Daily Current Affairs: 29th January 2020: The Hindu+PIB

The following compilation has been made keeping in mind the need of the UPSC IAS exam. Each and every topic which has been included in this compilation is taken from very authentic and relevant source including The HinduThe Indian ExpressBusiness Standard, Press Information Bureau, etc.

As per the evolving pattern of the UPSC IAS prelims and mains exam each and every topic has been handpicked keeping in mind the syllabus of the exam.

10 more wetlands from India get the Ramsar site tag

Context: In a major recognition towards Government of India’s effort towards conservation, restoration and rejuvenation of its wetlands, Ramsar has declared 10 more wetland sites from India as sites of international importance.


With this, the numbers of Ramsar sites in India are now 37 and the surface area covered by these sites is now 1,067,939 hectares. 

Maharashtra gets its first Ramsar site (Nandur Madhameshwar) , Punjab which already had 3 Ramsar sites adds 3 more (Keshopur-Miani, Beas Conservation Reserve, Nangal) and UP with 1 Ramsar site has added 6 more (Nawabganj, Parvati Agra, Saman, Samaspur, Sandi and SarsaiNawar).

What is a wetland?

A wetland is an area of land that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, and it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem. The Centre had in September 2019, identified 130 wetlands for priority restoration in the next five years. 

The highest number of such identified wetlands are in Uttar Pradesh (16) followed by Madhya Pradesh (13), Jammu & Kashmir (12), Gujarat (8), Karnataka (7) and West Bengal (6)

What is the status of wetlands in India?

Wetlands in India account for 4.7% of the total geographical area of the country. These wetlands provide numerous ecosystem goods and services, but are under stress.

Reasons for wetlands loss in India are urbanization, land use changes and pollution. There is no proper regulatory framework for conservation of wetlands in India. Future research should focus on institutional factors influencing their condition.

Though there is no separate legal provision for wetland conservation in India, it is indirectly influenced by number of other legal instruments. These include: 

·         Indian Fisheries Act 1857; 

·         Indian Forest Act 1927;

·         Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972; 

·         Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974; 

·         Territorial Water, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and other Marine Zones Act 1976;

·         Water Cess Act 1977;

·         Maritime Zone of India (Regulation and fishing by foreign vessels) Act 1980, Forest (Conservation) Act 1980; 

·         Environmental (Protection) Act 1986, Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 1991;

·         Biodiversity Act 2002; and 

·         Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006.

Provisions under these acts range from protection of water quality and notification of ecologically sensitive areas to contributing towards conserving, maintaining, and augmenting the floral, faunal and avifaunal biodiversity of the country’s aquatic bodies. However, the term wetland was not used specifically in any of these legal instruments.

About Ramsar Convention

The Ramsar Convention signed on February 2, 1971, is one of the oldest inter-governmental accord signed by members countries to preserve the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance. 

The major aim of the Ramsar list is to maintain and develop an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits. 

Once included in the Ramsar list, the wetland get the protection under its guidelines.


Bhuvan Panchayat V 3.0 Web portal

Context: Bhuvan Panchayat V 3.0 Web portal has been launched in Bengaluru by the Union Minister of State (I/C) Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region, MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh. The portal has been developed byIndian Space Research Organization (ISRO).


The portal has been launched at the National Workshop on “Space Based Information Support for Decentralised Planning Update”. The Minister also released the technical documents pertaining to SISDP-Update Project.

Key Points to remember about the Portal

This Web Geo portal is an easy-to-use Geo portal developed for database visualization, data analytics, generation of automatic reports, model based products and services for the benefit of Gram Panchayat members and other stake holders. The targeted audience for this portal are Public, PRIs and different stakeholders belonging to the gram panchayats. 

About SISDP-Update Project

Space based Information Support for Decentralised Planning at Panchyayat level (SIS-DP) is a national initiative of preparing basic spatial layers useful in planning process at grassroot levels as per 73rd, 74th constitutional amendment of local self governance. 

National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Hyderabad is the lead centre to execute the project in collaboration with various State Remote Sensing Centres

For the first time an all India mosaic of high resolution ortho products and DEM from Cartosat-1 and Resourcesat data was prepared and basic thematic layers at 1:10K scale viz. LU/LC, drainage, settlements, transportation network, slope and aspect were prepared and relevant collateral data useful in planning exercise was also integrated. 

Under Phase II, this project shall be implemented shortly with a enhanced scope of updating geodatabase with latest high resolution remote sensing data and spatial data analytics to generate simple & ready to use geospatial products and services at Grampanchayats. The geodatabase, products and services prepared under this project are expected to be disseminated through Bhuvan geoportal.

ISRO launched SISDP project to assist Gram Panchayats at grassroot level with basic planning inputs derived from satellite data for preparing developmental plans, its implementation and monitoring the activities. SISDP phase I Project was successfully concluded in the year 2016-17.

Based on the rich experience gained and encouraging feedback received from various stakeholders on SIS-DP-I Project “SISDP-Update” was initiated with enhanced objectives of providing value added geospatial products and services to aid Gram Panchayat development planning process of MoPR.  For the first time, thematic database on 1:10,000 scale for the entire country is available with high integrated High Resolution satellite data for planning.

Indian Railways commissions first Waste to Energy Plant in Bhubaneswar

Context: Indian Railways has commissioned country’s first governmental Waste to Energy Plant, having capacity of 500 Kg waste per day, in Mancheswar Carriage Repair Workshop at Bhubaneswar in East Coast Railway. Total plant installation cost: Rs 1.79 crore Date of commissioning: 22 Jan 2020 Estimated income from the byproducts: Rs 17.5 Lakhs per annum Maintenance cost: Rs 10.4 Lakhs per annum Capacity: 500kg/ Batch


The time taken for the construction of this Waste to Energy Plant is three months. 

What you should know about it?

This Waste to Energy Plant, a patented technology called POLYCRACK, is basically first-of-its-kind in Indian Railways and fourth in India. It is the world’s first patented heterogeneous catalytic process that converts multiple feed stocks into hydrocarbon liquid fuels, gas, carbon and water

Polycrack Plant can be fed with all types of Plastic, Petroleum sludge, Unsegregated MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) with moisture up to 50%, E–Waste, Automobile fluff, Organic waste including bamboo, garden waste etc., and Jatropha fruit and palm bunch

The feeder for this plant will be the waste generated from Mancheswar Carriage Repair Workshop, Coaching Depot and Bhubaneswar Railway Station will be feeder material for this plant.


The process is a closed loop system and does not emit any hazardous pollutants into the atmosphere. The combustible, non-condensed gases are re-used for providing energy to the entire system and thus, the only emission comes from the combustion of gaseous fuels. The emissions from the combustion are found to be much less than prescribed environmental norms. This process will produce energy in the form of Light Diesel Oil which is used to light furnaces.

This process has been awarded with the following recognition: 

  • Best innovation Gold Medal in 2007 by Lockheed Martin, Dept of Science & Technology, Govt. of India, FICCI; 
  • Best Innovation Gold Medal 2007; 
  • Best Innovation Gold Medal 2008; 
  • Best Innovation Gold Medal 2009; 
  • Nominated for Tech-Museum Awards 2008; 
  • Frost & Sullivan – Global Innovation and Leadership Award -2011 and 
  • IGCW-2011 – Best Green Chemistry Innovation Award.

What are the advantages of using POLYCRACK TECHNOLOGY?

Polycrack Technology has the following advantages over the conventional approach of treating solid waste:-

  • Pre-segregation of waste is not required to reform the waste. Waste as collected can be directly fed into Polycrack.
  • It has high tolerance to moisture hence drying of waste is not required.
  • Waste is processed and reformed within 24 hours.
  • It is an enclosed unit hence the working environment is dust free.
  • Excellent air quality surrounding the plant.
  • Biological decomposition is not allowed as the Waste is treated as it is received.
  • The foot print of the plant is small hence the area required for installing the plant is less when compared with conventional method of processing.
  • All constituents are converted into valuable energy thereby making it Zero Discharge Process.
  • Gas generated in the process is re-used to provide energy to the system thereby making it self-reliant and also bring down the operating cost.
  • There is no atmospheric emission during the process unlike other conventional methods except for combustion gases which have pollutants less than the prescribed norms the world over.
  • Operates around 450 degrees, making it a low temperature process when compared with other options.
  • Safe and efficient system with built-in safety features enables even an unskilled user to operate the machine with ease.
  • Low capital cost and low operating cost.
  • Fully automated system requires minimum man power.


Oldest solid material on Earth discovered inside meteorite in Australia

Context: The oldest solid material ever found on the Earth has been discovered by the scientists, in the form of stardust trapped inside a meteorite that crashed into Australia 50 years ago and predates the formation of our solar system.

Presolar Grains; Indiathinekrs

Key Points to remember

This stardust provides evidence for a ‘baby boom’ of new stars that were formed 7 billion years ago, contrary to the theory that star formation happens at a steady, constant rate. The materials known as the “presolar grains” has been examined by the researchers.

The Field Museum has the largest portion of the Murchison meteorite, a treasure trove of presolar grains that fell in Australia in 1969 and that the people of Murchison, Victoria, made available to science. 

What are Presolar grains? 

These are interstellar solid matter in the form of tiny solid grains that originated at a time before the Sun was formed. Presolar stardust grains formed within outflowing and cooling gases from earlier presolar stars.

These bits of stardust got trapped in meteorites where they remained unchanged for billions of years, making them capsules of the cosmic time before the solar system. 

However, it should be noted that the presolar grains are very tiny and rare, found only in about 5% of meteorites that have fallen to the Earth. Since presolar grains are formed when a star dies, they are significant in telling us about the history of stars.


Context: NASA’s Spitzer Mission, which studied the universe in infrared light for more than 16 years, will come to an end on January 30, 2020, since it is low on fuel and has been drifting away from Earth for a few years now.


Without liquid helium which is required to cool the telescope to the very low temperatures needed to operate, most of the instruments are no longer usable.

All about SPITZER SPACE TELESCOPE NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (SST) is an infrared space telescope which was launched in 2003 and is planned to be retired on 30 January 2020. This telescope by NASA is named in honor of astronomer Lyman Spitzer, who had promoted the concept of space telescopes in the 1940s. This space telescope is one of the elements of NASA’s Great Observatories that include the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray. Using different infrared wavelengths, Spitzer was able to see and reveal features of the universe including objects that were too cold to emit visible light. The Spitzer Space Telescope was also able to see through large amounts of gas using infrared wavelengths to find objects that may otherwise have been invisible to human beings. These included exoplanets, brown dwarfs and cold matter found in the space between stars.

All Spitzer data, from both the primary and warm phases, are archived at the Infrared Science Archive (IRSA). It follows a heliocentric (A heliocentric orbit is an orbit around the barycenter of the Solar System, which is usually located within or very near the surface of the Sun. All planets, comets, and asteroids in the Solar System, and the Sun itself are in such orbits, as are many artificial probes and pieces of debris. The moons of planets in the Solar System, by contrast, are not in heliocentric orbits, as they orbit their respective planet.) instead of geocentric orbit (A geocentric orbit or Earth orbit involves any object orbiting the Earth, such as the Moon or artificial satellites),trailing and drifting away from Earth’s orbit at approximately 0.1 astronomical units per year(a so-called “earth-trailing”orbit).


Complete phase out of Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-141 b

Context: India has successfully achieved the complete phase out of Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-141 b (the most potent ozone depleting chemical after CFCs). 


What is HCFC – 141b? Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) -141b  is a chemical used by foam manufacturing enterprises and is considered as one of the most potent ozone depleting chemical after Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). (HCFC)-141 b is used mainly as a blowing agent in the production of rigid polyurethane (PU) foams. HCFC-141b is not produced in the country and all the domestic requirements are met through imports. With this notification, prohibiting the import of HCFC-141 b, the country has completely phased out the important ozone depleting chemical.  Nearly, 50 % of the consumption of ozone depleting chemicals in the country was attributable to HCFC-141 b in the foam sector.  What are the Government Regulations regarding this? On 31 December, 2019, as part of the Government’s commitment for moving towards environment friendly technologies, in a significant first, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) brought out a notification in the Gazette of India through which the issuance of import license for HCFC-141b is prohibited from 1st January, 2020 under Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Amendment Rules, 2019 issued under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Simultaneously, the use of HCFC-141 b by foam manufacturing industry has also been closed as on 1st January, 2020 under the Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Amendment Rules, 2014. The Ministry adopted a structured approach to engage with foam manufacturing enterprises for providing technical and financial assistance in order to transition to non-ODS and low GWP technologies under HCFC Phase out Management Plan (HPMP). Around 175 foam manufacturing enterprises have been covered under HPMP out of which, 163 enterprises are covered under stage II of HPMP.  The complete phase out of HCFC 141 b from the country in foam sector is among the first at this scale in Article 5 parties (developing countries) under the Montreal Protocol. The implementation of HPMP through regulatory and policy actions, implementation of technology conversion projects has removed around 7800 Metric Tonnes of HCFC 141-b from the baseline level of 2009 and 2010 of the country.  What is the significance of the phase out drive? The phase out of HCFC-141b from the country has twin environmental benefits viz.  (i) assisting the healing of the stratospheric ozone layer, and  (ii) towards the climate change mitigation due to transitioning of foam manufacturing enterprises at this scale under HPMP to low global warming potential alternative technologies. What about foam sector in India? The polyurethane foam sector has links with important economic sectors related to buildings, cold storages and cold chain infrastructure, automobiles, commercial refrigeration, domestic appliances such as refrigerators, water geysers, thermo ware, office and domestic furniture applications, specific high value niche applications etc.  In India, the foam manufacturing sector is mix of large, medium and small enterprises having varying capacities, with preponderance of MSMEs. Many of the MSMEs operate largely in the informal sector.


Context: Acknowledging the almost extinct situation of Indian Cheetah, Supreme Court of India has allowed the Centre to introduce African Cheetah in suitable habitats in India.

African Cheetah ; Indiathinkers

The decision from the Supreme Court came after National Tiger Conservation Authority filed a petition seeking permission for the introduction of the African cheetah from Namibia as rare Indian cheetah is almost extinct in the country. A three-member committee has also been set up by the apex court which comprises former Director Wildlife of India Ranjit Singh, Director General of Wildlife of India Dhananjay Mohan and Deputy Inspector General, Wildlife, Ministry of Environment to guide the NTCA in taking a decision on the issue.  About Cheetah Family: It is a large cat of the subfamily Felinae. Scientific name: Acinonyx jubatus. Subspecies: Southeast African cheetah, Asiatic cheetah, Northeast African cheetah and Northwest African cheetah. Distribution: it is found in North, Southern and East Africa, and a few localities in Iran. Habitat: It inhabits a variety of mostly arid habitats like dry forests, scrub forests, and savannahs. Conversation Status: The cheetah has been classified as endangered by the IUCN; and listed under Appendix I of CITES (Convention on international Trade in Endangered Species).

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