Daily Current Affairs : 5th and 6th January

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Miyawaki Forests
  2. Belagavi boundary issue
  3. Challenges to Nutrition Mission
  4. WTO Appellate Body
  5. Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC).
  6. Drosophilia
  7. State of Forest Report
  8. Relationship between Forest and Carbon
  9.  Scientific Social Responsibility programme , Elephanta Caves, National Aerospacee Labortary, AK 203 Assault Riffle,

1 . Miyawaki Forests


Context : The Miyawaki method of afforestation, which has revolutionised the concept of urban afforestation by turning backyards into mini-forests, is to come up on the government office premises, residential complexes, school premises, and puramboke land in Kerala.

About Miyawaki Method

  • Miyawaki is a technique pioneered by Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, that helps build dense, native forests.
  • The approach is supposed to ensure that plant growth is 10 times faster and the resulting plantation is 30 times denser than usual.
  • It involves planting dozens of native species in the same area, and becomes maintenance-free after the first three years.
  • In contrast to conventional planting techniques, this method allows for planting more number of trees in small spaces. The trees grow faster too and are free of chemicals and fertilisers.
  • The advantage of Miyawaki method is that the saplings need minimum maintenance

About the News

  • The Forest Department of Kerala is the nodal agency in the State. To take the initiative forward, each department had been asked to nominate nodal officers in the State and district levels. Even departments such as Port and Hydrographic Survey have stepped in and designated nodal officers.
  • By promoting natural vegetation on land destroyed by natural calamities and man-induced mistakes along the coastline of Japan, Miyawaki managed to raise mini-forests.
  • The replication of the model across Kerala, which has suffered floods, landslips and soil erosion, assumes significance with the Rebuild Kerala initiative on.
  • The Miyawaki afforestation method has been adopted in 15 places with the support of the Nature’s Green Guardians Foundation (NGGF), an NGO. Developing each cent under the Miyawaki method is estimated to cost around ₹1 lakh.

2 . Belagavi boundary issue


About the controversy

  • In 1957, slighted by the implementation of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956,  Maharashtra demanded readjustment of its border with Karnataka.
  • It invoked Section 21 (2) (b) of the Act, and submitted a memorandum to the Ministry of Home Affairs stating its objection to Marathi- speaking areas being added to Karnataka.
  • It claimed an area of 2,806 square miles that involved 814 villages, and three urban settlements of Belagavi, Karwar and Nippani with a total population of about 6.7 lakh, all part of the Mumbai Presidency before independence.
  • The villages are spread across Belagavi and Uttar Kannada in north-western Karnataka, and Bidar and Gulbarga districts in north-eastern Karnataka — all bordering Maharashtra.
  • Later, when a four-member committee was formed by both States,  Maharashtra  expressed willingness to transfer predominantly Kannada-speaking 260 villages with a population of about 3.25 lakh and total area of 1,160 square miles in lieu of accepting its demand for 814 villages and three urban settlements, which was turned down by Karnataka.

What was the basis of Maharashtra’s claim

  • Maharashtra’s claim to seek the readjustment of its border was on the basis of contiguity, relative linguistic majority and wishes of the people.
  • If the claim over Belagavi and surrounding areas was based on Marathi-speaking people and linguistic homogeneity, it laid its claim over Karwar and Supa where Konkani is spoken by citing Konkani as a dialect of Marathi.
  • Its argument was based on the theory of village being the unit for calculation and enumerated linguistic population in each village. Maharashtra also points out the historical fact that the revenue records in these Marathi-speaking areas are also kept in Marathi.

What is Karnataka’s position?

  • Karnataka has argued that the settlement of boundaries as per the States Reorganisation Act is final. The boundary of the State was neither tentative nor flexible.
  • The State argues that the issue would reopen border issues that have not been contemplated under the Act, and that such a demand should not be permitted.
  • Initially, Karnataka was open to adjusting the border in the 10 mile belt from the drawn boundary. 
  • Karnataka also points out that when Congress, which redrew its circles on linguistic basis in 1920, included Belagavi in the Karnataka Provincial Congress Committee. Besides, the States Reorganisation Commission vested Belagavi with Karnataka.

Did the States make an effort to find a solution?

  • In 1960, both States agreed to set up a four-man committee with two representatives from each State.
  • Except on the issue of contiguity, the committee could not arrive at a unanimous decision, and respective representatives submitted reports to their government.
  • Between the 1960s and 1980s, chief ministers of Karnataka and Maharashtra have met several times to find a solution to the vexed issue but with no avail.

How has the Union government responded?

  • Under sustained pressure from Maharashtra, in 1966, the Centre announced setting up a one-man commission under former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India Meher Chand Mahajan to look into border issues between  Karnataka  (then Mysore state) and Maharashtra. The commission was also asked to look into Karnataka’s demand for integration of Kannada-speaking areas in Kasargod in Kerala.
  • While Maharashtra reiterated its demand, Karnataka sought areas in  Kolhapur,  Sholapur and Sangli districts from Maharashtra, and Kasargod from Kerala.
  • It submitted its report to the Union government in 1967. After much delay and debates over the content, the commission’s report was placed in Parliament in 1972.
  • The commission rejected Maharashtra’s claim over Belagavi city while recommending transfer of about 260 villages in the border to Maharashtra and about 250 villages in Maharashtra to Karnataka. Maharashtra said the report was inconsistent and an unfair application of its own principle. It also said the report was not a final word on the issue. Karnataka, however, agreed to the report.

3 . Challenges in eliminating Malnutrition


Key Challenges

  • Work led by ICMR and published recently in the Lancet Global Health shows that progress in maternal and child undernutrition varies tremendously by State. It also highlights how malnutrition contributes the most to child deaths as well as disability in adults. Saving lives of children under five in India will require a steady focus on nutrition.
  • New data on malnutrition among children from the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey highlights how challenges of overweight, obesity and even early non-communicable disease, are no longer adult challenges. About 10% of children under 19 years have pre-diabetes. Coherence is needed in areas of public policy across multiple ministries – incentivising the cultivation and consumption of a range of food commodities; using the levers of government financing to buy better nutrition (not just more calories) in programmes such as the PDS, ICDS and school meals; ensuring optimal healthcare of adolescents, pregnant women and young children; restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks; and expanding efforts to improve nutrition literacy.
  • India’s adults also bear a tremendous double burden of malnutrition. Recent work from IFPRI and Emory University, has highlighted how economic progress is a double-edged sword – reducing underweight among women while also exacerbating the challenge of overweight among others. Today, some districts in India have levels of overweight that are as high as 40%.
  • A range of studies published by researchers in India and abroad, demonstrate that social determinants related to gender, education, sanitation and poverty are key drivers of stunting and undernutrition. Early-life undernutrition is an important risk factor for later-life adult disease, along with food environments, physical activity and preventive healthcare.

What needs to be done

  • Malnutrition does not exist in isolation – individuals, households and communities share multiple forms of malnutrition. Therefore, it is imperative that policy efforts also come together under a common umbrella and an overarching body is needed to ensure convergence.
  • Given the diversity and complexity of the challenge need is there for sharper evidence-based and data-driven approach to diagnosing the challenge of malnutrition in India’s states, districts and communities.
  • There is a need to understand the risk factors that contribute the most to the multiple burdens and the use of data on the reach of programmes and interventions to identify critical gaps and fuel rapid action.
  • The World Health Organization’s updated Essential Nutrition Actions Across the Life Course, is a critical guide that must be adapted to India’s needs.

4 . WTO Appellate Body


What is the World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body and why is it in the news?

  • For proper enforcement of trade rules, a binding, two-stage dispute settlement system was established at the World Trade Organization in the 1990s.
  • The Appellate Body is the scaffolding of the dispute settlement system, with seven standing members.
  • In the first stage for adjudicating trade disputes, a panel would decide cases brought before it by the members. Rulings issued by the panels can be appealed at the Appellate Body.
  • As part of the second-stage of adjudication, the Appellate Body can uphold, modify or reverse the legal findings and conclusions of a panel. Therefore, the Appellate Body’s decisions are final and adopted within 30 days by the dispute settlement body.
  • Sanctions can be imposed on a member in case of its failure to comply with the Appellate Body’s rulings.
  • The panels and the Appellate Body have issued rulings in almost 200 disputes involving bananas, cotton, aircraft, beef, tuna, trade, ‘shrimp-turtles’, hot-rolled coils, subsidies for renewable energy, and gambling. Cases involving trade remedies such as countervailing and anti-dumping measures, and the use of a controversial practice called the zeroing methodology that inflated the anti-dumping duties, dominated the disputes among the WTO members.
  • The establishment of the Appellate Body has given teeth and credibility to the rules-based multilateral trading system.
  • It provided security and predictability in the multilateral trading system. But the U.S. chose to spike the highest appeals body for global trade disputes by alleging that it has gone astray.

Why did the U.S. choose to strangulate the Appellate Body?

  • The smooth and effective functioning of the Appellate Body, which is regarded as the jewel in the crown, has posed hurdles to the U.S. for adopting unilateral measures. Several U.S. provisions for imposing countervailing and anti-dumping measures were found to be inconsistent with core provisions of the WTO agreements.
  • U.S. chose to spike the Appellate Body by resorting to starving funds for its functioning as well as blocking the selection process for filling six vacancies. Consequently, the Appellate Body is left with only one member, who will not be able to deliver any rulings on the pending trade disputes. A minimum of three members are required to adjudicate any dispute.

Why did the U.S. block the selection process for filling six vacancies?

  • Washington has repeatedly accused the Appellate Body of allegedly straying away from the dispute settlement understanding (DSU) in several disputes involving the U.S.’ measures that were challenged by other members.
  • It has maintained that the Appellate Body failed to issue rulings within the 90-day deadline.
  • The U.S. says the Appellate Body’s rulings failed to adhere to the provisions in the dispute settlement understanding in cases involving countervailing (anti-subsidy) and anti-dumping measures based on the zeroing methodology.
  • It argues that the the Appellate Body’s decisions “assert a precedential value for its reports…”. It has suggested that “some Appellate Body members view themselves as ‘appellate judges’… serving on a ‘World Trade Court’ that is the ‘centerpiece’ of the WTO dispute settlement system … rather than one component of it.” The U.S has argued: “Such an expansive vision of the Appellate Body is not reflected in the DSU and was not agreed to by the United States.” Finally, “there has been no discussion of why the Appellate Body has departed from its agreed role,” it has maintained.

5 . Human Space Flight Centre


Context : The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has proposed a ₹ 2,700-crore master plan to create top infrastructure that will house its young Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC).

About the Centre

  • It will be established in three years at Challakere, a shrubby, arid oilseeds town on the Bengaluru-Pune NH4 in Chitradurga district of Karnataka.
  • Everything connected with events and planning of the HSP [Human Spaceflight Programme] will shift to Challakere.
  • It will be a self-contained facility so that in future, whatever training and activities now doing in Russia for the Gaganyaan crew can all be done in India
  • When ready, the 400-acre ISRO land at Challakere will be the single-stop consolidating infrastructure and activities related to space travellers.
  • Apart from all this work, Challakere will also host work related to crew and service modules of the spacecraft that carries the astronauts and up to mission control.
  • Centre is tasked with pursuing future human space missions, complete mission planning, developing engineering systems for survival and safe return of the crew from space, as also selecting and training the astronauts.

Current arrangement for HSP

  • Currently, HSP work is split across various centres such as the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram and the U.R. Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru.
  • The Institute of Aerospace Medicine of the Air Force has been roped in for their selection, basic and final training in Bengaluru.

Need of a new centre

  • Such full-fledged facilities, were needed within the country as the HSP would not be a one-time affair with one Gaganyaan project.
  • There will be more such projects and will need a large number of facilities for training astronauts.

6 . Drosophilia


Context : Pune to host fifth edition of global Drosophila conference

About Drosophilia

  • The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been extensively studied for over a century as a model organism for genetic investigations.
  • It also has many characteristics which make it an ideal organism for the study of animal development and behavior, neurobiology, and human genetic diseases and conditions.

Why? What makes it such a good model?

  • It’s more like us than you think. To benefit medical studies, a good model organism needs to share, on the molecular level, many similar features and pathways with humans. It turns out that approximately 60% of a group of readily identified genes that are mutated, amplified, or deleted in a diverse set of human diseases have a counterpart in Drosophila. Studying these genes in Drosophila lets scientists bypass some of the ethical issues of biomedical research involving human subjects.
  • Its genome is entirely sequenced and there is enormous information available about its biochemistry, physiology and behaviour.
  • They’re easy to keep, and work with. The fruit fly has many practical features that allow scientists to carry out research with ease:
    • A short life cycle,
    • ease of culture and maintenance, and
    • a low number of chromosomes
    • a small genome size (in terms of base pairs), but
    • giant salivary gland chromosomes, known as polytene chromosomes.

About APDRC

  • The Asia Pacific Drosophila Research Conferences (APDRC) are biennial events that aim to promote the interaction of Drosophila Researchers in the Asia-Pacific region with their peers in the rest of the world.

7 . State of Forest Report


Context : India’s forest cover has increased by 3,976 sq km or 0.56% since 2017. For the second successive time since 2007, the biennial State of Forest Report (SFR) recorded a gain — an impressive 1,275 sq km — in dense forest (including Very Dense Forest with a canopy density of over 70%, and Moderately Dense Forest with a canopy density of 40-70%).

About the Survey

  • The report is published by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) which has been mandated to assess the forest and tree resources of the country including wall-to-wall forest cover mapping in a biennial cycle. Starting 1987, 16 assessment have been completed so far. ISFR 2019 is the 16th report in the series.
  • SFR 2019 is the 16th report in the series. In tune with the Government of India’s vision of Digital India, FSI’s assessment is largely based on digital data whether it is satellite data, vector boundaries of districts or data processing of field measurements.
  • The report provides information on forest cover, tree cover, mangrove cover, growing stock inside and outside the forest areas, carbon stock in India’s forests, Forest Types and Biodiversity, Forest Fire monitoring and forest cover in different slopes & altitudes. Special thematic information on forest cover such as hill, tribal districts, and north eastern region has also been given separately in the report.
  • The biennial assessment of forest cover of the country using mid-resolution Satellite data is based on interpretation of LISS-III data from Indian Remote Sensing satellite data (Resourcesat-II) with a spatial resolution of 23.5 meters with the scale of interpretation 1:50,000 to monitor forest cover and forest cover changes at District, State and National level.  This information provides inputs for various global level inventories, reports such as GHG Inventory, Growing Stock, Carbon Stock, Forest Reference Level (FRL) and international reporting to UNFCCC, targets under CCD, Global Forest Resource Assessment (GFRA) done by FAO for planning and scientific management of forests.
  • Satellite data for the entire country was procured from NRSC for the period October, 2017 – February, 2018. Information from other collateral sources are also used to improve the accuracy of the interpreted image.
  • For the first time, Ortho-rectified satellite data has been used for forest cover mapping due to its better positional accuracy as it removes effects of image perspective (tilt) and relief (terrain) and scale distortions in the image to represent features in its true positions for accurate measurement of distances, angels and areas.
  • FSI, in a first ever attempt has carried out a rapid assessment of biodiversity for all the States and UTs (except two) and for all the sixteen Forest Type Groups as per Champion & Seth Classification (1968).  Apart from the number of tree, shrub and herb species as observed in the survey, Shanon Wienner Index which gives species richness along with the relative abundance, has also been calculated for each forest type groups in each State & UT.
  • FSI has carried out mapping of forest types of India as per the Champion & Seth Classification (1968), for the first time in the year 2011 based on the base line forest cover data of 2005. A new exercise for refining and updating the forest type maps as per the latest baseline forest cover was initiated in the year 2016 and has been completed in 2019.

Key Findings of the Report

  • SFR data show 2,145 sq km of dense forests became non-forests since 2017. A dense forest can deteriorate into an open forest (10-40% canopy density) but conversion to non-forest signifies total destruction. This means India has lost dense forests one-and-a-half times Delhi’s expanse in just two years.
  • Since 2017, plantations with high canopy density have added 2,441 sq km to the dense forest category, while 1,858 sq km of non-forests have become dense forests. These are plantations of fast-growing species since natural forests rarely grow so fast.
  • Since 2003 when data on “change matrix” were first made available, 18,065 sq km — more than one-third of Punjab’s landmass — of dense forests have become non-forests in the country, nearly half of this (8,552 sq km) in the last four years.
  •  Making up for much of this destruction of quality natural forests, 10,227 sq km of non-forests (read plantations) became dense forests in successive two-year windows since 2003, over half of this (5,458 sq km) since 2015.
  • While hill forests have gained in quality, large tracts of tropical forests have fallen off the “dense” category since 2017. The biggest loss — 23,550 sq km — is under the tropical semi-evergreen head in SFR 2019. In India, tropical semi-evergreen forests are found along the western coast, lower slopes of the eastern Himalayas, Odisha and Andamans.
  • Of India’s 7.12 lakh sq km forest cover, 52,000 sq km is plantations that, in any case, cannot substitute natural forests in biodiversity or ecological services.
  • Of 7,28,520 sq km recorded forest area from digitised data and the Survey of India’s topographic maps of greenwash areas (forestland), 2,15,084 sq km (nearly 30%) recorded no forest cover in SFR 2019. In other words, forestland roughly the combined area of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal holds no forests.
  • There has been no recovery since 2017 as forest cover on forestland has shrunk by 330 sq km in the last two years.

8 . Relationship between Forest and Carbon


Context : The State of Forest Report (SFR) 2019, while showing an increase in the carbon stock trapped in Indian forests in the last two years, also shows why it is going to be an uphill task for India in meeting one of its international obligations on climate change.

India’s Commitment

  • India has set for itself 3 targets in its climate action plan called Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, that every country has to submit under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • India, as part of its contribution to the global fight against climate change, has committed itself to creating an “additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent” by 2030. The other two relate to an improvement in emissions intensity, and an increase in renewable energy deployment.
  • India has said it would reduce its emissions intensity (emissions per unit of GDP) by 33% to 35% by 2030 compared to 2005. It has also promised to ensure that at least 40% of its cumulative electricity generation in 2030 would be done through renewable energy.

What is the relationship between forests and carbon?

  • Forests, by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for the process of photosynthesis, act as a natural sink of carbon. Together with oceans, forests absorb nearly half of global annual carbon dioxide emissions.
  • In fact, the carbon currently stored in the forests exceeds all the carbon emitted in the atmosphere since the start of the industrial age.
  • An increase in the forest area is thus one of the most effective ways of reducing the emissions that accumulate in the atmosphere every year.

How do the latest forest data translate into carbon equivalent?

  • The latest forest survey shows that the carbon stock in India’s forests (not including tree cover outside of forest areas) have increased from 7.08 billion tonnes in 2017, when the last such exercise had been done, to 7.124 billion tonnes now. This translates into 26.14 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent as of now.
  • It is estimated that India’s tree cover outside of forests would contribute another couple of billion of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

How challenging does this make it for India in meeting its target?

  • An assessment by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) last year had projected that, by 2030, the carbon stock in forests as well as tree cover was likely to reach 31.87 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in the business as usual scenario.
  • An additional 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of sink, as India has promised to do, would mean taking the size of the sink close to 35 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
  • Considering the rate of growth of the carbon sink in the last few years, that is quite a stiff target India has set for itself.
  • In the last two years, the carbon sink has grown by just about 0.6%%. Even compared to 2005, the size of carbon sink has increased by barely 7.5%.
  • To meet its NDC target, even with most optimistic estimates of carbon stock trapped in trees outside of forest areas, the sink has to grow by at least 15% to 20% over the next ten-year period.

Way forward?

  • There are two key decisions to be made in this regard — selection of the baseline year, and addition of the contribution of the agriculture sector to carbon sink.
  • The baseline year can impact the business-as-usual projections for 2030. BAU projections are obtained using policies that existed in the baseline year. Now, there has been a far greater effort in recent years to increase the country’s forest cover. So a 2015 baseline would lead to a higher BAU estimate for 2030 compared to a 2005 baseline when less efforts were being made to add or regenerate forests. The FSI projections made last year used a 2015 baseline. If 2005 baseline is used, India’s targets can be achieved relatively easily.
  • India’s emissions intensity target uses a 2005 baseline, so there is an argument that the forest target should also have the same baseline. But there is a strong demand for a 2015 baseline as well, so that it results in some concrete progress in adding new forest cover. When India announced its NDC in 2015, it did not mention the baseline year. It has to decide on it before it reconfirms its NDC targets ahead of the next climate change meeting in Glasgow towards the end of the year.
  • At that time, India would also have to specify whether it wants to count the carbon sink in the agriculture sector in its target. The NDC specifically mentions that and “additional” 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon sink would be created through “additional forest and tree cover by 2030”, but Environment Ministry officials insist that tree cover outside forest areas must include agriculture as well.

9 . Facts for Prelims


Scientific Social Responsibility programme

  • Under the programme, researchers who are working on a science project funded by any of the Ministries under the Central government will have to undertake activities to popularise science and make it more accessible to the public.
  • Scientific Social Responsibility programme will be something similar to Corporate Social Responsibility.

Elephanta Caves

  • Elephanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a collection of cave temples predominantly dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
  • They are on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri  in Mumbai Harbour, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) east of Mumbai in the Indian state of Mahārāshtra. 
  • The Elephanta Caves contain rock cut stone sculptures that show syncretism of Hindu and Buddhist ideas and iconography. The caves are hewn from solid basalt rock.

National Aerospacee Labortary

  • National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a constituent of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India, established in the year 1959 is the only government aerospace R&D laboratory in the country’s civilian sector.
  • CSIR-NAL is a high-technology oriented institution focusing on advanced disciplines in aerospace.
  • CSIR-NAL has several advanced test facilities, and many of them are recognized as National Facilities. These are not only the best in the country, but are also comparable to other similar facilities in the world.
  • CSIR-NAL has provided significant value added inputs to all the Indian national aerospace programmes.
  • CSIR-NAL has also developed many critical technologies for the strategic sector and continues to support the mission-mode programmes of the country.
  • CSIR-NAL’s mandate is to develop aerospace technologies with strong science content, design and build small, medium sized civil aircraft, and support all national aerospace programmes
  • NAL developed Saras Mk2, the first indigenous light transport aircraft. It is a 19-seater aircraft, developed with a target cost of ₹50 crore, is at least 20-25% lower in cost than other aircraft in the similar category.

AK 203 Assault Riffle

  • The Army is likely to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in a month for the procurement of over 7.5 lakh AK-203 assault rifles, which are to be manufactured locally by an India-Russia joint venture (JV), a Defence source said.
  • About 1 lakh rifles will come directly from Russia and the remaining will be manufactured by the JV in India. 
  • The rifles will be manufactured by the Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL) at Korwa in Uttar Pradesh. The facility is being set up between the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) from the Indian side, and Rosoboron Exports and Kalashnikov on the Russian side. The OFB owns 50.5% equity and Russian side holds the remaining 49.5%. The JV was formed following the Inter-governmental Agreement between India and Russia in February 2019.

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