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1.Recording land deeds by Block chain (Live Mint)

2.China bans on foreign waste import: a potential threat to world’s recycling? (Down to Earth)

1.Recording land deeds by Block chain  (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of using blockchain to secure land titles that will integrate more citizens into the formal economy. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • The Indian judiciary is crumbling under the weight of pending cases. More than 28 million cases are pending in the country’s district courts. Of these, more than 7.5 million are civil cases, and Bengaluru-based NGO Daksh’s data shows that more than 66% of the civil cases are related to land or property.
  • Not only is the judiciary overburdened, the poor litigants are also losing Rs1,300 on average per day of court hearing in litigation costs and foregone business. In this context, the Andhra Pradesh government’s steps to use blockchain technology for land titling are a laudable development.

Blockchain as a way

  • A blockchain is a decentralized and distributed digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the collusion of the network. This allows the participants to verify and audit transactions inexpensively. They are authenticated by mass collaboration powered by collective self-interests. The result is a robust workflow where participants’ uncertainty regarding data security is marginal.
  • At present, land ownership data is stored with the government in centralized ledgers (records). This means that the data can be accessed and modified only by the government. This is a problem because if this data is erroneously entered, lost or forged, the ledger will no longer represent the true ownership of assets.
  • Blockchain allows the government to maintain a public ledger of asset-ownership in a distributed fashion. The data is stored on a network of devices and there is no central point of failure. It ensures trust by being transparent it is visible for everyone to verify.
  • At the same time, it ensures privacy for the owner by ensuring that the ownership of the asset only changes hands after authorization.
  • At present in India, trading an asset requires an enormous effort just to determine the basics of the transaction: Does the seller own the real estate and have the right to transfer it? Will the new owner be accepted as such by those who enforce property rights? What are the effective means to exclude other claimants? Such questions are difficult to answer.
  • For most goods, there is no place where the answers are reliably fixed. That is why the sale or lease of a house may involve lengthy and cumbersome procedures of approval involving all the neighbours.
  • This is often the only way to verify that the owner truly owns the house and there are no other claims on it. Blockchain has the potential to change this by representing what is economically meaningful about any asset size, location, use-restrictions, etc. linking it to the owner unambiguously, and tracking all future exchanges.

Benefits of secured transaction

  • Secure land ownership will prove immensely beneficial for India’s poor. The prosperity of Western nations can be traced to the security provided to property by the formal legal system. The poor in India do own things, but they don’t have a way to represent their property and create capital.
  • They have houses but not titles; crops but not deeds; businesses but not statutes of incorporation. They produce all kinds of things from clothing and footwear to leather bags and wrist watches. But due to missing documents of ownership, they are pushed into the unregulated sector of the economy unable to access credit and public utilities like water and power.
  • These enterprises of the poor are very much like corporations that cannot issue shares or bonds to obtain finance and investment. In the words of Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, without representations their assets are “dead capital”.
  • With a trustworthy asset ownership system, millions of people will move out of the anonymous mass of citizens and become individuals with property interests. By intractably linking themselves to a property, they will become identifiable and have to forfeit their anonymity. Thus, people who use goods and services and don’t pay for them will be identified and charged interest penalties; contract violations will be traced; and legal infractions can be more easily prosecuted.
  • On the other hand, they will be able to save and invest, avail of credit and maintain credit histories, and benefit from lower insurance premiums. Buildings are always the terminals of public utilities like power, water, broadband service, etc. But legal property transforms them into accountable and responsible terminals.
  • The threat of forfeiture will discipline households and erstwhile unserved citizens will be treated like responsible members of society whose engagement is backed by a pledge of property.

Way ahead

  • Blockchain has the potential to end the days of large-scale property-related litigation; it will free the assets of the poorest Indians to create capital and enter the formal economy. However, recognizing the present owners of the lands is a huge task in itself.
  • In 2013, Action Research in Community Health and Development (ARCH), Liberty Institute and some other NGOs helped tribal farmers in Gujarat use GPS technology to mark their lands on government maps and secure their property. Something similar must be done for the vast swathes of India’s countryside. There is enormous value locked in the assets of India’s poor. One can hope that the government will take swift action given the potential gains for them.

Question– What do you mean by blockchain? How it can be implemented in the areas of governance?

 

2.China bans on foreign waste import: a potential threat to world’s recycling? (Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the fact as how world’s largest recyclable materials importer will leave other countries searching for alternative waste management solutions. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • The dominant position that China holds in global manufacturing means that for many years China has also been the largest global importer of many types of recyclable materials. Last year, Chinese manufacturers imported 7.3m metric tonnes of waste plastics from developed countries including the UK, the EU, the US and Japan.
  • However, recently, China announced big changes in the quality control placed on imported materials, notifying the World Trade Organisation that it will ban imports of 24 categories of recyclables and solid waste by the end of the year.

Campaign against foreign waste

  • This campaign against yang lajior “foreign garbage” applies to plastic, textiles and mixed paper and will result in China taking a lot less material as it replaces imported materials with recycled material collected in its own domestic market, from its growing middle-class and Western-influenced consumers.

Possible impact of China’s move

  • The impact of this will be far-reaching. China is the dominant market for recycled plastic. There are concerns that much of the waste that China currently imports, especially the lower grade materials, will have nowhere else to go.
  • This applies equally to other countries including the EU27, where 87% of the recycled plastic collected was exported directly, or indirectly (via Hong Kong), to China. Japan and the US also rely on China to buy their recycled plastic. Last year, the US exported 1.42m tons of scrap plastics, worth an estimated US$495m to China.
  • The impact of this will be far-reaching. China is the dominant market for recycled plastic. There are concerns that much of the waste that China currently imports, especially the lower grade materials, will have nowhere else to go.
  • This applies equally to other countries including the EU27, where 87% of the recycled plastic collected was exported directly, or indirectly (via Hong Kong), to China. Japan and the US also rely on China to buy their recycled plastic. Last year, the US exported 1.42m tons of scrap plastics, worth an estimated US$495m to China.

Time to Change

  • While it is a reliable material, taking many forms from cling film (surround wrap) to flexible packaging to rigid materials used in electronic items, the problems caused by plastic, most notably litter and ocean plastics, are receiving increasing attention.
  • One way forward might be to limit its functions. Many disposable items are made from plastic. Some of them are disposable by necessity for hygiene purposes for instance, blood bags and other medical items – but many others are disposable for convenience.
  • Looking at the consumer side of things, there are ways of cutting back on plastic. Limiting the use of plastic bags through financial disincentives is one initiative that has shown results and brought about changes in consumer behaviour. In France, some disposable plastic items are banned and in the Britain, leading pub chain Wether spoons has banned disposable, one-use plastic drinking straws.
  • Deposit and return schemes for plastic bottles (and drink cans) could also incentivise behaviour. Micro-beads, widely used in cosmetics as exfoliants, are now a target as the damage they do becomes increasingly apparent and the UK government has announced plans to ban their use in some products.
  • This follows similar actions announced by the US and Canada, with several EU nations, South Korea and New Zealand also planning to implement bans.
  • Many local authorities collect recycling that is jumbled together. But a major side effect of this type of collection is that while it is convenient for the householder, there are high contamination levels which leads to reduced material quality. This will mean it is either sold for lower prices into a limited market, will need to be reprocessed through sorting plants, or will be incinerated or put in landfill. But changes to recycling collections and reprocessing to improve the quality of materials could be expensive.
  • Alternatively, recycled plastic could be used to provide chemicals to the petrochemical sector, fuels to the transport and aviation sectors, food packaging and many other applications.

Way ahead

  • The problems we are now facing are caused by China’s global dominance in manufacturing and the way many countries have relied on one market to solve their waste and recycling problems. The current situation offers us an opportunity to find new solutions to our waste problem, increase the proportion of recycled plastic in our own manufactured products, improve the quality of recovered materials and to use recycled material in new ways.

Question– What are the problems of waste piles may be faced by countries due to banning of waste import by China? How it will impact India?