27 APR | UPSC Current Affairs | Diverse Topics: Deserts, Spices, Law, Wildlife & Food Security

GS Paper 1

Atacama Desert

  • News: Recent research reveals a vast and diverse group of bacteria thriving beneath the arid sands of the Atacama Desert.

Atacama Desert 

  • Geographical Location: 
      • Located in northern Chile, bordered by the Andes Mountains  to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
      • Shares borders with Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia.
  • Extreme Environmental Conditions: 
      • Known as the driest desert globally.
      • Exhibits extreme dryness, highest UV radiation levels on Earth, and highly saline and oxidizing soils.
      • Hosts 12 volcanoes, primarily situated in the western outliers of the Andes.
  • Climate and Geography:
      • Receives an average rainfall of about 1 mm per year due to its location between the Andes (blocks the humid air from the Amazons) and Coastal Mountain ranges.
      • Formerly part of the Pacific Ocean seabed, featuring caked salt deposits called playas, stretching for miles and up to 1.6 feet thick.
  • Natural Resources:
      • Has largest natural supply of Sodium Nitrate, suitable for fertilizer and explosive production.
      • Soil samples resemble those from Mars, making it a testing ground for NASA’s instruments for missions to the red planet.
  • Astronomical Significance:
      • One of the few locations with over 300 days of clear skies annually and minimal light pollution.
  • Cultural Heritage:
    • Houses the Chinchorro Mummies, the oldest artificially mummified human remains ever discovered.

Debunking the Myth: UPSC Civil Services Exam is Not Just for the Super-Intelligent

GS Paper 2

Spices Board India

  • News:  Spices Board of India has asked companies for quality check information.
  • Introduction to Spices Board
    • Established under the Spices Board Act, 1986, on February 26, 1987.
    • Operates under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.
    • Formed by merging the Cardamom Board and the Spices Export Promotion Council.
  • Mandate and Responsibilities
    • Oversight of 52 spices listed in the Spices Board Act, 1986.
    • Development of small and large cardamom sectors.
    • Promotion and regulation of spice exports.
    • Quality control measures for exported spices.
    • Research activities focused on cardamom conducted through the Indian Cardamom Research Institute.
    • Through these functions, the Spices Board works towards enhancing the development, promotion, and quality assurance of India’s diverse spice industry.

Article 244(A)

  • News:  Residents of the Diphu Constituency in Assam advocate for the enforcement of Article 244(A) of the Constitution.
  • Background of Article 244(A): Inserted into the Constitution by the 22nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1969.
  • Provisions of Article 244(A):
      • Allows for the establishment of an autonomous State comprising select tribal areas within Assam.
      • Grants the autonomous state its own local Legislature, which may be either elected or partially nominated and elected, along with a Council of Ministers or both, for local governance.
  • Enhanced Powers for Tribal Areas: Offers greater authority to tribal areas compared to the Sixth Schedule, particularly regarding law and order administration within the region.
  • Determination of Powers and Functions: Specifies that the specific powers and functions of this autonomous state will be delineated by legislation enacted by the Parliament.

GS Paper 3

Kalesar Wildlife  Sanctuary

  • News: Supreme Court stays construction of four dams inside Haryana’s Kalesar Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Location
      • Situated in the Shivalik foothills of the Himalayas in Haryana.
      • Bordered by the Yamuna River to its east.
  • Geographical Features
      • Valleys in the sanctuary contain seasonal rivulets known locally as ‘soats,’ which typically remain dry for most of the year.
  • Historical Landmarks
      • Houses the historic Kalesar Fort, constructed during the reign of Aurangzeb.
      • Notable for its Dak bungalows, colonial-era administrative architectural bungalows.
  • Flora
      • Rich in diverse flora, including sal, khair, shisam, tun, sain, and amla trees.
  • Fauna
      • Home to a variety of wildlife, including leopards, sambar deer, barking deer, hyenas, jackals, Indian porcupines, Indian pangolins, and langurs.
      • Hosts a range of bird species such as the red junglefowl, grey partridge, Indian peafowl, and white-throated kingfisher.

Maximum Residue  Limit (MRL)

  • News: The Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) increased the maximum residue limit (MRL) of pesticides in herbs and spices by 10 times.
  • Maximum Residue Limit (MRL): Defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as the highest legally tolerable level of pesticide permitted in food or animal feed.
  • Setting of MRLs: 
      • Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) establishes MRLs for pesticides in food and feed crops to ensure food safety and facilitate international trade.
        • CAC was established jointly by the FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1963.
  • Objective of MRLs: 
      • MRLs are instituted to safeguard consumer health and ensure food safety.
  • MRLs in India: 
      • Specified under the Food Safety and Standards (Contaminants, Toxins and Residues) Regulation, 2011, by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
      • Determined based on field trial data obtained through the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC) under the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • Implications of Increasing MRL Limits: 
    • Potential Benefits:
      •  Enhanced pest control measures may lead to increased agricultural yield.
      • Ensures food security by safeguarding crops against pests.
  • Concerns:
    • Elevated dietary exposure to pesticide residues.
    • Overuse of pesticides may contribute to the development of pesticide resistance in pests.
    • Possibility of import bans on Indian food items due to elevated pesticide content, affecting international trade relationships.

Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC) 2024

  • News:  It is released annually by the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC). 
  • Background of the GRFC
      • Published annually by the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC).
      • Established in 2016 as an international alliance to combat food insecurity.
  • Member Organizations
      • Includes the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF, IFPRI, and other governmental and non-governmental organizations.
  • Highlights of GRFC 2024
      • Scope of Analysis: Analyzed a population of 1.3 billion across 59 countries in 2023.
        • Revealed that nearly 282 million individuals faced high levels of acute food insecurity.
  • Trends in Food Insecurity: 2023 marked the fifth consecutive year of escalation in acute food insecurity. Despite varied causes and durations, food deprivation persisted.
  • Drivers of Food Crises: Conflict, extreme weather events, and economic shocks identified as primary drivers. Conflict pushed 135 million people in 20 countries into hunger.
        • Extreme weather events impacted over 72 million individuals in 18 countries.
  • Countries Facing Severe Food Crises: Ten most affected countries in 2023: 
    • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Syrian Arab Republic, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar. 
    • These nations urgently require comprehensive intervention strategies to address food insecurity challenges.
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