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Current Affair – June 21, 2021

Pact for conservation of Black softshell turtle

  • A major temple in Assam has signed a memorandum of understanding with two green NGOs, the Assam State Zoo cum Botanical Garden and the Kamrup district administration for the long term conservation of the rare freshwater black softshell turtle or the Nilssonia nigricans.
  • A vision document 2030 was also launched.
  • Various temple ponds in Assam harbour various threatened species of turtles. Since the turtles are conserved in these ponds only based on religious grounds, many biological requirements for building a sustainable wild population have since long been overlooked.

Black soft shell turtle

  • The Black Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) is native to Bangladesh and India.
Until sightings along the Brahmaputra’s drainage in Assam, the black softshell turtle was thought to be “extinct in the wild” and confined only to ponds of temples in northeastern India and Bangladesh.  

Until recently, it was considered Extinct in the Wild on account of no known wild populations. Within the last 15 years, however, a few small remnant populations have been discovered inhabiting the Brahmaputra River basin of Northeast India.

  • The majority of this species’ population resides amongst sacred temple ponds in its two native countries. In India, the population at the Nagsankar Temple is considered the country’s largest.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature had in 2021 listed the turtle as “critically endangered”. But it does not enjoy legal

protection under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, although it has traditionally been hunted for its meat and cartilage, traded in regional and international markets.

About the Conservation Pact

·  The MOU is signed between the NGOs- Turtle Survival Alliance India and Help Earth and Hayagriva Madhava Temple Committee. It also includes the Assam State Zoo cum Botanical Garden and the Kamrup district administration.

The Hayagriva Madhava temple is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists, is at Hajo, about 30 km northwest of Guwahati.  

It aims to restock the wild with viable, self sufficient and genetically pure threatened turtle populations in the region.

  • It will offer assistance for the required improvement of husbandry of turtles kept in such ponds, and further recovery efforts are recommended for the long term survival and existence of the endangered freshwater tur- tles.

Way forward

Mass awareness on the conservation issues of all species of turtles in the region while working on threats and opportunities to strengthen the black soft shell turtle population in Assam.

Source: The Hindu

Suicide worldwide in 2019’ — WHO Report

But the world will not be able to reach this target according to new Report ‘Suicide worldwide in 2019’ published by WHO.

What does the Report say?

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has increased mental stress globally. But WHO report shows a crisis was already in place in 2019.

· It shows that some 703,000 people or one in a 100, died by suicide in 2019.

  • Many of these were young people. More than half of global suicides (58%) occurred before the age of 50 years.
  • Suicide was the fourth-leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 globally in 2019.
  • Some 77% of global suicides in 2019 occurred in low- and middle-income countries. On an average, 9 out of every 100,000 people ended their lives in the world.


  • The three WHO regions — Africa, Europe and South-East Asia — recorded suicide rates higher than the global average.
  • This number was highest in the WHO Africa region (11.2) followed by Europe (10.5) and South-East Asia (10.2).

Long term trend

  • In 20 years (2000-2019), the global suicide rate had decreased by 36%.
  • The decrease ranged from 17% in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 47% in the European Region and 49 per cent in the Western Pacific Region.
  • The Region of the Americas recorded a substantial 17% increase in the suicide rate during the same period and has been an exception.


  • Reducing the global suicide mortality rate by a third is both, an indicator and a target (the only one for mental health) in the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Despite the overall decline, the world will not be able to achieve the SDGs concerning mental health, according to the report said.
  • The SDGs call on countries to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases by a third, by 2030 through prevention and treatment and to promote mental health and well-being (target 3.4, indicator 3.4.2).
  • They ask countries to strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol (target 3.5, indicators 3.5.1, 3.5.2). They also call for universal health coverage (target 3.8, indicators 3.8.1, 3.8.2), which mental health is part of.
  • Although some countries have placed suicide prevention high on their agendas, too many countries remain uncommitted, the report said. Currently, only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy.


  • The WHO had published new LIVE LIFE guidelines to help countries reduce the global suicide mortality rate by a third by 2030. These are:
  • Limiting access to the means of suicide, such as highly hazardous pesticides and firearms.
  • Educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide.
  • Fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents.
  • Early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of anyone affected by suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
  • These needed to go hand-in-hand with foundational pillars like situation analysis, multi-sectoral collaboration, awareness raising capacity building, financing, surveillance and monitoring and evaluation.
Source: Down to earth

International Yoga Day

  • International Yoga Day is celebrated on June 21 annually.
  • 2021 Theme: Yoga for well-being  – how the practice of Yoga can promote the holistic health of every individual.

Significance of Yoga during Covid-19 Pandemic

  • The Yoga Day in 2021 will be marked at a time when COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend lives and livelihoods of people globally.
  • Beyond its immediate impact on physical health, the COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated psychological suffering and mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, as pandemic-related restrictions continue in various forms in many countries. This has highlighted the urgent need to address the mental health dimension of the pandemic, in addition to the physical health aspects.
  • The message of Yoga in promoting both the physical and mental well-being of humanity has never been more relevant. A growing trend of people around the world embracing Yoga to stay healthy and rejuvenated and to fight social isolation and depression has been witnessed during the pandemic.
  • Yoga is also playing a significant role in the psycho-social care and rehabilitation of COVID-19 patients in quarantine and isolation. It is particularly helpful in allaying their fears and anxiety.

· The World Health Organization mentions yoga as a means to improve health in its Global action plan on physical activity 2018–2030: more active people for a healthier world.

  • UNICEF says kids can practice many yoga poses without any risk and get the same benefits that adults do. These benefits include increased flexibility and fitness, mindfulness and relaxation.

About International Yoga Day

  • Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. The word ‘yoga’ derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness.
  • Today it is practiced in various forms around the world and continues to grow in popularity.
  • Recognizing its universal appeal, on 11 December 2014, the United Nations proclaimed 21 June as the International Day of Yoga by resolution 69/131.
  • The International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga.
Source: UN

Periodical Cicadas

  • Billions of cicadas have emerged across eastern parts of the United States.
  • Periodical cicadas are so called because of their 13 or 17 year life cycle. They spend most of their life cycle underground, emerge from their earthy digs to romance, reproduce and retire.
  • This year is the year of the Brood X periodical cicadas. Here, X stands for the Roman numeral and refers to the sequence of emergence.

Why is the present emergent population called Brood X?

  • The term ‘brood’ is used to refer to all periodical cicadas that emerge the same year and occupy a geographically contiguous area. Charles Marlatt assigned roman numerals to designate their year of emergence, and the sequence started arbitrarily in 1893.
  • The brood with the 17 year cycle that emerged in 1893 was denoted Brood I, and so on. So, the 17 year broods were designated I to XVII, and the 13 year broods were designated XVIII to XXX.

Why are they called ‘periodical’ cicadas?

  • These cicadas spend most of their lives underground. They grow burrowed in their earthy homes by feeding on root xylem for 13 or 17 years. During this time, they complete five developmental stages, known as “instars”, entirely underground.

· The fifth instar nymphs emerge from the ground by making holes and then transform into adults, only to perish approximately four weeks later.

  • As adults, they gather in so called chorus groups, where the males sing to woo the females. After mating, the female lays eggs in thin twiggy branches of trees, and then dies.
  • The eggs hatch and the nymphs drop into the earth like rain, burrowing into it. About 95% of the nymphs die, and the ones that are left feed on root sap and remain underground, till it is time to emerge.

Emergence in US

  • They are found to the east of the Great Plains in the U.S. and north of Florida.
  • They emerge earlier in the warmer southern areas (late April-May) and later in the colder zones (late May-June)

Impact of climate

  • In any given place, they come out only once every 13 or 17 years. Occasionally, part of a population will come out four years early and part four years late.

With climate warming, more four year early emergences in larger numbers are being observed.

Periodical cicadas in India

·  There are three species of cicadas found in the Indian subcontinent —

  • Chremisticamixta (found in Sri Lanka)

o    C. seminiger (found in the Nilgiri hills)

  • C. ribhoi (discovered in Ri Bhoi district of Meghalaya)
  • Mass emergence has been noticed only in the case of Chremistica ribhoi. The emergence takes place after dusk and once in four years.
  • The phenomenon is well known among villagers, who refer to the insect in the local Khasi language as ‘niangtaser’ (niang stands for “insect” and taser is believed to be derived from the name of the village “Iewsier”, which refers to the area in which the phenomenon occurs, and the forest region around it).
  • This periodical cicada is used as food and fish bait and has been observed in May 2006 and in May 2010.
Source: The Hindu

Summer solstice on June 21

  • The longest day of 2021 for those living north of the Equator is June 21. In technical terms, this day is referred to as the summer solstice, the longest day of the summer season.

· It occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, or more specifically right over 23.5 degree north latitude.

Why do we have summer solstice?

  • Since Earth rotates on its axis, the Northern Hemisphere gets more direct sunlight between March and September over the course of a day. This also means people living in the Northern Hemisphere experience summer during this time. The rest of the year, the Southern Hemisphere gets more sunlight.
  • During the solstice, the Earth’s axis — around which the planet spins, completing one turn each day — is tilted in a way that the North Pole is tipped towards the sun and the South Pole is away from it.
  • Typically, this imaginary axis passes right through the middle of the Earth from top to bottom and is always tilted at 23.5 degree with respect to the sun. Therefore, the solstice, as NASA puts it, is that instant in time when the North Pole points more directly toward the sun that at any other time during the year. Solstice means “sun stands still” in Latin.
  • This day is characterized by a greater amount of energy received from the sun. According to NASA, the amount of incoming energy the Earth received from the sun on this day is 30% higher at the North Pole than at the Equator.

·  The maximum amount of sunlight received by the Northern Hemisphere during this time is usually on June 20, 21 or 22. In contrast, the Southern Hemisphere receives most sunlight on December 21, 22 or 23 when the northern hemisphere has its longest nights– or the winter solstice.

How many hours of sunlight will we get on Monday?

The amount of light received by a specific area in the Northern Hemisphere during the summer solstice depends on the latitudinal location of the place. The further north one moves from the equator, the more light one receives during the summer solstice. At the Arctic Circle, the sun never sets during the solstice.

Summer solstice does not mean the earliest sunrise or latest sunset

  • Although June 21 will be the longest day in 2021, it does not necessarily mean that it brings the earliest sunrise or latest sunset.
  • It depends on the latitudinal location of the country.
Source: Indian Express