WASHINGTON: Global land-use changes including forest fragmentation, agricultural expansion and concentrated livestock production are creating “hot spots” favourable for bats that carry coronaviruses and where conditions are ripe for the diseases to jump from bats to humans, finds a new study.
The findings were published by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, the Politecnico di Milano (Polytechnic University of Milan) and the Massey University of New Zealand.
While the exact origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus remain unclear, scientists believe that the disease likely emerged when a virus that infects horseshoe bats was able to jump to humans, either directly through wildlife-to-human contact, or indirectly by first infecting an intermediate animal host, such as the pangolin, sometimes known as the scaly anteater.
Horseshoe bats are known to carry a variety of corona viruses, including strains that are genetically similar to ones that cause COVID-19 and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
The new study used remote sensing to analyse land-use patterns throughout the horseshoe bat’s range, which extends from Western Europe through Southeast Asia.
By identifying areas of forest fragmentation, human settlement and agricultural and livestock production, and comparing these to known horseshoe bat habitats, they identified potential hot spots where habitat is favourable for these bat species, and where these so-called zoonotic viruses could potentially jump from bats to humans.
The analysis also identified locations that could become easily become hot spots with changes in land use.
“Land use changes can have an important impact on human health, both because we are modifying the environment, but also because they can increase our exposure to zoonotic disease,” said study co-author Paolo D’Odorico, a professor of environmental science, policy and management at UC Berkeley.
“Every formal land-use change should be evaluated not only for the environmental and social impacts on resources such as carbon stocks, microclimate and water availability but also for the potential chain reactions that could impact human health,” Paolo added.
Most of the current hot spots are clustered in China, where a growing demand for meat products has driven the expansion of large-scale, industrial livestock farming. Concentrated livestock production is particularly concerning because the practice brings together large populations of genetically similar, often immune-suppressed animals that are highly vulnerable to disease outbreaks, the researchers said.
The analysis also found that parts of Japan, the north Philippines and China south of Shanghai are at risk of becoming hot spots with further forest fragmentation, while parts of Indochina and Thailand may transition into hot spots with increases in livestock production.
“The analyses aimed to identify the possible emergence of new hot spots in response to an increase in one of three land-use attributes, highlighting both the areas that could become suitable for spillover and the type of land-use change that could induce hot spot activation,” said study co-author Maria Cristina Rulli, a professor in hydrology and water and food security at the Politecnico di Milano in Italy.
Maria added, “We hope these results could be useful for identifying region-specific targeted interventions needed to increase resilience to coronavirus spillovers.”
Human encroachment into natural habitat can also indirectly increase exposure to zoonotic disease by reducing valuable biodiversity. When forest lands become fragmented and natural habitats are destroyed, species that require very specific habitat to survive, called “specialists,” may dwindle or even go extinct. Without competition from specialists, “generalist” species, which are less picky about their habitat, can take over.
Horseshoe bats are a generalist species and have often been observed in areas characterized by human disturbance. Earlier work by Rulli, D’Odorico and study co-author David Hayman has also linked forest fragmentation and habitat destruction in Africa to outbreaks of the Ebola virus.
“By creating conditions that are disadvantageous to specialist species, generalist species are able to thrive,” D’Odorico said. “While we are unable to directly trace the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from wildlife to humans, we do know that the type of land-use change that brings humans into the picture is typically associated with the presence of these bats who are known to carry the virus.”
While China has been a leader in tree planting and other greening efforts over the past two decades, many of the trees have been planted in discontinuous land areas or forest fragments. To tilt the ecological balance back in favour of specialist species, creating continuous areas of forest cover and wildlife corridors are more important than increasing total tree cover.
“Human health is intertwined with environmental health and also animal health,” D’Odorico said.
D’Odorico added, “Our study is one of the first to connect the dots and really drill down into the geographic data on land use to see how humans are coming into contact with species that might be carriers.” ANI
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Independence Day: West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee joins dance and folk artistes
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hoisted the national flag in Kolkata on Monday. On the occasion of Independence Day, Banerjee also joined artistes during their performances.
Meanwhile, artistes across the eastern state were seen performing at the event where CM was seen first cheering and lauding the performances. Earlier, Banerjee also extended her wishes on the 76th Independence Day.
“On the completion of 75 years of Independence, India must awaken to the real essence of Independence. We must stay true to the vision of our forefathers and keep the aspirations of our future generations at heart. My heartfelt greetings to all my fellow citizens. Jai Hind!,” CM Banerjee tweeted.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign. He called upon the people of the country to join it. PM Modi said that the tricolor not only has three colors, but it is also a reflection of our commitment to the present, our past glory, and our dreams for the future.
However, Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav is an initiative of the government to celebrate 75 years of Independence. The national flag will be hoisted in every house of the country till 15th August.
UK approved Modern vaccine targeting Omicron
The updated Moderna vaccine against COVID-19, which targets both the original form and the Omicron variant, was approved by the UK on Monday, making it the first nation to do so. The bivalent vaccination produced by US pharmaceutical company Moderna as a booster for adults has received approval from the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) authorised the vaccine for adult booster doses “after it was found to meet the UK regulator’s standards of safety, quality and efficacy” and to elicit a “strong immune response” against both strains, according to a statement.
Clinical study data that indicated the booster elicited “a significant immune response” against both Omicron (BA.1) and the original 2020 virus, according to the MHRA, were the basis for the agency’s approval.
The MHRA also highlighted a preliminary analysis in which it was discovered that the shot produced a strong immunological reaction against the two currently predominant Omicron offspring, BA.4 and BA.5.
MHRA chief executive June Raine said in a statement, “The first generation of COVID-19 vaccines being used in the UK continue to provide important protection against the disease and save lives.”
“What this bivalent vaccine gives us is a sharpened tool in our armoury to help protect us against this disease as the virus continues to evolve.”
Srinagar encounter update: Police Constable Sarfaraz Ahmad killed in J&K’s Srinagar
Police Constable Sarfaraz Ahmad who succumbed to injuries during the encounter died on Monday. The encounter broke out in the Nowhatta area of Srinagar on Sunday.
Taking to Twitter Jammu and Kashmir police said, “Police personnel namely Ct Sarfaraz Ahmad R/O Batote Ramban who was injured yesterday during an anti-terrorist operation, succumbed to his injuries & attained #martyrdom. We pay rich #tributes to the #martyr for his supreme #sacrifice made in the line of duty. @JmuKmrPolice”
Earlier, the police officials seized the vehicle (scooter) used by two LeT terrorists and one AK-74 rifle, and two grenades.
“Vehicle (scooter) used by two #terrorists of #terror outfit LeT seized from the incident site. Besides, one Ak-74 rifle and two grenades have been recovered. Search still going on,” the Jammu and Kashmir police.
Meanwhile, the officials informed about Ahmad’s injuries during the combat. “In the ongoing encounter, one police personnel namely Constable Sarfaraz Ahmad, resident of Batote Rambon got injured. He was evacuated to the hospital for treatment. One terrorist also got injured. Search still going on. Further details shall follow,” the Jammu and Kashmir said.
However, further details are awaited.
Children rejecting foreign toys reflect “AatmaNirbhar Bharat”
On the 75th Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a speech from the Red Fort’s ramparts, saying that even a 5-year-old child would not play with foreign toys, reflecting the spirit of independent India in him and the fact that “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” runs through his blood.
He said, “I want to salute the little children between 5 and 7 years of age. The nation’s consciousness has been awakened. I have heard from countless families that 5-7-year-old children tell their parents that they do not want to play with foreign toys. When a 5-year-old child makes such a resolution, it reflects the spirit of self-reliant India in him and ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ runs through his veins.”
The PM also praised the Indian toy business in his monthly “Mann ki Baat” radio show in July, stating that exports had increased to Rs 2,600 crore from Rs 300-400 crore.
Last year, the prime minister urged people to be “vocal for local toys,” noting that India imports roughly 80% of toys, with millions of rupees flowing to foreign countries. He stressed the importance of changing this situation.
Modi had made a pitch for boosting the nation’s position in what he called the “Toyconomy,” or the economic aspects of the toys and gaming industry, noting that India’s share of the global toy market, which is estimated to be 100 billion dollars (over 7.5 lakh crore), is only about 1.5 billion dollars (over 11,000 crore).
Celebrating India’s achievements at 75
As India celebrates 75 years of Independence, India has channeled her civilizational strengths and cultural diversity into a brand new shared future, and opportunities for achievement, progress, and prosperity for its billion-plus citizens. Here is a list of what we have achieved since 15 August 1947.
Indian Premier League (IPL)
Indian Premier League (IPL) is an Indian professional T20 cricket league established in 2008. Lalit Modi proposed the idea of IPL and superheaded the IPL effort. It was founded by the Board of Control of Cricket in India in 2007. It is usually held between March and May of every year. In a high-profile ceremony in New Delhi, the first season was slated in 2008. The first season of IPL was won by Rajasthan Royals, captained by Shane Warne. To date, there have been fifteen seasons of the IPL tournament. Moreover, there are 10 teams they are; Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Capitals, Gujarat Titans, Kolkata Knight Riders, Lucknow Super Giants, Mumbai Indians, Punjab Kings, Rajasthan Royals, Royal Challengers Bangalore, and Sunrisers Hyderabad. The teams representing different Indian cities compete against each other. IPL is the most-attended cricket league in the world which revolutionized the game.
Success of Unified Payments Interface (UPI)
India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) has become the best-performing real-time ecosystem in the world with nearly 6 billion transactions a month. According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, India’s digital economy could create $1 trillion in economic value in 2025. Earlier on 11 April 2016, NPCI conducted a pilot launch with 21 member banks by Dr. Raghuram G Rajan, Governor, RBI at Mumbai. On 25 August 2016 onwards Banks started to upload their UPI-enabled Apps on the Google Play store. These are the top seven UPI apps used in India; Google Pay, PhonePe, Paytm, BHIM App, Amazon Pay, BHIMSBI Pay, and MobiKwik. Meanwhile, from 21 banks in April 2016, the total number of banks linked to the UPI platform as of Feb 2022 is 304.
Vaccination Drive of India
The ongoing COVID-19 vaccine drive in India rolled out the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive. The COVID-19 vaccination drive in India was started on 16 January 2021 across 3006 vaccine centers in all its states and union territories. The vaccination drive in India has been initiated with two types of vaccines: Covishield and Covaxin, being manufactured by Serum Institute of India Ltd. and Bharat Biotech International Ltd. On the first day itself, 1,65,714 people were vaccinated and were administered to a sanitation worker at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. As of now, 2,08,25,13,831 vaccines have been administrated to the people. Earlier, on 30 January 2020, India reported its first case of COVID-19 in Kerala.
Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is a space probe orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014. The Mangalyaan was launched from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (Sriharikota Range SHAR), Andhra Pradesh. For the launch Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket C25 was used. Mangalyaan was the world’s cheapest mission to the red planet which cost just Rs 447.39 crore. “Unlike the Mars mission, which was a one-time project when cleared, the GSAT program envisages launching several more satellites. Therefore, the money saved from its launch is with Isro to be used for future satellites,” a senior official said. The spacecraft instruments which were used are Mars Color Camera, Lyman Alpha Photometer, Thermal Imaging Spectrometer, Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer, and Methane Sensors for Mars.
Statue of Unity
The Statue of Unity is the World’s Tallest Monument and is the most prolific creator in recent times. The Statue of Unity is dedicated to one of India’s founding fathers, and the country’s first Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel with a height of 182 meters. It has been created as a tribute to the ‘Iron Man of India’. The Statue of Unity is divided into 5 zones out of which 3 are accessible to the general public. It can accommodate 200 visitors at a time and location at a height of 153 meters. It is located at Sardar Sarovar Dam, in Kevadia, Gujarat.
Har Ghar Tiranga: 44 million Tiranga Selfies uploaded so far
On the Har Ghar Tiranga website, nearly 44 million people have posted selfies with the Indian flag, and the government has changed the caller tunes on phones to urge more people to follow suit.
Culture ministry official stated, “Our aim is to run it throughout the day to promote the Har Ghar Tiranga movement and encourage people to upload selfies with the flag.”
The website reports so as of 11:59am, 44963700million selfies have been submitted, and the number is increasing every second, the official stated.
Additionally, the website has been pinned with more than 50 million digital flags.
Amit Shah, the home minister, as well as the cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma and the actors Amitabh Bachchan, Rajnikanth, and Anupam Kher have also posted selfies.
The union government has contracted with roughly 200 manufacturers, including small and medium-sized businesses and self-help organisations, to produce the flags in order to have them displayed in 200 million homes between August 13 and August 15 in honour of 75 years of independence.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially commenced the government’s 75-week countdown to the 75th anniversary of Independence from Sabarmati Ashram on March 12, 2021.
These events, which are spread over 28 States, 8 UTs, and more than 150 countries, are centred on 5 major themes that guide our commemorative and festive endeavours. (Freedom struggle, [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]).
The movement, a ministry of culture initiative to commemorate “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” celebrations for India’s 75th year of independence, will help “deepen our bond with the national flag,” PM Modi said in a tweet
Taking to Twitter he wrote, “This year, when we are marking Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, let us strengthen the Har Ghar Tiranga Movement. Hoist the Tricolour or display it in your homes between 13th and 15th August. This movement will deepen our connect with the national flag,
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