Headline : Science for disaster management Editorial 31st Aug’19 TimesOfIndia
Managing disaster and emergency risks:
- In an increasingly interconnected world, disaster and emergency risks are becoming more complex and difficult to manage.
- Therefore, it is critically important to optimise the application of scientific and technological capabilities to understand, reduce and manage disaster and emergency risks.
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Use of science and technology:
- Over the last 20 years, science and technology have brought a deeper understanding of how disaster risks are created and how they can be managed.
- We now have reliable information on hazard patterns, data on people (their exposure to hazards), capital assets and economic activity.
- We also have a much greater understanding of fragility or vulnerability of people, assets and systems.
- This can be seen from the huge improvements in various things like
- Forecasting extreme climate and weather events
- Our improved understanding of disasters (like earthquakes and landslides)
- Our ability to model risks and anticipate the impact of disasters even before reaching the disaster site
Increased outreach to scientific community:
- The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is reaching out to the scientific community and working towards a futuristic agenda for disaster risk management in the country.
However, challenges remain in application of Science & Technology:
- At the systemic level, there are two principal challenges worth highlighting.
- On-the-ground application of technology:
- There is still a time lag between the availability of scientific and technological capability and its on-the-ground application.
- For example, mobile computing has been around for more than a decade, yet few post-disaster damage assessments make full use of the technology to come up with quick, rigorous and geo-referenced assessments.
- Similarly, new products and technologies are emanating from the defence establishment that may be useful in disaster response, but their usage is minimal.
- Giving right direction to scientific development:
- The second challenge is on the scientific development side.
- We need to ensure that research is focussed on developing methodologies and tools that respond to real-world challenges and facilitate the shift from disaster management to disaster risk management.
- In this context, there have been some positives in India as it has pursued the application of science and technology for disaster risk management.
- For example, India has systematically pursued the application of space-based technologies for disaster risk management.
- Our national system of science has also continually evolved over the years to meet the needs of disaster risk management professionals.
- For example, some years ago, a number of scientific disciplines were brought together under the umbrella of ministry of earth sciences.
Principles for the next generation of our scientific efforts for disaster risk management:
- We now have to look at the next generation of our scientific efforts to address disaster risk management challenges.
- The next generation of scientific efforts need to be guided by the following three principles:
- Sharper definition of disaster risk management problems:
- We need a sharper definition of disaster risk management problems to galvanise scientific efforts that lead to progress.
- With disaster risk management maturing in India, should be possible to articulate specific requirements from the scientific community.
- Search for scalable, affordable and sustainable solutions:
- While promoting the application of science for disaster risk management at the local level, we should search for scalable, affordable and sustainable solutions.
- In most parts of the country and indeed the world, disaster risks are building up at an alarming rate.
- Our ambition must match the scale of the problem.
- Multi-disciplinary approach:
- We need to enlarge the scope of multi-disciplinary work.
- For example, this may include seismologists interacting with landslide experts, flash flood experts and meteorologists.
- We need to study the interaction between hazards, current and future exposure (population, property and economic activity), and vulnerability.
- This will require multi-disciplinary effort that will push us beyond our comfort zones.
Technology should be complemented by deeper understanding of social and economic processes:
- Over the last few years, there is a lot of enthusiasm for application of big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence for disaster risk management.
- However, we must recognise that these technologies are not a substitute for a deeper understanding of social and economic processes that make our society vulnerable.
Good risk governance practices should not be overlooked:
- Technology can be complementary, but is not a substitute for the fundamental principles of good risk governance characterised by a responsive government and a risk-aware community.
- The new methods and tools should supplement and not supplant the time tested practices of good disaster risk management.
Way ahead – Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure:
- In this context, India, with UK and other partners, will be launching a global Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
- The Coalition would prove to be a key milestone towards further strengthening our collaboration.
GS Paper III: Disaster Management
Section : Editorial Analysis
Headline : A road map to transforming India’s energy Editorial 30th Aug’19 HindustanTimes
- Forty years ago, India barely had a car manufacturer, was way behind in the space race, and had an insignificant IT sector.
- Today, India is the world’s fourth largest car manufacturer, and is set to become only the fourth country to land on the moon.
- These achievements should be applauded, but India is just getting started.
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India should play a significant role the energy sector:
- India today has a golden opportunity to play a prominent role in global energy as well.
Energy and economic development:
- Energy and economic development have been deeply intertwined.
- Access to affordable and reliable energy is fundamental to reducing poverty, improving health, increasing productivity, enhancing competitiveness and achieving social justice.
- In the last 30 years, India’s GDP has increased nearly tenfold, while the energy consumption over that period grew nearly 400% (with around 8% last year).
India to overtake China in energy consumption:
- By some estimates, global energy demand seems set to increase by a third.
- By some estimates, India will overtake China as the largest growth market for energy by the mid-2020s.
- This is significant, given that around 30% of the Indian population does not have access to modern sources of energy.
Concerns over emissions:
- More energy consumption tends to lead to more emissions.
- By 2040, India’s share of global emissions seems set to rise from around 7% to 13%, despite the great ambition shown from the government to address climate change.
Dual challenge of increasing energy needs and reducing emissions:
- More energy to improve lives, but with fewer emissions to help address climate change — is what we call the dual challenge.
India can play a leading role in addressing the dual challenge:
- India has the entrepreneurialism, ingenuity and a can-do attitude as well as the tools to reset its energy mix with the low-carbon fuel and power, and reimagine energy.
Ways to achieve this:
- Developing India’s domestic gas production:
- Good for economy:
- There exists huge opportunity with natural gas, in which India has a domestic resource potential of more than 100 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), which includes conventional, unconventional, and yet-to-find gas.
- This resource base has the potential to meet up to 50% of anticipated demand for gas through to 2050.
- So, developing India’s domestic gas production will help reduce energy imports, enable more investment and create jobs.
- Good for environment:
- Natural gas also has a lower carbon intensity per unit of energy than coal in power generation, and offers significant benefits for air quality.
- Longer term, natural gas can be used to produce hydrogen, and decarbonised using carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS).
- Ramping up renewables:
- There is also a big opportunity in renewables, where there are large untapped solar and wind resources.
- Cost of renewables is becoming increasingly competitive with fossil fuels.
- As such, these renewable resources could be further maximised to meet the three to four-fold power demand growth expected in India by 2050.
- They would progressively displace coal in electricity generation, which is important as coal emits about twice as much carbon emissions than gas.
- Decarbonising mobility:
- There is a third opportunity with vehicle electrification and the substitution of liquid fuels with CNG or LNG.
- Costs of light-duty electric car (on a total cost of ownership basis) could converge with conventional vehicles from 2035, and EVs (two and three-wheeler) are close to cost parity today.
- CNG is already competitive in medium and heavy-duty vehicles and LNG is attractive for long-distance trucking.
- Driving digital innovation:
- India also has opportunity in digital innovation, which could help to optimise the energy system and reduce energy demand by as much as 18% by 2050.
- There are opportunities in the field of transport, through autonomous vehicles, ride-sharing and intelligent traffic management systems.
- There are opportunities in buildings (through smart homes), in industry (through connected devices and advanced analytics), in transmission and distribution (though smart grid technologies) etc.
- With these initiatives, India could position itself as a leader in the energy transition.
- India could help address the dual challenge of increasing energy needs and reducing emissions:
GS Paper III: EconomySection : Editorial Analysis
Headline : Explained: The new debate on defence funding
- The Union Cabinet has amended the terms of reference (ToR) of the 15th Finance Commission (FC) to widen their scope.
- Through the change, the government has requested the FC to look into the possibility of a separate mechanism for the funding of defence and internal security.
- The Finance Commission is a constitutional body that owes its existence to Article 280 of the Indian Constitution. It has a five-year term.
- There have been fifteen commissions to date. The most recent (15th FC) was constituted in November 2017 and its recommendations will apply from 2020 to 2025. It is chaired by N. K.Singh, a former member of the Planning Commission.
- Its mandate is to determine the distribution of tax revenues between the Centre and the states, and amongst the states themselves.
- Federal structure: In a federal structure such as India’s, powers and responsibilities are divided between the Centre and the states. While the Union collects a majority of the tax revenue, states have a greater responsibility for the delivery of public goods.
- Thus, FCs aim to do two types of adjustments.
- Vertical imbalance: Address the vertical imbalance between the taxation powers of the Centre and the expenditure priorities of the states.
- Horizontal imbalance: Allay the horizontal imbalances between the states themselves with the objective of ensuring balanced regional development.
- In the past, FCs have also dwelt on the distribution of central grants to states, as well as the flow of resources to the third tier of governance — the panchayats and the municipalities.
- The Chairman is selected from people with experience of public affairs.
- The other four members should be
- A judge of high court or one qualified to be appointed as one.
- A person who has specialised knowledge of finance and accounts of the government
- A person who has wide experience in financial matters and in administration.
- A person who has special knowledge of Economics
- Recommendations: The Commission submits its report to the President. He/She lays it before both the Houses of the Parliament, along with an explanatory memorandum as to the actions taken on its recommendations. The recommendations are only advisory in nature and not binding on the government.
Role of Terms of Reference
- One of the reasons why FCs are reconstituted every five years is to ensure that they can take into account the changing dynamics of the political and fiscal landscape.
- Even though the ToRs are essentially in the nature of guidelines to the FC, yet a change in ToRs over the years has reflected the changing needs of India’s overall development.
Current updation of ToR
- The latest addition to the 15th FC’s ToR calls for the FC to examine the possibility of allocation of adequate, secure and non-lapsable funds for defence and internal security of India.
- In other words, the Centre has requested the FC to examine whether a separate mechanism for funding of defence and internal security ought to be set up, and how such a mechanism could be operationalised.
- The Seventh Schedule of the Constitution lists the separate (Union List and State List) and joint (Concurrent List) responsibilities of the Centre and the states.
- Defence is in the Union List.
Why is the Centre resorting to this move?
- The Centre’s request to the FC for greater resources is rooted in its limited ability to ramp up expenditure on items in the Union list due to the limited fiscal space at its disposal.
- The Centre’s expenditure on items in the State and Concurrent Lists has been increasing over the years.
- Research has shown that the share of the Centre’s revenue expenditure on items in the State List has broadly grown over the years; it went up from 13.4 per cent in 2002-03 to 23.1 per cent in 2008-09, before declining to16.2 per cent in 2015-16.
- Similarly, the Centre spent 16.4 per cent of its revenue expenditure on Concurrent List subjects in 2015-16, up from 11.8 per cent in 2002-03.
- This increase in spending by the Centre on items in the State and the Concurrent Lists has led to a reduction in its spending on items in the Union List.
Are states being squeezed out of funding?
- The added fiscal pressures of the Centre and the requirement of having to share tax revenues with states has left the Centre in a peculiar position.
- To shore up its revenues, the Centre has, over the years, begun to rely more on cesses and surcharges.
- In the recent Union Budget, too, it increased the special additional excise duty and road and infrastructure cess on petrol and diesel by one rupee each.
- But the revenue from cesses and surcharges is not part of the divisible tax pool that is shared with the states. It is kept by the Centre. This leads to the states receiving a lower share of the Centre’s gross tax revenue collections.
Impact of the move
- With capital spending on defence continuing to fall short of requirements, it is difficult to contest the basic premise that spending on defence needs to be bolstered.
- However, sequestering funds for defence from the Centre’s gross tax revenues means a reduction in the overall tax pool that is shared with states.
- This is likely to be protested by the states, several of whom are already arguing for an increase in their share in taxes collected to 50 per cent from the current 42 per cent.
Headline : Hepatitis B and C major killers, but few know it
- On the World Hepatitis Day, the Union health minister pledged to join a campaign initiated by the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) to create awareness about the disease.
Context of the topic:
- In India, more people are dying of Hepatitis B and C than HIV, malaria and dengue combined and yet the awareness about the disease remains low.
In Focus: Hepatitis
What is Hepatitis?
- Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver.
- The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer.
- Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other infections, toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.
Note: Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease that occurs when your body makes antibodies against your liver tissue.
Types of Viral Hepatitis
- Viral infections of the liver that are classified as hepatitis include hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.
- A different virus is responsible for each type of virally transmitted hepatitis.
- These 5 types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread.
- In particular, types B and C are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
- Hepatitis A and E are typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water.
- Hepatitis B, C and D usually occur as a result of parenteral contact with infected body fluids.
- Common modes of transmission for these viruses include receipt of contaminated blood or blood products, invasive medical procedures using contaminated equipment and for hepatitis B transmission from mother to baby at birth, from family member to child, and also by sexual contact.
- Hepatitis A infections are in many cases mild, with most people making a full recovery and remaining immune from further Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) infections. However, HAV infections can also be severe and life threatening.
- Most people in areas of the world with poor sanitation have been infected with this virus.
- Transmission of the Virus:
- Through consumption of contaminated water or food.
- Certain sex practices can also spread Hepatitis A Virus (HAV).
- Vaccination availability:
- Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HAV.
- Hepatitis B is a viral infection caused by Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.
- According to WHO, in 2015, 257 million people suffered from Hepatitis B infection (defined as Hepatitis B surface antigen positive).
- Infections in India: India harbours 10-15% of the entire pool of Hepatitis B virus carriers in the world and 15-25% of these patients are likely to suffer from cirrhosis, scarring of the liver and liver cancer and likely to die prematurely.
- Transmission of the Virus:
- Exposure to infective blood, semen, and other body fluids.
- From infected mother to infant at the time of birth or from family member to infant in early childhood.
- Vaccination availability:
- Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HBV.
- All infants should get a shot as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. It, however, can be taken at any age
- Transmission of the Virus (HCV) :
- Through unsafe injection practices
- Transfusion of unscreened blood and its products
- Sexual practices that lead to exposure of blood of an infected individual
- Vaccination availability:
- There is no preventive vaccine for Hepatitis C, which is a major cause of liver cancer.
- Transmission of the Virus:
- The Hepatitis D Virus (HDV) infections occur only in those who are infected with HBV.
- The dual infection of HDV and HBV can result in a more serious disease and worse outcome.
- Vaccination availability:
- Hepatitis B vaccines provide protection from HDV infection.
- Hepatitis E Virus is a common cause of hepatitis outbreaks in developing parts of the world and is increasingly recognized as an important cause of disease in developed countries
- Transmission of the Virus:
- Consumption of contaminated water or food.
- Vaccination availability:
- Safe and effective vaccines to prevent HEV infection have been developed but are not widely available.
Hepatitis B and C: Major Risks
- According to the global hepatitis report, 2017 Hepatitis B and C, the two main types of the five different hepatitis infections (A,B,C,D,E), are responsible for 96% of overall viral hepatitis related mortality.
About National Viral Hepatitis Control Program
- The National Viral Hepatitis Control Program has been launched by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, on the occasion of the World Hepatitis Day, 28th July 2018.
- It is an integrated initiative for the prevention and control of viral hepatitis in India to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.3 which aims to ending viral hepatitis by 2030.
- This is a comprehensive plan covering the entire gamut from Hepatitis A, B, C, D & E, and the whole range from prevention, detection and treatment to mapping treatment outcomes.
- Combat hepatitis and achieve country wide elimination of Hepatitis C by 2030
- Achieve significant reduction in the infected population, morbidity and mortality associated with Hepatitis B and C i.e. Cirrhosis and Hepato-cellular carcinoma (liver cancer)
- Reduce the risk, morbidity and mortality due to Hepatitis A and E.
- Enhance community awareness on hepatitis and lay stress on preventive measures among general population especially high-risk groups and in hotspots.
- Provide early diagnosis and management of viral hepatitis at all levels of healthcare
- Develop standard diagnostic and treatment protocols for management of viral hepatitis and its complications.
- Strengthen the existing infrastructure facilities, capacity building of existing human resources and raise additional human resources, where required, for providing comprehensive services for management of viral hepatitis and its complications in all districts of the country.
- Develop linkages with the existing National programs towards awareness, prevention, diagnosis and treatment for viral hepatitis.
- Develop a web-based “Viral Hepatitis Information and Management System” to maintain a registry of persons affected with viral hepatitis and its sequelae.
- Preventive component
- Awareness generation & behaviour change communication
- Immunization of Hepatitis B (birth dose, high risk groups, health care workers)
- Safety of blood and blood products
- Injection safety, safe socio-cultural practices
- Safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitary toilets
- Diagnosis and Treatment
- Monitoring and Evaluation, Surveillance and Research
- Training and Capacity Building
- To make the programme successful and to ensure all persons suffering from Hepatitis B and C get treatment, there is need of more funds.
- However, with the recent reductions in the costs of diagnosing and treating viral hepatitis, countries can scale up investments in eliminating the disease.
- Also, mass campaigns are needed to create awareness about its vaccination.
Headline : Electrifying India’s transport Editorial 7th May’19 TimesOfIndia
Rapid urbanization and transport problems:
- India’s urban population will nearly double in the next decade.
- More than half a billion people will live and work in Indian cities.
- Travel within and between cities will grow exponentially.
- This rapid growth poses several social, economic and environmental challenges.
Converting this into opportunities:
- To convert these challenges into opportunities, India needs to prioritise shared and public modes of transportation and turn to new sunrise industries (like electric vehicles) that can help combat pollution, reduce congestion, strengthen energy security and also create jobs.
Initiatives aimed at transforming India’s mobility system:
- Recently, the Union government approved two initiatives:
- Fame-II: The second phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles scheme
- National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage
Focus on electrification:
- Both these actions signal India’s commitment to transforming its mobility system, with focus on electrification as the primary technology pathway to achieve this transformation.
- This focus presents India with a powerful opportunity to emerge as a leader in clean, connected and shared mobility solutions, battery manufacturing and renewable energy integration.
- Renewably supplied electricity can deliver long-term, fixed cost power supply for mobility services throughout the economy, and solar energy can become a transportation fuel.
- Energy security: From the perspective of energy security and competitive advantage too, new mobility solutions will reduce oil import costs, lower trade deficits, and limit vulnerability to oil supply disruptions and process shocks.
- Environmental benefits: Shared, connected and clean mobility solutions will deliver a host of environmental benefits, including cleaner air so Indian citizens can breathe more easily.
Future of mobility in India:
- Addressing the Global Mobility Summit, the Indian Prime Minister outlined a vision for the future of mobility in India based on 7Cs.
- These 7 Cs include: Common, Connected, Convenient, Congestion-free, Charged, Clean and Cutting-edge.
Steps to achieve these objectives:
- Focus on shared electric transportation:
- India’s per capita car ownership is quite low with fewer than 20 vehicles per 1,000 persons (5% of the people), as compared to 900 per 1,000 in the US and 800 per 1,000 in Europe.
- India’s low per capita car ownership affords it the chance to pursue a different model from the western world.
- Our emphasis must be on shared, connected and electric transportation.
- Focus on EVs in two and three wheelers segments:
- Two and three wheelers constitute almost 80% of India’s domestic automobile sales.
- India must leverage this and provide impetus to electrification of these two segments to provide size and scale to India’s e-mobility efforts.
- Push public transportation:
- India must push for public transportation to become the preferred mode of travel.
- At present, India has only 1.2 buses per 1,000 people, which is far below the benchmarks of developing nations.
- Only 63 of the 458 Indian cities have a formal city bus system and 15 cities have a bus or rail based mass rapid transport system.
- Public transport must become the core focus area for municipalities and state governments.
- Creating an ecosystem for EVs:
- As we shift from Internal Combustion Engine vehicles (which have 2,000 components) to Electric vehicles (which have 20 components), India must create a unique ecosystem to encourage and ensure Make in India as far as possible.
- This would require measures, including Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP) across the entire value chain, and an efficient fiscal and tax structure.
- This ecosystem should also be able to attract global OEMs for manufacturing.
- Promote battery manufacturing:
- Batteries account for almost 40% of the total purchase cost of EVs today.
- Domestic battery manufacturing is a massive market opportunity for India to rapidly enable the transition to EVs.
- India has the opportunity to pursue manufacturing of both battery cells and packs while importing only raw materials.
- With this, India can capture nearly 80% of the total economic opportunity.
- New battery technologies, like solid-state lithium ion batteries, sodium ion batteries and silicon-based batteries, are under development.
- India needs to vigorously pursue research and development in these areas and have a clear roadmap for manufacturing on a mega scale.
- Creating charging infrastructure:
- India’s cities must build charging infrastructure to remove worries over the range the EVs can travel.
- The existing network of our marketing oil companies must be fully utilised to ensure charging facilities in urban areas and highways.
- Innovation: India must therefore explore newer models of swapping batteries and pay as you go, and facilitate startups that are innovating and disrupting status quo in mobility.
- Capacity building: Our IITs and engineering institutions must also include courses on new technologies as an essential component of their curriculum.
- Policies by states: States must drive uptake of these solutions by dynamic models of charging a fee for polluting combustion vehicles, while providing rebates on electric vehicles, and tightening norms of fuel efficiency across vehicle segments.
- Forecasts indicate that EVs prices will drop and can reach price parity with ICE vehicles by 2024.
- A recent report by Morgan Stanley has highlighted that half of India’s car fleet will be EVs and half of all miles driven will be on shared platforms by 2040.
- This is on account of rapid spread of digitisation and mobile telephony and low per capita car usage in India.
- This new sunrise area can emerge as the biggest catalyst of clean environment, lower trade deficit and new jobs for India.
GS Paper III: Indian Economy
India has committed to transforming its mobility system, with focus on electrification as the primary technology pathway to achieve this. Suggest steps towards achieving this transformation.
Section : Editorial Analysis