Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 10 December 2022

UN Biodiversity Summit: COP 15

GS Paper -2 (International Organizations and Environment)

Delegates of 196 nations gather for the UN biodiversity summit,chaired by China, referred to as COP15, in Montreal, Canada, to agree on a new biodiversity framework, a crucial moment as the world needs set of goals and targets that will guide action on nature through 2030 with over a million species of animals and plants face extinction because of human activity.

What's at stake at COP15?

  1. It is about the adoption of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, contributing to keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and setting the conditions for reverting the loss of biodiversity by 2050.
  2. The Framework will be the first global framework on biodiversity adopted since the Aichi Biodiversity Targets in 2010.
  3. It provides a strategic vision and a global roadmap for the conservation, protection, restoration and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems for the next decade.

Agenda of COP15

  1. Protecting biodiversity and improving the state of species and habitats in terrestrial, inland water and marine areas.
  2. Fair and equitable sharing of benefits, arising from the utilisation of genetic resources.
  3. Speed up actions, including finances and even stronger mainstreaming of biodiversity into all sectors of policy-making and society.

Issues involved

  1. The Chinese Presidency has not engaged proactively and constructively enough to facilitate reaching a deal, and developed and developing countries remain quite divided, with the issue of finance being at the centre of disputes, as is the case for climate negotiations.
  2. America's absence from the Convention on Biological Diversity hurts global efforts to avert extinction. The US has signed but not ratified the convention.

What's missing at COP15 in Montreal?

  1. There was a strong push from civil society and numerous governments to have a summit with Heads of States at the opening of COP15, that would be either hosted by the Chinese Presidency, the host Canada, or both together.
  2. Due to the reluctance of China and current geopolitical tensions between China and Canada, this did not take place.

How is inclusion of indigenous peoples crucial in COP15?

  1. They make up less than 5 percent of the world's population;they have protected 80 per cent of the earth's biodiversity in the forests, deserts, grasslands and marine environments in which they have lived for centuries.
  2. They are estimated to be protected at least 22 per cent of the world's key biodiversity areas and at least 21 per cent of the world's lands.

COP15 a crucial moment:

  1. The UN Secretary General has warned "we are losing our suicidal war against nature".
  2. We need to urgently halt the devastation of nature, humans have impacted nearly every corner of the planet and the globe approaching planetary boundaries from which it could take millions of years to recover.
  3. The leading scientific panel, Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), has warned millions of species could go extinct unless urgent action is taken.

Protecting biodiversity has certain advantages:

Climate action: 

  1. Nature can help store and sequester carbon emissions.
  2. It's estimated that nature has the cost-effective potential to remove about 11.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year by 2030equivalent to roughly one-third of current annual energy carbon emissions.

Economic prosperity: 

  1. The world's economy relies on nature. $44 trillion of economic generation relies moderately or heavily on nature and would be impacted by its loss.
  2. Around the world, 1.2 billion jobs depend on a healthy natural environment, including forests, fishing and farming.
  3. Forests provide many ecosystem services to people; the total value of intact forests and their services is up to $150 trillion, around double the value of global stock markets.


  1. Biodiversity loss is directly related to the emergence of zoonotic diseases like Covid-19. Scientists suggest that more pandemics are likely unless we protect nature.


Centre stops Maulana Azad scholarship

GS Paper -2 (Welfare schemes)

The Centre has decided to discontinue the Maulana Azad National Fellowship (MANF), a scholarship for students from minority communities that was launched during the UPA regime as part of implementing the Sachar Committee recommendations, from this academic year, 2022-23. As per the data provided by the University Grants Commission (UGC), which had implemented the scheme, about 6,722 candidates were selected under it between 2014-15 and 2021-22 and fellowships to the tune of ₹738.85 crore were distributed during the same period.

Why the discontinuation?

The decision was made since the MANF scheme overlaps with various other fellowship schemes for higher education implemented by the government and minority students already covered under such schemes.

Point of controversy:

  1. All such schemes, except MANF, are open for candidates of all communities including minorities but the data of fellowship distributed among minority students is captured only under the MANF scheme.
  2. With this, a number of researchers will lose their chance to study further, which is injustice to them. It will affect a number of minority students who are not considered as OBC.

About MANF

  1. It is formulated and funded by Ministry of Minority Affairs.
  2. The scheme is open to candidates who belong to one of the Minority Community i.e. Muslim, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist & Christian and wish to pursue higher studies such as regular and full time M.Phil/Ph.D. degrees in Sciences, Humanities, Social Sciences and Engineering & Technology.
  3. There are 756 slots every year for all the subjects. 3% fellowships are reserved for Physically Handicapped candidates belonging to Minority Candidates as per provision laid down by the Government of India.


  1. It is to provide integrated five year fellowships in the form of financial assistance to students from minority communities, as notified by the Central Government to pursue higher studies such as M.Phil and Ph.D.
  2. The scheme will cover all Universities/Institutions recognized by the University Grants Commission (UGC) under section 2(f) & section 3 of the UGC Act, along with those which are not under the purview of UGC and will be implemented by the Ministry of Minority Affairs.
  3. The fellowship under Maulana Azad National Fellowship for Minority Students will be on the pattern of UGC Fellowships awarded to research students pursuing regular and full time M.Phil and Ph.D courses.
  4. The fellowship holders under this scheme will be known as MOMA scholars.


Perseverance rover collects first dust samples

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

NASA’s Perseverance rover bottled up two samples of the Martian surface on 2 December and 6 December 2022, according to the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Unlike the previous samples collected by perseverance, which consisted of rock core, these new samples were taken from a pile of wind-blown sand and dust from a small “dune.” One of these two samples will be considered for deposition on the Martian surface so that they can be returned as part of the Mars Sample Return campaign.


  1. Scientists will study Martian samples returned to Earth with powerful scientific equipment to look for signs of ancient microbial life.
  2. While most of the samples collected will be rock, researchers also want to study Martian regolith (dust.)
  3. Not only will it help them learn about geological processes on the red planet but it will also help mitigate against challenges that astronauts will face when we send a mission to Mars.
  4. The latest dust samples were collected using a drill on Perseverance’s robotic arm but it used a special drill bit that looks like a spike with small holes at one end to collect loose material.
  5. Everything we learn about the size, shape, and chemistry of regolith grains helps us design and test better tools for future missions.

Dusty challenge on Mars

  1. Studying this regolith can help NASA engineers design future Mars missions as well as the equipment required for it.
  2. This regolith is capable of damaging both spacecraft and science instruments. It can jam sensitive components of instruments and slow down rovers on the surface.
  3. Apart from the danger it poses to equipment, it can also cause harm to astronauts. During the Apollo missions, it was found that the regolith on the lunar surface was sharp enough to tear microscopic holes in spacesuits.
  4. The Martian surface is known to contain perchlorate, a toxic chemical that could threaten astronauts’ health if large amounts are inhaled or ingested.
  5. Apart from helping mitigate health and safety concerns, Martian regolith can also hold the key to understanding more about the red planet’s geology.
  6. When observed with a microscope, the dust could reveal a “kaleidoscope of grains” of different shapes and colours.


India's first open-source satellite

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

India's first open-source satellite 'InQube' will be launched this month with the help of Indian Space Agency- ISRO. InQube was developed by Onkar Batra, a 12th-standard student at BSF Senior Secondary School in Jammu. It was prepared under the banner of Paradox Sonic Space Research Agency and will be launched this month with the help of ISRO.


  1. It weighs one kilogram and has been developed with the help of nanotechnology.
  2. In India, the cost for its launch is 20-80 lakhs, while in foreign countries this price goes into crores. Every satellite launched into space has a special mission.
  3. It also has two missions. One is whether such a lightweight satellite can work in space, the other will look at the temperature there to help researchers know what the weather conditions are like and how hard it is if they want to launch a satellite in space.
  4. The country's first privately developed rocket-Vikram-S launched was launched on 18 November by ISRO.
  5. The launch vehicle was named so as a tribute to the father of the Indian Space programme, the late Vikram Sarabhai.
  6. According to Skyroot, the technology architecture of the launch vehicle Vikram offers unique capabilities like multi-orbit insertion, and interplanetary missions, while providing customized, dedicated and ride-share options covering a wide spectrum of small satellite customer needs.

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