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Current Affairs – 1 September 2021

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Plastic Pollution

Down to Earth

GS 3: Environment and Conservation


  • According to Impacts of Plastic Pollution on Freshwater Aquatic, Terrestrial and Avian Migratory Species in the Asia and Pacific Region by the CMS Secretariat by the National Oceanography Centre, UK, land and freshwater species were hugely under-represented in studies on the impacts of plastic pollution.
  • Plastic pollution had impacted land and freshwater species in the Asia-Pacific region, in addition to marine species.

Key Findings:

  • The study looked at species in the Ganga and Mekong basins “that together contributed an estimated 200,000 tonnes of plastic pollution to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean every year”.
  • Both Ganges and Irrawaddy dolphins (freshwater dolphin species) faced threats due to entanglement in plastic waste such as fishing nets and lines. This could prevent them from coming up to the surface to breathe and thus drown them.
  • The dugong or sea cow also faced threats of entanglement in plastic gear as well as ingestion of plastic. The latter had caused the deaths of dugongs in India and Thailand.
  • Asian elephants had been documented living off rubbish dumps in Sri Lanka as well as ingesting plastic in Thailand.
  • Impact on Avian Species: There are 500 bird species in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Migratory birds like the Black-faced Spoonbill and the Osprey “had been observed making nests out of plastics, using fishing lines and shipping debris, often resulting in the entanglement of their chicks.”
  • Terrestrial and avian species in addition to freshwater ones had been reported getting entangled in discarded fishing gear as well as kite strings in the Mekong basin.
  • This problem of plastic pollution was only going to get worse. Some 53 million tonnes of plastic could enter aquatic systems annually by 2030, which could eventually increase to 90 million tonnes.


Sand and dust storms

Down to Earth

GS 3: Environment and Conservation


  • According to the report Sand and Dust Storms Risk Assessment in Asia and the Pacific by the Asian and Pacific Centre for the Development of Disaster Information Management (APDIM), regional institution of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), more than 500 million people in India and more than 80% of the populations of Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Iran are exposed to medium and high levels of poor air quality due to sand and dust storms.


  • Sand and dust storms contribute significantly to poor air quality in Karachi, Lahore, and Delhi in ‘southwest Asia’.
  • Nearly 60 million people in these places experienced more than 170 dusty days a year in 2019.
  • The report identified ’east and northeast Asia’, ’south and southwest Asia’, ’central Asia’ and the ’Pacific’ as the four main sand and dust storm corridors of Asia-Pacific. The region is the second-largest emitter of mineral dust.

Multitudinal impact:

  • Sand and dust storms are a transboundary meteorological hazard for agriculture, energy, environment, aviation, human health, and cities separately.
  • Much of this dust is characterised by high salt content, making it toxic for plants. It reduces yield, posing a significant threat to the production of irrigated crops.
  • Very high dust deposition also occurs in the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain range and the Tibetan Plateau, the so-called ‘third pole’ that are the sources for fresh water for more than 1.3 billion people in Asia.
  • The deposition of dust on glaciers induces a warming effect, increasing the melting of ice, with direct and indirect impacts on society through numerous issues, including food security, energy production, agriculture, water stress and flood regimes.

Sand and dust storms directly affect 11 of the 17 United Nations-mandated sustainable development goals (SDG):

  • Ending poverty in all forms
  • Ending hunger
  • Good health and well-being
  • Safe water and sanitation
  • Affordable and clean energy
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Industry innovation and infrastructure
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Life on land

Extreme droughts:

  • The risk of impacts from sand and dust storms is projected to increase in the 2030s due to more extreme drought conditions.
  • Managing the risks associated with sand and dust storms would also become necessary in places not previously recognised as source areas for such phenomena due to more extreme droughts projected in parts of northern and southern Thailand, south-eastern China, northern Malaysia and southeastern most Australia.

Positive impact of dust storms:

  • They can increase the nutrient content in the areas of deposition and benefit vegetation.
  • Dust deposited on water bodies can alter their chemical characteristics, triggering both positive as well as adverse outcomes.
  • Dust particles that carry iron can enrich parts of oceans, improving the phytoplankton balance and impacting marine food webs.

Way Ahead:

  • Countries need to strategise their joint actions, consider gaining a deeper understanding of the socio-economic impact of sand and dust storms.
  • They must establish a coordinated monitoring and early warning system with an impact-based focus as well as coordinate actions in most at-risk and exposed geographical areas to mitigate the risks.


Q1 GDP data

Indian Express

GS 3: Economy


  • Recently, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has released the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data for the first quarter of the current financial year (2021-22).


  • Each year, the MoSPI releases four quarterly GDP data updates, which help in assessing the current health of the Indian economy.
  • This release provides data for two variables i.e., GDP and GVA.
GDP = (GVA) + (Taxes earned by the government) — (Subsidies provided by the government)

Note: If the government earned more from taxes than what it spent on subsidies, GDP will be higher than GVA.

Taxes > Subsidies ————– GDP > GVA

If, on the other hand, the government provided subsidies in excess of its tax revenues, the absolute level of GVA would be higher than the absolute level of GDP.

Subsidies > Taxes —————– GVA > GDP


  1. It is the total monetary value of final goods and services that are bought by the final user or produced in a country in a given period of time (in this case a quarter).
  2. It measures the value of total output in the economy by tracking the total demand.
  1. It looks at how much value was added (in money terms) in different productive sectors of the economy.
  2. It tracks the total output in the economy by looking at the total supply.

Key Findings:

  • In Q1 of 2021-22, India’s GDP grew by 20.1% while the GVA grew by 18.8%.
  • These are year-on-year (YoY) comparisons; in other words, the total output (as measured by GDP) of the Indian economy in the first three months of the current financial year (April, May and June) was 20.1% more than the total output created by the economy in the same months last year.
  • The total output, as measured by GVA, grew by 18.1% YoY.
  • GDP and GVA had contracted by 24.4% and 22.4%, respectively, in Q1 of the last financial year.
  • India produced the same amount of goods and services in Q1 this year as it produced in Q1 four years ago.

 Sub-components of GDP:

GDP = C + I + G + NX

  1.  C = Consumption demand from private individuals. It accounts for 56% of all GDP, technically called “Private Final Consumption Expenditure” or PFCE. 
  • Private demand, the biggest engine of growth, in Q1 of the current year was down to almost exactly the level where it was in 2017-18.
  • This is the most important variable and the most worrisome one as well. That’s because unless demand from private individuals increases, business will not be enthused to invest more.
  1. I = Investment demand generated by private sector businesses. This accounts for 32% of all GDP in India; technically called Gross Fixed Capital Formation or GFCF.
  • It is languishing at 2018-19 levels.
  • The government’s strategy has been to revive growth by stimulating private sector investments.
  • To this end, the government has given tax breaks and other incentives to existing companies owners and new entrepreneurs.
  • But unless private consumption demand rises, this strategy is unlikely to bear fruit.
  1. G = Demand for goods and services generated by the government. This demand accounts for 11% of India’s GDP, and is called “Government Final Consumption Expenditure (GFCE)”.
  • It has actually fallen below last year’s levels. This could be a drag on future growth.
  • At a time when all other sectors are struggling to create demand, the government is expected to resort to what is called a “counter-cyclical” fiscal policy and spend more than usual.
  1. NX: Net Exports. It is arrived at by subtracting India’s imports from exports. Since India typically imports more than it exports, it is the smallest engine of GDP growth; it is often negative.

GVA data:

  • This data tells us which specific sectors are doing well and which are struggling to add value.
  • The first check is whether the GVA of a sector in Q1 was more than in 2019-20. As things stand, only two sectors — Agriculture etc. and Electricity and other utilities — have managed to grow more than they did in 2019-20.
  • GVA of ‘Trade, Hotels, Transport, Communication & Services related to Broadcasting’ and ‘Construction’ is less than what it was even in 2017-18.
  • These are two sectors that created lots of jobs for both unskilled and skilled workers in the past, and their weakness implies weak higher unemployment levels. The former in particular is the sector that has most of the contact services.
  • From a policy perspective, a recovery here requires fuller levels of vaccination and improved public confidence.

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