QUESTION: Despite a robust policy framework governing the hazardous chemicals in India, the recent gas leakage incident in Vizag highlights India’s unaddressed vulnerability to chemical disasters. Critically analyse.
Topic- BEIRUT BATTERED
- Massive Explosion in Beirut
WHY IN NEWS ?
- According to the government of Lebanon, the massive explosion at Beirut port that has so far killed at least 135 people and more than 4,000 injured.
IMPORTANT POINTS :
- There were two explosions in the central port area of Beirut which occurred barely within minutes of each other within nearby buildings.
- The blast affected residents living as far as 10 kilometres away from the site and was felt upto 250 Km.
- The blast created seismic waves equivalent to a magnitude 3.3 earthquake.
- The blasts were likely triggered by over 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been confiscated and stored by authorities near the port for over six years.
- A two-week state emergency has been imposed in Beirut following the blast.
IMPACT OF THE BLAST :
- Economic: Lebanon is an import-dependent country. The badly damaged port facility is Lebanon’s largest maritime gateway and it will make essential items expensive and threaten food security in the country.
- Lebanon has already been struggling with a huge economic meltdown, with the rapid devaluation of the local currency and a volatile exchange rate on the black market fueling inflation, shuttering businesses, unemployment and poverty.
- It had also defaulted on a Eurobond repayment in March 2020.
- It is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a $10 billion loan program.
- The blast will pose an additional financial burden of rebuilding the city.
- Political: Lebanon faced nationwide protests against corruption, economic mismanagement and sectarian politics in October 2019, which forced the resignation of then-Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
- This blast along with the growing economic crisis can again cause social unrest.
- Health: The country’s health system is already burdened with the patients of Covid-19 pandemic and the victims of blast will add to this.
ABOUT AMMONIUM NITRATE :
- In its pure form, ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) is a white, crystalline chemical which is soluble in water.
- The nitrogen rich compound, a common chemical ingredient of agricultural fertilisers, is also the main component of the explosive composition known as ANFO – ammonium nitrate fuel oil – commercial explosives used in mining and construction.
- Ammonium nitrate as an explosive:
- Pure ammonium nitrate: Not an explosive on its own. It is classified as an oxidiser under the United Nations classification of dangerous goods.
- If mixed with ingredients: Like fuel or some other contaminants, or because of some other external factors, it can be very explosive. However, for combinations to explode, triggers like detonators are required.
For example, many Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) used by terrorists around the world have ANFO as the main explosive, triggered by primary explosives like RDX or TNT.
- Stored ammonium nitrate is a major fire hazard:
- The explosion of large storage can happen primarily in two ways.
- By some type detonation or initiation because the storage comes in contact with explosive mixture.
- The blast can result due to a fire which starts because of the heat generated due to the oxidation process at large scale (seems to be the primary likely cause of the incident at Beirut port).
EXPLOSIONS IN PAST :
- In the majority of terror attacks in India, including those in Pulwama, Varanasi, Malegaon, Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mumbai, ammonium nitrate has been used along with initiator explosives like RDX.
- There have been accidental explosions of ammonium nitrate causing large numbers of fatalities. Eg. China in 2015 and in Texas in 1947.
- It is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south, while Cyprus lies west across the Mediterranean Sea.
- Lebanon was conquered by the Ottomans in the 16th century and remained under their rule for the next 400 years.
- Following the empire’s collapse after World War I, it came under the control of French, from which it gained independence in 1943.
- Lebanon witnessed Civil war from 1975-1990 that was a result of conflict between various factions like the Christians, the left-wing Druze and the Muslims and was interspersed with Israeli invasions targeting the palestinian militants in Lebanon.
- The present government in Lebanon is confessionalist parliamentary democracy.
- Confessionalism is a system of government which apportions seats in its legislature to different groups of people strictly based on demographic composition.
REGULATIONS IN INDIA ABOUT AMMONIUM NITRATE :
- Because it is used as an ingredient for the production of explosives, anaesthetic gases, fertilizers, cold packs and has a possibility of misuse, it is highly regulated in India.
- There exists the Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012, under The Explosives Act, 1884.
- It defines ammonium nitrate as the compound with formula NH4NO3 including any mixture or compound having more than 45 per cent ammonium nitrate by weight.
- The manufacture, conversion, bagging, import, export, transport, possession for sale or use of ammonium nitrate is covered under The Ammonium Nitrate Rules, 2012.
- The rules also make storage of ammonium nitrate in large quantities in populated areas illegal in India.
- For the manufacture of ammonium nitrate, an Industrial licence is required under the Industrial Development and Regulation Act, 1951
WAY FORWARD :
- This tragedy piles yet another layer of hardship on a country already reeling from its worst financial crisis in decades along with an exasperating political turbulence and struggling to contain a burgeoning coronavirus outbreak.
- Lebanon cannot do without containing politically extremist groups functioning in the country and maintaining healthy relationships with the international community.
- It is time that international solidarity comes into action and extends a helping hand towards the country.
- Other countries in the region as well as international institutions should offer help to Beirut to withstand this moment of catastrophe.
QUESTION: Do you think some of the consequences of the Pearl Harbour attacks were justified and give major consequences of nuclear attack on Japan.
Topic- TAKING NUCLEAR VULNERABILITIES SERIOUSLY
- Atomic Bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
WHY IN NEWS ?
- On August 6, 1945, the US dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, and three days later, on August 9, it dropped another bomb on Nagasaki.
- Japan marks 75th anniversary of Hiroshima attack.
Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki :
- On the morning of August 6, a B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb called “Little Boy” with a force of over 20,000 tonnes of TNT on the city of Hiroshima.
- Three days later, another atomic bomb called “Fat Man” was dropped over Nagasaki.
- Those two bombs killed over 2,00,000 people, some of them instantaneously, and others within five months.
- Another 2,00,000 people or more who survived the bombings of these two Japanese cities, most of them injured, have been called the hibakusha.
- Because of the long-lasting effects of radiation exposure as well as the mental trauma they underwent, the plight of these survivors has been difficult.
- The atomic bomb was a result of British and American scientific knowledge and was built under the ambit of the Manhattan Project.
- Hiroshima was primarily a military target with a population of about 318,000 people. The city at the time was also the seventh-largest city of Japan and served as the headquarters of the Second Army and of the Chugoku Regional Army
- Over 1,26,000 nuclear weapons have been built since the beginning of the atomic age.
- There is no realistic way to protect ourselves against nuclear weapons.
- The invention of ballistic missiles has made it impossible to intercept nuclear weapons once they are launched.
- Neither fallout shelters nor ballistic missile defence systems have succeeded in negating this vulnerability.
- Nuclear weapon states are targets of other nuclear-weapon states, but non-nuclear-weapon states are vulnerable as well.
ISSUES WITH NUCLEAR DETERRENCE :
- The idea of nuclear deterrence consists of following two proposition.
- That nuclear weapons are so destructive that no country would use them.
- Such use would invite retaliation in kind, and no political leader would be willing to risk the possible death of millions of their citizens.
ISSUES WITH THE IDEA OF DETERRENCE :
- It is claimed that nuclear weapons do not just protect countries against use of nuclear weapons by others, but even prevent war and promote stability.
- These claims do not hold up to evidence.
- The apparent efficacy of deterrence in some cases may have been due to the more credible prospect of retaliation with conventional weapons.
- Implicitly, however, all nuclear-weapon states have admitted to the possibility that deterrence could fail.
- they have made plans for using nuclear weapons, in effect, preparing to fight nuclear war.
- The desire to believe in the perfect controllability and safety of nuclear weapons creates overconfidence, which is dangerous.
- Overconfidence is more likely to lead to accidents and possibly to the use of nuclear weapons.
BLACK RAIN :
- The debris and soot from the destroyed buildings in Hiroshima (estimated 69% of the buildings was destroyed) mixed with the radioactive fallout from the bomb, rose high into the atmosphere in the form of a mushroom cloud.
- This material combined with the vapour in the atmosphere and came down as dark drops of liquid that have been called black rain.
- Survivors describe it as consisting of large, greasy drops that are much heavier than normal raindrops.
- Nagasaki witnessed less black rain despite the fact that the nuclear bomb dropped on it was more powerful than Hiroshima’s.
- It killed fewer people and its effects were confined to a smaller area because of Nagasaki’s geographical position between hills.
- The blast did not produce firestorms and the material contributing to black rain was less.
REASON OF ATTACK BY USA = ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOR BY JAPAN
- The December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour was among the most significant moments of the World War II.
- It signalled the official entry of the US into the hostilities, which eventually led to the dropping of nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
- Significantly, in December 2016, Shinzo Abe became the first sitting Japanese Prime Minister to visit Pearl Harbour.
LESSONS SHOULD LEARN :
- We should use this anniversary as a reminder that war often escalates far beyond expectations; conflicts that seem fairly manageable and predictable can evolve into far more violent and entrenched wars. War is of course necessary at times, the principle of restraint is important in preventing unnecessary military engagement.
- The world became aware of the terrible consequences and that was very significant. It is remarkable that in the 75 years since Hiroshima, nuclear weapons have never been used again,”
- In several historical instances,what prevented the use of nuclearweapons was not control practicesbut either their failure or factors out-side institutional control.
- Lack of morals
- Remember political criticisms? When nuclear weapons come into play, the morals associated with a lawful nation and its people are put into question. Isn’t it more honorable to get rid of or reduce destructive weapons? United States and Russia already agreed to decrease the number of nuclear weapons deployed to set an example for other nations. Still, the presence of nuclear weapons is often considered highly immoral and very dangerous.
- There are environmental concerns which must be considered with a detonation.
- Since 1945, the testing of nuclear weapons has caused more than 2,100 detonations that have happened around the globe. Some have occurred underwater, while others have occurred underground. Every detonation creates radiation that, if someone were exposed to it, could create grave consequences. The threat of multiple simultaneous nuclear detonations could create a prolonged winter that would ravage the planet and potentially cause all life to cease.
- Humanity crisis