Topics in News



• Himalayan region has the largest concentration of glaciers outside the polar caps, as this region is aptly called the “Water Tower of Asia” is the source of the 10 major river systems that provide irrigation, power and drinking water for over 700 million people live in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh– nearly 10% of the world’s population. Understanding the behavior of these glaciers and their contribution to the sustainable supply of water for mankind and agriculture is one of the grand challenges of Indian scientific community.
• Thus the Ministry of Earth Sciences has established a high altitude research station in Himalaya called HIMANSH (literally meaning, a slice of ice), situated above 13,500 ft (> 4000 m) at a remote region in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.

What are key objectives of HIMANSH?
• The research lab, established by the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), has automatic weather stations, ground penetrating radars, geodetic GPS systems and other sophisticated facilities to study glaciers and their discharge.
• The facility will serve as the base for Terrestrial Laser Scanners and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to digitize glacier movements and snow cover variations, said a communication from the NACOR.
• Further, the researchers would be using this as a base for undertaking surveys using Terrestrial Laser Scanners (TLS) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) that would digitize the glacier motion and snow cover variations with exceptional precision.

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Mental Health Policy

• Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
• The National Mental Health Policy is based, inter-alia, on the values and principles of equity, justice, integrated and evidence based care, quality, participatory and holistic approach to mental health.
• It enlists the comprehensive list of vulnerable groups, which include the poor (who are linked with mental illnesses in a “negative vicious cycle”), the homeless (who have “no provision for care and support”), persons in custodial institutions (who face a “deprivation of personal liberty”), orphans, children, the elderly and people affected by emergencies and various natural or man-made disasters.

Its goals and objectives include the following
• to reduce distress, disability, exclusion, morbidity and premature mortality associated with mental health problems across life-span of a person,
• to enhance understanding of mental health in the country,
• to provide universal access to mental health care,
• to increase access to mental health services for vulnerable groups,
• to reduce risk and incidence of suicide and attempted suicide,
• to ensure respect for rights and protection from harm of persons with mental health problems, and reduce stigma associated with mental health problems
• to enhance availability and distribution of skilled human resources for mental health.

Other Key dimensions
• It also recognizes the fact that mental health is linked to many other aspects of life, and thus recommends allocation of funds not just to the government’s health department but also to other sectors such as social welfare, school education and women and child development.
• In addition to the treatment of mental illnesses, the policy also stresses the need to prevent such problems and promote mental health. It places the onus of such promotion on early childhood care itself, by targeting anganwadi centres for children below six years of age.
• The policy aims to train anganwadi workers and school teachers to help parents and care-givers understand the “physical and emotional needs of children to facilitate and affirmative and positive environment” for their growth. It also proposes teaching mandatory life skills education in schools and colleges that, among other things, includes discussions on issues of gender and social exclusion.
• To bring down rates of suicide in India, the policy talks of setting up crisis intervention centres, training community leaders to recognise risk factors, restricting access to means of suicide and also framing guidelines for responsible media reporting of the issue.

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Cloud Bursts

What is cloud burst?
• The cloudburst is a localized weather phenomena representing highly concentrated rainfall over a small area lasting for few hours. This leads to flash floods/ landslides, house collapse, dislocation of traffic and human casualties on large scale.
• Meteorologists say the rain from a cloudburst is usually of the shower type with a fall rate equal to or greater than 100 mm (4.94 inches) per hour.

Impact of Cloudburst
• It cause flood, Huge distraction, destroy vegetation and loss to human life.

How does it form?
• Generally cloudbursts are associated with thunderstorms. The air currents rushing upwards in a rainstorm hold up a large amount of water. If these currents suddenly cease, the entire amount of water descends on to a small area with catastrophic force all of a sudden and causes mass destruction. This is due to a rapid condensation of the clouds. They occur most often in desert and mountainous regions, and in interior regions of continental landmasses.

Prone areas
• They occur most often in desert and mountainous regions, and in interior regions of continental landmasses.
• The topographical conditions like steep hills favour the formation of these clouds in the mountainous regions. And also the devastations, as water flowing down the steep slopes bring debris, boulders and uprooted trees with great velocity damaging any structure that comes in their way.
• The Chhotanagpur plateau spread across north Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand is the world’s most vulnerable spot for formation of severest thunderstorms.
• Cloudburst can occur not only in the monsoon seasons but also during March to May which is known for severe convective weather activities.

Examples of cloudburst
• 2010 Ladakh Floods: A major cloudburst and heavy rainfall on the intervening night of August 6, 2010 triggered mudslides, flash floods and debris flow in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh. 71 towns and villages in Leh were affected in the region and at least 255 people died.
• 2013 Uttarakhand Floods: The multi-day cloudburst in the hill state of Uttarakhand triggered flash floods and massive landslides.

• The large scale features, which are conducive for occurrence of severe thunderstorms associated with cloudburst, are predictable two to three days in advance. However, the specific location and time of cloud burst can be predicted in NOWCAST mode only, i.e. a few hours in advance, when the genesis of thunderstorm has already commenced. To detect these sudden developments, a Doppler Weather Radar (DWR), a powerful tool for time and location specific prediction of cloudburst, can be deployed a few hours in advance. Coupled with satellite imagery this can prove to be useful inputs for extrapolation of cloudbursts anywhere in India.

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