Daily Current Affairs for 25th January 2023

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Ken-Betwa river link project

Why in News?

Recently, the Steering Committee of the Ken­Betwa Link Project (KBLP) held its third meeting in New Delhi.

What is Ken-Betwa Link?

  • The link will be in the form of a canal that will be fed by the new Daudhan Dam on the Ken, to be built within the Panna Tiger Reserve.
  • The dam will generate 103 MW of hydroelectric power.
  • The linking canal will flow through Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh and Jhansi districts, with the project expected to irrigate 6.3 lakh hectares of land every year.
  • Ecological experts aren’t convinced, mainly because the government’s plan is based on a ‘surplus and deficit’ model , they have said has little basis in science.
  • They are also concerned that the project will endanger the water security of Panna.

What clearances has the KBLP received?

  • India enacted the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 at a critical juncture, when its wildlife was in peril.
    • The key provisions of the Act (Sections 18 and 35) relate to setting aside areas of significance to wildlife as ‘sanctuaries’ and ‘national parks’.
    • Sections 29 and 35(6) restrict human activities within them without prior approval.
  • Diversion or stopping or enhancement of the flow of water into or outside wildlife sanctuaries/parks is taboo unless doing so is deemed to be necessary to improve and better manage wildlife within a sanctuary or a national park.
  • And in the case of the Panna Tiger Reserve, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court has found such diversion to not be necessary to improve and better manage wildlife in the park.
  • Additionally, downstream of the national park lies the Ken Gharial Sanctuary, created to protect the critically endangered Gangetic gharial (Gavialis gangeticus).
  • The destructive impact of the proposed dam on the flow of water into and outside of this sanctuary should be immediately clear.
  • The CEC is quite firm in its report that “the Standing Committee of the NBWL has not considered the impact of the project on the downstream gharial sanctuary”.
    • The CEC submitted this report to the Supreme Court on August 30, 2019, and the matter remains sub judice. The project is also reportedly still to receive full forest clearance.
  • A challenge to its environment approval is also pending before the National Green Tribunal, presumably because the tribunal believes the project must first secure forest clearance. Due diligence and expert scrutiny during the project approval stage are cornerstones of sound environmental governance.

What about its legality?

  • There are significant legal problems with the approval granted to the KBLP.
  • The CEC has stated that the, “approval by the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife to the Ken­Betwa link Project has not been proved to be necessary for the improvement and better management of the wildlife therein as provided in Section 35(6) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.. ”.
    • This categorical observation was made vis­à­vis plans to create a high reservoir dam on the Ken river in the Panna National Park and Tiger Reserve for the KBLP.
    • It concurred with the applicants’ prayer at the apex Court; that the wildlife approval given by the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) at its meeting on August 23, 2016, was ultra vires.
  • The Indian government catalysed this approval despite an expert body created by the Standing Committee of the NBWL itself saying that “an independent hydrological study of river Ken is necessary” and that “no developmental project should destroy the ecology of remnant fragile ecosystems and an important tiger habitat in the country”.

How will Panna’s tigers be affected?

  • The Panna tiger reserve lost all of its tigers by 2009, requiring a remarkable effort spanning almost a decade to reintroduce them.
  • Panna is an exceptional tiger habitat because of its deep gorges, which will be drowned if a new dam is built.
  • An illegal approval granted by a national board will bring to naught all the good, hard work of the past.
  • The government is also developing a larger ‘Panna Tiger Landscape’, but this is not the concession up to some extent.
  • Such landscape level action is required around most wildlife areas in light of a new global target to protect 30% of global terrestrial and marine areas by 2030, finalised at the COP15 biodiversity conference in December 2022.

The question is why should such plans be designed and deployed only because the heart of a tiger reserve is to be drowned and the park irreversibly fragmented?

  • There may not even be enough water in the Ken, a non­perennial river, to meet the projected needs of the Betwa, forget the needs of the Bundelkhand region.
  • The NBWL expert body mandated an “independent” hydrological investigation of the Ken.
  • Older reports by State agencies had thrown up different, and hence unreliable, projections. Independent experts have also said that it will be more economical and faster if the governments restored Bunderlkhand’s erstwhile Chandel Period lakes and ponds and if they replicated the successful field pond schemes on priority.
  • The region is already blessed with adequate annual rainfall. Against this background, rushing the KBLP sans due diligence both technical and legal will intensify water conflicts between Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh; dash locals’ long standing expectations of irrigation and drinking water; and cost a decade’s labor and funds. GS


Inland Water Vessel

Why in News?

Union Petroleum Minister formally commenced the demo-run of an Inland Water Vessel powered by Methanol Blended Diesel (MD15) , before the India Energy Week 2023 (IEW 2023) to be held in Bengaluru.

SB Gangadhar Cruise

The low carbon emission cruise ‘SB Gangadhar’ launched by Union Petroleum Minister on Mahabahu Brahmaputra has 50 seats. The vessel is fitted with two Ruston made diesel engines. Each diesel engine is of 105 hp. The vessel will run on MD-15, which means 15% methanol blending in diesel.

Methanol, alternative marine fuel

  • Methanol is a cost effective alternative marine fuel.
  • It is less expensive than other marine fuels and economical in terms of development of onshore storage and bunkering infrastructure.
  • The cost of converting ships to run on methanol is significantly lower than other alternative fuel conversions.
  • As a liquid fuel, handling methanol requires only minor modifications to existing storage infrastructure.

Emphasis on methanol production

  • Methanol gives slightly less energy than petrol and diesel, but it is widely used in the transport sector (road, rail and marine), power sector (includes DG sets, boilers, process heating modules, tractors and commercial vehicles) and cooking gas (LPG). partially), can replace both petrol and diesel in kerosene and charcoal.
  • In Assam, Assam Petrochemical Limited (APL) currently produces about 100 TPD methanol and is implementing a new project to produce 500 TPD methanol.
  • Work is in progress to set up coal-to-methanol plants in the country using indigenous technology, which is being developed by BHEL (Hyderabad and Trichy), Thermax and IIT Delhi.

What is the methanol economy ?

  • NITI Aayog’s ‘Methanol Economy’ program aims to reduce India’s oil import bill, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and convert coal reserves and municipal solid waste into methanol.
  • Methanol economy will reduce the annual fuel bill for the country by a minimum of 15% by 2030 and will also generate about 5 million jobs through methanol production/application and distribution services.
  • In addition, blending of 20% DME (Di-Methyl Ether – a derivative of methanol) in LPG is expected to save Rs.6000 crores per annum. can be saved. With this, the consumer gets a minimum of Rs 50 to 100 per cylinder will be saved.

India commitment to COP21

  • Methanol is a low carbon hydrogen carrier fuel produced from high ash coal, agricultural residues, CO2 from thermal power plants and natural gas. Best route to fulfill India’s commitment to COP21.
  • Blending of 15% methanol in gasoline can reduce the import of gasoline/crude oil by at least 15%.
  • In addition, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in terms of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides, thereby improving urban air quality.

About India Energy Week

  • India Energy Week 2023 is being organized for the first time under the G20 Presidency of India. IEW 2023 follows PM Modi’s pledge at COP26 to net-zero India’s emissions by 2070.
  • It will discuss how India can meet the growing demand for energy through convergence of bio-fuels, green hydrogen, renewable energy and conventional energy.
  • India Energy Week 2023 will see over 30,000 energy professionals from across the entire energy value chain including power, finance, government, think tanks and academia.



Why in News?

Two cases of the gastrointestinal infection norovirus in Class 1 Students confirmed in Ernakulam District , Kerala.

What Is Norovirus?

  • Norovirus has been circulating among humans for over 50 years and is thought to be one of the primary causes of gastroenteritis.
  • The virus is estimated to kill 200,000 persons globally every year, with most deaths occurring among those below the age of five years and those over the age of 65 years.
  • The Virus Is Capable Of Surviving Low Temperatures, and outbreaks tend to be more common during the winter and in colder countries that is why it is sometimes referred to as “winter vomiting disease”.

What is the incidence of infection in India?

  • Cases of norovirus are not as common in India as in many other places at the same time, the recent cases in Kerala are by no means unique or one-offs.
  • The infection has been reported in previous years as well,mainly fromsouthernIndia,and especially from Kerala.
  • The reported cases of norovirus have been on the rise in recent years.

Why is the infection common in Kerala?

  • It probably has more to do with Kerala’s strengths than weaknesses.
  • The state has a strong public health system that is capable of picking up clusters of infection and getting them tested quickly.

Can it cause a large-scale outbreak?

No. Even though more cases of norovirus are being detected, experts say that this is unlikely to lead to a large-scale outbreak.

How to prevent its spread?

  • The infection can be transmitted through foods contaminated with the virus,touching surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, and being in direct contact with someone with the infection like taking care of them and sharing foods and utensils with them.
  • Also, food items should be carefully washed and cooked at high temperatures.
  • The norovirus can survive temperatures as high as 60 degrees Celsius.
  • Good hand hygiene is the best way to prevent infection. Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Hands sanitisers are thought to not work too well against norovirus. As the infection can be transmitted by foods,it is suggested that a sick person not prepare food for others.


Surangas through hills

Why in News?

A man from Kerala whose skill is to construct surangas (horizontal tunnels) through laterite hills to tap drinking water, was found dead at his home.


  • It is a traditional way of finding the resource in water scarce areas without excessive exploitation of land.

About Laterite Soil

  • Laterite soils are mostly the end products of weathering.
  • They are formed under conditions of high temperature and heavy rainfall with alternate wet and dry periods.
  • Heavy rainfall promotes leaching (nutrients gets washed away by water) of soil whereby lime and silica are leached away and a soil rich in oxides of iron and aluminium compounds is left behind.
  • ‘Laterite’ means brick in Latin. They harden greatly on loosing moisture.
  • Laterite soils are red in color due to little clay and more gravel or red sand-stones.

Characteristics of Laterite Soil

  • Fertility is nearly absent in the upper layer of soil profile as water-soluble minerals such as Lime and silica from the upper layer of soil get leached to the lower layer of soil due to heavy precipitation.
  • Iron oxide, potash, and aluminum compounds are left in the upper profile of the soil.
  • It has high fertility in the Lower profile of the soil.
  • The Humus content of the soil is low due to high temperature and the precipitation decomposition rate is faster.Poor in organic matter, nitrogen, phosphate, calcium.
  • Because of the above two features, the soil is not suitable for small plants and agriculture but highly suitable for larger plants and plantation crops such as tea, coffee, Rubber, etc.
  • Laterite soil is not suitable for cultivation, however, usage of manure and fertilizer can make the soil fertile.

Level of groundwater in India

Groundwater extraction in India saw an 18-year decline, according to an assessment by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB).

Key Findings of the Report

  • The total annual groundwater recharge for the entire country is 437.60 billion cubic metres (bcm) and annual groundwater extraction for the entire country is 239.16 bcm, according to the 2022 assessment report.
  • Out of the total 7,089 assessment units in the country, 1,006 units have been categorised as “over-exploited” in the report.

Comparison of Reports

  • An assessment in 2020 found that the annual groundwater recharge was 436 bcm and extraction 245 bcm.
  • In 2017, recharge was 432 bcm and extraction 249 bcm.
  • The 2022 assessment suggests that groundwater extraction is the lowest since 2004, when it was 231 bcm.
  • Improvement in ground water conditions in 909 assessment units in the country when compared with 2017 assessment data.
  • In 2020, for instance, the “extractable groundwater resources” amounted to 397.62 bcm, which is less than the recharge that year.
  • Overall decrease in number of over-exploited units and decrease in stage of groundwater extraction level have also been observed.
  • Assessment indicates increase in ground water recharge which may mainly be attributed to increase in recharge from canal seepage, return flow of irrigation water and recharges from water bodies/tanks & water conservation structures.

Water Demand

  • India has traditionally been an agrarian economy, and about two-third of its population have been dependent on agriculture.
  • development of irrigation to increase agricultural production has been assigned a very high priority in the Five Year Plans, and multipurpose river valleys projects like the Bhakra-Nangal, Hirakud, Damodar Valley, NagarjunaSagar, Indira Gandhi Canal Project, etc. have been taken up.
  • India’s water demand at present is dominated by irrigational needs.
  • Agriculture accounts for most of the surface and ground water utilisation, it accounts for 89 per cent of the surface water and 92 per cent of the groundwater utilisation.
  • The share of the industrial sector is limited to 2 percent of the surface water utilisation and 5 percent of the ground-water, the share of the domestic sector is higher (9 per cent) in surface water utilisation as compared to groundwater.
  • The share of the agricultural sector in total water utilisation is much higher than other sectors.

Causes of Groundwater Depletion

  • Groundwater depletion most commonly occurs because of the frequent pumping of water from the ground.
  • A large amount of groundwater goes to farming, but the availability of groundwater is steadily declining.
  • Changes in our climate can speed up the process of Depletion.
  • The way the forests are being destroyed on the Earth, the problem of groundwater depletion is becoming even graver.
  • When glaciers melt, they initially contribute more water to the rivers they feed.
    • After this there is a decline in water contributed to the seasonal melt cycle, as shrinking glaciers provide a smaller contribution to the overall river flow.
    • It increases the pressure on the water resources as water levels dip in the rivers they feed.

Water Conservation and Management

  • Use of water of lesser quality such as reclaimed waste-water would be an attractive option for industries for cooling and firefighting to reduce their water cost.
  • Rainwater harvesting increases water availability, checks the declining groundwater table, improves the quality of groundwater through dilution of contaminants like fluoride and nitrates, prevents soil erosion, and flooding and arrests salt water intrusion in coastal areas if used to recharge aquifers.
  • There is a need to generate awareness regarding benefits of watershed development and management among people in the country, and through this integrated water resource management approach water availability can be ensured on a sustainable basis.



Renewable Power

Why in News?

India can save $19.5 billion a year with the shift from coal to clean power.

Key Finding of the Report

  • India Plans to add 76 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar and wind power by 2025.
  • According to a new research by the Global Energy Monitor, this addition will lead to savings of up to US$19.5 billion a year (Rs 1,588 billion) versus burning coal.
  • Data in the Global Solar Power Tracker and the Global Wind Power Tracker rank India among the top seven countries globally in terms of prospective renewable power.
  • This build out can avoid the use of almost 78-million tonnes of coal annually,or roughly 32GW in coal power plant capacity, which is more new coal capacity than the country has added since 2018.
  • Annual savings in India can skyrocket if the ‘coal to clean’ switch matches the country’s ambitions.India Plans to add an additional 420 GW of wind and solar power by 2030, which would increase the annual savings from avoiding coal power to more than US$58 billion, with total savings reaching US $368 billion by 2030.
  • China has the most prospective renewable power currently at 387.2 GW, followed by Australia, Brazil, United States, Vietnam, Greece, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

Renewable Energy in India

  • India has a massive demand for energy to fuel its rapidly growing economy.
  • From a power deficit nation at the time of Independence, the efforts to make India energy-independent have continued for over seven decades.
  • India is a power surplus nation with a total installed electricity capacity of over Four lakh MW.
  • India’s power generation mix is rapidly shifting towards a more significant share of renewable energy.
  • India is the world’s third largest producer of renewable energy, with 40% of its installed electricity capacity coming from non-fossil fuel sources.

Promoting Clean Energy and Climate Change

  • India has progressively decoupled economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions.
  • For example, the Net Zero Emissions target by 2030 by Indian Railways alone will reduce emissions by 60 million tonnes annually.
  • Similarly, India’s UJALA LED bulb campaign is reducing emissions by 40 million tonnes annually.
  • India launched the National Hydrogen Mission in 2013 to make India the world’s largest hydrogen hub.
  • India’s sustained efforts have ensured that its per capita CO2 emissions are much lower than the global average.
  • The US emits 14.7 tonnes per capita, China emits 7.6 tonnes per capita, while India’s CO2 emissions amount to 1.8 tonnes per capita.
  • The global power sector is undergoing an accelerated transformation due to technological innovations and response to climate change protocols.
  • At COP-21 in Paris in 2015, India committed to a 40% share of power generation from non-fossil fuel sources.

The country’s vision is to achieve Net Zero Emissions by 2070, in addition to attaining the short-term targets which include:

  • Increasing renewables capacity to 500 GW by 2030,
  • Meeting 50% of energy requirements from renewables,
  • Reducing cumulative emissions by one billion tonnes by 2030, and
  • Reducing emissions intensity of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 45% by 2030.

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