State Water Grid in Maharashtra
- Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways has requested the Maharashtra government to take initiative for preparation of detailed project report for formation of State Water Grid to overcome the recurring flood crisis in the state.
- This would help the government ensure the availability of the water in drought prone areas and save the resources to manage the flood crisis.
- State Water Grid on the lines of the National Power Grid and Highway Grid.
- The idea is to divert the flood water from one river basin to the other river basin in the drought prone area of the state.
- Various studies have shown that the incidents of the farmers’ suicide have come down in the areas where the irrigation cover is more that 55 per cent.
- This would also help increase agriculture produce and strengthen the rural and national economy.
- Transportation of goods and passengers through rivers (Water Transport) can be commenced in near future.
- Fishing and other businesses can flourish alongside and major employment can be generated if such project is taken up as an essential infrastructure.
- The Tamaswada pattern adopted in Wardha and Nagpur districts is another effort towards rain water harvesting, conservation and ground water recharge.
- Tamaswada pattern is most helpful to create augmented surface rain and ground water storages.
- It creates flood free as well as drought free situation in treated watershed.
- The eighth edition of the annual Indian Navy (IN) – Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) bilateral maritime exercise SLINEX-20 is scheduled off Trincomalee, Sri Lanka from October 19 to 21.
- The Sri Lanka Navy will be represented by SLN Ships Sayura (Offshore Patrol Vessel) and Gajabahu(Training Ship).
- Indigenously built ASW corvettes Kamorta and Kiltan will represent the Indian Navy.
- Indian Navy Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and Chetak helicopter embarked onboard IN ships, and Dornier Maritime Patrol Aircraft will also be participating.
- The previous edition of SLINEX was conducted off Visakhapatnam in September 2019.
- SLINEX-20 aims to enhance inter-operability, improve mutual understanding and exchange best practices and procedures for multi-faceted maritime operations between both navies.
- Surface and anti-air exercises including weapon firing, seamanship evolutions, manoeuvres and cross deck flying operations are planned during the exercise, which will further enhance the high degree of inter-operability already established between the two friendly navies.
- SLINEX series of exercise emphasises the deep engagement between India and Sri Lanka which has strengthened mutual cooperation in the maritime domain.
- Interaction between the SLN and IN has also grown significantly in recent years, in consonance with India’s policy of ‘Neighbourhood First’ and Hon’ble PM’s vision of ‘Security and Growth for all in the Region (SAGAR).
- A naval version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was successfully test-fired from an indigenously built stealth destroyer of the Indian Navy in the Arabian Sea .
- The missile was fired from INS Chennai, a stealth destroyer, and it hit the target with pin-point accuracy after performing “extremely complex”
- BrahMos as ‘prime strike weapon’ will ensure the warship’s invincibility by engaging naval surface targets at long ranges, thus making the destroyer another lethal platform of Indian Navy.
- BrahMos Aerospace, an India-Russia joint venture, produces the supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft, or from land platforms.
- In the last few weeks, India has test fired a number of missiles including a new version of the surface-to-surface supersonic cruise missile BrahMos and anti-radiation missile Rudram-1.
- India also carried out successful test firing of a laser guided anti-tank guided missile and nuclear capable hypersonic missile ‘Shaurya’.
- The successful test firing of Rudram-1 was seen as a major milestone as it is India’s first indigenously developed anti-radiation weapon.
- The flight testing of the missiles came in the midst of India’s bitter border row with China in eastern Ladakh.
- In May last year, the Indian Air Force successfully test fired the aerial version of the BrahMos missile from a Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft.
- On September 30, India successfully test fired a new version of the surface-to-surface version of the BrahMos.
- The range of the new land attack version of the missile has been extended to 400 km from the original 290 km.
Antibody levels in the blood of COVID-19 patients
- Antibody levels in the blood of COVID-19 patients drop rapidly during the weeks after their bodies have cleared the novel coronavirus, and symptoms have subsided.
- In the absence of approved, effective treatments for COVID-19, some hospitals have been treating patients with severe symptoms with blood plasma from recovering patients.
- If convalescent plasma is ultimately shown to have a clear benefit, the new study concluded that it needs to be collected during a specific window of time after recovery.
- However, recovering patients can’t donate blood until at least 14 days after symptoms have subsided, to give the body time to clear viral particles.
- The spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 plays a crucial role in helping the virus grab and invade host cells.
- Antibodies produced by the body’s immune system bind to a part of this protein and block the capacity of this “key” to engage with the host’s cellular “lock”, preventing the viral particle from infecting a cell host.
- Previous studies suggest that antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein peak 2 or 3 weeks after the onset of symptoms.
- In the new longitudinal study, blood samples collected were analysed at one-month intervals from 31 individuals recovering from COVID-19.
- They measured levels of immunoglobulins that act against the coronavirus S protein and tested the ability of the antibodies to neutralise the virus.
- The researchers observed variation on the level of individual patients but identified a consistent overall signal.
- The levels of immunoglobulins G, A, and M that target the binding site decreased between 6 and 10 weeks after symptoms began.
- During the same time period, the ability of the antibodies to neutralise the virus similarly fell.
- The levy of compensation cess on Goods and Services Tax (GST) may have to be extended for a few years, perhaps till as late as 2025-26, to pay off States’ GST dues, Chairperson of the Fifteenth Finance Commission N.K. Singh said.
- The Commission, whose report on the devolution of funds between the Centre and States for the five-year period of 2021-22 till 2025-2026 will be submitted to the government soon,
- will factor in unpaid compensation dues while working out States’ revenue flow calculations for the years beyond 2022.
- Cess shortfalls cannot be met from the Consolidated Fund of India.
- So it has to be raised through some borrowing arrangement like the present one.
- GST compensation cess is levied on goods such as cars, aerated drinks and tobacco products, over and above the highest GST rate of 28%, and was to be levied for the first five years of the GST regime to compensate States.
- The GST Council has decided to extend the levy beyond that period to meet shortfalls in accruals this year.
Rights of domestic workers
- The denial of salaries and loss of employment faced by domestic workers as well as harassment by employers and Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) meted out to domestic workers following the nationwide lockdown has brought into focus the need for safeguarding their rights.
- They have now brought out a manifesto demanding universal registration of employers and domestic workers and national comprehensive legislation.
- A survey conducted in Bengaluru among 2,400 domestic workers during the first two weeks of May showed that
- 87% of the workers were told not to come to work after the lockdown and were not sure when they would be called to work.
- A staggering 91% of workers lost their salaries for April.
- It also found that nearly 50% of those above the age of 50 also lost their jobs during the lockdown.
- The report also shows that women employed as domestic workers often bear a disproportionate burden of not just unpaid work at their own homes, but also financial responsibilities.
- As many as 51% workers surveyed had unemployed spouses and 36% were divorced, separated or widowed women.
- About 17 organisations and unions who work in Delhi-NCR joined hands to form the Network of Rights and Voices of Domestic Workers and to ensure the well-being of these women.
- They held discussions with domestic workers to prepare a manifesto of demands which calls for
- a minimum cash transfer to domestic workers under the National Disaster Management Act,
- universal registration of employers and domestic workers,
- national legislation, an urban employment guarantee scheme and strengthening of Local Committees at the district level where workers can complain about sexual harassment at workplace.
- The recently passed Labour Code on Social Security does not cover households.
- As a result, domestic workers cannot avail of any social security and insurance benefits, provident fund, maternity benefit or gratuity.
- Also, the Code on Wages passed last covers domestic workers employed in houses with more than five workers, and therefore excludes a vast majority of these women.
- US Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, has described “originalism” –– or interpreting the country’s Constitution as per the intentions of its 18th-century founding leaders –– as her legal philosophy.
- In English, that means I interpret the Constitution as a law.
So, what does ‘originalism’ mean?
- In legal philosophy, this theory prescribes that while resolving disputes, judges should interpret the constitution as it was understood at the time it was ratified, irrespective of whether they personally agree or disagree with the outcome of a case decided this way.
- According to originalists, the meaning of the constitution is fixed at the time of its framing, either in the form of the meaning of the words used, or the intentions of the drafters. The job of the court is to stick to this original meaning.
- The word ‘originalism’ was coined in the 1980s, and has since been popular among US conservatives, who have sought to promote judicial restraint on the country’s federal courts.
- Adherents of originalism believe that social change should be brought about by new laws made by elected representatives, and not through judicial activism, in which judges make new interpretations of the constitution.
Criticism of originalism
- Critics say that the originalists’ core belief –– that the constitution should be interpreted the way it was written –– is unviable, given that the document’s meaning has remained uncertain despite the efforts of countless jurists since its ratification in 1787 at the close of the American Revolution.
‘Living constitution’ theory
- The legal philosophy which is said to be the opposite of originalism is ‘living constitution’ or ‘modernism’.
- This theory, espoused by likes of the late Justice Ginsburg, believes that the constitution should be updated with times to encompass changing societal needs.
- Originalists consider this theory as judicial overreach, and criticise living constitution jurists as “activist judges”.
India’s First Seaplane Project
- The first of the five seaplane services in Gujarat, connecting Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad to the Statue of Unity in Kevadia in Narmada district, will be inaugurated on October 31, the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
- The other spots are, Dharoi dam in Mehsana district, to connect Ambaji and Shatrunjay dam in Palitana of Bhavnagar district as well as Tapi in the next phase.
What is India’s first seaplane project?
- The first seaplane project of the country is part of a directive of the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation.
- As per the directive, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) requested state governments of Gujarat, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and the administration of Andaman & Nicobar to propose potential locations for setting up water aerodromes to boost the tourism sector.
- A seaplane is a fixed-winged aeroplane designed for taking off and landing on water. It offers the public the speed of an aeroplane with the utility of a boat. There are two main types of seaplane: flying boats (often called hull seaplanes) and floatplanes.
How will the service function?
- Officials say that SpiceJet will operate a 19-seater plane, which will be able to accommodate 14 passengers.
- SpiceJet said the company has entered into a contract with a French company, which overtook the original Japanese manufacturer of 10-14 seater seaplanes.
What impact will it have on the environment?
- The water aerodrome is not a listed project/activity in the Schedule to the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 and its amendments.
- However, the Expert Appraisal Committee was of the opinion that the activities proposed under the water aerodrome project may have a similar type of impact as that of an airport.
- The bathymetric and hydrographic survey was conducted by Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) before finalising Dyke 3, which is a rock-filled pond and popularly called the ‘Magar Talav’ as it is infested with crocodiles.
- Work on evacuating crocodiles from the lake has been on since January 2019, after which mesh fencing of the boundary was also completed to prevent crocodiles from re-entering from the connecting Dyke 1 and 2.
Where else do seaplanes operate?
- Seaplanes by multiple airline carriers are operational in countries like the Philippines, Canada, Australia, the United States, Finland, the United Kingdom, Sri Lanka, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Maldives and Hongkong.
- In India, Jal Hans, a commercial seaplane service based in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was launched as a pilot project on 30 December 2010 by the then Indian Civil Aviation Minister.
Anti-Tank Guided Missiles
- The indigenously developed laser-guided version of the Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) was successfully test fired by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on two separate occasions recently and will undergo more validation tests in coming days before it is ready for the user trials.
When did ATGMs first come into use?
- The development of ammunition that can pierce the armours of tanks and the material that can withstand such ammo has been an ongoing race since World War I.
- But it wasn’t until the next World War that armies across the world began to use the ATGMs, missile systems that can strike and neutralise armoured vehicles such as tanks.
- While Indian Army mainly uses various imported anti-tank guided missiles, the DRDO has been working on ATGMs that can be launched from different platforms as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.
- The indigenously developed low weight, fire and forget Man Portable Anti Tank Guided Missile (MPATGM) was successfully test fired in September last year.
- In February 2018, ATGM Nag was successfully tested in desert conditions.
How are laser-guided ATGMs different?
- The laser-guided ATGM, which was successfully tested recently on September 22 and later on October 1, mainly differs in one aspect from other ATGMS developed till date.
- This ATGM — which is yet to receive an operational name — is designed to be fired from tanks.
- With its range limited to 1.5 to 5 kilometers, it locks and tracks the targets with the help of laser designation to ensure precision in striking the target.
- The missile uses a ‘tandem’ High Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT) warhead.
- The term tandem refers to the missiles using more than one detonation in order to effectively penetrate the protective armours.
- This missile has the capacity of piercing armoured vehicles which use specially designed armour plates to counter the impact of such projectiles.
- This Laser Guided ATGM has been developed by two Pune based facilities of the DRDO’s Armament and Combat Engineering Cluster —
- the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) and
- High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL) —
- in association with Instruments Research & Development Establishment (IRDE), Dehradun.
- It is currently undergoing tests to be integrated with India’s Main Battle Tank (MBT), Arjun.
Israel And Bahrain Establish Formal Diplomatic Relations
- The deal – brokered by the US – was signed in the Bahrain capital, Manama.
- For decades, most Arab states have boycotted Israel, insisting they would only establish ties after the Palestinian dispute was settled.
- Bahrain is now the fourth Arab country in the MIddle East – after the UAE, Egypt and Jordan – to recognise Israel since its founding in 1948.
- Regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran has played a role in this diplomacy – a decades-old feud exacerbated by religious differences, with Iran a largely Shia Muslim power and Saudi Arabia seeing itself as the leading Sunni Muslim power.
- The UAE and Bahrain – both allies of Saudi Arabia – have shared with Israel worries over Iran, leading to unofficial contacts in the past.
- The Israeli agreement with the UAE came after Israel agreed to suspend controversial plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
- Palestinian leaders were reportedly taken by surprise by that announcement.
- They have condemned the UAE deal and the later Bahrain agreement.
Why Does Air Pollution Rise In October Each Year?
- Every year in October, Delhi’s air quality starts to dip and a war of words between different governments erupts.
- October usually marks the withdrawal of monsoons in Northwest India.
- During monsoons, the prevalent direction of wind is easterly.
- These winds, which travel from over the Bay of Bengal, carry moisture and bring rains to this part of the country.
- Once monsoon withdraws, the predominant direction of winds changes to north westerly.
- During summers, too, the direction of wind is north westerly and storms carrying dust from Rajasthan and sometimes Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- According to a study, 72 per cent of Delhi’s wind in winters comes from the northwest, while the remaining 28 per cent comes from the Indo-Gangetic plains.
- In 2017, a storm that originated in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait led to a drastic dip in Delhi’s air quality in a couple of days.
- Along with the change in wind direction, the dip in temperatures is also behind the increased pollution levels.
- As temperature dips, the inversion height — which is the layer beyond which pollutants cannot disperse into the upper layer of the atmosphere – is lowered.
- The concentration of pollutants in the air increases when this happens.
- Also, high-speed winds are very effective at dispersing pollutants, but winters bring a dip in wind speed over all as compared to in summers.
- The combination of these meteorological factors makes the region prone to pollution.
- When factors such as farm fires and dust storms are added to the already high base pollution levels in the city, air quality dips further.
What is the role of farm fires?
- Farm fires have been an easy way to get rid of paddy stubble quickly and at low cost for several years.
- With the use of combine harvesters, the practice became more common as the harvester leaves behind tall stalks, which have to be removed before replanting.
- But the practice gained widespread acceptance starting 2009, when the governments of Punjab and Haryana passed laws delaying the sowing of paddy.
- The aim of passing this law was to conserve groundwater as the new sowing cycle would coincide with monsoons and less water would be extracted.
- This, however, left very little time for farmers to harvest paddy, clear fields and sow wheat for the next cycle.
- The paddy straw and stalks have high silica content and are not used to feed livestock.
- The easiest, but the least productive, way to get rid of it is to set it on fire.
- Over the past 11 years, the practice has thrived despite efforts made by the Centre and state governments primarily because the alternatives, like the happy seeder machine which helps mulch the residue, are seen as unavailable, and money and time consuming by smaller farmers.
- A 2015 source-apportionment study on Delhi’s air pollution conducted by IIT-Kanpur also states that 17-26% of all particulate matter in Delhi in winters is because of biomass burning.
- Over the years, the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) has developed a system to calculate the contribution of stubble burning to Delhi’s pollution.
- Last year, during peak stubble burning incidents, its contribution rose to 40%.
- Over the past few days, it has been 2%-4%, indicating that a variety of factors, not just stubble burning, are responsible for the dip in quality.
- The stubble burning season is around 45 days long.
- Air in Delhi, however, remains polluted till February.
What are the other big sources of pollution in Delhi?
- Dust and vehicular pollution are the two biggest causes of dipping air quality in Delhi in winters.
- Dry cold weather means dust is prevalent in the entire region, which does not see many rainy days between October and June.
- Dust pollution contributes to 56% of PM 10 and and the PM2.5 load at 59 t/d, the top contributors being road 38 % of PM 2.5 concentration, the IIT Kanpur study said.
India Energy Forum
- Prime Minister will next week inaugurate the annual India Energy Forum by CERAWeek, which gathers energy leaders to further important dialogue on the nation’s new energy future.
- India Energy Forum by CERAWeek, now in its fourth year, is hosted by IHS Markit, a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions.
- The event will convene an international group of speakers and delegates as well as a community of a thousand delegates from India and regional energy companies, energy-related industries, institutions and governments.
- This event will expand the important discussion on the opportunities, challenges and strategies in a rapidly-changing energy world and India’s role in it.
- Key topics to be explored will include the impact of the pandemic on India’s future energy demand, securing supplies for India’s economic growth, energy transition and the climate agenda, natural gas in the energy mix, and strategies for refining and petrochemicals.
Ayushman Sahakar scheme
- Inspired by the successfully-run cooperative hospitals in Kerala, the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) has come up with a scheme, Ayushman Sahakar, to involve co-operatives in creating healthcare infrastructure.
- Under the scheme, the NCDC will give loans totalling ₹10,000 crore to prospective cooperatives to set up healthcare facilities.
- The NCDC set up under the Ministry of Agriculture in 1963 has, till date, financed various cooperative initiatives aggregating ₹57-lakh crore.
- The NCDC has so far financed around 30 hospitals in Kerala and a total of 52 across the country, with a cumulative bed strength of over 5,000.
- Unlike in the past, the NCDC would support not just bedded facilities under this scheme but also cover all aspects of healthcare that come under the World Health Organization classification, including Indian systems of medicine.
- One of conditions for getting credit under the Ayushman Sahakar scheme is that members of a cooperative facility should be given services at discounted rates.
- Working capital and margin money to meet operational requirements will be available under scheme.
- Interest subvention of one per cent is available to women-majority cooperatives.
- NCDC launched a cooperative start-up scheme, Yuva Sahakar, two years ago.
- Under this scheme, cooperatives that are just three months old can get funding from the NCDC.
Zoological Survey of India lists 62 species
- With long bodies, relatively small or no legs, no pronounced neck and glossy scales, skinks are common reptiles around homes, garages, and open spaces such as sparks and school playgrounds, and around lakes.
- Although they are common reptiles and have a prominent role in maintaining ecosystems, not much is known about their breeding habits, and ecology because identification of the species can be confusing.
- The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) was established on 1st July, 1916 to promote survey, exploration and research.
- A recent publication by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) reveals that India is home to 62 species of skinks and says about 57% of all the skinks found in India (33 species) are endemic.
- The publication, Skinks of India, was released earlier this month.
- It is the first monograph on this group of lizards, which are found in all kinds of habitats in the country.
- Skinks are highly alert, agile and fast moving and actively forage for a variety of insects and small invertebrates.
- The reduced limbs of certain skink species or the complete lack of them make their slithering movements resemble those of snakes, leading people to have incorrect notion that they are venomous.
- This results in several of these harmless creatures being killed.
- The book also gives a phylogenetic and bio-geographical analysis of distribution of these species in all the 11 bio-geographic zones of India and a detailed account on the historical studies on this group of lizards from the British era to the present.
- The Western Ghats are home to 24 species of which 18 are endemic to the region.
- The Deccan Peninsular region is home to 19 species of which 13 are endemic.
- There are records of 14 skink species from the northeast of which two species are endemic.
- Of the 16 genera of skinks found in India, four genera are endemic.
- Sepsophis (with one species)and Barkudia (with two species) are limbless skinks found in the hills and coastal plains of the eastern coast.
- Barkudia insularisis believed to be found only in the Barkud Island in Chilka lake in Odisha.
- Barkudia melanosticta is endemic to Visakhapatnam. Sepsophis punctatus is endemic to the northern part of Eastern Ghats.
- Five species of Kaestlea (blue-tailed ground skinks) are endemic to the Western Ghats and four species of Ristella (Cat skinks) also endemic to the southern part of Western Ghats.
Coronavirus ‘molecular scissor’ as a target of Covid-19 drugs
- In the novel coronavirus, an enzyme called SARS-CoV-2-PLpro facilitates infection by processing both viral and human proteins.
- It stimulates the release of proteins that the virus to needs to replicate.
- In the human body, it inhibits molecules that signal the immune system to attack the infection.
- In a new study American and Polish scientists suggest that drugs for fighting Covid-19 be designed to block this protein — SARS-CoV-2’s molecular “scissor”.
- US scientists solved the three-dimensional structures of SARS-CoV-2-PLpro.
- Using this knowledge, Polish chemists developed two molecules that inhibit the enzyme.
- These molecules, called VIR250 and VIR251, are very efficient at blocking the activity of SARS-CoV-2-PLpro, yet do not cross-react with human enzymes with a similar function.
- The US team also compared SARS-CoV-2-PLpro against similar enzymes from coronaviruses of recent decades, SARS-CoV-1 and MERS.
- By understanding similarities and differences of these enzymes in various coronaviruses, it may be possible to develop inhibitors that are effective against multiple viruses.
Forests, trees can be trump card post COVID-19
- The World Bank has projected extreme poverty to increase for the first time in 20 years due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, conflicts and climate change.
- Forests and tree-based systems may contribute to achieving sustainable development goal of eradicating poverty (SDG No.1) by 2030, a new report has found.
- The seventh global scientific assessment, undertaken within the framework of GFEP, highlighted the nexus between SDG No.1 on ending poverty and SDG No.15 on protecting and restoring sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, as well as relevant links to other SDGs.
- Direct and indirect benefits from forests include forest-related employment and income, use of timber and non-timber forest products, among a wide range of other ecosystem services.
- The assessment was based on scientific evidences from countries such as India, Nepal, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and Ghana, which showed how agroforestry, community forest management, ecotourism and forest producer organisations have been successful in reducing poverty.
- The report, however, also cautioned that monetary gains from the ecosystem services may not always reach the poorest households.
- The benefits and costs from forests and trees to human well-being were unevenly distributed.
- For example, community forestry management (CFM) in Nepal — recognised as one of the most successful programmes in the world — has been critically assessed to show how the better-off households benefitted more than the poorer households.
- Approximately 80 per cent of the world’s vanilla is produced in Madagascar, largely in the north-eastern Sava region.
- These agroforestry systems are the main source of income for many farmers.
- In African continent with rich forests and wildlife biodiversity, timber and tourism contribute massively to national economic accounts. But the benefits may not trickle down to the local level.
- Underlining major gaps on the linkages between forests and poverty, the report highlighted areas of research that required urgent attention if forests and tree-based systems were to realise their potential in the struggle to end poverty.
- The report also noted that most of the studies on “forests and linkage with poverty” have focused on tropical forests. But Woodlands, dryland and boreal forests too must be explored.
Chinese pink dolphin
- Chinese pink dolphins are making a comeback in the Pearl river estuary, one of the most heavily industrialised areas on Earth.
- The Pearl River estuary includes Hong Kong, Macau as well as the mainland Chinese cities of Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Dongguan.
- Pink dolphins have seen a decline in their numbers in the past 15 years by 70-80 per cent. Dolphins use echolocation to find their way in water. The estuary is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
- Ships often disturb the dolphins in finding their way and even kill them.
- The number of pink dolphins in the waters has roughly increased by a third.
Seeds Of Gum Trees
- Specialised drones are being tested in a programme to boost koala numbers on Australia’s east coast, dropping seeds of gum trees as part of a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) scheme to regenerate bushland torched in the country’s historic bushfires.
- Gum tree leaves are koala’s main food source, and restoring bushland and forest habitat razed in the 2019-2020 fires is key to their long-term survival in New South Wales state.
- The fires killed or displaced 3 billion mammals, birds and reptiles, the WWF estimates, and destroyed or damaged up to 7 billion trees across 37 million acres of Australia’s southeast, equal to half the area of the United Kingdom.
- In June, a parliamentary inquiry found that koalas in New South Wales state could become extinct by 2050 unless immediate action is taken to protect them and their habitat.
Japan, Vietnam agree to boost defence, economic, energy ties
- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first summit foray since taking office last month, agreed with his Vietnamese counterpart to step up defence and security cooperation in the face of China’s expanding influence in the region.
- Japan has been pursuing such agreements in recent years to bolster ties with Southeast Asia and provide a lifeline to its own defence industry.
- Japan already has defence equipment transfer deals with the US, Britain, the Philippines and Malaysia, among other countries. Vietnam is a 12th partner.
- Japan most recently exported a radar surveillance system to the Philippines in August.
- Also signed agreements on cooperation in wide range of areas from economic cooperation including infrastructure, energy, environment and agricultural trade.
- Japan is one of Vietnam’s top trading partners with two-way trade of $28.6 billion so far this year.
- Japan is also Vietnam’s largest overseas aid donor, providing $23 billion as of 2019 and accounting for more than a quarter of Vietnam’s foreign loans.
- The government has been trying to entice Japanese companies to invest in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries to leaven the country’s dependence on manufacturing and other businesses in China.
- In August, Vietnam agreed to buy six coast guard patrol boats worth $345 million from Japan to increase its maritime capacity.
- That deal comes amid China’s continuing development and militarization of artificial islands in the contested waters of the South China Sea.