Daily Current Affairs : 8th July

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Zero Budget Farming
  2. Desalination Technology
  3. Extended range prediction system
  4. Immunocontraceptive measures
  5. Sea Cow or Dugong
  6. Train 18
  7. Facts for Prelims : Cess and Surcharges, Tutankhamen

1 . Zero Budget Farming

What is zero budget farming?

  • Zero budget Natural farming is a set of farming methods that involves zero credit for agriculture and no use of chemical fertilisers. It means that for all the crops, the production cost will be zero.
  • It doesn’t mean that the farmer is going to have no costs at all, but rather that any costs will be compensated for by income from inter-crops, making farming a close to zero budget activity.


  • Evolved as a farming movement in Karnataka as a result of collaboration between agriculturist Subhash Palekar and state farmers association Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS). As it attained considerable success in Karnataka, the model was replicated in many other states, particularly in South India.

Four Pillars of ZBNF

  • Jivamrita/jeevamrutha is a fermented microbial culture. It provides nutrients, but most importantly, acts as a catalytic agent that promotes the activity of microorganisms in the soil, as well as increases earthworm activity. Jeevamrutha also helps to prevent fungal and bacterial plant diseases. It is prepared mainly with the help of cow dung, cow urine, jaggery etc
  • Bijamrita/beejamrutha is a treatment used for seeds, seedlings or any planting material. Bijamrita is effective in protecting young roots from fungus as well as from soil-borne and seedborne diseases that commonly affect plants after the monsoon period.
  • Acchadana – Mulching
  • Whapasa – moisture:It doesnt believe in the idea that plant roots need a lot of water, thus countering the over reliance on irrigation in green revolution farming. According to the method, what roots need is water vapor. Whapasa is the condition where there are both air molecules and water molecules present in the soil, and encourages reducing irrigation, irrigating only at noon

Other Important Features

  • Intercropping – This is primarily how ZBNF gets its “Zero Budget” name. It doesn’t mean that the farmer is going to have no costs at all, but rather that any costs will be compensated for by income from intercrops, making farming a close to zero budget activity.
  • Contours and bunds – To preserve rain water
  • Local species of earthworms : Revival of local deep soil earthworms through increased organic matter is most recommended.
  • Cow dung- Dung from the Bos indicus (humped cow) is most beneficial and has the highest concentrations of micro-organisms as compared to European cow breeds such as Holstein. The entire ZBNF method is centred on the Indian cow, which historically has been part of Indian rural life


  • Zero budget farming model promises to cut down farming expenditure drastically and ends dependence on loans.
  • It also reduces dependence on purchased inputs as it encourages use of own seeds and locally available natural fertilizers. Farming is done in sync with the nature not through chemical fertilisers.
  • It is also an attempt to make small scale farming a viable vocation.
  • It consumes only 10 per cent of the water that crops consume in conventional methods.


  • Critics argue that zero budget’ is misleading, and modern agriculture requires a whole set of expensive external inputs, apart from sizeable capital investments initially.

2 . Desalination Technology

Context : With warnings from India’s top policy-makers and reports of major cities in India struggling to stave off a water crisis, there’s talk about exploring technologies to harness fresh water. The one idea that’s been around for a while is desalination, or obtaining freshwater from salt water.

What is desalination technology?

  • To convert salt water into freshwater, the most prevalent technology in the world is reverse osmosis (RO). A plant pumps in salty or brackish water, filters separate the salt from the water, and the salty water is returned to the sea. Fresh water is sent to households.

About Osmosis

  • Osmosis involves ‘a solvent (such as water) naturally moving from an area of low solute concentration, through a membrane, to an area of high solute concentration.
  • A reverse osmosis system applies an external pressure to reverse the natural flow of solvent and so seawater or brackish water is pressurised against one surface of the membrane, causing salt-depleted water to move across the membrane, releasing clean water from the low-pressure side’.
  • Seawater has Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) — a measure of salinity — close to 35,000 parts per million (ppm), or equivalent to 35 g of salt per one litre/kg of water. An effective network of RO plants reduce this down to about 200-500 ppm.

Challenges to desalination Technology

  • Environmental Challenges : Because RO plants convert seawater to fresh water, the major environmental challenge they pose is the deposition of brine (highly concentrated salt water) along the shores.
  • Loss of Marine Resource :
    • Ever since the Chennai plants have started to function, fishermen have complained that the brine being deposited along the seashore is triggering changes along the coastline and reducing the availability of prawn, sardine and mackerel.
    • Hyper salinity along the shore affects plankton, which is the main food for several of these fish species.
    • Moreover, the high pressure motors needed to draw in the seawater end up sucking in small fish and life forms, thereby crushing and killing them — again a loss of marine resource.
  • Another unexpected problem, an environmentalist group has alleged, was that the construction of the RO plants required troves of groundwater. This was freshwater that was sucked out and has since been replaced by salt water, rendering it unfit for the residents around the desalination plants.

Alternative Technologies

Low-Temperature Thermal desalination Technique

  • The alternative desalination technology used is thermal energy sourced from the ocean. There is a low-temperature thermal desalination (LTTD) technique for instance which works on the principle that water in the ocean 1,000 or 2,000 feet below is about 4º C to 8º C colder than surface water.
  • So, salty surface water is collected in a tank and subject to high pressure (via an external power source). This pressured water vapourises and this is trapped in tubes or a chamber.
  • Cold water plumbed from the ocean depths is passed over these tubes and the vapour condenses into fresh water and the resulting salt diverted away.
  • Examples : Used in Lakshwadweep

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion

  • The most ambitious research project is a 10 million litre a day plant that is proposed to be built in the deep ocean, 50 kilometres away from the Chennai coast. This exploits an approach called Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion.
  • While the LTTD technique draws power from diesel sets, this massive new plant will draw power from the vapour generated as a part of the desalination process. This vapour will run a turbine and thereby will be independent of an external power source. While great in theory, there is no guarantee it will work commercially.
  • For one, this ocean-based plant requires a pipe that needs to travel 50 kilometres underground in the sea before it reaches the mainland.
  • The NIOT has in the past had significant problems in managing such a pipe. Then, RO is commercially proven and the dominant technology and therefore it could be hard to convince private players to invest in such a technology.

3 . Extended Range Prediction System

Context : Real time prediction of heat waves two to three weeks in advance is now possible, thanks to the extended range prediction system developed by researchers at Pune’s Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM)

About the Findings

  • The extended range forecast can predict heat wave condition two weeks in advance with 70% probability. The short-range forecast two-three days before the onset of heat wave condition can provide more reliable information about the time and location of the heat wave condition
  • Based on observation data available from 1981 to 2017 and model-run data available from 2003, the researchers found that places in northwest India and southeast coastal regions are prone to heat waves conditions. Places in these two regions experience heat waves for more than eight days during summer. The study found that the southeast coast region has become more vulnerable to heat waves in the recent years.
  • The researchers verified the model for heat wave using three select events in all the three heat wave regions. The model verified the onset, duration and end phase of heat wave events by the first three and last three consecutive days, and the total spell of the event.

4 . Immunocontraceptive measures

Context : The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) has launched a project for undertaking ‘immunocontraceptive measures

About Immunocontraceptive

  • Immunocontraception is a technology that uses a female animal’s immune system to build a protein around the egg that prevents it from fertilising.
  • It will be used for population management of four species of wild animals — elephant, wild boar, monkey and blue bull (Nilgai).
  • Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and National the Institute of Immunology (NII), will develop a protocol of immunocontraception
  • It will be pilot project and will begin in Uttarakhand and then implemented in rest of the country

5 . Sea cow or Dugong

About Dugong

  • The dugong is the only herbivorous mammal that is strictly marine, and is the only extant species in the Family Dugongidae.
  • It is listed as vulnerable to extinction at a global scale by The World Conservation Union (IUCN).
  • The dugong has a large range that spans some 37 countries and territories and includes tropical and subtropical coastal and island waters from East Africa to Vanuatu, between about 26° north and south of the Equator.

6 . Vande Bharat Express / Train 18

Context : The production of India’s first semi high-speed train has come to a grinding halt at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai. The work on rolling out ten trains this fiscal remains a non-starter despite floating of tenders. Reason: the design of the successfully running Train18 has been found to be violative of certain specifications and will go back to the drawing table. Investigation is also on into allegations that one company was favoured in the making of the ₹97 crore train 

What is Train 18

  • Train 18 is Indian Railways’ latest service that will replace India’s fastest Shatabdi Express train on the Delhi-Bhopal route from January 2019.
  • Manufactured at Integral Coach Factory (ICF) Chennai, the ‘Make in India’ train set will be able to travel at speeds of 160 kmph, it will have modular European-style seats, automatic doors with sliding footsteps, fully-sealed gangways, continuous windows for panoramic experience etc.
  • Train 18 will run without an engine


  • The concept used is of distributed power
  • To adopt the new concept, the traction system and power required for lighting and air-conditioning on the train had to be modularised and distributed across the train set as underslung, that is below the chasis of the coaches.
  • In conventional LHB coaches, the traction system is part of the locomotive and the power for lights and air-conditioning is supplied by separate generator power cars.
  • This new concept required development of a new design of the coach, bogies and electrical equipment
  • In Train 18, every alternate coach will be powered /motorized. It will be called a motor coach.
  • Each motor coach will have four 3-phase traction motors of rating 250 kw, approximately making the total rating of the motor coach – 1000 KW ( 1340 HP).
  • For the 16-car train set, this will work out to 8 motor coaches × 1340 HP = 10,720 HP. This will be the power available for traction apart from the air-conditioning and other auxiliary electric loads.
  • Two motor coaches will get power from one transformer mounted on the trailer coach

7 . Facts for Prelims

Cess & Surcharges

  • Centre has begun to rely more on revenue collected through cesses and surcharges to meet its expenditure obligations.
  • Unlike other taxes, revenue collected through this route is not part of the divisible tax pool, and is thus not shared with the states. According to the 14th Finance Commission, states should receive 42 per cent of the divisible tax pool.
  • But since cesses and surcharges are not part of this pool, an increase in revenues through this channel helps shore up only the Centre’s coffers.


  • King Tutankhamen (or Tutankhamun) ruled Egypt as pharaoh for 10 years until his death at age 19, around 1324 B.C. Although his rule was notable for reversing the tumultuous religious reforms of his father, Pharaoh Akhenaten, Tutankhamen’s legacy was largely negated by his successors

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