Currents Affairs & GK – Dec 05, 2016


Scientists give new lease of life to endangered fish species

The scientist in the Central Institute of Brackish Water Aquaculture (CIBA) have bred Etroplus canarensis, a breed of fish assessed by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered because of its restricted distribution.

Etroplus Canarensis commonly called as Canara pearlspot or banded chromide, belongs to the Cichlidae family. It is considered to be one of the most sought after cichlids by aquarium fish-lovers.

It is endemic to the Western Ghats and assessed as endangered by the IUCN because of its distribution in only two locations — Kumaradhara and Nethravathi rivers in Karnataka.

Pollution, damming of main rivers, siltation, sand mining and threat of over collection for pet trade contributed to the decline of its habitat. The average length of the fish is 8.89 cm and its weight is 18 grams. It feeds on mosquito larvae and breeds after monsoon. It lays around 150 eggs at a time. It can tolerate low salinity range and survive in low saline brackish water ecosystems. If the salinity level is controlled, the species can soon be revived from endangered status. It has good scope of survival in brackish water and not just in freshwater.


Currents Affairs & GK – Dec 04, 2016


Pre-historic camping site found in Ladakh

An ancient camping site used by pre-historic man and datable to circa 8500 BCE, has been found at an altitude of about 4,200 metres near Saser La in the Nubra Valley, Ladakh. Saser La leads to the Karakoram Pass.

A camping site is a place where hunter-gatherers stayed temporarily before they moved on to another place. It is a seasonal settlement and not a permanent settlement.

Charcoal pieces from hearth activity and remains of bones associated with it were found at the site. The charcoal pieces sent for dating to Beta Analytic, Florida, U.S., revealed that the site belonged to circa 8500 BCE.


Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY)

Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) is a safe motherhood intervention under the National Rural Health Mission (NHM). It is being implemented with the objective of reducing maternal and neonatal mortality by promoting institutional delivery among poor pregnant women. The scheme is under implementation in all states and Union Territories (UTs), with a special focus on Low Performing States (LPS).

Janani Suraksha Yojana was launched in April 2005 by modifying the National Maternity Benefit Scheme (NMBS). The NMBS came into effect in August 1995 as one of the components of the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP). The scheme was transferred from the Ministry of Rural Development to the Department of Health & Family Welfare during the year 2001-02.

The Yojana has identified ASHA, the accredited social health activist as an effective link between the Government and the poor pregnant women in 10 low performing states, namely the 8 Empowered Action Group states (Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Orissa), Assam and Jammu & Kashmir, and the remaining North Eastern States. In other eligible states and UTs, wherever, Anganwadi workers and Traditional Birth Attendants or ASHA like activists has been engaged in this purpose, she can be associated with this Yojana for providing the services.

JSY is a 100 % centrally sponsored scheme and it integrates cash assistance with delivery and post-delivery care. Under JSY, pregnant women choosing to deliver at the hospital and the health worker who motivated her to take the decision get cash incentives — Rs. 1,400 for the woman and Rs. 600 for the Accredited Social Health Activist in rural areas and Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 200 respectively in urban areas.


India, Afghanistan plan air cargo link

India and Afghanistan are likely to announce an air cargo service to help increase trade that is stymied because of their tense political relations with Pakistan that lies between them.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have gone to war three times and remain bitter foes while ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan have become strained despite their shared religious and cultural identities.

The focus of the air cargo service is to improve landlocked Afghanistan’s connectivity to key markets abroad and boost the growth prospects of its fruit and carpet industries while it battles a deadly Taliban insurgency.

Afghanistan depends on the Pakistani port of Karachi for its foreign trade. It is allowed to send a limited amount of goods overland through Pakistan into India, but imports from India are not allowed along this route. The potential for trade with India, the largest market in the region, was far greater than allowed by land and so the two countries had decided to use the air route.

A joint venture involving an Afghan and an Indian cargo firm would be set up and that the two governments were working to set up infrastructure at Kabul and Delhi airports.


Currents Affairs & GK – Dec 03, 2016


Navy says no to Tejas variant

Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said that the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas does not meet requirements, as the service is looking at the global market for its needs.

The Naval LCA made its maiden flight in April 2012 and two prototypes are currently undergoing flying as part of the development. The present LCA Navy does not meet the carrier capability which is required by the Navy.

The Navy currently operates Russian MiG-29K fighters from the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and which will also fly from the first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Vikrant once it enters service. A second IAC weighing 65,000 tonnes is currently in the design phase and the Navy Chief said that they would soon approach the government for approval. The Navy is looking for an alternative to the Mig-29.

The current weight of the Naval LCA with the underpowered engine does not allow it to fly from a carrier, Admiral Lanba said. The twin-engine Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft which the DRDO is planning to build could be considered if it developed a naval variant.


New Delhi nod for Karmapa’s Arunachal visit

The government allowed Urgyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, to address a public gathering at Mon in Arunachal Pradesh. The move comes six months after the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, allowed the Karmapa to travel abroad.

The Gyalwang Karmapa is the head of the Karma Kagyu school, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He escaped from Tibet in 2000.

The Monastery in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh is the temporary home of the Karmapa. After 900 years, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa would be visiting Mon region in Arunachal Pradesh. The last visit was by the 3rd Karmapa.


A cheap way to produce nuclear fuel using electricity

Scientists in Russia have developed a unique, low-cost method for producing high-quality nuclear fuel using electricity.

The main type of fuel for nuclear power reactors is the uranium oxide pellet composition. It is produced from a powder by granulation, pressing, and sintering (coalescing into a solid or porous mass by heating) with the subsequent control of the quality and size of the pellets.

The new technology allows one to obtain products that are of high quality and to reduce the number of production stages without increasing the cost. The researchers have proposed an alternative mode of production, which forms the basis of powder metallurgy: electric pulse sintering under pressure.

The key idea of the method is heating by an electric current passing through the mould with the powder placed in it.


Computer games relieve phantom limb pain

Amputees who played computer games using a virtual, on-screen arm, experienced relief from the phantom pain that often afflicts people who have lost a limb.

People who have lost an arm or leg often report pain where the limb used to be — sometimes years after the amputation and often severe enough to affect their quality of life and mental health.

Phantom limb pain occurs when nerve endings at the amputation site continue sending pain signals to the brain, making it think the limb is still there. There are few effective treatments. One existing method involves the patient use their remaining arm while looking in a mirror to make it appear to the brain, in the reflection, as if it is the missing arm moving. It does not always work and cannot be used by double amputees.

The virtual reality therapy is based on a similar premise. It makes the patient move the lost arm to perform certain on-screen tasks, including steering a video game car. The patients see themselves on the screen with a virtual arm where their real limb used to be, and see it move as they control it with their mind — effectively bringing the aching phantom arm to life. The participants had electrodes attached to their stumps to register the signals sent to the brain.


Currents Affairs & GK – Dec 02, 2016


A warm winter in the offing

Winter this year could be slightly colder than last year — a record, unusually-warm spell — but would still be warmer than what is usual, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has suggested in its first ever winter forecast.

Seasonal temperatures across India, from December to February, would be higher than normal with fewer cold waves over north and north-west India than what is typical. In general, minimum and maximum temperatures over most of India would be 0.5-1.0 C higher than average winter temperatures during 1961-1990, with Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan expected to show the widest, upward deviations. Normal refers to average, seasonal temperature over a region between 1961-1990.

Last year was the warmest winter recorded in India since 1901, with the mean temperature nearly 1.25 C more than normal.

As per a report, the number and duration of cold waves over India have generally been decreasing over 4 decades. Severe cold waves annually kill about 780 every year. Several deaths were reported in North India during the 2015-16 winter season, in spite of it being extremely warm. The mean temperature between March and May 2016 was also significantly warmer than normal with an anomaly of +1.25 C, which was the second warmest ever spring season since 1901.

A raging El Nino, usually responsible for droughts over India, was believed to cause higher than normal sea surface temperatures and warm winters. So far, the annual mean land surface air temperature averaged over the country during 2016 till October was +0.90C above the 1961-1990 average.

The winter forecast has been made with a Dynamical Extended Range Forecasting System developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, and uses the same physics and climate models used to track the monsoon.


First private moon mission next year

TeamIndus, a Bengaluru-based private aerospace company, has said it will send a spacecraft to the moon on December 28, 2017, aboard an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) rocket.

The mission’s aim is to land this spacecraft on the moon, have it travel at least 500 metres and beam high- definition video, images and data back to the earth. Were it to be successful, it would likely pip ISRO’s proposed moon-lander mission — Chandrayaan 2 — that is yet to formally announce a launch date. In 2008, Chandrayaan 1 became the first Indian space mission to send a spacecraft that circled the moon.

Except for the launch vehicle, all of the technology that will power the rover and lander is developed in-house by TeamIndus.

TeamIndus has high-profile investors, including Ratan Tata of the Tata Group; Sachin and Binny Bansal, co-founders of Flipkart and Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys Ltd, and is a 100-member team of engineers, space enthusiasts, former Air Force pilots and former ISRO employees. It is one of the four international teams — and the only one from India — in the running for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a $30 million (approx. Rs. 200 crore) competition, to encourage private companies to launch space missions.

Two U.S.-based companies, Moon Express and Synergy Moon and one Israeli company — SPACE 1 L — have so far announced agreements with space-launch-vehicle companies such as SpaceX.

The launch agreements are a prerequisite to be in the reckoning for the prize and also require contenders to launch their vehicles before December 28, 2017. TeamIndus is the only one so far to have announced a firm launch date. ISRO’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) would launch the spacecraft in a three-day window centred on December 28 next year and, after completing a rotation around the earth, will ideally land in 21 days at Mare Imbrium, a region in the North-Western hemisphere of the Moon.


Foreigners can enter India through 5 ports

Foreigners will be able to enter India through five seaports — Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai, Goa and Mangalore — with electronic visa (e-visa), in addition of 16 airports where the facility is available.

As part of the new liberalised visa policy, the government has also decided that business visitors and those coming on medical emergency will be issued visa within 48 hours of application.

Separate immigration counters will be set up in all 16 major airports and the five seaports for medical tourists coming to India on e-visa. The government will issue employment visa to foreigners who earn a minimum of Rs.16.25 lakh per annum as salary. For those in the academic field, the minimum annual salary qualification is fixed at Rs.9.10 lakh for employment visa.

India will also allow tourists coming on e-visa to stay up to 60 days instead of the 30 days now. Tourists can also apply for the e-visa four months in advance instead of the 30 days now.

The Union Cabinet gave its approval to merge the conference, tourist, business and medical visas into one. A go-ahead was also given for an ‘internship visa’ for foreigners who want to gain professional experience in India.

It was also decided that the electronic tourist visa (eTV) will now be known as electronic visa and visitors could apply through the existing online portal. This is expected to stimulate economic growth, increase earnings from export of services like tourism, medical value travel and travel on account of business and to make Skill India, Digital India, Make in India and other such flagship initiatives of the government successful.


Anthem redux: How it came back in play

The Supreme Court ruled that all cinemas in the country must play the national anthem prior to the screening of a film, with all doors closed.

In light of the interim order by the Supreme Court to play the national anthem in cinemas, which are the States that have already made it compulsory for theatres to do so?
Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Goa are among the States that have passed orders to this effect.

Under what law did these States make it mandatory?
The States have done this under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. The Act got presidential assent on December 23, 1971. It has been amended twice since then.

What does this Act entail?
The Act, which addresses insults to the Constitution, the national flag and the national anthem, has its genesis in Article 51 (a) of the Constitution, which enjoins a duty on every citizen of India to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the national flag and the national anthem.
The Act states that whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the national anthem or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

Why was the Act given punitive provisions?
The objects and reasons for this Act said that cases involving deliberate disrespect to these national symbols were discussed in both Houses of Parliament and members urged the government to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.

How was the national anthem played in theatres before?
Yes, it was a practice to play the national anthem after a film ended. But with people walking out even as the anthem was playing, the practice was discontinued.
In Tamil Nadu for instance, the anthem was played in all theatres until about 30 years ago. Even now a few theatres do. Given that people were not standing in attention as it played, the practice was given up.
A petitioner went to the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court last year asking for a ban as people were moving about when the anthem is played. The court dismissed the petition.

Can the recent interim order of the Supreme Court be reviewed?
Yes, those aggrieved can file a modification application to address the omissions and contradictions in the recent Supreme Court Order.

Who can file the interventions?
The Cinema Owners Exhibitors’ Association of India can, for instance, plead that the order is in contradiction of an earlier Supreme Court order ordering cinema theatres to keep their doors open, after a fire killed 59 people in Uphaar Theatre in 1997. Organisations of differently abled people can seek exemptions from the order.


Delhi High Court reverses ban on combination drugs

The Delhi High Court quashed the ban on 344 fixed dose combination (FDC) drugs stating that the Centre had acted in a haphazard manner and did not take the advice of the statutory bodies under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act before issuing the March 10 notification.

The Centre had imposed the ban under Section 26A of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. The court said the section gave no carte blanche to impose a ban. The Bench said the Centre first claimed that licences for manufacture of the FDCs between September 1988 and October 2012 were wrongly granted by the State licensing authorities and had no approval of the Drug Controller. Instead of cancelling those licences, the manufactures were asked to apply for licences. Rather than the Drug Controller, 10 committees were constituted to consider the applications and when these committees failed to do their job, the Kokate committee was constituted. The Kokate committee, instead of considering the applications for approval, went into the aspects of risk to consumers, leading to the notifications.

Noting that the power cannot be exercised in public interest for any reason other than the drug being risky or not having any therapeutic value, the Bench said the same had to be decided based on scientific technical reasons on the advice of the Drugs Technical Advisory Body (DTAB) and the Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) constituted under the Drugs Act. The court wondered why the Centre took advice of Kokate Committee and not the DTAB and DCC.

The Union Health Ministry plans to appeal against the Delhi High Court’s decision to set aside the ban on 344 drugs considered unsafe.

Fixed dose combinations are drugs with two or more active ingredients in a single dosage, acceptable only when the drugs so combined have a therapeutic advantage. The Health Ministry had banned the sale and distribution of 344 of them — considered unsafe and with no therapeutic justification — based on the recommendations of the Kokate expert committee. This is the third attempt by the government to clamp down on irrational use of medicines. The previous attempt in 2007 to ban 294 FDCs was set aside by the Madras High Court. Similar attempts in the late 1970s and in 1988 met with resistance.

Health experts maintain that the FDCs were promoting injudicious use of antibiotics and exposing patients to unnecessary risk of adverse drug reactions and antibiotic resistance.


Wild silk protein helps in faster, scar-free healing of wounds

Indian researchers have developed a wound-healing nanofibrous mat that interacts with the body to help it heal faster and without scarring. The mat is made of a non-protein polymer (PVA) mixed with silk protein and coated with an antibiotic and epidermal growth factor. It heals wounds that have all the layers of the skin removed and are as big as 6 mm in diameter.

While conventional dressing materials only absorb fluids and blood, the smart material expedites the healing process. It will be a big boon for diabetics, for whom wound-healing is very slow. When wound healing takes place normally, body cells in and around the wound along with progenitor cells are brought to the wound site for repair. But the recruitment of the cells to the wound site is slow and hence the healing takes time. But in this case, the wild silk has an amino acid sequence (RGD – arginine glycine aspartate), which possibly attracts more cells thus accelerating the healing process and also allowing the cells to attach better. Mulberry silk does not have this amino acid sequence and so the healing is comparatively slower.

While the epidermal growth factor promotes the development of cells, the antibiotics inhibit the growth of commonly seen bacteria. Generally, antibiotics have a short life span. So the antibiotic is embedded in the matrix so that the drug gets released for up to 80 hours or more.


Currents Affairs & GK – Dec 01, 2016


SC makes national anthem mandatory in cinema halls

The Supreme Court ordered cinema halls to mandatorily play the national anthem before every screening even as all those present have to stand up to show respect. The practice, according to the court, will instil a feeling of committed patriotism and nationalism. Cinemas should also display the national flag on screen when the anthem is played, a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy directed. All doors in a cinema hall should remain closed to prevent any kind of disturbance when the anthem is played.

The playing of the anthem, the Bench said, is to be seen as an opportunity for the public to express their love for the motherland.

The order came on a writ petition by Shyam Narayan Chouksey in October. The petition, referring to the Prevention of Insults to the National Honour Act of 1971, claimed that the national anthem is sung in various circumstances which are not permissible and can never be countenanced in law. However, it had not asked for a direction that it be played in cinemas. Mr. Chouksey’s writ petition referred to Article 51 (A) of the Constitution to contend that it was the duty of every person to show respect when the anthem was played. The petition had focused on the commercial exploitation of the anthem.

The Supreme Court judgment in 2014 on the Uphaar Cinema tragedy, which saw 57 people die in a stampede after they were locked inside the theatre hall and fire broke out, held that while theatres were entitled to regulate entry and exit, under no circumstances should doors — which also double up as emergency exits — be bolted or locked. Rule 10 (8) of the Delhi Cinematographic Rules mandates that “all exit doors and doors through which the public have to pass on the way to the open air shall be available for exit during the whole time the public is in the building and during such time shall not be locked or bolted.”

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Misra observed in the order that “a time has come, [when] the citizens of the country must realise that they live in a nation and are duty-bound to show respect to the national anthem, which is a symbol of the constitutional patriotism and inherent national quality.” “Universalism is alright but Bharat is the epitome of culture, knowledge,” Justice Misra remarked.
The Bench said there was no space for the “perception of individual rights” in this issue.
It further banned the exploitation of the national anthem for financial benefit and ordered that there should not be dramatisation of the anthem or its inclusion as part of any “variety show.” Also, the court said, the anthem or part of it should not be printed or displayed in places “disgraceful” to its status


Agriculture spurs GDP growth to 7.3%

GDP growth accelerated in the second quarter of this financial year to 7.3 per cent on the back of a stronger performance in the agriculture sector. Gross value added for the second quarter grew by 7.1 per cent. The agriculture sector buoyed overall growth, registering a 3.3 per cent GVA growth rate in Q2 of this financial year as compared with 1.8 per cent in the previous quarter and 2 per cent in Q2 of 2015-16.

While GDP growth quickened in the second quarter from the 7.1 per cent seen in the April-June quarter, GVA growth slowed from the 7.3 per cent registered in that period. Both GDP and GVA growth were slower in the second quarter of this financial year as compared with the same period in the previous year, having registered a growth of 7.6 per cent and 7.3 per cent respectively.

The manufacturing sector saw a significant slowdown in the growth of its gross value added, registering a growth of 7.1 per cent in Q2 of this financial year as compared with 9.1 per cent in the first quarter, and 9.2 per cent in Q2 of 2015-16.

Within manufacturing, the poor performance of the IIP is due to very poor performance in fabricated metal products, furniture manufacturing, and apparel, all of which play a major role in the informal manufacturing sector. The mining and quarrying sector contracted by 1.5 per cent in Q2 compared with a contraction of 0.4 per cent in the first quarter and a growth of 5 per cent in Q2 of 2015-16.

Gross fixed capital formation, a proxy for private sector investment, was only 29 per cent of GDP in Q2 of this financial year as compared with 32.9 per cent in the same quarter of 2015-16. Government final consumption expenditure, on the other hand, was 13 per cent of GDP in the second quarter of this financial year compared with 12.1 per cent in the previous year.

The fiscal deficit in October stood at 79.3 per cent of Budget Estimates down from 83.9 per cent in September.

Total revenue receipts as of October accounted for 50.7 per cent of Budget Estimates for the full year, up from 41.2 per cent in September. Total expenditure as of October accounted for 58.2 per cent of Budget Estimates up from 52 per cent in September.


Core sector growth accelerates to 6.6%

The core sector posted a year-on-year growth of 6.6 per cent in October helped by robust refinery and steel output. The pace of growth of the eight industries, comprising close to 38 per cent of the weight of items included in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), was the fastest since 8.5 per cent in April and an acceleration from September’s 5 per cent.

Core sector industries:

Sector

Weightage in IIP

Electricity 10.32%
Steel 6.68%
Refinery products 5.94%
Crude Oil 5.22%
Coal 4.38%
Cement 2.41%
Natural Gas 1.71%
Fertilizers 1.25%
Total 37.903 %

Trade costs of India remain high: UN body

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) said international and intra-regional trade costs of India remained higher compared with the trade costs of best-performing economies in Asia and the Pacific, although a declining trend has been observed since 2009.
However, it said in addition to India’s robust economic growth and large domestic market, the Government’s “Make in India” initiative and easing of FDI regulations for about 15 sectors including aviation, defence and pharmaceuticals may contribute to the FDI attractiveness of India. On the other hand, overseas investment from India contracted considerably by 36 per cent, which may reflect FDI diversion as Indian investors start to invest more at home than overseas, ESCAP said in its recently released Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2016.

FDI inflows to India expanded by 10 per cent on average during 2010-2015, while in 2015 inflows recorded an even stronger expansion at 27.8 per cent, which was significantly higher than the Asia-Pacific region’s average 5.6 per cent, ESCAP said. The services, construction development, computer software and hardware, and telecommunications sectors attracted the highest investments, it added.

In 2015, Indian goods exports shrank by 17.2 per cent. However, it added that India was the largest partner with several economies in South Asia, such as Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Since India is the fastest-growing emerging economy, it is somewhat expected to start filling the void in demand for intraregional exports that will emerge with the rebalancing of China’s trade patterns, the report said.

A worrying trend on another front is the increased usage of restrictive trade policies, especially non-tariff measures, within the Asia-Pacific region, which is partly driven by past distortive trade measures and current excess capacity in several key sectors, ESCAP said. Additionally, the region is seeing a proliferation of preferential trade agreements (PTA), with Asia and the Pacific rim contributing to almost 63 per cent of world PTAs, curbing a momentum towards region-wide free trade, it added.


Ministers’ panel pushes for use of Aadhaar for cashless transactions

The committee of senior ministers constituted on the directions of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to push for digital payment ecosystem in the country, has proposed Aadhaar identification for cashless transactions, including linking of point of sale (PoS) machines with UIDAI.

The panel comprises Electronics and Information Technology and Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Oil and Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Health Minister J.P. Nadda, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh.

Efforts would now be made to link PoS (point of sale) or card swipe machines and Internet banking with UIDAI, enabling payments using Aadhaar number. Currently, there are about 75 crore debit and credit cards in the country, 108 crore Aadhaar cards have been issued, and over 35 crore bank accounts are linked to Aadhaar.

The panel had identified schools, common service centres (CSCs), health centres, petrol pumps, co-operative societies and rural development outlets to push cashless transactions.


Cuban rumba and Ugandan music now on UNESCO’s heritage list

Cuba’s rumba dance and Belgium’s beer culture were added to UNESCO’s list of “intangible” heritage. The list of “intangible” cultural treasures was created 10 years ago, mainly to increase awareness about them, while UNESCO also sometimes offers financial or technical support to countries struggling to protect them.

Meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the U.N. body gave the nod to the rumba, which it said evokes “grace, sensuality and joy”, while it said “making and appreciating beer is part of the living heritage… throughout Belgium”. UNESCO noted that Belgium produces some 1,500 types of beer, while in Cuba because the rumba sprang from poor communities the dance is an enduring “expression of resistance and self-esteem”.

Staying on the festive theme, the World Heritage Committee also enshrined the March 21 new year’s celebrations of 12 countries stretching from Turkey to India, as well as Bangladesh’s April 14 new year’s festival.

The U.N. body designated Ugandan traditional music, which is dying out partly because it requires materials from endangered species, as intangible heritage “in urgent need of safeguarding”. Uganda’s Ma’di Bowl Lyre music and dance is one of the oldest cultural practices of the Madi people of Uganda.
It is still performed at some weddings and to celebrate harvests but is at risk due to it being considered old-fashioned by younger generations and because it requires materials from plants and animals now endangered.

A black pottery manufacturing process from the Portuguese village of Bisalhaes was also added to the UNESCO list. Designed for decorative and cooking purposes, it features on the village’s coat of arms but the pottery is suffering from waning interest from younger generations and popular demand for industrial alternatives.

Another cultural gem added to the list is Cossack song from Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region. The songs tell stories about the tragedy of war and personal relationships of Cossack soldiers. This art form is also in danger as its participants age, UNESCO said.