Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- IPBES Global Assessment Report
- UDAY Scheme
- Grizzled Giant Squirrel
- Prime Ministers National Relief Fund
- Shanghai Corporation Organisation
- Facts for Prelims – Serotonin, Purple Frog
1 . IPBES Global Assessment Report
Context : The health of ecosystems that humans and other species depend on is “deteriorating more rapidly than ever”, with up to one million species threatened with extinction, many within decades, a large-scale global assessment by a United Nations body has found.
- The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an independent intergovernmental body, established by member States in 2012.
- The objective of IPBES is to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.
- Much like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which provides scientific assessments of climate change, the IPBES was set up in 2012, to provide a larger sustainability framework informed by the latest science.
- India is a member of IPBES
Details of the Report
- Based on a review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources and compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries, the global report is the first comprehensive look in 15 years at the state of the planet’s biodiversity.
- Report includes, for the first time, indigenous and local knowledge as well as scientific studies.
- The authors say they found overwhelming evidence that human activities are behind nature’s decline.
- Natural habitats are being destroyed at an accelerating pace, adding that the current rate of global species extinction is “tens to hundreds of times” higher compared to the average over the last 10 million years.
- Even for global warming of 1.5 to 2 degrees, the majority of terrestrial species ranges are projected to shrink profoundly
- It ranks “five direct drivers” that cause changes in nature that have the largest relative global impact. In descending order, these include: changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and “invasive alien species”.
- The report finds that “three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions”. Notably, “On average these trends have been less severe or avoided in areas held or managed by indigenous peoples and local communities.”
- The threatened list includes more than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals, and more than a third of all marine mammals. The picture was less clear for insect species, but a tentative estimate suggests 10% are at risk of extinction.
2 . UDAY Scheme
Context : Aggregate external debt of State-owned electricity distribution companies (discoms) is set to increase to pre-Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) levels of Rs. 2.6 lakh crore by the end of this fiscal, according to Crisil’s analysis of discoms in 15 States, which account for 85% of the aggregate losses.
Objectives of UDAY Scheme
- Financial Turnaround
- Operational improvement
- Reduction of cost of generation of power
- Development of Renewable Energy
- Energy efficiency & conservation
Features of the Scheme
- States will take over 75% of the DISCOM debt as on Sept 30, 2015 – 50% in FY 2015-16 and 25% in FY 2016-17.
- Balance 25% of debt to remain with the DISCOMs in the following manner:
- Issued as State-backed DISCOM bonds; or
- Re-priced by Banks/FIs at interest rate not more than bank base rate + 0.10%
- States to take over future losses of DISCOMs as per trajectory in a graded manner.
[0% of loss of 14-15 & 15-16; 5% of 16-17; 10% of 17-18; 25% of 18-19 & 50% of 2019-20]
- Balance losses to be financed through State bonds or DISCOM bonds backed by State Govt guarantee, to the extent of loss trajectory finalised with MoP.
- Jharkhand and J&K given special dispensation for take over of outstanding CPSU dues
- States to issue non-SLR including SDL bonds, to take over debt and transfer the proceeds to DISCOMs in a mix of grant, loan, equity.
- Maturity period of bonds – 10-15 years.
- Moratorium period – up to 5 years.
- Borrowing not to be included for calculating fiscal deficit of the State.
3 . Grizzled Giant Squirrel
Context : For the first time, researchers have sighted nests of the grizzled giant squirrel
About Grizzled Giant Squirrel
- Grizzled giant squirrel is a large tree squirrel found in the highlands of the Central and Uva provinces of Sri Lanka, and in patches of riparian forest along the Kaveri River and in the hill forests of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala states of southern India.
- It is an endangered species listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
- The grizzled giant squirrel is usually known to nest in the Western Ghats in Southern India ranging from Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary in Kerala to Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Palani hills in Tamil Nadu.
- Habitat loss coupled with hunting for its fur and bushmeat by the locals are said to be the major threats to this species,
- Owing to habitat loss and poaching, the species has been categorised as near threatened by the Red List and listed under Schedule II of CITES.
Pakkamalai Reserve Forest
- Pakkamalai Reserve Forest is a sacred mountain located about 45 kms from Gingee in Villupuram district.
- Several diverse and endangered species including the Golden Gecko, Bamboo Pit Viper and Mouse Deer have also been spotted in the Pakkamalai Reserve Forests.
4 . Prime Minister National Relief Fund
- In pursuance of an appeal by the then Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in January, 1948, the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was established with public contributions to assist displaced persons from Pakistan.
- The resources of the PMNRF are now utilized primarily to render immediate relief to families of those killed in natural calamities like floods, cyclones and earthquakes, etc. and to the victims of the major accidents and riots.
- Assistance from PMNRF is also rendered, to partially defray the expenses for medical treatment like heart surgery, kidney transplantation, cancer treatment and acid attack etc.
- The fund consists entirely of public contributions and does not get any budgetary support.
- Disbursements are made with the approval of the Prime Minister.
- PMNRF has not been constituted by the Parliament.
- The fund is recognized as a Trust under the Income Tax Act and the same is managed by Prime Minister or multiple delegates for national causes.
- PMNRF is exempt under Income Tax Act, 1961 under Section 10 and 139 for return purposes.
- Contributions towards PMNRF are notified for 100% deduction from taxable income
- Prime Minister is the Chairman of PMNRF and is assisted by Officers/ Staff on honorary basis.
- PMNRF accepts only voluntary donations by individuals and institutions.
- Donation are also accepted under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as mentioned in the Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013.
- Contributions flowing out of budgetary sources of Government or from the balance sheets of the public sector undertakings are not accepted.
- Conditional contributions, where the donor specifically mentions that the amount is meant for a particular purpose, are not accepted in the Fund.
5 . Shanghai Corporation Organisation
Context : External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Council of Foreign Ministers in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, later this month, for the first time since a proposed meeting between them in New York last September was cancelled.
About Shanghai Corporation Organization
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation founded in 2001 in Shanghai (China) by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan.
- The SCO’s main goals are as follows: strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states; promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.
- The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO.
- The SCO Heads of Government Council (HGC) meets once a year to discuss the organisation’s multilateral cooperation strategy and priority areas, to resolve current important economic and other cooperation issues, and also to approve the organisation’s annual budget.
- The SCO’s official languages are Russian and Chinese.
- SCO comprises eight member states, namely the Republic of India, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan;
- SCO counts four observer states, namely the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Republic of Belarus, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Mongolia;
- SCO has six dialogue partners, namely the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, the Republic of Turkey, and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
6 . Facts for Prelims
- Serotonin is a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the human body. It is sometimes called the happy chemical, because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness.
- The scientific name for serotonin is 5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT. It is mainly found in the brain, bowels, and blood platelets.
- Serotonin is used to transmit messages between nerve cells, it is thought to be active in constricting smooth muscles, and it contributes to wellbeing and happiness, among other things. As the precursor for melatonin, it helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycles and the internal clock.
- It is thought to play a role in appetite, the emotions, and motor, cognitive, and autonomic functions. However, it is not known exactly if serotonin affects these directly, or if it has an overall role in co-ordinating the nervous system.
- It appears to play a key role in maintaining mood balance. Low serotonin levels have been linked to depression.
- Recent findings : The recent discovery establishes that serotonin is involved in the generation of new mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) in neurons, increased cellular respiration and fuel (ATP) in the cell. Unlike other cells, neurons are not generated continuously and so identifying factors that increase mitochondrial health is key to prevent ageing-associated neurological diseases.
- Purple frog lives almost its entire life in underground tunnels, comes out to the surface for a single day in a year to breed.
- Once it lays it’s eggs, the bloated frogs characterised by a protruding snout and powerful hind legs return to the earth’s deepest layers.
- It is listed as endangered on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
- It’s endemic to this part of the southern Western Ghats and cannot be found anywhere else,
- It could soon be designated as Kerala’s state amphibian