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PIONEER CURRENT AFFAIRS

PIONEER CURRENT AFFAIRS

  1. UNU-EHS releases World Risk Report 2016: India ranked 77th in World Disaster Risk Index

The United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and Bundnis Entwicklung Hilft on 25 August 2016 released the World Risk Report 2016, that analyzes the role of infrastructure in shaping a country’s disaster risk.

The World Risk Index is an integral part of the report as it ranks 171 countries according to the risk of becoming a victim of a disaster as a result of natural hazards such as floods, cyclones, or earthquakes.

The Index was prepared and calculated by the University of Stuttgart in Germany.

Highlights of the Report

  • It finds that inadequate infrastructure and weak logistic chains substantially increase the risk that an extreme natural event will become a disaster.
  • When it comes to aid measures following extreme natural events, the challenges mostly lie in the last mile of the logistics chain: organising transportation despite destroyed streets or bridges.
  • Crumbling transport routes, unreliable electricity grids and dilapidated buildings not only hinder humanitarian aid from overseas, but also delay crucial aid for those affected in the disaster.
  • Sufficient, high-quality infrastructure cannot only prevent the often catastrophic consequences of natural hazards such as flooding or storms.
  • Critical infrastructure can thus reduce the risk of natural hazards for populations and it can mitigate economic losses.
  • Over the last few decades, the world has experienced an increasing number of catastrophic earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, storms and droughts.
  • Disasters are not natural per se. A disaster occurs when natural hazards hit a highly vulnerable society. Vulnerability results from the complex interplay of social, economic, environmental and governance-related factors like public infrastructure, poverty and inequality.
  • Infrastructure can be decisive in determining the impact of disasters. Countries and their economies depend on critical infrastructure like communication, transportation public institutions to function.
  • Having infrastructure in place is only the first step. People and the institutions should ensure that critical infrastructure is maintained and managed properly to mitigate the negative impacts of natural hazards.
  • Southeast Asia, Central America, Oceania and the Southern Sahel are consistently disaster risk hotspots. These regions consistently face higher disaster risk due to their high vulnerability and high exposure to natural hazards such as earthquakes, storms, floods, droughts and to sea level rise.
  • It identifies a strong need for action for improving the logistics and infrastructure in the countries Benin, Burundi, Haiti, Cambodia, Cameroon, Madagascar, Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Chad, which are at severe risk of extreme natural events.

Highlights of the World Risk Index 2016

  • Vanuatu is the country with the highest risk of disaster (index value: 36.28) among the 171 countries included in the World Risk Index 2016.
  • Tonga (index value: 29.33) and the Philippines (index value: 26.70) rank number 2 and 3.
  • Germany is ranked at number 147 (index value: 2.95).
  • The hotspot regions for the risk of disaster are located in Oceania, South-East Asia, Central America and in Southern Sahel.
  • Netherlands is a country with a very high hazards exposure (rank 12), meaning that almost one third of its population is exposed to floods, storms, sea-level rise, or other hazards.
  • Bangladesh also has high hazards exposure level (rank 10) but ranks near the top (5) on the overall risk index.
  • Pakistan ranks 72th while Sri Lanka and Bangladesh at 63rd and 5th position respectively.
  • China and Nepal are ranked at 85th and 108th position respectively.

India’s position in World Risk Index 2016

India ranks 77 on the World Risk Index, marginally better positioned than Pakistan which is placed at 72nd position.

 

  1. US President Obama expands world’s largest protected marine area off Hawaii

US President Barack Obama on 27 August 2016 expanded Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off Hawaii, creating the world’s largest marine reserve.

The announcement quadruples in size of the existing monument originally created by President George W Bush in 2006. Now, the existing Marine National Monument will expand by 442781 square miles, bringing the total protected area of the expanded monument to 582578 square miles.

The White House says the expansion is helping to protect more than 7000 species including whales, sea turtles, pristine coral reefs, deep sea marine habitats, and more. It will also improve the ecological resources in the waters of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands by dealing with ocean acidification and warming.

The expansion will improve ocean resilience, help the region’s distinct physical and biological resources adapt, and create a natural laboratory that will allow scientists to monitor and explore the impacts of climate change on these fragile ecosystems.

The expansion will prohibit all commercial resource extraction activities, including commercial fishing and any future mineral extraction. Noncommercial fishing, such as recreational fishing and the removal of fish and other resources for Native Hawaiian cultural practices, is allowed in the expansion area by permit, as is scientific research.

Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument

The monument was originally created in 2006 by President George W. Bush and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.  Since that time, new scientific exploration and research has revealed new species and deep sea habitats as well as important ecological connections between the existing monument and the adjacent waters.

 

  1. Unified Payments Interface introduced by banks

Unified Payments Interface (UPI) was introduced on 25 August 2016 by four banks, namely Axis Bank, Union Bank of India, Federal Bank and Bank of Maharashtra. The app will allow customers to make payments via digital means.

The app went live for these banks after National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) issued letters to them asking them to make the apps available on Google Play Store. Apart from this, the UPI-enabled apps will be available for other 19-banks in next 2-3 working days.

Initially, the facility, which is available on Google Play Store, will be available for bank customers with Android smartphones. Versions for Apple’s iOS operating system will be launched in next six months.

UPI

UPI, a product of NPCI, will help move India towards a cashless economy. It will allow account holders across banks to send and receive money from their smartphones using virtual payments address without entering bank account details.

The interface is a brainchild of RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan. The pilot launch was on 11 April 2016 by Dr. Raghuram G Rajan, RBI Governor.

Unified Payments Interface

  • It will allow customer to have multiple virtual address for accounts in various banks.
  • UPI is a set of standard Application Programming Interface (APIs).
  • The new payments interface will also provide an option for scheduling push and pull transactions, such as sharing bills among peers.
  • It is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application (of any participating bank), merging several banking features, seamless fund routing & merchant payments into one hood.

National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is the umbrella organisation for all retail payments system in India.

 

  1. Maharashtra Government unveiled Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communication Expressway project.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on 27 August 2016 unveiled the 46000-crore rupee, ambitious Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communication Expressway project in Mumbai.

The project to be implemented by Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation will create state-of-the art road connectivity within a period of three years and give a fillip to investment.

Highlights of the Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communication Expressway Project

  • It would be carried out in the Land Pooling model with farmers being made partners and some percentage of developed land given back to them.
  • The six-lane super communication highway, connecting the entire breadth of Maharashtra, would require 9000 hectares of land.
  • Facilities like CCTV cameras, trauma centres, electronic toll points, two lanes of service roads, utility shifting, bypass, and other structures will be installed to enhance operational and safety standards.
  • The 706-km link that will pass through 10 districts.
  • It seeks to connect 24 districts with an aim to improve access of rural communities in the east to commercial hubs in the west.
  • The project also known ‘Maharashtra Prosperity Corridor’ will reduce travel time between the two cities from 12-16 hours to six to eight hours.

 

  1. Union Finance Ministry constitutes High-level Committee to suggest steps to promote card payments

 

The Union Finance Ministry on 26 August 2016 constituted a high-level committee to suggest steps to promote card payments through incentives like tax rebates and cash back schemes. The committee was constituted with an aim to discourage cash transactions.

The 11-member committee will be headed by former Finance Secretary Ratan P Watal. The committee will have representatives from the Reserve bank of India (RBI), Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the tax department and various industry bodies in the payments space.

 

Terms of reference of the committee

  • It will recommend various measures to incentivise transactions through cards and digital means, e.g., through tax rebates/incentives, introduction of cash back/lottery.
  • It will review the payments system in the country and recommend measures for encouraging digital payments.
  • It will study feasibility of creating Payments History of all digital payments and ensure that consumers can leverage the data to access instant, low cost micro-credit through digital means.
  • The panel will also study and recommend need for changes, if any, in the regulatory mechanism under various laws, relevant for the purpose of promotion of payments by digital modes.
  • It will also study and recommend ways for leveraging Unique Identification Number or any other identity proof for authentication of digital transactions and setting up of a centralised KYC Registry.
  • It will study introduction of single window system of payment gateway to accept all types of cards/digital payments of government receipts and enable settlements via NPCI or other agencies.

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