Daily Current Affairs
17 February 2021

1) ‘Sedition law can’t be used to quell disquiet: court

GS 2

Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

 

ABOUT:

  1. Delhi Court observed that Charges of seditioncannot be invoked to quieten the disquiet under the pretence of muzzling the miscreants.
  2. The youth was arrested for posting a fake video on Facebook about the Delhi police on the farmers’ agitation. It granted bail to a 21-year-old labourer.

 

WHAT IS SEDITION?

Sedition, which falls under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, is defined as any action that brings or attempts to bring hatred or contempt towards the government of India and has been illegal in India since 1870.

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF SEDITION LAW:

  1. Sedition laws were enacted in 17th century England when lawmakers believed that only good opinions of the government should survive, as bad opinions were detrimental to the government and monarchy.
  2. This sentiment (and law) was borrowed and inserted into the Section 124A of IPC in 1870, by the British.
  3. British used Sedition law to convict and sentence freedom fighters. It was first used to prosecute Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1897.

 

INVOCATION:

  1. Additional Sessions Judge remarked that in the absence of any exhortation, call, incitement or instigation to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence, the sedition law cannot be invoked against anyone.
  2. The law of sedition is a powerful tool in the hands of the State to maintain peace and order in society.
  3. However, it cannot be invoked to quieten the disquiet under the pretence of muzzling the miscreants.

 

Source- The Hindu

 

2) Leopard population tracking gets new approach

GS 3

Conservation

 

ABOUT:

  1. Wildlife specialists have for long faced challenges estimating the density of leopards in areas where some of the spotted cats are melanistic or black.
  2. Experts from three organisations, one of them Assam-based Aaranyak, have come up with a system that helps in properly estimating the leopard population in areas sustaining a mix of rosette and melanistic individuals.

 

Leopard Status:

  1. The Indian leopard is one of the big cats occurring on the Indian subcontinent, apart from the Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger, snow leopard and clouded leopard.
  2. Listed on a par with Tigers under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972.
  3. Listed in Appendix I of CITES.
  4. Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

 

ROSETTES:

  1. Rosettes are jagged black circular marks on the tawny coat of a leopard. Like the tiger’s stripes, the rosettes of each leopard are unique in shape and size, making the species identifiable individually.
  2. But melanistic leopards commonly called black leopards or black panthers or ghongs (Assamese) — have been difficult to estimate as their rosettes are invisible.
  3. The Spatial Mark-Resight (SMR) models applied by the scientists of Aaranyak, Panthera and World Wide Fund for Nature-India have provided a way of counting the melanistic leopards too. The new model has been written about in the Animal Conservation journal.
  4. U.S.-based Panthera is the only organisation in the world devoted exclusively to the conservation of the world’s 40 wild cat species and their ecosystems. Melanism has been documented in 14 of these species, including the leopard.
  5. When a population has only rosette leopard, estimating their population size becomes easy because all the individuals can be identified.
  6. Unlike rosette leopards, a black leopard can often not be reliably identified individually, although special cases exist.
  7. Therefore it is difficult to completely estimate population sizes of leopards, a metric that is very critical for their conservation.

 

‘ACUTE PROBLEM’:

  1. This problem is acute in the tropical and subtropical moist forests of South and Southeast Asia where the frequency of melanistic leopards is high and leopards also face the greatest threat.
  2. No precise estimates of leopard population could thus be done in protected areas and non-protected areas in India except on some occasions.
  3. Expert at the Aaranyak’s tiger research and conservation division, said the team used three years of camera trapping data between 2017 and 2019 obtained from Manas National Park to establish the SMR approach.
  4. The population density of leopards in Manas is 3.37 per 100 sq km. In the study, about 22.6% images of the leopards were of the melanistic kind.

 

MAJOR DEVELOPMENT’:

  1. In the SMR models, they borrow the capture history of the rosette leopards and apply the information on the melanistic leopards to estimate the entire population size of leopards.
  2. This is a significant analytical development that can help assess the population of leopards across a great part of the species range from where population estimates are scant.
  3. The SMR method is expected to make it easier to assess the population status of leopards for informed conservation measures by applying the conventional camera trapping field method.
  4. It can also be widely applied for other species that exhibit similar colour variation in nature.

 

Source- The Hindu

 

3) Sri Lanka considering India’s grant instead of China project

GS 2

Bilateral agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

 

ABOUT:

  1. In an apparent bid to displace a Chinese company that had won the contract to install renewable energy systems in three small islands off Jaffna Peninsula in northern Sri Lanka, India has offered a grant of $12 million to execute it, Colombo-based media reported.

 

HYBRID RENEWABLE ENERGY SYSTEMS:

  1. Sri Lanka’s Minister of Power has recently said that the government would consider India’s proposal, and that he would present a Cabinet paper on the matter soon.
  2. Newspaper reports quoted him as saying that receiving a grant “is an advantage” that would ease the burden on the Treasury, as opposed to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan, as per the original project proposal, that would have to be repaid.
  3. The development comes less than a month after the Cabinet cleared a project to install hybrid renewable energy systems in Nainativu, Delft or Neduntheevu, and Analaitivu, located in the Palk Bay, some 50 km off Tamil Nadu.
  4. The Cabinet decisions taken recently included a proposal to award the contract to Sinosoar-Etechwin Joint Venture in China, with funding from the ADB.

 

SECURITY THREATS’:

  1. Meanwhile, a group of northern Tamil political parties have voiced opposition to Chinese involvement in the project, citing “security threats” to Tamil people and India.
  2. Tamil people are not opposed to China but given that India has known security concerns in this regard, and also because the project is to come up very close to Tamil Nadu, we oppose Chinese involvement.
  3. The people of Tamil Nadu have been lending unconditional support to the Tamil cause, so their security, as well as that of India, is very important to us.
  4. It remains to be seen if India’s proposal gets official clearance, but India’s swift offer comes in the wake of being ejected — along with Japan — out of the East Container Terminal (ECT) development project at the Colombo Port, following another Cabinet decision taken recently this year.

 

Source- The Hindu

 

4) Massive coal use in Mumbai’s industrial clusters worsening city’s air quality: CSE study

GS 3

environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

 

ABOUT:

  1. Mumbai is gradually losing its coastal city trait of enjoying clean air through the year and the massive use of coal by its industries could be a major culprit, found a new study by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based non-profit.
  2. The factories in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) burn two million tonnes coal every year, the report released recently said.
  3. Out of the 13 industrial areas bordering Mumbai, CSE has done an in-depth assessment of four: Trans-Thane Creek (TTC), Taloja, Ambernath and Dombivali. They cover about 70 per cent of the industries operating in MMR.
  4. The study has analysed and estimated the air pollution load from various industrial sectors.
  5. An indicative ambient air quality monitoring for particulate matter was also conducted to calculate exposure of locals to the pollutants.

 

TTC a hotspot:

  1. TTC was the most polluting, contributing about 44 per cent of the total load from the studied areas. It was followed by Taloja Industrial Area with a contribution of about 26 per cent.
  2. CSE attributed the high pollution levels to rampant use of solid, dirty fuels like coal and agro-based fuels, and furnace oil.
  3. TTC has the highest consumption of coal- and agro-based fuels, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of the coal and 70 per cent of agro-residues consumed in the areas studied.
  4. Mumbai is a coastal region and so, is not expected to have very high levels of pollution. But with rapid industrial and infrastructural development, air quality of the region has started deteriorating.
  5. The city needs to wake up and take corrective actions, to avoid turning into a pollution pressure-cooker like Delhi.
  6. The chemical sector, which uses about 3.1 million tonnes of fuels every year, was found to be a major polluter. It contributed close 72 per cent of the total load in the region, the study said.
  7. Medium and small enterprises (MSME) were found to be bigger contributors to air pollution, observed the study. 
  8. Dombivali residents were the most exposed to pollution, as analysed by CSE’s indicative monitoring of particulate matter (PM). Poor road infrastructure and high, uncontrolled pollution from surrounding industries could be the reasons for the high PM content.
  9. Patalganga industrial area in Navi Mumbai (near Panvel) had the least exposure.

 

WAY AHEAD:

Against the backdrop of the challenges outlined for the industrial sector, CSE has developed a comprehensive action plan for the MMR.

  1. The shift in industries from conventional polluting fuel (coal, furnace oil, etc) to cleaner and non-polluting fuel (PNG, electricity) should be expedited.
  2. Policy to incentivise use of clean fuel introduced. Cleaner fuels like biomass and natural gas need to be less expensive. Removal of VAT on natural gas and inclusion of natural gas under GST would be positive steps
  3. Volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the ambient air should be continuously monitored in areas where chemical industries are predominant
  4. Air toxics emissions inventory and control plan should be developed Identify and monitor toxics and assess health risk through exposure modeling
  5. Sector-specific pollution assessment study for chemical industries should be developed
  6.  A unique strategy of cross-regional inspection as already devised and implemented by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) in Taloja can be replicated in other regions. Inspection of industries should be done by MPCB officers drawn from other regions.
  7. Mechanism for penalties for the MSME sector for not instaling and using air pollution control devices should be created
  8. Infrastructure should be well maintained and need assessments for development of roads and drainage lines conducted
  9. Subsidies for purchase of air pollution control devices (APCD), particularly for small- and medium-scale units should be provided
  10. The possibility of a common solvent recovery plant in chemical clusters and common steam generation units for industrial sectors cluster can be explored
  11. Non-attainment criteria for cities within which industries are located should be modified
  12. Policy-level intervention is needed for upcoming industrial areas to ensure presence of adequate buffer zones along the periphery of the industrial areas, so as to clearly demarcate the boundaries of residential and industrial areas.

 

Source- Down to Earth

 

5) Healthy rivers: How DNA tool can help keep tabs on freshwater quality

GS 3

environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

 

ABOUT:

  1. Canada is the country which is described as a water-rich nation, and it is, with seven per cent of the world’s renewable freshwater supply. However, freshwater sources are far from endless.
  2. Many of Canada’s 25 watersheds are under threat from pollution, habitat degradation, water overuse and invasive species.
  3. For example, more than half of Canada’s population lives within the Great Lakes watershed, Ottawa basin and St. Lawrence basin, which face multiple threats that degrade water quality and undermine the ability of freshwater ecosystems to keep functioning?

 

DATA DEFICIENCIES:

  1. Rivers are full of all kinds of small creatures that are highly sensitive to environmental threats.
  2. The worms fly larvae and snails — collectively called macroinvertebrates — that live in the sediment at the bottom of a river (the “benthos”) can serve as biological monitors for water quality.
  3. The presence of biological monitor species that are less tolerant of poor water quality is suggestive of a healthy river.
  4. But it can be challenging to sample and identify these macroinvertebrates. Even when there is some data on them, the quality of the data may not be good enough to determine the health of the watershed.
  5. To date, 64 per cent of sub-watersheds in Canada lack data on these species.
  6. Gathering data on these species is challenging: Many watersheds are remote and difficult to access, and the cost of flying to them limits the amount of data that can be collected.
  7. Experts partnered with local community groups to collect river samples so that we could understand river health by identifying macroinvertebrates from their DNA.

 

DNA PROFILING:

  1. DNA technologies have revolutionised the amount of data we can generate from a single river sample.
  2. For example, one technique called “environmental DNA metabarcoding,” or eDNA for short, involves taking samples of soil or water and searching for fragments of DNA specific to certain species.
  3. This method eliminates the time-consuming process of sorting individual samples and enables us to identify the different species present in a river system.
  4. Experts taught this technique to people involved in a community-based monitoring network called CABIN to create a new biomonitoring project: STREAM (Sequencing the Rivers for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring).
  5. Since 2019, STREAM scientists have trained more than 100 community members who have gone on to collect almost 1,000 samples across 10 watersheds.
  6. We’re close to our goal of 1,500 samples in 15 watersheds in Canada. Yet we’re already beginning to see how the STREAM project is filling in the blanks for freshwater health across Canada.

 

 

STREAM CASE STUDIES:

  1. Not only has the STREAM project provided data on the health of the Great Lakes and Ottawa River watersheds — and the threats to them — it has enabled communities to ask questions about their aquatic ecosystems.
  2. STREAM has been able to assess changes in macroinvertebrate communities after the completion of a wetland restoration project.
  3. Although this project is ongoing, early results show the wetlands already have a high variety of macroinvertebrates, with 178 species identified.
  4. A quarter of these species are indicators of good wetland health, meaning water quality in the area is likely improving.
  5. DNA results from 2019 indicated that the host sludge worms had not spread beyond the known whirling disease zone.
  6. STREAM provides a unique opportunity to bring benefits to both people and the environment.
  7. Through using DNA-based technology, it is possible to determine changes in water quality at local, sub-watershed and watershed levels.
  8. For continued monitoring of the Bow River for example, the rapid result turnaround provided by STREAM means any indications of sludge worm dispersion can be dealt with by closing angling access to the area to prevent potential spread.
  9. STREAM empowers local communities to lead freshwater research and equips people to address their own environmental questions — and it can easily be applied to other countries as a means to monitor freshwater systems.

 

Source- Down to Earth