Insights Daily Current Events, 07 August 2015
A repository of avifauna under threat
With the Andhra Pradesh government proposing diversion of water from feeder rivulets and drains for irrigation, the Kolleru lake has come under threat. Added to this, even the Union Government is examining a proposal to reduce the size of the wildlife sanctuary. The lake is a great repository of avifauna.
- Kolleru lake is one of the largest fresh water lakes in the country. It is located between Krishna and Godavari delta.
- It was declared as a wildlife sanctury in 1999.
- It is a Ramsar site.
- Ornithologists have been documenting the birds of Kolleru Lake from the time of Independence.
- It is also listed as an Important Bird Area.
- Important avifauna of the lake include a variety of water fowls, ducks, teals, storks, egrets, herons, ibises, bitterns, cormorants and a number of waders. As many as 224 species of birds have been from in and around the lake A large number of Lesser Whistling teals were recorded in 1997.
- The lake is known to amateur birdwatchers and professional ornithologists as a Pelicanery — a location were the Grey Pelicans, a large magnificent bird, nest and breed.
- Grey pelicans had vanished from the lake in 1973 for nearly 35 years and returned to it to nest again in December 2006. The Grey Pelican also called the Spot Billed Pelican is listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act and in the Red Data Book. It is also considered a “globally threatened species” under the “vulnerable” category.
- The Grey Pelican returned to the lake only after Operation Kolleru, in which the fish tanks were destroyed implementing a Supreme Court order.
Sources: The Hindu.
Boosting digital footprint in rural areas
A research group at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) has set up India’s first pilot test-bed which uses unused TV spectrum to provide broadband Internet connectivity.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) has also granted an experimental licence to IITB to conduct tests in TV’s UHF band.
- The project taps unused frequencies allocated to broadcasting and exploits this “white space” spectrum to provide broadband Internet connectivity in rural areas.
- The pilot test-bed has been deployed by the IIT team in seven villages — Khamloli, Bahadoli, Dhuktan, Ganje, Pargaon, Haloli and Maswan — spread over 30 sqkm in coastal Palghar district about 80 km from Mumbai.
- Under this project, the WiFi hotspots for testing Internet connectivity have been deployed at a few locations across the villages and these are connected to the Khamloli tower of Tata Teleservices using TV band radios.
- To access the Internet, the villagers have been provided with low cost WiFi tablets by IITB and have received the help of an NGO (PUKAR) in educating the villagers about the use of Internet.
- This technology is capable of providing coverage within the radius of one to 10 km from the access network such as Wi-Fi zones, access points and clusters to an optic fiber point of presence.
- This could be used by the government’s flagship Digital India programme to enhance broadband Internet connectivity to rural areas at a cheaper cost.
Sources: The Hindu.
Out of six states, which the Western Ghats forest region encompasses, only Kerala and Goa have submitted recommendations to the centre on demarcating ecologically sensitive areas (ESA). All the six states— Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat, were supposed to submit recommendations to the centre by July 31st.
What are Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs)?
‘Ecologically Sensitive Areas’ are areas under human use, sometimes quite intense human use such as generation of thermal power. ESAs are areas where human activities will continue, but be prudently regulated under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. ESAs are not meant to stop development in ways that would hurt local people, but to ensure that development is environment friendly and people oriented, as well as serve to preserve the ecological heritage on a long-term basis.
Kasturirangan panel had suggested that 90% of the natural forests left in the Western Ghats complex – adding upto 60,000 sq km and constituting 37% of the entire hilly belt — be conserved under the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) provisions of the green law. The forest area falling within the ESA would also cover 4,156 villages across the six states.
The Kasturirangan panel was set up to study the Gadgil committee report on the Western Ghats. The Gadgil panel report had faced unanimous opposition from state governments for recommending that almost three-fourth of the hills, including plantations, cultivated lands and large habitations, be turned into a restricted development zone with an over-arching authority to regulate the region superseding the elected authorities’ role.
Sources: The Hindu, PIB.
Supreme Court reserves order on referring Aadhaar matter to larger bench
The Supreme Court has reserved its order on a plea made by the Centre to refer a batch of petitions challenging the Aadhaar project to a Constitution Bench.
- The petitions had challenged the Aadhaar project, with its biometric registration process and linkage to basic and essential subsidies, as a violation of the citizens’ right to privacy.
- The Centre had recently sought a larger Bench to answer questions of law, primarily whether privacy is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution in the light of precedents. And if so, what are the contours of the right.
- The major point of debate has been the contrasting views taken by various Benches of the court, some holding privacy to be a fundamental right, while the others have said it is not.
The Supreme court, in 2013, had directed that “no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card.” In March 2015, the Supreme Court had confirmed that the Aadhaar number was not compulsory, and further, officials who insisted on them would be taken to task.
Aadhaar is a 12 digit individual identification number which will serve as a proof of identity and address, anywhere in India.
- Aadhaar-platform is aimed at providing social security benefits / subsidies based on eligibility through direct benefit transfer.
- It provides access and options to rural and poor people.
- It helps bring transparency and eliminate corruption, leakage and inefficiency.
- It was conceived as an initiative that would provide identification for each resident across the country and would be used primarily as the basis for efficient delivery of welfare services.
- It would also act as a tool for effective monitoring of various programs and schemes of the Government.
Who assigns the number?
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) assigns Unique Identification Number “Aadhaar” to residents of India on voluntary basis.
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is an agency of the Government of India responsible for implementing the Aadhaar Identities. The agency was established in January-2009, and owns and operates the Unique Identities database.
Sources: The Hindu, PIB.
Solar rooftop subsidy only for 4 segments
Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has indicated that its subsidy or central financial assistance (CFA) for solar rooftop projects will be provided only to projects under four categories, and industrial and commercial categories will be excluded from this programme.
CFA of 15% of the benchmark cost will be provided to solar rooftop projects built under –
- Institutional (schools, educational institutions, medical colleges and hospitals and R & D institutions – both public and private)
- Government (both central and state government organsiations as also all Panchayati Raj buildings) and
- Social sectors (old age homes, orphanages, common service centres and welfare homes, etc).
The 15% subsidy will be provided through state nodal agencies, Solar Energy Corporation of India, IREDA, empanelled government agencies, public sector undertakings of the Central and state governments and participating banks.
Private, commercial and industrial buildings rooftops will not be covered under the subsidy unless the solar system is owned by a government organization.
The subsidies and sops are being provided as part of ‘Grid connected rooftop and small solar power plants’ programme, under which rooftop units from 1 kWp to 55 kWp are being promoted.
Sources: The Hindu, PIB.
Egypt unveils $9-bn ‘new Suez Canal’
President of Egypt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi recently unveiled an expanded Suez Canal in a lavish ceremony, with the first ships passing through the waterway in what Egypt hopes will boost its economy and global standing.
- Dubbed as Suez Canal Axis, the 72-kilometre project is aimed at speeding up traffic along the existing waterway by reducing the waiting period of vessels, as well as boosting revenues for Egypt.
- The project will run part of the way along the existing canal that connects Red Sea to the Mediterranean.
About Suez canal:
- The Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level waterway running north to south across the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt to connect the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.
- The canal separates the African continent from Asia, and it provides the shortest maritime route between Europe and the lands lying around the Indian and western Pacific oceans.
- It is one of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes and is one of the most important waterways in the world.
- The canal is extensively used by modern ships , as it is the fastest crossing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean .
- Tolls paid by the vessels represent an important source of income for the Egyptian government.
- The canal is owned and maintained by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) of Egypt.
Sources: The Hindu, ET.