Science and Technology

Urbanization activities impacted a few wetlands: Government

The government has said that a few wetlands in the country have reportedly been impacted due to various developmental activities and urbanization.

As per Environment Ministry, for conservation and management of wetlands, the centrally sponsored scheme – “National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP)” was implemented till 2012-13. However, for better synchronization and to avoid overlap the NWCP has been merged with another scheme “National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems (NPCA)” for holistic conservation of lakes and wetlands. Under NWCP, 115 wetlands in 24 states and two UTs have been identified for conservation and management. So far, the central government has released an amount of Rs 133.64 to the concerned states for undertaking various conservation programmes.
In order to regulate certain activities within the identified wetlands, the government notified the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules in December 2010. At the behest of Environment Ministry, the Space Applications Centre (SAC) Ahmedabad has prepared a National Wetland Inventory Atlas on 1:50,000 scale using Indian Remote Sensing Satellite III data of pre- and post-monsoon seasons during 2006-11.

As per the atlas, there are a total of 7, 57,060 wetlands covering an estimated area of 15.26 million hectare, that is around 4.63% of the geographic area of India.

MyGov: Financial Inclusion Plan gets impetus from ‘Creative Corner’

The new Narendra Modi led Government has taken up the task of Comprehensive Financial Inclusion. It is projected to be achieved by August 2018 with basic banking accounts for everyone by August 2015. Comprehensive Financial Inclusion intends to make banking services accessible to every household in the country.

The objective is to empower the weaker strata of the society with primary focus on farmers and marginalized laborers. Notwithstanding the fact that almost 70% of Indians living in rural areas, even after 67 years of independence only 38.2% of total bank branches and 14.58% of ATMs are there in rural areas. Due to the absence of banks, money lenders in rural areas continue to exploit the poor by charging extortionate interest rates.

‘Creative Corner’:

The recently launched web portal MyGov has Creative Corner through which various Ministries can invite creative inputs on issues relating to their departments. In a first, the Finance Ministry has invited designs for logo, name and tagline for their financial inclusion programme. To encourage wider participation there is an open competition with a winning prize of Rs 50,000. The last date of submission is August 7, 2014.

The Creative Corner also has another invitation — Designs and a concept plan for mobile app of PMOs website.

RTS,S: World’s first vaccine against Malaria to hit markets soon

The world’s first malaria vaccineRTS,S created by pharma company GSK, is expected to hit the markets by 2015. GSK has submitted a regulatory application to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for its malaria vaccine candidate, RTS,S.

Application of RTS,S:

The vaccine will be uses exclusively against the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite, which is widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). As per estimates, around 90% deaths from malaria occur in SSA, and 77% of these are in children under the age of 5.

To support the efficacy of the vaccine, data from the phase III vaccine trial programme conducted at 13 African research centres in eight African countries (Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Tanzania) including over 16,000 infants and young children have also been included to the filing. A large-scale Phase III trial showed that over 18 months of follow-up, children aged 5-17 months at first vaccination with RTS,S reported 46% fewer cases of clinical malaria, compared to children immunised with a placebo.

An average of 941 cases of clinical malaria were prevented over 18 months of follow-up for every 1,000 children vaccinated in this age group. Malaria hospitalisations came down by 42%.

How RTS,S works?

The vaccine triggers the body’s immune system to protect against the P falciparum malaria parasite when it first enters the human host’s bloodstream and/or when the parasite infects liver cells. The vaccine is developed to prevent the parasite from infecting, maturing and multiplying in the liver, after which time the parasite would re-enter the bloodstream and infect red blood cells, leading to disease symptoms.

GSK has pledged to sell the vaccine at cost price plus 5%, which it said would finance further research into tropical diseases. Now EMA will evaluate the vaccine as per Article 58 procedure, which allows the body to assess the quality, safety and efficacy of a candidate vaccine, or medicine, manufactured in a European Union (EU) member state, for a disease recognised by the World Health Organisation as of major public health interest, but intended exclusively for use outside the EU.

This assessment is conducted by the EMA in collaboration with the WHO, and necessitates products to meet the same benchmarks as vaccines or medicines intended for use in the EU.  As per WHO, if the EMA approves the vaccine, a policy recommendation may be possible by end of 2015.  A positive opinion from the EMA would also be the basis for marketing authoritization applications to National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) in SSA nations.