Daily Current Affairs : 5th and 6th February 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible incomes
  2. Climate Change and Hydropower generation
  3. Study on Coronovirus in Deers
  4. Great Indian Bustard
  5. Facts for Prelims

1 . Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible incomes

Context: The Union Budget for 2023-24 announced an initiative for mangrove plantation along the coastline and on salt pan lands, under MISHTI (Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes).

What is MISHTI scheme?

  • MISHTI is a new programme that will facilitate mangrove plantation along India’s coastline and on salt pan lands.
  • With the threat of climate change and frequent tropical storms looming large, planting more mangroves is a development for India which has a coastline of about 7,500 km.

Which agency will be responsible for it?

  • The Budget states that MISHTI will be implemented through convergence between the MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) Fund and other sources.

What is Campa Fund?

  • Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) are meant to promote afforestation and regeneration activities as a way of compensating for forest land diverted to non-forest uses.
  • In April 2004, Ministry of Environment and Forests constituted Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) to overlook and manage the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) as directed by the SC
  • The authority was termed as the ‘custodian’ of the fund.
  • Further in 2009, the government ordered that State CAMPAs had to be set up to boost compensatory afforestation at state level and also manage Green India Fund.

What is Mangrove forest?

  • Mangroves are salt-tolerant plant communities found in tropical and subtropical intertidal regions.
  • They are important refuges of coastal biodiversity and also act as bio-shields against extreme climatic events.
  • Mangroves are important trees that have unique characteristics for growing in saline or brackish water.
  • Their aerial roots have the ability to retain clay particles that support land accretion.
  • When the sea water rises, the roots are inundated with water and suspended mud.

Importance of mangroves

  • Mangroves provide natural infrastructure and protection to nearby populated areas by preventing erosion and absorbing storm surge impacts during extreme weather events such as hurricanes. 
  • Their dense roots help to bind and build soils.
  •  Their above-ground roots slow down water flows and encourage sediment deposits that reduce coastal erosion.
  • The complex mangrove root systems filter nitrates, phosphates and other pollutants from the water, improving the water quality flowing from rivers and streams into the estuarine and ocean environment

Where do Mangroves grow in india?

  • India has about 4,992 sq km (0.49 million hectares) of mangroves, according to the Indian State of Forest Report (IFSR) 2021.
  • Mangroves in India are distributed across nine States and three Union Territories with West Bengal having the highest mangrove cover of 2,114 sq km.
  • The major mangroves in India are found at:
    • Sundarbans Mangroves, Mahanadi Mangroves, Krishna Godavari delta, Gujarat, Ratnagiri, Cauvery delta, Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  • The tree species that form a mangrove forest or ecosystem are broadly classified as true mangroves and mangroves associates.
  • True mangroves are the ones which display morphological adaptations for a high saline mangrove ecosystem such as pneumatophores, vivipary or crypto vivipary germination and salt-secreting cells.

Threats to Mangrove Forest

  • The IFSR report also points out that there has been an increase in the mangrove cover from 4,046 sq km in 1987 to 4,992 sq km in 2021.
  • However, like most other countries, in India to the mangrove ecosystem faces constant pressure due to the increasing population in coastal areas and the rising demand for land, timber, fodder, fuel-wood and other non-wood forest products like fisheries.
  • Mangrove forests are formed when there is intertidal flow and where adequate sediments are available for the trees to set down roots. 
  • Aquaculture or fisheries along the coast obstructing tidal flow is one of the biggest threats to the mangrove ecosystem.
  • In the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the country, several instances of clearing mangroves for fisheries have come to light.
  • Along the country’s coastline, land reclamation for agriculture, aquaculture and industrial activities have occurred in areas which are under the Coastal Regulation Zone.
  •  Restoration of the land and allowing intertidal flow is crucial for plantation and survival of mangrove forests.

Why is it crucial for fighting climate change?

  • The ‘State of World Mangroves 2022’ points out that mangroves are estimated to hold up to four times the amount of carbon as some other ecosystems. “The loss of even 1% of remaining mangroves could lead to the loss of 0.23 gigatons of CO2 equivalent, equating to over 520 million barrels of oil,” the report states.
  • An initiative like MISHTI is in line with India’s Nationally Determined Contributions announced by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, through additional more forest and tree cover by 2030.
  • India joined the Mangrove Alliance for Climate, at the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties in Egypt.

Mangrove Alliance for Climate

  • It is an initiative led by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Indonesia, the Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC) includes India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Japan, and Spain.
  •  It seeks to educate and spread awareness worldwide on the role of mangroves in curbing global warming and its potential as a solution for climate change.

2 . Climate Change and Hydropower Generation

Context: Based on observations and climate projections, a two-member team from IIT Gandhinagar studied the hydroclimatic changes in the catchment areas and their implications for hydropower generation in 46 major dams located in north, central and south India.

About the Study

  • Unlike coal-powered power plants, hydropower, which is the second highest power producing source at 13%, is a significant contributor to clean global electricity generation.
  • Based on observations and climate projections, a two-member team from IIT Gandhinagar studied the hydroclimatic changes in the catchment areas and their implications for hydropower generation in 46 major dams located in north, central and south India.
  • The team looked at the increase in rainfall in the catchment areas and the resultant inflow into all the 46 major reservoirs in the near (2021–2040), mid (2041–2060), and far (2081–2100) periods against the reference period (1995–2014) for two shared socioeconomic pathway scenarios — SSP1-2.6 and SSP5-8.5. While SSP1-2.6 is a low-emission scenario, SSP5-8.5 is characterised by high radiative forcing by the end of the 21st century.

Importance of the Study

  • The findings provide crucial insights into projected changes in hydroclimate and hydropower for the major dams in India. It highlights the need for the Reservoir operations should be strengthened through reliable weather and inflow forecasts to maintain storage that can accommodate high inflow due to extreme rainfall

Key Findings of the study

  • Under warmer climate, study shows that the hydropower production will increase across the country due to substantial increase in precipitation leading to increased inflow to the reservoirs
  • Based on selected hydroelectric dams, the projected increase in hydropower potential in India is 10-23%. A warmer and wetter climate is projected to bring about 5%-33% increased rainfall. As a result, hydropower production is very likely to increase by 9%-36% for most dams and this will come from increased inflow (7-70%) into the dams.
  • The dams in central India show significant increase compared to dams in north and south India. But most of the increased inflow into the dams will come from extreme rainfall.
  • The study highlights the high likelihood of increased hydropower generation but the risk comes from very high and sudden inflow due to extreme rainfall, especially when the reservoirs are already full.
  • Any further increase in inflow when the dams have already reached their maximum storage capacity can pose challenges for reservoir operations. Compared with central and south India, north India is projected to experience higher warming in the future.
  • As per the study, the highest warming (about 5 degree C) is projected for north India, while the warming is projected to be around 3-4 degree C for central and south India. Like substantial warming, most reservoir catchments are likely to witness increased precipitation due to global warming.
  • Both north and central India are projected to receive a higher increase in precipitation than south India. The increased precipitation will alter the inflow to the dams more in north and central India than south India and also hydropower generation
  • The study found that inflow to a few dams in Ganga, Mahanadi, Brahmani, and west-coast river basins is projected to decline in the future. This reduction in inflow is due to increase in atmospheric water demands in response to the considerable warming compared to increase in precipitation.

Hydropower Generation In India

  • Hydroelectric power is electricity produced from generators driven by turbines that convert the potential energy of falling water into mechanical energy.
  •  Hydro power projects are classified as large and small hydro projects based on their sizes.
  • India has an estimated hydropower potential of 1,45,320 MW, excluding small hydro projects (SHPs)
  • In India, hydro power plants of 25MW or below capacity are classified as small hydro and comes under purview of Ministry of New and renewable energy (MNRE).
  • Several hydroelectric projects (HEPs) in India are languishing due to contractual conflicts, environmental litigations, local disturbances, financial stress and unwilling purchasers.
  • Only about 10,000 MW of hydropower could be added over the last 10 years.

3 . Study on Deers with COV 2

Context: A study has found widespread infection of white-tailed deer with the SARS-CoV-2 virus across the U.S. State of New York.

Findings of the study

  • The study found that RNA of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was detected in 17 of the 2,700 samples (0.6%) collected from September to December 2020, and in 583 of the 2,762 samples (21.1%) collected from September to December 2021.
  • The researchers found co-circulation of the Alpha, Delta, and Gamma variants in the white-tailed deer, months after they were last detected in humans.
  • Of particular concern is the fact that the viral sequences recovered from white-tailed deer were “highly divergent from SARS-CoV-2 sequences recovered from humans”.
  •  This implies rapid adaptation of the virus in white-tailed deer.
  • The study found multiple spill events from humans to deer of the Alpha and Delta lineages, and subsequent transmission among white-tailed deer and adaptation of the viruses in the deer.
  • While the precise implication of these mutations in enabling the virus to quickly and easily spread between white-tailed deer and from the animals to humans is yet to be determined, the very presence of SARS-CoV-2 variants that is no longer in circulation among humans arises the real possibility of the white-tailed deer serving as reservoir for variant SARS-CoV-2 strains that no longer circulate in the human population.
  • The virus is likely to have jumped from humans to white-tailed deer during feeding or targeted baiting of hunting prey.  
  • That white-tailed deer is broadly distributed in North America with an estimated 30 million population is a concern if the animal turns out to be a reservoir for the virus.
  • These observations highlight the need to establish continuous surveillance programs to monitor the circulation, distribution, and evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in White-tailed deer populations and to establish measures to minimise additional virus introductions in animals that may lead to spillback of deer-adapted SARS-CoV-2 variants to humans,”

4 . Great Indian Bustard

Context: A Supreme Court-appointed committee has recommended that, in order to protect the endangered Great Indian Bustard, close to 800 km, or about 10% of the length of proposed power lines in the Thar and Kutch deserts of Rajasthan and Gujarat should be re-routed or made to go underground.

Why do power lines pose a threat?

  • There are several threats that have led to the decline of the GIB populations; however, power lines seem to be the most significant.
  •  The GIBs are large birds standing about one metre tall and weighing about 15 to 18 kgs. The GIBs are not great fliers and have wide sideways vision to maximise predator detection but the species’ frontal vision is narrow.
  •  These birds cannot detect power lines from far and since they are heavy fliers, they fail to manoeuvre across power lines within close distances.
  • The combination of these traits makes them vulnerable to collision with power lines.  In most cases, death is due to collision rather than electrocution.
  • A study by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in 2020 recorded six cases of GIB mortality due to power-line collisions in Thar from 2017-20.

About the Great Indian Bustard (GIB)

  • The Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) is a large, endangered bird species found in India and some parts of Pakistan. It is a member of the bustard family, which includes the heaviest flying birds in the world
  • The Great Indian Bustard (GIB) is the State bird of Rajasthan and is considered India’s most critically endangered bird.
  • In India it is confined mostly to Rajasthan and Gujarat. Small populations occur in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
  • The great Indian bustard can easily be distinguished by its black crown on the forehead contrasting with the pale neck and head.  The body is brownish and the wings are marked with black, brown and grey.
  • It is a flagship grassland species, representing the health of the grassland ecology.
  • These birds are opportunist eaters. Their diet ranges widely depending on the seasonal availability of food. They feed on grass seeds, insects like grasshoppers and beetles, and sometimes even small rodents and reptiles.
  • The Great Indian Bustard is a threatened species due to several factors. The loss and degradation of their habitat is the primary threat to the birds, as it reduces the availability of food and nesting sites. In addition, the birds are also threatened by accidental collisions with power lines and wind turbines, as well as hunting and poaching.
  • Conservation status
    • Listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection)Act, 1972, in the CMS Convention and in Appendix I of CITES, as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016).
    • It has also been identified as one of the species for the recovery programme under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.

Conservation Issues

  • The biggest threat to this species is hunting, which is still prevalent in Pakistan.
  • This is followed by occasional poaching outside Protected Areas, collisions with high tension electric wires, fast moving vehicles and free-ranging dogs in villages.
  • Other threats include habitat loss and alteration as a result of widespread agricultural expansion and mechanized farming, infrastructural development such as irrigation, roads, electric poles, as well as mining and industrialization.

Project Bustard

  • In 2012 the Indian government launched Project Bustard, a national conservation program to protect the great Indian bustard along with the Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis), the lesser florican (Sypheotides indicus), and their habitats from further declines.

5 . Facts for Prelims

Goldilocks Zone

  • The ‘Goldilocks Zone,’ or habitable zone, is the range of orbits around a star within which a planetary surface can support liquid water given sufficient atmospheric pressure
  •  It is the area around a star where it is not too hot and not too cold for liquid water to exist on the surface of surrounding planets.
  • Only planets within a certain range of orbits the “Goldilocks zone” — or formally known as the “habitable zone” — are thought to be capable of supporting life.   
  • If a planet’s orbit takes it too close to its parent star, then it will be too hot for liquid water to exist, and if it’s too far out it will be too cold. However, the actual distances involved, that define the of the habitable zone, vary between stars.  
  • Based on the idea that liquid water on a planet’s surface makes life possible, the Goldilocks Zone of our solar system extends approximately from the orbit that Venus takes around the sun to the orbit that Mars takes around the sun.   
  • Earth’s orbit is farther from the sun than Venus but closer than Mars. It is within the sun’s Goldilocks Zone. So it can maintain a vast ocean of liquid water, which makes Earth a place where life can thrive

Environmental Magnetism

  • Environmental magnetism is the study of magnetism which depicts the impact of climate change, pollution and environmental footprints on magnetic minerals present in environmental samples such as soil, dust and sediments
  • In environmental magnetism, rock and mineral magnetic techniques are used to investigate the formation, transportation, deposition, and post depositional alterations of magnetic minerals under the influences of a wide range of environmental processes.
  •  All materials respond in some way to an applied magnetic field, and iron-bearing minerals are sensitive to a range of environmental processes, which makes magnetic measurements extremely useful for detecting signals associated with environmental processes.
  • The main advantages of using magnetic measurements are that magnetic minerals are almost ubiquitous and magnetic measurements are quick and non-invasive

Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) Scheme

  • The Ministry of Minority Affairs implements the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF) Scheme for educational empowerment of students belonging to six notified minority communities i.e. Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain, Muslim, Zoroastrian (Parsi) who pursue regular and full time M. Phil and Ph.D courses
  • It provides integrated five-year fellowships in the form of financial assistance to students pursuing higher studies such as M.Phil and Ph.D in India.
  • The Fellowship covers all Universities/Institutions recognized by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
  • The Fellowship is awarded on the pattern of UGC Fellowship awarded to research students pursuing regular and full time M.Phil and Ph.D. courses.

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