15th August, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Indian rupee-Lira’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The rupee breached the psychological barrier of 70-to-a-dollar for the first time as the sharp fall in the Turkish lira continued to affect all emerging market currencies.
The rupee had a strong opening against the dollar at 69.85, but fell sharply to breach the 70-mark and went on to depreciate till 70.08, prompting the central bank to intervene
What is causing the fall of rupee in recent times?
The rupee is the victim of a contagion effect impacting all emerging markets triggered by the Turkish crisis
The rupee is the worst performer in Asia this year, depreciating 9% against the dollar. The current account gap is widening mainly due to a rise in international crude oil prices as India imports more than 80% of its requirements.
Effect of depreciation of rupee
A depreciating rupee puts pressure on prices and hence makes it difficult for the Reserve Bank of India which wants inflation within a range. RBI has raised its key policy rate, or the repo rate, in the last two policy meetings by 25 basis points each to 6.5%.
‘Earth’s oldest rocks’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: The oldest evolved rocks on Earth are the consequence of asteroids colliding with the the planet 4 billion years ago,an Australian research revealed
What does the study say?
The study by the Curtin University suggests that the rocks, part of the Acasta Gneiss Complex in northwest Canada, are the result of asteroids smashing into the Earth and melting its crust, allowing evolved, or granitic, rocks to form
‘Gaganyaan’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: PM Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech said India’s first manned space mission, Gaganyaan, will be launched by 2022, marking India’s 75th Independence Day
About the project
ISRO hopes to deploy its biggest rocket, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV Mk III), to send three Indians into space from Sriharikota in the next few years.
The space agency plans to spend Rs. 9,000 crore and hopes to launch the first mission within 40 months. The plans in the “demonstration phase” includes undertaking two unmanned flights and one human flight using Indian technology to catapult a crew of three into a low earth orbit for 5-7 days.
India plans to call its astronauts “Vyomnauts” since “Vyom” in Sanskrit means space.
Earlier this year, ISRO carried out a crucial Pad Abort Test on July 5, when a 12.5-ton crew module was tested to make sure in case of an accident on the launchpad, the crew can be rescued safely.
‘Independence day speech highlights’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: Prime Minister Narendra Modi fifth Independence Day speech carried the leitmotif of ‘performance,’ including a special focus on his government’s marque schemes
Highlights of the speech
- The government plans to launch the Rs 1.4 trillion solar power pumps scheme named the Kisan UrjaSuraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM) to improve farmers’ incomes and reduce dependence on diesel pumps that will help generate 28,250MW. Surplus electricity generated by farmers will be bought by state electricity distribution companies and will help boost the country’s emerging green economy.
- PM laid a special focus on his government’s marque schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana aimed at providing free cooking gas connections and the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) and the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, or the Saubhagya scheme aimed at electrification.
‘Mahadayi water dispute’ (GS2: Issues arising out of Federal structure)
Issue: Karnataka has been allocated around 13.5 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water from the Mahadayi river—also known as Mandovi —according to the final report of the tribunal set up to settle the nearly four decade-old dispute between the state and its neighbors, Goa and Maharashtra.
Goa, which had opposed Karnataka’s demands of over 36tmcft of water, has been allocated around 24tmcft while Maharashtra has been allocated 1.3tmcf. The verdict also directs the central government to constitute a body called ‘Mahadayi Water Management Authority’ to implement the report and final decision.
History into the dispute concerning Mahadayi river
Parliament had established a tribunal under Article 262 in November 2010 to adjudicate on this matter.
Mechanism to solve inter-state water dispute in India
- The genesis of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 lies in the Government of India Act, 1935. It contains provision similar to Sections 130 to 132 of the Act of 1935.This act had been passed in pursuance of Article 262 of the Constitution.
- According to the act, decisions given by the tribunals so constituted will be final and binding and no appeal can lie in Supreme Court. Thus the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and other courts is clearly barred in such matters. However, the tribunal is only vested with decision making role the implementation of such decision is not its outlook.
- Furthermore, tribunal’s responsibility is not limited only to adjudicate the matters but also investigation of matters which are of public importance like water pollution, flood control, sustainability of river basin productivity, climate change effects and others.
Mahadayi is an indian river that originates at Bhimgad in the Western Ghats in the Belagavi district of Karnataka. This river is referred as ‘mandovi’ in goa. The river has a catchment area of around 2000 square kilometer in karnataka and around 1500 square kilometer in goa. This river is also responsible for waterfalls such as ‘Dudhsagar’ and ‘Varapoha’. The state capital of goa is situated on the left bank of mandovi. ‘Mapuso’ is a tributary of this river. Mormaguo harbor is also formed by this river. It is one of the west flowing rivers of India, it finally reaches Arabian Sea. Other major west flowing rivers include: Narmada, Tapti, Mahi, Sabarmati and Luni.
‘AYUSH drugs’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: Ministry of AYUSH has introduced new Central Sector scheme for promoting pharma co-vigilance of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy (ASU&H) Drugs.
Objective of this scheme
Prime objective of the scheme is to develop the culture of documenting adverse effects and undertake safety monitoring of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy drugs and surveillance of misleading advertisements appearing in the print and electronic media.
The scheme intends to facilitate the establishment of three-tier network of National Pharmacovigilance Centre (NPvCC), Intermediary Pharmacovigilance Centres (IPvCCs) and Peripheral Pharmacovigilance Centres (PPvCC). All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi, an autonomous body under the Ministry of AYUSH, has been designated as National Pharmacovigilance Centre for coordinating various activities of the initiative.
‘Pitch to MOVE’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: NITI Aayog has launched “Pitch to MOVE”
About the scheme
It is a mobility pitch competition that aims to provide budding entrepreneurs of India a unique opportunity to pitch their business ideas to a distinguished jury. Startups working in the various fields of mobility can pitch their ideas to industry leaders and Venture Capitalists for raising investments.
“Pitch to MOVE aims to identify and incentivise the startups, which will help the Government realize its vision of Shared, Connected, Intermodal and Environment Friendly Mobility for India. The objective is to harness the latest disruption for generating employment and growth in our country.
‘Trade deficit’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: India’s trade deficit widened to a more than five-year high of $18.02 billion in July, the commerce ministry said
What the data says?
- It was driven largely by a surge in oil imports.
- Though merchandise exports rose 14.32% year on year in July, the trade deficit widened as oil imports surged 57.41% to $12.35 billion.
Oil prices jumped on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia said it cut production, adding to concerns over global supply as U.S. sanctions against Iran curb its exports, though the prospect of a slowdown in global economic growth kept a lid on markets.
What is a Trade deficit?
A trade deficit is an economic measure of international trade in which a country’s imports exceeds its exports. A trade deficit represents an outflow of domestic currency to foreign markets. It is also referred to as a negative balance of trade (BOT).
Nations of the world record their trades in their balance of payment (BOP) ledgers. One of the primary accounts in the balance of payments is the current account, which keeps track of the goods and services leaving (exports) and entering (imports) a country. The current account shows direct transfers such as foreign aid, asset income such as foreign direct investment (FDI) and net income – income received by residents minus income paid to foreigners – and the BOT.
The trade balance is the largest section of the current account and measures the income that a country receives from its exports and the cost of imports. A country that exports more than it imports will have a trade surplus since the inflow of currency is greater than the outflow of currency. Most countries attempt to export more goods and services than they import to obtain greater currency inflows. However, it is not uncommon to see trade deficits in a country’s current account. Because the trade balance is the largest section of the current account, a trade deficit (or surplus) usually translates to a current account deficit (or surplus).
A trade deficit typically occurs when a country does not produce enough goods for its residents. Alternatively, a deficit means that a country’s consumers are wealthy enough to purchase more goods than the country produces. When production cannot meet demand, imports from other nations increase. A trade deficit is not necessarily detrimental because it often corrects itself over time. An increase in imported goods from other countries decreases the price of consumer goods in the nation as foreign competition increases. The lower prices help to reduce the threat of inflation in the local economy. An increase in imports also increases the variety and options of goods and services available to residents of a country. A fast-growing economy might import more as it expands to allow its residents to consume more than the country can produce. Therefore, a trade deficit could indicate a growing economy.
In the long run, however, a trade deficit may lead to the creation of fewer jobs. If the country is importing more goods from foreign companies, prices will go down, and domestic companies may be unable to produce and compete at the lower prices. Manufacturing companies are usually hit the hardest when a country imports more than it exports, and the result is fewer jobs or lower incomes for employees because of the competition from imports. Fewer jobs mean that fewer goods are produced in the economy which, in turn, could lead to even more imports and a greater deficit.
‘Groundwater’ (GS3: conservation of Environment)
Issue: Scientists have developed a low-cost method to monitor groundwater pollutants in real-time, and help reduce potential health risks.
About the method developed
The new approach starts with sensors to track water quality variables that have been determined to be reliable indicators of contaminant levels
The researchers tracked levels of tritium and uranium-238 in the groundwater at the Savannah River site, a former nuclear weapons production site in South Carolina in the U.S. They measured the acidity (or pH) levels and specific conductance (a measure of electrical conductance).
These variables were determined to be reliable indicators for tritium and uranium-238 concentrations.
The data from the multiple sensors were then fed into a Kalman filter to estimate contaminant concentrations.
A Kalman filter is not a physical filter but rather a mathematical algorithm that can integrate mixed time-series data to make estimates. It is used in various fields, such as traffic prediction and remote sensing. Using historical data from the Savannah River Site, the researchers found that The method provided reliable information about plume over last 20 years.
This indicates that the new approach holds significant promise as a long-term monitoring strategy for rapidly assessing a contaminant’s plume stability, researchers said.
Another advantage over conventional approaches is that it can reduce the frequency of manual groundwater sampling and lab analysis, and thus reduce the monitoring cost
About Groundwater pollution
Groundwater pollution (also called groundwater contamination) occurs when pollutants are released to the ground and make their way down into groundwater. This type of water pollution can also occur naturally due to the presence of a minor and unwanted constituent, contaminant or impurity in the groundwater, in which case it is more likely referred to as contamination rather than pollution.
The pollutant often creates a contaminant plume within an aquifer. Movement of water and dispersion within the aquifer spreads the pollutant over a wider area. Its advancing boundary, often called a plume edge, can intersect with groundwater wells or daylight into surface water such as seeps and springs, making the water supplies unsafe for humans and wildlife. The movement of the plume, called a plume front, may be analyzed through a hydrological transport model or groundwater model. Analysis of groundwater pollution may focus on soil characteristics and site geology, hydrogeology, hydrology, and the nature of the contaminants.
Pollution can occur from on-site sanitation systems, landfills, effluent from wastewater treatment plants, leaking sewers, petrol filling stations or from over application of fertilizers in agriculture. Pollution (or contamination) can also occur from naturally occurring contaminants, such as arsenic or fluoride. Using polluted groundwater causes hazards to public health through poisoning or the spread of disease.
Different mechanisms have influence on the transport of pollutants, e.g. diffusion, adsorption, precipitation, decay, in the groundwater. The interaction of groundwater contamination with surface waters is analyzed by use of hydrology transport models.
Several trace metals occur naturally in certain rock formations and can enter in the environment from natural processes such as weathering. However, industrial activities such as mining, metallurgy, solid waste disposal, paint and enamel works, etc. can lead to elevated concentrations of toxic metals including lead, cadmium and chromium. These contaminants have the potential to make their way into groundwater.
Inorganic pollutants might include other nutrients such as ammonia and phosphate, and radio-nuclides such as uranium (U) or radon (Rn) naturally present in some geological formations. Saltwater intrusion is also an example of natural contamination, but is very often intensified by human activities