INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Chabahar Port Ready, Next Stage for India

Chabahar Port Ready, Next Stage for India

What is the News?

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the first phase of the Chabaharport development project. 

Location of Chabahar port

  • The port of Chabahar is located in southeastern Iran in the Gulf of Oman. It is the only Iranian port with direct access to the ocean.

What is the significance of Chabahar for India?

  • Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
  • Bypass Pakistan: With Chabahar port being opernationalIndia can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan.
  • Counter China:Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
  • Stronger partnership with Iran: Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
  • Economic benefits: there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.
  • Partnership with Afganistan will strengthen:Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This is will, in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.

Way Ahead

  • The inauguration of the port will effectively pave the way for India to carry forward the next phase of construction and development of two berths for its use particularly for trade with Afghanistan.
  • The government will develop a free-trade area around the port.
  • The government will complete the loop with a railway line to Zahedan.
Narendra Modi supports creation of a ‘Sovereign, Independent, Viable’ Palestine

Narendra Modi supports creation of a ‘Sovereign, Independent, Viable’ Palestine

What is the News?

  • Ahead of International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the PM India will continue to support nation-building activities by the Palestinians.
  • Peaceful co-existence: Prime Minister NarendraModi presented his government’s position and urged for the creation of a Palestinian State that will co-exist ‘peacefully’ with Israel.

Two-state Solution

  • The special day marks Resolution 181 of the United Nations which called for creation of independent Israeli and Palestinian states and was adopted on 29, November, 1947. The two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is based on this resolution.
  • The day is being marked in the backdrop of the ongoing diplomacy to bring the two sides to the negotiation table. “India hopes for early resumption of dialogue between the Palestinian and the Israeli sides to move towards finding a comprehensive negotiated resolution,” Mr. Modi said.
  • The statement was sent to the United Nations a few days ago through the Permanent Mission of India at the United Nations.

Global Push

  • Mr. Modi’s statement adds India’s support to the global push for a negotiated settlement of the longstanding demand for a Palestinian state next to Israel.
  • The statement is the first occasion that the Prime Minister has spoken about the need for a viable Palestinian State since his visit to Israel last July.
  • However, the India-Israel Joint Statement issued during his visit this year did not mention the need to create a Palestinian state but had mentioned the need for ‘mutual recognition’ and ‘security arrangements’ as the basis for a peaceful solution to the issue.

Netanyahu to visit India

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to visit India in January reciprocating Mr. Modi’s visit.
U.S. now within range of North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons

U.S. now within range of North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons

What is the News?

  • North Korea claims to have tested successfully a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a “breakthrough” that puts the U.S. mainland within the range of its nuclear weapons whose warheads could withstand re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.

Defiance to International Sancations

  • The missile test came a week after U.S. President Donald Trump put North Korea back on a U.S. list of countries it says support terrorism, allowing it to impose more sanctions.
  • North Korea, which also conducted its largest nuclear test in September, has tested dozens of ballistic missiles under its leader, Kim Jong Un.

The New Hwasong-15

  • The new Hwasong-15, named after planet Mars, was a more advanced version of an ICBM tested twice in July, North Korea said.
  • It was designed to carry a “super-large heavy warhead.” Based on its trajectory and distance, the missile would have a range of over 13,000 km, more than enough to reach Washington D.C. and the rest of the U.S., the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists said.
  • The latest was the highest and longest any North Korean missile had flown, landing in the sea near Japan.
  • North Korea said the new missile reached an altitude of about 4,475 km — more than 10 times the height of the International Space Station — and flew 950 km during its 53-minute flight.
Singapore offers India Logistical Base

Singapore offers India Logistical Base

What is the News?

  • India and Singapore agreed on greater cooperation and activity in the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea even as the two countries concluded a wide ranging naval agreement for maritime cooperation including logistical support.
  • Bilateral agreement for naval cooperation, includes maritime security, joint exercises and temporary deployments from the naval facilities of each other and mutual logistical support.

What is the Significance of this agreement?

  • The naval logistics agreement is the first for India with a country located east of Malacca.
  • The nearest Indian base is in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Changi base will therefore enhance the navy’s operational reach.
  • The naval base also plays a prominent role in the protection of naval vessels, repair facilities, supplies, administration and logistics support.
  • Extended deployments in the region:The Indian Navy ships sailing through the disputed South China Sea or in the eastern waters of the Andaman Sea will be able to refuel, restock and, if needed, rearm at Singapore’s latest naval base before continuing their mission.

What is the Strategic significance of Singapore?

  • Singapore is strategically situated on the major international sea routes the Straits of Singapore and Malacca – and connects the Pacific and Indian Oceans making it economically important.
  • The country acts as the centre for international communications, transportations and trade to southeast Asia. It works with neighbouring littoral states for safety, stability, regional peace and navigational freedom.
  • Key choke Point: The strait is considered a critical choke point for global commerce and is seen by China as a vulnerability for its energy security. The development is likely to be followed closely by Beijing.
Xi backs China-Myanmar Corridor

Xi backs China-Myanmar Corridor

What is the News?

  • Beijing and Naypyidaw have moved a step closer to negotiating the China-Myanmar economic corridor, an initiative being given high priority on account of the stalled Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) connectivity proposal.
  • Ms. SuuKyi in China: Mr. Xi made these remarks during a meeting with visiting State Counsellor from Myanmar Aung San SuuKyi. Ms. SuuKyi “agreed with China’s proposal of building the Myanmar-China economic corridor.

Background:

  • During his visit to Myanmar Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, said the Y-shaped corridor could start from China’s Yunnan province and head towards Mandalay in Myanmar. From there, it could extend towards the east and west to Yangon New City and Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone in the Rakhine province.

Kolkata link

  • Negotiations for the formation of the BCIM corridor, which would link Kolkata with the Chinese city of Kunming, have virtually stalled after Beijing went ahead with its plans to establish the China-Pakistan economic corridor.

What is India’s Concern?

  • The China-Myanmar corridor would connect Beijing with the Indian Ocean.

Benefits to China

  • The China-Myanmar corridor will enhance connectivity between the two countries. The existing highways, oil and gas pipelines, as well as the railroads and expressways under construction will give China the best access to the Indian Ocean.
  • Transfer of industries: The corridor will also accelerate the transfer of China’s industries to Myanmar. Due to the rising cost of labour, overcapacity and industrial development, China has begun to transfer some of its industries abroad. In this aspect, the corridor will also help turn Myanmar into an important destination for China and other East Asian countries, and will help create more jobs and bolster development locally,” the write-up noted.
Why is the pact on Rohingya important?(A complete picture of events)

Why is the pact on Rohingya important?(A complete picture of events)

Who signed the Deal?

  • Bangladesh and Myanmar announced that they had signed a Memorandum of Agreement to begin the repatriation of more than 6,20,000Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh in the past few months. The ‘Arrangement was a “first step” on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State’.
  • A joint working group including officials from Bangladesh, Myanmar and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) would be set up in three weeks, and Myanmar would begin to repatriate the refugees within two months, by January 23, 2018.

What had led to the Exodus?

  • The agreement was welcomed by many countries. Since August, when the Myanmar military began a crackdown on Rohingya villages in Rakhine after a series of terror strikes on army camps, the numbers that have escaped burning homes and alleged atrocities by the authorities, have risen rapidly, with most seeking shelter across the border in Kutupalong camp of Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazaar. The UN has condemned the violence as a case of “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”, putting pressure on Myanmar’s leadership to end it.

How did China help? (talks guided by China)

  • What sets this agreement apart is that talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar appear to have been guided not by international agencies, but by China. After back-to-back visits to Naypidaw and Dhaka by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Beijing announced that it favoured a “three-step” solution, comprising a ceasefire in Rakhine, a bilateral repatriation deal for the Rohingya to Myanmar and long-term solutions including the economic development of the Rohingya areas.

Why is Being interested?

  • Beijing has deep interests in Rakhine, especially in the Kyaukpyu Port, with oil and energy pipelines to Yunnan province forming part of a $10 billion economic zone in its Belt and Road Initiative. While on the one hand, China has protected the Myanmar regime from international sanctions at the UN thus far, it has tied itself to the success or failure of the repatriation agreement, on which the fate of the Rohingya now rest.

What is Myanmar’s Stand?

  • The signing came as a surprise to many because the Myanmar government led by the National League for Democracy as well as its military leadership have thus far been categorical about not accepting more repatriation, and have denied any wrongdoing by the security forces. The turnaround may be ascribed in part to growing international pressure as well as United Nations resolutions, particularly pushed by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. In September, the Human Rights Council in Geneva voted to extend the mandate of an international fact-finding committee to investigate allegations of human rights violations in Myanmar, and the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee voted overwhelmingly in condemning Myanmar’s actions. International human rights agencies have also called for targeted sanctions and an arms embargo against the Myanmar security forces. The signing of the deal also came at a time when Myanmar’s leader Aung San SuuKyi faced international criticism for not stopping the violence, and several awards and honours given to her for her work in restoring democracy have been revoked over the past month.

What lies Ahead?

  • Myanmar has committed not to delay sending those repatriated back to their original homes, but this task will be made more difficult by the fact that that many of the Rohingya villages have been burnt down. Also of concern is the stipulation that those who will be accepted by Myanmar must show their Myanmar-issued identity cards, not just their Bangladesh-issued refugee cards. Finally, international human rights agencies have warned that refugees cannot be forced to return while threat of violence against them persists, even as they process the trauma borne of the atrocities they fled from.
U.S. pulls out of UN’s Pact on Migration

U.S. pulls out of UN’s Pact on Migration

What is the News?

  • The United States has withdrawn from the United Nations pact to improve the handling of migrant and refugee situations, deeming it “inconsistent” with its policies.

Grounds of US withdrawal

  • The US claims the pact undermines the sovereign right of the country to enforce immigration laws and secure its borders. Therefore, it undermines the national sovereignty. However, the country has assured its support to international cooperation on migration issues.
  • It is widely believed that no one nation can manage international migration alone. Besides, the role of the United States in this process is critical as it has historically and generously welcomed people from all across the globe and remains home to the largest number of international migrants in the world.

What is the UN pact on Migration?

  • The global pact for migration is the first, intergovernmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.
  • In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, adopted in September 2016, the General Assembly decided to develop a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.
  • It is a significant opportunity to improve the governance on migration.
  • It is framed consistent with target 10.7 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in which member States committed to cooperate internationally to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration and its scope is defined in Annex II of the New York Declaration.It is intended to:
    1. Address all aspects of international migration, including the humanitarian, developmental, human rights-related and other aspects.
    2. Make an important contribution to global governance and enhance coordination on international migration.
    3. Present a framework for comprehensive international cooperation on migrants and human mobility.
    4. Set out a range of actionable commitments, means of implementation and a framework for follow-up and review among Member States regarding international migration in all its dimensions.
    5. Be guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
    6. Be informed by the Declaration of the 2013 High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development.

POLITY & GOVERNANCE

Telecom Regulator backs Net Neutrality

Telecom Regulator backs Net Neutrality

What is the News?

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has come out in strong support of Net neutrality in a series of recommendations following a long process of consultations on the issue.

Background

  • The recommendations are based on the pre-consultation paper issued in May 2016 and a detailed consultation paper in January 2017.
  • In February 2016, TRAI had barred telecom providers from charging differential rates for data services in its Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016, effectively blocking such attempts by Facebook and Airtel.
  • Facebook had earlier rolled out its Free Basics service in partnership with Reliance Communications as a “differential service” and lobbied hard for it on social media which put it at loggerheads with the telecom regulator.

What are the Recommendations?

  • The licensing terms should be amplified to provide explicit restrictions on any sort of discrimination in Internet access based on the content being accessed, the protocols being used or the user equipment being deployed.
  • The content mentioned includes all content, applications, services and any other data, including its end-point information that can be accessed or transmitted over the Internet.
  • Warning against any “discriminatory treatment” including blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds to any content.
  • The service providers should be restricted from entering into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory treatment based on content, sender or receiver, protocols or user equipment.
  • TRAI has recommended a multi-stakeholder body which would be responsible for developing technical standards for monitoring and enforcement of the principles.
  • Specialised services — which are “optimized for specific content, protocols or user equipment where optimization is necessary to meet the quality of service requirements” should be exempt from the principles of discriminatory treatment.
  • TRAI has also brought in Internet of Things (IoT) enabled services also under the ambit of these restrictions, with a caveat that critical IoT services, identified by Department of Telecom (DoT) and coming under specialised services, will be automatically exempt.
  • If a telecom operator is implementing any traffic management practice — whenever it happens —these instances to be openly declared and even intimated to users directly getting impacted by such restrictions, whatever their cause.
  • However, the scope of the provisions only applies “specifically to Internet Access Services, which are generally available to the public.”

About Net Neutrality

  • Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.
  • The term was coined by Columbia Universitymedia law professor Tim Wu in 2003.
Alappuzha sails away with swachh glory, gets pat from UN

Alappuzha sails away with swachh glory, gets pat from UN

What is the News?

  • Alappuzha, Kerala’s picturesque town famous for its canals, is among the five cities recognised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as global success stories in solving the problem of solid waste.
  • The other four Cities : Osaka (Japan), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Penang (Malaysia) and Cajicá (Colombia) are the other winners.

Segregate and prosper are Alappuzha’s mantra

  • Alappuzha addressed the problem by introducing a decentralised waste management system, the agency said.
  • A few years ago, roadsides and canals filled with stinking garbage were threatening coastal Alappuzha’s status as a tourist destination as well as exposing residents and visitors alike to clouds of flies and disease-spreading mosquitoes. Protests by local residents led to the closure of the city’s main landfill site in 2014.
  • Since then, the city, often referred to as ‘the Venice of the East’ for its backwaters and coastal lagoons where tourists rent houseboats, had introduced a decentralised waste management system.
  • Under this, biodegradable waste was segregated at the ward level, and treated in small composting plants. “This provides many of its 1,74,000 residents with biogas for cooking,” the UN report said.
  • Pollution is the theme of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly, to be held in Nairobi, Kenya from December 4 to 6. “Five of the 50 anti-pollution actions listed in a UN Environment report relate directly to solid waste.
  • One emphasises that carefully crafted policies and regulation at the national level are vital to moving economies onto a more sustainable track. But it is usually up to cities and towns to implement them on the ground,” UNEP says.
  • Alappuzha is among a handful of municipalities that received the Clean City Award from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in 2016.
New Radio Technology for Navy

New Radio Technology for Navy

What is the News?

  • The Union Defence Ministry has approved procurement of 260 Software Defined Radios (SDR), a naval communication sets for Indian Navy at cost of Rs. 490 crore to ramp up surveillance on the high seas.
  • The decision was taken at meeting of Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister NirmalaSitharaman. The DAC is Adefence ministry’s highest decision making body on procurement.

Highlights

  • These 260 SDRs will be procured under category of buy (India Designed Developed & Manufactured).
  • It will be first batch of indigenously designed and developed software defined radio sets to be procured by any of three services.
  • These will replace existing systems on-board warships. The development of SDRs was carried out by Defence Electronics & Applications Laboratory (DEAL) of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) will be production Agency. The SDR technology will improve information sharing and situational awareness through secure voice communications and data transfer capabilities.

Road Safety

Supreme Court tightens the Screw on Road Safety

What is the News?

  • A Coimbatore-based orthopaedician’s PIL led the Supreme Court to insist on all States and Union Territories to frame a Road Safety Policy and the setting up of a lead agencies to work as secretariats of State Road Safety Councils to co-ordinate on activities such as licensing issues like driving licences, registration of vehicles, road safety and features of vehicles.

What is the Background?

  • The verdict records Dr. Rajaseekharan’s account of how he, in his professional capacity, witnesses the acute loss of life and limbs caused by road accidents. The orthopaedician told the Supreme Court that 90 per cent of the problem of deaths due to road accidents was the result of a lack of strict enforcement of safety rules on roads and strict punishment for those who do not obey rules.
  • A road safety policy:The court found that most of the States and Union Territories have already framed a road safety policy, though Delhi, Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Delhi, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Andaman have not. The court gave them time January 31, 2018.

A Road Safety Council

  • These councils would periodically review the laws and take appropriate remedial steps wherever necessary.the Union Territories of Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Andaman and Nicobar Islands have not constituted the Road Safety Council as yet. These Union Territories were given time till January 31, 2018.
  • The Justice Radhakrishnan panel would fix the responsibility and functions of the councils. These councils would periodically review the laws and take appropriate remedial steps wherever necessary. Similarly, lead agencies and district road safety committees should be established by January 31, 2018.

A Road Safety Fund

  • The court has made it mandatory for States and Union Territories to establish Road Safety Fund, the corpus of which would come from traffic fines collected. The money would be used to meet the expenses for road safety.
  • The court has also directed framing Road Safety Action Plans by March 31 to reduce the number of road accidents, as well as the fatality rate.
  • The Union Ministry of Transport has been asked to frame a protocol for road design, road quality and identification of black spots. The ministry should implement “traffic calming measures” at accident spots.”It appears that one of the main reasons for road accidents is the poor quality of roads, improper design, etc,” the court observed.
  • Other measures include setting up of emergency medical care centres in every district, a universal accidental helpline number and permanent road safety cell, among others.
  • The court said it would review the situation in February 2018.
U.K. based NRIs pledge Rs. 500 crore for Ganga

U.K. based NRIs pledge Rs. 500 crore for Ganga

What is the News?

  • UK-based Indian-origin businessmen have committed to projects worth nearly Rs 500 crore associated with the Clean Ganga mission.
  • River front regeneration and development of ghats in the towns of Patna, Kanpur, Haridwar and Kolkata have been taken on by four leading industrialists from the UK.
  • The businessmen will take on the projects as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda and work with the Indian government on finalising the plans for each of the cities.

About Namami Gange Programme

  • Approved by the Union government “NamamiGange” Program was lauched in May 2015. It integrates the efforts to clean and protect the Ganga River in a comprehensive manner.
  • Among other things, the programme will focus on pollution abatement interventions namely Interception, diversion & treatment of wastewater flowing through the open drains through bio-remediation / appropriate in-situ treatment / use of innovative technologies.
  • The program would be implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organizations i.e., State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).
  • In order to improve implementation, a three-tier mechanism has been proposed for project monitoring comprising of
    1. High level task force chaired by Cabinet Secretary assisted by NMCG at national level.
    2. State level committee chaired by Chief Secretary assisted by SPMG at state level and
    3. District level committee chaired by the District Magistrate.
  • The program emphasizes on improved coordination mechanisms between various Ministries/Agencies of Central and State Governments.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

How cyclone ‘Ockhi’ got its Name

How cyclone ‘Ockhi’ got its Name

What is the News?

  • Heavy rain and strong winds hammered the southern parts of the two States(Tamil nadu and Kerala) after a depression in the Bay of Bengal turned into a cyclonic storm — Cyclone Ockhi.
  • The first tropical cyclone for the season ‘Ockhi’, named by Bangladesh (meaning eyes).

Naming a Tropical Cyclone

  • The tropical Cyclone naming was started in 2000 by World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

What is the purpose of naming?

  • Tropical cyclones are named to provide ease of communication between forecasters and the general public regarding forecasts, watches, and warnings.
  • The Cyclones worldwide are named by 9 regions — North Atlantic, Eastern North Pacific, Central North Pacific, Western North Pacific, North Indian Ocean, South West Indian Ocean, Australian, Southern Pacific, South Atlantic.
  • Cyclones in the North Indian Ocean basin are named by the Indian Meteorological Department and the first tropical cyclone was named in 2004 as Onil (given by Bangladesh).
  • Eight north Indian Ocean countries — Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand, gave eight names each which was combined into a list of 64 names. One name from each country is picked in an order to name the cyclones.
  • The previous storm Mora that caused severe flooding across Northeast India in May was named by Thailand. Mora is the name of one of the healing stones and also means star of the sea. The next cyclone will be named Sagar — a name given by India.
India loses billions to Air Pollution: UN

India loses billions to Air Pollution: UN

What is the News?

  • India had the highest share of welfare costs (or a loss of income fromlabour), of about $220 billion, in South and South-East Asia — of a combined total of $380 billion from mortality due to air pollution, report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • The global mortality costs from outdoor air pollution are projected to rise to about $25 trillion by 2060 in the absence of more stringent measures.
  • At regional and national scale, China’s welfare costs from mortality were the highest at nearly $1 trillion followed by the Organisation for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD) countries with a combined total of $730 billion, the report added quoting a 2016 projection by the OECD.
  • Although certain forms of pollution have been reduced as “technologies and management strategies have advanced,” approximately 19 million premature deaths are estimated to occur annually as a result of the way societies use natural resources and impact the environment to support production and consumption, it notes.

Serious Burden

  • “If consumption and production patterns continue as they are, the linear economic model of ‘take-make-dispose’ will seriously burden an already-polluted planet, affecting current and future generations,” the report’s foreword concludes.

Need for a decentralised Commitment

  • To curb pollution in various forms, the UNEP called for strong high-level political commitment and engagement of the local government, civil society and other stakeholders.
  • To achieve high level political commitment in key economic sectors, there is a need to go beyond the environmental ministries and include other relevant ministries such as finance, agriculture, industry, urban, transport, energy and health.
  • There is also a need to engage the local government, civil society organisations, business leaders, industries, trade unions and citizens at large.
  • Reporting on the progress that comes from acting on pollution – whether through voluntary measures or formal laws – is a crucial step in this transition.
  • “Pollution is a universal challenge [but] the good news is that we already know what we need to do to prevent and reduce it,”
  • The report, ‘Towards a pollution-free planet’, was launched during the first Conference of Parties for the Minamata Convention, which addresses mercury issues, and ahead of the annual U.N. Environment Assembly, to be held in early December.
Origami inspires Super Robots

Origami inspires Super Robots

What is the News?

  • Inspired by the folding technique of origami, U.S. researchers have crafted cheap, artificial muscles for robots that give them the power to lift up to 1,000 times their own weight.
  • The advance offers a leap forward in the field of soft robotics, which is fast replacing an older generation of robots that were jerky and rigid in their movements, researchers say.
  • The muscles, known as actuators, are built on a framework of metal coils or plastic sheets, and each muscle costs around $1 to make.
  • Their origami inspiration derives from a zig-zag structure that some of the muscles employ, allowing them to contract and expand as commanded, using vacuum-powered air or water pressure.
  • They created “muscles that can contract down to 10% of their original size, lift a delicate flower off the ground, and twist into a coil, all simply by sucking the air out of them,” said the report.
  • The artificial muscles “can generate about six times more force per unit area than mammalian skeletal muscle can, and are also incredibly lightweight,” it added.

What is Origami?

  • Ori meaning “folding”, and kami meaning “paper” (kami changes to gami due to rendaku)) is the art of paper folding, which is often associated with Japanese culture. In modern usage, the word “origami” is used as an inclusive term for all folding practices, regardless of their culture of origin.

Way Forward

  • Possible uses include expandable space habitats on Mars, miniature surgical devices, wearable robotic exoskeletons, deep-sea exploration devices or even transformable architecture.
  • Now that we have created actuators with properties similar to natural muscle, we can imagine building almost any robot for almost any task.”
  • The vacuum-based muscles “have a lower risk of rupture, failure, and damage, and they don’t expand when they’re operating, so you can integrate them into closer-fitting robots on the human body.
Amchang Wildlife Sactuary

Amchang Wildlife Sactuary

What is the News?

  • In a large scale eviction drive in the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary in Guwahati in Assam, more than 400 families were evicted by Police and Forest Department officials.
  • The drive has generated severe discontent among the members of the Mishing tribe, which accused the State Government of resorting to “anti-people policies.”

What is the Background?

  • The eviction order was issued by Gauhati High Court during a suomotu public interest litigation in 2013.

About Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary

  • The Sanctuary spreading in an area of 78.64 sq. kms. is located in the eastern fringe of Guwahati city.
  • It was declared a wildlife sanctuary by Assam government on 19 june 2004.
  • Amchang is home to 44 species of mammals and 250 avian species, besides varied numbers of reptiles and amphibians.
  • The mammal list of Amchang includes elephant, Chinese pangolin, flying fox, slow loris, Assamese macaque, rhesus macaque, capped langur, hoolock gibbon, jungle cat, leopard cat, leopard, wild pig, sambar , barking deer, gaur and porcupine among others. Likewise, some of the commonly sighted birds include Lesser adjutant, Greater adjutant, white-backed vulture, slender-billed vulture, khaleej pheasant, green imperial pigeon, and lesser pied hornbill.
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