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Current Affairs 06 October 2023

CONTENTS

  1. FAO Report on Methane Emissions
  2. India and Argentina Sign Social Security Agreement (SSA) to Protect Professionals’ Rights
  3. Study on Illicit Trade of Tortoises and Turtles
  4. Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
  5. Bojjannakonda
  6. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
  7. National Investment and Infrastructure Fund

FAO Report on Methane Emissions


Context:

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report titled “Methane Emissions in Livestock and Rice Systems” during the inaugural ‘Global Conference on Sustainable Livestock Transformation’ in September 2023. This report underscores the significant climate impact of methane emissions from livestock and rice paddies. It highlights the crucial role of reducing methane emissions in aligning with the goals of the Paris Agreement, as emphasized in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report.

Relevance:

GS III Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Findings from the Report on Methane Emissions:
  2. Initiatives to Tackle Methane Emissions

Key Findings from the Report on Methane Emissions:

Methane Contributors:

  • Ruminant livestock and manure management are responsible for about 32% of global anthropogenic methane emissions.
  • Rice paddies contribute an additional 8% of methane emissions.
  • Various other human activities, including landfills, oil and natural gas systems, coal mines, and more, generate methane emissions.

Ruminants and Methane:

  • Among ruminants, cattle are the highest daily emitters of methane, followed by sheep, goats, and buffalo.
  • Ruminants belong to the suborder Ruminantia within the order Artiodactyla, encompassing a diverse group of animals like giraffes, okapis, deer, cattle, antelopes, sheep, and goats.

Growing Demand for Animal Products:

  • Ruminant meat and milk serve as significant protein sources, and there is an anticipated 60-70% increase in global demand for animal products by 2050.

Focus on Feed Improvement:

  • The report emphasizes improving feed to reduce methane emissions by enhancing feed efficiency.
  • This includes increasing nutrient density, feed digestibility, altering rumen microbial composition, and selectively breeding animals with negative residual feed intake and smaller metabolic body weight.
  • Enhanced feed efficiency can enhance animal productivity per unit of feed, potentially increasing farm profitability considering feed costs and meat/milk revenues.

Importance of Regional Studies:

  • The report underscores the necessity for regional studies to quantify the impact of improved nutrition, health, reproduction, and genetics on increasing animal production while decreasing methane emissions.
  • These studies can assess the effects of mitigation strategies on net greenhouse gas emissions at a regional level.
Strategies for Mitigating Methane Emissions:

The study identifies four broad strategies for mitigating methane emissions:

  • Animal breeding and management.
  • Feed management, diet formulation, and precision feeding.
  • Forages.
  • Rumen manipulation.
Challenges and Research Gaps:
  • Challenges include a lack of regional data to calculate carbon footprints and limited economically viable methane mitigation solutions.
  • Further research is required to develop practical and cost-effective measures to address methane emissions effectively.

Initiatives to Tackle Methane Emissions

Indian Initiatives:
  • Harit Dhara (HD):
    • Developed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), it’s an anti-methanogenic feed supplement.
    • Reduces cattle methane emissions by 17-20% and enhances milk production.
  • National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA):
    • Implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, it promotes climate-resilient practices, including methane reduction in rice cultivation.
  • National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA):
    • Developed by ICAR under NICRA project.
    • Technologies to mitigate methane emissions from rice cultivation:
      • System for Rice Intensification: Increases rice yield by 36-49% with 22-35% less water.
      • Direct Seeded Rice: Reduces methane emissions by eliminating traditional methods.
      • Crop Diversification Programme: Shifts from paddy cultivation to alternative crops, minimizing methane emissions.
  • Bharat Stage-VI Norms:
    • India transitioned from Bharat Stage-IV (BS-IV) to Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI) emission norms to reduce vehicular methane emissions.
Global Initiatives:
  • Methane Alert and Response System (MARS):
    • Integrates data from satellites to detect methane emission events worldwide and notifies stakeholders for action.
  • Global Methane Pledge:
    • A voluntary commitment by nearly 100 countries, established at the Glasgow climate conference (UNFCCC COP 26) in 2021.
    • Aims to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 from 2020 levels.
    • India is not part of the Global Methane Pledge.
  • Global Methane Initiative (GMI):
    • An international public-private partnership focused on overcoming barriers to recovering and using methane as a clean energy source.

-Source: Down To Earth


India and Argentina Sign Social Security Agreement (SSA) to Protect Professionals’ Rights


Context:

India and Argentina have signed a ‘Social Security Agreement (SSA)’ to protect the legal rights of professionals in each other’s fields, promoting safe international mobility for professionals from both nations.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Social Security Agreement (SSA)
  2. India-Argentina Relations

Social Security Agreement (SSA)

  • The Social Security Agreement (SSA) ensures the protection of professionals’ and workers’ rights in India and Argentina regarding social security benefits and contributions.
  • Reason for Agreement: The increasing number of Indian professionals working in Argentina and Argentine nationals seeking employment in India necessitated the establishment of this legal framework.
Key Highlights of the SSA
  • Coverage: The SSA encompasses legislation in both countries related to various aspects of social security, including provisions for old age, survivor’s pension, and permanent, total disability pension for employed individuals.
  • Benefits for Detached Workers: The agreement extends rights and benefits to detached workers, those working temporarily in another country, and their family members. These benefits encompass cash allowances for retirement, pension, rent, subsidy, or lump sum payments, all in accordance with local laws, without any reduction, modification, suspension, suppression, or retention.
  • Regulating Insurance Period: The SSA establishes the legal framework for regulating the insurance period, including the period of services with contributions, contributory benefits, and their export for detached workers. It also covers crew members of airlines and ships.
  • Coverage of Contributory Benefits: The agreement addresses legislation concerning contributory benefits within Argentina’s Social Security System.
  • Protection of Rights: Overall, the SSA safeguards the rights of professionals and workers against the loss of social security benefits or contributions in both countries, facilitating increased mobility of professionals and the labor force.

India-Argentina Relations

Elevation to Strategic Partnership:

  • India-Argentina relations were upgraded to the level of Strategic Partnership in February 2019, signifying their growing cooperation and collaboration.

Historical Ties:

  • India’s engagement with Argentina dates back several decades. India established a Trade Commission in Buenos Aires in 1943, which later became one of India’s earliest embassies in South America in 1949.
  • Similarly, Argentina had established a Consulate in Calcutta in the 1920s, which was later moved to Delhi and upgraded to an Embassy in 1950.

Trade Relations:

  • India is currently Argentina’s fourth-largest trading partner.
  • Bilateral trade between the two countries reached a historic high of USD 6.4 billion in 2022, registering a growth rate of 12% compared to 2021.
  • Major Indian exports to Argentina include petroleum oils, agrochemicals, yarn-fabric-made ups, organic chemicals, bulk drugs, and two-wheelers.
  • Conversely, India imports vegetable oils (soya bean and sunflower), finished leather, cereals, residual chemicals and allied products, and pulses from Argentina.

Historical and Literary Ties:

  • India and Argentina share historical and literary connections, exemplified by Rabindranath Tagore’s visit to Argentina in 1924 and Victoria Ocampo’s honorary doctorate awarded by Visva Bharati University in 1968.

Joint Declaration Against Terrorism:

  • Both countries issued a joint declaration to combat terrorism. Argentina strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, and reiterated their commitment to fighting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
  • They emphasized that no country should allow its territory to be used as a launchpad for terrorist attacks on other nations.

-Source: The Hindu


Study on Illicit Trade of Tortoises and Turtles


Context:

A study titled ‘From Pets to Plates’ sheds light on the illicit trade of tortoises and hard-shell turtles, carried out by experts from the Counter Wildlife Trafficking Programme of the Wildlife Conservation Society-India.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Findings of the Report on Tortoise and Turtle Trafficking
  2. Tortoises and Turtles

Key Findings of the Report on Tortoise and Turtle Trafficking

  • Primary Trafficking Node: Chennai serves as the central hub in the illicit trade network of tortoises and hard-shell turtles, facilitating the global pet trade.
  • Other Significant Cities: Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Anantapur, Agra, North 24 Parganas (West Bengal), and Howrah (near India-Bangladesh border) also play crucial roles in the trafficking network for these reptiles.
  • Soft-Shell Turtle Trafficking: The trafficking of soft-shell turtles is mainly domestic, with limited international trafficking to and from India, primarily involving Bangladesh.
  • Asian Turtle Crisis: Many threatened tortoises and freshwater turtle species in India, including Indian flapshell turtles, face severe threats due to illegal trade for pets, food, and medicinal purposes.
  • Species Under Threat: At least 15 out of the 30 threatened Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles (TFT) species in India are illegally traded.
  • Focus on Freshwater Species: The Indian Softshell turtle, found in the Ganges, Indus, and Mahanadi rivers, is particularly in demand in illegal markets.
  • Trafficking Networks: The tortoise and hard-shell turtle trafficking network has a broader geographical scope with more international links compared to the soft-shell turtle network.
  • Complex Routes: Tortoise and hard-shell turtle smuggling involve complex routes, while soft-shell turtle trafficking generally follows a one-directional route from source to destination.
  • Poor Conditions: Trafficked turtles often arrive dehydrated, starved, and injured, resulting in high mortality rates. This underscores the urgency of addressing the issue.

Tortoises and Turtles

Tortoises and turtles are both reptiles belonging to the order Testudines, but they are distinct in several ways, primarily related to their habitat, physical characteristics, and behavior. Here are some key differences between tortoises and turtles:

Habitat:

  • Tortoises are primarily land-dwelling reptiles. They are adapted for a terrestrial lifestyle and are typically found in dry, arid regions, such as deserts and grasslands.
  • Turtles, on the other hand, are generally aquatic or semi-aquatic reptiles. They are often found in various aquatic habitats, including ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans, although some species may also venture onto land.

Limb Shape:

  • Tortoises have sturdy, column-like legs with sharp claws. These adaptations are designed for walking on land and digging burrows.
  • Turtles have webbed feet or flippers, which are adapted for swimming in water. Their limbs are typically more flattened and paddle-like.

Shell Characteristics:

  • Tortoises have high-domed, heavy shells that provide protection against predators and the harsh environment of their terrestrial habitats.
  • Turtles generally have flatter, streamlined shells that aid in swimming. The shape of the shell can vary depending on their specific habitat and lifestyle.

Behavior:

  • Tortoises are usually slow-moving creatures and spend most of their lives on land. They are herbivorous and feed on plants and vegetation.
  • Turtles are more agile in the water and are often excellent swimmers. They have a more varied diet, including aquatic plants, insects, and small prey depending on the species.

Reproduction:

  • Both tortoises and turtles lay eggs, but the nesting habits can differ. Tortoises typically dig burrows to lay their eggs on land, while many turtles lay their eggs in sandy beaches or other suitable locations near water.

Lifespan:

  • Both tortoises and turtles can live for a long time, but tortoises tend to have longer lifespans. Some tortoise species can live for over a century, while turtles often have a lifespan of several decades.

Distribution:

  • Tortoises are often found in specific regions around the world, such as the deserts of North America, Africa, and Asia.
  • Turtles are more widespread and can be found in various aquatic environments globally, from freshwater ponds to saltwater oceans.

-Source: The Hindu


Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict


Context:

Recently, Azerbaijan launched a military operation in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, resulting in casualties. The operation is part of a long-standing dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the region

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-II: International Relations (Important Foreign Policies and Developments), GS-I Geography (Maps), GS-I: History (World History)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Nagorno-Karabakh begin conflict
  2. The Azeri-Armenian war of 1991
  3. The war of 2016 and 2020
  4. Current peace talks

Nagorno-Karabakh begin conflict

  • Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked, mountainous and forested region, falling within the boundaries of Azerbaijan.
  • Nagorno-Karabakh, called Artsakh in Armenian, hosts a predominantly ethnic Armenian population with an Azeri minority.
  • It is located in the South Caucasus region and is roughly made up of modern-day Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
  • Nagorno-Karabakh, which was once a part of the Armenian kingdom, has been ruled by several empires over the centuries — the Ottomans, the Persians, and the Russians.
  • Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia later became separate Republics, with the Azeris incorporating Nagorno-Karabakh into their Republic.
  • During the First World War, the Ottomans, aided by Azeris, attacked the south Caucasus, especially targeting ethnic Armenians.
  • As the Ottomans retreated at the end of the World War, Azerbaijan and Armenia descended into a full-blown war in 1920.

The Azeri-Armenian war of 1991

  • Soon, the Bolsheviks took over south Caucasus to expand Soviet influence and Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia became Soviet Republics.
  • The Soviets officially placed Nagorno-Karabakh as an autonomous Oblast (administrative region) in Azerbaijan’s territory, despite the chiefly Armenian population.
  • As Soviet power began to wane in the 1980s, the ethnic Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh expressed a desire to be reunited with their roots and become a part of Armenia, organising a vote for the same in 1988.
    • This did not go down well with Azerbaijan and military clashes ensued.
  • The war killed nearly 30,000 people and caused numerous ethnic Azeris to flee Karabakh and Armenia.
    • Some Armenians in parts of Azerbaijan fled too.
  • By 1993, Armenia had taken control of most of Nagorno-Karabakh. The war ended in 1994 when both countries entered into a ceasefire brokered by Russia but the borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan were not demarcated.

Peace talks by Minsk Group:

  • Peace talks were initiated by the Minsk Group but peace treaty could not be brokered.
    • The Minsk Group, created by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in early 1990, was co-chaired by Russia, the United States, and France.
  • The Minsk Group’s proposals were continously rejected by both Yerevan and Baku.
  • The role of the Minsk Group declined during the 2020 war between the two countries, as other negotiating groups entered the scene.
The war of 2016 and 2020
  • A ceasefire signed in 1994 could not prevent multiple flare-ups between the Nagorno-Karabakh rebel armed forces backed by the Armenian military, and the Azerbaijani military.
  • Some skirmishes turned into direct clashes and the conflict has resulted in several casualties over the years.

2016

  • A clash started between Azerbaijan and Armenia which lasted for four days.
  • A ceasefire signed in Moscow put an end to the war but the Nagorno-Karabakh issue was far from resolved.
  • Fresh clashes erupted on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border in September of 2020,

2020

  • It turned into a fierce six-week war in which more than 2,000 people died.
  • The fighting began after Azerbaijani President Aliyev launched an offensive vowing to take back Nagorno-Karabakh and other Armenian-occupied districts.
  • Both parties entered a ceasefire brokered by Moscow in November 2020.

Current peace talks

  • Despite the 2020 ceasefire, clashes have not stopped.
  • Recently, seven Azerbaijani and six Armenian soldiers were killed in border clashes.
  • With the efforts of the Minsk Group remaining largely unsuccessful, Baku saw an opportunity to introduce its own peace proposal, which calls for the mutual recognition of each State’s territorial integrity, meaning the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijani territory.
  • The European Union, meanwhile, has emerged as a potential peace broker.
  • European Council President spearheaded meetings between both countries for the beginning of peace talks While both countries have now agreed to formulate border security and delimitation commissions and start talks for a peace deal, a permanent solution for the Karabakh issue remains out of sight.

-Source: Indian Express


Bojjannakonda


Context:

Recently, the Central government has sanctioned 7.30 crore rupees for taking up landscaping and development of tourist amenities at Bojjannakonda site.

Relevance:

GS I: History

About Bojjannakonda

Bojjannakonda is an important historical and archaeological site located in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. Here are some key details about Bojjannakonda:

Excavation and History:

  • The site was excavated under the supervision of Alexander Rim in 1906.
  • Originally known as ‘Buddhuni Konda,’ which means ‘Hill of the Buddha,’ it came to be known as ‘Bojjannakonda’ over time.
  • Buddhist monks are believed to have practiced and inhabited the area around 2,000 years ago.

Archaeological Finds:

  • Several significant artifacts and archaeological finds have been discovered at Bojjannakonda, including:
    • A gold coin from the period of Samudra Gupta.
    • Copper coins from the Chalukya king Kubja Vishnu Vardhan.
    • Coins from the Andhra Satavahanas.
    • Various pottery items.

Features of Buddhism:

  • Bojjannakonda is notable for showcasing features of all three major phases of Buddhism: Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. This suggests a rich history of Buddhist practice and development at the site.

Artistic Elements:

  • Artifacts found at Bojjannakonda include a figure of ‘Kalabhairava’ with the head of Lord Ganesha and statues of Buddhist monks like ‘Harati.’
  • There is a large double-storeyed cave on the hill, featuring a rock-cut stupa at its center.
  • Impressive figures of the Buddha in a meditative posture and the stupa are among the main attractions for tourists.

Structural Buildings:

  • On top of the hill, there are structural buildings and a vihara (monastery), although they have been reduced to ruins over time.

Lingalakonda:

  • To the west of Bojjannakonda, another hillock called Lingalakonda or Lingalametta is present. It features numerous monolithic and structural stupas.

Comparison to Takshasila:

  • The caves at Bojjannakonda are noted to have similarities with those at Takshasila, indicating potential influence or exchange of Buddhist practices between northern India and this region.
  • The use of the word ‘Sangrama’ at Takshasila, which was not commonly used in Andhra Pradesh, further suggests such influences.

Influence on Borobudur:

  • The text mentions that the Buddhist temple at Borobudur in Java has been constructed on the lines of the structures found at Lingalametta, emphasizing the historical and cultural connections between different Buddhist sites.

-Source: The Hindu


Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)


Context:

Recent research revealed that Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is intrinsically linked with personality disorders.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
  2. Risk Factors and Symptoms
  3. Treatment and Prevention

About Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

  • Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is a common liver condition characterized by the accumulation of fat in the liver cells. Here are some key points about NAFLD:
 Types of NAFLD:
  • NAFLD encompasses a spectrum of conditions related to fat accumulation in the liver.
  • There are two primary types of NAFLD: Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver (NAFL) and Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH).
  • NAFL is characterized by fat accumulation in the liver without significant inflammation or liver damage. It often does not progress to cause liver-related complications.
  • NASH is a more severe form of NAFLD. It involves inflammation and liver damage in addition to fat accumulation. NASH can lead to fibrosis (scarring) of the liver, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.

Risk Factors and Symptoms:

Risk Factors:
  • NAFLD is more likely to develop in individuals who have certain risk factors, including:
    • Obesity or being overweight.
    • Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance.
    • High blood pressure.
    • High cholesterol.
    • Metabolic syndrome.
    • Rapid weight loss and poor eating habits.
  • While it can affect people of all ages, NAFLD is more common in adults and is becoming increasingly prevalent in children due to rising rates of childhood obesity.
Symptoms:
  • NAFLD is often asymptomatic, especially in the early stages.
  • Some people with advanced NAFLD or NASH may experience symptoms such as fatigue, abdominal discomfort, or enlarged liver.
  • Diagnosis usually involves blood tests, imaging studies, and sometimes a liver biopsy.

Treatment and Prevention:

Treatment:
  • There is no specific medication approved for the treatment of NAFLD. The primary approach to managing NAFLD involves lifestyle modifications.
  • Weight loss through diet and exercise is a key strategy in treating NAFLD. Even a modest reduction in weight can lead to improvements in liver health.
  • Management of associated conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol is important.
  • In cases of advanced NASH with significant liver fibrosis or cirrhosis, more specialized care may be required, including potential liver transplantation.
Prevention:
  • Preventing NAFLD involves maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
  • Managing conditions like obesity and diabetes is crucial in reducing the risk of developing NAFLD.
  • Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption is essential, as heavy alcohol use can lead to a different form of liver disease known as alcohol-associated liver disease.

-Source: Indian Express


National Investment and Infrastructure Fund


Context

Recently, the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund has entered into a collaboration with Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) to unveil a $600 million India-Japan Fund.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is NIIF?
  2. Functions of NIIF

What is NIIF?

  • The National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), which was established in February 2015, is India’s first sovereign wealth fund dedicated to investing in infrastructure.
  • It was proposed to be established as an Alternative Investment Fund to provide long tenor capital for infrastructure projects with an inflow of 20,000 crore from the GoI, with the goal of maximising economic impact primarily through infrastructure investment in commercially viable projects, both Greenfield and Brownfield.
  • It was listed with SEBI as an Alternative Investment Fund in Category II.
Types of funds in NIIF
  • Master Fund: It is an infrastructure fund with the objective of primarily investing in operating assets in the core infrastructure sectors such as roads, ports, airports, power etc.
  • Fund of Funds: The Fund of Funds anchor and/or invest in funds managed by fund managers who have good track records in infrastructure and associated sectors in India. Some of the sectors of focus include Green Infrastructure, Mid-Income & Affordable Housing, Infrastructure services and allied sectors.
  • Strategic Opportunities Fund: It is registered as an Alternative Investment Fund II under SEBI in India. Its objective is to invest largely in equity and equity-linked instruments. It has been established to provide long-term capital to strategic and growth oriented sectors in the country with the aim to build domestic leaders.

Functions of NIIF

  • Fund raising through suitable instruments including off-shore credit enhanced bonds, and attracting anchor investors to participate as partners in NIIF;
  • Servicing of the investors of NIIF.
  • Considering and approving candidate companies/institutions/ projects (including state entities) for investments and periodic monitoring of investments.
  • Investing in the corpus created by Asset Management Companies (AMCs) for investing in private equity.
  • Preparing a shelf of infrastructure projects and providing advisory service.

-Source: The Hindu


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