9 PM Current Affairs Brief – December 12th, 2019

Heavy metals contaminating India’s rivers

News: A study conducted by Central Water Commission (CWC) from May 2014 to April 2018 revealed that India’s major river systems are contaminated with heavy metals.

Facts:

Key takeaways:

  • Samples from only 35% of water quality stations were safe while rest were polluted with heavy metals, exceeding safe limits set by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
  • Iron was the most common contaminant. Other major contaminants found in the samples were lead, nickel, chromium, cadmium and copper.
  • Main sources of heavy metal pollution: mining, milling, plating and surface finishing industries that discharge a variety of toxic metals.
  • Reasons for contamination: population growth and rise in agricultural and industrial activities.
  • Impact: Long term exposure may result in slowly progressing physical, muscular, and neurological degenerative processes.
Heavy metals contaminating India’s rivers

Note: Heavy metal refers to any metal and metalloid element that has a relatively high density ranging from 3.5 to 7 g/cm3. Example: Arsenic, copper, mercury, lead etc.

Additional Information:

Heavy Metal Disease
Arsenic Black foot
Mercury Minamata
Cadmium Itai-Itai
Nitrate Blue Baby syndrome (Methaemoglobinemia)

Central water commission (CWC)

  • It is a premier Technical Organization of India in the field of Water Resources
  • It functions as an attached office of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. It was founded in 1945 and is headquartered in New Delhi.
  • It is mandated with initiation and coordination of schemes introduced by the Ministry of Jal Shakti.

What are Rare Earth Elements?

News: The United States Army has planned to fund the construction of a Rare Earths processing facility to secure the domestic supply of minerals. The decision comes after China threatened to stop exporting Rare Earth materials to the US.

Facts:

Rare Earth Elements

  • Rare earth elements (REEs) are a group of seventeen chemically similar metallic elements on the periodic table. It comprises of 15 lanthanides elements (lanthanum to lutetium), plus scandium and yttrium.
  • Characteristics: REEs are characterised by high density, high melting point, high conductivity and high thermal conductance. REEs are classified into Heavy REE and Light REE.
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  • Sources: REEs do not occur in a free state. They are found in mineral oxide ores. The principal sources of rare earth elements are bastnaesite, xenotime commonly found in mineral sand deposits, loparite which occurs in alkaline igneous rocks and monazite.

Use of REEs

  1. Aerospace and Defence: Used in precision-guided munitions in missiles, high-power sonar on ships and submarines, stealth helicopters etc.
  2. Health care: used in medical imaging devices, such as MRIs, modern surgical machines
  3. Clean Energy: Used in wind turbines, electric car batteries and energy-efficient lights (LEDs and CFLs)
  4. Nuclear Energy: useful for controlling nuclear reactions and are used in control rods.
  5. Electronics: Used as phosphors in cathode ray tubes, fluorescent lamps and X-ray intensifying screens.
  6. Chemicals, Oil Refining and manufacturing: Make the refining of crude oil into gasoline more efficient and are used in many specialty metal alloys

Production and Trade: China possesses one-third of the world’s known deposits of rare earth metals and is the world leader in REE supply comprising 90% of the global market.

Additional Information:

REEs in India

  • In India, significant rare earths minerals found are ilmenite, sillimanite, garnet, zircon, monazite and rutile, collectively called Beach Sand Minerals (BSM).
  • Monazite is the principal source. Monazite is mainly found in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, west Bengal and Jharkhand.
  • The two Government-owned producers of REE are the Rare Earth Division of Indian Rare Earths Ltd. (IREL) and Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd. (KMML).

3 day “International Seminar on Climate Smart Farming Systems” for BIMSTEC countries begins in New Delhi

News: ‘International Seminar on Climate Smart Farming Systems’ for BIMSTEC countries is being held in Delhi.

Facts:

About ‘International Seminar on Climate Smart Farming Systems’

  • It has been organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare
  • The objective of the seminar is to share experiences to enable improvement of tropical smallholder farming systems for greater productivity and resilience to climate change.

About Climate Smart Farming Systems

  • Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is an approach to help farmers respond effectively to climate change and ensure food security.
  • It has three main objectives:
  • Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes;
  • Adapting and building resilience to climate change; and
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture: It is hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is a multi-stakeholder platform which seeks to improve food security, nutrition and resilience amidst climate change.

Additional Information

About BIMSTEC:

  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organization.
  • It comprises of seven Member states lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity. The members include Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
  • It was founded in 1997. It is headquartered in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • The objective of BIMSTEC alliance is to enhance trade and accelerate growth with mutual cooperation in different areas of common interest.

2.95 crore released for ‘Gandhi Encyclopedia’ for promotion of appropriate Gandhian philosophy

News: Ministry of Culture has approved a project for development of Gandhi Paedia by National Council of Science Museums

Facts:

About Gandhi Paedia: It seeks to promote appropriate Gandhian philosophy and thoughts through social media platforms.

About National Council of Science Museums (NCM):

  • It is an autonomous organisation under Indian Ministry of Culture. It was established in 1978 and is headquartered in Kolkata.
  • It is the largest chain of science centers or museums under a single administrative umbrella in the world. The first science museum in India is the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum (BITM), Kolkata.
  • NCSM co-ordinates all informal science communication activities in the museum space in India.
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