tardigrade--IASTopper
Current Affair Analysis

20th August 2019 Current Affairs Analysis -IASToppers

What is tardigrade? Companies (Share Capital & Debentures) Rules; Convertible vs. non-convertible debentures; Debenture Redemption Reserve (DRR); Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy (NERP), 2019; Resource Efficiency (RE) and Resource Productivity; SO2 emission hotspots; Flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) technology; NASA’s Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) satellite; Iceland's Okjokull glacier; What is Beresheet? National Maritime Domain Awareness (NMDA) Project; Information Fusion Centre - Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR); Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY); Reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC); Thar Link Express/Thar Express; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
August 20, 2019

Contents

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Why the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana was a timely policy intervention

Economy

  • Govt exempts NBFCs, listed firms from debenture reserve requirements

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • India emits the most sulphur dioxide in the world
  • Comments called for on the Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy Released

Bilateral & International Relations

  • VP calls for renewed efforts for India to gain permanent membership of UNSC

Defence & Security Issues

  • Defence Minister Reviews Functioning Of IMAC And IFC-IOR

Science & Technology

  • Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft crashes on Moon

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Iceland’s Okjokull glacier commemorated with plaque
  • Thar Link Express/Thar Express

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Government Schemes & Policies

Why the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana was a timely policy intervention

A study published by the Collaborative Clean Air Policy Centre states that the single greatest contributor to air pollution in India is the burning of solid fuels in households.

PMUY-2 IASToppers

Why should solid fuels be avoided?

  • Firewood, animal dung, and agricultural waste are some of the solid fuels commonly used in households across India.
  • One of the many pollutants produced on the burning of such solid fuels is fine particulate matter (PM).
  • Fine particulate matter refers to particles or droplets with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less, and is also known as 5.
  • Such particles can travel deep into the respiratory system and exposure to them can cause several adverse health effects including respiratory problems and heart disease.

What is Household Air Pollution and how dangerous it is?

  • The emissions of PM2.5 generated by the burning of solid fuels in households is termed Household Air Pollution (HAP).
  • Approximately 800,000 premature deaths occur in India every year as a result of exposure to HAP indoors.
  • The estimate for the contribution of HAP is around 30%, far greater than that of industries (2%-10%), power plants (8%-15%), and transportation (8% -11%).
  • The contribution of HAP to premature mortality is 58% higher than premature mortality due to coal use, 300% higher than that due to open burning, and 1,000% higher than that due to transportation.

PMUY-5 IASToppers

  • In states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Assam, around 72 % of the population regularly uses solid fuels.

Key Facts

  • The burning of such solid fuels, like firewood accounts for between 22% to 52% of all ambient air pollution in India.

About Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY):

PMUY-4 IASToppers

  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana was launched by Prime Minister of India in May 2016.
  • Under this scheme, 5 crore LPG connections will be provided to Below poverty line (BPL) families over a period of three years.
  • Initially, the beneficiaries under PMUY were identified either from Socio-Economic Caste Census-2011 or from seven other identified categories. Subsequently, Government has extended the benefit to all left out poor families under PMUY subject to fulfilment of terms & conditions.
  • Eligible households will receive a support of Rs. 1,600 and will be in the name of the female head of the entire household.
  • Money that has been saved due to the ‘Give-it-up’ subsidy campaign will be used for this scheme.
  • The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.

Objectives of PMUY:

PMUY-3 IASToppers

  • Empowering women and protecting their health.
  • Abate health issues that result from using fossil fuels
  • Minimize fatalities which occur due to unclean fuels used for cooking
  • Controlling respiratory issues that occur due to indoor pollution as a result of using fossil fuel
  • Preventing the degradation of purity of environment compromised by usage of unclean cooking fuel.

Who are eligible?

  • Only adult women with Below Poverty Line are eligible.

Why consider LPG over other fuels?

  • LPG is an energy-rich fuel source with a higher calorific value other commonly used fuels which means that an LPG flame burns hotter, an advantage that can translate into higher efficiency.
  • A large section of Indians, especially women and girls, are exposed to severe household air pollution (HAP) from the use of solid fuels such as biomass, dung cakes and coal for cooking. A report from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare places HAP as the second leading risk factor contributing to India’s disease burden.
  • It is a fuel that is available in even the remotest of areas providing a further impetus to regional development.
  • It is a clean burning fuel that is low carbon, emits virtually no black carbon and does not spills.
  • LPG can be accessible to everyone everywhere without major infrastructure investment.
  • According to the World Health Organization, solid fuel use is responsible for about 13% of all mortality and morbidity in India (measured as Disability-Adjusted Life Years), and causes about 40% of all pulmonary disorders, nearly 30% of cataract incidences, and over 20% each of ischemic heart disease, lung cancer and lower respiratory infection.

LPG over other fuels

[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Economy

Govt exempts NBFCs, listed firms from debenture reserve requirements

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has amended the Companies (Share Capital & Debentures) Rules by removing Debenture Redemption Reserve requirement for Listed Companies, NBFCs and HFCs.

Debenture-Redemption-Reserve-DRR-2 IASToppers

What changes have been made in the Companies (Share Capital & Debentures) Rules?

  • Removed the requirement for creation of a Debenture Redemption Reserve (DRR) of 25% of the value of outstanding debentures in respect of listed companies, NBFCs registered with RBI and for Housing Finance Companies registered with National Housing Bank (NHB).
  • Reduction in DRR for unlisted companies from the present level of 25% to 10% of the outstanding debentures.

Need

  • To create a level-playing field among the NBFCs, HFCs and listed companies’ on the one hand and also between them and Banking Companies & All India Financial Institutions on the other, which are already exempted from DRR.
  • To reducing the cost of the capital raised by companies through issue of debentures.

What is Debenture?

Debenture-Redemption-Reserve-(DRR)-1 IASToppers

  • A debenture is used to take long-term loan which is used by large companies and governments to borrow money.
  • Debentures are loans that are repayable on a fixed date, but some debentures are irredeemable securities (also called perpetual bonds), which means that they do not have a fixed date of expected return of the funds.

Convertible vs. non-convertible debentures

There are two types of debentures:

  • Convertible debentures: Convertible bonds can be converted into equity shares of the issuing company after a predetermined period of time.
  • Non-convertible debentures: Regular debentures which cannot be converted into equity shares of the liable company. Since they are not able to convert, they usually carry higher interest rates than convertible debentures.

What is Debenture Redemption Reserve (DRR)?

  • Debenture Redemption Reserve is a non-convertible debenture.
  • According to the amendment to the Indian Companies Act, 1956 in 2000, it is stipulated that Indian corporates who issue debentures must create a reserve to protect the investors against possible default by company. This reserve is known as Debenture Redemption Reserve.
  • The Act stipulates that an adequate amount must be transferred from the profits every year to DRR until issued debentures are redeemed or mature.
  • For companies that fail to create reserves within a year of creating debentures, a 2% interest penalty is charged to debenture holders.
[Ref: Live Mint]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

India emits the most sulphur dioxide in the world

According to an analysis of a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) data released by NGO Greenpeace, India is the world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic sulphur dioxide, contributing more than 15 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions.

India-largest-emitter-of-SO2-in-world IASToppers

Key findings:

  • SO2 hotspots across the world have been mapped.
  • The SO2 hotspots were detected by the OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) satellite.
  • Norilsk smelter complex in Russia is the largest SO2 emission hotspot in the world, followed by Kriel in Mpumalanga province in South Africa and Zagroz in Iran.

Reason for high SO2 concentration

  • The primary reason is the expansion of coal-based electricity generation over the past decade. Five of the top ten SO2 emission hotspots from coal/power generation industry across the world are in India.
  • The vast majority of plants in India lack flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) technology to reduce their air pollution.

Interplanetary-pollution IASToppers

The major SO2 emission hotspots in India are

  • Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh
  • Neyveli and Chennai in Tamil Nadu
  • Talcher and Jharsuguda in Odisha
  • Korba in Chhattisgarh
  • Kutch in Gujarat
  • Ramagundam in Telangana
  • Chandrapur and Koradi in Maharashtra

About SO2 emissions

  • SO2 emissions are a significant contributor to air pollution.
  • Its direct exposure and exposure to particulate matter 5 (fine particulate matter) produced when SO2 reacts with other air pollutants to form sulphate particles both affect human health.

Background

  • The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had introduced SO2 emission limits for coal-fired power plants in 2015.
  • However, a Supreme Court order changed the deadline for installation of FGD technology in power plants from 2017 to December 2019 in Delhi-NCR and till 2022 for other parts of the country.

What is flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) technology?

flue-gas desulfurization (FGD

  • FGD is the technology used for removing sulphur dioxide (SO2) from the exhaust combustion flue gases of power plants that burn coal/oil to produce electricity.
  • SO2 is an acidic gas. Therefore, the most common large-scale FGD systems use an alkaline sorbent such as lime or limestone slurry to neutralize and remove the SO2 from the flue gas.
  • For a typical conventional coal-fired power plant, FGD technology will remove up to 99 percent of the SO2in the flue gases.

About NASA’s Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) satellite

  • The ozone monitoring instrument is a visual and ultraviolet spectrometer aboard the NASA’s Aura spacecraft.
  • The OMI project is a cooperation between the Netherlands Agency for Aerospace Programmes, the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA).
  • OMI instrument can distinguish between aerosol types, such as smoke, dust, and sulfates, and measures cloud pressure and coverage, which provides data to derive tropospheric ozone.
  • Moreover, it can measure key air quality components such as NO2, SO2 etc.

Key Facts

  • Russia is the second largest emitter of SO2 while China stands at third position.
  • Norilsk smelter site in Russia continues to be the largest anthropogenic SO2 emission hotspot in the world. Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh is at number five.
  • In 2016, 91% of the world population was living in places where the WHO air quality guidelines levels were not met.
[Ref: Down To Earth]

 

Comments called for on the Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy Released

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change released Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy, 2019 recently inviting comments and suggestions on the draft policy.

DRAFT-NATIONAL-RESOURCE-EFFICIENCY-POLICY-3 IASToppers

About the Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy (NERP), 2019

Draft National Resource Efficiency Policy (NERP), 2019

  • It was developed with the recommendations from the Indian Resource Efficiency Programme (IREP), launched by the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and Indian Resource Panel in 2017.
  • The work on Resource Efficiency Strategy was supported by the European Union (EU) funded Resource Efficiency Initiative (EU-REI) in the consortium with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
  • NITI Aayog in collaboration with the European Union delegation to India have released the Strategy on Resource Efficiency. The strategy aims to promote resource efficiency in India.

Highlights of NERP 2019

  • NERP 2019 seeks to create a regulatory environment to mainstream resource efficiency across all sectors including both biotic and abiotic
  • It will create a ‘National Resource Efficiency Authority (NREA)’ under Environment (Protection) 24 Act, 1986, to provide for the regulatory provisions of this policy.
  • An inter-ministerial National Resource Efficiency Board (NREAB) will provide necessary guidance on the aspects critical to the implementation of resource efficiency.
  • It also plans to offer tax benefits on recycled materials, green loans to small and medium Enterprises (SMEs) and soft loans to construct waste disposal facilities, apart from setting up Material Recovery Facilities (MRF).
  • Manufacturers and service providers would also be required to use more recycled or renewable materials and awareness would be created among consumers to indicate the shift.
  • Idea of the national policy is to drive the country towards circular economy through efficient use of available material resources, based on principle of 6R and ‘green public procurement’.
  • The 6R stands for reduce, reuse, recycle, redesign, re-manufacture and refurbish while the very premise of ‘green public procurement’ is to procure products with lower environmental footprints such as secondary raw materials and locally sourced materials.
  • It also pitches for moving towards ‘zero landfill’ approach in the country, hinting at possibility of imposing ‘landfill taxes’ and ‘high tipping fees’ for bulk generators of waste so that they can move towards optimal use of materials and better waste management.

Principles of NERP 2019

DRAFT-NATIONAL-RESOURCE-EFFICIENCY-POLICY-2 IASToppers

  • Reduction in primary resource consumption to ‘sustainable’ levels
  • Creation of higher value with less material through resource efficient and circular approaches
  • Waste minimization
  • Material security, creation of employment opportunities and business models beneficial to the cause of environment protection

What is Resource Efficiency (RE) and Resource Productivity?

  • Resource efficiency (RE) implies judicious use of earth’s limited resources to achieve maximum benefit while minimizing the adverse impacts on environment.
  • It is the ratio between a given benefit or result and the natural resources use required for it.
  • While the term ‘resource efficiency’ is predominantly used in business, product or material context; term ‘resource productivity’ is used in context of regional or national economy.
  • Resource efficiency reduces waste, drives greater resource productivity, delivers a more competitive economy, addresses emerging resource security/scarcity issues, and helps reduce the environmental impacts associated with both production and consumption.
  • Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy are important goals and central principles for achieving sustainable development. Sustainability is a global priority and SDGs commitment and 11th Five year plan also clearly enunciate importance of Resource efficiency (RE).

Benefits of Resource Efficiency

  • Resource efficiency brings multiple benefits along the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental.
  • India’s large population, rapid urbanization and expanding industrial production have led to exploitation of available limited natural resources with concerns regarding resource depletion and future availability becoming more pronounced.
  • Therefore, enhancing resource efficiency (RE) and promoting the use of secondary raw materials (SRM) is a pertinent strategy to address these challenges and reduce dependence on primary resource.

Resource Efficiency

Why national resource efficiency policy for India?

Current Status of India’s resources

  • Resource extraction of 1580 tonnes/acre is much higher than the world average of 450 tonnes/acre
  • 3rd largest material demand (in year 2010)
  • Low material productivity compared to global average
  • 3rd highest CO2 emitter, responsible for 6.9% of global CO2 emissions.
  • Highest water withdrawal globally for agriculture.
  • 30% of land undergoing degradation.
  • High import dependency of many critical raw materials.
  • Water is fast becoming scarce while deteriorating air quality has emerged as a major threat to human life.
  • There has been massive soil degradation, with 147 million hectares (Mha) of a total of 329 Mha land area hit.
  • Import dependency is nearly 100% for the majority of the ‘most critical’ materials -cobalt, copper and lithium that find extensive application in high-end technology industry.
  • Over 80% of crude oil that is processed in the economy is imported, alongwith 85% of its coking coal demand. Extraction of non-metallic minerals is crippled with challenges.
  • To add to the problems, the country’s recycling rate is just about 20-25% compared with 70% in developing countries in Europe. The situation will only aggravate as India is likely to double its material consumption by 2030.

Material Demand

Material Demand

  • In scenario with continuing current dynamics (8% growth in GDP p.a. until 2030, thereafter 5%), total material consumption in 2030 is projected to be 14.2 BT (billion tonnes).
  • This means tripling of demand for primary materials compared to 2010, particularly the demand for energy carriers, metals and non-metal minerals.

Need for a comprehensive policy framework

  • A resource efficient strategy and promoting use of secondary raw materials will encompass wide variety of technology, process and institutional issues along the various stages of product life cycles.
  • A comprehensive resource efficiency policy is needed as individual policy only focuses on certain aspects of the economy and the effect of a single policy might be offset by the effect of another, or there could be burden shifting happening from one resource / sector to another.
  • Also many policy instruments generate a co-benefit of resource efficiency besides generating other environmental and social benefits.

Current gaps in resource efficiency agenda

  • What is essentially missing currently in India is life cycle thinking towards addressing the resource efficiency
  • The life cycle approach refers to reducing dependency on virgin raw material by creating an alternate source of resources through reuse and recycling.
  • At every stage along the life cycle, policies of resource use and resource efficiency can be implemented. Programmes and policies already focus on energy efficiency but do not directly address resource efficiency or secondary raw materials.
  • India has deployed various policies addressing other environmental and social objectives but at the same time having adverse implications on resource efficiency.
  • These include taxes and subsidy (including rationalization of unwarranted benefits in the subsidy reform), financial support for research and development, eco-mark/eco-labelling, industry standards, public procurement, tradable permits and certificates and self-regulation.
  • Also many policy interventions have focused on end-of-life stage and that too mostly on recycling, while the other stages of the life cycle have not been given the due importance.

Key Facts

  • India has increased its material consumption to six times, from 1.18 billion tonnes (BT) in 1970 to 7 BT in 2015.
[Ref: PIB, Live Mint]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

VP calls for renewed efforts for India to gain permanent membership of UNSC

The Vice President of India has called for renewed efforts by India to gain permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

UNSC IASToppers

United Nations Security Council (UNSC):

unsc

  • United Nations Security Council is one of the six main organs of the United Nations (UN).
  • The council held its first session in 1946.
  • It is headquartered at New York, United States.
  • It is the only body of the United Nations with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • The presidency of the Council is held by each of the members in turn for one month, following the English alphabetical order of the Member States names.
  • A State which is a Member of the United Nations but not of the Security Council may participate, without a vote, in its discussions when the Council considers that country’s interests are affected.

Composition

UNSC-4 IASToppers

  • The Council is composed of 15 Members.
  • Five permanent members: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly (with end of term year).
  • The non‑permanent members are elected on a regional basis for a two‑year term by the General Assembly. It is not possible to be re‑elected immediately after holding a seat in the Security Council.

Functions of UNSC

  • To maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations
  • To investigate any dispute which might lead to international friction
  • To formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments
  • To determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken
  • To call on Members to apply economic sanctions not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression
  • To take military action against an aggressor
  • To recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice

How are the non-permanent members elected?

  • Each year, the UNSC elects five non-permanent members (out of 10 in total) for a two-year term.
  • In accordance with the General Assembly resolution 1991, the 10 non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis as follows: five for African and Asian States; one for Eastern European States; two for the Latin American and Caribbean States; and two for Western European and other States.

Reform proposal of Security Council

  • Since 1993, the UN General Assembly has debated Council reform but has not been able to reach agreement yet.
  • The main debate revolves around some county asking ‘permanent status’ in UNSC, however, many other countries oppose them.

Reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) encompasses five key issues:

Reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC

  1. Categories of membership: It looks at the addition of both permanent members and elected members. Such changes require amendments to the UN Charter.
  2. The question of the veto held by the five permanent members: It looks closely at this key issue and whether it could (and should) be eliminated or curtailed.
  3. Regional representation: It examines the arguments for and against supranational organizations, like the EU, as potential candidates for Council membership.
  4. The size of an enlarged Council and its working methods: It considers the procedures of the Council and the way it conducts its work. Unlike membership changes, these reforms do not require Charter change and the Council itself can implement them.
  5. The Security Council-General Assembly relationships

Need for Reform proposal of Security Council

  • The United Nations Security Council is the international community’s principal organ for peacekeeping and conflict management and its decisions are binding on all member states.
  • However, under the current mechanism, the council do not have the necessary authority and legitimacy to force any country to follow its order.
  • Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean regions do not have the representation on the Council according to their current standing demands, and are therefore calling for the Council’s composition to be adapted to the new situation.
  • Alongside the call for a geographically balanced distribution of seats, the Charter of the United Nations also expressly states that countries that make considerable contributions to the UN should be members of the Security Council which is not followed currently.

Why India should be given a permanent seat in the council?

Arguments in favour of:

  • India is the largest democracy in the world and one of the largest economies.
  • India was among the founding members of United Nations.
  • India has stronger economy than Russia, which is a permanent member of Security Council.
  • India has been elected seven times as a non permanent member of the UNSC. It has been a member of UNSC for 7 terms and a member of G-77 and G-4, so permanent membership is a logical extension.
  • In terms of population, India stands second.
  • India is a nuclear weapon state.
  • India is the second largest and a one of the largest constant contributor of troops to United Nations Peacekeeping missions. Today, India has over 8,500 peacekeepers in the field, more than twice as many as the UN’s five big powers combined.
  • India has one of the best armed forces in the world.
  • In space research, India’s ISRO is one of the world’s best.

Arguments against:

  • There are some other countries that are economically much better than India, and not a part of UNSC.
  • India is one of the countries having lowest Human Development Index.
  • India is the second most unequal country, with most of the wealth is in the hands of the rich.

What India can do to get permanent seat at UNSC?

UNSC 1

Key facts:

  • Group of 4 countries (G4) i.e. Germany, Japan, Brazil, India are bidding for permanent seats in the UN Security Council.
  • The Coffee Club or Uniting for Consensus are Group of countries which opposed to the G4. They favoured the expansion of the non-permanent category of seats with members to be elected on a regional basis. It includes Italy, Spain, Argentina, Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Pakistan.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Defence & Security Issues

Defence Minister Reviews Functioning Of IMAC And IFC-IOR

Defence Minister visited the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) and Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) located at Gurugram ,both under the National Maritime Domain Awareness (NMDA) Project.

IFC-2 IASToppers

About National Maritime Domain Awareness (NMDA) Project

  • The NMDA project was launched in accordance with the SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) concept.
  • The IMAC monitors the movement of ships passing through the Indian Ocean. The cargo carried by these ships account for 66 per cent of world crude oil, 50 per cent of container traffic and 33 per cent of bulk cargo.
  • IMAC collects shipping information, analyse traffic patterns and share the inputs with the user agencies.
  • It is also the nodal centre of the various agencies working in the field of maritime security to improve coastal surveillance.

About Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR)

IFC IASToppers

  • Launched in 2018, it is an initiative started by the Indian Navy.
  • The IFC has been established at Gurugram, and is collocated with Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) which is jointly administered by the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard.
  • This is the single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.
  • It aims to advance Maritime Safety and Security in the Indian Ocean Region by enhancing maritime domain awareness and coordinating activities.
  • Through this Centre, information on “white shipping”, or commercial shipping, is exchanged with countries in the region to improve maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean.
  • IFC-IOR is also works towards coordination of incident response and disaster relief, and in time, also share submarine safety information.
[Ref: PIB, Business Standard]

 

Science & Technology

Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft crashes on Moon

The Israeli spacecraft – called Beresheet – attempted to land on the Moon but crashed on the surface.

Interplanetary-pollution-4 IASToppers

  • It was carrying a number of items — including thousands of specimens of a living organism called tardigrade.

What is Beresheet?

  • Beresheet is Israel’s first lunar aircraft.
  • It was built by Israeli non-profit space venture SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

Interplanetary-pollution-3 IASToppers

  • It was designed to photograph its landing site and measure the moon’s magnetic field.
  • It carried a number of items including thousands of specimens of dehydrated tardigrade.
  • Beresheet attempted to become the first Israeli spacecraft, and the first privately-operated mission, to land on the Moon.

Which other countries have managed to achieve controlled landing on moon?

  • United States
  • The former Soviet Union
  • China

What is tardigrade?

tardigrade

  • The tardigrade, also known as water bear, is among the toughest and most resilient organism on Earth.
  • The tardigrade can only be seen under a microscope.
  • It can survive in the cold vacuum of outer space as it can endure extreme hot and cold temperature levels.
  • They can be dehydrated and live without water for up to 10 years by going into a sort of hibernation. They can expellee the water from their bodies and generate compounds that seal and protect the structure of their cells.
  • The tardigrade derives its name from the fact that it looks like an eight-legged bear, with a mouth that can project out like a tongue.
  • Its body has four segments supported by four pairs of clawed legs.
  • A tardigrade typically eats fluids, using its claws and mouth to tear open plant and animal cells, so that it can suck nutrients out of them.
  • It is also known to feast on bacteria and, in some cases, to kill and eat other tardigrades. Although they are famed for their resilience, they are destructible too.

Did any of them survive the impact? If they did, what happens to them now?

  • When the tardigrades were placed on the Israeli moon mission Beresheet, they were in a tun state — dehydrated, with their chubby limbs and heads retracted and all metabolic activity temporarily suspended.
  • Their arrival on the moon was unexpectedly explosive; Beresheet’s crash landing on April 11 may have scattered the microorganisms onto the lunar surface.
  • But as long as the tardigrades remain on the moon, their chances of spontaneously awakening are low. Without liquid water, the tiny creatures will remain in a tun state, and while there’s evidence of ice on the moon, liquid water is nowhere to be found.
  • Even if the lunar tardigrades did somehow encounter liquid water while still on the moon, without food, air and a moderate ambient temperature, they wouldn’t last very long once they revived.

Concerns:

  • Scientists have yet to find any evidence that the moon ever hosted living organisms(other than visiting astronauts and microbial hitchhikers from Earth) that could be threatened by microscopic invaders. However, contamination could carry serious consequences for missions to planets where life might yet be found.
  • There is already a fairly sizeable amount of debris from redundant spacecraft and litter left behind by astronauts. As more missions are planned to the moon, eventually with human passengers and perhaps even settlements, we must learn to clean up as we go along. Otherwise, we are going to have the sort of crisis that we are seeing on Earth with the outcry about environmental damage from plastics.

Key facts:

  • China made history in January 2019 with its Chang’e 4, a lunar exploration mission, to be the first one to touch down on the dark side of the moon.
[Ref: BBC, Indian Express]

 

Key Facts for Prelims

Iceland’s Okjokull glacier commemorated with plaque

Iceland honours the passing of Okjokull, its first glacier lost to climate change, as scientists warn that some 400 others on the subarctic island risk the same fate.

Okjokull-glacier IASToppers

About the plaque

  • The plaque is intended to raise awareness about the decline of glaciers and the effects of climate change.
  • Iceland loses about 11 billion tonnes of ice per year and it can lose more than 400 glaciers by 2200.

plaque

plaque 1

Location of Iceland

  • It is located in the continent of
  • Iceland does not share land borders with any countries.

Key Facts

  • Iceland’s Vatnajokull National Park, which was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in July 2019, is home to, and named after, the largest ice cap in Europe.

 

Thar Link Express/Thar Express

Thar Express

  • Thar Express connects Khokhrapar in Pakistan and Munabao in Rajasthan.
  • The rail link facilitates people-to-people contacts which Pakistan believes are essential for improving relations between both the countries.
  • The weekly train connects Jodhpur and the bordering region of Rajasthan with the province of Sindh in Pakistan.

Background:

  • The agreement to run the Thar Link Express was signed in 2006 and is one of the cheapest means of transport between the two rival countries.

Why in news?

  • Amid the ongoing tension with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue, India suspended weekly Jodhpur-Munabao Thar Link Express.

 

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