1. Manu Bhaker wins second gold in 2 days

The sensational Manu Bhaker, all of 16, shot her way to a second successive gold medal in a mixed team event as India consolidated their position at the top in the ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico.

  • Partnering Om Prakash Mitharval, the teenager clinched the 10m air pistol mixed team title, a day after she won the women’s 10m air pistol individual gold on what is turning out to be a memorable senior World Cup debut.
  • The 11th standard student from Jhajjar, Haryana, could be the youngest ever to win senior World Cup gold medals for India though the National Rifle Association of India could not confirm it.
  • The duo of Deepak Kumar and Mehuli Ghosh won the country its sixth medal of the competition — a bronze in the 10m air rifle mixed team event.

2. Pesticide poisoning claimed 272 lives of farmers in Maharashtra in 4 years

Deaths of farmers and farm labourers caused by pesticide poisoning in Maharashtra might have grabbed public attention outside the state only last year after the Yavatmal incidents but the danger has been around for long.  pesticide poisoning has been a consistent killer with the state reporting as many as 272 deaths in the last four years.

  • Maximum number of 21 deaths but the remaining 42 deaths during 2017-18 were reported from 14 other districts in the state.
  • Incidentally, the pesticide Monocrotophos, whose unapproved mixture is reportedly blamed for majority of the deaths in Yavatmal, continues to figure in the list of 66 pesticides which are being used in India despite its ban or restricted use elsewhere in the world.

The special investigation team (SIT), formed to probe 2017’s pesticide poisoning deaths in Yavatmal, had found during its investigation that most victims had used Monocrotophos either in its pure form or mixed with some other pesticide. It had, therefore, recommended its ban.
Punjab has recently taken such a decision with respect to 20 pesticides, including Monocrotophos, and decided not to issue any fresh licences.

3. Arctic permafrost may unleash carbon within decades: NASA

Washington, Mar 6 (PTI) Permafrost in the coldest northern Arctic will thaw enough to become a permanent source of carbon to the atmosphere this century, with the peak transition occurring in 40 to 60 years, a NASA study warns.

  • The region was formerly thought to be at least temporarily shielded from global warming by its extreme environment.

The study, led by Nicholas Parazoo of NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, calculated that as thawing continues, by the year 2300, total carbon emissions from this region will be 10 times as much as all human-produced fossil fuel emissions in 2016.

  • As rising Arctic air temperatures cause permafrost to thaw, the organic material decomposes and releases its carbon to the atmosphere in the form of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.
  • There is far more permafrost in the northern region than in the southern one.
  • Over the course of the model simulations, northern permafrost lost about five times more carbon per century than southern permafrost.
  • The southern region transitioned more slowly in the model simulations, Parazoo said, because plant growth increased much faster than expected in the south.

4. Banks That Have been Exposed to Risk Following PNB Scam

  • UCO Bank- $411.8 Million
  • Allahabad Bank-$366.8Million
  • Union Bank of India – $300 Million
  • States Bank of India- $212 Million

5. Make the neighbourhood first again

Almost four years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his term with a “Neighbourhood First” moment, by inviting leaders of all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries to his swearing-in ceremony, India’s neighbourhood policy is clearly adrift.

  • The first problem is that for various reasons other governments in the SAARC region are either not on ideal terms with New Delhi, or facing political headwinds. In the Maldives, President Yameen Abdul Gayoom has gone out of his way to challenge the Modi government, whether it is on his crackdown on the opposition, invitations to China, or even breaking with New Delhi’s effort to isolate Pakistan at SAARC. In Nepal, the K.P. Sharma Oli government is certainly not India’s first choice, and Kathmandu’s invitation to the Pakistani Prime Minister this week confirms the chill.
  • The next problem is the impact of China’s unprecedented forays into each of these countries. Instead of telling the Nepal government to sort out issues with India, for example, as it had in the past, China opened up an array of alternative trade and connectivity options after the 2015 India-Nepal border blockade: from the highway to Lhasa, cross-border railway lines to the development of dry ports. In Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Pakistan, China holds strategic real estate, which could also be fortified militarily in the future.

It will also be impossible to renew the compact with the neighbours without reviving the SAARC process. In their book The ASEAN Miracle, Kishore Mahbubani and Jeffery Sng describe in detail the need for SAARC to learn from the success of ASEAN. Mr. Mahbubani suggests that leaders of SAARC countries meet more often informally, that they interfere less in the internal workings of each other’s governments, and that there be more interaction at every level of government.

6. An ecological emergency: Act now

India, the global host of the World Environment Day, must lead the battle against pollution

Erik Solheim, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was in Delhi recently to announce, along with the Union minister of environment and forests, Harsh Vardhan, that India will be the global host of this year’s World Environment Day (WED) on June 5. The day (WED) has been observed every year since 1974 after a decision taken at the World Environment Conference of 1972. Each year, the activities are centred on a particular theme.

  • According to UNEP, the world uses 500 billion plastic bags and, in the last decade, produced more plastic than the whole of the 20th century. What is more, about eight million tonnes of plastics are dumped into the ocean each year, killing a million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals.
  • What is worse, 50% of the plastics consumed are for single use, which adds to the volume of waste. Some categories of plastics may persist in the earth’s ecology for 500 years.  In India, plastic litter is everywhere from beaches to mountains because people do not think twice before dumping it. Plastics in oceans break down into micro elements, which are then ingested by fish and find their way into the food chain. In India, stray cattle are seen feeding on plastic waste. If India is to live up to its role as host of the WED, it must take the lead in tackling plastic pollution that threatens to engulf and strangulate an already fragile ecology.
  • Sikkim has been a pioneer in making the state plastic free.
  • The use of bottled drinking water has been banned but at the same time clean potable water is made available through water ATMS. These have been introduced in some locations in Delhi as well. A concerted drive to provide such ATMS across cities would not only reduce the use of plastic but also yield significant health benefits by making clean potable water available to people.
  • This has now been stopped and relatively cleaner gas is being promoted instead. In Indian cities, nearly 20-25% of daily cooking is still through burning biomass and urban waste, a significant source of air pollution. If this could be gradually reduced through greater use of LPG, there would be a positive impact on air quality

As host of the WED, India must tackle the problem of air pollution, which has become a major health hazard. One should study the experience of Beijing, which has achieved a dramatic reduction in air pollution after years of being one of the world’s most polluted cities. It is now our capital city, Delhi, which has assumed that sorry mantle. One of the major sources of air pollution in some Chinese cities has been the use of coal for domestic heating in winter. This has now been stopped and relatively cleaner gas is being promoted instead. In Indian cities, nearly 20-25% of daily cooking is still through burning biomass and urban waste, a significant source of air pollution. If this could be gradually reduced through greater use of LPG, there would be a positive impact on air quality.

Solheim has welcomed India’s decision to host the WED and his agency is more than ready to offer its cooperation to help the country meet its environmental goals. Let India emerge as a global example in preserving our threatened ecology.

7. Doklam: An uneasy truce

From the way Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the ninth BRICS summit this month, with a wide smile and a warm handshake, it seemed all was well between the world’s two most populous nations.

  • From the body language of the two leaders, it would have been hard to tell that their countries had less than a week ago ended a tense military standoff that lasted 73 days—their most serious confrontation in decades.
  • The disengagement had, in fact, paved the way for Modi’s attendance at the 3-5 September summit of the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—the world’s biggest emerging economies.
  • As a key driver of BRICS, its most influential member and the host of the summit, China wouldn’t have wanted the event to be marred by the absence of its biggest neighbour. Everything at the summit was carefully choreographed, from the welcome accorded to the delegates to the group photograph.
  • But the truce that India and China have called may be an uneasy one at best.

India and China have an unsettled border with most of the almost 4,000km in question undemarcated. It is a legacy of their brief but bitter 1962 war—which ended badly for India.That’s what set the Doklam confrontation apart—India and China were tussling over territory claimed by a third country. The Indian view is that New Delhi and Beijing had agreed in 2012 that boundaries that fall between India and China and a third country—i.e. on a tri-junction—would be resolved taking into account the views of the third country.

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