world’s-largest-3-D-printed-reef
Current Affair Analysis

21st August 2018 Current Affairs Analysis -IASToppers

World’s largest 3D printed coral reef; Interlinking of rivers; Lemons problem; What is a ‘national disaster’? Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument; Chandrayaan-1; What is 3D Printing? Maldives; NASA’s InSight spacecraft; Asteroid Bennu; OSIRIS-REx spacecraft; Re-Water Research Center; Legion of Merit’; Article 18 and abolition of titles; SAFF U-15 women's championship; 21 August: World Senior Citizens Day; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
September 07, 2018

Contents

Government Schemes & Policies

  • 15th Meeting of Special Committee for Interlinking of Rivers held

Economy

  • What is lemons problem in economics?
  • What does the falling rupee mean for you and economy?

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • What is a ‘national disaster’?

Science & Technology

  • Chandrayaan-I data confirms ice on moon: NASA
  • World’s largest 3D printed coral reef installed at Maldives island resort
  • NASA’s InSight spacecraft crosses halfway mark to Mars
  • NASA Spacecraft Begins Final Approach to Big Asteroid Bennu

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Re-Water Research Center
  • General Suhag awarded US ‘Legion of Merit’
  • SAFF U-15 women’s championship
  • 21 August: World Senior Citizens Day

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Government Schemes & Policies

15th Meeting of Special Committee for Interlinking of Rivers held

Union water resources minister Nitin Gadkari chaired the 32nd Annual General Meeting of the National Water Development Agency and the 15th meeting of the Special Committee held for the interlinking of rivers.

river-interlinking-1504748976

What was discussed?

  • During the meeting, it was stressed on the need for developing consensus amongst the concerned states on interlinking of rivers so that the water draining unutilized into the sea could be utilized for the needy areas.
  • States were called upon to discuss and sort out issues through active consultation so that the projects can be implemented on priority.

Progress so far:

  • Steps had been taken for the early implementation of five inter-linking projects and the Memorandum of Agreement was being finalised in consultation with the state governments concerned.
  • These five projects include Ken-Betwa link project, Damanganga-Pinjal link project, Par-Tapi-Narmada link project, Godavari-Cauvery (Grand Anicut) link project and Parvati-Kali Sindhu-Chambal link.

interlinking of rivers info

Need for interlinking of rivers:

  • India receives most of its rain during monsoon, the amount of rainfall in southern and western part are comparatively low. It will be these places which will have shortage of water. Interlinking of rivers will help these areas to have water throughout the year.
  • The main occupation of rural India is agriculture and if monsoon fails in a year, then agricultural activities come to a standstill and this will aggravate rural poverty. Interlinking of rivers will be a practical solution for this problem, because the water can be stored or water can be transferred from water surplus area to deficit.
  • The Ganga Basin, Brahmaputra basin sees floods almost every year. To avoid this, the water from these areas has to be diverted to other areas where there is scarcity of water. This can be achieved by linking the rivers. There is a two way advantage with this — floods will be controlled and scarcity of water will be reduced.

Significance of interlinking of rivers:

  • River interlinking projects envisage that the surplus water available in Himalayan Rivers is transferred to the areas where water supply is not adequate in the Peninsular India. Also, huge quantities of water from several Peninsular rivers drain unutilized into the sea, and river interlinking projects help transfer this water to water deficit areas of Peninsular India.
  • The main occupation of rural India is agriculture and if monsoon fails in a year, then agricultural activities come to a standstill and this will aggravate rural poverty. Interlinking of rivers will be a practical solution for this problem, because the water can be stored or water can be transferred from water surplus area to deficit.
  • The Ganga Basin, Brahmaputra basin sees floods almost every year. In order to avoid this, the water from these areas has to be diverted to other areas where there is scarcity of water. This can be achieved by linking the rivers. There is a two way advantage with this – floods will be controlled and scarcity of water will be reduced.
  • It will also have commercial importance on a longer run. This can be used as inland waterways and which helps in faster movement of goods from one place to other
  • It will create new occupations for people living in and around these canals and it can be the main areas of fishing in India.

Challenges against interlinking of rivers project:

  • Interlinking of rivers will cause huge amount of distortion in the existing environment. In order to create canals and reservoirs, there will be mass deforestation. This will have impact on rains and in turn affect the whole cycle of life.
  • Usually rivers change their course and direction in about 100 years and if this happens after interlinking, then the project will not be feasible for a longer run.
  • There will be decrease in the amount of fresh water entering seas and this will cause a serious threat to the marine life system and will be a major ecological disaster
  • Huge area which is occupied by the people will be submerged leading to displacement of people and government will have to spend more to rehabilitate these people.
  • Since water has become an emotive issue, none of the water-rich states would like to accept that they have surplus water to spare.
  • By offering to compensate the economic cost of the water surpluses, these states could be persuaded to share the surplus. This would pave the way for early implementation of the project.
  • The project is a great challenge and an opportunity to address the water issues arising out of climate change. The long-term solution to water scarcity lies in making the IRI- project work by building a network of dams and canals across the length and breadth of the country.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Economy

What is lemons problem in economics?

It refers to a form of adverse selection wherein there is a degradation in the quality of products sold in the marketplace due to asymmetry in the amount of information available to buyers and sellers.

lemons-problem-in-economics

  • Since sellers typically know more about any defects in the products that they sell to buyers, there is an opportunity for the sellers in the marketplace to sell low-quality products to unaware buyers.
  • The idea was first proposed by American economist George Akerlof in his popular 1970 paper, “The market for lemons: Quality uncertainty and the market mechanism”.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

What does the falling rupee mean for you and economy?

Recently, with the rupee weakening past ₹70 to a dollar and hovering about that level since, concerns over the impact of the devaluation on economic indicators are intensifying.

rupees-money-rupees-2000-cash_625x300_1527513166228

Reasons why Indian rupee has been falling against the US dollar:

  • Global economic slowdown: This the major factor which is contributing to both the stock markets and Indian currency fall. China’s yuan devaluation has also been hurting the sentiments globally. China has been witnessing a slowdown, with the International Monetary Fund has reiterated and while slashing the global growth forecasts for the third time in less than a year on Tuesday (Jan 19). IMF has cited a sharp slowdown in China trade and weak commodity prices that are hammering Brazil and other emerging markets.
  • Crude oil prices: US is the biggest importer of crude oil. So when the crude prices go down, it means US will be saving more dollars to buy it, as a result dollar as a currency strengthens, leading to fall of Indian rupee and other currencies at the forex market.
  • FIIs have been in the sell off mode in equity segment for last 3 months. From Jan 1 to Jan 20, foreign institutional investors (FIIs) sold shares worth Rs 7,146 crore in the domestic equity markets. On the other hand, domestic institutional investors, or DII’s net buying stood at Rs 9,249 crore during the same period.
  • India’s Trade deficit: Exports contracted for 13th month in a row in December 2015 as outward shipments shrank 14.75 per cent to $22.2 billion amid a global demand slowdown. Imports too plunged 3.88 per cent to $33.9 billion in December over the same month previous year. Trade deficit during the month under review widened to $11.6 billion as against $9.17 billion in December 2014.

How it affects inflation?

  • With rupee falling, country’s imports become more expensive and exports cheaper. The reason is simple. It takes more rupees to pay for the same quantum of imports and fewer dollars for a buyer to pay for the same quantity of exports.
  • More expensive imports are likely to drive inflation upward, especially in India where input products constitute a large part of our imports. In addition, a depreciating rupee also impacts the oil import bill since it costs more rupees per barrel of oil, which plays its own part in pushing inflation up.

What happens to GDP growth?

  • On the one hand, costlier inputs and the subsequent increase in the prices of finished goods should have a positive impact on GDP. But the consequent decrease in demand due to higher prices could nullify this.
  • A depreciating rupee certainly affects the exports and imports, since exports are likely to receive a boost while imports could flag somewhat. It remains to be seen what impact a reduction in household consumption would have on demand, especially when the festive season is nearing.

How does it affect individuals?

  • A depreciating rupee means higher prices of goods and services, costlier petrol and trips abroad turning more expensive. On the flip side, the domestic tourism could grow as more tourists visit India since their currency now buys more here. In the medium term, export-oriented industries may also create more jobs.
[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

What is a ‘national disaster’?

Following the calls from people in Kerala that the floods be declared a national calamity, the Union government has declared the Kerala floods a “calamity of severe nature”.

Kerala-Kochi-Flood What is a ‘national disaster’

How does the law define a disaster?

  • As per the Disaster Management Act, 2005, “disaster” means a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man-made causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.
  • A natural disaster includes earthquake, flood, landslide, cyclone, tsunami, urban flood, heatwave; a man-made disaster can be nuclear, biological and chemical.

How can any of these be classified as a national disaster?

  • There is no provision, executive or legal, to declare a natural calamity as a national calamity. The existing guidelines of State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)/ National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), do not contemplate declaring a disaster as a ‘National Calamity’.”

How, then, does the government classify disasters/calamities?

  • The 10th Finance Commission (1995-2000) examined a proposal that a disaster be termed “a national calamity of rarest severity” if it affects one-third of the population of a state.
  • The panel did not define a “calamity of rare severity” but stated that a calamity of rare severity would necessarily have to be adjudged on a case-to-case basis taking into account, inter-alia, the intensity and magnitude of the calamity, level of assistance needed, the capacity of the state to tackle the problem, the alternatives and flexibility available within the plans to provide succour and relief, etc.
  • The flash floods in Uttarakhand and Cyclone Hudhud were later classified as calamities of “severe nature”.

What happens if a calamity is so declared?

  • When a calamity is declared to be of “rare severity”/”severe nature”, support to the state government is provided at the national level. The Centre also considers additional assistance from the NDRF. A Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) is set up, with the corpus shared 3:1 between Centre and state.
  • When resources in the CRF are inadequate, additional assistance is considered from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF), funded 100% by the Centre. Relief in repayment of loans or for grant of fresh loans to the persons affected on concessional terms, too, are considered once a calamity is declared “severe”.

How is the funding decided?

  • As per the National Policy on Disaster Management, 2009, the National Crisis Management Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary deals with major crises that have serious or national ramifications.
  • For calamities of severe nature, inter-ministerial central teams are deputed to the affected states for assessment of damage and relief assistance required.
  • An inter-ministerial group, headed by the Union Home Secretary, studies the assessment and recommends the quantum of assistance from the NDRF/National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF).
  • Based on this, a high-level committee comprising the Finance Minister as chairman and the Home Minister, Agriculture Minister, and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman as members approves the central assistance.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Science & Technology

Chandrayaan-I data confirms ice on moon: NASA

Scientists have found frozen water deposits in the darkest and coldest parts of the Moon’s polar regions using data from the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, that was launched by India 10 years ago.

Chandrayaan-I-data-confirms-ice-on-moon

  • Scientists used data from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument to identify three specific signatures that definitively prove there is water ice at the surface of the Moon.

Key findings:

  • With enough ice sitting at the surface — within the top few millimetres — water would possibly be accessible as a resource for future expeditions to explore and even stay on the Moon, and potentially easier to access than the water detected beneath the Moon’s surface.
  • The ice deposits are patchily distributed and could possibly be ancient. At the southern pole, most of the ice is concentrated at lunar craters, while the northern pole’s ice is more widely, but sparsely spread.
  • Most of the new-found water ice lies in the shadows of craters near the poles, where the warmest temperatures never reach above minus 156 degrees Celsius. Due to the very small tilt of the Moon’s rotation axis, sunlight never reaches these regions.

What is Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument?

Moon-Mineralogy-Mapper-info

  • M3, aboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, launched in 2008 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was uniquely equipped to confirm the presence of solid ice on the Moon.
  • It collected data that not only picked up the reflective properties we would expect from ice, but was able to directly measure the distinctive way its molecules absorb infrared light, so it can differentiate between liquid water or vapour and solid ice.

About the Chandrayaan-1:

Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to Moon, was launched successfully on October 22, 2008 from SDSC SHAR, Sriharikota.

iastoppers--Chandrayaan-1

  • The spacecraft was orbiting around the Moon at a height of 100 km from the lunar surface for chemical, mineralogical and photo-geologic mapping of the Moon.
  • The Chandrayaan-1 mission performed high-resolution remote sensing of the moon in visible, near infrared (NIR), low energy X-rays and high-energy X-ray regions.
  • One of the objectives was to prepare a three-dimensional atlas (with high spatial and altitude resolution) of both near and far side of the moon.
  • It aimed at conducting chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface for distribution of mineral and chemical elements such as Magnesium, Aluminium, Silicon, Calcium, Iron and Titanium as well as high atomic number elements such as Radon, Uranium and Thorium with high spatial resolution.
  • The spacecraft carried 11 scientific instruments built in India, USA, UK, Germany, Sweden and Bulgaria.
[Ref: The Hindu, ISRO]

 

World’s largest 3D printed coral reef installed at Maldives island resort

In an exciting development, the world’s largest 3D printed coral reef has been submerged at Summer Island Maldives, a vacation resort on the Indian Ocean nation.

world’s-largest-3-D-printed-reef-2

About the experiment:

  • It is the experimental project in the Maldives which aims to help coral reefs survive the ravages of climate change and warming waters.
  • The artificial reef, assembled with hundreds of ceramic and concrete modules, was submerged at Summer Island’s ‘Blue Lagoon’ — a sandy part of the lagoon, where the resort hopes to create a new coral reef ecosystem.
  • The experiment was aimed at increasing their resilience and longevity against the ongoing environmental rampage.
  • The ceramic structures built closely resemble the original structures found in the Maldives. Ceramic itself is made of calcium carbonate, the same inert substance that occurs in abundance in corals.

Significance of 3D printing technology in such experiment:

  • Bleaching poses the most potent danger to corals, which used to abound in the Pacific Ocean and colour its waters in different hues. With imminent threats like increasing temperatures of water bodies and disposal of chemical wastes in oceans, 3D printing technology is hoped to offer a safety net for corals, for posterity.
  • The technology allows to mimic the complexity of natural reef structures, so as to design artificial reefs that closely resemble those found in nature. This will be a more effective way of growing and restoring corals.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), refers to various processes used to synthesize a three-dimensional object

  • A 3D printer is a type of industrial robot.
  • In 3D printing, successive layers of material are formed under computer control to create an object.
  • These objects can be of almost any shape or geometry and are produced from a 3D model or other electronic data source.

Medical Applications of 3D Printing:

  • 3D printers are used to manufacture a variety of medical devices. They have the capacity to print medical devices with complex geometry or features that match a patient’s unique anatomy.
  • Some devices are printed from a standard design to make multiple identical copies of the same device.
  • Other devices are created from a specific patient’s imaging data. Those devices are called patient-matched or patient-specific.
  • Commercially available 3D printed medical devices include:
  1. Instrumentation (e.g., guides to assist with proper surgical placement of a device),
  2. Implants (e.g., cranial plates or hip joints), and
  3. External prostheses (e.g., hands).

Background:

  • The Maldives is one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable nations. Rising sea temperatures pose a grave threat to the world’s coral reefs, and mass bleaching events are becoming more common and more severe.
  • Summer Island Maldives has implemented a number of recent environmental initiatives, including the adoption of solar energy, a ban on the use of plastic straws, phasing out imported drinking water, and coral conservation projects.

About Maldives:

Maldives map

  • Maldives is a South Asian island country, located in the Indian Ocean, situated in the Arabian Sea.
  • It lies southwest of Sri Lanka and India.
  • The chain of 26 atolls stretches from Ihavandhippolhu Atoll in the north to the Addu City in the south.
  • Maldives is one of the world’s most geographically dispersed countries, as well as the smallest Asian country by both land area and population.
  • It is the world’s lowest country, with even its highest natural point being the lowest in the world.
  • The Maldives archipelago is located atop the Chagos-Maldives-Laccadive Ridge, a vast submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean, which also forms a terrestrial ecoregion, together with the Chagos and the Lakshadweep.
[Ref: The Hindu, Times of India]

 

NASA’s InSight spacecraft crosses halfway mark to Mars

NASA’s InSight spacecraft, en route to land on Mars this November, has passed the halfway mark, covering 277 million kilometres since its launch 107 days ago.

NASA's-InSight-spacecraft-crosses

  • In another 98 days, it will travel another 208 million kilometres and touch down in Mars’ Elysium Planitia region, where it will be the first mission to study the Red Planet’s deep interior.

About InSight:

Insight-Mission-Overview

  • InSight is solar and battery-powered terrestrial planet explorer (robotic lander) that aims to address one of most fundamental issues of planetary and solar system science.
  • It will help in understanding processes that shaped rocky planets of inner solar system (including Earth) more than four billion years ago. The lander is expected to land on Mars in November 2018.
  • The mission was envisaged as part of NASA’s Discovery Program mission that aims to place stationary lander equipped with seismometer and heat transfer probe on surface of Mars to study red planet’s early geological evolution. The lander is designed to operate for 26 Earth months, or one year on Mars.
  • The robotic lander will perform a radio science experiment to study internal structure of Mars by deploying Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (seismometer) and Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (burrowing heat probe).
  • It will measure Mar’s vital signs such as pulse (seismology), temperature (heat flow probe) and reflexes (precision tracking). It will let scientists understand how different its crust, mantle and core are from Earth.
[Ref: Economic Times, Indian Express]

 

NASA Spacecraft Begins Final Approach to Big Asteroid Bennu

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has begun its final approach toward the big near-Earth asteroid Bennu.

OSIRIS-REx benu

  • The milestone also marks the official start of OSIRIS-REx’s “asteroid operations” mission phase.
  • OSIRIS-REx is still about 1.2 million miles (2 million kilometers) from Bennu and won’t arrive in orbit around the 1,650-foot-wide (500 meters) space rock until Dec. 3.

About the OSIRIS-REx Mission:

  • The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS REx) is a planned NASA asteroid study and sample return mission.

OSIRIS REx

Aim of the mission:

  • The mission is to study asteroid 101955 Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid (formerly designated 1999 RQ36) and in 2023 to return to Earth a sample for detailed analysis.

Significance of the mission:

  • Material returned is expected to enable scientists to learn more about the time before the formation and evolution of the Solar System, initial stages of planet formation, and the source of organic compounds which led to the formation of life.

Why was Bennu chosen as the target destination asteroid for OSIRIS-REx?

The science team took into account three criteria: accessibility, size and composition.

Bennu, a large near-Earth asteroid

Accessibility:

Scientists at NASA need an asteroid that they can easily travel to, retrieve a sample from and return to Earth, all within a few years’ time. The closest asteroids are called near-Earth objects and they travel within 1.3 Astronomical Units (AU) of the sun. (One Astronomical Unit is approximately equal to the distance between the sun and the Earth: ~93 million miles).

For a mission like OSIRIS-REx, the most accessible asteroids are somewhere between 0.08 – 1.6 AU. Scientists also needed to make sure that those asteroids have a similar orbit to Earth. Bennu fit this criterion.

Size

Scientists at NASA need an asteroid the right size to perform two critical portions of the mission: operations close to the asteroid and the actual sample collection from the surface of the asteroid. Bennu is roughly spherical and has a rotation period of 4.3 hours, which fits size criteria.

Asteroids with small diameters rotate more rapidly than those with large diameters. With a diameter less than 200 meters, an asteroid spins so rapidly that the loose material on its surface (regolith) can be ejected from it. The ideal asteroid has a diameter larger than 200 m so that a spacecraft can safely come into contact with it and collect a sufficient regolith sample. This size requirement reduced the number of candidate asteroids from 192 to 26.

iastoppers-why-bennu

Composition

Asteroids are divided into different types based on their chemical composition. In the visible and infrared light minerals have unique signatures or colors, much like fingerprints. Scientists use these fingerprints to identify molecules, like organics.

The most primitive asteroids are carbon-rich and have not significantly changed since they formed nearly 4 billion years ago. These asteroids contain organic molecules, volatiles, and amino acids that may have been the precursors to life on Earth. Of the 26 asteroids left on the list, only 12 had a known composition, and only 5 were primitive and carbon-rich.

[Ref: TOI, NASA]

 

Key Facts for Prelims

Re-Water Research Center

Re-Water-Research-Center-IIT

  • Indian Instituted of Technology (IIT)-Kharagpur has decided to set up Re-Water Research Center to replenish and rejuvenate water resources.
  • The purpose of this centre will be to tackle challenge of resolving two burning issues faced by urban India – sewage disposal and access to clean potable water.
  • It will network with government bodies to take up technology developed by it and process and meet the water challenge faced by various cities.

 

General Suhag awarded US ‘Legion of Merit’

Former Army General Dalbir Singh Suhag awarded Legion of Merit by US Government for his exceptionally meritorious service as Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) from August 2014 to December 2016. 

Gen_Dalbir_Singh-Legion-of-Merit-suhag

  • After General Rajendrasinghji Jadeja (in 1946), Suhag becomes second Indian to get this award.
  • During his official visit to US in April 2016, due to procedural delays in obtaining necessary government sanction for award presentation had resulted in this not being presented to him.

About Legion of Merit:

Legion-of-Merit-logo

  • Legion of Merit is military award of United States Armed Forces given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in performance of outstanding services and achievements.
  • It is awarded to members of the seven uniformed services of the United States as well as to military and political figures of foreign governments.
  • US Congress Act allows US President award to Legion of Merit personnel armed forces of friendly foreign nations for their exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services.

Article 18 and abolition of titles:

  • Article 18 (4) of Constitution (Abolition of titles): It says that no person holding any office of profit or trust under State shall, without consent of President, accept any present, emolument, or office of any kind from or under any foreign State.
[Ref: Times of India]

 

SAFF U-15 women’s championship

SAFF-U-15-women's-championship

About South Asian Football Federation (SAFF):

South Asian Football Federation logo

  • SAFF is an association of the football playing nations in South Asia.
  • This federation was founded in 1997 and is by-product of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), a regional organization of seven nations of South Asia region which was established in 1985.
  • It is part of the larger Asian Football Confederation.
  • Its founding members are Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
  • Afghanistan joined the federation in 2005. However, in February 2015, Afghanistan had officially left SAFF.
  • Now SAFF has total seven participating nations Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

Why in news?

  • India won South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Under-15 Women’s Championship.

 

21 August: World Senior Citizens Day

World-Senior-Citizens-day-2018

  • The World Senior Citizens Day is celebrated every year on 21 August across the world raise awareness of the condition of elder people and support them through the process of senescence.
  • The day was officially established by former president of United States Ronald Reagan in 1988.
  • Later United Nations General Assembly on 14th of December 1990 proclaimed to observe 21 August as World Senior Citizens Day.

 

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