- Government mulls converting unused airports into Special Economic Zones
Environment & Ecology
- Trekkers must take back trash from forests
- In defence of Kashmir’s unpopular poplars
- Tigers roar loud in Manas, population up 50% in 3 years
- No decision on India’s NSG membership as China remains adamant
- Protocol amending the Agreement between India and Belgium
Science & Technology
- Desert telescope zeroes-in on black hole
- China sets up first ‘dark sky’ reserve
Also in News
- International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
Government mulls converting unused airports into Special Economic Zones
The government is looking at converting some unused airports into special economic zones where aircraft leasing companies can park their planes and showcase them to potential customers.
- Besides, it would explore ways to reduce the cost of leasing aircraft as part of larger efforts to make the domestic aviation space more attractive.
- The new civil aviation policy, unveiled recently, provides for measures to enhance regional connectivity and reducing the cost of leasing would help this initiative.
- The Civil Aviation Ministry would look at the possibility of utilising certain unused airports for the purpose of parking aircraft and even use aerodromes for plane-breaking or dismantling of old aircraft.
- There are around 400 unused airports and airstrips across the country.
The new civil aviation policy:
- Recently, under the new civil aviation policy, the government allowed foreign investors to own up to 100 per cent stake in domestic carriers.
- However, the new FDI norm allows a foreign carrier to invest only up to 49 per cent to set up an airline in India. The rest can come from either local or foreign investors.
Environment & Ecology
Trekkers must take back trash from forests
As part of a Swachh Bharat Mission drive, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to do away with garbage bins in 10 prominent wildlife parks and make visitors take their litter home.
- This was done because people dropped litter around garbage bins, inviting animals and thus aggravating the man-animal conflict.
- The park compelled the visitors to arrange for jute bags to collect their trash.
Those 10 wildlife parks are:
- Jim Corbett National Park (Uttarakhand)
- Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary (Andhra Pradesh)
- Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park (Gujarat)
- Kanha Tiger Reserve (Madhya Pradesh)
- Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (Maharashtra)
- Flamingo Sanctuary (Maharashtra)
- Nagarhole Tiger Reserve (Karnataka)
- Periyar Tiger Reserve (Kerala)
- Sariska Tiger Reserve (Rajasthan)
- Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (Tamil Nadu)
In defence of Kashmir’s unpopular poplars
With around 16 million poplar trees facing the axe in Kashmir Valley following a High Court order, noted mathematician Fozia S. Qazi has started a campaign to “dispel the myths” that led to the systematic felling of the trees synonymous with the Valley landscape for decades.
- Qazi believes that the High Court’s decision to fell poplars is not only an “exceptional exercise but also a misinformed decision.”
- In 2014, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court first banned the sale, purchase and plantation of female Russian poplars (Populus deltoides) following a public outcry and medical warnings that their cotton shedding laden with pollen, during late spring was the main cause of allergies in Srinagar.
- Thereafter, lakhs of poplar trees were cut down across the Valley.
About poplar trees:
The poplar tree grows faster than the local species. It’s a source of livelihood for many because fruit boxes are made of it.
- It consumes water, purifies it more than any other tree and could be helpful for water bodies too.
- Poplars live up to 40 years and mature in just three years. They attain height up to 20-30 feet.
- Given its height, poplars stand distinctly in the landscape of Kashmir and dot most highways, forming a mesmerising canopy and fast becoming a tourist attraction too.
Tigers roar loud in Manas, population up 50% in 3 years
The second survey to monitor tigers across the Transboundary Manas Conservation Area (TraMCA) has thrown up 21 tigers — a heartwarming increase of 50% over the first survey in 2011-12 that had counted just 14 big cats in the Manas landscape.
- TraMCA covers Manas National Park (MNP) on the Indian side and the Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) in Bhutan.
- TraMCA, floated in 2008, is a joint initiative of India and Bhutan for trans-boundary biodiversity conservation.
- The latest Tiger monitoring, carried out by the MNP, RMNP, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), WWF-India and conservation group Aaaranyak last year, covered an area of 560 sq km across the two protected areas.
About Manas National Park:
Manas National Park or Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is a national park, UNESCO Natural World Heritage site, a Project Tiger reserve, an elephant reserve and a biosphere reserve in Assam, India.
- Located in the Eastern Himalaya foothills, it is contiguous with the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan.
- The name of the park is originated from the Manas River, which is a major tributary of Brahmaputra River, which passes through the heart of the national park. The Manas river splits into two separate rivers, the Beki and Bholkaduba as it reaches the plains.
- The Manas river also serves as an international border dividing India and Bhutan.
- The monsoon forests of Manas lie in the Brahmaputra Valley semi-evergreen forests ecoregion.
- The combination of Sub-Himalayan Bhabar Terai formation with riverine succession leading up to the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests makes it one of the richest biodiversity areas in the world.
- The fauna of the sanctuary includes Indian elephants, Indian rhinoceros, gaurs, Asian water buffaloes, barasingha, Indian tigers, Indian leopards, clouded leopards, Asian golden cats, dholes, capped langurs, golden langurs, Assamese macaques, slow loris, hoolock gibbons, smooth-coated otters, sloth bears, barking deers, hog deers, black panthers, sambar deers and chitals.
- The park is well known for species of rare and endangered wildlife that are not found anywhere else in the world like the Assam roofed turtle, hispid hare, golden langur and pygmy hog.
- Manas is famous for its population of the wild water buffalo.
- It has the largest population of the endangered Bengal florican to be found anywhere.
No decision on India’s NSG membership as China remains adamant
The plenary meeting of the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) ended with no decision on India’s membership bid as divisions persisted over admitting non-NPT members with China leading the opposition to it.
- China’s stand is that India’s membership applicationcannot be considered because it has not signed the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
- China was backed by nearly 10 other countries which effectively torpedoed India’s bid although it had the strong backing of the US, the UK, France and a majority of countries in the nuclear trading group.
- Meanwhile, Switzerland also took a U-turn on its stand and joined the group of countries that are opposing India’s entry into the elite nuclear group.
- India’s entry to the NSG was also opposed by Turkey, Austria, New Zealand, Ireland and Brazil.
- Seeking China’s support for India’s membership, Modi had urged Xi to make a “fair and objective” assessment of India’s application which is before the Seoul plenary as the two leaders met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit.
- Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a multinational body concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that may be applicable to nuclear weapon development and by improving safeguards and protection on existing materials.
- The NSG was founded in response to the Indian nuclear test in May 1974 to stop what it called the misuse of nuclear material meant for peaceful purposes.
- Currently, it has 48 members and European Commission is its Permanent Observer.
Protocol amending the Agreement between India and Belgium
The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of a Protocol amending the Agreement between India and Belgium for avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
- The amendment in the Protocol will broaden the scope of the existing framework of exchange of tax related information between the two countries, which will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance.
- The Protocol will also revise the existing treaty provisions on mutual assistance in collection of taxes.
Science & Technology
Desert telescope zeroes-in on black hole
Scientists have trained a massive telescope, named Gravity, in Chile’s Atacama Desert on a point some 24,000 light years away where a supermassive black hole is thought to lurk at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy.
- Gravity’s theorised target, Sagittarius A, is four million times more massive than our Sun, packed into an area smaller than the Solar System.
- To observe it up close, astronomers have combined the power of Europe’s four largest telescopes to create the most powerful instrument of its kind ever built ‘Gravity’.
What are Black holes?
Black holes are regions in space-time where mass is collapsed into such a small area that gravity takes over completely, and nothing, not even light, can escape — making them invisible.
- Their existence is inferred from the behaviour of objects nearby, including stars swirling around them as planets orbit our Sun.
- Black holes were theorised in Einstein’s gravity theory, which was published in 1915 and still forms a bedrock of modern physics.
China sets up first ‘dark sky’ reserve
China launched its first “dark sky reserve” for astronomical observation in the Tibetan prefecture of Ngari, bordering Nepal and India.
- The reserve covers an area of 2,500 square kilometre and aims to limit light pollution by stepping up protection of dark-sky resources for education and tourism development.
- It was jointly launched by the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation and the regional government of Tibet.
- The reserve will also try to seek accreditation from the International Dark-Sky Association, a non-profit organisation based in the US that is devoted to preserving and protecting the night time environment and dark skies globally.
- Ngari is among the best sites for astronomical observation on earth, due to its high altitude and large number of cloudless days throughout the year.
- However, the recent inflow of people from other areas has given rise to increasing urbanisation, and thus the associated risk of more light pollution.
Also in News
International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is a United Nations International Day against drug abuse and the illegal drug trade.
- It is observed annually on 26 June, since 1988, a date chosen to commemorate Lin Zexu’s dismantling of the opium trade in Humen, Guangdong, just before the First Opium War in China.
- The theme for the year 2016 is “Listen First”
- ‘Listen First’ is an initiative to increase support for prevention of drug use that is based on science and is thus an effective investment in the well-being of children and youth, their families and their communities.