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Indian Express

1-November-2023

1) EVERY DROP COUNTS

Context:

  • A recent study from the United Nations University has sounded the alarm, stating that 27 of India’s 31 aquifers are running out of water more quickly than they can be filled in.
  • For more than ten years, there has been constant worry about this grave situation.
  • The deplorable condition of India’s aquifers has been repeatedly brought up in reports, including those from the Central Water Commission, Niti Aayog, and the Mihir Shah Committee.
  • It is now hard to overlook the seriousness of the issue.

Inadequate Understanding of River Systems:

  • The Mihir Shah Committee stressed how little is known about river systems and how they relate to groundwater or catchment area health.
  • This emphasizes how important it is to manage water resources holistically and comprehensively.

Government Initiatives:

  • In an effort to alter community behavior, the Union Jal Shakti Ministry launched the Atal Bhujal Yojana in 78 water-stressed areas in 2020.
  • Even if there has been some progress, the size of the situation necessitates greater coordinated actions from the federal and state governments.
  • Several states initiatives are:
    • “Mukhyamantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan” in Rajasthan,
    • “Jalyukt Shibar” in Maharashtra,
    • “Sujalam Sufalam Abhiyan” in Gujarat,
    • “Mission Kakatiya” in Telangana,
    • “Neeru Chettu” in Andhra Pradesh,
    • “Jal Jeevan Hariyali” in Bihar,
    • “Jal Hi Jeevan” in Haryana, and
    • “Kudimaramath scheme” in Tamil Nadu are among the states that have accomplished noteworthy work in the field of water conservation and harvesting.

The main objectives of Atal Bhujal Yojana are:

  • To strengthen the institutional framework for participatory groundwater management and bring about behavioural changes at the community level for sustainable groundwater resource conservation.
  • To facilitate the convergence of various ongoing government schemes and programs for optimal use of available funds and resources for groundwater management.
  • To incentivize state governments for undertaking reforms in groundwater governance and ensuring compliance with Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) guidelines for groundwater extraction.

Excessive Groundwater Extraction:

  • India pumps more groundwater than any other country in the world, even more than China and the US put together.
  • About 70% of the nation’s water supply comes from groundwater sources, mostly from borewells and tubewells, which have historically helped to ensure food security.
  • However, as the Shah Committee noted, there hasn’t been enough focus on institutional improvements in the water sector.
  • Since there is a clear connection between power subsidies and the falling water table in states like Punjab, managing the demand side of groundwater management is still a challenging problem.
  • According to a United Nations assessment, 78% of the state’s wells are overexploited.

Climate Crisis Implications:

  • Researchers have linked the depletion of groundwater to the climate issue, particularly in the southwestern region of India where recharge is restricted by hardrock aquifers.
  • Temperature increase may make less moisture available for soil absorption, making the depletion issue worse.
  • Although effective watering methods and fewer water-intensive crops have been promoted, the immediate water issue is not made clear until it is too late due to the use of borewells and tubewells.

The Need for Technological Solutions:

  • The development of technology that enables people to keep an eye on the water levels in their borewells may be a critical first step toward promoting responsible aquifer management.
  • These technologies may act as catalysts for altered behavior and increased consciousness of the groundwater situation, which would ultimately be crucial in resolving this pressing problem.

Way Forward:

  • In the long run, cross-sectoral changes addressing the water-energy-agriculture nexus and giving resource users the appropriate incentives will be necessary for sustainable groundwater management.
  • Better coordinating market, policy, and regulatory actions is necessary for this, as is repurposing existing public support for more climate-smart solutions.
  • The rising use of groundwater for agriculture and its potential to lower water tables and cause water scarcity could escalate long-term vulnerability if aquifers are not adequately replenished or regulated.

2) The London AI Summit: A Step Towards Global AI Governance

Context:

  • British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called a summit in London on the safe use of artificial intelligence (AI), which is expected to be a significant first step toward creating global governance for a technology that is full of promise and danger.
  • The purpose this event, which attracted world leaders such as US Vice President Kamala Harris and prominent figures from the technology sector, is to foster in-depth conversations about artificial intelligence’s future.
  • The meeting highlights Britain’s goal to take the lead in the global governance of artificial intelligence.

Britain’s AI Legacy:

  • In the history of artificial intelligence, Bletchley Park is significant because Alan Turing often referred to as the “father of AI” pioneered early AI research there.
  • Even though China and the United States have gained the lead in modern AI development, Britain has continued to play a major role as a global hub for AI development.

Global Efforts in AI Governance:

  • A number of governments are tackling AI governance issues in the context of this meeting.
  • With an emphasis on AI safety, security, privacy, equity, and other issues, the US has issued an executive order to guarantee leadership in AI promise and risk management.
  • China has articulated principles for international cooperation and global AI governance, while the European Union is currently debating the world’s first comprehensive framework for global AI regulation.

The Role of the United Nations:

  • With an emphasis on AI’s potential to accelerate climate action and sustainable development, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently established an advisory council to look into the international regulation of the technology.
  • He emphasized that in order to prevent global inequality and digital divides from getting worse, responsible AI deployment is crucial.

The London Summit’s Agenda:

  • Ensuring the safe application of AI technologies for broad social benefit is the main goal of the London summit.
  • It seeks to harness AI’s potential for problem-solving and economic growth while addressing its drawbacks, such as the dissemination of false information and expertise for building destructive weapons.

Challenges and Fault Lines:

  • The summit will have to negotiate issues like defining “frontier AI,” reconciling immediate concerns like algorithmic bias with doomsday scenarios, and establishing an international registry of AI models for government evaluation.
  • It might be difficult to strike a balance between innovation and regulation to maintain safety.
  • Notably, unlike previous frontier technology research headed by governments, the majority of AI development now is under the control of private corporations.

India’s Role and Future Perspectives:

  • It is anticipated that the London Summit will create precedents for the developing international dialogue on AI regulation.
  • India, which was a major player in the debates over the regulation of cutting-edge technology in the 20th century, needs to be heard in the governance of AI given its contribution to the field’s advancement worldwide.

Way Forward:

  • The London AI Summit, which emphasizes AI safety and the responsible use of AI’s potential even as it faces difficult hurdles in striking a balance between regulation and innovation, is a significant step forward in the pursuit of global AI governance.
  • The impact would be felt by India and other nations developing AI.

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