Goaltide Daily Current Affairs 2020

Dec 01, 2020

Current Affair 1:
Impacts of Sand and Dust Storms on Oceans

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This small discussion will be based on the report- Impacts of Sand and Dust Storms on Oceans: A Scientific Environmental Assessment for Policy Makers.

Sand and dust is raised by strong winds from areas of bare or sparsely vegetated ground. While some of this material falls back to the surface near the source, the smaller dust particles are carried further in the wind – sometimes thousands of kilometres – before being deposited. Each year, an estimated two billion tonnes of dust is raised into the atmosphere; and one-quarter of this reaches the oceans.

Is this movement regular?

These long-distance dust flows are highly seasonal and can vary significantly from year to year.  But most dust comes from deserts and semi-deserts, and a particularly dusty area known as the Dust Belt stretches from the Sahara across the Middle East to the deserts of Central and Northeast Asia.

The planet’s largest sources are in the Sahara. Much Saharan dust is transported south-westward by the Harmattan wind that prevails between November and April. This dust has marked effects on the North Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea, but Saharan dust also impacts the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

How do they affect ocean ecosystems?

  1. Dust carries nutrients such as phosphorus, and trace metals—including iron, manganese, titanium, Aluminium—to oceanic ecosystems, elements that are essential for all life forms. In this way, desert dust is a principal driver of oceanic primary productivity, which forms the base of the marine food web.
  2. Marine primary production also fuels the global carbon cycle via the exchange of CO2 between ocean and atmosphere, so desert dust has impacts on our climate system.
  3. Dust also provides some of the building blocks for coral reefs: dust particles are incorporated into coral skeletons as they grow.

What are some of the negative effects of sand and dust storms? 

 a. The fertilizing effect of desert dust is thought to have an impact on algal blooms, some of which can be harmful, and may contribute to Sargassum seaweed mats. Unusually large blooms of floating Sargassum seaweed have been noted since 2011 in parts of the Caribbean Sea. The brown part you see in below image is mats.

b. These drifting seaweed mats provide important habitat for many species in the open ocean, but close to shore, they can disrupt shipping, fishing and tourism.

c. Potential links have also been identified between microorganisms, trace metals and organic contaminants carried in desert dust and some of the complex changes on coral reefs observed in numerous parts of the world.

d. Disease has undoubtedly been an important factor in recent coral reef declines worldwide and several of the diseases that affect corals are associated with microorganisms carried in desert dust.

e. A wide variety of microorganisms—including fungi, bacteria and viruses—has been found in desert dust. Most of these pathogens come from dryland soils and are highly resistant to desiccation, temperature extremes, conditions of high salinity and exposure to ultraviolet radiation. They are therefore typically able to survive in the atmosphere for many days.

How does this report contribute to existing knowledge about sand and dust storms?

While our understanding of the dust cycle has improved greatly in recent decades, large uncertainties and knowledge gaps remain. Nonetheless, this knowledge has significant implications for a number of Sustainable Development Goals ­– particularly Goal 14 on Life Below Water and Goal 15 on Life on Land.

Marking the start of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030), this report explores the impacts of sand and dust storms on oceans—their ecosystem functions, goods and services—which are potentially numerous and wide-ranging. Sand and dust storms thus warrant continued careful monitoring and research.

Also see, Coalition on Sand and Dust Storms

Sand and Dust Storms Day at the 14th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 14) saw the launch of an international coalition for action on sand and dust storms (SDS).

Current Affair 2:
Centre constitutes committee for implementation of 2015 Paris Agreement

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The Government of India has constituted the Apex Committee for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement (AIPA) November 27, 2020, through a gazette notification.

AIPA has been constituted with the purpose of “ensuring a coordinated response on climate change matters that protects the country’s interests and ensures that India is on track towards meeting its climate change obligations under the Paris Agreement including its submitted Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)”.

NDCs are the accounts of the voluntary efforts to be made by countries that are a part of the Paris Agreement, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of anthropogenic climate change. The three quantitative goals in the Indian NDCs are:

  1. A 33-35 per cent reduction in the gross domestic product emissions intensity by 2030 from 2005 levels
  2. A 40 per cent share of non-fossil fuel-based electricity by 2030
  3. Creating a carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide through afforestation programmes

The NDCs are to be implemented in the post-2020 period. India had submitted its NDCs in 2015. Now, the AIPA, with its 17 members, has the responsibility of formulating policies and programmes for implementing them.

The committee will have the secretary, Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change as the chairperson and the additional secretary, MoEFCC as the vice chairperson, according to the notification.

What else Apex Committee for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement (AIPA) will do?

  1. The AIPA also has the responsibility of regularly communicating and reporting the NDCs to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  2. It will also define the responsibilities of the government ministries that would be crucial in achieving the country’s climate change mitigation and adaptation goals and submit a report every six months.
  3. The AIPA will also act as a national authority for the regulation of carbon markets in India

Current Affair 3:
Indian Oil Corporation launches country's first 100 Octane petrol

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Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) recently launched the nation's first 100 Octane petrol, helping India join a select league of nations globally that have such superior quality fuel. The fuel is manufactured at IOC's Mathura refinery in Uttar Pradesh and supplied at select petrol pump.

  1. Octane ratings are measures of fuel stability.
  2. It is a measure of a fuel's ability to avoid knock.
  3. Knock occurs when fuel is prematurely ignited in the engine's cylinder, which degrades efficiency and can be damaging to the engine.
  4. The higher the octane number, the more resistant the petrol mixture is to knock.
  5. Worldwide, 100 Octane petrol has a niche market for luxury vehicles that demand high performance and is available only in six countries of USA, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Malaysia and Israel.
  6. At most retail stations, three octane grades are offered, 87 (regular), 89 (mid-grade) and 91-94 (premium).
  7. Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) had recently launched Octane 99 and now IOC has come to the market with XP100.
  8. This is a testimony to India's technological prowess and manufacturing it within our refineries is a shining example of Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).

Current Affair 4:
What are the Blue tides spotted at Mumbai beaches?

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In a rare phenomenon, visitors of Juhu Beach in Mumbai, Maharashtra, witnessed a spectacular fluorescent blue glow in the waves. The Ministry of Information and broadcast took to its official Twitter handle and said that the ‘Blue tide’ was spotted at Juhu, Devgad and Ratnagiri beaches. As per the caption, this phenomenon takes place when dinoflagellates produce light through chemical reactions in proteins.

This recurring phenomenon is caused by a bioluminescent plankton called Noctiluca Scintillans, commonly known as sea sparkle. Bioluminescence has been an annual occurrence along the west coast since 2016, especially during the months of November and December.

The natural phenomenon is characterized by the emission of light produced by phytoplanktons (microscopic marine plants), commonly known as dinoflagellates. The light is produced through a series of chemical reactions due to luciferase (oxidative enzymes) protein.

Similarly, there is also another such episode called 'red tide', which is made of harmful algal blooms that emit red light. It is a rare incident, which is toxic for marine life

Current Affair 5:
Species in news

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Peacock Soft-shelled Turtle

Recently, Peacock soft-shelled turtle (a turtle of a vulnerable species) has been rescued from a fish market in Assam’s Silchar.

It is a riverine turtle endemic to India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. They are generally omnivorous (predominantly carnivorous) and nocturnal.

Conservation Status:

  1. Vulnerable on IUCN Red list.
  2. The species is also listed under Appendix I of CITES.
  3. Protected under the Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act.

Thai Mangur Catfish

A shocking incident came to light in Maharashtra, where almost thousands of tons of banned catfish, Thai Mangur are illegally being bred in over 125 artificial ponds in rural Thane, according to the survey conducted by the government agencies.

Thai Mangur has been banned by National Green Tribunal in 2000 as they destroyed the local ecosystem and were considered harmful for human consumption too.

Ranging from Rs 100-150 per kg, Thai Mangur is easy and cheap to rear. The carnivorous species was introduced to India in the 1990s and it is originally from Africa and the Middle East.

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