Current Affairs - PIB News
NTPC declares its Energy Compact Goals towards Sustainability
- NTPC Limited, India’s largest power generating company under Ministry of Power has become first energy company in energy domain in India to declare its Energy Compact goals as part of UN High-level Dialogue on Energy (HLDE).
- NTPC has set a target to install 60 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2032. India’s largest power producer is also aiming at 10% reduction in net energy intensity by 2032.
- NTPC is among the few organisations globally to declare its Energy Compact goals.
- Further, NTPC has declared that it will form at least 2 international alliances/groups to facilitate clean energy research and promote sustainability in energy value chain by 2025.
- The targets were unveiled in the recently held ‘Ministerial Thematic Forums for the HDLE’ event. The commitment from NTPC has been made public on UN’s website as well.
- United Nations is set to convene a high-level dialogue in September, 2021 to promote the implementation of the energy-related goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
- NTPC has been taking various steps in increasing its green energy portfolio by adding significant capacities of Renewable Energy (RE) Sources. The Company had earlier planned to have a minimum of 32 GW capacity through RE sources constituting nearly 25% of its overall power generation capacity by 2032. This development will prove to be huge boost for nation’s largest energy producer that will catapult its position in the green energy map of the country.
Amendment in Food security (Assistance to State Government Rules) 2015
- The Department of Food & Public Distribution has issued a notification on 18th June, 2021 to ensure right quantity to beneficiaries in distribution of subsidized foodgrains as per their entitlement under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.
- In order to incentivise States who are operating their ePoS devices in a judicious manner and are able to generate savings from the additional margin of Rs.17.00 per quintal provided to them, and to take forward the reform process for improving transparency in operations of the Targeted Public Distribution System under NFSA, Rule 7 in sub-rule (2) of Food security (Assistance to State Government Rules) 2015 has been amended with effect from 18th June, 2021 so that any savings if accrued by any State/Union Territory from the additional margin provided towards the cost of purchase, operation and maintenance of the point of sale device, its running expenses and incentive for its use, can henceforth be utilised for purchase, operations and maintenance of electronic weighing scales and their integration with the point of sale devices. This would encourage other States to generate savings through judicious use of ePoS devices.
- This amendment is an attempt to take forward the reform process envisaged under Section 12 of the Act, through improving transparency of operations of the Targeted Public Distribution System under NFSA. While distribution through ePoS devices ensures that subsidised foodgrains are provided to the rightful beneficiary through biometric authentication, integration of ePoS devices with electronic weighing scales would ensure that the beneficiary is given the right quantity of foodgrains by the Fair Price Shop dealer as per his entitlement.
- It may be noted that the National Food Security Act provides for reforms in the Targeted Public Distribution System through application of information and communication technology tools including end-to-end computerization to ensure transparent recording of transactions at all levels, and to prevent diversion and leveraging “Aadhaar” for unique identification, with biometric information of entitled beneficiaries for proper targeting of benefits under the Act.
- Food security (Assistance to State Government Rules) 2015 that was notified in August 2015, provides for additional margin to Fair Price Shop (FPS) Dealers for sale through electronic point of sale devices (ePoS) as an incentive to ensure transparent recording of transactions at all levels. Accordingly, the scheme “Assistance to State agencies for intra-State movement of foodgrains and FPS dealers margin under NFSA” provides for additional Margin of Rs.17.00 per quintal to all State Governments/Union Territories towards the cost of purchase, operation and maintenance of the point of sale device, its running expenses and incentive for its use. The additional margin is payable for the fair price shop which has installed a point-of-sale device and shall be limited to the transactions made through it.
Seasonality of Flow in Rivers Projected to Increase in Future
According to a study, snow and glaciers are melting rapidly in the Himalayan range due to climate change, altering water supplies in the rivers like Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra in the Himalaya-Karakoram (HK) ranges.
- The research led by Dr Mohd. Farooq Azam, assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Indore gathered the results from more than 250 scholarly research papers to arrive at a more accurate understanding —something approaching a consensus— of the links between climatic warming, precipitation change and glacier shrinkage.
- The study shows that glacier and snow melt are important components of HK rivers with greater hydrological importance for the Indus than Ganga and Brahmaputra basins.
- The HK region in South Asia, often called the water tower of Asia or the Third Pole is one of the most heavily glacierized mountain regions on Earth. Understanding the response of HK rivers to climate change is crucial for almost 1 billion people who partly depend on these water resources.
- Total river runoff, glacier melt, and seasonality of flow in these rivers are projected to increase until the 2050s, with some exceptions and large uncertainties, according to a study “Glacio-hydrology of the Himalaya-Karakoram” published in the journal ‘SCIENCE’
- “The Himalayan river basins cover an area of 2.75 million km2 and have the largest irrigated area of 577,000 km2, and the world’s largest installed hydropower capacity of 26,432 MW. The melting glaciers fulfils the water requirements of more than a billion people of the region who will be affected when much of the glacier ice mass melts throughout this century and gradually stops supplying the required amount of water,” said Dr Azam.
- He added “region-wide, the total impact on each year’s water supply varies. Glacier meltwater, and climate change impacts on glaciers, are more crucial for the Indus basin in comparison to the Ganga and Brahmaputra basins which are predominantly fed by monsoon rains and are affected mainly due to the changing rainfall patterns.”
- Smriti Srivastava, a PhD student of Dr. Azam and co-author of the study said “projected trends in river runoff volume and seasonality over the 21st century are consistent across a range of climate change scenarios. Total river runoff, glacier melt, and seasonality of flow are projected to increase until the 2050s, and then decrease, with some exceptions and large uncertainties.”
- Policymakers need to assess the current status and potential future changes of rivers for sustainable water resource management for agriculture, hydropower, drinking, sanitation, and hazard situations.
- A tiered approach to address the identified gaps: Tier-1 includes an expanded observation network that places fully automatic weather stations on selected glaciers.
- They also suggest developing comparison projects to examine glacier area and volumes, glacier dynamics, permafrost thaw, and snow and ice sublimation.
- Meanwhile, Tier-2 recommendations implement the knowledge of these studies in detailed models of glacier hydrology to reduce the uncertainty in projections of future change.
Scientists trace the Mystery behind Abundance of Heavy Metals in Oldest Metal-Poor Stars
The abundance of heavy metals in oldest metal-poor stars that are born from the ejecta of first stars has intrigued astronomers for long as already known processes of reaction of chemical elements by nuclear fusion within stars (nucleosynthesis) could not explain it.
- Indian scientists have now found a clue to this abundance in a nucleosythesis process called the i-process.
- Metal-poor stars that show enhancement of carbon, technically called Carbon Enhanced Metal Poor (CEMP) stars which were formed from the ejected material of the first stars that formed after the Big Bang, carry the chemical imprints of early Galactic chemical evolution.
Why to probe these Stars?
- Probing into the formation of these metal-poor stars that exhibit enhancement in carbon as well as the specified heavy elements can help trace the origin and evolution of the elements in the Universe.
Earlier Findings and the Puzzle
- ‘s’ and ‘r’ Process: Scientists earlier found that heavier elements are produced mainly by two processes of nucleosynthesis– slow and rapid neutron-capture processes called s and r processes respectively.
- The s-process elements were thought to be produced in low and intermediate mass stars towards a final stage of stellar evolution.
- The proposed sites of the r- process are exotic events such as supernovae and neutron star mergers.
- The CEMP stars showing enhancements of s-process and r-process elements are known as CEMP-s and CEMP-r stars respectively.
- However, there is an another surprising subclass of CEMP stars, known as CEMP-r/s stars which exhibit enhancement of both s- and r-process elements the production process of which had remained a puzzle.
- A group of scientists from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) has achieved a significant advancement in unravelling this puzzle.
- They have found that an intermediate process which they called i-process operating at neutron densities intermediate between those for s-process and r-process is responsible for the peculiar abundance pattern of CEMP-r/s stars.
- They have also put forward a new stellar classification criteria based on the abundances of barium, lanthanum and europium to distinguish between the CEMP-s and CEMP-r/s stars.
National Maritime Heritage Complex to come up at Lothal
- On 16 June 2021, the Union Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW) and Ministry of Culture (MoC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for ‘Cooperation in development of National Maritime Heritage Complex (NMHC) at Lothal, Gujarat’.
- It will exhibit both the robust maritime history and vibrant coastal tradition of our country in one place.
- NMHC would be developed in an area of about 400 acres with various unique structures such as National Maritime Heritage Museum, Light House Museum, Heritage Theme Park, Museum Themed Hotels & Maritime themed eco-resorts, Maritime Institute etc. which would be developed in a phased manner.
- The unique feature of NMHC is the recreation of ancient Lothal city, which is one of the prominent cities of the ancient Indus valley civilization dating to 2400 BC. Apart from that, the evolution of India’s Maritime Heritage during various eras would be exhibited through various galleries. NMHC would have pavilion for each coastal states and union territories to showcase the artifacts/maritime heritage of the respective states and union territories.
- Various theme parks would be developed at NMHC such as Maritime & Naval Theme Park, Monuments Park, Climate Change Theme Park, Adventure & Amusement Theme Park through public-private partnership which would provide a complete tourist destiny experience to the visitors.
Cold Desert Ladakh was actively Flooding during Post-Glacial Warming: Study
- Scientists from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology at Dehradun have shown that the cold desert of Ladakh Himalaya once experienced large floods that rose much above the present-day river level. It implies that in the scenario of global warming, when the higher Himalaya regions are expected to respond dramatically, flood frequency in Ladakh may increase, which may call for serious urban and rural planning.
- Large floods that naturally occur in major rivers of India fed by melting snow and glaciers and a continental scale precipitation regime of Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) and Westerlies and East Asian Summer Monsoon (EASM) significantly modify the landscape and impact lives and economy of all that encroached into its geomorphic domain.
- These floods are of various kinds and origin (Glacial/landslide lake outbursts, cloud bursts, excessively strong monsoon) and have different forcing factors and frequencies and therefore add large uncertainty in flood prediction models. An instrumental record of these floods is of ~100 years is not enough to understand the natural ramp of flood occurrences in the Himalayas, and therefore archive going deep into time is required.
- Flood leaves a stack of fine sand and silts at places along its channel where the flood energy drastically reduces, for example, wider segments of river valleys, confluences, behind rock embayments which is called as Slack Water Deposits (SWDs). The SWDs were located at several locations along the Zanskar and Indus rivers, counted vertically for the number of floods, and were dated using technology called Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) and Accelerator Mass Spectrometry of 14C. The flood deposits were also analysed for their source.
- This analysis showed that the cold desert once experienced a large flood that rose to more than 30 m above the present-day river level. The active flood plains nearer to river were also utilized by Humans, possibly as camping sites and cooking as indicated by presence of hearths at several locations and levels of flood deposits.
- The chronology of the flood deposits pointed towards three phases of increased flooding occurred in Ladakh after the period called Last Glacial Maximum (14–11, 10–8, and 7–4 (1000 years) or ka). These were times when due to warming, the Indian summer monsoon was active in Ladakh as well. The results also suggest that Ladakh floods are chronologically out-of-phase with those occurring in North-Eastern Himalayas and mainland China during the past 15 thousand years. This implies that the modern relationship between the ISM and EASM goes deep into more than 14 thousand years. Further, the rocks of Higher Himalayan Crystalline and Tethyan sequences equally act as hotspots of erosion in the regions during the flood phases.
- The preliminary study of hearths suggested that there was an inbound migration of people along the mountain corridors of Ladakh after the Last Glacial Maximum when temperatures were relatively warmer, and hydrology of the region was supporting. According to the WIHG team, a detailed genomic and isotopic-based study of these anthropogenic relics may further help understand the geographical antiquity of migrating humans and the kind of food and vegetation they were living on.
India’s Deep Ocean Mission
On 16th June, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the proposal of Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) on "Deep Ocean Mission", with a view to explore deep ocean for resources and develop deep sea technologies for sustainable use of ocean resources.
- Deep Ocean Mission with be a mission mode project to support the Blue Economy Initiatives of the Government of India.
- The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) will be the nodal Ministry implementing this multi-institutional ambitious mission.
The Deep Ocean Mission consists of the following six major components:
1.Development of Technologies for Deep Sea Mining, and Manned Submersible:
- A manned submersible will be developed to carry three people to a depth of 6000 metres in the ocean with suite of scientific sensors and tools. Only a very few countries have acquired this capability.
- An Integrated Mining System will be also developed for mining Polymetallic Nodules from 6000 m depth in the central Indian Ocean.
- The exploration studies of minerals will pave way for the commercial exploitation in the near future, as and when commercial exploitation code is evolved by the International Seabed Authority, an UN organization. This component will help the Blue Economy priority area of exploring and harnessing of deep sea minerals and energy.
2.Development of Ocean Climate Change Advisory Services
- A suite of observations and models will be developed to understand and provide future projections of important climate variables on seasonal to decadal time scales under this proof of concept component. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of coastal tourism.
3.Technological innovations for exploration and conservation of deep-sea biodiversity
- Bio-prospecting of deep sea flora and fauna including microbes and studies on sustainable utilization of deep sea bio-resources will be the main focus. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of Marine Fisheries and allied services.
4.Deep Ocean Survey and Exploration
- The primary objective of this component is to explore and identify potential sites of multi-metal Hydrothermal Sulphides mineralization along the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges. This component will additionally support the Blue Economy priority area of deep sea exploration of ocean resources.
5.Energy and freshwater from the Ocean
- Studies and detailed engineering design for offshore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) powered desalination plant are envisaged in this proof of concept proposal. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of off-shore energy development.
6.Advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology
- This component is aimed as development of human capacity and enterprise in ocean biology and engineering. This component will translate research into industrial application and product development through on-site business incubator facilities. This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of Marine Biology, Blue trade and Blue manufacturing.
The Project will help in Technology Demonstration and Job Creation
- The technologies required for deep sea mining have strategic implications and are not commercially available. Hence, attempts will be made to indigenise technologies by collaborating with leading institutes and private industries.
- A research vessel for deep ocean exploration would be built in an Indian shipyard which would create employment opportunities. This mission is also directed towards capacity development in Marine Biology, which will provide job opportunities in Indian industries. In addition, design, development and fabrication of specialised equipment, ships and setting up of required infrastructure are expected to spur the growth of the Indian industry, especially the MSME and Start-ups.
Unique Maritime Position of India and Blue Economy
- Oceans, which cover 70 per cent of the globe, remain a key part of our life. About 95 percent of Deep Ocean remains unexplored.
- For India, with its three sides surrounded by the oceans and around 30 per cent of the country's population living in coastal areas, ocean is a major economic factor supporting fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, livelihoods and blue trade.
- Oceans are also storehouse of food, energy, minerals, medicines, modulator of weather and climate and underpin life on Earth.
- Considering importance of the oceans on sustainability, the United Nations (UN) has declared the decade, 2021-2030 as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
- India has a unique maritime position. Its 7517 km long coastline is home to nine coastal states and 1382 islands. The Government of India's Vision of New India by 2030 enunciated in February 2019 highlighted the Blue Economy as one of the ten core dimensions of growth.
DRDO Develops 'DIPCOVAN': COVID-19 Antibody Detection Kit
Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS), a laboratory of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has developed an antibody detection-based kit 'DIPCOVAN', the DIPAS-VDx COVID-19 IgG Antibody Microwell ELISA for sero-surveillance.
- The DIPCOVAN kit can detect both spike as well as nucleocapsid (S&N) proteins of SARS-CoV-2 virus with a high sensitivity of 97 per cent and specificity of 99 per cent.
- The kit has been developed in association with Vanguard Diagnostics Pvt Ltd, a development and manufacturing diagnostics company based at New Delhi.
- The antibody detection kit is approved by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in April 2021.
- In May 2021, the product received the regulatory approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to manufacture for sale and distribution.
- DIPCOVAN is intended for the qualitative detection of IgG antibodies in human serum or plasma, targeting SARS-CoV-2 related antigens. It offers a significantly faster turn-around-time as it requires just 75 minutes to conduct the test without any cross reactivity with other diseases. The kit has a shelf life of 18 months.
- Industry partner Vanguard Diagnostics Pvt. Ltd will commercially launch the product during the first week of June 2021. Readily available stock at the time of launch will be 100 kits (approx. 10,000 tests) with a production capacity of 500 kits/month after the launch. It is expected to be available at about Rs 75 per test.
- The kit will be very useful for understanding COVID‐19 epidemiology and assessing an individual's previous SARS‐CoV‐2 exposure.
DBT Approves Funding For MRNA-based COVID-19 Vaccine - HGCO19 For Clinical Trials
- The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science & Technology has approved additional funding towards clinical studies of India's 'first of its kind' mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine - HGCO19, developed by Pune-based biotechnology company Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Ltd.
- This funding has been awarded under the 'Mission COVID Suraksha- The Indian COVID-19 Vaccine Development Mission' by DBT's dedicated Mission Implementation Unit at Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) after multiple rounds of evaluation of all the applications that were submitted in response to the 'Request for Expression of Interest (REOI)' under Mission COVID Suraksha for the 'Development of COVID-19 vaccine candidate(s)'.
- DBT has been hand-holding Gennova's right from the start and has facilitated establishing Gennova's mRNA-based next-generation vaccine manufacturing platform by providing seed funding for the development of HGCO19.
- Gennova, in collaboration with HDT Biotech Corporation, USA, has developed the COVID-19mRNA vaccine – HGCO19.
- HGCO19 has already demonstrated safety, immunogenicity, neutralization antibody activity in the rodent and non-human primate models. The neutralizing antibody response of the vaccine in mice and non-human primates was comparable with the sera from the convalescent patients of COVID-19.
- Gennova has completed two preclinical toxicity studies as per the Drugs and Cosmetics (Ninth Amendment) Rules - 2019, to establish the safety of the vaccine candidate and got regulatory clearance from the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) and office of the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), Government of India, to conduct clinical trials. Gennova has initiated the process to enroll healthy volunteers from the Phase I/II clinical trials.
- mRNA vaccines are considered safe as mRNA is non-infectious, non-integrating in nature, and degraded by standard cellular mechanisms.
- They are highly efficacious because of their inherent capability of being translatable into the protein structure inside the cell cytoplasm.
- Additionally, mRNA vaccines are fully synthetic and do not require a host for growth, e.g., eggs or bacteria. Therefore, they can be quickly manufactured inexpensively under cGMP conditions to ensure their "availability" and "accessibility" for mass vaccination on a sustainable basis.
Stories Of Madurai
On 30th March 2021, the Ministry of Tourism organised a webinar on “Stories of Madurai” under Dekho Apna Desh campaign. Dekho Apna Desh Webinar Series is an effort to showcase India’s rich diversity under Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat.
- Madurai, one of the oldest living cities, popularly it is called the ‘Athens of the East’, holds the soul of Tamil Nadu in its magnificent and grand temples that are among the finest and most awe-inspiring specimens of architecture in the country. The most spectacular of these is the Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Temple, which is the heartbeat of the city and is visited by thousands of devotees.
About Sri Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Temple
- One of the largest temple complexes in India, Sri Meenakshi-Sundareswarar Temple is the most famous spiritual site in Madurai.
- Dravidian Architecture: This temple is an excellent example of Dravidian architecture; the temple is sprawled over a huge area, bordered by well-laid gardens and pristine fountains. Two shrines, more than 10 gateways or gopurams, several mandapas (halls) and a giant pool, make up the structure of the temple, which is adorned with beautiful carvings inside and outside.
- "Hall of a 1,000 Pillars": One of the halls of the temple is famous as the "Hall of a 1,000 pillars" though only 985 of them exist today. It is said that whichever direction you view these pillars from - they always seem to be in a straight line.
- Musical Pillars: The highlight of the temple is the outermost corridor that comprises musical pillars. These produce different musical notes when tapped.
- Deity: While one of the sanctorum, Sundareswarar, is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the other is devoted to Goddess Meenakshi, his consort.
Ancient Trade & Madurai
- Madurai once traded with ancient Rome and it preserves its distinct character in various arts and textiles that have been bestowed by the Pandian kings (4th century-16th century). Madurai is also well known for its exquisite sarees to wooden toys and sculptures.
- Legend has it that king Kulasekhara once dreamt of Lord Shiva, from whose hair, drops of sweet madhu (nectar) rolled down on earth. The point where they fell was known as Madhurapuri. Earlier known as Madhurapuri and Thoonga Nagaram, meaning a city that never sleeps, Madurai grew around the Meenakshi Amman Temple, which was constructed 2,500 years ago by Pandian king, Kulasekhara.
Foreign Visitors who explored Madurai
- Madurai was visited by Greek explorer, Megasthenes in 3rd century BC. Other famous travellers who visited this ancient south Indian city included Pliny in 77 AD, Ptolemy in 140 AD, Marco Polo in 1203 AD and Ibn Batuta (1333 AD).