Daily Current Affairs - 14-08-2021

Four more wetlands from India have been added to the Ramsar list and have been recognized as wetlands of global importance in accordance with the Ramsar Convention.

Key Points

  1. Thol from Gujarat
  2. Wadhwana from Gujarat,
  3. Sultanpur from Haryana and
  4. Bhindawas from Haryana.

Number of Ramsar Sites in India

With the latest addition, the number of Ramsar sites in India have reached to 46. These 46 sites cover a surface area of 1,083,322 hectares.

Why Ramsar list was created?

Ramsar list was created with the aim of developing and maintaining an international network of wetlands which are important to conserve global biological diversity and to sustaining human life by maintaining their ecosystem components, processes and benefits.

Significance of the wetlands

Wetlands play a significant role in conservation of biodiversity. They purify and replenish the ground water. They also act as a natural sponge against flooding & drought and protect our coastlines. They also play role in fighting the climate change. They act as critical carbon sinks in Urban areas and play a significant role in preventing urban flooding.

Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary

It is the largest wetland in Haryana. This human-made freshwater wetland comprises of more than 250 bird species. The bird species use the sanctuary throughout the year for resting and roosting. It also supports more than ten globally threatened species such as Steppe Eagle, endangered Egyptian Vulture, Black-bellied Tern and Pallas’s Fish Eagle.

Sultanpur National Park

This Park from Haryana provides support to more than 220 species of resident, winter migratory and local migratory waterbirds.

Thol Lake Wildlife Sanctuary

It lies on Central Asian Flyway in Gujarat. It supports more than 320 bird species and more than 30 threatened waterbird species like critically endangered white-rumped vulture, Sociable Lapwing, Common Pochard etc.

Wadhwana Wetland

It is an internationally important wetland situated in Gujarat. It is famous for its birdlife because it provides wintering ground to migratory waterbirds, migrating on Central Asian Flyway. Some of the species include endangered Pallas’s fish-Eagle, vulnerable Common Pochard, and near-threatened Dalmatian Pelican.

According to a scientist from World health Organisation (WHO), who led the group, Chinese researchers forced the WHO-led team probing the origins of Covid to drop the lab-leak theory.

Key Points

COVID-19 lab leak theory

This theory proposes that covid-19 causing virus, SARS-CoV-2 leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan, China ending in the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists have remained skeptical of this idea and describe it as a remote possibility. They also cite a lack of supporting evidence.

How this theory developed?

This theory of lab-leak was developed from circumstantial evidence that, Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) is close in proximity to early outbreak of covid-19 pandemic. This idea also revolved around the secretiveness of Chinese government’s response towards the covid-19 pandemic. Now it is alleged that, scientists from WIV collected SARS-like coronaviruses performed undisclosed risky work on such viruses.  However, most of the scientists agree that it is a natural origin but some agree on possibility of lab leak and agree that this should be examined as part of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19.

Background

Most of new infectious diseases starts with a spill over event from animals.  So, COVID-19 is considered to be “of probable animal origin”. It has been classified as a zoonotic disease. However, as natural reservoir of SARS‑CoV‑2 has not yet been found, this classification is considered as premature. First known human infections of SARS‑CoV‑2 were discovered in Wuhan, China. But original source of viral transmission to humans is still unclear.

India’s largest integrated power generation company, NTPC Limited, has invited global Expression of Interest (EoI) to establish a Pilot Project on Hydrogen Blending with Natural Gas in India.

Key Points

Pilot project on Hydrogen Blending

The pilot on hydrogen blending with natural gas is going to be first of its kind project in India. It would explore the viability of decarbonizing natural gas grid of India. NTPC is also playing a key role in transition to hydrogen economy in India. It has also planned to take it up at commercial scale across India. Successful execution of the project will also demonstrate the objectives of decarbonization along with import substitution in line with the aim of government under the ‘AatmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan’.

Role of NTPC

NTPC Limited is exploring production of green ammonia in order to decarbonize fertilizer industry. It also fulfils government’s mandate of using some percentage of green hydrogen in fertilizer and refinery sector. Apart from that, study on green methanol production at Ramagundam has been completed where NTPC is likely to take call on investment.

NTPC Limited

NTPC is an Indian government-owned electric utility company, engaged in generation of electricity and allied activities. It was incorporated under the Companies Act 1956 and works under the ownership of Ministry of Power. It is headquartered in New Delhi.

Ministers of Agriculture of the BRICS countries held virtual talks on the theme “BRICS Partnership for Strengthening Agro Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Security”.

Key Points

About BRICS Agriculture Research Platform

This platform has been developed by India in order to promote cooperation in the areas of agricultural research, technology transfer, extension, training and capacity building. This platform was made functional with the objective of improving the use and application of agricultural technologies to meet the needs of producers and processors.

About BRICS

BRICS is expanded to five major emerging economies namely, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Members of the BRICS are known for their significant influence on regional affairs. Governments of the BRICS states have been meeting annually at formal summits, since 2009. Most recent BRICS Summit (12th edition) was hosted by Russia on November 17, 2020 virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) included Taiwan, after G7, straight in talks on August 13, 2021.

Highlights

Why inclusion of Taiwan in Quad irritated China?

Quad is considered as countermeasure against China in the Indo-Pacific region. With the inclusion of Taiwan, the grouping has strengthened its power in Indo-pacific region. China has been acting aggressively in South China Sea, East China Sea, Mekong, Himalayas and Taiwan Straits while Quad seeks to bring peace into the region.

China’s aerial incursion in Taiwan

China recently conducted the largest ever aerial incursions in Taiwan in which 28 military aircraft flew into air defence identification zone of Taiwan.

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad)

QUAD is a strategic dialogue between United States, Japan, Australia and India. It is maintained by talks between the member countries. This dialogue was initiated in 2007 by former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe in collaborations with the Vice President of USA Dick Cheney, former Prime Minister of Australia John Howard and former Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh. The dialogue is paralleled by joint military exercises, called Exercise Malabar, of an unprecedented scale.

As per researchers from India and California, high levels of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension in India has fuelled the brutal coronavirus waves.

Highlights

Death Rate during second wave

Researchers noted that, the death rate was 5.7% among Covid-19 patients having at least one existing health condition as compared to 0.7% in patients who were otherwise healthy. Data was studied on more than 400,000 people who were tested for RT-PCR in Madurai during India’s first wave.

Underreporting of cases

Researchers noted that, there were mass underreporting of Covid cases and deaths in India after it assessed the ratio between infections & fatalities and number of people in Madurai. According to the results, testing found only 1.4% of infections while just 11% of the expected deaths were detected.

India’s first nasal vaccine against COVID-19 has received the nod to conduct phase 2 and 3 clinical trials by the Department of Biotechnology.

Key Points

About the nasal vaccine

Bharat Biotech has developed the first ever nasal vaccine called BBV154. It is a novel adenovirus vectored; intranasal vaccine developed to build immunity against COVID-19. The vaccine stimulates a broad immune response which neutralizes IgG, mucosal IgA, as well as T cell responses. It has been developed with the view that, Immune responses at the site of infection (nasal mucosa) is needed to block both infection and transmission of COVID-19. Bharat Biotech has brought and in-licensed this technology from Washington University, St Louis in US.

Significance of the vaccine

North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) launched “Cleancity app” on August 13, 2021.

Key Points

New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC)

NDMC is the municipal council of New Delhi. Area under its administration is called as NDMC area. It covers an area of 42.7 km2. The council is governed by a council headed by chairperson. The chairperson is usually a career civil servant that holds the rank of Joint Secretary to Government. He is appointed by Government of India. Council also comprises of the Chief Minister of Delhi acting as an Ex officio member.

Five Territory of the NDMC

Union Territory of Delhi comprises of five statutory urban regions:

  1. North Delhi Municipal Corporation
  2. South Delhi Municipal Corporation
  3. East Delhi Municipal Corporation
  4. New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), and
  5. Delhi Cantonment Board.

Background

NDMC finds its origin in Imperial Delhi Committee that was constituted in March 1913 to look after the construction of new capital of India.

Headquarter of NDMC

Headquarters of NDMC is called as Palika Kendra. It was built in 1984. At that time, this building was the tallest building of the city.

Environment Ministry notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021 on August 13, 2021.

Highlights

Background

Earlier in July 2021, the environment ministry noted in Rajya Sabha that, plastic packaging waste isn’t yet covered under phase-out of single-use plastic items. Ministry noted that, phase out some categories of single use plastic will be done by 2022.

Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016

Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, prohibits manufacture, import, stocking, sale, distribution and use of carry bags and plastic sheets with thickness less than 50 microns in India. It also bans the sachets using plastic material used to store, pack or sell gutkha, tobacco and pan masala. To amend these rules, draft comprising of way forward was issued in March 2021. Following this, Ministry constituted a National Level Taskforce to take coordinated efforts in order to eliminate identified single use plastic items and effective implementation of the 2016 Rules.

India’s resolution

India highlighted its resolution to address single-use plastic products pollution in 2019 at 4th United Nations Environment Assembly.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the National Vehicle Scrappage Policy on August 13, 2021.

Key Points

Benefits of the policy

Which vehicles are to be scrapped?

Commercial vehicles with age of 15 years and personal vehicles with age of 20 years old have been marked for scrapping irrespective of whether they run on diesel or petrol. These vehicles would be scrapped if they fail an automated fitness test following which these will be deregistered.

Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) launched a brand and logo called `SonChiraiya’. It was launched to market the products of urban self-help groups (SHGs).

Highlights

Significance of SonChiraiya

This initiative is a significant step of increasing visibility and global access for the products made by urban SHG women. Under the initiative, variety of professionally packaged and hand-crafted ethnic products will reach to the doorsteps of the customers worldwide.

How SHGs work?

Most of the SHGs are engaged in livelihood activities and are producing goods like handicrafts, textiles, toys, eatables etc. These products were being sold primarily in the local neighbourhood markets as a result of which they faced barriers in achieving a wide market access and visibility.

How this challenge is being tackled?

To overcome the challenges of visibility and market access, the MoHUA, have signed agreement with leading e-commerce portals like Amazon and Flipkart to empower the women.  This partnership has on-boarded more than 2000 products of some 5000 SHG members from 25 states and UTs, even during the covid-19 pandemic.