GS PAPER I NEWS

Antarctica Icebergs

Why in News

A huge ice block has broken off from western Antarctica into the Weddell Sea, becoming the largest iceberg in the world and earning the name A­76.

About A-76


  • A-76 is the latest in a series of large ice blocks to dislodge in a region acutely vulnerable to climate change.
  • Scientists stated that in this case it appeared to be part of a natural polar cycle.
  • According to the U.S. National Ice Center, A­76 is slightly larger than the Spanish island of Majorca, had been monitored by scientists since May 13 when it began to separate from the Ronne Ice Shelf.
  • It is measuring around 170 km long and 25 km wide, with an area of 4,320 sq km is now floating in the Weddell Sea.
  • It joins previous world’s largest title holder A­23A which is approximately 3,880 sq. km. in size which has remained in the same area since 1986.
  • A­76 was originally spotted by the British Antarctic Survey and the calving.
  • According to the European Agency, it was confirmed using images from the Copernicus satellite.

Icebergs

  • Iceberg’s form when hunks of ice break off from ice shelves or glaciers and begin to float in open water.
  • To be classified as an iceberg, the height of the ice must be greater than 16 feet above sea level and the thickness must be 98-164 feet and the ice must cover an area of at least 5,382 square feet.
  • Most icebergs in the Northern Hemisphere break off from glaciers in Greenland. Sometimes they drift south with currents into the North Atlantic Ocean.
  • Icebergs also calve from glaciers in Alaska.
  • In the Southern Hemisphere, almost all icebergs calve from the continent of Antarctica.
  • It can be detected in the open sea both visually and by radar. It can also be detected by sonar.
  • In the open sea, an iceberg produces squealing, popping, and creaking sounds caused by mechanical stresses and cracking, and these sounds can be detected underwater up to 2 km away.
  • In summer, bergs can also produce a high-pitched hissing sound called “bergy seltzer,” which is due to the release of high-pressure air bubbles from the ice as it melts in the warmer water.

National Ice Center (NIC)

  • Icebergs are monitored worldwide by the U.S. National Ice Center (NIC).
  • NIC produces analyses and forecasts of Arctic, Antarctic, Great Lakes, and Chesapeake Bay ice conditions.
  • NIC is the only organization that names and tracks all Antarctic Icebergs.

Disadvantages of Icebergs

  • The ice below the water is dangerous to ships. Sharp, hidden ice can easily tear a hole in the bottom of a ship.
  • Impacts on ice sheets and sea level: Iceberg production affects the mass balance of the parent ice sheets, and melting icebergs influence both ocean structure and global sea level.
  • Impact on ocean structure: It is found that the total Antarctic melt is equivalent to the addition of 0.1 metre (0.3 foot) of fresh water per year at the surface.
  • Melting icebergs are causing sea levels to rise, in some areas significantly. Rising sea levels are expected to cause flooding and erosion in low-lying, coastal cities.

GS PAPER II

Mucormycosis

Why in News

The Union government has asked the States to declare mucormycosis, the fungal infection being reported in COVID-19 patients, an epidemic.

Key Points


  • The Ministry of States, Health and Family Welfare declared the black fungus infection seen in COVID-19 patients an epidemic would lead to health facilities screening for it and reporting all such cases to the government.
  • A new challenge in the form of a fungal infection, namely mucormycosis, has emerged and is reported from many States amongst COVID-19 patients, especially those on steroid therapy and deranged sugar control.
  • This infection is leading to prolonged morbidity and mortality amongst COVID-19 patients.
  • According to the Joint Secretary of Health Ministry, the treatment of mucormycosis required a multi-disciplinary approach that involved eye surgeons, ENT specialists, general surgeons, neurosurgeons and dental maxilo facial surgeons and the use of Amphotericin B as an anti-fungal medicine.

Mucormycosis in India

  • Rajasthan, Telangana and Tamil Nadu have declared mucormycosis as epidemic.
  • Maharashtra had claimed 90 lives in the State so far.
  • Eight people had died of the infection in Haryana, which has reported 316 cases.
  • Rajasthan has 100 patients, while Tamil Nadu has reported nine cases.

Mucormycosis

  • Mucormycosis or black fungus is a complication caused by fungal infection.
  • It can develop on the skin after the fungus enters the skin through a cut, scrape, burn, or other type of skin trauma.
  • It can be detected among patients who are recovering or have recovered from COVID-19.
  • Anyone who is diabetic and whose immune system is not functioning well needs to be on the guard against this.
  • According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, the following are the conditions in COVID-19 patients increase the risk of mucormycosis infection:
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Weakening of immune system due to use of steroids
  • Prolonged ICU/hospital stay
  • Co-morbidities / post organ transplant / cancer
  • Voriconazole therapy (used to treat serious fungal infections)

Relation of Mucormycosis with COVID-19

  • The disease is caused by a set of micro-organisms known as mucormycetes, which is naturally present in the environment, seen mostly in soil and in decaying organic matter like leaves, compost and piles.
  • In normal course, our body’s immune system successfully fights such fungal infections.
  • As COVID-19 affects immune system, the treatment of COVID-19 patients involves intake of drugs like dexamethasone, which suppress immune system response.
  • Due to these factors, COVID-19 patients face a renewed risk of failing the battle against attacks mounted by organisms such as mucormycetes.
  • In addition, COVID patients undergoing oxygen therapy in ICU, where humidifier is used, are prone to fungal infection because of exposure to moisture.

Common Symptoms

  • Common Symptoms of Mucormycosis:
  • It begins to manifest as skin infection in the air pockets located behind our forehead, nose, cheekbones, and in between the eyes and teeth.
  • It then spreads to eyes, lungs and can even spread to the brain.
  • It leads to blackening or discoloration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing of blood.
  • The Indian Council of Medical Research has advised that not all cases of blocked nose should be considered as cases of bacterial sinusitis, particularly during/after the treatment of Covid-19 patients.
  • One must seek medical help for detecting fungal infection.

Treatment

  • Treatment involves surgically removing all dead and infected tissue.
  • In some patients, this may result in loss of upper jaw or sometimes even the eye. Cure may also involve a 4-6 weeks course of intravenous anti-fungal therapy.
  • Since it affects various parts of the body, treatment requires a team of microbiologists, internal medicine specialists, intensivist neurologists, ENT specialists, ophthalmologists, dentists, surgeons and others.
  • Controlling diabetes is one of the foremost prevention methods. Hence, COVID-19 patients who are diabetic need to take utmost care.
  • Rational use of medicines should be ensured to avoid adverse side effects of the drug.
  • Other than steroids, use of COVID-19 drugs such as Tocilizumob, Itolizumab also suppresses the immune system. And when these drugs are not used appropriately, it increases the risk, as immune system fails to fight the fungal infection.
  • COVID-19 patients to discontinue immune-modulating drugs, a substance that stimulates or suppresses immune system. Maintaining proper hygiene can also help keep the fungal infection away.
  • For patients on oxygen therapy, it should be ensured that the water in the humidifier is clean and is refilled regularly. There should be no leakage of water.
  • Patients should maintain proper hygiene by keeping their hands as well as body clean.

Endemic, Outbreak, Epidemic and Pandemic

  • Endemic: Endemic is something that belongs to a particular people or country.
  • Outbreak: An outbreak is a greater-than-anticipated increase in the number of endemic cases. It can also be a single case in a new area. If it’s not quickly controlled, an outbreak can become an epidemic.
  • Epidemic: An Epidemic is a disease that affects a large number of people within a community, population, or region.
  • Pandemic: A Pandemic is an epidemic that’s spread over multiple countries or continents.

GS PAPER III

Aerosols

Why in News

Cautioning people to maintain social distancing to prevent the transmission of the Covid-19 virus, the Principal Scientific Adviser stated that the aerosols is one of the key transmission modes of the SARS-CoV-2, can travel in the air up to 10 meters.

Key Points


  • Under the set of guidelines, “Stop the Transmission, Crush the Pandemic”, the panel stated that, people who show no symptoms can also spread the virus.
  • Running air conditioners while keeping windows and doors shut, traps infected air inside the room, and increases risk of transmission from an infected carrier to others.
  • Droplets and aerosols were the key transmission modes of the virus. While droplets fell up to 2 metres from an infected person, aerosols could travel up to 10 metres.

Highlights of the Report

  • The Report recommended to add outdoor air in offices, homes and public spaces.
  • They also recommended the use of gable fan systems and roof ventilators in offices, auditoriums, shopping malls and other closed public spaces.
  • Frequent cleaning and replacement of filters is highly recommended.
  • Saliva and Nasal discharges in the form of droplets and aerosols by an infected person is the primary mode of virus transmissions.
  • For rural or semi-urban areas, it is recommended that every person entering the area should undergo a Rapid Antigen Test before entry for which ASHA and Anganwadi workers should be trained and protected. These workers should be given N95 masks even if they are vaccinated.
  • Droplets emitted by an infected person land on various surfaces. As such, frequent cleaning of high contact points such as door handles, light switches, tables, chairs and the floor with disinfectants like bleach and phenyl is recommended.

Significance of Ventilation

  • Ventilation in hutments could be improved by adding “jaali or other simple air outlet”, apart from installing exhaust fans.
  • It is advised that jaali/air outlets with exhaust fans are installed by gram panchayats in homes where there is no cross-ventilation.

Aerosols

  • Aerosol is a system of liquid or solid particles uniformly distributed in a finely divided state through a gas, usually air.
  • These particles play a crucial role in the precipitation process, providing the nuclei upon which condensation and freezing take place.
  • It affects climate by reflecting or absorbing incoming solar radiation and enhancing the brightness, and thus reflectivity, of clouds.
  • It also plays role in chemical processes and influence the electrical properties of the atmosphere.

Strategic Tibet Highway

Why in News

China has completed construction of a strategically significant highway through the world’s deepest canyon in Tibet along the Brahmaputra river.

Key Points

  • The highway took seven years to complete and passes through the Grand Canyon of the Yarlung Zangbo river, the Brahmaputra river.
  • It is the “second significant passageway” to Medog county that borders Arunachal directly connecting the Pad township in Nyingchi to Baibung in Medog county.

About Tibet Highway


  • The construction, which began in 2014, is part of a wider infrastructure push in border areas in Tibet.
  • In November, China began work on a strategically important railway line which was its second major rail link to Tibet after the Qinghai-Tibet railway that opened in 2006, that will link Sichuan province with Nyingchi.
  • The highway also includes a 2.15-kilometre-long tunnel.
  • The altitude difference between the highest and the lowest spots of the highway is as high as 2,892 metres.
  • The highway will reduce the distance between Nyingchi city and Medog from 346 km to 180 km. It will cut the travel time by eight hours.

China’s plan to construct Dam over Brahmaputra

  • Under 14th Five-year Plan, China is going to construct the first downstream hydropower project on the lower reaches of the river Brahmaputra (known as Yarlung Zangpo in Tibet).
  • It is the State-owned hydropower company POWERCHINA signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) Government to implement hydropower exploitation in the downstream of the Yarlung Zangpo river.

Significance of Plan to construct Dam

  • It will be capable to generate hydropower could be three times that of Central China’s Three Gorges Dam, having the largest installed hydropower capacity in the world.
  • It will generate an income of 20 billion yuan (USD three billion) annually for the Tibet Autonomous Region.
  • The 60 million kWh hydropower exploitation could provide 300 billion kWh of clean, renewable and zero-carbon electricity annually.
  • It will help China in meeting its goal of carbon emissions peak before the year 2030 and carbon neutrality till 2060.

Concern for India

  • Brahmaputra is not entirely dependent on upstream flows and an estimated 35% of its basin is in India.
  • The construction of Dam on Brahmaputra river may affect India’s quality of water, ecological balance and flood management.
  • In 2018, an MoU was signed between Ministry of Water Resources of China and India’s Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation on sharing hydrological information of the Brahmaputra river in flood season by China to India.
  • As per the MoU, China will provide hydrological data during the non-flood season if water level exceeds the mutually agreed level.
  • Thus, it is important for China to share genuine data and have a continuous dialogue on several issues related to the warning of droughts, floods and high-water discharges.

Brahmaputra River

  • Brahmaputra river is a perennial river originates from the Chemayungdung glacier of the Kailash range near the Mansarovar lake.
  • It enters in India via U-turn through the west of Sadiya town in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Tributaries of Brahmaputra are: Dibang, Lohit, Siang, Burhi Dihing, Tista, and Dhansari.
  • It has several peculiar characteristics due to its geography and prevailing climatic conditions.
  • It flooded twice annually:
  • One flood is caused by the melting of the Himalayan snow in summer and
  • The other due to the monsoon flows.
  • The frequency of these floods has increased and are devastating due to climate change and its impact on high and low flows.

Competition Commission of India (CCI)

Why in news

Union Ministry of Finance and Corporate Affairs virtually commemorated the 12th Annual Day of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) on 20th May 2021.

Highlights of the meeting

  • The Ministry of Finance stated that the Competition Commission of India should take “extra care” and ensure that no “omission or commission” result in undermining of market processes as businesses look for revival after the pandemic.
  • The CCI has the mandate to ensure fair competition in the market across sectors and also has powers to clamp down on anti-competitive practices.
  • They also stressed on the fact that CCI should be pro-actively taking up a lot of things in order to be “ahead of the curve” as well as make sure that market conditions are kept sacrosanct.
  • The Annual Day commemoration also featured a half day workshop on Competition Law.
  • The workshop had two plenary sessions:
  • first session was on ‘Anti-Trust Enforcement – Section 3 and 4 of the Act and its journey till date’.
  • Second session was titled ‘Merger Regime in India – Our journey in the last ten years and way forward’.

About Competition Commission of India (CCI)

  • Competition Commission of India is the competition regulator in India which was established on 14 October 2003.
  • It was established under the Competition Act, 2002, on 20th May, 2009, when the substantive provisions concerning anti-competitive conduct came into force.
  • It is a statutory body of the Government of India responsible for enforcing the ‘Competition Act, 2002’.
  • It promoting competition throughout India and to prevent activities that have an appreciable adverse effect on competition in India.
  • It became fully functional in May 2009 with Dhanendra Kumar as its first Chairman.

Objectives of Competition Commission of India (CCI)

  • Its vision is to promote and sustain an enabling competition culture through engagement and enforcement that would inspire businesses to be fair, competitive and innovative.
  • It also enhances consumer welfare; and support economic growth.
  • Objectives are:
  • Make the markets work for the benefit and welfare of consumers.
  • Ensure fair and healthy competition in economic activities in the country for faster and inclusive growth and development of the economy.
  • Implement competition policies with an aim to effectuate the most efficient utilization of economic resources.
  • Develop and nurture effective relations and interactions with sectoral regulators to ensure smooth alignment of sectoral regulatory laws in tandem with the competition law.
  • Effectively carry out competition advocacy and spread the information on benefits of competition among all stakeholders to establish and nurture competition culture in Indian economy.