23RD OCTOBER CURRENT AFFAIRS

1. State of Global Air, 2020

News: Air pollution now biggest health risk in India, says the State of Global Air 2020 Report.

Details:

  • India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal are among the top ten countries with the highest PM2.5 (particulate matter) exposures in 2019 and all of these countries experienced increases in outdoor PM2.5 levels between 2010 and 2019.
  • India is also among the top ten countries with highest ozone (O3) exposure in 2019. Also, among the 20 most populous countries, India recorded the highest increase (17%) in O3 concentrations in the past ten years.
  • Long-term exposure to outdoor and household (indoor) air pollution contributed to over 1.67 million annual deaths from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases, and neonatal diseases, in India in 2019.

Important Government Initiatives:

  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana(Household LPG programme).
  • National Clean Air Programme.
  • Introduction of BS-VIemission standards.
  • Implementation of the Graded Response Action Plan(GRAP).

Impact on Infants:

  • High PM contributed to the deaths of more than 1,16,000 Indian infants who did not survive their first month. Infants in the first month of life are already at a vulnerable stage and a growing body of scientific evidence-supported studies in India indicates that particulate air pollution exposure during pregnancy is linked to low birth weight and preterm birth.
  • More than half of these deaths were associated with outdoor PM2.5and others were linked to the use of solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking.
  • Although there has been a slow and steady reduction in household reliance on poor-quality fuels, the air pollution from these fuels continues to be a key factor in the deaths of these youngest infants.

Challenges ahead for India:

  • The government has claimed that average pollution levels in India are declining over the past three years.
  • But these have been marginal, particularly in the Indo-Gangetic plains which see extremely high particulate matter pollution especially during winter.
  • After a decline in pollution due to the nationwide lockdown in late March and the months-long process of reopening, pollution levels are again rising and air quality has dipped to ‘very poor’ category in several cities. There is clear evidence linking air pollution and increased heart and lung disease. This newest evidence suggests an especially high risk for infants born in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Significance of the Study:

  • Addressing impacts of air pollution on adverse pregnancy outcomes and newborn health is important for low- and middle-income countries, not only because of the high prevalence of low birth weight, preterm birth, and child growth deficits but because it allows the design of strategic interventions that can be directed at these vulnerable groups.

Air Pollution and Covid-19:

  • Although the link between air pollution and Covid-19is not completely established, there is clear evidence linking air pollution and increased heart and lung disease.
  • Also, there is growing concern that exposure to high levels of air pollution during winter months in South Asian countries and East Asia could exacerbate the effects of Covid-19.

Current Pollution Status:

  • Average pollution levels in India are declining over the past three years but these have been marginal, particularly in the Indo-Gangetic plains which see extremely high PM pollution especially during winter.
  • After adecline in pollution due to the nationwide lockdowns after March, pollution levels are again rising and air quality is dipping to the ‘very poor’ category in several cities.

Particulate Matter

  • PM is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye.
  • Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.
  • Particle pollution includes:
  • PM 10: inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometres and smaller; and
  • PM 5: fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometres and smaller.

Its sources

  • These particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals.
  • Some are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires. Most particles form in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles.

Impact of PM

  • Particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems.
  • Some particles less than 10 micrometres in diameter can get deep into your lungs and some may even get into your bloodstream. Of these, particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, also known as fine particles or PM2.5, pose the greatest risk to health.

2. Infodemic Management

News: Managing the “infodemic” has been a serious challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, says a Chief Scientist at World Health Organization (WHO).

Defining Infodemic

  • Infodemic implies too much information, including false or misleading information, particularly on social media.
  • It has led to confusion, risk-taking and ultimately mistrust towards governments and the public health response.

WHO framework for infodemics

  • The WHO has a framework for managing the coronavirus infodemic.
  • Infodemiology is now acknowledged by public health organizations and the WHO as an important emerging scientific field and critical area of practice during a pandemic.
  • From the perspective of being the first “infodemiolgist” who originally coined the term almost two decades ago, the author posts four pillars of infodemic management:
  • Information monitoring (infoveillance) & Building eHealth Literacy and science literacy capacity
  • Encouraging knowledge refinement and quality improvement processes such as fact-checking and peer-review. Accurate and timely knowledge translation, minimizing distorting factors such as political or commercial influences

3. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission

News: Recently, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft briefly touched down on the surface of asteroid Bennu to collect rock and dust samples.

About OSIRIS-REx Mission:

  • It is the United States’ first asteroid sample return mission, aiming to collect and carry a pristine, unaltered sample from an asteroid back to earth for scientific study.
  • The OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) spacecraft was launched in 2016 for the journey to Bennu.
  • The mission is essentially as even-year-long voyage and will conclude when at least 60 grams of samples are delivered back to the Earth (in 2023).
  • As per the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the mission promises to bring the largest amount of extraterrestrial material back to the Earth since the Apollo era.
  • Apollo was the NASA program that resulted in American astronauts’ making a total of 11 space flights and walking on the moon (1968-72). The spacecraft contains five instruments meant to explore Bennu including cameras, a spectrometer and a laser altimeter.
  • Recently, the spacecraft’s robotic arm called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM),made an attempt to “TAG” the asteroid at a sample site and collected a sample.
  • The departure window for the mission will open up in 2021, after which it will take over two years to reach back to Earth.

Asteroid Bennu:

  • The asteroid was discovered by a team from the NASA-funded Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research team in 1999. Scientists believe that it was formed in the first 10 million years of the solar system’s formation, implying that it is roughly 4.5 billion years old.
  • Because of Bennu’s age, it is likely to contain material that contains molecules that were present when life first formed on Earth, where life forms are based on carbon atom chains.
  • Because of its high carbon content, the asteroid reflects about four per cent of the light that hits it, which is very low when compared with a planet like Venus, which reflects about 65 per cent of the light that hits it. Earth reflects about 30 per cent.
  • It classified as a Near Earth Object (NEO),might strike the Earth in the next century, between the years 2175 and 2199.

4. Production-Linked Incentive scheme

News: The government will extend the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme to eight more sectors to boost domestic manufacturing.

Details:

  • PLI Scheme is an outcome- and output-oriented scheme where incentives will be paid only if the manufacturers make the goods.
  • This scheme will give cash incentives for five to seven year sand all the sunrise and important sectors are proposed to be covered in this. The sectors may be automobile, networking products, food processing, advanced chemistry and solar PV manufacturing.

About the PLI scheme:

  • To make India a manufacturing hub, the government recently announced the PLI scheme for mobile phones, pharma products, and medical equipment sectors.
  • Notified on April 1 as a part of the National Policy on Electronics. It proposes a financial incentive to boost domestic manufacturing and attract large investments in the electronics value chain.

Features of the scheme:

  • The scheme shall extend an incentive of 4% to 6% on incremental sales (over base year) of goods manufactured in India and covered under target segments, to eligible companies, for a period of five (5) years with financial year (FY) 2019-20 considered as the base year for calculation of incentives.
  • The Scheme will be implemented through a Nodal Agency which shall act as a Project Management Agency (PMA)and be responsible for providing secretarial, managerial and implementation support and carrying out other responsibilities as assigned by MeitY from time to time.

Eligibility:

  • According to the scheme, companies that make mobile phones which sell for Rs 15,000 or more will get an incentive of up to 6 per cent on incremental sales of all such mobile phones made in India.
  • In the same category, companies which are owned by Indian nationals and make such mobile phones, the incentive has been kept at Rs 200 crore for the next four years.

What kind of investments will be considered?

  • All electronic manufacturing companies which are either Indian or have a registered unit in India will be eligible to apply for the scheme.
  • These companies can either create a new unit or seek incentives for their existing units from one or more locations in India. However, all investment done by companies on land and buildings for the project will not be considered for any incentives or determine eligibility of the scheme.