Insights Daily Current Affairs, 30 December 2017

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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 30 December 2017


 

Paper 1:

Topic: Urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

 

Cities need a sustainable transport update

Context: Bengaluru’s never-ending traffic jam and Delhi’s pollution levels has made it resoundingly clear that the present model of urban transport is unsustainable, and the only way out of the cycle—of rising incomes and more wheels on the road—is an efficient public transport alternative.

 

What made the present model of urban public transport unsustainable?

City-development plans have failed to create the right incentives, as is borne out by the preference for private transport. The problem starts with the way cities are governed in India. The lack of adequate devolution as per the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992, and consequently, effective power vested in a city-level governance mechanism, exacts a heavy toll.

 

What needs to be done?

The urban transport policy must rethink the hierarchy of needs; pedestrians and cyclists must be on top, followed by buses and then motor vehicles.

Metros: The government must pivot the policy to delivering reliable public transport. The metro project is a step in the right direction, but it needs complementary changes that improve the citizens’ experience. The metro system needs a bus system to provide last-mile connectivity.

Buses: If people have to take buses, they need pedestrian paths to walk on the roads. The bus system also needs to be reliable. A centralized monitoring system that tracks buses using GPS is needed. Such system monitors driving speed and ensures that they stop at every bus stop.

Change in government’s attitude: The government must resist using attractive-sounding propositions, like pushing electric and hybrid buses, to give the impression that there is political will to improve urban transport. Changing the fuel of the bus will reduce emissions, but there will be dramatically bigger gains if we are able to prompt even a quarter of the private vehicle-using population to use public transport.

Maintenance: India has plenty of assets that are decaying due to poor maintenance. Policymakers will do well to make space for depreciation accounts in their budgets to pay for maintenance and replacement of public assets.

 

Way ahead:

India is a growing economy, and census data suggests that only 31% of the population lives in urban centres. Another 300 million people will be added by 2050 and the planning for carrying those people in our cities must begin now. Public transport can easily be the cheaper, faster and economical alternative if policymakers plan for tomorrow’s problems today.

 

Sources: livemint.


Paper 2:

Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga

Context: State-run gas utility GAIL India has placed orders for another 400-km of pipeline of the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga natural gas pipeline project that will take the fuel to eastern India. With these awards, pipe supply orders for 2,100 km of the Jagdishpur-Haldia & Bokaro-Dhamra Natural Gas Pipeline (JHBDPL) project have been placed. Also, 1,700 km of line laying orders have been placed.

 

About the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga project:

The gas pipeline project aims to provide piped cooking gas to residents of Varanasi and later to millions of people in states like Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha.

  • From Varanasi’s perspective, an 800-km long MDPI pipeline will be laid and 50,000 households and 20,000 vehicles will get PNG and CNG gas respectively. The government estimates that around 5 lakh gas cylinders will be sent at rural areas annually.
  • According to GAIL, with the Urja Ganga project, 20 lakh households will get PNG connections. The project is said to be a major step towards collective growth and development of the Eastern region of India.
  • GAIL has built a network of trunk pipelines covering the length of around 11,000 km. With Urja Ganga project, this number will further increase by 2540 km.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

 

Ujh Project

 

Context: In a bid to fast track utilization of India’s rights under Indus Waters Treaty, the DPR of Ujh Project was recently submitted by Central Water Commission to the Jammu & Kashmir government. The DPR will help India to utilize a part of the flow that presently goes across border unutilized.

 

About the Ujh project:

The Ujh project is a step towards India’s utilisation of waters of the Indus and its tributaries in keeping with its rights under the treaty. The project, which is to come up in Kathua district, will store around 0.65 million acre feet (MAF) of water from Ujh (a tributary of Ravi) to irrigate 30,000 hectares and produce over 200 MW of power.

 

About the Indus water treaty:

Signed in 1960 by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then Pakistan President Ayub Khan, the treaty allocates 80% of water from the six-river Indus water system to Pakistan. Under the treaty, control over six north Indian rivers were divided between the two countries. India got control over the rivers Beas, Ravi and Sutlej whereas Pakistan got control over Indus, Chenab and Jhelum.

 

Unique features of the treaty:

Involvement of the third party: This is a unique treaty involving a third party. It was brokered by the World Bank.

Permanent commission: A Permanent Indus Commission was set up as a bilateral commission to implement and manage the Treaty. The Commission solves disputes arising over water sharing.

Arbitration mechanism: The Treaty also provides arbitration mechanism to solve disputes amicably.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3:

Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

 

China’s First Solar Highway

China’s First Solar Highway

China has constructed the country’s first solar highway, in which solar panels are placed underneath transparent concrete.

 

About the solar highway:

The solar highway is a 2 km (1.2 mile) stretch of road located on the Jinan City Expressway, and it’s divided into three layers. The see-through concrete shields an array of solar panels of two sizes. Beneath the solar panels is a layer that will keep them isolated from the damp ground.

The expressway can handle 10 times more pressure than the normal asphalt variety and in a year generate 1 million kWH of electricity, which will be used to power street lights and a snow-melting system on the road. It’s also designed to supply power to charging stations for electric vehicles, should those be added in the future.

 

Facts for Prelims:

China is billing the project as the world’s first photovoltaic highway. In late 2016, a village in France opened what it claimed was the world’s first solar-panel road, running for about the same length as China’s new stretch though covering about half the area. In 2014, the Netherlands built a bike path embedded with solar panels.

 

Way ahead:

Solar roadways may have their critics (they are susceptible to being covered by dirt and other debris), but as their efficiency and applications improve, they’re sure to prove their value. And with EVs becoming more popular, the world’s going to need more ways to keep their vehicles charged and ready to go.

 

Sources: the hindu.


Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

 

Bio-CNG

 

Context: To promote the use of clean fuel, the oil ministry plans to set up bio-CNG (compressed natural gas) plants and allied infrastructure at a cost of Rs7,000 crore. The oil ministry will be working with state-run oil and gas retailers to set up the plants over the next two years. The government’s plan is to make India a gas-based economy.

 

What is Bio- CNG?

Bio-CNG is a purified form of biogas with over 95% pure methane gas. It is similar to natural gas in its composition (97% methane) and energy potential. While natural gas is a fossil fuel, bio-CNG is a renewable form of energy produced from agricultural and food waste. Bio-CNG is being looked at as an environment-friendly alternative to diesel.

 

How is CNG generated from agricultural waste?

The process of generating CNG from agricultural waste involves treating the waste matter with a special bacterial solution, and then the gas which is generated is cleaned and compressed so that it can be used in vehicles.

 

Benefits of Bio- CNG:

The cost of production of 1kg of bio-CNG could be Rs15-20, cheaper than CNG, petrol and diesel. Besides, it will help in reducing the country’s import of diesel up to 50%. It is also pollution free.

 

Background:

India currently imports one-third of its energy requirement. The world’s third-largest crude oil importer is targeting halving its energy import bill by 2030. The government aims to increase the contribution of gas in India’s energy mix to 15% from the current 6.5%.

 

Sources: livemint.


Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space.

 

NASA’s flying telescope

Context: NASA’s flying observatory Sofia is preparing for its 2018 campaign, which will include, among others, observations of celestial magnetic fields, star-forming regions, comets and Saturn’s giant moon Titan. This will be the fourth year of full operations for Sofia, short for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, with observations planned between February 2018 and January 2019.

 

Significance of the observations:

Scientists believe that the observatory’s investigations will help them understand how magnetic fields affect the rate at which interstellar clouds condense to form new stars. These observations could also help them learn whether the luminosity of these active black holes is driven by star formation or accretion of material onto the central black hole. Sofia will also conduct observations to better understand how methane levels change with seasons on Mars.

 

About Sofia:

What is it? Sofia is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope. It is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Centre, DLR. SOFIA is designed to observe the infrared universe.

 

SOFIA studies many different kinds of astronomical objects and phenomena, but some of the most interesting are:

  • Star birth and death.
  • Formation of new solar systems.
  • Identification of complex molecules in space.
  • Planets, comets and asteroids in our solar system.
  • Nebulae and dust in galaxies (or, Ecosystems of galaxies).
  • Black holes at the center of galaxies.

 

Why does NASA need a flying telescope?

Water vapor blocks infrared light energy and 99% of the world’s water vapor exists below 39,000 feet. So, the higher altitude you fly, the drier it gets and the more optimal it is for infrared observation.

 

Sources: et.