Daily Current Affairs 05.03.2023( With overfishing, great seahorses bolt from Coromandel, Assam’s moidams fit UNESCO requirements for heritage site, Phytoplankton blooms increase in size in 21st century, Why is the tribal panel upset with Environment Ministry over forest rights?, Internet should be open in India, unlike that in China: Chandrasekhar )

Daily Current Affairs 05.03.2023( With overfishing, great seahorses bolt from Coromandel, Assam’s moidams fit UNESCO requirements for heritage site, Phytoplankton blooms increase in size in 21st century, Why is the tribal panel upset with Environment Ministry over forest rights?, Internet should be open in India, unlike that in China: Chandrasekhar )


1. With overfishing, great seahorses bolt from Coromandel

Found vulnerable: The great seahorse, one of the nine species found in the Indian coastal ecosystem, is among the eight species tagged ‘vulnerable’.

Extensive fishing off the Coromandel coast could be forcing the great seahorse to migrate laboriously toward Odisha.

Fishing is less intense in the Bay of Bengal off the Odisha coastline. However, the shallow coastal ecosystem of the eastern Indian State may not be the new comfort zone for the fish with a horse-like head, a study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Threatened Taxa said.

The study was based on a specimen of a juvenile great seahorse, or Hippocampus kelloggi, caught in a ring net and collected from the Ariyapalli fish landing centre in Odisha’s Ganjam district. The authors of the study are Anil Kumar Behera and Biswajit Mahari of Berhampur University’s Department of Marine Sciences, and Amrit Kumar Mishra of Bombay Natural History Society’s Department of Marine Conservation.

Vulnerable species

There are 46 species of seahorses reported worldwide. The coastal ecosystems of India house nine out of 12 species found in the Indo-Pacific, one of the hotspots of seahorse populations that are distributed across diverse ecosystems such as seagrass, mangroves, macroalgal beds, and coral reefs.

These nine species are distributed along the coasts of eight States and five Union Territories from Gujarat to Odisha, apart from Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The population of the great seahorse, which is among the eight species tagged ‘vulnerable’, is declining due to its overexploitation for traditional Chinese medicines and as an ornamental fish, combined with general destructive fishing and fisheries bycatch, the study said.

“Despite the ban on fishing and trading activities on seahorses from 2001, clandestine fishing and trading still take place in India. This creates immense pressure on the seahorse populations that have a high dependence on local habitats to maintain their extensive and long-life history traits,” it said.

Long migration

Seahorses are poor swimmers but migrate by rafting — clinging to floating substrata such as macroalgae or plastic debris for dispersal by ocean currents — to new habitats for successful maintenance of their population.

However, the 1,300-km northward migration of the great seahorse from the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar to Odisha is likely a response to extensive fishing activities around the southern coast of India.

The species is abundant off the Coromandel coast (Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu), but is under extensive fishing pressure, with 13 million individuals caught a year, the study said.

Need for conservation

“This calls for increased monitoring of the coastal ecosystems of India on the east coast for better conservation and management of the remaining seahorse populations,” it advised. However, the great seahorse is not migrating in large numbers, as the Odisha coast does not have coral reefs or seagrass meadows that the species can call home, except within the Chilika region, Mr. Mishra said.

“The intensity of fishing is much lower compared to the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay region. So, even if they migrate northwards, they would not have a suitable habitat, unless the fishing nets that catch them are banned or the fishing practices such as trawling are stopped,” he told The Hindu.

2. Assam’s moidams fit UNESCO requirements for heritage site

Pyramids of Assam: The moidams enshrine the mortal remains of Ahom royalty along with the objects they cherished. 

Assam’s pyramid-like structures known as moidams or maidams have met all the technical requirements of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said.

Charaideo in eastern Assam has more than 90 moidams, the mound-burial system of the Ahoms who ruled large swathes of the present-day State and beyond for some 600 years until the advent of the British in the 1820s.

“With great pride, happy to share a landmark achievement in our endeavour to get World Heritage Site status for Charaideo Maidams. The maidams have met all technical requirements of the UNESCO Secretariat. My gratitude once again to Hon PM Shri @narendramodi ji for the nomination,” Mr. Sarma tweeted on the night of Friday.

He attached a letter from Lazare Eloundou Assamo, Director of the World Heritage Centre’s cultural sector, to Vishal V. Sharma, the Permanent Delegate of India to UNESCO.

“The nomination of Moidams – the mound-burial system of the Ahom Dynasty met all of the technical requirements outlined in the Operational Guidelines concerning completeness check of nominations to the World Heritage List. It is important to recall that the technical completeness of a nomination does not imply that the site concerned is of Outstanding Universal Value and would necessarily be inscribed on the World Heritage List,” Mr. Assamo’s letter announced.

3. Phytoplankton blooms increase in size in 21st century

Coastal phytoplankton blooms increased in both their size and their frequency between 2003 and 2020 (Nature). Researchers created a comprehensive map of bloom distribution and trends by assessing 7,60,000 satellite images. The total bloom-affected area in 2020 was 31.47 million sq km (8.6% of the global ocean area). This was an increase of 3.97 million sq km (13.2%) from 2003. The global median frequency also showed an increasing rate of 59.2% over the observed period.

4. Why is the tribal panel upset with Environment Ministry over forest rights?

What is the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes claiming about the Forest Conservation Rules of 2022?

The story so far:

After the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) invoked its constitutional power to requisition detailed Forest Rights Act implementation reports from the Supreme Court, the Registrar has ordered the release of documents to the NCST. The ST Commission is caught in a row with the Union Environment Ministry over the Forest Conservation Rules (FCR), 2022. The row is over the potential violation of provisions enshrined in the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 dubbed the Forest Rights Act (FRA).

What is the Act and the rules?

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in June 2022, notified the Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, which prescribed the mechanism for the diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes. These amended rules have omitted a clause (present in 2014 and 2017 Rules) that explicitly required any proposal to mandatorily have the consent of local tribespeople and other traditional forest dwellers (OTFDs) of the area, before proceeding for Stage 1 clearance. The FCR, 2022 has allowed entities to go for the consent of locals, after Stage 1 or even after Stage 2 clearance. According to the FRA, 2006, in case of a dispute over forest land, precedence has to be given to the rights of STs and OTFDs, over any other party.

What is the NCST demanding?

In September, 2022, NCST Chairperson Harsh Chouhan shot off a letter to Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav, highlighting the potential consequences of FCR, 2022, recommending that they be put on hold and the previous Rules, which provided for the consent clause, be strengthened. The ST panel argued that the previous versions of the Rules provided a legal space for “ensuring completion of the processes for recognition and vesting of rights under the FRA in areas where forests are being diverted.”

The ST Commission noted that it made little sense to take the consent of tribals and forest dwellers after an applicant had got Stage 1 clearance. By then, the applicant would be invested in the project and would then have the incentive to “pursue the State Governments or Union Territories” to divert the land at the earliest, it said. Further, the NCST found that even under the old rules, FRA compliance was in trouble. It said currently, nearly 25,000- 30,000 hectares of forest land was being diverted every year. It cited a study by the Centre for Environment and Development, ATREE to note: “Out of 128 applications for forest diversion for mining, over 100 had been processed between 2009 and 2018.” It added that 74 proposals had Stage 2 approval, 46 had Stage 1 approval (in-principle), with just five rejected and four closed for other reasons. None of the rejections was for non-compliance of FRA. The study also found that 14 of these cases had been cleared with an FRA compliance report, despite this being far from the “ground reality”.

Mr. Yadav wrote back to the NCST chief insisting that FCR, 2022 does not violate any provisions granting land rights to STs and OTFDs.

5. Internet should be open in India, unlike that in China: Chandrasekhar

No country can dominate the semiconductor supply chain alone when moving away from China, says the Minister of State for Electronics and IT; Urges collaboration between like-minded nations amid ‘reordering of the semiconductor world’

The Internet should be open in India and certainly unlike that in China, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, said on Saturday.

“We have squarely defined three boundary conditions around which we believe everyone should operate on the Indian internet,” he said, speaking at a Raisina Dialogue session on ‘Protecting Our Technology Futures’.

The conditions were that: “the Internet should be open; it should certainly not be like the Chinese Internet. It should be a safe and trusted space”.

On de-risking global supply chains from overreliance on Chinese semiconductors, Mr. Chandrasekhar reiterated that no country could do this end-to-end without collaborating with ‘like minded nations’.

‘A reordering’

“There’s a reordering of the semiconductor world,” Mr. Chandrasekhar said, in an apparent reference to the U.S.’s CHIPS Act, and India’s efforts to attract investments in manufacturing high-tech equipment.

“No country is going to be able to do this alone.” Countries should not “delude” themselves into thinking they would be the “king of the hill” in localising the entire supply chain, he cautioned.

The minister dismissed criticism that the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, would threaten freedom of expression and argued that the rules had been put in place to ensure accountability for platforms as well as a “safe and trusted” Internet.

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