Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- International Court of Justice
- 2008 Agreement on consular access
- Bhima Koregaon Battle
- Indian Science Congress
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Mangroves
Context : A new initiative of sustainable shrimp cultivation provides hope for mangrove restoration in Sundarbans. For several years, environmentalists and experts have expressed concerns over unsustainable aquaculture, particularly shrimp collection, after cleaning large tracts of mangrove forests in Sunderbans.
About the Initiative
- Under the initiative, Sustainable Aquaculture In Mangrove Ecosystem (SAIME), farmers have taken up cultivation of shrimp at 20 hectares at Chaital in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas, and 10 hectares at Madhabpur in adjoining South 24 Parganas.
- Under this initiative, we are planting mangrove trees around the shrimp ponds.”
- The community-based initiative of sustainable shrimp cultivation is being conceived by NEWS and Global Nature Fund (GNF), Naturland Bangladesh Environment and Development Society (BEDS).
- Shrimp cultivation is integrated into the mangrove ecosystem but when people extended the fisheries inwards, they excluded the mangroves. The project is trying to integrate the shrimp into the mangrove ecosystem. This pilot project has come out with a significant result in the last three years’ span, providing a per hectare average yield of fishes and shrimps amounting to 535 kg, out of which shrimp amounts average 275 kg (black tiger shrimp-200 kg and with freshwater giant prawn-75 kg),” she notes.
- They had to buy shrimp feed in the past, now the mangrove leaf litter provides nourishment for the crustaceans.
- The environmental activist also adds that the rate of survival of planted mangrove saplings, which is usually 5-10%, has ranged between 30-50% in the initiative.
- Mangroves are a group of trees and shrubs that live in the coastal intertidal zone.
- It is usually found within the tropic or subtropic latitudes. In fact, the various species of mangroves aren’t necessarily closely related to one another, but they do share the unique capability of growing within reach of the tides in salty soil.
- Some mangrove species live so close to the shoreline that they are flooded with salt water every day as the tide comes in and submerges their roots. All mangroves have evolved special adaptations that enable them to live in salty, oxygen-poor soil.
- Rising temperatures and sea level due to climate change are allowing mangroves to expand their ranges farther away from the equator and encroach on temperate wetlands, like salt marshes.
Adaptation and Distribution
- To differentiate species that use different methods for dealing with salt, scientists categorize mangroves as either secretors—those that actively rid their tissue of salt—and non-secretors—those that block the salt from entering their tissue.
- In species from the genera Rhizophora (the red mangrove) and Bruguiera, the plants create a barrier and can almost completely exclude the salt from entering their vascular system—over 90 percent of the salt from seawater is excluded.
- This barrier acts against osmosis, a process where water moves from areas low in salt concentration to areas high in salt concentration. If the mangrove didn’t have such a barrier, the salty ocean water would suck the mangrove dry.
- For many mangroves, however, the salt is dealt with after it enters the plant.
- Mangroves categorized as secretors, including species in the black mangrove genus Avicennia, push salt from the ocean water out through special pores or salt glands within their leaves. As the salty water evaporates, noticeable salt crystals often form on the surface of the leaves. The leaves of some mangrove can also store unwanted salt. Since leaf cells can hold a large volume of water when compared to all other cells, salt is drawn to the leaves as a mechanism to balance the salt concentration. As the leaves age, the cells grow in size since more water is needed to dilute the accumulating salt. This hoarding of water creates thick and fleshy leaves, a characteristic called succulence. Eventually, the leaves age and fall off the tree, taking the salt with them.
A mangrove forest is categorized into five types of forest-based upon its surrounding geography.
- Mangrove forests along open bays and lagoons that experience full sun are considered to be mangrove fringe. These forests are dependent upon the regular tides that flush leaves, twigs, and mangrove propagules out into the open ocean.
- An overwash forest is similar to a fringe forest except the entire forest is an island that becomes flooded at high tide. Isolated from the main land and terrestrial predators, it is a popular place for birds to nest.
- Riverine mangrove forests are within river floodplains by the coast and are heavily influenced by the changing seasons. Sometimes they are inundated with fresh river water, while during summer droughts the soil can become exceptionally salty when the fresh river water is almost nonexistent.
- Basin mangrove forests extend far inland and occur in inlets, deep bays, and coves.
- Dwarf, or scrub, mangrove forests only attain canopy heights of less than 5 feet (1.5 meters) although they contain the same species as the other types of forest. The stunted growth is often attributed to a lack of nutrients, high salinity, and rocky soils.
Importance of Mangroves
- Carbon storage. Mangroves “sequester carbon at a rate two to four times greater than mature tropical forests and store three to five times more carbon per equivalent area than tropical forests” like the Amazon rainforest. This means that conserving and restoring mangroves is essential to fighting climate change, the warming of the global climate fueled by increased carbon emissions, that is already having disastrous effects on communities worldwide. At the same time, mangroves are vulnerable to climate change as sea level rise pushes ecosystems inland.
- Water. Mangroves are essential to maintaining water quality. With their dense network of roots and surrounding vegetation, they filter and trap sediments, heavy metals, and other pollutants. This ability to retain sediments flowing from upstream prevents contamination of downstream waterways and protects sensitive habitat like coral reefs and seagrass beds below.
- Fisheries: Mangrove forests are home to a large variety of fish, crab, shrimp, and mollusk species. These fisheries form an essential source of food for thousands of coastal communities around the world. The forests also serve as nurseries for many fish species, including coral reef fish. A study on the Mesoamerican reef, for example, showed that there are as many as 25 times more fish of some species on reefs close to mangrove areas than in areas where mangroves have been cut down. This makes mangrove forests vitally important to coral reef and commercial fisheries as well.
- Timber and plant products: Mangrove wood is resistant to rot and insects, making it extremely valuable. Many coastal and indigenous communities rely on this wood for construction material as well as for fuel. These communities also collect medicinal plants from mangrove ecosystems and use mangrove leaves as animal fodder. Recently, the forests have also been commercially harvested for pulp, wood chip, and charcoal production.
- Biodiversity. Home to an incredible array of species, mangroves are biodiversity hotspots. They provide nesting and breeding habitat for fish and shellfish, migratory birds, and sea turtles.
- Coastal protection: The dense root systems of mangrove forests trap sediments flowing down rivers and off the land. This helps stabilizes the coastline and prevents erosion from waves and storms. In areas where mangroves have been cleared, coastal damage from hurricanes and typhoons is much more severe. By filtering out sediments, the forests also protect coral reefs and seagrass meadows from being smothered in sediment.
- Tourism: Given the diversity of life inhabiting mangrove systems, and their proximity in many cases to other tourist attractions such as coral reefs and sandy beaches, it is perhaps surprising that only a few countries have started to tap into the tourism potential of their mangrove forests. Places as diverse as Bonaire and offer snorkelling expeditions in and around mangroves to witness a marvellous variety of baby fish, jellyfish, and urchins against a magical background of interwoven roots delving deep into the sandy substrate. Great potential exists elsewhere for revenue generation in this manner, which values the mangroves intact and as they stand.
2 . International Court of Justice
Context : India abstained in the U.N. General Assembly on a resolution that asked the International Court of Justice for its opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s “prolonged occupation” and annexation of the Palestinian territory.
About the News
- The draft resolution ‘Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem’ was adopted by a recorded vote on Friday, with 87 votes in favour, 26 against and 53 abstentions, including by India.
- The resolution decided to request the UN’s highest judicial body to “render an advisory opinion” on “what are the legal consequences arising from the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, from its prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures.”
- It also asked the Assembly “how do the policies and practices of Israel… affect the legal status of the occupation, and what are the legal consequences that arise for all States and the United Nations from this status?”
- The U.S. and Israel voted against the resolution while Brazil, Japan, Myanmar, and France were among those that abstained.
- The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.
- The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands).
- Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (United States of America).
- The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.
- The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council.
- It is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ.
- Its official languages are English and French.
- All members of the UN are automatic parties to the statute, but this does not automatically give ICJ jurisdiction over disputes involving them. The ICJ gets jurisdiction only on the basis of consent of both parties.
Where does India stand vis-a-vis dispute resolution at ICJ?
- In September 1974, India declared the matters over which it accepts the jurisdiction of the ICJ. This declaration revoked and replaced the previous declaration made in September 1959.
- Among the matters over which India does not accept ICJ jurisdiction are: “disputes with the government of any State which is or has been a Member of the Commonwealth of Nations”, and “disputes relating to or connected with facts or situations of hostilities, armed conflicts, individual or collective actions taken in self-defence…”.
- The declaration, which includes other exceptions as well, has been ratified by Parliament.
3 . 2008 Agreement on consular access
Context : India is committed to address “all humanitarian matters, including those pertaining to prisoners” with Pakistan, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement after New Delhi and Islamabad exchanged lists of prisoners on Sunday in accordance with the 2008 Agreement on Consular Access, under which the exchange takes place every year on January 1 and July 1. They also exchanged lists of nuclear installations that cannot be attacked in the event of hostilities, maintaining a tradition dating back to 1992 despite bilateral ties being at an all-time low.
About 2008 Agreement on Consular Access
- Under the provisions of the 2008 Agreement on Consular Access, the two sides exchange lists of prisoners in each other’s custody twice a year, on January 1 and July 1, through diplomatic channels in New Delhi and Islamabad.
- The signing of the 2008 agreement had helped speed up the identification and release of hundreds of prisoners, a majority of them fishermen. However, the process has been hit in recent years by bilateral tensions.
Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities
- The lists of nuclear installation and facilities were exchanged as per the provisions of the Article-II of the Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities, signed on December 31, 1988 and ratified on 27 January 1991.
- According to this agreement, both countries have to inform each other of the nuclear facilities. This practice of exchanging lists has continued since January 1, 1992.
Context : The 205th anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle passed without incident as lakhs of Ambedkarites from across Maharashtra and the country congregated near the Ranstambh (victory pillar) in Perne village in Pune district on Sunday under heavy security cover.
About Bhima Koregaon battle
- The Battle of Koregaon took place on 1 January 1818 in the village of Koregaon, Maharashtra, between troops of Maratha ruler Baji Rao Peshwa II and 800 troops of the British East India Company.
- The British army comprised primarily of Dalit soldiers. Peshwa army had an upper caste domination.
- The soldiers of the East India Company successfully fought the Peshwa troops, preventing them from advancing into Pune. After a 12-hour-long battle, the loss of 600 men, and fearing reinforcements from Pune, Baji Rao II withdrew his troops from Koregaon and gave up his efforts to attack Pune.
Why Did The Battle Take Place?
- The Peshwas had established themselves as overlords of the Deccan till the end of the 18th century. Mohammed Tarique, in his book ‘Modern Indian History’, explains that by 1802, the British East India Company had entered into treaties with Maratha rulers of the Deccan, which included the Peshwas of Pune, the Scindias of Gwalior, the Holkars of Indore, the Gaekwads of Baroda, and the Bhonsles of Nagpur.
- Under the treaties, these former rulers ceded a large number of their rights of lordship, revenue, and other privileges.
- Tarique adds that Peshwa leader Baji Rao II – who was the last of the reluctant Maratha leaders – was defeated by the British in the Battle of Khadki in November 1817 and had escaped to Satara.
- Baji Rao, cornered after being pursued by British Colonel Smith for two months, turned his focus and his 30,000-strong army to Pune at the end of December 1817.
Who were Mahars
- Historically, Mahars were considered untouchables. But the nature of their work, often in administration or military roles, situated them with upper castes quite regularly
- Maratha King Shivaji recruited a number of Mahars into the Maratha army in the 17th century. The Mahar men often served as guards or soldiers
- Mahar community even fought alongside Peshwa forces in many battles, including the third battle of Panipat. However, relations between the Mahars and Peshwas turned sour after Baji Rao II reportedly insulted the community by rejecting their offer to join and serve in his army
5 . Indian Science Congress
Context : Prime Minister Narendra Modi will virtually address the 108th Indian Science Congress (ISC) on January 3, which is expected to focus on ways to increase the representation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields and provide them with equal access to STEM education, research and economic participation, keeping in line with this year’s theme of “Science and Technology for Sustainable Development with Women Empowerment”.
About Indian Science Congress
- The Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) owes its origin to the foresight and initiative of two British Chemists, namely, Professor J. L. Simonsen and Professor P.S. MacMahon.
- It occurred to them that scientific research in India might be stimulated if an annual meeting of research workers somewhat on the lines of the British Association for the Advancement of Science could be arranged.
- To advance and promote the cause of science in India
- To hold an annual congress at a suitable place in India
- To publish such proceedings, journals, transactions and other publications as may be considered desirable.
- To secure and manage funds and endowments for the promotion of Science inlcuding the rights of disposing of or selling all or any portion of the properties of the Association.
- To do and perform any or all other acts, matters and things as are conductive to, or incidental to, or necessary for, the above objects.
- The first meeting of the Congress was held from January 15-17, 1914 at the premises of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta, with the Honourable Justice Sir Asutosh Mukherjee, the then Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University, as President. One hundred and five scientists from different parts of India and abroad attended and the papers numbering 35 were divided into six sections-Botany, Chemistry, Ethnography, Geology, Physics, Zoology under six Sectional Presidents.
- From this modest beginning with hundred and five members and thirty five papers communicated for reading at the first session, ISCA has grown into a strong fraternity with more than sixty thousand members till to date.
- The number of papers communicated for reading has risen to nearly two thousand. Upto 2000 there were Sixteen sections,two committes and six forums.
- There are now fourteen sections namely Agriculture and Forestry Sciences, Animal, Veterinary and Fishery Sciences, Anthropological and Behavioural Sciences (including Archaeology and Psychology & Educational Sciences), Chemical Sciences, Earth System Sciences, Engineering Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Information and Communication Science & Technology (including Computer Sciences), Material Sciences,Mathematical Sciences (including Statistics), Medical Sciences (including Physiology), New Biology (including Biochemistry, Biophysics & Molecular Biology and Biotechnology), Physical Sciences, Plant Sciences and one Committee Science & Society.
About 108th Science Congress
- The 108th Indian Science Congress being inaugurated at Nagpur tomorrow by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will focus on sustainable development with inclusive involvement of all sections of society including women.
- The theme of the event this year is “Science and Technology for Sustainable Development with Women Empowerment.”
- The technical sessions of the 108th Indian Science Congress have been divided into 14 sections under which parallel sessions will be conducted at different venues
- Apart from these 14 sections, there will be a Women’s Science Congress, a Farmers’ Science Congress, a Children’s Science Congress, a Tribal Meet, a section on Science and Society and a Science Communicators’ Congress.
- In the run-up to the event, the Vigyan Jyot programme, a tradition of the Indian Science Congress was held. Vigyan Jyot – Flame of Knowledge – was conceived on the lines of the Olympic flame. It is a movement dedicated to nurturing scientific temper in the society, especially the youth. The flame was installed at the university campus and will continue to be alight until the end of the 108th Indian Science Congress.
6 . Facts for Prelims
K 9 Vajra
- The K9 Vajra is a 155 mm, 52-calibre tracked self-propelled howitzer built by L&T with technology transferred from South Korean defence major Hanwha Defense based on its K9 Thunder.