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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 17 August 2018
Topic: Population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
Global Liveability Index
What to study?
- For Prelims: Features of the Global Liveability Index, rankings of various countries, Indian Cities in the list.
- For Mains: Significance of the index and what makes cities more liveable?
Context: The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has released the Global Liveability Index 2018. The index ranks 140 global cities based on their living conditions.
The liveability index quantifies the challenges that might be presented to an individual’s lifestyle in 140 cities worldwide, and assesses which locations provide the best living conditions.
PARAMETERS OF THE GLOBAL LIVEABILITY INDEX:
The list ranks 140 cities on a range of factors, including:
- Political and social stability.
- Access to healthcare.
The survey rates cities worldwide based on 30 qualitative and quantitative criteria, which fall into five general categories:
- Health care
- Culture and environment.
As per Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Liveability Index, 2018, the top 10 cities to live in the world are:
EIU’s Global Liveability Index, 2018, puts the following cities at the bottom of the list:
- Senegal’s Dakar at 131.
- Algeria’s Algiers at 132.
- Cameroon’s Douala at 133.
- Libya’s Tripoli at 134.
- Zimbabwe’s Harare at 135.
- Papua New Guinea’s Port Moresby at 136.
- Karachi at 137.
- Nigeria’s Lagos at 138.
- Dhaka at 139.
- Damascus at 140.
- This year too, not a single US city could make it into the top 10 cities.
- It is the first time that a European city has topped the rankings.
- Security has improved in “several western European cities” and Vienna’s top place reflects “a relative return to stability across much of Europe”.
- South Asian countries including India have fared poorly in the ranking of the world’s most liveable cities.
- Pakistan’s financial capital Karachi and Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka are among the world’s least liveable cities.
For India, only New Delhi and Mumbai could make it to the list with:
- New Delhi at 112th position.
- Mumbai at 117th position.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.
NPCI launches UPI 2.0
What to study?
- For Prelims: Features of UPI, NPCI.
- For Mains: Significance of UPI, can it help build a cashless society?
Context: National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has launched UPI 2.0, an upgraded and renewed version of Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
The latest edition has four new features to make it attractive and safer for users. These new features will allow users to link their overdraft account to UPI, creation of one-time mandates and pre-authorisation of transactions for payment at later date and checking the invoice sent by merchant prior to making payment.
What exactly is UPI?
The Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is a system developed by the NPCI and the RBI to aid instant transfer of money using a cashless system. Using UPI services, one just requires a smartphone and a banking app to send and receive money instantly or to pay a merchant for retail purchase. In the long run, UPI is likely to replace the current NEFT, RTGS, and IMPS systems as they exist today.
The UPI ecosystem functions with three key players:
- Payment service providers (PSPs) to provide the interface to the payer and the payee. Unlike wallets, the payer and the payee can use two different PSPs.
- Banks to provide the underlying accounts. In some cases, the bank and the PSP may be the same.
- NPCI to act as the central switch by ensuring VPA resolution, effecting credit and debit transactions through IMPS.
How does it work?
UPI, built on IMPS, allows a payment directly and immediately from bank account. There is no need to pre-load money in wallets. It allows payments to different merchants without the hassle of typing one’s card details or net-banking password.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
International Nitrogen Initiative
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: INI- mandate, objectives and key facts on Nitrogen.
Context: Indian scientist Nandula Raghuram has been elected as the Chair of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI), a global policy making initiative. He is the first Indian and Asian to be elected to the Chair of INI.
About International Nitrogen Initiative:
The International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) is an international program, set up in 2003 under sponsorship of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) and from the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP).
- The initiative aims to optimise nitrogen’s beneficial role in sustainable food production and minimise nitrogen’s negative effects on human health.
- INI is coordinated by a Steering Committee, led by a chair and six regional centre directors representing, Africa, Europe, Latin America, North America, South Asia and East Asia.
- The INI holds a conference once in every three years, inviting members of the international nitrogen community to meet up and discuss ideas and exchange knowledge on nitrogen issues.
- The program is currently a sustained partner of Future Earth, an international organisation that works to accelerate transformations to global sustainability through research and innovation.
Nitrogen is one of the five major chemical elements that are necessary for life. While nitrogen is the most abundant of these, more than 99% of it occurs as molecular nitrogen, or N2, which cannot be used by most organisms. This is because breaking the triple bond holding the two nitrogen atoms together requires a large amount of energy, which can be mustered only through high-temperature processes or by a small number of nitrogen-fixing microbes.
Most living organisms can only make use of reactive nitrogen, which includes inorganic forms of nitrogen like ammonia, ammonium, nitrogen oxide, nitric acid, nitrous oxide, and nitrate, and organic compounds like urea, amines, proteins, and nucleic acids. It includes any nitrogen compound that is radiatively, chemically or biological active.
Why care about it?
In the prehuman world, a small amount of usable reactive nitrogen was created from N2 by lightening and biological nitrogen fixation, but the spread of reactive nitrogen was held in check by denitrification, a process that converts reactive N back to N2.
- This is no longer the case. Human beings have dramatically altered the nitrogen balance, breaking into the vast reservoir of molecular nitrogen and releasing reactive forms into the environment. We have done so by cultivating legumes, rice, and other crops that promote nitrogen fixation, by burning fossil fuels, and by transforming nonreactive atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia to sustain food production and some industrial processes.
- During the last few decades, the global increase of reactive nitrogen by all human sources has far outstripped production from all natural terrestrial systems, and since the 1960s, the rate of increase has accelerated sharply.
- This unprecedented growth in reactive nitrogen has impacted the health and welfare of people and ecosystems worldwide. On the positive side, approximately 40 percent of the world’s population is fed by crops sustained by human-induced formation of reactive nitrogen.
- At the same time, this reactive nitrogen can cascade through a variety of environmental systems, damaging them significantly and exacting a toll on human health. Reactive nitrogen is implicated in the high concentration of ozone in the lower atmosphere, the eutrophication of coastal ecosystems, the acidification of forests, soils, and freshwater streams and lakes, and losses of biodiversity. In the form of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, nitrogen contributes to global warming and stratospheric ozone depletion.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.
International year of millets
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Features and significance of millets.
Context: Continuing its efforts to get ‘millets’ a global recognition for its promotion among consumers, India has written to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations proposing declaration of the upcoming year as “International Year of Millets”.
Significance of this move:
- Adoption of this proposal by FAO with the support of its member nations will enable it to be moved to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for declaration of the upcoming year as International Year of Millets.
- Dedicating a year for millets will not only increase awareness about its health benefits, but also result in higher demand for these drought-resistant varieties, resulting in remunerative prices for poor and marginal farmers.
Efforts by government to promote millets:
- In order to promote ‘millets’, India had on its part notified these climate resilient crops as “Nutri-Cereals” and allowed its inclusion in the Public Distribution System (PDS) for improving nutritional support in April.
- Recognising millets’ anti-diabetic properties, the notification called it a “powerhouse of nutrients” and identified several varieties of millets for promotion. The millets in the category of “Nutri-Cereals” include Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl Millet (Bajra), Finger Millet (Ragi), Foxtail Millet (Kangani/Kakun) and Buckwheat (Kuttu) among others.
- Besides, the government had in July substantially hiked the minimum support price (MSP) of millets so that more and more farmers may opt for cultivation of these less water consuming crops.
What are Millets?
Millet is a common term to categorize small-seeded grasses that are often termed nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals, and includes sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.
Benefits of Millets:
An important staple cereal crop for millions of small holder dryland farmers across sub-saharan Africa and Asia, millets offer nutrition, resilience, income and livelihood for farmers even in difficult times.
They have multiple untapped uses such as food, feed, fodder, biofuels and brewing. Therefore, millets are Smart Food as they are Good for You, Good for the Farmer and Good for the Planet.
Nutritionally superior to wheat & rice owing to their higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fiber & minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorous, millets can provide nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.
The anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency, pellagra (niacin deficiency) can be effectively tackled with intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich food grains like millets.
Millets can also help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.
Adapted to low or no purchased inputs and to harsh environment of the semi-arid tropics, they are the backbone for dry land agriculture.
Photo-insensitive & resilient to climate change, millets are hardy, resilient crops that have a low carbon and water footprint, can withstand high temperatures and grow on poor soils with little or no external inputs. In times of climate change they are often the last crop standing and, thus, are a good risk management strategy for resource-poor marginal farmers.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) project
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: LIGO- global significance and significance for India, all about gravitational waves.
Context: The Environment Ministry has allowed scientists to test the suitability of land in Maharashtra’s Hingoli district to host the India wing of the ambitious Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) project.
The LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) is a massive observatory for detecting cosmic gravitational waves and for carrying out experiments. The objective is to use gravitational-wave observations in astronomical studies.
The project operates three gravitational-wave (GW) detectors. Two are at Hanford in the state of Washington, north-western US, and one is at Livingston in Louisiana, south-eastern US. The proposed LIGO India project aims to move one advanced LIGO detector from Hanford to India.
About LIGO- India project:
Known as the LIGO-India project, it is piloted by Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science and Technology (DST).
The LIGO-India project will be jointly coordinated and executed by three Indian research institutions: the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune and Department of Atomic Energy organisations: Institute for Plasma Research (IPR), Gandhinagar and the Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), Indore.
Benefits for India:
- The project will bring unprecedented opportunities for scientists and engineers to dig deeper into the realm of gravitational wave and take global leadership in this new astronomical frontier.
- The LIGO-India project will also bring considerable opportunities in cutting-edge technology for the Indian industry which will be engaged in the construction of the eight-km long beam tube at ultra-high vacuum on a levelled terrain.
- With its establishment, India will join the global network of gravitational wave detectors.
- Establishing an observatory in India also assumes importance because the further the distance between the observatories, the greater will be the accuracy in locating gravity waves.
What are Gravitational Waves?
Gravitational waves are the ripples in the pond of spacetime. The gravity of large objects warps space and time, or “spacetime” as physicists call it, the way a bowling ball changes the shape of a trampoline as it rolls around on it. Smaller objects will move differently as a result – like marbles spiraling toward a bowling-ball-sized dent in a trampoline instead of sitting on a flat surface.
Dubbed as the breakthrough of the century, the international team of scientists believes that the detection of gravitational waves will open an unprecedented new window to the cosmos.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Conservation related issues.
Odisha to showcase its biodiversity
What to study?
For Prelims: Bhitarkanika sanctuary, Gharials and their conservation.
Context: The Odisha government is setting up a world-class interpretation centre at Dangamal near Bhitarkanika National Park to showcase its efforts in protecting crocodiles and preserving its rich mangrove diversity. The centre will be developed both as a tourist attraction and a place for students to learn about the environment.
The project, which has been approved under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project, will be taken up at an estimated cost of ₹3 crore.
Bhitarkanika and the need for conservation:
- Bhitarkanika, one of the State’s finest biodiversity hotspots, receives close to one lakh visitors every year. The tourist inflow has seen an increase lately.
- The park is famous for its green mangroves, migratory birds, turtles, estuarine crocodiles and countless creeks. It is said to house 70% of the country’s estuarine or saltwater crocodiles, conservation of which was started way back in 1975.
‘BAULA’ PROJECT AT DANGAMAL:
- ‘Baula’ is the Oriya term for Saltwater Crocodile. At Dangmal in Bhitarkanika sanctuary, salt-water crocodile eggs have been collected locally; and young crocodiles have been released in the creeks and the estuaries; and more than 2200 crocodiles have been released in phases since 1977.
- This operation has been reasonably successful and the crocodile population in the Bhitarkanika river system has gradually been built up. Above 50 released female Saltwater Crocodiles have laid eggs in the wild and bred successfully.
- The annual census conducted in the river systems of Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary in January 2004 indicated that there were 1308 Saltwater crocodiles and is on increasing trend.
- Critically Endangered— IUCN Red List.
- Gharial (Gavial or fish eating crocodile).
- The male gharial has a distinctive boss at the end of the snout, which resembles an earthenware pot known in Hindi as Hence the name.
- Habitat — foremost flowing rivers with high sand banks that they use for basking and building nests.
- Gharials once inhabited all the major river systems of the Indian Subcontinent, from the Irrawaddy Riverin the east to the Indus River in the west. Their distribution is now limited to only 2% of their former range.
- India: Girwa River, Chambal River, Ken River, Son River, Mahanadi River, Ramganga River.
- Nepal: Rapti-Narayani River.
- Schedule 1 species under Indian wildlife act, 1972.
- Project Crocodile began in 1975 (Government of India+ United Nations Development Fund + Food and Agriculture Organization) — intensive captive breeding and rearing program.
Sources: the hindu.