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Current Affairs – 18 February 2021

Current Affairs (18th February 2021)

AIR POLLUTION

CONTEXT:

  • The study by the International Energy Agency’s Clean Coal Centre (IEACCC) recommended implementation of emission norms at coal-based thermal power stations (TPP) at the earliest.
  • Recently, a Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has also discussed the measures to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) footprints of India’s coal-based power sector and cautioned the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) against extending the deadline of meeting emission norms for coal-based thermal power plants in the country.

FINDINGS:

  • Coal-based thermal power stations with no pollution control technology are responsible for over half sulphur dioxide (SO2), 30 per cent oxides of nitrogen (NOx), about 20 per cent particulate matter (PM), among other man-made emissions in the country.
  • Unabated burning of coal in thermal power stations and a delay in implementation of latest carbon capture storage technology are among major reasons of air pollution in India.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?

  • Transport and other industrial sectors stand second to coal-based thermal power stations as a contributor to air pollution.
  • Assessments by the Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment have found very little implementation of the emission norms happening on the ground.
  • They also found that stakeholders tried to delay implementation of emission norms notified in December 2015.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • It was techno-economically possible to meet the norms if there were no further delay or dilution.
  • Retirement of old coal-fired power stations to limit pollution and improve the fleet efficiency.
  • The study underlined the “lip-service stand” taken by the Union governments in running cleaner coal power plants in India.
  • It noted that the most new advanced technology plants in India are struggling financially, causing stakeholders to lose confidence in investing in cleaner and advanced technology.
  • The Union government’s long-term strategy underline the nationally determined contributions submitted as a part of the Paris Agreement 2015, which mention the Indian government’s position to run cleaner advance technology. And yet, it is legally feasible for businesses in India to use less efficient technologies to burn coal.
  • The current energy efficiency schemes, including performance and achieve trade scheme, efficiency standards scheme and carbon pricing schemes, are not ambitious enough to drive significant improvement, noted the study. Retirement of inefficient fleet and adoption of clean coal technology can only bring in a noticeable change, it said.

Carbon capture storage

  • Adopting carbon-capture storage (CCUS) is equally important to reduce emissions.
  • CCUS is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide, transporting it to a storage site and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere.
  • The study called the international community through multi-national banks and other sources to invest in deployment of CCUS in India. It also urged the country to include it as a part of its climate commitment.
  • If pilot demonstrations are carried out by the next few years, commercial installation of CCUS can begin by 2030.
  • Among other suggestions that could reduce CO2 emissions from the coal sector or cut it up to 26 per cent were:
    • Retiring old sub-critical thermal power generating units 23 gigawatt
    • Running priority-advanced technology plants
    • Deploying carbon capture technology in 10 per cent capacity of overall fleet

 

‘Sedition law’

ABOUT:

  • Delhi Court observed that Charges of sedition “cannot be invoked to quieten the disquiet under the pretence of muzzling the miscreants.

WHAT IS SEDITION?

  • Sedition, which falls under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, is defined as any action that brings or attempts to bring hatred or contempt towards the government of India and has been illegal in India since 1870.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF SEDITION LAW:

  1. Sedition laws were enacted in 17th century England when lawmakers believed that only good opinions of the government should survive, as bad opinions were detrimental to the government and monarchy.
  2. This sentiment (and law) was borrowed and inserted into the Section 124A of IPC in 1870, by the British.
  3. British used Sedition law to convict and sentence freedom fighters. It was first used to prosecute Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1897.

INVOCATION:

  1. Additional Sessions Judge remarked that in the absence of any exhortation, call, incitement or instigation to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence, the sedition law cannot be invoked against anyone.
  2. The law of sedition is a powerful tool in the hands of the State to maintain peace and order in society.
  3. However, it cannot be invoked to quieten the disquiet under the pretence of muzzling the miscreants.

 

Leopard population

ABOUT:

  1. Wildlife specialists have for long faced challenges estimating the density of leopards in areas where some of the spotted cats are melanistic or black.
  2. Experts from three organisations, one of them Assam-based Aaranyak, have come up with a system that helps in properly estimating the leopard population in areas sustaining a mix of rosette and melanistic

Leopard Status:

  1. The Indian leopard is one of the big cats occurring on the Indian subcontinent, apart from the Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, snow leopard and clouded leopard.
  2. Listed on a par with Tigers under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972.
  3. Listed in Appendix I of CITES.
  4. Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

ROSETTES:

  1. Rosettes are jagged black circular marks on the tawny coat of a leopard. Like the tiger’s stripes, the rosettes of each leopard are unique in shape and size, making the species identifiable individually.
  2. But melanistic leopards — commonly called black leopards or black panthers or ghongs (Assamese) — have been difficult to estimate as their rosettes are invisible.
  3. The Spatial Mark-Resight (SMR) models applied by the scientists of Aaranyak, Panthera and World Wide Fund for Nature-India have provided a way of counting the melanistic leopards too. The new model has been written about in the Animal Conservation journal.
  4. S.-based Panthera is the only organisation in the world devoted exclusively to the conservation of the world’s 40 wild cat species and their ecosystems. Melanism has been documented in 14 of these species, including the leopard.
  5. When a population has only rosette leopard, estimating their population size becomes easy because all the individuals can be identified.
  6. Unlike rosette leopards, a black leopard can often not be reliably identified individually, although special cases exist.
  7. Therefore it is difficult to completely estimate population sizes of leopards, a metric that is very critical for their conservation.

‘ACUTE PROBLEM’:

  1. This problem is acute in the tropical and subtropical moist forests of South and Southeast Asia where the frequency of melanistic leopards is high and leopards also face the greatest threat.
  2. No precise estimates of leopard population could thus be done in protected areas and non-protected areas in India except on some occasions.
  3. The population density of leopards in Manas is 3.37 per 100 sq km. In the study, about 22.6% images of the leopards were of the melanistic kind.

MAJOR DEVELOPMENT’:

  1. In the SMR models, they borrow the capture history of the rosette leopards and apply the information on the melanistic leopards to estimate the entire population size of leopards.
  2. It can also be widely applied for other species that exhibit similar colour variation in nature.

 

Air quality

ABOUT:

  1. Mumbai is gradually losing its coastal city trait of enjoying clean air through the year and the massive use of coal by its industries could be a major culprit, found a new study by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based non-profit.
  2. The factories in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) burn two million tonnes coal every year.
  3. An indicative ambient air quality monitoring for particulate matter was also conducted to calculate exposure of locals to the pollutants.

TTC a hotspot:

  1. TTC was the most polluting, contributing about 44 per cent of the total load from the studied areas. It was followed by Taloja Industrial Area with a contribution of about 26 per cent.
  2. CSE attributed the high pollution levels to rampant use of solid, dirty fuels like coal and agro-based fuels, and furnace oil.
  3. Mumbai is a coastal region and so, is not expected to have very high levels of pollution. But with rapid industrial and infrastructural development, air quality of the region has started deteriorating.
  4. The city needs to wake up and take corrective actions, to avoid turning into a pollution pressure-cooker like Delhi.
  5. The chemical sector, which uses about 3.1 million tonnes of fuels every year, was found to be a major polluter. It contributed close 72 per cent of the total load in the region, the study said.
  6. Medium and small enterprises (MSME) were found to be bigger contributors to air pollution, observed the study.
  7. Poor road infrastructure and high, uncontrolled pollution from surrounding industries could be the reasons for the high PM content.

WAY AHEAD:

Against the backdrop of the challenges outlined for the industrial sector, CSE has developed a comprehensive action plan for the MMR.

  1. The shift in industries from conventional polluting fuel (coal, furnace oil, etc) to cleaner and non-polluting fuel (PNG, electricity) should be expedited.
  2. Policy to incentivise use of clean fuel introduced. Cleaner fuels like biomass and natural gas need to be less expensive. Removal of VAT on natural gas and inclusion of natural gas under GST would be positive steps
  3. Volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the ambient air should be continuously monitored in areas where chemical industries are predominant
  4. Air toxics emissions inventory and control plan should be developed Identify and monitor toxics and assess health risk through exposure modeling
  5. Sector-specific pollution assessment study for chemical industries should be developed
  6. A unique strategy of cross-regional inspection as already devised and implemented by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) in Taloja can be replicated in other regions. Inspection of industries should be done by MPCB officers drawn from other regions.
  7. Mechanism for penalties for the MSME sector for not instaling and using air pollution control devices should be created
  8. Infrastructure should be well maintained and need assessments for development of roads and drainage lines conducted
  9. Subsidies for purchase of air pollution control devices (APCD), particularly for small- and medium-scale units should be provided
  10. The possibility of a common solvent recovery plant in chemical clusters and common steam generation units for industrial sectors cluster can be explored
  11. Non-attainment criteria for cities within which industries are located should be modified
  12. Policy-level intervention is needed for upcoming industrial areas to ensure presence of adequate buffer zones along the periphery of the industrial areas, so as to clearly demarcate the boundaries of residential and industrial areas.
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