India at UNSC
- Representing India at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on “Addressing climate-related risks to international peace and security”, Union Environment Minister stressed that the idea of climate action should not be to move the climate ambition goal post to 2050 and it is important for countries to fulfill their pre-2020 commitments.
- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement negotiated under the Framework are the central mechanisms for climate action in a nationally determined manner based on certain fundamental agreed principles, the foremost amongst which is “Common but Differentiated Responsibility and Respective Capabilities”.
- Citing the 2019 IPCC Special Report “Climate Change and Land” which says that extreme weather and climate or slow-onset events may lead to increased displacement, disrupted food chains, threatened livelihoods, and could contribute to exacerbated stresses for conflict.
- While climate change does not directly or inherently cause violent conflict, its interaction with other social, political and economic factors can, nonetheless, exacerbate drivers of conflict and fragility and have negative impacts on peace, stability and security; and therefore it is for precisely this reason that developing country’s’ Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement included information on adaptation activities, and the need for finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building, and transparency.”
- The commitment by developed countries to jointly mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020 in support of climate action in developing countries has not been realized and also stated that there is an urgent need to promote and support the meaningful participation of women and marginalized groups in national-level climate change policy and planning processes.
- India is the only country on track among the G20 nations to meet its climate change mitigation commitments. India is not only meeting Paris Agreement targets but will also exceed them.
- The Minister highlighted the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the Coalition for Disaster Resilience Infrastructure (CDRI), the two initiatives by India that have been launched to addressing challenges of climate change and adaptation.
Government of India & AIIB sign agreement
Why in News?
- The Government of India and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) signed a loan agreement for a $304 million Assam Intra-State Transmission System Enhancement Project to improve reliability, capacity and security of the power transmission network in the State of Assam.
The project aims to strengthen Assam’s electricity transmission system by
- constructing 10 transmission substations and laying transmission lines with the associated infrastructure;
- upgrading 15 existing substations, transmission lines and existing ground wire to optical power ground wire; and
- Providing technical assistance to support project implementation.
- The programme would strengthen the existing intrastate transmission network of Assam by augmenting it with newer networks to achieve affordable, secure, efficient and reliable 24×7 power.
- This would, in turn, bring Assam closer to ensuring long-term sustainability of its electricity supply.
- The project is expected to improve the transmission network and reduce transmission losses.
Project to Improve Quality of India’s Education in Nagaland
Why in News?
- The Government of India, Government of Nagaland and the World Bank signed a $68 million project to enhance the governance of schools across Nagaland as well as to improve teaching practices and learning environments in select schools.
- The “Nagaland: Enhancing Classroom Teaching and Resources Project” will improve classroom instruction; create opportunities for the professional development of teachers; and build technology systems to provide students and teachers with more access to blended and online learning as well as allow better monitoring of policies and programs.
- Nagaland faces challenges of weak school infrastructure, lack of opportunities for the professional development of teachers and limited capacity on the part of communities to partner effectively with the school system.
- Strengthening Nagaland’s Education Management and Information System (EMIS) will enable wider access to education resources; support professional development and performance evaluation systems for teachers and education managers; facilitate school leadership and better management; and support examination reforms.
National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM)
Why in News?
- National Urban Digital Mission will create the ideal space to harness immense synergies from the domain of urban and technology towards creating a citizen-centric governance that reflects Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘minimum government and maximum governance’.
- The National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM) has been launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs along with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
- Several other digital initiativesof MoHUA vis. India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX), SmartCode, Smart Cities 2.0 website, and Geospatial Management Information System (GMIS) were also launched.
National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM)
- The National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM) will create a shared digital infrastructure for urban India, working across the three pillars of people, process, and platform to provide holistic support to cities and towns.
- It will institutionalise a citizen-centric and ecosystem-driven approach to urban governance and service delivery in 2022 cities by 2022, and across all cities and towns in India by 2024.
- NUDM will create a shared digital infrastructure that can consolidate and cross-leverage the various digital initiatives of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, enabling cities and towns across India to benefit from holistic and diverse forms of support, in keeping with their needs and local challenges.
India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX)
- The India Urban Data Exchange has been developed in partnership between the Smart Cities Mission and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.
- IUDX serves as a seamless interface for data providers and data users, including ULBs, to share, request, and access datasets related to cities, urban governance, and urban service delivery.
- IUDX is an open-source software platform which facilitates the secure, authenticated, and managed exchange of data amongst various data platforms, 3rd party authenticated and authorised applications, and other sources.
- As the number of cities on IUDX expands, this will scale up to uniform and seamless sharing between data producers and data consumers across urban India.
- IUDX is designed to address the problem of data silos, both within and across cities.
- Cities generate large volumes of data, which are recorded by a wide range of entities, both within government and across industry, academia, and civil society. The combination of these datasets can enable rapid innovation, as well as a better understanding of and planning for urban needs and challenges.
- SmartCode is a platform that enables all ecosystem stakeholders to contribute to a repository of open-source code for various solutions and applications for urban governance.
- It is designed to address the challenges that ULBs face in the development and deployment of digital applications to address urban challenges, by enabling cities to take advantage of existing codes and customising them to suit local needs, rather than having to develop new solutions from scratch.
- As a repository of open-source software, the source code available on the platform will be free to use without any licensing or subscription fees, thus limiting costs to those involved with customising the code and developing a locally-relevant solution.
Washable Adhesive and Related Products
Why in News?
- Scientists have developed a sticky mat which takes away dust from a contacting surface, ensuring a clean, hygienic, healthy, and refreshing atmosphere at our home, offices, hospitals, and laboratories as also smooth functioning of many expensive equipments.
- The mat is a low-cost one and remains washable and usable over many cycles.
How & Why
- Prof Animangsu Ghatak from the Department of Chemical Engineering IIT Kanpur, , took inspiration from adhesive pad present at the feet of wall climbing animals, like house lizards.
- The adhesive associated makes use of nanoscopic pyramidal bumps on its surface to attract dust particles towards it, thereby cleaning the sole of our shoes when we step on it.
- When the adhesive gets completely covered with particulate matter, it is washed in a way that we wash our clothes. At this, the surface gets back its ability to stick and remains usable through hundreds of such cycles.
- This mat can be used in ICU of Hospitals, clean rooms, facilities housing sophisticated equipment as a component of air filters. The technology is important wherever cleanliness and hygiene is desired.
Convert Waste Heat to Electricity
Why in News?
- Scientists have found a new Lead (Pb) free material which can efficiently convert waste heat to power our small home equipment and automobiles.
- Thermoelectric energy conversion allows generation of electrical voltage when one end of a material is heated while keeping the other side cold.
- It entails fitting in three seemingly different properties into a single material– high electrical conductivity of metals, high thermoelectric sensitivity of semiconductors, and low thermal conductivity of glasses.
- Most efficient thermoelectric materials developed by scientists so far use Lead (Pb) as a major constituent element, restricting their use for mass-market applications.
- Scientists from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bengaluru, have now identified a lead-free material called Cadmium (Cd) doped Silver Antimony Telluride (AgSbTe2) which can efficiently allow recovery of electricity from ‘waste heat’ marking a paradigm shift in the thermoelectric puzzle.
- Kanishka Biswas and his group doped (internally introduced) Silver Antimony Telluride with Cadmium (Cd) and used an advanced electron microscopy technique to visualize the resultant ordering of atoms in nanometer scale.
- The nanometer-scale atomic ordering scatters phonons that carries heat in a solid and enhances electrical transport by delocalizing the electronic state in the material.
U.S. anti-corruption award
Why in News?
- Right to Information (RTI) activist Anjali Bhardwaj is among 12 people being honoured by the United States government with a new International Anti-corruption Champions Award.
- The award is meant to recognise individuals “who have worked tirelessly, often in the face of adversity, to defend transparency, combat corruption, and ensure accountability in their own countries.
- Bhardwaj has been chosen as one of the recipients for the inaugural edition of the award, along with activists from other developing countries.
- She is a co-convenor of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, and has been involved in the RTI movement for over two decades.
- At the national level, she has been part of movements to create legislation for RTI, the Lokpal, whistleblower protection and grievance redressal, and the Right to Food. She is also a founder of the Satark Nagrik Sangathan and works to empower the residents of Delhi’s slums to use the RTI Act to get their rights.
Alternative To Alcohol-based Disinfectant
Why in News?
- The IIT Ropar said it has developed a low-cost device to produce electrolysed water that could be used as an alternative to alcohol-based disinfectant.
- The acidic electrolysed water has a pH of 5.0-6.5 and high concentration of Free Available Chlorine (FAC). It was reported recently that freely available chlorine can potently inactivate the virus.
- The electrolysed water also shows strong killing activity against bacteria, fungi and many other types of viruses.
- Unlike traditional procedure of cleaning water with chlorine treatment, electrolysed water does not harm humans.
- It also shows strong activity against food-borne pathogens that could be beneficial for food and agricultural industries.
Microbes from Earth could temporarily survive on Mars
- Some microbes found on Earth may temporarily survive on the surface of Mars, according to a study that could be vital for the success of future missions to the Red Planet.
- The researchers from NASA and German Aerospace Center tested the endurance of microorganisms to Martian conditions by launching them into stratosphere, the second major layer of Earth’s atmosphere which closely represents key conditions on Mars.
- Many key characteristics of the environment at the Martian surface cannot be found or easily replicated at the surface of Earth, however in middle stratosphere the conditions are remarkably similar.
- While not all the microbes survived the trip, one previously detected on the International Space Station, the black mold Aspergillus Niger, could be revived after it returned home.
- Microorganisms are closely-connected to us; our body, our food, our environment, so it is impossible to rule them out of space travel.
How Mars May Have Lost Its Atmosphere
- Solar winds may have led to Mars losing its atmosphere, according to a computer simulation study which confirms the long held belief that planets need a protective magnetic field to block such harmful radiations in order to sustain life.
- While factors like the existence of a moderately warm, moist atmosphere and liquid water determine whether a planet can host life, the study, noted that the ability of planets to generate magnetic fields around them is an overlooked aspect.
- According to the scientists, these magnetic fields enveloping planets can act like a protective umbrella, shielding the atmosphere from the super-fast plasma winds of the Sun.
- On the Earth, a geo-dynamo mechanism generates the planet’s protective magnetosphere — an invisible shield that stops the solar wind from eroding away our atmosphere.
- In the current study, the scientists simulated two scenarios of the Red Planet — one considering a young Mars with its magnetosphere intact, and the other with the planet without this force field.
- Without an intrinsic magnetosphere, the researchers said the solar wind magnetic field may have first draped around, and slipped past Mars, carrying bits of the planet’s atmosphere away, eventually eroding it completely.
- Alternatively, planets that lose their magnetic field eventually become inhospitable with loss of their atmosphere.
NITI Aayog’s draft national policy on migrant workers
Why in News?
- Spurred by the exodus of 10 million migrants (as per government estimates) from big cities during the Covid-19 lockdown, NITI Aayog, along with a working subgroup of officials and members of civil society, has prepared a draft national migrant labour policy.
A rights-based approach
- The draft describes two approaches to policy design: one focussed on cash transfers, special quotas, and reservations; the other which “enhances the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive”.
- Migration, the draft says, “Should be acknowledged as an integral part of development”, and “government policies should not hinder but…seek to facilitate internal migration”.
- The report argued that the movement from agriculture to manufacturing and services was inherently linked to the success of migration in the country.
Issues with existing law
- The 2017 report argued that specific protection legislation for migrant workers was unnecessary. “(Migrant workers) should be integrated with all workers…as part of an overarching framework that covers regular and contractual work”.
- The report discussed the limitations of The Inter State Migrant Workers Act, 1979, which was designed to protect labourers from exploitation by contractors by safeguarding their right to non-discriminatory wages, travel and displacement allowances, and suitable working conditions.
- However, this law — which was modeled on a 1975 Odisha law — covered only labourers migrating through a contractor, and left out independent migrants.
- The NITI Aayog’s policy draft too, mentions that the Ministry of Labour and Employment should amend the 1979 Act for “effective utilisation to protect migrants”.
- The draft asks the Ministries of Panchayati Raj, Rural Development, and Housing and Urban Affairs to use Tribal Affairs migration data to help create migration resource centres in high migration zones. It asks the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to focus on skill-building at these centres.
- The Ministry of Education should take measures under the Right to Education Act to mainstream migrant children’s education, to map migrant children, and to provide local-language teachers in migrant destinations.
- The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs should address issues of night shelters, short-stay homes, and seasonal accommodation for migrants in cities.
- The National Legal Services authority (NALSA) and Ministry of Labour should set up grievance handling cells and fast track legal responses for trafficking, minimum wage violations, and workplace abuses and accidents for migrant workers.
Mumbai’s undersea tunnel, the first in India
Why in News?
- Come 2023, Mumbai will be home to India’s first undersea tunnel, which will be part of the the city’s Coastal Road project.
Where are Mumbai’s undersea tunnels being built?
- The twin tunnels, which have a length of 2.07 km of which a kilometre will be under the sea, are being built as part of the Mumbai Coastal Road Project, a 10.58-km stretch starting from the Marine Drive promenade to the Worli-end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.
- A part of a plan to link South Mumbai with North.
- It is the first undersea road tunnel in the country which will pass through Arabian Sea near Girgaon Chowpatty.
How deep under the sea will these tunnels be built?
- Unlike the big undersea tunnels in the world, include the Channel Tunnel that connects England and France, the twin tunnels in Mumbai are being built at a relatively shallow depth.
- Mumbai’s undersea tunnel will be 20 metres below the seabed.
- In comparison, the Channel Tunnel at its deepest point is 75 metres below the sea bed. The Seikan Tunnel in Japan lies over 100 metres below the seabed.
- The Mumbai tunnel is also being built very close to the coast, where the depth of the sea is not more than 4 to 5 metres.
Climate-refuge Land in Fiji
Why in News?
- A block of land the government of Kiribati bought in Fiji half a decade ago – ostensibly to serve as a refuge when their country disappeared under a rising ocean – will be transformed into a commercial farm to help feed the i-Kiribati people, with “technical assistance” from China.
- Scientists have rejected the rationale for the purchase, saying the archipelagic nation was not in danger of disappearing as its sand atolls will rise with the sea level.
- But Kiribati’s switch to Beijing had stoked western fears that it would pave the way for Chinese military expansion in the Pacific by harnessing Kiribati’s strategic location.
- The Micronesian nation of 113,000 people, independent since 1979, is made up of 33 sandy atolls across three archipelagoes, spread over a swath of ocean the size of India.
- The capital, Tarawa, is just 1000km south of Kwajalein Atoll and America’s Reagan Missile Test Site, while Kiritimati Island – also known as Christmas Island – is a little more than 2,000km from Hawaii, home of the US Pacific Command and Pearl Harbor Navy base.
- Kiribati has a friendship treaty with the US that allows the latter to veto third-party bases.
Global Freshwater Fish Populations at Risk of Extinction
- Freshwater fish are under threat, with as many as a third of global populations in danger of extinction, according to an assessment.
- Populations of migratory freshwater fish have plummeted by 76% since 1970, and large fish – those weighing more than 30kg – have been all but wiped out in most rivers. The global population of megafish down by 94%, and 16 freshwater fish species were declared extinct last year.
- The report by 16 global conservation organisations, called The World’s Forgotten Fishes, said that global populations of freshwater fish were in freefall.
- The problems are diverse and include pollution, overfishing and destructive fishing practices, the introduction of invasive non-native species, climate change and the disruption of river ecologies.
- Most of the world’s rivers are now dammed in parts, have water extracted for irrigation or have their natural flows disrupted, making life difficult for freshwater fish.
- The report found that biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems was being lost at twice the rate of oceans and forests. There are more than 18,000 species of freshwater fish known, and more are still being discovered.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which compiles the global red list of species in danger, has assessed more than 10,000 species and found that about 30% were at risk of extinction.
Nine African Nations on Track to Join Solar ‘Gigawatt Club’
- Of the 37 countries that are part of the solar ‘gigawatt club’, only two — South Africa and Egypt — are from Africa. But this might change soon with nine more African countries ramping up solar capacity.
- Nations with installed capacity to produce 1 GW of solar power form the ‘gigawatt club’.
- The nine countries that are developing their solar infrastructure are Algeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Namibia, Ethiopia, Morocco and Botswana.
- Nearly half the world’s population without access to electricity (591 million) is in sub-Saharan Africa.
Emerging solar champions
- Natural gas accounts for 98 per cent of the energy mix in Algeria but the country aims to generate up to 22 gigawatts of green energy by 2030. Of this, 13.6 GW will be solar.
- In Zimbabwe, where over 91 per cent people do not have access to electricity, solar will be key to ensuring access to affordable energy.
South Africa and Egypt
- South Africa currently has over 2.8 GW of installed solar power capacity. It plans to scale up to 8.28 GW by 2030.
- To realize this target, the country plans to generate 1 GW of solar per year in 2023, 2025 and 2028-30.
- Egypt accounts for 23 per cent of the leading solar power projects in the Middle East and North Africa region.
- The nation will continue to build on the success of both government-led projects such as Benban solar park and decentralised projects.
- The 1.8 GW Benban solar park developed by state-owned New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) at Aswan governorate was named the biggest solar photovoltaic park in the world in October 2019.