India Current Affairs 2017

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1.04 crore people hit by arsenic contamination in Bengal: Report

According to recent report tabled in the Lok Sabha, West Bengal has the highest number of arsenic-affected people in the country. State’s 83 blocks in eight districts have ground water affected by arsenic contamination.

Despite the State government’s efforts to curb the Arsenic menace, there is still a lot to be done. So far, state government was able to provide safe drinking water to 52% of the arsenic-affected areas in Bengal.

Key Facts
  • The total number of arsenic-affected people in the country is about 1.48 crore (as of March 2017).
  • West Bengal has topped the list with more than 1.04 crore arsenic-affected persons.
  • Bihar is second with 16.88 lakh persons, with Assam is third with 14.48 lakh victims.
  • According to the WHO’s guidelines for drinking water quality (2011), the permissible limit of Arsenic in groundwater is .01 m/ litre.
  • However, in India the permissible limit in drinking water was only recently been revised from .05 mg/litre to .01 mg/litre.
  • West Bengal government recently had initiated a project to provide safe drinking water to more than six lakh people in the arsenic-affected blocks.
  • However, there is slow progress in setting up water treatment plants since the technology for removal of arsenic is new and expensive.

About Arsenic Contamination

  • Arsenic is a natural component in the earth’s crust. It is widely distributed throughout the environment in the air, water and land. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form.
  • Contaminated water used for drinking, irrigation of food crops and food preparation poses the greatest threat to public health from arsenic.
  • Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking-water and food can lead to chronic arsenic poisoning. It can cause cancer, skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and diabetes.
  • The most important action in affected communities is the prevention of further exposure to arsenic by providing them of a safe water supply.
  • It is a high-profile problem in the Ganges Delta, due to the use of deep tubewells for water supply. The groundwater in these tubewells have high concentrations of arsenic in deeper levels .

Arsenic contamination

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First fully India-made train Medha flagged off at Dadar station

First fully India-made train (rake) Medha was flagged off at Dadar station in Mumbai, capital of Maharashtra by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu via videoconferencing.

The rake (group of coaches) costs Rs.43.23 crore, approximately Rs. 1 crore less than imported German-made Bombardier rake, which is Rs. 44.36 crore. It will save foreign exchange worth $50 lakh per EMU rake along with 25% manufacturing cost. 

Key Features of Medha

  • It has been manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
  • Its rake with 12 coaches has capacity of 6,050 passengers and 1,168 seats. It has in-built systems to minimise breakdowns during the travel.
  • It is fitted with a high power fully Made in India 3-phase propulsion system and powered by Hyderabad-based firm Medha Servo Drives.
  • The rake can run at a speed of 110 kmph, whereas local trains run at maximum 90 or 100 kmph. Like the existing rakes, it has cushioned seats in first class and stainless steel seats in general compartments.
  • It also has LED lighting which reduces energy consumption by approximately 30-35% as compared to the existing rakes.
  • It is also fitted with GPS-based information system to indicate the stations and also has a facility that will help motormen communicate with a guard in case of emergencies.
  • The rake also has modular roof-mounted forced ventilation system which supplies 16000 cubic m/hr fresh air into the passenger area.

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World Bank approves $175 million loan for India’s National Hydrology Project

The World Bank has approved $175 million for India’s ambitious National Hydrology Project to improve its ability to forecast floods and reduce vulnerability to recurring floods and droughts.

The loan has been issued from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) with maturity of 23 years. It also has a six-year grace period in which no interest payments will be due.

About National Hydrology Project (NHP)

  • NHP was approved by the Union cabinet in April 2016 as a central sector scheme with a total outlay of Rs 3679 crore. Later it was approved by the World Bank Board.
  • Of the total fund, Rs 3,640 crore will be spent for the national project, remaining Rs 39 crore will be used to establish National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC) as a repository of nation-wide water resources data.
  • It aims at improving extent, quality, and accessibility of water resources information, decision support system for floods and basin level resource planning and strengthen capacity of institutions in India.
  • It is expected to take forward the success of the Hydrology Project-I and Hydrology Project-II by covering the entire country, including the states along the Ganga and Brahmaputra-Barak basins.
  • Earlier Project-I and Project-II were limited only to large river systems viz. Krishna and Satluj-Beas. They had established real-time flood forecast systems to give reservoir managers an accurate picture of the water situation in their region.
  • The early forecast had increased the time available for early flood warnings and improved flood management preparation from hours to days, saving hundreds of lives and avoided flood damages of $65 million a year.
Potential Advantages NHP
  • It will strengthen the capacity of existing institutions to assess the water situation and equip them with real-time flood forecast systems across the country.
  • It will help the states monitor all the important aspects of the hydro-meteorological cycle and adopt the procedures laid out in the earlier projects.
  • It will help communities to plan in advance to build resilience against flooding and droughts due to uncertainties of climate change
  • It will reduce the vulnerability of many regions to recurring floods and droughts as absence of real-time ground information for the entire country creates difficulties in issuing alerts on time.

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