Science behind the Similar Ridges on Salt Flats Worldwide

In News

  • In a new study, researchers from Austria, Germany, and the U.K. have attempted an explanation for salt flats formations.


  • Salt flats across the world share a similar pattern of ridges that form in a patchwork of pentagons and hexagons.
  • The pattern is always a meter or two across and occurs regardless of local environmental conditions, mineral chemistry, soil type, and other factors.
  • These captivating patterns have been discovered as far apart as Bolivia, Chile, China, India, Iran, Tunisia, and the U.S.
  • The findings have suggested that the salt always crenellates in these shapes and at these sizes, irrespective of the local environmental conditions.
  • The findings are important to know the underlying mechanism because salt flats have significant effects on both humans and the climate.

What are Salt Flats?

  • A salt flat is a natural landscape in which a large area of flat land is covered by salt
  • It forms from a natural water body whose recharge rate is lower than the evaporation rate.
  • Over time, all the water evaporates, leaving behind dissolved minerals, usually salts.
  • The world’s largest salt flat is the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, which contains more than half of the planet’s lithium reserves.

Formation of Shapes

  • The researchers have hypothesized that the salt on the surface is influenced by the salt flowing through the soil below.
  • The salt penetrated deeper into the soil exactly below the ridges and remained shallow under the flat areas.
  • The researchers have found that the salty groundwater flows deeper into the soil along vertical sheets below the ridges, not throughout.

Key Findings:

  • If the rate of salt deposition on the surface is sufficiently high, the denser groundwater will sink down, and the less-saline, less-dense groundwater will rise to the top.
  • Over time, there will be more saline groundwater rising up towards the surface through the convection cells than through other parts of the soil, resulting in the salt accumulating on the surface and forming the narrow ridges that make up the polygons.
  • The computer model indicates that the subsurface convection is relatively insensitive to salt chemistry, and over time, the convection columns grew to have a stable width of 1-2 m.

Importance of the findings:

  • The theory and results matter because winds blowing over salt flats carry some of the salt with them as particulate matter, causing significant respiratory problems.
  • To mitigate the deleterious effects of salt flats, experts have recommended covering them in a shallow layer of water.
  • Salt suspensions are important aerosols that reflect sunlight, and saline lakes around the world are shrinking, so more accurate climate models will need to better understand the sources of salt.

Source: TH

International Big Cat Alliance

In News

  • India has recently proposed to launch global alliance for big cats with an investment of $100 million


  • The proposed alliance will provide assured support over five years with guaranteed funding of over Rs 800 crore.
  • The group will work towards the protection of the seven big cats — tiger, lion, leopard, snow leopard, puma, jaguar and cheetah.
  • Membership to the alliance will be open to 97 “range” countries, which contain the natural habitat of these big cats, as well as other interested nations, international organisations, etc.

Activities and Governance of the IBCA

  • The IBCA will engage in advocacy, partnership, knowledge e-portal, capacity building, eco-tourism, partnerships between expert groups and finance tapping.
  • The alliance will disseminate information on benchmarked practices, capacity building, resources repository, research and development, and awareness creation.
  • Its governance structure will comprise a General Assembly consisting of all member countries, a council of at least seven.
  • It will be limited to less than 15 member countries elected by the General Assembly for a term of 5 years, and a Secretariat.

Criticism of the IBCA Proposal

  • Critics claim that India cannot afford to spend $100m for the 22 endangered species, and that building another platform without the political will to protect big cats will not help conservation.
  • Big cat biologists have raised apprehensions that several key landscapes and species recovery programs are languishing due to inadequate funding.
  • IBCA lacks the required political will to offer the vision required to overcome such limitations.
  • After the first five years, the IBCA is expected to sustain itself through membership fees, and contributions from bilateral and multilateral institutions and the private sector.

Importance of Protecting big cats

  • Conservation of biodiversity: Big cats are apex predators and help to regulate the population of herbivores, which, in turn, helps to prevent overgrazing and maintain the health of the ecosystem.
  • Economic importance: Big cats, especially tigers, are a major tourist attraction in India and generate significant revenue for the country besides helps to support local communities and small businesses.
  • Cultural significance: Big cats have been a part of Indian culture and mythology for centuries and are revered as symbols of strength, power, and beauty.
  • Ecosystem services: They play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the ecosystem by regulating prey populations which in turn, helps to maintain the balance of the ecosystem and ensures the provision of ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control, and nutrient cycling.
  • Scientific value: Studying big cats in their natural habitat provides valuable insights into their behavior, ecology, and biology which can be used to develop effective conservation strategies and management plans.

Challenges of protecting big cats

  • Habitat loss and fragmentation: As human populations and infrastructure expand, the natural habitats of big cats are increasingly being destroyed or fragmented, leading to a loss of prey.
  • Poaching and illegal trade: Poaching and illegal trade of big cat parts and derivatives for traditional medicine and luxury goods remain a significant threat to their survival.
  • Human-wildlife conflict: As human populations continue to expand, the chances of conflicts between people and big cats increase leading to retaliatory killings of big cats by local communities.
  • Climate change: It is causing changes in the natural habitats of big cats, affecting prey availability, and increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events disrupting the delicate balance of the ecosystem and further threatening the survival of big cats.
  • Lack of political will: Despite significant efforts to protect big cats in India, there is often a lack of political will to implement and enforce conservation policies thus effectively undermining the conservation efforts and make it challenging to achieve sustainable outcomes.

Important steps taken by Government to protect big cats

  • Project Tiger: It is the flagship program of the Indian government for tiger conservation launched in 1973 to protect tigers and their habitats by creating protected areas, improving law enforcement, and involving local communities in conservation efforts.
  • National Tiger Conservation Authority: This is a statutory body established in 2005 to ensure the effective implementation of Project Tiger and other conservation programs.
    • It oversees the management of tiger reserves, provides technical support, and coordinates with other government agencies and stakeholders.
  • Wildlife Protection Act: This is a national law enacted in 1972 to protect wildlife in India by prohibiting hunting, poaching, and trade of wildlife and their derivatives.
    • The law also provides for the establishment of protected areas, including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and biosphere reserves.
  • National Wildlife Action Plan: This is a comprehensive plan for wildlife conservation in India that outlines strategies and actions to protect and manage wildlife and their habitats.
    • The plan includes specific targets for big cat conservation, including the recovery of tiger populations and the establishment of new protected areas.
  • Eco-Development Programme: This program aims to involve local communities in conservation efforts by providing them with alternative livelihood opportunities and promoting sustainable resource use practices.
    • The program aims to reduce human-wildlife conflict and increase community participation in conservation efforts.
  • M-STrIPES: This is a mobile-based monitoring system developed by the Wildlife Conservation Trust for monitoring and managing tiger populations.
    • The system uses GPS and mobile technology to collect data on tiger movements and habitat use, which is then used to inform conservation decisions.

Way ahead

  • Protecting big cats in India is a complex and challenging task that requires the cooperation of governments, local communities, and international organizations.
  • Addressing these challenges will require a concerted effort to develop and implement effective conservation policies and strategies while balancing the needs of wildlife and people.
  • Well planned strategy will go a long way in conservation, economics, culture, ecosystem services, and scientific research besides ensuring their survival and maintaining the ecological balance of the ecosystem.

Indonesia Shifts Capital From Jakarta To Borneo

In News

  • Recently, Indonesian government unveiled the site of the country’s new capital to show  the progress made on the city’s construction


  • The new capital Nusantara is located in East Kalimantan province on the Indonesian part of Borneo
  • East Kalimantan is an area with immense water resources and habitable terrain on Borneo island which is shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

Reasons For Shift

  • Jakarta is home to about 10 million people and three times that number in the greater metropolitan area.
  • Jakarta is the world’s most rapidly sinking city and at the current rate, it is estimated that one-third of the city could be submerged by 2050. uncontrolled groundwater extraction and  rising Java Sea due to climate change are considered main reasons for sinking.
  • It floods regularly and its streets are so clogged that it’s estimated congestion costs the economy $4.5 billion a year.
  • Jakarta’s air and water are heavily polluted.


  • East Kalimantan is rich in flora and fauna.Moving the capital to East Kalimantan would lead to massive deforestation and put the habitat of  animals and trees in danger and damage the ecosystem.
  • Relocation of  Indigenous Balik people because of the construction,

Time Zone for the Moon

  • In News
  • The European Space Agency has said that a universal timekeeping system for the moon is needed.

Need for the Time Zone

  • No fixed Time Zone: Lunar missions have operated on the time of the country that launched them. But with several lunar explorations heading for the launchpad, the European Space Agency has deemed the current system unsustainable.
    • Distinct planning is being done for the moon exploration by both governmental and private groups worldwide. Every type of conflict can be prevented if the Moon has its own time zone.
  • Increased Exploration: China completed construction of its own space station and previously hinted that Chinese astronauts would be on the moon by 2030. South Korea launched its own lunar spacecraft, Danuri, and India launched Chandrayaan-2 mission.
    • These missions will not only be on or around the moon at the same time, but they will often be interacting as well — potentially relaying communications for one another, performing joint observations or carrying out rendezvous operations, with increased exploration comes the potential for miscommunication.
  • Better communication: A series of space operations around the moon will require spacecraft and controllers to communicate together and fix their positions independently from Earth.
  • Universal Time Zone: The main objective of establishing a universal timekeeping system for the moon is to streamline contact among the various countries and entities, public and private, that are coordinating trips to and around the moon.
  • Successful working model of ISA: The International Space Station (ISA) does not have its own time zone. Instead, it runs on Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC, which is based on time kept by atomic clocks. This helps ease the time difference between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, as well as other space partners in Russia, Japan and Europe.

Upcoming Lunar Missions

  • In April, the M1 Moon Lander, developed by the Japanese firm iSpace, is scheduled to land on the moon. The Japanese Space Agency’s AXA’s robot and other payloads are also prepared for launch.
  • The United Arab Emirates is also prepared for the launch of it’s rover.
  • Intuitive Machines, a Houston-based business, created the Nova-C lander, which is scheduled to touch down on the Moon’s south pole in June. 
  • NASA prepares to send four astronauts into orbit around the moon next year. That mission will pave the way for the first crewed moon landing since Apollo 17 in December 1972, currently planned for 2025.
Project Gateway A small, human-tended space station orbiting the Moon that will provide extensive capabilities to support NASA’s Artemis campaign.Gateway’s capabilities for supporting sustained exploration and research in deep space include docking ports for a variety of visiting spacecraft, space for crew to live and work, and on-board science investigations to study heliophysics, human health, and life sciences, among other areas. Gateway will be a critical platform for developing technology and capabilities to support Moon and Mars exploration in the coming years.Gateway will be humanity’s first space station in lunar orbit to support NASA’s deep space exploration plans, along with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, Orion spacecraft, and the Human Landing System (HLS) that will send astronauts to the Moon.


  • Who will set the time: The international team looking at establishing a lunar time zone is debating whether a single organization should set and keep time on the moon.
  • Technical issues: Clocks run faster on the moon than on Earth, gaining about 56 microseconds each day. The exact difference depends on the position of the clock and whether it is in orbit or on the lunar surface.
    • A day on the moon lasts as long as 29.5 days on Earth.
  • One of the most important things to consider is whether separate lunar time will be helpful and effective for the astronauts working there.

Way Ahead

  • Efforts are being made to develop a base and support human habitation on the moon. The goal of setting a universal timekeeping system is to improve collaboration across all space agencies. The effort is part of a larger project to create a complete communication and navigation system for the moon. 
  • The international space agencies will need to be prepared to settle on a time zone before the proper time zone can be identified, a thorough research study is required for this.
  • Guidelines for Celebrities & Influencers on social media platforms

In News

  • The Ministry of Consumer Affair, Food & Public Distribution has released a set of guidelines for celebrities, influencers, and virtual influencers on social media platforms. 


  • The guidelines called ‘Endorsements Know-hows’ aims to ensure that the individuals do not mislead their audiences when endorsing products and services and that they are in compliance with the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. 
  • The Department of consumer affairs in January issued guidelines for such influencers, including virtual avatars, to disclose their material connections while endorsing products. 
  • The government explained its guidelines for paid endorsements by social media influencers, clarifying what it meant by the use of words like advertisement, sponsored, collaboration or paid promotion.

Guidelines Issued

  • The influencer-related violations account for over 30% of the advertisements investigated by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).
  • The Ministry of Consumer Affair, Food & Public Distribution stated in January 2023 that advertisers found to be deceiving customers would face fines of up to Rs. 50 lakh.
  • These influencers may also be refrained from using online platforms for up to 2 years.


  • Increase in the use of social media for promotional activities.
  • India’s social media influencer market is expected to reach ? 2,800 crores by 2025.

Issues of Misleading Advertisements

  • The misleading advertisement violates the Right to Choose & Right to be correctly informed about the products & services.
  • The false advertisement falsely portrays the use of product causing harm to the customers.
  • Deceptive marketing of the products.

Centre to reconsider ‘safe harbor’ clause in IT law

In News

  • Recently, the Union government formally outlined the Digital India Act, 2023

More about the news

  • Remodelling of the IT Act:
    • The Digital India Act, 2023 is a broad overhaul of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
  • Covering new and complex issues:
    • The Digital India Act would cover provisions such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), deepfakes, cybercrime, competition issues among internet platforms, and data protection.
    • The new law would seek to address “new complex forms of user harms” that have emerged in the years since the IT Act’s enactment, such as catfishing, doxxing, trolling, and phishing.
  • Reconsideration of the ‘safe harbour’ provision:
    • The government is reconsidering a key aspect of cyberspace ‘safe harbour’, which is the principle that ‘intermediaries’ on the internet are not responsible for what third parties post on their website.
      • This is the principle that allows social media platforms to avoid liability for posts made by users
    • Safe harbour has been reined in recent years by regulations like the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which require platforms to take down posts when ordered to do so by the government, or when required by law.
    • Changes in the new Act:
      • Platforms for which safe harbour was applied as a concept “have now morphed into multiple types of participants and platforms on the internet, functionally very different from each other, and requiring different types of guardrails and regulatory requirements.”
      • Social media platforms’ own moderation policies may now take a backseat to constitutional protections for freedom of expression.
  • Subsumption of other digital legislations:
    • Amendment to the IT Rules, 2021 says that platforms must respect users’ free speech rights. Three Grievance Appellate Committees have been established to take up content complaints by social media users. 
    • A slew of such digital legislation is now likely to be subsumed into the Digital India Act.
  • Additional mechanisms:
    • The government put out a draft Digital Personal Data Protection Bill in 2022, which would be one of the four prongs of the Digital India Act, with the National Data Governance Policy and amendments to the Indian Penal Code being others, along with rules formulated under the Digital India Act.
    • A new “adjudicatory mechanism” for criminal and civil offences committed online would come into place.

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021

  • Digital Media:
    • It covers digitised content that can be transmitted over the internet or computer networks.
    • It includes intermediaries such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.
    • It includes publishers of news and current affairs content and also curators of such content.
      • Publishers of news and current affairs content covers online papers, news portals, news agencies and news aggregators.
    • However, e-papers are not covered because print media comes under the purview of the Press Council of India.
      • Newspapers and TV news channels are governed under the Press Council of India Act, 1978 and Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1995 respectively.
    • It also excludes news operations not qualifying as a “systematic business activity” like blogs and non-profit publishers.
  • Equal Treatment to Traditional Media:
    • Digital media is brought under the ambit of Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 which gives takedown powers to the government.
      • The section allows the Centre to block public access to an intermediary “in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence relating to above”.
    • It also deprives the intermediaries of their “safe harbour protections” under Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000.
      • Safe Harbour provisions protect the intermediaries from liability for the acts of third parties who use their infrastructure for their own purposes.
      • For example, e-commerce platforms should not be held liable if people sell spurious goods and social media platforms should not be held liable if people post defamatory content.
  • Three Tier Check Structure:
    • Part III of the rules imposes three-tier complaints and adjudication structure on publishers.
      • Level I: Self-regulation.
      • Level II: Industry regulatory body headed by a former judge of the Supreme Court (SC) and High Court (HC) with additional members from a panel approved by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
      • Level III: Oversight mechanism that includes an inter ministerial committee with the authority to block access to content, which can also take suo moto cognisance of an issue and any grievance flagged by the Ministry.
  • Content Moderation Officers: 
    • Social media companies are needed to appoint officers who will be responsible for complying with content moderation orders.
  • Originator of Message: 
    • The rules make it mandatory for platforms such as WhatsApp to aid in identifying the “originator” of “unlawful” messages.
  • Grievance Redressal Portal: 
    • The rules mandate the creation of a grievance redressal portal as the central repository for receiving and processing all grievances.
    • Intermediaries are required to act on certain kinds of violations within 24 hours, and on all concerns of a complainant within 15 days.
  • Information Disclosure to Competent Authorities: 
    • The rules also hold that competent authorities, through an order, may demand pertinent information for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of crimes.
    • However, it excludes the intermediary from having to disclose the content of the personal messages.

Source: TH

Pritzker Architecture Prize

In News

  • Recently, British architect and urban planner Sir David Chipperfield has won the 2023 Pritzker Architecture Prize.


  • The Pritzker Architecture Prize is the highest international honour for architects.
  • The prize was designed to honour architects for their complete body of built work.
  • The Prize was founded in 1979 by Jay A. Pritzker and is funded by the Pritzker family and sponsored by the Hyatt Foundation.
  • Sir David Chipperfield was involved in famous projects like the 2012 Architecture Venice Biennale,The Neues Museum in Berlin and Procuratie Vecchie in Venice’s iconic St Mark’s Square.

Norway’s Sakharov Freedom Award

In News

  • Recently, Truth Hounds, which documents war crimes in the Ukraine conflict was awarded Norway’s Sakharov Freedom Award.


  • Sakharov Freedom Award is named after Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.
  • It  was established in 1980 by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee with the support and consent of Andrei Sakharov  to help people who, because of their opinions, beliefs, and conscience are persecuted or imprisoned
  • Truth Hounds is a Ukrainian rights group founded during the Maidan Revolution which led to the fall of pro-Russian former Ukranian president Viktor Yanukovych

Antibiotics administered on livestock cut carbon in soil

In News

  • Recently, Researchers at the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), have found that grazing by livestock leads to lower carbon storage in soil compared to grazing by wild herbivores.


  • The study was conducted in the Spiti region of the Himalayas and compared   livestock such as sheep  and their wild relatives such as the yak and ibex in how they affect the soil carbon stocks.
  • Although soils from the wild and livestock areas had many similarities, they differed in one key parameter called carbon use efficiency (CUE). CUE determines the ability of microbes to store carbon in the soil. The soil in the livestock areas had 19% lower CUE.
  • The researchers found that veterinary antibiotics such as tetracycline when released into the soil through dung and urine alter the microbial communities in soil in ways that are detrimental for sequestering carbon.


In Context

  • Recently, Indian Navy’s major Operational level exercise TROPEX 2023, culminated in the Arabian Sea. 


  • It is an operational level exercise that is conducted biennially and witnesses participation not only by all Indian Navy units but also of Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Coast Guard assets.
    • It included Coastal Defence exercise Sea Vigil and the Amphibious Exercise AMPHEX. 
  • It was set in the Indian Ocean including the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
  • TROPEX 23 witnessed participation of approximately 70 Indian Navy ships, six submarines and over 75 aircraft. 
  • The exercise is being conducted in different phases, both in harbour and at sea, encompassing various facets of combat operations, including live weapon firings.


  • This exercise provides an opportunity to test the combat readiness of the combined Fleets of the Indian Navy to operate in a multi-threat environment. 
  • The maritime exercise also facilitates operational level interaction with the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and the Coast Guard, which will further strengthen interoperability and joint operations in a complex environment.

Mimeusemia ceylonica

In News

  • Researchers from Tamil Nadu have spotted a rare moth species for the first time in India in the buffer zone of Kalakkad–Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) after it was last sighted 127 years ago – at Trincomalee in Sri Lanka in 1893.


  • Mimeusemia ceylonica is a moth species belonging to the subfamily Agaristinae and family Noctuidae. 
  • It was first illustrated and described by English entomologist George Hampson in 1893. 
  • The spotting of the Moth species in the district has added to the testimony of the rich biodiversity of the region.
                                                               MothsMoths are a group of insects that includes all members of the order Lepidoptera that are not butterflies.There are thought to be approximately 160,000 species of moth,many of which have yet to be described.Most species of moth are nocturnal, but there are also crepuscular and diurnal species.While the butterflies form a monophyletic group, the moths, comprising the rest of the Lepidoptera, do not. 


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