Current Affairs 27 March 2014

National Environment Regulator
  • The Congress has tried to make a virtue of the inevitable by packaging the Supreme Court’s orders for setting up a national environment regulator as a commitment in its Lok Sabha election manifesto .
  • The party promises to bring in “a Bill to set up a National Environmental Appraisal and Monitoring Authority to conduct rigorous and time-bound environmental appraisals and recommend environment clearances … in a time-bound and transparent manner.”
  • In tune with its recent inclinations, the party promises to set up a regulatory reform task force to review all regulatory processes to streamline them and improve the “ease of doing business in India.”
  • While the UPA toyed with the idea of setting up an environment regulator in its second term, the move got a fillip when the Supreme Court endorsed such a body in the Lafarge judgement of February 2012. It set a deadline for the government to set it up by the end of March 2014.
  • While the UPA has consistently been in trouble with the National Ganga River Basin Authority, it has promised more such bodies for other key rivers, and to start a national mission on wind energy.
49 per cent of Syria’s chemicals scheduled for destruction
  • The world’s chemical weapons watchdog says more than 49 per cent of the raw materials for Syria’s poison gas and nerve agent program scheduled for destruction have been shipped overseas, with the rest expected to leave by the end of April.
  • The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a report , that the total percentage of chemicals either removed or already destroyed inside Syria is 53.6 per cent.
  • The report said Syria pledges to remove all chemicals by April 13, except for those in areas “that are presently inaccessible,” which face an April 27 deadline.
  • The international community, shocked by a chemical attack in August that killed hundreds near Damascus, aims to remove and destroy 1,300 metric tons of chemicals by June 30.
Chinese environment policy
  • Iron ore exporters from Goa may face daunting task ahead for shipment of the newly purchased steelmaking raw material through online auctions due to restrictions imposed by Chinese recently passed environment law.
  • The strict Chinese environment law may also affect iron ore sales through online auctions in Goa.
  • The state government of Goa conducted two auctions in the last one month to dispose off little over two million tonnes of iron ore of the total unsold inventory of around 11.5 million tonnes. While steel mills stayed away, traders and exporters dominated participation. Auctions for the remaining quantity are scheduled for shortly.
  • Indian iron ore exporters face high export duty of 30%, which make them uncompetitive in overseas markets. Apart from that, the government of China has put strict environmental regulation in place which restricts steel mills to purchase low grade iron ore from anywhere in the world including India.
  • Iron ore deposits in goal are mainly of low grade with between 45-60% of iron (Fe) content, which requires beneficiation to convert into high grade pellets for direct use in furnace.
Indian products banned in European Union
  • The European Union’s Standing Committee on Plant Health decided to impose a ban on Indian mangoes and some vegetables from May due to concerns over the presence of pests and insects in consignments arriving from India.
  • The committee’s meeting at Brussels endorsed the emergency measures proposed by the Commission to ban the import of certain fruits and vegetables: [Colocasia sp (taro, eddo) Mangifera sp, (mango) Momordica sp (bitter gourd), Solanum melongena (eggplant) and Trichosanthes sp (snake gourd)] from India.
  • The measures prohibit the import of some fruits and vegetables from India to tackle what is called “significant shortcomings in the phytosanitary certification system” of such products exported to the EU.
  • This decision had to be taken due to a high number of such consignments being intercepted at arrival in the EU with quarantine pests, mainly insects, like non-European fruit flies.
  • The EU said that though the prohibited commodities represent less than 5 % of the total fresh fruits and vegetables imported into the EU from India, the potential introduction of new pests could pose a threat to EU agriculture and production.
Creation of X-Rays brighter than a million suns
  • Scientists have for the first time ever created the brightest light ever imagined in the entire Universe.
  • X-rays brighter than a million suns were created which exposed the biochemical structure of a 50 million-year-old fossil plant to stunning visual effect when they were bombarded on it.
  • The team of palaeontologists, geochemists and physicists investigated the chemistry of exceptionally preserved fossil leaves from the Eocene-aged "Green River Formation" of the western United States by bombarding the fossils with X-rays produced by synchrotron particle accelerators.
  • The work shows that the distribution of copper, zinc and nickel in the fossil leaves was almost identical to that in modern leaves. Each element was concentrated in distinct biological structures such as the veins and the edges of the leaves and the way these trace elements and sulphur were attached to other elements was very similar to that seen in modern leaves and plant matter in soils.
  • The data has led the team to conclude that the chemistry of the fossil leaves is not wholly sourced from the surrounding environment as has previously been suggested but represents that of the living leaves.
New coach of National Hockey team
  • Former India captain Jude Felix replaced his contemporary Vasudevan Baskaran as the coach of the national hockey team.
  • Felix will work under chief coach Terry Walsh and has been appointed initially for a period of three months. Hockey India’s high performance director Roelant Oltmans said they’ll assess Felix’s performance after the World Cup in June and decide if his contract will be extended beyond that period.
3rd South Asian Handball championship
  • India outsmarted Pakistan 36-31 to win the third South Asian Handball Championship at an outdoor court in Noida.
  • India, who beat Pakistan also in the league stage, shrugged off a shaky start to get the better of the reigning South Asian Games champions. Bangladesh beat Afghanistan to finish third in the five-nation competition.
New Guinness world record by Bangladesh
  • Creating a new Guinness world record, over two-and-half lakh Bangladeshis performed a chorus of their national anthem at the national parade ground here to mark the country’s 43rd Independence Day.
  • The erstwhile East Pakistan witnessed a historic moment after 2,54,681 persons gathered at the venue to chant “Amar shonar Bongla, ami tume balobashi… (My golden Bengal, I love you)” — penned and tuned by poet Rabindranath Tagore — which inspired the nation during the liberation war against Pakistan in 1971.
  • The venue bore a sea of humanity draped in national colours, red and green clothes and badges, during the much-publicised ceremony attended by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Speaker of Parliament, Ministers, MPs, armed forces officials and foreign diplomats.
  • The previous record for largest chorus to sing a national anthem at a single venue was held by Sahara India Pariwar, which organised 1,21,653 people to sing the Indian anthem in unison.