14th June, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Composite Water Management Index’ (GS3: Environmental Pollution)
Issue: NITI Aayog has come up with the Composite Water Management Index as a useful tool to assess and improve the performance in efficient management of water resources. This index is an attempt to inspire States and UTs towards efficient and optimal utilization of water, and recycling thereof with a sense of urgency.
Need of this index
In view of limitations on availability of water resources and rising demand for water, sustainable management of water resources has acquired critical importance. The index can be utilised to formulate and implement suitable strategies for better management of water resources. It has been finalized after an elaborate exercise including seeking feedback from the States and consultation with reputed experts.
The index would provide useful information for the States and also for the concerned Central Ministries/Departments enabling them to formulate and implement suitable strategies for better management of water resources.
‘Pollution levels in Delhi’ (GS3: Environmental Pollution)
Issue: The high pollution levels during this time of the year in Delhi are unusual and primarily due to dust storms from Rajasthan. Rajasthan is facing extremely dry weather conditions, with high temperatures and wind speeds.
What is a Dust Storm?
Sand and dust storms usually occur when strong winds lift large amounts of sand and dust from bare, dry soils into the atmosphere.
Sand and dust storms are common meteorological hazards in arid and semi-arid regions. They are usually caused by thunderstorms – or strong pressure gradients associated with cyclones – which increase wind speed over a wide area. These strong winds lift large amounts of sand and dust from bare, dry soils into the atmosphere, transporting them hundreds to thousands of kilometres away. Some 40% of aerosols in the troposphere (the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere) are dust particles from wind erosion.
Airborne dust presents serious risks for human health. Dust particle size is a key determinant of potential hazard to human health. Particles larger than 10 μm are not breathable, thus can only damage external organs – mostly causing skin and eye irritations, conjunctivitis and enhanced susceptibility to ocular infection. Inhalable particles, those smaller than 10 μm, often get trapped in the nose, mouth and upper respiratory tract, thus can be associated with respiratory disorders such as asthma, tracheitis, pneumonia, allergic rhinitis and silicosis. However, finer particles may penetrate the lower respiratory tract and enter the bloodstream, where they can affect all internal organs and be responsible for cardiovascular disorders. A global model assessment in 2014 estimated that exposure to dust particles caused about 400 000 premature deaths by cardiopulmonary disease in the over 30 population.
‘Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF)’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare inaugurated the 10th meeting of Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF)
What is Filariasis?
Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) or commonly known as Elephantiasis is one of the oldest and most debilitating neglected disease, which is currently endemic in 73 countries of the world, including India. LF disease is caused mainly by Wuchereria Bancrofti and spread by Culex mosquito. This mosquito grows in dirty accumulated water. The disease affects the poorest population in society, particularly those living in areas with poor water, sanitation and hygiene. LF does not kill the affected people, but may cause permanent disfigurement, reduced productivity and social stigma.
GAELF is an alliance of partners from 72 LF endemic national country programmes, NGOs, private sectors, academic and research institutes and international development agencies that assists WHO’s Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis and was formed in year. Since then the meeting are held biennially. The second meeting was held in 2002 in Delhi and India is again hosting the 10th meeting which recognizes that India has highest burden of Lymphatic Filariasis and there is need of taking leadership role to Eliminate lymphatic filariasis.
‘Solar Charkha Mission’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: The Solar Charkha Mission of the Ministry of Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) will be launched by the President in New Delhi.
About the mission
The Mission has been approved by the Government of India and will disburse subsidy of Rs. 550 crore to the artisans. The objective is to link 5 crore women to this initiative.
The mission is expected to create one lakh jobs during the first two years
‘UTSON mobile App’ (GS3: E-Governance)
Issue: The Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) has developed a mobile based application ‘utsonmobile’.
About the app
The ‘utsonmobile’ application enables booking and cancellation of unreserved tickets, issue and renewal of season and platform tickets, check and load R-wallet balance and helps maintain user profile management and booking history.
‘NASA’s Opportunity’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: NASA has suspended science operations on its brave little Mars rover, Opportunity, as a huge dust storm rages over its location in the planet’s Perseverance Valley.
First detected by NASA on June 1, the storm has worsened over the weekend, the intense dust darkening the sky over Mars and leaving Opportunity in the dark.
About NASA’s Opportunity rover
Opportunity, also known as MER-B (Mars Exploration Rover – B) or MER-1 is a robotic rover active on Mars since 2004. Launched on July 7, 2003 as part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover program, it landed in Meridiani Planum on January 25, 2004
Opportunity has continued to move, make scientific observations, and report back to Earth for over 55 times its designed lifespan. As of January 23, 2018, the rover had traveled 45.09 kilometers (28.02 miles).
Unlike Curiosity, which launched later with a nuclear generator, Opportunity relies on solar panels for power, and batteries for storage. So anything that inhibits the Sun’s rays from reaching the rover is going to cause problems.
As of June 8, the storm spanned an area greater than 18 million square kilometres (7 million square miles), larger than the North American continent.
‘India-US trade talks’ (GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: India and the US have agreed to hold official-level comprehensive talks to address trade and economic issues
Discussions centered around bilateral trade and commercial relations between the two countries and focused on finding the way forward to address concerns of both sides
Significance of the meeting
The meeting assumes significance since it comes in the backdrop of trade issue concerning both the countries. For example: US concern’ about high tariff on certain US good and India’s concern of tariff on Steel and aluminum exports.
‘Foreign Direct Investment’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved foreign direct investment (FDI) worth Rs 24,000 crore for HDFC Bank.
The second largest private bank had sought approval for maintaining the permissible foreign holding in the bank up to 74 percent of its total paid-up capital, out of which the FII (foreign institutional investors) sub-limit would be 49 percent and the balance 25 percent would be FDI.
Significance of the raise in FDI limit
The fund raising plan — the largest by an Indian company — comes against the backdrop of strong growth in the bank’s balance sheet over the last two years and an expectation that credit demand will revive as the economy stabilizes.
If the entire amount is raised, it would tentatively boost the bank’s capital adequacy ratio, which was 14.8 percent as on March end, by another 2.5-3 percent.
What is Capital Adequacy Ratio?
The Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) is a measure of a bank’s available capital expressed as a percentage of a bank’s risk-weighted credit exposures. The Capital Adequacy Ratio, also known as capital-to-risk weighted assets ratio (CRAR), is used to protect depositors and promote the stability and efficiency of financial systems around the world. Two types of capital are measured: tier one capital, which can absorb losses without a bank being required to cease trading, and tier two capital, which can absorb losses in the event of a winding-up and so provides a lesser degree of protection to depositors.
‘FIFA World Cup 2018’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: The 2018 Fifa World Cup gets under way on Thursday when hosts Russia face Saudi Arabia following an opening ceremony at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
About FIFA World cup 2018
- Football’s showpiece event features 32 teams, including holders Germany, competing in 64 games over 32 days.
- Germany, who defeated Argentina in the 2014 final, are looking to become the first team to win back-to-back World Cups since 1962, while Brazil seek a record-extending sixth world title.
- Panama and Iceland will be competing at their first World Cup, which is held every four years.
- Zabivaka, a wolf has been chosen as the official mascot of this world cup
- Four-time winners Italy, South American champions Chile and African champions Cameroon all failed to qualify
- The Netherlands, runners-up in 2010, also missed out while the United States are absent for the first time since 1986
- Video assistant referees (VAR) will be making a debut at the World Cup
‘Green Ambitions’ (GS3: Infrastructure related to Energy)
Issue: India would overshoot its target of installing 175 gigawatts of capacity from renewable energy sources by 2022.
However some concerns need to be addressed such as:
- Technological and financial challenges remain: both wind and solar generation could be erratic
- India’s creaky electricity grid must be modernized to distribute such power efficiently
- Wind and solar tariffs have hit such low levels that suppliers are working with wafer-thin margins. This means small shocks can knock these sectors off their growth trajectories
- Manufacturers of photovoltaic (PV) cells have demanded a 70% safeguard duty on Chinese PV imports, and the Directorate General of Trade Remedies will soon take a call on this. But any such duty will deal a body blow to solar-power suppliers, who rely heavily on Chinese hardware, threatening the growth of the sector.
- Homeowners need to be able to sell electricity back to the grid, which in turn needs a nationwide “net-metering” policy.
- The good news is that even if India hits the 175 GW target, it stands to meet its greenhouse-gas emission goal under the Paris climate agreement. This in itself will be a worthy achievement.
‘National Dam Safety Authority’ (GS2: Regulatory agencies)
Issue: The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved a proposal for introduction of the Dam Safety Bill, 2018 in Parliament.
What the bill proposes?
- The Bill envisages a National Dam Safety Authority, which will liaise with State-level dam safety organisations and the owners of dams for standardising safety-related data and practices.
- The NDSA will investigate dam failures and have the authority to fine the States that are found remiss in implementing safety measures.
- It will look into “unresolved points of issue” between the States which share dam territory and look to “eliminating potential causes for inter-State conflicts
‘Oil Buyer’s Club’ (GS3: Multilateral Groupings)
Issue: With oil producers’ cartel OPEC playing havoc with prices, India discussed with China the possibility of forming an ‘oil buyers club’ that can negotiate better terms with sellers as well as getting more U.S. crude oil to Asia to cut dominance of the oil block.
Other measures being discussed include:
- De-bottlenecking infrastructure to facilitate more U.S. crude oil coming to Asia so as to cut the dominance of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which supplies about 60% of India’s oil needs.
- At the International Energy Forum (IEF) meeting, India and China agreed to join hands to have a collective bargaining power against cartelization of oil producers
‘Exchange-Traded Fund’ (GS3: Mobilization of resources)
Issue: ICICI Prudential managed Bharat-22 ETF Further Fund Offer (FFO) will open for subscription. ICICI Prudential Asset Management Company (AMC) intends to raise up to ₹6,000 crore in the FFO with an option to retain oversubscription, subject to government approval.
What is FFO?
The FFO is part of the government’s overall disinvestment program, announced earlier by the Ministry of Finance. The FFO is open for all categories of investors, including retail investors, retirement funds and foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) among others, with all investors getting an upfront discount of 2.5%.
What is Exchange Traded Fund?
ETFs were started in 2001 in India. They comprise a portfolio of equity, bonds and trade close to its net asset value. These funds mainly track an index, a commodity, or a pool of assets.
They have the following advantages over mutual funds and equity/debt funds:
- Lower Costs: An investor who buys an ETF doesn’t have to pay an advisory/management fee to the fund manager and taxes are relatively lower in ETFs.
- Lower Holding Costs: As commodity ETFs are widely traded in, there isn’t any physical delivery of commodity. The investor is just provided with an ETF certificate, similar to a stock certificate.
‘Dhivya Suryadevara’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: An Indian-American woman, Dhivya Suryadevara has been named the Chief Finance Officer of the US’ largest automaker, General Motors.
‘SULABH’ (GS2: NGO)
Issue: Noted social reformer and founder of Sulabh International Bindeshwar Pathak was on Wednesday honoured with Japan’s prestigious ‘Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture and Community’ for his significant work in tackling poor hygiene and discrimination.
About the award
The award honors people in Asia who have made significant contributions in one of the three areas: regional growth; science, technology and innovation; and culture and community. Former PM Manmohan Singh and Infosys Chairman Narayan Murti are among the few Indians who have won the prize in the past.
Mr. Pathak’s two-pit pour-flush ecological compost toilets have provided cheap and environment friendly toilets to millions.
‘Antarctic Ice Loss’ (GS3: Environmental Pollution)
Issue: Antarctica has lost a staggering three trillion tonnes of ice since 1992, according to a landmark study published that suggests the frozen continent could redraw the earth’s coastlines if global warming continues unchecked.
What the study says?
- Two-fifths of that ice loss occurred in the last five years, a three-fold increase in the pace at which Antarctica is shedding its kilometres-thick casing
- The findings also highlight the existential threat facing low-lying coastal cities and communities home to hundreds of millions of people.
- More than 90% of that frozen water sits atop East Antarctica, which has remained mostly stable even as climate change has driven up earth’s average surface temperature by a full degree Celsius.
- West Antarctica, however, has proven far more vulnerable to global warming. Already floating, ice shelves breaking off into icebergs do not add to sea level. But massive glaciers on West Antarctica slowly gliding seaward hold enough water to push oceans up by 3.5 metres (11 feet).
- Two of these glaciers — Pine Island and Thwaites — have accelerated and are today seen as unstable. Together, they act as corks holding back ice mass further inland from falling into the ocean.
‘Roen Alami’ (GS3: Ecology)
Issue: Climate change may be changing the growth patterns of local wild edible mushrooms called ‘roen alami’
This could be evidence of global warming impacting wild mushrooms in the coastal State of Goa with implications for similar species in other Western Ghat States.