Current Affair-March 29, 2021

Asteroid Apophis

Context: NASA has ruled out the possibility of the dreaded asteroid Apophis causing any damage to the Earth for the next 100 years.

This year, Apophis flew past Earth on March 5, coming within 17 million km of our planet. During this approach, scientists used radar observations to study in detail the asteroid’s orbit around the sun.Based on these findings, they were able to rule out any impact risk to Earth from Apophis in 2068 and long after.  

About Apophis

  • It was discovered in 2004, after which NASA had said that it was one of the asteroids that posed the greatest threat to Earth.
  • It is name after the ancient Egyptian god of chaos and darkness.
  • Apophis was predicted to come threateningly close to Earth in the years 2029 and 2036, but NASA later ruled these events out. There were still fears about a possible collision in 2068, however.

Risk List

  • The “risk list” refers to the Sentry Impact Risk Table maintained by CNEOS, which includes all the asteroids with orbits close to Earth.
  • Apophis can be removed from the risk list as for now.


  • According to NASA, 994,383 is the count of known asteroids, the remnants from the formation of the solar system over 4.6 billion years ago.   Asteroids are rocky objects that orbit the Sun, much smaller than planets.
  • They are also called minor planets.

Three Classes of Asteroids

  1. Asteroids found in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which is estimated to contain somewhere between 1.1-1.9 million asteroids
  2. Trojans: Asteroids that share an orbit with a larger planet. NASA reports the presence of Jupiter, Neptune and Mars trojans. In 2011, they reported an Earth trojan as well.
  3. Near-Earth Asteroids:  These have orbits that pass close by the Earth. Those that cross the Earth’s orbit are called Earth-crossers. More than 10,000 such asteroids are known, out of which over 1,400 are classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs).
Source: Indian Express

Uniform Civil Code

Context: Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde lauded Goa’s Uniform Civil Code, and encouraged “intellectuals” indulging in “academic talk” to visit the state to learn more about it.

About UCC

  • A Uniform Civil Code is one that would provide for one law for the entire country, applicable to all religious communities in their personal matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc.
  • Article 44 of the Constitution lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India.

Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles

  • Fundamental Rights are enforceable in a court of law.
  • Directive Principlesare not justiciable but the principles laid down therein are fundamental in governance.
  • Article 44 is one of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
  • Article 43 mentions “state shall endeavour by suitable legislation”, while the phrase “by suitable legislation” is absent in Article 44. All this implies that the duty of the state is greater in other directive principles than in Article 44.

What are more important — Fundamental Rights or Directive Principles?

  • The Supreme Court held in Minerva Mills (1980): “Indian Constitution is founded on the bed-rock of the balance between Parts III (Fundamental Rights) and IV (Directive Principles). To give absolute primacy to one over the other is to disturb the harmony of the Constitution”.
  • Fundamental Rights conferred by Article 14 and Article 19 were accepted as subordinate to the Directive principles specified in Article 39(b) and (c).

Does India not already have a uniform code in civil matters?

  • “personal laws” are mentioned in the Concurrent List. Indian laws do follow a uniform code in most civil matters — Indian Contract Act, Civil Procedure Code, Sale of Goods Act, Transfer of Property Act, Partnership Act, Evidence Act, etc.
  • States, however, have made hundreds of amendments and, therefore, in certain matters, there is diversity even under these secular civil laws. Recently, several states refused to be governed by the uniform Motor Vehicles Act, 2019.
Source: Indian Express

Discovery of new species of red algae: Hypnea indica, Hypneabullata

  • Two new species of seaweed have been discovered by a group of marine biologists from Central University of Punjab, Bathinda.
  • Named Hypnea indica (after India) and Hypneabullata (because of the blisterlike marks on its body – bullate). The seaweeds are part of the genus Hypnea or red seaweeds.
  • There are 61 species of which 10 were reported in India. With two new species, the total number of species now would be 63.   Hypnea indica was discovered Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, and Somnath Pathan and Sivrajpur in Gujarat. Hypneabullata was discovered from Kanyakumari and Diu island of Daman and Diu.
  • They grow in the intertidal regions of the coast, namely the area that is submerged during the high tide and exposed during low tides.
  • The genus Hypnea consists of calcareous, erect, branched red seaweeds.

Significance for food industry

  • Species of Hypnea contain the biomolecule carrageenan, which is widely used in the food industry.
  • As the two species have been found on the west and south east coasts of India, it suggests good prospects for their cultivation which can be put to good use economically.

Threat: Ocean Acidification

  • Extensive calcareous deposits on the body that has been observed.
  • Algae with calcareous miner­al deposits are prone for the damage from ocean acidifica­tion. Ocean acidification is an aftermath of climate change.
  • As carbon dioxide in the atmosphere gets dissolved in ocean waters, the seawater becomes more acidic.
    • The last time the Suez Canal was closed for navigation was in 1967, after the Six­Day War bet­ween Israel and Arab nations broke out.
    • Prior to that, the channel had been shut for less than a year during the Suez War of 1956 when Is­rael, France and Britain in­vaded Egypt.
    • M.V. Ever Given got stuck in a dust storm and strong winds on March 23 and ran aground in the channel blocking off traffic.
    • If the channel is blocked, ships from Europe will have to sail around the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa to reach Asia, and vice versa.
      Algae like Hypnea cannot survive in acidic seawater, hence, the only way to help these spe­cies is to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by adopting sustainable lifestyle choices.
Source: The Hindu

Suez Canal: History

  • The 193­km long canal is across Egypt’s Isthmus of Suez connecting the Mediterranean Sea in the north and the Red Sea in south — thereby bringing the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean closer.
  • It has been a critical artery for global trade since the mid­19th century.

Linking the Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea

  • The idea of linking the Me­diterranean Sea to the Eryth­raean Sea (today’s Red Sea) had excited both Egypt’s rul­ers and colonisers from an­cient to modern times.
  • Pha­raoh Senausret III (1887­-1849 BC) built the first canal link­ing the Erythraean Sea in the south to the Nile river in the north and thereby opening a waterway to the Mediterra­nean.
  • Pharaoh Necho II, who died in 595 BC, started building another canal from the Nile to the south.
  •  Persian Emperor Darius I completed the canal.
  • Over the centuries, the canal was ignored by leaders particularly as navigation be­came impossible due to silt and reopened by some, in­cluding Ptolemy II Philadel­phus in second century BC.
  • Many geologists believe that the Red Sea receded over the centuries and its coastline moved southward away from the lakes in Suez. Persistent accumulations of silt, made it difficult to keep the water­ ways open. So for centuries, the canal was abandoned by Egypt’s rulers — until the ar­rival of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Arrival of Napoleon

  • Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798 as part of his global campaign to weaken the British Empire.
  • He wanted to build a canal across Suez un­der the French control. It would provide the French a quicker and ea­sier access to the Indian Ocean. By opening a new trade route from Eu­rope to Asia, France could hurt the British who con­trolled the existing route around the Cape of Good Hope. But a miscalculation in the geological study of the region prompted Napoleon to abandon the project.
  • Napoleon gave up the pro­ject.

Idea outlived

  • In the mid­19th century, French diplomat and engi­neer Ferdinand de Lesseps won permission from Egypt’s Ottoman­ appointed ruler Said Pasha to start building the canal.
  • In 1858, Universal Suez Ship Canal Company was formed to exe­cute the project and con­struction work began a year later.

Britain’s Stand

  • Britain, which con­trolled the route around the African continent, conti­nued to oppose the project as a new waterway would hurt its interests.
  • But in 1869, the canal was officially opened for traffic. Britain would move from being an adversary of the project to a key beneficiary in six years when the Egyptian govern­ment, straddled with finan­cial problems, sold its stake in the canal to London in 1875. Since then, France and Britain operated the canal, until Egypt’s socialist Presi­ dent Gamal Abdel Nasser na­tionalised it in 1956.

The Suez crisis


  • On October 29, 1956, three months after nation­alisation of canal, Israeli troops attacked the Egyptian Sinai. French and British troops joined in later. The plan was to retake control of the canal and remove Nass­er, who was being embol­dened by the Soviet support.
  •  But the invasion did not go ahead as planned. Soviet threatened Israel, Britain and France with rocket at­tacks unless they withdrew troops from the Sinai.
  • By March 1957, the invading troops were fully withdrawn and Egypt’s auth­ority over the canal was recognised.  
  • Suez  crisis also marked Great Britain’s dwindling in­fluency in West Asia, a region it controlled since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and the arrival of the U.S. as the new great power in the region.


  • The canal was closed again during the 1967 war. It would be reopened only in 1975 after Egyptian Israeli re­lations started warming fol­lowing the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Expansion Project

  • Egypt’s President Abdel who came to power through a coup in 2013, launched an ambitious $8.5­billion ex­pansion project at the canal in 2014 as part of which a se­cond line was dug along its northern section, allowing two-way traffic.
  • The canal is an important source of reve­nue for Egypt’s battered eco­nomy.
  • About 19,000 ships passed through the channel in 2020 carrying1.2 billion tonnes of cargo. As much as 13% of all the current all maritime trade, from oil to automobiles, pass through the canal every year. So a delay in reopenig the channel will have a huge impact on export business­es, commodities, ship and even Egypt’s national economy.
Source: The Hindu

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