National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)
Why in News?
- Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by representatives of State Pollution Control Boards, Urban Local Bodies and Institutes of Repute for 132 identified cities for implementation of city specific action plans under National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
- The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) is a long-term, time-bound, national level strategy to tackle air pollution problem across the country in a comprehensive manner with targets to achieve 20% to 30% reduction in Particulate Matter concentrations by 2024 (with 2017 as base year).
- The city action plans have been prepared to control specific air pollution sources through multidimensional actions by brining several implementation agencies together.
- Expansion of ambient air quality network, source apportionment studies, public awareness, grievance redressal mechanism and sector specific action points are part of these action plans.
- A National Knowledge Network comprising leading air quality specialists has also been constituted as a technical advisory group to support activities under NCAP and guide local Institutes of Repute (IoRs) in conducting air quality researches.
Indian beamline project
Why in News?
- The third phase of the Indian beamline project, a facility for materials research set up under India-Japan Scientific and Technological Cooperation, was initiated, with special focus on industrial application research.
- The phase would increase the number of young researchers from India to be trained in advanced X-ray techniques of material research.
- Besides, steps will be taken to allocate more beamtime so that more researchers can get access to it. At present, only 50% of Indian researchers who apply receive beamtime.
Climate Summit for world leaders
Why in News?
- S. President Joe Biden will host a virtual ‘ Leaders Summit on Climate’ on April 22 and 23, with 40 world leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- The summit will highlight the urgent need to address climate change and the economic benefit of doing so.
- It is also a prelude to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) which will be held in Glasgow in November.
- The U.S. will announce a new “ambitious” 2030 emissions target as its Nationally Determined Contribution – all signatories of the Paris agreement are required to update their targets before the Glasgow conference.
- Two other South Asian countries – Bhutan and Bangladesh – have been invited to the summit. Bangladesh is a low-lying country and at high risk due to climate change.
- Some island nations — like Jamaica and the Marshall Islands — are also on Mr Biden’s guest list.
Alternative to China’s BRI
Why in News?
- S. President along with British Prime Minister call that democratic countries should provide an alternative to China’s infrastructure strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
- Earlier, the U.S. and its Quad partners (India, Australia and Japan) had committed to another initiative between democratic states — providing up to one billion vaccines in South East Asia and the Pacific to cover vaccine shortages.
- In 2019, the Trump administration had floated an infrastructure scheme — the Blue Dot Network — to vet projects and promote private-sector led infrastructure development in the Indo Pacific. However, the scheme is not set up to directly finance projects on its own.
Sale of Electoral Bonds
Why in News?
- The Supreme Court refused to stay the sale of electoral bonds before Assembly elections in crucial States like West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
- Chief Justice of India said the scheme began in 2018 and continued in 2019 and 2020 without any impediments.
- The judgment came on an urgent application moved by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, to stay the sale scheduled between April 1 and 10.
- Electoral bonds scheme had “opened doors to unlimited political donations, even from foreign companies and thereby legitimising electoral corruption at a huge scale, while at the same time ensuring complete non-transparency in political funding”.
- The government had notified the scheme on January 2, 2018, and defended electoral bonds as an antidote to the influence of black money in politics and anonymous cash donations of huge amounts.
‘Move health to Concurrent list’
- Health should be shifted to the Concurrent list under the Constitution, and a developmental finance institution (DFI) dedicated to healthcare investments set up, Fifteenth Finance Commission Chairman N.K. Singh said.
- Making a case for enhancing government spending on health to 2.5% of GDP by 2025, Mr. Singh said primary healthcare should be a fundamental commitment of all States in particular and should be allocated at least two-thirds of such spending.
- Bringing health into the Concurrent list would give the Centre greater flexibility to enact regulatory changes and reinforce the obligation of all stakeholders towards providing better healthcare.
- Such a DFI would increase healthcare access in tier-2 and tier-3 cities and also come in with technical assistance that ensures proper usage of funds.
- Also emphasised the importance of universalising healthcare insurance as a large section of the society still remained uncovered.
- While the PMJAY covers the bottom two income quintiles, commercial insurance largely covers top-income quintile, thereby creating a ‘missing middle’ class in between.
- This refers to people in the middle two income quintiles, where the population is not rich enough to afford commercial insurance and not poor enough to be covered under government-sponsored health insurance schemes.
Prioritise surgery patients for vaccination
Why in News?
- Patients waiting for elective surgery should get Covid vaccines ahead of the general population — potentially helping avoid deaths, according to a study.
- Data from a number of countries, including India, showed between 0.6% and 1.6% of patients get Covid-19 infection after surgery, and they are at between 4- and 8-fold increased risk of death in the 30 days following surgery.
Why in News?
- Global trade has been impacted after a container ship got stuck in the Suez Canal, the 193-km waterway that is pivotal in connecting Europe and Asia.
- Located in Egypt, the artificial sea-level waterway was built between 1859 and 1869 linking the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.
- As the shortest route between the Atlantic Ocean and lands around the Indian and western Pacific Oceans, the canal is one of the busiest waterways in the world, negating the need to navigate around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa and thus cutting distances by up to 7,000 km.
- The last closure lasting eight years before reopening for navigation in June 1975.
Suez Canal’s Long History
- The canal has existed in one form or the other since construction started under the reign of Senausret III, Pharao of Egypt (1887-1849 BC). Many kings who ruled later kept improving and expanding this canal.
- Construction picked up pace around 300 years back as maritime trade between Europe and Asia became crucial for many economies.
- In 1799, Napoleon’s efforts to build a proper canal were brought to an end due to an inaccuracy in the measurements.
- In the mid-1800s, French diplomat and engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps convinced the Egyptian viceroy Said Pasha to support the canal’s construction.
- In 1858, the Universal Suez Ship Canal Company was tasked to construct and operate the canal for 99 years, after which rights would be handed to the Egyptian government.
- Despite facing multiple problems ranging from financial difficulties and attempts by the British and Turks to halt construction, the canal was opened for international navigation in 1869.
- The French and British held most of the shares in the canal company.
- The British used their position to sustain their maritime and colonial interests by maintaining a defensive force along the Suez Canal Zone as part of a 1936 treaty.
- In 1954, facing pressure from Egyptian nationalists, the two countries signed a seven-year treaty that led to the withdrawal of British troops.
Egypt takes over Suez Canal
- In 1956, Egyptian President Abdel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal to pay for the construction of a dam on the Nile.
- This led to the Suez Crisis with UK, France and Israel mounting an attack on Egypt.
- The conflict ended in 1957 after the United Nations got involved and was followed by the first instance of the UN Peacekeeping Forces being deployed anywhere in the world.
- Even as the occupying forces withdrew their troops, the UN forced were stationed at Sinai to maintain peace between Egypt and Israel.
- In 1967, Nasser ordered the peacekeeping forces out of Sinai leading to a new conflict between the two countries.
- Israelis occupied Sinai and in response, Egypt closed the canal to all shipping.
- The closure lasted until 1975, when the two countries signed a disengagement accord.
- The canal was the focal point of the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, with the Arab coalition led by Egypt and Syria.
- The canal continues to be the lifeline for all trade between the West and East as 10 per cent of the global trade passes through it every year.
Why in News?
- NASA and ISRO are collaborating on developing a satellite called NISAR, which will detect movements of the planet’s surface as small as 0.4 inches over areas about half the size of a tennis court.
- The satellite will be launched in 2022 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, into a near-polar orbit and will scan the globe every 12 days over the course of its three-year mission of imaging the Earth’s land, ice sheets and sea ice to give an “unprecedented” view of the planet.
What is NISAR?
- It’s an SUV-sized satellite that is being jointly developed by the space agencies of the US and India.
- The partnership agreement was signed between NASA and ISRO in September 2014, according to which NASA will provide one of the radars for the satellite, a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers and a payload data subsystem.
- ISRO, on the other hand, will provide the spacecraft bus, the second type of radar (called the S-band radar), the launch vehicle and associated launch services.
- NISAR will be equipped with the largest reflector antenna ever launched by NASA and its primary goals include tracking subtle changes in the Earth’s surface, spotting warning signs of imminent volcanic eruptions, helping to monitor groundwater supplies and tracking the rate at which ice sheets are melting.
- The name NISAR is short for NASA-ISRO-SAR.
- SAR here refers to the synthetic aperture radar that NASA will use to measure changes in the surface of the Earth.
- Essentially, SAR refers to a technique for producing high-resolution images.
- Because of the precision, the radar can penetrate clouds and darkness, which means that it can collect data day and night in any weather.
Why in News?
- The corporate affairs ministry has announced companies will have to disclose any holding or dealings in cryptocurrencies or virtual currencies in their financial statements filed with the Registrar of Companies.
What is the new regulation?
- All companies will now have to disclose in their statutory financial filings to the RoC any profit or loss on transactions involving cryptocurrency, the amount of cryptocurrency held on the reporting date, and any deposits or advances received from anyone for the purpose of investing in cryptocurrencies or virtual currencies.
- The government’s new bill – Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 — aims to prohibit all private cryptocurrencies while setting the stage to roll out the legal framework for an “official digital currency”.
Chilika was a part of the Bay of Bengal
- The Chilika Lake in Odisha, Asia’s largest brackish water lake, was once part of the Bay of Bengal, a study by the marine archaeology department of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, has found.
- India’s peninsular river Mahanadi carried a heavy load of silt and dumped part of it at its delta. As the sediment-laden river met the Bay of Bengal, sand bars were formed near its mouth.
- These created a backflow of the sea water into the sluggish fresh water at the estuary, resulting in the huge brackish water lake.
- The lake has been a useful centre for maritime activities since the third millennium before the Common Era (CE).
- Greek geographer Claudius Ptolemy (150 CE) described Palur as an important port of Kalinga and referred to it as ‘Paloura’.
- This port was situated close to the ‘point of departure’ located outside the southern tip of the lake at Kantiagarh, from where ships used to sail directly for Southeast Asia.
- The famous Sanskrit poet Kalidas called the king of Kalinga ‘Madhodhipati’ or ‘Lord of the Ocean’.
- The lake had become shallower with the passage of time due to the deposition of sediments brought by the Mahanadi as outflow from the lake was restricted.
- Africa’s forest and savanna elephants are now ‘critically endangered’ and ‘endangered’ due to population declines caused primarily by poaching and habitat loss, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said.
- Both species were earlier listed as ‘vulnerable’.
- The population of African forest elephants plummeted by 86 per cent in the last 31 years while that of the savanna elephants dropped by 60 per cent in the last 50 years.
- Both species suffered sharp declines since 2008 due to a significant increase in poaching that peaked in 2011 but continues to threaten populations.
- The ongoing conversion of their habitats, primarily to agricultural and other land uses, is another significant threat
- The population of the two species combined is around 415,000.
- IUCN assessment also pointed out that there had been successful conservation programmes that had led to the stabilisation of the elephant populations in a few areas.
- Forest elephants had stabilised in well-managed conservation areas in Gabon and the Republic of the Congo.
- The numbers of Savanna elephants had also been stable or growing for decades, especially in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, which harboured the largest subpopulation of this species on the continent.
- Forest elephants occur in the tropical forests of Central Africa and in a range of habitats in West Africa.
- They rarely overlap with the range of the savanna elephant, which prefers open country and is found in a variety of habitats in sub-Saharan Africa including grasslands and deserts.