National Current Affairs – UPSC/KAS Exams- 13th March 2019

Blockchain ecosystem to see rapid growth in India, says Nasscom

Topic: Science and Technology

In News: The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) released  its India Blockchain Report 2019,

More on the Topic:

  • According to the report, the Indian public sector has driven blockchain-based projects with nearly half the Indian states involved. Moreover, the state governments are also ensuring a progressive approach is taken up to impart a conducive framework for startups and niche service providers to participate in these initiatives.
  • Further, enterprises across all key industries in India are identifying different applications of blockchain. The banking and finance sector has seen the highest adoption, but other industries, such as healthcare, retail and logistics, are also accelerating rapidly.
  • Globally, enterprises have established the potential of blockchain through proof of value engagements and by tracking bellwether implementations by peer firms.
  • The report states that service providers in India, with their deep enterprise client relationships, are uniquely positioned to address a large share of the global blockchain demand.
  • According to the report, Blockchain 3.0 is the current phase of evolution of this technology, and provides enhanced interoperability, scalability and security thus enabling mainstream adoption.
  • Blockchain 3.0 platforms, the report says, uses a combination of smart contracts and secure multiparty computation to establish interoperability between different blockchain platforms and establishes industry-wide networks.

About Block chain:

  • Block chain is a growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked using cryptography.Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data (generally represented as a merkle tree root hash).
  • Blockchain is nothing but a digital ledger. That is a book containing accounts to which debits and credits are posted from books of original entry.
  • A blockchain is an anonymous online ledger that uses a data structure to simplify the way we transact. Without the help of third party blockchain allows users to manipulate the ledger in a secure way.
  • It protects the identities of the users. This way blockchain is a more secure way to carry out transactions. Each list of records in a blockchain is called a block. That is why it is known as blockchain because the various growing list of records i.e. blocks are linked and secured.

Background:

  • Blockchain Technology was invented by Satoshi Nakamoto for use in the cryptocurrency bitcoin, as its public transaction ledger. He aims at creating the decentralized Bitcoin ledger and on the other hand the blockchain was to allow users to control their own money so that no third party, not even the government, would be able to access or monitor it.
  • Blockchain for bitcoin made it the first digital currency to solve the double spending problem without the need of a trusted central authority or central server.

Model Mains Question: Comment on the technology, pros and cons of block chain technology.

Source:The Hindu

India’s biodiversity-rich zones also ‘hotspots’ of human impacts

2

Topic: Environment and Ecology

In News: Human impacts on species occur across 84% of the earth’s surface, finds a study published on March 13 in PLOS Biology , an international journal dedicated to biological science.

More on the Topic

  • Southeast Asian tropical forests — including India’s biodiversity-rich Western Ghats, Himalaya and the north-east — also fall in this category; India ranks 16th in such human impacts, with 35 species impacted on average.
  • A team of scientists led by James Allan (University of Queensland) found this when they mapped the distribution of eight human activities — including hunting and conversion of natural habitats for agriculture — in areas occupied by 5,457 threatened birds, mammals and amphibians worldwide.
  • Using sources, including the recently-updated Human Footprint data, they found that a staggering 1,237 species are impacted by threats in more than 90% of their habitat; 395 species are affected by threats across their entire range. While the impact of roads is highest (affecting 72% of terrestrial areas), crop lands affect the highest number of threatened species: 3,834.
  • Malaysia ranks first among the countries with the highest number of impacted species (125). India ranks 16th (35 threatened species affected on average).
  • Southeast Asian tropical forests — including those in India’s Western Ghats, Himalaya and north-east — are among the ‘hotspots’ of threatened species. For instance, the average number of species impacted in the South Western Ghats montane rainforests is 60 and in the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, 53.
  • However, these very areas are also ‘cool-spots’ (the world’s last refuges where high numbers of threatened species still persist). Cool-spots could be the result of protection or because of intact habitat that has not been cleared yet.
  • With India having the world’s second largest road network, we really need to plan for development that keeps wildlife conservation as a primary goal in biodiversity-rich areas.
  • Similarly, if wildlife-friendly cropping patterns lead to conservation of wildlife, that would be a great move. For instance, agricultural crops such as pulses have supported the conservation of the critically endangered great Indian bustard.

About Ecological Foot print:

  • The ecological footprint measures human demand on nature, i.e., the quantity of nature it takes to support people or an economy. It tracks this demand through an ecological accounting system. The accounts contrast the biologically productive area people use for their consumption to the biologically productive area available within a region or the world (biocapacity, the productive area that can regenerate what people demand from nature).
  • In short, it is a measure of human impact on Earth’s ecosystem and reveals the dependence of the human economy on natural capital.

Source: The Hindu

Global chemical out look

Topic: International Institutions

In News: Countries will not meet the internationally agreed goal to minimize the adverse impacts of chemicals and waste by 2020, meaning that urgent action is required to reduce further damage to human health and economies.

More on the topic:

  • The second Global Chemicals Outlook, presented during the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, finds that the current chemical production capacity of 2.3 billion tonnes, valued at US$5 trillion annually, is projected to double by 2030.
  • Despite commitments to maximize the benefits and minimize the impacts of this industry, hazardous chemicals continue to be released to the environment in large quantities. They are ubiquitous in air, water and soil, food and humans. The world must take advantage of the many solutions that already exist and are highlighted in the report.
  • The report finds that while international treaties and voluntary instruments have reduced the risks of some chemicals and wastes, progress has been uneven and implementation gaps remain.
  • For example, as of 2018, more than 120 countries had not implemented the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.

Chemical Pollution and Effects:

  • The World Health Organization estimated the burden of disease from selected chemicals at 1.6 million lives in 2016, which is likely an underestimate. Chemical pollution also threatens a range of ecosystem services.
  • Pesticides have been found to negatively impact pollinators, excess use of phosphorous and nitrogen in agriculture continues to contribute to ocean dead zone and chemicals used in sunscreens put pressure on coral reef ecosystems. Studies also indicate that releases of some antimicrobials, heavy metals and disinfectants contribute to antimicrobial resistance.
  • From pharmaceuticals to plant protection, chemicals play an important role in modern society and in achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • Driven by economic development, population dynamics and other global megatrends, the chemicals market across a range of industry sectors is growing.
  • For example, the chemicals market in the construction sector is expected to grow by 6.2 per cent annually, between 2018 and 2023.
  • Meanwhile, chemical production and consumption is shifting to emerging economies, in particular China. The Asia-Pacific region is projected to account for more than two-thirds of global sales by 2030. Cross-border e-commerce is growing at 25 per cent annually.

Source: The Hindu

Pinaka-guided missile weapon System

4

Topic: Science and Technology

In News: India carried out the third successful trial of Pinaka-guided missile.

More On the Topic:

  • Pinaka is a multiple rocket launcher produced in India and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the Indian Army.
  • The system has a maximum range of 40 km for Mark-I and 75 km for Mark-II,and can fire a salvo of 12 HE rockets in 44 seconds.
  • The system is mounted on a Tatra truck for mobility. Pinaka saw service during the Kargil War, where it was successful in neutralising enemy positions on the mountain tops.It has since been inducted into the Indian Army in large numbers.
  • As of 2014, about 5,000 missiles are being produced every year while an advanced variant is under development with enhanced range and accuracy.
  • The Pinaka will be operated in conjunction with the Indian Army’s Firefinder radars and indigenously developed Swathi Weapon Locating Radar of which 28 are on order.

Source:The Hindu

National Knowledge Network

5

Topic: Government Initiatives

In News: National Knowledge Network will connect scholars and research institutes in Bangladesh.

More on the Topic:

  • NKN is a state-of-the-art multi-gigabit pan-Indian resource-sharing network aimed at digitally connecting all national universities, colleges and research establishments to create country-wide virtual classrooms.
  • This project was launched in 2010 for period of 10 years.
  • Currently, it is component of umbrella “Digital India” programme.
  • Its core idea is to bring together all stakeholders from science, technology, higher education, healthcare, agriculture and governance to a common platform.

Mandate of NKN:

  • Establish high-speed backbone connectivity which will enable knowledge and information sharing.
  • Enable collaborative research, development and Innovation,Facilitate an ultra-high speed backbone for e-Governance
  • Link to Global Networks to collaborate with research communities across the globe.
  • Facilitate advanced distance education in specialized fields such as engineering, science, medicine etc.
  • Facilitate integration of different sectorial networks in field of health, education, research, commerce and governance.

Model Mains Question: Discuss the vision, scope and challenges of Digital India Project

Source:Hindu

World Wide Web

6

Topic: Science and Technology

In News: World Wide Web turned 30 years on March 12, 2019.

More on the Topic:

  • The World Wide Web (WWW), commonly known as the Web, is an information space where documents and other web resources are identified by Uniform Resource Locators (URLs, such as https://www.example.com/), which may be interlinked by hypertext, and are accessible via the Internet.
  • The resources of the WWW may be accessed by users via a software application called a web browser.
  • English scientist Tim Berners-Lee is credited with inventing the World Wide Web while working for CERN.
  • Web resources may be any type of downloadable media, but web pages are hypertext media which have been formatted in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML).
  • Such formatting allows for embedded hyperlinks which contain URLs and permit users to easily navigate to other web resources.
  • In addition to text, web pages may contain images, video, audio, and software components that are rendered in the user’s web browser as coherent pages of multimedia content.
  • Multiple web resources with a common theme, a common domain name, or both, make up a website.
  • Websites are stored in computers which are running a program called a web server which responds to requests made over the Internet from web browsers running on users’ computers.
  • Website content can be largely provided by a publisher, or interactively where users contribute content or the content depends upon the users or their actions. Websites may be provided for myriad informative, entertainment, commercial, governmental, or non-governmental reasons.

Source: The Hindu

Harappan Burial site

7

Topic: Culture

In News: A massive burial site of Harappan civilization has been found near Dholavira, Kutch district in Gujarat.

More on the Topic:

  • It is for the first time rectangular graves are found in Gujarat, so far only semi-circular and circular graves have been unearthed in Gujarat.
  • The rectangular graves each of varying dimensions contained skeletons that were oriented east-west with the heads positioned on the eastern side.
  • The presence of animal skeletons along with those of humans was also recorded in a few graves.
  • Instances of primary burial and secondary burial (when the remains of the primary burial are exhumed and moved to another grave) were found.
  • The remains of those who were possibly cremated were also found in a few graves.

Source: The Hindu 

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