UN’s study of Dams

In News

  • Recently a study by the United Nations University Institute on Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), also known as the UN’s think tank on water was released.

Study highlights

  • Global status:
    • Potential reduction in storage: 
      • The study shows that 6,316 billion cubic metre of initial global storage in 47,403 large dams in 150 countries will decline to 4,665 billion cubic metre, causing 26 percent storage loss by 2050.
      • The loss of 1,650 billion cubic metre storage capacity is roughly equal to the annual water use of India, China, Indonesia, France and Canada combined.
    • Reduced dam storage in Asia-Pacific:
      • In 2022, the Asia-Pacific region, the world’s most heavily dammed region, is estimated to have lost 13 per cent of its initial dam storage capacity. 
      • It will have lost nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of initial storage capacity by mid-century.
        • The region is home to 60 per cent of the world’s population and water storage is crucial for sustaining water and food security.
  • India’s dams:
    • The study warns that around 3,700 dams in India will lose 26 percent of their total storage by 2050. 
    • Reason of loss:
      • This storage loss will be due to the accumulation of sediments which can undermine water security, irrigation and power generation in the future.
        • Trapped sediment has already robbed roughly 50,000 large dams worldwide of an estimated 13 to 19 percent of their combined original storage capacity.
  • China’s dams:
    • China, meanwhile, the world’s most heavily dammed nation, has lost about 10 percent of its storage and will lose a further 10 percent by 2050 according to the report.

More about dams

  • About:
    • Dam is a structure built across a stream, a river, or an estuary to retain water. 
    • India has 4,407 large dams, the third highest number in the world after China (23,841) and the USA (9,263).
    • Types:
      • Large: A dam is considered large if it is higher than 15 m or between 5 and 15 m high, but impounds over 3 million cubic metres.
      • Low: A low dam is less than 30 m high; 
      • Medium: A medium-height dam is between 30 and 100 m high, and 
      • High: A high dam is over 100 m high.
  • Significance of dam construction:
    • Water storage infrastructure is critical for development. 
    • Large dams and reservoirs provide hydroelectricity, flood control, irrigation, and drinking water and often perform multiple functions simultaneously.
  • Major threats to dams:
    • Ageing:
      • All over the world, many large dams built in the 20th century may start to show signs of ageing, and many may already be operating at or beyond their design life. 
      • For India, 2025 is set to be a big year as more than 1,000 dams would turn roughly 50 years or older.
    • Accumulation of sediments & siltation:
      • Accumulation of sediments decreases a reservoir’s capacity over the years and determines a reservoir’s life expectancy.
      • Siltation, which is the accumulation of silt and debris behind the reservoir, also leads to a reduction in the storage capacity of the dams.
  • Structural issues:
    • India’s dams are more vulnerable to deterioration because a large proportion of them are earthen–built by compacting successive layers of earth, and not concrete–and are hence more prone to ageing.
  • Flooding:
    • The country gets concentrated rainfall every year for a designated time period as opposed to distributed rainfall, which contributes to the dams’ vulnerability.
    • In India, the downstream areas are often exposed to flood disasters& flooding has caused 44% of dam failures in India.
  • Seismic threat:
    • Some of the Himalayan dam systems, including the Tehri Dam, are in an active seismic area given that the Himalayan mountain system is constantly changing and growing giving rise to several tectonic movements.

Way ahead

  • The Central Water Commission’s recent study on the Srisailam project on the Krishna river also found that the dam’s storage capacity was reduced as a result of siltation.
    • There are several more studies that clearly show that the actual siltation rates are several times higher than what was estimated.
  • Therefore, a timely assessment of the structure should be carried out with the removal of reservoir silt from dams. 
Dam Safety Act, 2021About:It is an Act to provide for the surveillance, inspection, operation, and maintenance of the specified dam for prevention of dam failure related disasters and to provide for an institutional mechanism to ensure their safe functioning and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. These are dams with height of more than 15 metres, or height between 10 metres to 15 metres with certain design and structural conditions.2 national Bodies:The National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS):Its functions include evolving policies and recommending regulations regarding dam safety standards; It will be chaired by the National Water Commissioner.The National Dam Safety Authority:Its functions include implementing policies of the National Committee, providing technical assistance to State Dam Safety Organisations (SDSOs), and resolving matters between SDSOs of states or between a SDSO and any dam owner in that state.2 state bodies: State Committee on Dam Safety, State Dam Safety Organisation.  These bodies will be responsible for the surveillance, inspection, and monitoring the operation and maintenance of dams within their jurisdiction.

Rise in RBD Palm Oil Import


  • According to Solvent Extractor’s Association (SEA) of India, a sharp rise in the import of refined, bleached and deodorized (RBD) palm oil is hurting the domestic oil refining industry.

Reasons for the rise in imports of RBD palm oil

  • Import duty difference of only 7.5% between CPO (crude palm oil) and refined oil, encouraging the import of refined oil as compared to the CPO.
  • Cutthroat competition: Malaysian and Indonesian exporters of RBD palm oil enjoy advantage (taxes) of $60 over CPO and hence they discount palmolein benefiting their refiners.

Consequences of the rise in imports of RBD palm oil

  • Low capacity utilization (30% now versus 60-70% in 2020) of the Indian refining industry.
  • For e.g. Utilization of only 18 million tonnes as against the capacity of 38-40 million tonnes.
  • Losses: The refining industry will be suffering losses of Rs. 6000 per tonne on importing crude palm oil and converting it into refined palmolein.
  • Contrary to the objective of self-reliance: PM’s clarion call of atma nirbhar and value addition within the country is threatened due to rising imports. 
  • Harm Make in India: Sustained import trends may cause transformation of the Indian refining industry into mere packers rather than producers and refiners. 
  • Compromising heavy investments made in the domestic refining sector for capacity enhancement and possibility of rising Non Performing Assets (NPAs) in the sector.
  • Threaten oil seeds farmers: After a long time, domestic oilseeds have started selling above minimum support price (MSP) and improved farm incomes. Continued rising imports of RBD might reverse these gains.
  • Edible oil inflation

About Palm Oil

  • Nature: Palm oil is also known as palm fruit oil. Palm oil is produced from the fruit of the oil palm tree (Scientific name: Elaeis guineensis).
  • Importance
  • Production: It may have now surpassed soybean oil as the most widely produced vegetable oil in the world.
  • Refining: Palm oil is physically refined without the use of chemical solvents, thereby reducing the risk of residue contamination.
  • Nutritional value: Virgin palm oil is rich in carotenoids (pro Vitamin A), tocotrienols and tocopherols (Vitamin E). 
  • Health benefits: Since it is a vegetable oil; not an animal or dairy product, therefore it does not contain cholesterol. It also does not contain trans fatty acids.
  • Value as a natural resource: Oil palm is the only fruit that can give two types of oil-palm oil and palm kernel oil.
  • Applications/Usage:
  • Agriculture and processing: Since its introduction, oil palm is now a leading agricultural crop. Increased planting, cultivation and refinement have led to the introduction of a wide range of processed palm oil products. 
  • Food and non-food applications:They can be used for frying media and for making margarines, shortenings, soap, oleo chemicals and other products.
  • Cooking: It is used as cooking oil, to make margarine and is a component of many processed foods. Palm oil is one of the few vegetable oils relatively high in saturated fats (such as coconut oil) and thus semi-solid at room temperature.
  • Issues: 
  • Palm oil is a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the Orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino. 
  • More than 40 percent of potential landscapes for oil palm cultivation in India overlap with biodiversity-rich landscapes, especially in the North-East and Andaman & Nicobar islands.
National Mission on Edible Oils – Oil Palm (NMEO-OP)It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with a special focus on the Northeast region and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.  The Mission hopes to increase oil palm acreage by an additional 6.5 lakh hectares by 2025-26 and grow production of crude palm oil to 11.2 lakh tonnes by 2025-26 and up to 28 lakh tonnes by 2029-30.The proposed scheme will subsume the current National Food Security Mission-Oil Palm programme.2 major focus areas of the Scheme. The oil palm farmers produce Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFBs) from which oil is extracted by the industry. Presently the prices of these FFBs are linked to the international Crude Palm Oil (CPO) prices fluctuations.  Viability Price (VP): For the first time, the Government of India will give price assurance to the oil palm farmers for the FFBs in the form of the Viability Price (VP).   

Way Forward

  • Budgetary Provisions 2023-24: Increasing the duty difference between CPO and refined palmolein to at least 15%.
  • Increasing refined duty from current 12.5% to 20% without any change in crude palm oil duty.
  • Restricted List: The government can place again the import of RBD palmolein and refined palm oil under restricted list with immediate effect.

Preservation of Ozone Hole

In News

  • A recent scientific assessment has suggested that the ozone hole is now expected to be completely repaired by 2066.

Key Findings

  • Recovery period: 
    • The ozone layer over Antarctica, where the hole is the most prominent, will take a long time to heal completely. 
    • If current policies continued to be implemented, the ozone layer was expected to recover to 1980 values by 2066 over Antarctica, by 2045 over the Arctic, and by 2040 for the rest of the world.
    • Over the rest of the world, the ozone layer is expected to be back to where it was in 1980 by 2040 itself.
  • How it became possible: 
    • Successful elimination of some harmful industrial chemicals, together referred to as Ozone Depleting Substances or ODSs.
    • Implementation of the 1989 Montreal Protocol.
      • Nearly 99 per cent of the substances banned by the Montreal Protocol have now been eliminated from use, resulting in a slow but definite recovery of the ozone layer.
  • Ozone: 
    • Ozone (chemically, a molecule having three Oxygen atoms, or O3) is found mainly in the upper atmosphere, an area called stratosphere, between 10 and 50 km from the Earth’s surface. 
    • It is critical for planetary life, since it absorbs ultraviolet rays coming from the Sun. 
    • UV rays are known to cause skin cancer and many other diseases and deformities in plants and animals.

Damage to the ozone layer

  • Origin: 
    • The depletion of the ozone layer, first noticed in the early 1980s, used to be the biggest environmental threat before climate change came along. 
  • Hole or just reduction?
    • Though the problem is commonly referred to as the emergence of a ‘hole’ in the ozone layer, it is actually just a reduction in concentration of the ozone molecules. 
    • Even in the normal state, ozone is present in extremely low concentrations in the stratosphere. Where the ‘layer’ is supposed to be the thickest, there are no more than a few molecules of ozone for every million air molecules.
  • Sharp reductions in concentrations of Ozone:
    • In the 1980s, scientists began to notice a sharp drop in its presence. 
    • This drop was much more pronounced over the South Pole.
    • It was later linked to the unique meteorological conditions that prevail over Antarctica:
      • Temperature, 
      • Pressure, 
      • Wind speed and 
      • Direction 
  • Biggest hole during months: 
    • The ozone hole over Antarctica is the biggest during the months of September, October, and November.
  • Main cause deciphered:
    • The use of a class of industrial chemicals that contained chlorine, bromine or fluorine. 
    • The most common of these were the chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, that were used extensively in the air conditioning, refrigeration, paints, and furniture industries.
  • Montreal Protocol: 
    • It was with this climate change objective in mind that the Montreal Protocol was amended in 2016 to extend its mandate over hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, that have replaced the CFCs in industrial use. 
    • HFCs do not cause much damage to the ozone layer — the reason they were not originally banned — but are very powerful greenhouse gases. 
  • Kigali Amendment:
    • The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol seeks to eliminate 80-90 per cent of the HFCs currently in use by the year 2050. 
    • This is expected to prevent another 0.3 to 0.5 degree Celsius of global warming by the turn of the century.


  • Before 1979: 
    • Scientists had not observed atmospheric ozone concentrations below 220 Dobson Units (DU; measure of the total amount of ozone in a vertical column of air above the Earth’s surface). 
  • 1980s and after:
    • In the early 1980s, scientists using ground-based and satellite measurements began to realise that the Earth’s natural sunscreen was thinning dramatically over the South Pole each spring. 
    • This thinning of the ozone layer over Antarctica came to be known as the ozone hole. 
  • In 1979, the maximum depth of the hole was 194 Dobson Units (DU). In 1982, it fell to 173 DU, in 1983 to 154 DU, and in 1985 to 124 DU.
  • The image below has been picked from a series published by NASA showing the size and shape of the ozone hole every year from 1979 through 2019. 
  • Red and yellow areas in the images indicate the ozone hole. The maps show the ozone hole on the day the lowest ozone concentrations were measured each year.
  • In 1991, ozone concentration fell below 100 DU for the first time. The deepest hole was in 1994, when concentrations fell to 73 DU on Sept 30.


  • It covers the entire planet and protects life on earth by absorbing harmful ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation from the sun.
  • Impact on Plants
    • Plants cannot live and grow in heavy ultraviolet radiation, nor can the planktons that serve as food for most of the ocean life.
  • Health impact of UV-B rays
    • With a weakening of the Ozone Layer shield, humans would be more susceptible to skin cancer, cataracts and impaired immune systems.
  • Without it, life may have been impossible on earth due to harmful UV-B rays.
  • Ozone-Depleting Substances: 
    • Their elimination has an important climate change co-benefit as they are powerful greenhouse gases.
    • Several of them  are hundreds or even thousands of times more dangerous than carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas and the main driver of global warming. 
    • Global compliance to the Montreal Protocol ensures the avoidance of 0.5 to 1 degree Celsius of warming by 2050. 
    • That is if the use of CFCs and other similar chemicals had continued to grow the way it did before they were banned, the world would have been 0.5 to 1 degree Celsius warmer than it already is.


  • Replacements available: 
    • The use of ODSs, though extensive, was restricted to some specific industries. 
    • Their replacements were readily available, even if at a slightly higher cost initially. 
    • The impact of banning these ozone-depleting chemicals was therefore limited to these specific sectors. 
    • With some incentives, these sectors have recovered from the initial disruption and are thriving again.
  • Carbon footprints: 
    • Emission of carbon dioxide is inextricably linked to the harnessing of energy. 
    • Almost every economic activity leads to carbon dioxide emissions. Even renewable energies, like solar or wind, have considerable carbon footprints right now, because their manufacturing, transport, and operation involves the use of fossil fuels.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions: 
    • The emissions of methane, the other major greenhouse gas, comes mainly from agricultural practices and livestock. 
    • The impact of restraining greenhouse gas emissions is not limited to a few industries or economic sectors, but affects the entire economy, and also has implications for the quality of life, human lifestyles and habits and behaviours.

Way Ahead

  • Ensuring that existing restrictions on ozone-depleting substances are properly implemented and global use of ozone-depleting substances continue to be reduced.
  • Ensuring that banks of ozone-depleting substances (both in storage and contained in existing equipment) are dealt with in an environmentally-friendly manner and are replaced with climate-friendly alternatives.
  • Ensuring that permitted uses of ozone-depleting substances are not diverted to illegal uses.
  • Reducing use of ozone-depleting substances in applications that are not considered as consumption under the Montreal Protocol.
  • Ensuring that no new chemicals or technologies emerge that could pose new threats to the ozone layer (e.g. very short-lived substances).

E-Rupee Project

In News

The RBI launched a limited test of the retail digital rupee for specific use cases on November 1, 2022.

Key Points

  • The pilot Project covers select locations in a closed user group (CUG) comprising about 15,000 customers and merchants across the country. 

Image Courtesy: IE 

  • The pilot will later be extended to Ahmedabad, Gangtok, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Kochi, Lucknow, Patna and Shimla. 
  • Four more Banks will be included soon:
    • Bank of Baroda, 
    • Union Bank of India, 
    • HDFC Bank and 
    • Kotak Mahindra Bank

Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)

  • It is the legal tender issued by a central bank in a digital form. 
  • It is the same as a fiat currency and is exchangeable one-to-one with the fiat currency. Only its form is different.
  • It will be an electronic version of cash.
  • It will be primarily meant for retail transactions. 
  • It will be potentially available for use by all which includes the private sector, non-financial consumers and businesses.
  • It will be able to provide access to safe money for payment and settlement.
  • It will be the direct liability of the central bank.

How will the retail digital rupee work?

  • It will be issued in the same denominations as paper currency and coins and will be distributed through banks.
  • Users will be able to transact through a digital wallet which would be stored on mobile phones and devices.
  • Transactions can be both:
    • Person to person (P2P)
    • Person to merchant (P2M).
  • Payments to merchants can be made using QR codes displayed at merchant locations.
  • It will not earn any interest and can be converted to other forms of money like deposits with banks. 
  • RBI has demarcated the digital rupee into two broad categories:
    • General purpose (retail)
    • Wholesale
      • The RBI has already launched the digital rupee for the wholesale segment to settle secondary market transactions in government securities.
      • Wholesale CBDC is designed for restricted access to select financial institutions. 
      • It has the potential to transform the settlement systems for financial transactions undertaken by banks in the government securities (G-Sec) segment, inter-bank market and capital market more efficiently and securely in terms of operational costs, use of collateral and liquidity management.


  • It aims at reduction in operational costs involved in physical cash management, fostering financial inclusion, bringing resilience, efficiency and innovation in the payments system.
  • It will add efficiency to the settlement system and boost innovation in cross-border payments space.
  • It will provide the public with the uses that any private virtual currencies can provide without any associated risks.
  • It will curb issues such as money laundering, terror financing, tax evasion, etc.  
  • E-rupee transactions can be both person to person (P2P) and person to merchant (P2M).
    • For P2M transactions, such as shopping, there will be QR codes at the location. 
    • Users will be able to withdraw digital tokens from banks in the same way they currently withdraw physical cash. 
    • Users will be able to keep the digital tokens in the digital wallet, and spend them online or in person, or transfer them via an app.


  • Lack of Consumer Protection: No Dispute Settlement Mechanisms and control of Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). 
  • Digital Illiteracy: The population of India is currently not equipped to deal with cryptos.
  • Security Risks: Cyberattacks on wallets, exchange mechanism (Crypto jacking). 
  • Shield to Crime:  If not regulated and monitored properly, it can be used for illicit trading, criminal activities, & organised crimes. 
  • Popularity of Cryptocurrencies: RBI has repeatedly flagged concerns over money laundering, terror financing, tax evasion, etc with private cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ether, etc.
  • Low volume: The volume of transactions seems to be low in the test phase, vendors now have another option to accept payment from customers, apart from cash and the unified payment interface (UPI). 
  • Preferences of Consumers: If there is a delay in a transaction or if it fails, customers prefer paying using other digital payment modes, which are currently faster.

Way Ahead

  • E-rupee should be issued in the same denominations as paper currency and coins.
  • Different features and applications of the e-rupee token and architecture should be created to enable and ease its usage and transition to e-Rupee.

Delegated Legislation

In News

  • Recently, the majority ruling of the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the delegated legislation in the Centre’s 2016 decision on demonetisation.

Delegated Legislation

  • Parliament routinely delegates certain functions to authorities established by law since every aspect cannot be dealt with directly by the lawmakers themselves.
  • This delegation of powers is noted in statutes, which are commonly referred to as delegated legislation.
  • The delegated legislation would specify operational details, giving power to those executing the details. 
  • Regulations and by-laws under the legislation are classic examples of delegated legislation.
  • SC’s view: A 1973 Supreme Court ruling explains the concept as:
    • “The practice of empowering the Executive to make subordinate legislation within a prescribed sphere has evolved out of practical necessity and pragmatic needs of a modern welfare State. 

 Delegation of power in the demonetisation case

  • Section 26(2) of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 essentially gives powers to the Centre to notify that a particular denomination of currency ceases to be legal tender.

Issues of Excessive delegation power 

  • A 1959 landmark ruling in Hamdard Dawakhana v Union of India, the Supreme Court had struck down the delegation of powers on the grounds that it was vague. 

What did the Court decide?

  • The majority verdict held that since the delegation of power is to the Centre which is anyway answerable to the Parliament, the delegation power cannot be struck down.
  • In case the Executive does not act reasonably while exercising its power of delegated legislation, it is responsible to Parliament who are elected representatives of the citizens for whom there exists a democratic method of bringing to book the elected representatives who act unreasonably in such matters.


In News

  • According to a recent study by Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Pune, a protein found in the backbone of zebrafish can have potential therapeutic implications.

More about the news

  • Discs degeneration issues in humans:
    • In humans, discs degenerate naturally, leading to many related health concerns, including low back, neck, and appendage pain. 
    • Currently, only symptomatic treatments for disc degeneration are available, including pain relievers or anti-inflammatories. 
    • In severe cases, disc replacement or disc fusion surgery is performed. 
  • Significance of new study:
    • A protein found in the backbone of zebrafish plays a positive role in disc maintenance and promotes regeneration in aged discs between vertebrae. 
    • This protein of zebrafish can have potential therapeutic implications to promote regeneration in degenerated human discs.

More about Zebrafish

  • About:
    • The zebrafish is a freshwater fish belonging to the member of the minnow family of fish. 
    • It is a popular aquarium fish.
  • Habitat:
    • Zebrafish typically inhabit moderately flowing to stagnant clear water of quite shallow depth in streams, canals, ditches, oxbow lakes, ponds and rice paddies.
    • Native to South Asia where it is found in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
  • Significance in Clinical research:
    • The zebrafish is an important and widely used vertebrate model organism in scientific research, for example in drug development, in particular pre-clinical development. 
    • It is also notable for its regenerative abilities and has been modified by researchers to produce many transgenic strains.
  • Characteristics that make them significant for research:
    • Transparent Embryo:
      • Zebrafish are useful because the embryo is transparent, it develops outside of its mother, and its development from eggs to larvae happens in just three days.
    • Faster development:
      • The other main advantage is that they develop incredibly fast. 
      • So from a single cell the day they’re born, they will have a head, and a tail, and a beating heart within 24 hours. By 72 hours their brains are working, and fins and trunk are twitching, and by five days old they are swimming around and they’re hunting and they’re fully viable organisms. 
      • This is perfect essentially for both geneticists and developmental biologists.

Starlink Project

n News

  • According to a recent report published by The Economist, Starlink has become an essential part of Ukraine’s bid to fight the Russian invasion.

More about the news

  • SpaceX’s Starlink is helping Ukraine in the fight against Russia by providing thousands of Starlink satellite internet devices to Ukraine without any charge.
  • It also emerged as a crucial communication tool for Ukraine’s armed forces because their own mediums of communication were compromised by Russian hackers.

More about the Starlink Project

  • About:
    • Starlink is a satellite constellation that comprises thousands of small satellites in low-Earth orbit. 
    • SpaceX first began sending them into space in 2019.
    • Currently, there are more than 3,000 of these satellites that send internet signals to designated ground receivers.
  • Required infrastructure:
    • Unlike traditional internet providers, Starlink doesn’t require any ground infrastructure. 
    • One just needs to have a small satellite dish or a receiver device to access high-speed internet, much like satellite TV.
  • Accessibility:
    • The company also has a mobile application for Android and iOS that uses augmented reality to help customers choose the ideal location and position for their receivers.
  • Expansion plans:
    • According to a report published by DW, SpaceX plans to “expand the network to up to 12,000 satellites, with a possible extension to 42,000”.
  • Issues of space debris:
    • The satellites of Starlink work only for five years and once they are dysfunctional, they remain in space and contribute to space debris.
    • SpaceX’s ambitious plan of launching 42,000 more satellites in the next few years might lead to overcrowding in our orbit, which in turn would impede astronomers from making observations from Earth.
  • Accessibility in combat environment:
    • According to the report, what makes Starlink easily accessible even in the combat environment is the fact that the dishes and terminals used for providing the internet are portable and can be rigged to run off a car battery.
      • In an area which has an unreliable supply of electricity, this is a huge advantage.
    • Apart from this, because Starlink consists of thousands of satellites that orbit around the Earth and aren’t too far from the ground, they are able to provide high bandwidth without many glitches.
      • This has also made drone warfare much easier.


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *