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Daily Current Affairs – 2020

Topic: For Prelims and Mains

Reducee Land Degradation and Coral Reef Program

17th Sep 2020

Why in news?

The Environment Ministerial Meeting (EMM) of the G20 countries took place through video conferencing under the Presidency of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Representing India, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar applauded the launch of Global Initiative to reduce Land Degradation and Coral Reef program and two documents on climate change related to managing emissions and climate change adaptations under the G20 this year.

The Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation aims to strengthen the implementation of existing frameworks to prevent, halt, and reverse land degradation within G20 member states and globally, taking into account possible implications on the achievement of other SDGs.

The Global Coral Reef R&D Accelerator Platform is an innovative action-oriented initiative aimed at creating a global research and development (R&D) program to advance research, innovation and capacity building to enhance coral reefs conservation.

What is land degradation?

UNCCD defines land degradation as a “reduction or loss, in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas, of the biological or economic productivity and complexity of rain-fed cropland, irrigated cropland, or range, pasture, forest, and woodlands resulting from land uses or from a process or combination of processes, including processes arising from human activities and habitation patterns-

Such as

(i) soil erosion caused by wind and/or water;

(ii) deterioration of the physical, chemical, and biological or economic properties of soil; and

(iii) long-term loss of natural vegetation”.

Land degradation (LD) can be broadly divided into physical, chemical & biological degradation

  1. Physical degradation is erosion, soil organic carbon loss, change in soil’s physical structure-e.g. compaction, waterlogging. Globally soil erosion is the most important LD process resulting in removal of topsoil. Soil productivity is depleted through reduced rooting depth, loss of plant nutrients and physical loss of topsoil
  2. Chemical degradation refers to leaching, salinisation, fertility depletion, acidification, nutrient imbalances
  3. Biological degradation implies the loss of vegetation, rangeland degradation and loss in biodiversity including soil organic matter

What is Desertification?

According to Article 1 of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD, Paris, 1994), desertification means “land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.”

Causes of land degradation and desertification in India:

  • Overgrazing, Deforestation and Careless Forest Management:
  • Urban Growth, Industrialisation and Mining
  • Natural causes:

It Includes earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, avalanches, landslides, volcanic eruptions, floods, tornadoes, and wildfires.

  • Land Shortage, Land Fragmentation and Poor Economy
  • Population Increase
  • Agricultural activities and practices
  • Poor Irrigation and Water Management
  • Pesticide Overuse and Soil Pollution

What is SDG 15?

It aims to Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Important Targets:

  • By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services
  • By2020,promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests
  • By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil
  • By 2030, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity.

Djibouti Code of Conduct

Why in news?

India joined the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCOC) as an observer as part of efforts aimed at enhancing maritime security in the Indian Ocean region.

What is Djibouti Code of Conduct?

It is also known as the Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.

  • It was adopted on 29thJanuary 2009.
  • It was established under the International Maritime Organization(IMO).

Objective: Under the code, the signatories agreed to co-operate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships.

Jeddah Amendment: An amendment to DCOC was made in 2017 to cover other illicit maritime activities, including human trafficking and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and to build national and regional capacity to address wider maritime security issues, as a basis for sustainable development of the maritime sector.

Signatories: It has been signed by 20 countries including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Seychelles, Somalia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Yemen, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Jordan, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates.

    • The member states are located in areas adjoining the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and the east coast of Africa and include island nations in the Indian Ocean.

Observers: India, Japan, Norway, the UK and the USA.

Significance of India Becoming an Observer:

Boosting its Indian Ocean Outreach: As India is strengthening its position in the Indian Ocean and nearby waters as part of its overall Indo-Pacific policy, this move will help it in increasing its strategic footprints in Western and Eastern Indian Ocean besides Eastern African coastal states.

Blue Economy: Blue economy is one of the key areas of the Jeddah Amendment.

It refers to the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health.

  • India has also focussed on the growth of the blue economy through its framework of Indian Ocean Rim Associationand DCOC may be another step in that direction.

India-China: China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, its claim in the East China Sea and its rapid advance into the Indian Ocean through ambitious strategic and economic initiatives like the String of pearls and Belt-and-Road Initiative may pose a threat to India.

Further, China is modernising its military base at Djibouti.

  • Given India’s stakes in Indian ocean and rising Indo-China conflicts, it is very significant for India to develop blue-water naval capabilities.

India in Indo-Pacific:

  • Shangrila Dialogue:India has internationally emphasized on including the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean in the concept of Indo-Pacific, like at Shangrila Dialogue in
  • In accordance, it also set up an Indo-Pacific divisionin the Ministry of External Affairs.

Quad: Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) refers to an ad hoc group including Australia, India, Japan, and the USA with a shared objective to ensure and support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.

India has signed reciprocal military logistics support agreements with Australia, USA and Japan to increase interoperability with the navies of those countries.

ASEAN: India has emphasized the centrality of ASEAN in its Indo-Pacific framework and India’s Act East policy provides strategic direction to increase its cooperation with ASEAN members.

SAGAR: The Indian government introduced the concept of SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region) in 2015 as its strategic vision for the Indian Ocean Region.

Through SAGAR, India seeks to deepen economic and security cooperation with its maritime neighbours and assist in building their maritime security capabilities.

  • India’s other policies impacting the maritime domain include Project SagarmalaProject MausamInformation Fusion Centre (IFC) for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), etc.
  • India has also begun to focus on its strategic partners in the Western Indian ocean.It has been accepted as an observer at Indian Ocean Commission.


Why in News ?

Scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced their predictions about the new solar cycle, called Solar Cycle 25, which they believe has begun.

What is a solar cycle?

Since the Sun’s surface is a very active space, electrically charged gases on its surface generate areas of powerful magnetic forces, which are called magnetic fields.

  • Since the gases on the Sun’s surface are constantly moving, these magnetic fields can get stretched, twisted and tangled creating motion on the surface, which is referred to as solar activity.
  • Solar activity varied with the stages of the solar cycle, which lasts on average for a period of 11 years.
  • Solar cycles have implications for life and technology on Earth as well as astronauts in space.

What are sunspots?

  • Scientists track a solar cycle by using sunspots, which are the dark blotches on the Sun that are associated with solar activity. Sunspots are associated as the origins for giant explosions such as solar flares that can spew light, energy and solar material into space.
  • A Sunspot is an area on the Sun that appears dark on the surface and is relatively cooler than the surrounding parts. These spots, some as large as 50,000 km in diameter, are the visible markers of the Sun’s magnetic field, which forms a blanket that protects the solar system from harmful cosmic radiation.

What is ‘Solar Minimum’?

The sun is said to have gone into a state called the ‘solar minimum’ and is about to enter the deepest period of ‘sunshine recession’ as sunspots are virtually not visibly at all.

Some reports suggest that it has been almost 100 days this year when the sun has shown zero sunspots.



The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has invited proposals for the National Highways Excellence Awards for the year 2020.


  • The awards are given every year in seven categories, Excellence in Project Management, Excellence in Operation and Maintenance, Green Highway, Innovation, Excellence in Highway Safety, Excellence in Toll Management and Outstanding Work in Challenging Conditions.

The awards were instituted in the year 2018.

  • The aim is to recognise companies which are performing exceptionally well in the construction, operations, maintenance and tolling stages of highway development as well as in the arena of road safety.


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