Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 10 May, 2021

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ZSI research helps in categorising “Indian and Chinese Pangolin” scales

What is the News?

Researchers at the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Kolkata have developed tools to differentiate the scales of Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) and Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla).

About the Research:

  • The researchers characterised the morphological features of the Indian and Chinese Pangolin.
  • They also investigated genetic variations between the two species. The researchers investigated this by sequencing 624 scales of pangolins. After sequencing, they compared the sequences with all eight pangolin species.
  • Based on the size, shape, weight and ridge counts on the scales, the team was able to categorise the difference between the Indian and Chinese Pangolin.

Difference between Indian and Chinese Pangolin:

Indian vs Chinese Pangolin

Source: The Hindu

  • The Chinese Pangolin has smaller scales compared to the Indian pangolin.
  • A terminal scale is present on the lower side of the tail in the Indian Pangolin. But the terminal scale is absent in the Chinese Pangolin.
  • The dry weight of the scales from one Chinese pangolin is roughly about 500 to 700 grams. However, in the case of Indian pangolin, it goes up from 1.5 kg to 1.8 kg.

Significance of this research:

  • The wildlife officers during the confiscation of Pangolin scales can just weigh and estimate how many pangolins might have been killed.
  • These findings will also helpful for law enforcement agencies to identify the pangolin species on the spot during large seizures.

About Pangolin:

  • Pangolins are scaly anteater mammals of the order Pholidota. They have large, protective keratin scales covering their skin. They are the only known mammals on earth to have this feature.
  • Pangolins in India: Out of the eight species of pangolin, the Indian Pangolin and the Chinese Pangolin are found in India.
  • Indian Pangolin:
    • Indian Pangolin is widely distributed in India, except in the arid region, high Himalayas and the North-East. The species also occurs in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
    • IUCN Status: Endangered
    • Wildlife Protection Act,1972: under Schedule I.
  • Chinese Pangolin:
    • It is widely distributed in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and the northeastern part of India.
    • IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
    • Wildlife Protection Act,1972: Under Schedule I
  • Threats:
    • Between 2000 and 2019, an estimate of about 8.9 lakh pangolins was trafficked globally. This mainly involved Asian and African pangolins. This has led to a drastic decline of the species.
    • Traditional East Asian medicines also use the Pangolins scale. So, Pangolins are killed for their scales.
    • All this has led to an estimated illegal trade worth $2.5 billion every year.

Click Here to Read more about Pangolins

 Source: The Hindu

“Global Methane Assessment” :The UN Report on human-caused methane emissions

What is the News?

Climate and Clean Air Coalition(CCAC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a report titled “Global Methane Assessment: Benefits and Costs of Mitigating Methane Emissions”.

Objective: The report has suggested that the world needs to dramatically cut methane emissions to avoid the worst of climate change.

Key Findings of the Global Methane Assessment Report:

Increase in Methane Emissions:

  • Currently, Human-caused methane emissions are increasing faster at any other time (since record keeping began in the 1980s).
  • Carbon dioxide levels have dropped during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. However, methane in the atmosphere reached record levels last year.
  • This was a cause of concern as methane was an extremely powerful greenhouse gas. It was responsible for about 30% of global warming since pre-industrial times.

Source of Methane Emissions:

  • More than half of global methane emissions stem from human activities in three sectors: fossil fuels (35%), waste (20%) and agriculture(40%).
  • Fossil fuel sector: Oil and gas extraction, processing and distribution account for 23%. Coal mining alone accounts for 12% of emissions.
  • Waste sector: Landfills and wastewater make up about 20% of global anthropogenic emissions.
  • Agricultural sector: Livestock emissions from manure and fermentation represent roughly 32%. Further, rice cultivation accounts for 8% of global anthropogenic emissions.

Methane Mitigation according to Global Methane Assessment Report:

The mitigation potential in different sectors varies between countries and regions:

  • Europe had the greatest potential to curb methane emissions from farming, fossil fuel operations and waste management.
  • India had the greatest potential to reduce methane emissions in the waste sector.
  • China’s mitigation potential was best in coal production and livestock.
  • Africa’s mitigation potential was best in livestock, followed by oil and gas.

What needs to be done?

  • Human-caused methane emissions must be cut by 45% to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
  • Such a cut would prevent a rise in global warming by up to 0.3 degrees Celsius by 2045.
  • It would also prevent 26 lakh premature deaths, 77 lakh asthma-related hospital visits annually as well as 25 million tonnes of crop losses.
  • Further, three human behavioural changes could reduce methane emissions by 65–80 million tonnes per year over the next few decades. The behavioural changes are:
    • Reducing food waste and loss
    • Improving livestock management and
    • Adopting healthy diets (vegetarian or with a lower meat and dairy content).

Climate and Clean Air Coalition(CCAC)

  • Climate and Clean Air Coalition is a voluntary partnership of governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society organizations.
  • Aim: The coalition aims to protect the climate and improve air quality through actions to reduce short-lived climate pollutants.
  • India is a member of the coalition.

What are Short-lived Climate Pollutants?

  • Short-lived climate pollutants are climate pollutants that remain in the atmosphere for a much shorter period of time than carbon dioxide (CO2). Though short-lived they have the potential to warm the atmosphere many times greater than CO2.
  • Several short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons. These alone are responsible for up to 45% of current global warming.

About Methane:

  • Methane (CH4) is a colourless, odourless, and highly flammable gas composed of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms.
  • Methane is found in small quantities in Earth’s atmosphere. Methane is also a powerful greenhouse gas.
  • Major natural sources of methane include emissions from wetlands and oceans, and from the digestive processes of termites.
  • Methane sources related to human activities include rice production, landfills, raising cattle and other ruminant animals, and energy generation.

Source: Down To Earth

FCRA Amendments are Crippling Work of NGOs

What is the News?

The FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Amendment) Act, 2020 has affected the work of many NGOs. They are facing difficulties in receiving foreign funds.

FCRA Amendment Act, 2020:

  • The amendment has made it compulsory for the NGOs to open an exclusive Bank account with the State Bank of India in New Delhi to receive foreign donations.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs had given the deadline of March 31st, 2021 to open this bank account.

What is the issue with this amendment?

  • A petition filed in the Delhi High Court seeking exemption from the Union Home Ministry’s March 31 deadline to open an FCRA account with the SBI branch in New Delhi.
  • The petitioner argued that it had applied to open the account before the March 31 deadline.
  • However, the administrative delays in approval by the bank and Ministry severely are causing many troubles for them. It restricted activities of NGOs including providing COVID-19 relief and paying urgent salaries of staff, and also affected its charitable and educational activities.
  • Hence, the Delhi High Court has now issued a notice to Union Home Ministry for a reply.

 About FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act):

  • Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act is an act of Parliament enacted in 1976 and amended in 2010 to regulate foreign donations. It aimed to ensure that such contributions do not adversely affect internal security.
  • Coverage: It is applicable to all associations, groups, and NGOs which intend to receive foreign donations.
  • Registration: An FCRA registration is mandatory for NGOs to receive foreign funds.
  • Purpose: Registered NGOs can receive foreign contributions for five purposes — social, educational, religious, economic and cultural.

Click Here to Read about FCRA

Source: The Hindu

India participates in the “3rd Arctic Science Ministerial”

What is the News?

India is participating in the 3rd Arctic Science Ministerial (ASM3) meeting.

About Arctic Science Ministerial(ASM):

  • Arctic Science Ministerial(ASM) is a global platform for discussing research and cooperation in the Arctic region.
  • The first two Arctic Science Ministerial(ASM) meetings were held in the USA in 2016 and Germany in 2018 respectively.

3rd Arctic Science Ministerial (ASM3):

  • The 3rd Arctic Science Ministerial(ASM3) is jointly organised by Iceland and Japan. It is the first Ministerial meeting being held in Asia.
  • Purpose: The meeting is designed to provide opportunities to various stakeholders to enhance collective understanding of the Arctic region. The meeting also emphasizes the constant engagement in monitoring and strengthen Arctic observations.
  • Theme: ‘Knowledge for a Sustainable Arctic’.

India’s Engagement in the Arctic Region:

  • India’s engagement with the Arctic dates back to 1920 with the signing of the Svalbard Treaty in Paris.
  • Since July 2008, India has had a permanent research station in the Arctic called Himadri at NyAlesund, Svalbard Area in Norway.
  • India has also deployed a multi-sensor moored(anchored) observatory called IndARC in the Kongsfjorden fjord since July 2014.
  • The research in the Arctic region from India is coordinated by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa. The NCPOR falls under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India.

Arctic Council:

  • The Arctic Council was formally established in 1996 by the Ottawa Declaration.
  • Purpose: It is an intergovernmental forum for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States.
  • Members: The members of the Arctic Council include Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
  • Observer Status: Since 2013, India enjoys ‘Observer’ status in the Arctic Council. Twelve other observer countries are Japan, China, France, Germany, UK, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Spain, Netherlands, Singapore, and South Korea.

Source: PIB

US joins “Christchurch Call to Action” against online extremism

What is the News?

The United States has announced that it will be joining “Christchurch Call to Action” against online extremism.

About Christchurch Call to Action:

  • Christchurch Call to Action was launched during the Online Extremism Summit in Paris, France in 2019. The summit was co-chaired by New Zealand and France.
  • Objective: The Christchurch Call is a global pledge by member governments and technology partners. Under this, they work together to address terrorist and violent extremist contents online.
  • Named after: The call is named after the New Zealand city. In Christchurch, 51 members of the Muslim community were murdered in a live-streamed terrorist attack in 2019.
  • Member Countries: Seventeen countries originally signed the agreement. Another 31 countries signed the agreement later.
  • India: India is one of the member countries.
  • Sections: The pledge is non-binding. It consists of three sections or commitments.
    • The governments,
    • Online service providers and
    • Ways in which the earlier two can work together.
  • Measures: The plan commits Governments, international organizations and Internet companies to perform a range of measures. This includes,
    • Developing tools to prevent the upload of terrorist and violent extremist content;
    • Countering the roots of violent extremism;
    • Increasing transparency around the detection and removal of content;
    • Ensuring that algorithms designed and used by companies do not direct users towards violent and extremist content.

Source: AIR

DCGI approves “2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG)” – an anti-COVID drug developed by DRDO

What is the News?

Defence Research and Development Organization(DRDO) has developed an anti-COVID drug named 2-deoxy-D-glucose(2-DG). Recently, the Drugs Controller General of India(DCGI) has approved this drug for emergency use.

About 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG):

  • 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG) is an anti-Covid oral drug. It has been developed by the Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS), a lab of DRDO in collaboration with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories(DRL).

How does a 2-DG drug work?

  • The 2-DG comes in powder form in the sachet. It is taken orally by dissolving the powder in water.
  • The drug accumulates in the virus-infected cells. Thereby, prevents virus growth by stopping viral synthesis and energy production.
  • The selective accumulation of the drug in virally infected cells makes this drug unique.

Significance of this drug:

  • The drug helps in the faster recovery of hospitalised patients. Further, it also reduces supplemental oxygen dependence.
  • A higher proportion of patients treated with 2-DG also showed RT-PCR negative conversion in Covid-19 patients.

Source: Indian Express

Uncontrolled Re-entry of China’s Long March 5B Rocket Debris

What is the News?

The debris from a Chinese Long March 5B rocket made an uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere and fell into the waters of the Indian Ocean west of the Maldives.

About Long March 5B Rocket:

  • The Long March 5B rocket is China’s largest rocket. It was launched into space in April 2021 for putting into orbit a core module named Tianhe.
    • Tianhe is one of the core modules of China’s permanent space station. Tiangong Space Station is its name.
    • This Chinese space station will only be the 2nd after the International Space Station (ISS). Its lifespan will be 10 years but could last 15 years, or until 2037.

Why did re-entry of Long March 5B Rocket raise concerns?

  • When a rocket is launched, its discarded booster stages re-enter the atmosphere soon after liftoff. Then, they harmlessly fall into the ocean as a standard practice.
  • However, in this case, a large part of the rocket went into orbit along with the section of the under-construction space station that it was carrying.
  • While in orbit, this vehicle kept rubbing against the air at the top of the atmosphere and the resulting friction caused it to start losing altitude.
  • This resulted in the Long March 5B rocket’s uncontrolled re-entry back to the Earth inevitable.

Has out of control crashes happened before?

  • It is the 4th largest uncontrolled reentry of debris into the atmosphere.
  • In March 2021, a SpaceX rocket stage made an uncontrolled landing on a farm in the US. But this happened due to a malfunction in the engine tasked to bring it down and not by choice.
  • In 1979, when the NASA space station Skylab was brought down, some debris ended up in Australia leading to an apology from the then-US President.
  • In 1978, when a nuclear-powered Soviet satellite crashed in Canada, Russia was forced to bear a part of the expense gone into cleaning the radioactive debris.

Source: The Hindu


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