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Here are the topics covered for 28 September 2023: MPs’ Code of Conduct, Swavlamban 2.0, Phosphorus Status in India, Rise in Ageing Population, AFSPA, Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary
Table of Content
- MPs’ Code of Conduct
- Swavlamban 2.0
- Phosphorus Status in India
- Rise in Ageing Population
Facts for Prelims
- Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary
MPs’ Code of Conduct
- Recently, the matter of the Code of Conduct has been under consideration by the Committee on Ethics. The Committee on Ethics has in fact been considering the matter for more than eight years.
- In 2014, the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee submitted its report on proposed amendments to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha to the Speaker.
- The committee’s recommendations were included in the report of the Rules Committee of Lok Sabha.
- The report said the Ethics Committee shall “formulate a Code of Conduct for Members and suggest amendments or additions to the Code of Conduct from time to time”.
- After the Ethics Committee’s report is tabled in the House, it is taken up for discussion. Once approved by the House, it goes to the Rules Committee, which drafts Rules based on the recommendation.
- The adoption of a code for Union ministers in 1964 was an important step in establishing ethical guidelines for government officials in India, state governments were advised to adopt similar codes.
- The existence of a “Register of Member’s Interests” under the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) is an important measure for transparency and accountability in the Indian parliamentary system. This register likely contains details about the financial interests, business affiliations, and other relevant interests of Members of the Rajya Sabha.
- This register is accessible to Members for inspection upon request, and also available to ordinary citizens under the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005
- The Indian Navy will release its updated indigenisation roadmap, named Swavlamban 2.0.
- The Navy surpassed its target set last year to develop 75 futuristic technologies in partnership with domestic Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) and startups.
- Last year, the Indian Navy had committed to develop at least 75 technologies as part of the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.
- Primarily through the SPRINT initiative(Supporting Pole-Vaulting in R&D through Innovation for Defence Excellence), the Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO) and the Technology Development Acceleration Cell.
- The Swavlamban roadmap aims to collaborate, coordinate, and develop new technologies in partnership.
- The role of the Indian Navy is continuously increasing and therefore its self-reliance is of critical importance.
- Innovation is critical and it has to be indigenous. Imported goods can’t be a source of innovation.
The ‘SPRINT Challenges’, are aimed at giving a boost to the usage of indigenous technology in the Indian Navy, and the Navy is committed to developing at least 75 technologies/ products as part of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’.
SPRINT is a collaborative initiative being undertaken in conjunction with the Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) and stands for Supporting Pole-Vaulting in R&D through Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX), NIIO and Technology Development Acceleration Cell (TDAC).
Niche technologies are being progressed across the spectrum, including blue-green lasers for underwater applications; Autonomous weaponised swarms and Underwater swarm drones; multiple firefighting aids; introduction of Artificial Intelligence (Al) for various uses and the development of an ultra-endurance small drone for maritime missions.
Phosphorus Status in India
- India is running out of phosphorus. Does the solution lie in our sewage?
- Phosphorus is an essential ingredient in fertilisers as well as a major pollutant.
- Indigenous communities around the world developed methods of fertilisation, for example, using fish remnants and bird droppings (guano) as fertilisers.
- The 19th century, saw significant advancements in chemistry, leading to the creation of synthetic fertilisers as well as the identification of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
- The Green Revolution of the mid-20th century accelerated the adoption of high-yield crop varieties and intensive use of these fertilisers, and today these substances are crucial to sustain global food production.
- Phosphorus is scarce and exists only in limited quantities, in certain geological formations. Not only are we running out of it, but it also pollutes the environment. It doesn’t exist as a gas, which means it can only move from land to water, where it leads to algal blooms and eutrophication.
Geopolitics and the Phosphorus Game
- A handful of countries control most of the world’s reserves of phosphorus. The world’s largest reserves are in Morocco and the Western Sahara region. But here, phosphorus coexists with cadmium, a heavy metal that can accumulate in animal and human kidneys when ingested. Removing cadmium is an expensive process.
- Cadmium-laden fertilisers are often applied to the soil, absorbed by crops, and consumed, bioaccumulating in our bodies. Studies have found that this accelerates heart disease.
- Only six countries have substantial cadmium-free phosphorous reserves. Of them, China restricted exports in 2020 and many EU countries no longer buy from Russia. So the market for safe phosphorus has suddenly exploded.
- India is the world’s largest importer of phosphorus, most of it from the cadmium-laden deposits of West Africa.
- Not all crops absorb cadmium at the same rate, but paddy, a staple crop in India, is particularly susceptible; Indian farmers also apply a lot of fertilisers to paddy. Other grains, such as wheat, barley, and maize also absorb cadmium, just less.
(The uptake of cadmium by crops varies based on soil quality, climatic conditions, and the type and variety of crops grown. Social and cultural factors further affect the intake of cadmium into human bodies and the severity of health effects.)
If we don’t remove cadmium from the phosphorus, we may face a public health crisis; if we do, fertilisers will become more expensive.
The phosphorus disposal problem
- Only about a fifth of the phosphorus mined is actually consumed through food. Much of it is lost directly to water bodies as agricultural run-off, due to the excessive application of fertilisers.
- Most of the phosphorus that people consume ends up in the sewage. Most sewage in India is still not treated or treated only up to the secondary level. So even if the organic matter is digested, the effluent discharged from STPs still contains nitrates and phosphates. Of these, nitrates can be digested by denitrifying bacteria and released safely as nitrogen gas into the atmosphere, while phosphorus remains trapped in the sediments and water column.
- It is then absorbed by the algal blooms that grow in response to the high nutrient supply, and when they decompose, the bacteria that feed on them consume the dissolved oxygen. Making water bodies oxygen-starved, leading to fish deaths. The algal blooms are toxic, causing respiratory issues, nausea, and other ailments to people exposed to them.
Finding phosphorus elsewhere
- To address phosphorus scarcity, precision agriculture and low-input agroecological methods offer promising alternatives to reduce reliance on chemical fertilizers. These approaches, when implemented correctly, can maintain yields, making them particularly valuable for smallholder farmers with limited resources for chemical inputs.
- There’s a growing focus on recycling phosphorus from urban sewage for high-grade production. The concept of ‘circular water economies’ has spurred the European Union, which lacks significant phosphorus reserves, to reevaluate urban water management.
- Source-separating toilets separate urine (rich in phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium) from faeces. By collecting and processing this concentrated waste, we can create a local fertilizer source. To mainstream this, buildings and homes would need a collection and storage system, supported by a central logistics process.
- Wastewater and sludge recycling is already practised in India. For instance, the KC Valley-Kolar project transports nutrient-rich wastewater from Bengaluru to water-scarce areas in Kolar. However, there’s concern that nutrient levels might be excessive and harm the soil. Additionally, transporting sludge from Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) is expensive for farmers. While they’re willing to cover transport costs, they can’t afford to buy the sludge from STPs. This limits the profitability of sewage treatment.
- Companies like EasyMining in Europe are retrofitting STPs to recover nutrients from sewage. The end product looks exactly like conventional fertiliser and is in fact of higher quality and marketable at a comparable cost.
- Mining phosphorus from sewage allows countries to control their own phosphorus production while also addressing the problem of water-body eutrophication.
Trouble with the incentives
- The viability of these technologies is hindered by misaligned incentives in the phosphorus value chain.
- In rural India, influential farmers, often also fertilizer dealers, encourage excessive fertilizer use. This issue requires better extension services and awareness campaigns.
- In urban areas, historical stigmatization of sewage work affects regulations, often focusing on discharge standards. Dilution as a solution leads to nutrient pollution.
- Even with tightened regulations, wastewater treatment remains a cost, not a revenue, for cities. This discourages investment until fines are imposed by authorities.
Creating a Circular Water Economy
- By incentivizing STPs with phosphorus mining plants and enabling fertilizer sales, we can bring about substantial change.
- This necessitates innovators to reduce sewage mining costs, regulators to permit urban-mined phosphorus use in agriculture, and STPs to be compensated based on nutrient recovery, not discharge standards.
- These changes, though complex, can address multiple issues: reducing geopolitical dependency, providing affordable fertilizers for farmers, improving water body quality, and enhancing public health through cadmium-free soil.
Rise in India’s ageing population
- Recently a report was published by UNFPA on India’s ageing.
- As per the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report, India’s ageing population is going to increase by up to 20% by the year 2050 which is currently 7%.
- This demographic shift is primarily a result of improved healthcare, advancements in medical technology, better living conditions, and declining fertility rates.
- As per the report, 40% of the elderly are in the poorest condition and around 18.7% of them are living without an income.
- This will pose a big challenge in limited availability of productive jobs, poor labour force participation and exacerbate the issues of inequality and poverty in the society.
- Such a population is very helpful in attracting business and innovation and increasing investments.
- With this growing population India can claim leadership roles at the global level and can be a permanent member of UNSC.
Major challenges facing India’s ageing population
- Feminisation and ruralisation of this older population.
- Poverty is inherently gendered in old age when older women are more likely to be widowed, living alone, with no income and with fewer assets of their own, and fully dependent on family for support.
- There is a significant inter-State variation in absolute levels and growth and hence, share of the elderly population as well, reflecting the different stages and pace of demographic transition across States.
Facts for Prelims
AFSPA stands for the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. It is a law that grants special powers to the armed forces in designated “disturbed areas.” The act was first passed in 1958 to help the armed forces deal with internal security challenges, particularly in regions affected by insurgency, terrorism, and militancy.
Key provisions of AFSPA typically include:
- Arrest without Warrant: Under AFSPA, any officer of the armed forces or a non-commissioned officer, if he/she considers it necessary, can arrest a person without a warrant.
- Search and Seizure: The armed forces have the authority to search premises without a warrant and can seize any property that may be considered evidence of an offence.
- Shoot to Kill: The act provides immunity to armed forces personnel for any actions taken in “good faith,” which includes the use of force, including lethal force, against persons acting in contravention of any law or order.
- Legal Protection: No prosecution, suit, or legal proceeding can be initiated against anyone acting under the provisions of AFSPA without the prior sanction of the Central Government.
- Designated “Disturbed Areas”: AFSPA is applicable only in regions or states that are declared “disturbed areas” either by the central or state government.
The act has been the subject of considerable debate and controversy. As it grants excessive powers to the armed forces and has been associated with allegations of human rights abuses. The act can lead to situations where security personnel operate with a lack of accountability.
Over the years, there have been calls for the repeal or amendment of AFSPA, with some advocating for a more balanced approach that takes into account both security concerns and human rights considerations. The act remains a contentious issue in Indian politics and continues to be a topic of discussion and debate.
Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary
- After the Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR) in West Champaran district, Bihar is set to get a second tiger reserve in Kaimur district (Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary) by early 2024. The total tiger count in the State currently is 54.
- The Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in the Kaimur plateau region, which is an extension of the Vindhya mountain range. It spans an area of approximately 1,345 square kilometres.
- The sanctuary is known for its diverse flora and fauna. It is home to a variety of wildlife species including deer, leopard, hyena, wild boar, and various species of birds and reptiles.
- The sanctuary is characterized by its rugged and hilly terrain, which is interspersed with deep gorges and dense forests.
- The plain area on the western side of the Kaimur plateau is flanked by the rivers Karmnasa and Durgavati.