National Current Affairs – UPSC/KAS Exams- 4th April 2019

Bleaching hits world’s southernmost coral reef

Topic: Environment and Ecology

In News: According to scientists, the world’s southernmost coral reef has been hit by bleaching this summer and they warned rising sea temperatures from climate change were affecting even the most isolated ecosystems.

More on the Topic:

  • The corals off Lord Howe Island some 600 km offshore from Sydney were affected by elevated temperatures this summer, despite escaping severe bleaching that damaged the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017.
  • Increasing baseline temperatures caused by climate change, and local factors such as elevated temperatures in the area this summer, caused the bleaching to occur.
  • It’s just another indicator that climate change is affecting everywhere around the world.
  • Deeper-water corals in the marine park, which contains species not found anywhere else and like the Barrier Reef is a World Heritage site, were still “looking quite healthy” having mostly escaped the bleaching.

About Coral Bleaching:

  • When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white. This is called coral bleaching. When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality.

About Coral Reef Eco system:

  • A coral reef is an underwater ecosystem characterized by reef-building corals. Reefs are formed of colonies of coral polyps held together by calcium carbonate. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, whose polyps cluster in groups.
  • Most reefs grow best in warm, shallow, clear, sunny and agitated water.Often called “rainforests of the sea”, shallow coral reefs form some of Earth’s most diverse ecosystems.
  • Coral reefs are fragile, partly because they are sensitive to water conditions. They are under threat from excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), rising temperatures, oceanic acidification, overfishing (e.g., from blast fishing, cyanide fishing, spearfishing on scuba), sunscreen use and harmful land-use practices, including runoff and seeps.

Source: The Hindu

Dark matter

Topic: Science and Technology

In News: Dark matter is not made up of primordial black holes smaller than a tenth of a millimetre, say scientists who have put the theory put forward by the late Stephen Hawking to its most rigorous test to date.

More on the Topic:

  • About 85% of the matter in the universe is believed to be made up of dark matter. Its gravitational force prevents stars in our Milky Way from flying apart.
  • Researchers led by Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe in Japan used the gravitational lensing effect to look for primordial black holes between the earth and the Andromeda galaxy.
  • In order to maximise the chances of capturing an event, the researchers used the Hyper Suprime-Cam digital camera on the Subaru telescope in Hawaii.

About Dark Matter:

  • Dark matter is a hypothetical form of matter that is thought to account for approximately 85% of the matter in the universe and about a quarter of its total energy density.
  • The majority of dark matter is thought to be non-baryonic in nature, possibly being composed of some as-yet undiscovered subatomic particles.
  • Its presence is implied in a variety of astrophysical observations, including gravitational effects that cannot be explained unless more matter is present than can be seen.
  • For this reason, most experts think dark matter to be ubiquitous in the universe and to have had a strong influence on its structure and evolution.
  • Dark matter is called dark because it does not appear to interact with observable electromagnetic radiation, such as light, and is thus invisible to the entire electromagnetic spectrum, making it extremely difficult to detect using usual astronomical equipment.

Model Mains Question: What is dark matter? Comment on the significance of its discovery.

Source: The Hindu

Air pollution shortened lifespan by 30 months

Topic: Environment and Ecology

In News:The current high level of air pollution has shortened the average lifespan of a South Asian child by two-and-a- half years while globally the reduction stands at 20 months, according to a global study.

More on the topic:

  • State of Global Air 2019, published by Health Effects Institute (HEI), said exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution contributed to over 1.2 million deaths in India in 2017.
  • The report added that worldwide, air pollution was responsible for more deaths than many better-known risk factors such as malnutrition, alcohol abuse and physical inactivity.
  • The State of Global Air 2019 annual report and accompanying interactive website are designed and implemented by the Health Effects Institute in cooperation with the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Texas – Austin.
  • In India, air pollution is the third highest cause of death among all health risks, ranking just above smoking; each year, more people globally die from air pollution-related diseases than from road traffic injuries or malaria.

Most Polluted region of the world:

  • The study found that China and India together were responsible for over half of the total global attributable deaths, with each country facing over 1.2 million deaths from air pollution in 2017.
  • China has made initial progress, and is beginning to achieve a decline in air pollution.
  • Overall, long-term exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution contributed to nearly 5 million deaths due to stroke, diabetes, heart attack, lung cancer, and chronic lung disease in 2017.
  • Out of these, 3 million deaths were directly attributed to PM2.5, half of which were from India and China together.
  • South Asian countries — Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan — led the world as the most polluted region, accounting for over 1.5 million air-pollution related deaths, according to the report.

India’s Steps to reduce pollution:

  • India has initiated major steps to address pollution sources: the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Household LPG programme, accelerated Bharat Stage VI clean vehicle standards, and the new National Clean Air Programme.
  • These and future initiatives have the potential if fully implemented as part of a sustained commitment to air quality to result in significant health benefits in coming years.

Source: The Hindu

NuGen Mobility Summit 2019

Topic: Economy

In News:The International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) is organizing a NuGen Mobility Summit, 2019, at Manesar, NCR, November 2019.

More on the Topic:

  • The objective of the Summit is to share new ideas, learnings, global experiences, innovations and future technology trends for faster adoption, assimilation and development of advanced automotive technologies for a smarter and greener future.
  • This event will help in building a platform for bringing together all stakeholders in the automotive industry to understand global advancements in technologies.
  • The Summit is being organized in association with SAENIS, SAE INDIA, SAE International, NATRiP, DIMTS, Department of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, SIAM and ACMA. More than 2500 participants and over 250 exhibitors are expected to take part in the Summit.

About  International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT):

  • ICAT Manesar is a division of NATRIP Implementation Society (NATIS) under the Department of Heavy Industries, Government of India.
  • It provides services for testing, validation, design and homologation of all categories of vehicles and has a mission to assist the automotive industry in adopting cutting edge technologies in vehicle evaluation and component development to ensure reliability, durability and compliance to the current and future regulations in new generation mobility solutions.

Source:The Hindu

Ways and Means Advances (WMA)

Topic: Economy

In News: The Reserve Bank of India, in consultation with the Government of India, has decided the limits for Ways and Means Advances (WMA) for the first half of the financial year 2019-20 .

More on the Topic:

  • The Reserve Bank retains the flexibility to revise the limit at any time, in consultation with the Government of India, taking into consideration the prevailing circumstances.
  • The interest rate on WMA will be Repo Rate and overdraft will be 2% above the Repo Rate.

About WMA:

  • The Reserve Bank of India gives temporary loan facilities to the centre and state governments as a banker to government. This temporary loan facility is called Ways and Means Advances (WMA).
  • The WMA scheme was designed to meet temporary mismatches in the receipts and payments of the government.
  • This facility can be availed by the government if it needs immediate cash from the RBI. The WMA is to be vacated after 90 days. Interest rate for WMA is currently charged at the repo rate. The limits for WMA are mutually decided by the RBI and the Government of India.
  • When the WMA limit is crossed the government takes recourse to overdrafts, which are not allowed beyond 10 consecutive working days. The interest rate on overdrafts would be 2 percent more than the repo rate.

Source: The Hindu

Global Report on Food Crises

Topic: Important Reports

In News: A report presented jointly by the European Union, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) finds that around 113 million people in 53 countries experienced acute food insecurity in 2018, compared to 124 million in 2017.

More on the Topic:

  • The figure of 113 million people facing food crises is down slightly from the 124 million figure for 2017.
  • However, the number of people in the world facing food crises has remained well over 100 million in the last three years, and the number of countries affected has risen. Moreover, an additional 143 million people in another 42 countries are just one step away from facing acute hunger.
  • Nearly two-thirds of those facing acute hunger are in just 8 countries: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In 17 countries, acute hunger either remained the same or increased.
  • Climate and natural disasters pushed another 29 million people into acute food insecurity in 2018. And 13 countries – including North Korea and Venezuela – are not in the analysis because of data gaps.

Way Ahead:

  • The report’s findings are a powerful call for strengthened cooperation that links together prevention, preparedness and response to address urgent humanitarian needs and root causes, which include climate change, economic shocks, conflict and displacement.
  • It further highlights the need for a unified approach and action across the humanitarian and development dimensions of food crises, and for more investment in conflict mitigation and sustainable peace.
  • To truly end hunger, we must attack the root causes: conflict, instability, the impact of climate shocks. Boys and girls need to be well-nourished and educated, women need to be truly empowered, rural infrastructure must be strengthened in order to meet that Zero Hunger goal.
  • Programmes that make a community resilient and more stable will also reduce the number of hungry people.

Source: The Hindu

COMCASA Agreement

Topic: International Relations

In News: India has signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) agreement with the U.S.

More on the Topic:

  • The agreement will providing a legal basis for the U.S. to transfer secure communication equipment to India, increasing military equipment interoperability and real time data sharing.
  • COMCASA is an India-specific version of the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).
  • Few other agreements signed by India with US are General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016.
  • India is yet to sign Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) with USA.

Source: The Hindu

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