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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Sagar Maitri Mission-2:
Context: DRDO Research Ship INS Sagardhwani Embarks on Sagar Maitri Mission-2.
SAGAR MAITRI is a unique initiative of DRDO which aligns with the broad objective of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s policy declaration “Safety And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR)” to promote closer co-operation in socio-economic aspects as well as greater scientific interaction especially in ocean research among Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) countries.
  1. Under the aegis of PM’s policy, specific scientific component of DRDO is “MAITRI (Marine & Allied Interdisciplinary Training and Research Initiative)”.
  2. SAGAR MAITRI Mission-2 commemorates the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of India’s lone research ship INS Kistna’s missions as part of the historic International Indian Ocean Expeditions (IIOE), which took place during 1962-65.
  3. As part of the mission, INS Sagardhwani will revisit the selected tracks of INS Kistna and provide NPOL scientists ample opportunities to collaborate and garner a close working relationship with the oceanographic counterparts of the IOR countries
  4. The prime objectives of the SAGAR MAITRI Mission are data collection from the entire North Indian Ocean, focussing on the the Andaman Sea and adjoining seas and establishing long-term collaboration with eight IOR countries in the field of ocean research and development.
  5. The programme also aims at establishing long term scientific collaboration with these countries in the field of ‘Ocean Research & Development’ and data collection with a focus in the Andaman Sea.

Urban Haats:
  • It is an initiative of the Ministry of Textiles of the Government of India.
  • The objective of the scheme “Infrastructure and Technology Support” is to setup a permanent marketing infrastructure in big towns/ metropolitan cities to provide direct marketing facilities to the handicrafts artisans/handloom weavers.
  • The scheme is implemented through State Handicrafts/Handlooms Development Corporations/Tourism Development Corporations/ Urban Local Bodies with sufficient financial resources and organizational capacity to implement the project.
  • The financial ceiling for Urban Haat is Rs. 300 lakh for each unit. 80% of the admissible amount is borne by the Office of the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts) and 20% contributed by the implementing agency.

What does Ploonet mean?
What are they? Researchers have modelled the formation of exomoons around gas giant exoplanets. They projected that the massive planets would kick moons out of orbit and send them on their way — or the researchers believe that angular momentum between the giant exoplanet and moon would allow the moon to essentially escape the gravity of the planet. The remnants of the expelled moon would end up circling its star with an eccentric orbit similar to Pluto’s. The researchers have dubbed these rogue exomoons “ploonets.”

Summaries of important Editorials:

Why Assam is prone to floods and what’s the solution?
ContextAssam is in the grip of yet another flood.

Why are floods so destructive in Assam?
  1. Apart from incessant rainfall during the monsoon, there are many contributory factors, natural and man-made.
  2. At the crux is the very nature of the river Brahmaputra —dynamic and unstable. Its 580,000 sq km basin spreads over four countries: China, India, Bangladesh and Bhutan, with diverse environments.
  3. The Brahmaputra features among the world’s top five rivers in terms of discharge as well as the sediment it brings.
  4. The vast amount of sediment comes from Tibet, where the river originates. That region is cold, arid and lacks plantation. Glaciers melt, soil erodes and all of it results in a highly sedimented river.
  5. By the time the river enters Assam — a state comprising primarily floodplains surrounded by hills on all sides — it deposits vast amounts of this silt, leading to erosion and floods. As the river comes from a high slope to a flat plain, its velocity decreases suddenly and this results in the river unloading the sediment. The river’s channels prove inadequate amid this siltation, leading to floods.
  6. Again, because of the earthquake-prone nature of the region, the river has not been able to acquire a stable character. Following the devastating earthquake of 1950, the level of the Brahmaputra rose by two metres in Dibrugarh area in eastern Assam.
  7. Besides these natural factors are the man-made ones — habitation, deforestation, population growth in catchment areas (including in China) — which lead to higher sedimentation. For example, the sediment deposition itself creates temporary sandbars or river islands.
  8. It is common for people to settle in such places, which restricts the space the river has to flow. When rainfall is heavy, it combines with all these factors and leads to destructive floods. This happens very frequently.

Has the government tried to address the factors that cause floods?
  1. In its master plan on the river in 1982, the Brahmaputra Board had suggested that dams and reservoirs be built to mitigate floods. The idea of dams, however, has traditionally been a double-edged sword. While one of their objectives is to regulate the release of flood waters, the release when it comes can sometimes be beyond the capacity of the channels downstream. In the Brahmaputra basin, locals and environmentalists protested against dam-building plans on grounds of displacement and destruction of ecology, preventing the plans from moving forward.
  2. As such, the government has been using only one approach towards floods: building embankments on the river. Embankments were proposed only as an interim and ad hoc measure for short-term mitigation. Their lack of durability has often been on display. Most embankments built in the 1980s are not strong enough. Since they were temporary measures, the government did not spend on high-specification embankments. These are weak and are regularly breached.
  3. The government also considered dredging, basically digging up the riverbed and making the river “deeper”. However, experts have strongly advised against this simply because the Brahmaputra sediment yield is among the highest in the world.

What’s the issue?
The government’s measures have been “piecemeal” and “short-term”. They are not addressing the problem at the source — they are firefighting.
But, is there a long-term solution?
There needs to be “a basin-wide approach” to the problem. That should ideally bring in all the basin-sharing countries on board.
Besides, interstate relationships, political cooperation and the role of the government are also important.
The government can also try flood-plain” zoning, which is done the US. Depending on the vulnerability of the area, you divide them into categories, and accordingly ban certain activities on it: like farming, building a house etc.

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