UPSC Prelims News of 8 February 2023
Context: The earth-observation satellite, called NISAR has been shipped to India from the US.
- NISAR (NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar) is an Earth observation satellite jointly developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
- The satellite has been built by the space agencies of the US and India under a partnership agreement signed in 2014.
- The 2,800 kilograms satellite consists of both L-band and S-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) instruments, which makes it a dual-frequency imaging radar satellite.
- While NASA has provided the L-band radar, GPS, a high-capacity solid-state recorder to store data, and a payload data subsystem, ISRO has provided the S-band radar, the GSLV launch system and spacecraft.
- Another important component of the satellite is its large 39-foot stationary antenna reflector.
- NISAR is expected to be launched in January 2024 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre into a near-polar orbit. The satellite will operate for a minimum of three years.
- Once launched into space, NISAR will observe subtle changes in Earth’s surfaces, helping researchers better understand the causes and consequences of such phenomena.
- It will spot warning signs of natural disasters, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and landslides.
- The satellite will also measure groundwater levels, track flow rates of glaciers and ice sheets, and monitor the planet’s forest and agricultural regions, which can improve our understanding of carbon exchange.
- ISRO will use NISAR for a variety of purposes including agricultural mapping, and monitoring of glaciers in the Himalayas, landslide-prone areas and changes in the coastline.
- By using synthetic aperture radar (SAR), NISAR will produce high-resolution images. SAR is capable of penetrating clouds and can collect data day and night regardless of the weather conditions.
- It will also be capable of imaging the entire Earth in 12 days.
Context: The Prime Minister officially announced the availability of E20 fuel at the India Energy Week (IEW) 2023 recently.
About E 20 Fuel:
E20 fuel is a blend of 20% ethanol and 80% petrol.
- Ethanol is a biofuel and a common by-product of biomass left by agricultural feedstock such as corn, sugarcane, hemp, potato, etc.
- It is produced mainly from molasses, a byproduct of sugar manufacture.
- Ethanol is basically alcohol of 99%-plus purity, which can be used for blending with petrol.
- The National Policy on Bio-fuels has set a target of 20% blending of biofuels, both for bio-diesel and bio-ethanol.
- The adoption of E20 fuel will be instrumental in cutting down vehicular emissions.
- It will help in reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, etc.
- It will also help in cutting down the country’s oil import bill, thereby saving foreign exchange and boosting energy security.
- It would extend support to the agricultural sector as well as provide additional income to farmers.
The current permissible level of blending is 10% of ethanol. India reached only 5.6% of blending in 2019.
Initiatives to Promote Biofuels:
- Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme: To extract the fuel from surplus quantities of food grains such as maize, jawar, bajra fruit and vegetable waste.
- Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN Yojana: To create an ecosystem for setting up commercial projects and to boost research and development in the 2G Ethanol sector.
- GOBAR (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources) DHAN scheme, 2018: It focuses on managing and converting cattle dung and solid waste in farms to useful compost, biogas and bio-CNG, thus keeping villages clean and increasing the income of rural households.
- Repurpose Used Cooked Oil (RUCO): It was launched by the FSSAI and aims for an ecosystem that will enable the collection and conversion of used cooking oil to biodiesel.
- National Policy on Biofuels, 2018: The Policy allows the use of surplus food grains for the production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of the National Biofuel Coordination Committee.
Context: Visva-Bharati University is soon expected to get the ‘heritage’ tag from UNESCO to take the distinction of world’s first living heritage university.
About the University:
- Visva-Bharati University was founded by Rabindranath Tagore in 1921.
- It is set to become the world’s first “living heritage university” (usually, heritage tag is given to a dead monument and for the first time, a living (functioning) university is expected to get the heritage tag from UNESCO.
- The University is located in Shantiniketan, West Bengal.
- When founded in 1921, it was named after Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore until Visva-Bharati Society was registered as an organization in May 1922.
- Rabindranath believed in open-air education and introduced that system at the university, which prevails to date.
- According to UNESCO, in 1922, Visva-Bharati was inaugurated as a Centre for Culture with an exploration into the arts, language, humanities, and music and these are reflected in diverse institutes that continue in their educational programmes including Hindi studies, Sino-Asian studies, humanities, fine arts, and music.
- They are based on the founding principles of excellence in culture and culture studies.
- Until Independence, it was a college and the institution was given the status of a Central University in 1951 through a Central Act.
- Also, the structures within the institutes of Visva-Bharati University are diverse in architectural expression like Kalo Bari (a mud structure with a coal tar finish and sculpture panels) Mastermoshai studio (a single-story structure built for the first principal of Kala Bhavan) and Murals and paintings on Cheena and Hindi Bhavan
Wolf 1069 b
Context: Astronomers have recently discovered Wolf 1069 b, an Earth-mass exoplanet that could potentially be habitable.
- Wolf 1069 b is an exoplanet, at about 26 the mass of Earth and 1.08 the size.
- An exoplanet is any planet beyond our solar system.
- Location: It is a potentially habitable exoplanet 31 light-years away from Earth.
- Facts about Wolf 1069b:
- Its surface is cool, which makes it appear orange.
- It orbits a red dwarf star, Wolf 1069. Wolf 1069 b lies within its star’s habitable zone.
- It receives approximately 65% of the solar radiance that Earth receives.
- Wolf 1069 b is tidally locked to its parent star, meaning one side is always in daylight, and the opposite side is always in darkness.
- It orbits the star within 15.6 days at a distance equivalent to one-15th of the separation between the Earth and the sun.
Periyar River Conservation Project
Context: The Central government has launched a programme for conserving the 244-km-long Periyar River in Kerala.
About the Conservation Project
- The Periyar river water body is among six rivers across the country that are being covered under the National River Conservation Plan (NCRP), with the other rivers being Barak, Mahanadi, Narmada, Godavari and Kaveri.
- The current conservation project, named “Periyar River Basin Conservation Project”, is an integrated mission under the aegis of the Government of India, in association with the State Forest Department, Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) and Periyar foundation.
- The Periyar River has been selected for the project considering the endemism of the river, and the rich biodiversity.
- The project aims at ensuring the ecological restoration of the river and conservation of its biodiversity, which would involve the following steps:
- Creating scientific data on Periyar river
- Drivers of the river need to be identified
- Further, the source of pollution and steps to mitigate it would be identified
- Periyar River:
- Periyar is the longest river in Kerala with a length of 244 Km and has the largest discharge capacity.
- It originates in the Sivagiri hills of the Western Ghats and discharges into the Arabian Sea.
- National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) is the Centrally Sponsored Scheme implemented by the Ministry of Jal Shakti, for the abatement of pollution in identified stretches of rivers in the country, excluding those in the Ganga basin, by providing financial and technical assistance to the States/Union Territories (UTs) on cost sharing basis.
Keoladeo National Park
Context: The Rajasthan government has proposed to construct a zoo inside Keoladeo National Park, to display a range of wetland species, including rhinos, water buffaloes, crocs, dolphins and exotic species.
About Keoladeo National Park
- Formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, the Keoladeo National Park is located in the Bharatpur district of Rajasthan.
- It is recognised as one of the world’s most important bird breeding and feeding grounds.
- It was declared a national park in 1982 and listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.
- It is home to over 370 species of birds and animals such as the basking python, painted storks, deer, nilgai and more.
- Noted Indian ornithologist and naturalist Salim Ali used his influence to garner government support to create Keoladeo National Park.
- Keoladeo National Park is a wetland of international importance for migratory waterfowl, where birds migrating down the Central Asian flyway congregate before dispersing to other regions.
- It is the only park in India that is completely enclosed by a 2 m high boundary wall that minimises the possibilities of any encroachment and biotic disturbances.
Context: Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has set up 12 Garima Greh Shelter Home for Transgender Persons on a pilot basis in 9 States.
About Garima Greh
- Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister introduced the Garima Greh, a shelter for transgender people on 25th November 2020, in Vadodara, Gujarat.
- To provide shelter to transgender persons like Shelter, food, medical care, and other facilities.
- To provide a support system for building skill development of transgender persons in the community to lead their life in dignity and respect.
- To help the transgender community to develop self-confidence and self motivate to face the world with pride.
- Under the scheme, the 25 transgender people will live together in one house.
Special Situation Funds
Context: A number of global special situation funds have bought large amounts of foreign currency bonds from the Adani Group following the Hindenburg report.
About Special Situation Funds (SSF)
- SSF are a sub-category of Category I Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs). SSF is raised from sophisticated investors with deep pockets.
- SSFs invest only in special situation assets and may act as a resolution applicants under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.
- SSFs cannot invest in:
- Its associates
- The units of any other Alternative Investment Fund other than the units of a special situation fund
- Units of SSF managed or sponsored by its manager, sponsor or associates of its manager or sponsor.
- Significance: Special Situation Funds (SSFs) can buy bad loans (similar to Asset Reconstruction Company (ARC)).
- This can release capital locked up in the banking system and help improve credit supply in the economy.
- A special situation is an unusual event that motivates investors to buy a stock or other asset in the belief that its price will rise.
- It is an attempt to profit from a potential rise in valuation that the special situation presents.
- Special situations can include spinoffs, tender offers, mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcy, litigation, capital structure dislocations, shareholder activism, stock buybacks etc.