CURRENT AFFAIRS 27th Dec 2017

1 .  $318 million  loan  Agreement  Signed  with  World  Bank  to Support  Climate  Resilient  Agriculture

The Government of India, the Government of Tamil Nadu and the World Bank have signed a $318 million loan agreement for the Tamil Nadu Irrigated Agriculture Modernization Project.

Objective of Tamil Nadu Irrigated Agriculture Modernization Project

The project will rehabilitate and modernize about 4,800 irrigation tanks and 477 check dams, spread across 66 sub-basins, in delivering bulk water to irrigation systems.It will promote climate resilient agriculture technologies, improve water management practices, and increase market opportunities for small and marginal farmers.More than 160,000 ha of currently partially irrigated lands will come into full irrigation under this project.

Who will benefit ?

About 500,000 farmers, of which a majority are small and marginal, are expected to benefit from improved and modernized tank irrigation systems.

The need of the Project

Tamil Nadu, being a water-stressed state, continues to experience water shortages which are expected to further exacerbate in the future. Rehabilitating and modernizing irrigation tanks will improve the reliability and availability of irrigation water for farming communities, making them less prone to climatic hazards.

Crop diversification in Tamil Nadu

Though significant progress has been made during the past decade in crop diversification, still there is scope for achieving a higher level. Paddy is the dominant crop occupying 34 percent of total cropped areas, whereas fruits and vegetables are grown on 11 percent and pulses and oilseeds on 14 percent of total cropped areas. By helping farmers’ access modern technologies, linking them to markets, and providing postharvest management support, the project will enable farmers to shift from a mono crop paddy system to mixed cropping including high-value crops (fruits, vegetables, and spices), pulses, oilseeds, and millets.

Adoption of  new conservation technologies

To enhance the ability of crops to withstand expected adverse impacts of climate change, the project will support smallholder producers adopt new conservation technologies such as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and Sustainable Sugar Initiative (SSI). They reduce average water usage by 35 percent and increase yields by 22 percent per ha. The project is expected to increase the yield of rice, maize, and pulses by 18–20 percent.

What is System of Rice Intensification (SRI) ?

The System of Rice Intensification involves cultivating rice with as much organic manure as possible, starting with young seedlings planted singly at wider spacing in a square pattern; and with intermittent irrigation that keeps the soil moist but not inundated, and frequent inter cultivation with weeder that actively aerates the soil.

What is Sustainable Sugar Initiative (SSI) ?

Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative is an innovative method of sugarcane production using less seeds, less water and optimum utilization of fertilizers and land to achieve more yields. The Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative (SSI) aims at providing practical options to the farmers in improving the productivity of land, water and labour, all at the same time. SSI is also expected to reduce the overall pressure on water resources and contribute to recovery of ecosystems.

2 .  India’s  first  pod  taxi  project  may  turn  into  reality 

The much-awaited India’s first pod taxi project has moved a step closer to reality after a high-level panel recommended inviting fresh bids for the same conforming to the strictest safety standards on the lines of those prescribed by an American body.

NHAI has been mandated to execute it on Delhi-Gurgaon pilot corridor (12.30 km) from Delhi-Haryana border to Rajiv Chowk in Gurgaon on a PPP (public-private partnership) basis.

The ambitious project has been plagued by delays as government think-tank Niti Aayog raised some red flags, asking the highways ministry to direct initial bidders to prepare a 1-km pilot stretch as all the technologies were unproven.

What is PRT ?

Personal rapid transit (PRT), also known as pod cars or pod taxis, is a public transport system developed for travelling swiftly in congested areas. They operate much like the traditional rail and streetcar network and are built above busy roads and highways. They are automated driverless vehicles and can carry four to six people in at a time

Advantages of PRT

Pod-taxis are futuristic transport concept which is environment-friendly and can be run on solar power and other renewable power, bringing down pollution in densely populated areas. According to one estimate, a solar powered pod-taxi could cost one-tenth of an ordinary running car.

Image result for pod taxi

History of PRT

The first pod-taxis were run at West Virginia University (WVU) in the 1970s. The other cities where pod-taxis are currently operating are Masdar City, Abu Dhabi running on Cyber  Cab system known as METRINO and London’s Heathrow airport. The average speed of pods is 60 km per hour.

 

3 . India to become fifth largest economy in 2018

India is set to overtake the United Kingdom and France to become the world’s fifth largest economy next year according to the annual rankings of Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), a London-based consultancy.

Despite temporary setbacks India’s economy has still caught up with that of France and the U.K. and in 2018 will have overtaken them both to become the world’s fifth largest economy in dollar terms according to CEBR.

 

4 . China moots Afghan entry into CPEC

China has flagged the possible inclusion of Afghanistan in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) — a move that is likely to irk India . India has opposed CPEC, which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), on the grounds that it infringes on its sovereignty.

China has called CPEC a “flagship project” of its Belt and Road Initiative, aimed at building connectivity along the Eurasian corridor. China has advocated that Afghanistan could join connectivity initiatives, in view of the urgency of improving its people’s lives

CHINA’S OBJECTIVE BEHIND THIS MOVE

Analysts say that the proposal providing the landlocked Afghanistan an access to the port of Gwadar — the starting point of CPEC— may be intended to balance, if not undermine, the India-Afghanistan-Iran trilateral agreement, which gives Kabul access to the Iranian port of Chabahar.