New product category of Green Room Air Conditioners
Why in News?
- On the occasion of World Environment Day, a new product category of Green Room Air Conditioners was launched on the Government e-Marketplace (GeM).
- The launch event was organized in association with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
About GeM Portal
- The GeM portal will enable and encourage all central and state government agencies to buy efficient and environment friendly green ACs, thereby paving a way for Sustainable Public Procurement in India. The purchase of Green RACs shall be a voluntary approach.
- The Government of India is taking proactive steps towards a circular and green economy.
- In March 2018, the Ministry of Finance constituted a Task Force on Sustainable Public Procurement.
- Additionally, the draft National Resource Efficiency Policy (2019) includes the agenda of Sustainable Public Procurement, that suggests establishing green procurement guidelines providing information on resource efficiency criteria to be used in the procurement processes for the prioritized products/service categories.
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with other partners is supporting the Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) initiative of the Government of India with initial focus on three prioritized product categories including paper, disinfectant and Green Room Air Conditioners.
Why in News?
- The sustainability and conservation of our aquatic ecosystem which constitutes of various freshwater habitats, with oceans and seas covering more than 70 percent of the Earth, has gained a lot of attention in recent times at national and international forums.
- It also underpins key economic sectors, such as fisheries and tourism.
- However, today these habitats are constantly facing huge threats from various actors.
- Millions of tonnes of plastic waste released into these habitats by humans are harming creatures, including seabirds, turtles, crabs and other species.
- “Blue Revolution”, the flagship scheme of the Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying launched in the year 2015,
- Aimed to achieve economic prosperity of the country and the fishers and fish farmers as well as contribute towards food and nutritional security
- Through full potential utilization of water resources for fisheries development in a sustainable manner, keeping in view the bio-security and environmental concerns.
- As part of Blue Revolution scheme, various environment friendly technologies were adopted for safeguarding of our aquatic ecosystem.
Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) were supported;
- RAS technology is eco-friendly, water efficient, and is a highly productive intensive farming system, with zero environmental impact.
- Likewise, Sea Cages for marine fish culture were promoted and supported, Seaweed cultivation has also been promoted, fish lean/ban period have been implemented during the breeding season amongst many other initiatives.
- Solar panel units for producing energy to operate water pumps, aerators and carrying out other fisheries related activities were provided assistance under the Blue Revolution Scheme.
Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY)
- Government of India launched a flagship scheme of “Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY)” in May 2020, with highest ever estimated investment of Rs. 20,050 crore under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat package.
- PMMSY aims at sustainable and responsible development of fisheries sector with focus on infrastructure, species diversification, sustainable livelihoods, aquatic health management, robust database, innovations, collectivization, modernization of value chain, export promotion, establishing a robust fisheries management framework, with special focus on implementing technologies that ensure protection of habitats and fisheries wealth.
- PMMSY aims to promote sustainable fish production systems/methods with minimal environmental impacts to support more crop per drop.
NTPC joins UN’s CEO Water mandate
Why in News?
- NTPC Ltd, India’s largest power utility Under Ministry of Power has become a signatory to the prestigious UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate.
- NTPC will further imbibe the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) for water conservation and management while carrying out its core business activity of power generation.
About CEO Water Mandate
- The CEO Water Mandate is a UN Global Compact initiative to demonstrate commitment and efforts of companies to better their water and sanitation agendas as part of long term Sustainable Development Goals.
- The CEO Water Mandate is designed to assist companies in the development, implementation, and disclosure of comprehensive water strategies and policies.
- It also provides a platform for companies to partner with like-minded businesses, UN agencies, public authorities, civil society organizations, and other key stakeholders.
- NTPC is committed to proactively address water sustainability issues through implementing Water Policy, which will serve as a directive for establishing water management strategies, systems, processes, practices and research initiatives.
Performance Grading Index (PGI) 2019-20
Why in News?
- Union Education Minister, approved the release of Performance Grading Index (PGI) 2019-20 for States and Union Territories of India .
- The Government has introduced the Performance Grading Index with a set of 70 parameters to catalyse transformational change in the field of school education.
- The PGI for States and Union Territories was first published in 2019 with reference year 2017-18.
- The PGI exercise envisages that the index would propel States and UTs towards undertaking multi-pronged interventions that will bring about the much-desired optimal education outcomes.
- The PGI helps the States/UTs to pinpoint the gaps and accordingly prioritise areas for intervention to ensure that the school education system is robust at every level.
- Punjab, Chandigarh, Tamil Nadu, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Kerala occupy the highest grade (Grade A++) for 2019-20.
- Most of the States/UTs have improved their grade in PGI 2019-20 compared to the earlier years.
- Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Puducherry, Punjab and Tamil Nadu have improved overall PGI score by 10%, i.e., 100 or more points.
- Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep and Punjab have shown improvement by 10% (8 points) or more in the PGI domain: Access.
- As many as thirteen States and UTs have shown improvement by 10% (15 points) or more in the PGI domain: Infrastructure and Facilities. Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Odisha have shown improvement by 20% or more.
- Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Odisha have shown more than 10% improvement in the PGI domain: Equity.
- Nineteen States and UTs have shown improvement by 10% (36 points) or more in the PGI domain: Governance Process. Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal have shown improvement by at least 20% (72 points or more).
Why in News?
- CSIR in collaboration with Laxai Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd., has initiated Phase-II clinical trial with anti-helminitic drug Niclosamide for treatment of Covid-19.
- Niclosamide has been extensively used in past for treatment of tapeworm’s infection in adults as well as children.
- in a screen to identify drugs that can inhibit syncytia formation, Niclosamide was identified as a promising repurposed drug.
- The syncytia or fused cells observed in the lungs of patients with COVID-19 probably results from the fusogenic activity of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and Niclosamide can inhibit syncytia formation.
- Niclosamide is also a potential SARS-CoV2 entry inhibitor blocking the viral entry through pH dependent endocytic pathway.
Why in News?
- A new species of millipede, just 3 millimetres long, has been discovered from a sacred groves in Kannur.
- The species has been discovered in a study, to understand the importance of biodiversity of sacred groves in Malabar.
- These millipedes dwell under the rotting plant debris in the moist soil of the grove. Its body is pale pink and possesses 20 segments in males and 19 segments in females.
- The eyeless millipede is characterized by 34 pairs of pale yellow legs. They sense their surroundings with a pair of very small but specialised antenna.
- The body of these millipedes is flat. They belong to a small millipede family called Pyrgodesmidae in the genus Klimakodesmus. The species is named Klimakodesmus bilobocaudatus.
Boosting soil fertility
- These millipedes consume fallen leaf litter, and may process some 15%-20% of calcium input into the soil. Hence they play an important role in increasing soil fertility.
Do elephants breathe and drink using their trunks?
- Elephants have two nostrils in their trunks.
- They can also suck up water at a speed of three litres per second into their trunk and then blow it into the mouth.
- New research has now found that elephants can dilate their nostrils to create more space in their trunks, allowing them to suck up to nine litres of water.
- The team studied elephants eating various foods, to decode the suction mechanism.
- Researchers used an ultrasonic probe to measure the trunk walls and see how the inner muscles worked.
- By contracting those muscles, the animal dilates its nostrils up to 30%.
- The researchers note that by investigating the mechanics and physics behind trunk muscle movements – a combination of suction and grasping – they could build better robots.
Why mangroves matter
WHAT is a mangrove?
- A mangrove is a small tree or shrub that grows along coastlines, taking root in salty sediments, often underwater.
- The word ‘mangrove’ may refer to the habitat as a whole or to the trees and shrubs in the mangrove swamp. Mangroves are flowering trees, belonging to the families Rhizophoraceae, Acanthaceae, Lythraceae, Combretaceae, and Arecaceae.
- The upper trunk, including the branches and leaves, of a mangrove tree lives completely above the waterline, while the lower trunk and the large root system are partly covered by seawater.
- Many species have roots diverging from stems and branches and penetrating the soil some distance away from the main stem (like banyan trees).
WHAT are some of the special features of mangroves?
- Saline environment: A speciality of mangroves is that they can survive under extreme hostile environment such as high salt and low oxygen conditions. Mangrove trees contain a complex salt filtration system and complex root system to cope with salt water immersion and wave action. The roots filter out 90% of the salt they come into contact with in the saline and brackish water they call home. Some species of mangrove excrete salt through glands in their leaves.
- Low oxygen: Underground tissue of any plant needs oxygen for respiration. But in a mangrove environment, the oxygen in soil is limited or nil. Hence the mangrove root system absorbs oxygen from the atmosphere. Mangroves have special roots for this purpose called breathing roots or pneumatophores. These roots have numerous pores through which oxygen enters the underground tissues.
- Mangroves, like desert plants, store fresh water in thick succulent leaves. A waxy coating on the leaves seals in water and minimises evaporation.
- Mangroves are viviparous – their seeds germinate while still attached to the parent tree. Once germinated, the seedling grows into a propagule. The mature propagule then drops into the water and gets transported to a different spot, eventually taking root in a solid ground.
HOW do mangrove forests help protect against strong cyclones?
- Mangrove forests act as natural barriers against storm surge, coastal flooding and sea level rise. Their intricate root system stabilises the coastline, reducing erosion from storm surges. Together with the tree trunks, they work like speed-breakers to slow down the tides.
- They protect shorelines from damaging winds and waves. Mangroves with an average height of 6-10 metres could shorten a cyclone’s waves by 60%.
- Mangroves also help prevent erosion by stabilising sediments with their tangled root systems.
- A mangrove forest could reduce the effects of a Category 5 storm to the intensity and effects of a Category 3 storm.
WHAT are the other benefits to the environment?
- Mangrove thickets maintain water quality by filtering pollutants and trapping sediments originating from land.
- They provide habitat for a diverse array of terrestrial organisms. Their branches provide homes for lizards, snakes and nesting birds. Many species of coastal and offshore fish and shellfish rely exclusively on mangroves as their breeding, spawning, and hatching grounds.
- Mangroves also have a big impact on climate. Mangroves are powerhouses when it comes to carbon storage. Studies indicate that mangroves can sequester (lock away) greater amount of carbon than other trees in the peat soil beneath. They store this carbon for thousands of years.
WHERE are mangrove ecosystems found?
- Mangroves can be found in over 118 countries and territories in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Asia has the largest coverage of the world’s mangroves, followed by Africa, North and Central America, Oceania and South America. Approximately 75% of the world’s mangrove forests are found in just 15 countries.
- The deltas of the Ganges, Mahanadi, Krishna, Godavari, and the Cauvery rivers contain mangrove forests.
- The backwaters in Kerala have a high density of mangrove forest.
- The Sundarbans in West Bengal is the largest mangrove region in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It spans from the Hooghly River in West Bengal to the Baleswar River in Bangladesh.
- The Bhitarkanika mangrove system in Odisha is India’s second largest mangrove forest.
- Pichavaram in Tamil Nadu has a vast expanse of water covered with mangrove forests. It is home to many aquatic bird species.
WHAT are the threats to mangroves?
- Scientists estimate that at least one third of all mangrove forests has been lost during the last few decades. Coastal development, including construction of shrimp farms, hotels, and other structures, is the primary threat to mangroves.
- Mangrove forests are cleared to make room for agricultural land and human settlements.
- Mangrove trees are used for firewood, construction wood, charcoal production, and animal fodder. In some parts of the world, there has been overharvesting which is no longer sustainable.
- Overfishing, pollution, and rising sea levels are the other threats to mangrove forests and their ecosystem.
Why in News?
- The Union government is in talks with foreign manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines on their demand for indemnity from liability as a condition for selling their vaccines to the country.
What is indemnity and why is it sought?
- Indemnity is a form of contract. The law on drugs in India does not have a provision for indemnity related to the grant of approval for any new drug or vaccine in the country.
- If at all any indemnity is to be granted to any company for a particular drug or vaccine, it can only be in the form of an indemnity bond executed on behalf of the government of India, or a clause or set of clauses in any contract that the government may sign with the supplier.
- There appears to be no precedent for any company getting such indemnity in India for any drug.
Section 124 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872,
- It defines a contract of indemnity as one by which one party promises to save the other from any loss caused to the latter.
- Once the government of India grants such indemnity to the vaccine manufacturer or importer, it would mean that if a particular vaccine is perceived to have caused death or any lasting damage to a recipient, any claim of compensation arising from it will have to be met by the government, and not by the company.
G7 corporate tax deal
Why in News?
- Advanced economies making up the G7 grouping have reached a “historic” deal on taxing multinational companies.
- Finance ministers meeting in London agreed to counter tax avoidance through measures to make companies pay in the countries where they do business.
- They also agreed in principle to ratify a global minimum corporate tax rate to counter the possibility of countries undercutting each other to attract investments.
- The deal announced recently involving the US, the UK, Germany, France, Canada, Italy and Japan, is likely to be put before a G20 meeting in July.
What are the decisions taken?
- The first decision that has been ratified is to force multinationals to pay taxes where they operate. The second decision in the agreement commits states to a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15% to avoid countries undercutting each other.
Who are the targets?
- Apart from low-tax jurisdictions, the proposal for a minimum corporate tax are tailored to address the low effective rates of tax shelled out by some of the world’s biggest corporations.
What are the problems with the plan?
- Apart from the challenges of getting all major nations on the same page, especially since this impinges on the right of the sovereign to decide a nation’s tax policy, the proposal has other pitfalls.
- A global minimum rate would essentially take away a tool that countries use to push policies that suit them.
- For instance, in the backdrop of the pandemic, IMF and World Bank data suggest that developing countries with less ability to offer mega stimulus packages may experience a longer economic hangover than developed nations.
- A lower tax rate is a tool they can use to alternatively push economic activity. Also, a global minimum tax rate will do little to tackle tax evasion.
Kerala’s Smart Kitchen project
Why in News?
- The Kerala government’s revised budget for the current fiscal has announced the introduction of a Smart Kitchen project, which is meant to modernise kitchens and ease the difficulty faced by homemakers in household chores.
What is the Smart Kitchen project?
- Under the scheme, Kerala State Financial Enterprises (KSFE) would give soft loans to women from all walks of life for purchasing household gadgets or equipment.
- The cost of household equipment can be repaid as instalments within a particular period.
- The interest of the loan/cost would be equally shared among the beneficiary, local self-government body and the state government.
- To implement the scheme, KSFE would start smart kitchen chits.
Pran Vayu Devta Pension Scheme (PVDPS)
Why in News?
- Amid the ongoing pandemic, several states including Haryana witnessed a crisis of medical oxygen that was needed for severely ill Covid-19 patients.
- To avoid such a deficit in the future, the Haryana government has come out with what it says is a “unique and first of its kind initiative”.
What is the Pran Vayu Devta Pension Scheme (PVDPS)?
- The state government has taken an initiative to honour all those trees which are of the age of 75 years and above and have served humanity throughout their life by producing oxygen, reducing pollution, providing shade and so on.
- Such trees will be identified throughout the state and these will be looked after by involving local people in this scheme.
- Oxy Forests will be planted on land ranging from 5 acres to 100 acres in the cities of Haryana.
- For maintenance of trees older than 75 years, a “pension amount” of Rs 2,500 would be given per year in the name of PVDPS.
- This ‘tree pension’ shall continue to increase every year, on lines similar to the Old Age Samman Pension Scheme in the state.
What is an Oxy Van (Oxygen Forest)?
- They are identified pieces of land, on which as many as 3 crore trees would be planted. The Oxy Vans will occupy 10 per cent of the 8 lakh hectares of land across Haryana.