News: Ramsar has declared 10 more wetland sites from India as sites of international importance. With this, the numbers of Ramsar sites in India are now 37
Ramsar Sites: It is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
The new Indian Ramsar sites include:
- Nandur Madhameshwar bird sanctuary- Maharashtra
- Beas conservation reserve, Keshopur-Miani community reserve and Nangal wildlife sanctuary- Punjab
- Nawabganj bird sanctuary, Parvati Arga bird sanctuary, Saman bird sanctuary, Sarsai Nawar Lake, Samaspur bird sanctuary and Sandi bird sanctuary- Uttar Pradesh
Ramsar Convention on Wetland (1971): It is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources
Montreux Record: It is a register of wetland sites on the List of Ramsar wetlands of international importance. It shows such sites where there has been or likely to be adverse ecological changes due to anthropogenic activities. Indian sites in the Montreux Record are Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan), Loktak Lake (Manipur).
Wetland Restoration in India:
- Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017: It prohibits conversion for non-wetland uses, setting up or expansion of industries in wetland areas and disposal of construction and demolition waste within the wetlands.
- National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems (NPCA): Launched in 2015 by merging of the National Lake Conservation Plan and the National Wetlands Conservation Programme. It aims at holistic conservation and restoration of lakes and wetlands.
- Wetland health cards: In 2019, government identified 130 wetlands in the country to be restored in the next five years. Each wetland will be issued a health card, which will denote its health.
- Wetland Mitras: Selected individuals for taking care of the 130 identified wetlands across India.
News: The Supreme Court has allowed the introduction of African Cheetah from Namibia in India. The Court also set up a three-member committee to guide National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) on cheetah reintroduction.
- IUCN Status: Vulnerable
- Geographic range: North, Southern and East Africa, and a few localities in Iran
- Cheetah in India: Extinct in India since 1947
Background: The Supreme Court had earlier stayed African Cheetah reintroduction in Pradesh’s Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary.
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA): Established in 2005, NTCA is a statutory body under MoEFCC which oversees management of Project Tiger and Tiger Reserves in India.
Kuno- Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary:
- Location: Sheopur and Morena districts of Madhya Pradesh
- Status of the wildlife sanctuary changed to Kuno National Park in 2018.
News: The Union Cabinet is likely to
approve changes in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
- It provides the legal framework for making Comprehensive Abortion care (CAC) services available in India.
- The Act allows women to abort foetuses up to 20-weeks-old.
- The law recognises “failure of contraceptive” and “unplanned pregnancy” as legal reasons for abortion only in case of “married” women.
- Between 12 and 20 weeks the grounds for abortion are limited to:
- Where continuance of pregnancy would cause risk to the life/physical or mental health of the pregnant woman
- Where there exists a substantial risk that if the child is born it would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities
News: Spitzer Space Telescopewill conclude its mission on 30th January 2020
About Spitzer Space Telescope
- Launched in 2003, it is a space-borne observatory and is part of NASA’s “Great Observatories”.
- It uses an ultra-sensitive infrared telescope to study asteroids, comets, planets and distant galaxies.
- First telescope to detect light from an exoplanet
- found a ring of Saturn in 2009
- Made the first exoplanet weather map of temperature variations over the surface of a gas exoplanet.
NASA’s series of Great Observatories satellites:
- They are four large, powerful space-based astronomical telescopes.
- The telescopes other than Spitzer Space Telescope are Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory.
News: Indian environmental economist Pavan Sukhdev has won the 2020 Tyler Prize for his work on bringing the economic consequences of environmental degradation and loss to the attention of corporate and political decision-makers.
About Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement
- Annual award for environmental science, environmental health, and energy.
- Established in 1973
- Administered by the University of Southern California.
- Regarded as the “Nobel Prize for the Environment”
News: Scientists have discovered the oldest solid material on Earth
- Oldest solid material is a presolar silicon carbide (SiC)
- It has been found in a 7-billion-year-old stardust trapped inside Murchison meteorite that struck Australia in 1969.
- Material older than the solar system are called presolarmaterials.
- The sun formed about 4.6 billion years ago, and Earth formed about 4.54 billion years ago.
- Stardust: It refers to refractory dust grains that condensed from cooling ejected gases from individual presolar stars. It then incorporated into the cloud from which the Solar System condensed.
News:Indian Navy has launched ‘Operation Vanilla’ in support of flood-hit Madagascar.
- The Navy has sent the INS Airavat, a large amphibious ship to provide assistance.
- Further,this operation is also in line with Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Security and Growth for all in the Region(SAGAR).
About INS Airavat:
- INS Airavat is the third Shardul-class amphibious warfare vessel of the Indian Navy.It was built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers in Kolkata.
- Security and Growth for All in the Region(SAGAR) is a term coined by the Prime Minister(PM) in 2015.
- It is a maritime initiative which gives priority to Indian Ocean region for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity of India in Indian Ocean region.
- The initiative aims at a) enhancing capacities to safeguard land and maritime territories & interests b) deepening economic and security cooperation in the littoral and c) action to deal with natural disasters and maritime threats like piracy,terrorism.
- Madagascar is an island country in the Indian Ocean approximately 400 kilometres off the coast of East Africa.It is the fourth largest island in the world.
- Madagascar is also a member of inter-governmental organisation Indian Ocean Rim Association(IORA).
News:India is considering to invite Australia to take part in its trilateral Malabar Naval exercise.
About Malabar exercise:
- Exercise Malabar is an annual exercise between the navies of India, Japan, and the U.S. held alternately in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
- The exercise began in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between India and the U.S.Then it got permanently expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan in 2015.
- The exercise aims to endeavour to further strengthen India – Japan – US Naval cooperation and enhance interoperability based on shared values and principles.
Exercises between India and Japan:
- JIMEX- It is a bilateral maritime exercise between India and Japan naval forces.
- DHARMA GUARDIAN- It is an annual joint military exercise between Indian and Japan since 2018.
- MINEX– The exercise is an annual Mine Countermeasure Exercise between Indian and Japan naval forces.
- Sahyog-Kaijin:It is a joint exercise between India and Japanese Coast Guards.
Exercises between India and US:
- Yudh Abhyas- It is a joint military exercise between India and the US.
- Tiger Triumph- It is a tri-service military exercise between India and the US.
- Vajra Prahar:It is a Special Forces joint military training exercise conducted alternately in India and the US since 2010.
Exercise between India and Australia:
- AUSINDEX:It is a biennial bilateral maritime exercise between Indian Navy and Royal Australian Navy(RAN).The first edition the exercise took place in 2015.
News:Union minister for Atomic Energy and Space has launched the Bhuvan Panchayat V 3.0 web portal.
About Bhuvan Panchayat web portal:
- Bhuvan is a satellite application launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO).It allows users to explore 2D and 3D representation of the earth.
- Bhuvan Panchayat portal aims to provide geo-spatial services to aid gram panchayat development planning process of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.
- Under the project, the ISRO will collaborate with the Gram panchayat members to understand their data requirements.It will also provide database visualisation and services for the benefit of panchayat members.
News:Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has released the Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining 2020 to monitor and check illegal sand mining in the country.
About the Guidelines:
- These rules serves as a guideline for collection of critical information for enforcement of the regulatory provisions and for effective monitoring of Sustainable Sand Mining Rules 2016.
Key provisions of the Guidelines:
- States to carry out river audits and should put detailed survey reports of all mining areas online and set up a dedicated task forces at district levels.
- States to monitor the movement of sand at different levels such as at the time of sale and purchase at stockyards and during transportation.
- Use of technology through remote surveillance, drones to curb Illegal mining.
- Online sales and purchase of sand and other riverbed materials to make the process transparent.
- The transportation of Sand should take place only in vehicles which are installed with GPS and have been registered with the state government.
Drawbacks of the Guidelines:
- The guidelines has put the entire onus on the states to enforce and monitor sustainable mining while completely relieving itself from any kind of responsibilities.
- There is no mechanism on who will enforce and monitor sustainable mining in bigger projects while states have been told to monitor for projects below 100 hectares.
News:The Government of India’s decision in 2017 to advance the presentation of the Union Budget by February has led to India’s fiscal marksmanship being questioned.
About Fiscal marksmanship:
- Fiscal marksmanship essentially refers to the accuracy of the government’s fiscal forecasts such as revenues, expenditure among others.
- In the Indian context,the term gained popularity after the then India’s Chief Economic Advisor stressed on fiscal marksmanship in the Economic Survey for the year 2012-13.
Significance of fiscal marksmanship:
- The main purpose of publicly disclosing the Budget in a democracy and seeking approval from the legislature is to make the policymaking and governance transparent and participatory.
- However, if these fiscal forecasts turn out to be way off the mark repeatedly, it will undermine the credibility of the Budget numbers and reflects poor fiscal marksmanship.
News:Recently,the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a yellow weather warning for heavy rain and snowfall in Himachal Pradesh.
About Colour- Coded Weather Warning:
- The IMD issues colour-coded warnings to alert the public ahead of severe or hazardous weather conditions that can cause disruption or damage.
Different Colour Codes:
- Green(No warning): No advisory is issued in such cases.
- Yellow(Be updated):It is issued to keep a watch on the weather situation as it may deteriorate.Yellow is the least dangerous of the weather warnings.
- Amber(Be prepared):It implies there is an increased likelihood of extremely bad weather.IMD advises people to be alerted.The government agencies should be prepared to manage situations arising out of severe weather conditions.
- Red(Take action):Red warning demands necessary actions to be taken by different agencies.
About India Meteorological Department (IMD)
- India Meteorological Department (IMD) was established in 1875.It is an agency of the Ministry of Earth Sciences of the Government of India.
- It is the principal agency responsible for meteorological observations, weather forecasting and seismology.
News:India’s first underwater metro tunnel in Kolkata is expected to be completed by March,2022 after a delay of several years.
About the Underwater Metro Tunnel:
- The East West Metro Tunnel is an under construction underwater river tunnel in Kolkata, West Bengal.The tunnel will be first underwater river tunnel in India.
- The river tunnel is constructed underneath Hooghly river which will connect the twin cities of Howrah and Kolkata.It will carry 20% of the city’s population and will cross the river in less than a minute.
- The tunnel will be used by East West Metro Line for metro rail service and is being constructed by Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation.
News:Aon, a leading global professional services firm has released its Weather, Climate & Catastrophe Insight:2019 Annual Report.
About the report:
- The report evaluates the impact of global natural disaster events to identify trends, manage volatility and enhance resilience.
Key takeaways from the report:
Report on Global data:
- Global economy suffered a loss of $232 billion due to natural disasters in 2019 which is eighth-costliest in terms of weather-related disasters adjusting for inflation.
- The total count of natural disasters has increased to 409 in 2019 from 394 a year ago.
- Typhoons in Japan and monsoon floods in China hit the hardest causing losses of $30 billion and $15 billion respectively.
Report on India:
- Cyclone Fani which affected Odisha in India and Bangladesh was the tenth-most costly natural disaster in the world.
- The June-October monsoon floods in India caused a loss of $10 billion to be the seventh- costliest.This also led to the death of 1,750 people, the most among all natural disasters last year.
News:India’s Defence minister has said that the full potential of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation(SAARC) has not been utilised due to behaviour of Pakistan.
- The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation(SAARC) was established with the signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka in 1985.
- It comprises of eight Member States namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
- The Secretariat of SAARC is in Kathmandu,Nepal.
SAARC Specialized Bodies:
SAARC Development Fund(SDF):
- The fund was established in 2010,It is located in Thimphu,Bhutan.It is a comprehensive funding mechanism with the provision of three Windows namely Social, Economic and Infrastructure.
South Asian University:
- South Asian University(SAU) is an International University sponsored by the Member States of SAARC.It was established in 2010 and is located at New Delhi,India.
South Asian Regional Standards Organization(SARSO):
- It was established in 2011 with its headquarters at Dhaka,Bangladesh.It aims to harmonize standards and promote cooperation in the fields of metrology, accreditation and conformity assessment for enhancing the capacity of the respective national institutions.
SAARC Arbitration Council:
- It was established in 2007 with its headquarters at Islamabad,Pakistan.It mandated to provide a legal framework/forum to resolve cost-effective settlement of disputes via arbitration within the region.