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Showing posts from February 18, 2017

We are in a much better position than in the past' (downtoearth,)

Why have so many zoonotic diseases appeared in recent years?

There are many reasons. Many viruses and pathogens are crossing into human habitat. Human-animal interaction has increased. Deforestation is a major reason for this, as animals and vectors in deep forests have now come into contact with human beings. Also, with globalisation, people are travelling more and meeting those who are not immune to new viruses. Climate change is also allowing vectors to expand to areas where they were not previously found and could not survive.

Is India prepared to deal with new challenges?

Definitely. We are in a much better position than in the past. There is a network of laboratories under Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) which is working on animals and another set under ICMR working on human zoonotic diseases. There is a joint committee which meets every few months. We fund joint efforts and share pathogens for further study. A good instance of this collaborative effort was when …

'Sugar is the new tobacco' (downtoearth)

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) recommendations give distinct importance to an environmentally sustainable diet. How important, in your opinion, is this new addition to the recommendations in context of the American dietary habits?

At this time, it is highly unlikely that the new United States’ Dietary Guidelines (USDGs) will include the sustainability component. Industry pressure on the US Department of Agriculture has been relentless. If, by some miracle, the environmentally-sustainable diet provisions remain, this would have an important influence on US diets, mainly through purchasing policies for federally-funded programs like the school lunch program, military installations and federal prisons, among others.

The recommendations have constantly stressed on a vegetarian diet, a path away from meats in particular. Is vegetarian diet a way towards a healthier dietary pattern?

The evidence of poor health outcomes linked to a high-meat diet such as that consumed…

Worst yellow fever outbreak in decades kills hundreds of rare monkeys in Brazil ( downtoearth)

Brazil is witnessing the worst yellow fever outbreak in decades that has killed at least 70 people, nearly all of them (56 people) in the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais, where the problems began. The number of confirmed yellow fever cases in the current outbreak has reached 215. Of the 166 reported deaths, 70 were confirmed, 93 were still investigated and three were discarded. While 1,060 suspected cases have been registered so far, 765 of which remain under investigation.

This year’s yellow fever outbreak is far worse than the previous most serious outbreak in 2000 when 40 deaths and 85 confirmed cases were reported.

The fever has also claimed the lives of more than 600 monkeys in Brazil's Atlantic rainforest region. It has threatened the survival of rare South American primates—Brown Howlers and Masked Titis (tree monkeys). While brown howlers are known for their impressive howls often mistaken for roars of lion, the masked titi is considered "vulnerable" by the …

A clean bonanza (downtoearth)

Every day a dozen of experts, government officials and journalists visit this tiny village in Odisha’s Ganjam district to learn how the practice of open defecation can be stopped forever. But the resi dents of Tamana often open a conversation with the visitors by narrating how their lives have improved and agricultural production has boomed in the past two and a half decades.

“As a child, I used to accompany my mother to fetch water from streams flowing through hills 10 kilometres away,” says Parbeena Prusty, a 36-year-old teacher. “We would take bath only twice a week. But these days, my house has round-the-clock water supply, a toilet and a bathroom,” she adds.

“My husband does not go to cities in search of menial jobs these days,” says Chanchala Jani, a landless farmer who built a toilet in her house in 1998. “The best part is that we now harvest ample vegetables and fruits from our kitchen garden,” she adds. “The economic status of all the 150-odd house- holds in the village has …

Oceans are fast losing oxygen, putting marine habitat at greater risk (downtoearth)

aThe oxygen content in global oceans has reduced by more than two per cent since 1960, with large variations in oxygen loss in different ocean basins and at different depths, finds a new study by researchers at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany.

This oxygen depaAletion, the study shows, is mostly a result of climate change.

Published in Nature Journal, the study gives more teeth to previous arguments about deadly consequences of the ocean's declining oxygen levels on marine life. The three co-authors: Sunke Schmidtko, Lothar Stramma and Martin Visbeck looked into the data dating back to 1960. By using information on oxygen, temperature and other factors relating to the oceans, they estimated the overall oxygen loss.

"We were able to document the oxygen distribution and its changes for the entire ocean for the first time. These numbers are an essential prerequisite for improving forecasts for the ocean of the future," said Schmidtko.

While the l…

How the warming world could turn many plants and animals into climate refugees (downtoearth,)

Finding the optimum environment and avoiding uninhabitable conditions has been a challenge faced by species throughout the history of life on Earth. But as the climate changes, many plants and animals are likely to find their favoured home much less hospitable.

In the short term, animals can react by seeking shelter, whereas plants can avoid drying out by closing the small pores on their leaves. Over longer periods, however, these behavioural responses are often not enough. Species may need to migrate to more suitable habitats to escape harsh environments.

During glacial times, for instance, large swathes of Earth’s surface became inhospitable to many plants and animals as ice sheets expanded. This resulted in populations migrating away from or dying off in parts of their ranges. To persist through these times of harsh climatic conditions and avoid extinction, many populations would migrate to areas where the local conditions remained more accommodating.

These areas have been termed …

The pollution in the house (The Indian Express.)

Air pollution kills more Indians than any other risk factor with estimates ranging from 15 to 20 lakh premature deaths annually. Although outdoor air pollution garners most public attention, it is well-known in health circles that pollution from chulhas is about half of the problem because people in households are directly exposed to such pollution. It is less well-understood, however, that the two are linked: One of the reasons India has such bad outdoor air pollution is that nearly 200 million households are still burning biomass every day for cooking. Solving the household dirty fuel problem will also help reduce the outdoor air problem, although not solve it on its own.
Although reducing outdoor air pollution remains difficult for Indian policymakers given the multiplicity of sources involved, the country is making major strides in addressing household air pollution. First with the Give it Up scheme and now with the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) programme, the Ministry of …

Costs of denial (The Indian Express )

In 2014, the government dismissed a WHO report that stated Delhi’s air quality was the worst in the world. (AP Photo/File)
Last week, Union Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave asserted that there is no conclusive evidence linking mortality and air pollution. In December, the minister had argued in the Rajya Sabha that there are no credible studies linking air pollution to death. The minister and the government could do well to carefully read the State of Global Air report prepared by the Boston-based Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the Washington University. The report, released on Tuesday, points out that dirty air doomed 91 out of one lakh Indians to early death in 2015. For the first time since 1990, India has lost more people to outdoor air pollution than China — the world’s most populous country recorded 85 deaths per lakh in 2015.
Governments in India have been known to be either indifferent to or dismissive of reports that indi…

Crisis called Islamic State (The Indian Express)

The IS has claimed a horrific bombing at the dargah of the Sufi saint Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan in Pakistan, which killed more than 70 people. The group is clearly looking for new pastures and sensational “victories” at a time when it faces big military setbacks in Iraq. What is undeniable too is that Pakistan has a ready-made ecosystem for the IS/Daesh to set up shop.
Even before this, there were reports of IS links with factions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, and with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Militant groups in Pakistan — the kind that have India in the cross hairs, such as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa or the Jaish-e-Mohammed, or those ranged against non-Sunni Islamic sects — all have much in common with the IS, except perhaps the latter’s access to oil wells. Pakistan has received many “blowback” wake-up calls since 2001, but none could be a clearer call to action than the IS heralding its arrival in the country. In 2015, the Pakistan Army conducted a military campaign against…

No Lesser Evil (The Indian Express)

When National Security Advisor Ajit Doval went to Moscow last month, one of the items on his agenda was to secure a place for India at the Russia-led consultations on Afghanistan. His five hour-long meeting with President Vladimir Putin’s team paid off when Moscow invited New Delhi to be a part of the six-nation meeting — along with Iran and Afghanistan — on Afghanistan on Wednesday. This was some progress from late December, when Russia hosted a meeting in Moscow with Pakistan and China, and the three countries announced they would seek the lifting of UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against select Taliban commanders to bring the militant group to the talking table. But the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting is unlikely to leave New Delhi fully satisfied.
Under pressure from Kabul and New Delhi, Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran have now agreed to maintain the red lines when it comes to talking with the Taliban. But Russia, China and Iran — each of them is already negotiating with th…

Working on the ISRO principle (Hindu)

Its successes demonstrate that it is possible to create high-performing public sector organisations Rarely is an agency of the government of India associated with the development of cutting-edge technology and global standards in execution. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is an exceptional case. In fact,

Rarely is an agency of the government of India associated with the development of cutting-edge technology and global standards in execution. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is an exceptional case. In fact, by launching 104 satellites from a single rocket on Wednesday, it has now set the global standard in a field (or more accurately space) in which only a few nations even dare to dabble. But what is it about ISRO that makes it stand for excellence when a plethora of government agencies suffer from severe challenges in terms of capacity and execution? What makes ISRO tick could help show us the way to create other high-performing government organisations.

M…

Current Affairs MCQ 17 February 2017

Q. Which of the following provisions are correct regarding PC-PNDT act? 1. It authorises only government approved hospitals to conduct tests for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus.
2. It regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound and amniocentesis. A. 1 only
B. 2 only
C. Both
D. None. . . . . . Answer B Q. Which of the following is/are correct regarding Jal swavlamban abhiyan launched by Rajasthan? 1. launched with the vision to ensure effective implementation of water harvesting and water conservation related activities in the urban areas.
2. It is a four year program, each phase of one year A. 1 only
B. 2 only
C. Both
D. None. . . . . . Answer B Q. Dassault Aviation has been in news recently, it belongs to which of the following countries? A. France
B. Japan
C. Russia
D. Israel . . . . . . Answer A