ForumIAS: Facts in News (November 21st – 30th)

Facts in news is published on a weekly basis that consists a gist of all crucial news articles from ‘The Hindu’ that may bear relevance to Civil Services Preparation.

Here is the Summary of all current happenings from around the world for the Fourth week of November.

Download Facts in News PDF file here.

Bills, Programs, Policies, Schemes, orders, Judgment 
SC refuses T.N.’s plea for release of Cauvery waterContext:
• The Supreme Court recently refused Tamil Nadu’s plea to direct Karnataka to forthwith release Cauvery water from its reservoirs to make good a shortfall of 63 tmc ft at Billgundulu.
Cauvery Water Dispute:
• The Cauvery River originates in Karnataka’s Kodagu district, flows into Tamil Nadu and reaches the Bay of Bengal at Poompuhar.
• Parts of three Indian states – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka – and the Union Territory of Pondicherry lie in the Cauvery basin.
• Initially, the dispute was between Karnataka and TN but later Kerala and Puducherry also entered the fray.
BC panel Bill to return to HouseContext:
• The Union government will reintroduce the Constitution (123rd ) Amendment Bill, 2017, in the winter session of Parliament.
• The Bill will seek to accord constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).
The Constitution(123rd)Amendment Bill, 2017:
• The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment.
• It seeks to grant the National Commission on Backward Classes (NCBC) constitutional status, at par with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.
National Commission for Backward Classes:
• The NCBC is a body set up under the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993.
• It has the power to examine complaints regarding inclusion or exclusion of groups within the list of backward classes.
• It also advises the central government in this regard.
• The Bill seeks to establish the NCBC under the Constitution, and provide it the authority to examine complaints and welfare measures regarding socially and educationally backward classes.
BC panel Bill to return to House
SC dumps PMLA clause denying bail
• The Supreme Court recently struck down a provision which can deny a person bail even if there is reasonable ground to believe that he or she did not commit the offence of money laundering.
• The history of bail practices traces back to the Magna Carta, the apex court declared Section 45(1) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) of 2002 violative of the fundamental right to equality, life and personal liberty guaranteed under the Constitution.
Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 :
• It is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to prevent money-laundering.
• It also provide for confiscation of property derived from money-laundering.
• PMLA and the Rules notified there under came into force with effect from July 1, 2005.
Objectives of the Bill:
• To prevent and control money laundering
• To confiscate and seize the property obtained from the laundered money; and
• To deal with any other issue connected with money laundering in India.
Cabinet approves new finance panelContext:
• The Cabinet recently set the ball rolling for the constitution of the Fifteenth Finance Commission.
• The Commission will decide the devolution formula for revenue-sharing between the Centre and States from the year 2020 till 2025.
The Fourteenth Finance:
• The Commission, whose recommendations were accepted by the government and are effective till March 31, 2020, had mooted a ten percentage point’s jump in States’ share of the central pool of taxes from 32% earlier to 42%.
About Finance Commission:
• The Finance Commission was established by the President of India in 1951 under Article 280 of the Indian Constitution.
• It was formed to define the financial relations between the central government of India and the individual state governments.
• Finance Commission (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act of 1951 additionally defines the terms of qualification, appointment and disqualification, the term, eligibility and powers of the Finance Commission.
• As per the Constitution, the Commission is appointed every five years and consists of a chairman and four other members.
Functions of Finance Commission:
1. Distribution of net proceeds of taxes between Center and the States, to be divided as per their respective contributions to the taxes.
2. Determine factors governing Grants-in Aid to the states and the magnitude of the same.
3. Finance commission is autonomous body which is governed by the government of India.
Disqualification from being a member of the Commission
A member may be disqualified if:
1. He is mentally unsound;
2. He is an undischarged insolvent
3. He has been convicted of an immoral offence;
4. His financial and other interests are such that it hinders smooth functioning of the Commission.
Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendras (PMMSK) SchemeContext :
• This scheme will empower rural women through community participation to create an environment so that they can realize their full potential.
• This scheme will perform under the patronage of Ministry of Women and Child Development.
• The government plans to reach the 115 most backward districts in the country with 920 Mahila Shakti Kendra.
• The government plans to reach the 115 most backward districts in the country with 920 Mahila Shakti Kendra.
• This is a welfare scheme especially for care, protection, and development of women.
• The central government will establish Mahila Shakti Kendra in the 115 most backward districts of the country.
• The government will establish One Stop Centers (OSCs) in 150 additional districts during this period that would be connected with women helpline and will provide 24 hour emergency and non-emergency response to women.
• All the supporters of the scheme will provide technical support to the government regarding any issues related to women.
• The central government will also establish additional Swadhar Greh to provide relief and rehabilitation to approximately 26,000 beneficiaries
• Under the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) scheme, the government will intensify the campaign nation-wide.
North Korea successfully tested a new Intercontinental ballistic missile(ICBM)Context
• North Korea successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a “breakthrough” that puts the U.S. mainland within the range of its nuclear weapons whose warheads could withstand re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.
• It is a guided ballistic missile – which follows a path – and has a range of 5,500kms.
• They are primarily designed for nuclear weapons delivery but can also carry chemical and biological weapons.
• They were first developed in World War Two
• These missiles can carry a number of separate nuclear warheads – which means a single missile can hit multiple targets
• Speed: An intercontinental ballistic missile constantly changes speed and altitude but the peak speed of an ICBM is about 6-7km/s
• They are like rockets: All ICBMs are large rockets with space for a payload on top.
• Flies like a football, destroys like a weapon.
How an ICBM works?
• 3 stages: To reach high speeds and strike with such precision, ICBMs typically have three (or sometimes four) separate rocket motors, also called stages. This is because smaller rocket motors are easier to make than one big motor
• 1st stage: The lower, first-stage rocket is sometimes called a booster. Boosters are the largest part of rockets and do most of the heavy lifting. (ICBMs weigh as much as a few school buses, mostly because of the large amounts of rocket fuel they carry
• 2nd stage: Once the booster has used up its fuel dozens of miles above Earth, it detaches, and the second-stage rocket motor ignites. The same process happens with any subsequent stages
• In-flight adjustments: During flight, ICBMs use several tricks to stay on course, though most adjustments happen during boosting.
• Gravity does its work: At each stage of flight, the missile and its payload move faster and faster, though they coast (moving without power) for some stretches to ensure an accurate strike.
• Last stage: By the time the last stage has burned out, all that remains is for the payload – a nuclear warhead, chemical weapon , or biological weapon – to deploy
• The new Hwasong-15, named after planet Mars, was a more advanced version of an ICBM tested twice in July.
• It was designed to carry a “super-large heavy warhead.”
• Based on its trajectory and distance, the missile would have a range of over 13,000 km, more than enough to reach Washington D.C. and the rest of the U.S
India and Singapore Defence ministerial dialogueContext
• India and Singapore 2nd Defence ministerial dialogue
What has happened?
• India and Singapore agreed on greater cooperation and activity in the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea even as the two countries concluded a wide ranging naval agreement for maritime cooperation including logistical support, during the 2nd defence ministerial dialogue
• Naval cooperation: The two countries concluded a bilateral agreement for naval cooperation, which includes maritime security, joint exercises and temporary deployments from the naval facilities of each other and mutual logistical support. The agreement would give the Navy the ability for extended deployments in the region
SIMBEX (Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercises): It is a joint naval exercise b/w Indian and Singapore navies. Latest edition i.e. SIMBEX 17, was held in South China Sea in May 2017
• Singapore accepted India’s proposal to institutionalise naval engagements in the shared maritime space, including setting up maritime exercises with like-minded countries and other ASEAN partners
• The two countries also agreed to explore joints projects in research and development
Agreement assumes significance as the strait is considered a critical choke point for global commerce and is seen by China as vulnerability for its energy security. The development is likely to be followed closely by Beijing.
Sagardhwani retraces historic Indian Ocean expedition routesContext
• Marine acoustic research vessel INS Sagardhwani is riding a wave of history that charted the course of oceanographic research in the Indian Ocean.
INS Sagardhwani
• The Kochi-based ship, operated by the Navy and equipped with eight scientific laboratories, recently joined an international campaign to revisit the first major interdisciplinary ‘International Indian Ocean Exploration (IIOE)’ undertaken by 13 countries with 46 vessels in the 1960s
• Indian Naval Ships Kristna and Varuna had taken part in the expedition held under the United Nations.
• Kistna, a frigate which was converted for ocean surveys for want of a dedicated vessel for the purpose, had conducted 29 cruises carrying scientists from various organisations, including the then fledgling Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL), a DRDO laboratory which now owns the state-of-the-art Sagardhwani.
• The massive drive also covered a large part of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, including the coastal seas
• Sagardhwani’s present cruise retraces certain routes followed by Kistna in its mission that lasted till 1965. Between November 17 and 20, Sagardhwani followed the sixth cruise track of Kistna in the southern Bay of Bengal in 1963.
• As the ongoing commemorative expedition is known, is organised by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) under the UN.
• It hopes to furthering the scientific A total of 52 nations are taking part in IIOE-2, carrying out oceanographic research in designated areas in the Indian Ocean.
• It was a watershed event for ocean research in India
• Four Indian vessels, including two small trawlers, from Kochi, had taken part in it.
• But it triggered the formation of several ocean-based research institutions in India like the NIO, NIOT, INCOIS and NCAOR & ocean studies departments in various universities
• The event was among the factors instrumental in rechristening the Indian Naval Physical Laboratory in 1968 to NPOL
World’s smallest tape recorder built from bacteriaContext
• Researchers have converted a natural bacterial immune system into the world’s smallest data recorder, laying the groundwork for a new class of technologies that use bacterial cells for everything from disease diagnosis to environmental monitoring
• The Team created the microscopic data recorder by taking advantage of CRISPR-Cas, an immune system in many species of bacteria
• CRISPR-Cas copies snippets of DNA from invading viruses so that subsequent generations of bacteria can repel these pathogens more effectively.
• As a result, the CRISPR locus of the bacterial genome accumulates a chronological record of the bacterial viruses that it and its ancestors have survived
• When those same viruses try to infect again, the CRISPR-Cas system can recognise and eliminate them.
E Coli
The researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in the US modified an ordinary laboratory strain of the ubiquitous human gut microbe Escherichia coli, enabling the bacteria to not only record their interactions with the environment but also time-stamp the events
How it works?
• To build their microscopic recorder, the researchers modified a piece of DNA called a plasmid, giving it the ability to create more copies of itself in the bacterial cell in response to an external signal.
• Such bacteria, swallowed by a patient, might be able to record the changes they experience through the whole digestive tract, yielding an unprecedented view of previously inaccessible phenomena
• Environmental sensing and basic studies in ecology and microbiology, where bacteria could monitor otherwise invisible changes without disrupting their surroundings
India calls for stronger treaties to protect space assetsContext
• Stressing international cooperation in space as in all domains of global commons, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar called for strengthening global treaties to protect space-based assets and prevent militarisation of outer space
What are global commons?
The ‘Global Commons’ refers to resource domains or areas that lie outside of the political reach of any one nation State. Thus international law identifies four global commons namely:
1. The High Seas
2. The Atmosphere
3. Antarctica
4. Outer Space
India’s successful international space collaboration
• India has more than 200 international cooperation agreements with more than 40 countries and international organisations. Also, India is party to all the legally binding instruments on outer space
• Chandrayaan-1: The maiden moon mission, Chandrayaan-I, a “successful example of international cooperation with international payloads. It signifies the importance India lays on its ‘neighbourhood first policy’
• SAARC satellite: In May, ISRO launched the communications satellite GSAT-9, also called SAARC satellite, meant to provide connectivity and disaster support to countries in South Asia
Oldest stars in our galaxy discoveredContext
• Some of the oldest stars discovered in our Milky Way galaxy by the astronomers.
Cool subdwarfs
• Scientists, in their study, focussed on old or “senior citizen” stars, also known as cool subdwarfs that are much older and cooler in temperature than the Sun
Census of solar neighbourhood
• In a study, astronomers conducted a census of our solar neighbourhood to identify how many young, adult and old stars are present. They targeted stars out to a distance of 200 light yearswhich is relatively nearby considering the galaxy is more than 1,00,000 light years across
Solar neighbourhood
• It is about 80 light years in radius
Air-launched BrahMos missile test-firedContext
• The missile was gravity dropped from the Su-30MKI from its fuselage, and the two-stage missile’s engine fired up and was propelled towards the intended target in the Bay of Bengal
What has happened?
• In a milestone, a BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was fired successfully for the first time from a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force
• The successful maiden test-firing of Brahmos Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) from Su-30MKI will significantly bolster the IAF’s air combat operations capability from stand-off ranges
• Cruise missile triad completed: BrahMos is now capable of being launched from land, sea and air, completing the tactical cruise missile triad for India
• The land and sea variants of Brahmos are already operational with the Army and the Navy. Recently, the range variants were upgraded from 290 km to 450 km after India joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
• BrahMos ALCM, which weighs 2.5 tonnes, is the heaviest weapon to be deployed on India’s Su-30 fighter aircraft. It has a range of 290 km
• BrahMos is a joint venture between India and Russia and named after the Brahmaputra and Moscowa rivers
World Antibiotic Awareness Week celebratedContext
• Article talks about the World Antibiotic Awareness Week, a World Health Organisation campaign to focus attention on antibiotic resistance
What is AMR?
• Antibiotic drug resistance is developed in the micro-organisms.
• AMR is the ability of a microorganism such as bacteria, viruses etc., to render the anti-microbial such as antibiotics, antivirals and anti-malarials ineffective against them.
• It results in failure of standard treatments and the spread of infections
Similarities b/w climate change & Antibiotic resistance issues
• In both cases, the actions of people in one region have consequences across the globe. Also, tackling both requires collective action across multiple focus areas.
• For resistance, this means cutting the misuse of antibiotics in humans and farm animals, fighting environmental pollution, improving infection control in hospitals, and boosting surveillance
National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance
• Finalization of India’s National Action Plan on AMR (Anti-Microbial resistance) was announced at the ‘Inter-Ministerial Consultation on AMR containment’ held at New Delhi. The ministers present also signed a ‘Delhi Declaration’ to contain AMR
• A draft national action plan prepared by the National Centre for Disease Control, under MoHFW was released in March 2017. It called for surveillance of antibiotic use in humans and animals and surveillance of antibiotic resistance in humans, animals and environment
• In 2015, the WHO released a global action plan on AMR and passed a resolution urging member countries to develop national action plans by May 2017
Delhi Declaration
• It calls on the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to help implement the national and state action plans on AMR
• In order to strengthen the surveillance of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the country, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has set up a National Anti-Microbial Resistance Research and Surveillance Network (AMRRSN) to enable compilation of National Data of AMR at different levels of Health Care
• Government of India formulated a National policy for containment of antimicrobial resistance in 2011
National Programme for Containment of AMR
• A National Programme for Containment of AMR has also been initiated in 12th Five Year Plan with the following objectives.
• To establish a laboratory based surveillance system by strengthening laboratories for AMR in the country and to generate quality data on antimicrobial resistance for pathogens of public health importance
• To generate awareness among healthcare providers and in the community regarding rational use of antibiotics
• To strengthen infection control guidelines and practices and promote rational use of antibiotics
Global Conference on Cyber SpaceContext
• PM Modi calls for sharing of information and coordination among nations and creation of cyber warriors to ensure safety.
• The Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS),attended by delegates from 131 countries
• Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance (UMANG) mobile app was launched, after nearly a year it was announced
• The application will provide over a hundred e-government services to citizens
• Developed by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and National e-Governance Division (NeGD) to drive Mobile Governance in India.
• UMANG service has been made available on multiple channels like mobile application, web, IVR and SMS which can be accessed through smartphones, feature phones, tablets and desktops
India calls for stronger treaties to protect space assetsContext:
• Stressing international cooperation in space as in all domains of global commons, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar recently called for strengthening global treaties to protect space¬based assets and prevent militarisation of outer space.
Why in the news?
• Dr. Jaishankar was addressing a space programme jointly organised by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
• India had more than 200 international cooperation agreements with more than 40 countries and international organizations, and called the maiden moon mission, Chandrayaan.
• In May, ISRO launched the communications satellite GSAT-9, also called SAARC satellite, meant to provide connectivity and disaster support to countries in South Asia.
About GSAT 9:
• South Asia Satellite GSAT-9 is a Geostationary Communication satellite realised by India.
• The primary objective of GSAT-9 is to provide various communication applications in Ku-band with coverage over South Asian countries.
• GSAT-9 is configured around the ISRO’s standard I-2K bus.
• With lift off mass of 2230 kg the main structure of the satellite is cuboid in shape built around a central cylinder. GSAT-9 carries communication transponders operating in Ku-band.
Here comes the sun watcher, India’s Aditya-L1Context:
• India will send ISRO’s solar mission Aditya-L1 to a vantage point in space, known as the L1 to a vantage point in space, known do imaging and study of the sun.
• The so called L1 point is 1.5 million kilometers away.
• Scientists hope to capture the close ups of the sun from here, uninterrupted by eclipses for years.
• Few other space agencies have successfully placed their satellite at this location.
• Among the few, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SO HO), a NASAESA collaboration involving America and Europe, and NASA’s advanced Composition Explorer(ACE) are at L1 exclusively to study the sun and space weather, respectively.
• Aditya L1 is expected to be the very first to study from space two months from the time of launch, the magnetic field of the sun’s corona.
• The corona is the outer layer that we see during total solar eclipses.
• It will be the first 100% Indian mission which will not only negotiate a challenging orbit, but will also benefit the global scientific community in understanding the sun.
Mission SOHO:
• Mission SOHO was launched in 1995.
• It made many discoveries, its coronagraph, meant to image the sun, broke down shortly after the mission commenced.
• There is currently not satellite imaging the sun from space.
• The mission will carry seven payloads, consisting of a coronagraph, equipment that will image the sun using ultraviolet Xray spectrometers and particle samplers all being made within the country.
• The largest payload, or instrument, aboard the satellite, will be the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VLEC).
• This can view the sun more closely than has been done before even by SOHO.
Tobacco use rises in Assam, Tripura: reportContext:
• Tobacco use has increased in Assam, Tripura and Manipur against an overall decline in the country between 2009 and 2017, says the regional report of the second round of Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2016-17 of Northeastern States.
Highlights of the report:
• The overall tobacco use prevalence in India has declined from 34.6% to 28.6% in eight years in Assam, it has increased from 39.3% to 48.2%, Tripura from 55.9% to 64.5% and marginally in Manipur from 54.1% to 55.1%.
• All other Northeastern States have shown a decline with Sikkim registering a remarkable fall from 41.6% to 17.9%.
• Significant increase Assam and Tripura also recorded the most significant increase in chewing of smokeless tobacco which has declined from 25.9% to 21.4% in the country.
• It decreased significantly in Sikkim and rose moderately in Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland.
World’s smallest data recorder made of bacteriaContext :
• The researchers at the Columbia University Medical Centre(CUMC) in the U.S. modified an ordinary laboratory strain of the ubiquitous human gut microbe Escherichia coli.
• The microscopic data recorder by taking advantage of CRISPR-Cas, an immune system in many species of bacteria.
• CRISPR-Cas copies snippets of DNA from invading viruses so that subsequent generations of bacteria can repel these pathogens more effectively.
Why in the news ?
• Researchers have converted a natural bacterial immune system into the world’s smallest data recorder, laying the groundwork for a new class of technologies that use bacterial cells for everything from disease diagnosis to environmental monitoring.
• CRISPR technology is a powerful tool for editing genomes.
• It allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function.
• Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops.
• However, its promise also raises ethical concerns.
• CRISPR technology was adapted from the natural defense mechanisms of bacteria and archaea (the domain of single-celled microorganisms). These organisms use CRISPR-derived RNA and various Cas proteins, including Cas9, to foil attacks by viruses and other foreign bodies.
INSPIRE 2017Context :
• INSPIRE 2017 is an International Conference that brings together various stakeholders such as policy makers, innovators, financiers, influencers to showcase best practices in the sector.
Why in the news?
• The first edition of the International Symposium to Promote Innovation & Research in Energy Efficiency (INSPIRE 2017) was kicked off in Jaipur recently
• The five-day symposium is being organized by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) in partnership with The World Bank, and Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE).
2018 as International Year of MilletsContext :
• India has sent a proposal to United Nations for declaring the year 2018 as ‘International Year of Millets’.
• The proposal, if agreed, will raise awareness about millets among consumers, policy makers, industry and R&D sector.
Why in the new?
• Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh has sent a proposal to United Nations for declaring 2018 as "International Year of Millets"
• Millet is a common term to categorise small-seeded grasses that are often termed nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals, and includes sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.
International Geological CongressContext :
• International Geological Congress (IGC) is the prestigious global platform for advancement of Earth Science.
Why in news
• A high level delegation of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) recently visited India to discuss the preparatory aspects of the 36th International Geological Congress (IGC) to be held in Delhi, India in the year 2020.
• The first session of IGC assembled in 1878 in France with an aim to provide the global geological community with an opportunity to create an organizational frame work for meeting at regular intervals.
• Described as the Olympics of Geosciences, the IGCs are held quadrennially under the aegis of the IUGS through a process of global bidding.
• India won the bid in 2012 at Brisbane, Australia to host the Congress in 2020.
• The event is being jointly funded by the Ministry of Mines and Ministry of Earth Sciences with the active support of the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), and the Science Academies of the other neighbouring co-host countries, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

National anti-profiteering authorityContext :
• The National Anti-profiteering Authority is tasked with ensuring the full benefits of a reduction in tax on supply of goods or services flow to the consumers.
• The National Anti-profiteering Authority shall be responsible for applying anti-profiteering measures in the event of a reduction in rate of GST on supply of goods or services or, if the benefit of input tax credit is not passed on to the recipients by way of commensurate reduction in prices.
Why in the news?
• Senior bureaucrat Badri Narain Sharma has been appointed as the chairman of the national anti-profiteering authority under the GST regime.
Coral transplant raise Barrier Reef survival hopesContext
• In an Australian project, Coral bred in one part of the Great Barrier Reef was successfully transplanted into another area, hoping they could restore damaged ecosystems around the world.
The trial
• In a trial at the reef’s Heron Island off Australia’s east coast, the researchers collected large amount of coral spawn and eggs late last year, grew them into larvae and then transplanted them into areas of damaged reef.
• When they returned eight months later, they found juvenile coral that had survived and grown, aided by underwater mesh tanks.
Global significance
• The success of the research not only applies to the Great Barrier Reef but has potential global significance.
• The results are very promising and the work shows that adding higher densities of coral larvae leads to higher numbers of successful coral recruits.
Contrasting approach
• It showcases that one can start to restore and repair damaged coral populations where the natural supply of coral larvae has been compromised.
• Although the larval-restoration approach contrasts with the current “coral gardening” method of breaking up healthy coral and sticking healthy branches on reefs, scientists hope that they will regrow coral in nurseries before transplantation.
• The same approach was earlier successfully trialled in the Philippines in an area of reef highly degraded by blast fishing, which helped reefs recover on a larger scale.
• The Great Barrier Reef is reeling from an unprecedented second-straight year of coral bleaching because of warming sea temperatures linked to climate change.
Surge in oxygen levels led to explosion of life: StudyContext:
• Recently studies say that a boost in levels of oxygen may have caused a three-fold increase in biodiversity during between 445 and 485 million years ago.
Why is it in news?
• This study suggests that atmospheric oxygen levels did not reach and maintain modern levels for millions of years after the Cambrian explosion.
• In fact, the oxygenation of the atmosphere and Shallow Ocean took millions of years.
What has been found?
• Researchers were able to identify an oxygen increase during the Middle and Late Ordovician periods.
They also found:
• 80% increase in oxygen levels where oxygen constituted about 14% of the atmosphere during the Darriwilian Stage (Middle Ordovician 460-465 million years ago) and
• Increased to as high as 24% of the atmosphere by the mid-Katian (Late Ordovician 450-455 million years ago).
The three fold increase:
• The explosion of diversity, recognised as the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, brought about:
• the rise of various marine life,
• tremendous change across species families and types,
• as well as changes to the Earth, starting at the bottom of the ocean floors.
Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event:
• The Ordovician radiation, or the great Ordovician biodiversification event (GOBE), was anevolutionary radiation of animal life throughout the Ordovician period, 40 million years after the Cambrian explosion.
• The distinctive Cambrian fauna fizzled out to be replaced with a Palaeozoic fauna rich in suspension feeder and pelagic animals.
• It brought about rise of various marine lives, tremendous change across species families and types, as well as changes to the Earth, starting at the bottom of the ocean floors.
How a dust storm from 3000 km away smothered Deli this monthContext:
• The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) under the Ministry of Earth Science published a ‘Scientific Assessment of Delhi Winter Air Quality Crisis’, which listed two “Extreme” events behind the smog that had smothered Delhi and its neighbourhood.
“Extreme 2”
• Extreme 2 was the much discussed burning in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh
“Extreme 1”
• was a “large multi-day dust storm that emerged at Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia
• The report blamed this storm much more than the burning of stubble for Delhi’s air quality crisis during that period –“the pollution contribution of Gulf dust storm on peak day was around 40% and from stubble burning was 25%.
• The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) aboard the NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite captured images of a massive dust and sand storm over Saudi Arabia and Iraq .
• Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometers(MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites released images of skies over Saudi Arabia and Iraq ,red with a thick blanket of dust.
• Scarce rain and advancing desertification are the key reasons.
• Climate change is the main reason which led to drastic changes in annual rainfall and temperature besides other reasons such as drought, mismanagement of water, and abandonment of agriculture lands.
Highlights of the report:
• According to the SAFAR assessment, the late October-early November dust storm “was carried by relatively cool winds”.
• The report pointed out that “As air temperatures dropped, winds and dust were likely to slowly diminish, but that time, it got into the upper part of atmosphere and direction became towards India and dust affected the larger region of NCR including Delhi.
• The strong NW shaman winds entrained an enormous amount of mineral particles into the atmosphere.
Pollution in Delhi:
• A high-pressure centre developed above the Gulf of Oman and the strong anticyclonic flow at 5,500 metres above sea level transported atmospheric dust into the direction of Delhi.
• Meteorologists in India have said that a high-pressure zone over Delhi and its neighbourhood and the absence of strong winds kept pollutants trapped close to the surface.
• During the second week of November, anti-cyclonic weather conditions were observed in North India, which helped in building up of pollutants in the lower troposphere.
• The calm surface wind conditions which do not allow to disperse pollution was due to anti-cyclonic circulation connected with late withdrawal of monsoon, persisting at about 700 hPa lower troposphere over northwest India with its centre near Delhi.
• Stubble burning, which, the SAFAR report said, was very high and upper air winds become north-westerly with high speed and started pumping pollution in Delhi.
‘Drought, heatwaves increasing in frequency’Context:
• Drought and heat waves all together has been engaging several researchers in India.
Why is it in news?
• Analysing rainfall and temperature data of 50 years, researchers have found that:
• the frequency of heatwaves accompanied by drought has increased not only in magnitude but in area too over the past three decades
• While heatwaves and droughts are destructive even when occurring in separate events, theirconcurrence is far more serious.
• A single extreme event may not be critical, but two extremes occurring at once is much more significant in the distress it causes.
What is the reason behind the phenomena?
• Researchers believe this could be due to the intricate relationship of land surface processes, soil moisture, evapo-transpiration and local climate.
• A spatial analysis reveals the area affected by the twin calamities is starkly increasing.
• With certain accuracy, these incidents can be predicted.
• This could contribute to policy making and ensure preparedness.
• Both phenomena have a serious bearing on water resources, affecting agriculture and human settlements.

All-India Tiger EstimationContext
• In the forthcoming All-India Tiger Estimation, the authorities have planned to eliminate the process of manual recording of signs of the carnivore and other habitat details.
• Field data collection for tiger listing is set to go digital in order to reduce human error and provide more reliable estimates.
M-STRiPES (Monitoring System for Tigers-Intensive Protection and Ecological Status)
• An app named M-STRiPES was developed by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.
• Though the app has already been in place in some national parks, its usage and application has been made mandatory only now, for the fourth All-India Tiger Estimation.
• The use of the app would ensure a more robust estimate. With the availability of M-STRiPES, human error will be eliminated.
• It is a free app that will be made available to staff participating in the tiger census exercise, and they will feed in their observation during the carnivore sign survey and transect marking. Details such as pellet density, vegetation status and human disturbance, if any, will also be recorded.
Training for staff
• The field staff and senior officials of the Forest Department will be trained on how to use the app at a programme in Bandipur and Mudumalai from December 5 to 7.
• The key technical staff involved in operation of the software will undergo an advanced training course in Delhi in December.
Similar apps
• Bandipur had Hejje or Pugmark, an Android-based app, while BRT started with Huli.
• The GIS-based app will give real-time data on forest habitats besides providing live update of monitoring and patrolling activities.
• The nationwide introduction of M-STRiPES paves the way for greater standardization and elimination of inconsistencies in data interpretation.
Counted every four years
• The national tiger estimates are conducted once in four years, with the first conducted in 2006. That exercise pegged the tiger count at 1,411, with the statistical lower limit pegged at 1,165 and the upper limit, 1,657.
• The Western Ghat landscape, comprising Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Goa, accounted for 776 tigers in 2014, with the Bandipur-Nagarahole-Mudumalai-Wayanad complex harbouring 570 tigers — reckoned to be the world’s single largest tiger population in a landscape.
• The last nationwide assessment, held in 2014, pegged the tiger figures across the country at 2,226.
Blue whales are mostly ‘right-handed’: StudyContext
Blue whales, the world’s largest animals, usually favour their right side when they lunge to catch food — a preference similar to right-handedness in people, researchers said
Blue Whale
• Location: Southern Chile, Gulf of California of Triangle
• Status: Endangered
Migratory birds start arriving in ChilikaContext
• After a long flight of thousands of miles, not often punctuated by breaks, lakhs of migratory birds have made their way to the Chilika Lake, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon
• Major bird congregations have been spotted in the wetlands of the Nalabana Bird Sanctuary inside Chilika and Mangalajodi, a major village on the banks of the lake
• The wetlands of Mangalajodi have begun to fill up with lakhs of ruffs, godwits, plovers, sandpipers and migratory ducks. With 11.59 sq km of mudflats, Mangalajodi receives about 3 lakh birds during winter
From where do these birds come?
• Migratory birds fly across continents from Caspian Sea, Baikal Lake and remote parts of Russia, Mongolia and Siberia and flock to the marshy lands of the Nalabana Bird Sanctuary inside the Chilika Lake, which is spread across over 1000 sq. km.
Bird Festival
• The Odisha government has announced a bird festival for the first time in January, showcasing the diversity of migratory birds and their numbers.
Chilika lake
• Chilka Lake is a brackish water lagoon at the mouth of the Daya River
• It is spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha state on the east coast of India.
• It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest lagoon in the world.
The lagoon hosts
• Over 160 species of birds in the peak migratory season. Birds from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea and other remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and southeast Asia, Ladakh and Himalayas come here.
• In 1981, Chilika Lake was designated the first Indian wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
• Birds: White bellied sea eagles, greylag geese, purple moorhen, jacana, flamingos, egrets, gray and purple herons, Indian roller, storks, white ibis, spoonbills, brahminy ducks, shovellers, pintails, and more.
• Nalbana Island is the core area of the Ramsar designated wetlands of Chilika Lake.
• Nalbana was notified in 1987 and declared a bird sanctuary in 1973 under the Wildlife Protection Act.
• The Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaellabrevirostris) is the flagship species of Chilika lake.
• Chilka is home to the only known population of Irrawaddy dolphins in India.
• It is classified as critically endangered, in five of the six other places it is known to live
Govt. working on new gas ‘standardsContext
• The government is looking to prepare a unified testing methodology to ensure that all agencies that map air pollution use accurate instruments
What has happened?
• The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is in the process of setting up ‘gas standards’, or reference samples of,
• Carbon Monoxide (CO)
• Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
• Nitrous Oxide (NO2)
• Particulates –Pb (lead), –As (Arsenic) and –Ni (Nickel)
Current situation
• Currently, the National Ambient Air Quality standards specify the upper limits for pollutants and, based on this, the Air Quality Index — that grades air quality in cities from ‘Good’ to ‘Severe’ — is prepared for several Indian cities.
• The measurement devices are not calibrated properly and errors creep in
• Talks with CPCB
• There would be talks with environment-monitoring agencies like the the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to see if these can become reference standards for use by all private and public agencies that measure pollution levels
What is Ambient Air Quality?
• Ambient air quality refers to the condition or quality of air surrounding us in the outdoors
• National Ambient Air Quality Standards are the standards for ambient air quality set by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that is applicable nationwide
• The CPCB has been conferred this power by the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
• The current National Ambient Air Quality Standards were notified on 18thNovember 2009 by the Central Pollution Control Board.
National Air Quality Index (NAQI)
• A new National Air Quality Index (AQI) was launched in October 2014 to disseminate information on air quality in an easily understandable form for the general public. It was launched under Swachh Bharat.
• AQI has six categories of air quality. These are: Good, Satisfactory, Moderately Polluted, Poor, Very Poor and Severe
Who monitors the ambient air quality in India?
• Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs)/Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) monitors the ambient air quality at 680 monitoring stations located in 300 cities/towns covering 29 states and 6 union territories across the country under National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP)
Objectives of NAMP
The objectives of the NAMP are,
• To determine status and trends of ambient air quality
• To ascertain whether the prescribed ambient air quality standards are violated
• To Identify Non-attainment Cities
• To obtain the knowledge and understanding necessary for developing preventive and corrective measures and to understand the natural cleansing process undergoing in the environment through pollution dilution, dispersion, wind based movement, dry deposition, precipitation and chemical transformation of pollutants generated
What the pollutants measured under NAMP
• Under N.A.M.P., four air pollutants have been identified for monitoring at all locations,
• Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
• Oxides of Nitrogen as NO2
• Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM)
• Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM / PM10)
Debate on Trophy huntingContext
• Local African voices need to be heard in the debate on trophy hunting
Impact of the incident
• Due to this incident Trophy Hunting has received much needed attention
• Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) received widespread financial support
• Subspecies of lions at risk from different population pressures were placed on the U.S. Endangered Species Act, making it difficult for American citizens to trophy hunt
What is Trophy hunting?
• Trophy hunting is the selective hunting of wild animals for human recreation.
• The trophy is the animal or part of the animal kept, and usually displayed, to represent the success of the hunt
Pertinent questions
• Is trophy hunting good for conservation or does it contribute to population declines?
• Is hunting ethical, and by whose standards?
• Should hunting be banned, and who decides?

Trophy hunting: Not a major threat
• Trophy hunting has been favourably implicated in the recovery of individual species such as the black rhino and the straight-horned markhor, a species of wild goat found in Pakistan
• In the specific case of lions, WildCRU’s own report states the following,
o Habitat loss and degradation as well as the loss of prey-base and conflict with local communities over livestock losses are primary threats
o Trophy hunting may be beneficial: The most fundamental benefit of trophy hunting to lion conservation is that it provides a financial incentive to maintain lion habitat that might otherwise be converted to non-wildlife land uses
Trophy hunting vs ecotourism
• Hunting is carried out in about 1.4 million sq km in Africa, more than 22% of area covered by national parks in Africa
• Ecotourism is unviable at this scale: To increase the scope of ecotourism (the most frequently proposed revenue generation alternative) to this level seems unviable given that many of these landscapes are not conducive to tourism.
• Mix results with Trophy hunting: Like other market-based mechanisms such as payments for ecosystem services or ecotourism, trophy hunting is also riddled by problems such as lack of local regulation, rent-seeking and corruption, which can derail such projects. Trophy hunting therefore has mixed results, with a variety of factors determining its success or failure
Ban on hunting: Not a solution
• Generic hunting bans do not automatically lead to increases in wildlife.
• No ban is working out well for wildlife: On the contrary, in both South Africa and Namibia where wildlife has been commoditized (trophy hunting, wildlife tourism, commercial meat production as well as local consumption) and managed for the benefit of local communities, populations seem to be doing better
• An undue focus on issues such as trophy hunting can take away from real problems such as conflict as well as widespread habitat loss and degradation
Indus civilization flourished along a course abandoned by the Sutlej, says studyContext
• New findings on Indus Valley civilization
What has happened?
• A team of Indian and British researchers has found that it was the Sutlej, not the “lost” Saraswati river, as some believed, that gave rise to the great Indus civilization that flourished around 4,000 years ago
• This recent discovery may have significant bearing on our understanding of how the ancient urban civilization bloomed and ended
• The scientists reported in the journal Nature Communications that, unlike other civilisations such as Mesopotamian and Egyptian, which came up on major river banks, the Indus civilisation flourished along a course which the Sutlej abandoned some 8,000 years ago.
• The urban centres of the Indus civilisation (also known as Harappancivilisation) developed without the water provided by a big Himalayan river
Major turning point
• Many believed that it was the death of a river that led to the collapse of the civilization. But what we find is that it was the demise of a river (by changing of its course) that helped nourish this civilization. In that sense this is a major turning point in our understanding of our past
Sutlej & IVC
• When the river changed its course, it left a former channel in the landscape which was a topographic low. This served to capture and concentrate monsoon-fed river flow and contained excellent soils for agriculture. Thus the Sutlej formed the environmental template for the civilisation in this region.
New identity for an Eastern Ghats residentContext:
• For the last 70 years, it did not get its rightful place in the classification scheme. But the Dutta’s Mahendragiri gecko has come into its own now, and is the latest addition to the species list of the Eastern Ghats.
• Discovered from Andhra Pradesh’s Mahendragiri hills, it is the second gecko to be found endemic to the area.
• The discovery highlights of the biodiversity importance of the region, say scientists.
Genetic help:
• Genetics help analysis, which involves scrutiny of an organism’s DNA, helped scientists from institutes including the National Centre for Biological Science(NCBS) and Zoological Survey of India discover that the Dutta’s Mahendragiri gecko were not a population of spotted rock geckos(found in the northern Western Ghats in Maharashtra)as it was believed.
• Dutta’s Mehendragiri, gecko has golden eyes and pale, black-bordered horizontal bands.
Rajasthan seeks nod to bring tigers from other StatesContext:
• After seeking the Centre’s nod for shifting of tigers from Ranthambhore to Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve, the Rajasthan government has asked for permission to bring tigers from other states for their rehabilitation and cross-maing in order to develop strong breeds of the big cating.
About Ranthambhore National Park:
• Ranthambhore is the fortieth largest national parks in norther India covering 392 km². Ranthambhore was established as the Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary in 1955 by the Government of India and was declared one of the Project Tiger reserves in 1973.
• Ranthambhore became a national park in 1980.
• In 1984, the adjacent forests were declared the Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary and Keladevi Sanctuary, and in 1991 the tiger reserve was enlarged to include the Sawai Man Singh and Keladevi sanctuaries Ranthambhore wildlife sanctuary is known for its Bengal tigers.
Chabahar port in IRANContext :
• Iran’s Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country. The port gives access to the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations’ southern coast and India can bypass Pakistan with the Chabahar port becoming functional.
• The inauguration of the port will effectively pave the way for India to carry forward the next phase of construction and development of two berths for its use, particularly for trade with Afghanistan. Next, the government, which has committed $500 million to the port project, will develop a free-trade area around the port, and finally will complete the loop with a $1.6-billion railway line to Zahedan.
Why in the news ?
• Iran is all set to inaugurate the first phase of the Chabahar port development project. The first phase of work on Chabahar port has been completed. The development assumes significance since India’s outreach through Iran is taking place at a time the Donald Trump administration is planning to corner Tehran through diplomatic and economic means.
About Chabahar port:
• Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar located in southern Iran, on the Gulf of Oman.
• It serves as Iran’s only oceanic port, and consists of two separate ports named Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti, each of whch have five berths.
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