The series of ongoing wildfires burning across the state of California in the United States of America (USA) are alarming, creating major news headlines since the beginning of 2020. Out of the six massive Californian wildfires since 1932, five of them took place this year.
Termed as ‘2020 California wildfire season’, the response and evacuations were further complicated by a heatwave and the current COVID-19 pandemic. As per CAL FIR latest report, nearly 10, 500 structure were damaged and destroyed, around 31 lives lost, almost 4,149,345 acres of vegetation burned, and 8,834 wildlife incidents were reported. This leads to 2020 being the largest wildfire season recorded in the history of California, as per the opinion of CAL FIRE.
Based on the report by California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) as on October 28, over 5,000 firefighters are fighting 22 wildfires in the state. Some firefighters also suffered degree level burns in the course of the fight.
3 things you can do to stay prepared during today's #RedFlagWarning:
📲 Sign up for county alerts: https://t.co/IkLhdS7HF1
📋 Prepare your family & home in case of evacuation
🏠 Remove dead plants & dry leaves from within 30 ft of your home
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) October 27, 2020
Initially, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) mentioned that it had cut off the power supply to more than 350,000 homes and businesses located in central and northern California. This step was taken as a precaution by other electricity suppliers too, to reduce the risk posed by dangerously high winds passing through at least 34 countries. By October 26, PG&E said that it was beginning to restore the power supply to individual customers “where it is safe to do so”.
- On October 26, these firefighters battled 42 new wildfires and was successful in containing 39 of them;
- Teams have been specifically assigned to each area for evacuation and minimizing the impact of the fires;
- CAL FIRE has increased its staff members and works in coordination with the local fire agencies;
Instructions are being given to the public to be aware and alert;
- On October 27, firefighters responded to 23 new wildfires, and despite Red Flag Warning conditions, all were contained.
- On October 28, Red Flag Warnings across the state was lifted temporarily, providing some relief in weather conditions.
What ignites wildfires?
According to reliable news statements, the majority of this year’s fires were set ablaze by thousands of dry lightning strikes.
Other common factors are as follows:-
- Seasonal changes and proportional changes in nature;
- Natural ignitions from natural sources (like lightning);
- Artificial ignitions, either purposefully or accidentally (life cigarette stubs);
- Undeterminable human intentions. As per the New York Times, most wildfires in California, are caused by people;
- The presence of power transmission lines or other utility equipment capable of igniting fires in distant areas.
- Fire suppression;
- Strong gusts of wind, called the Santa Ana.
About 60,000 people in Irvine, #California, have been ordered to evacuate as a wildfire rapidly spreads in the area. The fire started this morning and has burned 2,000 acres.#CaliforniaFires pic.twitter.com/iiQOfWL7d7
— Dr. Bu Abdullah 🇦🇪 (@Dr_BuAbdullah) October 26, 2020
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had released the Fifth Assessment Report in 2013, which identified the following factors being detrimental to forests:-
- Global increase in average temperatures;
- Global increase in the frequency, intensity and extent of heatwaves;
- Regional increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of droughts.
Notable Statistics from past wildfires
The following observations can be noted from a paper published in the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ in 2017.
- Eighty-four per cent – human beings are responsible for the frequent wildfires;
- Twenty-five per cent of the 1.5 million wildfires recorded in the USA in the same year – initiated due to the burning of trash and debris;
- Twenty-two per cent of the 1.5 million wildfires on record in the USA in the same year – initiated due to human causes, followed by arson, heavy equipment, campfires, careless children and smokers.
As on October 29, deadly and rapidly growing fires in the US west coast states is spreading at a speed of about 24 kilometres per day.
Fire crews are having much trouble in controlling the fire as a storm blowing at a speed of 80 kilometres per hour is making the situation worse.
Financial assistance for #ValleyFire survivors!!! Are you eligible for federal money? Register IN-PERSON at the @FEMARegion9 Mobile Registration Intake Center! Open to residents in San Diego County affected by the #ValleyFire.
Details here: https://t.co/1ZWKnzugKC #wildfires pic.twitter.com/Waq665dVaj
— Cal OES (@Cal_OES) October 28, 2020
According to CAL FIRE, from January 1 to October 25, a deadly combination of high temperatures, strong winds and lightning storms could contribute to the intensity of the melting in the state.
The American state of California has witnessed devastating happenings in 2020, which can be minimized, though not eradicated, through careful intervention of humans and taking steps to improve our living conditions for a better tomorrow.
Escalation Of COVID-19 Cases Across The Globe
The United States, India, and Brazil have the most confirmed cases, followed by France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Turkey. There are very few locations that have remained undisturbed.
Since the middle of last year, confirmed cases have been increasing. Although the actual scope of the first outbreaks in 2020 is unknown because testing was not generally available at the time. The 100 million COVID-19 cases were discovered at the end of January, over a year after it was first diagnosed. As of 6:30 p.m. CEST on July 30, 2021, WHO has received reports of 196,553,009 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 4,200,412 fatalities. A total of 3,839,816,037 vaccination doses has been delivered as of July 28, 2021.
After reaching a record high of over 0.9 million cases on April 28, 2021, new daily instances of the coronavirus continued to decline, reaching a low point on June 21, when over 0.3 million cases were reported. Since then yet, there has been a global increase in cases. On July 15, 0.53 million daily cases were reported, and over three million new cases were reported in the second week of the month. As of July 15, 188.9 million patients have been recorded worldwide. The transmissive Delta form accounting for most infections in 111 countries. Most instances were recorded in Brazil, India, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, and Colombia in the last week. With the steepest increases in Zimbabwe (72%), Indonesia (44%), the United States (38%), Bangladesh (35%), and the United Kingdom (30%). Many Asian nations, including Vietnam, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan, have reported many daily cases. However, the spread was under control.
The number of new cases in Indonesia has been on the rise, with each day seeing a significant increase over the previous day. Indonesia is now the new Asian epicentre, with 56,757 cases recorded on July 15; India reported 39,000 patients on the same day. COVID-19 fatalities are high, according to WHO. After decreasing for nine weeks, with the highest increases in Africa and Southeast Asia. COVID-19 fatalities worldwide surpassed four million on July 7. The last million deaths occurred in under 90 days, the lowest time interval for every one million deaths ever recorded.
High vaccination coverage has been shown in the United States and much of Europe to lower fatalities and even hospitalizations. For example, United Kingdom rises in incidence. There has been fewer hospitalizations and deaths over 87% of the adult population, as they are vaccinated with one dose and over 67% with two doses. In the United States, the increase in cases is concentrated in states with low vaccination coverage, with unvaccinated people accounting for most deaths. Over 55% of Americans have received one dosage, and 48% are completely immunized. It shifts the focus back to improving vaccination coverage and achieving global vaccine equality to avoid fatalities and the spread of dangerous strains. Some nations debate a booster dosage. Even though many African countries’ healthcare professionals have not been completely vaccinated, booster injections have begun to be given to patients with weakened immune systems in Israel.
In comparison, booster shots have been ruled out in the United States for the time being. With vaccine shortages reported in many Indian states. Even among the vaccinated, rigorous adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour is the only option to postpone and mitigate the consequences of a third wave.
This spring, India and Latin America have seen a significant drop in new cases in the hardest-hit areas of the world. But the global numbers continue to grow. The Delta variety leads them to well-vaccinated regions such as Western Europe and the United States, low but rising infections. This spring, India and Latin America have seen a significant drop in new cases in the hardest-hit areas of the world. Vaccine doses have been given to over 4 billion individuals globally (52 for every 100 people), yet the discrepancy is striking. More than 80% of the population had at least one shot in some wealthy nations. In contrast, the proportion is as low as 1% in many of the poorest.
Why Taliban Could Not Control Panjshir Valley In Afghanistan Yet?
Taliban took over Afghanistan last week, and Panjshir valley in the north is the last hope for the people of Afghanistan to fight against the Taliban.
As it was 25 years ago, there is still a part of Afghanistan that tries to oppose the Taliban; it is the Panjshir valley. The villages that rebelled against the Soviets and Taliban’s, it is now that they’re fighting against the spread of the Islamic Emirate.
Valley Of the Five Lions, also known as Panjshir Valley, is in Northern Afghanistan, 150 kilometers north of Kabul, near the Hindu Kush Mountain Range. Due to its location in the Hindu Kush Mountain range, the Panjshir Valley is only accessible through the narrow Panjshir River; this makes it easy for forces defending. Panjshir is also famously known for emeralds. It has been the base of operations for the Taliban since the 1990s. Since it was never under their control, the area has become a key target for the US-led forces.
Around 150,000 people live in the valley, and the majority are Pashtuns. The valley’s ethnic majority is Tajik. The area’s history has made it the base of operations for the Taliban. Panjshir has never been captured by the Taliban during their earlier rule, nor by the soviets. The resistance, therefore, chose to base its operations in the area due to its history.
After the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, a civil war broke out in the country. Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was the most notable anti-Taliban fighter, led a group of militants to fight against the separatists. He was eventually killed by al-Qaeda terrorists in 2001, just two days before the 9/11 attacks.
Following the father’s footsteps, Ahmad Massoud, the son of legendary Ahmad Shah Massoud, declared the start of armed resistance against the Taliban forming in the Panjshir. The Northern Alliance flag has been raised in Panjshir province, confirming the legitimacy of this movement, officially back since 2001. The National Resistance Front (NRF), based out of the Panjshir Valley, led by Ahmad Massoud and the former Vice-President Amrullah Saleh, leading an anti-Taliban Movement.
The Panjshir Valley stands tall against the Taliban under the leadership of Ahmad Masood. Resistance movements have begun with the formation of the Northern Alliance. Bernard Henri Levy, the French philosopher, spoke to Ahmad Massoud on a phone call and quoted saying, “I am the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, and surrender is not part of my vocabulary.” The Resistance has just begun; this is just the beginning.
The Washington Post published an op-ed on Wednesday in which Massoud reiterated his plea for help, asking the United States to supply his military with arms and ammunition. “The United States can still be a great arsenal of democracy” by supporting his fighters, he wrote.
Since President Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan, Saleh has declared himself as the interim president. The Taliban has been massing its forces near Panjshir. The Salang highway has been closed. He further tweeted that the militants are avoiding any confrontations with the enemy forces.
India Takes Rein Of UNSC For August
As per procedure, India received the Presidency of the UN Security Council for August this year. The three major points that the Indian Presidency aims to focus on are maritime security, peacekeeping, and counter-terrorism policies.
What is the UN Security Council?
The security council is a body of the United Nations responsible for international security and peacekeeping. The body settles disputes and identifies unwanted threats and aggressions against member States.
There are 15 Members as a part of the council. They are obligated to abide by the decisions made by the Security Council. Out of these, there are five permanent and ten non-permanent members, India being a part of the newly elected non-permanent contingent.
India is currently serving as President of the UNSC for August and is expected to do so again in 2022. They succeed France who previously presided in July this year. The order of Presidency succession is decided alphabetically. Each member gets a fair chance to preside over the peacekeeping body.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the first Indian PM to chair a meeting of the UNSC.
India in UNSC
India has joined the UNSC for the eighth time as a non-permanent member, serving a term of two years. The last time India was on the council as a member was in the year 2011-12, during the Middle East Crisis.
In the August meetings this year, the primary concern is said to be that of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy and mortality. India also aims to bid for a permanent seat on the UNSC and hence a high level of involvement is expected.
India plays an important role in the UNSC as it along with other members of the G-4 (Brazil, Japan, and Germany) are insisting on an expansion in permanent membership for countries. They want the permanent seats to be offered to countries other than the current five that hold the veto power, giving India a chance to display its potential at a global level.
India has previously chaired the counter-terrorism committee at the UNSC and introduced the concept of ‘zero tolerance’ for terrorism globally. They also successfully establish the Financial Action Taskforce (FATF).
This time around, India aims at improving maritime security and peacekeeping while returning to the counter-terrorism policies establish worldwide.
India’s efforts as President in August 2021
India is expected to organise three high-level meetings for the three topics that they have decided to focus on (maritime security, peacekeeping, and counterterrorism). A traditional breakfast of PRs was held by India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, T S Tirumurti. Along with the normal breakfast, Tirumurti put a display of Indian grains with items exquisitely prepared with those ingredients. A treat of Alphonso mangoes was also included in the breakfast. Tirumurti also presided over all meetings of the UNSC on day one.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair a meeting of the UN Council virtually, while external affairs minister, Jaishankar will chair the meetings in person.
S Jaishankar expressed opinions on the opportunity to preside over the UNSC for August via his Tweet, saying that India looks forward to taking over the Presidency of the Global Organisation for the month.
As we take over UNSC Presidency for August, look forward to working productively with other members.
India will always be a voice of moderation, an advocate of dialogue and a proponent of international law. pic.twitter.com/kPRGnFOz87
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) August 1, 2021
Indian PR Tirumurti also thanked their predecessor France and announced the takeover via his Tweets while expressing his elation on the occasion.
— PR/Amb T S Tirumurti (@ambtstirumurti) August 1, 2021
India began their eighth term on January 1 this year. This non-permanent arrangement will span for two years, giving the possibility of another Presidency in late 2022. India has been grateful for its turn in chairing the UNSC and hopes to make decisions and resolutions that will be beneficial to the Indian Foreign Policy and countries around the Globe.
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