Current Affairs Analysis

21st & 22nd May 2017 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Combustible ice; Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs); Pampa river; Harsh Malhotra committee; Mapping the universe with quasar positions; 22nd May: International Day for Biodiversity; First Tejas Express; Ban on sand excavation in Narmada River
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
May 22, 2017


Polity & Governance

  • High Level Committee on Scouts and Guides Submits Report

Issues related to Health & Education

  • In NTD fight, the end in sight

Environment & Ecology

  • Ecological concerns over combustible ice
  • Action plan for Pampa conservation

Science & Technology

  • Mapping the universe with quasar positions

Key Facts for Prelims

  • 22nd May: International Day for Biodiversity
  • First Tejas Express
  • Ban on sand excavation in Narmada River

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Polity & Governance

High Level Committee on Scouts and Guides Submits Report

A seven-member High-Level Committee on Scouts and Guides has submitted its Final Report to Minister for State (Independent Charge) for Youth Affairs & Sports, Vijay Goel with various recommendations.

ias toppers Harsh Malhotra committee

Important recommendations made by the committee:

  • The committee has suggested for the constitution of an Enquiry Committee to take stock of complaints and grievances and submit its report.
  • The committee has suggested for completely revamping the Bharat Scout & Guides and Hindustan Scouts and Guides.
  • It has stressed upon the need for streamlining the organizational set up of Bharat Scouts and Guides and Hindustan Scouts and Guides.
  • The committee has observed a number of irregularities and anomalies in the financial management of the Scouts and Guides which are audited by the Chartered Accountant. So, it has recommended for the constitution of a permanent monitoring Committee to periodically assess the activities of both the organisations and submit report to the Union Sports Ministry.
  • The committee has suggested for the nomination of government nominees on the Boards of both the organizations.


  • After receiving various complaints from various sectors against the Bharat Scouts and Guides and Hindustan Scouts and Guides, sports ministry had constituted a seven-member High Level Committee under the chairmanship of Harsh Malhotra in October 2016 to look into the infrastructure and assets of the two recognized Scouts and Guides Organizations.
  • The high level committee submitted its first interim report on January 31, 2017 recommending to make Scouts movement as an integral part of Youth movement.
  • Bharat Scouts and Guides and Hindustan Scouts and Guides are the two organizations recognized by the Sports Ministry for conducting scouting and guiding activities across the country.
  • These two organizations also receive grant-in-aid for conducting the scouting/guiding activities.
[Ref: PIB]


Issues related to Health & Education

In NTD fight, the end in sight

Around the world, nearly 1.6 billion people are affected by a group of diseases so ignored that the term used to refer to them is called neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

About neglected tropical diseases (NTDs):


  • Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries and affect more than one billion people, costing developing economies billions of dollars every year.
  • They mainly affect populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock.


  • Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affect over 1.5 billion of the world’s most impoverished people, including 875 million children.
  • They cause severe pain, long-term disability, and are the cause of death for over 170,000 people per year.
  • Amongst children, infection leads to malnutrition, cognitive impairment, stunted growth, and the inability to attend school.
  • Adults suffer from social isolation and are unable to work, and anemia caused by NTDs increases the risk of maternal mortality.


Steps need to be taken:

  • The Indian government has set itself the target of eliminating kala-azar and filariasis by 2017, and leprosy by 2018. With such ambitious targets, sustained research must remain an integral component of disease elimination programmes.
  • Besides basic research — the discovery of new facts about a disease, vaccines and drugs — new strategies are needed to make an impact.
  • For programmes to succeed, it is important to maintain constant vigilance through robust surveillance and reporting mechanisms.
  • Partnerships with diverse stakeholders including the private sector, community-based organisations, and community leaders are specifically useful in creating awareness, improving case detection, treatment completion and, most importantly, managing stigma associated with these diseases.
  • While tackling NTDs, it will be important to remember that along with timely diagnosis and treatment access in unreached areas, focussing on the fundamentals of preventive interventions, nutrition, safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene are essential in fast-tracking the ultimate goal of elimination.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Environment & Ecology

Ecological concerns over combustible ice

Commercial development of the globe’s huge reserves of a frozen fossil fuel known as “combustible ice” has moved closer to reality after Japan and China successfully extracted the material from the sea floor off their coastlines.


What is combustible ice?

ias toppers combustible ice

  • Combustible ice is a frozen mixture of water and concentrated natural gas.
  • Technically known as methane hydrate, it can be lit on fire in its frozen state and is believed to comprise one of the world’s most abundant fossil fuels.
  • Methane hydrate is an attractive energy source due to its high energy density: one cubic meter of combustible ice contains about 164 cubic meters of regular natural gas.
  • This high energy density is due to the fact that methane is trapped within the hydrate crystal structure and greatly compressed.

Where it is found?

  • Methane hydrate has been found beneath seafloors and buried inside Arctic permafrost and beneath Antarctic ice.


  • According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, estimates of worldwide reserves range from 280 trillion cubic metres up to 2,800 trillion cubic metres.
  • That means methane hydrate reserves could meet global gas demands for 80 to 800 years at current consumption rates.
  • Yet efforts to successfully extract the fuel at a profit have eluded private and state-owned energy companies for decades.

What are the concerns?

  • If methane hydrate leaks during the extraction process, it can increase greenhouse gas emissions. The fuel also could displace renewables such as solar and wind power.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Action plan for Pampa conservation

A seven-point action plan for the conservation of pampa has been chalked out. The document, named Pampa Declaration, delineates a comprehensive plan to be implemented with the active involvement and support of the government and the public.


The salient features of the declaration include:

  • Bestowing living entity status to river Pampa;
  • The constitution of a River Management Board for the governance of the river;
  • Documentation of livelihood along the river basin;
  • Publication of periodic status report of flood plains and wetlands and formation of tributaries, micro watersheds, and ponds linked to the river every five years.
  • Calls for digitising biodiversity reports with the support of students from institutions and colleges affiliated to Mahatma Gandhi University,
  • Implementation of green protocol for containing the pollution of the river and for the conservation of the Pampa ecosystem.
  • Also calls upon the government to create an additional standing committee on environment at the local bodies to ensure participation of local government institutions in the governance of the river.

About pampa river:

  • Pampa is the third longest river in Kerala after Periyar and Bharathappuzha and the longest river in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore.
  • The river is also known as ‘Dakshina Bhageerathi’ and ‘River Baris’.
  • Sabarimala temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa is located on the banks of the river.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Science & Technology

Mapping the universe with quasar positions

Astronomers have created the first map of the large-scale structure of the universe based entirely on the positions of quasars.


What are Quasars?

  • Quasars are supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies.
  • Quasars, also called quasi-stellar radio sources, are the most energetic and distant members of a class of objects called active galactic nuclei (AGN).
  • Their spectra contain very broad emission lines, unlike any known from stars, hence the name “quasi-stellar.” Their luminosity can be 100 times greater than that of the Milky Way.
  • Quasars also emit visible light, ultraviolet rays, infrared waves, X-rays, and gamma-rays.

How was mapping done?

To make their map, scientists used the Sloan Foundation Telescope to observe an unprecedented number of quasars.

  • During the first two years of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey’s Extended Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (eBOSS), astronomers measured accurate three-dimensional positions for more than 147,000 quasars.
  • The telescope’s observations gave the team the quasars’ distances, which they used to create a three-dimensional map of where the quasars are.
  • However, to use the map to understand the expansion history of the universe, they had to go a step further, using a clever technique involving studying “baryon acoustic oscillations” (BAOs).
  • BAOs are the present-day imprint of sound waves which travelled through the early universe, when it was much hotter and denser than the universe we see today.
  • However, when the universe was 380,000 years old, conditions changed suddenly and the sound waves became “frozen” in place. These frozen waves are left imprinted in the three- dimensional structure of the universe.

Significance of these findings:

  • The results of the new study confirm the standard model of cosmology that researchers have built over the last 20 years. In this standard model, the universe follows the predictions of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity but includes components whose effects we can measure, but whose causes we do not understand.’
[Ref: The Hindu]


Key Facts for Prelims

22nd May: International Day for Biodiversity

ias toppers International Day for Biodiversity

  • The International Day for Biodiversity (IDB) 2017 was celebrated all over the country on May 22, by different States and various organisations.
  • 2017 Theme: “Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism”.
  • The International Day for Biological Diversity was first established in 1993, when the 29th of December was selected to serve as the day to educate the world of the importance of Biodiversity. This was later changed to the 22 of May in 2000. Too many winter holidays were interfering with countries holding meaningful celebrations.


First Tejas Express


  • Indian Railways has introduced India’s first high speed, air-conditioned Tejas Express between Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Mumbai and Karmali.
  • Tejas Express is a state of the art train capable of running at the speed of 200 kmph with ultra modern amenities run between Mumbai and Karmali.


Ban on sand excavation in Narmada River

ias toppers sand excavation

  • The State Government of Madhya Pradesh has put an indefinite ban on the sand excavation in the Narmada River.
  • The government has also set up a committee to suggest the scientific ways of mining the rivers.
  • The government will also promote manufactured sand (made by mixing stones).
  • Illegal sand mining is one of the serious law & order and environmental issues in several states of India including Madhya Pradesh. The business has flourished mainly because of nexus between sand mafia, officers and politicians.


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