- World Bank approves aid for India’s solar programme
- National Conference on ‘Gaushalas’ Inaugurated
- Union Government launches INFRACON, ePACE and up-Scaled INAM PRO
Environment & Ecology
- Ken-Betwa project: Panel warns of dangers to ecology and animal life
Art & Culture
- PM Narendra Modi unveils ‘Simhastha Declaration’ at Kumbh
Science & Technology
- Helium microscope helps to study samples without damaging them
World Bank approves aid for India’s solar programme
The World Bank’s Board has approved USD 625 million loan to support India’s grid connected rooftop solar programme to generate clean energy.
- The Board also approved a co-financing loan of USD 120 million on concessional terms and a USD 5 million grant from Climate Investment Fund’s (CIF) Clean Technology Fund.
- The loan, from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a 19.5 year grace period, and a maturity of 20 years. Loan from CIF’s Clean Technology Fund, has a 10 year grace period, and a maturity of 40 years.
The IBRD-CIF loan will support a number of solar PV business models, to expand the reach of rooftop PV systems to a variety of customer groups.
About the project:
- The project will finance the installation of at least 400 MW of grid connected rooftop solar photovoltaic (GRPV) across India.
- It will be implemented by the State Bank of India, which will on-lend funds to solar PV developers/ aggregators and end—users, who wish to invest in mainly commercial and industrial rooftop PV systems.
- Financing will be provided to those with sound technical capacity, relevant experience, and creditworthiness as per SBI standards.
The overall potential demand for rooftop solar is estimated at about 124,000 MW.
- These solar PV installations will provide clean, renewable energy, and reduce GHG emissions by displacing thermal generation.
- The project will also strengthen the capacity of key institutions, and support the development of the overall solar PV market.
National Conference on ‘Gaushalas’ Inaugurated
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries organized a day-long national conference on ‘Gaushalas’ (cowsheds).
- At the conference, the Environment Minister emphasized the need to protect pasture lands. He also suggested that if there is 500 acres of land, 25 acres be set aside for growing good quality grass and fodder.
- The technical sessions will discuss three issues – (i) how to increase the milk productivity of Indian cows; (ii) Making provision for feed, fodder and ancillary requirements for Indian cows and (iii) Management of cows in the post-productive phase.
Livestock in India:
- There are 19 crore livestock in the country, which is about 14% of the world’s livestock and out of this, 15 crore are indigenous livestock.
- Livestock are the backbone of the rural economy. Livestock forms the basis of occupation of 60 million people.
- The distribution of livestock is much more balanced than distribution of land in rural economy.
The government has granted funds to establish National Breeding Centres for the promotion and protection of indigenous livestock.
Milk production in India:
- The average annual increase in milk production over 10 years was 4.62% in India, while it was 2.2% in the world.
- While the availability of milk the world over is 296 grams, in India it is 340 grams.
Union Government launches INFRACON, ePACE and up-Scaled INAM PRO
The Union government has launched three innovative IT initiatives of the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways. They are ePACE, INFRACON and an updated version of INAMPRO.
These three innovative IT initiatives were developed in house by NHIDCL (National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd.)
- ePACE (Projects Appraisal & Continuing Enhancements) is an online integrated Management Information System that brings projects from all wings of the Ministry under a common platform, ensuring their effective and real time tracking.
- More than 2000 projects being executed by multiple agencies are currently listed on the portal and it is possible to get any information about their real time status, fund utilization etc.
- The portal also allows for validation checks to prevent wrongful entries, making it difficult to fudge figures.
- It has also been provided with GIS interface to enable easy geo-tracking of the projects.
- ePACE as a platform is amenable to be used for monitoring projects pertaining to any ministry in the country and can improve governance of such projects.
- INFRACON is the National Portal for Infrastructure Consultancy Firms and Key Personnel.
- This portal acts as a kind of bridge between consultancy firms working in the road engineering and construction sector and domain experts and key personnel who are deployed both for project preparation and supervision.
- The portal hosts the credentials of consultancy firms and key personnel and has linkages to Aadhar and Digi-locker for data validation and purity.
- INAM PRO
- INAM PRO has been developed as a web-based application for Infrastructure and Material Providers.
- It is a kind of a web based market place that brings together the material providers and the prospective buyers on a common platform.
- The platform was launched in March 2015 to facilitate contractors and cement buyers engaged in executing central/state funded roads and highways and bridge construction projects to place cement orders online with the registered cement companies offering cement at competitive rates in the vicinity of project execution locations.
- Using INAM Pro, companies can track orders, add more products, add cement offerings, view listed buyers, and submit their complaints or suggestions to Ministry.
- With the help of INAM Pro, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways will be able to track and monitor the activities of buyers and suppliers, and remove impediments of both the parties.
Environment & Ecology
Ken-Betwa project: Panel warns of dangers to ecology and animal life
A team of wildlife experts have submitted a crucial report on Ken-Betwa River linking project.
- The submitted report, not yet public, warns of the dangers to the ecology and animal life due to the proposed Ken-Betwa project.
Key concerns put forth by the report:
- The report neither endorses nor disapproves of the Ken-Betwa project but notes that if the government were to go ahead it ought to ensure that the proposed canal does not hinder tiger movement and that there should be enough habitable forest land developed to compensate for the loss of tiger reserve land.
- The main feature of the project is a 230-km long canal connecting the Ken and Betwa rivers which will irrigate 3.5 lakh hectares of drought-prone Bundelkhand. However, according to the report, it will also inundate about 400 of the 4300-hectare Panna Tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh.
- The report also notes that the project will impact a large variety of threatened fauna like the grey-headed fish eagles and muggers.
- The project was first mooted in the early 1980s but was actively taken up by the NDA government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It was then challenged in the Supreme Court, which finally gave the nod in 2013.
- Now, the project is being vigorously promoted by the incumbent NDA government as the first in a series of projects to transfer surplus water from certain rivers into deficient ones and improve irrigation as well as hydropower availability.
- Given the threat to the tiger reserve, the Environment Ministry, whose clearance is mandatory for the project, had tasked the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) with an expert analysis on the environmental impact.
- The Ken is the last tributary of the Yamuna before it joins the Ganga — 87% of it lies in Madhya Pradesh and 12% in Uttar Pradesh.
- The Betwa is an interstate river that rises in Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh — 68% of it lies in that state before it flows towards Jhansi district in Uttar Pradesh. This too is a tributary of the Yamuna.
About the proposed river linking project:
- Under the proposed river linking project, the Betwa river in Uttar Pradesh, which flows into the Yamuna, will receive surplus water from the river Ken that originates in Uttar Pradesh and then runs south across Madhya Pradesh.
- The Davdhan dam is to be built on the Ken near its source.
- The project envisages construction of a dam across river Ken in Madhya Pradesh for various purposes like irrigation, hydropower generation and supply of drinking water.
- The reason why the Ken-Betwa link was the first to get off the ground is that it is the shortest.
Art & Culture
PM Narendra Modi unveils ‘Simhastha Declaration’ at Kumbh
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has unveiled the ‘Simhastha Declaration’ at the Kumbh mela in Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain.
- Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who is in India on his first state visit after coming to office, was present at the event.
- The declaration is a guideline on how “a duty-centred system, which had been the origin of Indian philosophy of life, has become the most relevant today”.
- Simhastha Declaration has 51 sacred points for betterment of mankind that will start new discourse not only in India but around the world.
- The declaration will be the essence of a year-long exercise of seminars and conferences on religion, spirituality and its relationship with science, climate change and deep ecology.
Science & Technology
Helium microscope helps to study samples without damaging them
A world-first helium microscope, named Scanning Helium Microscope (SHeM) has been developed by a team of researchers in Australia, opening the door to new scientific discoveries.
- The new microscope allows scientists to study delicate plant and animal samples without damaging or changing them. Delicate structures are damaged under existing microscopes that use light or electrons.
- The new microscope will enable scientists to study human, animal and plant samples, as well as computer chips and pharmaceutical drugs, without damaging or changing them.
- SHeM could be useful in major industries such as solar energy, defence, explosives and information technology.
- This ground-breaking technology may help find ways of removing carbon monoxide from exhaust gases.
- SHeM could help with the clean-up of toxic or even radioactive spills, without harming the surrounding flora or fauna.
- Defence experts will be interested because it could lead to the development of stealth technology and new explosives.