UNGA sets up team for negotiations on Global Environment Compact

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to set up a working group for negotiations aimed at creating a Global Pact for the Environment, a legally binding international instrument.

The resolution sponsored by France won the support of 143 countries. Iran, the Philippines, Russia, Syria, Turkey and the United States voted against it. Six other countries abstained while several states did not vote.

The resolution requests UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to submit to the General Assembly a report that identifies and assesses possible gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments with a view to strengthening their implementation.

The resolution requests UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to submit to the General Assembly a report that identifies and assesses possible gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments with a view to strengthening their implementation.

It decides to establish an ad hoc open-ended working group to consider the report, and if deemed necessary, to consider the scope, parameters, and feasibility of a Global Pact for the Environment.

The resolution requests the current president of the General Assembly to appoint two co-chairs of the working group — one from a developing country and one from a developed country — to oversee its consultations.

Please follow and like us:

U.S. Cancels Carbon Monitoring Project

A NASA programme that cost $10 million per year to track carbon and methane, key greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, has been canceled.

The end of the programme — called the Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) — which tracked sources and sinks for carbon and made high-resolution models of the planet’s flows of carbon — was first reported by the journal Science.

The journal said NASA “declined to provide a reason for the cancellation beyond ‘budget constraints and higher priorities within the science budget’.”

After much deliberation, Congress decided they wanted those four space missions to be funded, writing them into the budget bill they passed in March 2018, he said

But since CMS was not among them, it was cut as proposed, Mr. Cole said, describing the entire process as a joint effort by lawmakers and the executive branch.

Existing grants would be allowed to finish but no new research would be supported, he said.

Please follow and like us:

NAFTA Deal

Senior American, Canadian and Mexican officials  ended a week of talks without a deal to modernize NAFTA, agreeing instead to resume negotiations soon, ahead of a deadline next week issued by U.S House of Representatives

President Donald Trump has pledged to begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in upcoming talks with the leaders of Mexico and Canada. Trump has called NAFTA the “worst trade deal in history,”

NAFTA is the initialism for the North American Free Trade Agreement, an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States that reduced or eliminated trade barriers in North America. (Since the U.S. and Canada already had a free trade agreement (signed in 1988), NAFTA merely brought Mexico into the trade bloc.)

Negotiations for the trade agreement began in 1990 under the administration of George H.W. Bush and were finalized under Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1993. The agreement went into effect on January 1, 1994.

In 1993 the European Union (EU) created a “single market”—one territory without any internal borders or other regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and services. This allowed every country and business in the EU to have access to more than 500 million consumers.

NAFTA, which was approved that same year, was designed to have a similar effect, providing a way to allow the exchange of goods and services to flow more freely across national borders without the artificial restrictions.

NAFTA provided for the progressive elimination of all tariffs on any goods qualifying as North American. The deal also sought to protect intellectual property, establish dispute-resolution mechanisms, and, through corollary agreements, implement labor and environmental safeguards.

NAFTA was controversial when first proposed, mostly because it was the first [free trade agreement] involving two wealthy, developed countries and a developing country. Some people felt that allowing free trade with a developing country provides an incentive for U.S-based business to move their operations to that country.

Since its implementation, NAFTA has remained a prime target of trade protectionists (those who advocate taking measures such as taxing imports to “protect” domestic industries from foreign competition).

Please follow and like us:

Buddhist Tourism Circuit -Swadesh Darshan Scheme

EARLIER envisaged by the government as mainly comprising seven major Buddhist pilgrimage sites, in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the ‘Buddhist Circuit’ will now be expanded to 21 other states.

The Ministry of Tourism has identified stupas and viharas in these states, around which small intra-state Buddhist zones will be developed. These include the election-bound states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, as also Kerala, West Bengal, Goa, Gujarat and Jammu & Kashmir.

A total of Rs 362 crore has been sanctioned so far, of which Rs 75 crore has been cleared for Madhya Pradesh under the Ministry’s Swadesh Darshan scheme, for the development of Sanchi, Satna, Rewa, Mandsaur, and Dhar. The plan is to create a Buddhist theme park, light and sound show, interpretation centre, wayside amenities and sanitation facilities, an official in the ministry said. Besides, Rs 36 crore and Rs 52 crore has been sanctioned for Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh respectively.

Buddhist circuit is being imagined as India’s first trans-national tourist circuit, with efforts to promote tourism starting from Lumbini in Nepal, where Buddha was born, to the sites in India he traversed, including Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Kushinagar, Rajgir, Vaishali, Sravasti and Sankasia (in UP and Bihar). The ministry is also in talks with the World Bank and the Japanese government for funding of infrastructure projects connected with these sites.

The ministry also plans to involve the private sector in building tourism infrastructure pertaining to the circuit, with Alphons pointing out that “huge money” is required. To showcase Buddhist heritage and pilgrim sites in India, the government organises the International Buddhist Conclave every alternate year. In 2016, the conclave was held in Sarnath, where delegates from 39 countries participated. This year, the conclave is scheduled for October, and the location is still being finalised.

Please follow and like us:

NASA Spacecraft discovers New Magnetic Process in Space

Scientists have discovered a new type of magnetic event in our near-Earth environment, by using data provided by a NASA spacecraft. Magnetic reconnection is one of the most important processes in the space – filled with charged particles known as plasma – around Earth, said researchers at the University of California, Berkeley in the US.

This fundamental process dissipates magnetic energy and propels charged particles, both of which contribute to a dynamic space weather system that scientists want to better understand, and even someday predict, as we do terrestrial weather.

Magnetic reconnection is one of the most important processes in the space — filled with charged particles known as plasma — around Earth. This fundamental process dissipates magnetic energy and propels charged particles, both of which contribute to a dynamic space weather system that scientists want to better understand, and even someday predict, as we do terrestrial weather.  Reconnection occurs when crossed magnetic field lines snap, explosively flinging away nearby particles at high speeds

Magnetic reconnection has been observed innumerable times in the magnetosphere — the magnetic environment around Earth — but usually under calm conditions. The new event occurred in a region called the magnetosheath, just outside the outer boundary of the magnetosphere, where the solar wind is extremely turbulent. Previously, scientists didn’t know if reconnection even could occur there, as the plasma is highly chaotic in that region. MMS found it does, but on scales much smaller than the previous spacecraft could probe.

MMS investigates how the Sun’s and Earth’s magnetic fields connect and disconnect, explosively transferring energy from one to the other in a process that is important at the Sun, other planets, and everywhere in the universe, known as magnetic reconnection. Four identically instrumented spacecraft measure plasmas, fields, and particles in a near-equatorial orbit that will frequently encounter reconnection in action.

Reconnection limits the performance of fusion reactors and is the final governor of geospace weather that affects modern technological systems such as telecommunications networks, GPS navigation, and electrical power grids.

MMS reveals, for the first time, the small-scale three-dimensional structure and dynamics of the elusively thin and fast-moving electron diffusion region. It does this in both of the key reconnection regions near Earth, where the most energetic events originate.

By observing magnetic reconnection in nature, MMS provides access to predictive knowledge of a universal process that is the final governor of space weather, affecting modern technological systems such as communications networks, GPS navigation, and electrical power grids. MMS will establish knowledge, methods, and technologies applicable to future space weather missions and the future growth and development of space weather forecasting.

Please follow and like us:

SpaceX to launch Bangabandhu-1

The Bangabandhu Satellite-1 mission will be the first to utilize Falcon 9 Block 5, the final substantial upgrade to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Falcon 9 Block 5 is designed to be capable of 10 or more flights with very limited refurbishment as SpaceX continues to strive for rapid reusability and extremely high reliability.

Bangabandhu is Bangladesh’s first communications satellite. Built by Thales Alenia Space, a Franco-Italian aerospace manufacturer, it is designed to provide a wide range of broadcast and communication services throughout the country for the next 15 years. It is named after Bangladesh’s “Father of the Nation”- Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Applications: Once operational, citizens of Bangladesh will gain access to the Internet, phone services, radio, backhaul, direct-to-home TV, and other related services.

The satellite could open up a lot of opportunities for the country in terms of revenue generation. So far, a majority of Bangladesh’s communications was based on rented transponders from neighboring countries and this satellite will make the country autonomous, in terms of telecommunications and broadcasting services.

Please follow and like us:

National Technology Day

On May 11, 1998, India successfully test fired the Shakti-I nuclear missile at the Indian Army’s Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan in an operation led by aerospace engineer and late President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. Two days later, the country successfully tested two more nuclear weapons as a part of the same Pokhran-II/Operation Shakti initiative (Pokhran-I was the 1974 test firing of the ‘Smiling Buddha’ missile). Following this, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared India a nuclear state, making it the sixth country to join the ‘nuclear club’ of nations and the first one that was not party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) – an international treaty signed by the US, Russia, the UK, France, and China which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and hopes to achieve nuclear disarmament.

Becoming the world’s sixth nuclear state wasn’t the only feat India achieved on that day. The country’s first indigenous aircraft, the Hansa-3, was flown in Bengaluru while the nuclear tests were being conducted in Rajasthan. Developed by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) lab, the Hansa-3 was a light two-seater general aviation plane used in flying institutes for pilot training, sports, surveillance, aerial photography, and environment-related projects.

That isn’t all. May 11, 1998, was also the day on which the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) completed the final test-fire of the Trishul missile after which it was inducted into service by the Indian Army and Indian Airforce. A short-range, quick-reaction, surface-to-air (SAM) missile, Trishul was a part of India’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme – a Ministry of Defence initiative that has resulted in the creation of the Agni, Prithvi, and Akash missile systems.

Based on these tremendous breakthrough achievements by the country’s scientists, engineers, and technicians, Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared May 11 as the National Technology Day. Every year since 1999, the Technology Development Board (TDB) commemorates the day by honoring technological innovations that have positively impacted the nation. The TDB also selects a theme for each year’s event, and the 2017 National Technology Day theme is ‘Technology for inclusive and sustainable growth’.

Celebrated as a symbol of the quest for scientific inquiry and technological creativity, and their translation into the integration of science, society, and industry, the National Technology Day sees the TDB confer National Awards to the most noteworthy individuals, institutions, and businesses of the year. It is a large-scale event which sees the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Bio-Technology, the Ministry of Earth Sciences, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and several other scientific departments in attendance. The event, conducted in New Delhi, also sees India’s President give out the National Awards and launch a range of innovative products as the Chief Guest. Furthermore, several state governments organize local events that see academic institutions, research organizations, and NGOs come together to generate awareness about the latest technological advancements in the country.

Please follow and like us:

Pacific Islands Forum granted permanent Observer status

The Pacific Islands Forum has been granted approval to establish a Permanent Observer Office at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).

Mere Falemaka, the Permanent Representative in the Permanent Delegation of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) presented her letter of appointment as Observer to the UNOG in Geneva Tuesday to the UNOG Director-General Michael Moller.

Pacific Islands Forum, formerly (1971–2000) South Pacific Forum, organization established in 1971 to provide a setting for heads of government to discuss common issues and problems facing the independent and self-governing states of the South Pacific.

It comprises 18 members: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

In 2000 Forum leaders adopted the Biketawa Declaration, which was a response to regional political instability and which put forward a set of principles and actions for members to take to promote open, democratic, and clean government, as well as equal rights for citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed, or political belief.

Please follow and like us:

Nigeria Declares Lassa Fever Outbreak Over

The Federal Ministry of Health has declared the Lassa fever outbreak ravaging the country over. This is coming after four and half months of the country combating the disease in 22 states.

Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness of 2-21 days duration that occurs in West Africa.

The Lassa virus is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or faeces.

Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, particularly in hospitals lacking adequate infection prevention and control measures.

Lassa fever is known to be endemic in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria, but probably exists in other West African countries as well.

The overall case-fatality rate is 1%. Observed case-fatality rate among patients hospitalized with severe cases of Lassa fever is 15%.

Early supportive care with rehydration and symptomatic treatment improves survival.

Please follow and like us:

Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR)

The Government of India carried out an Amendment to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 on May 7, 2018, substituting “Directorate General of Trade Remedies” in place of “Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties” in Department of Commerce.  This has paved way for the creation of an integrated single umbrella National Authority to be called the Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) for providing comprehensive and swift trade defence mechanism in India. The amendment of Allocation of Business Rules has also mandated Department of Commerce with work pertaining to a recommendation of Safeguard measures.

Presently, the trade defence mechanism in India lacks optimality and takes more than a year to complete proceedings in cases pertaining to unfair trade practices.  Currently, the Directorate General of Anti-dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD) deals with anti-dumping and CVD cases, Directorate General of Safeguards (DGS) deals with safeguard measures and DGFT deals with quantitative restriction (QR) safeguards.  The DGTR will bring DGAD, DGS and Safeguards (QR) functions of DGFT into its fold by merging them into one single national entity. DGTR will deal with Anti-dumping, CVD and Safeguard measures. It will also provide trade defence support to our domestic industry and exporters in dealing with increasing instances of trade remedy investigations instituted against them by other countries.  The creation of DGTR will provide a level playing field for the domestic industry.  In the last three years, India initiated more than 130 anti-dumping/countervailing duty/safeguard cases to deal with the rising incidences of unfair trade practices and to provide a level playing field to the domestic industry.

The DGTR will function as an attached office of Department of Commerce.  The recommendation of DGTR for the imposition of Anti-dumping, countervailing & Safeguard duties would be considered by the Department of Revenue.

The DGTR will be a professionally integrated organisation with multi-spectrum skill sets emanating from officers drawn from different services and specialisations.  The DGTR will also bring in the substantial reduction of the time taken to provide relief to the domestic industry.  The newly constituted body is in consonance with the goal of Minimum Government Maximum Governance of the Prime Minister of India.

The Commerce and Industry Minister Sh. Suresh Prabhu expressed his satisfaction over the fact that the proposal of creation of DGTR which was pending since 1997 has been approved under the leadership of the Prime Minister, making it an epochal event for the benefit of the domestic industry.

Need for a unified umbrella authority:

Presently, the trade defence mechanism in India lacks optimality and takes more than a year to complete proceedings in cases pertaining to unfair trade practices.  Currently, the Directorate General of Anti-dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD) deals with anti-dumping and CVD cases, Directorate General of Safeguards (DGS) deals with safeguard measures and DGFT deals with quantitative restriction (QR) safeguards.

The DGTR will bring DGAD, DGS and Safeguards (QR) functions of DGFT into its fold by merging them into one single national entity. This provides comprehensive and swift trade defence mechanism in India.

The creation of DGTR will also provide a level playing field for the domestic industry. In the last three years, India initiated more than 130 anti-dumping/countervailing duty/safeguard cases to deal with the rising incidences of unfair trade practices and to provide a level playing field to the domestic industry.

Please follow and like us: