Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 29 March 2023

Man booked under Wildlife Protection Act

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

A 35-year-old man from Mandkha, Uttar Pradesh, was booked under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, for “illegally” keeping and nursing an injured Sarus crane (Grus Antigone) he found in his village. The Sarus crane is usually found in wetlands and is the state bird of Uttar Pradesh. Standing at 152-156 centimetres, it is the world’s tallest flying bird.

What is the Wildlife Protection Act?

  1. The Wildlife Protection Act came into force on 9 September 1972, to “provide for the protection” of wild animalsbirds and plants to ensure the “ecological and environmental security of the country.”
  2. It aims to conserve protected species in two main ways: firstly, by prohibiting their hunting and secondly by protecting their habitat through the creation and regulation of sanctuaries, national parks, reserves, etc.
  3. Further, the Act prohibits capturing or hunting any species of animals listed under Schedules I-IV, barring a few exceptions such as hunting a diseased or dangerous animal or bird constituting a threat to human life or property or for scientific research or management.
  4. Broadly, offences under the Act can be divided into three categorieshunting under Sections 9, 17A, and 2(16)unauthorised possession, transport, and trade under Sections 40, 42, 43, 48, 48A, 49 and Chapter VA; and offences related to protected areas or habitat destruction under Sections 27, 29-36 and 38.

How is hunting defined under the Act?

  1. “Hunting” under Section 2 (16) of the Act includes not just the act of killing or poisoning a wild or captive animal, but even an attempt to do so. Additionally, it lists “capturing, coursing, snaring, trapping, driving or baiting any wild or captive animal” and attempts for the same.
  2. A “captive animal” is defined under the WPA as any animal, specified in Schedule I-IV, which is captured or kept, or bred in captivity.
  3. Even injuring or destroying any part of the animal or its eggs or nests is an offence punishable under Section 9 of the Act.

What are the Schedules listed in the Act?

  1. The Act protects wild and captive animals or birds which belong to a species listed under Schedules I-IV.
  2. Species falling under Schedules I and II are classified as “Strictly Protected Species.” No wild or captive animal or any products derived from them, like their fur, skin, tusks, etc., can be possessed without an ownership certificate under Section 42.
  3. These animals cannot be transferred or acquired by any means other than inheritance, barring exceptions like peacock tail feathers or captive elephants. Moreover, these Schedules are governed by Sections 40, 42, 43(1) and Chapter V-A of the Act, which relate to declaring the possession, control, or custody of such animals or products emanating from them; obtaining a certificate of ownership, regulating transfer or transport of such animals and provisions on the prohibition of trade and commerce in trophiesanimal articles, etc. derived from scheduled animals, respectively.
  4. Animals such as the Black BuckBlack-Necked CraneHooded CraneSiberian White Crane, Wild Yak, and the Andaman Wild Pig fall under Schedule I, whereas the common Langurchameleon, and King Cobra fall under Schedule II.
  5. Schedule III includes Chitalwild pigsHyaena hyaena, and the Nilgai. The Sarus crane falls under Schedule IV of the Act.


Marburg virus disease outbreak

GS Paper - 3 (Health and Diseases)

Five people have died and three others are infected with the Marburg virus – a highly infectious, Ebola-like disease – in Tanzania’s north-west Kagera region, authorities said. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 161 people have been identified as at risk of infection through contact tracing and are currently being monitored.

What is the Marburg virus disease?

  1. Marburg virus disease (MVD), earlier known as Marburg hemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal hemorrhagic fever, according to the WHO. Marburg, like Ebola, is a filovirus; and both diseases are clinically similar.
  2. Rousettus fruit bats are considered the natural hosts for the Marburg virus.
  3. However, African green monkeys imported from Uganda were the source of the first human infection, the WHO points out.
  4. It was first detected in 1967 after simultaneous outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany; and in Belgrade, Serbia.
  5. The disease has an average fatality rate of around 50%. However, it can be as low as 24% or as high as 88% depending on virus strain and case management, says the WHO.

What are the symptoms of Marburg virus disease?

  1. After the onset of symptoms, which can begin anytime between two to 21 days, MVD can manifest itself in the form of high fevermuscle aches and severe headache.
  2. Around the third day, patients report abdominal painvomitingsevere watery diarrhoea and cramping.
  3. In this phase, the WHO says, the appearance of patients has been often described as “ghost-like” with deep-set eyesexpressionless faces, and extreme lethargy.
  4. Between days five and seven, patients report bleeding from the nose, and gums and blood appearing in vomit and faeces. Severe blood loss leads to death, often between eight to nine days after symptoms begin.

How can Marburg virus disease be diagnosed and treated?

  1. It is difficult to clinically distinguish MVD from diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and other viral haemorrhagic fevers.
  2. However, it is confirmed by lab testing of samples, which like Coronavirus and Ebola are extreme biohazard risks.
  3. There is no approved antiviral treatment or vaccine for MVD as of now. It can be managed with supportive care.
  4. According to the WHO, rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids and treatment of specific symptoms can help prevent death.


Heat action plans in India

GS Paper -1 (Geography)

The Centre for Policy Research (CPR) released a report analysing all 37 heat action plans (HAPs) across 18 states, to evaluate how policy action is keeping up with the warming weather in India, which finds that heat action plans in India are not only poorly funded but have a weak legal framework.

More about the news:

  • The report, ‘How is India Adapting to Heat-waves’ is an assessment of heat action plans with insights for transformative climate action’, follows closely on the heels of the IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report.
  • It emphasised the need for the world to reduce emissions in the next two decades to prevent warming temperatures to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • India witnessed unprecedented heat-waves in 2022 and February 2023 was declared the hottest February since 1901 by the India Meteorological Department.
  • study by World Weather Attribution last year analysed the climate imprint on the Indian heat-wave and claimed that human-induced actions made the chances of extreme heat events 30 times higher in the region.

CPR’s report findings and limitations of HAPs:

v  In India, Most HAPs are not built for local contexts; the heat action plans across the country generally focus on dry extreme heat and ignore the threats posed by humid heat and warm nights.

v  Most HAPs adopt national heat wave thresholds that may not be suited to the risks faced by local populations. It says, only 10 out of 37 HAPs seem to have locally specified temperature thresholds.

v  It further adds that climate projections, which could help identify future planning needs, are not integrated into current HAPs.

v  HAPs are India’s primary policy response to economically damaging and life threatening heat waves.

v  They prescribe a variety of preparatory activities, disaster responses, and post-heat wave response measures across state, district, and city government departments to decrease the impact of heat waves.

v  Nearly all HAPs fail to identify and target vulnerable groups – only two HAPs carry out and present vulnerability assessments (systematic studies to locate where the people most likely to be affected are in a city, district, or state).

v  It adds that most HAPs list broad categories of vulnerable groups (elderly, outdoor workers, pregnant women), the list of solutions they propose do not necessarily focus on these groups.

v  It points out that the HAPs are underfunded; and only three of 37 HAPs identify funding sources while eight HAPs ask implementing departments to self-allocate resources, indicating a serious funding constraint.

v  The CPR further finds that the HAPs have weak legal foundations. “None of the HAPs reviewed indicate the legal sources of their authority. This reduces bureaucratic incentives to prioritise and comply with HAPs instructions.

v  India will suffer damaging economic losses due to decreasing labour productivity, sudden and frequent disruptions to agriculture and unbearably hot cities as heat waves become more frequent and intense.


EVTOL Air taxi and India plans

GS Paper -3 (Technology)

Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, said that India wants to be part electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft dream along with the rest of the world that is planning to offer this innovative transportation technology by 2025.

More about the news:

v Delivering the inaugural address at India’s first Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) conference said, eVTOL future is not as far as it seems, it is much closer than what it appears, we are in 2023 and in 2025 this global dream will become a reality.

AAM is an air transportation system that moves people and cargo between short distances, otherwise not served or underserved by aviation using eVTOL.

eVTOL are also known as electric air taxis and countries like Singapore, UAE, France, Germany, UK and US have already announced their plans to launch these air taxis by 2025.

v It said that the eVTOL in India should be an industry-led initiative and asked the industry to give feedback on how to implement the eVTOL ecosystem in the country.

Short-haul air mobility services are next big thing:

Ø As our country is transforming, from India living in villages to over 50% of population in urban centres in the foreseeable future, traditional mobility platforms on terra firma would be grossly insufficient, these mobility services are the next big disruption waiting to happen.

Ø It also adds that operating electric craft is less expensive, much quieter and safer and they also address sustainability with regard to overall environmental footprint when compared to traditional helicopters.

About eVTOL:

These vehicles offer quick point-to-point personal travel, the pilot less vehicles could one day ferry passengers across town high above congested roadways.

v Major challengesincluding battery life, air traffic control safety, and infrastructure issues.

v It would cater to the mid-mile and last mile urban air mobility market segments, thereby alleviating traffic congestion in cities.

Major companies worldwide that are working on building and certifying air taxis include Boeing, Hyundai, Airbus, Toyota, and Uber.

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