News: Union Minister Earth Sciences has launched a web-based application named “Digital Ocean”.
- Digital Ocean: It is a first of its kind digital platform for ocean data management developed by Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services(INCOIS).
- Purpose: It has been developed to share information on marine data and forecast services.
- Key Features:
- It includes a set of applications developed to organise and present heterogeneous oceanographic data by adopting rapid advancements in geospatial technology.
- The platform will also serve as a one stop-solution for all the data related needs of a wide range of users including research institutions, operational agencies, strategic users, academic community, maritime industry, policy makers and the public.
- It will play a central role in sustainable management of our oceans and expanding our “Blue Economy” initiatives.
- It will contribute to the Digital India programme and is expected to bring a sea change in how the oceanographic data is served for a better understanding of the oceans.
- INCOIS: It is an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).It is located in Hyderabad & was established in 1999 under the MoES and is a unit of the Earth System Science Organization (ESSO).
- Mandate: It provides ocean information and advisory services to various stakeholders including data based on oceanographic research, advisory services such as fishing zone advisories, ocean state forecast, high wave alerts, tsunami early warnings, storm surge and oil-spill.
- INCOIS is a permanent member of the Indian delegation to IOC of UNESCO and a founding member of the Indian Ocean Global Ocean Observing System (IOGOOS) and the Partnership for Observing the Oceans (POGO).
News: Bat Conservation Society which has been entrusted with drawing up a conservation plan for Kolar Leaf-Nosed Bat has also been awarded a grant to conduct further research on this species of bats.
- Kolar Leaf Nosed Bat: It is a species of bat in the family Hipposideridae .Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and caves.
- It is endemic to India and is currently only known from one cave in Hanumanahalli village in Kolar district, Karnataka.
- IUCN Status: Critically Endangered.
- Conservation Measures: Karnataka Government has notified the 30 acres around the caves as protected area. Hence, any development work including construction of new infrastructure will need the permission of the National Board for Wildlife.
- Bats: They are one of the least studied mammals in the country, though there are 130 species in India.
- They are very adaptable creatures and therefore can often be found near human habitation or even in urban settlements which makes them vulnerable. They also have a bad image in the public eye as carriers of diseases.
- However, the bats are absolutely vital for the ecology as they are pollinators, their main diet being nectar. The plants that bloom at night are entirely dependent on bats and moths for pollination. Bats also help in insect control and therefore, help in the protection of crops.
News: Vadodara Municipal Corporation(VMC) is expected to launch municipal bonds and will become the third Urban Local Body(ULB) in Gujarat to use municipal bonds to raise money.
- Ahmedabad was the first city in South Asia to launch a municipal bond in 1998 which was completely subscribed.
- The Surat Municipal Corporation was the second city in Gujarat to announce bonds in 2018.
What are Municipal Bonds?
- Municipal Bonds is a kind of debt instrument where investors offer loans to local governments.
- Purpose: They are issued by civic bodies for specific projects and usually have a 10-year tenure. The ULB pays the annual interest on the bonds to the investor at the decided rate.
- Difference: The difference between a bank loan and a municipal bond is that any institution can secure a bond only if it has favourable credit ratings.
- Benefits: The bond helps raise funds from the stock market. The bond also increases the number of investors available to the civic body, as compared to a loan from a single bank.
How is the Central Government promoting Municipal Bonds?
- Under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme, urban local bodies (ULBs) are encouraged to tap the bond market.
- AMRUT Scheme: It was launched in 2015 by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.It aims to ensure universal coverage of drinking water supply and substantial improvement in coverage and treatment capacities of sewerage and septage along with storm water drainage, non-motorized urban transport and green spaces & parks.
- The government also pays ULBs Rs 13 crore for every Rs 100 crore raised via bonds subject to a ceiling of Rs 26 crore for each.This incentive takes care of the repayment that the ULB must make to the lender including the interest component.
News: Union Minister for Tourism has held a review meeting review meeting of the “Adopt a Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan” project.
- Adopt a Heritage Project: It is an initiative of the Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the Archaeological Survey of India. It was launched in September 2017 on World Tourism Day.
- Aim: To ensure quality & inclusive provision of amenities and facilities across heritage, natural, & tourist sites through active participation of private and public sector organizations and individuals. These organizations would be known as “Monument Mitras” for their collaboration initiative.
- Objectives of the Project:
- Developing basic tourism infrastructure in and around heritage sites, monuments, natural sites and tourist sites.
- Develop facilities and amenities to improve the tourist experience at heritage sites, monuments, natural sites and tourist sites.
- Promote cultural and heritage value of the country and develop avenues to create awareness about the heritage/natural/tourist sites in the country
- Develop and promote sustainable tourism infrastructure and ensure proper Operations and Maintenance therein.
- Develop employment opportunities and support livelihoods of local communities at heritage sites.
- Eligibility: Private and Public Sector Companies, Trusts, NGOs and Individuals are eligible for adopting heritage site (s)/ monument (s) under this project.
- Key Features of the Project:
- The sites/monuments are selected on the basis of tourist footfall and visibility and can be adopted by private and public sector companies and individuals known as Monument Mitras for an initial period of five years.
- The Monument Mitras are selected by the ‘oversight and vision committee,’ co-chaired by the Tourism Secretary and the Culture Secretary on the basis of the bidder’s ‘vision’ for development of all amenities at the heritage site.
- There is no financial bid involved. The corporate sector is expected to use corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds for the upkeep of the site.
News: Union Health Minister of India has been nominated by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation(GAVI) as a member of the GAVI Board.
- Union Health Minister will be representing the South East Area Regional Office(SEARO)/ Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) constituency on the GAVI Board from 1st January,2021 until 31st,December 2023.
What is GAVI?
- Gavi is an international organisation – a global Vaccine Alliance created in 2000.
- It brings together public and private sectors with the shared goal of creating equal access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries.
- GAVI has observer status at the World Health Assembly.
- As part of its mission to save lives, reduce poverty and protect the world against the threat of epidemics, GAVI has helped vaccinate more than 822 million children in the world’s poorest countries preventing more than 14 million future deaths.
- The GAVI Board normally meets twice a year in June and November/ December and holds an annual retreat, normally in March or April.
- The board is responsible for strategic direction and policy-making, oversees the operations of the Vaccine Alliance and monitors programme implementation.
- With membership drawn from a range of partner organisations, as well as experts from the private sector, the Board provides a forum for balanced strategic decision making, innovation and partner collaboration.
News: Prime Minister has inaugurated a 351-km section between Khurja and Bhaupur in Uttar Pradesh for commercial operations as a part of Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor(EDFC).
- Dedicated Freight Corridors(DFC): These are freight-only railway lines to move goods between industrial heartlands in the North and ports on the Eastern and Western coasts.
- The DFC consists of two arms.
- Eastern DFC: It is a 1,839-km line that starts from Sahnewal (Ludhiana) in Punjab and ends at Dankuni in West Bengal.It is being majorly funded by the World Bank.
- Western DFC: It is around 1,500-km line that starts from Dadri in Uttar Pradesh to JNPT in Mumbai, touching all major ports along the way.It is being majorly funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency.
- Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited(DFCCIL): It is a Public Sector Undertaking(PSU) corporation run by the Ministry of Railways to undertake planning, development, and mobilisation of financial resources and construction, maintenance and operation of the Dedicated Freight Corridors(DFC).
- Benefits of DFCs:
- These freight corridors will help reduce the cost and allow faster transportation.
- Around 70% of the freight trains currently running on the Indian Railway network are slated to shift to the freight corridors, leaving the paths open for more passenger trains.
- Tracks on DFC are designed to carry heavier loads than most of Indian Railways.DFC will get track access charge from the parent Indian Railways and will also generate its own freight business.
- The DFCs will allow much shorter transit times from freight source to destination which means it will reduce the time by up to 50% in some cases.
News: According to a study by Public Health England, the new mutated variant of the novel coronavirus does not appear to cause more severe illness than other variants.
About the Study:
- Under the study, researchers compared 1,769 people infected with the new variant with the same number of people who had different Covid variant. The two groups were matched 1:1 on the basis of age, sex, area of residence and time of testing.
- The study found that 12 of 1,340 (0.89%) people infected with the new variant died within 28 days compared with 10 of 1,360 (0.73%) people infected with virus not belonging to the new variant. Hence, the study has concluded that the difference in case fatality between the two groups is not significant.
- However, the secondary attack rate or the proportion of contacts of confirmed cases that develop disease themselves was higher in people infected with the new variant.
- What is a mutation? A mutation means an alteration in genetic material. In an RNA virus such as SARS-CoV-2, proteins are made of a sequence of amino acids. Such a virus contains some 30,000 ‘base pairs’ which are like bricks placed next to each other to form a structure. An alteration in this base can be a mutation, effectively changing the shape and behaviour of the virus.
For Further Read on New Mutant Virus: https://blog.forumias.com/mutated-covid-19-strain-of-uk-spreads-faster/