CURRENT AFFAIRS – 20/05/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 20/05/2023

Tracking SDG progress the Bhopal way

K.V.S. Choudary

is Municipal Commissioner, Bhopal Municipal Corporation

Parul Agarwala

is Country Programme Manager, UN-Habitat India

Pushkal Shivam

is Urban Planner, UN-Habitat India

Bhopal has become the first city in India to join the growing global movement on localisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) following the release of its Voluntary Local Review (VLR). In 2015, the 193 member-states of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets as a plan of action for ‘people’, ‘the planet’, and ‘prosperity’.

The resolution specifies mechanisms for the monitoring, review, and reporting of progress as a measure of accountability towards the people. To this end, member-states submit a Voluntary National Review (VNR) to the UN’s High Level Political Forum (HLPF), and, more recently, VLRs as a means for driving and reporting local implementation of SDGs at the sub-national and city levels.

India’s progress

India has made commendable efforts towards the adoption, localisation, and achievement of the SDGs. NITI Aayog presented India’s second VNR at the HLPF convened in 2020. India’s Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MoSPI) has published a National Indicator Framework (NIF) for the review and monitoring of the SDGs, which contextualises the UN’s Global Indicator Framework to represent India’s unique development journey. As noted in a NITI Aayog report, at least 23 States and Union Territories have prepared a vision document based on SDGs. Almost all of them have initiated steps to localise the SDGs. However, it has taken a while to get to India’s first Voluntary Local Review at the city level since the efforts to localise the SDGs began.

Cities are the most important stakeholders in Agenda 2030 as at least 65% of the 169 targets could not possibly be achieved without the engagement of local urban stakeholders. A VLR is a tool to demonstrate how local actions are leading the way in equitable and sustainable transformations for people and building a coalition of partners towards this endeavour.

While it is desirable to align a city’s VLR to the State-level action plan (where available) and the country’s VNR, the process allows a great deal of flexibility to the cities to tell their story within a framework of their choice. The cities could choose their priority for the VLR process, articulating it either in terms of a quantitative assessment using various city level indicators relevant to the SDG targets or a narrative that describes the efforts and vision of the city. It may seem like a daunting task for Indian cities, particularly the non-metro urban local bodies, with limited capacity, resources, and disaggregated data to do a comprehensive VLR covering all SDGs. Therefore, a VLR does not have to be exhaustive in quantifying each of the 286 indicators under India’s NIF, which translate the global targets under the 17 SDGs into local indicators at the national level. Cities may choose specific SDGs for a detailed review as per their priority and logistical comfort. While doing so, they may adapt and further localise the national indicators under the relevant SDGs to reflect the city level realities. Globally, many cities choose to align their review with the SDGs that are taken up for detailed review by the HLPF in its ongoing cycle.

The Bhopal plan

Bhopal’s VLR is the result of a collaboration between the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, UN-Habitat, and a collective of over 23 local stakeholders. It has mapped 56 developmental projects to the SDGs across the three pillars, of ‘people’ (SDGs 1,3,4,5), ‘planet’ (SDGs 6,13,15) and ‘prosperity’ (SDGs 7,8,11). The objectives of building basic infrastructure and resilience emerge as a priority for the city from the number of projects mapped to the SDGs.

The in-depth quantitative assessment of city-level indicators under SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities) records Bhopal’s stellar performance in solid waste management practices, public transportation, and open spaces per capita. However, the analysis also points to areas where the city needs to work much harder in the coming years to close the distance from the goals: provisioning of adequate shelter, high levels of air pollution, city planning capacity, and even distribution and accessibility of open spaces.

The Mayor, Malti Rai, recognised the significance of a VLR for the city and led the efforts to engage people as part of the process.

Other examples

Does a VLR necessarily have to be the prerogative of a local government? Not quite. It represents people’s process, and any city-level stakeholder may take the initiative as long as the VLR is done within the overarching framework of Agenda 2030. A case in point is the city of Canterbury in the United Kingdom where some residents and local groups came together to form a “spontaneous coalition” that did the VLR. This coalition petitioned the local governments to work with city-level groups to advance the SDGs, and the latter merely served as an interlocutor in the VLR process. Closer home, in the global South, we have the examples of local governments in Dhulikhel (Nepal), Singra (Bangladesh), and Amman (Jordan) that worked in a similar context as that of Indian cities to publish their VLRs in 2022.

It is a remarkable opportunity for Indian cities to tell their stories in their own vocabulary, using a framework of their choice to forefront their work at a global platform. We hope more Indian cities will follow Bhopal’s lead, to showcase urban innovations and collaborations emerging from India on the global map.

As the first city in India to join the growing global movement on localisation of Sustainable Development Goals, Bhopal’s drive should encourage other Indian cities to tell their

own stories


How Gujarat is working to become India’s green hydrogen hub

Gujarat has set the ball rolling to become the country’s green hydrogen manufacturing hub and retain its dominance over the industrial sector. The State has signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with several big corporates, including Reliance, Adani, ArcelorMittal and Torrent, which have pledged huge investments in green energy projects and have been allotted land for the same.

“We aim to become a hub for green hydrogen by creating a production capacity of 8 metric tonnes per annum (MTPA) by 2035,” State Industries Minister Balwantsinh Rajput said.

The State is framing a new policy for green hydrogen manufacturing, which will be given the status of a “priority sector”, said officials. The State Cabinet approved the allotment of 1.99 lakh hectares in the Kutch-Banaskantha border areas against the proposals, by the corporates that signed the MoUs, for setting up projects across 3.26 lakh hectares. The land parcels will be allotted on a 40-year lease initially.

The government will provide a range of incentives to the industries investing in the State’s green hydrogen projects, officials said. As per the land allotment policy, the companies must meet 50% of their green hydrogen production capacity within five years of commissioning their plants and 100% within eight years.

Zero emission country

Under the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), India has set a target of becoming a net-zero emission country by 2070. The country also aims to reduce its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 by sourcing 50% of its energy from renewable sources.

“As a State with a favourable policy regime and solid infrastructure base, Gujarat will be a hub for green energy and its ecosystem,” an official said, adding, “the State is expecting around ₹10 lakh crore worth of investments in this new sector over the next 15 years.”

Any company intending to set up a green hydrogen plant in Gujarat should have prior experience in producing at least 500 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy or should be a user of “green”, “blue”, or “brown” hydrogen.

Major opportunities

Among the companies that have signed MoUs with the State, the Reliance group has committed investments worth ₹5.6 lakh crore to set up a renewable energy park and a green hydrogen park in Gujarat. The Adani group has also made significant commitments, announcing plans to invest more than ₹4.13 lakh crore over the next 10 years in green hydrogen and associated ecosystems to create a capacity to produce up to 3 million tonnes of green hydrogen annually.

The companies plan to set up factories for solar photovoltaic modules, electrolysers, energy storage batteries and fuel cells, and wind and solar projects.

In its recent Union Budget, the Centre allocated ₹19,744 crore for the National Green Hydrogen Mission, which seeks to promote the development of green hydrogen production capacity of at least 5 MMT (Million Metric Tonnes) per annum, with an associated renewable energy capacity addition of about 125 gigawatts (GW) in the country by 2030. In addition, the policy aims to attract investment of over ₹8 lakh crore and create over 6 lakh jobs by 2030.

Hydrogen is the most common element in nature.

It exists only in combination with other elements, and has to be extracted from naturally occurring compounds like water.There are no natural hydrogen deposits on earth, it has to be extracted from other compounds by a chemical process.

A colorless, odourless, tasteless, non-toxic and highly combustible gaseous substance, hydrogen is the lightest, simplest and most abundant member of the family of chemical elements in the universe.

But a colour — green — prefixed to it makes hydrogen the “fuel of the future”.

The vast majority of industrial hydrogen is currently produced from natural gas through a process known as Steam Methane Reforming or SMR.

Green hydrogen is a type of hydrogen that is produced through the electrolysis of water using renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power.

The electrolysis process splits water into hydrogen and oxygen, and the hydrogen produced can be used as a clean and renewable fuel.

Green Hydrogen has no carbon footprint. Hydrogen that is in use these days is the primary source.

Organic materials such as fossil fuels and biomass are used for releasing hydrogen through chemical processes.


  • Chemical industry:Manufacturing ammonia and fertilisers.
  • Petrochemical industry: Production of petroleum products.
  • Furthermore, it is starting to be used in the steel industry,a sector which is under considerable pressure in Europe because of its polluting effect.

Types of Hydrogen:

Brown Hydrogen: Most of the gas that is already widely used as an industrial chemical is either brown, if it’s made through the gasification of coal or lignite.

Grey Hydrogen: If it is made through steam methane reformation, which typically uses natural gas as the feedstock. Neither of these processes is exactly carbon-friendly.

Blue Hydorgen: Where the gas is produced by steam methane reformation but the emissions are curtailed using carbon capture and storage.

Green Hydrogen: Green hydrogen, in contrast, could almost eliminate emissions by using renewable energy — increasingly abundant and often generated at less-than-ideal times — to power the electrolysis of water.

Green Hydrogen Benefits

  • Green hydrogen can be generated without any harmful emissions If renewable energy (e.g. from Solar panels) is used to generate electricity for electrolysis of water.
  • It is a clean-burning molecule, which can decarbonize a range of sectors including iron and steel, chemicals, and transportation.
  • To meet intermittencies (of renewable energy) in the future Green Hydrogen acts as an energy storage option.
  • Renewable energy that cannot be stored or used by the grid can be channelled to produce hydrogen.
  • Hydrogen is a clean energy source that only emits water vapour and leaves no residue in the air, unlike coal and oil.
  • Green Hydrogen can be used for long distance mobilisation such as in railways, large ships, buses or trucks, etc.

National Green Hydrogen Mission

The Union Government has approved a Rs 19,744 crore National Green Hydrogen mission that aims to make India a ‘global hub’ for using, producing and exporting green hydrogen.


  • It is a program toincentivise the commercial production of green hydrogen and make India a net exporterof the fuel.
  • Objectives– The mission has a stated aim of making India a global hub for the production of green hydrogen.

The mission is also aimed at

Creation of export opportunities for green hydrogen and its derivatives;

Decarbonisation of the energy sector and use in mobility applications in a bid to lower the dependence on fossil fuels;

Development of indigenous manufacturing capacities;



SC back to its full strength of 34 as CJI administers

oath to two new judges

Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud on Friday administered the oath of office to Justices Prashant Kumar Mishra and K.V. Viswanathan, bringing back the court to its full sanctioned strength of 34 judges.

Justices Mishra and Viswanathan would replace Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and M.R. Shah, both of whom had retired earlier in May.

May 19 also saw the court bid farewell to Justices K.M. Joseph, Ajay Rastogi and V. Ramasubramanian, who are all retiring in June during the summer vacation. Friday was the last working day of the Supreme Court before it goes into recess until reopening on July 2.

Justices Mishra and Viswanathan were sworn in as judges in the presence of the full court in an auditorium filled with members of the Bar. The government had cleared their appointments in record speed. The Collegium had recommended them for appointment to the Supreme Court on May 16. The government’s notifications were published on May 18 and coincided with the first day in office of the new Law Minister, Arjun Ram Meghwal.

Justice Viswanathan would be in line to be the 58th Chief Justice of India in August 2030, succeeding Justice J.B. Pardiwala as top judge. He is also only the ninth lawyer to be elevated directly to the Supreme Court Bench.

Justice Mishra, who hails from Chhattisgarh, was the Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court before his appointment to the Supreme Court.

  • The Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, 1956 was last amended in 2009 to increase the judge’s strength from 25 to 31 (including the CJI).
  • The Indian constitution provides for a provision of Supreme Court under Part V (The Union)and Chapter 6 (The Union Judiciary).
  • Articles 124 to 147 in Part V of the Constitution deal with the organisation, independence, jurisdiction, powers and procedures of the Supreme Court.

Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 124(1)states that there shall be a Supreme Court of India consisting of a Chief Justice of India and, until Parliament by law prescribes a large number, of not more than seven other judges.
  • Article 124(2)states that every judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal after consultation with such number of the judges of Supreme Court and of the High Courts (in states).
  • The Parliament is competent to increase the number of judges if it deems necessary.

Qualifications Required for the Appointment of Judges

  • A person to be appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court should have the following qualifications:
  • He should be a citizen of India.
  • He should have been a judge of a High Court(or high courts in succession) for five years; or
  • He should have been an advocate of a High Court (or High Courts in succession) for ten years; or
  • He should be a distinguished jurist in the opinion of the president.
  • The Constitution has not prescribed a minimum age for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court.

Tenure of Judges-

  • The Constitution has not fixed the tenure of a judge of the Supreme Court. However, it makes the following three provisions in this regard:
  • He holds office until he attains the age of 65 years.
  • He can resign his office by writing to the President.
  • He can be removed from his office by the President on the recommendation of the Parliament.

Removal of Judges –

  • A judge of the Supreme Court can be removed from his office by an order of the President. The President can issue the removal order only after an address by Parliament has been presented to him in the same session for such removal.
  • The address must be supported by a special majority of each House of Parliament (ie, a majority of the total membership of that House and a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting). The grounds of removal are two—proved misbehaviour or incapacity.

No judge of the Supreme Court has been impeached so far. Impeachment motions of Justice V Ramaswami (1991–1993) and the Justice Dipak Misra (2017-18) were defeated in the Parliament.

Qualifications Required for the Appointment of Judges

  • A person to be appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court should have the following qualifications:
  • He should be a citizen of India.
  • He should have been a judge of a High Court(or high courts in succession) for five years;or
  • He should have been an advocate of a High Court (or High Courts in succession) for ten years; or
  • He should be a distinguished jurist in the opinion of the president.
  • The Constitution has not prescribed a minimum agefor appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court.


Even limited arsenic exposure can mar cognitive ability: study

It caused a reduction in grey matter in the brain and affected concentration in children and young adults, say researchers who worked with 1,014 participants from five regions across India

Though it is well known that ingesting high levels of arsenic from contaminated groundwater in India has been linked to a range of ailments, a recent peer-reviewed study suggests that even low levels of arsenic consumption may impact cognitive function in children, adolescents, and young adults.

The research study, which is part of a bigger investigation into how a range of environmental and biological factors affect neurological and cognitive development in young people, also found that those exposed to arsenic had reduced grey matter (brain tissue that is vital to cognitive functions) and weaker connections within key regions of the brain that enable concentration, switching between tasks, and temporary storage of information.

“Chronic exposure to arsenic could be creating a ‘silent pandemic’ affecting large portions of the global population,” say the authors in the study published in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal, JAMA Network Open.

For their research, the scientists linked urine samples (to estimate arsenic exposure) performance in a battery of computerised tests (that evaluate cognitive function) and brain-images (that picturise various regions of the brain) of 1,014 participants from five regions across India.

Arsenic exposure, previous studies have shown, is particularly harmful to the poor.

However, a scientist associated with the study told The Hindu that the impact of arsenic in impairing cognition at an individual level was “limited”. The effect was more pronounced when individuals were considered as part of a collective, the scientist said.

Mapping brains

“We didn’t set out to investigate the link between arsenic exposure and brain function… it emerged from the C-Veda data. Going ahead, we’d like to more thoroughly investigate the degree to which arsenic affects the brain. We are also looking at the role of a host of other environmental factors, in separate studies, such as air pollution,” Nilakshi Vaidya, clinical psychologist and lead author of the study, told The Hindu in a phone conversation.

Since the 1990s, both the Central and State governments in Bihar and West Bengal have sought to address arsenic contamination. A common strategy employed is to encourage piped water access rather than groundwater extraction and install arsenic removal plants.

What is Arsenic?

  • It’s an odourless, tasteless metalloid found throughout the earth’s crust.
  • It is found in high concentrations in the earth’s crust and groundwater in a number of countries. In its inorganic form, it is extremely poisonous.
  • Impact-
  • It can enter the human body through drinking arsenic-contaminated water or eating arsenic-contaminated food.
  • Arsenicosis is the medical term for arsenic poisoning, which is caused by excessive levels of arsenic accumulating in the body.
  • It causes negative health impacts by inhibiting vital enzymes, which eventually leads to death due to multi-system organ failure.
  • Arsenic poisoning from drinking water and eating can lead to cancer and skin sores over time. It has also been linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • In prenatal and early childhood exposure has been related to poor cognitive development and an increase in the number of young adults who die.