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1.Mountains of garbage (The Hindu)

2.A case for universal medical care (The Hindu)

3.Development must be climate-smart (The Hindu)

 

1.Mountains of garbage (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of waste management problem in India. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • With rapid urbanisation India is facing massive waste management challenge. Over 377 million urban people live in 7,935 towns and cities and generate 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per annum. Solid Waste Management (SWM) is one among the basic essential services provided by municipal authorities in the country to keep urban centres clean. However, almost all municipal authorities deposit solid waste at a dump yard within or outside the city haphazardly.
  • Recently a landfill in Delhi collapsed due to recent heavy rain, this collapse of a great wall of garbage sweeping people and vehicles into a nearby canal, is a stark reminder that India’s neglected waste management crisis can have deadly consequences.

Case of negligence

  • It has been a year to the notification of the much-delayed Solid Waste Management Rules but cities and towns are in no position to comply with its stipulations, beginning with the segregation of different kinds of waste at source and their scientific processing.
  • The key to efficient waste management is to ensure proper segregation of waste at source and to ensure that the waste goes through different streams of recycling and resource recovery. Then reduced final residue is then deposited scientifically in sanitary landfills. Sanitary landfills are the ultimate means of disposal for unutilised municipal solid waste from waste processing facilities and other types of inorganic waste that cannot be reused or recycled.
  • Neither urban local government is treating the 62 million tonnes of waste generated annually in the country as a potential resource. They have left the task of value extraction mostly to the informal system of garbage collectors and recyclers.
  • It is important that the municipal bodies put in place an integrated system to transport and process what has been segregated at source. There is absence of stakeholders at the local body level; recoverable resources embedded in discarded materials are lost due to dumping. Organic refuse, which forms about 50% of all garbage, readily lends itself to the generation of compost or production of methane for household use or power generation.
  • The Swachh Bharat programme of the Centre has focused narrowly on individual action to keep streets clean, without concurrent pressure on State and municipal authorities to move closer to scientific management by the deadline of April 2018 set for most places, and arrest the spread of pollution from trash.
  • We can learn from other countries such as Rwanda and Kenya, they have introduced stiff penalties for the use of flimsy plastic bags while India is doing little to prevent them from drifting into suburban garbage mountains, rivers, lakes and the sea, and being ingested by cattle feeding on dumped refuse. A new paradigm is needed, in which bulk waste generators take the lead and city managers show demonstrable change in the way it is processed.

Way ahead

  • It requires behaviour modification among citizens and institutions to improving on the national record of collecting only 80% of waste generated and being able to process just 28% of that quantum.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board should put out periodic assessments of the preparedness of urban local bodies in the run-up to the deadline. Without a rigorous approach, the national problem of merely shifting city trash to the suburbs, out of sight of those who generate it, will fester and choke the landscape. 

Question– India’s rapid economic growth has resulted in a substantial increase in solid waste generation in urban centres. Critically analyse. Also mention the measures for effectively management of the waste.

2.A case for universal medical care (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the medical education system in India. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • The purpose of medical education is to train medical personnel to handle the medical care needs of the country. The piecemeal approach to the problem of providing medical care in India, treating medical education as though it can be separated from medical employment, is responsible for the continuing crisis in medical services and admissions to medical colleges.
  • It is a very sad state of affairs that the present medical colleges in India fail to provide the much needed healthcare for its 1.2 billion strong population. There is skewed distribution of medical personnel with over 75% of doctors in urban areas where only a third of the people live. A large number of post-graduate doctors and super specialists are underemployed. The problem starts right at the stage of medical admission.

Medical education in India

  • In India the system of evaluating doctors is that if anyone who is able to memorise a large amount of information can become a doctor. The fundamental exam pattern has remained the same-banking on rote learning techniques, while the humanitarian criterion is not taken into account.
  • Right from the Bhore Committee (1946) to the Mudaliar Committee (1962) and the Shrivastav Committee (1975) to the Bajaj Committee (1986) and including the High Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage (2011), the question of what type of medical personnel the country should train has been examined.
  • All these committees are unanimous in their opinion that the country needs a large number of basic doctors. It is not sufficient to state what type of doctors should be trained. It is necessary also to define where they will be employed and who will pay the bills.
  • In short, medical education is the beginning of a process to produce a cadre of personnel who need to be deployed rationally to achieve the health goals of the country.
  • The private medical education is concession to powerful pressure groups who sought to circumvent the difficult entry barriers to medical education by buying their way. These colleges are filled with the children of doctors, bureaucrats, businessmen and others who seek the social recognition that a medical degree bestows. Anybody with money, irrespective of aptitude, gained entry to some of these colleges.
  • However some semblance of quality has been sought to be restored by the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET). The NEET is an entrance examination in India, for students who wish to study any graduate medical course, are conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). Unlike marks in the twelfth standard, which can be only obtained once, NEET offers a candidate the chance of another attempt.
  • With the NEET, Private Colleges can no longer admit whoever pays the highest even if the examination marks are very low. The rule of reservation is applied after the test scores are obtained.
  • If NEET were to be set as the sole means to get admission into a medical college, the multiple layers of medical exams will no longer exist. The purpose of any entrance exam is to screen the candidate’s basic education and to examine his or her suitability to undertake a particular professional course.
  • Also there is inequality among qualified doctors as the economically well-off can aspire to better jobs, training abroad and generally adopt metropolitan lifestyles and doctors from poorer backgrounds will need to struggle a lot more.

Way forward

  • The opposition to NEET is a smokescreen to hide the real truth, the abysmal level of medical care services and the continued exploitation of poor patients and the doctors who serve them. NEET will not just avoid multiple entrance tests; it will also reduce corruption in medical admissions and homogenize the entire process in the field.
  • Recently held district-wise analysis shows that, due to NEET, students from certain pockets in the State, including metros, have reaped greater benefits.

Question– Why there is controversy related to the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET)? Discuss along with the advantages and disadvantages of NEET.

3.Development must be climate-smart (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of unpredictable monsoon and need of understanding extreme events. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • There is growing evidence to suggest that climate change is making the monsoons more unpredictable and worsening the severity of events like floods and droughts, heavy rains this year from the southwest monsoon and accompanying floods have devastated people’s lives in parts of Mumbai, Chandigarh and Mount Abu (Rajasthan), all in the same period as Hurricane Harvey’s rampage through Houston.
  • According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Extreme Events, global warming leads to “changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration, and timing of extreme weather and climate events, and can result in unprecedented extreme weather and climate events”.

Understanding the extreme weather event

  • The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, showed that there has been a significant increase in the magnitude and frequency of extreme rainfall events along with a decrease in the number of moderate events over central India. These changes interacting with land-use patterns are contributing to floods and droughts simultaneously in several parts of the country.
  • There is urgent need to understand these events, to help policymakers, emergency responders and local communities to plan and prepare for them. Cities could be laid out to reduce flooding by following natural contours, drainage and tank systems.
  • Emergency responders should be well prepared to transport and care for people who may become stranded during disasters. Insurance companies might also be concerned about underwriting places that are at perpetual risk in the future.
  • Research that tries to understand the relationship between anthropogenic climate change and extreme events in particular locations is called “attribution”. Is an extreme event, such as torrential rainfall or record storm surges, part of a natural cycle of variability or due to human-induced climate change? To what extent do poor preparedness and ecologically insensitive land-use worsen the impacts?
  • For rainfall simulation, climate models cannot mimic or simulate extreme rainfall such as the kind Chennai experienced in 2015. According to a research paper the 494 mm rain in Chennai was a rare event, with less than a 0.2% chance of occurring in any given year. The Chennai flood of 2015 did not have a clear climate signature to show that it was due to warming of the earth.
  • On the other hand, with regard to Hurricane Harvey it was mentioned that the climate change made the impact much worse, because of higher sea surface temperatures and a blocking region of high pressure that kept the rain clouds over Houston for a long period.

Reasons for these events

  • For decades, urbanisation has ignored ecological principles associated with water bodies, vegetation, biodiversity and topography. These are not ‘environmental’ issues to be disregarded or attended to only after we have attained ‘growth’.
  • The actual patterns of flooding in Chennai, Mumbai and Houston were due to several human-induced activities such as rampant increase in built-up area across natural drainage channels, the diversion or damming of rivers upstream leading to sediment transport and siltation, coastal subsidence and other effects of development.
  • The spread of infrastructure such as roads, highways, buildings, and residential complexes, tiled or asphalt-covered land obstructs rainwater from percolating into the soil. Often there are further barriers that block movement of water and increase flooding.
  • In many parts of the world, construction in cities or in urbanising areas does not take into consideration the existing topography, surface water bodies, stream flows or other parts of terrestrial ecosystems.
  • In much of India, urban growth over the past few decades has blithely ignored the hydrology of the land. For example in Chennai, systematic intrusion into the marsh and other wetlands by housing complexes and commercial buildings, slums along rivers, and large-scale construction along the coast are just examples of the flagrant encroachment of the built environment that obstructs rivulets and absorption of rainwater into the earth.
  • When it rains heavily, exceeding the capacity of the soil to absorb it and regular stream flows are blocked from proceeding into the sea, these heavily built-up areas get inundated. Satellite images from 15 or more years back show the existence of hundreds of lakes and tanks, and several waterways within the city’s boundaries.

Need of the hour and way forward

  • As the frequency of extreme weather events increases around the world, losses in rich countries are higher in terms of GDP, but in terms of the number of people at risk, it is the poor countries that suffer the most. Development should be climate-smart with avoiding social and institutional challenges such as moral hazard. If investments are made in places where severe impacts are likely, the government will end up bailing out those engaging in such risky activities.

Question– Why there is need to shift our focus towards governance to tackle the unpredictable extreme weather events? Critically analyse.