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Current Affairs – 22 May 2021

Current Affairs (22nd May 2021)

Chinese Port City Bill

Context:

  • With incorporation of amendments suggested by the Sri Lankan Supreme Court to make it consistent with the constitution, its Parliament has passed the bill on laws governing the China-backed Colombo Port city.

About:

  • The $1.4 billion-Colombo Port City was launched in 2014 during the previous term of the Rajapaksa government.
  • The government defended the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill, pointing to potential foreign direct investments, up to $15 billion and prospects for job creation.

Criticism of Government’s Move:

  • The provisions of Bill infringed upon the country’s sovereignty, gave the governing commission overarching powers, and immunity from Sri Lankan law, and threatened to create a “Chinese enclave”.
  • The opposition asked the government if its stated policy of striving for ‘One Country, One Law’ meant “Chinese law”.
  • The “China-centric” Sri Lankan government is again challenging the geo-political order in the region and may have to pay a heavy price with such choices.
  • Some critics are accusing the government of giving away part of its land to China.

Geo-Political ramifications

  • Indian Ocean is the natural arena of India’s influence with overriding security consequences on India and neighbouring small Island Nations in the region.
  • It is considered as part of Chinese Debt-trap Diplomacy to colonise the small nations. E.g. Earlier, Sri Lanka was forced to give its Hambantota port to China for a 99 years lease.
  • Over 70% of the transshipment business at the Sri Lanka’s East Container Terminal (ECT) is linked to India. The ECT is located more 3 km away from the Colombo port city.
  • This can have serious ramifications towards India’s efforts to build a safe, secure, and stable Indian Ocean region through efforts like SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region, launched in 2015).

China Encircling India

  • Recently, China has completed a key highway in Tibet, cutting through the YarlungZangbo Grand Canyon; touted as world’s deepest canyon on River Brahmaputra.
  • It is close to Arunachal Pradesh Border and serves the strategic interests of China to encircle India from all parts through infrastructure along LAC and other initiatives like Indian Ocean Region through Sri Lanka, Western Border through China Pakistan Economic Corridor etc.\

 

China completes Tibet highway

Context:

  • China has completed the construction of a strategic highway through the Brahmaputra Canyon.

China’s Border Infrastructure push – Strategic significance:

  • The strategically significant highway through the world’s deepest canyon is in Tibet along the Brahmaputra river.
  • It passes through the Grand Canyon of the YarlungZangbo river, as the Brahmaputra is called in Tibet.
  • It enables greater access to remote areas along the disputed border with Arunachal Pradesh in India.
  • The construction began in 2014 and is part of a wider infrastructure push in border areas in Tibet.
  • In November 2020China began work on a strategically important railway line— its second major rail link to Tibet that will link Sichuan province with Nyingchi.
    • The first one was the Qinghai-Tibet railway that opened in 2006.
    • The Chinese President called it a major step in safeguarding national unity and a significant move in promoting the economic and social development of the western region.
    • The railway would act as a ‘fast track’ for the delivery of strategic materials in the time of crisis.
  • Another part of the border infrastructure push is the construction of new civilian settlements, along with the expansion of existing smaller hamlets, along border areas, some of which lie in disputed territories claimed by India and Bhutan, to strengthen China’s control over the land.
  • In 2017, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government launched a plan to build moderately well-off villages along China’s borders with India, Bhutan, and Nepal.

Concerns:

  • In 2020, satellite images emerged showing a new village called Pangda built 2-3 km into what Bhutan sees as its land.
  • In 2021, a village built 4-5 km into what India sees as its territory in Arunachal was seen via satellite images.
  • Indian officials said this land has been under China’s effective control since 1959 and there were military barracks there earlier.

Conclusion:

  • The civilian settlements, along with the new infrastructure connectivity, are seen as aimed at bolstering China’s control over the areas.
  • India needs to be vigilant enough for any new development in China near its border to protect its interests efficiently. Further, it needs to build robust Infrastructure in difficult border areas in its territory to ensure movement of personnel and other logistical supplies in an efficient manner.

 

A-76 (WORLD’S LARGEST ICEBERG)

Context:

  • A giant slab of ice bigger than the Spanish island of Majorca has sheared off from the frozen edge of Antarctica into the Weddell Sea, becoming the largest iceberg currently afloat in the world, the European Space Agency said.

About:

  • The newly calved berg, designated A-76 by scientists, was spotted in recent satellite images captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission. Its surface area spans 4,320 square km (1,668 square miles)and measures 175 km long by 25 km wide.
  • By comparison, Spain’s popular tourist island of Majorca in the Mediterranean occupies 3,640 square km (1,405 square miles).The U.S. state of Rhode Island is smaller still, with a landmass of just 2,678 square km.
  • The enormity of A-76, which broke away from Antarctica’s Ronne Ice Shelf, ranks as the largest existing iceberg on the planet, surpassing the now second-place A-23A, about 3,380 square km (1,305 square miles) in size and floating in the Weddell Sea.

 

CORPSE FLOWER

Context:

  • Over a thousand people queued up outside an abandoned gas station in San Francisco’s Bay Area this week to catch a glimpse of the extremely rare and aptly named ‘corpse flower’.

About:

  • The ‘corpse flower’ is a flowering plant, which is native to the rainforests of Sumatra in Indonesia. The scientific name of the rare plant, Amorphophallus titanum, quite literally translates to giant, misshapen phallus — presumably due to its appearance.
  • In about a decade, the ‘corpse flower’ can grow to be up to 10 feet tall and unveil two of its key components — a deep red skirt-like petal known as the spathe and a yellow rod-like ‘spadix’.
  • Another crucial component of the plant is the ‘corm’, a fleshy underground plant stem which acts as a storage organ where the corpse plant’s energy is stored. The unique plant is said to have the biggest corm in existence, sometimes weighing around 100 kgs.
  • The corpse flower is known to be one of the world’s largest ‘unbranched inflorescence’ or a stalk bearing a cluster of flowers. The average corpse flower has a lifespan of about three-four decades.

What is behind the corpse flower’s putrid stench?

  • Apart from its appearance, the flower is known for its pungent stench, which is said to be like rotting meat or a decaying cadaver. The plant emits the distinct smell only when it is in bloom, which happens once every 10 years or so and only for a brief period.
  • The main odorant which gave the flower its distinct smell was dimethyl trisulfide, the same compound that is emitted from cancerous wounds, microorganisms, and some vegetables.

 

PLASMA

Context:

  • Scientists from Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG), an autonomous institute under the DST have recently developed a theory that helps understand the complicated nature of Sun-Earth interaction’s happening in the magnetosphere– an area of space around Earth that is controlled by the Earth’s magnetic field.

About:

  • This new theory has opened a plethora of opportunities to unlock the mysteries of the ion-hole structures (a localized plasma region where the ion density is lower than the surrounding plasma).
  • They have completely ruled out the necessity of the upper limit in the temperature ratio between ions and electrons for the generation of a special kind of wave called Bernstein Green Kruskal (BGK) waves, named after the scientists who predicted this wave.
  • They revealed that the electrons that are not part of ion hole dynamics also play a vital role.
  • The new theory developed by the IIG team sheds light on the nature’s greatest mystery that causes phenomena —plasma transport and heating of plasma — the fourth state of matter after solid, liquid, and gas, which is the most natural and widely observed state of matter in the entire universe.

 

EXPORT OF BUFFALO MEAT

Context:

  • Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), Ministry of Commerce and Industry has said India is following guidelines of international organizations and adhering to quality, food safety and environment management systems regarding Buffalo meat.

About:

  • Top Indian buffalo meat importing countries are Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, and UAE. The Buffalo meat is prepared and exported in accordance with OIE guidelines for any risk mitigation. Only boneless buffalo meat is allowed for export from India which is safe and risk free.
  • There have been several interventions by the Government of India to control and eradicate various livestock diseases. The Launching of National Animal Disease Control Programme (NADCP) in June 2019 to control Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) and Brucellosis by 2025 with vaccination and eradication of disease by 2030 is one of the flagship schemes of GOI.
  • International organizations such as OIE, WHO and FAO have issued guidelines which categorically mention that it is highly unlikely that people can contact Covid -19 from food or food packaging.
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