India in the past was home to Asiatic cheetahs, but the species was declared extinct domestically by 1952. The big cats are being brought to India from Namibia as part of an intercontinental translocation project called Project Cheetah. This will be the world's first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project, the Prime Minister's Office has said.
"Cheetahs will help in the restoration of open forest and grassland ecosystems in India. This will help conserve biodiversity and enhance the ecosystem services like water security, carbon sequestration and soil moisture conservation, benefiting the society at large," a media release from the PM's office said.
Eight cheetahs from Namibia - flying in a special cargo plane - have landed at the Gwalior airport in Madhya Pradesh. The speedy big cats will now be flown in a helicopter to the Kuno National Park, where they will be released.
According to the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), an international not-for-profit organisation headquartered in Namibia and dedicated to saving the fastest land animal, the five female cheetahs bound for India are aged between two and five years, while the three males are aged between 4.5 years and 5.5 years.
A committee set up by the Centre for the global expansion of IITs has, in consultation with Indian missions abroad, identified UK, UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Malaysia and Thailand as prospective locations for offshore campuses under the “Indian International Institute of Technology” brand name, The Sunday Express has learned.
These seven countries ranked high on several key parameters, according to a report submitted to the Ministry of Education by the 17-member committee, led by IIT Council standing committee chairperson Dr K Radhakrishnan. The parameters include the level of interest and commitment, academic lineage, conducive ecosystem to attract quality faculty and students, regulatory provisions and potential benefits to enhance India’s “branding and relation”.
The report is based on feedback from heads of 26 Indian missions, with the Economic Diplomacy section of the Ministry of External Affairs arranging two virtual sessions between the committee and embassy officials on February 2 and March 28.
According to inputs shared by the Indian High Commission in the UK, the mission has obtained “six concrete proposals of cooperation from the University of Birmingham, King’s College London, University of Exeter, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and University College London”.
“Our mission has made multiple requests for a meeting between the universities and the IIT committee. It has further requested for a detailed concept note and nodal contact point for taking forward this proposal,” stated the report, which was reviewed by The Indian Express.
The report also states that IIT-Delhi is the preferred choice for UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Malaysia. According to the report, Egypt is keen to launch an arrangement, online if not physical, from 2022-23. However, the committee has advised against haste, saying that preferably only residential campuses be opened after due deliberations.
“A certain minimum commitment of area for the campus is required from the local government while establishing the new institutes. The institutes are being established not for commerce, but rather for building the image of the country abroad. Therefore, these institutes should cater to the local student population (which could be the Indian diaspora). The percentage of Indian students in these institutes should be less than 20%,” the report said.
The proposal for IITs to expand abroad is not new. For instance, IIT Delhi is already in talks with the Department of Education and Knowledge in UAE’s Abu Dhabi, while IIT Madras is exploring options in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Tanzania. So far, the discussions were largely about individual IITs. The committee has, for the first time, proposed a model under which a chain of institutions would be set up under the Indian International Institute of Technology brand name with domestic IITs as mentors.
The members of the committee included the directors of IIT Delhi, Madras, Kharagpur; ISM Dhanbad, Guwahati, Kanpur; Indian Institute of Science; NIT Surathkal; and the vice-chancellors of JNU, Delhi University, the University of Hyderabad and Banaras Hindu University; and, Dean (International Relations) IIT Bombay.
“The new institutes could be called ‘Indian International Institute of Technology at (country name)’. The suggested name is sufficiently close to IIT with international added to clarify that the institute is located outside India. The difference in the name (with sufficient similarity) will allow the newly established institutes to evolve their own identity and ethos, while drawing upon the strength of the existing IITs,” the report stated.
However, for the project to succeed and not become a burden on the mentor institutes, “substantial investment by the government of the host country or of the Indian government” will be required, the report stated. “In fact, the sponsoring institution in India should expect a reasonable amount of royalty (say 10 percent to 15 percent of the overall expenditure of the offshore campus) out of such a campus,” the committee said in the report.
Also, the offshore campus will need to follow the laws and regulations of the host country, indicating that there will be no reservations for students or employees unless provided by the local laws. “The Act of Parliament through which these institutes are created should give them more freedom than the current IITs,” the committee said in the report.
In the committee’s report, Bhutan, Nepal, Bahrain, Japan, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea and Uzbekistan have been ranked a notch below the seven countries that have been identified. Indian authorities should work out arrangements in these countries also, the committee said.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has activated an inter-ministerial crisis team, saying on Friday that her country was experiencing the worst drought ever recorded.
"The current exceptional drought is depriving many communities of water and is a tragedy for our farmers, our ecosystems and biodiversity," Borne wrote in a statement.
The lack of rain is being aggravated by successive heat waves, Borne continued, which on the one hand increase evaporation, but also the demand for water, dpa news agency reported.
The situation could continue over the next two weeks and even become more worrying, she added.
In France, large parts of the mainland are now suffering from drought.
Depending on the severity, different restrictions on water apply, including on irrigation.
According to local media, some municipalities were temporarily without water supply.
Borne called on the population to use water sparingly.
The department of Sanskrit in Allahabad University (AU) is introducing a new course in Hindu astrology and rituals with the aim of conserving the rich legacy of the religion.
The AU spokesperson said that a centre for Vedic studies will soon be established at the department of Sanskrit.
The three new courses based on Vedic studies will include religious practices and rituals and astrology and these would be launched from the next academic session 2023-24.
Admission will begin for two PG diplomas and one PG course. The department has prepared a detailed proposal for the same.
Prof Ram Sevak Dubey, head of the department of Sanskrit, said on Wednesday, "Under the Centre for Vedic studies, diplomas in ritual will be awarded. It will be a one-year duration course, and for getting admission, a graduation degree in any discipline is mandatory. At the same time, a diploma in Astrology will also be a one-year course at the department which can be done after the UG course."
The department proposes to start a post-graduate course in intellectual studies. This will be a two-year master's degree programme. Students having Sanskrit as one of their subjects in graduation will be able to take admission to this course.
Prof Dubey further said that the proposal for conducting all three courses will be sent to the vice-chancellor and would be tabled at the meeting of the Academic Council (AC).
After the final approval of the Executive Council (EC), the course would be launched. Admissions will be taken in the academic session 2023-24.
The head of the department said that after studying astrology and rituals from AU, new doors of employment would open for the students. At the same time, courses such as these would help conserve the gradually vanishing Vedic practices and rituals, including astrology.
The global population is projected to reach 8 billion on November 15, with India projected to surpass China as the most populous country in 2023, the UN said on Monday on the World Population Day.
"It is a reminder of our shared responsibility to care for our planet and a moment to reflect on where we still fall short of our commitments to one another," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The growth rate is at its slowest since 1950, having fallen under 1 per cent in 2020, according to the World Population Prospects 2022.
The world's population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050 and peak at around 10.4 billion during the 2080s, and countries in sub-Saharan Africa are expected to contribute more than half of the increase through 2050, said the report.
More than half of the projected increase up to 2050 will be concentrated in eight countries: Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Tanzania, it added.
"Rapid population growth makes eradicating poverty, combatting hunger and malnutrition, and increasing the coverage of health and education systems more difficult. Conversely, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially those related to health, education and gender equality, will contribute to reducing fertility levels and slowing global population growth," said Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
Fertility has fallen markedly in recent decades for many countries, the report said, noting that two-thirds of the global population today lives in a country or area where lifetime fertility is below 2.1 births per woman, roughly the level required for zero growth in the long run for a population with low mortality, Xinhua news agency reported.
Due to sustained low levels of fertility and, in some cases, elevated rates of emigration, the population of 61 countries or areas are projected to decrease by 1 per cent or more between 2022 and 2050, it said.
The share of the global population at 65 and above is projected to rise from 10 per cent in 2022 to 16 per cent in 2050, it said.
"Countries with aging populations should take steps to adapt public programmes to the growing proportions of older persons, including by improving the sustainability of social security and pension system and by establishing universal health care and long-term care systems," the report noted.
The average global longevity is projected to be around 77.2 years in 2050 with further reductions in mortality, as 2019 saw a global life expectancy at birth of 72.8 years, an improvement of nearly nine years since 1990.
However, in 2021, global life expectancy at birth fell to 71 years, mostly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the life expectancy in the least developed countries lagged seven years behind the global average.
Since 1990, World Population Day has been observed on July 11 to raise awareness of issues related to population growth around the world.
Encouraged by the ITC's large-scale afforestation initiative, Classmate, the company's leading stationery brand, has taken up a local tree plantation initiative in Chennai along with students on the occasion of World Environment Day.
Over the past two decades, ITC Limited has been supporting a sustainable and inclusive forestry value chain for its Paperboards and Specialty Paper Business, contributing to carbon sequestration by creating a large green cover, whilst supporting large-scale livelihoods for tribals and marginal farmers.
The business has adopted an indigenous fibre-sourcing strategy by supporting the growth of renewable plantations, thus contributing to import substitution. ITC's large-scale afforestation programme has greened over 9,50,000 acres of land and provided over 170-million-person days of sustainable livelihood to farmers to date in India.
The efforts made by ITC to promote responsible sourcing and sustainable plantations have led to the Forest Stewardship Council certification as well as membership of WWF-Global Forest and Trade Network.
ITC Classmate's small but significant afforestation drive involving school students aims to complement the efforts of volunteers combating climate change at a local level. It has partnered with the Environmentalist Foundation of India, who have been invited by the Chengalpet district administration to create a forest patch at Vengadamangalam which is a fast-growing residential suburban pocket of Chennai and is witnessing contamination of land, water, and air with a profound shift in land use, growth, and ecology at large.
It is developing this project as an urban forest as part of a collaboration between the government, industry, students, and civic society. The objective of this afforestation project is also to motivate school students fully understand the importance of environmental positive actions and develop eco-consciousness.
To ensure that, ITC Classmate has planned a dedicated orientation program in 24 schools in the city from June 10 to July 31. The program aims to enhance their understanding of nuances of resource utilization, biodiversity preservation, and sustainability.
After attending the orientation program, students are expected to volunteer at the afforestation site in Vengadamangalam and get involved in post-plant maintenance like plant watering, manuring, nourishment, etc.
Speaking about the initiative, Vikas Gupta, Chief Executive, Education and stationery Products Business Division, ITC Ltd., said: "Climate change is today impacting us in myriad ways. Going forward, the young generation will have to play a significant role in environmental conservation. At ITC, responsible capitalism is an abiding strategy that focuses on extreme competitiveness but in a manner that replenishes the environment and supports sustainable livelihood. As part of this ethos, we, at ITC Classmate, have taken it upon ourselves to enhance understanding of the youth about the afforestation and take actions that would support their hope and trust in active actions for the future. We are endeavouring to embed awareness, know-how & capability amongst students on how they can foster sustainability in their daily way of life."
The Vengadamangalam panchayat dedicated the land parcel for the development of an urban forest with an aim to mitigate issues related to pollution and recreate lost habitats by encouraging biodiversity. ITC Classmate, through its NGO partner Environmentalist Foundation of India (E.F.I), cleaned this land parcel of any non-degradable trash and invasive plants, completed trench work, and created nourishment beds. It planted 1350 saplings of native plants in addition to planting berry-bearing, nectar-bearing, and fruit-bearing varieties on the entire plot besides fencing it with a dedicated water source for the growth of the saplings.
Ending all speculations after sending a cryptic tweet, BCCI President Sourav Ganguly on Thursday joined hands with Noida-based edtech startup Classplus to promote thousands of educators and content creators.
Ganguly also took to social media to announce this initiative, upon completing 30 years in Indian cricket. In the 30-second clip, Ganguly is heard saying, "The first step towards achieving your dreams is having the right coach."
Classplus has claimed to have digitised over one lakh educators and content creators across more than 3,000 cities serving 30 million students, assisting them in building their online presence and selling their online courses.
"With Dada (Ganguly) himself by their side, we hope to help these edupreneurs further grow their reach and take their business to newer heights," said Mukul Rustagi, CEO and Co-Founder, Classplus.
The startup recently bagged $70 million in a Series D funding round, co-led by Alpha Wave Global and Tiger Global and is currently valued at close to $600 million.
Classplus helps educators and content creators launch and scale their online coaching business.
Since its inception in 2018, the startup has raised approximately $160 million from global investors like Tiger Global, AWI, RTP Global, Blume Ventures, Sequoia Capital India's Surge, Spiral Ventures, Strive, Times Internet and Abu Dhabi-based Chimera Ventures.
On Wednesday, after sparking speculations of a possible political debut with a cryptic tweet, Ganguly sought to dispel the rumours and clarify his next venture.
After a few hours of leaving people guessing, Ganguly himself made it clear late that it is not politics, but an educational app that will be his new venture.
However, his Twitter message had enough ingredients to give rise to speculations that he might be ending his cricketing innings and making his debut in politics.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed a fine of Rs 25 crore on Vedanta Limited for violating the environmental norms by expanding its plant at Lanjigarh in Odisha's Kalahandi district.
A special bench of NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel was dealing with an appeal against the environmental clearance dated November 20, 2015 granted to Vedanta Limited (formerly Sesa Sterlite Ltd.), Bhubaneshwar, for expansion of Alumina Refinery and Captive Power Plant at Lanjigarh.
"In the present case, the prosecution has been initiated for illegal expansion. Liability for compensation on the polluter pays principle is assessed at Rs 25,00,00,000 (Rupees twenty-five crore only) having regard to the clear violation and financial capacity of the unit to be used for the restoration of the environment in terms of the environment plan to be prepared and executed as per the direction in later part of this order," said the green court in the order passed on May 2.
It directed the company to deposit the amount with the State Pollution Control Board within one month to be kept in a separate account to be utilised for the restoration of the environment.
As per the company, it has invested Rs 50,000 crore and has undertaken all mitigation measures for the protection of the environment. It has also complied with all statutory requirements, the project proponent argued.
The green court held the company accountable for the violation of a partly undertaken expansion without prior environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
The other main issue was the draw of water from River Tel. Though it is stated that the draw of water may not affect the flow of the river, considering the increasing need for water from the river not only by the PP but also by others, the permissibility of drawal of water should not remain static and unconditional forever, the NGT noted.
Further, the tribunal said its impact should be considered from time to time and the provision by way of additional conditions made to safeguard this aspect.
Accordingly, the green court also constituted a Committee comprising of the Secretary, Irrigation Department, Orrisa, Central Water Commission, State PCB and Regional Offices of MoEF&CC and CPCB in the matter. The panel has to formulate additional conditions based on periodical impact assessments within three months, it directed.
Human activity and behaviour, on top of climate change, are contributing to an increasing number of disasters across the world, finds a UN report.
The number of medium- to large-scale disaster events is projected to reach 560 a year, or 1.5 disasters a day, by 2030 if the current trends continue, according to the Global Assessment Report released by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported.
An additional estimated 37.6 million people will be living in conditions of extreme poverty due to the impact of climate change and disasters by 2030. A worst-case scenario will push an additional 100.7 million people into poverty by 2030, according to the report.
Between 350 and 500 such disasters took place every year over the past two decades. This is five times higher than the previous three decades. The cost of these disasters has averaged nearly $170 billion per year over the last decade, says the report.
This impact is focused on low-income and lower-middle-income countries, which lose on an average 1 per cent of their national GDP to disasters per year, compared to 0.1 per cent and 0.2 per cent in high-income countries and upper-middle-income countries, respectively.
The greatest share of economic loss is borne within the Asia-Pacific region. Countries in this region lose on an average 1.3 per cent of GDP to disasters each year. Africa is the second-most affected region, losing an average of 0.6 per cent of GDP to disasters, the report added.
Despite the fact that more countries are adopting disaster risk reduction strategies, more people have been killed or affected by disasters in the last five years than in the previous five, it says.
"There is no time to waste. The current uncertainties around our world must not be a barrier to action. Delay is not an option. We can no longer afford delaying investments in disaster risk reduction. The systemic challenges of the 21st century require systemic thinking, coordination and response if we are to create a more sustainable, more resilient, and more equitable future for all," said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, who presented the report at UN headquarters in New York.
Mami Mizutori, Head of UNDRR, said at the launch of the report, "If we want to significantly reduce disaster losses by 2030, then we must face the fact that the next eight years require transformation in governance, finance and behavior."
China's One Belt One Road (OBOR), now known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), was announced in 2013 and it seems it has one purpose only -- the subjugation of the economically fragile nations on the way to becoming a great power by the time the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) celebrates 100 years.
There are numerous examples of countries, developed and developing, which are economically fragile that have become even more fragile courtesy the OBOR. The recent situation in Pakistan and Sri Lanka is a case in point. The Centre for Global Development in a 2018 study of countries hosting OBOR projects found 23 of them in a state of debt distress.
Sri Lanka has taken loans from China, at lending rates in the range of 3-6 per cent against the 1-3 per cent offered by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). As a result, Sri Lanka has had to request China for a debt-to-equity swap, selling their own equity to Chinese companies as they have not been able to pay back their loans.
China's investment of an estimated $1.4 billion in Sri Lanka's Colombo Port City project is the largest single foreign investment in the island nation's history. Dubbed as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) between the government of Sri Lanka and the CHEC Port City Colombo (CPCC) Pvt Ltd, the project has been much publicised for the employment opportunities and huge revenues that it would generate for the Sri Lankans.
What is seldom spoken about is the fact that of the 269 hectares of reclaimed land, 43 per cent will be controlled by the CPCC through a 99-year lease agreement. This is reminiscent of the not too long-ago takeover of the Hambantota Port on a 99-year lease by China Merchant Port Holdings (CMPH). The port is now operated 'jointly' by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and CMPH, with the latter holding 80 percent stake in the port and exercising near-total control over its operations. Sri Lanka is just one example of how China uses its economic power to ensnare unsuspecting, and sometimes complicit governments in an intricate web of debt and dependencies.
The BRI is the garb to entice nations into futile and ineffectual projects which are extravagant compared to more realistic challenges being faced. The projects are promoted as one of its kind infrastructure development projects with fictitious prospects; however, they are of significance and benefit primarily to China.
The initiatives provide easier and more convenient opportunities to address the vulnerabilities of China at the cost and investment of individual nations. The mechanism provides expedient access for Chinese state-owned companies to saturate the economies of small nations and saddle the borrowing nation with loans that can be leveraged when needed. In addition, China with its financial freedom has emerged as an independent nation providing financial alternatives over international organisations like the IMF, and Asian Development Bank (ADB) to secure individual and selfish designs.
The infrastructure projects of road, rail, buildings, ports etc. with inflated costs are advertised as comprehensive solutions without disclosing the methodology and terms of execution.
The projects in Sri Lanka like the $104 million Lotus tower which never got commissioned or the $209 million Mattala Airport which is the ‘World's Emptiest Airport', though presumed to be funded by China had all its costs recovered through execution by Chinese entities, using equipment/ machinery/material from China including a significant proportion of labour/top management.
In effect, whilst Sri Lanka paid for the projects, it filled the Chinese treasury with a requirement that was not essential. Further, due to the confidentiality of project being pursued by the government the actual cost of the projects are also largely exaggerated. The Chinese approach in Sri Lanka has been outright capitalist wherein the Sri Lankan economy is flooded with cheap Chinese goods so as to kill the local economy and extract as much Strategic advantage by trapping the Government of the day in frivolous infrastructure projects.
It needs to be understood that all Chinese deals come with hidden agendas, particularly with the aim to in debt the country, take control of land, fill the coffers of China at the expense of smaller countries under the garb of development. The modus operandi of engagement has been similar in Africa, Asia and Latin America wherein countries have been indebted with a Chinese loan of billions of dollars.
Thus, all countries in the region must guard their sovereignty in their best interests, lest it is also 'Coloured Red' under the Chinese shadow.
At a global public event, GKPD released the results of a two yearlong study by eminent, international scholars and human rights practitioners on the way forward for the just and sustainable return of Kashmiri Pandits to their homeland.
While commending the present government for removal of Article 370 and making progress on the 6,000 Prime Minister jobs package, there was universal agreement that the state had abandoned the Kashmiri Pandit community which was now facing extinction.
Notwithstanding occasional rhetoric, the continuing official tag of 'migrants' showed that the State had not only not classified the Pandits as Internally Displaced Persons but instead disclaimed them as Internally Disgraced People.
The Kashmiri Pandit community has had to fend for itself for the last 32 years while the genociders have gained a windfall economic benefit estimated by the GKPD task force of over $30 billion in money, land, buildings, agricultural assets, art, livelihood, and other assets. This does not count the impact of lives lost.
Professor Aurobindo Ogra, the lead author of the study, who is based at the University of Johannesburg and has twenty years' experience in urban planning stated, "Our study zeroed into the neighbourhood of Anantnag Division which historically has been a centre of Kashmiri Pandit land holdings and temples where the Autonomous Administrative Division would be carved out. This University township Hub would incubate industry, hospitals, health services and tourism and would be designed to scale up to house one hundred thousand Kashmiri Pandit families."
Virinder Kaul, GKPD International Coordinator, based in India who is co-author and a civil engineer with deep expertise in large scale projects stated, "Moving 6000 Kashmiri Pandits into interim housing in the Valley is subjecting them to further inhuman conditions including risk of life. As second-class citizens they are left with nothing at the end of their tenure. A permanent solution is long overdue. There is clear precedent in the thirty autonomous zones that have been set up so far in India under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution to administer micro cultures like the Kashmiri Pandits. Financing of the Hub can be obtained by creating Special Purpose Vehicles which can club the previously announced welfare schemes for new homes and job creation and gain advantage of critical mass including Transfer of Development Rights. Besides the tax base that the AAD Hub will have, there is an opportunity to reposition the 500 plus temples in key spokes such as Varahamulla, Kupwara and Srinagar to their historic role of serving the religious tourists who would come and stay at the lankars and help generate revenues."
Dr. Shafalica Bhan, GKPD UK, a psychiatrist and mental health specialist, based in London, UK stated: "The proposed solution builds on the earlier GKPD MOU which was signed by all Kashmiri Pandit organisations and over sixteen thousand five hundred civil society members. It will meet the security needs of the long- traumatized Kashmiri Pandit community who will be able to live with their families without fear in their homeland. More importantly, any solution must result in political empowerment of the community with adequate representation and not its hegemony. This will ensure that there will be non-refoulment as long as the autonomous council is protected constitutionally and not hollowed out."
Rakesh Kaul, GKPD Co-Founder, based in the US stated, "The task force recommendations are based on a deep understanding of the rights of the Kashmiri Pandits under International law governing indigenous people and Genocide and finding solutions which are valid under the Indian constitution. It is undisputed that the State bears full responsibility for preserving and restoring Kashmiri Pandit way of life and status pre 1990 and earlier. It must leave no stone unturned so that at least five hundred thousand Kashmiri Pandits are granted domicile rights expeditiously and that full compensation is paid for the loss of life, property, and livelihood which the task force estimates at $30 billion and rising with time. Delaying justice is expensive and therefore it behooves the state to act with dispatch to find a solution for the return, resettlement, rehabilitation and restitution of Kashmiri Pandits."
This report will be shared with relevant institutions in India and globally.