Current Affair – June 14, 2021

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CURRENT AFFAIRS

Strategic significance of Rare minerals

  • USA and Belgium want to invest in the market for 17 minerals with unique properties that today are largely extracted and refined in China.
  • The expected exponential growth in demand for minerals that are linked to clean energy is putting more pressure on U.S. and Europe.

Heavy dependence on China

  • In 2019, the U.S. imported 80% of its rare earth minerals from China.
  • The EU gets 98% of its supply from China.
  • China is expected to remain dominant for some time to come, but experts say that if recycling is scaled up, “20 to 30% of Europe’s rare earth magnet needs by 2030 could be sourced domestically in the EU from literally zero today.

Why demand for rare minerals is likely to surge?

  • Amid the transition to green energy, in which rare earth minerals are sure to play a role, China’s market dominance is enough to sound an alarm in western capitals.
  • Rare earth minerals, with names like neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium, are crucial to the manufacture of magnets used in industries of the future, such as wind turbines and electric cars. And they are already being used in consumer goods such as smartphones, computer screens and telescopic lenses.

What USA is doing to reduce its dependence on China?

  • U.S. aims to boost production and processing of rare earths and lithium, another key mineral component, while “working with allies to increase sustainable global supply and reduce reliance on competitors.
  • U.S. Senate passed a law aimed at improving American competitiveness that includes provisions to improve critical minerals supply chains.
  • The best hope for boosting American production can be found at the Mountain Pass mine in California.
Source: The Hindu

G7 Meet at Carbis Bay

  • Climate: G7 leaders agreed on to raise their contributions to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year to help poorer coun- tries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming, calling on other developed countries to join the effort. The grouping again pledged to meet the climate finance target.
  • Infrastructure: Alongside plans billed as helping speed infrastructure funding in developing countries and a shift to renewable and sustainable technology.
  • China factor: Push to try to counter China’s increasing impudence in the world, particularly among developing nations. They signaled their desire to build a rival to Beijing’s multi trillion dollar Belt and Road initiative.

G7 countries account for 20% of global carbon emissions. Developed countries agreed at the UN in 2009 to together contribute $100 billion each year by 2020 in climate finance to poorer countries. That target was not met, derailed in part by the pandemic that also forced Britain to postpone the UN Cli- mate Change Conference (COP26) until later this year.

Critical view of climate pledge

  • Campaigners said firm cash promises were missing.
  • Climate groups said the promise made in the summit’s final communique lacked detail, most importantly a figure for the increases.
  • G7 had failed to rise to the challenge of agreeing on concrete commitments on climate finance.
  • Rich countries must “put new and additional finance on the table”.

Stance of India at G7

  • India is a “naturalally” to work with the world’s richest G7 countries to fight against threats of authoritarianism — PM Narendra Modi, speaking at a special outreach session for guest countries at the G7 summit that ended in Corbis Bay, U.K., on Sunday.
  • Marking out the need for a “free, open and inclusive” IndoPacific, the government will study U.S. President’s proposal for a “Build Back Better World” (B3W) initiative, seen as a counter to China’s trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative

·  Strong call for a “timely, transparent, expert led, and science based WHO convened Phase 2 COVID 19 Origins study includ ing, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China.

  • As the world’s largest democracy, India is a natural ally for the G7 and Guest Countries to defend shared values from authoritarianism, terrorism and violent extremism, disinformation and infodemics and economic coercion.
  • PM Modi also called on “tech companies and social media platforms” to ensure a “safe cyber environment” for al

He has sought “strong support” from the G7 countries for the joint India South Africa proposal for a TRIPs (Intellectual Property Rights) waiver for corona virus related medicines and vaccines.

Source: The Hindu

New species in Andaman and Nicobar – Pyrostrialaljii

  • A 15 meter tall tree that belongs to the genus of the coffee family has recently been discovered from the Andaman Islands.

·  The new species, Pyrostrialaljii, is also the first record of the genus Pyrostria in India.

  • Plants belonging to genus Pyrostria are usually found in Madagascar, but the recently discovered species is new to science.

Features of Pyrostrialaljii

  • The tree is distinguished by a long stem with a whitish coating on the trunk and oblongobovate leaves with a cuneate base, and was first reported from the Wandoor forest in South Andaman.
  • Other physical features that distinguish the tree from other species of the genus is its umbellate inflorescence with eight to 12 flowers.
  • The other places in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands where the tree could be located are the Tirur forest near the

Jarawa Rerserve Forest and the ChidiaTapu (Munda Pahar) forest.

Pyrostrialaljii has been assessed as ‘Critically Endangered’ based on the IUCN Red List criteria.

  • The species has been named Pyrostrialaljii after Lal Ji Singh, Joint Director and Head of Office, Andaman and Nicobar Regional Centre, Botanical Survey of India.
  • While the genus Pyrostria is not found in India, there are several genera from the family Rubiaceae that are common in India. These plants, including cinchona, coffee, adina, hamelia, ixora, galium, gardenia, mussaenda, rubia, morinda, have high potential for economic value. More studies need to be carried out to ascertain whether Pyrostrialaljii could have some economic value,

Rivinaandamanensis

  • The team of scientists also discovered a new species of pokeweed named Rivinaandamanensis.
  • It was found growing under large trees, shaded and rocky areas, along with herbs and shrub by plants.

·   It represents the first record of the pokeweed family Petiveriaceae in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Source: The Hindu

Operation Olivia

·  Every year, the Indian Coast Guard’s “Operation Olivia”, helps protect Olive Ridley turtles as they congregate along the Odisha coast for breeding and nesting from November to December. It was initiated in the early 1980s

Round-the-clock surveillance is conducted from November till May utilising Coast Guard assets such as fast patrol vessels to enforce laws near the rookeries

About Olive Ridley turtle

  • The Olive Ridley (Lepidochelysolivacea) is listed as vulnerable under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red list.

·  All five species of sea turtles found in India are included in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and in the Appendix I of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora which prohibits trade in turtle products by signatory countries. The Orissa Marine Fisheries Act empowers the Coast Guard as one of its enforcement agencies.

  • Coordination of efforts is done at various levels, including enforcing the use of turtle excluder devices (TED) by trawlers in the waters adjoining nesting areas; prohibiting the use of gill nets on turtle approaches to the shore; and curtailing turtle poaching.

Threat to Olive Ridley turtle and their eggs

  • Heavy predation of eggs by dogs and wild animals.
  • Indiscriminate fishing with trawlers and gill net.

·  Beach soil erosion.

  • Dense fishing act along the coasts of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Bengal, especially oceangoing trawlers, mechanised fishing boats and gillnetters pose a severe threat to turtles.

Arriba as

  • The Olive Ridley has one of the most extraordinary nesting habits in the natural world, including mass nesting called arribadas. The 480 km long Odisha coast has three arribada beaches at Gahirmatha, the mouth of the Devi river, and in Rushikulya, where about 1 lakh nests are found annually.
  • Sea turtles generally return to their natal beach, or where they were born, to lay eggs as adults. Mating occurs in the offshore waters of the breeding grounds and females then come ashore to nest, usually several times during a season.
Source: The Hindu

PASIPHAE Project

The mysteries surrounding the origin of the universe continue to draw human curiosity. The development of a vital instrument, which will be used in upcoming sky surveys to study stars, is being led by an Indian astronomer. The project has been funded by the world’s leading institutions, signalling India’s growing expertise in building complex astronomical instruments.

What is PASIPHAE?

  • Polar-Areas Stellar-Imaging in Polarisation High-Accuracy Experiment (PASIPHAE) is an international collaborative sky surveying project. Scientists aim to study the polarisation in the light coming from millions of stars.
  • Scientists from the University of Crete, Greece, Caltech, USA, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), India, the South African Astronomical Observatory and the University of Oslo, Norway, are involved in this project, steered by the Institute of Astrophysics, Greece.

About the project

  • The name is inspired from Pasiphae, the daughter of Greek Sun God Helios, who was married to King Minus.

·    The survey will use two high-tech optical polar meters to observe the northern and southern skies, simultaneously.

  • It will focus on capturing starlight polarisation of very faint stars that are so far away that polarisation signals from there have not been systematically studied. The distances to these stars will be obtained from measurements of the GAIA satellite.
  • By combining these data, astronomers will perform a maiden magnetic field tomography mapping of the interstellar medium of very large areas of the sky using a novel polar meter instrument known as WALOP (Wide Area Linear Optical Polari meter)

Why is PASIPHAE important?

  • Since its birth about 14 billion years ago, the universe has been constantly expanding, as evidenced by the presence of Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation which fills the universe.
  • Immediately after its birth, the universe went through a short inflationary phase during which it expanded at a very high rate, before it slowed down and reached the current rate. However, so far, there have only been theories and indirect evidence of inflation associated with the early universe.
  • A definitive consequence of the inflationary phase is that a tiny fraction of the CMB radiation should have its imprints in the form of a specific kind of polarisation (known scientifically as B-mode signal).
  • All previous attempts to detect this signal met with failure mainly due to the difficulty posed by our galaxy, the Milky Way, which emits copious amounts of polarized radiation.
  • Besides, it contains a lot of dust clouds that are present in the form of clusters. When starlight passes through these dust clouds, they get scattered and polarized.
  • The PASIPHAE survey will measure starlight polarisation over large areas of the sky. This data along with GAIA distances to the stars will help create a 3-Dimensional model of the distribution of the dust and magnetic field structure of the galaxy. Such data can help remove the galactic polarized foreground light and enable astronomers to look for the elusive B-mode signal.
Source: Indian Express

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