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15th March Current Affairs

What are White Phosphorus bombs?

(GS-II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate)

In News:

Allegations of white phosphorus munitions being used by Russia and Ukraine are emerging.

What is white phosphorus?

It is a colourless, white or yellow, waxy solid.

Occurrence: It does not occur naturally. It is manufactured using phosphate rocks.

It is a highly combustible substance that reacts with oxygen in the air.

It can catch fire at temperatures as low as 10 to 15 degrees above room temperature.

Due to its combustible nature, every country has strict regulations regarding its manufacturing and handling.

Applications:

It is used mainly in the military, and other applications may include as a component in fertilisers, food additives and cleaning compounds. Initially, it was also used in pesticides and fireworks, but many countries have banned its use in several sectors.

Is White Phosphorus an incendiary or chemical weapon?

WP has not been categorised as an incendiary or chemical weapon by international agencies.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is an intergovernmental organisation and the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, has not listed WP in any of the three Schedules of Chemical Weapons.

However, the United Nations considers it as an incendiary chemical.

The general regulations of Protocol III on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons may apply when it is used in military actions.

Protocol III specifically mentions it is not applicable on munitions that are illuminants, tracers, smoke or signalling systems thus making it confusing for many if the use of WP can be considered a war crime or not. Protocol III specifically does not ban the use of White Phosphorous in military action. It only restricts its use near the civilian population.

Concerns:

The main reason behind WP being considered incendiary is its effect on humans.

When WP comes in contact with the human skin, it can cause both thermal and chemical burns.

It can produce several chemicals when it comes in contact with the skin, such as phosphorus pentoxide that reacts with water in the skin and produces phosphoric acid that is highly corrosive.

About OPCW:

It is an international organization established by the Chemical Weapons Convention, 1997 to implement and enforce the terms of the non-proliferation treaty, which prohibits the use, stockpiling, or transfer of chemical weapons by signatory states.

By the 2001 Relationship Agreement between the OPCW and the United Nations, the OPCW reports on its inspections and other activities to the UN through the office of the Secretary General.

The organisation was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize “for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons”.

Powers:

The OPCW is authorized to perform inspections to verify that signatory states are complying with the convention.

The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits:

  • Developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling, or retaining chemical weapons.
  • The direct or indirect transfer of chemical weapons.
  • Chemical weapons use or military preparation for use.
  • Assisting, encouraging, or inducing other states to engage in CWC-prohibited activity.
  • The use of riot control agents “as a method of warfare.”

Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV)

(GS-III: Awareness in space)

In News:

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is all geared up for the maiden flight of its mini rocket launcher – Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) – in May.

About the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV):

The indigenously developed mini-rocket-launcher is specially designed to carry smaller commercial satellites into the low-earth orbit (LEO) from 200-2,000 km above the Earth’s surface.

It has a payload capacity of upto 500 kg.

Designed to bolster the agency’s partnership with the private sector for the launch of commercial satellites.

The SSLV is the smallest vehicle at 110-ton mass at ISRO.

It will take only 72 hours to integrate. Only six people will be required to do the job.

The cost will be only around Rs 30 crore.

It is best suited for launching multiple microsatellites at a time and supports multiple orbital drop-offs.

Need for?

Launch of small satellites into low earth orbits has become significant in recent years on account of the need for developing countries, private corporations, and universities for small satellites.

About 15 to 20 SSLVs would be required every year to meet the national demand alone.

What is PSLV?

The launch of small satellites has until now been dependent on ‘piggy-back’ rides with big satellite launches on ISRO’s work-horse – the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle which has had over 50 successful launches so far.

PSLV can launch satellites weighing in the range of 1000 kg. But, it takes 70 days to integrate this launch vehicle.

It is the third generation launch vehicle of India. It is the first Indian launch vehicle to be equipped with liquid stages.

Difference between PSLV and GSLV:

India has two operational launchers- Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).

PSLV was developed to launch low-Earth Orbit satellites into polar and sun synchronous orbits. It has since proved its versatility by launching geosynchronous, lunar and interplanetary spacecraft successfully.

On the other hand, GSLV was developed to launch the heavier INSAT class of geosynchronous satellites into orbit. In its third and final stage, GSLV uses the indigenously developed cryogenic upper stage.

Different orbits:

  • Geostationary orbit (GEO)
  • Low Earth orbit (LEO)
  • Medium Earth orbit (MEO)
  • Polar orbit and Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO)
  • Transfer orbits and geostationary transfer orbit (GTO)
  • Lagrange points (L-points)

Yamuna river pollution

(GS-III: Conservation and pollution related issues)

In News:

According to estimates made by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi generates 3,800 million litres of sewage per day. NMCG is looking into ways to prevent this.

Background:

The over 1,300-km-long Yamuna is among the most polluted rivers in the country and also provides water to more than half of the national capital.

Just 2% or 22 km of Yamuna falls in Delhi, but 98 % of pollution in the Yamuna comes from the national capital due to untreated or semi-treated industrial effluents or sewage that is being discharged into the river in the 22 km stretch.

Why is Yamuna so polluted?

The sewage treatment plants of Delhi are major contributors of the Pollutants being discharged in the river.

Pollutants discharge from different types of industry is also a major issue.

Agriculture activities along the banks of the river in Delhi contributes to river pollution.

Agricultural waste and pesticide discharge from the Haryana field also contributes to the pollution.

The low volume of water flow in the river causes the pollutants to accumulate and raise the pollution level.

About Yamuna River:

The river Yamuna is a major tributary of river Ganges.

Originates from the Yamunotri glacier near Bandarpoonch peaks in the Mussoorie range of the lower Himalayas in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand.

It meets the Ganges at the Sangam in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh after flowing through Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi.

Tributaries: Chambal, Sindh, Betwa and Ken.

International Maths Day 2022

(GS-III: Science and Technology)

In News:

14th March, every year is observed as the International Day of Mathematics.

Details:

The International Day of Mathematics is a project led by the International Mathematical Union with the support of numerous international and regional organizations.

The first International Day of Mathematics was marked in March 2020.

March 14 is already celebrated in many countries as Pi Day because that date is written as 3/14 in some countries and the mathematical constant Pi is approximately 3.14.

Theme: The theme for the 2022 International Day of Mathematics is Mathematics Unites.

Celebrated every year on December 22.

It is observed to honor the birth anniversary of the famous mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan who greatly contributed towards mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series and continued fractions.

2021 marks 134th birth anniversary of Dr Ramanujan.

Highlights of Srinivasa Ramanujan’s life:

In 1911, Ramanujan published the first of his papers in the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society.

Ramanujan traveled to England in 1914, where Hardy tutored him and collaborated with him in some research.

He worked out the Riemann series, the elliptic integrals, hypergeometric series, the functional equations of the zeta function, and his own theory of divergent series.

The number 1729 is known as the Hardy-Ramanujan number after a famous visit by Hardy to see Ramanujan at a hospital. It is the smallest number which can be expressed as the sum of two different cubes in two different ways.

Hardy observed Ramanujan’s work primarily involved fields less known even amongst other pure mathematicians.

Ramanujan’s home state of Tamil Nadu celebrates 22 December as ‘State IT Day’, memorialising both the man and his achievements, as a native of Tamil Nadu.

Ramanujan compiled around 3,900 results consisting of equations and identities. One of his most treasured findings was his infinite series for

The Dev Patel-starrer ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ (2015) was a biopic on the mathematician.