Nation
Dams close to glacial lakes in Himalayas under flood threat
Of the 177 hydropower projects (HPP) located close to Himalayan glaciers over a fifth -- including many in India -- could be under threat from floods caused by the outbursts of glacial lakes, European researchers have warned.
 
The researchers, from various universities, have charted out a new method for locating the minimum exposure that hydropower sites in the Himalayas have to glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) -- a type of outburst flood that occurs when the dam containing a glacial lake fails.
 
Himalayan water resources attract a rapidly-growing number of HPPs to satisfy Asia's soaring energy demands. Yet, the projects now operational or at a planning stage in steep, glacier-fed mountain rivers face hazards of GLOFs that can damage hydropower infrastructure, alter water and sediment yields and compromise livelihoods downstream.
 
The researchers evaluated the regional exposure of 257 Himalayan HPPs to GLOFs and assessed the flood risk to them from 2,359 moraine-dammed glacial lakes.
 
Moraines are dirt and rock debris that have been pushed along by glaciers as they move. The moraines form a dam containing lakes when the glaciers recede. But as glaciers further recede and the lake becomes larger, they are susceptible to giving way -- unleashing a flood that could threaten HPPs downstream.
 
"The number of hydroelectric power projects in the Himalayas has been increasing during the last decades and many more are planned. This trend has led to increasing implementation of the projects on rivers higher up and closer to glaciers," the study's lead author, Wolfgang Schwanghart, a geologist at the Institute of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Potsdam, Germany, told IANS in an email interaction.
 
"Our key result is that the majority of the projects are currently planned or constructed where these uncertainties become relevant and potentially dangerous," he added.
 
Most of the sampled hydropower projects are in the Indian Himalayan states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim, and some in Nepal and Bhutan.
 
"Our database encompasses 257 HPPs, 177 of which are located on potential GLOF tracks. In 56 HPP (one fifth of 177), the volume of floodwater may exceed the limit they are designed to withstand," explained Schwanghart.
 
The striking factor, said Schwanghart, is the density of dams in Sikkim in northeast India.
 
"Particularly, Sikkim stands out as a region combining abundant glacial lakes, long potential GLOF tracks, and pronounced hydropower development. Several regions in Eastern Nepal and Bhutan also host lakes that could give rise to far-reaching GLOFs," he said.
 
Strategies for climate change mitigation and adaptation at the sub-national level are currently prepared by Indian Himalayan states (State Action Plans on Climate Change), and identify GLOFs as a major climate change-related threat to hydropower development (Government of Uttarakhand, 2014), the study says.
 
At the same time, however, hydropower is being harnessed in a major way in these states to meet the increasing power demand and advance low-carbon economies.
 
"Disregarding the current upstream increase of uncertainties about GLOF discharges for HPP to be located in headwaters may undermine some of the coordination between climate-change mitigation, adaption, and energy plans," the study warns.
 
Published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the analysis also involves experts from the University of Geneva and University of Switzerland.
 
The experts used high-resolution remote sensing imagery from Google Earth for mapping glacial lakes, as well as publicly available digital elevation models.
 
Run-off data are scarce in the Himalayas due to restrictive data policies. Data on HPPs were mined from various sites in the internet including those of many hydropower companies, the Indian Power Ministry, the UN, and the World Bank, Schwanghart said, adding the study does not factor in climate change.
 
The scientists used computer simulations to determine how much floodwater might be released from such lakes, if the moraine embankments fail and how far the water would travel.
 
"India has a great share of its hydropower in the Himalayas. This share is likely to increase in the future. The high vulnerability to flash floods during the Indian floods suggests a high vulnerability to GLOFs, too.
 
"However, large parts of the Indian Himalayas are not among those areas that experience the strongest glacier retreat rates. However, this might change in the future and highlights the necessity for reliable climate change projections and its influence on Himalayan glacier retreat, and ultimately the development of glacial lakes," Schwanghart cautioned.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
  

 

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The twin challenges of poverty and hunger
Goals 1 and 2 of the UNs Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) envision eradicating poverty and ending hunger in an extreme form in the world by 2030. Much will depend on how developing countries fare on the twin goals over the coming decade-and-a-half. This is because a bulk of the poor and hungry population is concentrated in the developing regions of the world.
 
Poverty and hunger are important challenges on which the debate often has the potential to become lopsided. This is because, at times, ideological beliefs hold sway even in the face of evidence. The global estimates for poverty and hunger show that close to 767 million people (10.7 per cent of the world population) are poor while those who do not have enough to eat number close to 800 million.
 
Two recent reports shed some light on important data and performance of countries on these twin challenges. These include the Global Hunger Index (GHI) of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Pathways to Reducing Poverty and Sharing Prosperity in India (PRPSPI) of the World Bank Group. The first concerns hunger and is global in geographical coverage while the second looks at poverty at a subnational level and is national and subnational in geographical coverage.
 
The Global Hunger Index has been annually tracking hunger levels at the national, regional and international levels since 2006. For this, IFPRI has developed a hunger index (a composite measure) with four component indicators. The oldest calculations go back to 1992 on the Index. These four indicators include percentage of undernourished in the population, percentage of wasting in children under five, percentage of stunting in children under five, and under-five mortality rates. The scores are then standardised depending on the component indicators and post this, aggregation is done.
 
Methodologically, this is a similar procedure for other development indices like the HDI. The scale of the index is from 0-100 with 100 representing absolute hunger and 0 representing zero hunger. The categorisation of scores is done on a five point range scale from <9.9, 10.0-19.9, 20-34.9, 35-49.9, <50 being countries and regions with low, moderate, serious, alarming and extremely alarming levels of hunger.
 
The scores, when calculated over time, yield some interesting insights. These include the fact that developing countries have made considerable progress in reducing hunger. The overall level of hunger in developing countries has come down by 29 per cent over the period 2000-2016.
 
During the commensurate timeframe, 22 countries reduced their scores by 50 percent or more. Prominent among these are China, Brazil, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran. On the 2016 Index, Africa south of the Sahara and South Asia are regions that have the highest GHI scores at 30.1 and 29.0. Thus they are placed in the alarming level.
 
India is at present placed at 97th among 118 countries considered for the Index, improving its score from 46.4 in 1992 to 28.5 at present, which is a considerable increase, 
but overall, it's still is at a serious level.
 
Poverty is the broader construct than hunger and is critical for an understanding the problem of deprivation in human society. The PRPSPI broadly looks at India's 
experience on poverty alleviation in the past two decades. The report notes that poverty has declined by little more than a half on India's official poverty line between 1994 and 2012 from 45 percent to 22 per cent, lifting an astonishing 133 million people out of poverty. Despite this, India's growth has not been particularly inclusive, with roughly the inclusive growth performance of 2/3rd of the countries being better than India for the 2005-12 period.
 
Another important point is that some population groups are substantially worse off than others. These include the Scheduled Tribes, of which 43 per cent were below the poverty line in 2012, and Scheduled Castes, of which 29 per cent were below the poverty line. Poverty also seems entrenched in the Scheduled Tribes, with the pace of poverty reduction slower than that witnessed in other groups between 2005 and 2012.
 
The geographic spread of poverty also showcases a revealing insight. Almost one in five Indians is poor and out of every five poor people, four live in the rural areas. The top states for poverty in absolute terms are Uttar Pradesh (60 million), Bihar (36 million) and Madhya Pradesh (24 million). The top seven states account for roughly 62 per cent of India's poor. Also, the poverty rate is just seven per cent in big cities with a one million-plus population.
 
The problem with poverty is its related dimensions of deprivation in choices and well-being. The poor also own lesser assets and spend more on food, fuel and light. This reduces the percentage spend they have for education and health and makes them prone to a vicious cycle. The poor also thus have lower access to basic services.
 
Another important insight is that for poverty to be reduced states will have to grow faster. The states which have lagged behind on growth rates are also the ones where there are low GSDP per capita and, in turn, higher levels of poverty.
 
Over the next few years, policymakers and citizens should strive to eliminate poverty and hunger from Indian society to fulfill the SDGs. This can be done by focusing on growth but at the same time ensuring that growth gets translated into jobs and opportunities and becomes more inclusive. The need is also to rise above barriers of caste and social group identities, which prevent people from realising their economic freedom.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Moody's upbeat on draft bill on resolution of finance firms
Global credit rating agency Moody's Investors Service on Tuesday said the draft bill on the resolution of financial firms in India is a credit positive for banks in the country as it enhances overall systemic stability.
 
In a statement Moody's said it is an important step to having a comprehensive framework in place for the resolution of financial firms.
 
"Currently, the resolution of financial firms in India is based on minor parts of legislation enacted for other purposes," said Srikanth Vadlamani, a Moody's Vice President and Senior Credit Officer.
 
According to Moody's, as per the draft bill, bail-ins is not a preferred form of resolution, with significant restrictions in place for their usage.
 
These restrictions include contractual bail-in clauses for instruments that may be bailed in; and requirements that bail-ins should be used only after attempts at recovery have been made.
 
Consequently, Moody's expects that the Indian banking system will continue to function without an operational resolution regime, and banks should continue to be rated under a basic loss given failure framework.
 
Moody's also said that the bill ranks depositors above senior unsecured creditors in a liquidation scenario. In contrast, under existing laws, senior unsecured creditors rank pari passu with uninsured depositors.
 
Under the draft bill, public sector banks will be brought under the ambit of the resolution framework. By contrast, according to existing laws, public sector bank resolution can only happen under the direction of the government.
 
Moody's does not expect this change to have an impact on Moody's assumption of the level of systemic support for public sector banks, because the banks' core public sector character would remain unchanged.
 
The draft bill also provides for a significant delineation of regulatory powers between the Reserve Bank of India and the proposed Resolution Corporation.
 
This situation will be particularly apparent with respect to some key supervisory powers over banks, including criteria for classifying banks into the various risk categories.
 
Such a scenario would represent a change compared to the current structure, where the powers rest almost fully within India's central bank.
 
Consequently, there could be some execution risk, as the system transitions to the new arrangement takes place, Moody's said
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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