GS Paper III  Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

China poses security threat in power sector: trade body

What’s Happening-

  • A bid by Chinese, state-owned companies to enter India’s power transmission sector has raised national security concerns in Indian power gear circles.
  • Local power gear makers’ lobby group, the Indian Electrical Equipment Manufacturers Association (IEEMA), has raised a red flag over the issue.
  • IEEMA has cautioned against the associated risks if Chinese firms are allowed to bid and operate transmission projects in India.

Key Points discussed were:

Huge contracts:

  • After entering the consumer goods and power generation equipment market in India, Chinese firms are now eyeing the nascent transmission sector where multi-billion-dollar contracts are up for grabs.
  • China Southern Power Grid International (HK Company Ltd.), a subsidiary of state-owned China Southern Power Grid Co Ltd., has partnered with CLP India Private Ltd. to build power transmission networks in India.
  • Several Chinese firms are gearing up to participate in bids invited by Central sector and State sector utilities for establishment, operation and maintenance of transmission lines for periods ranging from 25 to 35 years.
  • In bids called for the inter-state transmission system projects involving investments worth more than ₹3,000 crores, China Southern Power has submitted qualification documents to build, own and operate power transmission networks in India.
  • The consortium has submitted qualification documents for three projects for which bids were invited.
  • The projects are: transmission systems for an ultra-mega solar park in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, Eastern Region Strengthening Scheme (ERSS)-XXI and the New WR-NR Inter-Regional Corridor.

Potential risks:

  • According to IEEMA, electricity transmission is a critical infrastructure for the economy and has significant bearing on the national security.
  • The outage of one transmission element can have a cascading impact and can lead to a grid blackout situation, putting the military establishment, internal law and security and hospitals at a great risk.

Key Points discussed were:

Earlier Examples:

  • NSA Ajit Doval, seeking a ban on Chinese equipment in transmission, equating grid security to national security as hacked networks could bring down military establishments and hit railways, hospitals and operations in the oil sector.
  • Chinese companies and firms with Chinese links are barred from bidding for Indian ports and they are not allowed dredging contracts due to the sour political relations between the two countries.

Examples of ban in Foreign countries:

  • In 2016, citing national security concerns, the Australian government rejected competing bids from Hong Kong and mainland Chinese groups for control of a company that supplies electricity to Sydney and neighbouring areas. The bid was for a 50.4% controlling stake in Australian electricity distributor Ausgrid.
  • Further, in November 2016, a U.S. Commission, which provides non-binding recommendations to Congress, has accused Beijing of using its huge state-owned enterprises (SOEs) as tools to advance national security goals.

Sources- The Indian Express, The Hindu. Page 23

GS Paper III –  Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

A mass coral bleaching again

What’s Happening-
Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef is experiencing an unprecedented mass coral bleaching for the second consecutive year, scientists adding that the corals do not have enough time to fully recover from last year’s extreme heat event.

Key Points discussed were:

  • The bleaching is part of a global event affecting the world’s coral reefs over the past two years.

Survey Report:

  • The aerial survey of the Reef, the first for this year, found severe bleaching in offshore reefs from north of Ingham to the northern extent of the survey near Cairns.
  • This year more bleaching is being observed in this central part of the Reef, which last year escaped widespread severe bleaching.
  • The survey confirmed anecdotal reports from visitors and reef surveys of bleaching from marine park rangers and commercial operators.
  • Mass bleaching is occurring on the Great Barrier Reef for the second consecutive year.
  • Importantly, not all bleached coral will die. Last year bleaching and mortality can be highly variable across the 344,000-square kilometre Marine Park — an area bigger than Italy.
  • Many coral species appear to be more susceptible to bleaching after more than 12 months of sustained above-average ocean temperatures.

Conclusion:

  • This bleaching highlighted the importance of global action on climate change.
  • “It’s vital the world acts to implement the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,”.

Background-
Coral reefs are large underwater structures composed of the skeletons of coral, which are marine invertebrate animals.
The coral species that build coral reefs are known as hermatypic or “hard” corals because they extract calcium carbonate from seawater to create a hard, durable exoskeleton that protects their soft, sac-like bodies.
Each individual coral is referred to as a polyp.
New coral polyps live on the calcium carbonate exoskeletons of their ancestors, adding their own exoskeleton to the existing coral structure.
As the centuries pass, the coral reef slowly grows, one tiny exoskeleton at a time, until they become massive features of the submarine environment.
The biggest coral reefs are found in the clear, shallow ocean waters of the tropics and subtropics where they grow quickly.
The largest of these coral reef systems — the  of Australia.

GS Paper II – International Relations.

India to lose presence on U.N. scientific panel

What’s Happening-

  • Even as India strenuously lobbies for seats in global high tables such as the United Nations Security Council and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, it will for the first time in two decades not have a member in a prestigious, U.N. scientific body that decides what portions of the seabed can be exclusively mined for natural resources such as oil, precious metals and minerals.

Key Points discussed were:

  • India’s current member to the 21-person body, called Commission on Legal Continental Shelf (CLCS) and part of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), told that he was “anguished” by India’s decision not to field a candidate for the upcoming election.
  • According to officials of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), the date to send a nomination lapsed on March 7.
  • Multiple sources said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which formally nominates Indian candidates, chose to nominate a person to another U.N. body, called the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
  • The MoES is the nodal Ministry of the Government for the Law of the Sea-related issues. However, the MEA nominated a retired Joint Secretary-level officer for ITLOS membership.
  • The CLCS has a five-year tenure and elections are due in June for the 2017-2022 term. Not having an Indian in this 21-member group would mean that China and Pakistan would likely “grab” two of the five seats allotted to the so-called Asia-Pacific group.
  • India’s current member of the CLCS, for the 2012-2017-term ending in June.
  • In CLCS, the sitting members from the Asia-Pacific region are China, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Malaysia and India, and all countries, except India, are learnt to be sending candidates for both posts.
  • While ITLOS is a judge position and the appointee are paid annual wages, there is no remuneration for the sitting CLCS member.

Background-

  • India became a signatory to the UNCLOS in 1982 and has had continuous representation in CLCS, ITLOS and the International Seabed Authority (ISA) since their inception in 1997, 1996 and 1994 respectively.

Why India need Membership:

  • A membership of the commission allows India to gauge the scientific strength of claims by countries to parts of the seabed that, like territorial waters, are often hard to demarcate. Such information is privy only to participants.
  • India has had disputes with several neighbours — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka — over how the continental shelf (the seabed under the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal) can be fairly distributed.
  • India has huge interest in CLCS and applied for extending the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) up to 350 nautical miles from the existing 200 nautical miles.
  • India’s submission to CLCS will likely come up for scrutiny and Sri Lanka, which has claimed a larger area than India, will be examined first. India’s application number is 48, while Sri Lanka’s is 43.