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1-May -2024- Top News of the Day

1. Microbes, not fossil fuels, produced most new methane: study

(Source – The Hindu, Section – Science, Page – 7)

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Environmental pollution and degradation

GS3 – Science and Technology

Understanding methane emissions’ sources and impacts is vital for environmental policy formulation and addressing climate change in UPSC exams.

Context:

●  This news discusses Naveen Chandra’s research on methane emissions, revealing that microbes, not fossil fuels, are the main source.

● The study highlights the importance of localised data to accurately assess and mitigate methane emissions, crucial for combating climate change.

 Introduction:

  • Scientists conducts simulations at the Research Institute for Global Change in Japan, aiming to recreate the last 50 years of the earth’s atmosphere.
  • The research focuses on understanding the significant increase in methane concentration in the atmosphere over the past few decades.

Significance of Methane:

  • Methane is the second most abundant anthropogenic greenhouse gas, with a much higher global warming potential than CO2.
  • Policymakers have recently turned attention to methane emissions, launching initiatives like the ‘Global Methane Pledge’ at the U.N. climate talks in 2021.

Identification of Methane Sources:

  • Recent research by scientists suggests that microbes, particularly methanogens, are the primary sources of atmospheric methane, rather than fossil fuel burning.
  • Methane sources are classified as biogenic (microbial) or thermogenic (fossil fuel extraction).

Role of Methanogens:

  • Methanogens, single-celled microorganisms, thrive in oxygen-deficient environments and produce methane as part of the global carbon cycle.
  • Human activities such as agriculture, dairy farming, and fossil fuel production have increased methane emissions.

Tracking Methane Isotopes:

  • Different sources of methane produce distinct isotopes, allowing scientists to track their origin.
  • Carbon-13 isotopes are key in identifying biological sources of methane, as they indicate lower levels in biogenic methane compared to thermogenic methane.

Supercomputer Simulations:

  • Scientists have collected methane isotope data from monitoring sites worldwide and run simulations on a supercomputer to recreate the atmosphere from 1980 to 2020.
  • The analysis reveals discrepancies between their results and existing emissions inventories like EDGAR and GAINS.

Data Mismatch and Uncertainties:

  • The team’s models suggest declining methane emissions from fossil fuels since the 1990s, with microbes contributing more methane than previously thought.
  • However, the total emissions calculated from various sources do not match the observed atmospheric levels, indicating uncertainties in the data.

Need for Localised Data:

  • The study highlights the importance of local data in accurately assessing methane emissions from specific sources like wetlands, rice fields, and waste.
  • Ground-based observations are essential to confirm satellite data interpretations and improve atmospheric models.

Conclusion:

  • Despite advancements in understanding methane emissions, uncertainties remain regarding the contributions of different sources.
  • Localised data collection and improved observational techniques are crucial for accurately assessing and mitigating methane emissions to combat climate change.
Methane as a Greenhouse gas

●  Definition: Methane (CH4) is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) that traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, contributing to global warming and climate change.

●  Sources: Methane is emitted from both natural and anthropogenic sources, including:

  • Natural sources such as wetlands, oceans, and termites.
  •  Anthropogenic sources including livestock digestion, rice cultivation, landfills, and fossil fuel extraction and combustion.
  • Methane is more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) in terms of its heat-trapping ability, although it has a shorter atmospheric lifetime.

●  Impact on Climate Change: Methane contributes to the enhanced greenhouse effect, leading to increased global temperatures, changes in weather patterns, and sea level rise.

●  Feedback Loops: Methane release from melting permafrost and methane hydrates in Arctic regions can lead to positive feedback loops, exacerbating climate change.

●      Reduction Strategies:

  • Implementing methane capture and utilization technologies in agriculture, landfills, and energy production.
  • Improving livestock management practices to reduce methane emissions from enteric fermentation.
  • Regulations and policies targeting methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction and distribution.

●      International Efforts: The reduction of methane emissions is a priority under international climate agreements such as the Paris Agreement, Global Methane Pledge, with initiatives aimed at curbing methane

PYQ: Discuss global warming and mention its effects on the global climate. Explain the control measures to bring down the level of greenhouse gases which cause global warming, in the light of the Kyoto Protocol, 1997. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022)
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of methane as a greenhouse gas and analyse the challenges in accurately identifying its sources and mitigating its emissions. (250 Words /15 marks)

2. About the redistribution of wealth

(Source – The Hindu, Section – Text&Context, Page – 10)

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Development and management of social sector/services

Understanding wealth redistribution in India is crucial for UPSC aspirants to grasp socio-economic policies and constitutional principles.

Context:
This news explores the ongoing debate between the ruling government and the opposition regarding wealth redistribution in India, highlighting constitutional provisions, historical context, and current political discourse.

 Constitutional Provisions:

  • The Preamble aims for social and economic justice, liberty, and equality.
  • Part III guarantees fundamental rights, while Part IV outlines the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) for achieving social and economic justice.
  • Article 39(b) and (c) emphasise distributing material resources for the common good and preventing wealth concentration.

Historical Context:

  • Originally, the Constitution guaranteed the right to property as a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(f).
  • Amendments were made to facilitate land reforms and public welfare, curtailing the right to property.
  • Supreme Court rulings, such as in Golak Nath (1967) and Kesavananda Bharati (1973), upheld a balance between fundamental rights and DPSP.
  • The 44th Amendment Act (1978) omitted the right to property as a fundamental right, making it a constitutional right under Article 300A.

Current Debate:

  • Post-independence, India followed a socialist economic model, focusing on wealth redistribution.
  • Economic policies included land acquisition, nationalisation of key sectors, and high taxation rates to reduce inequality.
  • The nineties saw a shift towards liberalisation, privatisation, and globalisation, aiming to empower market forces and improve efficiency.
  • Market-driven economy led to economic growth but also increased inequality, with the top 10% holding a significant share of wealth and income.
  • Congress manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections promises measures for the poor, while the ruling party accuses the opposition of advocating inheritance tax laws.
  • The Supreme Court constituted a nine-judge Bench to interpret whether Article 39(b) includes private resources.

Way Forward:

  • Addressing inequality is a global challenge, requiring government intervention to protect the interests of the marginalised.
  • Past policies like high taxation rates did not achieve desired goals and led to income and wealth concealment.
  • Growth and innovation should not be hindered, but the benefits should reach all sections, especially the marginalised.
  • Policy formulation should involve adequate debate and be aligned with current economic models while ensuring economic justice for all as per the Constitution.

Conclusion:

  • The debate on wealth redistribution in India is rooted in constitutional principles of social and economic justice.
  • Historical context, current economic policies, and proposed measures by political parties shape the discourse.
  • The way forward involves striking a balance between economic growth and equitable distribution of resources, ensuring justice for all citizens.
Inequality in India

Inequality Trends in India:

Wealth Inequality: Top 10% own 77% of national wealth; poorest half have only 4.1%.

Income Inequality: Top 10% and 1% hold 57% and 22% of total income respectively; bottom 50% share reduced to 13%.

Tax Burden: 64% of GST from bottom 50%; only 4% from top 10%.

Global Hunger Index: India’s score at 28.7, considered serious; highest child-wasting rate.

Healthcare Accessibility: 63 million pushed into poverty annually due to healthcare costs; majority unable to access needed care.

(Source – The Economic Times, December 7, 2022)

Causes of Increasing Inequality in India:

●  Unequal Access to Education: Disparities in educational opportunities perpetuate socio-economic inequalities, limiting upward mobility for marginalised communities.

●  Informal Sector Dominance: The dominance of the informal sector in India’s economy leads to low wages, insecure employment, and lack of social protection, exacerbating income disparities.

●  Unequal Distribution of Wealth: Concentration of wealth among a small elite contributes to widening income gaps and socio-economic inequalities.

Caste and Gender Discrimination: Persistent caste-based and gender-based discrimination marginalise certain groups, limiting their access to opportunities and resources.

Urban-Rural Divide: Disparities between urban and rural areas in terms of infrastructure, employment opportunities, and access to basic services widen income and wealth gaps.

Way Forward:

●  Investment in Education: Enhance access to quality education and skill development programs to promote equal opportunities for all.

●  Job Creation: Implement policies to stimulate job creation, particularly in sectors with high labour-absorptive capacity, to reduce unemployment and underemployment.

Social Protection: Strengthen social safety nets and welfare programs to provide financial support and assistance to vulnerable populations.

●  Progressive Taxation: Introduce progressive tax policies to redistribute wealth and reduce income inequalities.

●  Gender and Caste Equality: Promote gender equality and social inclusion through affirmative action policies and measures to address caste-based discrimination.

Rural Development: Focus on rural development initiatives to bridge the urban-rural divide and promote inclusive growth.

PYQ: COVID-19 pandemic accelerated class inequalities and poverty in India. Comment. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2020)
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of wealth redistribution in India’s socio-economic policies and analyse its constitutional implications. (150 Words /10 marks)

 

3. Fertilizer subsidy in FY24 exceeds RE by ₹6,500 crore

(Source – The Hindu, Section – Business, Page – 12

Topic: GS3 – Agriculture – Issues related to Direct & indirect farm subsidies

The topic is significant for UPSC as it pertains to fiscal management, subsidy policies, and agricultural sustainability in India.

Context:
The news reports that in Fiscal Year 2023-24, India’s fertilizer subsidy surpassed Revised Estimates by ₹6,500 crore due to increased input costs, notably higher natural gas prices, impacting urea and nutrient-based subsidy expenditure.

 

Analysis of the news:

  • In FY23-24, the fertilizer subsidy exceeded Revised Estimates (RE) by over ₹6,500 crore, but this isn’t expected to impact the revised estimate of the fiscal deficit.
  • The increase in subsidy is attributed to rising input and operations costs, primarily due to higher natural gas prices.
  • Urea subsidy rose to over ₹1.30-lakh crore compared to the RE of ₹1.29-lakh crore, still below the Budget Estimate of over ₹1.35-lakh crore.
  • Nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) expenditure increased to over ₹65,000 crore from the RE of over ₹60,000 crore and the Budget Estimate of ₹44,000 crore.
  • Last June, the government extended the urea subsidy scheme up to March 31, 2025, with a total estimated outlay of over ₹3.68-lakh crore between FY23 and FY25.
  • Urea is provided to farmers at a statutorily notified maximum retail price (MRP), while the subsidy covers the difference between the delivered cost and net market realisation by urea units.
  • The nutrient-based subsidy policy, implemented nationwide since April 1, 2010, has been extended until 2025-26.
Fertiliser Subsidies In India

Issues with Fertiliser Subsidies in India:

●  Cost Inefficiency: High fertiliser subsidies strain government finances and distort market prices, leading to inefficient allocation of resources.

Subsidy Leakages: Inadequate targeting mechanisms result in subsidy leakages, with fertilisers being diverted to non-agricultural uses or smuggled to neighbouring countries.

Environmental Degradation: Excessive fertiliser use encouraged by subsidies contributes to soil degradation, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, harming the environment and public health.

Market Distortions: Subsidies create market distortions by incentivizing the use of certain fertilisers over others, affecting crop choices, soil health, and agricultural productivity.

Dependency on Imports: Reliance on imported fertilisers increases India’s vulnerability to international price fluctuations and supply disruptions.

Way Forward for Fertiliser Subsidy Reform:

Targeted Subsidies: Implement targeted subsidy schemes using technology and Aadhaar-linked databases to ensure subsidies reach genuine beneficiaries.

Promotion of Balanced Fertilisation: Encourage the use of balanced fertilisation practices through awareness campaigns, extension services, and incentives for soil health management.

●  Market-Based Pricing: Gradually reduce fertiliser subsidies and move towards market-based pricing to promote efficiency and rationalise fertiliser use.

●   Investment in Research and Development: Invest in research and development to develop and promote eco-friendly and efficient fertilisers that enhance crop yields while minimising environmental impact.

●  Promotion of Organic Farming: Encourage the adoption of organic farming practices through incentives and support schemes to reduce reliance on chemical fertilisers and promote sustainable agriculture.

Government initiative for rationalising subsidies:

Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) ensures timely subsidy payments to farmers through point-of-sale devices, preventing diversion and promoting balanced fertiliser use.

●  Neem Coated Urea (NCU) initiative mandates neem coating on urea to promote slow release, discourage non-agricultural use, and enhance nitrogen availability while reducing pollution.

One Nation One Fertilizer (ONOF) scheme, this scheme, also known as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Urvarak Pariyojana (PMBJP) aims to standardise fertiliser brands under the name “Bharat” to increase availability, reduce confusion, and save on freight subsidy.

Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) fixes subsidy rates on nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sulphur to encourage balanced fertiliser consumption and reduce government subsidy burden.

PYQ: (UPSC civil services prelims 2020)

Q.1 With reference to chemical fertilisers in India, consider the following statements:

1.    At present, the retail price of chemical fertilisers is market-driven and not administered by the Government.

2.    Ammonia, which is an input of urea, is produced from natural gas.

3.    Sulphur, which is a raw material for phosphoric acid fertiliser, is a by-product of oil refineries.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 2 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: Option B

 

Q.2 Why does the Government of India promote the use of ‘Neem-coated Urea’ in agriculture? (UPSC civil services prelims 2016)

(a) Release of Neem oil in the soil increases nitrogen fixation by the soil microorganisms.

(b) Neem coating slows down the rate of dissolution of urea in the soil.

(c) Nitrous oxide, which is a greenhouse gas, is not at all released into atmosphere by crop fields.

(d) It is a combination of a weedicide and a fertiliser for particular crops.

Ans: Option B

 

Practice Question:  Discuss the impact of rising input costs, particularly natural gas prices, on India’s fertiliser subsidy scheme, and evaluate its implications for agricultural sustainability and fiscal management. (250 Words /15 marks)

4. AstraZeneca Admits Rare Side Effects of Covid-19 Vaccine, Opening Doors for Settlements

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Govt and Politics; Page: 8)

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Health

GS3 – Science & Technology –

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains as the analysis delves into the scientific understanding of Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS) and the implications for vaccination strategies.

 

Context:
  • Global pharmaceutical manufacturer AstraZeneca has acknowledged in British courts that its Covid-19 vaccine, developed in collaboration with researchers from Oxford University, can lead to a rare side effect of blood clotting and low platelet count.
  • This admission, reported by The Telegraph, is anticipated to open avenues for significant settlements for the petitioners affected by these side effects.
Analysis of the News:

Prevalence of Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS):

  • While this admission marks the first acknowledgment in court, TTS has been well-documented in scientific literature.
  • TTS is a condition characterized by blood clots and low platelet count, commonly observed after vaccination with adenovirus-based vaccines like AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen.
  • The occurrence of TTS was noted in Europe shortly after the initiation of vaccination drives, leading to temporary halts in the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

TTS Cases in India and Covishield:

  • In India, where the same vaccine is marketed under the name Covishield and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, at least 36 cases of TTS have been confirmed following immunization.
  • The Indian government’s committee on Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) reported 18 deaths among these cases in the first year of the Covid-19 vaccination drive.

Legal Hurdles and Indian Jurisdiction:

  • While the admission by AstraZeneca is significant, affected Indian patients may face legal hurdles in joining the British petition due to jurisdictional issues.
  • Covishield is manufactured in India, subject to Indian jurisdiction and local laws.
  • However, Indian health officials assert that TTS is a very rare side effect, and the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks, particularly given the significant role of vaccines in saving lives during the pandemic.

Global Perspective and Reported Cases:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) reports TTS occurrence rates ranging from 0.5 to 6.8 cases per 100,000 doses administered, with a higher risk observed among younger women under the age of 60.
  • Geographically, the highest reporting rates are observed in Nordic countries, while Asian countries report relatively lower rates.

Scientific Understanding and Vaccination Strategies:

  • Virologists emphasize that TTS was well-documented and scientifically accepted during the vaccination drives, and the benefits of vaccination outweighed the risks, particularly during the pandemic peak.
  • Suggestions are made for considering alternative vaccines for younger women at lower risk of severe disease.
  • Additionally, experts assert that, given the current high antibody levels in the Indian population, vaccination may not be necessary for most individuals, except for those who are immunocompromised or vulnerable to severe disease, who may consider newer vaccines offering protection against emerging variants like Omicron.
About Covishield
  • COVISHIELD: It is the name given to an Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine candidate which is technically referred to as AZD1222 or ChAdOx 1 nCoV19.

Produced By:

  • It is a version of the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford in collaboration with Swedish-British drugmaker AstraZeneca.
  • Serum Institute of India (SII) is the manufacturing partner in India.
  • Constituents and Action:
  • It is based on a weakened version of a common cold virus or the adenovirus that is found in chimpanzees.
  • This viral vector contains the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (protrusions) present on the outer surface of the virus that help it bind with the human cell.
  • The body’s immune system is supposed to recognise this protein as a threat, and work on building antibodies against it.

Significance:

  • It had triggered an immune response in humans against the novel coronavirus in early trials and is considered to be one of the global frontrunners for the Covid-19 vaccine.

 

Practice Question:  Discuss the recent admission by AstraZeneca regarding rare side effects associated with its Covid-19 vaccine and its implications for vaccination programs globally. Evaluate the response of Indian health authorities to reported cases of adverse events following Covishield vaccination. Suggest measures to address vaccine safety concerns and maintain public trust in vaccination campaigns. (250 words/15 m)

 

5. South Asian Climate Outlook Forum Forecasts Above-Normal Rainfall for Monsoon Season

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Express Network; Page: 9)

Topic: GS1- Geography – Climate Change

GS3 – Disaster Management

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding weather patterns and forecasts, as provided by SASCOF which is crucial for disaster management planning.

 

Context:
  • The 28th South Asian Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF) predicts above-normal rainfall across most South Asian countries during the upcoming monsoon season.
  • This consensus, jointly prepared by weather scientists from nine national meteorological and hydrological services, anticipates normal or above rainfall for Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and central Bhutan.
  • Despite some exceptions in northern and northeastern regions, the forecast suggests a favorable monsoon season for much of South Asia.
Analysis of the News:

Alignment with IMD Forecast:

  • The SASCOF rainfall outlook aligns with the first stage southwest monsoon forecast released by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) a fortnight ago.
  • This consistency in forecasts from multiple weather agencies enhances confidence in the reliability of the predictions, providing valuable insights for policymakers and stakeholders in the region.

Favorable Ocean-Atmospheric Factors:

  • The forecast attributes the anticipated good rainfall to multiple favorable ocean-atmospheric factors.
  • While ongoing El Niño conditions are weakening, transitioning to ENSO-neutral conditions, La Niña conditions are expected to develop in the second half of the monsoon season.
  • Additionally, the likelihood of a positive phase of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) further reinforces the positive influence on the southwest monsoon.

Impact on Temperature:

  • Alongside rainfall forecasts, SASCOF also predicts above-normal day temperatures in most regions during the ongoing summer season.
  • Particularly affected areas include West Afghanistan, northern and eastern Pakistan, parts of India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and central and southern Myanmar.
  • This temperature outlook underscores the importance of adaptive measures to mitigate heat-related risks and ensure public health and safety.

International Collaboration and Expertise:

  • The SASCOF meet in Pune brought together experts from various international meteorological agencies and research institutes.
  • Collaborative efforts between organizations such as the World Meteorological Organization, Japan Meteorological Agency, and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology highlight the importance of international cooperation in climate research and forecasting.
  • Such partnerships facilitate the exchange of knowledge and expertise, enhancing the accuracy and effectiveness of climate predictions.
About SASCOF
  • South Asian nations, supported by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), have been conducting the SASCOF since 2010.
  • SASCOF is a consortium of meteorologists and hydrological experts from South Asian countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives and Myanmar.
  • They work collectively to issue regional forecasts and the team releases forecasts for the Southwest and Northeast monsoon seasons, every year.
  • World Meteorological Organization
  • The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is an intergovernmental organization with a membership of 193 Member States and Territories. India is a member.
  • Established by the ratification of the WMO Convention on 23 March 1950, WMO became the specialized agency of the United Nations for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences.
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

‘Climate Change’ is a global problem. How India will be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2017)
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of the South Asian Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF) forecasts in the context of climate resilience and disaster management, particularly focusing on its implications for agricultural planning, environmental governance, and international cooperation. (250 words/15 m)

6. India Grapples with Prolonged Heatwaves as IMD Reports 26 Days of Intense Conditions in April

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Explained; Page: 13)

Topic: GS1 – Geography – Climate change

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains as this analysis provides insights into the prevalence of heatwaves in India, the regions most affected, and the factors contributing to their occurrence.

 

Context:
  • According to data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD), India experienced heatwave conditions for 26 days in April.
  • The severity varied across regions, with the southern peninsular and southeastern coastal areas being particularly affected.
  • However, the northern plains are yet to experience heatwave conditions this season, indicating regional disparities in temperature patterns.
Analysis of the News:

Heatwave-Prone Areas:

  • The core heatwave zone (CHZ), comprising north, northwest, central, and east India, along with the northeast Peninsula, is particularly susceptible to heatwaves from March to June, occasionally extending into July.
  • States such as Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, and parts of Maharashtra and West Bengal are among the most heatwave-prone regions in India.

IMD Heatwave Criteria:

  • IMD declares a heatwave based on specific temperature thresholds. For plains, a temperature of 40°C or more qualifies as a heatwave, while for coastal areas and hills, the thresholds are 37°C and 30°C, respectively.
  • Severity is determined by the departure from normal temperature, with departures exceeding 4°C categorized as severe heatwaves.

Causes of April Heatwaves:

The heatwaves in April can be attributed to two primary factors.

  • Firstly, the year 2024 began in an El Niño state, characterized by abnormal warming of surface waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. El Niño events typically lead to extreme temperatures and reduced rainfall, exacerbating heatwave conditions.
  • Secondly, the persistent presence of anticyclonic systems over the southern peninsular and southeastern coastal areas contributed to elevated temperatures.
  • These high-pressure systems induce air subsidence, generating heat on the surface and inhibiting the cooling effect of sea breezes.

Extent and Duration of Heatwaves:

  • The IMD data indicates that except for a few days, a significant portion of the country experienced heatwave or severe heatwave conditions throughout April.
  • The worst affected regions include southern peninsular India, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Sikkim, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Gangetic West Bengal.
  • Notably, Odisha and Gangetic West Bengal have been under heatwave conditions for more than two weeks, surpassing the typical duration of heatwave spells.

Changing Heatwave Patterns:

  • The inclusion of states like Kerala and Sikkim in the list of affected areas highlights the changing dynamics of heatwaves in India.
  • Experts emphasizes that heatwaves are no longer confined to traditional hotspots but are increasingly impacting regions beyond the CHZ.
  • This underscores the need for comprehensive strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of rising temperatures nationwide.
What are Heat Waves?

About:

  • Heatwaves are prolonged periods of excessively hot weather that can cause adverse impacts on human health, the environment, and the economy.
  • India, being a tropical country, is particularly vulnerable to heatwaves, which have become more frequent and intense in recent years.

Criteria for Declaring Heat Wave in India:

Plains and Hilly Regions:

  • Heat wave is considered if the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C or more for Plains and at least 30°C or more for Hilly regions.
  • Based on Departure from Normal Heat Wave: Departure from normal is 4.50°C to 6.40°C.
  • Severe Heat Wave: Departure from normal is >6.40°C.
  • Based on Actual Maximum Temperature Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥45°C.

Severe Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥47°C.

  • If the above criteria are met in at least 2 stations in a Meteorological subdivision for at least two consecutive days, it is declared so on the second day.

Coastal Areas:

  • When maximum temperature departure is 4.50°C or more from normal, a heat wave may be described provided the actual maximum temperature is 37°C or more.

Fatality:

  • High temperature in itself is not fatal but the combination of high temperature and high humidity, referred to as the wet bulb temperature, is what makes heatwaves deadly.
  • High moisture content in the atmosphere makes it difficult for the sweat to evaporate and bodies to cool down, as a result of which the internal body temperature increases sharply and is often fatal.

Causes:

  • Global Warming: One of the primary causes of heatwaves in India is global warming, which refers to the long-term increase in Earth’s average temperature due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial activities.
  • Global warming can result in higher temperatures and changes in weather patterns, leading to heatwaves.

Urbanisation:

  • Rapid urbanisation and the growth of concrete jungles in cities can lead to the phenomenon known as the “urban heat island effect.”
  • Urban areas with high population density, buildings, and concrete surfaces absorb and retain more heat, leading to higher temperatures, particularly during heatwaves.

El Nino Effect:

  • During an El Nino event, the warming of the Pacific Ocean can affect global weather patterns, causing changes in temperature, rainfall, and wind patterns around the world.

Impacts:

Impact on Health:

  • Rapid rises in heat gain can compromise the body’s ability to regulate temperature and can result in a cascade of illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia.
  • Deaths and hospitalizations from heat can occur extremely rapidly or have a lagged effect.

Impact on Water Resources:

  • Heatwaves can exacerbate water scarcity issues in India; drying up of water bodies, reduced water availability for agriculture and domestic use, and increased competition for water resources
  • This can lead to conflicts over water, affect irrigation practices, and impact water-dependent industries.

Impact on Energy:

  • Heatwaves can increase electricity demand for cooling purposes, leading to strain on power grids and potential blackouts.
  • This can disrupt economic activities, affect productivity, and impact vulnerable populations who may not have access to reliable electricity for cooling during heatwaves.

 

PYQ: What are the possible limitations of India in mitigating global warming at present and in the immediate future? (2010)

1) Appropriate alternate technologies are not sufficiently available.

2) India cannot invest huge funds in research and development.

3) Many developed countries have already set up their polluting industries in India.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: (a)

Practice Question:  What are heatwaves, and why are they a concern in India? Explain the regional distribution of heatwaves in the country and discuss the factors contributing to their occurrence. (250 words/15 m)

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