17&18, September 2017

1.30th Anniversary of Montreal protocol and 23rd World Ozone Day Celebrated

Source: PIB

Highlighting the strength of the active collaboration between the government, industries and all stakeholders in the implementation of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) phase-out programme in the country, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

Pan-India awareness campaign

  • Addressing a gathering at the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol and 23rd World Ozone Day here today, with the theme – “Caring for all life under the Sun”, the Minister made a special mention of the Pan-India awareness campaign launched by the Environment Ministry on the occasion.
  • This campaign was among the most widespread engagements of the Ministry for awareness generation, carried out with the active partnership of States through schools and academic/research institutions spread across the country.
  • The awareness campaign saw a participation of about 28 lakh students in more than 13, 000 schools and reached out to 214 districts across 16 states of the country. The Minister also spoke of the strong policy leadership given by India during the negotiations for the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

THE MONTREAL PROTOCOL ON SUBSTANCES THAT DEPLETE THE OZONE LAYER

  • Montreal Protocol, formally Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, international treaty, adopted in Montreal on Sept. 16, 1987, that aimed to regulate the production and use of chemicals that contribute to the depletion of Earth’s ozone layer.

The meeting called for international cooperation in research to convention of Ozone layer

  • Involving ozone-depleting chemicals (ODCs) and
  • Empowered the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to lay the groundwork for the Montreal Protocol.

MONTREAL PROTOCOL:  A BRIEF BACKGROUND

  • The year 2017 marks the 30th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
  • The Montreal Protocol is one of the most successful global environmental treaties, the implementation of which has not only led to the phase-out of around 98% of ozone depleting chemicals, but also averted more than 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.
  • Nearly 2 million cases of skin cancer per year have been averted globally. The Montreal Protocol is the only environmental treaty which enjoys universal ratification of 197 UN member countries.
  • During the Kigali negotiations, India piloted the concept of two base lines and a differentiated phased down time schedule to factor in the needs of developing countries. This was the first time in the Montreal Protocol that the concept of two baseline has been adopted both for developed and developing countries.
  • On India’s initiative, energy efficiency was included for the first time in the Montreal Protocol as an agreed finance solution while phasing down HFCs.
  • India has consciously chosen a path for most environment-friendly and energy efficient technologies, while phasing out Ozone Depleting substances, unlike many of the developed countries. India is among the few countries globally and a pioneer, in some cases, in the use of non-ODS low Global Warming Potential (GWP) technologies.

2.INDO-USA Joint Exercise Yudh Abhyas – 2017

Source: PIB

  • Exercise Yudh Abhyas – 2017, a joint military exercise between Indian and US armies commenced this morning at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, USA with a brief and impressive opening ceremony. The US contingent was represented by Company of 5th Infantry Battalion from 20 Infantry Regiment of the US Army while the Indian side was represented by soldiers of Gorkha Rifles from the Surya Command.  In inaugural remarks, he highlighted the common shared beliefs of democracy, freedom, equality and justice that are precious to both the nations.
  • During the two-week long exercise soldiers from both countries will hone their tactical skills in counter insurgency and counter terrorist operations under a joint brigade headquarter.
  • Both sides will jointly train, plan and execute a series of well-developed tactical drills for neutralization of likely threats that may be encountered in UN peace keeping operations. Experts from both sides will hold detailed discussions to share their experience and expertise on varied operational topics.

3.Trade pacts stuck ahead of India-EU summit

With the India-European Union (EU) Summit just three weeks away, officials in Brussels and Delhi have told that formal talks on the proposed bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) have yet to be scheduled.

Key facts:

  • The Delegation of the EU to India (and Bhutan) declined to comment on specific questions sent by The Hindu on the status of negotiations and reasons for the EU having ‘ignored’ the Indian requests.
  • It is learnt that the current sticking point is regarding whether an India-EU Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) can be finalised first, as demanded by the EU, or take forward India’s plan to make ‘investment protection’ a part of the negotiations on the proposed comprehensive FTA — officially called the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) — and include it in the BTIA as a separate chapter.
  • The deadlock over ‘investment protection’ followed the EU’s concern over what it called India’s “unilateral termination” of separate BITs with “a significant number of” EU countries.

‘Gap in protection’

  • EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström had written last year to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the then Commerce Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, saying: “Given that the EU Member States do not have the possibility to renegotiate the BITs with India, the unilateral termination of the existing BITs by India would … create a gap in investment protection and consequently discourage EU enterprises from further investing in India.

EU’s demands

  • The FTA talks are also stuck due to differences over the EU’s demands on elimination of India’s duties on goods such as automobiles and wines and spirits, and India’s pitch for a ‘data secure’ status (important for India’s IT sector to do more business with EU firms) as well as to ease norms on temporary movement of skilled workers.
  • if ‘Brexit’ and the related complications were among the factors causing uncertainty regarding re-starting the BTIA talks, an Indian official said, “Brexit is not an issue here. Look at the progress on the proposed EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement [EPA] even after the Brexit referendum

WTO-level negotiations

  • If they [the EU] were really keen, they could have given us [India] the dates to restart BTIA talks. But they have not indicated any interest so far, despite many high-level requests from India,” the official said.
  • The EU-India Summit is also likely to include discussions on issues relating to WTO-level negotiations as well on strategic cooperation between Indian police agencies with Europol on intelligence sharing and fighting terror.

What is Model Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) 2016?

http://www.indianeconomy.net/splclassroom/409/what-is-model-bilateral-investment-treaty-bit-2016/

4.Mysterious night side of Venus revealed for first time

Source: The Hindu

Scientists have characterised wind and cloud patterns of the night side of planet Venus for the first time, and found that it behaves very differently from the part facing the Sun.

Key facts:

  • The night side exhibits unexpected and previously-unseen cloud types, morphologies, and dynamics — some of which appear to be connected to features on the planet’s surface.
  • The atmospheric circulation on the planet’s dayside has been extensively explored, there was still much to discover about the night side. We found that the cloud patterns there are different to those on the dayside, and influenced by Venus’ topography.
  • Venus’ atmosphere is dominated by strong winds that whirl around the planet far faster than Venus itself rotates.
  • This phenomenon, known as ‘super-rotation’, sees Venusian winds rotating up to 60 times faster than the planet below, pushing and dragging along clouds within the atmosphere as they go.
  • These clouds travel fastest at the upper cloud level, some 65 to 72 kilometres above the surface.
  • The team used the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS) on European Space Agency (ESA)’s Venus Express spacecraft to observe the clouds in the infrared.
  • “VIRTIS enabled us to see these clouds properly for the first time, allowing us to explore what previous teams could not-and we discovered unexpected and surprising results.

5.Mumbai team discovers how embryos implant in the womb

Source: The Hindu

The National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health (NIRRH) in Mumbai have finally shed light on one of the most important steps in pregnancy — the ability of the embryo to implant itself in the womb.

Although much is known about the early steps of establishment of pregnancy, very little is known about the communication between the implanting embryo and mother’s womb.

Research found:

  • The researchers have found a cross-talk between the embryo and the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium) and discovered a chain of chemical events that facilitate the implantation of the embryo in the womb.
  • The understanding of this initial step has several potential implications such as improving the success rate of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), which hovers around 30% and developing contraceptives which work by preventing the implantation of the embryo. In all probability, the insight into the implanting mechanism might help in better understanding of conditions such as pre-eclampsia (gestational hypertension)

In vitro studies

  • Even in normal situations, there is about 40% wastage of embryos as they fail to implant, leading to unsuccessful pregnancy. That is because a delicate and intricate balance exists between the embryo which is able to implant itself and the endometrium that receives it. At present very little of this process is understood.
  • Using cell lines of trophoblast (the outer layer of the dividing bunch of cells of blastocyst) and endometrium (the inner lining of the uterus) samples from women who have undergone hysterectomy the researchers recreated the system in a lab dish. Chemicals were used to make the endometrium thicker (decidua) to mimic the lining of the uterus which is ready to allow the embryo to implant itself.
  • A particular protein (HOXA10) which is responsible for better invasion and implantation of the embryo in the endometrium is present at elevated levels in a receptive endometrium.



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