Current Affairs - News Crux

Blue Economy for Sustainable Development

Recently, the G20 countries, which account for 45% of the world's coastlines and over 21% of the exclusive economic zones, have collectively committed to promoting the sustainable development of the ocean commons.

  • India's G20 Presidency prioritizes the blue economy, promoting sustainable and equitable economic development while addressing environmental challenges.
  • The G20 forum offers an opportunity for countries to share best practices, collaborate, and create innovative blue finance mechanisms.
  • The outcomes of the G20 forum on the blue economy should inform other international negotiations.
  • The international negotiations include the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
  • The oceans play an essential role in the world's biodiversity, climate regulation, and economic well-being of coastal communities.
  • The spirit of 'One Earth, One Family, One Future' should unite the global community for the well-being of our ocean commons.
  • The stewardship of oceans is crucial for future generations, and international cooperation is necessary to ensure their protection and conservation.

LVM3-M3/OneWeb India-2 Mission

On March 26th, 2023, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched 36 OneWeb satellites on its second commercial launch of the LVM-3 rocket. This marked the second launch that ISRO performed for OneWeb, a UK-based company.

  • The launch completed the OneWeb Constellation wherein OneWeb plans to use 588 active satellites for global connectivity.
  • The launch earned ISRO over INR 1,000 crore and increased its share of the global commercial space market.
  • India opened its space sector to private players in 2020, and the government aims to increase India's 2% share in the commercial market to 10% by 2030 through commercial launches by ISRO and private companies.
  • ISRO developed the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) to provide on-demand launch services commercially.
  • The SSLV has completed two development flights, one successful and one partially successful, and has been inducted into the ISRO fleet.
  • The revenue generated by ISRO’s commercial arm, New Space India Limited, has increased from INR 1,731 crore in 2021-22 to a projected INR 3,509 crore in 2023-24.

The United Nations 2023 Water Conference

On March 22, 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced during an official side event at the United Nations 2023 Water Conference in New York City that two billion people globally rely on water sources contaminated with faecal matter.

  • The WHO called for universal access to drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene to improve global health on World Water Day at the United Nations 2023 Water Conference in New York City.
  • Almost half of the global population lacks safely managed sanitation services and 29% lack a handwashing facility with soap and water at home.
  • These conditions result in over 700 children under five dying every day from diarrhoea linked to unsafe water, sanitation, and poor hygiene.
  • A four-fold increase in the current rate of progress is required to achieve universal coverage by 2030, according to the WHO.
  • Achieving these targets would help save 829,000 lives annually, which is the current number of people that die from diseases related to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene practices.
  • The WHO reported these statistics at an official side event attended by representatives from India, Ethiopia, France, UNICEF, World Bank, WaterAid, and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
  • The event sought to explore how WASH (Water, sanitation and hygiene) and the health sectors could work together to improve health and achieve shared aims.

World's Highest Railway Bridge

Recently, Union Railways Minister announced that trains are expected to ply on the Chenab bridge, which is being claimed as the world's highest railway bridge, by January-February 2024.

  • The Chenab bridge is situated at a height of 359 m, making it taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris, which stands at 330 m.
  • The Chenab bridge will pave the way for trains to run seamlessly along the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project, connecting Kashmir to the rest of India.
  • The plan is to run Vande Bharat trains along the stretch and also Vande Metro trains between Jammu and Srinagar.
  • Running Vande Metro trains between Jammu and Srinagar will reduce the travelling time between the two towns to 3.5 hours.

Biotransformation Technology and Plastic Waste

Recently, a UK-based startup claims to have developed biotransformation technology that could make plastics biodegradable.

  • Plastic Waste Transformed: Plastics made using this technology are given a pre-programmed time during which the manufactured material looks and feels like conventional plastics without compromising on quality.
  • Once the product expires and is exposed to the external environment, it self-destructs and biotransforms into bioavailable wax. This wax is then consumed by microorganisms, converting waste into water, CO2, and biomass.
  • Industry Applications: The technology reduces waste in food packaging and healthcare industries at a relatively low cost compared to conventional plastic.
  • Plastic Waste in India: Packaging waste accounts for a third of India's annual 3.5 billion kg plastic waste generation.
  • Amazon's Plastic Waste: E-commerce giant generated an estimated 321 million kg of plastic from packaging waste in 2021 globally.
  • Elimination of Single-use Plastics: Amazon India and Flipkart have eliminated single-use plastics across their supply chains.
  • Indian Government’s Initiatives: Ban on single-use plastics and an Extended Producer Responsibility portal improve accountability, traceability, and compliance reporting to move towards sustainability.
  • Potential Solutions: Switching to jute or paper-based packaging could reduce plastic waste and build sustainability within the paper industry.

Vision for 6G Communication Services By 2030

Recently, the Indian Prime Minister unveiled India’s vision for 6G communication services, with plans to roll out the technology by 2030.

  • The Bharat 6G project will be implemented in two phases and overseen by an apex council.
  • The council's tasks include standardisation, identifying spectrum usage, developing ecosystems, and financing research and development.
  • The government aims to enable research and development of 6G technologies by Indian startups, research bodies, and universities.
  • The goal is to become a leading global supplier of intellectual property, products, and affordable 6G telecom solutions.
  • 6G is expected to offer ultra-high-speed internet with speeds up to 100 times faster than 5G and ultra-low latency with speeds up to 1 Tbps.
  • Potential use cases for 6G include remote-controlled factories, self-driven cars, and smart wearables.
  • Sustainability will be prioritized due to the significant carbon footprint of battery-powered communication devices.
  • The government will prioritize research involving industry, academia, and service providers.
  • The research will range from theoretical and simulation studies to proof-of-concept prototypes, demonstrations, and early market interventions through startups.

Low latency refers to the amount of time it takes for a data packet to travel from one point to another on a network. In other words, it is the delay between when a user sends a request or action and when the network responds to that action. A low latency network has minimal delay, providing fast and real-time responses.

Annual Bilateral Maritime Exercise Konkan 2023

From 20th to 22nd March, 2023, the annual bilateral maritime exercise Konkan 2023 was held off the Konkan coast in the Arabian Sea between the Indian Navy and the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom.

  • The exercise involved the participation of INS Trishul and HMS Lancaster, which are guided missile frigates.
  • Multiple maritime drills were conducted during the exercise to enhance interoperability and exchange of best practices.
  • The drills covered all domains of maritime operations, including gunnery shoots, anti-air and anti-submarine warfare drills, helicopter operations, ship manoeuvres, VBSS, and exchange of personnel.
  • The focus on operation readiness, enhancing interoperability, and improving the ability to conduct joint operations will strengthen maritime security and uphold a rules-based order in the region.

Sagar Manthan

Recently, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW) launched the Real-time Performance Monitoring Dashboard 'Sagar Manthan', a digital platform that integrates all data related to the ministry and its subsidiaries.

  • The launch of it is a step towards digitalization and transparency in the maritime transport sector.
  • It offers features such as data visualization, real-time monitoring, improved communication, data-driven decision making, and increased accountability.
  • Effective project monitoring can ensure timely completion of projects, informed decision-making, increased efficiency & effectiveness of projects, real-time project tracking, risk management, resource allocation, and progress reporting.
  • In the future, the dashboard would be further integrated with input from CCTV camera, live streaming from drones, AI-based algorithms to map actual progress, a digital twin feature on board, and a mobile app for easy access and usability by all stakeholders to increase efficiency.

Free Healthcare Services to All Residents in Rajasthan

On March 21, 2023, the Rajasthan Assembly passed the Right to Health Bill, becoming the first state in India to provide every resident with the right to access free outpatient and inpatient services at all public health facilities.

Features of the Bill include:

  • Access to free healthcare services for state residents, obligations on the state government to ensure right to health and maintain public health, and establishment of Health Authorities at state and district levels
  • Emergency care, stabilization, and referral provided without prepayment of fees or charges by any public health institution or designated health care center
  • Government will reimburse healthcare providers if patients do not pay charges after emergency care
  • Patients cannot be denied or delayed treatment due to police clearances or reports
  • Any establishment violating the Bill or its rules will be fined up to ₹10,000 for first instance and up to ₹20,000 for subsequent contraventions

Parliamentary Standing Committee Report on Water Resources

According to a recent report tabled by a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources, groundwater levels in Delhi, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, and 20 other cities dipped by more than 20 meters from 2017 to 2020.

  • The report highlights that 14% of India's groundwater assessment units have been classified as over-exploited, while another 4% fall under the critical category.
  • Faridabad has already become 100% dependent on groundwater use, while Ghaziabad is on the verge of becoming completely reliant on it.
  • According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), the depletion of groundwater in these cities is a result of increasing demand and unsustainable extraction practices.
  • India's total annual extractable groundwater resource until 2020 was 398 billion cubic meters (BCM), out of which 245 BCM was being extracted.
  • The depletion of groundwater resources is a significant concern in India, given that groundwater is the primary source of drinking water for many people and is also crucial for irrigation and industrial uses.
  • Sustainable water management practices, such as rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge, and efficient use of water resources, are essential to address the issue of groundwater depletion in India.
  • The government, civil society organizations, and individuals must work together to promote responsible water use and ensure the sustainability of India's groundwater resources.
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