Contents

  1. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)
  2. Dairy production in the Indus Valley Civilisation
  3. Habitat decline for the Himalayan brown bear
  4. Inter-ministerial panel for FRA: Giant step backwards
  5. Room temperature superconductivity

TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS (TPNW)

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

The United Nations has announced that 50 countries have ratified a UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons triggering its entry into force in 2021, a move hailed by anti-nuclear activists but strongly opposed by the US and the other major nuclear powers.

Details

  • This moment has been 75 years coming since the horrific attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the founding of the UN which made nuclear disarmament a cornerstone.
  • The 50th ratification came on the 75th anniversary of the ratification of the UN Charter, which officially established the United Nations and is celebrated as UN Day.
  • A US Letter said the five original nuclear powers – the US, Russia, China, Britain and France – and America’s NATO allies “stand unified in our opposition to the potential repercussions” of the treaty.

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)

  • The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading towards their total elimination.
  • Adopted in 2017, the treaty will enter into force in 2021, following the 50th ratification in 2020.
  • For those nations that are party to it, the treaty prohibits the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance and encouragement to the prohibited activities.
  • For nuclear armed states joining the treaty, it provides for a time-bound framework for negotiations leading to the verified and irreversible elimination of its nuclear weapons programme.
  • The nuclear-weapon-ban treaty, according to its proponents, will constitute an “unambiguous political commitment” to achieve and maintain a nuclear-weapon-free world.
  • However, unlike a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention, it was not intended to contain all of the legal and technical measures required to reach the point of elimination.
  • Such provisions will instead be the subject of subsequent negotiations, allowing the initial agreement to be concluded relatively quickly and, if necessary, without the involvement of nuclear-armed nations.
  • Proponents of the ban treaty believe that it will help “stigmatize” nuclear weapons, and serve as a “catalyst” for elimination.

Views on TPNW

  • No nuclear-armed nation has expressed support for a ban treaty; indeed, a number of them, including the United States and Russia have expressed explicit opposition. North Korea was the only nuclear state to vote for initiating ban negotiations.
  • Many of the non-nuclear-armed members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), along with Australia and Japan, are also resistant to a ban treaty, as they believe that US nuclear weapons enhance their security.
  • A statement was put forward by several NATO members (not including France, the United States, nor the United Kingdom, the nuclear weapon states within NATO), claiming that the treaty will be ‘ineffective in eliminating nuclear weapons’ and instead calling for advanced implementation of Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

-Source: Hindustan Times


DAIRY PRODUCTION IN THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILISATION

Focus: GS-I History

Why in news?

By analysing residues on ancient pots, researchers show the earliest direct evidence of dairy product processing, thus throwing fresh light on the rural economy of the civilisation.

Introduction

  • The year 2020 marks 100 years of discovery of Indus Valley Civilisation, and a new study has shown that dairy products were being produced by the Harappans as far back as 2500 BCE.
  • When we talk about Harappans, we always refer to the metropolitan cities and the big towns and we know they had great urban planning, trading systems, jewellery making; however, we have very little idea as to how the common masters were living during the Harappan times, their lifestyle and how they were contributing in the larger network.

Details

  • The team used molecular analysis techniques to study the residues from ancient pottery.
  • Pots are porous. So as soon as we put any liquid form of food, it will absorb it. The pot preserves the molecules of food such as fats and proteins.

On use of Diary-Products

  • It is very difficult to pinpoint if this recent finding proves that the Harappans made curd and cheese.
  • Traces were seen in cooking vessels indicating that milk may have been boiled and consumed.
  • We also found residues in a bowl showing that either heated milk or curd could have been served.
  • There are also remains of a perforated vessel, and similar vessels were used in Europe to make cheese.
  • So, it is possible that they were further processing milk into different forms.

On Animal husbandry

  • The team was also able to show which type of animals were being used for dairy production.
  • They studied the tooth enamel from fossils of cattle, water buffalo, goat and sheep found in the area.
  • Cows and water buffalo were found to consume millets, while sheep and goats ate nearby grass and leaves.
  • A preliminary study suggested that most of the cattle and water-buffalo died at an older age, suggesting they could have been raised for milk, whereas the majority of goat/sheep died when they were young, indicating they could have been used for meat.
  • The Harappans did not just use dairy for their household.
  • The large herd indicates that milk was produced in surplus so that it could be exchanged and there could have been some kind of trade between settlements.
  • This could have given rise to an industrial level of dairy exploitation.

-Source: The Hindu


HABITAT DECLINE FOR THE HIMALAYAN BROWN BEAR

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

A recent study on the Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus) has predicted a significant reduction in suitable habitat and biological corridors of the species in the climate change scenario, prompting scientists to suggest an adaptive spatial planning of protected area network in the western Himalayas for conserving the species.

Details

  • The study carried out in the western Himalayas by scientists of Zoological Survey of India, predicted a massive decline of about 73% of the bear’s habitat by the year 2050.
  • These losses in habitat will also result in loss of habitat from 13 protected areas (PAs), and eight of them will become completely uninhabitable by the year 2050, followed by loss of connectivity in the majority of PAs.
  • Furthermore, simulation suggests a significant qualitative decline in remaining habitats of the species within the protected areas of the landscape.

Himalayan brown bear

  • The Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus), also known as the Himalayan red bear is a subspecies of the brown bear and is known from northern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, northern India, west China and Nepal.
  • Himalayan brown bear is the largest mammal in the region.
  • These bears are omnivorous and hibernate in a den during the winter.
  • While the brown bear as a species is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, this subspecies is highly endangered and populations are dwindling.
  • It is Endangered in the Himalayas and Critically Endangered in Hindu Kush.
  • The bears go into hibernation around October and emerge during April and May. Hibernation usually occurs in a den or cave made by the bear.
  • Himalayan brown bears are omnivores and will eat grasses, roots and other plants as well as insects and small mammals; they also like fruits and berries. They will also prey on large mammals, including sheep and goats.

Conclusion

In such a situation when the protected areas in the Himalayan region lose their effectiveness and representativeness, there is a need to adopt “preemptive spatial planning of PAs in the Himalayan region for the long-term viability of the species”.

The suitable habitats which were mapped outside the PAs and are closely placed to PAs; may be prioritized to be brought into the PA network or enhanced protection.

-Source: The Hindu


INTER-MINISTERIAL PANEL FOR FRA: GIANT STEP BACKWARDS

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

An inter-ministerial committee comprising officials from the Union environment and tribal affairs ministries — formed recently to monitor implementation of the Schedule Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) [FRA] Act, 2006 — have raised concerns over the tribal ministry being pushed to the backseat. 

Details

  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) is the nodal agency that specifically looked into the implementation of FRA, 2006 and minimise bureaucracy in matters related to it.
  • The Union government however, created the inter-ministerial asking officials from MoTA and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to look into issues plaguing the Act.
  • Officials of both ministries blamed the poor implementation of the Act on the reluctance of the state forest departments.
  • They also claimed there was no conflict in terms of legal framework for the implementation of the act.
  • Experts working on FRA, however, raised red flags over decisions taken in the meeting, including the officials’ silence on seeking consent of forest dwellers in cases of land diversion.
  • They also expressed concern over MoEF&CC assuming central role in matters originally handled by MoTA alone.

Joint monitoring: The concerns

  • Under a surface veneer of collaboration between the two ministries, MoTA seems to be retreating further from any active role.
  • All actions of the tribal ministry would now be subject to ‘collaboration’ with MoEF&CC.
  • Implementation issues have also been referred to MoTA by tribal organisations and forest rights groups in cases where rights have been affected due some programmes by FDs, such as plantation in tribal land in Telengana.

Gram Sabha consent and JFMCs

  • With regard to the alienation of land of forest dwellers for projects, MoTA officials in the meeting said FRA was applicable in areas where leases had been granted to private players, or the forest land had been alienated for government use.
  • With the passage of the FRA, the JFMC system — wherein forest guards are the ultimate arbiter of all decisions — has become obsolete.
  • Some Gram Sabhas in Odisha have passed resolutions asking for these committees to be dissolved.

Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act

  • The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, is a key piece of forest legislation passed in 2006.
  • It has also been called the Forest Rights Act, the Tribal Rights Act, the Tribal Bill, and the Tribal Land Act.
  • The law concerns the rights of forest-dwelling communities to land and other resources, denied to them over decades as a result of the continuance of colonial forest laws in India.
  • Supporters of the Act claim that it will redress the “historical injustice” committed against forest dwellers, while including provisions for making conservation more effective and more transparent.
  • The demand for the law has seen massive national demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of people.

Types of rights which are included in Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act are:

  1. Title rights – i.e. ownership – to land that is being farmed by tribals or forest dwellers as on 13 December 2005, subject to a maximum of 4 hectares; ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family as on that date, meaning that no new lands are granted
  2. Use rights – to minor forest produce (also including ownership), to grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, etc.
  3. Relief and development rights – to rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement; and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection
  4. Forest management rights – to protect forests and wildlife.

-Source: Down To Earth


ROOM TEMPERATURE SUPERCONDUCTIVITY

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

  • Starting from hydrogen sulphide, a group of researchers in the U.S. have created a material that is superconducting at 15 degrees Celsius.
  • That is, it shows zero resistance to the flow of electricity through it, however it needs ultrahigh pressure of about 2 million atmospheres to achieve this transition, putting off any thoughts of application to the future.

Introduction

  • Ever since Wigner and Huntington (1935) predicted that solid hydrogen can be metallised by application of a pressure of about 25 Gigapascal (GPa), the high-pressure physics community has been after metallisation of hydrogen.
  • Ashcroft (1968) gave a new impetus to this search and suggested that within conventional BCS mechanism of superconductivity, in view of light mass of H atom, superconducting Tc of metallic hydrogen will reach room temperature scales.

Details

The researchers made three tests to verify that this phase was indeed a superconductor:

  1. First, they measured resistance as a function of temperature and found that it did fall to a vanishingly small value below the critical temperature, Tc.
  2. A true superconductor would, if placed in a magnetic field, try to push out the field from its interior. This is called perfect diamagnetism, and the group ascertained that the magnetic susceptibility was that of a diamagnet.
  3. Thirdly, it is known that sufficiently high magnetic fields can destroy superconductivity in a material.

Superconducter

  • A superconductor is a substance that conducts electricity without resistance when it becomes colder than a “critical temperature.”
  • At this temperature, electrons can move freely through the material.
  • Superconductors are different from ordinary conductors, even very good ones.
  • Ordinary conductors lose their resistance slowly as they get colder.
  • In contrast, superconductors lose their resistance all at once. This is an example of a phase transition.
  • High magnetic fields destroy superconductivity and restore the normal conducting state.
  • Normally, a magnet moving by a conductor produces currents in the conductor by electromagnetic induction. But a superconductor actually pushes out magnetic fields entirely by inducing surface currents.
  • Instead of letting the magnetic field pass through, the superconductor acts like a magnet pointing the opposite way, which repels the real magnet. This is called the Meissner effect, and it can be demonstrated by levitating a superconductor over magnets or vice versa.

-Source: The Hindu

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