Gist of Editorials: A Stop Sign | GS – III


Relevance : GS Paper III


India’s carbon emissions grew by 4.8% during 2018.  

India’s Per Capita Emissions

India’s emissions have grown, but per capita they remain less than 40% of the global average.

The Climate Change Challenge

Urgent action to sharply cut carbon emissions is crucial, and all countries, including India, must act quickly.

Way Forward for India

  • Intensive measures in key sectors will help meet the national pledge to cut energy intensity of GDP.
  • India needs to ramp up its capacity in renewable energy sector.
  • The potential of rooftop solar photovoltaics needs to be adequately utilized.
  • Coal power plants must be cleaned up. This process should be aided by the UNFCCC.
  • The Centre’s plan to expand electric mobility needs to be pursued vigorously.

Conclusion

India should choose green growth for future energy pathways and infrastructure.


Value Added Article: Carving Out The Coasts | Category – Environment | Source – EPW

Relevance : GS Paper III (Environment)

Source

economic-and-political-weekly

 


Why has this Issue cropped up?

The Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), 2018 notification has revoked some of its stringent provisions to permit the expansion of development activities into the environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs), hitherto deemed inaccessible by law.


Salient Features of the New Policy

  • The salient features of the new policy include
    • the reduction of the CRZ limits and the no-development zone (NDZ) area,
    • and the classification of coastal zone areas, according to the density of population.
  • For the setting up of “strategic projects,” for defence and public utilities, even the most ecologically critical areas that fall under the CRZ I classification have not been excluded.

Implications of the New Policy

  • By facilitating the large-scale intrusion of commercial and industrial activities into the fragile coastal territories, the new CRZ policy would upset the prevailing human–ecological balance.
  • This would lead to further degradation of marine ecosystems, and disrupt the livelihoods of resource-dependent populations, especially artisanal fishers living off the coasts.
  • The policy would not only serve to facilitate the unhindered implementation of the central government’s ambitious Sagarmala project spread all along India’s coastline, but also promote the development of infrastructure, real estate and tourism, while permitting affordable housing along the coast.
  • The utilitarian approach of the policy reveals a clear bias favouring business interests, while overriding the needs of coastal ecology, conservation and the fishers, the centuries-old custodians of the coasts, who do not view the sea merely as a resource.

The Plight of the Fishers

  • The concerns of the fishers are often seen to be in conflict with those of other interest groups that seek to corner profits from unfettered use and commercialisation of coastal resources and commons.
  • In coastal cities, such as Mumbai and Chennai, increasing urbanisation, changes in land use patterns, encroachments along the coast, construction of coastal roads, and unabated pollution have led to a decline in fish catch and landings over time, which has adversely affected livelihoods.
  • By failing to recognise the traditional and customary rights of fishers, the enactment of the new CRZ policy would make legitimate the violations of the fishers’ customary norms regarding the use of coastal commons. This would intensify conflicts over resource use, eventually leading to the large-scale alienation of fishers from the coasts.
  • The establishment of large development projects, such as international container trans-shipment terminals and ports along the coastline, in the recent past, have also adversely affected marine life and displaced thousands of fishers from coastal habitats without the formulation and implementation of a proper rehabilitation and resettlement policy.
  • Promoting the business agendas of other interest groups at the cost of fisher livelihoods would further impoverish a community that already has been pushed to the margins of an unequal society.
  • The state has paid no heed to the demands of fisher organisations, as it has on most occasions failed to implement or enforce the existing CRZ rules or check violations along the coasts.

Conclusion

The new lines of demarcation altering the governance of coastal zones have failed to take into account interrelated questions regarding the livelihoods of resource-dependent populations and the conservation as well as sustainability of coastal ecosystems. In the long run, this would entail huge costs for society and, in turn, prove to be detrimental to the cause of overall development by engendering new forms of disenfranchisement.


 

Gist of Editorials: Farming in a Warming World (The Hindu) | GS – III

Relevance : GS Paper III (Ecology and Environment)

[850 words reduced to 150]


  • The world has become 1°C warmer because of human activities.
  • Indian agriculture amid increasing warming
    • high monsoon dependence and 85% small and marginal landholdings make it highly sensitive
    • less than normal rainfall during the last four years
    • 2014 and 2015 were drought years
    • escalation in heat waves is affecting crops, aquatic systems and livestock.
    • farm income losses could rise to 20%-25% for unirrigated areas
  • Steps needed to build climate resilient agriculture
    • reshaping both the micro- and macro-level decision-making.
    • Corroborating traditional wisdom with climate assessments
    • promoting climate resilient technologies
    • practices such as inter cropping , crop-rotation; shift to non-farm activities; insurance covers
    • educating farmers by reorienting Krishi Vigyan Kendras and other grass-root organisations
    • mainstreaming climate adaptations in the developmental framework
    • improving irrigation efficiency, satellite-enabled agriculture risk management, providing customised real time data, etc.
    • interventions such as the PMKSY, PMFBY, Soil Health Card, PKVY, e-NAM
    • greater expertise and consultations
  • Efforts to make agriculture climate-resilient must be scaled up and consolidated.

 

Editorial Simplified: Farming in a Warming World | GS – III

Relevance : GS Paper III (Ecology and Environment)


Why has this issue cropped up?

The Sixth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) establishes that the world has become 1°C warmer because of human activities, causing greater frequency of extremes and obstruction to the normal functioning of ecosystems.

Indian agriculture amid increasing warming

  • India, with its diverse agro-climatic settings, is one of the most vulnerable countries.
  • Its agriculture ecosystem, distinguished by high monsoon dependence, and with 85% small and marginal landholdings, is highly sensitive to weather abnormalities.
  • There has been less than normal rainfall during the last four years, with 2014 and 2015 declared as drought years.
  • Even the recent monsoon seasonended with a rainfall deficit of 9%, which was just short of drought conditions.
  • Research is also confirming an escalation in heat waves, in turn affecting crops, aquatic systems and livestock.
  • The Economic Survey 2017-18 has estimated farm income losses between 15% and 18% on average, which could rise to 20%-25% for unirrigated areas without any policy interventions.

Steps needed

  • The above projections underline the need for strategic change in dealing with climate change in agriculture.
  • There is a need to foster the process of climate adaptation in agriculture, which involves reshaping responses across both the micro- and macro-level decision-making culture.
  • At the micro-level, traditional wisdom, religious epics and various age-old notions about weather variations still guide farmers’ responses, which could be less effective. Corroborating these with climate assessments and effective extension and promoting climate resilient technologies will enhance their pragmatism.
  • Climate exposure can be reduced through agronomic management practices such as inter and multiple cropping and crop-rotation; shift to non-farm activities; insurance covers; up-scaling techniques such as solar pumps, drip irrigation and sprinklers.
  • There is an urgent need to educate farmers, reorient Krishi Vigyan Kendras and other grass-root organisations with specific and more funds about climate change and risk-coping measures.
  • Climate adaptation actions in agriculture are closely intertwined with rural developmental interventions, calling for a holistic new paradigm. At the macro-level, climate adaptations are to be mainstreamed in the current developmental framework
  • Mainstreaming adaptation into the policy apparatus has the potential to improve the resilience of several development outcomes.
  • Expansion of extension facilities, improving irrigation efficiency, promotion of satellite-enabled agriculture risk management, creating micro-level agro-advisories, providing customised real time data, and capacity building of stakeholders are some initiatives towards building greater resilience in agriculture.
  • Interventions such as the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Soil Heath Card, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, National Agriculture Market, or e-NAM, and other rural development programmes are positive interventions that can address the vulnerability of farmers and rural households.
  • There are also exclusive climate and adaptation schemes being operationalised, such as the National Innovations on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA), the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), the National Adaptation Fund, and the State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC).
  • It is desirable to have a cultural change wherein some of the components under these schemes can be converged with major rural developmental programmes, which will further enhance their effectiveness at the grass-root level.
  • The SAPCC is an important platform for adaptation planning but it needs to evolve further in terms of climate-oriented regional analysis to capture micro-level sensitivity and constraints.
  • Moreover, convergence of climate actions with ongoing efforts and several Central schemes with similar mandates is a must.
  • Greater expertise and consultations are required for a systematic prioritisation of actions and fiscal prudence for building climate resilient agriculture.

Conclusion

Efforts to make agriculture climate-resilient must be scaled up and consolidated.


 

Gist of Editorials: Death in the Air (The Hindu) | GS – III

Relevance : GS Paper III (Ecology & Environment)

[500 words reduced to 150]


  • Air pollution has killed an estimated 1.24 million people in India in 2017.
  • Extent of air pollution
    • Millions face premature death
    • PM2.5 is at 40 micrograms per cubic metre
  • Paying greater attention to air quality can increase life expectancy by approx. 2 years in worst affected areas.
  • Way forward
    • Sustainable solutions for stubble-burning and use of solid fuels in households
    • Ensure that the machinery to handle agricultural waste is in place and working in Punjab and Haryana
    • A mechanism for rapid collection of farm residues has to be instituted.
    • New approaches to recover value from biomass should be explored.
    • The potential of domestic biogas units, solar cookers and improved biomass cookstoves has to be explored.
    • India’s commitments under the Paris Agreement need to be modified.
    • real-time measurement of pollution should be ensured.
  • Rapid progress on clean air now depends on citizens making it a front-line political issue.

 

Editorial Simplified: Death in the Air | GS – III

Relevance : GS Paper III (Ecology & Environment)


Theme of the article

It is time clean air is made a front-line political issue.


Why has this issue cropped up?

Air pollution has killed an estimated 1.24 million people in India in 2017.


Impacts of air pollution

  • Millions of people are forced to lead morbid lives or face premature death due to bad air quality.
  • India’s national standard for ambient fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, is notoriously lax at 40 micrograms per cubic metre, but even so, 77% of the population was exposed to higher levels on average.
  • No State met the annual average exposure norm for PM2.5 of 10 micrograms per cubic metre set by the World Health Organisation.

Air pollution and life expectancy

  • If the country paid greater attention to ambient air quality and household air pollution, the researchers say, people living in the worst-affected States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Jharkhand could add more than 1.7 years to their life expectancy.
  • Similar gains would accrue nationwide, but it is regions with low social development, reflected partly in reliance on solid fuels for cooking, and those with ambient air pollution caused by stubble-burning, construction dust and unbridled motorisation such as Delhi that would benefit the most.

Way forward

  • Sustainable solutions must be found for stubble-burning and the use of solid fuels in households, the two major sources of pollution and State governments must be made accountable for this.
  • The Centre should work with Punjab and Haryana to ensure that the machinery already distributed to farmers and cooperatives to handle agricultural waste is in place and working.
  • A mechanism for rapid collection of farm residues has to be instituted. In fact, new approaches to recovering value from biomass could be the way forward. The proposal from a furniture-maker to convert straw into useful products will be keenly watched for its outcomes.
  • The potential of domestic biogas units, solar cookers and improved biomass cookstoves has to be explored, since they impose no additional expenditure on rural and less affluent households. Such measures should, of course, be complemented by strong control over urban sources of pollution.
  • India’s commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change require a sharp reduction in particulates from fossil fuel
  • There are not enough ground-level monitoring stations for PM2.5, and studies primarily use satellite imagery and modelling to project health impacts. This needs to be improved for real-time measurement of pollution should be employed.

Conclusion

Rapid progress on clean air now depends on citizens making it a front-line political issue.


 

Gist of Editorials: Still on the Last Chance Saloon (The Hindu) | GS – III

Relevance : GS Paper III (Ecology & Environment)

[1200 words reduced to 200]


  • Average global temperatures have crossed a degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • Purpose of the COP 24 is to agree on a rulebook to implement pledges made by the Paris Agreement.
  • In the NDCs each country described the actions it would for mitigation and adaptation and the financial and technological support it needed.
  • Article 9 of the Paris Agreement calls for financial support from developed countries and article 9.5 requires them to communicate their levels of support.
  • The Hurdles
    • Estimate of adaptation is complicated and has not yet developed.
    • Little progress on finance, technology transfer and capacity development.
    • Multilateral funds pledged until 2017 are less than $30 billion,.
    • Double counting and counting of development aid.
    • Inability to have any agreement between developing and rich countries.
    • occupation of atmospheric carbon space by rich countries, leaving little room for poor nations.
    • the Kyoto Protocol has not been ratified yet
    • developed countries are not doing their duties much better
    • Developed nations are still reliant on oil and coal.
  • Way forward
    • Reliable climate flows required from developed countries.
    • Rich countries must alter their lifestyles considerably
    • support to poor countries experiencing losses from climate change events.
  • Earth is heading to be 3-4º C warmer by the end of the century. Drastic steps are needed to prevent the destruction of ecosystems and the mass extinction of species.

 

Editorial Simplified: Still on the Last Chance Saloon | GS – III

Relevance: GS Paper III (Ecology and Environment)


Theme of the article

The Katowice climate meet must ensure that today’s children don’t inherit a planet heading to a catastrophe.


Why has this issue cropped up?

The 24th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-24) to the UNFCC in Katowice, Poland is meant to take forward steps to address the threat of climate change.


The threat to climate change

The world is in deep trouble. Average global temperatures have crossed a degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and such concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (410 ppm) has never been seen by humans before.


Purpose of COP 24

  • The purpose of the meeting is to set guidelines, or agree on a rulebook, to implement pledges that were made by various countries at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015.
  • At Paris, the global community agreed to try to limit warming to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels.
  • The current conference at Katowice comes soon after a special publication by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the 1.5 Degree Report, according to which what we need are far-reaching, speedy transformative changes in our societies in order to stay below 1.5°

NDCs

  • In the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), planned ahead of the Paris COP-21, each country described the actions it would take and the levels to which greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be reduced (mitigation).
  • Many of them also described what they would do to improve their capacity to live in a warmer world (adaptation), and the extent to which these goals required support in the form of finance or technology transfer.

Provision of finance under the Paris Agreement

  • Article 9 of the Paris Agreement calls for financial support from developed countries. This was expected to result in at least $100 billion per year to address needs and priorities of developing countries for mitigation and adaptation.
  • Article 9.5 requires developed countries to communicate their levels of support, including pledges of additional finance. Even a rough estimate of financial needs for implementing all the NDCs puts it at $4.4 trillion.

The Hurdles

  • There has to be a general agreement on how to estimate adaptation. This is more complicated and varied and is still being developed.
  • There has been little progress on finance, technology transfer and capacity development.
  • The Climate Funds Update of 2018 notes that multilateral funds pledged until 2017 are less than $30 billion, of which around $20 billion has been deposited and about $4 billion disbursed.
  • There have also been charges of double counting and counting of development aid levelled against developed countries.
  • The inability to have any agreement between developing and rich countries ensures that the fights on finance and technology will intensify.
  • The ethical foundations of the climate change fights on the global stage are based largely on the occupation of atmospheric carbon space by rich countries, leaving little room for growth by the latecomers, which are poor nations.
  • The implementation of the activities for the PA formally begins in 2020 and concludes in 2030. We are currently in the Doha Amendment period, or the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which has not been ratified.
  • While the U.S. and its current policies are much to blame for the situation, other developed countries are not doing that much better.
  • Australia and France have had political turmoil due to their climate policies even while experiencing severe weather events. Protests on fuel charge hikes have rocked France. Europe is still heavily reliant on coal.

Way forward

  • What is required is credible, accurate and verifiable numbers on the climate flows expected from developed countries. Such reliable flow will encourage and persuade all countries that commitments made will be fulfilled.
  • Countries with average income exceeding $15,000 typically have the capacity and finance and technology to reduce their emissions dramatically. They must also alter their lifestyles considerably, which is required for the transformational change that the 1.5 Degree Report calls for.
  • As extreme events are on the rise, the separate stream referred to as “loss and damage” needs attention. This is a provision for support to poor countries experiencing economic and non-economic losses and destruction from climate change events.

Conclusion

Today’s children are inheriting from their parents and grandparents an earth that is out of control and heading to be 3-4º C warmer by the end of the century. Perpetual growth is not viable for any species. Business-as-usual policies with high consumption by the rich are driving the destruction of ecosystems and the mass extinction of species.


 

Gist of Editorials: Cutting through the Smog (The Hindu) | GS – III

Relevance : GS Paper III (Ecology & Environment)

[900 words reduced to 150]


  • Air pollution in north India has largely been attributed to stubble burning.
  • Farmers are held responsible for the crisis but policies of the Central and State governments are at fault.
  • How to tackle stubble burning?
    • crop diversification towards less water-intensive crops
    • strengthen the production and marketing of alternative crops
    • providing farmers an investment support and withdraw price-based support
    • an app-based support system, to rent out tractors and farm implements
    • effective use of paddy straw
    • framers should be given options such as biomass generation
    • use of geospatial techniques to identify areas where stubble burning is severe
    • encourage installation of biomass plants in areas of high stubble burning
    • Incentivize farmers to sell the residual for additional income
  • Incidents of stubble burning can be averted by long-term vision and strategic policy interventions.

 

Editorial Simplified: Cutting through the Smog | GS – III

Relevance: GS Paper III (Ecology and Environment)


Theme of the article

Practical interventions exist to tackle the issue of stubble burning.


Introduction

Air pollution is a worry especially in north India. Stubble burning is said to be a key factor behind the formation of a dense cover of smog in this part of India though its contribution is less than 20%.


Are only farmers to blame?

Farmers are held responsible for the crisis but what is at fault are the flawed and short-sighted policies of the Central and State governments.


Has the policy of wheat-paddy crop rotation been beneficial?

  • In the 1960s, wheat-paddy crop rotation was encouraged in Punjab and Haryana to make India self-sufficient in foodgrain production.
  • Large public investments in irrigation and adoption of high yielding varieties under the Green Revolution helped achieve the goal and make the nation food secure.
  • However, the negative externalities in terms of land degradation, adverse soil health due to overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, and plummeting water tables have surfaced.
  • The share of paddy (rice) in the gross cropped area in Punjab and Haryana has considerably increased. However, the increase has undisputedly been at the cost of the area under maize, cotton, oilseeds and sugarcane.
  • The policy of minimum support price for crops, in tandem with their assured procurement and input subsidy, have left farmers with no option but to follow this rotation.
  • Besides, Punjab enacted a water conservation law in 2009 which mandates paddy sowing within a notified period . As a result, farmers who are pressed for time to sow wheat and maintain crop yield find stubble burning to be an easy and low-cost solution.

How to tackle stubble burning?

  • One possibility to curtail the practice is to ensure that the government encourages crop diversification towards less water-intensive crops by extending price incentives and better marketing facilities.
  • The policy of a ‘price deficiency system’ — as initiated in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh — should be adopted to strengthen the production and marketing of alternative crops.
  • Another option is to replicate the Telangana model of providing farmers an investment support of ₹8,000 per acre each year and withdraw price-based support.
  • Increasing pressure by the government on farmers to purchase the ‘happy seeder’ to abate stubble burning adds to the cost incurred by farmers. Even if the machine is available at a subsidised rate of nearly ₹1 lakh, it would remain idle the whole year and become a liability in terms of maintenance. It is not a viable option for small and marginal farmers.
  • If the state provides an app-based support system, to rent out tractors and farm implements and earn additional income — there are examples of this in Nigeria and also in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — it would be akin to the ‘Uberisation of agriculture’. It would avoid stubble burning and at the same time make farming more mechanised, cost effective and a source of employment.
  • Another far-sighted approach could be in effective use of paddy straw. Unlike wheat residue, which is used as fodder, paddy straw is non-palatable to animals as it has high silica content.
  • Farmers, who have already been sensitised to refrain from burning residue, should be given options such as biomass generation.
  • The government should use geospatial techniques to identify areas where stubble burning is severe and encourage installation of biomass plants at such locations. This will not only reduce transportation costs for the firm or village entrepreneurs but also help the government achieve its target of generating 227GW based on renewable energy sources by 2022.
  • Farmers can also be incentivised to sell the residual for additional income. The residual has uses, such as in paper, cardboard and packing material making and also hydroseeding (defiberised rice straw can be used in hydroseeding for erosion control).

Conclusion

Incidents of stubble burning cannot be averted by imposing fines, or giving notice or giving farmers capital subsidy. Instead, the issue requires long-term vision and strategic policy interventions.