Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 08 January 2023

First time RBI issue Green Bonds

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced that it will, for the first-time, issue Sovereign Green Bonds (SgrBs) worth Rs 16,000 crore, in two tranches of Rs 8,000 crore each in the current financial year. The RBI said it will issue 5-year and 10-year green bonds of Rs 4,000 crore each.

What are Green Bonds?

  1. Green bonds are bonds issued by any sovereign entity, inter-governmental groups or alliances and corporates with the aim that the proceeds of the bonds are utilised for projects classified as environmentally sustainable.
  2. The framework for the sovereign green bond was issued by the government on 9 November 2022.

Why are these bonds important?

  1. Over the last few years, Green Bonds have emerged as an important financial instrument to deal with the threats of climate change and related challenges.
  2. According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank Group’s institution, climate change threatens communities and economies, and it poses risks for agriculture, food, and water supplies.
  3. A lot of financing is needed to address these challenges. It’s critical to connect environmental projects with capital markets and investors and channel capital towards sustainable development – and Green Bonds are a way to make that connection.

How beneficial is it for investors?

  1. Green Bonds offer investors a platform to engage in good practices, influencing the business strategy of bond issuers.
  2. They provide a means to hedge against climate change risks while achieving at least similar, if not better, returns on their investment.
  3. In this way, the growth in Green Bonds and green finance also indirectly works to disincentivise high carbon-emitting projects, as per the IFC.

Where will the proceeds go?

  1. The government will use the proceeds raised from SGrBs to finance or refinance expenditure (in parts or whole) for various green projects, including in renewable energy, clean transportation, energy efficiency, climate change adaptation, sustainable water and waste management, pollution and prevention control and green buildings.
  2. In renewable energy, investments will be made in solar, wind, biomass and hydropower energy projects.

 

DRDO scientists develop 'rat cyborgs'

GS Paper - 3 (Technology)

Indian defence scientists have created the first batch of “rat cyborgs” in their laboratory with the ultimate aim of providing a live video feed to security forces from inside a building in case of a 26/11-type scenario, in which the enemy has taken over a premise, but troops are bereft of a sitrep.

What

  1. Developed by a bunch of young researchers from Hyderabad, rat cyborgs are nothing but standard laboratory rodents, in whose brains the scientists have installed an electrode that can receive signals from outside. A tiny camera would be strapped in its back for capturing live images.
  2. Once released inside a building, the rat cyborgs, armed with such tools, can go anywhere in an inconspicuous manner, climb a wall and hide from the enemy using their natural ability to camouflage.
  3. Scientists are in the process of perfecting the way in which rodents can be manoeuvred using external signals.
  4. Our objective is intelligence gathering by manoeuvring the rats with electronic commands through semi-invasive brain electrodes, P Shiva Prasad, director of DRDO Young Scientist Laboratory (DYSL) in Hyderabad said while making a presentation on asymmetric technologies at the 108th session of the Indian Science Congress.
  5. This is one of the emerging strategic technologies which DYSL has decided to pursue as an alternative to more conspicuous robots that have limitations in terms of mobility. The rodents offer a more flexible option.

Flashback

  1. The rat-cyborg technology was proposed by a group of Chinese scientists in 2019 using the brain-machine interface technology that seeks to control a rodent’s brain by an external stimulus.
  2. The Chinese team used six such rats for an experiment in which the creatures were commanded to take turns – first simple ones and subsequently more complex ones with tight turns, multiple levels and a specific prescribed path.
  3. Overall the rat cyborgs handled the experiment well with improved control over time and two of the rats performed flawlessly, as per the Chinese study that was published in a reputed peer-reviewed journal.

 

Perseverance Rover drops fourth sample

GS Paper -3 (Technology)

NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover has dropped a fourth sample tube on the Martian surface. The tube contains one of the ten samples that will be considered for a journey back to the Earth as part of the space agency’s Mars Sample Return Program.

More about the news:

  1. The Perseverance Mars Rover took 43 six-inch-long cylindrical titanium sample containers to Mars.
  2. Among these, 38 will be filled with different kinds of samples collected from the Martian surface while five “witness tubes” will be kept empty to document the cleanliness of the sampling system throughout the mission.

Mars Sample Return Program

  1. The Perseverance Rover has collected 18 samples of Martian rock and regolith. It is intended that the rover would deliver the samples to a future robotic lander as part of the Mars Sample Return Program.
  2. The lander would use a robotic arm to place the samples in a containment capsule on a small rocket that would later launch into a Martian orbit. From there, another spacecraft would capture the sample container so that it can be returned to the Earth.
  3. In case the Perseverance rover is unable to deliver the samples to the lander, the “depot” of 10 samples that will be left on the Martian surface will serve as backup.
  4. NASA will use a pair of sample recovery helicopters to retrieve the samples from the ground and deposit it with the Martian lander.

Won’t the samples get buried by sandstorms?

  1. NASA had to retire its InSight Mars landerafter it got stuck under a “continent-sized” dust storm, leaving its solar panels covered in dust and unusable.
  2. Mars does get windy, but not like on Earth. The atmosphere here is much less dense: about 1/100th that of Earth’s.
  3. This means that while Martian winds can lift very fine particles, it will only create a fine coating of dust on the sample tubes, instead of completely obscuring it.
  4. Even in the case of the remote possibility of the samples being completely covered, the Perseverance Rover is carefully documenting the exact locations of the sample tubes.
  5. This means that going back to them later will not be an issue for the sample recovery helicopters.

 

Climate Change affects Elephants

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

African elephant numbers have dropped from about 26 million in the 1800s to 415,000 today. While this is largely due to European colonization, poaching and habitat loss, these majestic animals now face another grave challenge. Climate change is causing droughts in much of Africa to become longer and more severe.

What

  1. This damages elephant habitats and denies them the water they need. African elephants need hundreds of litres of water each day to survive.
  2. The African savanna elephant is listed as endangered. Africa indeed, the world – may lose one of its most iconic animal species.
  3. Elephants are not just important for their ecological, cultural and economic value.
  4. They are also a keystone species – that is, they help hold ecosystems together. This means their decline has far-reaching consequences.

A unique physiology

  1. When elephants experience high internal temperatures, it can disrupt the function of cells, tissues and organs such as the liver and cause them to become sick and die.
  2. Humans and other animals also suffer heat stress. But elephants are particularly vulnerable because they can’t sweat it off.
  3. Heat accumulates through an elephants’ natural metabolism and physical activity, as well as being absorbed from the environment. Elephants’ thick skin slows heat loss – and their lack of sweat glands exacerbates this.
  4. They also have a large body volume – which generates heat – but a relatively small surface area (their skin) from which to lose this heat.
  5. Ensuring African elephants survive drought will increasingly require new conservation strategies, including community-based management. Without this, already dwindling elephant populations will continue to decline.

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