IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 13th February 2018
Part of: (Prelims) Defence; India and Russia
Russian authorities have demanded ₹125 cr. to carry out repairs on INS Chakra
About INS Chakra
- Indian Navy’s only nuclear-powered submarine (Akula Class submarine).
- INS Chakra is a nuclear-powered submarine which was taken by India on lease from Russia in 2012 for a period of 10 years at an estimated cost of US$670 million.
- Belongs to Project P71
- Russian name – K-152 Nerpa (Nerpa is the Russian word for the Baikal seal and Chakra is the mythical weapon of the Indian god Vishnu)
- INS Chakra is a Russia-made, nuclear-propelled, hunter-killer submarine. Unlike conventional submarines that India operates which need to surface to charge their batteries often – sometimes as frequently as 24 hours – INS Chakra can stay under as long as it wants. Its ability to stay underwater is restrained only by human endurance to stay underwater.
- Also, another problem that the submarine could face is acidity. This is because of a lack of exercise inside due to prolonged deployments.
Things to do:
- Find out which other nations possess nuclear-powered submarines.
- Revise 6 Scorpene class submarines and Project 75 (From 1st Feb DNA Prelims Focus)
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Forest Cover: ISFR (India State of Forests 2017 Report)
Part of: (Prelims+Mains) GS Paper III – Environment, Ecology and Biodiversity; Conservation
Highlights of India State of Forests 2017 report:
- India’s forest and tree cover has increased by nearly 1% since 2015.
- Forests in most of the biodiversity-rich north-eastern part of the country have been contracting continuously over the last few years. (Concern)
- Forest cover in hill districts and tribal districts grew.
- The latest ISFR report includes information about water bodies in forests. (a new feature) – There has been increase in the extent of water bodies in forest areas
Do you know?
- India ranks among the top 10 countries of the world in terms of forest area.
- India has shown an increasing trend in forest and tree cover compared to the global trend of decreasing forest cover during the last decade.
- India targets to have 33% of its geographical area (GA) under forest cover. According to the report, at present 15 states and Union territories have more than 33% of their GA under forest cover.
- Among the states, Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover (77, 414 sq. km), followed by Arunachal Pradesh (66,964 sq. km), Chhattisgarh (55,547 sq. km) Odisha (51, 345 sq. km) and Maharashtra (50,682 sq. km).
- However the forest area in all above states, except Odisha, has decreased since 2015. (Concern)
- As per the latest FAO report, India is 8th in the list of top 10 nations reporting the greatest annual net gain in forest area.
Top 5 states where forest cover grew:
- Andhra Pradesh
Top five states where forest cover declined:
- Arunachal Pradesh
Important: India announced a voluntary target in 2015 of creating additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 (carbon dioxide) equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
Article link: Click here
Kambar to head Sahitya Akademi
Part of: Prelims – Persons in news
- Kannada litterateur Chandrashekar Kambar has been elected as president of the Sahitya Akademi.
- Hindi poet Madhav Koushik has been elected as vice-president.
- Prof. Kambar is the third Kannada writer to head the country’s premier literary institution, after Vinayak Krishna Gokak (1983) and U.R. Ananthamurthy (1993).
The Sahitya Akademi is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of literature in the languages of India.
Article link: Click here
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.
- India and West Asia Relations.
Growing importance of West Asia
India seeks to pursue a multi-dimensional engagement with West Asia.
Focus on India’s ‘Look West’ policy is evolving rapidly.
India and Palestine relations:
- PM Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit Palestine.
- India signed six agreements – (worth around $50 million)
- setting up of a super speciality hospital in Beit Sahur
- setting up of a centre for empowering women
- procurement of equipment and machinery for the National Printing Press
- investment in the education section
PM Modi was conferred the ‘Grand Collar of the State of Palestine’ by President Mahmoud Abbas, recognising his key contribution to promote relations between India and Palestine.
The Grand Collar is Highest order given to foreign dignitaries — Kings, Heads of State/Government and persons of similar rank.
India hopes for Palestine to soon emerge a sovereign and independent country in a peaceful atmosphere.
India and UAE relations:
PM Modi re-connected with the UAE leadership for the second time in three years. Trade and economic ties are becoming central to the India-UAE relationship.
- A landmark pact awarding a consortium of Indian oil companies a 10% stake in offshore oil concession will be the first Indian investment in the UAE’s upstream oil sector.
- The above move transforms a traditional buyer-seller relationship into a long-term investor relationship with stakes in each other’s strategic sectors.
- There was also an MoU aimed at institutionalising the collaborative administration of contractual employment of Indian workers.
- Growing convergence on tackling terrorism – The two countries reiterated their condemnation for efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries, or to use terrorism as instrument of state policy.
Significance of Oman for India
Oman has been a long-standing partner of India in West Asia, where Indians constitute the largest expatriate community.
- With the Indian Ocean becoming a priority focus area for India, Oman’s significance is likely to grow.
- China’s expanding footprint in the Indian Ocean Region has alerted India to the possibility of strengthening security ties with littoral states.
- India is likely to step up its military presence in Oman. Naval cooperation has already been gaining momentum with Muscat giving berthing rights to Indian naval vessels to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden. Regular naval exercises have now become the norm.
- India and Oman have made military cooperation more expansive.
- Other areas of cooperation – health, tourism and peaceful uses of outer space.
All these shows the depth of India’s foreign policy outreach in West Asia.
India’s engagement with West Asia should now focus on delivering on its commitments and strengthening its presence as an economic and security partner.
This will be crucial as traditional powers such as the U.S. and Russia are jostling militarily, even as America’s stakes in the region decline by the day. China and India, as two emerging powers, are yet to articulate a clear road map for the region.
While India is still stuck in the age-old debates of Israel-Arab rivalry, West Asia has moved on. Growing rivalry between the Sunni Arabs and Shia Iran is reshaping old relationships and India will have to be more pragmatic in its approach towards the region.
Connecting the dots:
- What importance does the West Asian region hold for India’s economic and strategic interests? Discuss. Also elaborate upon the role of past economic and cultural ties in shaping India’s relations with West Asia today.
General Studies 3:
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Biofuel: As an alternative fuel for transportation sector
India faces a major paradox today. While a robust transport sector fuels a growing economy and heralds the economic growth on one hand, on the other it also leaves an unsustainable carbon footprint on cities, severely impacting the health and well-being of citizens.
The transport sector is the second largest contributor to carbon dioxide.
In addition to the health costs of pollution, fossil fuel dependency of the sector continues to burden the exchequer.
Oil as only fuel for transport sector:
Over the next 20 years India’s energy intensity and fuel dependency is expected to rise. According to IEA, India’s oil demand is to rise the fastest — by 6 million barrels per day to 9.8 mb/d in 2040.
It has also projected that oil production will fall behind demand, pushing oil import dependence above 90 per cent by 2040.
Meanwhile, projections are that the transport sector will contribute to two-thirds of the rise in India’s oil demand.
Pushing the policy:
Given India’s rapidly growing fossil fuel dependence and rising demand of the transport sector it is required to look at policies for the transport sector that aim both to reduce the carbon footprint of the sector and meet the nation’s transport demand.
E-mobility: Good but should not be the only option
The government has made a major announcement to incentivize and go all-electric by 2030.
While the thrust on e-mobility is welcome, current policies have not given similar policy support to alternative fuels, in particular the high potential of biofuels as a promising vehicular fuel.
Relying on e-mobility alone will not accomplish our ambition to create a sustainable and green transport on a pan-India basis.
- Market uptake of pure electric vehicles has been largely confined to scooters. We have not seen a rapid rollout of electric buses and cars.
- Even if there is rapid adoption of electric cars, the problem of congestion remains as private vehicle growth is not the desired direction.
We need a shift to public transport, notably buses, which are space and cost-efficient. Biofuel-run buses — private and public — present an unprecedented solution.
What is biofuel?
A biofuel is a fuel that is produced through contemporary biological processes, such as agriculture and anaerobic digestion, rather than a fuel produced by geological processes such as those involved in the formation of fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum, from prehistoric biological matter.
Advantages of bio-fuel:
- India generates around 70 billion litres of waste water every day, which is expected to double in the next 15 years according to the McKinsey Global Institute. By building biogas generation and upgrading facilities at the STP sites, the output can potentially substitute 350 million litres of diesel, 2.3 gigawatt hours of natural gas fired power and over 8 million LPG cylinders of 14.2kg each.
- India could replace over 40% of the projected demand for diesel in 2020 by . Energy generated from biofuels is equivalent to 340 million barrels of oil or over $22 billion (assuming a landed price of $65 per barrel).
- Production of biofuel from crop residue would solve the challenge of stubble burning resulting into thick smog in Delhi-NCR.
- Considering that in the first quarter India had a current account deficit of $14.3 billion, we could wipe out almost a third of our current account deficit.
- The increase in ethanol production alone has the potential to create over 700,000 jobs when targeting only the base potential.
States with a combination of high agricultural activity and large fuel consumption like Maharasthra, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are best positioned to exploit this opportunity.
Biofuel-driven buses in cities like Nagpur, where the government has allowed special purpose vehicles to own and operate these buses along with the plants and the depots required to fuel the buses.
The city administration has worked with a manufacturer of biofuel buses to roll out green fuel buses that not only solve the green transport problem but also a waste problem. The fuel which is used in these buses is generated from local waste, in effect converting local waste into local fuel for local transport.
- The economic viability of scaling up of pilot projects will happen if a rational tax policy is implemented.
- Successful pilots of biofuel-run large transport such as buses have not yet received national policy support. Any rapid adoption and scale requires government support to all stakeholders in the vehicular biofuel supply chain, including, manufacturers of biofuel engines, suppliers of biofuels and of course fuelling infrastructure.
- Scaling models that promote ideas based on local waste, local fuel and local transport.
- There have been no fiscal incentives to encourage biofuel-based mass transport — buses which can run on biofuel now attract 28 per cent GST plus 15 per cent cess. This would place renewable fuel-enabled buses in the same category as luxury vehicles and cigarettes!
Pushing for biofuel buses for public transport within a specific timeline like 2020, would help transform our public transport services, improve the health of our citizens, provide economic impetus and create jobs.
E-mobility thrust is welcome, but it is not a panacea to issues facing the transport sector. A holistic approach which includes biofuels as vehicle fuel is required to achieve our dream of creating an environmentally and economically sustainable transport sector.
With a holistic approach, which includes the full potential of biofuels for vehicles, we will be able to achieve our dream of creating an environmentally and economically sustainable transport sector.
Connecting the dots:
- Discuss how bio-fuels can solve the problem of pollution in India. Given its potential, adequate policy push is required. Analyze.
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