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Insights Current Events: 13 September 2014

Science and Technology, Environment and Biodiversity

Web portal on Ganga rejuvenation launched

As part of its efforts to make the Ganga rejuvenation programme a mass movement, the Ministry of Water Resource launched a web portal to connect with the public on the ambitious project of the NDA Government.

About national mission for clean Ganga;

National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is the implementation wing of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA). It is a registered society originally formed by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change(MoEFCC) under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. As per the 306th amendment in the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, both NGRBA and NMCG are allocated to the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation(MoWR,RD &GR). Accordingly the General Body of NMCG is being re constituted. The Secretary to the Government of India, MoWR, RD & GR is the current chairman of the Governing Council of NMCG. As per the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), the mandate of NGRBA is being implemented by, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG). At national level NMCG is the coordinating body and is being supported by States Level Program Management Groups (SPMGs) of UP, Uttarakhand, Bihar and West Bengal which, are also registered as societies under Societies Registration Act, 1860 and a dedicated Nodal Cell in Jharkhand.

The area of operation of NMCG shall be the Ganga River Basin, including the states through which Ganga flows, as well as the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The area of operation may be extended, varied or altered in future, by the Governing Council to such other states through which major tributaries of the river Ganga flow, and as the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) may decide for the purpose of effective abatement of pollution and conservation of the river Ganga.

National Ganga River Basin Authority;

The Central Government, by a notification, set up ‘National GangaRiver Basin Authority’ (NGRBA)as an empowered planning, financing, monitoring and coordinating authority for the Ganga River, in exercise of the powers conferred under the Environment (Protection) Act,1986. The Prime Minister is ex-officio Chairperson of the Authority, and it has as its members, the Union Ministers Concerned and the Chief Ministers of states through which Ganga flows, viz., Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, among others. The objective of the Authority is to ensure effective abatement of pollution and conservation of the river Ganga by adopting a holistic approach with the river basin as the unit of planning. The functions of the Authority include all measures necessary for planning and execution of programmes for abatement of pollution in the Ganga in keeping with sustainable development needs.

Functions of NGRBA

* The NGRBA would be responsible for addressing the problem of pollution in Ganga in a holistic and comprehensive manner. This will include water quality, minimum ecological flows, sustainable access and other issues relevant to river ecology and management.

* The NGRBA will not only be regulatory body but will also have developmental role in terms of planning & monitoring of the river conservation activities and ensuring that necessary resources are available.

* The NRGBA would work for maintaining the water quality of the river Ganga upto acceptable standards. The pollution abetment activities will be taken through the existing implementation mechanisms in the State and also through special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs0 at the pollution hotspots.

* The NGRBA will ensure minimum ecological flow in the Ganga by regulating water abstraction and by promoting water storage projects.

* The NGRBA will plan and monitor programmes for cleaning of Ganga and its tributaries. To being with, it will concentrate on Ganga main stream.

* The NGRBA would draw upon professional expertise within and outside the Government for advice on techno-economic issues.

* The technical and administrative support to NGRBA shall be provided by the Ministry of Environment & for advice on techno-economic issues.

GANGA ACTION PLAN

  • The Ganga action plan was, launched by Shri Rajeev Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India on 14 Jan. 1986 with the main objective of pollution abatement, to improve the water quality by Interception, Diversion and treatment of domestic sewage and present toxic and industrial chemical wastes from identified grossly polluting units entering in to the river. The other objectives of the Ganga Action Plan are as under.
  • Control of non-point pollution from agricultural run off, human defecation, cattle wallowing and throwing of unburnt and half burnt bodies into the river.
  • Research and Development to conserve the biotic, diversity of the river to augment its productivity.
  • New technology of sewage treatment like Up-flow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket (UASB) and sewage treatment through afforestation has been successfully developed.
  • Rehabilitation of soft-shelled turtles for pollution abatement of river have been demonstrated and found useful.
  • Resource recovery options like production of methane for energy generation and use of aquaculture for revenue generation have been demonstrated.
  • To act as trend setter for taking up similar action plans in other grossly polluted stretches in other rivers.
  • The ultimate objective of the GAP is to have an approach of integrated river basin management considering the various dynamic inter-actions between abiotic and biotic eco-system.

Sources: http://www.mppcb.nic.in/,wiki, nmcg.nic.in, www.gangaaction.org, www.thehindu.com.

NGT bans tyre burning in the open, re-use of tyres as fuel

National Green Tribunal (NGT) has prohibited the burning of tyres in open areas and also the reuse of old tyres as fuel in industries and brick kilns.

The order was passed on a petition filed by city-based Sahyog Trust, which raised serious concerns over burning of tyres on human health. The petitioners also pointed out that tyre burning produces toxic smoke which is hazardous to the entire environment.

Why was it prohibited?

When tyres are burned, they generate particulate matter or particle pollution, a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. Particle pollution is made up of a number of components, including acids, organic chemicals, metals or dust particles.

Sulphur, which is added at the time of manufacturing a tyre to give strength to it, comes out when it is burnt The fumes emitted are packed with many toxic chemicals that vehicle tyres contain.

These are extremely harmful to the human health and environment.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB),
statutory organisation, was constituted in September, 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. Further, CPCB was entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Principal Functions of the CPCB, as spelt out in the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, (i) to promote cleanliness of streams and wells in different areas of the States by prevention, control and abatement of water pollution, and (ii) to improve the quality of air and to prevent, control or abate air pollution in the country.

Functions of the Central Board at the National Level

 

  • Advise the Central Government on any matter concerning prevention and control of water and air pollution and improvement of the quality of air.
  • Plan and cause to be executed a nation-wide programm for the prevention, control or abatement of water and air pollution;
  • Co-ordinate the activities of the State Board and resolve disputes among them;
  • Provide technical assistance and guidance to the State Boards, carry out and sponsor investigation and research relating to problems of water and air pollution, and for their prevention, control or abatement;
  • Plan and organise training of persons engaged in programme on the prevention, control or abatement of water and air pollution;
  • Organise through mass media, a comprehensive mass awareness programme on the prevention, control or abatement of water and air pollution;
  • Collect, compile and publish technical and statistical data relating to water and air pollution and the measures devised for their effective prevention, control or abatement;
  • Prepare manuals, codes and guidelines relating to treatment and disposal of sewage and trade effluents as well as for stack gas cleaning devices, stacks and ducts;
  • Disseminate information in respect of matters relating to water and air pollution and their prevention and control;
  • Lay down, modify or annul, in consultation with the State Governments concerned, the standards for stream or well, and lay down standards for the quality of air; and
  • Perform such other function as may be prescribed by the Government of india.

Functions of the Central Board as State Boards for the Union Territories

Advise the Governments of Union Territories with respect to the suitability of any premises or location for carrying on any industry which is likely to pollute a stream or well or cause air pollutions; Lay down standards for treatment of sewage and trade effluents and for emissions from automobiles, industrial plants, and any other polluting source; Evolve efficient methods for disposal of sewage and trade effluents on land; develop reliable and economically viable methods of treatment of sewage, trade effluent and air pollution control equipment; Identify any area or areas within Union Territories as air pollution control area or areas to be notified under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981; Assess the quality of ambient water and air, and inspect wastewater treatment installations, air pollution control equipment, industrial plants or manufacturing process to evaluate their performance and to take steps for the prevention, control and abatement of air and water pollution.

As per the policy decision of the Government of India, the CPCB has delegated its powers and functions under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 with respect to Union Territories to respective local administrations. CPCB along with its counterparts State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) are responsible for implementation of legislations relating to prevention and control of environmental pollution.

Sources: http://www.cpcb.nic.in/, THE HINDU ,ET.

INTERNATIONAL

China amplifies pitch on ‘Silk Road’

The MSR(maritime silk road) is part of a string of Silk Road initiatives that the Chinese are undertaking that includes the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor, which aspire to establish integral economic linkages between South and Southeast Asia.

The Silk Road, or Silk Route, is a series of trade and cultural transmission routes that were central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East by linking traders, merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, nomads, and urban dwellers from China to the Mediterranean Sea during various periods of time.

Extending 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometres), the Silk Road derives its name from the lucrative trade in Chinese silk carried out along its length, beginning during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). The Central Asian sections of the trade routes were expanded around 114 BC by the Han dynasty, largely through the missions and explorations of Chinese imperial envoy, Zhang Qian.The Chinese took great interest in the safety of their trade products and extended the Great Wall of China to ensure the protection of the trade route.

Trade on the Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the civilizations of China, the Indian subcontinent, Persia, Europe, and Arabia, opening long-distance, political and economic interactions between the civilizations. Though silk was certainly the major trade item from China, many other goods were traded, and various technologies, religions, and philosophies, as well as the bubonic plague (the “Black Death”), also travelled along the Silk Routes. In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road served as a means of carrying out cultural trade among the civilizations along its network.

.In June 2014, UNESCO designated the Chang’an-Tianshan corridor of the Silk Road as a World Heritage Site.

China’s drive to deepen linkages among the littoral states in South and South East Asia, has deeper geopolitical resonance as it follows the U.S. led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) initiative, which seeks to forge a regional free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed regional free trade agreement that is currently being negotiated by twelve countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam). The agreement began in 2005 as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP or P4).

The TPP intends to enhance trade and investment among the TPP partner countries, promote innovation, economic growth and development, and support the creation and retention of jobs.


SOURCES: worldhistoryconnected.press.illinois.edu, thediplomat.com, en.wikipedia.org, www.thehindu.com.

HEALTH

EBOLA

It is a disease of humans and other primates caused by an ebolavirus. Symptoms start two days to three weeks after contracting the virus, with a fever, sore throat, muscle pain and headaches. Typically, vomiting, diarrhea and rash follow, along with decreased functioning of the liver and kidneys. Around this time, affected people may begin to bleed both within the body and externally.

The virus may be acquired upon contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected animal.Spreading through the air has not been documented in the natural environment. Fruit bats are believed to be a carrier and may spread the virus without being affected. Once human infection occurs, the disease may spread between people, as well. Male survivors may be able to transmit the disease via semen for nearly two months. To make the diagnosis, typically other diseases with similar symptoms such as malaria, cholera and other viral hemorrhagic fevers are first excluded. To confirm the diagnosis, blood samples are tested for viral antibodies, viral RNA, or the virus itself.

Symptoms


Infection control and containment

The risk of transmission is increased among those caring for people infected. Recommended measures when caring for those who are infected include isolating them, sterilizing equipment and surfaces, and wearing protective clothing including masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles.If a person with Ebola dies, direct contact with the body of the deceased patient should be avoided.

In order to reduce the spread, the World Health Organization recommends raising community awareness of the risk factors for Ebola infection and the protective measures individuals can take. These include avoiding contact with infected people and regular hand washing using soap and water. Traditional burial rituals, especially those requiring washing or embalming of bodies, should be discouraged or modified. Airline crews are instructed to isolate anyone who has symptoms resembling Ebola virus.

The Ebola virus can be eliminated with heat (heating for 30 to 60 minutes at 60 °C or boiling for 5 minutes). On surfaces, some lipid solvents such as some alcohol-based products, detergents, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) or calcium hypochlorite (bleaching powder), and other suitable disinfectants at appropriate concentrations can be used as disinfectants.

Quarantine

Quarantine, also known as enforced isolation, is usually effective in decreasing spread. Governments often quarantine areas where the disease is occurring or individuals who may be infected. In the United States, the law allows quarantine of those infected with Ebola. During the 2014 outbreak, Liberia closed schools. Those who have been exposed to someone with the disease should be closely observed for 21 days.

Vaccine

No vaccine is currently available for humans. The most promising candidates are DNA vaccines or vaccines derived from adenoviruses, vesicular stomatitis Indiana virus (VSIV) or filovirus-like particles (VLPs) because these candidates could protect nonhuman primates from ebolavirus-induced disease. DNA vaccines, adenovirus-based vaccines, and VSIV-based vaccines have entered clinical trials.

Treatment

No specific treatment for the disease is yet available. Efforts to help those who are infected are supportive and include giving either oral rehydration therapy (slightly sweet and salty water to drink) or intravenous fluids.The disease has a high risk of death, killing between 50% and 90% of those infected with the virus. EVD was first identified in Sudan (now South Sudan) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The disease typically occurs in outbreaks in tropical regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

Sources;WIKI.

India has second-highest number of child marriages: Unicef

India had the highest number of unregistered children under age five between 2000 and 2012 and the second-highest number of child marriages, according to The UN report “Improving Children’s Lives, Transforming the Future — 25 years of child rights in South Asia” by the United Nations’ children agency, Unicef.

Important observations;

  • At 71 million, India had the largest number of children under the age of five whose births were not registered between 2000-2012.
  • India, along with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and the Maldives, has been recording “significant improvements” in birth registration but about 100 million children in the region are still not registered at birth.
  • India has the greatest disparity between the poorest and richest households, with children in the poorest households being three times less likely to be registered than those in the richest.
  • Religion also appears to play a role as Muslims have the lowest level of birth registration in India (39 per cent) followed by Hindus (40 per cent) while the Jains have the highest (87 per cent).
  • Almost half of all girls in South Asia marry before the age of 18. One in five girls are married before the age of 15. These are the highest rates in the world.
  • In India, 43 per cent of women aged 20-24 were first married by the age of 18 between 2005-2013. Girls with no education are 5.5 times more likely to marry or enter into union as those with at least 10 years of education.
  • On gender-biased sex selection, the report said the practice is more prevalent in the west and northwest part of the country. The child sex ratio, which is the number of girls per 1,000 boys, among children aged 0-4 in India was 924.
  • On immunisation coverage, it said some countries in South Asia, particularly Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, have made significant improvements since 1990 but coverage is still far too low in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

The report was released to commemorate 25 years since the 1989 U.N. adoption of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. It pointed to some improvements over the past two decades as South Asian government adopted policies to protect child rights.

Sources; THE HINDU.

VVPAT to be used first time in Maharashtra

Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) or verified paper record (VPR) is a method of providing feedback to voters using a ballotless voting system. A VVPAT is intended as an independent verification system for voting machines designed to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly, to detect possible election fraud or malfunction, and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results.

The VVPAT offers some fundamental differences as a paper, rather than computer memory, recording medium when storing votes. A paper VVPAT is readable by the human eye and voters can directly interpret their vote. Computer memory requires a device and software which potentially is proprietary. Insecure voting machine records could potentially be changed quickly without detection by the voting machine itself. It would be more difficult for voting machines to corrupt records without human intervention. Corrupt or malfunctioning voting machines might store votes other than as intended by the voter unnoticed. A VVPAT allows voters the possibility to verify that their votes are cast as intended and can serve as an additional barrier to changing or destroying votes.

The VVPAT includes a direct recording electronic voting system (DRE), to assure voters that their votes have been recorded as intended. It is intended, and some argue necessary, as a means by which to detect fraud and equipment malfunction. Depending on election laws the paper audit trail may constitute a legal ballot and therefore provide a means by which a manual vote count can be conducted if a recount is necessary.


Sources:WIKI, pressjournal.in

PM National Relief Fund

In pursuance of an appeal by the then Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in January, 1948, the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was established with public contributions to assist displaced persons from Pakistan. The resources of the PMNRF are now utilized primarily to render immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes, etc. and to the victims of the major accidents and riots. Assistance from PMNRF is also rendered, to partially defray the expenses for medical treatment like heart surgeries, kidney transplantation, cancer treatment, etc. The fund consists entirely of public contributions and does not get any budgetary support. The corpus of the fund is invested with banks in fixed deposits. Disbursements are made with the approval of the Prime Minister. PMNRF has not been constituted by the Parliament. The fund is recognized as a Trust under the Income Tax Act and the same is managed by Prime Minister or multiple delegates for national causes. PMNRF operates from the Prime Minister’s Office, South Block, New Delhi-110011 and does not pays any license fee. PMNRF is exempt under Income Tax Act, 1961 under Section 10 and 139 for return purposes. Prime Minister is the Chairman of PMNRF and is assisted by Officers/ Staff on honorary basis. Permanent Account Number of PMNRF is AACTP4637Q.

Type of contributions accepted in PMNRF

PMNRF accepts only voluntary donations by individuals and institutions. Contributions flowing out of budgetary sources of Government or from the balance sheets of the public sector undertakings are not accepted. At the time of natural calamity of devastating scale, Prime Minister, makes an appeal for donation to the fund.