Current Affairs July 12, 2023: Nagorno-Karabakh Region (Artsakh), India and Caucasus, Law Commission, Atlantic Menhaden, Halophytes, Osprey

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{GS2 – IR – India-Caucasus – 2023/07/12} Nagorno-Karabakh Region (Artsakh)

  • Context (TH | WION): Azerbaijan has temporarily shut the only road which links its breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region with Armenia, accusing the Armenian branch of the Red Cross of smuggling.

Nagorno-Karabakh dispute: Armenia, Azerbaijan standoff explained | News | Al Jazeera

  • Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus mountainous region.

Armenia - Azerbaijan, along with the Bordering Countries.

  • Historically, the majority population of this region has been ethnically Armenian (Christian-majority).
  • In 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan (Muslim-majority).
  • No country, not even Armenia, has so far recognised the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • Turkey and Pakistan openly support Azerbaijan. Russia has military bases in Armenia.

Countries which were part of erstwhile USSR

India’s Stand

  • India has adopted a balanced and neutral stance and had called for respecting each others territorial integrity and inviolability of existing borders.
  • Azerbaijan has shown scant regard for India’s territorial integrity violated by Pakistan in J&K.
  • However, India can not support Armenia or endorse Nagorno-Karabakh’s right to self-determination, given the possible repercussions, such as India’s adversaries re-igniting secessionist movements in certain parts of India (J&K and North East).

India and Caucasus

  • India has no specific policy for the Caucasus region, unlike ‘Neighbourhood First’, ‘Act East’ or ‘Central Asia Connect’ policies.
  • Armenia is the only country in the region with which India has a Friendship and Cooperation Treaty (1995), which would prohibit India from providing military or any other assistance to Azerbaijan.

Region known as Caucasus.

{GS2 – Polity – Bodies – Non-Statutory – 2023/07/12} Law Commission of India

  • Context (TH): The Law Commission has sought views from the public on the UCC.
  • Law Commission is a non-statutory body constituted by a notification of the Ministry of Law & Justice (MoL&J). It is composed of legal experts and is headed by a retired judge.
  • It was initially constituted in 1955 and is re-constituted occasionally for a fixed tenure.
  • Twenty two Commissions have been established since Independence.

Functions

  • It works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice.
  • It’s function is to research and advise the Government of India on legal reform.

22nd Law Commission

  • The 22nd law panel was constituted for a period of three years on February 21, 2020.
  • The Commission’s three-year term ended on Feb. 20, 2023.
  • The term of the panel has been extended by one-and-a-half years.

{GS3 – Envi – Adaptation – 2023/07/12} Halophytes

  • Context (IE | TOI): A new species of saltwort (halophytic, seed-bearing shrubs) called Salsola Oppositifolia Desfontania, a perennial shrub that grows in saline, arid to semi-arid environments, has been discovered in the Khadir Bet, Kutch.
  • A halophyte is a plant adapted to thrive in high-salt environments (e.g. mangroves), such as salt marshes, coastal areas, and saline soils. It can grow in both soil and waters of high salinity.
  • Halophytes have developed unique physiological and morphological adaptations to thrive in high salinity. Some common adaptations include:
    • Specialised Root System: To overcome the respiration problem in saline conditions, some halophytes send arching prop roots and stilt roots down into the water (e.g. Rhizophora). While other species send vertical Pneumatophores (air roots/blind roots) up from the mud (e.g. Avicennia).
    • Mode of reproduction: Halophytes rely on viviparity, where seeds germinate in the tree itself to overcome the problem of germination in saline water (e.g. Rhizophora and Avicennia).
    • Cellular sequestration: They can sequester toxic ions and salts within the cell wall or vacuoles.
    • Tissue partitioning: Some of them can concentrate salts in particular leaves, which then drop off.
    • Root level exclusion: They are structured to exclude salt at the root level.
    • Salt excretion: Certain parts of the plant (e.g. leaves) may contain salt glands that actively eliminate salt.
    • Altered flowering schedule: Halophytes may flower at rainy seasons to minimize salt exposure.
  • Prop roots: They develop from horizontally spread branches of the tree.
  • Stilt roots: They arise from basal nodes of the stem near the soil.

xerophyte halophyte Major Mangeove Forests in India @PMFIAS©

Khadir Bet

  • Khadir Bet is an island located within the Rann of Kutch Lake, Gujarat.
  • Dholavira (an Indus Valley Civilisation site) is located in this island.

Dholavira Location on Map Present Day Excavation going on at Dholavira

{GS3 – Envi – Degradation – 2023/07/12} Anthropocene Epoch Began in 1950s

  • Context (IE | TH | TG | FP): Sediments at Crawford Lake in Canada’s Ontario, a golden spike site, have provided evidence that the Anthropocene epoch began in the 1950s.

Crawford Lake in Ontario where Anthropocene Epoch Began in 1950s.

  • The sediment at the lake bottom is laced with microplastics, fly ash (spread by burning oil and coal), and plutonium (due to the detonation of nuclear weapons).
  • Golden spike site: It is a place where the start and end of an epoch can be quantified by fossil contents that represent a major global occurrence.

What is the Anthropocene Epoch?

  • Anthropocene epoch is the proposed epoch that denotes the present geological time interval, which is greatly influenced by human/anthropogenic activity and started to have a significant detrimental impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems.
  • The Anthropocene epoch coincides with the onset of the Industrial Revolution.
  • It is associated with global warming, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, mass-scale soil erosion, the advent of deadly heat waves, deterioration of the biosphere, and other detrimental changes.
  • The proposed Anthropocene epoch marks the end of the Holocene epoch, which started about 11,700 years ago at the end of an ice age.
  • It also started a new age called the Crawfordian age (named after the lake) which ended the Meghalayan Age that started 4,200 years ago.

Geologic Time Scale > PMF IAS Physical Geography 1st Edition > Page 25-29

{GS3 – S&T – Space – 2023/07/12} Most Reflective Planet

  • Context (HT | NDTV | WION): European Space Agency’s exoplanet-probing Cheops space telescope has discovered the most reflective planet exoplanet (reflects 80% of the light from its host star).
  • This scorching hot exoplanet called LTT9779b is more than 260 light years from Earth.
  • It is surviving in a region called Neptune desert has metal clouds with rain drops of titanium.
  • The planet’s metallic clouds act like a mirror and prevent the atmosphere from being blown away.
  • Neptune Desert: It is defined as the region close to a star where no Neptune-sized exoplanets are found. Because this region receives strong irradiation from the star, and so the planets cannot retain their gaseous atmospheres. They evaporate, leaving just a rocky core.

What are Exoplanets (Extrasolar Planets)?

  • Exoplanets are planets beyond our solar system.
  • These planets usually orbit other stars, but some are free-floating and orbit the galaxy‘s centre.
  • The first confirmed detection of exoplanets occurred in 1992. According to NASA, more than 5,000 exoplanets have been detected to date.
  • The closest exoplanet to Earth is Proxima Centauri b (which is orbiting a red dwarf star and is about 4.25 light-years away from Earth).
  • Exoplanets can be gas giants bigger than Jupiter or as small and rocky as Earth.

What's Out There? The Exoplanet Sky So Far – Exoplanet Exploration ...

Why do we Study Exoplanets?

  • Studying exoplanets broadens our understanding of other solar systems.
  • By studying the distance between an exoplanet and its host star, scientists determine whether a discovered world is habitable.
    • If an exoplanet is too close to the star, it might be too hot to sustain liquid water.
    • If it’s too far, it might only have frozen water.
    • When a planet is at the right distance that enables it to have liquid water, it is said to be in the “Goldilocks zone”.

Chances for life expand when passing stars pu | EurekAlert!

{Prelims – Envi – Species – 2023/07/12} Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)

  • Context (BBC | TG | TH): Arctic tern chicks have died in Britain’s island due to an outbreak of bird flu.
  • Arctic tern, a seabird, is the longest migratory animal in the world. It flies from its Arctic breeding grounds to the Antarctic and returns back again each year.
  • Distribution: Arctic, Antarctica, and cool temperate parts of North America and Eurasia.
  • Habitat: Grasslands, inland wetlands and coastal regions.
  • Threats: Hunting, habitat loss, diseases and alien species.
  • Conservation Status:

Arctic Tern (Left) and it's Habitats (Right)

{Prelims – Envi – Species – 2023/07/12} Atlantic Menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus)

Context (IE): Overfishing of the tiny Atlantic menhaden is at the root of the declining reproductive rates of ospreys. It is degrading the overall Atlantic ecosystem.

  • Atlantic menhaden is a North American tiny fish species of the herring family.

Marine Food Web

  • Distribution: North Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia south to northern Florida.
  • Habitat: coastal and estuarine waters.
  • Significance: It feeds bigger fish, marine mammals, and birds and is important for the fishing industry.
  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern
  • Threats: Overfishing.

Atlantic Menhaden and it's Habitats.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

  • Osprey (sea hawk, fish eating eagle) is a diurnal bird of prey.
  • Distribution: It is found on all continents except Antarctica.
  • Habitat: Forests, inland wetlands, and coastal areas.
  • Conservation Status:
  • Threats: Habitat loss, hunting, loss of prey and pollution.

Osprey Bird (Left) and it's Habitats (Right)

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