- Integration of oil & gas majors is best avoided
- In Telangana, a unique irrigation project
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Sunderbans steadily losing its famed mangroves
- Nine more bird, biodiversity areas in Kerala
Bilateral & International Relations
- Why Bhutan is special to India
Science & Technology
- Sharpest laser can help test Einstein’s theory
Key Facts for Prelims
- NMCE and ICEX to merge, creating India’s third largest commodity exchange
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Integration of oil & gas majors is best avoided
In his fourth budget speech, Finance minister Arun Jaitley revisited the idea of an integrated oil and gas sector.
- The idea first made its appearance during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government in 1998. The proposal was then rejected for encouraging a monopolistic scenario in distribution of essential goods like LPG, petrol, kerosene etc.
- In 2005, the Krishnamurthy committee formed by the UPA government debunked the idea as it would reduce competition and manpower in the oil and gas sector.
What are the reasons for latest surface even after being rejected twice?
Five major reasons:
- Better capacity to bear higher risks,
- Avail economies of scale,
- Create more shareholder value,
- Make better investment decisions and
- Be more competent globally.
Why an integrated oil major is not suitable for India?
- Indian firms are much smaller in size compared with top international oil companies. The Government’s track record of consolidating state-run firms has not borne good results. For example, the aviation sector suffered a major setback following the merger of Air India and India Airlines in 2007 and has not yet fully recovered.
- In oil and gas, minimum political interference and liberalisation have proven better in creating more shareholder value compared with integration.
- With oil firms facing such allegations and inefficiencies, giving complete autonomy to one entity can risk the nation’s energy security.
- Another concern is employment generation. The graph shows that the sector has seen a continuous decline in manpower since FY11. The Krishnamurthy Committee had earlier deduced that such integration will result in manpower reduction. At a time when the government is struggling with job creation, it will be difficult to justify job losses due to restructuring.
- Any decision that creates a monopoly in the oil and gas sector must be carefully thought through.
- An important question here is whether a bigger oil company will help reform the sector. Or, will it create new problems for the Indian people at large?
In Telangana, a unique irrigation project
The execution of the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project (KLIP) is important for the Telangana state government.
Why is it important?
- The project is claimed to be the costliest irrigation project to be taken up by any State till date with an estimated cost of Rs. 80,500 crore.
- The project holds the key to the state government’s promise of providing irrigation facility to one crore acres of land under all projects/tanks.
- The government has already spent Rs. 10,000 crore on the project, including land acquisition, and has allocated Rs. 7,000 crore in the current budget, besides tying up a Rs. 7,400 crore loan from a consortium of banks.
Notwithstanding its share of controversies, particularly related to land acquisition for the Mallannasagar reservoir, one of the key components of the project for storage of 50 tmc ft water, the project is making swift progress.
About the project:
The Kaleshwaram project is an off-shoot of the original Pranahitha-Chevella Lift Irrigation Scheme taken up by the Congress government in 2007 when Andhra Pradesh was not divided.
- After the formation of Telangana in 2014, the TRS government redesigned the project on the ground that the original plan had too many environmental obstacles and had very low water storage provision — only about 16.5 tmc ft.
- After conducting a highly advanced Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) survey for a couple of months, the government separated the original component serving the Adilabad area as the Pranahitha project and renamed the rest as Kaleshwaram by redesigning the head works, storage capacity and the canal system based on the data of availability of water at different locations along the course of the Godavari and its tributaries.
- The Kaleshwaram project has provision for the storage of about 148 tmc ft with plans of utilising 180 tmc ft by lifting at least 2 tmc ft water every day for 90 flood days.
- The project is designed to irrigate 7,38,851 hectares (over 18.47 lakh acres) uplands in the erstwhile districts of Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Warangal, Medak, Nalgonda and Ranga Reddy.
- According to engineers, KLIP has many unique features, including the longest tunnel to carry water in Asia, running up to 81 km, between the Yellampally barrage and the Mallannasagar reservoir.
- The project would also utilise the highest capacity pumps, up to 139 MW, in the country to lift water.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Sunderbans steadily losing its famed mangroves
Data obtained from latest study conducted using remote sensing and GIS for the first time has offered definite proof that the mangrove forest cover in Indian Sunderbans has been depleting alarmingly.
What are the concerns?
- From 1986 to 2012, 124.418 sq km or about 5.5% of the mangrove cover of Sunderbans was lost. Moreover, variable degrees of erosion were also observed in at least 18 islands. The continuation of this process is a serious ecological threat.
- Total forest cover of the Indian Sunderbans as assessed by remote sensing studies for the year 1986 was about 2,246.839 sq km. It has gradually declined by 2,201.41 sq. km. in 1996, then down to 2168.914 sq km in 2001 and to 2122.421 sq km in 2012. The loss in the mangrove forest in the Indian Sunderbans is about 5.5 %.
- The continuation of this process in response to climate change and sea level rise poses a serious threat to the carbon sequestration potential and other ecosystem services of this mangrove forest in future.
- The study also highlights a time series of the erosion of at least 18 mangrove forested islands of the Indian Sunderbans from 1986 to 2012. These islands include Sagar, Gosaba, Dulibhasani, Dalhousie, Bhangaduni and Jambudwip.
- The mean sea level rise is considered a driving factor for coastal erosion, coastal flooding, increase in the number of tidal creeks and losing land. The loss land, including mangrove forest is mainly due to decrease in fresh water flow and sediment supply in the western (Indian) part of the delta, and the rate of sea level rise is higher than sediment supply. However, the eastern (Bangladesh) side of the Sunderbans delta is gaining land because of the huge amount of sediment and water flow from the Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers.
- Critical minimal inflow of freshwater is necessary for the luxuriant growth of mangroves. Decrease in freshwater inflow results change in mangrove succession where freshwater loving species of mangroves are replaced by salt-water loving ones. This immediate impact of salinity will also have negative impact on the fishing community, as commercially sought fish species will be replaced by fish that does not have as much market value.
About the Sunderbans:
- Sundarbans is a vast mangrove forest in the coastal region of the Bay of Bengal.
- It covers approximately 10,000 square kilometres of area of which 60% is in Bangladesh with the remainder in India.
- It is located in the delta region of Padma, Meghna and Brahmaputra river basins.
- It is the largest tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world.
- In 1997, Sundarban was recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- In May 1992, it was recognized as a Ramsar Site.
- Sundarban forests are known for its self- Royal Bengal Tiger and other numerous species of animals, including Chital Deer, Crocodile and Snakes.
Nine more bird, biodiversity areas in Kerala
Nine more locations in Kerala have been identified as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs).
- The new list was released by the Bombay Natural History Society, a partner of BirdLife International, in its recent publication, Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in India Priority sites for conservation.
- With the latest addition, Kerala now has 33 IBAs.
- Kerala IBAs are home to three critically endangered species — Whiterumped Vulture, Indian Vulture, and Red-headed Vulture.
Newly identified IBAs of Kerala
- The newly identified IBAs of Kerala are Achencoil Forest Division; Anamudi Shola National Park; Camel’s Hump Mountain, Wayanad; Kurinjimala Wildlife Sanctuary; Malayattoor Reserve Forest; Mankulam Forest Division; Mathikettan Shola National Park; Muthikulam-Siruvani; and Pampadum Shola National Park.
What are IBAs?
- The IBAs are “places of international significance for the conservation of birds and other biodiversity” and are “distinct areas amenable to practical conservation action,” according to BirdLife International.
What if a site is declared an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area?
- Declaring a site as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area does not ensure that the site gets legal protection or becomes inaccessible to people.
- Instead BirdLife International encourages national and State governments to recognise the areas as sites of vital importance for conservation of wildlife and to empower local community-based conservation initiatives.
Criteria for IBA:
- Globally threatened species.
- Restricted-range species.
- Biome-restricted species.
About the BirdLife International:
- BirdLife International (formerly the International Council for Bird Preservation) is a global partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources.
- It is the world’s largest partnership of conservation organisations, with over 120 partner organisations.
- BirdLife International publishes a quarterly magazine, World Birdwatch, which contains recent news and authoritative articles about birds, their habitats, and their conservation around the world.
- BirdLife International is the official Red List authority for birds, for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- Bombay Natural History Society (BHNS) is one of the largest non-governmental organisations in India engaged in conservation and biodiversity research.
- It was founded on 15 September 1883 and headquartered at Hornbill House, Mumbai.
- It supports many research efforts through grants and publishes the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society.
- Department of Science and Technology has designated as a ‘Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’.
Bilateral & International Relations
Why Bhutan is special to India
The present standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in Doka La (Doklam) is a rare insight into India’s very special relationship with Bhutan, which includes military responsibilities towards it.
Why in news?
- Recently, China’s PLA (People’s Liberation Army) attempted to construct a road in the disputed Doklam region unilaterally.
- However, the Royal Bhutan Army patrol attempted to dissuade them from this unilateral activity.
About the 2007 India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty:
In 2007, India renegotiated the 1949 treaty with Bhutan and signed a new treaty of friendship.
- Under the 2007 India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty, the two sides have agreed to “cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests. Neither Government shall allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other.”
- Under the previous treaty, India was to “guide” Bhutan on foreign and defence policies. The language of the 2007 treaty, is meant to respect the sensitivities of Bhutan regarding its sovereignty.
- But the reality is that the Indian military is virtually responsible for protecting Bhutan from the kind of external threat that the Chinese military poses.
- The Eastern Army Command and the Eastern Air Command both have integrated protection of Bhutan into their role.
- The Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT), headed by a Major General, plays a critical role in training Bhutanese security personnel.
Science & Technology
Sharpest laser can help test Einstein’s theory
Scientists have developed the world’s sharpest laser with record-breaking precision that can help make optical atomic clocks more precise as well as test Einstein’s theory of relativity.
About the research:
- Ideally, laser light has only one fixed wavelength or frequency. In practice, however, there is always a certain linewidth. The spectrum of most types of lasers can, however, reach from a few kHz to a few MHz in width, which is not good enough for numerous experiments requiring high precision.
- Researchers have now developed a laser with a linewidth of only 10 miliHertz (mHz) — closer to the ideal laser than ever before.
Significance of the research:
- This precision is useful for various applications such as optical atomic clocks, precision spectroscopy, radioastronomy and for testing the theory of relativity.
What is a laser?
- A laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation.
- A laser is an unusual light source. It is quite different from a light bulb or a flash light.
- Lasers do not occur in nature.
- One of laser’s outstanding properties is the excellent coherence of the emitted light.
- Lasers produce a narrow beam of light in which all of the light waves have very similar wavelengths. The laser’s light waves travel together with their peaks all lined up, or in phase. This is why laser beams are very narrow, very bright, and can be focused into a very tiny spot.
Applications of a laser:
- Laser light is used in numerous applications in industry, medicine and information technologies.
- Lasers have brought about a real revolution in fields of research and in metrology — or have even made some new fields possible in the first place.
Key Facts for Prelims
NMCE and ICEX to merge, creating India’s third largest commodity exchange
- National Multi-Commodity Exchange (NMCE), India’s first demutualized multi-commodities exchange, will merge with Indian Commodity Exchange (ICEX).
- The proposed merger will create India’s third largest commodities exchange, offering a range of contracts including bullion, oil, rubber and other agri-commodities.
- The exchange will also offer the world’s first diamond futures contract, which has already received “in-principle” approval from the regulator.
- The largest commodity exchange by volume is the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) followed by National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX).
- The merger will help ICEX to further strengthen its position in the country’s fast-growing commodity derivatives market.
- It will result in greater financial strength, the consolidation of clients and members, an enhanced product basket, and higher operational synergies.
- Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) developed Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile (QRSAM) was recently successfully flight tested from ITR Chandipur, off the Odisha Coast.
- The QR-SAM weapon system has been jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Bharat Electronics Ltd.
- It has been designed to be a quick reaction missile.
- It is an all-weather, network-centric missile system capable of search-on-the-move.
- The missile system can also engage multiple targets within a range of around 30 km with two vehicle configuration for area air defence.
- It is a truck-mounted missile with a 360° rotatable, electro-mechanically operated, turret-based launch unit.
- The missile has a strike range of 25 to 30 km and can engage multiple targets. QR-SAM will complement the existing Akash short range SAM (surface-to-air missile) with a range of 25 kilometres which has already been inducted into the services.