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GS Paper I- History and Geography of the World and Society.

Israel Withdraws From UNESCO.

Background-

  • Israel has filed notice to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) alongside the United States.
  • Israel has blasted UNESCO in recent years over the organisation’s criticism of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and its decision to grant full membership to Palestine in 2011.
  • UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said on 29th December, 2017 that she deeply regretted Israel’s decision to withdraw.
  • Both Israel and the US – which filed its own withdrawal notice in October, 2017, noting that it would instead seek to establish a permanent observer mission to UNESCO – will officially cease membership as of December 31, 2018.

 

Highlights Of The Development–

  • In announcing its withdrawal, the US Department of State noted “anti-Israel bias” and “the need for fundamental reform” within the organisation. Shortly afterwards, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would pull out of UNESCO on the grounds that the body had become “a theatre of the absurd”.
  • UNESCO is best known for its work to preserve heritage, including maintaining a list of World Heritage sites, and programmes to promote education in developing countries.
  • In May, 2017 a UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem strongly criticised Israel’s occupation of the eastern part of the city.
  • In July 2017, the UN body declared the Old City of Hebron in the occupied West Bank to be an endangered World Heritage site, prompting Netanyahu to announce a $1m funding cut to the UN, saying the UNESCO vote ignored Jewish ties to the site.
  • In the face of disagreements among Member States, which lead to votes for which they are responsible, engaging fully in the work of UNESCO makes possible sustained dialogue, cooperation and partnerships that are more necessary than ever, Azoulay said.
  • Israel, a member of UNESCO since 1949, has nine sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, including the White City of Tel Aviv, the Incense Route along desert cities in the Negev, and the sites of human evolution at Mount Carmel.

Sources- Aljazeera.

 

GS Paper II- Governance.

Telangana Starts Free, 24-Hour Power Supply To Farmers.

Background

  • From being a chronically power deficit region to becoming the first state in the country where farmers are given 24/7 free electricity supply to run their 2.3 million agriculture pump sets, Telangana has made dramatic strides on the power front in just three and a half years.
  • Launched from 1st January, 2017, the 24/7 free power supply replaces the existing nine hours per day free power scheme — a poll promise that helped the Congress party to come to power in the 2004 elections in undivided Andhra Pradesh.
  • After fulfilling the Rs 170-billion farm loan waiver promise he made during the 2014 elections, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhra Rao announced in mid-2017 that free power would be made available 24 hours a day to farmers starting January 1, 2018.

Highlights Of The Development-

  • The government said it has invested Rs 126 billion in the distribution network to handle the 24-hour supply while the Telangana power utilities maintained that they were fully geared up to meet 11,000 Mw of peak demand, to be fuelled by the new scheme at the height of Rabi season in March 2018.
  • Chief Minister Rao recently stated that his government was going to raise the subsidy support to around Rs 55 billion from the present Rs 47 billion to back the revamped farm power scheme.
  • While the chief minister’s words come as an initial indication as to how much extra financial load his government was prepared to add to the state exchequer on account of power subsidy in 2018-19, the revamped scheme might cost more than what the government is willing to pay for, say sector experts.
  • Discoms supplied 14,373 million units (mu) to the agriculture sector in 2016-17 and projected a supply of 15,683.11 mu in 2017-18 (based on supply data of the first half of the year) and 16,853.21 mu in 2018-19, which is going to be the full year of 24/7 free power supply.
  • If the actual supply numbers of 2016-17 are compared with that of the projected supply in 2018-19, which is going to be the full year of 24/7 free power supply, there will be an estimated additional sale of 2,480 mu to agriculture. This additional power supply will be worth Rs 12.4 billion if the per unit supply cost is taken as Rs 5, on account of the revamped scheme during the first year of implementation.
  • As the subsidy component is fixed on the basis of initial estimates, the additional supply costs are to be absorbed by the discoms as they are not allowed to increase the tariff ahead of elections.
  • However, experts say the round-the-clock power supply scheme might prove counter-productive to the farming community rather than actually benefitting them. It will result in large-scale exploitation of groundwater resulting in its fast depletion. It will also hit small and marginal farmers with small landholdings, as big farmers draw huge water using powerful pump set.

Sources- Business-Standard, HT.

 

GS Paper III- Economic Development.

Kochi Airport’s Canal-Top Solar Plant To Be Commissioned Soon.

Background

  • In August 2015, the Cochin International Airport Ltd, which runs the airport of Kochi, Kerala, commissioned its 12 MW solar power plant, it earned the distinction of becoming the world’s first airport to meet all of its electricity requirements from solar.
  • With growing business, the cash-rich airport, which made a net profit of ₹180 crore in 2016-17, has become more power-hungry. A new terminal has come up; a new maintenance hangar is being built. The number of passengers using the airport has gone up from 13 million in 2011-12 to 20 million in the last financial year and will grow to 30 million in 2021-22 (compared with 45 m of Mumbai and 58 m of Delhi airports).
  • To retain its distinction as a fully solar-powered airport, CIAL has alongside been expanding its solar power capacity. Part of the expansion is a 6-MW canal-top solar project, on the Chengaltodu canal which runs through the airport.

Highlights Of The Development-

  • In November, 2017, 4.5 MW of the canal-top project was commissioned and the rest will be commissioned any time now, according to P Jose Thomas, General Manager, CIAL. When that happens, the airport’s solar capacity will stand raised to 30 MW, the largest in the country.
  • The project is one of the larger canal-top projects in the country and was built for CIAL by Bosch Energy and Building Solutions, part of Bosch India, for ₹6.25 crore a MW. V J Kurian, Managing Director, CIAL, told that the solar power capacity would soon be further raised to 40 MW.
  • He also said that 2.7 MW of the airport’s solar assets is on a cap park. This will be doubled soon, and when that happens it will be the biggest car port solar project in the world. Because airports have a lot of ground and rooftop space, as well as electricity needs, they find it easy and worthwhile to put up solar projects.
  • Recently, the Kolkata airport commissioned a 15.5-MW solar project, and is already planning expansion. Delhi with 8 MW and Hyderabad with 5 MW are among the other large airport solar projects in India.
  • Reports have said that the Union Civil Aviation Minister, Ashok Gajapathi Raju, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Kolkata project in early December, 2017 had said that India would soon have 200 MW of airport solar.

Sources- The Hindu Business Line.