Current Affair – May 20,2021

Nord Stream 2

  • The U.S. government has taken decision to waive sanctions on the com­pany behind Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Europe.
  • Russia’s state energy com­pany Gazprom and its west­ern partners are racing to finish the line to take Rus­sian gas to Europe via Ger­many, under the Baltic Sea.

What is Nord Stream 2 project?

  • Nord Stream 2 is an underwater twin pipeline that would transport natural gas from Russia directly to Germany.
  • The original Nord Stream pipeline, with an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic metres (bcm), was finished in late 2012. The pipeline system’s total capacity is set to double to 110 bcm following Nord Stream 2’s completion.
  • Nord Stream 2 would follow the route of the existing Nord Stream twin pipeline underneath the Baltic Sea.


  • The gas that the pipeline is to carry lies in northern Russia’s Yamal Peninsula, which holds nearly 5 trillion cubic metres of gas reserves.
  • Once extracted, the gas is to be transported to coastal Russia. There, it is to pass through a compressor station – a facility that raises the pressure of the fuel – and then be fed into the pipeline.
  • After entering into the Gulf of Finland, the pipeline is to re-emerge on land in north-eastern Germany, near Greifswald.
  • The pipeline crosses into the exclusive economic zones of five countries: Russia, Germany, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden.
  • Russia, Germany, Finland, Denmark and Sweden have granted all the permits necessary for construction of the planned pipeline within their jurisdictions. Construction of Nord Stream 2 in Germany began in 2016.
  • The project is about 95% complete. It would bypass Uk­raine, depriving it of lucra­tive transit fees and potentially undermining its struggle against Russian aggression.

Significance of project for Germany

  • As the world’s biggest natural gas importer, Germany currently sources nearly all (94% in 2018 ) of the natural gas it consumes from abroad.
  • Domestic natural gas production has been falling since 2004 and will likely cease altogether in the next decade, and further exploitation of Germany’s natural gas supplies via hydraulic fracturing remains unlikely.
  • In 2015, 35% of German gas imports came from Russia.
  • Proponents of the pipeline say that decreasing gas production within the European Union means that more of the fossil fuel will need to be imported in the coming years, much of it from Russia. This would increase Germany’s importance as a transit country to supplying the rest of the continent.
Source: The Hindu

Taiwan Strait

  • China prot­ested the latest passage by a U.S. Navy ship through the Taiwan Strait, calling it a provocation that under­ mined peace and stability in the region.
  • The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said that the guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit in accordance with interna­tional law. The passage “de­monstrates the U.S. commit­ment to a free and open Indo­-Pacific.”

About TS

  • It connects South China sea and East China Sea. It also separates Taiwan from the China’s mainland.
  • While the strait is in inter­national waters, China claims self-­governing Tai­wan as its own territory and regards the U.S. Navy’s pre­sence in the area as a show of support for the island’s democratic government.
Source: The Hindu

Agriculture Subsidies

  • The Central government has enhanced the subsidy on di­ammonium phosphate or DAP fertilizers. This is to retain the selling price for farmers at the current level of ₹1,200 per bag. 
  • Raising the subsidy from ₹500 per bag to ₹1,200 per bag of DAP, will raise India’s annual fertilizer subsidy bill of about ₹80,000 crore by ₹14,775 crore as subsidy in the Kharif season. 
  • While interna­tional prices of phosphoric acid and ammonia used for producing DAP have gone up by 60-70%, the actual price of a DAP bag is now 2,400.
In April, India’s largest fertilizer producer, IFFCO, had announced a 58.33% hike in DAP prices, but later said farmers would continue to get old stocks at existing prices and the hiked prices were “only tentative

Types of Subsidies by government

  • The introduction of the High Yielding Varieties (HYV) seeds programme in the 1960s demanded a high priority to supplying irrigation water and fertilisers to the farmers.  The government tried to ensure that they were accessible and affordable.
  • Subsidy on fertilisers is provided by the Central government whereas subsidy on water is provided by the State governments. Government gives different types of subsidies to farmers like, fertilizer, irrigation, equipment, credit subsidy, seed subsidy, export subsidy etc.

Fertilizer Subsidy

Disbursement of cheap chemical or non-chemical fertilisers among the farmers.

  • It amounts to the difference between price paid to manufacturer of fertilizer (domestic or foreign) and price, received from farmers, rest of the burden is bear by the government.
  • In some cases this kind of subsidies are granted through lifting the tariff on the import of fertilisers, which otherwise would have been imposed.
Fertiliser subsidy ensures: Cheap inputs to farmers Reasonable returns to manufacturerStability in fertilizer pricesAvailability of fertilisers to farmers in adequate quantity at the requirement.  

Power Subsidy

Government charges low rates for the electricity supplied to the farmers.

  • It is the difference between the cost of generating and distributing electricity to farmers and price received from farmers.
  • The State Electricity Boards (SEBs) either generate the power themselves or purchase it from other producers such as NTPC and NHPC. Power subsidy “acts as an incentive to farmers to invest in pumping sets, bore-wells, tube wells etc.

Irrigations subsidy

Government provides irrigation facilities at the cheaper rates as compare to the markets rates.

It is the difference between operating and maintenance cost of irrigation infrastructure in the state and irrigation charges recovered from farmers. It includes provisions of public goods such as canals, dams, tube wells etc. which the government constructs and charges low prices or no prices at all for their use from the farmers. It may also be through cheap private irrigation equipment such as pumping sets.

Seed Subsidy

High yielding seeds can be provided by the government at low prices, and at the future payment options. The research and development activities are also undertaken by the government, the expenditure on these is a sort of subsidy granted to the farmers.

  When a farmer or exporter sells agricultural products in foreign market, he earns money for himself, as well as foreign exchange for the country. Therefore, agricultural exports are generally encouraged as long as these do not harm the domestic economy.

Export Subsidy

This subsidy is given to the farmers to face the international competition. Subsides provided to encourage exports are referred as export subsidies.

Credit Subsidy

It is the difference between interest charged from farmers, and actual cost of providing credit, plus other costs such as write-offs bad loans.

Agriculture Infrastructure subsidy

Good roads, storage facilities, power, information about the market, transportation to the ports, etc. are vital for production and sale operations. Government takes the responsibility of providing these facilities.

Source: The Hindu

UNESCO World Heritage sites

  • Six Indian sites, including the temples have been added to the tentative list of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.
  • The submissions were made by Archaeological Survey of India, which is responsible for the conservation and preservation of Indian monuments.
  • The six sites are namely Satpura Tiger Reserve, Ganga Ghats of Varanasi, Megalithic site of Hire Benkal, Maratha Military Architecture in Maharashtra, Bhedaghat-Lametaghat in Narmada Valley- Jabalpur, and temples of Kanchipuram.
  • With the addition of these six sites, UNESCO has 48 proposals in the tentative list of India. “As per Operational Guidelines, 2019, it is mandatory to put any monument/site on the Tentative List (TL) before it is considered for the final nomination dossier. India has 48 sites in the TL as of now. As per rules, any country can submit the nomination dossier after one year of it being on the TL.  

Satpura National Park

  • Located in Madhya Pradesh, the Satpura National Park is home to 26 species of the Himalayan region including reptiles, and 42 species of Nilgiri areas.
  •  It is the largest tiger-occupied forest and also has the largest tiger population. The website also states the place has more than 50 rock shelters with paintings that are 1500 to 10,000 years old.
  • One of the criteria on which the national park made it to the tentative list includes “its beautiful silence where one can even hear the snoring of the beers and roaring of the tigers clearly with such stunning exceptional visual delights”.

Ghats of Varanasi

  • Varanasi’s riverfront mainly falls into the second category of cultural properties, i.e: groups of buildings, groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science.”
  • The Ganga River with its riverfront Ghats also fulfil the criteria of Cultural Landscapes.

Megalithic site of Hire Benkal

  • The 2,800-years-old megalithic site of Hire Benkal is in Karnataka.
  • It is one of the largest prehistoric megalithic settlements where some funerary monuments are still intact.
  • According to scholars, the granite structures are burial monuments that may also have served many ritual purposes. Due to the extremely valuable collection of Neolithic monuments, the site was proposed for recognition.

Maratha Military Architecture in Maharashtra

There are 12 forts in Maharashtra dating back to the era of the 17th-century Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji. They are namely Shivneri (the birthplace of Shivaji); Raigad (the capital fort rebuilt for the coronation of the Maratha king), Torna (the first fort of the Maratha empire), Rajgad, Salher-Mulher, Panhala, Pratapgad, Lohagad, Sindhudurg, Padmadurga (Kasa), Vijaydurg and Kolaba.

Bhedaghat-Lametaghat in Narmada Valley- Jabalpur

  • Another iconic site from Madhya Pradesh, Bhedaghat, often referred to as the Grand Canyon of India, is a town in the Jabalpur district, around 25 kms from Jabalpur.
  • It is known for its marble rocks and their various morphological forms on either side of the Narmada rive. Marble mountains assume different colours and even shapes of animals and other living forms as one moves through them.
  • Several dinosaur fossils have been found in the Narmada valley, particularly in Bhedaghat-Lametghat area of Jabalpur. In 1828, the first Dinosaur fossil was collected from Lameta Bed by William Sleeman. River Narmada narrows down on its way through marble rocks and plunges in a waterfall giving out the appearance of a smoke cascade, the website mentions.

Temples of Kanchipuram

  • The temple town of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, is dotted with ancient temples that are architectural marvels and a visual treat.
  • Kanchipuram is situated on the banks of River Vegavathi.
  • The city once had 1,000 temples, of which only 126 (108 Shaiva and 18 Vaishnava) now remain. Its rich legacy has been the endowment of the Pallava dynasty, which made the region its capital between the 6th and 7th centuries and lavished upon its architectural gems that are a fine example of Dravidian styles.
Source: India

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