Insights Daily Current Events, 12 September 2015
Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Rajasthan first state to submit Atal Mission action plan
Rajasthan has become the first state in the country to submit its annual action plan under the newly launched Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) targeting universal coverage in respect of water supply connections and sewerage connections to all urban households in the state.
- It has proposed projects worth Rs 1,087 crore for approval by the union urban development ministry during the current financial year.
- Under the state’s annual action plan, AMRUT projects are proposed to be taken up in 13 of the 28 AMRUT cities in Rajasthan.
- The state government will implement some mandatory reforms under AMRUT. It will create one website for each city, transfer all 18 functions to urban local bodies, revise building bye-laws, set up single window clearance for building permissions, ensure 90% coverage of tax revenue, undertake energy and water audit and migration to double entry accounting system in the next 6 to 12 months.
- After broad scrutiny of the state annual action plans, the union urban development ministry will release the first installment of 20% of project costs to the states.
About AMRUT mission:
- Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) is the new avatar of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). But, in a significant departure from the earlier mission, the Centre will not appraise individual projects.
Details of the Mission:
- AMRUT adopts a project approach to ensure basic infrastructure services relating to water supply, sewerage, storm-water drains, transportation and development of green spaces and parks with special provision for meeting the needs of children.
- Under this mission, 10% of the budget allocation will be given to states and union territories as incentive based on the achievement of reforms during the previous year.
- AMRUT, which seeks to lay a foundation to enable cities and towns to eventually grow into smart cities, will be implemented in 500 locations with a population of one lakh and above.
- It would cover some cities situated on stems of main rivers, a few state capitals and important cities located in hilly areas, islands and tourist areas.
- Under this mission, states get the flexibility of designing schemes based on the needs of identified cities and in their execution and monitoring.
- States will only submit state annual action Plans to the centre for broad concurrence based on which funds will be released.
- Central assistance will be to the extent of 50% of project cost for cities and towns with a population of up to 10 lakhs and one-third of the project cost for those with a population of above 10 lakhs.
- Under the mission, states will transfer funds to urban local bodies within 7 days of transfer by central government and no diversion of funds to be made failing which penal interest would be charged besides taking other adverse action by the centre.
Sources: The Hindu, PIB.
Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology.
Breakthrough in melanin production
A group of scientists from Gulbarga University, Karnataka, have made a major breakthrough in simplifying the production of the melanin.
- These scientists are working under the major research project funded by the Department of Biotechnology of the Union government.
- They have for the first time come out with the production of a soluble melanin from a new micro organism “Tyrosinase” from Actino bacterium.
- They have applied for the Indian Patent and have obtained a registration number for patent and the GENOME of the new species is deposited in the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in the U.S. and available in the public domain.
What is Melanin?
It is a broad term for a group of natural pigments found in most organisms. Melanin is produced by the oxidation of the amino acid tyrosine, followed by polymerization. The pigment is produced in a specialized group of cells known as melanocytes.
Uses: Melanin is widely used by pharmaceutical companies for treatment of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, and the cosmetics industry in the production of Skin Protection Factor (SPF) creams. Melanin is an effective absorber of light. The pigment is able to dissipate over 99.9% of absorbed UV radiation.
Problems associated with the current method:
- The melanin at present is either derived from chemical formulations or derived from micro-organisims other than Tyrosinase and is insoluble in water.
- Besides wastage of material in the process of making melanin, the cost involved in making it water soluble is exorbitant. One gram of melanin now costs Rs 50,000.
Melanin in Humans:
In humans, melanin is the primary determinant of skin color. It is also found in hair, the pigmented tissue underlying the iris of the eye, and the stria vascularis of the inner ear. In the brain, tissues with melanin include the medulla and pigment-bearing neurons within areas of the brainstem, such as the locus coeruleus and the substantia nigra. It also occurs in the zona reticularis of the adrenal gland.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.
Paper 3 Topic: Environmental conservation.
Fungal threat to Indian forests
Indian plant pathologists are worried about the havoc that Phytophthora ramorum could cause if it spreads to India and hence have underlined the need for an effective bio-security measure to prevent such an outbreak.
What is Phytophthora ramorum?
Phytophthora ramorum is the oomycete plant pathogen known to cause the disease sudden oak death (SOD). The disease kills oak and other species of trees.
- Symptoms include bleeding cankers on the tree’s trunk and dieback of the foliage, in many cases eventually leading to the death of the tree.
- Origin: P. ramorum was first reported in 1995, and the origins of the pathogen are still unclear, but most evidence suggests it was repeatedly introduced as an exotic species.
- Spread: Evidence indicates that this disease can be spread over several miles in mists, air currents, watercourses and rainsplash. Movement of infected plants is also a key means of spreading it over long distances. The disease also spreads when spores disperse during wet and windy weather. Both mobile spores and cysts can spread Pythophthora ramorum.
- Diagnosis: Diagnosis uses a combination of visual inspection by trained observers, and field tests of symptomatic bark and needles with test kits known as lateral flow devices (LFDs). Laboratory tests are required to either isolate the pathogen or detect its DNA to confirm the exact species.
- Prevention :One of the key measures that need to be implemented is quarantine facility and mandatory screening of all agricultural material that enters from one country to another country.
Some experts point out that India is losing horticultural crops worth around Rs. 45,000 to 65,000 crore a year due to attack of various species of Phytophthora which include the late blight disease that seriously affect potato and tomato crops.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.
Paper 2 Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
NGT flays expert panel report on Bengaluru wetlands
The National Green Tribunal has flayed an expert committee over its inspection report on the ecologically sensitive area on the land between Bellandur and Agara lakes in Bengaluru and directed all the members of the panel to visit the site afresh.
- The tribunal took strong exception to the report and criticised the committee for non-compliance of the its directions.
- Cracking the whip on two companies in Bengaluru, the tribunal had imposed Rs 117.35 crore and Rs 22.5 crore as damages for carrying out illegal construction and degrading the environment.
- Later on, a committee was constituted to make a survey of the ecologically sensitive area on the land between Bellandur and Agara lakes.
- The High Powered Committee had also not filed the report within the stipulated time.
About the National Green Tribunal (NGT)
The National Green Tribunal has been established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
- The tribunal also deals with matters relating to the enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property.
- The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
- The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
- The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.
- The sanctioned strength of the tribunal is currently 10 expert members and 10 judicial members although the act allows for up to 20 of each.
- The Chairman of the tribunal who is the administrative head of the tribunal also serves as a judicial member.
- Every bench of the tribunal must consist of at least one expert member and one judicial member. The Chairman of the tribunal is required to be a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or a judge of the Supreme Court of India.
- Members are chosen by a selection committee (headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India) that reviews their applications and conducts interviews.
- The Judicial members are chosen from applicants who are serving or retired judges of High Courts. Expert members are chosen from applicants who are either serving or retired bureaucrats not below the rank of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India (not below the rank of Principal Secretary if serving under a state government) with a minimum administrative experience of five years in dealing with environmental matters. Or, the expert members must have a doctorate in a related field.
Sources: The Hindu, NGT.