Daily Current Affairs | 9th June 2020

Assam: Fire breaks out at Oil India’s gas well in Tinsukia, days after major blow out

Recently, a gas leak has occurred at Baghjan well in Tinsukia district of Assam following a blowout.

  • The Baghjan well is a purely gas-producing well in Tinsukia district,and is at an aerial distance of 900 metres from the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
  • It has been drilled by Oil India Limited (OIL)since 2006.
  • Natural gas is a mix of propane, methane, propylene and other gases.
  • Gas Leak:
    • The gas well at Baghjan was under maintenance,for which it was temporarily shut. The Blowout Preventer (BOP) was also removed.
    • However, the gas started to ooze out of the well during the maintenance.The reason behind the blowout (a sudden/uncontrolled release of gas/oil) is not clear.
  • Possible Reasons:
    • It may have occurreddue to lack of attention, poor workmanship, bad maintenance, old age, sabotage to morpho-tectonic factors.
    • Sometimes, the disturbance of pressure balance in a well may also lead to sudden blowouts.
  • Steps Taken:The authorities have built a temporary water reservoir through pipelines from the Dangori river nearby the well to control the blowout.
    • To control a blowout, a huge quantity of water is required so that the gas does not catch fire.
    • Thecontrol of a blowout depends on two things: the size of the reservoir and the pressure at which the gas is flowing out. Many blowouts also automatically collapse on their own.
  • Challenges:The gas leak at the Baghjan is still not under control and it is continuously leaking.
    • The limited space and non-availability of open space above the well head poses a huge challenge in placement of BOP.
    • The BOP placement involves a huge risk since Baghjan is a gas well and runs the risk of catching fire at any point.
  • Impact:
    • The gas is flowing with the windin the radius of up to 5 km and condensate (the residue from gas) is falling on bamboo, tea gardens, banana trees, betel nut trees among others.
    • While the well is outside the Eco Sensitive Zoneof the park, there are reports that the condensate is falling into Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Maguri-Motapung wetland
    • The gas leak has also caused deaths of Gangetic dolphins, and a variety of fish. The number of birds have also decreased because they have flown away.
  • Assessment of the Impact:To safeguard the environment, OIL has engaged a National Accreditation Board for Education and Training (NABET) accredited consultant to carry out an Environment Impact Assessment study to assess the effects of blowout on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and to work on a Socio-Economic Impact Assessment.
    • NABET is a constituent Board of Quality Council of India.
    • It offers accreditation to educational organisations, vocational training organizations andskill certification bodies.

Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

  • Dibru-Saikhowa is a National Parkas well as a Biosphere Reserve situated in the south bank of the river Brahmaputra in Assam.
  • It is one of the 19 biodiversity hotspots in the world.
  • The forest type of Dibru-Saikhowa comprises semi-evergreen forests, deciduous forests, littoral and swamp forestsand patches of wet evergreen forests.
    • It is the largest swamp forest in north-eastern India.
  • It is an identified Important Bird Area (IBA)notified by the Bombay Natural History Society. It is most famous for the rare white-winged wood ducks as well as feral horses.

Maguri-Motapung Wetland

  • Maguri Motapung Beel is less than 10 km from Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and part of the Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve.
  • The wetland derives its name from “Magur”, the local word for the catfish ‘Clarius batrachus’.
  • It is an Important Bird Areanotified by the Bombay Natural History Society.

All you need to know about the shapes of economic recovery

As India is going to come out of the Covid-19 lockdown, experts are debating over the shape of recovery of Indian economy.

  • The economists are unanimous that in the current financial year 2020-21, India’s economy will contract.
    • According to the World Bank’sSouth Asia Economic Focus report, India’s growth is likely to remain at 1.5-2.8% in 2020-21 which is the slowest since 1991 economic reforms.
  • Many economists are also of the opinion that after hitting the bottom this year, the Indian economy will start its recovery in the next financial year (2021-22).
  • However, according to an analysis by Pronab Sen, former Chief Statistician of India, India’s economy will contract not just in the financial year 2020-21 but also in 2021-22.
    • This means that India could experience a full-blown depression –the first in India’s history as an independent nation.
    • The Table shows India’s absolute Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is likely to struggle to even come back to the 2019-20 level by 2023-24.
    • India is likely to end up with an“elongated U-shape” recovery due to the weakness of the economy going into the Covid crisis as well as the inadequate fiscal stimulus measure taken by the government.
  • Other economists are of the view thatit is difficult to predict the shape of economic recovery in India at this juncture as there are too many unknowns.
    • If there is no second wave of Covid-19, India can expect swift normalization from negative growth levels to the pre-covid levels of 5% and a gradual recovery to 7% by the second half of the next fiscal (2021-22).

Types of Shape of Economic Recovery

  • Economic recovery can take many forms, which is depicted using alphabetic notations. For example, a Z-shaped recovery, V-shaped recovery, U-shaped recovery, elongated U-shaped recovery, W-shaped recovery and L-shaped recovery.
  • Thealphabets generally denote the graph of growth rate, which resembles the shape of the letter.
  • The fundamental difference between the different kinds of recovery is thetime taken for economic activity to normalize.
    • Thetime taken is often a factor of multiple things such as the depth of the economic crisis. e.g deeper the recession, longer is the time to get back to normal.
  • The other aspect of economic recovery includes the effect of pandemic on jobs and household incomes,and the kind of policy response taken by the government that determines how quickly economic growth will recover.
  • Z-shaped recovery:It is the most-optimistic scenario in which the economy quickly rises after an economic crash.
    • It makes up more than for lost ground before settling back to the normal trend-line, thus forming a Z-shaped chart.
    • In this economic disruption lasts for a small period wherein more than people’s incomes, it is their ability to spend is restricted.
  • V-shaped recovery:It is the next-best scenario after Z-shaped recovery in which the economy quickly recoups lost ground and gets back to the normal growth trend-line.
    • In this, incomes and jobs are not permanently lost, and the economic growth recovers sharply and returns to the path it was following before the disruption.
  • U-shaped recovery:It is a scenario in which the economy, after falling, struggles around a low growth rate for some time, before rising gradually to usual levels.
    • In this case several jobs are lost and people fall upon their savings.
    • If this process is more-long drawn than it throws up the“elongated U” shape.
  • W-shaped recovery:A W-shaped recovery is a dangerous creature. In this, growth falls and rises, but falls again before recovering, thus forming a W-like chart.
    • The double-dip depicted by a W-shaped recovery can be due to the second wave of the pandemic.
  • L-shaped recovery:In this, the economy fails to regain the level of GDP even after years go by.
    • The shape shows that there is a permanent loss to the economy’s ability to produce.

In making for two decades, DSDBO road now upsets China

The Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road has been in the making for around two decades and is expected to be completed by 2020.

  • The 255-km roadfrom Darbuk traverses at an altitude of 14,000 feet and reaches Shyok, the last Indian village in the region.
  • This roadjoins Leh to the Karakoram Pass, which divides Ladakh from China’s Xinjiang province.
  • Between Shyok and Karakoram Pass lies Daulat Beg Oldie(DBO), a plateau at an altitude of over 16,000 feet and the location of an Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) used by the air force to drop supplies.
    • DBO is India’s northernmost corner,which in army parlance is called Sub-Sector North.
    • The road’s constructionwas started in 2000 and was to be completed by 2012 at a cost of Rs. 320 crore under the monitoring of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
    • However, the construction could not be finishedas the road was aligned with the Shyok riverbed that led to it being damaged every summer during flooding.
    • Later, major portions of the road were realigned, keeping them away from the river.
    • In October2019, the 430 m Colonel Chewang Rinchen Setu over Shyok river was inaugurated that joins Durbuk to DBO in Eastern Ladakh.
      • Along with it, the Siachen Glacier area of Ladakh was declared open for tourists by the Government of India.
    • India has decided to not stop road constructionon its side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) despite the border confrontations and objections by China as it does not want India to utilise the DSDBO road to its full potential.
    • Significance of the Road:
      • DBO is located only 9 km away from the LAC with China and the road will help manage the border and the areas adjoining Aksai Chin, Chip Chap River and Jiwan Nalla.
      • It will alsoensure faster deployment of troops in the area.
        • Before the laying of the road, the only way to reach the area was via the ALG, where heavy-lift aircraft can land.
      • From the DSDBO road, a road branches off towards Galwan Valleywhich had prompted the stand-off in Galwan Valley.
        • Indian troops have been patrolling up to this area but they will have road access and can be present there.

Road Ahead

  • In the Wuhan(2018) and Mahabalipuram (2019) summits, both India and China had reaffirmed that they would make efforts to ensure peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
  • On 1stApril 2020, India and China completed their 70 years of diplomatic relations. Both countries have resolved border issues peacefully in the past four decades which gives them hope that the tensions will subside soon.
  • India and China are amongst the largest economies, demography, markets and militaries of the world. Therefore, it is in the interests of both the countries to align their energiesfor the growth and development of their people, region and global peace.

India’s First Solar Ferry ‘Aditya’, representing Asia in the Gustave Trouvé Awards

Recently, India’s first solar-powered ferry, Aditya has been shortlisted for the Gustave Trouvé Award as the only entrant from Asia.

  • Aditya, is among 12 such ferriesthat have been shortlisted for the award across the world.

Gustave Trouvé Awards

  • Gussies Electric Boat Awards were instituted in memory of Gustave Trouvé,French electrical engineer and pioneer in electric cars and boats.
  • Trouvé was a prolific inventor with over 75 patents. He had also developed a 5-m-long prototype electric boat in 1881.
    • Aditya is operating between Vaikkom and Thavanakkadavuin Kerala. It was launched in November 2016 and started its services in 2017.
    • It is India’sfirst solar-powered ferry and the largest solar-powered boat.
      • It is operated by the Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD)and built by Navalt Solar and Electric Boats, Kochi.
    • It is powered by a motor that can source energy from solar panels, batteries, and generators.
      • Solar vessels do not create air and noise pollution.
    • Significance:
      • Aditya has a very low per km energy cost andit operates 22 trips a day, covering a total of 66 km, carrying 75 passengers per trip.
      • It needs just Rs. 180 per day in energy cost,compared to about  8,000 for a diesel-run ferry of similar size, which is unusual for a high technology product to have such a low energy cost.
      • It has a high financial viability with zero pollution vessels.

 

Environmental Performance Index

India secured 168th rank in the 12th edition of the Environment Performance Index (EPI) 2020.

  • India’s rank was177th in 2018.

Environmental Performance Index

  • EPI is abiennial index prepared by Yale University and Columbia University in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.
  • It offers a scorecard that highlights leaders and laggardsin environmental performance and provides practical guidance for countries that aspire to move toward a sustainable future.
  • This index was first published in 2002 designed to supplement the environmental targets set forth in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
  • EPI 2020:
    • EPI Index 2020 measured the environmental performance of 180 countries.
    • The index considered 32 indicatorsof environmental performance and included 10-year trends in environmental performance at the national and global levels.
    • Denmark topped the indexwith a score of 82.5.
  • India’ Performance:
    • India scored 27.6 out of 100 in the 2020 EPI index and its performancewas worse than all South Asian countries, except Afghanistan.
    • India scored below the regional (South-Asia) average score on all five key parameters on environmental health,including air quality, sanitation and drinking water, heavy metals and waste management.
      • These findings resonated with the concerns raised by the ‘State of India’s Environment 2020in Figures’, published by the Centre for Science and Environment.
    • It has alsoscored below the regional average on parameters related to biodiversity and ecosystem services
    • India was at second position after Pakistan on ‘climate change’among the South-Asia countries.
      • Pakistan’s score (50.6) was the highest under the climate change category.
    • A ten-year comparison progress report in the index showed that India slipped on climate-related parameters.
      • The report indicated that black carbon, carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse emissions per capita increased in ten years.

Road Ahead

  • India needs to re-double national sustainability effortson all fronts.
  • It needs to focus on a wide spectrum of sustainability issues, with a high-priorityto critical issues such as air and water quality, biodiversity and climate change.

IIT-M researchers identify role of microRNA in tongue cancer

Recently, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have identified a specific microRNA (miRNA) called ‘miR-155’ that is over-expressed in tongue cancer.

  • MicroRNAs:
    • These are short noncoding Ribonucleic Acids(RNAs) containing 20–24 nucleotides that participate in virtually all biological pathways in animals.
    • They play important roles in many cancers, in carcinogenesismalignant transformation and 
      • Carcinogenesis:It is the formation of cancer (uncontrolled development of cells), whereby normal cells are transformed into cancer cells. It is also called oncogenesis or 
      • Malignant transformation:It is the process by which cells acquire the properties of cancer. This may occur as a primary process in normal tissue, or secondarily as malignant degeneration of a previously existing benign tumour.
      • Metastasis:The spread of cancer cells from the place where they first formed to another part of the body. In metastasis, cancer cells break away from the original (primary) tumour, travel through the blood or lymph system and form a new tumour in other organs or tissues of the body.
    • Oncomirs:
      • The miRNAs associated with cancerare called Oncomirs.
      • They affect cancer growth through inhibiting or enhancing the functionsof certain proteins.
      • Oncomirs affect cancer bysuppressing the performance of tumour-suppressing agents which can prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells and sometimes prevent tumour growth itself.
    • Significance of the Research:
      • The finding could help develop molecular strategiesto manipulate miR-155 expression to develop therapeutics for tongue cancer.
      • miRNA manipulation is being combined with conventional cancer treatment methodssuch as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and
      • Eliminating miR-155 causesdeath of cancer cells, arrests the cell cycle and regresses tumour size in animal models and reduces cell viability and colony formation in benchtop (suitable for convenient use on a laboratory workbench) assays.
        • An assay is an investigative (analytic) procedure in laboratory medicine, pharmacology, environmental biology and molecular biology for qualitatively assessing or quantitatively measuring the presence, amount, or functional activity of a target entity (the analyte).
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