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Current Affairs Analysis

25th May 2016 Current Affairs Analysis

Smart Cities Mission; ban on mineral water bottles; Pandemic Emergency Finance Facility; Potassium Bromate; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
May 25, 2016

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • $100-m World Bank aid for Karnataka

Economy

  • SAT pulls up SEBI for lack of uniformity in penalising market players
  • 13 cities included in Phase 1 of Smart Cities Mission
  • Andhra Pradesh to top country with solar capacity of 4,000 MW

Environment & Ecology

  • Sikkim Becomes the First Indian State to Ban Mineral Water Bottles in Govt. Programmes

International Relations

  • World Bank group launches Pandemic Emergency Finance Facility
  • Indian Ocean Rim nations to boost cooperation on SEZs

Science & Technology

  • Potassium bromate in same cancer class as coffee
  • ISRO to test rocket that takes its fuel from air

 

Polity & Governance

$100-m World Bank aid for Karnataka

The World Bank will provide assistance of $100 million to the Karnataka Urban Water Supply Modernisation project.

  • The loan and project agreements were signed by the Centre and the World Bank.

About the project:

The objective of the Karnataka Urban Water Supply Modernisation project is to provide city-wide access to a continuous piped water supply in the eligible cities in Karnataka and to strengthen the service delivery arrangements at the city level.

  • The project will have four broad components –
  1. Capital investment programme,
  2. Institution building,
  3. Technical assistance for sector development; and
  4. Project management.
  • The Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation will implement the project.
  • The project will be executed over a period of six years, initially in the twin cities of Hubballi-Dharwad. More eligible cities will be allowed to join later.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

Economy

SAT pulls up SEBI for lack of uniformity in penalising market players

A recent order by the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) has brought to the fore the issue of lack of uniformity in actions taken by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) in similar offences by different market participants.

Background:

  • After hearing an appeal filed by Almondz Global Securities Ltd, the tribunal quashed the remaining punishment against the merchant banker after highlighting the fact that similar offences by other entities saw a much more lenient penal action by SEBI officials.

About Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT):

Securities Appellate Tribunal is a statutory body established under the provisions of Section 15K of the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992. It covers the whole of India.

  • SAT was established to hear and dispose of appeals against orders passed by the Securities and Exchange Board of India or by an adjudicating officer under the Act.
  • SAT is also entitled to exercise jurisdiction, powers and authority conferred on the Tribunal by or under this Act or any other law for the time being in force.
[Ref: Hindu, sat.gov.in]

 

 13 cities included in Phase 1 of Smart Cities Mission

Thirteen cities, including Lucknow, Warangal, Bhagalpur, Raipur and New Town Kolkata, have been included in the first phase of the government’s smart cities mission that had already selected 20 urban centres in January.

  • The other cities that have been selected in the latest round are Port Blair, Imphal, Ranchi, Panaji, Agartala, Faridabad, Chandigarh and Dharamsala.
  • This takes the number of cities selected in the first phase of the Smart Cities Mission to 33 and will expand the representation of states in the mission.
  • Analysts said that the increase in the number of cities selected will give the mission a more balanced approach.
  • Lucknow, which stood first in the fast-track competition, improved its smart-city plan by 19%, followed by Warangal at 13% and Dharamshala by 27%.

How cities are selected as Smart Cities?

  • The cities were selected based on the marks scored by them in the fast-track competition and the benchmarks set by the top performers in the first round of the competition in which the first 20 cities were selected from among 98 cities.

What are smart cities?

  • A ‘smart city’ is an urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications and market viability.
  • It is a city where information technology is the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents. There are many technological platforms involved, including but not limited to automated sensor networks and data centres.

Core infrastructure:

The core infrastructure in a smart city would include:

  • Adequate water supply.
  • Assured electricity supply.
  • Sanitation, including solid waste management.
  • Efficient urban mobility and public transport.
  • Affordable housing, especially for the poor.
  • Robust IT connectivity and digitalization.
  • Good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation.
  • Sustainable environment.
  • Safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly.
  • Health and education.

About Smart Cities Mission:

The Smart Cities mission was launched in June 2015 with the government releasing the guidelines and mission statement for the 100 Smart Cities project.

  • It will provide central funding of Rs 50,802 crore to the selected cities for improving their infrastructure and service delivery through application of better technology and e-governance.
  • According to mission guidelines, the total State and Central financial assistance for each smart city would be Rs. 1,000 crore on a 50:50 basis.
  • States and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) will play a key supportive role in the development of Smart Cities.
  • The Central government has created an outside agency named Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), which will be headed by a CEO, and will be given powers to “execute” the proposed developments and projects.
  • The professionally managed SPV will be empowered to execute the smart city projects in a timely and cost-effective manner while ensuring that the quality of the outcomes is benchmarked against global standards.

 [Ref: Hindu, smartcities.gov.in]

 

Andhra Pradesh to top country with solar capacity of 4,000 MW

Andhra Pradesh will house solar parks with a total capacity of 4,000 MW, the highest in the country, with Rs.225.5 crore already being sanctioned.

  • A total of 33 solar parks have been commissioned across the country under the Centre’s scheme for the development of solar parks and ultra-mega solar power projects.
  • Under this scheme, it is proposed to set up at least 25 solar parks and ultra-mega solar power projects targeting over 20,000 MW of solar power installed capacity within a span of five years starting from 2014-15.

Factors determining the location of solar parks:

Apart from how much sunlight an area receives, there are several factors that determine the location of solar parks.

  • The resource potential is certainly one criteria, but the availability of land at reasonable prices, infrastructure availability to transport equipment, proximity to the nearest grid and no disputes over forest land are all factors that must be taken into account.
[Ref: Hindu] 

 

Environment & Ecology

Sikkim Becomes the First Indian State to Ban Mineral Water Bottles in Govt. Programmes

For effective waste management in an eco-friendly manner, the Sikkim government has restricted the use of mineral water bottles in government programmes.

  • The order also banned the use and sale of disposable items such as cups, plates, spoons, containers, etc. made from foam throughout the state with immediate effect. 

Being developed as a green state, Sikkim had become India’s first fully organic state in 2016 which means that all agricultural and horticultural produce are free of chemicals.

Reasons for ban:

  • There has been rampant use of packaged drinking water during departmental meetings and functions which is creating a huge piles of garbage that adds to the burden of the landfill. 
  • The government has been initiating various measures to manage the waste and maintain a clean environment but it has been found that a lot of disposable foam containers are being rampantly used not only in the bazar areas but also in the rural pockets. 
  • A huge quantity of municipal waste is created in the form of disposable products which are environmentally hazardous and occupy a huge space in the landfill. 

Alternatives:

  • It suggested that as an alternative, departments can use filtered water or water from large reusable water dispensers or reusable water bottles in government functions. 
[Ref: BS]

 

International Relations

World Bank group launches Pandemic Emergency Finance Facility

 The World Bank Group has launched the much anticipated Pandemic Emergency Finance Facility (PEF).

About PEF:

The Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) is developed by the World Bank Group in collaboration with the World Health Organization and other public and private sector partners.

  • PEF is a new financing mechanism to quickly mobilise funds to tackle global disease outbreaks and create a new insurance market for pandemic risk.
  • PEF is expected to bring the much needed coordination and speed for future global disease outbreak response efforts.
  • PEF will provide a system that can move funding and teams of experts to the sites of outbreaks before they spin out of control

Background:

  • The PEF facility launch announcement came few days ahead of the May 26-27 Summit of Group of Seven Leaders in Ise-Shima, Japan.
  • G7 leaders had urged the World Bank Group to develop the initiative during their May 2015 summit in Schloss-Elmau, Germany.
  • Japan — which holds the G7 Presidency — became the first donor to the PEF initiative and committed $ 50 million.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

Indian Ocean Rim nations to boost cooperation on SEZs

To boost exports, India and several other nations bordering the Indian Ocean have decided to evolve a regional mechanism for cooperation on Special Economic Zones (SEZ) – or duty-free enclaves with tax holidays.

Details:

  • The first-of-its-kind meeting between SEZ authorities from these Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) nations was held on May 19-20 at Chabahar, Iran, which houses a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) – a synonym for SEZs.
  • The meeting also assumes importance given that India had signed a pact with Iran to develop the Chabahar port, and agreed to provide $500 million for the purpose.
  • The meeting comes at a time of global economic and trade slowdown and attempts are being made by countries to boost growth through trade.
  • Participants at the Chabahar meet also considered a proposal to form a “joint FTZ” among the IOR Association (IORA) member countries since most of these FTZs are situated or are being built in coastal regions.

Highlights of a World Bank report:

  • Published in February 2015, a World Bank (Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice) report said that more and more countries have begun to implement this instrument (SEZs) for their industrialization process, especially as a way of attracting foreign direct investments mostly in the manufacturing sector, creating jobs, generating exports and foreign exchanges.
  • It also noted that some countries have been successful while others, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, were still struggling.

About IORA:

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), formerly known as the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative and Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), is an international organisation consisting of coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean.

  • The IORA is a regional forum, tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of Government, Business and Academia, for promoting co-operation and closer interaction among them.
  • It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperation particularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment, Promotion as well as Social Development of the region.
  • The Coordinating Secretariat of IORA is located at Ebene, Mauritius.

History:

  • The organisation was first established as Indian Ocean Rim Initiative in Mauritius on March 1995 and formally launched in 1997 by the conclusion of a multilateral treaty known as the Charter of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation.

Members:

  • The Association comprises 21 member states and 7 dialogue partners, the Indian Ocean Tourism Organisation and the Indian Ocean Research Group has observer status.

IASToppers-25th May 2016

  • Thanks to their strategic locations and access to major waterways, these zones have formed a virtual network of trade connections spanning continents including Asia, Australia and Africa.

Objectives:

  • To promote sustainable growth and balanced development of the region and member states.
  • To focus on those areas of economic cooperation which provide maximum opportunities for development, shared interest and mutual benefits.
  • To promote liberalisation, remove impediments and lower barriers towards a freer and enhanced flow of goods, services, investment, and technology within the Indian Ocean rim.
[Ref: Hindu, Wiki]

 

Science & Technology

Potassium bromate in same cancer class as coffee

The latest study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has created a flutter over its claim that many bread, burger and pizza samples it tested contained potassium bromate which is possibly carcinogenic and potassium iodate which could cause thyroid-related problems.

  • Soon after the study was released, the national food safety regulator, FSSAI removed potassium bromate from the list of permitted additives and said it is examining the evidence against potassium iodate.

What is potassium bromate?

  • Potassium bromate, or simply called bromate, is an oxidiser used to strengthen dough and enhance its elasticity. This helps bake uniform and whitened bread.

Its usage:

  • It is added to wheat flour to strengthen the dough and to allow it to rise higher. It bleaches the dough and increases its elasticity by making tiny bubbles that help the bread rise.
  • However, the real problem arises when bromate flour isn’t baked for long enough or at a high enough temperature, or if too much potassium bromate is added in the first place.

Its popularity:

  • Potassium bromate is cheaper and more widely available than other food additives, and gives a better end-product.
  • In a low-margin, high-volume and perishable food product like bread, cost and end-product does matter.

Its harmful effects:

  • Potassium bromate is said to cause renal tubular tumours (adenomas and carcinomas) thyroid follicular tumours peritoneal mesotheliomas in laboratory animals.
  • Also, long-term carcinogenicity studies and in vivo and in vitro mutagenicity studies showed that potassium bromate was a “genotoxic carcinogen” or a chemical agent that damaged genetic information, causing mutations.

Ban on Potassium bromate:

  • A 1982 study in Japan stated that potassium bromate causes cancer. Following this, many countries including Japan, UK, China and Australia banned this compound.
  • The European Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Canada, Brazil, Peru and Columbia have also banned the use of potassium bromate as a flour treatment agent.
  • The EU has banned potassium iodate as well.

Its usage in India:

  • India and the US continue to allow use of potassium bromate in permissible limits.
  • India allows use of potassium bromate and/or iodate up to 50 ppm on flour mass basis, while the US allows it up to 75 ppm and manufacturers must list the ingredient on food labels.
  • 84% of 34 bread types sold in India contain potassium bromate.

Alternatives to Potassium bromate:

  • Ascorbic acid or Vitamin-C is considered a healthy alternative to potassium bromate.
  • Glucose oxidase is another option approved by FSSAI in 2015.
  • Other food improvers and flour treatment agents approved by law include ammonium persulphate, ammonium chloride and amylases.
[Ref: Hindu, LM]

 

ISRO to test rocket that takes its fuel from air

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to test an air-breathing propulsion system, which aims to capitalise on the oxygen in the atmosphere instead of liquefied oxygen while in flight.

What’s its distinctive feature?

Generally, vehicles that are used to launch satellites use combustion of propellants with oxidiser and fuel.

  • The air-breathing propulsion system aims at using oxygen present in the atmosphere up to 50 km from the earth’s surface to burn the fuel stored in the rocket.
  • This is like satellites making use of solar power. Likewise, this technology aims to take oxygen from the atmosphere instead of carrying it all the way.

Advantages of the system:

  • This system, when implemented, would help in reducing the lift-off mass of the vehicle since liquefied oxygen need not be carried on board the vehicle.
  • This would also help increasing the efficiency of the rocket and also make it cost-effective.
  • The new propulsion system, once mastered, would complement ISRO’s aim to develop a reusable launch vehicle that would have longer flight duration.

Background:

  • ISRO is now evolving and testing various technologies to bring down the cost of launch vehicles. It has earlier developed rockets that can send multiple satellites in a single mission.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

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