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[Newsbits] 08.09.2023

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Nation First Transit Card

The recent launch of the Nation First Transit Card during the Global Fintech Fest in Mumbai represents a significant leap in enhancing the commuting experience for millions of people across India. This card, a generic National Common Mobility Card (NCMC), powered by RuPay, is set to revolutionize how people make payments for various modes of transport and beyond.

Introduction to the Nation First Transit Card

  • Event: The launch of the Nation First Transit Card was a notable announcement made during the Global Fintech Fest held in Mumbai.

Defining the Nation First Transit Card

  • Definition: The Nation First Transit Card is a generic NCMC card, designed to simplify payment processes for commuters across India.
  • Additional Feature: It also functions as a RuPay prepaid instrument under the NCMC framework, adding versatility to its use.
  • Usability: This card is not limited to a specific city or region; it has nationwide applicability, making it a versatile choice for commuters.

The Purpose: Enhancing Commuting Experience and Digital Ticketing

Enhancing Customer Commuting Experience

  • Enhanced Convenience: The primary goal of the Nation First Transit Card is to enhance the commuting experience for customers by simplifying payment processes.
  • Seamless Travel: It aims to make travel across various modes of transport more seamless, convenient, and hassle-free.

Promoting Digital Ticketing Fare Payments

  • Digital Transformation: By promoting digital ticketing fare payments, this card aligns with India's broader digital transformation initiatives.
  • Contactless Payments: It encourages the adoption of contactless payment methods, which are not only convenient but also in line with modern safety and hygiene standards.

The Technology and Functionality of the Card

Powered by RuPay and NCMC

  • Technological Backbone: The Nation First Transit Card leverages the technological capabilities of RuPay and operates within the NCMC framework.

Versatile Functionality

  • Transit Payments: The card enables users to make payments for a range of transit services, including metro systems, buses, water ferries, and parking facilities.
  • Beyond Transit: In addition to transit payments, the card can be used for retail payments and e-commerce transactions, making it a versatile financial tool.

Acquisition and Availability

  • Issued by: The Nation First Transit Card is issued by the State Bank of India (SBI), one of India's largest and most trusted banks.
  • Availability: Initially, the card is available at SBI branches, ensuring accessibility for a wide range of customers.
  • Future Provision: There are plans to offer online application options, further expanding its availability and accessibility.

Nation First Transit Card in the Context of Existing SBI NCMC Cards

Existing SBI NCMC Cards

  • Variety of Names: SBI has previously issued NCMC cards with distinct names tailored to specific metro systems:
    • City1 Card (Noida Metro)
    • Nagpur Metro MAHA Card (Nagpur Metro)
    • MUMBAI1 Card (MMRDA Metro Lines 2A & 7)
    • GoSmart Card (Kanpur Metro)
    • Singara Chennai Card (Chennai Metro)
  • Interoperability: These cards demonstrate interoperability across various transport networks, providing commuters with flexibility.
  • Local Metro Co-Branding: They are co-branded with local metro systems, which is a limitation in terms of wider usability.
  • Issuance: Most of these cards are issued at metro ticket windows.

Upcoming SBI Initiatives

  • NCMC-Based Ticketing: SBI has plans to introduce NCMC-based ticketing for upcoming metro projects, including Mumbai's underground Metro Line 3 and the Agra Metro.

Other Providers

  • Paytm's NCMC-Based Paytm Transit Card: In addition to SBI, Paytm has also introduced its own NCMC-based Paytm Transit Card, further expanding the reach of this payment technology.

The launch of the Nation First Transit Card represents a pivotal moment in India's journey toward digitizing and modernizing its transit and payment systems. With nationwide usability and support from established financial institutions like SBI, this card has the potential to transform the way people travel and transact, setting the stage for a more convenient and efficient future.

Effective Bankruptcy of Birmingham

In a significant and alarming announcement, Birmingham, Britain's second-largest city, has found itself in a state of effective bankruptcy. The Birmingham City Council, the largest local authority in Europe, has taken critical actions to address the dire financial situation, including issuing a Section 114 notice that has far-reaching implications.

Announcement of Birmingham's Bankruptcy

The recent announcement that Birmingham is effectively bankrupt has sent shockwaves through the city and beyond. The Birmingham City Council, under the political leadership of the Opposition Labour Party, has taken urgent steps to address the crisis.

Birmingham City Council's Action: The Section 114 Notice

To address the dire financial situation, the Birmingham City Council has issued a Section 114 notice. This notice has profound implications for the city and its residents.

Implications of the Section 114 Notice

  • Halt on New Expenditures: The issuance of the Section 114 notice means that all new expenditures by the city are halted immediately.
  • Exceptions: While all new spending is curtailed, exceptions are made to protect vulnerable people and maintain statutory services.

Cause of Bankruptcy: The "Equal Pay Liability"

The root cause of Birmingham's financial woes lies in a massive financial obligation known as the "equal pay liability." This liability, estimated to range from GBP 650 million to GBP 760 million, has placed an enormous burden on the city's finances.

  • Equal Pay Liability Amount: The equal pay liability represents a staggering financial commitment that Birmingham City Council currently lacks the resources to meet effectively.

Resulting Measures: Maintaining Vital Services Amidst Crisis

In the wake of Birmingham's effective bankruptcy, the focus has shifted to maintaining vital services and addressing the annual budgetary shortfall, which runs into millions of pounds.

Tightening Measures

To address the crisis, the city has implemented stringent measures, including:

  • Strengthened Spend Controls: Birmingham is tightening its financial belt with strengthened controls over spending.
  • Control Transfer to Section 151 Officer: The transfer of control to a Section 151 Officer is aimed at ensuring a firm grip on spending and financial management.

Historical Perspective: The Equal Pay Claims

The equal pay claims that have led to Birmingham's financial crisis have a significant historical backdrop.

  • Payouts: Birmingham has paid out nearly GBP 1.1 billion as a result of equal pay claims over the years.
  • Landmark Case (2012): A landmark case in 2012 at the U.K. Supreme Court ruled in favor of 174 mostly female employees, including teaching assistants, cleaners, and catering staff. The issue revolved around missed bonuses when compared to traditionally male-dominated roles such as refuse collectors and street cleaners.

Significance of Birmingham's Bankruptcy

Birmingham's Status as Britain's Second-Largest City

Birmingham's effective bankruptcy is of national significance due to its status as Britain's second-largest city. The financial turmoil in such a prominent and populous city has far-reaching implications for the region and the country as a whole.

Birmingham City Council: Largest Local Authority in Europe

The Birmingham City Council's size, as the largest local authority in Europe with over 100 councillors, underscores the gravity of the situation. The actions taken by the council to address its financial crisis will likely serve as a benchmark for other local authorities grappling with similar challenges.

The effective bankruptcy of Birmingham serves as a stark reminder of the financial challenges faced by local governments, even in large and economically significant cities. The measures taken to navigate this crisis will shape the city's future and serve as a case study for managing fiscal challenges at the local level.

Torkham Crossing

The Torkham Crossing, a critical border point connecting Pakistan and Afghanistan, has once again found itself in the spotlight due to recent events involving Pakistani authorities. This pivotal crossing, situated along the historic Grand Trunk Road, plays a central role in trade, regional connectivity, and geopolitical dynamics in the region. In this article, we explore the significance of Torkham Crossing, its troubled history, and the recent actions that have once more brought it to international attention.

Recent Event: Closure of Torkham Crossing

The recent event involving Torkham Crossing revolves around Pakistani authorities' decision to close this key border crossing with Afghanistan. This abrupt closure was prompted by a fire exchange between border guards from both countries, raising concerns about the stability and security of the region.

Reason for Closure

The closure of Torkham Crossing was a direct result of a fire exchange between border guards from Pakistan and Afghanistan. This incident not only disrupted the flow of people and goods but also raised questions about the volatile nature of the border region.

Description of Torkham Crossing

Key Border Crossing

Torkham Crossing is a crucial border crossing that links Pakistan and Afghanistan. Its strategic location makes it a vital entry point for trade and connectivity between the two nations.

Countries Involved

Torkham Crossing serves as a border point between Pakistan and Afghanistan, making it a critical junction for interactions and exchanges between these neighboring countries.

Significance of Torkham Crossing

Role as the Busiest Port of Entry

Torkham Crossing holds the distinction of being the busiest port of entry between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Its significance lies in facilitating the movement of people and goods across the border, fostering economic activities, and promoting regional integration.

Commercial Importance

Beyond its role as a port of entry, Torkham Crossing serves as a vital commercial artery. It is a key trade route for Pakistan to access Central Asian countries, contributing to economic growth and regional trade dynamics.

Previous Incidents at Torkham Crossing

Torkham Crossing has experienced clashes and tensions in the past, with notable incidents occurring in February. During these clashes, the town near the crossing was closed for several days due to accusations and allegations exchanged between the two sides. These clashes resulted in significant financial losses, affecting traders and causing the ruin of perishable goods.

Location Details

Placement along the Grand Trunk Road

Torkham Crossing is strategically placed along the Grand Trunk Road, an ancient trade route known for its historical and commercial significance.

International Border

It is positioned on the international border, marking the boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Connectivity

Torkham Crossing connects Nangarhar province in Afghanistan to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan, enhancing regional connectivity and facilitating cross-border interactions.

Facts Surrounding Torkham Crossing

Groups Involved

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistani Taliban)

  • The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, has recently intensified its attacks on Pakistani security forces.
  • This group is distinct from the Afghan Taliban but is considered an ally of the Afghan Taliban in certain contexts.

Afghan Taliban

  • The Afghan Taliban made significant gains by overrunning Afghanistan in August 2021, coinciding with the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops after nearly 20 years of war.

Border Details

Afghanistan's Stance on the Border

  • Afghanistan has never officially recognized the porous border between the two countries, mainly because it runs through the Pashtun heartland, diluting the power of the largest ethnic group, which resides on both sides of the border.

Pakistan's Actions

  • Pakistan has undertaken efforts to fence the border, with approximately 97% of it fenced to prevent cross-border attacks and smuggling.
  • Pakistan has accused the Afghan Taliban of providing sanctuaries to Pakistani militants within Afghanistan, further complicating border dynamics.

Torkham Crossing remains a symbol of both connectivity and tension in the region. As a key trade route and international border crossing, its status and the events surrounding it continue to have far-reaching implications for the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as the broader geopolitical landscape in South Asia.

International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies

The International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, now in its 4th annual observance, is a global initiative that focuses on combating air pollution and preserving the quality of the air we breathe. The theme for the year 2023 is "Together for Clean Air." This annual event, designated by the United Nations (UN), serves as a reminder of the critical importance of addressing air pollution for the well-being of people and the planet.

Observation Details

  • 4th Annual International Observance: This marks the fourth edition of the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, highlighting the sustained effort to combat air pollution on a global scale.
  • Focus on Fighting Air Pollution: The central theme of this observance is the collective effort to fight air pollution and create a healthier, cleaner environment for all.

When It All Began: UN Involvement

The United Nations officially recognized the importance of clean air and its impact on human health and the environment on November 26, 2019. The UN's Second Committee of the 74th session passed a resolution designating September 7th as the "International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies." This designation reinforces the significance of clean air as a fundamental human right and a critical component of sustainable development.

Swachh Vayu Sarvekshan 2023: Assessing Air Quality in India

In alignment with the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, India conducted the Swachh Vayu Sarvekshan 2023, a comprehensive Clean Air Survey led by the Central Pollution Control Board. This survey assessed air quality across various cities in India, providing essential insights into the state of air pollution in the country.

Air Quality Rankings in India

Cleanest Air Cities

  • Indore
  • Amravati
  • Parwanoo

Worst Air Quality Cities

  • Madurai
  • Jammu
  • Kohima

Specific Rankings

Cities with a Population Over 1 Million

  1. Indore
  2. Agra
  3. Thane ...
  4. Jamshedpur
  5. Howah
  6. Madurai
  7. Bhopal
  8. Delhi

Cities with a Population Between 300,000 to 1 Million

  1. Amravati
  2. Moradabad
  3. Guntur ...
  4. Jalandhar
  5. Guwahati
  6. Jammu

Cities with a Population Less than 300,000

  1. Parwanoo, Himachal Pradesh
  2. Kala Amb
  3. Angul ...
  4. Kohima

MoEF&CC Initiatives: Tackling Air Pollution in India

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in India has launched several initiatives to combat air pollution, with a particular focus on improving air quality across cities and regions in the country.

National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

  • Overview: Launched in 2019, the NCAP is a national-level strategy aimed at reducing air pollution levels in India. It encompasses city and regional scales and focuses on the implementation of city-specific action plans.
  • Cities Identified: The NCAP identifies 131 cities in India for targeted air quality improvement measures.
  • Objective: The primary objective of NCAP is to reduce air pollution and improve air quality across these cities.

PRANA Portal

  • Role: The PRANA portal plays a vital role in monitoring the implementation of the NCAP, tracking progress, and ensuring that cities meet their air quality improvement goals.
  • Additional Functions: The portal serves as a platform for sharing best practices adopted by cities in their efforts to combat air pollution. The objective is for other cities to adopt these successful practices and contribute to cleaner air.

The International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, along with initiatives like the Swachh Vayu Sarvekshan and the NCAP, underscores the global commitment to addressing air pollution and its far-reaching effects on human health, the environment, and sustainable development. By working together, nations can make significant strides in ensuring clean and breathable air for all.

WMO Bulletin on Link between Heatwaves and Pollution

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released a significant bulletin highlighting the intricate relationship between heatwaves and air pollution. This report, titled the "2023 WMO Air Quality and Climate Bulletin," represents the third installment in an annual series that delves into the impacts of climate change on our environment. Released on the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, which falls on September 7, 2023, this bulletin provides vital insights into the challenges posed by rising temperatures and deteriorating air quality.

Release Details

  • Released by WMO: The bulletin is officially issued by the World Meteorological Organization.
  • Connection: It sheds light on the correlation between heatwaves and air quality, demonstrating how climate change exacerbates air pollution.
  • Release Date: The bulletin was unveiled on September 7, 2023, aligning with the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies.

Climate Change Impacts: Amplifying Heatwaves and Air Pollution

The report underscores the profound consequences of climate change, which has led to a surge in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves. These heatwaves, in turn, have far-reaching effects on various aspects of our environment:

Increases in Heatwaves

  • The report highlights a noticeable increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves, making them more prevalent and severe.

Resultant Effects

  • This intensification of heatwaves has resulted in a higher risk and severity of wildfires, particularly in regions like the United States and Europe.
  • The heatwaves have also led to a spike in air pollutants, including the inclusion of ozone, which further deteriorates air quality.

Heatwave Impacts in 2022: A Glimpse Into the Consequences

The bulletin provides a detailed analysis of the impacts of heatwaves in the year 2022, offering critical insights into the affected regions, triggering events, causes, and resultant air quality conditions.

Affected Regions

  • The regions primarily affected by heatwaves in 2022 include the United States and Europe.

Triggered Events

  • These heatwaves triggered a series of devastating wildfires, adding to the environmental challenges.

Causes

  • Desert dust played a significant role in exacerbating the heatwaves, compounding the issues of air quality.

Resultant Air Quality: Dangerous Levels

  • The heatwaves of 2022 led to dangerous levels of air pollution, posing a threat to human health, ecosystems, and crops.

Release Date of Information

  • The information regarding these heatwave impacts was made available on September 6, 2023, emphasizing its timeliness and relevance.

The Nexus Between Heatwaves and Wildfires

The bulletin explores the intricate relationship between heatwaves and wildfires, shedding light on the composition of wildfire smoke, the effects of the chemicals released, and the resultant emissions.

Smoke Composition from Wildfires

  • Wildfire smoke is characterized by a complex chemical mixture often referred to as a "witch's brew."

Effects of the Chemicals

  • These chemicals have detrimental effects on air quality, human health, and cause damage to plants, ecosystems, and crops.
  • Furthermore, the emissions from wildfires contribute to an increase in carbon and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change.

Statement by Lorenzo Labrador

  • Lorenzo Labrador, a WMO scientific officer within the Global Atmosphere Watch network, highlights the significance of understanding the chemical components of wildfire smoke.

Reactive Gases and Their Products

  • Key reactive gases identified include nitrogen oxides and biogenic volatile organic compounds, which have far-reaching effects, including the production of ozone and particulate matter (PM).

European Summer 2022: Record-Breaking Heatwave

The bulletin details the unprecedented heatwave experienced during the European summer of 2022, emphasizing its record-breaking nature and consequences.

Status: Hottest on Record for Continent

  • The European summer of 2022 was confirmed as the hottest on record for the continent.

Consequences

  • The heatwave persisted for an extended period, leading to increased concentrations of particulate matter and ground-level ozone.

Observations

  • Data from air quality monitoring sites revealed that ozone levels exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline of 100 μg m–3 for an 8-hour exposure.
  • This phenomenon initially appeared in southwest Europe and progressively affected central and northeast Europe.

August 2022 Events

  • The heatwave coincided with an unusually high intrusion of desert dust into the region, further complicating matters.
  • The impact of desert dust, combined with the heatwave, had significant effects on human health and well-being.

Global Impacts: Ozone Levels and Agriculture

The bulletin takes a global perspective, discussing how rising ozone levels due to heatwaves affect agriculture and crop yields.

Ozone Levels Increase

  • Rising temperatures are leading to an increase in ozone levels, which, in turn, has consequences for agriculture.

Effects on Agriculture

  • The increase in ozone levels results in crop losses, with staples experiencing losses between 4.4% and 12.4%.
  • Specific crops like wheat and soybean are particularly affected, with losses ranging from 15% to 30%.

Most Affected Regions

  • India and China are among the regions most impacted by these ozone-related agricultural losses.

Statement by WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas

  • WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas emphasizes the adverse effects of heatwaves on air quality, human health, ecosystems, agriculture, and daily life.
  • He underscores the inseparable link between climate change and air quality and advocates for a comprehensive approach to address both issues simultaneously.

Responsible Organization: WMO

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is at the forefront of this crucial research, bringing together insights from experts and meteorologists to shed light on the intricate relationship between heatwaves and air pollution. As the world grapples with the complex challenges posed by climate change, the WMO's work in unraveling these connections is instrumental in developing strategies to protect the environment and human well-being.

Ecocide

Ecocide, a term that has gained increasing attention in recent news, refers to the severe environmental damage caused by human activities. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the concept of ecocide, its significance on a global scale, and its limitations as a legal framework. From the Maya train project's environmental impact to the international perspective on ecocide laws, we will explore various aspects of this critical issue.

Introduction

Recent news has highlighted the urgent need to address ecocide, a term that encompasses the destructive impact of human actions on our environment. This article aims to shed light on what ecocide means, its significance, and the challenges it faces as a legal concept.

The Maya Train Project: A Pharaonic Endeavor

Reputation and Ambition

The Maya Train Project, spanning a staggering 1,525 kilometers, has earned a reputation as a pharaonic undertaking in terms of its scope and ambition. This project aims to connect Caribbean tourists to Maya archaeological sites but comes with a hefty price tag of $20 billion.

The Megaproject of Death

This grand endeavor is not without controversy, as it poses a significant threat to the Yucatán Peninsula, putting its wilderness, cave systems, and indigenous communities at risk. The Maya Train Project serves as a stark example of the environmental challenges that ecocide legislation seeks to address.

Tribunal for Rights of Nature: A Verdict on Ecocide

The Tribunal for Rights of Nature recently delivered a verdict, declaring "crimes of ecocide and ethnocide." This ruling underscores the pressing need to recognize and combat actions that harm both the environment and indigenous communities.

What is Ecocide?

Defining the Term

The term "ecocide" has its roots in Greek and Latin, meaning 'killing one's home' or 'environment.' However, there is no legal consensus on its precise definition.

The Stop Ecocide Foundation's Articulation

According to the Stop Ecocide Foundation, ecocide could potentially be classified as crimes against humanity. Their proposed definition characterizes ecocide as "unlawful or wanton acts... causing environmental damage."

The Significance of Ecocide Legislation

Mexico's Stance

Mexico has taken a proactive approach by considering ecocide legislation. The proposed bill aims to criminalize environmental damage, signaling Mexico's commitment to protecting its natural heritage.

International Perspective

Globally, ecocide is gaining recognition as a crime. Currently, 11 countries have classified it as such, with an additional 27 nations contemplating similar laws. These laws focus on willful environmental damage that affects not only humans but also animals and plants.

How Does Ecocide Manifest?

Examples of Ecocide

Ecocide takes various forms, including port expansions, deforestation, illegal sand mining, and river pollution. These examples highlight the diverse ways in which human activities can harm the environment.

Prominent Figures in the Ecocide Movement

Biologist Arthur Galston

Biologist Arthur Galston drew attention to the environmental destruction caused by the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. His work established a connection between environmental destruction and genocide.

Swedish PM Olof Palme

Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme issued warnings about the risks of industrialization and environmental degradation in a notable UN speech.

British Lawyer Polly Higgins

British lawyer Polly Higgins dedicated herself to urging the International Criminal Court (ICC) to recognize ecocide as an international crime, emphasizing the importance of holding individuals and organizations accountable.

Rome Statute of the ICC

The Rome Statute of the ICC currently addresses crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. The inclusion of environmental damage as a prosecutable offense could have far-reaching implications.

Facts and Figures

European Parliament's Action

The European Parliament has taken action by voting to enshrine ecocide in law. National definitions emphasize mass destruction, atmosphere poisoning, water resource poisoning, and ecological disaster potential.

Investigations and Accountability

Investigations into ecocide have started to focus on cases like Russia's role in the Nova Kakhovka dam collapse. Ecocide laws aim to deter environmental damage, shift social norms, and increase accountability and liability, with examples like the deforestation of the Amazon and the Bhopal Gas tragedy.

Financial Implications and Environmental Justice

The potential financial implications of ecocide legislation include investment risks and a renewed focus on environmental justice, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Symbolic Significance

Beyond its practical impact, ecocide legislation represents a shift in how society values nature. Some argue for the legal personhood of nature, emphasizing the interconnectedness of human and environmental well-being.

Limitations of Ecocide Laws

Arguments Against Ecocide Laws

Critics argue that ecocide needs a separate legal framework due to its ambiguous definition, including terms like "long-term" or "widespread damage," which can be challenging to prove. Additionally, some see it as reinforcing a human-centric development narrative.

High Threshold for Proof

Comparisons to genocide law reveal that proving ecocide can be exceptionally challenging. The International Criminal Court's constraints, limited to "natural persons," and jurisdiction challenges in transnational environmental crimes further complicate matters.

India's Stance on Ecocide

Judicial Mention of 'Ecocide'

Indian courts, such as the Madras High Court and Supreme Court, have mentioned 'ecocide' in their judgments, indicating growing awareness of the concept.

Environmental Legal Framework

India possesses a robust environmental legal framework, including the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016.

National Green Tribunal's Jurisdiction

However, the National Green Tribunal's jurisdiction has limits, and conflicting laws like the Forest Conservation (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the Biodiversity (Amendment) Bill, 2023, present challenges.

Challenges in Implementation

India faces challenges in terms of liability, compensation, and addressing past environmental disasters like the Bhopal gas tragedy and potential misuse of the CAMPA fund.

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