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  • 22 Nov 2022
  • 47 min read
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Biodiversity & Environment

Severe Climate Disasters of 2022 and COP27

For Prelims: Climate Disasters, malaria, diarrhoea, cyclones, droughts, heat waves, lightning, floods, landslides

For Mains: Climate Change and its impact, Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Why in News?

While the developing and vulnerable nations continue to demand climate finance at COP27, it is important to realise that the lives have also been severely affected by global catastrophes, especially in the year 2022.

How have Past Global Catastrophes Devastated the Planet?

  • Pakistan Floods:
    • Pakistan recorded 62% less than normal rainfall in the month of March, 2022 and the warmest April preceding the monsoon season.
      • Glaciers melted as a result of these heat waves, which led rivers to swell. Access to basic necessities became difficult for 33 million people of Pakistan’s 220 million population.
    • Extreme rainfall further triggered the most devastating floods from June to September.
      • The flood was the worst in the country’s recent history.
      • Over 1,500 people were killed, with millions being displaced and developing serious health issues such as skin infections, malaria and diarrhoea.
  • Hurricane Ian in the US:
    • NASA data revealed that warm ocean waters in the Gulf of Mexico powered Hurricane Ian in the US towards the end of September, 2022 making it one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the country in recent memory.
      • It resulted in the loss of 101 lives and monetary losses of more than USD 100 billion.
      • The disaster was the costliest climate-induced disaster of the year.
    • The escalation brought severe floods, relentless rains and strong winds to southwestern Florida.
  • European Droughts
    • In June and July, 2022, Europe was hit by two extreme heat waves, which claimed approximately 16,000 lives.
      • This year's drought is likely to be the worst in 500 years.
    • Water levels in Europe’s biggest rivers – Rhine, Po, Loire, and Danube – shrunk, and dry conditions continue to prevail in different parts of the continent.
  • Spain and Portugal:
    • An atmospheric high-pressure system, which causes dry air to descend over subtropical regions in the Northern Hemisphere during winter and spring seasons, called Azores high, has the ability to block wet weather outlets.
    • This caused dry conditions in Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, and the Mediterranean region.
      • Spain and Portugal hence faced the driest weather in 1,200 years, along with wildfires.
  • Natural Disasters in India:
    • India recorded natural disasters almost every day in 2022.
    • India recorded “extreme weather events on 241 of 273 days” in the first nine months of the year.
    • Overall, these disasters claimed about “2,755 lives, affected 1.8 million hectares (ha) of crop area, destroyed over 416,667 houses and killed close to 70,000 livestock.”

What are the Major Outcomes of the COP27?

  • “Loss and Damage” Fund for Vulnerable Countries:
    • The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP27 signed an agreement to provide "loss and damage" funding to vulnerable countries.
  • Technology:
    • At COP27, a new five-year work program was launched to promote climate technology solutions in developing countries.
  • Mitigation:
    • A mitigation work programme was launched aimed at urgently scaling up mitigation ambition and implementation.
    • The work programme will start immediately following COP27 and continue until 2030, with at least two global dialogues held each year.
    • Governments were also requested to revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their national climate plans by the end of 2023, as well as accelerate efforts to phase down unabated coal power and phase-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Global Stocktake:
    • Delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference COP27 wrapped up the second technical dialogue of the first global stocktake, a mechanism to raise ambition under the Paris Agreement.
    • Prior to the conclusion of the stocktake at COP28 next year, the UN Secretary-General will convene a 'climate ambition summit' in 2023.
  • Sharm-El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda:
    • It outlines 30 Adaptation Outcomes to enhance resilience for 4 billion people living in the most climate vulnerable communities by 2030.
  • Action on Water Adaptation and Resilience Initiative (AWARe):
    • It has been launched to reflect the importance of water as both a key climate change problem and a potential solution.
  • African Carbon Market Initiative (ACMI):
    • It was launched to support the growth of carbon credit production and create jobs in Africa.
  • The Global Renewables Alliance:
    • It brings together, for the first time, all the technologies required for the energy transition in order to ensure an accelerated energy transition.
    • As well as ensuring targets are met, the Alliance also aims to position renewable energy as a pillar of sustainable development and economic growth.

Source: TH


Governance

Development of Great Nicobar

For Prelims: Great Nicobar Islands, Bay of Bengal, Indo-Pacific, Zoological Survey of India, Coral Reef.

For amins: Development of Great Nicobar and its Significance.

Why in News?

Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has given environmental clearance for the ambitious Rs 72,000 crore development project on the strategically important Great Nicobar Island.

  • The project is to be implemented in three phases over the next 30 years.

What is the Proposal?

  • A greenfield city has been proposed, including an International Container Trans-shipment Terminal (ICTT), a greenfield international airport, and a power plant.
  • The port will be controlled by the Indian Navy, while the airport will have dual military-civilian functions and will cater to tourism as well.
  • A total 166.1 sq km along the southeastern and southern coasts of the island have been identified for project along a coastal strip of width between 2 km and 4 km.
  • Some 130 sq km of forests have been sanctioned for diversion, and 9.64 lakh trees are likely to be felled.

What is the Purpose of Developing this Island?

  • Economic Reasons:
    • Great Nicobar is equidistant from Colombo to the southwest and Port Klang and Singapore to the southeast, and positioned close to the East-West international shipping corridor, through which a very large part of the world’s shipping trade passes.
    • The proposed ICTT can potentially become a hub for cargo ships traveling on this route.
    • As per the NITI Aayog report, the proposed port will allow Great Nicobar to participate in the regional and global maritime economy by becoming a major player in cargo transshipment.
  • Strategic Reasons:
    • The proposal to develop Great Nicobar was first floated in the 1970s, and its importance for national security and consolidation of the Indian Ocean Region has been repeatedly underlined.
    • Increasing Chinese assertion in the Bay of Bengal and the Indo-Pacific has added great urgency to this imperative in recent years.

What are the Related Concerns?

  • The proposed massive infrastructure development in an ecologically important and fragile region has alarmed many environmentalists.
  • The loss of tree cover will not only affect the flora and fauna on the island, it will also lead to increased runoff and sediment deposits in the ocean, impacting the coral reefs in the area.
  • Environmentalists have also flagged the loss of mangroves on the island as a result of the development project.

What are the Government's steps to address the concerns?

  • The Zoological Survey of India is currently in the process of assessing how much of the reef will have to be relocated for the project.
  • A conservation plan for the leatherback turtle is also being put in place.
  • As per the government, the project site is outside the eco-sensitive zones of Campbell Bay and Galathea National Park.

What are the Key Points of the Great Nicobar Islands?

  • About:
    • Great Nicobar, the southernmost of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, has an area of 910 sq km.
      • The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a cluster of about 836 islands in the eastern Bay of Bengal, the two groups of which are separated by the 150-km wide Ten Degree Channel.
      • The Andaman Islands lie to the north of the channel, and the Nicobar Islands to the south.
    • Indira Point on the southern tip of Great Nicobar Island is India’s southernmost point, less than 150 km from the northernmost island of the Indonesian archipelago.
    • It covers 1,03,870 hectares of unique and threatened tropical evergreen forest ecosystems.
    • It is home to a very rich ecosystem, including 650 species of angiosperms, ferns, gymnosperms, bryophytes, among others.
    • In terms of fauna, there are over 1800 species, some of which are endemic to this area.
  • Ecological Characteristics:
    • The Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve harbours a wide spectrum of ecosystems comprising tropical wet evergreen forests, mountain ranges reaching a height of 642 m (Mt. Thullier) above sea level, and coastal plains.
    • Great Nicobar is home to two national parks, a biosphere reserve
      • National Parks: Campbell Bay National Park and Galathea National Park
      • Biosphere Reserve: Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve.
  • Tribe:
    • The Mongoloid Shompen Tribe, about 200 in number, live in the forests of the biosphere reserve particularly along the rivers and streams.
    • Another Mongoloid Tribe, Nicobarese, about 300 in number, used to live in settlements along the west coast.
      • After the tsunami in 2004, which devastated their settlement on the western coast, they were relocated to Afra Bay in the North Coast and Campbell Bay.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Question (PYQ)

Q1. Which of the following have coral reefs? (2014)

  1. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  2. Gulf of Kachchh
  3. Gulf of Mannar
  4. Sunderbans

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only
(b) 2 and 4 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Ans: (a)

Q2. Consider the following statements: (2018)

  1. The Barren Island volcano is an active volcano located in the Indian territory.
  2. Barren Island lies about 140 km east of Great Nicobar.
  3. The last time the Barren Island volcano erupted was in 1991 and it has remained inactive since then.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3
(c) 3 only
(d) 1 and 3

Ans: (a)

Q3. Which one of the following pairs of islands is separated from each other by the ‘Ten Degree Channel’? (2014)

(a) Andaman and Nicobar
(b) Nicobar and Sumatra
(c) Maldives and Lakshadweep
(d) Sumatra and Java

Ans: (a)

Source: IE


Indian Society

National Suicide Prevention Strategy

For Prelims: Status of Suicides in India, National Crime Records Bureau, Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India Report

For Mains: National Suicide Prevention Strategy, Status of Suicides in India, National Crime Records Bureau, Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India Report

Why in News?

Recently, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India has announced the “National Suicide Prevention Strategy”.

  • It is the first of its kind in the country, with time-bound action plans and multi-sectoral collaborations to achieve reduction in suicide mortality by 10% by 2030.
  • The strategy is in line with the World Health Organisation’s South East-Asia Region Strategy for suicide prevention.

What is National Suicide Prevention Strategy?

  • The strategy broadly seeks to establish effective surveillance mechanisms for suicide within the next three years.
  • It seeks to establish psychiatric outpatient departments that will provide suicide prevention services through the District Mental Health Programme in all districts within the next five years.
  • It also aims to integrate a mental well-being curriculum in all educational institutions within the next eight years.
  • It envisages developing guidelines for responsible media reporting of suicides, and restricting access to means of suicide.

What is the Status of Suicides in India?

  • National Figures:
    • In India, more than one lakh lives are lost every year to suicide, and it is the top killer in the 15-29 years category.
    • From 2019-22, the suicide rate has increased from 10.2 to 11.3 per 1,00,000 population.
  • National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has recently released report of “Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India Report 2021”. It provides the category wise records as follows:
    • Daily Wager: 
      • Daily wage earners remained the largest profession-wise group among suicide victims in 2021, accounting for 42,004 suicides (25.6%).
      • The share of daily wagers death by suicide has crossed the quarter mark for the first time.
      • At the national level, the number of suicides increased by 7.17% from the years 2020 to 2021.
        • However, the number of suicides in the daily wage group rose by 11.52% during this period.
    • Farming Sector:
      • The overall share of “Persons engaged in farming sector” among the total recorded suicides stood at 6.6% during 2021.
    • Profession Wise Distribution:
      • The highest increase of 16.73% was recorded by “self-employed persons”.
      • The “unemployed persons” group was the only one that saw a decline in suicides, with the number dipping by 12.38% from 15,652 in 2020 to 13,714 suicides in 2021.
    • Reasons for Suicide:
      • 33.2%: Family Problems (other than marriage related problems)
      • 4.8%: Marriage Related Problems
      • 18.6%: Illness
    • State:
      • Maharashtra topped the country in terms of the number of suicides reported in 2021 followed by Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh.
      • Maharashtra contributed 13.5% to the total number of suicides registered across the country in 2021.
    • Union Territories:
      • Delhi recorded the highest number of 2,840 suicides.

What are India’s Initiatives to Reduce Suicides?

  • Mental Healthcare Act, 2017:
    • MHA 2017 aims to provide mental healthcare services for persons with mental illness.
  • KIRAN:
    • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has launched a 24/7 toll-free helpline “KIRAN” to provide support to people facing anxiety, stress, depression, suicidal thoughts and other mental health concerns.
  • Manodarpan Initiative:
    • Manodarpan is an initiative of the Ministry of Education under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. It is aimed to provide psychosocial support to students, family members and teachers for their mental health and well-being during the times of Covid-19.

What is the National Crime Records Bureau?

  • NCRB, headquartered in New Delhi, was set-up in 1986 under the Ministry of Home Affairs to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
  • It was set up based on the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977-1981) and the MHA’s Task Force (1985).
  • NCRB brings out the annual comprehensive statistics of crime across the country (‘Crime in India’ report).
    • Having been published since 1953, the report serves as a crucial tool in understanding the law and order situation across the country.

Source: TH


Indian Polity

Operation of Quasi-judicial Courts

For Prelims: Quasi-judicial Bodies in India

For Mains: Quasi-judicial Bodies in India, Role of Quasi-Judicial Bodies & Measures for Better Operation

Why in News?

The most critical issue faced by Quasi-judicial Courts is the lack of adequate supervision and ownership by the administrative and political leadership.

  • Data on the level of pendency or the speed of disposal is not compiled in many states.

What is a Quasi-judicial Body?

  • About:
  • Role in Governance:
    • In the conventional judicial process, a large section of the populace for the fear of expenditure may hesitate from approaching the Courts, thus defeating the purpose of justice.
      • Quasi-judicial bodies, on the other hand, have an overall low-cost which encourages people to seek redressal for their grievances.
    • Tribunals and other such bodies do not follow any lengthy or complex procedure for submitting application or evidence etc.
    • Quasi-judicial bodies, while taking up specific matters, majorly help by sharing the massive workload of the Judiciary.
      • Like the National Green Tribunal adjudicating the matters related to environment and pollution.
    • Quasi-judicial bodies are accessible, free from technicalities, expeditious and proceed more rapidly and efficiently as manned by experts.
  • Challenges:
    • Data on the level of pendency or the speed of disposal is not compiled in many states.
    • There is a class of quasi-judicial agencies that are not discussed in conversations on the pendency of cases.
      • These are generally handled by the revenue authorities and largely relate to land, tenancy, excise, arms, mining, or preventive functions under the Criminal Procedure Code. Usually, many of these offices are understaffed.
      • Their engagement with duties such as law and order, protocol, coordination and other administrative functions leaves them with much less time for court work.
      • Their access to court clerks and record keepers is limited. Computers and video recorders are not available in many of these courts.
      • Several of the presiding officers lack proper knowledge of law and procedures, which has landed many civil servants in deep trouble in sensitive matters such as those related to arms licenses.

What Measures can be taken to Improve Quasi-judicial Courts?

  • The government should make the efficient functioning of these agencies a priority and clearly articulate its position on the issue.
  • Detailed data on the functioning of these agencies must be collected and published from time to time, at least annually.
    • These should be laid before the concerned legislatures.
    • These results should be the basis of decisions regarding the rationalising of staff strength.
  • An electronic platform should be established to handle all ancillary work related to the administration of justice, such as filing of complaints, issue of summons, movement of case records between courts, issuing copies of the judgments and so on.
    • It could establish a sound basis for analysing the functioning of these bodies and facilitate the publication of statistics.
  • Annual inspections of the subordinate courts should be made mandatory.
    • This should be an important indicator for assessment by the superior authority. The inspections could become the basis of customised training of presiding officers.
  • Interdisciplinary research on the functioning of these courts should be encouraged.
    • This would identify the areas of improvement such as legal reforms or issue of clear guidelines.
  • Regular training and orientation of the adjudicating authorities should be taken up from time to time.
  • The state index of performance of these quasi-judicial courts be made and published.
    • It would draw the attention of the states to their performance in comparison to others and help them identify areas of weakness.
  • Important decisions, guidelines and directions could be compiled and published on the portal of the apex adjudicating forum such as the Board of Revenue.
    • These would be helpful to lower-level agencies.
  • More rigorous induction training of officials handling judicial work would be helpful.
    • The importance of judicial work should be instilled among the trainees and the skill and confidence in handling them should be developed.
  • Procedural reforms such as minimising adjournments, mandatory filing of written arguments and other such reforms proposed by bodies like the Law Commission for reform of the Civil Procedure Code should be adopted by these adjudicating bodies.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions (PYQs)

Q. “The Central Administrative Tribunal which was established for redressal of grievances and complaints by or against central government employees, nowadays is exercising its powers as an independent judicial authority.” Explain. (2019)

Source: IE


Indian Economy

Increasing Demand of Coal

For Prelims: Fossil fuel, Coal.

For Mains: Reasons for surging Coal Demand in India and related concerns.

Why in News?

Despite the country's efforts to switch to renewable energy, coal will remain India's dominant energy source.

What is the State of Energy Capacity of the Country?

  • According to the projections by Climate Action Tracker, fossil fuel makes up for over half the installed energy capacity in the country and is expected to touch around 266 gigawatts by 2029-2030.
  • Domestic coal requirement is expected to rise to 1,018.2 million tonnes by 2031-32 from 678 MT in 2021-2022.
    • This means coal consumption will increase 40% in India.

What is the Reason for Increasing Coal Demand?

  • Iron and steel production uses coal and there are not many technologies to replace the fuel immediately.
  • Continued expansion of India’s economy is expected during 2022-2024, with annual average GDP growth of 7.4%, fuelled partially by coal.
  • India’s push to domestic coal mining through both Coal India and auction of coal blocks to private companies, coal usage in India will increase as it plateaus in other parts of the world, including China.
  • The central government has opened up coal mining for the private sector, claiming it as one of its most ambitious coal sector reforms.
    • The government anticipates that it will bring efficiency and competition in coal production, attract investments and best-in-class technology, and help create more jobs in the coal sector.

What is Coal?

  • About:
    • It is a type of fossil fuel found in the form of sedimentary rocks and is often known as 'Black Gold'.
    • It is a conventional source of energy and is widely available. It is used as a domestic fuel, in industries such as iron and steel, steam engines and to generate electricity. Electricity from coal is called thermal power.
    • The leading coal producers of the world include China, US, Australia, Indonesia, India.
  • Distribution of Coal in India:
    • Gondwana Coal Fields (250 million years old):
      • Gondwana coal makes up to 98 % of the total reserves and 99 % of the production of coal in India.
      • Gondwana coal forms India’s metallurgical grade as well as superior quality coal.
      • It is found in Damodar (Jharkhand-West Bengal), Mahanadi (Chhattisgarh-Odisha), Godavari (Maharashtra), and Narmada valleys.
    • Tertiary Coal Fields (15 – 60 million years old):
      • Carbon content is very low but is rich in moisture and Sulphur.
      • Tertiary coalfields are mainly confined to extra-peninsular regions
      • Important areas include Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himalayan foothills of Darjeeling in West Bengal, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Kerala.
  • Classification:
    • Anthracite (80 - 95% carbon content, found in small quantities in J&K).
    • Bituminous (60 - 80% carbon content and is found in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh).
    • Lignite (40 to 55% carbon content, high moisture content and is found in Rajasthan, Lakhimpur (Assam) and Tamil Nadu).
    • Peat (less than 40% carbon content and it is in the first stage of transformation from organic matter (wood) to coal).

Way Forward

  • A key step in establishing a post-coal economy is re-training the coal-dependent society.
  • Recognising the need to train the workers who have been displaced by their profession is the need of the hour for employment opportunities in the renewable energy sector.
    • The American federal transition programmes like solar training and education for professionals and the Partnerships for Opportunity, Workforce and Economic Revitalisation dislocated worker grant can establish precedence for India to design and develop its own schemes.
  • The clean energy transitions for India could be financed by the development financing institutions, with investments made by the Climate Change Finance Unit for the promotion of policies, green financing and capacity building.
    • The Climate Change Finance Unit is responsible for serving as the Ministry of Finance's nodal point on climate finance matters, participating in the discourse on climate finance issues within the multilateral climate change regime as well as other international forums such as the G20 and providing analytical inputs to the National Climate Policy Framework.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions (PYQs)

Prelims

Q1. Consider the following statements: (2019)

  1. Coal sector was nationalized by the Government of India under Indira Gandhi.
  2. Now, coal blocks are allocated on lottery basis.
  3. Till recently, India imported coal to meet the shortages of domestic supply, but now India is self-sufficient in coal production.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: (a)

Exp:

  • Coal sector was nationalised in two phases under Indira Gandhi Government in 1972. Hence, statement 1 is correct.
  • The coal blocks are allocated through auctions and not on a lottery basis. Hence, statement 2 is not correct.
  • The coal sector is the monopolistic sector in India. India holds 5th biggest coal reserves in the world, but due to the incapacity of coal production by monopolistic firms, it imports coal to meet the shortages of domestic supply. Hence, statement 3 is not correct.
  • Therefore, option (a) is the correct answer.

Q2. Which of the following is/are the characteristic/characteristics of Indian coal? (2013)

  1. High ash content
  2. Low sulphur content
  3. Low ash fusion temperature

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: (a)


Mains

Q. Despite India being one of the countries of Gondwanaland, its mining industry contributes much less to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in percentage. Discuss. (2021)

Q. “In spite of adverse environmental impact, coal mining is still inevitable for development”. Discuss. (2017)

Source: DTE


Important Facts For Prelims

Network Readiness Index 2022

Why in News?

India has improved its position by six slots and is now placed at 61st rank as per the Network Readiness Index 2022 (NRI 2022) report released recently.

What is the Network Readiness Index 2022?

  • About:
    • The Network Readiness Index (NRI) report maps the network readiness landscape of 131 economies based on their performance in four areas:
      • Technology, People, Governance, and Impact.
    • The report is prepared by the Portulans Institute, an independent non-profit, nonpartisan research and educational institute based in Washington DC.
    • This year’s index includes 49 high-income economies, 32 upper-middle-income economies, 36 lower-middle-income economies, and 14 low-income economies.
  • Global Rankings:
    • US has taken the 1st spot from the Netherlands (4th) as the most network-ready society.
      • The biggest mover in the index is Singapore (2nd), pushing Denmark (6th) and Finland (7th) out of the top 5.
      • The other five countries that made it to the Top 10 are - Sweden (3rd), Switzerland (5th), Germany (8th), South Korea (9th), and Norway (10th).
    • Based on the top ten performers, NRI affirms that advanced economies in Europe, parts of Asia and the Pacific, and North America are some of the world’s most network-ready societies.
  • India’s Status:
    • India has not only improved its ranking, but also improved its score from 49.74 in 2021 to 51.19 in 2022.
    • India leads in several indicators:
      • India secured 1st rank in “AI talent concentration”.
      • 2nd rank in “Mobile broadband internet traffic within the country” and “International Internet bandwidth”.
      • 3rd rank in “Annual investment in telecommunication services” and “Domestic market size”
      • 4th rank in “ICT Services exports”.
      • 5th rank in “FTTH/Building Internet subscriptions” and “AI scientific publications”.
    • As per the report, India has a greater network readiness than would be expected given its income level.
      • India is ranked 3rd out of 36 in the group of lower-middle-income countries after Ukraine and Indonesia.

Source: PIB


Important Facts For Prelims

Olive Ridley Turtles

Why in News?

Pairs of Olive Ridley Sea turtles have begun emerging on the sea waters off Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary along the Odisha coast, marking the commencement of the annual mass nesting of these endangered marine species.

What are Olive Ridley Turtles?

  • About:
    • The Olive ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world.
    • These turtles are carnivores and get their name from their olive-coloured carapace.
    • They are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs.
  • Habitat:
    • They are found in warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.
    • The Odisha’s Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is known as the world’s largest rookery (colony of breeding animals) of sea turtles.

  • Protection Status:
  • Threats:
    • Human Consumption: They are extensively poached for their meat, shell and leather, and eggs.
    • Marine Pollution and Waste: An ever-increasing debris of plastics, fishing nets, discarded nets, polythene and other garbage dumped by tourists and fishing workers threaten all sea turtles and degrades their habitats.
    • Fishing Trawlers: Overexploitation of marine resources by use of trawlers often violates the rule to not fish 20 kilometers within a marine sanctuary.
      • There were injury marks on many dead turtles indicating they could have been trapped under trawls or gill nets.
  • Initiatives to Protect Olive Ridley Turtles:
    • Operation Olivia:
      • Every year, the Indian Coast Guard’s “Operation Olivia”, initiated in the early 1980s, helps protect Olive Ridley turtles as they congregate along the Odisha coast for breeding and nesting from November to December.
        • It also intercepts unlawful trawling activities.
    • Mandatory use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs):
      • To reduce accidental killing in India, the Odisha government has made it mandatory for trawls to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), a net specially designed with an exit cover which allows the turtles to escape while retaining the catch.
    • Tagging:
      • The tagging of the endangered Olive Ridley turtles using non-corrosive metal tags is done to enable scientists to chart their movements and also know the areas they visit in order to protect the species and their habitats.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Question (PYQ)

Q. Which one of the following is the national aquatic animal of India? (2015)

(a) Saltwater crocodile
(b) Olive ridley turtle
(c) Gangetic dolphin
(d) Gharial

Ans: (c)

Exp:

  • Ganges river Dolphin or Gangetic Dolphin is the National Aquatic Animal of India. The Ganges river dolphin was officially discovered in 1801. It inhabits parts of the Ganges, Meghna and Brahmaputra rivers in India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, and the Karnaphuli River in Bangladesh.
  • It is listed as endangered in IUCN Red List and has been included in the Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • The main factors for decline in population of the species are poaching and habitat degradation due to declining flow, heavy siltation, construction of barrages causing physical barrier for this migratory species.
  • Therefore, option C is the correct answer.

Source: HT


Important Facts For Prelims

Global Partnership on AI

Why in News?

Recently, India has been handed over the presidency Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) for 2022-23 by the outgoing Council Chair, France in its 3rd Annual Summit in Japan.

  • This development comes on the heels of assuming the Presidency of the G20, a league of the world’s largest economies.

What are the Highlights of the Annual GPAI summit?

  • Tokyo is the first Asian city to host this summit.
  • The meeting discussed these four themes:
    • Responsible AI,
    • Data governance,
    • Future of work,
    • Innovation and commercialisation.
  • With National Programme on AI in place and a National Data Governance Framework Policy (NDGFP), India highlighted its commitment to efficient use of AI for catalyzing innovation ecosystem around AI.
    • The NDGFP aims to ensure equitable access to non-personal data and focus on improving the institutional framework for government data sharing, promoting principles around privacy and security by design, and encouraging the use of anonymization tool.

What is GPAI?

  • About:
    • It was launched in June, 2020, with fifteen members.
    • The Global Partnership in Artificial Intelligence is described as the ‘fruition of an idea developed within the G7.’
    • It is a multi-stakeholder initiative on artificial intelligence (AI), which aims to fill what it describes as ‘the gap between theory and practice on AI,' by supporting cutting-edge research, as well as applied activities, on AI-related priorities.
    • The initiative facilitates international cooperation on artificial technology by bringing together on a single platform, experts from fields such as science, industry, civil society, governments, international bodies, and academia.
  • Members:
    • At present, GPAI has twenty-five member states:
      • Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union (EU).
    • The founding members are:
      • Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Slovenia, the UK, the US, and the EU.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

  • About:
    • It describes the action of machines accomplishing tasks that have historically required human intelligence.
    • It includes technologies like machine learning, pattern recognition, big data, neural networks, self-algorithms etc.
    • Example: Facebook’s list of suggested friends for its users, self-driving cars, etc.
    • AI automates processes and reduces human error but the principal limitation of AI is that it learns from the data. This means any inaccuracies in the data will be reflected in the results.
  • Expected Contribution to Indian Economy:
    • AI is expected to add USD 967 Billion to Indian economy by 2035 and USD 450–500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025, accounting for 10% of the country’s USD 5 trillion GDP target.

What are the Initiatives Related to AI?

Source: MINT


Important Facts For Prelims

Great Knot

Why in News?

A Great knot has flown over 9,000 kilometers from Russia for a winter sojourn on Kerala's coast.

  • The migratory bird that traversed the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) is only one of the two — the other has been sighted at Jamnagar in Gujarat.

What are the Key Points about the Great knot?

  • Physical Appearance:
    • A medium-sized bulky wader with a straight, dark-brown bill and yellowish-brown legs.
    • It has a striped crown with an indistinct white eyebrow. Its upperparts are grey, with dark feather tips, its underparts are white.
    • The rump is pure white, the tail is tipped with grey.
    • Breeding plumage consists of darker upperparts with black and chestnut markings.
  • Scientific Name: Calidris tenuirostris
  • Protection Status:
  • Distribution:
    • This species breeds in north-east Siberia, Russia, wintering mainly in Australia, but also throughout the coastline of South-East Asia and on the coasts of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
      • In India, it is found along the coastal regions of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
    • The Yellow Sea of North Korea, South Korea and China is a particularly important stop-over site on migration in both spring and autumn.
  • Habitat and Ecology:
    • Occurs within sheltered, coastal habitats containing large, intertidal mudflats or sandflats, including inlets, bays, harbours, estuaries and lagoons.
    • Often recorded on sandy beaches with mudflats nearby, sandy spits and islets and sometimes on exposed reefs or rock platforms.

What is the Central Asian Flyway (CAF)?

  • It is a migration route, covering over 30 countries, for different waterbirds linking their northernmost breeding grounds in Russia (Siberia) to the southernmost non-breeding (wintering) grounds in West and South Asia, the Maldives and British Indian Ocean Territory.
  • CAF is among the nine flyways in the world and three of the nine flyways that pass through the Indian Subcontinent. The other two are:
    • East Asian Australasian Flyway (EAAF) and Asian East African Flyway (AEAF).
  • India has a strategic role in the flyway, as it provides critical stopover sites to over 90% of the bird species known to use this migratory route.
    • Flyways are the area used by a group of birds during their annual cycle which includes their breeding areas, stop over areas and wintering areas.

Source: TH


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