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In news:

The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), with help from Gujarat’s forest department, is attempting for the first time a process to restore coral reefs using biorock or mineral accretion technology.

In Brief:

  • The technology works by passing a small amount of electrical current through electrodes in the water, using solar panels that float on the surface.
  • When a positively charged anode and negatively charged cathode are placed on the sea floor, with an electric current flowing between them, calcium ions combine with carbonate ions and adhere to the structure (cathode). This results in calcium carbonate formation.
  • Fragments of broken corals are also tied to the biorock structure, where they are able to grow at least four to six times faster than their actual growth as they need not spend their energy in building their own calcium carbonate skeletons.

Coral Bleaching:

  • The vibrant colours in corals are due to a marine algae called zooxanthellae, which live inside the coral tissues.
  • This algae provides the corals with an easy food supply thanks to photosynthesis, which gives the corals energy, allowing them to grow and reproduce.
  • When corals get stressed, from things such as heat or pollution, they react by expelling this algae, leaving a ghostly, transparent skeleton behind.
  • This is known as ‘coral bleaching’. Some corals can feed themselves, but without the zooxanthellae most corals starve.

Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI)

  • India has climbed eight places to 72nd rank in the GTCI report which is compiled by INSEAD in collaboration with human resource firm Addeco and Google.
  • It measures countries based on six pillars
    1. enable
    2. attract
    3. grow
    4. retain talent
    5. vocation and technical skills
    6. global knowledge skills
  • It is topped by Switzerland, the US and Singapore.
  • In the BRICS grouping, China was ranked 42nd, Russia (48th), South Africa (70th) and Brazil at 80th position.

Nagardhan Excavations

In news:

Recent archaeological excavations at Nagardhan near Nagpur have provided evidence on the life, religious affiliations and trade practices of the Vakataka dynasty that ruled parts of Central and South India between the third and fifth centuries.

In brief:

  • The 1,500 year-old oval-shaped seals which belongs to the period when Prabhavatigupta was the queen of the Vakataka dynasty.
  • It bears her name in the Brahmi script
  • Since the Vakataka people traded with Iran and beyond through the Mediterranean Sea, scholars suggest that these sealings could have been used as official royal permission issued from the capital city.
  • Nagardhan is a large village in Nagpur district which sits on top of the ancient habitation. The Nagardhan Fort stands south of present-day Nagardhan village.
  • It was after archaeological evidence from here that Nagardhan was understood to have served as a capital of the Vakataka kingdom.

Oslo Peace Accord

In news:

Palestinian officials threatened to withdraw from key provisions of the Oslo Accords, which define relations with Israel, if U.S. President Donald Trump announces his Middle East peace plan.

About Oslo accord:

  • A set of two separate agreements signed by the government of Israel and the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the militant organization established in 1964 to create a Palestinian state.
  • The negotiations between Israel and the PLO that ultimately led to the Oslo Accords which began in secret, in Oslo, Norway in 1993.
  • The Oslo Accords were ratified in Washington, D.C., in 1993 (Oslo I) and in Taba, Egypt, in 1995 (Oslo II).
  • The interim agreement set out the scope of Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • The interim pact was only supposed to last five years until a permanent agreement has to be finalised, but it has tacitly been rolled over for more than two decades.

Sagarmatha Sambaad

In news:

Nepal has invited the PMs of India and Pakistan along with several other heads of government and heads of state for the Sagarmatha Sambaad.

In brief:

  • Sagarmatha Sambaad is a multi-stakeholder, permanent global dialogue forum initiated by the Government of Nepal.
  • It is scheduled to be held biennially in Nepal.
  • The Sambaad (dialogue) is named after the world’s tallest mountain Sagarmatha (Mount Everest).
  • The first episode of the Sambaad is scheduled to be held from 2 to 4 April 2020
  • Theme: “Climate Change, Mountains and the Future of Humanity.”

A-Sat Weapon System

In news:

The DRDO Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) Weapon System was on display at Rajpath in the Republic Day parade.

In brief:

  • In March 2019, the DRDO launched ‘Mission Shakti’, India’s first A-SAT mission and demonstrated its anti-satellite technology.
  • Anti-satellite weapon systems are missile-based systems to attack moving satellites. They have a long history and were a product of the Cold War hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union.

About Mission Shakti:

  • India conducted its first anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test successfully destroying a low earth orbit satellite in space by using a missile.
  • The satellite downed by the ASAT missile was Microsat-R, an imaging satellite which was launched into orbit on January 24, 2019 using a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
  • The test was carried out from the APJ Abdul Kalam Island in Odisha and the interceptor was a three-stage missile with two solid rocket boosters.
  • ASAT missile was a modified exo-atmospheric interceptor missile of the Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD).
  • The missile travelled a distance of almost 300 km from earth and hit the target within three minutes of its launch.
  • The test places India in a select group alongside the US, Russia and China.
  • As per India’s understanding, the test does not violate any international law or treaty obligation and is much less harmful than the Chinese ASAT test in 2007 that led to a large-scale scattering of debris in space that threatened other satellites.