Daily Current Affairs and MCQs for UPSC - January 04, 2021 (The Hindu, Economic Times, PIB)

10 most costly disasters of 2020

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Disaster and disaster management.


Context

  • A new report by Christian Aid, Counting the cost 2020: a year of climate breakdownidentifies 15 of the most destructive climate disasters of the year.
  • Ten of those events cost $1.5 billion or more, with nine of them causing damage worth at least $5 billion.
  • Most of these estimates are based only on insured losses, meaning the true financial costs are likely to be higher.

Background

  • Among them is Storm Ciara which struck the UK, Ireland and other European countries in February costing $2.7 billion and killing 14.
  • The UK's Environment Agency issued 251 flood warnings.
  • While the report focuses on financial costs, which are usually higher in richer countries because they have more valuable property, some extreme weather events in 2020 were devastating in poorer countries, even though the price tag was lower.
  • South Sudan, for example, experienced one of its worst floods on record, which killed 138 people and destroyed the year's crops.

Highlights

  • Some of the disasters hit fast, like Cyclone Amphan, which struck the Bay of Bengal in May and caused losses valued at $13 billion in just a few days.
  • Other events unfolded over months, like floods in China and India, which had an estimated cost of $32 billion and $10 billion respectively.
  • Six of the ten most costly events took place in Asia, five of them associated with an unusually rainy monsoon.
  • And in Africa, huge locust swarms ravaged crops and vegetation across several countries, causing damages estimated at $8.5 billion.
  • The outbreak has been linked to wet conditions brought about by unusual rains fuelled by climate change.
  • But the impact of extreme weather was felt all over the world.
  • In Europe, two extra-tropical cyclones, Ciara and Alex, had a combined cost of almost $6 billion.
  • And the US suffered from both a record-breaking hurricane season and a record-breaking fire season adding up to more than $60 billion in damages.
  • Some less populated places also suffered the consequences of a warming world.
  • In Siberia, a heat wave during the first half of the year set a record in the city of Verkhoyansk, with temperatures reaching 38°C.
  • A few months later, on the other side of the world, heat and drought drove the fires in Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.
  • While there were no human casualties reported from these events, the destruction of these areas has a great impact on biodiversity and the planet's capacity to respond to a warmer world.
  • While climate change may have influenced all these events, many of the countries that bear little responsibility for global warming were affected.
  • This includes Nicaragua, which was hit by hurricane Iota, the strongest storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, and the Philippines, where typhoons Goni and Vamco made landfall almost back-to-back.
  • These extreme events highlight the need for urgent climate action.
  • The Paris Agreement, which set the goal of keeping temperature rise "well below" 2°C, and ideally 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels, has just turned five years old.
  • It is critical that countries commit to bold new targets ahead of the next climate conference, which will take place in Glasgow, in November 2021.

Source: Times of India.

Researchers unearthed 2,000-year old snack bar unearthed at Pompeii

Focus: GS1.

Topic: History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawing of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.


Context

  • Researchers have unearthed a thermopolium, Latin for hot drinks counter, in the Roman empire town of Pompeii, one of the world’s largest and most significant archaeological sites.
  • The snack food counter called the thermopolium at the Pompeii archaeological park’s Regio V was partially excavated in 2019.

Background

  • It was found complete with an image of a Nereid riding a sea-horse, decorative still-life frescoes, food residues, animals bones and victims who died during the volcanic eruption of 79 CE.
  • The find is significant because it shows the variety of food consumed by the residents of the town — traces of pork, fish, snails and beef have been found in the containers of the stall.

Highlights

  • It is also the first time an entire thermopolium has been excavated, complete with pateras, or bronze drinking bowls, ceramic jars used for cooking stews and soups, wine flasks etc.
  • Pompeii was a Roman town in Southern Italy’s Campania region situated along the Bay of Naples.
  • The town was completely buried by volcanic ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE, over 2000 years ago.

Source: Indian Express.

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Cold wave prediction for North India

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.


Context

  • Predicting a severe cold wave in the national capital and several other parts of North India, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a rather unusual advisory.
  • In an impact-based advisory, the IMD urged residents of India’s northernmost states to protect themselves from the biting cold by avoiding alcohol.

Background

  • According to the IMD, severe cold wave conditions are likely in parts of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan from December 29 onwards.
  • Maximum temperature is also forecast to fall by 3 to 5 degrees Celsius after December 28.

Highlights

  • In its latest advisory, the IMD said the weather conditions were likely to increase the risk of contracting illnesses like the flu, and could also lead to symptoms like runny/stuffy nose and nosebleeds, which usually set in or are aggravated due to prolonged exposure to the cold.
  • An alcoholic beverage to beat the chill on a cold winter night might seem like a good idea to many, but the IMD and several health experts have warned otherwise.
  • While alcohol may make you feel warmer, it actually reduces your body temperature and compromises your immunity if you then venture out into the cold, experts say.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption is often linked to an increased risk of hypothermia and other conditions linked to extreme cold weather.
  • The study points out that alcohol has psychological and behavioural effects, which can impact a person’s ability to correctly perceive how cold it is.
  • Hence, cases of people succumbing to hypothermia after drinking heavily and passing out outdoors are very commonly reported in places with extreme cold weather.

Source: Financial Express.

Health Minister inaugurates India's first pneumococcal conjugate vaccine

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.


Context

  • Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan inaugurated India's first pneumococcal conjugate vaccine "Pneumosil", which has been developed by the Serum Institute of India Private Limited (SIIPL) in collaboration with partners like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • As per an official release, recognizing SIIPL as the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines by number of doses and its contribution to India's economy, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that Serum Institute's vaccines are used in 170 countries and every third child in the world is immunized with the manufacturer's vaccine.

Background

SIIPL developed and got the license of the first indigenous Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) from the Government of India during COVID-19 pandemic lock-down in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of 'Atmanirbhar Bharat', and also mentioned the extraordinary efforts of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in this endeavour to make India self-reliant in PCV.

Highlights

  • Serum Institute's first Indigenous Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine will be available in the market under the brand name "Pneumosil" at an affordable price in a single dose (vial and pre-filled syringe) and Multidose (vial) presentations.
  • Pneumosil has been extensively evaluated in 5 randomized controlled clinical trials and has demonstrated comparable safety and immunogenicity against licensed pneumococcal vaccines across diverse populations of India and Africa, where Pneumosil was administered to adults, toddlers and infants using different vaccination schedules.
  • Pneumosil was found to be safe and effective in the prevention of Pneumonia disease and based on which Pneumosil has been licensed by Drugs Controller General (India) in July 2020 after approval from Subject Expert Committee (SEC).

Source: Business Standard.

National Medicinal Plants Board launches consortia for medicinal plants

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.


Context

  • The Ministry of AYUSH has launched consortia for medicinal plants, envisaging the necessity of connectivity between stakeholders in the supply chain and value chain of medicinal plants.
  • NMPB Consortia will address/deliberate (not limited to) on quality planting material, R&D, cultivation, trade of medicinal plants/market linkage etc., informed a press release from the AYUSH Ministry.

Background

The Ministry statement also informed that to establish linkage between the farmers and manufacturers, a ‘Seed to Shelf’ approach is being introduced, wherein, aspects related to Quality Planting Materials (QPM), Good Agriculture Practices (GAPs), Good Post Harvest Practices (GPHPs) would be addressed.

Highlights

  • In the first phase, NMPB consortia is proposed for medicinal plant species – Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Pippali (Piper longum), Aonla (Phyllanthus emblica), Guggulu (Commiphora wightii), Satavari (Asparagus racemosus).
  • Registration link for NMPB Consortia is available on the website of NMPB wherein, eligible organisations viz, farmers/ FPOs/ FPCs/QPM centres/ seed banks/ nurseries/SHGs/NGOs/traders/manufactures/exporters/pharma/research institutes/agriculture universities can register to be part of consortia.

Source: Indian Express.

PM Modi launches national mobility card service

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.


Context

  • Prime Minister virtually inaugurated India’s first ever driverless train operations on the Delhi Metro’s Janakpuri West-Botanical Garden route, as well as the fully operational National Common Mobility Card services on the Airport Express Line.
  • The fully automated trains will reduce human intervention in operations and offer more reliability and safety for commuters.

Background

  • This system also brings more flexibility in train operations.
  • As a result, the number of trains in service can be regulated based on demand without depending on the availability of crew, a Delhi Metro Rail Corp. (DMRC) spokesperson said.

Highlights

  • This one card will give integrated access to the commuters wherever they travel, whichever public transport they take.
  • The idea of NCMC was floated by the Nandan Nilekani committee set up by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • NCMC will allow passengers with RuPay debit card, issued in the last 18 months by 23 banks to be swiped for Metro travel.
  • This facility will become available on the entire Delhi Metro network by 2022.
  • NCMC is an automatic fare collection system.
  • It will turn smartphones into an inter-operable transport card that commuters can use eventually to pay for Metro, bus and suburban railways services.
  • It will allow entry and exit from Metro stations with the help of a smartphone, known as the automatic fare collection (AFC) system.

Source: Indian Express.

RBI staff paper says retaining 4% CPI target appropriate for India

Focus: GS3.                                

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.


Context

  • Maintaining the CPI inflation target at 4.0% would be "appropriate" for India, a Reserve Bank of India working paper has said.
  • The paper, titled 'Measuring Trend Inflation in India' and authored by Deputy Governor Michael Patra and Harendra Kumar Behera from the Department of Economic Policy and Research, does not necessarily reflect the views of the central bank.

Background

  • The paper found that an average of trend inflation in India had come down to 4.1-4.3% in the first quarter of 2020 from around 5% until 2014.
  • "…the credibility bonus accruing to monetary policy warrants smaller policy actions to achieve the target. This points to maintaining the inflation target at 4% into the medium term," the paper concluded.

Highlights

  • The paper's findings come ahead of the review of the flexible inflation target.
  • The current medium-term target of 4.0% in a band of 2-6% is valid until the end of March, after which the government must set a target for the next five years.
  • Speculation has been rife that the government may want a more relaxed inflation target to help provide more easing room to the Monetary Policy Committee, which has been forced to leave the repo rate unchanged at 4.00% since May due to surging price pressures.
  • CPI inflation has been above 4% for 14 straight months and above the upper bound of 6% 11 times in the last year.
  • The MPC mandate to maintain CPI in a 2-6% band with a 4% mid-point under the flexible inflation targetting regime would have meant that the rate-setting panel write a letter detailing the 'failure' to achieve the target for three consecutive quarters by mid-2020.
  • But this was prevented by the imputed inflation numbers issued by the National Statistics Office, due to data collection issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Indian Express.

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Test your Knowledge

  1. Consider the following statements wrt Naushera ka Sher Brigadier Mohammad Usman:
  • Brigadier Mohammad Usman MVC (1912 – 1948) was one of only 18 Brigadiers in the Army at the time of Independence and was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra for his gallant action during the 1947-48 war.
  • In January–February 1948 Usman repulsed fierce attacks on Nowshera and Jhangar, both highly strategic locations in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Naushera is a town and tehsil in the Rajouri district in the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

      A. 1 and 2 only
      B. 2 and 3 only
      C. 1 and 3 only
      D. AOTA

Solution: D

  1. Which of the following countries do not Mediterranean Sea:

      A. Syria
      B. Turkey
      C. Greece
      D. Iraq

Solution: D

 

 

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