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28th August Current Affairs

Eco-sensitive zone of the Deepar Beel Wildlife Sanctuary notified

(GS-III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment)

In News:

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified the eco-sensitive zone of the Deepar Beel Wildlife Sanctuary on the south-western edge of Guwahati.

The notification specified an area “to an extent varying from 294 metres to 16.32 km” as the eco-sensitive zone, with the total area being 148.9767 sq. km.

Need for:

The wetland has for decades been threatened by a railway track — set to be doubled and electrified — on its southern rim, a garbage dump, and encroachment from human habitation and commercial units.

Implications of the latest move:

No new commercial hotels and resorts shall be permitted within 1 km of the boundary of the protected area or up to the extent of the eco-sensitive zone, whichever is nearer, except for small temporary structures for eco-tourism activities.

Among activities prohibited in the eco-sensitive zone are hydroelectric projects, brick kilns, commercial use of firewood and discharge of untreated effluents in natural water bodies or land areas.

About Deepar Beel:

Deepar Beel is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Assam and the State’s only Ramsar site besides being an Important Bird Area.

It is a permanent freshwater lake, in a former channel of the Brahmaputra River, to the south of the main river.

Why this wetland needs protection?

The wetland of Deepar Beel constitutes a unique habitat for aquatic flora and avian fauna.

About 150 species of birds have been recorded in the sanctuary, out of which two are critically endangered, one endangered, five vulnerable and four near-threatened.

Elephants regularly visit the wetland from adjoining Rani and Garhbhanda Reserve Forest and the wetland is an integral part of the elephant habitat.

Besides these, 12 species of reptiles, 50 species of fish, six species of amphibians along with 155 species of aquatic macro-biota have been recorded in the sanctuary.

What are the Eco-sensitive Zones (ESZs)?

Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs) are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.

The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.

They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.

The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-Sensitive Zones”.

An ESZ could go up to 10 kilometres around a protected area as provided in the Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2002.

Moreover, in the case where sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, are beyond 10 km width, these should be included in the ESZs.

Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme

(GS-III: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment)

In News:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced the Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme 2021-22 Series VI, which will be open for subscription for the period August 30-September 3, 2021.

About the Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme:

The sovereign gold bond was introduced by the Government in 2015.

Government introduced these bonds to help reduce India’s over dependence on gold imports.

The move was also aimed at changing the habits of Indians from saving in physical form of gold to a paper form with Sovereign backing.

Key facts:

Eligibility: The bonds will be restricted for sale to resident Indian entities, including individuals, HUFs, trusts, universities and charitable institutions.

Denomination and tenor: The bonds will be denominated in multiples of gram(s) of gold with a basic unit of 1 gram. The tenor will be for a period of 8 years with exit option from the 5th year to be exercised on the interest payment dates.

Minimum and Maximum limit: The minimum permissible investment limit will be 1 gram of gold, while the maximum limit will be 4 kg for individual, 4 kg for Hindu Undivided Family and 20 kg for trusts and similar entities per fiscal (April-March) notified by the government from time to time.

Joint Holder: In case of joint holding, the investment limit of 4 kg will be applied to the first applicant only.

Collateral: Bonds can be used as collateral for loans. The loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is to be set equal to ordinary gold loan mandated by the Reserve Bank from time to time.

Animal Discoveries 2020

(GS-III: Conservation related issues)

In News:

It is a document published recently by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).

It reveals that 557 new species have been added to India’s fauna in 2020, which includes 407 new species and 150 new records.

The number of faunal species in India has climbed to 1,02,718 species.

Important Species added:

Trimeresurus salazar, a new species of green pit viper discovered from Arunachal Pradesh;

Lycodon deccanensis, the Deccan wolf snake discovered from Karnataka;

Sphaerotheca Bengaluru, a new species of burrowing frog named after the city of Bengaluru.

Xyrias anjaalai, a new deep water species of snake eel from Kerala;

Glyptothorax giudikyensis, a new species of catfish from Manipur;

Clyster galateansis, a new species of scarab beetles from the Great Nicobar Biosphere.

Myotis cf. frater, a bat species earlier known from China, Taiwan and Russia, has been reported for the first time from Uttarakhand in India;

Zoothera citrina gibsonhilli, an orange-headed thrush earlier known from southern Myanmar to south Thailand (central Malay peninsula), was reported for the first time from India based on a collection made from the Narcondam island in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Zoological Survey of India:

The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), a subordinate organization of the Ministry of Environment and Forests was established in 1916.

It is a national centre for faunistic survey and exploration of the resources leading to the advancement of knowledge on the exceptionally rich faunal diversity of the country.

It has its headquarters at Kolkata and 16 regional stations located in different geographic locations of the country.

Merger of three jumbo black holes spotted

(GS-III: Awareness in space)

In News:

A rare merging of three supermassive black holes has been spotted by a team of astrophysicists in India.

Key facts:

All three merging black holes were part of galaxies in the Toucan constellation.

The discovery was made using data from the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UVIT) onboard the first Indian space observatory ASTROSAT, the European integral field optical telescope called MUSE mounted on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile and infrared images from the optical telescope (IRSF) in South Africa.

Important learning from this discovery:

Presence of third black hole solves the final parsec problem:

What is it?

If two galaxies collide, their black hole will also come closer by transferring the kinetic energy to the surrounding gas. The distance between the blackholes decreases with time until the separation is around a parsec (3.26 light-years). The two black holes are then unable to lose any further kinetic energy to get even closer and merge. This is known as the final parsec problem.

How presence of third black hole solves this problem?

The presence of a third black hole can solve this problem. The two can come closer when another black hole or a star passes by and takes away some of their combined angular momentum. Thus, the dual merging blackholes merge with each other in the presence of a third.

Significance of the discovery:

Many Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN, supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy) pairs have been detected in the past, but triple AGN are extremely rare, and only a handful has been detected before using X-ray observations.

What is a black hole?

A black hole is an object in space that is so dense and has such strong gravity that no matter or light can escape its pull. Because no light can escape, it is black and invisible.

There’s a boundary at the edge of a black hole called the event horizon, which is the point of no return — any light or matter that crosses that boundary is sucked into the black hole. It would need to travel faster than the speed of light to escape, which is impossible.

Anything that crosses the event horizon is destined to fall to the very centre of the black hole and be squished into a single point with infinite density, called the singularity.