World Bee Day
- To raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the UN designated 20 May as World Bee Day.
Why this date?
- 20 May coincides with the birthday of Anton Janša, who in the 18th century pioneered modern beekeeping techniques in his native Slovenia and praised the bees for their ability to work so hard, while needing so little attention.
- The proposal set forth by the Republic of Slovenia, with the support of Apimondia, the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations and FAO, to celebrate World Bee Day on 20 May each year met with approval by the United Nations General Assembly in 2017.
- The theme of World Bee Day 2021 is: Bee Engaged – Build Back Better for Bees.
- On the occasion of World Bee Day Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare launched the project of setting up of a honey testing laboratory at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, New Delhi.
Kharif Strategy 2021
Why in News?
- To achieve self-sufficiency in the production of oilseeds, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has adopted a multi-pronged strategy.
- Under the strategy, the Government of India has approved an ambitious plan for the free distribution of high yielding varieties of seeds to the farmers for the Kharif season 2021 in the form of mini-kits.
- Both area and productivity enhancement has been formulated for soybean and groundnut with a focus on high yielding varieties of seeds to be provided free of cost under the National Food Security Mission (Oil Seeds and Oil Palm) Mission.
About National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm
- The Government of India through the National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm has the objective to augment the availability of edible oils and reduce the import of edible oils by increasing the production and productivity of oilseeds and oil palm. To this end a multi-pronged strategy is being adopted which includes the following:
- Increasing the seed replacement ratio with focus on varietal replacement
- Increasing irrigation coverage
- Nutrient management
- Intercropping with cereals/pulses/sugarcane
- Productivity improvement and adoption of proven and climate-resilient technologies
- Area expansion through diversification of low yielding food grains.
- Targeting rice fallow areas and high potential districts
- Promotion in non-traditional states
- Encouraging mechanization
- Research projects
- Training of farmers and extension officials
- Supporting cluster demonstrations for the adoption of good agricultural practices
- Creation of 36 oilseed hubs with a focus on regional approach for larger availability of quality seeds
- Post-harvest management at farm and village level
- Formation of Farmer Producer Organisations
Why in News?
- On the 21st of May, a glorious era will come to an end with the decommissioning of the first destroyer of the Indian Navy – INS Rajput.
- INS Rajput, the lead ship of the Kashin-class destroyers built by the erstwhile USSR was commissioned on 04 May 1980 and has rendered yeoman service to the Indian Navy for over 41 years.
- INS Rajput was constructed in the 61 Communards Shipyard in Nikolaev (present-day Ukraine) under her original Russian name ‘Nadezhny’ meaning ‘Hope’.
- The ship has participated in several operations aimed at keeping the nation secure. Some of these include Operation Aman off Sri Lanka to assist IPKF, Operation Pawan for patrolling duties off the coast of Sri Lanka, Operation Cactus to resolve hostage situation off the Maldives, and Operation Crowsnest off Lakshadweep.
- In addition, the ship participated in numerous bilateral and multi-national exercises. The ship was also the first Indian Naval Ship to be affiliated with an Indian Army regiment – the Rajput Regiment.
Plasma– the fourth state of matter
Why in News?
- Indian Scientists have recently developed a theory that helps understand the complicated nature of Sun-Earth interaction’s happening in the magnetosphere– an area of space around Earth that is controlled by the Earth’s magnetic field.
- This new theory has opened up a plethora of opportunities to unlock the mysteries of the ion-hole structures (a localized plasma region where the ion density is lower than the surrounding plasma).
- They are now working towards a detailed study of the ion hole structures observed in various space and astrophysical environments using the developed theory.
- A group consisting of Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG), developed a theory that solves every bit of uncertainty regarding the conflict between the observations from Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission —a NASA robotic space mission to study the Earth’s magnetosphere and theoretical predictions.
- They have completely ruled out the necessity of the upper limit in the temperature ratio between ions and electrons for the generation of a special kind of wave called Bernstein Green Kruskal (BGK) waves, named after the scientists who predicted this wave.
- They revealed that the electrons that are not part of ion hole dynamics also play a vital role.
- NASA’s latest expedition to unlock Sun-Earth interaction’s complicated nature, the MMS spacecraft, observed negative monopolar potential (electric field potentials which can be visualized in the form of single-humped pulse-type structures).
- However, none of the available theories could explain the characteristics of these structures due to the exotic background conditions.
- The new theory developed by the IIG team provides a better understanding of their characteristics and sheds light on the generation of these structures leading to the unraveling of nature’s greatest mystery that causes phenomena —plasma transport and heating of plasma — the fourth state of matter after solid, liquid, and gas, which is the most natural and widely observed state of matter in the entire universe.
Treatment of children in next COVID-19 wave
Why in News?
- The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has written to the top medical research body, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), seeking guidelines for treatment of children ahead of the impending third wave of COVID-19.
- The ongoing second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting a slightly greater number of younger people. A third wave of COVID-19 is projected to hit the country according to experts and will affect children, too.
- The Supreme Court of India has emphasised upon the need to prepare for the same.
Why in News?
- China has completed construction of a strategically significant highway through the world’s deepest canyon in Tibet along the Brahmaputra river, enabling greater access to remote areas along the disputed border with Arunachal Pradesh in India.
- The highway took seven years to complete and passes through the Grand Canyon of the Yarlung Zangbo river, as the Brahmaputra is called in Tibet.
- This is the “second significant passageway” to Medog county that borders Arunachal, directly connecting the Pad township in Nyingchi to Baibung in Medog county.
- The highway will reduce the distance between Nyingchi city and Medog from 346 km to 180 km and will cut the travel time by eight hours.
- Recently, China began work on a strategically important railway line — its second major rail link to Tibet after the Qinghai-Tibet railway that opened in 2006 — that will link Sichuan province with Nyingchi.
Civilian settlements in disputed territories
- Another part of the border infrastructure push is the construction of new civilian settlements — along with the expansion of existing smaller hamlets — along border areas, some of which lie in disputed territories claimed by India and Bhutan, to strengthen China’s control over the land.
Andhra’s GSDP rises to 1.58%
Why in News?
- Andhra Pradesh has registered a Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) of 1.58%, which is higher than last year’s negative growth of national GDP of -3.80%.
- The Socio Economic Survey (SES) brought out by the Planning Department revealed that per capita income of the State increased to ₹1.70 lakh per annum in 2020-2021 as against ₹1.68 lakh in 2019-20.
- The all India per capita income for 2019-20 stands at ₹1.34 lakh per annum.
- The State has improved its position from 4th rank to 3rd in 2019 in the overall SDG ranking across the country.
- In the latest rankings by NITI Aayog, Andhra Pradesh secured 1st rank in two SDGs- goal no.6 (clean water and sanitation) and goal-16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), 2nd rank in goal-3 (good health), goal-8 (decent economic growth), goal-13 (climate change) and goal-14 (life below water) and 3rd rank in goal-1 (eradication of poverty).
- On the other hand, the long march towards achieving total literacy continues as the literacy rate of the State stands at 67.35%, which is way below the national average of 72.98%.
Why in News?
- The arrival of European colonists led to a mass extinction of between 50% to 70% of the snake and lizard populations of the Guadeloupe Islands, which is a part of France.
- The team analyzed the remains of 16 taxa, or animal groups across 31 sites from Guadeloupe.
- These were sorted into four periods: the Late Pleistocene (32,000 to 11,650 years ago), the Holocene before the arrival of humans (starting 11,650 years ago), the Indigenous habitation period, and the modern period.
- By carbon dating the remains and their surrounding sediment, they were able to reconstruct the region’s evolutionary history, and found that the mass extinction occurred over only the last 500 years.
- The islands could have been first inhabited by humans as far back as 5,000 years ago. Columbus arrived in Guadeloupe in 1493, while French colonization started in 1635 and led to the disappearance of Guadeloupe’s indigenous people within 20 years.
- The fossil record also showed reptile species were able to survive the climate transition at the end of the last Ice Age when this region became warmer and wetter.
World’s largest iceberg
Why in News?
- A giant slab of ice bigger than the Spanish island of Majorca has sheared off from the frozen edge of Antarctica into the Weddell Sea, becoming the largest iceberg currently afloat in the world, the European Space Agency said.
- The newly calved berg, designated A-76 by scientists, was spotted in recent satellite images captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, the space agency said.
- Its surface area spans 4,320 square km (1,668 square miles)and measures 175 km long by 25 km wide.
- By comparison, Spain’s popular tourist island of Majorca in the Mediterranean occupies 3,640 square km (1,405 square miles).
- The enormity of A-76, which broke away from Antarctica’s Ronne Ice Shelf, ranks as the largest existing iceberg on the planet, surpassing the now second-place A-23A, about 3,380 square km (1,305 square miles) in size and also floating in the Weddell Sea.
- The Ronne Ice Shelf on the flank of the Antarctic Peninsulais one of the largest of several enormous floating sheets of ice that connect to the continent’s landmass and extend out into the surrounding seas.
Why in News?
- In a new advisory, the government has warned that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be transported through air as well in the form of aerosols, and infect people up to 10 metres away.
Droplet vs aerosol
- It was initially suggested that the virus spreads predominantly through large droplets that come out when a person is talking, sneezing or coughing.
- These droplets, because of their large size, were supposed to travel only short distances before falling on the ground. A person 6 feet (2 metres) away was considered safe from infection.
- Over the months, however, scientists have been finding increasing evidence of the virus travelling through aerosols as well.
- Aerosols are small solid particles suspended in the air. Relatively light, aerosols can carry the virus to much larger distances.
- Also, they can remain suspended in the air for several minutes, or even hours, thereby greatly increasing the chance of the infecting a nearby person.
The new advisory
- Droplets and aerosol remain the main modes of transmission of the disease, although it has also warned of the possibility “surface transmission” — droplets falling on different surfaces, and getting picked up by people who touch these surfaces.
- The risk from surface transmission, considered very high in the initial months of the pandemic, is now believed to be greatly reduced.
What you should do
- The advisory asks people to keep their indoor spaces well-ventilated, by keeping doors and windows open, and using exhaust systems.
- The infection transmission risk was much lower in outdoor areas since the virus particles get easily dispersed.
Why in News?
- The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) approved the country’s first Covid-19 self-testing kit for home use.
- That essentially means anyone can collect their own nasal sample and test it for SARS-CoV-2.
How does a self-test kit help?
- The RT-PCR test, considered the gold standard for Covid-19 testing, takes 3-4 days to give results, delaying hospitalisation and treatment.
- These can cut queues in laboratories, reduce costs, dissipate the burden on existing manpower for sample collection from homes, and provide quick results (within 15 minutes), leading to prompt treatment and isolation.
- Such a self-test kit was first approved in the US last November. A rapid-result all-in-one test kit produced by Lucira Health was given emergency use authorisation. Similar kits have been approved in Europe and South Korea too.
What is the kit approved by ICMR?
- Called CoviSelf, it has been developed by MyLab Discovery Solutions, a Pune-based molecular company.
- It uses a rapid antigen test, in which a nasal swab sample is tested for the virus and gives results within 15 minutes. Taking the test takes hardly two minutes.
- This testing kit cost Rs 250.
Europe and Russia plan to put spacecraft on surface of Mars
Why in News?
- Recently, the China reported that the country had landed a robotic spacecraft on Mars.
- Until China’s Zhurong rover touched down in the Utopia Planitia region of the Mars, only the US had succeeded in operating on the planet’s surface. Next year, however, a joint mission by the European Space Agency and Russia will attempt to replicate the success.
- Launching in September 2022, and touching down in June 2023, ExoMars consists of a rover and a surface science platform.
- The rover is called Rosalind Franklin and has been built by Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.
- The platform is called Kazachok and has been built by Lavochkin in Khimki, Russia. Both contain instruments designed to answer whether life has ever existed on Mars.
- A drill on the rover will penetrate up to 2 metres below the surface, the first time such depths have been explored.
Dogs can better detect Covid in humans
- Dogs are better at detecting Covid-19 in humans than many fast lateral flow tests (LFTs), according to a French study which could see canines more widely deployed for mass virus screening in crowded places including airports.
- The trial, showed dogs were able to detect the presence of the virus with 97% accuracy.
- The dogs were also 91% correct in identifying negative samples.
- These results are scientific confirmation of dogs’ capacity to detect the olfactory signature of Covid-19.
Why in News?
- Over a thousand people queued up outside an abandoned gas station in San Francisco’s Bay Area to catch a glimpse of the extremely rare and aptly named ‘corpse flower’, known for its putrid smell, which is often compared to that of rotting flesh.
So, what is the ‘corpse flower’?
- The ‘corpse flower’ is a flowering plant, which is native to the rainforests of Sumatra in Indonesia. The scientific name of the rare plant, Amorphophallus titanum, quite literally translates to giant, misshapen phallus — presumably due to its appearance.
- In about a decade, the ‘corpse flower’ can grow to be up to 10 feet tall and unveil two of its key components — a deep red skirt-like petal known as the spathe and a yellow rod-like ‘spadix’.
- Another crucial component of the plant is the ‘corm’, a fleshy underground plant stem which acts as a storage organ where the corpse plant’s energy is stored.
- The unique plant is said to have the biggest corm in existence, sometimes weighing around 100 kgs.
- The corpse flower is known to be one of the world’s largest ‘unbranched inflorescence’ or a stalk bearing a cluster of flowers.
- The average corpse flower has a lifespan of about three-four decades.
- Apart from its appearance, the flower is known for its pungent stench, which is said to be similar to rotting meat or a decaying cadaver. The plant emits the distinct smell only when it is in bloom, which happens once every 10 years or so and only for a brief period of time.