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IAS Foundation 2023-24, Batch Starts: 27th July

10th May 2022

Pruning of timber tree species

Context

The Institute of Wood Science and Technology (IWST), has conducted an analysis of plantations in five states — Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

  • It has found that the loss to timber plant grower is because of the unnecessary pruning of the timber trees.
About

What is Pruning?

  • Pruning is the practice of removing a specific part of a tree or shrub drying or dying due to pests, diseases and lack of sunlight.
  • Several tree species self-prune; it is a part of their biological process.
  • Fruit farmers also prune trees, such as mango, pomegranate, moringa and mulberry after every harvest, based on recommendation from horticultural scientists.
  • But here, apart from maximising yield, the practice is also for convenience.
  • Pruning limits the height of the branches and ensures easy access to leaves, flowers and fruits. The removed limbs, if healthy, can then be replanted.
  • Similarly, trees in public parks and gardens are pruned to control their shape and structural integrity, thereby increasing their aesthetic value.

Effects of pruning:

  • The bark is the trees’ first line of defence; it protects the inner layers of the stem — sapwood, which forms the peripheral part of the trunk just beneath the bark and heartwood, the central core.
  • But when branches are pruned, the bark gets wounded and dries and the cut ends expose the inner tissues.
  • Bio-deteriorating organisms such as wood-decaying fungi (namely Allophoma tropica, Ganoderma applanatum and Xylaria berteroi) and insects like wood borers tend to feed on the dried bark and infest the cut ends of the stem.
  • Soon, they attack the inner layers and cause decay. This makes the tree weak; leaves grow small and fruits drop prematurely.
  • Pruning-induced wounds also hinder the natural growth of branches, leading them to bunch profusely at certain points.
    • This disrupts the tree’s balance and makes it vulnerable to heavy winds.
  • Pruned trees often need support from wooden planks to stay upright, but these too attract termites when they dry. In many instances, such trees die quickly.
  • Pruning has also restricted pollinating insects from accessing nutrient and nesting resources, affecting their foraging and nesting behaviour and phenology and reproduction.
    • This will have an adverse effect on cross-pollinating species like sandalwood and teak.

Corals turn sunscreen into toxins

Context

A new study found that when corals and sea anemones absorb oxybenzone, their cells turn it into phototoxins, molecules that are harmless in the dark but become toxic under sunlight.

About
  • The biologists studied sea anemones as a model for corals.
  • The study aims to uncover how sunscreen harms reefs so that we could better understand which components in sunscreens are really “coral-safe.”
  • It is extremely difficult to perform experiments with corals under lab conditions, so anemones are typically much better for lab-based studies
  • The study revealed that when corals and sea anemones absorb oxybenzone, their cells turn it into phototoxins, molecules that are harmless in the dark but become toxic under sunlight.

Sunscreen:

  • Sunlight is made of many different wavelengths of light.
  • Longer wavelengths like visible light are typically harmless.
  • But light at shorter wavelengths like ultraviolet light can pass through the surface of skin and damage DNA and cells.
  • Sunscreens, including oxybenzone, work by absorbing most of the UV light and converting it into heat.
  • Oxybenzone is a common ingredient in many sunscreens.

Oxybenzone:

  • Anemones had replaced part of oxybenzone’s chemical structure — a specific hydrogen atom on an alcohol group — with a sugar.
  • Replacing hydrogen atoms on alcohol groups with sugars is something that plants and animals commonly do to make chemicals less toxic and more water soluble so they are easier to excrete.
  • But when you remove this alcohol group from oxybenzone, oxybenzone ceases to function as a sunscreen.
  • Instead, it holds on to the energy it absorbs from UV light and kicks off a series of rapid chemical reactions that damage cells.
  • Rather than turning the sunscreen into a harmless, easy-to-excrete molecule, the anemones convert oxybenzone into a potent, sunlight-activated toxin.

Sea Anemone:

  • Members of the sea anemone genus are often thought of as plants due to their flower-like appearance, but this underwater invertebrate is, in fact, an animal.
  • As such, they need a hearty diet to survive.
  • All sea anemone species are carnivorous, relying on a variety of proteins to survive and thrive.


Government’s plan on issuance of ‘e-passport’

Context

The government is using technology to usher in transparency. It is now planning to roll out e-passports soon.

About

What is e-passport?

  • The government announced the plan on the issuance of e-passports in the Budget 2022.
  • According to the proposal, the e-passport will be a combination of paper and electronic passport, with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip.
  • An antenna will be embedded as an inlay in the back cover.
  • The passport’s critical information will be stored in the chip and printed on the data page.
  • The characteristics of the e-passport are specified by the International Civil Aviation Organization, an agency of the United Nations.

Privacy and Security:

  • The government clarified that data of the citizens obtained for e-passport will be used only for the purposes of issuance of the passport and related services.
  • There will not be any secondary use of the data, thereby safeguarding privacy concerns.
  • Further transaction processes are authenticated by digital certificates and are cryptographically signed.
  • Once captured, the data is stored in a secured industry-standard database.
  • The Security Operations Centre will perform relevant database security-related controls round the clock.

Implementation and technical responsibilities:

  • Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has reportedly bagged the contract for delivering e-passports. 
  • While the government will source the hardware chips, TCS will be responsible for their encoding.
  • The government has entrusted National Informatics Centre (NIC) with the technical responsibilities.
  • The e-passports will be produced by the India Security Press in Maharashtra’s Nashik, which has issued letters of intent for the procurement of 4.5 crore ICAO-compliant electronic chips.
  • Interestingly, the government issued India’s first e-passport with biometric details to former President Pratibha Patil in 2008.
  • E-passports enhance the security of passports, eliminate duplication, eliminate data tampering and will be used by border control authorities for monitoring the entry and exit of passengers.

What Is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)?

  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a technology that uses radio waves to passively identify a tagged object.
  • It is used in several commercial and industrial applications, from tracking items along a supply chain to keeping track of items checked out of a library.
  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a type of passive wireless technology that allows for tracking or matching of an item or individual.
  • The system has two basic parts: tags and readers.
    • The reader gives off radio waves and gets signals back from the RFID tag, while the tag uses radio waves to communicate its identity and other information.

Mine e-waste, not the Earth

Context

According to scientists, the recycling of e-waste must urgently be ramped up because mining the Earth for precious metals to make new gadgets is unsustainable.

About

Recent estimates:

  • The "mountain" of waste electronic and electrical equipment discarded in 2021 will weigh more than 57 million tonnes.
  • This is heavier than the Great Wall of China - the planet's heaviest artificial object.
  • Globally, the amount of so called e-waste generation is growing by two million tonnes every year.
  • It is estimated that less than 20% is collected and recycled.

Growing demand:

  • Geopolitical unrest, including the war in Ukraine, has caused huge spikes in the price of materials like nickel, a key element in electric vehicle batteries.
  • Volatility in the market for elements is causing "chaos in supply chains" that enables the production of electronics.
  • Combined with the surge in demand, this caused the price of lithium - another important component in battery technology - to increase by almost 500% between 2021 and 2022.

Elements in smartphones that could run out in the next century:

  • Gallium: Used in medical thermometers, LEDs, solar panels, telescopes and has possible anti-cancer properties
  • Arsenic: Used in fireworks, as a wood preserver
  • Silver: Used in mirrors, reactive lenses that darken in sunlight, antibacterial clothing and gloves for use with touch-screens
  • Indium: Used in transistors, microchips, fire-sprinkler systems, as a coating for ball-bearings in Formula One cars and solar panels
  • Yttrium: Used in white LED lights, camera lenses and can be used to treat some cancers
  • Tantalum: Used in surgical implants, electrodes for neon lights, turbine blades, rocket nozzles and nose caps for supersonic aircraft, hearing aids and pacemakers

UN Convention to Combat Desertification’s COP15

Context

The fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 15) is being hosted in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

About

UN Convention to Combat Desertification COP 15:

  • The COP15 theme, ‘ Life. Legacy: From scarcity to prosperity', is a call to action to ensure land, the lifeline on this planet, continues to benefit present and future generations. ?
  • COP15 will bring together leaders from governments, the private sector, civil society and other key stakeholders from around the world to drive progress in the future sustainable management of one of our most precious commodities: land. ?
  • Land is the bedrock of a healthy, productive society, and COP15 will explore links between land and other key sustainability issues.
  • COP 15 is a key moment in the fight against desertification, land degradation and drought.
  • It will build on the findings of the second edition of the Global Land Outlook and offer a concrete response to the interconnected challenges of land degradation, climate change and biodiversity loss as we step into the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. ?

About UNCCD:

  • Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.
  • The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
  • The UNCCD is particularly committed to a bottom-up approach, encouraging the participation of local people in combating desertification and land degradation.
  • The new UNCCD 2018-2030 Strategic Frameworkis the most comprehensive global commitment to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN)in order to restore the productivity of vast expanses of degraded land, improve the livelihoods of more than 1.3 billion people, and reduce the impacts of drought on vulnerable populations to build.
  • The UNCCD secretariat facilitates cooperation between developed and developing countries, particularly around knowledge and technology transfer for sustainable land management.
  • Its 197 Parties aim, through partnerships, to implement the Convention and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The UNCCD collaborates closely with the other two Rio Conventions; the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)with an integrated approach and the best possible use of natural resources.

Conference of Parties (COP):

  • The COP was established by the Convention as the supreme decision-making body.
  • It comprises ratifying governments and regional economic integration organizations, such as the European Union.
  • The 14thsession was held in India. The latest and 15th session is being held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
  • It has been meeting biennially since 2001.

Conference of Parties (COP)

Country

Year

COP 1

Rome, Italy

1997

COP 2

Dakar, Senegal

1998

COP 3

Recife, Brazil

1999

COP 4

Bonn, Germany

2000

COP 5

Geneva, Switzerland

2001

COP 6

Havana, Cuba

2003

COP 7

Nairobi, Kenya

2005

COP 8

Madrid, Spain

2007

COP 9

Buenos Aires, Argentina

2009

COP 10

Changwon, South Korea

2011

COP 11

Windhoek, Namibia

2013

COP 12

Ankara, Turkey

2015

COP 13

Ordos, China

2017

COP 14

New Delhi, India

2019

COP 15

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

2022

Pulitzer Prize for photojournalist Danish Siddiqui

Context

Siddiqui and his colleagues Adnan Abidi, Sanna Irshad Mattoo and Amit Dave from the Reuters news agency won the Pulitzer Prize, for “images of COVID’s toll in India”.

About

Danish Siddiqui:

  • He was on assignment in Afghanistan last year when he died.
  • The award-winning journalist was killed in July last while covering clashes between Afghan troops and the Taliban in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar city.
  • This is for the second time that Siddiqui has won the Pulitzer Prize.
  • He was honoured with the prestigious award in 2018 as part of the Reuters team for their coverage of the Rohingya crisis. 

The Pulitzer Prize:

  • The Pulitzer Prizes were established by Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American journalist and newspaper publisher, who left money to Columbia University upon his death in 1911.
  • A portion of his bequest was used to found the School of Journalism in 1912 and establish the Pulitzer Prizes, which were first awarded in 1917.
  • There are 22 Pulitzer categories.
  • In 21 of those categories the winners receive a $15,000 cash award and a certificate.
  • Only the winner in the Public Service category of the Journalism competition is awarded a gold medal. 
  • The Public Service prize is always awarded to a news organization, not an individual, although an individual may be named in the citation.

Editorial

Powering up after the power crisis shock

The robust economic recovery after two waves of COVID­19 and the unexpected heatwave have brought back power cuts. The Government is undertaking emergency measures such as canceling passenger trains so as to be able to get the Indian Railways to transport more coal to power plants and issuing directives to use more imported coal to tide over the supply shortfall.

Nature of consumer demand

  • According to Electricity Act- Under the Electricity Act, it is the responsibility of the Distribution Licensee/Company (Discom) to provide reliable quality and round­the­clock electricity to all consumers to meet full demand.
  • Contracts with generating companies- To do the above, they enter into contracts with a number of generating companies in order to ensure adequate supply. These Discoms work under the oversight of the State Electricity Regulatory Commissions.
  • Nature of electricity demand- With higher incomes and the consequent increase in the use of air­conditioners and other electrical appliances, the nature of electricity demand is undergoing a qualitative transformation with rising daily and seasonal peaks, and spikes on very hot or cold days. This will only increase in the years ahead.
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ThinkQ

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QUIZ - 10th May 2022

Mains Question:

Q1. Extraction of materials is a chief culprit in climate change and also a major challenge that will only worsen unless the world urgently undertakes a systemic reform of resource use. Comment (150 words)

Approach

  • Introduction- Earth’s resources and their unsustainable extraction
  • Impact on climate change and biodiversity loss
  • Impact on global economy (automobile)
  • Required measures
  • Need of urgent energy transition
  • Way forward
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