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Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Mar 6, 2021

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“Similipal Biosphere Reserve” Catches Forest Fire

What is the News?

A massive forest fire broke out in the Similipal Biosphere Reserve in Odisha. The core area of the biosphere was untouched by the fire. However, the fire is threatening to damage its rich biodiversity.

About Similipal Biosphere Reserve:

  1. Location: Simlipal is a national park and a tiger reserve located in the Mayurbhanj district in the Indian state of Odisha. It is the 7th largest national park in India. It lies in the eastern end of the Eastern Ghat.
  2. Part of: The Park is part of the Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve. It includes three Similipal Tiger Reserve, Hadagarh Wildlife Sanctuary, and Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary.
  3. Origin of Name: The park derives its name from ‘Simul’ which are red silk cotton trees growing in the area.
  4. Flora: The park has a high biodiversity with about 94 species of orchids and 3,000 species of plants. Among them, Sal is a dominant tree species in the park.
  5. Fauna: The park is home to the Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, gaur, and chausingha. It is also home to some beautiful waterfalls like Joranda and Barehipani Falls.
  6. UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: The park was declared a biosphere reserve by the Government of India in 1994. It is a part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2009.
  7. Tribes: The two tribes namely Erenga Kharias and the Mankirdias inhabit the reserve’s forests and practice traditional agricultural activities. Other dominant tribes include the Ho, Gonda, and Munda among others.

Reasons for Forest Fires in the Simlipal National Park: The forest fires seemed to be both due to natural causes and human-made causes:

  • Natural causes such as lighting or even soaring temperatures can sometimes result in these fires. Moreover, the forests of Similipal are of dry deciduous type and the fallen leaves become highly inflammable if there is no precipitation.
  • Man Made Causes:
    • Poaching and hunting: the poachers set a small patch of forest on fire to divert the wild animals. It can lead to forest fires.
    • Forest areas are set on fire by the villagers to clear the dry leaves on the ground for easy collection of mahua flowers. These flowers are used to prepare a drink that is addictive in nature.

Source: Indian Express


India proposes inclusion of Chabahar port in “INSTC | International North-South Corridor”

What is the news?

India’s Foreign Minister addresses the Chabahar Day event organized at the Maritime India Summit 2021. During the address, the minister put forward the following proposal with respect to INSTC (International North-South Transport Corridor):

  • Inclusion of Chabahar Port in the International North-South Transport Corridor(INSTC).
  • Expansion of the INSTC membership by including Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

About the International North-South Transport Corridor(INSTC):

  1. INSTC was first proposed in 2000 to improve connectivity between Russia, Central Asian states, and India.
  2. Route: It is a 7,200-km-long multi-modal connectivity project to establish transport networks (ship, rail, and road route). It will be used for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe, and Central Asia. It will cut costs and time in moving cargo.
  3. Members: It includes 13 countries namely India, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Oman, Syria, and Ukraine.
  4. Dry Runs: Dry runs of two routes were conducted in 2014 to identify and address key bottlenecks. The two routes were:
    • The first was Mumbai to Baku via Bandar Abbas and
    • The second was Mumbai to Astrakhan via Bandar Abbas, Tehran, and Bandar Anzali.
  5. However, the project has been slow to take off. Despite a renewed focus on INSTC by India and Russia, work was again hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Significance of INSTC:

  • Increase in Bilateral Trade: It has been predicted that improved transport connectivity will increase bilateral trade volumes between Russia, Central Asia, Iran, and India.
  • Shorter and Cheaper Route: As per the study by the Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India, INSTC route is 30% cheaper and 40% shorter than the current traditional route.
  • Can Counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative: INSTC has economic and strategic relevance to India due to China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road Initiative. Hence, the proposed INSTC trade corridor could help India secure its interests in Central Asia and beyond.
  • Integration with Ashgabat Agreement: The INSTC can integrate with the Ashgabat agreement.

Ashgabat Agreement:

  • Ashgabat agreement is a multimodal transport agreement between the governments of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, India, Pakistan, and Oman.
  • Aim: It aims to create an international transport and transit corridor facilitating transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.

Source: The Hindu


India develops “Indigenous Faint Object Spectrograph”

What is the news?

Indian scientists have indigenously designed and developed a low-cost optical spectrograph named “Aries-Devasthal Faint Object Spectrograph & Camera (ADFOSC)”.

Note: Spectrograph is an instrument that obtains and records an astronomical spectrum. It separates incoming light by its wavelength or frequency. It records the resulting spectrum in multichannel detectors like a photographic plate for analysis.

About the Aries Devasthal Spectrograph(ADFOSC):

  • Developed by: It has been indigenously designed and developed by Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences(ARIES). ARIES is an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology(DST).
  • Purpose: The spectrograph can locate sources of faint light from:
    • Distant galaxies in a very young universe
    • Regions around supermassive black-holes around the galaxies
    • Cosmic explosions like supernovae, young and massive stars and faint dwarf galaxies.
  • Location: The spectrograph has been successfully commissioned on the 3.6-m Devasthal Optical Telescope(DOT). It is located near Nainital Uttarakhand.

Significance of this Spectrograph:

  • Made in India: It is a Made in India spectrograph. Such spectroscopes were so far imported from abroad at high costs.
  • Cheaper than imported ones: It is about 2.5 times less costly compared to the imported ones. Moreover, it can locate sources of light with a photon-rate as low as about 1 photon per second.
  • Largest Spectrograph in India: It is the largest of its kind among the existing astronomical spectrographs in the country.

3.6-m Devasthal Optical Telescope

  • Setup by: It was set up in 2016 by Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES).
  • Purpose: It has been set up for the study of celestial objects at optical wavelengths.
    • Celestial objects are any natural body outside the Earth’s atmosphere. Examples are the Moon, Sun, the other planets of our solar system among others.
  • Location: It is located at the Devasthal Observatory site near Nainital, Uttarakhand.
  • Collaboration: The telescope is built in collaboration with the Belgian firm Advanced Mechanical and Optical System (AMOS).
  • Significance: It is currently the largest reflecting telescope in Asia.

Source: PIB


Government released “Rating mechanism for National Highways”

What is the News?

The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways(MoRTH) released the first-ever rating mechanism for National Highways.

About the rating mechanism for National Highways:

  • Conducted by: National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) under the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways(MoRTH).
  • Objective: The fundamental objective of highway rating is “Minimum time with maximum safety in a stress-free environment” for the highway users. Apart from that, it will also improve the government’s accountability towards road users.
  • Parameters: Each toll plaza of the highway is judged based on three major criteria. They are,
    • Highway Efficiency(45%): This will consist of an operating speed of traffic, traffic volume, delay at toll plazas among others.
    • Highway Safety(35%): This will look at accidents on the highways per year, ambulance response time, road clearance after an accident, etc.
    • User Friendly(20%): This will look at the number of footpaths, junctions, adequate structures, etc.

Note: There are no such criteria that have been developed across the world to evaluate the performance of highways from the user perspective.

How many National Highways have been covered in the rating mechanism?

  • The rating has been done for all 219 national highway stretches across the country. They cover a distance of 18,668 km.
  • Four corridors are selected for rating i.e. Agra-Mumbai(1,084 km), Pune-Vijayawada(856 km), Mumbai-Kolkata(1,927 km), Bangalore-Kanyakumari (655 km).

Best and worst Highway according to the rating mechanism

  • The best is the 102-km stretch of the six-lane Ahmedabad-Vadodara section of National Highway (NH)-48.
  • The worst stretch is the 45-km Indore-Dewas section of NH-3, which connects Agra to Mumbai.

Golden Quadrilateral:

  • The Golden Quadrilateral(GQ) is a national highway network. It is connecting most of the major industrial, agricultural and cultural centres of India.
  • It forms a quadrilateral connecting the four major metro cities of India, viz., Delhi (north), Kolkata (east), Mumbai (west) and Chennai (south).
  • Managed by: National Highways Authority of India(NHAI) under the Ministry of Road, Transport, and Highways.
  • Significance: It is the largest highway project in India and the fifth-longest in the world.

Source: PIB


“Black-Browed Babbler” rediscovered after 170 years

What is the News?

Black-browed Babbler(Malacocincla perspicillata) has been rediscovered. It is spotted in southeastern Kalimantan, Borneo in Indonesia after 170 years.

About Black Browed Babbler:

  • Black Browed Babbler is a songbird species in the family of Pellorneidae.
  • The single specimen of the bird was first found between 1843 through 1848 during an expedition. However, after that, the species was never seen in the wild again.
  • Significance: The bird is known for the longest known missing period (170 years) for any Asian species. It is also often called ‘the biggest enigma in Indonesian ornithology’.
  • Features of the bird:
    • The upper parts of the bird were rich brown while the underparts up to the breast were greyish with fine white streaking.
    • The bird has a broad black eye stripe and the iris was found to be deep red. The legs are dark slate-grey.
  • IUCN Status: Data Deficient. However, IUCN says that the global population size of the bird has not been quantified, but the species is described as possibly extinct.

Source: Indian Express


Supreme Court on “IT Rules 2021” to regulate OTT platforms

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has expressed dissatisfaction with the new IT rules to regulate content on Over the Top(OTT) platforms.

What was the case?

  • The Supreme Court is hearing a plea filed by Amazon Prime’s Commercial Head. The plea is challenging the Allahabad High Court Judgment denying her pre-arrest bail in the criminal cases registered in connection with the web series “Tandav”.

What were the observations made by the Supreme Court? The Supreme Court has said that the Government’s Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules,2021 to regulate the OTT (over-the-top) platforms has several problems such as:

Read more: IT rules 2021

  • The rules are more in the nature of guidelines.
  • There is no effective mechanism for the screening of the content shown by OTTs.
  • The rules also do not have enough powers to punish the violators.

What did the Government say?

  • The Government has agreed to consider drafting new regulations or even legislate a law to address the concerns raised by the court about OTT platforms.

Source: The Hindu


40 Scholars awarded under “India Science and Research Fellowship(ISRF) 2021”

What is the news?

40 scholars from 6 countries have been awarded under the India Science Research Fellowship(ISRF) Program 2021.

About India Science Research Fellowship(ISRF) Program 2021:

  • Launched by: the Department of Science and Technology(DST), Government of India in 2015.
  • Purpose: Awarded scientists and researchers from neighboring countries are provided an opportunity to carry out their research in Indian Institutes and Universities. They will get benefits of using state-of-the-art facilities in these places.
  • Countries Covered: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
  • Significance: The fellowship is a platform that establishes research cooperation with neighboring countries of India. This is one of the important mandates of DST’s International Science and Technology Cooperation.

Source: PIB

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