Current Affairs Mar 5

CERAWeek Global Energy and Environment Leadership Award

Why in News?

  • Prime Minister will receive the CERAWeek Global Energy and Environment Leadership Award and deliver keynote address at the Cambridge Energy Research Associates Week (CERAWeek) 2021.

About CERAWeek

  • CERAWeek was founded in 1983 by Dr. Daniel Yergin.
  • It has been organized in Houston in March every year since 1983 and is considered the world’s premier annual energy platform.

About the Award

  • CERAWeek Global Energy and Environment Leadership Award was instituted in 2016.
  • It recognizes the commitment of leadership on the future of global energy & environment and for offering solutions and policies for energy access, affordability & environmental stewardship.




‘Red Rice’ from Assam to the USA

Why in News?

  • In a major boost to India’s rice exports potential, the first consignment of ‘red rice’ was flagged off to the USA.


  • Iron rich ‘red rice’ is grown in Brahmaputra valley of Assam, without the use of any chemical fertilizer.
  • The rice variety is referred as ‘Bao-dhaan’, which is an integral part of the Assamese food.


  • APEDA has promoting rice exports through collaborations with various stakeholders in the value chains.
  • The government had set up the Rice Export Promotion Forum (REPF), under the aegis of the APEDA.
  • REPF has representations from rice industry, exporters, officials from APEDA, ministry of commerce and directors of agriculture from major rice producing states including West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.




QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021

  • Twelve Indian universities and higher education institutions have achieved top-100 positions in their subject.
  • In total, 25 Indian programs achieve top-100 positions – one fewer than in 2020’s edition of the tables.
  • Two Institutes of Eminence (IoE) achieve top-50 ranks for mineral and mining engineering: IIT-Bombay (41st, no change) and IIT Kharagpur (44th, up two places).
  • These, along with IIT-Madras’s 30th-place rank for petroleum engineering, are the highest ranks achieved by the government-run IoE across this year’s subject rankings.
  • IISc Bangalore retains top-100 ranks for materials science (78th) and chemistry (93rd).
  • IIT-Delhi is ranked in 13 subject tables. It achieves top-100 ranks in electrical and electronic engineering (54th, down from 49th in 2020), computer science (70th), and mechanical engineering (79th).
  • QS also finds that two Indian universities achieve top-100 ranks for business and management – IIM-Bangalore (76th) and IIM-Ahmedabad (80th).
  • Of the ten private universities selected as IoE, six institutions have made it to the subject rankings, and records some positive results – OP Jindal Global University has entered the global top-100 for law (76th). This is the only top-100 result achieved by a private IoE.
  • India remains at the forefront of global environmental science research.
  • Data from QS’s research partners at Elsevier, which contributes to the QS World University Rankings by Subject, indicates that India ranks 5th in terms of its research footprint in this field – behind only Germany, China, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • Reflecting these contributions, six Indian universities are featured in QS’s environmental sciences ranking, with IIT-Bombay and IIT-Kharagpur (151-200) attaining top-200 positions, and IIT-Guwahati newly-ranked this year (401-250 band). IIT-Kharagpur’s performance in this discipline has improved over the past year, having risen from the 201-250 band.
  • QS uses four key metrics to compile the rankings.
  • 13 of the 51 subject tables are topped by a British university, with the University of Oxford leading five of those 13.
  • Based on its share of top-10 ranks, Switzerland is the world’s third-best higher education sector.




Draft UGC Regulations, 2021

Why in News?

  • UGC has placed the draft Regulations on Academic Collaboration between Indian and Foreign Higher Education Institutions to offer Joint Degree, Dual Degree and Twinning Programmes, in the public domain and invited suggestions from all the stakeholders.


  • The NEP-2020 calls for permitting credits acquired in foreign countries to be counted for the award of a degree.
  • Furthermore, the budget announcement of 2021 proposed regulatory mechanism to permit dual degrees, joint degrees and twinning arrangements.
  • Accordingly, UGC has framed the draft UGC (Academic collaboration between Indian and foreign Higher Education Institutions to offer Joint Degree, Dual Degree and Twinning Programme) Regulations, 2O21.


  • These Regulations shall apply to Indian Higher Education Institutions intending to collaborate with Foreign Higher Education Institutions leading to award of diploma(s) and degree(s) including Post Graduate and Doctoral programmes, and Foreign Higher Education Institution intending to collaborate with Indian Higher Education Institutions.
  • Under “Twinning Arrangement”, students enrolled with an Indian higher education institution shall be able to undertake their programme of study partly in India, complying with relevant UGC regulations, and partly in the foreign higher education institution. Moreover, credits earned by the students at a foreign education institution shall be counted towards the degree/diploma awarded by the Indian higher education institution.
  • In case of “Joint Degree programme”, the curriculum shall be designed jointly by the collaborating Indian and foreign higher educational institutions and the degree shall be awarded by both the collaborating institutions with a single Certificate bearing the crests and logo of both collaborating institutions, upon completion of the programme.
  • “Dual Degree Programme” under these Regulations shall be conferred by the Indian and foreign higher education institutions, separately and simultaneously, upon completion of degree requirements of both the institutions.




Bengaluru, Pune, Ahmedabad best cities in EoLI 2020

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs announced the release of the final rankings of Ease of Living Index (EoLI) 2020 and the Municipal Performance Index (MPI) 2020.


  • The rankings under Ease of Living Index 2020 were announced for cities with a population of more than a million, and cities with less than a million people.
  • 111 cities participated in the assessment exercise that was conducted in 2020.


  • Bengaluru emerged as the top performer in the Million+ category, followed by Pune, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Surat, Navi Mumbai, Coimbatore, Vadodara, Indore, and Greater Mumbai.
  • In the Less than Million category, Shimla was ranked the highest in ease of living, followed by Bhubaneshwar, Silvassa, Kakinada, Salem, Vellore, Gandhinagar, Gurugram, Davangere, and Tiruchirappalli.
  • Similar to the EoLI index, the assessment framework under MPI 2020 has classified municipalities based on their population- Million+ (municipalities having over a million population) and Less than Million Population.
  • In the Million+ category, Indore has emerged as the highest ranked municipality, followed by Surat and Bhopal. In the Less than Million category, New Delhi Municipal Council has emerged as the leader, followed by Tirupati and Gandhinagar.
  • The MPI examined the sectoral performance of 111 municipalities across five verticals which comprise of 20 sectors and 100 indicators in all totality. The five verticals under MPI are Services, Finance, Policy, Technology and Governance.
  • The Ease of Living Index (EoLI) is an assessment tool that evaluates the quality of life and the impact of various initiatives for urban development. It provides a comprehensive understanding of participating cities across India based on quality of life, economic-ability of a city, and its sustainability and resilience.
  • The Municipal Performance Index (MPI) was launched as an accompaniment to the Ease of Living Index. It seeks to examine local government practice in municipalities across areas of services, finance, policy, technology and governance. It seeks to simplify and evaluate the complexities in local governance practice and promote the ethos of transparency and accountability.
  • Both the indices represent an attempt to gauge the performance of cities across India on various parameters of urban living.




India pushes for Chabahar in India-Iran-Russia INSTC corridor

  • India wants Chabahar port to be included in the 13-nation International North South Transport Corridor that extends from India to Russia, and expand INSTC membership by including Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.
  • Pitching for Chabahar in the INSTC which goes via Iran’s biggest port Bandar Abbas India proposed that the land route via Kabul and Tashkent would form the INSTC’s “Eastern corridor”.
  • “Chabahar Day” event organised as part of the 3-day “Maritime India” summit.

INSTC Project

  • The INSTC project was originally decided between India, Iran and Russia in 2000 in St Petersburg, and subsequently included 10 other central Asian and west Asian countries: Azerbaijan Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus, Oman, Syria and Bulgaria as an observer.
  • It envisions a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail and road route for transporting freight, aimed at reducing the carriage cost between India and Russia by about 30% and bringing down the transit time from 40 days by more than half.




Britain’s moths decline by a third in 50 years

  • Moths in Britain have declined in abundance by a third over the past 50 years, according to a new study.
  • Among the most rapidly declining of Britain’s 900 larger moth species are the stout dart (-81% over an average 10-year period), the golden plusia (-58%) and the garden dart (-54%).
  • This decline is worrying because moths play a vital role in our ecosystems.
  • They are pollinators of many plants, with some wildflowers, such as orchids, relying on visiting moths for reproduction.
  • They also provide essential food for thousands of animal species, including bats and many familiar birds.
  • Increasing levels of nitrogen deposited via rainfall due to car emissions and other pollutants are causing certain robust plants to crowd out more delicate plants and flowers on which specific moth caterpillars depend.




Food Waste Index

  • The Food Waste Index Report 2021 released recently has revealed that 17 per cent of all food available at consumer levels was wasted in 2019. That year, some 690 million people had to go hungry.
  • The food waste amounted to a whopping 931 million tonnes of food sold to households, retailers and restaurants.
  • The study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) revealed that food waste was a global problem and not that of just the developed world.
  • Data on all three areas of food waste, namely household, food service and retail was available only for high income countries.
  • The document noted that on an average, 74 kilograms of food was wasted per capita at the household level. Some countries like Austria and South Africa produce very low amounts of waste at 39 kg / capita / year and 40 kg / capita / year respectively.
  • Countries like Nigeria and Rwanda are producing waste at 189 kg / capita / year and 164 kg / capita / year respectively. For India, the waste in kg / capita / year was 50.
  • With only nine years to go, we will not achieve the Sustable Development Goal (SDG) 12 Target 3 if we do not significantly increase investment in tackling food waste in the home globally.
  • Food waste also has a substantial environmental, social and economic impact. For example, 8-10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed.
  • As of now, none of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement mention food waste and only 11 mention food loss.




Over 500 million Africans may fall below extreme poverty line

  • As many as nine out of 10 extremely poor people in the world currently live in Africa and the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will push an additional 5-29 million below the extreme poverty line.
  • If the impact of the pandemic is not limited by 2021, an additional 59 million people could suffer the same fate, which would bring the total number of extremely poor Africans to 514 million people.
  • Income disparities were on the rise across the region even before the pandemic.
  • While extreme poverty had almost vanished in North Africa, more than half the population in Central Africa lives below the extreme poverty line.
  • Africa continues to experience disparities in universal access to energy, electricity and even clean fuels and technologies for cooking.
  • Africa continues to face challenges in security, illicit financial flows, among others — all which negatively impacted the continent’s efforts to achieve the goals of the 2030 and 2063 Agendas.
  • The interlinked pillars looked at in Agenda 2030 were climate, people, prosperity, partnerships and peace.
  • Those in the 2063 Agenda were partnerships and peace and governance; improving living standards; sustaining double economy, an integrated Africa, and youth and gender empowerment.




India an overperformer in frontier tech among developing countries

  • India was the biggest ‘overperformer’ in frontier technologies than the countries per capita gross domestic products (GDP) would suggest, according to a recent country-readiness index released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
  • Frontier technologies include artificial intelligence, the internet of things, big data, blockchain, fifth-generation mobile telephony, three-dimensional printing, robotics, drones (remotely controlled flights), gene-editing, nanotechnology and solar power — the ones that take advantage of digitalisation and connectivity.
  • The index analysed progress of countries in using frontier technologies, considering their national capacities related to physical investment, human capital and technological effort.
  • India’s actual index ranking was 43, while the estimated one based on per capita income was 108. This meant that India overperformed other countries by 65 ranking positions. It was followed by the Philippines, which overperformed by 57 ranking positions.
  • China was at position 25; both India and China performed well in research and development.
  • The United States, Switzerland and the United Kingdom were “best prepared” for frontier technologies.




Super-Earth discovered

  • During the past 25 years astronomers have discovered a wide variety of exoplanets, made of rock, ice and gas.
  • To study the atmospheres of the rocky planets, which would made it possible to characterize fully those exoplanets which are similar to Earth, is extremely difficult with currently available instruments. For that reason, the atmospheric models for rocky planets remain untested.
  • The planet recently discovered, named Gliese 486b, has a mass 2.8 times that of the Earth, and is only 30% bigger.
  • Gliese 486b orbits its host star on a circular path every 1.5 days, at a distance of 2.5 million kilometers. In spite of being so near to its star, the planet has probably conserved part of its original atmosphere (the star is much cooler than our Sun) .
  • Gliese 486b takes the same length of time to spin on its axis as to orbit its host star, so that it always has the same side facing the star.
  • Although Gliese 486 is much fainter and cooler than the Sun, the radiation is so intense that the surface of the planet heats up to at least 700K (some 430 degrees C).
  • Because of this, the suface of Gliese 486b is probably more like the surface of Venus that that of the Earth, with a hot dry landscape, with burning rivers of lava. However, unlike Venus, Gliese 486b may have a thin atmosphere.



Hubble solves mystery of monster star’s dimming

  • Last year, astronomers were puzzled when Betelguese, the bright red supergiant star in the constellation Orion, dramatically faded, but then recovered. The dimming lasted for weeks.
  • The red hypergiant VY Canis Majoris—which is far larger, more massive, and more violent than Betelgeuse—experiences much longer, dimmer periods that last for years.
  • For Betelgeuse, the dimming corresponded to a gaseous outflow that may have formed dust, which briefly obstructed some of Betelgeuse’s light from our view, creating the dimming effect.
  • The enormous red hypergiant is 300,000 times brighter than our Sun.
  • If it replaced the Sun in our own solar system, the bloated monster would extend out for hundreds of millions of miles, between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn.
  • It’s one of the largest stars that we know of—a very evolved, red supergiant.