Daily Current Affairs 21-06-2024

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    Syllabus: GS3/Environment/ GS1/Geography

    Context

    • The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has released the snow update Hindu Kush Himalaya between 2003 to 2024. 

    Snow Persistence

    • Snow persistence is the fraction of time snow is on the ground. When this snow melts, it provides water to people and ecosystems. 
    • In the river basins of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), snowmelt is the biggest source of water in the streams. 
    • Overall, it contributes 23% of the runoff to the region’s 12 major river basins every year. 

    Hindu Kush Himalaya

    • The HKH mountains extend around 3,500 km over eight countries — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, Myanmar, and Pakistan.
      • These mountains are also called the “water towers of Asia” because they are the origins of 10 crucial river systems on the continent — Amu Darya, Indus, Ganga, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy, Salween, Mekong, Yangtse, Yellow river, and Tarim. 
      • These river basins provide water to almost one-fourth of the world’s population and are a significant freshwater source for 240 million people in the HKH region.
    Hindu Kush Himalaya

    Status of Snow Persistence

    • Ganga River Basin: The Ganga river basin noted its lowest snow persistence in 22 years, 17% below the long-term historical average (also known as ‘normal’).
    • Brahmaputra Basin: Snow persistence in the Brahmaputra basin was 14.6% below normal in 2024.  
    • In the Indus river basin, snow persistence fell 23.3% below normal this year although this was offset by excesses in parts of the lower altitudes.
    • Outside India, the basin of the Amu Darya river — which flows through Central Asia — recorded its lowest snow persistence in 2024: 28.2% below normal.
      • The Helmand river, an important source of drinking water for Iran and Afghanistan, was almost 32% below normal in 2024. 
      • Persistence in the part where the Mekong river originates in the Himalaya was only slightly below normal this time. (This river’s delta is Vietnam’s “rice bowl”.)
    • The persistence of snow in China’s Yellow River basin exceeded the normal value by 20.2% in 2024.
      • In the Yellow river basin, the East Asian winter monsoon brings cold, dry air from Siberia and Mongolia. 
      • When this cold air mass interacts with moist air from other regions, particularly the Pacific Ocean, it can result in snowfall over the higher altitudes of the upper Yellow River basin.
    About ICIMOD

    – It is an intergovernmental knowledge and learning centre working on behalf of the people of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH).
    – It was established in 1983.
    – It is based in Kathmandu, Nepal and work in and for eight regional member countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan.
    – Activities range from hands-on research and piloting of solutions, to policy implementation with governments, to mountain advocacy on the global stage. 

    Reasons for the Lower Persistence 

    • The primary reason for the lower persistence in 2024 was weak western disturbances.
      • Western disturbances are low-pressure systems that originate over the Mediterranean Sea, the Caspian, and the Black Seas and bring rain and snow to the HKH region in winter. 
      • The region where these storms originate experienced persistently high sea-surface temperatures.
      • This disruption weakened and delayed the arrival of the western disturbance, resulting in reduced winter precipitation and snowfall in the HKH region. 
    • Due to changing climate and global warming, this pattern is becoming increasingly unstable. 

    Way Ahead

    • In the long term reforestation with native tree species can help the ground retain more snow. 
    • Better weather forecasting and early warning systems can also help local communities prepare for impending water stress. 
    • Improving water infrastructure and developing policies for protecting areas receiving snowfall are important for long-term change.
    • Communities’ involvement in local, national level decision-making and promoting regional cooperation are vital for comprehensive solutions for the sustainability of snow.

    Source: TH

    Syllabus: GS3/Economy

    Context

    • The Reserve Bank of India canceled the licence of the City Co-operative Bank, Maharashtra for lacking adequate capital and earning prospects.

    About

    • On liquidation, every depositor would be entitled to receive deposit insurance claim amount of his/her deposits up to a monetary ceiling of Rs 5 lakh only from Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) subject to the provisions of DICGC Act, 1961.

    What are Cooperative Banks?

    • Cooperative Banks refer to those financial institutions under the Banking System in India that operate on the principles of cooperation and mutual benefit for their members.
    • They belong to their members who are both the owners and customers of the bank.
    • They operate on the principle of “one person, one vote” in decision-making. Along with lending, these banks also accept deposits.

    Regulation of Cooperative Banks in India

    • These banks in India, broadly, come under the dual control of:
      • Reserve Bank of India: Under the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, and the Banking Laws (Application to Co-operative Societies) Act, 1965, the RBI is responsible for regulating banking aspects of these banks, such as capital adequacy, risk control, and lending norms.
      • Registrar of Co-operative Societies (RCS) of respective State or Central Government: They are responsible for regulation of management-related aspects of these banks, such as incorporation, registration, management, audit, supersession of board of directors, and liquidation.

    Structure of Cooperative Banks in India

    • These banks, under the Banking System in India, are primarily categorized into – Rural Cooperative Banks (RCBS), and Urban Cooperative Banks (UCBS). 
    • They are further sub-categorised as shown below:
    Structure of Cooperative Banks in India

    Urban Cooperative Banks (UCBs)

    • They operate in urban and semi-urban areas and mainly lend to small borrowers and businesses.
    • Based on their regulation regime, they are categorized into two types – Scheduled Banks and Non-Scheduled Banks.

    Rural Cooperative Banks (RCBs)

    • They focus on serving the financial needs of people in rural areas.
    • Depending on the type of lending, they are divided into 2 sub-categories – Short-Term Structures, and Long-Term Structures.
      • Short-Term Structures are divided into State Cooperative Banks, District Cooperative Central Banks (DCCBs) and Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS).
      • Long-Term Structures are divided into State Cooperative Agricultural and Rural Development Banks (SCARDBs) and Primary Cooperative Agricultural and Rural Development Banks (PCARDBs).
    97th Constitutional Amendment Act 2011
    – It established the right to form cooperative societies as a fundamental right (Article 19).
    – It included a new Directive Principle of State Policy on the Promotion of Cooperative Societies (Article 43-B).
    – It added a new Part IX-B to the Constitution titled “The Co-operative Societies(Articles 243-ZH to 243-ZT).
    – It authorizes the Parliament to establish relevant laws in the case of multi-state cooperative societies (MSCS) and state legislatures in the case of other cooperative societies.

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: GS3/Environment

    Context

    • The Congress party has described the proposed Rs 72,000-crore infrastructure upgrade at the Great Nicobar project to the island’s indigenous inhabitants and fragile ecosystem.

    The Great Nicobar Project

    • The Project involves developing an International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT), an international airport, township development, and a 450 MVA gas and solar-based power plant on the island.
    • The ICTT is expected to allow Great Nicobar to participate in the regional and global maritime economy by becoming a major player in cargo transshipment. 
    • A proposed “greenfield city” will tap into both the maritime and tourism potential of the island.
    • The site for the proposed ICTT and power plant is Galathea Bay on the southeastern corner of Great Nicobar Island, where there is no human habitation.

    Strategic Importance of the Island

    • The Malacca Strait, the main waterway that connects the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, is very close to the islands of Andaman and Nicobar. Hence this can help India counter China’s ‘String of Pearls’ strategy.
    • Sabang in Indonesia is 90 nautical miles southeast of Indira Point (on Great Nicobar island), and Coco Island in Myanmar is 18 nautical miles from the northernmost tip of the Andamans. 
    • The islands share four of India’s international maritime zone delimitations with Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. 
    • They also give India substantial ocean space under the United Nations Conference on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) in terms of exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

    Environmental concerns of the Project

    • Ecological Threats: The destruction of forests and habitats poses a serious threat to the island’s biodiversity, including various endemic and endangered species.
    • Rights Violation: The project allegedly violates the rights of the Shompen, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) of hunter-gatherers. The disruption of their traditional lands and lifestyle raises human rights concerns.
    • Inadequate Consultation: Critics argue that the local administration has not sufficiently consulted the Tribal Council of Great and Little Nicobar Islands, as required by law.
    • Threat to Marine Species: The construction and associated activities will destroy coral reefs, and would also have a cascading effect on the local marine ecosystem.
    • Volatile Zone: The proposed port is situated in a seismically active zone that experienced a significant geological event during the 2004 tsunami, leading to concerns about the safety and long-term stability of the infrastructure in such a location.

    Way Ahead

    • In April 2023, the Kolkata Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) declined to interfere with the environmental and forest clearance granted to the project. 
    • The Tribunal, however, ordered that a high-power committee should be constituted to look into the clearances. 
    Andaman and Nicobar Islands

    Location: The islands are located 1,300 km southeast of the Indian mainland in the Bay of Bengal.
    a. It extends from 6° 45′ N to 13° 41′ N and from 92° 12′ E to 93° 57′ E.
    – This archipelago is composed of more than 500 big and small islands, which are divided into two distinct groups of islands – The Andaman Islands and the Nicobar Islands.
    a. ‘Ten Degree Channel’ separates the Andaman Islands in the north from the Nicobar Islands in the south.

    The Andaman Islands

    – These islands are divided into three major sub-groups – North Andaman, Middle Andaman, and South Andaman.
    – The capital city of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands Port Blair is located in South Andaman.

    The Nicobar Islands

    – These islands are divided into three major sub-groups – Northern Group, Central Group, and Southern Group.
    a. The Great Nicobar is the largest and the southernmost island in the group located in the Southern Group.
    b. India’s southernmost point ‘Indira Point’ is located at the southern tip of the Great Nicobar.

    Other Features

    – Most of these islands have a volcanic base and are made of tertiary sandstone, limestone, and shale.
    a. The Barren and Narcondam islands, north of Port Blair, are volcanic islands.
    b. Some of the islands are fringed with coral reefs.
    Saddle Peak (737 m) in North Andaman is the highest peak in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
    – The names of the following three islands were changed in 2018:
    a. Ross Island – renamed as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Dweep
    b. Neil Island – renamed as Shaheed Dweep
    c. Havelock Island – renamed as Swaraj Dweep

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: GS3/Environmental Pollution

    Context

    • As per the State of Global Air Report 2024, Air pollution has caused 8.1 million deaths around the world in 2021.

    Key Highlights of the Report

    • More than 90 percent of these global air pollution deaths – 7.8 million people – are attributed to PM2.5 air pollution, including from ambient PM2.5 and household air pollution.
    • China and India account for more than half of the global burden at 2.3 and 2.1 million deaths respectively.
    • Air pollution was the second leading risk factor for death among children under 5 in 2021, after malnutrition. 
    • The report states that 489,000 deaths globally were attributable to ozone exposure in 2021.
    • 99% of the world’s population lives in places with unhealthy levels of PM2.5 pollution. 
    • Air pollution is considered to be one of the biggest killers globally, second only to high blood pressure. 

    Scenario in India

    • India and China account for 55% of the global burden deaths due to air pollution. 
    • Indians are also exposed to high levels of ozone. Short-term exposure to ozone has been linked to exacerbation of asthma and other respiratory symptoms while long term exposure is linked to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease  — a condition where the lungs remain inflamed obstructing the airflow. 

    Air Pollution

    • When harmful substances (pollutants) – particles, gases, or matter – are released into the air and reduce its quality, the air is polluted. 
    • Common air pollutants include: Particulate Matter (PM), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Ozone (O3), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Lead etc.
    • Source: These pollutants can originate from natural sources such as volcanic eruptions and wildfires, but human activities such as industrial production, transportation, agriculture, and residential heating are significant contributors to air pollution. 
    • Concerns: 
      • Health Related: Respiratory issues, cardiovascular problems, reduced lung function.
      • Environmental: Ecosystem damage, Biodiversity loss, Water pollution, climate change, crop damage.
      • Healthcare Costs: The health impacts of air pollution result in increased healthcare costs, including expenses related to the treatment of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

    Steps Taken by Government of India to combat Air Pollution

    • National Clean Air Programme (NCAP): Launched in 2019, NCAP is a comprehensive initiative with the goal of reducing air pollution in identified cities and regions across India.
      • The program focuses on improving air quality monitoring, implementing stricter emission standards, and promoting public awareness.
    • Bharat Stage VI (BS-VI) Emission Standards: The government implemented BS-VI emission standards for vehicles nationwide in 2020.
      • These standards aim to reduce vehicular emissions by mandating the use of cleaner fuel and more advanced emission control technologies.
    • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY): The PMUY scheme aims to provide clean cooking fuel to households by promoting the use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as an alternative to traditional biomass-based cooking methods. 
    • FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles) Scheme: The FAME scheme promotes the adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles to reduce air pollution caused by vehicular emissions.
      • Incentives are provided to both manufacturers and consumers to encourage the use of electric vehicles.
    • Green Initiatives for Sustainable Habitat (GRIHA): GRIHA is an initiative to promote sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in the construction and operation of buildings.
      • It encourages the use of energy-efficient technologies and materials to reduce pollution.
    • Waste Management Programs: Proper waste management is crucial to prevent the burning of waste, which contributes to air pollution.
      • Various waste management initiatives, including the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, aim to address solid waste issues and promote cleaner disposal methods.
    • Commission for Air Quality Management: The Commission has been set up for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas for better coordination, research, identification, and resolution of problems surrounding the air quality index.

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: GS2/ IR

    In Context

    • The recent meeting of the India-Cambodia Joint Working Group on Trade and Investment (JWGTI) highlighted several areas of mutual interest and potential collaboration. 

    Key Points on Meeting

    • Cooperation in Traditional Medicine: Both nations explored opportunities for collaboration in traditional medicine, aiming to leverage shared knowledge and practices.
    • Bilateral Investment Treaty: Both countries discussed the framework for a bilateral investment treaty to promote and protect investments, providing a stable and predictable investment environment.
    • Pharmaceutical Sector:
    • Recognition of Indian Pharmacopoeia: India sought recognition of its pharmacopoeia in Cambodia, which would facilitate the export of Indian pharmaceutical products.
    • UPI-Based Payments: Progress on collaboration in Unified Payment Interface (UPI) based digital payments was reviewed. This initiative aims to promote trade and tourism by facilitating seamless and secure transactions.
    • Trade Enhancement: Measures to enhance trade value and volume, facilitate trade expansion, and promote investment were discussed. Both sides agreed on the importance of increased interaction for achieving mutual benefits.

    Key Facts: Cambodia

    • Capital: Phnom Penh
    • Boundaries: Cambodia is located in the southeastern part of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia, it is bordered by Vietnam to the east and south, Laos in northeast, Thailand in west/northwest, and by the Gulf of Thailand in west.

    • Geographical Features: Cambodia’s landscape is characterized by a low-lying central alluvial plain that is surrounded by uplands and low mountains and includes the Tonle Sap (Great Lake) and the upper reaches of the Mekong River delta. 
    • Mekong Ganga Cooperation(MGC) initiative: Under the Mekong Ganga Cooperation(MGC) initiative, India helped in the establishment of the Asian Traditional Textile Museum at Siem Reap. The museum, one of its first kind in Cambodia, was completed in December 2011. 

    Source: AIR

    Syllabus: Miscellaneous

    Context

    • The International Day of Yoga, 2024 is being celebrated with the theme ‘Yoga for Self and Society’.

    About

    • The National celebration of 10th International Day of Yoga 2024 was organized at Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir.
    • On the occasion, the Ministry of AYUSH launched a ‘Common Yoga Protocol Book in Braille’ Script to support the visually impaired to learn and Practice Yoga with convenience.
    • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is organizing a unique initiative ‘Yoga for Space’ to mark the International Day of Yoga 2024.

    Timeline

    • On India’s insistence, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 21st June as the International Day of Yoga (IDY) in a resolution adopted in December 2014 during the 69 th session.
    • The first International Yoga Day was celebrated in New Delhi in 2015.
    • The date of 21 June was chosen as it is the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and shares a special significance in many parts of the world.

    Source: PIB

    Syllabus: GS3/Infrastructure; Connectivity

    Context

    • Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the development of an all-weather, greenfield, deep draft Major Port at Vadhavan in Palghar District of Maharashtra.

    About the Greenfield Port Vadhavan

    • Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV): The port will be constructed by Vadhavan Port Project Limited (VPPL), an SPV formed by Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA) and Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB), with a shareholding of 74% and 26%, respectively.

    Strategic Significance

    • IMEEEC Integration: The Vadhavan port will be an integral part of the India-Middle East-Economic-Corridor (IMEEEC), enhancing connectivity between India, the Middle East, and Europe.
      • It aligns with the objectives of the PM Gati Shakti Program, promoting economic activity and employment opportunities.
    • Global Competitiveness: The port’s world-class facilities will attract mainline mega vessels from international shipping lines.
      • Leveraging Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), it will utilise modern technologies for efficient operations.
    • Trade Flow Enhancement: Capacities created will facilitate EXIM trade flow through the IMEEEC and the International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).
    Major Ports in India

    – These are under the administrative control of the Ministry of Shipping (while the non-major ports are under the jurisdiction of respective State Maritime Boards/ State Government).

    West Coast Ports

    Kochi (Kerala); Kolkata (West Bengal); Kandla (Gujarat); Mormugao (Goa); New Mangalore (Karnataka); Mumbai or Bombay (Maharashtra); Jawaharlal Nehru Port or Nhava Sheva (Maharashtra); Vadhavan (Maharashtra)

    East Coast Ports
    Chennai (Tamil Nadu); Ennore (Tamil Nadu); Paradip (Odisha); Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh); V.O. Chidambaranar, formerly Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu); Port Blair (Andaman and Nicobar Islands) 

    Greenfield Project

    – It is a type of project that involves creating something from scratch. It is a term used to describe a project that has no existing infrastructure, processes, or systems in place.

    Source: IE

    Syllabus: GS3/ Economy

    In News

    • In an effort to bolster its revenue stream, national miner Coal India Ltd (CIL) has awarded its abandoned coal mines to private players on a revenue-sharing model. 
      • Private sector coal miners bid to share a minimum of 4 per cent revenue with CIL for a period of 25 years.

    About Revenue Sharing Model

    • A revenue sharing model is a business model where two or more parties agree to share the revenue generated from a joint business activity. 
    • The Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) introduced in India includes a revenue sharing model where the government receives a share of the gross revenue from the sale of oil and gas, regardless of the costs incurred by the operator.

    Source: BS

    Syllabus: GS3/Infrastructure

    Context

    • Recently, NITI Aayog informed that the National Monetisation Pipeline monetised Rs 3.85 Lakh Crore Assets In last 3 Years.
    Background

    – It was launched by the Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs for Central Ministries and Public Sector Entities, and was developed by NITI Aayog in consultation with infrastructure line ministries, based on the mandate for ‘Asset Monetisation’ under Union Budget 2021-22.

    National Monetisation Pipeline

    • It is a strategic initiative aimed at unlocking the value of brownfield public sector assets.
    • It lists potential core assets of the Central Government that can be monetized.’
    • It estimates aggregate monetisation potential of Rs 6.0 lakh crores through core assets of the Central Government, over a four-year period, from FY 2022 to FY 2025.
    • The estimated value corresponds to about 14% of the proposed outlay for Centre under National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) i.e. Rs 43 lakh crore.
    • The top 5 sectors (by estimated value) capture about 83% of the aggregate pipeline value.
      • These include: Roads (27%) followed by Railways (25%), Power (15%), Oil & Gas Pipelines (8%) and Telecom (6%).
    • It aligns with the philosophy of ‘Creation through Monetisation’, tapping private sector investment for new infrastructure development.

    Vision and Purpose

    • NMP aims to provide universal access to high-quality and affordable infrastructure for all citizens.
    • It encourages private sector participation in infrastructure creation, fostering economic growth and welfare.

    Asset Monetization Approach

    • It focuses on structured contractual partnerships, rather than outright privatisation.
    • Institutional and long-term patient capital can be leveraged for further public investments.

    Infrastructure Sectors Covered

    • The pipeline includes sectors such as roads, railways, power, telecommunications, shipping ports, and more.
    • These assets will be monetised over the specified four-year period.

    Ministries Performance (2023-24)

    • The Ministries of Road Transport and Highways (Rs 40,314 crore) and Ministry of Coal (Rs 56,794 crore) were the top two achievers with a total achievement of Rs. 97,000 crore.
    • The Ministry of Power (Rs 14,690 crore), Mines (Rs 4,090 crore), Petroleum and Natural Gas (Rs 9,587 crore), Urban (Rs 6,480 crore), and Shipping (Rs 7,627 crore) have achieved more than 70% of the target set for them.

    Source: PIB

    Syllabus: GS3/ Environment

    In Context

    • A recent herpetofauna survey conducted in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve has led to the discovery of a new species of limbless amphibian, the striped caecilian (Ichthyophis spp).

    About

    • Caecilians are limbless amphibians that spend most of their lives burrowed underground. They are ancient species and their presence provides valuable insights into evolution and intercontinental speciation.
    • Reptiles and amphibians, collectively known as herpetofauna, are crucial for maintaining ecological balance and are considered indicator species for environmental health.

    Kaziranga National Park

    • It is a National Park located in Assam.
    • It is situated on the banks of the Brahmaputra River and lies between the Brahmaputra River and the Karbi (Mikir) Hills.
    • Kaziranga is home to around 2/3rd of the world’s Great Indian One-Horned Rhinos. It is one of the last remaining homes of the endangered and endemic Western Hoolock Gibbon, the only species of apes found in India. It is one of the last homes of the critically endangered Bengal Florican.
    • It is a part of the Eastern Himalayan Biodiversity Hotspots.
    • The Diphlu River runs through it. National Highway 37 passes through it.
    • It was designated as a National Park in 1974 and was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. It has also been declared as an Important Bird Area by the Birdlife International.

    Source: TH

    Syllabus: GS1/Geography

    Context

    • The Cabinet has approved the Central government’s proposal to continue the mining activities at the defunct Bharat Gold Mines Limited’s (BGML) mine at kolar gold fields (KGF).

    About

    • It is located in Kolar District, Karnataka and is situated 100 km east of Bangalore. 
    • The history of Kolar Gold Fields dates back to the early 19th century when gold was first discovered in the area. 
    • KGF was one of the deepest gold mines in the world, reaching depths of over 3,000 meters.
    • It was one of the major gold mining centers in India until the mines were closed in 2001 due to low gold prices and increasing operational costs. 

    Source: TH