Current Affairs Feb 12

How Microplastics in the Soil Contribute To Environmental Pollution

  • Plastic, with its unabated global production, is a major and persistent contributor to environmental pollution.
  • The accumulation of plastic debris in our environment is only expected to increase in the future. “Microplastics” (MP) plastic debris <5 mm in size are particularly problematic in this regard,
  • Easily they can be ingested by marine organisms and eventually find their way to humans.
  • Studies on agricultural soil have revealed that MPs adversely affect not only the soil quality but also the physiology of soil organisms and, in turn, the interaction between soil and plants.
      • Soils from outside and inside a greenhouse (GS-out and GS-in)
      • Mulching (MS)
      • Rice field soil (RS)
      • GS-in showed an increasing abundance for progressively smaller sizes.



Tiny microorganisms in the Southern Ocean affect how the rest of the world’s seas respond to carbon

  • In the ocean that surrounds Antarctica
  • Deep water wells up to the surface
  • Carrying nutrients
  • Other dissolved materials needed by light-loving ocean life.
  • One of these materials is calcium carbonate, when dissolved, raises seawater alkalinity and helps the ocean respond to increasing carbon dioxide levels.
  • Ocean currents carry this alkalinity-enriched water northward unless tiny organisms intercept it and trap the alkalinity in the Southern Ocean.
  • Plankton in the Southern Ocean capture upwelled alkalinity to make protective shells composed of calcium carbonate.
  • When the plankton die, their calcified shells sink and break down, returning the alkalinity to deep waters, from where it can well up again.
  • If calcifying organisms are not very active, more high-alkalinity water escapes northward, allowing the global ocean to absorb more carbon dioxide.



Recommendations for regional action to combat marine plastic pollution

  • Millions of tons of plastic waste find their way into the ocean every year.
  • The role of regional ocean governance in the fight against marine plastic pollution.
  • This shows regional marine governance should be further strengthened as negotiations for a new global agreement continue.
  • The total number of plastic bags, fishing equipment, disposable bottles and other plastic items currently in the ocean is unknown.
  • Plastic waste has become ubiquitous, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from the surface to the bottom of the deep sea.
  • It comes in all shapes and sizes from vast fishing nets to tiny particles of microplastic.
  • The role of regional instruments in strengthening global governance of marine plastic pollution.”
  • More comprehensive measures and systemic changes are urgently needed to reduce and prevent marine plastic pollution.
  • The issue is all the more urgent as the amount of plastic manufactured globally is expected to double in the next ten to fifteen years.

The challenges


For the further development of existing initiatives to combat plastic waste in marine regions such as the Baltic Sea, the Pacific or the Caribbean include:

1) A great variation in the level of implementation of measures to address plastic pollution

2) Large differences in the monitoring and assessment of relevant data

3) Deficits in the implementation of multi-stakeholder approaches

4) A widespread lack of engagement with the private sector.

  • Private sector engagement is crucial to reducing the flow of plastic waste into the sea.
  • Regional working groups be established to foster cooperation.
  • Discharge of plastic waste into the sea can be prevented by, for example, using alternative materials in manufacturing or improving waste management systems,”
  • Measures should be tailored towards establishing a circular economy with a waste hierarchy based on the principle of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”
  • A global agreement could establish common goals and minimum standards.
  • Drones, unmanned aircraft and satellite images could all be used to simplify data collection and provide insights on waste volumes on remote areas such as the high seas.
  • Regional initiatives complement future global agreement
  • Regional organizations provide a vital opportunity to address the issue of marine plastic pollution at the ecosystem level.
  • Facilitate the development and implementation of solutions that are tailored to address the challenges, needs and characteristic features of different regions and affected countries.



Vigyan Jyoti programme spreads to 100 districts in 2nd phase

The second phase of Vigyan Jyoti programme commenced on the occasion of International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11, 2021, which will spread the programme for encouraging girls to take interest in science and build a career in STEM to 50 more districts adding to the existing 50 districts across the country.

  • Vigyan Jyoti programme, a new initiative to encourage girls to take interest in science and build career, was launched by the Department of Science & Technology (DST) to create a level-playing field for the meritorious girls to pursue STEM.
  • It had been running successfully in 50 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNV) since December 2019 and has now been expanded to 50 more JNVs for the year 2021-22.
  • The programme addresses the under-representation of women in certain areas of STEM.
  • As a first step, the programme has been started at school level for meritorious girls of Class IX to Class XII to encourage and empower them to pursue STEM courses in reputed institutions of the country.
  • Vigyan Jyoti activities include student-parent counselling, visit to labs and knowledge centres, partners role model interactions, science camps, academic support classes, resource material distribution and tinkering activities.
  •  Online academic support to students includes streaming of video classes, study materials, daily practice problems and doubt clearing sessions.
  • DST is working proactively to bring gender parity in Science & Technology (S&T) domain through various women-centric programmes.
  • Apart from Vigyan Jyoti, it runs other women-oriented programmes like Women Scientists Scheme to help women with career-break, Indo-US Fellowship for Women in STEMM (WISTEMM) program where women scientists can work in research labs of USA,
  •  Consolidation of University Research for Innovation and Excellence in Women Universities (CURIE) programme for improving R&D infrastructure and establishing state-of-the-art research facilities in order to create excellence in S&T in women universities and Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions (GATI) program in pilot mode.



National Beekeeping & Honey Mission (NBHM) aims to achieve the goal of ‘Sweet Revolution’ as part of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan

  • Keeping in view the importance of beekeeping as part of the Integrated Farming System in the country, government approved the allocation for Rs. 500 crore for National Beekeeping & Honey Mission (NBHM) for three years (2020-21 to 2022-23).
  • The mission was announced as part of the AtmaNirbhar Bharat scheme. NBHM aims for the overall promotion & development of scientific beekeeping in the country to achieve the goal of ‘Sweet Revolution’ which is being implemented through National Bee Board (NBB).
  • The main objective of NBHM is to promote holistic growth of beekeeping industry for income & employment generation for farm and non-farm households,
  • To enhance agriculture/ horticulture production, developing infrastructural facilities, including setting up of Integrated Beekeeping Development Centre (IBDC)s/CoE, honey testing labs, bee disease diagnostic labs, custom hiring centres, Api-therapy centres, nucleus stock, bee breeders, etc. and empowerment of women through beekeeping.
  • Besides,  the scheme also aims to create awareness about scientific bee keeping  under Mini Mission-I, post-harvest management of beekeeping, beehive products, including collection, processing, storage, marketing, value addition, etc.
  • Beekeeping is an agro-based activity which is being undertaken by farmers/ landless labourers in rural area as a part of Integrated Farming System (IFS).
  •  Beekeeping has been useful in pollination of crops, thereby, increasing income of the farmers/beekeepers by way of increasing crop yield and providing honey and other high value beehive products, viz.;
  • Bees wax, bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly, bee venom, etc. Diversified agro climatic conditions of India provide great potential and opportunities for beekeeping/ honey production and export of Honey



Resilient Uttarakhand Future

  • Uttarakhand is located in the midst of young and unstable mountains, and is subject to intense rainfall.
  • But these natural characteristics can’t be solely responsible for devastations the State has witnessed in the past decade.
  • For years geologists, glaciologists and climate experts have voiced their fears about an impending disaster due to climate change, rapid and indiscriminate construction activities, and the subsequent ecological destruction in the region
  • The occurrence of the current glacier burst was loosely attributed to erosion, a build-up of water pressure, an avalanche of snow or rocks, landslides or an earthquake under the ice.
  • According to the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, a rock mass, weakened from years of freezing and thawing of snow, may have led to the creation of a weak zone and fractures leading to a collapse that resulted in flash floods.
  • Experts also identified large-scale human settlements and expansion of agricultural activities leading to massive deforestation, as a possible trigger.
  • Studies have shown that widespread settlements, farming, cattle grazing and other anthropogenic activities could destroy the natural barriers that control avalanches and floods, thereby enhancing the possibilities of a glacial lake outburst flood
  • . The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment Report (2019) had pointed out that one-third of the Hindu Kush Himalaya’s glaciers would melt by 2100 and potentially destabilise the river regime in Asia, even if all the countries in the region fulfilled their commitments under the Paris Agreement

A few immediate steps include:


(i) Investing in resilience planning, especially in flood prevention and rapid response;

(ii) climate proofing the infrastructure such as by applying road stabilisation technologies for fragile road networks and strengthening existing structures like bridges, culverts and tunnels;

(iii) Strengthening embankments with adequate scientific knowhow;

(iv) Reassessing development of hydropower and other public infrastructure;

(v) Investing in a robust monitoring and early warning system;

 (vi) Establishing implementable policies and regulatory guidelines to restrict detrimental human activities, including responsible eco- and religious tourism policies; and

 (vii) Investing in training and capacity building to educate and empower local communities to prevent and manage risks effectively.




Gulls: Sentinels of bacteria in the environment

  • Gulls are one of the mGullsain wild birds that act as reservoirs of Campylobacter and Salmonella, two most relevant intestinal antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing gastroenteritis in humans.
  • Therefore, according to an article published in the journal Science of the Total Environment seagulls could act as sentinels of the antibiotic pressure in the environment.
  • Resistant bacteria to antibiotics represent a serious problem for human health and other species since they can harden the treatment of bacterial infections.
  • According to the experts, wildlife fauna is a reservoir of resistant and multiresistant strains of bacteria and in particular, some animals—for instance, birds—have a great ability to spread these around the environment with their local and migratory movements.
  • Southern Europe gulls, the yellow legged gull (Larus michahellis), and audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii), an endemic species of the Mediterranean.
  • All colonies featured bacteria from the Campylobacter and Salmonella genera, including resistant strains to antibiotics.
  • “These bacteria are the main cause of gastroenteritis in humans. Largely, we isolated the Campylobacter jejuni species, as well as some Salmonella serotypes common in human salmonellosis outbreaks, such as Salmonella Typhimurium.
  • In many industrialized countries, the main source of infection regarding these pathogens in humans is the consumption and handling of contaminated food from bird origins (especially meat and eggs).
  • However, apart from these production animals, wild fauna plays a relevant role in the epidemiology of these bacterial infections.
  • “Gulls are getting more used to finding food in urban areas or landfills, where they find many leftovers.