Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 26 May, 2021

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“One Health High-Level Expert Panel” – A WHO panel to investigate zoonotic diseases

What is the News?

The World Health Organization(WHO) has formed a One Health High-Level Expert Panel.

About One Health High-Level Expert Panel:

  • Purpose: The panel has been formed to study the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases. Such as H5N1, avian influenza, MERS, Ebola, Zika and possibly the novel coronavirus disease(COVID-19).
  • Mandate of the Panel:
    • To consider the impact of human activity on the environment and wildlife habitats.
    • To analyse the factors that lead to transmission of a disease from animal to human and vice versa
    • To develop risk assessment and surveillance frameworks;
    • To identify capacity gaps as well as agreement on good practices that help to prevent and prepare for zoonotic outbreaks.
  • Approach: The panel will operate under the One Health Approach. This approach recognizes the links between the health of people, animals, and the environment.
  • Advisory Role: The panel will advise four global agencies on how future outbreaks especially due to zoonotic diseases can be averted. These four organisations are:
    • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
    • World Health Organization(WHO)
    • World Organisation for Animal Health(OIE) and
    • United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP).

What is One Health Approach?

One health

  • It is an approach that recognizes that the health of humans, animals, and ecosystems as interconnected one.
  • Hence, it involves applying a coordinated and multidisciplinary approach at the local, regional, national and global levels. It will address potential or existing risks that originate at the animal-human ecosystems interface.

What are Zoonotic Diseases?

  • Zoonosis is an infectious disease that spreads from non-human to humans.
  • Zoonotic pathogens may be bacterial, viral, or parasitic. They can spread to humans through direct contact or through food, water, and the environment.
  • Three of every four infectious diseases are caused by zoonosis. Moreover, scientists across the world suspect COVID-19 is also a zoonosis disease.

Source: Down To Earth

National Mission on Use of Biomass in Thermal Power plants

What is the News?

The Ministry of Power has decided to set up a National Mission on the use of Biomass in thermal power plants.

About National Mission on the use of Biomass in thermal power plants:

  • Aim of the mission: It aims to address the issue of air pollution by farm-stubble burning. Further, it will also reduce the carbon footprints of thermal power generation.
  • Objectives:
    • It will promote the use of Biomass in Thermal Power Plants to increase the present level of co-firing at 5% from biomass to a higher level.
    • Further, Research and Development in boiler design will be taken up so that it can handle the higher amount of alkalis and silica present in biomass pellets.
    • It will also sort out the constraints in the supply chain of biomass pellets and agro-residue to the power plants.
    • Lastly, it will consider regulatory issues in biomass co-firing.
    • Co-firing is a low-cost option for efficiently and cleanly converting biomass to electricity. It adds biomass as a partial substitute fuel in high-efficiency coal boilers.
  • Implementation of the Mission: The procedure to implement the Mission is under finalization process.
  • Duration: The duration of the proposed National Mission would be a minimum of 5 years.
  • Significance: The proposed National Mission on biomass will also contribute to the National Clean Air Programme(NCAP).

About Biomass:

  • Biomass is a renewable organic material that comes from plants and animals. Biomass can be used as an energy source.

Biomass as an Energy Source in India:

  • Biomass has always been an important energy source for India. It is a renewable, widely available, carbon-neutral source with the potential to provide significant employment in rural areas.
  • About 32% of the total primary energy use in the country is still derived from biomass. Further, more than 70% of the country’s population depends upon it for its energy needs.
  • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is implementing the Biomass power & cogeneration programme with the main objective of promoting technologies for optimum use of the country’s biomass resources for grid power generation.

Source: PIB

High Mercury level Found in Rivers linked to Greenland’s Glacial Meltwaters

What is the News?

According to a study published in Nature Geoscience, Greenland’s glacial meltwaters have unusually high levels of mercury.

About the study:

  • Researchers from the Florida State University have analyzed the meltwater rivers. These rivers receive substantial amounts of water from the Greenland ice sheet.
  • The samples were filtered to remove any sediment and kept safe from contamination. Then the researchers analysed the mercury concentration in each one.

Key Findings of the study:

  • Researchers found high concentrations of mercury in the water bodies fed by the Greenland Ice Sheet.
  • The mercury level was almost ten times the volume of mercury found in normal rivers.
  • The mercury level was also similar to that found in the polluted inland rivers of China.

How did mercury reach the water bodies of Greenland?

  • Mercury is a naturally occurring metal found in some rocks. As glaciers slowly flow downhill, the meltwater grinds up the underlying rocks. It results in mixing mercury into the meltwater.
  • Hence, the mercury did not end up in the meltwaters from industries or other anthropogenic activities, as is the case with most contaminants.

Significance of this study:

  • The findings will change the perception that glaciers have little or no influence on the Earth’s geochemical and biological processes.
  • Moreover, there is a concern that large volumes of mercury can reach the coastal food webs through bioaccumulation. It will impact the Arctic ecosystem.
    • Bioaccumulation: It refers to the process by which pollutants enter a food chain. Bioaccumulation occurs when an organism absorbs a toxic substance at a rate greater than that at which the substance is eliminated.

Source: Down To Earth

EU leaders agree to donate 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines

What is the News?

The European Union(EU) countries have gathered in Brussels, Belgium for a two-day summit. During the summit the EU leaders has agreed to donate 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines

Key Highlights of the Summit: During the Summit:

  • Firstly, the European Union leaders have committed to donate at least 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to middle and low-income countries before the end of 2021.
  • Secondly, the EU will provide assistance to non-EU countries to help them develop local manufacturing capacity.
  • Thirdly, the EU has reiterated their support for the UN-backed COVAX programme.
    • COVAX program aims to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 shots for low-and middle-income countries.
  • Lastly, the summit did not mention anything about lifting the intellectual property rights of Covid-19 vaccines proposed by countries like India and South Africa.

About European Union(EU):

  • European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 27 member states primarily located in Europe.
  • The EU was created by the Maastricht Treaty. The treaty entered into force on November 1,1993.
  • The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states.
  • The EU is run by five main bodies: the European Parliament, the Council of the Union, the European Commission, the Court of Justice, and the Court of Auditors.
  • Among EU countries, 19 use EURO as their official currency. 8 EU members (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden) do not use the euro.
  • Significance: The EU was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2012, in recognition of the organization’s efforts to promote peace and democracy in Europe.
  • Headquarters: Brussels, Belgium.

Source: The Hindu

First Case of “Yellow Fungus” detected in UP

What is the News?

A COVID-19 patient in Ghaziabad has been diagnosed with a Yellow Fungus infection.

About Yellow Fungus:

  • Yellow Fungus is also called mucor septic. It is a fungal infection that medical experts say generally does not occur in humans but in reptiles.
  • Causes:
    • Poor Hygiene
    • High levels of humidity beyond the 30-40% range
    • Old food and improper disposal also contribute to the growth of the fungus.
    • Excess use of steroids is also a possible reason in Covid-19 patients.
  • Symptoms:
    • Symptoms of yellow fungus are laziness, loss of appetite, or no appetite at all and weight loss.
    • In serious cases, yellow fungus can also cause leakage of pus and slow healing of the open wound or necrosis in which cells in living tissue die prematurely.
  • Treatment: Antifungal drug Amphotericin-B is being considered as a primary treatment of yellow fungus. The same injection is being used currently to treat black or white fungus cases in the country.

Why is Yellow Fungus more dangerous than black and White Fungus?

  • Yellow fungus infection, unlike the two other infections, could be much more dangerous as it starts off internally. Thus, its diagnosis is very difficult.
  • Therefore, it remains critical that patients seek help for their infection as soon as they start observing symptoms.

Source: TOI

Preventive steps to avoid Mucormycosis or Black Fungus infections

What is the News?

Doctors have advised several preventive steps to be taken by Covid-19 patients to prevent Mucormycosis.

About Mucormycosis:

  • Mucormycosis or Black Fungus is a rare fungal infection. A group of molds called mucormycetes is the reason behind it, which is abundant in the environment. These are present in the air, water and moist surfaces in damp places.
  • Non-Transmissible: Mucormycosis is not a communicable disease. Also, it does not spread from one person to another like Covid-19.
  • Vulnerable Group:
    • This infection does not usually infect healthy persons. However, it can cause severe infection in an immunocompromised person.
    • Moreover, it is also infecting COVID-19 patients prescribed steroids to control the infections or those who have uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Types of mucormycosis: Mucormycosis can be categorised depending on the organ of the human body it attacks:
    • Rhino orbital cerebral mucormycosis: It infects the nose, the orbit of the eye/eye socket, oral cavity. It can even spread to the brain.
    • Pulmonary mucormycosis: This fungal infection affects the lungs and causes fever, chest pain, cough and coughing of blood.
    • Gastrointestinal Mucormycosis: This fungus infection affects the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Treatment: The infection is often treated with antifungal medicine, usually amphotericin B.

Preventive steps to avoid Mucormycosis:

  • Firstly, patients, especially those in the high-risk category for mucormycosis should avoid visiting damp and dusty places post Covid-19 recovery.
  • Secondly, it will take around four weeks for the effect of steroids administered to COVID-19 patients to wear off. So, it is important to keep oneself protected during this time.
  • Thirdly, patients should wear a three-ply mask and gloves and fully cover their legs and arms.
  • Fourthly, COVID-19 patients’ oxygen mask and cannula should be sterile to prevent mucormycosis.
  • Fifthly, there should be a regular check on the water used in oxygenation for any possible contamination.
  • Lastly, doctors and nurses should check for the symptoms in patients while treating patients with steroids or other immunosuppressive agents.

Source: The Hindu

First consignment of GI certified “Shahi Litchi” exported to the U.K

What is the News?

In a major boost to the export of Geographical Indication(GI) certified products, the first consignment of Shahi Litchi from Bihar was exported to the United Kingdom.

About Shahi Litchi:

  • Shahi Litchi is a variety of litchi that is grown in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. It has high pulp and is juicier compared to the litchi grown in other parts of the country.
  • Favourable Conditions: Humid condition and alluvial soil having a fairly good amount of calcium content are favourable for this type of Litchi variety. This is present in Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and nearby areas.
  • The translucent, flavoured aril or edible flesh of the litchi is popular as a table fruit in India. While in China and Japan it is preferred in dried or canned form.
  • GI Tag: Shahi litchi was the fourth agricultural product to get the Geographical Indication(GI) certification from Bihar in 2018. This is after Jardalu mango, Katarni rice and Maghai paan.
  • Second-Largest Producer: India is the second-largest producer of litchi in the world after China
  • States: Bihar is the leading state for litchi production in the country.
  • Concern: Shahi Litchi is most commonly blamed for the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome(AES) outbreak in Bihar.

Source: The Economic Times

New IT Rules,2021 and the issue of non-compliance.

What is the News?

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has notified the IT(Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules,2021 in the Gazette on February 25th,2021.

The Government had asked the significant social media intermediaries to comply with the rules within three months i.e. by 25th May 2021. However, many of these platforms are yet to comply with the new guidelines.

Note: Social media companies with more than 50 lakh registered users are considered as ‘significant social media intermediaries’.

Key Provisions New IT Rules,2021:

  • Social media companies are prohibited from hosting or publishing any unlawful information. This information is “in relation to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries, etc.
  • If such information is hosted or published the government can take down such information within 24 hours. The user will be given a notice before his/her content is taken down.
  • The government can direct messaging platforms to tie the identity of the user with the message transmitted by him/her for strengthening traceability.
  • The IT rules 2021 call for social media companies to publish a monthly compliance report.
  • Social media platforms are classified into two categories
    1. Social media intermediaries – Platforms that have a limited user base.
    2. Significant social media intermediaries – These are the platforms with a large user base.
  • The significant social media intermediaries have to follow few additional measures like:
    • These platforms should have a physical contact address in India.
    • Appointing a Chief Compliance OfficerNodal Contact Person, and a Resident Grievance Officer in India. All of them should be Indian Residents.
      • Nodal Contact Person will do 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies.
      • The Resident Grievance Officer must acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours, and resolve it within 15 days of receipt.

Possible outcome for non-compliance of New IT Rules,2021

  • The government can take action against companies if they do not comply with the new guidelines by citing Rule 7 of the IT 2021 Rules.
  • Rule 7 states that if any intermediary fails to comply with the guidelines, the provisions of Section 79(1) of the Information Technology Act,2000 shall not apply to such an intermediary.
  • Section 79 of the IT Act provides the ‘safe harbour’ regime status to Social Media Intermediaries. This status provides protection against liability for content posted on their websites by third parties.
  • In other words, the social media platforms will lose their intermediary status. This implies that every user post on these platforms will be considered as posts published by the companies. This will make them criminally liable for any content deemed illegal.

Source: The Hindu

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