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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 17 May 2021

Contents

  1. Cyclone ‘Tauktae’
  2. Two tornadoes strike China
  3. China landed a spacecraft on Mars
  4. New species of skink in Western Ghats
  5. Covid-19: Vulnerable tribes infected
  6. World Bank report on remittances

Cyclone ‘Tauktae’

Context:

Tauktae – an ‘Extremely severe cyclonic storm’ moved north-northwestwards and hit the Gujarat Coast with maximum wind speeds gusting up to 185 – 210 km/h. Along the cyclone’s path, several people died in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka due to electrocution and wall collapse.

Relevance:

GS-I: Geography (Physical geography – Climatology, Important Geophysical phenomena), GS-III: Disaster Management

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Tropical Cyclones?
  2. Conditions for cyclone formation:
  3. How are Tropical Cyclones Formed?
  4. Why tropical cyclones don’t form in the eastern tropical oceans?
  5. Names of Tropical Cyclones
  6. Structure of the tropical cyclone
  7. Landfall, what happens when a Cyclone reaches land from the ocean?
  8. Cyclone Management in India

What are Tropical Cyclones?

  • The Tropical Cyclones are violent storms that originate over oceans in tropical areas and move over to coastal areas bringing about large-scale destruction caused by violent winds, very heavy rainfall and storm surges.
  • These are low pressure weather systems in which winds equal or exceed speeds of 62kmph.
  • Winds circulate around in anti-clockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere and in clockwise direction in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • “Tropical” refers to the geographical origin of these systems, which form almost exclusively over tropical seas.
  • “Cyclone” refers to their winds moving in a circle, whirling round their central clear eye, with their winds blowing counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • The opposite direction of circulation is due to the Coriolis effect.

Tropical Cyclones in India

  • Tropical cyclones striking India generally originate in the eastern side of India.
  • Bay of Bengal is more prone to cyclone than Arabian Sea because it gets high sea surface temperature, low vertical shear winds and has enough moisture in middle layers of its atmosphere.
  • The frequency of cyclones in this region is bi-modal, i.e., Cyclones occur in the months of May–June and October–November.

Conditions for cyclone formation:

  • A warm sea surface (temperature in excess of 26o –27o C) and associated warming extending up to a depth of 60m with abundant water vapour.
  • High relative humidity in the atmosphere up to a height of about 5,000 metres.
  • Atmospheric instability that encourages the formation of cumulus clouds.
  • Low vertical wind between the lower and higher levels of the atmosphere that do not allow the heat generated and released by the clouds to get transported from the area.
  • The presence of cyclonic vorticity (rate of rotation of air) that initiates and favours rotation of the air cyclonically.
  • Location over the ocean, at least 4–5 o latitude away from the equator.

How are Tropical Cyclones Formed?

  1. Tropical cyclones typically form over large bodies of relatively warm water. Warm water > Evaporation > Rising up of air > Low Pressure area.
  2. They derive their energy through the evaporation of water from the ocean surface, which ultimately re-condenses into clouds and rain when moist air rises and cools to saturation.
  3. Water takes up heat from the atmosphere to change into vapour.
  4. When water vapour changes back to liquid form as raindrops, this heat is released to the atmosphere.
  5. The heat released to the atmosphere warms the air around.
  6. The air tends to rise and causes a drop in the pressure.
  7. More air rushes to the centre of the storm.
  8. This cycle is repeated.

Why tropical cyclones don’t form in the eastern tropical oceans?

  • The depth of warm water (26-27°C) should extend for 60-70 m from surface of the ocean/sea, so that deep convection currents within the water do not churn and mix the cooler water below with the warmer water near the surface.
  • The above condition occurs only in western tropical oceans because of warm ocean currents (easterly trade winds pushes ocean waters towards west) that flow from east towards west forming a thick layer of water with temperatures greater than 27°C. This supplies enough moisture to the storm.
  • The cold currents lower the surface temperatures of the eastern parts of the tropical oceans making them unfit for the breeding of cyclonic storms.
  • ONE EXCEPTION: During strong El Nino years, strong hurricanes occur in the eastern Pacific. This is due to the accumulation of warm waters in the eastern Pacific due to weak Walker Cell.

Names of Tropical Cyclones

Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by different names:

  1. Cyclones in the Indian Ocean
  2. Hurricanes in the Atlantic
  3. Typhoons in the Western Pacific and the South China Sea
  4. Willy-willies in Western Australia

Click Here to learn about the Criteria Adopted for Naming Cyclones

Structure of the tropical cyclone

Tropical cyclones are compact, circular storms, generally some 320 km (200 miles) in diameter, whose winds swirl around a central region of low atmospheric pressure. The winds are driven by this low-pressure core and by the rotation of Earth, which deflects the path of the wind through a phenomenon known as the Coriolis force. As a result, tropical cyclones rotate in a counter clockwise (or cyclonic) direction in the Northern Hemisphere and in a clockwise (or anticyclonic) direction in the Southern Hemisphere.

  1. The Eye: A characteristic feature of tropical cyclones is the eye, a central region of clear skies, warm temperatures, and low atmospheric pressure. Typically, atmospheric pressure at the surface of Earth is about 1,000 millibars.
  2. The Eyewall: The most dangerous and destructive part of a tropical cyclone is the eyewall. Here winds are strongest, rainfall is heaviest, and deep convective clouds rise from close to Earth’s surface to a height of 15,000 metres.
  3. Rainbands: These bands, commonly called rainbands, spiral into the centre of the storm. In some cases the rainbands are stationary relative to the centre of the moving storm, and in other cases they seem to rotate around the centre.

Landfall, what happens when a Cyclone reaches land from the ocean?

  • Tropical cyclones dissipate when they can no longer extract sufficient energy from warm ocean water.
  • A storm that moves over land will abruptly lose its fuel source and quickly lose intensity.
  • A tropical cyclone can contribute to its own demise by stirring up deeper, cooler ocean waters. tropical cyclone can contribute to its own demise by stirring up deeper, cooler ocean waters.

Cyclone Management in India

India is highly vulnerable to natural disasters especially cyclones, earthquakes, floods, landslides, and drought. Natural disasters cause a loss of 2% of GDP every year in India. According to the Home ministry, 8% of total area in India is prone to cyclones. India has a coastline of 7,516 km, of which 5,700 km are prone to cyclones of various degrees.

  • Loss due to cyclones: Loss of lives, livelihood opportunities, damage to public and private property and severe damage to infrastructure are the resultant consequences, which can disrupt the process of development
  • Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) is the nodal agency for early warning of cyclones and floods.
  • Natural Disaster Management Authority is mandated to deal with the disaster management in India. It has prepared National Guidelines on Management of Cyclone.
  • National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP) was launched by Home ministry to upgrade the forecasting, tracking and warning about cyclones in states.
  • National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has done a commendable performance in rescuing and managing relief work.
  • National Disaster Response Reserve (NDRR)– a fund of 250 crores operated by NDRF for maintaining inventory for an emergency situation.
  • In 2016, a blueprint of National Disaster Management Plan was unveiled to tackle disaster. It provides a framework to deal with prevention, mitigation, response and recovery during a disaster. According to the plan, Ministry of earth science will be responsible for disaster management of cyclone. By this plan, India joined the list of countries which follow the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.
  • Due to increased awareness and tracking of Cyclone, the death toll has been reduced substantially. For example, Very severe cyclone Hudhud and Phailin claimed lives of around 138 and 45 people respectively, which might have been more. It was reduced due to the early warning and relocation of the population from the cyclone-hit areas. Very severe cyclone Ockhi claimed many lives of people in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. This was due to the unprecedented change in the direction of the cyclone.
  • But the destruction of infrastructure due to cyclonic hit is not been reduced which leads to increase in poverty due to the economic weakening of the affected population.

-Source: The Hindu


Two tornadoes strike China

Context:

Two tornadoes that struck central and eastern China killed at least 12 people and injured more than 400.

Relevance:

GS-I: Geography (Physical geography – Climatology, Important Geophysical phenomena)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a Tornado?
  2. Distribution of tornadoes
  3. Differences between a Tornado and a Cyclone

What is a Tornado?

  • A tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the Earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud.
  • The windstorm is often referred to as a twister, whirlwind or cyclone-winds blow counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern.
  • Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, and they are often visible in the form of a condensation funnel originating from the base of a cumulonimbus cloud, with a cloud of rotating debris and dust beneath it.
  • It is generally accompanied by extreme weather such as heavy downpours, hail storms, and lightning.
  • Tornadoes generally occur in middle latitudes. The tornado over the sea is called water sprouts.
  • These violent storms are the manifestation of the atmosphere’s adjustments to varying energy distribution. The potential and heat energies are converted into kinetic energy in these storms and the restless atmosphere again returns to its stable state.
  • Tornado is a small-diameter column of violently rotating air developed within a convective cloud and in contact with the ground.
  • Tornadoes occur most often in association with thunderstorms during the spring and summer in the mid-latitudes of both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
  • These whirling atmospheric vortices can generate the strongest winds known on Earth: wind speeds in the range of 500 km (300 miles) per hour.

Distribution of tornadoes

  • Rare in polar regions and infrequent at latitudes higher than 50° N and 50° S.
  • The temperate and tropical regions are the most prone to thunderstorms.
  • Tornadoes have been reported on all continents except Antarctica.
  • United States has the most violent tornadoes.
  • Canada reports the second largest number of tornadoes.
  • In the Indian sub-continent, Bangladesh is the most prone country to tornadoes.
  • At any moment there are approximately 1,800 thunderstorms in progress throughout the world.

Differences between a Tornado and a Cyclone

TornadoCyclone
A tornado is a violent, twisted funnel of high-speed wind.A cyclone is a huge and powerful storm.
It is formed when a funnel-like column of cold air sinks down from a story cloud.A cyclone consists of a low-pressure area with high pressure all around.
Warm air rises up which whirls up causing high speed circulating winds.High-speed winds go around the centre violently and are accompanied by heavy rains.
They have a relatively smaller diameter.They have large diameters.

-Source: The Hindu


China landed a spacecraft on Mars

Context:

China landed a spacecraft on Mars carrying its first Mars rover in a big boost to its space ambitions.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and technology (Space Technology, Important developments in Space technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About China’s Tianwen-1
  2. China’s advancements in space
  3. Previous Mars missions
  4. Why Mars exploration?
  5. Mangalyaan

About China’s Tianwen-1

  • China launched its first Mars mission, called Tianwen-1, in July 2020 carrying a lander and rover. Tianwen-1 is China’s first fully indigenous Mars mission.
  • Tianwen-1 had been in orbit since February 2021 and on May 2021 a lander descended successfully on to the surface of the red planet carrying a rover named Zhurong, named after a god of fire for a planet known in Chinese as the planet of fire.
  • Tianwen-1 aims to study Martian topography and geology and determine the composition of the surface material, climate and environment.
  • The Chinese mission will be the first to place a ground-penetrating radar on the Martian surface, which will be able to study local geology, as well as rock, ice, and dirt distribution.
  • Only the Soviet Union and the United States had previously carried out a successful landing on Mars.
  • China’s previous ‘Yinghuo-1’ Mars mission, which had piggybacked on a Russian spacecraft, had failed after it could not leave the Earth’s orbit and disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean in 2012.

China’s advancements in space

  • The Mars mission Tianwen-1, along with China’s lunar mission and its space station, are key elements in its space programme.
  • In 2019, the fourth lunar probe, Chang’e-4, carried out the world’s first landing on the far side of the moon.
  • China is also investing heavily in its manned space programme, as plans accelerate for its first space station, set to be functional by the end of 2022 and only the second space station after the International Space Station.

Previous Mars missions

USSR

  • The USSR in 1971 became the first country to carry out a Mars landing– its ‘Mars 3’ lander being able to transmit data for 20 seconds from the Martian surface before failing.
  • The country made its second and Mars landing two years later in 1973.

U.S.A.

  • The second country to reach Mars’s surface, the US, holds the record for the highest number of Mars landings.
  • Since 1976, it has achieved 8 successful Mars landings, the latest being the ‘InSight’ in 2019 (launched in 2018).
  • Perseverance: NASA’s rover Perseverance will look for signs of habitable conditions on Mars and microbial life in its ancient past. The rover is equipped with specialised equipment to collect data, analyse weather conditions that can help plan for future human missions, and produce oxygen from the carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere.

India

  • India and the European Space Agency have been able to place their spacecraft in Mars’s orbit.
  • India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or ‘Mangalyaan’ was able to do so in September 2014, almost a year after its launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh.

Why Mars exploration?

  • Mars, the Red Planet, has several Earth-like features– such as clouds, polar ice caps, canyons, volcanoes, and seasonal weather patterns.
  • For ages, scientists have wondered whether Mars can support life.
  • In the past few years, Mars missions have been able to discover the possible presence of liquid water on the planet, either in the subsurface today or at some point in its past.
  • Another significant point is: exploration of Mars will pave the way for other missions to planets farther away and hence are very important for the future missions.

Why is July 2020 the picked time for several missions?

The end of July 2020 offers a launch window during which Earth and Mars will be aligned at their closest points in two years, which means using less fuel to reach the planet. If a spacecraft is launched too early or too late, it will arrive in the planet’s orbit when the planet is not there.

Mangalyaan

  • The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan, is a space probe orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014.
  • It was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • It is India’s first interplanetary mission and it made it the fourth space agency to reach Mars, after Roscosmos, NASA, and the European Space Agency.
  • It made India the first Asian nation to reach Martian orbit and the first nation in the world to do so on its maiden attempt.

-Source: The Hindu


New species of skink in Western Ghats

Context:

In September 2019, a group of herpetologists stumbled upon a new species: an Asian gracile skink.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Important Species in News)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Skinks?
  2. Noteworthy Species in India
  3. About the new species found in Western Ghats

What are Skinks?

  • With long bodies, relatively small or no legs, no pronounced neck and glossy scales, skinks are common reptiles around homes, garages, and open spaces such as sparks and school playgrounds, and around lakes.
  • Although they are common reptiles and have a prominent role in maintaining ecosystems, not much is known about their breeding habits, and ecology because identification of the species can be confusing.
  • Skinks are highly alert, agile and fast moving and actively forage for a variety of insects and small invertebrates.
  • The reduced limbs of certain skink species or the complete lack of them make their slithering movements resemble those of snakes, leading people to have incorrect notion that they are venomous. This results in several of these harmless creatures being killed.
  • The Western Ghats are home to 24 species of which 18 are endemic to the region.
  • The Deccan Peninsular region is home to 19 species of which 13 are endemic.
  • There are records of 14 skink species from the northeast of which two species are endemic.
  • With over 1600 species of skinks across the world, making it the largest family of lizards, their occurrence in India is less than 4 % of the global diversity.

Noteworthy Species in India

  • Sepsophis (with one species) and Barkudia (with two species) are limbless skinks found in the hills and coastal plains of the eastern coast.
  • Barkudia insularisis believed to be found only in the Barkud Island in Chilka lake in Odisha. Barkudia melanosticta is endemic to Visakhapatnam.
  • Sepsophis punctatus is endemic to the northern part of Eastern Ghats.
  • Five species of Kaestlea (blue-tailed ground skinks) are endemic to the Western Ghats and four species of Ristella (Cat skinks) also endemic to the southern part of Western Ghats.

About the new species found in Western Ghats

  • Named Subdoluseps nilgiriensis, after the Nilgiris, the reptile has a slender body of just about 7 cm and is sandy brown in colour.
  • Subdoluseps nilgiriensis is currently considered a vulnerable species as there are potential threats from seasonal forest fires, housing constructions and brick kiln industries in the area.
  • Based on genetic studies, the team writes the new species is closely related to Subdoluseps pruthi that is found in parts of the Eastern Ghats.
  • The new species was found in a dry deciduous area, showing that even the dry zones of our country are home to unrealised skink diversity which needs to be further explored.

-Source: The Hindu


Covid-19: Vulnerable tribes infected

Context:

Many members of eight different Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) got infected in the second wave of Covid-19 in Odisha.

The infected PVTGs include the Bonda tribe of Malkangiri hills and Dongaria Kondh tribe of Niyamgiri hills.

Relevance:

GS-I: Indian Society, GS-II: Social Justice (Health related issues)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG)
  2. Bonda people
  3. Tribal Groups in Odisha

Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG)

  • Tribal communities are often identified by some specific signs such as primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness to contact with the community at large and backwardness.
  • Some tribal groups have some specific features such as dependency on hunting, gathering for food, having pre-agriculture level of technology, zero or negative growth of population and extremely low level of literacy, which are called Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups.
  • PVTGs are more vulnerable among the tribal groups.
  • Due to this factor, more developed and assertive tribal groups take a major chunk of the tribal development funds, because of which PVTGs need more funds directed for their development.
  • In 1973, the Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category, who are less developed among the tribal groups.
  • In 2006, the Government of India renamed the PTGs as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).
  • PVTGs have some basic characteristics -they are mostly homogenous, with a small population, relatively physically isolated, social institutes cast in a simple mould, absence of written language, relatively simple technology and a slower rate of change etc.

Bonda

  • The Bonda (also known as the Bondo, Bondo Poraja, Bhonda, or Remo) are a Munda ethnic group who live in the isolated hill regions of the Malkangiri district of southwestern Odisha, near the junction of the three states of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh.
  • There are two different Bonda tribes: The Upper Bondas who are the most isolated from mainstream Indian society, and the Lower Bonda.
  • The Bonda are also known as the Remo, and is one of the oldest and most primitive in mainland India; their culture has changed little for more than a thousand years.
  • They are one of the 75 Primitive Tribal Groups identified by the Government of India.
  • Realizing that the Bonda people were in a cultural decline, the Government of Orissa brought to life the Bonda Development Agency (BDA) in 1977.
  • Bondas, a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG), live in settlements comprising small hutments in the hills of the Khairaput block.

Tribal Groups in Odisha

  • According to the 2011 Census, Odisha’s share of the country’s total tribal population was 9%.
  • The Tribals constitute 22.85% of the State’s population.
  • In terms of numbers of its tribal population, Odisha occupies the third position in India.
  • Bonda, Birhor, Chuktia Bhunjia, Didayi, Dungaria Kandha, Hill Kharia, Juang, Kutia Kondh, Lanjia Saora, Lodha, Mankirdia, Paudi Bhuyan and Saora are the 13 PVTGs in Odisha.

-Source: The Hindu


World Bank report on remittances

Context:

India received over $83 billion in remittances in 2020, a drop of just 0.2% from 2020, despite a pandemic that devastated the world economy, according to a World Bank report – Migration and Development Brief

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Important International Institutions and their reports, Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Mobilization of Resources)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief
  2. World Bank
  3. World Bank Group
  4. Introduction to the 5 organizations of World Bank Group

Highlights of World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief

  • India is ranked at the top spot in remittances (Remittance is money sent to another party, usually one in another country; and the sender is typically an immigrant and the recipient a relative back home) received in 2020, a drop of just 0.2 per cent from 2019.
  • The report said India’s remittances fell by just 0.2% in 2020, with much of the decline due to a 17% drop in remittances from the United Arab Emirates.
  • Despite Covid-19, global remittance flows remained resilient in 2020, registering a smaller decline than previously projected.
  • China is ranked second in terms of global remittances in 2020, and it is followed by Mexico, the Philippines, Egypt, Pakistan, France and Bangladesh.
  • Remittance outflow was the maximum from the United States (USD 68 billion), followed by UAE, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Germany, and China.
  • Reasons for the Steady Flow of Remittances:
  • Fiscal stimulus that resulted in better-than-expected economic conditions in host countries.
  • Shift in flows from cash to digital and from informal to formal channels.
  • Cyclical movements in oil prices and currency exchange rates.

World Bank

  • The World Bank (WB) is an international organization which provides facilities related to “finance, advice and research to developing nations” in order to bolster their economic development.
  • It provides loans and grants to the governments of poorer countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects.
  • It comprises two institutions: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and the International Development Association (IDA).
  • The World Bank is a component of the World Bank Group.

World Bank Group

  • The World Bank Group is an extended family of five international organizations, and the parent organization of the World Bank, the collective name given to the first two listed organizations, the IBRD and the IDA:
    1. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)
    2. International Development Association (IDA)
    3. International Finance Corporation (IFC)
    4. Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA)
    5. International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)
  • With 189 member countries, the World Bank Group is a unique global partnership: five institutions working for sustainable solutions that reduce poverty and build shared prosperity in developing countries.
  • The Bank Group works with country governments, the private sector, civil society organizations, regional development banks, think tanks, and other international institutions on issues ranging from climate change, conflict, and food security to education, agriculture, finance, and trade.

Introduction to the 5 organizations of World Bank Group

I – The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) lends to governments of middle-income and creditworthy low-income countries.

II – The International Development Association: The International Development Association (IDA) provides interest-free loans — called credits — and grants to governments of the poorest countries. It is called the soft loan window of the World Bank. Together, IBRD and IDA make up the World Bank.

III – The International Finance Corporation: The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. It helps developing countries achieve sustainable growth by financing investment, mobilizing capital in international financial markets, and providing advisory services to businesses and governments.

IV – The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency: The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) was created in 1988 to promote foreign direct investment into developing countries to support economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve people’s lives. MIGA fulfils this mandate by offering political risk insurance (guarantees) to investors and lenders.

V – The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes: The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) provides international facilities for conciliation and arbitration of investment disputes.

-Source: The Hindu

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