- Kerch Bridge attack
- Radio collars
- Manipur Violence
- Desiccation-tolerant vascular (DT) plants
- East Asia Summit
- Bura Chapori Wildlife Sanctuary
Recently, The Kerch Bridge, which links the Russian mainland to the Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea, came under attack.
GS II: International Relations
Dimensions of the Article:
- What happened to the Kerch Bridge?
- Importance of the Kerch Bridge
- Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Status
What happened to the Kerch Bridge?
- One section of the Kerch Bridge was blown up, resulting in two fatalities and a child being injured.
- The Kerch Bridge, spanning the Kerch Strait, is 19 km long with two parallel rail and roadways.
- It was opened in 2018 by Russian President Vladimir Putin, four years after Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine through a disputed referendum.
- Last October, the bridge was targeted by a massive truck bomb that caused significant damage and claimed three lives.
Importance of the Kerch Bridge:
- Symbolic Significance: The bridge holds symbolic importance for Russia as it provides a direct land link between the Russian mainland and Crimea, which was previously disconnected.
- Logistical and Operational Role: The bridge serves as a critical logistical supply link for Russian troops in the south, connecting them to Crimea and facilitating movements between the two regions.
- Military Strategy: Securing a “land bridge” to Crimea has been a strategic objective for Russia, especially as the region was vulnerable to Ukrainian fire from the frontline.
- Security of Crimea: The bridge is essential for maintaining Russia’s hold on Crimea and ensuring its continued military presence in the region.
- Counteroffensive Disruptions: The recent attack on the bridge occurred during a Ukrainian counteroffensive, with the goal of disrupting Russian supplies to southern Ukraine and making deep thrusts into Russian-held territories in the southeast.
- Vulnerability of Crimea: Ukraine’s efforts to target the Kerch Bridge aim to make Crimea further vulnerable to future attacks and reduce its reliance on the bridge as the only link to mainland Russia.
Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Status:
- Ukraine launched a counteroffensive with the help of advanced weapons supplied by the West.
- President Zelenskyy has been actively campaigning for more advanced weaponry from Western allies to fight against Russian forces.
- The U.S. and European countries have provided Ukraine with various military equipment, including armoured vehicles, long-range rockets, cruise missiles, main battle tanks, missile defence systems, artillery shells, and ammunition.
- Training for Ukrainian troops is also being conducted in Europe and the U.S.
- The U.S. has provided 42 aid packages to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, with the latest package including cluster munitions, which have been banned by many countries due to their indiscriminate harm to civilians.
- The goal of supplying advanced weaponry was to help Ukraine make swift battlefield gains against Russia and put pressure on President Putin.
- After six weeks of fighting, Ukraine has not achieved any major breakthrough victories in the counteroffensive.
- Ukrainian forces have recaptured approximately 210 sq. km of territory, mostly in the southeast, but these were mainly abandoned villages along the frontline.
- Ukraine’s gains have come at a high cost, with around 20% of the weaponry sent to the battlefield being lost, including West-supplied main battle tanks and armoured vehicles, in the first two weeks of the counteroffensive.
- Despite the support of advanced weaponry from Western allies, Ukraine’s counteroffensive has not yet achieved significant territorial gains against Russian forces. The conflict continues to have a high toll on both sides, and the situation remains complex and fluid.
-Source: The Hindu
Recently, the use of radio collars in the cheetah reintroduction project in Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh, India, has resulted in unexpected setbacks, with cheetahs experiencing neck wounds and septicaemia, an infection of the blood by bacteria.
GS III: Conservation
Dimensions of the Article:
- Radio Collars
- Challenges Associated with Radio Collars in Wildlife Monitoring
- Cheetah Reintroduction Project in India
- Purpose and Usage: Radio collars are employed to track and monitor animals in their natural habitats.
- Components: These collars consist of a small radio transmitter attached to a specially designed collar.
- Data Collection: Radio collars provide valuable data on various aspects of animal behavior, migration patterns, and population dynamics.
- Enhanced Technology: Some collars are equipped with GPS or accelerometers, adding more detailed information to the collected data.
- Animal-Friendly Design: Collars are carefully designed to be lightweight and comfortable for the animals, ensuring minimal disruption to their natural behaviors.
- Risk Management: Researchers and conservationists must address potential risks and challenges associated with radio collars, such as injuries or infections to the animals, to ensure their well-being during the monitoring process.
Challenges Associated with Radio Collars in Wildlife Monitoring
- Cheetah Deaths and Injuries: Two cheetahs in the Kuno reintroduction project died due to suspected septicaemia from festering neck wounds caused by radio collars. Other cheetahs, including Oban, Elton, and Freddie, also exhibited similar injuries.
- Concerns about Collar Use: The incidents have raised concerns about the effectiveness and safety of using radio collars in the cheetah reintroduction project.
- Potential Health Risks: Studies on watch wearers and pet dogs have shown that wearing something on the body for an extended period can lead to health issues. Watch wearers had higher bacteria presence on their wrists, potentially leading to sepsis. Dogs with collars can develop dermatitis, hot spots, and pressure necrosis.
- Weight Considerations: Globally, the guideline is to keep radio collar weight below 3% of the animal’s body weight. Modern collars for wild cats typically weigh around 400g, suitable for cheetahs weighing between 20 kg and 60 kg. However, fitting collars on cheetahs, especially younger ones, can be challenging due to their small necks.
- Impact on Movement: A study criticized the collar weight rule, revealing that collar forces during movement can exceed the collar’s weight. The forces exerted by collars were found to be up to 18 times the collar’s weight for a cheetah.
- Environmental Adaptations: African cheetahs may be more susceptible to local pathogens due to differences in immunity and environmental conditions. Historical data suggests Indian cheetahs did not wear collars during the monsoon and may have adapted differently to the local climate.
- Challenges in Monitoring: Tracking, immobilizing, and assessing cheetahs for neck injuries pose challenges and potential delays, leading to uncertainties about re-collaring cheetahs during the monsoon.
- Animal Well-being: The absence of a clear roadmap for the next monsoon raises questions about ensuring the well-being of cheetahs and the need for collar use in the future.
Cheetah Reintroduction Project in India
- The project aims to restore the population of cheetahs, declared extinct in India in 1952.
- The formal commencement was on September 17, 2022.
- 20 radio-collared cheetahs were translocated from South Africa and Namibia to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
- 4 cubs were born to one of the relocated cheetahs from Namibia in March 2023.
- Cheetahs underwent quarantine and then moved to larger acclimatization enclosures.
- Currently, 11 cheetahs roam freely, while 5 are in quarantine.
- 8 cheetahs have died in Kuno National Park due to natural causes.
- Preliminary analysis by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) suggests natural deaths unrelated to radio collars.
Collaborators and Challenges
- NTCA, Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and cheetah experts from Namibia and South Africa are part of the project.
- Challenges include monitoring, protection, and management of the reintroduced cheetah population.
Investigation and Improvements
- International cheetah experts and veterinary doctors are investigating the cause of cheetah deaths.
- National experts are reviewing protocols, protection, management, veterinary facilities, training, and capacity building.
- Efforts underway to establish a Cheetah Research Center, expand forest areas, provide additional staff, establish a Cheetah Protection Force, and create a second home in Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary.
- The government is committed to conserving the reintroduced cheetah population and ensuring its long-term success.
-Source: Indian Express
The Opposition in Rajya Sabha demanded the suspension of all other business to discuss the Manipur issue under Rule 267.
- Rule 267 has become a contentious issue in recent Parliament sessions as no notices given by the Opposition under this rule have been accepted.
- On the first day of the monsoon session, the Opposition wanted to discuss Manipur under this rule. However, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha said the government was keen and agreeable for discussion under Rule 176 for Short Duration Discussion.
GS II: Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Articles:
- Rule 267 in Rajya Sabha
- Rule 176: Short Duration Discussion
- Manipur Violence
Rule 267 in Rajya Sabha
Rule 267 in the Rajya Sabha’s Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business allows members to suspend any existing rule temporarily to prioritize discussions on urgent matters of national importance. It provides a mechanism for giving precedence to crucial issues over other listed businesses in the House.
- Rule Suspension: As per Rule 267, any Rajya Sabha member, with the Chairman’s consent, can move a motion to suspend a specific rule’s application to a motion related to the day’s listed business. If the motion is carried through a vote, the concerned rule will be suspended temporarily.
- Issue Discussion: Under Rule 267, MPs can submit a written notice to suspend all other listed businesses and initiate a discussion on a pressing national issue.
- Chairperson’s Role: The Chairman of Rajya Sabha has the authority to decide whether to propose the motion for rule suspension based on the urgency and relevance of the topic for discussion.
- Voting Decision: The members present in the House vote on whether the rule should be suspended, making it a collective decision.
- Exemptions: Rule 267 will not apply if specific provisions exist for rule suspension under particular chapters of the Rules.
Significance of the Rule:
- Priority Discussions: Rule 267 holds immense importance as it allows for urgent discussions on critical national issues, temporarily suspending regular business to address pressing concerns.
- Exclusive Suspension: This type of discussion is distinct as it calls for the suspension of all other activities to prioritize the topic at hand.
- Government’s Response: During Rule 267 discussions, the government is obligated to respond to the issue raised, providing accountability on pressing matters.
- Opposition Complaints: The Opposition has expressed dissatisfaction, claiming that their notices under Rule 267 are not being considered for discussion.
- Rejection Instances: During the winter session, the Chairman of Rajya Sabha rejected eight such notices within two days, containing issues such as the border issue with China and rising prices of essential commodities.
Rule 176: Short Duration Discussion
- Provision: Rule 176 in the Rajya Sabha’s Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business allows Members of Parliament (MPs) to raise a discussion on matters of urgent public importance.
- Time Allocation: The time for the discussion is determined by the Business Advisory Committee.
- Notice Requirement: MPs must provide notice specifying the matter to be discussed and the reasons for its urgency.
- Admissibility Decision: The Chairman decides on the admissibility of the notice after seeking necessary information from the MP and the concerned Minister.
- Discussion Process: During the discussion, the MP raises the matter, followed by other MPs participating in the debate. The Minister-in-charge responds at the conclusion of the discussion.
- Turmoil and Segregation: Manipur has been embroiled in deadly violence for over two months, leading to clashes between the Meitei and Kuki tribal communities, resulting in their complete segregation.
- Casualties and Displacement: The violence has caused at least 130 deaths and displaced around 60,000 people.
Reasons Behind the Violence:
- Eviction Drive: Tensions began in February 2023 when the state government initiated an eviction drive, perceived to target a specific tribal group, leading to protests.
- High Court’s Order: The recent escalation was triggered by the Manipur High Court’s order to the state government to pursue a decade-old recommendation to grant Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the non-tribal Meitei community.
- Historical Tensions: The Court’s order exacerbated historical tensions between the Meitei community residing in the valley and the hill tribes of the state.
- Violent Clashes: A ‘tribal solidarity march’ by the All-Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur (ATSUM) against the High Court’s order resulted in violent clashes at various places in Manipur.
The situation in Manipur is deeply concerning, and the Short Duration Discussion under Rule 176 could be an essential platform for addressing the urgent public importance of the violent conflict and its underlying reasons. It allows MPs to raise the matter in Parliament and facilitates a comprehensive debate to find solutions and address the humanitarian crisis in the state.
-Source: Indian Express
New study discovers 62 desiccation-tolerant vascular plant species in India’s Western Ghats, with potential applications in agriculture & conservation. These species of plants can withstand harsh environments.
GS III: Environment and Ecology
Dimensions of the Article:
- DT Plant: Desiccation-Tolerant Vascular Plants
- Color Variations and Morphological Characteristics
- Significance of Desiccation-Tolerant Vascular Plants
DT Plant: Desiccation-Tolerant Vascular Plants
- DT plants can tolerate the desiccation of their vegetative tissues.
- They are common in tropical rock outcrops.
- These plants can survive high dehydration, losing up to 95% of their water content.
- The global population of these species ranges between 300 and 1,500.
- Out of the 62 species found, 16 are native to India, and 12 are restricted to Western Ghats outcrops.
- DT plants can be found in both tropical and temperate regions.
- They regenerate quickly when water supplies are restored and are frequently found on rocky outcrops in the tropics.
Adaptation to Harsh Environments
- DT plants are crucial for the world’s warming as they can thrive at higher temperatures.
- Hydration and desiccation resistance are two studied mechanisms in plants to survive in harsh environments.
- Indian desiccation-tolerant plants are primarily found in forest rock outcrops and partially shaded tree trunks.
- Ferricretes and basaltic plateaus are preferred habitats.
- Glyphochloa is the dominant genus, mainly consisting of annual species occurring on plateaus.
- Glyphochloa goaensis, Glyphochloa ratnagirica, and Glyphochloa santapaui are found only on ferricretes, while other species are found on both ferricretes and basaltic plateaus.
Color Variations and Morphological Characteristics
- DT species exhibit color variations and distinct morphological characteristics.
- Tripogon species change colors from greyish in dry conditions to green in hydrated situations.
- In Oropetium thomaeum, the leaf cloud transforms from green to dark purple or orange in the hydrated phase and ranges from brownish to ash during desiccation.
- Ferns (fronds) display various characteristics, such as curling inwards towards the costa, exposing spores at the start of the dry season and during brief dry spells.
- However, not all species show the same behavior. For example, C lanuginosus leaves fold and shrivel inward to protect the chlorophyllous portion, avoiding direct sunlight exposure during desiccation.
Significance of Desiccation-Tolerant Vascular Plants
Climate Resilience in Agriculture:
- The discovery of desiccation-tolerant vascular plants is significant for agriculture, especially in regions facing water scarcity and high temperatures due to climate change.
- These plants have evolved mechanisms to survive extreme dehydration, making them potential candidates for developing climate-resilient crops.
Genetic Resource for Crop Improvement:
- The genes of desiccation-tolerant plants hold valuable traits that can be harnessed to enhance the resilience of conventional crops to water stress and high temperatures.
- By studying the genetic makeup and adaptation strategies of these plants, scientists can identify and incorporate these desirable traits into crop breeding programs.
High-Temperature Tolerant Crops:
- Utilizing the genetic resources of DT plants, researchers can work towards developing crop varieties that can thrive in high-temperature environments.
- High-temperature tolerant crops can better withstand heat stress, maintain productivity, and contribute to food security in the face of climate change.
- By understanding the physiological and biochemical mechanisms of desiccation-tolerant plants, scientists can design crops that are more water-efficient.
- Such crops would require less irrigation and could be grown in regions with limited water resources, helping to mitigate the impacts of water scarcity on agriculture.
Ensuring Food Security:
- Climate-resilient crops with improved tolerance to high temperatures and water stress can contribute to increased agricultural productivity and overall food security.
- Developing crops with enhanced climate resilience is crucial to meeting the rising global demand for food in the future.
-Source: Down To Earth
Recently few States have demanded that “lightning” be declared as a “natural disaster” because deaths caused by it surpass any other disaster in India.
- According to present norms, cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves are considered as disasters that are covered under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), 75% of which is funded by the Centre.
GS I- Geography
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is Lightning?
- More about Clouds that generate lightning and how they are formed
- What happens when lightning strikes Earth’s Surface?
- Which areas are lightning-prone?
- How can the effects of lightning strikes be mitigated?
What is Lightning?
- Lightning is a natural ‘electrical discharge of very short duration and high voltage between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud’, accompanied by a bright flash and sound, and sometimes thunderstorms.
- In simple words, it is a very rapid and massive discharge of electricity in the atmosphere.
- It happens as a result of the difference in electrical charge between the top and bottom of a cloud, or between 2 clouds or between clouds and the ground.
- Inter cloud or intra cloud (IC) lightning are visible and harmless.
- Cloud to ground (CG) lightning is harmful as the ‘high electric voltage and electric current’ leads to electrocution.
More about Clouds that generate lightning and how they are formed
- The lightning-generating clouds are typically about 10-12 km in height, with their base about 1-2 km from the Earth’s surface. The temperatures at the top range from -35°C to -45°C.
- As water vapour moves upwards in the cloud, it condenses into water due to decreasing temperatures. A huge amount of heat is generated in the process, pushing the water molecules further up.
- As they move to temperatures below zero, droplets change into small ice crystals. As they continue upwards, they gather mass, until they become so heavy that they start descending.
- It leads to a system where smaller ice crystals move upwards while larger ones come down. The resulting collisions trigger release of electrons, in a process very similar to the generation of electric sparks. The moving free electrons cause more collisions and more electrons leading to a chain reaction.
- The process results in a situation in which the top layer of the cloud gets positively charged while the middle layer is negatively charged.
- In little time, a huge current, of the order of lakhs to millions of amperes, starts to flow between the layers.
What happens when lightning strikes Earth’s Surface?
- The Earth is a good conductor of electricity. While electrically neutral, it is relatively positively charged compared to the middle layer of the cloud. As a result, an estimated 20-25% of the current flow is directed towards the Earth. It is this current flow that results in damage to life and property.
- Lightning has a greater probability of striking raised objects on the ground, such as trees or buildings.
- Lightning Conductor is a device used to protect buildings from the effect of lightning. A metallic rod, taller than the building, is installed in the walls of the building during its construction.
- The most lightning activity on Earth is seen on the shore of Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela.
Which areas are lightning-prone?
- A recently released annual report on lightning by the Climate Resilient Observing Systems Promotion Council (CROPC), which works closely with government agencies like the India Meteorological Department, includes a lightning atlas which maps vulnerability at the district level.
- According to the report, Madhya Pradesh has reported the largest number of cloud to ground lighting strikes, followed by Chhatisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal.
- Other states with high strike rate include Bihar, UP, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.
- Lightning is fairly common, though it is not often realised in the urban centres.
- In India, well over one crore lightning strikes have been recorded in recent years. It is only over the last few years that lightning records have begun to be maintained, thanks to the efforts of CROPC and India Meteorological Department.
How can the effects of lightning strikes be mitigated?
- Lightning is not classified as a natural disaster in India.
- But recent efforts have resulted in the setting up of an early warning system, that is already saving many lives. More than 96% of lightning deaths happen in rural areas.
- As such, most of the mitigation and public awareness programmes need to focus on these communities.
- Lightning protection devices are fairly unsophisticated and low-cost. Yet, their deployment in the rural areas, as of now, is extremely low.
- States are being encouraged to prepare and implement lightning action plans, on the lines of heat action plans.
- An international centre for excellence on lightning research to boost detection and early warning systems is also in the process of being set up.
-Source: Indian Express
Recently, India’s External Affairs Minister attended the 13th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and utilized the opportunity to engage in discussions with China’s top diplomat, on the sidelines of the event. They discussed outstanding issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), emphasizing the importance of peace and the disengagement of troops.
GS II: International Relations
Dimensions of the Article:
- East Asia Summit (EAS)
- India and its Role in the East Asia Summit (EAS)
East Asia Summit (EAS)
- The East Asia Summit (EAS) was established in 2005 as an initiative led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
- It serves as a leader-led forum in the Indo-Pacific region, bringing together key partners to address strategic political, security, and economic issues.
Principles and Values:
- The EAS operates based on the principles of openness, inclusiveness, respect for international law, and the centrality of ASEAN as the driving force behind the forum.
Proposal and First Summit:
- The idea of an East Asia Grouping was first proposed by then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in 1991.
- The first EAS summit was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 14 December 2005.
- The EAS comprises 18 members, including the 10 ASEAN countries and eight dialogue partners.
- ASEAN countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
- Dialogue partners: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States.
Summit Timing and Supportive Meetings:
- The EAS is typically held alongside ASEAN Leaders’ meetings in the fourth quarter of each year.
- It is supported by various ministerial and senior officials’ meetings, addressing various sectors like foreign affairs, economy, defense, and education.
Priority Areas of Cooperation:
- The EAS focuses on six priority areas of cooperation: environment and energy, education, finance, global health issues and pandemic diseases, natural disaster management, and ASEAN connectivity.
Broad Range of Topics:
- In addition to the priority areas, the EAS also covers other topics of common interest and concern, such as trade and investment, regional architecture, maritime security, non-proliferation, counterterrorism, and cyber security.
India and its Role in the East Asia Summit (EAS)
Founding Member and Active Participant:
- India has been a founding member of the East Asia Summit since its establishment in 2005.
- It has consistently participated in all EAS meetings and activities, showcasing its commitment to regional cooperation.
Enhancing Act East Policy:
- India sees the EAS as a crucial platform to strengthen its Act East Policy, which aims to deepen engagement and foster stronger ties with East and Southeast Asian nations.
- Through the EAS, India seeks to enhance economic, political, and strategic partnerships with ASEAN and other countries in the region.
Unveiling Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI):
- During the EAS in Bangkok in November 2019, India unveiled the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI).
- The IPOI is a strategic initiative aimed at forging partnerships to create a secure and stable maritime domain in the Indo-Pacific region.
Contributions to EAS Cooperation:
- India actively contributes to various fields of cooperation within the EAS framework.
- Its contributions encompass areas like disaster management, renewable energy, education, health, connectivity, maritime security, and counterterrorism.
-Source: The Hindu
Recently, several people injured over clash between forest team and illegal encroachers at Bura Chapori Wildlife Sanctuary.
Facts for Prelims
About Bura Chapori Wildlife Sanctuary:
- Bura Chapori Wildlife Sanctuary is located on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra River in Assam’s Sonitpur district.
- It forms a part of the Laokhowa-Burachapori eco-system.
- The sanctuary consists of diverse habitats, including wet alluvial grasslands, riparian forests, and semi-evergreen forests, supporting a wide variety of flora and medicinal plants.
- The wildlife includes the Great Indian one-horned rhinoceros, tigers, leopards, wild buffalo, hog deer, wild pig, and elephants.
- The sanctuary is also known for being a breeding ground for the endangered Bengal Florican and attracts several migratory bird species during the winter season.
-Source: The Hindu