Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

What are fire safety rules, and why are there compliance challenges? | Explained 

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) report

Mains level: Laws and guidelines for fire safety in buildings;

Why in the News?

Recent fire tragedies at a Rajkot gaming zone and a Delhi children’s hospital that killed 40 people highlight the urgent need for stricter fire safety enforcement.

According to the latest Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) report

  • It was released by the “National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB)”
  • In 2022, 7,435 people died in over 7,500 fire accidents. This data shows that heavy casualties from fire accidents persist, with no lessons learned from the 1997 Uphaar Cinema tragedy or the 2004 Kumbakonam fire that killed 90 schoolchildren.

What are the various laws and guidelines which stipulate rules around fire safety in buildings? 

  • National Building Code (NBC): Published by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in 1970, last updated in 2016.
    • Part 4 of NBC is about the details of fire safety measures, including construction guidelines, materials, and safety protocols. They are mandatory for states to incorporate NBC recommendations into local buildings.
  • Model Building Bye Laws 2016: It is issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. It guides States/UTs in framing building bylaws with norms for fire protection and safety.
  • State Fire Services Act: Fire services are a state subject, and individual states have their own Fire Services Acts or building bylaws.
  • National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Guidelines: Provide fire safety instructions for homes, schools, and hospitals. Include recommendations on maintaining safety spaces, exit mechanisms, dedicated staircases, and evacuation drills.

Key Points from Fire Safety Regulations by Government:

  • Building Classification: Buildings are classified based on occupancy (e.g., Residential, Institutional, Assembly). Specific measures for high-rise buildings, educational institutes, hotels, etc.
  • Construction Material: Use of non-combustible materials. Internal walls of staircases should have a minimum 120-minute fire rating.
  • Electrical Safety: Flame retardant wiring and cabling. Separate shafts for different voltage wiring, sealed with fire-stop materials.
  • Emergency Power and Signage: Provision of emergency lighting, fire alarm systems, and public address systems. Clear exit signage and escape lighting.
  • Technological Measures: Automatic fire detection and alarm systems.Down-comer pipelines, dry riser pipelines, automatic sprinklers, fire barriers, and fireman’s lifts.

Challenges in Fire Safety Compliance

  • Lack of Uniform Legislation: Fire safety rules exist in all States, with many drawing from the NBC. However, due to the absence of uniform safety legislation and the NBC being a “recommendatory document,“ its provisions are frequently ignored at the local level.
  • Inadequate Fire Safety Audits: Local bodies fail to conduct regular fire safety checks, leading to non-compliance.
  • Staff Shortages: Insufficient staffing in fire departments exacerbates enforcement issues.
  • Community Awareness and Preparedness: Need for better community awareness and training on fire safety protocols and emergency response.

Judicial responses to negligence over Public Safety

  • Apex Court: The Judiciary has frequently pulled up state authorities for failure to enforce fire safety regulations. It highlighted the laxity in compliance and the need for stringent enforcement.
  • Legal Actions: Cases like the Rajkot gaming zone fire reveal the consequences of not adhering to fire safety norms. Courts have mandated regular fire safety audits and strict adherence to NBC guidelines.
  • The National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) emphasized the need for building community resilience and compliance with safety norms.
  • The report on “Fires in India: Learning Lessons for Urban Safety” underscored the failure of authorities to learn from past tragedies and enforce fire safety measures.

Way forward:

  • Building some National Standards: The National Building Code (NBC) needs to be converted from a recommendatory document to a mandatory standard across all states.
  • Regular Inspections: Mandate regular and frequent fire safety audits by local authorities.
  • Transparent Assessment: Allow third-party certified agencies to conduct independent fire safety audits to ensure unbiased assessments.

Mains PYQ:

Q Discuss the recent measures initiated in disaster management by the Government of India departing from the earlier reactive approach. (UPSC IAS/2020)

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

In news: Pripyat River

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Pripyat River, Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

  • The WWF has issued a stark warning regarding the dredging of the Pripyat River, adjacent to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site.
  • Concerns mount as the Pripyat River could transform into a permanent repository of radioactive substances, contaminating the water and food sources.

About Pripyat River

  • Pripyat River is a significant waterway in Eastern Europe. It flows through Ukraine, Belarus, and a small portion of Russia.
  • It is primarily situated within the Polesian Lowland, a region characterized by marshes, wetlands, and forests.
  • The Pripyat River is approximately 761 km (473 miles) long.
  • Physical Features:
  • Tributaries: It has numerous tributaries, including the Stokhid River, Styr River, and Horyn River. The largest tributary of the Pripyat is the Teterev River, which joins it from the right bank.
  • Drainage Basin: Its basin covers an area of around 121,000 square kilometers (46,700 square miles). It is one of the major tributaries of the Dnieper River, which eventually flows into the Black Sea.

Notable event: The Pripyat River gained international attention due to its proximity to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, where the catastrophic nuclear accident occurred in 1986.

About Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster

  • The Chernobyl Disaster occurred on April 26, 1986.
  • It took place at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the town of Pripyat in northern Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union.
  • The explosion and subsequent fire released a large amount of radioactive material such as cesium-137 and strontium-90 into the atmosphere, resulting in widespread contamination.

 

PYQ:

[2020] Consider the following pairs?

River — Flows into

  1. Mekong — Andaman sea
  2. Thames — Irish Sea
  3. Volga — Caspian Sea
  4. Zambezi — Indian Ocean

Which of the pairs above is/are correctly matched?

(a) Only 1

(b) Only 2

(c) Only 3

(d) None of the above/More than one of the above

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

A lesson from Taiwan in quake resilience

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: What India can learn from Taiwan?

Why in the news? 

On April 3, Taiwan was struck by an earthquake of 7.4 magnitude. This was strongest in last 25 years.

Reason behind the earthquake in Taiwan

  • In the Taiwan region, the Philippine Sea plate is moving northwest towards the Eurasian plate at a velocity of about 7.8 cm per year, which is faster than the motion of the Indian plate. 
  • Lying 160 km off the coast of China, Taiwan was formed at a convergent boundary of the Philippine and Eurasian plates in the western Pacific Ocean. It is a country of strong earthquakes.

Why other countries should take lesson from Taiwan in quake resilience?

  • In 1999, the Chi-Chi earthquake of magnitude 7.7 occurred in the central part of Taiwan and impacted the western region. It killed more than 2,430 people and left 11,305 wounded. It caused more than 50,000 buildings to collapse and partially damaged as many.
  • In 2024, Hualien earthquake killed at least 13 people and injured about 1,000. Most of the deaths were caused by earthquake-triggered rockfalls and not by toppled buildings. Despite being of nearly comparable magnitude, the 2024 earthquake has caused minimal damage compared to the 1999 earthquake.

Taiwan’s earthquake preparedness

  • Advanced Monitoring and Early Warning Systems: Taiwan boasts the most advanced earthquake-monitoring network and early warning systems, allowing for quick detection and alerting of seismic activity.
  • Public Awareness Campaigns and Drills: Widespread awareness campaigns and regular drills on earthquake safety have significantly improved the public’s understanding of earthquake risks and proper safety protocols.
  • Government Regulations and Incentives: The government constantly updates earthquake safety requirements for both new and existing buildings. Additionally, incentives such as subsidies are offered to residents to improve the quake resistance of buildings, encouraging compliance with safety standards.
  • Scientific Judgments for Seismic Risk: Utilizing knowledge of earthquake frequency and severity in different areas, Taiwan is able to make sound scientific judgments regarding seismic risk.
  • Utilization of New Technologies: Taiwan employs cutting-edge technologies such as seismic dampers and base isolation systems to enhance building resilience. For example, Taipei 101, the nation’s iconic building, features a tuned mass damper—a massive steel sphere suspended by cables within the tower—which acts as a pendulum to counteract building motion during earthquakes.

What India can learn from Taiwan?

  • Importance of Seismic Safety Regulations: India, especially in tectonically unstable regions like the Himalayas, must prioritize seismic safety regulations in all infrastructure projects.  
  • Customized Seismic Codes: Similar to Taiwan, India should develop seismic codes tailored to specific regions based on local earthquake activity, building types, and construction materials. These customized codes can better address the unique seismic risks faced by different parts of the country.
  • Utilization of Traditional Architectural Styles: In some parts of India, traditional architectural styles may possess inherent earthquake resistivity. By rediscovering and encouraging the use of these traditional techniques, India can promote earthquake-resistant building practices that are culturally and environmentally sustainable.
  • Integration of Seismic Zonation Maps: Indian code IS 1893 already specifies seismic designs based on seismic zonation maps. It’s crucial for India to integrate these maps effectively into urban planning and construction practices to ensure that buildings are designed and located in accordance with seismic risk assessments.

Conclusion

Earthquakes is natural disasters with unpredictable occurrences, can have devastating effects on society. However, their impact can be mitigated through preventive measures such as early warning systems, construction regulations, and raising awareness about earthquake preparedness.


Mains PYQ 

Q Discuss about the vulnerability of India to earthquake related hazards. Give examples including the salient features of major disasters caused by earthquakes in different parts of India during the last three decades.(UPSC IAS/2021)

Mains question for practice 

Q Analyzing Taiwan’s earthquake preparedness following the April 3rd 7.4 magnitude earthquake, explore lessons for India’s earthquake resilience strategy.

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

On India’s ‘heat action plans’ | Explained

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Climatology; Heatwave;

Mains level: Heat Action Plans (HAPs) ;

Why in the news?

Come summer, we are used to seeing heat alerts from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) for various parts of India. This year, these alerts began in February itself.

What is a heatwave?

  • According to the IMD, the definition of a heatwave depends on the physiography of regions.
  • The IMD will declare a heatwave if the maximum temperature recorded at a station is 40 degrees Celsius or more in the plains, 37 degrees Celsius or more in the coast, and 30 degrees Celsius or more in the hills.

Heat Action Plans (HAPs) to tackle heatwave 

  • Aim: HAPs aim to increase preparedness and lower the adverse impacts of extreme heat by outlining strategies and measures to prepare for, address, and recover from heat waves.
    • The National Disaster Management Authority and IMD are reported to be working with 23 States to develop HAPs.
  • Issue with Database: There is no centralized database on HAPs, but at least 23 HAPs exist at the State and city level, with a few States, such as Odisha and Maharashtra, laying out district-level HAPs.

Key components of Heat Action Plans (HAPs)  

Limitation 

  • Challenges related to Determining Heatwaves: While a national threshold is currently used to determine heatwaves, determining them at smaller scales such as states, districts, and cities poses a challenge due to variations in local factors like the urban heat island effect, type of roofing, and proximity to water or green bodies, as well as humidity.
  • Inconsistent Methods and Vulnerability Assessments: The methods used for vulnerability assessments in HAPs are inconsistent because of the diverse physiography of regions
  • Addressing Vulnerable Populations: While HAPs prioritize protecting vulnerable populations, targeted interventions often fail to account for varying needs based on local socio-economic and demographic factors.
  • Resource Allocation and Financing: Implementation of HAPs varies depending on local government priorities and available capacities because at the local level Fund crunch.
  • Integration and Collaboration: HAPs are currently standalone plans with limited finance, highlighting the need for integration with broader action plans promoting urban resilience and climate adaptation to pool resources effectively.

Way Forward:

  • Determination at Local Scales: Invest in local monitoring systems that capture variations in temperature, humidity, and other relevant factors.
  • Standardizing Methods: Establish guidelines for conducting vulnerability assessments that account for diverse physiography and local context.
  • Tailoring Interventions: Conduct comprehensive community consultations to understand the unique needs of vulnerable populations in different localities.
  • Funding and Resources: Advocate for increased funding for HAPs at the national and local levels through budget allocations, grants, and public-private partnerships.
  • Integration and Collaboration: Establish inter-agency task forces or committees to coordinate HAPs with other relevant initiatives, such as urban planning, public health, and disaster management.

Mains PYQ 

Q Climate change’ is a global problem. How India will be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change? (UPSC IAS/2017)

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Karnataka Drought Relief: Let there not be a (Centre-state) contest, states coming to court, says SC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF);

Mains level: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges about the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein;

Why in the News?

Recently, the SC called on the Centre and state governments to refrain from a “contest”, and noted that various state governments were approaching the court to seek relief against the Centre in matters related to the disbursal of funds.

  • The bench was hearing the Karnataka government’s plea seeking a direction to the Centre to release financial assistance from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) for drought management.

Background:

  • The Karnataka state submitted to the Central government, that 223 of the 236 talukas or sub-districts were declared drought-hit. (48 lakh hectares of land under cultivation)
  • An Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) also visited the state to inspect the damage in October 2023. During the monsoon season last year, the rainfall deficit was 56% in June (the third highest in 122 years) and 73% in August (the highest in 122 years).

Supreme Court’s role in this case:

  • Ensuring Accountability and Setting Legal Precedence: The plea before the SC involves significant questions concerning the interpretation of the Constitution, particularly regarding Article 293. It questions whether this article grants states a legally enforceable right to borrow from the Union government or other sources.
    • Additionally, the court is considering the extent to which the Union government can regulate such borrowing rights if they exist.
  • Interpreting the Constitution: There should be at least five judges to hear cases that involve ” a substantial question of law as to the interpretation” of the Constitution. (Article 145(3))
  • Promoting Fair resource allocation in federal structure: It also raises “various questions of significant importance impacting the federal structure of governance as embedded in our Constitution.

About the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF):

  • It is a fund administered by the Central Government to cover costs associated with emergency response, relief, and rehabilitation in the face of potential disaster situations or actual disasters.
  • The NDRF is formed to bolster the finances of the State Disaster Response Funds (SDRF) during significant disasters, ensuring support if sufficient funds are lacking in the SDRF.
  • Under the Disaster Management Act 2005, there is no definition of disasters. It can include any event arising from natural or man-made causes that can severely disrupt life for people, going beyond their coping capacity.
  • NDRF is mentioned in Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Provisions:

  • NDRF guidelines state that natural calamities of cyclones, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorms, landslides, avalanches, cloud bursts, pest attacks, and cold waves and frost are considered to be severe by the Government of India (GoI) and requiring expenditures by a state government over the balances available in its own SDRF will qualify for immediate relief assistance from NDRF.
  • The NDRF also covers man-made disasters such as terrorist attacks, chemical or biological disasters, or nuclear disasters as notified by the Central Government.
  • States have the State Disaster Relief Funds, where the Centre contributes 75% of the funds (and 90% for Himalayan and northeastern states) and states contribute the remainder.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court, addressing Karnataka’s drought relief plea, emphasizes cooperation over conflict between the Centre and states, while also examining constitutional and federal structure implications, amid discussion on National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) utilization.

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Kallakkadal: Coastal Flooding Phenomena in Kerala

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Kallakkadal, Tsunami

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

  • Coastal areas of Kerala, including Alappuzha, Kollam, and Thiruvananthapuram districts, are grappling with flooding caused by high sea waves, known as swell waves or Kallakkadal in Malayalam.
  • The recent swell surge occurred following a low-pressure system originating in the South Atlantic Ocean, leading to the formation of waves reaching heights of up to 11 meters.

What is Kallakkadal?

  1. Origin and Meaning:
  • Kallakkadal refers to coastal flooding during the (April-May) pre-monsoon season.
  • It is caused by ocean swell waves on the southwest coast of India.
  • The term “Kallakkadal” originates from Malayalam, combining “Kallan” (thief) and “Kadal” (sea), denoting the sea’s unexpected intrusion akin to a thief.
  • In 2012, the term was formally approved by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
  1. Causes:
  • These waves stem from distant storms, such as hurricanes, generating significant energy transfer from the atmosphere to the water.
  • Kallakkadal typically results from strong winds in the southern Indian Ocean, generating ocean swells that travel northward towards the Kerala coast.

Features of Kallakkadal

  • This phenomenon occurs mostly during pre-monsoon season and sometimes during post monsoon.
  • It continues for a few days.
  • It inundates the low lying coasts.
  • Initially sea recedes before the surge.
  • During high tide the run-up, water level can reach as much as 3–4 m above Maximum Water Level (MWL).

How is it distinct from Tsunami?

  • Nature of Phenomenon: Kallakkadal, though often confused with tsunamis, arises from distant storm-generated waves, contrasting with tsunamis triggered by underwater disturbances, typically seismic activities.
  • Clarification: Understanding this distinction is crucial for implementing effective early warning systems and mitigating the impact of coastal hazards.

PYQ:

2017: At one of the places in India, if you stand on the seashore and watch the sea, you will find that the sea water recedes from the shore line a few kilometres and comes back to the shore, twice a day, and you can actually walk on the sea floor when the water recedes. This unique phenomenon is seen at-

(a) Bhavnagar

(b) Bheemunipatnam

(c) Chandipur

(d) Nagapattinam

 

Practice MCQ:

The Coastal areas of Kerala recently witnessed the Oceanic Swell Waves locally known as Kallakkadal. In this regard consider the following statements:

1.    Kallakkadal typically occurs during the spring season (March-April).

2.    These waves stem from distant storms in the southern Indian Ocean.

Which of the given statements is/are NOT correct?

(a) Only 1

(b) Only 2

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Karnataka approaches Supreme Court over NDRF Funds for Drought Management

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and its management

Mains level: NA

What is the news?

  • The Karnataka government has approached the Supreme Court against the Union government, seeking the release of drought relief funds from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
  • This disagreement marks the second major dispute after alleged ‘injustice’ in tax devolution and other allocations.

Extent of Drought and Water Scarcity in Karnataka

  • Rainfall Deficit: During the last monsoon season, Karnataka experienced significant rainfall deficits, exacerbating the drought situation and affecting agricultural productivity.
  • Drought conditions: Karnataka faces extensive drought conditions, with 223 out of 236 taluks (mandals) declared as drought-hit areas, resulting in substantial crop loss.
  • Compensation Sought: The state has sought substantial financial assistance from the Centre, amounting to Rs 18,171 crores, to address the damages caused by drought.

Karnataka’s Writ Petition to the Supreme Court

 

  • Legal Action: Karnataka’s petition under Article 32 of the Constitution seeks relief against the Union government’s alleged inaction in providing financial assistance for drought management.
  • Basis of Petition: The petition argues that the delay in releasing funds violates fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution, pertaining to equality before the law and protection of life and personal liberty.

 

What is National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF)?

  • The NDRF is a statutory body constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
  • It supplements State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) of a State, in case of a disaster of severe nature, provided adequate funds are not available in SDRF.
  • The July 2015 guidelines states that natural calamities of cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloud burst, pest attack and cold wave and frost will qualify for immediate relief assistance from NDRF.
  • NDRF is managed in the “Public Accounts” under “Reserve Funds not bearing interest”.
  • The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) audits the accounts of NDRF.

Disaster Relief for Indian states

  • Under the 2005 Disaster Management Act, there is no definition of disasters.
  • It can include any event arising from natural or man-made causes that can severely disrupt life for people, going beyond their coping capacity.
  • The 15th Finance Commission introduced a new methodology for state-wise allocations, considering factors like past expenditure, risk exposure, hazard, and vulnerability.

Institutional Mechanism

  • States have the State Disaster Relief Funds (SDRF).
  • The Centre contributes 75% of the funds (and 90% for Himalayan and NE states) and states contribute the remainder.
  • The total amount is decided as part of the budgetary allocations and released periodically by the Centre.

In case a state needs the Centre’s assistance, it must follow a procedure:

  1. It should detail the extent of the damage in a memorandum and submit it
  2. If this is acknowledged by Centre, an Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) conducts on-ground inspections to survey the damage
  3. A National Executive Team analyses the IMCT report
  4. Based on its recommendations, a High Level Committee shall approve the release of immediate relief from NDRF.

Additionally, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs oversees the utilisation of NDRF releases.

 


PYQ:

2014: Drought has been recognized as a disaster in view of its spatial expanse, temporal duration, slow onset and lasting effects on vulnerable sections. With a focus on the September 2010 guidelines from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), discuss the mechanisms for preparedness to deal with likely El Nino and La Nina fallouts in India.

 

Practice MCQ:

Consider the following statements about National Disaster response fund (NDRF):

  1. NDRF is a part of consolidated fund of India.
  2. Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) audits the accounts of NDRF.

Which among the above statements is/are correct?

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

ISRO’s develops 2nd Generation Distress Alert Transmitter (DAT-SG)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Distress Alert Transmitter (DAT-SG)

Mains level: Read the attached story

Introduction

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has pioneered an innovative Distress Alert Transmitter (DAT) to enhance the safety of fishermen at sea.
  • This second-generation DAT, known as DAT-SG, offers advanced capabilities and features, revolutionizing how emergency messages are communicated from fishing boats.

About Distress Alert Transmitter (DAT-SG)

  • Operational Since 2010: The initial version of DAT became operational in 2010, enabling fishermen to send emergency messages through a communication satellite.
  • Central Control Station: Messages were received at the Indian Mission Control Centre (INMCC), a central control station, where alert signals were decoded to identify the distressed fishing boat.
  • Coordination with MRCCs: The extracted information was then forwarded to Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs) under the Indian Coast Guard (ICG), facilitating coordinated search and rescue operations.
  • Widespread Use: Over 20,000 DATs were deployed and utilized for distress communication.

Evolution to DAT-SG

  • Technological Advancements: ISRO leveraged advancements in satellite communication and navigation to create the second-generation DAT (DAT-SG).
  • Acknowledgement Feature: DAT-SG now includes an acknowledgement feature, providing assurance to fishermen that their distress alert has been received and that help is on the way.
  • Two-Way Communication: In addition to sending distress signals, DAT-SG can receive messages from control centers. This allows the transmission of advance alerts regarding adverse weather conditions, cyclones, tsunamis, or other emergencies, enabling fishermen to make informed decisions for their safety.
  • Enhanced Fishing Zone Information: DAT-SG also disseminates information about potential fishing zones to fishermen at regular intervals, optimizing their catch and conserving time and fuel.
  • Mobile Connectivity: DAT-SG can be connected to mobile phones via Bluetooth, and messages can be displayed in the fishermen’s native language using a dedicated mobile app.

Central Control and Coordination

  • Sagarmitra Network: The central control station, INMCC, employs a web-based network management system called Sagarmitra. This system maintains a database of registered DAT-SGs and facilitates real-time access for MRCCs.
  • Real-time Coordination: Sagarmitra enables Indian Coast Guard personnel to swiftly respond to distress calls without delay, enhancing search and rescue operations.
  • Operational 24/7: DAT-SG services are available round-the-clock, ensuring continuous support to fishermen facing emergencies at sea.

Also read:

Nabhmitra: Satellite-Based Safety Device for Fishermen

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IIT-D develops India’s first National Landslide Susceptibility Map

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Landslide Susceptibility Map

Mains level: Read the attached story

Introduction

  • In the wake of severe monsoon-triggered landslides, IIT Delhi has developed its first National Landslide Susceptibility Map.

About National Landslide Susceptibility Map

  • High-Resolution Mapping: The map offers a detailed (100 sq. m resolution) overview of landslide susceptibility across India, including previously unrecognized areas.
  • Revealing New Risk Zones: It highlights traditional high-risk areas and uncovers new regions of concern, broadening the scope of landslide monitoring.
  • Innovative Analysis Method: An ensemble machine learning approach was utilized to enhance prediction accuracy and address data gaps in uncharted regions.
  • Advantages of Ensemble Models: This method effectively combines multiple models to provide a more reliable estimation of landslide risks.

Data Gathering and Analytical Process

  • Extensive Data Compilation: Researchers collated data on around 150,000 landslide incidents from various sources, including the Geological Survey of India.
  • Identifying Contributing Factors: The team pinpointed 16 critical factors influencing landslide susceptibility, utilizing tools like GeoSadak for remote data collection.

Implications for Disaster Management

  • Tool for Stakeholders: The map serves as a critical resource for government bodies, disaster management authorities, and organizations focused on landslide mitigation.
  • Enhancing Preparedness and Planning: It will facilitate vulnerability assessment, infrastructure planning, and implementation of mitigation measures.

Need for such map

  • Persistent Hazard: Landslides, affecting a small but significant portion of India, pose a recurrent threat, especially in hilly regions.
  • Challenges in Management: The localized and sporadic nature of landslides has historically hindered effective tracking and prediction, underscoring the need for a comprehensive mapping solution.

Future Directions and Public Accessibility

  • Developing an Early Warning System: Building on the map, efforts are underway to create a comprehensive Landslide Early Warning System.
  • Infrastructure Vulnerability Cartogram: A cartogram to identify susceptible infrastructure is also in progress.
  • Public Access and Engagement: The map and its data will be accessible through a web interface, promoting public interaction and awareness.

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Floods and a ‘preventive measure’ that needs review

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Cyclone Michuang

Mains level: decision-making during a crisis

Floods and a 'preventive measure' that needs review - The Hindu

Central idea 

Dr. Mani Sivasubramanian emphasizes the long-lasting impact of decisions made after Cyclone Michuang in Chennai, particularly regarding electricity cutoffs. The central idea revolves around the need for accountability in decision-making during crises, highlighting the delicate balance between safety measures and potential hazards for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly. The way forward involves a hierarchical approach, periodic reviews, and fixing responsibility for sub-optimal decisions.

Key Highlights:

  • Dr. Mani Sivasubramanian, a heart surgeon, author, and social entrepreneur, discusses the long-lasting impact of decisions made after Cyclone Michuang in Chennai.
  • Emphasizes the importance of accountability for decisions with visible and hidden consequences.
  • Raises concerns about the practice of prolonged electricity cutoffs after a natural disaster, especially for vulnerable populations like the elderly.

Key Challenges:

  • Balancing the need for safety measures, such as electricity cutoffs during cyclones, with potential hazards like accidents and security concerns.
  • The complexity of decision-making during a crisis, requiring a dynamic and evolving approach.
  • Striking a balance between conservative choices and potential complications due to inaction.

monsoon, monsoons, floods, flood evacuation, WHO, WHO India, World Health  Organization, COVID-19, flood precautions, COVID appropriate behaviours

Key Terms:

  • Decision accountability
  • Electricity cutoff
  • Vulnerable populations
  • Dynamic balance
  • Cataclysmic disaster
  • Intellectual and analytical judgment

Key Phrases for good marks in mains:

  • “Consequences of choices should be accounted for.”
  • “Power disruption poses significant hazards, especially for the elderly.”
  • “Decision-making in a crisis is an extreme test of judgment and personal strength.”
  • “Potential cost of mistakes looms large in a decision-maker’s mind.”

Key Quotes:

  • “There is no objectively ‘safe’ choice; it is a constantly evolving, dynamic balance.”
  • “A bureaucrat should justify and document decisions in real-time for review.”
  • “Complex decision-making should not become a contest of cheap populism.”

Key Statements:

  • Decision-makers should justify and document choices in real-time.
  • Accountability is crucial, especially when decisions impact millions.
  • Calls for a hierarchy-based approach in decision-making during crises.

Key Examples and References:

  • Mentions the 2015 floods in Chennai as a reference to the consequences of decision-making during natural disasters.

Key Facts:

  • In 2021, Tamil Nadu had 13.8 crore people over the age of 60 years.
  • Chennai metropolitan area’s population is estimated to be over 12 million.

Key Data:

  • 500,000 people in Chennai are above 60 years old, and over 50,000 are aged 80 or above.

Critical Analysis:

  • Acknowledges the complexity of decision-making during a natural disaster.
  • Emphasizes the need for a balance between safety measures and potential hazards.
  • Advocates for accountability and periodic reviews of decisions.

Way Forward:

  • Suggests a hierarchy-based approach with scaled levels of responsibility.
  • Proposes involvement of more than one person in major decision-making.
  • Calls for periodic reviews by an oversight team to challenge and reverse questionable choices.
  • Highlights the importance of fixing responsibility for sub-optimal decisions.

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Opportune moment to rediscover Chennai’s hydrology

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: na

Mains level: recurring floods in Chennai

Opportune moment to rediscover Chennai's hydrology - The Hindu

Central idea 

The article underscores the recurring floods in Chennai, attributing them to climate change while questioning the extent to which historical human errors and negligence contribute. Emphasizing the need for comprehensive measures, it calls for hydrological mapping, restoration of neglected water bodies, and ecological conservation to achieve flood resilience and sustainable water supply.

Key Highlights:

  • Climate Change Attribution: Frequent floods in Chennai, attributed to climate change, raise questions about the impact of historical human errors and the effectiveness of conventional wisdom in flood mitigation.
  • Devastating Impact: Neglected irrigation tanks, encroachment on water bodies, and inadequate watershed management contribute to devastating floods, with the 2023 flood considered the worst in 47 years.
  • Need for Comprehensive Measures: The need for comprehensive hydro-elevation mapping, restoration of water bodies, and protection of ecological hotspots is emphasized for flood resilience and sustainable water supply.

Key Challenges:

  • Historical Neglect: Neglected irrigation tanks and encroachment on water bodies contribute to over 80% runoff, worsening flood impacts.
  • Urban Expansion: Rapid urban expansion in Chennai, without considering ecological hotspots, leads to the loss of water bodies and wetlands.
  • Inadequate Maintenance: Major waterways and drainage systems suffer from heavy encroachments, sludge deposits, and lack of year-long maintenance.

Key Terms:

  • Hydro-elevation Mapping: Mapping of upstream-downstream watersheds to understand water dynamics and drainage systems.
  • Ecological Hotspots: Areas with high biodiversity and ecological importance, crucial for flood resilience.
  • Storm Water Drain Network: A 2,900-kilometer network designed to manage stormwater runoff in the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) area.

Key Phrases:

  • “Decode Chennai’s urban and peri-urban hydrology”: Emphasizes the need to understand and intervene in the interconnected hydrological conditions of Chennai.
  • “Converting disaster into opportunity”: Encourages turning flood challenges into an opportunity for sustainable water supply.

Key Quotes:

  • “Are we hiding behind climate change for all the blunders made so far?”: Questions the tendency to attribute all flood-related issues to climate change.
  • “Have we learned any lessons from past flood events?”: Raises concerns about the lack of corrective measures despite repeated floods.

Key Examples and References:

  • Chennai’s 3,588 irrigation tanks neglected, contributing to high runoff and flood damage.
  • Loss of water bodies and Pallikaranai marsh land due to rapid urban expansion.
  • The 2023 flood considered the worst in 47 years, highlighting the escalating impact of floods.

Key Statements:

  • “Chennai city and the CMA can be permanently saved from floods”: Encourages a proactive approach to flood resilience through scientific interventions and ecological protection.
  • “Hiding behind climate change for all accumulated blunders”: Challenges the attribution of all flood-related issues to climate change without addressing historical neglect and errors.

Key Facts:

  • The CMA to be expanded from 1,189 sq.km to 5,904 sq.km as part of Master Plan III, necessitating protection of ecological hotspots.
  • Rapid urban expansion in Chennai cited as one of the fastest in the country.

Key Data:

  • 4,000 water bodies in the proposed CMA area, requiring protection from encroachments.

Critical Analysis:

  • Challenges the effectiveness of conventional approaches and calls for a shift towards scientific and meaningful interventions in water management.
  • Emphasizes the need for a balance between urban expansion and ecological conservation for sustainable flood resilience.

Way Forward:

  • Comprehensive Mapping: Conduct hydro-elevation mapping to understand water dynamics and drainage systems.
  • Restoration and Protection: Restore water bodies to original or increased capacity, protect ecological hotspots, and enforce “no development zones.”
  • Sustainable Urban Planning: Integrate ecological considerations into urban planning to prevent irreversible damage from urban expansion.

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How we are rescuing workers trapped in Uttarkashi tunnel

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Auger technology, Drift technology

Mains level: Risks and challenges associated with the rescue operation

Uttarakhand tunnel collapse LIVE: Pipeline laid inside to rescue 41 trapped  workers | Hindustan Times

Central idea

The central idea focuses on the Silkyara Tunnel rescue in Uttarakhand, highlighting diverse worker representation and challenges in Himalayan geology. The strategic use of auger and drift technology plays a crucial role in the efficient rescue operation. The primary goal is the safe return of 41 trapped workers through a unified and adaptive approach.

Key Highlights:

  • Silkyara Tunnel incident in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand, sparks a coordinated effort by government and private agencies.
  • 41 workers trapped in a partially collapsed tunnel, representing a diverse group from different states.
  • Technological advancements, communication, and transportation are leveraged for the rescue operation.
  • Involvement of multiple government bodies, including the Prime Minister’s Office and various ministries.

Key Challenges:

  • Risks and challenges associated with the rescue operation, including the unpredictable nature of Himalayan geology.
  • The need to balance urgency with caution in the rescue efforts.
  • Varying degrees of difficulty in deploying machinery due to the risk factor and geological complexities.

Key Terms and Phrases for value addition:

  • Silkyara Tunnel
  • “All of government” approach
  • Himalayan geology
  • Simultaneity principle
  • Auger technology
  • Drift technology
  • Convergence of capability

Auger Technology:

  • Definition: Auger technology involves the use of a rotating metal shaft with a blade at the end.
  • Application in Rescue: In the Silkyara Tunnel rescue, auger technology is deployed to scrape or cut debris and earth, creating a path for rescuers.
  • Success: A portion of 22 meters has been successfully negotiated, demonstrating the effectiveness of auger technology.
  • Challenges: Geological impediments have posed challenges, requiring restarting the effort.

Drift Technology:

  • Definition: Drift technology involves scraping the sides of the tunnel to increase its size and create access.
  • Application in Rescue: Used to widen the tunnel for easier access and maneuverability in the rescue operation.
  • Timing: Top and side boring attacks on the tunnel alignment will commence in due course.
  • Redundancy: Provides a redundant approach to ensure the success of the rescue operation.

Key Facts and Data:

  • 41 workers trapped inside a partially collapsed tunnel.
  • Efforts initiated by the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Home Affairs, NDMA, and Uttarakhand SDMA.
  • Five rescue approaches with time frames ranging from five-six days to eight weeks.

Critical Analysis:

  • Emphasis on the coordinated efforts involving various government bodies and private sectors.
  • Recognition of the unpredictable nature of Himalayan geology and the associated challenges.
  • Utilization of advanced technologies such as auger and drift technology to address the complexities.
  • Highlighting the psychological and social impacts on workers and the provision of psycho-social specialists.
  • Acknowledgment of the importance of enabling convergence of capability among competent agencies.

Way Forward:

  • Continued focus on simultaneous approaches to expedite the rescue operation.
  • Prioritizing the horizontal approach using auger technology and drift technology.
  • Recognition of leadership from New Delhi as a crucial factor in ensuring effective coordination.
  • Emphasizing the importance of the safe return of the trapped workers as the primary goal.

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Dam Safety Act 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Dam Safety Act

Mains level: Read the attached story

hydel dam safety

Central Idea

  • India boasts nearly 6,000 large dams, but concerns loom over the safety of these structures, with approximately 80% of them being over 25 years old and posing safety risks.
  • With numerous large dams and hydropower projects, the Himalayas play a crucial role in meeting India’s energy needs.
  • However, the recent incident of a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) in North Sikkim has raised alarm bells about the safety of these structures.

Hydropower boom in the Himalayas

  • As of November 2022, the Himalayan states and Union territories, excluding West Bengal, had 81 large hydropower projects (above 25 MW) in operation, with 26 more under construction.
  • An additional 320 large projects are in the planning stages, according to the Central Electricity Authority under the Union Ministry of Power.

Discussion: Dam Safety in the Himalayas

  • Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: The Himalayas are highly susceptible to natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, and GLOFs due to their complex geological and topographical features. These hazards can jeopardize the integrity of dams and reservoirs.
  • High Population Density: The Himalayan region is densely populated, with communities residing downstream of dams and hydropower projects. A dam failure can have devastating consequences on human lives and property.
  • Ecological Sensitivity: The Himalayas are an ecologically fragile region with unique biodiversity. A dam failure can lead to environmental disasters, impacting delicate ecosystems.

Repercussions

  • Climate Change: The melting of glaciers due to global warming contributes to the formation of glacial lakes. As these lakes grow, the risk of GLOFs increases, putting downstream infrastructure at risk.
  • Snowball Effects: Landslide dams can lead to impounding of lakes, landslide-induced floods, secondary landslides, channel avulsion, and the formation of flood terraces downstream, impacting communities and infrastructure.
  • Delayed Impacts: Run-of-the-river projects, which often bypass large-scale displacement and forest diversion, have been promoted as environmentally friendly. However, their underground components can disturb geology and geohydrology, leading to indirect displacement and environmental impacts.
  • Aging Infrastructure: Many dams and hydropower projects in the Himalayas are aging, with approximately 80% of them over 25 years old. Proper maintenance and monitoring are essential to ensure their safety.

Dam Safety Act, 2021 and its Provisions

  • The DSA was introduced in response to dam failures caused by deficient surveillance and maintenance.
  • It establishes key responsibilities and requires the formation of national and state-level bodies for its implementation.
  • The Act outlines the following provisions:
  1. National Committee on Dam Safety: Responsible for overseeing dam safety policies and regulations.
  2. National Dam Safety Authority: Tasked with implementing and resolving state-level disputes.
  3. Chairman of the Central Water Commission (CWC): Heads dam safety protocols at the national level.
  4. State Committee on Dam Safety (SCDS) and State Dam Safety Organisation (SDSO): To be established at the state level.

Challenges in DSA Implementation

  • Inadequate Risk Assessment: Experts argue that the DSA does not encourage risk-based decision-making and lacks transparency incentives.
  • Transparency Concerns: Dam safety should be a public function, with information readily accessible. However, transparency is impeded when government employees and project engineers dominate national and state bodies, potentially compromising objective decision-making.

Lessons Learned from Recent Incidents

  • Comprehensive Risk Assessment: Dam safety protocols must include comprehensive risk assessments that consider factors such as climate change, geological stability, and the potential for GLOFs. Periodic reviews yield updated inundation maps and rule curves for reservoir capacity.
  • Hazard Profiling Issues: Hazard risk is influenced by climate change, urbanization, and water usage patterns. Periodic reviews should yield updated inundation maps and rule curves for reservoir capacity. Unfortunately, these reviews are often overlooked or findings are not made publicly available.
  • Standardized Safety Evaluation: The DSA mandates comprehensive dam safety evaluations but lacks standardization in how failures are analyzed and reported.
  • Transparent Reporting: Transparency in dam safety is paramount. The DSA should be implemented rigorously, with an emphasis on transparent reporting of dam failures and safety assessments.
  • Community Involvement: Local communities should be actively engaged in dam safety measures. They can provide valuable insights into the environmental and social impacts of such projects.

Way Forward

  • Early Warning Systems: Establishing advanced early warning systems that can detect GLOFs and other potential hazards is crucial. These systems can save lives and minimize damage.
  • Regular Maintenance: Aging infrastructure must undergo regular maintenance and upgrades to ensure their continued safety and functionality.
  • International Collaboration: Given the transboundary nature of the Himalayan region, international collaboration on dam safety and disaster management is essential. Neighboring countries should work together to mitigate shared risks.

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Glacial Lake Outburst Flood in Sikkim

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Glacial lakes, GLOF

Mains level: Imminent threat of Glacial Lake Outburst Flood in the Himalayan region, Impact and initiatives

What’s the news?

  • On October 4th, in a tragic turn of events, Sikkim witnessed a devastating incident where the South Lhonak Lake ruptured due to incessant rainfall, resulting in the loss of fourteen lives and the disappearance of 102 individuals, including 23 Army personnel.

Central idea

  • Sikkim, nestled in the Himalayas, faces the aftermath of a catastrophic Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) triggered by incessant rainfall. The South Lhonak Lake, perched at 17,000 feet in the state’s northwest, burst, inundating four districts—Mangan, Gangtok, Pakyong, and Namchi.

What are glacial lakes?

  • Glacial lakes are large bodies of water that are typically located in proximity to, on top of, or beneath glaciers.
  • These lakes are primarily formed as a result of glacial processes, such as the melting of ice and the accumulation of meltwater in depressions or basins created by the glacier’s movement.

Concept: Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF)

  • A Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) is a sudden and often catastrophic release of water from a glacial lake, typically caused by the breach or failure of the natural dams that contain the lake.
  • GLOFs occur in regions with glaciers, where meltwater accumulates in depressions or basins created by the glacier’s movement.
  • These floods can have severe and far-reaching consequences for downstream communities and environments.

Causes: GLOFs can be triggered by various factors

  • Melting Glaciers: Rapid glacier melt due to rising temperatures can increase the volume of water in glacial lakes.
  • Avalanches: Snow or ice avalanches can impact the lake, dislodging ice and debris into the water.
  • Earthquakes: Seismic activity can destabilize the natural dams or trigger avalanches.
  • Rainfall: Heavy rainfall can contribute additional water to the lake and weaken natural dams.
  • Volcanic Eruptions: Volcanic activity can lead to the rapid melting of glaciers and the formation of glacial lakes.

Destruction and Impact

  • Flooding: Downstream areas can experience rapid and extensive flooding, with water levels rising quickly.
  • Destruction of Infrastructure: GLOFs can damage or destroy roads, bridges, buildings, and farmland.
  • Loss of Life: GLOFs often result in the loss of human lives as well as harm to livestock and wildlife.
  • Environmental Damage: The floodwaters and debris can severely impact the natural environment, including forests, wetlands, and river ecosystems.

Notable GLOF events

  • Some GLOF events in the past have resulted in significant loss of life and damage to infrastructure.
  • The horrifying 2013 flash floods in Uttarakhand’s Kedarnath serve as a stark reminder of the devastating consequences of GLOFs.
  • This calamity was compounded by a GLOF event originating from the Chorabari Tal glacial lake, leading to the loss of thousands of lives.

The Sikkim Calamity: South Lhonak Lake’s Susceptibility to GLOF

  • Glacial Melting: Rising global temperatures have accelerated the melting of glaciers in the Sikkim Himalayas, including the glacier feeding South Lhonak Lake. This increased meltwater contributes to the lake’s water volume, making it more susceptible to GLOFs.
  • Glacial Lake Expansion: The South Lhonak Lake’s area has significantly increased over the past five decades. It has grown nearly 1.5 times, while its neighbor, North Lhonak, has expanded nearly 2.5 times its initial size in 1989. This expansion is a direct result of glacier retreat and melt, exacerbating the lake’s vulnerability.
  • Seismic Activity: The region around South Lhonak Lake is prone to seismic activity. Earthquakes can destabilize the natural dams or trigger avalanches, which can lead to a sudden release of water from the lake, potentially causing a GLOF event.
  • Past Earthquakes: Seismic events occurred in the region, such as an earthquake of magnitude 4.9 in 1991 near the parent glacier feeding South Lhonak Lake and another earthquake of magnitude 6.9 in 2011, approximately 70 km from the lakes. These past earthquakes and the potential for future seismic activity increase the risk of GLOFs in the area.

Government interventions

  • Syphoning Off Lake Water: In 2016, the Sikkim government, in collaboration with various agencies including the Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority and Sikkim’s Department of Science and Technology and Climate Change, took proactive measures to mitigate the risk associated with South Lhonak Lake. They decided to syphon off water from the lake.
  • Innovative Approach: The technique employed for syphoning off lake water was innovative and effective. Under the supervision of innovator Sonam Wangchuk, authorities installed three eight-inch-wide and 130-140-meter-long High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) pipes in the lake. These pipes were used to extract water from the lake.
  • Water Extraction Rate: The initiative successfully extracted 150 liters of water per second from South Lhonak Lake, which was a substantial volume. This action aimed to reduce the water level in the lake, thus mitigating the risk of a potential GLOF.

Way forward: Warning and Mitigation

  • Lake Monitoring: Regular monitoring of glacial lakes to assess changes in water levels and the stability of natural dams
  • Early Warning Systems: Implementing systems to detect and warn downstream communities of potential GLOFs
  • Infrastructure: constructing protective infrastructure, such as dams or diversion channels, to manage floodwaters
  • Land-Use Planning: Implementing land-use planning and zoning to restrict construction in high-risk areas

Conclusion

  • The recent calamity in Sikkim underscores the imminent threat of GLOFs in the Himalayan region. While government initiatives are commendable, continued monitoring, research, and disaster preparedness are vital to safeguarding vulnerable communities in the face of the expanding glacial lakes and the looming specter of GLOFs.

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Protecting floodplains is the need of the hour

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: floodplains

Mains level: floodplains management, challenges and strategies

What’s the news?

  • Indian cities are projected to contribute significantly to the country’s GDP by 2030. Flooding in these urban centers has a substantial economic impact, underscoring the importance of effective flood management.

Central idea

  • The world is grappling with a dual challenge of water scarcity and excess as climate change intensifies. The frequency and intensity of floods are on the rise, with devastating consequences. The urgency of addressing this issue cannot be overstated.

Recent catastrophic floods

  • Last year, Pakistan witnessed catastrophic floods that claimed lives and affected millions.
  • India has faced its share of calamities, such as the 2013 Uttarakhand floods, the 2014 Kashmir Valley deluge, the 2015 Chennai floods, and the 2017 Gujarat floods.
  • This year, Himachal Pradesh experienced rain-induced floods and landslides.

Why is India prone to flooding?

  • Geographical Vulnerability: The article mentions that over 40 million hectares, which is nearly 12% of India’s total land area, are prone to floods, as indicated by the Geological Survey of India. This vulnerability is due to India’s diverse geography, including extensive river systems, coastal regions, and mountainous areas.
  • Climate Change: Floods are increasing in frequency and intensity, and this trend is expected to continue due to climate change. Extreme precipitation events are becoming more common, contributing to flooding.
  • Urbanization Challenges: Rapid and haphazard urbanization is one of the factors that makes Indian cities vulnerable to floods. The expansion of cities, often without proper consideration of natural topography, increases the risk of flooding in urban areas.
  • Inadequate Legal Framework: India primarily relies on the Disaster Management Act of 2005 for flood management, but this law is not specifically focused on flood risk management and assumes that disasters cannot be predicted, which may not be entirely accurate for floods.
  • Large-Scale Encroachments: India faces challenges due to extensive encroachments on floodplains, including illegal construction and mining activities. These encroachments reduce the natural capacity of rivers and floodplains to handle excess water during heavy rainfall.
  • Chennai Floods Example: The 2015 Chennai floods were attributed to these encroachments, and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India labeled it a man-made disaster.
  • Weak Enforcement of Environmental Laws: The environmental protection laws in India are often not effectively implemented. Central policies related to floodplain protection lack binding power over states, allowing encroachments to persist.

Flood Plains and their Significance

  • Flood plains adjacent to rivers serve as natural defences against inland flooding. Maintained without concrete encroachments, they absorb excess water, safeguarding other regions.
  • Properly managed flood plains also aid in recharging groundwater levels and maintaining the water table.

Key issues related to occupying floodplains and the challenges it poses in India

  • Reduced River Capacity: Illegal construction in floodplains diminishes the natural capacity of rivers to contain high water levels within their banks. This becomes especially problematic during periods of heavy rainfall when water from upper catchment areas flows downstream.
  • Neglect of Eco-Sensitive Areas: In Uttarakhand, there has been a disregard for eco-sensitive floodplains with the construction of guest houses and hotels along riverfronts to promote tourism and economic growth. This neglect has contributed to increased flood risks.
  • Regulatory Efforts: Following the massive floods in 2013, the National Green Tribunal issued a directive in 2015, essentially barring construction within 200 meters of the Ganga’s banks. However, attempts to bypass this directive have been made, raising questions about the proper implementation of environmental impact assessments.
  • Ineffective Legislation: The Uttaranchal River Valley (Development and Management) Act of 2005 was established to regulate mining and construction in river valleys. However, reports suggest rampant mining and construction activities with little consideration for environmental protection.
  • Weak Implementation of Environmental Laws: Despite having environmental protection laws in place, India faces issues with their implementation. Central policy measures to protect floodplains are often non-binding on states, and there is a lack of effective enforcement.

Strategies to preserve ecosystems

  • International Examples:
  • Examples from around the world include Germany’s Federal Water Act, which underwent a significant change in 1996 following a massive flood.
  • The law now prioritizes the protection of the original retention capacity of water bodies during reconstruction.
  • This change reflects the value of preserving floodplains and enhancing water retention as effective measures against flooding.
  • Cross-Sectoral Approach:
  • Climate change adaptation is described as a cross-sectoral issue that involves various areas of legislation, including land use, water body preservation, coastal regulations, and environmental impact assessment.
  • A comprehensive and integrated approach is necessary to address the complexities of climate change adaptation effectively.
  • Coherent Legal Framework:
  • To tackle climate change and its associated risks, it is crucial to integrate multiple laws into a coherent framework.
  • Passing climate-related legislation alone may not be sufficient if other laws related to land use and environmental protection are not aligned with climate goals.
  • Political Will:
  • Strong political will is identified as a critical factor in achieving effective climate change adaptation strategies.
  • Populist leaders may be hesitant to implement green policies, so there is a need for a shift in political priorities to prioritize environmental protection and climate resilience.

Conclusion

  • India’s approach to flood management must evolve to embrace integrated flood risk management, learning from global examples. By prioritizing ecosystem preservation and adopting a holistic approach to climate change adaptation, India can better safeguard lives, livelihoods, and infrastructure from the growing threat of floods.

Also read:

Why Zoning of Flood Plains is important?

 

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Assistance to States during Natural Disasters: How It Works

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Disaster Management

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea

  • In the wake of natural disasters, states often request assistance from the central government.
  • Himachal Pradesh CM recently requested for a special disaster relief package and urged the designation of the calamity as a ‘national disaster.’

Natural Disaster Mitigation in States

  • Legal Framework: The 2005 Disaster Management Act provides the legal framework for addressing disasters, whether natural or man-made.
  • Defining disaster: It defines a “disaster” as an event causing substantial loss of life, human suffering, property damage, or environmental degradation beyond the community’s coping capacity.
  • National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA): The Act established the NDMA, headed by the Prime Minister, and State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) led by Chief Ministers. These bodies, along with district-level authorities, form an integrated disaster management setup in India.
  • National Disaster Response Force (NDRF): The Act led to the creation of the NDRF, comprising several battalions or teams responsible for on-ground relief and rescue operations in various states.

Understanding the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF)

  • Mention in the Act: The NDRF is referenced in the 2005 Disaster Management Act and plays a crucial role in providing disaster relief.
  • State Disaster Relief Funds (SDRFs): States have their own SDRFs, which are the primary funds available for responding to notified disasters. The Central Government contributes 75% to SDRFs in general states and 90% in northeastern and Himalayan states.
  • Utilization of SDRFs: SDRFs are allocated for immediate relief efforts following notified calamities, including cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, fires, floods, tsunamis, and more.
  • Central Assistance: In the event of a severe calamity where state SDRF funds are insufficient, additional central assistance can be provided by the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).

Who determines a Severe Calamity?

  • Procedure: States follow a specific procedure to classify a calamity as “severe.” This involves submitting a memorandum detailing sector-wise damage and fund requirements. An inter-ministerial central team assesses the damage on-site.
  • Committee Approval: Specific committees review these assessments and submit reports. A High-Level Committee must approve the immediate relief amount to be released from the NDRF.
  • Criteria: The classification of a calamity as “severe” considers factors such as intensity, magnitude, assistance needs, and more.

Additional Funds for Disaster Mitigation

  • Funds Allocation: Funds for NDRF and SDRFs, allocated for preparedness, mitigation, and reconstruction, are part of budgetary allocations.
  • Financing mechanism: The 15th Finance Commission introduced a new methodology for state-wise allocations, considering factors like past expenditure, risk exposure, hazard, and vulnerability.
  • Utilization: NDRF and SDRF funds are released in two equal instalments, typically with requirements like Utilization Certificates. However, in urgent situations, these requirements can be waived.
  • State Disaster Mitigation Fund (SDMF): This fund supports activities such as forest restoration and public awareness. It received an allocation of Rs 32,030 crore from the 15th Finance Commission.
  • National Disaster Mitigation Fund (NDMF): The NDMF, amounting to Rs 13,693 crore, is dedicated to national disaster mitigation efforts.

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Why Zoning of Flood Plains is important?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Flood Plains

Mains level: Flood Plains Management

flood plain

Central Idea

  • Punjab has been grappling with severe floods for over a month, predominantly affecting villages along rivers like Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, and Ghaggar.
  • These areas, known for their fertile flood plains, have been hit the hardest due to floods exacerbated by encroachments and construction.

Flood Plains and their Significance

  • Flood plains adjacent to rivers serve as natural defences against inland flooding. Maintained without concrete encroachments, they absorb excess water, safeguarding other regions.
  • Properly managed flood plains also aid in recharging groundwater levels and maintaining the water table.

What is Zoning of Flood Plains?

  • Zoning of flood plains refers to the practice of categorizing and regulating different areas within flood-prone regions based on their vulnerability to flooding and the intensity of flood events.
  • This aims to manage land use and construction activities in these areas to minimize the risks associated with flooding, protect communities and infrastructure, and maintain the natural functions of flood plains.
  • It involves designating specific zones within flood-prone regions and establishing regulations and guidelines for development, construction, and land use in each zone.

Current Scenario: No Zoning in Punjab

  • National Green Tribunal (NGT): NGT guidelines state that construction should not occur within 500 meters of a river’s central lining.
  • Punjab’s Lag: Despite NGT’s directives and the need for floodplain zoning, Punjab has yet to initiate the process. Encroachments persist, putting riverside villages at perpetual risk.

Impact of Inaction: People and Ecosystems Affected

  • Risk to People and Property: Unregulated construction leads to increased flood risks further inland, causing greater harm during floods.
  • Environmental Impact: Concretization of flood plains delays water drainage and affects soil fertility and quality.

Flood Prone Districts and National Issue

  • Districts at Risk: Many districts including Ropar, Ludhiana, Ferozepur, Patiala, and more fall within flood plains, magnifying the need for preparedness.
  • Nationwide Challenge: While only four states have adopted flood plain zoning in principle, implementation has been insufficient. Even those that adopted zoning have not effectively delineated and demarcated flood plains.

Activists’ Advocacy

  • Activists’ Concerns: Environmental activists and NGOs in Punjab have been advocating for flood plain zoning to mitigate risks.
  • Urgent Implementation: Immediate initiation and completion of flood plain zoning are crucial to safeguard lives, property, and ecosystems from devastating floods.

Conclusion

  • The recent floods in Punjab underline the urgency of flood plain zoning to avert catastrophe.
  • By adopting effective zoning measures, the state can shield its citizens and environment from the damaging impacts of unchecked construction and flooding.
  • It is imperative that Punjab takes swift action to implement flood plain zoning and thereby protect its vulnerable regions from the perpetual threat of floods.

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Building resilience against landslides

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: landslides

Mains level: landslides, factors, impact and mitigation and preparedness

What’s the news?

  • The recent tragic occurrences of landslides in Himachal Pradesh have thrust the Himalayan ecosystem into the spotlight, underscoring its fragility and the imperative to address the vulnerabilities it faces.

Central idea

  • As the world’s youngest and most rugged mountain range, the Himalayas are a testament to the delicate balance between natural processes, environmental changes, and human activities. To comprehend and address the challenges posed by geohazards and foster sustainable development, a holistic approach backed by advanced technology and collective efforts is essential.

What are landslides?

  • Landslides are geological events characterized by the sudden movement of rock, soil, and debris down slopes. They can range from small soil shifts to large-scale, destructive movements triggered by factors such as geological conditions, climatic events like heavy rainfall, and human activities like construction and deforestation.
  • Landslides take various forms, including rockfalls, mudslides, debris flows, and avalanches, and they can have significant impacts on landscapes, infrastructure, and communities.

Factors behind the vulnerability of the Himalayan region to landslides

  • Tectonic Activity: The ongoing collision of tectonic plates beneath the Himalayas results in geological instability, causing fractures and creating weak zones prone to landslides.
  • Surface Processes: Erosion, weathering, and precipitation, including rain and snow, weaken the terrain. These processes, coupled with tectonic forces, make the ecosystem inherently fragile.
  • Climate-Induced Events: Climate change leads to extreme events like heavy rainfall and snowfall. Such events, along with freezing and thawing cycles, saturate the soil and elevate the risk of landslides.
  • Anthropogenic Stresses: Human activities such as deforestation, construction, and mining disrupt the natural equilibrium of slopes. Removing vegetation reduces soil stability and increases its susceptibility to landslides.
  • Hydro-meteorological Factors: Slope gradient, elevation, rock strength, and soil type influence landslide susceptibility. Intense rainfall or rapid snowmelt saturates the ground, triggering landslides on weakened slopes.
  • Riverine Flow and Deforestation: River erosion and slope cutting expose slopes to increased instability. Deforestation removes vegetation that holds soil in place, escalating the landslide risk.
  • Geological Stresses: The convergence of tectonic plates triggers earthquakes, releasing subterranean stresses. This can lead to rock movement along slopes, exacerbating landslide potential.
  • Challenges in Prediction: Complex terrain and varied meteorological conditions in the Himalayas make developing effective landslide prediction systems challenging. Monitoring rainfall thresholds and geological indicators is critical for accurate warnings.

Impacts of landslides

  • Loss of Life and Infrastructure: Landslides pose a significant risk to human lives, often resulting in casualties and injuries. Buildings, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure can be severely damaged or destroyed, leading to disruptions in communities and hindrances to daily life.
  • Displacement and Evacuation: Landslides can force people to evacuate their homes and communities, often on short notice. This displacement can lead to temporary or long-term homelessness, with people seeking refuge in shelters or with relatives.
  • Economic Consequences: The aftermath of landslides can result in substantial economic losses. Rebuilding damaged infrastructure, homes, and businesses, as well as restoring disrupted services, can place a strain on local economies.
  • Environmental Degradation: Landslides can alter landscapes and natural habitats, leading to erosion, sedimentation of water bodies, and changes in water flow patterns. This can negatively impact ecosystems, aquatic life, and overall environmental health.
  • Infrastructure Disruption: Roads, railways, and other transportation networks can be blocked or damaged by landslides, causing disruptions to travel and hindering the movement of goods and services.
  • Water Quality Issues: The movement of debris and soil during landslides can introduce pollutants into water bodies, potentially affecting water quality and posing risks to human health.
  • Long-Term Effects: Landslides can have lasting impacts on the affected areas. Changes in topography, water drainage patterns, and vegetation can persist for years, influencing local ecosystems and land use.
  • Psychological and social impact: Beyond physical damage, landslides can have psychological effects on survivors, leading to trauma and anxiety. Communities may experience social challenges as they cope with the aftermath and work toward recovery.

The Imperative for a Unified Council of Himalayan States

  • Diverse Geological and Climatic Factors: The Himalayan region spans diverse geological and climatic conditions, making it imperative to have a collaborative body that comprehensively understands and addresses the varied challenges each state faces.
  • Interconnected Vulnerabilities: Landslides, flash floods, and other hazards often transcend state borders, affecting multiple regions simultaneously. A unified council can facilitate cross-border coordination in disaster management and response.
  • Knowledge and Resource Sharing: Different states possess valuable insights and expertise in handling regional challenges. A unified council can facilitate the sharing of best practices, data, and resources, promoting more effective decision-making.
  • Common Socioeconomic Issues: Many Himalayan states share socioeconomic concerns related to sustainable development, tourism, and livelihoods. A unified council can collectively address these issues, leveraging combined expertise for better outcomes.
  • Environmental Protection: The fragile Himalayan ecosystem requires joint efforts to combat environmental degradation, deforestation, and unsustainable practices. A unified council can formulate and enforce policies for ecosystem conservation.
  • Mitigation Strategies: Developing and implementing landslide mitigation and preparedness strategies demands a coordinated approach. A unified council can pool resources, knowledge, and technology to create effective solutions.
  • Integrated Early Warning Systems: Establishing AI/ML-driven Early Warning Systems for landslides and other disasters requires data integration and real-time monitoring. A unified council can streamline these efforts for the entire region.
  • Disaster Resilience: In the face of climate-induced events, disaster resilience is paramount. A unified council can ensure uniform standards for infrastructure development, emergency response, and community awareness.

Conclusion

  • The recent landslides in Himachal Pradesh have thrust the Himalayan ecosystem into the limelight, underscoring its vulnerability and the pressing need for enhanced resilience. As we progress, the Himalayas stand as both a challenge and an opportunity, with their natural riches and scenic allure offering a canvas for harmonizing growth and preservation.

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Lightning not a Natural Disaster: Centre

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Lightning

Mains level: NA

light

Central Idea

  • A senior government official stated that lightning deaths can be prevented through education and awareness, and thus, the government is against declaring it a natural disaster.

Why discuss this?

  • State Demands: States like Bihar and West Bengal have requested that lightning-related deaths be considered natural disaster, making victims eligible for compensation from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
  • Increased fatalities: According to the National Crime Records Bureau, lightning caused 2,880 deaths in 2021, accounting for 40% of all accidental deaths from “forces of nature.”

What is Lightning?

Lightning is a rapid and powerful discharge of electricity in the atmosphere, often directed towards the Earth.

  • Genesis: Lightning discharges occur in giant, moisture-bearing clouds that are several kilometers tall.
  • Ice Crystal Formation: Water vapor in the clouds condenses into small ice crystals as temperatures drop below 0°C.
  • Electron Release and Collision: Collisions between ice crystals generate a release of electrons, leading to a chain reaction and the formation of a positive and negative charge within the cloud.
  • Types: Lightning can occur within clouds (inter-cloud and intra-cloud) or between the cloud and the ground (cloud-to-ground).

Intensity of Lightning Strikes

  • Voltage and Amperage: A typical lightning flash can reach around 300 million volts and 30,000 amps, significantly higher than household current.
  • Comparisons: Household current is 120 volts and 15 amps, highlighting the immense power of lightning.

Mitigating Lightning Incidents

  • Early Warning System: India has established an early warning system for lightning, saving numerous lives.
  • Focus on Rural Areas: Over 96% of lightning deaths occur in rural areas, necessitating mitigation and awareness programs targeted at these communities.
  • Deployment of Protection Devices: Low-cost lightning protection devices need to be deployed more widely, especially in rural areas.
  • Lightning Action Plans: States are encouraged to develop and implement lightning action plans, similar to heat action plans, to mitigate lightning-related risks.
  • International Centre for Excellence: Efforts are underway to establish an international center for excellence in lightning research to enhance detection and early warning systems.

 

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Monsoon havoc in India: How floods can be a valuable resource

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Floods in India: A recurring challenge and measures for flood management and shifting focus towards converting calamity into a valuable resource

floods

What is the news?

  • The monsoon season in India this year brought about unprecedented changes, with Mumbai and New Delhi experiencing the onset of rains on the same day after a gap of 61 years.

” Floods are acts of God but flood losses are largely acts of man”

Central idea

  • The events of heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding are occurring in various parts of India leading to significant loss of lives, damage to land, and financial losses. This highlighting the inadequacy of India’s hydro-infrastructure for effective flood management and calls for a shift in mindset towards conserving flood flows as a valuable resource

Floods in India: A recurring challenge

  • Frequency: India experiences floods on a recurring basis, with at least one major flood event occurring each year. This indicates that floods are not isolated incidents but rather a consistent challenge.
  • Loss of Lives: Floods in India lead to the loss of lives, with an average of 1,600 lives being lost annually, according to the National Disaster Management Authority. The loss of human lives highlights the severity and recurring nature of the flood challenge.
  • Damage to Land: Floods affect a significant area of land in India, impacting approximately 75 lakh hectares. This demonstrates the recurrent impact of floods on agricultural land, leading to crop damage and agricultural losses.
  • Financial Losses: Floods in India cause substantial financial losses, with damages estimated at Rs 1,805 crore. These losses encompass damages to crops, houses, and public utilities, further highlighting the recurring challenge and the need for effective management strategies.

Flood management measures

Structural Measures:

  • Storage Reservoirs: These reservoirs are constructed to store excess water during high-flow periods and release it gradually, reducing flood peaks. They also serve as a water source for irrigation, electricity generation, and other purposes.
  • Embankments: These structures, also known as levees, act as barriers to prevent floodwaters from encroaching on vulnerable areas such as agricultural lands, cities, and industries.
  • Diversions: This measure involves redirecting excess water away from heavily populated or susceptible areas to less vulnerable regions, helping to minimize the impact of flooding.

Non-Structural Measures:

  • Flood Forecasting and Warning Systems: These systems use data analysis, weather monitoring, and hydrological modeling to provide advance warnings about potential flood events. They enable timely evacuation of people and movable assets, reducing the risk to life and property.
  • Flood Plain Zoning: This measure involves regulating the use of floodplains by restricting human activities and developments in flood-prone areas. By delineating zones based on flood risk, it helps minimize vulnerability and losses associated with floods.

How floods can be a valuable resource?

  • Water Storage: Floods can serve as a valuable resource for water storage. By conserving and capturing floodwaters, the excess water can be stored in reservoirs or other storage facilities. This stored water can then be used for various purposes during dry periods, including irrigation, drinking water supply, and industrial needs.
  • Drought Mitigation: Conserving flood flows can help mitigate the impact of droughts. By storing excess floodwaters, the saved water can be utilized to partially address water scarcity during drought periods, providing relief to agriculture, communities, and ecosystems that rely on water availability.
  • Groundwater Recharge: Floods contribute to the replenishment of groundwater aquifers. The infiltration of floodwaters into the soil helps recharge underground water reserves, ensuring a sustained supply of groundwater for various uses even after the flood event subsides.
  • Ecological Benefits: Floods support ecosystems and promote biodiversity. The article mentions that floods bring essential nutrients, sediments, and organic matter to wetlands and riverine habitats, which nourish the ecosystems and support diverse flora and fauna.
  • Hydropower Generation: Controlled release of floodwaters can be harnessed for hydropower generation. By utilizing the energy of flowing water, floods can be a valuable resource for producing renewable energy through hydropower projects

Why India needs to upgrade its hydro-infrastructure?

  • Inadequate Infrastructure: India’s hydro-infrastructure is currently inadequate for effective flood management. The existing infrastructure, such as storage reservoirs, embankments, and diversions, is not sufficient to address the challenges posed by floods.
  • Insufficient Storage Space: The storage space created in major river basins, such as the Ganga and the Brahmaputra, is inadequate for the available flows. This indicates a need to enhance storage capacity to effectively manage floodwaters and maximize their utilization.
  • Managing Variabilities: With changing rainfall patterns and intensities due to climate change, the variability of water flows in rivers will increase. Upgrading the hydro-infrastructure is seen as crucial to effectively manage these increasing variabilities and address the resulting challenges of floods and droughts.
  • Conservation of Flood Flows: The potential value of conserving flood flows for drought mitigation. Upgrading the hydro-infrastructure would enable the conservation of unutilized flood flows, which can then be stored and utilized during dry periods to partially mitigate droughts.
  • Water Security and Resilience: Upgrading the hydro-infrastructure is important for ensuring water security and resilience. It allows for improved water management, including storage, distribution, and utilization, which can reduce dependence on erratic monsoon patterns and enhance the country’s ability to cope with water-related challenges.
  • Environmental Considerations: An upgraded hydro-infrastructure should incorporate environmental considerations. This includes preserving ecological flows, minimizing disruptions to ecosystems, and promoting sustainable water management practices.

Way forward: Towards comprehensive flood management

  • Shift in Focus: Shifting attention and efforts from flood control to flood management. This involves adopting a comprehensive approach that encompasses structural and non-structural measures, as well as integrating environmental considerations.
  • Upgrading Hydro-Infrastructure: Upgrading the existing hydro-infrastructure includes increasing storage capacity, improving embankments, and constructing new reservoirs. Upgrades should address the inadequacies of the current infrastructure and consider the potential for conserving flood flows.
  • Conserving Flood Flows: By safely storing and utilizing excess floodwaters, damages caused by floods can be reduced, and the saved water can be utilized to partially mitigate droughts. This requires the development of storage facilities and infrastructure to capture and store floodwaters during high-flow periods.
  • Integrated Approach: There is need for an integrated approach to flood management. This involves combining structural measures with non-structural measures such as flood forecasting, warning systems, and floodplain zoning. Integration should also consider environmental considerations and the preservation of ecological flows.
  • Learning from International Experiences: Learning from international experiences in flood management. This includes evaluating the performance of flood control measures, studying integrated approaches, and understanding how other countries have balanced flood management objectives with environmental concerns.
  • Community Engagement and Awareness: Raising awareness about flood risks, promoting community preparedness, and involving local communities in early warning systems and evacuation plans.
  • Policy and Governance: There is need for robust policies and governance mechanisms to support comprehensive flood management. This includes incorporating climate change adaptation strategies, promoting multi-stakeholder collaboration, and ensuring environmental safeguards.
  • Investment and Resource Allocation: Allocating adequate resources and funding for flood management initiatives. This involves securing financial support for infrastructure upgrades, research and development, capacity building, and community resilience programs.

Conclusion

  • It is imperative for India to recognize flood flows as a valuable resource and implement measures that conserve water for subsequent use and water security. By adopting a comprehensive approach, upgrading hydro-infrastructure, and leveraging a mix of structural and non-structural measures, India can effectively mitigate the impacts of floods while ensuring sustainable water management for the future.

Also read:

The lesson from a monsoon-battered North India: Time to be prepared

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Places in news: Nathu La

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Nathu La Pass

Mains level: Not Much

nathu la

Several people have been killed and many others are feared trapped under snow after a massive avalanche near Sikkim’s Nathu La Mountain pass.

Nathu La Pass

Location Sikkim, on the border between India and China
Altitude 4,310 meters (14,140 ft)
Importance Historical Silk Route
Trade Reopened in 2006 for border trade between India and China
Restrictions Only for Indian and Chinese nationals with a valid visa
Connectivity Connects the Indian state of Sikkim with the Tibet Autonomous Region of China
Military importance Strategic importance in the Sino-Indian War of 1962
Tourism Restricted due to the sensitive nature of the region
Weather Harsh and unpredictable, with heavy snowfall in winter months
Border dispute The pass was closed by China after the 1962 war and was reopened only after the Chinese president visited India in 2003.

 

How has it been at the centre stage of India-China disputes?

  • Sino-Indian War: In 1962, Nathu La pass was a battleground between the Indian and Chinese armies during the Sino-Indian War. The conflict resulted in casualties on both sides, with China ultimately capturing the pass.
  • Skirmishes in 1967: In 1967, there were several minor skirmishes between the Indian and Chinese armies near Nathu La pass. The conflict was resolved through diplomatic negotiations.
  • Standoff in 2017: In 2017, there was a 73-day-long standoff between the Indian and Chinese armies near the Doklam plateau, which is close to Nathu La pass. The dispute was over the construction of a road by China in the disputed area. The standoff ended with both sides agreeing to disengage.

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States demand that ‘Lightning’ be declared a Natural Disaster

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Lightening

Mains level: Not Much

Central idea: A few states have requested lightning to be declared a natural disaster due to the high number of deaths caused by it in the country.

Why discuss this?

  • Around 2,500 people die every year due to lightning.
  • Present norms consider cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, fires, floods, tsunamis, hailstorms, landslides, avalanches, cloudbursts, pest attacks, frost, and cold waves as disasters covered under the State Disaster Response Fund.
  • Deliberations are necessary as it is a policy issue.

What is lightning?

  • Scientifically, lightning is a rapid and massive discharge of electricity in the atmosphere some of which is directed towards earth.
  • The discharges are generated in giant moisture-bearing clouds that are 10-12 km tall.
  • The base of these clouds typically lie within 1-2 km of the Earth’s surface, while the top is 12-13 km away.
  • Temperatures in the top of these clouds are in the range of –35° to –45°C.

Its formation

  • As water vapour moves upward in the cloud, the falling temperature causes it to condense.
  • As they move to temperatures below 0°C, the water droplets change into small ice crystals.
  • They continue to move up, gathering mass until they are so heavy that they start to fall to Earth.
  • This leads to a system in which, simultaneously, smaller ice crystals are moving up and bigger crystals are coming down.
  • Collisions follow and trigger the release of electrons, a process that is very similar to the generation of sparks of electricity.
  • As the moving free electrons cause more collisions and more electrons, a chain reaction ensues.
  • This process results in a situation in which the top layer of the cloud gets positively charged, while the middle layer is negatively charged.
  • The electrical potential difference between the two layers is huge, of the order of a billion to 10 billion volts.
  • In very little time, a massive current, of the order of 100,000 to a million amperes, starts to flow between the layers.

Types of lightning

  • Broadly, there are three forms of lightning:
  1. Inter-cloud
  2. Intra-cloud
  3. Cloud-to-ground
  • It is the cloud-to-ground form of lightning that kills humans, as well as animals and livestock, and can substantially damage property.
  • While the Earth is a good conductor of electricity, it is electrically neutral.
  • However, in comparison to the middle layer of the cloud, it becomes positively charged.
  • As a result, about 15%-20% of the current gets directed towards the Earth as well.
  • It is this flow of current that results in damage to life and property on Earth.

How intensely does it strike?

  • A typical lightning flash is about 300 million volts and30,000 amps.
  • To put it in perspective, household current is 120 volts and 15 amps.
  • A flash of lightning is enough to light a 100-watt incandescent bulb for about three months.

Why does lightning kill so many people in India?

  • The reason for the high number of deaths is due to people being caught unawares and more than 70% of fatalities happened due to people standing under isolated tall trees.
  • About 25 per cent of the people were struck in the open.
  • Also, lightning is the direct promulgation of climate change extremities.

Mitigating lightning incidents

  • Lightning is not classified as a natural disaster in India.
  • But recent efforts have resulted in the setting up of an early warning system that is already saving many lives.
  • More than 96% of lightning deaths happen in rural areas.
  • As such, most of the mitigation and public awareness programmes need to focus on these communities.
  • Lightning protection devices are fairly unsophisticated and low-cost. Yet, their deployment in the rural areas, as of now, is extremely low.
  • States are being encouraged to prepare and implement lightning action plans, on the lines of heat action plans.
  • An international centre for excellence on lightning research to boost detection and early warning systems is also in the process of being set up.

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ISRO releases Landslide Atlas of India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Landslide Atlas of Indi

Mains level: Heavt rain induced disasters

landslide

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) recently released the Landslide Atlas of India to identify landslide hotspots in the country.

What are Landslides?

  • Landslides are natural disasters that occur in mountainous terrains where soil, rock, geology, and slope conditions are conducive.
  • A landslide is the sudden movement of rock, boulders, earth, or debris down a slope.
  • They can be triggered by natural causes such as heavy rainfall, earthquakes, snowmelting, and undercutting of slopes due to flooding.
  • They are extremely hazardous, posing a threat to human and animal lives, damaging property, roads, and bridges, disrupting communication lines, and snapping power lines.
  • Landslides are broadly classified based on the type of materials involved, the type of movement of the material, and the type of flow of the material.

Why do they occur?

  • Landslides are natural disasters that occur mainly in mountainous terrains due to conducive conditions of soil, rock, geology, and slope.
  • Heavy rainfall, earthquakes, snow-melting, and undercutting of slopes due to flooding can trigger landslides.
  • Anthropogenic activities such as excavation, cutting of hills and trees, excessive infrastructure development, and overgrazing by cattle can also cause landslides.

Factors contributing

  • The main factors that influence landslides include lithology, geological structures like faults, hill slopes, drainage, geomorphology, land use and land cover, soil texture and depth, and weathering of rocks.
  • Rainfall variability pattern is the single biggest cause for landslides in India, with the Himalayas and the Western Ghats remaining highly vulnerable.

India’s vulnerability to landslides

  • India is considered among the top five landslide-prone countries globally, where at least one death per 100 sq. km is reported in a year due to a landslide event.
  • Approximately 12.6% of the country’s geographical land area (0.42 million sq km) is prone to landslides, with 66.5% of landslides reported from the North-western Himalayas, 18.8% from the North-eastern Himalayas, and 14.7% from the Western Ghats.

Risks in specific states          

  • Mizoram recorded the highest number of landslide events in the past 25 years, with 12,385 events, of which 8,926 were recorded in 2017 alone.
  • Nagaland and Manipur also reported a high number of landslide events during the 2017 monsoon season.
  • Uttarakhand and Kerala reported the highest number of landslides, with Uttarakhand experiencing 11,219 events since 1998, and Kerala making inhabitants significantly vulnerable to fatalities, despite fewer events.

Classification and Mapping of Landslides

  • Landslides are broadly classified based on the type of materials involved, type of movement, type of flow of the material, and whether they spread laterally.
  • The Landslide Atlas of India maps landslides mainly based on events and seasons.
  • The National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) used a landslide database created from 1998 to 2022 using aerial and high-resolution satellite images.

 

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Policy: Making India Earthquake Prepared

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Earthquakes, India's earthquake prone regions

Mains level: India's policy on Earthquake preparedness

Policy

Central Idea

  • The destruction caused by earthquakes in Turkey should be alarming for India. Over the last three weeks, tremors have been felt in Himalayan states. Moreover, geologists have warned of a probable massive earthquake in the Himalayan state. In this context the Delhi High Court asked the state government to file a status report and action plan on the structural safety of buildings in Delhi. Nearly 58 per cent of the Indian landmass is vulnerable to earthquakes and the concerns that have been raised by the court need a policy response instead.

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How do earthquakes happen?

  • According to the theory of plate tectonics, the Earth’s crust and upper mantle are made of large rigid plates that can move relative to one another.
  • Slip on faults near the plate boundaries can result in earthquakes.
  • The point inside the Earth where the earthquake rupture starts is called the focus or hypocentre.
  • The point directly above it on the surface of the Earth is the epicentre.

What is missing in India’s policy on earthquake preparedness?

  • Current policy operates primarily at the scale of structural details: Guided by the National Building Codes, this includes specifying dimensions of the structural members columns, beams, etc. and details of the reinforcements that join these elements together.
  • While scientifically sound, this view on earthquake preparedness is myopic:
  1. It ignores the buildings that were constructed before such codes were published in 1962. Such buildings form a large part of our cities.
  2. It assumes infallibility in the processes of enforcement, relying only on penalisation and illegalities.
  3. It treats earthquakes as a problem of individual buildings, as if they exist and behave in complete isolation from their urban context.

What needs to be done?

  • Preparedness at Building and City Scale through policy: Earthquake preparedness, therefore, needs to act at the scale of building details as well as that of cities. Moreover, we must think about it in the realm of policy and not just legal enforcement.
  • Need for Comprehensive Policy: At the scale of building details, we need to create a system of retrofitting existing structures and enforcing seismic codes with more efficiency. While there has been political talk and piecemeal efforts towards retrofitting, we still lack a comprehensive policy.

A policy should include two measures

  1. Retrofitting Buildings to Seismic Codes:
  • To create a system of tax-based or development rights-based incentives for retrofitting one’s building up to seismic codes.
  • Such a system of incentives will enable the growth of an industry around retrofitting and will generate a body of well-trained professionals and competent organisations.
  1. Improving Seismic Code Enforcement:
  • By ensuring better enforcement of seismic codes through a similar model. A step forward in this direction was the National Retrofitting Programme launched in 2014.
  • Under the programme, the Reserve Bank of India directed banks to deny loans for any building activity that does not meet the standards of earthquake-resistant design.

Case study: Japan

  • Japan has invested heavily in technological measures to mitigate the damage from the frequent earthquakes that it experiences.
  • Skyscrapers are built with counterweights and other high-tech provisions to minimise the impact of tremors.
  • Small houses are built on flexible foundations and public infrastructure is integrated with automated triggers that cut power, gas, and water lines during earthquakes.
  • All of this has been a result of cultivating an industry around earthquake mitigation and fostering expertise.

Criteria for an urban-level policy to generate earthquake vulnerability maps

  1. The percentage of vulnerable structures in the area;
  2. The availability of evacuation routes and distances from the nearest open ground;
  3. Density of the urban fabric;
  4. Location of nearest relief services and the efficiency with which these services can reach affected sites.
  • For example: Flood zone mapping is a good example of such an exercise that has proven to be successful in terms of timely evacuation and efficient implementation.

Conclusion

  • Governments and policymakers ought to know better than act in a piecemeal manner. Programmes like the ongoing Urban 20 meetings are an excellent opportunity for international knowledge exchange on earthquake preparedness. The Delhi High Court’s directions must act as a reminder for the inclusion of an earthquake preparedness policy in urban renewal programmes such as the Smart Cities Mission. A policy on earthquake preparedness requires a visionary, radical and transformative approach.

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Turkey hit by series of powerful Earthquakes: The science behind it

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Earthquakes, Tectonic Plates

Mains level: Read the attached story

turkey

More than 4000 people died and several hundred were injured after a major earthquake of magnitude 7.8 hit south-central Turkey and Northwest Syria.

What is an Earthquake?

  • An earthquake is an intense shaking of the ground caused by movement under the earth’s surface.
  • It happens when two blocks of the earth suddenly slip past one another.
  • This releases stored-up ‘elastic strain’ energy in the form of seismic waves, which spreads through the earth and cause the shaking of the ground.

What exactly causes Earthquakes?

  • As we know, the earth’s outermost surface, crust, is fragmented into tectonic plates.
  • The edges of the plates are called plate boundaries, which are made up of faults.
  • The tectonic plates constantly move at a slow pace, sliding past one another and bumping into each other.
  • As the edges of the plates are quite rough, they get stuck with one another while the rest of the plate keeps moving.
  • Earthquake occurs when the plate has moved far enough and the edges unstick on one of the faults.
  • The location below the earth’s surface where the earthquake starts is called the hypocenter, and the location directly above it on the surface of the earth is called the epicentre.

How prone is Turkey to Earthquakes?

  • Turkey and Syria lie in a seismically active region
  • The region where the earthquake has struck lies along a well-known seismic fault line called the Anatolia tectonic block that runs through northern, central, and eastern Turkey.
  • It is a seismically active zone — though not as active as, say, the Himalayan region which is one of the most dangerous regions in the world from the perspective of earthquakes.

What makes Turkey a hotbed of seismic activity?

turkey

  • Turkey is frequently shaken by earthquakes. In 2020 itself, it recorded almost 33,000 earthquakes in the region.
  • Turkey is located on the Anatolian tectonic plate, which is wedged between the Eurasian and African plates.
  • On the north side, the minor Arabian plate further restricts movement.
  • One fault line — the North Anatolian fault (NAF) line, the meeting point of the Eurasian and Anatolian tectonic plates — is known to be “particularly devastating”.
  • Then there is the East Anatolian fault line, the tectonic boundary between the Anatolian Plate and the northward-moving Arabian Plate.
  • It runs 650 kilometers from eastern Turkey and into the Mediterranean.
  • In addition to this, the Aegean Sea Plate, located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea under southern Greece and western Turkey, is also a source of seismic activity in the region.

Where was the earthquake epicentered?

  • The centre of the earthquake was centred about 33 km from Gaziantep, around 18 km deep.
  • Its effect was felt across West Asia, Northern Africa and South Eastern Europe with residents of Lebanon, Cyprus, Greece, Israel and Egypt also reporting tremors.

Aftermath: Many Aftershocks hits the region

  • Aftershocks are a sequence of earthquakes that happen after a larger mainshock on a fault.
  • Aftershocks occur near the fault zone where the mainshock rupture occurred and are part of the “readjustment process” after the main slip on the fault.
  • While they become less frequent with time, although they can continue for days, weeks, months, or even years for a very large mainshock.

Can earthquakes be predicted?

  • An accurate prediction of an earthquake requires some sort of a precursory signal from within the earth that indicates a big quake is on the way.
  • Moreover, the signal must occur only before large earthquakes so that it doesn’t indicate every small movement within the earth’s surface.
  • Currently, there is no equipment to find such precursors, even if they exist.

India offers assistance

  • India is among the 45 countries, which have so far offered assistance to Turkey.
  • It’s sending search and rescue teams of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) and medical teams along with relief material to the West Asian nation.

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

EIA must before allowing urban development projects: SC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: EIA

Mains level: Read the attached story

The Supreme Court has urged legislators and policy experts to ensure that Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) studies are done before giving the green signal for urban development projects in India’s cities.

What is the news?

  • The Supreme Court how haphazard urban development has ruined the ‘Garden City’ of Bengaluru as witnessed during a major spell of rain in September 2022.
  • The court said that the city struggled for drinking water while it lay submerged after the downpour.

Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) defines it as,

a formal process to predict the environmental consequences of human development activities and to plan appropriate measures to eliminate or reduce adverse effects and to augment positive effects.

  • Thus, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an integral part of Environmental Management. It investigates likely impacts, both positive and negative, of development projects on the surrounding environment.
  • Simply put, EIA is a detailed study regarding the impacts of any project on the environment. It serves as a decision-making tool which helps policy makers approve, reject or find an alternative to a project

EIA

In India, Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is notified under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986.

Evolution of EIA 

  • The origin of EIA lies in the enactment of the National Environmental Policy Act(NEPA) in the year 1969 in the USA. It not only introduced the concept of environmental impact assessment but also made it necessary for federal agencies to evaluate impact of environmental decisions.
  • Environment Impact Assessment gained popularity after the introduction of the concept of sustainable developmentvia World Commission on Environment 1987 & United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio Summit) in 1992. It led to adoption of EIA in many countries as well. Principle 17 of the Rio Summit states that,
  • Environmental impact assessment (EIA), as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority[Given just for your info. No need to remember this type of complex language.Instead, you can mention that EIA is mentioned explicitly under Principle 17 of the Rio declaration of 1992].
  • In 1976-77, EIA was started in India, when the Department of Science and Technology was asked by Planning Commission to examine the river-valley projects from the environmental angle.
  • Eventually n 1994, EIA was made mandatory in India under the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986. Until then, environmental clearance from the Central Government was an administrative decision and had no legislative backing.
  • Since then, EIA has been amended several times. The most significant amendment was made in 2006

EIA Process

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process can vary depending on a country’s policy and requirement. However, EIA process in most countries, including India, have the following steps:

  1. Screening
  2. Scoping
  3. Collection of baseline data
  4. Impact Prediction
  5. Assessment of alternatives, mitigation measures & Environmental, Impact Assessment Report
  6. Public Hearing
  7. Decision Making
  8. Monitoring the clearance conditions

Screening: This is the first step in the EIA process. At this stage it is decided whether the proposed project needs an EIA and if so to what detail. Screening criteria are based upon:

  • Scales of investment
  • Type of development
  • Location of development

Scoping: It is the most significant step in the entire EIA process as key environmental issues involved are identified at this stage.

  • Scoping has to be done by consultants in consultation with the project proponent and guidance, if needed, from Impact Assessment Agency
  • The Ministry of Environment and Forests has published sector-wise guidelines which outline the significant issues which have to be addressed while conducting the EIA studies.
  • At the end of scoping, detailed terms of reference (TOR) are prepared of EIA.
  • TOR is a written document containing written requirements governing EIA implementation, consultations to be held, data to be gathered, methodology to be used etc

Involved in Environmental Impact Assessment

Collection of baseline data: It describes the existing environmental status of the identified study area. The site-specific primary data is monitored and supplemented with secondary data

Impact prediction: Under this, possible effects on the physical, biological, social and economic conditions are taken into consideration and measures are suggested to prevent, reduce or compensate for the impacts.

For example:

  • Impact of biological diversity in an area ex. EIA done by Gadgil panel on the western ghats regions.
  • Impact on habitat because of deforestation and pollution- Impact on Himalayan ecosystem when hydropower projects are opened.
  • Impact on endangered animals and migratory paths. For ex Great India hornbill’s trail in India is evaluated so as to see that such developmental project is not affecting its pathway.
  • The predictions of impact can never be absolute and certain and thus there is a need to comprehensively consider all factors and take all possible precautions for reducing the degree of uncertainty.

Assessment of alternatives, mitigation measures & Environmental Impact Assessment Report: Identification of alternatives and their comparison: For every project, possible alternatives are to be identified and environmental impacts and benefits to be compared.

  • Alternatives should then be ranked for selection of the best environmental option for optimum economic benefits to the community at large.
  • Environment Management Plan (EMP): Once alternatives have been reviewed, an impact mitigation plan is drawn up for the selected option and is supplemented with an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) to guide the proponent towards environmental improvements. EMP is a crucial input to monitoring the clearance conditions and therefore details of monitoring should be included in it.
  • EMP is a site-specific plan developed to ensure that the project is implemented in an environmentally sustainable manner where all contractors and subcontractors, including consultants understand the potential environmental risks arising from the project and take appropriate actions to properly manage that risk.
  • An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report prepared at this stage should provide clear information to the decision maker on the different environmental scenarios without the project, with the project and with project alternatives.

Public Hearing: Public must be informed and consulted on a proposed development after the completion of EIA report

  • Gram Sabha must be consulted before the project starts. Gram Sabha means the electorate (people eligible to vote) of the region

Decision-making: It involves consultations between the project proponent (assisted by a consultant) and the impact assessment authority (assisted by an expert group if necessary). Final decision regarding the project is taken, keeping in mind EIA and EMP (Environment Management Plan).

Monitoring: Monitoring should be done during both construction and operation phases of a project. This is not only to ensure that the commitments made are complied with but also to observe whether the predictions made in the EIA reports were correct or not.

  • Where the impacts exceed the predicted levels, corrective action should be taken.
  • Monitoring enables the regulatory agency to review the validity of predictions and the conditions of implementation of the Environmental Management Plan (EMP).

Objective of EIA

  • To bring out a national policy to encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and environment.
  • To promote efforts to prevent or eliminate damage to the environment.
  • To increase understanding of ecological systems and natural resources important to the nation

Why we need Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)? / Significance of EIA / Benefits of EIA

  • Facilitates sustainable development: In present times anthropogenic activities like rapid industrialization, mass production and clearing of forests have created immense pressure on the natural environment. Tools like EIA help in balancing the need for economic growth with equally important concept of sustainability.
  • Mitigating negative impacts & informed decision-making– Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) helps in minimizing the negative impact of various development projects. It enables monitoring programmes to be established to assess future impacts and provide data on which managers can take informed decisions to avoid environmental damage.
  • Aids cost-effectiveness– EIA helps in selection and design of projects, programmes or plans with long term viability and therefore improves cost effectiveness.
  • Advance assessments also helps avoid future losses that may be incurred if the project is found environmentally unacceptable at a later stage. Cost of adaptation when a project is already running is usually more.

Thus, EIA as a tool aims to minimize the environmental impacts emanating out of any economic activity that have the potential to cause environmental degradation.

Environmental Components

Rapid EIA vs Comprehensive EIA

The difference is in the time scale of the data supplied. But both types require complete coverage of all EIA procedures

  • Rapid EIA: Under Rapid EIA data supplied is of only one season(other than monsoon) to reduce the time required. Rapid EIA is for speedier appraisal process.
  • Comprehensive EIA: It collects data from all four seasons.Rapid EIA is acceptable if it does not compromise upon the quality of decision making. The review of Rapid EIA submissions will show whether a comprehensive EIA is warranted or not. Therefore, submission of comprehensive EIA in the first stance would generally be more efficient approach. Comprehensive EIA includes appraisal of those projects whose analysis in not to be done soon, here time is not the essential factor but the quality of the appraisal is.

EIA notifications

Central govt has the power to issue EIA notifications under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, wherein it can impose restrictions on setting up new projects or expansion or modernisation of existing projects. The section stipulates that such measures must benefit the environment.

Under the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, first EIA notification was issued in 1994. Later, it was replaced by a modified draft in 2006

Salient Features of EIA rules Amendment done in 2006 

  • Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006 decentralized the environmental clearance projects by categorizing the developmental projects in two categories i.e., Category Aand Category B

Salient features of EIA

After 2006 Amendment, EIA comprises of four cycles:

  • Screening
  • Scoping
  • Public Hearing
  • Appraisal
  • State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) are constituted to provide clearance to category B projects.
  • Category A Projects require mandatory environmental clearance. Screening process is not required.
  • Category B projects undergo screening process. They are classified in two types:
  • Category B1 Projects: Mandatorily require EIA
  • Category B2 Projects: Do not require EIA

Thus,

  • Category Aprojects and category B1 projects undergo the complete EIA process
  • Category B2projects are excluded from complete EIA process

This 2006 EIA notification has undergone several amendments over last 14 years. A new draft EIA Notification 2020 has been floated by the govt. It is meant to incorporate the amendments and court orders issued since 2006.

Major Provisions of draft EIA notification 2020

  • Public Consultation 
  • Period of public consultation hearings is proposed to be reduced to a maximum of 40 days.
  • Time provided for the public to submit their responses is proposed to be reduced from present 30 to 20 days.
  • Rationale by the govt: the shorter window was “in tune with the times”, given the growth of internet and mobile telephony.
  • Concern: Several environmental activists and organisations have instead argued that even the 30-day timeframe was inadequate as information failed to reach the stakeholders residing in remote and inaccessible terrains
  • More discretionary powers to government
  • Central government can declare “economically sensitive areas” without public hearing or environmental clearance
  • Government also gets to decide which projects are to be considered “strategic”.
  • Post-facto clearance: Legalisation of projects that have commenced operations without obtaining necessary clearances; subject to a payment of penalty.

Supreme court’s view on postfacto clearance –

  • In a judgment in early 2020, in the case of Alembic Pharmaceuticals Ltd vs Rohit Prajapati,the Supreme Court by also referring to Common Cause vs. Union of India judgment, struck down and condemned ex-post facto environmental clearance (a concept which the new draft EIA proposes to regularise).
  • In 2013, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Association for Environmental Protection vs State of Kerala, held that commencement of projects without obtaining prior EC (environmental clearance) is a violation of the fundamental right to lifeguaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution

 

  • Post-clearance compliance: Post-clearance compliance implies that once a project gets approved by the concerned authority, the proponent projects are required to adhere to certain rules laid down in the EIA report in order to ensure that no further environmental damages take place.
  • The new draft EIA, contrary to the 2006 notification — which required submission of the compliance report every six months, proposes annual reports. 
  • Concern: Environmental experts are of the view that allowing a longer period for filling the compliance report will give an opportunity to project proponents to hide disastrous consequences, which could go unnoticed

 

  • Exemption clause: It identifies a long list of projects like roads and pipelines in border areas which have been exempted from public consultation and prior clearance.
  • Concern: Analysts note that by this provision, the government shall have discretion to designate any project as being of strategic importance. Activists in states with crucial resources like uranium, as in Meghalaya, have also opposed this provision

 

  • Baseline Data: Does away with the need to carry out studies covering all seasons in a year

In the 2019 ‘Ease of Doing Business’ report by the World Bank, India rose steadily from 142nd ranking in 2014 to 63rd ranking in 2019. India, however, has steadily declined on Environment Performance Index, from 141st rank in 2016 to 168th rank out of 180 countries in 2020.

The government has assured that it will strive to strike a balance between the environmental and developmental concerns. As and when the EIA is finalised, it is expected to incorporate the perspectives of multiple stakeholders in a balanced manner.

Shortcomings of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process

Applicability: There are several projects with environmental impacts that are exempted from the notifications. Ex. Low scale sand mining

Inadequate capacity of EIA approval authorities: Lack of technical and environmental experts, anthropologists and social scientists among the members and involvement of crony capitalism and nexus between corporates and politicians leads to faulty decision making, where projects which severe harm the environment may also get approved.

Deficiencies in screening, scoping and impact analysis: There are no independent bodies and no standardized formats for project evaluation.

  • Absence of standardized baseline data brings arbitrariness in impact prediction.
  • It is allegedly done by those people which are on the payroll of company which creates a conflict of interest. They intentionally exclude negative impact on forests/ environment and impact on tribes during the scoping process

Poor quality EIA reports: EIA is presently used as a project justification tool rather than as a project planning tool to contribute to achieving sustainable development. Involvement of planning for future activities should also be focused upon along with the justification of the project itself.

  • EIA is not just a tool to describe YES or NO regarding a project but also about how the harm, if any, to the environment can be minimized, so as to be pollution-neutral and environmentally sustainable.

Initiated at a later stage: Another flaw in the EIA process in India is that it is undertaken at a much later stage, especially after the project has been designed, approved and almost ready for construction. Thus, by the time EIA starts huge costs are incurred and the project becomes too big to fall.

Inadequate public participation: In many countries like Nepal, Argentina and Australia, public involvement is mandatory at various stages of the EIA process (i.e., screening, scoping, report preparation and decision making), but in India public consultation occurs only once during the entire process. According to the EIA notification 2006, this public consultation is performed in two ways.

  • First, written comments are sought on draft EIA report from stakeholders
  • Second, public hearing is conducted at or near the proposed project site.

Drawbacks of this system:

  • Public consultation is done after the preparation of draft EIA reportand when it is ready for final submission to the expert committee.
  • Also, the notification issued for public hearing are not published in local vernacular languagesthus keeping it out of the scope of understanding of locals.

Weak monitoring: Monitoring is not done through an independent agency. Environment management plans of strategic industries like nuclear energy are not put into the public domain.

How can we strengthen the EIA process?

1.Independent Agency: Entire EIA process right from screening to monitoring should be done by independent agencies and establishing a National Accreditation Body for agencies carrying out EIA.

  • Creation of centralized baseline data bank

2.Applying Precautionary Principle: This principle states that if there is a threat of serious damage (in this case, to the environment) from a particular action then a lack of scientific certainty should not be used to avoid taking steps to prevent that damage. Hence, the list of concerns raised by the public should be studied in detail to arrive at any conclusion. Ex. GM crops.

  • Clearances given to project that is not clearly justified becomes questionable as happened in Sethusamudram Project

3.Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA): It helps in choosing a project and not just evaluate it. It offers alternatives and guides project financing. The directives of SEA are reflected in the National Environment Policy 2006. Similarly, Nepal also carries out SEA’s.

  • A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a systematic process for evaluating the environmental implications of a proposed policyplanor programme

4.Robust and Inclusive public hearing: A key role for local people through Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) at every stage. Special focus on forests and tribal. The traditional knowledge of locals needs to be incorporated.

5.Transparency: Greater transparency in the clearance process and dissemination of all documents for public scrutiny.

6.Capacity Building: NGO’s, civil society groups and local communities need to build their capacities to use the EIA notification towards better decision-making on projects that can impact their local environments and livelihoods. Capacities can be built to proactively and effectively use the notification rather than respond in a manner that is seen as negative or unproductive.

Way forward

In a world that is challenged by environmental degradation and social conflicts, scholars have upheld public and local participation to be a “threshold condition” for development. EIA provides this necessary element in the economic development process. Therefore, EIA-based approvals for most projects should mandatorily and necessarily involve the process of conducting public hearings so that the views and opinions of people who are likely to be affected can be taken on board before a decision to approve the project is made so as to reduce future scope of resentment.

 

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Disasters at Himalayan Region (Uttarakhand)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Land Subsidence

Mains level: Reasons for disasters at Himalaya

Himalay

Context

  • Disasters have become commonplace in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, the most recent one being the sinking of Joshimath. Although climate change has triggered these events, the most important underlying factors are poor planning and a lack of vision.

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Recent disasters on Himalaya

  • Kedarnath floods: Nature has given enough warnings of the dangers in the Himalayas. The 2013 Kedarnath floods took more than 5,000 lives, according to official records.
  • Nepal earthquake: The 2015 Gurkha Earthquake in Nepal killed as many as 8000 individuals.
  • Floods in Pakistan: The recent floods in Pakistan left millions of people homeless and devastated.
  • Sinking of Joshimath: The ‘Joshimath sinking’ phenomenon has received national and global attention. However, other cities and towns across Uttarakhand are also on the brink of collapse. Joshimath is the first one to succumb to human pressures, thankfully without causing any damage to human lives.

Reasons for disasters at Himalaya (Uttarakhand)

  • Construction in Prohibited areas: The geological fragility of Uttarakhand is part of scientific and popular knowledge. Government policies and bylaws prohibit people from constructing houses on vulnerable slopes.
  • Mindless decision making: With increasing access to internet facilities, almost everyone can find information. Yet one is compelled to ask about the role technological advancement and information abundance have played in environmental decision-making as mindless construction over vulnerable slopes continues uninhibited.
  • Ignorance by bureaucrats: The technicalities of science and academic jargon are complex for bureaucrats to understand and laypersons and bureaucratic mindsets only engage with the research community for obligatory and cosmetic purposes.

Infrastructure of mountainous area and plain area

  • Normal construction methods for fragile ecology: We have continued to borrow practices from elsewhere for implementation on the delicate eco-geological systems of the Himalayas.
  • Gurugramisation of Uttarakhand: Gurugram’s infrastructure development took a toll on Gurugram itself. For the Himalayas, Gurugram-style development is enormously devastating. The “Gurugramisation” of Uttarakhand needs to stop.
  • Disregards to laws and regulations: The divide between science–policy, and people, has promoted disconnected decision-making and encouraged individuals to casually flout bylaws and regulatory policies. A common Uttarakhandi is forced to live a life full of uncertainty and fear.

Case study of Nainital

  • Vulnerable to landslides: Nainital, one of the most vulnerable cities in the entire Himalayan region. The Nainital lake is situated over an active Faultline and surrounded by slopes vulnerable to landslides.
  • Earthquake prone area: It falls under a high earthquake-prone zone (Zone IV). Since its settlement in 1841 small and big landslides continue to threaten the city. The most devastating of them was the 1880 landslide that took 151 human lives.
  • Construction on vulnerable slopes: Despite having robust scientific evidence, building bylaws, and an aware citizenry, the brutal assaults on the biophysical environment of the city are ongoing. The slope that collapsed in 1880 (less than a fraction of a second earlier on a geological time scale) is now inhabited by more than 15,000 individuals.
  • Ground water exploitation: In 2017, the Nainital lake level plummeted 18 feet due to the excessive withdrawal of water from the lake bed to meet local and unprecedented tourism needs. Such a decline was never experienced in the past.
  • Mindless tourism activities: The biggest threat to Nainital is the crumbling “Balianala”. To make matters worse, construction work over the most important recharge area of the Nainital lake “Sukhatal” is underway. The intention is to enhance tourism-related activity. But the question is, does a city that receives more than 10,000 tourists and 2,000 vehicles on a daily basis in the summer months and weekends need more tourism?

Himalay

Conclusion

  • The carrying capacity of the cities in Himalayas has been exhausted. The natural infrastructure is fatigued and dangers of a possible collapse are visible to the human eye. Government must the amend and implement the construction laws and regulations for sustainability of Himalayas.

Mains Question

Q. What are the reasons for recent sinking in Joshi math? Illustrate the vulnerability of Himalayas using the case study.

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In news: Bhopal Gas Leak Tragedy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: MIC

Mains level: Bhopal Gas Tragedy

bhopal

The Supreme Court has grilled the Centre on how the settlement can be reopened, when Union Carbide has already paid over $ 470 million to the Bhopal gas tragedy victims, and also expressed concern over Rs 50 crore undisbursed funds.

Why in news?

  • Union Carbide, now a part of Dow Jones – has not fulfilled its responsibility in terms of providing just compensation.
  • Around 19 years after compensation was agreed upon, the Indian government filed a curative petition in 2010 to seek additional compensation from Dow, of more than ten times the amount it gave in 1989.

Bhopal Gas Tragedy

  • On the night of December 2, 1984, one of the biggest industrial disasters to ever take place began unfolding in Bhopal.
  • Harmful Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) gas started leaking from a nearby Union Carbide pesticide plant, eventually resulting in the Bhopal Gas tragedy.
  • An estimated 3,000 people died within the first few days.
  • Over time, similarly horrifying numbers of those who suffered life-long health issues would become known.

Health hazards of the disaster

  • Its effects were such that apart from killing thousands of people in a short span of time, it led to disease and other long-term problems for many who inhaled the gas.
  • The sources of water around the factory were deemed unfit for consumption and many handpumps were sealed.
  • To date, the reproductive health of many of Bhopal’s women has been affected.
  • Children born to those exposed to the gas have faced congenital health problems.

How did govt respond to the disaster?

The incident pointed to the lack of specific laws in India at the time for handling such matters.  This changed after Bhopal.

  • Environment (Protection) Act, 1986: It authorised the central government to take relevant measures and regulate industrial activity for environmental and public safety.
  • Public Liability Insurance Act of 1991: It was also passed to provide public liability insurance for providing immediate relief to the persons affected by an accident occurring while handling any hazardous substance.

 

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What is Joshimath Crisis?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Land Subsidence

Mains level: Read the attached story

joshimath

Many families living in Uttarakhand’s Joshimath has shifted to safe places after their homes developed deep cracks, leaving them in a panicked state.

Joshimath Crisis

  • Joshimath lies on an ancient landslide, resting on a deposit of sand and stone, not rock.
  • The rivers Alaknanda and Dhauli Ganga play their part in triggering landslides, by eroding the river banks and mountain edges.
  • It is believed that increased construction activity and growing population have contributed to frequent landslides in the area, the 1976 Mishra Committee Report had pointed out.

What is Land Subsidence?

  • Land subsidence is when the ground sinks or settles.
  • It can happen because people are taking too much water or minerals from the ground, which causes the ground to sink.
  • It can also be caused by natural processes, like soil compaction or the movement of the earth’s crust.
  • Land subsidence can cause problems like damage to buildings and roads, and can make it more likely for flooding to occur.

Why is it sinking?

  • Joshimath is a deposit of sand and stone — it is not the main rock — hence it was not suitable for a township.
  • Vibrations produced by blasting, heavy traffic, etc. has led to a disequilibrium in natural factors.
  • Lack of proper drainage facilities also leads to landslides.
  • A lot of water has been percolating down into the porous crystalline rocks beneath the surface, softening them further.
  • When water is not allowed to flow down its natural course, it creates a lot of pressure, either over the ground, or underneath.
  • The existence of soak pits, which allow water to slowly soak into the ground, is responsible for the creation of cavities between the soil and the boulders.
  • This leads to water seepage and soil erosion.

Issues with Joshimath’s town-planning

  • Overt tourism: The place is now the hub of tourists headed to at least three important shrines — Badrinath, Hemkund Sahib and Shankaracharya temple — as a result of which major infrastructure development has taken place.
  • Ignoring topography: There are lots of loose soft rocks, moraine (material left behind by retreating glaciers), and sediments. The soil is, therefore, not ideal for large constructions.
  • Seismically active area: Added to this is the fact that the area falls in a highly seismic zone, and experiences regular tremors, making the top soil unstable.

Preventing a disaster

1976 Mishra Committee Report suggested-

  • Imposition of restrictions on heavy construction: Construction should only be allowed after examining the load-bearing capacity of the soil and the stability of the site, and restrictions should also be imposed on the excavation of slopes.
  • Keeping the boulders: In the landslide areas, stones and boulders should not be removed from the bottom of the hill as it would remove toe support, increasing the possibility of landslides.
  • Sealing of cracks: Cracks which have developed on the slopes should be sealed. The toe of a landslide is its bottom-most point.
  • Conserving of trees: It has also advised against cutting trees in the landslide zone, and said that extensive plantation work should be undertaken in the area, particularly between Marwari and Joshimath, to conserve soil and water resources.
  • Agriculture on the slopes must be avoided: Activities like ploughing loosens the soil thereby triggering the scope for landslides.
  • Preventing water seepage: To prevent any more landslides in the future, the seepage of open rain water must be stopped by the construction of a pucca drainage system.
  • Cobbled roads: Roads should be metalled and without scuppers, that drain away the water from the road surface.
  • River training: The construction of structures to guide the river’s flow should be carried out. Hanging boulders on the foothills should be provided with appropriate support.

Way forward

  • Ensuring safety of people: This should be immediate priority. State government should establish a clear and continuous communication channel with the affected people.
  • Time-bound reconstruction plan must be prepared.
  • Continuous seismic monitoring must be done.
  • A risk sensitive urban development plan for Joshimath should also be developed.

 

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What is Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: PDNA

Mains level: Not Much

pdna

Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) is now being done simultaneously in Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha and Meghalaya.

Why in news?

  • PDNA is now being used to evaluate the financial and social cost of local disasters in eight states in India.
  • These states all experienced severe flooding in the last few months.
  • The results of these assessments are likely to come out next month.

What is PDNA?

  • PDNA is an internationally accepted methodology for determining the physical damages, economic losses, and costs of meeting recovery needs after a natural disaster through a government-led process.
  • It is an international framework for assessing losses and damages in the aftermath of a disaster.
  • The framework helps get recovery and reconstruction efforts right following a disaster.
  • Globally, of the 55 PDNAs conducted worldwide since 2008, only two droughts — one in Malawi and the other Marshall Islands in 2016 — were of slow-onset disasters.

Components of PDNA

  • PDNA includes a calculation of the disaster’s impact on Gross Domestic Product, the balance of payment and fiscal budget.
  • Secondly, how this affects the flow of revenue to multiple sectors is evaluated.
  • For example, the number of farmers’ income affected per damaged acre of land and the livelihoods lost.
  • Overall, a quantitative assessment is additionally done on the social and environmental impact of the disaster.

History of PDNA in India

  • This is not the first time PDNA has been conducted in India.
  • It was first adopted during the Kerala floods of 2018 and again during the cyclone in Odisha in 2019, both unprecedented disasters.
  • Until now, the assessment was only limited to massive disasters that required international funding from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations.

15th Finance Commission provision

  • The 15th finance commission report of 2021, for the first time, made a provision for recovery and reconstruction in the national disaster management budget, which is at the core of the PDNA.
  • The states did not receive international funding to do the current ongoing PDNAs, as they are expected to take the money from the budget.

 

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Transboundary Flood Disasters

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Transboundary Rivers

Mains level: Disaster Management

Transboundary Flood Disasters

Context

  • Pakistan experiencing devastation, with a spread of diseases and severe shortage of potable water after intense flooding. In June this year Assam experienced one of its worst floods in which it affected over 30 districts. Assam and Bihar frequently suffer from transboundary flood disasters.

What is transboundary flood?

  • Floods that are originate in upper riparian state crosses the international boundary and also affects the lower riparian state. For example, river Brahmaputra causes flood both in China and India simultaneously.

Transboundary Flood DisastersHow the transboundary floods are difficult to manage than normal floods?

  • Flooding is still considered to be a natural phenomenon that cannot be entirely prevented. But it is compounded by the lack of transparency in the sharing of hydrological information and also information relating to activities (such as by one riparian state) that are transboundary in their effect (affecting other riparian states), thus serving as an obstacle in understanding the magnitude of flooding.

Transboundary Flood DisastersWhat is a riparian state?

  • A riparian state is state (or country) located alongside a river.

What are the International laws governing transboundary waters?

There are at two international treaties that governs the transboundary water

  • UNWC:
  • United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Use of International Watercourses (UNWC) 1997.UNWC contains a direct reference to floods, which covers harmful conditions and the emergency situations.
  • Article 27 of the Convention says, Watercourse States shall individually and, where appropriate, jointly, take all appropriate measures to prevent or mitigate conditions that may be harmful to other watercourse States, whether resulting from natural causes or human conduct or desertification.
  • Environmental Impact Assessment:
  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ), in the Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay (Argentina vs Uruguay) case of 2010, upheld that conducting a transboundary environmental impact assessment (TEIA) of a planned measure or projects on the shared water course is part of customary international law.
  • In fact, the ICJ noted that the acting state must notify the affected party of the results of TEIA for assessment of its own damages that are likely to occur.
  • UNECE: United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes 1992 (Water Convention).

Transboundary Flood DisastersHow India manages transboundary flood?

  • Note:Neither India nor China are signatory to UNWC or UNCEC.
  • River Brahmaputra: India has signed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China in 2013 with a view to sharing hydrological information during the flood season (June to September). The MoU does not allow India access to urbanisation and deforestation activities on the Chinese side of the river basin.
  • Rivers Gandak and kosi: Floods are also a recurrent problem in the Kosi and Gandak river basins that are shared by India and Nepal.
  • The India-Nepal Kosi agreement 1954: Agreement aimed at reducing devastating flooding in the river basin. The treaty-based joint bodies have also tried to refine the early warning systems for flood forecasting.

What are the suggestions?

  • Signing the treaty: Expert suggests, India by becoming a party to either the UNWC and the Water Convention could lay the groundwork for a bilateral treaty on the Brahmaputra but subject to the reservation that it should not insist on the insertion of a dispute settlement mechanism provision.
  • Information exchange: In contravention of procedural customary international law obligation, India considers data on transboundary rivers as classified information, which is one of the key challenges in developing cross-border flood warning systems. India needs to share the hydrological and river information for its own sake.

Conclusion

  • Climate change has accelerated the frequency and intensity of floods across the world. with Changing climate India should also change its strategy to protect its people, to preserve the soil and to save its resources from the scourge of floods.

Mains Questions

Q.Climate change has created a more difficult challenge in flood management. In this context, what measures can be taken to deal with frequent transboundary floods in India. Discuss.

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Tigray Crisis in Ethiopia

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Tigray Crisis

Mains level: Not Much

The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), described the Tigray crisis region as the “worst humanitarian disaster on earth”.

What is the news?

  • Ethiopia has been on the brink of a civil war.
  • On Nov 4 2020, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared war on the country’s Tigray region.
  • The Tigray region is ruled by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
  • The war was declared in response to the TPLF’s attack on a federal military base in Tigray.

Tigray Crisis: A backgrounder

  • The animosity between Tigrayans and Eritrea goes back to the Ethiopian-Eritrean war that occurred between 1998 and 2000.
  • It occurred approximately two decades ago was extremely brutal and resulted in the deaths of thousands of soldiers.
  • The roots of this crisis can be traced to Ethiopia’s system of government. Since 1994, Ethiopia has had a federal system in which different ethnic groups control the affairs of 10 regions.
  • The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – was influential in setting up this system.
  • It was the leader of a four-party coalition that governed Ethiopia from 1991, when a military regime was ousted from power.
  • Under the coalition, Ethiopia became more prosperous and stable, but concerns were routinely raised about human rights and the level of democracy.

How did it escalate into a crisis?

  • Eventually, discontent morphed into protest, leading to a government reshuffle that saw Mr Abiy appointed PM.
  • Abiy liberalized politics, set up a new party (the Prosperity Party), and removed key Tigrayan government leaders accused of corruption and repression.
  • Meanwhile, Abiy ended a long-standing territorial dispute with neighbouring Eritrea, earning him a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.
  • These moves won Abiy popular acclaim, but caused unease among critics in Tigray.
  • Tigray’s leaders see Abiy’s reforms as an attempt to centralize power and destroy Ethiopia’s federal system.

How bad is the humanitarian situation?

  • Tigray and its neighbouring regions are facing starvation.
  • There is an absence of medical facilities, no access to their own money due to shut-down banking services, ethnic and physical violence, and raids at the hands of warring forces.
  • The government declared a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds but in an effort to break the TPLF in June last year, imposed a blockade on Tigray.
  • This made it impossible to deliver humanitarian, economic, and medical assistance to Tigrayans.

Also read:

[Burning Issue] Ethiopian Crisis and the Geopolitics

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Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

What are Tetrapods?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Tetrapods

Mains level: Not Much

In Mumbai, the unusual vibrations (like earthquakes), coinciding with high-tide times, were the result of the relocation of tetrapods as part of the ongoing Coastal Road Project (MCRP).

What are tetrapods?

  • Tetra pod in Greek means four-legged.
  • These are four-legged concrete structures that are placed along coastlines to prevent erosion and water damage.
  • Tetrapods were first used in France in the late 1940s to protect the shore from the sea.
  • They are typically placed together to form an interlocking but porous barrier that dissipates the power of waves and currents.
  • These are large structures, sometimes weighing up to 10 tonnes, and interlocked tetra pods act as a barrier that remains stable against the rocks when buffeted by waves.
  • Tetrapods, each weighing about 2 tonnes, were placed along Marine Drive in the late 1990s to break and dissipate waves and maintain the reclaimed shoreline in South Mumbai.

How do we know that the removal of the tetrapods was responsible?

  • The BMC has provided vibration monitoring instruments at the site to study the impact of the phenomenon.
  • While the corporation has not officially stated that the removal of the tetrapods caused the vibrations, it has agreed to re-install the structures.
  • They would be put back over the next two-three days during low tide.

 

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