The Five Deeps Expedition has provided data on the deepest points of five oceans in the world. They are the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and the Southern Oceans.
What did “Five Deeps Expedition” find?
Java Trench is the deepest point in Indian Ocean. There were competing claims for the deepest point in Indian Ocean. This was between Java Trench off coast of Indonesia and Fracture Zone to the Southwest of Australia. Java Trench turned out to be the winner!
Factorian Trench is the deepest point in Southern Ocean. Southern Ocean is also called the Antarctic Ocean.
Puerto Rico Trench is the deepest in Atlantic Ocean.
Molloy Hole is the deepest point in Arctic Ocean.
The second deepest trench in the world is the Horizon Deep in the Tonga Trench. This is after the Challenger Deep located in Mariana Trench.
The expedition has found that some major animals can survive in great depths. Jelly fish at 10,000 metres; Squid at 6,500 metres; Octopus at 2,000 metres
Though some of the above findings were already made, the expedition confirmed them, found new lives, corrected erratic data and also updated some.
Though Mariana Trench, the deepest point on the earth, located in the Western Pacific has been surveyed several times, the Five Deeps Expedition removed several uncertainties. According to the expedition, there is surprising amount of life in Mariana Trench.
About the Expedition
It is the brainchild of Explorer Victor Vescovo. He has completed the “Explorers Grand Slam”. The Five Deeps Expedition was organised by a company called Caladan Oceanic LLC. It was founded by Victor himself. The company aims to support expeditions that increase ocean understanding.
Significance of Five Deeps Expedition
Such projects are important as 80% of world oceans are still unexplored. And countries are aggressively competing with each other to take hold of unexplored resources. China is one amongst them who is aggressively exploring South China Sea defying International Sea laws.
In 2019, Victor became the first person to reach the bottom of all oceans and top of all world continents.
What is Explorer’s Grand Slam?
It requires the climbing of highest peaks in all seven continents and also skiing at least 100 kilometres in both north pole and south pole.
The data collected from the expedition is to be handed over to the “Seabed 2030 Project” of Nippon Foundation-GEBCO. The project is compiling data from various sources to create a complete Ocean Depth map by the end of the decade.
The International Energy Agency recently released the “2021 Renewable Energy Market Update”. The Agency has increased its forecast for the global growth of solar energy and wind energy by 25%.
Key findings of the Report
The 45% increase that occurred in 2020 is the highest in last three decades.
The wind power increased by 90% and the solar power (Photo Voltaic) increased by 50%
The Biofuel demand in 2020 decreased. The year-on-year decrease in production by volume was 8%.
Predictions of the report
The IEA predicts that the growth in wind power is to slow down in 2021. However, it will remain higher as compared to that of 2017-19.
The growth of Photo Voltaic is to continue to increase as China and US have come forward to update their climate targets.
The demand of biofuels is to rebound in 2021 to the levels of 2019. And will further grow by 7% in 2022.
Report on China
The report says that the renewable energy in China is to grow by 45%. It is to grow from 150 GW to 230 GW. However, this new forecast is lower than that predicted in 2020.
Report on USA
The forecasts for renewable energy in the US was increased by 20%. However, this did not include Biden’s new emission targets.
Report on India
The solar auction volumes in India increased. However, the ongoing COVID-19 surge in the country has created a short-term uncertainty.
Record Breaking renewable energy levels in India and China
India and China have made record-breaking competitive auctions. On an average, the countries secured 55 GW of new renewable power. The average price of wind energy was 60 USD per Mega Watt Hour and that of solar energy was 47 USD per Mega Watt Hour.
On an average, the corporate companies in India and China have signed “Power Purchase Agreements” for 25 GW in 2020. This is 25% increase as compared to that of the previous year.
The World Health Organisation recently announced that the high and upper middle-income countries have received 83% of world vaccines. These countries represent 53% of world population.
Variant of Concern
Along with the above announcement, the World Health Organisation has also said that the COVID variant B.1.617, the double mutant Corona Virus variant is being classified as “Variant of Concern” at a Global level. This is the fourth variant to be designated as “Variant of Global Concern”. The other three were the UK variant or the Kent variant (B.1.1.7), Brazil variant (P.1) and the South Africa variant (B.1.351)
Recently, the UK scientists declared the COVID-19 strains found in India as “Variant of Concern”.
The viruses make copies of themselves to survive and spread. They tend to change while making copies. These changes are insignificant. Some may even harm virus. However, there are certain changes that may increase the infectivity of the diseases.
The more a virus spreads, the more are its chances to mutate. Some mutations lead to new variants.
What is so bad about mutants declared as “Variant of Concern”?
All the four mutants of COVID-19 that were declared as “Variant of Concern” by the World Health Organisation have undergone changes in their spike protein. That is, they have undergone changes in that part that attaches to human cells. This increases their infection. Also, it means that they can spread more rapidly paving way for more mutants to arise.
The Health Minister of Goa recently recommended the use of “Ivermectin” to all people above the age of eighteen years. However, the World Health Organisation has warned against its use now.
What did the Goa Government say?
The Government of Goa recently cleared a new COVID-19 Treatment Protocol. Under the protocol, the Government had recommended the use of “Ivermectin” drug. It was prescribed to prevent viral fever that accompanies COVID-19 infection.
The Government also announced that the Ivermectin drug will be available in all health centres in the state. Also, it was recommended that it shall be taken by all the residents irrespective of whether they have COVID-19 symptoms or not.
What is WHO saying?
A peer-reviewed research claims that continuous use of Ivermectin ends COVID-19. Also, it reduces the risk of contracting the deadly respiratory disease if used regularly. The review was done by three senior scientists working for the US Government.
To this, the World Health Organisation Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan has said that WHO recommends against the use of Ivermectin.
What is the issue?
Apart from WHO, the German health care has also warned against the use of Ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment. These organisations are warning against the drug as there is no sufficient data or meaningful evidences for its clinical efficacy in patients.
The Goa Government also said that there has been large significant statistical proof for reduction in mortality in COVID patients treated with the drug. This has created the controversy.
The Government of India had recommended that the drugs that have been approved or recommended by USFDA and European Medical Agency shall be used in India. In April 2021, USFDA recommended against the use of Ivermectin in treating COVID patients.
This order of using drugs approved by key agencies was passed on April 13, 2021.
A former minister and an old-time communist leader K R Gouri Amma passed away in Thiruvananthapuram.
About Gouri Amma
She was born on July 14, 1919 in Alappuzha district. She studied law. Later she became a member of Communist Party of India. She played a leading role in fighting for the rights of unprivileged sections and labourers.
Gouri Amma fought against the Travancore Divan Ramaswamy Aiyar in Punnapra Vayalar struggle.
She was subjected to physical torturing by police for a number of times.
In 1948, she contested against Thiru-Kochi from Thuravur constituency. Unfortunately, she lost the elections. However, she won in the elections held in 1952 and 1954.
In 1957, when the first election to Kerala Assembly was conducted, Gouri Amma successfully contested and became the first revenue minister of the state.
She had contested 17 elections in her life. And had won 13 of them.
She held ministerial posts in six governments.
She played a major role in several reformative legislations passed. It includes the Lands reforms act. The act was enacted against the expulsion of landless from government land.
Communist party split
When the communist party split, Gouri Amma stood with the reformists. On the other hand, her husband chose not to leave the CPI.
Janathipathya Samrakshana Samithi
In 1994, Gouri Amma was ousted from the CPM due the difference of opinion in leadership. She thus formed her own party called the Janathipathya Samrakshana Samithi. She then aligned with the Congress led United Democratic Front and became a minister.
In 2016, due to difference of opinion in leadership, she left UDF.
The NASA Spacecraft called the “Osiris-Rex” has started a two year long journey back to the earth. The spacecraft reached asteroid Bennu in 2018. It then spent two years flying around it and collected rubbles. Rubbles are rough fragments of brick, stones.
About the OSIRIS-Rex
The mission was launched to study asteroid Bennu. The mission spent 2.5 years mapping the surface of Bennu.
In 2020, the scientists directed Osiris Rex to drop down and collect sixty kilo grams of regolith (top soil). They also found that the asteroid has lots of accessible water.
The mission will help to understand the origin and evolution of solar system.
It is the most hazardous asteroids currently known to the earth. Meaning it has one in 2,700 chances of hitting the earth in the late 22nd century.
It makes its closest approach to the earth once in six years.
Also, the size of Bennu makes it approachable. Most of the asteroids, spin very fast. This rapid spinning makes it difficult for the spacecrafts to collect samples.
Was Bennu the first Mission to land on an Asteroid?
Japan had sent Hayabusa and the European Space Agency had sent Rosetta Mission. Thus, Bennu was not the first mission to land on an asteroid.
It was launched in 2014 to collect samples from Ryugu. It reached Ryugu in 2018. It spent 18 months there and returned to the earth in December 2020.
The Rosetta Mission was launched by the European Space Agency to explore comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2004.
It was the first mission to orbit a comet. Also, it was the first mission to land a probe on its surface.
The annual population of China has slowed during the decade. This has put the demographic dividend of the country at risk.
Outcomes of the Census
The annual population growth of China was at 0.53% in 2020 census. It was 0.57% in 2010 census.
The rate of population increase was the slowest since the first census. The first Census of the country was conducted in 1953.
The fastest growth rate of the country was reported in 1982. The growth rate was 2.09%.
The number of births that occurred in China in 2020 was 12 million. This has decreased by 20% as compared to the previous year.
It is to be noted that China scrapped its “One-Child Policy” in 2016. The policy was introduced in 1979. Now the limit has been increased to two children per couple.
The population in the age of 60 years and above grew at 18.27% in 2020 Census. It grew at 13.26% in 2010 census.
The average age of China is 38.8 years. Chinese are rich and strong as compared to that of the US citizens. The average age of US population is 38 years.
The life expectancy of China has been increasing. Recently, the Government of China increased the retired age of women to 55 years and that of men to 60 years.
The urban population in China has increased from 49.68% to 63.89%.
Working Age Population
The working age population in China has decreased from 70.14% to 63.35%. The concern of declining working population in the country has been raised by several experts. In April 2021, the Central Bank of China released a report on Demographics. It said that the demographic dividend in China is fading. And on the other hand, the demographic dividend of India is increasing. This wider force will help India grow at faster rate.
According to the United Nations, India will overtake China to become the most populous country in the world by 2025.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare has recently approved Rs 2,250 crores for the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture for the year 2021-22.
About the Mission
It aims at developing the horticultural sector in India.
It covers fruits, vegetables, tuber crops, roots, flowers, bamboo, cocoa, coconut, spices, aromatic plants and cashews.
Under the mission, technical support is to be provided to the State Horticultural Mission, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, Saffron Mission and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana.
The National Horticulture Board is implementing several schemes under Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture.
The Mission is currently focusing on promotion of Farmer Producer Organisation, credit push through Agriculture Infrastructure fund and cluster development programmes. In August 2020, PM Narendra Modi established Agriculture Infrastructure Fund of Rs 1 lakh Crores. Recently, the Agriculture Infrastructure crossed Rs 8,000 crores.
Achievements of Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture
The area of cultivation of the components of the mission was increased by 9% between 2014-15 and 2019-20.
The production of these components were increased by 14% during the same time period.
Challenges of the Mission
High gaps and losses in post-harvest management. Also, there are very little Supply Chain Infrastructure.
Horticulture in India
The Horticultural production in India has almost doubled between 2001 (146 million tonnes) and 2019 (314 million tonnes).
The productivity of horticultural crops increased from 8.8 tonnes per hectare in 2001 to 12.3 tonnes per hectare in 2019.
The share of horticultural crops to the agricultural crops increased from 39% in 2011 to 42% in 2019.
Around Rs 63,700 crores of horticultural crops are exported from India as of 2019-20.
The Assam State Disaster Management Agency and the UNICEF has jointly developed an Online Flood Reporting System. With this, Assam becomes the first state to adopt digital reporting system to find out impact indicators during floods.
About the System
The new system will report flood levels in Assam on a daily basis. Earlier, the flood managing system in the state involved multiple stake holders, was time consuming and required manual verification.
The new system is completely digital.
The new system is driven by web-cum-mobile application technology.
It will facilitate tracking of damages to crops, loss of livestock and will also help to provide financial assistance during restoration.
It will enable information feeding at the source.
Also, the system will provide immediate alert-based verification at defined levels.
In Assam, it is mandatory to report about daily flood levels between May 15 and October 15 every year.
Floods are very common in Assam. This is mainly because of Brahmaputra. The river is unstable and braided in its entire course in Assam. The main reason for this is steep slopes and high sedimentation.
The reasons behind Assam flooding are both man-made and natural. Unregulated release of water from the dams in the region also cause flooding.
The shape of Guwahati is like a bowl that makes the region susceptible to water logging.
How are floods controlled in Assam?
The state builds embankments to control the floods. However, these embankments are breached by the floods every year.
In April 2021, a container ship called “Ever Given” blocked the Suez Canal. This stopped more than 400 ships from transiting the canal. This caused a global trade loss of 9 billion USD. It was popularly called the Suez Canal Blockade.
The Ever Given Cargo ship was owned by Shoei Kisen Kaisha. It was built by Imabari Ship Building. Both were Japanese companies. They are still locked in negotiations with the Egyptian Government.
The Blockade highlighted the vulnerabilities of Suez route for the Japanese.
Thus, Japan is moving towards the potential alternatives.
Alternatives to Suez Canal
The two potential alternatives for Japan are reliant on Russia. One is the Trans-Siberian Railway and the other is the Northern Sea Route.
These goals were in fact promoted by Russia. In May 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the “Executive Order on National Goals and Strategic Objectives of the Russian Federation”.
The melting of Arctic ice is making the Northern sea route a viable option.
Between June and December these routes require ice breakers. In spite of this, Japan is increasing its ships through this region. In 2020 more than 133 Japanese ships traversed through this route. It was only 87 in 2019.
Apart from the sea routes, Japan is trying to use the Trans Siberian Railways
Trans Siberian Railway
It is a network of Railways connecting western Russia to the Russian far east. It starts from Moscow and ends at Vladivostok. Vladivostok is close to North Korea-Russia border.
The Ministry of Earth Science recently announced that India participated in the Arctic Science Ministerial meeting. The Union Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan represented India at the meeting.
India shared plans for research and long-term cooperation in the Arctic during the meet.
India promised to continue its contributions to the Sustained Arctic Observational Network.
India also announced that it will deploy open ocean mooring in the Arctic for long term monitoring of upper ocean variables and marine meteorological parameters. Mooring is collection of devices connected to a wire and anchored to the sea floor.
India proposed to host the next or future Arctic Science Ministerial meet.
The theme of 2021 Arctic Ministerial Meeting was:
Theme: Knowledge for a Sustainable Arctic
Arctic Science Ministerial
The first two Arctic Science Ministerial meeting were held in USA in 2016 and in Germany in 2018.
This meeting that was held in 2021 was organised by Japan and Iceland and is the first meeting to be held in Asia.
It aims provide opportunities to various stakeholders such as governments, academia, policy makers to enhance collective understanding of Arctic region.
India in the Arctic Science Ministerial
India is an “Observer” in the Arctic Council since 2013.
India’s engagement in the Arctic region started with the signing of Svalbard Treaty of Paris in 1920.
India constructed a permanent research station in the Arctic region in 2008. It is called Himadri. Himadri is located at NyAlesund, Norway.
In 2014, India deployed a multi sensor observer called IndARC in Kongfjiorden fjord in 2014.
The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, Goa coordinates and conducts the research in the Arctic region.
NISER is NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite mission. It aims to conduct global measurements of land surface changes using radar imaging. It is an ongoing project.
India’s Arctic Policy
The recently released draft Arctic Policy document outlines five pillars of India’s policy. They are as follows:
Development of Human Resource capabilities
Global governance and international cooperation
Economics and Human development
The Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) operating under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recently recommended for grant of “Terms of Reference for Environmental Impact Assessment” studies. Earlier the committee had raised serious concerns against the project.
What is the meaning of Terms of Reference for Environmental Impact Assessment?
It is a document produced by the authority that is conducting the Environmental Impact Assessment. It is the most important document as it sets the guidelines for the study. It provides the following details:
Description about the project
Description about the existing environmental conditions in the site
About stakeholders benefitted or harmed during the project
Impacts the project will have on environmental and social aspects
Description of the species endemic to the area
Possible alternatives for the project
Recommends mitigation strategies
Budget of the study
Thus, the Terms of Reference document is highly important to make sure that the study is carried out effectively to ward off the environmental damages.
Now a three months of baseline studies will be conducted.
What is the issue?
In January 2021, the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife allowed the construction of the port in Galathea Bay and the Expert Committee of Environment Ministry approved “Zero Extent” Ecologically Sensitive Zone. This was done to allow the use of the land. Concerns were raised in allowing development in a fragile area.
What is “Zero Extent” Ecologically Sensitive Zone?
The ESZ acts as shock absorbers of protected areas. The extent of Eco Sensitive Zones range from 0 to 10 kilometres. When the extent ranges to 0 km then it is called Zero Extent Ecologically Sensitive Zone. In simple words, the ESZ does not exist in that place.
Why was Zero Extent ESZ tag approved? – Justification
The major geographical areas of the Great Nicobar Island is covered under protected areas network and tribal reserves. There is hardly any area left for holistic development.
The Zero Extent ESZ was proposed for the northern and western sides as it merges with Bay of Bengal.
The Zero Extent ESZ for the coastal sides were proposed as they are protected under Coastal Regulation rules.
The eastern side of the region is protected under the Forest Act as it is a tribal area.
In this scenario, it is impossible to allocate land for developmental activities. Minimum sustainable development is required in the region.
What is the Great Nicobar Plan?
The plan includes international container transhipment terminal, township complex, power plant spread over 166 square kilo metre.
The estimated cost of the project is Rs 75,000 crores.
The plan was proposed by NITI Aayog.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation is to act as the Nodal Agency.
What are the concerns raised by the EAC?
According to the committee, several information were missing. The missing information were as follows:
Seismic and Tsunami Hazards
Freshwater requirement details
Details of the Impact on Giant Leatherback Turtle
There were no details about the trees to be felled
Impact on Giant Leatherback Turtles
The turtles are the largest Marine turtles in the world.
The Galathea bay is the nesting site of these turtles. Under the Great Nicobar Plan, the port is to be built in Galathea bay.
According to EAC, the site selection for the port has been done based on financial and technical criteria alone.
The Leatherback turtles are known for their shells.
They are migratory in nature crossing both Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
Conservation Status of Leatherback Turtles
Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I
CITES: Appendix I
According to IUCN, there is no sufficient data about the turtle population in the region.
Galathea Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
It was declared a Wildlife sanctuary in 1997.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The National Marine Turtle Action Plan has listed Galathea Bay as one of the “Important Marine Turlt Habitats” and also “Important Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Areas”.
It is included in “Coastal Regulation Zone I”, which means it gets the highest protection.
Concerns raised by conservationists
The project will clear 18% of pristine forest.
The Galathea National Park is home to 330 species of fauna and 648 species of flora. It is home to rare and endemic species such as Great Nicobar crested serpent eagle, Nicobar wild pig, Nicobar Megapode and Nicobar Paradise Flycatcher.
It is home to the indigenous Shompen community. The project poses threat to the community.
The project proposal did not address the geological vulnerabilities. The island is vulnerable to Tsunami and is a geologically active ring of fire region. There are evidences of land subsidence post Tsunami.
Shompen policy of 2015
According to the Anthropological Survey of India, there are two hundred to three hundred Shompen tribes in the region.
Pandanus (a fruit resembling pineapple) is the staple food of the tribes.
The policy states that understanding and knowledge of the Shompen tribal is scanty. More scientific research is required.
Every year, India celebrates National Technology Day on May 11. This year, the National Technology Day is being celebrated under the theme:
Why is National Technology Day celebrated in India?
The National Technology Day is celebrated in India for two reasons namely:
To mark the anniversary of Pokhran Nuclear tests that were conducted in 1998
To highlight the importance of technological advancements for the country
What is Pokhran Nuclear Tests?
The Pokhran Nuclear tests were a series of nuclear bomb test explosions that were held in the Pokhran Test Range of Indian Army. This was the second nuclear test conducted by India. The first one was called Smiling Buddha and was conducted in 1974.
The five nuclear tests conducted were as follows:
First test was a Fusion Bomb
The rest four were fission bombs
These testes were held under the code named Operation Shakti. The tests resulted in several sanctions against India from all over the world including Japan and USA.
The tests made India the sixth country in the world to join Nuclear Club of nations.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
It was under the initiative of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the tests were conducted. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam played a major role as a Chief Scientist conducting these tests.
The first National Technology Day was celebrated in 1999. Vajpayee announced that May 11 will be celebrated as National Technology Day.