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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 31 March 2020


NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.


 

Topic:  Geographical features and their location-changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

1. Discuss the various geomorphological effects caused by an earth quake. (250 words)

Reference: Physical Geography by Savindra Singh

Why this question:

The question is from the static portions of GS paper I, theme geography.

Key demand of the question:

One has to explain the various geomorphological effects caused by an earth quake in detail.

Directive:

DiscussThis is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly define what Earthquakes are.

Body:

The question is pretty much straightforward and there isn’t much to deliberate.

Start with geomorphological effects that an Earthquake possibly causes.

An earthquake can trigger many sudden changes in the environment which can be classified as primary (e.g. subsidence, surface faulting) and secondary effects (displaced rocks, tsunami, ground cracks, liquefactions, landslides) etc.

Discuss the impact of it. Use diagrams wherever possible to add value to your answer.

Conclusion:

Conclude with significance.

Introduction:

Earthquake is one of the most devastating natural calamities which causes sudden shaking of the earth surface. It not only causes damage to buildings and other structures but also affects the surrounding environment and our lifestyle significantly. An earthquake can trigger many sudden changes in the environment which can be classified as primary (e.g. subsidence, surface faulting) and secondary effects (displaced rocks, tsunami, ground cracks, liquefactions, landslides). These effects are known as earthquake environmental effects (EEE).

Body:

The various geomorphological effects caused by an earth quake:

Primary effects: Primary effects take place as a direct consequence of the earthquake. The happening of the primary effects also depends on the size of the earthquake and the stress environment.

  • Subsidence:
  • The movement of the earth surface from a higher to a lower position with respect to a particular datum such as the mean sea level is  known  as  subsidence  of  earth’s
  • Surface Faulting:
  • Surface faulting or surface rupture is a displacement which reaches the earth surface due to the motion of a fault inside the earth, during an earthquake. This phenomenon commonly occurs in shallow earthquakes.

Secondary Effects: The effects which occur in the natural environment as a result of the primary effects are known as Secondary Effects.

  • Liquefaction:
  • Liquefaction of soil is process in which saturated, partially saturated and cohesion-less soils loses strength and stiffness in response to ground shaking due to earthquake or other quick loading, resulting in a fluid like behaviour of the soil.
  • Seismic Conditions:
  • The distance of a particular area from the epicenter of the earthquake effects the intensity of ground motions and also the cyclic loading transferred to the soil. The risk of liquefaction was found to increase with the increase of cyclic loading. 
  • Pressure on Soil:
  • Soils having high overlying earth pressure such as areas with buildings, roads or any other loading were found to be less prone to liquefaction then open areas such as crop fields or beaches with shallow alluvial deposits.
  • Arrangement and Density of Soil Particles:
  • A loose or porous layer has lesser liquefaction resistance than closely packed soil. Liquefaction resisting strength is more for denser soils.
  • Ground Water Level:
  • Supply of ground water is a necessary factor for increasing pore pressure of soil, which in turn causes liquefaction.
  • Tsunami:
  • A Tsunami is a series of huge waves surged from an ocean or any other water body which forces its way into the land causing widespread havoc and destruction. The height of the waves may reach over 30 m.
  • The tsunami waves are different from ordinary tidal waves, tidal waves are caused by gravitational force of the sun, moon or other planets or due to wind but Tsunamis are caused due to a large instantaneous displacement of the sea level caused due to primary effects of an earthquake like subsidence or uplift or subsidence of the sea bed.
  • Landslides:
  • A landslide or landslip is a mass movement of rocks, debris or top layer of soil down a slope which is aided by the action of gravity. Landslides can be triggered by an earthquake or other causes like volcanic eruption, changes in ground water table disturbance caused by human activities

Conclusion:

Earthquakes though a natural phenomenon have a huge impact on man and material as urbanization and globalization increases. The effects have impacts on flora, fauna and the global warming which can accelerate the climate change.

 

Topic:  Geographical features and their location-changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

2. What are the environmental issues in Antarctica? Discuss and present the global importance of it.(250 words)

Reference: Physical Geography by Savindra Singh

Why this question:

The question is about the global importance that Antarctica holds for us and the environmental issues concerning it.

Key demand of the question:

Explain the global importance that Antarctica holds for us and the environmental issues concerning it.

Directive:

DiscussThis is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly state key facts of Antarctica show the location using a diagram.

Body:

To start with, first quote the environmental concerns in detail –

Antarctica and its surrounding waters are under pressure from a variety of forces that are already transforming the area, scientists warn. The most immediate threats are regional warming, ocean acidification and loss of sea ice, all linked to global levels of carbon dioxide. Although isolated from other continents, Antarctica is connected to the rest of the world through oceanic and atmospheric circulations. Antarctica and the surrounding Southern Ocean are key drivers of Earth’s oceanic and atmospheric systems. The formation and circulation of Southern Ocean water masses provide a key link in the global ‘conveyor belt’ of ocean currents that controls climate by transporting heat and other properties.

For our entire planet, atmospheric pressure, humidity, air temperatures and wind patterns are interconnected and greatly influenced by processes in the Southern Ocean.

Explain the human impact too.

Discuss the importance of it in detail.

Conclusion:

Conclude with the need to save Antarctica with sense of urgency.

Introduction:

Antarctica and its surrounding waters are under pressure from a variety of forces that are already transforming the area, scientists warn. A recent finding in research base in the Antarctic region has registered its highest-ever temperature on record, as the temperature soared over 20 degrees Celsius (°C), amid concerns over global warming that has caused an increase in the melting of ice sheets along the South Pole.

Body:

Environmental threats posed in Antarctica:

  • Climate change and Global warming:
    • The most immediate threats are regional warming, ocean acidification and loss of sea ice, all linked to global levels of carbon dioxide.
    • Human activity is at the root of this phenomenon. Specifically, since the industrial revolution, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions have raised temperatures even higher in the poles.
    • Burning of fossil fuels has resulted in the build-up of greenhouse gases influencing the warming trend because they trap heat in the atmosphere.
    • Sea ice cover, crucial to the survival of virtually every animal that lives on and near the continent, already has been reduced by warming, according to a new study published in the July 2019 issue of the journal Science.
    • Deforestation, on the rise, across the globe, has a lot of negative effects like a rise in sea levels.
  • Fishing, both legal and illegal:
    • The world’s oceans are over-fished, the chances are that if investments into the kinds of boats and fishing gear needed for Antarctica are made, then it too will suffer this same fate.
    • Fishing for krill could be particularly significant as these are at the bottom of many Antarctic food chains. There are already illegal fishing boats that ignore current regulations.
  • Pollution:
    • CFC’s and other ozone depletors are responsible for the ozone hole that has appeared over Antarctica for over 30 years, chemicals produced thousands of miles away are found in Antarctic ice and in the bodies of wildlife.
    • Discarded equipment, chemicals and oil can degrade the landscape.
    • Fishing nets, plastic, lines, hooks etc. carried by the sea can result in great suffering or loss of life by birds, fish and marine mammals
  • Exploration and exploitation of mineral reserves, oil and gas:
    • Oil and gas drilling that emits methane which is the main constituent of natural gas is another contributor.
    • Not currently economically viable, but as the need becomes greater and as technology advances, this will become an increasing threat. The Antarctic Treaty bans all mining and mineral exploitation indefinitely, though this comes up for review in 2048
  • Shipping:
    • In summer, Ice breaking ships that head to the north in the Arctic Ocean leave trails of open waters, leaving the oceans with lesser ability to reflect back sun rays.
    • An increase in boats means a greater chance of an oil spill in an area that would be very difficult to clean up.
    • More than a dozen “vessel emergencies” have been reported in the Southern Ocean in the past six years, according to a study cited in the new paper. That includes a Chilean vessel that went down in 2007 carrying 50,000 gallons (190,000 liters) of diesel.
  • Tourism:
    • Visits by tourists, researchers and other people also threaten to change Antarctica, as does the harvesting of animals like krill that are key to the Antarctic food chain.
    • Last year nearly 20,000 tourists visited the Antarctic Peninsula, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.
    • There are also more researchers, and there is more exploration for minerals and other resources.
  • Invasive species:
    • Organisms that are not native to Antarctica are being taken there on ships, attached as seeds to boots and clothing. Some of these are now able to survive there as a consequence of global warming. Rats in particular are a potential threat to Antarctica’s ground nesting birds on sub-Antarctic islands which are particularly vulnerable as there are no native ground based predators for them to be experienced in defending themselves against.
  • Direct impacts associated with the development of infrastructure for scientific bases and programmes:
    • The construction of buildings and related facilities such as roads, fuel storage, runways etc. and the associated disposal of waste on an ongoing basis.

Global importance of Antarctica:

  • Antarctica encompasses land, island and oceans south of 60° latitude.
  • This region stores about 70% of the world’s fresh water in the form of snow and ice.
  • The average annual temperature ranges from about -10°C on the Antarctic coast to -60°C at the highest points of the interior.
  • Its immense ice sheet is upto 4.8 km thick and contains 90% of the world’s fresh water; enough to raise the sea levels by around 60 meters, if it were to melt completely.

Way forward:

  • Delaying action any further will need nations to remove CO2 at an unmanageable magnitude that current technology and resources cannot achieve.
  • Establishing vehicle emission standards and investing in public transportation that runs on electricity.
  • Pricing carbon, i.e, making major polluters pay for their emissions. This provides an incentive for major emitters to reduce their output.
  • Phasing out coal power plants.
  • With renewable energy technology becoming increasingly affordable, Solar power and Wind turbines are needed to phase out coal plants. However, it is important to note that these changes on a global scale will not be cheap.

Conclusion:

It may be important to revisit the commitments of global climate change before it is too late, as the changes that have already set in due to climate change might continue to cause damage for a several decades, even if solid measures are taken to contain the changes. Incremental changes no longer enough to stall devastating effects of climate change. The need of the hour is rapid and transformational changes.

 

Topic:  Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

4. What is Earth Hour? Why is Earth Hour the event held in late March? Elaborate on its significance.( 250 words)

Reference:  News On Air

Why this question:

Earth Hour 2020 was held on March 28, from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Thus the question.

Key demand of the question:

Explain what Earth hour is and its significance in detail.

Directive:

Elaborate – Give a detailed account as to how and why it occurred, or what is the particular context. You must be defining key terms where ever appropriate, and substantiate with relevant associated facts.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly define Earth hour.

Body:

Discuss the following aspects in your answer:

What is Earth Hour? Earth Hour is a global grassroots movement uniting people to take action on environmental issues and protect the planet.
Organized by: World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Background: Earth Hour was started as a lights out event in Sydney, Australia in 2007.
When does Earth Hour take place? The annual Earth Hour lights out event is held worldwide toward the end of March to encourage individuals, households, communities and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour as a symbol for their commitment to the planet. Why is Earth Hour the event held in late March? The second-to-last and last weekend of March is around the time of the Spring and Autumn equinoxes in the northern and southern hemispheres respectively, which allows for near coincidental sunset times in both hemispheres, thereby ensuring the greatest visual impact for a global ‘lights out’ event.
Earth Hour logo: Earlier it was 60 (60 symbolizes 60 minutes). But since 2011 it is 60+. Here + represents the commitment to go beyond the earth hour (i.e. switching off non – essential lights in day to day life). 

Conclusion:

Conclude with importance.

Introduction:

Earth Hour is an annual event organized by the World Wildlife Fund that promotes conservation and sustainable energy, dating back to 2007. During this time, civilians are encouraged to switch off their lights for one hour to help reduce the effect of global warming and raise awareness for climate change and wildlife conservation. Every year, Earth Hour is observed on the last Saturday of March at 8:30 pm. And while previously it brought the public out onto the roads to mark the hour, this year the famous environmental initiative went digital as many countries are in lockdown.

Body:

Reasons for holding it in late march:

  • It is held every year on the last Saturday of March.
  • It encourages people from more than 180 countries to switch off the lights from 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm as per their local time.
  • The idea is to refrain from the use of non-essential lighting to save energy in a symbolic call for environmental protection.
  • Earth Hour has become a catalyst for positive environmental impact, driving major legislative changes by harnessing the power of the people and collective action.

Significance of Earth hour:

  • Global warming and climate change have dominated the scientific discourse in the past more than one decade. With ever rising population of the world, the climate change has put the humankind at a great risk along with other species.
  • Global warming, rising levels of pollution due to ever increasing industrialization, declining forest cover and rising sea levels are some of the dangers that drastically affect the workings of life on the earth.
  • Though the largest polluters are big industries, the WWF tries to make the masses more and more aware about the impending dangers of adverse climate so that they could put pressure on the respective governments to frame environment-friendly policies and laws.
  • With Earth Hour, the WWF aims to engage people across the globe to adopt more sustainable lifestyle. Turning off lights for an hour is just an annual reminder that if the world does not mend its ways, it will be heading to a dark age, literally.

Impacts of Earth hour:

  • It helped create a 3.5 million hectare marine-protected area in Argentina.
  • Ban all plastics in the Galapagos in 2014.
  • Plant 17 million trees in Kazakhstan, light up homes with solar power in India and the Philippines.
  • Push new legislation for the protection of seas and forests in Russia.

Conclusion:

It was famously started as a lights-off event in Sydney, Australia in 2007. Since then it has grown to engage more than 7000 cities and towns worldwide. Today, Earth Hour engages a massive mainstream community on a broad range of environmental issues. The one-hour event continues to remain the key driver of the now larger movement.

 

Topic:  Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security;

5.In the light of the spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19 on social media networks, analyze the apprehensions associated with the spread of fake news in the present context. Propose suitable measures to tackle it.(250 words)

Reference:  The Hindu

Why this question:

Misinformation linked to supposed cures for COVID-19 and misleading claims have proliferated on social media networks. Thus the question.

Key demand of the question:

One must analyze the apprehensions associated with the spread of fake news in the present context.

Directive:

analyzeWhen asked to analyse, you have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Define what fake news is.

Body:

Explain Fake News pandemic:

  • In the light of the pandemic, the social media platforms have witnessed:
    • Misleading claims on supposed cures and posts related to ‘treatments’ that are not proven.
    • Medicine sales pitches or claims of techniques to prevent exposure and infection that are either not proven and/or filled with a lot of misleading information.
    • Conspiracy theories about the outbreak.
    • Instructions for individuals to stock up on supplies and food.
  • The misinformation about the pandemic has been deadly. False reports have appeared in numerous countries.

Discuss the concerns involved – issue of panic buying, claims can cause confusion among the public etc.

Conclusion:

Conclude with suitable measures to tackle the issue.

Introduction:

Fake news is a deliberate lie or a half-truth circulated with the intention to mislead or cause harm to a section of people. It is a type of yellow journalism that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via the traditional print, broadcasting news media, or via Internet-based social media.

The novel coronavirus, however, has opened up an entirely different problem: the life-endangering consequences of supposed cures, misleading claims, snake-oil sales pitches and conspiracy theories about the outbreak.

Body:

In the age of the internet (WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter,) it is a serious problem as rumors, morphed images, click-baits, motivated stories, unverified information, planted stories for various interests spread easily among 35 crore internet users in India

Apprehensions associated with the spread of fake news in the present context:

  • A study on COVID-19 misinformation that was published earlier this month.
  • Using controlled tests with more than 1,600 participants, the study found that false claims were shared in part simply because people failed to think about whether the content was reliable.
  • In a second test, when people were reminded to consider the accuracy of what they are going to share, their level of truth awareness more than doubled.
  • That approach—known as “accuracy nudge intervention”—from social media companies could limit the spread of misinformation, the report concluded.
  • In Iran, a fake remedy of ingesting methanol has reportedly led to 300 deaths, and left many more sick.
  • Posts related to ‘treatments’ that are not proven, techniques to prevent exposure and infection that are either not proven and/or filled with a lot of misleading information, and instruction for individuals to stock up on supplies and food
  • Two types of danger are posed by inaccurate information on the virus: that it “could incite fear or panic,” and “the potential for individuals to do harmful things in hope of ‘curing the illness’ or ‘preventing’ the illness.”

Suitable measures needed:

  • The world’s biggest social media companies, including Facebook, Google, Twitter and ByteDance, are exploring an industry-wide alliance to curb fake news on their platforms in India.
    • The proposed alliance — to be named the Information Trust Alliance (ITA) — will be a grouping of digital platforms and publishers, fact checkers, civil society and academia that will aim to control the spread of harmful content, including fake news and hate speech.
    • Facebook has announced that it currently has over 500 full-time employees and at least 3,500 external contractors who focus on election work, on top of the 30,000 people across the company focused on safety and security issues.
  • Facebook has placed authoritative coronavirus information at the top of news feeds and intensified its efforts to remove harmful content, including through the use of third-party fact checkers.
  • a public health crisis is an easier arena than politics to set policies and to take a harder line on questionable content.
  • AFP and other media companies, including Reuters and the Associated Press, work with Facebook’s fact checking program, under which content rated false is downgraded in news feeds so that fewer people see it
  • Educating the end-users to be more discerning consumers of news by informing them of verification tools so that they can ascertain the accuracy of a news item before sharing it.
  • Press Council of India, a regulatory body, can warn, admonish or censure the newspaper, the news agency, the editor or the journalist or disapprove the conduct of the editor or the journalist if it finds that a newspaper or a news agency has violated journalistic ethics.
  • A better and more effective approach to limit the influence of hoaxes on WhatsApp and other platforms is to increase media literacy.
  • The government should bring out a policy framework on the possible harm due to the internet messaging platforms to engage at a deeper level.
  • Government of India could partner with local news groups to further educate citizens on how to identify real news from fake news.
  • Imposing hefty fines, like in Germany the Social media companies face fines of up to €50m if they persistently fail to remove illegal content from their sites.

Conclusion

Government should have a mechanism for immediately issuing of notice against sites/people/agencies involved in spreading fake news. Secondly, Social media websites should be made accountable of such activities so that it becomes their responsibility to have better control over the spread of fake news. Finally, ordinary consumers of news can play a big role by, first, waking up to the reality that all they read on WhatsApp and Twitter is not the gospel truth, and then, by refusing to pass on what they cannot independently verify with other sources.

 

Topic:  Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

6. The recently witnessed low AQI across the country proves that pollution is mostly anthropomorphic (man-made) in nature. Comment.(250 words)

Reference: The Hindu

Why this question:

The nationwide lockdown in place has led to reduced air pollution in over 90 cities in India. Thus the question.

Key demand of the question:

Explain the way Air pollution across the cities has come down, discuss the need to have focused measures to replicate such a situation using technology that can ensure good AQI.

Directive:

Commenthere we have to express our knowledge and understanding of the issue and form an overall opinion thereupon.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly talk about the worrying air pollution conditions in the country in the past.

Body:

To start with, talk about the air pollution causes.

Discuss PM2.5- its impact, and other harmful gases that are polluting air.

The biggest impact of particulate air pollution on public health is understood to be from long-term exposure to PM2.5, which increases the age-specific mortality risk, particularly from cardiovascular causes. Exposure to high concentrations of PM to even short term episodes can also intensify lung and heart conditions. Children, the elderly and those with predisposed respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, are known to be more susceptible to the health impacts from air pollution.

Discuss the effect on Air pollution levels amidst the COVID-19 control.

Suggest what measures should be taken in future.

Conclusion:

The low AQI prove that pollution is mostly anthropomorphic (man-made) in nature. Though the lockdown is not the ideal way to bring down air pollution, it proves that it can be done. Pollution can be reduced by using technology and low-emission alternatives.

Introduction:

India is currently under the biggest lockdown with around 130 crore people asked to stay home in view of the COVID-19 outbreak. With a nationwide lockdown in place, over 90 cities, including Delhi, recorded minimal air pollution in the last few days. The government has urged people to avoid unnecessary travel, significantly reducing the traffic movement across the country. Lockdown has reduced vehicular traffic across the country, leading to a drop in PM2.5, NOx levels.

Body:

Lockdown_Effect

Air Quality Index across country:

  • According to the Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the measures against COVID-19 have led to a drop in PM2.5 (fine particulate pollutant) by 30% in Delhi and by 15% in Ahmedabad and Pune, respectively.
  • The level of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) pollution, which can increase the risk of respiratory conditions, has also reduced. NOx pollution is mainly caused due to a high motor vehicle traffic.
  • In Pune, NOx pollution has reduced by 43%, in Mumbai, by 38% and in Ahmedabad, by 50%.
  • According to SAFAR, in March, pollution is in the “moderate” category (Air Quality Index range: 100-200) while currently, it is in the “satisfactory” (AQI 50-100) or “good” (AQI 0-50) category.
  • According to the data of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the air quality in the national capital is presently in the “good” category. In Kanpur, which has high pollution levels, it is in the “satisfactory” category.
  • Moreover, 92 other cities with CPCB monitoring centres have recorded minimal air pollution, with the air quality in the range of “good” to “satisfactory”.
  • As many as 39 cities have recorded “good” air quality and 51 cities have recorded “satisfactory” air quality in the last few days, the CPCB data showed.

Reasons for good air quality index:

  • It is the lockdown impact.
  • Local factors like shutting down of industries and construction and traffic have contributed in improving the air quality.
  • The world’s largest lockdown means all factories, markets, shops, and places of worship are now closed, most public transport suspended and construction work halted, as India asks its citizens to stay home and practice social distancing.
  • Rain is also helping, but the curbs on local emissions are playing a significant role.
  • Carbon monoxide mainly from cars had been reduced by nearly 50% compared with last year.
  • Emissions of the planet-heating gas CO2 have also fallen sharply.

Measures needed:

  • Increase public awareness of air pollution. Educate and inform people about what they can do to reduce air pollution. Put out public health messages on the metro, buses, billboards, and radio to help change public behaviour.
  • Raise and enforce emission standards. India is still on Bharat III and IV emission standards for our vehicles and fuels. This is 10-15 years behind the West, where vehicles spew one-tenth of our emissions or less.
  • Improve public transportation and traffic management. Expand the fleet of CNG buses. Implement BRT the right way. Build, repair, and reclaim the sidewalks for pedestrians – not for parking and vending – so people can walk more often, including to nearby bus stops and metro stations.
  • Discourage vehicle use: Driving is not a right but a privilege; it has a social cost. Impose – as many countries do – an annual vehicle use fee. Penalize ownership of multiple cars in a household.
  • Penalize big and non-compliant polluters. Like Beijing, ban the sale and registration of all new private diesel vehicles in Delhi. Provide 24×7 power across the NCR to minimize genset use; ban diesel gensets and promote CNG gensets. Spot-check fuel pumps for adulteration. Move coal-firedbrick/pottery kilns out of the NCR.
  • Reduce road and construction dust. The problem of dust plagues the entire Indo-Gangetic plain. It can be mitigated by changing how our urban surface infrastructure is built.
  • Reduce domestic sources of pollution, improve waste management. According to the 2011 census, over ten percent of Delhi’s households still use biomass for cooking. Remove the address proof requirement for LPG Make LPG more affordable.

Conclusion:

Environmentalists believe that the reduced pollution levels should act as a wake-up call for the government. This has been a fantastic wake-up call and I think we had a reality check and we need to figure out a new normal. This is an opportunity, a chance to find a new sustainable life.

 

Topic:  Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment. Disaster and disaster management. Security challenges and their management in border areas – linkages of organized crime with terrorism.

7. Do you agree that scientific advances are reducing technical barriers that earlier limited the potential of biological weapons? Discuss with suitable examples.(250 words)

Reference:  News On Air

Why this question:

March 26 marked the 45th anniversary of the entry into force of the Biological Weapons Convention. The anniversary comes as the world is grappling with the Coronavirus pandemic. Thus the question.

Key demand of the question:

Explain the interrelationship between the growing technological advancement with that on the potential promotion of biological weapons.

Directive:

DiscussThis is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly discuss what constitute Biological weapons.

Body:

Talk about the scientific advancements the world countries are making.

Then move onto discuss – The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which is a legally binding treaty that outlaws biological arms.

Discuss the nuances of biological weapons; the concerns associated and what needs to be done.

Conclusion:

Conclude that all countries should reaffirm their unequivocal rejection of the use of disease as a weapon with due international cooperation.

Introduction:

Biological weapon, also called germ weapon, any of a number of disease-producing agents—such as bacteria, viruses, rickettsiae, fungi, toxins, or other biological agents—that may be utilized as weapons against humans, animals, or plants. Biological weapons, like chemical weapons, radiological weapons, and nuclear weapons, are commonly referred to as weapons of mass destruction, although the term is not truly appropriate in the case of biological armaments. Lethal biological weapons may be capable of causing mass deaths, but they are incapable of mass destruction of infrastructure, buildings, or equipment.

Body:

The UN chief, in his message on the 45th anniversary of the Biological Weapons Convention’s entry into force, said that all countries should reaffirm their unequivocal rejection of the use of disease as a weapon.

The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)

  • It is the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the development, production and stockpiling of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction, was opened for signature on 10 April 1972.
  • The BWC entered into force on 26 March 1975.
  • The BWC bans:
    • The development, stockpiling, acquisition, retention, and production of:
    • Biological agents and toxins “of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;”
    • Weapons, equipment, and delivery vehicles “designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.”
  • The transfer of or assistance with acquiring the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and delivery vehicles described above.

Scientific advances have led to Bioterrorism. It is a form of terrorism where there is the intentional release of biological agents (bacteria, viruses, or other germs). This is also referred to as germ warfare.

Impact of Bioterrorism:

  • In effect, biological warfare is using non-human life to disrupt — or end — human life. Because living organisms can be unpredictable and incredibly resilient, biological weapons are difficult to control, potentially devastating on a global scale, and prohibited globally under numerous treaties.
  • The threat of bioterrorism is increasing as a result of the rise of technical capabilities, the rapid expansion of the global biotechnology industry, and the growth of loosely sophisticated networks of transnational terrorist groups that have expressed interest in bioterrorism.

Challenges posed by bioweapons:

  • The technology associated with the manufacture of biological weapons is relatively inexpensive, and because it is similar to that used in vaccine production facilities, it is easy to obtain.
  • The microbial agents needed for most biological weapons are widely available.
  • It is difficult to gauge the extent of biological weapons development in other nations since production facilities require little space and are not easy to identify.
  • For instance, the acquisition and dissemination of even the most highly restricted organism, Variola major, is not an implausible scenario.
  • There is growing concern that biological weapon designs or materials from this program might find their way to other nations or terrorist groups.
  • Finally, the series of revelations following the Gulf War regarding the true capacity and scope of Iraq’s biological weapons program has been alarming.
  • In addition to creating many tons of pathogens and toxins, including B. anthracis and C. botulinum toxin, Iraq also admitted that it had loaded bombs and missiles with biological agents

Preparation to Respond to Biological Weapon Use:

  • Existing prevention strategies are insufficient to guarantee that biological weapons will not be used. Furthermore, it is clear that biological weapons are proliferating.
  • Awareness and education:
    • ID professionals are called on every day to diagnose and treat patients with fever, pneumonia, rash, and flulike symptoms; therefore, it is the ID professional who would be among the clinicians most likely to recognize the diseases caused by biological weapons.
    • Professional educational and training curricula should be enhanced so that ID professionals are better capable of recognizing the diseases that would follow use of a biological weapon such as anthrax, plague, or smallpox.
  • Laboratory diagnosis:
    • Should the recognition of an unusual disease or pattern of illnesses prompt consideration of possible biological weapon use, members of the ID community will be called on to advise upon the most rapid procedures for diagnostic confirmation of disease.
    • In anticipation of this, ID experts should become familiar with the processes by which either the hospital laboratory or the local or state health department, in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as necessary, will perform diagnostic studies to implicate or exclude biological weapons use.
  • Systems for distributing therapeutics:
    • Should a biological weapon use be confirmed, treatment and intervention strategies for the ill and for the exposed but not yet ill will be critical. Depending on the disease, antibiotics, and/or vaccines or other therapies, as well as quarantine, could be lifesaving.
  • Scientific research:
    • The ID community already does research that seeks new strategies for diagnosis, prevention, or treatment for infectious disease.
    • Commensurate with this, the ID community might elect to encourage and reward basic science research efforts that seek to produce novel diagnostic technologies, preventive, or therapeutic interventions for the diseases caused by biological weapons.