Insights Daily Current Events, 17 February 2016

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Insights Daily Current Events, 17 February 2016

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Paper 3 Topic: infrastructure.

Railways to build 3 projects through build-operate-transfer model

The Indian Railways has identified the first three projects to be taken up for development through the new build, operate, transfer (BOT) annuity model at an estimated cost of around Rs 2,450 crore.

  • The three targeted projects are developing third line between Nagpur and Wardha (both in Maharashtra), Kazipet (Telangana) and Balharshah (Maharashtra) and, Bhadrak and Nergundi (both in Odisha).

About BOT model:

  • Under the BOT annuity model for rail projects, the private developer gets a revenue guarantee of 80 per cent of projected revenue at the time of bidding.
  • The developer gets a full right to revenue between 80 and 120 per cent and the Indian Railways do not take any share from it.
  • It is only when the actual revenue is above 120 per cent, the additional receipts are shared with the Indian Railways in a staggered manner.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Saudi Arabia, Russia, agree to freeze oil output

Saudi Arabia and Russia have agreed to freeze oil output at near-record levels, the first coordinated move by the world’s two largest producers to counter a slump that has pummeled economies, markets and companies.

  • While the deal is preliminary and doesn’t include Iran, it’s the first significant cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC producers in 15 years and Saudi Arabia said it’s open to further action.
  • The move is designed to stabilise the market following the dramatic price fall since mid-2014.

Why such move was necessary?

Presently, oil prices remains about 70% below its 2014 peak. Supply still exceeds demand and record global oil stockpiles continue to swell, potentially pushing prices below $20 a barrel before the rout is over.

It should however be noted here that the freeze is conditional on other nations agreeing to participate. Saudi Arabia and other OPEC producers had previously refused to reduce output in a bid to drive less-competitive players, in particular U.S. shale oil producers, out of the market.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Iran in the Belt and Road loop as first train from China arrives

The first train from China’s trading hub of Yiwu recently arrived in Tehran, signalling Iran’s firm integration in the Beijing led-Belt and Road connectivity initiative along the New Silk Road.

  • The train ferrying 32 containers completed its 14-day journey, covering over 10,399 km, after passing through the arid landscape of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in Central Asia.
  • China’s on-going technical support is likely to further reduce the rail transit time between China and Iran.

Significance of this journey:

  • The train, covering 700 km a day, has demonstrated that it is possible to substantially slash transit time for goods arriving in Iran from China. Compared to the railway option, cargo ships, setting sail from Shangahi take nearly 45 days to arrive at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. The arrival of this train in less than 14 days is unprecedented.
  • Analysts point out that by joining China on the railway map, Iran was establishing solid structural linkages with Eurasia along the Silk Road Economic Belt. With this, Iran is expected to become an active participant in the Belt and Road initiative.
  • In China, there is anticipation that with the recent lifting of sanctions, Iran’s energy infrastructure, including its trans-border pipeline network will grow—a move that is likely to further deepen Tehran’s strategic linkages with Eurasia.
  • Iran’s strategic location, in particular, attracts China. Iran has common borders with 15 nations, and sea channels on its northern and southwestern coasts.

OBOR:

One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative aims to connect major Eurasian economies through infrastructure, trade and investment.

  • The “Belt” is a network of overland road and rail routes, oil and natural gas pipelines, and other infrastructure projects that will stretch from Xi’an in central China through Central Asia and ultimately reach as far as Moscow, Rotterdam, and Venice.
  • The “Road” is its maritime equivalent: a network of planned ports and other coastal infrastructure projects that dot the map from South and Southeast Asia to East Africa and the northern Mediterranean Sea.

sources: the hindu.


 

Topic: Bilateral ties

India joins China and Pakistan in multi-lateral exercises

India has been invited to take part in the “Cobra Gold” multilateral exercises being hosted by Thailand, along with its counterparts from China and Pakistan.

  • India has been invited to the exercises as an “observer plus” country. This is in keeping with the recent trend of India’s increasing regional interoperability with a series of multi-lateral exercises on land and sea.
  • The theme of 35th edition of the exercises, involving 35 countries, is humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
  • This exercise is considered Asia’s largest multinational drill.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3 Topic: indigenization of technology.

Prithvi-II missile test-fired in Odisha

Prithvi-II missile was recently successfully test-fired in Odisha. The strategic forces command (SFC) of the Army conducted the test as part of a regular training exercise.

About the Missile:

  • Prithvi-II is indigenously developed and is nuclear-capable surface-to-surface
  • The missile is capable of carrying warheads weighing 500 kg to 1,000 kg.
  • With a strike range of 350 km, Prithvi-II is powered by twin-engines which use liquid propulsion.
  • It also uses advanced inertial guidance system with manoeuvring trajectory to hit its target.
  • Notably, Prithvi is India’s first indigenously-built ballistic missile. It is one of the five missiles being developed under the country’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3 Topic: Environmental pollution.

Isro orbiter to scan India’s air for pollutants

The Space Applications Centre (SAC) of Isro and Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) of University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies are collaborating on developing the ‘Next Generation Earth Monitoring and Observation and Aerosol Monitoring’ (NEMO-AM) satellite.

  • This is among Isro’s most important high-performance nano-satellite missions for the country.

Details:

  • The NEMO mission is designed to cover, each day, up to 50,000 square kilometer area of the country’s 32.87 lakh sq km.
  • The NEMO-AM satellite with its powerful imaging sensor analyses the sunlight reflected from the earth’s surface. This light, which passes through the earth’s atmo sphere before reaching NEMO will be analyzed by the satellite from different angles to deter mine the nature of suspended particles and aerosol concentration in the ambient air of India cities.
  • The data will be handy for estimating emissions from vehicles, tracking pollutants plumes, and supporting activities to forecast air quality in cities and towns. New policies can be framed around this data.
  • NEMO’s data can be of great help in decision-making and environmental management activities of both the public and private sectors in a city or town or industrial area.
  • The NEMO-AM will be integrated in July-August next year at SAC in the presence of a team from Canada SFL. The satellite will be tested and launched in the subsequent month.
  • The nano-satellite will monitor suspended particles and aerosols that have made the air of major Indian cities like Delhi, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Amritsar and Allahabad among the most polluted in the world.
  • SAC is providing the necessary software for instruments that are to be made in Canada. The nano-satellite will be launched 500 km above the earth.

The tiny particles and aerosols in the exhaust of vehicles, emissions from industrial chimneys and even dust particles from construction work fill the air we breathe. These aerosols and particulate matter of size 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) enter our lungs and restrict the free flow of air.

sources: toi.


 

Paper 3 Topic: biodiversity(prelims)

New microbes that thrive deep inside Earth discovered

Scientists have discovered a group of microbes that live several kilometres under the surface of the Earth, need no light or oxygen and can only be seen in a microscope.

  • The researchers have also found how the microorganisms, named Hadesarchaea, first discovered in a South African gold mine at a depth of over three kilometres, are able to make a living in the absence of oxygen and light.

Details:

  • This new class of microbes are specialised for survival beneath the surface, and hence they are named “Hadesarchaea“, after the ancient Greek god of the underworld.
  • As its name suggests, the Hadesarchaea belong to a relatively unknown group of microorganisms, the archaea.
  • Like bacteria, archaea are single-celled and microscopically small, but they differ more from each other than a human does from a tree.
  • Archaea were discovered only some 40 years ago. To date, they remain poorly studied in comparison to bacteria and more complex life forms, such as animals and plants.
  • The recent discovery of the Hadesarchaea will help scientists increase their understanding of the biology and lifestyle of archaea that thrive in the deep biosphere.
  • Hadesarchaea have the ability to live in areas devoid of oxygen and the scientists suggest that they are able to survive there by using carbon monoxide to gain energy. The chemical pathways the Hadesarchaea cells use to metabolize carbon monoxide are unique to what has been seen before.

Microorganisms that live below the surface of the Earth remain one of the last great areas of exploration. Organisms that live there have not been grown in the laboratory and therefore their lifestyles are unknown.

sources: the hindu.