Current Affair – June 9, 2021

UNDP Research on Hindu-Kush Mountain

  • Up to two billion people in southeast Asia can face food and water shortages even as the the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) mountain ranges lose up to two-thirds of its ice by 2100.
  • In the best-case scenarios, High Mountain Asia (the Asian mountain ranges surrounding the Tibetan Plateau) will lose a substantial part of its cryosphere in the next decades and thus a substantial part of its water storage abilities. This will lead to increased water stress in high mountain areas.
  • Another study published in 2019 on the ice thickness of glaciers had estimated that glaciers in the HKH may contain 27 per cent less ice than previously suggested.
  • The UNDP report added that the melting is driven by larger anthropogenic modifications of the atmosphere. The HKH region lies downwind from some of the most heavily polluted places on Earth. This threatens agriculture, climate as well as monsoon patterns

A cryosphere comprises portions of Earth’s surface where water is in solid form, including sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, etc.  


  • Shifting away from fossil fuel use in energy, transport, and other sectors, while changing diets and agricultural practices to move to net-zero

emissions of greenhouse gases.

  • The countries in the region need to reduce emissions of black carbon and other air pollutants as well.
  • Farmers will need support to design and invest in locally-appropriate water storage solutions, or to shift to agricultural practices that consume less water
  • Designs of new hydropower plants and grids will need to take into account the changing climate and water availability
  • Data and information, capacity-building and early warning systems and infrastructure design will need to do be improved. This calls for sufficient funding and large-scale coordination
  • Countries in the region need to step up their efforts to adapt to the changing calendar of droughts, floods and unpredictable monsoon seasons, and we call for increased regional cooperation to address fast-disappearing glaciers, with the well-being of two billion people at stake.”

A cryosphere comprises portions of Earth’s surface where water is in solid form, including sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, etc.

About Hindu-Kush

  • The HKH region, often referred to as the ‘Third Pole’, is spread over 3,500 square kilometers across eight countries including India, Nepal and China. It contains the world’s third-largest storage of frozen water after the Antarctica and Arctic.
  • Over 240 million people live in the region’s mountains; 1.7 billion live in the river basins downstream, while food grown in these basins reaches three billion people.

· The glaciers feed at least 10 major river systems, which have bearings on agricultural activities, drinking water and hydroelectricity production in the region.

  • A 2019 assessment by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a regional intergovernmental body, said the HKH region continue to warm through 21st century even if the world was able to limit global warming at the agreed 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • In the future, even if global warming is kept to 1.5 degrees C above the pre-industrialization levels, warming in the HKH region is likely be at least 0.3 degrees C higher, and in the northwest Himalaya and Karakoram at least 0.7 degrees C higher.
Source: Down-to-earth

Sri Lanka Marine Crisis

A fire that broke out on Singapore’s X-Press Pearl container ship due to leaking nitric acid on May 21, 2021, now threatens to bleach coral reefs near Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo and kill marine life.

Pellet spill

  • The ship was carrying 1,486 containers including 25 tones of nitric acid, an estimated 78 tones of plastic pellets and other hazardous cosmetic material.
  • An estimated three billion tiny pellets have spilled in the water and are clogging the beaches near Colombo harbor.

. Impact on marine life: These low-density pellets float over the water and can absorb the oil and other toxins present in the water. Marine animals like sea turtles and fish, mistaking them for food, can ingest these pellets and eventually die.

  • Impact on fishing community: These pellets absorb the toxins present in the water. Once marine animals consume them, these toxins can leach out in their bodies and travel up the food chain. These will have a long term impact on the fishing industry. Fishing activity in an 80-kilometre-long stretch has been banned, fearing contamination due to toxins and floating pellets in water.

Negombo’s barrier reefs

  • Barrier-type reefs are found in Colombo and the Entomb region. Most reefs near the shore are affected by human activities, including destructive fishing and coral mining.
  • The vessel was also carrying 297 tones of heavy fuel oil and 51 tones of marine fuel oil. Some of it has already been consumed in the blaze. But Sri Lankan authorities are worried about the fuel that has remained.
  • An oil spill would be detrimental for the coral reefs found near the Colombo-Engcobo coastline. The spilling of oil would damage and bleach the coral reefs by cutting off light and oxygen. It can also make the regulation of temperature difficult, leading to the death of aquatic life.
  • To save the coral reefs, the salvagers tried to pull the ship towards the deep water but were unsuccessful.
  • The ship has already hit the bottom of the ocean, causing further damage to the reefs in the region. The pellet spill has already done a lot of damage to the marine life near the Colombo coast. This damage could be exacerbated by the impending oil spill.
Source: Down-to-earth

Global Internet Outage

  • Several big websites around the world went down for about half an hour Tuesday, because of a major issue with the content delivery network (CDN) of American cloud computing services provider Fastly.
  •, Reedit, Twitch, Spotify, Pinterest, Stack Overflow, Gather,, Hulu, HBO Max, Quora, PayPal, Vimeo and Shopify are some of the big names. Prominent news websites impacted were the Financial Times, the Guardian, the New York Times, CNN, and Verge, to name some.

Most users would have seen a 503 error when trying to access these websites, indicating that the browser was not able to access the server.

What is fastly?

Fastly is a cloud computing services provider, which offers CDN, edge computing, cloud storage services.

What is a CDN?

  • A CDN refers to a geographically distributed group of servers that work together to provide fast delivery of Internet content. They house content close to the telecom service providers’ networks. Majority of web traffic across the world today is routed through CDNs.
  • Platforms such as Netflix, Facebook, Amazon — ones with large quantities of data held in global libraries — host their geographically relevant content closer to where that content is to be consumed. This ensures the end customer is able to access the content faster. Another reason companies rely on these CDNs is to help protect their sites against traffic spikes, distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks, etc.
  • In 2020, Cloudflare, another leading global cloud platform, had faced issues that impacted its client websites. The Cloudflare glitch resulted in sites such as Discord, Feedly, Politico, Shopify, and League of Legends going down.
  • Cloudflare glitch resulted in sites such as Discord, Feedly, Politico, Shopify, and League of Legends going down.
Source: Indian Express

Overture Supersonic Plane

United Airlines recently announced it was ordering 15 planes with the ability to travel at Mach 1.7, faster than the speed of sound.

What is a supersonic plane?

  • Supersonic aircraft are planes that can fly faster than the speed of sound. The technology for supersonic flights is over 70 years old, but only recently has been used for commercial flying.
  • Before 1976, when the first commercial supersonic flight took off, the planes were used entirely for military purposes.
  • Concorde, the British-French turbojet-powered commercial airliner, was the first aircraft to carry passengers at supersonic speed, but eventually had to discontinue, due to cost and other concerns.
  • Usually, supersonic planes can travel at the speed of around 900 kmph, twice the speed of normal aircraft.

What about Boom’s Overture supersonic plane?

  • The Overture aircraft would travel at the speed of Mach 1.7 or 1,805 kmph with a range of 4,250 nautical miles. In a single flight, it could carry 65 to 88 passengers and reach an altitude of 60,000 ft.
  • The Overture will also not be noisy as supersonic planes in the past were, as it aims for “zero overland noise.” This essentially means that it will cruise at supersonic speeds only over water, ensuring that no sonic boom or excessive noise reaches the surfaces where people live.
  • Overture planes would rely completely on sustainable aviation fuel, made from biodegradable material. In using this, it aims for maximum fuel efficiency during operations.
Source: Indian Express

Sardar Sarovar Dam providing water in summer

  • The Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam is a terminal dam built on the Narmada river at Kevadia in Gujarat’s Narmada district.
  • Called the ‘lifeline of Gujarat’, it usually has no water for irrigation during summers. However, this year, in the ongoing summer, the dam released about 1.3 Million Acre Feet (MAF) water for irrigation between April 1 and May 31.

·  And for the first time in the history of the dam, as many as 35 dams and reservoirs, close to 1,200 check dams and 1000 village tanks have been filled with Narmada water this year.

  • River Narmada is a classic case of Integrated River Basin Planning, Development, and Management, with water storage available in all major, medium, and minor dams on the main river and its tributaries, shared amongst four party states –

Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra — in the ratio stipulated by the 1979 award of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal.

  • Out of the 28 MAF capacity of Narmada basin, Gujarat has been awarded a share of 9 MAF, while Madhya Pradesh has

18.25 MAF, Rajasthan 0.50 MAF, and Maharashtra 0.25 MAF. The power benefits from the project are to be shared thus: Madhya Pradesh at 57%, Maharashtra at 27%, and Gujarat at 16%.

  • In 2017, the dam was raised to a height of 138.68 meters (spillway level until 2017 was 121.92 meters) and 30 gates were installed. The dam achieved its Full Reservoir Level (FRL) for the first time in 2019.
  • It also attained FRL in the monsoon of 2020 but the live (utilisable) water storage capacity of Sardar Sarovar Dam does not even make up for 50% of the annual water needs of the party states and, therefore, the water management at Sardar Sarovar becomes critically dependent on the regulated releases from the upstream reservoirs in Madhya Pradesh, where hydropower generation ensures water inflow from time to time.

The water management initiatives that helped harness water

  • During the monsoon from July to October, the reservoir operation is well synchronised with the rain forecast in the catchment area.
  • The strategic operation of River Bed Power House (RPBH) ensures that minimum water flows downstream into the sea and maximum water is used during the dam overflow period, which is not calculated in the annual water share.
  • These measures help in maximizing the annual allocation of water share. Similarly, in non-monsoon months, the measures for efficient use of the allocated share typically include minimising the conventional and operational losses, avoiding water wastage, restricting water-intensive perennial crops, adopting of Underground Pipelines (UGPL); proper maintenance of canals and structures and operation of canals on a rotational basis.
Source: Indian Express

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