Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 16 May 2023

Carbon dating of Gyanvapi ‘Shivling’

GS Paper - 3 (Science)

The Allahabad High Court ordered a “scientific survey”, including carbon dating, of a “Shivling” said to have been found at the Gyanvapi mosque complex in Varanasi after setting aside a lower court order on the issue. The order was passed by Justice Arvind Kumar Mishra. Last year, a court-ordered videographic survey of the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque was completed by a Commission appointed by a local court. During the survey proceedings, a structure – claimed to be a “Shivling” by the Hindu side and a “fountain” by the Muslim side – was found inside the mosque premises.

What is the science behind carbon dating?

  1. Carbon dating is a widely-used method to establish the age of organic materials, things that were once living. Living things have carbon in them in various forms.
  2. The dating method is based on the fact that Carbon-14 (C-14), an isotope of carbon with an atomic mass of 14, is radioactive, and decays at a well known rate. This is how it works:
  3. The most abundant isotope of carbon in the atmosphere is C-12. A very small amount of C-14 is also present. The ratio of C-12 to C-14 in the atmosphere is almost static, and is known.
  4. Plants get their carbon through photosynthesisanimals get it mainly through food. Because plants and animals get their carbon from the atmosphere, they too acquire C-12 and C-14 in roughly the same proportion as is available in the atmosphere.
  5. When they die, their interactions with the atmosphere stop. While C-12 is stable, the radioactive C-14 reduces to one half of itself in about 5,730 years — known as its ‘half-life’.
  6. The changing ratio of C-12 to C-14 in the remains of a plant or animal after it dies can be measured, and can be used to deduce the approximate time when the organism died.

What about non-living things?

  1. Though extremely effective, carbon dating cannot be applied in all circumstances. It cannot be used to determine the age of non-living things like rocks, for example.
  2. Also, the age of things that are more than 40,000-50,000 years old cannot be arrived at through carbon dating.
  3. This is because after 8-10 cycles of half-lives, the amount of C-14 becomes almost very small and is almost undetectable.
  4. But there are other methods to calculate the age of inanimate things, many of which are based on the same principle as carbon dating.
  5. So, instead of carbon, decays of other radioactive elements that might be present in the material become the basis for the dating method.
  6. These are known as radiometric dating methods. Many of these involve elements with half-lives of billions of years, which enable scientists to reliably estimate the age of very old objects.
  7. Two commonly employed methods for dating rocks are potassium-argon dating and uranium-thorium-lead dating.


Sea levels rise and land reclamation

GS Paper -3 (Climate)

Land reclamation will continue to be a solution for many countries around the world to address its more pressing needs for increased development and urbanization, balancing economy and ecology. People have been reclaiming land from the sea for centuries, to control flooding and make more space for agriculture and coastal industries.

Land reclamation ‘a global-scale phenomenon’:

  1. It meant building a series of dikes to enclose tidal marshes or shallow offshore waters and draining these enclosures to create dry land.
  2. Netherlands, where around, one-third of the country, is below sea level and must be artificially drained to keep out the North Sea.
  3. The increased economic importance of coastal zones, especially in East Asia, the Middle East and West Africa, has spurred a rush to stake a claim in this new land for luxury residential, upscale commercial and industrial space.
  4. Major engineering projects now involve the construction of kilometers of offshore concrete barrier walls, which are filled with substantial amounts of sand, earth, clay or rock, often shipped in from far afield.
  5. The reclamation site can also be filled with dredged soil from the nearby seafloor mixed with water, in a process known as hydraulic reclamation.
  6. According to a study published in the journal Earth’s Future, which examined satellite imagery of coastal cities with a population of at least 1 million, found that reclamation projects in 106 cities around the world had altogether created around 2,530 square kilometers (more than 900 square miles) of coastal land, an area roughly the size of Luxembourg.

China leads the way in creating new land:

  1. Nearly 90% of that land was created in East Asia, most often to make way for industry and port facilities catering to the globalized economy.
  2. From 2000 to 2020Shanghai alone added around 350 square kilometers, with Singapore and Incheon, in South Korea, also raising vast new areas.

Challenges associated with new land reclamation:

  1. The reclamation projects didn’t really take into account the risk posed by rising seas levels linked to climate change.
  2. The Earth’s Future study showed that most coastal land expansion in the past couple of decades happened in low-lying areas, with more than 70% of that land “at high risk from coastal flooding between 2046 and 2100.
  3. Coastal reclamation is a costly engineering practice, economically, socially, and ecologically,” it requires billions of dollars disrupt local communities and livelihoods and permanently damage the marine ecosystemsto create new land of several meters in altitude, which would only last several decades.

To overcome the challenges associated:

  1. The cities include “future-ready” reclamation techniques such as seawalls and breakwaters, as well as reinforcing and elevating existing coastal defences.
  2. Also sloped seawalls could also add rock armor, also known as riprap, large rocks or concrete blocks used to prevent erosion by dispelling wave energy.


India, EFTA trade pact

GS Paper -2 (International Relations)

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal has said that a free trade agreement between India and four-nation bloc EFTA will help enhance two-way commerce, investment flows, job creation and economic growth.

About EFTA:

  1. EFTA countries are not part of the European Union (EU).
  2. EFTA is an inter-governmental organisation for the promotion and intensification of free trade. It was founded as an alternative for states that did not wish to join the European Community.
  1. India is 9th largest trading partner of EFTA; it is around 2.5% of India's total merchandise trade in 2020-21.

Objectives of agreement:

  1. Under it, discussion based on modalities of engagement for working towards a comprehensive Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA) with representatives of European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
  2. It said the delegations agreed to ramp up their efforts and continue discussions at a steady pace, with several more meetings planned over the coming months, to arrive at a common understanding on critical issues pertaining to TEPA.
  3. Under it, both sides emphasised on the importance of building their discussions on principles of trust and respect for each other’s sensitivities to achieve a fair, equitable and balanced agreement.

Significance of the agreement:

  1. It could bring significant economic benefitssuch as integrated and resilient supply chains and new opportunities for businesses and individuals on both sides leading to increased trade and investment flows, job creation, and economic growth.
  2. Under such pacts, two trading partners significantly reduce or eliminate customs duties on the maximum number of goods traded between them, besides easing norms to promote trade in services and investments.


Meri  LiFE App launched

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

To catalyze youth action for climate change as a build up to June 5, World Environment Day, the Union Minister for Environment, Forest, and Climate Change launched a mobile application, called “Meri LiFE” (My life).

More about News:

  • The Ministry has developed two dedicated portals for LiFE, in order to create a structured reporting format that can track the progress being made on LiFE.
  • The Mission LiFE Portal ( is open access and can be used to download the 100+ creatives, videos, and knowledge materials that have been developed by the ministry for LiFE.
  • The Meri LiFE Portal ( has been developed for ministries and institutions to upload event reports and capture the progress of the mass mobilisation drive.

About the Meri LiFE App:

  • This app is inspired by the concept of LiFE, envisioned by the Prime Minister at COP 26, which emphasizes mindful and deliberate utilization instead of mindless and wasteful consumption.
  • this app will showcase the power of citizens, especially young people in saving the environment.
  • Through this app, simple actions in daily lives can have a larger climate impact. The portal and app together drive a national movement for LiFE.

Mission LiFE:

  • Mission LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) was launched by The Prime Minister on 20 October 2022 at Kevadia, Gujarat and focuses on bringing about behaviour changes in individuals through simple easy to do actions.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is the nodal ministry for national-level coordination and implementation of Mission LiFE.
  • As part of their implementation efforts, the Ministry has mobilized Central Ministries, State Governments, Institutions, and private organizations to align their activities with LiFE and spread awareness about the sustainable actions that individuals can undertake.
  • In order to further catalyze pan-India advocacy and awareness about LiFE, a month-long mass mobilisation drive is currently underway and will culminate on 5 June 2023 in a mega celebration of World Environment Day.

About World Environment Day:

  • World Environment Day is a global platform for inspiring positive change.
  • People from more than 150 countries participate in this United Nations international day, which celebrates environmental action and the power of governments, businesses and individuals to create a more sustainable world.
  • The event has been led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) since its inception in 1973.
  • The theme for this year is “Solutions to Plastic Pollution”, a topic which aligns with one of the 7 themes of Mission LiFE: “Reducing the use of single-use plastic items”.

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