Nisarga barrels towards Mumbai

Paper: I

Mains:  General Studies-I :  Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.,

Why in news:

Maharashtra and Gujarat geared up for Cyclone Nisarga, which is expected to make landfall on near Alibaug, south of Mumbai.

Key Details:

  • Cyclones formed in the Bay of Bengal side of the north Indian Ocean are more frequent and stronger than those on the Arabian Sea side.
  • Meteorologists suggest the relatively cold waters of the Arabian Sea discourage the kind of very strong cyclones that are formed on the Bay of Bengal side; Odisha and Andhra Pradesh face the brunt of these cyclones every year.
  • 2019 was slightly unusual as the Arabian Sea saw the most frequent and intense cyclonic activity in more than 100 years, according to the India Meteorological Department.
  • Five cyclones originated in the area in 2019 — Vayu, Hikka, Kyarr, Maha and Pavan – when normally only one or two are formed.
  • The strength of the cyclones is measured by the wind speeds they generate.
  • At its strongest, Nisarga would be associated with wind speeds in the range 95-105 km per hour.
  • Amphan, on the other hand, was classified as a super-cyclone, of category 5, though it had weakened to category 4, ‘Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm’, ahead of its landfall, at which time the wind speeds were in excess of 180 kmph.
  • Though the intensity of Nisarga is not likely to be as strong as Cyclone Amphan, which devastated coastal Odisha, West Bengal and Bangladesh, IMD has issued warning of heavy to very heavy rainfall and rough sea conditions.

Is it a big threat?

  • If the system does intensify into a cyclonic storm, some coastal districts of Maharashtra will come directly in line of its predicted path.
  • Though the exact location of the landfall is still to be determined, it is likely to be close to Mumbai. Heavy to very heavy rainfall is predicted in this area until June 4, 2020.
  • The southwest monsoon has already made an onset over Kerala. There is an associated depression lying parallel to the west coast which is intensifying and moving northwards along the coast. Under such circumstances, the east-central and southeast regions of Arabian Sea are already experiencing rough weather conditions, which is likely to get intensified because of this cyclone.

Trump invites Modi for G-7 summit

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

U.S. President Donald Trump invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the next G-7 summit to be hosted by the U.S.

Key Details:

  • President Trump spoke about the U.S. Presidency of the Group of Seven, and conveyed his desire to expand the ambit of the grouping beyond the existing membership, to include other important countries including India. In this context, he extended an invitation to Prime Minister Modi to attend the next G-7 Summit.
  • Modi had attended the G-7 summit at Biarritz in France in 2019 after being invited by President Emmanuel Macron.
  • India is studying the gesture and will examine if the invite is aimed at making India a permanent part of the global high table at the G-7 or its redesigned shape as G-11.
  • In the next three years, India is expected to play a key role in the global diplomatic arena because of its three-year term at the executive board of the World Health Organization which is a crucial responsibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Earlier, the US President had described the G-7 as outdated indicating that he wanted the inclusion of Russia, India, Australia, and South Korea in the group.

Background:

G7

  • The concept of a forum for the world’s major industrialized countries emerged before the 1973 oil crisis.
  • In 1975, a summit hosted by France brought together representatives of six governments: France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • Schmidt and Giscard d’Estaing were heads of government in their respective countries, and since they both spoke fluent English, it occurred to them that they, and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and U.S. President Gerald Ford could get together in an informal retreat and discuss election results and the issues of the day.
  • In late spring, d’Estaing of France invited the heads of government from West Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States to a summit in Château de Rambouillet; the annual meeting of the six leaders was organized under a rotating presidency, forming the Group of Six (G6).
  • Following 1994’s G7 summit in Naples, Russian officials held separate meetings with leaders of the G7 after the group’s summits.
  • This informal arrangement was dubbed the Political 8 (P8) – or, colloquially, the G7+1.
  • At the invitation of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair and President of the United States Bill Clinton, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was invited first as a guest observer, later as a full participant.
  • After the 1997 meeting Russia was formally invited to the next meeting and formally joined the group in 1998, resulting in a new governmental political forum, the Group of Eight or G8. Despite not being a major economic power according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • However, the Russian Federation was ejected from the G8 political forum in March 2014, following its annexation of Crimea.

Composition of the G7

  • The G7 is composed of the seven wealthiest advanced countries.
  • The People’s Republic of China, according to its data, would be the second-largest with 16.4% of the world net wealth, but is excluded because the IMF and other main global institutions do not consider China an advanced country and because of its relatively low net wealth per adult and HDI.
  • Various reports suggest that the G7 (without the European Union) represents above 62% of the global net wealth. Including the EU, the G7 represents over 70% of the global net wealth.

Brief facts about a few members of G8 nations

  • All the 7 are top-ranked advanced economies with the current largest GDP and with the highest national wealth (United States, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Canada).
  • The G7 are among the 15 top-ranked countries with the highest net wealth per capita (United States, France, Japan, United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Germany).
  • All the 7 are leaders when it comes to export
  • 5 members of the G-7 have the largest proven reserves of gold (United States, Germany, Italy, France, Japan).
  • All 5 of the members of the NATO Quint (The Quint is the informal decision-making body of NATO consisting of the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy) and Canada is also a member of Five Eyes intelligence gathering body with the U.S. and U.K.
  • 6 of the 9 largest nuclear energy producers (United States, France, Japan, Germany, Canada, UK), although Germany announced in 2011 that it will close all of its nuclear power plants by 2022. Following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Japan shut down all of its nuclear reactors. However, Japan restarted several nuclear reactors, with the refueling of other reactors underway.

The requirements to be a member of the G7 are a high net national wealth and a high HDI (Human Development Index). The G7 also accounts for 46% of the global Gross Domestic Product calculated at market exchange rates and also for 32% of the global PPP GDP.


China gets set to build power project in PoK

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news:

China, under the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, will set up a power project in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir despite India’s objection to it.

Key Details:

  • An agreement has been finalized to implement the Kohala hydroelectric power project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
  • It is a 1,124-megawatt power project.
  • The project will be built on the Jhelum River and aims at annually providing more than five billion units of clean and low-cost electricity for consumers in Pakistan.
  • It is reported that this marks one of the largest investments of USD 2.4 billion in an independent power producer (IPP) in the region.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC):

  • The 3,000-km-long CPEC is aimed at connecting China and Pakistan with rail, road, pipelines and optical cable fiber networks.
  • It connects China’s Xinjiang province with Pakistan’s Gwadar port, providing access to China to the Arabian Sea.
  • The CPEC passes through PoK, over which India has conveyed its protests to China.

India’s objection:

  • India had protested Pakistan’s plans to build a dam in Gilgit-Baltistan, saying such projects in territories under Pakistan’s illegal occupation was not proper.
  • India protested to Pakistan awarding a mega contract to build a dam in Gilgit-Baltistan.
  • It has been asserted time and again that India’s position is clear and the entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir is part of India.
  • In the past too, India has opposed projects jointly taken up by Pakistan and China in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Scientists identify second most common coronavirus type in India

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news:

Scientists at multiple CSIR laboratories have identified a type of coronavirus that may be the second most prevalent in India, and may comprise 3.5% of the genomes globally.

Key Details:

  • There are 11 SARS-CoV-2 types identified globally, with at least six of them identified in India.
  • The most dominant coronavirus clade in India is the A2a, and of 213 genomes analyzed by the group, 62% of them were A2a.
  • The newly identified type – A3i, comprised 41% of those analyzed.
  • Previous studies indicate that while type O was the first ancestral family of the virus identified from China, it’s the A2a type that has emerged dominant the world over because of a mutation in its genes that allows that coronavirus’ spike to more efficiently infiltrate the lungs.
  • Epidemiological assessments suggest that the common ancestor [of this subtype of viruses] emerged in the month of February 2020 and possibly resulted in an outbreak followed by countrywide spread.
  • According to a paper that is yet to be peer-reviewed, so far, there is no evidence that A3i is more virulent — that is, it’s linked to more deaths.

Coronavirus Type:

  • The coronavirus type, or clade, is a cluster of SARS-CoV-2 viruses that share evolutionary similarities.
  • Such classifications are useful in establishing whether certain strains are particularly virulent, spread more easily, how they are likely to evolve over time and whether some could be less vulnerable to certain kinds of vaccines.

Proposed BSF firing range in fresh row

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

A proposed firing range for the Border Security Force (BSF) has become the trigger for unrest in northern Tripura’s Kanchanpur Subdivision over the rehabilitation of Bru tribal people displaced from adjoining Mizoram.

Key Details:

  • Mizoram Chief Minister has also walked into the standoff by pointing out to his Tripura counterpart that settling the Brus in Mizo-inhabited areas of Tripura would have repercussions in Mizoram and defeat the very purpose of the January 16, 2020 rehabilitation agreement.
  • The Mancha has formed the Joint Movement Committee with the Tripura Mizo Convention, the organisation representing the Mizo tribe in Jampui Hills within the subdivision.
  • The Convention leaders said their protest will continue till the government looks beyond their area for the rehabilitation of some 35,000 Bru refugees across seven relief camps.

Bru Tribe:

  • Bru (or Reang) tribals inhabit parts of Northeastern states of Assam, Mizoram and Tripura.
  • In Mizoram, they are largely restricted to Mamitand Kolasib.

Background:

  • In 1995, following a clash between Mizos and Brus, the Young Mizo Association and Mizo Students’ Association demanded that Brus be removed from the state’s electoral rolls, contending that the tribe was not indigenous to Mizoram.
  • This led to an armed movement led by the militant outfit Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF), and a political one by the Bru National Union (BNU).
  • Many Bru villages were burnt down and scores allegedly raped and killed, which led to the displacement of 40,000 Bru people.
  • A large number of Bru families fled to North Tripura.
  • The first phase of repatriation started in November 2010, when 1,622 Bru families with 8,573 members were resettled in Mizoram.
  • The process was stalled in 2011, 2012 and 2015 amid protests by Mizo NGOs.
  • Brus settled in Tripura also expressed fears for their security in Mizoram.

Government steps:

  • Due to ethnic tensions in Mizoram, around 34,000 people were forced to live in sub-human conditions in tents in Tripura.
  • No solution could be reached all these years. In 2018, an agreement was signed and a package was sanctioned, but many people did not want to go back to Mizoram.
  • Only 328 families moved back.
  • Due to the initiative by Prime Minister, negotiations were started afresh. The displaced people will now be settled in Tripura permanently.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs brought the stakeholders to the talks in 2015, and a financial package of Rs. 435 crores were arrived at.
  • The package covers 32,876 members of 5,407 Bru families. It included a one-time assistance of Rs. 4 lakhs in a fixed deposit within a month of repatriation, monthly assistance of Rs. 5,000 through direct benefit transfer, free rations for two years, and finally, Rs. 1.5 lakh in three instalments for building houses.

Now, more light on sun’s coronal heating puzzle

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

  • A group of scientists working at the Pune-based National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) has recently discovered tiny flashes of radio light emanating from all over the sun, which they say could help in explaining the long-pending coronal heating problem.
  • The three scientists have jointly written a paper on their discoveries titled ‘First Radio Evidence for Impulsive Heating Contribution to the Quiet Solar Corona’, which was published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Issue and Challenges:

  • For more than a half-century, astronomers have tried to figure out what causes the corona to be so hot.  It is one of the most vexing problems in astrophysics.
  • One of the big questions of coronal heating has been: Is the corona heated everywhere at once, or is heat delivered in discrete, bomb-like events?

Key Observation:

  • The researchers state that these radio lights or signals result from beams of electrons accelerated in the aftermath of a magnetic explosion on the sun.
  • They state that these weak radio flashes that they have discovered are ‘smoking guns’ or the evidence for magnetic explosions and hence bring us closer to explaining the coronal heating problem.
    • Corona is the aura of plasma that surrounds the sun and other stars.
  • These observations are the strongest evidence till date that the tiny magnetic explosions, originally referred to as ‘nanoflares’ by eminent American solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker, can indeed be heating up the corona.
  • While the phenomenon of coronal heating has been known for the last 70 years, the availability of cutting-edge data from the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope proved to be a game-changer.

Way Ahead:

With this work, researchers have the strongest evidence till date of the magnetic explosions or ‘nanoflares’ as called by Prof. Parker in a theory he put forth in 1988. According to the researcher, the strength of the magnetic fields varies a lot from one place on the surface of the Sun to another, by more than a factor of 1,000. But the corona is hot everywhere. So, this heating process has to work all over the corona, even in regions of weak magnetic fields. Until now, the process of how this magnetic energy is deposited in the corona had remained a mystery. Now, the observations can bring us closer to solving this.