Insights Daily Current Affairs, 21 August 2018
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Interlinking of Rivers
What to study?
- For Prelims: ILR- approved projects and their brief overview.
- For Mains: Need for and significance of interlinking of rivers.
Context: 15th Meeting of Special Committee for Interlinking of Rivers was recently Held.
Outcomes of the meeting:
- During the meeting, it was stressed on the need for developing consensus amongst the concerned states on interlinking of rivers so that the water draining unutilized into the sea could be utilized for the needy areas.
- States were called upon to discuss and sort out issues through active consultation so that the projects can be implemented on priority.
Developments so far:
- Steps have been taken for early implementation of five interlinking projects and Memorandum of Agreement for implementation of these projects is being finalised in consultation with the concerned state governments.
- These five projects include Ken-Betwa link project, Damanganga-Pinjal link project, Par-Tapi-Narmada link project, Godavari-Cauvery (Grand Anicut) link project and Parvati-Kali Sindhu-Chambal link.
Need for interlinking of rivers:
The interlinking project aims to link India’s rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals that will allow for their water capacities to be shared and redistributed. According to some experts, this is an engineered panacea that will reduce persistent floods in some parts and water shortages in other parts besides facilitating the generation of hydroelectricity for an increasingly power hungry country.
Benefits and significance of interlinking:
Enhances water and food security of the country and it is essential for providing water to drought prone and water deficit areas.
Proper utilization: River interlinking projects envisage that the surplus water available in Himalayan Rivers is transferred to the areas where water supply is not adequate in the Peninsular India. Also, huge quantities of water from several Peninsular rivers drain unutilized into the sea, and river interlinking projects help transfer this water to water deficit areas of Peninsular India.
Boost to agriculture: The main occupation of rural India is agriculture and if monsoon fails in a year, then agricultural activities come to a standstill and this will aggravate rural poverty. Interlinking of rivers will be a practical solution for this problem, because the water can be stored or water can be transferred from water surplus area to deficit.
Disaster mitigation: The Ganga Basin, Brahmaputra basin sees floods almost every year. In order to avoid this, the water from these areas has to be diverted to other areas where there is scarcity of water. This can be achieved by linking the rivers. There is a two way advantage with this – floods will be controlled and scarcity of water will be reduced.
Transportation: Interlinking of rivers will also have commercial importance on a longer run. This can be used as inland waterways and which helps in faster movement of goods from one place to other.
Employment generation: Interlinking also creates a new occupation for people living in and around these canals and it can be the main areas of fishing in India.
Interlinking of rivers will cause huge amount of distortion in the existing environment. In order to create canals and reservoirs, there will be mass deforestation. This will have impact on rains and in turn affect the whole cycle of life.
Usually rivers change their course and direction in about 100 years and if this happens after interlinking, then the project will not be feasible for a longer run.
Due to interlinking of rivers, there will be decrease in the amount of fresh water entering seas and this will cause a serious threat to the marine life system and will be a major ecological disaster.
Due to the creation of Canals and Reservoirs, huge amount of area which is occupied by the people will be submerged leading to displacement of people and government will have to spend more to rehabilitate these people.
The amount required for these projects is so huge that government will have to take loans from the foreign sources which would increase the burden on the government and country will fall in a debt trap.
National Water Development Agency (NWDA) so far has received more than 40 proposals of intra-state links from 9 States viz. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh. The successful completion of these projects will lead to reduction in disaster during floods, improved irrigation facilities, employment generation in rural agriculture, and increase in exports and decrease in migration from villages.
Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Impact of the falling rupee on economy
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Reasons for rupee’s fall and its impact.
Context: With the rupee recently weakening past ₹70 to a dollar and hovering about that level since, concerns over the impact of the devaluation on economic indicators are intensifying.
Why Indian Rupee is Falling Against the US Dollar?
- Turkish currency turmoil: The Indian currency had plunged by Rs 1.08, or 1.57 per cent, to a record low of 69.91 against the US currency amid fears that Turkish currency turmoil could turn out into global financial crisis.
- The Spike in oil prices has pulled down the rupee, by pushing up dollar demand.
- Global Trade war fears triggered by the US and China’s retaliatory import tariffs have also weakened the Rupee.
- The Chinese yuan has fallen sharply in the last few sessions. This also has triggered a dollar flight from many emerging economies. The Spurt in dollar outflow has pulled down most Asian currencies, including the rupee.
How it affects inflation?
With rupee falling, country’s imports become more expensive and exports cheaper. The reason is simple. It takes more rupees to pay for the same quantum of imports and fewer dollars for a buyer to pay for the same quantity of exports.
More expensive imports are likely to drive inflation upward, especially in India where input products constitute a large part of our imports. In addition, a depreciating rupee also impacts the oil import bill since it costs more rupees per barrel of oil, which plays its own part in pushing inflation up.
What happens to GDP growth?
On the one hand, costlier inputs and the subsequent increase in the prices of finished goods should have a positive impact on GDP. But the consequent decrease in demand due to higher prices could nullify this.
A depreciating rupee certainly affects the exports and imports, since exports are likely to receive a boost while imports could flag somewhat. It remains to be seen what impact a reduction in household consumption would have on demand, especially when the festive season is nearing.
How does it affect individuals?
A depreciating rupee means higher prices of goods and services, costlier petrol and trips abroad turning more expensive. On the flip side, the domestic tourism could grow as more tourists visit India since their currency now buys more here. In the medium term, export-oriented industries may also create more jobs.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Awareness in space.
What to study?
- For Prelims: Features of Chandrayaan- 1 mission.
- For Mains: Significance and findings of the mission.
Context: Scientists have found frozen water deposits in the darkest and coldest parts of the Moon’s polar regions using data from the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, that was launched by India 10 years ago.
Scientists used data from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument to identify three specific signatures that definitively prove there is water ice at the surface of the Moon.
What is Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument?
- M3, aboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, launched in 2008 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was uniquely equipped to confirm the presence of solid ice on the Moon.
- It collected data that not only picked up the reflective properties we would expect from ice, but was able to directly measure the distinctive way its molecules absorb infrared light, so it can differentiate between liquid water or vapour and solid ice.
Highlights of the findings:
- With enough ice sitting at the surface — within the top few millimetres — water would possibly be accessible as a resource for future expeditions to explore and even stay on the Moon, and potentially easier to access than the water detected beneath the Moon’s surface.
- The ice deposits are patchily distributed and could possibly be ancient. At the southern pole, most of the ice is concentrated at lunar craters, while the northern pole’s ice is more widely, but sparsely spread.
- Most of the new-found water ice lies in the shadows of craters near the poles, where the warmest temperatures never reach above minus 156 degrees Celsius. Due to the very small tilt of the Moon’s rotation axis, sunlight never reaches these regions.
Learning more about this ice, how it got there, and how it interacts with the larger lunar environment will be a key mission focus for NASA and commercial partners, as humans endeavour to return to and explore the Moon.
- Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost communication with Chandrayaan-1 on August 29, 2009, barely a year after it was launched on October 22, 2008.
- The Chandrayaan-1 mission performed high-resolution remote sensing of the moon in visible, near infrared (NIR), low energy X-rays and high-energy X-ray regions.
- One of the objectives was to prepare a three-dimensional atlas (with high spatial and altitude resolution) of both near and far side of the moon.
- It aimed at conducting chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface for distribution of mineral and chemical elements such as Magnesium, Aluminium, Silicon, Calcium, Iron and Titanium as well as high atomic number elements such as Radon, Uranium and Thorium with high spatial resolution.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Awareness in space.
Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight)
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Features and significance of the mission, Why study Mars?
Context: NASA’s InSight spacecraft, en route to land on Mars this November, has passed the halfway mark, covering 277 million kilometres since its launch 107 days ago. In another 98 days, it will travel another 208 million kilometres and touch down in Mars’ Elysium Planitia region, where it will be the first mission to study the Red Planet’s deep interior.
About InSight Mission:
InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
- It will be the first mission to peer deep beneath the Martian surface, studying the planet’s interior by measuring its heat output and listening for marsquakes, which are seismic events similar to earthquakes on Earth.
- It will use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes to develop a map of the planet’s deep interior.
Significance of the mission:
- The findings of Mars’ formation will help better understand how other rocky planets, including Earth, were and are created. But InSight is more than a Mars mission – it is a terrestrial planet explorer that would address one of the most fundamental issues of planetary and solar system science – understanding the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system (including Earth) more than four billion years ago.
- By using sophisticated geophysical instruments, InSight would delve deep beneath the surface of Mars, detecting the fingerprints of the processes of terrestrial planet formation, as well as measuring the planet’s “vital signs”: Its “pulse” (seismology), “temperature” (heat flow probe), and “reflexes” (precision tracking).
- InSight seeks to answer one of science’s most fundamental questions: How did the terrestrial planets form?
Previous missions to Mars have investigated the surface history of the Red Planet by examining features like canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil. However, signatures of the planet’s formation can only be found by sensing and studying its “vital signs” far below the surface.
In comparison to the other terrestrial planets, Mars is neither too big nor too small. This means that it preserves the record of its formation and can give us insight into how the terrestrial planets formed. It is the perfect laboratory from which to study the formation and evolution of rocky planets. Scientists know that Mars has low levels of geological activity. But a lander like InSight can also reveal just how active Mars really is.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Awareness in space.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: OSIRIS-Rex mission and facts on asteroid bennu.
Context: The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has begun its final approach toward the big near-Earth asteroid Bennu. The milestone also marks the official start of OSIRIS-REx’s “asteroid operations” mission phase.
OSIRIS-REx is still about 1.2 million miles (2 million kilometers) from Bennu and won’t arrive in orbit around the 1,650-foot-wide (500 meters) space rock until Dec. 3.
About the mission:
OSIRIS-Rex stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.
OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers program, which previously sent the New Horizons spacecraft zooming by Pluto and the Juno spacecraft into orbit around Jupiter.
What will the OSIRIS-Rex do?
OSIRIS-REx will spend two years travelling towards Bennu, arriving at the asteroid in August 2018. The probe will orbit the asteroid for 3 years, conducting several scientific experiments, before returning to Earth, with the sample capsule expected to land in Utah, USA in September 2023.
Scientific Mission Goals:
- During its three year orbit of Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will be conducting a range of scientific experiments in order to better understand the asteroid.
- As part of this, the asteroid will be mapped using instruments on the probe, in order to select a suitable site for samples to be collected from.
- The aim of the mission is to collect a sample of regolith- the loose, soil-like material which covers the surface of the asteroid.
- In July 2020, the probe will move to within a few metres of Bennu, extending its robotic arm to touch the asteroid’s surface. The arm will make contact with the surface for just 5 seconds, during which a blast of nitrogen gas will be used to stir up the regolith, allowing it to be sucked into the sample collector.
- OSIRIS-REx has enough nitrogen on board for 3 sample collection attempts, and NASA are hoping to collect between 60 and 2000g of regolith material to bring back to Earth.
Why was Bennu chosen?
Bennu was selected for a the OSIRIS-REx mission from over 500,000 known asteroids, due to it fitting a number of key criteria. These include:
Proximity to Earth: In order for OSIRIS-REx to reach its destination in a reasonable timeframe, NASA needed to find an asteroid which had a similar orbit to Earth. Around 7000 asteroids are ‘Near-Earth Objects’ (NEOs), meaning they travel within around ~30million miles of the Earth. Out of these, just under 200 have orbits similar to Earth, with Bennu being one of these.
Size: Small asteroids, those less than 200m in diameter, typically spin much faster than larger asteroids, meaning the regolith material can be ejected into space. Bennu is around 500m in diameter, so rotates slowly enough to ensure that the regolith stays on its surface.
Composition: Bennu is a primitive asteroid, meaning it hasn’t significantly changed since the beginning of the Solar System (over 4 billion years ago). It is also very carbon-rich, meaning it may contain organic molecules, which could have been precursors to life on Earth.
Additionally, Bennu is of interest as it is a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA). Every 6 years, Bennu’s orbit brings it within 200,000 miles of the Earth, which means it has a high probability of impacting Earth in the late 22nd Century.
Topic: Conservation related issues.
World’s largest 3D-printed reef installed in Maldives to help save corals:
Context: The world’s largest 3-D printed reef has been submerged at Summer Island Maldives, in what is hoped could be a new technology-driven method to help coral reefs survive a warming climate.
The artificial reef, assembled with hundreds of ceramic and concrete modules, was submerged at Summer Island’s ‘Blue Lagoon’ — a sandy part of the lagoon, where the resort hopes to create a new coral reef ecosystem.
About the experiment:
The experiment was aimed at increasing their resilience and longevity against the ongoing environmental rampage. The ceramic structures built closely resemble the original structures found in the Maldives. Ceramic itself is made of calcium carbonate, the same inert substance that occurs in abundance in corals.
Why it matters?
Bleaching poses the most potent danger to corals, which used to abound in the Pacific Ocean and colour its waters in different hues. With imminent threats like increasing temperatures of water bodies and disposal of chemical wastes in oceans, 3D printing technology is hoped to offer a safety net for corals, for posterity.
The technology allows to mimic the complexity of natural reef structures, so as to design artificial reefs that closely resemble those found in nature. This will be a more effective way of growing and restoring corals.
The Maldives is one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable nations. Rising sea temperatures pose a grave threat to the world’s coral reefs, and mass bleaching events are becoming more common and more severe.
Summer Island Maldives has implemented a number of recent environmental initiatives, including the adoption of solar energy, a ban on the use of plastic straws, phasing out imported drinking water, and coral conservation projects.
Topic: Disaster and disaster management.
What is a ‘national disaster’?
What to study?
- For Prelims: What is a national disaster, how is it classified and what is the funding pattern?
- For Mains: National disaster- management, mitigation and challenges.
Context: Following the calls from people in Kerala that the floods be declared a national calamity, the Union government has declared the Kerala floods a “calamity of severe nature”.
How does the law define a disaster?
As per the Disaster Management Act, 2005, “disaster” means a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man-made causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.
A natural disaster includes earthquake, flood, landslide, cyclone, tsunami, urban flood, heatwave; a man-made disaster can be nuclear, biological and chemical.
How can any of these be classified as a national disaster?
There is no provision, executive or legal, to declare a natural calamity as a national calamity. The existing guidelines of State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)/ National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), do not contemplate declaring a disaster as a ‘National Calamity’.”
How, then, does the government classify disasters/calamities?
The 10th Finance Commission (1995-2000) examined a proposal that a disaster be termed “a national calamity of rarest severity” if it affects one-third of the population of a state.
The panel did not define a “calamity of rare severity” but stated that a calamity of rare severity would necessarily have to be adjudged on a case-to-case basis taking into account, inter-alia, the intensity and magnitude of the calamity, level of assistance needed, the capacity of the state to tackle the problem, the alternatives and flexibility available within the plans to provide succour and relief, etc.
The flash floods in Uttarakhand and Cyclone Hudhud were later classified as calamities of “severe nature”.
What happens if a calamity is so declared?
When a calamity is declared to be of “rare severity”/”severe nature”, support to the state government is provided at the national level. The Centre also considers additional assistance from the NDRF. A Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) is set up, with the corpus shared 3:1 between Centre and state.
When resources in the CRF are inadequate, additional assistance is considered from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF), funded 100% by the Centre. Relief in repayment of loans or for grant of fresh loans to the persons affected on concessional terms, too, are considered once a calamity is declared “severe”.
How is the funding decided?
As per the National Policy on Disaster Management, 2009, the National Crisis Management Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary deals with major crises that have serious or national ramifications.
- For calamities of severe nature, inter-ministerial central teams are deputed to the affected states for assessment of damage and relief assistance required.
- An inter-ministerial group, headed by the Union Home Secretary, studies the assessment and recommends the quantum of assistance from the NDRF/National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF).
- Based on this, a high-level committee comprising the Finance Minister as chairman and the Home Minister, Agriculture Minister, and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman as members approves the central assistance.
Facts for Prelims:
What is lemons problem in economics?
- The idea was first proposed by American economist George Akerlof in his popular 1970 paper, “The market for lemons: Quality uncertainty and the market mechanism”.
- It refers to a form of adverse selection wherein there is a degradation in the quality of products sold in the marketplace due to asymmetry in the amount of information available to buyers and sellers.
- Since sellers typically know more about any defects in the products that they sell to buyers, there is an opportunity for the sellers in the marketplace to sell low-quality products to unaware buyers.