Railways Plans Hydrogen-Powered Engine by 2021
During the 107th Indian Science Congress, the Indian Railways has announced that it will build a hydrogen-powered rail engine by the end of 2021.
The Indian Railways Organisation for Alternate Fuels (IROAF) will be developing a hydrogen-powered rail engine — a technology that has been demonstrated successfully only in Germany so far.
The proposed train will have four passenger coaches operating at 75 km/hr speed.
One coach will carry the hydrogen gas cylinders, fuel cells, supercapacitors and DC converters.
Hydrogen will be the input to the fuel cell and the power output of the fuel cell will drive the train.
The next phase is to generate hydrogen on board the train from water. This means that water will be converted into hydrogen through water splitting technologies and hydrogen will then be used as the input for fuel cells.
Hydrogen-powered rail engine will help to reduce reliance on fossil fuel-based energy sources like diesel and electricity and to find alternative sources of fuel to power its trains.
Miyawaki Method in Kerala
Kerala has decided to use the Japanese Miyawaki method of afforestation.
Earlier, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Telangana and some other states adopted this method.
The replication of the model across Kerala, which has suffered floods, landslides and soil erosion, assumes significance with the Rebuild Kerala initiative on.
The Miyawaki method has revolutionised the concept of urban afforestation by turning backyards into mini-forests.
Regardless of soil and climatic conditions it has helped create more than 3,000 forests all over the world.
It creates a dense forest in just 20 to 30 years, while through conventional methods it takes anywhere between 200 to 300 years.
Forests grow 10 times faster and 30 times denser.
The saplings become self-sustainable after the first three years.
The native trees of the region are identified and divided into four layers — shrub, sub-tree, tree, and canopy.
The quality of soil is analysed and biomass which would help enhance the perforation capacity, water retention capacity, and nutrients in it, is mixed with it.
A mound is built with the soil and the seeds are planted at a very high density. The ground is covered with a thick layer of mulch.
Multi-layered saplings are planted close to each other. This blocks sunlight from reaching the ground and prevents weeds from growing, thus keeping the soil moist. The close cropping further ensures that the plants receive sunlight only from the top thus enabling them to grow upwards rather than sideways.
This is one of the reasons why the saplings grow tall in a short span of time.
Such forests lack some qualities of natural forests, such as medicinal properties and the ability to bring rain.
Such fast-growing plantations are actually wood lots (a parcel of a woodland or forest capable of small-scale production of forest products (such as wood fuel, sap for maple syrup, sawlogs, and pulpwood) and cannot be termed as forests.
Several environmentalists have questioned the efficacy of the method that accelerates the growth of trees and claims to match a forest’s complex ecosystem (as it is not a good idea to force plants to photosynthesize fast).
Environmentalists also pointed out that the technique was started by the Japanese considering the climate in Japan and the regular occurrence of natural calamities like earthquakes. But, the method is not good for a tropical country like India.
Demand for Declaration of Goa Sanctuaries as Tiger Reserve
Activists and politicians from Goa have demanded that certain areas in wildlife sanctuaries of the state be notified as a tiger reserve.
In 2017, the State government had proposed about 500 sq km area of Mahadayi, Netravali and Cotigao sanctuaries with some part of Bhagwan Mahaveer wildlife sanctuary to be marked as a tiger reserve.
Recent deaths of four tigers in Mahadayi wildlife sanctuary has brought the demand again in the scenario.
1) Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary:
Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Goa bounded by Cotigao wildlife sanctuary on the eastern side and Bhagwan Mahaveer wildlife sanctuary on the northern side.
It is predominantly moist deciduous forests with patches of semi-evergreen forest in the valleys.
It has two important waterfalls namely, Savari and Mainapi.
This region supports a rich diversity of flora and fauna and notable among them are Leopard, Giant Squirrel, Mouse Deer, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon and Ceylon Frogmouth.
2) Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary:
Cotigao Sanctuary is situated in Canacona Taluka, of Goa.
It was established in 1968-69 to protect a remote and vulnerable area of forest lining the Goa- Karnataka border.
The vegetation is mostly moist-deciduous type, interspersed with semi-evergreen and evergreen patches.
3) Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary:
Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Mollem town of Goa.
It is one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries of Goa and contains within it the Mollem National Park.
It was formed to protect the vast biodiversity of the Western Ghat.
Originally known as the Mollem Game Sanctuary, it was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1969 and thence renamed the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary.
The sanctuary is heavily forested and contains tropical evergreen forests, semi-evergreen forests and moist deciduous forests.
IEA launches India’s Energy Policy Report
On January 10, 2020, the International Energy Agency (IEA) launched India’s Energy Policy Report.
The report insisted that India should adopt its think tank NITI Aayog’s National Energy Policy. IEA released its “India Report 2020”, in collaboration with NITI Aayog.
Key Findings of the report:
The oil demand of India will overtake China by mid-2020. It will make India more vulnerable to supply disruption in the middle east.
According to the report, oil demand of India will reach 6 million barrels per day by 2024. It was 4.4 million barrels per day in 2017.
The report also said that India is the third largest consumer of oil after China and United States.
Also, India imports 80% of its oil needs. Of this, 65% are from middle east through Strait of Hormuz.
India is the fourth largest oil refiner in the world. The products mainly include diesel and gasoline.
The report said that India’s plan of increasing its refining capacity to 8 million barrels per day by 2025 will make India an attractive market for investment in the refinery sector.
Strategic Petroleum Reserves:
The agency releases strategic petroleum reserves of developed countries. It insisted that India has to expand its fuel reserves.
The Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited maintains emergency fuel store of 5.33 metric tones.
This will fulfill the demand of the country for 10 days. There are three such oil storage reserves located at Padur, Mangalore and Vizag.
In 2017-18 budget, it was announced that India is to build 2 more reserves at Chandikhole and Bikaner respectively.
India erects “steel fence” across Pakistan, Bangladesh border
India will erect non-cut steel fence in the sensitive areas of Pakistan and Bangladesh borders.
The plan is being executed after security agencies have detected Afghan fighters along India-Pakistan border.
The first steel fence is to be erected across 7-km stretch in Assam’s Silchar, the border across Bangladesh.
After erection, the border is to be analysed by the BSF (Border Security Force). Based on the feedback of these fence implementation, more such fences are to be implemented.
The implementation cost has been estimated as Rs 2 crores per kilo metre.
Apart from steel fences, there are plans to implement LASER fences across the two borders. In order to implement the projects, the Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIMBMS) has been speeded up.
The CIBMS operates under Ministry of Home Affairs.
The presence of well-trained terrorists in the borders has increased.
Therefore, it is important to secure the vulnerable infiltration spots along the border. Also, these vulnerable spots might be used by the terrorists to create trouble in the newly formed Union Territory.
Recent security measures:
The GoI recently has implemented several security measures to guard its international border, especially after abrogating Article 370.
Around a lakh of Central Armed Forces were deployed in Kashmir. Government also mapped infiltration prone areas along the two borders.
In 2018, the BSF mapped and identified vulnerable spots in three-staged exercise.
New Facility to Tackle Cyber Crimes
The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) was recently inaugurated by the government. National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal has also been launched pan India.
Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre:
The scheme to set up I4C was approved in October 2018, to deal with all types of cybercrimes in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
It has seven components:
15 States and Union Territories have given their consent to set up Regional Cyber Crime Coordination Centres.
This state-of-the-art Centre is located in New Delhi.
National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal:
It is a citizen-centric initiative which will enable citizens to report cybercrimes online and all the complaints will be accessed by the concerned law enforcement agencies for taking action as per law.
The portal specifically focuses on crimes against women, children, particularly child pornography, child sex abuse material, online content pertaining to rapes/gang rapes, etc.
It also focuses on crimes like financial crime and social media related crimes like stalking, cyberbullying, etc.
The portal was launched on a pilot basis on 30th August 2019.
It will improve the capacity of law enforcement agencies to investigate the cases after successful completion by improving coordination amongst the law enforcement agencies of different States, districts and police stations.