Current Affairs May 12

National Bamboo Mission

Why in News?

  • National Bamboo Mission has launched an MIS (Management Information Systems) based reporting platform for agarbatti stick production to collate the locations of stick making units, availability of raw material, functioning of the units, production capacity, marketing, etc.
  • National Bamboo Mission (NBM), Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) schemes as well as States, together with industry partners have stepped up focused support to enable India to become Atma Nirbhar in the agarbatti sector, to bring back livelihoods for the local communities while at the same time modernising the sector too.
  • The agarbatti sector traditionally provided large scale employment to the local workforce, which however dwindled due to various factors including the ingress of cheap imports of round sticks and raw batti.

Background of NBM

  • The restructured National Bamboo Mission (NBM) was launched in 2018-19 for holistic development of the bamboo sector through a cluster-based approach in a hub (industry) and spoke model to harness the opportunities by providing backward and forward linkages among the stakeholders – linking farmers to markets.
  • The Mission is streamlining its interventions to enhance domestic industrial activities as well as augmenting the farmer’s income with support from technical agencies and facilitative steps.
  • Direct subsidy of 50% is given to farmers at Rs 1.00 lakh per ha, 100% to Government agencies and also to entrepreneurs for setting up various product development units, etc.
  • The Mission is presently being executed by 21 States, including all the 9 States of NER through the respective State Bamboo Missions.




4th India-Swiss Financial Dialogue

Why in News?

  • The Dialogue, inter-alia, covered sharing of experiences by both countries for collaboration on various aspects including investments, International Financial Services Centre Authority (IFSCA), National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), FinTech, sustainable finance and cross border financial services.
  • Further, matters relating to G20, IMF and tax challenges arising from the digitilisation of the economy was discussed along with infrastructure financing.
  • The Dialogue concluded on a positive note for a sustained future collaboration between both countries in the areas of mutual interest.
  • India and Switzerland have had cordial and friendly relations based on shared values of democracy and rule of law.
  • India’s policy of non-alignment and Switzerland’s traditional policy of neutrality has led to a close understanding between the two countries.




IREDA bags “Green Urja Award”

Why in News?

  • Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Ltd. IREDA has been conferred with “Green Urja Award” for being the Leading Public Institution in Financing Institution for Renewable Energy this year by Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC).


  • IREDA gets the award for the pivotal and developmental role it plays in Green Energy Financing.


  • IREDA under the administrative control of Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) is the only dedicated institution for financing Renewable Energy (RE) & Energy Efficiency (EE) projects in India.




National Technology Day 2021

  • National Technology Day is celebrated every year on May 11 to highlight the achievements of engineers and scientists in the field of technology and science.
  • The day acts as a reminder of the country’s technological advancements.
  • It was first observed on May 11, 1999, and aims to commemorate the scientific and technological achievements of Indian scientists and engineers.


  • This year the theme is “Science and Technology for a Sustainable Future”.

National Technology Day: History

  • Former Indian PM Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee coined this term to celebrate the contributions made by Indian scientists. May 11 is also the day when India conducted its first successful test in Pokhran.
  • On May 11, 1998, India successfully fired the Shakti-I nuclear missile at an Army test range in Rajasthan’s Pokhran. Two days later, the country conducted two more nuclear tests as a part of the same operation, following which India joined the elite club of nuclear power nations.
  • Apart from this, India on this day also tested its first indigenous aircraft ‘Hansa-3’ which flew from Bengaluru. After testing Hansa-3, India performed a successful test firing of the Trishul missile on May 11, 1998.




Moody’s slashes India’s growth projection

Why in News?

  • Moody’s Investors Service sharply scaled down this year’s growth projection for India to 9.3% from its earlier estimate of 13.7%, citing “the negative impact of the second wave”, and warned that the spread of the COVID-19 virus as well as the rate of vaccinations will have a direct impact on economic outcomes.
  • Expect the negative impact on economic output to be limited to the April to June quarter, followed by a strong rebound in the second half of the year.
  • Factoring in fresh pandemic-related spending, the agency expects a wider general government fiscal deficit of about 11.8% of GDP in 2021-22, instead of its previous estimate of 10.8%.
  • Expect the combined impact of slower growth and a wider deficit to drive the general government debt burden to 90% of GDP in 2021-22, gradually rising to 92% in 2022-23.




WHO classifies India variant as being of global concern

Why in News?

  • The World Health Organization classified a coronavirus variant first identified in India as a “global variant of concern”.
  • This variant called B.1.617 was classified as a variant under investigation (VUI) by authorities in the UK earlier.

How does the WHO define a variant of concern?

  • A variant of interest (VOI) becomes a variant of concern (VOC) if, through a comparative assessment, it has been demonstrated to be associated with increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation or a decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.
  • Alternatively, a variant may be classified as a VOC by the WHO in consultation with the WHO SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group.

How do variants of a virus emerge and why?

  • Variants of a virus have one or more mutations that differentiate it from the other variants that are in circulation. While most mutations are deleterious for the virus, some make it easier for the virus to survive.
  • Essentially, the goal of the virus is to reach a stage where it can cohabitate with humans because it needs a host to survive.
  • This means, any virus is likely to become less severe as it keeps evolving, but in this process it can attain some mutations that may be able to escape the body’s immune response or become more transmissible.
  • The SARS-CoV-2 virus is evolving fast because of the scale at which it has infected people around the world. High levels of circulation mean it is easier for the virus to change as it is able to replicate faster.
  • The B.1.617 variant of the virus has two mutations referred to as E484Q and L452R. Both are separately found in many other coronavirus variants, but they have been reported together for the first time in India.
  • The L452R mutation has been found in some other VOIs such as B.1.427/ B.1.429, which are believed to be more transmissible and may be able to override neutralising antibodies.




DETER committees formed in Bengaluru

Why in News?

  • As Bengaluru continues to witness a daily surge in fresh Covid-19 infections and related fatalities, the state government has decided to manage pandemic at the local level.
  • On the orders of the state government, Decentralized Triage and Emergency Response (DETER) Committees at ward-levels are being formed in the Karnataka capital, which will be overseen by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike.

What are DETER committees?

  • Decentralized Triage and Emergency Response (DETER) committees have been formed across 198 wards in Bengaluru with the objective to strengthen government response and management of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Also known as WDCs (Ward-level DETER Committees), these teams will emphasise on the distribution of localised action in a decentralised system of disaster response.
  • They will be run in synergy with BBMP officials, ward committee members, government officers, representatives of the peoples, volunteers from resident welfare associations, civil society organisations, and disaster-support initiatives.
  • This is expected to improve supervision for better ward-level Covid governance.

What will be the major responsibilities of WDCs?

  • WDCs will emerge as the first-point contact for those infected with Covid-19. These committees will also be entrusted with the responsibility to provide timely and accurate information to citizens on appropriate actions and behaviours that need to be taken at each stage of the Covid lifecycle.
  • WDCs will also share information on triaging — the process by which the need of patients whether to be in home isolation or to be admitted to stabilisation centres, hospitals and then whether to access hospital beds with/without oxygen or ventilators is determined — and take appropriate steps to enable contact tracing and testing.

What is the main strategy to be in place for WDCs?

  • The Karnataka government has formulated a ‘3E Strategy’ for WDCs to micromanage Covid-19 in a comprehensive manner.
  • The 3E Strategy is explained as follows:
      • Efficient admission to hospitals facilitated by community triage services;
      • Efficient discharge from hospitals enabling efficient bed-turnover;
      • Empowering hospitals, doctors, and their management with supportive supervision.




NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft

Why in News?

  • A NASA spacecraft, which scientists believe has collected samples from an asteroid, began its two-year journey back to Earth.
  • NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is attempting to complete a mission to visit Bennu, a skyscraper-sized asteroid some 320 million km from Earth, survey the surface, collect samples and deliver them back to Earth.
  • OSIRIS-REx arrived at Bennu in 2018.
  • The spacecraft found traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules – part of the recipe for water and thus the potential for life – embedded in the asteroid’s rocky surface.
  • The trip back to Earth will take about two years. The spacecraft will eject a capsule containing the asteroid samples, will land in a remote area of Utah.
  • Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago. A sample could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists say.




Forest the size of France regrown worldwide over 20 years

  • An area of forest the size of France has regrown around the world over the past 20 years, showing that regeneration in some places is paying off.
  • Nearly 59m hectares of forests have regrown since 2000, the research found, providing the potential to soak up and store 5.9 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide – more than the annual emissions of the entire US.
  • The two-year study, conducted via satellite imaging data and on-ground surveys across dozens of countries, identified areas of regrowth in the Atlantic forest in Brazil, where an area the size of the Netherlands has rebounded since 2000 due to conservation efforts and altered industry practices.
  • Another regrowth area is found in the boreal forests of Mongolia, where 1.2m hectares of forest have regenerated in two decades due to the work of conservationists and the Mongolian government.
  • Forests also made a comeback in parts of central Africa and Canada.
  • Over a similar period outlined in the regrowth study, which was led by WWF as part of the Trillion Trees project, 386m hectares of tree cover were lost worldwide, around seven times the area of regenerated forest.
  • Previous studies have estimated that an area of forest as large as the UK is being lost each year, largely for timber or to make way for agriculture, such deforestation posing huge threats to wildlife and efforts to contain the climate crisis.
  • Deforestation spiked sharply last year, with losses concentrated in the vital rainforests in tropical areas.
  • Trees are being felled and burned at a rapid rate in the Amazon, with more than 430,000 acres already lost in 2021.



Rare Metals

  • Rare elements such as indium, yttrium, neodymium, cobalt and lithium are vital for the production of low-carbon technology, but many are being thrown away because of the lack of a requirement to recycle them.
  • Concern is growing over the future supply of such elements, as the switch to green technology – including electric vehicles, solar panels and low-carbon heating – will require far greater volumes of rare earths and other critical raw materials.
  • Industry experts have called for tougher rules on recycling.
  • Recycling should be mandatory for the critical raw materials present in circuit boards; magnets used in disc drives and electric vehicles; batteries for electric vehicles; and fluorescent lamps.
  • While relatively low-value metals such as copper, iron and even platinum are frequently recycled, rare metals are ignored or thrown away, because their use is often in small quantities that recyclers deem too expensive to recover.
  • The International Energy Agency recently calculated that if the world is to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions in 2050, demand for critical and rare minerals will be six times higher than today by 2040. Demand for lithium alone will be 40 times higher in 2040 because of its use in batteries.
  • The IEA found that the production and processing of many materials, such as lithium, cobalt and rare earths, was highly concentrated in a handful of countries, with the top three producers accounting for more than three-quarters of global supplies.
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo produced 70% of cobalt and rare earths in 2019, and China produced 60%.
  • China is also responsible for refining nearly 90% of the rare earths used globally.




Tea-growing areas

  • Some of the world’s biggest tea-growing areas will be among the worst hit by extreme weather, and their yields are likely to be vastly reduced in the coming decades if climate breakdown continues at its current pace.
  • Floods, droughts, heatwaves and storms are likely to have a severe impact on tea-growing areas around the world.
  • In Kenya, which produces close to half of all the tea consumed in the UK, the area of optimal tea-growing conditions will be reduced by more than a quarter by 2050, while about 39% of areas with medium-quality growing conditions are facing destruction.
  • The impacts of flooding and the increased rainfall forecast in many tea regions will be to change the subtle flavours of the tea leaf, and potentially reduce its health benefits.
  • Waterlogging can prevent the ecological cues that cause the plant to release chemicals that enhance the flavour of tea, and that create its antioxidant properties, prized as a potential health benefit by tea drinkers.
  • These aromatic compounds, called secondary metabolites – which may also help boost the immune system and have anti-inflammatory properties – are also diluted when the plant receives too much water, resulting in leaves of lower quality and less tasty tea.
  • Tea-growing areas in India, China and Sri Lanka are also likely to be affected.




Global renewable energy industry

Why in News?

  • The world’s renewable energy industry grew at its fastest pace since 1999 last year, despite the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and may have established a standard for growth in the future, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
  • The delivery of renewable energy projects, including windfarms and solar power projects, grew by 45% last year in a step change for the global industry.
  • Wind power capacity doubled over the last year, while solar power grew by almost 50% more than its growth before the pandemic, due to the growing appetite for clean energy from governments and corporations.
  • The clean energy boom has prompted the IEA to revise its renewable energy forecasts for the coming years up by about 25% from its previous growth estimates due to the faster than expected expansion of renewables in China, Europe and the US.
  • China remains at the heart of the renewable energy industry’s growth after accounting for more than 40% of the global growth in the market for the last few years.
  • It is also one of the largest suppliers of the raw materials needed to make wind turbines and solar panels including silicon, glass, steel, copper and other rare earth materials.
  • However, China is also the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases because of its use of coal-fired power plants to meet the country’s rising energy demand.