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23 June Current Affairs

Ambubachi Mela

In News:

Ambubachi Mela, a four-day fair to mark the annual menstruation of the goddess is being held at Kamakhya temple in Guwahati.

About Ambubachi Mela:

The Ambubachi Mela symbolises the fertility cult of goddess Kamakhya.

There is no idol in the temple, the goddess is worshipped in the form of a yoni-like stone over which a natural spring flows.

Also known as Siddha Kubjika, the goddess is a Hindu tantric goddess of desire who evolved in the Himalayan hills. She is also identified as Kali and Maha Tripura.

The festival is also known as ‘Mahakumbh of the East’ as it draws lakhs of devotees from all over the world.

Social significance of the festival:

The ritualistic fair celebrating the goddess’ period is one of the reasons why the taboo associated with menstruation is less in Assam compared with other parts of India. The attainment of womanhood of girls in Assam is celebrated with a ritual called ‘Tuloni Biya’, meaning small wedding. Ambubachi Mela serves as an occasion to promote awareness on menstrual hygiene.

Facts for Prelims:

Kamakhya, atop Nilachal Hills in Guwahati, is one of 51 shaktipeeths or seat of Shakti followers, each representing a body part of the Sati, Lord Shiva’s companion.

Source: The Hindu

Chabahar port

In News:

India is trying to make Chabahar Port in Iran operational by 2019 despite a threat of renewed US sanctions against Tehran.

Background:

The Indian-backed Chabahar port complex in Iran is being developed as part of a new transportation corridor for land-locked Afghanistan that could potentially open the way for millions of dollars in trade and cut its dependence on Pakistan, its sometimes-hostile neighbour.

Where is Chabahar port?

Iran’s Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country. The port gives access to the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations’ southern coast and India can bypass Pakistan with the Chabahar port becoming functional.

Why Chabahar port is crucial for India?

The first and foremost significance of the Chabahar port is the fact that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan. Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.

Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.

With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.

With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.

Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This is will, in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.

From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.

Source: The Hindu

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2018 report

In News:

The U.N. has released its annual checkup report on the SDGs, accompanied by a call from U.N. Chief António Guterres that, “we must inject a sense of urgency” in making good on the ambitious 2030 development agenda. The SDG Report presents an overview of progress toward achieving the Goals, which were unanimously adopted by countries in 2015.

Highlights of the report:

Concerns: Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals remains uneven, and is not moving fast enough to meet the ambitious 17 goals on poverty, health, and equality by 2030.

Challenges: A fast-changing climate, conflict, inequality, persistent pockets of poverty and hunger and rapid urbanization are challenging countries’ efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The hunger challenge: There are now approximately 38 million more hungry people in the world, rising from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016.  According to the report, conflict is now one of the main drivers of food insecurity in 18 countries.

Sanitation and Health: In 2015, 2.3 billion people still lacked even a basic level of sanitation service and 892 million people continued to practice open defecation. In 2016, there were 216 million cases of malaria compared to 210 million cases in 2013 and close to 4 billion people were left without social protection in 2016. The under-five mortality rate dropped by almost 50% and in the least developed countries.

Individual SDG highlights include:

On SDG 2 (zero hunger), the number of hungry people in the world has risen from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016, mostly as a result of conflicts and disasters and droughts linked to climate change. In 18 countries, the report finds that conflict is a main driver of food insecurity.

On SDG 4 (quality education), more than half of children and adolescents are not meeting minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics, with disparities persisting along gender, urban-rural and other divides.

On SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), in 2015, 2.3 billion people lacked a basic level of sanitation, and 892 million people practiced open defecation.

On SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 91% of the global urban population breathes air that does not meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality guidelines for particulate matter.

On SDG 14 (life below water), global trends suggest declining marine fish stocks and deterioration of coastal waters, due to pollution and eutrophication.

On SDG 15 (life on land), the report finds that the world’s forest areas continue to shrink.

On SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), more than 570 different flows involving trafficking in persons were found between 2012 and 2014.

On SDG 17 (partnership for the Goals), official development assistance (ODA) for capacity building and national planning has been stable since 2010.

Way ahead:

Transitioning towards more sustainable and resilient societies requires an integrated approach that recognizes that these challenges—and their solutions—are interrelated. As the global community moves forward to achieve the SDGs and address existing challenges, reliable, timely, accessible and disaggregated data is critically needed. This requires technology and innovation, increased resources and political commitment to build strong data and statistical systems in all countries.

Source: The Hindu

Campaign to promote energy efficiency in the area of air-conditioning

In News:

Union Power Ministry has launched a campaign to promote energy efficiency in the area of air-conditioning. This initiative is launched on voluntary basis to increase awareness and encourage consumers to adopt the guidelines. It will save energy and reduce greenhouse gases.

Need for energy efficiency in the area of air- conditioning:

Every one degree increase in the air-conditioner temperature setting results in saving of 6% of electricity consumed. The new campaign will result in substantial energy savings and also reduce greenhouse gas emission.

Besides, normal human body temperature is approximately 36-37 degree Celsius, but large number of commercial establishments, hotels and offices maintain temperature around 18-21 degree Celsius. This is not only uncomfortable but is actually unhealthy.

Setting the temperature in the range of 18-21 degree Celsius compels people to wear warm clothing or use blankets; therefore, this is actually wastage of energy.

Expected outcomes:

After an awareness campaign of 4-6 months, followed by a survey to gather public feedback, the Ministry of Power would consider making this mandatory.  If all the consumers adopt, this will result in savings of 20 billion units of electricity in one year alone.

Way ahead:

Under the guidance of Ministry of Power, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has carried out a study and has recommended that the default setting in the air-conditioning should be at 24 degree Celsius.

Manufacturers have also been advised to keep the default setting of air conditioners at 24 degree Celsius and also to carry out labelling indicating the optimum temperature setting for the benefits of consumers both from financial and their health points of view. These temperatures setting will be in the range of 24-26 degree Celsius.

Facts for Prelims:

Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) was established in March 2002, as a statutory body by the Government of India under the Energy Conservation Act 2001.

It is responsible for spearheading the improvement of energy efficiency of the economy through various regulatory and promotional instruments. The primary goal of BEE is to reduce the energy intensity in the Indian economy.

It coordinates with State level agencies and energy consumers to perform functions and exercise powers that may be necessary for efficient use of energy and its conservation in India.

Source: PIB

Unispace+50

In News:

UNISPACE+50 was held recently to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and highlight past and future Agency activities in support of the UN’s space-related actions.

Key facts:

UNISPACE+50 was celebrated at the Vienna International Centre, bringing together the international community, and reflecting on the past and future of space activities around the world.

It was a chance to assess results following the three prior UNISPACE conferences, held in 1968, 1982 and 1999, and consider how the future course of global space cooperation can benefit everyone on Earth.

 ‘Space2030’ agenda:

The event aimed at shaping the UN’s comprehensive ‘Space2030’ agenda. The Space2030 agenda will map out how spaceflight and space-related activities can help achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing overarching, long-term development concerns, through the peaceful exploration and uses of outer space.

Facts for Prelims:

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) works to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use and exploration of space, and in the utilisation of space science and technology for sustainable economic and social development.

The Office assists any United Nations Member States to establish legal and regulatory frameworks to govern space activities and strengthens the capacity of developing countries to use space science technology and applications for development by helping to integrate space capabilities into national development programmes.

UNOOSA is also responsible for implementing the Secretary-General’s responsibilities under international space law and maintaining the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space.

UNOOSA is the current secretariat of the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG).

Source: The Hindu

NASA Plans to Protect Earth From Giant Asteroids

In News:

NASA has released a report outlining the federal government’s response in the event that an asteroid or comet flying through space should ever impact Earth.

Details:

“The National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan” shows how the U.S. federal government would protect and prepare the planet for such an event, and outlines five strategic goals for reducing the risk of an impact.

The five strategic goals include:

Enhance NEO detection, tracking, and characterization capabilities.

Improve NEO modeling prediction, and information integration.

Develop technologies for NEO deflection and disruption missions.

Increase international cooperation on NEO preparation.

Establish NEO impact emergency procedures and action protocols.

Potentially hazardous asteroids:

Asteroid-hunting astronomers have already found more than 8,000 near-Earth objects measuring at least 460 feet (140 meters) across — large enough to wipe out an entire state if one were to hit the U.S. But asteroids that size make up only one-third of the estimated population of near-Earth asteroids. Smaller asteroid impacts may be less catastrophic, but they can still cause significant damage.

NASA and its partners have identified more than 95% of all asteroids that are large enough to cause a global catastrophe, and none of those found poses a threat within the century.

Source: The Hindu

SKOCH Award

In News:

Ministry of Women & Child Development has received the ‘Best Performing Social Sector Ministry’ SKOCH Award for its Achievements and Initiatives.

Key facts:

The Skoch Awards celebrate human excellence and agents of change in Indian society. They are the highest independently instituted civilian honours in India.

Only end-user departments and domain ministries may apply including State undertakings.

The Skoch Awards have become the only independent benchmark of best practices in India in the fields of governance, finance, banking, technology, corporate citizenship, economics and inclusive growth.

Skoch Consultancy Services is a think tank dealing with socio-economic issues with a focus on inclusive growth.

Source: PIB

Bharat 22 Exchange Traded Fund (ETF)

In News:

The government has announced the first Further Fund Offer (FFO) of Bharat 22 Exchange Traded Fund (ETF). This is in pursuance of its disinvestment policy targeting an initial amount of Rs.6,000 crore.

BHARAT 22:

Bharat 22 consists of 22 stocks of CPSE’s, PSB’s & strategic holding of SUUTI. Bharat 22 is a well Diversified portfolio with 6 sectors (Basic Materials, Energy, Finance, FMCG, Industrials & Utilities).

The Bharat 22 Index will be rebalanced annually. ICICI Prudential AMC will be the ETF Manager and Asia Index Private Limited (JV BSE and S& P Global) will be the Index Provider.

Source: PIB

Spanish Flu

  • The outbreak of Spanish Flu in 1918 is the history’s worst known infectious disease.
  • It is considered to be one of the global pandemics that causes death of 40 millions in 1918-1919 across the world.
  • Influenza is a virus that is known to cause the flu.
  • The virus attacks mainly the upper respiratory tract such as the nose, throat and bronchi and rarely also the lungs.
  • The different types of influenza include A, B and C.
  • The serotypes of influenza A virus like the H1N1, H5N1, H3N2, etc., have caused pandemics in humans.
  • H1N1 is the strain that caused Spanish outbreak which acquired the ability to infect humans and then to become transmissible among humans.
  • The virus is easily passed from person to person through the air by droplets and small particles excreted when infected individuals cough or sneeze.
  • The influenza virus enters the body through the nose or throat and takes between 1 to 4 days for the person to develop symptoms.
  • Disease spreads very quickly among the population especially in crowded circumstances.
  • Cold and dry weather enables the virus to survive longer outside the body than in other conditions and, as a consequence, seasonal epidemics in temperate areas appear in winter.

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