National Current Affairs – UPSC/IAS Exams- 10th August 2019
Topic: Environment and Ecology
In News: A joint research by the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (IIT-H), Harvard University, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a Canadian government agency, has found that though there has been a decrease in the levels of mercury pollution, the amount of mercury found in fish have been different in different species – some types of fish have less mercury than before, and some, alarmingly more.
More on the Topic:
- The variations in the accumulation of mercury in fish are the result of changes in sea temperature in the recent years and changes in the dietary pattern of fish due to overfishing.
- There have been global efforts to reduce the amount of mercury entering the ocean to reduce the amount of mercury found in fish and other marine animals.
- There are three factors that result in mercury accumulation in fish – overfishing, which leads to dietary changes among marine animals, variations in the temperature of the sea water, which leads to changes in fish metabolism that gears towards survival rather than growth, and changes in the amounts of mercury found in sea water as a result of pollution.
About Mercuric Poisoning:
- Mercury is a naturally occurring chemical, but it can become harmful when it contaminates fresh and seawater areas. Fish and other aquatic animals ingest the mercury, and it is then passed along the food chain until it reaches humans.
- Mercury in humans may cause a wide range of conditions including neurological and chromosomal problems and birth defects.
- Minamata disease, sometimes referred to as Chisso-Minamata disease, is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. In extreme cases, insanity, paralysis, coma and death follow within weeks of the onset of symptoms. A congenital form of the disease can also affect fetuses.
- The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.
Topic: Government Initiatives
In News: Union HRD Minister launched ‘Samagra Shiksha-Jal Suraksha’ drive to create awareness about Water Conservation among all school students in the country.
- To educate students learn about conservation of water
- To sensitize Students about the impact of scarcity of water
- To empower Students to learn to protect the natural sources of water
- To help every Student to save at least one litre of water per day
- To encourage Students towards judicious use and minimum wastage of water at home and school level
Topic: e- Governance
In News: In a bid to make government job aspirants aware of various job opportunities, Union Government has launched the e-version of Rozgar Samachar.
More on the Topic:
- Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting launched the portal which will help the government jobs seekers in getting details information about government jobs and various career opportunities.
- The new exercise launched by the government will also provide information and guidance about admission and career opportunities in various streams through career-oriented articles by experts.
- The move is expected to meet the emerging challenge of young readers switching to electronic modes of communication in searching jobs.
- Rozgar Samachar, which is the corresponding version of Employment News (English), is the flagship weekly job journal from Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
Topic: Government Policies
In News: The Department of Heavy Industry has approved the sanction of 5,595 electric buses to 64 cities, state government entities, and state transport undertakings for intra-city and inter-city operation under FAME India scheme Phase II to push for clean mobility in public transportation.
More on the Topic:
- The FAME scheme aims at encouraging faster adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles. In February 2019, the government had approved Rs. 10,000 crores for FAME Phase II to support a million electric two-wheelers, half a million three-wheelers, 55,000 four-wheelers and 7,000 buses.
- Proposals from 26 States/UTs were received for the deployment of 14,988 e-buses. After evaluation of proposals, Centre sanctioned 5,095 electric buses to 64 cities / State Transport Corporations for intra-city operation, 400 electric buses for inter-city operation and 100 electric buses for last-mile connectivity to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
- Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad have each been allotted 300 e-buses. Several Tier 2 cities such as Ahmedabad, Pune, Coimbatore are also on the list with 100-150 buses each.
- The selected cities will now initiate the procurement process in a time-bound manner for the deployment of sanctioned electric buses on an operational cost basis. Buses which satisfy required localization level and technical eligibility notified under FAME India scheme phase II will be eligible for funding under FAME India scheme phase II.
- These buses will run about four billion kilometres during their contract period and are expected to save cumulatively about 1.2 billion litres of fuel over the contract period, which will result into avoidance of 2.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emission.
About FAME-India Scheme
- The Phase I: The Phase 1 of Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME-India) was launched in 2015 to promote manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicle (EHVs) technology as well as to ensure sustainable growth of same.
- PHASE II: Implementation of Phase-II of FAME-India Scheme was approved by Cabinet in February 2019 for promotion of Electric Mobility in the country. Fame Phase-II proposes to give a push to electric vehicles (EVs) in public transport and seeks to encourage adoption of EVs by way of demand aggregation (means total demand for final goods and services in an economy at a given time) and market creation.
Model Mains Question: Analyse the prospects and challenges in front of Electronic vehicle mobility in India.
In News: As per a report released by Health and Family Welfare, Manipur has topped the list of states in breastfeeding, infant and young child feeding practises in the country. Delhi, on the other hand, fared the worst.
More on the Topic:
- The report has been developed with scores based on three indicators including early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for six months and complimentary feeding when the baby is six to eight months old.
Why is breastfeeding important?
- Breastfeeding involves skin-to-skin contact, releasing oxytocin in the hormones and develops bonding between the mother and baby.
- WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends that newborn babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months.
- Feeding a baby in the first hour after childbirth is essential because the first milk called colostrum contains antibodies that protect the baby from illness. Breastfeeding the baby lowers the risk of ear infection, asthma, diabetes, childhood leukaemia as well as sudden infant death syndrome.Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of breast cancer or ovarian cancer in the mother.
Where India Stands:
- Despite the health benefits of breastfeeding, India ranks the lowest in breastfeeding practices among South Asian countries. Only 44 per cent of women are able to breastfeed their newborn within an hour of birth and only 55 per cent of all babies born in India receive breast milk exclusively, within the first six months.
- Besides, breastfeeding in public continues to be a taboo, depriving children of breast milk when their mothers cannot feed them in public spaces due to lack of hygienic and clean spaces or people’s prejudices against it.
- Low Performing State in country: Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar secured bottom positions in report card. Delhi, National capital of India is also among worst-performing States.
Source: PIB, Wikipedia
Topic: Government Policies
In News: According to a report from Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), The Centre’s new Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-Kusum) scheme is not a magic solution to overcome challenges of irrigation supply, subsidy burden on discoms and farmer distress.
More on the Topic:
- The PM-Kusum scheme, approved in February 2019, aims to install 17.5 lakh off-grid and 10 lakh on-grid solar pumps and 10 gigawatt of solar power plants capacity in rural areas by 2022.
- It also targets to increase farmer income through sale of surplus power, reduce electricity subsidy burden (approximately Rs 50,000 crores) and expand the distributed renewable energy capacity.
- The components of the scheme include building 10,000 MW solar plants on barren lands and providing sops to DISCOMS to purchase the electricity produced, ‘solarising’ existing pumps of 7250 MW as well as government tube wells with a capacity of 8250 MW and distributing 17.5 lakh solar pumps.
- The 60% subsidy on the solar pumps provided to farmers will be shared between the Centre and the States while 30% would be provided through bank loans. The balance cost has to be borne by the farmers.
- The scheme might result in over-exploitation of groundwater, according to CSE. The findings are based on its surveys of farmers in three districts in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.In regions with water-scarcity, the solar pumps are unable to provide adequate irrigation due to depleting groundwater.
- Although PM Kususm aims to reduce subsidy burden of state discoms, it does not have any clear goals or provisions to ensure subsidy reduction. The subsidised solar pumps are being installed without accompanying cuts in agricultural supply or a reduction in subsidy.
- While, the solarisation of agricultural feeders and on-grid solar pumps are economically superior to off-grid pumps, as excess electricity can be injected into the grid, they do not specify measures to limit water use.
- PM-Kusum’s proposed scheme of installing solar plants on farm land will benefit only the wealthy farmers, as it requires large investment or the ability to lease land for 25 years.
- Solar pump schemes should accompany explicit and strict measures of monitoring and control to manage groundwater extraction. Funds for solar pump schemes should be extended only to states willing to take such measures.
- Solarisation of feeders may be the most economical solution, but needs to be accompanied by gradual increase in agricultural tariffs and limits on hours of power supply.
- On-grid pumps are an alternative for water-scarce regions with high farmer distress, but adequate and one-way power flow (as opposed to net meter) is necessary to limit water withdrawal.
- Off-grid pumps should be considered only in exceptional cases, for unelectrified regions with relatively high water-table, and utilisation should be increased through a mini-grid model in which excess electricity can be used in households or for other economic uses.
- Clear targets must be set to provide solar pumps to small and marginal farmers. Providing access to financing is a crucial support needed by this segment.
- Efficient discom operations should be ensured by regulatory mandates for regular reporting on installations, operations, evacuation, billing and payment to farmers.
Source: Down to Earth, The Hindu