The Great Rift: Africa’s Splitting Plates

In Context

  • Scientists, in 2020, predicted a new ocean would be created as Africa gradually splits into two separate parts.

In news

  • East African Rift:
    • The division of the continent is connected to the East African Rift, a crack that stretches 56 kilometres and appeared in the desert of Ethiopia in 2005.
    • The crack has triggered the formation of a new sea.
  • Division of the continents:
    • This geological process will inevitably divide the continent, resulting in currently landlocked countries, such as Uganda and Zambia, obtaining their own coastlines in due time, which would take five to 10 million years according to the study.
    • As the Somali and Nubian tectonic plates continue to pull apart from each other, a smaller continent will be created from the rift, which will include present-day Somalia and parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania.
    • The Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea will eventually flood into the Afar region in Ethiopia and the East African Rift Valley, leading to the formation of a new ocean.


  • Advantages:
    • On the upside, the emergence of new coastlines will unlock a myriad of opportunities for economic growth.
    • These countries will have access to new ports for trade, as well as fishing grounds and sub-sea internet infrastructure, which will undoubtedly transform their economic potential.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Evacuation & displacement:
      • The necessary evacuation of people and the potential loss of lives will be an unfortunate cost of this natural phenomenon. 
      • As the plates continue to split in the future, this phenomenon will result in the displacement of communities, settlements and various flora and fauna.
        • Africa is the most impacted region when it comes to displacement, with a larger number of countries affected than any other continent or region.
        • As of 2015, more than 15 million people were internally displaced in Africa, according to the United Nations Environment Programme report on displacement and environment.
    • Environmental degradation:
      • These changes will impact their habitats due to climate change, resulting in environmental degradation. 
      • Rapid urbanisation and increased settlements will put pressure on natural resources, leading to a scarcity of water, energy and food.
    • Loss of biodiversity:
      • Furthermore, some species will disappear, while others will become endangered due to habitat changes.
    • Seismic activity & volcanism:
      • While the process of rifting may often go unnoticed, the separation of the Nubian and Somali plates can result in the formation of new faults, fissures and cracks or the reactivation of pre-existing faults, leading to seismic activity.
      • Additionally, the close proximity of the hot molten asthenosphere to the surface causes volcanism, further displaying the ongoing process of continental breakup.

Alternative theories of Continent formation

  • The most commonly accepted theory in place attributes continent formation to the movement of tectonic plates.
  • Earth is uncommon among the planets and also from our moon that its outer surface is divided into rigid slabs, which were called tectonic plates by Wegener in his theory.
    • While their surfaces exhibit evidence of recent deformation, neither planet has a surface divided into plates.
  • As the technology advanced, making it possible for deeper exploration, the theories of continental drift and seafloor spreading got positive scientific data in support.
    • The two theories were merged to develop the modern plate tectonic theory.

Plate Tectonic Theory/Plate Tectonic

  • Plate tectonic theory had its beginnings in 1915 when Alfred Wegener proposed his theory of “continental drift. 
  • According to the theory, Earth has a rigid outer layer, known as the lithosphere, which is typically about 100 km (60 miles) thick and overlies a plastic (moldable, partially molten) layer called the asthenosphere
  • The lithosphere is broken up into:
    • seven very large continental- and ocean-sized plates,
    • six or seven medium-sized regional plates, and 
    • several small plates
  • These plates move relative to each other.
    • They typically move at rates of 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) per year, and interact along their boundaries.
    • They converge, diverge, or slip past one another. 
    • Mountain formation:
      • Plate motions cause mountains to rise where plates push together or converge. 
    • Ocean formation:
      • Continents fracture and oceans are formed where plates pull apart or diverge.
  • The continents are embedded in the plates and drift passively with them, which over millions of years results in significant changes in Earth’s geography.
  • Such interactions are thought to be responsible for most of Earth’s seismic and volcanic activity, although earthquakes and volcanoes can occur in plate interiors.
  • Evidence of Plate Tectonic Theory:
  • Continent Puzzle:
    • The continents fit together almost like puzzle pieces forming Pangaea (one super-continent).
  • Fossil evidence:
    • Fossils on different continents are similar to fossils on continents that were once connected.  
    • When the continents split, different life forms developed.
  • Distributions of rocks:
    • Most distributions of rocks within Earth’s crust, including minerals, fossil fuels, and energy resources, are a direct result of the history of plate motions and collisions and the corresponding changes in the configurations of the continents and ocean basins.

Way ahead

  • Rapid occurrences such as the sudden splitting faults may lend a sense of urgency to continental rifting, the process itself is extremely slow and can go unnoticed most of the time as it progressively splits Africa.
  • Several planetary transformations are occurring, primarily as a result of climate change. Devastating weather patterns owing to global warming are altering landscapes and raising sea levels.
  • Although human displacement is not new, climate change exacerbates gradual and abrupt environmental crises by increasing their intensity, frequency and scope.

Western Ghats

In News

  • Recently, the Supreme Court directed the Environment Ministry to file its counter-affidavit to a petition seeking judicial intervention to protect the Western Ghats from destruction.


  • The Western Ghats are a 1600 km long mountain chain along the west coast of India running from the river Tapi in the north to Kanyakumari in the south.
  • They pass through States  of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu (6 in number). They are known by various regional names like Sahyadri, Nilgiris etc.
  • Western Ghats have a  tropical humid climate .The western side of the Ghat receives more rainfall than the eastern side due to windward effect.
  • Western Ghats was declared as a world heritage site in 2012 by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


  • Western ghats feed a large number of perennial rivers of peninsular India including the three major eastward-flowing rivers Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri. The peninsular India receives most of their water supply from rivers originating in the Western Ghats.
  • The Western Ghats influence the Indian monsoon weather patterns .They are the reason for heavy rainfall along the western coast.
  • Western Ghats with their forest eco systems sequester large amount of carbon.It is estimated that they neutralise around 4 million tonnes of carbon every year- around 10% of emissions neutralised by all Indian forests
  • Western Ghats are one of the eight  biodiversity hot spots of the world.
  • The Western Ghats have high levels of plant and animal endemism . It is estimated that 52% of  tree species and 65% of amphibians found in western Ghats are endemic.


  • Mining: The mining activities have grown rapidly and often in violation of all laws, resulting in serious environmental damage and social disruption.
    • Unsustainable mining has increased vulnerability to landslides, damaged water sources and agriculture, thus negatively affected the livelihoods of the people living in those areas
  • Extraction of Forest Produce: Human communities living within and adjacent to protected areas in the Western Ghats are often dependent on it for  extraction of forest produce to meet a diversity of subsistence and commercial needs.
  • Livestock Grazing: Livestock grazing within and bordering protected areas is a serious problem causing habitat degradation across the Western Ghats.
  • Plantations: Agroforestry systems in the Western Ghats are replacing native endemic species with tea, coffee, rubber and monocultures of various species, including the recently introduced oil palm.
  • Encroachment by Human Settlements: Human settlements occur both within and outside protected areas all across the Western Ghats and represent a significant threat.
  • Hydropower Projects: Large dam projects in Western Ghats have resulted in huge environmental costs.

Committees and Recommendations

  • Gadgil Committee Report, 2011:
    • The Ministry of Environment & Forests had constituted the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) under the Chairmanship of Prof Madhav Gadgil in 2010 to primarily demarcate ecologically sensitive areas in Western Ghats and recommend measures for management of these ecologically sensitive areas.
    • Recommendations:
      • The committee defined the boundaries of the Western Ghats for the purposes of ecological management.
      • It proposed that this entire area be designated as ecologically sensitive area (ESA)and smaller regions within the region  were to be identified as ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) I, II or III based on their existing condition and nature of threat.
      • It proposed to divide the area into about 2,200 grids, of which 75 per cent would fall under ESZ I or II or under already existing protected areas such as wildlife sanctuaries or natural parks.
      • The committee proposed a Western Ghats Ecology Authority to regulate these activities in the area.
    • None of the six concerned states agreed with the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee.
  • Kasturirangan Committee 2012:
    • The Environment Ministry then constituted a High-Level Working Group on Western Ghats under Kasturirangan to “examine” the Gadgil Committee report in a “holistic and multidisciplinary fashion in the light of responses received” from states, central ministries and others.
    • Recommendations: 
      • The Kasturirangan report sought to bring just 37% of the Western Ghats under the Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) zones .
      • It distinguished between cultural (58% occupied in the Western Ghats by it like human settlements, agricultural fields and plantations) and natural landscape (90% of it should come under ESA according to the committee).
      • A ban on mining, quarrying and sand mining.
      • No new thermal power projects, but hydro power projects allowed with restrictions.
      • A ban on new polluting industries.
      • Building and construction projects up to 20,000 sq m were to be allowed but townships were to be banned.
      • Forest diversion could be allowed with extra safeguards.
    • The Environment  Ministry  decided to implement the Kasturirangan Committee report on the Western Ghats and declared ESA over 37% of the Western Ghats under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Way Forward

  • There is a need to find balance between  conservation efforts and development by ensuring human actions that contribute to livelihoods but hamper biodiversity conservation are kept in check.

Governor’s role in Floor Test

In News

  • Recently, Supreme Court hearing cases filed in the wake of the Shiv Sena political crisis  asked whether the Governor can call for a floor test in case of internal dissatisfaction within a party.


  • The position of governor from the time of independence has been under spotlight for issues like criteria of selection, Misuse of power, Favouritism, involvement in the affairs of the elected government etc.

Floor Test

  • A floor test is primarily taken to know whether the executive enjoys the confidence of the legislature. 
  • This happens both in the Parliament and the State Legislative Assemblies.
  • It is a constitutional mechanism under which a Chief Minister appointed by the Governor can be asked to prove majority on the floor of the Legislative Assembly of the state. 

Constitutional Provisions

  • Article 175(2) of the Indian Constitution: It gives the Governor the power to summon the members of the House and call for a floor test to prove whether the incumbent government has the majority in the State Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha).
    • On the central or national level, this power lies with the President.
  • Article 163 of the Indian Constitution: However, the Governor can exercise the above only as per Article 163 of the Constitution which says that the Governor acts on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister.
  • Article 164 of the Indian constitution: It states that, “The council of ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Legislative Assembly of the State.”
    • And so, if they do not enjoy the Legislature’s support, the Executive has to step down.

Supreme Court Recommendations

The Supreme court has over the years clarified powers and functions of the governor in a number of cases, some of them and their recommendations are given below.

  • Sr Bommai Judgement 
    • Stated that discretion of Governor does not apply to hung assembly,
    • Laid emphasis on floor test in the house within 48 hours (although it can be extended to 15 days) so that legislature should decide the matter and Governor’s discretion should merely be a triggering point.
  • Rameshwar Prasad Judgement
    • Opined that A Governor cannot shut out post-poll alliances altogether as one of the ways in which a popular government may be formed.
    • Unsubstantiated claims of horse-trading or corruption in efforts at government formation cannot be cited as reasons to dissolve the Assembly.
  • Shamsher Singh Judgement
    • In this case, a seven-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court said that the President and Governor, custodians of all executive and other powers under various Articles, shall exercise their formal constitutional powers only upon and in accordance with the advice of their Ministers save in a few well-known exceptional situations.
  • Nabam Rebia Judgement
    • In this case, the Supreme Court cited the observations of B R Ambedkar: “The Governor under the Constitution has no function which he can discharge by himself; no functions at all. While he has no functions, he has certain duties to perform, and the House will do well to bear in mind this distinction.”
    • SC ruled that Article 163 of the Constitution does not give the Governor a general discretionary power to act against or without the advice of his Council of Ministers.

Various committees Recommendations

  • Apart from the Supreme court Various committees have looked into the role of Governor .some of recommendations  are:
    • Sarkaria Commission Report (1988):
      • Governor should be a detached figure without intense political links or should not have taken part in politics in recent past, 
      • Governors must not be removed before completion of their five-year tenure, except in rare and compelling circumstances
    • Venkatachaliah Commission (2002):
      • Governor’s appointment should be entrusted to a committee comprising the prime minister, the home minister, the speaker of the Lok Sabha and the chief minister of the concerned state. 
      • If the governor has  to be removed before completion of term, the central government should do so only after consultation with the Chief Minister.
    • Punchhi Commission (2010): 
      • The phrase “during the pleasure of the President” should be deleted from the Constitution; “Governor should be removed only by a resolution of the state legislature.

ICC Arrest warrant against Putin

In News

  • Recently, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for war crimes for President Vladimir Putin and a second Russian official.

More about the news

  • The warrant is issued for the alleged war crime of unlawfully deporting and transferring children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
  • ICC’s warrant:
    • The court says Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022. 
    • The court has also issued a warrant for Maria Lvova-BelovaRussia’s commissioner for children’s rights, who has been the public face of a Kremlin-sponsored program in which Ukrainian children and teenagers have been taken to Russia.

About International Criminal Court(ICC)

  • About:
    • The ICC is headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands.
    • It was established under a 1998 treaty called the “Rome Statute”.
      • Previously, the United Nations Security Council had established ad hoc tribunals to address atrocities in places such as the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
  • Functions:
    • It “investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.”
    •  The ICC can also practice its jurisdiction over cases referred by the UN Security Council to it.
  • Members:
    • Presently, 123 countries are party to the Rome Statute, including Britain, Japan, Afghanistan, and Germany. 
    • However, the USA has kept its distance, maintaining that ICC should not exercise jurisdiction over citizens of countries that are not a party to it. 
    • Similarly, India and China have also abstained from membership.
  • Need of ICC:
    • The ICC was established to prosecute the most heinous offenses only when a country’s own legal machinery fails to act, as was the case in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. 
  • Difference between ICC & ICJ:
    • Unlike the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which deals with countries and inter-state disputes, the ICC prosecutes individuals. 
  • Limitations:
    • However, the ICC’s jurisdiction is limited to offences occurring after it came into effect on July 1, 2002.
    • Additionally, the offences should be committed either in a country that ratified the agreement or by a national of a ratifying country.
    • The court has no power to arrest sitting heads of state or bring them to trial, and instead must rely on other leaders and governments to act as its sheriffs around the world.
      • A suspect who manages to evade capture may never have a hearing to confirm the charges.
Independent International Commission of Inquiry Report on UkraineIt is an UN-mandated investigative body.Report highlights:In its report dated March 16, the commission outlined the body of evidence and how it points to Russian authorities committing a “wide range of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in many regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation.” Many of these amount to war crimes and include wilful killings, attacks on civilians, unlawful confinement, torture, rape, and forced transfers and deportations of children, the report states.Contending that the Russian armed forces carried out attacks with explosives in populated areas with “an apparent disregard for civilian harm and suffering”. The report documented the indiscriminate, disproportionate attacks and failure to take precautions, thereby violating international humanitarian law.The commission also found that the Russian military’s waves of attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and its use of torture could amount to crimes against humanity.It also recommended further investigation to hold the responsible agents comprehensively accountable, in a way that includes both criminal responsibility and the victims’ right to truth, reparation, and non-repetition.Precursor to the ICC warrants:Based on more than 500 interviews, satellite images, and visits to detention sites and graves, the report served as an immediate precursor to the ICC warrants.

Source: TH


In News 

  • Researchers at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) have developed a low-cost star sensor for astronomy and small CubeSat class satellite missions.

[Exploded view of Starberry-Sense star sensor]

About Starberry-Sense

  • The star sensor named Starberry-Sense can help small CubeSat class satellite missions find their orientation in space.
  • the Starberry-Sense is ready for launch on the PS4-Orbital Platform by ISRO and can be used for CubeSats and other small satellite missions in the future.
  • Features: Based on commercial/off-the-shelf components, this star sensor costs less than 10% of those available in the market. 
    • The brain of the instrument is a single-board Linux computer called Raspberry Pi, which is widely used among electronics hobby enthusiasts.
    • Researchers coupled some highly optimised algorithms with a Raspberry Pi and turned it into a potent star sensor, named StarBerry-Sense. 
Star sensorAny satellite needs to know where it is pointed in space, and the instrument used for this purpose is called a star sensor. The position of stars in the sky is fixed relative to each other and can be used as a stable reference frame to calculate the orientation of a satellite in orbit. This is done by correctly identifying the stars in the sky towards which the star sensor is pointed. The star sensor is essentially a celestial compass. SmallSatsSmall spacecraft (SmallSats) focus on spacecraft with a mass of fewer than 180 kilograms and about the size of a large kitchen fridge.  Even with small spacecraft, there is a large variety of sizes and masses that can be differentiated.CubeSatsThey are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. The cube-shaped satellites are approximately four inches long, have a volume of about one quart, and weigh about 3 poundsThe development of CubeSats has advanced into its own industry with government, industry, and academia collaborating for ever-increasing capabilities.  They now provide a cost-effective platform for science investigations, new technology demonstrations, and advanced mission concepts using constellations, and swarms disaggregated systems.In recent years CubeSats and small satellite missions have gained huge popularity. These missions utilize commercially available components for their design and development,

AFINDEX and African Chiefs Conclave

In News

  • The Indian Army will host the second edition of the Africa-India field training exercise (AFINDEX-23) and African Chiefs Conclave in Pune.
    • Over 22 countries are scheduled to attend the conclave while 20 countries are expected to be part of the exercise.


  • The first Africa-India field training exercise was held in Pune in March 2019 which saw the participation of 20 African nations.
  • The India-Africa Defence Ministers Conclave was held on the sidelines of the DefExpo 2020 in Lucknow which adopted the Lucknow Declaration, laying down the path for defence cooperation between India and African nations.
    • As a follow-up to it, an India-Africa defence dialogue was held at Gandhinagar on the sidelines of DefExpo 2022.


  • AFINDEX: The exercise is divided into four phases in which trainers would be initially trained.
    • This would be followed by a humanitarian mine action and a peace-keeping operations phase.
    • Maximum use of indigenous equipment is being made during the exercise and new generation equipment manufactured in India would be showcased during the exercise to give a feel of their efficacy to the troops of the participating nations, in line with the effort to promote defence exports.
  • Conclave: The Chiefs Conclave will be held on March 28 and will take place over two sessions.
    • The first session will explore the key aspects of defence partnership while the second session will focus on the Indian defence industry’s outreach to Africa.

Objectives and Need 

  • India is looking at Africa as a major market to export its indigenous defence equipment, but at the same time has been working on addressing the capacity enhancement requirements of African armies.
  • The objective is to continue to build upon the initiatives taken to strengthen India-Africa relations, with a focus on enhancing peace and security and creating opportunities to exchange ideas and perspectives.
  • It is also an opportunity to learn from the African experience in cooperative security and management of security crisis situations,

Horseshoe Crabs

In News

  • Scientists have urged the Odisha government to immediately come up with a robust protection mechanism before the horseshoe crabs become extinct due to destructive fishing practices. 

About Horseshoe Crab

  • Horseshoe crabs are marine and brackish water arthropods of the family Limulidae and the only living members of the order Xiphosura.
  • Four living species of horseshoe crabs:
    • Limulus polyphemus, the Atlantic or American horseshoe crab, found along the Atlantic coast of the United States and the Southeast Gulf of Mexico.
    • The tri-spine horseshoe crab (Tachypleus tridentatus), the coastal horseshoe crab (Tachypleus gigas) and the mangrove horseshoe crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda) in coastal waters of India, southeast Asia, China and Japan. 
  • They have been around for more than 300 million years, making them even older than dinosaurs. They look like prehistoric crabs, but are actually more closely related to scorpions and spiders. 
  • The horseshoe crab has a hard exoskeleton and 10 legs, which it uses for walking along the seafloor.
  • Female horseshoe crabs are about one-third larger than the males. 


  • Horseshoe crabs utilize different habitats depending on their stage of development.
  • The eggs are laid on coastal beaches in late spring and summer. After hatching, the juvenile horseshoe crabs can be found offshore on the sandy ocean floor of tidal flats. Adult horseshoe crabs feed deeper in the ocean until they return to the beach to spawn.
  • Maximum density of Horseshoe crabs is found along the Odisha coast and Balasore used to be the largest spawning ground. 


  • Day by day, the population of the blue blood crabs is decreasing. After 10 years, there will not be any Horseshoe crab in India.
  • Overharvesting for use as food, bait and biomedical testing, and because of habitat loss from coastal reclamation and development. 
  • Shoreline alterations that are engineered to protect beaches from erosion and sea level rise due to climate change also affect their spawning habitats.
Medicinal Use A horseshoe crab’s bright blue blood is used to test vaccines, drugs and medical devices to ensure that they aren’t contaminated with dangerous bacterial toxins. A horseshoe crab’s blood contains a special clotting agent limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL) which detects a contaminant called endotoxin. If even tiny amounts of endotoxin make their way into vaccines or injectable drugs, the results can be deadly. Therefore, it has been essential for testing the safety of biomedical products since the 1970s, when it replaced rabbit testing. Every year, pharmaceutical companies roundup half a million Atlantic horseshoe crabs, bleed them, and return them to the ocean after which many will die. 

Conservation Status:

  • The American horseshoe crab is listed as Vulnerable to extinction and the tri-spine horseshoe crab is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • Horseshoe crabs are listed under Schedule IV of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

MoU for Lakhpati Didis

In News

  • The Ministry of Rural Development signed an Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU) with the Ministry of Ayush to collaborate in developing skilled personnel.

About the MoU

  • Lakhpati Didis are the Women with annual earnings of Rs. 1 lakh and more from the Self Help Groups (SHGs).
    • Self Help Groups (SHGs) are small groups of poor people. The members of an SHG face similar problems. They help each other, to solve their problems. 
    • SHGs promote small savings among their members. The savings are kept with the bank. This is the common fund in the name of the SHG. The SHG gives small loans to its members from its common fund.
  • Skilling of personnel will be done by imparting training to rural poor youth and women’s for Ayush healthcare system under the Deen Dayal  Upadhyaya-Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY).
  • Initial target is to train a large number of women, which will be increased going forward. 
  • Through the MoU, it is expected to create synergy and convergence between both ministries, and enable fulfilment of the larger goal of community development and poverty alleviation in rural areas. 
  • It will also ensure the training of 22000 rural poor youth under National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) compliant courses namely Panchakarma Technician, Panchkarma Assistant, Ayurvedic Masseur, Kshara Karma Technician, Cupping Therapy Assistant etc.
  • To facilitate this, the Ministry of Rural Development will ensure funding i.e., Central Government and State Government on the basis of the criteria given for the DDU-GKY.

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) 

  • DDU-GKY is one of the flagship poverty alleviation programs which was launched on 25th September 2014 under National Rural Livelihoods Mission, Ministry of Rural Development.
  • It is aimed at skilling the poorest of the poor youth between the ages of 15 and 35 years from Rural India. 
  • As a part of the Skill India campaign, it plays an instrumental role in supporting the social and economic programs of the government like the Make in India, Digital India, Smart Cities and Start-Up India, Stand-Up India campaigns to position India as the globally preferred manufacturing hub, while dovetailing its efforts to significantly contribute in other flagship programs of the nation.  
  • A total of 13.88 lakh candidates have been trained and 8.24 lakh candidates have been placed under DDU-GKY so far.


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