eurasian-lynx-22
Current Affair Analysis

1st April 2019 Current Affairs Analysis -IASToppers

Eurasian Lynx;Community Radio; Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP); Article 370; Generalised System of Preferences (GSP); What is El Nino? What is El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)? Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT); Bolivia; Earth Hour; World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF); International Solar Alliance; Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority; Toluene; Aralam sanctuary; Utkal Divas; Slovakia; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
April 01, 2019

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Tampering with Article 370 could end J&K’s relationship with India
  • EPCA comes out with parking management plan for Delhi
  • 120 Community Radios Attend SVEEP Workshop of ECI at IIIDEM

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Cities go dark for Earth Hour
  • India Meteorological Department (IMD) confirms weak El Nino conditions
  • GSP withdrawal by U.S. likely to affect India’s plastics exports

Bilateral & International Relations

  • India, Bolivia call for finalization of CCIT
  • Bolivia joins International Solar Alliance

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Two new birds spotted at Aralam sanctuary
  • Bacteria to degrade toluene
  • Utkal Divas celebrated
  • Is the Eurasian Lynx present in the Kashmir Valley?
  • Zuzana Caputova becomes Slovakia’s first female President

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Polity & Governance

Tampering with Article 370 could end J&K’s relationship with India

According to Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, the state of Jammu and Kashmir will seize to be part of Union of India if Article 370 is scrapped.

Tampering with Article 370 could end J&K’s relationship with India

What is Article 370?

  • Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is a ‘temporary provision’ which grants special autonomous status to Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Under Part XXI of the Constitution of India, which deals with “Temporary, Transitional and Special provisions”, the state of Jammu & Kashmir has been accorded special status under Article 370.
  • All the provisions of the Constitution which are applicable to other states are not applicable to J&K. For example, till 1965, J&K had a Sadr-e-Riyasat for governor and prime minister in place of chief minister.

History of Article 370:

Article 370

  • The provision was drafted in 1947 by Sheikh Abdullah, who had by then been appointed prime minister of Jammu & Kashmir by Maharaja Hari Singh and Jawahar Lal Nehru.
  • Sheikh Abdullah had argued that Article 370 should not be placed under temporary provisions of the Constitution. He wanted ‘iron clad autonomy’ for the state, which Centre didn’t comply with.

Provisions of Article 370:

  • According to this article, except for defence, foreign affairs, finance and communications, Parliament needs the state government’s concurrence for applying all other laws.
  • Thus the state’s residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to other Indians.
  • As a result of this provision, Indian citizens from other states cannot purchase land or property in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Under Article 370, the Centre has no power to declare financial emergency under Article 360 in the state. It can declare emergency in the state only in case of war or external aggression.
  • The Union government can therefore not declare emergency on grounds of internal disturbance or imminent danger unless it is made at the request or with the concurrence of the state government.

Key Facts:

  • Article 35A of the Indian Constitution empowers the Jammu and Kashmir state’s legislature to define “permanent resident” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents which are excluded for non-permanent residents.
[Ref: Times of India]

 

EPCA comes out with parking management plan for Delhi

Following the Supreme Court’s direction for a joint meeting of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, municipal bodies, secretaries of the transport department and Delhi Police etc, to prepare a parking plan for the New Delhi; the EPCA has put forth its recommendations in a report.

Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) 3

Some of the key recommendations listed in the report are:

Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA)5

  • Implementing agencies are unanimous that residential parking will have to be regulated and managed
  • Parking spill over from residential buildings will require management
  • Multiplicity of responsibility is at the core of the problems of governance in the city and parking regulations must not add to this
  • Pricing for residential parking should be determined jointly by the local agency and RWA/shop-keepers’ association but it must be based on the principle of charging differential and higher rates for additional cars
  • The local parking plan must ensure that there is provision for movement of emergency vehicles and green areas, parks and footpaths may not be allowed to be used for parking
  • The Delhi Police may be directed to greatly improve enforcement against illegal and unauthorized parking through state-of-the art equipment, including cameras and automated challans

Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority

The EPCA was constituted under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

  • Though it has existed for 20 years, its term is extended by specific notifications issued by the Government of India.
  • The latest notification is dated October 3, 2018, when it was reconstituted by including new members.
  • EPCA was appointed by the Supreme Court under the supervision of the Central Pollution Control Board.
  • The EPCA is also mandated to enforce Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in the city as per the pollution levels.
  • EPCA’s main work has been to assist the Supreme Court in preparing Reports and also in monitoring the implementation of the Courts Orders.

Objective of EPCA:

  • The EPCA was constituted with the objective of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing and controlling the environmental pollution in the National Capital Region.

Power of EPCA:

  • The reason why EPCA is an authority, and not just an advisory committee, is because it has powers similar to those enjoyed by the Centre.
  • Specifically, it can issue directions in writing to any person, officer or authority, including for – but not limited to – stoppage of electricity, water and other services.
  • If its directions are not followed, it has powers to file criminal complaints (under section 19 of the Act) before courts.
  • The EPCA has been empowered to take suo motu action as well as on the basis of complaints made by any individual, representative body or organisation functioning in the environmental issues sector.
  • One of the EPCA’s important powers is the redressal of grievances through complaints.
[Ref: Down To Earth]

 

120 Community Radios Attend SVEEP Workshop of ECI at IIIDEM

In a first of its kind initiative, the Election Commission of India has reached out to over 150 Community Radio stations in India to help educate and inform the voters.

Community Radio Stations and SVEEP 1

About the workshop:

  • The event was organized by India International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Management (IIIDEM), in partnership with Seeking Modern Applications for Real Transformation (SMART) at New Delhi.
  • The main purpose of the workshop was for training and capacity building of Community Radios for voter education and awareness.
  • The stations were informed to motivate the voters, mobilize them to go to the polling booth, and educate them about their rights and responsibilities.
  • The stations will broadcast programmes in their own local dialect and will develop 5 programmes each besides broadcasting promotional material.

About the Community Radio:

Community Radio Stations and SVEEP (1)

  • There are three options for expansion of radio network viz. (i) the commercial broadcast model (ii) public service broadcast route and the (iii) community radio. 
  • According to UNESCO, Community radio is a type of radio service that caters to the interests of a certain area, broadcasting content that is popular to a local audience, but which may often be overlooked by commercial or mass-media broadcasters.
  • It serves to bring small communities together by filling gap left by national and commercial media, and focuses on the common man’s day-to-day concerns and helps in realizing local aspirations.
  • It is confined to a small geographical area. It depends on low power transmission covering not more than 20-30 km. radius.

Community Radio in India:

  • Currently, there are more than 180 community radio stations across India, broadcasting in languages like Bundelkhandi, Garhwali, Awadhi and Santhali — tongues that typically find little or no space on television.

Policy on Community Radio Broadcasting:

  • The programmes to be broadcasted on community radio should be of immediate relevance to the community such as agricultural, health, educational, environmental, social welfare, community development and cultural programmes.
  • At least 50% of content shall be generated with the participation of the local community, for which the station has been set up.
  • Revenue generated from advertisement and announcements is only utilized for the operational expenses of the Community radio.
  • In the event of national emergency/ war, the Government reserves the right to take over the entire services and networks or suspend the Permission in the interest of national security.

Challenges to Community Radio:

  • A high turnover of staff that causes a lack of journalistic and technical skills and thus a consistent demand for training.
  • Community Radio derives its strength from community participation. In practise participation is harder than it seems, because it is labour intensive, requires the right attitude, skills and mobile equipment.
  • Without proper management skills, it is very hard for Community Radio to survive without donor funding, which will always, eventually, dry up.
  • Community Radio is by definition relatively small and often situated in locations where basic services, like a constant supply of electricity, are lacking.
  • In many countries there is still a lack of a clear regulatory framework in which Community Radio operates.

Eligibility to apply for a Community Radio Station:

Following types of organisations shall be eligible to apply for Community Radio licences:

  • Community based organisations: These would include civil society and voluntary organisations, State Agriculture Universities (SAUs), ICAR institutions, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, Registered Societies and Autonomous Bodies and Public Trusts registered under Societies Act or any other such act relevant for the purpose.
  • Educational institutions

Following shall not be eligible to apply for setting up a Community Radio Station:

  • Individuals
  • Political parties and their affiliate organisations, including students, women, trade unions and such other wings affiliated to these parties
  • Organisations operating with a motive to earn profit and want to make money out of it
  • Organisations expressly banned by the Union and State Governments

Basic eligibility:

  • It should be explicitly constituted as a ‘non-profit’ organisation and should have a proven record of at least three years of service to the local community.
  • The CRS to be operated by it should be designed to serve a specific well-defined local community.
  • It should have an ownership and management structure that is reflective of the community that the CRS seeks to serve.
  • Programmes for broadcast should be relevant to the educational, developmental, social and cultural needs of the community.
  • It must be a Legal Entity i.e. it should be registered (under the registration of Societies Act or any other such act relevant to the purpose).

Other Terms & Conditions:

  • The programmes should be of immediate relevance to the community. The emphasis should be on developmental, agricultural, health, educational, environmental, social welfare, community development and cultural programmes.
  • Registration at the time of application should at least be three years old.
  • The programming should reflect the special interests and needs of the local community.
  •  At least 50% of content shall be generated with the participation of the local community, for which the station has been set up.
  •  Programmes should preferably be in the local language and dialect(s).
  •  The Permission Holder shall have to adhere to the provisions of the Programme and Advertising Code as prescribed for All India Radio.
  •  The Permission Holder shall preserve all programmes broadcast by the CRS for three months from the date of broadcast.
  • The Permission Holder shall not broadcast any programmes, which relate to news and current affairs and are otherwise political in nature.
  • The Permission Holder shall ensure that due care is taken with respect to religious programmes with a view to avoid: a) Exploitation of religious susceptibilities and b) Committing offence to the religious views and beliefs of those belonging to a particular religion.
  • CRS shall be expected to cover a range of 5-10 km. For this, a transmitter having maximum Effective Radiated Power (ERP) of 100 W would be adequate. However, Requests for higher transmitter power above 100 Watts and upto 250 Watts is subject to approval by the Committee.
  • The maximum height of antenna permitted above the ground for the CRS shall not exceed 30 meters.
  • Universities, Deemed Universities and other educational institutions shall be permitted to locate their transmitters and antennae only within their main campuses.

Background:

  • Community radio broadcasting became a possibility for the first time when the Supreme Court declared in 1995 that airwaves were public property, in Ministry of Information and Broadcasting vs the Cricket Association of India.
  • In December 2002, the Government announced a policy for the grant of Community Radio Licenses to educational institutions and organisations.
  • Under the terms of this policy, Community Broadcasting Licenses could be granted to well established educational institutions, recognised by the Central Government or the State Government.
  • The matter was reconsidered and the Government in December 2006 decided to broad base the policy by bringing ‘Non-profit’ organisations like civil society and voluntary organisations etc., under its ambit.

About Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP):

Sveep-Logo-1.png.40e1b149763b137da9e122373f85bd78

  • SVEEP is a programme launched by the Election Commission of India.
  • The main aim of the programme is to inform and educate people about the importance of voting and to motivate voters.
  • The Election Commission of India is hoping to make Indian Democracy more participative through SVEEP.
  • It is designed based on the socio-economic and demographic profile of that state.
  • SVEEP started out as a small IEC activity before it was even given the name SVEEP. The programme was properly established and given its name in 2010.
  • From 2009 to 2013, the phase covered over 17 General Elections to State Assemblies and even three revisions of the Electoral Roll.
  • Now it includes enhanced interaction with the citizens through social media, online contests and voters’ festivals; awareness about new initiatives of linking EPIC with AADHAAR and National Voters’ Service Portal and a regularised yearly plan of activities.
  • In addition to target groups of women, youth, urban voters and the marginalized sections, the inclusion of groups like service voters, NRIs, persons with disabilities, prospective voters/ students are of primary focus.

Objectives of SVEEP:

  • Educating individuals about the importance of voting
  • Increase participation in elections through voter registration and turnout
  • Increase participation in terms of ethical and informed voting process
  • Consistent education about the democracy and voting process in India

Management structure of SVEEP

The programme follows a systematic management structure in order to contribute to the democracy of the country.

National level

  • The SVEEP part of Electoral Commission of India prepares the policy, the framework, prepares interventions and ensures that the policies are implemented. It also focuses on educating the citizens of the country about the democracy and the importance of voting.

State level

  • An officer in every State CEO’s office is instructed to take charge of the SVEEP programme. Representatives from universities, youth organisations, educational institutions and members of Civil Society groups form a core group and ensure volunteers for electoral participation.

District level

  • At the district level, the administrative head of the district is responsible for the election management. More often than not, the district collector is the District Election Officer who implement the SVEEP programme at a district level. A SVEEP committee is formed at the district level which is headed by the Chief Executive officer of the Zilla Parishad and also the Chief Development Officer.

Booth level

  • The ECI introduced the institution of Booth Level officers in 2006. These officers generally cover one or two polling stations and are responsible for maintaining the electoral roll.
[Ref: PIB, Times of India]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Cities go dark for Earth Hour

Cities around the world marked Earth Hour on 30th March by turning off lights in a call for global action on climate change.

Cities_go_dark_for_Earth_Hour_222

How did it start?

Cities go dark for Earth Hour

  • Earth Hour is an annual tradition in which people switch off their lights to spread awareness about sustainability and climate change.
  • Started by the World Wildlife Fund, it takes place this year on March 30, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time. (And it’s not to be confused with Earth Day, which is April 22.)

When did it start?

  • The symbolic effort started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, when the WWF encouraged 2.2 million people to turn off their lights for one hour to support action on climate change.
  • Since then, millions of people around the world have taken part. Landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Sydney Opera House, the Empire State Building, Buckingham Palace, the Colosseum and Edinburgh Castle also have gone dark for an hour.

What is it intended to do?

  • It’s meant to bring together people who share one common goal: an eco-friendly future.

Why do we need earth hour?

  • Global warming and climate change have dominated the scientific discourse in the past more than one decade. With ever rising population of the world, the climate change has put the humankind at a great risk along with other species.
  • Global warming, rising levels of pollution due to ever increasing industrialisation, declining forest cover and rising sea levels are some of the dangers that drastically affect the workings of life on the earth.
  • Though the largest polluters are big industries, the WWF tries to make the masses more and more aware about the impending dangers of adverse climate so that they could put pressure on the respective governments to frame environment-friendly policies and laws.
  • With Earth Hour, the WWF aims to engage people across the globe to adopt more sustainable lifestyle. Turning off lights for an hour is just an annual reminder that if the world does not mend its ways, it will be heading to a dark age, literally.

What’s the difference between Earth Hour and Earth Day?

  • Whereas Earth Hour stands as a climate change initiative where people reduce their electricity usage, Earth Day (April 22) celebrates our natural environment by inspiring people to plant trees, recycle regularly and keep the planet tidy.

About World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF):

Cities go dark for Earth Hour 1

  • It is considered as one of the world’s largest and independent conservation organizations.
  • It was established on 29 April 1961 with the slogan – For a Living Planet.
  • Its primary objective is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.
  • It seeks to achieve this objective by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful.
  • The WWF has over 5 million supporters in over 100 countries.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

India Meteorological Department (IMD) confirms weak El Nino conditions

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has finally declared that weak El Nino conditions are prevalent in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

El Nino3

What is El Nino?

India Meteorological Department (IMD) confirms weak El Nino conditions

  • El Nino refers to a band of warm ocean water that develops in the Pacific Ocean and causes global changes of both temperatures and rainfall.
  • El Nino is the warm phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle (ENSO).
  • The ENSO cycle is the way scientists describe the fluctuations in temperature between the atmosphere and the ocean in the east-central Equatorial Pacific.
  • Basically, El Nino is a naturally occurring phenomenon that is linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.
  • El Nino is Spanish for “the boy child,” which is often used to refer to Jesus Christ, and the phenomenon earned this name because it typically occurs in December around Christmas.
  • El Nino occurs every 2-7 years, and can last anywhere between nine months and two years.

India Meteorological Department (IMD) confirms weak El Nino conditions 1

What is El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)?

  • The ENSO cycle is the fluctuations in temperature between the atmosphere and the ocean in the east-central Equatorial Pacific.
  • El Nino and La Nina are opposite phases of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle. While El Niño as the warm phase of ENSO, La Niña is referred to as the cold phase of ENSO.
  • Hence, El Niño and La Niña are the extreme phases of the ENSO cycle, between these two phases is a third phase called ENSO-neutral.
  • This oscillating warming and cooling pattern or ENSO cycle, directly affects rainfall distribution in the tropics and can have a strong influence on weather across the United States and other parts of the world.

Key Facts:

  • Between 1880 and 2014, around 90 per cent of all evolving El Nino years have seen below normal rainfall and 65 per cent of them experienced droughts.
  • The last El Nino event that ended in 2016 had lasted for two years and caused heat waves all around the world which caused massive coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef and droughts in parts of Africa, South East Asia and South America.
  • In 2018, Australia underwent its worst drought in regions like the New South Wales the drought was the worst in 400 years.
  • Heat waves are the third highest cause for deaths among natural disasters in India, after lightning strikes and earthquakes.
[Ref: DownToEarth]

 

GSP withdrawal by U.S. likely to affect India’s plastics exports

The move by the United States (U.S.) to terminate India’s designation as beneficiary developing country under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme is likely to affect plastic exports from India.

GSP withdrawal by U.S. likely to affect India’s plastics exports

Reason for withdrawal of GSP:

  • The total U.S. imports under GSP in 2017 was $21.2 billion, of which India was the biggest beneficiary with $5.6 billion. In 2018, India and the U.S. reported a bilateral trade (only merchandise goods) worth $84.9 billion, up 20% from 2017.
  • US believed that India was enjoying a trade surplus with U.S. without giving an ‘equal access’ to American goods resulting in withdrawal of GSP.

Impact of GSP:

  • An analysis by the Plastic Export Promotion Council (Plexconcil) found, the GSP concessions amounted to a duty reduction of $30 million per annum on imports of plastic products worth $600 million for the period January to December 2018.

What is the impact of GSP withdrawal on India?

  • India exports nearly 50 products of the 94 products on which GSP benefits are stopped. The GSP removal will leave a reasonable impact on India as the country enjoyed preferential tariff on exports worth of nearly $ 5.6 billion under the GSP route.
  • In total, India exports nearly 1,937 products to the US under GSP.
  • As India is the 11th largest trade surplus country for the US which enjoyed an annual trade surplus of $ 21 bn in 2017-18, removal of GSP indicate a tough trade position by the US for India.

Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)

Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) 1

  • The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), instituted on January 1, 1976, is a U.S. trade program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry of products.
  • It is a preferential arrangement in the sense that it allows concessional low/zero tariff imports from developing countries.
  • The objective of GSP was to give development support to poor countries by promoting exports from them into the developed countries.

How does GSP works?

  • The US government selects a group of poor countries and a set of products and offers these countries lower-than-normal tariffs than it applies to imports from all other World Trade Organisation countries.
  • The United States Trade Representative (USTR) makes annual reviews about the types of commodities to be selected under GSP and the countries to be benefited.
  • The products covered under GSP are mainly agricultural products including animal husbandry, meat and fisheries and handicraft products.
  • The beneficiaries of GSP are around 120 developing countries. As on December 2018, India and Brazil were the major beneficiaries in terms of export volume realised under GSP.
  • Imports from China and some developing countries are ineligible for GSP benefits.

What is the difference between GSP and the usual trade arrangement under WTO?

  • Under the normal trade laws, the WTO members must give equal preferences to trade partners. without any discrimination between countries. This trade rule under the WTO is called the Most Favored Nation (MFN) clause.
  • The MFN instructs non-discrimination that any favorable treatment to a particular country. At the same time, the WTO allows members to give special and differential treatment to from developing countries (like zero tariff imports). This is an exemption for MFN. The MSP given by developed countries including the US is an exception to MFN.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

India, Bolivia call for finalization of CCIT

In the wake of growing threats and acts of terrorism across the world, India and Bolivia have called for an early finalization of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).

Indian_Presidents_visit_to_Bolivia_2

Background:

  • From point of view of Bolivia, India is the third largest market in terms of export and seventh largest trading partner. While Bolivia is India’s ninth largest trading partner in Latin America and the Caribbean region.
  • Lithium is a resource that the South American nation has in abundance and is looking forward to exploring with the help of India as it is trying move towards industrialization of its mineral resource.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the two nations on cooperation on geology and mineral resources which will help facilitate working with Bolivia.

Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT):

‘Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism’ (CCIT) 55

  • The Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) was originally proposed by India in 1996.
  • The proposed CCIT is a legal framework which would make it binding for all countries to deny funds and safe haven to terror groups.
  • India has been able to complete a draft of the CCIT in 1996 that is yet to be adopted by the UNGA.

Its key objectives include:

  1. To have a universal definition of terrorism that all 193-members of the UNGA will adopt into their own criminal law,
  2. To ban all terror groups and shut down terror camps regardless of their stated objectives,
  3. To prosecute all terrorists under special laws, and
  4. To make cross-border terrorism an extraditable offence worldwide.

Why has the CCIT been opposed?

India, Bolivia call for finalization of CCIT

  • Currently, the negotiations of the Comprehensive Terrorism Convention are deadlocked because of differences over the definition of terrorism.
  • India’s proposed CCIT counters the opposition from the three main blocs that have raised objections: the U.S., the Organisation of Islamic Countries and the Latin American countries.
  • The most powerful objector, the U.S. has been worried about the application of the CCIT to its own military forces especially with regard to interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Latin American countries that had concerns about human rights laws have also been accommodated by the changes to the draft.
  • The Organisation of Islamic Countries have been worried about the impact of the CCIT on countries like Pakistan and Palestine.

However, against the differences over the definition of terrorism, India agreed to insert the word “peoples” when speaking of rights, in order to “acknowledge the right of self-determination”.

About Bolivia:

ABOUT BOLIVIA

  • Bolivia is a landlocked country located in western-central South America.
  • Its geography varies from the peaks of the Andes in the West, to the Eastern Lowlands, situated within the Amazon Basin.
  • It is bordered to the north and east by Brazil, to the southeast by Paraguay, to the south by Argentina, to the southwest by Chile, and to the northwest by Peru.
  • One-third of the country is within the Andean mountain range.
  • It is rich in mineral resources. It has large deposits of lithium, gold, silver and gas reserves.
[Ref: Business Standard]

 

Bolivia joins International Solar Alliance

Bolivia joined the International Solar Alliance by signing the framework agreement on International Solar Alliance.

‘Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism’ (CCIT) 7

Key Facts:

  • To mark the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, India offered two busts of Gandhiji to Bolivia which will be placed in the Bolivian Capital La Paz and its largest city, Santa Cruz.

What is International Solar Alliance?

International Solar Alliance (2)

The International Solar Alliance is a common platform for cooperation among sun-rich countries lying fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn who are seeking to massively ramp up solar energy, thereby helping to bend the global greenhouse emissions curve whilst providing clean and cheap energy.

  • The International Solar Alliance (ISA) was unveiled by Prime Minister of India and French President at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris on November 30, 2015.
  • The idea was to form a coalition of solar resource-rich countries to collaborate on addressing the identified gaps in their energy requirements through a common approach.
  • Towards this, the ISA has set a target of 1 TW of solar energy by 2030, which current French President Emmanuel Macron said would require $1 trillion to achieve.
  • It will not duplicate or replicate the efforts that others (like International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership(REEEP), International Energy Agency (IEA), Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), United Nations bodies, bilateral organizations etc.) are currently engaged in, but will establish networks and develop synergies with them and supplement their efforts in a sustainable and focused manner.

Who are the member countries?

  • The ISA is open to 122 prospective member countries, most of them located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn as this is the region worldwide with a surplus of bright sunlight for most of the year.
  • 73 countries have signed the ISA Framework Agreement.

What is India’s role?

  • The ISA is the first international body that will have a secretariat in India.
  • India, with a target to produce 100 GW of solar energy by 2022, would account for a tenth of ISA’s goal.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Key Facts for Prelims

Two new birds spotted at Aralam sanctuary:

The 19th bird survey conducted jointly by the forest and wildlife department and Malabar Natural History Society (MNHS) which spotted two new species of birds at the Aralam wildlife sanctuary.

Two new bird species spotted in Kerala Sanctuary 2

Key Points:

Two new bird species spotted in Kerala Sanctuary (1)

  • The new species spotted in Aralam sanctury were woolly-necked stork (Karuvarakkuru) and white-bellied drongo (Kakkarajan).
  • Both species are dry land species.
  • Aralam is the northern most wildlife sanctuary of Kerala, located on the western slopes of Western Ghats.
  • The number of bird species spotted at Aralam has risen to 246. But during this three day survey only 152 species were captured.
[Ref: Times of India]

 

Bacteria to degrade toluene

Using bacteria isolated from soil and effluents near an oil refinery, researchers have successfully degraded toluene into less-toxic byproducts.

Toluene1

What is Toluene?

  • Toluene is one of the petrochemical wastes that get released without treatment from industries such as refineries, paint, textile, paper and rubber.
  • Toluene has been reported to cause serious health problems to aquatic life, and studies point that it has genotoxic and carcinogenic effects on human beings.

 

Utkal Divas celebrated

Odisha is celebrating 84 years of its foundation. The day is also known as ‘Utkal Divas.’

Utkal Divas celebrated

About Odisha State:

  • Odisha, which was formed on April 1, 1936 as the first linguistic State is being celebrated every year as Utkal Divas.
  • Earlier, Odisha was part of Bihar.
  • Currently Odisha is 9th largest state in India in terms of area.
  • As per 2011 census, Odisha ranks 11 in having largest population. Odisha is the third state in India in terms of tribal population.
  • In 1912, Bihar and Orissa had been separated from Bengal to form the Bihar and Orissa Province.
  • The name of the state was changed from Orissa to Odisha, and the name of its language from Oriya to Odia, in 2011.

 

Is the Eurasian Lynx present in the Kashmir Valley?

The Eurasian Lynx, found currently only in Ladakh and some parts of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, may have found its way into the Kashmir Valley.

Eurasian Lynx

  • Forest officials sharing a picture of an animal looking very much like the lynx from the Dobjan forest area in Shopian district of South Kashmir.

About Eurasian Lynx:

  • The Eurasian Lynx in Ladakhi is one of the medium-sized wild cats which roam the high and cold snow-covered mountains of Ladakh.
  • The cat is agile and strong and is high adapted to the thin air atmosphere of Ladakh.
  • If confirmed the presence of Lynx, It would be the third smaller cat species reported from the Kashmir Valley. The other two include the Jungle Cat and the Leopard Cat.
  • Because of its wide distribution, it has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 2008.
[Ref: DownToEarth]

 

Zuzana Caputova becomes Slovakia’s first female President:

Anti-corruption activist Zuzana Caputova has been confirmed as the fifth President of Slovakia, making her the country’s first female head of the State.

Slovakia's first female President

About Slovakia:

Zuzana Caputova becomes Slovakia's first female President

  • Slovakia is a landlocked nation in central Europe.
  • Slovakia shares land borders with 5 countries: Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria.
  • It is the 132nd largest nation in the world with a total area of 49,035 square kilometers.
  • Slovakia became an independent state in 1993, after gaining its sovereignty from Austria.

 

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