Table of Contents
1. EUCLID SPACE TELESCOPE
TAG: GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
THE CONTEXT: Recently, European astronomers released the first images from the newly launched Euclid space telescope which is designed to unlock the secrets of dark matter and dark energy.
- Images released include irregular galaxies and a spiral formation resembling the Milky Way, shedding light on celestial formations and background galaxies.
EUCLID SPACE TELESCOPE MISSION OVERVIEW
- The Euclid telescope is a joint effort by the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.
- It is designed to explore the hidden aspects of the universe, specifically dark matter and dark energy, which are estimated to constitute about 95% of the cosmos.
- Initial Images:
- The released images are said to be the sharpest of their kind, showcasing the telescope’s capability to observe billions of galaxies located up to 10 billion light-years away.
- Target Areas:
- The captured images spanned various regions of the nearby universe, including the Perseus cluster, which contains around 1,000 galaxies, and over 100,000 galaxies spread across the background.
DARK MATTER AND DARK ENERGY
- Dark Matter’s Influence:
- Scientists believe that structures like the Perseus cluster could only have formed if dark matter exists.
- This unseen matter’s gravitational pull is considered responsible for organizing galaxies and impacting their rotational speeds.
- Dark Energy Enigma:
- Dark energy, a hypothetical force, was postulated in the 1990s based on observations of supernovas.
- It’s thought to be driving the acceleration of the universe’s expansion, a groundbreaking discovery that contrasts with earlier beliefs.
EUCLID’S MISSION GOALS
- Mapping the Universe:
- Euclid aims to construct a 3D map covering a significant portion of the sky.
- By detecting subtle variations attributable to dark matter and dark energy, the mission intends to enhance understanding of galaxy formation and distribution within the cosmic web.
- Exploring the Dark Sector:
- By probing deeper into the dark sector of the universe, the mission hopes to uncover insights that current ground and space missions have been unable to achieve.
TECHNICAL ASPECTS AND CHALLENGES
- Teething Problems:
- Euclid faced initial technical issues, including stray light and guidance problems, which the team has been addressing.
- Mission Duration:
- The six-year mission, launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, aims to collect data for an extended period, although there’s hope for an additional six months’ worth of operational life due to extra propellant.
SIGNIFICANCE AND FUTURE PROSPECTS
- Scientific Implications:
- Understanding dark matter and dark energy could revolutionize our comprehension of cosmic structures and the universe’s evolution.
- Dependency on Launches:
- The mission faced challenges due to geopolitical tensions, shifting from a planned launch on a Russian Soyuz rocket to the SpaceX Falcon 9 due to strained relations.
- Euclid’s Potential:
- The successful initial imaging by the Euclid telescope marks a significant step in exploring the unknown realms of the universe, shedding light on the enigmatic aspects of dark matter and dark energy.
- It emphasizes the groundbreaking nature of the Euclid mission in unraveling the mysteries of the vast, unseen universe and how its findings could reshape our understanding of cosmic evolution.
2. PM-KISAN BHAI
TAG: GS 2: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
THE CONTEXT: A new scheme called PM-Kisan Bhai will soon be launched by the Government of India.
OBJECTIVES OF PM-KISAN BHAI SCHEME:
- Empowering Farmers:
- The scheme intends to empower farmers, particularly small and marginal ones.
- It aims to ease the facilities for the farmers who face difficulties storing their produce post-harvest due to capacity constraints and dependence on traders for selling crops at prevailing market prices.
- Breaking Trader Monopoly:
- It seeks to break the monopoly of traders who often dictate prices, especially during the harvesting season, compelling farmers to sell their crops quickly, often at lower rates.
FEATURES AND COMPONENTS OF THE SCHEME:
- Pilot Launch:
- The scheme will likely commence on a pilot basis in specific states—Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh.
- It is estimated to cost around ₹170 crore over three years, including the current fiscal year.
- Incentives and Components:
- The scheme comprises two main components—Warehousing Rental Subsidy (WRS) and Prompt Repayment Incentive (PRI).
- Warehousing Rental Subsidy (WRS):
- Farmers and Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) will receive a storage incentive of ₹4 per quintal per month, capped at a maximum period of three months.
- This subsidy aims to encourage storing crops in scientifically built warehouses.
- Prompt Repayment Incentive (PRI):
- It proposes a 3% additional interest subvention under the Kisan Credit Card (KCC) scheme.
- It allows the farmers to pledge their produce and obtain loans at subsidized rates for three months.
- Warehousing Rental Subsidy (WRS):
- The scheme comprises two main components—Warehousing Rental Subsidy (WRS) and Prompt Repayment Incentive (PRI).
POTENTIAL IMPACT AND CHALLENGES:
- Farmers’ Autonomy:
- The scheme intends to provide farmers with the autonomy to store their produce and sell it strategically, rather than being compelled to liquidate during the harvesting season.
- Trade via e-NAM:
- The initiative encourages trade through online platforms like e-National Agriculture Market (e-NAM), facilitating access to a broader buyer base across the country.
- Dependence on Buyers:
- However, there’s a cautionary note regarding the scheme’s effectiveness, as its success depends on buyer response.
- Buyers’ engagement via online platforms will be crucial; if not adequately involved, farmers might still rely on traditional market yards (mandis).
- An agriculture expert highlights concerns about the scheme potentially transferring power to stockists by limiting incentives after three months, impacting farmers’ control over pricing during festival seasons.
- A commodity market analyst emphasizes the scheme’s dependency on buyers’ response.
- The success of the scheme in enabling farmers as decision-makers hinges on buyers’ interest in purchasing through online portals.
- The PM-Kisan Bhai scheme endeavors to offer support to small and marginal farmers by providing incentives for storing produce and facilitating better selling opportunities.
- However, its effectiveness and impact will heavily rely on buyer engagement through online platforms, along with addressing potential challenges in the agricultural supply chain.
3. GLOBAL TB REPORT 2023
TAG: GS 2: GOVERNANCE, GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
THE CONTEXT: According to the recently released Global TB Report 2023 by the World Health Organisation, India accounts for 27 per cent of the total TB cases in the world.
TB CASES AND MORTALITY IN INDIA:
- Incidence Rate:
- India continues to bear a significant burden of TB globally, accounting for 27% of total TB cases worldwide.
- Positive Trends:
- India witnessed an increase in reported TB cases, surpassing pre-pandemic levels in 2022, reaching 24.2 lakh cases.
- Treatment coverage also increased to 80%, showcasing improved access to care.
- Mortality Drop:
- A significant reduction in TB-related deaths in India was noted in the 2023 report.
- The shift in mortality calculation methodology, using India’s Sample Registration System dataset, led to a decline in TB mortality from 4.94 lakhs in 2021 to 3.31 lakhs in 2022.
- This resulted in India’s contribution to global TB mortality dropping from 36% to 26%.
DATA REVISIONS AND RECOGNITION:
- Revised Data:
- The Union Health Ministry provided newer evidence, including in-country mathematical modeling and data from the government’s Ni-Kshay portal, leading to a change in mortality estimates.
- The WHO accepted and appreciated these efforts, acknowledging the revised estimates in the 2023 report.
- Improved Reporting:
- India’s efforts in reporting TB cases were recognized, with the country being the only one among its peers to conduct a National TB prevalence survey, which provided key inputs to estimate TB incidence in India.
TB TREATMENT COVERAGE AND INITIATIVES:
- Treatment Coverage:
- India witnessed a 19% increase in TB treatment coverage, reaching more than 80%.
- This accomplishment positioned India among only four countries out of the 30 high-burden countries globally that achieved over 80% treatment coverage.
- The Indian government implemented various initiatives toward TB elimination, including active case finding, molecular testing, screening services at health and wellness centers, engagement of the private sector, and additional nutritional support for TB patients through programs like Nikshay Mitra.
TB ELIMINATION TARGETS AND CHALLENGES:
- India’s Targets:
- India aims to eliminate TB by 2025, setting ambitious goals in the National Strategic Plan 2017-2025, aiming for no more than 44 new TB cases per lakh population.
- However, the reported incidence stands at 199 cases per lakh population in 2023.
- Mortality Target:
- India aims to reduce TB-related mortality to 3 deaths per lakh population by 2025.
- Although the current figure remains higher at 23 per lakh population, even after the revised estimates.
- Meeting Targets:
- Achieving India’s ambitious targets for TB elimination by 2025 appears challenging, given the current incidence rates and mortality figures compared to the set benchmarks.
- While India has made significant strides in reporting, treatment coverage, and data accuracy regarding TB, achieving the elimination targets by 2025 remains a formidable challenge.
- The revisions in mortality estimates reflect efforts toward refining data accuracy, but the country still faces a substantial burden of TB cases and related mortality.
- Continuing and enhancing current initiatives will be crucial in combating this public health issue.
4. EARTHQUAKE IN ICELAND
TAG: GS 1: GEOGRAPHY
THE CONTEXT: Iceland experienced a swarm of earthquakes, a sequence of around 800 earthquakes within 14 hours on the Reykjanes peninsula. This was followed by a total of over 24,000 recorded earthquakes since late October, with the most powerful quake registering a magnitude of 5.2.
SEISMIC ACTIVITY AND VOLCANIC ERUPTION LIKELIHOOD:
- Recent Earthquakes:
- A series of earthquakes, including a swarm of 800 quakes within 14 hours, hit Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula, followed by about 1,400 quakes within 24 hours.
- This was followed by a total of over 24,000 recorded earthquakes since late October, with the most powerful quake registering a magnitude of 5.2.
- Volcanic Precursors:
- Such seismic activities concern precursors to potential volcanic eruptions, especially when they involve a swarm of earthquakes without a clear main shock.
- Geological Context:
- Iceland’s location on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, makes it prone to seismic activity and volcanic eruptions.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EARTHQUAKES AND VOLCANIC ACTIVITY:
- Magma Movement and Earthquakes:
- The movement of magma beneath the Earth’s surface exerts pressure on surrounding rocks, leading to earthquake swarms.
- As magma approaches the surface, the likelihood of an eruption increases, correlating with increased seismic activities.
POTENTIAL ERUPTION SITE AND TIMELINES:
- Fagradalsfjall Volcano:
- This area, about 40 km southwest of Reykjavík, has been active recently (in 2021, 2022, and 2023) and is the focus of current seismic activity.
- The Icelandic Met Office noted significant magma movement in an area extending from Sundhnjúkagígum towards Grindavík, posing a serious volcanic hazard.
- Imminent Eruption:
- The magma, at its shallowest depth just north of Grindavík, is approximately 800 meters below the Earth’s surface.
- The IMO suggested a potential eruption could occur in a matter of days, with Grindavík, a nearby town, being evacuated as a precaution.
ACTIVE VOLCANO COUNT IN ICELAND:
- Iceland’s Active Volcanoes:
- The country hosts 33 active volcanoes that have erupted more than 180 times in the past millennium.
- Active volcanoes are those that have erupted within the Holocene or have the potential to erupt in the future.
- Notable Volcanoes:
- Eyjafjallajökull, Hekla, Grímsvötn, Hóluhraun, and Litli-Hrútur (part of the Fagradalsfjall system) are among Iceland’s famous active volcanoes.
- Historical Context:
- Eyjafjallajökull’s 2010 eruption caused a massive ash cloud that disrupted air travel across Europe for weeks, resulting in substantial economic damage.
5. TOWARDS ELIMINATING PLASTIC POLLUTION BY 2040: A POLICY SCENARIO ANALYSIS
TAG: GS 3: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT
THE CONTEXT: As per a new interim report released by the intergovernmental organisation “Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)”- 21 million tonnes (MT) of plastics leaked into the environment globally in 2022.
- The report was released on November 11, 2023, two days before the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC3).
- Theme of the report was “Towards Eliminating Plastic Pollution by 2040: A Policy Scenario Analysis”.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE REPORT:
- Plastic Leakage Statistics:
- The report reveals that in 2022, a staggering 21 million tonnes (MT) of plastics leaked into the environment globally.
- It highlights the concerning environmental impact caused by plastic waste, especially in aquatic environments.
- Policy Scenario Analysis:
- The report outlines various policy scenarios to tackle plastic pollution, emphasizing the need for comprehensive actions across the entire lifecycle of plastics.
- It discusses the potential benefits of these actions and the costs associated with delayed or limited measures.
- Baseline Scenario:
- If no significant action is taken to curb plastic production and leakage, the report predicts a 50% increase in plastic leakage by 2040.
- It will result into about 30 MT of plastic entering the environment, with adverse consequences for the environment, climate, and health.
- Impact of Policy Actions:
- The report suggests that ambitious, coordinated policy actions could significantly reduce plastic waste generation by a quarter below baseline levels by 2040, virtually eliminating mismanaged waste and reducing plastic leakage.
- Cost of Action vs. Inaction:
- It highlights that while ambitious policy action might cost 0.5% of global GDP in 2040.
- The costs of inaction would have longer-term societal and environmental repercussions.
- It emphasizes the need for a comprehensive approach to limit transition costs.
- Challenges and Investment Needs:
- The report acknowledges technical and economic barriers to eliminating plastic leakage by 2040.
- It emphasizes the need for significant investments (over $1 trillion) in waste management systems for non-OECD countries.
- International Cooperation:
- The report recognizes the uneven distribution of costs and investment needs.
- It also stresses the importance of international cooperation to address plastic pollution effectively.
- Call for Evidence-Based Decision-making:
- OECD’s Environment Director highlighted the need for further evidence to inform decision-making, especially concerning the negotiations for an international, legally binding treaty on plastic pollution.
- Policy Scenarios:
- The report presents a comprehensive policy scenario package that, if implemented, could nearly eliminate plastic pollution by 2040, necessitating increased investments and international cooperation.
- The detailed analysis of the report emphasizes the urgency of addressing plastic pollution and the dire consequences of inaction.
- It underscores the necessity for concerted efforts, international collaboration, increased investments, and ambitious policy actions across the lifecycle of plastics.
- It focuses on mitigation of the growing threat of plastic pollution to the environment, economies, and human well-being.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):
- It is an international organisation of 38 countries committed to democracy and the market economy.
- OECD members are typically democratic countries that support free-market economies.
- The OECD was established on Dec. 14, 1960, by 18 European nations, plus the United States and Canada.
- Headquarters: Paris, France.
- The stated goal of OECD is to shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity and well-being for all.
- The OECD publishes economic reports, statistical databases, analyses, and forecasts on the outlook for economic growth worldwide.
- The organization also seeksto eliminate bribery and other financial crime worldwide.
- The OECD maintains a so-called “black list” of nations that are considered uncooperative tax havens.
- India is one of the many non-member economies with which the OECD has working relationships in addition to its member countries.