Polity & Governance
- Gujarat CM launches ‘Smart Village’
- India’s Gulf remittances fall by 2.2%
Environment & Ecology
- Why sea ice cover around Antarctica is rising
- Water staircases in seas
- India, Oman sign four MoUs on defence cooperation
Art & Culture
- Gaya-model lantern in Colombo
Science & Technology
- India successfully launches reusable launch vehicle RLV-TD
Polity & Governance
Gujarat CM launches ‘Smart Village’
Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel has recently launched the ‘Smart Village’ project.
- The project entails special grants apart from the annual allotments for introducing new technologies for smooth governance and public health.
- These funds will be directly put into the village account provided villages are able to convince the government that they have no FIRs registered in the last three years, zero drop-out rate in schools, free of open defecation and several such parameters.
India’s Gulf remittances fall by 2.2%
According to a Crisil report, remittances from the Gulf nations to India have declined for the first time in six years due to sliding oil prices.
- Remittances have fallen by 2.2% in 2015-16.
- This fall has also resulted in a contraction of oil imports.
- According to the report, falling oil prices have had a sweeping impact on the oil producing economies of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), severely denting their oil revenues and spending by both governments and households.
India’s remittance income from the GCC:
- More than half of India’s remittance income comes from the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).
- India’s dependence on remittances and the resultant vulnerability is much lower than some of its Asian peers who receive similar proportions of remittances from GCC countries.
- Remittances make up 3.7% of India’s GDP, compared with 28% cent in Nepal, 9.7% in Sri Lanka, and 6.5% in Pakistan.
Environment & Ecology
Why sea ice cover around Antarctica is rising
A new NASA-led study has found why the sea ice cover surrounding Antarctica has been increasing slightly, in sharp contrast to the drastic loss of sea ice occurring in the Arctic Ocean.
- The study has found the geology of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is responsible for this rise.
Instruments used in the study:
- The researchers used satellite radar, sea surface temperature, land form and bathymetry (ocean depth) data to study the physical processes and properties affecting Antarctic sea ice.
- The team also used QuikScat radar data to classify the different types of Antarctic sea ice. Older, thicker sea ice returns a stronger radar signal than younger, thinner ice does.
- According to the study, two persistent geological factors (a) the topography of Antarctica and (b) the depth of the ocean surrounding it — are influencing winds and ocean currents, respectively, to drive the formation and evolution of Antarctica’s sea ice cover and help sustain it.
- The study revealed that as sea ice forms and builds up early in the sea ice growth season, it gets pushed offshore and northward by winds, forming a protective shield of older, thicker ice that circulates around the continent.
- The persistent winds, which flow down slope off the continent and are shaped by Antarctica’s topography, pile ice up against the massive ice shield, enhancing its thickness.
- This band of ice, which varies in width from roughly 100 to 1,000 km, encapsulates and protects younger, thinner ice in the ice pack behind it from being reduced by winds and waves.
- They found the sea ice within the protective shield was older and rougher (due to longer exposure to wind and waves), and thicker (due to more snow accumulation).
- As the sea ice cover expands and ice drifts away from the continent, areas of open water form behind it on the sea surface, creating “ice factories” conducive to rapid sea ice growth, the researchers said.
Water staircases in seas
A theoretical study indicates that large-scale waves within the ocean can travel through “staircases” of water density, a motion that could enhance ice melting at the surface.
- This is a possible mechanism by which the upper layers of the Arctic Ocean warm up, causing the ice to melt.
What are water staircases?
- Water staircases are step-like variations of density of water due to step-like changes in temperature and salinity.
How they affect the temperature of seas?
- According to a research, internal waves, which move vertically through the ocean, sometimes pass through water staircases in such as manner as to churn up the underlying warm, salty water, thereby increasing the temperature of the top, cooler layers.
Where do internal waves exist?
- Internal waves exist where the density gradually increases with depth. They cannot propagate where the density is uniform.
How Arctic Ocean is being affected by this mechanism?
- The Arctic Ocean has inflows coming from the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean. In this, the top layers consist of cooler and less saline water and below that is a layer of water coming from the Atlantic Ocean which is more saline and warmer, too. The effect of salinity wins over that of temperature and so, though the water below is warmer, it is heavier than the cooler, less saline layer on top.
- Warm, but salty water — ultimately originating from the Atlantic Ocean resides near the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. If turbulence could somehow mix this water with that above, then, eventually, the surface could warm more rapidly, and this would increase the rate of sea-ice melt.
How do sea-ice melting result into global warming?
- Ice reflects 80 percent of sunlight while the ocean absorbs up to 90 percent of sunlight. Less ice cover makes the planet vulnerable to more heat from the sun’s rays, which accelerates global warming.
Receding ice also has serious impacts on local habitats, ecosystems, and indigenous communities.[Ref: Hindu]
India, Oman sign four MoUs on defence cooperation
During the recent visit of Defence minister Manohar Parrikar to Oman, four memorandums of understanding (MoUs) and a protocol were signed between the two nations.
Four MoUs are:
- An MOU on defence cooperation between the ministry of defence of Sultanate of Oman and Ministry of Defence of Republic of India
- An MoU was signed between the Royal Oman Police (Coast Guard) and the Indian Coast Guard in the field of marine crime prevention at sea.
- An MoU was signed on maritime issues and
- A protocol between Oman represented by Royal Air Force of Oman and India represented by the Indian Air Force was signed on flight safety information exchange.
India attaches high importance to its strategic partnership with Oman.
- Defence cooperation is a key facet of their bilateral strategic partnership, which is based on historical ties as well as mutual trust and shared interests.
- Oman helps India for the Operational Turnaround (OTR) of Indian Navy ships for anti-piracy patrols as well as technical support for landing and over flight of Indian Air Force aircraft.
Art & Culture
Gaya-model lantern in Colombo
A Vesak lantern kept near Gangaramaya temple in Colombo, Sri Lanka this year has attracted many tourists as it has been modelled on the “stupa” at the Mahabodhi temple in Gaya, Bihar.
- Lanterns are an integral part of the Vesak Poya festival (Full Moon in May), which is celebrated to mark three important events in the life of Buddha — birth, enlightenment and death.
About Vesak Poya festival:
- Vesak is a religious and cultural festival in Sri Lanka. It is celebrated on the day of the full moon in the month of May.
- Vesak Day is one of the biggest days of the year and is celebrated by Buddhists all over the world.
- Buddhists commemorate the important events that took place in the life of Lord Buddha on this day.
- First comes the birth of Siddhartha Gautama in Lumbini in Nepal which took place under the arbor of Sat trees where queen Mahamaya gave birth to him.
- The second event was Siddharta Gautam’s supreme attainment as the Buddha, the Enlightened One.
- The third event was Lord Buddha’s Parinibbana over 2500 years ago at Kusinagar.
Apart from Sri Lanka, many Asian countries including India, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan celebrate Vesak.
About the Mahabodhi temple, Bihar:
- The Mahabodhi temple, one of the oldest brick structures in eastern India, was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in June 2002.
- Located about 115 km south of Patna, the temple is regarded as one of the four holy sites related to the life of Buddha.
- According to the UNESCO, this was the first temple built by Emperor Asokain the 3rd century BC. However, the present temple is of the 5th-6th century CE, belonging to the late Gupta period.
- Another special feature is that the temple is believed to have had a significant influence on the development of brick architecture over the centuries.
Science & Technology
India successfully launches reusable launch vehicle RLV-TD
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched a Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) mission.
- The experiment is also known as hypersonic flight experiment.
Significance of the launch:
- The test launch is considered a significant step in India’s space endeavour. It’s especially important because in 2011, the U.S.’s Nasa abandoned its reusable space shuttle project.
- Being dubbed a complete ‘Made-in-India’ effort, the Reusable Launch-Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) is the first time that ISRO launches an indigenous space craft with delta wings.
- RLVs are being seen as the unanimous solution towards achieving low cost, reliable and on-demand space access.
No other country is currently operationally flying a winged spacecraft into space – the US retired its space shuttles in 2011 and the Russians flew theirs only once in 1989.
- The Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) is capable of launching satellites into orbit around earth and then re-enter the atmosphere.
- Built over five years by a team of 600 scientists, the project will also test the ability of the vehicle to withstand re-entry at speeds higher than that of sound.
- This was the first time that ISRO flew a winged body and brought it back to land on a make-shift runway.