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20 May 2024 : Daily Current Affairs

1. With food scarce, lion-tailed macaques leave forest canopies for the urban jungle

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Conservation – Important Species
Context
The presence of lion-tailed macaques, a species endemic to the Western Ghats, face challenges for existence due to habitat degradation and urbanisation.

● Increased interaction with humans and improper waste management further threaten their survival in the wild.

 Analysis of the news:

  • Valparai town in Tamil Nadu witnesses lion-tailed macaques, arboreal primates endemic to the Western Ghats, rummaging through urban waste for food.
  • The lion-tailed macaque population is estimated at around 500 in the Valparai plateau, making it one of the significant populations.
  • Habitat degradation, roads passing through their habitats, and improper waste management contribute to their behavioural changes and increased interaction with humans.
  • Lack of natural food sources pushes them to seek alternatives, including human settlements.
  • Human activities such as feeding them and road widening further exacerbate the issue, leading to increased roadkill incidents.
  • Conservation efforts include preventing human interaction, establishing canopy corridors, and focusing on waste management.
  • Tamil Nadu government allocated funds for endangered species conservation, including lion-tailed macaques, and plans to conduct population estimation and conservation studies.
  • The Anamalai Tiger Reserve administration also proposes a study to address the challenges faced by the lion-tailed macaque population.
 Lion-tailed Macaques:
Scientific Name: Lion-tailed macaques are scientifically known as Macaca silenus.

IUCN Status: Endangered.

Habitat: They are endemic to the Western Ghats mountain range in southwestern India, primarily found in tropical rainforests.

Appearance: Recognizable by their distinctive lion-like mane of hair, they have dark fur and a silver-white beard.

Diet: Their diet consists mainly of fruits, leaves, flowers, and insects.

Behaviour: Lion-tailed macaques are arboreal, spending most of their time in trees, and are skilled climbers.

Social Structure: They live in multi-male, multi-female groups led by a dominant male.

Conservation Efforts: Efforts include habitat preservation, canopy corridors, anti-poaching measures, and captive breeding programs to bolster populations.

Practice Question:  Discuss the challenges faced by the lion-tailed macaque population, due to urbanisation, habitat degradation, and increased human interaction. Suggest measures for conservation and mitigation of human-wildlife conflicts in the region. (150 Words /10 marks)

(Source – The Hindu, International Edition – Page No. – 2)

2. Critical priority pathogens continue to pose threat: WHO

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Health
Context
The World Health Organization (WHO) updated its Bacterial Pathogens Priority List (BPPL), highlighting critical antibiotic-resistant bacteria and their impact on global health.

● This list, revised after seven years, underscores the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance and the need for targeted research and public health interventions to address it.

 Analysis of the news:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) updated the Bacterial Pathogens Priority List (BPPL) to highlight critical, high, and medium priority antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
 Bacterial Pathogens Priority List (BPPL):
Bacterial Pathogens Priority List (BPPL): Compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO), it identifies bacteria posing the greatest threat to human health.

Purpose: To guide research, development, and prioritisation of antibiotics and other interventions.

Criteria: Based on the urgency of need for new treatments due to antibiotic resistance, virulence, ease of transmission, and availability of effective countermeasures.

Listed Pathogens: It includes gram-negative bacteria resistant to last-resort antibiotics and Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistant to Rifampicin.

Impact: Helps focus resources and efforts on combating the most pressing bacterial threats globally.

  • The list includes gram-negative bacteria resistant to last-resort antibiotics and Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistant to Rifampicin.
  • High-priority pathogens such as salmonella, shigella, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Staphylococcus aureus pose significant challenges, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) occurs due to misuse and overuse of antimicrobials, leading to increased disease spread and deaths.
 Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR):
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR): It occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites develop resistance to antimicrobial drugs.

Mechanism: Microorganisms evolve mechanisms to withstand the effects of antimicrobial agents, rendering them ineffective.

Causes: Overuse and misuse of antimicrobial drugs in humans, animals, and agriculture contribute to the development of AMR.

Consequences: AMR leads to prolonged illness, increased mortality rates, and higher healthcare costs due to the need for alternative, often more expensive, treatments.

Global Threat: Recognized as a major global health threat, requiring coordinated efforts across sectors to mitigate its impact and preserve the effectiveness of antimicrobial drugs.

  • Other high-priority pathogens like antibiotic-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Enterococcus faecium require targeted research and public health interventions.
  • Yukiko Nakatani, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Antimicrobial Resistance, emphasises the importance of the list in guiding investment and addressing the antibiotics pipeline and access crisis amidst intensifying antimicrobial resistance threats.
PYQ:

Q. Which of the following are the reasons for the occurrence of multi-drug resistance in microbial pathogens in India? (UPSC civil services prelims 2019)

1.     Genetic predisposition of some people

2.     Taking incorrect doses of antibiotics to cure diseases

3.     Using antibiotics in livestock farming

4.     Multiple chronic diseases in some people

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 and 2
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1, 3 and 4
(d) 2, 3 and 4

Ans: Option B

 

Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of the updated Bacterial Pathogens Priority List (BPPL) by the World Health Organization (WHO) in addressing the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Suggest measures for mitigating the risks associated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (250 Words /15 marks)

(Source – The Hindu, International Edition – Page No. – 4)

3. Nucleosynthesis: the element factory

Topic: GS3 –  Science and Technology
Context
This news discusses the process of nucleosynthesis, the formation of elements within stars through nuclear fusion.

●  It highlights the different pathways of nucleosynthesis in stars of varying masses, from the proton-proton process in smaller stars to the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen cycle in more massive ones.

 Analysis of the news:

  • Nucleosynthesis is the process by which stars create elements within their cores through nuclear fusion.
  • It occurs under extreme conditions of pressure and temperature, such as in the core of the Sun, where temperatures reach about 15 million degrees Celsius.
  • The primary fusion process in stars like the Sun is the proton-proton (p-p) process, where hydrogen nuclei fuse to form helium nuclei.
  • In more massive stars, the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen (CNO) cycle becomes dominant, leading to the formation of elements beyond helium.
  • As a star exhausts its nuclear fuel, its core contracts, increasing temperature and triggering further fusion reactions until iron is produced.
  • Fusion of elements heavier than iron occurs during supernova explosions, which release immense energy and produce heavy elements through rapid neutron capture processes.
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of nucleosynthesis in the formation of elements within stars. Explain the different pathways involved in nucleosynthesis, including the proton-proton process and the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen cycle. (150 Words /10 marks)

(Source – The Hindu, International Edition – Page No. – 7)

4. Why is the European Union probing Facebook and Instagram?

Topic: GS2 – International Relations
Context
The European Union has launched an investigation into Meta’s Facebook and Instagram platforms over concerns about their failure to protect children online.

● This investigation follows suspicions that the platforms’ recommendation systems may exploit children’s vulnerabilities, potentially leading to addictive behaviour and exposure to harmful content.

 Introduction

  • The European Union (EU) has initiated a new investigation into Meta’s Facebook and Instagram platforms due to concerns regarding the protection of children online.
  • The investigation follows suspicions that Facebook and Instagram are failing to safeguard children on their platforms, potentially leading to addictive behaviour and exposure to harmful content.

Reasons for Investigation

  • The EU is concerned that Facebook and Instagram’s recommendation systems may exploit children’s vulnerabilities and encourage addictive behaviour.
  • The investigation aims to assess Meta’s use of age verification tools to prevent children under 13 from accessing their platforms and ensure compliance with the Digital Service Act (DSA) regarding privacy, safety, and security for minors.

Mandate of the DSA

  • The DSA mandates large online platforms with over 45 million users in the EU, including Facebook and Instagram, to provide non-user profiling options in their recommendation systems.
  • Platforms must also take measures to protect minors from harmful content and provide age verification and parental control tools to ensure their safety.

Investigation Process

  • The EU regulator will conduct an in-depth investigation to gather evidence, including additional requests for information, interviews, and inspections.
  • Meta may offer commitments to address the issues raised during the investigation.

Meta’s Efforts to Protect Children

  • Meta announced the testing of an AI-driven “nudity protection” tool to blur images containing nudity sent to minors.
  • The company implemented measures to tighten content restrictions and enhance parental supervision tools for users under 18.

Other Investigations

  • Meta’s platforms are also under investigation for deceptive advertising and disinformation in the EU, particularly regarding the European Parliament elections.
  • In the U.S., Instagram faced backlash for its role in promoting underage sex content, leading to efforts to improve internal controls and remove offending accounts.

Global Scrutiny of Online Platforms

  • The investigation in the EU reflects growing concerns globally about the protection of minors online.
  • Parents are advised to set up safeguards and supervise children’s online activities, while minors should know how to report offensive content and engage in open conversations with adults.

Conclusion

  • The investigation into Meta’s platforms underscores the importance of protecting minors online.
  • Efforts to ensure online safety for children require collaboration between platforms, regulators, parents, and caregivers.
 Online safety of children:
Threats for Children’s Online Safety:

Cyberbullying: Children are vulnerable to harassment, intimidation, and bullying through social media platforms and online forums.

Predatory Behaviour: Online predators target children through social networking sites, chat rooms, and gaming platforms, posing risks of exploitation, grooming, and sexual abuse.

Inappropriate Content: Exposure to age-inappropriate content such as violence, pornography, and extremist ideologies can have adverse effects on children’s mental and emotional well-being.

Privacy Concerns: Children may unknowingly share personal information online, leading to risks of identity theft, cyberstalking, and online fraud.

Cyber Addiction: Excessive screen time and internet usage can lead to addiction, social isolation, and negative impacts on physical health and academic performance.

Cybersecurity Risks: Children may fall victim to malware, phishing scams, and online scams, compromising their devices and personal data.

Challenges for Authorities and Administration:

Jurisdictional Issues: Challenges in enforcing laws and regulations across multiple jurisdictions, especially in cases involving international platforms and cross-border crimes.

Capacity Building: Limited resources, expertise, and infrastructure for law enforcement agencies and child protection authorities to effectively address online safety concerns.

Technological Advancements: Rapidly evolving digital technologies and encryption methods pose challenges for monitoring and regulating online activities.

Legal Framework: Inadequacies in existing laws and regulations to address emerging online threats and protect children’s rights in the digital age.

Coordination: Lack of coordination and collaboration among government agencies, internet service providers, educators, and civil society organisations in addressing online safety issues.

Way Forward for Ensuring Children’s Online Safety:

Education and Awareness: Promote digital literacy and online safety education for children, parents, teachers, and caregivers to empower them with knowledge and skills to navigate the digital world safely.

Regulation and Enforcement: Strengthen laws and regulations pertaining to online safety, including measures to hold platforms accountable for protecting children from harmful content and activities.

Technology Solutions: Develop and deploy technological solutions such as parental control tools, content filters, and age verification mechanisms to mitigate online risks for children.

Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration: Foster collaboration among government agencies, industry stakeholders, academia, and civil society to develop holistic approaches and strategies for addressing online safety concerns.

Support Services: Enhance support services such as helplines, counselling, and victim support centres to provide assistance and resources for children affected by online threats.

Research and Monitoring: Invest in research and data collection to better understand online safety risks and trends, inform policy decisions, and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions.

Practice Question: Examine the regulatory challenges faced by Indian authorities in ensuring the protection of minors on digital platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Assess the effectiveness of existing measures and propose strategies to enhance online safety for children, considering both regulatory frameworks and technological solutions. (250 Words /15 marks)

(Source – The Hindu, International Edition – Page No. – 11)

5. Gopi Thotakura Becomes First Indian Space Tourist on Blue Origin’s Historic Flight

Topic: GS3 – Science & Technology – Achievements of Indian S&T
Context:
  • Gopi Thotakura, an entrepreneur and pilot, has made history by becoming the first Indian to travel into space as a tourist aboard Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
  • This milestone represents a significant achievement for both Thotakura personally and for India, showcasing the expanding opportunities in space tourism.
Analysis of News:

About Space Tourism:

  • Space tourism is about humans travelling into space for recreational purposes. It seeks to give laypeople the ability to go to space for recreational, leisure or business purposes.
  • It will make space more accessible to those individuals who are not astronauts and want to go to space for non-scientific purposes.
  • Three private companies – Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are now spearheading the human endeavour to explore space.
  • Their progress will decide whether space travel will one day become as accessible as air travel.

The Diverse Crew of Blue Origin:

  • Thotakura was not alone on this historic flight. The crew included Ed Dwight, America’s first Black astronaut candidate, who finally ventured into space at the age of 90, six decades after initially being selected.
  • This diverse crew of six individuals got the rare opportunity to experience a few minutes of weightlessness as their Blue Origin capsule reached the edge of space, before safely landing 10 minutes later.

The Significance of the Flight:

  • This spaceflight by Blue Origin not only marks a personal triumph for Thotakura and the other crew members but also highlights the advancements and growing accessibility of space travel.
  • The inclusion of diverse participants, such as Ed Dwight, also underscores the progress being made towards inclusivity in the space industry.

Future of Space Tourism:

  • Thotakura’s journey signifies the potential future of space tourism, where private citizens can venture beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
  • This event serves as a precursor to what could become a more regular occurrence as space travel becomes increasingly commercialized and accessible to non-professional astronauts.

Conclusion:

  • Gopi Thotakura’s venture into space marks a monumental moment in the history of space travel, representing both personal and national pride.
  • It highlights the potential for future advancements in space tourism and serves as an inspiration for aspiring astronauts and entrepreneurs alike.
  • As the boundaries of space travel expand, stories like Thotakura’s will continue to pave the way for future generations.
Concerns
  • Climate Change: Soot or black carbon that results from rocket emissions accumulated in the stratosphere (approximately 5 to 31 miles above the Earth) cannot be washed away by rain or winds, as it is in the lower atmosphere. As a result, black carbon may linger in the stratosphere for years, causing exponentially more climate change.
  • Health: It can cause health concerns as passengers could also face motion sickness and disorientation, which can affect vision, cognition, balance and motor control.
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of Gopi Thotakura’s journey as the first Indian space tourist aboard Blue Origin and its implications for the future of space tourism and India’s role in the global aerospace sector. (250 words/15 m)

(Source: Indian Express; Section: The World)

6. Centre Approves 12 Greening Projects under Green Credit Program to Boost Environmental Sustainability

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors

GS3 – Indian Economy – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railway etc

Context:
  • The Centre has approved 12 greening projects under the Green Credit Program (GCP), which was notified in October 2023.
  • The GCP is a market-based mechanism designed to incentivize voluntary environmental actions across diverse sectors.
  • This initiative encourages participation in afforestation, water conservation, waste management, and other environmental activities.
  • The governance framework of the GCP is supported by an inter-ministerial Steering Committee and the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), Dehradun, which serves as the GCP administrator.
Analysis of News:

What is the Green Credit Program?

  • Green Credit Program (GCP) is an innovative market-based mechanism designed to incentivize voluntary environmental actions across diverse sectors, by various stakeholders like individuals, communities, private sector industries, and companies.
  • It is designed to foster a sustainable lifestyle and environmental conservation as part of the ‘LiFE’ initiative announced by the Prime Minister in United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).

Approved Projects and Future Prospects:

  • Currently, 12 projects have received approval, with 24 more plans under consideration.
  • The state forest departments have submitted these plans, and they collectively aim to utilize over 10,000 hectares of degraded land for greening activities.
  • This initiative highlights the government’s proactive approach in restoring degraded lands and enhancing forest cover through strategic environmental projects.

Incentives and Participation:

  • The GCP allows participants, including PSUs, private industries, non-profits, and individuals, to earn green credits for their environmental contributions.
  • These credits can then be traded on a designated platform, creating a financial incentive for sustainable practices.
  • The Environment Ministry has been particularly active in encouraging PSUs in mining-heavy states such as Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Odisha to register for the program.

Integration with Compensatory Afforestation:

  • One of the innovative aspects of the GCP is its provision for linking green credits with compensatory afforestation compliance.
  • This integration ensures that industries and government agencies meet their legal obligations to undertake afforestation on non-forest land equivalent to the size of the forests they have felled.
  • This not only promotes environmental sustainability but also ensures accountability among stakeholders.

PSU Participation and Regional Focus:

  • Several PSUs have already registered under the GCP.
  • Notable participants include NTPC in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh; Western Coalfields Ltd and Power Grid Corporation of India in Maharashtra; South Eastern Coalfields Ltd and Indian Oil in Chhattisgarh; and Coal India in Madhya Pradesh.
  • This widespread participation from major public-sector entities underscores the program’s potential to drive large-scale environmental improvements.

Conclusion:

  • The Green Credit Program represents a significant step towards enhancing India’s environmental sustainability through market-based incentives.
  • By encouraging voluntary participation and integrating compliance mechanisms, the GCP aims to foster a culture of environmental responsibility across various sectors.
  • The initial success and ongoing efforts to refine the program’s implementation and verification processes highlight the government’s commitment to promoting sustainable development.
Significance
  • Aligned India’s Environmental Policies: India’s environmental policies, such as the Environment Protection Act, 1986, and the National Environment Policy, 2006, provide a framework for protecting and improving the environment. These policies, alongside the GCP, aim to safeguard forests, wildlife, and the overall natural environment.
  • Aligned with India’s Climate Goals: The GCP is part of India’s efforts to adhere to international commitments, such as those made during COP26. It complements the Carbon Credit Trading Scheme introduced by the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2022, and broadens the scope of tradable credits beyond CO2 reductions to include a range of sustainable practices.
  • Aligned with Global Ecosystem Restoration Initiatives: The GCP aligns with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), which emphasises the scaling up of restoration efforts. India’s approach in this regard includes involving all stakeholders in the restoration process and leveraging traditional knowledge and conservation practices
PYQ: The concept of carbon credit originated from which one of the following? (2009)

(a) Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro

(b) Kyoto Protocol

(c) Montreal Protocol

(d) G-8 Summit, Heiligendamm

Ans: (b)

Practice Question:  What is the Green Credit Program (GCP) and how does it incentivize environmental actions in India? Discuss its significance for promoting sustainability, with a focus on PSU participation and its integration with compensatory afforestation compliance. (250 words/15 m)

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Express Network; Page: 10)

7. India’s Climate Policy: Navigating the Path of Sustainable Development Amidst Global Environmental Changes

Topic: GS3 – Environment
Context:
  • The 1990s were a transformative decade for India and the world, particularly in environmental policy. The pivotal moment was the Rio Summit of 1992, which led to the formation of critical international agreements, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • These agreements marked the beginning of a concerted global effort to address climate change and biodiversity loss.
  • In India, the Ministry of Environment and Forests began to develop divisions focused on climate change and biodiversity, laying the groundwork for future environmental policy and action.
Analysis of News:

Over-exploitation of Resources by Developed Countries:

  • Climate change is largely driven by the unsustainable production and consumption patterns of developed countries.
  • A recent study by Hickel et al., published in Lancet Planetary Health in 2022, highlighted that between 1970 and 2017, developed countries, which comprise only 16% of the global population, consumed 74% of the world’s excess resources.
  • In stark contrast, countries like India, representing 3.6 billion people, stayed within their sustainability limits during the same period.
  • This imbalance underscores the need for equitable climate policies that address the disproportionate impact of developed nations on global resources.

Five Major Determinants of India’s Climate Policy:

India’s climate policy is shaped by five critical determinants: geography, population, impacts, worldview, and actions.

Geography

  • India covers an area of 3.28 million square kilometers, making it the seventh-largest country in the world. It is home to 2.4% of the world’s geographical land surface and 4% of its freshwater resources.
  • As one of the 17 megadiverse countries, India hosts four biodiversity hotspots, ten biogeographic zones, and 22 agro-biodiversity hotspots.
  • The country’s six distinct seasons have traditionally shaped its civilization and economy, but climate change is disrupting these patterns, leading to increased unpredictability and adverse effects on both nature and society.

Population

  • With a population of 1.4 billion, India accounts for almost one-sixth of humanity and is home to 7-8% of the world’s recorded species.
  • The country’s human-to-land ratio is very low, necessitating integrated management of land and water resources to ensure sustainable living conditions.

Impacts

  • India is highly vulnerable to climate change, ranking as the fifth most affected country by extreme weather events according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2020.
  • A 2018 World Bank report projected that rising temperatures and changing monsoon patterns could reduce India’s GDP by 2.8%, highlighting the economic risks associated with climate change.

Worldview

  • India’s worldview is deeply influenced by its cultural heritage, which emphasizes living in harmony with nature.
  • The principles of Mahatma Gandhi, including trusteeship and sustainable living, underscore the belief that the Earth has enough resources to meet everyone’s needs but not everyone’s greed.
  • This perspective has shaped India’s approach to environmental stewardship and climate policy.

Actions

  • India’s climate actions are grounded in scientific evidence. Despite its historical cumulative emissions being less than 4% (1850-2019) and per capita emissions of 1.9 tonnes of CO2, India has implemented robust climate actions.
  • Unlike many developed countries, which often promote climate action for others while lagging in their commitments, India has taken proactive steps to address climate change.

The Evolution of India’s Climate Policy:

  • India’s climate policy is driven by the goal of inclusive growth, poverty eradication, adherence to the UNFCCC principles, and the promotion of climate-friendly lifestyles.
  • The policy is clear, consistent, and coordinated, reflecting India’s stance that climate change results from the overexploitation of resources by developed countries.
  • India has been a vocal advocate for the Global South, championing the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility and respective capability’ (CBDR-RC).
  • In recent years, India has added the elements of confidence and convenient action to its climate policy, demonstrating its commitment to global leadership in climate initiatives.
  • India has played a pivotal role in establishing institutions like the International Solar Alliance, Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, and the Global Biofuels Alliance.
  • These initiatives reflect India’s belief in holistic development, where environmental sustainability and economic progress go hand in hand.

Conclusion:

  • India’s model of sustainable development offers a compelling narrative for developing countries, countering the often skewed perspectives of the developed world.
  • By integrating science and evidence into policymaking, and promoting the ethos of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (One Earth, One World, One Future), India emphasizes the need for collective global action to effectively address climate change.
What are the Challenges India Faces in Mitigating Climate Change?
Technological Limitations:

  • It impacts the development and implementation of effective climate change policies.
  • While renewable energy technologies have advanced rapidly in recent years, carbon capture and storage technologies that could help mitigate emissions from existing infrastructure are still in the early stages of development and face technical challenges.
  • As per the World Economic Forum, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) can contribute to the fight against climate change. Existing AI systems include tools that predict weather, track icebergs and identify pollution. AI can also be used to improve agriculture and reduce its environmental impact.

High Reliance on the Use of Coal:

  • India is trying to meet its NDCs with clear long-term policies that promote renewable energy, but its heavy reliance on coal, along with oil and gas, is still meeting its growing energy needs.
  • Coal is the most essential and abundant fossil fuel in India, accounting for 55% of the country’s energy needs.
  • As per the International Energy Agency, in 2022, with an annual production of 310 million tonnes and imports of almost 25 million tonnes, coal will provide one-third of the energy supply in India.

Climate Finance:

  • Transitioning to a low-carbon economy requires substantial investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, infrastructure, and sustainable land use practices.
  • India needs substantial climate finance by 2050 to achieve its ambitious sustainability goals. An estimated US$10.1 trillion will be required to reach net zero by 2070 (World Bank).

Difficulty in Prediction:

  • Climate change is a multifaceted phenomenon, including greenhouse gas emissions, land use changes, industrial activities, and natural processes and their interconnectedness, which makes it difficult to predict the nature and impact of climate change.

Overexploitation of Natural Resources:

  • It has been clear that the problem of climate change in India results from developed countries’ overexploitation of natural resources.
  • The US accounts for 27% of the world’s excess material use, followed by the EU (25%).
  • Other rich countries, such as Australia, Canada, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, collectively contributed 22%. Due to resource overuse, China has also exceeded its sustainability limit by 15%.
  • Over the same period, 58 countries representing 3.6 billion people, including India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh, stayed within their sustainability limits.

A Balancing Dilemma:

  • Balancing economic development with environmental sustainability is a delicate task for policymakers, especially in India and countries heavily reliant on fossil fuels.
  • As per the World Bank, climate change could push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030 by disrupting agriculture and fueling the spread of malaria and other diseases.
  • Socio-economic Concern: Vulnerable populations, such as low-income communities, indigenous peoples, and small island nations, face the severe impact of climate change effects.
PYQ: Prelims PYQ (2023):

Consider the following statements:

Statement-I: Carbon markets are likely to be one of the most widespread tools in the fight against climate change.

Statement-II: Carbon markets transfer resources from the private sector to the State.

Which one of the following is correct in respect of the above statements?

(a) Both Statement-I and Statement-II are correct and Statement II is the correct explanation for Statement-I

(b) Both Statement-I and Statement-II are correct and Statement II is not the correct explanation for Statement-I

(c) Statement-I is correct but Statement II is incorrect

(d) Statement-I is incorrect but Statement-II is correct.

Ans: (a)

Practice Question:  Discuss the evolution of India’s climate policy in the context of global environmental changes since the 1990s. Highlight the major determinants that shape this policy and critically analyze India’s role and initiatives in international climate action forums. (250 words/15 m)

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Explained; Page: 11)

8.El Niño Highlights Crucial Role of Punjab and Haryana in India’s Food Security Amidst Climate Challenges

Topic: GS3 – Agriculture – Food Security
Context:
  • The recent El Niño-induced decline in agricultural output has highlighted the critical importance of Punjab and Haryana to India’s food security.
  • These two states accounted for 75.5% of the total wheat procured for the central foodgrain pool in the current marketing season.
  • Government agencies purchased 25.5 million tonnes (mt) of the 2023-24 winter-sown crop, with Punjab contributing 12.2 mt and Haryana over 7 mt.
  • This combined share is the highest since 75.8% in 2015-16, underscoring their vital role in the nation’s food supply chain.
Analysis of News:

Wheat Production Trends:

Historical Contribution

  • Until the mid-2000s, Punjab and Haryana contributed over 90% of the wheat for the public distribution system (PDS) and other government programs.
  • By the early 2010s, as high-yielding varieties spread to other states and local governments improved their procurement infrastructure, this share fell to around 65%.
  • During the bumper production years of 2019-20 and 2020-21, when wheat procurement reached record levels of 39-43.3 mt, Punjab and Haryana’s share dropped to just over 50%. Madhya Pradesh (MP) even overtook Punjab as the top wheat procurer in 2019-20.

Recent Shifts

  • However, the past three years have seen a shift due to climate shocks. Unseasonal heat in March 2022 and heavy rain in March 2023 adversely affected the wheat crop during its final grain-formation stage.
  • An unusually warm November-December 2023 further impacted yields, especially in central India. The delayed arrival of winter, attributed to El Niño, led to premature flowering and shortened vegetative growth.
  • This was most noticeable in MP, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and parts of Rajasthan, where early sowing occurs.

Regional Impacts on Wheat Procurement:

Central and Western India

  • Wheat procurement from MP plummeted from 12.8-12.9 mt in 2019-20 and 2020-21 to just 4.6 mt this year. Similar declines were seen in UP and Rajasthan, contrasting sharply with the robust performance of Punjab and Haryana.
  • These two states weathered the climate shocks better due to longer winters and sowing beginning in early to mid-November. UP and Bihar, with sowing extending to mid-December, also reported good production, but much of their crop was bought by private players at prices above the Centre’s MSP.

Punjab and Haryana’s Resilience

  • Punjab and Haryana emerged as saviors when wheat stocks in government godowns were at their lowest since 2008. On April 1, 2023, stocks stood at 7.502 mt, just above the minimum operational-cum-strategic reserve of 7.46 mt required at the start of the marketing season. Their resilience in maintaining high procurement levels underscores their importance in stabilizing national food security.

Rice Procurement Dynamics:

  • Government rice procurement has traditionally been concentrated in Punjab, Haryana, and the Godavari-Krishna and Kaveri deltas of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
  • Recently, states like Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and UP have become significant contributors, reducing the combined share of Punjab and Haryana from 43-44% in the early 2000s to an average of 28.8% in the four years ending 2022-23.
  • However, in the current crop year, their share has risen to 32.9%, due to assured access to irrigation mitigating the impact of last year’s patchy monsoon.

Policy Implications:

National Food Security

  • Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA),5 million people are entitled to 5 kg of wheat or rice per month at highly subsidized rates.
  • Since January 2023, this grain is provided for free to all NFSA beneficiaries. The incoming government is unlikely to discontinue this scheme, with promises to even double the monthly quota for “poor” persons.
  • The NFSA, along with other welfare schemes and market operations, requires 60-65 mt of grain to be procured annually by state agencies. This requirement is typically met, with total rice and wheat procurement exceeding 103.5 mt in 2020-21.

Strategic Importance

  • Punjab and Haryana’s high average per-hectare yields—4.8 tonnes for wheat and 6.5 tonnes for paddy, compared to the national averages of 3.5 tonnes and 4.1 tonnes respectively—ensure their continued importance for national food security.
  • Even with potential shifts to other crops, their role in ensuring stable grain supplies during adverse climatic conditions remains crucial.

Conclusion:

  • The El Niño-induced challenges to agricultural output have reinforced the indispensable role of Punjab and Haryana in India’s food security framework.
  • Their high yields, resilient agricultural practices, and substantial contributions to wheat and rice procurement ensure that they remain pivotal in stabilizing the nation’s food reserves, especially during climatic adversities.
  • The continued focus on these states is essential to maintaining the robustness of India’s food security system.
Why is there a Need for Food Security in India?
  • Population Pressure: With over 1.3 billion people, India has a large and growing population. The increasing demand for food places significant pressure on agricultural production and food resources.
  • Agricultural Productivity: India’s agricultural sector is characterized by low productivity due to several factors such as fragmented land holdings, inadequate irrigation facilities, lack of modern farming techniques, and limited access to credit and technology.
  • Climate Change and Natural Disasters: Erratic weather patterns, including droughts, floods, and extreme temperatures, affect crop yields and livestock productivity.
  • Water Scarcity: Agriculture in India is heavily dependent on monsoon rains. However, rainfall patterns are increasingly unpredictable, leading to water scarcity in some regions.
  • Land Degradation and Soil Health: Land degradation, caused by factors like erosion, overuse of chemical fertilizers, and improper land management practices, poses a threat to agricultural productivity.
  • Storage and Distribution: Inefficient storage facilities and inadequate cold chain systems result in substantial food losses and wastage.
  • Poverty and Inequality: Many people, particularly in rural areas and marginalized communities, struggle to afford and access nutritious food consistently.

 

PYQ: In the context of India’s preparation for Climate-Smart Agriculture, consider the following statements: (2021)

1) The ‘Climate-Smart Village’ approach in India is a part of a project led by the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), an international research programme.

2) The project of CCAFS is carried out under Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) headquartered in France.

3) The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India is one of the CGIAR’s research centres.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: (d)

Practice Question:  Examine the impact of El Nino-induced climatic variations on agricultural output in India, with a particular focus on the states of Punjab and Haryana. Discuss the implications of these climatic challenges on national food security and suggest measures to enhance resilience in agricultural practices. (250 words/15 m)

 

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