International Current Affairs 2017

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Scientists identify fungus that eats plastic

Scientists from Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have identified a soil fungus Aspergillus tubingensis that uses enzymes to rapidly break down plastic materials. The plastic-eating fungus was found Islamabad, Pakistan.

The new discovery in an advance can help to deal with plastic waste problem that threatens our environment in safer and more effective way

Key facts
  • Scientists have found that Aspergillus tubingensis fungus which ordinarily lives in the soil can also grows on the surface of plastics.
  • In order to grow on plastics, it secretes enzymes on the surface of the plastic which break the chemical bonds between the plastic molecules, or polymers.
  • This fungus also uses the physical strength of its mycelia (the network of root—like filaments) to break apart the polymers.
Significance of discovery

Plastic waste materials can persist in the environment over long periods of time as they do not break down in the same way as other organic materials. The conventional plastic waste disposal through burying, recycling, incineration or other methods are unsustainable, costly and result in toxic by-products, which are hazardous to human health. This discovery can offer cheap sustainable solution to degrade plastic and its toxic by-products without having any negative impact on environment and human health.

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SASEC countries pledges to improve intra-regional connectivity to boost trade & tourism

India and six other South Asian countries of South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) have pledged to improve intra-regional connectivity to boost trade and tourism.

Decision in this regard was taken at the Finance ministers of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar meeting held in New Delhi to reshape SASEC.  They also came out with the SASEC Vision for 2025 and adopted operational plan 2016-25.

Key Facts
  • SASEC Vision: It is a new strategic road map to guide the sub-region’s development through 2025.
  • It reflects member nations’ commitment to tap into latent industrial demand and promote sub-regional industry-to-industry links
  • Operational plan 2016-25: It defines the strategic objectives and operational priorities in transport, trade facilitation and energy as well as for the development of economic corridor.
  • The members are eying for $70 billion incremental GDP and 20 million jobs by 2025 so that SASEC become better, stronger and faster to make South Asia one of the fastest growing sub-regions in the world.
  • Other decisions taken in the meeting: Member countries sought to improve trade of oil and gas among themselves and also enhance road connectivity.
  • They also looked to leverage natural resources-based industries, promote industry-to-industry links and bolster connectivity to boost trade and tourism
  • They also sought to improve people-to-people contact by developing gateways and hubs to expand the sub-region’s trade and commerce to regional and global markets.

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India becomes associate member of IEA

India, world’s 3rd largest energy consumer has joined International Energy Association (IAE) as associate member. India will also now have a greater say in global energy issues.

With India as a associate member, IEA now formally covers 70% of the world’s energy consumption, thus increasing its relevance.

Key Facts
  • India’s participation will enrich the energy efficiency and renewable sectors of IEA members and other countries.
  • India will gain from IEA’s data gathering processes, survey methodologies and range of energy data, which will enable India in the near future to set up its own robust integrated database agency.
  • It also gives an opportunity to India to be the voice of the developing world and represent the interests of the emerging markets. It will enable India to be involved in the key committees and dialogues of the IEA. 

About International Energy Association (IEA) 

  • IEA is an inter-governmental organization established in 1974 as per framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
  • It was established in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis after the OPEC cartel had shocked the world with a steep increase in oil prices.
  • Members: Presently it has 29 member countries. India is lone associate member of IAE.
  • Headquarters (Secretariat): Paris, France.
  • Mandate: Its prime focus is on the “3Es” of effectual energy policy: energy security, economic development and environmental protection.
  • It also seeks to promote alternate energy sources (including renewable energy), rational energy policies and multinational energy technology co-operation.
  • It acts as energy policy advisor to 29 member countries and also non-member countries like China, India and Russia.
  • Publications: World Energy Outlook report.
  • Relevance: Today, IEA is an important part of global dialogue on energy, providing research, statistics/data, analysis and recommendations on the global energy sector.
  • Over 70% of world’s energy consumption is now under the IEA umbrella which increases its relevance in global energy governance manifold.

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