Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Money Laundering and Illegal Wildlife Trade Report
- Environment Impact Assessment
- Ozone Pollution
- World Drug Report
- UN 75 Declaration
- Nasha Mukt Bharat
- South China issue
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Money Laundering and the Illegal Wildlife Trade report
Context : In its first global report on the illegal wildlife trade, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has described it as a “global threat”, which also has links with other organised crimes like modern slavery, drug trafficking and arms trade.
About the Report
- The illegal wildlife trade is a major transnational organised crime, which generates billions of criminal proceeds each year.
- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has conducted a new study to provide guidance to countries on measures they can take to combat money laundering from the illegal wildlife trade.
- This is the first global report on the illegal wildlife trade.
Details of the report
- Illegal wildlife trade is a “global threat” as it also has links with other organised crimes such as modern slavery, drug trafficking and arms trade and it is estimated to generate revenues of up to $23 billion a year.
- According to the report, the “criminals are frequently misusing the legitimate wildlife trade, as well as other import-export type businesses, as a front to move and hide illegal proceeds from wildlife crimes. They also rely regularly on corruption, complex fraud and tax evasion”.
- There is a growing role of online marketplaces and mobile and social media-based payments to facilitate movement of proceeds warranting a coordinated response from government bodies, the private sector and the civil society.
Why illegal trade is increasing
- The jurisdictions often do not have the required knowledge, legislative basis and resources to assess and combat the threat posed by the funds generated through the trade.
What needs to be done
- To combat the financial flows from the illegal wildlife trade, countries should therefore as a priority:
- Identify and assess their money laundering risks relating to the illegal wildlife trade.
- Ensure that national laws and powers for law enforcement allow authorities to go after the finances of wildlife traffickers, and to pursue financial investigations.
2 . Environment Impact Assessment
Context: Student unions from several universities and colleges from across India have petitioned Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar to put the draft of the proposed Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2020 on hold.
About Environmental impact assessment (EIA)
- Environmental impact assessment (EIA) was developed as a tool to minimize negative impact of human activities on the environment.
- The purpose is to:
- Assess the impact of a proposed activity on the environment before making the decision on whether to carry it out
- Develop and assess measures to avoid or minimize those impacts if it is decided to carry out the activity.
- UNEP defines Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as “a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making. It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers.”
- On 27 January 1994, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF), Government of India, under the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986, promulgated an EIA notification making Environmental Clearance (EC) mandatory for expansion or modernisation of any activity or for setting up new projects listed in Schedule 1 of the notification. Since then there have been 12 amendments made in the EIA notification of 1994.
The EIA process
The eight steps of the EIA process are presented in brief below:
- Screening: First stage of EIA, which determines whether the proposed project, requires an EIA and if it does, then the level of assessment required.
- Scoping: This stage identifies the key issues and impacts that should be further investigated. This stage also defines the boundary and time limit of the study.
- Impact analysis: This stage of EIA identifies and predicts the likely environmental and social impact of the proposed project and evaluates the significance.
- Mitigation: This step in EIA recommends the actions to reduce and avoid the potential adverse environmental consequences of development activities.
- Reporting: This stage presents the result of EIA in a form of a report to the decision-making body and other interested parties.
- Review of EIA: It examines the adequacy and effectiveness of the EIA report and provides the information necessary for decision-making.
- Decision-making: It decides whether the project is rejected, approved or needs further change.
- Post monitoring: This stage comes into play once the project is commissioned. It checks to ensure that the impacts of the project do not exceed the legal standards and implementation of the mitigation measures are in the manner as described in the EIA report.
Issues with the EIA notification 2020:
The notification is a proposed update to the existing EIA, 2006 and is open to public comments until June 30. The issues raised with the current notification are as follows
- Period of Public consultation: It shortens the period of public consultation hearings to a maximum of 40 days, and reduces from 30 to 20 days the time provided for the public to submit their responses during a public hearing for any application seeking environmental clearance. This has the potential to hinder public access in places where information was not easily accessible or areas in which people weren’t familiar with the process.
- Post-Facto Approval: The new draft allows for post-facto approval for projects, which means that it has provisions to award clearances for projects even if they have started construction or have been running without securing environmental clearances. This militates against the bedrock of India’s environment outlook that is based on the ‘precautionary principle’. Any shift from the ‘polluter-pays-principle’ to the ‘pollute-and-pay’ principle would wreak havoc. This window was hitherto not available in the 2006 notification.
- Public scrutiny being compromised: In the new dispensation, public consultation is proposed to be exempted for a number of public projects in the field of irrigation, comprehensive area development, inland waterways, etc., or those involving ‘other strategic considerations’ as determined by the Centre. While these specified projects would require prior-environment clearance from the ministry, no information relating to such projects shall be placed in the public domain. This is inexplicable considering that they are public infrastructure projects and meant for the very public from whom this information is sought to be hidden. This flies in the face of international environmental law and agreements like the Stockholm Declaration 1972, the Rio Declaration 1992 or COP 25, which have held transparency to be the cornerstone of any climate discussion.
- Economically sensitive areas: The new law also proposes to declare some areas as ‘economically sensitive areas’, on the recommendation of MOEF&CC, which would then be taken outside the ambit of the mandatory environmental and other clearances and without any public or stakeholder consultation. This could pose a serious threat to delicate and highly unstable ecosystems. The attempt to increase ranking in the ‘ease of doing business’ index might irrevocably damage environment in the long run.
- Validity of the environment clearances: The draft increases the validity of the environment clearances to 50 years for mining projects as against 30 years in the current law and 15 years for river valley projects as against 10 years, thus increasing the risk of irreversible environmental, social and health consequences on account of the project remaining unnoticed for long.
- A more balanced approach would be to incentivise pre-commissioning compliance and impose extremely stiff penalties for seeking regularisation after commissioning.
3 . Ozone Pollution
Context : Analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) of ozone levels during lockdown
About the News
- The particulate matter and nitrous oxide levels fell during the lockdown whereas ozone (a harmful pollutant) increased in several cities.
- Ozone is primarily a “sunny weather problem” in India that otherwise remains highly variable during the year. It is a highly reactive gas and even short-term exposure of an hour is dangerous for those with respiratory conditions and asthma and that’s why an eight-hour average is considered for ozone instead of the 24-hour average for other pollutants.
- Ozone is not directly emitted by any source but is formed by photochemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and gases in the air under the influence of sunlight and heat. It can be curtailed only if gases from all sources are controlled.
Ozone, the triplet oxygen (O3), is formed from the reaction between dioxygen (O2, the normal oxygen molecule) and a singlet oxygen (O, oxygen atom) in the presence of a third-body molecule able to absorb the heat of the reaction. The highly reactive and short-lived singlet oxygen (O) can be generated via the photolysis of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or ionization of O2. Ozone is present in both the stratosphere and the troposphere.
- Stratospheric ozone is concentrated in the tropopause (~between 8 and 15 km above the ground), a region that is called ozone layer.
- Stratospheric ozone is nicknamed “good” ozone, as the ozone layer plays a vital role in absorbing ultraviolet (UV-B) rays that are harmful to living beings on the earth.
O3 in the troposphere (ground level)
- O3 in the troposphere (ground level) is regionally important as a toxic air pollutant and greenhouse gas.
- Ground-level ozone is not directly emitted into the atmosphere but is formed from chemical reactions following the release of various ‘precursor pollutants’ from a wide variety of sources, for example: fossil fuel combustion, road transport, refineries, solvents, vegetation, landfills, wastewater, livestock and forest fires.
- The reactions that create ozone are catalysed by heat and sunlight – so it is a particular problem in the summer months
- Direct contact with ozone at the ground level can cause damages to living cells, organs, and species including humans, animals, and plants, tropospheric or ground-level ozone is nicknamed “bad” ozone.
Summer Season and Ozone
- As the weather heats up during the summer months, ground-level ozone pollution increases as pollutants react to heat and sunlight.
- Short term exposure causes drop in lung function measures and increases the susceptibility to bacterial infections.
- The risk for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) and the number of cardiovascular and respiratory deaths might also increase.
- In children, increase in ozone concentration is associated with increase in hospital admissions and unscheduled asthma medications.
4 . Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research collaboration
About Scheme for Promotion of academic and Research Collaboration or SPARC
- SPARC is an initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
- Under this project researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras have collaborated with their counterparts in Germany to develop new materials for green energy solutions.
- The aim is to develop alternative technologies to produce green hydrogen in anticipation of transition to hydrogen-based economy.
- The aim is to understand the potential of advanced electrocatalysts to transform lab-scale research to deployable reactors/devices.
- This international collaboration is aimed to develop novel low cost electrocatalysts for hydrogen evolution reactions.
- Around ₹66 lakh has been allocated for the project.
- The conventional methods of generating hydrogen result in a large quantity of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that imposed serious environmental concerns. Whereas electrochemical splitting of water, called ‘Water Electrolysis’ (WE), is clean, facile, and highly efficient technology for large-scale production of high-purity H2.
5 . 2020 World Drug Report
Context: According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2020, World Drug Report there can be a wide range of possible consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on illegal drug production, supply and consumption.
About the Report
- The World Drug Report is a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime annual publication that analyzes market trends, compiling detailed statistics on drug markets.
- Using data, it helps draw conclusions about drugs as an issue needing intervention by government agencies around the world.
Key Findings of the report
- According to the report there can be a wide range of possible consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on illegal drug production, supply and consumption.
- Economic downturn due to COVID-19 may leave people vulnerable to the use and trafficking of illicit drugs.
- The risks and consequences of drug use have worsened :
- Limited opportunities for education and jobs
- Stigma and social exclusion.
- The most harmed by drug abuse include vulnerable and marginalised groups, youth, women and the poor.
- As experienced during the 2008 economic crisis, it could result in reductions in drug related budgets of the governments; overall increase in drug use, with a shift towards cheaper and more harmful drugs.
- According to the report, only one out of eight people who need drug-related treatment receive it and some 35.6 million people suffer.
- Others who face barrier to treatment:
- The woman too faces the risk but they represent only one out of five people in treatment.
- People in prison settings, minorities, immigrants and displaced people also face barriers to treatment due to discrimination and stigma.
Routes of trafficking
- The drug trafficking will see a complete disruption due to the restrictions on air travel which will increase the use of the maritime route for trafficking.
- Shipments by mail may also see an increase.
- COVID-19 measures were also likely to lead to the stockpiling of drugs.
- The restrictions also seem to have resulted in increasing cannabis sales over the darknet.
- An estimated 192 million people used cannabis in 2018, making it the most used drug globally
- The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is a global leader in the struggle against illicit drugs and international crime, and the lead United Nations entity for delivering legal and technical assistance to prevent terrorism.
- Established in 1997 through a merger of the United Nations Drug Control Programme and the Centre for International Crime Prevention. Headquartered in Vienna, UNODC operates 52 field offices covering more than 150 countries, as well as liaison offices in New York and Brussels.
Functions of UNODC
- It mobilizes and promotes regional and transnational cooperation to confront the growing threat to security posed by the convergence of organized crime, drug trafficking, corruption and terrorism.
- UNODC strengthens the rule of law and institutions of justice in order to improve crime prevention and build safer, more secure societies in which people can live without fear and work towards a more prosperous future for themselves and their families.
- It also works to educate the world about the dangers of drug abuse and to strengthen international action against drug production, trafficking and drug-related crime. In order to achieve this, UNODC carries out a broad range of initiatives, including alternative development projects, illicit crop monitoring and anti-money laundering programmes.
6 . UN-75 declaration delayed
Context: A commemorative declaration marking the 75th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter has been delayed as member states could not reach an agreement on phraseology.
About UN 75
- The United Nations (UN) will celebrate its 75th anniversary on 24 October 2020
- The declaration by the “Heads of State and Government representing the peoples of the world” to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN is to be adopted on September 21, 2020
- The Five Eyes — the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada — along with India, objected to the use of a phrase “shared vision of a common future”.
- The phrase, “community with a shared future for mankind” is closely associated with the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) and especially Chinese President Xi Jinping as an articulation of the country’s vision for the world.
- The current impasse comes at a time when China’s relationships with a number of democracies, including India, Australia and the U.S., are strained.
- The ‘silence’ process (a procedure by which a resolution passes if no formal objections are raised within a stipulated time) was broken. China, on behalf of itself and Russia, Syria and Pakistan raised objections to the silence being broken.
Objecting Countries demand
- The objecting countries wanted the resolution to read, “We will work together with partners to strengthen coordination and global governance for the common good of present and future generations and to realize our shared vision for a better future as envisaged in the preamble of the UN Charter.”
Charter of the United Nations
- The Charter of the United Nations of 1945 is the foundational treaty of the United Nations, an intergovernmental organization.
- The Charter of the United Nations was signed on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco, at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference on International Organization, and came into force on 24 October 1945.
- As a charter, it is a constituent treaty, and all members are bound by its articles.
- The Statute of the International Court of Justice is an integral part of the Charter.
- India is a founding member of the United Nations. On June 26, 1945, India was among 50 countries to sign the UN charter.
- The main organs of the UN are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the UN Secretariat. All were established in 1945 when the UN was founded.
7 . Nasha Mukt Bharat
Context: An annual anti-drug action plan for 272 vulnerable districts was launched by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
- The renewed focus would be to work in the society at large because the problem is not at the institutional level, it is at the level of society.
- Campaigns in schools and colleges will be launched to prevent drug abuse among youth.
- Integrated Rehabilitation Centre for Addicts (IRCAs), funded by the Ministry, will reach out to their communities to help those affected by addiction.
- The plan includes awareness generation programmes, community outreach and identification of drug-dependent population, focus on treatment facilities and capacity-building for service-providers.
- The ‘Nasha Mukt Bharat’, or drug-free India campaign will focus not just on institutional support but also on community outreach programmes in the districts identified in coordination with the Narcotics Control Bureau.
Nasha Mukt Bharat: Annual Action Plan (2020-21)
- Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is the nodal Ministry for drug demand reduction which coordinates and monitors all aspects of drug abuse prevention.
- The combined efforts of the Narcotics Bureau, Outreach/Awareness by Social Justice and Treatment through the Health Dept will be launched.
- The aim of the plan is to reach out to Children and Youth for awareness about ill effect of drug use; Increase community participation and public cooperation; Supporting Government Hospitals for opening up De- addiction Centers in addition to existing Ministry Supported De-addiction Centers (IRCAs); and Conducting Training programme for participants.
8 . South China Sea issue
Context: ASEAN states warn of S. China Sea tensions
- China has been pushing its presence in the Exclusive Economic Zones of other countries while claimants are preoccupied tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting the United States to call on China to stop its “bullying behaviour”.
- In April after Beijing unilaterally declared the creation of new administrative districts on islands in the troubled waterways to which Vietnam and the Philippines also have competing claims.
- In early April, Vietnam’s one of the fishing boats was sunk by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel and China says that Vietnam’s claims in South China sea are illegal and “doomed to fail”.
- Vietnam and the Philippines has now warned of growing insecurity in Southeast Asia.
ASEAN’s role in South China Sea dispute
- One of the fundamental principles of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been to resolve disputes by peaceful means and to reach agreement by a consensus.
- But on the issue of the South China Sea, ASEAN has been unable to formulate a consensus policy. This can partly be due to the fact that not all 10 ASEAN members are claimants to the South China Sea.
- Members of ASEAN have overlapping claims among themselves.
- Bilateral relations between China and some smaller ASEAN members, such as Laos and Cambodia, is also a factor.
About South China Sea
- South China Sea is an arm of the western Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia, south of China, east and south of Vietnam, west of the Philippines and north of the island of Borneo. Bounded by the east coast of the Malay Peninsula and the southern part of the Gulf of Thailand.
- Bordering states & territories : the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.
- The South China Sea is used by major international shipping lanes, it is the second most used sea lane in the world, due to the underdeveloped transport infrastructure of the area, the lack of modern roads and railways, the region depends heavily on ship transport.
- The shipping lanes in the South China Sea connect East Asia with India, Western Asia, Europe, and Africa via the Taiwan and Luzon Straits in north east and the Sunda and Lombok Straits in south and the Strait of Malacca in south west.
- It contains numerous shoals, reefs, atolls and islands. The Paracel Islands, the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal are the most important.
About the dispute
- Dispute is over the territory and sovereignty over ocean areas, and the Paracels and the Spratlys – two island chains claimed in whole or in part by a number of countries.
- Alongside the fully fledged islands, there are dozens of rocky outcrops, atolls, sandbanks and reefs, such as the Scarborough Shoal.
Spratlys Island dispute
- There has been an ongoing territorial dispute between China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia concerning the ownership of the Spratly Islands archipelago and nearby geographical features like corals reefs, cays etc.
- Since 1968, these nations have engaged in varying kinds of military occupation of the islands and the surrounding waters, with the exception of Brunei, that has contained its objections to the use of its maritime waters for commercial fishing.
Parcel Islands Dispute
- The Paracel Islands dispute is slightly more complex. This archipelago is a collection of 130 islands and coral reefs and is located in the South China Sea, almost equidistant from China and Vietnam.
- Beijing says that references to the Paracel Islands as a part of China sovereign territory can be found in 14th century writings from the Song Dynasty. Vietnam on the other hand, says that historical texts from at least the 15th century show that the islands were a part of its territory.
- By 1954, tensions had dramatically increased between China and Vietnam over the archipelago. In January 1974, China and Vietnam fought over their territorial disputes after which China took over control of the islands. In retaliation, in 1982, Vietnam said it had extended its administrative powers over these islands. In 1999, Taiwan jumped into the fray laying its claim over the entire archipelago.
- Since 2012, China, Taiwan and Vietnam have attempted to reinforce their claims on the territory by engaging in construction of government administrative buildings, tourism, land reclamation initiatives and by establishing and expanding military presence on the archipelago.
- Scarborough Shoal is a rock in the South China Sea, approximately 120 nautical miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon. There are no structures built on Scarborough Shoal, but the feature is effectively controlled by China, which has maintained a constant coast guard presence at the feature since 2012.
- It is a disputed territory claimed by the Republic of the Philippines through the 1734 Velarde map, while the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan) claim it through the internationally invalidated nine-dash line.
Nine Dash Line
- It appeared on a Chinese map as an 11-dash line in 1947 as the then Republic of China’s navy took control of some islands in the South China Sea that had been occupied by Japan during the second world war. After the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949 and Kuomintang forces fled to Taiwan, the communist government declared itself the sole legitimate representative of China and inherited all the nation’s maritime claims in the region. But two “dashes” were removed in the early 1950s to bypass the Gulf of Tonkin as a gesture to communist comrades in North Vietnam.
- Line serves as the basis of China’s claim to “historical rights” in the region, as neither Beijing nor Taipei ever held effective control over the entire region encompassing more than 2 million sq km.
- Just like LAC even Nine dash lines are also a vaguely located demarcation line
- In 2016 an arbitral tribunal constituted under Annex VII to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ruled that China has no legal basis to claim “historic rights” within its nine-dash line in a case brought by the Philippines. The tribunal judged that there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources within the nine-dash line. The ruling was rejected by both the PRC and ROC governments.
- The US regards the South China Sea as international waters, and wants it to be “free” for navigation under the UN maritime law.
Importance of South china Sea
- South China Sea is a prominent shipping passage with $5.3 trillion worth of trade cruising through its waters every year. That’s nearly one-third of all global maritime trade.
- South China sea is rich in marine life, contributing to 10 percent of the world’s fish trade.
- Oil and natural gas : The US Energy Information Agency estimates there are some 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves under the sea, exceeding what some of the world’s biggest energy exporters have.
Reasons for India’s interest in South China Sea
- The SCS is located in a region of great strategic interest for India. Geographically, it connects the Indian Ocean and the East China Sea via the Malacca Straits, which is one of the busiest sea lanes in the world. Up to 97 percent of India’s total international trade volume is sea-borne, half of which, passes through the straits.
- Energy is another component of India’s interest in the SCS. India will likely need to secure new energy sources as domestic demand rises
- With half of its maritime trade passing through the Malacca Straits, any instability in the SCS would adversely affect the shipping lanes and have a knock-on effect on India’s economy. Similarly, should a potentially hostile power come to control this region, it could threaten India’s access to this vital waterway.
- India has been expanding its influence in the area through Look East Policy (LEP).
9 . Facts for Prelims
Amendment in Nepal’s Citizenship Law and its impact
- A parliamentary panel in Nepal recently proposed an amendment in Nepal’s Citizenship Act.
- As per the existing Clause 5.1 of Nepal’s Citizenship Act, all foreign women marrying Nepali men are entitled to get citizenship immediately.
- However, the newly proposed amendment will change this and the foreign women will be required to wait for 7 years before getting Nepali citizenship.
- Impact : The Madheshi are residents of Terai region in the south of Nepal at the foothill of the Himalayas on the border with India in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The people of this region share cross-border kinship with India. Very often, men belonging to this region marry women from India. This amendment would cause inconvenience people living in Madhes. The changes will bring uncertainty and tension in society and families.
Sat com and Remote Sensing Data Policy
- Sat com Policy : The fundamental aim of the Policy Frame-work for Satellite Communications in India approved by the Cabinet is to develop a healthy and thriving communications satellite and ground equipment industry as well as satellite communications service industry in India. Also, use and further development of the capabilities built in India in the area of satellites, launch vehicles and ground equipment design and sustaining these capabilities is an equally important aim. Making available the infrastructure built through INSAT to a larger segment of the economy and population is another corner stone of the Policy. Encouraging the private sector investment in the space industry in India and attracting foreign investments in this area are other specific goals. The norms, guidelines and procedures have been evolved so as to help reach these aims and goals.
- Remote Sensing Data Policy : he Government of India adopts the Remote Sensing Data Policy (RSDP) – 2011 containing modalities for managing and/ or permitting the acquisition / dissemination of remote sensing data in support of developmental activities. Department of Space (DOS) of the Government of India shall be the nodal agency for all actions under this policy, unless otherwise stated.
Cycles 4 Change challenge
- ‘Cycles4change Challenge’ initiative of the Smart Cities Mission is to support cities to quickly implement cycling-friendly initiatives in response to COVID-19.
- Low-cost interventions such as pop-up cycle lanes and non-motorised zones and community-led cycle rental schemes would be explored.