Current Affairs May 5

1st supply of Used Cooking Oil-based Biodiesel

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas flagged off the first supply of UCO (Used Cooking Oil) based Biodiesel blended Diesel under the EOI Scheme from IndianOil’s Tikrikalan Terminal, Delhi.
  • To create an eco-system for collection and conversion of UCO into Biodiesel and developing entrepreneurship opportunities,
      • Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel, along with Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Science & Technology and Earth Sciences,
      • had initiated Expressions of Interest for “Procurement of Bio-diesel produced from Used Cooking Oil” on the occasion of World Biofuel Day on 10th August 2019.
      • Such “Expressions of Interest” are being periodically released by Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs).


  • Under this initiative, OMCs offer periodically incremental price guarantees for five years and extend off-take guarantees for ten years to prospective entrepreneurs.
  • So far, IndianOil has also issued 23 LOIs for Biodiesel plants with a total capacity of 22.95 Cr Litres (557.57 TPD).

About Biodiesel

  • Biodiesel is an alternative fuel, similar to conventional or ‘fossil’ diesel.
  • It can be produced from vegetable oils, animal fats, tallow and waste cooking oil.
  • A significant advantage of Biodiesel is its carbon-neutrality, i.e. the oilseed absorbs the same amount of CO2 as is released when the fuel is combusted in a vehicle.
  • Also, Biodiesel is rapidly biodegradable and completely non-toxic.


Biodegradable yoga mat

Why in News?

  • A biodegradable and compostable yoga mat developed from water hyacinth by six young girls from the fishing community in Assam could turn this water plant from a nuisance to wealth.
  • The girls belong to the fishing community living in the fringe of the Deepor Beel, a permanent freshwater lake in south west of Guwahati city, recognised as a Ramsar Site (a wetland of international importance) and a bird wildlife sanctuary.

About Mat

  • The mat called ‘Moorhen Yoga Mat’ will soon be introduced to the world market as a unique product.
  • The intervention was triggered through an initiative by North East Centre for Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR) to involve the entire women community associated with a collective called ‘Simang’ meaning dream, led by the 6 girls to create wealth from water hyacinth plants.
  • Considering all aspects of water hyacinth’s properties and the functional requirements of a product like a mat, a hand-woven 100% biodegradable and 100 % compostable mat to be used for doing Yoga was ideated as a means to provide multiple ecological and social benefits.
  • The mat developed through fiber processing and technological interventions could improve the aquatic ecosystem of the wetland through removal of water hyacinth, help sustainable production of utility products with community engagement and generate of livelihood for indigenous communities.
  • The ‘Moorhen Yoga mat’ named after Kam Sorai (Purple moorhen, a resident bird of Deepor Beel Wildlife sanctuary), comes in a cotton canvas cloth bag where no zip or metal closures are used.
  • The bag has adjustable strap and closures effectively designed to be in sync with biodegradability.




Why in News?

  • Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and The Rt Hon’ble Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom held a Virtual Summit.
  • India and the UK enjoy long standing friendly ties and share a Strategic Partnership underpinned by mutual commitment to democracy, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, strong complementarities and growing convergences.

Roadmap 2030

  • An ambitious ‘Roadmap 2030’ was adopted at the Summit to elevate bilateral ties to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’.
  • The Roadmap will pave the way for a deeper and stronger engagement over the next ten years in the key areas of people to people contacts, trade and economy, defence and security, climate action and health.

Enhanced Trade Partnership’ (ETP)

  • Launched an ‘Enhanced Trade Partnership’ (ETP) to unleash the trade potential between the 5th and 6th largest economies of the world and by setting an ambitious target of more than doubling bilateral trade by 2030.
  • As part of the ETP, India and the UK agreed on a roadmap to negotiate a comprehensive and balanced FTA, including consideration of an Interim Trade Agreement for delivering early gains.
  • The enhanced trade partnership between India and UK will generate several thousands of direct and indirect jobs in both the countries.
  • The UK is India’s second largest partner in research and innovation collaborations.
  • A new India-UK ‘Global Innovation Partnership’ was announced at the Virtual Summit that aims to support the transfer of inclusive Indian innovations to select developing countries, starting with Africa.
  • Both sides agreed to enhance cooperation on new and emerging technologies, including Digital and ICT products, and work on supply chain resilience.
  • They also agreed to strengthen defence and security ties, including in the maritime, counter-terrorism and cyberspace domains.
  • Launched a comprehensive partnership on migration and mobility that will facilitate greater opportunities for the mobility of students and professionals between the two countries.


5G Technology and Spectrum Trials

Why in News?

  • The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Government of India, approved, permissions to Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) for conducting trials for use and applications of 5G technology.
  • The applicant TSPs include Bharti Airtel Ltd., Reliance JioInfocomm Ltd., Vodafone Idea Ltd. and MTNL.
  • These TSPs have tied up with original equipment manufacturers and technology providers which are Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and C-DOT.

Spectrum Bands

  • The experimental spectrum is being given in various bands which include the mid-band (3.2 GHz to 3.67 GHz), millimeter wave band (24.25 GHz to 28.5 GHz) and in Sub-Gigahertz band (700 GHz).
  • TSPs will also be permitted to use their existing spectrum owned by them (800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2500 MHz) for conduct of 5G trials.

5Gi Technology

  • The TSPs are encouraged to conduct trials using 5Gi technology in addition to the already known 5G Technology.
  • It will be recalled that International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has also approved the 5Gi technology, which was advocated by India, as it facilitates much larger reach of the 5G towers and Radio networks.
  • The 5Gi technology has been developed by IIT Madras, Centre of Excellence in Wireless Technology (CEWiT) and IIT Hyderabad.
  • 5G technology is expected to deliver improved user experience in terms of data download rates (expected to be 10 times that of 4G), up to three times greater spectrum efficiency, and ultra low latency to enable Industry 4.0.
  • Applications are across a wide range of sectors such as agriculture, education, health, transport, traffic management, smart cities, smart homes, and multiple applications of IOT (Internet of Things).



Why in News?

  • Ministry of Panchayati Raj released the new framework for implementation of the SVAMITVA Scheme and Coffee Table Book (CTB) to mark the nationwide roll-out of the SVAMITVA Scheme.
  • The SVAMITVA Framework developed by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj provides a detailed roadmap and guidelines for the various States in terms of the Scheme objectives, coverage, various components involved, year-wise funding pattern, survey approach and methodology, stakeholders involved and their roles and responsibility, monitoring and evaluation, and deliverables.
  • Coffee Table Book on SVAMITVA Scheme is an effort to condense the vast efforts of various stakeholders involved in the implementation of the Scheme, learnings and best practices that have emerged during the course, glimpses of various challenges and success stories and provide a way forward.


  • SVAMITVA, a Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj was nationally launched by the Prime Minister on the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day on 24th April 2021 after successful completion of the pilot phase of the Scheme in 9 States.
  • SVAMITVA Scheme aims to provide property rights to the residents of rural inhabited areas in India by using Drone survey and CORS Networks which provides mapping accuracy of 5 cms.
  • The Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) is the Nodal Ministry for implementation of the SVAMITVA scheme.
  • In the States, the Revenue Department/Land Records Department will be the Nodal Department and shall carry out the scheme with the support of State Panchayati Raj Departments.



Why in News?

  • Researchers have identified fossil bone fragments of long-necked dinosaurs called sauropods, dating back to about 100-million-years from an area around West Khasi Hills District in Meghalaya.
  • This is the first record of sauropods of probable Titanosaurian origin discovered in the region.


  • Sauropods had very long necks, long tails, small heads relative to the rest of their body, and four thick, pillar-like legs.
  • They are notable for the enormous sizes attained by some species, and the group includes the largest animals to have ever lived on land.
  • The finding makes Meghalaya the fifth state in India after Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu and the only state in the North-East to report Sauropod bones having titanosaurian affinity.
  • Titanosaurs were a diverse group of sauropod dinosaurs, including genera from Africa, Asia, South America, North America, Europe, Australia and Antarctica.
  • Titanosaurian sauropod dinosaurs were the most diverse and abundant large-bodied terrestrial herbivores in the Southern Hemisphere landmasses during the Cretaceous Period but they were not endemic to the Gondwanan landmasses.
  • Gondwana is the southern half of the Pangaean supercontinent that existed some 300 million years ago and is composed of the major continental blocks of South America, Africa, Arabia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, India, Antarctica, and Australia.




New species of shrew discovered

Why in News?

  • Scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have discovered a new species of insectivorous mammal, a white-toothed shrew, from Narcondam Island of the Andaman and Nicobar group of islands.
  • The species Crocidura narcondamica is a new addition to the list of mammals found in the country. Shrews are small and mouse-like mammals, and they live in sub-leaf stratum in the forests. Insects are the primary diet of these animals.
  • This is the first discovery of a shrew from this volcanic island (Narcondam Island) and it increases the number of White-toothed shrew (genus Crocidura) species in India from 11to 12.
  • The new species is of medium size (head and body lengths) and has a distinct external morphology with darker grey dense fur with a thick, darker tail compared to other species of the genus.
  • Craniodental characters of the species such as braincase was rounded and elevated with weak lambdoidal ridges makes the species distinct in comparison to other close congeners.
  • With this discovery the number of mammals found in the country have increased from 429 to 430.
  • The discovery of a new insectivorous mammal comes after 43 years. Prior to this, scientists from the ZSI had discovered Crocidura jenkinsi on the South Andaman Island in 1978.





Why in News?

  • The new coronavirus variant discovered by CCMB (Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology) N440K, is the variant that is creating havoc in Visakhapatnam and other parts of the State.
  • Called as the AP variant as it was first discovered in Kurnool, is at least 15 times more virulent than the earlier ones, and may be even stronger than the Indian variants of B1.617 and B1.618.
  • The variant was closely related to the coronavirus lineage B.1.36 and had previously been linked to a spike in cases in several states of South India.
  • The defining mutation is N440K, a mutation that was known since last year and widely prevalent in Andhra Pradesh.
  • N440K is slowly dying out and was fast being replaced by two other variants — B.1.1.7 and B.1.617 in almost all southern states including Kerala.
  • The N440K had been associated with cases of reinfection in Delhi and possibly helped the coronavirus bind tighter to lung cells. B.1.1.7 and B.1.617 are the ‘UK Variant’ and the Indian variant, also known as the ‘double mutant.’




How long is the solar system’s longest day

  • Data obtained by bouncing radio waves off Venus — treating it, as one scientist said, like a giant disco ball — is providing new insight into Earth’s closest planetary neighbour, including a precise calculation of the duration of a Venusian day.
  • The study also measured the tilt of the Venusian axis and size of the planet’s core, allowing for a deeper understanding of an enigmatic world sometimes called Earth’s ‘evil twin.’
  • Venus has the longest day — the time the planet takes for a single rotation on its axis — of any planet in our solar system.
  • The study found that a single Venusian rotation takes 243.0226 Earth days. That means a day lasts longer than a year on Venus, which makes a complete orbit around the sun in 225 Earth days.
  • The researchers transmitted radio waves toward Venus 21 times from 2006 to 2020 from NASA’s Goldstone Antenna in the Mojave Desert of California and studied the radio echo, which provided information on certain planetary traits.
  • The new data showed that the Venusian planetary core has a diameter of about 4,360 miles (7,000 km), comparable to Earth’s core.
  • Previous Venus core estimates had been based on computer modeling rather than observational data.
  • Its core is almost certainly composed of iron and nickel, though it is unclear whether it is solid or molten.
  • Venus spins on its axis almost upright – meaning it lacks discernable seasons — while Earth has more of a tilt. The study calculated the Venusian tilt at about 2.64 degrees. Earth’s is about 23.5 degrees.
  • Venus, the second planet from the sun, is similar in structure but slightly smaller than Earth, with a diameter of about 7,500 miles (12,000 km).
  • Above its foreboding landscape is a thick and toxic atmosphere that consists primarily of carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets.
  • With a runaway greenhouse effect, its surface temperatures reach 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius), hot enough to melt lead.
  • Venus spins from east to west, the opposite direction from all other planets in our solar system but Uranus. In another quirk, its day-night cycle – the time between sunrises as opposed to the length of a single axial spin – takes 117 Earth days because Venus rotates in the direction opposite of its orbital path around the sun.




Carbon Offsetting

What is carbon offsetting?

  • Carbon dioxide has the same impact on the climate no matter where it is emitted and what the source, so if a tonne of carbon dioxide can be absorbed from the atmosphere in one part of the world it should cancel out a tonne of the gas emitted in another.
  • Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air as they grow and store it, making forests one of the biggest carbon sinks.
  • So, in theory, companies and individuals can cancel out the impact of some of their emissions by investing in projects that reduce or store carbon – forest preservation and tree planting are among them, but carbon credits are also awarded for projects that reduce fossil fuels in other ways, such as windfarms, solar cookstoves, or better farming methods.

So companies can buy their way out of climate trouble with carbon credits?

  • Yes and no. Carbon credits should not be used as an excuse to put off the systemic reforms to our energy generation and usage that are urgently needed – ultimately, we must reduce emissions drastically to prevent catastrophe and offsetting alone will never achieve that.
  • To opponents, carbon credits and carbon trading are a distraction while we dither over the systemic reforms.
  • To supporters, offsetting and the sale of carbon credits produce a flow of money to developing countries to help them preserve carbon sinks and develop their economies along low-carbon lines.

Can’t we just plant more trees?

  • Planting more trees is one answer, and there are plans in many countries to do so. But while deforestation continues, planting trees cannot make up for the carbon lost when standing forests are cleared – and cannot replace the lost populations of wildlife, plants and other species, or the damage to people who call the forests home.

What is REDD+?

  • The world is losing more than 7.3m hectares (18m acres) of forest every year, the equivalent of 27 football pitches every minute, which causes a vast reduction of the planet’s carbon sinks, as well as a staggering loss of biodiversity.
  • Most of the world’s remaining dense tropical forests are in developing economies with tens or hundreds of millions of people living in dire poverty.
  • They face a dilemma: allow loggers and industrial interests to cut down forests, perhaps replacing them with commercial plantations, or lose out on potential economic growth.
  • REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) aims to provide forest owners with an alternative to logging and exploitation, by allowing them to raise money for protecting forests based on the carbon value of keeping forests standing or restoring them to health. REDD+ schemes help forest owners calculate the carbon value of their forests, according to agreed criteria, and sets out a system of rules by which carbon credits can be issued when forest owners avoid deforestation or restore damaged forests.




Rich nations’ climate targets will mean global heating of 2.4C

  • New climate targets announced by the US and other rich nations in recent weeks have put the world on track for global heating of about 2.4C by – the end of the century, research has found.
  • That is a 0.2C improvement on the previous forecast of 2.6C, but still substantially above the Paris goal of holding temperature rises to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, with an aspiration to limit heating to 1.5C.
  • Tougher targets from China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, and other countries will be needed to keep the Paris goals within reach, the analysis found.
  • While countries responsible for nearly three-quarters of global emissions have set or are considering goals to reduce carbon to net zero, Climate Action Tracker found that for most countries, policies are lagging well behind targets.
  • At the White House summit, the US pledged to halve its emissions by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. Canada also submitted a tougher emissions target and Japan, South Africa and Argentina promised to increase their ambition. China, the world’s biggest emitter, restated a promise on curbing future coal use.
  • Ahead of the Cop26 UN climate talks to be held in Glasgow this November, countries are expected to come up with fresh plans to cut their carbon between now and 2030.
  • This decade is regarded as crucial for climate action, because if emissions continue to rise for the next 10 years, as they have in previous decades, there will be little chance of holding temperature rises within the Paris limits, which represent the threshold of safety beyond which climate breakdown is likely to become catastrophic and irreversible.
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that emissions should be roughly halved in the next 10 years, to avoid temperature rises above 1.5C.
  • China is the biggest emitter yet to produce a national plan for the next 10 years, called a nationally determined contribution (NDC). India, South Korea, New Zealand, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are also among the scores of countries still to submit plans.
  • Countries responsible for about half of global emissions have submitted NDCs so far, but many are under pressure to toughen them as some are regarded as too weak, including Australia, Russia, Mexico and Brazil.
  • This week, countries will meet again for the Petersberg dialogue, a climate meeting held by the German government at which some EU countries may come forward with strengthened offers of climate finance to the developing world. Climate finance is regarded as essential to put poor countries on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to cope with the impacts of climate breakdown, but so far offers from rich countries have fallen short of what experts say is needed.





Long-term NO2 exposure affects lung function

  • Long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution can affect lung function and increase the risk of pulmonary disease, a recent study concluded.
  • Healthy individuals — mostly from low-income, urban communities — suffered a decline in lung function due to air pollution.
  • The researchers conducted in-home field spirometry (lung function test) before and after bronchodilation (expansion of the bronchial air passages) as part of the project.
  • The researchers collected lung function data in a cohort of adults using a multi-stage random sampling procedure.
  • The annual maximum NO2 exposure recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) is 21.3 parts per billion.
  • NO2 is formed when fossil fuels like coal, oil, gas and diesel are burned at high temperatures. It is also formed when wood and natural gas are burned.
  • It reduces lung function and increases in asthma attacks.