Glacial Burst

#GS1 #GS3 #Geography #DisasterManagement

  • Seven persons were killed and over 125 reported missing after a “glacial burst” on Nanda Devi triggered an avalanche and caused flash floods in Rishiganga and Dhauliganga rivers in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.
  • The Rishiganga hydel project had an installed capacity of 13.2 megawatts (MW), the 520 MW NTPC Tapovan-Vishnugad project on the Dhauliganga was much larger. Both sites have been virtually washed away. 
  • Covered in mud, several men were safely pulled out one after the other from a slush-covered tunnel by the ITBP personnel in the Tapovan power project area.
  • The water level of Dhauli-ganga river at Joshimath flowed at a perilously high level, breaching all records, Central Water Commission officials said. 
  • Environmental experts have attributed the glacial melt to global warming. Glacier retreat and permafrost thaw are projected to decrease the stability of slopes.
  • Climate change has driven erratic weather patterns like increased snowfall and rainfall, and warmer winters had led to the melting of a lot of snow. 
  • The thermal profile of ice, said experts, was increasing. Earlier the temperature of ice ranged from -6 to -20 degree Celsius; it is now -2 making it more susceptible to melting.

Glacial lake outburst flood

  • A Glacial lake outburst flood is a kind of outburst flood that happens when the dam containing a glacial lake fails.
  • It is a type of outburst flood occurring when water dammed by a glacier or a moraine is released. 
  • GLOF can occur because of: 
  1. erosion
  2. buildup of water pressure
  3. avalanche
  4. earthquake
  5. volcanic eruptions under the ice
  6. glacier collapses 

Permafrost thawing

  • Permafrost is ground that remains completely frozen at 0 degrees Celsius or below for at least two years. 
  • The permanently frozen ground is believed to have formed during glacial periods dating several millennia. It consisting of soil, sand, and rock held together by ice,
  • Permafrost is mainly found near the poles, covering parts of Greenland, Alaska, Northern Canada, Siberia and Scandinavia. 
  • They are also found in high-altitude regions. 
  • When permafrost thaws, water from the melted ice makes its way to the caves along with ground sediments, and deposits on the rocks.
  • In other words, when permafrost thaws, the rocks grow and when permafrost is stable and frozen, they do not grow.
  • The Earth’s polar and high-altitude regions — its principal permafrost reservoirs — are the most threatened by climate change.
  • Thawing permafrost can also cause destruction to man-made structures overhead.
  • As temperatures rise, the binding ice in permafrost melts, making the ground unstable and leading to massive potholes, landslides, and floods.
  • The sinking effect causes damage to key infrastructure such as roads, railway lines, buildings, power lines and pipelines.
  • Beneath its surface, permafrost contains large quantities of organic leftover from thousands of years prior — dead remains of plants, animals, and microorganisms that got frozen before they could rot.
  • When permafrost thaws, microbes start decomposing this carbon matter, releasing greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide.
  • Researchers have estimated that for every 1-degree Celsius rise in temperature, these grounds could release GHGs to the tune of 4-6 years of emissions from coal, oil, and natural gas.
  • Along with greenhouse houses, it also holds a massive trove of pathogens. These grounds could also release ancient bacteria and viruses into the atmosphere as they unfreeze. 

Nanda Devi 

  • Nanda Devi is the second highest mountain in India after Kangchenjunga and the highest located entirely within the country.
  • It is part of the Garhwal Himalayas, and is located in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, between the Rishiganga valley on the west and the Goriganga valley on the east.
  • The Nanda Devi National Prak, located in vicinity to the peak, consists of the best high-altitude flora and fauna. 
  • The Valley of Flowers National Park is also located in high mountain wilderness of Nanda Devi.
  • Both parks contain high diversity and density of flora and fauna of the west Himalayan biogeographic zone, with significant populations of globally threatened species including the snow leopard, Himalayan musk deer and numerous plant species.
  • This entire area, located within the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA), supports significant populations of mountain ungulates and galliformes that are prey to carnivores such as the snow leopard.
  • The Nanda Devi National Park is a national park situated around the peak of Nanda Devi, 7,816 m (25,643 ft) in the state of Uttarakhand in northern India that was established in 1982. 
  • Along with the adjoining Valley of Flowers National Park to the northwest, it was inscribed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.
  • Nanda Devi National Park covers an area of 630.33 km2 (243.37 sq mi) and together with Valley of Flowers National Park is encompassed in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve totaling a protected area of 2,236.74 km2 (863.61 sq mi), which is surrounded by a buffer zone of 5,148.57 km2 (1,987.87 sq mi). This Reserve is part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2004.
  • The park encompasses the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, a glacial basin surrounded by a ring of peaks between 6,000 metres (19,700 ft) and 7,500 m (24,600 ft) high, and drained by the Rishi Ganga through the Rishi Ganga Gorge, a steep, almost impassable defile. The entire park lies at an elevation of more than 3,500 m (11,500 ft) above mean sea level.

Rivers:

Dhauliganga: Tributary of Alakananda 

  • The Ganga originates as Bhagirathi from the Gangotri glacier in Uttar Kashi District of Uttarakhand at an elevation of 7,010 m. Alaknanda River joins Bhagirathi at Devaprayag. From Devapryag the river is called as Ganga

Rishiganga: Tributary of Yamuna River. 

  • Yamuna unites with the Ganga near Triveni Sangam, Allahabad.

Tapovan power project

  • The Tapovan Vishnugad Hydropower Plant is a 520 MW run-of-river hydroelectric project being constructed on Dhauliganga River in Chamoli District of Uttarakhand, India. 
  • The plant is expected to generate over 2.5k GWh of electricity annually.

ITBP

  • Raised on 24th October, 1962 during India-China War, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police is one among the 7 Central Armed Police Forces which comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs. 
  • ITBP primarily guards the nation’s 3,488-kilometer-long Indo-China border in the Himalayas from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Jachep La in Arunachal Pradesh. 
  • They operate at altitudes ranging from 3,000 to 18,800 feet.
  • Apart from guarding the border; the Force is also deployed for Anti Naxal operations and other internal security duties.
  • ITBP is a specialised mountain force and most of the officers and men are professionally trained mountaineers and skiers.
  • Being the first responder for natural disasters, ITBP has been carrying out numerous rescue and relief operations across the country.
  • Headquarters of ITBP is located at New Delhi.

 

 

 

State Election Commissions (SECs)

#GS2 #Governance

  • Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner (SEC) N. Ramesh Kumar’s order that Panchayat Raj & Rural Development Minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy be confined to his residence till February 21 to prevent him from vitiating the process of gram panchayat elections, was struck down by the High Court

State Election Commissions (SECs)

  • The State Election Commission has the responsibility to conduct free and fair elections to the local bodies in the states.
  • According to Article 243K (1) of the Indian Constitution, the superintendence, direction and control of the elections to the Panchayats &Municipalities (Article 243ZA) shall be vested in a State Election Commission. State Election Commissioner is to be appointed by the Governor.
  • As per Article 243K (2), the tenure and appointment will be directed as per the law made by the state legislature. State Election Commissioner can only be removed in the same manner and on the same grounds as a Judge of a High Court.

Right to Censure

  • Election Commissioner possess the right to censure government officials who have been co-opted to carry out election duties.
  • Election Commission has also asserted the right to prevent the transfers of officials during an election campaign. When the Commission feels that such transfers are likely to impede the fairness of the elections, they can make use of this power.

 

 

 

Disinvestment

#GS3 #Economy

The government will adopt a ‘squeaky clean process’ for the privatisation of public sector enterprises as per the new policy unveiled in the Budget. 

Department of Investment and Public Asset Management

  • The Department of Disinvestment under the Ministry of Finance was later renamed as Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM).

Functions:

  • All matters relating to the management of Central Government investments in equity including disinvestment of equity in Central Public Sector Undertakings.
  • All matters relating to the sale of Central Government equity through offer for sale or private placement or any other mode in the erstwhile Central Public Sector Undertakings.

Strategic Disinvestment

  • Disinvestment means the dilution of stake of the Government in a public enterprise.
  • Strategic disinvestment is transferring the ownership and control of a public sector entity to some other entity (mostly to a private sector entity).
  • Unlike the simple disinvestment, strategic sale implies some sort of privatization.
  • According to the government, strategic disinvestment would imply the sale of a substantial portion of the Government shareholding of a central public sector enterprises (CPSE) of upto 50%, or such higher percentage as the competent authority may determine, along with transfer of management control.
  • Strategic disinvestment in India has been guided by the basic economic principle that the government should not be in the business to engage itself in manufacturing/producing goods and services in sectors where competitive markets have come of age, and economic potential of such entities may be better discovered in the hands of the strategic investors due to various factors, e.g., infusion of capital, technology up-gradation and efficient management practices etc.

 

 

 

MGNREGA

#GS2 #Governance

The government will not hesitate to increase the spend under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) programme if the need arises in the future, Minister of State for Finance has said.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 

  • Is an Indian labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the ‘right to work’. This act was passed in September 2005. 
  • It aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. 
  • The act was first proposed in 1991 by P.V. Narasimha Rao. It was finally accepted in the parliament and commenced implementation in 625 districts of India. 
  • The MGNREGA was initiated with the objective of "enhancing livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year, to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work".  
  • Another aim of MGNREGA is to create durable assets (such as roads, canals, ponds and wells). Employment is to be provided within 5 km of an applicant's residence, and minimum wages are to be paid. 
  • If work is not provided within 15 days of applying, applicants are entitled to an unemployment allowance. That is, if the government fails to provide employment, it has to provide certain unemployment allowances to those people. Thus, employment under MGNREGA is a legal entitlement.

 

 

 

Vaccine Maitri

#GS2 #InternationalRelations

  • Afghanistan received a large consignment of COVID-19 vaccines from India.
  • The vaccine, made by the Serum Institute of India, has already been supplied to Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and the Maldives in South Asia.
  • India has already carried out capacity building workshops with Afghan health workers.

Vaccine Diplomacy

  • It is the use of vaccines to increase a country’s diplomatic relationship with other countries.
  • India is supplying Made-in-India Covid-19 vaccines to its neighboring and key partner countries under its Neighborhood First policy. 
  • This will include Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan. 
  • Pakistan has not been named as a neighboring country which will get the vaccine. 
  • Vaccine will be Supplied to the partner countries in a phased manner, keeping in mind the demand.

Earlier Diplomacy measures by India: 

  • India had earlier supplied Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and Paracetamol tablets as well as diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical supplies to a large number of countries during the pandemic. 
  • Under the Partnerships for Accelerating Clinical Trials(PACT) programme, India has also provided training to several neighbouring countries to enhance and strengthen their clinical capabilities. 

India's Relations with Afghanistan 

  • During Ancient times India and Afghanistan were closely related and were often ruled by same dynasties such as the Mauryas, Guptas and Kushanas 
  • Hinduism and Buddhism were widespread in both the countries. 
  • During Medieval Period the Delhi Sultanate was formed by rulers who migrated from Central Asia and Afghanistan 
  • The founder of Mughal Empire Babur was ruling Kabul before his conquest of Delhi 
  • During British Era Afghanistan was acting as a buffer zone between the British possessions in India and the Russian Empire in what was called as the Great Game. 
  • After independence India had friendly relations with the various monarchies that ruled Afghanistan. 
  • India was also in favour of the Soviet Intervention in 1979 and was one of the only 18 countries to vote in favour of USSR in UNGA when the western countries wanted to censure USSR intervention. 
  • After the Taliban takeover of Kabul, India supplied arms and other support to the Northern Alliance (Democratic forces against Taliban) and used the airbase in Tajikistan for this purpose. 
  • The first major contention after the fall of USSR between India and Taliban came in 1999 when the Indian Airlines flight IC 814 from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked by terrorists and flown to Kandahar. While initially the Taliban appeared to be favourable to Indian side, it soon became clear that they were associated with ISI and the hijackers. This led to a souring of relations which continues till date. 
  • The US war on terror from 2001 as a result of WTC attacks have helped India to improve the relations in the region and India has invested heavily in education and infrastructure development in the region 
  • The resurgence of Taliban and US's decision to withdraw from the region hence poses a threat to Indian interests in the area especially since that will open the doors to an enthusiastic China with its BRI and an eager Pakistan with ties to Taliban to create their own spheres of influence 
  • Afghanistan poses a great deal of interest to India's national interests 
  • Taliban trained terrorists have been used to create chaos in Kashmir Valley in the past 
  • India's development of Chabahar port also aims at creating an alternate inroad into central Asia which is supposed to go through Afghanistan 
  • India has already invested millions of dollars into the development of Afghanistan and has a multitude of ongoing projects whose future has suddenly become murky. 

 

 

 

Yemen Crisis

#GS2 #InternationalRelations

Yemen Crisis:

  • The conflict can be traced back to the Arab Spring of 2011. The uprising forced the country’s autocratic president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to transfer authority to Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, his deputy.
  • President Hadi found it difficult to deal with different issues like militant attacks, corruption, scarcity of food, and a legacy of military loyalty to Saleh.
  • Conflict arose in 2014 when the Houthi Shia Muslim rebel movement seized the northern Saada province and surrounding areas.
  • The Houthis, a group of Zaidi Shia Muslims whose ancestors had a kingdom in this region for around 1,000 years capitalised on the widespread anger against President Hadi's decision to postpone long-awaited elections and his ineffective negotiations over a new constitution, to protest against the government.
  • They marched from their stronghold of Saada province to the capital Sanaa and surrounded the presidential palace, placing Hadi under house arrest, forcing Mr Hadi into exile abroad.
  • The conflict intensified in 2015, when Saudi Arabia along with other Sunni Arab states, supported by the US, UK, and France, began air strikes against the Houthis, with the objective to restore Mr Hadi’s government. 

Iran’s involment – support to Houthis:

  • The Saudi-led coalition anticipated the entry of its rival state Iran (Shia majority) in the Yemen crisis. 
  • Saudi Arabia alleges Iran’s involvement in providing the Houthis with weapons and logistical support. Iran outrightly denies these allegations.
  • The Houthis broke with Saleh and he was killed by Houthi fighters in December 2017.
  • On the anti-Houthi side, militias include separatists seeking independence for south Yemen and factions who oppose the idea.

Consequences of Yemen Instability:

  • According to the UN, humanitarian crisis is of concern, with at least 8.4 million people at risk of starvation and 22.2 million people – 75% of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance.
  • Severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of almost 400,000 children under the age of five.
  • Yemen’s health system has all but collapsed, while the world’s largest cholera outbreak has killed thousands.
  • In June 2018, Saudi-backed government forces began an assault on the key rebel-held port of Hudaydah, the entry point for the vast majority of aid going into Yemen and a lifeline for the starving.
  • Aid agencies warned the offensive could make Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe much worse.

 

 

 

Iran Nuclear Deal

#GS2 #InternationalRelations

  • Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday the U.S. must “completely lift” sanctions first, followed by verification by Tehran, before the Islamic republic returns to its nuclear deal commitments.
  • The 2015 landmark deal has been hanging by a thread since former U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from it in 2018 and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
  • Tehran a year later suspended its compliance with most key nuclear commitments to the deal.
  • Mr. Biden said he won’t lift sanctions against Iran as long as the Islamic republic is not adhering to its nuclear deal commitments.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action: 

  • Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear programme in a 2015 deal struck with the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany.
  • The 2015 nuclear deal gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Under the deal: 

  •  Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear programme in a 2015 deal struck with the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany. 
  • Tehran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons. 
  • The Joint Commission was established, with the negotiating parties all represented, to monitor implementation of the agreement

India's stance 

  • India has been a proactive votary of the international rules-based order.
  • It has been extremely supportive of the Iran nuclear deal.
  • India recognises Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
  • On the other hand, it also highlights the international community’s interest.
  • It has thus maintained that the Iranian nuclear issue should be resolved peacefully.

Implications for India 

  • Energy: Until 2010-11, Iran was India’s second-largest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia.
  • But it slipped in subsequent years as international sanctions hit Iran. 
  • It is now India’s third-largest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. 
  • But following the 2015 deal, the supplies rose considerably. 
  • A disruption to this trend may affect India's energy trade. 
  • India and Iran have strategic interests in keeping the relationship sustainable. 
  • But it should be insulated from the impact of sanctions. 

Chabahar port: 

  • Chabahar port is both a financial and a strategic investment for India. 
  • The engagement between India and Iran on Chabahar has gathered momentum. 

West Asia

  • Trump’s move would mean US engaging with Iran's regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Israel.
  • This could destabilise the region where over 8 million Indian migrants live and work.
  • Military tensions in West Asia have forced India to evacuate its nationals in the past. 
  • However, India's capacity to do so is limited.

 

 

 

Al-Amal

#GS3 #Science&Technology

  • The first Arab interplanetary mission is expected to reach Mars’ orbit on Tuesday in what is considered the most critical part of the journey to unravel the secrets of weather on the Red Planet.
  • The unmanned space probe — named “Al-Amal”, Arabic for “Hope” — blasted off from Japan last year, marking the next step in the United Arab Emirates’ ambitious space programme.
  • The UAE has plans to launch an unmanned rover to the moon by 2024 and is also eyeing future mining projects beyond Earth, as well as space tourism.

Al-Amal (Hope)

  • The Hope mission is a Mars orbiter spacecraft, which will study the thin atmosphere of Mars.
  • The mission is officially named the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) and the orbiter has been named Hope or ‘Al Amal’.
  • If successful, the Hope orbiter will join six others in studying Mars, from the US, Europe and India.

The Hope orbiter:

The Hope probe has a mission life of one Martian year, which is almost two Earth years.

Objectives:

  1. To analyse the climate pattern and weather map of planet Mars by observing the lower atmosphere of Mars.
  2. To know how the weather of Mars affects the escape of hydrogen and oxygen, by correlating conditions in the lower and upper atmosphere.
  3. To understand the presence and variability of hydrogen and oxygen in the upper atmosphere, and why Mars is losing these gases to space.
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