Topic 1: Antarctica’s melting sea ice killed thousands of emperor penguins chicks
Why in news: Up to 10,000 emperor penguin chicks across four colonies in Antarctica’s Bellingshausen Sea may have died as the sea ice underneath their breeding grounds melted and broke apart in late 2022, according to a new study.
About Emperor Penguins:
- The emperor penguin is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species.
- It is endemic to Antarctica.
- The male and female are similar in plumage and size.
- Like all penguins, it is flightless, with a streamlined body.
- While hunting, the species can remain submergedaround 20 minutes.
- It has several adaptations to facilitate this:
- an unusually structured haemoglobin to allow it to function at low oxygen levels,
- solid bones to reduce barotrauma, and
- the ability to reduce its metabolism and shut down non-essential organ functions.
- It has several adaptations to facilitate this:
- It is the only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter.
Significance of sea ice for emperor penguins:
- The role of stable sea ice in the emperor penguin breeding cycle is crucial.
- Emperor penguins spend their whole breeding cycle on the sea ice.
- The sea ice on which emperor penguins breed needs to remain stable between April to January to ensure successful breeding.
Key findings of the study:
- It’s the first recorded incident of widespread breeding failure of emperor penguins at multiple sites in a region due to sea ice loss.
- Since 2016, the Antarctic sea iceextent has been shrinking with the total area of frozen water around the continent reducing to new record low levels almost every year.
- Antarctic sea ice extent is the total region with at least 15% sea-ice cover.
- This puts more than 90% of emperor penguin colonies at risk as they may go extinct by the end of this century, if Earth continues to get warmer at the present rate.
- The findings show a clear link between negative sea ice anomalies and emperor penguin breeding failures.
- The Bellingshausen Sea region was the worst affected, during November, some parts saw a 100% loss in sea-ice extent.
- As a result, four out of five colonies witnessed complete breeding failure.
- Emperor penguins are known to tackle breeding failures caused by the localised disappearance of sea ice by moving to alternative, more stable sites the next year.
- However, given the large-scale shrinking of the sea ice extent, such a strategy will not be possible.
“That’s why this (Bellingshausen Sea) regional failure is so difficult (for the penguins) because they can’t just go to the nearest colony… A 1,500km region in length has lost almost all its sea ice. We have no real idea what happens if there’s no ice,” Fretwell told The Guardian.
Antarctic sea ice extent shrinking
Like last year, the Antarctic sea ice extent has diminished to a new record low in 2023. But this time, the ice cover is exceptionally low. Throughout July 2023, sea ice averaged 13.5 million sq km, the lowest extent observed for this time of year since the continuous satellite record began in late 1978, according to a NASA Earth Observatory report.
Other implications of ice melting:
- More ice break offs:
- Less sea ice exposes more of the continent’s ice to the open ocean, leading it to melt and break off more easily.
- Effect on humans:
- This will contribute to rising sea levels, which can affect millions of people living in coastal regions.
- Increasing sea surface temperatures:
- Decline in the ice sheet also causes a spike in sea surface temperatures as sea ice reflects solar rays back into space and thwarts heat from getting absorbed in the oceans.
- Warmer oceans mean more difficulty in the formation of ice and a wide range of other consequences.
Topic 2: Zoning of flood plains
Why in news: Punjab has been reeling under floods for well over a month now and the proposed solution to this is zoning of flood plains.
Significance of flood plains:
- A river expands and contracts naturally over seasons and in different years.
- A flood plain is an area adjacent to the river which normally gets flooded when the river swells.
- Well maintained flood plains, free from wanton construction and concrete, are natural defences against flooding farther inland.
- They are also useful for recharging groundwater levels and maintaining the water table.
- How flood plains are identified?
- It is done based on topographical features around rivers.
- For instance, flood plains often contain oxbow lakes – basically abandoned meandering channels of the river, where it once flowed prior to changing its course.
Zoning of flood plains
- Zoning of flood plains is done to regulate land use.
- Zoning involves demarcating areas around rivers likely to be affected by floods of different magnitudes and frequencies, in order to specify the types of permissible developments there.
- This is done so that whenever floods do actually occur, the damage is minimal.
- As per guidelines on floodplain zoning by the National Disaster Management Authority, the following should be located such that they are above the levels corresponding to a 100-year frequency or the maximum observed flood levels:
- defence installations,
- public utilities like hospitals, electricity installations, water supply, telephone exchanges, aerodromes, railway stations, commercial centres, etc.
Implications of lack of zoning:
- Encroachment and mismanagement of flood plains leading to non-suitable construction activity and concretization of flood plains.
- Non-suitable constructions play a part in pushing floods further inland, increasing the area harmed and damage caused during floods.
- Concretisation leads to it taking far longer for floods to subside as the water simply does not drain.
- This kind of flooding is not good for flood plains themselves, affecting the fertility and quality of the soil as well.
Topic 3: Aditya-L1 mission
Why in news: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has announced that the Aditya-L1 mission, the first space-based Indian observatory to study the Sun, will be launched soon.
About Aditya-L1 mission
- The Aditya-L1 mission will see the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) carry the 1,475-kg spacecraft to an elliptical orbit around the Earth.
- The spacecraft, which will carry seven scientific payloads, is more than two times lighter than the Chandrayaan-3 mission.
- Like the Chandrayaan-3 mission, the orbit as well as the velocity of the spacecraft around the Earth will be increased till it is slingshot towards the Sun.
- The distance to L1 point will be covered in nearly four months.
- The spacecraft will then be inserted into a halo orbit around the L1 point.
- It will collect data for five years.
What is the L1 point?
- There are five Lagrange points, L1 to L5, between any two celestial bodies.
- These points can act as parking spots in space where the gravitational pull of the celestial objects equals the centripetal force required to keep a satellite in orbit.
- This means satellites placed at Lagrange points do not need to expend a lot of fuel to remain in position.
- Going to Lagrange 1 places the spacecraft at a point beyond the Moonbetween the Earth and the Sun.
- This offers the spacecraft an unobstructed view of the Sun even during phenomena like an eclipse.
- With the mission covering only 1% of the distance between the Earth and Sun, the payloads will be able to look directly at the Sun.
- The L1 point makes the mission fuel-efficient.
- The Lagrange points are named in honor of Italian-French mathematician Josephy-Louis Lagrange, and there are five of them: L1, L2, L3, L4, and L5.
- NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is at L2.
- The L1 point of the Earth-Sun system affords an uninterrupted view of the Sun and is currently home to the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory Satellite SOHO.
Objectives of Aditya-L1
- The main objective of the mission is to get a deeper understanding of the star closest to us, and how its radiation, heat, flow of particles, and magnetic fields affects us.
- The payloads on the mission will study the upper atmospheric layers of the Sun called chromosphere and corona.
- They will study the expulsion of plasma and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejection (CME).
- The magnetic field of the corona and the drivers of the space weather will also be studied.
- It might provide clues to scientists about a long-standing mystery that why the not-so-bright corona of the Sun is a million degree C hot, when the temperature on the surface of the Sun is just about 5,500 degree C.
- It will also help scientists understand the reasons behind acceleration of particles on the Sun, which leads to solar winds.
Significance of studying the sun:
- Every planet, including Earth and the exoplanets beyond the Solar System, evolves — and this evolution is governed by its parent star.
- The solar weather and environment affect the weather of the entire system.
- Variations in this weather can change the orbits of satellites or shorten their lives, interfere with or damage onboard electronics, and cause power blackouts and other disturbances on Earth.
- Knowledge of solar events is key to understanding space weather.
- To learn about and track Earth-directed storms, and to predict their impact, continuous solar observations are needed.
- Every storm that emerges from the Sun and heads towards Earth passes through L1.
Payloads of Aditya-L1 mission
- The Remote Sensing Payloads, which will study the Sun, include:
- Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC) for corona/imaging and spectroscopy;
- Solar Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (SUIT) for photosphere and chromosphere imaging;
- Solar Low Energy X-ray Spectrometer (SoLEXS), which is a soft X-ray spectrometer for Sun-as-a-star observation; and
- High Energy L1 Orbiting X-ray Spectrometer (HEL1OS), which is a Hard X-ray spectrometer for Sun-as-a-star observation.
- The payloads to study the L1 in situ (meaning at their place, or position) are:
- Aditya Solar wind Particle Experiment (ASPEX), for solar wind/particle analyzer protons and heavier ions with directions;
- Plasma Analyser Package For Aditya (PAPA), for solar wind/particle analyzer electrons and heavier ions with directions; and
- Advanced Tri-axial High Resolution Digital Magnetometers for in situ magnetic field study.
Topic 4: Wrestling Federation of India suspended by United World Wrestling
Why in news: In the backdrop of the wrestlers’ protest over various issues, United World Wrestling (UWW), the world governing body for the sport, has provisionally suspended the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) primarily for not conducting its elections on time.
Implications of the suspension:
- Currently the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) appointed ad-hoc committee is running the WFI in the absence of an elected body.
- Wrestlers and their support personnel remain authorised to participate in all UWW sanctioned events, however they shall do so under the UWW flag.
- This means that Indian wrestlers cannot compete under the national flag in UWW events.
- No national anthem will be played if an Indian wrestler wins a gold medal.
What caused the delay?
- Some prominent wrestlers brought allegations of sexual harassment, intimidation, financial irregularities and administrative lapse against the then WFI president.
- The Union Sports Ministry asked the federation chief to step aside until an Oversight Committee (OC) completed its enquiry.
- Elections could not take place due to the protests in place.
- Disgruntled state associations seeking voting rights caused further delays.
- The stays on the elections, first by the Gauhati High Court and then by the Punjab and Haryana High Court (a day before the latest date fixed for the elections), were significant.
- Therefore, the UWW Disciplinary Chamber found sufficient grounds to provisionally suspend the WFI due to the prevailing situation for at least six months.
- The absence of an elected president and a board did not comply with UWW regulations and its conditions for membership.
- Different factions of the WFI need to realise the immense loss the sport has suffered because of the ongoing issue.
- The only way to bail the country out of international ignominy and give the athletes their right to compete under the Tricolour is to conduct the WFI elections in a free and fair manner.
Topic 5: Article 35A
Why in news: Chief Justice of India said Article 35A, which empowered the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature to define “permanent residents” of the State and provide them special privileges, denied fundamental rights to others.
About Article 35A
- Article 35A provides special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu & Kashmir.
- It was incorporated in the Constitution of India in 1954 by an order of then President Rajendra Prasad, on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet.
- It gives the J&K legislature full discretionary powers to decide who ‘permanent residents’ of the state are.
- It also gives them special rights and privileges in:
- employment with the state government,
- acquisition of property in the state,
- settling in the state, and
- the right to scholarships and other forms of aid that the state government provides.
- It also allows the state legislature to impose any restrictions upon persons other than the permanent residents regarding the above.
- To guarantee these special rights and privileges, the Article says that no act of the state legislature that comes under it can be challenged for violating the Constitution or any other laws.
Topic 6: Moody’s report on population growth
Why in news: As per Moody’s Investors Service report, India’s population growth would raise its labour force availability but that alone won’t be enough to make the economy stronger or improve fiscal outcomes, due to the quality of education in the country.
- Moody’s bracketed India’s current education outcome levels with that of Pakistan and Bangladesh.
- It emphasized that better educational outcomes will help countries like India avoid potential job losses from digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence in the long run, especially in services like call centres and BPOs,.
- It expects continued population growth in the region to support economic expansion as working-age populations will remain large compared with younger and older citizens.
- However, the availability and scale of labour inputs alone will not drive materially stronger economic strength or better fiscal outcomes.
- Other conditions such as strong education and quality infrastructure are also key to reaping the benefits.
- There remains a considerable gap in the quality of education between Pakistan, Bangladesh and India compared with China and other peers in South East Asia, which contributes to labour force participation imbalances.
- India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Vietnam will account for a third of the global population increase over the next 20 years and 40% of the uptick in working age population.
- Moody’s said the difference in the proportion of the male and female population that has completed an upper secondary education was most pronounced in India and Bangladesh.
Topic 7: Addis Ababa declaration
Why in news: Fifty-four countries acknowledged key environmental challenges faced by the continent — land degradation, desertification and drought – in the Addis Ababa declaration.
- The declaration was a key outcome of the 19th African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) 2023 held at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- Environment ministers of the African continent have agreed to institute national and regional strategies to minimise environmental impacts in the extraction and processing of critical mineral resources.
- The declaration prioritises urgent, wide-ranging action on environmental challenges related to climate change, plastics pollution, marine protection, biodiversity conservation and natural capital.
- These actions would minimise environmental impacts and contribute to the global goals of mitigating climate change, protecting ecosystems and promoting sustainable development.
- The countries also committed to take appropriate measures to implement the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework through updating or revising national biodiversity strategies and action plans or national targets.
- Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) sets out four goals for 2050, and 23 targets for 2030, to save existing biodiversity and ensure that 30% of degraded terrestrial, inland water, coastal and marine ecosystems come under effective restoration.
- The ultimate aim is to increase the global finance flow to at least $100 billion per year.
Topic 8: Kampala Declaration
Context: A total of 48 African countries recently agreed to adopt the Kampala Ministerial Declaration on Migration, Environment and Climate Change (KDMECC) to address the nexus of human mobility and climate change in the continent.
- It enabled the African States to develop a common position ahead of the Africa Climate Summit and the Conference of Parties (COP 28).
- Africa is one of the world’s most vulnerable continents to the impacts of climate change.
- KDMECC was originally signed and agreed upon by 15 African states in Kampala, Uganda.
- The Declaration is the first comprehensive, action-oriented framework led by Member States to address climate-induced mobility in a practical and effective manner.