Ramallah recall

(The Hindu)

Woods and trees

(The Hindu and Live Mint)

How to handle Big Data

(The Hindu)

Ramallah recall

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of recent visit of Prime Minister which signals India’s strategy to grow ties with Israel and Palestine separately.

(GS paper II)

Overview

  • India’s Prime Minister was on three-nation tour of West Asia and the Gulf. In the first leg, he held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  The visit to Palestine underlines the delicate balance New Delhi has adopted in this long-standing and seemingly intractable conflict. India, which has been a champion of the Palestinian people’s national aspirations, has built strong ties with Israel in recent years.

Assessment

  • In the Ramallah, the Palestinian National Authority’s administrative headquarters, India’s support for the Palestinian cause was reiterated. As India’s PM mentioned that “it is hopes that Palestine soon becomes a sovereign and independent country in a peaceful atmosphere”.

  • Traditionally, India has supported the creation of an independent Palestine within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. According to this line, Israel would have to withdraw from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and either pull out the Jewish settlements or do a land-swap with the Palestinians as part of a final agreement.

  • Even after President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States administration would begin a process of moving the country’s embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, India maintained its historic independent stance on the issue. 

  • Both sides also signed a number of agreements for India-funded projects in the West Bank. India’s policy objective is clear and rooted in political realism. It wants to maintain the balance in its relationship with both Palestine and Israel, and strengthen bilateral ties with each separately.

  • This balance is vital for India, for which Israel is a source of defence equipment and agricultural technology. But Israel also faces political isolation internationally over its occupation of the Palestinian territories and does not have diplomatic ties with most countries in West Asia. As reflected in the UNGA vote, international public opinion is overwhelmingly against the occupation.

  • India, which has vital interests in the Gulf and enjoys good ties with the region’s Muslim countries, cannot afford to be seen to be politically closer to Israel at the expense of ties with Palestinians.  The Prime Minister’s visit to Palestine took place against the backdrop of India’s deepening ties with Israel.

  • With the Ramallah visit, the message is send out is that India’s partnership with Israel is not at the expense of its principled support for the Palestinian cause. Still, changing nuances in India’s position were on display during the visit.

  • India boasts that it assists Palestine in training, technology, infrastructure development and budgetary support plus a tech park in Ramallah. The sum total of this aid is too meagre to add up to reckonable political capital.

Way ahead

  • Prime Minister’s outreach to the Palestinian people reaffirms that the Indian government wants to continue its historic engagement with the Palestinian cause. India and Palestine have had trying times despite a long-standing friendship.

  • Now, it must be tried that when Palestine is working to establish an international multilateral mechanism of negotiations, India’s outreach to Palestine can go a long way to achieve the peace process. It is high time that the Indian government strengthens its historical ties with the Palestinian leadership in conjunction with its long-standing role as peacemaker in the region’s conflicts

Question- State the reasons why India’s need to maintain balance between Israel and Palestine.

 

Woods and trees

(The Hindu and Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of India State of Forest Report 2017.

(GS paper III)

Overview

  • The Environment Ministry’s ‘India State of Forest Report 2017’ based on satellite imagery, though present a net positive balance in the form of 24.4% of India’s land area under some form of forest or tree cover, but this is a broad-brush assessment.

  • In a worrying trend, the report shows that forests in most of the biodiversity-rich north-eastern part of the country have been contracting continuously over the last few years.

About the State of Forest Report 2017

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has recently released India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017.

  • Forest Survey of India (FSI), a Government of India Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change organisation for conducting forest surveys, studies and research to periodically monitor the changing situation of land and forest resources and present the data for national planning, conservation and sustainable management of environmental protection as well for the implementation of social forestry projects.

  • FSI assesses forest cover of the country every 2 years by digital interpretation of remote sensing satellite data and publishes the results in a biennial report called ‘State of Forest Report'(SFR).

  • The 2017 report is more comprehensive than the previous one as it is based on information from 633 districts compared with 589 covered in the 2015 report.

Key Findings

  • The Forest and tree cover in India has increased by nearly 1% since 2015, around 24.39% of the country’s total geographical area (GA), India’s total forest cover is 708,273 sq.km (about 21.54% of India’s total GA) and tree cover is 93,815 sq.km (about 2.85% of the total GA).

  • Of the total 8,021 sq. km increase in forest and tree cover, forest cover grew by 6,778 sq.km and tree cover by 1,243 sq.km. The increase in total forest cover also includes an increase of 181 sq.km in mangrove cover, taking the total mangrove area in the country to 4,921 sq.km.

  • Dense forest, moderately dense forest and open forest is 98,158 sq. km (2.98% of GA), 308,318 sq. km (9.38% of GA) and 301,797 sq. km (9.18% of GA) respectively, India targets having 33% of its GA under forest cover. According to the report, at present 15 states and Union territories have more than 33% of their GA under forest cover.

  • The report highlighted that about 40% of forest cover is contained in nine large patches across the country. Among the states, Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover (77, 414 sq. km), followed by Arunachal Pradesh (66,964 sq. km), Chhattisgarh (55,547 sq. km) Odisha (51, 345 sq. km) and Maharashtra (50,682 sq. km). However the forest area in all these states, except Odisha, has decreased since 2015, according to the report.

  • The top five states where forest cover grew are Andhra Pradesh (by 2,141 sq.km), Karnataka (1,101 sq.km), Kerala (1,043 sq.km), Odisha (885 sq.km) and Telangana (565 sq.km), while the top five states where forest cover declined are Mizoram (by 531 sq.km), Nagaland (450 sq.km), Arunachal Pradesh (190 sq.km), Tripura (164 sq.km) and Meghalaya (116 sq.km).

Assessment

  • According to the report, forest and tree cover together registered a 1% rise over the previous estimate two years ago. However, such an estimate listing very dense, moderately dense, open and scrub forests mapped through remote sensing does not really provide deep insights into the integrity of the green areas. 

  • The emphasis in environmental policy to raise forest cover to 33% of the geographical area yielded some dividends. There has been an increase over the baseline cover of 20% at the turn of the century. Yet, tree cover is not the same as having biodiverse, old-growth forests.

  • India may be endowed with 16 major forest types, and 221 types and sub-types based on the Champion and Seth classification, but retains very little of its ancient forests after centuries of pre-colonial and colonial exploitation. Latter-day development pressures are also taking their toll. Forest restoration should, therefore, aid the return of native vegetation.

  • The report has highlighted a cumulative loss of forests in Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal of nearly 1,200 sq km. The impact of such a terrible loss must be seen against the backdrop of the Northeast representing a global biodiversity hotspot. The governments do not add the benefits of functions such as flood control and climate moderation to the value of forests.

  • Such a failure erodes the gains made by many communities, because lost natural capital contributes to material losses.

Conclusion

  • As per the latest FAO report, India is 8th in the list of top 10 nations reporting the greatest annual net gain in forest area. India must review the programmes that it has been pursuing to revive forests, and move away from monoculture plantations that are favoured by even forest development corporations in many States.

  • Scientific reforms to bring true nature back are needed. Dedicated efforts will be required to protect the precious forests of the Northeast.

Question Recently released s ‘India State of Forest Report 2017’ shows that forests in most of the biodiversity-rich north-eastern part of the country have been contracting continuously over the last few years. Highlight the causes and suggest some measures.

How to handle Big Data

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue that there are infinite ways to analyse data, but great caution must be exercised.

(GS paper III)

Overview

  • The concept of big data has been around for years; most organizations now understand that if they capture all the data that streams into their businesses, they can apply analytics and get significant value from it. Big data analytics examines large amounts of data to uncover hidden patterns, correlations and other insights.The Hollywood film Money-ball (2011) stands out for focussing the spotlight on data science by showing that the art of data science is more about asking the right questions than just having the data.

  • There are the great volume of data we supply to different agencies in our everyday actions, bit by bit through surfing the Internet, posting on social media, using credit and debit cards, making online purchases, and other things where we share information about our identity. There are infinite ways to slice and dice data, which itself is quite daunting as at every step, there is potential to make huge mistakes.

Why need of careful Data mining

  • Careful data mining from Big Data might help understand the behaviour in order to facilitate planning. But there are examples of blunders being made with a load of information at one’s fingertips. The problem with so much information is that there is a much larger haystack now in which one has to search for the needle.

             For exampleThe Google project

  • In 2008, Google was excited about “Big Data hubris” and launched its much-hyped Google Flu Trends (GFT) based on online searches on Google for flu-related information.
  • The aim was to “providing almost instant signals” of overall flu prevalence weeks earlier than data out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading national public health institute in the U.S.
  • But much of it went wrong, as the GFT missed the 2009 swine flu pandemic, and was wrong for 100 out of 108 weeks since August 2011; it even missed the peak of the 2013 flu season by 140%. Google tried to identify “flu” with the search pattern.

  • Data blunders often arise out of bias, low-quality data, unreliable sources, technical glitches, an improper understanding of the larger picture, and lack of proper statistical tools and resources to analyse large volumes of data.

  • Moreover, Big Data invariably exhibits fake statistical relationships among different variables, which are technically called “spurious correlations” or “nonsense correlations”. Relying too heavily on a particular model is also a common mistake in Big Data analyses. Therefore, the model should be wisely and carefully chosen according to the situation.

  • According to the Nassim Nicholas Taleb, (Author of The Black Swan- the Impact of the Highly Improbable) Big data may mean more information, but it also means more false information. There is a possibility of getting lost in the waves of data. 

  • Mining and geological engineers design mines to remove minerals safely and efficiently. The same principle should be adopted by statisticians in order to mine data efficiently. Big Data is more complex and involves additional challenge.

  • They might involve the use of some skills involving analytics, decision-making skills, logical thinking skills, problem-solving, advanced computational expertise and also statistical expertise. So, using some routine algorithm is not enough. Too much reliance on available software is also a serious mistake.

Conclusion

  • The Data mining is not an easy task, as the algorithms used can get very complex and data is not always available at one place. It needs to be integrated from various heterogeneous data sources. We must need to find the answer for-What is the future of so much reliance on data, where a lot of spurious correlations could dominate our lifestyle and livelihood?

  • As shown in Hollywood film, Spielberg’s Minority Report (2002) which is set in Washington DC in 2054, where the ‘PreCrime’ police force is capable of predicting future murders using data mining and predictive analyses. Does this Spielberg film depict the future of data mining? And is the future dystopian or Utopian?

Question Data mining systems face a lot of problems and pitfalls. A system which is quick and correct on some small training sets, could behave completely different when applied to a larger database. In this context highlight the problems of data mining and suggest some measures.