OBOR Initiative

Chinese firm to build Solomon Islands Port Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Solomon Islands

Mains level : Read the attached story


A Chinese state-backed company has won a contract to develop Honiara, a key port in the Solomon Islands. This is a major victory for China, which is seeking to gain a strategic foothold in the South Pacific.

Why discuss this?

  • The Solomon Islands have become a focal point in the diplomatic tussle between China and the US, following the signing of a secret security pact between the Solomons and Beijing in 2022.
  • This has raised concerns that China may be establishing a permanent naval base in the country.

About Solomon Islands

  • The Solomon Islands is a sovereign country consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania, to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu.
  • Its capital, Honiara, is located on the largest island, Guadalcanal.
  • It is part of the ethnically Melanesian group of islands in the Pacific and lies between Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.
  • The country takes its name from the Solomon Islands archipelago, which is a collection of Melanesian islands that also includes the North Solomon Islands (a part of Papua New Guinea).
  • It excludes outlying islands, such as the Santa Cruz Islands and Rennell and Bellona.

Quick recap of its past

  • The islands, which were initially controlled by the British Empire during the colonial era, went through the hands of Germany and Japan.
  • It then went back to the UK after the Americans took over the islands from the Japanese during World War II.
  • The islands became independent in 1978 to become a constitutional monarchy under the British Crown, with a parliamentary system of government.
  • Nevertheless, its inability to manage domestic ethnic conflicts led to close security relations with Australia, which is the traditional first responder to any crisis in the South Pacific.

How did China enter the picture?

  • Earlier this year, the Solomon Islands established a security agreement with China, saying it needed Beijing’s assistance with its domestic security situation.
  • But the announcement had rattled the west, esp. the US, Australia and others in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • The concerns were that the agreement could potentially lead to a Chinese military base on the island nation and a gain in power-projection capabilities.
  • At that time, following intense scrutiny, the Solomon Islands had denied that the agreement would allow China to establish a naval base.

What is the Solomon Islands’ stance?

  • The government has asked all partner countries with plans to conduct naval visits or patrols to put them on hold until a revised national mechanism is in place.
  • The revised national mechanism applied to all foreign vessels seeking access to the country’s ports.
  • The nation wanted to build up its own naval capacity.
  • It has some unfortunate experiences of foreign naval vessels entering its waters without any diplomatic clearance.

What is behind China’s growing influence in the region?

  • There is no dispute that China has been rapidly increasing its presence and influence in the region for over three decades, particularly in the South Pacific.
  • Certainly Beijing views the Pacific Island region as an important component of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Specifically, it sees the region as a critical air freight hub in its so-called Air Silk Road, which connects Asia with Central and South America.

Concerns of the West

  • The port project could open the door to a Chinese naval base, which would significantly extend China’s military reach in the South Pacific.”
  • It is likely that this security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands has been driven by, what the CFR calls, Beijing’s “sense of vulnerability” in the region.

What is the rationale for the Solomon Islands’ increasing proximity to China?

  • The Solomon Islands had cultivated strong ties with Taiwan, which ended with the emergence of the current government in Honiara.
  • In 2019, the regime change switched Taiwan for China.
  • This was supposedly after Beijing offered half a billion US dollars in financial aid, roughly five times what Taiwan spent on the islands in the past two decades.
  • It has been alleged by the pro-Taiwan Opposition that the incumbent government has been bribed by China.

Why is China interested in the Solomon Islands?

  • Isolating Taiwan: The Solomon Islands was one among the six Pacific island states which had official bilateral relations with Taiwan.
  • Supporter in UN: The small Pacific island states act as potential vote banks for mobilising support for the great powers in international fora like the United Nations.
  • Larger EEZ: These states have disproportionately large maritime Exclusive Economic Zones when compared to their small sizes.
  • Natural resources: Solomon Islands, in particular, have significant reserves of timber and mineral resources, along with fisheries.
  • Countering US: But more importantly, they are strategically located for China to insert itself between America’s military bases in the Pacific islands and Australia.

What does this mean for the established geopolitical configuration in the region?

  • Diminishing western influence: The Pacific islands, in the post-World War II scenario, were exclusively under the spheres of influence of the Western powers, in particular, the US, UK, France and Australia and New Zealand.
  • Inserting into western hegemony: All of them have territorial possessions in the region, with the three nuclear powers among them having used the region as a nuclear weapons testing ground.
  • Shifting of dependencies: The smaller island nations of the region are heavily dependent on them, especially Australia as it is a resident power.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Silent Valley Bird Species goes up to 175


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Silent Valley National Park

Mains level : NA

silent valley

A bird survey conducted at the Silent Valley National Park identified 141 species, of which 17 were new. So far, 175 species of birds have been spotted in Silent Valley.

Silent Valley National Park

  • It is located in the border of Mannarkkad Taluk of Palakkad district, Nilambur Taluk of Malappuram district, Kerala, and Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu.
  • This national park has some rare species of flora and fauna. This area was explored in 1847 by the botanist Robert Wight.
  • It is located in the rich biodiversity of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
  • Mukurthi peak, the fifth-highest peak in South India, and Anginda peak are also located in its vicinity.
  • Bhavani River, a tributary of Kaveri River, and Kunthipuzha River, a tributary of Bharathappuzha river, originate in the vicinity of Silent Valley.
  • The Kadalundi River has also its origin in Silent Valley.

New species spotted

  • Brown wood owl, Banded bay cuckoo, Malabar woodshrike, White-throated kingfisher, Indian nightjar, Jungle nightjar, and Large cuckooshrike were among the 17 species newly identified in the Silent Valley.


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Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Mapping: Great Lakes


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Great Lakes

Mains level : Not Much


Scientists are building a sensor network to detect the trends in the water chemistry of Lake Huron, one of the five Great Lakes of North America.

What is the Acidification of water bodies?

  • Acidification of oceans or freshwater bodies takes place when excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere gets rapidly absorbed into them.
  • Scientists initially believed this might be a good thing, as it leaves less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • But in the past decade or so, it has been established that absorption of carbon dioxide leads to a lowering of the pH, which makes the water bodies more acidic.

What are Great Lakes?

  • The Great Lakes are a series of large interconnected freshwater lakes in the mid-east region of North America that connect to the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence River.
  • There are five lakes, which are Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario and are in general on or near the Canada–US border.
  • Hydrologically, lakes Michigan and Huron are a single body joined at the Straits of Mackinac.
  • By itself, Lake Huron is the world’s third largest freshwater lake, after Lake Superior and Lake Victoria.
  • The Great Lakes Waterway enables modern travel and shipping by water among the lakes.

Why are they significant?

  • The Great Lakes contain a fifth of the world’s total freshwater, and is a crucial source of irrigation and transportation.
  • They also serve as the habitat for more than 3,500 species of plants and animals.

Acidification of Great Lakes

  • Scientists are developing a system that would be capable of measuring the carbon dioxide and pH levels of the Great Lakes over several years.
  • It is known that the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide has caused the world’s oceans to turn more acidic.
  • Recently, it has been observed that by 2100, even the Great Lakes — Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario — might approach acidity at around the same rate as the oceans.
  • Researchers hope the data from the Lake Huron project would add to scientific information on the subject.

Consequences of acidification

  • The Great Lakes are believed to have been born some 20,000 years ago, when the Earth started to warm and water from melting glaciers filled the basins on its surface.
  • However, this rich ecosphere is under threat as the five lakes would witness a pH decline of 0.29-0.49 pH units — meaning they would become more acidic — by 2100.
  • This may lead to a decrease in native biodiversity, create physiological challenges for organisms, and permanently alter the structure of the ecosystem, scientists say.
  • It would also severely impact the hundreds of wooden shipwrecks that are believed to be resting at the bottom of these lakes.


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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Arittapatti: Tamil Nadu’s first biodiversity heritage site


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Arittapatti, Biodiversity Heritage Site (BHS)

Mains level : Not Much


The Tamil Nadu Government has issued a notification declaring Arittapatti in Melur block, Madurai district, a biodiversity heritage site.

About Arittapatti

  • Arittapatti village, rich in ecological and historical significance, houses around 250 species of birds including three important raptors -birds of prey, namely the Laggar Falcon, the Shaheen Falcon and Bonelli’s Eagle.
  • It is also home to wildlife such as the Indian Pangolin, Slender Loris and pythons.
  • The biodiversity-rich area is surrounded by a chain of seven hillocks or inselbergs that serve as a watershed, charging 72 lakes, 200 natural springs and three check dams.
  • The Anaikondan tank, built during the reign of Pandiyan kings in the 16th century is one among them, the government notification said.
  • Several megalithic structures, rock-cut temples, Tamil Brahmi inscriptions and Jain beds add to the historical significance of the region.

What is a Biodiversity Heritage Site (BHS)?

  • Biodiversity Heritage Sites are rich Biodiversity Areas and are important components of local ecosystems which are being conserved and managed by the society.
  • BHS are declared as per provision under Section 37(1) of Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
  • The State Government may, from time to time in consultation with the local bodies, notify the areas of biodiversity importance as biodiversity heritage sites under this Act.


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Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

Places in news: Sahel Region


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sahel Region

Mains level : NA


French President Emmanuel Macron announced the end of the decade-long Operation Barkhane in Africa’s Sahel Region.

Note the nations falling in Sahel Region.

Sahel Region

  • The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic realm of transition in Africa between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanian savanna to the south.
  • Having a semi-arid climate, it stretches across the south-central latitudes of Northern Africa between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea.
  • The name is derived from the Arabic term for “coast, shore”; this is explained as being used in a figurative sense in reference to the southern edge of the vast Sahara.
  • The Sahel part includes from west to east parts of northern Senegal, southern Mauritania, central Mali, northern Burkina Faso, the extreme south of Algeria, Niger, the extreme north of Nigeria, the extreme north of Cameroon and the Central African Republic, central Chad, central and southern Sudan, the extreme north of South Sudan, Eritrea and the extreme north of Ethiopia.

What is Operation Barkhane?

  • France began its military operations in Sahel in January 2013.
  • Titled Operation Serval, it was limited to targeting Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaeda who took control of northern Mali.
  • However, in 2014, the mission was scaled up, renamed Operation Barkhane and was aimed at counter-terrorism.
  • The objective was to assist local armed forces to prevent the resurgence of non-state armed groups across the Sahel region.
  • Around 4,500 French personnel were deployed with the local joint counter-terrorism force.


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Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Global Implications

Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kherson from mapping perspective

Mains level : Russia's retreat in Ukraine


Ukraine’s defence and intelligence unit has reported on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson but predicts it to be a delusion for a retreat.

Where is Kherson?

  • Geographically, Kherson is a strategic location for Russia and Ukraine.
  • Situated in the northwest of the Dnipro River, the province shares borders with Donetsk, Crimea and the Black Sea.

Why is it important for Russia?

  • With Moscow capturing Crimea in 2014, the occupation of Kherson in March 2022 has benefited Russia in transferring its military from Crimea to counter Ukraine.
  • It provides access to Odesa and Black Sea ports in the west and serves as the main route to secure southern Ukraine.

Implications of regaining for Ukraine

  • For Ukraine, regaining Kherson is significant to protect its population in Kalanchak and Chaplynka districts and also to recapture Crimea.
  • Kherson is also an important agricultural region, with irrigation channels.

How did Kherson come under Russia’s control?

  • In early March 2022, Kherson was captured by Russia through intense fighting.
  • The battle of Kherson proved to be the starting point to capturing and occupying the southern part of Ukraine while the battles for Kharkiv and Kyiv in the north progressed.
  • Russia’s hold over Kherson since March 2022 enabled Moscow to capture the key port cities — Mariupol in the Sea Azov, and Odesa, thus expanding control.
  • Kherson’s irrigation canals were used as defence positions, creating a strong line preventing Ukraine’s counter-attacks.
  • Russia also had positioned its soldiers in Kherson and stockpiled the ammunition.

Why has Moscow announced its withdrawal from Kherson?

  • Mobilisation failure: When Russia was advancing rapidly in capturing the southern and northern cities of Ukraine, its military personnel and weapon systems started to run thin.
  • Unexperienced troops: The failure of new recruits added an additional challenge to Russia to keep its hold against the Ukraine counter-offensive in Kherson.
  • Inability of Russia to govern Kherson: Despite imposing martial law, Russia could not effectively rule Kherson; the three-level security in the occupied areas could not enforce Russia’s control on the ground.
  • Ukraine’s expanding counter-offensive: Until August, Ukraine was supplied only with short-range and low-grade weapons by the West. On the other hand, Russia has been facing challenges in augmenting its military hardware on the battleground.

Is the withdrawal final, or a tactical move by Russia?

  • Ukraine is advancing: Russia’s new mobilisation has failed to stop the advancing of Ukraine forces.
  • Russia is weakening: The challenges to remobilise its defence systems and the shortage of weapons must have played a role in Russia’s withdrawal.
  • Inevitable western intervention: With Ukraine strengthening its military capacity through support from the west, upgrading from land-based to air-based to heavy battle tanks, Russia is facing a challenge to hold its occupied territories in Ukraine.


  • Withdrawal from Kherson exposes a serious gap in Russia’s strategy to hold southern Ukraine.
  • However, it also underlines its strategy — to withdraw under serious attack or resistance by the Ukrainian forces — as it happened in Kyiv and Kharkiv.


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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Places in news: Khangkhui Mangsor


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Khangkhui Cave

Mains level : NA


A colony of bats was evicted from a Khangkhui Mangsor cave system in Manipur with a Palaeolithic past to make it tourist-friendly.

Khangkhui Mangsor

  • The Khangkhui, locally called Khangkhui Mangsor, is a natural limestone cave about 15 km from Ukhrul, the headquarters of Ukhrul district.
  • Excavations carried out by Manipur’s archaeologists had revealed the cave was home to Stone Age communities.
  • The cave was also used as a shelter by the local people during the Second World War after the Japanese forces advanced to Manipur and the adjoining Nagaland.

Why in news?

  • The cave housed large roosting populations of bats belonging to the Rhinolophidae and Hipposideridae families.
  • They were however killed and evicted from the Khangkhui cave after 2016-17 purportedly to make it more tourist-friendly.

Do you know?

The longest is Krem Liat Prah in the Jaintia Hills, which is 30.957 km long. The word “Krem” means cave in the local Khasi language


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Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Lothal: ‘Oldest Dock in the World’, to get heritage complex


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lothal, Indus Valley Civilization

Mains level : Heritage tourism


Prime Minister has reviewed the construction of the National Maritime Heritage Complex (NMHC) site at Gujarat’s Lothal via video conferencing.

Where is Lothal?

  • Lothal was one of the southernmost sites of the Indus Valley civilization, located in the Bhal region of what is now the state of Gujarat.
  • The port city is believed to have been built in 2,200 BC. Lothal was a thriving trade centre in ancient times, with its trade of beads, gems and ornaments reaching West Asia and Africa.
  • The meaning of Lothal (a combination of Loth and (s) thal) in Gujarati is “the mound of the dead”.
  • Incidentally, the name of the city of Mohenjo-daro (also part of the Indus Valley Civilisation, now in Pakistan) means the same in Sindhi.
  • In the region, it can be compared with other Indus port towns of Balakot (Pakistan), Khirasa (in Gujarat’s Kutch) and Kuntasi (in Rajkot).

When was it discovered?

  • Indian archaeologists started the search for cities of the Harappan Civilisation post-1947 in Gujarat’s Saurashtra.
  • Archaeologist SR Rao led the team which discovered a number of Harappan sites at the time, including the port city of Lothal.
  • Excavation work was carried out in Lothal between February 1955 and May 1960.
  • Adjacent to the excavated areas stands the archaeological site museum, where some of the most prominent collections of Indus-era antiquities in India are displayed.

How was it identified as port city?

  • The National Institute of Oceanography in Goa discovered marine microfossils and salt, gypsum crystals at the site, indicating that sea water once filled the structure and it was definitely a dockyard.
  • It had the world’s earliest known dock, connecting the city to an ancient course of the Sabarmati river.
  • A metropolis with an upper and a lower town had in on its northern side a basin with vertical wall, inlet and outlet channels which has been identified as a tidal dockyard.
  • Satellite images show that the river channel, now dried, would have brought in considerable volume of water during high tide, which would have filled the basin and facilitated sailing of boats upstream.

What heritage value does it hold?

  • Lothal was nominated in April 2014 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its application is pending on the tentative list of UNESCO.
  • It is the only port-town of the Indus Valley Civilisation.
  • Its heritage value is comparable to following ancient port-towns around the world-
  1. Xel Ha (Peru)
  2. Ostia (Port of Rome)
  3. Carthage (Port of Tunis) in Italy
  4. Hepu in China,
  5. Canopus in Egypt
  6. Gabel (Byblos of the Phoenicians),
  7. Jaffa in Israel,
  8. Ur in Mesopotamia
  9. Hoi An in Vietnam

Building up of Heritage Complex

  • The project began in March 2022, and is being developed at a cost of Rs 3,500 crore.
  • It will have several innovative features such as Lothal mini-recreation, which will recreate Harappan architecture and lifestyle through immersive technology.
  • It has four theme parks – Memorial theme park, Maritime and Navy theme park, Climate theme park, and Adventure and Amusement theme park.


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Tiger Conservation Efforts – Project Tiger, etc.

Ranipur TR: 4th Tiger Reserve in UP


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ranipur Tiger Reserve

Mains level : Not Much


The UP cabinet approved the notification of Ranipur Tiger Reserve under Section 38(v) of the Wild life (Protection) Act of 1972.

About Ranipur WS

  • Ranipur WS, was founded in 1977, is one of the attractions of Chitrakoot district in Uttar Pradesh.
  • It is spread over 230 sq.km and is noted for its diverse wildlife, but is not very frequently visited by tourists because of the difficult access.
  • The Ranipur TR has tropical dry deciduous forests and is home to fauna such as tigers, leopards, sloth bears, spotted deer, sambhar, chinkara and a number of birds and reptiles, the statement added.
  • The Ranipur TR will be the fourth in UP, after Dudhwa, Pilibhit and Amangarh (buffer of Corbett Tiger Reserve).
  • It will also be the first in the state’s portion of the Bundelkhand region, which it shares with neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.

Why make it a tiger reserve?

  • RWS has no tigers of its own.
  • But pugmarks of the animals are frequently seen there as tigers from nearby Panna frequent it.


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History- Important places, persons in news

Places in news: Ram Setu


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ram Setu

Mains level : NA

ram setu

A movie has once again generated buzz around the chain of shoals off the southeast coast of India that many believe is the Ram Setu or the bridge to Lanka mentioned in the Ramayana.

The Ram Setu

  • The Ram Setu, also known as Adam’s Bridge, is a 48-km chain of limestone shoals between Rameswaram on India’s southeast coast and Mannar Island near Sri Lanka’s northwest coast.
  • The structure has significance in both Hindu and Muslim mythology – while Hindus believe this is the bridge (Setu) built by Lord Ram and his army to cross to Lanka and fight Ravan.
  • As per Islamic legend, Adam used this bridge to reach Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka, where he stood on one foot for 1,000 years in repentance.

Factual details of the bridge

  • Scientists believe Ram Setu is a natural structure formed due to tectonic movements and sand getting trapped in corals.
  • However, over the years, evidence has been offered to claim that the bridge is man-made.
  • The bridge is not entirely natural, Hindu right wing outfits argue, which proves that it was indeed built by Lord Ram.

When was the structure came into highlights?

  • The Ram Setu issue snowballed into a major controversy when the Sethusamudram Project, flagged off during the UPA I government.
  • The project aimed to reduce travel time between the eastern and western coasts of India, as ships would no longer have to circle Sri Lanka to travel between the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.
  • The project was perceived as an attack on Hindu sentiments.
  • Various studies have been proposed on the Ram Setu, with the most recent being in 2021, when the government approved an underwater research project to ascertain its origins.

Ecological arguments against the project

  • The Sethusamudram project has been opposed on environmental grounds.
  • Some claims that it will harm marine life, and that dredging of the line of shoals will make India’s coast more vulnerable to tsunamis.
  • In March 2018, the Centre told the Supreme Court that the Ram Setu will not be affected in the execution of the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal project.

NASA images, and other proofs

  • Images of the Ram Setu clicked by NASA have been used over and over again to claim that this proves the existence of a man-made bridge.
  • NASA has repeatedly clarified that it does not agree with these claims.
  • Remote sensing images or photographs from orbit cannot provide direct information about the origin or age of a chain of islands.
  • It certainly cannot be determined whether humans were involved in producing any of the patterns seen.


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Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Global Implications

Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Conflict


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Batken Region

Mains level : Not Much


Nearly 100 people have been killed and scores injured in violent border clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan over the last week.

What is the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Conflict?

  • The clashes are replaying old pre- and post-Soviet era legacies.
  • The borders of the two republics were demarcated under Joseph Stalin’s leadership.
  • Historically, the Kyrgyz and Tajik populations enjoyed common rights over natural resources.
  • The issue of the delimitation of the border is a relic of the Soviet era.
  • While regular talks have tried to resolve the issue, one of the crucial points of disagreement remains over the map which should be used for demarcation purposes.
  • Almost half of its close to a 1000 km border is disputed.

Genesis of the dispute

  • The creation of the Soviet Union saw the large-scale redistribution of livestock to collective and state farms, which upset the existing status quo.
  • Unfortunately, there was only so much land to go around.
  • The Tajik territory of Batken saw their livestock increase, and with scarce grazing land, agreements were signed between the two populations over the utilisation of Kyrgyz territory by the Tajiks’ livestock.

What is happening now at the border?

  • The last few weeks have seen constant shelling, violent confrontations by local communities, and active engagement by security forces on either side.
  • The Batken region of Kyrgyzstan is seeing families being moved out and getting relocated.
  • According to Kyrgyzstan, close to 1,50,000 people out of the 5,50,000 odd population of the Batken region have either fled the area or have been relocated by the state.
  • The situation in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, is no different. The highly militarised borders also add to tensions.

Significance of Batken

  • The Batken region, bordering Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in the south of the country, is one of the seven regions of Kyrgyzstan with its natural underground and water resources, natural beauty, smooth transit routes and a population of around 500,000.
  • Located 750 kilometers (466.02 miles) from Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, and in the southwest of the country, the Batken region is located on the edge of the famous Fergana Valley in Central Asia.
  • Fergana Valley includes Fergana, Namangan, Andijan in Uzbekistan, Hocand in Tajikistan, Osh, Jalalabad and Batken in Kyrgyzstan.
  • The Batken region borders the Republic of Uzbekistan in the northeast and the Republic of Tajikistan in the southwest and north.
  • Covering 8.5% of Kyrgyzstan’s land, the region has agricultural, underground, water and energy resources, as well as oil and natural gas resources, albeit small.

What led to the current flare-up?

  • The ideological basis of the current set of clashes is reinforced by developmental issues, thus providing a fertile ground for the entire geopolitical space to become a hotbed of multiple minor conflicts and clashes.
  • The groups from either side planted trees in disputed areas and engaged in a physical confrontation using agricultural equipment as weapons.

Why are the clashes occurring now?

  • The collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent dissolution of the then-existing water and land agreements saw the creation of multiple smaller independent farms.
  • This has led to a marked increase in water consumption patterns among the farmers.
  • Both countries share multiple water channels with undulating trajectories and flow, which upset equitable access to water on both sides.
  • As a result, small-scale conflicts occur practically every year during the crucial irrigation period.

What is the road ahead?

  • The path to resolution of the conflict will require groups to agree upon a common map.
  • Russia often brokers between the two.
  • The international community will have to make efforts to solve the dispute by involving elders in the communities, as historically, elders have been used to resolve conflicts.
  • The informal small-scale governance mechanisms would also have to be further strengthened through a concerted effort by the respective countries to stabilize the geopolitical dynamics.


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Wetland Conservation

India adds five more Ramsar Sites


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ramsar wetlands in India

Mains level : Not Much

India has added five more Ramsar sites, or wetlands of international importance, bringing the number of such sites in the country to 54.

Newly added Ramsar Sites

  1. Karikili Bird Sanctuary, Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest and Pichavaram Mangrove in Tamil Nadu,
  2. Sakhya Sagar in Madhya Pradesh
  3. Pala Wetlands in Mizoram

What are Wetlands?

  • A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail.
  • The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other landforms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil.

Significance of Wetlands

  • Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources and ecosystem services such as food, water, fibre, groundwater recharge, water purification, flood moderation, erosion control, and climate regulation.
  • They are, in fact, are a major source of water and our main supply of freshwater comes from an array of wetlands that help soak rainfall and recharge groundwater.
  • They provide many societal benefits: food and habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species; water quality improvement; flood storage; shoreline erosion control; economically beneficial natural products for human use; and opportunities for recreation, education, and research, etc.

 India and Ramsar Wetlands

  • India’s Ramsar wetlands are spread over 11,000 sq.km — around 10% of the total wetland area in the country — across 18 States.
  • No other South Asian country has as many sites, though this has much to do with India’s geographical breadth and tropical diversity.
  • The UK (175) and Mexico (142) — smaller countries than India — have the most Ramsar sites, whereas Bolivia spans the largest area with 1,48,000 sq.km under the Convention protection.
  • The National Wetland Inventory and Assessment compiled by the ISRO estimates India’s wetlands to span around 1,52,600 square kilometres.

What makes Ramsar designation significant?

  • Being designated a Ramsar site does not necessarily invite extra international funds.
  • Acquiring this label helps with a locale’s tourism potential and its international visibility.

Criteria for Ramsar site designation

To be Ramsar site a place must meet at least one of the criteria as defined by the Ramsar Convention of 1961, such:

  1. Supporting vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities or,
  2. If it regularly supports 20,000 or more waterbirds or,
  3. Is an important source of food for fishes,
  4. Spawning ground,
  5. Nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks are dependent upon.
  6. Static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres
  7. Does not include river channels, paddy fields, human-made water bodies/ tanks specifically constructed for drinking water purposes

Back2Basics: Ramsar Convention

  • The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (better known as the Ramsar Convention) is an international agreement promoting the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
  • It is the only global treaty to focus on a single ecosystem.
  • The convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.
  • Traditionally viewed as a wasteland or breeding ground of disease, wetlands actually provide fresh water and food and serve as nature’s shock absorber.
  • Wetlands, critical for biodiversity, are disappearing rapidly, with recent estimates showing that 64% or more of the world’s wetlands have vanished since 1900.
  • Major changes in land use for agriculture and grazing, water diversion for dams and canals, and infrastructure development are considered to be some of the main causes of loss and degradation of wetlands.


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Contention over South China Sea

Places in news: Paracel Islands


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Paracel Islands

Mains level : Not Much

A US destroyer sailed near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, drawing an angry reaction from Beijing, which said its military had “driven away” the ship.

About Paracel Islands

  • The Paracel Islands, also known as the Xisha Islands and the Hoang Sa Archipelago are a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea.
  • The archipelago includes about 130 small coral islands and reefs, most grouped into the northeast Amphitrite Group or the western Crescent Group.

What is the South China Sea Dispute?

  • It is a dispute over territory and sovereignty over ocean areas, and the Paracels and the Spratlys – two island chains claimed in whole or in part by a number of countries.
  • China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei all have competing claims.
  • Alongside the fully-fledged islands, there are dozens of rocky outcrops, atolls, sandbanks, and reefs, such as the Scarborough Shoal.
  • China claims by far the largest portion of territory – an area defined by the “nine-dash line” which stretches hundreds of miles south and east from its most southerly province of Hainan.
  • Beijing says its right to the area goes hundreds of centuries to when the Paracel and Spratly island chains were regarded as integral parts of the Chinese nation.
  • It showed the two island groups falling entirely within its territory. Those claims are mirrored by Taiwan.

Spat over Chinese claims

  • China has backed its expansive claims with island-building and naval patrols.
  • The US says it does not take sides in territorial disputes but has sent military ships and planes near disputed islands, calling them “freedom of navigation” operations to ensure access to key shipping and air routes.
  • Both sides have accused each other of “militarizing” the South China Sea.
  • There are fears that the area is becoming a flashpoint, with potentially serious global consequences.


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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Places in news: Singalila National Park


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Singalila National Park, Red Panda

Mains level : NA

The Singalila National Park, the highest protected area in West Bengal, will soon wild Red Panda.

Singalila National Park

  • Singalila National Park is located on the Singalila Ridge at an altitude of more than 7000 feet above sea level, in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal.
  • It is well known for the trekking route to Sandakphu that runs through it.
  • The Singalila area in Darjeeling was purchased by the British Government from Sikkim Durbar in 1882, and notified a Reserve Forest under the Indian Forest Act 1878.
  • It was notified as a National Park in 1992 and was also officially opened up for tourism.

Why introduce Red Panda?

  • The number of red pandas has been declining in the wild, even in the Singalila and Neora Valley National Parks, the two protected areas where the mammal is found in the wild in West Bengal.
  • Recent studies estimate that there are 38 of them in Singalila and 32 in Neora.
  • The zoological park who is at the centre of the Red Panda Augmentation Programme.
  • Conservation breeding of red pandas is only one part of the programme.

About Red Panda

IUCN Red List: Endangered

  • The red panda (Ailurus fulgens), also known as the lesser panda, is a small mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China.
  • It was first formally described in 1825.
  • The red panda inhabits coniferous forests as well as temperate broadleaf and mixed forests, favouring steep slopes with dense bamboo cover close to water sources.
  • It is solitary and largely arboreal.
  • It feeds mainly on bamboo shoots and leaves, but also on fruits and blossoms.


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Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Global Implications

Places in news: Snake Island


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Snake Island

Mains level : Not Much

Ukraine has said it has caused “significant losses” to the Russian military in airstrikes on Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, in the Black Sea.

Snake Island

  • Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake or Serpent Island, is a small piece of rock less than 700 metres from end to end, that has been described as being “X-shaped”.
  • It is located 35 km from the coast in the Black Sea, to the east of the mouth of the Danube and roughly southwest of the port city of Odessa.
  • The island, which has been known since ancient times and is marked on the map by the tiny village of Bile that is located on it, belongs to Ukraine.

Why does Russia seek to control the Black Sea?

  • Domination of the Black Sea region is a geostrategic imperative for Moscow.
  • The famed water body is bound by Ukraine to the north and northwest, Russia and Georgia to the east, Turkey to the south, and Bulgaria and Romania to the west.
  • It links to the Sea of Marmara through the Bosporus and then to the Aegean through the Dardanelles.
  • It has traditionally been Russia’s warm water gateway to Europe.
  • For Russia, the Black Sea is both a stepping stone to the Mediterranean as well as a strategic buffer between NATO and itself.
  • Cutting Ukrainian access to the Black Sea will reduce it to a landlocked country and deal a crippling blow to its trade logistics.


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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Places in news: Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP)

Mains level : Not Much

Activists surrounding the Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP) in Manipur have now taken up the cudgels to ensure that the government does not shift the proposed heritage park from the approved site.

Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP)

  • The KLNP is a national park in the Bishnupur district of the state of Manipur in India.
  • It is 40 km2 in area, the only floating park in the world, located in North East India, and an integral part of Loktak Lake.
  • The national park is characterized by floating decomposed plant material locally called Phumdi at the south–eastern side of the Loktak Lake, which has been declared a Ramsar site.
  • It was created in 1966 as a wildlife sanctuary to preserve the natural habitat of the endangered Eld’s deer.
  • In 1977, it was gazetted as national park.

Key faunas

  • KLNP is home to the last of the brow-antlered deer (Rucervus eldii eldii), one of the most endangered deer in the world.
  • It is locally called as Sangai.
  • The animal is, in fact, in danger of losing its home—most of the phumdis, or floating swamps, are unable to sustain its weight.
  • In 1951, it was reported extinct, but British tea planter and naturalist Edward Pritchard Gee rediscovered it in 1953.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

Places in news: Strait of Hormuz


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Strait of Hormuz

Mains level : Global strategic flashpoints

A US Navy warship fired a warning flare to wave off an Iranian speedboat coming straight at it during a tense encounter in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Why in news?

  • The Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway in the Middle East marks the most sensitive transportation choke point for global oil supplies.

Strait of Hormuz

  • The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow channel, approximately 30 miles wide at the narrowest point, between the Omani Musandam Peninsula and Iran.
  • It connects the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman.
  • The Strait is deep and relatively free of maritime hazards.
  • Its depth is greatest near the Musandam Peninsula and tapers as you move north toward the Iranian shore.

Why is it important?

  • Oil tankers carrying crude from ports on the Persian Gulf must pass through the strait.
  • Around 21 million barrels of oil a day flowed through it in 2018, equivalent to roughly a third of global seaborne oil trade and about 21% of global petroleum liquids consumption.


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The Crisis In The Middle East

Places in news: Aegean Islands


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aegean Sea

Mains level : NA

Turkey has warned Greece to demilitarise islands in the Aegean Sea.

What is the news?

  • Turkey says Greece has been building a military presence in violation of treaties that guarantee the unarmed status of the Aegean islands.
  • It argues the islands were ceded to Greece on the condition they remained demilitarized.

Where is the Aegean Sea?

  • The Aegean Sea has a surface area of about 215,000 km2 and a depth of 3,544 m at the deepest end.
  • It has a maximum length of about 700 km and a width of 400 km.
  • The Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits connect the Aegean Sea to the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea respectively.
  • The Aegean is subdivided into the Myrtoan Sea and the Thracian Sea and lies on the African and Eurasian tectonic plates’ collision path.

Control of the region

  • The sea is situated between the Anatolia and Balkan peninsulas and lies between Turkey and Greece.
  • Nine out of 12 of Greece’s administrative regions border the sea.
  • Turkish provinces, such as Balikesir, Canakkale, Edirne, and Izmir, borders the Aegean to the east.
  • The Aegean Sea is a source of dispute and controversy between Turkey and Greece, affecting their relationship since the 1970s.

What is the dispute?

  • Greece and Turkey are NATO allies.
  • However they have a history of disputes over a range of issues, including mineral exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and rival claims in the Aegean Sea.
  • Greece maintains Turkey has deliberately misinterpreted the treaties and says it has legal grounds to defend itself following hostile actions by Ankara.


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Foreign Policy Watch: Indo-Pacific and QUAD

Pacific Nations reject China Security Pact


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pacific Nations in news

Mains level : Chinese counter to Western Indo-Pacific strategy

China has suffered a big diplomatic humiliation in the pacific. 10 island nations in the region rejected China’s proposed security pact.

Why in news?

  • Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi has returned empty-handed in a highly decorated visit to the Pacific Nations.
  • The secret deal that was to be brokered got leaked in public media, caused huge embarrassment to the Chinese.

Conspicuous features of the Pact

  • China has had offered to radically ramp up its activities in the South Pacific, directly challenging the influence of the US and its allies in the strategically vital region.
  • The failed deal saw Beijing to:
  1. Train Pacific island police,
  2. Become involved in cybersecurity,
  3. Expand political ties,
  4. Conduct sensitive marine mapping and
  5. Gain greater access to natural resources on land and in the water
  • As an enticement, Beijing is offering millions of dollars in financial aid, the prospect of a potentially lucrative China-Pacific islands free trade agreement and access to China’s vast market.

Why Pacific Nations rejected this lollipop?

  • The offer is perceived was “disingenuous” and would “ensure Chinese influence in government” and “economic control” of key industries.
  • The nations also cited a lack of regional consensus.

Pls make observations about Pacific Island Nations:


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Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Places in news: Sela Tunnel


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sela Pass

Mains level : Strategic border infrastructure

The strategically-significant Sela Tunnel project in Arunachal Pradesh is nearing completion well before the deadline.

What is Sela Tunnel Project?

  • The Sela Tunnel is the longest bi-lane road tunnel in the world.
  • The total length of the project, including the tunnels, the approach and the link roads, will be around 12 km.
  • The tunnel is being constructed by the Border Roads Organisation at an altitude of 13,800ft near the Indo-China border.
  • It is being built on the 317km long Balipara-Charduar-Tawang (BCT) road which connects West Kameng, East Kameng and Tawang districts of Arunachal Pradesh to the rest of the country.

Why is the project important?

  • All-weather connectivity to Tawang and other forward areas in the sector will be the most important advantage that the project promises.
  • At the moment, Sela pass stays closed for a few winter months.
  • The project will provide a new alignment on the axis towards the LAC, and allow movement of military and civil vehicles all through the year.

Significance of the tunnel

  • China is undertaking massive infrastructure development and troop build-up in the Rest of Arunachal Pradesh (RALP) area.
  • In military parlance, the RALP is an area in Arunachal Pradesh other than the Kameng area.
  • Other than the Kameng area consisting of East and West Kameng districts, the rest of the State is referred to by the Army as the RALP.


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