News Analysis 14th Sep, 2022

14 Sep, 2022


1. Solid Waste Generation & Climate Change.
2. India has lost its way in the use of International law.
3. Forest Rights Act, 2006 : Bestowed Benefits.

1. Solid Waste Generation & Climate Change.

Theme : Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

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                             TABLE OF CONTENT 

  1. Context

  2. Global Warming Potential (GWP)

  3. Solid Waste

  4. How does Changes in Climate Impact Solid Waste

  5. How to fight this Menace?


Context :
By 2050, global waste generation is expected to increase to 3.4 billion tonnes.


Global Warming Potential (GWP) :

It refers to the amount of heat absorbed by a gas in comparison to the same mass of carbon dioxide.

  • GWP for carbon dioxide is 1, methane is 21, Nitrous oxide is 310, Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) is 140-11,700 and Sulfur hexafluoride is 23,900.

  • GWP allows comparisons for the potential of GreenHouse Gases to cause Global Warming. The more the GWP, the more gas warms the atmosphere.



Solid Waste :

  • Wide Variety of Solid Wastes: Solid waste generation encompasses a wide variety of products depending upon various factors like population, climate, standard of living, economical condition, level of education and awareness level of the population. It includes Municipal Solid Waste, Commercial and Industrial waste, construction and demolition waste, agricultural waste, biomedical waste, electronic waste and hazardous waste.

  • Solid Waste and Climate Change: Solid waste contributes to global warming through the emission of GHGs. For e.g., if the solid waste is collected and then incinerated, it leads to the emission of Carbon dioxide. However, burning solid waste, especially organic waste, in the absence of air leads to the release of methane gas, which has a higher Global Warming Potential  than Carbon dioxide.

  • Open Dumping of Solid Waste: Though the developed nations fare much better, no country in the world is able to dispose of all the waste produced in the country in a proper and environment friendly manner. For e.g. African countries dump as high as 70% of their solid waste in open dumps. This figure is approximately 2% for some of the richer western countries. Open dumping has various limitations with reference to the environment of the region:

  • Reduction in the availability of land surface, which may get used in the form of landfill.

  • Decrease in the availability of green cover in an area.

  • Reduction in the availability of natural green sinks, viz. forest cover in the region.

  • Emission of poisonous gases from the landfills, which may increase the air pollution of the area, apart from being harmful to the local residents.

  • Leakage of leachate into the groundwater, harming the quality of groundwater in the area and aiding the spread of the water-borne diseases.


How Does Changes in Climate Impact Solid Waste?

  • Effect of Climate Change on Disasters: Climate change leads to an increase in extreme weather events like heavy rainfall, cyclones and storms, heat waves etc. These events have the potential to increase the Solid Waste generation.

  • Flooding: It leads to destruction of infrastructure and property. This creates voluminous quantities of debris and litter. Also, at the time of crisis, floods prevent the adequate disposal of waste in a proper manner. Other challenges created by floods include inability to access the waste storage system, over-flooding of the site drainage systems and waterlogging in the open areas. Floods have the capability to break the bunds and capping layers, thereby exposing the waste to the environment. It also increases the volume of leachate in the landfill sites.

  • Cyclones: Again, cyclones led to heavy rains and fast winds. They also uproot trees and destroy other infrastructure, while disrupting communication, transport and relief activities. Thus, waste generation increases due to cyclones and storms.

  • Heatwave: Though heat waves do not directly lead to a destruction of infrastructure or property, they accelerate the process of decomposition of the existing waste. They also enhance the degradation of landfill sites, thereby increasing foul odor and making it difficult to live in the vicinity of the landfill. The strong odor also makes cleaning difficult for the workers and other waste management personnel, increasing the maintenance costs. At the same time, heat waves can also dry up the compostable waste and render the microbes unable to decompose the waste.

  • Rise in Sea Level: As stated above, the rise in sea-level occurs due to an increase in global temperature and the melting of snow. As the sea level increases it encroaches upon the landfill sites situated near the coasts. Also, inundation of water leads to erosion of the soil, which can expose the underground landfills to the environment.

How to fight this Menace?

  • Treatment and disposal of Waste: It refers to the final stage, where useful material is extracted from the waste, hazardous material is disposed of in an environment-friendly manner and other material is either disposed of in a landfill or incinerated in the waste-to-energy plants.

  • Effective Waste management: It is important to take steps to address the problem of solid waste generation as it has the potential to become disastrous by the year 2050, when the global solid waste generation is expected to rise to almost 3.4 billion tonnes. It will require proper organization and execution of the process of solid waste management, including:

  • Decrease in Solid Waste generation: through encouragement of the 3 Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle.

  • Organized Collection of waste: Focus on maximization of the quantity of waste collected through formal institutions.

  • Segregation of Waste: It refers to segregation of waste according to the end result of waste disposal. For e.g. biodegradable waste must be separated from the non-biodegradable waste. Similarly, the rare-earth metals need to be separated from the electronic products and resupplied to the markets. This will decrease the burden of import of such metals and save precious foreign exchange.


2. India has lost its way in the use of International law.

Theme :Important International Institutions, agencies and fora – their Structure, Mandate.

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                         TABLE OF CONTENT 

  1. Context

  2. Sources of International Law.

  3. India & The Sphere of International Law

  4. Issues in Indian Engagement with International Law

  5. Institutional Bottlenecks & Academic Obstructions

  6. Road Ahead


Context :
Unlike the western Diplomats who justify the conduct of international relations by embedding it in the language of international law to gain legitimacy for their actions.India’s generalist diplomats and policy-makers rarely employ the international law vocabulary extensively.

Sources of International Law :

  1. International customs (general state practice accepted as law)

  2. Treaties

  3. General principles of law recognized by most national legal systems.

  4. The practices and customs adopted by states to maintain good relations and mutual recognition, such as saluting the flag of a foreign ship or enforcing a foreign legal judgment.

  • International law differs from state-based legal systems in that it is primarily—though not exclusively—applicable to countries, rather than to individuals, and operates largely through consent, since there is no universally accepted authority to enforce it upon sovereign states.

  • Consequently, states may choose to not abide by international law, and even to break a treaty. However, such violations, particularly of customary international law and peremptory norms (jus cogens), can be met with disapproval by others and in some cases coercive action (ranging from diplomatic and economic sanctions to war).



India & The Sphere of International Law:

  • India’s Constitution makers in Article 51 provided that the state shall foster respect for international law. 

  • India organized the first Asian-African Conference at Bandung in 1955,for the end of colonialism and for the principle of self-determination in international law.

  • India proposed  Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) that shaped  international law on terrorism.

  • India tried to influence international environmental  law through International Solar Alliance (ISA).


Issues in Indian Engagement with International Law :

  • Euro-centric nature of  international law.

  • Marginal use of International law and vocabulary in articulating its national interests internationally.

  • Generalist diplomats and policy-makers failed to extensively employ the international law vocabulary unlike their western counterparts. For Example: India failed to use the international law vocabulary to call out Chinese transgressions of India’s sovereignty.

  • Even in dealing with Pakistan’s aggression India did not mention international law except in Kulbhushan Jadhav case where it sued  Pakistan at the International Court of Justice.

  • Barring a few initiatives such as the CCIT and ISA India  failed  to develop and contribute new international law doctrines, interpretations, and principles that suit its national interests.

  • Institutional bottlenecks due to generalist diplomats and understaffed legal and treaties (L&T) division: Parliamentary Standing Committee report on External Affairs,2021 points out that  the L&T division has a strength of 13 officers as opposed to an approved strength of 23.

  • Fragmented  decision-making in international law due to involvement of several Ministries.

  • Poor state-capacity due to neglect of international law discipline: International law academics have failed to popularize international law.


Institutional Bottlenecks & Academic Obstructions :

Institutional Bottlenecks :

  • Generalist diplomats: The foreign service is heavily populated by generalist diplomats who are wedded to the theories of international relations.

  • Legal and treaties (L&T) division: The only section in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) that looks at international law.But this division is grossly understaffed.

  • Quality of talent: L&T divisions, quality of lawyers as there are far greater incentives for an international lawyer to join the government as a generalist diplomat than as a technocrat.

Academic Obstructions :

  • Few International law professors: The presence of a few outstanding international law professors, our universities have not invested much in the development of the discipline.

  • Funding: The Government has failed to fund research in international law

  • Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA): The MEA funds research centers such as the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA).But the ICWA focuses largely on the study of international relations, not international law.


Road Ahead :

  • Department of international law: To overcome the fragmentation-related problems, a parliamentary committee report in 2016 recommended the creation of a ‘department of international law’ under the Law Ministry.

  • Parliamentary committee in 2021: Realizing India’s abysmal capacity in international law, the report of the parliamentary committee in 2021 recommended that the MEA establish chairs for research in international law in universities.

  • Investing in International law: India’s ambition of punching above its weight in international affairs cannot be accomplished without its investing in international law.


3.  Forest Rights Act, 2006 : Bestowed Benefits.


Theme : Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.


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                              TABLE OF CONTENT 

  1. Context

  2. What is the Forest Rights Act, 2006 ?

  3. Positive Outcomes

  4. Challenges


Context :
Tribal villages got  benefit out of the Forest Rights conferred on them under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.


What is the Forest Rights Act, 2006 ?

  • The act is called Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forests Rights) Act, (FRA) 2006.

  • Objective: The FRA seeks to do away with the historical injustice meted out to the forest dwellers by recognising their traditional rights over the forest land. It seeks to balance the conservation of the environment with the right to livelihood of the tribals and other forest dwellers.

  • Types of Rights: There are two types of rights under the act:

    • Individual Forest Rights (IFR): The act provides land rights to a nuclear family over an area not exceeding 4 hectares. The right is hereditary, but at the same time, it is non-transferable. This means that it is transferred to the inheritors of the family, but the land cannot be sold to anyone outside the family.

    • Community Forest Rights (CFR): Under CFR, the Gram Sabha as a collective unit gets the ownership and management rights over an area of land traditionally being used by the community.

  • Activities permitted: The act allows a set of activities by the traditional forest dwellers while restricting others, in order to safeguard the biodiversity of the forest. For e.g. the community members are allowed to live in the forests while engaging in self-cultivation for sustaining themselves. They can also own, use and dispose of the Minor Forest Produce for their own needs or as a part of commercial trade.

  • Duties of Right holders: The community members are prohibited to engage in activities which are detrimental to the health of the forest ecosystem. For e.g.,They are not allowed to hunt, trap or extract the body parts of any wild animal. Any other activity adversely affecting the wild animals or plants or other biodiversity is also prohibited. The community members are expected to protect the adjoining catchment areas and water sources in the area.

  • Structure: The Act has a multi-fold structure to implement and verify the title rights:

    • Gram Sabha: It has the power to initiate claims, consolidate and verify the titles.

    • Sub Divisional Level Committee (SDLC): It is constituted by the State government. It examines the resolution passed by the Gram Sabha and prepares the record of land rights.

    • District Level Committee (DLC): It is the final authority to approve the record of forest rights.

    • State Level Monitoring Committee: It is formed to monitor the process of recognition and vesting of forest rights. The committee reports to the nodal Ministry i.e. the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

    • The latter three committees are tribal, revenue and forest officials from the respective ministries.

  • Appeals: Appeals against the ruling of Gram Sabha can be made to the SDLC. Similarly, the appeals against the SDLC are made in DLC within 60 days. The order of DLC is final and binding.


Positive Outcomes :

  • Justice for the Communities: The main objective of the Act is to correct historical injustice meted out to the forest-dwelling communities by the administration. Their symbiotic and harmonious relation with the forest was disturbed by the British for commercial exploitation of the forests. The situation remained the same even after independence. It is only after the enactment of the Act that the traditional rights of the communities have been restored to an extent.

  • Democratization of Governance: Gram Sabha plays an important role in the implementation of the act by collating the claims and verifying them. It also prepares the distribution plan and forwards it to the other communities. The Gram Sabha is composed of only the members of the community without any interference from the authorities. Therefore, it transfers the power to the people.

  • Livelihood Security for the forest dwellers: The Act confers the right to collect, own, use and trade in the Minor Forest Produce (MFP) on the forest-dwelling communities. Such commodities have been harvested by the communities for a long time and have been the basis of their livelihood. For e.g., tendu leaves are classified as Minor Forest Produce and are used in rolling the bidis.

  • Better profits: Earlier it was the forest authorities which invited tenders for purchase of Minor Forest Produce. This created a cartel of purchasers, leading to the fixing of prices below their market value. However, now that the control of commodities has been passed over to the communities, they can leverage the different traders to negotiate a higher price, leading to realization of better profits.

  • Forest Conservation: Many experts have pointed out that forest communities have been living for long in harmony with nature. It is only after the entry of outsiders in the region that we see a depletion in forest resources. Therefore, the forest dwellers have a much more symbiotic relation with the forest as compared to the State, outside people or other commercial ventures and forests are much safer in their custody than in the custody of the State.

  • Decrease in Corruption: With the conferment of title rights and the transfer of control over resources from State to the communities, forest officials do not have the authority to interfere in trading activities of the community. This will free the communities from the exploitative influence of some corrupt officials who exploited the residents in the hope of undue benefits.

  • Reduction in Naxalite insurgency: One of the major reasons for the rise of naxalism in India is the unrest in the communities due to the deprivation of traditional resources including land by the administration. With the FRA 2006, this is corrected for the forest-dwelling communities, leading to the resolution of a major concern.


Challenges :

  • Environmental Degradation: The act envisages the community in harmonious existence with the wild animals. However, sometimes the bigger species have a longer breeding time and need more space to reproduce. The existence of humans in their breeding area might hinder the growth prospects of such species, leading to a threat to biodiversity.

  • Bureaucratic Inertia and Apathy: There is resistance from the bureaucracy to transfer the control of the designated areas to the Gram Sabha. This might induce bureaucratic apathy and hindrance to the realization of the spirit of the Act in its totality. The bureaucracy needs to understand the intent and logic behind transferring the control of the areas to the forest-dwelling communities and back it to promote the spirit of democracy in the country.

  • Lack of reliable data: Despite the intent of transferring land titles to the community members, no census has been conducted to enumerate the requirement of land and the number of beneficiaries in the area. This might lead to issues due to the non-availability of data.

  • Lack of Awareness: The forest-dwelling communities and other beneficiaries are not educated enough to understand the impact of the Act on their lives as well as the rights they are entitled to. Similarly, they lack the idea of implementation of technical aspects of the plan.

  • Exclusion of communities: Apart from the forest dwellers, there are many communities which depend on the forest produce but reside outside the territorial limit of the forests. Such communities are not mentioned in the Act and might face issues in earning their livelihood.