Mitras Analysis of News : 28-6-2017

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1.Why South India is parched? (The Hindu)

2.A City Laid Waste (The Indian Express)


1.Why South India is parched? (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the recent use of parliamentary privilege by Karnataka legislative assembly. (GS paper II)


  • South India is parched Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are already reeling under severe drought, and Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are on the brink now the blistering heat waves will probably put more pressure on the existing water resources.
  • While Kerala and Tamil Nadu are facing an unprecedented drought the worst ever in over a century, according to experts; Karnataka’s northern districts are without water for the third consecutive year.

Unprecedented drought

  • This is not the first time the water-rich South India is grappling with drought. In fact, certain parts of the southern peninsula, such as northern Karnataka, Telangana and the Rayal seema region of Andhra Pradesh, suffer from drought almost every other year.
  • But a 2016 trend analysis of droughts between 1901 and 2004 shows that their occurrence and intensity across the region are on the rise since the 1970s. Droughts have particularly become more intense and frequent after 1990.

Why a region that benefits from two monsoons a year is facing drought?

  • Historically, if one monsoon failed, the subsequent monsoon came to the rescue of the affected region. But this no longer seems to be the case. Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka declared drought in October 2016 soon after the summer monsoon failed to yield the desired rainfall.
  • After the failure of the northeast monsoon, Tamil Nadu joined the list and each of the other states has declared larger areas as drought-affected.
  • Besides, the increase in frequency of droughts in South India does not match with the performance trends of the northeast monsoon, which accounts for 30-80 per cent of the total rainfall the region receives in a year. A study published in journal Theoretical and Applied Climatology in 2012 shows that winter rains in the peninsular India have increased by 0.4 mm a day per decade between 1979 and 2010.
  • While changing rain patterns is becoming a common phenomenon in a warming world, the prevailing drought in South India is not merely a climatological one.
  • For instance, Kerala receives more rainfall in a drought year than what Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh receive on a normal monsoon year. Then consider Tamil Nadu.
  • Just six months before the summer rains ditched the state and plunged it into a severe drought, the state had received 52 per cent surplus rainfall. In fact, the 2015 winter rains had caused severe floods in parts of the state, including Chennai that remained inundated for weeks.

Where did the excess water go?

  • We have not learnt lessons from previous experiences on the need to rethink our uses and demands of water. Drought is one of poor management. Climatic factors are simply exposing it.
  • Consider agriculture. River basins and deltaic regions in South India boast of agricultural traditions that span millennia. But of late, there has been a major shift in their crop and irrigation patterns. The Cauvery delta, for instance, has traditionally been known for paddy cultivation. But in the past 50 years or so, there has been an increase in the number of cropping cycles a year.
  • People have also shifted from traditional varieties that require less water to high-yielding ones. The shift was partly driven by the state government’s dependence on the Cauvery delta to procure rice for the Public Distribution System.
  • With the advent of tubewells and borewells, irrigation in South India has dramatically shifted from surface water to groundwater. In Karnataka, the number of borewells has increased from 250,000 in 1996 to 850,000 in 2014 an increase of 365 per cent.
  • Watershed and farming expert also blames the prevailing drought on the lack of a crop pattern policy for areas dependent on groundwater. In Karnataka, for instance, the endemic biodiversity in interior agriculture zones is systematically under attack from monoculture plantations of trees like eucalyptus. It is a fast growing pulpwood. With good water supply, they can be harvested two years after planting. Many farmers in the region have fallen to the temptation and are replacing agricultural crops with eucalyptus. This is a dangerous trend because the species is a known water-guzzler and does not allow any other plants to grow in its vicinity.

Way ahead

  • South India’s transition from a water-surplus region to a drought-prone region coincides with the decline of its traditional system of water harvesting and irrigation. While groundwater use in agriculture has increased from in the five states, irrigation by tanks has more than halved during the period, according the Union Ministry of Agriculture.
  • In Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, where the practice of using communal tanks for irrigation was popular, dependency fell from around 40 per cent to 15 and 10 per cent respectively. The change in irrigation practices has led to the mismanagement of community and temple tanks, which are abundant in South India and have traditionally served as rainwater harvesting structure.
  • The indications are clear, extreme climatic variations are here to stay. It’s time governments got their priorities straight with sustainability.

Question: What are the sustainable water solutions that can be adopted to eradicate the water problems in south India?


2.A City Laid Waste (The Indian Express)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the rising problems of civic waste and solutions to manage the waste effectively. (GS paper III)


  • Cities are the engines of growth and urban India contribute to about 70% of country’s GDP.
    For cities to continue their contribution and provide quality of life to citizens, urban cleanliness is of central importance.
  • Most Indian cities are surrounded by hills of garbage. Over a long period we have neglected the managing and disposing of the waste that generate in the course of our household activities and commercial activities in the cities. The waste includes dry and wet, plastic, textiles etc has been dumped for decades without sorting, on the outskirts of the cities. The waste generation from Indian cities has increased by 50% in the past decade, and continues to grow at an ever increasing rate.
  • The proliferation of airless open dumps of garbage leads to emissions of methane, which absorbs the sun’s heat, warms the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.

Background of civic action

  • In 1996 a Public Interest Litigation was filed in the Supreme Court by Almitra Patel that had put solid waste management on the agenda of the government. The court issued an order to set up an expert committee in January 1998 with Patel as a member, to submit a report on sustainable techniques of managing waste. Based on this committee’s report, the Municipal Solid Waste Rules, 2000 were notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
  • Over the years in order to have strong rules, the Municipal Solid Waste Rules 2000 have been constantly updated and now we have Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 which cover much more than only municipal areas, provide for collection charges and for penalties on waste generators for non-compliance, and most importantly, unlike the earlier Rules, make it the duty of every waste generator to segregate the wet waste from the dry to keep the two kinds of waste unmixed.
  • This is actually in line with the duties outlined in Article 51A (g) of the Constitution which lists among every citizen’s fundamental duties, “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife.”


  • The major problem faced by piled of garbage is pollution, the proliferation leads to emission of methane, which is over 20 times more potent as a heat trapping gas than carbon dioxide, leads to global warming.
  • At the same time, Leachate, a black liquid oozing out from the waste as it slowly decomposes over a period of 25 to 30 years, contaminates soil and ground water, the latter being used by many in the urban areas as a primary source for drinking. Foul odour from the waste rotting in airless heaps, and smoke from the fires that routinely erupt in them, are other consequences of dumping waste in the open.
  • Second most important challenge lies in implementation of the rules, the earlier so-called landfills, actually old dumps, are without bottom liners and side liners. Capping of these dumps is not a solution because it leaves methane and Leachate to form for decades within the cosmetically covered heap.


  • There are multiple technologies available to harness energy from waste, including those which can convert non-biodegradable organic waste into energy.
  • These solutions include thermal conversion, where the waste is burnt to produce steam which runs turbine generators to generate electricity; electrochemical conversion, where the oxidation of the organic waste is catalyzed using chemicals and then electrolyzed to generate electricity and biohydrogen gas; biochemical conversion, which uses the waste’s own microbial activity to generate energy; and thermochemical conversion, which is found useful for wastes containing high percentage of organic non-biodegradable matter. There are many technologies available under each of these types that are either successfully implemented across the world or are evolving.
  • Now we have simple and low-cost solution of bioremediation to remove the garbage hills and their lingering ill effects, which permanently achieves near-zero emission of harmful gases (such as methane, hydrogen sulphide, and ammonia) and Leachate.
  • In biomining efforts the hill is terraced, grooved and then slashed to form high slices to let air into the waste and drain out Leachate. Each heap is turned weekly, four times to ensure aeration of all parts of the waste and sprayed with composting microbes to accelerate biological decomposition.
  • After four turnings, there is about 40 per cent volume reduction in the waste as the organic fraction of the original waste is degraded biologically by the bioculture. Specific microbes are also used for Leachate treatment.
  • Once the waste is stabilized, it is ready for bio-mining, and can be separated into different fractions which can then be used for different purposes for compost, road sub-grade, making RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel) pellets, recycling plastics, or inerts for landfills.

Way ahead

  • In India, with growing urbanization, a 38% increase in just one decade; coupled with a steady rise in per-capita generation of waste, which has increased by 12% in the same time, bringing strong measures to manage waste is the need of the hour.
  • It is very important that alternative technologies, including the simpler and cost-effective ones, are carefully evaluated on their merit.
  • There are so many entrepreneurs and innovators who are also trying bioremediation of old waste, because of the superiority and simplicity of bioremediation as it is low-cost and environment-friendly.  The most valuable part of this exercise is that the land which was hosting waste dumps is now fully recovered for alternate uses. Since it is very hard to win local acceptance for new waste processing sites, the recovered land can be used for waste management.

Question: How government should recast solid waste management strategy to make Swachh Bharat a reality?

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