[Newsbits] 20-24.06.2024: Pushpak, World Craft City & More

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/ Aviation

India has become the third-largest domestic aviation market globally, moving up from fifth place a decade ago. This growth, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, is marked by a 6.9% annual increase in airline seat capacity, the highest worldwide. Key drivers include the dominance of low-cost carriers (LCCs) like IndiGo, which holds 62% of the market and has a 13.9% annual growth rate. The number of operational airports has more than doubled from 74 to 157 in the past decade. Comparatively, the US and China lead with 84 million and 65 million seats, respectively, while India has 15 million seats.

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/ Nuclear Energy

India’s nuclear power program has advanced with the core-loading of the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at the Madras Atomic Power Station in Kalpakkam. This marks a significant step in the second stage of India’s nuclear initiative, focusing on plutonium fission. Initially, uranium isotopes in heavy-water reactors produced plutonium-239 (Pu-239) and electricity. Pu-239 can absorb neutrons to form Pu-240 or Pu-241, crucial for energy production and safety. Pu-240’s spontaneous fission and alpha radiation complicate nuclear technology. Recent studies on Pu-240’s prompt fission neutron spectrum (PFNS) have improved nuclear models and data libraries, aiding reactor design and safety.

/ Species

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/ Awards & Honors, Crafts

Srinagar, the largest city in Jammu and Kashmir, has been designated as a ‘World Craft City’ by the World Crafts Council. This honor, shared by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, highlights the city’s skilled artisans and rich cultural heritage. The award aims to protect and promote Srinagar’s unique crafts, boosting local businesses and inspiring youth to preserve traditional skills. The World Crafts Council, founded in 1964 by Aileen Osborn Webb, promotes global craftsmanship and is affiliated with UNESCO. With its headquarters in Belgium, the Council has recognized over 40 cities worldwide, fostering cultural and economic growth.

/ Energy, Indices/Reports

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/ Space

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully conducted the third Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Landing Experiment (LEX) on June 23 at the Aeronautical Test Range in Chitradurga, Karnataka. The experiment involved a winged vehicle named “Pushpak,” which was dropped from a Chinook helicopter at a height of 4.5 km. The vehicle autonomously navigated and landed precisely on the runway, demonstrating advanced guidance, navigation, and control systems. The test showcased high-speed landing capabilities, advanced sensor integration, and vehicle recovery and reusability. This success marks a significant step towards developing reusable launch vehicle technology, enabling more frequent and cost-effective space missions.

/ Biotechnology

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/ Species

The Iberian Lynx, once on the brink of extinction, has seen its conservation status upgraded from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable” by the IUCN on June 20. Native to Spain and Portugal, the population has grown from 62 adults in 2001 to over 2,000 individuals in 2024. Conservation efforts, including reintroductions and habitat restoration, have expanded their range from 449 km² in 2005 to 3,320 km². Despite this success, threats such as rabbit population fluctuations, diseases, poaching, and climate change persist. Future plans include further reintroductions and continued conservation measures to achieve “Fully Recovered” status within 100 years.

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/ Species

The world’s oldest termite mounds, known as heuweltjies, were discovered in Namaqualand, South Africa. These mounds, inhabited by the southern harvester termite (Microhodotermes Viator), date back between 13,000 and 34,000 years and cover about 20% of the land. Recent studies in 2021 focused on the chemical changes in the area’s salty groundwater, revealing significant nutrient accumulation over time. These mounds play a crucial role in carbon cycling by sequestering carbon and storing organic matter, thus aiding in climate change mitigation. They also enhance local biodiversity and soil quality, demonstrating termites’ ability as ecosystem engineers.

/ Biotechnology

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/ Indices/Reports, Women

India ranks 129th out of 146 countries in the 2024 Global Gender Gap Index, maintaining its position in the bottom 20. The index, launched in 2006, measures gender equality in economic participation, educational attainment, health, and political empowerment. India’s scores are low in economic participation (39.8%, 142nd) and health (0.951, 142nd), moderate in education (96.4%, 112th), and relatively better in political empowerment (25.1%, 65th). Regionally, India ranks fifth in South Asia, with Bangladesh leading at 99th globally. Gender discrimination costs the global economy $12 trillion annually, highlighting the importance of gender equality in economic policies.

/ Diseases

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The Indian Post Office Act of 1898 was repealed on June 18, 2024, and replaced by the Post Office Act, 2023. The new Act introduces several key provisions, including expanded interception powers under Section 9 for state security and public order, and exemption from liability for losses, misdelivery, or damage under Section 10. It also officially regulates private courier services, ending the state’s monopoly on mail delivery. The Act removes outdated penalties and exclusivities, such as the government’s exclusive right to deliver letters and certain crimes related to dishonesty and fraud by Post Office employees. While the new Act aims to modernize postal services, it raises concerns about privacy rights and the balance of power.

/ Korea, Russia

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The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has been awarded the 2024 Blue Planet Prize by Japan’s Asahi Glass Foundation. This prestigious award, which includes a $500,000 prize, recognizes IPBES’s significant contributions to solving global environmental problems through scientific research and practical applications. Established in 2012, IPBES aims to bridge the gap between science and policy, focusing on biodiversity and ecosystem services. It provides essential assessments and tools that inform international policies like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The award ceremony will be held on October 23, 2024, in Tokyo, Japan, with additional events in Tokyo and Kyoto.

/ Road

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/ Space

Saturn’s energy imbalance, discovered by scientists at the University of Houston, reveals significant seasonal variations in the planet’s energy budget. Using data from the Cassini probe, researchers found that Saturn’s large orbital eccentricity causes substantial changes in the amount of solar energy it receives, influenced by both solar radiation and internal heat. This imbalance is crucial for understanding the evolution and climate of gas giants, suggesting similar phenomena might exist on other planets like Uranus. The Cassini mission, operational from 1997 to 2017, played a pivotal role in this discovery, enhancing our knowledge of Saturn’s atmospheric dynamics.

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/ Aviation, Women

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued a circular to enhance gender equality in Indian civil aviation, aiming for 25% female representation by 2025. The initiative focuses on increasing women’s presence in aviation roles through leadership and mentoring programs, addressing gender biases, and promoting work-life balance. The DGCA recommends zero tolerance for sexual harassment, setting diversity goals, and highlighting female role models. This aligns with the Indian Constitution and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, ensuring equal opportunities for all genders in the aviation sector.

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