A) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
1. More Wetlands added to the Ramsar List (TH)
- Context: India has 41 wetlands, the highest in South Asia, with two more added to the list of recognised sites of international importance under the treaty of Ramsar Convention.
- The Lonar lake in Maharashtra and Sur Sarovar, also known as Keetham lake, in Agra, have been added to the list of recognised Ramsar sites.
- Recently, Kabartal in Bihar’s Begusarai district was recognised as a wetland of international importance, the first such wetland in the State, under the Ramsar Convention.
- The Asan Conservation Reserve in Dehradun, the first wetland from Uttarakhand to be recognised by Ramsar convention, was added to the list in October 2020.
- The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat is a treaty for conservation and sustainable use of such sites.
- Ramsar Convention is formally known as Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.
- It was signed on 2 February 1971 at the Iranian city of Ramsar (located on the shores of the Caspian Sea).
- That date is celebrated as World Wetland Day now.
- The Ramsar Convention is one of the oldest inter-governmental accord signed by members countries to preserve the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance.
- The aim of the Ramsar list is to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits.
- Wetlands declared as Ramsar sites are protected under strict guidelines of the convention.
- The Ramsar Convention has been ratified by most of the world’s nations, including the U.S., China and India, and has designated more than 2,300 sites of international importance.
- The maximum number of Ramsar sites are in UK.
- The Largest area covered by Ramsar Sites is in Canada.
- Ramsar secretariat is hosted by IUCN World Conservation Union in Gland, Switzerland.
- This treaty is not a legal binding treaty and is not a part of UN & UNESCO conventions.
- Ramsar Convention is the only global environment treaty dealing with a particular ecosystem.
- Once a country joins the Convention:
- It has to designate at least one of its wetlands into the List of Wetlands of International Importance called “Ramsar List”. Once that is done, it can later designate more such wetlands.
- The above designation has to be based upon criteria that take into account the ecology, botany, zoology, limnology (freshwater science) or Hydrology. Thus, not every wetland becomes a Ramsar site but only those which have significant values related to these fields.
- The world’s largest protected wetland is Llanos de Moxos, located in Bolivia.
- Wetlands can store 50 times more carbon than rain forests, helping to keep the heat-trapping gas that contributes to climate change out of the atmosphere.
- The Ramsar convention also makes the countries cooperate in matters of conservation of the trans-boundary wetlands.
- The inclusion of a wetland in the List embodies the government’s commitment to take the steps necessary to ensure that its ecological character is maintained.
- The Convention includes various measures to respond to threats to the ecological character of Sites.
- The Congo Basin, one of the largest freshwater bodies in the world, is now home to the largest transboundary Ramsar Site.
Ramsar Convention and India
- India became a contracting party to the Ramsar Convention in October 1981 and designated Chilika Lake (Odisha) and Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan) as its first two Ramsar Sites.
- There are currently 41 sites in India recognised as Ramsar wetland sites of international importance.
- Kerala: Ashtamudi Wetland, Sasthamkotta Lake, Vembanad-Kol Wetland.
- Odisha: Bhitarkanika Mangroves, Chilika Lake.
- Madhya Pradesh: Bhoj Wetland.
- Himachal Pradesh: Chandertal Wetland, Pong Dam Lake, Renuka Wetland.
- Assam: Deepor Beel
- West Bengal: East Calcutta Wetlands and Sunderbans (2019)
- Punjab: Harike Lake, Ropar, Kanjli (Harike Wetland and the lake are manmade and were formed by constructing the head works across the Sutlej river, in 1953), Keshopur-Miani, Beas Conservation Reserve, Nangal
- Jammu & Kashmir: Hokera Wetland, Surinsar-Mansar Lakes, Tsomoriri, Wular Lake.
- Rajasthan: Keoladeo National Park, Sambhar Lake (added to the Montreux Record)
- Andhra Pradesh: Kolleru Lake.
- Manipur: Loktak Lake. (added to the Montreux Record)
- Gujarat: Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary.
- Tamil Nadu: Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary.
- Tripura: Rudrasagar Lake.
- Uttar Pradesh: Upper Ganga River (Brijghat to Narora Stretch), Nawabganj, Parvati Agra, Saman, Samaspur, Sandi, Sarsai Nawar and Sur Sarovar, also known as Keetham lake
- Maharashtra: Nandur Madhameshwar, Lonar lake
- Bihar: Kabartal
- Uttarakhand: Asan Conservation Reserve in Dehradun.
- Ramsar tag makes Indian Sunderbans the largest protected wetland in India (earlier it was Vembanad-Kol Wetland). The Sunderbans is already a World Heritage Site.
- Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources and ecosystem services such as food, water, fibre, groundwater recharge, water purification, flood moderation, erosion control and climate regulation.
- Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change has prepared a four-pronged strategy for the restoration of wetlands which includes:
- a baseline data,
- wetland health cards,
- enlisting wetland mitras and
- preparing targeted Integrated Management Plans.
Montreux Record under the Ramsar Convention
- It is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.
- It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List.
- The Montreux Record was established by Recommendations of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (1990).
- Sites may be added to and removed from the Record only with the approval of the Contracting Parties in which they lie.
- Currently, two wetlands of India are in Montreux record viz. Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan and Loktak Lake, Manipur.
- Further, Chilka lake was placed in the record but was later removed from it due to the successful restoration of the site.
National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP)
- This programme was launched in 1986 and has identified some 115 wetlands for urgent protection and conservation.
- Under the Scheme, 100% assistance is provided for activities.
Global wetland outlook: state of the world’s wetlands and their services to people 2018
- The Ramsar Convention recently issued its first-ever global report on the state of the world’s wetlands.
- Between 1970 and 2015, inland and marine/coastal wetlands both declined by approximately 35%, where data are available, three times the rate of forest loss.
B) Science and Technology/Defence/Space
2. Vaccine-Derived Polio Viruses and the first ever vaccine under Emergency Use Listing (EUL) of WHO (TH)
- Context: Recently, WHO listed the nOPV2 vaccine for emergency use to address the rising cases of a vaccine-derived polio strain in a number of African and East Mediterranean countries.
- The emergency use listing, or EUL, is the first of its kind for a vaccine and paves the way for potential listing of COVID-19 vaccines.
- The world has made incredible progress toward polio eradication, reducing polio cases by 99.9% in the last 30 years.
- But the last steps to ending this disease are proving the most difficult, particularly with continuing outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived polio viruses (cVDPVs).
- cVDPVs are rare and occur if the weakened strain of the poliovirus contained in the oral polio vaccine (OPV) circulates among under-immunized populations for a long time.
- If not enough children are immunized against polio, the weakened virus can pass between individuals and over time genetically revert to a form that can cause paralysis.
- Type 2 cVDPVs are currently the most prevalent form of the vaccine-derived virus.
The EUL procedure and how it could help to speed up access to a future COVID-19 vaccine
- The EUL procedure assesses the suitability of yet to be licensed health products during public health emergencies, such as polio and COVID.
- The objective is to make these medicines, vaccines and diagnostics available faster to address the emergency.
- The procedure was introduced during the West Africa Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016, when multiple Ebola diagnostics received emergency use listing; since then, numerous COVID-19 diagnostics have also been listed.
- The nOPV2 is the first such listing for a vaccine.
- The EUL pathway involves a rigorous assessment of phase II and phase III clinical trial data as well as substantial additional data on safety, efficacy and manufacturing quality.
Vaccine-Derived Polio Viruses
- With polio caused by wild polio virus strains reduced by 99.9% since 1988, the world is quite close to eradicating polio from the face of the Earth.
- Poliovirus strains 2 and 3 have been eradicated globally. There are only two polio-endemic countries (Pakistan and Afghanistan) in the world now.
- Unfortunately, more children are today affected by live, weakened virus contained in oral polio vaccine (OPV) that is meant to protect them.
- Paradoxically, vaccination [using OPV] has become the main source of polio paralysis in the world.
What are VDPVs?
- Vaccine-derived polioviruses (VDVPs) are rare strains of poliovirus that have genetically mutated from the originally strain in the oral polio vaccine.
- Oral polio vaccine (OPV) contains an attenuated (weakened) vaccine-virus, which activates an immune response in the body.
- When a child is vaccinated, the weakened vaccine-virus replicates in the intestine and triggers a protective immune response.
- But when the child excretes the vaccine-virus (for about six to eight weeks), some of the vaccine-virus may no longer be the same as the original one: It gets genetically mutated during replication. This is called a VDPV.
- There are four types of VDPVs — circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV); immunodeficiency-related vaccine-derived poliovirus (iVDPV); and ambiguous vaccine-derived poliovirus (aVDPV).
- If the vaccine-virus is able to circulate for a long time, it can mutate and regain virulence. These viruses are called cVDPVs.
VDVP Vs VAPP
- Vaccine-Associated Paralytic Poliomyelitis (VAPP) occurs when the virus turns virulent within the body of the recently vaccinated child and causes polio.
- With high-income countries switching to Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) that uses dead virus to immunise children, VAPP burden is concentrated in low-income countries which continued to use the OPV.
OPV Vs IPV
- There are two types of vaccinations that work against poliovirus, namely inactivated poliovirus (IPV) and oral poliovirus (OPV).
- Oral polio vaccine contains a live, weakened version of the polio virus. The virus in the vaccine replicates in the intestine of a child and is then excreted for six to eight weeks.
- On the other hand, the inactivated polio vaccine, that is injected, does not have live virus.
- Both vaccines prompt the immune system of a person to respond as if it were infected by the virus.
- The injectable inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), protects almost all children (99 out of 100) who get all the recommended doses.
- For best protection, children should get four doses of polio vaccine.
- The oral OPV is given in UIP (Universal Immunization Programme) of India, offers somewhat low protection for an Individual (~90 percent) but much better protection for the whole community, due to its gut immunity profile.
- It helps in breaking the transmission of disease from one infected individual to another, thus it played huge role in making India Polio- free by Pulse Polio Immunization.
- Despite knowing the higher burden of polio (both VAPP and VDVP) caused by oral vaccines, India continued to use the OPV.
- India’s goal was to eradicate polio and the OPV was crucial for that.
- The IPV produces humoral immunity [involving antibodies in body fluids] so the immunised child does not get paralysis but it can’t stop the circulation of wild polio viruses. The viruses will continue to circulate in the community.
- For instance, no polio cases were seen in Israel but wild polio viruses were detected in the environment.
- Of course, it was easier to administer the OPV than the IPV and this becomes particularly important considering the challenges in covering nearly every child across India.
- The cost per dose of the OPV was lower than the IPV but since fewer doses of IPV would have fully protected children unlike the OPV, the cost for protecting a child would have been lesser with the IPV.
The road ahead
- The IPV is essential for post wild-type polio virus eradication to get rid of VDPV and VAPP.
- The globally synchronised switch from trivalent (which contains type-1, type-2 and type-3 strains) to bivalent (type-1 and type-3 strains) OPV in mid-2016 has been accompanied by a single dose of IPV given prior to administering the OPV. A single dose of IPV given before the OPV totally prevents VAPP cases.
- As a part of efforts to maintain high immunity against all polio viruses, India provides inactivated polio virus vaccine (IPV) and bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV) to all infants across the country under routine immunization. However, there has been a major shortage of the IPV.
- The inactivated polio vaccine does not cause any sort of vaccine acquired or vaccine derived polio and is therefore safer. Since then, the global health community has been facing severe shortages of inactivated polio vaccine
Africa eradicates polio: Aug 2020
- The wild polio virus, which spreads from person-to-person — usually through contaminated water — usually leading to paralysis by attacking the nervous system, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) — a public-private partnership to tackle polio — has been eradicated.
- Increasing outbreaks of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) — a rare form of the virus that mutates from the oral polio vaccine and can then spread to under-immunised communities — in the continent, however, was a worrying trend.
- More than 95% of Africa’s population has now been immunised. This was one of the conditions that the Africa Regional Certification Commission set before declaring the continent free from wild polio.
- Now only the vaccine-derived polio virus remains in Africa with 177 cases being identified this year.
- This is a rare form of the virus that mutates from the oral polio vaccine and can then spread to under-immunised communities.
- The last case of the wild poliovirus in the region was detected in 2016 in Nigeria.
- With this, five of the six WHO regions (except the Eastern Mediterranean region which includes Pakistan and Afghanistan) representing over 90 per cent of the world’s population were now free from the wild poliovirus.
- A country is said to have eradicated polio when no new case of wild poliovirus is reported for three successive years.
- In Asia, India too was declared polio-free in 2014 (along with the rest of the South-East Asia region), but cVDPV was reported 50 times in the country in the past six years.
- India has already beaten smallpox, polio, Guinea worm, maternal and neonatal tetanus and, very recently, yaws.
Pak, Afghanistan risky
- Afghanistan and Pakistan have yet to eradicate the wild poliovirus and pose a great risk to other parts of the world, including Africa.
2 out of 3 wild poliovirus strains have been eradicated, says WHO
- In an announcement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on World Polio Day (October 24, 2019), an independent commission of experts declared that wild poliovirus type 3 (WPV3) has been eradicated worldwide.
- This follows the eradication of smallpox and wild poliovirus type 2 (in 2015).
- The last case of wild poliovirus type 3 was seen in northern Nigeria in 2012.
- This means that of the three wild polio serotypes, only type one remains.
- There are three individual and immunologically distinct wild poliovirus strains: wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1), wild poliovirus type 2 (WPV2) and wild poliovirus type 3 (WPV3).
- Symptomatically, all three strains are identical, in that they cause irreversible paralysis or even death.
- But there are genetic and virological differences, which make these three strains three separate viruses that must each be eradicated individually.
- Wild poliovirus type 1 remains in circulation in just two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Unlike most diseases, polio can be completely eradicated
- There are 3 strains of wild poliovirus, none of which can survive for long periods outside of the human body.
- If the virus cannot find an unvaccinated person to infect, it will die out.
- Type 2 wild poliovirus was eradicated in 1999 and cases of type 3 wild poliovirus haven’t been found anywhere in the world since 2012.
Facts about polio certification
- For certification, all countries in the WHO Region need to have no case of wild polio for 3 consecutive years.
- No single country can be certified as polio-free. WHO regions as a whole are certified as polio-free.
- Five regions (Americas, 1994; Western Pacific, 2000; Europe, 2002, South-East Asia, 2014; Africa, 2020) have already been certified as polio-free.
- WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region has not yet certified.
C) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Awards/Social Issues
3. Pradhan Mantri Formalisation of Micro food processing Enterprises Scheme (PM-FME Scheme) (PIB)
- Context: Ministry of Food Processing Industries launched the capacity building component of the Pradhan Mantri Formalisation of Micro food processing Enterprises Scheme (PM-FME Scheme) and launched the GIS One District One Product (ODOP) digital map of India.
- The scheme envisages imparting training to food processing entrepreneurs, various groups, viz., SHGs / FPOs / Co-operatives, workers, and other stakeholders associated with the implementation of the scheme.
About the PM-FME Scheme
- Launched under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, the Pradhan Mantri Formalisation of Micro food processing Enterprises (PM-FME) Scheme is a centrally sponsored scheme aims to enhance the competitiveness of existing individual micro-enterprises in the unorganized segment of the food processing industry and promote formalization of the sector and provide support to Farmer Producer Organizations, Self Help Groups, and Producers Cooperatives along their entire value chain.
- With an outlay of Rs. 10,000 crore over a period of five years from 2020-21 to 2024-25, the scheme envisions to directly assist the 2,00,000 micro food processing units for providing financial, technical, and business support for upgradation of existing micro food processing enterprises.
4. UDAN and other Measures for Aviation Sector (PIB)
- The first direct flight operations from Kalaburagi, Karnataka to Hindon Airport, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh were flagged off today under the RCS-UDAN (Regional Connectivity Scheme – Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik).
- Note: This topic was comprehensively covered in 9th Oct file.
5. Global Prevention Coalition (GPC) for HIV Prevention (PIB)
- Context: Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare digitally addressed the Ministerial meeting of the Global Prevention Coalition (GPC) for HIV Prevention.
- Hosted by UNAIDS and UNFPA on behalf of the Global HIV Prevention Coalition (GPC), the conference this year holds significance in achieving the 2016 UNGA commitment to end AIDS by 2030.
- UNFPA, formally named the United Nations Population Fund, is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.
- United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) is leading the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
- Member States of GPC had agreed to reduce new adult HIV infections by 75% at the end of 2020 from 2010 levels.
- The provision of generic Anti-Retroviral drugs (ARV) from India to the world has had a critical impact in controlling the HIV epidemic.
- India’s unique HIV prevention model is centered around the concept of ‘Social Contracting’ through which the Targeted Interventions (TI) programme is implemented.
- Under the Test and Treat Policy of India, approximately 50,000 PLHIV who were lost to follow-up were linked back to Anti-Retroviral Treatment services through ‘Mission SAMPARK.’
- The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 has provided a legal and enabling framework for safeguarding the human rights of the infected and affected populations.
- India reiterated its commitment to achieve the 90-90-90 targets across the country by the end of the current year and also end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030.
- 90–90–90 – is an ambitious treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic.
- By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.
- By 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy.
- By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.