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DAILY CURRENT EVENTS CIVILS360

October 20, 2017

Air quality nosedives in spite of a quieter Deepavali

  • The Air Quality Index (AQI), a six-rung classification scale that rates air quality from ‘good’ to ‘severe’, downgraded air quality in Chennai from ‘satisfactory’ on October 16 to ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ in the days leading up to Deepavali. As of 4 p.m. on Thursday, the AQI for Chennai was 302, just shy of Delhi’s 319.
  • The primary pollutant in both cities was PM 2.5, or particles that are smaller than 2.5 microns and linked to respiratory illnesses.
  • Experts suggest that the weather conditions, which slowed the speed of winds in the Bay of Bengal, resulted in the high levels of pollutants enveloping Chennai.
  • In Bengaluru, PM 2.5 was recorded at 13.46 microgrammes per cubic metre on the outskirts to as high as 71.12 in Peenya Industrial estate. The city saw an uptick in cracker smoke on Thursday.

 

 

Downward trend

  • “There will be a rise due to bursting of crackers, but we have noticed a downward trend over the past few years. There is a tendency to celebrate a greener Deepavali,” said B. Nagappa, scientific officer, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board.
  • While last year’s Deepavali saw heavy rain, the chill and morning mist had set in. Mr. Nagappa expects particulate matter to hover over the city due to lack of dispersal.
  • Hazy weather is expected in Hyderabad over the next few days, meaning pollution from firecrackers could remain suspended in the air due to temperature inversion, weathermen say.

 

 

Spain moves to suspend Catalonia’s autonomy

  • Spain said on Thursday that it will move to seize some of the Catalan regional government’s powers after its leader warned that he could declare independence, escalating the country’s worst political crisis in decades.
  • The central government in Madrid had given separatist leader Carles Puigdemont until 10:00 am (0800 GMT) on Thursday to say whether or not he was declaring a breakaway state in the semi-autonomous region following a chaotic referendum on October 1.
  • Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had warned he would trigger Article 155 of Spain’s Constitution — a never-before-used measure allowing it to impose direct rule over the wealthy northeastern region — unless Mr. Puigdemont backed down.
  • Catalonia’s 7.5 million residents are fiercely attached to their own language and culture but are divided on whether to break away from the rest of Spain.
  • Mr. Puigdemont says his regional administration has a mandate to declare independence from what he says was a 90-% “Yes” vote on October 1, marred by a heavy-handed police crackdown on voters.
  • But turnout was given as only 43%. Many voters who oppose independence stayed away from a referendum that had been declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court.
  • Separatists complain that Catalonia, which represents about a fifth of Spain’s economic output, pours more into the national coffers than it gets back, and say it would prosper if it went its own way. But opponents say the region has more clout as part of Spain and that the instability could be disastrous for its economy.
  • The current standoff is already taking a toll on one of Spain’s most important regional economies.More than 800 companies have moved their legal headquarters out of Catalonia, citing the risk of instability, while Madrid has cut its national growth forecast for next year to 2.3%.

New species of large gecko discovered

  • The Kanger valley rock geckoHemidactylus kangerensisis the newest addition to India’s lizard species.
  • According to a paper published in the taxonomic journal Comptes Rendus Biologies on Wednesday, researchers, led by Zeeshan Mirza of the National Centre for Biological Sciences, discovered the gecko from Chhattisgarh’s Kanger Ghati National Park. Though named after this park, the species is also found in Jagdalpur and Sukma in Chhattisgarh and in Khamman in the adjoining State of Telangana, which are part of the Eastern Ghats.
  • The distinct black-bordered beige bands that the new species sports right from its neck to its tail tip and specific scales on its thighs (which are visible only on closer inspection) set the Kanger valley rock gecko apart from the commonly-found rock gecko.