Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 16 January 2023

PSInSAR satellite technique

GS Paper - 3 (Technology)

The PSInSAR satellite technique used to observe the gradual sinking of Uttarakhand's Joshimath town is a powerful remote sensing tool capable of measuring and monitoring displacements in the Earth's surface over time. The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Ropar in Punjab said that its researchers had in 2021 predicted a large-scale subsidence in Joshimath.

More about the technique

  1. The researchers collected remote sensing data using the Persistent Scatterer Synthetic Aperture Radar (PSInSAR) Interferometry technique to observe the sinking.
  2. A Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) is a form of radar that is used to create two-dimensional images or three-dimensional reconstructions of objects, such as landscapes.
  3. A signal from an SAR satellite interacts with different targets and goes back to the sensor located in the satellite, based on which an image is created. In our study, Sentinel 1 SAR satellite data was used," said IIT-Ropar.
  4. So, for active SAR sensors, the built-up structures such as buildings act as persistent or permanent scatterers.
  5. Scattering refers to a change in the direction of light because of its collision or interaction with another particle, say buildings.
  6. The buildings are "scatterers", and because they are usually static and do not record movements, they are referred to as "permanent scatterers" or "persistent scatterers".
  7. In PSInSAR, the persistent scatterers in question are imaged over a period of time at regular intervals. Therefore, successive images are acquired.
  8. Any change in the signal received after having been scattered by the target is due to change in the target movement.
  9. Since persistent scatterers are not usually expected to move, therefore, any movement, even on a scale of millimetres, arising from crustal deformations or seismic activity or even structural failure is captured precisely.

What is land subsidence and how does it differ from a landslide?

  1. Land subsidence is when the normal ground itself starts sinking or gets displaced all together.
  2. On the other hand, landslides occur when a mass of rock located at higher elevation falls down on a lower surface or road either due to slip action or under influence of gravity.
  3. While landslides are a highly localised phenomenon, land subsidence usually covers a larger area.
  4. Land subsidence is the slow settling of ground over a large area, which can happen in plains as well.
  5. However, in a landslide, a mountain slope fails due to different reasons, one of them being heavy rainfall.


Urban development projects only after EIA

GS Paper -2 (Judiciary)

The Supreme Court has urged legislators and policy experts to ensure that Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) studies are done before giving the green signal for urban development projects in India’s cities.

Judgement came in the light of events:

  1. In a judgment, the bench referred to media reports of how haphazard urban development has ruined the ‘Garden City’ of Bengaluru as witnessed during a major spell of rain in September 2022.
  2. The court said that the city struggled for drinking water while it lay submerged after the downpour.
  3. The judgment came in regard to a proposal to convert independent residential units into apartments in Chandigarh Phase 1.
  4. The court prohibited the move in order to protect the heritage status of ‘Corbusian’ Chandigarh.

What the court directs?

  1. It is high time that the legislature, the executive and policymakers at the Centre as well as at the State levels take note of the damage to the environment on account of haphazard developments.
  2. It also talks about taking necessary measures to ensure that the development does not damage the environment.
  3. It is necessary that a proper balance is struck between sustainable development and environmental protection.
  4. It said that the legislature, the governments and experts should put their heads together “to make necessary provisions for carrying out Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies before permitting urban development”.
  5. The apex court directed the copies of the judgment to be forwarded to the Cabinet Secretary to the Union of India and to the Chief Secretaries of all the States to take note of it.
  6. It hoped that the Union of India as well as the State governments will take earnest steps in that regard.

From where judgement took inference

  1. The judgment referred to a publication by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which underscored that more than half of the world’s population was now living in urban areas.
  2. The publication further noted that by the year 2050, more than half of Africa and Asia’s population would live in towns and cities.
  3. It recognised that City Development Strategies (CDSs) have shown how to integrate environmental concerns in long-term city visioning exercises.
  4. The publication defines EIA to be an analytical process or procedure that systematically examines the possible environmental consequences of the implementation of a given activity (project).
  5. It is aimed to ensure that the environmental implications of decisions related to a given activity are taken into account before the decisions are made.


Indian Army Day 2023

GS Paper -2 (Defence)

India celebrates Army Day on 15 January every year to commemorate the achievements of the first Indian Commander in Chief of the Indian Army — General (later Field Marshal) K.M. Cariappa.

More about the news

  1. Cariappa, who led Indian forces to victory in the 1947 war, took over the command of the Indian Army from General Sir FRR Bucher, the last British Commander-in-Chief in 1949 and became the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of Independent India.
  2. The Army Day Parade showcases the evolution of various weapon systems held in the Indian Army’s inventory. Soldiers are also awarded with Gallantry awards and Sena medals on the day.

Army Day 2023

  1. As part of an initiative to take major events to other parts of the country, away from the national capital region, the 75th Army Day will be held in Bengaluru this year.
  2. The rationale behind the move is to bring about increased visibility of these events and secure greater engagement with the local population.
  3. The parade on Army Day will begin with a wreath-laying ceremony by Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande at Madras Engineer Centre War Memorial. Gen. Pande will then review the Army Day parade.
  4. COAS unit citations will also be awarded to units for their exceptional performance. The Army Day parade will also be supported by a flypast of Army aviation Dhruv and Rudra helicopters.

Army outreach programme:

  1. To build a better bond with civilians, a run was organised in Hyderabad at Necklace Road where around 1,000 people participated.
  2. A blood donation camp was also organised in which 7,500 units of blood were donated in both Hyderabad and Secunderabad at Military hospitals.

Theme for 2022

  1. The Indian Army’s theme for the event was “In Stride with the Future”.
  2. It was seen as an acknowledgement of the “increasingly critical role played by niche and disruptive technologies in modern warfare”.


Indian cities stand on toxic air

GS Paper -3 (Pollution)

Four years since the Centre launched the National Clean Air Campaign (NCAP), analysts found that progress has been slow and pollution only incrementally reduced in most cities.

About NCAP

  1. The government launched the NCAP that committed funds as well as set targets for 131 of India’s most polluted cities.
  2. The 131 cities are called non-attainment cities, as they did not meet the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for the period of 2011-15under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP).

Target levels under it

  1. The country’s current, annual average prescribed limits for the two main classes of particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) are 40 micrograms/per cubic metre (ug/m3) and 60 micrograms/per cubic metre.
  2. The NCAP initially set a target of reducing key air pollutants PM10 and PM2.5 by 20-30% in 2024, taking the pollution levels in 2017 as the base year to improve upon.
  3. In September 2022, however, the Centre moved the goalposts and set a new target of a 40% reduction in particulate matter concentration, but by 2026.

How effective has the NCAP been?

  1. An analysis of the four-year performance of the NCAP by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), found that only 38 of the 131 cities that were given annual pollution reduction targets under agreements signed between State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs), Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and the Centre managed to meet the targets for FY21-22.
  2. The CREA noted that 37 cities have completed the source apportionment studies (which list out and quantify the major sources of pollution in a city).
  3. The CREA estimates that India will need to install more than 300manual air quality monitoring stations per year to reach the NCAP goal of 1,500 monitoring stations by 2024. Only 180 stations have been installed over the last four years.

Has NCAP managed to reduce pollution?

  1. The NCAP Tracker, a joint project by two organisations active in air pollution-policy, Climate Trends and Respirer Living Sciences, have been monitoring progress in achieving the 2024 clean air targets set under the NCAP.
  2. Among these cities, the national capital of Delhi ranked the most polluted in 2022, with an annual average PM2.5 concentration of 99.71ug/m3. But Delhi’s PM2.5 levels have improved by over 7% compared to 2019.
  3. Most cities in the top 10 most polluted list of 2022 were from the Indo-Gangetic Plain.
  4. All three of Bihar’s non-attainment cities, Patna, Muzaffarpur and Gaya, now feature in the top 10 most polluted cities on the basis of PM2.5 levels.


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