12, September 2017

  1. Indians could live four years longer if air meets WHO norms

Source: Indian Express

Indians could live four years longer on average, if India is able to reduce air pollution to comply with the World Health Organisation’s standards, according to the Air Quality-Life Index (AQLI).

  • In India, that means that average life expectancy could increase by a full year if it met its own PM2.5 standard of 40 μg/m3 and four years if the government complied with WHO standards of 10 μg/m3.

Impacts

  • The study isolated the effect of air pollution on lifespans, revealing that an increase of 10 micrograms of PM10 (particulate matter that is 10 micrometers or less in diameter) per cubic meter of air (μg/m3) reduces life expectancy by 0.64 years.
  • The most dangerous particulate matter is PM2.5, which refers to fine particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less. The researchers calculated the human health impact of PM2.5 specifically, and found that a 10 μg/m3 increase leads to a 1.03 year reduction in life expectancy.

Key facts:

  • In Delhi, which was for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015 ranked as the most polluted city in the world, people could live nine years longer if it met WHO standards. And, six years longer if it met the country’s own national standards.
  • According to WHO, reducing annual average particulate matter (PM10) levels from 70 to 20 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) can cut air pollution-related deaths by around 15 per cent.
  • A WHO factsheet of September 2016 states that the annual acceptable mean for PM2.5 has been set at 10 µg/m3 and for PM10 at 20 µg/m3. The national guidelines in India have set the annual acceptable mean for PM2.5 at 40 µg/m3 and PM10 at 60 µg/m3.
  • Indians could live more than a year longer on average, or a combined more than 1.6 billion life years, if the country reduces pollution to comply with its national standards, the AQLI reveals. According to official figures, the average life expectancy in India is 67.3 for males and 69.6 for females.

AQLI – WHO

  • The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or unhealthy your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing unhealthy air.
  • The AQI is calculated for four major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide.
  • For each of these pollutants, EPA has established national air quality standards to protect public health. EPA is currently reviewing the national air quality standard for nitrogen dioxide. If the standard is revised, the AQI will be revised as well.

Why it’s Important?

  • Airborne particulate matter pollution is perhaps the greatest current environmental risk to health, leading to respiratory and heart disease, strokes and lung cancer.
  • Currently, an estimated 4.5 billion people around the world are exposed to levels of particulate pollution that are at least twice what the World Health Organization considers safe.
  • The Air Quality-Life Index (AQLI) translates particulate pollution concentrations into their impact on lifespans. Specifically, the AQLI provides a reliable measure of the potential gain in life expectancy communities could see if their pollution concentrations are brought into compliance with global or national standards. The AQLI can serve as an important complement to the frequently used Air Quality Index (AQI) that is a complicated function of air pollution concentrations and does not map directly to health.

Calculating Life Years Lost Per Person:

  • The AQLI provides county-level (or equivalent) estimates of life years lost per person from ambient PM2.5 concentrations above World Health Organization (WHO) or nationally administered standards. The calculation of life years lost per person in each county is based on an aggregation of grid-level (1km x 1km) estimates of PM2.5 and population as follows:

Each grid cell is assigned a number of total life years lost equal to:

            (Effect of PM2.5 on life expectancy) x (Grid population) x (Grid PM2.5 above standard)

Note: If the grid cell’s estimated PM2.5 is less than its associated standard, life years lost is set equal to zero.

Pollutants:

1. SO2
2. NO2
3. PM
4. CO
5. Photochemical Oxidants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Details: https://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=aqi_brochure.index

https://aqli.epic.uchicago.edu/

  1. India steps up development partnership with Afghanistan

Source: Indian Express

US President Donald Trump urged India to do more in Afghanistan on “economic assistance and development”, India stepped up its development partnership and committed to 116 new projects in 31 provinces — ranging from drinking water supply to low cost housing, roads and polyclinics.

The projects will be in the areas of education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydropower, sports infrastructure and administrative infrastructure.

Key facts:

  • India promised to extend development assistance to nearly every province in Afghanistan through projects worth over $300 million, three weeks after US President Donald Trump demanded that New Delhi do more for the economic progress of the war-torn nation.
  • Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani unveiled a “New Development Partnership” under which India would implement 116 socio-economic projects across 31 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Additional information on development Partnership:

  • The two sides also agreed to “strengthen security cooperation”. “India agreed to extend further assistance for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces in fighting the scourge of terrorism, organized crime, trafficking of narcotics and money laundering,” the joint statement after the second India Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Council said
  • The initiatives, described as “high-impact” development projects, will span sectors like education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydropower, sports infrastructure and administrative infrastructure, the foreign ministers said.
  • India committed to building the Shahtoot dam, setting up drinking water projects for Kabul and Charikar city, constructing low-cost houses for returning Afghan refugees in Nangarhar, developing roads in Bamyan province, and constructing a polyclinic in Mazar-e-Sharif.

  1. FSSAI launches online web platform- FoSCoRIS for food inspection and sampling

Source: Indian Express

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India which was established in 2006 regulates and monitors the food manufacture, sale, quality, distribution and import to ensure the availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.

  • To go a step ahead, FSSAI has launched nationwide online platform to bring in transparency in food safety inspection and safety.

FoSCoRIS:

  • The web-based ‘FoSCoRIS’ system will help verify compliance of food safety and hygiene standards by food businesses as per the government norms.
  • The new system will bring together all key stakeholders — food businesses, food safety officers (FSOs), designated officers, state food safety commissioners — on a nation-wide IT platform and data related to inspection, sampling and test result data will be shared seamlessly by all the officials.
  • “This system will give a clear picture to the FSSAI on the real-time basis and helps eliminate any discrepancy, hence inspection is accountable. The system will ease out the process of sample collection traceable and make it transparent to control the quality of compliances”, said the FSSAI regulator.

FSSAI:

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been established under Food Safety and Standards, 2006 which consolidates various acts & orders that have hitherto handled food related issues in various Ministries and Departments.
  • FSSAI has been created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.

Establishment of the Authority

  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the Administrative Ministry for the implementation of FSSAI.
  • The Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) have already been appointed by Government of India. The Chairperson is in the rank of Secretary to Government of India.

FSSAI has been mandated by the FSS Act, 2006 for performing the following functions:

  • Framing of Regulations to lay down the Standards and guidelines in relation to articles of food and specifying appropriate system of enforcing various standards thus notified.
  • Laying down mechanisms and guidelines for accreditation of certification bodies engaged in certification of food safety management system for food businesses.
  • Laying down procedure and guidelines for accreditation of laboratories and notification of the accredited laboratories.
  • To provide scientific advice and technical support to Central Government and State Governments in the matters of framing the policy and rules in areas which have a direct or indirect bearing of food safety and nutrition.
  • Collect and collate data regarding food consumption, incidence and prevalence of biological risk, contaminants in food, residues of various, contaminants in foods products, identification of emerging risks and introduction of rapid alert system.
  • Creating an information network across the country so that the public, consumers, Panchayats etc receive rapid, reliable and objective information about food safety and issues of concern.
  • Contribute to the development of international technical standards for food, sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards.
  • Promote general awareness about food safety and food standards.

  1. CCPA – government reconstitutes Cabinet Committees

Source: The Hindu

In a step-up for Defence Minister, who was elevated in the recent Cabinet restructuring process, the government has not only included her in the high-profile Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), but also made her a full-time member of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) and Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA).

Cabinet Committees:

  • Cabinet Committees Under the Government of India Transaction of Business Rules (TBR), 1961 executive arm of government is assigned task of conducting he business of it in an effective and convenient manner. The Cabinet Committees are constituted under these rules. They are extra-constitutional in nature and are nowhere mentioned in the Constitution.

The six Committees of the Cabinet

  • Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC): It is responsible for all appointments of higher ranks in the the Central Secretariat, Public Enterprises, Public Enterprises and Financial Institutions.
  • Cabinet Committee on Accommodation (CCA): It is responsible for the allotment of accommodation for various top positions in the Government of India.
  • Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA): It deals with the activities pertaining to the economics of the country
  • Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA): It looks into the matters related to the progress of government business in the Parliament of India.
  • Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA): It is responsible for all issues related to domestic and foreign affairs. It is most powerful cabinet powerful cabinet committee and is described as Super Cabinet.
  • Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS): It is one of the most important committees in India, it looks into the matters of defece expenditures and National Security.

All Committees of Cabinet except Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) is chaired/headed by Prime Minister. CCPA is headed by Union Home Minister.

  1. Why India’s GDP growth is falling?

Source: The Hindu

What happened?

  • As per the estimates released by the Central Statistics Office on August 31, India’s economy, as measured by the gross domestic product (GDP), grew by 5.7% in the first quarter of 2017-18, compared with 7.9% in the same quarter a year ago.
  • This is the slowest pace of GDP growth recorded since the NDA came to power in May 2014.
  • India grew by a strong 9.1% in the quarter from January 2016 to March 2016. The growth recorded in the subsequent quarters was 7.9%, 7.5%, 7% and 6.1%. So this is the fifth quarter in a row that the growth has slipped, with the pace of decline picking up momentum in the last two quarters.
  • The gross value-added (GVA) in the economy grew at 5.6% between April and June, the same pace as the previous quarter, but sharply lower than the 7.6% growth in the first quarter of the last year.

Is this surprising?

  • Most economists didn’t expect a sharp uptick from 6.1% mark recorded in the January-March quarter this year, yet few anticipated a decline to 5.7%.
  • The government has sought to divorce the growth trend from the impact of its decision to demonetise ₹500 and ₹1,000 currency notes last November.
  • Growth, the government has argued, had begun to slow even before the move to suck out 86% of the currency notes in circulation. With the currency levels reverting close to the pre-demonetisation ‘normal,’ the bigger disruptive force affecting the latest GDP growth numbers was the introduction of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) from July 1. Businesses nationwide whittled down production in the April-June quarter and focussed on off-loading the existing stock, thanks to the uncertainty about how the new indirect tax regime will treat earlier tax credits on inputs.
  • This also impacted GVA numbers, as a lot of the inventory that was off-loaded had already been accounted for in the value of production in the earlier periods. Moreover, while firms saw a healthy growth in sales, their margins were dented by a spurt in commodity prices spiking input costs. Lastly, wholesale price inflation turned negative at this time last year, so growth numbers appeared higher as a result of their statistical impact, which is no longer the case, the government has argued.

Which sectors are hit?

  • The manufacturing sector, as a sub-set of industry, led the growth tumble, expanding by just 1.2% in the quarter, compared with 5.3% in the previous quarter and 10.7% a year ago. This was the worst quarter for Indian manufacturing in five years. Overall industrial output also collapsed to 1.6% growth from 7.4% a year ago and 3.1% in the previous quarter.
  • The construction sector that has been the bulwark of job creation grew by just 2% (in GVA terms) as it grapples with the headwinds of a new regulatory regime (RERA), the GST and leveraged balance sheets of developers. Mining GVA shrank by 0.7%, compared with a 0.9% dip last year.
  • The services sector offered some semblance of stability, growing at 8.7% compared with 9% in the same quarter last year, but a deeper look suggests this was driven by a rise in trade-related GVA to 11.1% (from 8.9%). This is proof of sorts that the destocking in manufacturing was reflected in higher volumes (often discount-driven) in the trade segment. Agriculture GVA dipped from 2.5% in the first quarter of last year to 2.3%, though crop output increased healthily. Low prices for crops apart, it appears that other agriculture-related activities, such as animal husbandry, have dragged down the sector’s overall growth.

What lies in store?

  • The Statistics Office hopes that growth will rebound in the current quarter, “subject to how efficiently companies adapt themselves to the GST.” The new NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar said growth would return to 7%-7.5% between July and September.
  • Analysts are reworking their growth hopes for the full year — rating agency Crisil has curbed it from 7.4% to 7%. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has admitted that the latest growth print poses a challenge for the economy and the government needs to work harder in the coming quarters to spruce up growth. Watch out for policy actions to spur investment and job creation.

  1. Neem-coated urea can bring better paddy output, finds study

Source: The Hindu

Application of neem-coated urea by the State’s farmers propelled a higher paddy output and net income in the 2015 kharif season when compared to 2014, when normal urea was used, says a study recently submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Key facts:

  • The paddy output increased from 28 quintals an acre in 2014 to 36 quintals in 2015 kharif, while the paddy by-product increased from 62 quintals to 67 quintals. On an average, the net return for one acre increased from ₹13,492 to ₹21,474.
  • According to their report, the costs incurred on pest and disease control and on weed management declined by 18% and 20%, respectively, and this was revealed by 60% of paddy growers and 21% of toor farmers. About 59% of the paddy farmers noticed an improvement in soil health, quality of grain, and market acceptability of grains because of the application of neem-coated urea.
  • It is also reported that overall, 16% of medium-level farmers, 13% of large farmers, and 12% of the marginal and small farmers were aware of neem-coated urea in the State. “A majority of the farmers are not able to differentiate between the two,” the report said, adding that low awareness was because of the delay in distribution of soil health cards under various programmes related to soil testing.



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