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9th December Current Affairs

Petroleum board’s new unified tariff structure – its impact and challenges in implementation

In News:

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) has notified a new tariff structure for 14 natural gas pipelines.

 What is the change?

Under the new unified tariff structure, buyers will be charged a fixed tariff for the transport of gas within 300 kms of a source and a fixed tariff for the transport of gas beyond 300 kms on a single pipeline network.

This, PNGRB says, would be significantly cheaper for buyers further away from the source of gas that were earlier charged on the basis of the number of pipelines used and the distance from the source of gas.

Therefore, a buyer using multiple pipelines in GAIL’s networks would likely benefit significantly from this change.

How does this impact gas transmission companies?

The changes in the tariffs will likely incentivise greater investment into gas transmission infrastructure as natural gas becomes more affordable for users further away from the west coast of the country.

Gas transport tariffs are set to provide a “reasonable rate of return” on normative levels of capital employed and operating costs for pipelines, according to the PNGRB.

Who loses out?

A number of companies which use natural gas as an input have set up fertilizer units and power plants close to LNG terminals on the west coast. The cost of gas for them may rise noticeably.

The move was similar to the now defunct “freight equalisation” policy introduced by the government in 1952 under which the government subsidised the transportation cost of minerals to areas further away from the sources of minerals.

Challenges ahead:

The new regulations will lead to a significant hike in the cost of gas transportation for many consumers who may already have agreements in place for the transport of gas at lower prices based on the existing regime.

A further challenge to the regulation could come from the potential violation of the bidding process for bid-out pipeline through the change in regulations.

Another potential avenue for a legal challenge could be the absence of a member (legal) on the board of the PNGRB at the time the regulation has been notified.

NGT seeks action plan on elephant corridors

In News:

Directed the Odisha government to prepare an action plan within three months on 14 identified elephant corridors for providing stress-free migration to jumbos from one habitation to another in the State.

What’s the issue?

NGT had directed authorities to expedite demarcation of the corridors and the process for formal notification within a specific time frame in 2017.

The government had sought time to inform the NGT about action plan to strengthen corridors. It, however, failed to give a concrete action on physical progress on corridors.

So, a NGO had moved the NGT seeking concrete action on strengthening of corridors.

Demands by the petitioner:

Necessary legal action against encroachers and those violating the Provisions of the Forest Conservation Act 1980 and the Indian Forest Act 1927 in the proposed corridors.

The government should remove the unauthorised buildings from the reserve forest land in Dhenkanal district, which sees acute human-elephant conflict, and make the forestland free from encroachment.

What are Elephant Corridors?

Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that connect two large habitats of elephants. Elephant corridors are crucial to reduce animal fatalities due to accidents and other reasons. So fragmentation of forests makes it all the more important to preserve migratory corridors.

Why protect elephant corridors?

The movement of elephants is essential to ensure that their populations are genetically viable. It also helps to regenerate forests on which other species, including tigers, depend.

Nearly 40% of elephant reserves are vulnerable, as they are not within protected parks and sanctuaries. Also, the migration corridors have no specific legal protection.

Forests that have turned into farms and unchecked tourism are blocking animals’ paths. Animals are thus forced to seek alternative routes resulting in increased elephant-human conflict.

Weak regulation of ecotourism is severely impacting important habitats. It particularly affects animals that have large home ranges, like elephants.

Efforts at all- India level:

‘Gaj Yatra’, a nationwide campaign to protect elephants, was launched on the occasion of World Elephant Day in 2017.

The campaign is planned to cover 12 elephant range states.

The campaign aims to create awareness about elephant corridors to encourage free movement in their habitat.

Forest Ministry guide to managing human-elephant conflict (Best Practices):

Retaining elephants in their natural habitats by creating water sources and management of forest fires.

Elephant Proof trenches in Tamil Nadu.

Hanging fences and rubble walls in Karnataka.

Use of chili smoke in north Bengal and playing the sound of bees or carnivores in Assam.

Use of technology: Individual identification, monitoring of elephants in south Bengal and sending SMS alerts to warn of elephant presence.

Efforts by Private Organizations in this regard:

Asian Elephant Alliance, an umbrella initiative by five NGOs, had, last year, come together to secure 96 out of the 101 existing corridors used by elephants across 12 States in India.

NGOs Elephant Family, International Fund for Animal Welfare, IUCN Netherlands and World Land Trust have teamed up with Wildlife Trust of India’s (WTI) in the alliance.

What is Mahaparinirvan Divas

In News:

On December 6, the country observed Mahaparinirvan Diwas, which marks the death anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.

What is Mahaparinirvan?

Parinirvan is one of the major principles and goals of Buddhism. The Sanskrit term (written in Pali as parinibbana) means “nirvana after death”, which refers to the achievement of nirvana after the body dies. As per the Buddhist text, i.e. Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the death of Lord Buddha at the age of 80 is considered as the original Mahaparinirvan.

Why is BR Ambedkar linked to it?

Dr Ambedkar passed away on December 6, 1956, just a few days after completing his last work, The Buddha and His Dhamma.

Because of his stature and contributions to the eradication of untouchability in India, he was considered to be a Buddhist guru.

His followers and supporters believe that Ambedkar was as influential, pure and blessed as Lord Buddha. And this is the reason Ambedkar’s death anniversary is referred to as Mahaparinirvan Divas.

HL-2M Tokamak

In News:

China successfully powered up its “artificial sun” nuclear fusion reactor (HL-2M Tokamak reactor) for the first time marking a great advance in the country’s nuclear power research capabilities.

Key Points:

The HL-2M Tokamak reactor is China’s largest and most advanced nuclear fusion experimental research device.

The mission is named Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST).

Located in Sichuan province and completed late last year, the reactor is often called an “artificial sun” on account of the enormous heat and power it produces.

It uses a powerful magnetic field to fuse hot plasma and can reach temperatures of over 150 million degrees Celsius- approximately ten times hotter than the core of the sun.