UPSC Civil Services Daily Current Affairs 30th March 2022
Topics for the day:
- Indian power projects replace Chinese ventures in Sri Lanka
- Assam and Meghalaya ink pact to end border row
- Rhino population up by 200 in Kaziranga
- Malabar rebellion of 1921
- Permanent Body constituted to prevent elephant deaths on railway tracks
- Coral bleaching at the great barrier reef
- Microplastics in human blood
Indian power projects replace Chinese ventures in Sri Lanka
- India will set up hybrid power projects in three islands of Jaffna, effectively replacing the Chinese venture cleared by Colombo last year.
- The MoU for the project was among those signed during a meeting between visiting External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar and his Sri Lankan counterpart G.L. Peiris.
- It is the third Indian energy project coming up in Sri Lanka’s north and east, after the recent agreements for National Thermal Power Corporation’s solar venture in the eastern Sampur town, and the Adani Group’s renewable energy projects in Mannar and Pooneryn in the north.
More on the news :
- In January 2021, Sri Lanka’s Cabinet decided to award renewable energy projects in Nainativu, Delft or Neduntheevu, and Analaitivu islands to Chinese firm Sinosoar-Etechwin.
- India was quick to express concern over the Chinese project coming up in the Palk Bay, barely 50 km of Tamil Nadu.
- India ofered to execute the same project with a grant rather than a loan.
- Unable to pick a side for over a year, Colombo kept the project in suspension, apparently putting off China.
- Even in a recent press briefing, the Chinese Ambassador in Colombo voiced rare criticism over the projects being interrupted for “unknown reasons”, and said it sent out the wrong message to foreign investors.
Other initiatives – Maritime Rescue Coordination Center,
- Meanwhile, India and Sri Lanka have also agreed to set up a Maritime Rescue Coordination Center.
- The initiative, involving Bharat Electronics and a $6 million Indian grant, obtained Cabinet approval last week.
- India will also help develop fisheries harbours in Point Pedro, Pesalai and Gurunagar in the Northern Province, and Balapitiya, south of Colombo, apart from supporting schools in the southern Galle district with computer labs, extending a grant for Sri Lanka’s Unique Digital Identity project
Tamil question :
- On developments in regard to Sri Lanka’s long-pending Tamil question, India has welcomed the recent talks between Sri lankan President and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
- The issues concerning tamils are :
- Release of political prisoners
- Land utilization
- Missing persons after the eelam war 4
- 13th Amendment implementation
- Diaspora investment
- the release of long-detained suspects arrested under Sri Lanka’s widely-criticised terrorism law
- Land grabs by state agencies
- Development of the north and east.
Assam and Meghalaya ink pact to end border row :
Context and news :
- Assam and Meghalaya have partially resolved a 50-year-old border dispute in six of the 12 sectors along their 885-km boundary.
- The Assam Chief Minister and his Meghalaya counterpart signed a “historic” agreement for a closure in six disputed sectors that were taken up for resolution in the first phase.
- The six disputed sectors are Tarabari, Gizang, Hahim, Boklapara, Khanapara-Pillangkata and Ratacherra under the Kamrup, Kamrup (Metro) and Cachar districts of Assam and the West Khasi Hills, Ri-Bhoi and East Jaintia Hills districts of Meghalaya.
- The two States had in June 2021 adopted a “give-and take” policy to start the process of resolving the boundary dispute by constituting three regional committees each.
- On the basis of the recommendations of the regional panels, It was proposed to divide the disputed 36.79 sq. km land in the six areas of difference between the two States.
- While Assam will get 18.51 sq. km of the disputed areas, Meghalaya will get the remaining 18.28 sq.km.
- Now 70% of the inter-State boundary has now become disputefree with the signing of the agreement.
Background of the issue :
- Apart from Meghalaya, Assam has boundary disputes with Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.
- All these States, two as Union Territories initially, were carved out of Assam between 1963 and 1972.
- During the British rule, Assam consisted of the present-day Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya, besides Mizoram, which later became separate states.
- However, the long-standing dispute between Assam and Meghalaya began in 1972 when Meghalaya was carved out of Assam under the Assam Reorganisation Act, 1971, a law that it challenged.
- During the British era, Langpih used to be a part of the Kamrup district. However, it became part of the Garo Hills and Meghalaya after independence. Meanwhile, Assam considers it a part of the Mikir Hills in the state.
- Meghalaya has questioned Blocks I and II of the Mikir Hills (now Karbi Anglong region) being part of Assam.
Rhino population up by 200 in Kaziranga
- The population of the greater one-horned or Indian rhinoceros in the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve has increased by 200 in four years, the latest census of the World Heritage Site’s flagship animal has revealed.
- The last rhino census conducted in 2018 had put the number at 2,413.
- During the last four years period, Kaziranga lost 400 rhinos due to natural causes while poachers killed three.
- This year’s census had for the first time used drones for the recheck of 26 park compartments where the sample survey was done.
- Of the rhinos estimated, 1,823 were adults, 365 were sub-adults, 279 juveniles and 146 calves. The females outnumbered the males by.
About Indian Rhino Vision 2020:
- It was launched in 2005, Indian Rhino Vision 2020 was an ambitious effort to attain a wild population of at least 3,000 greater one-horned rhinos spread over seven protected areas in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.
- Seven protected areas are Kaziranga, Pobitora, Orang National Park, Manas National Park, Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary, Burachapori wildlife sanctuary and Dibru Saikhowa wildlife sanctuary.
- The IRV2020 is a collaborative effort between various organizations, including the International Rhino Foundation, Assam’s Forest Department, Bodoland Territorial Council, World Wide Fund – India.
About Greater One-Horned Rhino :
- There are three species of rhino in Asia – Greater one-horned (Rhinoceros unicornis), Javan and Sumatran.
- Poaching for the horns and habitat loss are the two greatest threats to the survival of Asia’s rhinos.
- The five rhino range nations (India, Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia) have signed a declaration ‘The New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019’ for the conservation and protection of the species.
- Javan and Sumatran Rhino are critically endangered
- Greater one-horned (or Indian) rhino is vulnerable under the IUCN Red List.
- All three listed under Appendix I (CITES).
- Greater one-horned rhino is listed under the Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Habitat of Greater One-Horned Rhino:
- The species is restricted to small habitats in Indo-Nepal terai and northern West Bengal and Assam.
- In India, rhinos are mainly found in Kaziranga NP, Pobitora WLS, Orang NP, Manas NP in Assam, Jaldapara NP and Gorumara NP in West Bengal and Dudhwa TR in Uttar Pradesh.
What is a flagship species?
- A flagship species is a species selected to act as an ambassador, icon or symbol for a defined habitat, issue, campaign or environmental cause.
- By focusing on, and achieving conservation of that species, the status of many other species which share its habitat – or are vulnerable to the same threats – may also be improved.
- Flagship species are usually relatively large, and considered to be ‘charismatic’
- Flagship species may or may not be keystone species and may or may not be good indicators of biological process.
What is a keystone species?
- A keystone species is a species that plays an essential role in the structure, functioning or productivity of a habitat or ecosystem at a defined level (habitat, soil, seed dispersal, etc).
- Disappearance of such species may lead to significant ecosystem change or dysfunction which may have knock on effects on a broader scale.
- Examples include the elephant’s role in maintaining habitat structure, and bats and insects in pollination.
- By focussing on keystone species, conservation actions for that species may help to preserve the structure and function of a wide range of habitats which are linked with that species during its life cycle.
What is an indicator species?
- An indicator species is a species or group of species chosen as an indicator of, or proxy for, the state of an ecosystem or of a certain process within that ecosystem.
- Examples include crayfish as indicators of freshwater quality;
- corals as indicators of marine processes such as siltation, seawater rise and sea temperature fluctuation;
- peregrine falcons as an indicator of pesticide loads;
- native plants as indicators for the presence and impact of alien species.
Malabar rebellion of 1921
- The Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) has deferred its decision on a recommendation to remove the 1921 Malabar Rebellion martyrs, including Variamkunnaathu Kunhahamad Haji and Ali Musliyar, from the list of India’s freedom fighters.
What’s the issue?
- The panel was of the view that the rebellion that took place at Malabar was a one-sided attack on Hindus.
- Just two Britishers were killed during the unrest and hence the rebellion could not be considered as part of the freedom struggle.
- The subcommittee had recommended the removal of the Malabar Rebellion leaders, mostly Muslims, from the list.
- This is viewed by some as an attempt to distort history.
What was the Mapilla rebellion/moplah rebellion ?
- The Mapilla rebellion or Moplah Rebellion (Moplah Riots) of 1921 was the culmination of a series of riots by Moplahs (Muslims of Malabar) in the 19th and early 20th centuries against the British and the Hindu landlords in Malabar (Northern Kerala).
Causes and outcomes of the revolt:
- The resistance which started against the British colonial rule and the feudal system later ended in communal violence between Hindus and Muslims.
- Gandhiji along with Shaukat Ali, the leader of the Khilafat movement in India, visited Calicut in August 1920 to spread the combined message of non-cooperation and Khilafat among the residents of Malabar.
- In response to Gandhiji’s call, a Khilafat committee was formed in Malabar and the Mappilas, pledged support to the non-cooperation movement.
Rebellion and after effects :
- The uprising was by the Mappila peasantry (mainly Muslims) against the prevailing feudal system in the region controlled by upper-caste Hindus, whom the British had also appointed in positions of authority for their support.
- Most of tenants’ grievances were related to the security of tenure, high rents, renewal fees and other unfair exactions of the landlords.
- The British government responded with much aggression, bringing in Gurkha regiments to suppress it and imposing martial law
- An event of the British suppression was the wagon tragedy when approximately 60 Mappila prisoners on their way to prison, were suffocated to death in a closed railway goods wagon.
Permanent Body constituted to prevent elephant deaths on railway tracks
- The Union Environment Ministry has constituted a “permanent” coordination committee that includes the Ministry of Railways and the Environment Ministry to prevent elephant deaths on railway tracks.
Background of the committee :
- 19 elephants were killed across the country on railway tracks in 2018-19, 14 in 2019-20 and 12 in 2020-21.
- Railway collisions were the second-largest reason for the unnatural deaths of elephants despite tracts being specifically demarcated and notified as elephant passages.
Key measures taken:
- Setting up of a Permanent Coordination Committee between the Ministry of Railways (Railway Board) and the MoEFCC for preventing elephant deaths in train accidents.
- Clearing vegetation along railway tracks to enable clear view for locomotive pilots.
- Using signage boards at suitable points to alert locomotive pilots about elephant presence.
- Moderating slopes of elevated sections of railway tracks.
- Setting up underpass/overpass for safe passage of elephants.
- Regulation of train speed from sunset to sunrise in vulnerable stretches.
- Regular patrolling of vulnerable stretches of railway tracks by frontline staff of the Forest Department and wildlife watchers.
CAG suggestions :
- Periodic review of elephant passage identification
- Sensitization programs for railway staff
- Standardization of track signage
- Installation of transmitter collars/ animal detection system
- Devices that emit honey bee sounds to deter elephants away from railway tracks
Eco Bridges as a solution:
- Eco Bridges are wildlife corridors also known as wildlife crossings that are a link of wildlife habitat which connects two larger areas of similar wildlife habitat.
- It connects wildlife populations that would otherwise be separated by human activities or structures such as roads and highways, other infrastructure development, or logging and farming, etc.
- Eco Bridges aims at enhancing wildlife connectivity.
- These are made up of native vegetation i.e., it is overlaid with planting from the area to give a contiguous look with the landscape.
Coral bleaching at the great barrier reef
- Scientists have warned that the Great Barrier Reef will face a critical period of heat stress over the coming weeks, following the most widespread coral bleaching the natural world has ever endured.
About Great Barrier Reef :
- The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which spreads across a length of over 2,300 km and is roughly the size of Italy, is home to about 3,000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 1,625 type of fish, 133 varieties of shark and rays and 600 types of soft and hard corals.
- It is a UNESCO world heritage site.
What is bleaching ?
- Bleaching is when the corals expel a certain algae known as zooxanthellae, which lives in the tissues of the coral in a symbiotic relationship.
- About 90% of the energy of the coral is provided by the zooxanthellae which are endowed with chlorophyll and other pigments.
- They are responsible for the yellow or reddish brown colours of the host coral.
- In addition the zooxanthellae can live as endosymbionts with jellyfish also.
- When a coral bleaches, it does not die but comes pretty close to it. Some of the corals may survive the experience and recover once the sea surface temperature returns to normal levels.
What are Coral reefs ?
- Coral reefs are important hotspots of biodiversity in the ocean.
- Corals are animals in the same class (Cnidaria) as jellyfish and anemones.
- They consist of individual polyps that get together and build reefs.
- Coral reefs support a wide range of species and maintain the quality of the coastal biosphere.
- Corals control the level of carbon dioxide in the water by converting it into a limestone shell. If this process does not take place, the amount of carbon dioxide in the ocean water would increase significantly and affect ecological niches.
Causes of Coral Bleaching?
- Rise in Sea Temperature: Most coral species live in waters close to the warmest temperature they can tolerate i.e., a slight increase in ocean temperature can harm corals.
- Ocean Acidification: Due to rise in carbon dioxide levels, oceans absorb more carbon dioxide. This increases the acidity of ocean water and inhibits the corals ability to create calcareous skeletons, which is essential for their survival.
- Solar radiation and ultraviolet radiation: Changes in tropical weather patterns result in less cloud cover and more radiations which induce coral bleaching.
- Infectious Diseases: Penetration of bacterium like vibrio shiloi inhibits photosynthesis of zooxanthellae. These bacteria become more potent with elevated sea temperatures.
- Chemical Pollution: Increased nutrient concentrations affect corals by promoting phytoplankton growth, which in turn supports increased numbers of organisms that compete with coral for space.
- Increased Sedimentation: Land clearing and coastal construction result in high rates of erosion and a higher density of suspended silt particles which can :
- smother corals when particles settle out (sedimentation)
- reducing light availability (turbidity)
- potentially reducing coral photosynthesis and growth
- Human Induced Threats: Over-fishing, pollution from agricultural and industrial runoff, coral mining, development of industrial areas near coral ecosystems also adversely impact corals.
Micro plastics in human blood
- A study by researchers from The Netherlands found the presence of Microplastics in human blood.
What are microplastics?
- Microplastics are tiny bits of various types of plastic found in the environment.
- The name is used to differentiate them from “macroplastics” such as bottles and bags made of plastic.
- Plastic pollution that ends up in the ocean deteriorates and breaks down and ends up as Microplastics.
- Microplastics are plastic particles usually lesser than 5mm in diameter.
- Microplastics includes :
- microbeads (solid plastic particles of less than one millimeter in their largest dimension) that are used in cosmetics and personal care products, industrial scrubbers which are used for aggressive blast cleaning
- microfibers used in textiles and virgin resin pellets used in plastic manufacturing processes.
- Most of the microplastics result from the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic that were not recycled and broke up due to exposure to the sun or physical wear.
What were the plastics that the study looked for in the blood samples?
- The study looked at the most commonly used plastic polymers.
- These were polyethylene tetraphthalate (PET), polyethylene (used in making plastic carry bags), polymers of styrene (used in food packaging), poly (methyl methylacrylate) and poly propylene.
Problems of Microplastics
- According to the IUCN, at least 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year and make up about 80% of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.
- According to the UNEP, in the last four decades, concentrations of these particles appear to have increased significantly in the surface waters of the ocean.
Impact on Marine Life:
- The most visible and disturbing impacts include suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species.
- Marine organisms such as fish, crabs and prawns consume these microplastics misidentifying them as food.
Impact on Humans:
- Humans consume these marine animals as seafood which leads to several health complications.
- A study conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature revealed that an average person consumed 5 grams of plastic.
UPSC Civil Services Daily Current Affairs 30th March 2022
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