PIB Analysis : 4th and 5th June

PIB Analysis for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. MARPOL
  2. Host directed Anti virals for COVID 19
  3. Urban forest Scheme
  4. #iCommit’ initiative
  5. “Healthy and Energy Efficient Buildings” Initiative
  6. Atmospheric Aerosols
  7. Facts for Prelims

1 . MARPOL


Context :  Indian Navy has voluntarily implemented all six schedules of International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) regulations. All Naval ships have been fitted with MARPOL compliant pollution control equipment such as Oily Water Separators (OWS) and Sewage Treatment Plants (STP) for treating waste generated onboard.

About MARPOL

  • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes.
  • The MARPOL Convention was adopted on 2 November 1973 at IMO. The Protocol of 1978 was adopted in response to a spate of tanker accidents in 1976-1977.
  • The Convention includes regulations aimed at preventing and minimizing pollution from ships – both accidental pollution and that from routine operations – and currently includes six technical Annexes.
  • India is a signatory to MARPOL 
  • Special Areas with strict controls on operational discharges are included in most Annexes.
    • Annex I : Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil
      • Covers prevention of pollution by oil from operational measures as well as from accidental discharges; the 1992 amendments to Annex I made it mandatory for new oil tankers to have double hulls and brought in a phase-in schedule for existing tankers to fit double hulls, which was subsequently revised in 2001 and 2003.
    • Annex II : Regulations for the Control of  Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk  
      • Details the discharge criteria and measures for the control of pollution by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk; some 250 substances were evaluated and included in the list appended to the Convention; the discharge of their residues is allowed only to reception facilities until certain concentrations and conditions (which vary with the category of substances) are complied with.In any case, no discharge of residues containing noxious substances is permitted within 12 miles of the nearest land.  
    • Annex III : Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form
      • Contains general requirements for the issuing of detailed standards on packing, marking, labelling, documentation, stowage, quantity limitations, exceptions and notifications. For the purpose of this Annex, “harmful substances” are those substances which are identified as marine pollutants in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code) or which meet the criteria in the Appendix of Annex III.
    • Annex IV : Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships 
      • Contains requirements to control pollution of the sea by sewage; the discharge of sewage into the sea is prohibited, except when the ship has in operation an approved sewage treatment plant or when the ship is discharging comminuted and disinfected sewage using an approved system at a distance of more than three nautical miles from the nearest land; sewage which is not comminuted or disinfected has to be discharged at a distance of more than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.
    • Annex V : Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships 
      • Deals with different types of garbage and specifies the distances from land and the manner in which they may be disposed of; the most important feature of the Annex is the complete ban imposed on the disposal into the sea of all forms of plastics.
    • Annex VI : Prevention of  Air Pollution from Ships
      •  Sets limits on sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts and prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances; designated emission control areas set more stringent standards for SOx, NOx and particulate matter.  A chapter adopted in 2011 covers mandatory technical and operational energy efficiency measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships.  

2 . Host directed antivirals for COVID 19


Context : The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) has approved support for a study by the National Centre for Veterinary Type Cultures (NCVTC), ICAR-NRC from Hisar in Haryana, which will screen their library of 94 small molecule chemical inhibitors for antivirals against coronaviruses.

Background

  • Usually antiviral drugs are developed by directly targeting certain viral proteins. However, this strategy often fails due to the rapid generation of drug-resistant viruses. Unlike higher organisms, a viral polymerase-the viral enzyme that synthesizes its nucleic acid (RNA) does not have proofreading capacity.
  • Therefore, RNA viruses such as the coronaviruses do not have the mechanisms to remove wrongly incorporated nucleotides (building blocks of viral RNA) during the synthesis of the viral genome.
  • The lack of proofreading capacity results in the accumulation of point mutations in the viral genome. This leads to changes in viral proteins. The altered viral proteins may then become resistant to the available antiviral drugs.
  • This intriguing ability of the viruses to rapidly and frequently change themselves is a big challenge for the scientists in developing antiviral drugs.

About Small Molecule Chemical inhibitors

  • The molecules are known to inhibit cellular kinases, phosphatases, and epigenetic regulators such as histone methyl transferase, histone deacetylase, and DNA methyl transferase. The targets of these inhibitors are well characterized in cancer, however, their role in the virus life cycle is not known. The selected candidates (hits) with anti-coronavirus activity will be subjected to study their molecular mechanism of action, besides examining generation of potential drug-resistant virus variants.

Host directed Anti virals

  • Viruses can only replicate inside the host cell. A host (human) cell contains around 25,000 proteins. During replication, viruses establish numerous interactions with these cellular proteins. A virus needs more than 1000 different cellular proteins to replicate inside the host cell effectively.
  • NCVTC is exploring an alternate strategy to target such cellular proteins, protein-protein (virus-host) interaction, or epigenetic regulators for antiviral drug development commonly called as host-directed antiviral therapy. 
  • The host-directed antivirals are believed to have fewer tendencies in inducing drug resistance because it is not possible for the virus to easily change missing cellular functions by mutations. In addition, host-directed antiviral agents are likely to exert broad-spectrum antiviral effects because the requirement of host factors by viruses is usually conserved across the members of a particular virus family or sometimes even across the members of different virus families.

Chemical Library Screening

  • “Chemical library screening in medicinal chemistry research is a useful methodology that considerably shortens drug discovery and development cycle, especially for newly identified etiologic agents, such as SARS-Cov-2. Such approach provides for rapid access to useful pharmacophores and narrows down the search for preferred molecular scaffolds and is also compatible with high-throughput robotic assays.

3 . Urban Forest Scheme


Context : On the occasion of World Environment Day, the government today announced implementation of the Nagar van scheme

About Nagar van Scheme

  • Aim of the scheme is to develop 200 Urban Forests across the country in next five years with a renewed focus on people’s participation and collaboration between Forest Department, Municipal bodies, NGOs, Corporates and local citizens.

Wajre Urban Forest

  • In Pune city on the forest land of 40 acres a forest has been developed. More than 65000 trees, 5 ponds, 2 watch towers have been established, with many trees growing up to 25-30 feet. This year more trees would be planted. T
  • oday, the forest is rich in biodiversity with 23 plant species, 29 bird species, 15 butterfly species, 10 reptiles and 3 mammal species. Not only the Urban Forest project is helping maintain ecological balance, but also provides the Punaikars a good walk way and a place to be for the morning and evening walkers.
  • The Wajre Urban Forest is now a role model for the rest of the country.

Benefits of Urban Forest

  1. Trees can contribute to the increase of local food and nutrition security, providing food such as fruits, nuts and leaves for both human consumption and fodder. Their wood, in turn, can be used for cooking and heating.
  2. Trees play an important role in increasing urban biodiversity, providing  plants and animals with a favourable habitat, food and protection.
  3. A mature tree can absorb up to 150 kg of CO2 per year. As a result, trees play an important role in climate change mitigation. Especially in cities with high levels of pollution, trees can improve air quality, making cities healthier places to live in.
  4. Strategic placement of trees in cities can help to cool the air between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, thus reducing the urban “heat island” effect, and helping urban communities to adapt to the effects of climate change.
  5. Large trees are excellent filters for urban pollutants and fine particulates. They absorb pollutant gases (such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone and sulfer oxides) and filter fine particulates such as dust, dirt or smoke out of the air by trapping them on leaves and bark.
  6. Research shows that living in close proximity of urban green spaces and having access to them, can improve physical and mental health, for example by decreasing high blood pressure and stress. This, in turn, contributes to the well-being of urban communities.
  7. Mature trees regulate water flow and play a key role in preventing floods and reducing the risk of natural disasters. A mature evergreen tree, for instance, can intercept more than 15 000 liters of water per year.
  8. Trees also help to reduce carbon emissions by helping to conserve energy. For example, the correct placement of trees around buildings can reduce the need for air conditioning by 30 percent, and reduce winter heating bills by 20-50 percent.
  9. Planning urban landscapes with trees can increase property value, by up to 20 percent, and attract tourism and business.

4 . #iCommit’ initiative


Context : Shri R. K. Singh, the Minister of State (IC) for Power and New & Renewable Energy, today initiated the ‘#iCommit’ campaign, on the occasion of World Environment Day

About the iCommit initiative

  • The initiative is a clarion call to all stakeholders and individuals to continue moving towards energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainability to create a robust and resilient energy system in the future.
  • The ‘#iCommit’ initiative, driven by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), under the administration of Ministry of Power, Government of India is uniting a diverse set of players such as Governments, Corporates, Multilateral and Bilateral Organisations, Think Tanks and Individuals.
  • It envisages a transformation of the entire energy value chain in the country and have been working towards ensuring 24X7 energy access and security for all our citizens.
  • The #iCommit initiative, especially in the backdrop of World Environment Day can bring together a diverse spectrum of government and private players to build a new energy future for India.”
  • The ‘#iCommit’ initiative is centred around the idea of building an energy resilient future. The pre-requisite for that goal is to create a flexible and agile power system. A healthy power sector can help the nation in meeting the objective of energy access and security for all. With the imminent changes in the power system, brought about by innovation such as decentralised solar and electric vehicles, collaboration between all stakeholders will be the way forward and is at the core of ‘#iCommit’ campaign.

5 . “Healthy and Energy Efficient Buildings” Initiative


Context : On occasion of World Environment Day, today, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a joint venture of PSUs under Ministry of Power, in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) MAITREE program, launched the “Healthy and Energy Efficient Buildings” initiative that will pioneer ways to make workplaces healthier and greener.

About MAITREE

  • The Market Integration and Transformation Program for Energy Efficiency (MAITREE), under which this initiative has been launched, is a part of the US-India bilateral Partnership between the Ministry of Power and USAID and is aimed at accelerating the adoption of cost-effective energy efficiency as a standard practice within buildings, and specifically focuses on cooling.

About the Initiative

  • As part of this pilot, “Healthy and Energy Efficient Buildings” Initiative, EESL has taken the leadership by being the first to implement this framework in its own offices.
  • This initiative is addressing the challenges of retrofitting existing buildings and air conditioning systems so that they are both healthy and energy efficient.

Importance

  • Poor air quality has been a concern in India for quite some time and has become more important in light of the COVID pandemic.
  • As people return to their offices and public spaces, maintaining good indoor air quality is essential for occupant comfort, well-being, productivity and the overall public health.
  • Most buildings in India are not equipped to establish and maintain healthy indoor air quality and need to be upgraded.
  • Such retrofit measures, like increasing outside air and additional filtration in the air conditioning system, typically come at the cost of occupant comfort and increased energy use. Nor are there standardized approaches to retrofitting.
  • The EESL office pilot will address this problem by developing specifications for future use in other buildings throughout the country, as well as aid in evaluating the effectiveness and cost benefits of various technologies and their short and long-term impacts on air quality, comfort, and energy use.

About EESL

  • Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), under the administration of Ministry of Power, Government of India, is working towards mainstreaming energy efficiency and is implementing the world’s largest energy efficiency portfolio in the country.
  • Driven by the mission of Enabling More – more transparency, more transformation, and more innovation, EESL aims to create market access for efficient and future-ready transformative solutions that create a win-win situation for every stakeholder.

About USAID

  • USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results.

6 . Atmospheric Aerosols


Context : Researchers at the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), Nainital an autonomous research institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) Govt. of India have found that aerosol radiative forcing larger than the global averages, implying some amount of radiative effects, in spite of the clean atmosphere over the trans-Himalayas.

About Atmospheric Aerosols and uses

  • The atmospheric aerosols play a key role in the regional/global climate system through scattering and absorption of incoming solar radiation and by modifying the cloud microphysics.
  • Despite the large progress in quantifying the impact of different aerosols on radiative forcing, it still remains one of the major uncertainties in the climate change assessment.
  • Precise measurements of aerosol properties are required to reduce the uncertainties, especially over the oceans and high altitude remote location in the Himalayas where they are scarce.

Details of the Research

  •  The paper under publication in the journal Science of the Total Environment shows that monthly-mean atmospheric radiative forcing of aerosols leads to heating rates of 0.04 to 0.13 C per day. 
  • Further, the temperature over the Ladakh region is increasing 0.3 to 0.4 degrees Celsius per decades from the last 3 decades.
  • The observations of the scientists show that the aerosol optical depth (AOD) exhibited a distinct seasonal variation with higher values (0.07) in May and lower (0.03) in winter months.
  • The lower values of Ångström exponent (AE) in spring indicated dominance of coarse-mode dust aerosols.
  • An aerosol classification based on FMF and SSA revealed a dominance of medium-sized mixed aerosols over the Hanle and Merak, especially in Spring (53%). Pure and polluted dust exhibited fractions between 16% and 23%, with a low frequency of less than 13% of absorbing aerosols, denoting weak influence of anthropogenic aerosols and Black Carbon over the trans-Himalayan sites. 
  • Further, the aerosol radiative forcing ARF values at top of the atmosphere were mostly low (-1.3 Wm-2) over Hanle and Merak.

Importance of the Study

  • A deep scientific study of aerosol generation, transport, and its properties have important implications in our understanding and mitigation of climate change via atmospheric warming, which among many things, impacts the snow and glacier dynamics over the trans-Himalayan region
  • The results from the study can help better understanding the aerosol optical and microphysical properties and improving the modelling of aerosol effects in view of aerosol-climate implications via modifications in atmospheric warming and changes in the snow/glacier albedo over the trans-Himalayan region. 
  • The transport of light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosols and dust from the polluted Indo-Gangetic Plain and desert areas over the Himalayas constitutes a major climatic issue due to severe impacts on atmospheric warming and glacier retreat. This heating over the Himalayas facilitates the “elevated-hat pump” that strengthens the temperature gradient between land and ocean and modifies the atmospheric circulation and the monsoon rainfall. A better understanding of the aerosol optical and microphysical properties through the study can improving the modelling of aerosol effects in view of aerosol-climate implications via modifications in atmospheric warming and changes in the snow/glacier albedo over the trans-Himalayan region. 

7 . Facts for Prelims


World Environment Day

  • World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated on 5th June every year. 
  • Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change celebrates WED focusing on the theme declared by United Nation’s Environment Programme (UNEP) and organizes several events.  This year’s theme is ‘Biodiversity’. 
  • In view of the prevalent situation due to COVID-19 pandemic the ministry held virtual celebrations of World Environment Day on this year’s theme with focus on Nagar Van (Urban Forests).
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