Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 28 September 2023

Geospatial intelligence protect humanity

GS Paper - 3 (Science and Technology)

With record-breaking temperatures across the South, smoke from Canadian wildfires across the Northhistoric flooding in the Northeast and a powerful hurricane in the Southeast, the summer of 2023 has presented a range of threats to the safety of the majority of Americans. The good news, through all of this: Geospatial intelligence has offered valuable insights to help governments and organizations protect communities.

What is Geospatial intelligence?

  • Geospatial intelligence is the collection and integration of data from a network of technologies, including satellitesmobile sensorsground-control stations and aerial images.
  • The data is used to produce real-time maps and simulations to help identify when, where and to what extent a threat is likely to emerge.
  • Government officialsindividuals or both can use this information to make informed decisions.

Benefit of Geospatial intelligence

  • One long-standing contribution of geospatial intelligence is in emergency preparedness and response.
  • For example, the National Hurricane Center actively monitors the locationformation and trajectory of tropical cyclones.
  • Detailed information on the timing, location and strength of a given hurricane helps officials distribute resources and personnel, as well as issue storm warnings and evacuation orders.
  • Geospatial intelligence also provides valuable guidance for search-and-rescue and recovery efforts following a disaster.
  • Another use of geospatial intelligence is environmental monitoring. A stable environment is essential for human health and security.
  • Monitoring temperatureprecipitationsnowpack and polar ice helps scientists and government officials anticipate and prepare for potential disturbances.
  • The Russian-Ukraine war is another area where geospatial intelligence has made contributionsMaxar Technologies, a commercial satellite imagery company, was the first to report the 40-mile-long convoy of Russian ground forces heading toward Kyiv in February 2022.
  • Another use of geospatial intelligence is in transportationlogistics and global supply chains. The global economy runs on GPS, which generates spatial data. GPS provides governments, businesses and people with detailed information on the time, location and destination of ships and cargo. This leads to greater efficiency and more consistent and reliable operations.
  • Geospatial intelligence is also helping with the rollout of autonomous vehicles. Using high-resolution imagery of about a foot (30 cm) per pixelcity planners and engineers are able to detect markings and features on the ground such as bicycle lanes and traffic direction. These advances help planners build safer, smarter, more efficient and better-connected communities.

House panel report on ASI protected monuments

GS Paper - 1 (Art and culture)

Claiming that many of the 3,691 centrally protected monuments (CMP) in India are “minor” monuments, a parliamentary committee has recommended that the list should be “rationalised and categorised” on the basis of their national significance, unique architectural and heritage value. Besides, it has also raised questions about the functioning of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the custodian of all CPMs in India, in terms of its administrationsecurityrestoration work and general upkeep of heritage sites.

More about the recommendation

  • The panel – headed by YSRCP’s Rajya Sabha MP V Vijaisai Reddy, with more than a dozen MPs across political parties as its members – has made several recommendations in this regard. Here’s what is says:
  • The recommendations are part of the ‘359th Report on the Functioning of Archaeological Survey of India’ by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, which was presented to Parliament recently.
  • During its tenure, the committee held four meetings, with the Ministry of Culture and the Administrative Head of ASI, and with NGOs Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in August.
  • The panel also undertook on-the-spot study visits to Mumbai and Bekal and held meetings with the representatives of the Ministry of CultureASI, and the state governments of Maharashtra and Kerala respectively.

Pruning the list of protected monuments

  • The committee said the list includes a large number of minor monuments with no national significance.
  • It is estimated that this applies to at least a quarter of the current list of 3,691 monuments.
  • In this regard, it says the list includes 75 graves of colonial-era soldiers or officials of no notable importance. Some specific examples have also been cited.
  • The committee recommends that the list of monuments with ASI should be rationalised and categorised on the basis of their national significance, unique architectural value and specific heritage content.
  • Deletion of some of the kosminars (milestones built by Mughals) may also be considered, because they come in the way of road-widening exercises.

Easing restrictions around monuments

  • The committee said the provision of a 100-metre prohibited area and 300-metre regulated area around all ASI-protected monuments leads to public inconvenience.
  • This provision was introduced in 2010 through an amendment in the AMASR Act, 1958, and prohibits and regulates all activities like mining and construction around 100 metres and 300 metres of all the protected monuments.
  • This, the panel said, causes problems for the local community living around it. In some cases, the entire village is within a radius of 300 metres, which makes it difficult for the village to repair their residential houses. Such a situation, at many places, creates a hostile scenario the committe said.
  • The panel said the same rule applies equally to both significant and insignificant monuments. For instance, the rules above apply identically to the Ajanta and Ellora monuments as much as to kosminars, unknown cemeteries and tombs.

What happens to missing monuments?

  • The committee said that the CAG had declared 92 CPMs as “missing”. The ASI has located only 42 of these monuments, while the remaining 50 monuments are either affected by rapid urbanisationsubmerged under reservoirs/dams or are untraceable.
  • The committee observes that “monuments once lost cannot ever be retrieved. The CPMS are central to our historical heritage.
  • The ASI should, therefore, give the highest priority to ensuring the physical security of all CPMs across the country.”
  • It recommended that the ministry may conduct a survey of all remaining monuments to ensure their physical existence and safety.
  • It also recommended that regular physical surveys of all CPMs should be carried out from time to time.
  • The ASI should maintain digital log books that include textual and photographic/ video records of the monument’s physical state and location coordinates, it said, adding that this would also allow the ASI to check encroachment, if any, of these CPMs at an early stage.

IIT Guwahati develops fabric to tackle oil spills

GS Paper - 3 (Nano technology)

Researchers at IIT-Guwahati on 26 September 2023 said they have developed a fabric that can separate oil from water, which will help in tackling marine pollution caused by oil spills.

More about the fabric

  • The silica nanoparticles-coated cotton fabric has been developed using rice husk, an agricultural waste, as the primary source material.
  • The aim is to convert agricultural waste into a sustainable value-added product to mitigate marine oil pollution.
  • Oil spills due to industrial discharge or mishap cause irreversible damage to the aquatic ecosystems.
  • Conventional cleaning techniques such as skimming or in-situ burning are ineffectivecostly and cause additional pollution.
  • This technology has multiple beneficial effects on the environment. Rice husk is an agricultural byproductrich in silica that is generated in millions of tons every year.
  • It is usually burnt unscientifically, causing air pollution, but with this technique, this waste rice husk is converted into 3D sorbents that mitigate oil contamination by following a selective active-filtration process.
  • In this process, rice husk is gradually heated and converted into charcoal, also known as bio-char. Subsequently, this bio-char is subjected to further heating to transform it into silica nanoparticles.

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