Question and Answer :: SRIRAM'S IAS

 Q. 195. Waste-to-energy plants
Waste-to-energy plants could sustainably dispose of municipal solid waste, while generating electricity. Management of solid waste or garbage has three elements:
  • Segregation of biodegradable or wet waste from dry waste at source.
  • Once segregation is achieved, municipal governments can use wet waste to produce compost and biogas in biomethanation plants.
  • The dry waste, after removing recyclable elements, should go to waste-to-energy plants: This will reduce the volume of waste that remains to be sent to landfills.
About waste-to-energy plants:
A number of waste-to-energy plants are coming up in urban India using
  • Incineration
  • Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF)-based combustion or conversion technologies such as pyrolysis and gasification.
There is a great deal of confusion about what the different technologies entail, and also apprehension about the potentially damaging impact of waste-to-energy plants on the environment in general, the quality of air in particular, and consequently, on public health. There are also questions about whether these plants are financially viable.
Incineration-based waste-to-energy plants rely on mass burning of municipal solid waste, which involves complete combustion of miscellaneous waste materials into ash. The latter is also true of RDF combustion-based plants. Depending on what is being combusted (and this is a huge challenge to determine with municipal solid waste), the gases generated may contain dioxins and furans, which are toxic and can be lethal. These plants therefore need to put in place emission control filters of a very high standard to check the release of harmful gases into the atmosphere.

Singapore uses incineration with due environmental precautions in managing its municipal solid waste after recycling 60 per cent of its waste (among the highest rates in the world). Japan and a number of European countries also rely on incineration, with due precaution, as they try to minimise the waste that needs to go to landfills. The United States had a long free run with incineration plants, but thanks to the environmental movement, there has been a significant tightening of regulations with respect to emissions since the 1970s. The abundance of land in the US led to greater recourse to landfills. But incineration plants are making a comeback and with these, so is the need for vigilance on emissions.

The innovations in waste-to-energy technologies worldwide have been focusing on pyrolysis, gasification and plasma gasification, which can deliver cleaner emissions but are considerably more expensive. These technologies involve heating of solid waste at very high temperatures in an oxygen-controlled environment, such that the thermal reactions produce synthesis gas (or syngas) which has the advantage that it can be burned directly or transported through pipelines and/or tankers for use in electricity generation, refining, chemical and fertiliser industries. While syngas can be scrubbed and converted into a clean energy source, the technologies are expensive, compromising the commercial viability of plants based on conversion technologies.

Pollution control boards set up by the government of India and state governments were expected to provide technical assistance and keep a check on the emissions/environmental footprints of waste-to-energy plants. Unfortunately, they have not kept pace with the rapidly evolving technology in the field of pollution control and were not able to check routine defaulters. Recognising the need for a more empowered body that could enforce adherence to environmental regulations, the National Green Tribunal was set up in 2010, as an independent judicial body under an act by the Parliament of India. As a judicial body in charge of supervisory jurisdiction over all environmental matters, NGT has, in many cases, prodded the pollution control authorities and catalysed action from State Pollution Control Boards/Municipalities, especially in waste management. It has been setting the rules of the game and putting the weight of legal compensation and enforcement behind its rulings. Hopefully, NGT will receive full support from the Central Pollution Control Board in its quest for scientific evaluations of the environmental impact of waste-to-energy plants.

The level of subsidy required to make waste-to-energy plants financially viable presents another set of problems. These plants involve significant capital investment and the cost of energy produced is higher than from the grid, unless there are government subsidies. Considering their contribution to resource recovery and saving on the energy cost of transportation, which would otherwise be incurred to haul waste to a landfill, there is a good case for subsidising these plants.

It is also important to emphasise that electricity generation from waste is not the most efficient way of generating electricity. It is a way of resource recovery from municipal solid waste and should be considered as a by-product of waste management. Enthusiasts sometimes speak of waste-to-energy as a solution to our energy problem — this is not correct. However, if implemented to global emission standards, it could be a pathway to scientific and sustainable disposal of municipal solid waste, given the scarcity of urban land in the country, while also generating some much needed electricity.
 Q. 194. Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojna (PMSBY)
In the Union Budget 2015-16, government sponsored micro insurance was launched for the disadvantaged sections of the society.
Eligibility: Available to people in age group 18 to 70 years with bank account.
Premium:  Rs.12 per annum.
Payment Mode: The premium will be directly auto-debited by the bank from the subscribers account. This is the only mode available.
Risk Coverage:  For accidental death and full disability - Rs.2 Lakh and for partial disability – Rs.1 Lakh.
Eligibility: Any person having a bank account and Aadhaar number linked to the bank account can give a simple form to the bank every year before 1st of June in order to join the scheme.  Name of nominee to be given in the form.
Terms of Risk Coverage: A person has to opt for the scheme every year. He can also prefer to give a long-term option of continuing in which case his account will be auto-debited every year by the bank.
Who will implement this Scheme? The scheme will be offered by all Public Sector General Insurance Companies and all other insurers who are willing to join the scheme and tie-up with banks for this purpose.
Government Contribution:
  • Various Ministries can co-contribute premium for various categories of their beneficiaries from their budget or from Public Welfare Fund created in this budget from unclaimed money. This will be decided separately during the year.
  • Common Publicity Expenditure will be borne by the Government.
 Q. 193. Living Planet Report 2016: India
Ans. Published by: World Wide Fund for Nature
Based on a study conducted in 2007, the following percentage of India’s wildlife is threatened
with extinction:
  • Mammals-41%
  • Birds-7%
  • Reptiles-46%
  • Amphibians-57%
  • Freshwater Fish-70%
  • Four of the 386 species of mammals evaluated are already extinct

  • India aims for 33% forest cover but currently has only 21.3% of forest and tree cover.
  • This makes it one of the countries with the lowest per capita availability of forests in the world.
  • 25% of India’s total land is undergoing desertification while 32% is facing degradation.
  • India accounts for 27% of global imports of (non-coniferous) tropical timber-based industrial
    round wood, making it the world’s second largest timber importer after China.
  • India is the largest import market for palm oil in the world, at around 22% of global volumes and the second largest consumer of palm oil after Indonesia.
  • India is estimated to be the largest destination for high risk tropical log (illegal) exports from
    Sarawak (Malaysia) and Myanmar. Other illegal wood imports to India come in the form of plywood, furniture and paper from China; and pulp and paper from Indonesia.
  • India has about 4% of the world’s freshwater resources ranking it among the top ten water rich countries.
  • Despite this, India is designated a ‘water stressed region’
  • 70% of our surface water is polluted and 60% of groundwater sources are expected to be in a
    critical state within the next decade.
  • India has lost 38% of its wetlands from 1991 to 2001.
  • In Asia alone, 5000 sq km of wetland area is lost to agriculture, dam construction and other uses every year.

  • The all-India annual mean temperatures have shown a significant warming trend with an increase of 0.51ËšC per 100 years.
  • One of the most vulnerable regions to climate change, the Indian coastline has seen (mean) sea levels rise by 1.30mm/year over the past several decades.
  • A sea level rise of 1 meter could permanently submerge around 14,000 square kilometres of
    coastal areas in India.
  • At least 200 people were killed in massive flooding that impacted Kashmir in the first week of
    September 2014.
  • Drought impacted a large portion of the country in 2009. In some areas monsoonal rainfall was the lowest in the four decades.
  • Floods and droughts are likely to increase since there will be a decline in seasonal rainfall, coupled with increase in extreme precipitation during monsoon.
  • It is estimated that by 2020, food grain requirement will be almost 30-50% more than the
    demand in 2000.
  • India could also see a 10-40% loss in crop production in India by 2080- 2100 due to global
  • In March 2004, temperatures were higher in the Indo-Gangetic plains by 3-6° C, which is
    equivalent to almost 1°C per day over the whole crop season.
  • As a result, wheat crop matured earlier by 10-20 days and wheat production dropped by more
    than 4 million tonnes in the country.

  • According to the Living Planet Report 2016, India ranks fifth in terms of bio-capacity (bio-capacity of an ecosystem is an estimate of its production of certain biological materials such as natural resources, and its absorption and filtering of other materials such as carbon dioxide from the atmosphere).
  • While Indians have a low personal footprint at an individual level, it is a challenge when
    aggregated by population size
  • We are currently using resources at a rate that is 70% above our bio-capacity.
  • This equation will be further affected as wealth grows and consumption patterns change.
  • Approximately 50% of India’s population depends directly on natural resources.
  • If India continues its current development trajectory, its resource demand will have more than
    tripled to a figure equivalent to the combined current consumption of all the OECD countries by 2030.
 Q. 192. India Solar and Wind power tariffs fall to record low
Ans. Solar and Wind power tariffs have hit new lows in India. Tariffs for solar power have hitherto ranged from Rs3.9 per kWh to Rs5.9 per kWh. Recently, this has further gone below the sub Rs3/unit mark. Wind power has also followed suit as cost has come down to Rs3.46/unit.

Reasons for cost reduction:
  • Transparent auction mechanism
  • Auction of contracts to develop the world’s largest solar power plant of 750 MW capacity in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh have pushed the solar power tariffs to a record low of Rs2.97 per kWh.
  • India has set a target of generating 60GW of wind power by 2022, up from 28,700.44 MW at the end of December. The government plans to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 as part of its commitments to the Paris climate change agreement.
  • The price gap between electricity generated from thermal, solar and wind projects has been narrowing. This is primarily due to costs of solar modules and wind turbine generators falling by 80% and 20%, respectively, over the past five years.
Hindrances for Wind Power:
  • The wind sector has been hit by inordinate delays in signing of power purchase agreements and untimely payments;
  • Distribution firms have shied away from procuring electricity generated by wind projects.
  • With the discovered tariff of Rs3.46, this auction will be disruptive for the wind industry. It will be interesting to see how banks, OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and developers work together to commission these projects—at these tariffs, the projects will need to be delivered at a substantially lower project cost to ensure viability.
  • This tariff should not be considered as a benchmark in lower wind regime states. Overall, this is a positive development as this brings competition and transparency in the sector.
 Q. 191. Indo-US naval cooperation
In the ever-expanding universe of Indo-US cooperation, perhaps the brightest and most alluring star is the deepening partnership between the Indian and US navies. Consider two recent pronouncements:
  • Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of the Hawaii-based Pacific Command (Pacom), revealed, that both navies are engaged in “sharing...information regarding Chinese maritime movement in the Indian Ocean,” especially submarines.
  • Reliance Defence and Engineering Ltd announced that it had won a contract to service ships of the US Seventh Fleet.
The latter comes in the wake of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), followed by the master ship repair agreement, between India and the US.
Both these developments underline a degree of mutual trust, confidence and growing cooperation on shore and at sea, which was previously unimaginable.

But is this cooperation likely to sustain?
The answer, according to a new report of the Centre for Naval Analyses (CNA), a Washington research organization, is a guarded “yes.” The report is upbeat about the state of cooperation. It notes the
  • US-India joint strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean,
  • LEMOA,
  • the recognition of India as a “Major defence partner”,
  • the joint working group on aircraft-carrier technology cooperation, and
  • the trilateral Malabar exercise (including Japan as a permanent participant) as evidence that the relationship has “soared to new heights.”
However, it also identifies several strategic and operational factors that could limit or enhance this cooperation.
Among the strategic factors are:
  • the role of China and Pakistan and Washington’s response to them;
  • Indian party politics, particularly the return of coalition politics dependent on left parties;
  • personalities, especially of people at the helm; and
  • black swan events, such as a major terrorist attack on Indian soil.
While none of these directly relate to the navies, they are likely to affect the overall prospects and pace of Indo-US cooperation, including naval cooperation.
Even if the strategic factors are conducive for enhancing cooperation, there are several operational factors that could stymie deeper relations.
  • Top among them is the intransigence of the Indian bureaucracy, which “have historically reined in the military services in terms of… freedom of action”.
  • Similarly, the lack of progress on foundation agreements, such as the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for satellite-based intelligence, “will affect the pace of defence engagement.”
  • Freedom of navigation operations (Fonops), which the US is particularly keen to exercise through the South China Sea.
India is uncomfortable with joint Fonops for several reasons.
  • It sees the Indian Ocean as its primary area of interest, not the South China Sea.
  • Such cruises are bound to antagonize China; which India does not consider to be in its national interest.
  • India is also opposed, in principle, to military ships traversing through its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and seeks prior consent for military exercises or manoeuvres in its EEZ. This position is similar to that of China and some other maritime countries. Were India to participate in the US-led Fonops, it would have to rescind on this principle and also accept the possibility of other navies—especially Chinese navy—being present in its EEZ.
Finally, the CNA report is also concerned about the “capacity constraints” on the Indian Navy, particularly the limited budget afforded to it. In particular, it worries that Indian warships “are being decommissioned faster than they are being replaced.”
The report also accurately notes India’s westward focus both overland and by sea to the Gulf region and East Africa and how this is out of the area of responsibility of the primary driver of US-India naval cooperation—Pacom.
Against this backdrop, the report recommends a minimalist, business-as-usual, and maximalist approach to sustaining and building the cooperation.
  • At the very least, the US and Indian navies could carry out “benign naval and maritime activity” during periods of diplomatic strain. These could range from maritime domain awareness and information sharing to maritime peacekeeping operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
  • In the business-as-usual scenario the two could incrementally deepen cooperation. Assuming that the strategic and operational factors remain conducive, this scenario is likely to prevail.
Were the strategic and operations factors to improve dramatically, a maximalist scenario could be envisaged. This might include US-India naval exercises and, perhaps, anti-piracy operations, with both US Central Command (responsible for the Gulf region) and the US Africa Command, in addition to Pacom. Which of these scenarios will come to fruition is dependent on the Trump administration. And that remains a black hole that even this report cannot illuminate.
The Government of India has taken a pioneering initiative for conserving its national animal, the tiger, by launching the ‘Project Tiger’ in 1973.
  • From 9 tiger reserves since its formative years, the Project Tiger coverage has increased to 47 at present, spread out in 18 of our tiger range states. This amounts to around 2.08% of the geographical area of our country.
  • The tiger reserves are constituted on a core/buffer strategy. The core areas have the legal status of a national park or a sanctuary, whereas the buffer or peripheral areas are a mix of forest and non-forest land, managed as a multiple use area. The Project Tiger aims to foster an exclusive tiger agenda in the core areas of tiger reserves, with an inclusive people oriented agenda in the buffer.
  • Project Tiger is an ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, providing central assistance to the tiger States for tiger conservation in designated tiger reserves.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body of the Ministry, with an overarching supervisory / coordination role, performing functions as provided in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Activities include:
  • protection,
  • habitat amelioration,
  • day to day monitoring,
  • eco-development for local people in buffer areas,
  • voluntary relocation of people from core/critical tiger habitats, and
  • addressing human-wildlife conflicts, within the ambit of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and guidelines of Project Tiger / National Tiger Conservation Authority.
  • The NTCA / Project Tiger also conducts the country level assessment of the status of tiger, co-predators, prey and habitat once in four years, using the refined methodology, as approved by the Tiger Task Force.
Special thrust on tiger protection and anti-poaching operations
The illegal demand for body parts and derivatives of tiger outside the country continues to be a serious threat to wild tigers. Therefore, protection is accorded topmost priority in Project Tiger / NTCA. The States are engaged in an ongoing manner through the NTCA Headquarters as well as Regional Offices, while issuing alerts, besides closely working with the CBI, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and the Police Departments. The following actions are taken in this context:
  • Alerting the States as and when required
  • Transmitting backward / forward linkages of information relating to poachers
  • Advising the States for combing forest floor to check snares / traps
  • Providing assistance to States for ant poaching operations
  • Using information technology for improved surveillance (e-Eye system) using thermal cameras launched in Corbett
  • Launching tiger reserve level monitoring using camera trap to keep a photo ID database of individual tigers
  • Preparing a national database of individual tiger photo captures to establish linkage with body parts seized or dead tigers
  • Assisting States to refine protection oriented monitoring through monitoring system for tiger’s intensive protection and ecological status (M-STrIPES)
  • Providing grant through NTCA for patrolling in tiger rich sensitive forest areas outside tiger reserves
  • Supporting States for raising, arming and deploying the Special Tiger Protection Force
Managing dispersing tigers in human dominated landscapes
In several productive tiger landscapes, tigers move out from the core/critical tiger habitats/source areas. This is an innate behaviour owing to their social dynamics. Since the tiger landscapes have human settlements and varied land uses, there are frequent human-tiger/ wildlife interface issues. The NTCA / Project Tiger is actively engaging with the States to address such issues and a SOP has been put in place in this regard.
Due to concerted efforts under Project Tiger, at present India has the distinction of having the maximum number of tigers in the world (2226) as per 2014 assessment, when compared to the 13 tiger range countries. The 2014 country level tiger assessment has also shown a 30% increase of tigers in the country (from 1706 in 2010 to 2226 in 2014). 70% of the world's tigers exist in India. The tiger corridors for gene flow have been mapped in the GIS domain. The latest estimate has captured 1540 individual tigers which is around 70% of the total population estimate. Robust Spatially explicit capture-recapture (SECR) models have been used to arrive at the current figure.
 Q. 189. Getting back home, safely
On January 26, 1986, as New Delhi celebrated its Republic Day, South Yemen was being engulfed in a civil war that threatened the lives of thousands of foreigners living there. The 850 Indians in the country were forced to wait for several days until New Delhi finally managed to convince a merchant ship to pick them up. Fast forward almost 30 years, to April 2015, when Yemen was on fire once again. This time, however, the Indian government successfully conducted Operation Raahat to evacuate almost 5,000 Indians and nearly 1,000 citizens from 41 other countries. Besides Air India aircraft, the Indian Navy deployed vessels, and the Indian Air Force C-17 Globemasters for strategic airlift. Such unprecedented efforts and resources reflect New Delhi’s new drive to protect the lives and assets of its citizens abroad in times of crisis.
The increasing size and complexity of the diaspora requires the government to expand capacity and improve procedures. More than 11 million Indians now reside abroad and 20 million travel internationally every year. As political instability rattles the West Asian region, which hosts more than seven million Indians, the government can no longer rely on heroic efforts by individual officials or quick-fix solutions.
First, the government will need to build on its rich experience in conducting more than 30 evacuation operations since the 1950s. By supporting policy-oriented research at universities and think tanks to document the memory of senior officials, the government would also facilitate the transmission of their expertise to younger officials.
Second, inter-ministerial committee should prepare a manual with guidelines that establish a clear chain of command and division of competencies; identify regional support bases, assembly points and routes for evacuation; develop country-specific warden systems to communicate with expatriates; and establish evacuation priority and embarkation criteria.
Third, India’s diplomatic cadre must be given specific training to operate in hostile environments. To achieve this, the government could instruct the police or army to train Indian Foreign Service probationers to operate in war zones; conduct frequent evacuation simulations and emergency drills; and create rapid reaction teams of Indian security personnel to be deployed to protect diplomatic staff and installations abroad.
Fourth, India will have to invest in cooperative frameworks that facilitate coordination among countries that have large expatriate populations in West Asia, in particular Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and among leading powers with evacuation capacity in the Indian Ocean region.
Fifth, the government will have to assign a greater role to its armed forces, in particular by strengthening the Navy and Air Force’s capacity to operate in tandem with civilian authorities.
Sixth, the government must institutionalise a permanent inter-ministerial coordinating mechanism for emergency evacuations, incentivise inter-agency cross-posting of officials dealing with diaspora affairs, and encourage State governments to create regional contingency plans.
Seventh, the government must establish a permanent civil reserve air fleet that pools aircraft from all Indian airlines based on pre-established requisition and reimbursement procedures.
Eighth, the government will have to invest in new technologies to better monitor the diaspora’s profile and mobility. This can be achieved by encouraging more diplomatic missions to provide online consular registration forms, developing an online registration system for overseas travellers, utilising social media, and by making the Aadhaar card compulsory to facilitate biometric identity verification and reduce identity fraud during evacuation.
Finally, the government must expand efforts to manage public opinion and be able to conduct a quiet diplomacy that is crucial to safely extricate Overseas Indians from conflict zones. To reduce domestic pressures, it should embed media representatives more frequently in such missions, reassure the diaspora by ensuring that high-level political representatives are personally engaged, and avoid raising expectations by clearly distinguishing Indian citizens from people of Indian origin.
India has extensive experience in conducting evacuation operations, but to secure the lives and assets of Indians abroad, the government must avoid an ad hoc approach and seek to institutionalise best practices, bolster diplomatic and military capabilities, and improve coordination.
 Q. 188. For Indian Forest Service(IFoS) Interview 2017
Ans.  -
 -  Two new critically endangered plant species spotted in Eravikulam National Park
 -  Madras HC orders TN Government to enact law to remove Seemai Karuvelam trees
 Q. 187. What is National Hydrology Project?
The National Hydrology Project (NHP) is intended for setting up of a system for timely and reliable water resources data acquisition, storage, collation and management. It will also provide tools/systems for informed decision making through Decision Support Systems (DSS) for water resources assessment, flood management, reservoir operations, drought management, etc. NHP also seeks to build capacity of the State and Central sector organisations in water resources management through the use of Information Systems and adoption of State-of-the-art technologies like Remote Sensing.
The MoWR, RD&GR has adopted a paradigm shift in the management of water resources of the country by adopting a river basin approach, in order to efficiently use and manage water resources of the country; adequacy of data, resource assessment, decision support systems, etc. are a prerequisite for allocation and prioritization of this fast depleting resource. 
The NHP will help in gathering Hydro-meteorological data which will be stored and analysed on a real time basis and can be seamlessly accessed by any user at the State/District/village level.  The project envisages to cover the entire country as the earlier hydrology projects covered only 13 States.

The NHP will result in the improvement of:
  • Data storage, exchange, analysis and dissemination through National Water Informatics Centre.
  • Lead time in flood forecast from 1 day to at least 3 days.
  • Mapping of flood inundation areas for use by the disaster management authorities.
  • Assessment of surface and ground water resources in a river basin for better planning & allocation for PMKSY and other schemes of Govt. of India.
  • Reservoir operations through   seasonal yield   forecast, drought management, SCADA systems, etc.
  • Design of SW & GW structures, hydropower units, interlinking of rivers, Smart Cities.
  • Fulfilling the objectives of Digital India.
Elucidation on the impact of the Project:
  • Development of real time flood forecasting and reservoir operations in a manner that does not result in sudden opening of gates which inundates the area down below;
  • It will facilitate integrated water resource management by adopting river basin approach through collation and management of hydro-meteorological data.  This will also help in water resource assessment – as surface as well as ground water, for water resource planning, prioritize its allocations and its consumptive use for irrigation;
  • It will help in providing real time information on a dynamic basis to the farmers about the ground water position for them to accordingly plan their cropping pattern;
  • This will also help in promoting efficient and equitable use of water particularly of ground water at the village level;
  • This will also provide information on quality of water
The programme envisages ultimate aim for water management through scientific data collection, dissemination of information on water availability in all blocks of the country and establishing of National Water Information Centre.  The automated systems for Flood Forecasting is aimed to reduce water disaster ultimately helping vulnerable population.  It is people and farmer centric programme as information on water can help in predicting water availability and help farmers to plan their crops and other farm related activities.  Through this programme India would make a place among nations known for scientific endeavours.
 Q. 186. Project Elephant
Ans. Project Elephant was launched by the Government of India in the year 1992 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with following objectives:
  • To protect elephants, their habitat & corridors
  • To address issues of man-animal conflict
  • Welfare of captive elephants

Financial and Technical support are being provided to major elephant bearing States in the country. Main activities under the Project are as follows:
  • Ecological restoration of existing natural habitats and migratory routes of elephants;
  • Development of scientific and planned management for conservation of elephant habitats and viable population of Wild Asiatic elephants in India;
  • Promotion of measures for mitigation of man elephant conflict in crucial habitats and moderating pressures of human and domestic stock activities in crucial elephant habitats;
  • Strengthening of measures for protection of Wild elephants from poachers and unnatural causes of death;
  • Research on Elephant management related issues;
  • Public education and awareness programmes;
  • Eco-development
  • Veterinary care
  • Elephant Rehabilitation/Rescue Centres
Estimation of wild elephant population in the year 2007 and 2012.
The all India enumeration of wild population of elephants in the country is carried out at every five-year interval. The comparative figures as below for the states shows that the estimated population of wild elephants in the country has increased to 29391-30711 as compared to 27657-27682 in 2007.
Elephent Reserves: Till now 28 Elephant Reserves (ERs) extending over about 61830.08 sq km have been formally notified by various State Governments. Consent for establishment 2 more ERs – Khasi Elephant Reserve in Meghalaya and Dandeli Elephant Reserve in Karnataka has been accorded by MoEF&CC. Inclusion of Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary in Mysore Elephant Reserve has also been approved by the Ministry.  The concerned State Governments are yet to notify these ERs.  

Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Programme
Mandated by CoP resolution of CITES, MIKE program started in South Asia in the year 2003 with following purpose:
  • To measure levels and trends in the illegal hunting of elephants;
  • To determine changes in these trends over time; and
  • To determine the factors causing or associated with such changes, and to try and assess in particular to what extent observed trends are a result of any decisions taken by the Conference of the Parties to CITES.
 Q. 185. What is the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme? Why is it important in the Indian context? Briefly mention the expansion and the results of the scheme.
The Census (2011) data showed a significant declining trend in the Child Sex Ratio (CSR), calculated as number of girls for every 1000 boys between age group of 0-6 years, with an all-time low of 918 in 2011 from 976 in 1961. The decline in CSR has been unabated since 1961. This is an alarming indicator for women disempowerment. It reflects both pre-birth discrimination manifested through gender biased sex selection, and post birth discrimination against girls. The decline is widespread across the country and has expanded to rural as well as tribal areas. Alarmed by the sharp decline, the Government of India has introduced Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) programme to address the issue of decline in CSR in 100 gender critical districts. Coordinated & convergent efforts are needed to ensure survival, protection and education of the girl child. The Overall Goal of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao(BBBP) Scheme is to Celebrate the Girl Child & Enable her Education.

The objectives of the Scheme are as under:
  • Prevent gender biased sex selective elimination.
  • Ensure survival & protection of the girl child.
  • Ensure education of the girl child.
The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) initiative has two major components:
  • Mass Communication Campaign on Beti Bachao Beti Padhao: The campaign aims at ensuring girls are born, nurtured and educated without discrimination to become empowered citizens of this country. The Campaign interlinks National, State and District level interventions with community level action in 100 districts, bringing together different stakeholders for accelerated impact.
  • Multi-Sectoral interventions in 100 Gender Critical Districts covering all States/UTs: Coordinated & convergent efforts are undertaken in close coordination with MoHFW and MoHRD to ensure survival, protection and education of the girl child. The District Collectors/Deputy Commissioners (DCs) lead and coordinate actions of all departments for implementation of BBBP at the District level.
It is a joint initiative of Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resource Development. The Sectoral interventions under the programme include the following:
  • Ministry of WCD: Promote registration of pregnancies in first trimester in Anganwadi Centres (AWCs); Undertake training of stakeholders; Community mobilization & sensitization; Involvement of gender champions; Reward & recognition of institutions & frontline workers.
  •  Ministry of Health & Family Welfare: Monitor implementation of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCP&DT) Act, 1994; Increased institutional deliveries; Registration of births; Strengthening PNDT Cells; Setting up Monitoring Committees
  • Ministry of Human Resource Development: Universal enrolment of girls; Decreased drop-out rate; Girl Child friendly standards in schools; Strict implementation of Right to Education (RTE); Construction of Functional Toilets for girls.
Expansion ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’: 
Given the criticality of the issue, this initiative has been expanded to 61 additional districts across the 11 States/UTs. Since its inception in January 2015, this programme has resulted in hundreds of local level innovative initiatives to promote the girl child.
  • Installing digital Guddi Gudda Display Boards in offices and public places in Jalgaon district, Maharashtra;
  • a social assistance scheme titled Ladli Beti for new born girl child born on or after 01st April 2015 by Jammu and Kashmir;
  • cash reward of Rs. 1 lakh for whistle blowers informing about illegal sex selection announced by Haryana; 
  • Ambassador of Girl Child (Chief Secretary) launched by Nagaland etc.
Results of BBBP:
  • Increasing trend in Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) is visible in 58% of the BBBP districts;
  • 69 districts have reported progress in the first trimester registration against the reported ANC registrations during the previous year;
  • status of institutional deliveries has improved in 80 districts against the total reported deliveries in comparison to the previous year.
 Q. 184. Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dispute
Ties between China and Japan have been strained by a territorial row over a group of islands, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China.
What is the row about?
  • At the heart of the dispute are eight uninhabited islands and rocks in the East China Sea.
  • They have a total area of about 7 sq. km and lie north-east of Taiwan, east of the Chinese mainland and south-west of Japan's southern-most prefecture, Okinawa.
  • The islands are controlled by Japan.
They matter because:
  • They are close to important shipping lanes.
  • They offer rich fishing grounds.
  • They lie near potential oil and gas reserves.
  • They are also in a strategically significant position, amid rising competition between the US and China for military primacy in the Asia-Pacific region.
What is Japan's claim?
Japan says it surveyed the islands for 10 years in the 19th Century and determined that they were uninhabited. In 1895 Japan erected a sovereignty marker and formally incorporated the islands into Japanese territory.
After World War Two, Japan renounced claims to a number of territories and islands including Taiwan in the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco. These islands, however, came under US trusteeship and were returned to Japan in 1971 under the Okinawa reversion deal.
Japan says China raised no objections to the San Francisco deal. And it says that it is only since the 1970s, when the issue of oil resources in the area emerged, that Chinese and Taiwanese authorities began pressing their claims.
What is China's claim?
China says that the islands have been part of its territory since ancient times, serving as important fishing grounds administered by the province of Taiwan.
Separately, Taiwan also claims the islands.

Why is the row so prominent now?
The dispute has rumbled relatively quietly for decades. But in 2012, a fresh row ensued after outspoken right-wing Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said he would use public money to buy the islands from their private Japanese owner. The Japanese government then reached a deal to buy three of the islands from the owner.
This angered China, triggering public and diplomatic protests. Since then, Chinese government ships have regularly sailed in and out of what Japan says are its territorial waters around the islands.
In November 2013, China also announced the creation of a new air-defence identification zone, which would require any aircraft in the zone - which covers the islands - to comply with rules laid down by Beijing.
Japan labelled the move a "unilateral escalation" and said it would ignore it, as did the US.

What is the role of the US?
The US and Japan forged a security alliance in the wake of World War II and formalised it in 1960. Under the deal, the US is given military bases in Japan in return for its promise to defend Japan in the event of an attack.
This means if conflict were to erupt between China and Japan, Japan would expect US military back-up. US President Barack Obama has confirmed that the security pact applies to the islands - but has also warned that escalation of the current row would harm all sides.

What next?
The Senkaku/Diaoyu issue highlights the more robust attitude China has been taking to its territorial claims in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea. It poses worrying questions about regional security as China's military modernises amid the US "pivot" to Asia. In both China and Japan, meanwhile, the dispute ignites nationalist passions on both sides, putting pressure on politicians to appear tough and ultimately making any possible resolution even harder to find.
 Q. 183. India Post Payments Bank
  • India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) will be set up as a public limited company under the Department of Posts with 100 per cent government equity.
  • The total corpus of the payments bank is of Rs 800 crore, which will have Rs 400-crore equity and Rs 400-crore grant.
  • A total of 650 branches of the postal payments bank would be established in India, which will be linked to rural post offices.
  • India has 154,000 post offices, of which 139,000 are rural post offices. IPPB will obtain banking licence from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) by March 2017 and by September 2017, all 650 branches of the postal payments bank would become operational.
  • IPPB will offer demand deposits such as savings and current accounts upto a balance of Rs 1 Lac, digitally enabled payments and remittance services of all kinds between entities and individuals and also provide access to third party financial services such as insurance, mutual funds, pension, credit products, forex, and more, in partnership with insurance companies, mutual fund houses, pension providers, banks, international money transfer organisations, etc.
The four key features of IPPB are:
FINANCIAL LITERACY: Even a little saving can go a long way if channelized correctly. With trustworthy advice and services designed to include everybody, income can be invested correctly, more can be saved, and people can start moving forward, faster. IPPB aims to make India prosperous by ensuring that everyone has equal access to financial information and services, no matter who they are, what they earn and where they live.

STREAMLINING PAYMENTS: Beneficiaries can access income from government’s DBT programs like MNREGA wages, Social Security Pensions and scholarships, directly from their IPPB bank account with near zero friction. They can also pay their utility bills, fees for educational institutions and many more from the same IPPB account. It ensures that wherever they are, they can make the most of financial opportunities available to them.

FINANCIAL INCLUSION: Millions of Indians don’t have access to banking facilities. They cannot avail of government benefits, loans and insurance, and even interest on savings. IPPB will reach the un-banked and the under-banked across all cross sections of society and geographies. Services offered by IPPB will help them take the first step towards prosperity.

EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY: IPPB is powered by the very postmen who deliver our letters. With over 1.54 lac post offices across the country, India Post enjoys the trust of Indians everywhere. The postal delivery system will make IPPB, India’s most accessible banking network. IPPB will also offer services through internet and mobile banking, and prepaid instruments like mobile wallets, debit cards, ATMs, PoS and MPoS terminals etc.
 Q. 182. Jallikattu
Now that the dust has settled on Marina beach, where young protesters had camped to demand that the ban on Jallikattu—a traditional sport of bull jostling—be lifted, let’s discuss the larger and more serious issue of culture, tradition and their practice in the modern world. There is no doubt that traditional cultures had empathy with ecology—people had learnt to live with nature, optimise its resources and rationalise its use during scarcity. This “sustainable use” was woven into rituals, practices and beliefs, and became part of cultures. But times change, and so do the approaches and sensibilities of society.

Jallikattu, the Tamils practise this tradition and say it is different from the bull-fighting of Spain. They do not kill the bull, only play with it by removing bundles of gold and money tied to its horns. The skill is tested in how the man—it’s always a man—removes the money and, in the process, tames the raging bull.

Sequence of events:
  • In 2011, the then environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, agreed to include “bull” in the list of animals that were banned for use in training or exhibition under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.
  • His successor, Prakash Javadekar, wanted to remove “bulls” from the list but the Supreme Court intervened.
  • In May 2014, the court ruled that Jallikattu, bull-racing and other such activities were indeed cruel to animals and upheld the notification banning the “sport”.
But since then, each Pongal—the festival of harvest when Jallikattu is organised—the rumble of dissension has been growing. Proponents say Jallikattu is the only way to preserve the state’s traditional Kangayam species of bull. They say through this sport, the stud bull’s powers are demonstrated and it is selected for conservation. They go as far as saying that if the sport is banned, there will be no “value” in keeping the bull; it will be slaughtered and the ratio of cow to bull will further decline. 
The only reason to seek continuation of the sport has been “culture” or “tradition”, and the plea has been that cruelty is not inherent in the sport and can be regulated. The proponents have never ever articulated the ecological purpose of the sport as this would require substantiation. 

Fact check: Today, indigenous domestic animals across the country stand close to extinction. There is a compelling reason to argue that these species must be conserved, protected and bred. They are local and so, have the ability to cope with adverse ecological conditions. Today, Indian traditional cattle breeds are the basis of economic prosperity in other countries. Africa breeds our Sahiwal; Brazil our Nelore; even the American beef cattle comes from India’s Brahman. But we have taken fancy to foreign breeds like Jersey and Holstein Friesian. The 19th Livestock Census released in 2012 shows this decline. Between 2007 and 2012, there was a 19 per cent reduction in indigenous male cattle (bulls) and a parallel 20 per cent increase in exotic breeds of male and female cattle. When compared to the previous census in 2003, the loss is 65 per cent in indigenous milch cattle. The case is the same in Tamil Nadu. So, it would be fair to say there is absolutely no evidence to show that Jallikattu has aided in the conservation of indigenous breeds, other than saying that the species that could have gone extinct is surviving by the skin of its horns.
Much more needs to be done to protect and ensure the continuation and use of indigenous breeds, which are vital for the country’s livestock economy. This is where the catch lies. This is the horn that matters.
 Q. 181. Wetland Rules 2016
India is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which includes in its ambit a wide variety of habitats, such as marshes, swamps, lakes, coastal lagoons, mangroves, peat lands, coral reefs, and numerous man-made wetlands, such as ponds, salt pans, reservoirs, gravel pits, sewage farms, and canals. The Central Government is desirous of mainstreaming full range of wetland biodiversity and ecosystem service values in sectoral development planning and decision making based on integrated management approach. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on 14 December 2016 notified the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016.These rules replace the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 and seek to address the issues related to the conservation and development of wetlands in a comprehensive manner.
Highlights of Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016:
  1. The wetlands shall be conserved and managed in accordance with the principle of 'wise use' for maintaining their ecological integrity.
  2. Wise use of wetlands means preserving the ecological character of wetlands through the implementation of ecosystem approaches.
  3. However, the strategies adopted to preserve wetlands should be within the context of sustainable development.
  4. The rules prohibit any diversion or impediment to natural water inflows and outflows of the wetland.
  5. Activities having or likely to have an adverse impact on the ecological character of the wetland are also prohibited.
  6. Wetland Authority will be set up by the State Governments or UTs to deal with wetland conservation, regulation and management. In a state, the authority will be headed by the respective Chief Minister.
 Q. 180. Space junk and ISRO
Ans. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) sent 104 satellites into orbit and the wild applause was soon followed by growing mutterings about India’s space agency adding to space junk. However, it’s irrational to blame the agency.
If anything, carrying multiple payloads lowers orbital debris as each rocket used to send satellites to space also adds to the space junk.
ISRO is also ideally located for launches because its proximity to the Equator gives the rockets an extra velocity kick into space so they use less fuel to launch heavier payloads.
And unlike space tourism, satellites serve a practical purpose, providing data that support communication, navigation, scientific research, weather observation, military support, earth imaging, among others.
ISRO has developed the models and software for statistical analysis of risk due to space debris and close approach of debris to the functional satellites and to prevent in-orbit break-up by designing spacecraft to be not susceptible to on-orbit explosion.

Space junk
Since the launch of the first artificial satellite Sputnik 1 by the former Soviet Union in 1957, dozens of countries have launched satellites, with close to 3,000 working satellites still orbiting the Earth. These functional satellites are just a fraction of the than 500,000 pieces of dead satellites ranging from the size of a marble to much bigger machines that continue to orbit the Earth.
There are many millions of smaller pieces of dead spacecraft, abandoned launch vehicle stages, mission-related debris and fragmentation debris that are too tiny to be tracked.
The greatest risk to space missions comes from non-trackable debris. Debris shields can withstand impacts of particles smaller than 1 cm.
Space junk travels at speeds up to 30,000 km an hour, which turns tiny pieces of orbital debris into deadly shrapnel that can damage satellites, space shuttles, space stations and spacecraft with humans aboard.
Kessler syndrome: it is a scenario in which the density of objects in space is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade where each collision generates space debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions. One implication is that the distribution of debris in orbit could render space activities and the use of satellites in specific orbital ranges unfeasible for many generations.

Tracking debris
A multi-object tracking radar (MOTR) developed by the Satish Dhawan Space Centre allows ISRO to track 10 objects simultaneously. It tracks India’s space assets and space debris, for which India was solely dependent on data provide by the US space agency NASA till early 2016.
ISRO is a part of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), an international governmental forum that coordinates global efforts to reduce man-made and natural space debris by sharing research and identifying debris mitigation options.
Global mitigation measures take many forms, including preventing the creation of new debris, designing satellites to withstand impacts by small debris, and improving operational procedures such as using orbital regimes with less debris, and predicting and avoiding collisions.
 Q. 179. Guar Gum and Shale Gas
Ans. What is Guar Gum?
Guar Gum Powder is extracted from the Guar Seed after a multistage industrial process. The most important property of Guar Gum is its ability to hydrate rapidly in cold water to attain uniform and very high viscosity at relatively low concentrations. Guar Gum, either modified or unmodified is a very versatile and efficient natural polymer covering a number of applications in various industries like food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, paper, textile, construction, oil & gas well drilling, mining etc, due to its cost effective emulsifying and thickening properties.

Functions: It is widely used in oil and gas well drilling due to its multi-function such as fluid and water loss control, lubrication and cooling of drill bits, shale inhibitor and solids carrier. It has excellent solution rheology, stability, solubility and compatibility with other auxiliaries used in oil well drilling.

Over the last three years, guar has slowly lost its lustre due to oversupply, reduced demand on account of oil price crash, and emergence of substitutes that further reduced its demand. Guar products enjoyed their dream run for two successive years, 2011-12 and 2012-13, becoming India’s largest agricultural export item, surpassing the famed basmati rice. India accounts for 80 per cent of the world’s production of guar. Rajasthan is the leading producer, contributing 70 per cent of India’s production. Over 80 per cent of India’s guar products are exported, mainly to the US, Germany and China. The top consuming industry is oil & gas, accounting for 60-65 per cent, followed by food (25-30 per cent) and the rest by pharma. The textile printing industry is the major consumer of guar domestically.

Guar gum started to play a key role in the extraction of shale oil and gas through the fracking process, post-2009. It helped the US to increase shale gas production to almost nine times from that in 2005. The shale revolution and speculation of drought in India, together with expectation of production shortfall, led to panic stocking by the US. As a result, the US became the top importer of guar, accounting for 73 per cent of global imports in 2012.

An unprecedented rise in prices, especially after 2009, saw Indian farmers preferring guar over competing kharif crops, such as cotton, moong, soyabean and bajra. As a result, India’s guar production has risen. New guar processing facilities were built in Rajasthan. Cultivation was extended to non-guar producing States. However, sharp rise in the prices of guar products prompted importing countries, such as China and Australia, to encourage indigenous guar cultivation and processing. Also, the food industry’s demand for guar gum was adversely impacted by extreme volatility and sharp rise in prices. Higher prices also prompted guar consuming industries to explore and shift to cheaper substitutes. All these developments substantially reduced the demand for gaur with implications for prices.

Crude oil price holds the key to demand for guar products. Crude oil prices seem to have bottomed out now. However, Iran seeking to capture its old market share may cause a further fall in crude prices. If that happens, it may pressurise guar.

Guar price shocks in the past have prompted international buyers to look for cheaper alternatives, such as tara gum, locust bean gum and xanthan gum, which are being used in the food industry. Synthetic polymers are used in the shale oil and gas industry. But nothing has come out as effective as guar. Nevertheless, guar substitutes will keep guar prices from shooting up unreasonably.
 Q. 178. Union Budget: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in India
Ans. The Union Budget has made a broad-brushed allocation of ₹2,675.42 crores to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), an apparent increase by 18.88% from last year. Even as the issues of forest management, resource conservation, pollution control and wildlife protection are manifest to be increasingly interconnected, they are treated in isolation with attention paid only at the macro-level. Often proactive measures for environment are disproportionately counter-balanced by lax regulation in other sectors such as energy and large industries.

Areas of concern
•     In light of the increasing challenges faced by environment in India, budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Environment under various heads is palpably inadequate.
•     There has been superficial renaming of ‘Clean Energy Cess’ levied on coal, lignite and peat as ‘Clean Environment Cess’ with an increase in the rate of levy to ₹400 per tonne.
•     Even as climate change and increasing pollution have been matters of great concern, a measly sum of ₹40 crores and ₹74.30 crore have been allocated to the Climate Change Action Plan and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), respectively. While the national capital reeled under the heavy effects of air pollution, triggering heated debates on spiralling pollution levels in prominent urban pockets, the funding received by the CPCB is visibly unremarkable.
•     Similarly, for environment and ecology, coastal management, environmental monitoring and governance, National Afforestation Management have received funds sketchily with no accompanying rationale for such allocations or a clear framework for their utilisation.
•     The treatment of wildlife conservation has been no different, with ambitious projects like Project Tiger having the budget slashed by ₹30 crore and Project Elephant receiving a marginal boost of ₹2.5 crore.
•     Budgetary flow for the schemes under the Ministry of Environment has been fluctuating in the past and can be best described as insubstantial.
•     In 2015, the total budget for the Ministry was reduced by 25% to ₹1,681.60 crore, only to be increased to ₹2,327 crores the following year.
•     Centrally sponsored schemes have also experienced similar ups and downs with Project Tiger witnessing a slash of 15% in 2015. This time as well, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has been allotted an arbitrary sum of ₹8.15 crore.
•     But the persistent problem has also been of under-utilisation of existing funds, which would otherwise have been used for an effective overhaul of several environmental issues. A closer breakdown of the actual expenditure shows that out of the ₹850.02 crore dedicated to implementing the Centrally sponsored core schemes, the total outlay was only ₹566.38 crore. These Centrally sponsored schemes include Project Tiger, Project Elephant, Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats and Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystems.

In the Fiscal Policy Strategy Statement, the envisaged outlook for the financial plan states that: the government will aggressively focus on the objectives of pushing economic growth… (and) has the prime responsibility of providing a safe and stable environment for the private sector to create wealth. A small step in this regard would be to acknowledge the role of the environment in budgetary allocations and ensure rational dedication of funds.
 Q. 177. Right of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016
It  replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. The legislation  was drafted on the basis of the recommendations of the Sudha Kaul Committee, under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. According to the 2011 Census, the number of disabled in India stands at 2.68 crore, or 2.21 per cent of the population. The law will make a larger number of people eligible for rights and entitlements by reason of their disability since it recognises more disablities as compared to the 1995 Act. Apart from this, the  new law also complies with the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Salient features:
  1.  covers 19 conditions, instead of seven disabilities specified in the  1995 Act  — blindness, low vision, leprosy-cured, hearing impairment, locomotor disability, mental retardation and mental illness, the 2014 Bill was expanded to cover 19 conditions– including cerebral palsy, haemophilia, multiple sclerosis, autism and thalassaemia among others. The amended version also recognises two other disabilities — resulting from acid attacks and Parkinson’s Disease. Apart from listing these disabilities, the Act  has also laid down provisions to allow the central government to notify any other condition as a disability.
  2.  The Act also mentions that individuals with at least 40 per cent of a disability are entitled to benefits like reservations in education and employment, preference in government schemes and others. While the 1995 law had 3 per cent reservation for the disabled in higher education institutions and government, the new law  raised the ceiling to 5 per cent, adding 1 per cent each for mental illnesses and multiple disabilities.
  3. Many  rights and entitlements — including disabled friendly access to all public buildings — are conferred on the disabled individuals. The amendments include private firms in the definition of ‘establishments’, which previously referred to only government bodies. All such establishments have to ensure that persons with disabilities are provided with barrier-free access in buildings, transport systems and all kinds of public infrastructure, and are not discriminated against in matters of employment.
  4. It  laid down provisions in matters of guardianship of mentally ill persons.: District courts may award two types of guardianship. While a limited guardian is to take joint decisions with the mentally ill person, the plenary guardian takes decisions on behalf of the mentally ill person, without consulting them.
 Q. 176. The UK and 3 Parent babies
Mitochondria are the tiny compartments inside nearly every cell of the body that convert food into useable energy. But genetic defects in the mitochondria mean the body has insufficient energy to keep the heart beating or the brain functioning. Cells can have hundreds of mitochondria which are passed on solely from mother to child. About one in 10,000 newborns are affected by mitochondrial disease. Many of these children die young, as the mutations cause the brain, heart, muscles and other energy-demanding tissues to fail.

The technique, developed in Newcastle (UK) combines the healthy mitochondria of a donor woman with DNA of the two parents.

Doctors in Newcastle are ready to offer the experimental treatment, called mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), to women whose faulty DNA puts them at risk of passing on devastating genetic diseases to their children. MRT was developed to help women with mutations in the DNA of their mitochondria to have healthy babies. MRT aims to prevent mitochondrial diseases from being passed on by replacing the defective mitochondria in a mother’s egg with healthy mitochondria from a donor. The resulting baby would inherit the full set of 46 chromosomes from its mother and father – it is this DNA that defines their appearance and other characteristics – but have the healthy donor’s mitochondria. The donor has no legal rights over the child. UK's historic decision means that parents at very high risk of having a child with a life-threatening mitochondrial disease may soon have the chance of a healthy, genetically-related child. The first British baby made with the DNA of three people could be born in 2017  after the UK’s fertility regulator gave the green light for clinics to seek licences for the procedure.