1.Stairway to prosperity (The Indian Express)

2.On GM crops (Live Mint) 

3.Traditional wetlands (Down to Earth)

 

1.Stairway to prosperity (The Indian Express) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of the needs to focus on the quality of social infrastructure. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • The World Bank’s Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals has assessed the India’s poverty reduction record of the past 25 or so years. According to it, though India’s process was relatively slow but it has extricated 120 million people from extreme poverty between 1990 and 2013.
  • While over the same period of time, China has reduced the number of people living in extreme poverty from 756 million to 25 million. India’s record of reducing poverty pales in comparison to China, Brazil and Mexico.

About World Bank’s Atlas

  • The World Bank has released 2017 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals, a colourful compilation which charts the progress societies from all across the world are making towards the SDGs.
  • The Atlas is part of the World Development Indicators (WDI) family of products that offer high-quality, cross-country comparable statistics about development and people’s lives around the globe.

India and other country’s performance

  • Countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, and Thailand had witnessed relatively low economic growth rates emerge as positive outliers; they exhibited higher growth elasticities of poverty reduction than many high-growth countries, including India. 
  • The essential element for enduring poverty alleviation strategy is the prevention of large declines in household incomes that are caused by a variety of shocks. The state-sponsored anti-poverty and social protection schemes have played a significant role in reducing poverty.
  • According to the study of the poverty reduction in Kazakhstan, Kudebayeva and Barrientos (2017) it has been found that growth was responsible for about four-fifths of the poverty reduction between 2000 and 2009. But, when the “poverty gap”, which takes into account the distance of households from the poverty line, is considered, the contribution of redistributive social assistance measures increases to nearly one-third of the reduction in poverty.
  • Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) have been proposed as an effective instrument to assess the situation. The objective is to alleviate current poverty while simultaneously seeking to break the inter-generational transmission of poverty by encouraging investment in the human capital of poor children.
  • However the desired behavioural changes are controversial, a study from Latin America shows that during declining inequality the education attainment among the poor has increased; the redistributive momentum is at risk of being lost due to persistent divergences in the access to quality education.
  • The poor and middle ranges of the distribution receive an education of significantly lower quality than the top 10 per cent, members of which usually attend better-quality private schools. Research of the Brazilian CCT Bolsa Familia shows that health outcomes, has failed to increase child immunisation rates, and has had no impact on health indicators of children between 12 and 36 months.
  • Similarly, the impact of Mexico’s Oportunidades on health outcomes has been inconsistent, owing to variations in the quality of health infrastructure, scarcity of medicine, low level of care, and discourteous treatment by health professionals.
  • These findings shows that the ability of cash transfers depends on how education and health outcomes for the poor change, which in turn is predicated not just on the behavioural changes the transfers induce, but also on the quality of social infrastructure.
  • The cash transfers are able to act as effective ladders which can reduce long-term poverty only as long as they are supported by a social infrastructure that facilitates an improvement in outcomes.
  • According to the Fiszbein and Schady – “Policy makers and program managers for CCTs in Latin America, the region where such programs have the longest tradition and the most established status, increasingly are casting CCTs as part of a broader system of social protection”.
  • India’s strategy to address both persistent and recurring poverty among households would be well served by addressing the different dimensions of the problem. India’s latest Economic Survey has mooted for a Universal Basic Income as a “safety net against health, income and other shocks.” The UBI has been hotly debated on both feasibility and desirability considerations.
  • The most ambitious cash transfers will fail to reduce poverty permanently, unless they are complemented by a well-functioning social infrastructure that is able to provide quality education, health, and nutrition, across the board.

Way ahead

  • To have an effective poverty strategy, there is need to pay attention to the short-term safety-net aspects of any transfer-based programme, the medium-term behavioural effects, and perhaps most critically, the longer-term changes in outcomes.

QuestionThe most ambitious cash transfer (Universal Basic Income) will fail to reduce poverty permanently, unless they are complemented by a well-functioning social infrastructure. Analyse the statement with suitable example.

2.On GM crops (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of commercialization of GM crops. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • In a major push towards use of genetically modified crops, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), India’s regulator for genetically modified seeds had recommended commercial use of GM mustard. Though it was cleared by scientists but the Environment Minister’s approval is required.
  • In India, the issue of GM crops usually gains more complexity as India’s agriculture is known to involve millions of farmers with small but independent landholdings. The Centre told the Supreme Court recently that it was considering various aspects and was still to take a final call on the commercial release of GM mustard, as there are always compelling arguments from those who support it and those against it.

What is GM Mustard

  • Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH-11) is a Genetically Modified (GM) mustard hybrid, which has been developed by a team of scientists at Delhi University under a government-funded project.

Why opposition?

  • Though a large and growing body of evidence indicates in no uncertain terms that GM crops are indeed safe and economically beneficial. But the Indian state, however, has seemingly always been in two minds about GM crops.
  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) had cleared the Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11) for commercial field use. But the Supreme Court had hearing on anti-GM campaigner Aruna Rodrigues’ demand to have an “independent evaluation” of DMH-11.
  • That case is scheduled for a final hearing in November; meanwhile, the parliamentary standing committee on science & technology and environment & forests had submitted its report, flagging several loopholes in existing methods of field trials of transgenic crops. It had also asked environment ministry to examine the impact of such crops “thoroughly” before taking its final call.
  • Research done by at least six different institutes under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research has found GM crops to be safe for animal health. Apart from this the National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad conducted tests for toxicity and allergenicity and found no adverse effects.
  • According to a research from analysing various GM crops from around the world, it has been found that GM technology helped increase crop yields by 22%, reduced the use of chemical pesticides by 37%, and increased farmer profits by 68%.
  • According to data from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application, GM crops are cultivated over 185 million hectares of land, by more than 18 million farmers across 26 countries, marking a 110-fold increase since GM crops were first commercialized.
  • India has been importing GM products specifically, GM soybean oil and GM canola oil for nearly two decades now and these imports cost about Rs80,000 crore annually as India needed to cover nearly half of its edible oil demand.
  • If GM mustard, which has a much higher yield than traditional varieties, can be cultivated domestically, it can not only reduce the import bill significantly but also increase the income of about six million mustard farmers.
  • While BT cotton was developed by a foreign company, thus fuelling concerns about vested interests and corporate control among environmental activists, GM mustard has been developed at the publicly funded Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants in India itself.
  • However according to several experts India has rich genetic heritage of mustard diversity and is also the centre of origin for the crop. So the experts have voiced their concern that contamination from GM Mustard will destroy this heritage and introduce monocultures.

Question– What are GM crops? Do you think India should begin cultivating GM mustard? Critically analyse.

 

3.Traditional wetlands (Down to Earth) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue need to protect our natural ecosystem(GS paper III)

Overview

  • According to the former faculty member at the Wildlife Institute of India- Wetlands are one of the most threatened habitats of the world. They are considered as wastelands in our country. This is pushing us towards an unperceived ecological crisis.
  • Research suggests that one-third of Indian wetlands have already been wiped out or severely degraded. Despite the benefits, wetlands have been systematically destroyed by being converted to industrial, agricultural and residential use. The Wetlands across the country are threatened by reclamation by draining and filling, besides pollution, and are exploited for their natural resources, leading to the loss of biodiversity.

What are Wetlands

  • Wetlands are defined as areas of land that is either temporarily or permanently covered by water. They are neither truly aquatic nor terrestrial. Each wetland is ecologically unique. It recycles nutrients, purifies and provides drinking water, reduces flooding, recharges groundwater, provides fodder and fuel, facilitates aqua-culture, provides a habitat for wildlife, buffers the shoreline against erosion and offers avenues for recreation.
  • The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) study estimated that wetlands cover 7% of the earth’s surface and deliver 45% of its natural productivity and ecosystem services. Globally, 1.5-3 billion people depend on wetlands as a source of drinking water as well as food and livelihood security. These natural resources are estimated at $20 trillion a year.

 Study from Goa

  • Among various threats, the road construction projects are destroying country’s traditional wetlands and lakes. An ecological crisis is unfolding in one of India’s most picturesque states. While it is famous for its beaches, arguably Goa’s most fascinating feature can be found slightly inland the network of human-made agricultural lands and lakes that drain its nine major rivers and their 42 tributaries. This wetland system, that makes Goa habitable, is called Khazan.
  • Khazan is an example of traditional engineering ingenuity; it is believed to be atleast 1,000 years old. Goa has been largely built on reclaimed land. With about 50 per cent of it being less than 5 metre above sea level, the meandering rivers and ingress of sea water along rivers can submerge substantial portions of the state if not for Khazan.
  • The system depends on carefully planned embankments built with mud and laterite stones, drainage canals and sluice gates that, along with estuaries and mangrove areas, limit tidal ingress and regulate the flow of rain and river water.
  • Traditionally, sluice gates would function on pressure opening and shutting according to the flow of the tides. Khazan lands terminate at the lowest level of the tide, at a depression called poim. With Goa rapidly moving away from agriculture and fishing, and towards tourism, maintenance of the embankments and sluice gates has not been given a priority.
  • Rapid construction on Khazan lands and water bodies is glaringly visible, the road-widening project that runs north-south through Goa and is expected to cut two hours of travel time from Mumbai to Goa. The Goan section is about 100 km long and has been exempted from any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as per the 2006 EIA notification.
  • Khazan lands and mangroves are listed as eco-sensitive zones and are under protection from developmental activity but still the Land acquisition was done without any consent, impact assessment or study of the hydro-logy. This road not only cuts through the lake, it impedes the flow of freshwater into the catchment area. It has completely destroyed the region’s biodiversity and agriculture.
  • With vast Khazan lands to bank on, Goa had rarely seen major flooding events despite over 3,000 mm of rains annually. According to the Central Water Commission’s flood damage data, floods were practically unknown in Goa until the late-1990s. But in the past decade, they have started to become an annual affair with increasing damage.

Way ahead

  • Despite their importance, there is little legal protection for Khazan lands. Because of the ambiguity of law, both the Centre and state governments have failed to monitor and protect these lands. The result of all this could be disastrous for the paradise that is Goa.
  • This example highlights the importance of wetlands, as they are a critical part of our natural environment. Wetlands act as sinks for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, especially if their vegetation is protected and their natural processes are maintained.

Question– What are wetlands? Explain how construction activities have severely impact wetland environments in the country along with some example.