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In news:

The researchers at the University of Monash in Australia have managed to engineer a battery that has five times the capacity of a traditional lithium ion battery.

In brief:

  • The super-capacity prototype was created by re-engineering a Lithium Sulphur (Li-S) battery.
  • Lithium Sulphur (Li-S) batteryhad an intrinsic problem with the sulphur electrode, which would break after repeated charge cyclesbecause of expansion and contraction during cycles, making its superior capacity redundant.
  • Li-S batteries are many times cheaper than lithium ion batteries that could bring down the cost of electric mobility, because of their higher energy density and reduced cost due to the use of sulphur.
  • These batteries will be put to trial around the world in 2020.

Global Economic Prospects Report

In News:

The World Bank has lowered India’s GDP growth to five per cent for the fiscal year 2020-21 from its earlier estimated six per cent.

In brief:

  • According to World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects report titled “Darkening Skies”, the global growth is expected to slow down to 2.9% in 2019 and 2.8% in 2020.
  • Credit weakness emanating from non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) is one of the key reasons for the downgrade.
  • Credit from non-bank financial companies is expected to linger, growth is projected to slow to 5 per cent in FY 2019-20, which ends March 31 and recover to 5.8 per cent the following fiscal year.
  • GDP projection of five per cent is the second-lowest for India after it had predicted growth at 3.1 per cent in the financial year 2008-09 due to the global financial crisis.
  • Major economies like the US and other Euro-region countries will also witness slower growth rate.
    Pakistan’s growth is expected to rise to 3 per cent, Sri Lanka’s GDP is expected to rise to 3.3 per cent. Bangladesh, however GDP is predicted to ease to 7.2 per cent.

About Global Economic prospects Report:

  • Global Economic Prospects is a World Bank Group flagship report that examines global economic developments and prospects, with a special focus on emerging market and developing economies.
  • It is issued twice a year, in January and June. The January edition includes in-depth analyses of topical policy challenges while the June edition contains shorter analytical pieces.

AGR

In News:

  • The Supreme Court has rejected the request of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Tata Teleservices, Hughes Communications India and some state-run firms for an open-court hearing of their petitions to review the verdict on adjusted gross revenue (AGR).
  • It directed the telecom companies to pay over Rs92,000 crore to the department of telecommunications (DoT) in penalties.

In Brief:

  • Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) is the usage and licensing fee that telecom operators are charged by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
  • It is divided into spectrum usage charges and licensing fees, pegged between 3-5 percent and 8 percent respectively.
  • As per DoT, the charges are calculated based on all revenues earned by a telco including non-telecom related sources such as deposit interests and asset sales. Telcos, on their part, insist that AGR should comprise only the revenues generated from telecom services.

Australian Bush Fire

In News:

Australia is facing one of the worst bushfire seasons in history, killing atleast 24 people and more than one billion animals as on January 8.

About News:

  • Bushfires are a routine occurrence in the country.
  • The Australian climate is hot, dry and prone to droughts.
  • But the current spell witness more than 80,000 fires, not seen in the last 20 years 916 homes have been destroyed this season, 363 more have been damaged.
  • Both New South Wales and Victoria have given fire fighting authorities the power to forcibly relocate people.
  • Australia’s Kangaroo Island has burned so far, with wildlife experts fearing that more than half of the island’s 50,000 koalas have been killed.
  • 10,000 camels to be killed in drought hit Australia.
  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an aid of two billion Australian dollars to provide relief to those who lost their homes and livelihood due to the severe fire in the forests.

About Bushfire:

A bushfire is a wildfire that occurs in the bush (collective term for forest, scrub, woodland or grassland of Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia). In southeast Australia, bushfires tend to be most common and most severe during summer and autumn, in drought years, and particularly in El Nino years.

When and where?

  • Three states of Australia – South Australia, Queensland, and Victoria are witnessing this severe wildfire.
  • It is reported that the fire was started in September 2019 but it turned severe in the last week of December 2019.
  • As per the reports, about 15 million hectares of land have been affected by wildfire which is still increasing.

Measures:

  • The National Bushfire Recovery Agency has formed under the chairmanship of former federal police Chief Andrew Colvin. It will help the people of Australia to recover from wildfires.
  • The Prime Minister announced that the agency would be given an amount of two billion Australian dollars in the initial days to help the families, farmers and others affected by the forest fire.
  • Several NGOs, volunteers, and international agencies are working to save lives from wildfires.

Re-Grassing Is Mandatory After Mining, Rules SC

In news:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered that mining lease holders should be held responsible for re-grassing mined areas, so that biodiversity gets a second chance in these scarred landscapes.

About news:

  • The Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde ordered the government to include regrassing of mined areas as a mandatory condition in every mining lease, environmental clearance and mining plan across the country.
  • The cost of re-grassing the area would be borne entirely by the license holder
  • ‘Ensure compliance’-The government was ordered to file an action taken report in three weeks.
  • The Bench also directed the government to devise methods to ensure compliance by mining lease holders.
  • The mandatory re-grassing would be in addition to the other conditions imposed on the licence holder in the mine closure plan, to restore biodiversity.

The Legislative Framework of Mining Sector in India

  • The entry at serial No. 23 of List II (State List) to the Constitution of India mandates the state government to own the minerals located within their boundaries,
  • The entry at serial No. 54 of List I (Central List) mandates the central government to own the minerals within the exclusive economic zone of India (EEZ). In pursuance to this Mines & Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Act of 1957 was framed.
  • International Seabed Authority (ISA) regulates mineral exploration and extraction. It is guided by the UN treaty and India being a party to the treaty has received an exclusive right to explore polymetallic nodules over 75000 sq. km in Central Indian Ocean Basin.(15 years)
  • The National Mineral Policy 2019

Environmental/Health issues of mining:

  • Environmental pollution at Makrana marble mines in Rajasthan, the Granite mines of Karnataka have left a large hole on earth, Damodar river has been severely polluted by coal mining.
  • Loss of biodiversity and local heritage due to mining activities.
  • The prevalence of mining in an area causes various diseases like fibrosis, Pneumoconiosis, and silicosis in workers as well as locals.
  • Water Pollution – water from streams and rivers in mining areas have become acidic and unfit for drinking. Eg: Meghalaya’s Kopiliriver, Damodar river etc.
  • Contaminated air with high particulate matters is also a major problem in mining rich regions.