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Current Affairs – 24 August 2021

Delhi’s new smog tower

Indian Express

GS 3: Environmental Pollution and Degradation

Context:

  • Ahead of its infamous smog season, Delhi got a ‘smog tower‘, a technological aid to help combat air pollution.

Components of tower

  • The structure is 24 m high, about as much as an 8-storey building — an 18-metre concrete tower, topped by a 6-metre-high canopy. At its base are 40 fans, 10 on each side.
  • Each fan can discharge 25 cubic metres per second of air, adding up to 1,000 cubic metres per second for the tower as a whole.
  • Inside the tower in two layers are 5,000 filters. The filters and fans have been imported from the United States.

How it works?

  • The tower uses a ‘downdraft air cleaning system’ developed by the University of Minnesota.
  • IIT-Bombay has collaborated with the American university to replicate the technology, which has been implemented by the commercial arm of Tata Projects Limited.
  • Polluted air is sucked in at a height of 24 m, and filtered air is released at the bottom of the tower, at a height of about 10 m from the ground.
  • When the fans at the bottom of the tower operate, the negative pressure created sucks in air from the top. The ‘macro’ layer in the filter traps particles of 10 microns and larger, while the ‘micro’ layer filters smaller particles of around 0.3 microns.
  • The downdraft method is different from the system used in China, where a 60-metre smog tower in Xian city uses an ‘updraft’ system — air is sucked in from near the ground, and is propelled upwards by heating and convection. Filtered air is released at the top of the tower.

Likely impact

  • The tower could have an impact on the air quality up to 1 km from the tower. The actual impact will be assessed by IIT-Bombay and IIT-Delhi in a two-year pilot study that will also determine how the tower functions under different weather conditions, and how levels of PM2.5 vary with the flow of air.
  • An automated Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system in the tower will monitor air quality.
  • Levels of PM2.5 and PM10, besides temperature and humidity, will be measured constantly, and will be displayed on a board atop the tower.
  • Monitors will soon be installed at various distances from the tower to determine its impact at these distances. The project aims to provide purified air in a “localised” area.

Supreme Court order

  • In 2019, the Supreme Court directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Delhi government to come up with a plan to install smog towers to combat air pollution.
  • The court was hearing a matter related to air pollution in the national capital due to stubble-burning in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • IIT-Bombay then submitted a proposal for the towers to the CPCB. In January 2020, the Supreme Court directed that two towers should be installed by April as a pilot project.
  • The smog tower at Connaught Place is the first of these towers. The second tower, being constructed at Anand Vihar in east Delhi with CPCB as the nodal agency, is nearing completion.
  • Since 2009, an increase of 258% to 335% had been observed in the concentration of PM10 in Delhi, a 2016 report by the CPCB noted. But the most prominent pollutant in Delhi and neighbouring areas is PM2.5.

 

Collegium Recommendations for Supreme Court Judges

The Hindu

GS 2: Indian Polity, Judiciary

Context:

  • For the first time ever, the Supreme Court Collegium led by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) has recommended as many as 9 persons at one go to be appointed as Supreme Court judges.

What is the collegium?

  • The Collegium System is a system under which appointments of judges to Supreme Court and High Courts and transfers of judges of High Courts (HC) are decided by a forum of the Chief Justice of India and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.
  • The recommendations of the names of lawyers or judges are sent by the Collegium to the Central Government which acts on these recommendations.
  • Currently, the Supreme Court (SC) of India comprises the CJIand 30 other Judges (totally 31).
  • The Constitution mandated consultation by President with the CJI for appointments and transfers of judges.

Article 124 – Appointment of SC judges should be made by the President after consultation with such judges of the HCs and the SC as the President may deem necessary (optional). The CJI is to be consulted (mandatory) in all appointments, except his or her own.
Article 217 – HC judges should be appointed by the President after consultation with the CJI and the Governor of the state. The Chief Justice of the HC concerned too should be consulted.
  • The collegium is an evolved model in this “consultation” process, brought in after various Supreme Court judgements in three ‘Judges Cases’.
  • The collegium consists of the CJI who heads it and 4 senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.
  • In case of difference of opinion, the majority view will prevail.

Why is the current selections laudable?

  • If the 9 judges are appointed, barring one vacancy (which arose after the Collegium met), all the vacancies in the Supreme Court will be filled up.
  • The selections break the 22-month-long impasse, as no consensus could emerge within the Collegium even as vacancies remained unfilled
  • Significantly, the recommendations of the collegium include –
    1. three women judges, with one of them having a chance to get to be the CJI
    2. a judge belonging to the Scheduled Caste
    3. a judge from a backward community
  • Also, the 9 selected persons belong to nine different States (Kerala, TN, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, MP, UP, Delhi and Gujarat)
  • Notably, many of those selected have distinguished records of upholding citizens’ freedoms and public interest.
  • Reportedly, the selection process, a complex one, was concluded in the first ever formal meeting of the Collegium.
  • The current CJI, Justice N.V. Ramana, being the first among the equals, deserves credit for taking along the members and building consensus for selecting as many as 9 judges.

What are the parameters to be considered?

  • India is perhaps the only country where the judges themselves select judges to the higher judiciary.
  • So, members of the Collegium have to take extra care to ensure that –
    1. the process of selection remains transparent
    2. the suitability of the persons selected gets the highest level of approbation (approval/acceptance)
  • The essence of the norms to be followed in judicial appointments is a judicious blend of –
    1. Merit /the ability to deliver complete justice
    2. Seniority
    3. Equal opportunities to all classes of people to preserve the interests of the marginalised and deprived sections of society, women, religions, regions, and communities
Article 142 (1) allows the Supreme Court to pass any order necessary to do “complete justice” in any case.

Way Ahead:

  • The names decided are forwarded to the government, which can either accept the suggestions or return them to the collegium once but not the second time.
  • [Second time, the government has to go with the Collegium’s list only.]
  • The final appointments are made by the President.
  • So, it is now time for the Government/executive to take the process of judges’appointments to its logical conclusion at the earliest and fill the vacancies.

 

Wool Sector

Down to Earth

GS 3: Economy

Context:

  • By the end of this year, shepherds in Uttarakhand will get a batch of lambs through crossbreeding of sheep indigenous to the region with Australian Merino sheep, known to have the softest and finest wool used for apparels.

Background:

  • These lambs will be the first signs of success of an import exercise that the government resumed after 30 years, in 2019, with an aim to boost the pastoral economy and reduce the country’s import dependence for raw wool.
  • The last import was of Rambouillet sheep from the US in 1993. Its purpose was crossbreeding, which happened to officials’ satisfaction; however, low survival rates of imported sheep and limited success in obtaining wool deterred further exercises.
  • Of the 860 Australian Merino sheep imported between December 2019 and February 2020 under the National Livestock Mission, Jammu and Kashmir has received 420, Uttarakhand 240 and Himachal Pradesh 200.
  • Plans are also underway to import sheep for Rajasthan, the country’s largest wool producer known for its superior carpet grade Chokla and Magra wool. Carpet grade is rougher than apparel grade and accounts for 85 per cent of India’s production.
  • Data with the Union Ministry of Textiles suggests that as of 2018-19, the average annual yield per sheep in India was 0.9 kg as against the world average of 2.4 kg.
  • The country produced 40.42 million kg of wool that year, whereas its consumption was at 260.8 million kg in 2019-20.
  • Due to this insufficient domestic production, India depends on imports for raw wool, particularly on Australia and New Zealand.

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