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Current Affairs – 10 November 2021

Frothing in Delhi’s Yamuna

The Indian Express

GS 3: Environment and degradation

Context:

  • Recently, a layer of froth was seen floating over parts of the Yamuna river in Delhi.

Causes:

  • The froth is a sign of a polluted river. The release of untreated or poorly treated effluents, including sewage from those parts of the city that are not connected to the sewerage network and industrial waste, could lead to frothing.
  • Specifically, phosphates in the river form the froth. Surfactants and phosphates from detergents in households and industrial laundry find their way into the river, as all the sewage is not treated.
  • River is in a lean phase and the water flow is less. Pollutants, therefore, are not diluted. The turbulence at the barrage near Okhla generates foam from the phosphates.
  • The water falling after discharge from the Okhla barrage causes the surfactants and foaming agents present in the wastewater or in the sludge on the river bed to get agitated, forming foam.

Who is responsible for cleaning up the mess?

  • Okhla barrage is maintained by the Irrigation Department of the Uttar Pradesh government, and that the layer of foam floating in the river near the Okhla barrage is due to detergents and toxic waste.
  • However, it is not only near the Okhla barrage where phosphates are present in excessive quantities in the river. “It must be that the load of pollutants is high at that point near Okhla, which is why we see the foam at that point”.
  • In June this year, the DPCC banned the sale, storage and transportation of soaps and detergents not conforming to the quality standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
  • The now disbanded Yamuna Monitoring Committee had recommended that such a ban be imposed.
  • The fifth report of the NGT-appointed Yamuna Monitoring Committee from December last year, notes that though BIS standards for detergents have been improved, it is not clear whether these standards will actually be enforced.
  • The role of regulatory bodies like CPCB, DPCC and PCBs is generally limited to implementing discharge/effluent standards.
  • The DJB does not monitor the levels daily, though samples are taken when required.

 

Global Drug Policy Index

Indian Express

GS 2: Health

Context:

  • The inaugural Global Drug Policy Index, released by the Harm Reduction Consortium, ranks Norway, New Zealand, Portugal, the UK, and Australia as the five leading countries on humane and health-driven drug policies.

Highlights:

  • The global dominance of drug policies based on repression and punishment has led to low scores overall, with a median score of just 48/100, and the top-ranking country (Norway) only reaching 74/100.
  • Standards and expectations from civil society experts on drug policy implementation vary from country to country.
  • Inequality is deeply seated in global drug policies, with the top-ranking 5 countries scoring 3 times as much as the lowest-ranking 5 countries.
  • The five lowest-ranking countries are Brazil, Uganda, Indonesia, Kenya, and Mexico.
  • India’s rank is 18 out of 30 countries. It has an overall score of 46/100.
  • It is composed of 75 indicators running across five broad dimensions of drug policy: criminal justice, extreme responses, health and harm reduction, access to internationally controlled medicines, and development.

About:

  • It is a data-driven global analysis of drug policies and their implementation which comes at a time when the Indian government is reviewing the provisions of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic substances act 1985.
  • The Harm Reduction Consortium is a global consortium of networks aiming to challenge the global “war on drugs”, scale up access to harm reduction services, and advocate for increased resources for harm reduction.
  • It is a unique tool that documents, measures and compares national-level drug policies.
  • It provides each country with a score and ranking that shows how much their drug policies and their implementation align with the United Nations principles of human rights, health and development.
  • The Index provides an essential accountability and evaluation mechanism in the field of drug policy.
  • It evaluates the performance of 30 countries covering all regions of the world.

 

Zika Virus

The Hindu

GS 2: Health

Context:

  • With a rise in the number of Zika virus cases in Uttar Pradesh, doctors have advised that people should avoid all non-essential travel to areas reporting cases.

Matter of Concern

  • According to information released by the World Health Organisation (WHO), a majority of those infected with Zika virus disease either remain asymptomatic (up to 80%) or show mild symptoms of fever, rash, conjunctivitis, body ache, joint pains.

About:

  • Mosquito-borne virus transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which also transmit 3 other vector-borne diseases – Chikungunya, dengue and yellow fever.
  • It also spreads through blood transfusion and sexual contact.
  • First identified in 1947 in Zika Forest, Uganda from where it derives its name.

Symptoms: 

  • Generally, the symptoms include fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, or headache. It lasts for about two to seven days. Most infected people do not develop any symptoms.
  • Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause infants to be born with microcephaly (smaller than normal head size) and other congenital malformations, known as congenital Zika syndrome.
  • It has no treatment or vaccine. Instead, the focus is on relieving symptoms and includes rest, rehydration and acetaminophen for fever and pain.

Threats:

  • Pregnant women infected with the Zika virus may give birth to babies with severe brain damage or serious birth defects i.e. neurological disorders and foetal deformation known as Microcephaly in which infants are born with abnormally small heads.
  • Besides, there is also a possible link between virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome (a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous
  • system) is also suspected.

Treatment and Prevention: 

  • There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available to treat Zika.
  • WHO declared the Zika virus and its suspected link to birth defects as an international public health emergency.

Government Initiatives

  • Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP):  To strengthen/maintain decentralized laboratory based and IT enabled disease surveillance systems for epidemic prone diseases to monitor disease trends.
  • National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP):  Scaling up the entomological surveillance for Aedes. The vector surveillance should be round the year to detect the seasonal fluctuation in vector density and pinpoint high-risk areas. The six vector-borne diseases i.e. Malaria, Dengue, Lymphatic Filariasis, Kala-azar, Japanese Encephalitis and Chikungunya in India.
  • Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK):  An initiative under National Health Mission has a surveillance system for monitoring birth defects.

 

India’s Gati Shakti Plan

The Hindu

GS 3: Infrastructure

Context:

  • The Gati Shakti National Master Plan is another important step for India to upgrade national infrastructure and multimodal connectivity.
  • According to the Economic Survey 2019-20, India will have to invest approximately $1.5 trillion on infrastructure to become a $5- trillion economy by 2024-25.
  • However, while the Rs 100 lakh crore plan will have an important economic multiplier effect at home, it must also be leveraged to have an external impact by aligning it with India’s regional and global connectivity efforts.

About:

It has three main components, all focused on domestic coordination.

  1. First, it seeks to increase information sharing with a new technology platform between various ministries at the Union and state levels.
  2. Second, it focuses on giving impetus to multi-modal transportation to reduce logistics’ costs and strengthen last-mile connectivity in India’s hinterland or border regions.
  3. The third component includes an analytical decision-making tool to disseminate project-related information and prioritise key infrastructure projects. This aims to ensure transparency and time-bound commitments to investors.

Spillover in the neighbourhood:

  • One way to look at the Gati Shakti plan from a foreign policy angle is that it will automatically generate positive effects to deepen India’s economic ties with Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, as well as with Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region.
  • This has been the experience in recent years with India’s investment in roads, ports, inland waterways or new customs procedures generating positive externalities for these neighbours, who are keen to access the growing Indian consumer market.
  • Nepal, for example, in 2020 reached record export levels due to a series of Indian connectivity initiatives, including electronic cargo tracking systems, new rail and road routes, modernisation of border control systems, and the region’s first-ever bilateral petroleum pipeline.
  • Any reduction in India’s domestic logistics costs brings immediate benefits to the northern neighbour, given that 98 per cent of Nepal’s total trade transits through India and about 65 per cent of Nepal’s trade is with India.
  • In 2019, trade between Bhutan and Bangladesh was eased through a new multimodal road and waterway link via Assam. The new cargo ferry service with the Maldives, launched last year, has lowered the costs of trade for the island state.
  • And under the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation Programme, India’s investments in multimodal connectivity on the eastern coast is reconnecting India with the Bay of Bengal and Southeast Asia through integrated rail, port and shipping systems.