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Hindu Notes from General Studies-01

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Dolphin numbers drop in Gandak

News

  • A count of the Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica) in two Bihar rivers, Gandak and Ghaghara (both originate from Nepal and eventually join the Ganga), has revealed the presence of 280 dolphins.

Findings

  • The number of dolphins recorded in a 324-km stretch of Gandak river was 155, a drop from the last estimation.
  • The last survey carried out in 2009-10 had recorded the presence of 257 dolphins in the same stretch. However, in a 99-km stretch of Ghaghara river in Bihar where no study was conducted before researchers were enthused to find the presence of 125 dolphins.
  • The estimation was done following the direct count method recommended by the Cetacean Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  • A team of seven completed the survey in a period of about 12 days in late 2018.
  • Both the rivers are home to large number of aquatic species including the critically-endangered gharial (Gavialis gangeticus). The estimation also revealed the presence of 32 bird species in Gandak and 17 in Ghaghara.
  • The river system of Bihar, which includes Ganga and its other tributaries, are estimated to contain half of the population of Ganges river dolphin in the country.

       Threats affecting Dolphin habitat

  • Experts have pointed out that upcoming activities, such as the construction of National Waterway 37, are likely to pose a major threat to the population of Ganges river dolphin and can change the geo-morphology of the Gandak in the coming years.
  • Other threats affecting Dolphin habitat in the river at this juncture include regulated discharge from Gandak Barrage, electrofishing (discharging electric current to kill fish) and mosquito-net fishing.
  • In the Ghaghara river, threats posed on the national aquatic animal are from sand mining and the use of chemicals in intensive bank cultivation.

Hindu Notes from General Studies-02

France sanctions JeM founder Masood Azhar, freezes his assets

News

  • Days after pledging to designate Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist at the United Nations, France has sanctioned him and frozen his assets on its soil.

Beyond News

  • A statement from the Government of France cited the terror attack at Pulwama that killed more than 40 CRPF personnel, saying the JeM had claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • Apart from creating hurdles for financial transactions, the sanction from France will also help in stopping travel by Azhar and his known followers.
  • The statement reiterated French support to India’s fight against terrorism. France had extended support to India’s international campaign to ban Azhar as a terrorist, who threatens global peace and safety.
  • France’s action is expected to put more pressure on Pakistan to act against the terror groups based in its territory. India has been demanding tough verifiable action against the terror groups and individuals like Azhar.

Krishna river board allocates 29 tmc ft water to Telangana

News

  • The three-member committee meeting of the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB), allocated 29 tmc ft of water to Telangana and 17.5 tmcft for Andhra Pradesh to meet their immediate irrigation and drinking water needs.
  • This allocation of 46.5 tmc ft water to the two States is from the storage in Srisailam and Nagarjunasagar reservoirs

Beyond News

  • The board has assessed the availability of water at 18 tmc ft in Srisailam and 33.713 tmc ft in Nagarjunasagar.
  • The meeting also discussed the complaints of the two States against each other on use of water in excess of allocation made by the board.
  • The board suggested the two States to utilise water judiciously and to avail water from Nagarjunasagar preferably with power generation. The evaporation losses and transmission losses between Srisailam and Nagarjunasagar would be deducted from the water storage in the two reservoirs.
  • As per the water release order issued by the board, Telangana would get 3.5 tmc ft water for Mission Bhagiratha from Kalwakurthy lift irrigation scheme based on Srisailam till August-end, 5 tmc for Mission Bhagiratha from Nagarjunasagar also till August-end, 8.5 tmc ft for drinking water needs of Hyderabad (HMWSSB) till August-end, 3 tmc ft for feeding tanks under Alimineti Madhava Reddy Project and 9 tmc ft for saving Rabi crop under Nagarjunasagar left canal.
  • Similarly, AP would get 3 tmc ft for Handri-Neeva and Muchumarri lifts from Srisailam and 8 tmc ft for Nagarjunasagar right canal, 3 tmc ft for Nagarjunasagar left canal and 3.5 tmc ft for Krishna Delta System (KDS) from Nagarjunasagar reservoir. The board has also asked the two States to maintain 510 ft level for maximum period possible.

Election Commission introduces mobile app for observers

News

  • The Election Commission has for the first time started using a mobile application that will help poll observers to submit reports.

Beyond News

  • The electoral body held a meeting with more than 1,800 IAS, IPS and IRS officials, besides some others from the Central services, who are to be deployed as observers in the coming Lok Sabha and State Assembly polls.
  • As the observers will be closely involved in real-time disposal of Model Code of Conduct and expenditure violation cases received through another mobile application “cVIGIL”, those details will also be available on the “Observer App.” The observers can make a written observation after the flying squads have investigated the matter.
  • The Commission also could keep a close eye on Model Code violations through the mechanism and alert officials on the ground.

Hindu Notes from General Studies-03

Despite objections, Bannerghatta National Park’s Eco-Sensitive Zone curtailed

News

  • Bannerghatta National Park’s Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ), which provides a regulated buffer zone around protected areas, will remain at 168.84 sq.km. despite thousands of citizens formally objecting to the reduction of nearly 100 sq. km. as compared to the original proposal.

Beyond News

  • In the 33rd ESZ Expert Committee meeting of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), members recommended finalisation after ‘detailed deliberations’ of the November 5 draft notification which declared an ESZ area of 168.84 sq.km. around BNP.
  • The new ESZ will range from 100 metres (towards Bengaluru) to 1 kilometre (in Ramanagaram district) from the periphery of the protected area. The ESZ Committee estimates that between 150 and 200 elephants were observed at BNP.
  • During the meeting, members of the expert committee discussed extending the area of the proposed ESZ towards Bengaluru city.
  • MoEF accepted the State government’s position, which is derived from a cabinet sub-committee formed to look into delineation of ESZs in 31 protected areas of the State. In 2015, the State government approved the sub-committee report that reduced ESZ in multiple areas as it ‘may hinder developmental activity’ and was ‘opposed by locals’.
  • When the revised Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) notification for Bannerghatta National Park was issued, citizens were given 60 days to submit their objections. Environmental and civic action groups swung into action and encouraged people to submit their objections to the Ministry of Environment and Forests against the 100 sq.km. reduction of ESZ.
  • Over 65,000 people signed various online petitions against the move, apart from researchers and activists who sent specific objections. The fear of many was that this reduction would lead to more quarrying in the area.
  • While thousands of objections were sent to the MoEF, they were dismissed by the ESZ Committee as a ‘safe zone’ of 1km around protected areas is already in place across the country.

A climate vulnerability index for India

News

  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will be commissioning a study to assess the climate risks faced by States in India.

    Beyond News

  • This follows an assessment of the global warming risks faced by 12 Himalayan States and discussed at last year’s U.N. climate changeconference in Poland that found States such as Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand vulnerable to climate change.
  • Last year the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) at Mandi and Guwahati, and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, coordinated with State authorities in Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, the hill districts of West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir, to evolve a common methodology, and determine how districts there are equipped to deal with the vagaries of climate change.

Findings

  • The researchers prepared a ‘vulnerability index’ of each of these States based on district-level data. Vulnerability would be a measure of the inherent risks a district faces, primarily by virtue of its geography and socio-economic situation.
  • The scientists conducted workshops with the States and culled eight key parameters on the basis of which a vulnerability score could be generated.
  • They included: percentage of area in districts under forests, yield variability of food grain, population density, female literacy rate, infant mortality rate, percentage of population below poverty line (BPL), average man-days under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), and the area under slope > 30%.
  • On a scale ranging 0-1, 1 indicating the highest possible level of vulnerability, at the top of the scale were Assam with a score of 0.72 and Mizoram at 0.71, whereas Sikkim, with an index score of 0.42 was relatively less vulnerable.
  • Different factors contributed to a State’s vulnerability. In Arunachal Pradesh, the key factors are low female literacy and high percentage of population above BPL whereas in Nagaland the key issues are loss of forest cover, steep slope and high yield variability.

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