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Current Affairs 21 October 2023


  1. Drought in Amazon Rainforests
  2. How MPs ask questions in Lok Sabha
  3. Vizhinjam International Seaport Project
  4. White Phosphorus Munitions
  5. Tilapia Parvovirus
  6. Chanakya Defence Dialogue

 Drought in Amazon Rainforests


The Amazon rainforest is reeling from an intense drought. Numerous rivers vital for travel have dried up. As a result, there is no water, food, or medicine in villages of indigenous communities living in the area.


GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Amazon Rainforests
  2. Ramifications of the Prolonged Drought
  3. Underlying Causes of the Amazon Drought
  4. Alarming Research Findings for the Future of the Amazon Rainforests

Amazon Rainforests:

  • The Amazon rainforest, also known as Amazon jungle or Amazonia, is a lush tropical rainforest located in the Amazon biome that blankets most of the Amazon basin in South America.
  • Encompassing an area of 7 million square kilometers, this region includes more than 3,300 formally recognized indigenous territories and spans across nine countries.
  • Brazil holds the lion’s share of this forest, covering 60% of its expanse, followed by Peru (13%) and Colombia (10%).
Unprecedented Drought in the Amazon Rainforests:
  • Between July 2023 and September 2023, eight Brazilian states experienced the lowest recorded rainfall levels in over 40 years.
  • Projections indicate that below-average rainfall is anticipated to continue until year-end.
  • This ongoing drought is emerging as another contributing factor to the escalating degradation of the Amazon, often referred to as the Earth’s “lungs” due to its storage of over 150 billion metric tonnes of carbon.

Ramifications of the Prolonged Drought:

  • The Rio Negro, one of the planet’s largest rivers by discharge volume, has dwindled to a record low level of 13.59 meters.
  • The drought has also severely impacted the Madeira River, a critical Amazon tributary, causing the suspension of operations at the fourth-largest hydroelectric dam in Brazil, Santo Antonio, due to historically low water levels.
  • An alarming number of fish and river dolphins, locally known as Boto, have been discovered dead due to the decreased water levels.
  • The decomposing carcasses of these aquatic creatures have contaminated water sources in certain areas, forcing residents to employ this water for cooking, bathing, and drinking.
  • Brazilian authorities express concerns that approximately 500,000 individuals may be adversely affected by the drought by the end of October.
  • Manaus, the largest city and the capital of the Amazonas state, which has been severely impacted by the drought, declared states of emergency in 55 out of 62 municipalities due to the severe water scarcity.
  • The abnormally dry conditions have heightened the Amazon rainforest’s susceptibility to wildfires, leading to 2,700 wildfires reported in the state of Amazonas this month, marking the highest figure ever recorded for the month of October in the past 25 years.
  • Smoke generated from these wildfires has significantly diminished air quality in Manaus, a city housing two million residents situated at the heart of the Amazon, reaching hazardous levels.

Underlying Causes of the Amazon Drought:

Historical Precedence:
  • While periods of drought are not unprecedented in the Amazon, the rainforest experienced a severe dry spell in 2021, marked as one of the worst in at least nine decades.
  • The current drought, however, seems even more severe due to the simultaneous occurrence of two natural events that have disrupted cloud formation, exacerbating the region’s already deficient rainfall levels.
Influence of El Nino:
  • El Nino is characterized by an abnormal warming of surface waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, altering global weather patterns.
  • This weather phenomenon is known to escalate the probability of extreme heat events and record-breaking temperatures in numerous regions worldwide, including both terrestrial and oceanic environments.
Elevated Atlantic Ocean Temperatures:
  • Another contributing factor is the exceptionally high water temperatures observed in the northern tropical Atlantic Ocean.
  • The process begins with the warming of ocean waters, which leads to the ascent of heated air into the atmosphere, ultimately reaching the Amazon rainforest.
  • The influx of warm air impedes cloud formation, resulting in a significant reduction in rainfall.

Alarming Research Findings for the Future of the Amazon Rainforests:

  • A body of research conducted over the years has indicated that as global temperatures rise, the Amazon will experience more frequent and prolonged droughts.
  • A study published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” (PNAS) in 2022 posited that if current rates of fossil fuel combustion persist, the Amazon could confront major droughts in 90% of years by 2060.
  • Another study, featured in the journal “Nature” in 2022, emphasized that the Amazon rainforest’s capacity to rebound from extended droughts has diminished over the past two decades, approaching a critical tipping point.
  • Beyond this tipping point, the Amazon would transition from a luxuriant green forest to a drier, open savanna, resulting in the release of substantial carbon stores, further intensifying global warming.
  • Over the past five decades, approximately 17% to 20% of the Amazon’s expanse has been destroyed.
  • Experts underscore the urgency of curbing deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions to safeguard the Amazon, as well as the need to restore degraded areas through reforestation efforts.

-Source: The Hindu

How MPs Ask Questions in Lok Sabha


Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra has welcomed the opportunity to respond to inquiries by the CBI and the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee regarding allegations of cash for query. The Lok Sabha Speaker had previously referred the complaint accusing Moitra of accepting money from a businessman in exchange for asking questions in Parliament to the Ethics Committee. The BJP MP had made these allegations against her.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Procedure for Raising Questions in Lok Sabha
  2. Conditions for the Admissibility of Questions
  3. Different types of questions
  4. Importance of Raising Questions

Procedure for Raising Questions in Lok Sabha:

Existing Rules:

  • The procedure for raising questions is governed by Rules 32 to 54 of the “Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha” and Directions 10 to 18 of the “Directions by the Speaker, Lok Sabha.”

How It Works:

  • To ask a question, an MP must provide a notice to the Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha, indicating their intention to ask a question.
  • The notice typically includes the text of the question, the official designation of the Minister to whom the question is addressed, the desired answer date, and the order of preference if the MP submits multiple question notices for the same day.

Number of Questions Allowed:

  • A Member can submit a maximum of five notices of questions, both for oral and written answers, for any given day.
  • Notices exceeding this limit are considered for the following day(s) during that session.

Notice Period:

  • Generally, the notice period for a question is not less than 15 days.

Ways to Submit Notices:

  • MPs can submit notices in two ways: through an online “Member’s Portal,” requiring login credentials, or by using printed forms available in the Parliamentary Notice Office.

Role of the Speaker:

  • The Speaker of Lok Sabha reviews the notices of questions in accordance with established rules.
  • The Speaker makes determinations regarding the admissibility of questions or their components.

Conditions for the Admissibility of Questions:

  • Various rules determine the admissibility of an MP’s questions.
  • Questions should typically not exceed 150 words.
  • They must avoid arguments, defamatory statements, or references to individuals’ character or conduct unless in their official or public capacity.
  • Questions raising broad policy matters are generally not allowed, as it’s challenging to encompass policies in a limited answer.
  • Questions on subjects currently under legal judgment, review by a parliamentary committee, or that may threaten national unity and integrity are not admissible.

Different types of questions

Starred questions
  • A starred question is asked by an MP and answered orally by the Minister-in-charge.
  • Each MP is allowed to ask one starred question per day.
  • Starred questions have to be submitted at least 15 days in advance (so that the Minister-in-charge has the time to prepare the answers) and only 20 questions can be listed for oral answers on a day.
  • When a question is answered orally, supplementary questions can be asked thereon.
  • Starred questions are better suited to inquire about the government’s views on issues and its policy inclination.
Unstarred questions
  • An unstarred question receives a written reply from the Ministry. These also need to be submitted at least 15 days in advance.
  • Only 230 questions can be listed for written answers in a day.
  • Unlike starred questions, unstarred questions do not permit any follow-up questions.
  • Unstarred questions are more conducive for getting answers to queries related to data or information
Short-notice questions
  • Short notice questions are ones pertaining to a matter of urgent public importance.
  • They can be asked with less than 10 days’ notice, with reasons for the short notice.
  • Like a starred question, they are answered orally, followed by supplementary questions.
Questions addressed to private Members
  • The question to a private Member is addressed to the MP themselves.
  • It is asked when the subject matter pertains to any Bill, Resolution or any matter relating to the Business of the House for which that MP is responsible.

Importance of Raising Questions:

  • An inherent and unrestricted parliamentary right of MPs.
  • A tool for legislative control over executive actions.
  • Used to:
    • Obtain information about government activities.
    • Critique government policies and programs.
    • Highlight government deficiencies.
    • Encourage ministers to take meaningful actions for the common good.

-Source: Indian Express

Vizhinjam International Seaport Project


The Vizhinjam International Seaport Project, India’s first deepwater transshipment port, has gained attention recently as the first cargo ship arrived at the port.


GS III: Infrastructure

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Vizhinjam International Seaport Project Overview
  2. Importance of a Deepwater Container Transshipment Port in India

Vizhinjam International Seaport Project Overview:

  • Project Nature: The Vizhinjam International Seaport is a significant initiative undertaken by the Government of Kerala.
  • Primary Purpose: The port primarily aims to serve transshipment and gateway container business. It includes provisions for a cruise terminal, liquid bulk berth, and additional terminals.
  • Public Private Partnership: The project is being developed through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model, with Adani Ports Private Limited. It follows a design, build, finance, operate, and transfer (DBFOT) structure.
  • Strategic Location: Situated near Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, it strategically occupies the southern coast of India, offering convenient access to global shipping routes.
  • Global Competitiveness: Vizhinjam International Seaport is positioned to compete with established global transshipment hubs like Colombo, Singapore, and Dubai. This will help reduce the cost of container movement to and from foreign destinations.
  • Deep Natural Depth: The port enjoys a natural depth of more than 18 meters, which can be further expanded to 20 meters. This depth is crucial as it enables the port to accommodate large vessels and mother ships with substantial cargo capacities.
  • Phase I Capacity: The initial capacity in the first phase is set at one million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), with future potential for expansion to 6.2 million TEUs.
Project Progress:
  • Job Opportunities: It is expected to generate around 5,000 direct job opportunities.
  • Industrial Corridor: The project is anticipated to stimulate the development of an industrial corridor and cruise tourism.
  • Progress Status: Currently, the project is approximately 65.46% complete. However, it has faced delays due to factors such as natural disasters, protests, and logistical challenges.
  • Operational Readiness: The current timeline aims for the first phase to be operationally ready by December 2024.

Importance of a Deepwater Container Transshipment Port in India:

  • Current Port Limitations: India has 12 major ports; however, it lacks a large mega-port with the necessary infrastructure to accommodate ultra-large container ships.
  • Dependence on Foreign Ports: As a result, approximately 75% of India’s transshipment cargo is handled at ports outside the country, with Colombo, Singapore, and Klang being the primary destinations.
  • Transshipment Cargo Volume: In the fiscal year 2021-22, India’s total transshipment cargo reached about 4.6 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), with approximately 4.2 million TEUs being processed at foreign ports.
Benefits of a Transshipment Hub:
  • Forex Savings: Developing a transshipment hub in India would lead to significant foreign exchange savings.
  • Foreign Direct Investment: Attracting foreign direct investment would be a notable benefit.
  • Economic Activity: It would increase economic activity at other Indian ports, contributing to regional development.
  • Logistics Infrastructure: Development of related logistics infrastructure would facilitate efficient cargo movement.
  • Employment Generation: The project would create employment opportunities.
  • Operational Efficiency: Improved operation and logistics efficiencies would be achieved.
  • Revenue Increase: It would lead to an increase in revenue share for the Indian government.
  • Related Businesses: The establishment of such a port encourages the growth of related businesses including ship services, logistics, and bunkering.
Diverting Cargo Traffic:
  • A deepwater container transshipment port has the potential to attract a significant share of the container transshipment traffic currently being diverted to foreign ports like Colombo, Singapore, and Dubai.
  • This helps retain valuable cargo traffic within India, leading to economic benefits and logistical advantages.

-Source: Indian Express

White Phosphorus Munitions


Recently, global human rights organizations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of using white phosphorus munitions in Gaza and Lebanon, in violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. White Phosphorus
  2. Historical Use of Phosphorus Munitions
  3. Legal Status and Regulation

White Phosphorus:

  • Pyrophoric Nature: White phosphorus is a substance that is considered pyrophoric, meaning it can ignite spontaneously or very quickly (in under five minutes) when it comes in contact with air.
  • Reaction with Oxygen: When exposed to oxygen, white phosphorus ignites, generating high heat of about 815 degrees Celsius, thick white smoke, and intense light.
  • Global Classification: Under the “Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals,” which is an internationally agreed-upon system for standardizing chemical hazard classification and communication, white phosphorus falls into the category of “Pyrophoric solids, category 1.” This category includes chemicals that catch fire spontaneously when exposed to air. White phosphorus is known for its high level of instability among pyrophoric substances.
  • Military Use: White phosphorus is used in military applications, such as artillery shells, bombs, rockets, and felt (textile) wedges soaked in the substance. It is primarily used to create smokescreens that hide troop movements on the ground. The thick smoke produced by white phosphorus serves as a visual obscurant and interferes with infrared optics and weapons tracking systems.
  • Incendiary Use: Besides its role as a smokescreen, white phosphorus can also be used as an incendiary weapon. For example, it was used by US forces during the second battle of Fallujah in Iraq in 2004 to force concealed combatants to abandon their positions.
  • Destructive Effects: White phosphorus exposure can cause severe burns, often down to the bone, along with respiratory problems. It can also damage infrastructure, crops, and lead to the death of livestock. In windy conditions, white phosphorus can trigger raging fires, causing significant destruction.

Historical Use of Phosphorus Munitions:

  • White phosphorus munitions, initially known as “Fenian fire,” were first employed by Irish nationalists in the late 19th century.
  • The term “Fenian” was a broad reference to Irish nationalists.
  • These munitions have found application in conflicts worldwide, including notable events like their use during World War II’s Normandy invasion and the prolonged Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Legal Status and Regulation:

  • White phosphorus munitions are not subjected to a comprehensive ban, but their use is regulated within the framework of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
  • They are not classified as chemical weapons because their primary function is generating heat and smoke, rather than relying on toxicity. As a result, the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), particularly Protocol III, governs their use. Protocol III addresses incendiary weapons.
  • Protocol III imposes restrictions on the use of ground-launched incendiary weapons in situations involving concentrations of civilians. However, the protocol’s definition of incendiary weapons pertains to those “primarily designed” to ignite and burn people. This definition may potentially exclude multipurpose munitions containing white phosphorus, as they are mainly considered as agents for creating smoke.

-Source: Indian Express

Tilapia Parvovirus


India has witnessed its first encounter with Tilapia Parvovirus (TiPV), in Tamil Nadu causing a significant impact on the country’s aquaculture. This virus has been reported in farm-bred tilapia, a freshwater fish species, and has raised concerns due to its high mortality rates.


GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Tilapia Parvovirus (TiPV)
  2. About Tilapia Fish

Tilapia Parvovirus (TiPV):

  • TiPV is a viral pathogen primarily impacting tilapia, a type of freshwater fish.
  • It is categorized within the Parvoviridae family, known for its small, non-enveloped, single-stranded DNA viruses.
  • The virus was initially reported in China in 2019 and later in Thailand in 2021. India has become the third country to report the occurrence of TiPV.
  • TiPV has been linked to significant mortality rates, ranging from 30% to 50% on fish farms.
  • Laboratory-based studies have shown that TiPV can lead to a 100% mortality rate among infected fish, underlining its destructive potential.
  • TiPV outbreaks also have the potential to threaten the biodiversity and ecological balance of freshwater bodies because tilapia is an invasive species capable of competing with native fish for resources like food and habitat.
  • Additionally, TiPV outbreaks can impact the food security and nutritional resources of communities reliant on tilapia as a protein source and a means of income.

About Tilapia Fish:

  • Tilapia is a freshwater fish species highly cultivated and consumed in India, belonging to the family Cichlidae within the order Perciformes.
  • These fish originally hail from Africa and have become a popular choice for widespread cultivation and consumption.
Tilapia Farming in India:
  • Tilapia farming takes place in various regions of India, with notable activity in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
  • The introduction of different tilapia species, such as Nile tilapia and Mozambique tilapia, has given rise to diverse farming practices.
  • Nile tilapia, introduced in the 1970s, is favored for its larger size and scalability in cultivation.
  • Mozambique tilapia, referred to as “Jilabi” in Tamil, was introduced to Indian freshwater bodies in the 1950s. It is known for its ability to thrive in low-oxygen aquatic environments, demonstrating adaptability.
  • The Indian government sanctioned the import of specific tilapia species, specifically Oreochromis niloticus and red hybrids, in 1970. These species were selected due to their rapid growth and alignment with market demand, allowing a degree of control over aquaculture.

-Source: Indian Express

Chanakya Defence Dialogue


The Indian Army is planning to launch the Chanakya Defence Dialogue, a forum for discussing important security matters.


Facts for Prelims

About Chanakya Defence Dialogue:

  • The Chanakya Defence Dialogue is established as a regular platform that brings together leading experts from the global defense and strategic sectors. The primary objective is to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, ideas, and insights.
  • The dialogue’s core purpose is to integrate intelligence, strategy, and expertise, encouraging in-depth discussions on various topics. These subjects encompass the forces in neighboring regions, the crucial Indo-Pacific frontier, and the evolving impact of emerging technologies on defense and security.
  • The Indian Army is partnering with the prestigious think tank, Centre for Land and Warfare Studies (CLAWS), to organize this event.
  • Participants in the dialogue represent a diverse range of countries, including Australia, France, Japan, and the United States.
  • Structured as a two-day conference, this gathering will feature prominent speakers, military strategists, diplomats, and leading intellectuals specializing in defense and strategic affairs.
  • Discussions during the dialogue will span a wide spectrum of security challenges and strategies, with particular emphasis on the pivotal regions of South Asia and the Indo-Pacific.
  • The dialogue will also encompass discussions about cooperation in defense technology, military exercises, and concerns related to nuclear proliferation.

-Source: Times of India

December 2023