Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – July 31, 2018

Upcoming Current Affairs & Essay Test Series


Q.1) Recently, the Uttarakhand High Court declared that the “entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic” as a living entity, in this regard discuss the implications of this decision.


Uttarakhand High Court declared that the “entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic” have a distinct persona and corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person

What are the benefits of the decision:

  1. A clear move towards legalising environment ethics. This will prioritise environment impact in any of the government decisions.
  2. Confers rights to animals – not to be harmed/harassed in the name of development or pleasure of individuals.
  3. This is a more humane approach towards the environment around us.

What are the challenges posed by the decision:

  1. Sets a trend of judicial overreach – last year a river was declared as a living entity too.
  2. This brings in large amounts of litigation and laws into picture. This overburdens the already slow judiciary.
  3. Most of the times the PILs are used for private purposes and to settle corporate rivalries than for genuine interests of environment.
  4. The debate between environment and development cannot give a clear upper hand to any of these two. A balance in the form of a middle ground has to be found.
  5. It could lead to further delays in policy implementation and improving the standards of life in terms of infrastructure.
  6. The ramifications of vesting such a wide “right” in itself seem to be unassessed. For instance, being a legal entity, would the animals be liable for being sued or would the legal parent—the government officials—be responsible for paying damages in cases of man-animal conflicts.
  7. Already sufficient laws are in place to deal with cruelty towards animals – life Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA). The new judgement adds one more layer law.

Since laws are meant to regulate humans, for safeguarding animals and natural resources, the laws should prohibit and regulate human actions rather than vesting rights with animals and natural resources.


Q.2) Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) recently recommended to the Supreme Court that Delhi’s buses switch to Hydrogen-CNG, in this context discuss the benefits and challenges associated with using Hydrogen-CNG.

Answer: EPCA recommended to the Supreme Court that Delhi’s buses switch to H-CNG within the next two or three years, replacing the CNG.

H-CNG: H-CNG is a blend of hydrogen and CNG, the ideal hydrogen concentration being 18%.

It will allow for the utilisation of the existing infrastructure of CNG — buses as well as the piping network and dispensing station

Benefits with using Hydrogen-CNG:

  1. Fuel – Addition of  hydrogen to CNG improves efficiency. It enables up to 5% savings in fuel.
  2. Emissions – Compared to conventional CNG, use of H-CNG can reduce emission of carbon monoxide up to 70% and NOx up to 50%.
  3. Cost of production – IOCL has developed a technology that does away with the need for physical blending. Its ‘Compact Reforming Process’ directly produces a hydrogen-CNG mixture from natural gas, thus significantly lowering the cost of production.

Challenges posed by it:

  1. While CNG is available in the city, hydrogen has to be produced.
  2. The cost of hydrogen production is high.   
  3. Some “minor engine optimisation” is needed to make existing buses H-CNG-ready as it will involve “high temperature combustion”. Existing buses need not be replaced.
  4. Delhi’s public transport includes autos, which too run on CNG, but researchers believe that these are not yet ready for a switch. The tests so far have been conducted in heavy-duty engines.


Q.3) Running water is by far the most dominating geomorphic agent in shaping the earth’s surface in humid as well as in arid climates. Explain.


In humid areas – Humid regions receive heavy rainfall, thus running water is considered the most important geomorphic agent.

In arid areas – where the rivers flow, irrespective of the rainfall, water in the form of streams and rivers acts as geomorphic agent.

Erosional landforms:

  1. Valleys : Valleys start as small and narrow rills; the rills will gradually develop into long and wide gullies; the gullies will further deepen, widen and lengthen to give rise to valleys.
  2. Potholes : Over the rocky beds of hill-streams more or less circular depressions called potholes form because of stream erosion aided by the abrasion of rock fragments.
  3. Plunge Pools : At the foot of waterfalls, large potholes, quite deep and wide, form because of the sheer impact of water and rotation of boulders. Such large and deep holes at the base of waterfalls are called plunge pools.
  4. Meanders – these are found over floodplains and delta plains where stream gradients are very gentle. But very deep and wide meanders can also be found cut in hard rocks. Such meanders are called incised or entrenched meanders.
  5. River terraces – River terraces are surfaces marking old valley floor or floodplain levels. They may be bedrock surfaces without any alluvial cover or alluvial terraces consisting of stream deposits.

Depositional Landforms:

  1. Alluvial Fans – these  are formed when streams flowing from higher levels break into foot slope plains of low gradient.
  2. Deltas – these are like alluvial fans but develop at a different location. The load carried by the rivers is dumped and spread into the sea. If this load is not carried away far into the sea or distributed along the coast, it spreads and accumulates as a low cone.
  3. Floodplains – Floodplain is a major landform of river deposition. Fine sized materials like sand, silt and clay are carried by relatively slow moving waters and deposited over the bed and when the waters spill over the banks during flooding above the bed.
  4. Natural levees – these are found along the banks of large rivers. They are low, linear and parallel ridges of coarse deposits along the banks of rivers, quite often cut into individual mounds.
  5. Point bars – these  are also known as meander bars. They are found on the concave side of meanders of large rivers and are sediments deposited in a linear fashion by flowing waters along the bank.
  6. Braided Channels – When rivers carry coarse material, selective deposition of coarser materials causes formation of a central bar which diverts the flow towards the banks. As the valley widens, the water column is reduced and more and more materials get deposited as islands and lateral bars developing a number of separate channels of water flow called braided channels.


Q.4) Discuss the process of soil formation and basic factors that controls the formation of soils.  


Soil is the upper layer of earth. It consists of several layers, of which we see only the top layer.

Process of soil formation:

  1. Weathering – weathered mantle is the basic input for the soil formation
  2. Humus – Bacteria, inferior plants life mosses and lichens and organisms occupy this weathered material. The decomposition of these plants and animals leads to accumulation of humus.
  3. Porosity and permeability – Growth of plants, bushes and trees leads to penetration of roots down the soil. Similarly burrowing animals bring up particles. This leads to creation of a porous sponge-life soil that can permit air or retain water.
  4. Formation of mature soil – which is mixture of mineral and organic product forms.

Factors controlling the formation of soils

Five factors control the formation of soils.

Parent material

  1. Parent materials can be any insitu or on-site weathered rock debris or transported deposits.
  2. Soil formation depends upon the texture and structure as well as the mineral and chemical composition of the rock debris/deposits.


  1. Topography like parent materials is another passive control factor.
  2. It depends on the surface exposure to sunlight and sub-surface drainage over and through the parent materials.
  3. Soils will be thin on steep slopes and thick over flat upland areas.


  1. Climate is an important active factor in soil formation.
  2. The climatic elements involved in soil development are moisture and temperature – both seasonal and diurnal.
  • Biological activity – The vegetative cover and organisms that occupy the parent materials from the beginning and also at later stages help in adding organic matter, moisture retention, nitrogen etc.


  1. The length of time the soil forming processes operate, determines maturation of soils and profile development.
  2. A soil becomes mature when all soil-forming processes act for a sufficiently long time developing a profile.
  3. It doesn’t mean that all these factors act in isolation. They all act in union and affect the action of one another.
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