Global Geological And Climatic Events

‘Cold Lava’ Rivers flow in Philippines after Mount Canlaon eruption

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mount Canlaon, Cold Lava Mudflows

Why in the News?

  • After Mount Canlaon erupted in the Philippines, cold lava started flowing through streets and rivers.
    • It was followed by ashfall, and dangers like floods and mudflows downstream.

What is Cold Lava?

  • Cold lava, also known as “lahar,” is a mixture of water and rock fragments that flows rapidly down the slopes of a volcano, often triggered by heavy rainfall or volcanic eruptions.
  • The mixture forms a concrete-like substance that destroys everything in its path.
  • This can also include smooth, glassy textures or rough and jagged textures.

Another example of cold Lava in the world

  • Mount Merapi, Indonesia (2023): An eruption of Mount Merapi resulted in the deaths of at least 23 climbers and spewed ash up to 3,000 meters into the air, covering towns and villages

How harmful is Cold Lava?

  • Rain can carry cold lava down the slopes of a volcano during an eruption and into the path of nearby towns or villages.
  • According to the United States Geological Survey, cold lava has the power to crush and bury things in its path.
  • It also moves quickly like wet concrete and is considered more destructive than hot lava.

About Mount Canlaon

  • Mount Canlaon, located in the Philippines, is an active stratovolcano known for its frequent eruptions and volcanic activity.
  • It is situated on the island of Negros in the Visayas region of the Philippines.
  • It is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, known for its high volcanic activity.
  • It poses hazards such as ash fall, lava flows, pyroclastic flows, and lahars (mudflows) that can endanger nearby communities and agriculture.

 

PYQ:

[2021] Discuss about the vulnerability of India to earthquake-related hazards. Give examples including the salient features of major disasters caused by earthquakes in different parts of India during the last three decades.

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What is happening in the French territory of New Caledonia?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mapping of New Caledonia

Why in the News?

New Caledonia, France’s Pacific island territory, is under a state of emergency due to deadly riots.

About New Caledonia 

  • New Caledonia is a French overseas territory in the Pacific.
  • It enjoys a large degree of autonomy but depends heavily on France for matters like defence and education.
  • It includes the island of New Caledonia where the capital, Noumea, is located, the Loyalty Islands; the Belep Islands; and the Ile des Pins.
  • New Caledonia’s lagoons were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.

The Crisis: A Quick Recap

  • New Law: The French government passed a law that has upset people in New Caledonia.
  • Vote Reforms: Now, French citizens who lived on the island for 10 years or more can vote. The government says it’s fairer this way.
  • Resistance from Indigenous people: The locals, especially the Kanak community, feel this gives too much power to French settlers and stops them from gaining independence.

How did France occupy this territory? 

  • Exploration: British explorer James Cook named the island New Caledonia in 1774 after the Latin name for Scotland.
  • French Annexation: France annexed it in 1853 and New Caledonia became a French overseas territory in 1946.
  • Fewer Locals: France brought in lots of French people. Now, the original Kanak people are only 40% of the population, while others, like the Caldoches and newer French arrivals, make up the rest.

Why are the people protesting?

  • There were similar fights in the 1990s, leading to promises of more power for locals.
  • In 2018, 2020, and 2021, they voted on whether to be independent from France. But many boycotted the last vote, saying it wasn’t fair because of the pandemic.

Why is it significant for France?

  • France sees New Caledonia as important for keeping power in the region.
  • It wants to stay strong in the Pacific to stand up to other big powers, like China.

PYQ:

[2014] Explain how the foundations of the modern world were laid by the American and French revolutions.

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In news: Volkhov River

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Volkhov River

Why in the News?

Four medical students from India studying in a university in Russia drowned in Volkhov River near St. Petersburg.

About Volkhov River

  • The Volkhov River is a significant waterway in northwestern Russia.
  • It is located in the Leningrad Oblast and Novgorod Oblast of Russia, in the northwestern part of the country.
  • It stretches approximately 224 kilometers (139 miles) from Lake Ilmen to Lake Ladoga.
  • Origin: It flows out of Lake Ilmen north into Lake Ladoga, the largest lake in Europe.
  • Tributaries: The Msta River is the largest tributary of the Volkhov.
  • Major Cities: Several cities and settlements are situated along the banks of the Volkhov River, including Novgorod, Veliky Novgorod, and Volkhov.

PYQ:

[2020] Consider the following pairs:

River – Flows into

  1. Mekong – Andaman sea
  2. Thames – Irish Sea
  3. Volga – Caspian Sea
  4. Zambezi – Indian Ocean

Which of the pairs above is/are correctly matched?

(a) Only 1

(b) Only 2

(c) 3 Only

(d) None of the above/More than one of the above.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

KAZA Summit 2024: Delegates renew calls to leave CITES

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: About CITES;

Mains level: The Kaza Summit and its objectives;

Why in the news?

At the KAZA 2024 Summit in Livingstone, Zambia, delegates reiterated the urge for member states to withdraw from CITES because they seek approval to trade their plentiful ivory and wildlife items.

About the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES):

  • It is an international agreement adopted in 1973 (entered into force in 1975) between governments.
  • Aim: To ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
  • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties – in other words, they have to implement the Convention–it does not take the place of national laws.
  • Representatives of CITES nations meet every two to three years at a Conference of the Parties (COP) to review progress and adjust the lists of protected species, which are grouped into three categories with different levels of protection:
    • Appendix I: Includes the world’s most endangered plants and animals, such as tigers and gorillas. International commercial trade in these species, or even parts of them, is completely banned, except in rare cases such as scientific research.
    • Appendix II: Contains species like corals that are not yet threatened with extinction, but which could become threatened if unlimited trade were allowed. Also included are “look-alike” species that closely resemble those already on the list for conservation reasons. Plants and animals in this category can be traded internationally, but there are strict rules.
    • Appendix III: Species whose trade is only regulated within a specific country can be placed on Appendix III if that country requires cooperation from other nations to help prevent exploitation.

What is Kavango-Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA-TFCA)?

  • The Kavango-Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA-TFCA) spans 520,000 square kilometers. It covers parts of five southern African nations. These nations are Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
  • The area is centered around the Okavango and Zambezi river basins. The combined elephant population in these nations represents over two-thirds of Africa’s total, estimated at around 450,000.
  • Botswana has the largest elephant population within the region, with 132,000 elephants. Zimbabwe follows with 100,000 elephants.

Key Objectives of KAZA 2024 Summit :

  • Conservation: Promote the sustainable management and conservation of wildlife across the five member states: Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
  • Economic Benefit: To explore ways to monetize abundant wildlife resources, particularly elephants, to fund conservation efforts and benefit local economies.

Dominant Issues:

  • At the 19th meeting of the CITES conference in Panama in 2022, KAZA states and five other southern African countries advocated for opening up trade in ivory and elephant products.
  • Southern African countries, including those in the KAZA region, argue that their large elephant populations contribute to habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict.
  • Despite repeated requests, CITES delegates rejected the proposal, leading to frustration among African countries.
  • Ten countries, including KAZA states and others like Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa, and Tanzania, declared a dispute with CITES. They criticized CITES for straying from its founding principles and adopting ideologies over science-based conservation strategies.

Way forward:

  • Lobbying for Change: Advocacy for a more equitable and science-based approach to wildlife trade regulations within international frameworks like CITES.
  • Regional Cooperation: Enhance collaboration among member states to develop joint conservation strategies and share best practices for managing human-wildlife conflicts.
  • Diversification of Revenue Streams: Explore alternative sources of funding for conservation efforts, such as ecotourism, carbon credits, and sustainable agriculture.

Mains PYQ:

Q How does biodiversity vary in India? How is the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 helpful in the conservation of flora and fauna? (250 Words, 15 Marks) (UPSC IAS/2018)

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Orangutan uses Plant to treat wound

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Orangutan and its natural habitat

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

An orangutan was observed treating a wound with medicine from a tropical plant, showcasing how some animals employ natural remedies to alleviate their ailments.

  • This behavior, documented in a recent study published in Scientific Reports, represents a novel instance of self-medication among wild animals.

About Orangutans

  • Orangutans, are distinguished by their vivid red fur, are the largest arboreal mammals and spend the majority of their time in trees and forests.
  • The name “orangutan” translates to “man of the forest” in Malay.
  • They possess long, powerful arms and grasping hands and feet that facilitate movement through the branches.
  • Highly intelligent, these great apes share 96.4% of genetic makeup of modern man.
  • Orangutans primarily inhabit the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia, specifically on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.
  • Conservation Status: Critically Endangered (IUCN Red list)
  • Population: Bornean (Approximately 104,700); Sumatran (Approximately 13,846); Tapanuli (Around 800);
  • Behavioral Features:
    • These apes lead mostly solitary lives in the lowland forests, dining on wild fruits such as lychees, mangosteens, and figs, and drinking water collected in tree cavities.
    • Orangutans are mainly frugivorous, they primarily eat fruits, and consume leaves, bark, insects, and occasionally small animals.
    • They construct nests in trees with vegetation for sleeping at night and resting during the day.
    • And, now they are found treating a wound with medicine from a Tropical plant.

PYQ:

[2013] Consider the following:

  1. Star tortoise
  2. Monitor lizard
  3. Pygmy hog
  4. Spider monkey

Which of the above are naturally found in India?

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3 and 4

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Africa

An overview of Sudan’s civil war 

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bordering countries of Sudan;

Mains level: Important issues in the Global world;

Why in the News? 

The inability of successive governments to articulate a shared vision has resulted in the unfair distribution of wealth and resources in Sudan.

ANKARA, TURKIYE – NOVEMBER 3: An infographic titled ”Sudanese civil war intensifies in the western cities” is created in Ankara, Turkiye on November 3, 2023. Since mid-April, the intensity of the conflicts between the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan, which have resulted in nearly 10,000 casualties, shifted from the capital Khartoum and its surroundings to the western cities. (Photo by Yasin Demirci/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Historical background  of Conflict: 

  • In 1956: The government that came to power in 1956 emphasized an Arab and Islamic identity based on Mahdist principles. It was not representative of diverse communities and demanded compliance, leading to widespread resistance.
  • In 1989: In 1989, a new government seized control under the National Islamic Front, an alliance between army officers and the Muslim Brotherhood. Omar al-Bashir came to power, supported by Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi, aiming to establish an Islamic state.
  • In 1991: The government set up an internal security apparatus, arresting and torturing dissenters. It introduced a new penal code in 1991 to impose an Islamization agenda.
  • In 2003: The al-Bashir (in 2003) regime enlisted Janjaweed militias to quell an insurgency in Darfur. These militias were later designated as the Rapid Support Forces in 2013.
  • In 2018-19: After protests in 2018 and al-Bashir’s removal in 2019, a transitional military government was established. Despite challenges and a failed coup attempt, a power-sharing agreement was reached, but another coup led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan derailed the democratic transition.

Causes of the present conflict in Sudan:

  • Deep-rooted Crisis in Governance: The conflict reflects a longstanding crisis within Sudan’s governing structure since gaining independence in 1956, characterized by power struggles and frequent coups.
  • Identity Crisis and Rebellion: Sudan has experienced numerous rebellions fueled by an identity crisis, with marginalized populations seeking autonomy and fair representation within the state.
  • Ethnic and Regional Disparities: Sudan comprises of 19 major ethnic groups and about 597 ethnic sub-groups. Since independence, the Sudanese have experienced 35 coups and attempted coups, more than any other African country.
  • Religious and Political Ideologies: Shifts in government ideologies, such as the establishment of an Islamic state in 1989, have exacerbated tensions and led to further marginalization of certain groups.
  • Role of Militias: The emergence of paramilitary forces, such as the Rapid Support Forces, has complicated the conflict dynamics, with militias vying for power and control over resources.
  • Other country’s involvement: External influences, including support from foreign entities like Russia, have played a role in shaping the conflict landscape, particularly in resource-rich regions like Darfur.
  • Economic Interests: Economic factors, such as control over lucrative industries like gold mining, have contributed to the entrenchment of certain groups in power and fueled conflict dynamics.

Way Forward:

  • Establish a Civilian-Led Government: Sudan needs to prioritize the establishment of a transparent, civilian-led government that represents the diverse Sudanese populace. This government should ensure inclusivity and participation in decision-making processes.
  • Disarm and Demobilize Militias: Urgent action is needed to disarm and demobilize militias like the Rapid Support Forces. This will prevent militia dominance over the state and reduce the risk of armed confrontations and conflicts.
  • International Support for Reconstruction: Sudan requires collaborative efforts from the international community to aid in post-conflict reconstruction. This support can include financial assistance, capacity-building programs, and technical expertise to rebuild infrastructure, institutions, and communities affected by conflict.

Mains PYQ 

Q Africa was chopped into states artificially created by accident of European competition. Analyse. (UPSC IAS/2013)

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Mapping: Hopen Island in the Svalbard Archipelago

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Hopen Island, Barents Sea.

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

Researchers disclosed that one of Norway’s Hopen Island in the Svalbard Archipelago witnessed its first walrus death due to Bird Flu (H5N1).

About Hopen Island in the Svalbard Archipelago

  • Hopen Island is situated in the southern part of the Svalbard Archipelago, between the Barents Sea and the Greenland Sea.
  • The island covers an area of about 47 square km, making it one of the smaller islands in the Svalbard group.
  • The landscape mainly consists of low-lying tundra, rocky outcrops, and coastal cliffs.
  • Like the rest of Svalbard, Hopen Island experiences a harsh Arctic climate. Winters are long, dark, and extremely cold, while summers are short and cool.
  • It serves as an important breeding ground for seabirds such as guillemots, puffins, and kittiwakes. Polar bears are also occasionally spotted on the island, along with walruses, seals, and Arctic foxes.
  • It is uninhabited and largely inaccessible to humans due to its remote location and extreme weather conditions.
  • Historically, Hopen Island has been of strategic importance due to its location between the Barents Sea and the Greenland Sea.

H5N1 Bird Flu: Details

  • H5N1 originated from a virus outbreak on a goose farm in China in 1996 and has since evolved into a highly pathogenic strain.
  • The virus quickly spread from Europe to Africa, Asia, North America, and South America, and most recently, it reached mainland Antarctica.
  • H5N1 is a subtype of the influenza A virus that causes severe respiratory disease in birds, known as avian influenza or “bird flu”.
  • Influenza A viruses are classified by subtypes based on the properties of their surface proteins, with H5N1 being one subtype.

How widespread is it?

  • The virus has affected birds in over 80 countries, resulting in mass culling of poultry and wild birds.
  • Furthermore, it has now begun infecting mammals, including seals, sea lions, and marine mammals.
  • While humans rarely contract bird flu, those at risk are typically individuals who have extensive contact with infected birds at poultry farms.
  • Bird flu first broke out in Maharashtra in 2006.
  • The H5N1 virus led to the culling of millions of poultry so as to contain the virus. But it has resurfaced from time to time.

 

PYQ:

[2014] Which one of the following pairs of islands is separated from each other by the ‘Ten Degree Channel’?

(a) Andaman and Nicobar

(b) Nicobar and Sumatra

(c) Maldives and Lakshadweep

(d) Sumatra and Java

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Global Geological And Climatic Events

[PREMIUM] To the South Pole – Antarctica

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Antarctica Region

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

The Antarctic Treaty has sparked debates among policymakers, scientists, and the public, as they weigh the balance between environmental conservation, economic interests, and geopolitical concerns in Antarctica.

About Antarctica

    • Antarctica is the fifth-largest continent, covering an area of approximately 14 million square km.
    • It is situated entirely within the Antarctic Circle, with its geographic center near the South Pole.
    • It is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent on Earth.
    • The interior of Antarctica is a polar desert, receiving very little precipitation, mostly in the form of snow.
  • The Antarctic Ice Sheet is the largest single mass of ice on Earth, containing approximately 70% of the world’s freshwater.

Geographical Features:

Description
Mountains
  • The continent is home to several mountain ranges, including the Transantarctic Mountains.
  • Vinson Massif is the highest peak at 4,892 meters (16,050 feet) above sea level.
Ice Shelves Large floating ice shelves extend along the coast, formed by glaciers flowing from the interior, crucial for stabilizing the Antarctic ice sheet.
Glaciers Numerous glaciers flow from the high interior to the coast, including Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites Glacier, among the largest and fastest-moving in the world.
Icebergs
  • Glaciers calve off large chunks of ice, forming icebergs of various sizes.
  • Antarctic Iceberg A-68, which broke off from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in 2017, was one of the largest recorded.
Plateaus Much of Antarctica’s interior consists of high, flat plateaus covered by ice, reaching elevations over 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level.
Ice-Free Areas Despite being predominantly ice-covered, some ice-free areas exist along the coastlines and in the Antarctic Peninsula region, supporting limited vegetation and wildlife.

Territorial Claims on Antarctica:

The countries with territorial claims in Antarctica are:

  1. Argentina: Claims a sector of Antarctica known as Argentine Antarctica.
  2. Australia: Claims the Australian Antarctic Territory.
  3. Chile: Claims a sector of Antarctica known as Chilean Antarctic Territory.
  4. France: Claims a sector of Antarctica known as Adélie Land.
  5. New Zealand: Claims the Ross Dependency.
  6. Norway: Claims a sector of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land.
  7. United Kingdom: Claims a sector of Antarctica known as the British Antarctic Territory.
  8. United States: Claims a sector of Antarctica known as the Marie Byrd Land.

India’s Antarctic Outreach

  • Initiated in 1981, India’s Antarctic Program, managed by National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, encompasses multi-disciplinary research expeditions.
  • With the establishment of research bases like Dakshin Gangotri (1983) (now decommissioned), Maitri (1989), and Bharati (2012), India contributes significantly to Antarctic exploration.
  • Notably, India’s presence in Antarctica includes a Post Office established in 1984, facilitating communication and research logistics.

 

PYQ:

[2011] The formation of ozone hole in the Antarctic region has been a cause of concern. What could be the reason for the formation of this hole?

(a) Presence of prominent tropospheric turbulence; and inflow of chlorofluorocarbons

(b) Presence of prominent polar front and stratospheric’: Clouds; and inflow of chlorofluorocarbons

(c) Absence of polar front and stratospheric clouds; and inflow of methane and chlorofluorocarbons

(d) Increased temperature at polar region due to global warming.

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The Crisis In The Middle East

[PREMIUM] Conflict Regions in West Asia

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Conflict areas in West Asia

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

  • The resurgence of West Asian rivalries has been reignited by the ongoing Hamas-Israel War, which commenced on October 7, 2023.
  • With a backdrop of historical conflicts, including the Iran-Iraq War and Israel’s engagements with Hezbollah and Hamas, the current conflict is escalating tensions in the region.

About West Asia

[A] Political Overview:

  1. Countries:
  • West Asia comprises 17 countries, including:
    • In Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has 6 countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman.
    • Middle Eastern countries like Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, and Yemen.
    • Egypt is sometimes included in the definition of West Asia due to its geographical proximity and historical ties.
  1. Geopolitical Dynamics:
    • The region is characterized by complex geopolitical dynamics, including conflicts, alliances, and power struggles.
    • Ongoing conflicts include the Syrian Civil War, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Yemeni Civil War, among others.
    • Strategic interests of global powers, including the United States, Russia, and China, contribute to the region’s instability.

[B] Physical Features:

  1. Terrain:
    • West Asia encompasses varied terrain, including vast deserts like the Rub’ al Khali in Saudi Arabia and the Syrian Desert in Syria and Jordan.
    • Mountainous regions include the Zagros Mountains in Iran, the Taurus Mountains in Turkey, and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains along the Lebanon-Syria border.
    • Fertile river valleys, such as the Tigris-Euphrates in Iraq and the Nile in Egypt, have historically supported agriculture and civilization.
  2. Climate:
    • The region experiences diverse climates:
      • Arid and semi-arid climates prevail in much of the interior, with hot summers and mild winters.
      • Mediterranean climates along the coastal areas, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters.
      • Highland climates in mountainous regions, with cooler temperatures and higher precipitation.
  3. Natural Resources:
    • West Asia is endowed with abundant natural resources, notably oil and natural gas reserves, concentrated primarily in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and the Gulf states.
    • The region also possesses significant mineral deposits, including phosphates in Jordan, sulfur in Iraq, and metals like copper and iron in various countries.

[C] Physiographical Details:

  1. Biodiversity:
    • Despite its predominantly arid climate, West Asia supports diverse ecosystems, including desert, mountain, and coastal habitats.
    • Unique species of flora and fauna, adapted to harsh environmental conditions, inhabit the region, including desert mammals like the Arabian oryx and mountain species like the Persian leopard.
  2. Water Resources:
    • Water scarcity is a pressing issue in West Asia, exacerbated by population growth, urbanization, and climate change.
    • Countries rely on shared river basins, such as the Tigris-Euphrates and the Nile, leading to water disputes and conflicts.
    • Desalination plants along the coastlines provide an alternative source of freshwater, particularly in Gulf countries.
  3. Human Geography:
    • The region is home to diverse ethnic and religious communities, including Arabs, Kurds, Turks, Persians, Jews, and Christians, among others.
    • Urbanization is on the rise, with major cities like Riyadh, Tehran, Istanbul, and Cairo serving as economic, cultural, and political centers.

Flash Points in West Asia

Conflict 

Areas

Description Flashpoints
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict A protracted dispute over territory, borders, and self-determination between Israel and Palestinians. Gaza Strip: A densely populated coastal enclave with sandy beaches, urban areas, and limited agricultural land. It is approximately 41 kilometers long and 6 kilometers wide.

 

Netzarim Corridor: The Netzarim Corridor is a just under seven-kilometer-long corridor that is set to cut Gaza City from the rest of the enclave, running east to west from the Israeli border south of Nahal Oz to the Mediterranean Sea. Israel has previously bisected the Gaza Strip to create a Buffer Zone.

West Bank: Diverse geography including mountainous terrain, fertile valleys, and the Jordan River Valley. It covers an area of approximately 5,655 square kilometers.

East Jerusalem: Hilly terrain with historic landmarks and religious sites, including the Old City with its ancient walls, mosques, and churches.

Syrian Civil War Complex conflict involving multiple factions, resulting in immense humanitarian suffering. Aleppo: Surrounded by fertile plains and agricultural land, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It covers an area of approximately 190 square kilometers.

Damascus: Situated in the foothills of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, it is one of the oldest cities in the Middle East. It spans an area of around 105 square kilometers.

Homs: Located along the Orontes River, it is an important industrial center with a history dating back to ancient times. It has an area of about 165 square kilometers.

Idlib: Mix of agricultural plains, hills, and urban centers, covering an area of approximately 6,097 square kilometers.

Iraqi Conflict Various conflicts including the Iraq War, sectarian violence, insurgency, and fight against ISIS. Baghdad: Flat terrain surrounded by fertile agricultural land, situated on the Tigris River. It covers an area of around 204 square kilometers.

Mosul: Surrounded by plains, historic landmarks, and the Tigris River, it is one of Iraq’s largest cities. It spans an area of approximately 370 square kilometers.

Fallujah: In the Euphrates River valley with arid landscapes and urban areas, it is strategically located near major highways. It covers an area of about 139 square kilometers.

Kirkuk: Oil-rich region with diverse ethnic populations and mountainous terrain, it covers an area of approximately 9,679 square kilometers.

Yemeni Civil War Involves the Yemeni government, Houthi rebels, and other factions, leading to a dire humanitarian crisis. Sana’a: Surrounded by mountains and valleys in the Yemeni Highlands, it is one of the highest capital cities in the world. It covers an area of approximately 73 square kilometers.

Aden: Coastal city with a strategic port and urban areas, located on the Gulf of Aden. It spans an area of around 50 square kilometers.

Hodeidah: Major port city with coastal plains, mountains, and urban areas, situated on the Red Sea coast. It covers an area of about 192 square kilometers.

Lebanese-Israeli Tensions Sporadic clashes and occasional escalation over territorial disputes and Hezbollah’s presence. Southern Lebanon: Rugged terrain with mountains, fertile valleys, and coastal plains along the Mediterranean Sea. It covers an area of approximately 929 square kilometers.
Kurdish-Turkish Conflict Involves the Turkish government and Kurdish separatist groups, focusing on Kurdish autonomy. Southeastern Turkey: Mountain ranges, plateaus, fertile river valleys, and urban areas, covering an area of approximately 190,534 square kilometers.

Northern Iraq: Zagros Mountains, valleys, rivers, and urban centers, with an area of about 198,956 square kilometers.

Iranian-Israeli Tensions Fueled by Iran’s support to militant groups and its nuclear program, leading to regional security concerns. Golan Heights: Plateau region with rocky slopes, volcanic hills, fertile agricultural land, and urban settlements. It spans an area of approximately 1,800 square kilometers.

Southern Lebanon: Rugged terrain with valleys, plains, and urban areas, covering an area of about 929 square kilometers.

Gulf States Tensions Rivalries among Gulf states are driven by ideological differences, political alliances, and economic interests. Qatar: Peninsula with desert terrain, low-lying coastal areas, and urban development, covering an area of approximately 11,586 square kilometers.

Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia: Desert landscapes, oasis areas, oil fields, and urban centers, with an area of about 672,522 square kilometers.

 

PYQ:

[2015] Which one of the following countries of South-West Asia does not open out to the Mediterranean Sea?

(a) Syria

(b) Jordan

(c) Lebanon

(d) Israel

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Foreign Policy Watch- India-Central Asia

[PREMIUM] Travelling Central Asia

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Key locations mentioned in the news card

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

The Central Asia region is in the spotlight since it is facing challenges with political instability, ethnic tensions, and the threat of extremism, especially after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

About Central Asia

  • Central Asia, often referred to as the heart of Asia, is a vast and diverse region located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.
  • It encompasses the area between the Caspian Sea in the west and China in the east, and from Russia in the north to Afghanistan and Iran in the south.
  • Central Asia is comprised of five main countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • This region has a rich history, serving as the historical crossroads of the Silk Road, which facilitated trade and cultural exchange between Europe and Asia for centuries.

Geographical Details:

  • Mountains:
  • Tian Shan: This mountain range stretches across Central Asia, forming a natural border between Kyrgyzstan and China. It is renowned for its majestic peaks, including Pobeda Peak, the highest point in Kyrgyzstan.
  • Pamir Mountains: Known as the “Roof of the World,” the Pamir Mountains are located in Tajikistan and extend into neighboring countries. They contain some of the world’s highest peaks, including Ismoil Somoni Peak (formerly known as Peak Communism) and Kongur Tagh.
  • Alay Mountains: Situated in southern Kyrgyzstan, the Alay Mountains are a subrange of the Tian Shan. They are characterized by rugged terrain and deep valleys.
  • Turkestan Range: This mountain range runs through southern Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, forming part of the border between the two countries.
  • Water Bodies:
  • Amu Darya: Also known as the Oxus River, the Amu Darya is one of the major rivers in Central Asia. It originates in the Pamir Mountains and flows through Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan before emptying into the Aral Sea (though much of its water is diverted for irrigation).
  • Syr Darya: Another important river in Central Asia, the Syr Darya, originates in the Tian Shan Mountains. It flows through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, eventually joining the Amu Darya in the Aral Sea basin.
  • Aral Sea: Once the fourth-largest lake in the world, the Aral Sea has shrunk dramatically due to diversion of its tributary rivers for irrigation purposes. Its decline has had severe ecological and economic consequences for the region.
  • Issyk-Kul: Located in eastern Kyrgyzstan, Issyk-Kul is one of the largest alpine lakes in the world. It is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and is a popular tourist destination.
  • Deserts:
  • Karakum Desert: Covering much of Turkmenistan, the Karakum Desert is characterized by vast expanses of sand dunes and sparse vegetation. It is home to the Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the “Door to Hell.”
  • Kyzylkum Desert: Situated primarily in Uzbekistan, with parts extending into Kazakhstan, the Kyzylkum Desert is known for its red sands and arid climate. It is sparsely populated, with nomadic herders and wildlife such as gazelles and wild boars.
  • Mineral Resources:
  • Oil and Gas: The Caspian Sea region, in particular, is known for its oil and gas deposits, with countries like Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan actively involved in their exploration and extraction. The discovery of large oil fields, such as the Tengiz Field in Kazakhstan and the Galkynysh Field in Turkmenistan, has attracted international investment and contributed to economic growth in the region.
  • Uranium: Kazakhstan is one of the world’s leading producers of uranium, with significant deposits located in the south of the country. Other Central Asian countries, such as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, also have uranium reserves, although they are less developed than those in Kazakhstan.
  • Precious Metals: Kyrgyzstan has a long history of gold mining, with several large-scale mines operating in the country. Uzbekistan is also a significant producer of gold, with the Muruntau Gold Mine being one of the largest in the world.
  • Copper, Aluminum, and Iron: These resources are primarily found in mountainous regions, such as the Tian Shan and Pamir Mountains. Countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have large deposits of copper ore, which are mined for domestic use and export. Additionally, Kazakhstan is a major producer of aluminum, with significant reserves of bauxite, the primary source of aluminum.
  • Climate
  • Central Asia experiences a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters.
  • However, the climate varies significantly depending on altitude and proximity to mountain ranges.
  • In general, the region is characterized by low precipitation and high evaporation rates, leading to arid and semi-arid conditions in many areas.
  • The mountains influence local climates, with cooler temperatures and higher precipitation levels in upland areas.

Major Disputed Areas:

Countries Involved Description
Bagys and Turkestanetz Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan
  • Disputed settlements involved in border negotiations between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
  • Turkestanetz ultimately attributed to Uzbekistan, while Kazakhstan retained control over significant water reservoirs.
  • Negotiations primarily occurred in the early 2000s.
  • The area is characterized by flat plains and arid landscapes, typical of Central Asian geography.
Arnasy Dam Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan
  • Part of the land negotiations between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, particularly significant during the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
  • The area surrounding the dam is marked by river valleys and semi-arid terrain, with the Arnasy River being a prominent feature.
Sokh and Shakhi-Mardan Enclaves Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan
  • Uzbek enclaves located in Kyrgyzstan, particularly contentious and mined by Uzbekistan as part of their border security measures.
  • Tensions in this area have been ongoing since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with occasional flare-ups in violence.
  • The region is characterized by mountainous terrain, including the Pamir-Alay and Turkestan mountain ranges.
Ferghana Valley Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
  • A fertile region shared by Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, known for its complex network of enclaves and high degree of inter-ethnic tensions.
  • Disputes often arise over control of strategic points such as border crossings and access to water resources, leading to occasional clashes and violence.
  • Tensions in the Ferghana Valley have persisted since the early 1990s.
  • The valley is surrounded by the Tian Shan and Alay mountain ranges, with the Syr Darya river flowing through it.
Vorukh Enclave Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan
  • A Tajik enclave within Kyrgyzstan, part of the complex border issues in the Ferghana Valley.
  • Tensions in this enclave date back to the Soviet era but have intensified since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
  • The enclave is nestled in the mountainous terrain of the Ferghana Valley, near the Zeravshan Range.
Chardara Reservoir and Lake Arnasai Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan
  • Areas discussed in border negotiations between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
  • The negotiations occurred primarily in the late 1990s, with Kazakhstan securing a neck of land that provided a direct transport connection to the rest of the country.
  • The region is characterized by flat plains and agricultural land surrounding the reservoir and lake.
  • The Chardara Reservoir is fed by the Syr Darya river.
Osh City and Osh Volost Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan
  • Areas that were contentious during the national delimitation in the Soviet period, particularly in the 1920s.
  • They were included in the Kirghiz Autonomous Oblast despite a high percentage of Uzbek residents who opposed this inclusion.
  • The area is characterized by mountainous terrain, including the Fergana Range.
Isfara Valley Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan
  • A narrow, densely populated valley straddling the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, disputes in this region often stem from territorial claims, resource allocation, and control of strategic points such as border crossings and water sources.
  • Tensions have been ongoing since the early 1990s.
  • The valley is surrounded by mountain ranges, including the Pamir-Alay and Turkestan ranges, and is known for its agricultural productivity.
Batken Region Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan
  • Located in southern Kyrgyzstan, bordered by Tajikistan to the south and Uzbekistan to the west, disputes in this region are primarily related to territorial claims, control of strategic areas, and occasional clashes between border communities.
  • Tensions have been particularly notable since the mid-1990s.
  • The region is characterized by rugged mountain terrain, including the Pamir-Alay and Turkestan ranges.
Karakalpakstan Uzbekistan
  • An autonomous republic within Uzbekistan, disputes in this region are mainly related to water scarcity, ecological degradation, and the socio-economic impact of the shrinking Aral Sea.
  • Tensions over these issues have escalated since the mid-20th century.
  • Karakalpakstan is characterized by flat, arid plains and is situated adjacent to the shrinking Aral Sea.
Caspian Sea Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan
  • The world’s largest inland body of water bordered by Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, disputes often revolve around issues such as maritime boundaries, resource exploration rights, and environmental conservation.
  • Negotiations over the status of the Caspian Sea and its resources have been ongoing since the early 1990s.
  • The Caspian Sea is characterized by its vast expanse of water and surrounding coastal regions.

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

Icequakes on Ross Ice Shelf

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ross Ice Shelf, Whillans Ice Stream

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

  • Scientists found out that the huge Ross Ice Shelf, almost as big as France, moves forward a few centimetres daily.
  • This happens because of the Whillans Ice Stream, a fast-moving river of ice that sometimes gets stuck and then suddenly moves forward.

About Ross Ice Shelf

  • Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf of Antarctica roughly the size of France.
  • It was discovered by Sir James Clark Ross on 28 January 1841.
  • The shelf spans an area of roughly 500,809 square kilometers, about the size of France or the Yukon Territory in Canada.
  • It is several hundred meters thick. In the shelf’s southern reaches, nearest the True South Pole, the ice can be as thick as 750m.
  • The nearly vertical ice front to the open sea is more than 600 km long, and between 15 and 50 meters high above the water surface. However, 90% of the floating ice is below the water surface.
  • It is fed primarily by giant glaciers, or ice streams, that transport ice down to it from the high polar ice sheet of East and West Antarctica.
  • Most of Ross Ice Shelf is in the Ross Dependency claimed by New Zealand.
  • It floats in, and covers, a large southern portion of the Ross Sea and the entire Roosevelt Island located in the east of the Ross Sea.

Spotlight: Icequakes on Ross Ice Shelf

  • Influence of Ice Stream: Most glaciers move slowly, but the Whillans Ice Stream stops and starts suddenly. This might happen because there isn’t enough water below to help it move smoothly.
  • Sudden Movements: These sudden movements, like tiny earthquakes, push against the Ross Ice Shelf.
  • Threat to Stability: Even though these daily shifts aren’t caused by humans, they could make the Ross Ice Shelf weaker over time. Ice shelves slow down the flow of ice into the ocean.
  • Retreat of Glacier: If the Ross Ice Shelf gets weaker or breaks, it could speed up melting and raise sea levels.

PYQ:

[2013] On the planet earth, most of the freshwater exists as ice caps and glaciers. Out of the remaining freshwater, the largest proportion

(a) Is found in the atmosphere as moisture and clouds

(b) Is found in freshwater lakes and rivers

(c) Exists as groundwater

(d) Exists as soil moisture

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The Crisis In The Middle East

Premium – Conflict Areas of African Continent

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Locations mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: NA

Why in the News?

The places discussed in this article are pertinent to conflict zones either due to Geopolitical conflicts or Climate change impacts.

Political and Ethnic Conflicts:

  • Darfur Region, Sudan:
    • The Darfur region constitutes Western Sudan, present-Eastern Chad, and the present-Northern part of the Central African Republic Region. 
    • This conflict involves clashes between government forces and paramilitary groups, resulting in widespread violence and displacement, particularly in regions like Darfur.
    • Darfur has experienced conflict for years, with ethnic tensions and government-rebel clashes leading to violence and displacement. 
    • The conflict has been characterized by allegations of ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses.
  • Somalia:
    • The Conflict zone of Somalia is situated in the South-Eastern part (Mogadishu).
    • Al Shabaab is an Islamist militant group that has been engaged in a prolonged insurgency against the Somali government. 
    • The conflict has led to widespread violence, including attacks on civilians, and has contributed to significant displacement within Somalia
  • Nigeria:
    • Groups like Boko Haram and its offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), have carried out attacks, including suicide bombings and kidnappings, targeting civilians and security forces. 
    • This conflict has led to widespread displacement (Due to infringements of Human rights), particularly in northeastern Nigeria.
    • Nigeria is traversed by several major rivers, including the Niger River and the Benue River. 
    • The Niger River flows from southeastern Guinea through Mali, Niger, Benin, and Nigeria. It is the third-longest river in Africa behind the Nile and the Congo. 
    • Niger River tributaries include the Sokoto, Kaduna, Benue, and Bani Rivers.
  • Tigray, Ethiopia:
    • The conflict in Tigray erupted between regional forces and the Ethiopian government in late 2020, leading to widespread violence, displacement, and allegations of human rights abuses.
    • Ethiopia has experienced internal conflicts fueled by ethnic divisions and political grievances, leading to sporadic violence and displacement in various regions.
    • The region is part of the Nile River Basin.

Resource-based Conflicts (Climate Change Impact):

  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC):
    • The DRC has been plagued by multiple armed groups operating in different regions, often vying for control over territory and resources
    • The M23 rebel group is one of several militias involved in the conflict, leading to displacement and humanitarian crises.
    • The DRC is home to the Congo River, one of the largest rivers in Africa. 
    • The Congo River drains a total watershed area of 3,690,750km 2, covering all of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as parts of Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and Angola.
  • Burkina Faso:
    • Burkina Faso (landlocked in West Africa) has experienced a rise in violence perpetrated by groups affiliated with al Qaeda and the Islamic State, leading to displacement and insecurity, especially in the northern regions.
    • This conflict is often seen as a spillover from instability in neighboring Mali.
    • This region lies on the Prime Meridian
    • As it is landlocked, it does not have any significant rivers or lakes within its territory. However, it is part of the Volta River Basin, which includes rivers like the Black Volta and the White Volta.
  • Sahel Region:
    • The Sahel is a 3,860-km transitional belt stretching between the Sahara Desert and sub-Saharan Africa, extending from Senegal to Eritrea. It consists of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea, and a portion of southern Algeria.
    • Climate: Characterized by semi-arid conditions and features barren landscapes, making it susceptible to desertification.
    • It serves as a historical and cultural crossroads, where Arabic, Islamic, and nomadic cultures from the north intersect with indigenous and traditional cultures from the south.
    • The region faces numerous challenges, including ethno-religious tensions, political instability, widespread poverty, natural disasters, and the proliferation of criminal and political movements. 
    • Its vast, ungoverned spaces make it a hotspot for various illicit activities.
  • Notable water bodies in the Sahel region:
    • Niger River: It is a major waterway that traverses through countries such as Mali, Niger, and Nigeria, providing water for irrigation, transportation, and fishing.
    • Senegal River: The Senegal River forms part of the northern border of Senegal and Mauritania. It provides water for agriculture, supports ecosystems, and is used for transportation and hydropower generation.
    • Bani River: A tributary of the Niger River, the Bani River flows through Mali during the rainy season, supporting agriculture and wildlife in the region.
    • Koumoue River: This river, located in Burkina Faso, is a tributary of the Niger River and plays a crucial role in providing water for agricultural activities in the region.
    • Logone River: The Logone River, flowing through Chad and Cameroon, is an important water source for communities living along its banks, supporting agriculture and providing habitats for wildlife.
    • Mare aux Hippopotames: This seasonal lake, located in Niger, fills with water during the rainy season and serves as an essential habitat for wildlife, including hippos and migratory birds.
    • Lake Chad: Although Lake Chad has significantly diminished in size over the years due to factors such as climate change, overuse of water resources, and population growth, it remains an important water body for countries like Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon.
  • Afar Triangle:
    • The Afar Triangle, also known as the Afar Depression or Afar Rift, is a geological depression in the Horn of Africa. It encompasses parts of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti.
    • It is said to be world’s Sixth Ocean in making.
    • It is located at the tri-junction of the African, Arabian, and Somali tectonic plates, making it one of the most geologically active regions on Earth. 
    • Border disputes between countries have occasionally involved the Afar region, particularly along the border areas.

 

Previous Year Questions:

[2013] Which one of the following pairs is correctly matched?

Geographical Feature Region
(a) Abyssinian Plateau Arabia
(b) Atlas Mountains North-Western Africa
(c) Guiana Highlands South-Western Africa
(d) Okavango Basin Patagonia

 [2020] Consider the following pairs:

Rivers Flows into
1. Mekong Andaman Sea
2. Thames Irish Sea
3. Volga Caspian Sea
4. Zambezi Indian Ocean

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 3 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2 and 4 only

 

[2022] The term “Levant” often heard in the news roughly corresponds to which of the following regions?

(a) Region along the eastern Mediterranean shores

(b) Region along North African shores stretching from Egypt to Morocco

(c) Region along Persian Gulf and Horn of Africa

(d) The entire coastal areas of Mediterranean Sean

[2022] Consider the following pairs:

Region often mentioned, in the news Country
1. Anatolia

2. Amhara

3. Cabo Delgado

4. Catalonia

Turkey

Ethiopia

Spain

Italy

How many pairs given above are correctly matched?

(a) Only one pair

(b) Only two pairs

(c) Only three pairs

(d) All four pairs

 

[2023] Consider the following pairs:

Area of conflict mentioned in news Country where it is located
1. Donbas Syria
2. Kachin Ethiopia
3. Tigray North Yemen

How many of the above pairs are correctly matched?

a) Only one

b) Only two

c) All three

d) None

[2023] Consider the following pairs:

Regions often mentioned in News Reason for being in News
1. North Kivu and Ituri War between Armenia and Azerbaijan
2. Nagorno-Karabakh Insurgency in Mozambique
3. Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Dispute between Israel and Lebanon

How many of the above pairs are correctly matched?

(a) Only one

(b) Only two

(c) All three

(d) None

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Global Geological And Climatic Events

Mount Etna’s Volcanic Vortex Rings: A Rare Natural Phenomenon

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mt. Etna, Sisily, Stratovolcano, Volcanism, Vortex Rings

Mains level: NA

Mt. Etna

Why in the news?

Mount Etna, located on the east coast of Sicily in Italy recently gained attention for emitting circular rings of vapor from its summit, known as volcanic vortex rings.

About Mount Etna

  • Mount Etna is located on the east coast of Sicily, Italy.
  • It is an active stratovolcano, characterized by its conical shape formed by layers of hardened lava, ash, and volcanic rocks.
  • It is Europe’s tallest active volcano, standing at approximately 3,329 meters (10,922 feet) above sea level.
  • It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and has been erupting for thousands of years, with the first recorded eruption dating back to around 1500 BCE.
  • Mount Etna and its surrounding area have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013, recognizing its geological significance and natural beauty.
  • It boasts five craters responsible for eruptions, alongside numerous vents along its slopes.

What are Volcanic Vortex Rings?

  • Volcanic vortex rings are a rare phenomenon observed when gas, primarily water vapor, is rapidly released through a vent in the volcano’s crater, forming circular rings of smoke above the mountain.
  • This phenomenon, similar to smoke rings blown by cigarette smokers, occurs when gas is expelled through a nearly perfect circular vent in the crater.
  • These rings can rise in the air for up to 10 minutes but may disintegrate quickly under windy conditions.

Volcanism in Italy

  • The volcanism of Italy is due chiefly to the presence, a short distance to the south, of the boundary between the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate.
  • Italy is a volcanically active country, containing the only active volcanoes in mainland Europe (while volcanic islands are also present in Greece, in the volcanic arc of the southern Aegean).
  • The lava erupted by Italy’s volcanoes is thought to result from the subduction and melting of one plate below another.
  • Other active volcanoes include Mt. Stromboli and Vesuvius.

Historical and Recent Observations

  • Etna produces more vapor rings than any other volcano on Earth, making it a hotspot for studying this phenomenon.
  • The occurrence of volcanic vortex rings was first documented in 1724 at Mount Etna and Vesuvius in Italy, and has since been observed at various volcanoes worldwide.
  • Recent observations of this phenomenon have been reported at volcanoes in Alaska, Ecuador, Guatemala, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Vanuatu, New Zealand, and Nicaragua.

Recent Volcanic Eruptions in News:

Many of the world’s most active volcanoes are concentrated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, encompassing regions like New Zealand, Southeast Asia, Japan, and the western coast of the Americas. This volatile area also experiences about 90% of all earthquakes globally.

  • Kilauea, Hawaii: The Kilauea volcano in Hawaii captivated the world with a nearly nonstop eruption that began in 1983 and continued for an astonishing 35 years until 2018. Remarkably, it rekindled in 2021, with the eruption still ongoing.
  • Dukono, Indonesia: Erupting since August 1933, Dukono volcano in Indonesia stands as a testament to long-term volcanic activity, defying the passage of time.
  • Santa Maria, Guatemala: The eruption of Santa Maria in Guatemala commenced in June 1922 and persists to this day, underscoring the enduring nature of certain volcanic phenomena.
  • Yasur, Vanuatu: Yasur in Vanuatu first erupted around 1270 and has maintained its volcanic activity, continuing as of June 9, 2023.

Understanding Volcanoes

  • Volcanoes are geological features characterized by openings or vents through which lava, tephra (small rocks), and steam erupt onto the Earth’s surface.
  • They result from both their own eruptions and the broader processes of tectonic plate movement.
  • Volcanic eruptions are essentially the result of magma, or molten rock, beneath the Earth’s surface rising, bubbling, and ultimately overflowing, much like boiling milk spilling out of a pot on a stove.
  • The magma seeks pathways to vents within the volcano, where it erupts and is expelled across the land and into the atmosphere, a phenomenon referred to as lava.

Appearance Formation Eruption Style Notable Examples
Cinder Cones Small, steep, conical Formed from basaltic magma with high gas content Often explosive eruptions with cinders/scoria Paricutin (Mexico), Sunset Crater (USA)
Composite/Stratovolcanoes Tall and symmetrical Result from alternating layers of lava, ash, etc. Both explosive and effusive eruptions Mount St. Helens (USA), Mount Fuji (Japan)
Shield Volcanoes Broad and gently sloping Primarily formed from basaltic magma Primarily non-explosive with extensive lava flows Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea (Hawaii)
Lava Domes Rounded dome-like shape Formed from slow extrusion of viscous magma Typically non-explosive but can be dangerous Novarupta Dome (Alaska), Mount St. Helens’ Lava Dome (USA)

 

PYQ:

[2018] Consider the following statements:

1.    The Barren Island volcano is an active volcano located in the Indian Territory.

2.    Barren Island lies about 140 km east of Great Nicobar.

3.    The last time the Barren Island volcano erupted was in 1991 and it has remained inactive since then.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3

(c) 3 only

(d) 1 and 3

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OBOR Initiative

China to develop strategic Hambantota Seaport

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Hambantota Port, String of Pearls

Mains level: NA

Why in the News?

Sri Lanka’s PM said that China has pledged to develop the island nation’s strategic Hambantota Seaport and the capital’s airport after talks with his counterpart in Beijing.

About Hambantota Seaport

  • The Hambantota Seaport, also known as the Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port, is a deep-sea port.
  • It is situated on the southern coast of Sri Lanka and lies strategically along major international shipping routes, particularly connecting Asia with Africa and Europe.
  • The construction of the Hambantota Seaport began in 2007 and was completed in multiple phases in November 2010.
  • Sri Lanka in a controversial move signed an agreement in 2017 wherein a Chinese state-owned enterprise, acquired a 70% stake in the port on a 99-year lease.

How does this port benefit China?

  • The port is anticipated to assume a crucial role within China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI), aiming to connect ports and roadways spanning from China to Europe.
  • BRI’s foundation lies in a network of harbors worldwide, positioning China to challenge the United States as the foremost maritime superpower.
  • The port forms part of China’s ‘string of pearls’ strategy, potentially encircling India and accommodating its military vessels.

 


PYQ:

2022: Which one of the following statements best reflects the issue with Senkaku Islands, sometimes mentioned in the news?

  1. It is generally believed that they are artificial islands made by a country around South China Sea.
  2. China and Japan engage in maritime disputes over these islands in East China Sea.
  3. A permanent American military base has been set up there to help Taiwan to increase its defence capabilities.
  4. Though International Court of Justice declared them as no man’s land, some South-East Asian countries claim them.

 

Practice MCQ:

Which of the following statements regarding important seaports in Asia are correct?

  1. Port of Singapore is the world’s busiest transshipment port and a major hub for global shipping.
  2. Port of Shanghai, located in China, is the busiest container port in the world.
  3. Port of Colombo in Sri Lanka serves as a major transshipment hub in the Indian Ocean region.
  4. Port of Yokohama, situated in Japan, is the largest port in terms of cargo tonnage handled annually.

Select the correct option:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1, 2, and 3 only
  4. All of the above

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Global Geological And Climatic Events

Subduction Zone discovered beneath Gibraltar Strait

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Gibraltar Strait, Tectonic Plate Boundaries, Subduction Zones

Mains level: Read the attached story

What is the news?

  • Scientists in Portugal have uncovered a concerning revelation about the fate of the Atlantic Ocean, highlighting a potential ‘Ring of Fire’ (a Subduction Zone).
  • Researchers caution that the Atlantic may be on the brink of closure due to subduction activity.

Why discuss this?

 

  • Closure of Gibraltar Strait: Computer simulations project the subduction zone’s expansion over the next 20 million years, forming the ‘Ring of Fire’ in the Atlantic leading to the closure of Gibraltar Strait.
  • Geological Parallel: This process mirrors the Pacific Ocean’s Ring of Fire, reshaping the ocean basin through gradual subduction of the ocean floor beneath continents.

 

About Gibraltar Strait

Details
Location
  • Connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea;
  • Separating the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula of Europe from the northern coast of Africa.
Width Approximately 13 km (8.1 miles) at its narrowest point.
Depth Varies, with the deepest point reaching around 300 meters (984 feet).
Formation
  • Convergence point for the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate.
  • Formed around 5.33 million years ago during the Messinian salinity crisis when the Atlantic Ocean breached the barrier separating it from the Mediterranean Sea, resulting in a catastrophic flood known as the Zanclean flood.
  • The strait’s current shape and depth were further influenced by tectonic movements and erosional processes over geological time.
Historical Significance Serves as a key maritime passage for trade and military purposes.
Disputes
  • Subject of contention between Spain and the United Kingdom;
  • Gibraltar Overseas Territory under British control.

 

What are Subduction Zones?

  • Subduction zones occur at convergent plate boundaries, where two tectonic plates move toward each other.
  • This convergence is often between an oceanic plate and a continental plate or between two oceanic plates.
  • Subduction Process:
  1. Collision of Tectonic Plates: When two tectonic plates collide, the denser oceanic plate is forced beneath the less dense continental plate or another oceanic plate.
  2. Partial Melting: As the oceanic plate descends into the mantle, it generates intense heat and pressure, causing partial melting of the mantle material.
  3. Volcanic Activity: The molten material formed by the subduction process rises through the Earth’s crust, leading to volcanic eruptions at the surface.
  4. Formation of Volcanic Arcs: These eruptions often occur in chains known as volcanic arcs, which parallel the subduction zone. Ex. Andes in S. America; Cascade Range in North America.

Implications of this Activity

  • Earthquakes: Subduction zone earthquakes can be particularly destructive and may trigger tsunamis due to the displacement of large volumes of water.
  • Trench Formation: The surface expression of a subduction zone is often a deep oceanic trench, where the descending plate bends and plunges into the mantle.
  • Mountain Building: Over time, the continuous subduction of oceanic crust can lead to the uplift and deformation of the overriding plate, resulting in the formation of mountain ranges adjacent to the subduction zone. These mountains may exhibit complex geological structures, including folds and faults.
  • Recycling of Oceanic Crust: As oceanic plates are subducted, they are gradually consumed by the mantle, releasing minerals and elements that are eventually returned to the surface through volcanic activity.

PYQ:

2010: Which one of the following can one come across if one travels through the Strait of Malacca?

  1. Bali
  2. Brunei
  3. Java
  4. Singapore

 

2011: Between India and East Asia, the navigation time and distance can be greatly reduced by which of the following?

  1. Deepening the Malacca straits between Malaysia and Indonesia.
  2. Opening a new canal across the Kra Isthmus between the Gulf of Siam and Andaman sea.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

 

Practice MCQ:

Which of the given statement about the Gibraltar Strait is NOT correct?

  1. It connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.
  2. It is approximately 13 kilometers wide at its narrowest point.
  3. The deepest point of the Gibraltar Strait reaches around 300 meters.
  4. It was formed around 5.33 million years ago during the Holocene Epoch due to tectonic movements.

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Citizenship and Related Issues

Mapping: Darien Gap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Darien Gap

Mains level: NA

darien gap

Why in the news:

  • Much of the discussion over illegal immigration to the US has in recent weeks moved its focus south to the Darien Gap.

What is Darien Gap?

  • The Darien Gap spans northern Colombia and Southern Panama, covering approximately 97 km of dense jungle terrain.
  • It is situated in the narrowest part of the Isthmus of Panama, connecting North America to South America.
  • It covers an area of approximately 41,440 square km.
  • The landscape is characterized by dense rainforests, swamps, rivers, and rugged mountains.
  • It is one of the most biologically diverse regions on Earth, home to a wide array of plant and animal species, including jaguars, pumas, tapirs, and numerous bird species.

Why in the news?

Ans. Surge in Illegal Crossings

  • Escalating Numbers: In 2021, the Panamanian government recorded a staggering 133,000 crossings, with over half a million individuals transiting through the region in 2023.
  • Root Causes: Violence, insecurity, and limited legal immigration options in home countries propel individuals, including Venezuelans, Haitians, and Afghans, to undertake the perilous journey.

Try this PYQ from CSE Prelims 2015:

The area known as ‘Golan Heights’ sometimes appears in the news in the context of the events is related to:

(a) Central Asia

(b) Middle East

(c) South-East Asia

(d) Central Africa

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Contention over South China Sea

Places in news: Second Thomas Shoal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Second Thomas Shoal

Mains level: NA

In the news

  • Recently Philippines and China Coast Guard collided with each other near the Second Thomas Shoal of the Spratly Islands in South China Sea.

About Second Thomas Shoal

  • It is located approximately 105 nautical miles (195 km) west of Palawan, Philippines.
  • It lies within the Philippines’ EEZ (exclusive economic zone).
  • The shoal is part of the Spratly Islands, which are subject to overlapping territorial claims by multiple countries, including China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
  • It is strategically significant due to its location in the South China Sea, a major maritime trade route rich in natural resources.
Note: An Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is an area of the ocean, generally extending 200 nautical miles (230 miles/370.15 km) beyond a nation’s territorial sea, within which a coastal nation has jurisdiction over both living and non-living resources.

 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.

Try this PYQ from CSE Prelims 2011:

Q.Southeast Asia has captivated the attention of global community’ over space and time as a geostrategically significant region. Which among the following is the most convincing explanation for this global perspective?

(a) It was the hot theatre during the Second World War

(b) Its location between the Asian powers of China and India

(c) It was the arena of superpower confrontation during the Cold War period

(d) Its location between the Pacific and Indian oceans and its pre-eminent maritime character

 

Post your answers here.

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The Crisis In The Middle East

Why are Conflicts spreading in West Asia?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: West Asia

Mains level: Read the attached story

west asia

Introduction

  • What initially began as a localized conflict between Israel and Hamas has rapidly spiralled into a regional security crisis, casting a shadow of uncertainty and instability over West Asia.
  • This evolving crisis involves a complex web of state and non-state actors, each with its own objectives and strategies, making it a highly volatile and unpredictable situation.

Escalation beyond Borders

As Israel launched its military campaign in Gaza in response to Hamas’s cross-border attacks, concerns grew that the conflict could spill over beyond the borders of Palestine. The involvement of various actors has further complicated the situation:

  • Hezbollah’s Solidarity: Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia group backed by Iran, fired rockets at Israeli forces in solidarity with the Palestinians. This action marked an extension of the conflict beyond the immediate theatre of operations.
  • Exchange of Fire: Israel and Hezbollah engaged in multiple exchanges of fire, with both sides exercising restraint to prevent a full-scale war. Nevertheless, these incidents escalated regional tensions.
  • Iran-Backed Militias: Iran, a key supporter of non-state actors in the region, provided backing to groups such as Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Houthis, and Shia militias in Iraq and Syria. This support has contributed to the widening of the crisis.
  • Houthi Disruptions: In a bid to express solidarity with the Palestinians, Houthi rebels in Yemen began targeting commercial vessels in the Red Sea. Controlling significant portions of Yemen, including the Red Sea coast, the Houthis disrupted maritime traffic in a crucial international waterway.

Global Ramifications

The crisis in West Asia has not remained confined to the region; it has global implications:

  • U.S. Airstrikes in Yemen: The United States, in support of Israel’s actions, conducted airstrikes in Yemen, directly involving itself in the regional conflict. These airstrikes added a new dimension to the crisis.
  • Hashad al-Shabi’s Escalation: The Shia Mobilisation Forces of Iraq and Syria, backed by Iran, launched over a hundred attacks against U.S. troops stationed in these countries. These attacks were seen as retaliation against U.S. support for Israel.
  • Spread of Instability: As instability spread across the region, extremist groups, including the Islamic State, sought to exploit the situation. Iraq and Syria, in particular, remained vulnerable to internal and external challenges.
  • Cross-Border Retaliation: In response to Iran’s actions, Pakistan carried out airstrikes in Iranian territory, further escalating tensions in the region.

Key Players and Their Objectives

Understanding the crisis requires an examination of the key players and their objectives:

  • Israel’s Aims: Israel’s primary objectives include dismantling Hamas and securing the release of hostages held by the group. Israel enjoys unwavering support from the United States in pursuing these goals.
  • Iran’s Backing: Iran plays a central role as the primary supporter of various anti-Israel non-state actors in West Asia, offering support to groups such as Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Houthis, and Shia militias.
  • U.S. Interests: The United States, with a significant military presence in the region, seeks to ensure Israel’s security, protect American troops and assets, and maintain the U.S.-led order in West Asia.

Implications for Regional Security

The crisis in West Asia has ushered in a period of heightened insecurity and instability:

  • Widespread Security Crisis: Unlike previous conflicts that often involved nation-states or specific non-state actors, this crisis encompasses a broader range of powerful states and non-state actors, creating a highly volatile environment.
  • Disruption of the Old Order: The crisis has exposed the fragility of the old U.S.-led order in the region. Iran-backed proxies directly target Israeli and American positions, while Iran flexes its military muscle through cross-border attacks.

Looking Ahead

As the crisis continues to unfold, several key factors warrant consideration:

  • No Clear Resolution: With more than 100 days of conflict, Israel’s objectives in Gaza remain unfulfilled, and there is no apparent path to a resolution. The ongoing war fuels retaliatory attacks by Hezbollah and Houthis.
  • Effectiveness of U.S. Airstrikes: U.S. airstrikes against various groups have not proven effective in deterring them from launching new attacks. The region remains volatile.
  • Potential for Further Instability: The ongoing instability in West Asia creates opportunities for extremist groups, including the Islamic State, to exploit the situation. Iraq and Syria remain particularly susceptible to internal and external challenges.
  • Changing U.S. Role: Historically, the United States played a dominant role in the region, but it now appears more as a disruptor than a guarantor of peace and stability. Restoring stability and ending the war present significant challenges.
  • A Glimmer of Hope: Amid the ongoing crisis, a positive development is the maintenance of the Saudi-Iran détente and the Saudi-Houthi peace, providing a ray of hope amidst the turmoil.

Conclusion

  • The escalating regional crisis in West Asia underscores the intricate interplay of state and non-state actors in a highly volatile environment.
  • As the situation continues to evolve, its implications for regional stability and global security remain a subject of concern and vigilance.

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The Crisis In The Middle East

In news: Mediterranean Sea

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mediterranean Sea

Mains level: NA

Central Idea

  • Iranian Revolutionary Guards has warned that the Mediterranean Sea could be closed if the US and its allies continued to commit “crimes” in Gaza.

About Mediterranean Sea

Details
Location Between Europe, Africa, and Asia
Size Approximately 2.5 million square kilometers
Depth Average depth 1,500 meters ; Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea, over 5,000 meters deep
Climate Predominantly Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters
Bordering Countries Europe: Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey

Asia: Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel

Africa: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco

Major Water Bodies Connected Connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the Strait of Gibraltar; links to the Black Sea via the Dardanelles Strait
Islands and Archipelagos Includes several islands and archipelagos like Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Cyprus, and the Balearic Islands

 

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The Crisis In The Middle East

Bab El-Mandeb: A Strategic Choke Point

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bab El-Mandeb

Mains level: Read the attached story

Bab El-Mandeb

Central Idea

  • The war between Israel and Hamas in October raised concerns about Hezbollah’s involvement, but the focus shifted when the Houthis in Yemen expanded the conflict to the Red Sea.
  • Despite tensions, Hezbollah and Israel avoided full-scale war, with Israel concentrating on Gaza.

Houthi Involvement and Shift in Tactics

  • Initial Actions: The Houthis, aligned with Iran, initially targeted Israel in solidarity with Palestinians, using drones and missiles, which were intercepted.
  • Change in Strategy: Later, they shifted focus to attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea, threatening global shipping routes.

Understanding the Houthis

  • Background: The Houthis, known formally as Ansar Allah, are a Shia militia group in Yemen, named after their late leaders Badr al-Din al-Houthi and Hussein al-Houthi.
  • Iranian Support: They receive direct support from Iran and have significant military capabilities, including drones and ballistic missiles.

Strategic Importance of Bab el-Mandeb Strait

  • Geographical Significance: The Strait of Bab el-Mandeb is a crucial maritime chokepoint, connecting the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
  • Impact on Global Shipping: Houthi actions near the strait have led to a significant decrease in Red Sea traffic and increased shipping costs.

Global and Regional Consequences

  • Effect on Israel: Israel’s southern port traffic, particularly in Eilat, has been severely impacted.
  • Broader Trade Implications: Approximately 12% of global maritime trade passes through the strait. Disruptions here could exacerbate inflationary pressures worldwide.
  • Alternative Routes: Shipping companies are rerouting around Africa, significantly increasing travel time and costs.

International Response

  • US Naval Task Force: The U.S. has established a naval force to counter the Houthi threat.
  • Arab World’s Stance: Many Red Sea countries, including Egypt, have not joined the U.S. task force, reflecting regional discontent with U.S. policies.
  • Potential Offensive Measures: The U.S. has not ruled out bombing Houthi targets in response to continued attacks on shipping lanes.

Conclusion

  • Continued Houthi Threat: The Houthis vow to persist in their actions as long as Israel’s conflict with Gaza continues.
  • Challenges for Global Trade: The situation underscores the fragility of global shipping routes and the potential for regional conflicts to have far-reaching economic impacts.
  • Need for Diplomatic Solutions: This complex scenario highlights the importance of diplomatic efforts to resolve regional tensions and protect vital maritime trade routes.

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