Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment
- Faunal Database
- GI Tag
- Alluri Sitarama Raju
- Floating Solar Plants
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment
Context : The G7 countries during the Leaders’ Summit in Germany, have officially launched the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), a joint initiative to fund infrastructure projects in developing countries. The project, launched on June 27, is being seen as the bloc’s counter to China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative.
What is G7’s PGII?
- The infrastructure plan was first announced in June 2021 during last year’s G7 Summit in the UK. US President Joe Biden had called it the Build Back Better World (B3W) framework. However, it did not register much progress and details regarding the plan’s time period or funding source were unclear. This time around, the initiative was officially launched as PGII.
- Essentially, G7 countries — the US, Canada, Italy, the UK, France, Germany, and Japan — and the EU have noted the infrastructure projects being undertaken and funded by China at a global level and decided to present their alternative mechanism for it.
- The stated purpose of both the PGII and the BRI is to help secure funding for countries to build critical infrastructure such as roads, ports, bridges, communication setups, etc. to enhance global trade and cooperation.
- However, the G7 say their initiative is meant to be transparent, focused on building climate change-resilient infrastructure, and help in achieving objectives of gender equality and health infrastructure development.
Where are funds being directed under the plan?
- In India, the US International Development Finance Corporation, the development bank of the country, will invest up to $30 million in the Omnivore Agritech and Climate Sustainability Fund 3, described as “an impact venture capital fund that invests in entrepreneurs building the future of agriculture, food systems, climate, and the rural economy
- The fund will invest in companies that “increase food security and promote both climate resilience and climate adaptation in India, as well as improve the profitability and agricultural productivity of smallholder farms.”
- Apart from India, projects have been announced in countries across West Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America.
What is China’s BRI?
- China began the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 under its President Xi Jinping. It aims to revive the ancient trade routes crossing to and from China–from Rome in Europe to East Asia.
- Under this, the Chinese government helped in providing loans for infrastructure projects to various countries, and in many cases, Chinese companies were awarded contracts for carrying out the work. This helped China mark its footprints at a global level.
- However, China was criticised in the West and by some other countries for providing unsustainable debts to countries that will be unable to repay them. According to a 2019 World Bank report, among the 43 corridor economies for which detailed data was available, 12 could face a situation where debts were not sustainable, which could lead to public assets being handed over to foreign contractors or China itself.
- The report adds if issues of environmental degradation, high debts, and corruption are successfully countered and the BRI is fully implemented to its potential, it could increase trade between 1.7 and 6.2 percent for the world, increasing global real income by 0.7 to 2.9 percent.
- India opposed the BRI as it included the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which connected Kashgar in China with the Gwadar port in Pakistan via Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in 2021: “Any serious connectivity initiative must be transparent and conform to the most basic principle of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
2 . Earthquake
Context : Recently a powerful earthquake of magnitude 5.9 on the Richter scale struck a remote town in Afghanistan, killing over a thousand and injuring many more. According to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, a 5.9 on the Richter scale is roughly equivalent to 37 times the energy released by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Experts are still trying to figure out the best early warning system to mitigate the damage caused by earthquakes.
How do earthquakes happen?
- According to the theory of plate tectonics, the Earth’s crust and upper mantle are made of large rigid plates that can move relative to one another. Slip on faults near the plate boundaries can result in earthquakes.
- The point inside the Earth where the earthquake rupture starts is called the focus or hypocentre. The point directly above it on the surface of the Earth is the epicentre.
What are seismic waves?
- Any elastic material when subjected to stress, stretches in a proportional way, until the elastic limit is reached. When the elastic limit is crossed, it breaks. Similarly, the Earth also has an elastic limit and when the stress is higher than this limit, it breaks. Then there is a generation of heat, and energy is released. Since the material is elastic, the energy is released in the form of elastic waves. These propagate to a distance determined by the extent of the impact. These are known as seismic waves.
How are earthquakes measured?
- Earthquakes are measured by seismographic networks, which are made of seismic stations, each of which measures the shaking of the ground beneath it.
- In India, the National Seismological Network does this work. It has a history of about 120 years and its sensors can now detect an earthquake within five to ten minutes. The wave parameters are measured, not the total energy released. He explains that there is a relationship between the quantum of energy released and the wave amplitude. The amplitude of the wave is a function of the time period of the wave. It is possible to convert the measured wave amplitude into the energy released for that earthquake. This is what seismologists call the magnitude of the earthquake.
What is the Richter magnitude scale?
- This is a measure of the magnitude of an earthquake and was first defined by Charles F. Richter of the California Institute of Technology, U.S., in 1935. The magnitude of an earthquake is the logarithm of the amplitude of the waves measured by the seismographs.
- Richter scale magnitudes are expressed as a whole number and a decimal part, for example 6.3 or 5.2. Since it is a logarithmic scale, an increase of the whole number by one unit signifies a tenfold increase in the amplitude of the wave and a 31-times increase of the energy released.
How are zones designated?
- Based on seismicity, intensity of earthquakes experienced, and geological and tectonic qualities of a region, countries are divided into several zones.
- In India, for example, there are four zones, designated Zone II-Zone V. Among these, Zone V is the most hazardous and Zone II the least hazardous.
Can you build early warning systems for earthquakes?
- Since parameters of the earthquake are unknown, it is near impossible to predict an earthquake.
- The problem with earthquakes is that they are heavily dependent on the material property, which varies from place to place. If there are elastic waves propagating through a material, there are two kinds of waves — the primary wave which reaches first, and the second one called the secondary wave, which is more destructive. Suppose the primary wave is measured, and we have efficient computer systems, all the inputs and excellent data collection, then it can be said that a possible earthquake of this much magnitude and energy has occurred and this could lead to a ground amplitude which could be destructive. If it is known that the amount of energy released is extremely high, trains and power grids can be shut down and the damage minimised. “This has worked in some locations, but not on a large commercial basis
- The most successful early warning systems are in Japan. They have several hundreds of thousands recording devices. Responses are sent to a central point where they estimate whether it is large enough to form a tsunami or some other hazard, and precautionary steps are taken.
3 . Addition to Faunal Database
Context : India added 540 species to its faunal database in 2021 taking the total number of animal species to 1,03,258. The country also added 315 taxa to the Indian flora during 2021, taking the number of floral taxa in the country to 55,048.
Addition in Faunal Species
- Of the 540 faunal species, 406 are new discoveries and 134 new records to India. Thirteen new genera were also discovered in 2021. Among the new species discovered is one species from mammal, 35 reptiles and 19 species of pisces.
- The most number of new discoveries was from the faunal group Hymenoptera, an order of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees, and ants, in which 80 species, including one new genus, were discovered.
With 1.03 lakh species of fauna, India contributes to 6.1% of faunal diversity in the world.
- The new mammal species discovered is Crocidura narcondamica, a white-toothed shrew, from Narcondam Island of the Andaman and Nicobar group of islands.
- Among the reptiles discovered in 2021, notable is Boiga whitakeri, or Whitaker’s cat snake, from the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu.
Addition to Flora
- The 315 taxa of flora added to India consist of 298 species and 17 intraspecific taxa as new to Indian flora.
- Of these, 204 taxa are new to science and 125 taxa are new distributional records from India. Forty-three per cent novelties published in various national and international journals are of vascular plants; rest are non-vascular in nature. This volume records 135 angiosperms, four pteridophytes, 9 bryophytes, 28 lichens, 98 fungi, 29 algae and 12 microbes
- Regions such as the Western Ghats and the northeastern regions have contributed 28% of the total discoveries.
- In State-wise analysis, the most number of discoveries were made from Kerala with 51 taxa followed by Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh. In 2021, the floral discoveries include wild relatives of many potential horticultural, agricultural, medicinal, and ornamental plants such as begonia, impatiens (Balsams), legumes, zingibers and orchids.
Impact of Climate Change
- As a consequence of climate change, a change in distributional pattern of vegetation, with species in high elevation ecosystem shifting to higher elevation had already been observed.
- Range shift and migration of animals is very much likely; the distribution of fauna needs to be monitored and periodically analysed as a priority study. Long-term studies on faunal elements of forests, aquatic, coastal and marine ecosystem are essential
- Geo-spatial data of the ZSI would be of great importance in developing adaptive spatial planning of conservation areas.
- Recent findings of ZSI will be useful in forest management and support the national action plan to combat climate change in India.
4 . National Investigation Agency
Context : The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has taken over the probe into the June 28 killing of tailor Kanhaiyya Lal in Rajasthan’s Udaipur over a social media post supporting suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nupur Sharma. Now, the Union Home Ministry has handed over to the agency the investigation of a similarly executed murder of pharmacist Umesh Kolhe at Amravati in Maharashtra on June 21.
What is the NIA?
- It is a central agency mandated to investigate all the offences affecting the sovereignty, security and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign states, and the offences under the statutory laws enacted to implement international treaties, agreements, conventions and resolutions of the United Nations, its agencies and other international organisations.
- These include terror acts and their possible links with crimes like smuggling of arms, drugs and fake Indian currency and infiltration from across the borders. The agency has the power to search, seize, arrest and prosecute those involved in such offences.
- Headquartered in Delhi, the NIA has its branches in Hyderabad, Guwahati, Kochi, Lucknow, Mumbai, Kolkata, Raipur, Jammu, Chandigarh, Ranchi, Chennai, Imphal, Bengaluru and Patna.
When did the NIA come into being?
- In the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack in November 2008, government decided to establish the NIA through National Investigation Agency Bill.
- The agency came into existence on December 31, 2008, and started its functioning in 2009.
- Till date, the NIA has registered 447 cases.
What are the scheduled offences?
- The list includes the Explosive Substances Act, Atomic Energy Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Anti-Hijacking Act, Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act, SAARC Convention (Suppression of Terrorism) Act, Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act and relevant offences under the Indian Penal Code, Arms Act and the Information Technology Act.
- In September 2020, the Centre empowered the NIA to also probe offences under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act that are connected to terror cases.
How wide is NIA’s jurisdiction?
- The law under which the agency operates extends to the whole of India and also applies to Indian citizens outside the country; persons in the service of the government wherever they are posted; persons on ships and aircraft registered in India wherever they may be; persons who commit a scheduled offence beyond India against the Indian citizen or affecting the interest of India.
How does the NIA take up a probe?
- As provided under Section 6 of the Act, State governments can refer the cases pertaining to the scheduled offences registered at any police station to the Central government (Union Home Ministry) for NIA investigation. After assessing the details made available, the Centre can then direct the agency to take over the case. State governments are required to extend all assistance to the NIA. Even when the Central government is of the opinion that a scheduled offence has been committed which is required to be investigated under the Act, it may, suo motu, direct the agency to take up/over the probe.
- Where the Central government finds that a scheduled offence has been committed at any place outside India to which this Act extends, it can also direct the NIA to register the case and take up investigation. While investigating any scheduled offence, the agency can also investigate any other offence which the accused is alleged to have committed if the offence is connected to the scheduled offence.
5 . Geographical Indications Tag ( GI-Tag)
Context : In Odisha, scientists are now fine-tuning their research to make a presentation for the Geographical Indications (GI) registry of Kai chutney. Applied under food category, the GI tag will help develop a structured hygiene protocol in the preparation of Kai chutney for standard wider use.
About Kai Chutney
- Kai chutney is made with weaver ants. It is rich in proteins, calcium, zinc, vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, copper, fibre and 18 amino acids, is known to boost the immune system and keep diseases at bay.
- Weaver ants, Oecophylla smaragdina, are abundantly found in Mayurbhanj throughout the year. They make nests with leaves of host trees.
- “When required, leafy nests of ants are plucked from their host trees and collected in a bucket of water before sorting and separation from leaves and debris. Larval and adult stages of the ants are preferred and are either eaten raw or turned into ‘chutney’ by mixing them with spicy ingredients
- The chutney is prepared by mixing and grinding salt, ginger, garlic and chilly and is sold by tribal people in rural markets.
- The tribes of Mayurbhanj consume Kai chutney or soup to get rid of flu, common cold, whooping cough, to increase appetite and enhance eyesight naturally without corrective eye wear and to treat joint pain and stomach diseases, and for the development of a healthy brain and the nervous system
- According to the application for GI registry the tribal healers also prepare medicinal oil by dipping the collected Kais in pure mustard oil. After 30 days, this oil is used as baby oil and externally used to cure rheumatism, gout, ringworm infection and skin diseases. So, it is the only panacea for the tribes
About Kai Ants
- “The Kai family consists of three category members — workers, major workers and queens. Workers and major workers are mostly orange-colored. Kais feed on small insects and other invertebrates, their prey being mainly beetles, flies and hymenopterans
About GI Tag
- GI has its origins in the 1883 Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. “The protection of industrial property has as its object patents, utility models, industrial designs, trademarks, service marks, trade names, indications of source or appellations of origin, and the repression of unfair competition”
- But it was formalised in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of 1994. GIs are defined as “indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.”
- India, which is a party to TRIPS, formulated a GI law in 1999, which came into force four years later. India has till now granted 303 GIs, including 11 foreign products like Scotch and Cognac.
- The GIs include twenty nine products which have got two separate GIs each, one for the name and the other for the logo. Darjeeling tea, Kanchipuram silk, Kashmir pashmina, Lucknow chikan craft, Hyderabad haleem and Maharashtra’s Warli painting are some well known products which have been granted a GI. Karnataka is the state with most GIs, accounting for over a tenth of the country’s total.
- It is valid for 10 years after which it can be renewed.
- Legal Protection : Once a product has got a GI, it would be illegal for someone outside that region to make and sell a similar product under that name.
- Commercial reasons : A study found that GI products in the EU on average command a premium of 2.2 times the price of non-GI products; wines have the highest premium, at 2.7 times, while it is 1.6 times for cheeses. But in India, there is no data available on the commercial benefits of GI
6 . Alluri Sita Rama Raju
Context : Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a 30-foot-tall bronze statue of Alluri Sitharama Raju at Bhimavaram in Andhra Pradesh as the year-long celebrations of the freedom fighter’s 125th birth anniversary began on Monday.
About Alluri Sitharama Raju
- Raju is believed to have been born in present-day Andhra Pradesh in 1897 or 1898. He is said to have become a sanyasi at the age of 18, and gained a mystical aura among the hill and tribal peoples with his austerity, knowledge of astrology and medicine, and his ability to tame wild animals.
- At a very young age, Raju channelled the discontent of the hill people in Ganjam, Visakhapatnam, and Godavari into a highly effective guerrilla resistance against the British.
- Colonial rule threatened the tribals’ traditional podu (shifting) cultivation, as the government sought to secure forest lands. The Forest Act of 1882 banned the collection of minor forest produce such as roots and leaves, and tribal people were forced into labour for the colonial government. While the tribals were subjected to exploitation by muttadars, village headmen commissioned by the colonial government to extract rent, the new laws and systems threatened their way of life itself.
- Strong anti-government sentiment, shared by the muttadars who were aggrieved by the curtailment of their powers by the British, exploded into armed resistance in August 1922. Several hundred tribals led by Raju attacked the Chintapalle, Krishnadevipeta and Rajavommangi police stations in the Godavari agency.
- The Rampa or Manyam Rebellion continued in the form of a guerrilla war until May 1924, when Raju, the charismatic ‘Manyam Veerudu’ or Hero of Jungle, was finally captured and executed.
- The Rampa Rebellion coincided with Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement. The NCERT textbook notes that “Raju talked of the greatness of Mahatma Gandhi, said he was inspired by the Non-Cooperation Movement, and persuaded people to wear khadi and give up drinking. But at the same time, he asserted that India could be liberated only by the use of force, not non-violence.”
Presence in culture
- In 1986, the Indian Postal Department issued a stamp in honour of Raju and his contribution to India’s struggle for Independence. Raju has long been a folk hero in the region, and the 1974 Telugu film Alluri Seetarama Raju, featuring actor Krishna, became very popular.
- S S Rajamouli’s 2022 Telugu blockbuster RRR is a fictional account of the friendship between Raju and tribal leader Komaram Bheem, with actor Ram Charan portraying Raju’s role.
7 . Floating Solar Plants
Context : India’s largest floating solar plant is now fully operational at Ramagundam in Telangana’s Peddapalli district.
About the News
- The 100-megawatt (MW) floating solar power photovoltaic project was commissioned by the National Thermal Power Corporation, the country’s foremost public-sector power generator.
- As of July 1, following the commissioning of the plant, the total commercial operation of floating solar capacity in the southern region has risen to 217 MW, according to the NTPC.
- According to an official release, the 100MW floating solar plant spread over 500 acres of the NTPC’s reservoir at Ramagundam is built at a cost of Rs 423 crore through Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited on an EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contract.
- Having moved past fossil fuels to hydro-, nuclear and renewable energy sources for power generation, the NTPC has set a target of producing 60GW (gigawatts) capacity through renewable energy sources, constituting nearly 45 per cent of its overall power generation capacity, by 2032.
What are floating solar plants?
- Solar plants or solar farms can be either ground-mounted or set up on the surface of waterbodies. Though these floating farms are a bit more expensive than the traditional ones mounted on land surfaces, there are advantages as well.
- At a time when large tracts of land are unavailable, floating farms do not require land to be acquired for the installation of photovoltaic panels. They are more efficient as the presence of water underneath helps them keep cool. They also reduce water evaporation, thereby saving more water for hydropower generation.
How are these panels kept floating?
- At Ramagundam, the solar modules are placed across 500 acres on floaters manufactured with high-density polyethene material that keeps floating irrespective of water-level fluctuations.
- The entire spread is divided into 40 blocks, each having a capacity of 2.5 MW. Each of these blocks consists of a floating platform and an array of 11,200 solar modules. The floating platform consists of an inverter, transformer, and a high-tension circuit breaker.
How is the project unique?
- This project is unique because all the electrical equipment from the inverter, transformer, high-tension panel to supervisory control and data acquisition are also set up on floating ferro-cement platforms.
- According to the NTPC, the entire floating system is anchored through special high-modulus polyethylene ropes to the dead weights (concrete blocks) placed in the balancing reservoir bed. The generated power is evacuated up to the existing switch yard through 33KV underground cables.
How does it help the environment?
- The solar panels floating on the water surface will reduce the evaporation rate and thereby help water conservation. Also, with a minimum land requirement, mostly for associated evacuation arrangements, available land can be put to better use unlike in the case of ground-mounted solar farms, which require large land surface areas.
- At Ramagundam, approximately 32.5 lakh cubic metres per year of water evaporation can be avoided. The waterbody underneath the solar modules helps in maintaining their ambient temperature, thereby improving their efficiency and generation. Similarly, coal consumption of 1,65,000 tons can be avoided per year; carbon dioxide emissions of 2,10,000 tons per year can be avoided, according to the NTPC.
- The commercial operation of a 92MW floating solar plant at Kayamkulam in Kerala and a 25MW floating solar plant at Simhadri in Andhra Pradesh were announced by the NTPC earlier. Even at its Ramagundam reservoir, the public-sector undertaking has currently utilised only about 500 acres of the spread to generate 100 MW.
- At present, NTPC Ramagundam has a traditional ground-mounted solar farm too, spread across 50 acres along the national highway, generating 10MW power. With land not easily available, an official said there is a scope for expansion to generate another 400 MW in the same reservoir. Meanwhile, the Telangana government is also learnt to be keen on using the technology of floating solar farms at its many mega reservoirs to promote clean energy. The state and the NTPC had held a round of talks earlier.
8 . Facts for Prelims
- Snake Island, also known as Serpent Island or Zmiinyi Island, is an island belonging to Ukraine located in the Black Sea, near the Danube Delta, with an important role in delimiting Ukrainian territorial waters. The island has been known since classical antiquity, and during that era hosted a Greek temple to Achilles.
- A typhoon is a mature tropical cyclone that develops between 180° and 100°E in the Northern Hemisphere. This region is referred to as the Northwestern Pacific Basin, and is the most active tropical cyclone basin on Earth, accounting for almost one-third of the world’s annual tropical cyclones.
Konark Sun Temple
- Konark Sun Temple is a 13th-century Sun temple at Konark about 35 kilometres (22 mi) northeast from Puri on the coastline of Odisha, India.
- The temple is attributed to king Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty about 1250 CE
- Built by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty from 1238-1250 CE, the 13th century late-style Kalingan temple forms part of the golden triangle of Odisha, along with Puri and Bhubaneswar, and attracts tourists, pilgrims, and history and art lovers.
Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary
- Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area in the Western Ghats, India, located in Kollam district of Kerala and comes under the control of Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve.
- Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary derives its name Chenkurinji (Gluta travancorica), a species endemic to the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve.