India has ranked 24th out of 70 countries in the first Environmental Democracy Index (EDI). The index was recently released by Washington-based World Resources Institute (WRI) and Access Initiative. In the first edition of this index, Lithuania has topped among the 70 countries. Top ten countries are: Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, United States, South Africa, United Kingdom, Hungary, Bulgaria, Panama and Colombia.
Right to environmental information has been established in the 93 per cent of the assessed countries. However, many nations lag on providing citizens basic environmental information i.e. around 79 per cent of assessed countries have earned only fair or poor ratings for public participation. Nearly half or around 46 per cent of assessed countries do not provide any ambient air quality data online for their capital cities. In 73 per cent of the countries, courts or their judiciary hear environmental cases. Only 14 per cent of the countries assessed have legal mechanisms that help women to access courts in order to obtain redress when their environmental rights are violated.
EDI evaluates progress of countries in enacting laws in order to promote citizen engagement and accountability, transparency in environmental decision-making. The index evaluates countries based on recognised international standards including 75 legal and 24 practice indicators.
Union Cabinet has approved continuation of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) programme for another fifteen operational flights of PSLV-C36 to PSLV-C50. The decision in this regard was taken at a Union Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. All the fifteen operational flights under this programme will be completed during the period 2017-2020. The continuation PSLV programme will enable Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to launch of satellites required for earth observation & navigation and Space Sciences. It will also help government to clinch commercial launch service contracts and meet the demand for the launch of satellites at a frequency of four to five launches per year. The continuation of programme will add additional 3090 crore rupees on government exchequer.
It was sanctioned by Union Government in 2008 to use PSLV as a workhorse vehicle to meet the country’s satellite launch requirements. The operationalisation of this programme has made India self-reliant in the launching capability of satellites for the purpose of earth observation, disaster management, space sciences and navigation. PSLV also has emerged as a versatile launch vehicle to carry out Geo-synchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO), Sun-Synchronous Polor Orbit (SSPO) and low inclination Low Earth Orbit (LEO) missions. Thus, continuation of PSLV programme will help to sustain India’s capability and self-reliance in the launching of similar satellites for national requirements and even play key role in commercial launch opportunities also.
Union Cabinet has approved the revival of closed urea unit of Fertilizer Corporation India Limited (FICL) at Sindri in Jharkhand with an investment of 6000 crore rupees. Decision in this regard was taken at Union Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. FICL’s Sindri unit was lying defunct and was not in operation along with its associated facilities which were lying unutilized since 2002.
Union government has taken this decision in order to meet the growing demand of urea in eastern states of India including Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand. Starting this plant will also ease the pressure on railway and road infrastructure due to transportation of urea on long distance from Western and Central Regions. This unit will also create 500 direct and 3000 indirect employments in this region.
Apart from this decision, Union Cabinet also gave its nod for setting up of a new ammonia-urea complex at Namrup in Assam on Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode with an estimated investment of 4500 crore rupees. This approved complex will have an annual capacity of 8.64 lakh metric tonnes and play key role in meeting the growing demand of urea in North-East, Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand. It will also accelerate the economic development of the region and open new avenues for the people of the North-East.
Union Government has decided to amend Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms for NRIs, Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) to increase capital flows into the country. Decision in this regard was taken at Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. In order to comply with this decision government will amend FDI policy on investments by NRIs, PIOs & OCIs which will give them parity in economy and education.
Now non-repatriable investments of NRIs, PIOs & OCIs under under Schedule 4 of FEMA regulations will considered as domestic investment. The amendments will lead to greater foreign exchange remittances and investment in the country. Previous decisions taken NDA government on FDI are FDI in Railway infrastructure sector has been opened to 100 per cent FDI under automatic route. FDI limit in the insurance sector has been increased to 49 per cent. Sectoral cap for FDI in defence sector has been raised to 49 per cent.
A group of researchers from the Konkan Cetacean Population Study (CPS) team between March and May 2015 spotted two Blue Whales (mother-calf pair) and four Bryde’s whales near Kunkeshwar off the Sindhudurg coast in Maharashtra. This is for the first time after 100 years that the Blue Whales were sighted off the coast of Maharashtra. Last time, a blue whale was sighted in waters of Maharashtra was in 1914.
According to the records of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) – a dead blue whale had washed ashore at the time. The blue whales were spotted on 28 March 2015 approximately 2.7km offshore at a depth of 16 metres, while the Bryde’s whales were spotted four times on 11 April, 16 April, 30 April and 6 May 2015. The whales were spotted during a survey carried out by researchers to study Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins along the Maharashtra coast under United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project on Mainstreaming Coastal and Marine Biodiversity. The project is being implemented by the Maharashtra State Mangrove Cell.
Blue whales are marine mammals and they are the largest animals on Earth. They can reach an average length of 23-27 metres, with the largest known being 33 metres. These animals tend to be open-ocean species, but they do come close to the shore to feed. Blue whales are resident or migratory, usually seen alone or in pairs.
The mammal is found across the Indian Ocean, southern parts of the Sri Lankan coast and quite often they have been found to migrate to parts of Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. In the recent past, another sighting of the mammal was observed in 2010 along the coast of Mangalore.
O Paneer SelvamChief Minister of Tamil Nadu O Panneerselvam resigned on 21 May 2015. He tendered his resignation to the Governor Konijeti Rosaiah. He resigned minutes after Jayalalithaa was elected as the legislature party leader at a meeting in Chennai. With this, his eight months long tenure as Chief Minister of the state came to an end.
He was appointed as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on 29 September 2014 as replacement of former AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa, who resigned after being convicted in the 18 year old disproportionate assets case of over 66 crore rupees. She was awarded a four year prison term by Bangalore Special Court after it found her guilty of amassing unaccounted wealth.
Earlier in September 2001 also he was appointed as the Chief Minister of the state after Jayalalithaa was barred from holding office by the Supreme Court of India. He served the office till 2002.
The World Bank on 20 May 2015 approved 250 million US dollar credit for the Enhancing Teacher Effectiveness in Bihar Programme. The credit will be provided to improve the effectiveness of elementary school teachers in Bihar by making them more qualified, accountable and responsive. The credit is being provided from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm, and the credit is on IDA terms with a maturity of 25 years, including a 5 year grace period.
Among many problems affecting Bihar education system, quality of education is the worrisome problem. The quality of education in turn is the result of lack of trained teachers in Bihar. By 2020, the number of teachers is expected to exceed 6 lakhs but the state’s training capacity is less than 5000 teachers annually. It means state needs to train at least ten times more teachers annually.
Further, this has been compounded by years of underinvestment in teacher education in Bihar since the 1990s. Besides, the problem of absenteeism is also affecting the quality of education in Bihar. Though in recent past between 2003 and 2010, Bihar experienced a 10 percent reduction in absenteeism rates, still teacher absenteeism continues to be quite high.
The programme will be part of the Bihar government’s school education reform programme, also known as Manav Vikas programme, which is being implemented to improve the quality of education especially for elementary level children. The programme will benefit some 450000 teachers in government elementary schools in Bihar, particularly the 65000 new unqualified entrants who will receive certification through Open Distance Learning (ODL). As a result, it is expected that some 21.2 million elementary school students will gain access to improved classroom teaching and learning.
Institutions like the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT), District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs), Primary Teacher Education Centers (PTECs) at the district level and Block Resource Centers (BRCs) and Cluster Resource Centers (CRCs) at the sub-district level will also be strengthened to function as local learning centers. This program will help the state improve the learning environment and the performance of teachers in schools, with strong monitoring, evaluation and governance mechanisms.
For a robust monitoring and evaluation mechanism, the program will introduce a number of initiatives which include Teacher Education Management Information System (TEMIS) and Teacher Education Institutional Development Index (TEIDI) among others.
Veteran jazz musician Bob Belden passed away on 20 May 2015 after suffering a heart attack. He was 58. Belden was a jazz saxophonist, composer, arranger and producer who was among the first American musicians to perform in Iran since its 1979 revolution in 2015 when he toured there.
Belden was known for conceiving and producing multi-artist thematic albums, including Miles From India (2008), on which Indian and American musicians performed Miles Davis tunes. One of his most popular releases was the 2001 Blue Note album Black Dahlia, an orchestral suite. He conducted, orchestrated and wrote arrangements for iconic jazz musicians Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, and McCoy Tyner. Belden also served as an A&R executive for legendary jazz label Blue Note Records.
Belden earned three Grammy Awards throughout his career for 1996’s Miles Davis and Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings (Best Historical Album, Best Album Notes) and for 1998’s Miles Davis Quintet set 1965-’68: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings (Best Album Notes).
Badminton World Federation (BWF) on 21 May 2015 released the latest single’s rankings. The ranking was topped by Ace shuttler Saina Nehwal. She was followed by Li Xuerui of China.
Saina Nehwal regained the top position ahead of the Australian Open. In April 2015, she secured the number one position for the first time. But she subsequently slipped from the top spot. She has won two titles in 2015 -India Open Super series and India Grand Prix Gold, and also reached the final of the prestigious All England Open, which is a Super Series Premier event.
Meanwhile, Nehwal’s compatriot and two-time World Championship bronze medalist PV Sindhu dropped to number 12. In men’s singles, K Srikanth retained his fourth place. Even P Kashyap and HS Parnnoy also maintained their 13th and 15th positions, respectively.
Department of Science and Technology on 21 May 2015 said that India reached sixth position in terms of scientific publications. Earlier, India stood at the tenth position in terms of publishing scientific research papers in different journals. Secretary, Department of Science and Technology Ashutosh Sharma gave this information at a function organised by Research Council UK (RCUK) in New Delhi to mark the progress between United Kingdom and India in the field of scientific research.
At present, India and UK are collaborating in various sectors in fields like nuclear energy, solar energy, monsoon and public health, rejuvenation of Ganga River and climate change. In 2011, the scientific collaboration between India and UK was just few million pounds, which has risen to 150 million pounds, at present.
Andaman & Nicobar Police on 21 May 2015 proposed to reserve 33 percent of the seats for the posts of constable and sub-inspector for women. The decision to keep 33 percent women in police will help the vulnerable sections like women, children and the old to voice their grievances without fear and help resolve many problems in a significant way. At present, women police consists only 18 percent part Andaman and Nicobar police.
Earlier in June 2014, Gujarat Government also announced 33 percent quota for women in police force.
On the other hand, Union Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2015 approved 33 percent reservation for women in police forces of all union territories, including Delhi, citing difficulties faced by women complainants to approach the male-dominated police force.
Nelong Valley: A picturesque valley located 45 km away from the Indo-China border. Authorities of the Gangotri National Park in Uttarakhand on 21 May 2015 opened the Nelong Valley for tourists for the first time since its closure in 1962.
However, foreign tourists are still not allowed into the valley.
Nelong valley, situated 45 km away from the Indo-China border in the Uttarkashi district, was closed for civilians after the 1962 war between both the countries. After the war, villagers were shifted out of the valley and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) checkpoints were set up to augment the security along the border.
Located at a height of 11600 feet, it is a cold desert offering a view of the Tibetan Plateau in China and home to snow leopard and the Himalayan blue sheep.
The United States (US) Army developed Blast proof wallpaper to protect soldiers from explosions. A prototype was displayed at an exhibition of army innovations held at the Pentagon on 21 May 2015. The ballistic wallpaper was displayed at the Department of Defense Lab Day among 100 innovations from US Army engineers.
The prototype was designed by army engineers in the United States. The new thing about this ballistic wallpaper is that it can be quickly and easily applied by non-specialised units at short notice. This provides significant potential tactical advantages. The prototype is lightweight sticky wallpaper lined with tough Kevlar fibres could be carried by troops to reinforce the walls of temporary buildings. The special fabric acts as a net to stop shrapnel flying around and injuring soldiers or civilians who are stuck inside.
The idea is to coat the inside of structures to reduce the danger of debris to occupants. The lining reduces the amount of debris sent flying at the occupants of a building in the event of an explosion. Small blast trials had been carried out near Fort Polk in Louisiana, while larger testing had been conducted at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
The United Nations (UN) observed the International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD) on 22 May 2015. The theme for the year 2015 is Biodiversity for Sustainable Development. This year theme highlights the relevance of biodiversity in achieving the goal of sustainable development. It also highlights the importance of efforts made to establish a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the UN Post-2015 Development Agenda (2015-2030).
The selection of the theme also underlines the adoption of the Gangwon Declaration at the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in South Korea in 2014. The Gangwon Declaration recognised the importance of biodiversity in achieving SDGs and called for the further integration and mainstreaming of biodiversity in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
May 22 was proclaimed as the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) in December 2000 to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues and to commemorate the adoption of Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) on 22 May 1992 by the Nairobi Final Act.
Earlier 29 December was designated as IBD to commemorate the date of entry into force of the CBD.
Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) on 21 May 2015 reported that India has registered green building projects of over three billion sq ft area. The achievement has put India at the second position in the world green building footprint. IGBC aims to rope in 10 billion sq ft by 2022.
IGBC is a part of the industry body Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which is involved in promoting the green building movement in India. The reason for this significant progress is the fact that stakeholders are realising that green buildings make good business sense. This key proposition is encouraging them to go the green buildings way.
A green building is one which uses less water, optimises energy efficiency, conserves natural resources, generates less waste and provides healthier spaces for occupants, as compared to a conventional building. The residential building sector is one of the largest consumers of electricity in India. Continuous urbanisation and the growth of population result in increasing power consumption in buildings.
The British sports business magazine SportsPro on 20 May 2015 released the World’s 50 Most Marketable 2015 report. According to SportsPro’s listing of the top 50 most marketable athletes in the world for 2015, Eugenie Bouchard, Tennis player from Canada, topped the list.
While, FC Barcelona soccer Neymar stood at second place and was followed by Golfer Jordan Spieth at the third place.
|5||Lewis Hamilton||Auto Racing||Great Britain|
|9||Katarina Johnson-Thompson||Athletics||Great Britain|
Indian Cricketer Virat Kohli was placed at the sixth position ahead of United States basketball star Stephen Curry. Another Indian, ace shuttler Saina Nehwal was placed at the 44th position. On the other hand, Tennis player Novak Djokovic was placed at 14th position while Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were at 16th and 22nd respectively.
Athletes across the world were ranked on the basis of different criteria including age, home market, charisma, willingness to be marketed and crossover appeal. The SportsPro team and external industry experts analysed the players for several weeks.
The Union Cabinet on 21 May 2015 gave its approval for setting up of a new Ammonia-Urea Complex at Namrup in Assam. The complex will be set up on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode by a joint venture (JV).
In the proposed JV, PSU Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizer Corporation Limited (BVFCL), Government of Assam and Oil India Limited (OIL) shall have 11 percent, 11 percent and 26 percent equity holding respectively and balance 52 percent by private/public sector entity (entities) which would be inducted through a competitive bidding process.
At present, India is importing around 80 lakh metric tonnes of urea to meet the domestic demand of 310 lakh metric tonnes per anuum. With the operationalisation of this new unit along with the revival of the five units as approved by the Union Cabinet in recent months namely Talcher (Odisha), Ramagundam (Telangna), Barauni (Bihar), Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh) and Sindri (Jharkand) of Fertilizer Corporation India Limited (FCIL) India is likely to start export of urea which will save about 600 crore rupees annually for government due to reduction in cost of production and import substitution.
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