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Prelims Booster

8th October – Prelims Booster

Natural Gas Marketing Reforms

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved ‘Natural Gas Marketing Reforms’, taking another significant step to move towards gas based economy.

Need –

A policy debate on who can participate in an auction to sell gas has raged for about three years after Reliance Industries sold all gas from its coal bed methane field in Madhya Pradesh to itself in an open auction. The auction, held in September 2017 for gas to be produced until March 2021, prompted an inquiry by the government. In November 2017, the Oil Ministry had found that Reliance violated the government policy by selling gas to itself. The government, however, didn’t cancel the sale of RIL gas.

Reforms –

  • The reforms include setting up a new e-bidding platform, prohibiting producing companies from participating in the bidding process and bringing all different fiscal models under the new bidding mechanism.
  • Last year, the government declared that any new discoveries and any gas found within those regions will get pricing and marketing freedom. But, there was a bottleneck in how to implement the system.
  • Now, the Director General of Hydrocarbon (DGH) will suggest an e-bidding platform to producers. It will list all government entities and other credible companies. The DGH will also issue guidelines for the same.
  • Producers will have a choice between different platforms in a transparent public domain akin to how coal, spectrum and mineral auctions take place in the country. While the producing companies themselves will not be allowed to participate in the bidding process, all other players and affiliate companies will be allowed to bid.
  • The government decision to allow a producer’s affiliate to bid for natural gas in an auction comes following similar demand by private producers. Existing production sharing contracts barred affiliates due to conflict of interest.

Objective –

The objective of the policy is to prescribe standard procedure to discover market price of gas to be sold in the market by gas producers, through a transparent and competitive process, permit Affiliates to participate in bidding process for sale of gas and allow marketing freedom to certain Field Development Plans (FDPs) where Production Sharing Contracts already provide pricing freedom.

About the reforms –

These reforms in gas sector will further deepen and spur the economic activities in the following areas –

  • The whole eco-system of policies relating to production, infrastructure and marketing of natural gas has been made more transparent with a focus on ease of doing business.
  • These reforms will prove very significant for Atmanirbhar Bharat by encouraging investments in the domestic production of natural gas and reducing import dependence.
  • These reforms will prove to be another milestone in moving towards a gas based economy by encouraging investments.
  • The increased gas production consumption will help in improvement of environment.
  • These reforms will also help in creating employment opportunities in the gas consuming sectors including MSMEs.
  • The domestic production will further help in increasing investment in the downstream industries such as City Gas Distribution and related industries.

Significance –

  • The policy aims to provide standard procedure for sale of natural gas in a transparent and competitive manner to discover market price by issuing guidelines for sale by contractor through e-bidding.
  • This will bring uniformity in the bidding process across the various contractual regimes and policies to avoid ambiguity and contribute towards ease of doing business.
  • The policy has also permitted Affiliate companies to participate in the bidding process in view of the open, transparent and electronic bidding. This will facilitate and promote more competition in marketing of gas. However, rebidding will have to be done in case only affiliates participate, and there are no other bidders.
  • The policy will also grant marketing freedom to the Field Development Plans (FDPs) of those Blocks in which Production Sharing Contracts already provide pricing freedom.

Stockholm Convention

The Union Cabinet has approved the ratification of seven chemicals listed under Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The Cabinet further delegated its powers to ratify chemicals under the Stockholm Convention to Union Ministers of External Affairs (MEA) and Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MEFCC) in respect of POPs already regulated under the domestic regulations thereby streamlining the procedure.

What are POPs?

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are organic chemical substances (mostly pesticides and industrial chemicals), that is, they are carbon-based. They possess a particular combination of physical and chemical properties such that, once released into the environment, they –

  • remain intact for exceptionally long periods of time (many years);
  • become widely distributed throughout the environment as a result of natural processes involving soil, water and, most notably, air;
  • accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms including humans, and are found at higher concentrations at higher levels in the food chain; and
  • are toxic to both humans and wildlife.

In addition, POPs concentrate in living organisms through another process called bioaccumulation. Though not soluble in water, POPs are readily absorbed in fatty tissue, where concentrations can become magnified by up to 70,000 times the background levels.

What is the ‘Stockholm Convention’?

  • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is an international environmental treaty, signed in 2001 and effective from May 2004, that aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants.
  • It is a global treaty to protect human health and environment from POPs, which are identified chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate in living organisms, adversely affect human health/ environment and have the property of long-range environmental transport (LRET).
  • Exposure to POPs can lead to cancer, damage to central & peripheral nervous systems, diseases of immune system, reproductive disorders and interference with normal infant and child development.
  • POPs are listed in various Annexes to the Stockholm Convention after thorough scientific research, deliberations and negotiations among member countries.
  • The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is the designated interim financial mechanism for the Stockholm Convention.

India and the Stockholm Convention –

  • India had ratified the Stockholm Convention on January 13, 2006 as per Article 25(4), which enabled it to keep itself in a default “opt-out” position such that amendments in various Annexes of the convention cannot be enforced on it unless an instrument of ratification/ acceptance/ approval or accession is explicitly deposited with UN depositary.
  • The regulation inter alia prohibited the manufacture, trade, use, import and export seven chemicals namely (i) Chlordecone, (ii) Hexabromobiphenyl, (iii) Hexabromodiphenyl ether and Heptabromodiphenylether (Commercial octa-BDE), (iv) Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and Pentabromodiphenyl ether (Commercial penta-BDE), (v) Pentachlorobenzene, (vi) Hexabromocyclododecane, and (vii) Hexachlorobutadiene, which were already listed as POPs under Stockholm Convention.

Kozhikode-Wayanad Tunnel Road

Recently, the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan “launched” a tunnel road project that would connect Kozhikode with Wayanad.

What is this Kozhikode-Wayanad tunnel road?

  • The 7-km tunnel, being described as the third-longest in the country, is part of an 8-km road cutting through sensitive forests and hills of the Western Ghats.
  • Its endpoints are at Maripuzha in Thiruvambady village panchayat (Kozhikode) and Kalladi in Meppadi panchayat (Wayanad).
  • At present, Wayanad plateau is linked to the rest of Kerala via four roads, all with hilly sections, the longest being the 13-km Thamarassery Ghat Road along the Kozhikode-Mysuru NH 766.
  • The tunnel road is an outcome of a decades-long campaign for an alternative road as the Thamarassery Ghat Road is congested and gets blocked by landslides during heavy monsoon.
  • A proposal for widening the road has been pending clearance from the MoEFCC. Two alternative routes have been suggested connecting different parts of Kozhikode district to Wayanad, but those proposals did not make much headway either, mainly because of forest patches that would need to be cleared.

How did this plan for a tunnel road emerge?

  • At the very route of the proposed tunnel road, a surface road had been debated since the 1970s, but did not take off because forest land was involved. In 2015, the government finally ordered a survey by a private agency for a road through the forest between Maripuzha and Kalladi. The agency found the surface road an uphill task, but suggested cutting a tunnel with entry and exit points in private lands close to the forest.
  • When Metro pioneer E Sreedharan was approached for support from Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, he suggested Konkan Railway Corporation (KRC) take it up. In 2019, the government engaged KRC as a special purpose vehicle for the survey, detailed project report (DPR) and project execution on a turnkey basis.
  • The government gave administrative sanction for the project earlier this year and promised Rs 658 crore from Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB).

Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN)

The Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) is an innovative technological solution aimed at strengthening immunisation supply chain systems across the country. This is being implemented under National Health Mission (NHM) by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

What is it?

  • eVIN aims to provide real-time information on vaccine stocks and flows, and storage temperatures across all cold chain points in the country.
  • eVIN combines state-of-the-art technology, a strong IT infrastructure and trained human resource to enable real time monitoring of stock and storage temperature of the vaccines kept in multiple locations across the country.
  • eVIN has reached 32 States and Union Territories (UTs) and will soon be rolled-out in the remaining States and UTs of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Ladakh and Sikkim.

Significance –

  • The Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network has helped create a big data architecture that generates actionable analytics encouraging data-driven decision-making and consumption based planning that helps in maintaining optimum stocks of vaccines leading to cost savings.
  • An activity rate of more than 99% reflects high adoption of the technology across all health centres where eVIN is currently operational. While instances of stock-outs have reduced by 80%, the time taken to replenish stocks has also decreased by more than half, on an average. This has ensured that every child who reaches the immunisation session site is immunised, and not turned back due to unavailability of vaccines.
  • To support the Government of India’s efforts to combat COVID-19, eVIN India is helping the State/UT governments monitor the supply chain of COVID response material. Since April 2020, eight States (Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra) are using the eVIN application with 100% adherence rate to track State specific COVID-19 material supplies, ensure availability and raise alerts in case of shortage of 81 essential drugs and equipment.
  • This strong platform has the potential to be leveraged for any new vaccine including COVID-19 vaccine, as and when available.

MCQs

1. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct about the ‘open acreage licensing policy’ in hydrocarbons?

  1. Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) allows the producers to select the exploration blocks on its own, without waiting for the formal bid round from the Government.
  2. Under Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP), a bidder intending to explore hydrocarbons may apply to the Government seeking exploration of any new block (not already covered by exploration).

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer – C

Explanation – Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) gives an option to a company looking for exploring hydrocarbons to select the exploration blocks on its own, without waiting for the formal bid round from the Government. Under Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP), a bidder intending to explore hydrocarbons like oil and gas, coal-bed methane, gas hydrate etc., may apply to the Government seeking exploration of any new block (not already covered by exploration). The Government will examine the Expression of Interest and justification. If it is suitable for the award, Government will call for competitive bids after obtaining necessary environmental and other clearances.

2. Director General of Hydrocarbons fall under the purview of –

  1. Ministry of Science and Technology
  2. Ministry of Earth Sciences
  3. Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers
  4. None of the above

Answer – D

Explanation – The Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) was established in 1993 under the administrative control of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas through Government of India Resolution. Objectives of DGH are to promote sound management of the oil and natural gas resources having a balanced regard for environment, safety, technological and economic aspects of the petroleum activity.

3. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct about the ‘Stockholm Convention’ on Persistent Organic Pollutants?

  1. It is an international environment treaty signed in the year 2001 to completely eliminate the production and use of persistent organic pollutants.
  2. India has recently ratified the treaty in the year 2020.
  3. Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is the designated interim financial mechanism for the Stockholm Convention.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 3 only

Answer – D

Explanation – Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is an international environmental treaty, signed in 2001 and effective from May 2004, that aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants. India had ratified the Stockholm Convention on January 13, 2006 as per Article 25(4), which enabled it to keep itself in a default “opt-out” position such that amendments in various Annexes of the convention cannot be enforced on it unless an instrument of ratification/ acceptance/ approval or accession is explicitly deposited with UN depositary. The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is the designated interim financial mechanism for the Stockholm Convention.

4. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct about the ‘Persistent Organic Pollutants’?

  1. They are organic chemical substances which are carbon based.
  2. They remain intact for exceptionally long periods of time.
  3. They accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms including humans.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. All of the above

Answer – D

Explanation – Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are organic chemical substances (mostly pesticides and industrial chemicals), that is, they are carbon-based. They possess a particular combination of physical and chemical properties such that, once released into the environment, they –

  • remain intact for exceptionally long periods of time (many years);
  • become widely distributed throughout the environment as a result of natural processes involving soil, water and, most notably, air;
  • accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms including humans, and are found at higher concentrations at higher levels in the food chain; and
  • are toxic to both humans and wildlife.

5. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct about the ‘Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network’?

  1. It is an innovative technological solution aimed at strengthening immunisation supply chain systems across the country.
  2. It provides real-time information on vaccine stocks and flows, and storage temperatures across all cold chain points in the country.
  3. It is being implemented under the National Health Mission (NHM) by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. All of the above

Answer – D

Explanation – The Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) is an innovative technological solution aimed at strengthening immunisation supply chain systems across the country. This is being implemented under National Health Mission (NHM) by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. eVIN aims to provide real-time information on vaccine stocks and flows, and storage temperatures across all cold chain points in the country. eVIN combines state-of-the-art technology, a strong IT infrastructure and trained human resource to enable real time monitoring of stock and storage temperature of the vaccines kept in multiple locations across the country.

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