Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Changes in India’s Foreign Policy
- Cryogenically frozen coral reefs
- Right to Repair
- Bomb Cyclone
- CPCB Report on River Pollution
- Facts for Prelims – Orans, Patriot system,
1 . Changes in India’s Foreign Policy
Context: 2022 was a difficult year on the geopolitical and diplomatic stage, especially after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. For India, the choices grew more difficult, given its strategic ties with the U.S. and Europe and traditional ties with Russia.
Handling of Ukraine Crisis-
- New version of non-alignment- The war in Ukraine saw the government spell out its version of “non-alignment”, as it sought to keep a balance in the growing polarization between the U.S. and the European Union on one side, and Russia on the other.
- PM Modi made his discomfort with the war clear directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin with the words “This era is not for war” but at the same time refused to accept western sanctions, increasing military and oil trade with Russia, and seeking rupee-based payment mechanisms to facilitate them.
- Abstentions– Most significantly, in more than a dozen resolutions at the UNSC, UNGA, IAEA, Human Rights Commission, and other multilateral platforms seeking to censure Russia for the invasion and humanitarian crisis, India chose to abstain.
Other highlights in foreign policy in 2022-
- Free Trade Agreements – In 2022, India returned to Free Trade Agreements, after a hiatus of several years when the Modi government had called for a review of all FTAs, scrapped all Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) and walked out of the 15-nation Asian Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
- In 2022, India signed trade agreements with the UAE and Australia, and hopes to progress on talks with the EU, Gulf Cooperation Council and Canada for others.
- India also joined the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Forum (IPEF).
- Leadership role– Indian diplomacy will be at the forefront in 2023, during India’s presidency of the G-20 and chairship of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
- At the G-20, India is expected to highlight climate change transitions, “women-led” development and multilateral reform, among other key issues.
Ties with neighbors
- Economic Assistance- In the neighbourhood, India’s foreign policy was marked by economic assistance to Sri Lanka in the midst of its collapse, and regional trade and energy agreements with Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal that could see a South Asian energy grid emerge.
- Increased connectivity- India has also strengthened ties with Central Asian countries on connectivity.
- Relations with repressive regimes- The government kept channels open with repressive regimes like Afghanistan’s Taliban and the Myanmar Junta, opening a “technical mission” in Kabul and sending the foreign secretary to Nay Pyi Taw to discuss border cooperation.
- With Iran too, where protests against the killing of activist Mahsa Amini have brought thousands onto the streets, India has steered clear of any criticism.
- Pakistan- Relations have not improved and continue to remain sour.
The China Factor
- Despite a visit to Delhi by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and disengagement at some stand-off points, India-China tensions at the Line of Actual Control remained high, and the year ended with an unsuccessful Chinese PLA attempt to take Indian posts at Yangtse in Arunachal Pradesh, signalling more such violent clashes could follow in 2023.
- Regardless of the fraught state of ties, India is due to host Mr. Xi twice in 2023, at the G-20 and SCO summits, which could create opportunities for talks to end the stand-off.
2 . Cryogenically Frozen Coral Reefs
Context: Scientists working on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have successfully trialled a new method for freezing and storing coral larvae they say could eventually help rewild reefs threatened by climate change.
About frozen coral
- Cryogenically frozen coral can be stored and later reintroduced to the wild but the current process requires sophisticated equipment including lasers.
- Scientists say a new lightweight “cryomesh” can be manufactured cheaply and better preserves coral.
- In a lab trial, the world’s first with Great Barrier Reef coral, scientists used the cryomesh to freeze coral larvae at the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS).
- The coral had been collected from the reef for the trial, which coincided with the brief annual spawning window.
- The cryomesh was previously trialled on smaller and larger varieties of the Hawaiian corals. A trial on the larger variety failed.
- Trials are continuing with larger varieties of Great Barrier Reef coral.
- The mesh technology, which will help store coral larvae at -196°C (-320.8°F), was devised by a team from the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering.
- This new technology that will allow scientists to do that at a scale that can actually help to support some of the aquaculture and restoration interventions.
Need for such an intervention
- Bleaching of corals- Scientists are scrambling to protect coral reefs as rising ocean temperatures destabilise delicate ecosystems.
- The Great Barrier Reef has suffered four bleaching events in the last seven years, including the first-ever bleach during a La Niña phenomenon, which typically brings cooler temperatures.
- Protecting Biodiversity- If we can secure the biodiversity of coral, then we will have tools for the future to really help restore the reefs.
About Great Barrier Reef
- It is the world’s most extensive and spectacular coral reef ecosystem composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands.
- The reef is located in the Coral Sea (North-East Coast), off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
- It can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms.
- It was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.
- This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps.
3 . Right to Repair
Context: Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday introduced a host of new initiatives, including a right to repair portal and an NTH mobile app and opened new premises of the National Consumer Helpline centre in the national capital.
About Right to Repair
- The Right to Repair refers to government legislation that is intended to allow consumers the ability to repair and modify their own consumer electronic devices, where otherwise the manufacturer of such devices require the consumer to use only their offered services.
- Activists and organisations around the world have been advocating for the right of consumers to be able to repair their own electronics and other products as part of the ‘right to repair’ movement.
- The movement traces its roots back to the very dawn of the computer era in the 1950s.
- The goal of the movement is to get companies to make spare parts, tools and information on how to repair devices available to customers and repair shops to increase the lifespan of products and to keep them from ending up in landfills.
- The idea originally originated from the USA where the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act 2012, required the manufacturers to provide the necessary documents and information to allow anyone to repair their vehicles.
Why the demand?
- Planned obsolescence- The activists argue that these electronic manufacturers are encouraging a culture of ‘planned obsolescence’ — which means that devices are designed specifically to last a limited amount of time and to be replaced.
- This, they claim, leads to immense pressure on the environment and wasted natural resources.
- Pollution- Manufacturing an electronic device is a highly polluting process. It makes use of polluting sources of energy, such as fossil fuel, which has an adverse impact on the environment.
- Example- the mining and manufacturing materials used to make an iPhone represent roughly 83 per cent of its contribution to the heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere throughout its life cycle.
- Local economy- Right to repair advocates also argue that this will help boost business for small repair shops, which are an important part of local economies.
- Best price- If a manufacturer has monopoly on repairs, then prices rise exponentially and quality tends to drop, they say.
- . As there is a lack of competition in the repair market in the west, consumers are not able to hunt for the best deal.
Opposition from electronics manufacturers
- Intellectual Property- Large tech companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Tesla, have been lobbying against the right to repair.
- Their argument is that opening up their intellectual property to third party repair services or amateur repairers could lead to exploitation and impact the safety and security of their devices.
- Tesla, for instance, has fought against right to repair advocacy, stating that such initiatives threaten data security and cyber security.
- Greater Durability- These companies are constantly claiming that they are working towards greater durability themselves.
- This year, Apple took more steps towards reducing its contribution to e-waste. It has expanded its free, independent repair provider programme in 200 countries and extended access to genuine spare parts, information on repairs and tools for out of warranty repairs.
- Microsoft has pointed out how it improved the battery and hard drive of its third-generation Surface Laptop after it was criticised for making it next to impossible to replace the battery in older models.
- The right to repair has been recognised in many countries across the globe, including the US, UK and European Union.
- In the US, the Federal Trade Commission has directed manufacturers to remedy unfair anti-competitive practices and asked them to make sure that consumers can make repairs, either themselves or by a third-party agency.
India’s Right to Repair Portal
- On the ‘right to repair’ portal, manufacturers would share the manual of product details with customers so that they could either repair by self, by third parties, rather than depend on original manufacturers.
- Initially, mobile phones, electronics, consumer durables, automobile and farming equipments would be covered.
4 . Bomb Cyclone
Context: The storm pummelling large swaths of the United States and Canada is what forecasters call a “bomb cyclone.” While this kind of storm is not exceedingly rare, this one is very strong, with high winds that are bringing heavy snow or rain to many areas.
What is bomb cyclone?
- Storms can form when a mass of low-pressure air meets a high-pressure mass.
- The air flows from high pressure to low, creating winds.
- What defines a bomb cyclone is how rapidly the pressure drops in the low-pressure mass — by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.
- This quickly increases the pressure difference, or gradient, between the two air masses, making the winds stronger.
- This process of rapid intensification has a name: bombogenesis.
- As the winds blow, the rotation of the Earth creates a cyclonic effect. The direction is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere (when viewed from above).
How is it different from hurricanes?
- It essentially amounts to a rapidly developing storm system, distinct from a tropical hurricane because it occurs over midlatitudes where fronts of warm and cold air meet and collide, rather than relying on the balmy ocean waters of late summer as a catalyst.
- Bomb cyclones have cold air and fronts: Cold air rapidly weakens hurricanes, while it is an essential ingredient for bomb cyclones.
- Bomb cyclones form during winter: Hurricanes form from late spring to early fall, while bomb cyclones form from late fall to early spring.
- Bomb cyclones form at higher latitudes: Hurricanes form in tropical waters, while bomb cyclones form over the northwestern Atlantic, northwestern Pacific and sometimes the Mediterranean Sea.
5 . CPCB Report on River Pollution
Context: The number of polluted stretches in India’s rivers has fallen from 351 in 2018 to 311 in 2022 though the number of most polluted stretches is practically unchanged, according to a report from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
About the workings of CPCB
- The CPCB network monitors water quality at 4,484 locations in 28 States and seven Union Territories including rivers, lakes, creeks, drains and canals.
- Bio-chemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) exceeding 3.0 mg/L (milligram per litre) are identified as polluted locations.
- Two or more polluted locations identified on a river in a continuous sequence are considered as a “polluted river stretch.” A BOD less than 3 mg/L means the river stretch is fit for ‘Outdoor Bathing.’
- Further, stretches with a BOD exceeding 30 mg/L are considered ‘Priority 1,’ meaning, the most polluted and thus needing the most urgent remediation.
- There are five such categories with ‘Priority 2’ indicating a BOD of 20-30 mg/L and ‘Priority 5’ indicating 3-6 mg/L.
- The success of river-cleaning programmes are measured by the number of stretches moving from 1 to 2, 2 to 3 until those in 5 (requiring the least action) too reduce.
About the findings
- The latest report counts 46 in P1, 16 in P2, 39 in P3, 65 in P4 and 145 in P5.
- In 2018, when the CPCB published its report (after analysing stretches in 2016 and 2017), there were 45 stretches categorised in Priority 1, 16 in Priority 2, 43 in Priority 3, 72 in Priority 4 and 175 in Priority 5.
- All of the improvement thus, were in river stretches that required relatively lesser intervention.
- No change/ slight change in Priority I & II category of polluted river stretches indicates that further stringent actions are required for control of organic pollution from various point sources of pollution including development of infrastructure and its proper operation for treatment of wastewater before discharge into recipient water bodies.
- While Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh had the maximum number of ‘Priority 1’ river stretches (6), Maharashtra had the maximum number of polluted river stretches i.e. 55, followed by Madhya Pradesh (19), Bihar (18), Kerala (18), Karnataka (17) and Uttar Pradesh (17).
- The CPCB in their report added that the overall decrease in the net number of identified polluted river stretches, which have shown improvement in the water quality, “could be attributed” to the efforts being made for development of infrastructure for sewage management, industrial effluent management, waste management and enforcement of regulations for prevention and control of pollution in rivers.
- The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a statutory organization under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
- It was established in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Act, 1974.
- The CPCB is also entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
- It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
- It Co-ordinates the activities of the State Pollution Control Boards by providing technical assistance and guidance and also resolves disputes among them.
- The board is led by its Chairperson appointed by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet of the Government of India.
6 . Facts for Prelims
- Orans are Community Conserved Areas protected for their sacred values.
- They include woodlots, pastures, orchards, sacred groves, and habitats usually centered around sources of water such as natural springs, rivulets, or artificially constructed ponds.
- The orans are among the last natural habitats of the great Indian bustard.
- Named after local deities and medieval warriors, orans hold religious and social significance as small forest patches in the middle of the mighty Thar desert.
- Traditionally no tree or plant in the groves is cut and only seasonal grazing of livestock is allowed.
- Currently, the biodiversity hotspots are classified as wastelands in revenue records.
- The current categorisation is causing a loss of biodiversity and is affecting the livelihood of the locals in the area, as huge chunks of land are being allotted for setting up solar plants.
- The Supreme Court in 2018 had ordered the orans be recorded as ‘deemed forests’ in the revenue records in the TN Godavarman vs. Union of India case, but not even one oran has been recorded as a deemed forest so far.
Patriot Missile System-
- The Patriot, which stands for Phased Array Tracking Radar for Intercept on Target, is a theater-wide surface-to-air missile defense system built by Raytheon Technologies Corp and considered one of the most advanced air defense systems in the U.S. arsenal.
- The system was first used in combat during the 1991 Gulf War, with batteries protecting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Israel, and later used during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
- It is a mobile system that usually includes powerful radar, a control station, a power generator, launch stations and other support vehicles.
- The system has different capabilities depending on the type of interceptor used.
- The PAC-2 interceptor uses a blast-fragmentation warhead, while the newer PAC-3 missile uses more advanced hit-to-kill technology.
- The system’s radar has a range of over 150 km (93 miles), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) said in 2015.
- A newly produced single Patriot battery costs over $1 billion, with $400 million for the system and $690 million for the missiles in a battery, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.