16th November 2020

Tristan da Cunha – UK Territory

Recently, the isolated UK Overseas Territory of Tristan da Cunha, which is home to the world’s most remote human settlement, declared the largest fully protected marine reserves in the Atlantic Ocean at 687,000 square kilometres. This will close over 90 percent of their waters to harmful activities such as bottom-trawling fishing, sand extraction and deep-sea mining.

  • Tristan da Cunha, which is inhabited by less than 300 humans is a small chain of islands over 6,000 miles from London in the South Atlantic and the water around the islands are considered to be the richest in the world.
  • The mountainous archipelago Tristan da Cunha is home to tens of millions of seabirds and several unique land birds that are comparable to the Galapagos island finches, as per the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), which has been working with the local community and government of Tristan da Cunha.


  • Some of its seabirds that are not found anywhere else in the world face threats including illegal and unregulated fishing activities, overfishing, plastic pollution and climate change. The National Geographic reported that invasive mice brought to the islands by passing ships kill over 2 million birds a year.
  • As of now, there are two critically endangered species in the island group and over five endangered species.
  • The island group is also home to the World Heritage Site of Gough and Inaccessible Islands, which is one of the most important seabird islands in the world.
  • It is located about 2,000 km from the nearest land and as per the RSPB, it takes longer to sail to Tristan da Cunha from Cape Town than it took Apollo 11 to reach the Moon.

What does the announcement mean for the island group?

  • After joining the UK’s Blue Belt Programme, it will become the largest no-take zone in the Atlantic and the fourth largest on the planet. This means fishing, mining and any such activities will not be allowed.
  • The almost 700,000 square kilometres of the Marine Protection Zone (MPZ) is almost three times the size of the UK and will safeguard the future of seven-gill sharks, yellow-nosed albatrosses and rockhopper penguins.
  • Further, this development is also supported by the Blue Belt Programme, which provides over 27 million pounds over a period of five years for marine conservation around the UK Overseas Territories and international organisations.
  • MPZs involve the management of certain natural areas for biodiversity conservation or species protection and are created by delineating zones with permitted and non-permitted areas within that zone.
  • As per the National Geographic Society’s Campaign for Nature Initiative, over 30 percent of the world’s oceans need to be protected to allow ecosystems to provide benefits like ample fish stocks.


Venomous Vine Snakes

A team of researchers from the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), after extensive sampling across peninsular India, have discovered new species of vine snakes in the region.

  • Vine Snakes have slender bodies, narrow heads, and pointed snouts. Vine snakes typically belong to the genera Ahaetulla (Asian vine snakes), Oxybelis (New World vine snakes), and Thelotornis (African vine snakes); however, some authorities also place the genera Imantodes and Langaha in this group. African vine snakes, which inhabit sub-Saharan regions, are most diverse in East Africa. The five species of New World vine snakes range from Texas in the United States to Peru. Ahaetulla is a tropical Asian genus made up of eight species and distributed through India, Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and the East Indies.
  • Vine snakes are known to be among the most common snakes in peninsular India, found even in many peri-urban areas and in the Western Ghats.
  • All vine snakes are venomous with grooved fangs below the eye; however, most species are relatively harmless to humans, and only Thelotornis has caused human fatalities.
  • According to an IISc release, Asian vine snakes, distributed throughout the continent, belong to the genus Ahaetulla and the recently described Proahaetulla.
  • The team discovered that the common green vine snake (Ahaetulla nasuta) in India was a complex of several species. They found four distinct small-bodied and shortnosed species: the Northern Western Ghats vine snake ( Ahaetulla borealis), Farnsworth’s vine snake ( Ahaetulla farnsworthi), Malabar vine snake ( Ahaetulla malabarica) and Wall’s vine snake ( Ahaetulla isabellina) in the Western Ghats rainforests alone,” said the release.
  • These species were superficially similar in their morphology, but separated by geographic or ecological barriers.
  • The team also delineated the Travancore vine snake (Ahaetulla travancorica), separated by morphology and a geographic barrier from the Gunther’s vine snake ( Ahaetulla dispar).
  • Finally, they recognised morphological distinctions between the brown vine snake in the Western Ghats and the one found in Sri Lanka, and gave the Western Ghats form a new name (Ahaetulla sahyadrensis). There are now six species of vine snakes endemic to the Western Ghats.


WHO – Global Centre for Traditional Medicine

The World Health Organization (WHO) will set up a Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in India. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the announcement in a video message at the event in which Prime Minister Modi dedicated two future-ready Ayurveda institutions in Jaipur and Jamnagar to the nation via video conferencing on the occasion of the 5th Ayurveda Day.

The Institute of Teaching and Research in Ayurveda (ITRA), Jamnagar (Gujarat), and the National Institute of Ayurveda (NIA), Jaipur (Rajasthan), are both premier institutions of Ayurveda. The Jamnagar institute has been conferred the status of an Institution of National Importance (INI) by an act of Parliament, and the one at Jaipur has been designated an Institution Deemed to be University (De novo Category) by the University Grants Commission (UGC), according to the AYUSH Ministry.

Traditional medicines in India

  • The traditional Indian system of medicine, which comprises of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy (AYUSH), is a perennially neglected alternative medicine sector. It played an important role against the imperialistic British reign by the cultural nationalistic reassertion but is losing its significance in modern times.
  • These systems are based on definite medical philosophies and represent a way of healthy living with established concepts on prevention of diseases and promotion of health.
  • Importance and demand of Yoga, Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Siddha and Unani medical systems have grown especially due to growing challenges of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), lifestyle disorders, long term diseases, multi-drug resistant diseases, which are not easily solved by the allopathic medical system.
  • After Independence, the Government started supporting all the medical systems for their growth, thereby offering the public a choice for their routine health care need. Because of this as now there are public patronage and institutional support to widen the strength of these systems in curative, preventive, promotive aspects of health care.
  • Challenges – The traditional system of medicine faces the problem of inadequate resources, lack of health centres, capacity building, practitioners and public faith on its efficiency. There are dishonest practices by most of the AYUSH practitioners making allopathy look more trustworthy.


  • WHO Global Centre of Traditional Medicine in India will help to strengthen the evidence, research, training and awareness of traditional and complementary medicine.
  • This new centre will support WHO’s efforts to implement the WHO traditional medicine strategy 2014-2023, which aims to support countries in developing policies and action plans to strengthen the role of traditional medicine.

World Health Organisation

  • Founded in 1948 and based in Geneva, Switzerland, it is the UN agency responsible for global public health.
  • Has 194 member states, and aims to “promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.
  • Involved in vaccination campaigns, health emergencies and supporting countries in primary care.
  • Funded by a combination of members’ fees based on wealth and population and voluntary contributions.

Funding for WHO

World Health Organisation is funded through

  1. Assessed Contributions
  • These are the dues countries pay in order to be a member of the Organization.
  • The amount each Member State must pay is calculated relative to the country’s wealth and population.
  • These contributions have declined, and now account for less than one-fourth of its funding.
  1. Voluntary Contributions –
  • These come from Member States (in addition to their assessed contribution) or from other partners (organisations & individuals) 
  • They can range from flexible to highly earmarked.
  • Top funders include Bill and Melinda Gates (USD 367.7 million), GAVI Vaccine Alliance, World Bank, Rotary International and the European Commission.


CSIR – Emergency Retrieval System for Power Lines

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) constituent laboratory Structural Engineering Research Centre (SERC) based in Chennai has developed an indigenous technology, Emergency Retrieval System (ERS), for quick retrieval of power transmission in the event of failure of transmission line towers.


  • At present, the ERS systems are imported. There are very few manufacturers across the world and the cost is relatively high.
  • This technological development will enable the manufacturing in India for the first time, which will be an import substitute and will cost about 40% of imported systems.
  • ERS has huge market requirement in India as well as in SAARC and African countries. Hence, this technological development is a big leap forward towards Atma Nirbhar Bharat and Make in India.

Indigenously developed ERS

  • ERS is a lightweight modular system that is used as temporary support structure to restore power immediately after the collapse of transmission line towers during natural calamities such as cyclone/earthquake, or manmade disruptions.
  • ERS can be assembled quickly at the disaster site for restoration of power in 2-3 days, whereas the permanent restoration may take several weeks.
  • This development is very significant as failure of transmission lines severely impact lives of common people and causes huge monetary loss to the power companies.
  • As the total losses/damages are directly proportional to the outage duration, time is a crucial factor in reinstating or remediating the damaged/fallen structures.


  • Made of structurally highly stable box sections, ERS is lightweight, modular and reusable.
  • It provides complete solution from member connections up to the foundation for different type of soil conditions.
  • The system is verified through rigorous structural tests. Basic knowledge and tools are enough to assemble and install ERS at the disaster site.
  • Suitable configurations for different voltage-class of transmission line systems are possible.
  • The system is compact and yet provides full functionality on erection. It is designed as a scalable system for 33 to 800 kV class of power lines and can help in building a disaster resilient society.

Birsa Munda – Jayanti

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has paid tributes to Bhagwan Birsa Munda on his Jayanti.

Bhagwan Birsa Munda

  • Born in 1875 in the Munda tribe. He is often referred to as ‘Dharti Abba’ or the Earth Father.
  • He led the rebellion that came to be known as Ulgulan (revolt) or the Munda rebellion against the British government-imposed feudal state system.
  • He awakened the masses and sowed the seeds of revolt in them against the landlord as well as the Britishers. He organised masses to stop paying debts/interest to moneylenders and taxes to the British. By this, he led a revolt to bring an end to Victorian rule and the establishment of Munda Rule in Jharkhand (erstwhile Bengal Presidency region).
  • He formed two military units- one for military training and armed struggle, the other for propaganda. He combined religion with politics and traveled across villages giving discourses and building a politico-military organisation.
  • His struggle against the exploitation and discrimination against tribals led to the passing of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act in 1908 which restricted the passing of land from the tribal people to non-tribals.
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