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[oped of the day] Rethinking water management issues

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : NITI strateg reforms on water - analysus


Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.

Context

In NITI Aayog’s ‘Strategy for New India @75’, the strategy for ‘water resources’ is insipid and unrealistic as the successive National Water Policies (NWP). 

Planning

  • Effective strategic planning must satisfy three essential requirements
    • acknowledge and analyse past failures
    • suggest realistic and implementable goals
    • stipulate who will do what, and within what time frame
  • The ‘strategy’ for water fails on all three counts.

No new vision – the creation of bodies

  • The document reiterates two failed ideas: 
    • adopting an integrated river basin management approach
    • setting up of river basin organisations (RBOs) for major basins
  • The integrated management concept has been around for 70 years, but not even one moderate size basin has been managed anywhere in the world.
  • 32 years after the NWP of 1987 recommended RBOs, not a single one has been established for any major basin.
  • The water resources regulatory authority is another failed idea. Maharashtra established a water resources regulatory authority in 2005. Water management in Maharashtra has gone from bad to worse. Without analysing why the WRA already established has failed, the recommendation to establish water resources regulatory authorities is inexcusable.

Irrigation gap

  • The strategy document notes that there is a huge gap between irrigation potential created and utilised.
  • It recommends that the Water Ministry draw up an action plan to complete command area development (CAD) works to reduce the gap. 
  • This recommendation is made without analysing why CAD works remain incomplete.

Other goals

  • They include:
    • providing adequate and safe piped water supply to all citizens and livestock
    • providing irrigation to all farms
    • providing water to industries
    • ensuring continuous and clean flow in the “Ganga and other rivers along with their tributaries”, i.e. in all Indian rivers
    • assuring long-term sustainability of groundwater
    • safeguarding proper operation and maintenance of water infrastructure
    • utilising surface water resources to the full potential of 690 billion cubic meters
    • improving on-farm water-use efficiency
    • ensuring zero discharge of untreated effluents from industrial units. 
  • These goals are not just over-ambitious, but absurdly unrealistic for a five-year window. 
  • Not even one of these goals has been achieved in any State in the past 72 years.

Lack of accountability

  • The strategy document did not specify who will be responsible and accountable for achieving the specific goals, and in what time-frame. 
  • Take one goal: “Encourage industries to utilise recycled/treated water”. Merely encouraging someone to do something, is not a “goal”. NITI Aayog does not say who will do this encouraging, and how? 

Issues identified by NITI

  • Of the issues listed under ‘constraints’, only one, the Easement Act, 1882, which grants groundwater ownership rights to landowners, and has resulted in uncontrolled extractions of groundwater, is actually a constraint. 
  • The remaining such as irrigation potential created but not being used; poor efficiency of irrigation systems; indiscriminate use of water in agriculture; poor implementation and maintenance of projects; cropping patterns not aligned to agroclimatic zones; subsidised pricing of water; citizens not getting piped water supply; and contamination of groundwater are not constraints; they are problems, caused by  misgovernance in the water sector.
  • There is no recommendation to amend the Easement Act or to stop subsidised/free electricity to farmers
  • It recommends promoting solar pumps. These are environmentally correct and ease the financial burden on electricity supply agencies. However, the free electricity provided by solar units will further encourage unrestricted pumping of groundwater, and will further aggravate the problem of a steady decline of groundwater levels.

Reforms overlooked

  • The document fails to identify real constraints. It notes that the Ken-Betwa River inter-linking project, the India-Nepal Pancheshwar project, and the Siang project in Northeast India need to be completed. 
  • A major roadblock in the completion of these projects is public interest litigations filed in the National Green Tribunal, the Supreme Court, or in various High Courts. 
  • The government should have a plan to arrest the blatant misuse of PIL for environmental posturing.

Way ahead

  • National Water Framework law
  • Amendments to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act
  • Dam Safety Bill
  • India’s water problems can be solved with existing knowledge, technology, and available funds.
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Uncaging India

Mains Paper 2 : Civil Service |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Civil Service Reforms


Context

There is a need for civil service reforms to transform our economy.

A short story

  • P N Haksar wrote a letter to J R D Tata saying that businessmen were not doing enough for India’s development. 
  • He responded, 
    • I began my 55-year-old career as an angry young man because I couldn’t stomach foreign domination.
    • I end it as an angry old man… because it breaks my heart to see the continuing miserable fate of the vast majority of our people.
    • For much of this, I blame years of ill-conceived economic policies of our government. 
    • Instead of releasing energies and enterprises, the system of licenses and controls imposed on the private sector, combined with confiscatory personal taxation, not only discouraged and penalised honest free enterprise but encouraged, and brought success and wealth, to a new breed of bribers, tax evaders, and black marketeers. 

Reforms in the economy

  • Reforms over 35 years since J R D’s letter — delicensing, deregulation, Aadhaar, UPI, inflation targeting, Bankruptcy, GST, lower corporate taxes, etc. — are India’s strong foundations for a $5-trillion economy. 
  • Reaching a $10-trillion economy and a per capita income close to what China has today needed a new human capital regime for India’s 20 million civil servants.

A $10tn economy – what it would be like

  • 80% of our labor force works outside farms. 
  • We have 200 cities with more than a million people (today – 52). 
  • Our cities meet the Marchetti constant (30-minute work commutes). 
  • Our government borrows at less than 4%
  • Our Aadhaar-linked land markets equalise rental yields and mortgage borrowing rates. 
  • PSU banks are governed by an independent holding company with no access to taxes. 
  • Our credit to GDP ratio rises to 100% (50% now) because our financial institutions know how to lend and recover money. 
  • Government school enrollment stops declining because learning outcomes improve. 
  • We have attracted China factory refugees that are going to Vietnam and Malaysia today. 
  • The global capital glut of negative interest rates chasing growth underwrites our investment needs. 
  • Fiscal discipline delivers low inflation. 
  • 50% of our college-going-age kids go to a diverse higher education system (25% in a homogenous system today). 
  • The policy encourages formal hiring. Our reformed social security system covers 60% of workers (today – 20%).

Problems in achieving this vision

  • Regulatory cholesterol universe for employers – 57,000 compliances, 3,100 filings and 4,000 changes a year. 
  • Hostility to private enterprises comes from toxic civil service thought-worlds like prohibited till permitted, know-it-all rather than learn-it-all, too small for big things but too big for small things, poor and jerky law drafting, contempt for execution complexity, immaculate conception over continuous improvement, stereotyping the private sector as big companies rather than MSMEs, only using punishment to enforce policy rather than design-driven by domain specialisation, and not viewing wealth creators as national assets. 
  • Listed PSUs have destroyed $150 billion in value over the last decade. 
  • Cutting this regulatory cholesterol needs a climate change for civil servants.

Reform

  • A new human capital regime starts with two projects each in six areas of structure, staffing, training, performance management, compensation, and culture
  • Structure 
    • Project 1 involves rationalisation: We don’t need hundreds of PSUs and departments in 55 central ministries (Japan has 9; the US has 14, the UK has 21). 
    • Project 2 involves reverting the cylinder to a pyramid – 250+ people in Delhi with Secretary rank.
  •  Staffing 
    • Project 1 eliminates the sanctioned and actual strength gap because this is possible only with good people being overworked, non-urgent work neglected or squatting on unnecessary posts. 
    • Project 2 creates cognitive diversity and competition with 20% lateral entry. 
  • Training 
    • Project 1 involves restructuring how courses are chosen – demand rather than supply-driven, how course nominations choose people, how the courses are evaluated, and how course results integrate with performance management. 
    • Project 2 involves making learning continuous rather than episodic.
  • Performance Management 
    • Project 1 involves a forced curve for appraisals of outstanding (20%), good (60%) and poor (20%). 
    • Project 2 involves replicating army thresholds where people retire at 50 if not shortlisted for promotion
  • Compensation 
    • Project 1 involves moving to a cost-to-government number by monetising benefits. 
    • Project 2 involves freezing salaries at the bottom (we pay too much) and raising them at the top (we pay too little).
  • Culture 
    • The tone from the top around corruption and differentiation. Too many civil service leaders overlook graft among subordinates or don’t question the processes that breed corruption. 
    • Leaders punish good performers by writing performance appraisals that don’t differentiate between gaddha (donkey) and ghoda (horse), giving top jobs by seniority, and allowing automatic promotions that create a pool of “promotable but not postable”. 
    • Differentiation needs fear of falling and hope of rising.

Conclusion

Cutting edge economics views development as a game of scrabble where vowels provided by the government enable the private sector to make more words and longer words. The current civil service fails to provide enough vowels; the steel frame has become a cage. For too long, the brain of the Indian state was not connected to its backbone. It’s time to connect the backbone to its hands and legs.

Civil Services Reforms

[op-ed snap] Trouble with credit

Mains Paper 3 : Indian Economy |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Slowdown of credit in the economy


Context

The Monetary Policy Report of the RBI paints a worrying picture of credit flows in the economy. 

Status of credit flows

  • Between April and mid-September this year, the flow of funds to the commercial sector collapsed to Rs 90,995 crore, down from Rs 7.36 lakh crore over the same period last year. 
  • Non-food bank credit has declined
  • Flows from NBFCs have declined. 
  • Foreign flows have picked up during this period. 
  • Typically, credit flows in the first half of the year tend to be subdued and pick up in the second half. The decline this time around compared to the previous year is staggering.

Reasons behind this decline

    • It appears to be due to a combination of two factors 
      • a collapse in demand
      • risk aversion

Corporate investments

    • An over-leveraged corporate sector is in the midst of a much needed deleveraging exercise. 
    • In the current environment of subdued demand and low capacity utilisation rates, there is little incentive to launch fresh investments.

Banks

    • On the other hand, banks appear to be reluctant to cut rates to boost lending.
    • They are parking more funds in government securities and with the RBI.
    • RBI report notes that banks have increased their SLR portfolios, holding excess SLR of 6.9% at the end of August 2019 indicating a reluctance to lend.
    • In the face of growing economic uncertainty, banks have tightened credit norms, reducing those eligible for credit.
    • The shift in the liquidity stance from deficit to surplus mode has also not helped boost credit flow to the larger economy. 

Crisis in the NBFC 

      • This has only deepened. 
      • Bank credit and the commercial paper market remains shut for NBFCs.
      • Credit flow from NBFCs to the larger economy has suffered and the fallout is visible in the decline in household debt fueled consumption.

Conclusion

  • A slowdown in economic activity will increase stress on the repayment capacity of borrowers and increase the rise of default, making lenders even more cautious. 
  • The first step towards rebuilding trust, and addressing the stress in the financial sector in order to get credit flowing, should be to ensure a quick and orderly resolution of stressed NBFCs.
Monetary Policy Committee Notifications

Satnami Rebellion

Mains Paper 1 : Modern Indian History |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Satnami Rebellion

Mains level : Peasants revolution in medieval ages


Context

  • In the history of revolts and rebellions, 1672 holds a special significance.

Satnami Rebellion

  • In 1672, the Satnamis — a sect comprising peasants, artisans and untouchables — rebelled against the mighty Mughal Empire. It all began with a small quarrel.
  • A Satnami youth, cultivating his field, got into a fight with a party of Mughal nobles, which resulted in his slaying by a Mughal pyada or a foot soldier.
  • In retaliation, the foot soldier was killed by the Satnami community. This happened in what is today’s Mahendragarh district in Haryana.
  • Following the two murders, the local Mughal official sent a troop of soldiers to arrest those who had killed the foot soldier. But the community drove them away.
  • Emboldened, the Satnamis attacked Narnaul, the main township in the area and destroyed the Mughal garrison. They even set up their own administration.

An armed struggle

  • The Satnamis marched towards Shahjahanabad (old Delhi), armed with the latest European-designed muskets that their leader had taught them to make.
  • Though the Satnamis fought bravely, they lost the battle and 2,000 Satnamis were killed.

What triggered the Satnamis?

  • The killing of the youth may have been the immediate trigger, the reasons for the revolt were to do with the growth of the Satnami sect.
  • The entrenched caste structure of the era forced marginalized groups to join the fold and they protested against the high taxation policies.
  • Their rise was seen as a threat by the supporters of the Mughal administration, the upper castes.

Why is the rebellion significant?

  • Though the rebellion was crushed, its memory endures to this day.
  • That a group of marginalized people fought the systemic oppression in society, established a new community and defended it.

Back2Basics

Who were the Satnamis?

  • Historians have called the Satnamis a monotheistic sect who followed neither Hinduism nor Islam and whose scriptures emphasised leading a life based on good conduct rather than on rituals and dogma.
  • Many may find this hard to believe but the Mughals were actually protective of the caste system.
  • As a result, the high castes continued to inflict the worst atrocities on the peasants, artisans, untouchables and tribals.

Satnami women

  • They were the “invisibles” in Mughal India. Whether Brahmin, Rajput or Muslim, they were forbidden to be seen by any man other than their own.
  • In contrast, the Satnami women dressed up like men, worked in farms and also joined men to fight the Mughal soldiers.
History- Important places, persons in news

Graded Response Action Plan

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GRAP

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution



News

  • Starting October 15, some stricter measures to fight air pollution will come into force in Delhi’s neighbourhood, as part of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).
  • As pollution rises, and it is expected to as winter approaches, more measures will come into play depending on the air quality.

Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)

  • In 2014, when a study by the WHO found that Delhi was the most polluted city in the world, panic spread in the Centre and the state government.
  • Approved by the Supreme Court in 2016, the plan was formulated after several meetings that the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) held with state government and experts.
  • The result was a plan that institutionalized measures to be taken when air quality deteriorates.
  • GRAP works only as an emergency measure.
  • Three major policy decisions that can be credited to EPCA and GRAP are the closure of the thermal power plant at Badarpur, bringing BS-VI fuel to Delhi before the deadline set initially, and the ban on Pet coke as a fuel in Delhi NCR.

How it works?

  • As such, the plan does not include action by various state governments to be taken throughout the year to tackle industrial, vehicular and combustion emissions.
  • When the air quality shifts from poor to very poor, the measures listed under both sections have to be followed since the plan is incremental in nature.
  • If air quality reaches the severe+ stage, GRAP talks about shutting down schools and implementing the odd-even road-space rationing scheme.

Severe+ or Emergency

(PM 2.5 over 300 µg/cubic metre or PM10 over 500 µg/cu. m. for 48+ hours)

  • Stop entry of trucks into Delhi (except essential commodities)
  • Stop construction work
  • Introduce odd/even scheme for private vehicles and minimise exemptions
  • Task Force to decide any additional steps including shutting of schools

Severe

(PM 2.5 over 250 µg/cu. m. or PM10 over 430 µg/cu. m.)

  • Close brick kilns, hot mix plants, stone crushers
  • Maximise power generation from natural gas to reduce generation from coal
  • Encourage public transport, with differential rates
  • More frequent mechanized cleaning of road and sprinkling of water

Very Poor

(PM2.5 121-250 µg/cu. m. or PM10 351-430 µg/cu. m.)

  • Stop use of diesel generator sets
  • Enhance parking fee by 3-4 times
  • Increase bus and Metro services
  • Apartment owners to discourage burning fires in winter by providing electric heaters during winter
  • Advisories to people with respiratory and cardiac conditions to restrict outdoor movement

Moderate to poor

(PM2.5 61-120 µg/cu. m. or PM10 101-350 µg/cu. m.)

  • Heavy fines for garbage burning
  • Close/enforce pollution control regulations in brick kilns and industries
  • Mechanised sweeping on roads with heavy traffic and water sprinkling
  • Strictly enforce ban on firecrackers

Has GRAP helped?

  • The biggest success of GRAP has been in fixing accountability and deadlines.
  • For each action to be taken under a particular air quality category, executing agencies are clearly marked.
  • In a territory like Delhi, where a multiplicity of authorities has been a long-standing impediment to effective governance, this step made a crucial difference.

What measures have been taken in other states?

  • One criticism of the EPCA as well as GRAP has been the focus on Delhi.
  • While other states have managed to delay several measures, citing lack of resources, Delhi has always been the first one to have stringent measures enforced.
  • In a recent meeting that discussed the ban on diesel generator sets, the point about Delhi doing all the heavy lifting was also raised.
Air Pollution

Evolution of Universe after the Big Bang

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nobel Prize

Mains level : Big Bang Theory



News

Nobel Prize for Physics

  • This year’s Nobel Prize for Physics recognizes research that helps us understand our place in the universe.
  • Canadian-American cosmologist James Peebles, 84, won one-half of the Prize for his theoretical work helping us understand how the universe evolved after the Big Bang.
  • The other half went to Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor, 77, and Didier Queloz, 53, for their discovery of an exoplanet that challenged preconceived ideas about planets.

How the universe evolved

  • Modern cosmology assumes that the universe formed as a result of the Big Bang.
  • In decades of work since the 1960s, Peebles used theoretical physics and calculations to interpret what happened after.
  • His work is focused largely on Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation, which is electromagnetic radiation left over from the early universe once it had cooled sufficiently following the Big Bang.
  • Today, CMB can be observed with detectors.

Nobel Prize: It’s never too late

  • When it was observed for the first time in 1964 by radio astronomers Arnold Penzias and Robert Wilson —who would go on to be awarded the 1978 Physics Nobel — they were initially puzzled.
  • They learnt later that Peebles had predicted such radiation.
  • Peebles and colleagues have correlated the temperature of this radiation with the amount of matter created in the Big Bang.
  • This was a key step towards understanding how this matter would later form the galaxies and galaxy clusters.
  • From their work derives our knowledge of how mysterious the universe is — just 5% known matter and the rest unknown, as dark matter (26%) and dark energy (69%).

Exoplanets

  • The hunt for extraterrestrial life, if any exists, depends on finding habitable planets, mainly outside our Solar System.
  • Today, exoplanets are being discovered very frequently — over 4,000 are known — which is remarkable progress from three decades ago, when not even one exoplanet was known.
  • The first confirmed discoveries came in 1992, but these were orbiting not a star but the remains of one.
  • The planet discovered by Mayor and Queloz in 1995 is 50 light years away, orbiting the star 51 Pegasus that is similar to our Sun.

51 Pegasus

  • Called 51 Pegasus b, the exoplanet is not habitable either, but it challenged our understanding of planets and laid the foundation for future discoveries.
  • It is a gas giant comparable to Jupiter, yet it very hot, unlike icy cold Jupiter; 51 Pegagsus b is even closer to its star than Mercury is to our Sun.
  • Until then, gas giants were presumed to be cold, formed a great distance from their stars.
  • Today, it is accepted that these hot gas giants represent what Jupiter would look like if it were suddenly transported closer to the Sun.
Global Geological And Climatic Events

Global Competitiveness Index 2019

Mains Paper 3 : Indian Economy |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GCI

Mains level : Ease of doing business in India


News

  • The annual Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) compiled by Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF) is released.
  • Singapore has become the world’s most competitive economy in 2019, pushing the U.S. to the second place. Hong Kong SAR is ranked 3rd, Netherlands is 4th and Switzerland is ranked 5th.

About the GCI

  • The GCI was launched in 1979, maps the competitiveness landscape of 141 economies through 103 indicators organised into 12 pillars.

India ranked second for shareholder governance

  • India is ranked also high at 15th place in terms of corporate governance, while it is ranked second globally for shareholder governance.
  • In terms of the market size, India is ranked third, while it has got the same rank for renewable energy regulation.
  • Besides, India also punches above its development status when it comes to innovation, which is well ahead of most emerging economies and on par with several advanced economies.
  • India ranks high in terms of macroeconomic stability and market size, while its financial sector is relatively deep and stable despite the high delinquency rate, which contributes to weakening the soundness of its banking system.
  • This is largely due to improvements witnessed by several other economies.

India’s declining performance

  • India has moved down 10 places to rank 68th from 58th on an annual global competitiveness index.
  • WEF has flagged limited ICT (information, communications and technology) adoption, poor health conditions and low healthy life expectancy.
  • India is among the worst-performing BRICS nations along with Brazil (ranked even lower than India at 71st this year).
  • In the overall ranking, India is followed by some of its neighbours including Sri Lanka at 84th place, Bangladesh at 105th, Nepal at 108th and Pakistan at 110th place.

Why?

Low healthy life expectancy

  • The WEF said the healthy life expectancy, where India has been ranked 109th out of total the 141 countries surveyed for the index, is one of the shortest outside Africa and significantly below the South Asian average.

Improving skill base

  • Besides, India needs to grow its skills base, while its product market efficiency is undermined by a lack of trade openness.
  • The labour market is characterized by a lack of worker rights’ protections, insufficiently developed active labour market policies and critically low participation of women.
  • With a ratio of female workers to male workers of 0.26, India has been ranked very low at 128th place. India is also ranked low at 118th in terms of meritocracy and incentivisation and at 107th place for skills.

Asia-Pacific is most competitive region

  • The report showed that several economies with strong innovation capability like Korea, Japan and France, or increasing capability, like China, India and Brazil, must improve their talent base and their labour markets.
  • The presence of many competitive countries in Asia-Pacific makes this region the most competitive in the world, followed closely by Europe and North America.
  • China is ranked 28th (the highest ranked among the BRICS) while Vietnam is the most improved country in the region this year at 67th place.
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD,etc

World Vision Report

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Highlights of the report

Mains level : Economic implications of the Eye impairment


News

  • The first-ever World Vision Report was recently released by WHO.

Highlights of the report

  • More than a quarter of the world’s population — some 2.2 billion people — suffer from vision impairment.
  • The report warned that population ageing would lead to a dramatic increase in the number of people with vision impairment and blindness.
  • Presbyopia, a condition in which it is difficult to see nearby objects, affects 1.8 billion people. This condition occurs with advancing age.
  • The common refractive error — myopia (a condition in which it is difficult to see objects at a distance) affects 2.6 billion, with 312 million being under the age of 19 years.
  • Cataract (65.2 million), age-related macular degeneration (10.4 million), glaucoma (6.9 million), corneal opacities (4.2 million), diabetic retinopathy (3 million), trachoma (2 million), and other causes (37.1 million) are other common vision impairments listed in the report.
  • Trachoma is caused due to bacterial infection in the eye. Many countries have eliminated it, including India.

India praised

  • There was praise for India in the report for its National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB).
  • According to the report, in 2016-17, the NPCB provided cataract surgery to a total 6.5 million people in India, achieving a cataract surgical rate of over 6,000 per million population.
  • During this period, school screening was provided to nearly 32 million children and approximately 750,000 spectacles were distributed, the report said about the NPCB.

Regional and gender distribution

  • The prevalence of vision impairment in low- and middle-income regions was estimated by the report to be four times higher than in high-income regions
  • Three Asian regions alone (representing 51% of the world’s population) account for 62 per cent of the estimated 216.6 million vision-impaired people in the world.
  • South Asia (61.2 million); East Asia (52.9 million); and South-East Asia (20.8 million).
  • Myopia is the highest in high-income countries of the Asia-Pacific region (53.4 per cent), closely followed by East Asia (51.6 per cent).
  • Adolescents in urban areas of China and South Korea have reported rates as high as 67 per cent and 97 per cent, respectively.

Why vision matters?

  • The WHO report said studies had consistently established that vision impairment severely impacted quality of life (QoL) among adult populations.
  • Besides, vision impairment also caused productivity loss and economic burden.
  • The economic burden of uncorrected myopia in the regions of East Asia, South Asia and South-East Asia were reported to be more than twice that of other regions and equivalent to more than one per cent of gross domestic product.

Prevention is possible

  • Out of one billion cases of vision impairment that could have been prevented, 11.9 million suffered from glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and trachoma that could have been prevented.
  • The estimated costs of preventing the vision impairment in these 11.9 million would have been $5.8 billion.
  • This represented a significant missed opportunity in preventing the substantial personal and societal burden associated with vision impairment and blindness.

Various factors

  • Regarding gender gap, the WHO said no strong association existed between gender and many eye conditions, including glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.
  • However, rates of cataract and trachomatous trichiasis are higher among women, particularly in low- and middle-income countries,” it clarified.
  • Incidence of a rural-urban divide does exist.
  • Rural populations also face greater barriers to accessing eye care due to them having to travel greater distances and poor road quality, among other factors.
  • Lifestyle differences ensured that unlike cataract, higher rates of childhood myopia were found in urban populations of China and Australia since children living in rural areas spent more time outdoors.

Barriers to eye care

  • Accessibility to eye care services and high costs particularly for rural populations are the major drivers of vision impairment.
  • Therefore, the WHO emphasised expanding Universal Healthcare Coverage and making eye care an integral part of it around the world.
  • Direct costs are key barrier to accessing eye care in high-income countries, particularly for people living in rural areas or those with low socio-economic status.
  • Affordability to buy lenses or spectacles was a major stumbling block.
  • The WHO report, as with many other studies, highlighted that there was a gender disparity in accessibility to eye care services, with women standing a lesser chance of availing them.
  • Lack of trained human resources was another factor pushing these ailments further.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.