Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 03 February 2023

World Wetlands Day 2023

GS Paper -3 (Environment)

World Wetlands Day is celebrated annually on 2 February. The day is observed to create awareness among people about the importance of wetlands and different ways to restore their rapid loss and degradation. The theme of World Wetlands Day 2023 is "It’s Time for Wetlands Restoration,” emphasizing the need to prioritize wetland restoration.

Significance of World Wetlands Day:

  1. On 2 February 1971, Convention on Wetlands was accepted as an International Treaty in Ramsar, Iran.
  2. On 30 August 2021, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 75/317 for World Wetlands Day.
  3. The World Wetlands Day started in 1997 when the Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands started educating general public about the significance of protecting wetlands.
  4. The significance of celebrating the World Wetlands Day is to educate, and educate the general public about the restoration of vital ecosystems like wetlands on a global level.

How this is celebrated:

Events, educational seminars, workshops, and conferences will be held globally to ensure wetland restoration measures will be taken in future to preserve these vital ecosystems.

Advantages:         

  1. They are precious biodiversity hotspots.
  2. They are the natural carbon stores, support agriculture & fishing activities, protect shores, and act as water sources.
3.    Wetlands also serve as vital sources of clean water, help regulate local climates and protect against natural disasters such as floods.
  1. They help in maintaining the ecological balance.
  2. Approximately, 40 percent of all plant and animal species live, breed, and flourish in wetlands. They serve as natural habitats for millions of flora and fauna species.

Challenges to wetlands:

  1. They are being degraded, destroyed, and damaged at an alarming rate.
  2. According to environmentalists, we are losing the wetlands three times faster than forests and till date approximately 90 per cent of the world’s wetlands have been damaged.

Focus in India:

  1. The Union Budget 2023 saw a push towards ‘green’ growth with a focus on sustainable development and projects to mitigate the effects of climate change.
  2. The Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitat and Tangible Incomes will be taken up for mangrove plantation along the country’s coastline and salt pan lands.
  3. In India, Gujarat leads with 21.9% of the country’s wetlands followed by Maharashtra (7.2%) and Andhra Pradesh (7.14%).

 

Laboratory-grown diamonds

GS Paper -3 (Technology)

The 2023 Union Budget shines special attention on laboratory-grown diamonds (LGD). The sector has “high employment potential” and announced a number of schemes to promote their research and development in India.

About laboratory-grown diamonds:

  1. LGD are manufactured in laboratories, as opposed to naturally-occurring diamonds. The chemical composition and other physical and optical properties of the two are the same.
  2. Naturally-occurring diamonds take millions of years to form; they are created when carbon deposits buried within the earth are exposed to extreme heat and pressure.
  3. LGDs are mostly manufactured through two processes – high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) method or Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) method.
  4. In the HPHT method, the seed, along with pure graphite carbon, is exposed to temperatures around 1,500 degrees Celsius and extremely high pressure.
  5. In the CVD method, the seed is heated to around 800 degrees Celsius inside a sealed chamber filled with a carbon-rich gas. The gas sticks to the seed, gradually building the diamond.
  6. Scientists working at a General Electric research laboratory in New York are credited with the creation of the world’s first-ever LGD in 1954.

LGDs quality comparison with naturally-occurring diamonds:

  1. Visually and chemically, the two are the same. The environmental footprint of a diamond grown in a laboratory is much lesser than that of a naturally-occurring diamond.
  2. According to a report by Diamond Foundry, an environmentally-conscious LGD manufacturer, it takes ten times more energy to extract a natural diamond from the earth than it takes in creating one above the ground.
  3. Open-pit mining, one of the most common methods of mining naturally-occurring diamonds, involves moving tonnes of earth and rock to extract these precious stones.

Provisions regarding lab-grown diamonds in the 2023 Budget:

  1. India is a global leader in cutting and polishing natural diamonds, but as its resources are becoming scarce, the industry is shifting towards LGDs.
  2. The 2023 Union Budget promises to reduce the basic customs duty on seeds used in the manufacture of lab-grown diamonds in a bid to popularise their production in India.
  3. The duty on seeds for rough LGDs will be reduced from 5% to nil. The change will come into effect starting February 2, 2023.
  4. five-year research grant will also be provided to one of the Indian Institute of Technologies (IITs) for research and development in the field of LGDs.
  5. It also proposed the creation of new tariff lines to help in better identification of a number of products, including synthetic diamonds.
  6. The aim of the move is to help facilitate trade as well as to have clarity on availing concessional import duty.

What are LDGs used for?

  1. LDGs have basic properties similar to natural diamonds, including their optical dispersion, which provide them the signature diamond sheen.
  2. However, since they are created in controlled environments, many of their properties can be enhanced for various purposes.
  3. For instance, LDGs are most often used for industrial purposes, in machines and tools. Their hardness and extra strength make them ideal for use as cutters.
  4. Furthermore, pure synthetic diamonds have high thermal conductivity, but negligible electrical conductivity.
  5. This combination is invaluable for electronics where such diamonds can be used as a heat spreader for high-power laser diodeslaser arrays and high-power transistors.
  6. Lastly, as the Earth’s reserves of natural diamonds are depleted, LDGs are slowly replacing the prized gemstone in the jewelry industry.

 

Budget’s Green Growth push

GS Paper - 3 (Energy)

The Finance Minister listed ‘Green Growth’ as one of the seven priorities of her Budget. She said that these seven principles complement each other and act as the ‘Saptarishi’ guiding India through the Amrit Kaal. Green Growth is the fifth of these seven priorities.

The component elements of the Budget’s Green Growth push

  1. Green Hydrogen Mission: The recently launched National Green Hydrogen Mission, with an outlay of Rs 19,700 crores, will facilitate transition of the economy to low carbon intensityreduce dependence on fossil fuel imports, and make the country assume technology and market leadership in this sunrise sector.
  2. Energy Transition: The Budget has provided Rs 35,000 crore for priority capital investments towards energy transition and net zero objectives, and energy security by the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
  3. Energy Storage Projects: To steer the economy on the sustainable development pathBattery Energy Storage Systems with capacity of 4,000 MWH will be supported with Viability Gap Funding. A detailed framework for Pumped Storage Projects will also be formulated.
  4. Renewable Energy Evacuation: The Inter-state transmission system for evacuation and grid integration of 13 GW renewable energy from Ladakh will be constructed with investment of Rs 20,700 crore including central support of ` 8,300 crore.
  5. Green Credit Programme: For encouraging behavioural change, a Green Credit Programme will be notified under the Environment (Protection) Act. This will incentivize environmentally sustainable and responsive actions by companies, individuals and local bodies, and help mobilize additional resources for such activities.
  6. PM-PRANAM: A new “PM Programme for Restoration, Awareness, Nourishment and Amelioration of Mother Earth” will be launched to incentivize States and Union Territories to promote alternative fertilizers and balanced use of chemical fertilizers.
  7. GOBARdhan scheme: 500 new ‘waste to wealth’ plants under GOBARdhan (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan) scheme will be established for promoting circular economy. These will include 200 compressed biogas (CBG) plants, including 75 plants in urban areas, and 300 community or cluster-based plants at a total investment of Rs 10,000 crore, the FM said.
  8. Bhartiya Prakritik Kheti Bio-Input Resource Centres: The FM has proposed to facilitate over the next three years 1 crore farmers to adopt natural farming. For this, 10,000 Bio-Input Resource Centres will be set-up, creating a national-level distributed micro-fertilizer and pesticide manufacturing network.
  9. MISHTI: Building on India’s success in afforestation, ‘Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes’, MISHTI, will be taken up for mangrove plantation along the coastline and on salt pan lands, wherever feasible, through convergence between MGNREGSCAMPA Fund and other sources.
  10. Amrit Dharohar:Wetlands are vital ecosystems which sustain biological diversity, the FM said. The government will promote their unique conservation values through Amrit Dharohar, a scheme that will be implemented over the next three years to encourage optimal use of wetlands, and enhance biodiversitycarbon stock, eco-tourism opportunities and income generation for local communities.
  11. Coastal Shipping:Coastal shipping will be promoted as the energy efficient and lower cost mode of transport, both for passengers and freight, through PPP mode with viability gap funding.
  12. Vehicle Replacement:Replacing old polluting vehicles is an important part of greening our economy. In furtherance of the vehicle scrapping policy mentioned in Budget 2021-22, I have allocated adequate funds to scrap old vehicles of the Central Government. States will also be supported in replacing old vehicles and ambulances.

 

‘Unity mall’ in every state capital

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in the Budget that states would be encouraged to set up a “Unity Mall” in their capitals, their most prominent tourism centres, or their financial capitals.

What is a unity mall?

  1. The FM did not specify what the “unity mall” would be, its physical or non-physical structure, or how it would work.
  2. However, she said that the unity malls would focus on the promotion and sale of the state’s own “ODOPs (one district, one product), GI products and other handicraft products, and for providing space for such products of all other States”.
  3. At present, an Ekta Mall is operational near the Statue of Unity, located about 3.5 km away from the statue at Ekta Nagar in Kevadia.
  4. The Ekta  Mall – Unity in Handicrafts Diversity is a showroom of handicrafts from different states of India.
  5. Spread over 35000 square-feet area of two floors, the mall has 20 emporiums dedicated to states’ traditional textiles and artisanal handicrafts.

What is ODOP?

  1. One DistrictOne Product is an initiative by the government which aims to make regional products more accessible, while providing capital to those who produce them.
  2. Under the scheme, the State identifies the chief product for a district, and then offers support for its processing, storage and marketing.
  3. These products can be perishable agri producecereal-based products or food products like mango, potato, meat and fisheries.
  4. The scheme also supports traditional and innovative products including waste-to-wealth products, such as honey and herbal edible products.

What is GI?

  1. A geographical Indication (GI) tag is given to agriculturalnatural or manufactured products that originate from a specific geographical area due to which they possess unique characteristics and qualities, according to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA).
  2. Essentially, the tag guarantees that the product is coming from that specific area. It’s kind of a trademark in the international market.

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