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14th April Current Affairs

Forest fires in the spring and their frequency throughout this year

In News:

Since the start of 2021, there has been a series of forest fires in Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland-Manipur border, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat, including in wildlife sanctuaries.

Details:

April-May is the season when forest fires take place in various parts of the country. But, forest fires have been more frequent than usual in Uttarakhand and have also taken place during winter; dry soil caused by a weak monsoon is being seen as one of the causes.

How prone to fire are India’s forests?

Most vulnerable areas: Forests of the Northeast and central India regions are the most vulnerable areas to forest fires.

‘Extremely prone’ areas: Forests in Assam, Mizoram and Tripura have been identified as ‘extremely prone’ to forest fire.

‘Very highly prone’ category: States with large forest areas under the ‘very highly prone’ category include Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Maharashtra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

‘Extremely prone’ category: Western Maharashtra, Southern Chhattisgarh and areas of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, along with central Odisha, are turning into ‘extremely prone’ forest fire hotspots.

Areas under the ‘highly prone’ and ‘moderately prone’ categories make up about 26.2% of the total forest cover — a whopping 1,72,374 sq km.

What causes forest fires?

Lack of soil moisture.

Rainfall deficiency.

Natural causes such as lightning, high atmospheric temperatures and low humidity

Man-made causes like flame, cigarette, electric spark or any source of ignition will also cause forest fires.

The problem has been aggravated with rising human and cattle population and the increase in demand for grazing, shifting cultivation and Forest products by individuals and communities.

Why are forest fires difficult to control?

  • The locality of the forest and access to it pose hurdles in initiating firefighting efforts.
  • During peak season, shortage of staff is another challenge in dispatching firefighting teams.
  • Timely mobilisation of forest staff, fuel and equipment, depending on the type of fire, through the thick forests remain challenges.
  • As it is impossible to transport heavy vehicles loaded with water into the thick forests, a majority of fire dousing is initiated manually, using blowers and similar devices.
  • Wind speed and direction play a critical role in bringing a forest fire under control. The fire often spreads in the direction of the winds and towards higher elevations.

What efforts are being taken to protect forests from fire?

  • Since 2004, the FSI developed the Forest Fire Alert System to monitor forest fires in real time.
  • In its advanced version launched in January 2019, the system now uses satellite information gathered from NASA and ISRO.
  • Real-time fire information from identified fire hotspots is gathered using MODIS sensors (1km by 1km grid) and electronically transmitted to FSI.

China’s digital currency

In News:

China in February launched the latest round of pilot trials of its new digital currency, with reported plans of a major roll-out by the end of the year and ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February 2022.

How does China’s digital currency work?

Officially titled the Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP), the digital RMB (or Renminbi, China’s currency) is a digital version of China’s currency. It can be downloaded and exchanged via an application authorised by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s central bank.

Key features of the digital currency:

This is a legal tender guaranteed by the central bank, not a payment guaranteed by a third-party operator.

There is no third-party transaction, and hence, no transaction fee.

Unlike e-wallets, the digital currency does not require Internet connectivity. The payment is made through Near-field Communication (NFC) technology.

Unlike non-bank payment platforms that require users to link bank accounts, this can be opened with a personal identification number.

Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal (FCAT)

In News:

The government by an ordinance has abolished the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal (FCAT).

Details:

The Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation And Conditions Of Service) Ordinance, 2021, which came into effect on April 4, amends the Cinematograph Act, 1952 by omitting some sections and replacing the word “Tribunal” with “High Court” in other sections.

About FCAT:

FCAT was a statutory body constituted by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in 1983, under the Cinematograph Act, 1952.

Its main job was to hear appeals filed under Section 5C of the Cinematograph Act, by applicants for certification aggrieved by the decision of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

Composition: The tribunal was headed by a chairperson and had four other members, including a Secretary appointed by the Government of India to handle. The Tribunal was headquartered in New Delhi.

Implications of the move:

The abolition means filmmakers will now have to approach the High Court whenever they want to challenge a CBFC certification, or lack of it.