Government Schemes & Policies
- Draft Bill proposes raising abortion upper limit to 24 weeks
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- E-commerce giants need to set up system for collecting plastic waste: CPCB to NGT
- SC allows introduction of African cheetah in India
- 10 more wetlands from India get the Ramsar site tag
Bilateral & International Relations
- Palm oil moved from the ‘free’ to ‘restricted’ list of imports by India from Malaysia
Science & Technology
- Bhuvan Panchayat version 3.0
- Farewell to NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope
Key Facts for Prelims
- Operation Vanilla
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Government Schemes & Policies
Draft Bill proposes raising abortion upper limit to 24 weeks
Moving to ease abortion laws, the Union Cabinet is set to consider a host of changes to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971.
The planned changes include increase the upper limit for termination of a pregnancy from 20 weeks to 24 weeks, and extending the contraceptive-failure clause for termination to include “any woman or her partner” from the present provision for “only married woman or her husband”.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971:
- It is a law that legalized abortion in India up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on certain conditions and when provided by a registered medical practitioner at a registered medical facility.
- Pregnancies may be terminated by registered medical practitioners:
- Where the length of the pregnancy does not exceed twelve weeks if such medical practitioner is, OR
- Where the length of the pregnancy exceeds twelve weeks but does not exceed twenty weeks, if not less than two registered medical practitioners are of opinion.
- The continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to her physical or mental health; OR
- There is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities to be seriously handicapped.
Whose consent is required for termination of pregnancy?
- As per the provisions of the MTP Act, only the consent of woman whose pregnancy is being terminated is required.
- In case of below the age of 18 years, or a mentally ill woman, consent of guardian (MTP Act defines guardian as someone who has the care of the minor. This does not imply that only parent/s are required to consent) is required for termination.
Provision of draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Bill:
- The draft Bill proposes requirement of opinion of one registered medical practitioner (RMP) for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation.
- Similarly, it also provides for the requirement of opinion of two RMPs for termination of pregnancy of 20 to 24 weeks.
- The Bill also seeks to increase the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women. It will also include minor girls.
- The Bill seeks to relax the contraceptive-failure condition for “any woman or her partner” from the present provision for “only married woman or her husband”, allowing them to medically terminate the pregnancy.
Need of Bill:
- According to Health Management Information System (HMIS) reports, the total number of spontaneous/induced abortions that took place in India in 2016-17 was 970436, in 2015-16 was 901781, in 2014-15 was 901839, and in 2013-14 was 790587.
- Even after abortion was legalised 49 years ago, ten women reportedly die due to unsafe abortions every day in India.
- Implementation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO Act), and the Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PCPNDT) are the barriers to safe abortion as result of which doctors hesitate to provide abortion services to women and young girls.
Significance of Bill:
- The Bill will provide greater reproductive rights to women as abortion is considered an important aspect of the reproductive health of women.
- Deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions are largely preventable provided services are performed legally by trained practitioners.
- This will help in decreasing maternal morbidity and mortality and may also help in preventing wastage of resources invested in a pregnancy.
Abortion laws across the world:
- France, the UK, Austria, Ethiopia, Italy, Spain, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and even Nepal, allow for termination beyond 20 weeks on the diagnosis of foetal abnormalities.
- Canada, Germany, Vietnam, Denmark, Ghana, and Zambia-allowing for abortion at any time during the pregnancy on the request of the mother.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
E-commerce giants need to set up system for collecting plastic waste: CPCB to NGT
Central Pollution Control Board, apex pollution monitoring body, told the National Green Tribunal that E-commerce giants Amazon and Flipkart need to fulfil their extended producer responsibility under the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.
What CPCB told to NGT?
CPCB told to NGT that:
- These e-commerce companies need to establish a system for collecting back the plastic waste generated due to the packaging of their products.
- As per provisions 9(2) of the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, “Primary responsibility for collection of used multi-layered plastic sachet or pouches or packaging is of producers, importers and brand owners who introduce the products in the market.
About Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
- Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a strategy to add all of the environmental costs associated with a product throughout the product life cycle to the market price of that product.
- EPR was first introduced in the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2011.
- It was modified in PWM 2016, wherein producers, importers and brand owners were asked to take primary responsibility for collection of used multi-layered plastic sachets or pouches or packaging.
Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016
- The Government of India has notified the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, in suppression of the earlier Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011.
Aim of the Plastic Waste Management Rules
- To increase minimum thickness of plastic carry bags from 40 to 50 microns and stipulate minimum thickness of 50 microns for plastic sheets also to facilitate collection and recycle of plastic waste.
- Expand the jurisdiction of applicability from the municipal area to rural areas, because plastic has reached rural areas also.
- To bring in the responsibilities of producers and generators, both in plastic waste management system and to introduce collect back system of plastic waste by the producers/ brand owners, as per extended producers responsibility.
- To introduce collection of plastic waste management fee through pre-registration of the producers, importers of plastic carry bags/multilayered packaging and vendors selling the same for establishing the waste management system.
- To promote use of plastic waste for road construction as per Indian Road Congress guidelines or energy recovery, or waste to oil etc. for gainful utilization of waste and also address the waste disposal issue.
- To entrust more responsibility on waste generators, namely payment of user charge as prescribed by local authority, collection and handing over of waste by the institutional generator, event organizers.
Outcome expected from the new rules includes:
- Increase in the thickness of carry bags and plastic sheets.
- Extended Producers Responsibility hall work out modalities for waste collection system.
- Phasing out of manufacture and use of non- recyclable multi-layered plastic.
- Event organiser shall segregate and manage the waste generated during such events, in accordance with the Solid Waste Management Rules.
- Local bodies and Gram Panchayats responsible for setting up, operationalisation and co-ordination of the waste management system.
- Retailers and street vendors are responsible for the plastic bags or plastic sheet, or multi-layered packaging not manufactured in accordance with these rules.
- Reuse of plastic waste
SC allows introduction of African cheetah in India
The Supreme Court has allowed the Centre to introduce the African cheetah to a suitable habitat in India.
- The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had previously told the Supreme Court that African cheetahs would be translocated in India from Namibia and would be kept at Nauradehi wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has given a ‘no objection’ for the translocation.
What is ‘Reintroduction’ of a species?
‘Reintroduction’ of a species means releasing it in an area where it is capable of surviving.
Reintroductions of large carnivores have increasingly been recognised as a strategy to conserve threatened species and restore ecosystem functions.
Why reintroduction of cheetah?
- The cheetah is the only large carnivore that has been extirpated, mainly by over-hunting in India in historical times. India now has the economic ability to consider restoring its lost natural heritage for ethical as well as ecological reasons.
Significance of reintroduction:
- The reintroduction of cheetahs will help restore India’s open forests and grassland ecosystems, which have been suffering. Having cheetahs will result in greater biodiversity, and biodiversity is the hallmark of healthy ecosystems.
- India is also home to the world’s largest free-roaming populations of livestock. Bringing back the cheetah will focus attention on pastoralism, and in doing so, help restore India’s natural heritage.
- The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is one of the oldest of the big cat species, with ancestors that can be traced back more than five million years to the Miocene era.
- The cheetah is also the world’s fastest land mammal, an icon of nature.
- The species is IUCN Red Listed as vulnerable.
- With great speed and dexterity, the cheetah is known for being an excellent hunter, its kills feeding many other animals in its ecosystem—ensuring that multiple species survive.
- The country’s last spotted feline died in Chhattisgarh in 1947. Later, the cheetah — which is the fastest land animal — was declared extinct in India in 1952.
- The Asiatic cheetah is classified as a “critically endangered” species by the IUCN Red List, and is believed to survive only in Iran.
- The reasons for extinction can all be traced to man’s interference. Problems like human-wildlife conflict, loss of habitat and loss of prey, and illegal trafficking, have decimated their numbers.
- The advent of climate change and growing human populations have only made these problems worse.
- With less available land for wildlife, species that require vast home range like the cheetah are placed in competition with other animals and humans, all fighting over less space.
- In 2005, The National Tiger Conservation Authority was established in following a recommendation of the Tiger Task Force, constituted by the Prime Minister of India for reorganized management of Project Tiger and the Tiger Reserves of India.
- For this purpose, The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 was amended (Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006) to provide for constituting of the National Tiger Conservation Authority responsible for implementation of the Project Tiger Plan to protect endangered tigers.
Nauradehi wildlife sanctuary:
- It is largest wildlife sanctuary of Madhya Pradesh in India.
- It is located at the tri junction of Sagar, Damoh and Narsingpur districts.
- It is selected for Cheetah re-introduction Project in India.
- It is a unique protected area where in two major river basins of India are encompassed, namely the Narmada & Ganges.
- Three-fourth of the wildlife sanctuary falls in the Yamuna and one fourth falls in the Narmada basin. Thus Nauradehi is such a unique biodiversity area.
- Nauradehi sanctuary management has selected Indian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes) as mono of Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary due to its super predatory nature.
The wildlife refuge is divided into six ranges:
- Mohli Range
- Singpur Range
- Jhapan Range
- Sarra Range
- D’Gaon Range
- Nauradehi Range
- Leopard, Wild dog (Dholes), Nilgai (Blue bull), Sambhar, Indian Wolf, Chital, Chinkara, Sloth Bear, Wild Boar, Hyena, Crocodile etc.
- Bird watching is great as presence of large water bodies allures migratory and resident avian species. Principal flora of this jungle is Teak, Saja, Dhawda, Bhirra etc.
10 more wetlands from India get the Ramsar site tag
India has added 10 more wetlands to sites protected by the Ramsar Convention.
- With this, a total of 37 sites in the country have been recognised under the international treaty.
Uttar Pradesh: Nawabganj, Parvati Agra, Saman, Samaspur, Sandi and Sarsai Nawar
Punjab: Keshopur-Miani, Beas Conservation Reserve and Nangal
Maharashtra: Nandur Madhameshwar [first in Maharashtra]
The other Ramsar sites are in Rajasthan, Kerala, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Tripura.
About Ramsar convention:
- The Convention on Wetlands was signed in Ramsar, a city in Iran, in 1971.
- It came into force in 1975.
- It is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlandsand their resources.
- The world’s first Ramsar site was the Cobourg Peninsula in Australia, designated in 1974.
- The mission of Ramsar Convention is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.
Under the “three pillars” of the Convention, the Contracting Parties commit to:
- Work towards the wise use of all their wetlands
- Designate suitable wetlands for the list of Wetlands of International Importance (the “Ramsar List”) and ensure their effective management
- Cooperate internationally on transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems and shared species.
- India is a party to the Convention since 1982 and committed to the Ramsar approach of wise use of wetlands.
- India currently has 37 sites designated as Wetlands.
- Recently Sunderbans Wetland, West Bengal was added to this list on 30th January, 2019.
About Montreux Record:
- Montreux Record under the Convention is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.
- The Montreux Record maintained as part of the Ramsar List.
- The Montreux Record was established by recommendation of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (1990).
- Sites may be added to and removed from the Record only with the approval of the Contracting Parties in which they lie.
Indian wetlands of International importance included in the Montreux Record are –
- Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan
- Loktak Lake, Manipur
Chilika Lake was removed from the register in 2002, which is the first Ramsar site in Asia to be removed from the Montreux record.
Loktak Lake, Manipur:
- Loktak Lake is the freshwater lake in Northeast India and is famous for the phumdis floating over it.
- Phumdis are heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil and organic matter at various stages of decomposition.
- Located on this phumdi, Keibul Lamjao National Park is the only floating national park in the world.
Bilateral & International Relations
Palm oil moved from the ‘free’ to ‘restricted’ list of imports by India from Malaysia
India has cut import duty on crude palm oil (CPO) and refined, bleached and deodorised (RBD) palm oil, and also moved RBD oil from the “free” to the “restricted” list of imports to Malaysia.
- The Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEAI) issued a short advisory asking its members to avoid importing palm oil from Malaysia till clarity emerges.
- This move has been construed as retaliation against Malaysia’s Prime Minister who has criticised India’s internal policy decisions such as the revocation of the special status for Jammu and Kashmir and the new citizenship Act.
- The import of RBD palm oil has been restricted, not banned.
Palm oil imports:
- India’s total annual palm oil import is 9 million tonne out of which around 3-3.5 million tonne is imported from Malaysia and rest from Indonesia, another major palm oil producing country.
- Palm oil accounts for almost two-thirds of the India’s total edible oil imports.
Alternative for India:
- Indonesia and Malaysia together produce 85% of the world’s palm oil and India is among the biggest buyers of it.
- Malaysia’s refining capacity equals its production capacity, this is why Malaysia is keen on exporting refined oil.
- Indonesia can supply crude palm oil which would allow India to utilise its full refining capacity.
- The refining industry of India has been demanding that the import duty on refined oil be increased, which would make importing crude oil cheaper than importing refined oil.
How will Malaysia be affected?
- With imports to its largest market restricted, Malaysian palm oil futures can be fell.
- In 2011, India and Malaysia signed a free trade agreement- Malaysia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.
- Under the agreement, if India does not issue licenses for importing refined oil, Malaysia will have to find new buyers for its product.
Effect on farmers:
- Restricting refined oil imports will not help farmers directly but the restrictions have caused refined palm oil prices to increase so the farmers will get a better realisation for their crop.
How and why crude oil is refined?
- Crude oil contains fatty acids, gums and wax-like substances. Refining neutralises the acids and filters out the other substances.
- The filtrate is bleached so that the oil does not change colour after repeated use.
- Substances that may cause the oil to smell are removed physically or chemically.
- This entire process increases the value of a barrel of crude oil by about 4%.
- Additionally, there are costs to transporting the crude,which makes it more cost-effective to import the refined oil.
About Palm oil:
- It is the cheapest edible oil available naturally.
- Its inert taste makes it suitable for use in foods ranging from baked goods to fried snacks.
- It stays relatively stable at high temperatures therefore it is suitable for reuse and deep frying.
- It is the main ingredient in vanaspati (hydrogenated vegetable oil).
Science & Technology
Bhuvan Panchayat version 3.0
ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) has recently launched Bhuvan Panchayat version 3.0.
About the project:
- Under the project, the ISRO will collaborate with Gram panchayat members to understand their data requirements.
- The portal will function with the help of satellite technology of ISRO.
- The portal aims at helping village development planning process under the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.
- This version of the portal will provide database visualisation , data analytics, generation of automatic reports, model-based products and services for Gram Panchayat members and other stake-holders.
- Using Bhuvan satellite imagery, hi-resolution database at 1:10,000 scale is applied to identify land use land cover, settlements, road and rail network etc.
- The targeted audiences for this portal are Public, PRIs and different stakeholders belonging to the gram panchayats.
The project will run for two years.
What is Bhuvan Project?
- Bhuvan is a satellite application that is powered by ISRO. It allows users to explore 2D and 3D representation of the earth.
Other Bhuvan Initiatives
- Bhuvan-GAIL monitors pipelines using space technology to address pipeline safety concerns.
- The MGNREGA of every Gram Panchayat are to be geo-tagged with the help of BHUVAN portal.
Other Initiatives of ISRO
- Along with Department of Land Resources, ISRO has developed Srishti to monitor Integrated Watershed Management Programme.
- ISRO is also setting up Telangana Water Resources Information System (TWRIS) on the Bhuvan Web Portal.
Farewell to NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope
Spitzer space telescope of NASA will be retired on January 30, 2020.
- Spitzer is going to shut down permanently after about 16 years of exploring the cosmos in infrared light.
- Unlike Hubble, which will be de-orbited to burn up in the atmosphere, the Spitzer has a very particular orbit, trailing about 158 million miles behind the Earth so that Earth’s heat wouldn’t interfere with its observations. But, as time goes on, it drifts ever farther away into the emptiness of space.
About the Spitzer Space Telescope:
- The Spitzer Space Telescope, made by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is an infrared space telescope.
- It was formerly known as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility.
- Launched into solar orbit on August 25, 2003, Spitzer was initially scheduled for a minimum 2.5-year primary mission. But the space telescope has lasted far beyond its expected lifetime.
- It studies the early universe, young galaxies, formation of stars as well as detect dust disks around stars.
- The name of the telescope was made after the Lyman Spitzer who was one of the 20th century’s who was the first person to propose the idea of placing a large telescope in space.
- It is the final mission in NASA’s Great Observatories Program. This programme includes Spitzer Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) and the Chandra X-ray Observatory.
- Launched in 2003, it was the first to fly in an Earth-trailing orbit. Rather than circling Earth, as Hubble telescope does, Spitzer orbits the Sun on almost the same path as Earth does.
- It was originally built to last for a minimum of 2.5 years, but it lasted for over 5.5 years in cold phase with a supply of liquid helium cooling on board instruments which gave Spitzer very high sensitivity for cold objects.
- It is currently operating in Warm phase since 2009 after its helium supply ran out.
- Spitzer is designed to detect infrared radiation, which is primarily heat radiation.
- Among the three scientific instruments – Infrared Array Camera (IRAC), Infrared Spectrograph (IRS)and Multiband Imaging Photometer for Spitzer (MIPS), of which IRAC is Spitzer’s main instrument is IRAC which is used for finding exoplanets using the “transit” method.
- Spitzer needs to be simultaneously cold and warm to function properly. Hence, it is compartmentalized in two major components – The Cryogenic Telescope Assembly, which contains a telescope in cold environment and the other is the ‘Spacecraft’ which has warm components including solar panels.
Achievements of Spitzer Telescope:
- Discover some of the oldest galaxies in the universe
- Revealed largest ring around Saturn.
- Peer through shrouds of dust to study newborn stars
- Discover most distant supermassive black holes ever
- Find evidence of several rocky collisions in distant solar systems
- Discover planets beyond our solar system — including the detection of seven Earth-size planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1
- Helped set the stage for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope set to launch in 2021
- Maps of the Milky Way galaxy was created using Spitzer data from the Galactic Legacy Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire project, or GLIMPSE.
- Spitzer has logged over 106,000 hours of observation time in the past 15 years.
- In 2016, Spitzer entered an extended mission named ‘Spitzer Beyond’ to help prepare for the James Webb Space Telescope by identifying candidates for more detailed observations.
[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]
Key Facts for Prelims
- Recently, Indian Navy launched Operation Vanilla in the Southern Indian Ocean based on the request received from Madagascar.
- The Operation has been launched to assist the population of Madagascar that were affected by Cyclone Diane.
Location of Madagascar:
- Madagascar is an island country in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa.
- It is the world’s 4th largest island country after Greenland (1st), New Guinea (2nd) and Borneo (3rd).
- It is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth.