6 Jul | UPSC Current Affairs: Kaveri River, Moidams, ICOMOS, Typhon Weapons System & More


Kaveri River

  • News:  The Karnataka state government has established a nine-member committee to investigate the contamination of the Kaveri River and propose solutions to address the issue.
  • Kaveri River (Cauvery River): The Cauvery River is one of the major rivers of the peninsula.
  • Origin: Rises on Brahmagiri Hill in the Western Ghats, southwestern Karnataka, at an elevation of 1,341 meters (4,400 feet) above mean sea level.
  • Boundaries: It is bounded by the Western Ghats on the west, by the Eastern Ghats on the east and the south and by the ridges separating it from Krishna basin and Pennar basin on the north.

Kaveri River

  • Flow Path: It flows in the south and east through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and then across the southeastern lowlands and finally surrenders in the Bay of Bengal through two principal mouths.
  • Tributaries: It has many tributaries namely, Shimsha, the Hemavati River, the Arkavathy River, Honnuhole River, Lakshmana Tirtha River, Kabini River, Bhavani River, the Lokapavani River, the Noyyal River and the Amaravati River.
  • Basin: The basin spreads over Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry.
  • Dams: Dams constructed across the river are Krishna Raja Sagara Dam and Mettur Dam and the Banasura Sagar Dam on the Kabini River, which is a tributary of Kaveri River.
  • Mentions: Prologue to the epic Manimekalai by Satthanar refers to the Cauvery coming to the Chola region.

Ahom-era Moidams

  • News:   Ahom ‘Moidam’ in Assam recommended for inclusion in UNESCO World Heritage List.
  • Definition
      • The Moidams (also known as Maidams) are the mound-burial system of the Ahom dynasty, which ruled from the 13th century to the 19th century.
      • The word Moidam is derived from the Tai word Phrang-Mai-Dam or Mai-Tam. 
      • Phrang-Mai means to put into the grave or to bury and Dam means the spirit of the Dead.
  • Comparison
      • These burial mounds are comparable to the royal tombs of ancient China and the Pyramids of the Egyptian Pharaohs.
  • Charaideo
      • The Moidams are located in Assam’s Charaideo district, more than 400 km east of Guwahati. 
      • Charaideo was the first capital of the Ahom dynasty, founded by Chao Lung Siu-Ka-Pha in 1253.

Ahom-era Moidams

  • Burial Practices:
      •  Initially, the Ahom rulers practiced mound-burial for their royals.
      • After the 18th century, they adopted the Hindu method of cremation, entombing the cremated bones and ashes in a Moidam at Charaideo.
      • The Ahom kings used to be buried along with their treasures including articles of their day to day use, i.e. cloths, ornaments, weapons etc.
      • The practice of burying alive was banned by King Rudra Singha. 
  • Geographical Spread: 
      • With the shift of the Ahom capital south and eastwards, Moidams have been found in various regions including Northern Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Northern Burma, Southern China, and Northeast India. This distribution marks the region where Tai-Ahom culture prevailed.
  • Ahom Rule: 
      • The Ahom rule lasted for approximately 600 years until the British annexed Assam in 1826.
      • Traditionally and culturally the Ahoms are members of the Great Tai (Tai-Yai) group of peoples.
      • Chau-lung Siu-ka-pha was the first king or Chao-pha or Swargadeo (Lord of the heaven) of the Ahom Dynasty, who established the first Ahom capital at Cherai-doi or Charaideo.
      • The first king of the Ahoms Chau-lung Siu-ka-pha was buried at Charaideo. 
      • The Ahom kings appointed a special officer, Changrung Phukan for the construction and maintenance of all the civil works including Royal Moidams.
      • Changrung Phukan was one of the nine Phukans of the highest rank. 

Leang Karampuang Cave

  • News: World’s oldest cave painting in Indonesia shows a pig and people.
  • Location: Leang Karampuang Cave is a limestone cave located on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
  • Key Findings: 
      • Cave Wall Painting : The cave features a painting depicting humans interacting with a pig.
      • Composition:
        • The scene is dominated by a large pig standing upright.
        • Three smaller human-like figures are painted alongside the pig.
        • The painting uses a single shade of dark red pigment.
      • First Figure: Appears to be holding an object near the pig’s throat.
      • Second Figure: Positioned directly above the pig’s head in an upside-down stance with legs splayed out.
      • Third Figure: Larger and more elaborate, possibly wearing a headdress and holding an unidentified object.

Leang Karampuang Cave

  • Historical Significance: 
      • Comparison with European Art: This painting predates the cave paintings of Europe, such as those in El Castillo, Spain, which date to about 40,800 years ago.
      • Interpretation: Researchers interpret the painting as a narrative scene, suggesting it is the oldest-known evidence of storytelling in art.
  • Artistic Complexity:
      • The earliest Sulawesi rock art is not simple; it is quite advanced and demonstrates the mental capacity and artistic skills of people at the time.
  • New Dating Technique:
      •  The finding is based on dating using uranium series (U-series) analysis of calcite deposits overlying rock art in the limestone caves. 
      • Laser beams were used during the process and by comparing the ratio between the parent isotope (uranium) and the daughter isotope (thorium) researchers were able to date the paintings.


International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)

  • News: ICOMOS has recommended that Moidams of the Ahom Dynasty, India should be inscribed on the World Heritage List.
  • Overview
      • ICOMOS is an international non- governmental organization.
      • It was established in 1965 in Warsaw (Poland) as a result of the Venice Charter of 1964 and offers advice to UNESCO on World Heritage Sites.
      • It is comprised of professionals, experts, representatives from local authorities, companies and heritage organisations.
      • It is dedicated to the conservation and enhancement of the architectural and landscape heritage in France and throughout the world.

Australia-India Strategic Research Fund

  • News: The Union Minister of State for Science and Technology unveiled the results of the 15th round of the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF).
  • Definition: 
      • The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) is a bilateral program dedicated to fostering collaborative research projects between Australia and India.
  • Purpose
      • It aims to strengthen the scientific relationship between the two countries and address common challenges through joint research efforts.
  • Management
      • The fund is jointly managed and funded by the governments of India and Australia, serving as a platform for bilateral collaboration in science.
  • Key Areas for 2024 Funding: AISRF has provided funding to five projects in various fields:
      • Artificial intelligence and machine learning, 
      • Biotechnology, 
      • Urban mining and electronic waste recycling, 
      • Ultra-low-cost solar, 
      •  Clean hydrogen technologies

Floor Test

  • News: On July 8, Hemant Soren, who has become the Chief Minister of Jharkhand for the third time, will take a floor test.
  • Definition & Purpose
      • A floor test is primarily taken to determine whether the executive enjoys the confidence of the legislature. 
      • It is a constitutional mechanism used to assess the majority support of a Chief Minister in the Legislative Assembly.
      • Also, when there are differences within a coalition government, the Governor can ask the Chief Minister to prove majority in the house through a floor test.
  • Appointment of the Chief Minister:
      • The Chief Minister is appointed by the Governor of the state. 
      • Single-Party Majority: When a single party secures the majority of seats in the house, the Governor appoints the leader of that party as the Chief Minister. 
  • What Happens During A Floor Test?
      • Majority in Question: If the majority is questioned, the leader of the party claiming majority must move a vote of confidence and prove majority among those present and voting. 
      • Call For A Floor Test: 
        • Under Article 175(2) of the Indian Constitution, the Governor can summon the House and call for a floor test to prove whether the government has the numbers.
        • When assembly is not in session, the Governor’s residuary powers under Article 163 allow him to call for a floor test.
      • Motion for Vote of Confidence: The CM moves a motion seeking a vote of confidence, on which MLAs who are present in the House vote. 
      • Voting Mechanisms:
        • Voice Vote: Voting can be conducted by either a voice vote, in which MLAs respond to the motion verbally. 
        • Electronic Voting: Votes are cast by pressing a button, with results displayed on a board.
        • Physical Division of Votes: Lawmakers cast votes in a ballot box, which are then counted.
      • Outcome
        • If the majority of members vote in favor, the government survives.
        • If the Chief Minister loses the vote, the government must resign.
  • Can A Floor Test Be Postponed?
      • As per the previous judgments of the Supreme Court, the floor test needs not to be deferred even if the decision to disqualify the members is pending.
  • What is Composite Floor Test?
      • Purpose
      • A Composite Floor Test is conducted when more than one person stakes claim to form the government. 
      • It helps to determine who has the majority support in situations where the majority is not clear.
      • Procedure:
      • The Governor may call for a special session to ascertain who has the majority.
      • The majority is counted based on those present and voting.
      • Voting Methods: 
      • Voice Vote: Members respond to the motion orally.
      • Electronic Voting: Votes are cast using electronic gadgets.
      • Ballots: Votes are cast using paper ballots.
      • Slips: Votes are cast using slips of paper.
      • Absentees: Some legislators may be absent or choose not to vote, which affects the majority count.
      • Outcome: 
      • The person who secures the majority will form the government.
      •  In case of a tie, the Speaker can cast a deciding vote.


Typhon Weapons System

  • News: US to withdraw “banned” typhon missile system from Philippines.
  • Name: Typhon, also known as the Strategic Mid-Range Fires (SMRF) System.
  • Developer: United States Navy.
  • Components
      • Standard Missile 6 (SM-6): A ballistic missile defense munition that can also target ships at sea with a range of 370 kilometers (230 miles).
      • Tomahawk Land Attack Missile: A maneuverable cruise missile.
  • Components
      •  A full Typhon Weapon System battery comprises four launchers, a command post, and reload and support vehicles, all on trailers.

Typhon Weapons System (1)

  • Capabilities
      • Typhon has a range of 500 kilometers. 
      • Offboard sources are used to supply the targeting information.
      • Typhon launchers are derived from the Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) in use on various U.S. Navy and foreign warships.
      •  This launcher can already fire a wide array of containerized missiles, and other types could be integrated into it in the future.
  • Key Facts about the Tomahawk Missile:
      • Type: US-made long-range cruise missile used for deep-land attack warfare.
      • Launch Capability: Can be launched from ships or submarines to deliver warheads precisely to long-range targets.
      • Target Profile: Designed to strike fixed targets such as communication and air-defense sites in high-risk environments where manned aircraft might be vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles.
      • Speed and Altitude: Flies at subsonic speeds. Maintains a low altitude to evade radar detection.
      • Guidance Systems: Uses tailored guidance systems to maneuver at low elevations.
      • Length: 6 meters (18.4 feet).
      • Range: Up to 2,400 km (1,500 miles).
      • Propulsion: Powered by a solid propellant during the launch phase. Sustained by a turbofan engine that emits minimal heat, making infrared detection difficult.
      • Navigation: Employs satellite-assisted navigation. Utilizes TERCOM (Terrain Contour Matching) radar for precise guidance to the target.
      • Maneuverability: Capable of twisting and turning like a radar-evading fighter plane, skimming the landscape at altitudes of only 30–90 meters (100–300 feet).
      • Payload: Can carry either conventional or nuclear payloads.

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  • News: Earth reaches aphelion every July. This year it did so on 5th July.
  • Aphelion:
      • Aphelion is the point of the Earth’s orbit that is farthest away from the Sun. It always happens in early July, about two weeks after the June solstice.
  • Perihelion:
      • Perihelion is the point of the Earth’s orbit that is nearest to the Sun. This always happens in early January, about two weeks after the December Solstice.
  • Distance
      • At aphelion, Earth’s distance from the Sun is about 152.1 million km.
      • At perihelion, Earth’s distance from the Sun is about 147 million km.
  • What Causes Aphelion? 
      • Aphelion happens because Earth’s orbit is not a perfect circle but an ellipse. This elliptical orbit is due to several factors:
      • Elliptical Orbits: All planets in the solar system, including Earth, move in oval-shaped orbits around the Sun. This shape means that sometimes Earth is closer to the Sun and sometimes it is farther away.
      • Gravitational Pull: Gravity from other planets affects Earth’s orbit, pulling it slightly out of shape. This makes Earth’s orbit more like an elongated circle rather than a perfect one.


      • Eccentricity: The amount by which an orbit deviates from being a perfect circle is called its eccentricity. 
      • Earth’s orbit has a low eccentricity of 0.017, meaning it is nearly circular but still slightly elliptical. 
      • Higher eccentricity means a more stretched-out orbit. For comparison, Mars has an eccentricity of 0.094, and Pluto’s is 0.244.
      • Because of these factors, Earth’s distance from the Sun changes throughout the year, leading to the aphelion when Earth is farthest from the Sun.
  • Why Doesn’t Aphelion Impact Temperature On Earth?
      • The weather on Earth is decided by its axial tilt and how far or close it is to the sun. 
      • Earth’s 23.5-degree tilt of the axis means the sun shines on different latitudes at different angles throughout the year. 
      • Since the northern half of the planet is leaning towards the sun at aphelion, the days are longer and hotter days of summer. 
      • However, at aphelion, the amount of sunlight Earth gets is slightly reduced.
      • And at perihelion in January, the Northern Hemisphere tilts away from the sun, making the days shorter and the temperatures colder.

Palm Trees

  • News:  Recently, Odisha has restricted the cutting of existing palm trees and plans to plant palm trees to reduce casualties from lightning.
  • Family: Palm trees belong to the Arecaceae (or Palmae) family, a single family of monocotyledonous flowering plants in the order Arecales.
  • Forms: These evergreen plants can grow as shrubs, trees, or long, woody vines known as lianas.
  • Distribution: 
      • America: One of the major centers of palm distribution.
      • Asia: Extending from India to Japan and south to Australia and the islands of the Pacific and Indian oceans.
      • Africa and Madagascar: A third, but less significant, palm region.

Palm Trees

  • Characteristics
      • Stem: Typically characterized by a tall, unbranched stem, or rarely, by a dichotomous branching stem (as in Hyphaene), maintaining the same diameter from base to top.
      • Leaves: At the apex, they bear a rosette of coriaceous leaves, which can be either:
        • Palmate: Leaves grow in a bunch at the end of a stem, resembling a hand.
        • Pinnate: Leaves grow along either side of a stem, resembling feathers.
      • Leaf Size: Leaves can grow up to several meters long.
      • Heart of Palm: The heart of palm, a delicacy, comes from a part of the tree that cannot regrow, contributing to the endangerment of certain species.
  • Economic Importance: 
      • Coconut and African Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis): These palms are significant in global commerce, serving as primary sources of vegetable oil and fat.
      • Hyophorbe amaricaulis: The rarest palm tree in the world, with the only known specimen currently living at the Botanic Gardens of Curepipe in Mauritius.
      • Palm Oil: Most (85%) of global palm oil supply comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, followed by Thailand, Colombia and Nigeria.

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Common Grass Yellow (Eurema Hecabe)

  • News: For the first time, the Tamil Nadu forest department staff has observed a large-scale migration of Common Grass Yellow during the three-day butterfly survey.
  • Definition: The common grass yellow is a small  butterfly species found in Asia, Africa and Australia.

Common Grass Yellow (Eurema Hecabe)

  • Habitat: Prefers open grass and scrub areas, often flying close to the ground.
  • Features:
      • Vibrant yellow wings varying from sultry sulfur to lush lemon yellow.
      • Displays ‘seasonal polyphenism,’ where the coloration changes with seasons and location.
      • Forewings have broad, irregular black outer markings.
      • The underside of the wings features various black markings with yellow centers.
      • Common Grass Yellow male butterflies are often seen in large groups, and the females usually fly about by themselves to find nectar from a wide variety of plants.
      • They are migratory in behavior and are found migrating in large numbers across the entire African, throughout most of Asia south of the Himalayas. 
  • IUCN Red List: Classified as Least Concern.
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