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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 18th February 2022

  • IASbaba
  • February 18, 2022
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


National Dam Safety Authority

Part of: Prelims and GS-III Disaster Management 

Context: The National Dam Safety Authority came into force recently.

  • It seeks to maintain standards related to dam safety, prevent dam-related disasters and resolve inter-State issues in this regard, from Friday.

Key takeaways 

  • The Dam Safety Act, passed by Parliament on December 8 last year, states that a National Dam Safety Authority will cooperate with State-level dam safety organisations and owners of dams for standardising safety-related data and practices.
  • The Authority will be headed by a chairman and assisted by five members to lead its five wings:
    • policy and research
    • technical
    • regulation
    • disaster
    • resilience and administration and finance.
  • The Authority will have its headquarters in Delhi and will be supported by four regional offices.
  • The Centre also constituted a 22-member National Committee on Dam Safety which will be headed by the Chairman of the Central Water Commission.
  • A key function of the Authority is to resolve any issue between the State Dam Safety Organisations of States or between a State Dam Safety Organisation and any owner of a specified dam in that state, as per the notification.

News Source: TH


Asia’s biggest Bio-CNG plant

Part of: Prelims and GS-III Renewable energy

Context: Indian Prime Minister will virtually inaugurate Asia’s largest Bio-CNG plant at Indore in Madhya Pradesh. 

Key takeaways 

  • This Bio CNG plant will be operated from 100% wet waste. 
  • This plant is built on PPP mode, from which Indore Municipal Corporation will get revenue of 2.5 crores per annum.
  • About 400 buses of Indore can be run daily with the gas generated from the Bio-CNG plant.
  • Mission directors of Swachch Bharat Mission from about 20 states of the country will also participate in the programme.

Important value addition

  • Coal, crude oil and natural gas are all fossil fuels and are used to produce diesel, gasoline, and kerosene. 
  • Fossils fuels formed millions of years ago from the remains of organic matter from dead animals and plants.
  • As fossil fuel resources are finite and are among the biggest contributors to climate change, it is critical that we meet our energy needs from renewable resources. 
  • India’s renewable energy resource potential is significant, with solar, wind, biomass, and small hydropower representing the technologies having the largest potential. 
  • Among all, biomass warrants special attention. 
    • All the living matter present on earth derived from growing plants including algae, trees, and crops or from animal manure is called biomass.
  • Anaerobic digestion of biomass is the process in which organic matter, in the absence of oxygen, is mainly transformed into a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide which is usually referred to as biogas.
  • Biomethane can also be compressed and bottled into cylinders and it is called Bio-Compressed Natural Gas (Bio-CNG) or simply Compressed Bio-Gas (CBG)

News Source: AIR


India’s first water taxi service inaugurated in Maharashtra

Part of: Prelims and GS-III Infrastructure 

Context: India’s first water taxi service was inaugurated in Maharashtra which connects the Navi Mumbai area to mainland Mumbai. 

Key takeaways 

  • Maharashtra’s Chief Minister inaugurated the Belapur jetty while Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways.
  • The Rs. 8.37-crore project will presently operate on three routes and the State and the Centre have shared the expenditure. 
  • The three routes include Belapur to Ferry Wharf – the domestic cruise terminal, Belapur to Elephanta Caves and Belapur to JNPT.
  • In the initial stage, seven speedboats will run on these routes. 
  • The ease of transport is a key factor for investors to set up businesses in the region.

Do you know?

  • India’s first train ran between Mumbai and Thane and it expanded throughout the country gradually. 

News Source: TH


(News from PIB)


Asia’s Largest Tribal Festival commences: Medharam Jathara

Part of: Prelims 

  • To honour the Hindu Tribal goddesses
  • Celebrated in the state of Telangana at Medaram village of Mulugu district
  • This Jatara is known for witnessing one of the largest people gatherings in the world.
  • According to a tribal story, in the 13th century some tribal leaders who went for hunting found a new born girl (Sammakka) emitting enormous light and playing amidst tigers. She was taken to their habitation. The head of the tribe adopted her and later she became the saviour of the tribals of that region.
  • Devotees offer jaggery equal to their weight as thulabaram (weighing scale) or as thanksgiving in fulfilment of their vows.

Green Hydrogen/ Green Ammonia Policy Notified

Part of: Prelims 

Context: Hydrogen and Ammonia are envisaged to be the future fuels to replace fossil fuels. Production of these fuels by using power from renewable energy, termed as green hydrogen and green ammonia, is one of the major requirements towards environmentally sustainable energy security of the nation. Government of India is taking various measures to facilitate the transition from fossil fuel / fossil fuel based feed stocks to green hydrogen / green ammonia.

  • Provide clean fuel to the common people of the country reducing dependence on fossil fuel
  • Reduce crude oil imports.
  • Emerge as an export Hub for Green Hydrogen and Green Ammonia. 
  • Promotes Renewable Energy (RE) generation as RE will be the basic ingredient in making green hydrogen. This in turn will help in meeting the international commitments for clean energy.

Hydrogen Fuel

  • Hydrogen does not occur freely in nature in useful quantities.
  • It can be made from natural gas or it can be made by passing electric current through water.
  • When hydrogen is burned, it only emits water vapour and carbon dioxide (CO2) is not produced. 
  • It is more efficient than internal combustion engine. 
  • Although hydrogen is a clean molecule, the process of extracting it is energy-intensive. Also, manufacturing hydrogen fuel based vehicle is expensive.

News Source: PIB


MISCELLANEOUS

Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV)

  • The leading cause of mosquito-borne encephalitis in South-East Asia and Western Pacific and is often misdiagnosed as Dengue. 

  • JEV belongs to the family Flaviviridae and genus Flavivirus and exists in a zoonotic cycle. 
  • Since there is no cure available for JEV, early detection is essential to mitigate a breakout.
  • National Institute of Animal Biotechnology, Hyderabad developed Fluorine Doped Tin Oxide (FTO) electrode fabricated with reduced Graphene Oxide (rGO) for as an electrochemical based immunosensor for the rapid, sensitive and specific detection of the Non-Structural 1 (NS1) secretory protein, which is suitable biomarker for JEV found circulating in the blood and has been reported to elicit an immune response. 
  • Since the conventional methods for JEV diagnosis are expensive, more hazardous and time-consuming diagnostic techniques and requires an elaborate laboratory set up and trained expertise, the developed biosensor may be able to overcome these limitations.
  • Detection of the NS1 instead of antibody has an added advantage since the antigen is present from day 1 of the infection and hence facilitates early detection.

Tectonic evolution of Greater Maldive Ridge

  • The Maldive Ridge is an aseismic ridge that is not associated with earthquake activities. 
  • This ridge, located in the western Indian Ocean, southwest of India, is not well investigated. It is of paramount importance to gain knowledge on the structure and geodynamics of aseismic ridges as it provides valuable inputs towards understanding the evolution of ocean basins.
  • A study has chalked the possible geological cross-sections along the GMR for the first time with the help of satellite-derived high-resolution gravity data. 
  • The researchers postulated that the GMR may be underlain by an oceanic crust. 
  • The results from their study can provide additional constraints in understanding the plate-tectonic evolution of the Indian Ocean, better.
  • The research suggests that Maldive Ridge might have formed in the close vicinity of the Mid-Oceanic Ridge (where creation of a new ocean floor occurs due to divergent motion of lithospheric plates or spreading centre). 

(Mains Focus)


INTERNATIONAL / ECONOMY

  • GS-2: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

India-UAE and FTA

Context: India has embarked on a new journey — a new free trade agreement (FTA) journey to be precise — with renewed zeal and vigour.

  • India’s approach towards FTAs is now focusing more on gaining meaningful market access and facilitating Indian industry’s integration into global value chains.

India-UAE having same priorities

  • Under the revamped FTA strategy, the Government of India has prioritised at least six countries or regions to deal with, in which the United Arab Emirates (UAE) figures at the top of the list for an early harvest deal.
    • Others are the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, Canada, Israel and a group of countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
  • At the same time, the UAE too announced, in September 2021, its intent to pursue bilateral economic agreements with eight countries — India, the U.K., Turkey, South Korea, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Israel, and Kenya — with the goal of concluding these agreements within one year.

Opportunity in UAE

  • The UAE, due to its strategic location, has emerged as an important economic centre in the world.
  • In recent years, the UAE, through its ‘Vision 2021’, has sought to diversify its economy and reduce its dependency on oil.
  • Although the UAE has diversified its economy, ‘the hydrocarbon sector remains very important followed by services and manufacturing.
  • Within services, financial services, wholesale and retail trade, and real estate and business services are the main contributors’. 

Deepening of India-UAE relationship: Need for FTA

  • India and the UAE established diplomatic relations in 1972, which got greater push with the visit of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to the UAE in August 2015 
  • Further, during the visit of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, to India in January 2017 as the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations, it was agreed that bilateral relations were to be upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
  • This gave momentum to launching negotiations for an India-UAE comprehensive economic partnership agreement, eventually launched in September 2021. 
  • The India-UAE total trade merchandise has been valued at U.S.$52.76 billion for the first nine months of the fiscal year 2021-22, making the UAE India’s third largest trading partner. 
  • The aim is to boost bilateral merchandise trade to above U.S.$100 billion and services trade to U.S.$15 billion in five years. 
  • India is aiming to achieve the U.S.$1 trillion of merchandise exports and U.S.$1 trillion of services exports by the year 2030. A trade agreement with the UAE could well be a springboard to realise these ambitious export targets. 
    • UAE would be an attractive export market for Indian electronics, automobiles, and other engineering products.
  • A trade agreement is also an enabler for two-way investment flows. The UAE’s investment in India is estimated to be around U.S.$11.67 billion. Likewise, many Indian companies have also invested in the manufacturing, textile, engineering products, tourism, hospitality, catering, health, retail, and education sectors. 
  • FTA with the UAE will pave the way for India to enter the UAE’s strategic location, and have relatively easy access to the Africa market and its various trade partners which can help India to become a part of that supply chain especially in handlooms, handicrafts, textiles and pharma. 

Challenges Ahead

  • The UAE tariff structure is bound with the GCC, and the applied average tariff rate is 5%. Therefore, the scope of addressing Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs)- like Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) – becomes very important. 
  • The SPS notifications are mainly related to live poultry, meat, and processed food. In addition, the UAE has 534 TBT notifications, mainly related to fish, food additives, meat, rubber, electrical machinery, etc. 
  • These compliances pose a challenge for Indian exporters. 
  • The FTA agreement must try to bring more transparency and predictability in the use of NTBs so that their compliance becomes less cumbersome. 

Connecting the dots:


ENVIRONMENT/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation 

New Study on Climate Change

About Paris Climate Accord

  • Objective: It is a multilateral agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); signed to reduce, mitigate greenhouse-gas-emissions. 
  • Temperature Targets: To slow the process of global warming by limiting a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 
  • Emission Goals: Another crucial point in this agreement was attaining “net zero emissions” between 2050 and 2100. Nations have pledged “to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century”.  
  • Burden Sharing: Developed countries were also told to provide financial resources to help developing countries in dealing with climate change and for adaptation measures. Other countries are invited to provide support on voluntary basis. 
  • Non-binding Voluntary Targets: The Paris Agreement requires that all countries — rich, poor, developed, and developing — slash greenhouse gas emissions. Nations voluntarily set their emissions targets and incur no penalties for falling short of their targets.

Is the world doing enough to tackle global warming? 

  • As of today, human activities have already caused global temperatures to rise by about 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels (1950-1900).
  • Another study published in Nature in September 2021 said that the global oil and gas production should decline by three percent per year until 2050 to keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • In August 2021, independent charitable organisation Oxfam said that the ‘net zero’ carbon targets that many countries have been announcing may be a “dangerous distraction” from the priority of cutting carbon emissions. 
  • Oxfam said that the world needs to collectively be on track and should aim to cut emissions by 45 percent by 2030 from 2010 levels.

What the new study says?

  • The recent study simulated 100,000 possible future policy and emissions trajectories to identify the variables that are relevant to the climate-social system that are likely to impact climate change through this century.
  • Overall, these trajectories fell into five clusters, with warming varying between 1.8 and 3.6 degrees Celsius above the 1880-1910 average in the year 2100. 
  • The study says that there is a “strong probability” of warming between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius at the end of the century.
  • These five possibilities suggest that none of them meet the Paris Climate Agreement’s target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 
  • But the authors do suggest that there is a substantial chance of meeting the 2 degrees Celsius target.
  • Important determinants of the degree to which the climate will change over the 21st century are:
    • Public perceptions of climate change
    • Future cost and effectiveness of climate mitigation and technologies
    • How political institutions respond to public pressure 
  • Small changes in some variables, like the responsiveness of the political system or the level of public support for climate policy, can drastically change the emissions trajectory over the century
  • Essentially the authors are saying that while scientists make projections related to climate change, they should also take into account the effects of climate policy and social change.

Connecting the dots:


(Sansad TV: Perspective)


Dec 15: Linking Rivers – https://youtu.be/V3iZy6oqBHU  

TOPIC:

  • GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Water
  • GS-2: Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure

Linking Rivers

Context: Union Cabinet has recently approved the funding and implementation of Ken-Betwa inter-linking of rivers project. 

Ken-Betwa inter-linking of rivers project

  • This project involves transfer of water from the Ken to the Betwa River through the construction of Daudhan Dam and a canal linking the two rivers, the Lower Orr Project, Kotha Barrage -and Bina Complex Multipurpose Project.
  • The interlinking of rivers (ILR) programme is a major endeavour to create additional storage facilities and transfer water from water-surplus regions to more drought-prone areas.

Significance

  • The Project will be of immense benefit to the water starved Bundelkhand region, spread across the states of MP and UP.
  • It will provide water for irrigation of 10.62 lakh ha annually, drinking water supply to a population of about 62 lakhs
  • Generate 103 MW of hydropower and 27 MW solar power
  • Expected to boost socio-economic prosperity in the backward Bundelkhand region on account of increased agricultural activities and employment generation. It would also help in arresting distress migration from this region.
  • This project also comprehensively provides for environment management and safeguards. For this purpose a comprehensive landscape management plan is under finalization by Wildlife Institute of India.

Linking Rivers

India witnesses spatial and temporal variations in rainfall, which often makes some areas as flood prone whereas others as drought prone. Also, Himalayan rivers flowing in northern part of the country are perennial, while rivers in peninsular India are mostly seasonal. River interlinking project envisages to link these two river systems to transfer water from surplus regions to the deficient ones, with the vision to mitigate flood and droughts and to provide more irrigation opportunities.

Pros of river interlinking for water management in India:

  • Hydropower generation: This project envisages the building of many dams and reservoirs. For instance, NRLP can generate about 34000 MW of electricity if the whole project is executed.
  • Round the year water availability: River interlinking will help in dry weather flow augmentation. That is when there is a dry season, surplus water stored in the reservoirs can be released. This will enable a minimum amount of water flow in the rivers.
  • Irrigation benefits: River interlinking project will provide irrigation facilities in water-deficient places. For instance, Indian agriculture is primarily monsoon dependent. This leads to problems in agricultural output when the monsoons behave unexpectedly. This can be solved when irrigation facilities improve.
  • River interlinking project will also help commercially because of the betterment of the inland waterways transport system. For instance, as shown in Map 1, it will help to have intricate network of rivers across India where NRLP will implement river interlinking. Thereby it will increase transportation capacity.
  • Moreover, the rural areas will have an alternate source of income in the form of fish farming, etc. It will also augment the defence and security of the country through the additional waterline defence. 

Major Issues

  • Ecological issues: One of the major concerns is that rivers change their course in 70–100 years and thus once they are linked, future change of course could create huge practical problems for the project.
  • Aqua life: A number of leading environmentalists are of the opinion that the project could be an ecological disaster. There would be a decrease in downstream flows resulting in reduction of fresh water inflows into the seas seriously jeopardizing aquatic life.
  • Deforestation: Creation of canals would need large areas of land resulting in large scale deforestation in certain areas.
  • Areas getting submerged: Possibility of new dams comes with the threat of large otherwise habitable or reserved land getting submerged under water or surface water. Fertile deltas will be under threat, with coastal erosion expected to threaten the land and livelihoods of local economies that support 160 million people.
  • Displacement of people: As large strips of land might have to be converted to canals, a considerable population living in these areas must need to be rehabilitated to new areas.
  • Dirtying of clean water: As the rivers interlink, rivers with dirty water will get connected to rivers with clean water, hence dirtying the clean water.
  • River inter-linking is an expensive business from building the link canals to the monitoring and maintenance infrastructure. Implementation of the project not only needs a huge financial capital but also political support
  • Another important issue is building consensus among states and Land acquisition.
  • A careful scientific assessment of the project and its impact on the environment, is necessary in case of a project of this magnitude especially with regard to Biodiversity

Conclusion

With a bird’s eye view it seems river interlinking has the potential to address the water stress issue of India. However, it is necessary to look at this issue on the basis of necessity and feasibility of river-interlinking. Most suitably it should be seen on case to case basis, with adequate emphasis on easing out federal issues. Besides as a supplementary measure we can incorporate traditional water harvesting and water management techniques which will help India to have a water security.

Note: 

Launch of River Cities Alliance (RCA)

  • What: A dedicated platform for river cities in India to ideate, discuss and exchange information for sustainable management of urban rivers
  • This first of its kind Alliance in the world symbolizes the successful partnership of the two Ministries i.e., Ministry of Jal Shakti and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. 
  • The Alliance will focus on three broad themes- Networking, Capacity Building and Technical Support.

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Do you think river interlinking is the most suitable way forward for water management in India? Critically examine. 
  2. The idea of interlinking the rivers to fight droughts and floods in various parts of the country might be economically prudent but its ecological fallouts outweigh the other benefits. Critically comment.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Q.1 National Dam Safety Authority was recently brought into force. Consider the following statements regarding the same:

  1. The Authority will be headed by a chairman and assisted by five members to lead its five wings.
  2. The Authority will have its headquarters in Delhi and will be supported by four regional offices.

Which of the above is or are correct? 

  1. 1 only 
  2. 2 only 
  3. Both 1 and 2 
  4. Neither 1 nor 2 

Q.2 Where will Asia’s biggest Bio-CNG plant be inaugurated?

  1. Beijing
  2. Tokyo
  3. Dhaka
  4. Indore

Q.3 India’s first water taxi recently started in which of the following State/UT? 

  1. Kerala
  2. Maharashtra
  3. Gujarat
  4. Daman and Diu

ANSWERS FOR 18th Feb 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 C
2 D
3 B

Must Read

On India’s clean energy priorities:

The Hindu

On road safety:

The Hindu

On hijab issue:

Indian Express

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