Current Affairs Nov 6, 2021

Stubble burning

  • Pollution from stubble burning significantly reduced lung function and was particularly harmful to women in rural Punjab, says one of the largest studies of its kind in India, correlating the effect of air pollution on health.
  • While the links between particulate matter pollution and respiratory health are widely documented, there have been limited studies in India that have clearly linked the impact of poor air on lung health.



  • The World Trade Organization (WTO)’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) is being convened in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Recent WTO estimates show that global trade volumes could expand by almost 11% in 2021, and by nearly 5% in 2022, and could stabilise at a level higher than the preCOVID-19 trend
  • . The buoyancy in trade volumes has played an important role in supporting growth in economies such as India where domestic demand has not yet picked up sufficiently.
  • Therefore, these favorable tidings provide an ideal setting for the Trade Ministers from the WTO member states to revisit trade rules and to agree on a work programme for the organization, which can help maintain the momentum in trade growth.
  • The MC12 needs to consider how in these good times for trade, the economically weaker countries “can secure a share in the growth in international trade commensurate with the needs of their economic development’, an objective that is mandated by the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization.
  • The Marrakesh Agreement, manifested by the Marrakesh Declaration, was an agreement signed in Marrakesh, Morocco, by 123 nations on 15 April 1994, marking the culmination of the 8-year-long Uruguay Round and establishing the World Trade Organization, which officially came into being on 1 January 1995.
  • The agreement developed out of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), supplemented by a number of other agreements on issues including trade in services, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, trade-related aspects of intellectual property and technical barriers to trade. It also established a new, more efficient and legally binding means of dispute resolution.
  • The various agreements which make up the Marrakesh Agreement combine as an indivisible whole; no entity can be party to any one agreement without being party to them all.
  • WTO’s response to demands that technologies necessary for producing vaccines, medicines, and other medical products for COVID-19 treatment should be available without the restrictions imposed by intellectual property rights (IPRs).
  • To remedy this situation, India and South Africa had tabled a proposal in the WTO in October 2020, for waiving enforcement of several forms of IPRs on “health products and technologies including diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, medical devices … and their methods and means of manufacture” useful for COVID-19 treatment.
  • Although discussions on fisheries subsidies have been hanging fire for a long time, there is considerable push for an early conclusion of an agreement to rein in these subsidies.
  • In recent months, the proposal by the members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the G-20 members to introduce global minimum taxes on digital companies has made headlines.
  • But in the WTO, most of these countries have been investing their negotiating capital to facilitate the expansion of e-commerce firms
  • On the negotiating table are issues relating to the liberalization of the goods and services trade, and of course guarantee for free flow of data across international boundaries, all aimed at facilitating expansion of businesses of e-commerce firms.
  • In 2001, the Doha Ministerial Declaration had included a work programme on investment , but it was soon taken off the table as developing countries were opposed to its continuation because the discussions were geared to expanding the rights of foreign investors through a multilateral agreement on investment.
  • An investment facilitation has reintroduced the old agenda of concluding such an investment agreement.


Panchamrit solution and climate law

  • ‘Panchamrit solution’ which aims at reducing fossil fuel dependence and carbon intensity (reduce one billion tonnes of total projected carbon emissions by 2030), and ramping up its renewable energy share to 50% by 2030.
  • Glasgow is important as it will call for practical implementation of the 2015 Paris Accord, setting the rules for the Accord.
  • And as the world recovers from the biological and environmental stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters, climate change has also become personal
  • India reasserted the call for the promised $100 billion a year as support (from the developed world to the developing world) but as we consider new energy pathways, we must also consider the question of climate hazard, nature-based solutions and national accountability.
  • First, our existing laws are not adequate to deal with climate change. We have for example the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA), 1986, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. Yet, climate is not exactly water or air
  • The Environment (Protection) Act is grossly inadequate to deal with violations on climate.
  • Clause 24 of the Act, “Effect of Other Laws”, states that if an offence is committed under the EPA or any other law, the person will be punished under the other law (for example, Code of Criminal Procedure).
  • This makes the EPA subordinate to every other law.
  • Second, there is a need to integrate climate action adaptation and mitigation and monitor progress.
  • Comprehensive climate action is not just technological (such as changing energy sources or carbon intensity), but also nature based (such as emphasising restoration of ecosystems, reducing natural hazard and increasing carbon sinks.)
  • Finally, India’s situation is unique. Climate action cannot come by furthering sharpening divides or exacerbating poverty, and this includes our stated renewable energy goals.
  • The 500 Gigawatt by 2030 goal for renewable, solar or wind power for example (of installed power capacity from non-fossil sources), can put critically endangered grassland and desert birds such as the Great Indian Bustard at risk, as they die on collision with wires in the desert.
  • A climate law could consider two aspects. One, creating an institution that monitors action plans for climate change.
  • A ‘Commission on Climate Change’ could be set up, with the power and the authority to issue directions, and oversee implementation of plans and programmes on climate
  • Tracing carbon footprints -What, for example, is the carbon footprint of a single activity from start to finish. We have the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, but we also need overall carbon efficiency that looks beyond electronics.
  • Second, we need a system of liability and accountability at short- medium- and long-term levels as we face hazards.
  • This also means having a legally enforceable National Climate Change Plan that goes beyond just policy guidelines. Are climate vagaries acts of god, or do certain actions exacerbate them?
  • In an order of the National Green Tribunal in 2016, the court examined the damage caused when floods occurred in 2013 in Pauri, Uttarakhand. When Srinagar dam (Uttarakhand) opened its sluice gates, muck created 8-foot tall deposits, destroying property and fields.
  • While muck is not hazardous, the handling of the dam especially in a mountainous area in the face of climate events created serious damage.
  • The court held the damage was not an ‘Act of God’ and invoked the Principle of No Fault liability.
  • The Alaknanda Hydro Power Company was asked by the Tribunal to pay more than ₹9 crore in damages. But all this was after the disaster.

Zika virus

  • Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that is spread by the Aedes mosquito, the same species that transmits the dengue and chikungunya viruses.
  • Unlike malaria-carrying mosquitoes, Aedes is most active during the day. Barrier methods of prevention, such as mosquito nets, are less effective. The mosquitoes can survive in both indoor and outdoor environments.
  • Several species of Aedes can transmit Zika. The main ones are the Aedes albopictus, or Asian tiger mosquito, and the Aedes aegypti, known as the yellow fever mosquito.
  • The Zika virus was first identified in monkeys in Uganda in 1947, but it has affected people in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and South and Central America.
  • In 2016, a major outbreak in Brazil raised international awareness, and cases due to mosquito-borne transmission have been reported in the United States (U.S), in Texas and Florida.
  • The symptoms of infection are mild, but if a pregnant woman catches the virus, it can have a severe impact on the pregnancy and the unborn child.