5th October, 2021 Daily Current Affairs

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05 Oct, 2021 Newspaper Analysis Video

Questions :-

1) Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) was recently seen in news. In which of the following States/UTs the Observatory is located in?

  1. Karnataka.
  2. Tamil Nadu.
  3. Arunachal Pradesh.
  4. Ladakh.

Answer – Ladakh.

2) With reference to PMCARE fund, consider the following statements:

  1. PM CARES fund is under the operative control of PMO.
  2. It is a fund of government of India created under the Disaster Management Act.

Which of the above statements is/are incorrect?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer – 2 Only

3) Kármán line sometimes seen in news is associated with?

  1. Space
  2. Dark net
  3. Artificial Intelligence
  4. Deep seabed

Answer – Space

Karman line is the internationally recognized boundary of space which lies around 100 kilometres above mean sea level.

Map of the Day –

1) Biodiversity hotspots in India

  •  The Himalayas
  • The Indo-Burma region
  • The Western Ghats
  • The Sundaland. 

Important news :-

1) Nobel Prize for Medicine –

U.S. scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian on Monday won the Nobel Medicine Prize for discoveries on receptors for temperature and touch.

“The groundbreaking discoveries… by this year’s Nobel Prize laureates have allowed us to understand how heat, cold and mechanical force can initiate the nerve impulses that allow us to perceive and adapt to the world,”

The pair’s research is being used to develop treatments for a wide range of diseases and conditions, including chronic pain. Mr. Julius, who in 2019 won the $3million Breakthrough Prize in life sciences. 

2) Govt. moots changes to Forest Conservation Act – #GS3

The government has proposed absolving agencies involved in national security projects and border infrastructure projects from obtaining prior forest clearance from the Centre as part of amendments to the existing Forest Conservation Act (FCA). The FCA that first came in 1980 and was amended in 1988, requires such permission.

The proposed amendment is part of a larger rationalising of existing forest laws, the government has said.

There is also a plan in the document to exempt land acquired before 1980 — before the FCA came into effect — by public sector bodies such as the Railways.

As of today a landholding agency (Rail, NHAI, PWD, etc) is required to take approval under the Act as well as pay stipulated compensatory levies such as Net Present Value (NPV), Compensatory Afforestation (CA), etc. for use of such land which was originally been acquired for non-forest purposes.

The Environment Ministry also proposes adding a clause to make punishments under the modified Act punishable with simple imprisonment for a period which may extend to one year and make it cognisable and non-bailable. They also propose provisions for penal compensation to make good for the damages already done to trees in forest land.

3) Court extends NCB custody of Aryan, others till Oct. 7

Narcotics Control Bureau

  • It was constituted by the Government of India in 1986 under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
  • It is the apex coordinating agency under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances is based on Article 47 of the Indian Constitution which directs the State to endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drugs injurious to health.
  • Drug abuse control is the responsibility of the central government.

Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985- It provides for the penalty of property derived from or used in illegal traffic in narcotic drugs.

  • The Act made an express provision for constituting a Central Authority for the purpose of exercising the powers and functions of the Central Government under the Act.

4) Rajnath releases two new DRDO policies-

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh released two new policies of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)

  1. Directed Research Policy (DRP) and
  2. Records Management Policy 2021.

5) Drone-based vaccine delivery model launched –

Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya launched ICMR’s Drone Response and Outreach in North East (i-Drone) here on Monday. The delivery model is aimed at ensuring that life-saving vaccines reach everyone.

“This is for the first time that a ‘Make in India’ drone has been used in South Asia to transport COVID vaccine over an aerial distance of 15 km in 12-15 mins from the Bishnupur district hospital to Loktak lake, Karang island in Manipur for administration at the primary health centre. 

Launching the initiative which would facilitate vaccine delivery to tough and hard-to-reach terrains, the Health Minister said incorporating such technologies into the national programs would help deliver other vaccines and medical supplies too as quickly as possible.

The ICMR conducted an initial study in collaboration with the IIT Kanpur to test the capacity of the drones to carry and transfer vaccines safely.

6) Navy to host its largest exercise in February –

India is set to host its largest naval exercise early next year for which 46 countries have been invited, a senior Defence official said.

Exercise Milan is being planned for February 2022 and invitations have been sent to 46 countries. Several of them have already confirmed their participation,” the official said. The exercise will see the participation of all Quad countries. Milan has so far been held at Port Blair but is now being shifted to Visakhapatnam, which offers more space and facilities.

7) ‘Power cost to stay high as imported coal prices soar’ –

Short-term power prices are likely to remain elevated in the near term on account of a continued increase in imported coal prices, according to ratings agency Ind-Ra.

Classification of Coal –

Coal can be classified on the basis of carbon content and time period.

Read more about Coal Ash

Types of coal on the basis of carbon content

  1. Anthracite is the best quality of coal which carries 80 to 95 per cent carbon content. It ignites slowly with a blue flame. It has the highest calorific value. It is found in small quantity in Jammu and Kashmir.
  2. Bituminous carries 60 to 80 per cent of carbon content and a low level of moisture content. It is widely used and has high calorific value. It is found in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
  3. Lignite is often brown in colour. It carries 40 to 55 per cent carbon content. It is an intermediate stage which happens during the alteration of woody matter into coal. It has high moisture content so it gives smoke when burnt. It is found in Rajasthan, Lakhimpur (Assam), and Tamil Nadu.

Coal reserves in India: State-wise

The coal reserves in India can be spotted state-wise as:

Jharkhand –

  • Jharkhand has the first rank in coal reserves and its production. Most of the coal fields in the state of Jharkhand are located in a narrow belt running in the east-west direction almost along 24 degrees north latitude from the Gondwana period.
  • The main coal mining centres of the state are Auranga, Bokaro, Dhanbad, Jharia, Giridh, Karanpur, Ramgarh and Hutar.
  • Jharia coalfield is one of the oldest and richest coal fields of India. It lies south of Dhanbad and stores the best of metallurgical coal (bituminous) in the country.
  • Bokaro coalfield lies in Hazaribagh district.

2. Odisha –

  • Odisha has the second largest coal reserves in the country and it carries more than 24 per cent of the total coal reserves. It produces about 15 per cent of the total coal production of India.
  • Most of the coal deposits of the state are found in Sambalpur, Dhenkanal, and Sundargarh districts.
  • Talchar coalfield of Odisha stretch over Dhenkanal and Sambalpur districts covers an area of about 500 sq km.
  • Other coalfields of the state include Rampur-Himgir and Ib river.

3. Chattisgarh –

  • Chattisgarh has the third largest coal reserve in India and carries about 17 per cent of the total coal reserves. However, the state has the first rank in the production of coal.
  • Korba coalfield lies in the valley of river Hasdo (tributary of Mahanadi).
  • Other coalfields of the state include Hasdo-Arand, Chirmiri, Jhimli, and Johilla.

4. West Bengal –

  • West Bengal carries about 11 per cent of the total coal reserves of India. The deposits are found in Bardhman, Darjeeling, Bankura, Jalpaiguri, and Puruliya districts of the state.
  • Raniganj coalfield is the most important coal reserve and mining coalfield of West Bengal. It stretches over 185 sq km in Bardhman and Birbhum district to the northwest of Kolkata. It is known for good quality coal with about 50 to 65 per cent carbon content.

5. Madhya Pradesh –

  • About 8 per cent of the coal reserves of the country are found in Madhya Pradesh. The main coal deposits of the state lie in Singrauli, Muhpani, Satpura, Pench Kanhan and Sohagpur.
  • Singrauli is the largest coalfield of MP. It supplies coal to the thermal power plants at Singrauli and Obra.

6. Andhra Pradesh – India’s 7 per cent of the coal reserves are found in Andhra Pradesh. Godavari valley holds the coal of the state and Singareni coalfield (185 km to the east of Hyderabad) is the main mining area.

7. Maharashtra –

  • Kamptee coalfields (in Nagpur district) and Wardha valley (stretched over Nagpur and Yavatmal districts) carry most of the coal deposits in the state. However, the coal deposits of Maharashtra mainly belong to the Tertiary period.
  • The coal here carries more moisture and has less carbon content.

8. Rajasthan – Palana and Khari mines of Bikaner district in Rajasthan carry Lignite deposits (inferior quality of coal). The coal produced is mainly used in the thermal power plants and railways.

8) Net oil importer India left with few options as price surges –

As the world’s third-largest oil importer and consumer, India is running out of options as the relentless surge in international oil prices make it imperative to pass them on to consumers, officials said Monday.

India imports 85% of its crude oil needs and about half of its natural gas requirement. While the crude oil is turned into fuels such as petrol and diesel, gas is used as CNG in automobiles and fuel in factories.

“International crude oil prices continue to remain high, providing no respite to major oil importers such as India. (International benchmark) Brent oil future was quoting over $79 per barrel today. 

“Unless international prices relent, oil companies will have no option but to continue passing on the increase to consumers,”

Editorial – Important Articles

1) Taproots to help restore India’s fading green cover – #GS3

Context – In forest restoration, the participation of local communities and adequate financing and incentives are essential

Despite various international conventions and national policies in place to improve green cover, there is a decline in global forest cover. This is the prime reason for forest restoration activities including tree planting to become increasingly popular and declaring 2021-2030 as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration for improving environmental conditions and enhancing human communities.

Restoration in laymen’s terms is bringing back the degraded or deforested landscape to its original state by various interventions to enable them to deliver all the benefits. Building and maintaining activities help to improve ecological functions, productivity and create resilient forests with multifarious capabilities. 

India joined the Bonn Challenge with a pledge to restore 21 MHA of degraded and deforested land which was later revised to 26 MHA to be restored by 2030. The first-ever country progress report under the Bonn Challenge submitted by India by bringing 9.8 million hectares since 2011 under restoration is an achievement.

What is Bonn Challenge – The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land into restoration by 2020 and 350 million by 2030.

Key Challenges –

  • Planting without considering the local ecology can result in more damage.
  • planting a forest in the wrong places such as savannah grasslands could be disastrous for local biodiversity. 
  • Being less tech-sensitive, cost-effective and conserving more biodiversity, natural forest restoration is becoming more widely accepted.
  • Restoration, being a scientific activity, needs research support for its success. Whether one goes for active restoration which includes planting or passive restoration with more focus on halting environmental stressors or adopting an intermediate approach of aided natural regeneration, it needs critical examination before putting restoration interventions into practice.

Situation in IndiaNearly 5.03% of Indian forests are under protection area (PA) management needing specific restoration strategies.

The relevance of local research duly considering ecological aspects, local disturbances and forest-dependent communities is vital to formulate guidelines for locally suitable interventions and to meet India’s global commitment.

There have been remarkable initiatives to involve local people in the protection and development of forests by forming joint forest management committees (JFMC). More than 1,18,213 JFMCs involving around 20 million people manage over 25 MHA of forest area.

However, a review of their functionality and performance is essential to make them more dynamic and effective to scale up their involvement.

Active engagement of stakeholders including non-governmental organisations, awareness and capacity building of stakeholders with enabling policy interventions and finance can help a lot to achieve the remaining 16 MHA restoration objectives for India.

India is a mega-diverse country. With only 2.4 per cent of the total land area of the world, the known biological diversity of India contributes 8 per cent to the known global biological diversity. In terms of Biogeography, India has been divided into 10 bio-geographic zones as shown in the below table:

India has been divided into ten recognizable bio-geographic zones as follows:

  1. Trans-Himalayan Region
  2. Himalayan Zone
  3. Indian Desert Zone
  4. Semi Arid Region
  5. Western Ghats
  6. Deccan Plateau
  7. Gangetic Plain
  8. North East Region
  9. Coastal Region
  10. Andaman and Nicobar Islands

4 out of the 36 Biodiversity Hotspots in the world are present in India:

  1. The Himalayas
  2. The Western Ghats
  3. The Indo-Burma region
  4. The Sundaland.

Criteria to qualify as a Biodiversity Hotspot –

According to Conservation International, a region must fulfill the following two criteria to qualify as a hotspot:

  1. It must have at least 1,500 vascular plants as endemics which are to say, it must have a high percentage of plant life found nowhere else on the planet. A hotspot, in other words, is irreplaceable.
  2. It must have 30% or less of its original natural vegetation (It has to have lost at least 70% of its original habitat). In other words, it must be threatened.

2) Cities are taking climate action

Maharashtra’s Environment Minister, Aaditya Thackeray, announced that 43 cities across the State will join the UN-backed ‘Race to Zero’ global campaign, which aims to create jobs while meeting goals of climate change and sustainable development. This is laudable and timely – Maharashtra has repeatedly been identified as a State that experiences multiple risks (floods, drought, sea-level rise to name a few) and reports abysmally inadequate policy action on climate-resilient development.

Are cities doing enough?

Indian cities have often been singled out for not doing enough on climate change. To examine this, we assessed climate action in 53 Indian cities with a population of over one million and found, promisingly, that approximately half these cities report climate plans, i.e., they have a climate resilience plan or set of projects in place. Of these, 18 cities have moved beyond intention to implementation. These numbers highlight an encouraging first step, signalling that recurrent experiences of floods, water scarcity, cyclones and storm surges are filtering up into urban development policy.

However, a lot of interventions are being implemented through sectoral projects focusing on particular, isolated risks. For example, most cities report targeted projects to deal with heat waves and water scarcity, followed by inland flooding, extreme rainfall, and growing disease incidence. Coastal flooding, sea-level rise, and cyclones are discussed less often despite India’s long coastline and highly vulnerable coastal cities and infrastructure. This focus tends to overlook how multiple risks converge and reinforce each other — for example, seasonal cycles of flooding and water scarcity in Chennai.

Nature-based solutions such as mangrove restoration in coastal Tamil Nadu and urban wetland management in Bengaluru have demonstrated how restoring ecosystem health can sustain human systems as well. For example, urban parks provide cooling benefits and wetlands regulate urban floods.

Bottlenecks and ways forward

What is less discussed is inadequate institutional capacity in existing government departments to reorient ways of working. This would entail moving away from looking at risks in isolation and planning for multiple, intersecting risks. This would mean transforming the ways our cities operate and expand. Undertaking long-term planning needs resilience planners in every line department as well as communication channels across departments to enable vertical and horizontal knowledge sharing.

Another key aspect inherent in transforming cities is focusing on changing behaviours and lifestyles. This is tougher and less understood because the norms we adhere to, the values we cherish, and the systems we are familiar with tend to stymie change. One emerging example of slow but steady behavioural change is bottom-up sustainable practices such as urban farming where citizens are interpreting sustainability at a local and personal scale. This can mean growing one’s own food on terraces and simultaneously enhancing local biodiversity; composting organic waste and reducing landfill pressure; sharing farm produce with a neighbour, bringing communities closer and creating awareness about food growing.

3) Science over Smog Towers –

There is no scientific evidence of smog towers or any other outdoor air filtration units improving air quality in cities. The smog tower installed in China’s Xi’an and another one installed in Beijing did not prove to be effective and were not scaled up.

Smog towers create an illusion of progress towards clean air while diverting crores of public money away from proven solutions. Moreover, they misdirect policymakers and citizens by deflecting attention from areas that call for urgent action. Therefore, governments looking at investing in outdoor filtration systems should defer their deployment plans.

Further, the data on the effectiveness of the newly installed smog towers should be made available publicly for independent evaluation. Until there is scientific consensus on their effectiveness, every new tower installed is just a violation of taxpayers’ money and citizens’ trust.

What we can do –

Governments must ramp up investments in proven solutions to reduce air pollution.

  1. First, policymakers should expand air pollution monitoring in areas with limited or no air quality monitoring and strengthen forecasting capacity across cities. Of the 132 cities in the country that currently don’t meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, 75 do not have a single real-time monitoring station. For areas with no monitoring infrastructure, alternatives like low-cost air quality monitors in combination with satellite observations should be explored to plug the existing data gaps.
  2. Cities should strengthen their air quality forecasting systems by collaborating with scientific institutions that are transparent about their approach and findings. 
  3. Finally, and most importantly, cities should strengthen their enforcement capacity by investing in people and systems that can keep a round-the-clock watch on both egregious and episodic polluters. India is witnessing a rising democratic demand for clean air. But this cannot be met by unproven technological fixes. Instead, we must vigorously pursue solutions that are rooted in science to bring back blue skies.

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