UPPSC Target PT 90 days Planner

When few months are left for UPPSC Prelims 2021, it becomes very important for every aspirant to be on their toes and follow an organized plan which will help them clear this exam and keep them at ease during the preparation phase.

UPPSC Target PT in 90 Days Planner will provide you with a daily time table, which will comprise of the following:

  • Daily Value added Article
  • Daily subject specific Quiz according to the given schedule
  • Snippets (UP through MAP) for maximizing your Prelims score.

Day 24: Current Affairs + CSAT - Current Affairs & CSAT (Day 24 & 25)

Current Affairs 2

History and Culture

‘‘ChauriChaura’ Centenary Celebrations’

Context               

4th February 2021 marks the 100th year celebration of ChauriChaura at Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.

About ChauriChaura Incident

  • The ‘ChauriChaura’ incident is a landmark event in the country’s fight for independence.
  • The incident took place on 4 February 1922 at ChauriChaura in the Gorakhpur district of the United Province (modern Uttar Pradesh) in British India.
  • During this, a large group of protesters participating in the Non-cooperation movement, clashed with police who opened fire.
  • In retaliation the demonstrators attacked and set fire to a police station, killing all of its occupants.
  • The incident led to the death of three civilians and 22 policemen. 
  • Mahatma Gandhi, who was strictly against violence, halted the non-co-operation movement on the national level on 12 February 1922, as a direct result of this incident.

No records of chilla adjacent to Charminar: ASI

Context               

The Bhagyalakshmi Temple abutting the Charminar ‘came into existence’ after the merger of Hyderabad State with the Union of India, and there are no records of the chilla at the monumentthe Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has stated responding to a Right to Information query.

About

  • What is chilla?
  • Chilla is a spiritual practice of penance and solitude in Sufism known mostly in Indian and Persian
  • In this ritual a mendicantor ascetic attempts to remain seated in a circle practicing meditation techniques without food for 40 days and nights. 
  • The word chillais derived from the Persian word chehel "forty".Chilla is commonly performed in a solitary cell called a chilla-khana.

Quick facts about Charminar

  • Built by: Mohammed QuliQutub Shah in 1591
    • He was the founder of Hyderabad to commemorate the end of the plague in the city
  • Each of the sides measure 20 meters while the minarets are located at a height of 48.7 meters from the ground level.
  • Each side of Charminar opens into a plaza like structure where the giant arches overlook the major thoroughfares.
  • It is a clear square structure that measures 31.95 mts. on each side while imposing arches span a distance of 11mts.
  • It is these four (char) minarets (minar) that give the building, its name 'Charminar'.
  • Each minar stands on a lotus-leaf base, a special recurrent motif in QutubShahi buildings.
  • There are 149 circular steps inside each minaret.
  • The four clocks in four cardinal directions were added in the year 1889.

 The matter

  • The Bhagyalakshmi temple too has been in the centre of a land dispute like the Ayodhya Ram temple.
  • It was alleged that the temple was built and later encroached into Charminar property.

Key-observations made by ASI

  • The Bhagyalakshmi Temple came into existence after taking over of Hyderabad by the Government of India adjacent to South Eastern minaret of the Charminar, a Centrally Protected Monument.
  • No records are available in this office about the Chilla adjacent to Charminar.

“Protected monument” means an ancient monument which is declared to be of national importance by or under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (AMASR Act).

  • There have been a lot of questions in connection with the both the temple and the chilla.

Shri Guru RavidasVishvaMahapeethRashtriyaAdhiveshan

Context               

President Kovind recently addressed 'Shri Guru RavidasVishvaMahapeethRashtriyaAdhiveshan in Delhi.

Who was Ravidas?

  • Guru Ravidas was born in the 14th century, to a low caste family, in Seer Goverdhanpur, UP. He was among the first people to fight for basic human rights and tried to spread the message of equality by opposing the Indian caste system.
  • Contribution to Sikhism: He taught spirituality and contributed 41 devotional poems and songs in Guru Granth Sahib. It is believed that his teachings were studied by Sikh Gurus as well.
  • He was one of the most famous and leading stars of the nirguna sampradaya (santparampara).
  • He was also one of the prominent leaders of the North Indian Bhakti movement and taught spirituality and tried to bring forward a message of equality message based on freedom from the oppression of the Indian caste system.
  • Association with MeeraBai:Sant Guru RavidasJi is considered as a spiritual Guru of MeeraBai.
    • She was the queen of Chittoor and daughter of one of the famous kings in Rajasthan naming RaoDudaji.

Guru Ravidas’sJayanti

  • Guru Ravidas’sJayanti is celebrated as the birthday of Guru Ravidas.
  • It is celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Magh according to Hindu calendar and will fall on 27th February in 2021.

Polity and Governance

‘Vijayanagara became Karnataka’s 31st district’

Context               

The government of Karnataka notified the formation of a new district called Vijayanagara, bifurcating the district of Ballari in the State. With Vijayanagara, the state now has 31 districts.

About

The Vijayanagara district

  • Named after the capital of the Vijayanagar Empire, the new district was carved out from Ballari under the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964.
  • It is famous for its UNESCO World Heritage sites – Hampi and VirupakshaTemple.
  • Vijayanagara has six taluks – Hosapete, Kudligi, Hagaribommanahalli, Kotturu, HoovinaHadagali, and Harapanahalli.
  • Hosapete is its headquarters.

Formation of a new district

  • For the formation of a new district, no central government permission is required whereas the formation of a new state is in the purview of Central government.
  • This will be under the state government only.

‘Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020’

Context               

In a latest development, Rajya Sabha passed the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2020. The Lok Sabha had passed the bill on September 23, 2020, by voice vote.

About

Major ports in India

  • State-run ports in the country, termed ‘major ports’.
  • In terms of volume, 70 per cent of cargo movement is through ports while 90 per cent in value terms. 
  • India has 12 major ports — Deendayal (erstwhile Kandla), Mumbai, JNPT, Marmugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Kamarajar (earlier Ennore), V O Chidambarnar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia).
  • These together had handled 705 million tonnes (MT) of cargo in 2019-20.

Key-highlights of the Bill

  • The Bill aims to provide for the regulation, operation and planning of Major Ports in India and to vest the administration, control and management of such ports upon the Boards of Major Port Authorities and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • The new law will supersede the major Port Trusts Act, 1963 governing the country’s 12 major ports.
  • The bill seeks to convert 11 of the 12 ports (except Kamarajar Port Ltd, located at Ennore, Chennai) run by the Centre into “authorities” from the current “trustee” set-up, in a biggest structural reform of state-owned ports ever attempted by any government.
  • Application: The Bill will apply to the major ports situated in Chennai, Cochin, Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Kandla, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Mangalore, Mormugao, Paradip, V.O. Chidambaranar, and Vishakhapatnam.
  • Governance: It will be curtains down for the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP); every port will now be governed by a Port Authority (board) which will have the powers to fix reference tariffs for various port services.
    • The role of Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP) has been redefined in the bill. The port authority has now been given powers to fix tariffs which will act as a reference tariff for purposes of bidding for PPP projects.
    • PPP operators will be free to fix tariffs based on market conditions.

Boards to replace trusts

  • Under the 1963 Act, all major ports are managed by the respective Board of Port Trusts that have members appointed by the central government.
  • The Bill provides for the creation of a Board of Major Port Authority for each major port.
  • These Boards will replace the existing Port Trusts, a not-for-profit group involved in legislative research.

‘Corruption perception index 2020’

Context               

India's rank has slipped six places to 86th among 180 countries in corruption perception index (CPI) in 2020.

About

Corruption Perception Index (CPI)

  • Released by: Transparency International (TI).
  • The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is the leading global indicator of public sector corruption, providing an annual snapshot of the relative degree of corruption in 180 countries and territories.
  • The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people.
  • It uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
  • A country with a higher score has a higher rank.

Key-findings of the Index

  • India ranked at 86th position with a score of 40 while more than two-thirds of countries scored below 50, with a global average score of just 43.
  • India’s score is below the average score of the Asia-Pacific region (31 countries) and global average.
  • India was ranked at 80th position out of 180 countries in 2019.
  • With a score of 31, India's neighbour Pakistan ranked at 124. Other top-scoring nations include Singapore with a score of 85, Australia with 77 and Hong Kong also with 77.
  • This year, New Zealand and Denmark rank at first position with scores of 88.
  • Somalia and South Sudan rank lowest at 179th position with scores of 12.

 ‘2021 Census to go digital’

Context               

The Minsitry of Fnance announced that the upcoming Census 2021 is set to be the first digital census in the history of India and that the government has allocated over Rs 3,700 crore for the same.

About

What is Census?

  • Population Census is the total process of collecting, compiling, analyzing or otherwise disseminating demographic, economic and social data pertaining, at a specific time, of all persons in a country or a well-defined part of a country.
  • As such, the census provides snapshot of the country's population and housing at a given point of time.
  • Responsible agency: The Census is conducted by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
  • Duration: It is done every 10 years.
  • First and last Census: The census was first conducted in 1872 during the British rule. The last census was done in 2011.
  • First complete census: It was done in 1881.

The Census Act, 1948

  • The Census Act was enacted in 1948 to provide for the scheme of conducting population census with duties and responsibilities of census officers.

The first-ever digital census

  • The 2021 census of India is set to begin in March 2021, after the previous census was undertaken in 2011 – marking India’s population at 1.21 billion back then
  • The census will be conducted through a mobile application. The decision to move from the traditional pen and paper was taken to promote Digital India.
  • The exercise is said to be carried out in 16 languages.

The Netherlands implemented its first virtual census in 1981 using the population register and surveys.

 

States/UTs roll out Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 3.0

Context               

Various States and UTs have started implementation of the Intensified Mission Indradhanush 3.0.

About

What is Intensified Indradhanush Mission?

  • Intensified Indradhanush Mission (IMI) was launched in 2017, “to reach each and every child up to two years of age and all those pregnant women who have been left uncovered under the routine immunisation programme.”
  • The program was to further intensify the existing Mission Indradhanush, which the government launched in December 2014.
  • The government launched the second version of the mission IMI 2.0 from December 2019-March 2020, “to achieve targets of full immunization coverage in 272 districts in 27 States and at block level (652 blocks) in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar among hard-to-reach and tribal populations.”

What areas are to be focused in IMI 3.0?

  • The campaign is aimed to reach those children and pregnant women who have been missed out or been left out of the Routine Immunisation Programme. 
  • This is aimed to accelerate the full immunization of children and pregnant women through a mission mode intervention.
  • In IMI 3.0, the government has placed a strong emphasis on Covid-19 appropriate behaviour because of the pandemic.
  • “States have been asked to follow "Staggered Approach" to avoid crowding at the session sites and even plan break-up sessions if a staggered approach is not effective to avoid crowding.
  • The sessions are also planned in such a way that not more than 10 beneficiaries are present at the session site at one given point in time.

International Relations

‘Chinese energy project in Sri Lanka’

Context

In a latest development, Sri Lanka cleared Chinese energy project, 50 km off Tamil Nadu.

About the Project

  • Under the project, China will set up hybrid wind and solar energy projects on three Sri Lankan islands off the northern Jaffna peninsula 45 km from Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu.
  • Project’s local partenr: The energy project’s local partner, the Ceylon Electricity Board.
  • Funding: The funds for the project are to come from the Asian Development Bank.

The concerned islands

  • The islands concerned are the Delft Island, Analativu and Nainativu.
    • Delft island, the largest of the three islands, is the closest to Rameswaram, which lies to the island’s south west.
  • Between the two is Kachchativu, the tiny island that India ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974.
  • The waters around these islands are an area of contest and rivalry between Tamil Nadu and Jaffna fishers. The matter has been on the bilateral agenda for decades.

Why Sri Lanka’s tilt towards China is concerning for India?

Two recent developments seem to have affected India’s relationship with Sri Lanka.

  • Sri Lanka recently pulled out of the East Container Terminal (ECT) deal with India and Japan at the Colombo port.
  • On the same day, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) returned US$400 million currency swap facility, which it availed in July 2020 to meet its emergency needs during the Covid19 induced lockdown.

East Container Terminal (ECT) deal

  • India, Japan and Sri Lanka had inked an agreement in 2019 to develop Colombo’s East Container Terminal.
  • The project, worth an estimated $500-$700 million, was a key marker for infrastructure investment in the island nation where Chinese projects are most prominent.  

‘Disengagement process on in Pangong Tso’

Context               

After a nine-month standoff, militaries of Indian and China reached an agreement on disengagement in the north and south banks of Pangong lake that mandates both sides to cease forward deployment of troops in a “phased, coordinated and verifiable” manner.

About

  • The disengagement agreement

The two sides had reached an agreement to withdraw from Pangong Tso, a glacial lake at 14,000 ft (4,270 metres), after several rounds of talks between military commanders and diplomats from the nuclear-armed neighbours.

  • Chinese forces will continue to have a troop presence in the north bank of Pangong Lake to the east of Finger 8. Meanwhile, Indian troops will also re-position its forces at its permanent base at the Dhan Singh Thapa post near Finger 3. 
  • Similar disengagement is set to take place along the south bank of Pangong Lake. It is worth noting though that this region houses the Kailash range, a crucial area that, if controlled, provides a sizeable tactical advantage. 
  • The disengagement will also entail that any structures built by both forces since April last year in the north and south banks of the Pangong Lake area will be dismantled, with landforms restored. 
  • The two parties have also agreed to conduct the next meeting of Senior Commanders within 48 hours from when complete disengagement in Pangong Lake takes place, with a view towards resolving outstanding issues. 

About Pangong Lake

  • Pangong Tso is an endorheic lake (landlocked) that is partly in India’s Ladakh region and partly in Tibet.
  • The name reflects the mixed heritage of the lake: Pangong in Ladakhi means extensive concavity, the word Tsois Tibetan for lake.
  • Situated at an elevation of about 4,270 m, it is a nearly 135-km long, narrow lake — 6 km at its widest point — and shaped liked a boomerang. Its total area is over 600 sq km.
  • The Karakoram Mountain range, which crosses Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and India, with heights of over 6,000 metres including K2, the world’s second highest peak, ends at the north bank of PangongTso.
  • Its southern bank too has high broken mountains sloping towards Spangur Lake in the south.

Economy

‘RBI gives retail investors direct access to Government ‘Gilt bonds’’

Context               

In a major move aimed at encouraging small investors to become direct investors in government bonds, the Reserve Bank has proposed to allow them to directly buy government debt, also called “gilt bonds”, making India the first Asian country to do so and among a handful globally.

About

What are Gilt Funds?

  • Gilt funds are debt funds that invest in government securities. The government bonds used to be issued in golden-edged certificates.
  • The nickname gilt comes from gilded edge certificates.
  • Types: There are two kinds of gilt funds.
    • One, gilt funds that invest mostly in government securities across maturities.
    • Two, gilt funds with constant maturity of 10 years – these funds must invest at least 80% of their assets in government securities with a maturity of 10 years.

G-Secs

  • G-Secs are tradeable investment instruments issued by the Central or state governments and are the most risk-free sovereign-backed bonds available in the country.
  • They can broadly be classified into four categories, namely Treasury Bills (T-bills), Cash Management Bills (CMBs), dated G-Secs, and State Development Loans (SDLs).
  • These securities are available in both short-term and long-term tenures — ranging from three months to 30 years — with an annual yield starting from 3.37 per cent.
  • Although government securities do not carry credit risk, they are not a risk-free instrument. They are subject to interest rate risk.

 Impact of the decision

  • Regularisation: The decision will encourage formalisation, digitisation, and financialisation of savings with low yield non-financial assets expected to move to better yield and secure instruments.
  • Secure and fixed income: Besides opening a near endless demand source, it will also provide the retail investors a highly secure - sovereign-guarantee rated - fixed income investment avenue.
  • Denationalisation of banks: If most risk-averse depositors could be persuaded to shift to the G-Secs, the government could go ahead with the denationalisation of banks at a faster pace.

Challenges/Issues

  • Less interest rate: Since g-secs carry low risks, the commensurate returns offered are also low. Interest rates have not been attractive when compared to other fixed-income instruments like company fixed deposits, small saving instruments and non-convertible debentures.
  • Poor liquidity: Poor liquidity in the secondary market is a cause of concern for most investors.
  • Huge investment required: Another big problem is the lot size required to trade in g-secs. Typically, g-sec market sees trades worth Rs 5 crore and above.

 

‘Hydrogen: The next clean energy frontier’

Context               

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi have come up with a way to generate clean fuel hydrogen from water at a low-cost, which is a significant step towards efforts across the globe that are being made to look for cleaner and greener energy sources.

A fuel cell works much like an electric battery, converting chemical energy into electrical energy. 

About

What is hydrogen?

  • Hydrogen is a clean alternative to methane, also known as natural gas. 
  • It's the most abundant chemical element, estimated to contribute 75% of the mass of the universe.

Key-highlights of the research

  • The researchers have successfully split water by a process known as Sulphur-Iodine (SI) thermochemical hydrogen cycle to generate low-cost, clean hydrogen fuel for industrial consumption.
  • The thermo-chemical hydrogen cycle for splitting water offers a practical means of generating hydrogen as a fuel and also oxygen as a byproduct.
  • Hence, it can be considered favourably for the commercial production of hydrogen on a large scale, in the near future.

SEBI moots introduction of ‘accredited investor’ concept

Context               

Regulator Sebi sought comments on the proposal to introduce the concept of “accredited investors” in the Indian securities market.

About

Who are ‘accredited investors’?

  • Accredited investors, also called qualified investors or professional investors, are those who have an understanding of various financial products and the risks and returns associated with them.
  • They are able to take informed decisions regarding their investments.
  • They are recognized by many securities and financial market regulators around the globe.

Eligibility criteria

While proposing a framework for accredited investors, Sebi laid out eligibility criteria for both Indian and non-resident Indians and foreign entities.

  • For Indian individuals, Hindu Undivided Families (HUFs) and Family Trusts, Sebi proposed an annual income of over or equal to Rs 2 crore or net worth over or equal to Rs 7.5 crore with not less than Rs 3.75 crore of financial assets.
    • Alternatively, such entities with an annual income above or over Rs 1 crore besides net worth higher or equal than Rs 5 crore with not less than Rs 2.5 crore of financial assets may also be eligible.
  • For trusts and body corporates, proposed asset under management (AUM) and net worth, respectively, is equal to higher than Rs 50 crore.
  • For NRI and foreign individuals and family trusts, Sebi proposed an annual income of over or equal to USD 3 lakh or net worth over or equal to USD 1 million with not less than USD 5 lakh of financial assets.
  • Besides, multilateral agencies, sovereign wealth funds, international financial institutions and Category-I foreign portfolio investors may also be eligible. The regulator said the accreditation once granted shall be valid for one year from the date of accreditation.

Significance of the concept

  • The accredited investor concept may offer benefits to investors and financial product/service providers, such as:
    • flexibility in minimum investment amount
    • flexibility and relaxation in regulatory requirements
    • access to products/ services offered exclusively to accredited investors

 

SAKSHAM (Shramik Shakti Manch)

Context               

Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) recently unveiled ‘SAKSHAM (Shramik Shakti Manch)’- a dynamic job portal.

About

What is SAKSHAM?

  • SAKSHAM (Shramik Shakti Manch) is a dynamic portal for jobs/ mapping the skills of Shramiks vis-à-vis requirements of MSMEs and other industries all across the country.
  • The pilot portal originally initiated with two districts is now being launched as an all India portal.
  • Objective: The portal will map the skills of Shramiks vis-à-vis requirements of MSMEs to directly connect Shramiks with MSMEs and facilitate placement of 10 lakh blue-collar jobs.
  • Key Features:
    • A dynamic job portal - opportunity for Shramiks and MSMEs
    • Facilitate creation of 10 lakh blue collar jobs
    • Direct connect between Shramiks and MSMEs, no middleman in between
    • Minimise migration of Shramiks – job opportunity in proximate MSMEs

How does it work?

  • The portal with the demand and supply data uses algorithm and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, for geo spatial information on demand and availability of Shramiks.
  • It also provides analysis on skill training programmes of Shramiks.
  • The data / information pertaining to the Shramiks and the industries (especially MSME) are being updated automatically through various whatsapp and other links.

Genesis

  • The genesis of SAKSHAM took place during the Covid-19 pandemic. 
  • The lockdown imposed in the wake of the pandemic left lakhs of migrant labourers without work across India, forcing them to return home. 
  • The pilot portal originally initiated with two districts is now being launched as an all India portal.

About TIFAC

  • The Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), an autonomous technology think tank under the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India.
  • It was set up in 1988.
  • It works to look ahead in technology domain, assess the technology trajectories, and support innovation by networked actions in select areas of national importance.

 

‘Discovery of India’s First ever Lithium Reserves in Karnataka’s Mandya’

Context               

In a major development, India has discovered its maiden lithium deposits of 1,600 tonnes in the igneous rocks located in the Marlagalla-Allapatna region of Karnataka's Mandya district.

Though the discovery is very small in size in the present, it marks an initial success for the nation's attempts to domestically mine the metal in India, which is in high demand for making electric vehicles (EV).

About

What is Lithium?

  • Lithium is a metal of utmost importance. It is everywhere today.
  • Lithium is a key element for new technologies and finds its use in ceramics, glass, telecommunication and aerospace industries.
  • The well-known uses of lithium are in lithium ion batteries, lubricating grease, high energy additives to rocket propellants, optical modulators for mobile phones and as a converter to tritium used as a raw material for thermonuclear reactions i.e. fusion.
  • It's the juice that powers our smartphones, tablets, cameras, laptops and even cars. This element is the driver of the technology age. And it could dictate the future of civilization.
  • The survey was done on surface and limited subsurface in the pegmatites of Marlagalla - Allapatna area by Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), a constituent unit of Department of Atomic Energy.

 Important facts

  • The growing demand for Lithium in India is driven by the goal of Indian government to become one of the largest electric vehicle markets world over.
    • NITI Ayog has set an ambitious target to increase the number of electric vehicles by 30 percent by 2030.

The projected market

While electric cars in India remain a small segment, with an estimated 3,000 sold in 2018 compared with the 3.4 million fossil fuel-powered cars in the same year, the nation is forecast become the fourth-largest market for EVs by 2040, when the segment will comprise nearly a third of all vehicles sales.

  • India’s first Lithium plant has been set up at Gujarat in 2021, where Manikaran Power Limited will invest Rs 1000 crore to set up this refinery.
    • The refinery will use Lithium ore to produce base battery material.

Karnataka's Marlagalla-Allapatna area, along the Nagamangala Schist Belt, is being seen as among the most promising geological domains for potential exploration for lithium and other rare metals.

  • Bolivia is the leading producer with 2.10 crore tonnes lithium reserves, and Argentina has 1.70 crore tonnes of Lithium.
  • Chile has around 8.6 Mn tonnes, Australia has 2.8 Mn tonnes, and even Portugal has around 60K tonnes of lithium deposits.
  • In 2020, India, signed an agreement with an Argentinian firm to jointly prospect lithium in the South American country that has the third largest reserves of the metal in the world.

What are the advantages of lithium for the renewable sector?

The element is promoted because it has a lot of potential in the renewable sector of the modern energy spectrum, some of its advantages include:

  • Lithium-ion batteries can serve as a solution for varied power demands across the spectrum. It can range from vast energy storage to portable energy storage solutions. They can thus be used as large or small batteries.
  • Lithium-ion battery has high energy density. This implies Li-ion batteries can last way longer between charges, while maintaining high current output. This makes it an ideal battery for most of our contemporary needs.
  • Li-ion batteries are low to minimum maintenance, most other cells like Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries have a huge cost of ownership and maintenance.
  • Li-ion batteries come in all shapes and sizes, giving the users with many options to choose from according to their needs.

Science & Technology

‘Silk-protein-based tumour models for testing out cancer’

Context               

Researchers from IIT Guwahati have come up with silk-protein–based tumour 3D model for testing cancer drugs.

About

Key features of the Model

  • Bio-activity: It involves fabrication of a bio-active composite of silk proteins from two species of silk moths.
  • 3-D base: It builds a scaffold that provides a three-dimensional base for growing tumours.
  • Imitate native environment: This 3D silk-based tumour model imitates native tumour microenvironment, complex tumour physiology and metastasis, thus improving drug screening efficacy.

How scientists built scaffolds?

  • The scientists mixed the silk fibroins extracted from the cocoons of the domestic silk moth(Bombyxmori) and the silk glands of the muga silk moth (Antheraeaassama) in equal proportions and used them to build up scaffolds on which they grew breast and liver tumour cell cultures.
  • As a proof of concept, the researchers created breast and liver tumouroids and these showed similar tumour physiology in 3D spatiotemporal arrangements and drug-resistance, as in native solid tumours.
  • They also tested the screening capacity of the tumours on known anticancer drugs, Doxorubicin and Paclitaxel.
  • The tumoroids grown on the silk composite exhibited increased resistance to cancer drugs (as in native conditions) compared to monolayers and spheroids.

The need

  • Normally, cancer drugs are tested using patient-derived primary cancer cells, on tumours induced in animal models or on genetically modified organisms.
  • These models are insufficient to reproduce the three-dimensional morphology and physiology of human tumours.

‘Square Kilometre Array, the world’s largest radio telescope’

Context               

The Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) Council held its maiden meeting and approved the establishment of the world’s largest radio telescope.

About

Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO)

  • SKAO is a new intergovernmental organisation dedicated to radio astronomy.
  • Headquarters: The United Kingdom.
  • Countries involved: At the moment, organisations from ten countries are a part of the SKAO. These include Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK.

The proposed telescope

  • The telescope, proposed to be the largest radio telescope in the world, will be located in Africa and Australia whose operation, maintenance and construction will be overseen by SKAO.
  • The completion is expected to take nearly a decade at a cost of over £1.8 billion.
  • As per NASA, the telescope will accomplish its scientific goals by measuring neutral hydrogen over cosmic time, accurately timing the signals from pulsars in the Milky Way, and detecting millions of galaxies out to high redshifts.
  • Some of the questions that scientists hope to address using this telescope include:
    • the beginning of the universe
    • how and when the first stars were born
    • the life-cycle of a galaxy
    • exploring the possibility of detecting technologically-active civilisations elsewhere in our galaxy
    • understanding where gravitational waves come from

About Radio telescopes

  • Unlike optical telescopes, radio telescopes can detect invisible gas and, therefore, they can reveal areas of space that may be obscured by cosmic dust.
  • Significantly, since the first radio signals were detected by physicist Karl Jansky in the 1930s, astronomers have used radio telescopes to detect radio waves emitted by different objects in the universe and explore it.
  • According to NASA, the field of radio astronomy evolved after World War II and became one of the most important tools for making astronomical observations since.

 

India successfully test-fires Helina, Dhruvastra anti-tank guided missiles

Context               

Joint User Trials for Helina (Army Version) and Dhruvastra (Air Force Version) Missile Systems have been carried out from Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) platform in desert ranges.

About

  • Helina and Dhruvastra missile systems
  • The Helina (Army version) and Dhruvastra (Air Force variant) are third-generation variants of the Nag anti-tank guided missile system.
  • The missile systems have been designed and developed indigenously by Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO).

Features

  • They are based on the Lock on Before Launch (LOBL) fire and forget Anti-Tank Guided Missiles
  • They can engage targets both in direct hit mode as well as top attack mode. 
  • The system has all-weather day and night

Anti-tank guided missile (ATGM)

  • An anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), anti-tank missileanti-tank guided weapon (ATGW), or anti-armor guided weapon is a guided missile.
  • It is primarily designed to hit and destroy heavily armored military vehicles.
  • India’s Anti-tank missiles:
    • DRDO Anti Tank Missile
    • Amogha missile
    • Nag missile
    • HELINA missile/Dhruvastra
    • SANT missile
    • Man-Portable Anti-tank Guided Missile (MPATGM)
    • Jasmine anti-tank missile - VEM technologies

Nag missile

  • The Nag missile (Prospina- for the land-attack version), is an Indian missile with:
    • third-generation
    • all-weather
    • fire-and-forget
    • lock-on after launch
    • anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) 
    • the operational range of 500 m to 20 km
  • The Nag has five variants
    • a land version, for a mast-mounted system
    • the helicopter-launched Nag (HELINA and Dhruvastra)
    • a "man-portable" version (MPATGM)
    • an air-launched version 
    • Nag Missile Carrier (NAMICA) "tank buster"
  • Development of the Nag is part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP), run by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

 

‘Stardust 1.0’

Context               

Stardust 1.0, a rocket powered by bio-derived fuel successfully took off from former military base in Maine.

About

What is Stardust 1.0?

  • Stardust 1.0 is a launch vehicle suited for student and budget payloads.
  • The rocket is 20 feet tall and has a mass of roughly 250 kg.
  • Payloads: The rocket can carry a maximum payload mass of 8 kg and during its first launch carried three payloads. The payloads included:
    • a cubesat prototype built by highschool students
    • a metal alloy designed to lessen vibrations, which is developed by Kellogg’s Research Labs
    • a cubesat from software company Rocket Insights
  • Manufactured by: The rocket is manufactured by bluShift, an aerospace company based in Maine that is developing rockets that are powered by bio-derived fuels. Other rockets being developed by the company include
    • Stardust Gen. 2, Starless Rouge and Red Dwarf, which is a low-Earth orbit (LEO) vehicle and is designed to fly a maximum payload of 30 kg.

First to be powered by biofuel

  • Stardust 1.0 became the first commercial space launch powered by biofuel, which is non-toxic for the environment as opposed to traditionally used rocket fuels.
  • Though the biofuel used for the launch is not yet clear, but as per the reports it can be sourced from farms around the world.

Significance of the rocket

  • Cheaper and environment friendly: These rockets will help to launch small satellites called CubeSats into space in a way that is relatively cheaper than using traditional rocket fuel and is less toxic for the environment.

Detailed genome of the malaria mosquito vector

Context               

In a latest development, scientists have unveiled the detailed genome of the malaria mosquito vector, revealing thousands of new genes vital for the development of genetic control strategies of disease transmission.

About

Key-highlights of the findings

  • The detailed genome of the malaria mosquito vector, revealed thousands of new genes vital for the development of genetic control strategies of disease transmission.
  • Scientists produced a new reference genome for the Asian malaria vector mosquito Anopheles stephensi.
    • Anopheles stephensi is a major malaria vector mosquito in urban areas of South Asia and has recently invaded the horn of Africa.
    • It is predicted to become a major urban malaria vector in Africa, putting 126 million urban Africans at risk.
  • The newly revealed genes play key roles in blood feeding and the metabolism of ingested blood meal, reproduction and immunity against microbial parasites.
  • The findings include 29 previously undetected genes that play critical roles in resistance to chemical insecticides, an advancement that lends itself to the necessity of addressing growing African and Asian An. stephensi populations with insecticide-resistant mutations. 
  • The new genome assembly is a comprehensive and accurate map of genomic functional elements and will serve as a foundation for the new age of active genetics in An. Stephensi.

Genome

  • A genome is all genetic material of an organism. It consists of DNA (or RNA in RNA viruses).
  • The genome includes both the genes (the coding regions) and the noncoding DNA, as well as mitochondrial DNA and chloroplast DNA.
  • The study of the genome is called genomics.

The need

  • Mosquito-transmitted malaria is the leading global killer among vector-borne diseases, claiming over 400,000 human lives in 2019.
  • In order to engineer advanced forms of defence against malaria transmission, including targeted CRISPR and gene drive-based strategies, scientists require intricate knowledge of the genomes of vector mosquitoes.
    • CRISPR technology is a gene editing tool which allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function.

Malaria in India

  • Malaria is a potentially life-threatening disease caused by parasites (Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium ovale) that are transmitted through the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.
  • According to the World Malaria Report 2019, India represents 3% of the global malaria burden.

Significance of the development

  • The development can help address the growing Asian and African  stephensi populations with insecticide-resistant mutations.
  • The findings also offer clues suggesting that the molecular basis of insecticide resistance may differ between sexes.

NIC launches Sandes

Context               

In a bid to provide a secure way for people to communicate, the National Informatics Centre (NIC) has launched Sandes. 

About

What is Sandes app?

  • Sandes is a messaging app prepared by the central government. It claims to be a secure app where the users' data will be kept safe. 
  • The app has been developed by NIC (National Informatics Center), which is part of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
  • Sandes has an interface similar to many other apps currently available in the market. It has an additional safety feature which allows a user to mark a message as confidential.
  • The chats on this instant messaging systems or GIMS can be backed up to a users' email.

Government Instant Messaging System (GIMS)

  • GIMS, like other instant messaging apps uses a valid mobile number or email id to register the user for the first time.
  • It allows a user to mark a message as confidential, which the app's description says, will allow the recipient to be made aware the message should not be shared with others.
  • The confidential tag, however, does not change the way the message is sent from one user to another.
  • The app does not allow the user to change their email id or registered phone number.
  • This will make the recipient aware the message should not be shared with others.

Is it an alternative to ‘Whatsapp’?

  • 'Sandes' is said to be in lines with the popular instant messaging platform WhatsApp.
  • Only a day ago, the Supreme Court issued a notice to Facebook and WhatsApp over the company updated privacy policy that it has postponed for the next three months.

Government also launched India's version of the 'Koo' App in response to social media platform Twitter.

 

Guinea declares Ebola epidemic

Context               

Guinea has declared an Ebola outbreak after three persons died in the country’s southeast. This is the first time the disease has been reported in the country since an outbreak ended in 2016.

About

What is Ebola Virus Disease?

  • Ebola is a deadly disease caused by a virus.
  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a rare but severe, often fatal illness in humans.
    • The term "hemorrhagic fever" means it causes bleeding inside and outside the body.
  • The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.

Previous outbreaks

  • The virus first appeared in two simultaneous outbreaks in 1976 in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
  • The last major Ebola outbreak started in 2014, which emerged in Guinea and then moved across borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia.
  • During the outbreak, more than 11,000 patients out of around 28,000 with detected Ebola cases lost their lives.

Transmission

  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • The virus is not airborne, which means a person cannot get the disease simply by breathing the same air as an infected patient.
  • Ebola jumps to humans from infected animals like chimpanzees, fruit bats and forest antelope.
  • One of the natural reservoir of the Ebola virus is bushmeat – non-domesticated forest animals hunted for consumption.
  • The disease spreads between humans through direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs.
  • It can also spread indirectly through contact with contaminated environment.

ISRO announces ‘Bhuvan’, an alternative to Google Maps

Context               

In an attempt to compete with Google Maps, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has partnered with digital mapping and navigation technology solutions provider MapmyIndia to launch an Indian Maps alternative.

About

What are Indian map alternatives?

  • As part of this partnership, MapMyIndia’s end user maps, apps and services will now integrate with ISRO’s catalogue of satellite imagery and earth observation data.
    • MapMyIndia began in 1992, with an aim to enhance India’s map-making capabilities.
    • MapmyIndia’s maps cover 7.5 lakh Indian villages, 7500+ cities at street and building-level, connected by 63 lakh kilometers of road network pan India and within cities.
  • The service would be a “privacy-centric” option, compared to “foreign map apps and solutions”.
  • It will enable ISRO and MapmyIndia to jointly identify and build a holistic geospatial portal utilising earth observation datasets, 'NavIC', Web Services and APIs (application programming interface) available in MapmyIndia, 'Bhuvan', 'VEDAS' and 'MOSDAC' geoportals.
  • Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System also known as NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation), is an indigenous navigation system, developed by ISRO.
  • Users will be able to see mapping data along with information about weather, pollution, agricultural output, land-use changes, flood and landslide disasters etc.

Geospatial Portals

  • Bhuvan is the national geo-portal developed and hosted by ISRO comprising geospatial data, services, and tools for analysis.
  • VEDAS (Visualisation of Earth observation Data and Archival System) is an online geoprocessing platform that uses optical, microwave, thermal, and hyperspectral EO data covering applications particularly meant for academia, research and problem solving
  • MOSDAC (Meteorological and Oceanographic Satellite Data Archival Centre) is a data repository for all the meteorological missions of ISRO and deals with weather-related information, oceanography, and tropical water cycles.

Haemorrhagic septicaemia

Context               

Six elephants died of haemorrhagic septicaemia in Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary in Odisha’sKalahandi district within 14 days of time.

About

What is Haemorrhagic Septicaemia?

  • Haemorrhagic septicaemia is a contagious bacterial disease which infects animals that come in contact with contaminated water or soil.
  • It is caused by certain serotypes of Pasteurellamultocida, a Gramnegativecoccobacillus residing mostly as a commensal in the nasopharynx of animals.
  • The disease generally spreads in the period right before and after the monsoons. It can affect cattle, buffalo and other animals. 
  • Haemorrhagic septicaemia occurs in parts of Asia and Africa and is often fatal.
  • It can be transmitted by ingesting contaminated food and water or through respiratory secretions.
  • Hemorrhagic septicaemia is an important disease in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. It has never been confirmed in Mexico, Central or South America.

Karlapat sanctuary

  • Karlapat sanctuary is spread over an area of 175 square km in Odisha’sKalahandi district.
  • The sanctuary home to tigers, leopards, sambars, nilgais, barking deer, mouse deer and a wide variety of birds like green munia, great eared-nightjar and various reptiles, apart from elephants.
  • The forest consists of flora like Sal, Bija, Asan, Harida, Amala, Bahada and Bamboo and varieties of medicinal plants.
  • There are several small and big waterfalls inside the sanctuary like Phurlijharan, Ghusrigudi, Dumnijhola, Kamalajharan, Koyirupa, Kuang and Raja Rani.

 

‘Transparent wood is coming’

Context               

As per a new study, researchers have found a way to make wood transparent without using huge amounts of energy in the process.

About

  • Wood is an ancient material humans have been using for millions of years, for the construction of housing, ships and as a source of fuel for burning.
  • Wood is essentially composed of two basic ingredients cellulose and lignin:
    • Cellulose is tiny fibers and lignin is the bonds that keep these fibers together and resists compression.
    • Lignin is a glue-like material that bonds the fibres together, a little like the plastic resin in fibreglass or carbon fibre. The lignin also contains molecules called chromophores, which give the wood its brown colour and prevent light from passing through.
  • It’s also a renewable source, and one way to capture excess carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere.

Understanding wood’s lack of transparency

  • Wood’s lack of transparency comes from the combination of its two main components- cellulose and lignin.
  • The lignin absorbs light, and the presence of chromophores – light activated compounds – in the material makes the wood look brown.
  • The fibres in the wood, which mainly comprise cellulose, are hollow tube-like structures.
  • The air in these hollow tubes scatters light, further reducing the material’s transparency.

The new method

  • The new study demonstrates how to make wood transparent using a simple chemical – hydrogen peroxide – commonly used to bleach hair.
  • This chemical modifies the chromophores, changing their structure so they no longer act to absorb light and colour the wood.
  • The chemical can be brushed onto the wood, and then activated using light to produce a brilliant white material – blond wood if you like.
  • The other reason paper is white is because pores or holes in its structure scatter light, just like the hollow cellulose fibres in wood.
  • Filling these fibres with resin reduces that scattering, allowing light to pass through the wood and making it transparent, while retaining its original mechanical properties.

Usgae of transparent wood

  • Transparent wood would be much more resistant to accidental breakage
  • It could become an alternative to glass in energy efficient buildings, or perhaps coverings for solar panels in harsh environments.

 

‘United Arab Emirates celebrates its first mission at Mars’

Context               

The United Arab Emirates has put a probe called Hope in orbit around the planet, making it only the fifth spacefaring entity to do so after the US, the Soviet Union, Europe and India.

About

What is HOPE?

  • The unmanned probe — named "Al-Amal", Arabic for "Hope" — is a United Arab Emirates mission to Mars.
  • Hope launched from the Tanegashima Space Centernear Minamitane, Japan last year (July 2020).
  • The 1,350-kilogramme probe — about the size of an SUV — took seven months to travel the 493 million kilometres to Mars.
  • Hope is the Arab world's first mission to another planet.

Other Mars Missions

The other two Mars mission include- China’s Tianwen-1 dual orbiter-rover and Perseverance from NASA, are also expected to reach the red planet.

  • Tianwen-1 means Questions to Heaven and comes from a poem written by Qu Yuan (about 340-278 BC), one of the well-known poets of ancient China.
  • The China’s first mars probe ‘Tianwen-1’ has entered orbit around the Red Planet.
    • China’s previous ‘Yinghuo-1’ Mars mission, had failed after it could not leave the Earth’s orbit and disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean in 2012.
  • Hope and Tianwen-1 thereby made their respective countries the fifth and sixth earthly cultures to successfully reach red neighboring planet.

NASA’s Perseverance rover is expected to land on the planet in the coming days. 

A brief history of Mars Mission

  • The US, UAE (latest one), Russia, India and the EU have so far succeeded in sending missions to Mars regarded as the most complex space mission.
  • India became the first Asian country to have successfully launched its Mars orbiter mission Mangalyaan which has entered the orbit of the red planet in 2014.
  • India also became the first country to have entered the Martian orbit in its first attempt.

India's MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) successfully achieved orbit in 2014 to image the entire planet, providing a unique perspective on its weather and surface features. 

Significance of the mission

  • The mission will build a complete picture of Mars' climate, helping scientists better understand what Mars was like when its atmosphere could have supported life.
  • Its entry into Martian orbit paves the way for the probe’s science mission, during which it will make observations of the planet’s atmosphere, across all times and locations.

Rapid rise of UAE in space sector

  • The UAE’s rise as a space power has been swift.
  • The country’s first space venture was just 15 years ago, when it began work with the Satrec Initiative, a company based in Daejeon, South Korea, to build an Earth-observation satellite.
  • Last year, it announced plans to send a rover to the Moon in 2024.
  • Unlike the Emirates Mars Mission, which involved hundreds of Emirati engineers but saw Hope designed and built mostly in the United States, the rover is intended to be developed solely in the UAE.

 

‘Depletion of particular brain tissue linked to chronic depression, suicide: Study’

Context

In a recent research, a common characteristic has been found in the brain structure of people who died by suicide.  There was a sharp fall in the density of ‘Astrocytes’, a particular nerve cell throughout the brain.

About

What is Astrocytes?

  • It is a type of supportive nerve cells, look like the end of a frayed rope.
  • Astrocytes are highly heterogeneous neuroglial cells with distinct functional and morphological characteristics in different parts of the brain.
  • They are responsible for maintaining a number of complex processes needed for a healthy central nervous system (CNS).

Key-highlights of the Study

  • Scientists found that the number of astrocytes, was much lower in brains of people who had died by suicide.
  • The density was five times lower in the mediodorsal thalamus and caudate nucleus and half in the prefrontal cortex in the subjects who had died by suicides than those who had no psychiatric conditions till death.
  • Astrocytes can strongly modulate most facets of neuronal activity, including neuronal firing, neurotransmitter synthesis, neurotransmitter reuptake and synaptic transmission.
  • The human cerebral cortex has a larger volume and faster variety of astrocytes than that in mice. So, their role in the human brain will be much more significant.
  • The research also noted that depression impacted the quantity of these nerve cells rather than their structure. It, however, doesn’t establish the reason behind this depletion of astrocyte volume.

How reduction in astrocytes have negative effects?

  • A reduction in astrocytes in the brain regions studied here may have negative effects because these brain regions make up a circuit thought to be important for decision making and emotional regulation, functions affected by depression
  • With fewer astrocytes to support them, the neurons in this circuit may not function as well as they otherwise would.
  • Abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex also seem to be connected to impulsivity, which may play a role in suicide in some cases.

Three regions of the brain that are considered to be responsible for emotion regulation — dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, dorsal caudate nucleus and mediodorsal thalamus — were the focus of the study.

Environment

‘Air pollution in rural India: Ignored but not absent’

Context               

Air pollution is a transboundary problem, it transcends rural and urban boundaries. But the issue is rarely discussed and action plans are rigid. Rural air pollution has usually been ignored by scientists and policy makers alike for the longest time. 

About

Sources of pollution in rural areas

  • Vehicular pollution: While the extent of vehicular pollution may not be the same in villages as in cities, the same sources richly contribute to pollution in rural areas.
  • Toxic air, effluent discharge due to operation of heavy industries: Most heavy industries now operate beyond city limits — in rural belts — and the local population is the recipient of toxic air and effluent discharge, often due to weak oversight.
  • Stubble burning: Northern India faces seasonal issue of stubble burning, which, despite media attention and Delhi’s annual air apocalypse, has continued unabated.
  • Agricultural pollution: Agriculture is a rich source of reactive nitrogen in India, as only 30 per cent of the nitrogen is taken up by plants. The rest is released into the atmosphere, soil and water.

Weak monitoring network

  • Monitoring stations disproportionately located: India has 804 manual monitoring stations under the National Ambient Monitoring Programme (NAMP) and 274 real-time monitoring stations (CAAQMS). Most of these are disproportionately located in tier-1 cities; a few are in tier-2 cities.
    • A quick analysis shows that real-time monitoring is nearly absent in rural areas.
    • Additionally, even cities in Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Manipur don’t have a single real-time monitoring station.
  • The NAMP network of manual monitors fare only marginally better. It does cover all states and includes even smaller cities and towns, but 96 per cent monitoring stations are within the city boundaries and do not cover surrounding rural hamlets.
  • Out of the 804 stations, only 26 are located in rural villages. Names of villages and their tehsils have been provided in the NAMP list. Two of these stations are in Dadra and Nagar Haveli among the Union territories.

Recent government schemes

  • National Biomass Cookstoves Initiative: In 2009, the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy launched the National Biomass Cookstoves Initiative and installed about 27 lakh units by 2017.
  • UnnatChulhaAbhiyan Programme: UnnatChulhaAbhiyan Programme was launched in 2014, wherein both family and community cookstoves using biomass briquettes were distributed.
  • PradhanMantriUjjwalaYojana (PMUY): Launched in 2016, it is a countrywide initiative to increase use of clean cooking fuels among those below the poverty line.

 

‘Denmark approves plan for energy island in North Sea’

Context               

The Danish government has reportedly approved plans for the construction of the first artificial “energy island” in the North Sea.

About

What the energy island?

  • The island would act as a hub for offshore wind development, built 80km off the coast of Denmark in the North Sea. 
  • The island covers an area of 120,000m², equivalent to 18 football fields.
  • Once completed, it would store and supply energy to power nearly three million European households.
  • It would also supply green hydrogen for shipping, aviation, industry and heavy transport sectors.

Impact of the development

  • The latest move comes as the European Union announced transformation of its electricity system to mostly rely on renewable energy within ten years.
  • It will also increase its offshore wind energy capacity approximately by 25 times before 2050.
  • The project is part of Denmark’s target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030 from 1990 levels

‘Eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) declaration around the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary’

Context

The State government of Kerala has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention on the draft notification issued by the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) notifying 118.59 sqkms around Wayanad wildlife sanctuary as an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ).

About

What is Eco-Sensitive Zone?

  • The Eco Sensitive Zones are envisaged as a cushion or shock absorbers for protected areas. They are supposed to act as the transition zones from areas of high protection to less protection. 
  • They are notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. 
  • They are like an ecotone- the transition between two biological communities or ecosystems, and it is crucial for the protection of protected areas like wildlife sanctuaries and forests.
  • Its aim is to reduce the impact of human intervention in the core protected area.

What does the State want?

  • The Kerala government is of the view that while notifying eco-sensitive zones, densely populated areas should be excluded.
  • In the case of Wayanad wildlife sanctuary areas such as Tholpetty, Kattikkulam, Panavalli, Kurukkanmoola, Chaligadha and Kappistore, Cheeyambam, Moodakolly, Cheeral are the areas to be excluded.
  • The Kerala government had prepared recommendations for notifying eco-sensitive zones around 21 protected areas in December 2019.
    • According to this amended proposal for draft notification the extent of eco-sensitive zone goes up to 88.2 sq.kms.

What is in the notification?

  • The ESZ, as per the draft notification, will cover an area of 118.59 km, which includes 8.89 km of the Tirunelly reserve forest of north Wayanad and 17.67 km of Chedelaythu range in south Wayanad.
  • It also included 18.21 sq. km of human settlements, inside the forest.
  • The State government had submitted a revised draft notification by reducing the ESZ to 88.21 sq. km after excluding the human settlements on 30 sq. Km.

The concerns

  • The biodiversity-rich Wayanad wildlife sanctuary has a sizeable elephant and tiger population.
  • However, there have been concerns over the environmental degradation of Wayanad, which is also a tourist’s haven.

Wayanad wildlife sanctuary

  • The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is an animal sanctuary in Wayanad, Kerala, India.
  • The sanctuary, spread over 344.44 sq km, is an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere in the Western Ghats and contiguous to the tiger reserves of Nagerhole and Bandipur of Karnataka and Mudumalai of Tamil Nadu. 

 

‘Conservation of Fishing Cat’

Context               

The fishing cat, a lesser-known feline species, is facing several threats due to its depleting habitat. So, a worldwide campaign by the Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance to protect the feline is being started.

About Fishing Cat

  • The fishing cat(Prionailurusviverrinus) is a medium-sized wild cat of South and Southeast Asia.
  • It is very much content and survives in water.
  • Protection Status: Since 2016, it is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. 
  • Threats: Fishing catpopulations have declined severely over the last decade. Some of the reasons are for the declining population is:
    • habitat loss [wetland degradation and conversion for aquaculture and other commercial projects]
    • sand mining along river banks
    • agricultural intensification resulting in loss of riverine buffer
    • targeted hunting and retaliatory killings
  • Occurrence: They are found in Sundarbans in West Bengal and Bangladesh, Chilikalagoon, and surrounding wetlands in Odisha, Coringa, and Krishna mangroves in Andhra Pradesh.
    • Fishing cats have a patchy distribution along the Eastern Ghats. They are found in
      • estuarine floodplains
      • tidal mangrove forests
      • inland freshwater habitats

Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance

  • The Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance is a team of conservationists, researchers, and enthusiasts across the world.
  • Aim: To have a world with functioning floodplains and coastal ecosystems.

Invisible particles in air matters the most: Study

Context               

The smallest, invisible particles matter the most when it comes to dealing with air pollution, researchers have found in two recent studies, published in journals Faraday Discussion and Nature NPJ climate and atmospheric science.

About

Key-takeaways from the study

  • Ultrafine particles — which have almost negligible weight and surface area and are hence are not considered a threat to the air we breathe — do have an effect on haze formation, visibility and air pollution.
  • The smallest particles are formed from gaseous sulfuric acid and ammonia or amines, which are ubiquitous.
  • The particles grow via condensation of organics and nitrate which are equally available throughout the city.
  • The new particle formation and growth were equally important in contribution to haze formation as traffic and other anthropogenic activities.

A slow killer

  • Atmospheric air pollution kills more than 10,000 people every day.

Some 1.7 million Indians died due to air pollution in 2019, according to a report by interdisciplinary journal Lancet Planetary Health published December 2020.

  • Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal and Rajasthan account for over 50 per cent deaths attributed to air pollution in India, according to the same report.
  • An old study in China claimed that Particulate Matter (PM) 1 contributed to 80 per cent of PM2.5. Evidence for health effects of PM1 is very limited, because it is not routinely monitored internationally.
  • So far, the standards for PM1 have not been proposed by the World Health Organization or any other government agencies.
  • While PM2.5 can reach lungs, PM1 can enter bloodstream.

 

Black-necked crane sighted in Assam

Context               

Black-necked cranes (Grusnigricollis) native to the Tibetan plateau have been sighted for the first time in Assam.

About

What are Black-necked cranes?

  • Black-necked cranes are iconic birds of the Tibetan Plateau, and are integral to the landscape’s biophysical ecosystem.
  • They are of great spiritual and cultural significance to Tibetan Buddhism.
  • The Monpa community (major Buddhist ethnic group of Arunachal Pradesh) in particular holds black-necked cranes in high stature because the sixth Dalai Lama, GyalwaTsangyangGyatso, born in Tawang, had paid it glowing tributes in the 17th century.
    • Monpas inhabit the West Kameng and Tawang districts.
    • They are essentially Buddhists who follow the Mahayana sect.
  • These medium-sized alpine cranes, weighing about 5 kg each and standing about 115 cm tall, have a patch of red on their crowns, grey bodies and a characteristic black-neck.
  • Habitat: Meadows are their favoured habitat, where they can feed on roots, insects, snails, fish, frogs, small birds and rodents.
    • They breed exclusively in alpine meadows, at altitudes of 2,600 to 4,900 m, and as a protection from predators nest in marshes where the water is about 30 cm deep.

The world's only alpine crane species

  • The black-necked crane is endemic to China's Tibetan Plateau.
  • In summer, the black-necked cranes are mainly found in altitudes between 3,000 and 5,000 meters.
  • The migration of the black-necked cranes starts in September via sheltered valleys or lower altitudes.
  • About two thirds of the birds spend the winter in the valleys of Yarlung Tsangpo River and south-central Tibet Autonomous Region.
  • The remaining population winter in Yunnan and Guizhou Provinces, and a small number are known to winter in Bhutan and

Conservation status

  • These birds are threatened by human- and climate-change-induced habitat loss, and of late also by free-ranging dogs in their breeding areas and food shortage in wintering areas.
  • It is now listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
  • In 2020, a re-assessment of the crane’s population led its status to change from Vulnerable to Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.

Rare sight of Mandrain duck in India

Context               

Recently, a rare sight was noticed by people where they witnessed a spectacular and rare Mandarin duck floating in the Maguri-Motapungbeel (or wetland) of Assam’s Tinsukia district.

About

What is the Mandarin duck?

  • Considered the most beautiful duck in the world, the Mandarin duck, or the (Aix galericulata) was first identified by Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist Carl Linnaeus in 1758.
  • It is a “small-exotic looking bird” native to East Asia.
  • The migratory duck breeds in Russia, Korea, Japan and northeastern parts of China.

Why is it ‘rare’ for India?

  • The duck, however, rarely visits India as it does not fall in its usual migratory route.
  • There are only a handful of recorded sightings here. It was recorded in
    • 1902 in Dibru river in the Rongagora area in Tinsukia
    • 2013 in Manipur’s Loktak Lake
    • 2014 in SaatvoiniBeel in Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve in Assam’s Baksa district

MaguriMotapung wetland

  • The MaguriMotapung wetland is an Important Bird Area as declared by the Bombay Natural History Society.
  • It is located close to the DibruSaikhowa National Park in Upper Assam.
  • The wetland has a grassland adjacent to it.
  • The entire ecosystem (grassland and wetland) is very important as it is home to at least 304 bird species, including a number of endemic ones like Black-breasted parrotbill and Marsh babbler.

GK through MAP (Snippets)

Architecture of Utter Pradesh

Architecture of Utter Pradesh

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