PIB – 5th Jan 2021

40th Indian scientific expedition to Antarctica launched

  • India launched the 40thscientific expedition to Antarctica. This Indian expedition marks four decades of the country’s scientific endeavour to the southern white continent. 
  • The Indian Antarctic expeditions began in 1981. The first trip consisted of a team of 21 scientists and support staff led by Dr SZ Qasim. After a humble beginning, the Indian Antarctic programme has now been credited to have built three permanent research base stations in Antarctica—named Dakshin Gangotri, Maitri, and Bharati. 
  • As of today, India has two operational research stations in Antarctica named Maitri and Bharati. The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa, manages the entire Indian Antarctic program.
  • The preceding 39th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica was launched in November 2019. It mounted 27 scientific projects, focusing on the climate process and its linkages with climate change, crustal evolution, environmental processes and conservation, the ecosystem of terrestrial and near shore regions, observational research, and polar technology. 
  • Two additional collaborative projects with the National Institute of Polar Research, Japan were also undertaken. After completing its mission mandate, it returned to India in May of 2020. 
  • The scientific and logistic activities of the 40thIndian Antarctic expedition are limited due to the existing challenges associated with COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • The focus is to support the ongoing scientific projects on climate change, geology, ocean observations, electric and magnetic flux measurements, environmental monitoring; resupplying of food, fuel, provisions and spare; and accomplishing the return of the winter crew. 
  • India is committed to maintaining the continent of Antarctica free of COVID-19. The expedition will duly follow all protocols for the deployment of men and material as per Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs(COMNAP). 

EU bans plastic waste exports to poor nations

  • EU environment commissioner said the new rules amending the bloc’s 2006 Waste Shipment Regulation will completely ban exports of unsorted plastics to less industrialized nations outside the OECD.
  • The moves follow China’s 2018 ban on plastic imports and statements from environmentalists that waste was ending up in other Asian nations, such as Malaysia, and then being dumped into ocean waters.
  • A former Lithuanian economy minister, said even inside the 37-nation Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) any EU exports of hazardous plastic waste deemed “hard to recycle” would require prior authorization from both the recipient and dispatching nation.
  • Non-OECD nations could be sent “clean, non-hazardous waste exports” for recycling under “very strict conditions,” emphasizing the rule change was a key part of the EU’s Green Deal effort to establish a “circular economy.”
  • Prompted by 1989 convention
  • The new rules, effective from January 1, also govern plastics shipments within the 27-member EU and stem from a May 2019 conference decision binding most signatory nations of the so-called 1989 Basel Convention.
  • That Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal — still not ratified by the United States — requires 184 nations to expand plastics control from January.
  • As a bloc, the European Union ratified the convention in 1994.
  • Last year the EU exported 1.5 million tons of plastic waste, mostly to Turkey and Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

India drops two ranks to 131 in UN human development index 2020

  • India dropped two spots to 131 out of 189 nations on the Human Development Index (HDI) this year, according to the Human Development Report (HDR) by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 
  • The country ranked 129 (out of 189) countries on the 2019 HDI.
  • India’s HDI value for 2019 stood at 0.645 which put it in the medium human development category.
  • Norway topped the index, followed by Ireland, Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Iceland, the report showed.
  • Pakistan (154), Nepal (142), Bangladesh (133), Indian, and Bhutan (129) stand among countries with medium human development.
  • HDI:
  • The HDI is the measure of a country’s health, education, and standard of living and ascertains a nations’ average achievement in three basic scales of human development – education, life expectancy, and per capita income.
  • Life expectancy of Indians at birth in 2019 was 69.7 years, while Bangladesh had a life expectancy of 72.6 years and Pakistan 67.3 years.
  • India’s gross national income per capita fell to $6,681 in 2019 from $6,829 in 2018 on purchasing power parity (PPP) basis.
  • Purchasing power parity or PPP is a measurement of prices in different countries that uses the prices of specific goods to compare the absolute purchasing power of the countries’ currencies.
  • The report said evidence from Colombia to India indicates that financial security and ownership of land improve women’s security and reduce the risk of gender-based violence, clearly indicating that owning land can empower women.
  • It further said indigenous children in Cambodia, India, and Thailand show more malnutrition-related issues such as stunting and wasting.

India falls 17 spots on 2020 Human Freedom Index to 111th rank

  • The Human Freedom Index 2020, a worldwide ranking of civil, economic and personal freedom, placed India at the 111th spot out of 162 countries. India ranked 94 on the index in 2019.
  • India is ahead of China and Bangladesh, which ranked 129 and 139 on the 2020 index respectively. New Zealand, Switzerland and Hong Kong bagged the first three spots. 
  • India’s scored 6.30 out of 10 in personal freedom and 6.56 in economic freedom. The country’s overall human freedom score was 6.43.
  • The index was published by American think tank Cato Institute and Fraser Institute in Canada. It takes into account 76 indicators of personal, civil, and economic freedoms to rank 162 countries from 2008 to 2018. The institutes noted that the world has seen a notable decline in personal freedom since 2008.
  • India has dropped on several global freedom indexes.
  • Democracy watchdog Freedom House’s report in October showed that internet freedom in India declined for a third straight year in 2019-’20. 
  • The period from June 1, 2019 to May 30, 2020 was under consideration. The watchdog said India had the most number of internet shutdowns in the world, even excluding the ones in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The Global Economic Freedom Index 2020 released in September showed India dropping 26 spots from 79 to 105. The report, prepared by Canada’s Fraser Institute, was released in India in collaboration with New Delhi-based think tank Centre For Civil Society. The report pointed out that the prospect of improved economic freedom in India depended on the next generation of reforms in factor markets and in being more open to global trade.
  • The World Press Freedom Index, which was released in April, saw India slip two places. India ranked 142 on the index comprising 180 countries and territories.

Source: PIB, IE etc.