Current Affairs (9th June 2021)
Sea Snot Outbreak in Turkey
- Recently, Turkey’s Sea of Marmara has witnessed the largest outbreak of sea snot.
- The Sea of Marmara connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, where too the sludge has been spotted.
- Turkey recorded its first outbreak in 2007, in the Aegean Sea near Greece.
- It is marine mucilage (thick, gluey substance) or a slimy layer of grey or green sludge, which can cause considerable damage to the marine ecosystem.
- It looks like a viscous, brown, and foamy substance.
- It is formed when algae are overloaded with nutrients.
- The nutrient overload occurs when algae feast on warm weather caused by global warming.
- Water pollution adds to the problem as cities like Istanbul, which is home to 16 million people, discharge untreated water into the seas.
- The mucilage floats up on the surface of the sea and poses a severe threat to the marine ecosystem.
- It has caused mass deaths among the fish population and has killed other aquatic organisms such as corals and sponges.
- It has also spread to 80-100 feet below the surface. If not checked and taken care of, it can collapse to the bottom and cover the sea floor.
- Over a period, it can poison all aquatic life, including fishes, crabs, oysters, mussels, and sea stars.
- It has also affected the livelihoods of fishermen as the sludge is getting collected in their nets, making them so heavy that they break or get lost.
- Moreover, the mucilage coating the strings makes the nets visible to fish and keeps them away.
- It can possibly lead to an outbreak of water-borne diseases such as cholera in cities like Istanbul.
- The entire Sea of Marmara will be turned into a protected area.
- Steps are being taken to reduce pollution and improve treatment of wastewater from coastal cities and ships.
- All other steps under the framework of a disaster management plan are being taken to save not only the present but also the future.
- Turkey’s biggest maritime clean-up operation is being launched.
- Local residents, artists and NGOs are being called to join hands to extend assistance.
- The government should impose strong penalties on waste disposal facilities that fail to follow the rules.
- Fresh investments to treat and purify wastewater being pumped out of Istanbul are needed to provide a long-term solution to the crisis.
- Turkey has planned to reduce nitrogen levels in the sea by 40 per cent, which would help tackle the crisis and prevent it from happening again.
- Lawmakers and environmentalists have suggested the Turkey government to approve the Paris Agreement on climate change which aims to cut down on carbon emissions and reduce global temperatures.
- Turkey is the only G20 country that has not ratified the Paris Agreement.
Live-streaming court proceedings
- The Supreme Court (SC) e-Committee has released the ‘Draft Model Rules for Live-Streaming and Recording of Court Proceedings’.
- Recently, the Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana had said that the process to make live stream a reality was actively under consideration.
- The Rules are part of the National Policy and Action Plan for implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the judiciary.
- The Rules would cover live-streaming and recording of proceedings in High Courts, lower courts, and tribunals.
- The rules intend to balance between access to information and concerns of privacy and confidentiality. Following are the recommendations made by the SC e-Committee.
- A 10-minute delay in transmission.
- Exclusion of communally sensitive cases.
- Exclusion of matters that involve sexual offences and gender violence against women.
- Matrimonial matters, cases under the POSCO and under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act would also be exempted from live stream.
- The Bench can exempt any case it considers antithetical to the administration of justice. The reasons must be recorded in writing.
- The final decision as to whether or not to allow the live streaming of the proceedings or any portion thereof will be of the Bench, however, it will be guided by the principle of an open judicial process.
- Personal information such as date of birth, home address, identity card number, bank account information, and the personal information of related parties, such as close relatives, witnesses, and other participants, will be deleted or muted.
- Amidst the national lockdown, the Supreme Court and several other courts have been holding virtual proceedings. Live streaming of court proceedings will help those even in distant places to witness court proceedings.
- It has the potential of throwing up an option to the public to witness proceedings which they otherwise could not have due to logistical issues and infrastructural restrictions.
- The issue of limited media access can also be resolved through live streaming.
COVID-19 third wave
- India is witnessing a softening of the second wave. Nonetheless, the anticipation of the 3rd wave is quite high. Therefore, it is imperative for India to focus on reducing the reproduction number (R).
- India witnessed a brutal impact of the second wave of the pandemic in May 2021, with cases crossing the 4-lakh mark in one day.
- The situation has now eased, and the number of cases has come down below the 1.5 lakh mark. The second wave appears to be abating due to a reduced reproduction number.
Reproduction number (R):
- It refers to the average number of new infections arising from one infected individual.
- R greater than 1 implies that infected individuals infect more than one person on average, and we observe increasing cases. When it is less than 1, cases are declining.
- It is dependent on Four Factors, summarised by the acronym DOTS:
- Duration a person is infectious
- Opportunities for infected individuals to spread the infection to others;
- The probability of Transmission of infection if given an opportunity
- The average Susceptibility of a population or subpopulation
Downward Trajectory of Second Wave:
- The decline is mainly caused by a decrease in urban cases while the rural cases are still on the rise as shown by the 14-day moving average of the top 20 districts.
- The percentage of daily new cases from rural areas is still at 52.8 percent. A high prevalence of cases in the rural area indicates that:
- The GDP loss due to the current wave will be much lower than that in the first wave. This is because these rural districts account for a lower share of economic activity.
- There is also a subtle change in India’s vaccination policy. Now India is prioritising people receiving the first dose.
- This would bring down the magnitude of serious cases in the country and ensure better preparation for the 3rd wave.
- The government must build well-designed seroprevalence surveys to understand how much of the population remains susceptible and where they reside. These should accommodate the complexities of new variants and the occurrence of reinfections.
- The focus should be on increased use of face masks and improved ventilation for reducing the transmission. The country can learn from the Bangladesh model in which the distribution of free masks coupled with community monitors delivered positive results.
- Temporary solutions like lockdowns and a ban on mass gatherings should be used to focus on slowing the transmission rate.
- The magnitude of the susceptible population can be brought down by substantially increasing the immunisation coverage. Currently, only 3% of the population has received both doses.
- The isolation and quarantining guidelines should be revised periodically as per the changing duration of infectiousness.
- According to data collated by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), farmer protests increased fivefold since 2017.
- Apart from the three contentious Central farm laws, procurement and agricultural market price-related failures have contributed to a fivefold increase in major farmers’ protests since 2017.
- In 2017, there were 34 major protests across 15 States. The number has now shot up to 165 protests across 22 States and Union Territories.
- Reasons for protests:
- Large numbers of farmers are fighting against market failures and demanding fair prices.
- There are battles against acquisition of farm land for development projects, including highway and airport construction.
- Few agitations have demanded loan waivers or have been organised to protest poor insurance coverage and delayed compensation.
- The arrests of protesting farm leaders have also led to further stirs.
- The report notes that India now has more farm labourers than landowning farmers and cultivators.
- The CSE has called for better maintenance of agricultural data, noting that 14 States had witnessed a deterioration in the quality of their land records.