Polity & Governance
- Centre constitutes Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal
- Major Port Authorities Bill
- National Conference on Counterfeiting & Role of Enforcement Agencies
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- New Zealand joins CleanSeas campaign
Defence & Security Issues
- India emerges as world’s largest importer of arms
- MILES-18: First ever multi-nation naval exercise at sea
- Earth will not be hit by a ‘massive Geomagnetic Storm’ on March 18
Science & Technology
- Govt forms panel to probe illegal cultivation of HT Cotton
- Scientists find ultra-rare Ice-VII on Earth for the first time inside diamonds
- Gallium joins graphene in the second dimension
Key Facts for Prelims
- Country’s ‘tallest’ flag unfurled in Belagavi
- Deodhar Trophy 2018
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Polity & Governance
Centre constitutes Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal
The Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has constituted Mahanadi Water Dispute Tribunal.
- The tribunal will adjudicate the longstanding disputes between Odisha and Chhattisgarh over sharing of Mahanadi river water.
- The tribunal was formed under Section 4 of Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 following directives of Supreme Court on January 2018.
About the Mahanadi Water Dispute Tribunal:
- The tribunal will have three members. Chief Justice of India (CJI) has nominated Supreme Court Judge A M Khanwilkar as chairman of Tribunal.
- The two other members are Justice Ravi Ranjan of Patna High Court and Jusitce Indwermeet Kaur Kochar of Delhi High Court.
- It will be provided with services of two assessors who are water resources experts having experience in handling sensitive water-related issues.
- The tribunal will determine water sharing among basin States on basis of overall availability of water in complete Mahanadi basin, contribution and present utilisation of water resources in each state and potential for future development.
- The tribunal is required to submit its report and decision within three years which can be extended to maximum two years due to unavoidable reasons. It will be headquartered in New Delhi.
About the Mahanadi water dispute:
- The 850km length of the Mahanadi river is divided almost equally between Chhattisgarh, where it is born, and downstream Odisha. Last year Odisha government opposed barrages that Chhattisgarh has been constructing.
- Odisha government alleges that these barrages are meant to feed industrial projects and will block the flow of water into Odisha whose dependence on the river is greater. Chhattisgarh has denied this allegation pointing out that much of the river in Odisha flows untapped and straight into the sea.
- The committee has been set up with reference to complaint of State of Odisha under section 3 of the ISRWD Act, 1956 regarding utilisation of waters of Mahandi Basin.
- Odisha Government had moved to Supreme Court in 2016 seeking direction to Chhattisgarh Government to stop all construction of barrages and dams on upper stream of river. Following the apex court order, Union Cabinet in February 2018 had approved proposal to constitute tribunal.
About Mahanadi river:
- Mahanadi is major river in East Central India.
- It originates from highlands of Chhattisgarh through collection of array of streams.
- It flows through Chhattisgarh and Odisha and reaches Bay of Bengal.
- It drains an area of around 141,600 square kilometres and has total course of 858 kilometres.
- It left bank tributaries are Shivnath, Mand, Ib, Hasdeo and right bank are Ong, parry river, Jonk, Telen.
Major Port Authorities Bill
With a view to providing more autonomy and flexibility to Major Ports and to professionalize their governance, the Government has introduced the Major Port Authorities Bill in Parliament to replace the existing Major Port Trusts Act, 1963.
Key features of the Bill include:
- The Bill will apply to the major ports of Chennai, Cochin, Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Kandla, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Mangalore, Mormugao, Paradip, V.O. Chidambaranar, and Vishakhapatnam.
- The central government may notify more major ports.
Major Port Authorities Board:
- Under the 1963 Act, all major ports are managed by the respective Board of Port Trusts that have members appointed by the central government.
- The Bill provides for the creation of a Board of Major Port Authority for each major port. The Boards will succeed the existing Port Trusts.
Composition of Board:
- The Board will comprise of a Chairperson and a deputy Chairperson, both of whom will be appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a select committee. Number of Board Members will be 11-13.
Powers of the Board:
- The Bill allows the Board to use its property, assets and funds as deemed fit for the development of the major port.
- The Board can also make rules on: (i) declaring availability of port assets for port related activities and services, (ii) developing and providing infrastructure facilities such as setting up new ports, jetties, and (iii) providing exemption or remission from payment of any charges on any goods or vessels.
Financial powers of the Board:
- Under the 1963 Act, the Board has to seek prior sanction of the central government to raise any loan.
- Under the Bill, to meet its capital and working expenditure requirements, the Board may raise loans from any (i) Indian scheduled bank or financial institution, or (ii) any financial institution outside India that is compliant with all the laws.
- However, for loans above 50% of its capital reserves, the Board will require prior sanction of the central government.
- The Bill provides for the central government to create an Adjudicatory Board.
- The Board will consist of a Presiding Officer and two members, as appointed by the central government on the recommendation of selection committee.
- Central Government shall have the power to remove the Presiding Officer or any member of the Adjudicatory Board from the office following the prescribed manner.
Functions of the Adjudicatory Board will include:
- Certain functions being carried out by the Tariff Authority for Major Ports,
- Adjudicating on disputes or claims related to rights and obligations of major ports and PPP concessionaires,
- Reviewing stressed PPP projects, and
- Looking into complaints received from port users regarding port services.
National Conference on Counterfeiting & Role of Enforcement Agencies
The National Conference on Counterfeiting and Role of Enforcement Agencies was held in New Delhi.
- It was organised by Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) in collaboration with European Union (EU).
- The conference aimed to provide common platform to national and international experts to have dialogue and exchange best practices for benefit of enforcement agencies, and industry representatives and provide fresh ideas for further strengthening IPR protection ecosystem.
- It provided platform to officials to share their experiences and better inter-agency coordination with respect to tackling menace of counterfeiting.
Menace of counterfeiting:
- Counterfeiting has grown considerably to a point where it has become a widespread phenomenon with a global impact.
- Counterfeiting, other than causing an erosion on the brand value, reputation and goodwill of the manufacturers and owners of IP, leads to social and economic consequences resulting in huge economic losses in terms of lost taxes and revenues.
- It leads to diversion of funds earned therefrom to other illegal activities; counterfeit products put a threat to consumers’ health and safety as well.
Significance of such conferences:
Enforcement agencies like police, customs, as also the prosecution wing, have a major role to play in effective enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in the country.
- Creating awareness about IPRs and the menace of counterfeiting amongst officials of these agencies will strengthen the enforcement regime, as also assist them in handling cases relating to counterfeit products in their day to day activities.
- Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) has been created as a professional body under the aegis of DIPP to take forward the implementation of the National IPR Policy that was approved by the Government in May 2016, with the slogan – “Creative India; Innovative India”.
- CIPAM is working towards creating public awareness about IPRs in the country, promoting the filing of IPRs through facilitation, providing inventors with a platform to commercialize their IP assets and coordinating the implementation of the National IPR Policy in collaboration with Government Ministries/Departments and other stakeholders.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
New Zealand joins CleanSeas campaign
New Zealand has joined the United Nations-led CleanSeas campaign to rid oceans of plastic. More than 40 other countries have already signed up.
What is #CleanSeas campaign?
UN Environment launched #CleanSeas in February 2017, with the aim of engaging governments, the general public, civil society and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic litter.
- The campaign aims to counter the torrents of plastic trash that are degrading our oceans and endangering the life they sustain.
- Nearly 40 countries from Kenya to Canada and Indonesia to Brazil have joined the #CleanSeas campaign. These countries account for more than half of the world’s coastline.
- The campaign contributes to the goals of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter, a voluntary open-ended partnership for international agencies, governments, businesses, academia, local authorities and non-governmental organizations hosted by UN Environment.
- It is related to Sustainable Development Goal 14 – “By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.”
In recent past, four more countries — Chile, Oman, Sri Lanka and South Africa joined this campaign.
- Scientists estimate that there are over 150 million tonnes of plastics in the ocean today. If nothing changes then plastic in oceans will weigh more than all the fish that live in them by 2050.
Defence & Security Issues
India emerges as world’s largest importer of arms
According to a latest research released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India has emerged as the largest importer of major arms.
Highlights of the study:
- The US emerged as the world’s top exporter of weapons accounting for 34% of global arms sales in the last five years.
- Russia accounted for 20% of the export ranking second in the list.
- India became the world’s largest importer of major arms in 2013-17 accounting for 12% of the total global import.
- The country that accounts for the maximum arms import of India is Russia with 62%.
- America is the second largest arms supplier to India.
- As per the report, Pakistan’s arms imports went down by 36 per cent between 2008–12 and 2013–17.
- Pakistan accounted for 2.8 per cent of global arms imports in 2013–17.
- Its arms imports from the USA dropped by 76 per cent in 2013–17 compared with 2008–12.
MILES-18: First ever multi-nation naval exercise at sea
As part of 10th edition of MILAN 2018, first-ever multi-nation naval exercise at sea called MILES-18 was held at the Andaman sea.
- The event was organised by Andaman Nicobar naval command with theme ‘Friendship Across the Seas’ to expand regional cooperation and combat unlawful activities in critical sea lanes.
- The event was aimed to enhance inter-operability between participating countries.
- It also had enabled honing of search and rescue operations procedures, maritime interdiction operations, core operational skills and exercise and variety of maritime security scenarios.
- 11 naval ships of 8 countries (Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand) and nine Indian ships had participated in MILES-18.
Earth will not be hit by a ‘massive Geomagnetic Storm’ on March 18
What are Geomagnetic Storms?
Geomagnetic storms are caused when events such as solar flares can send higher than normal levels of radiation towards Earth. This radiation interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field causing a geomagnetic storm.
Why in news?
- Recently, there were reports that Earth will be hit by a massive magnetic storm on March 18. However, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has found that there was no basis for recent reports saying Earth would be hit by a massive geomagnetic storm.
Classification of Geomagnetic storms:
Geomagnetic storms are classified according to a scale that measures the effect that storms will have.
- At its safest level, a G1 storm affects power grids by causing weak fluctuations, minor impacts on satellite operations, and causes the northern and southern lights to occur.
- At its most extreme, G5, there would be voltage control problems with some grid system collapses or blackouts, radio waves wouldn’t be able to travel for one to two days, low-frequency radio would be out for hours, and the auroras would be able to be seen at lower latitudes than usual.
Effects of Geomagnetic storms:
- Effects from the geomagnetic storm can range from the appearance of auroras or the northern and southern lights to disruptions in communications systems due to high radiation. This would make it difficult to communicate with others on Earth.
- In 1859, a geomagnetic storm was so large that it messed with telegraph wires in the U.S. and Europe causing induced voltage increases, and also shocked telegraph operators and started fires.
Science & Technology
Govt forms panel to probe illegal cultivation of HT Cotton
What is HT Cotton?
- Herbicide-Tolerant (HT) Cotton also known as BG-III cotton is innovation in Bt Cotton as it takes care of weeds problem at much lower cost as compared to physical labour required for weeding.
- It contains Round-up Ready and Round-up Flex (RRF) gene.
- The RRF herbicide-tolerant trait was developed and commercialised by US-based multinational seed giant Monsanto.
Why in news?
- Department of Biotechnology in the Ministry of Science and Technology has constituted a Field Inspection and Scientific Evaluation Committee (FISEC) to investigate the matter of illegal cultivation of HT cotton.
What’s the issue?
- The cultivation of BG-III or HT cotton has not been approved by Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of Ministry of Environment. However, there are several media reports and complaints regarding the illegal or unauthorized cultivation of HT cotton in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
- The unofficial estimates put the extent of unauthorised cotton to be about 20% in the country.
- The committee was constituted after there were several media reports and complaints regarding illegal or unauthorised cultivation of HT cotton in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Why HT Cotton is gaining popularity?
- In normal cotton, spraying of herbicide is not possible once the plant has emerged out of the soil, as the chemical cannot distinguish between weeds and the crop itself. But with cotton that is genetically engineered to ‘tolerate’ herbicide application – through introduction of another alien gene, this time coding for a protein inhibiting the action of that chemical – only the weeds, not the crop, get killed.
- The commercial cultivation, sale, cultivation and seed production of unapproved HT cotton is punishable offence under Seeds Act 1966, Seed Rule 1968, Seeds (Control) Order 1983 with regard to Environmental Protection Act, 1986 and Environmental Protection Rules, 1989.
Harmful effects of HT-cotton:
- As the unapproved cotton variety is claimed to be herbicide tolerant, farmers resort to indiscriminate use of glyphosate, a herbicide, causing health hazards to humans and cattle, apart from affecting the yield of cotton.
- The herbicide-resistant gene in HT cotton can spread through pollen into biodiversity system leading to transformation of weeds into super weeds on large-scale. It will threaten growth and yields of all crops in future and also increase cultivation costs and lead to health hazards.
Scientists find ultra-rare Ice-VII on Earth for the first time inside diamonds
Scientists have found the first ever samples of naturally occurring ice-VII on Earth. The samples were found in a diamond.
Various forms of ice:
- Commonly used is called as ice-I. When water freezes, the oxygen atoms move into a hexagonal arrangement. That’s why ice expands and has lower density than water. Compressing ice can change the shape of the crystals, turning ice-I into ice-II (rhombus-shaped crystals), ice-III (tetragonal crystals), and so on.
How Ice-VII is unique?
- Ice-VII, with its cubic crystals, is unique in that it remains stable even as pressure increases dramatically. It’s 1.5 times more dense than ice-I as well.
- There’s (almost) nowhere on Earth for ice-VII to form, because it requires both low temperatures and high pressure exceeding 30,000 atmospheres (3 gigapascals). The only place you can reach that pressure is deep in the Earth’s mantle, but it’s too hot for ice to form there.
- The formation of ice-VII doesn’t require freezing temperatures — as long as the pressure is high enough, ice-VII can form at room temperature.
How Ice-VII is formed in diamond?
- Diamonds often pick up molecules during their formation deep in the Earth. These so-called inclusions can affect the quality or color of the diamond, but sometimes the inclusion is just water.
- One interesting property of diamonds is the internal structures don’t relax when they leave the high-pressure mantle. So, the water inside a diamond remains compressed, even though it’s technically in a liquid state.
Significance of this discovery:
- Scientists believe that ice-VII might be present deep in the ice sheets on moons like Enceladus and Europa, or as part of the ocean floor under Titan’s hydrocarbon seas.
- Having naturally occurring samples of ice-VII on Earth for study could help us understand the environments on those moons.
Gallium joins graphene in the second dimension
Researchers at Rice University and the Indian Institute of Science have isolated a 2D form of the soft metal gallium, dubbed “gallenene,” which could make for efficient, thin metal contacts in electronic devices.
- Gallium is a metal with a low melting point. It has a low melting point of just below 30° C (86° F) which makes it a great candidate for applications that need liquid metals at roughly room temperature.
- Unlike graphene and many other 2-D structures, it cannot yet be grown with vapor phase deposition methods.
- It also has a tendency to oxidize quickly.
- Gallenene is a 2D form of soft metal gallium, which could have great use as efficient, thin metal contacts in electronic devices.
- Gallenene is a thin film of conductive material and it is to gallium what graphene is to carbon.
Significance of Gallenene:
- Gallenene comes in zigzag and hexagonal structures, and has the unusual ability to change the properties of its solid support material, making it promising as a contact material in 2D devices.
- Gallenene strongly interacts with its solid support and even converts semiconducting molybdenum disulfide into a fully conducting metal. This could make it useful as electrical connector in ultra-flat electronics.
- Near 2-D metals are difficult to extract, since these are mostly high-strength, nonlayered structures, so gallenene is an exception that could bridge the need for metals in the 2-D world.
- Gallenene can also serve a great purpose as an efficient metal contact in nanoscale electronics, where 2D metal options are limited.
Key Facts for Prelims
Country’s ‘tallest’ flag unfurled in Belagavi
- Recently, the largest national flag in the country was hoisted at Belagavi, Karnataka.
- The national flag is 110m (365 feet) high from the base plate to the top.
- The size of the flag is 120X80 ft. It will weigh 500 kg.
Deodhar Trophy 2018
- India B won 45th edition of the Deodhar Trophy 2018.
- The Deodhar Trophy is a List A cricket competition in Indian domestic cricket.
- It is named after Prof. D. B. Deodhar (known as the Grand Old Man of Indian cricket).
- It is a 50-over knockout competition played on an annual basis among five zonal teams – North Zone, South Zone, East Zone, West Zone and Central Zone. North Zone has won most titles i.e. for record 13 times.
- It was realigned in 2015-16 season with winners of Vijay Hazare Trophy playing two teams – India A and India B – selected by the BCCI.