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Current Affairs 08 May 2024

  1. Carbon Farming: Integrating Agriculture and Climate Mitigation
  2. Rat-Hole Mining
  3. Climate Migration: Urgent Need for Legal Protections
  4. RBI Governor Discusses Anonymity in Digital Currency
  5. Boeing’s Starliner
  6. Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  7. Tirthahalli Variety of Areca


Carbon farming involves the implementation of regenerative agricultural practices aimed at restoring ecosystem health, improving agricultural productivity, and mitigating climate change. It combines the fundamental role of carbon in various life processes with farming practices to enhance carbon storage in agricultural landscapes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Carbon Farming Overview:
  1. Challenges to Carbon Farming:
  2. Opportunities for Carbon Farming in India:

Carbon Farming Overview:

  • Definition: Carbon farming encompasses agricultural practices designed to store carbon in soil, plant material, wood, and leaves with the aim of mitigating climate change by reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases.
  • Goal: The primary objective of carbon farming is to sequester carbon, thereby mitigating climate change impacts.
Implementation of Carbon Farming:
  • Rotational Grazing: A basic carbon farming practice involving controlled grazing patterns to promote soil health and carbon storage.
  • Agroforestry: Incorporating trees and shrubs into agricultural landscapes to diversify farm income and sequester carbon in woody biomass.
  • Conservation Agriculture: Techniques like zero tillage, crop rotation, and cover cropping minimize soil disturbance and enhance organic content, thereby sequestering carbon.
  • Integrated Nutrient Management: Utilizing organic fertilizers and compost to promote soil fertility while reducing emissions.
  • Agro-ecology: Employing crop diversification and intercropping methods to enhance ecosystem resilience and carbon sequestration.
  • Livestock Management: Strategies like rotational grazing and optimizing feed quality help reduce methane emissions and increase carbon storage in pasture lands.
Carbon Farming Schemes Worldwide:
  • Voluntary Carbon Markets: Countries like the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada have established voluntary carbon markets to incentivize carbon mitigation activities in agriculture.
  • Initiatives: Programs like the Chicago Climate Exchange and Australia’s Carbon Farming Initiative promote carbon sequestration practices in agriculture.
  • ‘4 per 1000’ Initiative: Launched during COP21 in 2015, this initiative emphasizes the role of carbon sinks, including agricultural soils, in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. It highlights the importance of managing the remaining carbon budget wisely to address climate change challenges.

Challenges to Carbon Farming:

  • Effectiveness Variation: Carbon farming’s efficacy is influenced by factors like geographical location, soil type, water availability, biodiversity, and farm size, among others.
  • Land Management Practices: Success depends on proper land management, adequate policy support, and community engagement.
  • Regional Suitability: Regions with abundant rainfall and fertile soil may have high carbon sequestration potential, while arid areas face challenges due to limited water availability.
  • Species Selection: Not all plant species sequester carbon equally effectively, requiring careful selection for optimal results.
  • Financial Assistance: Implementation costs can be prohibitive, particularly for small-scale farmers who may lack resources for sustainable practices.

Opportunities for Carbon Farming in India:

  • Economic Benefits: Agro-ecological practices could yield significant economic returns, with estimates suggesting substantial value generation and payments to farmers for climate services.
  • Geographical Suitability: Regions like the Indo-Gangetic plains and the Deccan Plateau offer extensive arable land suitable for carbon farming.
  • Incentive Mechanisms: Carbon credit systems can incentivize farmers by providing additional income through environmental services.
  • Climate Mitigation Potential: Agricultural soils in India have the capacity to absorb billions of tonnes of CO2 annually, contributing to climate change mitigation and enhancing food security.

-Source: The Hindu


Recently, authorities were given four weeks by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to respond in a case related to the death of six workers in a rat-hole coal mine fire in Nagaland’s Wokha district.


GS III: Infrastructure

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Overview of Rat-Hole Mining
  2. Reasons for the Ban on Rat-Hole Mining
  3. Factors Leading to the NGT Ban on Rat-Hole Mining
  4. Challenges and Future Prospects

Overview of Rat-Hole Mining:

  • Rescue of Trapped Workers: Rat-hole mining was employed in the rescue operation of workers, including Ramprasad Narzary and Sanjay Basumatary, from the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand.
Irony and Local Context:
  • Tragic History in Meghalaya: The use of rat-hole mining for rescue sparked local irony as lives from the Ramfalbil area in Assam had been lost in Meghalaya’s coal mines, where this method was banned by the National Green Tribunal in April 2014.
Characteristics of Rat-Hole Mining:
  • Tunnel Dimensions: Rat-hole mining involves digging tunnels 3-4 feet deep, allowing only crawling for workers.
  • Extraction Process: Workers squat to extract coal using pickaxes in these narrow tunnels.
Two Types of Rat-Hole Mining:
  • Side-Cutting Method:
    • Location: Usually performed on hill slopes by following a visible coal seam.
  • Box-Cutting Method:
    • Process: Involves digging a circular or squarish pit at least 5 sq. meters wide and up to 400 feet deep.
    • Horizontal Digging: Miners descend using cranes or rope-and-bamboo ladders to dig horizontally from the pit edge.
Pit Resemblance:
  • Octopus-like Configuration: Tunnels are dug in various directions from the pit edge, resembling the tentacles of an octopus.

Regulation of Rat-Hole Mining in Nagaland: Challenges and Policies

Coal Reserves in Nagaland:

  • Nagaland possesses substantial coal reserves totaling 492.68 million tonnes, but these are dispersed irregularly in small pockets across a vast area.

Mining Policy and Rat-Hole Mining:

  • The Nagaland Coal mining policy, established in 2006, permits rat-hole mining due to the scattered nature of coal deposits, making large-scale operations impractical.

Characteristics of Rat-Hole Mining:

  • Rat-hole mining involves extracting coal from narrow horizontal tunnels, often dug by hand, posing risks of accidents and environmental hazards.

Licensing for Rat-Hole Mining:

  • Rat-hole mining licenses, known as small pocket deposit licenses, are exclusively granted to individual landowners for limited durations and under specific conditions.
  • Section 6.4(ii) of the Nagaland Coal Policy (First Amendment) of 2014 sets restrictions on mining areas, annual production, and prohibits heavy machinery usage.

Compliance and Clearances:

  • Rat-hole mining operations require consent from relevant departments, including Forest and Environment, to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

Challenges in Regulation:

  • Despite clearances and defined mining plans, instances of illegal rat-hole mining persist, complicating regulatory efforts.

Impact of Article 371A:

  • Article 371A grants Nagaland special rights over its land and resources, making it challenging for the government to impose regulations that might be perceived as infringing on these rights.

Struggles in Small-Scale Mining Regulation:

  • The Nagaland government faces difficulties in effectively regulating small-scale mining, particularly those conducted by individual landowners, due to limitations posed by Article 371A.

Safety Concerns and Urgency for Regulations:

  • Recent deaths in a rat-hole mine underscore the safety risks associated with unregulated mining practices, emphasizing the need for effective regulations and proper safety measures.

National Green Tribunal (NGT)

  • The NGT was established on October 18, 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010, passed by the Central Government.
  • National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 is an Act of the Parliament of India which enables creation of a special tribunal to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues.
  • NGT Act draws inspiration from the India’s constitutional provision of (Constitution of India/Part III) Article 21 Protection of life and personal liberty, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
  • The stated objective of the Central Government was to provide a specialized forum for effective and speedy disposal of cases pertaining to environment protection, conservation of forests and for seeking compensation for damages caused to people or property due to violation of environmental laws or conditions specified while granting permissions.

Structure of National Green Tribunal

  • Following the enactment of the said law, the Principal Bench of the NGT has been established in the National Capital – New Delhi, with regional benches in Pune (Western Zone Bench), Bhopal (Central Zone Bench), Chennai (Southern Bench) and Kolkata (Eastern Bench). Each Bench has a specified geographical jurisdiction covering several States in a region.
  • The Chairperson of the NGT is a retired Judge of the Supreme Court, Head Quartered in Delhi.
  • Other Judicial members are retired Judges of High Courts. Each bench of the NGT will comprise of at least one Judicial Member and one Expert Member.
  • Expert members should have a professional qualification and a minimum of 15 years’ experience in the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects.

Powers of NGT

The NGT has the power to hear all civil cases relating to environmental issues and questions that are linked to the implementation of laws listed in Schedule I of the NGT Act. These include the following:

  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
  • The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
  • The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991;
  • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
  • This means that any violations pertaining ONLY to these laws, or any order / decision taken by the Government under these laws can be challenged before the NGT.
  • Importantly, the NGT has NOT been vested with powers to hear any matter relating to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and various laws enacted by States relating to forests, tree preservation etc.

Challenges related to the NGT

  • Two important acts – Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 have been kept out of NGT’s jurisdiction. This restricts the jurisdiction area of NGT and at times hampers its functioning as crucial forest rights issue is linked directly to environment.
  • Decisions of NGT have also been criticised and challenged due to their repercussions on economic growth and development.
  • The absence of a formula-based mechanism in determining the compensation has also brought criticism to the tribunal.
  • The lack of human and financial resources has led to high pendency of cases – which undermines NGT’s very objective of disposal of appeals within 6 months.

-Source: Down To Earth


Recently, the issue of climate migration has garnered significant attention, yet the world still lacks a comprehensive legal framework to protect individuals forced to flee their homes due to increasingly severe weather disasters.


GS III: Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Climate Refugees
  2. Challenges Faced by Climate Migrants
  3. Steps Taken to Address Climate Migration

About Climate Refugees

Climate refugees are individuals or groups forced to leave their homes due to environmental changes caused by climate change. Here’s an overview:

Definition and Characteristics:

  • According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), climate migration involves people compelled to relocate due to sudden or gradual environmental shifts linked to climate change.
  • These migrations can be temporary or permanent and may occur within a country’s borders or across international boundaries.
  • Climate refugees typically lack viable alternatives and are compelled to leave their homes due to the adverse impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather events, sea-level rise, and environmental degradation.
Causes of Climate Migration:
  • Sudden-Onset Disasters: Events like floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes often trigger significant internal displacement, with affected populations seeking safer areas within their countries. However, returning home can be challenging due to damaged infrastructure and livelihoods.
  • Vulnerable Populations: Vulnerable communities, lacking resources and residing in high-risk areas, are disproportionately impacted by climate-related disasters and face heightened risks of displacement.
  • Slow-Onset Disasters: Environmental phenomena like droughts, desertification, and salinization gradually degrade land and water resources, making it difficult for people to sustain their livelihoods and prompting migration in search of better opportunities.
  • Rising Sea Levels: Coastal communities face threats from rising sea levels, leading to permanent displacement as homes and agricultural land become submerged.
Complexities and Challenges:
  • Mixed Drivers: Climate migration rarely stems from a single cause, often intertwined with factors like poverty, political instability, and inadequate social safety nets.
  • Data Gaps and Policy Challenges: Accurately quantifying climate migration poses challenges, hindering the development of effective policies to support displaced populations and enhance resilience in vulnerable communities.

Challenges Faced by Climate Migrants:

  • Loss of Skills and Assets: Climate migrants often lose their skills and assets due to displacement, making it challenging to find new jobs and rebuild livelihoods.
  • Informal Work and Exploitation: Climate migrants may end up in informal work sectors with low wages and poor conditions, increasing vulnerability to exploitation.
  • Access to Basic Services: Difficulty accessing healthcare, education, and housing in new locations can lead to social exclusion and marginalization.
  • Cultural and Language Barriers: Adapting to new cultures and languages poses challenges for climate migrants, hindering integration into new communities.
  • Legal Protections: Lack of a clear legal framework to protect climate migrants leaves them without refugee status under current international law, potentially leading to statelessness.

Steps Taken to Address Climate Migration:

  • Infrastructure Investments: Countries like Bangladesh invest in flood-resistant infrastructure to protect coastal communities.
  • Innovative Solutions: Island nations like Fiji explore raising landmasses to adapt to rising sea levels.
  • Planned Relocation: Kiribati considers planned relocation of populations at risk due to rising sea levels, focusing on land acquisition and cultural preservation.
  • Early Warning Systems: Implementation of early warning systems in countries like India and Vietnam allows for timely evacuation during extreme weather events.
  • Regional Cooperation: The Kampala Declaration on Protracted Displacement in Africa provides a model for regional cooperation on climate migration.
  • Agricultural Adaptation: Investment in drought-resistant crops and irrigation technologies in countries like Ethiopia helps farmers adapt to changing weather patterns and ensure food security.
  • Legal Frameworks and Bilateral Agreements: Initiatives like the Pacific Island Climate Mobility Framework and Tuvalu-Australia Pact offer legal pathways for climate migrants to move between countries and seek protection.

-Source: Down To Earth


RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das emphasized the importance of avoiding permanent deletion of transactions in the e-rupee or central bank digital currency (CBDC). He highlighted that such deletion could render the digital currency anonymous, similar to paper currency, speaking at the BIS Innovation Summit.


GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the Speech Delivered by RBI Governor:
  1. What is E-rupee?
  2. What are the forms of CBDC?
  3. What’s the model for issuance?
  4. What are the advantages of e-rupee?
  5. Can e-rupee be transacted in offline mode?

Key Highlights of the Speech Delivered by RBI Governor:

  • CBDC Development: The RBI Governor highlighted ongoing efforts to enhance Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) functionality, aiming to enable offline transfers and introduce programmability to support financial inclusion objectives.
  • Privacy Concerns: Concerns regarding CBDC’s impact on privacy have been raised since its introduction in late 2022. Experts suggest that unlike cash, CBDC transactions may not offer anonymity due to their electronic nature.
  • Addressing Anonymity: The Governor proposed addressing anonymity concerns through legislation or technology solutions, such as implementing permanent deletion of transactions. The goal is to ensure CBDC offers the same level of anonymity as cash.
  • Preference for UPI: Despite RBI’s efforts in CBDC development, retail users continue to prefer the Unified Payment Interface (UPI) for their transactions.

What is E-rupee?

  • E-rupee is the same as a fiat currency and is exchangeable one-to-one with the fiat currency. 
  • Only its form is different. It can be accepted as a medium of payment, legal tender and a safe store of value.
  • The digital rupee would appear as liability on a central bank’s balance sheet.
What are the types of e-rupee?

Based on the usage and the functions performed by the digital rupee and considering the different levels of accessibility, CBDC can be demarcated into two broad categories —

Retail CBDC

  • It is an electronic version of cash primarily meant for retail transactions.
  • It will be potentially available for use by all — private sector, non-financial consumers and businesses — and can provide access to safe money for payment and settlement as it is a direct liability of the central bank.
  • However, the RBI has not explained how e-rupee can be used in merchant transactions in the retail trade.

Wholesale CBDC

  • It is designed for restricted access to select financial institutions.
  • It has the potential to transform the settlement systems for financial transactions undertaken by banks in the government securities (G-Sec) segment, inter-bank market and capital market more efficiently and securely in terms of operational costs, use of collateral and liquidity management.

What are the forms of CBDC?

The central bank says e-rupee, or CBDC, can be structured as

Token-based CBDC

  • It would be a bearer instrument like banknotes, meaning whosoever holds the tokens at a given point in time would be presumed to own them.
  • In a token-based CBDC, the person receiving a token will verify that his ownership of the token is genuine.
  • A token-based CBDC is viewed as a preferred mode for CBDC-R as it would be closer to physical cash.

Account-based system

  • It would require maintenance of record of balances and transactions of all holders of the CBDC and indicate the ownership of the monetary balances.
  • In this case, an intermediary will verify the identity of an account holder.
  • This system can be considered for CBDC-W.

What’s the model for issuance?

There are two models for issuance and management of CBDCs under the RBI’s consideration —

Direct model (single tier model)

  • The central bank will be responsible for managing all aspects of the digital rupee system such as issuance, account-keeping and transaction verification.

Indirect model (two-tier model)

  • An indirect model would be one where the central bank and other intermediaries (banks and any other service providers), each play their respective role.
  • In this model, the central bank will issue CBDC to consumers indirectly through intermediaries and any claim by consumers will be managed by the intermediary.

What are the advantages of e-rupee?

  • Reduction in operational costs involved in physical cash management,
  • It will foster financial inclusion,
  • It will bring resilience, efficiency and innovation in the payments system.
  • It will add efficiency to the settlement system and boost innovation in cross-border payments space and provide the public with uses that any private virtual currencies can provide, without the associated risks.

Can e-rupee be transacted in offline mode?

  • The offline functionality as an option will allow CBDC to be transacted without the internet and thus enable access in regions with poor or no internet connectivity.
  • It will also create digital footprints of the unbanked population in the financial system, which will facilitate the easy availability of credit to them.
  • However, the RBI feels in the offline mode, the risk of ‘double-spending’ will exist because it will be technically possible to use a CBDC unit more than once without updating the common ledger of CBDC.
  • But it can be mitigated to a larger extent by technical solutions and appropriate business rules including monetary limits on offline transactions.

-Source: Indian Express


The launch of the Boeing Starliner, which was set to take astronaut Sunita Williams to space for a third time, has been postponed due to a technical glitch.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Boeing’s Starliner Overview
  2. Mission Objectives
  3. Delays and Significance

Boeing’s Starliner Overview:

  • Design: Starliner, also known as CST-100, is a partially reusable crew capsule comprising two modules: the crew module and the service module. The crew module can be reused up to 10 times, while the service module provides essential functions like electricity, propulsion, and life support.
  • Mission Crew: The spacecraft’s first crewed test flight will carry two NASA astronauts, Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita Williams, to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard an Atlas V rocket from Kennedy Space Center.

Mission Objectives:

  • Performance Test: The primary goal is to assess Starliner’s performance with a crew onboard, including docking with the ISS, manual flying tests, and evaluation of onboard systems and equipment.
  • Crew Activities: Crew members will test seats, life-support systems, navigation systems, cargo movement mechanisms, and new spacesuits during their 10-day stay at the ISS.
  • Return Journey: NASA and Boeing will monitor the spacecraft’s heat shield and parachutes during re-entry, with a ground landing planned using airbags for impact mitigation.

Delays and Significance:

  • Previous Setbacks: Delays stemmed from software and hardware issues during Starliner’s uncrewed test flight, necessitating over 80 fixes before its successful completion. Concerns about safety systems further pushed back the crewed flight.
  • Importance: Success is critical for both NASA and Boeing. NASA seeks multiple providers for ISS missions, reducing reliance on SpaceX. For Boeing, Starliner’s success is essential for competing with SpaceX in commercial spaceflight.

-Source: Indian Express


For those trying to look inside the human body without surgery, magnetic resonance imaging is an indispensable tool.


Facts for Prelims

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):

  • MRI is a technique employed to capture images of soft tissues within the body, defined as tissues that have not undergone calcification.
    • Calcification is a process in which calcium builds up in body tissue, causing the tissue to harden. This can be a normal or abnormal process.
  • It serves as a non-invasive diagnostic tool widely applied in imaging various body structures, including the brain, cardiovascular system, spinal cord, joints, muscles, liver, and arteries.
  • The significance of MRI extends to the diagnosis and management of specific cancers such as prostate and rectal cancer, as well as neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, epilepsy, and stroke.
  • However, the utilization of strong magnetic fields in MRI poses limitations, as individuals with embedded metallic objects or implants (e.g., shrapnel, pacemakers) may be ineligible for MRI scans.

Principles of MRI:

  • MRI functions by harnessing the body’s natural magnetic properties, primarily those of hydrogen atoms, to produce detailed images of various body parts.
  • The procedure involves the emission of a radiofrequency pulse to excite excess hydrogen atoms, which emit energy when the pulse ceases.
  • A superconducting magnet within the MRI machine creates a stable magnetic field, aligning the spins of hydrogen atoms.
  • Subsequently, the emitted energy is detected and converted into signals by a receiver, which are then processed by a computer to generate detailed 2D or 3D images of the scanned body part.

-Source: The Hindu


The Tirthahalli variety of areca nut from Karnataka has long been renowned for its exceptional quality, a recent analysis by the Areca Research Centre at Keladi Shivappa Nayaka University of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences in Shivamogga, Karnataka confirms.


Facts for Prelims

About Tirthahalli variety of areca nut:

  • Known for its suitability in producing high-grade nuts, Tirthahalli areca growers can cultivate coveted grades like Nuli and Hasa.
  • Areca nut, also known as betel nut or Supari, is sourced from the areca nut palm and is popularly chewed. India leads both in production and consumption, with significant cultivation in states including Karnataka, Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya, and West Bengal.
  • Arecanut kernels undergo boiling, followed by the addition of areca precipitates after husk removal. Subsequently, the nuts are dried and graded based on market value into categories such as Nuli, Hasa, Rashi, Bette, and Gorabalu.
  • Nuli and Hasa nuts command higher prices compared to Rashi, Bette, and Gorabalu grades.

-Source: The Hindu

May 2024