Polity & Governance
- Mahadayi: tribunal rejects Karnataka’s petition
- Strategic Forces Command exempted from RTI ambit
Environment & Ecology
- WWF urges closure of all tiger farms
- Rice crops that can help farmers cut costs and reduce pollution
Science & Technology
- With thrust on innovation, scheme to INSPIRE young scientists to be renamed
- Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor to be delayed
Also in News
- ‘World’s deepest’ underwater sinkhole found in China
Polity & Governance
Mahadayi: tribunal rejects Karnataka’s petition
The Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal (MWDT) over water sharing of Mahadayi river had concluded its hearing and pronounced its order.
- Thereafter, violent protests were reported in many parts of north Karnataka.
The Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal (MWDT) headed by J N Panchal, has rejected Karnataka’s plea for an interim order to allow the state to draw 7.56 tmcft of water from Mahadayi river to Malaprabha river.
The tribunal rejected Karnataka’s plea on various grounds, including that
- Allowing water to be transferred for the project would be ecologically damaging and upset the “natural equilibrium” of Mahadayi river.
- Karnataka hadn’t shown what would be the downstream effects at 3 km and 5 km of lifting the river and so “relief couldn’t be granted.”
- Given the enormous amount of water being transferred, the tribunal reasoned, there would be huge submersible pumps and specialised equipment that would be required.
- The tribunal said it “didn’t have confidence” that Karnataka would rely on temporary structures and equipment — as it has claimed — to effect this transfer of water into the Malaprabha basin
- Karnataka government had also not obtained environmental and wildlife clearances to execute the project.
- Karnataka’s contention that 108.72 tmcft of water is available at 75 per cent dependability in the Mahadayi basin wasn’t cogent.
- Karnataka has relied on the data from the Central Water Commission that is seriously contested by Goa.
The said verdict is only the interim order, and not the final one.
About Mahadayi river:
The Mahadayi River also known as Mandovi or Mhadei river, is described as the lifeline of the indian state of Goa.
- The river has a length of 77 km, 29 km in Karnataka and 52 km in Goa.
- It originates from a cluster of 30 springs at Bhimgad in the Western Ghats in the Belgaum district of Karnataka.
- The river has a 2,032 km2 catchment area in Karnataka and a 1,580 km2 catchment area in Goa.
What is the Kalasa-Banduri Nala project?
The Kalasa-Banduri Nala is a canal project undertaken by the Government of Karnataka to divert water from the Mahadayi river to the Malaprabha.
- The project aimed to improve drinking water supply to the Districts of Belagavi, Dharwad and Gadag.
- It involves building across Kalasa and Banduri, two tributaries of the Mahadayi river to divert 7.56 TMC of water to the Malaprabha river, which supplies the drinking water needs of the said 3 districts, i.e., Dharwad, Belagavi and Gadag.
- The region is part of Karnataka’s arid area, which is second only to Rajasthan in water scarcity.
- The project has been delayed for over a decade during which the state has seen two of the worst droughts in 40 years.
About the dispute:
- Kalasa-Banduri project planned in 1989; Goa raised objection to it.
- Goa filed a complaint seeking setting up of a tribunal in July 2002.
- The Ministry of Water Resources kept the clearance given to Karnataka in abeyance in September 2002.
- Goa moved the Supreme Court in 2006 seeking constitution of a tribunal, withdrawing approval for any work in the basin.
- Mahadayi (Mandovi) is a water deficit basin and water diversion could impact the environment.
- The Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal was set up in 2010.
Strategic Forces Command exempted from RTI ambit
The Strategic Forces Command, which forms part of the National Command Authority (NCA), has been added to the Second Schedule of the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005, which exempts security and intelligence establishments from its purview.
About National Command Authority (NCA):
The Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) of India is the authority responsible for command, control and operational decisions regarding India’s nuclear weapons programme.
- The NCA’s Executive Council, chaired by the National Security Adviser, gives inputs to the Political Council, which authorises a nuclear attack if need be.
- The Political Council is chaired by the Prime Minister and advised by the Executive Council.
- This mechanism is meant to ensure that the nuclear weapons are under civilian control.
- A Command and Control (C2) mechanism prevents their accidental or unauthorised use.
- The NCA’s directives are executed by the Strategic Forces Command headed by a Commander-in-Chief of the rank of Air Marshal.
India’s nuclear tests:
- India’s first Nuclear test was conducted on 18 May 1974 with the code name Smiling Buddha.
- Since then India has conducted another series of tests at the Pokhran test range in the state of Rajasthan in 1998, which included a thermonuclear test, code named Operation Shakti.
Section 24 of the RTI Act:
- Section 24 says the RTI Act is not applicable to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule.
- The only exception is for information on allegations of corruption and human rights violations.
- Among the organisations included in the Second Schedule are the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the Special Frontier Force, the Border Security Force, the National Security Guards and the Assam Rifles.
Section 8 of the RTI Act:
- Section 8, which deals with exemption from disclosure of information.
- It says that there shall be no obligation to provide any citizen information, disclosure of which will affect India’s sovereignty and integrity, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the state and relations with foreign States or will lead to incitement of an offence.
Environment & Ecology
WWF urges closure of all tiger farms
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) called on Asian states to close their tiger farms to boost efforts against the black-market trade in animal parts.
- According to WWF, there remained 200 tiger farms in Asia, mostly in China, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.
- WWF drew a clear distinction between such farms — which are only known to exist in Asia — and zoos that strive to create acceptable conditions for tigers to live in a controlled area.
- According to WWF, tigers living in farm-like captivity have become habituated to human presence and cannot simply be released in the wild.
- Many tiger farms have been implicated in the hugely lucrative but illegal trafficking market.
- The so-called “Temple of Tigers” in western Thailand was closed in May after Thai wildlife officials discovered dozens of dead cubs inside a freezer.
- At a conference in St Petersburg in 2010, 13 Asian countries agreed to double the number of tigers living in the wild on the continent by 2022, which is China’s next Year of the Tiger.
There has been a marked increase in tiger ‘farms’ in China, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand where tigers are being kept, and are often intensively bred, for trade.[Ref: ToI]
Rice crops that can help farmers cut costs and reduce pollution
A team of Canadian and Chinese researchers has identified “superstar” varieties of rice that can reduce fertiliser loss, thereby helping farmers cut costs and reduce environmental pollution in the process.
- The rice varieties that the researchers identified belong to both Indica – the world’s most popular rice type commonly grown in India, China and Southeast Asia – and Japonica (the rice used in sushi) genotypes.
- Zhongjiu25 (ZJ25) and Wuyunjing7 (WYJ7) were the most effective genotypes among Indica and Japonica varieties, respectively.
Science & Technology
With thrust on innovation, scheme to INSPIRE young scientists to be renamed
The INSPIRE Awards (Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research), as they are now called, will be rechristened MANAK (Million Minds Augmenting National Aspirations and Knowledge) from this year.
About the INSPIRE programme:
“Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE)” is an innovative programme sponsored and managed by the Department of Science & Technology for attraction of talent to Science.
Objective of INSPIRE:
The basic objective of INSPIRE is to:
- Communicate to the youth of the country the excitements of creative pursuit of science,
- Attract talent to the study of science at an early age and thus
- Build the required critical human resource pool for strengthening and expanding the Science & Technology system and R&D base.
Feature of the programme:
- A striking feature of the programme is that it does not believe in conducting competitive exams for identification of talent at any level.
- It believes in and relies on the efficacy of the existing educational structure for identification of talent.
- The INSPIRE Awards are part of a larger INSPIRE programme, initiated by the previous government in 2010.
- The awards are meant to attract — and retain — talented students, collegians and doctorates to careers in science via scholarships and early-career support.
- The awards component — directed at school children between 10-15 years — consists of selecting 100,000 school students with the best science ideas.
- They are selected from a pool of one million ideas from across the country with school principals and headmasters recommending two students from each school and passing them on to the DST/NIF by respective district authorities.
- The existing INSPIRE Awards programme emphasised science-fair models rather than take students through the innovation chain.
- Each of the 100,000 will be given Rs. 5,000 each to build a model or prototype that showcases a practical use of technology or science.
What’s new from this year?
- This year, for the first time, the top 60 ideas will also get incubation support, professionals will work on these and the children will share the intellectual property.
Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor to be delayed
The Centre has informed that the much delayed completion of work on India’s first Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam is likely to be completed only by March 2017.
India’s first Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR):
- The Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is a 500 MWe fast breeder nuclear reactor presently being constructed at the Madras Atomic Power Station in Kalpakkam, India.
- PFBR is being constructed by the Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI).
- The Kalpakkam PFBR is using uranium-238 not thorium, to breed new fissile material, in a sodium-cooled fast reactor design.
- As of 2007 the reactor was expected to begin functioning in 2010 but now it is expected to achieve first criticality in January 2017.
Concerns about PFBR:
- PFBR will be cooled by liquid sodium creates additional safety requirements to isolate the coolant from the environment, since sodium explodes if it comes into contact with water and burns when in contact with air.
- Another hazard associated with the use of sodium as a coolant is the absorption of neutrons to generate the radioactive isotope24
India’s three-stage nuclear power programme:
Dr. Homi Bhaba devised India’s three-stage nuclear power program in the 1954. It was formulated to provide energy security to India through the use of uranium and thorium reserves found in the monazite sands of coastal regions of South India.
The three stages are:
- Natural uranium fuelled Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PWHR)
- Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) utilizing plutonium based fuel
- Advanced nuclear power systems for utilization of thorium
Also in News
‘World’s deepest’ underwater sinkhole found in China
Chinese researchers claimed to have found the world’s deepest underwater sinkhole, or blue hole near the disputed islands in the South China Sea.
- The blue hole is 300.89 meters deep, surpassing the current record of 202 meters.
- The hole was found near the Paracel islans called as Xisha Islands by China.
- The 202-meter-deep Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island in the Bahamas was considered the world’s deepest known blue hole prior to the new findings.