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Current Affairs 20 March 2024

  1. Forest Fires
  2. Nuclear Waste
  3. Proposal for Simultaneous Elections in India
  4. Study on IPCC Climate Action Pathways
  5. Wearable Technology
  6. Bugun Tribe Donates Forest Land for Conservation
  7. IceCube Neutrino Observatory


For the past one week, forest fires have been raging in the Coonoor forest range in the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu.


GS III: Environment

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Forest Fires
  2. Advantages of forest fires
  3. Disadvantages of forest fires
  4. Forest Fire Vulnerability in India
  5. Ways to mitigate the risk of forest fires

About Forest Fires

A forest fire is an uncontrolled fire that occurs in areas with a significant amount of combustible vegetation, such as forests, grasslands, or shrublands.

Causes of Forest Fires

Forest fires are caused by Natural causes as well as Man-made or anthropogenic causes.

  • Natural causes such as lightning which set trees on fire. High atmospheric temperatures and low humidity offer favourable circumstance for a fire to start.
  • Man-made causes like flame, cigarette, electric spark or any source of ignition will also cause forest fires.
  • Traditionally Indian forests have been affected by fires. The problem has been aggravated with rising human and cattle population and the increase in demand for grazing, shifting cultivation and Forest products by individuals and communities.
  • High temperature, wind speed and direction, level of moisture in soil and atmosphere and duration of dry spells can intensify the forest fires.

Advantages of forest fires:

  • Some species of trees and plants have adapted to thrive in the aftermath of fires. For example, some pine trees rely on fires to open their cones and release seeds.
  • Forest fires can help to clear out dead wood, brush, and other debris, reducing the risk of future fires.
  • Fires can help to promote new growth and biodiversity by creating openings in the forest canopy that allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, stimulating the growth of new vegetation.

Disadvantages of forest fires:

  • Forest fires can destroy habitats and negatively impact biodiversity by killing animals and plants that are unable to escape the flames.
  • Smoke from fires can cause respiratory problems and other health issues for humans and animals.
  • Forest fires can damage or destroy homes, buildings, and other infrastructure, and can pose a significant threat to human safety.
  • The release of large amounts of greenhouse gases during forest fires can contribute to climate change.
India’s Initiatives to Tackle Forest Fires
  • National Action Plan on Forest Fires (NAPFF) was launched in 2018 to minimise forest fires by informing, enabling and empowering forest fringe communities and incentivising them to work with the State Forest Departments.
  • The Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme (FPM) is the only centrally funded program specifically dedicated to assist the states in dealing with forest fires.

Forest Fire Vulnerability in India

  • Forest fire season in India is from November to June
  • Council of Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) report notes a tenfold increase in forest fires over the past two decades in India
  • More than 62% of Indian states are prone to high-intensity forest fires according to CEEW report
  • Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Telangana, and Northeastern states are most prone to forest fires
  • Mizoram has the highest incidence of forest fires over the last two decades with 95% of its districts as forest fire hotspots
  • ISFR 2021 estimates over 36% of the country’s forest cover is prone to frequent forest fires, 6% is ‘very highly’ fire-prone, and almost 4% is ‘extremely’ prone
  • An FSI study found nearly 10.66% area under forests in India is ‘extremely’ to ‘very highly’ fire-prone.

Ways to mitigate the risk of forest fires:

  • Prevention: One of the most effective ways to mitigate forest fires is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. This can be done by creating fire breaks, clearing debris, and reducing the amount of flammable material in the forest.
  • Early Detection: Early detection of forest fires can help prevent them from spreading and causing more damage. This can be done by installing fire detection systems, using drones or satellite imagery, and training local communities to report fires quickly.
  • Fire Suppression: Fire suppression is a critical component of forest fire mitigation. This involves using firefighting equipment such as helicopters, water tanks, and fire retardants to put out fires.
  • Forest Management: Proper forest management practices can also help mitigate the risk of forest fires. This includes thinning out dense forests, creating fire-resistant vegetation, and reducing the amount of deadwood and other flammable materials in the forest.
  • Community Education: Educating local communities on the risks of forest fires and how to prevent them can also be effective in mitigating the risk of forest fires. This includes providing information on safe campfire practices, prohibiting the use of fireworks in fire-prone areas, and encouraging the use of fire-resistant building materials in areas at high risk of forest fires.

-Source: The Hindu


India recently achieved a milestone in its nuclear program by loading the core of its prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR), marking progress towards stage II of its three-stage nuclear program. Stage II involves powering the reactor with uranium and plutonium. This advancement aligns with India’s goal for stage III, where it aims to utilize its abundant thorium reserves for nuclear power generation. However, challenges persist, particularly in managing nuclear waste, underscoring the complexities associated with nuclear energy production.


GS III: Energy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Overview of Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR)
  2. India’s Approach to Nuclear Waste Managemen
  3. Understanding Nuclear Waste
  4. Challenges in Managing Nuclear Waste

Overview of Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR)

  • Definition of Breeder Reactor: A breeder reactor is a type of nuclear reactor that generates more fissile material than it consumes by irradiating fertile material, such as Uranium-238 or Thorium-232, alongside fissile fuel.
  • Purpose: Breeder reactors are designed to extend the nuclear fuel supply for electric power generation by producing additional fissile material during operation.
  • PFBR Description:
    • Location: The Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is located at the Madras Atomic Power Station in Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, India.
    • Capacity: It is designed as a 500-megawatt electric (MWe) fast-breeder nuclear reactor.
    • Fuel: PFBR utilizes Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel, which typically consists of a mixture of plutonium and uranium oxides.
  • Construction Status: PFBR is currently under construction, representing India’s endeavor to develop advanced nuclear technologies for power generation.
  • Significance: Once operational, PFBR will serve as a crucial step in India’s nuclear energy program, demonstrating the feasibility and potential of fast-breeder reactor technology in generating electricity.

Understanding Nuclear Waste

  • Nuclear waste refers to the radioactive byproducts generated from nuclear reactions, particularly in fission reactors, where atoms split to release energy.
  • Fission Process: Neutrons bombard atomic nuclei, causing them to split into smaller elements, releasing energy and additional neutrons.
  • Example: Uranium-235 undergoing fission yields barium-144, krypton-89, and neutrons, constituting nuclear waste if they cannot undergo further fission.
Management Strategies:
  • Spent Fuel Handling: Spent fuel, initially submerged in water for cooling, is eventually transferred to dry casks for long-term storage.
  • Storage Facilities: Nuclear waste requires secure storage facilities to prevent leakage and environmental contamination.
  • Global Inventory: Countries with nuclear power programs accumulate significant quantities of nuclear waste, necessitating effective management strategies.
  • Long-Term Considerations: Some waste remains hazardous for millennia, requiring isolation from human contact.
  • Liquid Waste Treatment: Treatment facilities handle liquid waste, with some countries opting for controlled discharge into oceans.
  • Geological Disposal: Experts propose burying waste in specially designed containers underground, typically in granite or clay formations.
  • Reprocessing: This involves chemically separating fissile material from non-fissile components in spent fuel, enhancing fuel efficiency but requiring specialized facilities.
  • Challenges: Reprocessing can yield weapons-usable plutonium, posing proliferation risks and necessitating stringent security measures.
  • Efficiency vs. Cost: While reprocessing enhances fuel efficiency, it is costly and may yield less desirable plutonium variants for nuclear weapons.

India’s Approach to Nuclear Waste Management

  • India employs reprocessing plants to handle nuclear waste, aiming to extract plutonium for subsequent reactor use and nuclear weapons production.
Reprocessing Facilities:
  • Location: Reprocessing plants are situated in Trombay, Tarapur, and Kalpakkam.
  • Capacity:
    • Trombay: Reprocesses 50 tonnes of heavy metal per year (tHM/y) from research reactors.
    • Tarapur (Two Facilities): One formerly reprocessed 100 tHM/y from certain pressurised heavy water reactors, while the other, commissioned in 2011, has the same capacity.
    • Kalpakkam: Processes 100 tHM/y.
  • Purpose: Reprocessing aims to extract plutonium from spent fuel for use in subsequent reactor stages and nuclear weapons production.
Operational Efficiency:
  • Capacity Utilization: The Tarapur and Kalpakkam facilities reportedly operate at a combined average capacity factor of approximately 15%.
  • Challenges: Operational efficiency may be affected by various factors, including technical limitations and maintenance requirements.
International Perspective:
  • IPFM Report: The International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) provided insights into India’s reprocessing capabilities and operational statistics.

Challenges in Managing Nuclear Waste

 Geological Disposal Risks:

  • Risk of Exposure: Geological disposal methods pose risks of radioactive material exposure if containers are disturbed, potentially due to nearby excavation activities.
  • Example: The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in the US experienced an accident in 2014, releasing radioactive materials due to maintenance failures.

Lack of Private Sector Involvement:

  • Innovation Incentives: Private sector involvement drives innovation through competition and market incentives.
  • Potential Consequences: Without private sector participation, there may be less incentive to develop new technologies and processes for efficient nuclear waste treatment.

Mismanagement of Funds:

  • Nuclear Waste Fund: Legislation like the US Nuclear Waste Policy Act established funds for managing nuclear waste.
  • Underutilization Criticism: Despite accumulating substantial funds, such as the USD 40 billion Nuclear Waste Fund in the US, criticism arises for its underutilization for its intended purpose.

Stakeholder Cooperation Issues:

  • Lack of Collaboration: Effective nuclear waste management requires cooperation among stakeholders.
  • International Collaboration: Given the global nature of the issue, international collaboration is vital to share knowledge, develop best practices, and ensure responsible management.

-Source: The Hindu


The High-level Committee on Simultaneous Elections, led by former President Shri Ram Nath Kovind, has proposed a significant electoral reform advocating for simultaneous elections across Lok Sabha, state Assemblies, and local bodies in India. The committee’s comprehensive report, submitted to President Droupadi Murmu, includes recommendations and constitutional amendments aimed at facilitating this monumental change in the Indian electoral system.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Recommendations of the High-level Committee on Simultaneous Elections
  2. About ‘one-nation, one- election’

Recommendations of the High-level Committee on Simultaneous Elections

Transition to Simultaneous Elections

Constitutional Amendment Proposal:

  • The Committee recommends amending Article 82A of the Constitution to authorize the President to designate an “Appointed Date” for simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies.
  • State assemblies holding elections after this date would align their terms with the Parliament, facilitating simultaneous polls.

Timeline Considerations:

  • If adopted, the first simultaneous elections could potentially occur in 2029 after the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
  • Alternatively, if aiming for the 2034 polls, the “Appointed Date” would be determined post the 2029 Lok Sabha elections.
  • States with elections scheduled between June 2024 and May 2029 would see their terms ending concurrently with the 18th Lok Sabha, even if it results in shorter state assembly terms as a one-time measure.
Implementation Strategies

Government Decision Making:

  • The government elected after the 2024 polls would decide the implementation timeline, either targeting 2029 or 2034 based on their preference.

Contingency Planning:

  • To maintain synchronization in case of early dissolution of Parliament or state assemblies, fresh elections would only be held for the unexpired term until the next cycle of simultaneous polls.
Integration with Local Elections

Legislative Measures:

  • Parliament is advised to pass legislation, possibly introducing Article 324A, to synchronize Municipalities and Panchayats elections with General Elections.
Electoral Roll Harmonization

Constitutional Amendment Proposal:

  • Amend Article 325 to empower the Election Commission of India (ECI) to prepare a single electoral roll and Elector’s Photo Identity Card (EPIC) for all government tiers in consultation with State Election Commissions (SECs).
Logistical Planning

Preparation and Coordination:

  • The Committee urges the ECI and SECs to develop comprehensive plans and estimates covering equipment, personnel deployment, and security measures to ensure smooth logistical arrangements for simultaneous elections.
Rationale for Simultaneous Elections

Governance Stability:

  • The Committee emphasizes synchronized elections’ role in avoiding policy paralysis and creating a conducive environment for effective decision-making and sustained development.

About ‘one-nation, one- election’

  • The concept of “One Nation One Election” proposes the synchronization of elections for all states and the Lok Sabha within a five-year span. This entails restructuring the electoral cycle in India so that elections at both the state and central levels align. This would mean voters casting their ballots for members of both the Lok Sabha and state assemblies on a single day, concurrently or in phases if necessary.
  • Recent developments have seen Prime Minister Narendra Modi advocating for “One Nation One Election,” underscoring its significance during the 80th All India Presiding Officers Conference.
Historical background of ‘one-nation, one- election’
  • Historically, simultaneous elections have occurred in India in the years 1952, 1957, 1962, and 1967. However, this practice was discontinued following the dissolution of certain Legislative Assemblies in the late 1960s, leading to separate elections for the Centre and states.
  • The idea of returning to simultaneous elections was initially suggested in the Election Commission’s 1983 report and was mentioned in the Law Commission’s 1999 report as well. Since 2014, the BJP government has ardently supported the notion.
  • In 2018, the Law Commission released a draft report endorsing the implementation of simultaneous elections and suggesting necessary amendments to electoral laws and relevant Articles. The report addressed legal and constitutional challenges linked with conducting simultaneous elections and advocated for constitutional amendments ratified by at least 50% of the states.
Merits of ‘one-nation, one- election’
  • Cost Reduction: The concurrent conduct of elections minimizes expenses associated with multiple elections, including time, labor, and financial costs, which arise due to movement of security personnel and diversion of state resources.
  • Enhanced Voter Turnout: Simultaneous polls could potentially boost voter participation.
  • Better Use of Security Forces: Frequent elections limit the availability of security forces for other crucial tasks.
  • Focus on Governance: Continuous elections divert the focus of governance towards short-term electoral gains, sidelining long-term policies and programs.
Demerits of ‘one-nation, one- election’
  • Constitutional and Anti-Federal Concerns: Critics argue that the move might impact the federal nature of the Indian political system, as national and state issues differ.
  • Accountability: Fixed tenures might lead to a lack of accountability among government officials.
  • Difficulty in Synchronization: Maintaining synchronized elections is challenging, especially given the likelihood of government assemblies losing confidence.
  • Tampering with Democracy: Altering the election system could impact people’s democratic will.

-Source: The Hindu


A recent study examined over 500 future emissions scenarios assessed by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), providing insights into the world’s climate trajectory. The study’s findings highlight substantial inequities within the projected pathways of climate action outlined in the IPCC reports.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the IPCC
  2. The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) and Beyond

About the IPCC

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change set up by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1988.
  • IPCC was created to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.
  • IPCC assessments provide a scientific basis for governments at all levels to develop climate related policies, and they underlie negotiations at the UN Climate Conference – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • IPCC does not carry out original research. It does not monitor climate or related phenomena itself. However, it conducts a systematic review of published literature and then produces a comprehensive assessment report.

IPCC Assessment Reports

  • The IPCC Assessment Reports are published once in about 7 years – and they are the most comprehensive scientific evaluations of the state of Earth’s climate. The 6th such assessment report was published in 2021.
  • Prior to the AR6 in 2021, five assessment reports have been produced with the first one being released in 1990. The fifth assessment report had come out in 2014 in the run up to the climate change conference in Paris.
  • The Assessment Reports are prepared by three working groups of scientists:
    • Working Group-I – Deals with the scientific basis for climate change.
    • Working Group-II – Looks at the likely impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation issues.
    • Working Group-III – Deals with actions that can be taken to combat climate change.

Findings of the New Study:

  • Troubling Projections: Analysis of 556 scenarios from the IPCC’s AR6 report reveals concerning projections. By 2050, regions encompassing 60% of the world’s population, including Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, will still have below-average per-capita GDP.
  • Disparities in Consumption: Similar disparities exist in consumption patterns of goods, energy, and fossil fuels between the Global North and South.
  • Carbon Burden on Developing Nations: Developing nations are projected to bear a heavier burden in terms of carbon sequestration and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies, unfairly placing the responsibility for mitigation and carbon dioxide removal on poorer countries.
  • Critique of Scenarios: The study criticizes scenarios for ignoring historical responsibility and failing to address the energy needs of the Global South for achieving development goals, highlighting significant inequities in projected climate action pathways.

Importance of Equality in Tackling Climate Change:

  • Historical Responsibility: Wealthier nations, primarily in the Global North, have historically contributed the most to greenhouse gas emissions, necessitating recognition of historical responsibility in addressing climate change fairly.
  • Vulnerability of Developing Countries: Developing countries, least responsible for emissions, are the most vulnerable to climate impacts due to limited resources and infrastructure, underscoring the importance of equity in climate action.
  • Access to Resources: Equity ensures equitable access to climate funding, technology transfer, and capacity-building support, addressing disparities in financial resources, technological capabilities, and infrastructure between developed and developing nations.
  • Social Injustices: Climate change exacerbates social inequalities, necessitating climate policies and measures that benefit vulnerable communities and address existing injustices.
  • Global Cooperation: Equity principles, such as common but differentiated responsibilities, foster global cooperation and collaboration among nations to work towards shared climate goals.
  • Trust and Collaboration: Ensuring equity in climate action builds trust and fosters collaboration among nations, facilitating meaningful progress in addressing climate change.

-Source: The Hindu


Samsung officially announced the launch of a new smart ring-shaped wearable device, Galaxy Ring, as part of its Galaxy Unpacked event earlier this year.


GS III: Science and Technology

About Wearable Technology:

  • Definition: Wearable technology, also known as “wearables,” refers to electronic devices designed to be worn as accessories, embedded in clothing, implanted in the body, or tattooed on the skin.
  • Variety: Wearable devices encompass a diverse range of products, including smart watches, fitness trackers, head-mounted displays, smart jewellery, smart clothing, and even implantable devices.
  • Components: At their core, wearable devices consist of sensors, software, and connectivity technology.

  • Sensor Data Collection: Sensors gather information from the wearer, such as biometric data or movement patterns.
  • Data Processing: The gathered data is processed by software and transmitted wirelessly to a device with processing capabilities.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): Wearable technology operates within the ecosystem of the Internet of Things, connecting personal devices to broader networks.
  • Accuracy: Smart rings, for example, can provide more precise readings than smartwatches by leveraging capillaries in the finger for data collection.
  • Battery Life: Smart rings often boast longer battery life compared to smartwatches.
  • Functionality: Smart rings may not offer the same range of functionality as smartwatches, lacking features like GPS or a screen.
  • Limitations: Due to their smaller size, smart rings may have limitations in terms of features and capabilities compared to larger wearable devices.

-Source: The Economic Times


The Bugun tribe, residing near the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, has demonstrated environmental stewardship by donating 1,470 hectares of forest land to the state forest department. This significant gesture not only contributes to conservation efforts but also aids in protecting the Bugun Liocichla bird, highlighting the tribe’s commitment to biodiversity preservation.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Bugun Liocichla: A Critically Endangered Bird Species


  • Small babbler measuring only 20 cm.
  • Olive-grey plumage with a distinctive black cap.

Discovery and Rarity:

  • Discovered as a new bird species in 2006.
  • Exclusive to the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary landscape, found nowhere else globally.

Conservation Status:

  • Classified as critically endangered.
  • Only 14 individual birds spotted, with sightings limited to Braiduah village under the Singchung sub-division.

Conservation Efforts:

  • Arunachal Pradesh government notified Braiduah Community Reserve under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Reserve located adjacent to the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, aimed at protecting the habitat of Bugun Liocichla.

Key Facts about the Bugun Tribe

  • Migration and Origin:
    • Buguns migrated from Tibet through East Kameng, Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Culture and Language:
    • Possess distinct geographical boundaries and language known as Khowa.
    • Historically referred to as “Shisung-Rubai.”
  • Relationship with Nature:
    • Lifestyle deeply intertwined with the natural environment.
    • Landscape of mountains, forests, and rich biodiversity holds sacred significance.
  • Traditional Practices:
    • Houses constructed using bamboo and wood with a stone base.
    • Skilled farmers known for extracting oil from local wood species called Chiblem.
  • Socio-Political Structure:
    • Governed by a socio-political administrative body known as Nimiang.
    • Responsible for regulating community affairs and decision-making.
  • Cultural Practices:
    • Celebrate the annual festival known as “Pham-Kho.”
    • Practice endogamy, marrying within the Bugun community.

-Source: The Hindu


Scientists using data from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica believe they have potentially found the first evidence for astrophysical tau neutrinos, called “ghost particles”


GS III: Science and Technology

IceCube Neutrino Observatory: Probing the Universe’s Subatomic Secrets

Location and Collaborators:

  • Situated at the Earth’s South Pole, operated by the IceCube Collaboration.
  • Collaboration involves numerous universities globally, spearheaded by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


  • Comprised of thousands of sensors buried over 1.4 km beneath the ice, along with surface detectors.
  • Holds the distinction of being the world’s largest neutrino telescope, covering a cubic kilometer of ice.

Detection Process:

  • When neutrinos interact with the ice surrounding the sensors, they produce charged particles and radiation.
  • Sensors detect this radiation, enabling the inference of neutrino detection and providing insights into their properties.
  • IceCube is capable of identifying some types of neutrinos in real-time, while others require long-term data collection for analysis.

Scientific Significance:

  • Neutrinos, being elusive and abundant particles, offer a window into various cosmic phenomena, including supernovae explosions and black holes.
  • IceCube plays a crucial role in studying high-energy neutrinos originating from astrophysical sources, aiding in understanding the universe’s most enigmatic processes.

Research Endeavors:

  • IceCube facilitates research on neutrino oscillations, flavor composition, and cosmic neutrinos.
  • Its data contributes to advancing our knowledge of fundamental physics and astrophysics, addressing questions about the nature of dark matter, the origin of cosmic rays, and the behavior of extreme astrophysical environments.

Future Prospects:

  • Continued operation and expansion of IceCube promise further breakthroughs in neutrino physics and astrophysical research.
  • Ongoing upgrades and improvements aim to enhance sensitivity and data collection capabilities, opening new avenues for exploring the cosmos at the subatomic level.

-Source: Indian Express

April 2024