24th NOVEMBER CUREENT AFFAIRS

1.Sentinel-6 Satellite

News: The Copernicus Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, designed to monitor oceans, was launched from the in California.

Significance of measuring ocean:

  • With this, it is possible to observe the height of the oceans on a global scale and monitor critical changes in ocean currents and heat storage only from space. It helps scientists foresee the effects of the changing oceans on the climate.
  • In order to measure and track changes in the oceanic heat budget, scientists need to know the ocean currents and heat storage of the oceans, which can be determined from the height of the sea surface.

Sentinel-6 Satellite

  • This is a part of the next mission dedicated to measuring changes in the global sea level.
  • It has been named after Dr Michael Freilich, who was the Director of NASA’s Earth Science Division from 2006-2019 and passed away in August this year.

What is the mission?

  • The mission is called the Jason Continuity of Service (Jason-CS) mission. It is designed to measure the height of the ocean,which is a key component in understanding how the Earth’s climate is changing.
  • It has been developed jointly bythe European Space Agency (ESA), NASA, European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (Eumetsat), the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the EU, with contributions from France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES).

What will the satellite do?

  • The satellite will ensure the continuity of sea-level observations into the fourth decade and will provide measurements of global sea-level rise. Since 1992, high-precision satellite altimeters have helped scientists understand how the ocean stores and distributes heat, water and carbon in the climate system.
  • Essentially, the satellite will send pulses to the Earth’s surface and measure how long they take to return to it, which will help scientists measure the sea surface height.
  • It will also measure water vapour along this path and find its position using GPS and ground-based lasers.

Significance of the mission

  • As per NASA, it is possible to observe the height of the oceans on a global scale and monitor critical changes in ocean currents and heat storage only from space. Data from satellites such as Sentinel-6 help scientists foresee the effects of the changing oceans on the climate.
  • Further, in order to measure and track changes in the oceanic heat budget, scientists need to know the ocean currents and heat storage of the oceans, which can be determined from the height of the sea surface.

2.Punjab and Haryana claiming on Chandigarh

News: Haryana Government recently suggested that it would be better if both Haryana and Punjab agreed on Chandigarh as a Union Territory and make their independent capitals and Benches of High Courts.

Background:

  • Chandigarh was planned to replace Lahore, the capital of erstwhile Punjab, which became part of Pakistan during the Partition. From 1952 to 1966 (till Haryana was carved out of Punjab), Chandigarh remained the capital of Punjab.
  • At the time of reorganisation of Punjabin 1966, the city assumed the unique distinction of being the capital of both Punjab and Haryana, even as it was declared a union territory and was placed under the direct control of the Centre.
  • The-then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had announced that Haryana, in due course, would have its own capital and Chandigarh would go to Punjab.
  • Again, in 1985, under the Rajiv-Longowal accord,Chandigarh was to be handed over to Punjab on January 26, 1986, but the Rajiv Gandhi government withdrew at the last minute.

Punjab’s claim

  • The-then PM Indira Gandhi had announced that Haryana, in due course, would have its own capital and Chandigarh would go to Punjab.
  • As per documents submitted in the Lok Sabha, the Centre had even issued a formal communication is this regard on January 29, 1970, almost three years after Haryana came into being.
  • Again, in 1985, under the Rajiv-Longowal accord, Chandigarh was to be handed over to Punjab on January 26, 1986, but the Rajiv Gandhi government withdrew at the last minute.

Haryana’s counter-claim

  • As per the 1970 documents, the Centre had considered various alternatives for settling the matter, including dividing the city. But that wasn’t feasible since Chandigarh was built as a planned city to serve as the capital of one state.
  • Haryana was told to use the office and residential accommodation in Chandigarh only for five years till it shifts to its own new capital. The Centre had offered Rs 10 crore grant to Haryana and an equal amount of loan for setting up the new capital. In 2018, Haryana CM suggested setting up a special body for the development of Chandigarh, but the Punjab CM rejected it, saying the city “indisputably belonged to Punjab”.

3.India’s Deep Ocean Mission

News: India will soon launch an ambitious ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ that envisages exploration of minerals, energy and marine diversity of the underwater world, a vast part of which still remains unexplored.

Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)

  • Nodal Agency:Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES)
  • The mission proposes to explore the deep ocean similar to the space exploration started by ISRO.
  • Underwater robotics and ‘manned’ submersibles are key components of the Mission which will help India harness various living and non-living (water, mineral and energy) resources from the seabed and deep water.
  • The tasks that will be undertaken over this period include deep-sea mining, survey, energy exploration and the offshore-based desalination.
  • These technological developments are funded under an umbrella scheme of the government – called Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling and Science (O-SMART).

Mining PMN

  • One of the main aims of the mission is to explore and extract polymetallic nodules (PMN).
  • These are small potato-like rounded accretions composed of minerals such as manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper and iron hydroxide. They lie scattered on the Indian Ocean floor at depths of about 6,000 m and the size can vary from a few millimetres to centimetres. These metals can be extracted and used in electronic devices, smartphones, batteries and even for solar panels.

Location:

  • The International Seabed Authority (ISA), an autonomous international organisation established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, allots the ‘area’ for deep-sea mining.
  • India was the first country to receive the status of a ‘Pioneer Investor ‘ in 1987 and was given an area of about 1.5 lakh sq km in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) for nodule exploration.
  • In 2002, India signed a contract with the ISA and after complete resource analysis of the seabed 50% was surrendered and the country retained an area of 75,000 sq km.

Other countries in the race:

  • Apart from the CIOB, polymetallic nodules have been identified from the central Pacific Ocean. It is known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone.
  • According to the ISA’s website, it has entered into 15-year contracts for exploration for polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts in the deep seabed with 29 contractors. Later it was extended for five more years till 2022.
  • China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Russia and also some small islands such as the Cook Islands, Kiribati have joined the race for deep-sea mining. Most of the countries have tested their technologies in shallow waters and are yet to start deep-sea extraction.

India’s preparedness

  • India’s mining site is at about a depth of 5,500 metres, where there is a high pressure and extremely low temperature. We have also deployed Remotely Operated Vehicle and In-situ Soil Tester in the depth of 6,000 metres and have a thorough understanding of the mining area at the Central Indian Ocean Basin.
  • The mining machine newly developed for 6000 metres depth was able to move about 900 metres and will be deployed soon at 5,500 metres. Weather conditions and the availability of ships also play a role.
  • More tests are being conducted to understand how to bring the nodules up to the surface. A riser system comprising an umbilical cable or electromechanical cable and a hose is being developed.

Environmental impact:

  • According to the IUCN, these deep remote locations can be home to unique species that have adapted themselves to conditions such as poor oxygen and sunlight, high pressure and extremely low temperatures.
  • Such mining expeditions can make them go extinct even before they are known to science.
  • The deep sea’s biodiversity and ecology remain poorly understood, making it difficult to assess the environmental impact and frame adequate guidelines.
  • Though strict guidelines have been framed, they are only exploration guidelines. A new set of exploitation guidelines are being worked out and discussions are on with the ISA.
  • Environmentalists are also worried about the sediment plumes that will be generated as the suspended particles can rise to the surface harming the filter feeders in the upper ocean layers.
  • Additional concerns have been raised about the noise and light pollution from the mining vehicles and oil spills from the operating vessels.

Significance:

  • The mission will give a boost to efforts to explore India’s vast Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf. The plan will enable India to develop capabilities to exploit resources in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB).
  • India has been allotted 75,000 square kilometresin the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploration of poly-metallic nodules.
  • CIOB reserves containdeposits of metals like iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt. It is envisaged that 10% of recovery of that large reserve can meet the energy requirement of India for the next 100 years.

Is deep-sea mining economically viable?

  • The latest estimate from the ISA says it will be commercially viable only if about three million tonnes are mined per year.
  • More studies are being carried out to understand how the technology can be scaled up and used efficiently.

What are PMN?

  • Polymetallic nodules(also known as manganese nodules) are potato-shaped, largely porous nodules found in abundance carpeting the sea floor of world oceans in deep sea.
  • Composition:Besides manganese and iron, they contain nickel, copper, cobalt, lead, molybdenum, cadmium, vanadium, titanium, of which nickel, cobalt and copper are considered to be of economic and strategic importance.

4.G20

News: Recently, at the G20 (Group of Twenty) summit held virtually India called for a “New Global Index” for the post-Corona world. New Global Index will be based on 4 pillars of

  1. Talent,
  2. Technology,
  3. Transparency and
  4. Trusteeship towards the planet.
  • This year’s summit was hosted by Saudi Arabia.
  1. Talent:
  • The focusmust shift to multi-skilling and reskilling from capital and finance to create a vast human talent pool. Indian initiatives such as the National Skill Development Mission (NSDM) which aims to create convergence across sectors and States in terms of skill training activities is already in direction of creating a vast human talent pool. India’s New Education policy and programmes such as Pradhan Mantri Innovative Learning Program (DHRUV) are well aligned with this element.
  1. Technology:
  • Ensuring that technology reaches all segments of the society and the value of new technologies should be measured by their benefit to humanity. India suggested that as follow-up actionand creation of a G20 virtual secretariat as a repository of documentation. Digital India and E-governance campaigns of India have increased people’s access to technology and other government services.
  1. Transparency:
  • Reforms such asRight to Information and Ease of Doing Business promote transparency in governance in India.
  1. Trusteeship:
  • The world should deal with the environment and nature as trusteesrather than owners which would inspire us towards a holistic and healthy lifestyle.
  • Climate change must be fought not in silos but in anintegrated, comprehensive and holistic way.
  • A principle whose benchmark could be a per capita carbon footprint.A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases primarily carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by a particular human activity.
  • Future meetings:Italy in 2021, Indonesia in 2022, India in 2023 and Brazil in 2024.

India’s Initiatives for Lowering Emissions

  • Infrastructure Push:India’s next-generation infrastructure push will not only be convenient and efficient, but will also contribute to a cleaner environment. E.g.: Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, announced by the Prime Minister at the Hamburg G20 meet in 2017. This will act as a convening body that will pool best practices and resources from around the world for reshaping construction, transportation, energy, telecommunication and water, so that building in these core infrastructure sectors factors in natural catastrophes.
  • Producing Clean Energy:The India-France joint initiative of International Solar Alliance (ISA).
  • ISAwill contribute to reducing carbon foot-print.
  • India will meet its goal of175 GigaWatts of renewable energy as a part of its climate commitments made under the paris climate deal well before the target of
  • Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) and LED Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP)scheme has made LED lights popular, saving around 38 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
  • Ujjwala Scheme: Smoke-free kitchenshave been provided to over 80 million households making it among the largest clean energy drives
  • Combat Desertification: The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)links development and environment to sustainable land management and aims to combat desertification and the ill-effects of drought.
  • Clean Air & Water:The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) aims to decrease air pollution and Namami Gange program seeks to rejuvenate river Ganga and show the spirit of trusteeship in governance.

G20

  • It is an informal group of 19 countries and the European Union, with representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
  • The G20 membership comprises a mix of the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies, representing about two-thirds of the world’s population, 85% of global gross domestic product, 80% of global investment and over75% of global trade.
  • Members:Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and the European Union.

5.Agriculture and Air Pollution

Agriculture’s contribution to air pollution

  • Agriculture’s contribution to air pollution runs deeper than what happens between crop seasons.
  • The Indo-Gangetic plain is also one of the world’s largest and rapidly-growing ammonia hotspots.
  • Atmospheric ammonia, which comes from fertiliser use, animal husbandry, and other agricultural practices, combines with emissions from power plants, transportation and other fossil-fuel burning to form fine particles.

Impact of pollution on agriculture

  • It is important to note that agriculture is a victim of pollution as well as its perpetrator.
  • Particulate matter and ground-level ozone formed from industrial, power plant, and transportation emissions among other ingredients causedouble-digit losses in crop yields. Ozone damages plant cells, handicapping photosynthesis, while particulate matter dims the sunlight that reaches crops.
  • Agriculture scientist Tony Fischer’s 2019 estimates of the two pollutants’ combined effect suggest that as much as30 per cent of India’s wheat yield is missing (Sage Journals, Outlook on Agriculture).
  • Earlier, B Sinha et al (2015), in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions, found that high ozone levels in parts of Haryana and Punjab could diminish rice yields by a quarter and cotton by half.

Role played by subsidies

  • The current system of subsidies is a big reason that there is stubble on these fields in the first place.
  • Free power — and consequently, “free” water,pumped from the ground — is a big part of what makes growing rice in these areas attractive. Open-ended procurement of paddy, despite the bulging stocks of grains with the Food Corporation of India, adds to the incentives.
  • Subsidies account for almost 15 per centof the value of rice being produced in Punjab-Haryana belt.
  • Fertiliser, particularly urea in granular form, is highly subsidised.
  • It is one of the cheapest forms of nitrogen-based fertiliser,easy to store and easy to transport, but it is also one of the first to “volatilise,” or release ammonia into the air. This loss of nitrogen then leads to a cycle of more and more fertiliser being applied to get the intended benefits for crops.

Way forward

  • We need to shift the nature of support to farmers from input subsidies to investment subsidies.
  • This could involve the conversion of paddy areas in this belt to orchards with drip irrigation, vegetables, corn, cotton, pulses and oilseeds.
  • All of the above consume much less water, much less power and fertilisers and don’t create stubble to burn.
  • A diversification packageof, say, Rs 10,000 crore spread over the next five years, equally contributed by the Centre and states, may be the best way to move forward in reducing agriculture-related pollution.
  • The approach to diversification has to be demand-led, with a holistic framework of the value chain, from farm to fork and not just focused on production. On the fertiliser front, it would be betterto give farmers input subsidy in cash on per hectare basis, and free up the prices of fertilisers completely.