India, Sri Lanka restart talks to link power grids
India and Sri Lanka have resumed talks on linking their electricity grids, officials told Reuters on Tuesday, a step that could aid New Delhi's goal of reducing China's influence on the island nation, now grappling with a severe economic crisis.
There was no immediate prospect that power cuts brought by the crisis could be eased by the talks, which are a preliminary effort on a multi-year project both sides have explored before.
India has extended assistance running into billions of dollars to its southern neighbour to fight the crisis, brought on by a steep drop in foreign exchange reserves that stalled imports of essentials such as fuel, so disrupting power supply.
"It is at very initial stages of discussion," WasanthaPerera, secretary of Sri Lanka's power ministry, told Reuters, but gave no further details.
Protests and political turmoil brought on by rocketing inflation, a currency devaluation and shortages have spurred the nation of 22 million to begin talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan programme, also backed by India.
Now officials of both countries are turning to a project that has made little progress since it was first proposed more than a decade ago, aiming to link the neighbours with a miles-long transmission line running under the Indian Ocean.
The grid connection project came up in talks with India's power ministry in March, when Basil Rajapaksa, then Sri Lanka's finance minister, visited New Delhi to seek assistance, said a source with knowledge of the matter.
"It will be mutually beneficial," added the source, who sought anonymity, as the talks were private.
The foreign ministries of both India and Sri Lanka did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment.
US officials heading to Solomons over China pact worries
The US on Monday warned that a security pact between the Solomon Islands and China could destabilise the islands, and set a “concerning precedent” for the wider Pacific Island region, announcing a visit by senior officials, including the National Security Council (NSC) Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell, to the Pacific islands.
In an announcement on Monday, the White House said Campbell and the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Kritenbrink, would lead a US delegation to Fiji, Papua New Guine and Solomon Islands. The inter-agency delegation would seek to “further deepen ties” with the region and advance a “free, open and resilient Indo-Pacific”.
At a press briefing hours later, the state department spokesperson Ned Price said that the US understands that Solomon Islands and China were “discussing a broad security-related agreement” that built on a recently signed pact on police cooperation.
“Despite the Solomon Islands government’s comments, the broad nature of the security agreement leaves open the door for the deployment of PRC (People’s Republic of China) military forces to the Solomon Islands,” he said.
The US believes that signing such an agreement could lead to “destabilsation within the Solomon Islands” and set a “concerning precedent”, Price said.
The US was in touch with its allies in the region, Australia and New Zealand, who had communicated their concerns about how Solomon Islands’ move could affect the regional security paradigm, Price said.
“Part of the task of the upcoming visit will be to share perspectives, to share interests, to share concerns, and I do expect the full range of all of those will be on the docket,” he said.
Earlier this year, the US had announced its intent to re-establish its embassy in the Solomon Islands. Secretary of state Antony Blinken visited the region in February. Price said that at the end of the day, US policy was not about China but the partnership that the US could bring.
Banks hire scores of oversight agencies to keep tabs on end-use of loans
With increasing cases of fund diversions, banks have come together and empanelled as many as 83 oversight agencies to keep a tab on the end-use of loans, State Bank chairman Rajnish Kumar.
The chairm of the largest lender said there have been instances where an individual or a company has borrowed from one bank and at the same time uses a current account facility with some other bank to divert funds.
"Hiring oversight agencies is one of the things being done by banks to prevent such misuse," Kumar told reporters.
He also suggested that methods of lending will need to undergo change.
"The consortium discipline or the multiple banking discipline has to be improved and there the regulator also has to pay a role," he said.
On the tepid credit growth, Kumar said he expects some pick up during the second half.
"If you look at the year-on-year growth, we are seeing 13 percent. Hopefully, if this continues or remains at the same level in the second half, we will be very happy. Only by the second half we will know how much credit is needed," Kumar said.
::Science and tech::
IISc did study, microplastic found in Cauvery river
Pollutants like microplastics may be causing growth defects in fish, including skeletal deformities, in the Cauvery river, a new study revealed. Published in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, the study was led by UpendraNongthomba, professor in the department of Molecular Reproduction, Development and Genetics (MRDG), at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).
“Over the years, I have cherished going to the backwaters of the Krishna Raja Sagara [KRS] dam and having fried fish on the Cauvery riverbank,” he said. But in recent times, he said, he has been noticing physical deformities in some of them. He wondered whether the quality of water may have something to do with it.
“Water is essential for everyone, including animals and plants. When it is polluted, it is capable of causing diseases, including cancer,” added Abass Toba Anifowoshe, a PhD student in Nongthomba’s lab and the first author of the study.
Nongthomba’s lab conducted a comprehensive study of pollution at the KRS Dam and its potential effects on fish. They collected water samples from three different locations with varying speeds of water flow – fast-flowing, slow-flowing, and stagnant – since water speed is known to affect the concentration of pollutants.
In the first part of the study, Nongthomba’s team analysed the physical and chemical parameters of the water samples. All but one of them fell within the prescribed limits.
The exception was dissolved oxygen (DO), whose levels were much lower than they needed to be in samples collected from the slow-flowing and stagnant sites. Water from these sites also had microbes such as Cyclops, Daphnia, Spirogyra, Spirochaeta and E. coli, well-known bio-indicators of water contamination.
Using a technique called Raman spectroscopy, the researchers detected microplastics – minute pieces of plastic often invisible to the naked eye – and toxic chemicals containing the cyclohexyl functional group (a functional group refers to atoms in a compound that determine its chemical properties).
Wimbledon to bar Russian players: Report
Russian tennis players will not be permitted to compete at Wimbledon, the prestigious third Grand Slam of the season, in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Sportico reported night.
The All England Club would become the first tennis organization to refuse Russians outright. The ATP and WTA Tours and the International Tennis Federation have allowed players from Russia and its ally Belarus to continue competing, but they are barred from displaying their national flags or playing their national anthems.
In addition, Russia and Belarus have been banned for team competitions such as the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup.
The decision would prevent world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and world No. 8 AndreyRublev from competing in the Wimbledon men's draw. Rublev made headlines last month when he wrote "no war please" on a television camera lens after winning a match in Dubai.