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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 28 & 29 March 2021 | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. Pong Dam Wildlife Sanctuary: Migratory birds found dead
  2. African Forest elephants now critically endangered
  3. New species of red algae discovered in Indian coasts
  4. China & Iran sign 25-year ‘strategic pact’
  5. Centre: Immediately issue rejection slips to NRC-excluded

PONG DAM WILDLIFE SANCTUARY: MIGRATORY BIRDS FOUND DEAD

Context:

  • As many as 27 migratory birds have been reported dead on account of avian influenza in Himachal Pradesh’s Pong Dam Wildlife Sanctuary setting off alarm bells and forcing authorities to shut down the sanctuary.
  • Earlier in January 2021, avian influenza (H5N1) led to the death of over 5,000 migratory birds in the Pong Dam Wildlife Sanctuary area in Kangra district of the State.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Protected areas in news)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Pong Dam Lake / Maharana Pratap Sagar
  2. Beas River
  3. Other Important Protected Areas in Himachal Pradesh:
  4. About Ramsar convention and Ramsar Sites in India

About Pong Dam Lake / Maharana Pratap Sagar

  • Maharana Pratap Sagar in India, also known as Pong Reservoir or Pong Dam Lake was created in 1975, by building the highest earthfill dam in India on the Beas River.
  • In 1983, the entire reservoir was declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary by the Himachal Pradesh government.
  • In 1994, the Government of India declared it a “Wetland of National Importance”.
  • Pong Dam Lake was declared as Ramsar Site in November 2002.
  • It is located in the wetland zone of the Siwalik Hills of the Dehra Gopipur Division Kangra district of the state of Himachal Pradesh.
  • The reservoir or the lake is a well-known wildlife sanctuary and one of the Ramsar sites in India.
  • The sanctuary plays host to around 220 species of birds and Migratory birds from all over Hindukush Himalayas and also as far as Siberia come here during winter.
  • The lake is fed by Beas River and its numerous perennial tributaries such as Gaj, Neogal, Binwa, Uhl, Bangana, and Baner.
  • The sanctuary area is covered with tropical and subtropical forests, which shelters a great number of Indian Wildlife animals.
  • Leopard, barking deer, sambar, wild boars, nilgai etc., are found here along with trees such as Eucalyptus, acacia, jamun, shisham etc.
Pong Dam Wildlife Sanctuary Current Affairs Insight

Beas River

  • The Beas River rises in the Himalayas in central Himachal Pradesh, India, and flows into the Sutlej River in the Indian state of Punjab.
  • The river rises 4,361 metres above sea-level on the southern face of Rohtang Pass in Kullu.
    On meeting the Sivalik Hills in Hoshiarpur, the river sweeps sharply northward and then bending round the base of the Sivalik Hills, it takes the southerly direction. Finally, the Beas joins the river Sutlej at the south-western boundary of Kapurthala district of Punjab.
  • The water of the Beas river is allocated to India under the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan.
  • The Beas River marks the easternmost border of Alexander the Great’s conquests in 326 BCE. It was one of the rivers which created problems in Alexander’s invasion of India.
Location of Pong Reservoir on Beas River | Download Scientific Diagram

Other Important Protected Areas in Himachal Pradesh:

  1. Great Himalayan National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2014.
  2. Pin Valley National Park with species like Snow Leopard and Siberian ibex.
  3. Inderkilla National Park & Khirganga National Park in Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh
National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries in Himachal Pradesh

Click Here to read more about the Ramsar convention, Ramsar Sites in India and Ramsar sites such as Tso Kar Wetland Complex and Lonar lake which were in the news recently.

-Source: The Hindu


AFRICAN FOREST ELEPHANTS NOW CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

Context:

African Forest elephant has been declared as ‘critically endangered’ and the African Savanna (or bush) elephant has been declared as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Both species were earlier listed as ‘vulnerable’.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Ecology, Protected species)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About conservation of African elephants
  2. African Forest Elephant
  3. African Savanna Elephant
  4. Differences between Asian and African elephants?
  5. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

About conservation of African elephants

  • Forest elephants had stabilised in well-managed conservation areas in Gabon and the Republic of the Congo.
  • The numbers of Savanna elephants had also been stable or growing for decades, especially in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, which harboured the largest subpopulation of this species on the continent.
  • However, both species suffered sharp declines since 2008 due to a significant increase in poaching that peaked in 2011 but continues to threaten populations. The ongoing conversion of their habitats, primarily to agricultural and other land uses, is another significant threat
  • IUCN assessment also pointed out that there had been successful conservation programmes that had led to the stabilisation of the elephant populations in a few areas.
  • Poaching for ivory has been the scourge of African elephants over the past several decades. As both males and females possess tusks, the impact of ivory poaching is especially severe.
  • While savanna elephant populations can bounce back given sufficient protection, the forest elephant is likely to recover much more slowly.

African Forest Elephant

  • African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) are now Critically Endangered according to IUCN and their population dropped by 86% in the last 31 years.
  • African Forest elephants occur in the tropical forests of Central Africa and in a range of habitats in West Africa.
  • The forest elephant, which has a more restricted natural distribution, is thought to occupy only a quarter of its historic range today, with the largest remaining populations found in Gabon and the Republic of the Congo.
  • The habitat of the forest elephant rarely overlaps with the range of the savanna elephant.
  • African forest elephants are a bit smaller than their savanna counterpart.

African Savanna Elephant

  • African savanna elephants (Loxodonta Africana) are now Endangered according to IUCN and their population dropped by 60% in the last 50 years.
  • The Savanna elephant prefers open country and is found in a variety of habitats in sub-Saharan Africa including grasslands and deserts.
  • The Savanna elephant populations can bounce back given sufficient protection.

Differences between Asian and African elephants?

  • Asian elephants are smaller than their African cousins, and their ears are smaller compared to the large fan-shaped ears of the African species.
  • Only some male Asian elephants have tusks, while both male and female African elephants grow tusks.
  • African elephants have rounded heads, while Asian elephants have a twin-domed head.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

  • Founded in 1948, today IUCN the largest professional global conservation network.
  • IUCN has more than 1,200 member organizations including 200+ government and 900+ non-government organizations and is headquartered in Gland, near Geneva.
  • IUCN is funded by governments, bilateral and multilateral agencies, foundations, member organisations and corporations.

Functions of IUCN:

  1. Science: the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.
  2. Action: hundreds of conservation projects all over the world.
  3. Influence: through the collective strength of more than 1,200 government and non-governmental Member organizations.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine


NEW SPECIES OF RED ALGAE DISCOVERED IN INDIAN COASTS

Context:

Two new species of seaweed have been discovered by a group of marine biologists on the west and south east coasts of India.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-II: Environment and Ecology (Species in news)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the discovery if these new species
  2. Significance of the discovery of the weed

About the discovery if these new species

  • Named Hypnea indica (after India) and Hypnea bullata (because of the blisterlike marks on its body – bullate), the seaweeds are part of the genus Hypnea or red seaweeds.
  • While Hypnea indica was discovered Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, and Somnath Pathan and Sivrajpur in Gujarat, Hypnea bullata was discovered from Kanyakumari and Diu island of Daman and Diu.
  • They grow in the intertidal regions of the coast, namely the area that is submerged during the high tide and exposed during low tides.

Significance of the discovery of the weed

  • As the two species have been found on the west and south east coasts of India, it suggests good prospects for their cultivation which can be put to good use economically.
  • Species of Hypnea contain the biomolecule carrageenan, which is widely used in the food industry.
  • The extensive calcareous deposits on the body that has been observed also provides room for thought. Several recent studies have shown that algae with calcareous mineral deposits are prone for the damage from ocean acidification – an aftermath of climate change.

-Source: The Hindu


CHINA & IRAN SIGN 25-YEAR ‘STRATEGIC PACT’

Context:

China and Iran signed what was described as a 25-year “strategic cooperation pact”, during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s on-going six-nation tour to West Asia.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India and its neighbors, Foreign policies and treaties affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Lead up to the deal between Iran and China
  2. Iran and China relations
  3. Stakes for India in China-Iran relations

Lead up to the deal between Iran and China

  • The agreement comes amid a major push from China to back Iran, which counts on Beijing as its largest trading partner, as it deals with the continuing weight of sanctions re-instated following then U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.
  • Earlier this week, China and Russia called for the U.S. to “unconditionally return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as soon as possible and revoke the unilateral sanctions against Iran” as their Foreign Ministers met in China.
  • The new deal is said to include “political, strategic and economic” components.

Iran and China relations

  • In 2016, just as sanctions were eased, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Tehran and proposed a long-term comprehensive, strategic partnership programme that would involve Chinese investment in Iranian infrastructure and assured supplies of Iranian oil and gas at concessional rates.
  • China and Iran are close to sealing an ambitious deal on an economic and security partnership, a move that has caught the attention of policymakers in India and across the world.
  • The deal will facilitate the infusion of about $280 billion from Beijing, which wants to buy oil from cash-strapped Iran.
  • China will also invest into Iran’s transport and manufacturing infrastructure, thus giving it inroads into major sectors in Iran including banking, telecommunications, ports and railways.
  • Iran is already a signatory of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and this is in line with China’s “debt-trap diplomacy”.
  • The deal has come under criticism from Iran’s political actors, including former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Stakes for India in China-Iran relations

  • While India watches China with concern, what is alarming for India is that China is also concluding a security and military partnership with Iran.
  • Chinese military partnership with Iran calls for “joint training and exercises, joint research and weapons development and intelligence sharing” to fight “the lopsided battle with terrorism, drug and human trafficking and cross-border crimes”.
  • Initial reports in Iran have suggested China will deploy 5,000 security personnel to protect its projects in Iran.
  • With a growing Chinese presence in Iran, India is concerned about its strategic stakes around the Chabahar port project that it has been developing.
  • The port is close to Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is being developed by China as part of its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that links it to the Indian Ocean through BRI.

-Source: The Hindu


CENTRE: IMMEDIATELY ISSUE REJECTION SLIPS TO NRC-EXCLUDED

Context:

The Centre has asked the Assam government that “rejection slips” to those excluded from the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) published in 2019 shall be issued immediately.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Government Policies and Interventions, Issues arising due to the design and implementation of policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the recent developments in implementation of NRC in Assam
  2. What is National Register of Citizens (NRC)?
  3. NRC in Assam
  4. What is the National Population Register (NPR)?
  5. How is the NPR linked to the National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

About the recent developments in implementation of NRC in Assam

  • The exercise was a culmination of the Assam Accord of 1985 signed between the Centre and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP) for detection, disenfranchisement and deportation of foreigners.
  • In the letter, the joint director asked the Assam government to assess the software used for managing the register and discontinue the ones not required.
  • The Assam government has rejected the NRC in its current form and demanded re-verification of 30% names included in the NRC in areas bordering Bangladesh and 10% in remaining State.

What is National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

  • National Register of Citizens, 1951 is a register prepared after the conduct of the Census of 1951 in respect of each village, showing the houses or holdings in a serial order and indicating against each house or holding the number and names of persons staying therein.
  • The NRC was published only once in 1951.

NRC in Assam

  • The issue of its update assumed importance as Assam witnessed large-scale illegal migration from erstwhile East Pakistan and, after 1971, from present-day Bangladesh.
  • This led to the six-year-long Assam movement from 1979 to 1985, for deporting illegal migrants.
  • The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) led the movement that demanded the updating of the NRC and the deportation of all illegal migrants who had entered Assam after 1951.
  • The movement culminated in the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985.
  • It set March 25, 1971, as the cut-off date for the deportation of illegal migrants.
  • Since the cut-off date prescribed under articles 5 and 6 of the Constitution was July 19, 1949 – to give force to the new date, an amendment was made to the Citizenship Act, 1955, and a new section was introduced.
  • It was made applicable only to Assam.
  • There had been intermittent demands from AASU and other organisations in Assam for updating the NRC, an Assam based NGO filed a petition at the Supreme Court.
  • In December 2014, a division bench of the apex court ordered that the NRC be updated in a time-bound manner.
  • The NRC of 1951 and the Electoral Roll of 1971 (up to midnight of 24 March 1971) are together called Legacy Data. Persons and their descendants whose names appeared in these documents are certified as Indian citizens.

What is the National Population Register (NPR)?

  • The NPR is a database of usual residents in the country who have stayed in a local area for the past six months or more and who intend to remain in the same place for the next six months or more.
  • The NPR is individual and identity specific unlike the Census which only provides information on the status of the residents of India and population swings.
  • The NPR database was first created in 2010.
  • The data collection is done under the aegis of the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India.
  • The NPR is undertaken under the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
  • The NPR was last updated, except in Assam and Meghalaya, in 2015-16.

How is the NPR linked to the National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

  • Successive governments have said that the NPR is the mother database for “identity purposes”.
  • The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 mandates that particulars of “every family and individual” in the NPR would be used for verification in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process.

-Source: The Hindu

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