Current Affairs Apr 19

Eight Eastern States as Highly Vulnerable

Why in News?

  • The National climate vulnerability assessment report has identified Jharkhand, Mizoram, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, and West Bengal as states highly vulnerable to climate change.
  • These states, mostly in the eastern part of the country, require prioritization of adaptation interventions.
  • The report titled ‘Climate Vulnerability Assessment for Adaptation Planning in India Using a Common Framework’, which identifies the most vulnerable states and districts in India with respect to current climate risk and key drivers of vulnerability.
  • Assessing vulnerability was the first step towards assessing climate risk. There are two other components like Hazard and Exposure that need to be also assessed to arrive at overall climate risk.
  • The assessments can further be used for India’s reporting on the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. And finally, these assessments will support India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change.
  • Among all states, Assam, Bihar, and Jharkhand have over 60% districts in the category of highly vulnerable districts.
  • The assessment will help Policymakers in initiating appropriate climate actions.
  • It will also benefit climate-vulnerable communities across India through development of better-designed climate change adaptation projects.
  • In a developing country such as India, vulnerability assessment is considered as an important exercise to develop suitable adaptation projects and programmes.
  • While climate vulnerability assessments for various states and districts already exist, the states and districts cannot be compared to each other as the framework used for assessments are different, thereby limiting decision-making capabilities at the policy and administrative levels. This necessitated an assessment using a Common Vulnerability Framework.
  • DST has been implementing 2 national missions on climate change as part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change.
  • These are National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE) and National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change (NMSKCC).
  • As part of these missions, DST has been supporting the State Climate Change Cells in 25 States and Union Territories. Besides other tasks assigned to these State CC Cells, carrying out assessment of vulnerability due to climate change at district and sub-district levels has been their primary responsibility, and the national level vulnerability assessment an extension of the same.




World Heritage Day 2021

  • World Heritage Day is celebrated on April 18 every year.
  • Theme for this year is ‘Complex Pasts: Diverse Futures’.
  • To preserve the human heritage and recognize the efforts of the organizations working for it.

World Heritage Day 2021: History

  • The ICOMOS organization was established on the principles put down in the Venice Charter, also known as the 1964 International Charter on the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites.
  • During a seminar in Tunisia, the International Council of Mountains and Sights suggested celebrating World Heritage Day on 18 April 1982.
  • Then, in November 1983, at the 22nd session of the UNESCO Conference, a resolution to celebrate World Heritage Day was passed on April 18 every year.

World Heritage Day 2021 Significance

  • The day’s aim and significance are not just limited to the various historical monuments and sites.
  • It also plays an important role in preserving the cultural integrity of a community or country.
  • Having a rich and diverse culture, the onus is also on us to save it from any kind of harm. When everyone come together to do this, then only our history has a chance to survive on its own.

India Today




India’s first bat with sticky disks

Why in News?

  • Meghalaya has yielded India’s first bamboo-dwelling bat with sticky disks, taking the species count of the flying mammal in the country to 130.


  • The disk-footed bat (Eudiscopus denticulus) was recorded in the north-eastern State’s Lailad area near the Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary, about 1,000 km west of its nearest known habitat in Myanmar.
  • There are a couple of other bamboo-dwelling bats in India. But the extent of adaptation for bamboo habitat in this species is not seen in the others.
  • The newly-recorded bat was presumed to be a bamboo-dwelling species, but its flattened skull and adhesive pads helped in identifying it as the disk-footed known from specific localities in southern China, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar.
  • The flattened skull and sticky pads enabled the bats to roost inside cramped spaces, clinging to smooth surfaces such as bamboo internodes. The disk-footed bat was also found to be genetically very different from all other known bats bearing disk-like pads.




 220-million-year-old rat-like creatures

Why in News?

  • The Tiki Formation in Madhya Pradesh, a treasure trove of vertebrate fossils, has now yielded a new species and two genera of cynodonts, small rat-like animals that lived about 220 million years ago.

Teeth trail

  • The teeth were studied for size, crown shape, structure of the cusps and compared with previously reported cynodonts.
  • The results showed that they had found a new species, and they named it Rewaconodon indicus, indicating India, the country it was discovered from.
  • The team also identified two new genera from the area.
  • The first was named Inditherium floris, after India and the Latin word therium meaning beast. As the teeth had a flower-shaped crown, it earned the species name floris.
  • The second was named Tikiodon cromptoni, after Tiki Formation and Greek word odon meaning tooth. The species name is after paleontologist A.W. Crompton.
  • About eighty cynodont genera have been reported from around the world.
  • The ones similar to the newly discovered ones were previously found in Laurasia which includes North America, England, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Belgium.
  • Cynodonts and living mammals both belong to a group of egg-laying vertebrates (amniotes) called synapsids. The close relationship of cynodonts with living mammals is seen in their bones. They also have differentiated teeth ( for example, different teeth in the front of mouths compared with the back), a secondary palate in their mouths, which, like humans, allowed them to breathe and eat at the same time. Some cynodonts show evidence for the inferred presence of whiskers and fur.




Only 3% of land areas unblemished by humans

  • Very little of today’s world resembles Planet Earth from 500 years ago.
  • In fact, only about 3% of land surfaces might be ecologically intact — still home to their full range of native species and unblemished by human activity, according to new research.
  • It is far lower than previous estimates based on satellite images, which suggested around 20% to 40% of land ecosystems were undamaged.
  • For the new study, however, scientists conducted an extensive survey of forest cover and species losses to understand better what was happening beneath the world’s tree canopies.
  • The term ecosystem describes the complex relationships within a natural area that, altogether, help to sustain a healthy and balanced diversity of life. Lose just one or two key species, and the whole system could fall apart.
  • Today’s still-pristine habitats, containing the same species abundance as in the year 1500 A.D., were mostly found in regions considered less hospitable for humans, including the Sahara Desert and chilly regions of Greenland and northern Canada.
  • Other intact habitats were in areas under extreme pressure from deforestation and development, including parts of the Amazon in Latin America.
  • Currently, only 11% of these areas are under protection.
  • An effort led by the United Nations to protect 30% of the planet’s land and waters by 2030 — up from about 17% currently under some form of protection — has gained momentum over the last year, as governments including the United States have pledged to commit more land to conservation.
  • World’s conservation goal should be much higher than 30% in order to prevent mass die-offs of species. A 2019 U.N. report estimated as many as 1 million species are under threat of extinction due to human activity.




‘Oxygen Express’ trains

  • The Railways will run ‘Oxygen Express’ over the next few days to transport liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country.
  • Empty tankers will begin their journey from Kalamboli and Boisar railway stations in and near Mumbai to load liquid medical oxygen Vishakhapatnam, Jamshedpur, Rourkela and Bokaro.




Goa’s Civil Code

Why in News?

  • Chief Justice of India S A Bobde recently appreciated the uniform civil code (UCC) in Goa, the only state to have one.
  • No expert committee on the lines of the Hindu Law Reforms Committee of 1941 has ever been constituted, nor has any blueprint for a UCC been prepared.
  • Each state in the US has a separate Constitution and separate criminal laws, and the plurality of laws has not weakened that country. The UCC has no role in maintaining the integrity of the country.

Example of plurality

  • Goa’s Portuguese Civil Code, 1867 is basically an alien code given by the Portuguese. Its continuance — and non-enforcement of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Hindu Succession Act, 1956 or Indian Succession Act, 1925 or Shariat (Application) Act, 1937 and Dissolution of the Muslim Marriage Act,1939 etc. in Goa — is an example of legal pluralism, and negation of the very idea of one nation, one law? Is Goa’s Civil Code really as uniform as is generally made out?
  • Under Article 1 of the Decree of Gentile Hindu Usages and Customs of Goa, 1880, customs of Hindus were preserved and exemptions from the Civil Code were given to gentile Hindus.
  • This decree continued the institution of Hindu joint family, named in Portuguese as sociedade, which technically is closer to a partnership rather than the concept of a Hindu joint family.
  • The Shariat Act has not been extended to Goa; Muslims are governed by the Code as well as Shastric Hindu law. Those who favour love jihad laws would be surprised to know that under Article 1090 of the Goa Code, marriage cannot be annulled on the ground of religion.
  • Goa’s Civil Code has four parts, dealing with civil capacity, acquisition of rights, right to property, and the breach of rights and remedies.
  • It begins in the name of God and Dom Luis, King of Portugal and Algarves. India’s Constituent Assembly had rejected H V Kamath’s proposal of a similar invocation of God in the Constitution.
  • The Code has survived by virtue of Section 5(1) of the Goa, Daman and Diu Administration Act, 1962 that permitted its continuance.
  • On the contrary, the Jammu & Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 has repealed laws based on local Hindu customs; even Kashmiri Muslims were being governed by such non-Islamic laws and customs.

States, different laws

  • In fact, not all Hindus in the country are governed by one law.
  • Marriage amongst close relatives is prohibited by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 but is considered auspicious in the South.
  • The Hindu Code Bill recognises customs of different Hindu communities. Even the Hindu Succession Act, 1955 could not make the daughter a coparcener until 2005.
  • The wife is still not the coparcener. Even today, property devolves first to class-I heirs, and if there are none, then to class-II heirs.
  • While the heirs of sons are moved to class-I, heirs of daughters are not. Even among class-II heirs, preference is given to male lineage.
  • And if a couple is issueless, self-acquired property of both spouses goes to the husband’s parents even when they have thrown out the daughter-in-law. The wife’s parents do not get anything from the property of their issueless daughter.
  • There is no uniform applicability of personal laws among Muslims and Christians either. The Constitution protects the local customs of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram.
  • Even land laws in a number of states are discriminatory, and daughters do not inherit landed properties in the presence of sons.
  • With a 2006 amendment in UP, only an unmarried daughter gets a share in agricultural property.
  • The distinction between married and unmarried daughters is arbitrary.
  • These laws have been exempted from judicial scrutiny by including them in the Ninth Schedule.




 Hot Springs and Gogra Post

Why in News?

  • During the 11th round of discussions between the senior military commanders of India and China on April 9, to resolve the over 11-month long standoff in eastern Ladakh, China had refused to vacate two of the four original friction points.
  • At two friction points, Patrolling Point 15 (PP15) in Hot Springs, and PP17A near Gogra Post, China still has a platoon-level strength each, along with vehicles.

What had happened here last year?

  • In May 2020 when China had diverted its troops who had come to the Tibetan plateau region for their annual exercise, towards the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, creating a standoff with India, PP15 and PP17A were two of the four points where the soldiers were eyeball-to-eyeball.
  • The other points of friction at that time were PP14 in Galwan Valley and the north bank of Pangong Tso. Chinese troops had crossed the LAC at all these points and positioned themselves across.

What are PP15 and 17A?

  • Along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India in China, Indian Army has been given certain locations that its troops have to access to patrol the area under its control. These points are known as patrolling points, or PPs, and are decided by the China Study Group (CSG).
  • CSG was set-up in 1976, when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister, and is the apex decision-making body on China.
  • PP15 and PP17A are two of the 65 patrolling points in Ladakh along the LAC. (Some of these 65 also have an additional Alpha PPs, which are further ahead from the original PPs. So PP17A is different from, but close to, PP17.)
  • PP15 is located in an area known as the Hot Springs, while PP17A is near an area called the Gogra post.

Where are these two areas?

  • Both of these are close to the Chang Chenmo river in the Galwan sub-sector of the LAC in eastern Ladakh. While Hot Springs is just north of the Chang Chenmo river, Gogra Post is east of the point where the river takes a hairpin bend coming southeast from Galwan Valley and turning southwest.
  • The area is north of the Karakoram Range of mountains, which lies north of the Pangong Tso lake, and south east of Galwan Valley, which became a major flashpoint and a violent faceoff in June 2020.

What is the importance of this region?

  • The area lies close to Kongka Pass, one of the main passes, which, according to China marks the boundary between India and China. India’s claim of the international boundary lies significantly east, as it includes the entire Aksai Chin area as well.




Cuba is developing five homegrown Covid vaccines

Why in News?

  • Communist-run island nation of Cuba plans to develop and export its own Covid-19 vaccines by the end of the year. So far, the country has announced five coronavirus vaccine candidates, two of which are in their final phase 3 trials.
  • Their Soberana 2 vaccine appears to be highly effective and is entering the final stage of clinical trials. If the trials are successful, Cuba will become the only Latin American country to develop its own coronavirus vaccine.

Cuba’s Covid-19 vaccine programme

  • At present, Cuba has a total of five vaccine candidates in the works, with names that have a bit of a political message in them. Two of the vaccines are called ‘Soberana’ — the Spanish word for sovereignty.
  • Another has been named ‘Abdala’, after a poem written by the hero of the Cuban revolution Jose Marti.
  • The fifth vaccine, ‘Mambisa’, refers to the Cuban guerrillas who fought for freedom against the Spanish, and is administered as a nasal spray. Two of these — Soberana 2 and Abdala — are in their final phase three trials.

How do the Soberana 2 and Abdala vaccines work?

  • Both the Soberana 2 and Abdala vaccines are conventional conjugate vaccines, which means that a part of the coronavirus spike protein is fused with a carrier molecule in order to boost both efficacy and stability.




Rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide continues

Why in News?

  • We are within a whisker of 420ppm, 50% more than the 280ppm of pre-industrial times, before we began to burn oil and coal in significant quantities.
  • When carbon dioxide levels were last at this level, 3.6m years ago, sea levels were 20 metres higher and vast areas now covered in ice were forested.
  • Land where many of our coastal cities now stand and much of our food is grown were deep under water. Large areas in the tropics would have been uninhabitable because they would have been too hot.
  • Just as alarming as the carbon dioxide levels are those of methane, 30 times as potent a greenhouse gas. Despite pandemic-induced reductions in industrial activity last year, methane levels produced from fracking activities, leaky pipelines, cattle ranching as well as melting permafrost rose faster than at any time since records began 40 years ago.




Microbes are ‘unknown unknowns’ despite being vital to all life

  • A new study has highlighted how little is known about microbes – the hidden majority of life on Earth.
  • Life on the planet relies on an enormous quantity of bacteria, fungi and other tiny organisms. They generate oxygen, keep soils healthy and regulate the climate. Microbes play a crucial role in food production, such as cheese, beer, yoghurt and bread.
  • But despite their importance to human life and the health of the Earth, a new scientific paper has shown our “profound ignorance” of microbial biodiversity and how it is changing.
  • Many plant and animal populations are rapidly decreasing, with about 1 million species at risk of extinction, according to a 2019 UN-backed report. Plants and animals are counted over time to monitor how their populations change.
  • Microbes are often found in extreme environments – surviving at the bottom of the ocean, frozen deep inside glaciers and even inside a toxic volcanic lake – making them hard to study. Although poorly understood, bacteria and other tiny organisms are widespread in the deep biosphere below the Earth’s surface.
  • Microbes in the human body have been linked to conditions from obesity and type 2 diabetes to food intolerances and anxiety.
  • But the consequences for the planet of humanity’s ignorance about how microbial life is changing is also unclear, the study finds.
  • About 90% of the ocean’s total weight of organisms is microbes, according to the 2010 Census of Marine Life. Microbes are critical in carbon capture, they breakdown organic matter and form the basis of the food web.
  • Viruses such as Covid-19 and other microbes, such as the Yersinia pestis bacterium responsible for bubonic plague, can cause illnesses and are increasingly linked to the destruction of the natural world. Understanding changes in the abundance and diversity of microbes is important for understanding the health of the planet.




Pandemic made 2020 ‘the year of the quiet ocean’

  • The Covid-19 lockdown has produced the quietest year for the world’s oceans in recent memory.
  • Noise pollution from ship engines, trawling activities, oil platforms, subsea mining and other human sources declined significantly last spring, say the researchers.
  • Like light pollution on the land, human noise is a growing concern in the oceans because it has been proven to disrupt species that depend on sound for communication and navigation. Low-frequency signals can travel thousands of kilometres.
  • Studies in the north-east Pacific showed an increase of 3 decibels each decade in human-generated sounds below 100 hertz between the 1960s and early 2000s.
  • By one reckoning, the volume of this audio pollution is now around the same level as the natural background noise of the ocean.