Daily Current Affairs 22

14th January 2021 : Daily Current Affairs

Daily Current Affairs   Date :14th January,2021

 (30+ Questions hit in Prelims 2021 from this series)

Covers 4 Most relevant Sources

  • The Hindu
  • Indian Express
  • PIB
    Mint

Index

  • A) Science and Technology, Defence, Space
  • Expert Reaction to Pig Heart Transplant (TH, pg 10)
  • Spectacular Landscape Changes Detected Due to Earthquakes (PIB)
  • B) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
  • Siachen and Sir Creek(TH, pg 10)
  • India State of Forest Report-2021 (TH, pg 1)
  • Environmental Impact of Ozone (DTE)
  • C) International Relations
  • Lithuanian Export Crisis and the 17+1 Initiative (TH, pg 15)

 

A) Science and Technology, Defence, Space

  1. Expert Reaction to Pig Heart Transplant (TH, pg 10)
  • Context:In a first-of-its-kind surgery by the University of Maryland Medicine a 57-year-old patient with terminal heart disease has received a successful transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart.

Analysis

What are the risks?  Why is a pig heart harder to transplant to a human than a human heart?

  • Pigs have a gene that produces a molecule called α(1,3)galactosyl transferase, which humans do not. This triggers an immediate and aggressive immune response, called hyperacute rejection.
  • Scientists have addressed the problem by genetically altering pigs’ organs.
  • Even if this gene is deleted, there are still a series of other molecules that need to be eliminated or modified to make the pig organ compatible with human – e.g. major and minor histocompatibility complexes this is more similar to the matching that is done in human to human, but naturally is more complex between species.
  • The human genome contains ancient relics of viruses that embedded themselves in our DNA over thousands of years. These are called “human endogenous retroviruses”. In the same way, pigs have “porcine endogenous retroviruses”. There is a potential risk, albeit small, that porcine endogenous retroviruses could cause human infection or could recombine or ‘merge’ with human endogenous retroviruses to create new viruses.
  • Worth noting is that live organ transfer is very different to use of e.g. heart valves from pigs used in humans. This is because the pig heart values used are not living and so do not pose these risks.
  • Humans are upright whereas pigs are 4 legged. This means the human heart has to pump hard to push blood vertically, whereas the pig heart has an easier time pumping horizontally. Whether the pig heart can generate (or withstand) the pressures needed in humans is unknown.

Why was a pig heart chosen? 

  • Pigs are considered for several reasons. The size and anatomy of the pig heart is roughly the same as human, though there are considerable differences.
  • What’s more, porcine (of, affecting, or resembling a pig) components are more tuned for genetic engineering.
  • Pigs can be bred intensively, with large litters, meaning the number of available organs could be increased rapidly.
  • The use of pigs is considered by some peopleas acceptable because of their production for food.
  • Keeping pigs in sterile conditions is relatively easy, despite common public perception.
  • Primates fell out of favour in the 1990s because they were susceptible to virus spread. This brought pigs into the spotlight.

Xenotransplantation

  • Xenotransplantation is any procedure that involves the transplantation, implantation or infusion into a human recipient of either
  • (a) live cells, tissues, or organs from a nonhuman animal source, or
  • (b) human body fluids, cells, tissues or organs that have had ex vivo contact with live nonhuman animal cells, tissues or organs.

 

  1. Spectacular Landscape Changes Detected Due to Earthquakes (PIB)
  • Context:Major earthquake events in last 30,000 years resulted in spectacular changes in landscape of the Katrol Hill Fault in the Kachchh region in Gujarat, a study conducted on sediment samples revealed.

Analysis

  • Seismicity in Kachchh region is highly complex as it is characterized by multiple seismic sources in the form of several East-West trending fault lines, which release continuously accumulating tectonic stresses at intervals producing earthquakes.
  • Real-time monitoring of earthquakes since the occurrence of devastating 2001 Bhuj earthquake indicate that most of the faults in the region, viz., Kachchh Mainland Fault (KMF), South Wagad Fault (SWF), Gedi Fault (GF), and Island Belt Fault (IBF) are seismically active.
  • However, seismic activity along other faults like the Katrol Hill Fault (KHF) is not apparent, thus making the task of seismic hazard estimation and mitigation in the region a scientifically complex process.
  • This research was made possible through high-end scientific equipments funded mainly under the FIST Programme of the Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India.

Faults

  • A fault is a fracture along which the blocks of crust on either side have moved relative to one another parallel to the fracture.
  • When an earthquake occurs on one of these faults, the rock on one side of the fault slips with respect to the other.
  • The fault surface can be vertical, horizontal, or at some angle to the surface of the earth.

 

B) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

  1. Siachen and Sir Creek(TH, pg 10)
  • Context:We are “not averse” to demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier but the pre-condition is Pakistan has to accept the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL), Army chief General Manoj Naravane said recently, raising a fresh debate over the world’s highest battlefield, with experts saying it may not be ideal in the backdrop of the stand-off in eastern ladakh and the Chinese build-up.

Analysis

  • The Line of Control (LoC) had been delineated to a point called NJ 9842, and thereafter, the understanding was that it will remain unoccupied. But Pakistan had made an attempt to occupy territory and “we were forced to take our countermeasures”, Gen. Naravane said.
  • Siachen and Sir Creek have long been termed “low hanging fruits” in the past for resolution between India and Pakistan and the two countries have held 13 rounds of Defence Secretary-level talks on Siachen, the last one in June 2012.

Analysis

  • The Siachen Glacier is located in the extreme north central part of Jammu and Kashmir near the Indo – Tibet border.
  • It is the largest glacier in the world outside the Polar regions.
  • It lies in the eastern Karakoram range (a mountain system originating from the Pamirs, this area is the most glaciated area outside the polar region comprising 22 glaciers) at the altitude of 5,400 meters above the sea level.
  • The glacier’s melting water is the main source of water for the Nubra river, which further falls into the Shyokriver, which is a notable tributary of the Indus River.
  • A ceasefire has been holding since November 2003, with Indian troops stationed on the upper part of the glacier and Pakistani troops the lower part.
  • The vast majority of the estimated 2,700 Indian and Pakistani troop deaths have not been due to combat but avalanches, exposure and altitude sickness caused by the thin, oxygen-depleted air.

What is Sir Creek?

  • Sir Creek is a 96-km strip of water disputed between India and Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch marshlands.
  • Originally named Ban Ganga, Sir Creek is named after a British representative.
  • The Creek opens up in the Arabian Sea and roughly divides the Kutch region of Gujarat from the Sindh Province of Pakistan.

What’s the dispute?

  • The dispute lies in the interpretation of the maritime boundary line between Kutch and Sindh.
  • Pakistan claims the entire creek as per paragraphs 9 and 10 of the Bombay Government Resolution of 1914 signed between then the Government of Sindh and Rao Maharaj of Kutch.
  • The resolution, which demarcated the boundaries between the two territories, included the creek as part of Sindh, thus setting the boundary as the eastern flank of the creek popularly known as Green Line.
  • But India claims that the boundary lies mid-channel as depicted in another map drawn in 1925, and implemented by the installation of mid-channel pillars back in 1924.

What’s the importance of Sir Creek?

  • Apart from strategic location, Sir Creek’s core importance is fishing resources. Sir Creek is considered to be among the largest fishing grounds in Asia.
  • Another vital reason is the possible presence of great oil and gas concentration under the sea, which are currently unexploited thanks to the impending deadlock on the issue.

UNCLOS Supports India’s Stand

  • If Thalweg principle is to be upheld, Pakistan would lose a considerable portion of the territory that was historically part of the province of Sindh.
  • Under international law, a thalweg is the middle of the primary navigable channel of a waterway that defines the boundary line between states.
  • Acceding to India’s stance would mean shifting of the land/sea terminus point several kilometres to the detriment of Pakistan, leading in turn to a loss of several thousand square kilometres of its Exclusive Economic Zone under the United Nations Convention on Law of the SeaUNCLOS).

 

  1. India State of Forest Report-2021 (TH, pg 1)
  • Context: Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change today released the ‘India State of Forest Report 2021’ prepared by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) which has been mandated to assess the forest and tree resources of the country.

Analysis

Background

  • The India State of Forest Report (ISFR) isa biennial publication exercise by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) an organization under the Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change Government of India.
  • It assesses the forest and tree cover, bamboo resources, carbon stock and forest fires.
  • The country’s forest cover includes all patches of land with a tree canopy density of more than 10% and more than 1 ha in area, irrespective of land use, ownership and species of trees.
  • It is assessed by a wall-to-wall mapping exercise using remote sensing technique (data of IRS Resourcesat-2 satellite) followed by intensive ground truthing.
  • Three categories of forests are surveyed
  • Very Dense Forest with a canopy density more than 70%
  • Moderately Dense Forest with a canopy density between 40-70%
  • Open Forest with a canopy density between 10- 40%.
  • Scrubs (canopy density less than 10%) are also surveyed but not categorised as forests.
  • Tree cover comprises of tree patches of size less than 1 ha occurring outside the recorded forest area. Tree cover includes trees in all formations including scattered trees.
  • ISFR 2021 has some new features this year
  • It includes plantations – such as coffee, coconuts or mango and other orchards – under forest cover.
  • It has for the first time assessed forest cover in tiger reserves, tiger corridors and the Gir forest which houses the Asiatic lion.
  • The forest cover in tiger corridors has increased by 37.15 sq km (0.32%) between 2011-2021, but decreased by 22.6 sq km (0.04%) in tiger reserves.
  • Forest cover has increased in 20 tiger reserves in these 10 years, and decreased in 32.
  • Buxa, Anamalai and Indravati reserves have shown an increase in forest cover while the highest losses have been found in Kawal, Bhadra and the Sunderbans reserves.
  • Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh has the highest forest cover, at nearly 97%.

ISFR 2021 key findings

  • The report said 17 States and Union Territories had more than 33% of their area under forest cover.
  • The report found that there had been a 1,540 sq. km increase in forest cover and 721 sq. km increase in tree cover since the last report in 2019.
  • Increase in forest cover has been observed in open forest followed by very dense forest.
  • The total forest and tree cover accounted for 62% of the geographical area of the country.
  • India’s forest cover is now 21.71% of the country’s geographical area, an increase from 21.67% in 2019.
  • Tree cover has increased by 721 sq km.
  • Very dense forests have increased by 501 sq km. This is a healthy sign but pertains to forests that are protected and reserve forests with active conservation activities.
  • The top five States in terms of forest cover as a percentage of their total geographical area were Mizoram (84.53%), Arunachal Pradesh (79.33%), Meghalaya (76%), Manipur (74.34%) and Nagaland (73.90%).
  • The states that have shown the highest increase in forest cover are Telangana (3.07%), Andhra Pradesh (2.22%) and Odisha (1.04%).
  • Area wise Madhya Pradesh had the largest forest cover, followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra.
  • Five states in the Northeast – Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland have all shown loss in forest cover.

Mangrove cover

  • The total mangrove cover in the country had increased by 17 sq. km, to reach 4,992 sq. km.
  • The total carbon stock in forests was estimated to be 7,204 million tonnes, an increase of 79.4 million tonnes from 2019.
  • The survey has found that 35.46 % of the forest cover is prone to forest fires.
  • Out of this, 2.81 % is extremely prone, 7.85% is very highly prone and 11.51 % is highly prone
  • The total carbon stock in country’s forests is estimated at 7,204 million tonnes, an increase of 79.4 million tonnes since 2019.
  • Bamboo forests have grown from 13,882 million culms (stems) in 2019 to 53,336 million culms in 2021.

What impact has climate change had?

  • The report estimates that by 2030, 45-64% of forests in India will experience the effects of climate change and rising temperatures, and forests in all states (except Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland) will be highly vulnerable climate hot spots.
  • Ladakh (forest cover 0.1-0.2%) is likely to be the most affected.
  • India’s forests are already showing shifting trends of vegetation types, such as Sikkim which has shown a shift in its vegetation pattern for 124 endemic species.
  • There will be substantial increase in the frequency of forest fires along with increase in the number of areas susceptible to forest fire.
  • The highest numbers of fires were detected in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh

Decline in forest cover of the Northeastern states

  • The Northeast states account for 7.98% of total geographical area but 23.75% of total forest cover. The forest cover in the region has shown an overall decline of 1,020 sq km in forest cover.
  • While states in the Northeast continue to have some of the largest forested areas, such as Mizoram (84.5% of its total geographical area is forests) or Arunachal Pradesh (79.3%), the two states have respectively lost 1.03% and 0.39% of their forest cover, while Manipur has lost 1.48 %, Meghalaya 0.43%, and Nagaland 1.88%.
  • The report has attributed the decline in the Northeastern states to a spate of natural calamities, particularly landslides and heavy rains, in the region as well as to anthropogenic activities such as shifting agriculture, pressure of developmental activities and felling of trees.

Do you know?

  • The nation’s tree and forest cover has largely hovered from 21-25% and is short of the National Forest Policy, 1988, which envisages 33% to be under such cover.
  • India is among the top ten countries in the world to maintain and increase its forest and tree cover.

Glossary

Green Wash

  • The extent of wooded areas generally shown in light green colour on the Survey of India toposheets.

Shannon-Weiner Index

  • A measure of species richness and abundance.
  • It is used for comparing diversity of species between various habitats.

Reserved Forests

  • An area so constituted under the provisions of the Indian Forest Act or other State Forest Acts, having full degree of protection.
  • In Reserved forests all activities are prohibited unless permitted.

Recorded Forest Area

  • Forest Area recorded as forests in Government records.

Protected Forest

  • An area notified under the provisions of the Indian Forest Act or other State Forest Acts, having limited degree of protection.
  • In protected forest all activities are permitted unless prohibited.

Scrub

  • Degraded forest lands having canopy density less than 10 percent.

Mangrove Cover

  • Area covered under mangrove vegetation as interpreted from remote sensing data.
  • It is included in the forest cover.

Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro radiometer (MODIS)

  • It is an extensive program using sensors on two satellites (Terra and Aqua), each providing complete daily coverage of earth.
  • With the MODIS sensor, it is generally possible to obtain images in the morning (Terra) and afternoon (Aqua) for any particular location.
  • Night time data are also available in the thermal range of the spectrum.

Hill District

  • A district with more than 50 percent of its geographic area under “hill talukas” based on criteria adopted by the NITI Aayog for Hill Area and Western Ghats Development Programmes.

Greenhouse Gas

  • There are six recognized major greenhouse gases; CO2 (carbon dioxide), CH4 (methane), HFCs (hydro fluorocarbons), PFCs (perfluorocarbons), N2 0 (nitrous oxide) and SF6 (sulphur hexafluoride).
  • Carbon accounting often refers to the accounting of all major GHGs using a carbon dioxide equivalent that standardises these gases based on their global warming potential.

Forest Cover

  • All lands, more than one hectare in area, with a tree canopy density of more than 10 percent irrespective of ownership and legal status.
  • Such lands may not necessarily be a recorded forest area.
  • It also includes orchards, bamboo and palm.

Carbon Pool

  • Carbon pools are major components of an ecosystem that can either accumulate or release carbon.

Carbon Sequestration

  • It is the long-term process of storage of carbon in plants, soil, geologic formations and the ocean.

Carbon Sink

  • A carbon sink is a carbon pool from which more carbon flows in than out: forests can act as sink through the process of tree growth and resultant biological carbon sequestration.

 

  1. Environmental Impact of Ozone (DTE)
  • Context:Copper released into the environment from fungicides and other sources may be contributing significantly to stratospheric ozone depletion, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.

Analysis

  • Copper particles are released into the environment from fungicides, brake pads, antifouling paints on boats and other sources
  • Copper + Soil + Sunlight = Methyl Halides
  • Since the worldwide ban on chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants and brominated halons used in fire extinguishers starting in 1989, these methyl halides have become the new dominant sources of ozone-depleting bromine and chlorine in the stratosphere.
  • Other major contributors of ozone-depleting bromine and chlorine are: methyl chloride and methyl bromide.
  • Though methyl bromide is banned for use as an agricultural soil fumigant, it is still used as a pesticide for quarantine and pre-shipment of agricultural products.
  • And methyl chloride is used as a chemical feedstock, although most of its emissions are believed to be from biomass burning or natural in origin.
  • One atom of bromine is 50 times more destructive to ozone than one atom of chlorine.

Ozone and Environment

  • The ozone layer is a natural layer of gas in the upper atmosphere that protects humans and other living things fromcancer-causing harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
  • Although ozone is present in small concentrations throughout the atmosphere, most (around 90%) exists in the stratosphere, a layer 10 to 50 kilometres above the Earth’s surface.
  • The ozone layer filters out most of the sun’s harmful UV radiation and is therefore crucial to life on Earth.
  • Atmospheric concentrations of ozone vary naturally depending on temperature, weather, latitude and altitude, while substances ejected by natural events such as volcanic eruptions can also affect ozone levels.
  • However, these natural phenomena could not explain the levels of depletion observed and scientific evidence revealed that certain man-made chemicals were the cause.
  • Ozone depletion is greatest at the South Pole. It occurs mainly in late winter and early spring (August-November) and peak depletion usually occurs in early October, when ozone is often completely destroyed in large areas.

Environmental Impact of Ozone (O3)

Effects on Plants

  • Ozone damages vegetation and ecosystems by inhibiting the ability of plants to open the microscopic pores on their leaves to breathe.
  • It interferes with the photosynthesis process by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide the plants can process and release as oxygen.
  • Elevated levels of ozone leads to reduced agricultural crop and commercial forest yields, reduced growth and survivability of tree seedlings, and increased susceptibility to diseases, pests and other stresses such as harsh weather.
  • Despite mechanisms to reduce or repair these effects and an ability to adapt to increased levels of UVB, plant growth can be directly affected by UVB radiation.

Effects on Marine Ecosystems

  • Phytoplankton productivity is limited to the euphotic zone, the upper layer of the water column in which there is sufficient sunlight to support net productivity.
  • Exposure to solar UVB radiation has been shown to affect both orientation and motility in phytoplankton, resulting in reduced survival rates for these organisms.
  • UVB radiation has been found to cause damage to early developmental stages of fish, shrimp, crab, amphibians, and other marine animals.
  • The most severe effects are decreased reproductive capacity and impaired larval development. Small increases in UVB exposure could result in population reductions for small marine organisms with impact on the whole marine food chain.

Effects on Biogeochemical Cycles

  • Increases in UVB radiation could affect terrestrial and aquatic biogeochemical cycles, thus altering both sources and sinks of greenhouse and chemically important trace gases (e.g., carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbonyl sulfide, ozone, and possibly other gases).
  • These potential changes would contribute to biosphere-atmosphere feedbacks that mitigate or amplify the atmospheric concentrations of these gases.

Human Health Effects

  • Breathing ground-level ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion.  It can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.
  • Ozone also can reduce lung function and inflame the lining of the lungs. Repeated exposure may permanently scar lung tissue.

 

C) International Relations

  1. Lithuanian Export Crisis and the 17+1 Initiative (TH, pg 15)
  • Context: Lithuanian exports have allegedly been blocked by China owing to the European country allowing Taiwan to set up an embassy office on its land bearing the name of Taiwan and not Chinese Taipei.

Analysis

Background

  • In May 2021, Lithuania quit the 17+1 dialogue format (making it 16+1), which was initiated by China in 2012 as a multilateral forum for engagement with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe(CCE).
  • Lithuania is the first country in that group to have done so and stated economic non-reciprocity of China and threats to European unity as reasons for its exit.
  • China amounts to only one percent of Lithuania’s exports and its imports from China are five times more. This made it easy for the country to take a tough stand against China.
  • However, this put an unexpected strain on its trade with partners in the rest of Europe, which are highly dependent on China.
  • The EU is currently China’s largest trading partner, and about 80-90 percent of Lithuania’s exports are based on manufacturing contracts with the rest of the EU.
  • It urged fellow EU members to pursue “a much more effective 27+1 approach and communication with China.”

About 17+1 dialogue format

  • The 17+1 initiative is a China-led format founded in 2012 in Budapest with an aim to expand cooperation between Beijing and the Central and Eastern European countries (CCE), with investments and trade for the development of the CEE region.
  • The framework also focuses on infrastructure projects such as bridges, motorways, railway lines and modernisation of ports in the member states.
  • China’s goal towards the 17+1 initiative is about improving its relations with the European countries that are less developed as compared to the Western European states.
  • The initiative includes EU member states, NATO members and Balkan states — Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.
  • Recently, Greece became its 18th member turning the “16+1” into the “17+1.”
  • Greece is significantly different from the other participants in this initiative, most of which are post-communist states.
  • The platform is largely seen as an extension of China’s flagship Belt and Road initiative (BRI).
  • Trade relations between China and the CEE countries remained modest, leading to an increasing trade deficit since its inception.

Do you know?

  • The Baltic states, also known as the Baltic countries, is a geopolitical term, typically used to group the three sovereign states on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
  • Lithuania is the largest and most southerly of the three Baltic republics.

Not much more than a decade after it regained its independence during the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, Lithuania was welcomed as a NATO member in late March 2004.