Politics of Resource Management

Resources

As oxygen is to human body, a natural resource is to human existence. Resources and its management has been drastically altered through politics. It has become a tool of politics.

Natural Resource Management is the new – day hot topic for conducting studies, programs, seminars in order to use resources in a sustainable and rightly channelised manner. But, the questions here to ponder over is that, whether these are self – interested efforts or honest efforts for the right reasons and protection of our dearest and only home – Earth. At the predictable end, our most liked solution is management of not countries specific resources but the planet as one entire fraternity.

The following paper presentation will address will some of the most essential topics. The meaning of resource management, types of resources, climate change, a broad view of management. Primarily, it will move around the issue of the politics within the aegis of global politics and related case studies.

  MEANING AND NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Natural resources are everywhere on our blue and green planet  – around our coasts, along our rivers and dynamic oceans, on our farms and in our cities and well-structured towns. In most basic terms, natural resources include our land, soil, water, plants, animals, minerals and air. Natural Resource Management (NRM) is about managing our natural resources to ensure environmental, social and economic sustainability for both present and future generations in accordance with the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD).

Natural Resource Management is taking care of your resources to start with the basics and it is extremely essential as we need it to sustain ourselves. These resources are needed to be managed because it has a serious impact on our present and future generations and natural resource management also has long term implications and consequences. Primary producers and first base producers, natural resource management means taking into account the climate, soils, water, vegetation and organisms when making decisions about the land they manage. The goal is sustainability – balancing social (people and communities), economic (money and jobs) and environmental (land, water, air and living things) factors to make sure that our children and grandchildren can equally benefit from our natural resources.

Our social, economic and environmental and whole round wellbeing depends on the sustainable management and nurturing of natural resources. In fact, in many instances, the aim is to leave a way better environment for people in the future than what we have today and what we are living in today! It’s possible to see this happen, with modern science and research and scientific experiments and adopting a number of novel primary production techniques.

Every millisecond of our lives we bring into utilization the resources that nature provides us with. We breathe the air that engulfs our planet. We consume plants and other living species. We use vegetation for food and houses! We inhibit houses made of woods which was once a long and strong tree, brick that was once a dough of clay, steel that was once minerals in the earth. We drink water which is showered on us by the gods and through diversified systems of irrigation we bring into right use this water resource!! To quote further, we even use energy provided by coal or oil (most sought after resource globally) or the sun (Vitamin D)!

As a child depends on his nurturers for the basic resources of growth and development, similarly we depend on nature for all our fundamental resources – which is inclusive of warmth, water, air, shelter and the likes of it, yet only a handful of people realise it’s worth within the framework of a conscious mind.

If we dream to be a sustainably sound and balanced society then we have to realize the worth of the resources and the impacts our human lives is having on the ‘’Mother Nature’’. To support the prior statement, we humans lead a life so imbalanced and sedentary that we are leading to a climate change known as Anthropogenic Climate Change.

We, members of mankind, need to make decisions and take steps to reduce our impact so that the natural systems we are an essential factor of can go on and in turn even our own lives can proceed without any hindrances. Experts and primary producers are teaming up to manage our soil, water, vegetation and biodiversity so that we have enough food to eat, fibre to use and an unaltered planet to reside in.

A way to achieve this is to recognize that as consumers we have tremendous power in deciding how nature is treated. Rather than purchasing something for its brand name or price, we can ask ourselves, ‘Was this item produced keeping the environment in mind, or with little to no impact on the environment?’ To be able to answer this food for thought query we need to know a lot more about the production method, we need more first hand and secondary data information so that we can make informed consumption choices that benefit, and  not jeoparadise, the resources nature provides.

Buying first hand from producers without any involvement of a middle man is another way consumers can make informed choices about their food and meals. Local food systems such as farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture and farm retail outlets bring consumers in direct contact with producers. Farmers can explain how the food is grown, and consumers can provide feeds about what they like or do not like. From producers to consumers, natural resource management is everyone’s business and matter.

The concept of NRM is handled by the Natural resources managers, sometimes referred to as conservation scientists or foresters, create programs to develop and protect rangelands, forests and wetlands. Their work involves conserving and restoring natural systems and environmental settings, while taking into account economic goals and environmental policies. They may focus on protecting public lands, like national and state parks, or advising private landowners on the best ways to manage property. These managers may also weigh in on important issues, like proper methods for erosion control and the implementation of controlled burns to manage wildfires.

CURRENT INITIATIVES TO MANAGE RESOURCE MANAGEMENT POLITICS

  • Brundtland Commission – It is officially known as the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). The mission of Brundtland Commission is to unite countries and bring them together to pursue Sustainable Development as a single unit. The Honourable Chairman of the Commission, Gro Harlem Brundtland, was appointed by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, former Secretary General of the United Nations, in December 1983. At that time, the UN General Assembly realised that there was a heavy deterioration and deceleration of the human environment and it’s natural resources. To rally countries to work and pursue sustainable development together, the UN decided to establish the Brundtland Commission. Gro Harlem Brundtland was the former Prime Minister of Norway (Russia) and was chosen due to her extremely strong background in the sciences and public health field of study. The Brundtland Commission officially dissolved in December 1987 after releasing Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report, in October 1987, a document which coined, and defined the meaning of the term “Sustainable Development”. Sustainable development refers to the wise and judicious utilisation of resources so that enough is save for the future generations. As Gandhi ji, rightly pointed there is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed. Our Hindu Vedas also encouraged the concept of ‘’Sustainable Development’’. Also, Our Common Future won the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in the year 1991. The organization “Center for Our Common Future” was started in April 1988 to take the place of the Commission.

 

  • WCS provides technical advice and guidance to Government law enforcement staff at a number of project sites. Law enforcement serves to prevent forest crime, such as the illegal clearance of forests and the illegal poaching of wildlife, as well as securing and protecting forest areas for the indigenous human population that have a valid and a legit claim to the land. These staff are drawn from very powerful agencies such as the Forestry Administration, the Ministry of Environment, the Army and the Military Police.

 

  • The Australian Government has invested in a wide range of activities under its natural resource management programs and initiatives including the Caring for our Country initiative, the National Action Plan on Salinity and Water Quality, Natural Heritage Trust, National Landcare Program, and Defeating the Weeds Menace. These have variously produced a range of information products – including publications, images, audio-visual products, maps and databases – that are currently stored in a variety of widely dispersed locations and areas. The Australian Government Land and Coasts team has created a digital archive to manage these information outputs to ensure that the information produced as a result of Australian Government investments is readily discoverable and publicly accessible over an extended time period. The initial focus is on publications but the archive has the capability of storing a wide range of digital formats. The content of the repository will be publicly exposed as NRM knowledge online, an integrated knowledge management and discovery tool for information products related to primary production and NRM related research and other management activities. This policy has been created to give direction and focus for the addition of material, the development of which has been funded by the Australian government, into the NRM knowledge online digital archive. It is designed to be of assistance to both case managers and fund recipients (regional organisations, land managers, researchers and other funded persons or organisations). The NRM knowledge online digital archive provides both a reference and an archival service including full text retrieval. It has been developed to be compliant with the Open Archives Initiative interoperability standards (Open Archives Initiative) and to deliver on the Australian Government’s commitment to providing open access to publicly funded information and knowledge. The items for inclusion in the NRM knowledge online digital archive are publicly available print and the electronic format documents reporting on or derived from biodiversity conservation activities, land management activities, biophysical, social and economic research and policy activities and related initiatives supported by Australian Government natural resource management.

 POLITICS THAT GOES AROUND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Behind every important aspect like environment, health, food, poverty, nuclear weapons the various internationally legitimised and popular governments have their opinion and involvement. The situation is no different for environments and its associated concepts. Natural Resource Management has been eyed by big economies like USA, Russia and China. Middle east regions were exploited by countries like United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Spain for the very rich resource ‘’Oil’’ in the name of installing the most liked form of government – Democracy so that the Iraqi people are freed and to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to stop Saddam Hussain’s support for terrorism. This lead to cleaning of the middle east regions resource base and also a genocide and mass killings. One of the most prominent leaders of the middle east Saddam Hussain was also eventually killed after being kept in captivity. This is one case study associated with the concept of Natural Resource Management which shows that governments use their political tactics as a tool to win over certain kind of natural resources which gives their economy and country a push and a boost.

As I move further, I would like to quote a World Bank project on NRM which addresses the political economy (PE) of natural resource management in third world countries like Nigeria and Ghana. The World Bank is well aware of the variation in developing countries’ ability to draw economic benefits from the exploitation of natural resources for the societies at a large or a massive scale. What we have less information and knowledge about is the importance and significance of country-specific determinants such as the specific political economy behind natural resource management. Most producers of non-renewable resources (Coal, natural gas and oil) have significant potential for improved and faster growth through improved regulation of specific sectors, industries and better revenue management. The project aims at identifying and understanding the challenges in the regulation of industries as well as factors that may explain why returns from the sectors are below their potential and caliber. The purpose is to give the development community a better understanding of country-specific challenges behind natural resource management (NRM) – and thereby develop more tailor-made policy initiatives and efforts. The project is being carried out in six African countries which are inclusive of: Nigeria, Ghana, Niger, DRC, Guinea, and Mauritania. It is financed in its total by the World Bank (An internationally recognized bank). CMI is responsible for the studies in Ghana and Nigeria, and the research is carried out in collaboration and cooperation with local country specialists and highly trained experts.

Politics, in a nut shell, should only have involvement to the level and extent wherein the damage to the international community and the environment and along with its resources is not committed. Politics is not a tool but a blessing to improve the different global issues which need immediate addressing. Just to exemplify, extinction of resources to climate change. Also, countries should have relations for goods exchange in a manner wherein and, also NRM is a savior and safeguard in order to save the resources which are coming to an end and which are endangered. I conclude, by visioning “Natural Resource Management as a boon rather than a bane if it is used in a right direction and in a highly channelised manner. More and more countries should take up the concept of NRM and implement it for the global good, peace and harmony.

 

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What are the major challenges in West Asia? Do you think that dictatorships in West Asia/ Middle East were necessary evils to maintain relative peace in the region?

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“The Middle East has been the chrysalis of three of the world’s great religions. From its stern landscape have issued conquerors and prophets holding aloft banners of universal aspirations. Across its seemingly limitless horizons, empires have been established and fallen; absolute rulers have proclaimed themselves the embodiment of all power, only to disappear as if they had been mirages. Here every form of domestic and international order has existed, and been rejected, at one time or another”

 

– Henry Kissinger, “Chapter 3: Islamism and the Middle East: A World in Disorder;” World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History, 2014

WEST ASIA /MIDDLE EAST THE BACKDROP:

West Asia in popular parlance also referred to as to the Middle East is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey, Asia and Egypt. ArabsTurksPersiansKurds, and Azeris  constitute the largest ethnic groups in the region by population. Minorities of the Middle Eastinclude JewsBaloch,  Greeks,  Assyrians, and other ArameansBerbersCircassians ,Kabardians, Copts, etc.

The Middle East lies at the juncture of Eurasia and Africa and of the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is the birthplace and spiritual center of religions such as ChristianityIslamJudaismManichaeismYezidiDruzeYarsan and Mandeanism, and in Iran, MithraismZoroastrianismManicheanism, and the Bahá’í Faith. Throughout its history the Middle East has been a major center of world affairs; a strategically, economically, politically, culturally, and religiously sensitive area.

The modern Middle East began after World War I, when the Ottoman Empire, which was allied with the Central Powers, was defeated by the British Empire and their allies and partitioned into a number of separate nations, initially under British and French Mandates. Other defining events in this transformation included the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the eventual departure of European powers, notably Britain and France by the end of the 1960s. They were supplanted in some part by the rising influence of the United States from the 1970s onwards.

In the 20th century, the region’s significant stocks of crude oil gave it new strategic and economic importance. Mass production of oil began around 1945, with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates having large quantities of oil. Estimated oil reserves, especially in Saudi Arabia and Iran, are some of the highest in the world, and the international oil cartel OPEC is dominated by Middle Eastern countries.

During the Cold War, the Middle East was a theater of ideological struggle between the two superpowers and their allies: NATO and the United States on one side, and the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact on the other, as they competed to influence regional allies. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the region has experienced both periods of relative peace and tolerance and periods of conflicts.

CURRENT STATE OF PLAY IN THE MIDDLE EAST:

Troubling instability in the security, political, economic and social realms marks the current reality of the Middle East. The impact of this instability is not limited to the Middle East alone but has also spilled over into the international system, forcing Western countries to contend with waves of jihadist terrorism and immigration on an unprecedented scale.

The Middle East is also becoming a region of renewed rivalry between the US and Russia.

The emerging regional reality is characterised by the following attributes:

Disintegration of the Political Order

Arab nation-states, such as Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq, were ruled for decades by authoritarian leaders. During this time, these rulers succeeded in maintaining state stability through: a) State institutions, armies, and security and intelligence apparatuses, ensuring survival of the regime through oppression of the civilian population; b) the exclusion of groups, tribes and sects (such as the Houthis in Yemen, the Sunnis and the Kurds in Syria, the Sunnis in Iraq and certain Bedouin tribes in Libya); and c) the management of the country’s domestic and foreign affairs. This involved the suppression of subversive forces, including jihadist terror organisations that posed a threat to the regime. State leaders took care to nurture the legitimacy of their rule and the illegitimacy of subversive forces using national identity, which they also attempted to cultivate despite shaky historical, ethnic, religious or cultural foundations.

Peripheral Regions as Frontiers

The central government in many of these countries lost control of peripheral regions and focused their efforts and resources on ensuring survival in the areas surrounding the capitals and large cities. Peripheral regions have thus become frontier regions, attracting jihadi terrorist groups that have based their organisations and activities in these uncontrolled areas.

The Spread of ISIS and Radical Jihad

The civil war that developed in Syria and the fragility of Iraq has resulted in the spread of ISIS in northwest Iraq and northeast Syria, its establishment throughout a broad territory, its control over the population in this territory, and the mass murder—in some cases, on par with genocide of all non-Sunnis and all Sunnis ISIS leadership classifies as infidels.

Network Jihad in the Making

ISIS’s successes have attracted other jihadi groups in the region to join its ranks in an effort to bring about an Islamic revolution they expect will be followed by the establishment of the Islamic State. This process is reflective of a new phenomenon of “network jihad”: Jihadist terrorist groups in the Middle East are accepting the authority of ISIS as a parent organization.

Iran, its Hegemonic Aspirations and Proxies

In order to ensure its vital interests in the region, Iran has mobilized itself completely, openly and in a declared manner to come to the assistance of the Syrian regime. To this end, Iran has also mobilized Hezbollah, its protégé and proxy and Syria’s ally.

The Sunni-Shiite Split in the Arab World

The involvement of Iran and Hezbollah in regional conflicts has not stopped in Syria. Both have also maintained an active presence in Iraq, and active Iranian involvement has also reached Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. In actuality, the Arab upheaval has become a tool and a justification used by the Iranians to expand Shiite spheres of influence. Iranian involvement has served to escalate and broaden the Sunni-Shiite split in the Arab world.

An expanding Turkish role

ISIS’s area of operation borders on Turkey and has had a direct impact on Turkey’s strategic interests in the region. Turkey regards itself as a regional power in competition with Iran and fears a split within the country as a result of stronger Kurdish national sentiment. Iraq’s Kurdish autonomy, and the apparent joining of forces of the Iraqi Kurds and their Kurdish brethren in Syria, has raised levels of Turkish anxiety and restlessness.

The upheaval that is currently gripping the Arab world is resulting in some of the most serious humanitarian crises that the region has known in recent decades. This is particularly so because of the large populations that have been uprooted and the migratory processes that have become prevalent both within the region and from the region outward. This migration is economically, socially and politically significant. It has become a destabilizing influence in countries such as Jordan and Lebanon, a serious humanitarian problem in Syria, and an intensifying source of trouble for Muslim communities in the Western countries seeing an influx of refugees.

CONSEQUENCE AND DESIRABILITY OF DICTATORSHIP IN THE MIDDLE EAST:

The Middle East /West Asia region, post-Arab Spring, is in a state of flux and uncertainty. But is dictatorship an answer to this conundrum.

The Arab revolution that started in Tunisia in January 2011 spread like wildfire to other parts of the region. The causes of the Arab Spring were common across the Arab landscape. The actors of these revolutions were mainly young people from civil society, who were mobilized by the new technologies of communication, such as social media forms like Twitter and Facebook. They demanded the establishment of democracy, respect for human rights, social equality, economic and socio-cultural reforms and development, anti-corruption measures, as well as good governance. The populace also revolted against the monopoly of wealth and the grip of ruling monarchies and their families on social, economic, military and judicial institutions. Through these revolts, they expressed their suffering brought on by a repressive economic regime (DICTATORSHIP!!!!) marked by high unemployment, high inflation, poor social housing, widespread poverty and lack of access to basic social and health services.

The political consequences of the Arab Spring were spectacular. The fall of dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen was followed by significant political reforms in some countries, including in those that did not experience large-scale protests, such as Morocco, Mauritania, Jordan and Algeria. More free and transparent elections were held in several Arab countries. There was also an expansion of individual and collective freedoms with regard to expression, association and the press. Elected assemblies were put in place, and governments were formed.

Some of the Arab countries plunged deeper into a state of instability, as in the case of Libya, where successive governments could not hold on to Tripoli against the rising power of Islamist militias. Syria’s bloody civil war has persevered for three years now. Iraq is in a dire situation after the departure of US troops, with the rivalry among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds having further crystallised. In Jordan and Oman, some political reforms have allowed for the preservation of the regimes. In Tunisia, a new constitution was adopted.

One surprise of the Arab Spring has been the rise of Islamist parties. These parties, who were persecuted under previous authoritarian regimes, had previously made concerted efforts towards providing services for the marginalized communities that continued to be deprived by their respective rulers. Therefore, when free and transparent elections were organized, these parties won most of them. But once in power, they lacked, on the one hand, discernment and advocated a revival of Islam in the entire society, and skill, on the other hand, to improve the economic situation. Their inability to organize themselves as economic providers eventually led to their eviction in Egypt and, to some extent, in Tunisia. What complicated the situation was the emergence of radical Islamists, who claim that they will restore the Islamic Khalifa.

The Arab countries have shown, like all other peoples of the world, the desire for democracy, equality, respect for human rights, and economic and social development. The Arab world saw the fall of some dictators; other authoritarian regimes have been able to maintain their power by using financial prowess to placate populations and keep peace.

Thus instead of hankering for dictatorship, the political outlook for the Arab must promote democracy, which alone can create grounds for stable and long-term development. Economically, Arab countries must ensure stability, that is to say, eliminate budget deficits, avoid high debt, ensure low inflation and maintain as much as possible, substantial foreign exchange reserves.

In the absence of a functional infrastructure and tradition, and a commitment to society and state as opposed to merely ‘leader’ and ‘regime,’ these states crumbled, and the alternative regimes set up in their stead were unable to establish sufficiently broad legitimacy for their existence. Hence, strong democratic institutions are required in the Middle East for peace and prosperity.

 

 

 

LESSON OF A LIFETIME

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Today, I am going to narrate a story which I presume will touch every heart. The helplessness of an old woman, the pain of a starving family, the final decision of a judge and the understanding and compassionate nature of the people. All of this makes this story one of a kind. The story that I am going to narrate will be in the form of a dialogue.

 

This story is known as “The night trial in New York” in 1935. On a cold January evening in 1935, a trial was held in New York City. An old, weak and tattered looking woman named “Lilly” was on trial for stealing a loaf of bread. She looked sad and hidden in the sadness was shame of committing a crime.

 

The mayor of New York City “Fiorello LaGuardia” happened to be the judge that night. He asked her, “Did you steal the loaf of bread?’’ The woman lowered her head and said, “That’s right, your honor, I did steal the loaf of bread.” The Judge then asked her, “What was your motive behind stealing the loaf of bread? Were you hungry? “. Looking at the Judge, the woman said, “Yes, I was hungry, but I didn’t steal the loaf of bread for myself.” My son-in-law abandoned his family, my daughter fell sick, and their two children were starving. They hadn’t eaten in days. I couldn’t stand seeing them hungry; they are still so young.”

 

By the time she finished speaking, the whole courtroom had fallen silent. The Judge told the woman, “Everyone is equal under the law”. For stealing the loaf of bread, you can choose to either pay a $10 fine or go to prison for 10 days.” She said: “Your honor I am willing to be punished for what I have done… but respectfully, if I had a $10 I wouldn’t have stolen the bread. I am willing to go to jail.  My only concern is who will take care of my daughter and grandchildren while I’m in jail?”  The judge paused for a moment and leaned back in his chair. He then reached into his pocket, pulled out a $10 note and held it up for the court to see. He said loudly and assertively, “With this $10 note I will pay for your punishment, you are free to leave.” He turned to the people in the courtroom and proclaimed: “In addition, I charge each person in the court 50 cents as a penalty for the indifference and ignorance in this community. An old woman should not have to steal bread to feed her family. Mr. Baillif, go collect the money and give it to the accused.”

 

50 cents each came from the owner of the grocery store where the woman stole the  loaf of bread, as well as from a dozen other defendants awaiting trial, and several police officers. They all felt honored to contribute 50 cents and stood up to warmly and happily applaud the verdict. The next day the story was featured in a New York City newspaper, which reported that the amount of $47.50 had been given to the poor, accused old woman. The judge’s decision or discretion made a point of how complicit people had become in the suffering of others and how all are accountable in the crime. The message spread throughout the city. And, the beautiful story ends here.

 

The essence of the story is that, we are all connected in this world, if one suffers, so do we all. If one does well in life, then it takes the support of a lot of people. We as a global community, as one family cannot do without another. We should rather support each other in living a safe and a happy life. And, it is up to us to ensure that no person, family or community goes unnoticed. It’s easy for us to look after our own material benefits and not pay attention to the needs of others. What takes huge effort, is to think about of others too and not harm them. The point which is also to be remembered here is that “Goodness without utility leads to exploitation and goodness with utility leads to respect”. So be good but do not let anyone trample over you or walk over you or take advantage of you. Also, what should be remembered is that  “Goodness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”- Mark Twain

 

Do remember sharing is caring! See you all with my next post!

What is “climate change”? Should a country like India be concerned about “climate change”? What can countries do about this problem? Illustrate your answer with examples of government policy in the Asian context.

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“Climate Change” has become such a pervasive phenomena that it has now entered the dictionary as a noun and is defined as follows:

“a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels”.

Greenhouse gases act like a blanket around the Earth. They trap warmth from the sun and make life on Earth possible. Without them, too much heat would escape and the surface of the planet would freeze. However, increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes the Earth to heat more and the climate to change. Multiple evidence show climate change is happening such as:

  • direct temperature measurements on land
  • extended growing seasons of plants
  • changes in rainfall patterns resulting in more floods, droughts and intense rain

It is extremely likely that humans are the cause of recent warming. It is true that climate change has been driven by natural causes in the past. However, over the past 150 years there has been a marked and growing increase in greenhouse gas producing activities such as industry, agriculture and transportation. These human-induced activities are increasing the level of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and causing the earth not only to heat up, but to heat up at an unprecedented rate. This recent warming can only be explained by the influence of humans.

In the Asia or Pacific region there is evidence of prominent increases in the intensity and/or frequency of many extreme events such as heat waves, tropical cyclones, prolonged dry spells, intense rainfall, tornadoes, snow avalanches, thunderstorms, and severe dust storms in the region. Furthermore, the region is highly subject to natural hazards, such as the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan Earthquake, and the 2006 landslides in the Philippines. Such impacts pose additional risks for already vulnerable communities striving to combat poverty and achieve sustainable development. The Asia/Pacific region accounted for 91% of the world’s total death and 49% of the world’s total damage due to natural disasters in the last century. Therefore, climate change poses a serious and additional threat to poor farmers and rural communities in the region who live in remote, marginal areas such as mountains, drylands and deserts; areas with limited natural resources, communication and transportation networks and weak institutions. In particular, climate models indicate temperature increases in the Asia/Pacific region on the order of 0.5-2°C by 2030 and 1-7°C by 2070. Temperatures are expected to increase more rapidly in the arid areas of northern Pakistan and India and western China. Additionally, models indicate rising rainfall concentration throughout much of the region, including greater rainfall during the summer monsoon. Furthermore, winter rainfall is likely to decline in South and Southeast Asia, suggesting increased aridity from the winter monsoon. Freshwater availability in Central, South, East and South-East Asia, particularly in large river basin, is projected to decrease due to climate change which, along with population growth and increasing demand arising from higher standards of living, could adversely affect more that a billion of people by the 2050s. Expansion of areas under severe water stress will be one of the most pressing and urgent environmental problems in the region, especially in South and South East Asia, as the number of poor rural people living under serious water stress is expected to increase substantially in absolute terms.

The strategies adopted by the Asian countries primarily focuses on:

  • enhancing the region’s adaptive capacity
  • utilising market mechanisms more effectively
  • building a low carbon society and exploiting developmental co-benefits

In the case of India a National action plan on climate change (NAPCC) has been adopted  which  is guided by the following principles: (i) protecting the poor and vulnerable sections of society through an inclusive and sustainable development strategy, sensitive to climate change; (ii) achieving national growth through ecological sustainability; (iii) devising efficient and cost-effective strategies for end use Demand Side Management; (iv) deploying appropriate technologies for both adaptation and mitigation of greenhouse gases emissions; (v) engineering new and innovative forms of market, regulatory and voluntary mechanisms to promote sustainable development; (vi) effecting implementation of programmes by including civil society and local government institutions and through public- private partnership; and (vii) welcoming international cooperation for research, development, sharing and transfer of technologies Eight National Missions form the core of the NAPCC, which represents a multi-pronged, long-term and integrated approach for achieving key goals in the context of climate change. These include: National Solar Mission, National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency, National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, National Water Mission, National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, National Mission for a Green India, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change.

 

Why it is important for the government to invest in basic infrastructure namely, water supply and sanitation ?

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Financing water and sanitation Key issues in increasing resources to the sector Water and sanitation struggle to receive funding in the developing world, where governments are pressed with struggling economies, huge debts and a host of other socio-political problems. Most often, they have to prioritise other basic social services, such as education and health, over water and sanitation. In general developing countries spend anywhere between 1% and 3% of government budgets on low cost water and sanitation.

Water-related efforts in the developing world are often balkanized and not sufficiently integrated to ensure sustainable water services. There can be different strategies to ensure access to safe water depending on the country and its social needs. The different strategies may have impacts on reaching the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the proportion of the population that lacks access to improved water and sanitation by 2015. Water and sanitation concerns are of great magnitude.

United Nations reports suggest that 1.1 billion individuals, approximately 17 percent of the world’s population, are without improved water and more do not have access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion, approximately 41 percent, are without improved sanitation. Even worse, many of the world’s school children attend a school without water or toilets. Not surprisingly, 40 percent of the world’s school-age children have worm infections, predisposing them to cognitive and developmental problems. It is further estimated that 5,000 children die every day from diseases because of lack of safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene.

In many regions of the world, collecting water is primarily the responsibility of women. Women’s lives are further impacted by lack of water and sanitation because they are responsible for the care of children, who are affected by diarrheal disease. Women do not always have the financial resources to pay for water purchases, treatment, or new investments. However, it is not just access to water that is a problem. The lack of sanitation means that, in some places, women and girls must wait until nightfall to defecate, while in some nations more than 50 percent of girls drop out of school due to the lack of toilets. These disparities have additional implications for health, education, and human rights.

Thus, women and children place a higher value on water and sanitation. A study showed that microcredit loans provided to women in Bangladesh increased the presence of latrines in their household from 9 to 26 percent over three years; the control group showed a slight decrease in latrine presence during the same time period. Much work must be done in order to reach a global goal of increasing access to improved sanitation in many parts of the world.

With regard to standards for improved water and sanitation, it is important to recognize that improved water is not necessarily safe drinking water. Improved water access includes household connections, public standpipes, rainwater collection, boreholes, and protected wells, but not water vendors, unprotected wells, unprotected springs, rivers or ponds, or tanker truck water. Improved sanitation includes connections to public sewers, septic systems, pour-flush and improved pit latrines, but not shared, traditional, or open pit latrines.

Recognising the importance of water and sanitation a Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India has been created. The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation is the nodal department for the overall policy, planning, funding and coordination of programmes of drinking water and sanitation in the country. It is primarily working towards the objective of providing Safe drinking water and improved sanitation for all, at all times, in rural India with a mission  to ensure all rural households have access to and use of safe and sustainable drinking water and improved sanitation facilities by providing support to state in their endeavor to provide these basic facilities and services.

However, meeting the goals of universal safe water and sanitation is at some distance due to primarily financial, societal and governance related issues.

GST and it’s benefits for the Indian Economy

bl10thinkGST 

The introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) would be a very significant step in the field of indirect tax reforms in India. By amalgamating a large number of Central and State taxes into a single tax, it would mitigate cascading or double taxation in a major way and pave the way for a common national market. From the consumer point of view, the biggest advantage would be in terms of a reduction in the overall tax burden on goods, which is currently estimated to be around 25%-30%. Introduction of GST would also make Indian products competitive in the domestic and international markets.

 

The idea of moving towards the GST was first mooted by the then Union Finance Minister (P. Chidambaram) in his Budget for 2007-08. Currently, fiscal powers between the Centre and the States are clearly demarcated in the Constitution with almost no overlap between the respective domains. The Centre has the powers to levy tax on the manufacture of goods (except alcoholic liquor for human consumption, opium, narcotics etc.) while the States have the powers to levy tax on sale of goods. In case of inter-State sales, the Centre has the power to levy a tax (the Central Sales Tax) but, the tax is collected and retained entirely by the originating States. As for services, it is the Centre alone that is empowered to levy service tax. Since the States are not empowered to levy any tax on the sale or purchase of goods in the course of their importation into or exportation from India, the Centre levies and collects this tax as additional duties of customs, which is in addition to the Basic Customs Duty. This additional duty of customs (commonly known as CVD and SAD) counter balances excise duties, sales tax, State VAT and other taxes levied on the like domestic product. Introduction of GST would require amendments in the Constitution so as to concurrently empower the Centre and the States to levy and collect the GST. The assignment of concurrent jurisdiction to the Centre and the States for the levy of GST would require a unique institutional mechanism that would ensure that decisions about the structure, design and operation of GST are taken jointly by the two. For it to be effective, such a mechanism also needs to have Constitutional force.

 

To address all these and other issues, the Constitution (122ndAmendment) Bill was introduced in the 16thLok Sabha on 19.12.2014. The Bill provides for a levy of GST on supply of all goods or services except for Alcohol for human consumption. The tax shall be levied as Dual GST separately but concurrently by the Union, and the States. The Parliament would have exclusive power to levy GST (integrated tax – IGST) on inter-State trade or commerce (including imports) in goods or services. The Central Government will have the power to levy excise duty in addition to the GST on tobacco and tobacco products. The tax on supply of five specified petroleum products namely crude, high speed diesel, petrol, ATF and natural gas would be levied from a later date on the recommendation of GST Council.  A Goods and Services Tax Council (GSTC) shall be constituted comprising the Union Finance Minister, the Minister of State (Revenue) and the State Finance Ministers to recommend on the GST rate, exemption and thresholds, taxes to be subsumed and other features. This mechanism would ensure some degree of harmonisation on different aspects of GST between the Centre and the States as well as across States. One half of the total number of members of GSTC would form quorum in meetings of GSTC. Decision in GSTC would be taken by a majority of not less than three-fourth of weighted votes cast. Centre and minimum of 20 States would be required for majority because Centre would have one-third weightage of the total votes cast and all the States taken together would have two-third of weightage of the total votes cast.

 

GST will help to create a unified common national market for India, giving a boost to Foreign investment and “Make in India” campaign; (ii) Will prevent cascading of taxes as Input Tax Credit will be available across goods and services at every stage of supply; (iii) Harmonisation of laws, procedures and rates of tax; (iv) It will boost export and manufacturing activity, generate more employment and thus increase GDP with gainful employment leading to substantive economic growth; (v) Ultimately it will help in poverty eradication by generating more employment and more financial resources; (vi) More efficient neutralization of taxes especially for exports thereby making our products more competitive in the international market and give boost to Indian Exports; (vii) Improve the overall investment climate in the country which will naturally benefit the development in the states. Essentially, GST is going to be a game changer for the Indian Economy helping us eradicate poverty in the long run.