Current Affairs Analysis

23rd January 2018 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Mass cull of coral-eating starfish to save Great Barrier Reef; National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC); National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF); Surat emerges as leading ‘solar smart city’ in country; Akshay Urja; First International Dam Safety Conference; Dam Health and Rehabilitation Monitoring Application (DHARMA); Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP); Super-continent Nuna; Parker Solar Probe; First Ladies Awards; Agriculture Ministers’ Conference; Rocket Lab; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
January 23, 2018


Polity & Governance

  • National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation Conference


  • First NIIF investment: To set up $3-billion platform with DP World

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Surat emerges as leading ‘solar smart city’ in country
  • Australia launches mass cull of coral-eating starfish to save Great Barrier Reef
  • First International Dam Safety Conference

Geophysical Phenomena

  • Scientists discover a piece of America in Australia

Science & Technology

  • Parker Solar Probe: Testing Starts on ‘Touch the Sun’ Spacecraft

Key Facts for Prelims

  • First Ladies Awards
  • Agriculture Ministers’ Conference
  • Rocket Lab

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Polity & Governance

National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation Conference

A National Conference of the State channelizing Agencies, Public Sector Banks and Regional Rural Banks of National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC) was recently held.


  • During the conference, the participating agencies were asked to better coordinate with NHFDC and Channelising agencies for the smooth and better implementation of NHFDC Schemes for the benefit of larger number of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan).
  • In the Conference, incentive cheques were also given to the best performing SCAs/PSBs/RRBs of NHFDC.

About National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC):

NHFDC has been set up by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India on 24th January 1997.

National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation iastoppers

  • The company is registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 as a Company not for profit.
  • It is wholly owned by Government of India.
  • It has an authorised share capital of Rs. 400 crores. 
  • The company is managed by Board of Directors nominated by Government of India.
  • NHFDC functions as an Apex institution for channelizing the funds to persons with disabilities through the State Channelizing Agencies (SCAs) nominated by the State Government.
[Ref: PIB]



First NIIF investment: To set up $3-billion platform with DP World

The National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) has made its first investment by partnering with Dubai-based ports operator DP World Pvt. Ltd to create $3-billion investment platform for ports, terminals, transportation and logistics businesses in India.


  • The platform will invest in opportunities in ports sector and beyond sea ports into areas such as river ports and transportation, port-led special economic zones, freight corridors, inland container terminals, and logistics infrastructure including cold storage.

First NIIF investment ias

About National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF):

Proposed in Union Budget 2015, National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) has been set up in last month of 2015.

ias toppers National Investment and Infrastructure Fund info

  • The objective of NIIF is to maximize economic impact mainly through infrastructure development in commercially viable projects, both greenfield and brownfield, including stalled projects, NIIF would solicit equity participation from strategic anchor partners.
  • The Fund aims to attract investment from both domestic and international sources.
  • The objective of NIIF is to maximize economic impact mainly through infrastructure development in commercially viable projects, both greenfield and brownfield, including stalled projects, NIIF would solicit equity participation from strategic anchor partners.
  • NIIF has been structured as a fund of funds and set up as Category II Alternate Investment Fund (AIF) under the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) Regulations.
  • It is a Rs. 40000 crore fund to provide long term capital for infrastructure projects.
  • The government’s contribution would be limited to 49% of the subscribed capital.
  • The government will seek participation from strategic investors such as sovereign fund, quasi sovereign funds and multilateral or bilateral investors, which can help leverage this fund to many times.
  • Cash-rich PSUs, pension funds, provident funds, National Small Saving Fund will be able to pick up stake in the fund.

National Investment and Infrastructure Fund 1234 ias

[Ref: PIB, Indian Express]


Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Surat emerges as leading ‘solar smart city’ in country

The Diamond City, Surat has emerged as the country’s leading solar smart city.


  • Surat emerged as the leading solar smart city as per Akshay Urja, the bimonthly newsletter of the ministry of new and renewable energy.


  • A recent article in Akshay Urja says the Diamond City is among one of the few cities in India to have met the expectations in the field of renewable energy after the launch of ‘Smart Cities Mission’ by GoI in 2015.
  • The guidelines of the ministry of urban development (MoUD), which identified 100 smart cities in the country, said at least 10 per cent of the smart city’s energy requirement should be met by solar power only.

Why Surat is the leading ‘solar smart city’?

  • Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) had sought out project management consultancy of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi, for carrying out feasibility studies and implementation of solar and energy efficiency projects.
  • TERI estimated that of the rooftop potential of 11,924 mega watt (MW) to be distributed among various smart cities of the country, nearly 418 MW or 3.5 per cent existed in Surat.
[Ref: Economic Times]


Australia launches mass cull of coral-eating starfish to save Great Barrier Reef

In a push to preserve the World Heritage-listed ecosystem, the Australian government has announced a multimillion-dollar campaign to stop the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish devouring the Great Barrier Reef.


Need of such move:

  • The reef, off the north-east coast of the state of Queensland, has faced heavy coral damage in recent years from bleaching and warmer water temperatures as well as coastal development, agricultural and industrial pollution, storms and the starfish.
  • Surveys by the Australian Institute of Marine Science found that coral cover declined by about 50 per cent between 1985 and 2012, and that crown-of-thorns starfish were responsible for almost half of this decline.
  • The reef is also reeling from significant coral bleaching due to warming sea temperatures linked to climate change.
  • Following the heavy coral bleaching in recent years, the number of tourists reduced.


  • However, the coral-eating starfish are naturally occurring but have proliferated due to pollution and agricultural run-off at the struggling reef.


What’s the plan?

  • Most of the funding would be going to supporting farmers stopping runoff off their properties.
  • The plan includes £21 million to prevent pollution from entering the reef, particularly from surrounding farms, as well as £6 million for an “all-out assault on coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish” and £3.5 million for research into improving the resilience of coral.
  • Funds will also go towards increasing the number of patrol vessels and divers targeting the starfish.

About crown-of-thorns starfish:

The crown-of-thorns starfish is a large, multiple-armed starfish that usually preys upon hard, or stony, coral polyps.


  • The crown-of-thorns starfish receives its name from venomous thorn-like spines that cover its upper surface, resembling the biblical crown of thorns.
  • It is one of the largest starfish in the world.
  • It has a very wide Indo-Pacific distribution.
  • It is perhaps most common in Australia but can occur at tropical and subtropical latitudes from the Red Sea and the east African coast across the Indian Ocean, and across the Pacific Ocean to the west coast of Central America.
  • It occurs where coral reefs or hard coral communities occur in this region.

About Great Barrier Reef:


  • The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system.
  • It is composed of over 2900 individual reefs and 900 islands.
  • The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
  • The reef is so vast that it can be seen from outer space.
  • It is also the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps.
  • In 1981, it was selected as a World Heritage Site.
  • A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact of human use.
[Ref: The Hindu, Economic Times]


First International Dam Safety Conference

The first International Dam Safety Conference-2018 was held in Kovalam, Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) from January 23-24, 2018.


Organized by:

  • This Conference is organized under aegis of ongoing Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP).
  • It was organized jointly by Central Water Commission (CWC), Kerala Water Resources Department (KWRD), National Institute of Technology, Calicut (NITC), and College of Engineering, Trivandrum (CET).


  • Dam safety conferences are organized as an annual event under the Dam Safety Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP) project.

About Dam Health and Rehabilitation Monitoring Application (DHARMA)

  • A software programme known as Dam Health and Rehabilitation Monitoring Application (DHARMA) was also launched to document authentic asset and health information pertaining to the large dams in the country.
  • DHARMA is a web tool to help dam owners to digitise all dam-related data effectively, store, monitor and take appropriate actions to ensure need-based rehabilitation.
  • It is a new stride in asset management aspect by India.

About DRIP:

The Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), Government of India, with assistance from the World Bank, is implementing the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP).


  • DRIP is a project involving 9 implementing agencies (IAs) across seven states of India (Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, and Jharkhand) and targets rehabilitation of about 225 dam projects across the country.
  • The Project is also facilitating the institutional strengthening of the implementing agencies for sustainable dam safety initiatives.
  • The project will also promote new technologies and improve Institutional capacities for dam safety evaluation and implementation at the Central and State levels and in some identified premier academic and research institutes of the country.
  • The Central Dam Safety Organisation of Central Water Commission, assisted by a Consulting firm, is coordinating and supervising the Project implementation.
  • The preparation of Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for all DRIP dams is one of the important activities under DRIP. This document defines clear roles for all concern agencies as well as Standard Operating Protocols during various stage of exigencies, as well as contains all technical details about the flood waves moving downstream affecting the downstream habitation.

The project development objectives of DRIP are:

  1. To improve the safety and performance of selected existing dams and associated appurtenances in a sustainable manner, and
  2. To strengthen the dam safety institutional setup in participating states as well as at central level.
[Ref: PIB]


Geophysical Phenomena

Scientists discover a piece of America in Australia

Researchers have discovered rocks in Queensland, Australia that bear striking similarities to those found in North America, suggesting that a chunk of Australia was actually part of America 1.7 billion years ago.


  • The research found that the rocks have signatures that are unknown in Australia and instead have a surprising resemblance to those found in Canada today.

Queensland, Australia ias

About the findings:

  • Research shows that about 1.7 billion years ago, Georgetown rocks were deposited into a shallow sea when the region was part of North America.
  • Georgetown then broke away from North America and collided with the Mount Isa region of northern Australia around 100 million years later.
  • This was a critical part of global continental reorganisation when almost all continents on Earth assembled to form the supercontinent called Nuna.


Significance of these findings:

  • The findings are significant as they unlock important information about the 6 billion year old super-continent Nuna.

About Nuna:

  • Nuna, also known as Columbia, was estimated to be around 12900 km from North to South at the widest part, reports Space Daily.
  • Nuna was made up of more than just Canada and parts of Australia, however, with the eastern coast of India attached to western North America as well.
  • At this point in our planet’s history, South America was rotated in such a way that the western edge of Brazil ended up lined up with eastern North America.
  • The stitching together of these combined land masses gave us the supercontinent known as Nuna.
  • Nuna predates Pangea dating back to 1.5-2.5 billion years ago.
[Ref: Hindustan Times, Economic Times]


Science & Technology

Parker Solar Probe: Testing Starts on ‘Touch the Sun’ Spacecraft

NASA has begun testing its new probe- Parker solar probe- that will ‘touch the sun’, when it launches into space this summer.


About NASA’s Parker Solar Probe:

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will be the first-ever mission to “touch” the sun.


  • To trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and
  • To explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles.


  • Determine structure and dynamics of magnetic fields at sources of solar wind.
  • Trace flow of energy that heats corona and accelerates solar wind.
  • Determine what mechanisms accelerate and transport energetic particles.
  • Explore dusty plasma near Sun and its influence on solar wind and energetic particle formation.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe iastoppers

Key facts about the probe:

  • The spacecraft, about the size of a small car, will travel directly into the sun’s atmosphere about 6.2 million miles from our star’s surface.
  • It is scheduled for launch in 2018 to explore the Sun’s outer atmosphere.
  • The probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun.
  • The Parker Solar Probe will perform its scientific investigations in a hazardous region of intense heat and solar radiation.
  • The primary power for mission is dual system of solar panels (photovoltaic array). Secondary source consists of much smaller secondary array power that uses pumped-fluid cooling to maintain operating temperature.

Solar shadow-shield

  • The spacecraft is designed to endure harsh environment near Sun, by approaching within 8.5 solar radii (5.9 million kilometers) to ‘surface’ (photosphere) of Sun where incident solar intensity is approximately 520 times intensity at Earth orbit.
  • It will be protected by solar shadow-shield made of reinforced carbon-carbon composite.
  • The spacecraft systems and scientific instruments are located in central portion of shield’s shadow, where direct radiation from Sun is fully blocked.
[Ref: Economic Times]


Key Facts for Prelims

First Ladies Awards

President Ram Nath Kovind honoured 112 women with the inaugural First Ladies Awards.


  • The award is instituted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
  • The awards honour women who are the first to set a milestone in their fields. The awardees were from across the country, representing various fields.
  • This ‘First Ladies’ is second leg of the ‘100 Women Achievers’ campaign of the Ministry.


Some awardees include:


  • Deepa Malik: First woman to win a medal at the Paralympics;
  • Nicole Faria: Winner of the Miss earth title;
  • Priya Jhingan: First Lady Cadet to join the Indian Army;
  • Bachendri Pal: First Indian woman to reach the Mount Everest summit;
  • P V Sindhu: Olympic silver medallist
  • Diana Edulji: First ODI captain of the first ever Indian Women’s Cricket Team.
  • Karnam Malleswari: Olympic medal winning weightlifter
  • Anshu Jamsenpa: First Indian woman to scale Mt Everest for fifth time.
  • Chhavi Rajawat: India’s first woman Sarpanch



  • Earlier in 2015, the Ministry of Women and Child Development had collaborated with Facebook to recognize ‘100 Women Achievers’ who outshined in their respective career fields and diverse sectors of public work.
  • Besides, every year on March 8 (Women’s Day), WCD Ministry honours Nari Shakti Puruskars to those women who have contributed to society but have remained unsung.
[Ref: PIB]


Agriculture Ministers’ Conference


  • Agriculture Ministers’ Conference was recently held in Berlin, Germany under the auspices of the 10th Global Forum for Food and Agriculture in Germany.
  • The conference was organised with the theme of “Shaping the Future of Livestock – Sustainably, Responsibly, Efficiently”.
  • It was attended by 69 agricultural ministers and heads of 6 international organisations including FAO, WTO and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
  • The conference affirmed to the role of ICT technologies as an important tool to agriculture, for example in improving water-use efficiency.


Rocket Lab


  • A U.S. space startup has become the first ever private company to successfully send satellites into orbit without the help of a government agency, paving the way for a “new era” of commercial access to space.
  • Rocket Lab, which is headquartered in Los Angeles, deployed three satellites on only the second test launch of its Electron orbital launch vehicle


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