CAO Daily Editorial analysis for UPSC IAS 04th-December, 2017

Current Affairs Only Daily Editorial Analysis for Competitive Exams

04th Dec, 2017


The Brahmaputra conundrum {International Relations}

(The Hindu)

In news

China is planning to divert the waters of the Yarlung Tsangpo (the upper stream of India’s Brahmaputra) to its water-starved Xinjiang province.


  • The Brahmaputra  is one of the major rivers of Asia, a trans-boundary river which flows through China, India and Bangladesh.
  • With its origin in the Angsi glacier, located on the northern side of the Himalayas in Burang County of Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangpo River
  • The river drains the Himalaya east of the Indo-Nepal border, south-central portion of the Tibetan plateau above the Ganga basin, south-eastern portion of Tibet, the Patkai-Bum hills, the northern slopes of the Meghalaya hills, the Assam plains, and the northern portion of Bangladesh

Significance to people

  • During the monsoon season (June–October), floods are a very common occurrence. Deforestation in the Brahmaputra watershed has resulted in increased siltation levels, flash floods, and soil erosion in critical downstream habitat, such as the Kaziranga National Park in middle Assam.
  • Occasionally, massive flooding causes huge losses to crops, life, and property. Periodic flooding is a natural phenomenon which is ecologically important because it helps maintain the lowland grasslands and associated wildlife.
  • The strategic location of the river makes it very important for both India and China. It is a well-known fact that China has vested interests in Arunachal Pradesh, which it has always claimed to be its own territory.
  • Moreover, the Tibet issue is also very sensitive and China wants to have full control over the territory. Hence, it is upping its efforts to build infrastructure in the region to assure seamless connectivity with the rest of China, in an attempt to increase its stronghold over the region. India too, cannot afford China to be overly aggressive in the region as she also needs the water of the river for its own developmental needs and also due to security concerns.

    Irrigation, Transport and Hydroelectricity: In addition to its location, one more factor that makes Brahmaputra very important for both India and China is its water. At about 2900 kilometers long, the Brahmaputra is an important river for irrigation, hydroelectricity generation and transportation.

    The average discharge of the river is about 19,300 cubic meters per second and it is navigable for most of its length. Thus, the river plays an important role in irrigation in China, India and Bangladesh.

    The potential for hydroelectricity generation from the river is great, which is vital for developing countries like India and China, although it has not been completely harnessed at the moment. It is also heavily used for water transport in the region, carrying bulky raw materials, timber, and crude oil.

 Why India is worried?

  • China’s dam building overdrive is a concern because there are no bilateral or multilateral treaties on the water
  • China believes dam building on the Brahmaputra helps it assert claim over Arunachal Pradesh
  • India believes China’s projects in the Tibetan plateau threaten to reduce river flows into India
  • Dams, canals, irrigation systems can turn water into a political weapon to be wielded in war, or during peace to signal annoyance with a co-riparian.
  • Denial of hydrological data becomes critical when the flow in the river is very high
  • China is contemplating northward re-routing of the Yarlung Zangbo
  • Diversion of the Brahmaputra is an idea China does not discuss in public, because it implies devastating India’s northeastern plains and Bangladesh, either with floods or reduced water flow.

What India needs to do?

  • India will need to be more adept in responding to Brahmaputra river-related issues. First, it needs to clearly envision the desired end goal and strategic outcomes for dealing with impending water conflicts.
  • Second, it needs to de-emphasise China’s role for the time being and restrengthen its relationship with Bangladesh.
  • It needs to push the impending Teesta river agreement and restore its image as a responsible upper riparian.
  •  Third, India needs to mirror its strength and firmness in negotiations with China on water rights, as it did in the case of the Doklam stand-off and in opposing the Belt and Road Initiative, rather than projecting itself as a victim.

A misleading hunger index {Social issue}

(The Hindu)

The 2017 GHI score has India ranked 100 out of the 119 countries listed. While a casual reading would create the impression of India being among the worst performers and underachievers in addressing food and nutrition security.

 Per capita food production in India has increased by 26% (2004-05 to 2013-14), while it has doubled in the last 50 years.

How GHI is calculated?

It is calculated as a weighted average of four standardised indicators.

  • The percentage of population that is undernourished;
  • Percentage of children under five years who suffer from wasting;
  • Percentage of children under five who suffer from stunting, and child mortality.

Three of the four indicators, refer only to children below five who constitute only 11.5% of India’s population.

How it is miscalculated?

  • GHI assigns 70.5% weightage to children below five who constitute only a minor population share and 29.5% weightage to the population above five, which constitutes 81.5% of the total population.
  • Therefore, the term “Hunger Index” is highly biased towards undernutrition of children rather than representing the status of hunger in the overall population.
  • Evidence shows that weight and height of children are not solely determined by food intake but are an outcome of a complex interaction of factors related to genetics, the environment, sanitation and utilisation of food intake.
  • The IFPRI acknowledges that only 45% of child mortality is due to hunger or undernutrition.

An uncertain energy future {Sustainable Development}

(Indian Express)

 The government faces a renewable energy trilemma. It has set itself a target of quadrupling the generation capacity of solar energy by 2022 and shifting the production of new automotive vehicles from the internal combustion model to electric vehicles (EV) by 2030. In parallel, it wants the clean energy industry to develop within the framework of its “Make in India” agenda.


The government has set itself the target of increasing the generation capacity of solar energy from the current approximately 15 GW to 100 GW by 2022.

The breakdown of this target (as originally indicated) was 60 GW from utility scale solar power through solar farms greater than 1 MW and interconnected to the high-voltage transmission grid and 40 GW from distributed solar of less than 1 MW and connected to the low-voltage distribution grid.

The generation capacity of solar, at the time these goals were announced, was barely 2.5 GW.

The underlying purpose is to contain vehicular emissions.

What is the issue in achieving this target?

  • It cannot achieve all three of these objectives, as matters stand today. It can, conceivably, meet its solar energy and EV targets but only if it allows the industry to trawl the international market for the cheapest sources of polysilicon, photovoltaic (PV) modules and lithium-ion batteries to ensure competitiveness.
  • Currently, China dominates the market for all three products.
  • On the other hand, it can promote its objectives of “Make in India” and energy self-reliance but only by imposing tariffs, and/or anti-dumping duties, on the imports of these products.

What can be done?

Our industry does not have the incentive to create indigenous capacity. And, if the government were to offer subsidies, tax credit and cheap financing, the policy would fly in the face of “good economics”. But in the absence of such incentives and the creation of a domestic industry for polysilicon, PV modules, and lithium-ion batteries, India would have to tie its “energy future” inextricably to the policies of China.


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