Issues related to Health & Education
- 13 June: International Albinism Awareness Day
- 25 batches of drugs of 18 pharma companies found substandard since January 2018 by BPPI
- Why healthy animals mean healthy humans, and how to meet that goal
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought celebrated by UNFCCC
Science & Technology
- Canada’s RADARSAT satellite constellation successfully launches to space
- Scientists Predict Giant ‘Dead Zone’ in The Gulf of Mexico
- Scientists install world’s highest weather station at Mount Everest’s Death Zone
- 23 new species of Balsams from the eastern Himalayas discovered in 9 years
Key Facts for Prelims
- Juneteenth celebrates end of slavery in the US
- Sahitya Akademi announces winners of Bal Sahitya Puraskar, Yuva Puraskar
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Issues related to Health & Education
13 June: International Albinism Awareness Day
IAAD is observed every year throughout the world on 13 June, with the aim of raising public awareness on albinism and to prevent attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism.
What is albinism?
- Albinism is a rare group of genetic disorders that cause the skin, hair, or eyes to have little or no color.
- Albinism is also associated with vision problems.
- In almost all types of albinism, both parents (who are carrier) even if they do not have albinism themselves must carry gene for it to be passed on.
- The albinism condition is found in both sexes regardless of ethnicity and in all countries worldwide.
- There is no cure for absence of melanin that is predominantly central to albinism.
Effects of absence of melanin:
- The lack of melanin in skin makes albinos more prone to sunburn and also skin cancers. It is also associated with eye related problems such as photophobia, amblyopia (lazy eye), nystagmus, etc.
- Due to lack of melanin in skin as well as eyes of persons with albinism, they often have permanent visual impairment which mostly leads to disabilities.
- They also face discrimination due to their skin colour and thus are often subjected to multiple and intersecting discrimination on grounds of both disability and colour.
25 batches of drugs of 18 pharma companies found substandard since January 2018 by BPPI
The Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) has found 25 batches of drugs of 18 different pharmaceutical companies to be of substandard quality since January 2018.
- While 17 out of the 18 companies are private, one is a public sector unit (PSU) — Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited (IDPL).
- Both the BPPI and the IDPL work under the Department of Pharmaceuticals of the central government.
- BPPI implements the Centre’s flagship affordable medicine scheme Pradhan Mantri Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP).
- In February 2019, The BPPI made a contract with several pharmaceutical manufacturing companies for procuring generic medicines to be sold through dedicated retail outlets.
- Once the affordable generic drugs are procured from pharmaceutical companies by the BPPI, they are supplied to various Janaushadhi Kendras that are managed under the Pradhan Mantri Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP).
- However, it has taken stringent action against the suppliers whose products were declared ‘Not of Standard Quality.
Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP)
- It was launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals in November 2008 under the name Jan Aushadi Campaign.
- Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) is the implementation agency for PMBJP.
- Making quality medicines available at affordable prices for all, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, through exclusive outlets “Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras”, so as to reduce out of pocket expenses in healthcare.
- Create awareness among the public regarding generic medicines.
- Create demand for generic medicines through medical practitioners.
- Create awareness through education and awareness program that high price need not be synonymous with high quality.
- Provide all the commonly used generic medicines covering all the therapeutic groups.
- Provide all the related health care products too under the scheme.
Key Features of Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras:
- State Governments or any organization / reputed NGOs / Trusts / Private hospitals / Charitable institutions / Doctors / Unemployed pharmacist/ individual entrepreneurs are eligible to apply for new Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras.
- Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras can be located within Government hospital premises as well as Private hospital premises or anywhere outside.
- In addition to medicines and surgical items supplied by BPPI, Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras is allowed to sell allied medical products commonly sold in chemist shops.
- An amount of Rs. 2.5 lakhs are extended to entities establishing Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras in Government hospital premises where space is provided free of cost by Government to operating agency.
- A generic drug is a pharmaceutical drug that contains the same chemical substance as a drug that was originally protected by patents.
- Generic drugs are allowed for sale after the patents on the original drugs expire.
Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI)
- Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) is the implementing agency of Pradhan Mantri Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP).
- It was established in 2008 under the Department of Pharmaceuticals.
- The Bureau has been registered as an independent society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 as a separate independent legal entity in 2010.
- It has 9 members with Joint Secretary (In-charge of PMBJP), Department of Pharmaceuticals as its chairman.
Why healthy animals mean healthy humans, and how to meet that goal
As human populations expand, it results in greater contact with domestic and wild animals, providing more opportunities for diseases to pass from one to the other.
Transmission of Animal diseases to Human:
- As human populations expand, it results in greater contact with domestic and wild animals, providing more opportunities for diseases to pass from one to the other.
- Climate change and intensive farming further disrupt environment characteristics, while increased trade and travel result more frequent interaction increasing the possibility of transmission of diseases.
Concerns over Animal diseases transmitting to Humans:
- The World Organization of Animal Health, commonly known as OIE (an abbreviation of its French title), summarises the One Health concept as “human health and animal health are interdependent and bound to the health of the ecosystems in which they exist”.
- According to the OIE, 60% of existing human infectious diseases are zoonotic i.e. they are transmitted from animals to humans.
- 75% of emerging infectious human diseases have an animal origin. Of the five new human diseases appearing every year, three originate in animals.
- 80% biological agents with potential bio-terrorist use are zoonotic pathogens. It is estimated that zoonotic diseases account for nearly two billion cases per year resulting in more than two million deaths — more than from HIV/AIDS and diarrhoea.
Why Animal Health matters for India?
- The widespread prevalence of bird flu created nationwide panic resulting in the extreme reaction of culling of millions of poultry birds over the human health concerns which recognises inter-connectivity among human and animal’s health.
- In addition, the occurrence of rinderpest in Belgium in 1920, which led to the creation of the OIE, was caused by the Zebu cattle originating from India.
- Developing countries like India have much greater stake in strong One Health systems on account of agricultural systems resulting in close proximity of animals and humans which calls for strict health surveillance to incorporate domestic animals, livestock and poultry.
- The size of India’s human and animal populations is almost the same; 121 crore people (2011 Census) and 125.5 crore livestock and poultry.
- A network of 1.90 lakh health institutions in the government sector form the backbone of health governance, supported by a large number of private facilities.
- On the other hand, only 65,000 veterinary institutions tend to the health needs of 125.5 crore animals; and this includes 28,000 mobile dispensaries and first aid centres with bare minimum facilities.
- Private sector presence in veterinary services is close to being non-existent.
Challenges in India for Animal Health:
- The size of India’s human and animal populations is almost the same; 121 crore people (2011 Census) and 125.5 crore livestock and poultry. However, there are only 65,000 veterinary institutions for all the animals in India.
- Moreover, Private sector presence in veterinary services is close to being non-existent.
- Logistic challenge of transporting livestock to the hospital is a huge burden unless they are domestic pets.
- India is one of the founding members of the World Health Organization (WHO) whose objectives promotes cooperation among nations to control and contain animal diseases.
- However, animal health got pushed back in developing countries to manage the balance between scarce resources and popular priorities of nation.
- Controlling of zoonotic pathogens at their animal source as well as strengthening veterinary institutions and services.
- Greater investment in animal health infrastructure.
- A robust animal health system is needed as it is the first and a crucial step in human health.
- Establishment of a collaborative mechanism for joint surveillance and monitoring. strengthening disease reporting and control programmes.
- Disease surveillance should encompass preventive health and hygiene in livestock and poultry along with improved standards of animal husbandry for greater food safety, and effective communication protocols between animal and public health systems.
About World Organization of Animal Health:
- The World Organization for Animal Health (formerly the Office International des Epizooties (OIE)), created in 1924, is an intergovernmental organization coordinating, supporting and promoting animal disease control.
- The main objective of the OIE is to control epizootic diseases and thus to prevent their spread.
- It is recognized as a reference organisation by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
- The standards, guidelines and recommendations issued by the OIE were designated as the international reference in the field of animal diseases and zoonoses.
About Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF):
- STDF is a joint initiative of the WTO, World Bank, FAO, World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health.
- It aims to assist developing countries establish and implement SPS standards to ensure health protection and facilitate trade expansion.
- It also aims to act as a forum for coordination and information sharing on SPS-related technical assistance.
WTO and OIE:
- In 1994, the Agreements that led to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) included specific measures on the management of sanitary and phytosanitary problems (SPS Agreements) relating to the risks posed by trade in animals and animal products.
- The WTO’s choice of the OIE stems mainly from the fact that OIE’s decisions are exclusively science-based.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought celebrated by UNFCCC
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) celebrates the day on the 25th anniversary of the Convention.
About the World Day to Combat Desertification:
- The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is celebrated every year on 17 June under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
- It is observed to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification.
World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought 2019:
- The theme of the 2019 World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is “Let’s Grow the Future Together”.
- It is being celebrated on the 25th anniversary of the UNCCD.
- The 2019 Day focuses on the three key issues of Land and Drought, Land and Human Security and Land and Climate Change.
About the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD):
- Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.
- There are 197 parties to this convection including India.
- The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
- The new UNCCD 2018-2030 Strategic Framework is the most comprehensive global commitment to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).
- The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is the financial mechanism of the UNCCD.
- The convention awards the ‘Land for Life Award’ every year for the innovation in efforts towards a land management, in line with achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
What is Desertification?
- Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas.
- It is not the natural expansion of existing deserts.
- It is a gradual process of soil productivity loss and the thinning out of the vegetative cover because of human activities and climatic variations such as prolonged droughts and floods.
- It can be caused by over cultivation, overgrazing, deforestation, and poor irrigation practices. Such overexploitation is generally caused by economic and social pressure, ignorance, war, and drought.
Desertification and the Sustainable Development Goals:
- The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development declares that “we are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations”.
- Specifically, Goal 15 states our resolve to halt and reverse land degradation.
Indian Desertification scenario:
- India has witnessed increase in the level of desertification in 26 of 29 states between 2003-05 and 2011-13.
- More than 80 per cent of the country’s degraded land lies in just nine states: Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana.
- As per State of India’s Environment (SoE) 2019 report, Top three districts with highest area under desertification are Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh and Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir.
Main reasons that cause desertification in India are:
- Water erosion (10.98 per cent)
- Vegetation degradation (8.91 per cent)
- Wind erosion (5.55 per cent)
- Salinity (1.12 per cent)
- Human-made/settlements (0.69 per cent)
- Others (2.07 per cent)
- India will host the next UNCCD conference of parties (COP 14) in October 2019.
Science & Technology
Canada’s RADARSAT satellite constellation successfully launches to space
Canada’s next generation RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) was launched successfully into space.
About RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM):
- The RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) is a three identical Earth observation Synthetic Aperture Radar (C-Band) satellites by the Canadian Space Agency.
- It is the evolution of the RADARSAT Program with the objective of ensuring data continuity from previous RADARSAT missions. It consists of three
- It is designed to provide effective solutions in three main areas: Maritime surveillance, Disaster management and Ecosystem monitoring.
- Orbiting the earth in the same path at intervals approximately 30 minutes apart, these satellites will provide complete coverage of the Arctic between four and six times per day, and all of Canada at least once per day.
- Monitoring climate change, land use evolution and even human impacts on the environment by highlighting changes over time through composite images.
- Detecting and tracking ships, including those conducting illegal fishing, and helping emergency teams save lives during natural disasters.
- Creating ice maps for safer ship navigation and commercial maritime transportation.
- Monitoring the integrity of infrastructure like highways, bridges and railway corridors.
- Measuring changes in permafrost and ground movement to support northern communities, build houses and infrastructure safely, and plan airport runways and their operation and maintenance.
- Maximizing crop yields for farmers while reducing energy consumption and the use of potential pollutants.
- Supporting the operations of the Canadian Armed Forces to further global peace and security.
Scientists Predict Giant ‘Dead Zone’ in The Gulf of Mexico
This cyclical event of dead zone occurs every year in Gulf of Mexico, but scientists predict that this year’s could be one of the largest in recorded history.
What is a Dead Zone?
- A dead zone is known in scientific literature as hypoxia, which means low oxygen.
- This water of low concentration of dissolved oxygen can no longer support the marine life and eventually, the marine animals suffocate and die.
- The largest dead zone is situated in Gulf of Oman in south of Iran. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is the second-largest in the world.
How does a Dead zone is created?
- Due to Eutrophication, large populations of algae and other organisms reproduces, and their bodies sink to the bottom of the lake or ocean.
- Over time, a substantial layer of dead and decomposing organisms fills the bottom.
- Microbes that decompose these dead organisms use oxygen in the process. The result is the depletion of oxygen in the water, a condition known as hypoxia.
- Since most fish and other aquatic animals depend on oxygen as much as land-based animals, the end result of eutrophication and algal blooms is the creation of an area where no aquatic animals can live—a dead zone.
How does the Dead zone occur in Gulf of Mexico?
- Annual rains wash the nutrients used in fertilizers and sewage into the Gulf of Mexico, off the Mississippi coast. That fresh water, less dense than ocean water, sits on top of the ocean, preventing oxygen from mixing through the water column.
- Eventually those freshwater nutrients can spur a burst of algal growth, which consumes oxygen as the plants decompose. Hence, there will be less/no oxygen for the marine animals left which leads to a condition called hypoxia, where animals in the area suffocate and die.
What is Eutrophication?
- In simplest terms, eutrophication is a high concentration of nutrients in a body of water. These nutrients—usually nitrogen and phosphorous—are food for aquatic organisms like algae, plankton or other microorganisms.
- Eutrophication can also occur outside of water; for example, soils can be eutrophic when they have high levels of nitrogen, phosphorous or other nutrients.
When does Eutrophication occur?
- Eutrophication often occurs when rainfall that runs off of highly fertilized farmland and lawns enters a stream, lake, ocean or another body of water.
- It’s also common when sewage, either treated or untreated, enters a body of water, and when the outflow from septic tanks enters a stream or pond.
Impact of Eutrophication:
- Species diversity decreases and the dominant biota changes
- Disappearance or significant reduction of quality fish with very negative effects on fishing
- Turbidity increases
- Rate of sedimentation increases, shortening the lifespan of the lake
- Anoxic conditions may develop
Control of Eutrophication:
- Reduce the concentrations of one of the two main nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), in particular phosphorus which is considered to be the limiting factor for the growth of algae
- Improvement of the purifying performance of waste water treatment plants, installing tertiary treatment systems to reduce nutrient concentrations
- Implementation of effective filter ecosystems to remove nitrogen and phosphorus present in the run-off water (such as phyto-purification plants)
- Rationalization of agricultural techniques through proper planning of fertilisation and use of slow release fertilisers
- Use of alternative practices in animal husbandry to limit the production of waste water
Scientists install world’s highest weather station at Mount Everest’s Death Zone
Scientists erected seven-foot- building of a weather station that can withstand extreme winds and cold weather.
About the world’s highest operating weather station:
- Climate scientists have created a history by installing world’s highest operating weather station at Mount Everest’s Death Zone, including five other automated stations on other parts of the mountain.
- The other five weather stations that are located in the Mount Everest are in Balcony area (8,430 m), South Col (7,945m) at Phortse (3,810 m), Everest Base Camp (5,315 m) and Camp 2 (6,464 m).
- To record data on temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed, and wind direction.
- Give direct observations to understand jet stream.
- Help understand how the climate change is affecting the Himalayas.
Location of Mount Everest:
- Mount Everest is located on the border between Tibet and Nepal in the Himalayas in Asia.
- It is situated in the Mahalangur Range on the Tibetan Plateau known as Qing Zang Gaoyuan.
- On the Nepal side, Mount Everest is located in the Sagarmatha National Park in the Solukhumbu District. On the Tibetan side, It is located in Tingri County in the Xigaze area.
23 new species of Balsams from the eastern Himalayas discovered in 9 years
Belonging to Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, these plants are highly sensitive to climatic conditions like extreme drought and extended exposure to sunlight.
What is Impatiens balsamina?
- Impatiens balsamina, commonly known as balsam, garden balsam, rose balsam, touch-me-not or spotted snapweed, is a species of plant native to India and Myanmar.
- Consisting of both annual and perennial herbs, balsams are succulent plants (plants that have some parts that are more than normally thickened usually to retain water in arid climates) with high endemism.
- Because of their bright beautiful flowers, these group of plants has high horticultural significance.
- There are about 230 species of Balsams found in India and majority of them are found in the eastern Himalayas and Western Ghats.
- According to the scientists, there are at least six Balsam species which are confined only to one mountain belt in lower Dibang valley in Arunachal Pradesh.
- Between 2010 and 2019, botanists working on Impatiens discovered 23 new species from the eastern Himalayas.
What are Impatiens?
- Impatiens is a genus of more than 1,000 species of flowering plants, widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere and the tropics.
- They are also known as jewelweed, touch-me-not, busy lizzie, snapweed and patience.
- They have simple leaves that are usually alternately arranged along the stem.
- Most of the species of Impatiens cannot endure persistent drought or extended exposure to direct sunlight. As a result, Impatiens species are typically confined to stream margins, moist roadsides, waterside boulders, near waterfalls and wet forests.
Key Facts for Prelims
Juneteenth celebrates end of slavery in the US
- Juneteenth is considered the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.
What is Juneteenth?
- Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is an American holiday that commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas, and more generally the emancipation of enslaved African Americans throughout the America.
- In 1863, US issued the “Emancipation Proclamation” in the wake of civil war. The proclamation declared that all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states are free. However, it took nearly two-and-half years for proclamation to be relayed to Texas.
Why it is called Juneteenth?
- Juneteenth is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth,” in honour of the announcement day of the abolition of slavery in Texas.
Sahitya Akademi announces winners of Bal Sahitya Puraskar, Yuva Puraskar
- Sahitya Akademi, India’s national academy of letters, announced a list of 22 winners of the Bal Sahitya Puraskar and 23 recipients of the Yuva Puraskar for 2019.
About Bal Sahitya Purskar and Yuva Puraskar:
- Bal Sahitya Puraskar and Yuva Puraskar awards are awarded by the Sahitya Akademi annually.
- The Award relates to books published by an author of the age of 35.
- While the Bal Puraskar will be conferred upon the winners on the Children’s Day, the day for the Yuva Puraskar is yet to be decided.
- For the Bal Sahitya Puraskar 2019, the Awards are related to the books which are first published during the five years immediately preceding the year of Award (between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2017).
- However, during the initial 10 years (from 2010 to 2019), the award may also be given to an author based on his/her total contribution to Children Literature.