In a significant decision to fast-track India’s domestic nuclear power program, and give a push to country’s nuclear industry, the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for construction of 10 units of India’s indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR). The total installed capacity of the Plants will be 7000 MW. The 10 PHWR project will result in a significant augmentation of nuclear power generation capacity.
Focus – Cabinet approves construction of 10 units of India’s indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR)
India has current installed nuclear power capacity of 6780 MW from 22 operational plants.
Another 6700 MWs of nuclear power is expected to come on-stream by 2021-22 through projects presently under construction.
In a first of its kind project for India’s nuclear power sector, the ten new units will come up in the fleet mode as a fully home-grown initiative. It would be one of the flagship “Make in India” projects in this sector.
With likely manufacturing orders of close to 70,000 crores to the domestic industry, the project will help transform Indian nuclear industry by linking our goal of a strong nuclear power sector with our indigenous industrial capacities in high-end technologies.
This Project will bring about substantial economies of scale and maximize cost and time efficiencies by adopting fleet mode for execution. It is expected to generate more than 33,400 jobs in direct and indirect employment. With manufacturing orders to domestic industry, it will be a major step towards strengthening India’s credentials as a major nuclear manufacturing powerhouse.
The ten reactors will be part of India’s latest design of 700 MW PHWR fleet with state-of-art technology meeting the highest standards of safety.
The approval also marks a statement of strong belief in the capability of India’s scientific community to build our technological capacities. The design and development of this project is a testament to the rapid advances achieved by India’s nuclear scientific community and industry. It underscores the mastery our nuclear scientists have attained over all aspects of indigenous PHWR technology. India’s record of building and operating PHWR reactors over the last nearly forty years is globally acclaimed.
The Cabinet’s decision reflects the Government’s commitment to prioritize the use of clean power in India’s energy mix, as part of low-carbon growth strategy and to ensure long-term base load requirement for the nation’s industrialization.
It also supports India’s commitment to sustainable development, energy self-sufficiency and bolsters global efforts to combat climate change.
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for the declaration of Vijayawada Airport as Vijayawada International Airport, as per the provisions of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014.
Vijayawada International Airport | Significance
The proposal will add to improved connectivity to the State capital. It will provide wider choice of services at competitive costs to the air-travellers and give a boost to domestic/international tourism and socio-economic development of Andhra Pradesh by bringing in international passengers and cargo traffic.
Vijayawada International Airport | Background
Declaration of an airport as International Airport depends upon traffic potential and demand from airlines for operation of international flights.
Further, availability of Ground Lighting Facilities, Instrument Landing System for operation of aircrafts at night, adequate runway length to cater to medium capacity long-range aircraft or equivalent type of aircraft, availability of Customs, Immigration, Health and Animal & Plant Quarantine Services are also required for international operations.
The declaration of Vijayawada Airport as International has been taken up in accordance with the provisions of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 and keeping in view the passenger traffic growth, demands from airlines and Andhra Pradesh Government. Airports Authority of India has undertaken upgradation of requisite infrastructure and facilities for international operations.
The Indian Railway PSU, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) has decided to start two new circuits of their flagship luxury train Maharaja Express, this year.
Maharaja Express | About the new circuits
These two new trips have been named as “Southern Sojourn”and “Southern Jewels” which will cover prominent destinations in West and South India.
The Southern Sojourn will cover Goa, Hampi, Mysore, Ernakulam, Kumarakom and Trivandrum. The Southern Jewels will cover Chettinad, Mahabalipuram, Mysore, Hampi and Goa.
The Southern Sojourn – Monsoon Special shall start from Mumbai on 24th June 2017 & stop at Goa, Hampi, Mysore, Cochin, Alleppey before terminating at Trivandrum.
The Southern Jewels – Monsoon Specialshall depart from Trivandrum on 1st July 2017 and terminate at Mumbai covering Chettinad, Mahabalipuram, Mysore, Hampi and Goa. Each journey shall be of 8 Days/7 Nights duration.
Background of Maharaja Express
Maharajas’ Express commenced its operations in 2010, and since then the train has become the Leading Luxury Train of the World with comparisons to the Royal Scotsman and the Eastern and Oriental Express. The train is the recipient of the coveted Leading Luxury Train of the World Award for the last five years in a row since 2012.
Features of Maharaja Express
The 23 coach long Maharajas’ Express, with a capacity of 88 guests, is a cut above other luxury trains in each aspect – the cabin experience, on-board dining, the excursions and events organized for guests. The train has state of the art features with on-board water filtration plant, spacious cabin sizes with no bunk beds, two bars cum lounges, two restaurants and of course a well-trained on-board team to cater to global expectations.
Union Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Minister Sushri Uma Bharti launched Bundelkhand Water Conservation Programme at Bandri in Sagar District of MP
Water Conservation Programme | About
Ministry has prepared a master plan for artificial recharge of ground water in Bundelkhand region.
In UP region of Bundelkhand, around 1100 percolation tanks, 14000 small check dams/Nala bunds and 7200 Recharge pits/shafts have been identified.
In MP region of Bundelkhand, around 2000 percolation tanks, 55000 small check dams/Nala bunds and 17000 Recharge shafts have been identified.
As a part of ground water exploration, 234 wells in UP are proposed to be constructed in five districts of Bundelkhand i.e., Banda, Hamirpur, Jalaun, Chitrakoot and Mahoba. Similarly, 259 wells in MP are proposed to be constructed in the districts of Datia, Sagar, Damoh, Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur and Panna in the Bundelkhand region of the State.
Water Conservation Programme | Other initiatives
Ministry of Water Resources has taken up new initiatives under National Ground Water Management Improvement Schemes (NGMIS) with an objective to effectively improve ground water conditions in stressed blocks, ensure sustainability of resource both quantitatively and qualitatively, participatory approach in ground water management and institutional strengthening.
In Bundelkhand region of UP, six districts covering an area of 11851 sq km have been considered under this initiative. In Bundelkhand region of MP, five districts covering an area of 8319 sq km have been considered under this initiative.
Water Conservation Programme | ISBIG
The Minister informed that ‘Incentivization Scheme for Bridging Irrigation Gap’ (ISBIG) scheme is being prepared by the Ministry with an objective to complete CADWM works along with correction of system deficiencies in canal network for bridging the gap between Irrigation Potential Created (IPC) and Irrigation Potential Utilised (IPU), improving the water use efficiency in irrigation and providing assured supply of water to every farm field and transfer of control and management of irrigation system to the Water Users’ Associations (WUAs).
In Bundelkhand region of UP, Betwa and Gursarai canal, Rajghat canal, Ken canal system, Gunta Nala dam and Upper Rajghat canal with target to bridge 17,1030 hact under this scheme is being proposed. The scheme will benefit Jhansi, Jalaun, Hamirpur, Lalitpur and Banda districts in Bundelkhand region. In Bundelkhand region of MP Rajghat Canal Project with target to bridge 68007 ha under this scheme is being proposed. The scheme will benefit Tikamgarh and Datia districts.
Water Conservation Programme | Marathwada
Similar programme for Marathwada region of Maharashtra is also being launched. Seven schemes with target to bridge 53365 ha gap between IPC and IPU are being proposed. The scheme will benefit Aurangabad, Latur, Nanded, Prabhani, Nanded, Solapur and Osmanabad districts and involve an expenditure of Rs. 250 crore. An area of 3727 sq.km in Marathwada is proposed to be covered under National Ground Water Management Improvement Schemes involving an expenditure approximate of Rs. 380 crore. Aquifer mapping of 9101 sq. km. of area in Marathwada has been completed. Management Plan of 7775 sq. km has been submitted to Maharashtra government. Under Fast track implementation of water conservation schemes 50 new water bodies with estimated cost of about Rs. 60 crores with tentative potential creation of 5000 ha would be taken up.
The Department of Biotechnology and Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology are collaborating with The India-Canada Centre for Innovation Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability (IC-IMPACTS), to promote multidisciplinary research partnerships. Five projects addressing the issue of Clean Water Technology are being implemented by the Departments at the total cost of Rs. 572 lakhs with matched funding from Canada.
Clean Water Technology
Biosensors for detection of toxins – impedance-based handheld biosensors for assessment of the water quality and a nanoparticle based water treatment system to eliminate toxins and microorganisms in water. Toxins which will be detected are cyanotoxin (microcystins, anatoxins) and microorganisms (Enterococcus, Salmonella, Staphylococcus).
Heavy metal detection and removal – Plastic cartridges for colour based test monitoring kit for detection of multiplex heavy metal. Developing fixed bed bio-char columns to remove heavy metals from waste water.
Bio-recovery from waste water (waste to wealth) – Integrated pilot-scale 915 MHz MW-AOP for advanced anaerobic digestion system for resource recovery
Survey to identify and explore alternatives in domestic water management –technology and financial appropriateness of water and wastewater infrastructure in selected cities of India
These Technologies are currently being developed with the aim that these technologies will be implemented in India. Prior art is available for the technologies being developed. The technologies are being adapted and modified for Indian conditions. Technologies developed will be taken for feasibility studies and shall be implemented on pilot scale within two years.
The committee constituted to prepare draft Ganga Act submitted its report to the Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.
Draft Ganga Act | About the Committee
The Chairman of the committee Justice Shri Girdhar Malviya (Retd.) said that it was a big challenge for them but they could meet it successfully. He thanked the officials of Union Water Resources Ministry and National Mission for Clean Ganga for their cooperation to the committee.
The Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation constituted this committee in July last year to prepare draft Ganga Act. Justice Shri Girdhar Malviya (Retd.) was the Chairman of the committee. Other members were: Shri V.K.Bhasin, Ex-Secretary, Legislative Department, Govt. of India, Prof. A.K. Gosain, IIT Delhi and Prof. Nayan Sharma, IIT Roorkee. Shri Sundeep, Director, National Mission for Clean Ganga was the Member Secretary.
79-year-old Justice Malviya who is Chairman of Ganga Mahasabha is associated with Ganga conservation movement. The Mahasabha was founded by his grandfather and founder of BHU Mahamana Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya.
Draft Ganga Act | Highlights of the report
The committee recognized the enormous challenges being faced to maintain the wholesomeness (Nirmalta and Aviralta) of National River Ganga perpetuated due to over stressed water demand from agricultural, domestic and industrial sectors, on one hand and realized pressure on account of sustaining the religious faith, historical and social belief on other hand.
The challenges become more complex with no possible increase in availability of water in river course in comparison to the increasing demands but on the contrary apprehension of decreasing flow owing to climate change affects.
Draft Ganga Act | Details about the report
The draft Act addresses the critical issues pertaining to National River Gaga on its Cleanliness (Nirmalta) and uninterrupted e-flow (Aviralta) and provides corresponding provisions thereof.
The committee has adopted certain stricter provision to increase accountability and responsibility for use of resources made available by National River Ganga. The option and provision made in suggestive bills available with National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) were also considered and discussed by the committee.
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, will dedicate to the nation, India’s longest tunnel (road) – the 9-kilometre-long “Chenani – Nashri Tunnel” – on April 2nd, 2017.
India’s Longest Tunnel | About
India’s Longest Tunnel on NH-44 which connects Jammu with Srinagar, will reduce travel time between the two cities by up to two hours. It achieves a distance-reduction of 31 kilometres, bypassing snow-bound upper reaches. The estimated daily fuel savings are to the tune of Rs. 27 lakhs.
Besides avoiding large scale deforestation and tree-cutting, the tunnel will provide a safe, all-weather route to commuters travelling from Jammu and Udhampur, to Ramban, Banihal and Srinagar.
The tunnel is equipped with world-class security systems, and is expected to boost tourism and economic activities in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
India’s Longest Tunnel | Salient features
It is a single-tube bi-directional tunnel, with a 9.35 metre carriageway, and a vertical clearance of 5 metres.
There is also a parallel escape tunnel, with “Cross Passages” connecting to the main tunnel at intervals of 300 metres.
It also has smart features such as an Integrated Traffic Control System; Surveillance, Ventilation and Broadcast Systems; Fire Fighting System; and SOS call-boxes at every 150 metres.
The project has been completed at a cost of over Rs. 2500 crore.
In order to assess the living conditions of jute workers, a study on the Socio-Economic Conditions of Jute Mill Workers was conducted in 2015-16 by National Jute Board (NJB).
The findings of the study, inter alia, indicate that 96.4% workers have electricity in their houses; that 91% of the families have piped water supply; that 99% of the workers have access to toilets; and that the mill workers have health coverage under ESI.
What the Government of India is doing for jute workers?
Government of India provides an assured market to the jute sector under the Jute Packaging Materials Act (JPM), 1987. Under this Act, Government has mandated that 90% of foodgrains and 20% of sugar be packed in jute bags.
The annual subsidy for this amounts to Rs 5,500 crores approximately.
Apart from this, the National Jute Board (NJB) has been implementing several measures for the benefit of workers, artisans and small producers and for promotion of the jute industry. These include –
Workers’ Welfare Scheme (Sulabh Sauchalaya)for improvement of sanitation, health facilities and working conditions of jute mill workers.
Incentives to Children of Jute Mill Workersfor extending support to the Workers’ families towards education of their children through a scholarship scheme.
Export Market Development Assistance Schemeto facilitate registered manufacturer exporters of jute products to participate in international fairs and take business delegations abroad for export promotion of lifestyle and other diversified jute products.
Retail Outlet of Jute Diversified Products Schemefor providing assistance to jute entrepreneurs for opening of outlets of jute lifestyle jute products in Metro Cities, State capitals, District Head Offices and Tourist spots; and
Focused Market Initiativesfor organising and participation in Jute Fairs, National Fairs / Regional Fairs, Export oriented fairs in India & abroad to extend marketing support to the artisans, small and micro entrepreneurs.
Commerce & Industry Minister Smt Nirmala Sitharaman launched Rubber Soil Information System (RubSIS), an online system for recommending application of appropriate mix of fertilizers to the specific plantations of rubber growers depending upon their soil nature in New Delhi today.
RubSIS, developed by Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) under the Rubber Board in collaboration with three agencies viz Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management, Kerala, National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning, ICAR and National Remote Sensing Center, ISRO, brings soil data to the fingerprints of rubber growers and recommends the optimum mix and quantities of chemical fertilizers that his holding requires.
It is a cost effective tool for sustainable &scientific management of rubber growing soils. Apart from preventing indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and soil degradation, adoption of RubSIS will lead to reduction in the cost of production of rubber, increase in productivity and reduction in environmental pollution.
The scientific and user friendly online fertiliser recommendation system was launched today for Kottayam (Kerala) which will be extended to the entire traditional rubber growing region i.e. the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu this year.
NOTE – Kottayam (Kerala) is the largest rubber growing district of India.
On the sidelines of the plenary 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference – 21st yearly Conference of Parties at Paris, India has pledged to reduce 33-35% of its carbon emissions (at 2005 level) by 2030. Also, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Francois Hollande has launched an ambitious initiative called ‘International Solar Energy Alliance’. Origin of the idea –
The origin of the ambitious initiative goes back to the election campaign days of the Prime Minister aspirant Shri Narendra Modi who foresaw the ambition to curb the usage of non-renewable energy resources from India and to build an enthusiastic ‘solar alliance’ that could serve the interests of the energy needs of the entire world and not just India. As the Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, he spurred companies to build more than 900MW of solar plant across the state in just a couple of years and commissioned Asia’s largest solar park at Charanka village. What exactly is this ‘International solar alliance’?
It is a strategic cluster of around 120 countries that falls within the tropical region, receiving abundant sunshine throughout the year which may be used to harness the solar energy potential. This solar energy may be used for domestic consumption as well as for strategic exports to subtropical, temperate and polar countries. India has invited over 120 countries that falls in the tropical region to be a part of the ambitious project. A good number of them lies in the Gulf region having historical enterprise with non-renewable resources like petroleum oil. The Southern coast of the United States too falls within the region which has a strategic reserve of Shale Gas. Why India has emerged as the natural leader for this alliance?
India has an ambitious target to install 175GW of renewable energy by 2022, which includes 100GW of solar energy usage. India has reiterated its stance to draw 40% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030. Currently, renewable energy, nuclear energy and hydropower together contribute 30% of the overall installed capacity in India. With power production expected to triple, this will amount to 320 GW of non-fossil fuel capacity. Since 2010, India has been providing 40% subsidy on capital costs of Solar PV Panels which is available through NABARD in India (as per JNNURM mission). Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to give electricity to every one of the 300 million Indians living in the dark. For this, three more ultra-mega solar parks were backed with cash in July 2014, as were solar-powered irrigation pumps and canal-top solar plants. The electric fences on India’s sensitive northern borders will be solar-powered as the military installs 1,000MW of panels to replace expensive diesel generators across its posts. Another 7,000MW of solar is out for tender across the country and the rooftops of Delhi are to be bedecked with panels under a new scheme. The solar energy from the Rajasthan desert sun can meet whole of India’s future power needs, a proposition which has been realized meticulously by the Government of India as evident from the building up of 4,000MW Ultra Mega Green Solar Power Project (UMPP) near Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan. More than 25 major states of India out of 29 have an operational or installed solar power capacity. This makes the country a natural leader of the solar club. The geographical presence of the country in the tropics add boon to its leadership role. Benefits-
Current geopolitics revolves around the presence of reserves of non-renewable sources of energy like petroleum oil, shale gas, nuclear energy, natural gas etc. The sceptics have often linked the tensions in West Asia and Africa to the insatiable thirst for energy resources of many alleged ‘neo-colonizers’ present in the region in the form of private, governmental as well as intergovernmental organizations. Presence of cartels like OPEC, African Union that invariably control the price of the energy resources through the forces of demand and supply might meet an end to their monopoly over the energy resources, after the discovery and operationalisation of the alternative sources of energy i.e. solar energy. Solar energy is unlimited in supply, non-pollutant, non-disaster prone and complements climate change. With solar technology evolving, costs coming down and grid connectivity improving; it becomes the best alternative to conventional sources of energy. How does it affect India’s foreign policy objectives?
Indian government is investing an initial $30m (£20m) in setting up the alliance’s headquarters in India (the Secretariat). The eventual goal is to raise $400m from membership fees, and international agencies. As Isaiah Bowman (geographer and strategic adviser to the former US President Franklin Roosevelt) played an instrumental role in the establishment of the United Nations and forcing its location to be based in an American city (New York), the Secretariat of the ‘International Solar Alliance’ would bring India at the forefront of the world politics. It has the potential to boost India’s bid to secure a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. Like the citizens of OPEC member nations, the future generations of India would reap the economic and social benefits of this long term initiative as the solar energy to be exported to the sub-tropical, temperate and polar countries would make solar energy production a viable business in India. It would considerably reduce India’s energy import bill which stands at almost 70-75% of total energy needs of our economy, saving around $120 billion energy bill annually. This lower dependency on energy would provide a political leverage to India to take strategic position in international affairs which it currently refuses to acknowledge through the principle of non-interference. Challenges –
There would be silent yet stiff resistance from non-renewable energy providing cartels because the operations of the solar alliance is deemed to end the monopoly of petroleum, natural gas, shale gas, nuclear energy suppliers. In this battle of energy production, India stands to lose strategic allies like Russia, Scandinavian countries, African countries, Latin American countries, Gulf countries, Central Asian countries, Australia, China as well as the United States that export high cost energy resources throughout the world. It is possible that the only support that India may inevitably rely upon is from Europe where the demand of energy is rising with no conventional resources of energy of their own, including renewable energy. This is evident from the fact that the strongest support India has received in this initiative was from France and organizations like Solar Power Europe with others, especially Europeans following the line. Europe is fed up from Russian, African, Latin American and OPEC’s arm-twisting for their energy needs, therefore it looks towards a renewable alternative, by which India’s solar alliance could fill the void. It would be a herculean task for Prime Minister Modi to bring all the stakeholders on the table and highlight the importance of the solar alliance that actually has the capacity to harness the unlimited resource for contemporary and future generations. The most important task for India would be to take Russia on board, whose economy thrives on energy exports, especially after international sanctions. Central Asian, Latin American and African countries too would not be much delighted about the prospects of the solar club that could jeopardize their economy for long term. A strategic threat to our leadership in the International Solar Alliance comes from China, which is also aggressively pursuing the green technology, installing 12,000MW in 2013 – a record for any country in a single year. But a ray of the light for India looks in the Gulf region (in Dubai), which has announced a Dirham 100 billion ($27 billion) programme to make solar panels mandatory for all rooftop buildings by 2030, part of a plan to make the city a global clean energy centre. Dubai aims to generate 25% of its energy from clean sources by 2030, rising to 75% by 2050. Taking advantage of our close relationship with UAE, India can get the West Asian region on board. More high level foreign visits, regular information exchanges, strongest PR and lobbying, removing unrealistic insecurities from all the concerned stakeholders would actually help in giving a much needed thrust to the ambitious programme. Conclusion –
Fossil fuels still get more than $40bn (£24bn) in subsidy every year in India, even a quarter of which if invested in solar energy research would provide long term strategic gains for the nation. Legislative as well as citizen support could make India a global leader in this noble vision. We could celebrate ‘Solar Energy Week’ every first week of January (associated with perihelion position of the sun) to encourage our people to adopt solar technology for household as well as industrial needs. Indian media too has to realize its duty to promote a strategic yet humanistic vision of the Prime Minister. Ancient Indian civilization calls for ‘सेवा परमो धर्म (Sewa Parmo Dharma)’ which means ‘Service is the highest duty’. The commencement of the ‘International Solar Alliance’ project envisages this ancient Indian idea through which India aims to help the world with a clean, low cost and a viable renewable source of energy.