Chasing the monsoon

(The Hindu)

 

A nation of innovation

(The Indian Express)

 

Double burden

(Down to Earth)

Chasing the monsoon

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on issue India Meteorological Department’s forecast.

(GS paper III)

Overview

 

  • Over the past 30 years, the government’s weather modellers have predicted a “normal” monsoon in all except five occasions. Sticking to that trend, ahead of an important election year, the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) early forecast has pegged the upcoming monsoon as “normal”.

 

  • For farmers, the India Meteorological Department’s estimate that rainfall during the summer, between June and September, will be 97% of the 50-year average of 89 cm, is bound to raise fresh expectations. This is the third year in a row that they can look forward to a high output for a variety of crops, although fiscal realities have come in the way of realising higher farm incomes.

 

Assessment

 

 

  • The unevenness of the Indian monsoon is no longer a cautious rider to the overall national figures, but a near certainty. There is now substantial scientific evidence to show that the Indian monsoon is changing in fundamental ways.

 

 

 

  • The Centre has been supportive of higher returns through the Minimum Support Price mechanism and additional bonuses have been announced by States such as Madhya Pradesh for procurement, but these have helped mainly rice and wheat. From a water management perspective, though, this trend has led to a skew towards these crops, which are heavily dependent on groundwater.

 

 

 

  • Now that another year of good cropping is expected, and unremunerative prices will depress public sentiment, it is vital for the Centre to arrive at a policy that gives constructive advice to farmers on the ideal cropping mix and help them get the cost-plus-50% margin that it has promised them.

 

 

 

  • The IMD’s decision to provide a more fine-grained forecast on the monsoon’s progress, particularly in the central and northern regions, will meet a long-felt need and can potentially guide farmers better.

 

 

 

  • The long-term challenge is to make the most of the rainfall that India gets, ranging from a few hundred millimetres or less in the northwest to more than a few thousand millimetres elsewhere. The Master Plan for Artificial Recharge to Ground Water drawn up by the Centre should be pursued scientifically, to help States with the most water-stressed blocks get adequate funds to build artificial recharge structures.

 

 

 

  • Moreover, for those farmers who choose to continue with wheat and rice, transfer of expertise and provision of equipment that enables efficient utilisation of water is vital. An estimate of water used to grow rice and wheat, measured in cubic metres per tonne, shows that India uses more than what, say, China does.

 

 

 

  • In the case of cotton, the figures present an even more staggering contrast: 8,264 cubic metres for India, against 1,419 for China. Combined with distortions in procurement subsidies, water stress due to such use is inevitable. On the monsoon as a whole, studies indicate a change in the pattern since 1950.

 

 

Way ahead

 

  • There is an increase in daily average rainfall since 2002, barring some of the worst El Niño years, likely due to higher land temperatures and cooler oceans.

 

  • Governments need to invest consistently to harvest the monsoon, both on the surface and underground, with community participation.

 

QuestionThe IMD forecast has enhanced the economic outlook, but India must conduct a water audit, explain along with impact of forecast upon Indian agriculture.

 

A nation of innovation

(The Indian Express)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of innovation in Israel and what India can learn from it.

(GS paper II)

Overview

 

  • On the eve of its 70th Independence Day, Israel will hold its annual torch lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. Each year, a theme is chosen for the ceremony’s 12 torches, symbolising the ancient 12 tribes of Israel, and those chosen to light them representing 12 different facets of modern Israeli society. This year’s theme is “Heritage of Innovation” and proudly featured as one of the torches is Israel’s International Development Cooperation Agency -MASHAV.

 

Assessment

 

 

  • In 1948, after struggling for its independence, the modern state of Israel was re-established in a land with abundant historical significance yet extremely limited natural resources. Astonishingly, despite its hostile neighbourhood, within decades Israel was able to develop within its borders a thriving state. This included a bustling economy, a self-reliant agricultural sector, education and health systems, academia and industry with R&D as the link between them all of which rest upon the interweaving power of innovation and technology.

 

 

  • Israel’s innovative outlook stems from its people’s mind power and diversity. Israeli society is a mosaic of cultures from around the world, reunited in an ancient homeland after 2,000 years of exile. This rich melting pot of world views and ideas combined with the Jewish tradition of learning through questioning everything is what led to the innovative thinking behind Israel’s world-renowned start-up scene.

 

  • Innovation has also been an integral part of making the Israeli desert bloom, the engine behind Israeli academic and scientific excellence, and a bridge to nations worldwide. Israel readily exchanges its knowhow and technology in a variety of fields with all who seek to develop their own countries through innovation for a better future. This has been a driving force in the forging of relations with many countries, with India a prominent example among them.

 

  • Anyone familiar with the history of the 26 years of relations between India and Israel knows the key role of development in our growing partnership. As early as 1993, Israeli drip irrigation found its way to Indian farms and laid the foundation for a fruitful agricultural partnership. Today this partnership manifests in 22 centres of excellence across nine states in India, with another seven states set to join the Indo-Israeli Agricultural Project.

 

  • Over the years, more fields of development have joined agriculture on the table of Indo-Israeli relations as Israel has become India’s technological partner. Fields such as water and education, innovation and technology, defence and cyber were at the forefront of President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visits to India and Indian President and Prime Minister visits to Israel. The underlying understanding that innovation is crucial to all fields of development has made it a priority in countries looking to shape the future such as India and Israel.

 

Way forward

 

  • The shift from building foundations and creating infrastructures to ensuring sustainability and integrating technology is what being an innovative country means. At 70 years young, Israel continues to develop in itself and with the world.

 

  • As Israel looks to the future, it sees by its side like-minded countries such as India, both eager to grasp the future in pursuit of a better world for all.

 

Question

Double burden

(Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue that India faces dual burden of air pollution.

(GS paper III)

Overview

  • India continues to bear the burden of a quarter of global deaths and significantly high share of illness due to high exposure to particulate air pollution. More than half of global deaths occur in India and China together. This is among the shocking findings of the State of Global Air 2018 report released by the Health Effect Institute (HEI) in Boston recently. Air pollution remains among the top killers worldwide.

 

Assessment of the report

 

 

  • This report is based up on the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Estimates that comprehensively analyses 84 risk factors responsible for deaths and illness. Long-term exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution has contributed to 6.1 million premature deaths from stroke, heart attack, lung cancer, and chronic lung disease and to a loss of 106 million life years lost worldwide in 2016. This makes air pollution the fourth-highest cause of death among all health risks, after high blood pressure, diet, and smoking. 

 

 

  • Over 7 billion people or 95 per cent of the world population continue to breathe unsafe air. One in three persons globally faces a “Double Burden” due to the combined exposure to household burning and outdoor air pollution. “GBD is the most systematic effort to quantify the magnitude of health loss from all major diseases, injuries, and risk factors in populations across the world and that air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death worldwide.

 

 

  • The new report explains that these numbers of GBD analysis highlight the critical interplay between the trends in population structure, underlying disease, and economic factors and air pollution levels. This particularly enhances the risk faced by the developing countries.

 

 

 

  • Non-communicable diseases affected by air pollution are rising and are getting worse due to high levels of air pollution and growing ageing populations. The elderly experience the greatest loss of healthy life-years due to the non-communicable diseases that are affected by particulate matter.

 

 

 

  • Among those 70 years or older, for example, PM 2.5-attributable ischemic heart disease alone accounted for 16.2 per cent of life years lost in China, 17.8 per cent in India, and more than 20 per cent in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and of North Africa and the Middle East in 2016.

 

 

 

  • Over the past 25 years, this burden in low-and middle-income countries has increased for those ages from 50 to 69 years—in India, for example, increasing by 24 per cent, from 9.1 million to 11.3 million life years lost. As Dan Greenbaum, President of HEI says, “Nowhere is that risk more evident than in the developing world, where a third of the world’s population faces a double burden of indoor and outdoor air pollution.

 

 

  • India faces the double burden of significant use of solid fuels and often high ambient exposures, and associated health impacts. The report highlights the double burden concept globally and notes some recent progress on air pollution reduction in India, including the positive steps associated with rural LPG and similar initiatives, and provides long term trend data on all countries.” Indoor and outdoor pollution contribute to 1 in 4 air pollution-related deaths in India.

 

Way forward

 

  • India cannot afford to remain complacent or in denial any more. With so many people dying early and falling ill and losing productive years due to air pollution, it is a state of health emergency.

 

  • As India, along with other developing countries, is poised for an enormous demographic and epidemiological transition, the pollution levels and health risk needs to decline significantly in the coming decade to offset health impacts from growing numbers of people and ageing. This demands nation-wide intervention to ensure stringent mitigation and a roadmap to meet clean air standards

 

Question Globally air pollution is the 4th largest killer and a quarter of global deaths due to particulate air pollution occur in India, explain the indoor and outdoor pollution problem in India and suggest some measures.