Black Lists’ of Indian-origin people
The Ministry of Home Affairs announced that it has put an end to the local adverse lists commonly known as ‘Black Lists’ of Indian-origin people.
It is a list maintained by Indian Embassies in different countries and posts abroad.
It contains list of Indian-origin people who have taken asylum (i.e. right to international protection in this other country) abroad under plea of alleged persecution in India. These asylum seekers in list are predominantly Sikhs.
Those who are in list are denied visa services by Indian missions and posts in respective country.
Implications of the new move:
Such Indian-origin asylees and their family members who are now not in adverse list, will be granted visa and consular services at par with foreigners of country in which they are living. They can also get Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards if they have held normal Indian visas for at least two years.
The government has also delegated to state governments and Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRROs) to grant permits to foreigners to visit protected and restricted areas in the country.
The state governments and FRROs can now grant such permits even for non-tourism purposes and even in areas not opened for tourism purposes.
Char Dham pilgrimage
Chardham Yatra: Kedarnath portals open for public.
About Chardham project:
The project involves developing and widening 900-km of national highways connecting the holy Hindu pilgrimage sites of; Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri at an estimated cost of Rs.12,000 crores.
The highway will be called Char Dham Mahamarg(Char Dham Highway) and the highway construction project will be called as Char Dham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojana (Char Dham Highway Development Project).
The roads will be widened from 12m to 24m and the project will involve construction of tunnels, bypasses, bridges, subways and viaducts.
Source: The Hindu
Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART)
NASA’s First Planetary Defense Technology Demonstration to Collide with Asteroid in 2022.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, is a spacecraft designed to determine whether an asteroid can be redirected with a high-speed collision.
SpaceX will launch the spacecraft toward an asteroid named Didymos about 4 million miles from Earth. It then will ram into the asteroid’s small moon at about 13,000 miles per hour.
DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique – striking the asteroid to shift its orbit – to defend against a potential future asteroid impact.
How it impacts?
The target for DART is an asteroid that will have a distant approach to Earth in October 2022, and then again in 2024. The asteroid is called Didymos – Greek for “twin” -because it is an asteroid binary system that consists of two bodies: Didymos A, about 780 metres in size, and a smaller asteroid orbiting it called Didymos B, about 160 metres in size.
DART would impact only the smaller of the two bodies, Didymos B. The Didymos system has been closely studied since 2003. The primary body is a rocky S-type object, with composition similar to that of many asteroids.
The composition of its small companion, Didymos B, is unknown, but the size is typical of asteroids that could potentially create regional effects should they impact Earth. After launch, DART would fly to Didymos and use an APL-developed onboard autonomous targeting system to aim itself at Didymos B.
Then the refrigerator-sized spacecraft would strike the smaller body at a speed about nine times faster than a bullet, about six kilometres per second. Earth-based observatories would be able to see the impact and the resulting change in the orbit of Didymos B around Didymos A, allowing scientists to better determine the capabilities of kinetic impact as an asteroid mitigation strategy.
The kinetic impact technique works by changing the speed of a threatening asteroid by a small fraction of its total velocity, but by doing it well before the predicted impact so that this small nudge will add up over time to a big shift of the asteroid’s path away from Earth.
Source: The Hindu
El Niños have become stronger and their pattern too has been changing, the world’s first 400-year-long seasonal record of El Niño created by Australian scientists has revealed. Traditional El Niño events have also become more intense in nature.
The El Niño trends of the past have been studied on the basis of coral cores spanning the Pacific Ocean.
It was made possible because coral cores — like tree rings — have centuries-long growth patterns and contain isotopes that can tell us a lot about the climate of the past. Hence, the key to unlocking the El Niño record was understanding that coral records contained enough information to identify seasonal changes in the tropical Pacific Ocean.
The trend of El Niño in the last four centuries shows a variation in El Niño types. There has been a simultaneous increase in central Pacific events and a decrease in eastern Pacific ones since the late twentieth century.
This leads to a ratio of central to eastern Pacific events that is unusual in a multi-century context. Compared to the past four centuries, the most recent 30-year period includes fewer, but more intense, eastern Pacific El Niño events.
There has been an unprecedented increase in the number of El Niños forming in the central Pacific over the past 30 years, compared to all 30-year periods in the past 400 years.
At the same time, the stronger eastern Pacific El Niños were the most intense El Niño events ever recorded, according to both, the 100-year-long instrumental record and the 400-year-long coral record.
An understanding of El Niños in the past and present based on this four-century-old trend needs to be explored further by India for modelling, predicting and planning for future El Niños and their wide-ranging impacts.
What is ENSO?
ENSO is nothing but El Nino Southern Oscillation. As the name suggests, it is an irregular periodic variation of wind and sea surface temperature that occurs over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. ENSO affects the tropics (the regions surrounding the equator) and the subtropics (the regions adjacent to or bordering the tropics). The warming phase of ENSO is called El Nino, while the cooling phase is known as La Nina.
What is El Nino?
El Nino is a climatic cycle characterised by high air pressure in the Western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern. In normal conditions, strong trade winds travel from east to west across the tropical Pacific, pushing the warm surface waters towards the western Pacific. The surface temperature could witness an increase of 8 degrees Celsius in Asian waters. At the same time, cooler waters rise up towards the surface in the eastern Pacific on the coasts of Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. This process called upwelling aids in the development of a rich ecosystem.
What causes El Nino?
El Nino sets in when there is anomaly in the pattern. The westward-blowing trade winds weaken along the Equator and due to changes in air pressure, the surface water moves eastwards to the coast of northern South America. The central and eastern Pacific regions warm up for over six months and result in an El Nino condition. The temperature of the water could rise up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Warmer surface waters increase precipitation and bring above-normal rainfall in South America, and droughts to Indonesia and Australia.
Source: The Hindu
14th Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (COP-14) is being held in Geneva, Switzerland.
Basel Convention — Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal:
Haiti and the United States have signed the Convention but not ratified.
It is an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs).
It does not address the movement of radioactive waste.
The Convention is also intended to minimize the amount and toxicity of wastes generated, to ensure their environmentally sound management and to assist LDCs in environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate.
Source: Down to Earth
Trans fatty acids (TFA)
The WHO has joined hands with the International Food and Beverage Alliance (IFBA) to achieve the target of eliminating industrially produced trans fats by 2023. Eliminating industrially produced trans-fat is one of the simplest and most effective ways to save lives and create a healthier food supply.
The commitment made by the IFBA is in line with the WHO’s target to eliminate industrial trans fat from the global food supply by 2023.
What are Trans fats?
Trans fatty acids (TFAs) or Trans fats are the most harmful type of fats which can have much more adverse effects on our body than any other dietary constituent. These fats are largely produced artificially but a small amount also occurs naturally. Thus in our diet, these may be present as Artificial TFAs and/ or Natural TFAs.
Artificial TFAs are formed when hydrogen is made to react with the oil to produce fats resembling pure ghee/butter.
In our diet the major sources of artificial TFAs are the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO)/vanaspati/ margarine while the natural TFAs are present in meats and dairy products, though in small amounts.
TFAs pose a higher risk of heart disease than saturated fats. While saturated fats raise total cholesterol levels, TFAs not only raise total cholesterol levels but also reduce the good cholesterol (HDL), which helps to protect us against heart disease. Trans fats consumption increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
It is also associated with a higher risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, infertility, certain types of cancers and can also lead to compromised fetal development causing harm to the yet to be born baby.
Why they are increasingly being used?
TFA containing oils can be preserved longer, they give the food the desired shape and texture and can easily substitute ‘Pure ghee’. These are comparatively far lower in cost and thus add to profit/saving.
WHO recommends that trans-fat intake be limited to less than 1% of total energy intake and has called for the total elimination of TFAs in global food supply by 2023. FSSAI has proposed to limit TFA limit in foods to 2% and eliminate trans fats from foods by 2022.
Source: The Hindu
Grizzled Giant Squirrel
For the first time, researchers have sighted nests of the grizzled giant squirrel at Pakkamalai Reserve Forests near Gingee in the Eastern Ghats.
The grizzled giant squirrel is usually known to nest in the Western Ghats in Southern India ranging from Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary in Kerala to Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Palani hills in Tamil Nadu.
It has been categorised as near threatened by the Red List and listed under Schedule II of CITES.
It is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.