Gulf-Cooperation-Council--meeting-latest-iastoppers
Current Affairs Analysis

6th December 2017 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); Joint Cooperation Committee; National Green Tribunal (NGT); Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB); Soil Health Card Scheme; What is soil health card? Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation Limited (IRSDC); International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC); International Solar Alliance; UN Peacekeeping; Asian Harmonization Working Party (AHWP); Akash Missile; ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite; New graphene-based battery; What is Graphene? 6th International Tourism Mart; UN Environment's Patron for Clean Air; Okarito kiwi and the Northern Brown kiwi; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
December 06, 2017

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Government gives green light for single-judge NGT Benches
  • Rajasthan ordinance on immunity for public servants
  • D K Sarraf appointed as PNGRB Chairman

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Soil Health Card Mobile App launched

Economy

  • Railways appoints IRSDC as nodal agency for station redevelopment plan

Bilateral & International Relations

  • India-Russia Multi-Modal Transportation Route all set to open next month
  • ISA becomes a Treaty-based International Intergovernmental organization
  • UAE and Saudis form new partnership separate from GCC
  • Opening Ceremony of The Indian UN Peace keeping Training
  • 22nd AHWP conference

Defence & Security Issues

  • India successfully test-fires surface-to-air Akash missile

Science & Technology

  • European satellite Sentinel-5P sends images of global air pollution
  • New graphene-based battery charges five times faster

Key Facts for Prelims

  • MP proposes death penalty for rape of girls aged 12 and below
  • 6th International Tourism Mart
  • Paytm’s Sharma named UN Environment’s Patron for Clean Air
  • Two kiwi species no longer endangered

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Polity & Governance

Government gives green light for single-judge NGT Benches

Amending the National Green Tribunal (Practices and Procedure) Rules, 2011, the Centre has passed a notification allowing the NGT chairperson to “constitute a single-member bench” in “exceptional circumstances.”

ias-toppers-National-Green-Tribunal-2

  • However, the notification does not define the “exceptional circumstances”.
  • According to the earlier rules, the bench consisted of “two or more members” with at least one judicial member and another expert. The balance of judicial and independent experts was necessary to ensure that technical aspects of disputes were adequately addressed.
  • This move will address festering problem of vacancies in NGT.

Background:

  • The NGT faces a manpower shortage with some of its Benches likely to be headless by next February as appointments have not been made.
  • The tribunal has three courts in its principal Bench in Delhi and four zonal Benches — in the east, west, central and south to encompass all States and Union Territories — and faces the prospect of functioning with less than one-third of its sanctioned strength of 20.
  • Last week, the Supreme Court pulled up the Centre for not filling up vacancies in the NGT principal and zonal Benches.

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.
[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]

 

Rajasthan ordinance on immunity for public servants

A controversial criminal law ordinance of the Rajasthan government, which gave protection to public servants and imposed restrictions on the media, has lapsed.

ias toppers Rajasthan govt polls

  • The state government is now forced to reconsider the new piece of proposed legislation.

About the new bill:

  • The bill prohibits the courts from ordering investigation against both serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants in the state, without taking prior permission from the government.
  • The ordinance provides 180 days of immunity to the officers. If there is no decision on the sanction request post the stipulated time period, it will automatically mean that sanction has been granted.
  • Under the new law, the media has also been gagged and are not allowed to report on the accusation against such a person until the prosecution gets the go-ahead from the sanctioning authority, which may take up to six months.
  • The amendment seeks curb on publishing and printing or publicising in any case the name, address, photograph, family details of the public servants. Violating the clause would call for two years imprisonment.

Criticism of the bill:

  • The Ordinance empowers the sanctioning authority to take a decision in six months, from the date of the receipt of the proposal for sanction, which has been questioned by the opposition party which said it may give enough time for the accused to move files and dilute the case.
  • Activists have also opposed the bill that seeks to “protect both serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants in Rajasthan” from being investigated for on-duty action without its prior sanction, saying it muzzles free speech.

What’s next?

  • Now, the select committee will decide the fate of the Bill, which has sought to amend the Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Penal Code, and give its recommendation either to withdraw the Bill or re-introduce it in the Assembly with some amendments.
[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]

 

D K Sarraf appointed as PNGRB Chairman

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the appointment of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation’s former Chairman, D K Sarraf, as the new Chairman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB).

D-K-Sarraf-PNGRB-Chairman-iastoppers

About Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB):

PNGRB was constituted under The Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board Act, 2006.

Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board iastoppers

Composition of PNGRB

  • The PNGRB consists of Chairperson, a Member (Legal) and three other members.
  • It also has power of civil court and bench comprising member (legal) and one or more members nominated by chairperson which decides on disputes arising among downstream companies or with outsiders.

Mandate:

  • The Act provide for the establishment of PNGRB to protect the interests of consumers and entities engaged in specified activities relating to petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas and to promote competitive markets and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • Further as enshrined in the act, the board has also been mandated to regulate the refining, processing, storage, transportation, distribution, marketing and sale of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas excluding production of crude oil and natural gas so as and to ensure uninterrupted and adequate supply of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas in all parts of the country.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Government Schemes & Policies

Soil Health Card Mobile App launched

On the occasion of World Soil Day, Soil Health Card mobile App has been launched by the government to help the farmers.

Soil-Health-Card-Mobile-App-iastoppers

About the app:

Soil-Health-Card-Mobile-App-iastoppers2

  • The app will benefit field-level workers as it will automatically capture GIS coordinates while registering sample details at the time of sample collection in the field and indicate the location from where the sample has been collected.
  • This app works like other Geotagging apps developed for the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana. The app contains farmers’ details including name, Aadhaar card number, mobile number, gender, address, crop details, etc.

About the Soil Health Card Scheme:

In February 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the Soil Health Card Scheme.

ias-toppers-Soil-Health-Card-Scheme

  • It is a scheme to provide every farmer a Soil Health Card in a Mission mode.
  • It is a scheme under which the Central Government provides assistance to State Governments for setting up Soil Testing Laboratories for issuing Soil Health Cards to farmers.
  • The scheme will be implemented in all states to promote soil testing services, issue of soil health cards and development of nutrient management practices.
  • Under the scheme, State Governments should adopt innovative practices like involvement of agricultural students, NGOs and private sector in soil testing, determining average soil health of villages, etc., to issue Soil Health Cards.
  • Under the scheme, the state governments are also required to prepare yearly action plan on the issue and the cost will be shared in the ratio of 75:25 between the Centre and states.

What is soil health card?

The soil health card studies and reviews the health of soil or rather we can say a complete evaluation of the quality of soil right from its functional characteristics, to water and nutrients content and other biological properties. It will also contain corrective measures that a farmer should adopt to obtain a better yield.

How does it help the farmers?

Soil Health Card benefits iastoppers

  • With the issue of the card, the farmers will get a well-monitored report of the soil which is chosen for cultivation of crops.
  • The monitoring will be done on a regular basis.
  • The farmers will be guided by experts to come up with solutions to improve the quality of the soil.
  • Regular monitoring will help the farmers to get a long-term soil health record and accordingly can study and evaluate the results of different soil management practices.
  • This card can become most helpful and effective when filled out regularly by the same person over a period of time.
  • The idea is not to compare the varied soil types but to find out methods to improve soil fertility, to access the different types of soil and their ability to support crop production in spite of their limitations and as per their abilities.
  • The soil card will help the farmers to get an idea on the crop-wise recommendations of nutrients and fertilizers required in each type of soil. This can help in increasing the crop yield.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Economy

Railways appoints IRSDC as nodal agency for station redevelopment plan

About IRSDC:

  • Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation Limited (IRSDC) is a Joint Venture company of Ircon International Limited (IRCON) (A Govt. of India Undertaking, under Ministry of Railways) and Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA), a statutory authority under the Ministry of Railways.
  • The core purpose of IRSDC as envisioned is to build world class railway stations that apply state of the art sustainable technologies in delivering delight to the users.

Why in news?

Railways appoints IRSDC as nodal agency for station redevelopment plan iastoppers

  • Indian Railways has decided to appoint its joint venture company Indian Railway Station Development Corp. Ltd (IRSDC) as the nodal agency for its ambitious station redevelopment programme, in an attempt to expedite the revamp of 400 A1 and A category railway stations.
  • Under the Rs1 trillion station redevelopment plan, Indian Railways plans to revamp 400 railway stations by monetizing 2,700 acres of spare railway land.

Background:

  • The appointment of IRSDC, a joint-venture between Ircon International Ltd and Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA), took place following recommendations from a three-member committee of experts, which had submitted its report in November.
  • The report recommended IRSDC’s appointment as a nodal agency to ensure a speedy redevelopment process because the firm has shown notable performance in handling its model projects in places such as Gandhinagar and Surat.
[Ref: Live Mint, The Hindu]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

India-Russia Multi-Modal Transportation Route all set to open next month

The International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) connecting Mumbai with St Petersburg and beyond – which has been 17 years in the making – is set to be operationalised from the middle of next month with the first consignment from India to Russia.

Modi with Putin

About International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC)

INSTC is an ambitious multimodal transport system established in 2000 by Iran, Russia and India to promote transportation cooperation.

  • It is aimed to provide the shortest multi-model transportation route linking the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran and St Petersburg.
  • The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali and etc.
  • The estimated capacity of the corridor is 20-30 million tonnes of goods per year.

north-south-transport-corridor-iastoppers

Route

  • It is planned to connect the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea through Iran and then onwards to St. Petersburg and northern Europe through Russia.
  • The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road.

Significance of the INSTC:

  • The project will help India and Russia to increase bilateral trade to the targeted USD 30 billion over the next 10 years.
  • Conceived well before China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), INSTC will not only help cut down on costs and time taken for transfer of goods from India to Russia and Europe via Iran but also provide an alternative connectivity initiative to countries in the Eurasian region.
  • It will be India’s second corridor after the Chabahar Port to access resource rich Central Asia and its market.
  • The project will let cargo from India travel to Chabahar Port in Iran and then to Russia and Eastern Europe via central Asian countries. Currently, a cargo is carried on freight ships via the Red Sea, Suez Canal, Mediterranean Sea, the English Channel and then the Baltic Sea.
  • The port, which is being developed by India, is also seen as a rival to the Chinese-built Gwadar port in Pakistan. The Gwadar port acts as one of the ends of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (OBOR).
  • For India, the INSTC will be strategically important trade corridor of tremendous promise that could help to develop its economic and strategic importance in Eurasia and Central Asia.

Need for such corridor:

  • The absence of viable surface transport connectivity is a serious impediment to trade with the Eurasian region.
  • Currently, transport of goods between India and Russia mostly takes place through the sea route via Rotterdam to St Petersburg.
  • In the case of the Central Asian region, goods are routed through China, Europe or Iran. The routes through China and Europe are long, expensive and time-consuming.

Therefore, there is a need to have a logistics route that would be shorter, cheaper and faster.

[Ref: The Hindu, Economic Times, Indian Express]

 

ISA becomes a Treaty-based International Intergovernmental organization

With 19 countries ratifying its framework agreement, the International Solar Alliance (ISA) has become the first treaty-based international government organisation to be based in India.

ISA-becomes-a-Treaty-based-International-Intergovernmental-organization-iastoppers

Key facts:

  • The ISA now has become a treaty based inter-governmental international organisation and it will be recognized by UN legally to become fully functionable.
  • Guinea became the 15th country to ratify this agreement.
  • So far, 46 countries have signed and 19 ratified Framework Agreement of ISA

Background:

  • This marks the culmination of India’s efforts, which had taken a lead role in setting up the ISA—an alliance of 121 sunshine countries situated between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
  • ISA also signals that New Delhi would employ it as a foreign policy tool to cement its leadership among developing countries.

About International Solar Alliance:

ISA was launched, on the sidelines of COP-21, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in November, 2015 by Modi and French President Francois Hollande.

ias toppers International Solar Alliance2

  • The alliance, headquartered in India, aims to bring together countries situated between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn which receive abundant sunshine for around 300 days a year.
  • ISA aims to invite solar rich 121 countries located fully or partly between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn to join the alliance.
  • International Steering Committee was establishment under the mandate of the Paris Declaration of ISA to provide the guidance and direction to establish the ISA.
  • It will function from the Gurgaon, Haryana based National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE).
  • India has offered a contribution of Rs 175 crore for creating ISA corpus fund and for meeting the cost of ISA secretariat for initial five years.
  • Alliance seeks to share common platform to reduce the cost of finance and technology that is needed to deploy solar power widely.
  • Alliance would pursue cooperation in training, building institutions, regulatory issues, common standards, and investment including joint ventures.
[Ref: PIB, Live Mint]

 

UAE and Saudis form new partnership separate from GCC

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia have formed new economic and partnership group named Joint Cooperation Committee, separate from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Gulf-Cooperation-Council--meeting-latest-iastoppers

Background:

  • This move that could undermine six-member GCC amid Saudi led Arab countries diplomatic crisis with Qatar as half of countries members are boycotting Qatar, accusing it for supporting and funding terrorism.

About the newly formed Joint Cooperation Committee:

  • The new committee is assigned to cooperate and coordinate between UAE and Saudi Arabia in all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields, as well as others in the interest of the two countries.
  • It will be headed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE’s deputy prime minister and minister of presidential affairs, will serve as the Deputy Chairman of the committee.

About the ongoing crisis:

  • Since June, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt have enforced a land, sea and air blockade against Qatar, accusing the tiny Gulf nation of supporting “terrorism”.
  • Qatar has denied the allegations and accused the neighbouring countries of attempting to infringe on its sovereignty.

About Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC):

GCC is a political and economic alliance of six countries in Arabian Peninsula: Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) iastoppers

  • The Charter of GCC was signed in 1981, formally establishing the institution. Its headquarter is in Riyadh, capital city of Saudi Arabia.

What it does?

  • It promotes economic, security, cultural and social cooperation between the six states and holds annual summit to discuss cooperation and regional affairs.
  • Due to their geographic proximity, similar political systems and common sociocultural stances, the immediate goal was for these countries to protect themselves from threats after the Iran-Iraq War.

Members:

  • All current member states of GCC are monarchies, including three constitutional monarchies (Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain), two absolute monarchies (Oman and Saudi Arabia) and one federal monarchy (UAE which is composed of seven member states, each of which is absolute monarchy with its own emir).

Composition:

  • The GCC comprises six main branches that carry out various tasks, from the preparation of meetings to the implementation of policies.
  • They are- Supreme Council, Ministerial Council, Secretariat-General, Consultative Commission, Commission for the Settlement of Disputes and the Secretary-General.

Role of GCC in changing scenario:

  • Whether the GCC still has a relevant function and role in the region is questionable.
  • Though it was created for the purpose of solidifying union ranks, the blockade imposed on Qatar by its neighbours has largely annulled these principles.
  • The Gulf states have in the past differed in their views on several issues that have unfolded in the region over the past two decades.
  • The role of the GCC has also been diminishing ever since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, with the six states illustrating various approaches to the war and its consequences. This has been enhanced during the wave of protests that swept the Middle East in 2011, known as the Arab Spring.
  • This has shed light on Saudi Arabia’s dominant role within the GCC.
[Ref: The Hindu, Aljazeera]

 

Opening Ceremony of The Indian UN Peace keeping Training

The opening ceremony of the Indian UN Peace Keeping Training by Mobile Training Team of CUNPK was recently conducted at the Vietnamese Centre for Peace Keeping located at Thaach Hon, Hanoi.

UN-Peace-keeping-Training-india-iastoppers

  • The ceremony was attended by the Indian Mobile Training Team (MTT).
  • This is in the furtherance to the ongoing training assistance being extended to the Vietnamese Centre for Peace Keeping by the Centre for UN Peace Keeping, New Delhi (CUNPK).

Need:

  • The need for prospective peace keepers to be well trained before deployment in the mission area is a pre requisite for effective peace keeping. Towards this end, the vast experience gained by the Indian Defence Forces would be of great assistance to the Vietnam People’s Army.

About UN Peacekeeping:

United Nations Peacekeeping was created in 1948.

ias-toppers-UN-Peacekeeping

  • Its first mission involved the establishment of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), which served to observe and maintain ceasefire during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
  • UN Peacekeeping maintains three basic principles:
  1. Consent of the parties,
  2. Impartiality and non-use of Force except in self-defence and
  3. Defence of the mandate.
  • The UN Peacekeepers are led by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DKPO).
  • There are currently 17 UN peace operations deployed on four continents.
  • UN Peacekeepers are from diverse backgrounds, from areas all around the world. They include police, military and civilian personnel. They are often referred to as Blue Berets or Blue Helmets because of their light blue berets or helmets.
  • The UN Peacekeeping Force won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.
  • The United Nations Charter gives the United Nations Security Council the power and responsibility to take collective action to maintain international peace and security. For this reason, the international community usually looks to the Security Council to authorize peacekeeping operations.
[Ref: PIB]

 

22nd AHWP conference

The 22nd conference of Asian Harmonization Working Party (AHWP) was recently inaugurated at New Delhi.

Asian-Harmonization-Working-Party-iastoppers

Key facts:

  • The conference is being conducted by Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) and National Drug Regulatory Authority (NDRA) of India in collaboration with Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
  • The key objective of the event is to develop and recommend approaches for the convergence and harmonization of medical device regulations in Asia and beyond and to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and expertise amongst regulators and the industry.

About Asian Harmonization Working Party (AHWP)

AHWP was established in 1999 as a voluntary non-profit organization of the 30 national regulators of member countries and industry members.

Asian-Harmonization-Working-Party--AHWP

  • It was established with a goal to promote regulatory harmonization on medical device regulations in Asia and other regions in accordance with the guidance issued by International Medical Device Regulators Forums (IMDRF).
  • The AHWP works in collaboration with related international organizations such as IMDRF, WHO, International Organization for Standardization (ISO), etc.

About International Medical Device Regulators Forum (IMDRF):

  • IMDRF was conceived in February 2011 as a forum to discuss future directions in medical device regulatory harmonization.
  • It is a voluntary group of medical device regulators from around the world who have come together to build on the strong foundational work of the Global Harmonization Task Force on Medical Devices (GHTF), and to accelerate international medical device regulatory harmonization and convergence.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Defence & Security Issues

India successfully test-fires surface-to-air Akash missile

Supersonic surface-to-air missile- Akash with indigenous radio frequency seeker was recently test fired from a test range in Odisha.

Akash-Missile-iastoppers2

  • With the successful test firing, India has achieved the capability of making any type of surface to air missile.

About Akash Missile:

The Akash missile is India’s first indigenously designed, developed and produced air defence surface-to-air missile system.

Akash Missile iastoppers

  • Akash is a supersonic short range surface-to-air missile capable of neutralising aerial threats.
  • The asset of this missile system is its capability to neutralise multiple aerial targets coming from different directions at the same time.
  • The maximum range of this missile is 25 kilometres and can neutralise targets at a maximum altitude of 20 kilometres. It is meant for neutralising medium range air targets flying at low or medium height.
  • It has supersonic speeds ranging from Mach 2.8 to 3.5.
  • An Akash missile regiment has six launchers with three missiles each.
  • It carries a 55- kg fragmentation warhead that is triggered by proximity fuse.
  • This defence system consists of surveillance and tracking radars, control centres and ground support systems.
  • It uses state-of-the-art integral Ramjet-rocket propulsion system (RRPS) and the onboard digital autopilot ensures stability and control.
  • Electro-pneumatic servo actuation system controls cruciform wings for agile response and thermal batteries provide onboard power supply.
  • This all-weather missile system can work from both static and mobile platforms.
  • Akash is a result of 96% indigenisation, with the design being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation under Integrated Guided-Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) and built by Bharat Dynamics Limited along with the involvement of Bharat Electronics Limited.

ias toppers-Akash

[Ref: PIB]

 

Science & Technology

European satellite Sentinel-5P sends images of global air pollution

The European Space Agency (ESA) tracking the levels of air pollutants around the world has beamed back new views of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Sentinel-5P-satellite-iastoppers2-global-air-pollution

  • It released satellite images, which show alarming levels of pollution in the national capital region on November 10 – the day air pollution in Delhi and its surrounding areas reached the hazardous levels.
  • The images were captured by the ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite, the sixth for the EC Copernicus environmental monitoring programme, but the first dedicated to monitoring earth’s atmosphere.
  • Sentinel-5P also reveals high levels of pollution from power plants in India. The worst of this pollution runs from north of Patna in Bihar to south of Raipur in Chhattisgarh.

About the Sentinel- 5P satellite:

Sentinel-5P is the latest spacecraft in a fleet of Earth observers being commissioned by the European Union and the European Space Agency.

Sentinel-5P-satellite-iastoppers

  • It was launched into an 824 kilometre high orbit by a Russian rocket on October 13 this year.
  • It carries an instrument called Tropomi – a spectrometer that observes the reflected sunlight coming up off the Earth, analysing its many different colours. This helps detect the presence of trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide, methane, and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere.
  • When fully operational, the new Sentinel will be an extremely powerful tool to monitor air quality.

Sentinel-5P-satellite-iastoppers2

[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express, Hindustan Times]

 

New graphene-based battery charges five times faster

Scientists have developed a new graphene-based battery material with charging speed five times faster than today’s lithium-ion batteries.

New-graphene-based-battery-charges-five-times-faster-iastoppers

  • The breakthrough by researchers at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) in South Korea provides promise for the next generation mobile batteries and electric vehicles.

Significance:

  • Standard lithium batteries require charging time of at least an hour to fully charge, even with quick charging technology, so numerous attempts to explore new innovative materials have been started.
  • Among the materials looked at, graphene, a material with high strength and conductivity, has widely become the primary source of interest. In theory, a battery based on the “graphene ball” material requires only 12 minutes to fully charge.

What is Graphene?

iastoppers graphene-explainer-1

  • Graphene is a carbon material that is one atom thick.
  • It is a form of carbon that can be used to develop smaller, slimmer batteries but with higher capacity.
  • Its thin composition and high conductivity also enable thinner wire connections; providing extensive benefits for computers, solar panels, batteries, sensors and other devices.

iastoppers graphene-explainer-2

  • Graphene has excellent electronic, mechanical, thermal and optical properties as well. Its uses range from improving battery performance in energy devices, to cheaper solar panels.
  • The potential applications of graphene include water filtration and purification, renewable energy, sensors, personalised healthcare and medicine, to name a few.

iastoppers graphene-explainer-3

Background:

  • Graphene has been touted in the global electronics industry as a “miracle material” given its strength, electrical conductivity and elasticity, and has been seen as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries since its discovery in 2004.
  • Until now, the high cost of graphene production has been the major roadblock in its commercialisation.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Key Facts for Prelims

MP proposes death penalty for rape of girls aged 12 and below

MP-proposes-death-penalty-for-rape-of-girls-aged-12-and-below-iastoppers

  • The Madhya Pradesh government approved a bill to award capital punishment to those convicted of raping girls aged 12 and below.
  • With this, Madhya Pradesh becomes the first State where those convicted of such rapes will face the gallows.
  • The Bill will now be sent to the President for his assent, after which it will become a law.

 

6th International Tourism Mart

International-Tourism-Mart-iastoppers-6th

  • The 6th International Tourism Mart (ITM) is being organized by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, in association with the North-Eastern States in Guwahati, Assam.
  • The International Tourism Marts is an annual event organised in the North Eastern region with the objective of highlighting the tourism potential of the region in the domestic and international markets.
  • It brings together the tourism business fraternity and entrepreneurs from the eight North Eastern States.
  • The International Tourism Marts are organised in the North Eastern States on rotation basis.
  • The earlier editions of this mart have been held in Guwahati, Tawang, Shillong, Gangtok and Imphal.
  • The 6th International Tourism Mart, will put the spotlight on India’s “Act East Policy”, blossoming ties with ASEAN and the larger East Asia region, home to the world’s rapidly growing economies and India’s emerging tourism markets.

International-Tourism-Mart-iastoppers2-6th

 

Paytm’s Sharma named UN Environment’s Patron for Clean Air

Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma has been named the UN Environment’s ‘Patron for Clean Air’.

Paytm's-Sharma-named-UN-Environment's-Patron-for-Clean-Air-iastoppers

  • He will help drive greater environmental action and awareness, and advocate for the goals of UN Environment’s global BreatheLife campaign.
  • The campaign will work on promoting policy and citizen action for better air quality for people.

Side note:

  • According to the World Health Organisation, half of the 20 most-polluted cities in the world (levels of PM2.5, a fine particulate matter) are in India, including Delhi.

 

Two kiwi species no longer endangered

Okarito-kiwi-and-the-Northern-Brown-kiwi-iastoppers

  • The International Union for the Conservation of Nature upgraded the Okarito kiwi and the Northern Brown kiwi from endangered to vulnerable because of a steady increase in population.
  • The number of Okarito kiwi has risen from 160 in 1995 to 400-450 now, and Northern Brown kiwi numbers are also climbing. The steady increase is the result of New Zealand’s progress in controlling predators like stoats and cats.
  • With this, conservation efforts in New Zealand to save the flightless kiwi bird have paid off

 

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