Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Flash floods
- Zonal Councils
- Changes in the EPA Act
- Red Panda
- Glacial Melting in Drass region
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Flash Floods
Context : 13 killed as flash floods hit yatra camp
- Flooding is an overflowing of water onto land that is normally dry.
- Floods can happen during heavy rains, when ocean waves come on shore, when snow melts quickly, or when dams or levees break.
- Damaging flooding may happen with only a few inches of water, or it may cover a house to the rooftop.
- Floods can occur within minutes or over a long period, and may last days, weeks, or longer.
- Floods are the most common and widespread of all weather-related natural disasters.
- They are the most dangerous kind of floods, because they combine the destructive power of a flood with incredible speed.
- Flash floods occur when heavy rainfall exceeds the ability of the ground to absorb it.
- They also occur when water fills normally dry creeks or streams or enough water accumulates for streams to overtop their banks, causing rapid rises of water in a short amount of time.
- They can happen within minutes of the causative rainfall, limiting the time available to warn and protect the public.
Causes of flooding
- Heavy rainfall
- Overflowing rivers
- Broken dams
- Storm surge and tsunamis
- Channels with steep banks
- A lack of vegetation – Vegetation can help slow runoff and prevent flooding.
- Melting snow and ice
- Cloudbursts are short-duration, intense rainfall events over a small area.
- The India Meteorological Department (IMD) defines it as unexpected precipitation exceeding 100mm (or 10 cm) per hour over a geographical region of approximately 20 to 30 square km. Significant amounts of rainfall such as this can result in floods.
2 . Zonal Councils
Context : The Northern Zonal Council deliberated on the issues of internal security, road, transport, industries, water, power, cyber crime and other subjects of common interests for eight northern States and Union Territories at its 30th meeting held here on Saturday. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who heads the Council, presided over the meeting.
- The idea of creation of Zonal Councils was mooted by the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru in 1956 when during the course of debate on the report of the States Re-organisation Commission, he suggested that the States proposed to be reorganised may be grouped into four or five zones having an Advisory Council ‘to develop the habit of cooperative working” among these States.
- This suggestion was made by Pandit Nehru at a time when linguistic hostilities and bitterness as a result of re-organisation of the States on linguistic pattern were threatening the very fabric of our nation.
- As an antidote to this situation, it was suggested that a high level advisory forum should be set up to minimise the impact of these hostilities and to create healthy inter-State and Centre-State environment with a view to solving inter-State problems and fostering balanced socio economic development of the respective zones
Composition of the Council
In the light of the vision of Pandit Nehru, five Zonal Councils were set up vide Part-III of the States Re-organisation Act, 1956. The present composition of each of these Zonal Councils is as under:
- The Northern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh;
- The Central Zonal Council, comprising the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh;
- The Eastern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal;
- The Western Zonal Council, comprising the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli;
- The Southern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
- The North Eastern States i.e. (i) Assam (ii) Arunachal Pradesh (iii) Manipur (iv) Tripura (v) Mizoram (vi) Meghalaya and (vii) Nagaland are not included in the Zonal Councils and their special problems are looked after by the North Eastern Council, set up under the North Eastern Council Act, 1972. The State of Sikkim has also been included in the North Eastern Council vide North Eastern Council (Amendment) Act
Committees of Zonal Council
- Each Zonal Council has set up a Standing Committee consisting of Chief Secretaries of the member States of their respective Zonal Councils.
- These Standing Committees meet from time to time to resolve the issues or to do necessary ground work for further meetings of the Zonal Councils.
- Senior Officers of the Planning Commission and other Central Ministries are also associated with the meetings depending upon necessity.
- Chairman – The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.
- Vice Chairman – The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice-Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.
- Members– Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.
- Advisers– One person nominated by the Planning Commission for each of the Zonal Councils, Chief Secretaries and another officer/Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone
- Union Ministers are also invited to participate in the meetings of Zonal Councils depending upon necessity.
Role & Objectives
- The Zonal Councils provide an excellent forum where irritants between Centre and States and amongst States can be resolved through free and frank discussions and consultations. Being advisory bodies, there is full scope for free and frank exchange of views in their meetings.
- Though there are a large number of other fora like the National Development Council, Inter State Council, Governor’s/Chief Minister’s Conferences and other periodical high level conferences held under the auspices of the Union Government, the Zonal Councils are different, both in content and character
- They are regional fora of cooperative endeavour for States linked with each other economically, politically and culturally.
- Being compact high level bodies, specially meant for looking after the interests of respective zones, they are capable of focusing attention on specific issues taking into account regional factors, while keeping the national perspective in view.
Main objectives of setting up of Zonal Councils
- Bringing out national integration;
- Arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies;
- Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences;
- Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States for successful and speedy execution of development projects.
- Each Zonal Council is an advisory body and may discuss any matter in which some or all of the States represented in that Council, or the Union and one or more of the States represented in that Council, have a common interest and advise the Central Government and the Government of each State concerned as to the action to be taken on any such matter.
Zonal Council may discuss, and make recommendations with regard to:
- any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning;
- any matter concerning border disputes, linguistic minorities or inter-State transport;
- any matter connected with or arising out of, the re-organization of the States under the States Reorganisation Act.
3 . Changes in the EPA Act
Context : Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, put out a note, proposing amendments in the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- The EPA establishes the “framework for studying, planning, and implementing long-term requirements of environmental safety and laying down a system of speedy and adequate response to situations threatening the environment.
What are the Environment Ministry’s proposed amendments?
- The Environment Ministry has proposed amendments in four key legislations: The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Public Liability Insurance (PLI) Act, 1991.
- These are the cornerstone environmental laws that led to the setting up of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), empowering it to take action against individuals and corporate bodies who pollute air, water and land. The clutch of laws currently empowers the CPCB to either shut down a polluting industrial body or imprison executives of an organisation found to be environmental violators.
- The Environment Ministry said it had received “suggestions” to decriminalise existing provisions of the EPA to weed out “fear of imprisonment for simple violations.” With a set of amendments, the Environment Ministry proposes to modify provisions of the Environment Protection Act (EPA), by replacing clauses that provides for imprisonment with ones that only requires violators to pay a fine. These, however, don’t apply to violations that cause grave injury or loss of life.
How will violators be punished?
- The EPA currently says that violators face imprisonment up to five years or a fine up to ₹1 lakh or both. If the violations continue, an additional fine of up to ₹5,000 for every day during which such failure or contravention continues after the conviction may be be levied. There’s also a provision for the jail term to extend to seven years.
- The changes proposed include the appointment of an ‘adjudication officer’ who will decide on the penalty in cases of environmental violations such as reports not being submitted or information not provided when demanded. Funds collected as penalties would be accrued in an “Environmental Protection Fund.”
- In case of contraventions of the Act, the penalties could extend to anywhere from five lakh to five crore, the proposal notes, but the clause on provision of a jail term for the first default has been sought to be removed.
Context : Singalila National Park, the highest protected area in West Bengal, will soon get new denizens. A zoo in the picturesque Darjeeling Hills has started an ambitious programme to augment the wild red panda population.
About the News
- In the first rewilding programme of red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) in India, the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park will release 20 of these furry endangered mammals in about five years to the forests.
- The number of red pandas has been declining in the wild, even in the Singalila and Neora Valley National Parks, the two protected areas where the mammal is found in the wild in West Bengal. Recent studies estimate that there are 38 of them in Singalila and 32 in Neora.
- The Padmaja Naidu park, at a height of about 2,000 metres above the sea level, is one of the high-altitude zoos in the country and has been quite successful in captive breeding of the furry mammals.
About Red Panda
- The red panda also known as the lesser panda, is a small mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China.
- It has dense reddish-brown fur with a black belly and legs, white-lined ears, a mostly white muzzle and a ringed tail. It is well adapted to climbing due to its flexible joints and curved semi-retractile claws.
- The red panda inhabits coniferous forests as well as temperate broadleaf and mixed forests, favouring steep slopes with dense bamboo cover close to water sources. It is solitary and largely arboreal. It feeds mainly on bamboo shoots and leaves, but also on fruits and blossoms.
- It is threatened by poaching as well as destruction and fragmentation of habitat due to deforestation. The species has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2015. It is protected in all range countries.
5 . Glacial melting in Drass Region
Context : The decadal pace at which glaciers are receding in the Drass region, a key battleground in Ladakh during the 1999 Kargil war, points to a grave threat to Himalayan glaciers. A recent study attributes this to the growing vehicular traffic in the region, which has been witnessing a massive military build-up on both the sides of Line of Actual Control (LAC) since 2020.
About the Study
- The study published by the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research is based on satellite images of 77 glaciers observed over two decades, from 2000 to 2020, in the Drass basin of the western Himalayas.
- The glaciers studied ranged in size from 0.27 sq.km to 14.01 sq.km, with an average size of 2.3 sq.km.
- The study reports that the glacier area decreased from 176.77 sq.km in 2000 to 171.46 sq.km in 2020, which is about 3% of the total glacier area.
- The pace of glacial recession varies greatly among glaciers ranging from 0.24% to 15%. The snout retreat for the period ranged from 30 metres to 430 metres.
- Debris cover had a significant impact on glacier melting, with clean glaciers losing 5% more than debris-covered glaciers. The average thickness change and mass loss of glaciers have been 1.27 to 1.08 metres,” the study pointed out.
- The analysis shows that glaciers at lower elevations receded by 4.1%, whereas glaciers at mid- and higher elevations receded by 3.23% and 1.46% over the period observed.
- The study found that heavy vehicular movement is the main cause for the rapid pace at which glaciers are receding in the region. Black carbon concentration ranged from 287 to 3,726 nanograms per cubic metre, with an average of 1,518 nanograms per cubic metre, “which is markedly higher compared to the black carbon concentration reported from other high-altitude locations in the Hindu Kush Himalayas”.
- “From 1980 to 2020, black carbon concentration has increased significantly from 338 nanogram per cubic metre in 1984 to 634 nano gram per cubic metre in 2020. It is inferred that the increasing black carbon concentration, due to the proximity to the National Highway, has significantly affected the glacier health.”
- The study points out that 17 glaciers situated close to the highway showed higher glacier shrinkage (4.11%) and snout retreat (209 m) than the glaciers situated further away from the national highway, with glacier shrinkage (2.82%) and snout retreat (148 m). “Heavy vehicles are responsible for 60% of black carbon emissions,” it added.
- Warning of the consequences, the study says: “It is feared that if the observed trends of the climate change continue in the future , glaciers in the Himalayas may disappear entirely, having a significant impact on regional water supplies, hydrological processes, ecosystem services and transboundary water sharing.”
6 . Facts for Prelims
Facts for Prelims Padma Awards
- All persons without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex are eligible for these awards. However, Government servants including those working with PSUs, except doctors and scientists, are not eligible for these Awards.
- The award does not amount to a title and cannot be used as a suffix or prefix to the awardees’ name
- India honoured Shinzo Abe with the Padma Vibhushan in 2021
National Assisted Reproductive Technology and Surrogacy Board (NARTSB)
- National Assisted Reproductive Technology and Surrogacy Board (NARTSB) was constituted by health ministry headed by the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare as the chairperson. The constitution of the Board is part of the implementation of the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Act, 2021 and the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021 to regulate Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) clinics, banks and surrogacy in the country.
- Under the Act, the NARTSB has powers to advise the Central government on policy matters relating to the ART, to review and monitor the implementation of the Act, rules and regulations, to lay down code of conduct to be observed by persons working at clinics and banks, to set the minimum standards of physical infrastructure, laboratory and diagnostic equipment and expert manpower to be employed by the clinics and banks.
- The board also has to oversee the performance of various bodies constituted under the Act and supervise the functioning of the National Registry and liaison with the State Boards and pass orders as per the provisions made under the Act.
- Section 229 of the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Act prohibited the transfer or use of gametes, zygotes and embryos, directly or indirectly to any party within or outside India except in the case of transfer of own gametes and embryos for personal use with the permission of NARTSB. Mr. Singh said his client followed up with NARTSB, ICMR and the Centre but no response has been received till date.