CURRENT AFFAIRS-AUG 31 2017 [UPSC DAILY CAPSULE]

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Daily current affairs for IAS upsc

Mumbai’s flood  {Disaster Management}

mumbai-flood-car

News:

  • The return of the deluge to Mumbai and the paralysis suffered by the city bring up the question of why Indian cities are unable to improve their resilience to extreme weather events.

Beyond News:

  • All this brings back memories of the disaster of 2005 caused by over 99 cm of rainfall in a 24-hour period leaving hundreds dead.
  • Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai have, for instance, provided pathways for nearly 450 sq. km of the city to better prepare for monsoonal floods, using the worst-case scenario of a dozen years ago as the baseline.
  • There should naturally be an inquiry into whether the reforms proposed over time, ranging from clearing of drainage channels and removal of encroachments to the creation of holding ponds to temporarily store large volumes of water, gained any traction.
  • Over time, mangrove wetlands in the eastern fringes and drain paths in the north-west of the city have lost much of their capacity owing to unplanned development.
  • The latest downpour underlines why loss of urban wetlands should be halted and compensatory lakes created.

Lessons from Mumbai:

  • Learnings from Mumbai are important for other cities as well, to prepare for a future in which scientists think there will be more days of short but intense rain spells. Numerical weather prediction has consistently improved.
  • Researchers from IIT Gandhinagar published a forecast on social media warning of 100 mm-plus rainfall for the region on August 29, four days ahead. Indian cities are poorly planned and managed, exposing them to cyclical weather havoc; it is imperative that civic bodies produce flood risk maps and restrict development in the areas.
  • Given that monsoon flooding is inescapable, citizens and communities need to prepare. Introduction of insurance cover for householder losses will provide financial protection and, crucially, require city administrations to provide professional management.
  • If there is a single priority that every city needs, it is to reopen the veins of natural drainage that have been callously built over. Mumbai this year and Chennai’s disastrous flood of 2015 underscore that lesson.

99% of demonetised notes returned, says RBI report {Indian Economy}

News:

  • The Reserve Bank of India’s annual report has finally revealed that as much as Rs. 15.28 lakh crore of the high-value currency that was demonetised in November returned to the central bank.

Beyond News:

  • The central bank was under intense scrutiny since January — after the window for depositing the withdrawn Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 banknotes had closed — for details on the extent of currency that was returned to the banking system in the wake of the government’s decision to withdraw high-value banknotes as a means to combat counterfeiting, black money and the financing of terrorist activities.
  • The latest RBI data showed that 98.96% of the withdrawn currency — at the time of demonetisation the value of old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes in circulation was Rs. 15.44 lakh crore — was deposited with the banks.
  • Separately, the data showed that the share of newly introduced Rs. 2,000 banknotes in the total value of currency in circulation was 50.2% at end-March 2017.

Govt. approves plan to deploy more troops on the frontline {Security}

  • The number of soldiers available for active combat with the Army is set to dramatically go up by over 57,000 in the wake of the Union cabinet accepting a slew of military reforms on Wednesday.
  • The recommendations were made by a committee headed by Lieutenant General (Retd.) D.B. Shekatkar for enhancing combat capability and rebalancing defence expenditure of the Armed Forces to increase the teeth-to-tail ratio.
  • Defence sources said that all these recommendations are related to the Army and the remaining 34 recommendations pertaining to the Navy, Air Force and Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) are likely to be taken up soon.

BRICS off the wall

  • At Copenhagen in 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and other leaders of the newly formed BASIC group (with Brazil and South Africa) were sitting in a conference room, negotiating a statement on the failure of the climate change summit.
  • The group of emerging economies had been bolstered by the formation of the BRIC group (Brazil, Russia, India and China, South Africa joined in 2010) with a declared objective of battling “Western hegemony”.
  • The BASIC group had decided they would walk away from Copenhagen without a deal, unless the demands of emerging economies, which couldn’t afford the same emission cuts, were reflected.

Managing embankments {Disaster Management}

News:

  • Life had come to a standstill in the Ganga-Brahmaputra floodplains where large tracts of land were reeling under floods. Everywhere there were submerged houses, broken bridges, and wasted railway tracks.

Beyond News:

  • The fury of the waters in the Kishanganj and Katihar districts of Bihar had cut off the road and rail services in north Bengal, and consequently Northeast India’s connectivity by rail with the rest of India.
  • Access to water and sanitation is difficult. Open defecation is common, and the use of contaminated water leads to a peak in water-borne diseases.
  • Agricultural land is either covered with sand or remains waterlogged.
  • Promoting decentralised management systems is yet to be tested for embankment management, even as participatory irrigation and joint forest management are established practices.
  • But if the past teaches us something, it is that build-and-forget cannot be an option for embankments.
  • If we have to shift from reactive flood protection to year-round flood governance, we must design ways of embankment management in flood-prone areas. Participatory embankment management could be the way forward.

Why go to school?{Education}

  • Governments are too often urged to actively promote formal school and college education among citizens.
  • Many even go on to say that it is the basic duty of the government to make sure every child is given quality education at least until a certain age, and parents should be held accountable for it.
  • Feldmann argues that education is no different from any other investment that seamlessly occurs whenever people are given the economic freedom to fully enjoy its benefits. There might then be very little need for a government to actively promote education among citizens, as they are likely to invest in it anyway.
  • After all, when the right conditions exist, investment in education should happen just as a matter of course. In fact, Feldmann argues, this is very similar to how investment in physical capital works.

The threat of nuclear war{International Relations}

News:

  • North Korea launched its 22nd missile this year, the most it has fired since it started building its own projectiles in 1984.

Beyond News:

  • Like it did in 2009 with Barack Obama, who also had to deal with a North Korean missile fired over Japanese territory (in addition to a nuclear test), Pyongyang seems to be testing U.S. President Donald Trump.
  • This is also a way of driving a wedge into the U.S.’s alliances with Japan and South Korea. Some commentators have raised questions about Washington’s commitment to use all available means, including nuclear weapons, if the North attacks, especially since Pyongyang now possibly possesses the means to hit mainland U.S.
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