16, March 2017

1.
Cabinet approves Policy for Early Monetization of Coal Bed Methane Gas Marketing and Pricing Freedom for CBM Gas

Source: PIB

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, its approval for marketing and pricing freedom to the Coal Bed Methane (CBM) Contractors to sell the CBM at Arm’s Length Price in the domestic market. While discovering the market price for Arm’s Length Sales, the Contractor has to ensure a fully transparent and competitive process for sale of CBM with the objective that the best possible price is realized for the gas without any restrictive commercial practices.

Coal Bed Methane (CBM)

  • India has the fifth largest proven coal reserves in the world and thus holds significant prospects for exploration and exploitation of CBM.
  • Coal has the ability to store gas in significant amounts, because its surface can adsorb gases.
  • Although the form of coal is solid and it looks like ahard rock, but there are a lot of pores smaller than a micron scale, so that coal is like a sponge.
  • This condition causes the coal surface becomes so broad so that it can absorb large amounts of gas. If the gas pressure is higher, the ability to adsorb gas coal will also increase.
  • Gas trapped in coal mainly consist of methane gas, so the gas is generally referred to as Coal Bed Methane or CBM. CBM is classified as an unconventional energy.
  • Permeability in coal is created by naturally occuring fractures referred as cleats.
  • Coal bed methane is similar to natural gas, differing only in the way that it is formed and stored in the Earth’s crust
  • Unlike much natural gas from conventional reservoirs, coal bed methane contains very little heavier hydrocarbons such as propane or butane, and no natural gas condensate. It often contains up to a few percent carbon dioxide

Exploration in India

  • The Gondwana sediments of eastern India host the bulk of India’s coal reserves and all the current CBM producing blocks.
  • The vast majority of the best prospective areas for CBM development are in eastern India, situated in Damodar Koel valley and Son valley.
  • CBM projects exist in Ranging South, Raniganj East and Raniganj North areas in the Raniganj coalfield, Currently, commercial production has commenced from Raniganj South CBM block operated by M/s. GEECL since July 2007.

Exploitation of Coal Bed Methane and Oil & Natural Gas has been placed under the administrative control of Ministry of Petroleum. They are governed by Oil Fields (Regulations and Development Act, 1948) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Rules, 1959. The safety aspects are covered under the Oil Mines Regulation, 1984.

Advantages of CBM as a fuel CBM is an environmentally safe gas:

  • Methane has been labelled as a Green House Gas (GHG) by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • Its global warming potential is 21 times more than that of the Carbon Dioxide. But CBM is considered as a clean fuel which on combustion emits only carbon dioxide and water.
  • So, is not only considered as an efficient fuel. Using CBM as a fuel will halt its emission into environment and thus reducing emission of green house gas from coal mining.
  • Extraction of CBM prior to coal mining activities makes mining activities safer by degassing the coal seams. Extraction of CBM would help in increasing the domestic gas production.

Benefits of extracting methane before mining operations

  • Enhances the productivity of coal because less slowdowns in production caused by gas.
  • Reduction in dust concentrations due to reduction in velocity.
  • Improves safety of mines due to the lower methane contents.
  • Improved worker comfort.

2.Third Generation Nuclear Reactors

Source: PIB

  • Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has designed Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) for utilisation of Thorium.
  • This reactor has several passive safety systems and runs on coolant flow by natural circulation.
  • It meets all the post Fukushima requirements and can withstand severe accidents without exposing radiation in the environment.
  • It meets all the safety features of 3rd generation reactors.
  • AHWR design has been reviewed by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has accorded pre-licensing approval. Government of India has given ‘in principle’ approval for constructing AHWR in Tarapur, Maharashtra.

Atomic Energy in India:

Atomic Energy has a key role in reducing the carbon intensity of the overall Power sector of India.

  • While renewable sources of energy are environment friendly, they are intermittent sources of power. Nuclear power, being a non-intermittent and concentrated source of power with negligible carbon footprint, is an essential component of the Indian power-mix to meet the International environmental commitments of India.
  • India has limited domestic uranium resources while we have abundant Thorium. To exploit Thorium, our planners have envisaged the Three Stage Nuclear Power Program.
  • Indigenously built Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) form the backbone of the first stage Indian nuclear power program. PHWRs use domestic natural uranium (UO2) containing 0.7 % fissile U-235 and 99.3% U-238 as fuel and Heavy water as moderator and primary coolant.
  • Reprocessing of the spent fuel from PHWRs and waste management are important components of the three stage nuclear program. These technologies were developed with total indigenous efforts. Uranium and Plutonium are chemically separated and recycled, while the other radioactive fission products were separated and sorted according to their half lives and radioactivity and stored with minimal environmental impact.
  • Pu-239 extracted from the spent fuel serves as the fuel for the Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) – part of the second stage of the nuclear program. FBR fuel is so designed that a blanket of U-238 surrounds fuel core. U-238 undergoes transmutation to produce fresh Pu-239. Thus an FBR not only consumes Pu-239 but also breeds more Pu-239 than it consumes. But FBR technology is very complex and only advanced countries like USA, UK, France, Japan and USSR have mastered this technology.

Three Stages:

  • India announced its entry into this exclusive club when the 40 MWth Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) went critical in the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam in October 1985. A unique feature the FBTR is the indigenously developed U-Pu carbide fuel rich in Pu. With the operational experience gained from FBTR, India embarked upon the construction of a 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) which is likely to be operational in 2017.
  • Th-232, which is abundant in India, is not a fissile material. However, by a neutron capture reaction, Th-232 transforms into U-233, which is a fissile material like U-235 and Pu-239.
  • The strategy of the three stage program is to convert Th-232 into U-233 in the fast reactors. U-233 will be the fuel in the futuristic third stage of nuclear program.
  • Further, it is proposed to use thorium along with a small feed of plutonium-based fuel in Advanced Heavy Water Reactors (AHWRs) which are expected to facilitate large-scale thorium utilization.

BARC has active groups for Research and Development in Reactor Technologies, Fuel reprocessing and waste management, Isotope Applications, Radiation Technologies and their application to health, agriculture and environment, Accelerator and Laser Technology, Electronics, instrumentation and reactor control and Materials Science.

three stage

 

3.Cabinet approves revised MoU with Bangladesh to set up Border Haats

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet has approved Revised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Mode of Operation (MoO) between India and Bangladesh for establishing Border Haats on India-Bangladesh Border.

The revised MoU and MoO will provide a legal framework for establishment and operationalization of additional Border Haats along India-Bangladesh border.

Keyfacts

  • The Border Haats aim at promoting traditional system of marketing the local produce through local markets across the India-Bangladesh border.
  • It will help to improve economic well-being of marginalised sections in remote areas across along the border.
  • The Border Haats allows to people living in border areas to trade in specified products in accordance with the regulations agreed and notified by both Governments.
  • Currently four Border Haats are operational, two each in Meghalaya and Tripura, along the border.
  • They were established and operationalized under the MoU and MoO signed between Bangladesh and India in 2010. Subsequently, an Addendum to MoO of Border Haats was also signed in May, 2012.

 

4.Union Cabinet approves National Health Policy

Source: The Hindu

It is aimed at reaching healthcare in an assured manner to all, particularly the under-served and underprivileged

  • The National Health Policy would aim at increasing life expectancy to 70 years from 67.5 and reduce fertility rate to 2.1 by 2025 and proposes free diagnostics and drugs at all public hospitals, Health Minister.
  • It seeks to move healthcare away from sick care to wellness, with a thrust on prevention and health promotion.

Objectives:

  1. The policy aimed at reducing Under-Five Mortality to 23 by 2025 and Maternal Mortality Rate to 100 by 2020.
  2. It targets reducing infant mortality rate to 28 by 2019 and neo-natal mortality to 16 and still-birth rate to single digit by 2025.
  3. The policy also seeks to achieve and maintain elimination of leprosy by 2018, kala-azar by 2017 and lymphatic filariasis in endemic pockets by 2017.

Healthcare for all

  • It is aimed at reaching healthcare in an assured manner to all, particularly the under-served and underprivileged, he said.
  • The National Health Policy 2017 is a huge milestone in the history of health sector in the country. The last national policy was framed in 2002.
  • This policy has come after a gap of 15 years to address the current and emerging challenges necessitated by the changing socio-economic, technological and epidemiological landscape.
  • It also looks to empower patients by setting up tribunals where patients can seek redressal of grievances over treatment.
  • The draft policy was placed in public domain in December, 2014 and over 5000 suggestions were received, adding that this was followed by consultations with State governments and other stakeholders.
  • The policy aims to attain the highest possible level of health and well-being for all at all ages through a preventive and promotive healthcare and universal access to quality health services without anyone having to face financial hardship as a consequence.
  • This would be achieved through increasing access, improving quality and lowering the cost of healthcare delivery.

National health goals

  • The policy also takes a fresh look at strategic purchase from the private sector and leveraging their strengths to achieve national health goals, adding it seeks stronger partnership with the private sector.
  • The policy envisaged providing larger package of assured comprehensive primary healthcare through the Health and Wellness Centres.
  • It advocates allocating major proportion (two-thirds or more) of resources to primary care and aims to ensure availability of two beds per 1,000 population distributed in a manner to enable access within golden hour.
  • The policy seeks to achieve ‘90:90:90’ global target by 2020, implying that 90% of all people living with HIV know their HIV status, 90% of those diagnosed with HIV infection receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of those receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
  • It also seeks to reduce the prevalence of blindness to 0.25 per 1,000 persons by 2025 and the disease burden by one-third from the current levels.
  • Reducing premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory diseases by 25% by 2025 is also one of its targets.

Safe and cost-effective

  • The policy focuses on tackling the emerging challenge of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by supporting an integrated approach where screening for the most prevalent NCDs with secondary prevention would make a significant impact on reduction of morbidity and preventable mortality.
  • The policy envisages a three dimensional integration of AYUSH systems by promoting cross referrals, co-location and integrative practices across systems of medicines.
  • This has a huge potential for effective prevention and therapy, that is safe and cost-effective.
  • To empower patients, the policy seeks reforms in the regulatory systems both for easing manufacturing of drugs and devices — to promote ‘Make in India’ — as also for reforming medical education.

5.Govt launches new scheme for developing export linked infrastructure – (Ministry of Commerce & Industry)

Source: The Hindu & PIB

Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES) seeks to bridge the infrastructure gap and provide forward and backward linkages to units engaged in trade activities.

  • The government has launched a new scheme — TIES — for developing export linked infrastructure in states with a view to promote outbound shipments.
  • The Scheme is focussed on addressing the needs of the exporters. It focus is not just to create infrastructure but to make sure it is professionally run and sustained.

Authorities of this scheme:

  • Empowered Committee to periodically review the progress of the approved projects in the Scheme and will take necessary steps to ensure achievement of the objectives of the Scheme.
  • The proposals of the implementing agencies for funding will be considered by an inter-ministerial Empowered Committee specially constituted for this Scheme to be chaired by the Commerce Secretary.
  • While appraising the project the justification, including the intended benefit in terms of addressing the specific export bottlenecks, would be evaluated.

Key facts:

The scheme would provide assistance for setting up and up-gradation of infrastructure projects with overwhelming export linkages like the Border Haats, Land customs stations, quality testing and certification labs, cold chains, trade promotion centres, dry ports, export warehousing and packaging, SEZs and ports/airports cargo terminuses.

About TIES:

  • After delinking of the ASIDE Scheme in 2015, the State Governments have been consistently requesting the support of the Centre in creation of export infrastructure.
  • This support is imperative to act as an inducement to the States to channelize funds from their increased devolution towards creation of export infrastructure.
  • The objective of the proposed scheme is to enhance export competitiveness by bridging gaps in export infrastructure, creating focused export infrastructure, first mile and last mile connectivity for export-oriented projects and addressing quality and certification measures.

Eligible for this scheme:

  • The Central and State Agencies, including Export Promotion Councils, Commodities Boards, SEZ Authorities and Apex Trade Bodies recognised under the EXIM policy of Government of India; are eligible for financial support under this scheme.
  • The Central Government funding will be in the form of grant-in-aid; normally not more than the equity being put in by the implementing agency or 50% of the total equity in the project. (In case of projects located in North Eastern States and Himalayan States including J&K, this grant can be upto 80% of the total equity).
  • The grant in aid shall, normally, be subject to a ceiling of Rs 20 Cr for each infrastructure project.
  • The implementing agencies shall provide details of the financing tie-ups for the projects which will be considered before approval of the project. Disbursement of funds shall be done after financial closure is achieved.

The other salient features of the scheme include promotion of leveraging of funds from other sources including bank financing; no recurring costs of the land to be included; and operating & maintenance costs to be met through pay and use charges.

6.Scientists race to prevent wipeout of world’s coral reefs

Source: The Hindu

Scientists still expect that more than 90 per cent of corals will die

There were startling colors here just a year ago, a dazzling array of life beneath the waves. Now this Maldivian reef is dead, killed by the stress of rising ocean temperatures.

What’s left is a haunting expanse of gray, a scene repeated in reefs across the globe in what has fast become a full—blown ecological catastrophe (an event causing great and usually sudden damage or suffering; a disaster).

Key facts

  • The world has lost roughly half its coral reefs in the last 30 years.
  • Scientists are now scrambling to ensure that at least a fraction of these unique ecosystems survives beyond the next three decades.
  • The health of the planet depends on it: Coral reefs support a quarter of all marine species, as well as half a billion people around the world.
  • Scientists still expect that more than 90 per cent of corals will die by 2050. Without drastic intervention, we risk losing them all.

Coral reefs:

  • Corals are invertebrates, living mostly in tropical waters.
  • They secrete calcium carbonate to build protective skeletons that grow and take on impressive colors, thanks to a symbiotic relationship with algae that live in their tissues and provide them with energy.
  • But corals are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, and are suffering from rising ocean temperatures and acidification, as well as from overfishing, pollution, coastal development and agricultural runoff.

What are the three main types of coral reefs?

The three main types of coral reefs are fringing, barrier, and atoll.

  • The most common type of reef is the fringing reef. This type of reef grows seaward directly from the shore. They form borders along the shoreline and surrounding islands.
  • When a fringing reef continues to grow upward from a volcanic island that has sunk entirely below sea level, an atoll is formed. Atolls are usually circular or oval in shape, with an open lagoon in the center.
  • Barrier reefs are similar to fringing reefs in that they also border a shoreline; however, instead of growing directly out from the shore, they are separated from land by an expanse of water. This creates a lagoon of open, often deep water between the reef and the shore.
  • Coral reefs are important because they bring in billions of dollars to our economy through tourism, protect coastal homes from storms, support promising medical treatments, and provide a home for millions of aquatic species.

NOAA-  National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration

NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program works to protect coral reefs through research, education, and preservation programs. Many reefs, such as the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, are housed in NOAA’s system of marine protected areas.

The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program was established in 2000 by the Coral Reef Conservation Act.  Headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, the program is part of NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management.

Impacts from the top three recognized global threats to coral reefs:

  • Climate change (including ocean acidification)
  • Land-based sources of pollution
  • Unsustainable fishing practices.

Coral Reef Ecosystems: Valuable and Threatened

  • Healthy coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse, culturally significant, and economically valuable ecosystems on Earth.
  • They provide billions of dollars in food, jobs, recreational opportunities, coastal protection, and other important goods and services to people around the world.
  • According to the Word Resource Institute, more than 60 percent of the world’s reefs are under threat from local stressors, like fishing and land-based pollution.
  • That number jumps to 75 percent when local threats to reefs are combined with the threat of thermal stress from a changing climate. As a result, in the U.S. 22 species of coral are now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Given their incredible value, it is now more important than ever to address and reverse the threats impacting coral reef ecosystems.
  • The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program is leading efforts to study and conserve these precious resources for current and future generations.

 



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