Daily Current Affairs | 17th May 2020

Pinanga Andamanensis | A rare palm endemic to the South Andaman Island gets second home 

Recently, a rare palm, Pinanga andamanensis, has been successfully cultivated at Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) based at Palode, Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala).

  • Pinanga andamanensis:
    • It is a rare palm endemic to South Andaman Island. Its entire population of some 600 specimens naturally occurs only in a tiny, evergreen forest pocket in South Andaman’s Mount Harriet National Park.
      • Endemic species are those plants and animals that exist only in one geographical region.
    • The name is derived from ‘Penang’,the modern-day Malaysian state. Penang itself has its origins in Pulau Pinang which means Island of the Areca Nut Palm.
    • It has strong resemblance with the areca palm tree(widely used for bright interiors).
    • It has a small gene pool which means the species is vulnerable to natural calamities such as cyclones, earthquakes.
    • JNTBGRI scientists term it a critically endangered species and one of the least known among the endemic palms of the Andaman Islands.
  • Cultivation at JNTBGRI:
    • Thiruvananthapuramhas been referred as its second home as the species has started flowering in this Institute.
    • JNTBGRI will resume seed germination experimentsfor mass multiplication as part of the conservation strategy.

Mount Harriet National Park

  • It is located in the south of the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
  • Mount Harriet is the third-highest peak in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago next to Saddle Peak in North Andaman and Mount Thuillier in Great Nicobar.
  • The park is covered with evergreen forest pockets.
  • It is rich in flora and faunal species like Andaman wild pigs, saltwater crocodiles, butterflies and palm trees.


Etalin hydel plant’s future now hangs on its economic viability

Recently, some conservationists and former members of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) have sought rejection of approval for the Etalin Hydroelectric Project in the Dibang Valley, Arunachal Pradesh.

  • The Project is based on the river Dibangand is proposed to be completed in 7 years.
    • Dibang is a tributary of the Brahmaputra river which flows through the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
  • It envisages construction of two dams over the tributaries of Dibang: Dir and and Tangon.
  • The Project fallsunder the richest bio-geographical province of the Himalayan zone and would be located at the junction of major biogeographic zones like Palaearctic Zone and Indo-Malayan Zone.
  • It is expected to be one of the biggest hydropower projects in India in terms of installed capacity.

Biogeographic Regions

  • These are the large distinctive units of similar ecology, biome representation, community and species.
  • Originally,six biogeographic regions were identified: Palearctic (Europe and Asia), Nearctic (North America), Neotropical (Mexico, Central and South America), Ethiopian/Afrotropic (Africa), Oriental/Indo-Malayan (Southeast Asia, Indonesia) and Australian (Australia and New Guinea). Currently, eight are recognised since the addition of Oceania (Polynesia, Fiji and Micronesia) and and Antarctica.

Palaearctic Zone

  • This includes arctic and temperate Eurasia and all islands surrounding the continent in the Arctic, in the sea of Japan and the eastern half of the North Atlantic.
  • It also includes the Macaronesian islands, Mediterranean North Africa and Arabia.

Indo-Malayan Zone

  • Its natural boundaries contain tropical Asia from the Balochistan mountains of Pakistan eastward to the Indian subcontinent south of the Himalayan crest, including the tropical southern fringe of China with Taiwan, the whole of Southeast Asia and the Philippines.


  • The Forest Advisory Committee(FAC) of the Ministry of Environment Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) highlighted that the project will clear 2.7 lakh trees in subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest and subtropical rainforests.
  • According to a sub-committee of FAC, the project may be allowed subject to the condition that the financial outlay of Wildlife Conservation Plan be deposited to the Forest Department by user agency on the basis of a study done by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
  • However, there were protests by green groups due to which MoEFCC transferred the project to the Union Power Ministry.


  • Conservationists highlighted that the FAC sub-committee ignored established tenets of forest conservation and related legal issues while recommending the proposal.
  • FAC ignored the threat of forest fragmentation.
    • Forest fragmentation results from ill-planned intrusion of developmental projects into contiguous landscapes with natural forests and threatens rare floral and faunal species in a biodiversity hotspot.
  • FAC’s site inspection report was also questioned for leaving out key details like number of grids across an altitudinal range inspected and the status of vegetation there, direct and indirect signs of wild animals listed in the various schedules of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and overall appreciation of the ecological value of the area.
  • The inadequacy of the Environment Impact Assessment report on Etalin was also highlighted.
    • Wildlife officials ignored observations which include the threat to 25 globally endangered mammal and bird species in the area to be affected.
  • The proposed mitigation measures like setting up butterfly and reptile parks are inadequate and insufficient.


‘Travel Bubbles’ Are Replacing Quarantines Around The World

Recently, the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania started a travel bubble to help put their economies back on track after Covid-19 lockdowns.

  • All three have been fairly successful at managing the Covid-19 outbreak and remaining comparatively safe.
  • In the Estonia-Latvia-Lithuania travel bubble, residents would be able totravel freely by rail, air and sea without quarantine measures.

Baltic Countries

  • Baltic countries, the northeastern region of Europe, include the countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea.
  • The Baltic states are bounded on the west and north by the Baltic Sea, which gives the region its name, on the east by Russia, on the southeast by Belarus and on the southwest by Poland and an exclave of Russia.
  • In 1991,their then popularly elected governments declared independence from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) with overwhelming support.
  • All three of them are members of the European Union (EU) and are sparsely populated (Lithuania-28 lakh, Latvia-19.2 lakh, Estonia-13.3 lakh people).
  • India and Baltic countries have historical connect and common linguistic roots. The cutting edge technology and innovation ecosystems of the Baltic countries complement India’s huge market and appetite for these technologies.
  • Travel Bubble:
    • Creating a travel bubble involves reconnecting countries or states which have shown a good level of success in containing the Covid-19 pandemic
    • Such a bubble would allow the members of the group to restart trade ties with each other and open travel and tourism.
    • According to a report, potential travel bubbles among better-performing countries around the world would account for around 35% of the global Gross Domestic Product(GDP).
    • Travel bubbles are favoured by smaller countries because they are likely to benefit after being able to trade again with larger partners.
  • Criteria for Entering the Travel Bubble:
    • People from the outside countries, willing to join the bubble corridor, will have to go into isolation for 14 days.
    • One should not have travelled outside the member countries of the travel bubble, in the past 14 days.
    • One should not be infected with coronavirus and should not have come in contact with anyone who has been coronavirus infected.
  • Other Countries to Start:
    • Australia and New Zealand reached an agreement to form a travel bubble, once it becomes safe to operate flights between them. Once it opens, the trans-Tasman zone (around Tasman Sea) will allow travel without a quarantine period.
      • Trans-Tasman Zone:Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement is an arrangement between Australia and New Zealand which allows for the free movement of citizens of one of these countries to the other. The arrangement came into effect in 1973 and allows citizens of each country to reside and work in the other country, with some restrictions.
    • China and South Korea have launched a fast track channel for business travellers.
    • In the USA, travel bubbles are being suggested to group states who are doing well against the pandemic.


Sikkim celebrates 45th Statehood Day in solemn function

On the Statehood Day of Sikkim (16th May), the Prime Minister greeted the people of the state and praised the traditions and culture of the state highlighting its contributions to the national progress.

  • Sikkim is located in the northeastern part of the country, in the eastern Himalayas and is one of the smallest states in India.
  • It derives its name from the Limbu(a tribe) words su him, meaning ‘new house’.
  • Capital: Gangtok.
  • Borders:
    • Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north and northeast, Bhutan to the southeast, Indian state of West Bengal to the south and Nepal to the west.
    • Sikkim is ofgreat political and strategic importance for India because of its location along several international boundaries.
  • History:
    • Sikkim became a protectorate of India in 1950 following the Indo-Sikkimese Treaty, with India assuming responsibility for the external relations, defense and strategic communications of Sikkim.
    • Sikkim became the 22nd state of India on 16th May 1975, following a statehood demand from the political leaders.
    • The Namgyal dynasty ruled Sikkim until 1975.
  • Geography:
    • Mount Kanchenjunga,India’s highest peak and the world’s third highest mountain lies in Sikkim.
      • The Kanchenjunga National Park (KNP) (established in 1977), near the peak is among the largest of India’s high-elevation conservation areas.
      • KNP was designated a World Heritage Site in 2016 under the ‘mixed’ category (sites containing elements of both natural and cultural significance).
    • Sikkim is drained by the Teesta river and its tributaries such as the Rangit, Lhonak, Talung and Lachung.
      • Teesta river water conflict is one of the most contentious issues between India and Bangladesh.
      • Teesta river is a tributary of Brahmaputra river.


Cyclone Amphan – All you need to know  

Recently, the National Crisis Management Committee reviewed the preparedness for the impending cyclone Amphan.

  • At the national level, Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) and National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) are the key committees involved in the top-level decision-making related to Disaster Management.
  • Cyclone Amphan (pronounced as UM-PUN) is a tropical cyclone formed over Bay of Bengal that has intensified and likely to turn into a “super cyclonic storm (maximum wind speed is 120 knots)”. Amphan is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
  • According to the India Meteorological Department forecast, it will make landfall as a very severe cyclone between the Sagar islands of West Bengal and the Hatiya islands of Bangladesh.
  • It has been named by Thailand.
  • Affected Regions:West Bengal, Odisha and Bangladesh.
  • Amphan is the second pre-monsoon cyclone to form in the Bay of Bengal in two years. The first one was Cyclone Fani.
    • The pre-monsoon period is generally considered to be unsupportive for the formation of tropical cyclones.

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