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Current Affairs 31 May 2024

  1. Neglect of Menstrual Hygiene for Female Prisoners in India
  2. IUCN Report Warns of Global Mangrove Ecosystem Collapse
  3. IMD Investigates Record Temperature Reading at Mungeshpur Weather Station
  4. Cyclone Remal Triggers Fatal Incidents and Landslides in Northeast India
  5. Microcephaly
  6. First GPS-Tagged Eurasian Whimbrel Spotted in Chhattisgarh
  7. RBI Launches Three Major Initiatives


Context:

Despite significant progress in menstrual hygiene management, with around 80% of young women aged 15-24 using safe menstrual products according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 2019-2020), women in Indian prisons remain neglected. Improvements have been seen in urban areas and among certain groups, but societal biases against female prisoners, who are often denied basic rights, exacerbate their suffering. This neglect leads to the overlooking of fundamental needs, such as menstrual hygiene, for incarcerated women.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding Menstrual Hygiene
  2. Menstrual Hygiene in Indian Prisons
  3. Government Efforts to Enhance Menstrual Hygiene
  4. Future Directions

Understanding Menstrual Hygiene

Definition and Importance:

  • Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) is crucial for the well-being and empowerment of women and adolescent girls.
  • On any given day, more than 300 million women worldwide are menstruating.
  • Approximately 500 million women lack access to menstrual products and adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

Requirements for Effective Menstrual Management:

  • Access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities.
  • Affordable and suitable menstrual hygiene materials.
  • Information on good practices.
  • A supportive environment to manage menstruation without embarrassment or stigma.

Menstrual Hygiene in Indian Prisons

Current Status:

  • There are 23,772 women in Indian prisons, with 77% in the reproductive age group and likely to menstruate regularly.
  • The availability and quality of sanitary napkins in prisons are inconsistent and often inadequate.

Challenges Faced:

  • Despite the 2016 Model Prison Manual’s recommendations, many states have not provided sufficient water and washroom facilities for female prisoners.
  • Overcrowding and poor conditions hinder access to essentials like water, sanitary napkins, detergent, and soap during menstruation.
  • A 2023 study in a Maharashtra prison revealed inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities, forcing women to store water and share limited toilets, leading to higher instances of urinary infections and difficulties in maintaining menstrual hygiene.
  • Prisons often rely on NGOs for sanitary napkin donations, which can result in substandard products. In one instance, only one pair of reusable napkins was provided per woman, which was impractical due to limited access to water and detergent.

Government Efforts to Enhance Menstrual Hygiene

Implemented Initiatives:

  • India has been actively working to improve menstrual hygiene accessibility, particularly for young women, through programs like the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme, which offers free or subsidized sanitary napkins.
  • Low-cost Suraksha Suvidha Napkins are available at Jan Aushadhi Kendras for ₹1 each.
  • In 2023, the government introduced the National Menstrual Hygiene Policy, which recognizes menstruation as a natural process needing more attention and promotes equity in safe and dignified menstrual hygiene management for everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status or location.
  • The policy acknowledges that prisoners face limited access to menstrual hygiene.
  • However, it lacks a concrete action plan to tackle this issue and does not involve the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is essential for matters related to prisons.

Future Directions

Steps Forward:

  • The Indian government must ensure that basic menstrual hygiene standards are met for women in prisons.
  • The uneven implementation of the Model Prison Manual 2016 across states requires urgent action, with all states needing to follow its guidelines.
  • Addressing menstrual hygiene in prisons should be approached as a public health issue, integral to the fight against ‘period poverty.’
  • Collaboration between public health authorities and prison administrators is necessary to develop a comprehensive strategy for providing adequate menstrual hygiene products and facilities, ensuring the health and dignity of incarcerated women.
  • Additionally, research is needed to understand the current state of menstrual hygiene in prisons better.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has released a new report indicating that half of the world’s mangrove ecosystems are at risk of collapsing. This is the IUCN’s first comprehensive global assessment of mangroves. The report, titled “Red List of Mangrove Ecosystems,” was unveiled on International Day for Biodiversity (22nd May).

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Findings of the Mangrove Ecosystem Study
  2. Mangrove Forests: Presence and Significance

Key Findings of the Mangrove Ecosystem Study

Study Overview:

The study analyzed the world’s mangrove ecosystems across 36 regions, referred to as provinces, to assess the threats and risk of collapse in each area.

Major Findings:

Risk of Collapse:

  • Over 50% of the world’s mangrove ecosystems are at risk of collapse, classified as either vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. Nearly 1 in 5 is facing severe risk.

Impact of Sea-Level Rise:

  • One-third of the world’s mangrove ecosystem provinces will be severely affected by rising sea levels, with 25% of the global mangrove area predicted to be submerged within the next 50 years.

Regional Classifications:

  • The mangrove ecosystem in South India, shared with Sri Lanka and the Maldives, is categorized as “critically endangered.”
  • In contrast, mangrove ecosystems in the Bay of Bengal region (shared with Bangladesh) and the western coast (shared with Pakistan) are classified as “least concerned.”

Climate Change Threat:

  • Globally, climate change is the primary threat to mangrove ecosystems, affecting 33% of mangroves.
  • Other significant threats include deforestation, development, pollution, and dam construction.

Extreme Weather Events:

  • The increased frequency and intensity of cyclones, typhoons, hurricanes, and tropical storms are impacting mangroves along certain coastlines.

Significantly Impacted Areas:

  • Coasts along the Northwest Atlantic, North Indian Ocean, Red Sea, South China Sea, and Gulf of Aden are expected to be significantly affected.

Need for Conservation:

  • Without enhanced conservation efforts, approximately 7,065 square kilometers (5%) of additional mangrove areas could be lost, and 23,672 square kilometers (16%) could be submerged by 2050.

Mangrove Forests: Presence and Significance

  • Mangrove forests comprise the interface between wetlands and sea grass meadows along a vast expanse of tropical shorelines all over the world.
  • They also occur along bays, estuaries or mouths of rivers by these shores.
  • Mangroves are present worldwide on various shorelines between approximately 25°N and 25°S latitude.
  • Mangrove forests are one of the greatest sources of biodiversity on this planet.
  • They have a rich underwater component, a surface component and an aerial component.
  • Mangrove communities include fish, insects, shellfish, birds of many species, saltwater crocodiles, monkeys, algae and fungi.
  • Many organisms, especially fish, spend their early years in the protection of the mangroves and their intricate below and above-ground root systems.
How are Mangrove Forests Useful?
  • Mangroves, along with sea grasses and wetlands, comprise the ‘blue carbon’ ecosystem of stored carbon in sediments along many tropical and subtropical coastal zones.
  • Their complex aerial and submerged root systems moderate current flows and the canopies moderate wind flow — they are the interface between the wetlands and sea grass communities for the continental flow of water and solutes into the ecosystem.
  • Mangroves also supply fuelwood and other forest products, like food and medicine, for people.
  • And, in addition to the nutrition they give us, mangroves protect us — along with other trees and forests, mangroves sequester a sizeable amount of carbon to offset greenhouse gas emissions created by human activities.
  • When mangrove trees die of natural causes, they generally fall into the sea and the carbon may be stored in the sediment on the sea floor for long periods of time.
Types of Mangrove Trees
  • The term ‘mangrove’ is used to refer to a whole community of trees and shrubs, which are not closely related.
  • The Mangrove trees have all adapted to harsh coastal environments of saline, brackish waters and low oxygen conditions.
  • There are over 100 species of trees and shrubs designated as mangroves.
  • However, there are three classic groups of mangroves — the red mangroves (Rhizophoraceae), the black mangroves (Acanthaceae) and the white mangroves (Combretaceae).

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The Mungeshpur weather station in Delhi recorded a maximum temperature of 52.9 degrees Celsius, setting an all-time record for any location in India. However, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) later clarified that the record-breaking temperature was likely due to a sensor error or local factor. The IMD is currently investigating the data and sensors to verify the accuracy of the recorded temperature.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Temperature Anomaly in Delhi
  2. Why Do Temperatures Vary Within the Same City?
  3. Global Temperature Records
  4. Temperature Trends in India

Temperature Anomaly in Delhi

Temperature Variation:
  • The maximum temperature across Delhi NCR ranged from 45.2°C to 49.1°C in different parts of the city.
    • The IMD operates 20 weather stations in Delhi, 15 of which are automatic weather stations (AWS), including one in Mungeshpur.
    • AWS record and transmit weather data without human intervention.
  • Mungeshpur recorded an outlier temperature of 52.9°C compared to other stations.
  • The IMD suggested that this anomaly could be due to a sensor error or specific local factors.
Factors Contributing to High Temperatures:
  • Rain deficit has contributed to heat accumulation.
  • Clear skies and westerly winds from Rajasthan, where temperatures have reached 50°C, have influenced the heat in Delhi-NCR.
  • This period typically experiences intense heating across northwest India, including Delhi-NCR.
Predicted Relief from Heatwave:
  • The IMD forecasts a reduction in heatwave conditions over the next 2-3 days due to:
    • Gradual temperature decrease associated with an approaching western disturbance.
    • Rainfall and thunderstorms.
    • Southwesterly winds blowing from the Arabian Sea to northwest India.

Why Do Temperatures Vary Within the Same City?

Influence of Weather and Anthropogenic Factors:

  • Weather primarily governs the temperature of a region, but human activities significantly impact urban areas like Delhi.

Impact of Urban Infrastructure:

  • Concentration of pavements, buildings, roads, and parking lots:
  • Hard and dry surfaces offer less shade and moisture, leading to higher temperatures.

Building materials:

  • Areas with concrete pavements and buildings experience warmer temperatures.
  • Concrete can store nearly 2,000 times more heat than an equivalent volume of air.

Building geometry and spacing:

  • Densely populated buildings act as large thermal masses, retaining heat.
  • Narrow streets and tall buildings hinder natural wind flows that help cool the area.

Effect of Air Conditioners:

  • Heavy use of air conditioners in commercial and residential areas leads to localized higher temperatures as ACs expel significant heat outdoors.

Formation of Urban Heat Islands:

  • Factors leading to urban heat islands:
    • Urban areas with fewer trees, vegetation, and water bodies are more likely to become heat islands.
  • Natural landscapes help reduce temperatures through shading and the cooling effects of transpiration and evaporation.

Global Temperature Records

Recent Statistics Worldwide:

  • In July 2022, the United Kingdom experienced temperatures exceeding 40°C for the first time.
  • Last year, a town in northwest China recorded its highest temperature ever at 52°C.
  • Sicily, Italy, reached 48.8°C in 2021, marking the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe.
  • The highest temperature ever recorded on Earth is 56.7°C in Death Valley, California, USA, in 1913.

Carbon Brief Study Findings:

  • A study by Carbon Brief revealed that nearly 40% of the Earth recorded its highest-ever daily temperatures between 2013 and 2023.
  • This includes some regions in Antarctica.

Global Warming Trends:

  • 2024 was predicted to be extremely warm, following the trend of last year, which was the warmest on record globally.

Temperature Trends in India

Warming in India:

  • The rise in temperatures in India is less pronounced compared to global averages.
  • Since 1900, annual mean temperatures in India have increased by approximately 0.7°C.
  • This is lower than the global average rise of 1.59°C for land temperatures.
  • Including ocean temperatures, the current global rise is at least 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels.

Heatwaves in India:

  • Despite the lower overall rise in temperatures, heatwaves in India have become significantly more intense.
  • In 2023, heatwave conditions were observed as early as February, a winter month typically not associated with heatwaves.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Cyclone Remal recently struck the West Bengal coastline, leading to the deaths of six people in related incidents. In the Northeast, heavy rainfall caused by the cyclone triggered landslides in Meghalaya, Mizoram, Assam, and Nagaland, resulting in at least 30 fatalities. The entire region, including Sikkim and northern West Bengal, is prone to landslides. This isn’t the first time such events have occurred; Cyclone Aila also caused landslides in the Northeastern states in May 2009.

Relevance:

GS III- Disaster Management

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Landslides?
  2. Two Primary varieties of Landslides in India
  3. Why are Landslides more frequent in the Himalayas than in the Western Ghats?

What are Landslides?

Landslides are physical mass movement of soil, rocks and debris down the mountain slope because of heavy rainfall, earthquake, gravity and other factors.

Why do Landslides Occur?
  • Base of the huge mountains eroded by rivers or due to mining activities or erosion agents resulting in steep slopes.
  • Increased industrialisation leading to climate change and weather disturbances.
  • Change in river flow due to construction of dams, barriers, etc.
  • Loose soil cover and sloping terrain.

Two Primary varieties of Landslides in India

I- Himalayas

  • India has the highest mountain chain on earth, the Himalayas, which are formed due to collision of Indian and Eurasian plate, the northward movement of the Indian plate towards China causes continuous stress on the rocks rendering them friable, weak and prone to landslides and earthquakes.
  • The Northeastern region is badly affected by landslide problems causing recurring economic losses worth billions of rupees.

II- Western Ghats

  • A different variety of landslides, characterized by a lateritic cap (Laterite is a soil and rock type rich in iron and aluminium , and is commonly considered to have formed in hot and wet tropical areas), pose constant threat to the Western Ghats in the South, along the steep slopes overlooking the Konkan coast besides Nilgiris, which is highly landslide prone.
  • The problem needs to be tackled for mitigation and management for which hazard zones have to be identified and specific slides to be stabilized and managed in addition to monitoring and early warning systems to be placed at selected sites.

Zone Map

Himalayas of Northwest and Northeast India and the Western Ghats are two regions of high vulnerability and are landslide prone.

Why are Landslides more frequent in the Himalayas than in the Western Ghats?

In the Himalayas, Landslides are very frequent because:

  • Heavy snowfall in winter and melting in summer induces debris flow, which is carried in large quantity by numerous streams and rivers – which results in increases chances of Landslides.
  • Himalayas are made of sedimentary rocks which can easily be eroded – hence, erosions contribute to more landslides.
  • Drifting of Indian plate causes frequent earthquakes and resultant instability in the region.
  • Man-made activities like grazing, construction and cultivation abet soil erosion and risks of landslides.
  • Himalayas not yet reached its isostatic equilibrium which destabilizes the slopes causing landslides.
  • Diurnal changes of temperature are much more in northern India than in southern slopes – weakening the rocks and increasing mass wasting and erosion.

In the Wester Ghats, Landslides are comparatively less frequent because:

  • Western Ghats are eroded, denuded, aged, mature, worn out by exogenic forces and have a much lower height – hence, occurrence of Landslides is lesser.
  • The Western Ghats are on more stable part of Indian plate, hence, there is a lesser occurrence of earthquakes and landslides.
  • While steep slope on western side with high rainfall creates idea condition for landslide but gentle eastern slope with low rainfall and rivers in senile stage, counters the condition.
  • Moving of Indian plates doesn’t affect the Western Ghats much (as they are old block mountains), hence the reduced number of landslides.
  • Small & swift flowing streams of western side and big matured rivers on eastern side (like Krishna, Godavari, etc) cannot carry large amount of debris.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, a study revealed that a gene called SASS6 and its variants have been implicated in a developmental process that causes microcephaly.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Overview of Microcephaly

Definition and Detection:

  • Microcephaly is a rare neurological condition where an infant’s head is significantly smaller compared to other children of the same age and sex.
  • It can be identified at birth or develop when there is an issue with brain development in the womb or when brain growth stops after birth.

Causes:

  • Microcephaly can result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors, often leading to developmental problems.
Common causes include:
  • Infections during pregnancy: Conditions like toxoplasmosis (from undercooked meat), Campylobacter pylori, rubella, herpes, syphilis, cytomegalovirus, HIV, and Zika.
  • Exposure to toxic substances: Maternal exposure to heavy metals (arsenic, mercury), alcohol, radiation, and smoking.
  • Pre- and perinatal brain injuries: Such as hypoxia-ischemia (lack of oxygen), trauma.
  • Genetic abnormalities: Including conditions like Down syndrome and severe malnutrition during fetal development.
Symptoms:
  • Children with microcephaly typically have a small brain, poor motor skills, poor speech, abnormal facial features, and intellectual disabilities.
  • While some infants may not show symptoms at birth, they can later develop issues like epilepsy, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, hearing loss, and vision problems.

Treatment:

  • Currently, there is no specific treatment for microcephaly.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

For the first time, a long-distance migratory bird, the Eurasian or common whimbrel, tagged with a Global Positioning System (GPS) transmitter, was captured on camera in the state of Chhattisgarh.

Relevance:

GS III: Species in News

About the Eurasian Whimbrel

  • Type: Wading bird
  • Family: Scolopacidae
  • Scientific Name: Numenius phaeopus

Distribution:

  • The Eurasian Whimbrel has a widespread range covering five continents: North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe.
  • Breeding Grounds: Subarctic regions of Siberia and Alaska during summer.
  • Wintering Grounds: Migrates south to southern USA, Central America, South America, Africa, and South Asia, including Nepal.

Habitat:

  • Winters primarily along coastlines, coastal wetlands, mangroves, marshes, and larger rivers.

Physical Features:

  • Size: Fairly large greyish-brown bird.
  • Bill: Long, decurved bill with a kink.
  • Head Pattern: Distinct with dark eye-stripes and crown-sides.
  • Plumage: Mottled dark brown above, pale below, with significant brown streaking on the throat and breast.

Behavior:

  • Generally solitary during nesting but tends to be gregarious outside the breeding season.
  • Known for a high-pitched call that consists of a repetitive series of seven notes.

Conservation Status:

  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has launched three major initiatives.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

RBI’s Digital Initiatives

PRAVAAH Portal:
  • Definition: PRAVAAH (Platform for Regulatory Application, VAlidation, and AutHorisation) is a secure and centralized online platform (web-based portal) for individuals and entities to apply for various regulatory approvals from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • Purpose: Streamlines the approval process by providing a single point of contact, enhancing the efficiency of RBI’s regulatory procedures.
Retail Direct Mobile App:
  • Function: Offers retail investors easy access to the Retail Direct platform, allowing for convenient investment in government securities (G-Secs) directly from their smartphones.
FinTech Repository:
  • Description: A web-based database that contains comprehensive data on Indian FinTech firms. It aids in better understanding the FinTech landscape for regulatory purposes.
EmTech Repository:
  • Focus: Launched by the RBI, this repository emphasizes the adoption of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Cloud Computing by RBI-regulated entities, including banks and NBFCs.
  • Management: Both the FinTech and EmTech repositories are secure web applications managed by the Reserve Bank Innovation Hub (RBIH).

-Source: The Hindu


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