Context: The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), one of India’s premier avian research institutes, has started operating its first regional centre on the campus of Wetland Research and Training Centre near Chilika Lake.
Key facts: With opening up its branch in Odisha, the BNHS would be engaged in identifying the air route of the foreign birds flocking the Chilika lake during winter, sample collection, training related to bird census, publishing bird migration atlas books, examining various diseases among the birds and to review the condition of the Nalabana bird sanctuary along with counting the birds.
About Chilika Lagoon: It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest lagoon in the world after The New Caledonian barrier reef in New Caledonia. It is the largest wintering ground for migratory waterfowl found anywhere on the Indian sub-continent. It is one of the hotspot of biodiversity in the country, and some rare, vulnerable and endangered species listed in the IUCN Red List of threatened Animals inhabit in the lagoon for atleast part of their life cycle.
On account of its rich bio-diversity and ecological significance, Chilika was designated as the 1st “Ramsar Site” of India. The Nalaban Island within the lagoon is notified as a Bird Sanctuary under Wildlife (Protection) Act, the National Wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs Committee of Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, have also identified the lagoon as a priority site for conservation and management.
Chilika Lagoon lies in the districts of Puri, Khurda and Ganjam of Odisha State along the eastern coast of India. It is well connected to the Chennai and Kolkata through National Highway No 5, and the Chennai Kolkata rail line passes along the western bank of the Lagoon Balugaon, with Balugaon, Chilika and Rambha being the main stations along the Western shoreline of the lagoon.
About BNHS: The Bombay Natural History Society, founded on 15 September 1883, is one of the largest non-governmental organisations in India engaged in conservation and biodiversity research. BNHS is the partner of BirdLife International in India. It has been designated as a ‘Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’ by the Department of Science and Technology.
Logo: The BNHS logo is the great hornbill. Internet of Birds: IT consultancy firm Accenture and the Bombay Natural History Society have developed Internet of Birds platform that identifies bird species found in India using Artificial Intelligence technology, including machine learning and computer vision, from digital photos that are uploaded by the public.
This is the first project under the MoD’s prestigious Strategic Partnership (SP) Model that aims at providing significant fillip to the Government’s ‘Make in India’ programme.
What is Strategic Partnership (SP) model? The strategic partner model is intended to enhance competition, increase efficiencies, facilitate faster and more significant absorption of technology, create a tiered industrial ecosystem, ensure development of a wider skill base, trigger innovation and enable participation in global value chains as well as promote exports.
Under the model, the government intends to boost private sector participation and create domestic expertise in four key areas, namely, fighter aircraft, helicopters, submarines, and armoured vehicles and main battle tanks. One company would be selected for each area based on its competence, which would then tie up with the foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer selected through the procurement process, to build the platform in India with significant technology transfer.
Significance: The SP model, if implemented well, is likely to have a number of benefits for both the private sector and the larger Indian defence industry.
From the private sector’s point of view, the biggest benefit would be the opportunity to participate in some big ticket contracts – estimated to be worth over two lakh crore rupees in the initial phase of execution ¬– which were hitherto reserved for the DPSUs and OFs. Bridging the trust gap: At the same time, the model would also go a long way in bridging the long-standing trust gap between the Indian private sector and MoD, with the latter perceived to be friendlier toward public sector entities.
Strategic Partners, being private sector companies, are expected to exploit their dynamism, competitiveness, profit orientation, and exposure to the civilian sector for efficient utilisation of the technology, manpower and infrastructure developed in the process. The model has a long-term vision of promoting India as a manufacturing hub for defence equipment thus enhancing self-sufficiency and establishing an industrial and R&D ecosystem, capable of meeting the future requirements of the Armed Forces.
Concerns: Despite potential benefits, there are two concerns which need to be addressed to make SPs contribute in a meaningful and time-bound manner. The first and foremost concern is the lack of institutional capacity and ability to guide the new process to its logical conclusion. There is also a concern regarding the long-term viability of SPs largely due to the privileged position enjoyed by public sector entities.
Way ahead: Time and again, the MoD has deviated from its own promise of fair play in award of contracts and handed over large orders to DPSUs and OFs on nomination. It would be futile to expect SPs to make major investments if the government does not provide a level-playing filed to the private sector.
Context: In the framework of the Argentinian presidency of G20, the 2018 edition of Digital Economy ministerial meeting is being held in Salta, Argentina. The ministerial meeting was preceded by the second meeting of the G20 Digital Economy Task Force.
Argentina has selected the theme, ‘Building consensus for fair and sustainable development,’ for the 2018 G20 Leaders’ Summit, and has identified three key issues for the agenda: the future of work, infrastructure for development, and a sustainable food future.
Digital Economy Task Force: The Digital Economy Task Force (DETF) was established under the 2017 German presidency, based on the decision adopted in Hangzhou in 2016 under the Chinese Presidency.
In Antalya, under the Turkish presidency in 2015, G20 leaders recognized the modern period as a critical era of digital transformation, influenced by the advent of new technologies as key elements for economic development.
What is Digital economy? The digital economy refers to a broad range of activities which include: the use of knowledge and information as factors in production, information networks as a platform for action, and how the information and communication technology (ICT) sector spurs economic growth.
Challenges to digital economy: Important challenges include providing high-speed internet for all by 2025, creating inclusive growth and new jobs through digital trade, promoting lifelong digital learning, and closing the gender gap.
About G20: The G20 is made up of 19 countries and the European Union. The 19 countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Origin: The G20 was born out of a meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bank governors in 1999 who saw a need for a more inclusive body with broader representation to have a stronger impact on addressing the world’s financial challenges. The G7 invited leading markets – both developed and emerging – to form a new ministerial-level forum: the G20.
Significance: In 2008, amidst the global financial crisis, the world saw a need for new consensus-building at the highest political level. Since then, the G20 summits have been attended by heads of state or government, and the G20 was instrumental in stabilizing the world economy. Since then, its agenda has expanded to include additional issues affecting financial markets, trade, and development.
Global Impact: Collectively, G20 members represent all inhabited continents, 85% of global economic output, two-thirds of the world’s population, and 75% of international trade. G20 policy-making is enriched by the participation of key international organizations regularly invited to G20 meetings, guest countries invited at the president’s discretion, and engagement groups composed of different sectors civil society.
The work of the G20 is generally divided into two tracks: The Finance track comprises all meetings with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors and their deputies. Convening several times throughout the year, they focus on financial and economic issues, such as monetary, fiscal and exchange rate policies, infrastructure investment, financial regulation, financial inclusion and international taxation.
The Sherpa track focuses on broader issues such as political engagement, anti-corruption, development, trade, energy and climate change, gender equality, among others. Each G20 country is represented at these meetings by its relevant minister, and by its designated sherpa, or emissary. The sherpa engages in planning, negotiation and implementation tasks on behalf of the leader of their respective country. Each sherpa orients their minister and head of state or government accordingly on the progress of the G20, and delegates the dialogue and topics to relevant working groups.
Context: The third edition of Indian Ocean Conference is being held at Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. This year, the Indian Ocean Conference will emphasise on better cooperation, strategic collaboration and governance architectures. This conference will serve a platform to the countries to come closer and exchange better views on the economic and strategic importance of the region and neighbourhood.
Theme: “Building Regional Architectures”.
About Indian Ocean Conference: The Indian Ocean Conference initiated by India Foundation along with its partners from Singapore, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh is an annual effort to bring together Heads of States/Governments, Ministers, Thought Leaders, scholars, diplomats, bureaucrats and practitioners from across the region.
Two successful editions of the Conference have been hosted so far in 2016 and 2017 in Singapore and Sri Lanka respectively. Both the Conferences were supported by the Ministry of External Affairs of India and had participation from over 35 countries with a global media coverage.
In this regard, BIS had recently called for a meeting of industry bodies to “persuade them to be part of the process and give their inputs.”
Significance of the Service Sector and need for standards: Service sector is one of the key sectors of the Indian economy with a huge potential to grow into one of the largest markets of the world. Standards can play a major facilitative role in this regard. It is important that the standardisation needs and priorities of the sector are determined. The process was initiated after concerns over lack of standardisation, particularly with regards to after-sales service, in their feedback to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
Background: An online survey had found that in the absence of defined customer service standards in the country, a majority of consumers were not happy with after-sales services. As per the poll, 43% feel that mobile handset and computer manufacturers are the worst in after-sales services, followed by white goods firms (38%) and automobile companies (11%). About 93% of respondents said brands should at least acknowledge complaints from users within 72 hours. Many consumers complained that customer service numbers of many companies do not work.
About BIS: The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is the national Standards Body of India working under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
It is established by the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986.
The Minister in charge of the Ministry or Department having administrative control of the BIS is the ex-officio President of the BIS.
Composition: As a corporate body, it has 25 members drawn from Central or State Governments, industry, scientific and research institutions, and consumer organisations.
It also works as WTO-TBT enquiry point for India.
Facts: The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is one of the oldest of the big cat species, with ancestors that can be traced back more than five million years to the Miocene era. The cheetah is also the world’s fastest land mammal, an icon of nature. With great speed and dexterity, the cheetah is known for being an excellent hunter, its kills feeding many other animals in its ecosystem—ensuring that multiple species survive. The country’s last spotted feline died in Chhattisgarh in 1947. Later, the cheetah — which is the fastest land animal — was declared extinct in India in 1952.
Cheetah reintroduction programme in India: The Wildlife Institute of India at Dehradun had prepared a ₹260-crore cheetah re-introduction project six years ago. It was estimated that an amount of ₹25 c rore to ₹30 crore would be needed to build an enclosure in an area of 150 sq km for the cheetahs in Nauradehi. The proposal was to put the felines in the enclosure with huge boundary walls before being released in the wild, he said.
Nauradehi was found to be the most suitable area for the cheetahs as its forests are not very dense to restrict the fast movement of the spotted cat. Besides, the prey base for cheetahs is also in abundance at the sanctuary. According to the earlier action plan, around 20 cheetahs were to be translocated to Nauradehi from Namibia in Africa. The Namibia Cheetah Conservation Fund had then showed its willingness to donate the felines to India. However, the State was not ready to finance the plan contending that it was the Centre’s project.
Background: The reasons for extinction can all be traced to man’s interference. Problems like human-wildlife conflict, loss of habitat and loss of prey, and illegal trafficking, have decimated their numbers. The advent of climate change and growing human populations have only made these problems worse. With less available land for wildlife, species that require vast home range like the cheetah are placed in competition with other animals and humans, all fighting over less space.
Significance of reintroduction: The reintroduction of cheetahs will help restore India’s open forests and grassland ecosystems, which have been suffering. Having cheetahs will result in greater biodiversity, and biodiversity is the hallmark of healthy ecosystems. India is also home to the world’s largest free-roaming populations of livestock. Bringing back the cheetah will focus attention on pastoralism, and in doing so, help restore India’s natural heritage.
About NTCA: The National Tiger Conservation Authority is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change constituted under enabling provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006, for strengthening tiger conservation, as per powers and functions assigned to it under the said Act.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority has been fulfilling its mandate within the ambit of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for strengthening tiger conservation in the country by retaining an oversight through advisories/normative guidelines, based on appraisal of tiger status, ongoing conservation initiatives and recommendations of specially constituted Committees.
What? India has now joined the small league of nations with the US and Australia to have flown a biofuel-powered aircraft.
Who? SpiceJet flew the Bombardier Q400 (VT-SUI) on biofuel from Dehradun to Delhi.
Significance: Biofuel flights could make air travel cleaner and more efficient, thus drastically reducing the cost of airline operations by reducing the dependency on aviation turbine fuel. The biofuel is made partially from renewable resources such as agricultural residues, non-edible oils and bio-degradable fractions of industrial and municipal wastes.