Prelims news

  1. Oil Spill in Mauritius

Why in News

A japanese bulk-carrier ship MV Wakashio which was carrying fuel oil has split into two parts near Blue Bay Marine Park in south-east Mauritius.

  • The ship was already leaking and has caused an oil spill of over 1000 tonnes in the Indian Ocean.

Key Points

  • The vessel has broken near Pointe d’esny in Mauritius and the area has many environmentally sensitive zones.


  • The oil spill threatens the ecology of the coastline of Mauritius and the marine life in the Indian Ocean.
  • It endangers the already endangered coral reefs, seagrasses in the shallow waters, mangroves, the fishes and other aquatic fauna.
  • Some key wildlife at risk include: Giant tortoises, endangered green turtle, and the critically endangered Pink Pigeon.
  • The pink pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri) is a species of pigeon, endemic to the Mascarene island of Mauritius.
  • It has been listed as ‘endangered’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.


  • Under the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution, 2001, the owners of vessels are responsible for damage caused by oil leaks.
  • This convention, also known as BUNKER convention, came into force in 2008 and is administered by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
  • The Convention was adopted to ensure that adequate, prompt, and effective compensation is available to persons who suffer damage caused by spills of oil, when carried as fuel in ships’ bunkers.
  • Blue Bay Marine Park: It is designated as a Wetland of International Importance by Ramsar Convention.
  • The presence of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass meadows, and macro algae make it an ecologically sensitive zone.

Oil Spill

  • Definition: An oil spill refers to any uncontrolled release of crude oil, gasoline, fuels, or other oil by-products into the environment. Oil spills can pollute land, air, or water, though it is mostly used for oceanic oil spills.
  • Cause: They have become a major environmental problem, chiefly as a result of intensified petroleum exploration and production on continental shelves and the transport of large amounts of oils in vessels.

Environmental Impacts

  • Oil on ocean surfaces is harmful to many forms of aquatic life because it prevents sufficient amounts of sunlight from penetrating the surface, and it also reduces the level of dissolved oxygen.
  • Crude oil ruins the insulating and waterproofing properties of feathers and fur of birds, and thus oil-coated birds and marine mammals may die from hypothermia (decrease in body temperature to below-normal levels).
  • Moreover, ingested oil can be toxic to affected animals, and damage their habitat and reproductive rate.
  • Saltwater marshes and mangroves frequently suffer from oil spills.
  • Experts say that despite best efforts, generally less than 10% of oil spilled in incidents like these is successfully cleaned up.

Economic Impacts:

  • If beaches and populated shorelines are fouled, tourism and commerce may be severely affected.
  • The power plants and other utilities that depend on drawing or discharging sea water are severely affected by oil spills.
  • Major oil spills are frequently followed by the immediate suspension of commercial fishing.

Cleanup of Oil Spill:

  • Containment Booms: Floating barriers, called booms are used to restrict the spread of oil and to allow for its recovery, removal, or dispersal.
  • Skimmers: They are devices used for physically separating spilled oil from the water’s surface.
  • Sorbents: Various sorbents (e.g., straw, volcanic ash, and shavings of polyester-derived plastic) that absorb the oil from the water are used.
  • Dispersing agents: These are chemicals that contain surfactants, or compounds that act to break liquid substances such as oil into small droplets. They accelerate its natural dispersion into the sea.
  • Biological agents: Nutrients, enzymes, or microorganisms such as Alcanivorax bacteria or Methylocella silvestris that increase the rate at which natural biodegradation of oil occurs are added.

Other Incidents of Oil Spills:

  • Recently, Russia declared a state of emergency in its Krasnoyarsk Region after a power plant fuel leaked causing 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil to escape into the Ambarnaya River.
  • In 2010, the Deep Water Horizon incident off the Gulf of Mexico saw nearly 400,000 tonnes of oil spill, resulting in the death of thousands of species ranging from plankton to dolphins In 1978, a large crude oil carrier ran aground off the coast of Brittany, France, which leaked nearly 70 million gallons of oil into the sea, killing millions of invertebrates and an estimated 20,000 birds


  1. Anti-Drug Working Group BRICS

Why in News

Recently, the 4 Session of the BRICS Anti-Drug Working Group was held through a video conference.

  • The session was chaired by Russia this year.

Key Points

  • Issues Raised by India: India raised the misuse of darknet and modern technology used for drug trafficking by the international criminals in the meeting.
  • It also called for nodal points to enable real-time information sharing among BRICS nations.

Trends of Drug Trafficking:

  • The BRICS grouping discussed international and regional trends of illegal trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances among others.
  • It also discussed steps to curb increased instances of drug trafficking through the maritime route.

A Global Menace:

  • According to the report released in May 2020 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Report (UNODC), Covid-19 induced lockdowns and movement restrictions may lead to an initial statistical reduction in drug seizures, but is unlikely to have any effect on illicit drug supply.

India and Illicit Drug Trade:

  • Major Hub of Illicit Drug Trade: According to UNODC, India is one of the major hubs of illicit drug trade ranging from age-old cannabis to newer prescription drugs like tramadol, and designer drugs like methamphetamine.
  • Drug Trafficking Routes: India is in the middle of two major illicit opium production regions in the world, the Golden Crescent (Iran- Afghanistan-Pakistan) in the west and the Golden Triangle (South-East Asia) in the east.

Anti-Drug Action Plan:

  • India has also launched the Anti-Drug Action Plan for 2020-21 which includes:
  • De-addiction Facilities, Drop-in-Centres for Addicts,
  • Integrated Rehabilitation Centre for Addicts (IRCAs), Drug-Free India Campaign.


  • It refers to the hidden internet platform used for narcotics sale, exchange of pornographic content and other illegal activities by using the secret alleys of the onion router (ToR- a free and open-source software for enabling anonymous communication) to stay away from the surveillance of law enforcement agencies.
  • It is tough to crack because of its end-to-end encryption.
  • The dark net is part of the deep web, which encompasses all unindexed sites that don’t pop up when an Internet search is done.
  • However, not all activities associated with the deep web are nefarious like darknet.
  • In most cases, these pages are not searchable because they are password-protected and require authorization in order to access them.
  • Personal email, online banking, and other similar sites are included under the umbrella of the deep web.
  • The internet we see today is the only tip of the iceberg, the majority is deep web only.


  • BRICS is an acronym for the grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
  • In 2001, the British Economist Jim O’Neill coined the term BRIC to describe the four emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
  • The grouping was formalised during the first meeting of BRIC Foreign Ministers in 2006.
  • South Africa was invited to join BRIC in December 2010, after which the group adopted the acronym BRICS.
  • The chairmanship of the forum is rotated annually among the members, in accordance with the acronym B-R-I-C S.
  • During the Sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza (2014) the leaders signed the Agreement establishing the New Development Bank (NDB). They also signed the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement.

Golden Triangle

  • It represents the region coinciding with the rural mountains of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand.
  • It is Southeast Asia’s main opium-producing region and one of the oldest narcotics supply routes to Europe and North America.

Golden Crescent

  • This region of South Asia is a principal global site for opium production and distribution.
  • It comprises Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan.


  1. SalivaDirect: Covid-19 Test

Why in News

The USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorised the emergency use of a new saliva-based laboratory diagnostic test for Covid-19 – ‘SalivaDirect’.

Key Points

About SalivaDirect:

  • It is a new rapid diagnostic test for novel coronavirus infection that uses saliva samples. It is simpler, less expensive and less invasive than the traditional method for such testing known as nasopharyngeal (NP) swabbing.
  • NP swab is used to detect upper respiratory tract infections, such as whooping cough and Covid-19. It is used in Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and antigen tests.
  • In this test, secretions from the back of the nose and upper throat are collected using a swab.
  • The secretions are sent to a laboratory where they are grown in order to make it easier to identify which viruses, bacteria or fungi are present.

Collecting and testing saliva samples include three steps:

  • Saliva is collected without preservative buffers.
  • It is first treated with proteinase K followed by a heat inactivation step (to remove contamination).
  • It is then directly used as an input in the dualplex RT-qPCR mechanism.


  • In Quantitative Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-qPCR) mechanism, the viral RNA is quantified to detect the novel coronavirus.


  • Coronavirus is made up of Ribonucleic Acid (RNA).


  • High Sensitivity: The sensitivity is about 93%. SalivaDirect test can detec when the number of virus copies in the saliva sample is as low as 6-12 copies per microlitre.
  • Non-Invasive: It uses saliva, instead of relying on nasopharyngeal (nasal) specimens, which makes the sample collection non-invasive.
  • Protects Healthcare Workers: Collecting the sample from the nasopharyngeal region requires a swab to be inserted into the back of the nostrils, which very often causes irritation leading to sneezing and coughing, thus exposing healthcare workers from getting exposed to the virus.

Large-scale Testing:

  • Saliva samples are a viable alternative to nasopharyngeal swabs and could allow for at-home, self-administered sample collection for accurate large-scale SARS-CoV-2 testing.
  • Further, collecting nasopharyngeal samples can be uncomfortable to people, discouraging them from getting tested. The saliva test is likely to increase testing compliance.


  1. Fly Ash

Why in News

Recently, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has developed an infrastructure to transport fly ash from power plants in bulk to cement plants, at a cheaper cost.

  • It will pave the way for efficient and environment friendly This development is in line with NTPC’s commitment towards 100% utilization of fly ash from power plants. At present, 63% of the fly ash is being utilised in India.

Key Points

Fly Ash:

  • Definition: It is a byproduct from burning of coal in electric power generating plants.
  • It is called fly ash because it is transported from the combustion chamber by exhaust gases.
  • It is collected from the exhaust gases by electrostatic precipitators or bag filters.
  • Composition: Fly ash includes substantial amounts of silicon dioxide (SiO ), aluminium oxide (Al O ), ferric oxide (Fe O ) and calcium oxide (CaO).


  • Resemble Portland cement but is chemically different. Portland cement is a binding material in the form of a finely ground powder, that is manufactured by burning and grinding a mixture of limestone and clay.
  • Its chemical composition includes calcium silicates, calcium aluminate and calcium aluminoferrite. Exhibit cementitious
  • A cementitious material is one that hardens when mixed with water.
  • Uses: It is used in concrete and cement products, road base, metal recovery, and mineral filler among others.

Harmful Effects:

  • Fly ash particles are toxic air pollutants. They can trigger heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and stroke.
  • When combined with water they cause leaching of heavy metals in ground water.
  • It also pollutes the soil, and affects the root development system of trees.


  • NTPC Ltd. is a central Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Ministry of Power.


  • To provide reliable power and related solutions in an economical, efficient and environment-friendly manner, driven by innovation and agility.
  • It became a Maharatna company in May 2010. It is located in New Delhi.


  1. Navroz: Parsi New Year

Why in News

Navroj was celebrated in India on 16 August 2020. Globally Navroz is celebrated on 21 March, however, in India it is celebrated on 16 August because of the Shahenshahi calendar that is followed by Parsis in India.

  • The Shahenshahi calendar doesn’t account for leap years.

Key Points

  • Navroz is also known as Parsi New Year. In Persian, ‘Nav’ stands for new, and ‘Roz’ stands for the day, which literally translates to ‘new day’.
  • It is celebrated to mark the beginning of the Iranian (Persian) calendar.
  • The tradition is observed by Iranians and the Parsi community around the world.
  • In India Navroz is also known as Jamshed-i-Navroz, after the Persian King, The king Jamshed is credited with having created the Shahenshahi calendar.
  • Navroj is inscribed in the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of India.

Traditional New Year Festivals in India

Chaitra Shukla Pratipada

  • It marks the beginning of the new year of the Vikram Samvat also known as the Vedic (Hindu) calendar.
  • Vikram Samvat is based on the day when the emperor Vikramaditya defeated Sakas, invaded Ujjain and called for a new era.

Gudi Padwa and Ugadi

  • Celebrated in the month of Chaitra Shukla Pratipada as per the Hindu Lunar Calendar.
  • Deccan region including Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.


  • It is the lunar New Year that is celebrated in It falls on the very first day of the Chaitra Navratras.

Sajibu Cheiraoba

  • It is celebrated by Meiteis (an ethnic group in Manipur) which is observed on the first day of Manipur lunar month Shajibu, which falls in the month of April every year.

Cheti Chand

  • It is celebrated by Sindhi community. Chaitra month is called ‘Chet’ in Sindhi.
  • The day commemorates the birth anniversary of Ishta Deva Uderolal/Jhulelal, the patron saint of Sindhis.


  • It is celebrated three times a year. Rongali or Bohag Bihu is observed in April. Kongali or Kati Bihu observed in October and Bhogali or Magh Bihu observed in January.
  • Rongali or Bohag Bihu is the Assamese new year and spring festival.
  • The Rongali Bihu coincides with Sikh New Year- Baisakhi.


  • It is celebrated as the Indian thanks giving day by farmers.
  • It also has religious significance for the Sikhs community as the foundation of the Khalsa Panth was laid on this day by Guru Gobind Singh.


  • Losoong also known as Namsoong is the Sikkimese New Year. It is usually the time when the farmers rejoice and celebrate their
  • It is mostly celebrated in the month of December every year with traditional gaiety and colour both by the Lepchas and Bhutias.


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