Daily Current Affairs Date : 21stMarch,2022
(30+ Questions hit in Prelims 2021 from this series)
Covers 4 Most relevant Sources
- The Hindu
- Indian Express
- Reintroduction of Cheetahs in India (TH, pg 9)
- Forests and its Types (TH, pg 8)
- India’s Arctic Policy and the Arctic Council (IE)
- Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) (IE)
- Boma Capturing Technique (TH, pg 5)
Reintroduction of Cheetahs in India (TH, pg 9)
- Context: The Indian government is planning to introduce the now extinct cheetah in India.
- The action plan states that a cohort of 10-12 young cheetahs that are ideal for reintroduction would be imported from Namibia or South Africa as a founder stock during the first year.
- The proposed site for introduction is the Kuno Palpur National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh. The Kuno National Park was also supposed to be a site for the Asiatic Lion that is now confined to Gir.
- The Nauradehi and Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh, Velavadar National Park in Gujarat and Tal Chapar sanctuary and Shahgarh Landscape in Rajasthan have also been declared potentially suitable for the reintroduction of the cheetah.
- In 1952, the cheetah was officially declared extinct from India.
- It is the only large mammal to have been declared extinct in our country in recorded history, mainly by over-hunting in India in historical times.
- Today, the cheetah is found only in the arid regions of eastern Iran in Asia, and in isolated populations in Africa.
- Cheetahs are genetically fragile and lose cubs in a litter prematurely, affecting the establishment of a viable population.
What was the distribution of cheetahs in India? What were the habitats?
- Historically, Asiatic cheetahs had a very wide distribution in India. There are authentic reports of their occurrence from as far north as Punjab to Tirunelveli district in southern Tamil Nadu, from Gujarat and Rajasthan in the west to Bengal in the east.
- The cheetah’s habitat was also diverse, favouring the more open habitats: scrub forests, dry grasslands, savannas and other arid and semi-arid open habitats.
What caused the extinction of cheetahs in India?
- The major reasons for the extinction of the Asiatic cheetah in India were:
- consistent and widespread capture of cheetahs from the wild (both male and female) over centuries,
- its reduced levels of genetic heterogeneity due to a historical genetic bottleneck resulting in reduced fecundity and high infant mortality in the wild,
- its inability to breed in captivity,
- ‘sport’ hunting and
- finally the bounty killings.
What are the conservation objectives of introducing African cheetahs in India? Is it a priority for India? Is it cost effective?
- The officially stated goal is: Establish viable cheetah metapopulation in India that allows the cheetah to perform its functional role as a top predator and to provide space for the expansion of the cheetah within its historical range thereby contributing to its global conservation efforts.
- African cheetahs are not required to perform the role of the top predator in these habitats when the site (Kuno) that they have identified already has a resident population of leopards, transient tigers and is also the site for the translocation of Asiatic lions as ordered by the Supreme Court of India in 2013.
- In other open dry habitats in India there are species performing this role, e.g., wolf and caracal, both of which are highly endangered and need urgent conservation attention.
- Such a small number of cats at very few sites cannot meet the stated goal of performing its ecological function at any significant scale to have real on ground impact.
- Apart from establishing a cheetah population in India, the stated objectives include: To use the cheetah as a charismatic flagship and umbrella species to garner resources for restoring open forest and savanna systems that will benefit biodiversity and ecosystem services from these ecosystems.
- Asiatic lions and a variety of species already found in these ecosystems can very well perform this role and more.
- If the government is serious about restoration and protection of these habitats, it first needs toremove grasslands from the category of wastelands and prevent further degradation, fragmentation and destruction of these habitats.
- Another goal is to enhance India’s capacity to sequester carbon through ecosystem restoration activities in cheetah conservation areas and thereby contribute towards the global climate change mitigation goals.
- While the cheetah has a soft coat of fur with a unique spotted pattern which makes it a target for some poachers, there is no demand for the cheetah’s body parts like there is for the tigers.
- Thus, unlike the tiger, the cheetah does not have a huge price on its head and poaching is much less of a threat.
- Cheetahs are a non-aggressive species that do not attack humans. Among large carnivores, cheetah present the lowest level of conflict with human settlements, as they prefer wild game and are thus unlikely to threaten large livestock.
African Cheetah Vs Asiatic Cheetah
- Before Namibia, India had approached Iran for Asiatic cheetahs, but had been refused.
- The Asiatic cheetah is classified as a “critically endangered” species by the IUCN Red List (African cheetah is vulnerable), and is believed to survive only in Iran.
- Physically, there are barely any differences between the Asiatic and African sub-species of cheetahs.
Forests and its Types (TH, pg 8)
- Context: The United Nations observes March 21 as the International Day of Forests.
- The theme of the International Day of Forests for 2022 is “Forests and Sustainable Production and Consumption”.
- According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a forest is a land with tree crown cover of more than 10 percent and area of at least 0.5 hectares.
- There are broadly three major types of forests categorized largely based on their distance from the equator i.e., classified according to latitude– Tropical, Temperate and Taiga (Boreal) forests.
- The tropical rainforests are found between latitudes 23.50N and 23.50
- Tropical rainforests boast the maximum diversity of species of all ecosystems on earth.
- They don’t experience winter and normally receive 250cm or more rain annually.
- Decomposition happens at an incredibly fast rate in these forests, thanks to the high temperatures and moist air.
- In tropical rainforests the soils are poor in nutrient content.
- High levels of rainfall normally result in leaching of nutrients from the soil.
- Tropical rainforests are dominated by broad-leafed trees which are 80-100 feet tall.
- Other vegetation includes vines, ferns, mosses, orchids, and palms.
- The sun hardly reaches the lower levels of the forest, thanks to dense-growing trees that create a thick canopy.
- So, most animals that inhabit tropical rainforests are adapted to living in the trees.
Types of tropical forests
- Evergreen:Evergreen forests receive rain year-round and have no dry season
- Seasonal:They have evergreen vegetation and short dry season
- Dry:These forests have long dry season in which trees lose leaves.
- Montane:Known as cloud forests as they receive most of the precipitation from mist or fog that rises from the lowlands
- Tropical and subtropical coniferous:These forests have dry and warm climate with conifers adapted to variable weather
- Sub-tropical:Sub-tropical forests are located at north and south of tropical forests. Trees here are adapted to resist summer drought.
- Temperate forests are characterized as regions with high levels of precipitation, humidity, and a variety of deciduous trees.
- Deciduous trees are the trees that lose their leaves in winter.
- Decreasing temperatures and shortened daylight hours in winters mean decreased photosynthesis for plants (Thus they shed their leaves to reduce demand for food)
- New leaves bud again in spring when warmer temperatures and longer hours of daylight return.
- The temperatures of temperate forests vary throughout the year because of the four distinct seasons at these latitudes.
- Temperatures range from hot in the summer, with highs of 86 F, to extremely cold in the winter, with lows of -22 F.
- In temperate forests, precipitation is abundant, 50 -150 cm annually. This precipitation is either in the form of rain or snow.
- Soils are mostly rich with a thick layer of decaying matter.
- Temperate forests are found across eastern North America and Eurasia.
- Deer, squirrels, and bears are just a few examples of the fauna that call temperate forests home.
- Due to abundant rainfall and thick soil humus, temperate forests are able to support a wide variety of plant life and vegetation.
- The vegetation exists in several layers, ranging from lichens and mosses on the ground layer to large tree species like oak, maple, birch etc.
- Temperate forest animals have many different ways to deal with the cold and lack of food in winter. Some animals hibernate during the winter and arise in spring when food is more plentiful.
- Other animals store food and burrow underground to escape the cold.
- Many animals escape the harsh conditions by migrating to warmer regions in winter.
- Temperate forests are further divided into two sub-categories:
Temperate deciduous forests
- Temperate deciduous forests can be found in China, Japan, Western Europe and parts of Russia, as well as in the Eastern United States and Canada.
Temperate coniferous forests
- Temperate coniferous forests are normally found in coastal regions with mild winters and heavy rainfall.
- New Zealand, North-western United States and Canada Southwestern South America and parts of North-western Europe.
- Temperate coniferous forests are characterized by moist climate and a prolonged growing season due to high levels of precipitation.
- Also known as Taiga forests, Boreal forests are located between latitudes 50o and 60o
- They are found only in the northern Hemisphere.
- Boreal forests are one of the world’s largest land biomes, are found across Siberia, Scandinavia, and North America (Alaska and Canada).
- Boreal forests have a significant role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- Temperatures in boreal forests are, on average, below freezing.
- Trees in Boreal forests are largely evergreen.
- Conifers, spruce, fir, and pine trees are the predominant needle-leaf plant species in boreal forests.
- Most birds native to the taiga migrate to find warmer conditions during the forest’s harsh winters.
- Taiga forests are characterized by short summers and long winters.
- They receive between 25-75 cm precipitation annually, most of which comes in the form of snow.
- These forests normally have thin soil, thanks to the cold temperatures that undermine the rate of decomposition.
- The forest floor has limited vegetation, thanks to the dense canopy.
- Animals that live in these forests normally have thick fur and are adapted to long cold winters and includes deer, elk, snowshoe hare, caribou, moose, lynxes, wolves, and wolverines.
India’s Arctic Policy and the Arctic Council (IE)
- Context: The Ministry of Earth Sciences has released its Arctic policy titled ‘India and theArctic: building a partnership for sustainable development’.
- The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in Goa, is the nodal institution for India’s Polar research programme, which includes Arctic studies.
- NCPOR is an autonomous institute (not a statutory body) under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
- India’s Arctic policy titled lays down six pillars:
- scientific research and cooperation,
- climate and environmental protection,
- economic and human development,
- transportation and connectivity,
- governance and international cooperation, and
- national capacity building in the Arctic region.
The policy aims to promote the following agenda:
- Strengthening national capabilities and competencies in science and exploration, climate and environmental protection, maritime and economic cooperation with the Arctic region.
- Inter-ministerial coordination in pursuit of India’s interests in the Arctic.
- Enhancing understanding of the impact of climate change in the Arctic region on India’s climate, economic, and energy security.
- Contributing better analysis, prediction, and coordinated policymaking on the implications of ice melting in the Arctic on India’s economic, military and strategic interests related to global shipping routes, energy security, and exploitation of mineral wealth.
- Studying linkages between polar regions and the Himalayas.
- Deepen cooperation between India and countries of the Arctic region.
- Increase India’s participation in the Arctic Council and improve understanding of the complex governance structures in the Arctic, relevant international laws, and geopolitics of the region.
- India’s Arctic Policy also targets linking of International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) with the Unified Deep-Water System (UDWS) of Russia and its further extension to the Arctic.
India and the Arctic
- India began its engagement with the Arctic region when it signed the Svalbard Treaty in February 1920.
- Even today, the Treaty provides the right of visa-free access and conduct of economic and commercial activities to the citizens of India in Svalbard.
- In 2008, India opened an Arctic research base named Himadri at Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Norway.
- It is India’s only observation station in the Arctic Region, making India the only developing country apart from China to have an Arctic research base.
- India also views the Himalayas as a “third pole” because of the large quantities of snow and ice it holds, and proposes to increase research spends towards understanding the impact of climate change in the Himalayas.
- India established a high-altitude research station in the Himalayas, called HIMANSH, at Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
- India is one of thirteen nations holding Observer status in the Arctic Council, a high-level intergovernmental forum that addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and the indigenous people of the Arctic.
- Thirteen (13) nations are observers in the Arctic Council which include France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, Poland, Japan, South Korea, India, China, Singapore.
- The Ottawa Declaration lists the following countries as eight members of the Arctic Council: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States.
- In 2014 and 2016, India’s first multi-sensor moored observatory in Kongsfjorden (IndARC) and the northernmost atmospheric laboratory in Gruvebadet, Ny Alesund, were launched in the Arctic region.
- Presently, India’s polar research, for Antarctic, Arctic, Southern Ocean and Himalayas, is budgeted under the umbrella Polar Science and Cryosphere (PACER) programme of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).
- The lack of a dedicated PRV is considered to be a serious impediment in the growth of India’s polar activities.
- There is no nodal body to coordinate all the activities of the Government of India relating to the Arctic region.
- India is not disconnected with what is happening in the Arctic and, in fact, there is a clear linkage.
- Rise or decrease in temperature in the Arctic region makes a significant difference to the monsoon and cold waves in India.
India, China and the Arctic
- In January 2018, China’s White Paper on Arctic policy called itself a ‘Near-Arctic State’.
- It also referred to trans-Arctic shipping routes as the Polar Silk Road, identifying it as a third transportation corridor for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
- Arctic’s ice meltdown and its geographical location ensuring shortest sea distance between America, Europe and North East Asia, is likely to transform the global maritime commerce, presently conducted through the traditional East–West route through the Malacca Strait and Suez Canal.
- The opening up of Arctic shipping routes will result in huge savings of cost and time, with the major gainers being the North East Asian ports of Japan, South Korea and China.
- It would also mitigate China’s Malacca dilemma to a large extent and would need a re-evaluation of the resultant strategic maritime advantage of India, to cut off Chinese shipping supplies through the Indian Ocean, in times of a conflict.
International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC)
- It is a multi-modal transportation encompassing ship, rail and road routes.
- It was established in Sep 2000 in St. Petersburg, by Iran, Russia and India for the purpose of promoting transportation cooperation among the Member States.
- This corridor connects India Ocean and Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Islamic republic of IRAN, then is connected to St. Petersburg and North European via Russian Federation.
- The INSTC was expanded to include eleven new members, namely: Azerbaijan, Armenia,Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Republic of Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus, Oman, Syria, Bulgaria (Observer).
Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) (IE)
- Context: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari launched green hydrogen-based advanced fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) named Toyota Mirai.
- Green hydrogenis hydrogen generated/manufatured entirely by using renewable energy.
- Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are powered by hydrogen as fuel.
- They are more efficient than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles.
- They are completely environment-friendly as they produceno tailpipe emissions—they only emit water vapor and warm air.
- FCEVs use a propulsion system similar to that of electric vehicles, where energy stored as hydrogen is converted to electricity (to power an electric motor) by the fuel cell.
- In contrast to other electric vehicles, FCEVs produce electricity using a fuel cell powered by hydrogen, rather than drawing electricity from only a battery.
- This is different from an all-electric vehicle, where the amount of power and energy available are both closely related to the battery’s size.
- FCEVs are equipped with other advanced technologies to increase efficiency, such as regenerative braking systems that capture the energy lost during braking and store it in a battery.
Boma Capturing Technique (TH, pg 5)
- An uncommon experiment with Africa’s Boma technique undertaken at Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district for capturing and translocating spotted deer is set to improve the prey base in Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve, situated 450 km away.
- The move will lead to herbivores populating the forests ahead of the proposed shifting of two tigers to Mukundara.
- The Boma capturing technique, which is popular in Africa, involves luring of animals into an enclosure by chasing them through a funnel-like fencing.
- The funnel tapers into an animal selection-cum-loading chute, supported with grass mats and green net to make it opaque for animals, which are herded into a large vehicle for their transport to another location.