Current Affairs Analysis

26th September 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS); Hydrogen fuel cell; Key Highlights of the revised guidelines on groundwater exploitation; Abstraction and restoration charges; Environmental compensation charge; Delhi–Ghaziabad–Meerut Corridor; National Capital Region Transport Corporation; Sajjangarh wildlife sanctuary; Lantana camara; Sandalwood Spike Disease; Sandalwood Trees; Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) prize; Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis; Comet 67P; Fridays For Future; etc.
By IASToppers
September 28, 2020

Contents

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Government notifies standards for safety evaluation of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles
  • Centre notifies revised guidelines for ground water use

Economy

  • Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS)

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Weeding out lantana restores grasslands in Rajasthan
  • Sandalwood Spike Disease

Science & Technology

  • Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) prize

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Dazzling comet
  • Fridays For Future

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Government Schemes & Policies

Government notifies standards for safety evaluation of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has notified standards for safety evaluation of hydrogen fuel cell-based vehicles.

  • Standards has notified through an amendment to Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.
  • This would facilitate the promotion of hydrogen fuel cell-based vehicles in the country, which are energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.

Hydrogen fuel cell

  • Hydrogen is considered an alternative fuel due to its ability to power fuel cells in zero-emission electric vehicles, its potential for domestic production, and the fuel cell’s potential for high efficiency.
  • Hydrogen fuel cells produce the electricity themselves. So, unlike in fully electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles, the vehicle doesn’t get its power from a built-in battery that can be charged from an external power source.

Mechanism

  • In fuel cell technology, a process known as reverse electrolysis takes place, in which hydrogen reacts with oxygen in the fuel cell.
  • The hydrogen comes from one or more tanks built into the vehicle, while the oxygen comes from the ambient air.
  • The only results of this reaction are electrical energy, heat and water, which is emitted through the exhaust as water vapor.
  • So hydrogen-powered cars are locally emission-free – more about that in a minute.
  • The electricity generated in the fuel cell of a hydrogen engine can take two routes, depending on the demands of the specific driving situation.
  • It either flows to the electric motor and powers the vehicle directly or it charges a battery, which stores the energy until it’s needed for the engine.
  • It is significantly smaller and lighter than the battery of a fully electric car, as it’s being constantly recharged by the fuel cell.

Applications

  • Production of electricity, heat and water for various end uses
  • Industrial applications
  • Vehicular transportation
  • Residential applications
  • Commercial applications, including in telecom towers for providing back-up power

Advantages of Hydrogen Fuel Cells

  • Readily available and doesn’t produce harmful emissions (environmental friendly)
  • Can be used as fuel in rockets
  • Fuel efficient
  • Renewable

Disadvantages of Hydrogen Fuel Cells

  • Expensive and difficult to store
  • Not easy to replace the existing infrastructure
  • Highly flammable and dependent on fossil fuels
[Ref: Economic Times]

Centre notifies revised guidelines for ground water use

With around one-sixth of assessed ground water units in the country facing ‘over-exploitation’, the Centre issued revised guidelines for groundwater use.

Key Highlights of the revised guidelines

  • Prohibits new industry and mining projects in ‘over-exploited’ zones.
  • Make mandatory for existing industries, commercial units and big housing societies to take ‘no objection certificate’ (NOC) under ‘expanded compliance conditions’.
    • Such NOC holders will now have to pay groundwater “abstraction and restoration charges” based on the quantum of extraction unlike old provision where they had to just pay a nominal lumpsum amount.
  • Industries and mining projects will also have to pay an ‘environmental compensation charge’, fixed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), for not obtaining NOCs under the new conditions.
  • Residential societies will have to install sewage treatment plants (STPs) for getting NOCs if their groundwater requirement is more than 20 m3 /day. Under the condition, water from STPs will be utilised for toilet flushing, car washing, gardening, etc.
    • However, NOCs will be granted to the housing societies only in such cases where the local government agency is unable to supply the requisite amount of water.
  • Exempted sector from obtaining NOC for groundwater extraction: Agriculture sector,individual domestic consumers in both rural and urban areas for drinking water and domestic uses, rural drinking water supply schemes, Armed Forces establishments, Central Armed Police Forces establishments and micro and small enterprises, drawing groundwater less than 10 cum/day.

Need:

  • Currently, 1,186 out of 6,881 assessment units in the country are ‘over-exploited’ – it means those units where groundwater extraction exceeded the annually replenishable groundwater recharge.
    • Out of the total 6,881 assessment units, 1186 units (17%) have been categorised as ‘over-exploited’, 313 units (5%) as ‘critical’, 972 as ‘semi-critical’ units (14%) and 4310 units (63%) as ‘safe’.
  • Majority of the over-exploited units are concentrated in parts of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, western UP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu.
[Ref: Times of India]

Economy

Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS)

Recently, the Government unveiled the first look of India’s first RRTS train.

About RRTS

  • RRTS is a new, dedicated, high speed, high capacity, comfortable commuter service connecting regional nodes in NCR.
  • RRTS is different from conventional Railway as it will provide reliable, high frequency, point to point regional travel at high speed along a dedicated pathway.
  • RRTS is different from the metro as it caters to passengers looking to travel a relatively long distance with fewer stops and at higher speed.

About Delhi–Ghaziabad–Meerut Corridor

  • The 82 km long Delhi–Ghaziabad–Meerut Corridor is the first RRTS corridor being implemented in India.
    • The corridor will bring down the travel time between Delhi to Meerut by around 1/3rd.
  • It is one of the three prioritised RRTS corridor being implemented in phase 1. The others are Delhi-Gurugram-SNB and Delhi-Panipat.
  • The priority section of the corridor is targeted to be commissioned in 2023, while the entire corridor will be commissioned in 2025.
  • The corridor is to be implemented by the National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC).

About National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC).

  • NCRTC is a joint venture of the Government of India (50%) and State Governments of Haryana (12.5%), NCT Delhi (12.5%), Uttar Pradesh (12.5%) and Rajasthan (12.5%).
  • It is mandated to design, construct, finance, operate and maintain RRTS in NCR and works under the administrative control of Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, Government of India.
  • NCRTC is mandated to implement India’s first RRTS in NCR.

Features of the Train:

  • First of its kind in India with a design speed of 180 kmph.
  • Three times faster than Delhi Metro trains.
  • RRTS train coaches will have transverse 2×2 seats.
  • Optimized aisle width with grab handles and rails for standing passengers, overhead luggage rack, mobile/laptop charging sockets, adequate legroom and on-board Wi-Fi.
  • Double glazed, tempered large safety glass windows that offer passengers a panoramic view of the outside.
  • Equipped with public announcement & display system, dynamic route map display, an infotainment display, along with emergency communication facilities.
  • Automatic plug-in type wide doors reducing air-friction and noise.
  • CCTV, fire & smoke detector, fire extinguisher and door indicator.
  • Universally accessible- Dedicated wheelchair space located near to the train doorway for easy access.
  • Innovative Train Control Monitoring System (TCMS) technology, as well as its predictive and condition-based monitoring features, which will enhance the fleet’s performance by providing extensive train-to-ground diagnostics.
  • Trains would run under Automatic Train Operation (ATO) to provide a smooth ride with precise stopping accuracy and will also save energy.
  • These modern trains will have push buttons for the selective opening of doors on need basis.
  • One coach in every train will be reserved for women passengers as well.
  • All RRTS stations will have Platform Screen Doors (PSDs) for the safety of the passengers. The train doors will be integrated with PSDs.

Benefits:

  • Environment friendly.
  • Energy-efficient trains.
  • Create economic opportunities
  • Reduce congestion and accidents.
[Ref: PIB, Indian Express]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Weeding out lantana restores grasslands in Rajasthan

A special drive to uproot the invasive lantana bushes in the famous Sajjangarh wildlife sanctuary has helped in ecological restoration of grasslands and saved biodiversity.

Sajjangarh wildlife sanctuary

  • It is located in Udaipur District of Rajasthan in the southern Aravalli hills.
  • It is a salient part of Sajjangarh Palace built-in 1884. The Palace derived its name from Maharana Sajjan Singh, ruler of the Mewar dynasty. 
    • Sajjangarh Palace is also known as Monsoon Palace as Maharana Sajjan Singh used the Palace to keep track of monsoon clouds.
  • Fauna: Chitals, panthers, hares, blue bulls (Nilgais), jackals, wild boars, hyenas, and sambhars.

About Lantana camara

  • It is a species of flowering plant, native to the American tropics.
  • It is a thicket forming shrub as it usually grows 2-4 m tall and forms dense thickets.
  • It contains toxic triterpenes which cause hepatic degeneration in cattle & producing signs of depression.

What is the issue?

  • The Lantana camara has covered vast tracts of land in Sajjangarh Wildlife Sanctuary stopping the natural light and nutrition for flora and fauna.
  • The toxic substance in its foliage and ripe berries affected the animals, while its expansion stopped the natural growth of grass and other shrubs.
  • With the herbivores not getting sufficient forage, the prey base for carnivorous animals was declining, leading to ecological disturbances in the food chain.
  • Hence, the mission lantana was taken up to get rid of lantana bushes, which had taken over almost 50% of the sanctuary.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Sandalwood Spike Disease

The Sandalwood Spike Disease has resurfaced and is infecting Sandalwood trees in Karnataka and Kerala.

  • With between 1 and 5% of sandalwood trees lost every year due to the disease, scientists warn that it could wipe out the entire natural population if measures are not taken to prevent its spread.
  • One of the causes is the restrictions on green felling in forests, which has allowed vectors to spread the disease to healthy trees.

About Sandalwood Spike Disease

  • Sandalwood Spike Disease (SSD) is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called phytoplasma.
  • The disease is transmitted by insect vectors.
  • Can be noticed only when the tree gets completely affected as it is very difficult to identify the symptoms of SSD.
    • SSD has been one of the major causes for the decline in sandalwood production in the country for over a century and thus led sandalwood being classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1998.
  • The disease was first reported in Kodagu in 1899. More than a million sandalwood trees were removed in the Kodagu and Mysuru region between 1903 and 1916.

Measures being taken:

  • To combat the killer disease, the Institute of Wood Science & Technology will join hands with the Pune-based National Centre for Cell Sciences for a three-year study, initiated by the Union Ministry of AYUSH with a financial allocation of ₹50 lakh.
  • The study will try to identify the vectors that transmit SSD and also identify alternative plant hosts, their ecological and epidemiological mapping besides examining optimisation of non-chemical methods of pest management.

Sandalwood Trees:

  • In India, Sandalwood Trees in their natural habitats are found in Karnataka and Kerala.
  • A true sandalwood tree grows to a height of about 10 metres; has leathery leaves in pairs, each opposite the other on the branch; and is partially parasitic on the roots of other tree species.
  • Trees are slow-growing and take about 30 years to achieve economically useful thickness.
  • The tree and roots contain Sandalwood oil which is very valuable.
  • In India, all sandalwood trees are government-owned.
  • Red Sanders is a type of Sandalwood tree.
  • India has been the traditional leader of sandalwood oil production for perfumery and pharmaceuticals.
  • In 1792, Tippu Sultan had declared it a ‘Royal Tree’ of Mysuru.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Science & Technology

Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) prize

Dr Ritesh Agarwal has been awarded Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology for the year 2020 in the medical sciences category, for his significant contributions in the field of Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA).

  • His research showed that lower doses of oral steroids were sufficient in the treatment of ABPA. Before his research, there was no dosing protocol for oral glucocorticoids (a class of steroid hormones).

About Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) Prize for Science and Technology

  • The Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (SSB) Prize for Science and Technology was instituted in 1957, in the memory of Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar, the founder director of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
  • It is awarded each year on the basis of outstanding contributions to human knowledge made through work done primarily in India during the five years, preceding the year of the prize.
  • It is given for the award in the following disciplines viz. Biological sciences, Chemical Sciences, Medical Sciences, Physical Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Engineering Sciences and Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Science.
  • Eligibility: Any citizen of India engaged in research in any field of science and technology up to the age of 45 years. Overseas citizen of India (OCI) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) working in India are also eligible.

About Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis

  • It is a fungal infection of the lung.
  • It is caused by a severe allergic reaction after being exposed to a type of fungus called Aspergillus.  Aspergillus can be found in the soil, dust, water, and rotting or decaying vegetation (and some foods and ground spices.
  • With ABPA, this allergic reaction causes the immune system to overreact to Aspergillus leading to lung inflammation.
  • Symptoms: Causes bronchospasm (tightening of airway muscles) and mucus buildup resulting in coughing, breathing difficulty and airway obstruction.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Prelims Key Facts

Dazzling comet

  • Comet 67P/ChuryumovGerasimenko has its own far ­ultraviolet aurora.
  • It is the first time such electromagnetic emissions in the far ­ultraviolet have been documented on a celestial object other than a planet or moon.

Fridays For Future

  • Students and youth under the banner of Fridays For Future (FFF) protested outside the Union Environment Ministry.
  • It is an international movement of school students who skip Fridays classes to participate in demonstrations to demand action from political leaders to take action to prevent climate change.
  • It was started in August 2018, when 15-year-old Greta Thunberg began a strike in Sweden.
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