India-Oman sign MoU on White Shipping Information Exchange


  • On 27th September 2021, Admiral Saif bin Nasser bin Mohsen Al-Rahbi, Commander of Royal Navy of Oman (CRNO) and Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Indian Navy signed an MoU for exchange of White Shipping Information.
  • The MoU was signed at Maritime Security Center (MSC), Muscat during the ongoing visit of the CNS to Oman.
  • The signing of the MoU between Royal Navy of Oman and Indian Navy would facilitate information exchange on merchant shipping traffic, through IFC-IOR, India and MSC, Oman and contribute to enhanced maritime safety and security in the region.

About White Shipping Agreement

  • White Shipping Agreement is a technical term related to the exchange agreement between the navies of countries on the commercial ships on each other’s oceanic territories.
  • The White Shipping Information refers to the exchange of prior information on the movement and identity of commercial non-military merchant vessels.
  • Under this, Ships are classified into white (commercial ships), grey (military vessels), and black (illegal vessels).

18th Conference Of Parties Of CITES


  • The 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was held between 17-28 August in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Originally, it was planned to be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in May, 2019.But due to the unfortunate terrorist attacks that occurred in Colombo on 21 April 2019, it was cancelled and rescheduled to occur in Switzerland.
  • CoP 19 will be held in Costa Rica in 2022.

Key Decisions regarding Indian Wildlife

Smooth-coated Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)

  • It was moved from CITES Appendix II to CITES Appendix I. Now it enjoys the highest degree of protection as there will be a complete international ban enforced on their trade.
  • This species is found in Java, Sumatra and Borneo, northward to south-western China, east through Nepal and Bhutan and India to Pakistan, excluding the Indus Valley.
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable
  • Threats: Poaching, habitat loss, pet trade, pollution,deliberate trapping for fur in India, Nepal and Bangladesh mainly for export to China.
  • Ecological Role: It plays a vital role in balancing the freshwater ecosystems as a top carnivorous and therefore significantly influences the overall spatio–temporal dynamics of the Eco region.

Indian Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans)

  • Indian star tortoise was also moved to CITES Appendix I. Now it prohibits international trade of these species except when the purpose of the import is for scientific research.
  • They are found in three geographic areas: northwestern India (Gujarat, Rajasthan) and adjoining southeastern Pakistan; eastern and southern areas from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and eastern Karnataka to Odisha and throughout Sri Lanka.
  • IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable
  • Threats: Habitat loss, illegal collection for utilization by local people for pet and collection for the international wildlife trade mainly to Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, as well as other countries in Southeast and East Asia.
  • Ecological Role: Being herbivores, Indian star tortoises may act as dispersal agents for various plants via consumption of seeds and fruit and other kind of vegetation.

Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko)

  • It is included in CITES Appendix II.
  • They are found in northeast India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh, throughout Southeast Asia, including the Philippines and Indonesia, and to western New Guinea in Melanesia.
  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern
  • Threats: High demand for use in traditional medicines mainly in China and Vietnam and other South East Asian countries.
  • Ecological Role: Tokay Geckoes help in pest control as they usually feed on grasshoppers, mice, locusts which are considered major threats to standing crops.

Other Animals which got Special Attention

  • Sharks: 18 species of sharks threatened by the scale of international trade in their fins and meat, were included in Appendix II of the Convention.
  • African Elephants: Parties vote to restrict trade from Zimbabwe and Botswana.
  • Giraffes: It accorded protection from trade for the first time and has been placed in Appendix II of CITES. Now it prohibits its uncontrolled trade.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora(CITES)

  • With 183 Parties, CITES remains one of the world's most powerful tools for wildlife conservation through the regulation of trade.It is also known as Washington Convention.
  • It was signed in Washington D.C. on 3 March 1973 and entered into force on 1 July 1975.
  • Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

CITES Appendix

  • CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls. All import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a licensing system
  • The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need.
  • Appendix I: It includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
  • Appendix II: It includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
  • Appendix III: It contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other, CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade. Changes to Appendix III follow a distinct procedure from changes to Appendices I and II, as each Party’s is entitled to make unilateral amendments to it.

Significance

  • Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future.
  • Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.

India Supports Israel At The UN Vote


Why is it in News?

India was congratulated by Israel’s PM on 13 June after India voted on 11 June in favour of a decision introduced by Israel that objected to granting consultative status to a Palestinian group at the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

Relevance of the News: The news highlights a significant shift in India approach towards Israel-Palestine conflict.

About the UN Vote:

  • India voted in favour of Israel in the ECOSOC to deny the Palestinian non-governmental organisation 'Shahed' the observer status, after Israel said that the organisation did not disclose its ties with Hamas.
  • During the voting at the ECOSOC, the US, France, Germany, India, Japan, the UK, South Korea and Canada polled in Israel’s favor whereas China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and others voted against it.
  • The proposal made by the Palestinian NGO ‘Shahed' to obtain observer status was rejected by a 28-14 vote.
  • According to Israel, the organization ‘Shahed’ has links with Hizbullah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas that are considered as terrorist organizations by many countries.

Change in India’s Approach:

  • India’s position on Middle East Peace Process has been clear. India supports a negotiated settlement resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel as endorsed in the Quartet Roadmap and relevant UNSC Resolutions.
  • India has also always played a proactive role in garnering support for the Palestinian cause in multilateral fora.
  • However, in 2015 India abstained during a voting at the UNHRC on a resolution related to violence in Gaza caused by Israel which was seen as a “significant move” and a pro-Israel tilt India’s behavior attributed to growing India-Israel ties.
  • India’s vote on 11 June is important because this is the first time that India has actively voted on a resolution at the UN that is being perceived as pro-Israel.

UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC):

  • ECOSOC is one of the six main organs of the UN established by the UN Charter in 1946.
  • It is the principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues, as well as for implementation of the internationally agreed development goals.
  • ECOSOC engages a wide variety of stakeholders viz. policymakers, parliamentarians, academics, foundations, business sector representatives and registered NGOs in a productive dialogue on sustainable development through a programmatic cycle of meetings.
  • The work of the Council is guided by an issue-based approach, and there is an annual theme that accompanies each programmatic cycle.
  • The Council consists of 54 Members States, which are elected yearly by the General Assembly for overlapping three-year terms.

India Recognizes Pakistan’s Efforts To Curb India Specific Terror Groups


Why is it in News?

As per official sources, New Delhi would soon recognize and accept the efforts taken by Pakistan to curb terror groups on its soil.

Relevance of the News: It is a significant confidence building measure between both the countries and their bilateral relations.

Actions taken by Pakistan:

  • Last year in 2018, Pakistan was put on the “grey list” by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
  • Since then Pakistani authorities had seized 771 seminaries — educational institutions run by the Lashkar-e-Taiba and its fronts, Jamaat-ud Dawa and Falah-i-Insaniyat, and the Jaish-e-Mohammad.
  • It is for the first time since early 1990s that Pakistan has begun to take action against India-focussed terror groups and freeze their assets in Pakistan and PoK.
  • The Asia Pacific Group of the FATF held a meeting in May 2019, and Pakistan was found to have taken inadequate action in 18 of 27 areas.

Echidna


Why is it in News?

Scientists at CSIR-CCMB have isolated protein from Echidna that can serve as an alternative to antibiotics used in livestock.

About Echidnas:

  • Echidnas are mammals and are also called spiny anteaters.
  • Echidnas are one of the world’s oldest surviving mammals.
  • They are egg-laying mammals and are covered with coarse hairs and spines.
  • It is listed as ‘Least Concern’ in the IUCN Red List.
  • Echidnas are found only in Australia and Papua Guinea.

Habitat of Echidna:

They are found in woodlands, shrubs, debris, canopy of forests etc. as these mammals cannot tolerate high temperature.

Komodo Dragon


Why is it in News?

Indonesia has decided to shut down the Islands which is inhabited by Komodo Dragons in order to fix the problems created by mass tourism and smuggling.

About Komodo Dragons:

  • The Komodo dragon is the largest living lizard in the world. These wild dragons typically weigh about 70 kilograms, but some of them can weigh up to 166 kilograms too.
  • Komodo dragons have venom glands that are loaded with toxins.
  • Komodo dragons are limited to a few Indonesian islands of the Lesser Sunda group, including Rintja, Padar and Flores.
  • Their IUCN status is ‘Vulnerable’.

Source: TH, National Geographic

3D Printed Artificial Reef


Why is it in News?

Scientists are studying the pros and cons of the world’s largest 3D Printed Artificial Reef in Maldives.

About the Initiative:

  • The 3D printed reef in Maldives was developed using the computer modeling which resembled the reef structure typically found in Maldives.
  • The reef structure was made up of ceramic which has properties similar to Calcium Carbonate (Caco3) of which natural reefs are made up of.
  • Live corals were then planted on these reefs and with passage of time, corals will colonize the structure.
  • The main objective is to create a coral ecosystem artificially.

Related Terminology:

Artificial Reef:

  • It is a man made structure that resembles the natural coral reef ecosystem with an ambition to protect and preserve the corals.
  • The most common material used for the purpose is shipwrecks, lighthouse, and bridges etc. which are submerged in the water body; in conducive conditions and with passage of time it gets colonized by the corals.

Does India have an Artificial Reef Ecosystem?

  • Yes. In 2017, the Tamil Nadu Government in collaboration with IIT Madras initiated the Artificial Reef Installment Programme to save its sinking island (Vaan Island) in the Gulf of Mannar.

How will Artificial Reefs restore the Sinking Vaan Island?

  • Vaan Island was getting eroded by the ocean currents, waves etc. so the installment of corals, seagrass will hinder the flow of waves and ocean currents in turn will have positive impact on the restoration process.

Coral Reefs:

  • Corals are the living polyps that are in symbiotic relationship with the ‘Zooxanthella’. Zooxanthella is an algae that provides the food to the polyps through photosynthesis and in turn the polyps provide them the place to stay i.e. reefs.
  • Corals are a bit like trees in a forest – they create most of the complex structure that provides a habitat for a diverse range of species.
  • Coral reefs only occupy 0.1% of the area of the ocean but they support 25% of all marine species on the planet, hence are referred to as the ‘Tropical Rain Forest of Ocean.’

What Do Coral Reefs Need to Survive?

  • Coral reefs are very sensitive to conditions like temperature, salinity, sunlight etc. They need a temperature of 20-21 degree, salinity of 27-40 ppm (parts per million) and depth of 60-70 meters of water to survive.
  • Coral needs the shallow continental shelf as they need sunlight for the photosynthesis.

What is 3D Printing?

  • It is an additive process where in the object is created layer by layer. Each of these layer can be seen as thinly sliced horizontal cross section of the final object.
Source: TH, Down to Earth

Pangolin


Why is it in News?

The third Saturday of February (16th February this year) is celebrated as the World Pangolin Day.

About Pangolin:

  • Out of the 8 extant species of Pangolin (4 African, 4 Asian), the Indian Pangolin and Chinese Pangolin occur in India. The pangolins are shy nocturnal mammals that rely on termites and ants for their food. It is the only mammal that is fully covered in scales. They curl themselves into a complete ball when threatened.
  • Indian Pangolin is listed as ‘Endangered’ as per IUCN and is listed under the Appendix II of CITES. Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.

Threats to Pangolin:

  • Pangolins are most trafficked mammal on the Earth. They are in great demand due to the medicinal value of their scales and due to its meat delicacies.
  • Another threat to Pangolin is due to their habitat loss.
Source: TH

New Delhi Metallo Lactamase Gene- NDM-1 Gene


Why is it in News?

NDM1 Gene has recently been detected in the Arctic region.

What is Antimicrobial Resistance?

Antibiotics are generally produced from soil microorganism and they kill the bacteria by targeting the specific cells of the bacteria. At the same time Antimicrobial resistance is a natural phenomenon where bacteria mutates and cells which were earlier targeted by Antibiotics gets modified. Microorganisms that become resistant to two or more drugs are referred to as ‘Superbugs’.

What is NDM1 Gene?

NDM1 was first identified in 2008 in a Klebsiella Pneumoniae Bacteria. Bacteria having NDM1 Genes are usually resistant to most of the Antibiotic drugs. In this way, it can lead to a range of conditions, such as a urinary tract, bloodstream, or wound infections and pneumonia.

Presence Of Mountain In Earth’s Mantle


Why is it in News?

Scientists have recently discovered that there exists a mountain inside the Earth’s mantle. This discovery has the potential to change our understanding of how the planets were formed.

Recent findings as per Journal ‘Science’:

Our understanding of the Earth’s structure is that, it is broadly divided into crust, mantle and core; but in recent study of the Earthquake in Bolivia, scientists have established that there exists a mountain and a mountain like topography on a layer located 660 km straight down which separates the upper and lower mantle. Lacking a formal name for this layer scientists simply call this as “660 Km Boundary”.