1. Observation / Analysis about Environment in Prelims-19
  2. How to prepare Environment and biodiversity for Prelims – 2020?
  3. How to prepare Agriculture for Prelims – 2020?
  4. Answerkey-2019: Environment & Biodiversity
    1. Parks & Sanctuaries
    2. Flora Fauna
    3. Afforestation
    4. Environmental Research Development (R&D)
    5. Energy: clean / renewable / conventional
    6. Pollution
    7. International Treaties / Org (1 MCQ)
  5. Answerkey-2019: Agriculture (2 MCQs)

Observation / Analysis about Environment in Prelims-19

UPSC Answerkey Environment Bidoversity with Analysis

  • UPSC conducted civil services IAS/IPS preliminary exam on 2nd June 2019.
  • Total 21 out of 100 questions in General Studies Paper-1 were devoted to Environment and 2 MCQs on Agriculture.
Environment, agriculture in Prelim 2018 and before Prelim-2019: Continuity and Change
2018: 3 Easy, while rest of the environment -Agro MCQs in medium to tough category. 3 Easy + 7 Medium + 10 Tough MCQs from environment. Proportionately the medium difficulty questions have increased than last year/
Ever since the merger of forest service prelims with Indian civil services (IAS/IPS) prelims, UPSC had been devoting about 1/5th of the Prelim paper-1 to environment, biodiversity topics but in 2017 and 2018 less number of questions were asked. Environment reaches its former glory with 20 MCQs.
Traditional preparation sources giving decreasing utility in Prelims
– Shankar’s book: 5 MCQs (2017), 2 MCQs (2018)
– India Yearbook: 0 (2017), 1 MCQ (2018)
– NCERT and NIOS may help solving 1-2 questions.
Traditional routine preparation sources have given very little utility:
– Shankar: 2 MCQs, IYB 0 MCQ, NCERT/NIOS: 0 MCQ.
– Majority of the environment questions are from RandomGK sources (10 MCQs) and for from the contemporary news items from the year 2017 (5 MCQs).
Each year questions from the ‘About us’ websites of obscure International organisations and funds – TEEB, CCAC, GCCA, PAGE, GACSA, Biocarbon fund, Forest carbon facility, birdlife international etc. Thankfully that “international org & fund” lunacy is over. Only one question from ramsar convention asked.
2-3 questions from flora-fauna. Trend continued with questions on Two humped camel, Himalayan Nettle, Irrawaddy Dolphin.
Wildlife Park and Sanctuary related questions are asked from obscure and contrived angles. They’re never easy. Same sadistic game is continued.
Usually a few question on R&D such as fuel cell, bio toilets, bioremediation, algae fuel, carbon sequester. but nothing in 2018. R&D prem resurfaces with H-CNG, Remote Sensing.
2018: Pollution was the single largest sub-topic asked within Environment Same trend with 9 out of 20 MCQs devoted to Environment.
Agriculture before 2019:
– From 2013 to 2018: 4-8 MCQs asked from agriculture
– They were centered around cropping methods (vegetative propagation, contour bunding, conservation agro) , agro-research especially from genetic engineering angle, obscure Yearbook organizations like APEDA and low profile schemes on millet promotion and seed villages.
Agriculture in 2019:
– Only 2 MCQs. (Plants in New world, Kharif crops). [I count the FCI pricing in Economy and Poultry-nitrogen emission in Environment subtopic pollution.]
– Since examiner kept quota of only 2 MCQs so it doesn’t leave space for asking all variety and sub-topics of agriculture anyways.
– 2018: GuessmastergiriTM possible in 2 MCQ, while 3 were Anti-guessmaster.
– NET Gain: 2(2)-0.67(3)= +1.99 marks #without-studying-anything
GuessmastergiriTM possible only in ONE MCQ, while 2 MCQs were Anti-guessmaster. So NET gain is 2(1)-0.67(2)=+0.66 marks only.
– It shows UPSC examiner has become very conscious in framing the statements to shutdown the Youtube Clickbait Channels of certain Mercurial Elements (चंचल तत्व).

To conclude, Environment section is medium to tough. UPSC examiner has accomplished that mostly by focusing on Contemporary Affairs that happened before 2018, and ensure that it was from outside the routine preparation sources.

How to prepare Environment and biodiversity for Prelims – 2020?

  • To cultivate the logical elimination 50:50 skill, You must have strong foundation in environment. So avoid the Baniyaa-giri that why waste time/money on NCERT/NIOS when no direct questions are coming. You should prepare them irrespectively.
  • ShankarIAS Environment Book (6th Ed) as base-book for advanced theories and contemporary issues on environment. Yes, relatively less MCQs came from here in 2019, it’s still more reliable than its rival publishers.
  • (When it is published next year) India Yearbook 2020 by Ministry of information and Broadcasting: Ch. 12 on Environment and Ch.1 on Land and People. Don’t buy India 2019 at this stage.
  • Majid Hussina’s Geography of India | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध ch. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Some of the flora-fauna / park-sanctuary questions require background knowledge of weather/climate/elevation/drainage so you need command over geography as well.
  • Selective study of the State of Forest Report
  • To keep the paper tough, UPSC examiner even lifts statements from bare acts and rules but if you engage in preparing those things, it’ll give poor cost:benefit.
  • In 2019, few questions were ‘National Geographic Kids GK’ like viviparous snakes & herbivore turtles. It’s futile to make a compilation of such wildlife GK, because UPSC examiner can always ask something random or technical that only an IFS (Forest) candidate with B.Sc (Agriculture / Zoology / Botany) can attempt it. Remember that some questions are meant to test the Forest Service candidates. UPSC examiner is not mandating you, as a non-IFS aspirant, must have impeccable command over zoology and botany.
  • For Current Affairs: IndianExpress, and whichever PDF compilation catches your fancy. Focus should be on the CA related to Pollution, Clean Energy, New legal amendments, SC/NGT Judgement, international treaties, funds, R&D, reports-rankings.
  • For Contemporary Affairs: In the environment segment the focus of UPSC examinations on contemporary office usually after a lag of one to two years. So, accordingly for Prelims-2020 you should prepare environment topics that were in news during 2018 from any ONE (free) PDF compilations you like. Don’t try to be Half-Blood-Prince, “I’ll make super-secret notes by compiling all Environment CA from Vision-2018, IASparliament-2018 and 5 other sources.” because even in the best case scenario such compilation will only help you arrive at 50:50 elimination stage.

How to prepare Agriculture for Prelims – 2020?

Since the merger of Forest service Prelims with civil service, good number of questions have been asked from the agriculture subject of course 2019 is an exception but one swallow doesn’t make a summer.
The agro MCQs in UPSC Prelims can be classified into three categories:

  1. Government Schemes:
  2. Cultivation & Irrigation Practice:
  3. R&D, Genetic engineering related:

Start with NCERT Class 7 to 12 textbooks on science, biology, social science, economy and geography.

  • You don’t have to read them from the first page to the last page. Do only selective study of the chapters related to agriculture. For example, Economy Class11 has content on green revolution. Biology Class12 has chapter on biotechnology. You’ll find irrigation, soil, crops related factoids from social science textbooks of 7 to 10. And so forth. Even if no direct questions are asked, these basic concepts may you arrive at 50:50 elimination stage in an MCQ.
  • Then, Majid Hussina’s Geography of India | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध ch. 4 (climate), 5 (vegetation), 6 (soil) and 9 (Agriculture).
  • IYB’s Chapter 4 on agriculture is useless, no direct questions are coming from it (based on the trend so far) So no need to waste time in it.
  • Last year three economic surveys and NITI Ayog’s 75 year document (or my three part- summary of it) for the descriptive questions on farm distress and solutions for Mains-GSM3.
  • Government’s Yojana and Kurukshetra magazines of atleast last one calendar year. 2018’s Conservation Agriculture MCQ was given verbatim in Feb-2018’s Kurukshetra magazine. They are also useful for the descriptive questions and essay paper in Mains. Read the original magazine to cultivate vocabulary and flowery language. Then go for PDF compilations for their bulleted version / mindmaps for faster revision on the Mains exam night.
  • In 2018, UPSC asked about a low profile scheme “National Programme for Organic Production’ (NPOP)”- therefore, some over-enthusiastic candidates will go through governments OUTPUT OUTCOME BUDGET Document, to make a ‘half-blood-prince’ note for “all the low-profile government schemes”. But, this will give a poor cost: benefit.
  • For current events, IndianExpress. And whichever PDF compilation catches your fancy. Since PDF compilation makers donot have any cost of printing- They will go on to copy paste 50 dozen crop hybrid varieties mentioned in the Hindu newspaper and monthly updates on MSP /food-inflation ups and downs. But do consider the cost:benefit of the time invested in preparing it.

Answerkey-2019: Environment & Biodiversity

Enough analysis and strategy, let’s solve the questions asked in Prelims-2019

Parks & Sanctuaries

(Pre19-SetA) Q18. Which one of the following national parks lies completely in the Temperate alpine zone?
(a) Manas national park
(b) Namdapha national park
(c) Neora valley national park
(d) Valley of flower national park
Difficulty: Tough. Requires knowledge of both elevation and State in which a given park is located. And they’re not given easy to eliminate options like Panna, Mudumalai, Ranthambore.
ANS: I’ve taken a map from Tamilnadu Agri uni. and plotted approximate location of the Parks. Valley of flowers is completely in purple zone, while Namdapha’s some area may be in brown zone. so, D seems most appropriate.
GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q27. Which one of the following are Agasthyamala biosphere reserve?
(a) Neyyar, peppara and shendurney wildlife sanctuaries and kalakad mundanthurai tiger reserve
(b) Mudumalai sathayamangalam and Wayanad wildlife sanctuaries and silent valley national park
(c) Kaundinya gundla bhrameshwaram and papikonda wildlife sanctuaries and mukurthi national park
(d) Kawal and Shree Venkateshwara wildlife sanctuaries; and Nagarjunasagar-srisailam tiger reserve
Difficulty: Medium to Tough depending on your revision of ShankarIAS book.
ANS: ShankarIAS Environment Book (6th Ed) page 357:

  • Agasthyamalai biosphere consists of Neyyar, Peppara and Shendurney Wildlife sanctuaries and their adjoining areas. So, A is the closest match.

Alternate ways:

  • NCERT Geography Class11 page 64: Agasthyamala biosphere reserve consists of Part of Thirunelveli and Kanyakumari Districts in Tamil Nadu and Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Pathanmthitta districts in Kerala. But it doesn’t help directly reaching the answer.
  • A serious player should be able to vaguely recall that Nagarjunasagar is associated with Andhra / Telangana, so D should be wrong because Agasthyamala is in parts of Tamilnadu and Kerala only. But this doesn’t help even reaching till 50:50.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

Flora Fauna

(Pre19-SetA) Q22. Consider the following statements:

  1. Asiatic lion naturally found in India only
  2. Double-humped camel is naturally found in India only
  3. One-horned rhinoceros is naturally found in India only

Which one of the statement given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Difficulty: Medium. While it’s easy to eliminate camel, but it all boils down to the knowledge of rhino.

  • Every serious player knows that Indian camels have only one hump. Two humped camel are called Bactrian camel, found in Central Asia’s cold deserts, says National Geographic. So, B and D removed. We are now 50:50 between A or C. In the remaining options, statement #1 is common, so we have to accept Asiatic lions are found in India only as ‘true’. Everything boils down to the habitat of Rhinos.
  • As per Britannica, Javan rhinoceros is called lesser one-horned rhinoceros and found only on the island of Java in Indonesia. Indian rhinoceros is called greater one-horned rhinoceros. So that means second statement is false, we are left with Answer A: 1 only.

GuessmastergiriTM Rule#1 says extreme worded statements are ALWAYS wrong. Here, every statement contains extreme worded ‘only’ however any serious player would know that Asiatic lion is found only in Gir forest of Gujarat, India so #1 has to be true. Then remaining two options must be false because they contain extreme word, and GuessmastergiriTM Rule#2: dates, figures, numbers are always wrong so then #2 and #3 should be wrong because they’re mentioning number of horns / humps. So, then you arrive at right answer ‘A’. Although it still requires knowledge about Asiatic lions so this hashtag ‘#Without-Studying-Anything’ is not fully justifiable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q28. Consider the following statements:

  1. Some species of turtle are herbivores
  2. Some species of fish are herbivores
  3. Some species of marine mammals are herbivores
  4. Some species of snakes are viviparous

Which of the statement given above are correct?
(a) 1 and 3 only
(b) 2, 3 and 4 only
(c) 2 and 4 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4
Difficulty: Tough. Because if you apply ‘common sense’ that viviparous = producing living young (not eggs) and misbelieve that snakes only produce eggs so #4 ought to be wrong then by elimination you arrive at wrong answer A.

  • Tamilnadu Govt Document: Do all snakes lay eggs? No. Some, known as ‘oviparous’, lay eggs e.g. the cobras, the pythons, the keelbacks. Some, known as ‘viviparous’, bring out live young e.g. most vipers, vine-snakes, estuarine snakes, most sea snakes. So, #4 is right. Answer could be B, C or D, in all these options, #2 is common so we’ve to accept ‘Some species of fish are herbivores’ are true without verification.
  • Now everything boils down to the validity of statement number 1 and 3.
  • Random Google book page75: Depending on the species, sea turtles may be carnivorous (meat eating), herbivorous (plant eating), or omnivorous (eating both meat and plants). So #1 is right and by elimination we are left with answer D: all statements are correct.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable. Since all statements contain the non-extreme word ‘some’ so no rule is applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q29. Consider the following pairs :
Wildlife: Naturally found in

  1. Blue finned mahseer : Cauvery river
  2. Irrawaddy dolphin : Chambal river
  3. Rusty spotted cats : Eastern ghats

Which one of the pair given above are correctly matched?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Difficulty: Easy. Irrawaddy is a river of Myanmar. So, Irrawaddy dolphin is unlikely to have swum all the way inside India and that too upto Chambal river to be ‘naturally’ found there. So, #2 wrong by elimination Answer should be C. But let’s check with references:

  • Gangetic river dolphin (Platanista gangetica) is found in Chambal river, says TimesofIndia.
  • Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) is a different species. It’s found in Chilika lagoon and salt-water estuaries of Odisha, says IndiaToday. So, #2 is wrong, by elimination we are left with Answer C.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable. Irrawaddy river swimming was logical elimination through knowledge, it’s not Guessmaster-giri. Because Guessmaster-giri relies on Set of Rules to tick without-studying-anything.


(Pre19-SetA) Q33. Consider the following states :

  1. Chattisgarh
  2. Madhya Pradesh
  3. Maharashtra
  4. Odisha

With reference to the states mentioned above, in terms of percentage of forest cover to the total area of State, which one of the following is the correct ascending order?
(a) 2-3-1-4
(b) 2-3-4-1
(c) 3-2-4-1
(d) 3-2-1-4
Difficulty: Medium to Tough. While Shankar’s page 32 says Madhya Pradesh has largest forest cover (area wise) but it has no information about forest cover in terms of percentages for all these states. If you try to make some logical connections that Chhattisgarh and Odisha or less urbanized compared to Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra (or that they’ve more Naxal problem due to forest-hiding areas) so they ought to have higher % forest cover, then you’ll be at 50:50 between C and D.
ANS: Majid Hussina’s Geography of India | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध page 5.6, table 5.2

  • Madhya Pradesh: 25%
  • Odisha: 31%
  • (1) Chattisgarh: 42%
  • (3) Maharashtra: 15%
  • Thus Maharashtra (3) is lowest and Chattisgarh (1) is highest forest cover in % term. So, pattern should be 3-_-_-1. There is only one such option C.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q68. Consider the following statements :

  1. As per law, the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority exists at both National and State levels.
  2. People’s participation is mandatory in the compensatory afforestation programmes carried out under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Bth 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Difficulty: Tough. Because all features of this act are not given in Shankar’s book
ANS: ShankarIAS Environment Book (6th Ed) page 314

  • The Bill also establishes the National and State Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authorities to manage the National and State Funds. So, #1 is right.
  • PrsIndia bill text: There is no mention of mandatory People’s participation so, #2 is wrong. Thus answer A: only 1 correct.

GuessmastergiriTM Rule#1 extreme worded statements are wrong. Then ‘2’ contains extreme word ‘mandatory’ so it ought to be wrong, thus we arrive at 50:50 stage between A or D.

Environmental Research Development (R&D)

(Pre19-SetA) Q25. In the context of which of the following do some scientists suggest the use of cirrus cloud thinning technique and the injection of sulphate aerosol into stratosphere?
(a) Creating the artificial rains in some regions
(b) Reducing the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones
(c) Reducing the adverse effects of the solar wind on the earth
(d) Reducing the global warming
Difficulty: Tough. Asked from 2017’s news item.
ANS: 2017-August, IndianExpress

  • Sulphate aerosol particles are very good reflectors of sunlight, and it has been shown, through various climate models, that even if 1% of current incident solar radiation is reflected back in space, a very significant amount of temperature rise on earth can be offset. So, D is the closest match.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q31. Recently, there was a growing awareness in our country about the importance of Himalayan nettle (Girardinia diversifolia) because it is found to be a sustainable source of
(a) anti-malarial drug
(b) biodiesel
(c) pulp for paper industry
(d) textile fibre
Difficulty: Tough. Not available in routine newspapers.
ANS: 2017-DowntoEarth

  • There is a community in Khar, a hamlet in Darchula district in far-western Nepal, which produces fabrics from Himalayan nettle. The fabric and the things made from it are sold in local as well as national and international markets as high-end products.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q32. For the measurement/estimation of which of the following are satellite images/remote sensing data used?

  1. Chlorophyll content in the vegetation of a specific location
  2. Greenhouse gas emissions from rice paddies of a specific location
  3. Land surface temperatures of a specific location

Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Difficulty: Tough because while NCERT Class11 ‘Practical work in geography’ has a dedicated chapter on this topic but 1) it doesn’t contain these keywords 2) most of the UPSC candidates donot go through that ‘practical work’ book anyways.
ANS: 2018-Sept, IndianExpress

  • China’s HY-1C marine satellite is expected to improve China’s ocean remote sensing capability. It can an detect chlorophyll and suspended sediment concentrations and dissolved organic matter, which can affect ocean colour, as well as temperatures on the sea surface.
  • So that means Remote Sensing can help in both statement 1 and statement 3. there is only one such option D.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

Energy: clean / renewable / conventional

(Pre19-SetA) Q26. In the context of which one of the following are the terms pyrolysis and plasma gasification mentioned?
(a) Extraction of earth element
(b) natural gas extractions technologies
(c) Hydrogen fuel based automobiles
(d) Waste to energy technologies
Difficulty: Easy, given verbatim in Shankar’s book.
ANS: ShankarIAS Environment Book (6th Ed) page 73

  • Pyrolysis is a process of combustion in absence of oxygen or the material burnt under controlled atmosphere of oxygen. It is an alternative to incineration. The gas and liquid thus obtained can be used as fuels. Pyrolysis of carbonaceous wastes like firewood, coconut, palm waste, corn combs, cashew shell, rice husk paddy straw and saw dust, yields charcoal along with products like tar, methyl alcohol, acetic acid, acetone and a fuel gas.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q34. Which of the following statements are correct about the deposits of methane hydrate?

  1. Global warming might trigger the release of methane gas from these deposits
  2. Large deposits of ‘methane hydrate’ are found in Arctic Tundra and under the seafloor.
  3. Methane in atmosphere oxidizes to carbon dioxide after a decade or two.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Difficulty: Tough. While in 2019-Jan, TheHindu had published an article about IIT Madras research of gas hydrates, But that article itself alone does not help much in solving this question. And I don’t subscribe to the ‘Sapnaa-Theory’ of Delhi thugs that just because a term was mentioned in a random theHindu article, so you were suppose to get a divine epiphany that UPSC was going to ask in this much detail so you were supposed to make a research-paper note by yourself accordingly.

  • NASA Webpage: large amounts of methane are frozen in Arctic tundra soils and in marine sediments including gas hydrates. As Earth’s climate warms, that methane is vulnerable to possible release into the atmosphere, where it can add to global warming. So #1 and 2 are correct.
  • USA Government Webpage: Methane Cycle: every molecule of methane that goes into the atmosphere remains there for 8 years until it is removed by oxidation into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). So, #3 is also correct.
  • Answer D: All three correct.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q43. In the context of the proposals to the use of hydrogen-enriched CNG (H-CNG) as fuel for buses in public transport, consider the following statements

  1. The main advantage of the use of H-CNG is the elimination of carbon monoxide emissions.
  2. H-CNG as fuel reduces carbon dioxide and hydrocarbon emissions.
  3. Hydrogen up to one-fifth by volume can be blended with CNG as fuel for buses.
  4. H-CNG makes the fuel less expensive than CNG.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 4 only
(d) 1,2,3 and 4
Difficulty: Medium Tough, depending on your preparation of Current Affairs in Environment. Because if you’re not aware of exact topic and just try to make random logical connectives, it may take you towards wrong answers.
ANS: 2018-July: IndianExpress

  • Compared to conventional CNG, use of H-CNG can reduce emission of carbon monoxide up to 70% so #1 is wrong, because it doesn’t ‘eliminate CO emission’, it only reduces it. So, now we are 50:50 between B or C.
  • Same Indian Express article reads: For consumers who pay Rs 42 per kg for CNG, the cost of H-CNG would not be more than Rs 43 per kg….. NITI Aayog-CII Action Plan for Clean Fuel notes that physical blending of CNG and hydrogen involves a series of energy-intensive steps that would make H-CNG more expensive than CNG. So, #4 is wrong. By elimination we are left with answer B: only 2 and 3.

Anti-Guessmaster question because GuessmastergiriTM Rule#1: extreme worded statements are wrong so statement #1 is wrong. And further, GuessmastergiriTM Rule#2 : dates, numbers, figures are always wrong, then statement #3 should be wrong, but if you believe that you arrive at wrong answer C: 4 only.


(Pre19-SetA) Q41.Consider the following statements:

  1. Agricultural soils release nitrogen oxides into environment.
  2. Cattle release ammonia into environment.
  3. Poultry industry release reactive nitrogen compounds into environment.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 3 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 2 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Difficulty: Medium to Tough. While answer is given verbatim in theHindu but not in the most PDF compilations. (And since most candidates don’t read original hindu but only its PDF summaries so it’s not easy). Even if you try to make logical connectives that Urea in Agriculture soil = nitrogen oxides, still you’ll be 50:50 between A or D.
ANS: 2018-June, TheHindu

  • Agricultural soils contributed to over 70% of N2O emissions from India in 2010
  • Cattle account for 80% of the ammonia production
  • Poultry industry recorded an excretion of reactive nitrogen compounds of 0.415 tonnes in 2016. So D: all 3 statements are correct.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q30. Why is there a great concern about the microbeads that are released into environment?
(a) They are considered harmful to marine ecosystem
(b) They are considered to cause skin cancer in children
(c) They are small enough to absorbed by crop plants in irrigated fields
(d) They are often found to be used as food adulterants
Difficulty: Tough because asked about a contemporary affairs topic from two years old news item.
ANS: 2017-IndianExpress:

  • Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has classified microbeads as “unsafe” for use in cosmetic products. NGT had earlier directed the Centre to test cosmetic products containing microbeads after a plea sought ban on their use on the ground they are extremely dangerous for aquatic life and environment.
  • 2017-TheHindu: Microbeads are tiny plastic substances measuring less than five millimetres that act as exfoliators (agents which remove dead cells) on skin and teeth when used in soap, toothpaste and other products. Many brands manufacturing beauty products use microbeads. The unregulated production and usage of plastic in microbeads in various cosmetic products and their excessive usage by the end user is leading to water pollution across the globe.
  • Australian Government website: Once in the water, microbeads can have a damaging effect on marine life, the environment and human health. This is due to their composition, ability to adsorb toxins and potential to transfer up the marine food chain.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q35. Consider the following:

  1. Carbon monoxide
  2. Methane
  3. Ozone
  4. Sulphur dioxide

Which of the above are released into the atmosphere due to the burning of crop/biomass residue?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2, 3 and 4 only
(c) 1 and 4 only
(d) 1,2,3 and 4
Difficulty: Tough because multiple answers possible depending on how you interpret the sources and chemistry.

  • As per random research paper: Biomass burning is a source of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. In addition, biomass burning is a source of chemically active gases, including carbon monoxide, non-methane hydrocarbons, and nitric oxide. These gases, along with methane, lead to the chemical production of tropospheric ozone.
  • So, answer should be D: 1, 2,3 and 4.

Counter-view: Answer should be C

  • 2017-IndianExpress: One tonne of straw when burnt releases 3 kg of particulate matter, 60 kg of carbon monoxide, 1,460 kg of carbon dioxide, 199 kg of ash and 2 kg of sulphur dioxide. So, C: 1 and 4 only.
  • Further, Crop burning not releasing ‘direct’ Ozone (#3). It only releases precursors like CO etc which get converted into Ozone later on. so B and D are eliminated. And out of A and C, #4 sulphur dioxide is given in IndianExpress article so C should be the answer. This question is not demanding research paper level knowledge.

Final judge: UPSC’s official answerkey to be released in 2020.
GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q39. In India, the use of carbofuran, methyl parathion phorate and triazophos is viewed with apprehension. These chemicals are used as
(a) pesticides in agriculture
(b) preservatives in processed foods
(c) fruit-ripening agents
(d) moisturising agents in cosmetics
Difficulty: Medium to Tough. Asked from two years old news.
ANS: 2017-IndianExpress

  • The Ministry of Agriculture has issued a notification inviting objections and suggestions from the stakeholders on completely banning pesticides/insecticides including Benomyl, Carbaryl, Diazinon, Fenarimol, Fenthion, Linuron, MEMC, Methyl Parthion, Sodium Cyanide, Thiometon, Tridemorph, Trifluralin, Alachlor, Dichlorvos, Phorate, Phosphamidon, Triazophos and Trichlorfon.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q58. Consider the following statements :
The Environment Protection Act, 1986 empowers the Government of India to

  1. State the requirement of public participation in the process of environmental protection, and the procedure and manner in which it is sought.
  2. Lay down the standards for emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from various sources.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Difficulty: Medium to tough. While second statement can be validated from Shankar’s book but first statement is not given in routine books.
ANS: Original Act

  • Section 3: Central Government shall have the power to take all such measures as it deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing, controlling and abating environmental pollution. So, #1 is implied.
  • Section 3-2(iv) Central Government may lay down standards for emission or discharge of environmental pollutants from various sources whatsoever. So #2 is given

Counter-view: Answer should be ‘B’

  • In the Original Act , statement#1 or even the words like ‘public’ or ‘public participation’ are not mentioned. So, #1 is wrong, answer should be B: 2 Only.

Final judge: UPSC’s official answerkey to be released in 2020.
GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q78. In India, ‘extended producer responsibility’ was introduced as an important feature in which of the following?
(a) The Bio-medical Waste (management and handling) rules,1998
(b) The Recycled Plastic (manufacturing and usage) rules, 1999
(c) The e- Waste (Management and handling) rules, 2011
(d) The food safety and standard regulations, 2011
Difficulty: Easy, given verbatim in Shankar.

  • ShankarIAS Environment Book (6th Ed) page 308: For the first time, the E-waste Management Rules will bring the producers under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), along with targets.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q59. As per the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 in India , which one of the following statements is correct?
(a) Waste generator has to segregate waste into 5 categories.
(b) The Rules are applicable to notified urban local bodies, notified towns and all industrial township only.
(c) The Rules provide for exact and elaborate criteria for the identification of sites for landfills and waste processing facilities.
(d) It is mandatory on the part of waste generator that the waste generated in one district cannot be moved to another district.
Difficulty: Tough because all points are not given in routine books.
ANS: ShankarIAS Environment Book (6th Ed) page 304:

  • Every waste generator shall segregate and store the waste generated by them in three separate streams namely biodegradable, non-bio-degradable and domestic hazardous wastes in suitable bins. So #A is wrong.
  • Rules are now applicable beyond Municipal areas and extend to urban agglomerations, census towns, notified industrial townships, areas under the control of Indian Railways, airports, airbase, Port and harbour, defence establishments, special economic zones etc. So, #B is wrong.

Remaining points are not given in the short note on that page, so we’ve to search elsewhere.

  • As per PIB PDF on this matter: rules specifies criteria for site selection, development of facilities at the sanitary landfills, specifications for land filling operations and closure on completion of landfilling, pollution prevention, Closure and Rehabilitation of Old Dumps, specifies Criteria for special provisions for hilly areas. So, C is correct.
  • There is no mention of district requirement, so D is wrong.

GuessmastergiriTM Rule#1 extreme worded statements are wrong. Then ‘D’ contains extreme word ‘can’t be moved’ so it ought to be wrong. GuessmastergiriTM Rule#2 all dates, numbers, figures are wrong so #1 ought to be wrong, then we are left with 50:50 between B or C.
Stay tuned for the last part of the answer key that is agriculture & geography.

International Treaties / Org (1 MCQ)

(Pre19-SetA) Q40. Consider the following statements:

  1. Under Ramsar convention, it is mandatory on the part of the Government on India in protect and conserve all the wetlands in the territory of India
  2. The Wetlands ( Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 were framed by the Government of India based on the recommendations of Ramsar convention.
  3. The Wetlands ( Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 also encompass the drainage area or catchment regions of the wetlands as determined by the authority

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Difficulty: Medium to Tough.

  • IYB ch12 on environment: To implement the objectives of Ramsar convention, a regulatory mechanism was put in place through Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules in December, 2010 and Central Wetland Regulatory Authority (CWRA) has been constituted under the Wetlands Rules, 2010. So, #2 is right.
  • Upon reading the original rules, #3 is also correct. So, we are 50:50 between B and D.
  • As per the text of Original Convention:
  • Article 2: Wetlands should be selected for the List on account of their international significance in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology. ….Any Contracting Party shall have the right to add to the List further wetlands situated within its territory, to extend the boundaries of those wetlands already included by it in the List, or, because of its urgent national interests, to delete or restrict the boundaries of wetlands already included by it in the List.
  • Article 3: The Contracting Parties shall formulate and implement their planning so as to promote the conservation of the wetlands included in the List.

So, it’s not mandatory for India to add all the sites in the list and conserve them. So, #1 is wrong and answer is B: 2 and 3 only.
GuessmastergiriTM Rule#1: Extreme worded statements are always wrong so then first statement should be wrong and by elimination we are 50:50 between B or C.
UPSC Answerkey Environment

Agriculture (2 MCQs)

(Pre19-SetA) Q21. Which one the following group of a plant domesticated in the new world and introduced into the old world?
(a) Tobacco, cocoas, and rubber
(b) Tobacco, cotton and rubbers
(c) Cotton, coffee and sugarcane
(d) Rubber, coffee and wheat
Difficulty: Tough. While term is vaguely mentioned in 2019-March theHindu column but in food/ lifestyle columns, but doesn’t give actual answer to this question.
ANS: 2019-March theHindu column: Historians call exchange of biological species between the old world (Asia and Europe), and the new world (the Americas) as the “Columbian exchange”.

  • Mrunal’s Geography Location Factor Article series (written 6 years ago!): Cocoa was originally from Central and South America, associated with Aztec civilization. Spanish brought it to Europe. So, only Option A fits. But, let’s crosscheck further:
  • Encyclopedia Britannica: In the 15th and 16th centuries, during the Columbian Exchange: numerous plants, animals, and microbes from old world (Europe, Asia, and Africa) were introduced to the new world (Americas) and vice versa. From the image given in the link, it’s evident that Cocoa and Tobacco were introduced from new world to old world so only A fits.
  • Another Britannica page reveals that Rubber tree is native of South America.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q83. With reference to the cultivation of Kharif crops in India in the last five years, consider the following statements :

  1. Area under rice cultivation is the highest.
  2. Area under the cultivation of jowar is more than that of oilseeds.
  3. Area of cotton cultivation is more than that of sugarcane.
  4. Area under sugarcane cultivation has steadily decreased.

Which of the statements given above are correct?
(a) 1 and 3 only
(b) 2, 3 and 4 only
(c) 2 and 4 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4
Difficulty: Medium to Tough. While it’s given in Economic Survey but who can memorize so ascending descending orders!? Medium difficulty because if you start thinking on the lines that ‘oilseed is a cashcrop, so unlikely that its area will be lower than jowar which is grown in by very poor people only. And Government keeps Sugarcane FSP high to appease the farmers so it seems unlikely that its cultivation area decline steadily then #2 and #4 ought to be wrong.’ then you arrive at right answer A. But let’s crosscheck and verify:
ANS: Economic Survey 2017-18 Vol2 Ch.7 on Agriculture, Ref: Table 3
UPSC Answerkey Agriculture

  • Area under cultivation: Jowar: 5.1 million ha, while Oilseeds is 26.2.
  • So, statement#2 is wrong, by elimination we arrive at answer A: 1 and 3 only.

Anti-Guessmaster question. Because GuessmastergiriTM Rule#1 says extreme worded statements are ALWAYS wrong, then #1 ought to be wrong but if you believe that, you’ll never arrive at the right answer!

Stay tuned for the last part of answerkey on Geography.