Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 09 May 2019
Relevant articles from pib:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: about the list, rationale behind, need for review and significance.
Context: The Ministry of Home Affairs announced that it has put an end to the local adverse lists commonly known as ‘Black Lists’ of Indian-origin people.
What is it?
- It is a list maintained by Indian Embassies in different countries and posts abroad.
- It contains list of Indian-origin people who have taken asylum (i.e. right to international protection in this other country) abroad under plea of alleged persecution in India. These asylum seekers in list are predominantly Sikhs.
- Those who are in list are denied visa services by Indian missions and posts in respective country.
Implications of the new move:
- Such Indian-origin asylees and their family members who are now not in adverse list, will be granted visa and consular services at par with foreigners of country in which they are living. They can also get Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards if they have held normal Indian visas for at least two years.
- The government has also delegated to state governments and Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRROs) to grant permits to foreigners to visit protected and restricted areas in the country.
- The state governments and FRROs can now grant such permits even for non-tourism purposes and even in areas not opened for tourism purposes.
Relevant articles from various news sources:
Indian culture – salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
What to study?
For prelims: bout Char Dham project and its geographical location.
For mains: Significance of the project, environmental concerns, NGT and Supreme Court’s views.
Context: Chardham Yatra: Kedarnath portals open for public.
About Chardham project:
- The project involves developing and widening 900-km of national highways connecting the holy Hindu pilgrimage sites of; Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri at an estimated cost of Rs.12,000 crores.
- The highway will be called Char Dham Mahamarg(Char Dham Highway) and the highway construction project will be called as Char Dham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojana (Char Dham Highway Development Project).
- The roads will be widened from 12m to 24m and the project will involve construction of tunnels, bypasses, bridges, subways and viaducts.
- Awareness in space.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Key features and significance of DART.
Context: NASA’s First Planetary Defense Technology Demonstration to Collide with Asteroid in 2022.
What is it?
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, is a spacecraft designed to determine whether an asteroid can be redirected with a high-speed collision.
SpaceX will launch the spacecraft toward an asteroid named Didymos about 4 million miles from Earth. It then will ram into the asteroid’s small moon at about 13,000 miles per hour.
DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique – striking the asteroid to shift its orbit – to defend against a potential future asteroid impact.
The target for DART is an asteroid that will have a distant approach to Earth in October 2022, and then again in 2024. The asteroid is called Didymos – Greek for “twin” -because it is an asteroid binary system that consists of two bodies: Didymos A, about 780 metres in size, and a smaller asteroid orbiting it called Didymos B, about 160 metres in size.
- DART would impact only the smaller of the two bodies, Didymos B. The Didymos system has been closely studied since 2003. The primary body is a rocky S-type object, with composition similar to that of many asteroids.
- The composition of its small companion, Didymos B, is unknown, but the size is typical of asteroids that could potentially create regional effects should they impact Earth. After launch, DART would fly to Didymos and use an APL-developed onboard autonomous targeting system to aim itself at Didymos B.
- Then the refrigerator-sized spacecraft would strike the smaller body at a speed about nine times faster than a bullet, about six kilometres per second. Earth-based observatories would be able to see the impact and the resulting change in the orbit of Didymos B around Didymos A, allowing scientists to better determine the capabilities of kinetic impact as an asteroid mitigation strategy.
- The kinetic impact technique works by changing the speed of a threatening asteroid by a small fraction of its total velocity, but by doing it well before the predicted impact so that this small nudge will add up over time to a big shift of the asteroid’s path away from Earth.
Sources: The Hindu.
- Conservation related issues.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: ENSO- El Nino and La Nia- causes, effects and impacts, global climate change and ENSO cycle.
Context: El Niños have become stronger and their pattern too has been changing, the world’s first 400-year-long seasonal record of El Niño created by Australian scientists has revealed. Traditional El Niño events have also become more intense in nature.
What revealed this?
The El Niño trends of the past have been studied on the basis of coral cores spanning the Pacific Ocean.
It was made possible because coral cores — like tree rings — have centuries-long growth patterns and contain isotopes that can tell us a lot about the climate of the past. Hence, the key to unlocking the El Niño record was understanding that coral records contained enough information to identify seasonal changes in the tropical Pacific Ocean.
- The trend of El Niño in the last four centuries shows a variation in El Niño types. There has been a simultaneous increase in central Pacific events and a decrease in eastern Pacific ones since the late twentieth century.
- This leads to a ratio of central to eastern Pacific events that is unusual in a multi-century context. Compared to the past four centuries, the most recent 30-year period includes fewer, but more intense, eastern Pacific El Niño events.
- There has been an unprecedented increase in the number of El Niños forming in the central Pacific over the past 30 years, compared to all 30-year periods in the past 400 years.
- At the same time, the stronger eastern Pacific El Niños were the most intense El Niño events ever recorded, according to both, the 100-year-long instrumental record and the 400-year-long coral record.
An understanding of El Niños in the past and present based on this four-century-old trend needs to be explored further by India for modelling, predicting and planning for future El Niños and their wide-ranging impacts.
What is ENSO?
ENSO is nothing but El Nino Southern Oscillation. As the name suggests, it is an irregular periodic variation of wind and sea surface temperature that occurs over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. ENSO affects the tropics (the regions surrounding the equator) and the subtropics (the regions adjacent to or bordering the tropics). The warming phase of ENSO is called El Nino, while the cooling phase is known as La Nina.
What is El Nino?
El Nino is a climatic cycle characterised by high air pressure in the Western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern. In normal conditions, strong trade winds travel from east to west across the tropical Pacific, pushing the warm surface waters towards the western Pacific. The surface temperature could witness an increase of 8 degrees Celsius in Asian waters. At the same time, cooler waters rise up towards the surface in the eastern Pacific on the coasts of Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. This process called upwelling aids in the development of a rich ecosystem.
What causes El Nino?
El Nino sets in when there is anomaly in the pattern. The westward-blowing trade winds weaken along the Equator and due to changes in air pressure, the surface water moves eastwards to the coast of northern South America. The central and eastern Pacific regions warm up for over six months and result in an El Nino condition. The temperature of the water could rise up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Warmer surface waters increase precipitation and bring above-normal rainfall in South America, and droughts to Indonesia and Australia.
- Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: features, need for and significance of the convention.
Context: 14th Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (COP-14) is being held in Geneva, Switzerland.
- opened for signature on 22 March 1989
- entered into force on 5 May 1992
- Parties — 187.
- Haiti and the United States have signed the Convention but not ratified.
- It is an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs).
- It does not address the movement of radioactive waste.
- The Convention is also intended to minimize the amount and toxicity of wastes generated, to ensure their environmentally sound management and to assist LDCs in environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate.
Sources: down to earth.
- Issues related to health.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Transfats- what are they, uses, concerns and the need for reduction in their usage.
Context: The WHO has joined hands with the International Food and Beverage Alliance (IFBA) to achieve the target of eliminating industrially produced trans fats by 2023. Eliminating industrially produced trans-fat is one of the simplest and most effective ways to save lives and create a healthier food supply.
The commitment made by the IFBA is in line with the WHO’s target to eliminate industrial trans fat from the global food supply by 2023.
What are Trans fats?
Trans fatty acids (TFAs) or Trans fats are the most harmful type of fats which can have much more adverse effects on our body than any other dietary constituent. These fats are largely produced artificially but a small amount also occurs naturally. Thus in our diet, these may be present as Artificial TFAs and/ or Natural TFAs.
- Artificial TFAs are formed when hydrogen is made to react with the oil to produce fats resembling pure ghee/butter.
- In our diet the major sources of artificial TFAs are the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO)/vanaspati/ margarine while the natural TFAs are present in meats and dairy products, though in small amounts.
- TFAs pose a higher risk of heart disease than saturated fats. While saturated fats raise total cholesterol levels, TFAs not only raise total cholesterol levels but also reduce the good cholesterol (HDL), which helps to protect us against heart disease. Trans fats consumption increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
- It is also associated with a higher risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, infertility, certain types of cancers and can also lead to compromised fetal development causing harm to the yet to be born baby.
Why they are increasingly being used?
TFA containing oils can be preserved longer, they give the food the desired shape and texture and can easily substitute ‘Pure ghee’. These are comparatively far lower in cost and thus add to profit/saving.
WHO recommends that trans-fat intake be limited to less than 1% of total energy intake and has called for the total elimination of TFAs in global food supply by 2023. FSSAI has proposed to limit TFA limit in foods to 2% and eliminate trans fats from foods by 2022.
Facts for prelims:
Grizzled Giant Squirrel:
Why in News? For the first time, researchers have sighted nests of the grizzled giant squirrel at Pakkamalai Reserve Forests near Gingee in the Eastern Ghats.
- The grizzled giant squirrel is usually known to nest in the Western Ghats in Southern India ranging from Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary in Kerala to Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Palani hills in Tamil Nadu.
- It has been categorised as near threatened by the Red List and listed under Schedule II of CITES.
- It is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Summaries of important editorials:
US sanctions over Iran and its implications:
Context: Iran threatened to abandon limits on uranium enrichment unless Europe throws it an economic lifeline within 60 days, setting an ultimatum for the survival of a shaky 2015 accord meant to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing a nuclear bomb.
The move is likely to inflame tensions with President Donald Trump’s administration, which walked away from the landmark nuclear deal a year ago and imposed strict sanctions that squeezed Iran’s economy, triggered a currency collapse and ushered in shortages of consumer goods.
What are the Iranian leaders talking about?
Iran has set a deadline of 60 days for the world’s major powers to re-negotiate a deal that they had struck with Iran in 2015. Iran has not renounced the agreement altogether, but has announced calibrated steps to roll back its compliance.
The EU refers to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; E3 are the ‘big three’ European powers who led the negotiations with Iran — Germany, France, and the United Kingdom; and the ‘+2’ are China and the Russian Federation.
What was JCPOA?
JCPOA is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an agreement that Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the United States, UK, France, Russia, and China — and Germany) reached on July 14, 2015.
It is the official name for the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal.
Key commitments under JCPOA:
Under the JCPOA, Iran agreed to destroy its stock of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stock of low-enriched uranium by 98%, and reduce the number of gas centrifuges by two-thirds for 13 years.
It agreed to enrich uranium up to just 3.67% and to not build any new heavy-water facilities, for the next 15 years.
It agreed that for 10 years, uranium enrichment would happen only at a single facility, using first-generation centrifuges.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the world’s nuclear watchdog, would have access to all Iranian nuclear facilities.
Benefits for Iran:
In return for Iran verifiably abiding by these commitments, the US, EU, and United Nations Security Council nuclear-related sanctions on it were lifted. The Iran deal was endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which was adopted on July 20, 2015, and major international corporates rushed to do business with Iran almost immediately.
On May 8 last year, President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the JCPOA, dismantling one of the key foreign policy successes of his predecessor President Barack Obama, and reinstated the sanctions on Iran.
What exactly has Iran decided to do now?
Iran has begun building up again stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and heavy water, which is used in nuclear reactors. The IR-40 nuclear reactor that Iran started building close to its Heavy Water Production Plant in Arak in 2004, and which could ultimately produce bomb-grade plutonium, was closed down under the deal with the West. But Iran has now said it would resume its construction unless the Europeans compensate it for the sanctions imposed unilaterally by the US.
What happens now?
- After President Trump pulled out of the Iran accord, most of the promised international business deals ended. The Iranian economy, which grew in 2016 and 2017, shrank in 2018 and 2019 (until April).
- In April, the US increased its provocation by ending exemptions from sanctions for five of Iran’s main oil customers, including India, and designating Iran’s elite Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.
- This week, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said an aircraft carrier was being deployed to the Middle East. Critics have been saying for some time that the Trump administration could be building up towards possible military conflict with Iran.
How are other countries responding?
The European signatories of the JCPOA have been upset with the US for wrecking the deal that had taken difficult and painstaking negotiations to strike, and which was widely believed to have been working. This January, the E3 set up the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges, or INSTEX, a special purpose vehicle for trade with Iran bypassing sanctions. Iran’s demand that they do more within a fixed deadline forces them to face difficult questions.
Loss of biodiversity and associated concerns:
Concerns expressed by Global Assessment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES):
We are witnessing the loss of biodiversity at rates never before seen in human history. Nearly a million species face extinction if we do not fundamentally change our relationship with the natural world.
Need of the hour:
The IPBES Global Assessment provides unequivocal evidence that we need biodiversity for human survival and well-being. To stem unprecedented species decline the assessment sets out the actions governments, the private sector and individuals can take.
If we are to halt the continued loss of nature, then the world’s legal, institutional and economic systems must be reformed entirely. And this change needs to happen immediately.
What did the Global Assessment find?
- Human activity severely threatens biodiversity and ecosystem functions worldwide. About 1 million species are facing extinction. If nothing changes many of these could be gone within just decades.
- But nature is vital to all aspects of human health. We rely on natural systems, not only for food, energy, medicine and genetic resources, but also for inspiration, learning and culture.
- The report also reveals the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem function is much less pronounced on lands managed by Indigenous peoples and local communities.
- It also recognises the significant role of Indigenous knowledge, governance systems and culturally-specific worldviews which adopt a stewardship approach to managing natural systems.
- The report identified agriculture, forestry and urbanisation as the number one reason for biodiversity loss in land-based ecosystems and rivers.
- In the sea, fishing has had the greatest impact on biodiversity and is exacerbated by changes in the use of the sea and coastal lands.
- These factors are aggravated by underlying social values, such as unsustainable consumption and production, concentrated human populations, trade, technological advances, and governance at multiple scales.
What must be done?
The Global Assessment puts forward these next, urgent steps:
- redefine human well-being beyond its narrow basis on economic growth
- engage multiple public and private actors
- link sustainability efforts across all governance scales
- elevate Indigenous and local knowledge and communities.
- Strengthen environmental laws.
- Take serious precautionary measures in public and private endeavours.
- Governments must recognise indivisibility of society and nature, and govern to strengthen rather than weaken the natural world.
- Indigenous and local communities need to be included and supported more than ever before.
- The world include biodiversity considerations across all sectors and jurisdictions to prevent further degradation of natural systems.