Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - August 25, 2017

Niti Ayog

NITI AYOG’S - Three Year Action Agenda to be implemented till 2019-20’

  • Air pollution has reached crisis levels in Northern India
  • Ten of the top 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India.

Major source of air pollution –

  • Coal power plants, brick kilns, vehicles, cooking and heating fires which burn biomass, rubbish burning and burning of crop residue and dust from construction

Suggestions By Niti Ayog

It recommended actions like

  • Finding alternatives to crop residue burning
  • Alternatives to crop residue burning –
  • Happy Seeder, a machine developed by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO Australia) and Punjab Agricultural University, allows planting of wheat through the residue.
  • The machine was introduced about five years ago and has been shown to reduce field preparation costs marginally and maintain yields and profits of wheat, which has led some farmers to adopt it.
  • A larger subsidy on the machine for limited time complemented by extension and information campaigns may eliminate the problem within the next three years.
  • Reducing pollution from cooking fires and installing flu gas de-sulpherizers on all coal power plants in or close to densely populated areas except those less than 5MW capacity and those older than 25 years by 2020.
  • Switching to cleaner technologies to reduce pollution from brick kilns considerably within three years.
  • Making public transportation faster and more comfortable will discourage the use of private vehicles.
  • Metro or bus based rapid transit systems connecting suburbs and city centre and a dense in-city transport system will go some distance towards achieving the objective
  • Replacement of vehicles from petrol and diesel to CNG, infrastructure improvements which allow vehicles travelling long distances to bypass the cities without entering,
  • Higher taxes on petrol to encourage commuters to share cars and other measures to cut emissions.
  • Higher taxes on petrol in and around more polluted cities would encourage commuters to share cars and take public transportation.
  • Higher parking fees and park and ride facilities will have similar effects,” it recommended.
  • The older power plants should be shut down and retired in a phased manner, this will cut emissions of Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) gas that becomes sulphate particles in the atmosphere. It will also reduce particulate (smoke) emissions directly.

Environment

An iceberg the size of Delaware has broken off from Antarctica

Larsen C

  • The trillion-ton piece of ice just broke off from the Larsen-C ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula. It totals about 2,240 square miles — about the size of the state of Delaware — and its volume, 40 trillion cubic feet of ice, is twice that of Lake Erie
  • Reported by - Project Midas, a UK-based science group dedicated to studying the ice shelf.
  • It wasn’t caused by climate change. Sea levels won’t rise from this new iceberg because the ice was already in the ocean. But it’s still worrying because of the long-term impact it could have on the rest of the shelf’s ice.
  • Larsen C Ice Shelf was 4th largest ice shelf in the world (48,600 km²); having just lost 12% of its total area, it’s now the 5th largest
  • The Antarctic peninsula has been losing ice over the past few decades. “And it’s pretty clear … there’s a connection to an overall warming that part of Antarctica has experienced
  • Ice shelf retreat and collapse on the Antarctic peninsula
  • Ice shelves on the Antarctic peninsula have been retreating and collapsing in succession, each collapse closer to that the last to the south pole, as the northern climatic limit for ice shelves on the peninsula recedes southward.
  • Larsen-A In 1995, broke apart.
  • 2002, the smaller Larsen-B ice shelf which had existed for 10,000 years, partially collapsed and formed an iceberg the size of Rhode Island.
  • The Larsen-C shelf is the continent’s fourth-largest ice shelf. It’s located on the Antarctic Peninsula — the bit of the continent that looks like a crooked finger pointing up toward the Southern tip of South America. The Larsen-C is located on the Northeastern side of the peninsula.
  • The whole Larsen-C ice sheet isn’t ripping off from the continent — only around 12 percent. But it’s still huge and dramat

Russian tanker sails through Arctic without icebreaker for first time

  • Climate change has thawed Arctic enough for $300m gas tanker to travel at record speed through northern sea route
  • The Christophe de Margerie carried a cargo of liquefied natural gas from Hammerfest in Norway to Boryeong in South Korea in 22 days.
  • A Russian tanker has travelled through the northern sea route in record speed and without an icebreaker escort for the first time, highlighting how climate change is opening up the high Arctic
  • The $300m Christophe de Margerie carried a cargo of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Hammerfest in Norway to Boryeong in South Korea in 19 days, about 30% quicker than the conventional southern shipping route through the Suez Canal.

National

Commission under article 340 of the Constitution to examine the issue of sub-categorization of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

  • Approved by – union cabinet to set up a commission
  • To submit the report within 12 weeks from the formation of the committee.
  • To be called as – commission to examine the sub-categorization of other backward classes

Commission will -

  • Examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes/ communities included in the broad category of OBCs, with reference to the OBCs included in the Central list.
  • Work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters, in a scientific approach, for sub-categorization within such OBCs.
  • Take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes/communities/ sub-castes/ synonyms in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.

Status of sub-categorisation under the law

  • The Supreme Court in its order in Indra Sawhney and others vs. Union of India observed that there is no Constitutional or legal bar to a State categorizing backward classes as backward or more backward and had further observed that if a State chooses to do it (sub-categorization), it is not impermissible in law.

Enlighten about present OBC reservation system

  • At present, there is a single Central OBC list, with entries from each State.
  • People belonging to all of these castes can seek reservation from within the single 27% OBC reservation pie for Central government jobs and Central educational institutions. Nine States, however, have already sub-categorised OBCs.
  • These are Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Puducherry, Karnataka, Haryana, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
  • OBC reservation became a reality after the implementation of the Mandal Commission report, which categorised many castes as constituting backward classes and deserving of quotas. New castes have been added to the list over the years.

Bilateral Relations

Construction of a new Bridge over Mechi River at Indo-Nepal border

  • The Union Cabinet has approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed between India and Nepal for laying down implementation arrangement on Cost sharing, Schedules and Safeguard issues for starting construction of a new Bridge over Mechi River at Indo-Nepal border.

Enlighten about the bridge

  • The estimated cost of construction of the bridge is Rs. 158.65 crore, which would be funded by Government of India through ADB loan.
  • The new bridge is part of up-gradation of the Kakarvitta (Nepal) to Panitanki Bypass (India) on NH 327B covering a length of 1500 meters.
  • Mechi Bridge is the ending point of Asian Highway 02 in India leading to Nepal and provides critical connectivity to Nepal.
  • National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) under Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has been designated as the implementing agency for this project.
  • The construction of the bridge will improve regional connectivity and has potential to strengthen cross border trade between both the countries and cementing ties by strengthening industrial, social and cultural exchanges.

Mechi river:

  • The Mechi River is a trans-boundary river flowing through Nepal and India. It is a tributary of the Mahananda River. The Mechi originates in the Mahabharat Range in Nepal.