Ramanathapuram – Thoothukudi section
Why in News?
- Prime Minister will dedicate to the nation and lay the foundation of key projects of the oil & gas sector in Tamil Nadu.
- Dedicate to the nation the Ramanathapuram – Thoothukudi natural gas pipeline and Gasoline Desulphurisation Unit at Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited, Manali.
- He will also lay the foundation stone of Cauvery Basin Refinery at Nagapattinam. These projects will result in substantial socio-economic benefits and will boost the country’s march towards Urja Aatmanirbharta.
About the Projects
- The Ramanathapuram – Thoothukudi section (143 km) of the Ennore- Thiruvallur- Bengaluru- Puducherry- Nagapattinam- Madurai- Tuticorin Natural Gas Pipeline will help utilise gas from ONGC Gas fields and deliver natural gas as feedstock to industries and other commercial customers.
- The Gasoline Desulphurisation Unit at Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited (CPCL), Manali will produce low sulphur (less than 8 ppm) environment-friendly gasoline, help reduce emission and contribute towards a cleaner environment.
- The Cauvery Basin Refinery to be set up at Nagapattinam will have a capacity of 9 million metric tonnes per annum.
- It will be set up through a Joint Venture of IOCL and CPCL and will produce Motor Spirit and Diesel meeting BS-VI specifications, and Polypropylene as a value-added product.
Coopertaion in the field Traditional Medicine
Why in News?
- The Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India and the World Health Organization South East Regional Office (WHO SEARO) signed a Letter of Exchange (LoE) for the secondment/deputation of an AYUSH expert to WHO’s regional traditional medicine programme in New Delhi.
The initiative has been taken to support the
- WHO SEAR implementing the regional traditional medicine action plan,
- With particular emphasis on the safe and effective use of traditional medicine service including Ayurveda and other Indian traditional systems of medicine and its appropriate integration into national health care systems.
- Efforts will also be made to strengthen capacities of SEAR countries in the area of traditional medicine.
- This partnership will also be joint efforts of Ministry of AYUSH and WHO in helping countries in the South-East Asia Region to develop policies and to implement action plans to strengthen the role of traditional medicine.
National Food Security Mission (NFSM)
Why in News?
- National Food Security Mission (NFSM) was launched in 2007-08 to increase the production of rice, wheat and pulses through area expansion and productivity enhancement; restoring soil fertility and productivity; creating employment opportunities; and enhancing farm level economy.
- Coarse cereals were included from 2014-15 under NFSM.
- The Mission was continued during 12th Five Year Plan with target of additional production of 25 million tonnes of food grains comprising of 10 million tonnes of rice, 8 million tonnes of wheat, 4 million tonnes of pulses and 3 million tonnes of coarse cereals by the end of XII Plan.
- Beyond the 12th Plan, the mission was continued with new additional targets of 13 million tonnes of food grains comprising 5 million tonnes of rice, 3 million tonnes of wheat, 3 million tonnes of pulses and 2 million tonnes of nutri-cum-coarse cereals from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
- NFSM presently comprises of the sub-components viz., NFSM-Rice, NFSM-Wheat, NFSM-Pulses, NFSM-Coarse Cereals, NFSM-NFSM-Nutri-Cereals and NFSM-Commercial Crops.
- Currently, NFNSM is being implemented in identified districts of 28 States & 2 Union Territories (UTs) viz. Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh in the country.
- To spread the newer improved crop production technologies around 80.00 ha area has been covered under technology demonstrations of food grains crops such as rice, wheat, pulses & coarse cum nutria-cereals from 2014-15 to 2019-20.
- Under the Mission, Seed distribution of HYVs, farm machineries/resources conservation machineries/tools, efficient water application tools, plant protection, nutrient management, cropping system based trainings to the farmers etc. are provided.
- From the year, 2020-21, primary processing units/small storage bins/flexibility interventions have been added as per local requirements with the aim of increasing the income of the farmers.
Why in News?
- In a bid to ensure cyber security protection for its traceability initiative, APEDA has adopted next generation Blockchain and Cloud migration enabled GrapeNet System which would ensure a secured, scalable and cost effective interface for all the stakeholders in the exports value chain.
- The GrapeNet is a web based certification and traceability software system for monitoring fresh grapes exported from India to the European Union.
- APEDA can trace details of the consignment right upto the farm plot level. After integration Blockchain, GrapeNet will be more secure.
- On the occasion of APEDA foundation day on 13th February, 2021 the integration into Blockchain and Cloud migration has been announced.
- The Blockchain will help track all the activities and steps involved in the grapes lifecycle process, right from the allocation of the farms for production of the grapes to the point of grapes being delivered to the customers.
- It will keep a record of all the processes involved which can be traced by the customers at the end of the chain to validate the authenticity of the grapes being provided to them. The traceability of the grapes can be done from any level.
- Blockchain is a shared, immutable ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network.
- The technology is ideal for delivering that information because it provides immediate, shared, and completely transparent information stored on an immutable ledger that can be accessed only by network members.
- A Blockchain network can track test reports, consignments, production, and much more.
- And because members share a single view of the truth, they can see all details of a transaction end-to-end, giving them greater confidence, as well as new efficiencies and opportunities.
- APEDA has also adopted the cutting edge cloud based infrastructure in order to attain a secured, scalable & cost effective environment for its stakeholders.
India and Australia were evolutionary neighbours
- Bhimbetka, the famed Central Indian cave art repository near Bhopal dating to Palaeolithic and Mesolithic times, has yielded a fossil find dating back about 550 million years, the first time the particular fossilised organism has been recorded in India.
- It dates back to an era regarded as the precursor to the explosion of life on earth during the Cambrian period and puts India firmly on the map for studies of the Ediacaran era along with Australia and Russia.
India’s first Dickinsonia
- The recent finding of the very first fossils of the organism Dickinsonia by a team of researchers scientists studying the evolution of some of the earliest living species during a period of the earth’s history known as the Ediacaran, named after the Ediacara hills in South Australia.
- This period in the Earth’s history when Dickinsonia and several multicellular organisms existed, was approximately between 635 million years ago (Ma) and 541 Ma, with the living creatures of the era called vendobionts.
- Earlier, Dickinsonia fossils were found in Russia and Australia among other places.
- They extended to a size of even one metre. The first Indian fossils were discovered in the roof of the auditorium cave in Bhimbetka Rock Shelters, preserved in Maihar sandstone of the Bhander group, which is part of the Vindhyan sub-group rocks.
Proximity to Australia
- The age of fossil rock is determined using isotopes. Zircon dating of the youngest Maihar sandstone in Madhya Pradesh puts its age at 548 Ma, while the lower Bhander group in the Son and Chambal valleys yielded an isotope-derived age for limestones ranging from 978 Ma to 1073 Ma, situating it in the older Tonian period.
- The Ediacaran period was the precursor to the Cambrian (about 541 Ma to 485.4 Ma) when the earth witnessed an explosion of life forms, and much of which makes up modern animal life today.
- The age profiles of the Dickinsonia fossils in the Maihar sandstone, determined using Zircon dating, make them comparable to those from Russia’s White Sea region, at about 555 Ma.
- Further proof comes from comparable Dickinsonia tenuis and Dickinsonia costata fossils in South Australia, estimated to be from 550 Ma. Studies of the rock characteristics in and around Bhimbetka show that they shared several characteristics with rocks in Australia, including “old elephant skin” texture and also a trace fossil, Prasinema gracile.
- Dickinsonia fossils from India were found by the scientists to be identical to the Rawnsley Quartzite in South Australia, providing evidence of their age, and the proximity of the two land masses in Gondwanaland in that era.
- One distinguishing characteristic of these creatures is the absence of hard protective parts such as skeletons and carapaces (exteriors), perhaps because there were no predators.
- This was also the time that evidence shows some of the earliest multicellular organisms, or metazoa. The evidence comes from life forms in water when land lacked life.
AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine
Why in News?
- The World Health Organization (WHO) listed AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, widening access to the relatively inexpensive shot in the developing world.
- The listing by the UN health agency comes days after a WHO panel provided interim recommendations on the vaccine, saying two doses with an interval of around 8 to 12 weeks must be given to all adults, and can be used in countries with the South African variant of the coronavirus as well.
- The AstraZeneca/Oxford shot has been hailed because it is cheaper and easier to distribute than some rivals, including Pfizer/BioNTech’s , which was listed for emergency use by the WHO late in December.
Leatherback Nesting Sites
Why in News?
- Proposals for tourism and port development in the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands have conservationists worried over the fate of some of the most important nesting populations of the Giant Leatherback turtle in this part of the Indian Ocean.
- The largest of the seven species of sea turtles on the planet and also the most long-ranging, Leatherbacks are found in all oceans except the Arctic and the Antarctic.
- Within the Indian Ocean, they nest only in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and are also listed in Schedule I of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, according it the highest legal protection.
- Surveys conducted in the A&N Islands over the past three decades have shown that the populations here could be among the most important colonies of the Leatherback globally.
- There is concern now, however, that at least three key nesting beaches — two on Little Andaman Island and one on Great Nicobar Island — are under threat due to mega “development” plans announced in recent months.
- These include NITI Aayog’s ambitious tourism vision for Little Andaman and the proposal for a mega-shipment port at Galathea Bay on Great Nicobar Island.
Little Andaman in focus
- The Little Andaman plan, which proposes phased growth of tourism on this virtually untouched island, has sought the de-reservation of over 200 sq km of pristine rainforest and also of about 140 sq km of the Onge Tribal Reserve.
- Two sites where key components of the tourism plan are to be implemented are both Leatherback nesting sites — South Bay along the southern coast of the island and West Bay along its western coast.
- South Bay is proposed to be part of the “Leisure Zone” where a film city, a residential district and a tourism special economic zone are to come up. West Bay is to be part of West Bay Nature Retreat with theme resorts, underwater resorts, beach hotels and high-end residential villas.
- Not only are the numbers of females nesting here significant, satellite telemetry has revealed hitherto unknown migration patterns.
- Satellite-tagged female turtles have been tracked swimming up to 13,000 km after nesting on West Bay, towards the western coast of Australia and southwest towards the eastern coast of Africa.
- For the Leatherback, perhaps even more important is Great Nicobar Island, the southernmost of the A&N group. Large numbers have been recorded nesting here — mainly on the long and wide beaches at the mouth of the Dagmar and Alexandira rivers on the west coast and at the mouth of the Galathea River along its south eastern coast.
- Galathea Bay was, in fact, proposed as a wildlife sanctuary in 1997 for the protection of turtles and was also the site of a long-term monitoring programme. The monitoring was stopped after the tsunami devastation of 2004, but it provided the first systematic evidence of numbers and importance of these beaches.
- The A&N Islands are prominent in the National Marine Turtle Action Plan released on February 1, 2021, by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The plan notes that “India has identified all its important sea turtle nesting habitats as ‘Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas’ and included them in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) – 1”.
- The plan identifies coastal development, including construction of ports, jetties, resorts and industries, as major threats to turtle populations. It also asks for assessments of the environmental impact of marine and coastal development that may affect marine turtle populations and their habitats.
Why in News?
- The Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project between India-Myanmar was in the final stages despite delays due to various challenges.
- The $484 million Kaladan project, originally scheduled to be completed by 2014, will connect the Kolkata seaport with Sittwe in Rakhine State of Myanmar by sea.
- In Myanmar, it will link the Sittwe seaport with Paletwa in the Chin State via the Kaladan river boat route, and then from Paletwa by road to Mizoram.
Cellular IoT module shipment
Why in News?
- Cellular IoT module shipments across the globe may cross 780 million units in 2024, with India expected to see the highest growth in shipment, according to research firm Counterpoint.
- The firm estimates IoT module shipment to grow by 177%, from 282 million units in 2019.
- IoT modules are small devices embedded in objects or machines to connect them with a wireless network.
- It expects Narrow Band-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) to lead the cellular IoT module shipments by 2024, followed by 4G and 5G.
- NB-IoT is a low power technology that enables a wide range of new IoT devices and services. NB-IoT improves the power consumption and spectrum efficiency of user devices.
- 5G module shipments are expected to pick up in developed countries like the US, Japan and South Korea, while the Middle East and Africa, Russia, India and other Asian countries will be driven by lower-cost LTE-M and NB-IoT technologies.
- A study by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay has shown why the novel coronavirus may survive for far lesser time on porous surfaces such as paper and clothes than on impermeable surfaces like glass and plastic.
- COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is transmitted through respiratory droplets. The virus-laden droplets also form fomite upon falling on a surface, which serves as a source for infection spread.
- Researchers analysed the drying of droplets on impermeable and porous surfaces.
- They found that a droplet remains liquid for a much shorter time on a porous surface, making it less favourable to the survival of the virus.
- The research suggests that the virus can survive for four days on glass, and seven days on plastic and stainless steel. However, the virus survived for only three hours and two days on paper and cloth, respectively.
- The study suggests that seats in public places, such as parks, shopping malls, restaurants, and railway or airport waiting halls, could be covered with cloth to reduce the risk of disease spread.
- According to the researchers, 99.9% of the droplet’s liquid content for both impermeable and porous surfaces is evaporated within the first few minutes. They noted that after this initial state, a microscopic thin residual liquid film remains on the exposed solid parts, where the virus can still survive.
- The team discovered the evaporation of this remnant thin film is much faster in the case of porous surfaces as compared to impermeable surfaces.
- The droplets spread due to capillary action between the liquid near the contact line and the horizontally oriented fibres on the porous surface and the void spaces in porous materials, which accelerates evaporation.
- The researchers said that the study findings, such as the droplet’s liquid phase lifetime of approximately six hours on paper, will be particularly relevant in certain contexts, like schools. While this timescale is shorter than that of any permeable material, such as glass with a liquid phase lifetime of around four days, it would impact the exchange of notebooks.
- Similarly, they said the cardboard boxes, used commonly by e-commerce companies around the world, could be deemed relatively safe, since they would inhibit the virus survival.
Why in News?
- The National Informatics Centre has launched an instant messaging platform called Sandes on the lines of WhatsApp. Like WhatsApp, the new NIC platform can be used for all kinds of communications by anyone with a mobile number or email id.
Why has NIC launched this instant messaging platform?
- Following the nationwide lockdown imposed in March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19, the government felt the need to build a platform to ensure secure communication between its employees as they worked from home.
- After security scares, the Ministry of Home Affairs had in April last year issued an advisory to all government employees to avoid using platforms like Zoom for official communication.
- This was after the Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert-In) had also posted an advisory against Zoom over safety and privacy concerns.
- The idea for a secure communication network dedicated exclusively to government employees has been in the works for the past four years.
- The launch of the app is also a part of the government strategy to push for use of India-made software so as to build an ecosystem of indigenously developed products.
- Open initially only to government officers, it has now been released for the common public as well.
Life In A Cold Climate After Antarctic Find
- The accidental discovery of marine organisms on a boulder on the sea floor beneath 900 metres (3,000ft) of Antarctic ice shelf has led scientists to rethink the limits of life on Earth.
- Researchers stumbled on the life-bearing rock after sinking a borehole through nearly a kilometre of the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf on the south-eastern Weddell Sea to obtain a sediment core from the seabed.
- Ice shelves form when frozen water from the continent’s interior flows to the coast and floats on to the surrounding sea.
- As the ice flows over the land, it can pick up boulders that become embedded in the base of the ice shelf before dropping out on to the sea floor.
- While surveys of Antarctic marine life have found some small mobile organisms – such as fish, worms, jellyfish and krill – far beneath ice shelves, they have never previously found stationary filter-feeders, which survive by ingesting food that falls down on them.
- Their absence led many scientists to suspect that the total darkness, the lack of food and the -2C temperature was too hostile for them.
- It is home to at least two types of sponge, one of which has a long stem that opens into a head. But other organisms, which could be tube worms or stalked barnacles, also appear to be growing on the rock.
Guinea declares Ebola outbreak
Why in News?
- Guinea has declared an Ebola outbreak after three persons died in the country’s southeast.
- This is the first time the disease has been reported in the country since an outbreak ended in 2016.
Facts about Ebola
- Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a disease caused by one of five different Ebola viruses.
- Four of the strains can cause severe illness in humans and animals.
- The fifth, Reston virus, has caused illness in some animals, but not in humans.
- The first human outbreaks occurred in 1976, one in northern Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) in central Africa: and the other, in southern Sudan (now South Sudan).
- The virus is named after the Ebola River, where the virus was first recognized in 1976.
- Ebola is extremely infectious but not extremely contagious.
- It is infectious, because an infinitesimally small amount can cause illness.
- Laboratory experiments on nonhuman primates suggest that even a single virus may be enough to trigger a fatal infection.
- Ebola is considered moderately contagious because the virus is not transmitted through the air.
- Humans can be infected by other humans if they come in contact with body fluids from an infected person or contaminated objects from infected persons.
- Humans can also be exposed to the virus, for example, by butchering infected animals.
Children with Cancer
Why in News?
- Cancer remained a leading cause of death among children. In 2020, 262,281 children (aged 0-14 years) were diagnosed with cancer globally. Of them, nearly 45 per cent are in Africa and southeast Asia, according to WHO.
- Only about 15-45 per cent of children diagnosed with cancer in low- and middle-income countries were treated and survived, compared to more than 80 per cent in high-income countries.
- February 15 is observed as International Childhood Cancer Day.
- Over 61,000 of the cancer cases among children were in Africa and more than 55,000 in Southeast Asia. India accounted for over 69 per cent of the total burden of childhood cancer in Southeast Asia.
Most common cancer in children
- At least 400,000 individuals under 20 years are diagnosed with the disease each year, according to WHO.
- Leukemias, brain cancers, lymphomas and solid tumours, such as neuroblastoma and Wilms tumours are most prevalent among the children.
- Acute lymphoid leukemia is the most common in children.
- Lack of diagnosis, misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, obstacles to accessing care, abandonment of treatment, death from toxicity and higher rates of relapse are some of the causes for the burden of deaths due to cancer among children in the low-middle income countries
- This inequity in access to quality healthcare further threatens the attainment of universal health coverage.
- The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has hit the world’s ability and progress in achieving health goals under 2030 United Nations (UN) Agenda for Sustainable Development has been severely affected.
- The WHO Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer launched in September 2018 had set a target of achieving at least 60 per cent survival. It aims to reduce suffering from cancer for all children by 2030.
Pangolins in Cameroon
Why in News?
- Over one million pangolins have been hunted in the past decade, making it one of the world’s most trafficked mammals and pushing the elusive animal towards extinction.
- Many Cameroonians prefer bushmeat to domestic livestock as they are easily available and cheaper. According to a 2017 study, at least 400,000 pangolins are hunted and consumed in Central Africa each year.
- Cameroon hosts three species of pangolin — white-bellied, black-bellied and giant. There is one other species found in central Africa.
- Researchers have warned that loss of pangolins could have drastic ecological and economical effects on local communities.
- The critically endangered species constitute a distinct taxonomic order and if they disappear, there will be nothing like them left on Earth.
Tough wildlife laws, poor enforcement
- Pangolins fall under Category A of Classified Wildlife Species in Cameroon, which fully protects them from hunting, exploitation and possession.
- Cameroon is also a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora also known as CITES.
- The aim of CITES is to monitor international trade and conserve endangered species.
- But in many central African countries, including Cameroon, illegal hunting and trade continue.
- Most of these wildlife protection laws and international agreement never translate into action on the ground, thus giving a golden opportunity to poachers and traffickers.
Coal Burning Responsible For Heavy Air Pollution in India
Why in News?
- Coal-based thermal power stations with no pollution control technology are responsible for over half sulphur dioxide (SO2), 30 per cent oxides of nitrogen (NOx), about 20 per cent particulate matter (PM), among other man-made emissions in the country.
- Unabated burning of coal in thermal power stations and a delay in implementation of latest carbon capture storage technology are among major reasons of air pollution in India, according to a recent study.
- The study by the International Energy Agency’s Clean Coal Centre (IEACCC) recommended implementation of emission norms at coal-based thermal power stations (TPP) at the earliest.
- It added that transport and other industrial sectors stand second to coal-based thermal power stations as a contributor to air pollution.
Retire old fleet and upgrade
- The IEACCC study recommended retirement of old coal-fired power stations to limit pollution and improve the fleet efficiency. The study underlined the “lip-service stand” taken by the Union governments in running cleaner coal power plants in India.
- It noted that the most new advanced technology plants in India — such as Mundra and Sassan in Gujarat — are struggling financially, causing stakeholders to lose confidence in investing in cleaner and advanced technology.
- The Union government’s long-term strategy underline the nationally determined contributions submitted as a part of the Paris Agreement 2015, which mention the Indian government’s position to run cleaner advance technology.
- And yet, it is legally feasible for businesses in India to use less efficient technologies to burn coal.
Carbon capture storage
- Adopting carbon-capture storage (CCUS) is equally important to reduce emissions, according to the study.
- CCUS is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide, transporting it to a storage site and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere.
- The report added that land forms along the coasts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu as well as parts of Rajasthan can act as good reserves. The study called the international community through multi-national banks and other sources to invest in deployment of CCUS in India.
Among other suggestions that could reduce CO2 emissions from the coal sector or cut it up to 26 per cent were:
- Retiring old sub-critical thermal power generating units 23 gigawatt
- Running priority-advanced technology plants
- Deploying carbon capture technology in 10 per cent capacity of overall fleet.