Insights Daily Current Affairs, 13 March 2018
Topic: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.
Context: There were reports that Earth will be hit by a massive magnetic storm on March 18. However, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has found that there was no basis for recent reports saying Earth would be hit by a massive geomagnetic storm.
What are Geomagnetic Storms?
Geomagnetic storms are caused when events such as solar flares can send higher than normal levels of radiation towards Earth. This radiation interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field causing a geomagnetic storm.
Effects of Geomagnetic storms:
Effects from the geomagnetic storm can range from the appearance of auroras or the northern and southern lights to disruptions in communications systems due to high radiation. This would make it difficult to communicate with others on Earth.
Classification of Geomagnetic storms:
Geomagnetic storms are classified according to a scale that measures the effect that storms will have.
- At its safest level, a G1 storm affects power grids by causing weak fluctuations, minor impacts on satellite operations, and causes the northern and southern lights to occur.
- At its most extreme, G5, there would be voltage control problems with some grid system collapses or blackouts, radio waves wouldn’t be able to travel for one to two days, low-frequency radio would be out for hours, and the auroras would be able to be seen at lower latitudes than usual.
- For Prelims and Mains: Geomagnetic storms- causes, effects and classification.
Topic: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal
Context: The Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has issued a notification constituting the Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal. The Tribunal will have its headquarters at Delhi.
The Tribunal will comprise of:
- Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Supreme Court Judge (Chairman).
- Justice Ravi Ranjan, Patna High Court Judge.
- Justice Indermeet Kaur Kochhar, Delhi High Court Judge.
The Tribunal has been constituted following orders of the Supreme Court. The Government of Odisha had sought to refer the water dispute regarding the inter-state river Mahanadi and its river valley to a Tribunal for adjudication under the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956.
Legal provisions in this regard:
- The tribunal will be formed according to the provisions of the Inter-State River Water Disputes (ISRWD), 1956.
- It will have a chairperson and two other members nominated by the Chief Justice of India from among the judges of the apex court or high courts.
- As per provisions of the ISRWD Act, 1956 the Tribunal is required to submit its report and decision within a period of 3 years which can be extended to a further period not exceeding 2 years due to unavoidable reasons.
What’s the dispute?
Odisha and Chhattisgarh are locked in a dispute over the Mahanadi waters since the mid-80s. Odisha claimed that Chhattisgarh government has been constructing dams in the upper reaches of the Mahanadi, depriving its farmers who are heavily dependent on the rivers waters. Chhattisgarh has been against the setting up of a tribunal, and argued that the water sharing agreement was with the erstwhile Madhya Pradesh government, before the state was carved out in 2000.
What else is needed?
To chalk out the future course of action in view of the disputes regarding the use of Mahanadi river water, a well-rounded strategy that includes both the people and policymakers is needed. The strategy must allow for dialogue by rebuilding trust and should look at arbitration and negotiation as methods of conflict resolution. It is necessary to evolve a strategy that optimises the rational usage of Mahanadi water to benefit people from both Chhattisgarh and Odisha, coupled with the implementation of a multi-stakeholder forum that finds peaceful solutions and minimises areas of contention in a negotiable and consensual manner.
- For Prelims: Composition of tribunal, Mahanadi river.
- For Mains: Dispute resolution- challenges, issues and solutions.
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.
Context: Department of Biotechnology in the Ministry of Science and Technology has constituted a Field Inspection and Scientific Evaluation Committee (FISEC) to investigate the matter of illegal cultivation of HT cotton.
What’s the issue?
The cultivation of BG-III or HT cotton has not been approved by Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of Ministry of Environment. However, there are several media reports and complaints regarding the illegal or unauthorized cultivation of HT cotton in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
About HT Cotton:
BG Cotton – III, also known as Herbicide-Tolerant Cotton, contains Round-up Ready and Round-up Flex (RRF) gene. HT cotton in an innovation in Bt cotton as it takes care of the weeds problem at a much lower cost than the labour farmers have to engage for weeding.
Who developed it?
Monsanto, a US-based multinational seed giant, has developed herbicide-tolerant trait (BG-III) and commercialised it as ‘Round-up Ready Flex (RRF)’ in USA.
Why HT Cotton is gaining popularity?
In normal cotton, spraying of herbicide is not possible once the plant has emerged out of the soil, as the chemical cannot distinguish between weeds and the crop itself. But with cotton that is genetically engineered to ‘tolerate’ herbicide application – through introduction of another alien gene, this time coding for a protein inhibiting the action of that chemical – only the weeds, not the crop, get killed.
- As the unapproved cotton variety is claimed to be herbicide tolerant, farmers resort to indiscriminate use of glyphosate, a herbicide, causing health hazards to humans and cattle, apart from affecting the yield of cotton.
- The herbicide-resistant gene could spread through pollen into the biodiversity system leading to transformation of weeds into super weeds on a large-scale. It would not only threaten the growth and yields of all crops in future, but also could increase cultivation costs and lead to health hazards.
As the herbicide tolerant cotton is not approved by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) for commercial cultivation in India, its sale, cultivation and seed production is also punishable offence under Seeds Act 1966, Seed Rule 1968, Seeds (Control) Order 1983 with regard to Environmental Protection Act 1986 and Environmental Protection Rules, 1989.
- For Prelims: HT cotton, GEAC.
- For Mains: BT crops- issues, concerns and solutions.
Topic: Infrastructure- waterways.
Major Port Authorities Bill
Context: With a view to providing more autonomy and flexibility to Major Ports and to professionalize their governance, the Government has introduced the Major Port Authorities Bill in Parliament to replace the existing Major Port Trusts Act, 1963.
Salient features of the Bill:
Application: The Bill will apply to the major ports of Chennai, Cochin, Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Kandla, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Mangalore, Mormugao, Paradip, V.O. Chidambaranar, and Vishakhapatnam. The central government may notify more major ports.
Major Port Authorities Board: Under the 1963 Act, all major ports are managed by the respective Board of Port Trusts that have members appointed by the central government. The Bill provides for the creation of a Board of Major Port Authority for each major port. The Boards will succeed the existing Port Trusts.
Composition of Board: The Board will comprise of a Chairperson and a deputy Chairperson, both of whom will be appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a select committee. Number of Board Members will be 11-13.
Powers of the Board: The Bill allows the Board to use its property, assets and funds as deemed fit for the development of the major port. The Board can also make rules on: (i) declaring availability of port assets for port related activities and services, (ii) developing and providing infrastructure facilities such as setting up new ports, jetties, and (iii) providing exemption or remission from payment of any charges on any goods or vessels.
Financial powers of the Board: Under the 1963 Act, the Board has to seek prior sanction of the central government to raise any loan. Under the Bill, to meet its capital and working expenditure requirements, the Board may raise loans from any (i) Indian scheduled bank or financial institution, or (ii) any financial institution outside India that is compliant with all the laws. However, for loans above 50% of its capital reserves, the Board will require prior sanction of the central government.
Adjudicatory Board: The Bill provides for the central government to create an Adjudicatory Board. The Board will consist of a Presiding Officer and two members, as appointed by the central government on the recommendation of selection committee. Central Government shall have the power to remove the Presiding Officer or any member of the Adjudicatory Board from the office following the prescribed manner.
Functions of the Adjudicatory Board will include: (i) certain functions being carried out by the Tariff Authority for Major Ports, (ii) adjudicating on disputes or claims related to rights and obligations of major ports and PPP concessionaires, (iii) reviewing stressed PPP projects, and (iv) looking into complaints received from port users regarding port services.
Significance of the Bill:
Reforms have been under way since 1996, when ports were opened to private investment. With India’s major and non-major ports (over 200 of them) accounting for over 70 per cent of India’s international trade by value, it was necessary to address inefficiencies such as high turnaround time of ships by stepping up modernisation and grappling with shoddy management. The new Bill marks an effort to promote ease of doing business.
Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM)
Context: The Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) is organizing a National Conference on Counterfeiting and Role of Enforcement Agencies in New Delhi, in collaboration with European Union (EU).
- The conference intends to bring together national and international experts on the same platform to have a dialogue and exchange best practices for the benefit of enforcement agencies, attorneys and industry representatives and provide fresh ideas for further strengthening the IPR protection ecosystem.
Counterfeiting has grown considerably to a point where it has become a widespread phenomenon with a global impact. Counterfeiting, other than causing an erosion on the brand value, reputation and goodwill of the manufacturers and owners of IP, leads to social and economic consequences resulting in huge economic losses in terms of lost taxes and revenues. It leads to diversion of funds earned therefrom to other illegal activities; counterfeit products put a threat to consumers’ health and safety as well.
Enforcement agencies like police, customs, as also the prosecution wing, have a major role to play in effective enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in the country. Creating awareness about IPRs and the menace of counterfeiting amongst officials of these agencies will strengthen the enforcement regime, as also assist them in handling cases relating to counterfeit products in their day to day activities.
Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) has been created as a professional body under the aegis of DIPP to take forward the implementation of the National IPR Policy that was approved by the Government in May 2016, with the slogan – “Creative India; Innovative India”.
Functions: CIPAM is working towards creating public awareness about IPRs in the country, promoting the filing of IPRs through facilitation, providing inventors with a platform to commercialize their IP assets and coordinating the implementation of the National IPR Policy in collaboration with Government Ministries/Departments and other stakeholders.
- For Prelims: CIPAM.
- For Mains: IPR related issues.
Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology.
Context: Scientists have found the first ever samples of naturally occurring ice-VII on Earth. The samples were found in a diamond.
Various forms of ice:
Commonly used is called as ice-I. When water freezes, the oxygen atoms move into a hexagonal arrangement. That’s why ice expands and has lower density than water. Compressing ice can change the shape of the crystals, turning ice-I into ice-II (rhombus-shaped crystals), ice-III (tetragonal crystals), and so on.
Unique features of Ice-VII:
- Ice-VII, with its cubic crystals, is unique in that it remains stable even as pressure increases dramatically. It’s 1.5 times more dense than ice-I as well.
- There’s (almost) nowhere on Earth for ice-VII to form, because it requires both low temperatures and high pressure exceeding 30,000 atmospheres (3 gigapascals). The only place you can reach that pressure is deep in the Earth’s mantle, but it’s too hot for ice to form there.
- The formation of ice-VII doesn’t require freezing temperatures — as long as the pressure is high enough, ice-VII can form at room temperature.
How Ice-VII is formed in diamond?
Diamonds often pick up molecules during their formation deep in the Earth. These so-called inclusions can affect the quality or color of the diamond, but sometimes the inclusion is just water. One interesting property of diamonds is the internal structures don’t relax when they leave the high-pressure mantle. So, the water inside a diamond remains compressed, even though it’s technically in a liquid state.
Significance of this discovery:
Scientists believe that ice-VII might be present deep in the ice sheets on moons like Enceladus and Europa, or as part of the ocean floor under Titan’s hydrocarbon seas. Having naturally occurring samples of ice-VII on Earth for study could help us understand the environments on those moons.
Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology.
Gallium joins graphene in the second dimension
Context: Researchers have isolated a 2D form of the soft metal gallium, dubbed “gallenene,” which could make for efficient, thin metal contacts in electronic devices.
- Gallium is a metal with a low melting point. It has a low melting point of just below 30° C (86° F). That makes it a great candidate for applications that need liquid metals at roughly room temperature.
- Unlike graphene and many other 2-D structures, it cannot yet be grown with vapor phase deposition methods.
- It also has a tendency to oxidize quickly.
- Gallenene comes in zigzag and hexagonal structures, and has the unusual ability to change the properties of its solid support material, making it promising as a contact material in 2D devices.
- Gallenene strongly interacts with its solid support and even converts semiconducting molybdenum disulfide into a fully conducting metal. This could make it useful as electrical connector in ultra-flat electronics.
Significance of Gallenene:
Near 2D metals are difficult to extract, since these are mostly high-strength, nonlayered structures, so gallenene is an exception that could bridge the need for metals in the 2D world.
Since gallenene binds well to semiconductors and can now be created using a relatively simple technique, it could be used as an efficient metal contact in nanoscale electronics, a field which currently doesn’t have many 2D metal options for these kinds of applications.
Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Context: New Zealand has joined the United Nations-led CleanSeas campaign to rid oceans of plastic. More than 40 other countries have already signed up.
Scientists estimate that there are over 150 million tonnes of plastics in the ocean today. If nothing changes then plastic in oceans will weigh more than all the fish that live in them by 2050.
- The CleanSeas campaign was launched by the UN Environment in February 2017.
- The campaign aims to engage governments, the general public, civil society and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic by reducing the use of non-recoverable and single-use plastics.
- It addresses the root-cause of marine litter by targeting the production and consumption of non-recoverable and single-use plastic.
- The campaign contributes to the goals of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter, a voluntary open-ended partnership for international agencies, governments, businesses, academia, local authorities and non-governmental organizations hosted by UN Environment.
Facts for Prelims:
Context: As part of the tenth edition of MILAN, the first ever multi-nation naval exercise at sea called MILES-18 is being held in the Andaman Sea.
- Theme: ‘Friendship across the seas’.
- Participating countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
- Apart from enhancing inter-operability, the exercise will enable honing of search and rescue operations procedures, maritime interdiction operations, core operational skills and exercise a variety of maritime security scenarios.
Context: The Russian Aerospace Forces have conducted the first successful test firing of the air-launched Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile.
About the missile: Kinzhal is claimed to be a strategic air-to-surface strike missile. The missile is claimed to have maneuverable flight characteristics not typically seen in hypersonic, solid fuel missiles. The missile is reported to have a range of 1,200 miles (approximately 2,000 kilometers).
Country’s ‘tallest’ flag unfurled in Belagavi:
Context: The largest national flag in the country was recently hoisted at Belagavi.
- The national flag is 110m (365 feet) high from the base plate to the top. The size of the flag is 120X80 ft. It will weigh 500 kg.
Laces in News- Tel Aviv:
Context: Air India has launched New Delhi to Tel Aviv direct flight seeing growth in Indian travellers.
- Tel Aviv is the second most populous city in Israel – after Jerusalem. It is a city on Israel’s Mediterranean coast.
- Tel Aviv’s White City, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, comprises the world’s largest concentration of International Style buildings, including Bauhaus and other related modernist architectural styles.
India emerges as world’s largest importer of arms:
Context: India has emerged as the largest importer of major arms according to a latest research released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
- India became the world’s largest importer of major arms in 2013-17 accounting for 12% of the total global import.
- The country that accounts for the maximum arms import of India is Russia with 62%.
- America is the second largest arms supplier to India.
- The US emerged as the world’s top exporter of weapons accounting for 34% of global arms sales in the last five years.
- Russia accounted for 20% of the export ranking second in the list.