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Current Affairs – 21 September 2021

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Super-hydrophobic Cotton

Down to Earth

GS 3: Environment


  • Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati, have developed a new class of super-hydrophobic cotton composite with Metal-Organic Framework (MOF) that promise marine oil-spill clean-up in near future.


  • This is a novel, highly porous and water-repellent super-hydrophobic cotton composite material containing MOF, which can absorb oil selectively from an oil-water mixture.
  • The MOF composite has great capability for selective separation of the oils from oil / water mixtures and the separation efficiency lies between 95 per cent and 98 per cent, irrespective of the chemical composition and density of the oils.
  • Besides, the MOF composite is also able to absorb large volumes of oils and can be reused for a minimum of 10 times so that the sorbents can provide more recovery of the spilled oil.
  • The practical applications of this research include cleaning the spilled oil from environmental water (river, sea or ocean water) during oil transportation with high efficiency and large absorption capacity, thus reducing environmental water pollution.
  • Both heavy and light oils can be effectively absorbed by the material, which is easy to prepare, cost-effective and recyclable, IIT, Guwahati said.
  • In a country like India where petroleum hydrocarbons are the major sources of fuel, accidental oil spills occur frequently during the oil transportation and its storage.
  • The material developed will certainly be beneficial to reduce the environmental water pollution by efficiently absorbing the spilled oil from environmental water.
  • MOFs are a class of compounds containing metal ions coordinated to organic ligands to form 3D structures, with the special feature that they are often highly porous materials that act like a sponge.


Planet Nine

The Indian Express

GS 3: Space


  • Recently, two astronomers at the California Institute of Technology in the United States, have plotted the probability distribution function of the orbit of Planet Nine. 


  • In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union announced that it had reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet.
    • The decision was based on Pluto’s size and the fact that it resides within a zone of other similarly-sized objects.
    • Currently, there are five dwarf planets: Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Makemake and Haumea.
  • Scientists have continued their search for new planets and in 2016 stated that they had evidence for a distant giant planet and nicknamed it Planet Nine. 
  • The new research provides evidence of a giant planet tracing an unusual, elongated orbit in the outer solar system.
    • The prediction is based on detailed mathematical modelling and computer simulations, not direct observation.
  • Another study published in 2018 in The Astronomical Journal, on the other hand, cited fresh evidence for the existence of Planet Nine.
    • It noted that a trans-Neptunian object called 2015 BP519 had an unusual trajectory because it was affected by Planet Nine’s strong gravity.

About Planet Nine:

  • Caltech researchers have found mathematical evidence suggesting there may be a “Planet X” deep in the solar system.
  •  This hypothetical Neptune-sized planet orbits the Sun in a highly elongated orbit far beyond Pluto.
  • The predicted orbit is about 20 times farther from the Sun on average than Neptune (which orbits the Sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). It could have a mass about 10 times that of Earth
  • It would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the Sun (where Neptune completes an orbit roughly every 165 years).


Need For Good Urbanisation

The Indian Express

GS 1:


  • The Covid situation has reinforced that good urbanisation is the most powerful technology for poverty reduction.


  • Urbanisation gets a bad name in rich and poor countries because megacities — 10 million-plus populations — are unpleasant places to live for people who are not rich or powerful.
  • Twenty-six of the world’s 33 megacities are in developing countries because their rural areas lack rule of law, infrastructure and productive commerce.
  • Migrants that left our cities during the first lockdown last year are back because they were not running towards cities, but running away from sub-scale economic wastelands — estimates suggest that 2 lakh of our 6 lakh villages have less than 200 people.
  • But there is no denying that even our non-megacities have inadequate planning, non-scalable infrastructure, unaffordable housing, and poor public transport.

Causes of urbanization:

  • Poor infrastructure
  • Lack of productivity – 50% of our population in rural areas generate only 18% of the GDP
  • Poverty
  • Poor quality of education without bilingual possibilities
  • Poor quality of healthcare
  • Caste discrimination in villages

Indian Scenario

  • The golden rule in government is those with the gold rule; the annual spend of our central government is about Rs 34 lakh crore and of 28 state governments is about Rs 40 lakh crore.
  • But the 15th Finance Commission estimates our 2.5 lakh plus local government bodies only spend Rs 3.7 lakh crore annually. This apartheid has many reasons.
    • First is power; local government is curtailed by state government departments in water, power, schools, healthcare, etc (property tax collection would be 100 percent if municipal bodies supplied water).
    • The second is independence — only 13 per cent and 44 per cent of the budget of rural and urban bodies was raised themselves.
    • The third is structure — a Union ministry controlling finance and governance of the states would be unacceptable at the Centre but the Department of Local Self Government in the states has almost unlimited powers.
    • Fourth, having separate central rural and urban ministries distorts policy.
    • Finally, the lack of power and resources sets off a vicious cycle of decline because ambitious and talented individuals aren’t attracted to city leadership.

What are the issues with urbanisation?

  • Inadequate planning – Causes congestion , pollution and aggravates the problems during disasters like flood
  • Non-scalable infrastructure –Pressure on resources such as land, capital  limits the scope of scaling the infrastructure
  • Unaffordable housing – Leads to unhygienic living conditions and multiplication of slums
  • Poor public transport – Tokyo has one-third of Japan’s population but planning has ensured that essential workers don’t commute more than two hours
  • Dependence of local governments – only 13 per cent and 44 per cent of the budget of rural and urban bodies was raised themselves
  • Policy distortion – Separate central rural and urban ministries hampers the continuity and efficiency of policies
  • Lack of power and resources with the local governments
  • Men-only migration – leaves women with the burden of farm work, taking care of children and elderly , having no access to health services and no emotional support from the spouse
  • Pollution – Noise pollution and air pollution are serious issues in cities especially in Delhi
  • 21 of the world’s 30 cities with the worst air pollution are in India, according to 2019 World Air Quality Report
  • Water scarcity – In four metros (Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai & Mumbai) only 30% of dirty water is treated

How can a good urbanisation promoted?

  • More devolution of powers and resources by the states to the local governments is in need.
  • Instead of debating on whether cities are hostile to migrants and infection hotspots they must be empowered to deliver economic justice for women, children and vulnerable.


Front-of-pack Labelling

Down to Earth

GS 3: Food Processing


  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), in 2018, released the Draft Food Safety And Standards (Labelling And Display) Regulation.
  • However, even after so many expert panel recommendations and regulations, India still does not have a clear labelling or Front-of-pack (FoP) Labelling System, which can warn consumers about harmful levels of fat, salt and sugar in processed foods.
  • All evidence shows that by influencing FSSAI, they have not only delayed the implementation of FoP label but have also diluted labelling provision to the extent that it may no longer serve the purpose.


  • The front-of-pack (FoP) labelling system has long been listed as one of the global best practices to nudge consumers into healthy food choices.
  • It works just the way cigarette packets are labelled with images to discourage consumption.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FoP labels as “nutrition labelling systems that are presented on the front of food packages in the principal field of vision; and present simple, often graphic information on the nutrient content or nutritional quality of products, to complement the more detailed nutrient declarations provided on the back of food packages.”
  • The Codex Alimentarius Commission, an international food standards body established jointly by WHO and the Food and Agriculture organization (FAO), mentions that “FoP labelling is designed to assist in interpreting nutrient declarations”.

Draft Food Safety And Standards (Labelling And Display) Regulations:

  • The rules mandates colour-coded labels on food items.
  • The draft regulation has been brought to encourage consumers to make healthier food choicesand inform them about what the product actually contains.
  • The front of all packaged food items will have to display the total number of calories, saturated and trans fats, salt, and added sugar contentas well as the proportion of the daily energy needs fulfilled by the food item.
  • FSSAI has also changed the symbol of vegetarian food from a green circle to a green triangleto help color blind people distinguish it from the brown circle denoting non-vegetarian food.
  • According to the proposed regulation, if the total amounts of calories, fats, trans-fats, sugar, and sodium per serving exceed the stipulated limits, it would be indicated in red colour.

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