and reduce the impact on climate.

According to the report:

  • Extreme weather combined with COVID-19 in a double blow for millions of people in 2020. However, the pandemic-related economic slowdown failed to put a brake on climate change drivers and accelerating impacts.
  • 2020 was one of the three warmest years on record, despite a cooling La Niña event.
  • The global average temperature was about 1.2° Celsius above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level.
  • The six years since 2015 have been the warmest on record. 2011-2020 was the warmest decade on record.

The WMO report listed five key indicators of irreversible changes in the global climate:

  1. Greenhouse Gases: Notwithstanding the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, emission of major greenhouse gases increased in 2019 and 2020
  2. More to it, the level of greenhouse gas emission will be higher in 2021.
  3. Concentrations of the major GHGs continued to increase in 2019 and 2020.
  1. Oceans: In 2019, the oceans had the highest heat content on record. In 2020, it has broken this record further. Over 80% of the ocean area experienced at least one marine heatwave in 2020.
  2. Sea-level rise: Since record-taking started in 1993 using the satellite altimeter, sea-level has been rising.
  3. However, there was a blip in summer of 2020 that recorded a drop in sea level. It is due to the La Niña induced cooling.
  4. Sea level has recently been rising at a higher rate partly due to the increased melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.
  5. The Arctic and the Antarctica: In 2020, the Arctic sea-ice extent came down to second lowest on record. In a large region of the Siberian Arctic, temperatures in 2020 were more than 3°C above average.
  6. The Antarctic sea-ice extent remained close to the long-term average. However, the Antarctic ice sheet has exhibited a strong mass loss trend since the late 1990s. This trend accelerated around 2005, and currently, Antarctica loses approximately 175 to 225 Gt per year, due to the increasing flow rates of major glaciers in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula.
Source: Downtoearth

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