GS PAPER II
Great Barrier Reef
Why in News
According to the Chinese officials, the political tensions between Beijing and Australia were not behind a UNESCO recommendation to place the Great Barrier Reef on its endangered list.
- The Great Barrier Reef has been put on a list of World Heritage sites that could be put on the in-danger list after losing half of its corals since 1995.
- Australia has assailed the recommendation to add the Great Barrier Reef to the in-danger list after seeing the 2,300-kilometre (1,400 miles) system lose half its corals since 1995.
- Australia has assailed the move, blaming global warming for the loss, while UNESCO experts argued that pollution run-off has contributed to the loss.
- China and Australia are among the 21 nations on this year’s heritage committee, which is evaluating nearly 50 new sites that could be added to its more than 1,100 World Heritage list.
- The designation can be a boon for tourism, while encouraging governments to protect cultural or environmental treasures.
Great Barrier Reef
- The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organismsand the largest coral reef system.
- It is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth visible from space.
- It iscomposed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres, is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
- This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps.
- It supports a wide diversity of life and was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.
- Coral bleaching Occurs when corals expel their photosynthetic algae.
- Coral receives their colour from algae called ‘zooxanthellae’ that live on them in a symbiotic relationship.
- Algae use nitrogen, phosphorus and other metabolic waste from corals to generate energy from the Sun via photosynthesis.
- Oxygen and other organic products of photosynthesis help corals to grow.
The Bleaching Process
- Under environmental stress, such as a change in temperature, corals expel algae.
- Pollution and overexposure to the Sun’s rays can also cause algae to leave.
- Loss of algae causes coral bleaching, making them vulnerable to disease.
- Bleached corals will eventually die if they don’t regain algae.
GS PAPER II
Why in News
According to the study on the intergenerational benefits of the midday meal scheme published in Nature Communications, girls who had access to free lunches provided at government schools had children with a higher heighttoage ratio than those who did not.
Highlights of the study
- According to the nationally representative data on cohorts of mothers and their childrenspanning 23 years published in 2016, the prevalence of stunting was significantly lower in areas where the scheme was implemented in 2005.
- According to the study, more than one in three Indian children are stunted, ortoo short for their age, whichreflects chronic undernutrition.
- The fight against stunting has often focussed on boosting nutrition for young children, but nutritionistshave long argued that maternal health and wellbeing isthe key to reducing stuntingin their offspring.
- The studyhas attempted a firstofits kind intergenerational analysis of the impacts of a mass feeding programme with the objective to improve maternal height and education. It must be implemented years before those girls and young women become mothers.
- The study was published by a researcher from the University of Washington andeconomists and nutrition experts at the InternationalFood Policy Research Institute.
- It found that the midday meal scheme was associated with 1332% of theimprovement in the heightforage zscores in India between 2006 and 2016.
- The linkages between midday meals and lowerstunting in the next generation were stronger in the lower socioeconomic strataand likely work through women’s education, fertility, and the use of health services.
- However, only 6% of girls aged 610 years had benefited from the scheme in 1999.
- By 2011, with an expansionin budget, and state implementation following a Supreme Court order, coverage had grown to 46%.
- These findings come at atime when the midday meal scheme has effectively been put on hold for the last one and a half years, asschools have been closedsince March 2020.
- Although dry foodgrain or cash transfers have beenprovided to families instead, food and education advocates have warned thatthis would not have the same impact as hot cooked meals on the school premises, especially for girl children who face more discrimination at home andare more likely to drop outof school due to the closures.
- The findings of the studyexacerbate concerns thatthe interruptions to schooling and to the midday meal scheme could have even longer-term impacts, hurting the nutritional health of the next generation as well.
Mid-day Meal Scheme
- Mid-Day Meal in schools has had a long history in India.
- In 1925, a Mid-Day Meal Programme was introduced for disadvantaged children in Madras Municipal Corporation.
- By the mid-1980s three States viz. Gujarat, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the UT of Pondicherry had universalized a cooked Mid-Day Meal Programme with their own resources for children studying at the primary stage by 1990-91 the number of States implementing the mid-day meal programme with their own resources on a universal or a large scale had increased to twelve states.
- The scheme was launched in 1995in all over India to provide children in government schools with a free cooked meal with a minimum energy content of 450 kcal.
Objective of Mid-day Meal Scheme
- Avoid classroom hunger,
- Increase school enrolment,
- Increase school attendance,
- Improve socialisation among castes,
- Address malnutrition, and
- Empower women through employment.
Financial Action Task Force (FATF)
Why in News
An evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to analyse the effectiveness of India’s anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing regime has been postponed for the second time in view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and is now slated to be initiated next year.
- The scheduled assessment by the Paris headquartered watchdog was slated for SeptemberOctober, 2020.
- The schedule for FATF mutual evaluationhas again been postponed from February 2021 and it is tentatively expected to begin in September 2022.
- The FATF plenary that is expected to be held in October 2023 will discuss the Indian assessment and its mutual evaluation report will be published for public consumption after 10 months from the date of the on-site visit.
Financial Action Task Force (FATF)
- The FATF is a global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog that sets international standards to prevent economic and financial crimes in a country with inter-connected linkages across the world.
- In response to mounting concern over money laundering, it was established by the G-7 Summit that was held in Paris in 1989.
- Recognising the threat posed to the banking system and to financial institutions, the G-7 Heads of State or Government and President of the European Commission convened the Task Force from the G-7 member States, the European Commission and eight other countries.
- It conducts “peer reviews of each member on an ongoing basis to assess levels of implementation of the FATF recommendations and provides an in-depth description and analysis of each country’s system for preventing criminal abuse of the financial system.”
- The last such review of India’s anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regime was held in June 2010 and it is usually taken up again after a period of 10 years.
India in Financial Action Task Force (FATF)
- The FATF had stated in 2013 that “India had made significant progress in addressing deficiencies identified in its mutual evaluation report and (the FATF) decided that the country should be removed from the regular follow-up process.”
- In 2019, India had set up a joint working group comprising 22 central investigations, intelligence gathering, and regulatory agencies to make presentations, hold discussions, and brief the FATF experts, drawn from various countries, once the process starts.
- Due to the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) emergency, the FATF and FATF-style regional bodies (FSRBs) are implementing precautionary measures that impact scheduled on-site visits and mutual evaluation discussions.
- During this evaluation, Indian financial regulatory and enforcement agencies are expected to showcase their action taken reports and dossiers for the enforcement, regulatory and investigative work undertaken by them under the anti-money laundering law, criminal tax evasion instance, and for strengthening the CFT (combating the financing of terrorism) regime.
- As per this re-scheduled assessment calendar, the technical evaluation of Indian anti-money laundering, countering terrorist financing, and the role of relevant legal framework and agencies enforcing these measures would begin in September 2022 followed by an on-site visit of FATF experts to the country in February 2023.
Monkey B Virus
Why in News
China has reported its first human infection with Monkey B Virus (BV) and subsequent death.
Monkey B Virus (BV)
- Monkey BV, an alpha-herpesvirus enzootic in macaques, was initially isolated in 1932.
- According to China CDC Weekly, the virus is generally transmitted via direct contact and exchange of bodily fluid secretions.
- While BV is not evident in its natural macaque hosts, about 60 cases of pathogenic zoonotic BV infection have occurred, with the fatality rate around 70%–80%.
- According to a report published in the US National Library of Medicine, BV has a propensity to invade the central nervous system when transmitted to humans.
- The 2008 report said that the development and maintenance of true BV specific pathogen-free macaque colonies, has proven difficult.
- The initial symptoms usually develop around 1-3 weeks after exposure to the virus.
Symptoms of Monkey-B Virus
- The first symptoms of the Monkey B Virus are flu-like, which include fever and chills, muscle ache, fatigue, headache.
- In time, the person infected with the virus may developsmall blisters in the wound, while other symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, hiccups.
- As the disease worsens, the virus may lead to swelling of the brain and spinal cord, resulting in neurological and inflammatory symptoms, problems with muscle coordination, brain damage and severe damage to the nervous system eventually leading to death.
- According to CDC, the symptoms may vary between one day to three weeks.
Treatment of Monkey-B Virus
- Currently, there is no vaccine to counter the Monkey B Virus.
- Timely antiviral medications could help in reducing the risk to life.
GS PAPER III
MH-60r Multi Role Helicopters (MRH)
Why in News
Recently, Indian Navy accepted the first two of its MH-60R Multi Role Helicopters (MRH) from US Navy in a ceremony held at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego.
- India is procuring 24 of these helicopters from the US government under foreign military sales.
- The choppers would be modified with many “India-unique” equipment and weapons.
- The helicopters were formally handed over by the US Navy to the Indian Navy in a ceremony held at the United States naval air station in San Diego’s North Island.
- The helicopter deal includes training of the pilots and ground crew; spare parts and air-to-ground weapons support.
MH-60R Multi Role Helicopters (MRH)
- MH-60R helicopter is an all-weather helicopter designed to support multiple missions with state-of-the-art avionics and sensors.
- In order to exploit these potent helicopters, the first batch of Indian crew is presently undergoing training in the USA.
- The induction of MRH is expected to further enhance the Indian Navy’s three-dimensional capabilities.
- The helicopters would also be modified with several India Unique Equipment and weapons.
- For the Indian Navy these helicopters are going to play a critical role in the Indian Ocean Region where the Chinese threat continues and, in the Indo-Pacific Region.
- These helicopters come with the anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW) operations capabilities which can help in search and rescue (SAR), vertical replenishment (VERTREP), and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) and combat search and rescue (CSAR), naval special warfare (NSW) insertion.
- According to the Pentagon notification, the sale is for 24 fully kitted and armed helicopters, along with 12 spare engines, six spare multi-mode radars and six multi-spectral targeting systems.
- It also included1,000 sonobuoys, or portable sonar systems, for detecting enemy submarines; and Hellfire missiles, rockets and torpedoes to destroy surface and sub-surface targets.
- A range of communications equipment is also included, the transfer of which is now enabled by the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that New Delhi and Washington signed in September 2018.