Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Green tribunal declares area near Ganga as ‘No-Development Zone’
- Massive iceberg breaks off from Antarctica ice shelf
Bilateral & International Relations
- India ranks 116 out of 157 nations on SDG index
- DIPP to set up India’s first TISC in Punjab
- India Give Additional $1 Million To United Nations Partnership Fund
Science & Technology
- Scientists encode movie clip in the DNA of living cells
- Indian Scientists Discover ‘Saraswati’ — a Supercluster of Galaxies
Key Facts for Prelims
- India’s first solar-powered 1600 HP DEMU train launched
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Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Green tribunal declares area near Ganga as ‘No-Development Zone’
An area of 100 metres from the edge of the Ganga between Haridwar and Unnao has been declared a “No Development Zone”, with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) prohibiting dumping of waste within 500 metres of the river.
- An environment compensation of ₹50,000 will be imposed on anyone dumping waste in the river.
What is ‘No Development Zone’?
- No-development zones are zones where no construction, including commercial or residential buildings, can come up.
- The NGT also directed the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments to formulate guidelines for religious activities on the ghats of the Ganga and its tributaries.
- It also directed the authorities concerned to complete projects, including a sewage treatment plant and cleaning of drains, within two years.
- The Supreme Court also appointed a supervisory committee, headed by the Secretary of the Water Resources Ministry and comprising IIT professors and officials of the Uttar Pradesh government, to oversee implementation of the directions passed in its verdict. The committee is to submit reports at regular intervals.
About National Green Tribunal (NGT):
The NGT was established in 2010 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.
- It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
- It also includes enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith.
- It adjudicates matters relating to Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; Environment (Protection) Act, 1986; Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991; Forest Conservation Act and Biological Diversity Act.
- The NGT is guided by principles of natural justice and not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
- It is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing.
- New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting NGT. Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai are other regional sitting of the Tribunal.
Members of the NGT:
- The tribunal shall consist of a full time chairperson, judicial members and expert members.
- The minimum number of judicial and expert member prescribed is ten in each category and maximum number is twenty in each category.
- Another important provision included in the law is that the chairperson, if find necessary, may invite any person or more person having specialized knowledge and experience in a particular case before the tribunal to assist the same in that case.
- A judge of the Supreme Court of India or Chief Justice of High Court are eligible to be Chairperson or judicial member of the Tribunal. Even existing or retired judge of High Court is qualified to be appointed as a Judicial Member.
Massive iceberg breaks off from Antarctica ice shelf
An iceberg weighing more than a trillion tons–one of the biggest ever recorded and nearly four times the size of Delhi—has broken away from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica.
- The iceberg was already floating before it calved away so had no immediate impact on the sea level.
- The calving of this iceberg leaves the Larsen C Ice Shelf reduced in area by more than 12%, and the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula changed forever.
Who monitored the rift?
- The final breakthrough of the rift was detected in data from NASA’s Aqua MODIS satellite instrument, which images in the thermal infrared at a resolution of one kilometre and confirmed by NASA’s Suomi VIIRS instrument.
- The development of the rift over the last year was monitored using data from the European Space Agency Sentinel-1 satellites – part of the European Copernicus Space Component.
What do experts say about the Antarctica ice sheet breaking off?
- Experts opine that the large chunk of ice mass floating in Antarctica is not a new development, but the freely floating element is.
- A report elucidates that although ice shelves already do float on open water, the icebergs that are created as a result of it don’t affect global sea levels, which are reported to be rising at approximately 3.4 millimeters annually.
- The report further states that warmer water usually takes up a bigger volume than similar amount of cold water. This contributes to the expansion. Although the gigantic Antarctica ice sheet will eventually melt into water and warm over a period of time.
- The report says it won’t necessarily have a significant effect on overall heating of the world’s oceans, cautioning that glaciers pouring water into the oceans are of greater concern.
- Although the remaining ice shelf will continue naturally to regrow, researchers have previously shown that the new configuration is potentially less stable than it was prior to the rift. There is a risk that Larsen C may eventually follow the example of its neighbour, Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 following a similar rift-induced calving event in 1995.
- The Antarctic ice sheet contains 90% of the ice on Earth and would raise sea levels worldwide by over 200 feet if it melts.
Sea level rise and India:
- If there is eventually a rise in sea level, it is certain to impact India badly since the country has a long and densely populated coastline.
- India has already started seeing effects of sea level rise in places such as Sundarbans and Majauli, one of the largest riverine islands in the world.
- Any rise in sea level will also lead to economic loss of coastal communities and spark inland migration.
Bilateral & International Relations
India ranks 116 out of 157 nations on SDG index
India has been ranked low 116 out of 157 nations on the 2017 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Index and Dashboard report.
About the index:
- The SDG Index and Dashboards Report is released by Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Bertelsmann Stiftung.
- The index assesses the performance of countries towards achieving the ambitious SDGs.
- It ranks countries based on their performance across the 17 SDGs.
Highlights of the report:
- Sweden leads the list, followed by Denmark and Finland.
- Among the G7 countries, only Germany and France can be found among the top ten performers.
- The United States ranks 42nd on the Index, while Russia and China rank 62nd and 71st respectively.
- The countries which are closest to fulfilling the goals are not the biggest economies but comparably small, developed countries.
- Many of the richest countries in the world are nowhere near achieving the global policy objectives but also deteriorate the implementation process for poorer countries because of negative spillover effects.
- One of the greatest obstacles to achieving the global goals for high-income countries are poor performances regarding sustainable consumption and production. All countries that score lowest on electronic-waste generation, for example, are high-income countries.
- Not only does a rising trend of nationalism and protectionism impede the implementation of the goals, but as the report shows, industrialised countries are not serving as role models.
- India with a score of 58.1 was ranked 116th on the index, behind countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and China. Pakistan was ranked 122.
- In 2016, India was ranked 110th.
About Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
- The SDGs are the set of 17 non-binding goals featuring 169 targets to be implemented from 2015 to 2030.
- They were adopted by member countries of United Nations at the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Summit held in New York.
- These goals intend to achieve sustainable development and are more comprehensive than earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
DIPP to set up India’s first TISC in Punjab
The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) will establish India’s first Technology and Innovation Support Center (TISC) at Patent Information Centre, Punjab.
- In this regard, DIPP has signed an Institutional agreement with the Punjab State Council of Science and Technology.
- The TISC will be set up under the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) TISC program.
About TISC program:
- TISCs will be set up under WIPO’s Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISC) program.
- The programme provides innovators in developing countries with access to locally based, high quality technology information and related services, helping them to exploit their innovative potential and to create, protect, and manage their intellectual property (IP) rights.
Services offered by TISCs may include:
- Access to online patent and non-patent (scientific and technical) resources and IP-related publications;
- Assistance in searching and retrieving technology information;
- Training in database search;
- On-demand searches (novelty, state-of-the-art and infringement);
- Monitoring technology and competitors;
- Basic information on industrial property laws, management and strategy, and technology commercialization and marketing.
- The Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) is designated as the National Focal point for the TISC national network.
- As the national focal point, CIPAM shall identify potential host institutions, assess their capacities and support them in joining the TISC project.
- CIPAM will also act as the main intermediary between WIPO and TISC host institutions and coordinate all the activities of the national TISC network.
- Over 500 TISCs operate worldwide and establishing TISC in India will give the host institutions an access to the global network.
Created in 1967 “to encourage creative activity, to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is one of the 17 specialized agencies of the United Nations.
- It has currently 188 member states, administers 26 international treaties, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
- Non-members are the states of Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, South Sudan and Timor-Leste. Palestine has observer status.
- India is a member of WIPO and party to several treaties administered by WIPO.
India Give Additional $1 Million To United Nations Partnership Fund
India has contributed an additional $1 million to India-UN Development Partnership Fund launched to support sustainable development projects across the developing world.
- Earlier, India had made an initial contribution of $1 million when the fund was created.
- The amount was allocated for the implementation of a project benefiting seven Small Island Developing States in South Pacific Ocean.
About the India-UN Development Partnership Fund:
- The India-UN Development Partnership Fund will implement country-level projects that are catalytic towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.
- The initiative is aimed at reducing poverty and hunger, improving health, education and equality, and expanding access to clean water, energy and livelihoods.
- The fund will focus on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
- Initially, the fund will start with an initial contribution of USD 1 million for its first project Climate Early Warning System in Pacific Island Countries (CEWSPIC).
- CEWSPIC Project was formulated by India and the UN Development Programme in consultation with the governments of Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Tonga. The project will increase resilience to natural disasters in these seven Pacific island countries.
The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) was established with an objective to promote, coordinate and support South-South and triangular cooperation across the world and within the United Nations system.
- UNOSSC has its genesis in 1974 when the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the establishment of a special unit to promote technical cooperation among developing countries within the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
- In 2012, the special unit was given the name United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) by the General Assembly through a resolution.
- UNOSSC receives policy directives and guidance from the General Assembly and through its subsidiary body, the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation.
- UNOSSC submits its strategic planning frameworks to the UNDP, UNFPA and UNOPS Executive Board for approval and funding.
- The Director reports to the UNDP Administrator and has also been appointed Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation.
Science & Technology
Scientists encode movie clip in the DNA of living cells
Scientists for first time have encoded a small movie clip in the DNA of living bacterial cells and then played it back.
- It is the latest and perhaps most astonishing example of the genome’s potential as a vast storage device.
About the findings:
- Scientists had used the CRISPR gene-editing technique to encode and retrieve reconstructed frames of a classic 1870s racehorse in motion sequence of photos into the genome of common gut bacteria E. coli.
- Scientists have found out that despite the genetic modification, the bacteria thrived and multiplied.
- The film stored in the DNA of bacteria was also well preserved and was intact even in new generation of bacteria.
How DNA store information?
- The geneticists ended up with a sequence of DNA molecules that represented the entirety of the film.
- Then they used a powerful new gene editing technique, Crispr, to slip this sequence into the genome of a common gut bacteria, E. coli.
- Despite the modification, the bacteria thrived and multiplied.
- The film stored in the genome was preserved intact with each new generation of progeny.
What is CRISPR gene-editing technique?
- CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) allows to selectively edit genome parts and replace them with new DNA stretches.
- Cas9 is an enzyme that can edit DNA, allowing the alteration of genetic patterns by genome modification.
- CRISPR is a collection of DNA sequences that direct Cas9 where to cut and paste.
- CRISPR-Cas9 technology has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of blood diseases, tumours and other genetic diseases.
- It was named “2015 Breakthrough of the Year” by the U.S. journal Science.
Indian Scientists Discover ‘Saraswati’ — a Supercluster of Galaxies
A team of Indian scientists have discovered a previously unknown ‘supercluster’ of galaxies, some four billion light years away from Earth, and named it Saraswati.
What is Supercluster?
- Superclusters, a group of clusters of galaxies, are the largest structures of stars, planets and other heavenly bodies in the universe, and very few of them are known.
- A cluster could roughly have galaxies ranging from 1000 to 10,000. A supercluster could have clusters ranging from 40 to 43.
- The Milky Way, the galaxy in which earth is located is part of a supercluster called the Laniakea Supercluster.
About the Saraswati supercluster:
- Saraswati supercluster is one of the largest known structures in the neighbourhood of the universe, 4,000 million light-years away from Earth and roughly more than 10 billion years old.
- Its mass extends over the scale of 600 million light years.
Significance of the discovery:
- The discovery of Saraswati supercluster will help astronomers in understanding galaxy formation and evolution, effect of superclusters on environment of the galaxies.
Key Facts for Prelims
India’s first solar-powered 1600 HP DEMU train launched
- Indian Railways has launched the country’s first solar-powered local train with a battery bank facility that ensures sufficient power even in the absence of sunlight.
- The entire electrical need of the coaches, which includes lights, fans and information display system, will be met by the energy produced by solar panels fitted atop the coaches of the DEMU (diesel electric multiple unit) train.
- The train was launched from Safdarjung railway station.