Deal inked for biofuel research
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has signed a three-year, ₹11 crore deal with The Energy and Research Institute to set up a centre to produce “advanced biofuels and bio-commodities.”
This is the fifth such dedicated centre for bioenergy-research and development set up by the Department. The others are located at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi; the Indian Institute of Technology-Guwahati; Transtech Green Power Limited, Jaipur; and the Oil and Natural Gas Energy Centre in the National Capital Region.
The bio-centre would be focussed on not only developing technology but also commercialising it.
Other than fuel, by-products envisaged at the TERI-DBT Centre include food, feed, nutrition supplements, bio-plastics and novelty speciality chemicals.
Significance of Biofuels:
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.
Classification of Biofuels:
1st generation biofuels are also called conventional biofuels. They are made from things like sugar, starch, or vegetable oil. Note that these are all food products. Any biofuel made from a feedstock that can also be consumed as a human food is considered a first generation biofuel.
2nd generation biofuels are produced from sustainable feedstock. The sustainability of a feedstock is defined by its availability, its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, its impact on land use, and by its potential to threaten the food supply. No second generation biofuel is also a food crop, though certain food products can become second generation fuels when they are no longer useful for consumption. Second generation biofuels are often called “advanced biofuels.”
3rd generation biofuels are biofuel derived from algae. These biofuels are given their own separate class because of their unique production mechanism and their potential to mitigate most of the drawbacks of 1st and 2nd generation biofuels.
Source: The Hindu
United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
109th session of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Executive Council is being held in Manama, Bahrain. The Executive Council will discuss several topics on the agenda that are related to the development of global Tourism sector.
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
UNWTO’s membership includes 158 countries, 6 Associate Members and over 500 Affiliate Members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities.
As the leading international organization in the field of tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide.
UNWTO encourages the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, to maximize tourism’s socio-economic contribution while minimizing its possible negative impacts, and is committed to promoting tourism as an instrument in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), geared towards reducing poverty and fostering sustainable development worldwide.
UNWTO generates market knowledge, promotes competitive and sustainable tourism policies and instruments, fosters tourism education and training, and works to make tourism an effective tool for development through technical assistance projects in over 100 countries around the world.
International Solar Alliance (ISA)
The Union Cabinet has given ex-post facto approval for moving a Resolution in the first Assembly of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) for amending the Framework Agreement of the ISA for opening up the ISA membership to all countries that are members of the United Nations.
Opening the membership of the ISA will put solar energy in global agenda with the universal appeal for developing and deploying solar energy.
It will make ISA inclusive, whereby all member countries that are members of the United Nations could become member.
Expanding membership will lead to ISA initiative benefitting the world at large.
The Paris Declaration establishes ISA as an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries.
Objectives: The ISA’s major objectives include global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity and mobilisation of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030.
As an action-oriented organisation, the ISA brings together countries with rich solar potential to aggregate global demand, thereby reducing prices through bulk purchase, facilitating the deployment of existing solar technologies at scale, and promoting collaborative solar R&D and capacity building.
When the ISA Framework Agreement entered into force on December 6th, 2017, ISA formally became a de-jure treaty based International Intergovernmental Organization, headquartered at Gurugram, India.
The National Mission for Clean Ganga partnered with UN Habitat recently organized a policy dialogue- ‘Urban Cafe: River for Habitat’ in New Delhi on the occasion of World Cities Day 2018.
Experts in the sector got together to discuss the deep association that rivers have with various aspects of human civilization – our cities, our economy and various facets of our daily lives, the challenges to maintaining healthy river ecosystems and ways to deal with the same.
About UN Habitat:
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN–Habitat) is the United Nations agency for human settlements and sustainable urban development. It was established in 1978 as an outcome of the First UN Conference on Human Settlements and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat I) held in Vancouver, Canada in 1976.
It is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. It is a member of the United Nations Development Group.
The mandate of UN-Habitat derives from the Habitat Agenda, adopted by the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1996. The twin goals of the Habitat Agenda are adequate shelter for all and the development of sustainable human settlements in an urbanizing world.
As an inter-governmental policy making and decision making body, the Governing Council of UN-Habitat seeks to promote integral and comprehensive approach to human settlements, assist the countries and regions in addressing human settlement problems and strengthen cooperation among all countries on human settlement issue.
UN-Habitat reports to the United Nations General Assembly.
World Cities Day 2018:
World Cities Day is celebrated every year on October 31st.
Theme: “Building sustainable and resilient cities”.
Significance: The Day is expected to greatly promote the international community’s interest in global urbanization, push forward cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanization, and contributing to sustainable urban development around the world.
Section 7 of the RBI Act
In an unprecedented move, the government has reportedly invoked Section 7 of the Reserve Bank of India Act.
The issue of invoking Section 7 (1) of RBI Act came up during the hearing of Allahabad high court in a case filed by the Independent Power Producers Association of India challenging RBI’s 12 February circular. The high court, in August, said the government could issue directions to RBI under Section 7 of RBI Act.
Against this backdrop, the government issued a letter to the RBI governor seeking his views on exemption for power companies in relation to the 12 February circular. Another instance was when the government on 10 October sought the governor’s views on using RBI’s capital reserves for providing liquidity.
What does Section 7 of the RBI Act say?
According to Section 7 of the RBI Act the central government is empowered to issue directions it considers necessary for public interest to the central bank from time to time after consultation with the RBI governor.
“The Central Government may from time to time give such directions to the Bank as it may, after consultation with the Governor of the Bank, consider necessary in the public interest,” Section 7(1) of the RBI Act reads.
The sub-section under Section 7 further reads, “Subject to any such directions, the general superintendence and direction of the affairs and business of the Bank shall be entrusted to a Central Board of Directors which may exercise all powers and do all acts and things which may be exercised or done by the Bank.”
Section 7(3) reads, “Save as otherwise provided in regulations made by the Central Board, the Governor and in his absence the Deputy Governor nominated by him in this behalf, shall also have powers of general superintendence and direction of the affairs and the business of the Bank, and may exercise all powers and do all acts and things which may be exercised or done by the Bank.”
However, complete implication of the section cannot be determined because it has never been invoked in the history of independent India.
Why is Section 7 seen as an extreme measure?
This section has never been used in till now. It was not used even when the country was close to default in the dark days of 1991, nor in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis. It is not clear how this Section operates since it has never been used. The aggressive move could scandalise a section of academia and experts, while raising questions about the government’s intentions and the impact on RBI’s autonomy.
Source: The Hindu
World Bank’s Doing Business Report, 2018
The World Bank has released its latest Doing Business Report (DBR, 2019). The report ranks 190 economies based on how easy it is to do business there, taking into account trading regulations, property rights, contract enforcement, investment laws, the availability of credit and a number of other factors. The first report was published in 2003.
Performance of various countries:
Performance of India:
India climbed 23 spots from a year ago to rank 77 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s latest report on the ease of doing business.
It was also among the top 10 most improved economies along with countries such as China, Djibouti and Azerbaijan.
The ease of doing business in India improved notably after a series of reforms made it easier for companies to get construction permits, pay taxes and trade across borders.
Areas of improvement:
Entrepreneurs were able to start a business more easily after India integrated multiple application forms into a general incorporation form. Reforms also “streamlined the process of obtaining a building permit and made it faster and less expensive to obtain a construction permit.”
Last year, the country amended its insolvency and bankruptcy code which prevented willful defaulters from buying up any of their own troubled assets at discounted rates. That strengthened access to credit as “secured creditors are now given absolute priority over other claims within insolvency proceedings”.
Other areas of improvement included simplifying India’s complex tax structure that made it easier to pay taxes. Initiatives implemented under the National Trade Facilitation Action Plan 2017-2020 improved the efficiency of cross-border trading and reduced the time taken to meet compliance requirements.
Source: The Hindu
NASA’s Kepler space telescope
The Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel and will be retired after a 9-1/2-year mission.
Currently orbiting the sun 156 million km from the earth, the spacecraft will drift further from our planet when mission engineers turn off its radio transmitters.
About Kepler Mission:
Launched in 2009, the Kepler mission is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets.
Since the launch of the observatory in 2009, astronomers have discovered thousands of extra-solar planets, or exoplanets, through this telescope alone. Most of them are planets that are ranging between the size of Earth and Neptune (which itself is four times the size of Earth). Most of these planets were discovered in a small region of the constellation Cygnus, at which Kepler was pointed for the first four years of its mission.
As of March 2018, Kepler had found 2,342 confirmed planets; add potential planets, and its find of exoworlds stands at 4,587.
What is the habitable zone?
If a planet is too close to the star it orbits, any water on the surface quickly boils off, forming a steam atmosphere. If the planet is too far from the star, any water on the surface freezes.
The habitable zone (or “Goldilocks zone”) is the range of orbital distances from a star at which liquid water can exist on the surface of a planet.
This range of distances changes depending on the size and temperature of the star.
Earth is in the habitable zone of the sun – one of the reasons our planet has liquid water like oceans and lakes.
Source: The Hindu
Rashtriya Ekta Diwas
Rashtriya Ekta Diwas was observed on 31st October across the nation. It marks the occasion of the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
The government, in 2015, decided to observe Sardar Patel Jayanti Day as Ekta Diwas. This occasion provides an opportunity to re-affirm the inherent strength and resilience of the nation to withstand the threats to its unity, integrity and security.
Parker Solar Probe