- The Environment Ministry has amended laws that now allow a proposed tourism project in the Aves Island, of the Andaman and Nicobar island (A&N) territory, to come up.
- The project was the only one of three high-profile proposed tourism projects that did not get a clearance from an expert committee on coastal clearance in February.
- This was because the proposed Aves Island project was located 20 m away from the High Tide Line(HTL) and existing rules required such projects to be at least 50 m away.
Official Secrets Act
Category: Polity & Governance
- An ‘Official Secrets Act’ is a generic term that is used to refer to a law — originally invented by the British, and then exported across the Commonwealth — that is designed to keep certain kinds of information confidential, including, but not always limited to, information involving the affairs of state, diplomacy, national security, espionage and other state secrets.
- India’s Official Secrets Act (OSA) dates back to 1923. It includes penalties for spying. Additionally, however, it punishes the communication of any information obtained in contravention of the Act, which could prejudice the security of the state, or friendly relations with foreign states.
- Furthermore, it punished people who knowingly receive such information — a provision clearly designed to capture investigative journalism.
- The primary critique of the Act is that it flips the constitutive logic of a democratic republic, where the state is supposed to be transparent to its citizens.
- The scope of the OSA has been somewhat diluted, thanks to the Right to Information Act. Section 22 of the RTI Act expressly says it overrides the OSA. In other words, it is not open to the government to deny access to a document demanded through an RTI question, on the basis that it has been marked secret under the OSA. Rather, the government will have to justify its decision to withhold information under the arguably narrower exception clauses of the RTI Act itself.
- On January 30, the Indian Sundarban was accorded the status of ‘Wetland of International Importance’ under the Ramsar Convention.
- The Sundarbans comprises hundreds of islands and a network of rivers, tributaries and creeks in the delta of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal in India and Bangladesh.
- The Indian Sundarban constitutes over 60% of the country’s total mangrove forest area.
- It is the 27th Ramsar Site in India, and with an area of 4,23,000 hectares is now the largest protected wetland in the country.
- The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, better known as the Ramsar Convention, is an international agreement promoting the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
- It is the only global treaty to focus on a single ecosystem.
- The convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.
- Traditionally viewed as a wasteland or breeding ground of disease, wetlands actually provide freshwater and food, and serve as nature’s shock absorber.
- Wetlands, critical for biodiversity, are disappearing rapidly, with recent estimates showing that 64% or more of the world’s wetlands have vanished since 1900.
- The Indian Sundarban met four of the nine criteria required for the status of ‘Wetland of International Importance’ — presence of rare species and threatened ecological communities, biological diversity, significant and representative fish and fish spawning ground and migration path.
- The Indian Sundarban, also a UNESCO world heritage site, is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger.
- Indian Sundarban is also home to a large number of “rare and globally threatened species, such as the critically endangered northern river terrapin (Batagur baska), the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), and the vulnerable fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus).
- Two of the world’s four horseshoe crab species, and eight of India’s 12 species of kingfisher are also found here.
- The part of the Sundarban delta, which lies in Bangladesh, was accorded the status of a Ramsar site in 1992.
Generalized System of Preferences
- The Generalized System of Preferences is the largest and oldest United States trade preference programme.
- The U.S. intended it to promote economic development by eliminating duties on some products it imports from the 120 countries designated as beneficiaries.
- It was established by the Trade Act of 1974.
- GSP helps spur sustainable development in beneficiary countries by helping them increase and diversify their trade with the U.S.
- The other benefit is that GSP boosts American competitiveness by reducing the costs of imported inputs used by U.S. companies to manufacture goods in the United States.
- The Indian export industry may not feel the pinch of the GSP removal for India by the U.S. The loss for the industry amounts to about $190 million on exports of $5.6 billion falling under the GSP category. But specific sectors, such as gem and jewellery, leather and processed foods will lose the benefits of the programme.
Category: Science & Technology
- Belle II, a particle accelerator experiment located in Tsukuba, Japan, is a unique facility in the world.
- Here, electrons and positrons (anti-electrons) collide to produce B mesons in order to study the breakdown of symmetry in these decays.
- As an international collaboration involving 26 countries, Belle II has an Indian link — a team led by physicists and engineers from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, have built the fourth layer of the vertex detector.
- The focus at Belle II is on B-mesons — particles that contain the B-quark, also known as the beauty or bottom quark.