09 May Current Affairs
May 9, 2019
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May 11, 2019
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10 May Current Affairs

Bengal tigers may not survive climate change

In News:

The survival of around five lakh land species is in question because of threats to their natural habitat, finds a UN report.

Key findings of the report:

Vulnerable: The cats are among 500,000 land species whose survival is in question because of threats to their natural habitats.

Main Causes: Climate change and rising sea levels.

Threats to Sundarbans: 70% of Sunderbans now is just a few feet above sea level, and grave changes are in store for the region.

Subsequent impact on tigers: Changes wrought by a warming planet will be “enough to decimate” the few hundred or so Bengal tigers remaining there. By 2070, there will be no suitable tiger habitats remaining in the Bangladesh Sundarbans.

Threats to tiger population: Since the early 1900s, habitat loss, hunting and the illegal trade of animal parts have decimated the global population of tigers from around 100,000 to fewer than 4,000.

In the Bangladesh Sundarbans, a spike in extreme weather events and changing vegetation will further reduce the population. And as the Sundarbans flood, confrontations may grow between humans and tigers as the animals stray outside their habitat in search of new land.

Background:

The Sundarbans, 10,000 square kilometres of marshy land in Bangladesh and India, hosts the world’s largest mangrove forest and a rich ecosystem supporting several hundred animal species, including the Bengal tiger.

Concerns:

The latest finding adds to existing studies that offered similarly grim predictions for wildlife in the Sundarbans.

In 2010, the World Wide Fund for Nature projected that a sea level rise of 11 inches could reduce the number of tigers in the Sundarbans by 96%within a few decades.

Beyond sea level rise account for 5.4%to 11.3% of the projected habitat loss in 2050 and 2070.

In October, a landmark report from the UN found that if greenhouse gas emissions continued at the current rate, the atmosphere would warm as much as 1.5C above preindustrial levels by 2040.  That increase would have significant consequences for food chains, coral reefs and flood-prone areas. It may also disproportionally affect poorer, densely packed countries like Bangladesh, which is home to 160 million people.

In an analysis of decades of tidal records, scientists found that high tides were rising much faster than the global average in Bangladesh, which sits in the Ganges Delta, a complex network of rivers and streams.

About Sundarbans:

The Sundarbans comprises hundreds of islands and a network of rivers, tributaries and creeks in the delta of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal in India and Bangladesh.

Located on the southwestern part of the delta, the Indian Sundarban constitutes over 60% of the country’s total mangrove forest area.

It is the 27th Ramsar Site in India, and with an area of 4,23,000 hectares is now the largest protected wetland in the country.

The Indian Sundarban, also a UNESCO world heritage site, is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger. It is also home to a large number of “rare and globally threatened species, such as the critically endangered northern river terrapin (Batagur baska), the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), and the vulnerable fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus).”

Two of the world’s four horseshoe crab species, and eight of India’s 12 species of kingfisher are also found here. Recent studies claim that the Indian Sundarban is home to 2,626 faunal species and 90% of the country’s mangrove varieties.

Source: The Hindu

World Customs Organization

In News:

Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), under Ministry of Finance is organising a meeting of Regional Heads of Customs Administration of Asia Pacific Region of World Customs Organisation (WCO) in Kochi (in Kerela). India currently holds seat of Vice Chairperson of Asia Pacific region.

About WCO:

Established in 1952 as the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC).

It is an independent intergovernmental body whose mission is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs administrations.

As the global centre of Customs expertise, the WCO is the only international organization with competence in Customs matters and can rightly call itself the voice of the international Customs community.

Members: The WCO has divided its Membership into six Regions. Each of the six Regions is represented by a regionally elected Vice-Chairperson to the WCO Council.

Roles and functions:

As a forum for dialogue and exchange of experiences between national Customs delegates, the WCO offers its Members a range of Conventions and other international instruments, as well as technical assistance and training services.

Besides the vital role played by the WCO in stimulating the growth of legitimate international trade, its efforts to combat fraudulent activities are also recognized internationally.

WCO has also been responsible for administering the World Trade Organization’s Agreements on Customs Valuation, which provide a system for placing values on imported goods, and the Rules of Origin, which are used to determine the origin of a given commodity.

Source: The Hindu

MODIS (or Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer)

In News:

NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data shows that China and India are leading the increase in “greening efforts” across the world.

Key findings:

Global green leaf area has increased by 5% since the early 2000s. This translates to a net increase in leaf area of 2.3% per decade, which is equivalent to adding 5.4 × 106 sq km new leaf area over the 18-year period of the record (2000 to 2017). This is equivalent to the area of the Amazon.

China alone accounts for 25% of the global net increase in leaf area. India has contributed a further 6.8%.

The greening in China is from forests (42%) and croplands (32%) but in India is mostly from croplands (82%) with minor contribution from forests (4.4%).

With only 2.7% of the global vegetated area, India accounts for 6.8% of the global net increase in leaf area. It is as expected because most of the land cover type in India is cropland. Total cereal production in India increased by 26% during the same period.

There are only a few forests in India, and that is why their contribution is small. Data show that since Independence, a fifth of India’s land has consistently been under forests.

The Forest Survey of India’s State of Forest Report 2017 had recorded that forest cover had increased by 6,600 sq km or 0.21% since 2015.

About MODIS:

MODIS (or Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) is a key instrument aboard the Terra (originally known as EOS AM-1) and Aqua (originally known as EOS PM-1) satellites.

Terra’s orbit around the Earth is timed so that it passes from north to south across the equator in the morning, while Aqua passes south to north over the equator in the afternoon.

Terra MODIS and Aqua MODIS are viewing the entire Earth’s surface every 1 to 2 days, acquiring data in 36 spectral bands, or groups of wavelengths.

Significance: These data will improve our understanding of global dynamics and processes occurring on the land, in the oceans, and in the lower atmosphere. MODIS is playing a vital role in the development of validated, global, interactive Earth system models able to predict global change accurately enough to assist policy makers in making sound decisions concerning the protection of our environment.

Source: The Hindu

UNEP report on Sand and Sustainability

In News:

The UNEP has released a report, “Sand and Sustainability: Finding new solutions for environmental governance of global sand resources.”

Problem is highlighted in the report:

Sand consumption globally has been increasing and we are extracting it at rates exceeding natural replenishment rates.

Sand and gravel are the second largest natural resources extracted and traded by volume after water, but among the least regulated.

While 85% to 90% of global sand demand is met from quarries, and sand and gravel pits, the 10% to 15% extracted from rivers and sea shores is a severe concern due the environmental and social impacts.

A 40-50 billion tonne of crushed rock, sand and gravel is extracted from quarries, pits, rivers, coastlines and the marine environment each year. The construction industry consumes over half of this, and will consume even more in the future.

China and India head the list of critical hotspots for sand extraction impacts in rivers, lakes and on coastlines.

Cause for concern:

Their extraction often results in river and coastal erosion and threats to freshwater and marine fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, instability of river banks leading to increased flooding, and lowering of ground water levels.

Most large rivers of the world have lost between half and 95% of their natural sand and gravel delivery to ocean the report says.

The damming of rivers for hydro-electricity production or irrigation is reducing the amount of sediment flowing downstream.

This broken replenishment system exacerbates pressures on beaches already threatened by sea level rise and intensity of storm-waves induced by climate change, as well as coastal developments.

There are also indirect consequences, like loss of local livelihoods — an ironic example is that construction in tourist destinations can lead to depletion of natural sand in the area, thereby making those very places unattractive — and safety risks for workers where the industry is not regulated.

What needs to be done?

Better spatial planning and reducing unnecessary construction — including speculative projects or those being done mainly for prestige — thereby making more efficient use of aggregates.

Investing in infrastructure maintenance and retrofitting rather than the demolish and rebuild cycle, embracing alternative design and construction methods, even avoiding use of cement and concrete where possible, and using green infrastructure.

Need for large-scale multipronged actions from global to local levels, involving public, private and civil society organisations. This will mean building consensus, defining what success would look like, and reconciling policies and standards with sand availability, development imperatives and standards and enforcement realities.

Source: The Hindu

Monkeypox virus: Singapore reports first case of rare virus

In News:

Singapore recently reported the first ever case of the Monkeypox Virus, a rare virus similar to the human smallpox.

About Monkeypox Virus:

Monkeypox virus (MPXV) is an orthopoxvirus that causes a viral disease with symptoms in humans similar, but milder, to those seen in smallpox patients.

Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, whereas human monkeypox is endemic in villages of Central and West Africa.

The occurrence of cases is often found close to tropical rainforests where there is frequent contact with infected animals.

There is no evidence to date that person-to-person transmission alone can sustain monkeypox in the human population.

Transmission:

Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis, i.e. a disease transmitted from animals to humans. It can be transmitted through contact with the blood, bodily fluids, or cutaneous or mucosal lesions of infected animals. Human infections have been documented through the handling of infected monkeys, Gambian giant rats and squirrels, with rodents being the most likely reservoir of the virus.

Treatment:

As of now, there is no specific treatment or vaccine available for monkeypox infection. The patient is generally treated in isolation by doctors.

Source: ToI

Commonwealth Tribunal

In News:

Justice KS Radhakrishnan, a former Supreme Court judge, has been appointed as the Member of the Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal of London. He will serve a 4-year term from June 1, 2019 to May 31, 2023 as a Member of the Tribunal.

About Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal:

The Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal resolves disputes of the Commonwealth organisations, international or intergovernmental.

Based in London.

Functions under a Statute agreed by Commonwealth governments.

Composition: eight members, comprising the President and 7 Members. Members are selected by the Commonwealth Governments.

Eligibility: For the post of Member, a person shall be of high moral character who has held or holds high judicial office in a Commonwealth country. Even a legal consultant with at least 10 years of experience is eligible for the post.

Term: The Members are appointed for a 4-year term. Their term can be renewed, however, only once.

Functions:

It hears applications brought by staff of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth Secretariat or any person who is in contract with the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The Tribunal entertains only such cases in which organisations agree to surrender to its jurisdiction.

Source: The Hindu

Collegium System

In News:

Supreme Court Collegium, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, recommended the names of two judges to the court and rejected the government’s disapproval of the elevation of two others.

Background:

Collegium refused the government’s request to reconsider its April 12 recommendation to elevate Jharkhand High Court and Gauhati High Court Chief Justices Aniruddha Bose and A.S. Bopanna as Supreme Court judges.

The Collegium said their names were recommended after all parameters were considered. The Collegium said there was no reason to agree with the government as there was nothing adverse found in the two judges’ conduct, competence or integrity. Now, the government is bound to appoint Justices Bose and Bopanna to the court.

What is the Collegium System?

The Collegium System is a system under which appointments/elevation of judges/lawyers to Supreme Court and transfers of judges of High Courts and Apex Court are decided by a forum of the Chief Justice of India and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.’ There is no mention of the Collegium either in the original Constitution of India or in successive amendments.

The recommendations of the Collegium are binding on the Central Government; if the Collegium sends the names of the judges/lawyers to the government for the second time.

How Collegium System Works?

The Collegium sends the recommendations of the names of lawyers or judges to the Central Government. Similarly, the Central Government also sends some of its proposed names to the Collegium. The Central Government does the fact checking and investigate the names and resends the file to the Collegium.

Collegium considers the names or suggestions made by the Central Government and resends the file to the government for final approval. If the Collegium resends the same name again then the government has to give its assent to the names. But time limit is not fixed to reply. This is the reason that appointment of judges takes a long time.

Source: The Hindu

Group Sail

In News:

IN Ships Kolkata and Shakti recently carried out Group Sail with naval ships of Japan, Philippines and the United States of America in the South China Sea.

Details:

The Group Sail exercise aims to deepen the existing partnership and foster mutual understanding among participating navies.

The latest exercise with naval ships of Japan, Philippines and United States showcased India’s commitment to operating with like-minded nations to ensure safe maritime environment through enhanced interoperability.

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