1.Mid-year economic concerns (The Hindu, The Business Today) 

2.CWG legacy project on air quality (Down to Earth)

1.Mid-year economic concerns (The Hindu, The Business Today) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the highlights of the volume II of Economic Survey. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Recently the Chief Economic Adviser has presented the second volume of the annual economic review-cum-prognosticatory report. The Survey report focuses on various aspects of the Indian economy and explains at length what the country’s economic conditions are and how it is expected to perform.
  • With the intervening period having provided a wealth of data points and policy developments, including the momentous roll-out of the Goods and Services Tax, there was a clear need to update and refresh outcomes and forecasts.

Volume II of Economic survey

  • While Volume I had projected the gross domestic product expansion in 2017-18 in a range of 6.75-7.5%, the Volume II had to take cognisance of several new factors that have contributed to his diagnosis: “that the balance of risks seem to have shifted to the downside” with a far lower likelihood of growth being “closer to the upper end”.
  • The survey highlights uncertain fiscal outlook for the current fiscal year and states that inflation is expected to remain below 4 per cent target until the end of the fiscal year.
  • It mentioned that the continuing appreciation of the rupee’s real exchange rate means exporters are increasingly going to find themselves struggling to compete on pricing against competitors from countries whose currencies have weakened against the dollar and the euro.
  • According to the CEA, there would be the increasing stress to balance sheets that companies in the power and telecom sectors have to contend with, and the deflationary bias to activity that such stress would impart.
  • The transitional challenges from the actual operation of the new indirect tax regime could feed into the mix of factors retarding momentum. Pointing to other factors including the farm loan waivers and agricultural stress that pose risks to the growth outlook. The predominance of small operational holdings is a major limitation to reap the benefits of economies of scale in agriculture operations.
  • The progress in agriculture needs to be evaluated in terms of outcomes such as catching up with global yields of various crops as a means to increase incomes of farmers. Credit is an important mediating input for agriculture to improve productivity. The predominance of informal sources of credit for farmers is a concern. There is regional disparity in the distribution of agricultural credit which also needs to be addressed.
  • The key challenge that the horticulture sector faces in India are post-harvest losses, availability of quality planting material and lack of market access for horticultural produce of small farmers.
  • The Survey notes that the oil market is very different today than a few years ago in a way that imparts a downward bias to oil prices or at least has capped the upside risks to oil prices. Also, farm loan waivers could reduce aggregate demand by as much as 0.7 percent of GDP, imparting a significant deflationary shock to an economy.
  • There is spurt in New Tax Payers and Reported Income Post-Demonetization. Demonetization’s impact on the informal economy increased demand for social insurance, particularly in less developed states.
  • Survey mentioned that the government and the RBI have taken “prominent steps” to address the twin balance sheet challenge which has boosted market confidence in the short run. Also, the removal of check posts and easing of transport constraints after Goods and Service Tax (GST) implementation can provide some short-term fillip to economic activity. 

Question– What is the current state of Indian economy with regard to fiscal health? What corrective action is needed in this regard?

2.CWG legacy project on air quality (Down to Earth) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the legacy of SAFAR which was initiated during CWG. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • The Commonwealth Games (CWG) which India hosted in 2010 may have been forgotten for various reasons but one of its legacy projects is thriving and helping citizens with air quality information.

SAFAR 

  • The project known as “System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research” or SAFAR-India, initiated by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, provides location specific information on air quality in near real-time and forecasts up to three days.
  • It was introduced in the national capital during the games, and later o in Mumbai and Pune. The service will also be launched in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar recently.
  • The system has been developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune along with India Meteorological Department (IMD). It is being implemented in various cities in collaboration with local authorities.
  • The system synthesizes data on sources of air pollution, its transport over neighbouring states, modelling processes, its impact on public health, food, regional climate, to arrive on information products useful to government agencies as well as citizens. The information to citizens is available through a mobile application and from project website.

Impact of SAFAR

  • SAFAR will form a part of the city’s health risk awareness and communication plan. Information about air quality will be disseminated through a variety of communication modes to people so that they are better prepared.
  • The central aim of this project is to help people to create healthier communities, more secure from the adverse effect of air pollution. Through information and advisories provided under SAFAR, we can save air pollution related stress.
  • Each of the cities where the system is operational has a dense observational network of ten Air Quality Monitoring Stations and 30 Automatic Weather Stations which continuously monitor an array of ambient concentration pollutants, besides parameters like temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, rainfall and UV radiation.

Way ahead

  • To make the forecast accurate one need robust database of each and every air pollution source located in the city area and its geographical distribution over the region. This task has been achieved in each SAFAR city by developing high resolution emission inventories for various air pollutants.

Question– What are the implications of air monitoring projects such as SAFAR for the ecological health of air?