Polity & Governance
- Japanese Encephalitis claims 54 lives in Odisha
- Government launches Mining Surveillance System (MSS)
- National Summit on Fortification of Food
Environment & Ecology
- Kigali deal: Agreement reached to phase out HFCs
- Report on Palaeo Channel of North West India
Bilateral & International Relations
- BRICS summit concluded with adoption of Goa Declaration
- BRICS countries agree to set up credit rating agency
Defence & Security Issues
- India to buy game-changer S-400 air defence system from Russia
Key Facts for Prelims
- ‘Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav (RSM) -2016’
- Kamov 226T
- Longest ever manned mission to space by China
Polity & Governance
Japanese Encephalitis claims 54 lives in Odisha
Japanese Encephalitis has claimed 54 lives in Odisha’s Malkangiri district in over a month. According to the officials, the deadly disease had surfaced in the tribal dominated district 38 days ago.
What is Japanese Encephalitis?
- Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is a flavivirus related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile viruses. It is spread by mosquitoes.
- In 1871, the first case of Japanese encephalitis viral disease (JE) was documented in Japan.
- Most JEV infections are mild with patients experiencing fever and headache, without apparent symptoms.
- In case of severe illness, the patient experiences rapid onset of high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, seizures, spastic paralysis and ultimately death.
- Of those who survive, 20 to 30 per cent suffer permanent intellectual, behavioural or neurological problems such as paralysis, recurrent seizures or the inability to speak.
How is the disease transmitted?
- JEV is transmitted to humans through bites from infected mosquitoes of the Culex species (mainly Culex tritaeniorhynchus)
- Humans, once infected, do not develop sufficient viraemia to infect feeding mosquitoes
- The virus exists in a transmission cycle between mosquitoes, pigs and/or water birds (enzootic cycle)
- The disease is predominantly found in rural and periurban settings, where humans live in closer proximity to these vertebrate hosts.
Is there a treatment for it?
- There is no antiviral treatment for patients with JE. Treatment is supportive to relieve symptoms and stabilize the patient.
Government launches Mining Surveillance System (MSS)
Union Government has launched Mining Surveillance System (MSS), a pan-India surveillance network to check illegal mining using latest satellite technology.
What is MSS?
- MSS is a satellite-based monitoring system which aims to check illegal mining activity through automatic remote-sensing detection technology in order to establish a regime of responsive mineral administration.
Who has developed it?
- MSS is developed by Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) in coordination with Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geo-informatics (BISAG), Gandhinagar.
- It has been developed under the Digital India Programme.
- It is one of the first such surveillance systems developed in the world using space technology.
Why there is need of such system?
There are in total 3843 mining leases of major minerals across India, out of which 1710 are working mines and 2133 are non-working mines.
Presently, there is absence of robust mechanism of monitoring of illegal mining activity. Current system of monitoring is completely based on local complaints and unconfirmed information which is not transparent and quicker response and action.
How MSS works?
- In the MSS, Khasra maps of mining leases have been geo-referenced and are superimposed on latest satellite remote sensing scenes obtained from CARTOSAT & USGS.
- It has capacity to check any unusual activity such illegal mining at a region of 500 meters around the existing mining lease boundary.
- It has been incorporated with automatic software which leverages image processing technology to generate automatic triggers of unauthorized activities.
- These automatic triggers will be studied at a Remote Sensing Control Centre of IBM and then transmitted to the district level mining officials for field verification.
- Besides, a user-friendly mobile app also has been created for these officials to submit compliance reports of their inspections.
- The mobile app aims to establish a participative monitoring system in which the citizens also can use this app and report unusual mining activity.
- MSS also has an executive dashboard to work as a decision support system.
- Using it officials at all levels can track the current status of mapping of the mining leases, status of inspections and penalty levied etc. for all major mineral mining leases across the country.
National Summit on Fortification of Food
The National Summit on Fortification of Food to address interventions in combating micronutrient malnutrition in the country was recently inaugurated.
- Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is co-hosting the two day Summit in partnership with related central ministries / departments and development partners.
- The Summit will bring together experts from the nutrition and development communities as well as representatives from state governments, academics, technical supporters and donors to beneficiaries past and present.
- It provides a platform to discuss and debate – presenting in-depth analysis and impact assessments, important and case study examples of food fortification programs as well as learnings and challenges to build on so effective food fortification efforts can carry on delivering in the future.
What is Food fortification?
Food fortification or enrichment is the process of adding micronutrients (essential trace elements and vitamins) to food.
- Fortification requires neither changes in existing food patterns, habits nor individual compliance.
- It is socio-culturally acceptable and does not alter the characteristics of the food.
Benefits of Food fortification:
- Food fortification is a proven and effective strategy to meet the nutritional needs of a large number of people across various sections of the society, including the poor and underprivileged as well as the vulnerable, such as pregnant women and young children.
- It can be introduced quickly and can produce nutritional benefits for populations in a short period of time.
- It is safe and cost effective, especially if advantage is taken of the existing technology and delivery platforms.
- Food fortification reinforces and supports existing nutrition improvement programmes and is part of a broader, integrated approach to prevent micronutrient deficiencies, thereby complementing other approaches to improve health and nutrition.
Regulations on Food fortification in India:
- Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has formulated a comprehensive regulation on fortification of foods namely ‘Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016’.
- These regulations set the standards for food fortification and encourage the production, manufacture, distribution, sale and consumption of fortified foods.
- The regulations also provide for specific role of FSSAI in promotion for food fortification and to make fortification mandatory. This sets the premise for the national summit on fortification of food.
Environment & Ecology
Kigali deal: Agreement reached to phase out HFCs
A historic global climate deal was reached in Kigali, Rwanda at the 28th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (MOP28).
- The so called Kigali Amendment which amends the 1987 Montreal Protocol aims to phase out Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a family of potent greenhouse gases by the late 2040s.
- Under Kigali Amendment, in all 197 countries, including India have agreed to a timeline to reduce the use of HFCs by roughly 85% of their baselines by 2045.
Significance of the Kigali Amendment:
- The Kigali Amendment amends the 1987 Montreal Protocol that was designed to close growing ozone hole in by banning ozone-depleting coolants like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
- Thus, amended Montreal Protocol which was initially conceived only to plug gases that were destroying the ozone layer now includes HFCs responsible for global warming.
- This move will help to prevent a potential 0.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperature by the end of the century.
- The Kigali Agreement or amended Montreal Protocol for HFCs reduction will be binding on countries from 2019.
- It also has provisions for penalties for non-compliance. Under it, developed countries will also provide enhanced funding support estimated at billions of dollars globally.
- The exact amount of additional funding from developed countries will be agreed at the next Meeting of the Parties in Montreal in 2017.
How it is different from Paris agreement?
- The Paris agreement which will come into force by 2020 is not legally binding on countries to cut their emissions.
- The Kigali Amendment is considered absolutely vital for reaching the Paris Agreement target of keeping global temperature rise to below 2-degree Celsius compared to pre-industrial times.
What are Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)?
- HFCs are a family of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that are largely used in refrigerants in home, car air-conditioners and air sprays etc.
- These factory-made gases had replaced CFCs under the 1987 Montreal Protocol to protect Earth’s fragile protective Ozone layer and heal the ozone hole over the Antartica.
Why they are harmful?
- In recent times, it was found that HFCs have several thousand times capacity in retaining heat in the atmosphere compared to carbon dioxide (CO2), a potent GHG.
- Thus, it can be said that HFCs have helped ozone layer but exacerbated global warming.
- Currently, HFCs are currently the world’s fastest GHGs, with emissions increasing by up to 10% each year.
Report on Palaeo Channel of North West India
The government has released a Report on Palaeo Channel of North West India.
- The report has been prepared by an expert committee headed by Prof. S. Valdiya, eminent Geologist.
What are Palaeochannels?
- Palaeochannels are remnant of once active rivers/streams or in other words, are paths abandoned by rivers when they change their course either due to movement of tectonic plates or severe floods and cut new ones.
- Some of the palaeochannels lie buried under younger sediments.
About the report:
- The report is based on the study of the land texture of states of North-West India including- Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab.
- The report is based on the account of the geological changes that had occurred in the past.
Significance of the report:
- The report is an assertion of the assumption that River Saraswati originated from Adibadri in Himalaya to culminate in the Arabian Sea through the Runn of Kutch. This river was once upon a time the lifeline of the north- western states of India and a vibrant series of civilizations from Mahabharat period to Harappa had flourished on the banks of this river.
Highlights of the report:
- Saraswati river passed through Haryana, Rajasthan and North Gujarat. It also passed through Pakistan before meeting Western Sea through Rann of Kutch and was approximately 4,000 km in length.
- One-third of the river stretch fell in present-day Pakistan. The longer, two-third stretch measuring nearly 3000 km in length fell in India.
- The river had two branches: western and eastern. The Himalayan-born Satluj “of the PAST”, which flowed through the channels of present-day Ghaggar-Patialiwali rivulets, represents the western branch of the ancient river.
- On the other hand, Markanda and Sarsuti represented the western branch of Saraswati, known as Tons-Yamuna.
- The confluence of the branches was near Shatrana, 25 km south of Patiala. And suddenly, it flows crossing the dessert (Rann of Kutch) and meet gulf of western sea.
The committee has suggested that
- The government legislate a law to regulate extraction of water from palaeochannels in view of low rainfall in dry stretches and “reckless” exploitation of freshwater for irrigation and other purposes.
- It develops systematic database of all surface maps of palaeochannels and sub-surface stratigraphic data including geophysical surveys, borehole data, chemical quality and isotopic composition of groundwater in and around palaeochannel.
- It also proposed launching of a mission to facilitate accurate estimation of groundwater reserves.
- The government to make recharging as many “well-identified” palaeochannels as possible its “top priority”.
- Now, the report will be studied by the Central Ground Water Board as well as the Experts in Ministry of Water Resources for its optimum use. The report will be submitted before the Cabinet also for further action.
Bilateral & International Relations
BRICS summit concluded with adoption of Goa Declaration
The 8th BRICS summit has ended with the adoption of the Goa Declaration.
- The theme for the summit was “Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions”.
Highlights of the Goa declaration:
- The leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and stressed that there can be no justification for such acts.
- They acknowledged that international terrorism, especially the Islamic State, constitute an unprecedented threat to international peace and security.
- All five nations reaffirmed the commitment to increase effectiveness of the UN counter terrorism framework.
- The Goa Declaration called for the need for reforms of the UN, including its Security Council, to increase representation of developing countries.
- They also highlighted the importance of public and private investments in infrastructure, including connectivity.
- Apart from this, the leaders of BRICS nations appreciated the progress in the implementation of the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership and emphasise the importance of the BRICS Roadmap for Trade, Economic and Investment Cooperation until 2020.
- BRICS leaders welcomed the signing of the MoU between the BRICS countries National Development Banks and the New Development Bank.
- The BRICS Grouping also welcomed the adoption of the landmark 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals. Saying that the global economic recovery is progressing, they noted that the growth is weaker than expected with downside risks to the global economy continuing to persist.
- They reiterated determination to use all policy tools to achieve the goal of sustainable and inclusive growth.
BRICS countries agree to set up credit rating agency
At the recently concluded 8th BRICS summit at Goa, the BRICS nations has agreed to set up an independent BRICS Rating Agency in its efforts to challenge western hegemony in the world of finance.
- BRICS comprises five emerging economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
About the proposed BRICS Rating Agency:
- The BRICS Rating Agency will be based on market-oriented principles to strengthen the global governance architecture.
- It will be launched as per the shared vision of the BRICS nations for institution-building to transform global financial architecture based on the principles of fairness and equity.
- It will assist BRICS and other countries to rate infrastructure and sustainable projects in the emerging economies. Thus, it will further bridge the gap in global financial architecture
Why there is need to establish BRICS Rating Agency?
- At present, western developed countries have hegemony in the world of finance. Three global agencies (S&P, Fitch, Moody’s) based in western countries account for 90% of the rating market.
- Emerging economies claim that western ratings firms are biased, pessimistic on the developing countries and optimistic on developed nations.
- They also have concerns over methodologies of the three global agencies.
- BRICS members Russia in particular and China have been perturbed by these western ratings firms. Russia alleges that the western firms had deliberately lowered its rating after the Ukraine (Crimean) crisis.
Defence & Security Issues
India to buy game-changer S-400 air defence system from Russia
India has signed a defence deal worth nearly Rs 39,000 crore with Russia to purchase five state of art S-400 ‘Triumf’ air defence systems.
- The five S-400 systems will be operated by the Indian Air Force (IAF). India is the second export customer, after China to purchase this most advance defence system.
What is S-400?
- An S-400 ‘Triumf’ long-range air defence missile system is one of the most advanced long-range defence systems in the world.
- It is referred to as SA-21 Growler by NATO.
- It is an upgraded version of the S-300 defence system and is manufactured by Almaz-Antey.
- It has been in service in Russia since 2007.
- It is capable of firing three types of missiles. Thus, it creates a layered defence, and simultaneously engaging 36 targets.
Importance of S-400 for India:
- S-400 has capability to destroy incoming all airborne targets at ranges of up to 400 km. With it, India can destroy Pakistani aircrafts even when they are in their airspace.
Key Facts for Prelims
‘Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav (RSM) -2016’
- ‘Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav (RSM) -2016’ is being organized by Ministry of Culture at New Delhi.
- RSM was conceived by the Ministry of Culture in the year 2015 with an intent to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the Country in all its rich and varied dimensions.
- RSM 2016 will showcase Handicrafts, Painting, Cuisine, Photography, Sculpture, Documentation and Performing Arts-Folk, Tribal, Classical and Contemporary in one place.
- Under this cultural event, seven zonal cultural centres have been given slots to present their arts during the festival.
- It will showcase an amalgamation of ‘Ek Bharat, Srestha Bharat’, ‘Hamaari Sanskriti, Hamaari Pahchaan’ and ‘Swachh India’.
- India has announced to collaborate with Russia in setting up a joint production facility for making Kamov helicopters and making four stealth frigates under Make in India.
- Kamov 226T is a light multipurpose helicopter designed for work in difficult conditions like high mountains, hot climate and marine areas.
- It allows for reconnaissance, monitoring, targeting and transportation.
- It also boasts of incredibly precise hovering ability, excellent maneuverability and high safety standards.
- The helicopters will be made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with Russian cooperation under Make In India. It will replace the aging Cheetah and Chetak choppers.
- After induction, Kamov helicopters will operate at 20,000 feet and also help to maintain the forward posts on the Siachen glacier.
Longest ever manned mission to space by China
- China has successfully launched longest-ever manned mission by taking two astronauts into the orbit.
- They were launched on board of Shenzhou-11 spacecraft.
- The spacecraft was put into orbit by a Long March-2F carrier rocket.
- Both astronauts will spend a month aboard an experimental space laboratory Tiangong-2.
- During the mission, they will conduct aerospace medical experiments, space science experiments and in-orbit maintenance with human participation. They will also undertake ultrasound tests during space travel for the first time and cultivate plants in space.