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UPSC Online Editorial Analysis



Title:Hazardous ideas for the Himalayas

Written by:C.P. Rajendran is Adjunct Professor at theNational Institute of Advanced Studies,Bengaluru

Topic in syllabus:Disaster and Disaster Management.(GS-3)

Analysis about:This editorial talks about how India and China are placing the Himalayan region at great risk by planning hydropower projects.


  • In an article published on the website of the Central Committee of theCommunist Youth League, China announced that it is planning to build amajor hydropower project as a partof its 14th Five­Year Plan (2021-­25), onthe Yarlung Zanbo River, in MêdogCounty in Tibet. The hydropowergeneration station is expected to provide 300 billion kWh of electricityannually.
  • The Chinese authorities saythe project will help the country realise its goal of reaching a carbon emission peak before 2030 and carbonneutrality before 2060.
  • As speculation about this news began floating around in Mêdog County, not far from Arunachal Pradesh,Indian counterparts were quick toreiterate their plans to dam the Himalayas on this side of the border. India is reportedly considering a 10­GW hydropower project in an eastern State.

Intensity of the projects being built in the region:

  • Thereare two hydropower projects in theworks in Arunachal Pradesh on the tributaries of the Brahmaputra: the600 MW Kameng project on the Bichom and Tenga Rivers and the2,000 MW Subansiri Lower Hydroelectricity Project.
  • On the other sideof the border, China has alreadycompleted 11 out of 55 projects thatare planned for the Tibetan region.

What are the concerns regarding past experience in this region?

  • Himalayan region is geologically unstable,ecologically fragile andseismically vulnerable area.
  • There is an earthquake vulnerability in the region.
  • High seismic zonescoincide with areas of high population concentration in the Himalayanregion where landslides and glaciallake outburst floods are common.
  • About 15% of the great earthquakesof the 20th century (with a magnitude of more than 8) occurred in theHimalayan region.
  • The northeast Himalayan bend has experienced several large earthquakes of magnitude7 and above in the last 100 years,more than the share from other partsof the Himalayas.
  • The 1950 earthquake just south ofthe McMahon Line was of 8.6 magnitude. It was the largest continental event ever recorded, and devastated Tibet and Assam.
  • The 2015 Gorkha earthquake of magnitude 7.8 in central Nepal resulted inhuge losses in the hydropower sector.

What are the probable threats?

  • The main mechanisms that contributed to the vulnerability of hydropower projects were found to be landslides, which depend on the intensity of seismic ground shaking and slope gradients.
  • Heavy siltation from giant landslides expected in the project sites and headwater region from future earthquakes will severely reduce the water­holding capacity and life expectancy of such dams.
  • Even without earthquakes, the steep slopes made of soft rocks are bound to slide due to deforestation and road­building.
  • The northeast Himalayan bend with its deep gorges is themost unsuitable locale within the Himalayas for giant dams. Also, we donot know how reservoirs with theirwater load would alter the existingstresses and strains on the earth’scrust in the long term, impacting thefrequency of earthquakes and theirmechanisms.

Other challenges:

  • The Himalayan range isa source for numerous Asian riversystems and glaciers which are nowunder the threat of degradation andretreat due to global warming; these river systems provide water for billions of people.
  • This legacy of humanity has now become highly contentious with territorial disputesbetween two nuclear powers — Indiaand China.

The way forward:

  • The upper Himalayas should be converted into a nature reserve by an international agreement.
  • The possibility of a Himalayan River Commission involving all the headwater and downstream countries needs to be explored.
  • Rather than engaging in unsustainable dam ­building activities, India and China, the major players in the region, would be well advised to disengage from military adventurism and seek ways of transforming this ‘roof of the world’ into a natural reserve for the sake of humanity.
  • Carbon neutrality should not be at the expense of the environment.


Title:Innovations for cleaner air

Written by:Rozita Singh, Krishnan S. and Swetha Kolluri(They work with Accelerator Lab, UNDP India)

Topic in syllabus:Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation(GS-3)

Analysis about:This editorial talks about why monitoring air pollution alone isn’t enough & why Indianeeds context­specific solutions to tackle the problem.


  • Over the past decade, India has madesignificant progress in monitoring airpollution.
  • There hasbeen a tremendous effort in improving awareness of citizens throughcampaigns around air pollution andits adverse impact on health and environment.
  • However, while these efforts need to amplify, it is equally important to have systemic changes atthe policy and strategy levels.

What are the policy interventions of the government for air pollution?

  • The budget allocation forair pollution increased substantiallyin 2020-­21 from what it was in 2018-­19
    to ensure cleaner air in cities havingpopulations above one million.
  • Theestablishment of the Commission forAir Quality Management with penalprovisions against polluters in theNCR and adjoining areas is a welcome move.
  • India has jumped fromBSIV to BSVI vehicles.
  • There is an increased focus on e-­mobility.
  • Throughthe Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana,there has been an effort to reduce indoor air pollution in rural areas by increasing LPG coverage.

What are the other efforts at non-governmental level?

  • TheIndian Agricultural Research Institute’s PUSA Bio Decomposer, whichturns crop residue into manure in 15­-20 days, could become a cost­effective alternative to tackle stubbleburning.
  • UNDP is also promotingstart-up­led innovations such as a filter-­less retrofit device for cutting particulate matter at source in industriesand vehicles, and a nature­based solution to amplify air purificationthrough breathing roots technologyfor improving indoor air quality.

Why & what kind of technology do we need to tackle the problem of air pollution?

  • Air pollution in India has numerous sources that are spread acrossvast geographies, which is a challenge for environmental regulatorswith limited capacity and manpower.
  • In such conditions, it is imperative toleverage advance digital technologies, such as geospatial technologyand AI, to upgrade our capacities toidentify, monitor, regulate and mitigate air pollution hotspots.
  • For instance, the Geo-AI platform for brickkilns, developed by UNDP in partnership with the University of Nottingham, is supporting environment regulators to identify non­-complaintbrick kilns from space.

The way forward:

  • Given the complexity and magnitude of air pollution, India needs context­specific innovations not only in thetechnological but also in the economic, social, legal, educational, politicaland institutional domains.
  • It is important for it to develop a single window online platform for showcasinginnovations with the potential to mitigate the challenges of air pollution.
  • Provide anenabling ecosystem for innovationsto address context­specific air pollution challenges.
  • There needs to besignificant government support forenterprises to come up with scalablepollution abatement technologies.
  • Resources need to be allocated tosupport testing, certifying and scaling of innovative solutions and also toextend support for intellectual property rights protection.
  • Businesses and enterprises need to innovate their operations and functioning, building in emission and
    pollution controls and reducing institutional carbon footprint to the lowest possible levels.


Title:A sector that needs to be nursed back to health

Written by: Dr. Vijayashree Yellappa (SeniorSpecialist, Health SystemsTransformation Platform (HSTP), NewDelhi and Fellow, National Institution forTransforming India (NITI) Aayog.)

Topic in syllabus: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources. (GS-2)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about how nursing education in India suffers poor quality of training, inequitable distribution, and non­-standardised practices& it also tells what needs to be done.


  • The year 2020 has been desig­nated as “International Year of the Nurse and the Mid­ wife”.
  • Nurses and midwives will be central to achieving universal health coverage in India.

Issues related to nursing workforce& nursing education:

  • India’s nursingworkforce is about two-­thirds of itshealth workforce. Its ratio of 1.7nurses per 1,000 population is43% less than the World Health Organisation norm; it needs 2.4 million nurses to meet the norm.
  • The Indian Nursing Council regulates nursing education throughprescription, inspection, examination, and certification. However,the induction requirements varywidely and so does the functioning of regulatory bodies in theStates.
  • 91% of thenursing education institutions areprivate and weakly regulated. Thequality of training of nurses is diminished by the uneven and weakregulation.
  • The current nursing educationis outdated and fails to cater to thepractice needs.
  • The education, including re­training, is not linked tothe roles and their career progression in the nursing practice.
  • Thereare insufficient postgraduatecourses to develop skills in specialties, and address critical facultyshortages both in terms of qualityand quantity.
  • Multiple entry points to thenursing courses and lack of integration of the diploma and degree
    courses diminish the quality oftraining.
  • Though the number of nursingeducation institutions has been increasing steadily, there are vast inequities in their distribution.
  • Around 62% of them are situatedin southern India.
  • Further, despite the growth,there is little demand for postgraduate courses because the higher
    education qualification is not recognised by the recruiters.
  • The faculty positions vacant innursing college and schools arearound 86% and 80%,respectively.
  • There is a lack ofjob differentiation between diploma, graduate, and postgraduatenurses regarding their pay, parity,and promotion.
  • Consequently,higher qualifications of postgraduate nurses are underutilised,leading to low demand for postgraduate courses.
  • Thosewith advanced degrees seek employment in education institutionsor migrate abroad where their
    qualifications are recognised.
  • Small private institutions with less than 50beds recruit candidates withoutformal nursing education.
  • The Indian Nursing Act primarilyrevolves around nursing education and does not provide any policy guidance about the roles andresponsibilities of nurses in various cadres.
  • Nurses in India haveno guidelines on the scope of theirpractice and have no prescribedstandards of care. This may endanger patient safety.
  • The mismatch of the role description andremuneration that befits the rolesets the stage for the exploitationof nurses.
  • The Consumer Protection Actwhich protects the rights and safety of patients as consumers, holds
    only the doctor and the hospitalliable for medico legal issues;nurses are out of the purview ofthe Act.

What are the solutions to these problems?

  • A common entrance exam, a national licence exit examfor entry into practice, and periodic renewal of licence linked withcontinuing nursing educationwould significantly streamline andstrengthen nursing education.
  • Transparent accreditation, benchmarking, and ranking of nursinginstitutions too would improve the
    quality The governance ofnursing education and practicemust be clarified and made current.
  • The Indian Nursing CouncilAct of 1947 must be amended toexplicitly state clear norms for service and patient care, fix the nurseto patient ratio, staffing norms andsalaries.
  • The jurisdictions of theIndian Nursing Council and theState nursing councils must be explained and coordinated so thatthey are synergistic.
  • The exodus of qualified nursesmust be contained. Incentives topursue advanced degrees to
    match their qualification, clear career paths, opportunity for leadership roles, and improvements in
    the status of nursing as a profession will be key steps to do so.
  • Alive registry of nurses, positions,and opportunities should be a top priority to tackle the demand-supply gap in this sector.
  • Public­private partnership between private nursing schools/colleges and public health facilities is
    another strategy to enhance nursing education.
The way forward:
  • The disabling environment prevalent in the system has led to thelow status of nurses in the hierarchy of health­care professionals.
  • The NationalNursing and Midwifery Commission Bill currently under considerationshould hopefully address some ofthe issues highlighted.


Title: How to measure a mountain?

Topic in syllabus: Geography(GS-1) | Science & technology (GS-3)

How is the height of any mountain measured?

  • The basic principle that was used earlier is very simple, and uses only trigonometry which most of us are familiar with, or at least can recall.
  • There are three sides and three angles in any triangle. If we know any three of these quantities, provided one of them is a side, all the others can be calculated.
  • In a right-angled triangle, one of the angles is already known, so if we know any other angle and one of the sides, the others can be found out.
  • This principle can be applied for measuring the height of any object that does not offer the convenience of dropping a measuring tape from top to bottom, or if you can’t climb to the top to use sophisticated instruments.
  • Let’s say, we have to measure the height of a pole, or a building. We can mark any arbitrary point on the ground some distance from the building.
  • This can be our point of observation. We now need two things — the distance of the building from the point of observation, and the angle of elevation that the top of the building makes with the point of observation on the ground.
  • The distance is not difficult to get. The angle of elevation is the angle that an imaginary line would make if it was joining the point of observation on the ground to the top of the building.
  • There are simple instruments with the help of which this angle can be measured.
  • So, if the distance from the point of observation to the building is d and the angle of elevation is E, then the height of the building would be d × tan(E).

Doesn’t technology offer easier solutions?

  • These days GPS is widely used to determine coordinates and heights, even of mountains. But, GPS gives precise coordinates of the top of a mountain relative to an ellipsoid which is an imaginary surface mathematically modelled to represent Earth.
  • This surface differs from mean sea level. Similarly, overhead flying planes equipped with laser beams (LiDAR) can also be used to get the coordinates.
  • But these methods, including GPS, do not take gravity into consideration. So, the information obtained through GPS or laser beams is then fed into another model that account for gravity to make the calculation complete.

What is the reason behind increased height of Mount Everest?

  • Most scientists now believe that the height of Mount Everest is increasing at a very slow rate.
  • This is because of the northward movement of the Indian tectonic plate that is pushing the surface up. It is this very movement that created the great Himalayan mountains in the first place.
  • It is this same process that makes this region prone to earthquakes. A big earthquake, like the one that happened in Nepal in 2015, also can alter the heights of mountains.

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