Current Affair – May 19, 2021

Over 100 Years of Snow Leopard Research

  • Report titled ‘Over 100 Years of Snow Leopard Research’, has been recently released by World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).
  • It is a spatially explicit review of the state of knowledge in the snow leopard range.
  • The report is based on an analysis of peer-reviewed published papers on the species and its habitat.

What does the Report say

  • More than 70%  habitat of the snow leopard, over 12 Asian countries, remains unresearched. This may have bearings on conservation of the species.
  • Snow leopard research intensified in the 1970s and studies on snow leopards have continued to increase exponentially since then.
  • However, just four hotspots of snow leopard research (sites with continued multi-year research) have emerged, with less than 23% of the snow leopard range being researched.
  • Nepal, India and China had conducted the most snow leopard research, followed by Mongolia and Pakistan.
  • Despite a major research focus on snow leopard population assessments, less than 3% of  the big cat’s range had robust data on abundance.
  • Although conservationists were addressing several threats, a robust analysis of how effective the interventions were in achieving their objectives remained deficient.
  • Globally, there could be as few as 4,000 snow leopards left in Asia’s high mountains and this remaining population faces continued and emerging threats. Increased habitat loss and degradation, poaching and conflict with communities have contributed to a decline in their numbers and left the species hanging by a thread in many places.

Cause for under-research

  • The snow leopard lives in rugged terrain — some of the harshest landscapes on the planet — so research poses significant logistical challenges.
  • Serious efforts to learn more about the species began in the 1970s but the snow leopard’s remote and vast range and elusive nature, means that most of the habitat is still unexplored .
Source: Downtoearth

Impact of Climate Change on Kenyan Tea

  • Kenya is the largest producer of black tea in the world while China produces the maximum green tea.
  • The globally famous black tea of Kenya is under threat from climate change, according to a recent report.
  • The report, prepared by charity, Christian Aid, cited a peer-reviewed study to put forward the claim. The study has predicted that optimal conditions for growing tea in Kenya will be reduced by a quarter (26.2 per cent) by 2050.

Report Findings

  • Kenya’s most optimal tea-growing areas such as Mt Elgon and Mbeere are totally absent from the climate projections for 2050.
  • Tea production in Kenya’s average tea-growing areas will fall by 39% by 2050.
  • Kenya’s temperature will rise by 2.5 degrees Celsius between 2000 and 2050. The country will be extreme rainfall events. The Rift Valley region will especially be affected. Kenya’s yearly and monthly rainfall and mean air temperatures are expected to increase moderately by 2025, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization. This will continue till 2075.    
  • The changes in climate will impact the very taste of tea. Increasing rain will change the “subtle flavours of the tea leaf and potentially reduce its health benefits”.
  • Other major tea-producing countries including India, Sri Lanka and China are also facing rising temperatures and extreme weather that could affect their tea production.
Kenya’s yearly and monthly rainfall and mean air temperatures are expected to increase moderately by 2025, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization. This will continue till 207

The report recommends three steps to tackle climate change that is impacting tea cultivation in Kenya:

  • Emissions will have to be cut
  • Climate finance will have to be boosted to help farmers adapt to the changing climate
  • Debt will have to be cancelled to help poorer countries better respond to the impacts of climate change
Source: Downtoearth

Findings of WHO and ILO Report on Work-Related disease

  • World Helath Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) released a report on work-related deaths worldwide.
  • It is a first global analysis of the loss of life and health associated with working long hours.
  • While the figures are for 2016, the analysis comes as the Covid-19 pandemic shines a spotlight on managing working hours.
  •  The pandemic is accelerating developments that could feed the trend towards increased working time. The number of people working long hours is increasing and this trend puts even more people at risk of work-related disability and early death.
  • The study covered global, regional and national levels, and was based on data from more than 2,300 surveys collected in 154 countries from 1970-2018.


  • Long working hours led to 7.45 lakh deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29% increase since 2000.
  • In 2016, 3.98 lakh people died from stroke and 3.47 lakh from heart disease as a result of having worked at least 55 hours a week.
  • Between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42%, and from stroke by 19%.
  • This work-related disease burden is particularly significant in men (72% of deaths occurred among males), people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, and middle-aged or older workers.
  • Most of the deaths recorded were among people dying aged 60-79 years, who had worked for 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 years.

Conclusion of study

  • Working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week.
  • Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard.
  • Covid-19 has significantly changed the way many people work. Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work. Many businesses have scaled back or shut down operations to save money, and people who are still on the payroll end up working longer hours.
Source: Indian Express

A historic pe­riod for West Asian diplomacy

  • Major West Asian nations have recently embarked on new diplomatic engagements with erstwhile rivals that could in time overturn exist­ ing regional alignments and possi­bly end ongoing conflicts that have wreaked havoc in several states.


  • Interactions have been between senior Saudi and Iranian officials
  • Doha has made efforts to mend ties with both Saudi Arabia and Egypt, in tandem with similar initiatives of its doctrinal and political ally, Tur­key.
  • Turkey-Egypt: Turkey-Egypt: Turkey is also exhibiting diplo­matic dexterity. Turkey now sees Egypt as a valuable partner to pro­mote peace in Libya and pursue their interests jointly in the East Mediterranean.
  • The major states are displaying an un­precedented self­confidence in pursuing initiatives without the heavy hand of western powers that have dominated regional af­fairs for at least a couple of centu­ries, and, in pursuit of their own interests, have nurtured deep ani­mosities between many of them. This has left a pervasive sense of insecurity across West Asia and made the countries dependent on western alliances to ensure their interests.

Cause for interactions

  • A fresh U.S. approach to West Asian affairs. It has taken a tough line on Saudi Arabia, indicating a clos­er scrutiny of its human rights re­cord and strong opposition to the war in Yemen.
  • U.S. is now likely to be less engaged with the region’s quar­rels. It stated ‘Regional states should be responsible for regional security’.
  • Ongoing region­ al conflicts, in Syria, Yemen and Li­bya, despite the massive death and destruction, have yielded no mili­tary outcome and now demand fresh diplomatic approaches.


  • Saudi-Iran: Yemen conflict, political im­passe in Lebanon and the security of the waters of the Gulf and the Red Sea where a “shadow war” on oil and merchant vessels could es­calate into a larger conflict.
  • Turkey-Egypt: Differenc­es with Egypt over Libya, the East Mediterranean waters and Tur­key’s affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt remains uneasy about Tur­key’s ties with the Brotherhood and its regional ambitions.
  • Saudi Arabia has similar concerns about Turkey’s doctrinal affiliations and its relations with Iran.
  • Qatar’s outreach to Egypt has been well received, since it ap­pears to have moderated its ties with the Brotherhood, toned down anti­Egypt broadcasts on Al Jazeera television, and is a major potential investor in Egypt’s flag­ging economy.

Role for India

  • Pro­visions for participating states to uphold regional peace and pro­mote mutually beneficial coopera­tion in energy, economic and lo­gistical connectivity areas.
  •   Given its close ties with all the regional states, India is well­ placed to build an association of like­minded states — Japan, Russia, South Korea — to shape and pursue such an initiative for West Asian peace.


Source: The Hindu

Electoral bonds

  • The State Bank of India (SBI) sold electoral bonds worth ₹695.34 crore from April 1 to 10, when the Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, West Bengal, Assam and Kerala polls were in full swing, according to a RTI rep­ly by the bank.
  • The amount sold was the highest­ ever for any Assemb­ly elections since the scheme started in 2018.
  • All but ₹2,000 of the bonds sold in the 16th phase of the scheme were en­ cashed.

About the scheme

  • The scheme allows any In­dian citizen or company to purchase the bonds sold by the SBI in denominations of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹1 lakh, ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore and give them to political parties ano­nymously.
  • Electoral Bond is a financial instrument for making donations to political parties. There is no maximum limit to bond amount.
  • SBI is the only bank authorised to sell electoral bonds by the government.
  • These bonds are redeemable in the designated account of a registered political party. The bonds are available for purchase by any person (who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India) for a period of ten days each in the months of January, April, July and October as may be specified by the Central Government.
  • A person being an individual can buy bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals. Donor’s name is not mentioned on the bond.
Source: The Hindu

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