31, December 2016

  1. 2016: At A Glance (Ministry of Environment and Forests)

Source: PIB

The year 2016 witnessed hectic activity at the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change – on the international and national fronts.

    • The international level, India steered the negotiations on amendment in Montreal Protocol for amendment for phase down of HFCs at Kigali, Rwanda, at COP-22 in Morocco, the International Solar Alliance was signed.   
    • On the national front, the Ministry released new categorisation of industries, revamped Waste Management Rules and revised standards for Common Effluent Treatment Plants across industrial clusters.  
    • The Ministry granted general approval for creation of public utility infrastructure in Left-Wing Extremism-affected districts.   

 

  • ENVIS – a portal was launched to reach out to people and popularise science, as well as sustainable practices.  MoEFCC also continued to make efforts to control pollution.

 

Facts:

  1. A loan agreement was signed between Government of India and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the cleaning of Mula-Mutha river in Pune.
  • The project will have a significant, direct beneficial impact in terms of reduction of pollution load in the river and improvement of the quality of its water.
  1. The Environment Ministry held the first National Stakeholder Consultation on the Biodiversity Finance Initiative.
    • The objective of the meeting is to introduce the BIOFIN project to the various stakeholders, enumerate the programmes/activities being undertaken by different organizations in the context of India’s 12 National Biodiversity Targets developed in line with 20 global Aichi biodiversity targets, and then assess the expenditure being made by different organizations for activities related to biodiversity conservation.  

 

  • The Ministry partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in a global project on Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN).

 

  1. Solid Waste Management Rules, Construction Waste Management Rules, Plastic Waste Management Rules, Bio-medical Waste Management Rules and Hazardous Waste Management Rules were revamped.
  2. MoEF has decentralised the process of granting environment clearance for sustainable sand mining and mining of minor minerals.

 

  • The Ministry has constituted District Environment Appraisal Committee (DEAC) and District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) for appraisal and approval of mining of minor minerals upto 5 hectares and 25 hectares in case of cluster respectively.

 

  1. The Ministry also granted general approval for creation of public utility infrastructure in Left-Wing Extremism-affected districts.  The general approval was granted, keeping in view the importance of creation of public utility infrastructure.
  2. A portal on Environment Information System (ENVIS) was launched to find out new ways to reach out to people and popularise science, as well as sustainable practices.
  • Environmental Information System (ENVIS) Portal – http://envis.nic.in, a new initiative, runs parallel with the Digital India Objective, which works on improving the digital literacy in the environment sector and deliver services digitally all over the country.  
  • Environmental Information System (ENVIS), a Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry has been implemented since 1982.
  • The purpose of the scheme is to integrate country-wide efforts in environmental information collection, collation, storage, retrieval and dissemination through ENVIS websites, which are dedicated to different interesting themes.  The Ministry also held an exhibition of ENVIS knowledge products at the Ministry premises.
  1. India became the 56th signatory State to sign the ‘Raptor MoU’ that was concluded on October 22, 2008 and came into effect on November 1, 2008 on conservation of birds of prey in Africa and Eurasia.
  • The ‘Raptor MoU’ extends its coverage to 76 species of birds of prey, out of which 46 species, including vultures, falcons, eagles, owls, hawks, kites, harriers, etc. also occur in India.
  1. Environment Ministry to create ‘urban forests’ in 200 cities to increase green cover.   ‘Urban Forestry Scheme’ launched in Pune, to create an ‘urban jungle’ on about 80 acres of land.
  2. Asia’s first ‘Gyps Vulture Reintroduction Programme’ launched at Pinjore in Haryana.
  3. Environment Ministry to sustain cleanliness campaign in National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Zoos throughout the year to achieve total sanitation and cleanliness by 2nd October 2019.
  4. 11. Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP), Sikkim inscribed as India’s First ‘Mixed’ Site on UNESCO World Heritage List.
  5. BRICS nations joined hands to save environment.   Second meeting of BRICS Environment Ministers held in Goa on September 16-17, 2016.  The areas agreed for mutual cooperation are – abatement and control of air and water pollution, efficient management of liquid and solid waste, climate change and conservation of biodiversity.
  6. Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) invited comments for the proposal on authorisation of Environmental release of Genetically Engineered Mustard on September 6, 2016.
  7. Environment Ministry ordered incineration of High GWP HFC-23 on October 13, 2016; India steered the negotiations on amendment in Montreal Protocol for amendment for phase down of HFCs at Kigali, Rwanda.  Shri Anil Madhav Dave gave the go-ahead for releasing the order for incinerating the HFC–23 by producers of HCFC–22 gas.  
  • Environment Minister emphasised relevance of Indian lifestyle and its low carbon footprint at negotiations for phasing down of HFCs in Kigali.
  • India welcomed landmark HFC agreement at Kigali on October 15, 2016.  
  • The Kigali Agreement is a reaffirmation of the global intent to mitigate climate change and exemplifies international co-operation in this regard. The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol is legally binding and will come into force from January 1, 2019.

Cabinet approved the negotiating position adopted by the Government at the Meeting of Parties to the Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention for Protection of Ozone Layer held at Kigali, Rwanda.

  1. India participated in COP-22 meeting in Marrakech, Morocco.  Signing ceremony of Framework Agreement on International Solar Alliance took place at COP-22.   COP-22 concluded on November 20, 2016.  
  2. Environment Ministry issued the final notification on Eco-Sensitive Zone in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai.  

The Eco-Sensitive Zone has a minimum extent of 100 metres and maximum extent of up to 4 km from the Park boundary.   

  • The objective of notifying Eco-Sensitive Zones is to create a buffer as further protection around Protected Areas (PAs) such as National Parks and Wildlife sanctuaries.   
  • The Notification also provides that in areas around Housing Societies and with high human habitation, and in view of the fact that the National Park has a large population of leopards, a high wall with fencing may be erected to ensure that man-animal conflict is avoided.  
  1. Centre announced notification of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shops) Rules, 2016.  The objective of these rules is to make pet shops accountable and to prevent cruelty inflicted on animals kept in such pet shops.
  2. EIA Notification, 2006 on integration of environmental conditions with building permissions amended.   
  • The notification will come into effect, if States do make the required changes in their building bye-laws.  These changes have to be done in consultation with the Environment Ministry
  1. Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill 2016 passed in Rajya Sabha on July 28, 2016.   – Utilization of these amounts will facilitate timely execution of appropriate measures to mitigate impact of diversion of forest land.
  • The passing of the Bill has ended the long era of ad-hocism and will help the Centre and State Governments to utilise these amounts in a planned manner.
  • It will facilitate make available more than Rs. 6,000 crores per annum to the States/UTs for conservation, protection, improvement and expansion of forest and wildlife resources of the country.
  1. The E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 were notified.  

For the first time, the Rules brought the producers under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), along with targets.  The draft E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2015 had been notified for public consultation vide GSR No. 472 (E) dated 10th June, 2015.

Extended producer responsibility

  • Faced with increasing amounts of waste, many governments have reviewed available policy options and concluded that placing the responsibility for the post-consumer phase of certain goods on producers could be an option.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy approach under which producers are given a significant responsibility – financial and/or physical – for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products.
  • Assigning such responsibility could in principle provide incentives to prevent wastes at the source, promote product design for the environment and support the achievement of public recycling and materials management goals.
  • Within the OECD the trend is towards the extension of EPR to new products, product groups and waste streams such as electrical appliances and electronics.

OECD has been doing much work on EPR, previously under the auspices of the Working Party on National Environmental Policies, currently under the auspices of the Working Party on Resource Productivity and Waste.

2.Major Developments/Achievements of Ministry of Earth Sciences during 2016

Source: PIB

During 2016, many significant achievements have been made on providing weather and climate services.

    • Many observational campaigns have been taken up as special atmospheric observations help us to understand model deficiencies and to improve the models.
    • To address the issue of better measurement and understanding of small-scale processes that drive the variability, seasonality and predictability in the South Asian Monsoon, a large-scale joint India-UK observational campaign was carried out during the period June-July 2016.

 

  • The campaign involved the deployment of UK’s BAe-146-301 atmospheric research aircraft with sophisticated scientific instruments and India’s Sagar Nidhi and Sindhu Sadhna research ships.

 

An observational campaign to understand different physical features of Fog and factors responsible for its genesis, intensity and duration was initiated during December 2016 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) and at ICAR-IARI in New Delhi. These observations will be useful for improving model forecasts.

Key facts:

1.The Climate Centre at IMD Pune has been now recognized as the Regional Climate Centre by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) for providing regional climate services.

2.A State-of-the-art Earth System Model(ESM) has been implemented to study the climate change aspects and develop future regional climate change scenarios at 25 km resolution and conduct climate impact assessment studies. The ESM will be the first climate model from India to contribute to the forthcoming sixth IPCC climate change assessment process.

3.The Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre (ITEWC) monitored 29 earthquakes of magnitude ≥ 6.5 MW during the period 1 January – 31 October 2016. Out of these 29 earthquakes, 2 significant earthquakes have occurred in the Indian Ocean region.

4.INCOIS continued to provide forecasts on the state of the oceans, the PFZ advisories and species specific advisories for a wide spectrum of users.

  • The ocean state forecasts were also provided before and during the launch day of Re-usable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstration (RLV-TD) of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and also to the research vessel Sagar Manjusha from Chennai to the landing point of RLV in the Bay of Bengal.

5.Hon’ble Minister of Science & Technology and Earth Sciences dedicated the Search and Rescue Aid Tool (SARAT) to the Nation during the XV National Maritime Search and Rescue (NMSAR) Board.

  • In addition, an experimental version of SARAT was used to provide Search And Rescue support to all the concerned in connection with the missing AN 32 aircraft, which was reportedly missing off Chennai on 22 July 2016.
  1. Hon’ble Union Minister, Science & Technology and Earth Sciences at Bhoomi Pujan ceremony of BGRL on Feb 1, 2016 at Hazarmachi, Karad, Maharashtra.
  • The 35th Indian Scientific expedition to Antarctica was executed with a total of 124 expedition members representing 29 different organizations with 34 projects covering upper atmosphere, astrophysics, geophysics, meteorology, glaciology, geology, biology, environmental sciences, human physiology and medicine. Yoga was introduced as part of a scientific programme.
  • The 36th expedition members were sent in different batches, commencing November 2016. Total 31 sub-projects/studies would cover (i) Atmospheric Science & Meteorology, (ii) Biology & Environmental Sciences (iii) Earth Science & Glaciology with the overall theme being the “Climate Change”.
  1. National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), Goa, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences established a high altitude research station in Himalaya called HIMANSH (literally meaning, a slice of ice), situated above 13,500 ft (> 4000 m) at a remote region in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
  • This station is equipped with instruments such as Automatic Weather Station, Water Level Recorder, Steam Drill, Snow/Ice Corer, Ground Penetrating Radar, Differential Global positioning System, Snow Fork, Flow Tracker, Thermister string, Radiometer etc.
  1. Under the Arctic observations program, the Indian Arctic mooring (IndARC-II) was retrieved on 26th July 2016, following which IndARC III was re-deployed successfully on 27th July 2016.
  • The Ambient Noise Measurement System with a single hydrophone and a data acquisition system was deployed on IndARC-II.
  • The IndARC-II collected more than 116 parameters and worked continuously for 373 days in the Arctic waters.
  1. Indigenously developed 500 m depth rated shallow water/polar remotely operated vehicle (PROVe) was successfully deployed, in the Andaman coral Islands and the vehicle was successfully maneuvered in the undulating reef terrain to record high quality underwater visuals of coral reef biodiversity with spectral irradiance.
  2. 9. India signed a MoU with Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Japan. The advancement of academic research in the field of Earth Sciences for   the benefit of the peace and human welfare is the prime objective of the MOU.

10.India became a member of the International Energy Agency- Ocean Energy Systems (IEA-OES) through signing of the Implementing Agreement. By becoming a member of the IEA-OES, India will have access to advanced R&D teams and technologies across the world.

  1. ‘Mobile App and Facebook Page’ of ‘National Trust’

Source: PIB

The government has launched the ‘Mobile App and Facebook Page’ of the National Trust to mark the ‘National Trust Foundation Day’ on the theme “Celebrating Inclusion”

Background:

The National Trust Act for the welfare of persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities was passed in the Parliament on 30th December 1999.

Thus-30th December- the Foundation Day of National Trust– is a day on which National Trust re-commits itself to the objectives set before it for the welfare of persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities.

National Trust:

The National Trust is a Statutory Body under Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan), Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.

The National Trust has been set up to discharge two basic duties – legal and welfare.

  • Legal duties are discharged through Local Level Committee (LLC) set up at district level under the chairmanship of the District Collector / District Magistrate and providing legal guardianship. Welfare duty is discharged through the schemes and activities.
  • The schemes and activities of the National Trust inter-alia include training, awareness and capacity building programmes and shelter, care giving and empowerment.
  • The National Trust is implementing 10 schemes for overall development of persons with disabilities which have been revised and launched last year.

  1. Insertion of LEAP SECOND in the Indian Standard Time

Source: PIB

This year will have an extra leap second added to the end of it, making it slightly longer than 2015.

Why is it added?

  • The Earth’s rotation around its own axis is not regular, as sometimes it speeds up and sometimes it slows down, due to various factors including the moon’s gravitational Earth-braking forces that often results in ocean tides.
  • As a result, Astronomical Time (UT1) gradually falls out of synch with Atomic time (UTC), and as and when the difference between UTC and UT1 approaches 0.9 seconds, a “Leap Second” is added to UTC through Atomic clocks worldwide.
  • Leap seconds are needed to prevent civil time drifting away from Earth time.
  • Although the drift is small — taking around a thousand years to accumulate a one-hour difference — if not corrected, it would eventually result in clocks showing midday before sunrise.
  • Therefore, a “Leap Second” is added every now and then to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) in order to synchronize clocks worldwide with the Earth’s ever slowing rotation.

Key facts:

  • Since 1972, 36 “Leap Seconds” have been added at intervals varying from six months to seven years.
  • 37th “Leap Second” will be added to UTC at the midnight of December 31, 2016 in the countries within this time zone. However, countries in other time zones will have “Leap Second” inserted according to their longitude.
  • As the “Leap Second” is added simultaneously all over the world at UTC 23:59:59 on December 31, 2016, implying that in India the “Leap Second” will be inserted at IST 05:29:59 on January 1, 2017 (IST being five hours and thirty minutes ahead of UTC).
  • The “Leap Second” adjustment is not so relevant for normal everyday life. However this shift is critical for applications requiring of time accuracies in the nanosecond e.g. astronomy, satellite navigation, communication networks etc.

  1. Constitution of high level committee to review Institutionalization of Arbitration Mechanism in India – (Ministry of Law & Justice)

Source: PIB

Justice Dispensing System in India has come under great stress for various reasons including huge pendency of cases in various courts.

The injustice is particularly egregious in commercial disputes, where cases remain pending for years. Accordingly, arbitration provides an effective and efficient alternative window for dispute resolution.

Key facts:

  • The Government of India has laid emphasis on making Arbitration a preferred mode for settlement of commercial disputes.  
  • Legislative and administrative initiatives on arbitration which aim at minimizing court intervention, bring down costs, fix timelines for expeditious disposal, and ensure neutrality of arbitrator and enforcement of awards.
  • The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2015 envisages quick enforcement of contracts, easy recovery of monetary claims, reduce the pendency of cases in courts and hasten the process of dispute resolution through arbitration, so as to encourage foreign investment by projecting India as an investor friendly country having a sound legal framework and ease of doing business in India. The move could also help improve India’s score in the World Bank’s doing business rankings. In the 2016 rankings, India stood at 130 out of 190 countries.
  • In order to ensure speedy resolution of commercial disputes and to facilitate effective conduct of international and domestic arbitrations raised under various agreements, it has been considered necessary to go into various factors to accelerate arbitration mechanism and strengthen the arbitration ecosystem in the country.  
  • It is also important to examine specific issues and roadmap required to make India a robust centre for international and domestic arbitration.
  • With the above end in view, the Government has decided to constitute a High Level Committee (HLC) in the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The committee will submit its report within 90 days.

  1. India and Singapore Sign a Third Protocol for Amending DTAA

Source: PIB

India and Singapore have amended the double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA) for the avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income, by signing a Third Protocol.

  • This is in line with India’s treaty policy to prevent double non-taxation, curb revenue loss and check the menace of black money through automatic exchange of information, as reflected in India’s recently revised treaties with Mauritius and Cyprus and the joint declaration signed with Switzerland.

Key facts:

    • The India-Singapore DTAA at present provides for residence based taxation of capital gains of shares in a company.

 

  • The Third Protocol amends the DTAA with effect from 1st April, 2017 to provide for source based taxation of capital gains arising on transfer of shares in a company. This will curb revenue loss, prevent double non-taxation and streamline the flow of investments.

 

  • In order to provide certainty to investors, investments in shares made before 1st April, 2017 have been grandfathered subject to fulfillment of conditions in Limitation of Benefits clause as per 2005 Protocol.
  • Also, a two year transition period from 1st April, 2017 to 31st March, 2019 has been provided during which capital gains on shares will be taxed in source country at half of normal tax rate, subject to fulfillment of conditions in Limitation of Benefits clause.
  • The Third Protocol also inserts provisions to facilitate relieving of economic double taxation in transfer pricing cases. This is a taxpayer friendly measure and is in line with India’s commitments under Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan to meet the minimum standard of providing Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) access in transfer pricing cases.
  • The Third Protocol also enables application of domestic law and measures concerning prevention of tax avoidance or tax evasion.


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