20 th July, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Methanol based fuel’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: NITI Aayog has set up an Apex Committee and five Task Forces for carrying out R&D and developing roadmap for implementing Methanol economy in India.
Significance of methanol based economy
It is estimated that a 15% methanol blending can result in replacement of around 31.9 million tons of crude oil. With crude oil price of 54 $ per barrel it can result in significant savings for India. Further the CO and HC emission reduction for M 15 as compared to neat gasoline by approximate 40 % is an added benefit. Further CO2 and evaporative emission benefits are also envisaged.
Methanol, the simplest single carbon compound can serve as the best alternative fuel for India. It is a highly efficient fuel, can be blended with gasoline/diesel, emits lesser NOx, PM, no SOx and can be further converted to Dimethyl ether (DME) which is a clean diesel alternative and can be blended with LPG as well.
Coal to methanol is a proven technology in the World, India being the 5th largest country with coal reserves, must tap its potential and produce methanol/DME. So, production of methanol from coal would be the most viable route for India to go ahead with, though methanol can also be produced from natural gas, MSW, biomass and wood. Three low hanging fruits can be achieved if India aggressively moves towards methanol.
Methanol/DME can be blended with gasoline/diesel and has the potential to completely substitute them. Therefore, this would reduce the already high import dependence on crude oil (82% of the crude requirements were met through imports in 2016-17) of India.
‘Samgra Shiksha Scheme’ (GS2: Issues related to Education)
Issue: The Department of School Education and Literacy has formulated the Samagra Shiksha – an Integrated Scheme for School Education as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme and it is being implemented throughout the country with effect from the year 2018-19.
About the programme
This programme subsumes the three erstwhile Centrally Sponsored Schemes of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and Teacher Education (TE). It is an overarching programme for the school education sector extending from pre-school to class XII and aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels of school education. It envisages the ‘school’ as a continuum from pre-school, primary, upper primary, secondary to senior secondary levels.
The major interventions, across all levels of school education, under the scheme are: (i) Universal Access including Infrastructure Development and Retention; (ii) Gender and Equity; (iii) Inclusive Education; (iv) Quality; (v) Financial support for Teacher Salary; (vi) Digital initiatives; (vii) Entitlements under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 including uniforms, textbooks etc.;(viii) Pre-school Education; (ix) Vocational Education; (x) Sports and Physical Education; (xi) Strengthening of Teacher Education and Training; (xii) Monitoring and (xiii) Programme Management. The main emphasis of the Scheme is on improving quality of school education and the strategy for all interventions would be to enhance the Learning Outcomes at all levels of schooling. (xiii) Enhanced use of digital technology in education through smart classrooms, digital boards and DTH channels.
Ministry of Human resource development is implementing this programme
‘Indigenization of Nuclear power plant’ (GS3: Indigenization of Technology)
Issue: The Government in June, 2017 accorded administrative approval and financial sanction for setting up ten indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) of 700 MW each in fleet mode. These reactors of indigenous technology are being set up by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), a wholly owned PSU of Government of India under the administrative control of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).
These reactors are proposed to be set up at the following locations:
|Location & State||Project||Capacity(MW)|
|Chutka, Madhya Pradesh||Chutka -1&2||2 X 700|
|Kaiga, Karnataka||Kaiga – 5&6||2 X 700|
|Mahi Banswara, Rajasthan||Mahi Banswara – 1&2||2 X 700|
|Gorakhpur, Haryana||GHAVP – 3&4||2 X 700|
|Mahi Banswara, Rajasthan||Mahi Banswara – 3&4||2 X 700|
About Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors
A pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) is a nuclear power reactor, commonly using un-enriched natural uranium as its fuel that uses heavy water (deuterium oxide D2O) as its coolant and moderator. The heavy water coolant is kept under pressure, allowing it to be heated to higher temperatures without boiling, much as in a typical pressurized water reactor. While heavy water is significantly more expensive than ordinary light water, it yields greatly enhanced neutron economy, allowing the reactor to operate without fuel enrichment facilities (mitigating the additional capital cost of the heavy water) and generally enhancing the ability of the reactor to efficiently make use of alternate fuel cycles.
Parts of a typical Nuclear reactor
Fuel: Uranium is the basic fuel. Usually pellets of uranium oxide (UO2) are arranged in tubes to form fuel rods. The rods are arranged into fuel assemblies in the reactor core.* In a 1000 MWe class PWR there might be 51,000 fuel rods with over 18 million pellets.
Moderator: Material in the core which slows down the neutrons released from fission so that they cause more fission. It is usually water, but may be heavy water or graphite.
Control rods: These are made with neutron-absorbing material such as cadmium, hafnium or boron, and are inserted or withdrawn from the core to control the rate of reaction, or to halt it.
Coolant: A fluid circulating through the core so as to transfer the heat from it
Pressure vessel or pressure tubes: Usually a robust steel vessel containing the reactor core and moderator/coolant, but it may be a series of tubes holding the fuel and conveying the coolant through the surrounding moderator.
Steam generator: Part of the cooling system of pressurized water reactors (PWR & PHWR) where the high-pressure primary coolant bringing heat from the reactor is used to make steam for the turbine, in a secondary circuit.
‘2+2 dialogue’ (GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: The first US-India ‘2+2 dialogue’ will be held on September 6 in New Delhi
About 2+2 dialogue process
US and India had in August 2017 announced the ‘2+2 dialogue’ which focused on “strengthening strategic, security and defence cooperation”
The 2+2 dialogue involves Secretary of State and Defence secretary of USA interacting with the External Affairs minister and Defence minister of India
‘Gopal Das Saxena’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Gopal Das Saxena, the legendary lyricist and author, whose pen name is ‘Neeraj’, passed away at AIIMS on July 19 at the age of 93 due to prolonged illness
About the artist
He was an Indian poet and author of Hindi literature. He was also a famous poet of Hindi Kavi sammelan. He was born in the village of Puravali near Mahewa of Etawah in Uttar Pradesh, India on 4 January 1925. He wrote under the pen name “Neeraj”. His style is easy to understand and considered to be high quality Hindi literature. He was awarded Padma Shri in 1991 and Padma Bhushan in 2007
‘Ramkumar Ramnathan’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Ramkumar Ramanathan notched up a straight set win over Canada’s Vasek Pospisil to reach his first ever ATP semi-finals
The 161-ranked Indian will meet American Tim Smyczek in the last four of the tournament.
What is ATP?
The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) was formed in September 1972 by Donald Dell, Bob Briner, Jack Kramer, and Cliff Drysdale to protect the interests of male professional tennis players. Drysdale became the first President. Since 1990, the association has organized the worldwide tennis tour for men and linked the title of the tour with the organization’s name.
The ATP’s global headquarters are in London, United Kingdom. ATP Americas is based in Ponte Vedra Beach, United States; ATP Europe is headquartered in Monaco; and ATP International, which covers Africa, Asia and Australasia, is based in Sydney, Australia.
‘Sea levels’ (GS3: Environmental Pollutions)
Issue: Average sea levels may rise by up to 30 feet around the world if humans continue to burn fossil and fuels causing temperatures to breach the threshold of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in the next few thousand years
Observations made in the report
With over a billion people living in coastal zones around the world, the impact of rising sea levels on human population along the coast could be larger than expected, especially in poor and developing countries, where millions are directly or indirectly depended on the oceans for their livelihood.
Demonstrating the co-relation between the cumulative carbon emissions and future sea-levels over time, the new study published in Nature Climate Change also raises concerns over the impending economic losses in the world’s largest coastal cities due to coastal flooding.
Climate change will not just lead to rise in sea-levels, but is set to affect storminess in the seas, which is a significant concern.
‘Commercial Banking’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: Jana Small Finance Bank on Wednesday announced the commercial launch of its banking operations, the last microfinance company to convert itself into a small finance bank (SFB), three years after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) gave its in-principle approval.
In September 2015, RBI had granted in-principle approval for 10 small finance bank (SFB) applicants including Au Financiers, Disha Microfin, Equitas Holdings, ESAF Microfinance, Janalakshmi Financial Services and Ujjivan Financial Services.
Significance of Small finance Bank
The main purpose of having SFBs is to expand access to financial services in rural and semi-urban areas. These banks can do most things that a normal commercial bank can do, but at a much smaller scale.
It will offer basic banking services, accept deposits and lend to underserved sections of customers, including small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries, and even entities in the unorganized sector.
‘Climate change Education’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: Nearly half of the population in India lives in places that are likely to become moderate or severe climate hot spots by 2050, according to a World Bank Study launched very recently. Changing rainfall pattern due to climate change could result in extreme water stress and this, as well as other risks, would cost up to 2.8% of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Observations made in the report
- Yale University research on climate change communications pointed out that 65% of the Indian population is not aware of climate change
- The rapidity of changes taking place in our environment and the increasing vulnerability to impending climate risks are demanding climate change education at all levels
Actions taken by India in this regard
The impetus to integrate environment education into the formal education system was first highlighted in the National Policy on Education, 1986. The National Curriculum Framework, 2005, further emphasized integration of environmental issues and recommended project-based learning. In 2016, the UGC introduced a six-month compulsory course on environment studies for undergraduates from all disciplines.
India has been making investment in education for adaptation of climate change since 2002. Many civil society organisations have promoted environment education for the stakeholders. The Centre is investing in the Green Skill Development Programme to train over 0.5 million people in the next two years.
Basic aspects of Climate change education
- There can be three dimensions of climate change education in terms of awareness, capacity building and innovation.
- capacity building for strengthening roots
- to find a way to help mitigation of climate change through of science, technology and innovation
‘Arctic research’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Three decades after its first mission to Antarctica, the government is refocusing priorities to the other pole — the Arctic — because of opportunities and challenges posed by climate change.
Logic behind this step
Climate change was a decisive factor in India re-thinking priorities. Sea ice at the Arctic has been melting rapidly — the fastest in this century. That means several spots, rich in hydrocarbon reserves, will be more accessible through the year via alternative shipping routes.
India is already an observer at the Arctic Council — a forum of countries that decides on managing the region’s resources and popular livelihood and, in 2015, set up an underground observatory, called IndARC, at the Kongsfjorden fjord, half way between Norway and the North Pole.
A big worry for India is the impact of melting sea ice on the monsoon. Over the years scientists across the world are reporting that the rapid ice-melt in the Arctic is leading to large quantities of fresh water into the seas around the poles. This impedes the release of heat from the water and directs warm water into the seas around India and eventually weakens the movement of the monsoon breeze into India.
Along with the Arctic, India’s earth sciences community also views the Himalayas as a “third pole” because of the large quantities of snow and ice it holds, and proposes to increase research spends towards understanding the impact of climate change in the Himalayas. It has already established a high-altitude research station in the Himalayas, called HIMANSH, at Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
‘Pension Fund of Canada’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: Canada’s biggest public pension scheme sees India as its main focus for investment in Asia as the country pours money into infrastructure development.
Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), which manages Canada’s national pension fund, has invested nearly C$7 billion ($5.30 billion) in India since entering the market a decade ago and is looking for opportunities to invest in Indian infrastructure, power and real estate projects.
Plan of the present government vis-à-vis governmental spending
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government plans to boost the economy and create more jobs by tripling public spending on infrastructure to ₹5.97 trillion ($87 billion) in the financial year ending next March, from levels seen in 2014/15
‘Madhubani painting’ (GS1: Indian Culture)
Issue: After adorning the walls of several stations in Bihar, Madhubani paintings will now be showcased on trains like the Rajdhani and Sampark Kranti Express that originate from the State.
About the paintings
Madhubani art (or Mithila painting) is practiced in the Mithila region of Bihar in India and Nepal. Painting is done with fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens, and matchsticks, using natural dyes and pigments, and is characterized by eye-catching geometrical patterns. There is ritual content for particular occasions, such as birth or marriage, and festivals, such as Holi, Surya Shasti, Kali Puja, Upanayana, Durga Puja.
Madhubani art or Mithila painting was traditionally created by the women of various communities in Mithila region of India and Nepal. It originated from Madhubani district of Mithila region of Bihar, and , it is popularly called Mithila painting or Madhubani art. Madhubani is also a major export centre of these paintings. This painting as a form of wall art was practiced widely throughout the region; the more recent development of painting on paper and canvas mainly originated among the villages around Madhubani, and it is these latter developments led to the name Madhubani art being used alongside the name “Mithila Painting.”
‘Dhole’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: In a first, wildlife scientists have collared a dhole, the Indian wild dog, with a satellite transmitter to study the habits of the endangered species.
With less than 2,500 individuals surviving in the wild globally, the dhole is already extinct in about 10 Asian countries.
The dhole is a canid native to Central, South and Southeast Asia. Other English names for the species include Asiatic wild dog, Indian wild dog, whistling dog, red dog, and mountain wolf.
It is listed as Endangered by the IUCN as populations are decreasing and are estimated at fewer than 2,500 adults. Factors contributing to this decline include habitat loss, loss of prey, competition with other species, persecution due to livestock predation and disease transfer from domestic dogs