In today’s daily current affairs briefing for UPSC aspirants, we explore the latest developments that hold relevance for the upcoming civil services examination. Our focus today includes a critical analysis of recent policy changes, international affairs, and national developments, all of which play a pivotal role in shaping the socio-political and economic landscape of India. Stay informed and stay ahead in your UPSC preparations with our daily current affairs updates, as we provide you with concise, well-researched insights to help you connect the dots between contemporary events and the broader canvas of the civil services syllabus.
Roadmap of Solar Energy for Universal Energy Access
Tag: GS-3 Economy, Renewable Energy
Recently, a side-event of the 4th Energy Transition Working Group the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India, in association with the International Solar Alliance, released a Roadmap of Solar Energy for Universal Energy Access.
Key Highlights of the Report
- The roadmap places a strong emphasis on solar energy as a primary solution to achieve Universal Energy Access by 2030.
- It identifies three main approaches for electrification: solar-based mini-grids, grid extensions, and decentralized renewable energy solutions, targeting specific segments of the unelectrified population.
- Approximately 59% (396 million people) of those without access to electricity are deemed suitable for electrification through solar-based mini-grids. Another 30% (203 million people) can be electrified through grid extensions, while the remaining 11% (77 million people) can benefit from Decentralized Renewable Energy solutions.
- To accomplish these ambitious electrification goals, a total investment of around USD 192 billion is required, with a significant portion, about USD 48.5 billion, earmarked for viability gap funding to support mini-grid deployment.
- The roadmap recognizes and addresses various challenges associated with policies, regulations, and financial risks, all crucial elements for the successful and sustainable scaling up of solar energy solutions.
- To achieve success, the report stresses the importance of developing technical and financial expertise, promoting skill development, and creating awareness in regions with energy access deficits to drive electrification initiatives effectively.
- The report advocates for increased investments in the sector, the development of a conducive ecosystem, and efficient resource utilization to expedite the process of achieving universal energy access.
- An additional key aspect emphasized in the roadmap is the integration of solar PV-based cooking solutions with electrification initiatives, as this could significantly enhance energy access, particularly in remote and underdeveloped areas.
About Solar Mini-grids
- Solar mini-grids are small-scale electricity generation and distribution systems that use solar photovoltaic (PV) technology to generate electricity and store it in batteries. They are typically designed to provide electricity to communities or areas that either need to be connected to the main power grid or experience frequent power outages.
Importance of Solar Mini-grids:
- Approximately 9% of the world’s population remains without access to electricity, and the most affected regions are Sub-Saharan Africa and rural areas.
- To tackle this pressing issue, solar mini-grids emerge as a critical solution, offering dependable and cost-effective electricity to these communities.
- Additionally, a staggering 1.9 billion people worldwide lack access to clean cooking facilities. Solar mini-grids can play a dual role by powering electric stoves and other cooking appliances, thus presenting clean cooking solutions to these underserved populations.
Benefits of Solar Mini-grids:
- Solar energy, combined with energy storage systems, provides a dependable electricity source that maintains its reliability, even in the face of natural disasters or blackouts.
- In terms of sustainability, solar energy stands as a clean and renewable power source, playing a crucial role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions and combatting climate change.
- The scalability of solar mini-grids is a notable advantage, allowing them to be easily adjusted to meet the energy requirements of a community, making them a flexible and adaptable solution for enhancing energy access.
Affordability of Solar Mini-grids:
- In remote regions or islands, where electricity costs can soar as high as Rs. 36 per unit due to the expensive transportation of diesel fuel, solar energy emerges as a cost-effective alternative to diesel generators.
- Utilizing solar power presents a sustainable and economically viable solution to significantly reduce electricity expenses in these areas.
- To support the deployment of decentralized solar, measures like Feed-in Tariffs and tariff restructuring for grid-connected capacity are put in place.
- Furthermore, the development of solar mini-grids is expected to receive a boost with the anticipated reduction in battery costs through large-scale procurement.
Challenges in the Deployment of Solar Energy for Universal Energy Access
- The lack of supportive policies and regulations poses a significant challenge to the widespread deployment of solar energy for achieving universal energy access.
- Addressing challenges in equipment manufacturing, on-ground execution, and maintenance is crucial to ensure sustained affordability of solar solutions.
- The accumulation of dust on solar panels can lead to a substantial reduction in output, up to 30 percent in a month, making regular cleaning essential.
- Current water-based cleaning methods consume approximately 10 billion gallons of water annually, but the available waterless methods are labor-intensive and may cause scratching on the panels.
- In underdeveloped regions, high financial risks increase project costs for developers, creating a gap between what consumers can afford and what suppliers find viable.
- To drive the successful implementation and maintenance of solar mini-grids, there is a pressing need for more technical and financial expertise in the field.
Source: PIB Gov.
Global Report on the Food Crises 2023
Tag: GS-2 Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
The Global Report on the Food Crises (GRFC) 2023 released recently estimated that between 691 million and 783 million people in the world suffered from hunger in 2022.
- GRFC is produced by the Food Security Information Network in support of the Global Network against Food Crises, and involves 16 partners to achieve a joint consensus-based assessment of acute food insecurity in countries.
- As per the World Food Summit of 1996, Food security is defined as: “When all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active, and healthy life.”
- The prevalence of food insecurity in the population is based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES).
Key Highlights of the Report:
- The report states that hunger is no longer on an alarming path, but still far above pre-COVID pandemic levels, and is far off track towards achieving SDG 2 – Zero Hunger.
- As per the report, new estimates of FIES, confirm that for 2022, no progress was made on food insecurity at the global level.
- In 2022, an estimated 2.4 billion people did not have access to adequate food.
- Stunting, defined as the condition of being too short for one’s age, among children under five has declined steadily, from 204.2 million in 2000 to 148.1 million in 2022.
- Child wasting, caused by insufficient nutrient intake or absorption, declined from 54.1 million in 2000 to 45 million in 2022.
- Around 3.2 billion people worldwide could not afford a healthy diet in 2020 and the cost of healthy diet increased by 6.7% between 2019 and 2021.
- The report also projects that almost 600 million people will be chronically undernourished in 2030.
Key drivers of food insecurity:
- Slowing down of economy and resultant job losses and unemployment due to pandemic.
- The Ukraine war cut down the supply chain for essential food and energy items.
- Unfavourable government policies
- Increasing urbanisation driving changes through the agrifood systems.
- Supporting healthier food outlets as key for enabling access to healthy diets.
- Policy incentives to encourage shops to sell greater amounts of fresh and minimally processed foods.
- Addressing multiple infrastructure and regulatory gaps to improve nutritional safety and quality of street food as around 2.5 billion people worldwide consume street food every day
- Building rural infrastructure, including quality rural and feeder roads to connect remote farms and enterprises to main road networks.
Source: The Hindu
Global Parliamentary Pact
Tag: GS-2 Important international groupings; Issues related to poverty and hunger
Around 200 Parliamentarians along with heads and representatives from 64 countries, at the 2nd Global Parliamentary Summit against Hunger and Malnutrition in Chile, signed a commitment called Global Parliamentary Pact on transforming the agrifood system to make food sustainable and accessible to all.
About the Global Parliamentary Pact:
- Agrifood system refers to the entire process of producing, processing, distributing, and consuming food, including all the activities and actors involved in the food supply chain. It encompasses agricultural production, food processing, transportation, storage, retail, and consumption.
- Leaders from across the world are coming together to form a new multilateral body to push for reforms and transformations in the agrifood system.
- The pact lends political support to policies concerning agrifood system reform, including drafting legislation for equitable food distribution and providing budgetary support.
- This has led to processing and approval of 35 laws, which cover family farming, responsible investment in agriculture, gender equality and women’s empowerment, school feeding programmes, food labelling, food loss and waste, among other aspects.
- The world is facing an unprecedented crisis of poverty, hunger and malnutrition. There is an urgent need to provide political legitimacy to the initiative.
- In 2021, there were 46 million more people who endured hunger than in 2020. Some 2.3 billion people in the world did not have access to adequate food in 2021.
- The parliamentarians’ latest pact provides the much needed political interface that these goals deserve, to ensure that they are achieved by 2030.
- Besides, political interest in these goals will result in accelerating reforms and transformations in the agrifood system that usually fall under the legislative domain.
Source:Down to Earth
Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA)
Tags: GS – 2: International Relations (Regional Groupings and Agreements)
Why in News:
Recently, India and Australia have formed a joint working group to consider the possibility of a mutual recognition agreement (MRA) which would facilitate Indian whiskey makers’ access to the Australian market.
Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA):
- MRA is a formal agreement between two or more countries or trading partners.
- It allows them to recognize and accept each other’s standards, regulations, and conformity assessment procedures for specific products or services.
- It aims to facilitate trade and market access by reducing redundant testing, certification, and inspection requirements.
Need for MRA:
- Currently, Australian rules require the spirit to be matured for two years before it can be labelled whiskey and one year for rum. However, this rule acts as a disadvantage for Indian liquor exporters as India does not have such rules.
- Indian companies claim that spirits mature faster in India’s warmer climate, and the maturation rule restricts their access to a market with a large Indian population and good growth potential.
- Companies also claim that a two-year maturation in India will cause a 10% loss due to evaporation.
- Due to these differences, a joint working group has been formed to look into the issue and find a way out.
Mutual Funds to introduce five new categories under the ESG Scheme
Tags: GS – 3: Indian Economy (Capital market)
Why in News:
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has permitted Mutual Funds to introduce five new categories under the ESG (environmental, social, and governance) scheme.
- This scheme aims to encourage sustainable and ethical business practices, including climate change, pollution, human rights, corporate governance, and more.
- Earlier, mutual funds can launch only one ESG scheme under the thematic category of equity schemes.
- Filing of Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) has been made mandatory for the top 1000 listed companies by SEBI from the financial year 2022-2023.
- ESG schemes are mandated to invest at least 65% of assets in listed entities with BRSR Core assurance.
- The balance can be invested in companies with BRSR disclosures, starting from October 1, 2024.
Difference between ESG and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR):
- CSR is spending at least 2% of corporate’s net profit over the preceding 3 years on activities like welfare of society. It has been mandated by the Company Act, 2013.
- CSR practices are usually self-regulated and can have a lot of variation.
- ESG measures the organization’s level of sustainability – increasingly demanded by investors and other stakeholders.
- CSR helps a company to Build a responsible business reputation whereas ESG helps a company with Meet existing and upcoming regulations and demands; Respond to climate change and other societal risks; Become more attractive to investors.
Five New Categories of Mutual Funds:
- Exclusion: Exclude certain industries or companies based on ESG criteria. Avoiding investments in fossil fuel companies.
- Integration: Integrating ESG factors into investment decision-making. Assessing companies’ environmental practices before investing.
- Best-in-Class and Positive Screening: Selecting companies with leading ESG performance in their industry. Investing in companies with top-notch labour practices.
- Impact Investing: Investing in businesses or projects with positive social and environmental impact. Funding renewable energy projects.
- Sustainable Objectives: Investing in alignment with specific sustainability goals. Supporting companies committed to reducing waste.
Mizoram and livestock diseases
Tags: GS-III: Health
Mizoram faces recurrent outbreaks of livestock diseases
About Livestock Diseases attacks in Mizoram
- Mizoram has in recent times experienced recurrent outbreaks of livestock diseases, causing significant challenges for the state’s animal husbandry and veterinary department.
- The State heavily relies on meat imports, as local production cannot meet the demand, making it susceptible to animal and poultry diseases.
- The possibility of infected animals being brought in or procured from across the long international and interstate borders is a major contributing factor to disease outbreaks.
- Mizoram shares 722 km of border with Bangladesh and Myanmar and 495 km of border with Assam, Manipur, and Tripura, facilitating the entry of infected animals.
- Inadequate quarantine measures and disease checks for animals procured under local schemes exacerbate the problem.
- Livestock attacks in Mizoram:
- Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) or goat plague killing hundreds of goats
- African Swine Fever (ASF) and Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) leading to deaths of pigs
- sarcoptic mange leading to deaths of Himalayan serows which is a protected species and Mizoram’s state animal.
- Wolf attacks to the livestocks causing losses to gayals (semi-wild bovines locally called ‘gayal’).
- The lack of an epidemiologist and vacant veterinarian positions hinder the state’s ability to tackle livestock diseases effectively.
- Despite the claims of adequate manpower and medical supplies, the long-term vacancies make disease management challenging.
- Mizoram needs to strengthen border control measures, improve disease monitoring and surveillance to control the spread of livestock diseases across borders.
- In the long run, raising awareness among farmers and villagers about disease prevention and proper animal husbandry practices will go a long way to enhance disease preparedness and response.
Source: The Hindu
India’s First Cannabis Medicine Project
Tags: GS-III: Health
Union government to Pioneer India’s First Cannabis Medicine Project in Jammu
About India’s First Cannabis Medicine Project
- Ministry of Science & Technology (MoS&T) has recently announced India’s first Cannabis Medicine Project in Jammu.
- The ‘Cannabis Research Project’ is first of its kind Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative by CSIR- Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM) Jammu in association with a Canadian firm.
- CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine was the first to obtain a cannabis cultivation license in India.
- It aims to explore the medicinal potential of cannabis for patients with neuropathies, cancer, and epilepsy.
- The project holds significance for Atma-Nirbhar Bharat, promoting indigenous drug manufacturing and will produce export-quality drugs for neuropathies, diabetic pains, etc.
- The scientists will focus on improving cannabis varieties with desired cannabinoid content for treatments for nausea, vomiting, neuropathic pain, spasticity, and epilepsy.
- Overall, Project presents a groundbreaking step towards unlocking the medicinal potential of cannabis for the betterment of patients besides contributing to India’s self-reliance in drug production.
Source: PIB GOV.
Wheat Board of India
Tag: GS-1 Geography, Agriculture
Cereal Experts from India, Australia, and Canada have proposed the establishment of the Wheat Board of India, a comprehensive organization to ensure food and nutrition security through wheat for the growing population.
Why there is requirement of Wheat Board ?
- To streamline regulatory compliance: The committee aims to tackle compliance requirements comprehensively, spanning both Central and State government levels. This includes overseeing aspects such as wheat production, storage, processing, and utilization.
- To enhance wheat production and processing methods: The specialists stressed the significance of using biofortified wheat varieties to address nutritional demands. They also emphasized the need to modernize wheat storage and handling practices to minimize post-harvest losses while promoting sustainable processing technologies.
- For the advancement of climate-resistant wheat varieties and improved milling techniques to achieve better milling stream recovery.
Source: The Hindu
India Climate Energy Dashboard (ICED)
Tag: GS-3 Environment
Recently, NITI Aayog released the India Climate Energy Dashboard (ICED) 3.0.
- The ICED is the country’s one-stop platform for near real-time data on the energy sector, climate, and related economic datasets based on government published sources.
- Developed as a user-friendly platform, ICED 3.0 enables users to freely access and analyse datasets using an analytical engine.
- It will facilitate insights and enhance understanding about the energy and climate sectors while identifying the key challenges.
- The Portal will draw insights from the available data parameters and hence immensely useful in monitoring the progress of India’s clean energy transition journey.
- This dashboard offers more than 500 parameters, over 2000 infographics, and a number of interactive visualizations, allowing users to gain a holistic understanding of India’s energy sector.
Source: PIB Gov.
Swachhata Chronicles: Transformative Tales from India
Tag: GS-3 Environment
Recently, Union Minister Of Jal Shakti Releases ‘Swachhata Chronicles: Transformative Tales From India’
Swachhata Chronicles: Transformative Tales from India, showcases the innovations, measures taken to overcome barriers and raise awareness, special campaigns launched, and other endeavours of States/UTs in various ODF Plus activities in order to meet the goals of SBM-G Phase-II.
The compendium is developed by Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen IEC team and comprises stories for each of the thematic pillars of SBMG phase – II. The overall selection of stories is based on following key criteria:
- Innovations: This section highlights the innovative approaches that have been used to achieve ODF Plus. For example, in State of Odisha how the community participation and leadership at the Block level, ensured ODF Plus Model village status of Jitikar Suanlo village in Bhingarpur GP of Khordha District or how displaying live models of ODF Plus assets (to effectively manage solid and liquid waste) helped the Shravasti District in Uttar Pradesh achieve ODF Plus status.
- Overcoming Barriers: This section discusses the challenges that have been faced in achieving ODF Plus and how these challenges have been overcome. For example, the State of Tamil Nadu, tackled the significant challenge in solid waste management in peri-urban panchayats of Madurai through an innovative mass cleaning initiative as part of the Namma Ooru Superu campaign.
- Raising Awareness: This section highlights the measures that have been taken to raise awareness about sanitation. For example, children from government schools in Fatehpur District of Uttar Pradesh have been using their creative energy to promote positive WASH behaviour in rural areas through a magazine called the WASH Vaani.
- Special Campaigns: This section discusses the special campaigns that have been launched to achieve ODF Plus. For example, the State of Gujarat as part of the Swachh Sagar, Surakshit Sagar (Clean Coast, Safe Sea) campaign, initiated measures to clean their beaches on a regular basis and thereby protect the environment.
Source: PIB GOV.
Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) Digital Academy
Tag: GS-3 Economy
Recently, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was exchanged between the Department of Drinking water and Sanitation and Echo India to establish JJM Digital Academy.
- ECHO India, a non-profit organization has supported the Department in establishing JJM Digital Academy.
- JJM Digital Academy aims to build the capacity of various stakeholders associated with the water supply programme like administrators, engineers, Panchayat functionaries, technicians, sanitation workers, and foot soldiers.
- The academy will equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively contribute to achieving Mission objectives. The Academy will be using digital technology in delivering training through innovative approach.
- The Academy will also build a repository by recording all sessions for knowledge sharing and future reference of prospective learners.
- The Key Resource Centres (KRCs) and Implementing Support Agencies (ISAs) will be on board at the JJM Digital Academy platform for training the stakeholders.
- National and State governments will also be holding sessions to share their best practices.
- A number of UN and bilateral agencies, RWPF partners, trusts, foundations, institutions, and civil society organizations have joined hands to provide knowledge content through this program.
- They will publish their calendars and reach out to field officers, Gram panchayat functionaries to provide the right knowledge at right place and at right time.
Source: PIB Gov.
Tag: GS-2 Polity
Monsoon Session of Parliament proceedings saw the Lok Sabha being adjourned.
- The adjournment motion is introduced in the Parliament to draw the attention of the House to a definite matter of urgent public importance and needs the support of 50 members to be admitted.
- It can only be introduced in Loksabha and not Rajya Sabha.
- Once the motion is passed the normal business of the house gets interrupted and a full-length debate can take place.
- It involves an element of censure against the government if approved.
Source: Indian Express
J&K’s trout farming
Tag: GS-1 Geography
J&K’s trout farmers tripled production from 650 tonnes in 2019 to 1,990 tonnes by 2023; the Valley’s cold, gushing streams are ideal for the fish.
- Jammu and Kashmir’s trout farming is an agricultural practice focused on the breeding and cultivation of trout fish in the region.
- The practice has gained significant popularity and success in recent times, contributing to economic growth and employment opportunities in the area.
- Trout farming in Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed substantial growth, with farmers managing to triple their production from 650 tonnes to a much higher volume.
- Trout farming expansion in production indicates the viability and profitability of the trout farming industry in the region.
- It has opened up new avenues for employment, providing opportunities for people to work in the fish farming sector.
- The government is taking measures to combat climate change’s impact by offering subsidies to set up Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) for trout farming.
Source: The Hindu
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