CURRENT AFFAIRS FOR BEGINNERS
- National Policy on Biofuels – 2018.
- Talaq bill
- Biosphere reserve
- Biosphere hotspots
- Man and biosphere reserve program
- UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR)
- India to triple ethanol production by 2022
The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved National Policy on Biofuels – 2018.
In order to promote biofuels in the country, a National Policy on Biofuels was made by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy during the year 2009. Globally, biofuels have caught the attention in last decade and it is imperative to keep up with the pace of developments in the field of biofuels. Biofuels in India are of strategic importance as it augers well with the ongoing initiatives of the Government such as Make in India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill Development and offers great opportunity to integrate with the ambitious targets of doubling of Farmers Income, Import Reduction, Employment Generation, Waste to Wealth Creation. Biofuels programme in India has been largely impacted due to the sustained and quantum non-availability of domestic feedstock for biofuel production which needs to be addressed.
The Policy categorises biofuels as “Basic Biofuels” viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel and “Advanced Biofuels” – Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc. to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.
The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
Farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase. Taking this into account, the Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.
With a thrust on Advanced Biofuels, the Policy indicates a viability gap funding scheme for 2G ethanol Bio refineries of Rs.5000 crore in 6 years in addition to additional tax incentives, higher purchase price as compared to 1G biofuels.
The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.
Roles and responsibilities of all the concerned Ministries/Departments with respect to biofuels has been captured in the Policy document to synergise efforts.
Reduce Import Dependency: One crore lit of E10 saves Rs.28 crore of forex at current rates. The ethanol supply year 2017-18 is likely to see a supply of around 150 crore litres of ethanol which will result in savings of over Rs.4000 crore of forex.
Cleaner Environment: One crore lit of E-10 saves around 20,000 ton of CO2 emissions. For the ethanol supply year 2017-18, there will be lesser emissions of CO2 to the tune of 30 lakh ton. By reducing crop burning & conversion of agricultural residues/wastes to biofuels there will be further reduction in Green House Gas emissions.
Health benefits: Prolonged reuse of Cooking Oil for preparing food, particularly in deep-frying is a potential health hazard and can lead to many diseases. Used Cooking Oil is a potential feedstock for biodiesel and its use for making biodiesel will prevent diversion of used cooking oil in the food industry.
MSW Management: It is estimated that, annually 62 MMT of Municipal Solid Waste gets generated in India. There are technologies available which can convert waste/plastic, MSW to drop in fuels. One ton of such waste has the potential to provide around 20% of drop in fuels.
Infrastructural Investment in Rural Areas: It is estimated that, one 100klpd bio refinery will require around Rs.800 crore capital investment. At present Oil Marketing Companies are in the process of setting up twelve 2G bio refineries with an investment of around Rs.10,000 crore. Further addition of 2G bio refineries across the Country will spur infrastructural investment in the rural areas.
Employment Generation: One 100klpd 2G bio refinery can contribute 1200 jobs in Plant Operations, Village Level Entrepreneurs and Supply Chain Management.
Additional Income to Farmers: By adopting 2G technologies, agricultural residues/waste which otherwise are burnt by the farmers can be converted to ethanol and can fetch a price for these waste if a market is developed for the same. Also, farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase. Thus conversion of surplus grains and agricultural biomass can help in price stabilization.
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The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world. The UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis. The 38th session of the UNHRC began June 18, 2018. It ended on July 7, 2018. The headquarters of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland.
The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states, and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights, Criminals, drug lords in Philippines and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.
The UNHRC was established by the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006 to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR, herein CHR) that had been strongly criticized for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members.
- Yemen air strike: UNSC seeks probe
Under the Charter, the Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has 15 Members, and each Member has one vote. Under the Charter, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.
The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.
The Security Council also recommends to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and the admission of new Members to the United Nations. And, together with the General Assembly, it elects the judges of the International Court of Justice.
The Security Council consists of ten elected members, and five permanent members (China, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation).
Each year the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members (out of 10 in total) for a two-year term. In accordance with the General Assembly resolution 1991 (XVIII) of 17 December 1963, the 10 non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis as follows: five for African and Asian States; one for Eastern European States; two for the Latin American and Caribbean States; and two for Western European and other States.
Preventive Diplomacy and Mediation, Peacekeeping, Peace building, Countering Terrorism and Disarmament are the five ways of UNSC for the maintenance of international peace and security.
- Pakistan hopes to host SAARC summit
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established with the signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka on 8 December 1985. SAARC comprises of eight Member States: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The Secretariat of the Association was set up in Kathmandu on 17 January 1987.
The objectives of the Association as outlined in the SAARC Charter are: to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia and to improve their quality of life; to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region and to provide all individuals the opportunity to live in dignity and to realize their full potentials; to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia; to contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems; to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields; to strengthen cooperation with other developing countries; to strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interests; and to cooperate with international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes.
Decisions at all levels are to be taken on the basis of unanimity; and bilateral and contentious issues are excluded from the deliberations of the Association.
- Congress scuttled talaq Bill: govt and Women’s group backs amendments to talaq bill
The Lok Sabha passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriages) Bill 2017 declaring instant triple talaq illegal and criminalises it with up to three years in jail for the husband. The bill will now will be sent to the Rajya Sabha for passage before it is forwarded to the President for assent to come into force as law.
Key Features of Bill:-
The Bill makes all declaration of talaq, including in written or electronic form (text message, email etc) to be void and illegal i.e. not enforceable in law. It defines talaq as talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by Muslim husband resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce to his wife. It refers Talaq-e-biddat to practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by Muslim husband to his wife results in instant and irrevocable divorce.
Offence and and penalty: It makes declaration of talaq a cognizable and non-bailable offence i.e. offence for which police officer may arrest an accused person without warrant. Moreover, if Muslim husband declaring triple talaq can be imprisoned for up to 3 years along with a fine.
Allowance: It entitles Muslim woman against whom triple talaq has been declared to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children. First Class Magistrate will decide this allowance amount.
Custody of minor children: Muslim woman against whom triple talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children. First Class Magistrate will make determination of custody of her minor children.
The Constitutional bench of Supreme Court in 3:2 majority judgment (verdict) given in August 2017 had declared Islamic practice of instant divorce through triple talaq as unconstitutional, illegal and void and not protected by Article 25 (freedom of religion) of the Constitution. The three majority judges had held that triple talaq is manifestly arbitrary and violative of the constitution and fundamental right under Article 14 (equality before law) so it must be struck down. Comment It was alleged that practise of triple talaq adversely impact rights of women to a life of dignity and is against constitutional principles such as gender equality, secularism, international laws etc. It also undermines gender equality is a sacred principle of our constitution and modern society. Even 21 Islamic theocratic countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan have abolished it.
- Khangchendzonga Biosphere reserve enters UNESCO list:
Biosphere Reserves are large areas of bio diversity where flora and fauna are protected. These regions of environmental protection roughly correspond to IUCN Category V Protected areas. The Indian government has established 18 Biosphere Reserves of India, which protect larger areas of natural habitat (than a National Park or Wildlife Sanctuary).
Biosphere Reserves of India often include one or more National Parks or sanctuaries, along with buffer zones that are open to some economic uses. Protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region, but also to the human communities who inhabit these regions, and their ways of life.
Core area: includes protected areas, as they act as reference points on the natural state of the ecosystems represented by the biosphere reserves. Information from these core areas may be used to assess the sustainability of activities, or the maintenance of environmental quality, in surrounding areas. Managers of the core areas may contribute resources to projects developed with residents, businesses and other partners of the biosphere reserve.
Buffer zone: surrounds or is contiguous to the core area. Activities are organized so they do not hinder the conservation objectives of the core area, but rather help to protect it. The buffer zone might be an area for experimental research, or may involve ways to manage natural vegetation, agricultural land, forests, fisheries or ranchland to enhance overall quality of production while conserving natural processes and biodiversity. This zone may also accommodate education, training, tourism, and recreation facilities. In many biosphere reserves the buffer zone is regarded as an area in which human use is less intensive than what might be found in the transition zone.
Transition Zone, or Area of Cooperation: the large outer area of a reserve where people live and work, using the natural resources of the area in a sustainable manner. The term ‘area of cooperation’ underscores the role of cooperation as the main tool to achieve the objectives of the biosphere reserve. It is here that the local communities, conservation agencies, scientists, civil associations, cultural groups, businesses and other stakeholders agree to work together to manage and use the area in a sustainable way that will benefit the people who live there.
To qualify as a biodiversity hotspot, a region must meet two strict criteria:
It must have at least 1,500 vascular plants as endemics — which is to say, it must have a high percentage of plant life found nowhere else on the planet. A hotspot, in other words, is irreplaceable.
It must have 30% or less of its original natural vegetation. In other words, it must be threatened.
Around the world, 35 areas qualify as hotspots. They represent just 2.3% of Earth’s land surface, but they support more than half of the world’s plant species as endemics — i.e., species found no place else — and nearly 43% of bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian species as endemics.
Man and biosphere reserve program:-
The MAB Programme develops the basis within the natural and social sciences for the rational and sustainable use and conservation of the resources of the biosphere and for the improvement of the overall relationship between people and their environment. It predicts the consequences of today’s actions on tomorrow’s world and thereby increases people’s ability to efficiently manage natural resources for the well-being of both human populations and the environment.
By focusing on sites internationally recognized within the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, the MAB Programme strives to:
Identify and assess the changes in the biosphere resulting from human and natural activities and the effects of these changes on humans and the environment, in particular in the context of climate change;
study and compare the dynamic interrelationships between natural/near-natural ecosystems and socio-economic processes, in particular in the context of accelerated loss of biological and cultural diversity with unexpected consequences that impact the ability of ecosystems to continue to provide services critical for human well-being;
ensure basic human welfare and a liveable environment in the context of rapid urbanization and energy consumption as drivers of environmental change;
promote the exchange and transfer of knowledge on environmental problems and solutions, and to foster environmental education for sustainable development.
UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR):-
The UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) covers internationally designated protected areas, each known as biosphere reserves, that are meant to demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature (e.g. encourage sustainable development).
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) of the MAB Programme consists of a dynamic and interactive network of sites. It works to foster the harmonious integration of people and nature for sustainable development through participatory dialogue, knowledge sharing, poverty reduction, human well-being improvements, and respect for cultural values and by improving society’s ability to cope with climate change. It promotes North-South and South-South collaboration and represents a unique tool for international cooperation through the exchange of experiences and know-how, capacity-building and the promotion of best practices.
Eleven of the eighteen biosphere reserves of India are a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, based on the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme list.
Questions of the day:-
- Consider the following statements about SAARC:-
- This is the only grouping where both India and Pakistan are member countries.
- SAARC stands for South Asian Agreement for regional cooperation.
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Correct Answer: A
- Consider the following statements:
- Khangchendzonga Biosphere reserve is a mixed heritage site.
- It is the highest biosphere reserve in the country.
Select the correct answer using the code below:
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Correct Answer: C