Current Affairs Analysis

8th November 2016 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

'Super Battery'; 9th International Regulatory Cooperation for Herbal Medicines; What is WHO FCTC? Conference of the Parties; Historical significance of Rajgir; What is LIDAR? NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission; Coradia iLint; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
November 08, 2016


Environment & Ecology

  • Uttarakhand High Court bans construction near glaciers in Uttarakhand

Bilateral & International Relations

  • 9th International Regulatory Cooperation for Herbal Medicines
  • India & UK Sign MoU on IPRS
  • Seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7)

Art & Culture

  • Airborne lasers to throw light on Rajgir’s history

Science & Technology

  • New ‘super battery’ made from junkyard metal
  • NASA’s MMS mission creates new Guinness World Record

Key Facts for Prelims

  • World’s first zero-emissions hydrogen train


Environment & Ecology

Uttarakhand High Court bans construction near glaciers in Uttarakhand

Taking notice of the degradation in the Himalayan ecology and environment, the Uttarakhand High Court directed the Uttarakhand state government to take steps to preserve the Hill State’s glaciers.


What has the court directed?

  • The Court directed that no new permanent constructions must come up within a 25 kilometre radius from the “edges” of all the glaciers across the State.
  • The court also passed orders restricting the burning of fossil fuels within a 10 kilometre radius of the “edges of glaciers”.
  • The State Government is directed to provide the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Kerosene Oil, in abundance, to the people living in these areas to mitigate their hardships by involving Oil Companies.
  • The Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand must be the authority to issue “limited passes” for persons visiting the glaciers. The State government could also impose a cess in the form of “Glacier Tax” on persons visiting places in the vicinity of the glaciers.
  • The Court Order also prohibits the use of plastic, in all forms, within a 20 kilometre radius of glaciers. Also, the State administration is directed to put up stations 20 kilometres from each glacier to ensure the enforcement of the Court directions.
  • However, the Army and the paramilitary forces shall be permitted to set up infrastructures but they too must consider the environment of the area before undertaking constructions of any kind.


  • Uttarakhand has 968 glaciers spread across an area of 2,857 sq.km. In view of the rapidly melting Uttarakhand glaciers, which are a source of major rivers including the Ganga and the Yamuna, the Uttarakhand High Court took cognisance of the rapid reduction in snow cover due to climate change and the melting of glaciers.
[Ref: TOI]


Bilateral & International Relations

9th International Regulatory Cooperation for Herbal Medicines

The 9th Annual Meeting of International Regulatory Cooperation for Herbal Medicines (IRCH) was inaugurated in New Delhi.


  • It has been organized by the Ministry of AYUSH.
  • Being an active member of IRCH network since 2007 the Ministry of AYUSH has been represented in IRCH meetings held so far.
  • 19 member countries of IRCH with 36 delegates including experts from WHO Headquarters, Geneva are participating in meeting.
  • The event would be utilized to show case AYUSH strength to these countries.

About IRCH:

  • IRCH is a global network of regulatory authorities created by World Health Organization (WHO) responsible for regulation of herbal medicines.
  • It was established in 2006.
  • Its mission is to protect and promote public health and safety through improved regulation for herbal medicines.
  • India is member of IRCH network since 2007.

Objectives of IRCH:

  • Globally promote and facilitate the safe use of herbal medicines, through regional initiatives, sharing information and fostering dialogue.
  • Facilitate and strengthen cooperation between national regulatory authorities by sharing experience, information and knowledge related to the regulation, quality, safety and efficacy of herbal medicines.
  • Further discuss existing requirements and standards to promote the regulation, quality, safety and efficacy of herbal medicines.
  • Recommend future activities to WHO related to the quality and safety of herbal medicines.
  • Refer issues to the International Conference of Drug Regulatory Authorities and other bodies, where ever needed, for further discussion related to the quality and safety of herbal medicines.

Goals of IRCH:

  • Development of a process that addresses and resolves questions related to the regulation and safe use of herbal medicines.
  • Establish communication network that fosters dialogue on the regulation and safe use of herbal medicines among the IRCH members.
  • Develop efficient links between National Drug Regulatory Authorities and information focal points among the IRCH member countries through WHO.
[Ref: PIB]


India & UK Sign MoU on IPRS

India and UK today signed an MoU to establish bilateral cooperation activities in the field of Intellectual Property.


  • The MoU is between the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) and the Intellectual Property Office of the United Kingdom (UKIPO).

Objectives of the MoU:

  • The MoU is intended to promote innovation, creativity and economic growth in both countries.
  • It establishes a broad and flexible framework through which both countries can exchange best practices and work together on training programs and technical exchanges to raise awareness on IPRs and better protect intellectual property rights.

The priority initiatives under the MoU include:

  • Exchange of best practices, experiences and knowledge on IP awareness among the public, businesses and educational institutions of both countries.
  • Collaboration in training programs, exchange of experts, technical exchanges and outreach activities.
  • Exchange and dissemination of best practices, experiences and knowledge on IP with the industry, universities, R & D organizations and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) through participation in programs and events.
  • Exchange of information and best practices on processes for disposal of applications for patents, trademarks, industrial designs and Geographical Indications, as also the protection, enforcement and use of IP rights.
  • Cooperation in the development of automation and implementation of modernization projects, new documentation and information systems in IP and procedures for management of IP.
  • Cooperation to understand how Traditional Knowledge is protected; and the exchange of best practices, including traditional knowledge related databases and awareness raising of existing IP systems.
[Ref: PIB]


Seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7)

The 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) started in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh.


Key facts:

  • It is for the first time India is hosting COP meeting of FCTC.
  • It is the world’s biggest convention on tobacco control policy in which 180 countries are participating.

What is WHO FCTC?

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is the world’s first public health treaty under the World Health Organisation (WHO).

  • It provides a new legal dimension for international cooperation in healthcare in combating the tobacco epidemic.
  • It has successfully helped to co-ordinate and energize the global struggle against tobacco.
  • It is considered as one of the most widely embraced treaties in the history of WHO and UN.
  • It is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health and was developed in response to globalization of tobacco epidemic.
  • Under it, the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products was adopted to address the increasing illegal trade in tobacco products in November 2012.
  • Currently, it had been signed by 168 countries and is legally binding in 180 ratifying countries.

India and WHO FCTC:

  • India has been the forerunner in ratification of this public health treaty and was the 7th Country to ratify the Convention in 2004.
  • India provided a leadership role in the negotiations of FCTC and was also the Regional Coordinator for the South-East Asia Region.
  • India ratified the treaty in February 2004 and is therefore obligated to comply with the treaty provisions and its guidelines to reduce tobacco consumption globally.

What is Conference of the Parties (COP)?

  • The COP is the FCTC’s governing body and is comprised of all 180 Parties.
  • The regular sessions of COP are held at two yearly intervals.
  • It regularly reviews the implementation of the Convention and takes action to promote its effectiveness.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Art & Culture

Airborne lasers to throw light on Rajgir’s history

Indian archaeologists are planning to use a remote-sensing technique, Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) to map Bihar’s ancient city of Rajgir.


  • The plan is a part of their inter-disciplinary Rajgir Archaeological Survey Project (RASP), which includes surveying the archaeological evidence and the flora and fauna of the area.
  • The LIDAR device will have to be mounted on drones or helicopters to get the expected result, for which necessary permissions are required.

About RASP Project:

  • It is a collaborative project between the society and Nalanda University in co-ordination with Bihar’s Ministry of Art, Culture and Youth.
  • It aims to establish a better understanding of the historic city’s landscape by studying the existing archaeological remains through a comprehensive survey.
  • It will examine the multi-phased development of Rajgir as an urban, political and religious centre.
  • The preliminary work in the project involves making a grid map of the entire Rajgir Hills, a work that is going to be undertaken by experts from different fields.

Historical significance of Rajgir:

  • Located in Bihar’s Nalanda district, Rajgir is one of India’s most significant tourist places for Buddhist pilgrims.
  • It was the first capital of the Magadha Empire.
  • Gautama Buddha spent many years of his life in the city and delivered several sermons as well.
  • The city was also the venue of the first Buddhist Council.
  • Aside from Buddhism, the ancient city is also known for its association with Jainism, as its founder Lord Mahavira spent fourteen years of his life there.

What is LIDAR?

  • Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) is a surveying method that measures distance to a target by illuminating that target with a laser light.
  • LIDAR uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. These light pulses—combined with other data recorded by the airborne system— generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics.
  • A LIDAR instrument principally consists of a laser, a scanner, and a specialized GPS receiver.

Applications of LIDAR:


  • Lidar sometimes is called laser scanning and 3D scanning, with terrestrial, airborne, and mobile applications.
  • Lidar is popularly used to make high-resolution maps, with applications in geodesy, geomatics, archaeology, geography, geology, geomorphology, seismology, forestry, atmospheric physics, laser guidance, airborne laser swath mapping (ALSM), and laser altimetry.
  • Airplanes and helicopters are the most commonly used platforms for acquiring LIDAR data over broad areas.
[Ref: The Hindu, Wiki]


Science & Technology

New ‘super battery’ made from junkyard metal

Researchers have developed a new high-performance, grid-scale battery made from metal scrap and common household chemicals.


  • The proof-of-concept battery, which is no bigger than a pill bottle, could withstand the equivalent of 13 years of daily charging and discharging while retaining 90% of its capacity.
  • Researchers were inspired from an ancient technology called the Baghdad Battery, which dates to the first century BC.

How was it developed?

The battery is consisted of a terracotta pot, a copper sheet and an iron rod along with some trace chemicals that could have been an electrolyte.

  • Researchers soaked metal pieces in a jar with a solution of water and salt or a solution of water and antifreeze.
  • They then applied a voltage to induce a known process called anodisation, which restructures the nanoscopic composition of a metal.
  • That exposes the metal’s interior surface and makes it more receptive to storing and releasing energy.
  • Researchers placed a physical barrier between the two pieces of metal and submerged it in an electrolyte solution made from water and potassium hydroxide.
  • When connected by wires to a device that generated a current, such as a solar panel, their contraption worked just like a car battery.


  • The battery is powerful and easy-to-build and represents a new kind of approach to innovation.
[Ref: Economic Times]


NASA’s MMS mission creates new Guinness World Record

NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) has set the Guinness World Record for highest altitude fix of a GPS signal — at 70,000 kilometres above the surface of the Earth.


  • Earlier this year, MMS had achieved the closest flying separation of a multi-spacecraft formation with only 7.2 km between the four satellites.

About NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS):

  • The Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) is a NASA unmanned space mission to study the Earth’s magnetosphere, using four identical spacecraft flying in a tetrahedral formation.
  • The spacecraft were launched in 2015.
  • It is designed to gather information about the microphysics of magnetic reconnection, energetic particle acceleration, and turbulence, processes that occur in many astrophysical plasmas.
  • In 2016 the MMS mission was the first to directly detect magnetic reconnection (the phenomenon which drives space weather) in the Earth’s magnetosphere.
[Ref: The Hindu, Wiki]


Key Facts for Prelims

World’s first zero-emissions hydrogen train


  • World first hydrogen-powered and zero-emission passenger train named as Coradia iLint was unveiled in Germany.
  • The first of its kind eco-friendly train Coradia iLint, developed by French rail company Alstom, only emits excess steam and condensed water into the atmosphere.
  • Coradia iLint is powered by a hydrogen fuel tank on its roof. The fuel cell is supplied with hydrogen and oxygen from the air, which it converts into electric power.
  • The system is backed up by lithium batteries. These batteries store the excess power in order to later supply the train when needed.
  • The train is totally carbon-free, making it a much more sustainable alternative to the 4000 diesel trains currently in circulation in Germany.


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