Current Affairs (26th June 2021)
‘Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2020’
- ‘Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2020’ report has been recently released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Growth of Renewables in 2020:
- 2020 was a record year for renewables deployment despite the COVID-19, with 261 GW installed.
- The addition was almost 50% higher than that made in 2019 and represented 82% of the global new power capacity.
- Around 162 GW or 62% of total renewable power capacity added last year had lower costs than the cheapest new fossil fuel option.
Replacing Coal with Renewables:
- 810 GW capacity of the world’s existing coal-fired plants i.e., 38% of the total global energy capacity now have higher operating costs than new utility-scale photovoltaics and onshore wind energy.
- The cost range for generation of fossil fuel-fired power in G20 countries is estimated to be between USD 0.055 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and USD 0.148/kWh.
- Replacing this expensive coal power with renewables will save operators USD 32 billion a year and reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by around three billion tonnes.
- Renewable capacities added in 2019 would have saved emerging and developing nations USD 6 billion per annum compared to the same capabilities from conventional sources.
Supplies from Sources Added in 2020:
- Concentrating power < Bioenergy < Hydropower < Wind Power < Photovoltaics (PV) < Geothermal
Reasons for Growth:
- Between 2000 and 2020, renewables capacity grew more than three times, increasing by 754 GW to 2,799 GW.
- The growth was occasioned by advancements in technologies, consistent fall in component costs, cost-competitive supply distribution channels, learning by using and commercial-scale availability.
Reducing Cost of Renewables:
- In about 10 years (2010-2020), the cost of power produced from commercial solar PVs fell by 85%, CSP 68%, onshore wind 68% and offshore wind 48%.
- The outlook till 2022 sees global renewable power costs falling further.
- The felling of several iconic pine trees for widening a road in Meghalaya capital Shillong has triggered outrage, forcing the State government to intervene.
- Green activists said the National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) took advantage of the COVID-19 lockdown to chop the pine trees locals were attached to.
- But the government swung into action on June 23 after photos and videos of the logs lying beside the road from the town’s Rilbong Bridge to Upper Shillong went viral.
- This stretch of the road is part of the 71 km Shillong-Dawki four-lane project estimated to cost ₹1,251 crore.
- Dawki, a town in West Jaintia Hills district, Meghalaya, is a trade point on the border with Bangladesh.
Protecting Prisoners’ right
- Overcrowding in prisons has put several inmates at risk of COVID-19 infection and death. It is a violation of the human rights of prisoners.
- In India Prisons are overcrowded and it has left thousands of prisoners at risk of Covid infection and death.
- According to data, there are 12,715 inmates lodged in 11 sections of Tihar Jail alone as against the lodging capacity of 7,425. Out of them, 11,077 are undertrials.
Violation of human rights
- Court in Charles Sobraj v. The Suptd., Central Jail, Tihar, 1978, opined that “imprisonment does not spell farewell to fundamental rights”.
- Overcrowded jails are a violation of the human rights of prisoners guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- Apart from risking the lives of inmates, ignorance of the poor conditions of prisons has also added to the misery of the families of those in jail. For example,
Laws / SC rulings in protection of Prisoners rights
- Article 14 (3)(c) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, states that an accused has the right to be tried without undue delay.
- In Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, 1979 the court has stated that the state is bound to provide legal assistance to prisoners, ensure their safe and timely release and safeguard their rights to a fair and speedy trial.
Recent Supreme Court direction
- Taking cognisance of this issue, the Supreme Court directed the States to examine releasing inmates, convicted or facing trial on non-serious charges, from jails either on regular bail or on parole.
- It also directed them to provide transport facility to the prisoners to reach home.
- Given that States have started vaccinating prisoners too, the situation may improve soon. But India cannot ignore the problem of overcrowding, pandemic or no pandemic.
- The 1959 Antarctic Treaty celebrates its 60th anniversary recently. This Treaty is the only example of a single treaty that governs a whole continent.
- The Antarctic Treaty was signed between 12 countries in Washington on 1st December 1959 for making the Antarctic Continent a demilitarized zone to be preserved for scientific research only.
- Headquartered in Buenos Aires, Argentina, it entered into force in 1961 and has since been acceded by many other nations.
- Members – Twelve original signatories are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the UK and the US.
- Currently, the treaty has 54 parties. India became a member in 1983.
- Definition – Antarctica is defined as all of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude.
- Some important provisions of the Treaty are,
- Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only
- Freedom of scientific investigation in Antarctica and cooperation toward that end… shall continue
- Scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available
- Prohibition of military activities, nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste.
- Neutralising territorial sovereignty, this means a limit was placed on making any new claim or enlargement of an existing claim.
- It put a freeze on any disputes between claimants over their territories on the continent.
Antarctic Treaty System
- It is the whole complex of arrangements made for the purpose of regulating relations among states in the Antarctic by resolving the disputes that are arisen over the years.
- Other than the Antarctic Treaty, the other major International Agreements of the Treaty System are,
- Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972)
- Convention on Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980)
- Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1991)
- Its purpose is to ensure in the interests of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes.
- These agreements are legally binding and purpose-built for the unique geographical, environmental, and political characteristics of the Antarctic and form a robust international governance framework for the region.
World Drugs Report 2021
- According to the World Drug Report 2021, around 275 million people used drugs worldwide in the year 2020.
- The report was released by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna.
- The report said that drugs referred to as substances controlled under international drug control conventions and their non-medical use.
Key Findings of The Report
- Around 36 million people suffered from drug use disorders.
- About 5.5% of those between 15 and 64 have used drugs at least once in the past year, while 36.3 million people, or 13% of the total number of people who use drugs, suffer from drug use disorders.
- Many countries saw a rise in the use of cannabis during the coronavirus pandemic.
- In the last 24 years, cannabis potency has increased by four times in some parts of the globe.
- In surveys of health professionals across 77 countries, 42% said cannabis use had increased.
- Non-medical use of cannabis and sedatives has increased globally during the pandemic.
- Cannabis is more potent but fewer young people see it as harmful.
- Rising web-based sales could transform global drug use patterns.
- The number of drug users in Africa is projected to rise by 40 per cent by 2030.
- Covid-19 has triggered innovation in drug prevention and treatment services.
- Drug markets quickly recovered after the onset of the pandemic, but some trafficking dynamics have been accelerated during Covid-19.
- Covid-19 fallout is likely to be felt in drug markets for years to come.
NHAI seeks Odisha govt.’s nod for coastal highway
- The National Highway Authority of India has sought the Odisha government’s consent for an ambitious coastal highway project.
- The 348 Km long coastal highway project was first proposed six years ago under Bharatmala Pariyojana.
- It will connect Odisha’s Tangi with West Bengal’s Digha.
- It is a greenfield project.
- The major hurdle has been environmental concerns.
- The road was initially planned through ecologically sensitive Chilika, Balukhanda Konark Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhitarkanika Sanctuary Area and some of the important Olive Ridley turtle nesting sites.
- After environmentalists raised an alarm, Chilika was struck off from the plan.
- Some portions of the highway project will require approval under coastal regulation zone guidelines.
NCB arrests key accused in Pak.-based drug ring
- The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) arrested an alleged key member of a Pakistan-based drug trafficking syndicate.
- The international community has long regarded Pakistan as a transit point for narcotics trafficking.
- Pakistan is geographically vulnerable to drug trafficking as it shares a long porous border with Afghanistan.
- Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of illicit opium.
- Also, Cannabis is produced in large quantities in the sub-region. Most of the cannabis trafficked in the region also originates from Afghanistan.
- The free flow of drugs has abetted terrorism in Pakistan as this generates quick money without paperwork.
- The Line of Control (LoC) which is around 700 kilometres in length witnesses constant infiltration by terrorists and Pakistan army regulars.
- India-Pakistan border in the Kutch sector which has not been demarcated also facilitates intrusion and infiltration.
Drugs in India:
- Due to its proximity to the Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle, India faces the menace of drug trafficking.
- Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle are the major opium production regions in the world.
- Drugs arrive in India from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Thailand, Myanmar, Bhutan through its shared borders with these countries.