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Here are the topics covered for 23rd October 2023:
GS-1: Indian himalayan region( IHR)
GS-2: Strengthening the Role of Parliamentary Committees
GS- 3: Amazon Rainforest facing a drought, Tea Industry
Facts for Prelims: VVPATs, Amazon rainforest
Indian Himalayan Region
- The Teesta dam breach in Sikkim, resulting in floods and landslides in Himachal Pradesh, has highlighted the adverse impact of India’s development model on the environment and ecology, particularly in the mountainous Indian Himalayan Region (IHR).
- The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) encompasses the entire Himalayan range within India, extending from the northwestern region in Jammu and Kashmir to the northeastern states bordering countries like Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet (China). It includes 11 states (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, all northeastern states, and West Bengal) and 2 Union Territories (Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh).
Key Issues in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR):
- Flaws in Graded Approach: The regulatory system in India does not provide special consideration to the ecological significance of the IHR, despite its susceptibility to extreme weather conditions, seismic activity, and climate change. Environmental standards for projects in this region lack differentiation.
- Implementation of EIA Stages: The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process does not adequately address the specific needs of the IHR, from project screening to appraisal, and does not include clauses accounting for the unique characteristics of mountainous areas.
- Lack of a National Level Regulator: The absence of a national-level regulator in the EIA process results in a bias towards project proponents, neglecting comprehensive consideration of cumulative impacts, especially in mountainous regions.
- Uniformity in EIA 2006 Notification: The EIA 2006 notification categorizes projects based on sectors but maintains uniform threshold limits across the country, disregarding the ecological importance and fragility of the IHR.
- Issues in Draft EIA 2020 Notification: The draft EIA 2020 notification, with its pro-industry perception and neglect of ecological concerns, raised concerns about the efficacy of the EIA process in promoting environmental governance and sustainable development.
Steps to Safeguard the Ecological Fragility of IHR:
- Differentiated Environmental Standards: Implement differentiated environmental standards that consider the region’s fragility and vulnerability, integrating them into the EIA process for stricter regulations and scrutiny of projects in the IHR.
- Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA): Incorporate Strategic Environmental Assessment to assess cumulative development impacts in the region, providing a comprehensive view of potential consequences.
- Local Community Involvement: Engage local communities in the decision-making process, as they possess a deep understanding of the region’s ecology and can contribute valuable insights for ecologically responsible projects.
- Ecosystem-Based Approaches: Prioritize ecosystem protection and restoration, recognizing the IHR’s role in maintaining ecological balance. Focus on preserving forests, rivers, and biodiversity.
- The fragile Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) demands a reevaluation of our approach to development and environmental management, emphasizing stringent regulations, community involvement, and ecosystem preservation.
- Transboundary collaboration, public awareness, and responsible tourism practices are essential.
- Safeguarding the IHR is not just crucial for the region but also for overall ecological balance. Proactive measures are imperative for its long-term ecological sustainability.
Strengthening the Role of Parliamentary Committees
- As a vibrant and diverse democracy, India’s Parliament plays a critical role in lawmaking, oversight of the executive, and shaping policies that impact the lives of millions. Parliamentary Committees serve as essential instruments to achieve these objectives effectively.
- In recent times, the functioning and effectiveness of Parliamentary Committees have been subjects of discussion and scrutiny.
Importance of Parliamentary Committees:
- Effective Oversight: Parliamentary Committees play a vital role in scrutinizing government work and enhancing the quality of proposed bills.
- Crucial for Parliament: The effective operation of Parliament hinges on the efficacy of these Committees.
- Informed Debates: Reports from Committees facilitate well-informed debates in Parliament.
- Consensus Building: Committees provide a platform for cross-party consensus, expertise development, and expert and stakeholder consultations.
Method of Committee Appointment:
- These committees are appointed, elected by the House, or nominated by the Speaker/Chairman.
- Members of most standing committees are elected annually through proportional representation.
- Ministers cannot be committee members.
- The committee chairperson is chosen from among its members by the Speaker.
Role of Parliamentary Committees:
- Facilitate In-Depth Analysis: Committees aid MPs in seeking expertise and scrutinizing issues thoroughly.
- Ensuring Party Representation: MPs from various parties participate, representing their parliamentary strength.
- Gathering Diverse Inputs: Committees consult external stakeholders, including the public, to review bills.
- Reducing Populist Posturing: Committee discussions are collaborative, less influenced by media, promoting constructive debate.
- Pressure on Government: Committee reports may not be binding but pressurize the government to reconsider contentious provisions.
Challenges and Areas of Improvement:
- Referring Bills to Committees: Ensure that all bills undergo minimum parliamentary scrutiny.
- Improve MP Attendance: Greater participation is crucial for effective Committee operation.
- Boost Technical Support: Committees require enhanced research and technical support.
- Public Transparency: Major Committee reports should be debated in Parliament.
- Sidelining Committees: The trend of referring fewer bills to Committees should be reversed.
- Follow the Sweden Model: Send all bills to Committees for thorough examination.
- Uphold Quality Governance: Strengthen Committees to maintain the quality of legislation and Parliament’s relevance in law-making.
Amazon Rainforest facing a drought
- The Amazon rainforest, often referred to as the “lungs of the earth,” is currently facing an unprecedented and severe drought. This environmental crisis is causing significant disruptions to the lives of Indigenous people, impacting the entire ecosystem.
Factors contributing to the drought:
- El Niño phenomenon: El Niño is a weather pattern that causes abnormally warm temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. This can lead to decreased rainfall in the Amazon region.
- High water temperatures in the northern tropical Atlantic Ocean: Warm water temperatures in the Atlantic can also lead to reduced rainfall in the Amazon.
- Anthropogenic climate change: Climate change is making droughts more frequent and severe around the world, including in the Amazon.
- Deforestation: Deforestation reduces the rainforest’s ability to regulate the climate and retain moisture.
- Mining activity: Unregulated mining activity can damage the rainforest and disrupt water flows.
- Hydroelectric dams: Hydroelectric dams can alter natural river flows and affect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
- Transportation infrastructure: The construction of roads and highways can fragment the rainforest and increase deforestation.
- Impact on the Water Cycle: Collectively, these factors disrupt the Amazon’s water cycle, reducing water volume in rivers, prolonging droughts, and negatively affecting aquatic life, habitats, and local communities dependent on these water resources.
Impacts of the Amazon Rainforest Drought:
- Low River Levels: Water levels in key rivers like the Rio Negro have plummeted, leaving remote communities stranded and with limited access to essentials like food, clean water, and medicine.
- Health Challenges: Outbreaks of diseases due to contaminated water sources have been reported in affected communities, including diarrhoea and skin infections.
- Biodiversity Impact: Wildlife and fish populations have suffered, leading to deaths and habitat loss. Even iconic species like the Amazon river dolphin are not spared.
- Forest Fires: The drought has increased the risk of forest fires, contributing to record deforestation, high carbon emissions, and poor air quality.
- The Amazon rainforest drought is a wake-up call. It is a reminder of the fragility of our planet and the urgency of addressing climate change. We must take immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the Amazon rainforest.
- It is important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This can be done by transitioning to clean energy sources, improving energy efficiency, and reducing deforestation.
- Protecting the Amazon rainforest by strengthening environmental laws, combating illegal logging and mining, and supporting sustainable development initiatives.
- Help communities that are affected by the drought. This includes providing them with access to food, water, and healthcare.
- India is striving to enhance its tea industry, aiming to boost production, create a distinct global tea brand, and ensure the well-being of those associated with the sector.
About the Indian Tea Industry:
- India is the second-largest global tea producer, specifically the largest producer of black tea following China. It’s also the fourth-largest tea exporter.
- The nation is the world’s most significant consumer of black tea, accounting for 18% of global tea consumption.
- Key tea-growing regions include Northeast India (including Assam), northern Bengal (Darjeeling and Dooars), and the Nilgiris in southern India.
- Optimal tea cultivation conditions include tropical to subtropical climates, cool to warm temperatures (15-23°C), and 150-200 cm of annual rainfall.
- In 2020, India consumed nearly 10 million tons of tea.
- The market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 4.2% in the 2022-2027 period, with expectations of reaching 1.40 million tons in 2026.
The Tea Board of India:
- Established in 1903 under the Indian Tea Cess Bill and reconstituted every three years.
- Operates as a statutory body under the Ministry of Commerce with 31 members.
- Represents various stakeholders, including MPs, tea producers, traders, and unions, and is headquartered in Kolkata.
- Historically had offices in Cairo and Kuwait, which were relocated to Dubai.
Challenges in the Indian Tea Sector:
- Global Competition and Quality Standards: Increased competition from countries like Kenya, demand for organic tea, and quality assurance challenges.
- Productivity and Quality Decline: Aging tea bushes, erratic rainfall, and climate change impact productivity and quality, leading to lower prices.
- Poor Worker Conditions: Despite regulations, workers often face low wages and unsanitary living conditions.
- Small Tea Growers: Face challenges in pricing, marketing, and recognition, compounded by landownership regulations and limited data.
- One District, One Product Program: Promote Indian tea’s uniqueness.
- Improve the “AROMA” of tea for profitability and sustainability.
- Support small farmers to meet domestic and global demand, enhance quality, and sustainability.
- Develop export infrastructure, targeting high-value markets like the EU, Canada, South America, and the Middle East.
- Promote GI and organic tea using brand marketing.
- Modernization and Adaptability: Strengthen local supply networks, address climate change challenges.
- India, as a leading tea producer, possesses substantial opportunities for industry development. A sustainable, transparent model is vital to empower the labor-intensive tea sector and ensure its continued success.
Fact for Prelims:
- VVPAT stands for Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail, an independent verification printer attached to Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
- It allows voters to confirm their vote’s accuracy by printing a slip displaying their chosen party’s name and symbol for about 7 seconds.
- Introduced in India during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to enhance transparency and eliminate doubts about EVM accuracy.
- Accessible only to polling officers, and EVMs and VVPATs are not network-connected, ensuring data security.
Challenges with VVPAT Machines:
- Technical Malfunctions: Concerns about potential machine malfunctions leading to inaccurate or absent paper printing.
- Verification of Paper Trails: Difficulty in ensuring the accuracy of paper records in cases of discrepancies between electronic and paper records.
- Voter Confidence: Reports of defective VVPAT machines have raised doubts about the fairness and accuracy of elections, impacting public trust. The Supreme Court in the case of Dr. Subramanian Swamy v ECI (2013) emphasized VVPAT as essential for free and fair elections.
- The Amazon Rainforest covers a vast area, extending across the Amazon River basin and its tributaries in northern South America.
- Encompassing approximately 6,000,000 square kilometers, it is the world’s largest tropical rainforest.
- The Amazon Basin hosts the world’s largest rainforest, accounting for over 50% of all the Earth’s rainforests.
- This expansive region spans multiple countries, primarily Brazil, making up around 40% of Brazil’s total land area.
- It also stretches into parts of Peru, Guyana, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Suriname, French Guiana, and Venezuela.
- The Amazon River Basin is defined by natural features:
- Bounded by the Guiana Highlands to the north.
- Flanked by the Andes Mountains to the west.
- Separated from the Brazilian Central Plateau to the south.
- Meets the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
- Tropical Rainforests have a closed canopy and are typically found within 28 degrees north or south of the equator.
- They are characterized by high humidity and receive over 200 centimeters of annual rainfall, either seasonally or throughout the year.
- Temperatures in the region remain consistently warm, ranging between 20°C and 35°C.