Current Affairs - News Crux
Recently, scientists have discovered that an enzyme called laccase, generated by fungi, has the potential to degrade a variety of hazardous organic dye molecules found in waterbodies after being discharged by the textile industry.
- The enzyme has a substrate promiscuity that makes it useful for designing enzyme-coated cassettes that can treat heavily dye-polluted water.
- Through testing the efficacy of laccase in degrading standard dye molecules like Methyl Green, Crystal Violet, Thioflavin T, Coumarin 343, and Brilliant Blue, scientists have found that the enzyme can degrade a wide range of dye molecules with varying kinetics, charge, size, and shape. (Note: Methyl Green, Crystal Violet, Thioflavin T, Coumarin 343, and Brilliant Blue, are different types of dyesthat laccase has the ability to break down).
- Using UV/Visible spectroscopy and computer simulations, researchers demonstrated that laccase contains an active site that can adapt to accommodate a wide range of dye molecules due to conformational plasticity of a loop covering the active site.
- The substrate promiscuity of laccase offers potential for a broad-spectrum degrader for industrial dye effluents, which can help in making the environment greener.
Mall of Srinagar
On March 19, 2023, the UAE-based Emaar Group, known for developing the Burj Khalifa, announced its first foreign direct investment (FDI) project in Jammu and Kashmir.
- The project will include the development of a shopping mall and an IT tower in Srinagar, which will create new job opportunities.
- The "Mall of Srinagar" will cover 10-lakh sq. feet and will have 500 shops, many of which will be run by UAE-based companies.
- The overall investment for the project is estimated to be Rs 500 crore.
- The announcement was made on the day of an India-UAE investors' meet hosted in Srinagar, which was considered a unique opportunity for discussing investment opportunities in J&K.
Recently, scientists raised concerns about the disappearance of horseshoe crabs from their spawning grounds along Chandipur and Balaramgadi coast in Odisha.
- Threats to Horseshoe Crabs: Unregulated fishing and damage to eggs by locals.
- Medicinal Value: Horseshoe crab blood is crucial for development of rapid diagnostic reagents and potential treatment for pre-eclampsia (Note: Pre-eclampsia is a serious pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and damage to organs, most commonly the liver and kidneys).
- Importance for Human Health: Horseshoe crabs' strong immune system critical for medical research.
- Warning of Extinction: Scientist who discovered horseshoe crabs warns of their impending disappearance in India.
- Conservation Measures: Odisha government must protect breeding grounds and prevent destructive fishing practicesbydeveloping SpeciesRecovery Plan.
Recently, researchers at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru, developed a low-cost star sensor called Starberry-Sense.
- The Starberry-Sense is based on commercial/off-the-shelf components and is powered by a Raspberry Pi, a small, single-board Linux computer, making it affordable and accessible.
- It can help small CubeSat (cube-shaped satellite)class satellite missions to find their orientation in space.
- The team coupled highly optimized algorithms with Raspberry Pi to create a potent star sensor.
- Starberry-Sense has successfully undergone vibration and thermal vacuum tests, qualifying it for space launch and operations.
- The sensor's success can lead to cost-effective solutions for small satellite missions in the future, revolutionizing space exploration.
Raspberry Pi is widely used in hobbyist and educational projects, as well as in professional applications. It was developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation in the UK and is designed to be affordable and accessible.
On March 17, 2023, External Affairs Minister of India inaugurated the Sri Lankan exhibition "Geoffrey Bawa: It is Essential to be There" at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi.
- The exhibition features the works of Sri Lanka's iconic architect, the late Geoffrey Bawa, and marks the 75th anniversary of Indo-Lanka diplomatic relations.
- This is the first major retrospective exhibition of Bawa's works to be shown internationally since 2004, and includes over 120 documents from the Bawa archives.
- The exhibition explores relationships between ideas, drawings, buildings, and places, and the different ways in which images were used in Bawa's practice.
- The exhibition, organized under the Sri Lanka-India Cultural Exchange Programme, will be on display until May 7, 2023.
Low Temperature Thermal Desalination (LTTD) Technology
On March 16, 2023, it was reported that the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) in Chennai is working on a green, self-powered desalination plant in Lakshadweep.
- The plant is part of an initiative to provide potable water using LTTD technology.
- Current desalination plants are powered by diesel generators requiring fuel shipment.
- The new plant will generate its own power, making the process emission-free.
- There are currently five plants operating, with four more expected and the self-sustaining plant expected to be operational later this year.
Low Temperature Thermal Desalination (LTTD) is a process that converts seawater into potable water using the difference in temperature between warm surface sea water and cold deep sea water.
LTTD technology is environment-friendly, requires no chemical pre or post-treatment of seawater, and is suitable for island territories with minimal pollution problems.
Currently, the small fishing village of Kumbalangi in Kerala, India is experiencing a natural neon phenomena caused by bioluminescence.
- Shrimp farms lining the backwaters of the village are glowing in electric blue and fluorescent green sparkles at night, attracting visitors from across Kerala and beyond.
- The phenomenon, known as 'kavaru' in Malayalam, has been going on for several weeks and is caused by dinoflagellate algae.
- The popularity of the bioluminescence has been partly due to its appearance in the Malayalam film "Kumbalangi Nights" in 2019, as well as social media exposure.
- Concerns have been raised by shrimp farmers about potential damage to their farms from visitors throwing stones and wood in their enthusiasm to see the glow.
- Kumbalangi is one of India's first eco-tourism villages and has been successful in tapping its tourism potential for the welfare of the local community that is dependent on fishing and allied activities.
Bioluminescence refers to the natural phenomenon where living organisms, such as some types of bacteria, fungi, algae, and animals, produce light through chemical reactions within their bodies.
Exercise La Perouse – 2023
On March 13-14, 2023, the Indian Navy's INS Sahyadri and INS Jyoti took part in the third edition of the multilateral exercise La Perouse, which was conducted in the Indian Ocean Region.
- The exercise aimed to improve maritime domain awareness and optimize maritime coordination among the participating navies in the Indo-Pacific region.
- The exercise involved the participation of several ships from different navies, including the Royal Australian Navy, French Navy, Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, Royal Navy, and the United States Navy.
- The two-day exercise included complex and advanced naval operations such as replenishment at sea, surface warfare drills, anti-air and air-defence exercises, cross deck helicopter operations, and tactical manoeuvres.
- INS Sahyadri, an indigenously built guided missile stealth frigate, and INS Jyoti, a fleet tanker, both based in Visakhapatnam and function under the operational command of the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command, played a crucial role in the exercise.
On March 15, 2023, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare inaugurated the 5-day cultural program "AgriUnifest" in Bengaluru.
- The event was organized by Bangalore Agricultural University in collaboration with ICAR and had participation from over 2500 talented students from 60 State Agricultural Universities/Deemed Universities/Central Universities.
- The objective of the All India Inter Agricultural University Youth Festival is to integrate Indian agriculture by connecting various Indian cultures, nurturing the talents of the youth of agricultural universities, and appreciating Indian cultural diversity.
- The minister emphasized the importance of utilizing the energy of India's young population and technology in agriculture to bring transparency and eliminate middlemen.
- He also highlighted the success of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme and the Khelo India program to encourage young talent in sports.
A report released on March 16, 2023, has revealed that the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, situated in Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu, is currently experiencing a concerning coral breach due to the invasive seaweed species Kappaphycus alvarezii.
- 20 years ago, the intentional introduction of Kappaphycus alvarezii for commercial cultivation took place in Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu.
- Currently, 750 farmers in 18 villages of Ramanathapuram engage in seaweed farming, primarily Kappaphycus.
- Kappaphycus grows rapidly and seeks out live corals to thrive on, unlike native seaweeds that typically grow on dead corals.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed Kappaphycus as one of the world's 100 most invasive species.
- The Indian government has allocated INR 600 crore to increase seaweed production to 11.85 million tonnes by 2025, which could exacerbate the invasive seaweed problem in the Gulf of Mannar.
- The government's plan to set up a seaweed park in Tamil Nadu could lead to further spread of Kappaphycus.