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Current Affairs – 23 September 2021

Global Air Quality Norms

The Hindu

GS 3: Environment and Conservation

Context:

  • WHO has recently released Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs). Currently, 90% of the global population and nearly everyone in India are breathing air that defies the current guidelines of the WHO.
  • The primary focus is on significant tightening of the guidelines for particulate matter, which is responsible for the highest number of air pollution related deaths worldwide — nearly seven million. The guidelines for key gases have also been revised.

About:

  • WHO in its first-ever update since 2005 has tightened global air pollution standards.
  • These guidelines were issued in a recognition of the emerging science in the last decade that the impact of air pollution on health is much more serious than earlier envisaged.
  • The move doesn’t immediately impact India as the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) don’t meet the WHO’s existing standards.
  • The government has a dedicated National Clean Air Programme that aims for a 20% to 30% reduction in particulate matter concentrations by 2024 in 122 cities, keeping 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration.

Sets stage for eventual shifts in policy

  • The WHO move sets the stage for eventual shifts in government policy towards evolving newer stricter standards.
  • This will soon become part of policy discussions and once cities and States are set targets for meeting pollution emission standards, it could lead to overall changes in national standards.
  • The upper limit of annual 5 as per the 2005 standards, which is what countries now follow, is 10 microgram per cubic metre. That has now been revised to five microgram per cubic metre. The 24-hour ceiling used to be 25 microgram but has now dropped to 15.
  • The PM10 upper limit is 20 microgram and has now been revised to 15 whereas the 24-hour value has been revised from 50 to 45 microgram.

Standards for a host of chemical pollutants

  • India’s NAAQs — last revised in 2009 — specify an annual limit of 60 microgram per cubic metre for PM 10 and 100 for a 24-hour period. It is 40 for PM 2.5 annually and 60 on a 24-hour period.
  • There are also standards for a host of chemical pollutants including sulphur dioxide, lead and nitrogen dioxide.
  • According to Environmental organisation Greenpeace, the new guidelines meant that among 100 global cities, Delhi’s annual PM2.5 trends in 2020 was 16.8 times more than WHO’s revised air quality guidelines, while Mumbai’s exceeded 8-fold, Kolkata 9.4, Chennai 5.4, Hyderabad 7 and Ahmedabad exceeded 9.8 fold.

Severe health crisis

  • Air pollution is a threat to health in all countries, but it hits people in low- and middle-income countries the hardest.
  • These new guidelines are an evidence-based and practical tool for improving the quality of the air on which all life depends.
  • Every year, exposure to air pollution is estimated to cause 7 million premature deaths and result in the loss of millions more healthy years of life.
  • In children, this could include reduced lung growth and function, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma.
  • In adults, ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the most common causes of premature death attributable to outdoor air pollution, and evidence is also emerging of other effects such as diabetes and neurodegenerative conditions.
  • This puts the burden of disease attributable to air pollution on a par with other major global health risks such as unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking.
  • There is a body of scientific evidence to prove that air pollution is leading to severe health impacts and 90% of the entire global population is breathing polluted air.
  • Air pollution is a severe health crisis and WHO’s revised air quality guidelines bring back the focus to the issue.
  • Both PM2.5 and PM10 are capable of penetrating deep into the lungs but PM2.5 can even enter the bloodstream, primarily resulting in cardiovascular and respiratory impacts, and also affecting other organs.
  • PM is primarily generated by fuel combustion in different sectors including transport, energy, households, industry and from agriculture.
  • In 2013, outdoor air pollution and particulate matter were classified as carcinogenic by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Situation in India:

Conclusion:

  • The public heath challenge is big but not unsurmountable. India needs scale and speed of action and also, as the WHO has underscored, a strategy to address the inequity and disproportionate impacts on the vulnerable groups to minimise public health risk.
  • India may require a more nuanced regional approach to maximise benefits and sustain air quality gains.
  • The influence of geo-climatic attributes is quite pronounced in all regions of India, which further aggravates the local build-up of pollution.
  • This is further worsened due to the rapid proliferation of pollution sources and weak air quality management systems.
  • The hard lockdown phases during the pandemic have demonstrated the dramatic reduction that is possible when local pollution and regional influences can be minimised.
  • This has shown that if local action is strengthened and scaled up at speed across the region, significant reduction to meet a much tighter target is possible.

 

Rules for Ammonium Nitrate

Indian Express

GS 2: Government Policies and Interventions

Context:

  • Recently, the Government has amended the rules related to Ammonium Nitrate.
  • It aims to curb its pilferage, introduce fire-fighting provisions and improve ways to handle and store the chemical.

Background:

  • These rules have been amended from the lesson learnt from the 2020 Beirut Explosion.
  • Around 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored for six years at Beirut’s port that detonated in 2020 and this caused death and destruction.

About New Rules:

  • Ammonium nitrate received at ports be transferred to storage houses 500 metres beyond the port area.
  • Also permit the auction of seized lots of ammonium nitrate to ensure safe and speedy disposal besides requiring that Ammonium Nitrate be imported in bagged form only.
  • Include provision for adequate fire-fighting facilities in storage and handling areas, improvement of flooring in storage and handling areas.
  • Reduce the handling of loose chemicals at port and therefore enhance safety.

 

Ease of Doing Business (EDB) Index Report

The Hindu

GS 3: Indian Economy & Related Issues

Context:

  • Recently, the World Bank Group scrapped its flagship publication, the ‘Doing Business’ report.

About:

  • The Group acted on its commissioned study to examine the ethical issues flagged in preparing the 2018 and 2020 editions of the EDB index.
  • The allegation surrounding Kristalina GeorgievaMD of the IMF and former CEO of World Bank, is the proximate reason for scrapping the publication.
    • She is accused of having exerted pressure on the internal team working on the Doing Business report to falsely boost China’s rank by doctoring the underlying data.
    • Similarly, tensions were also reportedly brought to bear in the case of Saudi Arabia’s rank, among others.

Criticism:

  • Some countries seem to use their political heft to improve their rank, polish their international image and sway public opinion (as appears to be China’s case).
  • Management consultants and corporate lawyers collect the information for the index as per the statute (de jure) and not as practised (de facto).
  • As per the data shown in the figure above, Make in India was not that successful.
    • Annual growth rate in GDP manufacturing (at constant prices) fell from 13.1% in 2015-­16 to 2.4% in 2019­-20.
    • The Net FDI inflow to GDP ratio has fluctuated around 1.5%.
    • The fixed investment to GDP ratio (at current prices) fell from 30.1% in 2014­-15 to 26.9% in 2019-­20.
  • The data collected is from select cities and larger firms, which is a great limitation.
  • No Proper correlation between Property Rights and Market Economy.
  • EDB index also seems vulnerable to a tweaking of the underlying method.
    • India’s improved ranking was reportedly an outcome of such an effort.
      • When the index was re-estimated with unchanging procedures, the needle hardly moved.
    • Similarly, Chile’s rank on the EDB index sharply rose when the conservative government was in power.
      • And it went down when the socialists were ruling despite no changes in policies and procedures.
      • Later, Former World Bank Chief Economist, and later Nobel Laureate, Paul Romer, publicly apologised to Chile’s socialist President for this.
  • Weakening labour regulations 

 

 

Purple Revolution

PIB

GS 3: Economy

Context:

  • Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh proposes Integrated Aroma Dairy Entrepreneurship for Jammu & Kashmir to augment the income of farmers.

About:

  • Jammu & Kashmir has abundant stock of Animal Husbandry and Dairy resources and suggested that the same can be effectively integrated with Aroma Mission which has already been launched in J&K by CSIR under the aegis of Union Ministry of Science & Technology.
  • The Aroma Mission, also popularly referred as “Lavender or Purple Revolution”, has started from J&K and transformed the lives of farmers who are able to grow lavender, make lucrative profit and improve their lives.
  • Apart from providing planting material, distillation units are provided and farmers are trained in extraction and many of them have become entrepreneurs as lavender oil is quite sought after.
  • Apart from Lavender, many high value Aromatic and Medicinal cash crops have been introduced by CSIR in J&K.
  • It is now being expanded as Aroma Mission Phase II and also floriculture mission has been recently launched.

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