Daily Analysis: 15th October 2020

The Hindu, PIB, IE and Others

Index

A) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

1. SC seeks Centre’s reply on plea for equal protection to transgenders in sexual offences (livemint)

2. India Energy Modeling Forum (IEMF) (PIB)

3. Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) Project (TH)

B) Science and Technology/Defence/Space

4. MOUSHIK: An indigenously-made microprocessor for the Internet of things (IoT) devices (livemint)

C) Indices/Committees/Reports/Organisations

5. The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019 Report (TH)

6. World Energy Outlook 2020 (DTE)

D) Polity/Bills/Acts/Judgments

7. Explained explained: How Election Commission decides on party symbols? (IE)

8. The Naga Peace Talks (TH)

E) Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

9. Fly Ash in India (PIB)

10. Zozila Tunnel (PIB)

A) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

1. SC seeks Centre’s reply on plea for equal protection to transgenders in sexual offences (livemint)

Context: The Supreme Court sought the Centre’s reply on a PIL seeking equal protection in law to transgender people on the grounds that there was no penal provision which protects them from offences of sexual assault.

Analysis

  • In spite of declaring transgender people to be a ‘third gender’ by this court, there is no provision/ section in the Indian Penal Code which may protect the third gender from the sexual assault by male/ female or another transgender.
  • The PIL challenged the constitutional validity of certain clauses of Section 354A (outraging the modesty of woman) of IPC, to the extent that they are interpreted to exclude victims of sexual harassment who are transgender persons, as being ultra vires Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.
  • Though the apex court in 2014, had granted “recognition to the transgender/ third gender as ‘persons’ falling under the ambit of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution”, still they do not have equal protection of law in relation to sexual offenses.
  • It also sought a direction to the Centre to adopt and implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights being signatory of it.
  • The bench referred to the framing of the Vishaka guidelines to deal with sexual harassment of women at work places and the decriminalization of consensual gay sex by the apex court in the absence of laws.

2. India Energy Modeling Forum (IEMF) (PIB)

  • Sustainable Growth Pillar is an important pillar of India–US Strategic Energy Partnership co-chaired by NITI Aayog and USAID.
  • The SG pillar entails energy data management, energy modelling and collaboration on low carbon technologies as three key activities.
  • In the joint working group meeting of the Sustainable Growth Pillar in July 2020, an India Energy Modeling Forum was launched.
  • There exist energy modelling forums in different parts of the World.
  • Such forums provide an unbiased platform to discuss the contemporary issues revolving around energy and environment.
  • In India, there was no formalized and systematic process of having a modeling forum.
  • Models to assess the energy and environmental impacts of competing development pathways are critical to formulating policies to support energy security and low carbon growth. 

3. Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) Project (TH)

  • Context: The Union Cabinet has approved a project partially funded by the World Bank to carry out a reform agenda in the governance of school education.

Analysis

  • For the six states, STARS proposes several interventions, ranging from developing teacher capacity and teaching-learning material to making Board exams more competency-based.
  • India’s participation in the 2022 cycle of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey will also be funded by this project.
  • The other major initiative at the national level is to strengthen the Education Ministry’s data systems to capture information on the retention, transition and completion rates of students.
  • It is in line with the Sustainable Development Goal for education (SDG 4) and will help produce better data on learning levels by improving the National Achievement Survey (NAS).
  • The STARS project will be implemented through the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, the flagship central scheme.
  • The six states include- Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan.
  • It will help improve data and assessment systems at the national level, as well as teaching and learning outcomes, especially for early childhood and vocational education.
  • STARS will support India’s renewed focus on addressing the ‘learning outcome’ challenge and help students better prepare for the jobs of the future – through a series of reform initiatives.

Reform initiatives under STARS

  • Focusing more directly on the delivery of education services at the state, district and sub-district levels by providing customized local-level solutions towards school improvement.
  • Addressing demands from stakeholders, especially parents, for greater accountability and inclusion by producing better data to assess the quality of learning.
  • Equipping teachers to manage this transformation by recognizing that teachers are central to achieving better learning outcomes.
  • The program will support individualized, needs-based training for teachers that will give them an opportunity to have a say in shaping training programs and making them relevant to their teaching needs.
  • Investing more in developing India’s human capital needs by strengthening foundational learning for children in classes 1 to 3 and preparing them with the cognitive, socio-behavioural and language skills to meet future job market needs.

PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development)

  • A major component of the STARS project is the establishment of PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development) as a National Assessment Centre.
  • PARAKH was included in the National Education Policy 2020, this autonomous institution under the Union Education Ministry will set norms for student assessment and evaluation for all school boards across the country, most of which currently follow norms set by State governments.
  • It will also guide standardised testing to monitor learning outcomes at the State and national levels, according to the NEP.

Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

  • STARS will assist India in participation in the PISA
  • PISA is a worldwide study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in member and non-member nations.
  • It tests the learning levels of 15-year-old children in reading, mathematics, and science. The test is conducted every three years.
  • India stayed away from PISA in 2012 and 2015 on account of its dismal performance in 2009, when it was placed 72nd among the 74 participating countries. The government decided to end the boycott in 2019.

B) Science and Technology/Defence/Space

4. MOUSHIK: An indigenously-made microprocessor for the Internet of things (IoT) devices (livemint)

Context: The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras has said its researchers have successfully developed ‘MOUSHIK’, an indigenously-made microprocessor for the Internet of things (IoT) devices.

  • According to the institute, ‘MOUSHIK’ is a processor cum ‘a system on chip’ that can cater to the rapidly-growing IoT devices, an integral part of smart cities of a digital India.

Analysis

What is IoT?

  • IoT is essentially a platform where embedded devices are connected to the internet, so they can collect and exchange data with each other.
  • It enables devices to interact, collaborate and, learn from each other’s experiences just like humans do.

IoT Applications

Wearables: Bits, heart rate monitors, smartwatches, glucose monitoring device.

Smart Home Applications

  • Health Care: can turn reactive medical-based systems into proactive wellness-based systems.
  • Smart Cities: planning specific to each city, water management, waste control, traffic control, and emergencies.

Agriculture

  • Industrial Automation: Factory Digitalization, Product flow Monitoring, Inventory Management, Safety and Security, Quality Control, Packaging optimization, Logistics and Supply Chain Optimization.

IoT Vs AI

  • IoT is a concept based on the very idea of everyday physical objects with the ability to communicate directly over the InternetArtificial Intelligence (AI), on the other hand, is an area of computer science to create machines to do intelligent things the way humans do, or possibly even better.

C) Indices/Committees/Reports/Organisations

5. The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019 Report (TH)

Context: Climate change is largely to blame for a near doubling of natural disasters in the past 20 years, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) said in a new report entitled “The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019”.

Analysis

  • UNDRR report was published to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on October 13, 2020.
  • The statistics in this report are from the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) maintained by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) which records disasters which have:
  1. Killed ten or more people;
  2. Affected 100 or more people;
  3. Resulted in a declared state of emergency; or
  4. A call for international assistance.
  • For the purposes of this report, the term “disaster” is reserved for natural hazard-related disasters, excluding biological and technological disasters.

Major Findings

  • The sharp increase was largely attributable to a rise in climate-related disasters, including extreme weather events like floods, drought and storms.
  • The report did not touch on biological hazards and disease-related disasters like the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The last twenty years has seen the number of major floods more than double.
  • Floods (most common type of disaster) and storms (second most common type of disaster) were the most prevalent events (44% and 28% respectively).
  • The report “The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019” also records major increases in other categories including drought, wildfires and extreme temperature events.
  • EM-DAT classifies disasters according to the type of hazard that provokes them.
  • Hydrological disasters were the most common events between 2000 and 2019.
  • There has also been a rise in geo-physical events including earthquakes and tsunamis which have killed more people than any of the other natural hazards under review in this report.
  • Asia suffered the highest number of disaster events between 2000 and 2019, followed by the Americas and Africa.
  • The high frequency and impact of disasters in Asia is largely due to the size of the continent and landscapes that represent a high risk of natural hazards, such as river basins, flood plains, and seismic fault lines.
  • Additionally, there are high population densities in many disaster-prone areas of the continent.
  • Overall, eight of the top 10 countries by disaster events are in Asia.
  • In terms of affected countries globally, China followed by U.S., India, Philippines, and Indonesia reported the highest number of disaster events.
  • These countries all have large and heterogenous landmasses and relatively high population densities in at-risk areas.
  • However, compared to China, the U.S. has fewer geophysical and hydrological events, and more meteorological and climatological events, such as storms and wildfires.
  • China and India typically dominate the list of countries by impacts in absolute numbers, largely due to their massive populations.
  • Together, the two nations account for approximately 70% of the global total of disaster-affected (not killed) people. 
  • Three mega disasters occurred in the period 2000-2019: the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
  • A mega-disaster is an event that kills more than 100,000 people.
  • In the past 20 years, the largest single event by death toll was the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, which was triggered by a 9.1 Richter earthquake, and resulted in the deaths of 226,400 people in twelve Asian and African countries.
  • The largest death tolls were in Indonesia, followed by Sri Lanka.
  • It is followed by the Haiti earthquake (2010), Cyclone Nargis.
  • Drought affects Africa more than any other continent.

Counting the Economic Cost

  • EM-DAT recorded losses totalling US$ 2.97 trillion from recorded disasters between 2000 and 2019.
  • Storms cost more than any other disaster type in terms of recorded economic damage, followed by floods.
  • Economic losses compared to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) results in a stark difference between income groups.
  • Despite accounting for most the world’s economic losses, high-income countries have the lowest level of losses as a percentage of GDP.
  • Contrastingly, low-income countries had the highest level of losses compared to GDP, 3x higher than high-income countries.

UNDRR

  • The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction was established in 1999.
  • It supports the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.
  • UNDRR and partners produce the biennial Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction which provides evidence for the integration of disaster risk reduction into private investment decision-making and public policy in urban, environmental, social and economic sectors.
  • UNDRR also coordinates the Making Cities Resilient Campaign, ARISE private sector network and supports governments in the implementation and monitoring of the Sendai Framework.
  1. ARISE, the Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies, is a network of private sector entities led by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).
  2. Members voluntarily commit to support and implement the Sendai Framework Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030, aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Paris Climate Agreement, New Urban Agenda and Agenda for Humanity.

Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030

  • The Sendai Framework is a 15-year, voluntary, non-binding agreement which recognizes that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk, but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local governments, the private sector, the scientific community and NGOs.
  • It aims for a substantial reduction in disaster losses resulting from both man-made and natural hazards.
  • It marks a shift in emphasis from disaster management to disaster risk management.
  • It lists priority areas for action such as
  1. Understanding disaster risk,
  2. Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk,
  3. Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience and enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and
  4. To “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
  • The Sendai Framework’s seven Targets focus on substantial reductions in:
  • (a) disaster mortality,
  • (b) number of affected people,
  • (c) direct economic losses and
  • (d) reducing damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services.
  • The Sendai Framework also seeks a substantial increase in:
  • (e) national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020,
  • (f) enhanced cooperation to developing countries, and
  • (g) a substantial increase in multi-hazard early warning systems, disaster risk information and assessments.
  • The seven targets of the Sendai Framework as well as its related dimensions are reflected in three Sustainable Development Goals:
  • 1, Poverty Eradication;
  • 11, Sustainable Cities; and
  • 13, Climate Action.
  • Strong accountability is one of the corner stones of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
  • The Sendai Framework is the successor instrument to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters.

There are some major departures in the Sendai Framework:

  • For the first time the goals are defined in terms of outcome-based targets instead of focusing on sets of activities and actions.
  • It places governments at the center of disaster risk reduction with the framework emphasizing the need to strengthen the disaster risk governance.
  • There is significant shift from earlier emphasis on disaster management to addressing disaster risk management itself by focusing on the underlying drivers of risk.
  • It places almost equal importance on all kinds of disasters and not only on those arising from natural hazards.
  • Disaster risk reduction, more than before, is seen as a policy concern that cuts across many sectors, including health and education.

Goal 11 Of SDGs and the New Urban Agenda

  • Goal 11 of SDGs which talks about ‘making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’, targets that “by 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management”. 
  • The New Urban Agenda was adopted at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador, in 2016.
  • It was also endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly later.
  • The New Urban Agenda represents a shared vision for a better and more sustainable future.
  • If well-planned and well-managed, urbanization can be a powerful tool for sustainable development for both developing and developed countries.

6. World Energy Outlook 2020 (DTE)

Context: The World Energy Outlook 2020, which provides a comprehensive view of how the global energy system could develop in the coming decades, has been released by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Analysis

  • There are two key themes in this World Energy Outlook 2020 (Outlook): the impact of Covid-19 on the energy sector and the prospects for accelerated energy transitions. 
  • The Covid-19 crisis has caused more disruptions than any other event in recent history, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
  • In its flagship publication, The World Energy Outlook 2020, IEA has said that global energy demand is set to drop 5 per cent in 2020, energy-related CO2 emissions by 7 per cent, and energy investment by 18 per cent.
  • According to the IEA, if the global economy returns to its pre-crisis size only in 2023, the Covid-19 pandemic would usher in a decade with the lowest rate of energy demand growth since the 1930s.
  • The global energy demand is expected to rebound to its pre-crisis level in early 2023.
  • However, this does not happen until 2025 in the event of a prolonged pandemic and deeper slump.
  • The pandemic has reversed several years of declines in the number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa without access to electricity.
  • Solar photovoltaic is now consistently cheaper than new coal- or gas-fired power plants in most countries, and solar projects now offer some of the lowest-cost electricity ever seen.
  • In the Stated Policies Scenario, renewables will meet 80 per cent of global electricity demand growth over the next decade.
  • Hydropower remains the largest renewable source, but solar is the main source of growth, followed by onshore and offshore wind, the IEA said.

International Energy Agency (IEA)

  • Founded in 1974, the IEA was initially designed to help countries co-ordinate a collective response to major disruptions in the supply of oil, such as the crisis of 1973/4.
  • While this remains a key aspect of its work, the IEA has evolved and expanded significantly to examine the full spectrum of energy issues including oil, gas and coal supply and demand, renewable energy technologies, electricity markets, energy efficiency, access to energy, demand side management and much more. 

The four main areas of IEA focus are:

  1. Energy Security: Promoting diversity, efficiency, flexibility and reliability for all fuels and energy sources;
  2. Economic Development: Supporting free markets to foster economic growth and eliminate energy poverty;
  3. Environmental Awareness: Analysing policy options to offset the impact of energy production and use on the environment, especially for tackling climate change and air pollution; and
  4. Engagement Worldwide: Working closely with partner countries, especially major emerging economies, to find solutions to shared energy and environmental concerns.
  • Global Energy Review, World Energy Outlook and Key World Energy Statistics are some of the important publications of IEA.

Structure

  • The Governing Board is the main decision-making body of the IEA.
  • It is composed of energy ministers or their senior representatives from each Member country.
  • The Governing Board holds three to four meetings at the Director General (or equivalent) level each year to discuss global energy developments.
  • The IEA Ministerial Meeting takes place every two years.
  • The IEA is made up of 30 member countries.
  • In addition, thanks to its successful open-door policy to emerging countries, the IEA family also includes eight association countries. 

Criteria for membership

  • To be a member country of the IEA, a country must also be a member country of the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 
  • However, membership in the OECD does not automatically result in membership in the IEA.
  • China and India are not the members of IEA.
  • In addition, it must demonstrate several requirements.

These are:

  1. Crude oil and/or product reserves equivalent to 90 days of the previous year’s net imports;
  2. A demand restraint programme to reduce national oil consumption by up to 10%;
  3. Legislation and organisation to operate the Co-ordinated Emergency Response Measures (CERM) on a national basis;
  4. Legislation and measures to ensure that all oil companies under its jurisdiction report information upon request;
  5. Measures in place to ensure the capability of contributing its share of an IEA collective action.
  • An IEA collective action would be initiated in response to a significant global oil supply disruption and would involve IEA Member Countries making additional volumes of crude and/or product available to the global market (either through increasing supply or reducing demand), with each country’s share based on national consumption as part of the IEA total oil consumption.

D) Polity/Bills/Acts/Judgments

7. Explained: How Election Commission decides on party symbols? (IE)

How are symbols allotted to political parties?

  • The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) (Amendment) Order, 2017, first promulgated in 1968, mandates the Election Commission to provide for “specification, reservation, choice and allotment of symbols at parliamentary and assembly elections, for the recognition of political parties”.
  • A person contesting on behalf of a recognised political party will inherit the party’s symbol.
  • As per the guidelines, to get a symbol allotted, a party/candidate has to provide a list of three symbols from the EC’s free symbols list at the time of filing nomination papers.
  • Among them, one symbol is allotted to the party/candidate on a first-come-first-serve basis.
  • Any choice other than from the EC’s list will be summarily rejected.
  • When a recognised political party splits, the Election Commission takes the decision on assigning the symbol, that among others can be based on the majority enjoyed by the parties after the split.

How many types of symbols are there?

  • As per the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) (Amendment) Order, 2017, party symbols are either “reserved” or “free”.
  • While eight national parties and 64 state parties across the country have “reserved” symbols, the Election Commission also has a pool of nearly 200 “free” symbols that are allotted to the thousands of unrecognised regional parties that pop up before elections.
  • If a party recognised in a particular state contests in elections in another state, it can “reserve” the symbol being used by it, provided the symbol is not being used or bears resemblance to that of any other party.
  • Provided they are not contenders in the same State or Union Territory.
  • But if one of the parties wish to open their account in the other State, it will have to contest on a different symbol. 

How Election Commission decides on party symbol disputes?

  • The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 empowers the EC to recognise political parties and allot symbols.
  • Under the same Order, it can decide disputes among rival groups or sections of a recognised political party staking claim to its name and symbol.

What is the legal status of Paragraph 15?

  • Under Paragraph 15 of the Order, the EC is the only authority to decide issues on a dispute or a merger.
  • The Supreme Court upheld its validity in Sadiq Ali and another vs. ECI in 1971.

What aspects does the EC consider before recognising one group as the official party?

  • The ECI primarily ascertains the support enjoyed by a claimant within a political party in its organisational wing and in its legislative wing.

How does the ECI establish a claim of majority in these wings?

  • The Commission examines the party’s constitution and its list of office-bearers submitted when the party was united.
  • It identifies the apex committee(s) in the organisation and finds out how many office-bearers, members or delegates support the rival claimants.
  • For the legislative wing, the party goes by the number of MPs and MLAs in the rival camps.
  • It may consider affidavits filed by these members to ascertain where they stand.

What happens when there is no certainty about the majority of either faction?

  • Where the party is either vertically divided or it is not possible to say with certainty which group has a majority, the EC may freeze the party’s symbol and allow the groups to register themselves with new names or add prefixes or suffixes to the party’s existing names.

Can a dispute be decided immediately, if elections are round the corner?

  • The EC may take time to gather enough material to decide the question.
  • For immediate electoral purposes, it may freeze the party’s symbol and advise the groups to fight the elections in different names and on temporary symbols.

What happens when rival factions settle their differences in future?

  • If reunited, the claimants may approach the EC again and seek to be recognised as a unified party.
  • The EC is also empowered to recognise mergers of groups into one entity.
  • It may restore the symbol and name of the original party.

8. The Naga Peace Talks (TH)

Context: The Naga peace process appears to have hit a roadblock even after 22 years of negotiations.

Analysis

  • The Centre’s push for a solution to the vexed issue by October this year and the non-flexibility of the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), the largest of the extremist groups in the peace process since 1997, on the “Naga national flag”, “Naga Yezhabo (constitution)” and “Greater Nagalim” merging Naga-inhabited areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur are said to be the primary reasons.
  1. Apart from Myanmar, where many of more than 50 Naga tribes live, the Greater Nagalim map includes large swathes of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur.
  2. But non-Naga groups are suspicious since the Tangkhul community, forming the core of the NSCN (I-M), is from Manipur and the outfit may not accept any agreement that excludes areas inhabited by them.
  3. The NNPGs, whose members are primarily from Nagaland, are also a factor; their inputs for a final solution could be at variance with those of the NSCN (I-M).  

How did the Naga issue start?

  • The Naga Hills became part of British India in 1881.
  • The effort to bring scattered Naga tribes together resulted in the formation of the Naga Club in 1918, which told the Simon Commission in 1929 “to leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient times”.
  • The club metamorphosed into the Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946.
  • Under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo, the NNC declared Nagaland as an independent State on August 14, 1947, and conducted a “referendum” in May 1951 to claim that 99.9% of the Nagas supported a “sovereign Nagaland”.
  • On March 22, 1952, Phizo formed the underground Naga Federal Government (NFG) and the Naga Federal Army.
  • The government of India sent in the Army to crush the insurgency and, in 1958, enacted the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
  • A 16-point Agreement followed in July 1960 leading to the creation of Nagaland on December 1, 1963.
  • The first peace deal, the Shillong Accord of 1975, was rejected by the Naga hardliners.
  • The insurrection petered out by the mid-1970s but returned with more intensity in the form of the NSCN led by Mr. Muivah and S.S. Khaplang.

E) Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

9. Fly Ash in India (PIB)

  • Context: NTPC Ltd., India’s largest power producer and a PSU under Ministry of Power, has started to collaborate with cement manufacturers across the country to supply fly ash as part of its endeavour to achieve 100% utilisation of the by-product produced during power generation.
  • NTPC produces approximately 65 Million Tonnes of Ash annually, out of which 80% is Fly Ash.
  • Fly ash can be used for production of cement and fly ash bricks/tiles, fireproof ceramic material, road embankment construction, mine filling, low-lying land development, and ash dyke raising.

Analysis

  • The fly ash from the coal power plants is a byproduct from the combustion of pulverized coal (powdered coal) and is made up of particulate matter and flue gas loaded with heavy metals like arsenic, nickel and manganese.
  • Fly ash is a pozzolan, a substance containing aluminous and siliceous material that forms cement in the presence of water.
  • When mixed with lime and water, fly ash forms a compound similar to Portland cement.
  • When used in concrete mixes, fly ash improves the strength and segregation of the concrete and makes it easier to pump.
  • Fly ash is also recognized as an environmentally friendly material because it is a by-product and has low embodied energy, the measure of how much energy is consumed in producing and shipping a building material.
  • Fly ash requires less water than Portland cement and is easier to use in cold weather.

Fly Ash Regulations in India

  • A statutory notification by the Ministry of Environment and Forest under the provisions of Environment Protection Act requires 100% utilisation and disposal of fly ash.
  • It is mandatory for power plants to give fly ash free of cost to users within 300-kilometre-radius. 
  • It is mandatory for cement industries, within radius of 300 kilometers of a coal or lignite based thermal power plant, to use fly ash for manufacture of the cement as per the specifications of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
  • The cost of transportation of fly ash is to be borne collectively by the thermal power plant and the industry concerned.
  • Every construction agency engaged in construction of roads within a radius of 300 kilometers from a coal or lignite based thermal power plant would be bound to use fly ash in accordance with the guidelines or specifications issued by the Indian Road Congress.
  • In 2017-18, the overall utilisation of fly ash in various applications was 67 per cent

Following are among the efforts made to make optimum utilization of fly ash as an environmentally sustainable and economically viable product:

  • GST rates on fly ash and its products have been reduced to 5%.
  • To facilitate 100% ash utilization by all coal based thermal power plants, a web portal for monitoring of fly ash generation and utilization data of Thermal Power Plants and a mobile based application titled “ASHTRACK” has been launched by the Ministry of Power.
  • Maharashtra has become the first state to adopt Fly Ash Utilisation Policy, paving way for prosperity by generating “wealth from waste”, and environment protection.

Fly ash can help the agriculture in the following ways:

  • 1. Fly-ash as pesticide
  • 2. Saving of chemical fertilizers
  • 3. Fly-ash for improving crop growth and yield
  • 4. Use of fly-ash in composting
  • 5. Managing soil pH
  • 6. Improving water-holding capacity
  • 7. Increases the heavy metal content of the soil, which is beneficial to crops.

More on Fly Ash

  • Fly-ash has been classified as a Green List waste under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
  • It is not considered as a waste under Basel Convention.
  • One of the reasons of low fly-ash utilization in India is the unavailability of appropriate cost-effective technologies.
  • Agricultural lime application contributes to global warming as Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assumes that all the carbon in agricultural lime is finally released as CO2 to the atmosphere.
  • It is expected that use of fly-ash instead of lime in agriculture can reduce net CO2 emission, thus reduce global warming also.
  • Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad have developed a cheap waterproofing material by coating fly ash, a waste by-product from coal-based thermal power plants, with stearic acid, which is a surfactant.
  • While fly ash is extremely water-loving (hydrophilic), it turns into a highly water-repelling surface once coated with stearic acid.

10. Zozila Tunnel (PIB)

Context: Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways will initiate the first blasting for Zozila Tunnel in J&K tomorrow.

Analysis

  • It involves construction of a 14.15 Km long tunnel at an altitude of about 3000 m under Zojila pass (presently motorable only for 6 months in a year) on NH-1 connecting Srinagar and Leh through Dras & Kargil.

Significance of the project

  • It is one of the most dangerous stretch in the world to drive a vehicle & this project is also geo-strategically sensitive in view of the fact that massive military activities along our borders in Ladakh, Gilgit and Baltistan regions are taking place.
  • The construction of Zojila Tunnel will provide all-weather safe connectivity between Srinagar, Dras, Kargil and Leh regions (in that order) on NH-1.
  • A tunnel in Zozila is the only viable alternative at present for a full year connectivity road.
  • This Project will make the travel on Srinagar-Dras-Kargil-Leh Section of NH-1 free from avalanches.
  • Project would enhance the safety of the travelers crossing Zozila Pass and would reduce the Travel time from more than 3 hours to 15 minutes.

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