Daily Editorial Analysis for 3rd February 2020

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Why wetlands matter to world and India?

Paper: III

For Prelims: Ramsar Convention.

For Mains: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Context of News:

  • February 2, is the World Wetlands Day. It was on this date in 1971 that the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was adopted in Ramsar, Iran. Only last week, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change had announced that the Ramsar Convention had declared 10 wetlands from India as sites of “international importance” taking the total number of Ramsar Sites in the country to 37.

Ramsar Convention:

  • The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the Convention was signed in 1971.
  • The Ramsar Convention’s broad aims are to halt the worldwide loss of wetlands and to conserve, through wise use and management, those that remain. This requires international cooperation, policy making, capacity building and technology transfer.
  • The Ramsar Convention encourages the designation of sites containing representative, rare or unique wetlands, or wetlands that are important for conserving biological diversity. Once designated, these sites are added to the Convention’s List of Wetlands of International Importance and become known as Ramsar sites. In designating a wetland as a Ramsar site, countries agree to establish and oversee a management framework aimed at conserving the wetland and ensuring its wise use.

What are wetlands?

  • Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of 1971 defines wetlands as –  “Areas of marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.
  • In simple terms, a wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally. This definition brings ponds, lakes, estuaries, reservoirs, creeks, mangroves and many more water bodies under the ambit of wetlands.
  • Further, wetlands can be categorized into marine (coastal wetlands), estuarine (including deltas, tidal marshes, and mangrove swamps), lacustrine (lakes), riverine (along rivers and streams), and palustarine (‘marshy’– marshes, swamps and bogs) based on their hydrological, ecological and geological characteristics.

Recent Addition of 10 wetlands from India in Ramsar Sites:

  • India has 37 Ramsar sites now, covering an area of 1.07 million ha.
  • The latest additions include Maharashtra’s first Ramsar site, the Nandur Madhmeshwar bird sanctuary; three more from Punjab (in Keshopur-Miani, Beas Conservation Reserve and Nangal); and six more from Uttar Pradesh (in Nawabganj, Parvati Agra, Saman, Samaspur, Sandi and Sarsai Nawar).

Importance of Wetlands:

  • Carbon sequestration: 
  • Swamps, mangroves, peat lands, mires and marshes play an important role in carbon cycle. Wetland soils may contain as much as 200 times more carbon than its vegetation.
  • In India, coastal wetlands are playing a major role in carbon sequestration. The total extent of coastal ecosystems (including mangroves) in India is around 43000 km.
  • Overall, mangroves are able to sequester about 1.5 metric tonne of carbon per hectare per year and the upper layers of mangrove sediments have high carbon content, with conservative estimates indicating the levels of 10 percent.
  • Pollution abatement: 
  • Wetlands act as a sink for contaminants in many agricultural and urban landscapes. In India too, wetlands are polluted through agricultural runoff and discharge of untreated sewage and other waste from urban areas.
  • Flood control: 
  • Wetlands play an important role in flood control. Wetlands help to lessen the impacts of flooding by absorbing water and reducing the speed at which flood water flows. Further, during periods of flooding, they trap suspended solids and nutrient load.
  • Wetland also plays an important role in the conservation the coastal degradation by binding the soil.
  • Biodiversity hotspots:
  • Wetlands are important in supporting species diversity. Because wetlands provide an environment where photosynthesis can occur and where the recycling of nutrients can take place, they play a significant role in the support of food chains.

Threats to Wetlands:

  • Urbanization: Wetlands near urban centres are under increasing developmental pressure for residential, industrial and commercial facilities. Urban wetlands are essential for preserving public water supplies.
  • Agriculture:Vast stretches of wetlands have been converted to paddy fields. Construction of a large number of reservoirs, canals and dams to provide for irrigation significantly altered the hydrology of the associated wetlands.
  • Pollution:Wetlands act as natural water filters. However, they can only clean up the fertilizers and pesticides from agricultural runoff but not mercury from industrial sources and other types of pollution.
  • There is growing concern about the effect of industrial pollution on drinking water supplies and the biological diversity of wetlands.
  • Climate Change:Increased air temperature; shifts in precipitation; increased frequency of storms, droughts, and floods; increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration; and sea level rise could also affect wetlands.

Way Forward:

  • To counter unplanned urbanization and a growing population, management of wetlands has to be an integrated approach in terms of planning, execution and monitoring.
  • Effective collaborations among academicians and professionals, including ecologists, watershed management specialists, planners and decision makers for overall management of wetlands.
  • Spreading awareness by initiating awareness programs about the importance of wetlands and constant monitoring of wetlands for their water quality would provide vital inputs to safeguard the wetlands from further deterioration.

Falling short of aspirations

GS Paper III

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Prelims: Trade Receivables Discounting System (TReDS)

What’s the News?

  • There were many expectations from the Union Budget 2020: that it would reverse the falling growth rate, reduce unemployment and rekindle the animal spirits needed to revive private investment.
  • While the Budget offers hope on the last count, it leaves much to be desired on several other parameters.

Skill development allocation:

  • There is a huge, unmet demand for teachers, paramedical staff and caregivers, and skilled workers.
  • Well-paying jobs are created in the organised services and industry but require candidates with quality education and skills.
  • Both elude India’s youth due to the poor quality of education and lack of opportunities to acquire practical skills.

The Budget could have given tax incentives to companies to provide internships and on-site vocational training to unemployed youth. The country cannot afford to let the world’s largest workforce waste this way.

Budget on flagship welfare schemes:

  • Budgetary allocations for the Pradhan Mantri KIsan SAmman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) are disappointing.
  • These two schemes are good instruments for income transfers to small and marginal farmers, landless labour who spend most of their income and generate demand for a wide range of goods and services.
  • Higher disbursement under these schemes would have benefited most sectors of the economy. Budgetary allocations for health and education are also well below what is needed.

So, the Budget falls well short of expectations when it comes to boosting demand.

Boosting rural demand:

  • Rural roads, cold storage, and logistical chains are crucial for the growth of income and employment in rural India, as the multiplier effects of rural infrastructure investment on growth and employment are large and extensive.
  • Schemes such as micro irrigation scheme for 100 water-stressed districts are welcome and so is a modest increase in allocations for agriculture and rural development schemes.

Role of Public Investment:

  • The allocation of ₹1.7 lakh crore for transportation infrastructure is also a welcome step.
  • If the public investment infrastructure actually materialises, it will lend credence to revival of the investment cycle — to spur job-creating growth.
  • Getting private investment:
  • To pull in private investment, the public funding should be front-loaded in under-implementation projects.
  • Small irrigation and rural road projects are also relatively easy to complete and deliver immense benefits to several sectors.
  • Private investment depends on the cost of capital along with the certainty of returns.
  • Many projects have been mired in contractual disputes with government departments and various regulatory hurdles.
  • All these factors make infrastructure investment unnecessarily risky and render these projects unattractive for investors.

Infrastructure Finance:

Focus of the Budget is the multiple schemes for government bonds mainly through additional room for foreign portfolio investors and exchange traded funds in government bonds. These are welcome moves but are not enough.

  • The fundamental problem of infrastructure finance is the asset-liability mismatch which can be addressed only by developing a vibrant ‘corporate bond market.
  • A well-developed bond market should draw upon domestic insurance funds, pension funds and mutual funds which are capable of investing in corporate bonds across different schemes.
  • Startups:
  • Some relief on the tax they have to pay and on taxation of the Employee Stock Option Plans is welcome.
  • Scheme to allow the non-banking financial companies into the Trade Receivables Discounting System (TReDS) — an ecosystem that aims to facilitate the financing and settling of trade-related transactions of small entities with corporate and other buyers, including government departments and public sector undertakings is also welcome.
  • However the reluctance to abolish the angel tax that results in harassment of start-ups and their investors is unfathomable.

  • Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) sector:
  • Threshold for audit of the accounts has been increased from ₹1 crore to ₹5 crore for those entities that carry out less than 5% of their business transactions in cash.
  • Government has extended the window for restructuring of loans for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises till March 31, 2021.
  • However, for many products produced by these enterprises, the tax rates are higher for inputs than the final goods.
  • Also, many SMEs suffer from high taxes on imports of raw material and exports of intermediary services by them.


  • The future of the economy will turn on whether the government walks the talk in terms of public investment and the promises made to different sections of society including the taxpayer and companies.
  • When it comes to reviving private sentiments, actions will speak much louder than the budgetary promises.

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