Daily Editorial Analysis for 20th April 2021

  1. Home
  2. »
  3. Editorial Analysis April 2021
  4. »
  5. Daily Editorial Analysis for 20th April 2021

A huge, costly mistake

Why in News

  • The Ken-­Betwa project which remained a pipe dream for more than three decades after it was first mooted may now become a reality.
  • Recently Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and the Centre signed a tripartite agreement to transfer “surplus” water from the Ken basin in M.P. to the “deficit” Betwa basin in U.P.

Ken-­Betwa River Project

  • The Ken-Betwa River project is part of the national river linking project which proposes to connect 14 Himalayan and 16 peninsular rivers with 30 canals and 3,000 reservoirs in order to irrigate 87 million hectares of land.
  • It has the status of a national project, as the Centre will contribute 90% of the cost.
  • It is India’s first river linking project and will take eight years to complete.
  • First mooted in the 1980s, the Ken-Betwa project was taken up seriously.
  • The project will enhance the irrigation potential of the water starved Bundelkhand region in U.P. and M.P., facilitate groundwater recharge and reduce the occurrence of floods.
  • According to the Memorandum of Agreement signed, the homebuilt Daudhan dam is expected to irrigate nearly 6,00,000 hectares in four districts in M.P. and 2,51,000 hectares in four districts in U.P. and provide drinking water supply to 41 lakh people in M.P. and 21 lakhs in U.P.

Environmental concerns

  • The people of the region who are going to be affected by the project seem resigned to their fate.
  • The project was on the drawing board for years mainly due to environmental concerns.
  • Of the 12,500 hectares of land to get submerged by the project, more than 9,000 ha are categorized as forest land.
  • The sub-mergence area includes a critically important section of the Panna Tiger Reserve.
  • The Reserve is considered as a shining example of conservation after it successfully improved the tiger and vulture populations.
  • Around 40% of the area of the tiger reserve will be irretrievably damaged by this project.
  • The project may destroy about 7.2 lakh trees.
  • This will affect rainfall in the already parched region.

Cost and benefit

  • The claims of Ken having surplus water may be unrealistic as the river is not perennial.
  • The Ken flows 60­70 feet lower than the Betwa and at least 30% of the 103 MW power generated will be used for pumping the water up.
  • The Union Ministry and the National Water Development Agency, which is entrusted with the project, have some issues to sort out:
  • Clearance from the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court, which had raised concerns about the project.
  • The cost ­benefits calculations of the project also don’t take into consideration the environmental and social impacts.
  • Thus, the benefits do not seem certain and are far outweighed by the costs on the environment.

Way Forward

  • It is surprising that alternatives such as water conservation and water harvesting methods without building a dam haven’t been seriously considered in the region.
  • Largescale solutions such as this are not always viable and the best.
  • Inter-linking should be the last option after all alternatives are exhausted.

GS PAPER III                                     

Protecting children in the age of AI

Why in News

  • Today’s World surrounds with the Science and Technology and Artificial Intelligence enhancing their field day by day.
  • In fact, from the Alexa’s they converse with, to their robot playmates, to the YouTube wormholes they disappear into, the children and adolescents of today are born into a world increasingly powered by virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI).
  • AI is not only changing what humans can do, it is shaping our behaviors, our preferences, our perceptions of the world and of ourselves.
  • Older people still remember life before AI and the digital world — our references, anchors, and pole stars pre-date the fourth Industrial Revolution.

Challenges Ahead in Artificial Intelligence

  • One of the most pressing concern is that not everyone can tap into the opportunities offered by traditional to Scientific transformation.
  • According to UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), as many as two-thirds of the world’s children do not have access to the Internet at home.
  • In the old-fashioned physical world, we evolved norms and standards to protect children:
  • For instance, there are policies and protocols for a child travelling alone as an unaccompanied minor.
  • Parents are understandably reluctant to let their children be photographed by the media, and in many countries, news outlets blur children’s faces to protect them.
  • The virtual world is full of unsupervised “vacations” and “playgrounds” — with other children and, potentially, less-than-scrupulous adults, sometimes posing anonymously as children.
  • Short of banning screen time entirely, parents are hard-pressed to keep tabs on just what their children are doing online, and with whom.
  • With online homework, this has become even more difficult.

Right to freedom of attention

  • Today, the AI systems is specially designing to attract children through many video games and social networks.
  • Children, from a tender age through adolescence, are becoming digitally addicted.
  • Right when children and youth are forming their initial views of the world, they are being sucked into virtual deep space, including the universe of fake news, conspiracy theories, hype, hubris, online bullying, hate speech and the likes.
  • With every click and scroll, AI is sorting them into tribes, and feeding them a steady diet of specially customized tribal cuisine.
  • All this is thrown at our children just when they are starting to try to make sense of who they are and the world they live in.

Harvesting, algorithmic bias

  • Other insidious pitfalls also lie in the path of the Generation AI child.
  • Today, many AI toys come pre-programmed with their own personality and voice.
  • They can offer playful and creative opportunities for children, with some even promoting enhanced literacy, social skills, and language development.
  • However, they also listen to and observe our children, soaking up their data, and with no framework to govern its use.
  • Some of these AI toys even perform facial recognition of children and toddlers.
  • Germany banned Cayla, an Internet-connected doll, because of concerns it could be hacked and used to spy on children.
  • Yet, most countries do not yet have the legal framework in place to ban such toys.
  • Finally, in the field of education, AI can and is being used in fabulous ways to tailor learning materials and pedagogical approaches to the child’s needs — such as intelligent tutoring systems, tailored curriculum plans, and imaginative virtual reality instruction, offering rich and engaging interactive learning experiences that can improve educational outcomes.
  • And unless the educational and performance data on children is kept confidential and anonymous, it can inadvertently typecast or brand children, harming their future opportunities.

Rights, protections

  • The next phase of the fourth Industrial Revolution must include an overwhelming push to extend Internet access to all children.
  • Governments, the private sector, civil society, parents and children must push hard for this now, before AI further deepens the pre-existing inequalities and creates its own disparities.
  • And on mitigating on-line harms, we need a multi-pronged action plan:
  • Legal and technological safeguards;
  • Greater awareness among parents, guardians, and children on how AI works behind the scenes;
  • Tools, like trustworthy certification and rating systems, to enable sound choices on safe AI apps;
  • Ban anonymous accounts;
  • Enforceable ethical principles of non-discrimination and fairness embedded in the policy and design of AI systems
  • We need “do no harm” risk assessments for all algorithms that interact with children or their data.
  • In short, we need safe online spaces for children, without algorithmic manipulation and with restricted profiling and data collection.
  • We need online tools (and an online culture) that helps
  • Prevent addiction,
  • That promotes attention-building skills, that expands children’s horizons, understanding, and appreciation for diverse perspectives, and
  • That builds their social-emotional learning capabilities.

Key first step

  • In February, in a landmark decision, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted General Comment 25, on implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and fulfilling all children’s rights in the digital environment. This is an important first step on the long road ahead.
  • The Government of India has put in place strong policies to protect the rights and well-being of children, including a legislative framework that includes the Right to Education.

Way Forward

  • Laws and policies to prevent a range of abuses and violence, such as the National Policy for Children (2013), can be extended for children in a digital space.
  • But much more needs to be done, here in India and around the world.
  • And in this interconnected world, the more we can agree upon multilaterally and by multi-stakeholder groups, the easier it may be to implement nationally and locally.
  • Just as India proactively helped shape the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and gave the world the principle of Ahimsa, it could also galvanize the international community around, ensuring an ethical AI for Generation AI.

Current Affairs

Recent Posts