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Current Affairs 15 December 2023

  1. GPAI Summit 2023
  2. Low Implementation of SO2 Emission Reduction Technology in Indian Coal Plants
  3. Global Status Report on Road Safety 2023
  4. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  5. Anthrax
  6. Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
  7. Terai


Context:

The Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) – an alliance of 29 member countries, has unanimously adopted the New Delhi declaration. The declaration underscored the need to mitigate risks arising from the development and deployment of AI systems, and promote equitable access to critical resources for AI innovation.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI): Nurturing Responsible AI Development
  2. New Delhi Declaration Overview
  3. New Delhi Declaration Significance

Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI): Nurturing Responsible AI Development

GPAI, the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, is an international initiative designed to steer the ethical and responsible evolution of artificial intelligence (AI). It emphasizes upholding human rights and democratic values among its member nations.

Origins:
  • Proposal: Canada and France initially proposed GPAI during the 2018 44th G7 summit.
  • Launch: Formally launched in June 2020 with 15 member countries, it has since expanded to include 29 member nations.
Membership:
  • Composition: GPAI encompasses diverse countries such as India, the United States, the UK, France, Japan, and Canada.
  • Notable Absence: China, a significant global tech powerhouse, has chosen not to be part of this multilateral consortium.
  • Host Organization: GPAI is hosted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a prominent international organization.
Objectives:
  • Multi-stakeholder Approach: GPAI operates as a multi-stakeholder initiative, fostering collaboration between science, industry, civil society, governments, international organizations, and academia.
  • Bridging the Gap: It aims to bridge the divide between theoretical discussions and practical applications of AI by supporting cutting-edge research and applied activities.
  • International Cooperation: Bringing together expertise from various sectors, GPAI seeks to encourage international cooperation in shaping the responsible development and use of AI.

New Delhi Declaration Overview:

  • GPAI’s Central Role: The New Delhi Declaration outlines the commitment to position the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) at the forefront of shaping AI’s future. This involves fostering innovation and collaborative AI efforts among partner nations, particularly in sectors like healthcare and agriculture.
  • Global AI Governance Leadership: All GPAI members are dedicated to leading global discussions on AI governance to ensure safety and trust. The declaration emphasizes the importance of creating granular regulations that encompass all nations by the next GPAI meeting in Korea.
  • Inclusivity and Benefits Distribution: GPAI aims to become an inclusive movement, extending its focus to countries in the Global South. The goal is to make AI benefits, platforms, and solutions available to people worldwide.
  • Addressing AI Challenges: The declaration recognizes the necessity of addressing challenges posed by AI, including misinformation, unemployment, lack of transparency, intellectual property protection, and threats to human rights and democratic values.

New Delhi Declaration Significance:

  • Historic Meeting: This marks the first meeting of GPAI members since the rise of generative AI platforms like ChatGPT and Google Bard, bringing AI discussions into the mainstream.
  • Thematic Priority in Agriculture: GPAI members, including India, have identified AI innovation in agriculture as a new thematic priority. This focus is crucial for implementing resilient agricultural practices, enhancing productivity, and addressing climate change challenges.
  • India’s Collaborative Approach: The declaration represents a significant win for India, advocating a collaborative approach in building AI systems. It aligns with India’s model of digital public infrastructure (DPI) and supports the nation’s goal of establishing a sovereign AI system.
  • Boost for Sovereign AI: Access to computing capabilities from GPAI member nations strengthens India’s plans for a sovereign AI system. This is pivotal for countering the dominance of a few foreign companies in the AI space and aligns with India’s strategic objectives.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

An analysis by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) reveals that less than 8% of India’s coal-based power plants have adopted the recommended SO2 emission reduction technology mandated by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC). This raises concerns about the efficacy of measures to control Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) emissions. Notably, India holds the unenviable title of being the world’s largest emitter of SO2, as highlighted in a 2019 Greenpeace study.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Study’s Key Findings on India’s Coal Power Plants
  2. Technologies for SO2 Emission Reduction
  3. Categorization of Power Plants for FGD Installation
  4. Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA)

Study’s Key Findings on India’s Coal Power Plants

  • Technology Implementation:
    • Only 16.5 GW of coal plants in India have installed Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) and Circulating Fluidised Bed Combustion (CFBC) boilers, equivalent to 5.9 GW.
  • Absence of FGDs:
    • The analysis reveals that a significant 92% of the country’s coal power plants operate without FGDs.
  • Role of Deadline Extensions:
    • The indiscriminate extension of deadlines by MoEF&CC and CPCB, without monitoring progress, has contributed to the lack of emission control in coal-based electricity generation units.
  • Emission Standards Introduction:
    • In 2015, MoEF&CC introduced emission standards regulating PM, SO2, NOx, and Hg emissions.
  • Deadline Extensions History:
    • Multiple extensions have been granted, four times for units in Delhi/NCR and three times for most other units nationwide.
  • Energy Generation Capacity:
    • India’s installed energy generation capacity is 425 GW, with the thermal sector holding the majority share, including coal (48.6%), gas (5.9%), and lignite (1.6%). Diesel contributes minimally (<0.2%).

Technologies for SO2 Emission Reduction

Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD):
  • FGD is a process dedicated to eliminating sulphur compounds from the emissions of fossil-fueled power stations.
  • It involves the addition of absorbents to remove up to 95% of sulphur dioxide from flue gas.
  • Flue gas is emitted during the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, oil, natural gas, or wood for heat or power.
Circulating Fluidized Bed Combustion (CFBC):
  • CFBC Boiler is an eco-friendly power facility designed to minimize the release of pollutants like nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide.
  • It achieves this by simultaneously injecting air and lime during the burning process.
  • Fluidization occurs when pressurized fluid (liquid or gas) passes through a medium, causing solid particles to behave like a fluid under specific conditions. This dynamic state change is known as fluidization.

Categorization of Power Plants for FGD Installation

Geographic Division (2021):

  • In 2021, the MoEF&CC implemented a categorization strategy for coal-based power plants based on their geographical locations, establishing specific deadlines for compliance.
  • Category A: Encompasses coal-power plants within a 10-kilometer radius of the National Capital Region (NCR) and cities with a population exceeding one million.
  • Category B: Includes plants within a 10 km radius of critically polluted areas or non-attainment cities.
  • Category C: Covers the remaining power plants across the country, generally having more extended deadlines.

Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA):

  • Role: An independent research organization dedicated to uncovering trends, causes, health impacts, and solutions related to air pollution.
  • Focus: Utilizes scientific data, research, and evidence to support global efforts by governments, companies, and advocacy organizations in transitioning towards cleaner energy and improving air quality.

-Source: Down To Earth



Context:

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a report titled-The Global Status Report on Road Safety 2023, revealing critical findings and insights regarding road traffic fatalities and safety across the globe.

Relevance:

GS: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the Road Traffic Deaths Report

Key Highlights of the Road Traffic Deaths Report

Global Trends (2010-2021):
  • Worldwide road traffic deaths decreased by 5% between 2010 and 2021, totaling 1.19 million fatalities annually.
  • 108 UN member nations reported a decline in road traffic deaths during this period.
  • India, however, experienced a 15% increase in fatalities, rising from 1.34 lakh in 2010 to 1.54 lakh in 2021.
Countries Achieving Significant Reductions:
  • Ten countries, including Belarus, Denmark, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates, successfully reduced road traffic deaths by over 50%.
  • An additional 35 countries made notable progress, achieving a reduction of 30% to 50%.
Regional Distribution of Deaths:
  • WHO South-East Asia Region witnessed 28% of global road traffic deaths, followed by the Western Pacific Region (25%) and the African Region (19%).
  • Low- and middle-income countries, constituting 90% of global deaths, possess only 1% of the world’s motor vehicles.
Vulnerable Road Users:
  • 53% of all road traffic fatalities comprise vulnerable road users, including pedestrians (23%), riders of two- and three-wheelers (21%), cyclists (6%), and users of micro-mobility devices (3%).
  • Pedestrian deaths increased by 3% to 274,000, while cyclist deaths rose by nearly 20% to 71,000 (2010-2021).
Legislation and Best Practices:
  • Only six countries adhere to WHO best practices for all risk factors (speeding, drink–driving, helmet use, seatbelts, and child restraints).
  • 140 countries, comprising two-thirds of UN Member States, have such laws for at least one risk factor.
  • Limited countries have legislation covering key vehicle safety features and require safety inspections for road users.
Global Motor-Vehicle Fleet Growth:
  • Expected to double by 2030, emphasizing the urgency for robust safety regulations and infrastructure improvements.
UN Decade of Action 2021–2030:
  • The report establishes a baseline for achieving the United Nations Decade of Action 2021–2030 target to halve road traffic deaths by 2030.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the abrogation of Article 370 by the Centre in 2019 and also recommended setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to look into alleged violations of human rights by both state and non-state actors in Jammu & Kashmir.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC): An Overview
  2. Article 370: Special Status for Jammu and Kashmir

Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC): An Overview

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission, often referred to as a ‘truth and justice commission’ or simply a ‘truth commission’, is an official mechanism designed to acknowledge and expose wrongdoings, primarily by a government or non-state actors.

Objectives:
  • Focus on the Past:
    • Concentrates on historical wrongs rather than ongoing events.
    • Investigates a pattern of events occurring over a specified period.
  • Engagement with the Affected Population:
    • Direct and broad engagement with the affected population.
    • Gathers information on their experiences related to the specified events.
  • Temporary Body:
    • Operates as a temporary body with a defined lifespan.
    • Aims to conclude its activities with the issuance of a final report.
  • Official Authorization:
    • Officially authorized and empowered by the state under review.
    • Functions with the consent and support of the relevant government.
Nations with Established TRCs:
  • South Africa:
    • Notable for the TRC established in 1995 post-apartheid to uncover human rights violations during the apartheid era.
  • Australia and Canada:
    • Acknowledged for their truth commissions, contributing to reconciliation efforts.
  • India’s Neighborhood:
    • Sri Lanka and Nepal have instituted truth commissions to address historical grievances.
Significance:
  • TRCs play a crucial role in facilitating truth-telling, acknowledging past injustices, and fostering reconciliation within societies that have experienced significant historical trauma.

Article 370: Special Status for Jammu and Kashmir

Article 370 in the Indian constitution conferred special status upon Jammu and Kashmir, a region with disputed claims by India, Pakistan, and China. It was framed by N Gopalaswami Ayyangar, a member of the Constituent Assembly of India, and was incorporated into the constitution in 1949 as a ‘temporary provision.’

Key Provisions:
  • Temporary Provision:
    • Article 370 was included as a temporary measure, intending to provide a special status until a final resolution was reached.
  • Autonomy Except in Specific Areas:
    • Jammu and Kashmir had the liberty to have its own constitution, flag, and autonomy over most matters.
    • Excluded defense, foreign affairs, and communications, which remained under the jurisdiction of the Indian government.
  • Instrument of Accession:
    • Rooted in the terms of the Instrument of Accession signed in 1947.
    • The ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, signed the instrument to accede to India following an invasion by Pakistan.
Historical Context:
  • Article 370 was introduced to address the unique circumstances surrounding Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India and was considered a provisional arrangement.
Impact and Controversy:
  • Over time, Article 370 became a contentious issue, with debates about its relevance, special provisions, and the constitutional relationship between Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India.
Abrogation:
  • In 2019, the Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, took a significant step by abrogating Article 370, thereby revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported a significant anthrax outbreak in Zambia, marking an alarming spread of the disease across nine out of the country’s ten provinces.

Relevance:

GS II-Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Anthrax?
  2. How do animals get Anthrax?
  3. How do humans get infected?
  4. What are the symptoms of Anthrax?
  5. How can it be treated?

What is Anthrax?

  • Anthrax, also known as malignant pustule or woolsorter’s disease, is a rare but serious disease caused by the rod-shaped bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis.
  • It occurs naturally in soil and, according to the WHO it is primarily a disease of herbivores, with both domestic and wild animals being affected by it.
  • Anthrax is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it is naturally transmissible from animals (usually vertebrae) to humans. People can get the disease through contact with infected animals or animal products that are contaminated with bacteria.
  • According to the WHO, Anthrax is generally regarded as non-contagious. There have been instances of person-to-person transmission, however, such instances are extremely rare.
  • Anthrax has usually been found in India’s southern states and is less frequently found in the northern states. Over the past years, it has been reported in Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Orissa and Karnataka.

How do animals get Anthrax?

  • Domestic and wild animals can get infected when they breathe in or ingest spores in contaminated soil, plants or water.
  • Host animals shed the bacteria into the ground, which sporulates when exposed to the air.
  • These spores, which can persist in the soil for decades, wait to be taken up by another host, subsequently germinating and multiplying, leading to its spread. Flies also appear to play a significant role in explosive outbreaks of the disease, as per the WHO.
  • Herbivorous animals can get the disease through contaminated soil and feed, while omnivorous and carnivorous animals get infected through contaminated meat, bones and other feeds.
  • Wild animals get sick through feeding on anthrax-infected carcasses.

How do humans get infected?

  • Humans almost always contract the disease directly or indirectly from animals or animal products.
  • People get infected with anthrax when spores enter the body, through breathing, eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water, or through cuts or scrapes in the skin.
  • The spores then get “activated” and multiply, spreading across the body, producing toxins and causing severe illness, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The US’s national public health agency.
  • Humans can acquire the disease by handling carcasses, bones, wool, hides or other products from infected animals.
  • People that deal with animals can get cutaneous anthrax when spores from the enter through cuts or scrapes on the skin.
  • They can also get inhalation anthrax, by inhaling spores present on the wool, hide or hair of the animal.
  • Ingesting raw or undercooked meat from infected animals can get people sick with gastrointestinal anthrax.
  • People that are most at risk of contracting the disease are people that work with animals, such as farmers, veterinarians, livestock handlers, wool sorters and laboratory professionals.

What are the symptoms of Anthrax?

  • In livestock species, like cattle, sheep or goats, the first sign is usually the sudden death of one or two animals within the herd.
  • Prior to their death, they might show signs of high fever.
  • In wildlife, sudden death is also a usual indicator, often accompanied by bloody discharge from natural orifices (mouth, nose, ear, anus), bloating, incomplete rigour mortis and the absence of clotting of the blood, according to WHO.
  • In humans, cutaneous anthrax symptoms can include groups of small blisters that may itch, painless skin sores with a black centre, with the possibility of swelling around them. This is the most common route of the disease and is seldom fatal.
  • Inhalation anthrax includes fever and chills, shortness of breath, coughing and nausea to name a few.
  • It’s the most deadly form of the disease and can lead to death within 2-3 days.
  • Gastrointestinal anthrax symptoms can include nausea and vomiting (with blood), swelling of the neck, stomach pain and diarrhoea.

How can it be treated?

  • Antibiotic therapy that is administered early in the course of the infection has been proven to be responsive, according to the WHO.
  • Penicillin has long been the antibiotic of choice and in recent years, ciprofloxacin and doxycycline have also been used as alternatives.
  • One way to prevent the disease is by vaccination of livestock so that the disease cannot spread.
  • There are also vaccines for humans, but their availability is usually restricted to at-risk individuals, such as lab workers and people who handle animals.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

India recently rejected a statement issued by the OIC on a judgement of the Supreme Court upholding the abrogation of Article 370 that guaranteed special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Relevance:

GS II- International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
  2. Why is the region important for India?
  3. How much trade does India do with countries in this region?

About the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

  • The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is an international organization founded in 1969, consisting of 57 member states, with a collective population of over 1.8 billion as of 2015 with 53 countries being Muslim-majority countries.
  • The organisation states that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony”.
  • The OIC has permanent delegations to the United Nations and the European Union.
  • Some members, especially in West Africa and South America, are – though with large Muslim populations – not necessarily Muslim majority countries.
  • A few countries with significant Muslim populations, such as Russia and Thailand, sit as Observer States.

Why is the region important for India?

  • India has enjoyed centuries of good relations with countries like Iran, while smaller gas-rich nation Qatar is one of India’s closest allies in the region.
  • India shares good relations with most of the countries in the Gulf.
  • The two most important reasons for the relationship are oil and gas, and trade.
  • Two additional reasons are the huge number of Indians who work in the Gulf countries, and the remittance they send back home.

How much trade does India do with countries in this region?

  • The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait has emerged as a major trading partner of India and has vast potential as India’s investment partner for the future.
  • The GCC’s substantial oil and gas reserves are of utmost importance for India’s energy needs.

UAE: 

  • The UAE was India’s third largest trading partner in 2021-2022, and second largest for both exports ($28 billion) and imports ($45 billion) when these are counted individually.
  • In terms of total trade volume, the UAE ($72.9 billion) was behind the United States ($1.19 trillion) and China ($1.15 trillion).
  • The UAE accounted for 6.6% of India’s total exports and 7.3% of imports in the last financial year, up 68.4% since the previous year when international trade was impacted by the pandemic.

-Source: The Times of India



Context:

In a first, a tiger was spotted in the Shaukiyathal forest near Jageshwar Dham, Almora, at an elevation of over 6,000 feet in the Terai region of Uttarakhand.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Overview of Terai:

Geographical Location: Terai, also known as Tarai, is a lowland belt situated along the Nepal-India border, running parallel to the lower Himalayan ranges.

Geographical Extent:
  • It stretches from the Yamuna River in the west to the Brahmaputra River in the east.
  • Extends over states in India: Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal.
  • Spans nearly 800 km from east to west and 30-40 km from north to south.
Elevation and Terrain:
  • Ranges from about 300 meters above sea level to approximately 1,000 meters at the foot of the Siwalik Range.
  • Average elevation is below 750 meters.
  • The flatland is formed by Gangetic alluvium, including silt, clay, sand, pebbles, and gravel.
Hydrological Features:
  • Numerous springs at the northern edge, giving rise to several streams, including the significant Ghaghara River.
  • The presence of these water features contributes to the marshy character of the Terai.
Protected Areas and Biodiversity:
  • Home to well-known tiger reserves and protected areas, including Corbett Tiger Reserve, Rajaji National Park, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, and Valmiki Tiger Reserve.
  • In total, the landscape boasts 13 protected areas, nine in India and four in Nepal.
Bhabar Region:
  • Interspersed with Terai is the Bhabar region, characterized by coarse gravel and shingle deposits that support sal (Shorea robusta) forests.

-Source: Indian Express


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