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Current Affairs – 3 February 2021

Current Affairs (3rd February 2021)

AGEING DAMS

CONTEXT:

  • Over 1,000 large dams in India will be roughly 50 years old in 2025 according to a United Nations (UN) report “Ageing water infrastructure: An emerging global risk”.

ABOUT:

  • The analysis includes dam decommissioning or ageing case studies from the USA, France, Canada, India, Japan, and Zambia and Zimbabwe. Such ageing embankments across the world pose a growing threat.
  • The report has been compiled by Canada-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health.
  • According to the report, world is unlikely to witness another large dam-building revolution as in the mid-20th century, but dams constructed then will inevitably be showing their age.
GLOBAL SCENARIO INDIA SCENARIO
Most of the 58,700 large dams worldwide were constructed between 1930 and 1970 with a design life of 50-100 years. 80% of the large dams face the prospect of becoming obsolete as they will be 50 – 150 years old.
By 2050, most people on Earth will live downstream of tens of thousands of large dams built in the 20th century, many of them already operating at or beyond their design life. India is ranked third in the world in terms of building large dams.
32,716 large dams (55% of the world’s total) are found in just four Asian countries: China, India, Japan, and South Korea . Of the over 5,200 large dams built so far, about 1,100 large dams have already reached 50 years of age and some are older than 120 years.
Ageing signs include increasing cases of dam failures, progressively increasing costs of dam repair and maintenance, increasing reservoir sedimentation, and loss of a dam’s functionality and effectiveness – “strongly interconnected” manifestations. Examples: Krishna Raja Sagar dam was built in 1931 and is now 90 years old.

Similarly, Mettur dam was constructed in 1934 and is now 87 years old.

 

Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project

Context:

  • For the implementation of an STARS Project, Ministry of Education, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), and World Bank have signed an agreement for the financial support worth Rs 5718 crore.

About:

  • Centrally Sponsored Scheme under the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education
  • Aims to improve the quality and governance of school education in six Indian states like Maharashtra, Odisha, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.
  • Addressing demands from stakeholders, especially parents, for greater accountability and inclusion by producing better data to assess the quality of learning; giving special attention to students from vulnerable section.
  • Investing more in developing India’s human capital needs by strengthening foundational learning for children in classes 1 to 3 and preparing them with the cognitive, socio-behavioural and language skills to meet future labour market needs
  • Equipping teachers to manage this transformation by recognizing that teachers are central to achieving better learning outcomes.
  • Focusing more directly on the delivery of education services at the state, district and sub district levels by providing customized local-level solutions towards school improvement.

 

Namami Gange

Context:

  • Wetland Day celebrations kickstarted on 1stFebruary, 2021 with a series of workshops on various aspects of wetland rejuvenation and conservation designed by WWF-India in association with NMCG for District Ganga Committees.

ABOUT:

  • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), Ministry of Jal Shakti and India Water Foundation (IWF), celebrated World Wetland Day 2021, to raise awareness about conservation and rejuvenation of Wetlands.
  • On the occasion of Wetland Day, a massive scientific and community-based program to develop Health card and management of 10 wetlands in each of the 50 plus Ganga districts was launched.
  • This year’s World Wetland Day theme shines a spotlight on wetlands as a source of freshwater and encourages actions to restore them and stop their loss.
  • NamamiGange is the first of its kind program where Wetland Conservation is integrated with Basin Management Plan.
  • The innovative work done by NMCG for wetland conservation linked to River Rejuvenation would help the entire country as a model framework.
  • Wetlands are very important for maintaining the country’s biological diversity. NMCG not only looks at rejuvenation of Ganga but the overall river basin including its cities and their wetlands.
  • This year commemorates the 50thanniversary of the Ramsar Convention and by now India has around 42 Ramsar sites.

 

Jal Jeevan Mission (URBAN)

Context:

  • The Jal Jeevan Mission (URBAN) has been designed to provide universal coverage of water supply to all households through functional taps in all four thousand 378 statutory towns.

ABOUT:

  • Finance Minister had announced this mission, during her Budget 2021 speech.
  • According to the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry, the estimated gap in urban household tap connections is around two crore 68 lakh, which is proposed to be covered under Jal Jeevan Mission (URBAN).
  • The mission will promote circular economy of water through development of a city water balance plan for each city focusing on recycling and reuse of treated sewage, rejuvenation of water bodies and water conservation.
  • 20 per cent of water demand to be met by reused water with development of institutional mechanisms. The total outlay proposed for Jal Jeevan Mission (URBAN) is two lakh 87 thousand crore rupees.

 

Air pollution

Context:

  • Air pollution during winters is a reality for cities in south India, which have experienced increasing pollution levels this winter after the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown.

About:

  • The analysis, done by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), showed that while particulate concentration reduced during the lockdown, it spiked with the onset of winter.
  • While several bigger cities witnessed a reduction in annual trends in particulate matter or PM2.5, smaller towns and cities experienced an increase. This reflected the trend in local and regional build-up of pollution.
  • A recent Lancetstudy showed Karnataka to be having the highest total burden of health costs among southern states.
  • The analysis by CSE is part of an air quality tracker initiative which has followed changing patterns of air quality trends in different regions of the country. It seeks to understand the impact of the extraordinary year that has just gone by — 2020 — that witnessed one of the biggest disruptions in the recent times.
  • Before south India, the analysis had covered changing trends in the Indo-Gangetic Plains, Delhi-National Capital Region, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
  • The situation demanded quicker regional reforms to curb pollution from vehicles, industry, power plants and waste burning to further bend the air pollution curve on a regional scale.

 

Clean energy, renewables, stubble burning

CONTEXT:

  • Cleaner fuel for cooking, renewable energy targets and managing stubble burning remained conspicuously absent in the Union Budget 2021-22.

ABOUT:

  • The Budget lost the opportunity to address the rural sector as well, where the Union government’s Ujjwala Scheme will be extended to only 10 million additional beneficiaries.
  • According to the last Census of India (2011), 63 per cent rural households used firewood as primary cooking fuel and 23 per cent crop residues and cow dung cakes.
  • Facilitating rural areas to shift to cooking gas will not only curb carbon emissions, but also reduce indoor air pollution and associated health issues.
  • The Budget also did not mention the Union government’s plan on dealing with crop residue, burning of which contributes heavily to air pollution in north India.
  • A strategy on the collection and usage of crop residue could help building extra income for farmers, electricity generation from biomass and reduction in air pollution.
  • The Union government has recently been vocal about the achieving its renewable energy targets of 175 gigawatt by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030.
  • The Budget, however, did not say anything about the government’s plans and the financial assistance available for the same.
  • India also failed to achieve its annual targets for solar installations in the last five years, according to the Economic Survey 2021.

  • Domestic manufacturers are unable to compete with cheap Chinese imports. However, the Union government has not announced long-expected basic custom duty on the solar cells and panels.

 

Hydrogen Energy Mission

CONTEXT:

  • Union Minister for Finance announced that the Hydrogen Energy Mission will be launched in 2021-22.

ABOUT:

  • Hydrogen Energy Mission in 2021-22 aims for generating hydrogen from green power sources.
  • Green Hydrogen Mission is not only essential to decarbonise heavy industries like steel and cement, it also holds the key to clean electric mobility that doesn’t depend on rare minerals.
  • The emphasis on hydrogen in the budget was in line with the technological development in the global north and with a long-term vision towards reduced dependency on minerals and rare-earth element-based battery as energy storage.
  • Hydrogen energy technologies across the world have still not become commercially viable, but the energy source is seen as the next big thing as its usage would lead to zero emissions. With the announcement February 1, India has officially joined the race.
  • Green hydrogen, produced with renewable electricity, is projected to grow rapidly in the coming years. Many ongoing and planned projects point in this direction. Hydrogen from renewable power is technically viable today and is quickly approaching economic competitiveness.
  • Green hydrogen energy is vital for India to meet its Nationally Determined Contributions and ensure regional and national energy security, access and availability.
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