National Current Affairs – UPSC/KAS Exams- 8th April 2019

Periyar River

Topic: Environment and Ecology

In News: Discolouration of water was reported on Kerala’s Periyar River.

More on the Topic:

  • Primary suspension is that the discolouration may due to the poor quality of water as a result of eutrophication.
  • The discolouration of the river system, which provides drinking water to Kochi city and adjoining areas, has been a cause for worry for residents. Moreover, environmental activists have been protesting against the pollution of the river and demanding steps for its protection.

About Eutrophication:

  • Eutrophication is also known as hypertrophication and is observed when a body of water in an ecosystem displays an excessive growth of algae and plants in it. One such example is the bloom of phytoplankton in water bodies.
  • Eutrophication is the process of enrichment of an ecosystem’s water body by the addition of nutrients by artificial or natural means, leading to plentiful plant growth.
  • The excess supply of nutrients to these aquatic systems may be through detergents, fertilizers, or sewage.
  • Due to the excessive phosphate content in the water which leads to excessive plant growth, the consumption of oxygen present in the aquatic system increases substantially as well.
  • With excessive plant growth, comes excessive plant decay (generally the decay of algae), thereby creating the state of aquatic hypoxia. Hypoxia refers to the low oxygen conditions in water.
  • Due to the sheer amount of extra plant growth, the oxygen content of water is sucked up by the plants (usually by algae). This leads to the oxygen content of the water body being lower than the required for the aquatic life to survive.
  • There are many human activities which cause Eutrophication, but the entirety of it cannot be blamed solely on human actions. Some natural processes occurring in lakes in temperate grasslands also cause Eutrophication.
  • The excessive use of fertilizers tends to occur in places such as farms, golf courses, lawns, and so on. These fertilizers provide the necessary nutrients to the algae and plankton residing in the water body. This is one of the anthropogenic reasons for eutrophication.

Source: The Hindu

Fungus immune to drugs is secretly sweeping the globe

Topic: Health

In News: C. auris is a fungus so tenacious, in part, because it is impervious to major antifungal medications, making it a new example of one of the world’s most intractable health threats: the rise of drug-resistant infections.

More on the Topic:

  • For decades, public health experts have warned that the overuse of antibiotics was reducing the effectiveness of drugs that have lengthened life spans by curing bacterial infections once commonly fatal. But lately, there has been an explosion of resistant fungi as well, adding a new and frightening dimension to a phenomenon that is undermining a pillar of modern medicine.
  • Fungi, just like bacteria, are evolving defences to survive medicines.
  • Antibiotics and antifungals are both essential to combat infections in people, but antibiotics are also used widely to prevent disease in farm animals, and antifungals are also applied to prevent agricultural plants from rotting.
  • Some scientists cite evidence that rampant use of fungicides on crops is contributing to the surge in drug-resistant fungi infecting humans.

Model Mains Question: What is anti-biotic resistance? Why it is important to curb the overuse of anibiotics?

Source: The Hindu

NaMo TV’s case

Topic: Polity and Governance

In News: On March 31, NaMo TV made its début on Direct to Home (DTH) platforms, raising several questions about its identity, ownership and content. Opposition parties asked the Election Commission to take action as the channel was launched after the model code of conduct came into effect ahead of the Lok Sabha election. The Election Commission has sought an explanation from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

More on the topic:

  • As the identity and ownership of the entity is shrouded in mystery, it violates broadcasting norms and regulations governing the ownership of content providers.
  • These norms fall under the categories of uplinking and downlinking policies that came into force in 2005 and that have been amended since.
  • These policies lay the groundwork for channels that wish to uplink content through satellites and later downlink them to television-viewing homes.
  • In this regard, there are channels that uplink from outside the country, such as the BBC and CNN, and downlink in India, for which permission is sought and licences are given by a clutch of government ministries that include the Ministries of Home and Information and Broadcasting. NaMo TV falls in a grey area.

Concerns:

  • As it is the platform of the ruling party’s leader, it gives an unfair advantage to the BJP.
  • Traditionally, time is allotted for propaganda/advertising on government channels: All India Radio and Doordarshan. There are other issues. If NaMo TV is the BJP mouthpiece, it will have to declare it as an election expenditure to the Election Commission.

Source: The Hindu

Meteorite sheds light on the Sun’s infant years

Topic: Science and Technology

In News: In 1962, a meteorite weighing 21 kg was found at Efremovka, now in Kazakhstan. By analysing a piece of this meteorite and studying the relative abundances of isotopes of lithium, beryllium and boron, two researchers have envisaged how the Sun behaved in its infancy.

More on the Topic:

  • The scientists deduced that, the Sun could let off superflares which were a million times stronger than the strongest recorded solar flare – the 1859 Carrington event. Such superflares must have taken place 4.5 billion years ago, when the Sun was barely forming.
  • Further, they infer that irradiation by such superflares from the Sun is one of the sources of short-lived nuclides, for example, beryllium-7, which has a half-life of approximately 53.12 days.

First -formed solids:

  • Among the first-formed solids of the solar system were the calcium aluminium-rich inclusions (CAI). The CAIs are nearly 4.567 billion years old.
  • They become the refractory components within meteorites with irregular shape and are predominantly composed of oxides and silicates of calcium and aluminium.
  • This study suggests that these were pushed to large distances measuring up to a few times the Earth-Sun distance (which is equal to one astronomical unit). These primordial solids were cooked by the superflares and moved to this distance in short times in the order of a year.
  • “This study provides a quantum jump in understanding the activity and event and processes occurring in the early solar system and its protoplanetary disk.

Pristine meteorite:

  • The first suggestion of irradiation by the Sun as a source of elements found in early solar system solids came from a study of the beryllium-10 radio nuclide in the Allende meteorite.
  • Before this suggestion, it was believed that the only source of such elements was the contribution from ambient gas and dust.
  • More recently, another hypothesis was added – namely that the beryllium-10 in CAIs could also arise core-collapse supernova from a low-mass star.
  • Each of these possibilities would lead to different scenarios for the formation of the solar system. Since beryllium-10 has a very long half life of about 1.38 million years, it is possible that a part of it could have been created in any of the above processes. Therefore, studying beryllium-10 does not clearly indicate which of the three hypotheses is correct.
  • This work, on the other hand, studies both beryllium-7 decaying to lithium -7 and beryllium-10 decaying to boron-10. This short half life of beryllium-7 helps rule out the two competing theories and indicates that it is only irradiation by solar flares that led to the formation of the elements captured by the CAI.

Source:The Hindu

‘Neelakurinji’

Topic:Environment and Ecology

In News: Wildlife experts say the recent large-scale wildfires on the grasslands where Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiiana) blossomed widely in the year 2018, after a period of 12 years could have wiped out all the seeds of the endemic flowers from the area.

More on the Topic:

  • Neelakurinji seeds are sensitive without a hard cover and are unlikely to survive a massive fire.
  • As a habitat, the Western Ghats is known for its rare collection of flora and fauna. There are some rare orchids in the area and even a flash of fire could destroy the seeds. A massive fire could wipe out an entire habitat and there are many rare plants in the Western Ghats which are yet to be studied. All these and insects endemic to the area might face extinction in a massive fire.
  • There are allegations that the areas coming under the proposed Kurinji sanctuary were set on fire with a motive to destroy the germination of Neelakurinji seeds, immediately after the flowering season, so that the area would not come under the sanctuary.
  • The area(Munnar,Kerala) was widely covered with flowers in the last season. The seeds, so small, usually are distributed in the soil by January after the flowering season and by February they would get a soil cover through the summer rain. However, this season was noted for its absence of rain in February.
  • Only after a serious study, it would be known how much the fires have affected the Neelakurinji.

Source: The Hindu

India’s imports from China decelerating

Topic: Economy

In News: According to PHD Chamber of Commerce, India’s imports from China stood at $60 billion during the April-January period of 2018-19 fiscal, a deceleration of 5% over the corresponding period a year ago.

More on the Topic:

  • According to the chamber, India’s trade deficit with China also eased to $46 billion in April-January 2019 from $53 billion in the same period a year ago.
  • “Despite substantial volume of imports from China, India’s import growth from China shrunk from 24% during April to January 2018 to (-) 5% during April-January 2019.
  • The chamber said India has seen a major breakthrough in its exports to China during the last few months, whereas imports of Chinese products in India are decelerating.
  • Its exports to China grew 31% in April-January 2019, increasing from $10 billion in April-January 2018 to $14 billion in April-January 2019.
  • Meanwhile, India has identified and shared with China a list of 380 products including horticulture, textiles, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, as their shipments hold huge export potential in the neighboring country.
  • Increasing exports of these products would help India narrow the widening trade deficit with China, which stood at $50.12 billion during April-February 2018-19.

Source: Hindu

FAME 2 scheme

Topic: Government Policies

In News: NITI Aayog & Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) Release Technical Analysis of FAME II Scheme. Report looks at potential saving in areas of energy, oil and carbon emissions.

More on the Topic:

  • Effects of FAME II will go beyond the vehicles that are eligible under the FAME II.
  • There is considerable energy and CO2 savings associated with the two, three, and four-wheeled vehicles and buses covered by FAME II over their lifetime, as well as the potential savings associated with greater adoption levels by 2030.
  • The electric buses covered under FAME II will account for 8 billion vehicle kilometers travelled (e-vkt) over their lifetime.
  • In order to capture the potential opportunity in 2030, batteries must remain a key focal point as they will continue to be the key cost driver of EVs.
  • Vehicles eligible under FAME II scheme can cumulatively save 5.4 million tonnes of oil equivalent over their lifetime worth Rs 17.2 thousand crores.
  • EVs sold through 2030 could cumulatively save 474 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) worth INR 15 lakh crore and generate net CO2 savings of 846 million tonnes over their operational lifetime.

Salient features of FAME 2 scheme:

  • Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles, or FAME 2 scheme aims to boost electric mobility and increase the number of electric vehicles in commercial fleets.
  • Target: The outlay of ₹10,000 crore has been made for three years till 2022 for FAME 2 scheme.
  • The government will offer the incentives for electric buses, three-wheelers and four-wheelers to be used for commercial purposes.
  • Plug-in hybrid vehicles and those with a sizeable lithium-ion battery and electric motor will also be included in the scheme and fiscal support offered depending on the size of the battery.
  • The centre will invest in setting up charging stations, with the active participation of public sector units and private players.
  • It has also been proposed to provide one slow-charging unit for every electric bus and one fast-charging station for 10 electric buses.
  • Projects for charging infrastructure will include those needed to extend electrification for running vehicles such as pantograph charging and flash charging.
  • FAME 2 will also encourage interlinking of renewable energy sources with charging infrastructure.

Enemy properties

Topic: Governance

In News: The government has sold enemy shares worth around Rs 1,150 crore in IT major Wipro to LIC and two other state-owned insurers.

More on the Topic:

  • Enemy properties are those properties that were left behind by the people who took citizenship of Pakistan and China.
  • There are 9,280 such properties left behind by Pakistani nationals and 126 by Chinese nationals.
  • Of the total properties left behind by those who took Pakistani citizenship, 4,991 are located in Uttar Pradesh, the highest in the country. West Bengal has 2,735 such estates and Delhi
  • The highest number of properties left by Chinese nationals is in Meghalaya (57).West Bengal has 29 such properties and Assam
  • The estimated value of all enemy properties is approximately Rs 1 lakh crore.

About Enemy properties Act:

  • After the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the Enemy Property Act was enacted in 1968, which regulates such properties and lists the custodian’s powers.
  • According to an amendment, the government has vested these properties in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India, an office instituted under the Central government.

Source:The Hindu

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