MoU between India and Fiji
Why in News?
- The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare of the Republic of India and Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Fiji for cooperation in the field of Agriculture and Allied Sectors.
The MoU between India and Fiji provides for cooperation in the following areas:
- Exchange of research personnel, scientific experts, specialists, and technical trainees;
- Enhancement and transfer of technology;
- Development of infrastructure for agriculture development;
- Development of human resources through training of officers and farmers by conducting seminars and workshops;
- Promotion of joint ventures between private sectors of both countries;
- Promotion of investment in marketing and value addition/downstream processing of agricultural commodities;
- Promote capacity development in all areas of agriculture;
- Promotion of direct trade of agriculture products through market access;
- Joint planning and development of research proposals and execution of research projects and programmes;
- Establishment of Indo – Fiji Working Group for dealing phytosanitary issues, and any other form of cooperation which will be mutually agreed by the Parties.
This MoU will come into effect on the date of its signing and will remain in force for a period of 5(five) years.
MoU between India and France
Why in News?
- The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi was apprised of the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and French Republic in the field of renewable energy cooperation. The MoU was signed in January 2021.
The objective of the MoU
- To establish the basis for promotion of bilateral cooperation in the field of new and renewable energy on the basis of mutual benefit, equality and reciprocity. It covers technologies relating to solar, wind, hydrogen and biomass energy.
The MoU entails:
- Exchange and training of scientific and technical personnel;
- Exchange of scientific and technological information and data;
- Organization of workshops and seminars; transfer of equipment, know-how and technology;
- Development of joint research and technological projects.
- This MoU will aid the process of attaining the ambitious target of 450 GW of installed Renewable Energy capacity by 2030.
“India Telecom 2021”
Why in News?
- TEPC (Telecom Equipment Export Promotion Council) has organized India Telecom 2021’ – an Exclusive International Business Expo
- Being held under Market Access Initiative Scheme (MAI) of Department of Commerce and with support of Department of Telecommunications & Ministry of External Affairs.
- Great significance to Indian exporters and has a very high impact.
- India is a fast-growing telecom market fueled by data growth. This local demand is a driver of domestic telecom companies to create innovative, high-quality products and solutions that can serve the needs of both India and emerging markets across the globe.
- It is a platform for convergence of technologies and business exchange.
- TEPC has been set up by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry and Ministry of Communications.
- To promote and develop of Export of Telecom Equipment and Services.
- The council undertakes several activities aimed at exports promotion such as Commissioning of Studies to find potential markets, holding of National/International Seminars and facilitating participation of exporters in various overseas exhibitions.
- The council makes various recommendations to the Government for making necessary changes in various policies and procedures for promotion of Exports and Services.
World Wildlife Day
Why in News?
- World Wildlife Day is observed annually on March 3 to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s flora and fauna.
- The day is about raising awareness about wildlife and educating yourself and others about the diversity and importance of flora and fauna across the world.
- This year’s theme for World Wildlife Day is “Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet”.
History and significance
- On December 20, 2013, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 3 March as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness about animals and plants on our planet.
- In its resolution, the United Nations General Assembly stressed the importance of flora and fauna and reaffirmed the intrinsic value and various contributions of wildlife.
- The UNGA resolution also designated the CITES Secretariat as the facilitator for the global observance of World Wildlife Day.
Marine Spatial Planning in Lakshadweep and Puducherry
Why in News?
- India and Norway have agreed to jointly work in the area of marine spatial planning in the oceanic space for the next five years.
- Recently, first project steering committee meeting with representatives from both the countries was successfully conducted.
- Two countries have charted out a plan to ensure that human activities at sea take place in an efficient, safe, and sustainable manner in areas such as energy, transportation, fisheries, aquaculture, tourism etc. across multiple sectors.
Indo-Norway Integrated Ocean Initiative
- This is a part of the Indo-Norway Integrated Ocean Initiative under the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two countries in 2019. Lakshadweep and Puducherry have been identified as pilot sites for the project.
Marine Spatial Planning (MSP)
- The initiative known as Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) will be implemented by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) through National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) for India. In its primary phase, NCCR will develop a marine spatial planning framework for Puducherry and Lakshadweep.
- Notably, the World Bank and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have expressed interest in supporting MoES in conducting MSP, a societal-beneficial initiative for India’s coastal regions.
- The Government of India’s vision of New India by 2030 highlights blue economy as one of the ten core dimensions of growth.
- MSP is globally identified as a tool for sustainable and integrated ocean management.
Insurance Ombudsman Rules
Why in News?
- The Government recently notified comprehensive amendments to the Insurance Ombudsman Rules, 2017, with a view to improve the working of the Insurance Ombudsman mechanism to facilitate resolution of complaints regarding deficiencies in insurance services in a timely, cost-effective and impartial manner.
The amended rules
- Enlarged the scope of complaints to Ombudsmen from only disputes earlier to deficiencies in service on the part of insurers, agents, brokers and other intermediaries.
- Insurance brokers have been brought within the ambit of the Ombudsman mechanism, by empowering the Ombudsmen to pass awards against insurance brokers as well.
- Policyholders will now be enabled for making complaints electronically to the Ombudsman and a complaints management system will be created to enable policyholders to track the status of their complaints online.
- The selection committee will now include an individual with a track record of promoting consumer rights or advancing the cause of consumer protection in the insurance sector.
- The Ombudsman mechanism was administered by the Executive Council of Insurers, which has been renamed as the Council for Insurance Ombudsmen.
Aries-Devasthal Faint Object Spectrograph & Camera (ADFOSC)
Why in News?
- Indian Scientists have indigenously designed and developed a low-cost optical spectrograph that can locate sources of faint light from distant quasars and galaxies in a very young universe, regions around supermassive black-holes around the galaxies, and cosmic explosions.
- The ‘Made in India’ optical spectrograph named as Aries-Devasthal Faint Object Spectrograph & Camera (ADFOSC), indigenously designed and developed by Aryabhatta Research Institute of observational sciences (ARIES), Nainital.
- It is about 2.5 times less costly compared to the imported ones and can locate sources of light with a photon-rate as low as about 1 photon per second.
- The spectroscope, the largest of its kind among the existing astronomical spectrographs in the country, has been successfully commissioned on the 3.6-m Devasthal Optical Telescope (DOT), the largest in the country and in Asia, near Nainital Uttarakhand.
How it Works
- Photons coming from distant celestial sources, collected by the telescope, are sorted into different colors by the spectrograph and are finally converted into electronic recordable signals using an in-house developed Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) camera cooled to an extremely low temperature of -120 0C.
Why in News?
- A massive fire has threatened to cause colossal damage to Similipal Biosphere — one of the largest biospheres of India.
- The biosphere spread over 4,374 sq. km. has 845 sq. km. of core forest (tiger reserve), 2,129 sq km buffer area and 1,400 sq km of transition space.
- Similipal has 1,076 flowering species and 96 species of orchids.
- It boasts of having tropical semi-evergreen forests, tropical moist deciduous forests, dry deciduous hill forests, high level sal forests and sprawling meadows.
- Similipal is home to a wide range of wild animals including tigers and elephants, besides 304 species of birds, 20 species of amphibians and 62 species of reptiles.
What is the Simlipal Biosphere reserve?
- Similipal, which derives its name from ‘Simul’ (silk cotton) tree, is a national park and a tiger reserve situated in the northern part of Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district.
- Similipal and the adjoining areas, comprising 5,569 sq km, was declared a biosphere reserve by the Government of India on June 22, 1994, and lies in the eastern end of the eastern ghat.
- Similipal is the abode of 94 species of orchids and about 3,000 species of plants.
- The identified species of fauna include 12 species of amphibians, 29 species of reptiles, 264 species of birds and 42 species of mammals, all of which collectively highlight the biodiversity richness of Similipal. Sal is a dominant tree species.
How fire prone is Simlipal forest?
- Generally, with the onset of summers and towards the end of autumn, the forest area remains vulnerable to forest fires. They are a recurrent annual phenomenon, but are also brought under control due to short span of precipitation. The months of January and February witness rainfall of 10.8 and 21 mm, respectively. The last incident of a major forest fire was reported in 2015.
- This duration coincides with the shedding of deciduous forests in the forest areas. The fallen leaves are more vulnerable to catching fire and facilitate the spreading of these forest fires quickly over the entire forest area.
Slime Mold Memory
- How does the slime mold Physarum polycephalum, with no nervous system, save memories? How does it remember where it found food and which environments were harmful?
- Researchers found that the network-like tubes in the body of the organism encode this information.
- “These tubes grow and shrink in diameter in response to a nutrient source, thereby imprinting the nutrient’s location in the tube diameter hierarchy”.
- Most people prefer their ice-cream to be creamy and not frozen. Though the flavour is the same, the change in texture makes it less appetizing.
- By studying fruit flies, researchers have now found that a family of proteins called OSCA/TMEM63 plays an important role in sensing particle sizes in food.
- These proteins are also found in humans and researchers say that the new findings could help shed light on some of the nuances of our own sense of taste.
- Researchers from China have discovered a rice plant variant called astol1 that thrives in arsenic-contaminated fields.
- The team exposed about 4,000 rice variants to water containing arsenic and found that the grains of the astol1 plant accumulated far less arsenic than other plants.
Five New Species of Shrub Frogs Found
Why in News?
- Researchers from India and the U.S. have discovered five new species of shrub frogs from the Western Ghats, one of the globally recognised biodiversity hotspots.
- The frogs, belonging to the the Old World tree frog family Rhacophoridae, were discovered by researchers.
- New species were identified and found to be distinct based on multiple criteria, such as their external morphology, DNA, calling pattern, behaviour, and other natural history observations.
About New Discoveries
- One of the new species called Raorchestes drutaahu (Fast-calling Shrub Frog) was discovered from two localities: Kadalar in Idukki district and Siruvani in Palakkad district of Kerala, another one named Raorchestes kakkayamensis (Kakkayam Shrub Frog) was found only in the vicinity of Kakkayam dam in the southern state.
- Raorchestes keirasabinae (Keira’s Shrub Frog), a unique tree frog inhabiting the highest canopy layers, was found in Agasthyamalai and Anamalai hills in the southern Western Ghats.
- The species is named after young nature lover Keira Sabin, in appreciation of the long-time support and commitment of the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation towards amphibian research and conservation around the world.
- Raorchestes sanjappai (Sanjappa’s Shrub Frog), a beautiful green shrub frog, was discovered from the Wayanad region of northern Kerala. The species is named after Dr. M. Sanjappa, a renowned Indian Botanist and former Director of the Botanical Survey of India.
- The Raorchestes vellikkannan (Silver-eyed Shrub Frog) was discovered in the Siruvani hills and adjoining regions of the Silent Valley National Park. The name is derived from Malayalam ‘velli’ (meaning silver) and ‘kannu’ (meaning eye), referring to its distinct silver eye colour.
- According to the researchers, over 80% of the globally known shrub frogs are restricted to the Western Ghats, and most species are known to have narrow geographical ranges.
World’s First Platypus Sanctuary
Why in News?
- Australian conservationists unveiled plans to build the world’s first refuge for the platypus, to promote breeding and rehabilitation as the duck-billed mammal faces extinction due to climate change.
- Concerns about the platypus going extinct have been heightened since once-in-a-generation wildfires devastated 12.6 million hectares (31 million acres) of bush, nearly the size of Greece, in late 2019 and early 2020.
- Bushfires would likely occur more often because of warming temperatures.
- Unlike other famous Australian animals such as the koala or kangaroo, the beaver-like platypus is rarely seen in the wild due to its reclusive nature and highly specific habitat needs.
- The furry, web-footed animal, along with the echidna, is one of just two egg-laying mammals, and generally lives around small streams and slow-moving rivers in cooler temperatures.
- Last year, a separate inquiry found that koalas would be extinct in New South Wales by 2050, due to deforestation for farming and urban development.
- The platypus is classified as a protected species in Australia.
Fastest Laser-powered Random Number Generator
Why in News?
- An international team of scientists have designed a single chip-scale laser that can generate random numbers at ultrahigh rates, more than a hundred times faster than the current fastest random-numbers generator system.
- The process of random number generation is important in computing since it forms the base of cryptography.
- Random numbers are widely used for information security, cryptography, and quantum stimulations.
- The more random the key of any security system is, the harder it is to break the code logically.
- It is for this reason, that random number generators are used to encrypt data.
- The system was developed by researchers from Yale University, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and Trinity College Dublin.
Extinction Of 13 More Species
Why in News?
- The Australian government has officially acknowledged the extinction of 13 endemic species, including 12 mammals and the first reptile known to have been lost since European colonisation.
- The addition of the dozen mammal species confirms Australia’s unenviable position as the world’s capital for mammal extinction, lifting the total number of mammals known to have died out to 34.
- The list also includes two species lost in the past decade, both from Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.
- The last Christmas Island pipistrelle, a species of bat, died in 2009.
- It was followed by the sole remaining Christmas Island forest skink – the first Australian reptile known to have become extinct – in 2014. Both extinctions have previously been recorded by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- The updated list means more than 10% of the 320 land mammals known to have lived in Australia in 1788 are extinct.
- The confirmed historic mammal extinctions are the desert bettong, the Nullarbor dwarf bettong, the Capricorn rabbit-rat, the broad-cheeked hopping mouse, the Liverpool Plains striped bandicoot, the marl, the south-eastern striped bandicoot, the Nullarbor barred bandicoot, the long-eared mouse, the blue-grey mouse and the Percy Island flying fox.
First-ever survey on fishing cats of the Chilika
- The first-ever survey of the elusive fishing cat in and around Asia’s biggest brackish water lagoon, the Chilika lake in Odisha, started.
- The survey to enumerate the animal’s population is being done by the Chilika Development Authority (CDA), the regulatory body for the lake, in collaboration with the Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance (FCCA), a non-profit.
- The fishing cat is listed as ‘Endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List.
- The state forest department had already rolled out a two-year project for the conservation of the fishing cat in the Bhitarkanika National Park in 2020.
- The loss of habitat due to the destruction of wetlands is a major threat to the fishing cat. Besides, the animal is also killed by people under the wrong assumption that it is a juvenile tiger and thus dangerous.
- Fishing cats are almost twice the size of the house cat. They are generally found in the marshy wetlands of northern and eastern India and on the mangroves of the east coast.
- In 2016, the IUCN Red List, a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity, identified the fishing cat as a ‘Vulnerable’ species.