International-Conference-for-Reconstruction-of-Iraq-india-2018
Current Affairs Analysis

15th February 2018 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq; Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM); Atal Bhujal Yojana; What is Anti-dumping duty? Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD); Indira Gandhi Canal; Mercury and Minamata convention; What is permafrost? Bengaluru 2nd city most likely to run out of water: Report; What is Cape Town experience? Super Straw Management System; ‘Waste decomposer’ solution; WFIRST (the Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope); ESPRESSO (Echelle Spectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations); etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
February 15, 2018

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • 4th meeting of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Centre to implement Rs 6000-crore Atal Bhujal Yojana in 78 districts

Economy

  • India reviews anti-dumping duty on steel wheels from China
  • Funds push for Indira Gandhi Canal

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Massive reserves of mercury found in Arctic permafrost
  • Bengaluru 2nd city most likely to run out of water: Report
  • Straw management now mandatory in Punjab

Bilateral & International Relations

  • India offers support for reconstruction of Iraq

Science & Technology

  • Trump’s NASA Budget Would Cancel Space Telescope & 5 Earth Science Missions
  • ESPRESSO instrument achieves first light

For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here

Polity & Governance

4th meeting of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister

Recently, the 4th meeting of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) was held in New Delhi.

Economic Advisory Council bibek

  • The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Dr Bibek Debroy, Chairman, EAC-PM & Member, NITI Aayog.

About the Economic Advisory Council:

  • The EAC-PM is a non-constitutional and non-statutory, non-permanent and independent body which provides advice on economic issues to the government, specifically to the Prime Minister.
  • The five-member council consists of economists of high repute and eminence.

Terms of reference of EAC

  • EAC will analyse any issue, economic or otherwise, referred to it by prime minister and advising him thereon.
  • It will also address issues of macroeconomic importance and present its views to the prime minister.
  • It is mandated to give advice to prime minister on economic matters such as inflation, GDP changes, export-import changes, creating supporting environment for increased trade and commerce.
  • Its advice can be either suo-motu or on reference from prime minister or anyone else.
  • It can also attend any other task as may be desired by prime minister from time to time.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Government Schemes & Policies

Centre to implement Rs 6000-crore Atal Bhujal Yojana in 78 districts

In a major push to improve the groundwater situation and recharge of underground water tables, the Central Government is speeding up the ambitious Rs 6000-crore Atal Bhujal Yojana.

Atal-Bhujal-Yojana-ias

About Atal Bhoojal Yojana:

  • The scheme is aimed at efficient management of available water resources and strengthening of recharge mechanism through community participation.
  • The emphasis of the scheme will be on recharge of ground water sources and efficient use of water by involving people at the local level.

Funding:

  • Rs 6,000 crore has been earmarked for this ambitious plan.
  • Half of the total cost of this central scheme will be supported by the World Bank as loan while the remaining half (Rs 3,000 crore) will be funded by the government through budgetary support.

Implementation:

  • The government plans to give 50% of the money to states, including gram panchayats, as incentives for achieving targets in groundwater management. That’s a first-ever move to encourage community participation and behavioural changes.
  • The remaining 50% of the funds will be given to states for strengthening institutional arrangements such as providing a strong database and scientific approach to help them accomplish sustainable management of groundwater.
[Ref: The Hindu, Times of India]

 

Economy

India reviews anti-dumping duty on steel wheels from China

keeping in mind interest of domestic manufacturers, the Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD), an investigation arm of the commerce ministry, has started a probe to review whether the existing anti-dumping duty on flat base steel wheels imported from China should continue.

steel wheels imported from China ias

  • DGAD would also examine whether the expiry of the duty is likely to lead to continuation or recurrence of dumping and hurt the domestic industry.

WTO Rules in this regard:

  • As per the World Trade Organisation, if a company exports a product at a price lower than the price it normally charges on its own home market, it is said to be “dumping” the product.
  • The WTO agreement also allows governments to act against dumping where there is genuine (“material”) injury to the competing domestic industry.

Background:

  • In 2013, the finance minister had imposed the duty for five years. The duty was up to USD 613 per tonne on import of the product from China.
  • In December 2017, India has imposed anti-dumping duty on as many as 98 products imported from China. The products on which the duty was imposed include flax fabrics, vitamin C, certain fibres and chemicals.

What is Anti-dumping duty?

An anti-dumping duty is a protectionist tariff that a domestic government imposes on foreign imports that it believes are priced below fair market value.

  • Countries initiate anti-dumping probes to determine if the domestic industry has been hurt by a surge in below-cost imports. To counter it they impose duties under the multi-lateral WTO regime.
  • Anti-dumping steps are taken to ensure fair trade and provide a level-playing field to the domestic industry.
  • They are not a measure to restrict imports or cause an unjustified increase in cost of products.
  • The use of anti-dumping measure as an instrument of fair competition is permitted by the WTO.
  • When a country exports its products to other countries with a selling price below the cost price of the same product in other countries then it is called as dumping of products. This harms the profitability of domestic companies.
  • Anti-dumping steps are taken to ensure fair trade and provide a level-playing field to the domestic industry.

Mechanism for imposition:

  • Anti-Dumping Duty is imposed under the multilateral World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime and varies from product to product and from country to country.
  • In India, anti-dumping duty is recommended by the Union Ministry of Commerce (i.e. by DGAD) and imposed by the Union Finance Ministry.

About the Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD):

DGAD was constituted in April 1998 under Ministry of Commerce and Industry and is headed by the Designated Authority.

  • The role of DGAD is to ensure a level playing field to the Domestic Industry against the adverse impact of the unfair trade practices like dumping and actionable subsidies from any exporting country, by using Trade Remedial methods under relevant framework of WTO arrangements, Customs Tariff Act & Rules and other relevant laws and International agreements, in a transparent and time bound manner.
  • Thus, the responsibility of the Directorate extends to carrying out investigations and recommending, where required, the amount of Anti-dumping/Countervailing Duty on the identified articles as would be adequate to remove injury to the domestic industry, under the Customs Tariff Act and Rules.

Major Functions of DGAD:

The major Functions being carried out by DGAD are as given below:

  • Conducting Anti-Dumping investigations
  • Conducting Anti-subsidy (Countervailing Duty) investigations
  • Conducting Anti-Circumvention investigations
  • Defending Indian exporters from various countervailing duty investigations carried out by foreign agencies.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Funds push for Indira Gandhi Canal

Rajasthan Government has signed a new loan agreement with the New Development Bank for restructuring of Indira Gandhi Canal.

Indira Gandhi Canal ias

Significance of the move:

  • The restructuring and repairing of Indira Gandhi Canal and its distributaries will help solve the problems of loss of water and water-locking in the agricultural fields.
  • It will also ensure the supply of irrigation water to the farmers at the tail-ends of the Indira Gandhi Canal Project.

About Indira Gandhi Canal:

Indira Gandhi Canal route ias

  • The Indira Gandhi Canal is one of the largest canal projects in India. Previously known as the Rajasthan Canal.
  • It starts from the Harike Barrage at Harike, a few kilometers below the confluence of the Satluj and Beas rivers in the Indian state of Punjab and terminates in irrigation facilities in the Thar Desert in the north west of Rajasthan state.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Massive reserves of mercury found in Arctic permafrost

Scientists have discovered that permafrost in the northern hemisphere stores massive amounts of natural mercury and a warming climate could release large amounts of this dangerous toxin that may cause neurological effects in humans and animals.

Massive-reserves-of-mercury-found-in-Arctic-permafrost-ias

  • The scientists measured mercury concentrations in permafrost cores from Alaska.

Highlights of the study:

  • Scientists have found that northern permafrost soils are the largest reservoir of mercury on the planet, storing nearly twice as much mercury as all other soils, the ocean and the atmosphere combined.
  • The study found approximately 793 gigagrams, or more than 15 million gallons, of mercury is frozen in northern permafrost soil. That is roughly 10 times the amount of all human-caused mercury emissions over the last 30 years, based on emissions estimates from 2016.
  • The study also found all frozen and unfrozen soil in northern permafrost regions contains a combined 1,656 gigagrams of mercury, making it the largest known reservoir of mercury on the planet. This pool houses nearly twice as much mercury as soils outside of the northern permafrost region, the ocean and the atmosphere combined.
[For all about Mercury and Minamata convention, read CAA of 8th February 2018.]

What is permafrost?

What is permafrost ias

  • Permafrost is defined as ground (soil or rock and included ice or organic material) that remains at or below 0°C for at least two consecutive years.
  • Such a layer of frozen ground is designated exclusively on the basis of temperature. Part or all of its moisture may be unfrozen, depending on the chemical composition of the water or the depression of the freezing point by capillary forces.
  • Permafrost with saline soil moisture, for example, may be colder than 0 °C for several years but contain no ice and thus not be firmly cemented. Most permafrost, however, is consolidated by ice.
  • A typical classification recognizes continuous permafrost (underlying 90-100% of the landscape); discontinuous permafrost (50-90%); and sporadic permafrost (0-50%).
  • Permafrost accounts for 0.022% of total water on Earth and exists in 24% of exposed land in the Northern Hemisphere.

What is permafrost ias2

Where do we find Permafrost?

  • Permafrost forms and exists in a climate where the mean annual air temperature is 0 °C or colder. Such a climate is generally characterized by long, cold winters with little snow and short, relatively dry, cool summers.
  • Permafrost, therefore, is widespread in the Arctic, sub-Arctic, and Antarctica.

 [Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express, Times of India]

 

Bengaluru 2nd city most likely to run out of water: Report

A report by BBC based UN-endorsed projections listed 11 countries across the globe likely to run out of drinking water.

bengaluru_water_crisis_1518525830_725x725

  • Karnataka capital, Bengaluru is the only Indian city listed in the report.
  • The ominous prediction by the UN for Bengaluru must concern all residents and authorities of the city, especially after the Cape Town experience.

Countries likely to face water crisis:

  1. Sao Paulo
  2. Bangalore
  3. Beijing
  4. Cairo
  5. Jakarta
  6. Moscow
  7. Istanbul
  8. Mexico City
  9. London
  10. Tokyo
  11. Miami

What are the factors responsible for Bengaluru’s fate?

Bangalore is the third largest city and the fifth largest metropolitan area in India and is one of the fastest growing metropolitan cities.  As per Census 2011, the population of Bangalore city was about 8.5 million.

  • Bengaluru is a victim of urbanisation madness. The city is experiencing unprecedented rapid urbanisation and sprawl in recent times due to unplanned unrealistic concentrated developmental activities.
  • This has posed “serious challenges to the decision-makers in the city planning and management process involving a plethora of serious challenges such as loss of green cover and water bodies, climate change, enhanced greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, lack of appropriate infrastructure, traffic congestion, and lack of basic amenities (electricity, water, and sanitation) in many localities, etc.”
  • The report notes that not a “single” lake in the city has water fit for either drinking or bathing. Lakes of the city, including Bellandur, often make news for catching fire.
  • Between 1973 and 2016, the city witnessed a 1005% increase in “concretization or paved surface increase”. Since 1981, the city has spread and has also experienced dramatic decadal population growth.

What is Cape Town experience?

Cape_Town_South_Africa_Water_Crisis_Line

  • The South African City of Cape Town is facing its worst drought in 100 years. Residents of the city have been told to cut their daily water consumption while the authorities of the city are scrambling to prevent the city running dry as soon as in April.

What are the concerns?

  • Shortage of water is a problem faced by almost all urban centres of the world. Even in India, the situation is not so happy.
  • A world bank report last year had said that at least 21 Indian cities were moving towards zero groundwater level by 2020.
  • As per a report by World Resources Institute, as much as 54% of India’s area is under “high” to “extremely high water stress”.
  • The stark future of the Indian cities can be judged from the fact that water requirement would rise up to 1.5 trillion, while the current supply of water is just 740 billion cubic meter. Experts believe that 40% of people in India may not get to drink water by 2030.
[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express, Times of India]

 

Straw management now mandatory in Punjab

In an attempt to check the dangerous trend of stubble burning, the Punjab government has decided to make use of Super Straw Management System while using the combine harvester machines mandatory for harvesting the paddy (rice) crop.

Straw-management-Punjab-iastoppers

  • In this regard, the instructions have been issued under section 31 A of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

Key facts:

  • These instructions are aimed at saving the environment from air pollution caused by stubble burning.
  • The owners of combine harvesters desirous of undertaking the harvesting of paddy in the State would now have to attach super straw management system with the harvester combine.
  • No harvester combine shall be allowed to harvest paddy in Punjab without functional super straw management system.
  • Super straw management system will be attached to self-propelled combine harvesters, which cuts paddy straw into small pieces and spread same. With this method, farmers are not required to burn paddy straw before sowing the next crop.

Significance of this method:

  • Unlike a normal combine harvester, which leaves behind 10 to 12-inch-long stubble, the use of this Super Straw Management System with the combine harvester machine cuts the paddy straw into pieces of 4-5 inches, spreading them out uniformly. One can plough the straw left behind or kept as it is for the sowing of wheat using a zero-till ‘Happy Seeder’.

Background:

  • Massive burning of rice stubble in Haryana & Punjab is one of the biggest culprits for poor air quality in the Delhi-NCR region.

‘Waste decomposer’ solution:

Waste-decomposer’-solution-iastoppers

  • Meanwhile, farmers in Punjab have also started using an environment-friendly ‘waste decomposer’ solution.
  • The small bottle of solution costs Rs 20 and is developed by the National Centre for Organic Farming and Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. It can decompose over 10,000 metric tons of biowaste in 30 days.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

India offers support for reconstruction of Iraq

India has called for a comprehensive political settlement and reconciliation in Iraq at the International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq in Kuwait, where major world powers are meeting to chalk out a plan of recovery for the country.

International-Conference-for-Reconstruction-of-Iraq-india-2018

About the International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq:

International-Conference-for-Reconstruction-of-Iraq-iastoppers-2018

  • The International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq was held in Iraq’s neighbour Kuwait.
  • It is an international conference aimed at raising funds for reconstructing Iraq.
  • It will bring together a number of economically powerful countries, as well as regional and international organizations on contributions to rebuild Iraq after many years of war and conflicts.
  • The conference will also touch on several developments and vital aspects pertaining to Iraq, including the participation of the private sector in the reconstruction process.
  • The World Bank, as a major contributor to the event, will provide the required investment guarantees for private companies and institutions to participate in the development of Iraq.

Location of Kuwait:

Kuwait MapwithCities

  • Kuwait is a country in Western Asia.
  • Situated in the northern edge of Eastern Arabia at the tip of the Persian Gulf, it shares borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Location of Iraq:

Iraq map ias

  • Iraq is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west.
  • The capital, and largest city, is Baghdad.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Science & Technology

Trump’s NASA Budget Would Cancel Space Telescope & 5 Earth Science Missions

The Trump administration is proposing a budget of $19.9 billion for NASA in its request for fiscal year 2019—slightly more than its request for fiscal year 2018.

WFIRST (the Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope) iastoppers2

  • The budget proposal has called for the cancellation of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), a move that could be interpreted as a warning to the mission’s leaders to rein in the program’s expanding costs.
  • But if the cancellation goes through, some scientists worry it could hurt the international standing of the U.S. astrophysics community.
  • WFIRST was tentatively scheduled to launch in the mid-2020s, to become NASA’s next “flagship mission,” a classification applied to large-scale missions with broad science objectives.
  • Other NASA flagship missions include the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Telescope, and the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.

About WFIRST:

WFIRST (the Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope) is a NASA observatory designed to settle essential questions in the areas of dark energy, exoplanets, and infrared astrophysics.

WFIRST-(the-Wide-Field-InfraRed-Survey-Telescope)-iastoppers

  • The telescope has a primary mirror that is 2.4 meters in diameter (7.9 feet), and is the same size as the Hubble Space Telescope’s primary mirror.
  • WFIRST will have two instruments, the Wide Field Instrument, and the Coronagraph Instrument.
  • The Wide Field Instrument will have a field of view that is 100 times greater than the Hubble infrared instrument, capturing more of the sky with less observing time.
  • As the primary instrument, the Wide Field Instrument will measure light from a billion galaxies over the course of the mission lifetime.
  • It will perform a microlensing survey of the inner Milky Way to find ~2,600 exoplanets.
  • The Coronagraph Instrument will perform high contrast imaging and spectroscopy of dozens of individual nearby exoplanets.
[Ref: SPACE, NASA]

 

ESPRESSO instrument achieves first light

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile successfully integrated the light from all four of its 8.2-meter (27 feet) unit telescopes into a new instrument, making VLT the optical telescope with the largest collecting area in the world.

ESPRESSO-instrument-iastoppers

  • The instrument is called ESPRESSO (Echelle Spectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations).
  • With this, the search for Earth-like planets just got a major upgrade. The upgrade will make it easier for scientists to use the observatory to search for faint, rocky planets around distant stars.

About ESPRESSO:

ESPRESSO is designed to exploit the light-gathering power of the individual telescopes.

  • It has the light-collecting power of a 16-meter (52 feet) telescope.
  • ESPRESSO has a second major scientific goal besides looking for Earth-like worlds: to seek variability in fundamental physics constants.
  • ESPRESSO will observe faint and faraway quasars to uncover more about basic physics, and the combined light of the four telescopes will greatly benefit it in its observations.

How it works?

  • Each of the VLT units sends its light to the instrument using mirrors, prisms and lenses.
  • ESPRESSO can use the light from either all four telescopes at once or just one individual telescope. That design is intended to provide more flexibility in observing time.

Background:

  • Light gathering is important for telescopes because, as they receive more photons of light, fainter objects appear brighter. Bigger telescopes typically see distant objects such as galaxies more easily because they have more light-gathering power.
[Ref: Times of India, SPACE]

 

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