UPSC: Must-Know Facts (Geophysics, Economy, Current Affairs) – 22 Mar 2024

GS Paper 1

Battle of Okinawa

  • News: The United States has returned twenty-two historic artifacts to Japan that were looted following the Battle of Okinawa during World War II.
  • Battle of Okinawa:  The Battle of Okinawa, (April 1–June 21, 1945), World War II was a battle fought between U.S. and Japanese forces on Okinawa.
    • The island of Okinawa is the largest in the chain of islands known as the Ryukyus, which lie to the southwest of Japan.
    • From Okinawa, US forces could increase air strikes against Japan and blockade important logistical routes, denying the home islands of vital commodities.
    • Known as “the Typhoon of Steel” due to its extreme ferocity, this battle stands out as one of the deadliest confrontations in the Pacific War.
    •  The war resulted in a staggering loss of life, with over 12,000 Americans and 100,000 Japanese casualties, including the commanding generals from both sides.
    • The enormous casualties and the brutal fighting that occurred on Okinawa forced military planners to reconsider the invasion of Japan. It directly influenced the American decision to use atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

Afar Triangle

    • News: Geologists have discovered a fault that has the potential to give rise to the world’s sixth ocean.
    • Afar Triangle: 
      • Located within the Horn of Africa, the Afar Triangle serves as a geological hotspot, characterized by the convergence of the Nubian, Somali, and Arabian plates, leading to significant tectonic activity.
      • Separation of African continent: Since 2005, when a 35-mile-long rift opened in the Ethiopian desert, global focus has shifted to the gradual separation of the African continent. This rift highlights the significant forces at work beneath the Earth’s surface as tectonic plates slowly move apart.
      • Reports citing geologists speculated that within the next 5 to 10 million years, Africa could be cleaved in two. This could further give rise to a new ocean basin.
      • This transformation would see the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden inundating the Afar region. This could lead to the birth of a distinct continent in East Africa.
    • Formation of A New Ocean: 
      • The formation of a new ocean typically occurs through the process of plate tectonics. 
      • Earth’s outer shell is divided into several large, rigid plates that float on the semi-fluid asthenosphere beneath them. These plates are in constant motion, driven by the heat generated from Earth’s interior.
      • When two tectonic plates move away from each other, they create a gap or rift between them. 
      • As the plates move apart, magma from the mantle rises to fill the gap. This magma cools and solidifies to form new crust along the boundary.
      • As more magma rises and solidifies, the oceanic crust continues to expand outward from the mid-ocean ridge. This expansion pushes the existing oceanic crust away from the ridge. 
      • As the process of seafloor spreading continues, the gap between the diverging plates widens, eventually forming a new ocean basin.
      • The formation of a new ocean basin is a continuous process that can take millions of years.

GS Paper 2

Gelephu Mindfulness City’ (GMC)

  • News: The Gelephu Mindfulness City (GMC) has garnered attention in recent news for its potential to strengthen ties between India and Bhutan.
  • Location and Scope: Gelephu, located in south-central Bhutan near the Assam border, is proposed to host the expansive Gelephu Mindfulness City, spanning 1,000, surpassing Singapore in size.
  • Features and Purpose: 
    • The envisioned city aims to attract various non-polluting industries such as IT centers, hospitals, schools, resorts, as well as infrastructure projects like dams and hydro-power facilities.
    • It is designed to function as a Special Administrative Region, granting it autonomy to entice eco-friendly businesses.
  • Economic Connectivity: Gelephu’s strategic location facilitates the establishment of an economic corridor connecting South Asia to Southeast Asia via land routes traversing Assam, Northeast Indian States, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore.
  • Comparison with Global Planned Cities: Gelephu’s ambition aligns with contemporary planned urban developments such as Saudi Arabia’s Neom and Indonesia’s Nusantara, emphasizing sustainability and modernity.
  • Challenges and Constraints:
    • Despite its vision, Gelephu contends with challenges such as heavy monsoon rains leading to annual flooding, which disrupts the ecosystem.
    • Its reliance on India for infrastructure development is necessitated by its landlocked geography and security concerns, particularly insurgency issues in neighboring Indian territories.

International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells

    • News:  The 41st Steering Committee Meeting of the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy (IPHE)  was recently hosted by India.
    • IPHE: 
      • It is an international governmental partnership formed in 2003.
  • Members: 
    • It currently consists of 23 member countries and the European Commission:
    • Australia, Canada, European Commission, India, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Chile, France, Italy, Norway, UAE, Belgium, China, Germany, Japan, South Africa, United Kingdom, Brazil, Costa Rica, Iceland, South Korea, Singapore, and the United States.
  • Aim: The mission of IPHE is to facilitate and accelerate the transition to clean and efficient energy and mobility systems using hydrogen and fuel cell technologies across applications and sectors.
  • Functions
    • IPHE serves as a mechanism to organize and implement effective, efficient, and focused international research, development, demonstration, and commercial utilization activities related to hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.
    •  It also provides a forum for sharing information on policies and technology status, as well as on initiatives, codes, and standards to accelerate the cost-effective transition to the use of fuel cells and hydrogen in the economy.
  • Fuel Cell: 
    • A fuel cell is a device that generates electricity through an electrochemical reaction, not combustion.
    •  In a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen are combined to generate electricity, heat, and water.
    •  Fuel cells are used today in a range of applications, from providing power to homes and businesses, keeping critical facilities like hospitals, grocery stores, and data centers up and running, and moving a variety of vehicles including cars, buses, trucks, forklifts, trains, and more.  

GS Paper 3

Price Stabilisation Fund

  • News: The Centre has included wheat and rice within the ambit of the Price Stabilization Fund.
  • Price Stabilization Fund:  The Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) was set up in 2014-15 under the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Famers Welfare (DAC&FW).
  • Aim: To regulate the price volatility of important agri-horticultural commodities like onion, potatoes and pulses.
  • Functions: 
    • To maintain a strategic buffer stock that would discourage hoarding and speculation, 
    • To protect consumers by supplying commodities at reasonable prices through the calibrated release of stock from the buffer
    •  Incentivize domestic production through direct purchase from farmers and farmers’ associations at the farm gate or mandi. 
    • The PSF also  is utilized for granting interest free advance of working capital to Central Agencies, State/UT Governments/Agencies to undertake market intervention operations. 
    • Apart from domestic procurement from farmers/wholesale mandis, import may also be undertaken with support from the Fund.

UPSC Essentials: Tobacco Board, Space Tech & Ketamine

State of Global Climate Report 2023

  • News: The new annual State of the Climate report published by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) found that 2023 was the hottest year on record. 
  • State of the Climate Report:   It is an annual report published by World Meteorological Organisation (WMO.
  • WMO: 
      • Established in 1950, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations.
      • It originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), which was founded in 1873.
      • WMO became the specialized agency of the United Nations in 1951 for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences.
      • WMO plays an active role in developing a global system of climate services, in support of vulnerability and adaptation assessment.
      • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland. 
  • Key Highlights: 
      • Record-Breaking Climate Indicators: The WMO report confirmed that 2023 was the warmest year on record, with the global average near surface temperature at 1.45°C above the pre-industrial baseline.
        • On an average day in 2023, nearly a third of the global ocean was gripped by a marine heatwave, harming marine ecosystems and food systems.
      • Greenhouse Gas Levels (GHGs) and Global Warming: The surge in GHGs, notably carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, is identified as the primary driver of global warming. These gases trap solar radiation in the atmosphere, intensifying the greenhouse effect.
      • Oceanic Impact and Marine Heatwaves (MHWs): The oceans have absorbed a significant portion of the excess heat trapped by GHGs, leading to increased oceanic temperatures. The report highlights a substantial rise in average daily marine heatwave coverage, with the hydrological year 2022-2023 experiencing record-high levels.
      • Glacier Retreat and Ice Loss: In the same period, global reference glaciers witnessed unprecedented ice loss, particularly affecting glaciers in North America and Europe. This trend underscores the accelerating impact of climate change on polar regions and freshwater resources.
      • Positive Development Amidst Challenges: The only silver lining of 2023 was that renewable (energy) capacity additions increased by almost 50% from 2022, for a total of 510 gigawatts (GW). 

Air Quality Report 2023

    • News: World Air Quality Report 2023 has been released by Swiss firm IQAir.
      • IQAir is a Swiss air quality technology company that collects air-sensor data around the world.
    • Findings: 
      • With an average annual PM2.5 concentration of 54.4 micrograms per cubic metre, India had the third-worst air quality out of 134 countries in 2023 after Bangladesh and Pakistan. 
      •  Delhi  was the most polluted capital city globally. 
      • Begusarai  was the most polluted in India followed by Guwahati.
      • 96% of the Indian population, experience PM2.5 levels more than seven times the WHO annual PM2.5 guideline.
      • Some of the places most affected were in West Asia, Africa, and Central and South Asia. 
      • French Polynesia, Mauritius, and Iceland had the least air pollution.
  • PM2.5: 
    • PM stands for particulate matter, and 2.5 represents its size—2.5 microns, or 1/30th the diameter of a single strand of hair. 
    •  The tiny particles of PM2.5 are small enough that they can enter different organ systems and the bloodstream; they can irritate the lungs and the respiratory system. 
    • PM 2.5 pollution is linked to increased rates of heart attack and stroke.
    • It can also cause  oxidative stress that damages the body’s cells faster than they can repair themselves. 
      • Oxidative stress is associated with a variety of illnesses ranging from Parkinson’s disease to cancer.
    • The exposure to PM2.5 can also affect brain development.
    • PM2.5 pollution doesn’t stay where it’s made. This is called transboundary pollution. Prevailing winds play a big role in local air quality.
      • For instance, many Caribbean countries have good air quality because winds blow pollution away.
      • South Korea, on the other hand, has long dealt with high levels of PM2.5 pollution because winds carry it from coal-burning power plants in northern China.


  • News: The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a comprehensive ban on asbestos.
  • Asbestos:
      •  Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that are resistant to heat and corrosion.
      • These minerals occur naturally in rock and soil.
  • Types of Asbestos and Usage:
      • Chrysotile asbestos, also known as “white asbestos” due to its fiber color, constitutes 99% of global asbestos production.
      • It finds primary application in the chlor-alkali industry, utilized for manufacturing chlorine bleach, caustic soda, and other chemicals crucial for water treatment.
  • Health Risks Associated with Asbestos Exposure:
      •  Asbestosis: Asbestosis manifests as a lung disease characterized by scarring and breathing difficulties, stemming from prolonged exposure to asbestos particles.
      • Mesothelioma: Mesothelioma represents a rare and aggressive cancer affecting the lining of the lungs, chest, or abdomen, commonly linked to asbestos exposure.
      •  Lung Cancer: Exposure to asbestos significantly heightens the risk of developing lung cancer, further highlighting the detrimental health impacts associated with this mineral.


  • News:  Delhi’s biomining project to clear landfill sites likely to miss 2024 deadline.
  • Biomining: 
      • It is the scientific process of excavation, treatment, segregation and gainful utilisation of aged municipal solid waste lying in dumpsites typically referred to as legacy waste.
  • Four Steps of Waste Management Process: It comprises 4 steps: 
      • excavation of legacy waste, 
      • stabilising the waste using bioremediation, 
      • segregation of excavated waste and 
      • sustainable management and its safe disposal. 
  • Methods of Biomining: 
      • Bioleaching: Bioleaching involves depositing low-grade ore into a heap known as a leach pile, followed by saturation with a diluted sulphuric acid solution.
        • The acid interacts with the ore’s sulfide matrix, fostering the growth of specific bacterial strains that degrade the ore and release minerals or metals in a fluid state.
      • Bio-oxidation: Bio-oxidation is commonly employed for extracting gold from ores.
        • This method exposes the ore to bacterial oxidation, which breaks down insoluble components like pyrite and arsenic.
      • Dump Leaching: Dump leaching is an industrial procedure utilized to extract precious metals and copper from ores.
      • Agitated leaching: Agitation leaching is a chemical process utilized for mineral extraction from soil.
  • Benefits: 
      • It has zero emissions and leaving near-zero residues, helping in reducing soil pollution, soil contamination and groundwater.
      • It reduces greenhouse gas emissions and no energy is required for the process. Further, the reclaimed land can be used for other development purposes.
      • Landfills are among the major sources of disease and clearing them can help in decreasing vector-borne diseases. 
  • Challenges: 
    • Biomining is restricted to only bio-degradable compounds and takes time to show results.
    • One of the significant environmental risks is the risk of leakage and treatment of the acidic, metal-rich solution created by the microbes. 
      • However, it can be managed if done in controlled conditions, following protocols.

UDGAM Portal

  • News: 30 banks join RBI UDGAM portal for unclaimed deposits.
  • UDGAM portal:  UDGAM refers to Unclaimed Deposits-Gateway to access information, which is an online portal developed by RBI. 
  • Aim: It facilitates the registered users to search unclaimed deposits/accounts across multiple banks at one place in a centralised manner.
    •  To claim the money, one needs to contact the specific bank where the deposit is held.
  • Unclaimed Deposits: Balances in savings / current accounts which are not operated for 10 years, or term deposits not claimed within 10 years from date of maturity are classified as “Unclaimed Deposits”.

UPSC Prelims: Best Prelim Focus Course by Tarun IAS

Facts for Prelims

Vechur Cow

  • News: Dr. Sosamma Iype won the Padma Shri in 2022 for saving the breed the Vechur cow.
  • Vechur Cow:
    •  Vechur cow is an indigenous cattle variety of Kerala.
    • It is a rare breed of Bos indicus, the smallest cattle breed in the world. 
    • It yields the maximum milk in the world for a cow of this size.
    • They require minimum food and are highly resistant to diseases.
    • Vechur bulls despite their small size are very strong and were used in the earlier times to plough the marshy paddy fields.

World Happiness Report (WHR) 2024

  • News: WHR 2024 released by UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN).
  • WHR evaluates levels of happiness by 6 key variables: Healthy life expectancy, GDP per capita, Social support, Low corruption, Generosity, and Freedom.
  • Scores are based on individuals’ own assessments of their lives.
  • In WHR 2024 India has been ranked 126 out of 143 countries.
    • Top 3 countries are Finland, Denmark, and Iceland, respectively.
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