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27 May Current Affairs

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

In News:

The Orchha town of Madhya Pradesh has been included in tentative list of the World Heritage Sites of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

About Orchha Town:

It is Situated on the banks of the river Betwa, in Niwari district of Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh.

Significance: The town is celebrated for its rich and ancient architecture of Chaturbhuj Temple, Orchha Fort Complex, and Raja Mahal among others. It is famous for its two elevated minarets – Saavan and Bhadon; and four palaces – Jahangir Palace, Rai Praveen Mahal, Raja Mahal, and Sheesh Mahal.

The site houses ‘Sri Ram Raja Mandir’. It is the only place in India where Lord Ram is worshipped as a King, not as a deity, with this dedicated temple in his name.

UNESCO world heritage site:

A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance.

The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 UNESCO member states which are elected by the General Assembly.

Each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located and UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.

Selection of a site:

To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be an already classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance (such as an ancient ruin or historical structure, building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, mountain, or wilderness area). It may signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet.

Legal status of designated sites:

UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site provides prima facie evidence that such culturally sensitive sites are legally protected pursuant to the Law of War, under the Geneva Convention, its articles, protocols and customs, together with other treaties including the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and international law.

What are endangered sites?

A site may be added to the List of World Heritage in Danger if there are conditions that threaten the characteristics for which the landmark or area was inscribed on the World Heritage List. Such problems may involve armed conflict and war, natural disasters, pollution, poaching, or uncontrolled urbanization or human development.

This danger list is intended to increase international awareness of the threats and to encourage counteractive measures. Threats to a site can be either proven imminent threats or potential dangers that could have adverse effects on a site.

The state of conservation for each site on the danger list is reviewed on a yearly basis, after which the committee may request additional measures, delete the property from the list if the threats have ceased or consider deletion from both the List of World Heritage in Danger and the World Heritage List.

Source: The Hindu

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

In News:

Six mammal, bird and fish species are facing the spectre of extinction in Russia according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Details:

These include the Saiga antelope, the gyrfalcon, the Persian leopard, the spoon-billed sandpiper, the Sakhalin sturgeon and the kaluga, also a type of sturgeon.

About WWF:

It is an international non-governmental organization

Founded in 1961

Headquarter — Gland (Switzerland).

Aim: wilderness preservation & the reduction of human impact on the environment

It is the world’s largest conservation organization

Objectives:

Conserving the world’s biological diversity

Ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable

Promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption

Reports & programmes:

Living Planet Report— published every two years by WWF since 1998; it is based on a Living Planet Index and ecological footprint calculation

Earth hour:

Debt-for-nature swaps–financial transactions in which a portion of a developing nation’s foreign debt is forgiven in exchange for local investments in environmental conservation measures.

Marine Stewardship Council(MSC) — independent non-profit organization which sets a standard for sustainable fishing

Healthy GrownPotato — eco-brand that provides high-quality, sustainably grown, packaged, and shipped potatoes to consumers by leveraging integrated pest management(IPM) farming practices on large scale farms

Source: The Hindu

Minimum Support Price (MSP)

In News:

Haryana government is planning to discourage planting of the water-guzzling rice (paddy) crop, which threatens to deplete the State’s groundwater. Meanwhile,  farmers have asked the government to first come out with a mechanism to procure alternative crops at the Minimum Support Price (MSP) so that farmers are not at the receiving end.

Details:

Water depletion in Haryana over the years has led to 60 dark zones in the State, which include 21 critical ones in 10 districts.

Challenges:

The government wants to save water but it seems to be unaware of the ground realities.

If the government wants farmers to give up rice and cultivate some other crop then there needs to be a mechanism to purchase the alternative crop at MSP.

The State government should enact a law, which guarantees that the produce of farmer is purchased at MSP .

Farmers will only leave rice cultivation if they are sure of reaping more profit with the alternative crop (maize and tuar), which the government is suggesting.

About MSP:

In theory, an MSP is the minimum price set by the Government at which farmers can expect to sell their produce for the season. When market prices fall below the announced MSPs, procurement agencies step in to procure the crop and ‘support’ the prices.

Who announces?

The Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs announces MSP for various crops at the beginning of each sowing season based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). The CACP takes into account demand and supply, the cost of production and price trends in the market among other things when fixing MSPs.

Why is it important?

Price volatility makes life difficult for farmers. Though prices of agri commodities may soar while in short supply, during years of bumper production, prices of the very same commodities plummet. MSPs ensure that farmers get a minimum price for their produce in adverse markets. MSPs have also been used as a tool by the Government to incentivise farmers to grow crops that are in short supply.

Source: The Hindu

Institutes of Eminence Scheme

In News:

The human resource development (HRD) ministry is likely to move the Cabinet soon to increase by half the number of educational establishments that can be tagged “institutes of eminence”, or IoEs, offering them greater autonomy. The ministry wants the number increased to 30 from the original 20.

Details:

The institutes of eminence scheme under the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry aims to project Indian institutes to global recognition.

The selected institutes will enjoy complete academic and administrative autonomy.

The government will run 10 of these and they will receive special funding.

The selection shall be made through challenge method mode by the Empowered Expert Committee constituted for the purpose.

Eligibility: Only higher education institutions currently placed in the top 500 of global rankings or top 50 of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) are eligible to apply for the eminence tag.

The private Institutions of Eminence can also come up as greenfield ventures-provided the sponsoring organisation submits a convincing perspective plan for 15 years.

Implications :

Institutions with the eminence tag would be allowed greater autonomy without having to report to the University Grants Commission (UGC); they would be able to admit foreign students and recruit faculty from abroad, and follow a flexible course and fee structure to enable them to vault to the ranks of the top global institutions.

Need for world-class institutes:

India lacks world-class universities according to international rankings, and Indian academics, compared internationally, are rather poorly paid. Students also suffer an immense shortage of places in top academic institutions and throughout the higher education system. India today educates only half as many young people from the university age group as China and ranks well behind most Latin American and other middle-income countries.

Source: The Hindu

Elephant Bonds

In News:

A high level government-appointed committee on trade and industry has suggested it to issue ‘Elephant Bonds’ to people for declaring undisclosed income to mandatorily invest 50%.

Elephant Bonds:

Elephant Bonds are the 25-year sovereign bonds in which people declaring undisclosed income will be bound to invest 50 per cent.

The fund, made from these bonds, will be utilized only for infrastructure projects.

Mount Agung volcano

In News:

Locate on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali, it erupted recently.

Details:

Mount Agung or Gunung Agung is a currently active volcano in Bali, Indonesia, southeast of Mt Batur volcano, also in Bali. Gunung Agung stratovolcano is the highest point on Bali. It dominates the surrounding area, influencing the climate, especially rainfall patterns.

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