15, February 2017

1.Ninth Phase of Science Express to Criss-Cross India – Ministry of Environment and Forests

Source: PIB

Science Express Climate Action Special (SECAS II)

  • SECAS II will be flagged off on February 17 at 11 a.m from Safdarjung Railway station in Delhi.
  • The SECAS II is a unique collaborative initiative of Department of Science & Technology (DST), Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Railways and Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre (VASCSC).

Key facts:

  • Science Express, redesigned as SECAS, intends to contribute towards increasing understanding of the science of climate change, the observed and anticipated impacts, and different possible responses.
  • During its journey, the Science Express will cover over 19, 000 km, and will be exhibited at 68 stations across 20 states of the country. During this seven month journey, SECAS will roll into Tripura for the first time.

Science Express:

  • Science Express, redesigned as SECAS, intends to contribute towards increasing understanding of the science of climate change, the observed and anticipated impacts, and different possible responses.
  • It is an innovative mobile science exhibition mounted on a 16 coach AC train, which has been custom-built for Department of Science & Technology (DST) by Indian Railways.
  • This unique mobile exhibition was first launched in October 2007 by DST. Since then it has travelled across India eight times.
  • Science Express has become the largest, the longest running and the most visited mobile science exhibition. It has six entries in the Limca Book of Records.
  • The exhibition will convey a message about Climate Change and will also be a good opportunity to generate a dialogue and discussion. The state-of-the-art exhibition on board the SECAS aims to create awareness among various sections of society, as to how climate change can be combated through mitigation and adaptation.

Some of the broad themes of the coaches include – Underlying reasons for climate change, with a key message that the present change in the climate is due to human activities; international negotiations for climate change and focus on concept of lifestyle choices on what one can do to “Increase the Handprint and decrease your Footprint”.

Background:

  • Climate Change is an important environmental issue, with many short-term and long-term impacts.
  • From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impact of climate change are not just global in scope and unprecedented in scale, but they also severely affect more, the poor and marginalized people. However, there is very little understanding about climate change and its impact.

The central aim of the Paris Agreement is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change and to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

2.‘India’s air pollution rivals China’s as world’s deadliest’

Source: The Hindu

Report from U.S.-based health institute points to fine particulate matter as cause for rise in premature deaths

  • India’s air now rivals China’s as the world’s deadliest, according to a new study amid warnings that efforts to curb pollution.
  • India’s notoriously poor air quality causes nearly 1.1 million premature deaths every year, almost on a par with China, concluded a joint report by two U.S.-based health research institutes.
  • The report by the Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Key facts:

  • whereas deaths linked to air pollution in China have steadied in recent years, the rate has soared in India where smog readings in major cities routinely eclipse safe exposure levels.
  • The greatest effect on health is from particles 2.5 microns or less in diameter. Exposure to fine particulate matter has been associated with hospital admissions and several serious health effects, including premature death.
  • India has recorded a nearly 50% increase in premature deaths linked to fine airborne particles known as PM2.5 between 1990 and 2015, the report found.
  • These microscopic particles are so light they float on air and lodge deep in the lungs, and have been linked to higher rates of lung cancer, chronic bronchitis and heart disease.
  • India now approaches China in the number of deaths attributable to PM2.5, Together, the two Asian giants accounted for more than half of all global deaths related to PM2.5 exposure.
  • India has undergone a rapid economic transformation in the past two decades but burning coal for energy and torching farmland to plant new crops has seen pollution rocket.
  • India and neighbouring Bangladesh have experienced the steepest increases in pollution since 2010 and now have the highest PM2.5 concentrations in the world.
  • Experts blamed lack of proactive policies for the rising air pollution.

A health emergency was declared in New Delhi as the concentration of PM2.5 went off the charts into hazardous territory.

Way ahead:

Effort needs to be done to address the adverse impacts of air pollution in India.

PM 2.5

PM2.5 material is primarily formed from chemical reactions in the atmosphere and through fuel combustion (e.g., motor vehicles, power generation, industrial facilities, residential fire places, wood stoves and agricultural burning).

  • Particulate matter is the general term used for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air. It includes aerosols, smoke, fumes, dust, ash and pollen. The composition of particulate matter varies with place, season and weather conditions.
  • 5 in Ontario is largely made up of sulphate and nitrate particles, elemental and organic carbon and soil.
  • Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is an air pollutant that is a concern for people’s health when levels in air are high. PM2.5 are tiny particles in the air that reduce visibility and cause the air to appear hazy when levels are elevated. Outdoor PM2.5 levels are most likely to be elevated on days with little or no wind or air mixing. PM2.5 concentrations in outdoor air are expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups.

pm 2.5

3.FSSAI constitutes panel to identify nutritional gaps- Ministries of health

Source: Indian Express

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has constituted a panel to identify critical nutritional gaps in the Indian diet in general and also in specific specific target groups.

Key facts:

  • The Panel will identify critical nutritional gaps in the Indian diet in general as well as in specific target groups based on diet surveys and credible scientific evidence.
  • It will define strategies to address nutritional needs of the general population and vulnerable groups, and review the standards for all suitable food fortifying vehicles, in addition to the healthy dietary intake of Fat, Sugar & Salt.
  • It will also address regulatory and related technological issues, review proposals from industry using modern risk assessment methods, and prescribe standard sampling and test methods for effective monitoring, surveillance and enforcement of the relevant regulations.

Issues:

  • Ministries of health, women and child development, biotechnology department and Indian Council of Medical Research will also be working with the panel.
  • According to National Family Health Survey (2006-07) and the World Bank (2006), about 70 per cent preschool children suffer from iron deficiency anemia. As many as 57 per cent preschool children have sub-clinical vitamin A deficiency.
  • World Bank (2006) figures say Iodine deficiency is endemic in 85 per cent of districts.
  • Folate deficiency leads to Neural Tube Defects, the most common congenital malformation in India with an incidence that varies between 0.5-8/1,000 births. It is estimated that 50-70 per cent of these birth defects are preventable. To deal with endemic nutritional deficiencies, FSSAI has launched the Food Fortification Resource Centre to promote large-scale fortification of food across India.

Food Fortification Logo: FSSAI has also unveiled a Logo for fortified foods which may be used by food businesses. This Logo comprises of a square encompassing an F with a ‘+’ sign with a ring around it which signifies the addition of extra nutrition and vitamins to daily meals to provide good health, protection and an active life.

Food Fortification:

Fortification means bolstering the nutritional content of a food product by increasing essential micronutrients such as minerals and vitamins.

Fortification is adding vitamins and minerals to foods to prevent nutritional deficiencies. The nutrients regularly used in grain fortification prevent diseases, strengthen immune systems, and improve productivity and cognitive development.

Wheat flour, maize flour, and rice are primarily fortified to:

  1. Prevent nutritional anemia
  2. Prevent neural tube birth defects
  3. Increased productivity
  4. Improve economic progress

The FSSAI has also issued draft guidelines for five fortified products — rice, wheat, salt, flour, milk and edible oil.

Fortification of Food

Five categories of staple foods and micronutrients under focus were:

  • Wheat flour-Iron, Folic acid , Zinc, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pyridoxine
  • Rice-Iron, Folic acid, Zinc, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pyridoxine
  • Milk-Vitamin A and Vitamin D
  • Oil-Vitamin A and Vitamin D
  • Salt-Iodine or double fortified with Iodine and Iron

Background:

Food fortification: Opinion of certifying the salience of fortified foods to combat malnutrition.

  • The first documented evidence of food fortification was in the early 1900s in the US when vitamin B3 was added to coarsely ground corn — the staple of the poor in the country — to help combat the rise of pellagra, a disease caused by the deficiency of this vitamin.
  • In Britain, after the First World War, the government ordered vitamins A and D to be added to margarine because butter had become a scarce commodity in the country.
  • In India, food fortification began in the early 1960s when iodine was added to salt to combat goiter. But while the UK and the US and many other countries have stringent standards on food fortification, India has been slow to get its act together.

The FSSAI’s indecisiveness is especially troubling in view of the government’s recent emphasis on fortified food

  • Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare announced that fortified food would be a key element in the government’s fight against malnutrition.
  • Programmes such as the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Scheme and the Public Distribution System would be mandated to buy and distribute fortified food.

In a country where the unorganised sector plays a significant role in production, processing and packaging of food products, stringent standards are an elementary first step. It is unfortunate that the FSSAI has not been pro-active on the matter.

Support: Fortification as part of a country’s nutrition strategy is supported by global organizations such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the Micronutrient Initiative (MI). For the latest evidence and guidance on nutrition interventions, see the WHO e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA).

  1. Thubber for use in soft, stretchable electronics

Source: The Hindu

In a breakthrough for creating soft, stretchable machines and electronics, scientists have developed a novel rubber material with high thermal conductivity and elasticity.

  • The material, nicknamed ‘thubber’, is an electrically insulating composite that exhibits an unprecedented combination of metal-like thermal conductivity, elasticity similar to soft, biological tissue, and can stretch over six times its initial length.
  • The key ingredient in “thubber” is a suspension of non-toxic, liquid metal micro-droplets.
  • The liquid state allows the metal to deform with the surrounding rubber at room temperature. When the rubber is pre-stretched, the droplets form elongated pathways that are efficient for heat travel.

Utilization:

  • This material can be used in applications such as wearable computing and soft robotics, which require mechanical compliance and stretchable functionality.
  • Applications could extend to industries like athletic wear and sports medicine — think of lighted clothing for runners and heated garments for injury therapy.
  • Advanced manufacturing, energy, and transportation are other areas where stretchable electronic material could have an impact.

4.ISRO launches record 104 satellites at Sriharikota

Source: The Hindu

Its first multi-satellite payload of three to a 104. However is also not the first time that the PSLV has carried multiple satellites — it has achieved this feat 18 times. Before 104, PSLV’s personal payload record was in June 2016 when it carried 20 satellites to space at once.

  • The first time it carried a multiple satellite payload was in 1999, when a satellite each of South Korea and Germany along with an Indian satellite.
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched a record 104 satellites into space on a single rocket from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

Significance

  • With the successful launch, India did something no country has done before. Its launch of 104 satellites from a single rocket was a world record most satellites launched at the same time from a single rocket.
  • The country that comes second to us in this aspect is Russia, who is far behind with a maximum of 37 satellite launches from a single rocket.
  • The PSLV is responsible for putting a whole range of Indian satellites in orbit — like the advanced weather satellite SCATSAT-1.
  • Of the 3 Indian satellites it carried, one was Cartosat-2 — ISRO’s own earth imaging spacecraft — which is capable of advanced remote sensing and “providing scene-specific spot imageries for cartographic applications.
  • The two Indian nano-satellites are ISRO’s INS-1A and INS-1B.

Key facts:

  • Of the total earth-observation satellites, three are Indian, 88 are from the US and the rest from Germany, Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.
  • This PSLV-XL rocket launch is ISRO’s 15th space mission. ISRO has a very impressive success arte in terms of space programmes as it hasn’t failed even since 2010. The XL version of the PSLV was earlier used in India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) after it had debuted in 2008 in India’s first attempt to raech moon, Chandrayan-I.
  • India had earlier made a national record in June 2016 after it had succesfully rocketed 20 satellites at one go, including 13 from the United States of America.
  • ISRO today beat the record held by Russia, which in 2014 catapulted 37 satellites in a single launch, using a modified inter-continental ballistic missile.

5.Muziris Heritage Project set to turn over a new leaf

Source: The Hindu

The uniquely ambitious Muziris Heritage Project (MHP), which seeks to link up heritage sites, restore monuments and community spaces along the riparian North Paravur, Chendamangalam, Chittattinkara, Vadakkekara, Pallippuram, Kodungalloor, Mathilakam, Eriyad and Methala and liven them up with community-based projects and cultural shows from the region, is on the cusp of being revitalised and fast-tracked by the Kerala State Tourism Department.

  • As a first step, a working team of project consultants and officials is visiting the Muziris region, putting to technical scrutiny each site that’s up and running for upgrade as originally envisaged, besides surveying new sites for making it a participatory conservation tourism initiative with renewed thrust on cultural research and learning.

The Muziris heritage Project utilizes at a global level the possibilities of a region, which lost its glory centuries ago. Muziris is an ancient port town in little Kerala still holds a kind of beauty that is filled with history and culture.

6.Kalimpong is Bengal’s 21st district

Source: The Hindu

  • The Kalimpong subdivision of the Darjeeling hills became the 21st district of West Bengal.
  • Kalimpong was once known for the Silk Route that passed through the region, connecting Nepal and Bhutan with the city.

7.MoU signed between Publications Division and Sasta Sahitya Mandal for Joint Publication of books

Source: PIB

Publications Division, a Media Unit under Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and Sasta Sahitya Mandal (SSM) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for joint publication of books on heroes of freedom struggle, cultural leaders and other eminent personalities who worked towards Nation development.

Sasta Sahitya Mandal

  • SSM is a Trust established by Mahatma Gandhi in 1925 and mandated to promote, develop and publish high class literature in Hindi and to make it available to the public at affordable prices.
  • Since its inception SSM has brought out more than 2500 titles on Indian culture, heritage, Indian epics, & stories and has created a huge corpus of children literature to infuse in them the values of life and love for the nation and humanity.

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