Mitras Analysis of News : 31-05-2017

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1.Thought for food: on efforts to prevent food waste (The Hindu)

2.India’s reliance on nuclear energy (Live Mint)

3.Childhood obesity : World Health Assembly’s framework (The Hindu)

 

1.Thought for food: on efforts to prevent food waste (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on issue of wastage of food and efforts need to prevent it.(GS paper III)

Overview

  • According to the U.N. food agency one-third of all food produced in the world gets wasted, amounting to a loss of $750 billion a year. Food and Agricultural Organization mentioned in its report that food in developing countries is wasted mostly due to poor harvesting techniques, while in high-income areas the primary cause of waste is careless consumer behaviour.
  • Despite adequate food production and advances in technology, one in three persons worldwide is not getting enough of the right food to eat and approximately 800 million of seven billion sleep hungry every night.
  • Poor diets globally are more responsible for ill health as compared with the combined effect of drugs, tobacco and alcohol. Women and children continue to be the most vulnerable, with 156 million stunted children in the world and 40% women anaemic.

Sustainable development goals (SDGs)

  • The SDGs have clearly put the spotlight on food loss and waste, Goal 12 “Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns” includes amongst its objectives to“halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains by 2030”.
  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food loss is valued at $1 trillion globally, enough to feed the 800 million who sleep hungry every night. Of this, over 200 million are in India, a country that grows sufficient food to feed its burgeoning population of 1.3 billion. India is seen as critical for the success of the SDGs, given that improving the lives of 1.4 billion Indians would make a major dent in the goal of improving the lives of all humanity.
  • Recently held Food Congress in Dusseldorf in May 2017, focus on identifying possible solutions through better farming practices, use of technology, better information, change in consumer behaviour, etc. Estimates of “food waste and food loss” range between 30% and 50% for both developed and emerging countries.
  • In emerging economies, it is the supply chain mainly that leads to “food loss” during harvest, storage or in transit, largely due to poor infrastructure and inadequately aligned processes.
  • Unless there is an effort to address food loss factors systemically, the state of health and nutrition of people will continue to be inadequate, as food loss means loss of macronutrients such as calories, fats, proteins; but even more alarming, it means loss of micronutrients because foods that are rich in micronutrients are also perishable fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish, dairy, etc.

Other Studies

  • A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report mentioned that the high volume of wastage that occurs right through the food supply chain exerts an adverse impact on land, water, biodiversity and climate change. This impact is in addition to the green house gas (GHG) emissions that are known to result from current patterns of food production, processing, marketing and consumption associated with global commercial flows.
  • The report focuses on factors that contribute to the decrease in mass and nutritional value of food caused by poor infrastructure, logistics and technology. Multiple costs from food wastage that result from natural disasters, excessive supply, distributional bottlenecks and eating habits of consumers.
  • In Asia, the already high carbon footprint from the cultivation of cereals is compounded by huge volumes of wastage owing to inadequate storage facilities. The carbon footprint of wasted meat in high income regions is to the extent of 67 per cent.

India in food wastage

  • According to the “Global Nutrition Report 2016” demonstrated India’s slow overall progress in addressing chronic malnutrition, manifest in stunting (low weight for age), wasting (low weight for height), micronutrient deficiencies and over-weight.
  • Food loss is also nutrition loss, productivity loss and therefore GDP loss. The 40% food loss in India translates to approximately $7.5 billion, and for a country where agriculture contributes 15% to GDP and employs 53% of the workforce, this is clearly unaffordable.
  • With 17% of the world’s population, India remains home to a quarter of the world’s undernourished people, a third of the world’s underweight children and a quarter of the world’s hungry. This demographic cannot possibly result in a productive and efficient workforce, or be converted into any meaningful economic dividend.
  • The World Happiness Report 2017, which looks at quality of people’s life beyond GDP and per capita income and includes economic variables, social factors and health indicators, has ranked India at 122 of 155 countries.
  • Even though we are the world’s third largest producer of food, our agriculture growth has fallen well below the targeted 4% over the last 15 years. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, India needs to at least double its investment in agricultural research to double farmers’ incomes by 2022. More diversity is needed; we need to shift our focus from rice and wheat with the addition of vegetables, fruits and dairy farming.
  • For overall wellbeing there is need to harness technology to increase agricultural productivity. With better irrigation facilities and insurance of crops from weather anomalies.
  • For dignified quality of life to its people, India has to address enhancing agricultural productivity, crop diversification and eliminating food loss and waste with a firm resolve, backed with the right and timely action.

Way ahead

  • There is  structural and behavioural component that is linked to food wastage, there is need development of infrastructure- storage, transportation, processing, etc; investment in information systems that help identify loss by crop and region, use of technology to better connect supply and demand, public-private partnerships with companies to reduce spoilage and loss, creation of food banking networks that work with civil society and development agencies on getting food already available to those that need it.
  • India must convert its young population to a competitive advantage; nutrition and health are foundational to that outcome.
  • The World Economic Forum warns that food shortages represent one of the biggest risks to global stability over the next decade as countries are increasingly affected by climate change. Even though the world produces enough food to feed twice the world’s present population, food wastage is ironically behind the billions of people who are malnourished. So it is time to recognize this colossal scale of waste and take appropriate action that not only benefits humanity but the environment as well.

Question: Preventing food wastage is equal to food generation. In this regard what policy measures are required to avoid the wastage of food? 

 

2.India’s reliance on nuclear energy  (Live Mint)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the utility of nuclear power in India’s power mix-up. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) outlines its intent to scale up the country’s clean-energy capacity.
  • India is committing to reduce the economy’s carbon intensity and increase clean energy capacity to 40 percent of the total installed capacity. Nuclear energy with its massive potential will have to play a key role in the country’s future energy mix.

India’s energy make-up

  • The total installed electrical capacity of India (utilities) was just over 300 gigawatts (GW) as of May 2016. Of this, 210 GW (70 percent) constituted thermal power such as coal, gas and diesel.
  • India is thus highly reliant on fossil fuels to meet its energy demands. Hydroelectric power too contributes a significant percentage with a total installed capacity of just over 40 GW.
  • The total installed capacity of grid-interactive renewable power which consists of wind, solar, biomass and small hydro is just under 43 GW.
  • The installed capacity of nuclear power is 5.78 GW, a mere 1.8 percent of the total capacity.
  • Although India is the fourth largest energy consumer in the world, behind only the US, China and Russia, it continues to remain energy-poor.
  • India has a flourishing and largely indigenous nuclear power programme and expects to have 14.6 GWe nuclear capacity on line by 2024 and 63 GWe by 2032. It aims to supply 25% of electricity from nuclear power by 2050.
  • Because India is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty due to its weapons programme, it was for 34 years largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant or materials, which has hampered its development of civil nuclear energy until 2009.
  • Due to earlier trade bans and lack of indigenous uranium, India has uniquely been developing a nuclear fuel cycle to exploit its reserves of thorium.

India’s recent move to increase nuclear energy production

  • In a bid to improve these numbers, the Union cabinet, earlier this month, approved the construction of 10 nuclear reactors that are expected to add 7,000 MW to India’s nuclear capacity. An additional 6,700 MW will be added by reactors already under construction.
  • This is the first time that 10 reactors have been approved in one go. A push this big also makes sense as it gives domestic suppliers sufficient scale to operate on, thus decreasing their costs. It will also, hopefully, serve to avoid the protracted delays that have been repeatedly witnesswd in building reactors in India.
  • The indigenous push will also avoid the problems related to nuclear liability law that the foreign reactor builders persistently complain about. While the partnership with Rosatom, the Russian nuclear corporation, has been relatively smooth, the Indian government had to put out a creative interpretation of its own nuclear liability law to convince General Electric Co. and Westinghouse Electric Co. The former remained unpersuaded and the latter has now filed for bankruptcy in the US.
  • There have also been reports indicating that India has been delaying the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Russia on the construction of reactor units 5 and 6 at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. New Delhi has reportedly made the signing contingent on Moscow being able to persuade Beijing on India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
  • Interestingly, India has threatened, the reports add, to go for a completely indigenous nuclear programme in future if its entry into the NSG is not secured in the next couple of years.

Areas to look for

  1. The road to indigenization, however, is not that easy. All the 10 reactors the cabinet has recently approved for construction are pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs). Even though the PHWRs are expensive, the department of atomic energy persists with them because it lacks the expertise required to build and operate cheaper light-water reactors (LWRs). The imported LWRs are more expensive than the domestically built PHWRs.
  1. The economics of the global nuclear energy industry has gone a little awry after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. India’s nuclear liability law, which is out of line with the international standards, doesn’t help either. Heavy insurance premiums have to be paid up first, inevitably resulting in higher tariffs. It should be mentioned at this point that the safety concerns around nuclear reactors are grossly exaggerated and not supported by scientific evidence.
  1. Indigenization does indeed make sense but some people—in light of Germany and France deciding to phase out nuclear power plants—question the wisdom of embracing nuclear energy in India. They cite falling costs and increasing capacities of solar and wind power as against the rising costs and safety concerns of nuclear power. However, unless cheaper storage options are discovered, neither solar nor wind energy can meet India’s base load demand.

Way ahead

  • As a clean energy source, nuclear is best suited to gradually replace coal, especially at a time when the government is simultaneously trying to reduce peak demand the monumental programme to replace wasteful old lamps by 770 million LED bulbs is a case in point. Hydropower is another option for base load but like nuclear power it too has met with resistance from activists around the world, including in India.
  • If India is able to build these 10 PHWRs quickly enough, it would have proved its mettle in reactor building and should then also consider exporting the technology to other developing countries. To meet domestic and foreign power requirements, India should infuse more energy into the sector by divesting NPCIL.

Question: What reforms should be initiated in India’s power mix to attain self-sufficiency without compromising environment? 

 

3.Childhood obesity : World Health Assembly’s framework (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of child obesity World Health Assembly’s framework to fight it. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. The problem is global and is steadily affecting many low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. The prevalence has increased at an alarming rate.
  • Globally, in 2015 the number of overweight children under the age of five, is estimated to be over 42 million. Almost half of all overweight children under 5 lived in Asia and one quarter lived in Africa.
  • The 70thWorld Health Assembly or WHA held at Geneva on May 30 recognised key recommendations of the draft implementation plan to guide further action on the Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity.

Introduction

  • Childhood obesityis a condition where excess body fat negatively affects a child’s health or well-being. As methods to determine body fat directly are difficult, the diagnosis of obesity is often based on BMI. Due to the rising prevalence of obesity in children and its many adverse health effects it is being recognized as a serious public health concern.
  • Children become overweight and obese for a variety of reasons. The most common causes are genetic factors, lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of these factors. Only in rare cases is being overweight caused by a medical condition such as a hormonal problem. A physical exam and some blood tests can rule out the possibility of a medical condition as the cause for obesity.
  • Although weight problems run in families, not all children with a family history of obesity will be overweight. Children whose parents or brothers or sisters are overweight may be at an increased risk of becoming overweight themselves, but this can be linked to shared family behaviors such as eating and activity habits.
  • A child’s total diet and activity level play an important role in determining a child’s weight. Today, many children spend a lot time being inactive. For example, the average child spends approximately four hours each day watching television. As computers and video games become increasingly popular, the number of hours of inactivity may increase.

World Health assembly

  • World Health Assembly’s recommendations have been recognized as key strategies to tackle childhood obesity. These include the need to regulate marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods particularly those targeted at children that are high in salt, sugar and fat, the role of positive front of pack and standardised global nutrient labelling on packaged foods, the imposition of high taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, the reduction of obesogenic environments (one that promotes high energy intake and sedentary behaviour) and the promotion of healthy foods and lifestyle in schools.
  • Considering obesity as a “global epidemic” and as a “risk factor contributing to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)”, member states welcomed the approach of life course action, reduction in obesogenic environments, universal health coverage for prevention of becoming overweight and obese and the treatment of children already obese as described in the draft plan to tackle childhood obesity.
  • The multi- sectoral approach of draft implementation plan was widely acknowledged, particularly by those that are facing the double burden of malnutrition and obesity. Member countries/ delegates that supported the draft implementation plan and raised the above issues as part of the recommendations included Thailand, Ghana, Malta (on behalf of EU and member states), Russian Federation, Congo, Lithuania, Vietnam, Tuvalu, Korea, the Philippines etc.

Way ahead

  • The fundamental causes behind the rising levels of childhood obesity are a shift in diet towards increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other healthy micronutrients, and a trend towards decreased levels of physical activity.
  • Ending childhood obesity has also been linked as contributing to other international strategies such as Sustainable Development Goals, the WHO’s global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs (2013-2020), the WHO’s comprehensive implementation plan for maternal, infant and young child nutrition, the UN’s decade of action on nutrition (2016-2025) (ICN2 Framework for Action) and the UN Secretary General’s global strategy on women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health.

Question What are the implications of Child obesity on India’s demographic dividend. Outline the strategy needed to fight child obesity?

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