Current Affairs, 13 November 2018
Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
National Green Tribunal (NGT)
What to study?
- For Prelims: All about NGT.
- For Mains: Pollution in Delhi, how staple burning is related to this event?, what needs to be done now?
Context: Stating that State governments had failed to curb stubble burning, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Chief Secretaries of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to draw up a plan to provide economic incentives and disincentives to farmers.
What’s the issue?
Stubble burning is adversely affecting environment and public health. The problem has not been fully tackled and the adverse impacts on the air quality and consequent impacts on the citizens’ health and lives are undisputed.
What needs to be done- Supreme Court’s observations?
- The problem is required to be resolved by taking all such measures as are possible in the interest of public health and environment protection.
- Incentives could be provided to those who are not burning the stubble and disincentives for those who continue the practice.
- The existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme must be so interpreted as to enable the States concerned to wholly or partly deny the benefit of MSP to those who continue to burn the crop residue.
- Secretary, Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has also been directed to be present to “find a lasting solution.”
- The Central government should convene a meeting with the States.
About the National Green Tribunal (NGT):
What is it? NGT has been established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
Ambit: The tribunal deals with matters relating to the enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property.
- Sanctioned strength: currently, 10 expert members and 10 judicial members (although the act allows for up to 20 of each).
- Chairman: is the administrative head of the tribunal, also serves as a judicial member and is required to be a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or a judge of the Supreme Court of India.
- Selection: Members are chosen by a selection committee (headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India) that reviews their applications and conducts interviews. The Judicial members are chosen from applicants who are serving or retired judges of High Courts.
- Expert members are chosen from applicants who are either serving or retired bureaucrats not below the rank of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India (not below the rank of Principal Secretary if serving under a state government) with a minimum administrative experience of five years in dealing with environmental matters. Or, the expert members must have a doctorate in a related field.
- The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
- The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
- The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
ISPRL, ADNOC sign MoU to explore storage of crude oil at Padur
What to study?
- For Prelims: ISPRL, Strategic petroleum reserves.
- For Mains: Significance of these reserves, need and potential.
Context: The Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd (ISPRL) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) in Abu Dhabi to explore the possibility of storing ADNOC crude oil at ISPRL’s underground oil storage facility at Padur in Karnataka, which has a 2.5 million tonne capacity. Under the agreement, ADNOC is expected to store crude in compartments at Padur.
- ISPRL is an Indian government-owned company mandated to store crude oil for emergency needs.
- ADNOC is the only foreign oil and gas company, so far, to invest by way of crude oil in India’s strategic petroleum reserves program.
Benefits of the agreement:
- India is an important oil market and the MoU underscores the strategic energy partnership between the UAE and India that leverages the UAE and ADNOC’s expertise and oil resources.
- The agreement will allow ISPRL to explore, with ADNOC, opportunities related to the possible storage of ADNOC crude at Padur, which would help to significantly strengthen the country’s strategic petroleum reserves.
- It also reflects the strong bonds of cooperation between India and the UAE and provides a foundation for strengthening and expanding the strategic energy relationship between the two nations.
ISPRL has already built 5.33 million tonnes of underground storage capacity at three locations – Visakhapatnam (1.33 million tonnes), Mangalore (1.5 million tonnes) and Padur (2.5 million tonnes), that can meet around 9.5 days of the country’s oil needs as per consumption data of last financial year.
In June 2018, the Union Government had announced the creation of two new reserves, a 4 million tonnes storage facility at Chandikhol in the eastern state of Odisha and an additional 2.5 million-tonne facility at Padur.
Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
SpiNNaker- World’s largest brain-like supercomputer
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: About SpiNNaker, potential applications and what are biological neurons.
What is it? It is the world’s largest supercomputer designed to work in the same way as the human brain. It has been switched on for the first time.
The newly formed million-processor-core Spiking Neural Network Architecture (SpiNNaker) machine is capable of completing more than 200 million million actions per second, with each of its chips having 100 million transistors.
What are biological neurons?
- The SpiNNaker machine, designed and built in The University of Manchester in the UK, can model more biological neurons in real time than any other machine on the planet.
- Biological neurons are basic brain cells present in the nervous system that communicate primarily by emitting ‘spikes’ of pure electro-chemical energy.
- Neuromorphic computing uses large scale computer systems containing electronic circuits to mimic these spikes in a machine.
What is unique about SpiNNaker?
SpiNNaker is unique because, unlike traditional computers, it does not communicate by sending large amounts of information from point A to B via a standard network. Instead it mimics the massively parallel communication architecture of the brain, sending billions of small amounts of information simultaneously to thousands of different destinations.
How it works?
- Researchers eventually aim to model up to a billion biological neurons in real time and are now a step closer. To give an idea of scale, a mouse brain consists of around 100 million neurons and the human brain is 1,000 times bigger than that.
- One billion neurons is one per cent of the scale of the human brain, which consists of just under 100 billion brain cells, or neurons, which are all highly interconnected via approximately one quadrillion synapses.
- One of the fundamental uses for the supercomputer is to help neuroscientists better understand how our own brain works. It does this by running extremely large scale real-time simulations which simply aren’t possible on other machines.
- For example, SpiNNaker has been used to simulate high-level real-time processing in a range of isolated brain networks. This includes an 80,000 neuron model of a segment of the cortex, the outer layer of the brain that receives and processes information from the senses.
Potential for neurological breakthroughs:
- It also has simulated a region of the brain called the Basal Ganglia – an area affected in Parkinson’s disease, meaning it has massive potential for neurological breakthroughs in science such as pharmaceutical testing.
- The power of SpiNNaker has even recently been harnessed to control a robot, the SpOmnibot. This robot uses the SpiNNaker system to interpret real-time visual information and navigate towards certain objects while ignoring others.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Infrastructure- waterways.
India’s first multi-modal terminal on inland waterways in Varanasi
What to study?
- For Prelims: JMVP, NW 1 and related key facts.
- For Mains: Inland waterways- potential, significance, challenges and accomplishments.
Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated India’s first multi-modal terminal on the Ganga river in Varanasi and received the country’s first container cargo transported on inland waterways from Kolkata.
- The first consignment containing food and beverage had set sail from Kolkata in the last week of October.
- This is the first of the four multi-modal terminals being constructed on the National Waterway-1 (river Ganga) as part of the World Bank-aided Jal Marg Vikas project of the Inland Waterways Authority of India.
Benefits of container movement on inland waterways:
Container cargo transport comes with several inherent advantages. Even as it reduces the handling cost, allows easier modal shift, reduces pilferages and damage, it also enables cargo owners to reduce their carbon footprints.
About Jal Marg Vikas Project:
What is it?
The Jal Marg Vikas Project seeks to facilitate plying of vessels with capacity of 1,500-2,000 tonnes in the Haldia- Varanasi stretch of the River Ganga. The major works being taken up under JMVP are development of fairway, Multi-Modal Terminals, strengthening of river navigation system, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS), Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS), night navigation facilities, modern methods of channel marking etc.
Implementation: The JMVP, which is expected to be completed by March, 2023, is being implemented with the financial and technical support of the World Bank. The project will enable commercial navigation of vessels with the capacity of 1500-2,000 tons on NW-I.
Its objective is to promote inland waterways as a cheap and environment-friendly means of transportation, especially for cargo movement. The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) is the project implementing agency.
Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system from Allahabad to Haldia was declared as National Waterway No.1. The NW-1 passes through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal and serves major cities and their industrial hinterlands.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Conservation related issues.
Climate risk from rise in Indian AC units
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: HFCs and how they play role in climate change, ACs- role in climate change and efforts to contain.
Context: As per a report written by the Rocky Mountain Institute, by 2022, India is expected to have a fourth of the world’s air conditioning units, and the risks to climate from this could be immense.
- The refrigerants used for cooling are the major contributors to global warming, and if left unchecked, they could cause global temperatures to rise by 0.5 degrees Celsius. Under a business-as-usual growth trajectory, about 4.5 billion room air-conditioners are estimated to be installed by 2050 — a nearly four-fold jump from today’s installed base, with emerging economies observing a five-fold increase.
- HFCs are a family of gases that are largely used in refrigerants at home and in car air-conditioners. However, they substantially worsen global warming. India, China, the United States and Europe have committed themselves to reducing the use of HFC by 85% by 2045.
- In 2016, India was a signatory to a compact of 107 countries to “substantially phase” out a potent greenhouse gas, called hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), by 2045 and move to prevent a potential 0.5 C rise in global temperature by 2050.
Need for energy efficiency in the area of air- conditioning:
- Every one degree increase in the air-conditioner temperature setting results in saving of 6% of electricity consumed. The new campaign will result in substantial energy savings and also reduce greenhouse gas emission.
- Besides, normal human body temperature is approximately 36-37 degree Celsius, but large number of commercial establishments, hotels and offices maintain temperature around 18-21 degree Celsius. This is not only uncomfortable but is actually unhealthy.
- Setting the temperature in the range of 18-21 degree Celsius compels people to wear warm clothing or use blankets; therefore, this is actually wastage of energy.
Efforts by government in this regard:
Union Power Ministry has launched a campaign to promote energy efficiency in the area of air-conditioning. This initiative is launched on voluntary basis to increase awareness and encourage consumers to adopt the guidelines. It will save energy and reduce greenhouse gases.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
Bilateral Naval Exercise ‘Samudra Shakti’:
Context: Indian Navy and Indonesian Navy has scheduled Bilateral Exercise ‘Samudra Shakti’.
Exercise ‘Samudra Shakti’:
- The aim of the exercise is to strengthen bilateral relations, expand maritime co-operation, enhance interoperability and exchange best practices.
- The exercise seeks to promote India’s solidarity with Indonesia towards ensuring good order in the maritime domain and to strengthen existing bonds between the navies of the two nations.
‘Ambassador of Conscience’ Award:
Context: Amnesty International has stripped Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi of its highest honour, the ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ award, over her indifference to atrocities committed by the Myanmar military against and increasing intolerance of freedom of expression.
What’s the issue?
The Amnesty International, an international human rights group, named Suu Kyi as its 2009 Ambassador of Conscience Award recipient when she was still under house arrest for her opposition to Myanmar’s oppressive military. However, considering her failure to speak out and her shielding of the security forces from accountability for the violence against the Rohingya, the organisation withdrew the honour from her.
Public Service Broadcasting Day:
- The Public Service Broadcasting Day was observed across India on November 12, 2018. The day is observed every year to commemorate the first and last visit of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi to the studio of All India Radio, Delhi in 1947.
- Mahatma Gandhi had on November 12, 1947 visited the studio of All India Radio to address the displaced people from Pakistan who were temporarily settled in Kurukshetra, Haryana after the partition of the Indian subcontinent.