Topic 1: Critical Minerals
Context: A recent working paper from Centre for Social and Economic Progress (CSEP) extends the earlier minerals assessment for 23 minerals by assessing the criticality levels of 43 select minerals for India based on their economic importance (demand-side factors) and supply risks (supply-side factors) which are determined through the evaluation of specific indicators.
- What are critical minerals?
- Critical minerals refer to mineral resources, both primary and processed, which are essential inputs in the production process of an economy, and whose supplies are likely to be disrupted due to the risks of non-availability or unaffordable price spikes.
- To tackle such supply risks, major global economies periodically evaluate which minerals are critical for their jurisdiction through a quantitative assessment.
- Minerals such as antimony, cobalt, gallium, graphite, lithium, nickel, niobium, and strontium are among the 22 assessed to be critical for India.
- Significance for India:
- Many of these are required to meet the manufacturing needs of green technologies, high-tech equipment, aviation, and national defence.
- However, while India has a significant mineral geological potential, many minerals are not readily available domestically.
- Hence, India needs to develop a national strategy to ensure resilient critical minerals supply chains, which focuses on minerals found to be critical.
- Electric vehicles: cobalt, lanthanum, lithium
- Fuel cells: platinum, palladium, rhodium
- Wind energy technologies: neodymium, dysprosium, terbium
- Aviation sector: titanium
- Photovoltaic solar technologies: cadmium, indium, gallium
- Traditional — titanium, vanadium
- Sunrise — lithium
- Mixed use — cobalt, nickel, graphite, light rare earth elements (LREEs), heavy rare earth elements (HREEs)
Challenges for India
- China angle:
- China, the most dominant player in the critical mineral supply chains, still struggles with Covid-19-related lockdowns.
- As a result, the extraction, processing and exports of critical minerals are at risk of slowdown.
- Russia-Ukraine crisis:
- Russia is one of the significant producers of nickel, palladium, titanium sponge metal, and the rare earth element scandium.
- Ukraine is one of the major producers of titanium.
- It also has reserves of lithium, cobalt, graphite, and rare earth elements, including tantalum, niobium, and beryllium.
- The war between the two countries has implications for these critical mineral supply chains.
- Supply chain disruption due to power shifts:
- As the balance of power shifts across continents and countries, the critical mineral supply chains may get affected due to the strategic partnership between China and Russia.
- As a result, developed countries have jointly drawn up partnership strategies, including the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) and G7’s Sustainable Critical Minerals Alliance, while developing countries have missed out.
- Indispensable for renewable energy:
- Manufacturing renewable energy technologies would require increasing quantities of minerals, including copper, manganese, zinc, and indium.
- Likewise, the transition to electric vehicles would require increasing amounts of minerals, including copper, lithium, cobalt, and rare earth elements.
- India does not have many of these mineral reserves, or its requirements may be higher than the availability, necessitating reliance on foreign partners to meet domestic needs.
- More exploration needed:
- On the domestic front, while India has a geological potential similar to mining-rich Western Australia, much still needs to be explored.
- Given the increasing importance of critical and strategic minerals, there is an imperative need to create a new list of such minerals in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Act, 1957. Act.
- These minerals must be prospected, explored, and mined on priority, as any delays may hinder India’s emissions reduction and climate change mitigation timeline.
- The reconnaissance and exploration of minerals must be encouraged, with particular attention given to deep-seated minerals.
- An innovative regime must be devised to allocate critical mineral mining assets, which adequately incentivises private explorers, including ‘junior’ explorers.
- India needs to determine where and how the processing of minerals and assembly of critical minerals-embedded equipment will occur.
- Currently, India relies on global supplies of various processed critical minerals, as there are limited domestic sources.
- Critical minerals strategy:
- India requires a critical minerals strategy comprising measures aimed at making the country AatmaNirbhar (self-reliant) in critical minerals needed for sustainable economic growth and green technologies for climate action, national defence, and affirmative action for protecting the interests of the affected communities and regions.
- International collaborations:
- India must actively engage in bilateral and plurilateral arrangements for building assured and resilient critical mineral supply chains.
- Updating data:
- The assessment of critical minerals for India needs to be updated every three years to keep pace with changing domestic and global scenarios.
- National critical minerals strategy:
- A national critical minerals strategy for India can help focus on priority concerns in supply risks, domestic policy regimes, and sustainability.
Topic 2: Hakki Pikkis tribe
Context: More than 181 members of the Hakki Pikki tribal community from Karnataka are stuck in violence-hit Sudan, even as the government is making efforts to bring them back.
Who are the Hakki Pikki?
- The Hakki Pikki is a tribe that lives in several states in west and south India, especially near forest areas.
- Hakki Pikkis (Hakki in Kannada means ‘bird’ and Pikki means ‘catchers’) are a semi-nomadic tribe, traditionally of bird catchers and hunters.
- According to the 2011 census, the Hakki Pikki population in Karnataka is 11,892.
- In different regions, they are known by different names, such as Mel-Shikari in northern Karnataka and Maharashtra.
- They are divided into four clans:
- Kaliwala and
- These clans can be equated with castes in the traditional Hindu society.
- In the olden days, there was a hierarchy among the clans, with the Gujaratia at the top and the Mewaras at the bottom.
- Hakki Pikki people are believed to hail originally from the bordering districts of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
- They came to the south in search of game.
What are their rituals and customs?
- Hakki Pikkis in Karnataka follow Hindu traditions and celebrate all Hindu festivals.
- They are non-vegetarians.
- The eldest son in a family is not supposed to cut his hair so that he can be identified easily.
- The tribe prefers cross-cousin marriages.
- According to locals, the usual age of marriage is 18 for women and 22 for men.
- The society is matriarchal, where the groom gives dowry to the bride’s family.
Topic 3: Abhilekh Patal
Context: Prime Minister of India praises “Abhilekh patal” a portal with over 1 Crore Pages of Historical Records of the National Archives
- Abhilekh is a Sanskrit term used in India for records since ancient times and Patal is a Sanskrit word meaning a board, platform, or a surface.
- A combination of both these words has been adopted as an acronym for Portal for Access to Archives and Learning.
- It is a full-featured web-portal to access the National Archives of India’s reference media and its digitized collections through the internet.
- Both the reference media and the digital data will be regularly augmented.
- About National Archives of India:
- The National Archives of India is the repository of the non-current records of the Government of India and is holding them in trust for the use of records creators and general users.
- It is an Attached Office of the Ministry of Culture.
Topic 4: Exercise Iniochos-23
Context: The Indian Air Force (IAF) will be participating in Exercise INIOCHOS-23.
- It is a multi-national air exercise hosted by the Hellenic Air Force (Greece).
- The exercise will be conducted in Greece.
- The Indian Air Force will be participating with four Su-30 MKI and two C-17 aircraft.
- The objective of the exercise is to enhance international cooperation, synergy and interoperability amongst the participating Air Forces.
- The exercise will be conducted in a realistic combat scenario involving multiple types of air and surface assets.
Topic 5: The Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border dispute
Context: Assam Chief Minister and his Arunachal Pradesh counterpart signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) over the long-standing border dispute between the two states.
- The two states share a roughly 800-kilometre long border.
- The disputed areas the MoU deals with are 123 border villages, which span 12 districts of Arunachal Pradesh and 8 districts of Assam.
- Before North East Frontier Agency or NEFA (former name of what is now Arunachal Pradesh) was carved out of Assam in 1954, a sub-committee headed by then Assam Chief Minister Gopinath Bordoloi had made a set of recommendations in relation to the administration of NEFA and submitted a report in 1951.
- In line with the recommendations of this report, around 3,648 kilometres of the plain area of Balipara and Sadiya foothills were transferred from NEFA to Assam.
- When Arunachal was made a Union Territory in 1972, it contended that several forested tracts in the plains that had traditionally belonged to hill tribal chiefs and communities were unilaterally transferred to Assam.
Past efforts to resolve this issue
- In 1979, a high-powered tripartite committee was constituted to delineate the boundary on the basis of Survey of India maps, as well as discussions with both sides.
- While around 489 km of the 800 km were demarcated by 1983-84, futher demarcation could not take place because Arunachal did not accept the recommendations and claimed several kilometres of the 3,648 sq km, which was transferred to Assam in line with the 1951 report.
- Assam objected to this and filed a case in the Supreme Court in 1989, highlighting an “encroachment” made by Arunachal Pradesh.
- To resolve the dispute between the states, the apex court appointed a local boundary commission in 2006, headed by a retired SC judge.
- Several recommendations were made some of which suggested Arunachal Pradesh get back some of the territory which was transferred in 1951 however, nothing came of it.
Topic 6: PSLV-C55 mission
Context: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which is scheduled to launch the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C55 (PSLV-C55) mission, will carry out in-orbit scientific experiments by using the spent PS4 (fourth and final stage of PSLV) as an orbital platform.
- The PSLV-C55 will have Singapore’s TeLEOS-2 as primary satellite and Lumelite-4 as a co-passenger satellite.
- The TeLEOS-2 and Lumelite-4 satellites are intended to be launched into an eastward low inclination orbit.
- Once deployed and operational, it will be used to support the satellite imagery requirements of various agencies within the Government of Singapore.
- The TeLEOS-2 will be able to provide all-weather day and night coverage, and be capable of imaging at 1m full-polarimetric resolution.
- The PSLV-C55 mission has the PSLV Orbital Experimental Module (POEM), where the spent PS4 of the launch vehicle would be utilised as an orbital platform to carry out scientific experiments through non-separating payloads.
- What Is Poem?
- Dubbed PSLV Orbital Experimental Module, Poem is the spent fourth stage of the launch vehicle that would be used as an orbital platform to carry out scientific experiments through non-separating payloads.
- Isro is now repurposing this fourth stage to use an experimental platform.
- The mission will carry seven non-separable payloads from Isro, Bellatrix, Dhruva Space, and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics neatly packed on this fourth stage.
- What is PSLV:
- PSLV is a four-stage rocket, and while the first three stages are jettisoned into the ocean after they push the mission to desired orbit, the fourth-stage remains in orbit and becomes space junk.
- This is the third time that PS4 will be used after satellite separation as a platform for experiments.
Topic 7: Eat Right movement
Context: The Health Ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, has asked States and Union Territories to develop 100 eat right food streets in 100 districts across the country.
- The aim of this project is to encourage safe and healthy practices to reduce food-borne illnesses and improve overall health outcomes.
- Safe food practices would not only boost the “eat right campaign” and food safety but also improve the hygiene credibility of local food businesses.
- Financial assistance of ₹1 crore per food street/district will be given to States and Union Territories.
Eat Right Movement:
- Eat Right India movement is an initiative led by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
- The Food Safety and Standards Agency of India (FSSAI) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched Eat Right India in 2018.
- The Eat Right India movement acts as a critical health preventive action that brings about social and behavioral change through a smart mix of regulatory measures coupled with mild interventions to create awareness and build the capacity of food businesses and citizens.
- Eat Right India movement motto
- The Eat Right India movement motto is similar to the Gandhi philosophy of food and nutrition – eat safe, smart and healthy.
- Its main goal is to promote healthy eating by educating people and companies about the basics of nutrition and why it matters.
- Activities under Eat Right India movement
- The activities are to educate and develop the capacity of various stakeholders in food ecosystems such as food processors, administrators, frontline health workers.
- To push food companies to reformulate packaged foods into healthier options and use safe and environmentally friendly packaging materials.
Topic 8: How AI can help the environment
Context: AI has been touted as a powerful tool to help tackle global crises, such as climate change.
How this can be achieved?
- Saving trees with AI ‘guardians’
- Deforestation and land use changes cause more than 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
- Trees absorb carbon dioxide and store it for long periods of time, and when they’re cut down, much of that CO2 escapes into the atmosphere
- To curb illegal land clearing, the nonprofit Rainforest Connection attaches acoustic monitoring sensors to trees that “eavesdrop” on the surrounding forest and transmit that audio in real-time to the cloud.
- Almost 600 of these devices, dubbed “guardians,” have been installed in 35 countries.
- A recent report estimated that by empowering authorities to use AI tools to preempt the destruction of rainforests, governments could save around 29 gigatons of emissions by 2030.
- Shrinking the carbon footprint of steel
- Materials such as steel and cement are important components in construction.
- But they’re also heavy CO2 emitters, making decarbonizing these industries a priority.
- A US company has been working with five American steel plants and AI to reduce the amount of mined ingredients by up to a third.
- AI-driven optimization software learns from historical data to recommend the minimum amount of new additional material that needs to be added.
- According to a report by the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, Fero Labs has prevented an estimated 450,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year by skipping the mining, smelting and transporting of these alloys.
- Cutting energy waste in buildings
- In Hong Kong, energy use in buildings is responsible for about 60% of the city’s carbon emissions.
- Design firm Arup came up with an app called Neuron that uses 5G and Internet of Things sensors to gather real-time data from a building’s energy management system.
- It then uses an algorithm to analyze this data and optimize the heating and cooling system, as well as make predictions for the building’s future energy demand.
- According to the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence report, these tweaks can save 10-30% of the energy used in a typical commercial building.
- Fighting poaching with algorithms
- Poaching and habitat destruction caused rhino numbers to dwindle throughout the 20th century.
- Most species are now considered endangered and mainly survive in protected reserves or sanctuaries, but they’re still targeted for their horns.
- The South Africa-based company Rouxcel Technology has developed AI-enabled bracelets that fit around rhinos’ ankles to help conservation teams easily locate the animals and monitor their behavior in real time.
- It then sends an alert to wildlife operations centers and anti-poaching teams.
- Smart farming
- Agriculture is vulnerable to climate change, with unpredictable temperatures, more frequent extreme weather events and invasive pests all posing a risk to crop yields.
- Agriculture, forestry and land use account for around 18% of global CO2 emissions.
- And then there’s the fact that agriculture irrigation is responsible for 70% of water use worldwide.
- Germany-based startup Agvolution has developed an AI system that draws on data from solar-powered sensors monitoring the microclimate around crops.
- The devices measure temperature, humidity, radiation and soil moisture in the field, while algorithms use these insights to make precise recommendations about plant health and exactly how much water and fertilizer to use.
- This can both boost yields and reduce wasted resources.
- The company says this can increase ecological and economic efficiency by up to 40%.
- Using computers to plot clouds
- When clouds move over solar panels, the power supply can suddenly drop off.
- That’s a problem for network operators who are trying to balance the grid and prevent blackouts.
- To fill any gaps, they need to have generation reserves running in the background that can quickly be ramped up when there’s risk of a power shortage.
- Nonprofit Open Climate Fix has teamed up with the UK’s National Grid and uses AI to provide a precise picture of how clouds develop.
- The goal being to reduce the reliance on fossil-powered reserves.