GS 3 – Environment

Meghalaya village turns an oasis in coal mine desert

Why in News?

Rat-hole coal mining had sucked the life out of less than a decade ago. The village in the East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya has now risen like the proverbial phoenix to become a clean, green dot in a vast black blot.

Context

  • The job of making the village of 960 people and its surroundings breathe freely again – “like the good old days” – is only 30% done.
  • But the progress has been good enough for people in the mining-ravaged area to believe all is not lost amid abandoned pits and coal-blackened earth.
  • There are some 60,000 coal mines across 360 villages in East Jaintia Hills district.
  • They used to be one such village until the National Green Tribunal banned rat-hole mining in April 2014.
  • Rat-hole mining is a term used for a hazardous and arduous mining technique where miners crawl into winding underground tunnels that are just 4-5 feet in diameter to extract coal from the deep seams with a pickaxe.

Crucial change

  • Though the NGT ban did not stop illegal mining in the district, it helped reform – in part because unregulated mining had contaminated its farmlands and turned the streams acidic, and also because the village dorbar, or traditional governing body, had a change of guard.
  • After a younger set took over the village decision-making body, we banned mining in our area.
  • By that time, the nearest mine was a kilometre away. Then we went about cleaning the coal-stained surroundings and planting saplings along the pathways connecting our village.

National Green Tribunal

  • The National Green Tribunal has been established on 18.10.2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
  • To effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
  • The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
  • The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
  • The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.
  • Initially, the NGT is proposed to be set up at five places of sittings and will follow circuit procedure for making itself more accessible.
  • New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai shall be the other four places of sitting of the Tribunal.

 

GS 3 – Environment

NGT seeks action plan on elephant corridors

Why in News?

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Odisha government to prepare an action plan within three months on 14 identified elephant corridors for providing stress-free migration to jumbos from one habitation to another in the State.

Context

  • The State government had proposed 14 corridors stretching over a total area of 870.61 sq.km. having a length of 420.8 km. Despite the passing of several years, no tangible progress had been made on government’s proposal.
  • The Wildlife Society of Orissa (WSO), a voluntary organisation, had moved the NGT seeking concrete action on strengthening of corridors.
  • The WSO had sought the NGT’s intervention for necessary legal action against encroachers and those violating the Provisions of the Forest Conservation Act 1980 and the Indian Forest Act 1927 in the proposed corridors.
  • The government was urged to remove the unauthorised buildings from the reserve forest land in Dhenkanal district, which sees acute human-elephant conflict, and make the forestland free from encroachment.
  • The NGT had issued a prohibition order directing that all such activities which are not permissible to be carried out in such a highly eco sensitive zone, should not be undertaken.
  • Moreover, the NGT had directed authorities to expedite demarcation of the corridors and the process for formal notification within a specific time frame in 2017.
  • The State had responded stating that the work of assessing habitat viability and ground-truthing of the already identified elephant corridors was handed over to the Asia Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF).
  • The ANCF had completed its task with respect to the corridors. The government had even submitted that elephants were sighted in places where the jumbos had never been seen in the recent past.

Last opportunity

  • The government had sought time to inform the NGT about action plan to strengthen corridors. It, however, failed to give a concrete action on physical progress on corridors.
  • The principal Bench of the NGT in its latest order said the government must treat it as the last opportunity to come up with an action plan.

 

GS 2 – Polity & Governance

Plea to declare emergency unlawful

Why in News?

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a 94-year-old widow who wants the Emergency proclaimed in 1975 to be “wholly unconstitutional”.

Context

  • Veera Sarin said she and her family were victims of the excesses of that “grave and dark period of our nation’s history”.
  • Their gold jewellery and diamond business based in Karol Bagh and Connaught Place in the National Capital were plundered by the government authorities during the Emergency, when civil rights and liberties were suspended.
  • Her husband never recovered from the shock of the family business going under. He was slapped with cases; they were threatened by the police and their family properties were raided repeatedly.
  • One of the cases foisted against her husband, under the Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators (Forfeiture of Property) Act of 1976 continued from 1975 to 2014 until the Delhi High Court declared it a “nullity”.
  • Even then, it took another three years, on July 28 this year, to get a partial compensation for the government’s “illegal possession” of their properties.

 

GS 3 – Health

Madhya Pradesh readies to treat 1 lakh malnourished children

Why in News?

The Madhya Pradesh government is preparing to deal with a likely surge in children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), by chalking out a strategy to cater to 1 lakh such children by emphasising community-led efforts to overcome shortcomings in health infrastructure, a government official.

Context

  • The State should be gearing to create supportive mechanisms for over 1 lakh SAM cases as just before the lockdown the number of SAM cases was hovering around 81,000.
  • We have already identified 77,681 SAM children and 467 MAM (moderate acute malnutrition) children after our monitoring activities resumed once the lock down lifted.
  • The government expected to identify the remaining approximately 22,000 children by December-end.

Wasting due to COVID-19

  • According to a Lancet article published on July 27, “there could be a 14.3% increase in the prevalence of moderate or severe wasting among children younger than five years due to COVID-19-related losses”.
  • It also forecasts a rise in Child Mortality by up to 10,000 deaths per month globally.
  • The State has a capacity of treating nearly 3,500 children through facility-based management. With COVID-19 protocols in place, we were at 50% of operational capacity and were staring at a daunting task.
  • The government then decided to launch a strategy focused on nutritional care and rehabilitation of vulnerable children on the basis of a pilot project run by UNICEF in a block in Hoshangabad district.
  • This would involve identifying children suffering from anaemia, low birth weight, deprivation of essential nutrients and micronutrients.
  • The scheme is being implemented under the programme Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (IMAM).
  • The community management treatment includes identification of vulnerable children, community supervised feeding and monitoring of the health status, and forming mothers’ groups as well as those of adolescent girls to assist frontline workers in spreading awareness within the community.

 

Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM)

  • It is the most extreme and visible form of undernutrition. Its face is a child – frail and skeletal – who requires urgent treatment to survive.
  • Children with severe acute malnutrition have very low weight for their height and severe muscle wasting.
  • They may also have nutritional oedema – characterized by swollen feet, face and limbs. About two thirds of these children live in Asia and almost one third live in Africa.
  • Severe acute malnutrition is a major cause of death in children under 5, and its prevention and treatment are critical to child survival and development.
  • Across the globe, an estimated 16 million children under the age of 5 are affected by severe acute malnutrition.
  • This number is staggering – most importantly, because children with severe acute malnutrition are nine times more likely to die than well-nourished children.
  • These deaths are the direct result of malnutrition itself, as well as the indirect result of childhood illnesses like diarrhoea and pneumonia that malnourished children are too weak to survive.
  • Severe acute malnutrition can increase dramatically in emergencies. But despite what we see in the headlines, the majority of cases occur in developing countries not affected by emergencies.
  • These settings are plagued by chronic poverty, lack of education, poor hygiene, limited access to food and poor diets. The result is significant barriers to sustainable development in these nations.

 

GS 3 – Economy

Govt. to promote AYUSH exports

Why in News?

Citing the rise in exports of Ayurveda-related products since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has decided to set up an export promotion council for AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) products.

Context

  • The Ministries of Finance, Commerce and Industry, and AYUSH will work together to facilitate more exports of such products, by standardising their HS (Harmonised System) Codes for global trade.
  • The decision to set up an export promotion council to boost AYUSH exports was taken at a joint review meeting of the sector by Commerce and Industry Minister and AYUSH Minister the Commerce Ministry said in a statement.
  • There was a growing global interest in AYUSH-based solutions for disease resistance and treatment amid the pandemic and players in the sector needed to upscale quickly in order to meet overseas and domestic demand.
  • The recent spurt in exports of AYUSH products was a direct reflection of their growing popularity in many countries, the industry urging to spruce up their quality standards and cost-competitiveness.
  • The Bureau of Indian Standards will be roped in to help develop international standards for AYUSH products and services.

Harmonised System (HS)

  • It is commonly used throughout the export process for goods.
  • It is a standardized numerical method of classifying traded products.
  • It is used by customs authorities around the world to identify products when assessing duties and taxes and for gathering statistics.

Harmonised System Code & World Customs Organization (WCO)

  • The HS is administrated by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and is updated every five years.
  • It serves as the foundation for the import and export classification systems used in the United States and by many trading partners.
  • The HS assigns specific six-digit codes for varying classifications and commodities. Countries are allowed to add longer codes to the first six digits for further classification.
  • The United States uses a 10-digit code to classify products for export, known as a Schedule B number, with the first six digits being the HS number.
  • There is a Schedule B number for every physical product, from paperclips to airplanes.
  • The Schedule B is administered by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Division.