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Current Affairs 24 August 2023

CONTENTS

  1. ISRO’s Remarkable Space Journey
  2. Japan’s Controversial Fukushima Water Release
  3. Production Linked Incentive Scheme
  4. UK’s North Sea Fossil Fuel Drilling Plans
  5. Bharat NCAP
  6. The Fujiwhara effect
  7. Lunar Polar Exploration Mission (LUPEX)
  8. Maitri Setu

ISRO’s Remarkable Space Journey


Context:

The Chandrayaan-3 lander, named Vikram, has made a successful soft landing on the surface of the Moon, making India the first country to reach close to the lunar south pole. India has also become the fourth nation in history to land on the lunar surface.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. ISRO’s Satellite Programmes
  2. ISRO’s Launch Vehicle Programmes
  3. ISRO’s Planetary Explorations

ISRO’s Satellite Programmes:

Aryabhata Satellite:
  • Launched on April 19, 1975, Aryabhata marked India’s entry into space exploration.
  • Weighing 360 kg, it was designed by ISRO to conduct experiments in X-ray astronomy, solar physics, and aeronomics.
  • Aryabhata was India’s first satellite, and its launch was supported by the Soviet Union.
  • Despite its communication loss after five days, it was a significant milestone in India’s space journey.
Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) Satellite System:
  • Following Aryabhata, Bhaskar-1 and Bhaskar-2, experimental remote-sensing satellites were launched in 1979 and 1981.
  • These satellites laid the foundation for the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) Satellite system, a series of Earth Observation spacecraft.
  • IRS satellites play a crucial role in various applications, and India now operates a significant number of them.
Indian National Satellite System (INSAT):
  • In 1981, the experimental communication satellite APPLE was launched, leading to the development of the Indian National Satellite System (INSAT).
  • INSAT is a series of geostationary satellites catering to telecommunications, broadcasting, meteorology, and search and rescue needs.
  • While early INSATs were made by Ford Aerospace in the US, subsequent satellites were indigenously built.
Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) or NavIC:
  • A recent notable mission is the IRNSS, also known as NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation).
  • NavIC is a regional satellite navigation system designed to provide accurate positioning and timing information over India and the surrounding region.
  • This constellation enhances India’s navigation capabilities and has various applications in sectors like transportation, agriculture, disaster management, and more.

ISRO’s Launch Vehicle Programmes:

Satellite Launch Vehicle-3 (SLV-3):
  • Launched successfully in 1980, SLV-3 was India’s first experimental satellite launch vehicle.
  • It used an all-solid, four-stage configuration capable of placing 40 kg payloads in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
  • This marked India’s entry into satellite launch capabilities.
Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV):
  • ASLV’s developmental flight occurred in 1987.
  • It was a five-stage, all-solid propellant vehicle designed to orbit 150 kg class satellites in 400 km circular orbits.
Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV):
  • PSLV’s first successful launch was in October 1994.
  • It introduced liquid stages to Indian launch vehicles.
  • It can carry payloads up to 1,750 kg to Sun-Synchronous Polar Orbits.
  • PSLV has launched numerous Indian and foreign satellites, including Chandrayaan-1 and Mars Orbiter.
Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV):
  • GSLV, a fourth-generation launch vehicle, features three stages and four liquid strap-on boosters.
  • Designed for launching communication satellites, it made its debut in 2001 and has conducted 13 launches to date.
Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle MkIII (GSLV-MkIII):
  • GSLV MkIII, approved in 2002, is a three-stage vehicle with two solid strap-on motors, a liquid core stage, and a high-thrust cryogenic upper stage.
  • It aims to launch 4-ton class satellites into Geosynchronous orbit.
  • GSLV MkIII strengthens ISRO’s launch capabilities for heavier payloads and complex missions.

ISRO’s Planetary Explorations:

Chandrayaan-1:
  • In 2008, ISRO embarked on planetary explorations with the Chandrayaan-1 mission.
  • The mission included an Orbiter and the Moon Impact Probe.
  • The Impact Probe crash-landed on the Moon, marking India’s presence on the lunar surface.
  • Chandrayaan-1’s Orbiter detected evidence of water on the Moon.
Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM):
  • In 2013, ISRO launched Mangalyaan, its first interplanetary mission, reaching Mars orbit in 2014.
  • ISRO became the fourth space agency globally to achieve this feat.
Chandrayaan-2:
  • Launched in 2019, Chandrayaan-2 aimed for a soft landing on the Moon.
  • The lander, Vikram, lost contact and crashed during its landing attempt.
  • Despite the setback, the mission’s Orbiter continues to study the Moon.
Chandrayaan-3:
  • Launched on July 14, 2023, Chandrayaan-3 achieved a successful soft landing near the lunar south pole.
  • This makes India the first country to accomplish such a feat.
  • Chandrayaan-3’s success signifies India’s continued progress in planetary exploration.

-Source: Indian Express


Japan’s Controversial Fukushima Water Release


Context:

Japan plans to release over 1 million metric tonnes of treated radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant on August 24. Despite the controversy, the government argues that this move is vital for plant cleanup after the 2011 disaster. Seen as a crucial step in decommissioning the facility and aiding Fukushima prefecture’s recovery from the earthquake and tsunami tragedy, the water release marks a significant development.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Timeline and Impact
  2. Japanese Government’s Water Disposal Plan and Opposition
  3. Japan’s Alternatives and Expert Opinions on Fukushima Water Disposal

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Timeline and Impact

  • March 2011: A powerful magnitude 9 earthquake strikes, followed by a tsunami that inundates the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma.
  • Diesel generators are damaged, leading to a loss of power and cooling systems failure for the reactors.
  • The absence of cooling triggers reactor meltdowns and explosions due to the build-up of pressure and heat.
  • Radioactive materials are released, contaminating air, water, soil, and the local population.
  • Winds disperse radioactive particles into the Pacific Ocean.
  • The area around the power plant becomes uninhabitable and remains so, rendering the facility and its surroundings unusable.

Japanese Government’s Water Disposal Plan and Opposition

Government’s Intentions:
  • The Japanese government aims to release water from the Fukushima nuclear plant that was used to cool reactors, along with rainwater and groundwater.
  • This water contains radioactive isotopes from damaged reactors and was crucial for cooling purposes.
  • The plan involves treating the water to remove most radioactive elements before releasing it into the Pacific Ocean over a span of 30 years.
  • Such water releases are common practice in nuclear plants globally after treating to meet safety standards.
Reasons for Opposition:
  • Critics argue that no radiation exposure can be considered entirely safe, challenging the claim that the treated water will be harmless.
  • Experts warn that any discharge of radioactive substances into the ocean could heighten cancer risks and other health consequences for exposed populations.
  • Tritium, a challenging isotope to remove from the water, is a particular concern. It is easily absorbed by organisms and distributed via blood circulation.
  • Concerns also surround potential contamination of aquatic life, especially fish, impacting ecosystems and seafood industry.
  • Countries like South Korea, China, Taiwan, and Pacific Islands Forum have voiced objections to the plan, reflecting broader regional concerns.
  • Calls for comprehensive studies on water tank contents before discharge are being made by researchers worldwide.

Japan’s Alternatives and Expert Opinions on Fukushima Water Disposal

Alternative Options for Japan:
  • One alternative for Japan is to store the contaminated water for an extended period before considering discharge.
  • Tritium’s half-life is around 12-13 years, meaning its radioactivity will naturally decrease over time.
  • Similarly, other radioactive isotopes’ levels will also decrease during this period, potentially leading to less radioactive water upon eventual discharge.
Expert Perspectives:
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report in July affirming that if the discharge is carried out as planned, it will have minimal environmental and human health impact.
  • Many scientists support the IAEA’s stance on the matter.
  • However, some experts highlight the need to study the potential long-term consequences of low-dose radioactivity that might persist in the discharged water.

-Source: The Hindu


Production Linked Incentive Scheme


Context:

Recently, a debate has emerged over the effectiveness of India’s Production-Linked Incentive (PLI), an Electronics Manufacturing scheme, suggesting it generates import-dependent assembly jobs rather than fostering Self-Sufficiency in manufacturing and economic growth.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Promoting Domestic Manufacturing: The Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI)
  2. Challenges and Concerns Surrounding the PLI Scheme

Promoting Domestic Manufacturing: The Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI)

  • The Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme was devised to bolster domestic manufacturing capacity, foster import substitution, and drive employment generation.
  • Initiated in March 2020, the scheme initially targeted three sectors, including Mobile and Allied Component Manufacturing, Electrical Component Manufacturing, and Medical Devices. Later, it was expanded to encompass 14 diverse sectors.
Participation and Rewards:
  • The PLI scheme extends rewards to both domestic and foreign companies engaged in manufacturing within India.
  • The rewards are based on a percentage of their revenue over a maximum period of five years.
Scope of Sectors:
  • The 14 sectors covered by the scheme include mobile manufacturing, medical device production, automobile and auto components, pharmaceuticals, specialty steel, telecom and networking products, electronic products, white goods (ACs and LEDs), food products, textile products, solar PV modules, advanced chemistry cell (ACC) batteries, and drones along with drone components.
Incentive Calculation:
  • The incentives provided are calculated with reference to incremental sales.
  • For sectors like advanced chemistry cell batteries, textiles, and the drone industry, the calculation incorporates factors such as sales performance, local value addition, and sales growth over a five-year span.
Fostering Research and Development:
  • A key emphasis of the scheme lies in encouraging investment in research and development.
  • This approach ensures that industries remain aligned with global trends and maintain competitiveness in the international marketplace.
Achievements in Smartphone Manufacturing:
  • The PLI scheme’s effectiveness is evident in the smartphone manufacturing sector.
  • In FY 2017-18, mobile phone imports totaled USD 3.6 billion, with exports at a mere USD 334 million, leading to a trade deficit of -USD 3.3 billion.
  • However, by FY 2022-23, imports decreased to USD 1.6 billion, while exports surged to almost USD 11 billion, yielding a positive net export value of USD 9.8 billion.
  • This stands as a testament to the scheme’s role in reducing trade deficits and enhancing India’s manufacturing and export capabilities.

Challenges and Concerns Surrounding the PLI Scheme

Limited Value Addition in Mobile Manufacturing:

  • Subsidies in the Mobile and Allied Component Manufacturing sector are provided based solely on phone assembly in India, rather than on the value added through domestic manufacturing.
  • This has led to the import of numerous components for mobile phones, including display screens, cameras, batteries, and printed circuit boards.
  • Despite a surge in mobile phone exports, much of the value addition remains outside India.

WTO Limitations on Subsidies:

  • WTO regulations prevent India from tying PLI subsidies to domestic value addition, hindering efforts to encourage higher value-added activities.
  • While India aims to manufacture complex components like chips, this aspiration faces challenges due to the complexity involved.

Lack of Clarity in Incentive Allocation:

  • The Empowered Committee responsible for overseeing the PLI scheme and distributing funds lacks clear guidelines for awarding incentives.
  • Ministries and departments lack standardized criteria for determining incentive allocation, raising concerns about the fairness and effectiveness of the scheme.

Absence of Comprehensive Data:

  • The absence of a centralized database capturing metrics such as production increase, exports, and job creation complicates the evaluation process.
  • This data gap creates administrative complexities and undermines transparency, potentially leading to mismanagement and weakening the integrity of the policy framework.

-Source: The Hindu


UK’s North Sea Fossil Fuel Drilling Plans


Context:

The UK Prime Minister has approved further fossil fuel drilling in the North Sea to bolster energy self-sufficiency, prompting concerns about climate commitments. The North Sea Transition Authority (NTSA) is supervising the 33rd licensing round for offshore oil and gas, raising discussions on the nation’s environmental goals.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

Evolution of North Sea Drilling

Evolution of North Sea Drilling

North Sea
  • The North Sea is situated in northwest Europe, bordered by multiple countries including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom.
  • It connects to the Atlantic through the English Channel and the Strait of Dover.
Historical Milestones
  • The 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf established nations’ rights over continental shelves, paving the way for North Sea exploration.
  • The UK’s Continental Shelf Act of 1964 solidified its jurisdiction over offshore oil and gas resources.
  • British Petroleum (BP) obtained the first UK North Sea exploration license in 1964, leading to the discovery of natural gas in 1965.
  • The BP-operated Sea Gem rig collapse in 1965 posed a setback.
  • Commercial oil was found in the Forties Field in 1970, triggering increased exploration.
Current UK Perspective
  • Despite aiming for Net-Zero Emissions by 2050, the UK anticipates a quarter of its energy requirement to still rely on oil and gas.
  • The UK emphasizes using domestic resources to meet energy needs rather than depending on foreign supplies.
  • Concerns arise regarding the UK’s commitment to climate targets, with doubts on its preparedness for climate change per the Climate Change Committee’s report.

Environmental Concerns of Offshore Drilling

Oil Spills:

  • Oil spills from drilling pose severe threats to marine ecosystems and wildlife.
  • Birds, marine mammals, and fish can be coated with oil, causing suffocation and impaired functioning.

Habitat Disruption:

  • The presence of drilling structures and pipelines disrupts marine habitats.
  • Noise and vibrations from drilling operations can disturb marine life, affecting communication, navigation, and breeding.

Habitat Damage:

  • Construction of drilling infrastructure harms underwater habitats like coral reefs and seagrass beds.
  • These habitats are crucial for breeding and feeding marine species.

Climate Impact:

  • Burning fossil fuels extracted from offshore drilling contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • This worsens global climate change, leading to sea-level rise and ocean warming.

Resource Depletion:

  • Intensive drilling depletes oil and gas reserves, leading to pressure to explore ecologically sensitive regions.

Ocean Acidification:

  • CO2 released from fossil fuel burning is absorbed by oceans, causing ocean acidification.
  • This harms marine life, especially organisms with calcium carbonate shells, like coral reefs and shellfish.

-Source: The Hindu


Bharat NCAP


Context:

Recently, the  Ministry of Road Transport and Highways approved the draft GSR notification to introduce Bharat NCAP (New Car Assessment Program).

  • Bharat NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) will be rolled out from April 1, 2023.

Relevance:

GS II- Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Bharat NCAP
  2. Feature
  3. Significance

About Bharat NCAP

  • It is a new car safety assessment programme which proposes a mechanism of awarding ‘Star Ratings’ to automobiles based upon their performance in crash tests.
  • Bharat NCAP standard is aligned with global benchmarks and it is beyond minimum regulatory requirement.
  • The US was the first country to start a programme that provided information on car safety with regard to crashes to customers in 1978. Later, a number of similar programmes were started across regions.
Feature:
  • The proposed Bharat NCAP assessment will allocate Star Ratings from 1 to 5 stars.
  • The testing of vehicles for this programme will be carried out at testing agencies, with the necessary infrastructure.
  • Bharat NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) will be applicable on type approved motor vehicles of category M1 with gross vehicle weight less than 3.5 tonnes, manufactured or imported in the country.
    • M1 category motor vehicles are used for the carriage of passengers, comprising eight seats, in addition to the driver’s seat.
  • Auto firms in India follow AIS-145 (automotive Indian standard-145), which enforces safety features for vehicles such as seatbelts tell-tale, passenger airbags, and the speed limit alarm.
Significance
  • Bharat NCAP will encourage manufacturers to participate voluntarily in the safety testing assessment programme and incorporate higher safety levels in new car models.
    • It aims to reduce 50 per cent road accident deaths by 2024.
  • Bharat NCAP will also promote a healthy competition among original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in India to manufacture safer vehicles.
  • Bharat NCAP will ensure structural and passenger safety in cars, along with increasing the export-worthiness of Indian automobiles.
  • Bharat NCAP will prove to be a critical instrument in making our automobile industry Aatmanirbhar with the mission of making India the top automobile hub in the world.

-Source: The Hindu


The Fujiwhara effect


Context:

The United States west coast recently witnessed Hurricane Hilary (a sub-tropical storm by the time it hit the US), prompting the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) to issue its first ever tropical storm watch for parts of Southern California. This was the latest incident in a string of unusual weather phenomena in the region.

  • In one of these storms, two small areas of low pressure were drawn together in a ‘dance’: instead of merging together, the stronger low pressure area became the dominant one in the system – displaying, for a brief moment, what is known as the ‘Fujiwhara effect’.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Fujiwhara Effect
  2. Impact and Increasing Occurrence of Fujiwhara Effect

Fujiwhara Effect:

  • The Fujiwhara effect refers to the phenomenon in which two cyclones (hurricanes or typhoons) that are spinning in the same direction come close to each other and engage in an intricate dance around a common center of rotation.
  • Interaction and Outcomes:
  • When two cyclones approach each other closely, their interaction can lead to distinct outcomes based on their relative intensities.
  • If one cyclone is more powerful, it can dominate and absorb the smaller cyclone into its vortex.
  • In cases where cyclones are of similar strengths, they might orbit around a shared center, and their paths could merge temporarily or lead to separate trajectories.
Mega Cyclone Formation:
  • In rare situations, if both cyclones are sufficiently intense, they might merge, resulting in the formation of a single, more powerful cyclone. This mega cyclone can pose a serious threat to coastal areas.
Origins and Discovery:
  • The Fujiwhara effect is named after Sakuhei Fujiwhara, a Japanese meteorologist.
  • It was first mentioned in a paper published in 1921 by Fujiwhara.
  • The phenomenon was observed in 1964 when Typhoons Marie and Kathy merged over the western Pacific Ocean.

Impact and Increasing Occurrence of Fujiwhara Effect:

Effects of the ‘Dance’:
  • The Fujiwhara effect can lead to powerful winds and weather disturbances, as observed in different incidents around the world.
  • In March 2023, the Bay Area and parts of California experienced strong winds causing damage to property and disruptions to power supply.
  • The effect contributed to peak gusts of up to 60 to 75 mph in the Santa Cruz Mountains and 50 to 60 mph winds across Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties.
  • The interaction of cyclones can lead to the merging of systems or intensification of primary circulation due to the influx of heat, moisture, and vorticity.
Instances and Climate Impact:
  • In 2022, typhoon Hinnamnor and tropical storm Gardo engaged in the Fujiwhara effect, with Gardo being absorbed by Hinnamnor. This led to heavy rainfall and casualties in South Korea.
  • Similar interactions were observed in the past, such as hurricanes Hilary and Irwin in 2017, which merged over the eastern Pacific Ocean.
  • Experts point out that the Fujiwhara effect is becoming more frequent, attributed to a warming climate and increasing ocean temperatures.
  • Rising ocean temperatures contribute to the intensification of cyclones, making them more powerful and increasing the chances of such interactions.
  • The occurrence of the Fujiwhara effect adds complexity to cyclone prediction, as each interaction is unique and challenging to forecast within current climate models.
Climate Change Connection:
  • Climate researchers highlight the connection between the Fujiwhara effect and climate change, particularly the warming of the world’s oceans.
  • Rising ocean temperatures lead to stronger cyclones, creating conditions conducive to the Fujiwhara effect.
  • Ravi Shankar Pandey, a research scholar, noted a 35% increase in the strength of typhoons hitting Taiwan between 1977 and 2016, linked to a rise in sea surface temperatures.
  • The effect reflects the broader impact of a warming climate on extreme weather events and atmospheric dynamics.

-Source: Indian Express


Lunar Polar Exploration Mission (LUPEX)


Context:

In a joint effort, the space agencies of India and Japan are embarking on the Lunar Polar Exploration Mission (LUPEX).

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Lunar Polar Exploration Mission (LUPEX):

Lunar Polar Exploration Mission (LUPEX):

Collaborative Venture:

  • LUPEX is a joint effort between Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • The mission is set to launch in 2025.

Objectives:

  • LUPEX aims to explore the lunar polar region and assess the feasibility of establishing a Moon base.
  • It will study the presence of water ice and surface exploration technologies.

Partnership and Instruments:

  • JAXA and ISRO are developing the rover and lander, respectively.
  • The mission will carry instruments from ISRO, JAXA, NASA, and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Proposed Instruments:

  • Ahmedabad-based Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) proposed instruments for LUPEX.
  • “Permittivity and Thermo-physical investigation for Moon’s Aquatic Scout (PRATHIMA)” aims to detect and quantify water-ice mixed with lunar soil.
  • “Lunar Electrostatic Dust EXperiment (LEDEX)” aims to study charged dust particles and levitation processes in the polar region.

Insights and Future Exploration:

  • LUPEX will provide valuable insights into the lunar polar region.
  • The mission’s findings will contribute to future human exploration of the Moon and potential establishment of a base.

-Source: Times of India


Maitri Setu


Context:

India-Bangladesh friendship bridge, the Maitri Setu, is all set to be functional soon.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Maitri Setu
  2. Feni River

Maitri Setu:

Location and Length:

  • Maitri Setu is constructed over the Feni River, which forms the boundary between Tripura (India) and Bangladesh.
  • The bridge spans 1.9 kilometers, connecting Sabroom (Tripura) with Ramgarh (Bangladesh).

Symbol of Bilateral Relations:

  • The name “Maitri Setu” reflects the strengthening bilateral relations and friendly ties between India and Bangladesh.

Construction and Oversight:

  • The construction of the bridge was managed by the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd.

Design and Structure:

  • Maitri Setu is a pre-stressed concrete bridge.
  • It features a single-span structure that enables smooth traffic and cargo movement between the two countries.

Feni River:

Location and Border:

  • The Feni River serves as a natural border between India and Bangladesh.

Origin and Flow:

  • The river originates in the South Tripura district.
  • It passes through Sabroom town on the Indian side before entering Bangladesh.
  • The Feni River ultimately flows into the Bay of Bengal.

Length:

  • The river has a length of 116 kilometers, starting from its source and ending at the Bay of Bengal.
  • Tributaries:
  • Notable tributaries of the Feni River include the Muhuri River, Raidak River, Chandkhira River, Ryang River, and Kushiyara River.

-Source: The Hindu


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