Current Affair – April 17, 2021

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CURRENT AFFAIRS

Freshwater salinization syndrome

  • A recent study has flagged that freshwater is turning saltier.
  • It has been carried out by researchers of University of Maryland and is  published in journal Biogeochemistry.

What is freshwater salinization syndrome?

  • Introducing salt into the environment — for de-icing roads, fertilising farmlands and other purposes — releases toxic chemicals that pose a threat to freshwater supply system.
  • This is known as freshwater salinization syndrome (FSS) or the effects of introduced salts can poison drinking water and increase chloride concentrations over time.

Causes of FSS

  1. Road salts.
  2. Human-accelerated weathering of infrastructure, rocks and soils.
  3. Sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion.
  4. Evaporative concentration of salt ions from hydrologic modifications and climate.
  5. Disturbance of vegetation and local groundwater hydrology.

Study Findings

  • Groundwater has been salinised by road salts over 100 years in the United States. Salt can be retained in watersheds over time in soils and groundwater, which drives the long-term increasing trends over all seasons.
  • Even if the use of road salt use is brought down, salt ions will not be flushed out for decades, and leave a strong legacy effect of road salts on ecosystems.
  • Up to 220 million people globally are at risk of exposure to elevated levels of arsenic in groundwater, which can also be mobilised by saltwater intrusion primarily in Asia.
  • There is risks of exposure to co-occurring, multiple heavy metals in drinking water in developing countries.
  • Surface waters are also at risk from FSS from oil and gas extraction and other forms of resource extraction.
  • Decreasing trends in nutrient concentrations in rivers due to regulations, but increasing trends in salinisation due to lack of adequate management and regulations.

India

  • More than 57% of India’s groundwater was contaminated with nitrate, fluoride and arsenic, according to an analysis of the government data in the State of India’s Environment in Figures, 2020.
  • Groundwater in at least 249 districts in 18 states and Union territories was found to be saline.
  • Groundwater was unfit for consumption since it affects the digestive system, raises blood pressure and hypertension.

Way forward

  • Approximately 70% of the Earth is covered by water; only about 2.5% of that is fresh water. Not many alternatives are available for drinking water.
  • More work is needed to examine the extent of FSS induced by resource extraction and groundwater reserves.
  • Undermining this problem may entail that freshwater would not be as ‘fresh’ or have the same desired chemical, biological and physical properties, and provide the same ecosystem services as in previous decades.
Source: Downtoearth

Uranium Enrichment

  • Iran began enriching uranium to 60% , edging closer to weapons­grade levels to pressure talks in Vienna aimed at restoring its nuclear deal with world powers after an attack on its main atomic site- Natanz nuclear site.
  • While 60% is higher than any level Iran previously enriched uranium, it is still lower than weapons­grade levels of 90%.
  •  Iran had been enriching up to 20%— even that was a short technical step to weapons grade.

Enriched Uranium Enrichment

  • Enriched uranium is produced by feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into centrifuges to separate out the most suitable isotope for nuclear fission, called U-235.
  • Increasing the concentration of U-235 atoms, by removing U-238, means it can be used for nuclear fuels or bombs.
  • Low-enriched uranium: It typically has a 3-5% concentration of U-235. It can be used to produce fuel for commercial nuclear power plants.
  • Highly enriched uranium: It has a concentration of 20% or more and is used in research reactors. Weapons-grade uranium is 90% enriched or more.
  • Very little energy is required to get from 20% enriched uranium to bomb material

Iran nuclear deal

  • Under the nuclear deal, Iran is allowed to enrich uranium only up to a 3.67% concentration; to stockpile no more than 300kg (660lbs) of the material; to operate no more than 5,060 of its oldest and least efficient centrifuges; and to cease enrichment at the underground Fordo facility.
  • Not to accumulate more than 130 tonnes of heavy water, which contains more hydrogen than ordinary water.

  • To redesign its heavy-water nuclear reactor at Arak. Spent fuel from a heavy-water reactor contains plutonium, which can be used in a nuclear bomb.
Source: The Hindu

India Meteoro­logical Department April Forecast

  • IMD released its April Forecast.
  • April forecast is based on an analysis of se­lect meteorological factors in March and is updated in May, along with estimates of how the monsoon will perform in different geographical regions.

Forecast

  1. India is likely to receive “normal” monsoon rainfall this year. It is estimated to be 98% of the LPA.
  2. Except for parts of eastern and north­ eastern India, many parts of the country are expected to get “above normal” rainfall.
  3. Skymet Weather, too, expected India to get normal rainfall, but said this was likely to be 103% of the LPA

What is Normal rainfall?

  • “Normal” rainfall refers to a range — 96%-­104% of the Long Period Average (LPA).
  • The LPA refers to the average all­India monsoon rainfall of 88 cm, which is a 50­year mean.

Previous forecasts

  • IOD is defined as a swing in temperatures in the western and eastern sections of the Indian Ocean, where a positive phase usually corresponds to good rains over India. In 2019, the IMD fore­cast 96% LPA in April, but In­dia ended up with record excessive rainfall of 110%. The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) contribut­ed to the excess rains.
  •  In 2020, it said 100% LPA, but India wound up with 109%. La Nina was responsible for heavy India rains.
  • In 2021, the models show a weak IOD and neutral conditions in the central Pacific. It’s unlikely there will be over 105% LPA this year.


IOD is defined as a swing in temperatures in the western and eastern sections of the Indian Ocean, where a positive phase usually corresponds to good rains over India.

.

Monthly forecasts

  •  IMD now is­sues short-term and extend­ed range forecasts i.e. an estimate of rainfall in time frames of three days to 15 days.
  • It has so far refrained from giving a forecast for June and September. These two months are known to be erratic as are the months when the monsoon enters and exits the country, thus posing a chal­lenge to meteorologists.
  • For the first time this year, it will begin giving monthly forecasts for all months. Dynamical models, has improved their forecasting abilities over three weeks.
  1. The aim of these models is to be able to accommodate changes in the global weather that will influence the monsoon.
  2. This is more useful for planning.

Monsoon Core Zone (MCZ)

  • MCZ repre­sents most of the rain­fed agriculture region in the country
  • The IMD is also developing a separate fore­cast for the Monsoon Core Zone (MCZ).
  • A separate forecast for the MCZ will be more useful for agricultural plan­ning and crop yield estima­tion, etc.
  •  In the second stage forecast in May, IMD will is­sue a separate probabilistic forecast for the MCZ, based on MME [Multi Model Ensemble] system and a new statistical model.

Need for another new model

  • Reduction in rainfall in eastern India has been con­sistently decreasing. For an adequate monsoon, it is im­portant for a temperature gradient to be present bet­ween the ocean and the land.
  • In recent years, the India Ocean has been warming faster than the land surface, reducing this tem­perature differential and af­fecting the monsoonal flow.
Source: The Hindu

“COVID In Her Voice: A Girl­led and Centred Participatory Research Study”

  • The Report of study “COVID In Her Voice: A Girl­led and Centred Participatory Research Study” was recently released.
  • It was conducted by girls aged 13­24 from Ahmedabad, Alwar, Bareily, Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai and Pune within their communities.
  • It adopted a unique methodology where girls were trained as researchers to conduct interviews with a total of 153 girls from their respective communities.

Findings

  1. The biggest challenges girls faced was the inability to attend online school. Girls and young women felt they did not have the space or get the time to study online.
  2. Lack of access to resources and technology was also a challenge.
  3. With households from marginalised communities facing financial stress due to the economic impact of COVID­19, girls believed that the pressure to get married had increased.
  4. Girls reported experiencing mental distress and despair without any access to information about coping mechanisms. Mental distress was exacerbated because of barriers in communicating with friends and teachers.
  5. There was an increase in gender­based violence and felt that fears and threats of violence intensified restrictions on their freedom.

Recommendation

  • Establishing girl­ friendly spaces within the community.
  • Skills training centres
  • Violence­free spaces
Source: The Hindu

Raisina Dialogue

Context: Ongoing Raisina dialogue

Raisina Dialogue is India’s premier foreign policy conference. The name “Raisina Dialogue” comes from Raisina Hill, an elevation in New Delhi that is home to the Government of India, as well as the Rashtrapati Bhawan of India.

  • It was conceived in early 2016.
  • It has emerged as a much-awaited event in the international foreign policy calendar.
  • It is organizedalong the lines of the Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore.
  • It is  co-hosted by the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and the Observer Research Foundation.
  • Its objective is to hold multilateral discussion on most challenging global issues and international policy matters.

Participants

  • The dialogue is a multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral discussion.
  • It involves participation of various heads of the government, minister and local government officials of various countries as well as private sector participants; media and academics.
Source: The Hindu

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