The Compound Eye – The EIA, ICMR and A (non) Free Rider

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020

In March The Ministry of ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGE proposed a notification to replace the 2006 EIA notification. The notification deals with assessing environmental impacts of proposed and on-going projects. In 1994, the government notified EIA as a mandatory requirement under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The ministry is accepting comments on the notification till 30th June, 2020.

The EIA is a mechanism for including the voices of key local stakeholders in making decisions about projects such as setting up factories or building highways. It allows for public consultation of projects prior to their approval and mandates for periodic EIA reports of any on-going projects.

The 2020 notification has reduced ambiguity in the law regarding EIA by

a) providing definitions for various terms which was missing in previous notifications

b) consolidating all other notifications that have been made over the past decade into one piece of legislation. (Read more)

The Free Rider Fallacy: 

Maharashtra’s opposition leader Raj Thackeray was caught at a meeting without a mask. When a journalist asked him on why he was not wearing a mask, he said “I don’t need to wear one, because you all are wearing masks.” This is an interesting take, but a gross misinterpretation of the “Free Rider” problem that is part of economic theory.

The free rider problem in economic theory is a type market failure that happens because individuals may enjoy benefits of public goods without paying for them. A science equivalent may be herd immunity where non-vaccinated individuals would get the benefit of not contracting the disease because a threshold percentage of the population has received it. (Read more)

ICMR: From Omnipresence to Missing in Action

From before COVID-19 made its presence felt in India, ICMR had been at the forefront of policy decisions controlling India’s testing preparations against it. However, over subsequent weeks its scientists have been shunted out of interactions with journalists reporting on the matter. First, both ICMR and MoHFW used to update on COVID19 + numbers in the country. But following discrepancies in the numbers reported, ICMR stopped issuing its updates leaving MoHFW as the only source of case incidence.

Scientists from ICMR however continued to be present at briefings led by MoHFW bureaucrats. But they have been conspicuous in their absence in the recent past. In the build up to this move, ICMR was involved in a problematic procurement deal for antibody rapid testing kits from China. The two intermediary suppliers for that deal added a substantial margin amounting to 61% of the total amount, selling kits bought at Rs 245 to ICMR at the capped price of Rs. 600. The kits were also deemed to be faulty and the orders were halted. (Read more)

Meanwhile: 

Eating fatty food can impact your concentration: If you are like me and indulging all your fatty food cravings during the lockdown, I have some potential bad news. New research suggests that eating just one meal high in saturated fat can hinder our ability to concentrate. Ah well, here is something else to blame for the low productivity!

Beards may have evolved to absorb punches: Darwin thought a man’s beard was ornamental, but authors of a newly published paper argued that the hairs in a beard would collectively diffuse the force of a blow and so may have evolved in response to the need to win male-male battles.

Pentagon officially releases UFO photos: In case you missed it. Yup officially Pentagon has admitted to the presence of unidentified aerial phenomena. Obviously this is no indication that they are of alien origin, but wouldn’t it be cool if everyone came of their houses post-lockdown to find aliens (who undoubtedly would be virus-resistant) moving about.