14-11-2022 (Important News Clippings)

14 Nov 2022
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The coal reality

How coal is phased out is India’s policy choice, the transition cannot be decided by West’s interests

TOI Editorials

Far from the phase-down of coal that COP26 called for in Glasgow, it is a pronounced phase-up that the world has seen this year. The large disruption of conventional energy supplies by the Ukraine war has sent Germany reviving coal-fired plants and China mining record volumes. Now midway through COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, India has proposed that the decision text should call for phasing down all fossil fuels rather than making a villain out of only coal. This position follows from two factors. First, natural gas and oil do contribute to GHG emissions as well so don’t whitewash them. Second, India does keep being targeted for heavy coal reliance for its energy needs. And this targeting is hypocritical and unjust.

Rich countries have fallen horribly short of their commitments to help developing countries make a just-transition from fossil fuels. Their historical emission contributions aside, look at the place from where these countries are asking India to clean up: US energy use per capita is 6,804 kg of oil equivalent compared to India’s 637 kg. Of course, India is making significant investments in renewables. But geopolitical disruptions, growing summers and also welcome reductions in poverty mean such new demands that our energy security remains dependent on coal. Hastening us along the change path should be done via more finance and technology support.

India also has to navigate an internal just-transition challenge as 85% of coal production is concentrated in the relatively poor eastern and central states, while over 60% of renewable energy potential and 80% of current capacity is concentrated in relatively wealthy southern and western states. When the political economy has to transition millions of livelihoods, blunt-force approaches are near unaffordable.

At the same time, regular accidents that show open-cast mines to be death traps also show that cleaning up coal is very much in workers’ interests. It is also in everyone else’s interest, given both the sickening smog hovering over northern India right now and global carbon emissions from fossil fuels expected to hit a record level this year. Thus, even if coal has to keep playing an important role in India until at least 2040, it must not be business as usual. Instead, cleaner technologies must be harnessed in extracting and deploying it. And India should put hard timelines to such transitions.



The law gave sexual offences against children the focus it deserved. But consider lowering age of consent from 18

TOI Editorials

Today marks ten years of the reform that took sexual offences against children out of the IPC – and the coming into effect of the special law, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. From gender-neutral offences to child-friendly special courts following gentler procedures in recording statements and conducting trials, it was a much-needed reform. Cases under POCSO have risen steadily, suggesting greater reporting of offences, but this needs constant upgrading of judicial infrastructure.

A Vidhi report on POCSO published in this newspaper reveals that pendency has risen sharply after the pandemic struck and that disposal of cases within a year of institution may be slowing down. With victims being children, longer disposal times are unacceptable. The report also noted three acquittals for every conviction, suggesting police is failing at marshalling evidence. But POCSO’s biggest problem is that it increased age of consent from 16 to 18.

This implies that consent of those between 16 and 18 isn’t valid in sexual intercourse. Consequently, many POCSO cases involve girls’ families filing sexual assault charges where they don’t approve of relationships. Half of POCSO cases are accounted for by the 16-18 age bracket. The Karnataka high court has sought review of age of consent citing “ground realities”. Delhi HC recently granted bail in a classic case of POCSO misuse. The accused was implicated by his 17-year-old “wife’s” father. Ironically, the father conducted her marriage while still an adolescent, but when she rebelled, eloped and remarried, the father slapped POCSO on her second husband. POCSO was “meant to protect children below 18 from sexual exploitation, not criminalise consensual romantic relationships between young adults”, Delhi HC observed. The letter and spirit of POCSO must reflect this sensible proposition. It’s time to consider whether the age of consent should be lowered from 18.


Make the Techtonic Shift for the Techade

ET Editorials

Nirmala Sitharaman has done well to urge startups to come up with affordable and scalable tech-driven solutions for the upcoming decade that will be India’s ‘Techade’ — technology-driven decade. The country has reaped the benefits of Digital India, starting with the success of early public initiatives like Aadhaar, Jan Dhan, India Stack, and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and United Payments Interface (UPI) for digital payments, along with increased internet and mobile penetration. Some startups have solved national problems costeffectively and at scale, involving public funding or otherwise. Digital payments, where India has been able to scale up using Indian standards and innovation to bring a large-scale behavioural change, is another example.

Startup entrepreneurs need capital, mentors, network effect, local markets — and access to talent and skills. Early-stage funding, lowering barriers to procurement from startups including in deeptech and strategic sectors, and ironing out road-block regulation to ease the fund flow from foreign investors are welcome. Policy initiatives in telecom and opening up of the space and defence sectors have meant rapid creation of domestic markets for tech and digital products and services. The missing piece — electronics manufacturing — is also being addressed. Public platforms are also coming up in many sectors with startups and large companies.

With its talent pool, India can develop the expertise to play a huge role in global digital transformation, provided these companies move up the value chain, acquire new skills and the capacity to innovate better ways of doing business. This includes their ability to deploy different emerging technologies in the offerings.


Clean the Cities, Clear the Rubbish

Akshay Rout, ( The writer is former director general (special projects), Swachh Bharat Mission )

Swachh Survekshan, the world’s largest survey of cities and towns for cleanliness, has expanded from 73 cities in 2016 to 4,355 this year. Some 9 crore citizens gave their feedback, a sharp rise from 5 crore last year, demonstrating growing sanitation sensitivity in urban India.

Indore topped the list the sixth time in a row. If Indore has created its own league as India’s first 7-star garbage-free city (GFC), others like Surat, Bhopal, Mysuru, Navi Mumbai, Vishakhapatnam and Tirupati broke into the 5-star league. Patan (Gujarat), Panchgani and Karad (both in Maharashtra) are smaller town champions. Madhya Pradesh edged past three times topper Chhattisgarh as the cleanest state. Tripura dislodged twice-winner Jharkhand to become the cleanest small state.

Indore boasts of a massive fleet aided by vehicle tracking and monitoring systems (VTMS) for door-to-door recovery of waste from as many as six segregated bins holding sanitary waste, plastic waste, e-waste and domestic hazardous waste. Another range of mechanised roadsweepers are at work conjoined by ultramoderntransfer of waste.

The city is dotted by a number of dry, wet and other toxic wasteprocessing centres and bio-methanation plants including a mega 550 tonnes per day unit. For liquid waste, the city is fool-proofing its sewerage system. It also traps all sewage water, properly reuses treated water and nullahs. Jan bhagidari (people’s participation) is in action as citizens take to home composting, back lane renovation, bartan banks and zero-waste events. A super clean city is sanitation plus. In Indore, the potholeand dust-free roads and pavements, green belts, well-lit and maintained public spaces, footpaths and squares, public amenities, and beautification projects tell the complete story.

Importantly, the Survekshan serves to underwrite India’s goal to have all cities and towns garbagefree by 2026, the big idea of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) Urban. Unplanned urbanisation, combined with tolerance towards filth, has meant that India’s urban centres coexist with piles of waste. Now it is urban India versus garbage.

While scientific processing of waste has increased four times since the commencement of SBM, complete source segregation will remain a key challenge, besides the need for higher material recovery and processing facilities. Effective phasing out of single-use plastic will need much more action from urban local bodies than dependence on the ban. Cities have another giant task of accounting for small and big flows of waste water.

For sustaining cleanliness in cities, industry has to own the waste. Recently, 250 startups took up the ground-level task in sanitation, and some organised efforts were also made for waste to be recycled into toys. An emerging cadre of ‘swachhatentrepreneurs’, many of them former sanitation workers, suggests the possibilities. The 70 lakh toilets additionally built in cities under SBM Urban may fall short in view of the constant inflow of migrating populations. Their functionality and maintenance is another task.

The risk to sanitation workers engaged in sewers and septic tanks keeps coming under painful focus. It’s redeeming that over 500 cities have declared themselves as ‘Safaimitra surakshit sheher’ after a full switchover from manhole to machine hole. The journey has begun.

The quest for garbage-free cities will be a non-starter if hillocks of legacy dump stand obdurately on 16crore tonnes of waste. Recently, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed penalties on states and asked for time-bound remediation. The political battle over these mega dumps in Delhi — Ghazipur, Bhalswa and Okhla — have a silver lining: grabbing the attention of leaders. Indore managed to dissolve a dumpsite of 15 lakh tonnes of legacy waste to bring up a city forest in its place. Delhi and other cities can certainly follow.

In September, the Indian Swachhata League saw nearly 5 lakh young people across 1,850 cities teaming up and competing to clean up beaches, hills and public places. In an ingeniously built ‘Swachhata Ke Do Rang’ wet-dry source segregation campaign ahead of Diwali, 50 lakh children participated. The 3 Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle — will have to become both an individual as well as community habit for sanitation plans in urban space to succeed.

In a larger frame, this could constitute the core of Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE), the India-led global movement to nudge action. Enormous, yes. But going by the benchmark set by the 8-year-old SBM, and Indore acting as a lighthouse, India’s 4,000 cities and towns can aspire to be clean and garbage-free. Jholadhari Indori, the metaphor for substitution of plastic bags by the conscientious citizens of Indore can lead the way.


Saving the precious

Wasteful consumption of ground water must be disincentivised


The Ministry of Water Resources recently made public a report that gives a snapshot of India’s groundwater situation. On the surface, there is good news: the total annual groundwater recharge — defined as the groundwater stored — for the entire country is 437.60 billion cubic metres (bcm) out of which the quantity extracted was 239.16 bcm. A similar assessment in 2020 found that the annual groundwater recharge was 436 bcm and extraction 245 bcm. In 2017, recharge was 432 bcm and extraction 249 bcm. The 2022 assessment suggests that groundwater extraction is the lowest since 2004, when it was 231 bcm. A decrease in groundwater extraction may indicate better water management; however, the report — called the National Compilation on Dynamic Ground water Resources of India — itself says that the improvement is only “marginal” and may be explained by natural conditions and changes in methodology that the Central Ground Water Board and States, which conduct the survey, adopt. In fact, the number of groundwater blocks, or wells, used for estimation were more than those in previous years and it turns out that the percentage of blocks where groundwater was ‘critically’ low was around 14%, or roughly similar to that in previous years.

Regions with the most blocks with critical groundwater levels are in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh, where, despite replenishable systems, indiscriminate groundwater withdrawal has depressed the water table. Other endangered blocks are in Rajasthan and Gujarat, where due to an arid climate, groundwater recharge itself is limited, and finally, parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, where due to inherent characteristics of crystalline water-storing aquifers, groundwater availability is low. That much more needs to be done to conserve groundwater is a foregone conclusion. There is no central law governing the use of groundwater and various States have their own laws on regulating its extraction that are deployed in a perfunctory manner. A draft National Water Policy has recommended a shift in usage from water-guzzling crops and prioritising recycled over freshwater for industrial purposes. Water ought not to be considered a free, private resource but one whose costs must be measured and borne equitably. While water remains a politically contentious subject in India, the climate crisis should inspire consensus across the political spectrum on disincentivising wasteful consumption of this precious resource.


मुकरें नहीं अमीर देश


संयुक्त राष्ट्र की निगरानी में मिस्र के शर्म अल शेख में जलवायु परिवर्तन 1 पर हो रहे कॉप 27 सम्मेलन से विकासशील और गरीब देशों को वादों के सिवाय कुछ खास हासिल नहीं होने जा रहा। इस वर्ष जलवायु वार्ताओं की थीम पैसा और न्याय होने से गरीब देश, अमीर देशों से जीवाश्म ईंधन मुक्त भविष्य की ओर मुड़ने के लिए वित्तीय मदद मांग रहे हैं। वे उस नुकसान की भरपाई भी चाहते हैं, जो वैश्विक तापमान में बढ़ने से हुआ है, जिसे बढ़ाने में उनका कोई हाथ नहीं है। औपनिवेशिक काल में सदियों तक गुलामी के कारण COP27 इन देशों के नागरिकों का खून, पसीना और आंसू, अमीर देशों की औद्योगिक क्रांति में खर्च हुए हैं। ये देश अब औद्योगिक क्रांति की वजह से निकली खतरनाक ग्रीन हाउस गैसों की एवज में कीमत चुका AllIA कर दोहरी मार झेलने पर मजबूर हैं। विकासशील और गरीब देशों को उत्सर्जन में कटौती, प्रचंड सूखे – और अति वृष्टि के अनुरूप खुद को ढालने, और नतीजतन होने वाली तबाही की कीमत चुकाने के लिए सालाना खरबों डॉलर की जरूरत है। इन देशों से 2020 में जिस 100 अरब डॉलर की सालाना फंडिंग का वादा किया गया था वो हालांकि जरूरत से बहुत कम है। तो भी संकेत हैं कि अमीर देश मदद का लक्ष्य 2023 तक पूरा करने से बच रहे हैं, और 2025 के लिए और बड़ी वित्तीय मदद के लक्ष्य के लिए राजी होने का बहाना कर रहे हैं। इस मदद का एक जरिया ग्रीन क्लाइमेट फंड (जीसीएफ) हो सकता है। इस मदद का उपयोग अक्षय ऊर्जा परियोजनाओं की स्थापना, कृषि में सखा निरोधी बीज अपनाने और शहरों में ज्यादा ठंडक भरी हरित जगहें बनाने में किया जा सकता है। जीसीएफ सार्वजनिक स्रोतों और कारोबारों से फंड जुटाएगा। निजी सेक्टर में उपलब्ध वित्तीय संसाधनों का इस्तेमाल भी करना होगा। संयुक्त राष्ट्र के विशेषज्ञों ने 120 अरब डॉलर के निवेश योग्य प्रोजेक्टों की सूची जारी की है। अब जब अमीर देश मदद से मुंह मोड़ते दिखते हैं, तो गरीब देश खुद ही धन जुटाने के प्रयास में जुट गए हैं। बहुत से गरीब देश कार्बन क्रेडिट मार्केट के जरिए भी फंड जुटाने की उम्मीद कर रहे हैं। एक ओर जब संयुक्त राष्ट्र महासचिव एंटोनियो गुटेरेस चेतावनी दे रहे हैं कि दुनिया बहुत तेजी से विनाश की तरफ बढ़ रही है, ऐसे में अमीर देशों को गरीब देशों की आर्थिक मदद से पीछे नहीं हटना चाहिए।


बढ़ता उत्सर्जन


कार्बन उत्सर्जन की रफ्तार का फिर बढ़ना पूरी दुनिया के लिए दुखद और चिंताजनक है। जीवाश्म ईंधन से वैश्विक कार्बन डाई-ऑक्साइड उत्सर्जन 2022 में एक प्रतिशत बढ़ने का अनुमान है, जो 37.5 अरब टन के एक नए रिकॉर्ड को तोड़ रहा है। वैज्ञानिकों ने शर्म अल-शेख, मिस्र में आयोजित हो रहे संयुक्त राष्ट्र जलवायु परिवर्तन सम्मेलन (कॉप27) में यह घोषणा की है। यदि उत्सर्जन की यही रफ्तार जारी रहती है, तो मानवता केवल नौ वर्षों में औद्योगिक पूर्व तापमान से 1.5 डिग्री सेल्सियस ऊपर पहुंच जाएगी। 2015 के पेरिस जलवायु समझौते ने पृथ्वी के लिए सबसे गंभीर विनाशकारी परिणामों से बचने की मांग करते हुए उत्सर्जन की एक सीमा का निर्धारण किया था, लेकिन उसकी पालना नहीं हो पाई है, नतीजे सामने हैं।

जलवायु वैज्ञानिक और ग्लोबल कार्बन प्रोजेक्ट की एक सदस्य कोरिन ले क्वेरे कहती हैं कि नौ साल बहुत लंबा समय नहीं है। वैश्विक लक्ष्यों को पूरा करने के लिए उत्सर्जन में जिस तरह की कमी की जरूरत है, उसका अभी संकेत भी नहीं है। उत्सर्जन में वृद्धि ऐसे समय हुई है, जब दुनिया यूक्रेन में युद्ध से पैदा ऊर्जा संकट झेल रही है। कोविड-19 महामारी से उबरने की कोशिशें भी जारी हैं। वैज्ञानिकों के अनुसार, कार्बन उत्सर्जन इसलिए भी बढ़ा है, क्योंकि कोयले की खपत बढ़ी है। यूरोप में गैस के अभाव के चलते ऊर्जा पैदा करने के लिए कोयले का प्रयोग बहुत बढ़ा है। नए सिरे से हवाई यात्राओं के कारण तेल की खपत भी बढ़ी है। हालांकि, 2000 के दशक की शुरुआत में कार्बन उत्सर्जन में तीन प्रतिशत की वार्षिक वृद्धि दर्ज हो रही थी, इस वर्ष की एक प्रतिशत अनुमानित वृद्धि अपेक्षाकृत कम है, लेकिन इस वृद्धि को रोकना ही एकमात्र विकल्प है। गौर करने की बात है कि पिछले दशक में दुनिया में उत्सर्जन को घटाने के बेहतर प्रयास हुए थे, लेकिन ताजा आंकड़े बता रहे हैं कि उत्सर्जन रोकने के मामले में फिर कोताही की शुरुआत हो गई है।

चिंता है, सबसे तेज उत्सर्जन की सूचना भारत से आ रही है, जहां कोयले और तेल की बढ़ती खपत में 2021 की तुलना में अनुमानित छह प्रतिशत की वृद्धि दर्ज की गई है। अभी चीन सबसे बड़ा कार्बन उत्सर्जक है, लेकिन वहां इस वर्ष उत्सर्जन एक प्रतिशत घटने का अनुमान है। वहां कोयले की खपत में वृद्धि नहीं हुई है। वैज्ञानिकों का अनुमान है कि कोयले के जलने से होने वाले उत्सर्जन में लगभग एक प्रतिशत की वृद्धि होगी और एक नया रिकॉर्ड स्थापित होगा। यह सोचने की बात है, दुनिया अभी भी लगभग 80 प्रतिशत ऊर्जा के लिए जीवाश्म ईंधन पर निर्भर है। यदि किसी देश की बढ़ती अर्थव्यवस्था जीवाश्म ईंधन पर ज्यादा निर्भर है, तो आपका उत्सर्जन बढ़ने वाला है। स्वच्छ ऊर्जा या अक्षय ऊर्जा अभी भी शुरुआती चरण में ही है। जिन देशों में आबादी कम है, वहां अक्षय ऊर्जा को ज्यादा बढ़ावा दिया जा सकता है, लेकिन जहां आबादी ज्यादा है, वहां लक्ष्य दूर की कौड़ी हैं। जिस गति से पवन और सौर ऊर्जा का विकास भारत जैसे देशों में होना चाहिए था, वह नहीं हो रहा है। साथ ही, अगर हम कोयले से बनी ऊर्जा से ही अपने इलेक्ट्रॉनिक वाहन चार्ज करने जा रहे हैं, तो यह भी कोई पुख्ता उपाय नहीं है। बेशक, वर्तमान ऊर्जा संकट की वजह से यूरोप ने अक्षय ऊर्जा के महत्व को ज्यादा बेहतर ढंग से समझा है। अगर यूरोप में वैकल्पिक ऊर्जा के लिए युद्ध स्तर पर प्रयास हों, तो भारत को भी इसी दिशा में तेजी से बढ़ते हुए उत्सर्जन घटाना चाहिए।

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