- India urges UN to declare 2019 as ‘International Year of Millets’
- NPCI launches UPI 2.0
- Global Liveability Index 2018
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- N Raghuram elected Chair of International Nitrogen Initiative
- Odisha to showcase its biodiversity
Science & Technology
- Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) project
Key Facts for Prelims
- Coloured stickers on vehicles to indicate nature of fuel
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
India urges UN to declare 2019 as ‘International Year of Millets’
Continuing its efforts to get ‘millets’ a global recognition for its promotion among consumers, India has written to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations proposing declaration of year 2019 as “International Year of Millets”.
- India is celebrating 2018 as National Year of Millets. It is promoting cultivation of millets as part of this celebration by amending cropping pattern of areas which are especially susceptible to climate change.
Significance of the move:
- Adoption of this proposal by FAO with the support of its member nations will enable it to be moved to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for declaration of the upcoming year as International Year of Millets.
- Observation of Year of Millets will help to promote production and consumption of millets.
- It will inturn contribute in fight against targeted hunger and mitigate effect of climate change in long run.
- Popularizing millets will also benefit future generations of farmers as well as consumers.
All about Millets:
- Millet is a common term that categorize small-seeded grasses termed as ‘Nutri-Cereals’ or ‘Dryland-Cereals’.
- These nutri-cereals are sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.
- Millet is an important staple cereal crop for millions of dryland farmers across Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Benefits of Millets:
- Millets are smart food and good for consumers, farmers and planet multiple and has untapped uses such as food, feed, biofuels and brewing.
- Millets offer nutrition, income and livelihood for farmers even in difficult times.
- They can be used in various forms such as food, feed, fodder, biofuels and brewing.
- They are nutritionally superior to wheat & rice as they have higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fiber & minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorous.
- They can offer nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.
- Some major deficiencies such as anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency, pellagra (niacin deficiency) can be dealt easily with intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich millets.
- Millets can also help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.
- Moreover, in times of climate change, they will be the last crop standing and will be a good risk management strategy for resource-poor marginal farmers. Millets are photo-insensitive and resilient to climate change.
- They are hardy, resilient crops that have low carbon and water footprint. They can withstand high temperatures and grow on poor soils with little or no external inputs.
- As per the government, Millets are Smart Food as they are ‘Good for You, Good for the Farmer and Good for the Planet’.
Efforts made by government to promote millets:
- In order to promote ‘millets’, India had on its part notified these climate resilient crops as “Nutri-Cereals”. The millets in the category of “Nutri-Cereals” include Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl Millet (Bajra), Finger Millet (Ragi), Foxtail Millet (Kangani/Kakun) and Buckwheat (Kuttu) among others.
- Recognising millets’ anti-diabetic properties, the notification called it a “powerhouse of nutrients” and identified several varieties of millets for promotion.
- Millets has been included in the Public Distribution System (PDS) for improving nutritional support in April.
- Besides, the government had in July substantially hiked the minimum support price (MSP) of millets so that more and more farmers may opt for cultivation of these less water consuming crops.
NPCI launches UPI 2.0
National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has launched UPI 2.0, an upgraded and renewed version of Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
New features of UPI 2.0:
- It will allow users to link their overdraft (OD) account to UPI. Earlier, only current accounts and savings accounts were able to linked with UPI.
- It will help UPI customers have instant transaction through an additional digital channel with access to OD account.
One Time Mandate:
- It allows users to schedule payments. It also allows pre-authorisation of transaction in which amount will be deducted on date for which has been scheduled.
- It can be used in cases where money is to be transferred later while commitment has been made now.
Invoice in The Inbox:
- It allows users to get invoices sent by merchants in their inbox, which will help them to view and verify credentials. With this, users can view and verify credentials of merchant even before making payment and ensure their authenticity.
Signed Intent and QR:
- This feature will allow users to check credentials of merchants via Quick Response (QR) code. It will enable to check whether merchant is UPI verified or not.
What is Unified Payments Interface (UPI)?
UPI is a system developed by the NPCI and the RBI to aid instant transfer of money using a cashless system.
- It was launched by NPCI in April 2016 to allows easy, quick and hassle free money transfer between any two parties.
- Using UPI services, one just requires a smartphone and a banking app to send and receive money instantly or to pay a merchant for retail purchase.
- In the long run, UPI is likely to replace the current NEFT, RTGS, and IMPS systems as they exist today.
- The UPI app merges a number of banking features, facilitating seamless and secure fund transfer and merchant payments at single platform. It also allows Peer to Peer collection request.
- UPI, built on IMPS, allows a payment directly and immediately from bank account. There is no need to pre-load money in wallets. It allows payments to different merchants without the hassle of typing one’s card details or net-banking password.
The UPI ecosystem functions with three key players:
- Payment service providers (PSPs) to provide the interface to the payer and the payee. Unlike wallets, the payer and the payee can use two different PSPs.
- Banks to provide the underlying accounts. In some cases, the bank and the PSP may be the same.
- NPCI to act as the central switch by ensuring VPA resolution, effecting credit and debit transactions through IMPS.
Global Liveability Index 2018
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has released the Global Liveability Index 2018.
About the index:
- The index ranks 140 global cities based on their living conditions.
- The liveability index quantifies the challenges that might be presented to an individual’s lifestyle in 140 cities worldwide and assesses which locations provide the best living conditions.
- The index compares world cities with each other in terms of security, affordability, education, healthcare, its urban lifestyle and infrastructure.
Highlights of 2018 Global Liveability Index:
- Austrian capital Vienna was ranked as world’s most liveable city among 140 major cities in 2018 Global Liveability Index.
- It is first time that European city has topped rankings of EIU annual survey. This year too, not a single US city could make it into the top 10 cities.
- Security has improved in “several western European cities” and Vienna’s top place reflects “a relative return to stability across much of Europe”.
- South Asian countries including India have fared poorly in the ranking of the world’s most liveable cities. For India, only New Delhi and Mumbai could make it to the list with New Delhi at 112th position and Mumbai at 117th position.
- Pakistan’s financial capital Karachi and Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka are among the world’s least liveable cities.
Top 10 liveable cities:
10 least liveable cities:
- Dakar, Senegal (131st)
- Algiers, Algeria (132nd)
- Douala, Cameroon (133rd)
- Tripoli, Libya (134th)
- Harare, Zimbabwe (135th)
- Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (136th)
- Karachi, Pakistan (137th)
- Lagos, Nigeria (138th)
- Dhaka, Bangladesh (139th)
- Damascus, Syria (140th)
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
N Raghuram elected Chair of International Nitrogen Initiative
Indian scientist Nandula Raghuram has been elected as the Chair of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI), a global policy making initiative.
- He is the first Indian and Asian to be elected to the Chair of INI.
International Nitrogen Initiative (INI):
INI is international program set up in 2003 under sponsorship of the Scientific Committee on Problems of Environment (SCOPE) and from International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP).
- Its key aims are to optimize nitrogen’s beneficial role in sustainable food production and minimize nitrogen’s negative effects on human health and environment resulting from food and energy production.
- INI is coordinated by Steering Committee, led by chair and six regional centre directors representing, North America, South Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and East Asia.
- INI holds a conference once in every three years, inviting members of the international nitrogen community to meet up and discuss ideas and exchange knowledge on nitrogen issues.
- The program is also currently sustained partner of Future Earth (an international organisation that works to accelerate transformations to global sustainability through research and innovation).
Nitrogen as an essential nutrient:
- A little over 78 per cent of dry air on Earth is nitrogen.
- Nitrogen is a vital macronutrient for most plants, is the most abundant element in the atmosphere.
- But atmospheric nitrogen, or dinitrogen, is unreactive and cannot be utilized by plants directly.
- Until the beginning of the 20th century, farmers depended on a natural process called nitrogen fixation for the conversion of atmospheric nitrogen into reactive nitrogen in the soil.
- The natural nitrogen cycle was inadequate to feed the growing population.
- Scientists Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch produced ammonia by combining atmospheric nitrogen with hydrogen gas at high temperature and pressure, known as the Haber-Bosch process.
- Today, about half of the world’s population depends on this process for its nutrition.
How Nitrogen turned into pollutant?
- Nitrogen is an inert gas that’s necessary for life. But we’re changing it into forms that are harmful, overloading the environment with it, and throwing the natural nitrogen cycle out of whack.
- Nitrogen compounds running off farmland have led to water pollution problems around the world, while nitrogen emissions from industry, agriculture and vehicles make a big contribution to air pollution.
- Over 80% of the nitrogen in soil is not utilised by humans. While over four-fifths of the nitrogen is used to feed livestock, only about six per cent reaches humans in case of non-vegetarian diet, as compared to the 20% that reaches the plate of a vegetarian.
- Nitrogen becomes a pollutant when it escapes into the environment and reacts with other organic compounds. It is either released into the atmosphere, gets dissolved in water sources such as rivers, lakes or groundwater, or remains in the soil.
- While it might lead to favourable growth of species that can utilise this nutrient, nitrogen as a pollutant is often detrimental to the environment and health.
Odisha to showcase its biodiversity
The Odisha government is setting up a world-class interpretation centre at Dangamal near Bhitarkanika National Park to showcase its efforts in protecting crocodiles and preserving its rich mangrove diversity.
- The project, which has been approved under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project, will be taken up at an estimated cost of ₹3 crore.
- The centre will be developed both as a tourist attraction and a place for students to learn about the environment.
- All the three species of crocodiles, namely, Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) and Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), in the river systems of Odisha were on the verge of extinction by the seventies.
- Crocodile population started to decline because of the increasing human activity in the rivers and their other traditional habitats, and consequent reduction in the extent of habitable stretches.
- Also, the survival rate of the crocodile hatchlings was relatively low because of predation. Piecemeal efforts were being made since the sixties to save the crocodile.
About Bhitarkanika National Park:
- Bhitarkanika National Park is located in Kendrapara district of Odisha in eastern India.
- It is said to house 70% of the country’s estuarine or saltwater crocodiles, conservation of which was started way back in 1975.
- It is one of the largest sanctuaries of crocodiles in the region with 1,671 reptiles.
- Apart from crocodiles, meandering water courses flanked by green mangrove forests and migratory birds flocking in search of prey in the swampy fields of Bhitarakanika are some of the major attractions.
- Mammals found in the place include leopards, wild boars, fishing cats, hyenas, sambar deer and Gangetic dolphins.
- Reptiles include olive ridley sea turtles, crocodiles, water monitors, pythons and king cobras.
- Around 166 species of birds have been spotted in the park.
- Researchers have come across 11 of the 70 mangrove species in Bhitarakanika which were at an elevated threat of extinction around the world.
- Kalibhanjdia Island spread over 8.5 square km, a place in Bhitarkanika, has attracted the attention of foreign scientists as its possesses 70% of the total mangrove species of the world.
‘Baula’ Project at Dangamal:
- ‘Baula’ is the Oriya term for Saltwater Crocodile.
- At Dangmal in Bhitarkanika sanctuary, salt-water crocodile eggs have been collected locally; and young crocodiles have been released in the creeks and the estuaries; and more than 2200 crocodiles have been released in phases since 1977.
- This operation has been reasonably successful and the crocodile population in the Bhitarkanika river system has gradually been built up. Above 50 released female Saltwater Crocodiles have laid eggs in the wild and bred successfully.
- The annual census conducted in the river systems of Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary in January 2004 indicated that there were 1308 Saltwater crocodiles and is on increasing trend.
- Gharial derives its name from ghara, an Indian word for pot because of a bulbous knob (narial excrescence) present at the end of their snout.
- It is a river dwelling ﬁsh-eater, but usually harmless to humans. It lives in deep fast-ﬂowing rivers.
- Gharial is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ in the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.
- It is Schedule 1 species under Indian wildlife act, 1972.
Where is gharial found?
- Gharials are endemic to the Indian sub-continent. Once found abundantly in all the major river systems of South Asia, the Gharial is now extinct in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Bhutan. Nepal has only a remnant breeding population.
- In India too, the major breeding populations are confined to two rivers only, Girwa and the Chambal. The two rivers run along the borders of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. It is also found in Ken River, Son River, Mahanadi River, Ramganga River.
- In Nepal, it is found in Rapti-Narayani River.
Threats to Gharial:
- Habitat alteration and destruction: A combination of land-use changes and exploitation such as sand-mining, riverside agriculture, livestock grazing, and hydrological modifications such as building of dams for water diversion.
- Prey depletion: Over harvesting of fish stocks. Construction of dams and barrages obstructing dispersal and migration of fish.
- Direct mortality: Drowning of Gharial in fishing nets. Its nest destruction and local egg collection.
- Pollution and siltation: Pollution and siltation of rivers damage fish stocks, and are also believed to be the direct cause of the catastrophic dieoff of 2007-2008 in the Chambal.
- Hunting: In the past, Gharial was hunted for skin, trophies and use in indigenous medicine.
- Project Crocodile began in 1975 (Government of India+ United Nations Development Fund + Food and Agriculture Organization) — intensive captive breeding and rearing program.
Science & Technology
Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) project
The Environment Ministry has allowed scientists to test the suitability of land in Maharashtra’s Hingoli district to host the India wing of the ambitious Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) project.
- In April 2016, India and United States had signed an MoU to set up the LIGO Observatory that recently proved the existence of gravitational waves envisaged by Albert Einstein nearly a century ago.
- The two current LIGO Observatories are located at Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana, and are operated by Caltech and MIT.
What are Gravitational Waves?
Gravitational waves are ‘ripples’ or disturbances in the fabric of space-time.
- They are produced when whole black holes collide and stars explode. These waves are sound track of cosmos.
- They transport energy as gravitational radiation and pass through matter without interacting with it.
- Gravitational waves were first predicted in 1916 by Albert Einstein on the basis of his Theory of General Relativity which are now confirmed and detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)— specialised laboratories in Louisiana and Washington in the US.
- Discovery of gravitational waves would represent a scientific landmark, opening the door to an entirely new way to observe the cosmos and unlock secrets about the early universe and mysterious objects like black holes and neutron stars.
- Gravitational waves could also help physicists understand the fundamental laws of the universe.
- Gravitational waves are important in telling about the early universe.
LIGO is world’s largest gravitational wave observatory.
- The observatory, described as “the most precise measuring device ever built,” is actually two facilities in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington.
- They were built and operated with funding from the National Science Foundation, which has spent $1.1 billion on LIGO over the course of several decades.
- The project is led by scientists from the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is supported by an international consortium of scientists and institutions.
- It comprises two enormous laser interferometers located thousands of kilometers apart.
- It helps to detect and understand the origins of gravitational waves.
- The Interferometers used in LIGO work by merging two or more sources of light to create interference pattern, which can be measured and analyzed.
About LIGO- India project:
- Known as the LIGO-India project, it is piloted by Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science and Technology (DST).
- It aims to move one advanced LIGO detector from Hanford to India.
- LIGO-India project is envisaged as an international collaboration between the LIGO Laboratory and three lead institutions in the IndIGO consortium:
- Institute of Plasma Research (IPR) Gandhinagar,
- Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune and
- Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), Indore.
Significance for India:
- With this project, India will join an elite league of countries that support research on gravitational waves. Besides the U.S, U.K, Italy, Germany and Japan have ongoing research in the area.
- LIGO lab would provide the complete design and all the key detector components. Indian scientists would provide the infrastructure to install the detector at a suitable site in India and would be responsible for commissioning it.
- The project will bring unprecedented opportunities for scientists and engineers to dig deeper into the realm of gravitational wave and take global leadership in this new astronomical frontier.
- The LIGO-India project will also bring considerable opportunities in cutting-edge technology for the Indian industry which will be engaged in the construction of the eight-km long beam tube at ultra-high vacuum on a levelled terrain.
Key Facts for Prelims
Coloured stickers on vehicles to indicate nature of fuel
- The Supreme Court accepted the suggestions of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) to have hologram-based coloured stickers on vehicles plying in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) to indicate the nature of fuel being used.
- The hologram-based sticker of light-blue colour will be used for petrol and CNG run vehicles while similar sticker of orange colour would be placed on diesel vehicles.