Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Daily Current Affairs 02nd September

Sarat Chandra IAS Academy -UPSC Civils Daily Current Affairs 02nd September -2021

Daily Current Affairs 02nd September – Topics

  • China opens first road-rail transport link to Indian Ocean
  • GDP data for the first quarter of the financial year (2021-22)
  • Sand and Dust Storms Risk Assessment in Asia and the Pacific
  • Crocodile species in India
  • Endemicity of Covid-19

1.China opens first road-rail transport link to Indian Ocean

#GS2 #India and its Neighborhood – Relations #Effect of Policies & Politics of Developed & Developing Countries on India’s Interests #Infrastructure

Context: Recently, the first shipments on a newly-launched railway line from the Myanmar border to the key commercial hub of Chengdu in western China, that provides China a new road-rail transportation channel to the Indian Ocean, were delivered.

  • The trade corridor is China’s first to link western China with the Indian Ocean.

About the trade corridor:

  • The transport corridor contains a sea-road-rail link linking Indian Ocean with Southwest China.
  • This corridor connects the logistics line of Singapore, China and Myanmar.
  • Mapping the route: Goods from Singapore reached Yangon Port (Myanmar), incoming by ship through the Andaman Sea of the north-eastern Indian Ocean, and were then transported by road to Lincang on the Chinese side of the Myanmar-China border in Yunnan province.
  • The new railway line that runs from the border town of Lincang to Chengdu, a key trade hub in western China, completes the corridor.
  • The one-way journey using this route saves 20 to 22 days.
  • This trade route is also China’s answer to the “Malacca Dilemma”.
    • Malacca Dilemma is a word devised in 2003, by the then Chinese President Hu Jintao.
    • It is a term that represents the potential factors that could paralyze China’s economic development through choking oil imports at strait of Malacca
    • China is the world’s largest importer of oil, accounting for 80 percent of the total oil used by the country, mainly secured from the USA.

Similar connectivity projects by China:

  • China also has plans to develop another port in Kyaukphyu in the Rakhine state, together with a proposed railway line from Yunnan directly to the port, but the progress there has been delayed by conflict in Myanmar.
  • Chinese authorities have also showed interest on Gwadar port in Pakistan as another significant passage to the Indian Ocean that will bypass the Malacca Straits.
    • Gwadar is being developed as part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to the far western Xinjiang region, but has put on hold amid concerns over security.
  • The costs and logistics through CPEC are also less favourable compared to Myanmar route with the opening of the rail transport channel from the Myanmar border right to western China’s biggest commercial hub, Chengdu.
  • Transportation time on the railway line from the Myanmar border to Chengdu takes 03 days.
  • The railway line currently ends in Lincang on the Chinese side opposite the Myanmar border trade town of Chin Shwe Haw. Plans are underway to develop Chin Shwe Haw as a “border economic cooperation zone” under the Belt and Road Initiative.
    • This route passes through Mandalay, Lashio and Hsenwi in Myanmar and will become vital route for international trade for China and Myanmar.

Implications for India:

  • This new trade corridor indicates a larger maritime presence and naval engagement in the region which in turn strengthens the string of pearls policy by China.
  • Along with this corridor and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China is also planning the China-Nepal Economic Corridor (CNEC) which will connect Tibet to Nepal.
  • Thus, 03 corridors signify the economic as well as strategic rise of China in the Indian subcontinent.

 

2.Sand and Dust Storms Risk Assessment in Asia and the Pacific

#GS3 #Disaster Management #Types and Management of Disasters #Environment pollution and degradation #GS2 #Issues related to Health

Context: United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific recently released an assessment report on sand and dust risks to strengthen disaster risk modelling, assessment, mapping, monitoring and multihazard early warning systems of common and transboundary disasters.

  • This report is the first assessment of the risks posed to society and environment by sand and dust storms over a large-scale geographical area.

The need for sand and dust storms risk assessment

  1. Information is the key factor in order to respond to sand and dust storms.
  2. Policy makers and actors need to access the right information at the right time.
  3. The transboundary nature of sand and dust storms required regional risk assessment, planning and action.
  4. Currently there is no proper mechanism to provide these services.

Key Findings:

  • More than 80% of the entire populations of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are exposed to medium or high levels of poor air quality.
  • Airborne dust presents serious risks for human health.
  • Inhalable particles, those smaller than 10 ?m, often get trapped in the nose, mouth and upper respiratory tract, thus can be associated with respiratory disorders such as asthma, tracheitis, pneumonia, allergic rhinitis and silicosis.
  • Some infectious diseases can be transmitted by dust.
    • Outbreaks of Meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial infection of the thin tissue layer that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, can result in brain damage, have a strong seasonal pattern – many studies have linked environmental conditions, such as low humidity and dusty conditions, to the time and place of infections.
  • Large areas of farmland are affected by dust deposition.
    • Much of this dust is have high salt content, which is toxic for plants.
    • It reduces yield, posing a substantial threat to the production of irrigated cotton and other crops.
  • They have significant impact on the electricity generation by solar power plants.
    • They also interfere with energy infrastructure, adversely affecting electricity transmission lines and causing power failures.
  • Exposure of aircraft engines to dust particles is a considerable risk on flightpaths navigating southwestern and central parts of Asia.
  • Risk of flight delay and cancellation due to low visibility is greatest at airports in Central Asia, southern parts of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the border area between Pakistan and India, and northern parts of China.
  • Very high dust deposition occurs in the Himalaya-Hindu Kush Mountain range and the Tibetan Plateau, the so-called Third Pole which provides fresh water to more than 1.3 billion people in Asia
  • Sand and dust storms directly affect 11 of the 17 United Nations-mandated sustainable development goals (SDG):
    • Ending poverty in all forms
    • Ending hunger
    • Good health and well-being
    • Safe water and sanitation
    • Affordable and clean energy
    • Decent work and economic growth
    • Industry innovation and infrastructure
    • Sustainable cities and communities
    • Climate action
    • Life below water
    • Life on land
  • Risk of impacts of SDS is projected to increase in the 2030s due to more extreme drought conditions in parts Western Australia, south-eastern Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan.

Positive Impact of Dust Storms:

  • The impacts of dust storms are not all negative.
  • They can rise the nutrient content in the areas of deposition and help vegetation.
  • Dust deposited on water bodies can modify their chemical characteristics, causing both positive as well as adverse outcomes.
  • Dust particles that carry iron can enrich parts of oceans, improving the phytoplankton balance and impacting marine food webs.

Sand and Dust Storms:

  • Sand and dust storms are common meteorological hazards in arid and semi-arid regions.
  • They are generally caused by thunderstorms – or strong pressure gradients associated with cyclones – which increase wind speed over a wide area.
  • These strong winds lift large amounts of sand and dust from bare, dry soils into the atmosphere, transporting them hundreds to thousands of kilometres away.
  • Around 40% of aerosols in the troposphere are dust particles from wind erosion.
  • The main sources of these mineral dusts are the arid regions of Northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia and China.
  • Once released from the surface, dust particles are raised to higher levels of the troposphere by turbulent mixing and convective updrafts.
  • They can then be transported by winds for lengths of time, depending on their size and meteorological conditions, before being pulled back down to the surface again.
  • As larger particles sediment more quickly than smaller ones, there is a shift toward smaller particle sizes during transport.
  • Dust is also washed out of the atmosphere by precipitation.

Way Forward:

  • Bearings of dust storms are complex, and thus, they represent a significant evolving issue for policy-makers in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Policy makers need to strategize their joint actions, considering gaining a profound understanding of the socio-economic impact of sand and dust storms, creating a coordinated monitoring and early warning system with an impact-based focus, and coordinating actions in most at-risk and exposed geographical areas to mitigate the risks.

 

3.GDP data for the first quarter of the financial year (2021-22)

#GS3 # Indian Economy & Issues Relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development & Employment

Context: Recently, union ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) released the GDP data for the first quarter of the current financial year (2021-22).

  • Data released by the National Statistical Office, shows the economy continues to limp towards recovery to.

Highlights of the available data for 1st Quarter

  • Growth rate for the period of April-June 2021 is 1%.
    • The GDP had contracted 24.4 per cent in the corresponding year in April-June 2020 due to lockdown imposed because of the pandemic.
  • Gross Value Added, which is GDP minus net product taxes, and reflects growth in supply — grew 18.8 % in April-June as against a contraction of 22.4 per cent in the previous year.
  • GDP in nominal terms, which takes inflation in to account, grew by 31.7 per cent in April-June as against the 22.3% contraction last year.
  • The GDP in absolute terms at Rs 32.38 lakh crore (constant prices) in the first quarter is still 9.2% lower than the GDP in the same period during the pre-Covid year 2019-20.
    • GDP is derived as the sum of the gross value added (GVA) at basic prices, plus all taxes on products, less all subsidies on products. The total tax revenue used for GDP compilation includes Non-GST Revenue and GST Revenue.
  • This high growth rate, however, has come in spite of a vicious second wave of the pandemic which peaked in April-May.

Sector wise growth:

  • High frequency indicators such as power generation, fuel consumption and railway freight for April-May indicated that rebound has been faster after Covid 2.0 than Covid 1.0.
  • Manufacturing and construction provided a substantial push to the economy growing at 49.63% and 68.3% respectively.
    • But they are yet to reach the levels of the 2019-20.
  • Services, especially contact-intensive sectors, however, continued to lag.
  • Few sectors such as agriculture, forestry and fishing’ and ‘electricity, gas, water supply and other utility services are growing beyond 2019-20 levels.
    • Agriculture and electricity sectors have grown 8.21% and 3%, respectively, compared with April-June 2019-20.

Expenditure:

  • Private Final Consumption Expenditure, a measure of consumer spending, grew 19.34%, and Gross Fixed Capital Formation, a measure of private investment, jumped 55.26 per cent.

Low base effect:

  • The sharp increases were mainly because of low base of the first quarter of 2020-21.
    • The high GDP growth numbers are mainly on account of the base effect.
    • The level of the GDP in Quarter 1 of Financial Year 2021-2022 is still lower than the level recorded in 1QFY20.
    • However, the rebound after the second wave has been faster in some sectors. The recovery is likely to deepen with further easing of curbs and faster vaccination
  • Both manufacturing and construction sectors have still some distance to cover before reaching the levels of the latest pre-Covid year of 2019-20.
  • Same for consumer spending and private investment — lower by 11.9% and 17.09%, respectively, compared with the first quarter of 2019-20.

Road ahead:

  • As the growth rate is lower than the RBI’s projection of 21.4%, it is expected to keep key policy rates unchanged for now.
    • A full economic recovery would require the support of both fiscal and monetary policies.
  • From a policy perspective, recovery requires fuller levels of vaccination and improved public confidence.

 

4.Crocodile species in India

#GS3 #Biodiversity #Conservation # In-situ & Ex-Situ conservation

Context: Odisha’s Kendrapara becomes only district in India to have all three crocodile species.

Key Details:

  • Odisha’s Kendrapara district, traversed by rivers, creeks and water inlets, is the only district in India where all three species of crocodiles –
    • Salt-water crocodile
    • Gharial crocodile and
    • Mugger crocodile are found.
  • Kendrapara district is a model district for its successful conservation programme for salt-water or estuarine crocodiles at the Bhitarkanika National Park.
    • The national park has 1,768 estuarine crocodiles up from 96 in 1974
    • It is home to 70 per cent of India’s such crocodiles.
    • The gharial and saltwater crocodile conservation programme was first implemented in Odisha in early 1975.
    • In 1975, the Union ministry of forest and environment, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, had started a crocodile breeding and rearing project in Dangamala within the Bhitarkanika.
  • The Bhitarkanika river systems are home to salt water crocodiles.
  • Mahanadi and Brahmani rivers and their tributaries that flows through the district are populated by muggers and gharials

Mugger or Marsh/Swamp Crocodile:

  • The Mugger is a medium-sized crocodile (maximum length 4-5 m), and has the broadest snout of any living member of the genus Crocodylus.
  • It may be found in a number of freshwater habitat types including rivers, lakes and marshes.
  • The mugger is a hole-nesting species, with egg-laying taking place during the annual dry season.
  • Range: Iran, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh (extinct in wild), Bhutan (extinct), Myanmar (probably extinct)

Principle Threats:

  • Habitat destruction due to agricultural and industrial expansion.
  • Entanglement and drowning in fishing equipment.
  • Egg predation by humans and illegal poaching for skin and meat and the use of body parts in medicine.
  • Increasing incidents of conflict with humans due to encroachment by humans into the species’ natural habitats.

Conservation status:

  • IUCN List of Threatened Species: Vulnerable
  • CITES: Appendix I
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I

Estuarine or Saltwater Crocodile:

  • The saltwater crocodile is the largest of all crocodilians, and the largest reptile in the world.
  • The species has a relatively large head, with a pair of ridges that run from the eye along the centre of the snout.
  • Apart from the eastern coast of India, the saltwater crocodile is extremely rare on the Indian subcontinent.
  • A large population is present within the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary of Odisha while smaller populations occur throughout the Sundarbans.
  • Populations are also present within the mangrove forests and other coastal areas of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India.

Major Threats:

  • Illegal hunting for its meat and eggs, as well as for its commercially valuable skin.
  • Habitat loss and habitat alterations.
  • Negative attitude towards the species make conservation measures difficult to implement.

Conservation Status:

  • IUCN List of Threatened Species: Least Concern
  • CITES: Appendix I
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I

Gharial:

  • It is also known as the gavial or the fish-eating crocodile, is a crocodilian in the family Gavialidae and among the longest of all living crocodilians.
  • Adult males have a distinct boss at the end of the snout, which resembles an earthenware pot known as a ghara, hence the name “gharial”.
  • The gharial is well adapted to catching fish because of its long, thin snout and sharp, interlocking teeth.
  • The population of Gharials is a good indicator of clean river water.

Habitats:

  • Historically, gharial was found in the river system of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and southern part of Bhutan and Nepal.
  • Today they survive only in the waters of India and Nepal, largely in fresh waters of the Himalayan rivers.
  • The Chambal River in the northern slopes of the Vindhya mountains (Madhya Pradesh) is known as the primary habitat of gharials.
  • The surviving population can be found within the tributaries of the Ganges River system: Girwa (Uttar Pradesh), Son (Madhya Pradesh), Ramganga (Uttarakhand), Gandak (Bihar), and Mahanadi (Orissa)

Threats:

  • Illegal sand mining, poaching, increased river pollution, dam construction, massive-scale fishing operations and Floods.

Conservation status:

  • IUCN List of Threatened Species: Critically Endangered
  • CITES: Appendix I
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I

 

5.Endemicity of Covid-19

#GS2 #Issues related to health # Important International Institutions #GS3 # Community Level Disaster Management

Context: As per the World Health Organisation, India seems to be entering some stage of Covid-19 endemicity where there is low- to moderate-level transmission.

  • Earlier this year, researchers had specified in a survey carried out by the journal Nature that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is set to become endemic and would continue to circulate in pockets of the global population.

What is Endemicity:

  • Endemic means something that is present all the time.
  • Endemic refers to the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area. Hyperendemic refers to persistent, high levels of disease occurrence.
  • Some examples of endemics include chicken pox and malaria, where there are a predictable number of cases every year in certain parts of the world.

Endemic vs Epidemic vs Pandemic vs outbreak:

  • An Epidemic is a disease that affects a large number of people within a community, population, or region.
    • The term epidemic is not just used with infectious diseases. It is also used with any scenario that leads to a detrimental rise of health risks within a society. For Example : Rise in Obesity globally.
  • A Pandemic is an epidemic that’s spread over multiple countries or continents.
  • Endemic is something that belongs to a particular people or country.
  • An outbreak is a greater-than-anticipated increase in the number of endemic cases. It can also be a single case in a new area. If it’s not quickly controlled, an outbreak can become an epidemic.

Reason for Covid’s Endemicity:

  • Only those pathogens can be eradicated that don’t have animals (different species) as a reservoir.
  • Smallpox and polio are human virus examples, rinderpest is a cattle virus.
  • It means if there is a virus/pathogen that is present in some animal reservoir like bats, camels or civet cats, then it can transmit again once the level of immunity wanes in the population against the disease caused by it.
  • In the case of coronavirus disease, it will continue to circulate as it is present in the animal reservoir.
  • This also means that it will cause disease to the extent that people have had no vaccination against or exposure.

Implications:

On Immunity:

  • If enough people are vaccinated or have been exposed to the infection, then the virus will cause symptomatic infection but not disease.’
    • So, that is what is considered becoming endemic – it is there but not causing disease.

On Future Cases:

  • As long as the new variant does not come with much more transmissibility than Delta variant, it is more likely that there will be a steady level of cases, with some regions, especially of low prior seroprevalence and low vaccination rates, seeing spikes.

Daily Current Affairs 02nd September

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