Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS
1. More plastic items to be banned
UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance + GS Paper III – Environment & Ecology
Sub Theme: Plastic Waste Management | UPSC
Context: Government notifies Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, which prohibit specific single-use plastic items which have “low utility and high littering potential” by 2022. The manufacture of a range of plastic products will be banned.
Products to be banned include:
- Earbuds with plastic sticks, plastic flags, ice-cream sticks, thermocol for decoration, plates, cups, cutlery such as forks, spoons and knives, straws, trays,
- wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, and cigarette
- Packets, plastic, or PVC banners less than 100 microns, and stirrers.
- Plastic packaging waste is not yet covered under the phase-out of single-use plastic items.
- Currently the rules prohibit manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of carry bags and plastic sheets less than 50 microns in thickness in the country
Previously at the fourth United Nations Environment Assembly in 2019, India piloted a resolution on addressing pollution caused by single-use plastic products.
A national-level task force had also been constituted by the Ministry for taking coordinated efforts to eliminate identified single-use plastic items and effective implementation of the waste management rules, 2016.
- Unlike other forms of wastes like paper, food peels, leaves etc, which are biodegradable (capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms) in nature, plastic waste because of its non-biodegradable nature persists into the environment, for hundreds (or even thousands) of years.
- Plastic pollution is caused by the accumulation of plastic waste in the environment. It can be categorized in primary plastics, such as cigarette butts and bottle caps, or secondary plastics, resulting from the degradation of the primary ones.
- Microplastics are small plastic pieces of less than five millimetres in size.
- Microplastic includes microbeads (solid plastic particles of less than one millimetre in their largest dimension) that are used in cosmetics and personal care products, industrial scrubbers which are used for aggressive blast cleaning, microfibers used in textiles and virgin resin pellets used in plastic manufacturing processes.
- Apart from cosmetics and personal care products most of the microplastics result from the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic that were not recycled and break up due to exposure to the sun or physical wear.
- Single-use plastic is a disposable material that can be used only once before it is either thrown away or recycled, like plastic bags, water bottles, soda bottles, straws, plastic plates, cups, most food packaging, and coffee stirrers are sources of single use plastic.
Plastic issue in India:
- According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generates close to 26,000 tonnes of plastic a day and over 10,000 tonnes a day of plastic waste remains uncollected.
- According to a Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) study the plastic processing industry is estimated to grow to 22 million tonnes (MT) a year by 2020 from 13.4 MT in 2015 and nearly half of this is single-use plastic.
- India’s per capita plastic consumption of less than 11 kg is nearly a tenth of the United States of America (109 kg).
- A recent study conducted by Un-Plastic Collective has revealed that India generates 9.46 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, of which 40% remains uncollected and 43% is used for packaging, most of which are of single-use plastic.
Impact of Plastic Waste
- Economic Losses: Plastic waste along shoreline has a negative impact on tourism revenue (creates an aesthetic issue).
- For example, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, are under the plastic threat and facing the aesthetic issue because of the international dumping of plastic waste at the island.
- Implications for Animals: Plastic wastes have profoundly affected animals in aquatic, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems.
- Plastic ingestion upsets or fills up the digestive systems of the animals thus contributing to their death due to intestinal blockage or starvation.
- Marine animals can also be trapped in plastic waste where they are exposed to predators or starve to death.
- The plastics may also contain toxic chemicals which can harm the animal’s vital organs or biological functions.
- Implications for Human Health: The chemicals leached from the plastics contain compounds, like polybrominated diphenyl ether (anti-androgen), bisphenol A (mimics the natural female hormone estrogen) and phthalates (also known as anti-androgens), impact human health leading to various hormonal and genetic disorders.
- These chemicals can interfere with the functioning of the endocrine system and thyroid hormones and can be very destructive to women of reproductive age and young children.
- Land Pollution: Plastics leach hazardous chemicals on land, resulting in the destruction and decline in quality of the earth’s land surfaces in term of use, landscape and ability to support life forms.
- Air Pollution: Plastic burning releases poisonous chemicals into the atmosphere impacting general well-being and causing respiratory disorders in living beings.
- Groundwater Pollution: Whenever plastics are dumped in landfills, the hazardous chemicals present in them seep underground when it rains. The leaching chemicals and toxic elements infiltrate into the aquifers and water table, indirectly affecting groundwater quality.
- Water Pollution: Many lakes and oceans have reported alarming cases of plastic debris floating on water surfaces, affecting a great number of aquatic creatures. It leads to dreadful consequences to marine creatures that swallow the toxic chemicals. In 2014, United Nation report estimated the annual impact of plastic pollution on oceans at US$ 13 billion.
- Interference with the Food Chain: Studies determine that the chemicals affect the biological and reproduction process resulting in reduced numbers of offspring thus disrupting the food chain.
- When the smaller animals (planktons, mollusks, worms, fishes, insects, and amphibians) are intoxicated by ingesting plastic, they are passed on to the larger animals disrupting the interrelated connections within the food chain.
- Poor Drainage: Drainage system clogged with plastic bags, films, and other plastic items, causes flooding.
- Impact on Habitats: Seafloor plastic waste sheets could act like a blanket, inhibiting gas exchange and leading to anoxia or hypoxia (low oxygen levels) in the aquatic system, which in turn can adversely affect the marine life.
- Invasive Species: Plastic waste can also be a mode of transport for species, potentially increasing the range of certain marine organisms or introducing species into an environment where they were previously absent. This, in turn, can cause subsequent changes in the ecosystem of the region.
- Mismanaged Plastic Waste (plastic dumped openly): In the form of microplastics/microbeads when plastic enters the environment via inland waterways, wastewater outflows, and transport by wind or tides cannot all be filtered out once it enters the ocean.
- As plastics travel with ocean currents, an island of trash called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been created.
- Spurious Biodegradable Plastic: In the absence of robust testing and certification to verify claims made by producers, spurious biodegradable and compostable plastics are entering the marketplace.
- Online or E-Commerce Companies: Apart from the plastic we consume through traditional retail, the popularity of online retail and food delivery apps, though restricted to big cities, is contributing to the rise in plastic waste.
- Microplastics: After entering into the aquatic environment, microplastics can travel vast distances floating in seawater, or sediment to the seabed. A recent study has revealed that microplastics in the atmosphere are trapped by the clouds and the falling snow.
- Microplastic particles are commonly white or opaque in color, which are commonly mistaken by many surface-feeding fishes as food (plankton) and can even move up the food chain to human consumers (from eating contaminated fish/seafood/shellfish).
- Marine Litter: Plastic pollution in freshwater and marine environments have been identified as a global problem and it is estimated that plastic pollution accounts for 60-80% of marine plastic waste.
- Terrestrial Plastic: 80% of plastic pollution originates from land-based sources with the remainder from ocean-based sources (fishing nets, fishing ropes).
- Improper Implementation and Monitoring: In spite of the notification of the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016 and amendments made in 2018, local bodies (even the biggest municipal corporations) have failed to implement and monitor segregation of waste.
Government and Global Interventions
- On World Environment Day, 2018 the world leaders vowed to “Beat Plastic Pollution” & eliminate its use completely.
- The Group of 20 (G20) environment ministers, agreed to adopt a new implementation framework for actions to tackle the issue of marine plastic waste on a global scale.
- Minderoo Foundation, started the initiative, called “Sea The Future,” is projected to raise in excess of $20 billion annually for global recycling, collection and environmental remediation.
- The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) under World Economic Forum has taken up initiative to fight plastic pollution with the collaboration of Private and Public sector across the globe.
- Sikkim, which in 1998 became the first Indian state to ban disposable plastic bags, is also among the first to target single-use plastic bottles. In 2016, Sikkim took two major decisions. It banned the use of packaged drinking water in government offices and government events. Second, it banned the use of Styrofoam and thermocol disposable plates and cutlery in the entire state in a move to cut down toxic plastic pollution and tackle its ever-increasing garbage problem.
- Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 state that every local body has to be responsible for setting up infrastructure for segregation, collection, processing, and disposal of plastic waste.
- Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018 introduced the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). EPR is a policy approach under which producers are given a significant financial and physical responsibility (with respect to segregation and collection of waste at the source) for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products.
- A new national framework on plastic waste management is in the works, which will introduce third-party audits as part of the monitoring mechanism.
Plastic Waste Management rules:
The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 aim to:
- Increase minimum thickness of plastic carry bags from 40 to 50 microns and stipulate minimum thickness of 50 micron for plastic sheets also to facilitate collection and recycle of plastic waste
- Expand the jurisdiction of applicability from the municipal area to rural areas, because plastic has reached rural areas also
- To bring in the responsibilities of producers and generators, both in plastic waste management system and to introduce collect back system of plastic waste by the producers/brand owners, as per extended producers responsibility
- To introduce collection of plastic waste management fee through pre-registration of the producers, importers of plastic carry bags/multi-layered packaging and vendors selling the same for establishing the waste management system
- To promote use of plastic waste for road construction as per Indian Road Congress guidelines or energy recovery, or waste to oil etc. for gainful utilization of waste and also address the waste disposal issue; to entrust more responsibility on waste generators, namely payment of user charge as prescribed by local authority, collection and handing over of waste by the institutional generator, event organizers.
- An eco-friendly product, which is a complete substitute of the plastic in all uses, has not been found till date. In the absence of a suitable alternative, it is impractical and undesirable to impose a blanket ban on the use of plastic all over the country. The real challenge is to improve plastic waste management systems.
What’s new in Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016
- Rural areas have been brought in ambit of these Rules since plastic has reached to rural areas also. Responsibility for implementation of the rules is given to Gram Panchayat.
- First time, responsibility of waste generators is being introduced. Individual and bulk generators like offices, commercial establishments, industries are to segregate the plastic waste at source, handover segregated waste, pay user fee as per bye-laws of the local bodies.
- Plastic products are left littered after the public events (marriage functions, religious gatherings, public meetings etc) held in open spaces. First time, persons organising such events have been made responsible for management of waste generated from these events.
- Use of plastic sheet for packaging, wrapping the commodity except those plastic sheet’s thickness, which will impair the functionality of the product are brought under the ambit of these rules. A large number of commodities are being packed/wrapped in to plastic sheets and thereafter such sheets are left for littered. Provisions have been introduced to ensure their collection and channelization to authorised recycling facilities.
- Extended Producer Responsibility: Earlier, EPR was left to the discretion of the local bodies. First time, the producers (i.e persons engaged in manufacture, or import of carry bags, multi-layered packaging and sheets or like and the persons using these for packaging or wrapping their products) and brand owners have been made responsible for collecting waste generated from their products. They have to approach local bodies for formulation of plan/system for the plastic waste management within the prescribed timeframe.
- State Pollution Control Board (SPCBs) will not grant/renew registration of plastic bags, or multi-layered packaging unless the producer proposes the action plan endorsed by the concerned State Development Department.
- Producers to keep a record of their vendors to whom they have supplied raw materials for manufacturing carry bags, plastic sheets, and multi-layered packaging. This is to curb manufacturing of these products in unorganised sector.
- The entry points of plastic bags/plastic sheets/multi-layered packaging in to commodity supply chain are primarily the retailers and street vendors. They have been assigned the responsibility of not to provide the commodities in plastic bags/plastic sheets/multi-layered packaging which do not conform to these rules. Otherwise, they will have to pay the fine.
- Plastic carry bag will be available only with shopkeepers/street vendors pre-registered with local bodies on payment of certain registration fee. The amount collected as registration fee by local bodies is to be used for waste management.
- Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has been mandated to formulate the guidelines for thermoset plastic (plastic difficult to recycle). In the earlier Rules, there was no specific provision for such type of plastic.
- Manufacturing and use of non-recyclable multi-layered plastic to be phased in two years.
Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018 on March 27, 2018.
The amended Rules lay down that the phasing out of Multilayered Plastic (MLP) is now applicable to MLP, which are “non-recyclable, or non-energy recoverable, or with no alternate use.”
The amended Rules also prescribe a central registration system for the registration of the producer/importer/brand owner. The Rules also lay down that any mechanism for the registration should be automated and should take into account ease of doing business for producers, recyclers and manufacturers. The centralised registration system will be evolved by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for the registration of the producer/importer/brand owner. While a national registry has been prescribed for producers with presence in more than two states, a state-level registration has been prescribed for smaller producers/brand owners operating within one or two states.
In addition, Rule 15 of the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules 2018 on “explicit pricing of carry bags” has been omitted.
Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021
Keeping in view the adverse impacts of littered plastic on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021 on August 12, 2021.
The rules prohibits identified single use plastic items which have low utility and high littering potential by 2022.
The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of following single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited with effect from the 1st July, 2022:-
- ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, polystyrene [Thermocol] for decoration;
- plates, cups, glasses, cutlery such as forks, spoons, knives, straw, trays, wrapping or packing films around sweet boxes, invitation cards, and cigarette packets, plastic or PVC banners less than 100 micron, stirrers.
In order to stop littering due to light weight plastic carry bags, with effect from 30th September, 2021, the thickness of plastic carry bags has been increased from fifty microns to seventy five microns and to one hundred and twenty microns with effect from the 31st December, 2022. This will also allow reuse of plastic carry due to increase in thickness.
The plastic packaging waste, which is not covered under the phase out of identified single use plastic items, shall be collected and managed in an environmentally sustainable way through the Extended Producer Responsibility of the Producer, importer and Brand owner (PIBO), as per Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. For effective implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility the Guidelines for Extended Producer Responsibility being brought out have been given legal force through Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021.
- Raising awareness amongst the public of the harm caused by plastic pollution through education and outreach programs to modify behavior.
- A movement against plastic waste would have to prioritise the reduction of single-use plastic such as multi-layer packaging, bread bags, food wrap, and protective packaging.
- Promote Alternatives, before the ban or levy comes into force, the availability of alternatives need to be assessed, hence the government may:
- Provide economic incentives to encourage the uptake of eco-friendly and fit-for-purpose alternatives that do not cause more harm.
- Support can include tax rebates, research and development funds, technology incubation, public-private partnerships and support to projects that recycle single-use items and turn waste into a resource that can be used again.
- Reduce or abolish taxes on the import of materials used to make alternatives.
- Provide incentives to the alternative industry by introducing tax rebates or other conditions to support its transition from plastic industry.
- Expanding the use of biodegradable plastics or even edible plastics made from various materials such as bagasse (the residue after extracting juice from sugarcane), corn starch, and grain flour.
- Use of microbeads in personal care products and cosmetics must be prohibited.
- The Swachh Bharat Mission should emerge as a platform for plastic waste management.
- Target the most problematic single-use plastics by conducting a baseline assessment to identify the most problematic single-use plastics, as well as the current causes, extent and impacts of their mismanagement.
- Consider the best actions to tackle the problem of plastic waste management (e.g. through regulatory, economic, awareness, voluntary actions) given the country’s socio-economic standing.
- Assess the potential social, economic and environmental impacts (positive and negative) of the preferred short-listed plastic waste management measures/actions, by considering how will the poor be affected, or what impact will the preferred course of action have on different sectors and industries.
- Identify and engage key stakeholder groups like retailers, consumers, industry representatives, local government, manufacturers, civil society, environmental groups, and tourism associations in order to ensure broad buy-in.
- Explaining the decision and any punitive measures that will follow, as a result of non-compliance of plastic management rule.
- Use revenues collected from taxes or levies on single-use plastics to maximize the public good, thereby supporting environmental projects or boosting local recycling with the funds and creating jobs in the plastic recycling sector with seed funding.
- Enforce the plastic waste management measure effectively, by making sure that there is clear allocation of roles and responsibilities.
- Monitor and adjust the plastic waste management measure if necessary and update the public on progress.
2. Kerala to take over 13 estates close to forests
UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III – Environment & Ecology
Sub Theme: Human-Wildlife conflict | UPSC
To Reducing human-wildlife conflict, the Kerala Forest Department plans to acquire private estates on forest fringes and transform them into forest.
Human-Wildlife Conflict is any interaction between wildlife and humans which causes harm, either to the human, the wild animal, or property
Reasons for Increased Human-Wildlife conflict:
- Habitat Destruction due to change in land usage patterns (Expanding agriculture and Plantation crops), Linear Infrastructural development like Roads, railways and pipelines
- Biodiversity loss due to climate change, diseases, habitat destructions etc. lead to thinning of Prey base of many carnivores. This forces the wildlife to venture out of forests
- Wildlife Crime- Illicit trading of Wild animals and their products is also one of the reasons for increased Human-wildlife conflict
- Floods and Forest fires also increases the instances of Human-Wildlife conflict
- Increased wildlife tourism
Connection between Human-wildlife conflict and SDG:
- SDG 1 & 2(Poverty & Hunger)- Wildlife damages food stores, crops, and livestock and puts subsistence farmers at risk of hunger
- SDG 4 (Clean water & sanitation)– In arid parts of the world, water access may be reduced and risky for people as they compete with wildlife for water sources
- SDG 5 (Gender equality)– Women carry the highest burden of HWC due to their role in society and culturally defined tasks
- SDG 14 & 15 (Life below water and Life on land)-The survival of Biodiversity depends on successful HWC management and coexistence
So, there is a need to manage and minimise the negative impacts of HWC and
to move from Man-Animal conflict to coexistence
Govt steps taken to reduce Human-wildlife conflict:
- Designation of Protected areas like National Parks, Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves with varying degree of protection
- Enactment of Wildlife protection act 1972
- Setup Wildlife Crime control bureau (WCCB) to control poaching and illicit trading of wildlife
Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change recently released an advisory of priority actions to be taken by the state govts to manage Human-Wildlife conflict. The guidelines are
- Setting up of Helplines and providing public information on Help lines and reporting places in case of any conflict situation
- Deployment of quick response teams with clear standard operating procedures
- Quick rescue mechanism for speedy transport of victims to the nearest hospitals
- Information on conservation friendly practices, cultivation of suitable species which do not attract wildlife of that area
- Identifying regular movement corridors of large wildlife and adequate publicity for avoiding disturbances in such areas
- Maintaining data of HWC cases and also development s in the area which may have bearing on HWC. This may include agricultural practices, NTFP collection, cultural and religious practices inside the forests
- Insurance to for damage of life or property due to HWC
Conflict between people and wildlife is dynamic. While completely stopping such conflict is not possible, a well-planned and integrated approach can reduce conflict, leading to coexistence.
UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS-II – Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: National Health Protection Mission | UPSC
Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme having central sector component under Ayushman Bharat Mission anchored in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). It is an umbrella of two major health initiatives, namely Health and wellness Centres and National Health Protection Scheme.
Health and Wellness Centres
Under this 1.5 lakh existing sub centres will bring health care system closer to the homes of people in the form of Health and wellness centres. These centres will provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services.
List of Services to be provided at Health & Wellness Centre
- Pregnancy care and maternal health services
- Neonatal and infant health services
- Child health
- Chronic communicable diseases
- Non-communicable diseases
- Management of mental illness
- Dental care
- Eye care
- Geriatric care Emergency medicine
National Health Protection Mission (AB-PMJAY)
- AB-PMJAY provides a defined benefit cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year. This cover will take care of almost all secondary care and most of tertiary care procedures.
- To ensure that nobody is left out (especially women, children and elderly) there will be no cap on family size and age in the scheme.
- The benefit cover will also include pre and post-hospitalisation expenses. All pre-existing conditions will be covered from day one of the policy. A defined transport allowance per hospitalization will also be paid to the beneficiary.
- Benefits of the scheme are portable across the country and a beneficiary covered under the scheme will be allowed to take cashless benefits from any public/private empanelled hospitals across the country.
- The beneficiaries can avail benefits in both public and empanelled private facilities. All public hospitals in the States implementing AB-PMJAY, will be deemed empanelled for the Scheme. Hospitals belonging to Employee State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) may also be empanelled based on the bed occupancy ratio parameter. As for private hospitals, they will be empanelled online based on defined criteria.
- To control costs, the payments for treatment will be done on package rate (to be defined by the Government in advance) basis. The package rates will include all the costs associated with treatment. For beneficiaries, it will be a cashless, paper less transaction. Keeping in view the State specific requirements, States/ UTs will have the flexibility to modify these rates within a limited bandwidth.
- AB-PMJAY is an entitlement based scheme with entitlement decided on the basis of deprivation criteria in the SECC database.
- The different categories in rural and urban areas include
- families having only one room with kucha walls and kucha roof;
- families having no adult member between age 16 to 59;
- female headed households with no adult male member between age 16 to 59;
- disabled member and no able bodied adult member in the family;
- SC/ST households;
- landless households deriving major part of their income from manual casual labour,
- Families in rural areas having any one of the following: households without shelter, destitute, living on alms, manual scavenger families, primitive tribal groups, legally released bonded labour.
- For urban areas, 11 defined occupational categories are entitled under the scheme – Occupational Categories of Workers, Rag picker, Beggar, Domestic worker, Street vendor/ Cobbler/hawker / Other service provider working on streets, Construction worker/ Plumber/ Mason/ Labour/ Painter/ Welder/ Security guard/, Coolie and another head-load worker, Sweeper/ Sanitation worker / Mali, Home-based worker/ Artisan/ Handicrafts worker / Tailor, Transport worker/ Driver/ Conductor/ Helper to drivers and conductors/ Cart puller/ Rickshaw puller, Shop worker/ Assistant/ Peon in small establishment/ Helper/Delivery assistant / Attendant/ Waiter, Electrician/ Mechanic/ Assembler/ Repair worker, Washerman/ Chowkidar.
As per the SECC 2011, the following beneficiaries are automatically excluded:
- Households having motorized 2/3/4 wheeler/fishing boat
- Households having mechanized 3/4 wheeler agricultural equipment
- Households having Kisan Credit Card with credit limit above Rs. 50,000/ –
- Household member is a government employee
- Households with non – agricultural enterprises registered with government
- Any member of household earning more than Rs. 10,000/ – per month
- Households paying income tax
- Households paying professional tax
- House with three or more rooms with pucca walls and roof
- Owns a refrigerator
- Owns a landline phone
- Owns more than 2.5 acres of irrigated land with 1 irrigation equipment
- Owns 5 acres or more of irrigated land for two or more crop season
- Owning at least 7.5 acres of land or more with a t least one irrigation equipment
Process of availing care under PM-JAY
At the national level to manage, a National Health Agency has been set up. States/ UTs are advised to implement the scheme by a dedicated entity called State Health Agency (SHA).