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[Mission 2024] INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY 1 September 2023

 

InstaLinks :  help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions ina your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

  1. Protect world heritage sites to conserve biodiversity: UN

 

GS Paper 3:

  1. Understanding curbs on rice exports
  2. Are natural disasters man-made?

 

Content for Mains Enrichment

  1. Example of Initiative: E Rajalakshmi

 

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

  1. Agricultural Cess
  2. Indian Railway Board Chairman: Jaya Verma Sinha
  3. Third Rail of Kolkata Metro Railway
  4. Global Fund secures deal to slash HIV treatment price
  5. Net Zero pledges of Big Oil Companies
  6. New species of leaf insects
  7. Red sand boa
  8. Kākāpō parrots

 

Mapping

  1. Micronesia and COFA

 


 

Protect world heritage sites to conserve biodiversity: UN

GS1/GS3 Paper 

 Syllabus: Heritage sites, Environment Conservation

 

Source: DTE

 Context: UNESCO World Heritage sites, home to a significant portion of global biodiversity, including iconic species like elephants, tigers, and pandas, are under threat from climate change and human activities.

  • The sites make up only 1% of Earth’s surface but play a critical role in preserving biodiversity and addressing climate disruption

 

What are World Heritage sites?

World Heritage sites are landmarks or areas of cultural, historical, scientific, or natural significance that are recognized and designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). These sites are considered to be of outstanding value to humanity, and their preservation is of global importance.

 

There are two main types of World Heritage sites:

  • Cultural Heritage Sites: These include historical buildings, cities, monuments, archaeological sites, and cultural landscapes that hold cultural and historical significance.
    • Examples include the Pyramids of Egypt, the Historic Centre of Rome, and the Great Wall of China.
  • Natural Heritage Sites: These encompass natural areas, ecosystems, and geological formations that are of exceptional natural beauty or scientific importance.
    • Examples include the Galápagos Islands, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and Yellowstone National Park in the United States.

 

Significance of World Heritage sites: They are protected and preserved to ensure that they are passed down to future generations.

 

Protecting World Heritage sites will lead to Biodiversity Conservation:

Importance for Biodiversity ConservationExamples
1. High Biodiversity Richness: World Heritage sites are home to a significant portion of the world’s biodiversity, including numerous plant and animal species.Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo, is home to diverse wildlife, including mountain gorillas and endangered African elephants.
2. Habitat for Endangered Species: Many critically endangered species find refuge in these sites.Kaziranga National Park, India, is a sanctuary for the one-horned rhinoceros, tigers, and various bird species.
3. Protection from Anthropogenic Threats: These sites provide a degree of protection from human activities such as habitat destruction, poaching, and overexploitation.Great Barrier Reef, Australia, offers shelter to coral reefs and marine species, shielding them from direct human disturbances.
4. Climate Change Resilience: Preserving biodiversity in these areas contributes to global climate resilience as diverse ecosystems are more adaptable to climate change.Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay, France, showcase intertidal ecosystems that adapt to sea-level rise.
5. Scientific Study: These sites offer unique opportunities for scientific research and the study of diverse ecosystems.Yellowstone National Park, USA, serves as a living laboratory for studying geothermal features and wildlife behaviour.
6. Cultural and Natural Harmony: Cultural World Heritage sites often coexist with biodiversity-rich areas, highlighting the harmonious relationship between humans and nature.Machu Picchu, Peru, combines cultural heritage with stunning natural surroundings, fostering a strong bond with the environment.
7. Conservation Education: These sites promote awareness and education about biodiversity and conservation, helping people connect with nature.Galápagos Islands, Ecuador, attract scientists and tourists interested in understanding and protecting unique species.
8. Sustainable Livelihoods: Local communities often rely on these sites for sustainable livelihoods linked to ecotourism and traditional practices.Mount Athos, Greece, sustains monastic communities that practice sustainable agriculture and forestry.

 

What are geo-heritage sites and geo-relics?

Geo-heritage sites are special areas displaying geological features like rock formations, fossils, and landscapes, reflecting Earth’s history. They’re preserved for scientific, educational, and cultural significance.

Geo-relics are unique geological features or specimens prized for rarity, scientific value, or historical meaning.

    • Examples: Siwalik Fossil Park in Himachal Pradesh, Deccan Traps, Lonar Lake in Maharashtra, fossil-rich sedimentary rock formations of Jaisalmer

Recently, the Ministry of Mines has notified Geo-Heritage Sites and Geo-relics (Preservation and Maintenance) Bill that is aimed at providing for the declaration, preservation, protection and maintenance of geo-heritage sites and geo-relics of national importance, for geological studies, education, research and awareness purposes.

 

Conclusion:

The UN calls for the nomination of more biodiversity-rich areas as World Heritage sites and emphasizes the importance of these sites in national biodiversity strategies. Additionally, site managers are being trained in climate change adaptation strategies, with plans for all sites to have climate adaptation plans by 2029.

 

Insta Links:

Understanding curbs on rice exports

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Agriculture

 

Source: TH

 Context: The Indian government has implemented several measures to regulate rice exports and ensure domestic food security, including a 20% export duty on par-boiled rice until October 15 and restrictions on white rice exports.

 

Status of Rice production and export:

  • India is the second-largest producer of ricein the world, after China.
  • India is the world’s largest exporter of rice, with a 45% share.
  • Non-Basmati rice exports have been on a consistent upward trend over the past three years.
  • Decreased production: The latest rice production estimate in India for the Rabi season 2022-2023 indicates a decrease of about 14% compared to the previous year.
  • The government has increased the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for rice.

 

Recent government restrictions on Rice exports:

  • In May 2022, the government banned wheat exports.
  • In June 2023, restrictions on stock holdings were imposed.
  • In September 2022, the export of broken rice was prohibited, and a 20% tariff was imposed on non-parboiled white grain shipments.
  • In July 2023, non-basmati white rice exports were entirely prohibited, with only parboiled non-basmati and basmati rice allowed.
  • Recently, a 20% duty was introduced on all parboiled non-basmati rice exports.

 

Why is the Indian government imposing restrictions on rice and wheat exports? 

  • Enhancing Domestic Supply: The government’s goal is to reduce exports to ensure an adequate supply of grains within the country.
    • There are concerns about depleting rice stocks, especially in light of the free-foodgrains scheme’s continuation pressure (Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana)
  • Impact of monsoon/El Nino: It includes potential declines in rice production in several Indian states. El Nino may affect new crop arrivals.
  • Tackling Inflation: Retail food inflation was at 1.5% in July, and the government is taking measures to control rising food prices.
  • Preventing Illicit Exports: The minimum export price rule is meant to prevent illegal exports of non-basmati white rice from being misrepresented as basmati rice.

 

The government’s initiative to limit rice and wheat exports faces several issues:

  • Enforcement Challenges: Export limitations can be bypassed through inaccurate classification. White non-basmati rice has been exported using codes intended for parboiled and basmati rice.
  • Excessively High Minimum Export Price: The $1,200 Minimum Export Price is considered too high. Only specific rice varieties achieve these prices, accounting for just around 15% of basmati exports.
  • Impact on the earnings of farmers

 

Suggestions and the way ahead include:

  • Consider classifying rice for export policy decisions as common and speciality rice, rather than just as Basmati and non-Basmati.
  • Protect varieties of rice with Geographical Indication (GI) recognition from general market interventions.
  • For Basmati rice, permit exports to continue or set a minimum export value, such as $900 per tonne, as new crop arrivals are expected to meet demand due to good quality and consistent supply.

 

Conclusion

Government’s actions aim to strike a balance between safeguarding domestic interests and maintaining a competitive presence in the global rice market. The situation will become clearer by mid-September, as factors like crop arrivals and government policies evolve.

 

Insta Links:

Direct seeding of Rice

 

Prelims Links:

What is/are the advantage/advantages of zero tillage in agriculture? (UPSC 2020)

 

  1. Sowing of wheat is possible without burning the residue of the previous crops.
  2. Without the need for a nursery of rice saplings, direct planting of paddy seeds in the wet soil is possible.
  3. Carbon sequestration in the soil is possible.

 

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Answer: D

 

The lower Gangetic plain is characterised by a humid climate with high temperatures throughout the year. Which one among the following pairs of crops is most suitable for this region?

(a) Paddy and Cotton

(b) Wheat and Jute

(c) Paddy and Jute

(d) Wheat and cotton

 

Answer: C

Are natural disasters man-made?

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Disaster Management

 

Source: TH

 

Context: The article discusses the impact of human actions on natural disasters, particularly in the context of increasing incidents during the monsoon season in India.

 

What are natural disasters?

A natural disaster is a catastrophic event that is caused by the forces of nature. Examples of natural disasters include earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires. E.g, The 2020 Haiti earthquake, a recent landslide in Himachal Pradesh.

 

Although natural disasters are natural, many natural disasters are exacerbated by poor planning and human activities:

Natural DisasterHuman Influence/ContributionExamples
FloodingDeforestation, urbanization,Flooding in urban areas due to
improper land use, drainage issuesinadequate drainage systems (e.g., Mumbai floods).
WildfiresForest mismanagement, arson, climate changeCalifornia wildfires are caused by human activity and dry conditions.
LandslidesDeforestation, construction on slopes, heavy rainfallLandslides in hilly regions due to deforestation and improper land use.
DroughtOver-extraction of water resources, climate changeProlonged droughts in regions with excessive water use (e.g., California).
Hurricanes/CyclonesClimate change, sea-level rise, inadequate infrastructureMore intense hurricanes due to global warming and poor coastal planning.
EarthquakesInduced seismicity from activities like hydraulic fracturing (fracking)Earthquakes triggered by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations.
TsunamisUnderwater explosions, coastal engineeringTsunamis caused by underwater nuclear tests or improper coastal engineering.
Volcanic EruptionsHuman activity near active volcanoesVolcanic eruptions are exacerbated by settlements near active volcanic zones.

 

Urbanization, increased population density, and unsustainable development practices pose significant challenges for disaster management in the country:

  • Infrastructure Strain: Rapid urbanization often leads to inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water supply, and sewage systems, causing congestion and public health issues.
  • Environmental Degradation: Unsustainable development harms ecosystems, leading to deforestation, pollution, and loss of biodiversity.
  • Natural Disaster Vulnerability: Rapid urban growth in hazard-prone areas can increase vulnerability to natural disasters like floods and earthquakes.

 

Solutions to mitigate the impact of natural disasters:

Natural DisasterSolutionExamples that India can learn from
FloodingImproved drainage systems, floodplain zoning, early warning systems, flood-resistant, infrastructure, flood insuranceThe Netherlands’ extensive network of dikes and levees to prevent river flooding.
WildfiresControlled burns, firebreaks, forest management, public awareness campaigns, and firefighting infrastructure.Australia’s “Prepare, Act, Survive” strategy to educate and prepare communities for bushfires.
LandslidesSlope stabilization, reforestation, landslide monitoring systems, land-use planning.Japan’s extensive efforts in slope stabilization and warning systems.
DroughtEfficient water management, rainwater harvesting, drought-resistant crops, water conservation, drought monitoring and early warning.Israel’s advanced drip irrigation systems to maximize water efficiency.
Hurricanes/CyclonesAdvanced storm tracking, early warning systems, coastal defences, building codes, and evacuation plans.The United States National Hurricane Center’s forecasts and evacuation plans for hurricane-prone regions.
EarthquakesSeismic building codes, retrofitting existing structures, early warning systems, communityJapan’s stringent earthquake building codes and disaster preparedness.
TsunamisTsunami warning systems, coastal land-use planning, public education on tsunami safety.The Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System (IOTWS) for early warnings.
Volcanic EruptionsMonitoring volcanic activity, evacuation plans, hazard mapping, and resilient infrastructure.Iceland’s comprehensive monitoring and response system for volcanic eruptions.

 

Some best practices of nature-based solutions against disasters:

Conclusion:

While knowledge exists of disaster management, awareness and risk assessment are often lacking. Underestimating risks and inadequate data contribute to the problem. The need for transformative thinking, involving experts from both public and private sectors, is needed to address the conflict between development goals and environmental preservation.

 

Insta Links: 

Example of Initiative: E Rajalakshmi

Content for Mains Enrichment

 

Source: TH

 Context: E. Rajalakshmi, a 52-year-old math teacher at Thangalikuppam Panchayat Union Middle School in Kurunjipadi, Cuddalore district (TN), used her own savings to set up a smart lab for students in grades 6 to 8.

 

The lab is equipped with a projector and computers to facilitate interactive learning. Rajalakshmi raised ₹4 lakh from her own savings to equip the lab. The school has about 143 students. Later on, the local Rotary Club and Village Panchayat also donated.

 

Features of her teaching:

  • Interactive Learning: A teaching approach that engages students through hands-on activities and technology to enhance their understanding of subjects.
  • Syllabus-based Module: A curriculum designed by a non-governmental organization to align with the school syllabus and facilitate effective learning.
  • Experiential Learning: A teaching method that focuses on learning through direct experience and hands-on activities rather than traditional classroom instruction.

 

Usage: The example can be used in Governance Questions/ Ethics Questions (to show the values of Initiative, Selflessness, Innovation, Collaboration, and Education Equity for children in rural areas)

Agricultural Cess

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: IE

 Context: The government has removed the 15 per cent agriculture cess (also called Agriculture infrastructure and development cess (AIDC)) on imports of LPG, liquified propane, and liquified butane starting from September 1.

  • This exemption reverses the previous imposition of the agriculture cess on these goods in July
  • It is also imposed on Crude Palm Oil

 

What is Cess?

Cess is a kind of special-purpose tax which is levied over and above basic tax rates.

What is AIDC?

The AIDC was introduced in the Budget 2021. The purpose of the AIDC is to raise funds to finance spending on developing agriculture infrastructure.

Indian Railway Board Chairman: Jaya Verma Sinha

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

Source: TH

 Context: Jaya Verma Sinha has become the first woman to lead the Railway Board (in the Railway Board’s 118-year history), the top decision-making body for India’s Ministry of Railways.

 

About Indian Railways: 

The Ministry of Railways (founded 1905; HQ: Rail Bhawan, New Delhi) functions as the statutory authority for the Indian Railways, a monopoly in rail transport. The Chairman and CEO of the Railway Board leads this organization.

 

About Indian Railway Board: 

In 1901, on the recommendations of the Sir Thomas Robertson Committee regarding the administration and working of the railways, an early version of the railway board was constituted. It initially had three members.

 In 1921, the Railway Board was reorganized, and a Chief Commissioner of Railways was appointed to make technical decisions and advise the Government on policy matters.

In December 2019, the Union Cabinet decided to reduce the size of the board from eight to five. It also decided to merge its different cadres into a single Railway Management Service. The restructured Railway Board will comprise a Chairman acting as CEO and four members overseeing infrastructure, operations, rolling stock, and finance

Third Rail of Kolkata Metro Railway

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: PIB

Context: The Kolkata Metro Railway, India’s first metro system built by Indian Railways, has decided to replace its steel third rail with a composite aluminium third rail.

  • This move aligns Kolkata Metro with prestigious international metro systems like those in London, Moscow, Berlin, Munich, and Istanbul, which have also made the shift from steel to aluminium third rails.

  

The advantages of the composite aluminium third rail over the steel third rail include:

  • Reduction in resistive current loss and improved traction voltage levels due to the lower resistance of aluminium compared to steel.
  • Improved acceleration with the same rolling stock.
  • Reduced maintenance and life cycle costs, including less frequent painting and dimension measurement of the third rail, as well as prevention of rust-related damage.
  • Enhanced efficiency of train operations.
  • Significant improvements in energy efficiency and a reduction in carbon footprint.
  • Improved train headway, leading to better train scheduling and operations.

Global Fund secures deal to slash HIV treatment price

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

Source: TH

 Context: The Global Fund, has reached an agreement with generic pharmaceutical manufacturers to significantly reduce the price of an advanced HIV drug named TLD.

  • This deal will allow the drug to be provided for under $45 per person per year, marking a 25% reduction in cost.
  • The TLD pill contains three essential drugs for HIV treatment: tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, lamivudine, and dolutegravir.

This combination has been recommended by the World Health Organization as the preferred first-line treatment for HIV in adults and adolescents due to its effectiveness in suppressing the virus, minimal side effects, and ease of use.

 

About Global Fund: 

The Global Fund was established in 2002 to raise and disburse funding for programs that reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in low- and middle-income countries. The Global Fund raises and invests $4 billion a year to fight these diseases. The majority of the Global Fund’s financial support comes from public resources. More than 80 countries have made or pledged contributions to the Global Fund.

Net Zero pledges of Big Oil Companies

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

Source: DTE

 Context: A report by Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has found that European Big Oil companies failed to fulfil their Net Zero pledges in 2022.

  

Key Highlights:

  • The 12 largest oil and gas companies in Europe produced only 0.3% of their energy from renewables, with the rest coming from oil and gas.
  • While these companies reported a 75% increase in profits and a 70% increase in revenues in 2022, their investments in green energy only rose by 37%.
  • It called for stricter government regulations on fossil fuel companies, including mandatory green infrastructure investment and the decommissioning of North Sea infrastructure.
  • The report also urged governments to establish a detailed roadmap for phasing out oil and gas across Europe and to increase regulations on international oil companies, including banning advertising.

  

About Net Zero Pledges: 

Net-zero pledges are a goal to prevent the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere from increasing. They require reducing human-caused emissions, such as those from burning fossil fuels, as close to zero as possible.

New species of leaf insects

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

Source: The Print

 Context: An international research team, has identified seven previously unknown species of leaf insects, also known as walking leaves.

  • These insects belong to the stick and leaf insect order, which are known for their remarkable camouflage that makes them appear like parts of plants such as twigs, bark, or leaves. This disguise offers protection from predators and poses challenges for researchers.
  • Genetic analysis played a key role in identifying these “cryptic species” that cannot be differentiated based solely on their external appearance.

 

 

About Leaf Insects: 

Leaf insects are tropical insects that resemble leaves to avoid predators. They are closely related to stick insects and are known for their remarkable camouflage. Leaf insects are found in the forests of Asia, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the islands of the Indian Ocean.

Red sand boa

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: A report by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-India has highlighted 172 incidents of seizures involving the red sand boa (Eryx johnii) between 2016 and 2021 in India.

  • The report aims to shed light on the illegal trade of red sand boas, particularly online, to raise awareness and prevent further illegal collection and sale of the species.

 

Key Highlights:

  • The report reveals that illegal sand boa trade occurred in 18 Indian states and one Union Territory, spanning 87 districts across the country. Maharashtra recorded the highest number of incidents.
  • The report recommends that local and international conservation organizations conduct research to better understand the illegal reptile trade.
  • It also suggests developing training programs for journalism students and investigative journalists to produce informed media stories on illegal wildlife trade to increase awareness and reduce misinformation.

  

 

About Red Sand Boa:

  • The red sand boa (Eryx johnii) is a non-venomous snake that lives in the dry parts of the Indian subcontinent.
  • It’s also known as the Indian sand boa. The red sand boa is a thick-set snake that’s usually reddish-brown, known for its blunt tail, which it uses to mimic its head when it senses a threat.
  • Classified as ‘Near Threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with a declining population trend.
  • The red sand boa is highly sought after in the illegal wildlife trade due to its demand in the pet trade and its use in black magic.

Kākāpō parrots

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

Source: The Conservation

 Context: Genetic mapping of the nearly entire kākāpō population, a critically endangered flightless parrot found only in New Zealand, has revealed valuable insights into specific traits crucial for conservation efforts.

 

 

 

About Kākāpō: 

The kākāpō, also known as the owl parrot, is a large, flightless parrot that is native to New Zealand.  Kākāpō are known for their unique appearance, which includes a facial disc, owl-like eyes, and a large, gray beak.

IUCN Status: critically endangered.

 

They only breed every few years, triggered by the availability of certain forest foods. Rimu fruit, which is part of the kākāpō diet, is thought to trigger breeding.

Micronesia and COFA

Mapping

 

Source: Reuters

Context: The United States signed agreements with Micronesia to extend economic assistance to the island state. The U.S. is also negotiating similar agreements with Palau and the Marshall Islands.

Aim: The agreements were part of a strategic pact that the U.S. is using to counter China in the Pacific

 The Compact of Free Association (COFA) is an international agreement between the U.S. and the three Pacific Island states (Micronesia, Palau, and Marshall Islands). The COFA allows the U.S. to base troops in these countries in exchange for economic and migratory benefits. The COFA also denies military access to these countries by any outside party without U.S. consent.

 

Read the CA in PDF format here: 

 


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