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Current Affairs – 9 August 2021

Current Affairs (9th August 2021)

Pensilungpa Glacier

Context:

  • A recent study has found that the Pensilungpa Glacier located in Ladakh’s Zanskar Valley is retreating.

Probable cause:

  • Due to an increase in temperature and a decrease in precipitation during winters.

Findings of the Study:

  • Since 2015, the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG) at Dehradun, an autonomous body under the Department of Science and Technology, has been working on various aspects of glaciology i.e.,
    • Glacier health (mass balance) monitoring, 
    • Dynamics, 
    • Discharge, 
    • Past climatic conditions, 
    • Speculation for future climate change and 
    • Its impact on glaciers in this region.
  • Over the glacier surface from 2016-2019, the study assessed the impact of climate change through the lens of past and the present response of the Pensilungpa Glacier, Zanskar Himalaya, Ladakh. 
  • In stake networking, a stake made of bamboo is installed on the glacier surface using the steam drill for mass balance measurement.
  • The field observations for four years (2015–2019) showed that the glacier is now retreating at an average rate of 6.7 plus/minus 3 metres per annum. 
  • The study observed recessional trends of the Pensilungpa Glacier to an increase in the temperature and decrease in precipitation during winters.
  • It also points at the significant influence of debris cover on the mass balance and retreat of the glacier’s endpoint, especially in summer.
  • Furthermore, the mass balance data for the three years (2016–2019) showed a negative trend with a small accumulation area ratio.
  • The study also suggests that due to continuous rise in the air temperature in line with the global trend, the melting would increase.
  • It is possible that the precipitation of summer periods at higher altitudes will change from snow to rain, and that may influence the summer and winter patterns.

 

Air quality management in NCR

Context:

  • The Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021, was recently introduced by the Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate in Parliament and passed by both Houses amid ongoing protests.
  • While the Bill received overwhelming support, many members had raised concerns on the provision that allowed the commission to collect environmental compensation from farmers over pollution.

What is the Bill all about?

  • The monitoring and management of air quality in the Delhi-NCR region has been done in pieces by multiple bodies, including the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the state pollution control boards, the state governments in the region, including Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, and the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) of the National Capital Region.
  • They, in turn, are monitored by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEF), and the Supreme Court which monitors air pollution as per the judgment in ‘M C Mehta vs Union of India’ case in 1988.
  • The Bill, however, seeks to create an overarching body to consolidate all monitoring bodies, and to bring them on one platform so that air quality management can be carried out in a more comprehensive, efficient, and time-bound manner.
  • The commission will concentrate on improving air quality during winter in particular, it has also been asked to suggest measures to mitigate pollution throughout the year.

What will the new commission replace?

  • Apart from consolidating all agencies that monitored, investigated, and planned mitigation of air pollution in the region, the commission has replaced the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) which had been running for 22 years.
  • Over the years, the EPCA’s powers had been waning. While dissolving the body, the Centre felt that the EPCA had become redundant and had been ineffective in addressing issues related to air pollution. The EPCA also did not have penal provisions that the commission will now have.

Issue raised by Parliamentarians:

  • The protests against a section of the Bill that proposes penalization for stubble burning had started during the farmers’ protests when unions had raised their voices against it.
  • The Centre had conceded to their demands by decriminalizing stubble burning for farmers, or any other means of polluting. These offenses earlier had a penal provision of imprisonment of upto 5 years and a fine of Rs 1 crore, the stiffest penalty that the Ministry has issued on air pollution offenses so far.
  • While the penalty still exists for other sectors and individuals, imprisonment is no longer imposed on the farming community.
  • However, while Clause 14 of the Act says that “the provisions of this section shall not apply to any farmer for causing air pollution by stubble burning or mismanagement of agricultural residue”, the very next clause says that the commission “may impose and collect environmental compensation from farmers causing air pollution by stubble burning, at such rate and in such manner, as may be prescribed”.
  • Parliamentarians have opposed this move to collect environmental compensation from farmers and have demanded that the Ministry should reconsider this provision.

What are the powers of the commission?

  • The Commission is the most powerful air pollution monitoring body set up by the Centre to date. The rulings by the commission on air pollution will override anything contained in any other law.
  • The powers of the commission will also supersede that of any other body in matters of air pollution. Therefore, in cases where conflict may arise between orders or directions issued by the other state governments, state pollution control boards or even the Central Pollution Control Board, the orders of the commission will prevail.
  • The Commission will have the power to take measures, issue directions and entertain complaints “for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of air in the National Capital Region”.
  • It will also coordinate action taken by states on air pollution and will lay down parameters for air quality and emission or discharge of environmental pollutants.
  • It will also have powers to restrict industries in any area, carry out random inspections of any premises including factories and be able to close down an industry or cut its power and water supply in case of non-compliance.
  • It will also be monitoring the measures taken by the states to prevent stubble burning.

Composition of the commission:

  • Headed by a full-time chairperson with experience of not less than 15 years in the field of environmental protection and pollution control or having administrative experience of not less than 25 years.
  • The members will also comprise of an official from the Environment Ministry, five ex-officio members who are either chief secretaries or secretaries from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, one full-time member who is or has been a joint secretary, three full-time independent technical members who are experts in air pollution, one technical member each from the Central Pollution Control Board and Indian Space Research Organisation, three members from non-governmental organisations who deal in air pollution and one representative of the National Institution for Transforming India.
  • The commission will also have three members, being stakeholders from sectors such as agriculture, industry, transport or construction apart from representatives of several ministries, including Road Transport and Highways, Power, Housing and Urban Affairs, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Commerce and Industry. There will also be representatives of any association from the commerce or industry sector.
  • The commission will have at least three sub-committees —monitoring and identification, safeguarding and enforcement, and research and development.

 

RBI Monetary Policy 2021

Context:

  • The 6-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) panel of RBI, headed by RBI Governor, voted in favour keeping key policy rates unchanged.

About:

  • Repo rate (RBI’s lending rate to banks) has been kept unchanged at 4% under the Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF). Repo rate has been kept unchanged for the seventh time in a row.
  • Reverse repo rate (RBI’s borrowing rate from banks) at 3.35%,
  • Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 4.25%.
  • The panel has raised the inflation target for fiscal year 2021-22 to 5.7% from 5.1% projected earlier (This target is below the RBI’s upper band of inflation target of 6%).
  • Inflation may remain close to the upper tolerance band up to Q2 of 2021-22, but these pressures should ebb in Q3 of 2021-22 on account of kharif harvest arrivals and as supply side measures take effect.
  • CPI inflation is now projected at 5.9% in Q2, 5.3% in Q3 and 5.8% in Q4 of 2021-22, with risks broadly balanced. Retail inflation for Q1 of 2022-23 is projected at 5.1%
  • Real GDP growth has been retained at 9.5% in 2021-22. This growth for Q1 of 2022-23 is projected at 17.2%.
  • Auctions – The RBI has decided to conduct fortnightly variable reverse repo rate (VRRR) auctions.
  • These auctions will absorb the surplus liquidity from the banking system that has pushed the overnight rates way below the RRR.
  • The RBI will continue with its overnight fixed-rate reverse repo auction.
  • It also proposes to conduct two more auctions of Rs 25,000 crore each under Government Security Acquisition Programme (G-SAP) 2.0.

Current Economic Situation:

  • Input prices are rising across manufacturing and services sectors and weak demand and efforts towards cost cutting are tempering the pass-through to output prices and core inflation.
  • This rise in price across manufacturing and services sectors is due to,
  1. Elevated prices of industrial raw materials,
  2. High pump prices of petrol and diesel, and
  3. Logistics costs.
  • Domestic economic activity has started normalising with the ebbing of the second wave of the virus and the phased reopening of the economy.
  • High-frequency indicators suggest that consumption (both private and Government), investment and external demand are all on the path of regaining traction.