1. Asian Elephant Specialist Group’s (AsESG)
- Recently Asian Elephant Specialist Group’s (AsESG) 10th meeting commenced in Malaysia in December.
- There are more than 130 elephant conservationists, partner organisations and experts gathered at the meeting.
- Issues discussed included national action plans for elephant conservation by Asian elephant range states.
- It includes best practices in managing human-elephant conflict, mechanisms to involve group members in monitoring the illegal killing of elephants, issues related to captive elephant welfare and sharing and learning from the African experience.
- It is a group of specialists, elephant conservationists, experts and partner organizations.
- It is concerned with the conservation of the Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus).
- It is an integral part of the Species Survival Commission (SSC)of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- It aims to promote the long-term conservation of Asia’s elephants.
- It also aims to recover their populations to viable levels.
- It is to provide the best available scientifically grounded evidence to the abundance, distribution, and demographic status of Asian elephant populations.
About Asiatic Elephant:
- It is the largest land animal in Asia.
- It is list as Endangered in IUCN red list.
- It is spread across 13 range states including India.
- They are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka in South Asia and Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam in South-east Asia
- The Borneo Island, where the meeting is being held, is home to the Borneo Elephant or the Borneo Pygmy Elephant.
The Species Survival Commission:
- It is a science-based network of more than 9,000 volunteer experts from almost every country of the world.
- To achieving the vision of, “A just world that values and conserves nature through positive action to reduce the loss of diversity of life on earth”.
- Most members are deployed in more than 160 Specialist Groups, Red List Authorities, Task Forces and Conservation Committees.
2. Sukapaika River
Why in News?
- Embankments have killed Odisha’s Sukapaika river that was the lifeline of over 0.5 million people.
- Sukapaika is one of the several distributaries of the mighty Mahanadi river in Odisha.
- It branches away from the Mahanadi at Ayatpur village in Cuttack district and flows for about 40 kilometres (km) before rejoining its parent river at Tarapur in the same district.
- In the process, it drains a large landmass comprising over 425 villages.
- However, the river is undergoing sudden barrenness.
Why is the River Diminishing?
- The problem has its roots in 1952, when the state government blocked the starting point of the Sukapaika with an embankment to save the villages around it from floods.
- Subsequently, in 1957, two major projects — Hirakud Dam in Sambalpur district and Naraj barrage at Cuttack — were built upstream on the Mahanadi, ostensibly to control floods in it.However, the embankment on the Sukapiaka was not removed.
- This left the distributary totally dependent on rainwater. The neglect has hit the 0.5 million people residing in the villages over the next half a century.
- The riverbed has suffered erosion and it is full of hyacinth.
3. Bharatiya POSHAN Krishi Kosh
Why in News?
- Ministry of Women and Child Development along with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has announced the Bharatiya Poshan Krishi Kosh (BPKK).
Bhartiya Poshan Krishi Kosh:
- Bhartiya Poshan Krishi Kosh” project has two components – Development of a Food Atlas and Documentation of promising practices for Jan-Andolan for POSHAN Abhiyaan.
- The Agro-Food Atlas is to act as a repository of diverse crops across 127 agro-climatic zones of the country having three parts- crops currently being grown, agro-ecological conditions (soil, organic carbon content, ground water availability etc) and guidance on how a greater diversity of crops could be encouraged in a particular district or block to promote dietary diversity and nutrition.
- The project includes diverse data sources like National Sample Survey, Agri-Census, Soil Health Cards, ISRO’s Advanced Wide Field Sensor (AWiFS) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-Radio meter.
- The project also documents social, behavioural and cultural practices that promote and reinforce healthy dietary behaviours.
- A Technical Support Unit has been set-up under NITI Aayog which undertakes/conducts/ facilitates regular monitoring and evaluation of the National Nutrition Mission to assess the impact of the programme.
- A National Council on India’s Nutritional Challenges under the Chairmanship of Vice-Chairman NITI Aayog has been constituted to provide policy direction, review and effective coordination and convergence between Ministries which have a sectoral responsibility for the challenge of nutrition.
- Ministry of WCD is addressing the issue of malnutrition through various schemes including POSHAN Abhiyaan. Under POSHAN Abhiyaan, Community Mobilization and Awareness Advocacy leading to Jan Andolan, to educate the people on nutritional aspects, are among various components to generate awareness and public participation.
4. Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer (OSIRIX-REx)
Why in News?
- Recently OSIRIX REx has captured an incredible close up shot of dust and rocks erupting from the surface of asteroid Bennu.
- It will travel to a near Earth asteroid, called Bennu and bring a 60-gram sample back to earth for study.
- It will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact earth.
- It observed the three largest particle ejection events on Jan 6, Jan 19 and Feb 11.
- It concluded that the events originated from different locations on Bennu’s surface.
- It is the first asteroid sample return mission.
- Sandpiper, Osprey, Kingfisher and Nightingale are the four sample sites, named after birds.It is found that he asteroid could be active or consistently discharging particles into space. It first observed a particle ejection event in images captured by spacecraft’s navigation cam.
About Reasons for Ejection Event:
- Meteoroid Impacts: It is common in the deep space neighborhood of Bennu.
- Thermal Stress Fracturing: Bennu’s surface temperature vary drastically over its 4.3-hour rotation period.
- Released of Water Vapour:When Bennu’s water-locked clays are heated , the water could begin to release and create pressure.
5. Railways ‘RailWire’ Wi-Fi goes Live in 5500 Railway Stations
Why in News?
- The Railways has successfully completed the work of providing free public Wi-Fi at 5500 stations across the country.
- RailWire is a retail Broadband initiative of the RailTel.
- It envisages extending broadband and application services to the public. RailTel is working to establish bringing fast and free Wi-Fi at all stations (except the halt stations) within a year.
- The Wi-Fi at stations has been provided in association with Google as the technology partner.
- RailTel Corporation a “Mini Ratna(Category-I)” PSU of Ministry of Railways, is the largest neutral telecom services providers in the country owning a Pan-India optic fiber network covering all important towns & cities of the country and several rural areas covering 70% of India’s population.
- RailTel is in the forefront in providing nationwide Broadband Telecom & Multimedia Network in all parts of the country in addition to modernization of Train operations and administration network systems for Indian Railways.With its Pan India high capacity network, RailTel is working towards creating a knowledge society at various fronts and has been selected for implementation of various mission-mode Govt. of India projects in the telecom field.
6. BRICS remote Sensing Satellite Constellation
Why in News?
- The space agencies of BRICS nations have been negotiating a Framework Agreement to formalize the cooperation on building a ‘virtual constellation of remote sensing satellites’.
- The purpose of the proposed virtual constellation is to get access to satellite remote sensing data, which could be used by the individual BRICS nations for various applications including natural resources management and disaster management.
- There are two phases proposed for the Constellation: phase one, comprising a virtual constellation of existing satellites; and phase two, a new satellite constellation.
- It will create a system for the sharing of remote sensing data, meaning the data from each of the member countries’ existing Earth observation satellites will be made available to all the other members.
Why need such constellation?
- The BRICS represents 43 percent of the world’s population, 30 percent of gross domestic product and 17 percent of global trade and they have been trying to enhance co-operation in different fields, including space.
- Currently, only Brazil, Russia, India and China have remote-sensing satellites in the sun-synchronous orbit, and they will provide data to South Africa, which does not have a satellite of its own.
Why in News?
- The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has summoned the top brass of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) after a fire recently destroyed its vigilance wing office in the capital.
- EPFO is a statutory body of Union Government that comes under the aegis of Ministry of Labour and Employment.
- It is one of the largest social security organisations in India in terms volume of financial transactions undertaken and the number of covered beneficiaries.
- Its headquarters is located in New Delhi.
- The main functions of the EPFO: Administers a compulsory contributory Provident Fund Scheme (1952), Pension Scheme (1995) and Insurance Scheme (1976).
- Central Vigilance Commission is the apex vigilance institution, free of control from any executive authority, monitoring all vigilance activity under the Central Government and advising various authorities in Central Government organizations in planning, executing, reviewing and reforming their vigilance work.
- The CVC was set up by the Government in February, 1964 on the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, headed by Shri K. Santhanam.
- In 2003, the Parliament enacted CVC Act conferring statutory status on the CVC.
- The CVC is not controlled by any Ministry/Department.
- It is an independent body which is only responsible to the Parliament.
8. Raisina Dialogue
- It is a sad fact that stable regional security architecture has yet to emerge organically in Asia. It is worth recalling what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stated at the Raisina Dialogue in 2017.
- It is an annual geo-political event, organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation (ORF) designed on the lines of Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialogue.
- The dialogue is named after Raisina Hill, which is the seat of the Government of India, as well as the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
- It is designed to explore prospects and opportunities for Asian integration as well as Asia’s integration with the larger world.
- It is predicated on India’s vital role in the Indian Ocean Region and how India along with its partners can build a stable regional and world order.
- The conference is a multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral meeting involving policy and decision-makers, including but not limited to Foreign, Defence and Finance Ministers of different countries, high-level government officials and policy practitioners, leading personalities from business and industry, and members of the strategic community, media and academia.