Current Affairs – November 2016

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Industries should use recycled groundwater: Water Ministry

The Union Water Ministry is planning to impose restrictions on how industries, farmers and various groups can use groundwater by amending to a Bill on groundwater management.

It was announced by the Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti at a seminar organised by the Central Groundwater Board in New Delhi.

Earlier in 2016, the Water Ministry had made public a draft Bill that proposed significant changes to the way groundwater will be regulated.

Key provisions

  • The bill seeks to sharply regulate extracting pristine water from aquifiers which is currently the norm in much of the country. Failing to adhere it will invite stringent punishment.
  • It seeks to guarantee every individual a certain amount of water “for life” and protecting groundwater from undue exploitation and pollution.
  • Industries can only use recycled water, and activities such as gardening must use treated sewage water. It also mandates the use of rainwater harvesting in residential projects.

However, this new version of the Bill does not compel companies and other stakeholders to use recycled water. It only demands t users “give priority” to recycling water.

What is the issue?

Groundwater depletion is among the grave ecological threats that the country faces. It has become serious concern to use groundwater judiciously. The groundwater is source to around 85 % of drinking water and 65% of water for irrigation. However, water being State subject in the seventh schedule of constitution has stalled previous plans to address the problems. Even existing laws give the owners of a piece of land complete right over its groundwater.

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ISRO drones help to map disasters in north-east

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is using drones to map disasters in north-eastern States by collecting land details and add it to data from remote sensing satellites.

In this regard, ISRO’s Shillong-based North-Eastern Space Applications Centre (NE-SAC) has tested unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to map various problems and disasters.

Key facts

  • NE-SAC has taken the initiative for design and assembling of UAVs for various applications to assess several regional problems in the northeast region.
  • UAVs can perform efficient surveys for disaster-prone or physically inaccessible areas. It can undertake quick damage assessment of floods, landslides and earthquakes and enable timely relief measures.
  • These drones providing ground-based details which are generally combined with data from ISRO’s remote sensing satellites.
  • Recently they were used for to map the area affected by landslides along NH40, Meghalaya’s life line. It also gave the extent of damage caused to pest-infested paddy fields in Naramari village of Assam.

About North-Eastern Space Applications Centre (NE-SAC)

  • NE-SAC is a joint initiative of Department of Space (DoS) and North Eastern Council. It was started in the year 2000. It is located at Umiam (near Shillong), Meghalaya.
  • It aims to provide developmental support to the North Eastern region using Space technology-based communication and technology.
  • Its mandate is to develop high technology infrastructure support to enable NE states to adopt space technology for their development.
  • NE-SAC provides developmental support by undertaking specific application projects using remote sensing, satellite communication, GIS and conducts space science research.

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Worst coral die-off recorded at Australia’s Great Barrief Reef

Scientists have recorded worst mass coral bleaching event on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It has killed more corals than ever before, sounding the alarm over the delicate ecosystem.

It is estimated nearly two-thirds of 2,300-kilometre long reef or 700 km stretch of coral in the Great Barrier Reef’s northern part have died in the past nine months.

This is the worst die-off ever recorded in Great Barrier Reef and also the largest ever recorded anywhere. However, the central and southern sections of the reef are fared far better, with only 6% and 1% of the coral dead, respectively.

What are Corals reefs?

  • Coral reefs result from the natural work of little polyps (few millimeters long) is budded on top of one another. They are the most biologically diverse ecosystems of the planet
  • Over centuries, shells (mostly made up of Calcium Carbonate) of these corals combine to form the exotic shapes of coral reefs.
  • Tiny differences in the anatomy of each polyp species mainly affect the shape of their shells and produce the exotic shapes of each reef.
  • Conditions required for growth of corals: Warm tropical oceans with minimum temperature of 20 degree. They are primarily located between 30 degree north and 25 degree south latitudes where water temperature favours the growth of coral organisms; Transparent parts of ocean bodies; Oceanic water must free of sedimentation; it should have relatively low salinity.

What is coral bleaching?

  • Coral bleaching causes corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, draining them of their colour. It calcifies the corals to  turn into white.
  • Algae are vital to the coral, which uses the organic products of photosynthesis to help it grow. The loss of algae makes it vulnerable to disease and it will eventually die.
  • When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. They can recover if the water temperature drops and the algae are able to re-colonise them.
  • Reasons: It occurs when abnormal environmental conditions, such as warmer sea temperatures.
  • In recent times unusual warm ocean water is mainly heated by man-made climate change and the natural El Niño climate pattern.

About the Great Barrier Reef

  • It is the biggest coral reef system in the world composed of over 2,900 individual reefs. It was recorded as a World Heritage site in 1981.
  • The reef is located in the Coral Sea, north east of Australia and covers an area of approximately 348,000 sq km.
  • It is credited as the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms and is visible from the outer space.

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