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Current Affairs – 23 August 2021

Land Degradation and Desertification

Down to Earth

GS 3: Environmental Pollution and Degradation

Context:

  • According to a new ISRO’s Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas, around 7 per cent of India’s land is degraded.
  • The Atlas provides a state wise area of degraded lands for the time frame 2018-19. It also provides the change analysis for the duration of 15 years, from 2003-05 to 2018-19.

Key Findings:

  • Land Degradation: 
    • Some 97.85 million hectares (MHA) of India’s total geographical area (TGA) of 328.72 MHA underwent land degradation during 2018-19.
      • Land degradation within dryland regions (arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions) is termed ‘desertification’.
    • This means that 29.7 per cent of the country’s land in that year became degraded.
  • Past 20 years trend: 
    • In 2003-05, 94.53 MHA (28.76 per cent of the TGA) underwent land degradation.
    • The number increased to 96.40 MHA (29.32 per cent of the TGA) in 2011-13.
  • Desertification increased: 
    • Besides land degradation, desertification had also increased. Some 83.69 MHA underwent desertification in 2018-19. This was greater than the 81.48 MHA in 2003-2005 and 82.64 mha in 2011-13 that underwent desertification.
  • State Wise breakup:
    • Around 23.79 per cent of the area undergoing desertification/land degradation with respect to TGA of the country was contributed by Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Ladakh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana.
    • India witnessed an increase in the level of desertification in 28 of 31 states and Union territories between 2011-13 and 2018-19, a closer look at data in the atlas showed.
      • This included Goa and Odisha, where desertification had declined between 2003-05 and 2011-13.
    • Between 2003-05 and 2011-13, 25 of the 31 states and Union territories had seen an increase in the level of desertification.
    • However, land degradation and desertification were declining in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Telangana in 2018-2019.

 

Makers of madur mats win accolades

The Hindu

GS 1: Arts and Culture

Context:

  • Two women from Sabang in West Bengal have been given the National Handicraft Award (It is an Indian Government award conferred to outstanding master crafts persons in recognition of their outstanding contribution towards development of crafts) in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the development of crafts.

The rationale behind the awarding:

  • It was made on Independence Day to honour their skills in making madur floor mats that are unique to West Bengal. 
  • The mat is an intrinsic part of the Bengali lifestyle, madur mats are made of natural fibres.
  • Both awardees are expert weavers of the ‘Masland’, a fine quality madur mat, which takes weeks to weave.
    • During the 18th century, Masland mats flourished under royal patronage.
    • In 1744, Nawab Alibardi Khan issued a charter to land-owning jagirdars in this regard, and as a result, it was obligatory to supply Masland mats for use in the Collectorate.

 

Rainfall at Greenland ice summit

Indian Express/The Hindu

GS 3: Environment and Conservation

Context:

  • Recently for the first time on record, the summit of Greenland received rain and not snow, just as temperatures at the spot went above freezing for the third time in less than ten years.

Background:

  • As per the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, this was the heaviest rainfall that the ice sheet received since record keeping began in 1950. 
    • Recently witnessing a rate of ice melting that was seven times more than the daily average that is observed at this time of the year.

Unprecedented rise in water level:

  • This melt water is streaming into the ocean, causing sea levels to rise. 
  • Already, melting from Greenland’s ice sheet – the world’s second-largest after Antarctica’s – has caused around 25% of global sea level rise seen over the last few decades. 
  • That share is expected to grow, as global temperatures increase.

About the heavy Rainfall

  • The rain fell for several hours at the ice sheet’s 3,216-metre summit, where temperatures remained above freezing for around nine hours.
    • Temperatures at the ice cap almost never lift above freezing, but have now done so three times in less than a decade.
  • In total, 7 billion tonnes of rain fell across Greenland over three days, from August 14 through August 16 2021 – the largest amount since records began in 1950.
    • The record-breaking rain is the latest in a string of warning signs.
  • Along with rising floods, fires, and other extremes, it is one of many “alarm bells” signalling the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenland:

  • It is the world’s largest island located between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.
  • It has three-quarters of its surface covered with a permanent ice sheet, which is increasingly coming under threat because of climate change.

 

ZyCoV-D

PIB

Prelims: Current events of national and international importance

Context:

  • Zydus Cadila has received approval for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for ZyCoV-D on 20/08/2021.

About:

  • It is the world’s first and India’s indigenously developed DNA based vaccine for COVID-19 to be administered in humans including Children and adults 12 years and above.
  • Developed in partnership with the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India under the ‘Mission COVID Suraksha’ and implemented by BIRAC, ZyCoV-D has been supported under COVID-19.
  • Research Consortia through National Biopharma Mission for Preclinical studies, Phase I and Phase II Clinical Trials and under the Mission COVID Suraksha for Phase III Clinical Trial.
  • This 3 dose vaccine which when injected produces the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and elicits an immune response, which plays a vital role in protection from disease as well as viral clearance.
  • The plug-and-play technology on which the plasmid DNA platform is based can be easily adapted to deal with mutations in the virus, such as those already occurring.

 

Piperine

PIB

Prelims: Current events of national and international importance

Context:

  • Every kitchen in India makes use of turmeric in its meal, in one form or another. The actual turmeric slices or turmeric powder that we use every day in preparing our meals (as Haldi, Manjal, Pasupu, Arishina, Halud) has about 3% of the active component molecule called curcumin, a polyphenol diketone (and not a steroid).

About:

  • Researchers point out that there is another molecule in turmeric called piperine, which is an alkaloid, responsible for the pungency of pepper that we use every day in our cooking, along with turmeric.
  • Piperine enhances curcumin absorption in the body. It gives turmeric its multivariate healing and protective power.

 

Acetabularia Jalakanyakae

BBC

Prelims: Current events of national and international importance

Context:

  • A team of marine biologists from the Central University of Punjab have discovered a new species of marine green algae from Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

About:

  • It has been named Acetabularia jalakanyakae.
  • Jalakanyaka in Sanskrit literally means mermaid and a goddess of oceans. The scientists say they were influenced by the fictional character Little Mermaid in the fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” by Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson.
  • The main feature of the newly discovered species is that the plant is made up of one gigantic cell with a nucleus.

 

China Passes New Data Privacy Law

Indian Express

GS 2: Government Policies and Interventions

Context:

  • Recently, China has passed a data protection law, which will take effect on November 1.

Major Highlights:

  • Tougher rules on data collection: 
    • The new data protection law sets out tougher rules on how companies collect and handle their users’ information.
    • It requires reducing data collection and obtaining user consent.
    • The Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) lays out for the first time a comprehensive set of rules around data collection, processing and protection, that were previously governed by piecemeal legislation.
      • The rules add to Beijing’s tightening of regulation, particularly around data, which could impact the way China’s technology giants operate.
  • Resemblance to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation: 
    • The national privacy law closely resembles the world’s most robust framework for online privacy protections, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, and contains provisions that require any organization or individual handling Chinese citizens’ personal data to minimize data collection and to obtain prior consent.
    • However, unlike in Europe, where governments face more public pressure over data collection, Beijing is expected to maintain broad access to data.
  • User Protection:
    • The law also aims to protect those who feel strongly about personal data being used for user profiling and by recommendation algorithms or the use of big data in setting unfair prices
    • It will also prevent companies from setting different prices for the same service based on clients’ shopping history.
  • Sharing of Data with other countries:
    • The law stipulates that the personal data of Chinese nationals cannot be transferred to countries with lower standards of data security than China — rules which may present problems for foreign businesses.
  • Fine on Companies failing to follow:
    • Companies that fail to comply can face fines to the tune of up to 50 million yuan (around Rs 57 crore) or five per cent of their annual turnover.
  • Stock market reaction to the Law:
    • The greatest fallout of China notifying the law was that the stocks of the big tech companies of the country suffered a major slump, prompting renewed concerns among investors.

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