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29 November Current Affairs

Heat Wave

In News:

The Lancet Countdown 2018 report has asked the Indian policy makers to take a series of initiatives to mitigate the increased risks to health, and the loss of labour hours due to a surge in exposure to heatwave events in the country over the 2012-2016 period.

Details:

From 2014-2017, the average length of heatwaves in India ranged from 3-4 days compared to the global average of 0.8-1.8 days, and Indians were exposed to almost 60 million heatwave exposure events in 2016, a jump of about 40 million from 2012.

A recent report has placed India amongst the countries who most experience high social and economic costs from climate change. Overall, across sectors India lost almost 75,000 million hours of labour in 2017, from about 43,000 million hours in 2000.

The agriculture sector was more vulnerable compared to the industrial and service sectors because workers there were more likely to be exposed to heat.

The India Meteorological Department had reported that from 1901 to 2007, there was an increase of more than 0.5°C in mean temperature, with considerable geographic variation, and climate forecasts by research groups project a 2.2-5.5°C rise in temperatures in northern, central and western India by the end of the 21st century.

Important recommendations (Lancet Study):

Identify “heat hot-spots” through appropriate tracking of meteorological data.

Promote “timely development and implementation of local Heat Action Plans with strategic inter-agency co-ordination and a response which targets the most vulnerable groups.”

Review existing occupational health standards, labour laws and sectoral regulations for worker safety in relation to climatic conditions.

What is a Heat Wave?

Heat wave is considered if maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C or more for Plains, 37°C or more for coastal stations and at least 30°C or more for Hilly regions.

Following criteria are used to declare heat wave:

Based on Departure from Normal:

Heat Wave: Departure from normal is 4.5°C to 6.4°C.

Severe Heat Wave: Departure from normal is >6.4°C.

Based on Actual Maximum Temperature (for plains only):

Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥ 45°C

Severe Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥47°C

To declare heat wave, the above criteria should be met at least in 2 stations in a Meteorological sub-division for at least two consecutive days and it will be declared on the second day.

Concerns:

Higher daily peak temperatures and longer, more intense heat waves are becomingly increasingly frequent globally due to climate change.

India too is feeling the impact of climate change in terms of increased instances of heat waves which are more intense in nature with each passing year, and have a devastating impact on human health.

Health Impacts of Heat Waves: The health impacts of Heat Waves typically involve dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke.

Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing morbidities are particularly vulnerable.

Source: The Hindu

Fly ash

In News:

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed penalties of up to ₹5 crore on thermal power plants that have not fully disposed of the fly ash they generated.

Significance and concerns associated with fly ash:

The order is significant because of the high contribution of fly ash to air and water pollution and its impact on crops being grown in villages around these plants.

Fly ash is a major source of PM 2.5 (fine, respirable pollution particles) in summer. It becomes air borne, and gets transported to a radius of 10 to 20 kms. It can settle on water and other surfaces. Fly ash contains heavy metals from coal, a large amount of PM 2.5 and black carbon (BC). Proper disposal of fly ash is still not happening in many places.

What can be done?

Fly ash, the end product of combustion during the process of power generation in the coal based thermal power plants, is a proven resource material for many applications of construction industries and currently is being utilized in manufacturing of Portland Cement, bricks/blocks/tiles manufacturing, road embankment construction and low lying area development, etc.

At present, 63% of the fly ash is being utilised and target is for 100% utilisation of the fly ash. There is need for education and awareness generation.

Road contractors and construction engineers need to know the benefits of using fly ash in construction.

Measures need to be taken to reduce the cost of construction of roads using fly ash by way of tax structure, subsidies and transportation services.

Besides, there is a need to prevent the ash from coming to the power plant by washing the coal at its place of origin. The government should also come out with a policy to encourage fly ash use in cement plant.

Source: The Hindu

Azov sea and Russia-Ukraine sea clash

 

What to Study?

Static Part: Location of Azov Sea and Kerch strait.

Dynamic and Current: Conflict on Azov sea between Russia and Ukraine, its political implications, impact on other countries, what needs to be done?

Why in News? Russia’s capture of three Ukrainian naval ships and over 20 crew members in the disputed Azov Sea has refocussed international attention on the conflict on Europe’s eastern corridors and Azov sea.

About the conflict in the Sea of Azov:

 

Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of violating international maritime law. They refer to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which both states joined in the 1990s.

Ukraine insists on freedom of movement in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov in accordance with this agreement, while the Russian side is trying to draw territorial borders. The countries also have a bilateral agreement on the free use of the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov, an accord that Russia has never called into question.

Why the Kerch Strait is important?

The Kerch Strait is the only connection between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, and the only way to reach two important Ukrainian ports, Mariupol and Berdiansk. Russia has controlled the strait since annexing Crimea in 2014, which has made traffic significantly more difficult for Ukrainian ships.

 

About Sea of Azov: It is a sea in Eastern Europe. To the south it is linked by the narrow (about 4 km or 2.5 mi) Strait of Kerch to the Black Sea, and it is sometimes regarded as a northern extension of the Black Sea.

The sea is bounded in the north and in the west by Ukraine, in the east by Russia.

The Don and Kuban are the major rivers that flow into it.

The Sea of Azov is the shallowest sea in the world, with the depth varying between 0.9 and 14 metres.

Sources: the Hindu.

Security restrictions in border areas revised

In News:

The Defence Ministry has issued fresh guidelines easing security restrictions in border areas by superseding the Security Restrictions Guidelines issued by it in 1990.

Key Highlights:

Under the new rules, restrictions have been lifted for works like construction, repair and maintenance of village ponds, construction and maintenance of government buildings like schools and hospitals.

It has allowed developmental work of small nature to be carried out by the central or state governments’ statutory bodies for faster development in the border areas.

Significance:

The need for new guidelines was felt, as the earlier restrictions were restrictive in nature towards developmental activities near border areas and were not fully facilitating in developmental works of small nature in the border areas.

The construction works in the border areas were getting affected due to provisions listed in the Defence Ministry’s existing guidelines. Hence, the state governments put forward requests to the centre to consider revision of the guidelines.

Source: The Hindu

Biggest coral reseeding project launches on Great Barrier Reef

In News:

Scientists have launched the largest-ever attempt to regenerate coral on the endangered Great Barrier Reef by harvesting millions of the creatures’ eggs and sperm during their annual spawning.

Details:

The plan is to grow coral larvae from the harvested eggs and return these to areas of the reef which have been badly damaged by climate-related coral bleaching.

Significance:

This is the first time that the entire process of large scale larval rearing and settlement will be undertaken directly on reefs on the Great Barrier Reef.

Concerns:

Coral along large swathes of the 2,300-kilometre (1,400-mile) reef have been killed by rising sea temperatures linked to climate change, leaving behind skeletal remains in a process known as coral bleaching.

The northern reaches of the reef suffered an unprecedented two successive years of severe bleaching in 2016 and 2017, raising fears it may have suffered irreparable damage.

What is Coral Bleaching?

Bleaching occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their colour. Corals can recover if the water temperature drops and the algae are able to recolonise them.

About the Great barrier reef:

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres. The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps. It was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.

Source: ToI

Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi , Kenya

In News:

The first Sustainable Blue Economy Conference was held in Nairobi, capital of Kenya. It was organized by Kenya and co-hosted by Japan and Canada.

Details:

“India endorses the growth of the Blue Economy in a sustainable, inclusive and people centered manner through the framework of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)”.

Major Highlights:

Sagarmala Programme –

It has identified 600 plus projects entailing a huge investment of $120 billion (nearly Rs. 8 lakh crore) by 2020.

It saves India $6 billion per annum in logistics costs besides creating 10 million new jobs and boosting port capacity by 800 Million Metric Tonne per Annum (MMTPA) to an overall 3500 MMTPA.

Coastal Economic Zones (CEZs) –

It is developed with a proposed investment of $150 Million per location.

It will become a microcosm of the blue economy, with the growth of industries and townships that depend on the sea and contribute to global trade through sea connectivity.

It also focuses on the development of coastal communities and people through skill gap analysis, skill development centers to train coastal communities in the sustainable use of ocean resources, modern fishing techniques and coastal tourism.

Several green initiatives were taken in the coastal regions like 31 MW of captive solar power generation at various ports, installation of oil spill response facilities, and

Study to identify ways to re-use waste water at ports.

Important Role of Private Sector –

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) took lead in 2016-2017 by establishing a taskforce to develop a business model on India’s engagement in the blue economy sector.

Background:

The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference is the first global conference on the sustainable blue economy.

It builds on the momentum of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris and the UN Ocean Conference 2017 “Call to Action”.

The world has rallied around the enormous pressures facing our oceans and waters, from plastic pollution to the impacts of climate change. At the same time, there is international recognition that we need to develop our waters in an inclusive and sustainable manner for the benefit of all.

Source: PIB

Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) for Himachal Pradesh

In News:

The Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh launched Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) for Himachal Pradesh.

Details:

Himachal Pradesh is the first state to launch pan-India single emergency number ‘112’ under ERSS.

It will connect to Police, Fire, Health and other helplines through an Emergency Response Centre in the State.

A “SHOUT” Feature:

To ensure safety of women, a SHOUT feature has been introduced in 112 India mobile app to seek immediate assistance from registered volunteers in the vicinity apart from the immediate assistance from Emergency Response Centre.

This feature is exclusively available for women.

Central Government has allocated Rs 321.69 crore under Nirbhaya Fund for implementation of ERSS project across the country.

What is Nirbhaya Fund?

In order to eradicate violence against women and girls, Central Government has set up Nirbhaya Fund.

It is administered by the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance.

It can be utilized for projects for women safety and security.

Ministry of Women and Child Development is the nodal authority for appraising/recommending the proposals/schemes to be funded under Nirbhaya fund.

Source: PIB

Legion d’Honneur (Legion of Honour)

In News:

Global software major Wipro Chairman Azim Premji has been conferred with the highest French civilian award ‘Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur’ (Knight of the Legion of Honour) in Bengaluru, in recognition of his contribution to the Indian IT industry and philanthropy.

Details:

The Legion of Honour, instituted in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, is the highest civilian award given by the French Republic for outstanding service to France, regardless of the nationality of the recipients. The President of France is the Grand Master of the Order of the Legion of Honour.

Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB)

In News:

Union Government has appointed renowned scientist Nageshwara Rao Guntur as Chairperson of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

About AERB:

It was established in November 1983 to carry out certain regulatory and safety functions in the fields of nuclear and radiation safety on a countrywide basis.

It was constituted by President of India by exercising powers conferred by Section 27 of Atomic Energy Act, 1962 to carry out certain regulatory and safety functions under the Act.

The regulatory authority of AERB is derived from rules and notifications promulgated under Atomic Energy Act, 1962 and Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986.

Its mission is to ensure that use of ionising radiation and nuclear energy in India does not cause undue risk to health and environment.

Country’s first owl festival in Pune

The Indian Owl Festival, the country’s first owl fest, is being held at Pingori village in Purandar taluka of Pune.

The two-day festival, organised by Ela Foundation, an NGO working towards nature education and conservation, will give information on owl conservation.

It is a first-of-its-kind festival in the country that is being organised with the intention of creating awareness about owl as a bird and debunking numerous superstitions associated with it.

Indian Owl is protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India.

Threat: Of the 262 species of owls that are found in the world, 75 feature in the red data book — meaning they are threatened. Major causes behind this are superstitions and habitat loss — both are man-made. They are “highly prized and in demand for black magic purposes”.