Conservationists elated as tiger numbers up
Why in news :
- The number of Tigers is on the rise in Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve (NSTR).
- According to the tiger census carried out by the Wildlife Institute of India and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (2018) and released on July 29, 2019, Andhra Pradesh has 48 adult tigers and Telangana 26, in comparison with 68 (2014), 72 (2010) and 95 (2006).
- Of the 3,980 tigers left in the world, India, with 2,226, accounts for 75%.
- Tiger is at the top of the food pyramid and is vital to maintain the ecosystem.
Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve (NSTR):
- It is the largest Tiger Reserve in India.
- It was notified in the year 1978 and came under the protection of Project Tiger in 1983.
- The reserve spreads over five districts in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
- The multipurpose reservoirs, Srisailam and Nagarjunasagar, are located in the reserve.
- The area consists mostly of the Nallamala Hills.
- The Krishna river cuts its basin almost 200 m (660 ft) deep over a distance of 130 km (81 mi) through the reserve.
Why in News
Recently, the Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has launched the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) Mobile App ‘BIS-Care’ and three portals namely the Standardization, Conformity Assessment and Training Portals of e-BIS for consumers.
- BIS is the National Standard Body of India for the harmonious development of the activities of standardization, marking and quality certification of goods.
- The app can be operated on any Android phone and is operational in Hindi and English
- Consumers can check the authenticity of the ISI-marked and hallmarked products and lodge complaints using this app.
- It is important to ensure that consumers are aware of the standards and quality products and help in eliminating the supply of sub-standard products.
- e-BIS is an integrated portal covering all functions of BIS, enlisting the services of outside agencies for factory and market surveillance and development of mobile app-based and Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled surveillance methods.
Other Steps Taken:
- BIS has been playing an important role in the formulation of Quality Control Orders (QCO) to make the standards mandatory.
- BIS is developing a portal on Consumer Engagement, which will facilitate the online registration of Consumer Groups, submission of proposals and approval thereof and complaint management.
- BIS plans to implement One Nation, One Standard which is under examination and will be launched soon.
- The Standard National Action Plan has been approved and important sectors of the economy for the development of standards have been identified. BIS developed Covid-19 standards for Cover-all and Ventilators and issued norms for grant of licence for N95 Masks, surgical masks and eye protectors which has resulted in an increased production of ISI-marked Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) items.
- BIS has expanded and modernised its labs and has been creating testing facilities for drinking water and assaying of gold jewellery.
- To achieve the objectives of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and protect the interests of consumers, BIS had to further strengthen its efforts to formulate standards in the areas important for boosting India’s exports and regulating the import of cheap and sub-standard products.
India-Indonesia Defence Ministers’ Dialogue
Why in News
- Recently, the Defence Ministers’ Dialogue between India and the Republic of Indonesia has been held in Delhi.
- The Indonesian Defence Minister General Prabowo Subianto is in India for strengthening the ties between the two maritime neighbours.
- At the dialogue, India and Indonesia aimed at injecting a new momentum to their strategic partnership by expanding security cooperation in a range of areas including defence industries and technology sharing.
- India conveyed satisfaction on the military to military interactions and indicated that the defence cooperation between both nations has witnessed an upswing in recent years, in consonance with the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two sides.
- The issue of possible export of BrahMos cruise missile to Indonesia by India and ways to further deepen maritime security cooperation figured prominently in the talks.
- Even though both countries acknowledge China’s aggressive posturing in eastern Ladakh and the South China Sea, there was no official statement on it.
- Both of them have agreed to work together for peace, security, and prosperity in order to achieve their shared vision on maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
- The Strait of Malacca – waterway connecting the Andaman Sea (Indian Ocean) and the South China Sea (Pacific Ocean) – runs between the Indonesian island of Sumatra to the West and peninsular (west) Malaysia and extreme southern Thailand to the east.
- Both of them recognise the threat of extremism and terrorism and have agreed to work closely bilaterally and globally to tackle them.
- India is working with Indonesia to strengthen the ties in the areas of defence, security, connectivity, trade and investment and people-to-people exchanges.
Trade and Commerce:
- Bilateral trade has increased from USD 4.3 billion in 2005-06 to USD 21 billion in 2018-19. Indonesia has emerged as the second largest trading partner of India in the ASEAN region.
- India is the second largest buyer of coal and crude palm oil from Indonesia and imports minerals, rubber, pulp and paper and hydrocarbons reserves.
- there is a need for greater market access for Indian commodities in Indonesia including, pharmaceutical, automotive and agricultural products.
- Both countries are members of G20, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), East Asia Summit and the United Nations.
Comprehensive Strategic Partnership:
- The two countries inked a defence cooperation agreement in 2018 which aimed at reflecting the elevation of the relationship between the two countries to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
- In September 2019, Indonesia announced that the country’s capital would be relocated to East Kalimantan province on Borneo island from Jakarta.
- Exercise Samudra Shakti the bilateral maritime
- Garuda Shakti is the joint military exercise between India and Indonesia.
Risk of Interplanetary Contamination on Mars
Why in News
- Recently, astrobiologists have expressed concerns about possible ‘interplanetary contamination’ on Mars as ambitious space missions are proliferating the space along with advances in commercial flight. Interplanetary contamination refers to biological contamination of a planetary body by a space probe or spacecraft, either deliberate or unintentional.
- In the past several missions have launched to Mars e.g. China’s Tianwen-1 which aims to land on the Red Planet’s surface, and the UAE’s Al Amal (Hope) which does not involve a landing, but an orbital mission that will study the Martian atmosphere.
- The USA will soon launch its Perseverance mission, which would be the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) 10 successful Mars landing since
- The Perseverance is a rover name for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. It will seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples from the planet.
- In the past, space missions have established physical contact with astronomical bodies such as comets and asteroids, and crewed missions have landed on the Moon.
- since these bodies are known to be hostile to life, the possibility of their contamination has not been a pressing issue.
Type of Contamination:
- There are two types of contamination i.e. forward and backward contamination.
- Forward Contamination: It means the transport of Earth-based microbes to other celestial bodies.
- Since, presence of liquid water was already discovered on Mars there is a chance that Mars has life and it is an ethical obligation on humanity to ensure that microbes from Earth do not disturb a possible Martian biosphere, allowing it to evolve in its own
- Secondly, Earth-based organisms could spoil the integrity of the Red Planet’s samples that rovers want to study – a highly disruptive concept for scientists who are looking for signs of native Martian life.
- Back Contamination: It is the transfer of extraterrestrial organisms (if they exist) into the Earth’s biosphere.
- The scientists rule out back contamination with respect to Mars sample-return mission as their biochemistry would be markedly different from that on Earth.
- United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967: It serves as a defence mechanism against the militarisation of space and also requires nations to worry about contamination risks. Its 110 state parties include the USA, Russia, China, and India.
- To ensure compliance with the Treaty, the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) lays down a ‘planetary protection policy’ that aims to limit the number of microbes sent to other planets, as well as ensuring that alien life does not cause havoc on Earth.
- Spacecraft Sterilisation: To prevent forward contamination, space missions take care to ensure that spacecraft are sterilised.
- Previous Mars missions, such as NASA’s Viking landers of the 1970s, were all sterilised before being launched into space.
- Containment: In the case of back contamination, sterilisation would not be an option–as this would ruin the extraterrestrial samples.
- Containment would be the only option to break the chain of contact between possible alien microbes and life on Earth.
New Research on Smallpox About its Origins
Why in News
- Recently, a new study carried out by an international team of researchers provides fresh insight into the origins of the Smallpox disease. It suggested that the smallpox was in existence as early as during the Viking age in the 8 century CE.
- The Viking Age was the period during the Middle Ages when the Norsemen (name given to the Scandinavian Vikings) undertook colonizing, conquest and trading throughout Europe, and reached North America in the 9 and 10 century.
- About: Smallpox is a contagious disease, caused by the Variola Virus (VARV).
- Transmission: It transmits through the droplets released from coughing, sneezing, and face to face contact with an infected person.
- Eradication: One of the deadliest diseases known to mankind, it is also the only one to have been eradicated by vaccination.
- In 1980, this was declared as completely eradicated after the global immunization campaign led by the World Health Organization (WHO) with the help of the smallpox vaccine.
- Vaccine: The first effective vaccine was discovered by Edward Jenner in 1796.
- Origin: The origins of smallpox have always been unclear. Until now, the earliest confirmed case of the disease was found in the mummified remains of a 17 century Lithuanian child, even though written records suggest that it is much older.
- Finding Virus Sequence: The Variola virus sequence was recovered from 13 Northern European individuals including 11 dated to 600–1050 CE, overlapping the Viking Age.
- Genetic Makeup: It also suggests that the genetic makeup of the viral strain recovered from the 11 individuals is different from the modern version which was eradicated in 1979-80.
- Course of Evolution: It was suggested as a benign disease (less dangerous) considering that smallpox may have in the past been a mild. In the course of evolution, the active gene count of the virus is shown to have reduced due to mutation.
- Therefore, the researchers speculated that smallpox became more deadly over time.
Implications of the New Research:
- Information about the Viruses: The results of the study does not have any impact on the current spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- However, it does provide important information on how a virus may become deadlier over time.
Ways of Spread:
- These findings would help to understand the ways in which diseases have affected human populations in the past. The DNA evidence suggests that diseases such as plague and hepatitis B are associated with major prehistoric migrations — something that seems now to be true of variola too.
- It would also help to seek answers of whether migrations brought the diseases to new areas or the emergence of disease triggered people to move.
Dare to Dream 2.0
Why in News
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has launched an innovation contest ‘Dare to Dream 2.0’ on the 5 death anniversary of former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
- The ‘Dare to Dream 2.0’ is an open challenge to promote the innovators and startups of the country, for innovation in defence and aerospace technologies in the country after the call of Atmanirbhar Bharat.
- Award money, up to Rs.10 lakh for startup and Rs. 5 lakh to individual category, will be given to the winners.
- APJ Abdul Kalam is known as the missile man as he was part of many successful projects for development of ballistic missiles and satellite launch vehicle technologies during his lifetime.