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Development, International

Key tunnel on Lhasa-Nyingchi railway completed

Construction on a pivotal tunnel on a railway linking Lhasa and Nyingchi in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region was completed Friday, marking huge progress of the mammoth project.

  • The Bukamu Tunnel, located in Milin County of Nyingchi, is 9,240 meters long with an average elevation of 3,100 meters above the sea level. It is also the 37th tunnel being finished, leaving just 10 tunnels to be completed by the end of the year.
  • Over 3,000 rock bursts were counted during the construction of the tunnel, while the oxygen level inside was merely 19 percent that of the plain areas, said Wang Shucheng, director of the project.
  • The Lhasa-Nyingchi railway is 435 km long, 75 percent of which are bridges and tunnels. It is expected to be completed in 2021

Most of the tunnels along the Lhasa-Nyingchi section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway have been completed, railway authorities said over the weekend.

The Bukamu Tunnel, one of the longest tunnels on the railway linking Lhasa and Nyingchi in Southwest China’s Tibet autonomous region, was completed on Friday. With its completion, 96 percent of the tunnels on the Lhasa-Nyingchi section of the railway are finished.

The 9,240-meter Bukamu Tunnel is located in Manling county of the region’s eastern Nyingchi city. According to the China Railway 17th Bureau Group, and it is also the 37th tunnel to be completed for this section, leaving 10 other tunnels to be finished by the end of the year.

“Once construction began in October 2015, it took more than 300 workers 1,234 days to complete the tunnel,” said Yan Qingjing, an official of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway Headquarters, which is part of the group.

“The oxygen level in the region is merely 50 percent that of the plain areas, with the tunnel’s location at an average elevation of 3,000 meters above sea level, and the oxygen level inside the tunnel is only 19 percent of that of the plain areas,” Yan said.

The group’s statistics show that more than 90 percent of the tunnel is rock burst section, and that more than 3,000 rock bursts were counted during construction of the tunnel, with an average daily burst of three.

Wang Shucheng, director of the project, said the tunnel’s depth reaches 1,381 meters at one point, and high geostress inside causes the tunnel’s highest temperature to reach 42 C, much higher than the railway tunnel construction safety temperature of 28 C.

“The tunnel is like a steam room,” said Kang Yanjun, who works with the group. “Once you get inside, you begin sweating profusely. It is like doing anaerobic exercise.”

The technicians must exert a lot of energy every time they work in the tunnel, and each person needs at least 10 bottles of water, Kang said.

“We have implemented a 90-minute work shift schedule,” Kang said. “We place ice blocks in the tunnel to prevent workers from getting sick because of the high temperature, and we also use fans and oxygen transfer stations inside the tunnel.”

With a length of 2,416 kilometers, the Sichuan-Tibet Railway connects Southwest China’s Sichuan province with the Tibet autonomous region. It is the second railway linking Tibet with the rest of the world, along with the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

Xinhua

Nature, Water

Bangladesh gave all its rivers their own legal rights

By Sigal Samuel

Bangladesh is sometimes known as the “land of the rivers.” It’s got hundreds of them — and over the years, they’ve been getting more and more polluted. But as of early July, every single one of them has a remarkable new level of protection: The Bangladeshi Supreme Court has given all rivers in the country legal rights.

Now, people who damage a river can get taken to court by the government-appointed National River Conservation Commission. They’ll be tried as if they’d harmed a living entity, because each river now has the right to life. That means the river’s government-designatedhuman representatives can sue on its behalf when it’s being endangered.

Bangladesh isn’t the first placeto pass such a law. In the US, Ohio voters in February granted Lake Erie the legal right to “exist, flourish, and naturally evolve,” and recent years have also seen national and state laws granting rights to rivers and forests from New Zealand to India to Colombia.

It’s all part of the nascent “rights of nature” movement, which argues that instead of viewing nature as property to be owned, we should recognize that it has its own inalienable rights similar to the ones we enjoy. Activists in the movement want us to give the environment a more central place in humanity’s expanding moral circle — the imaginary boundary we draw around those we consider worthy of moral consideration.

But even among the countries that have embraced the rights of nature, Bangladesh now stands out as having done something unprecedented. “What’s unique about Bangladesh is that they declared all rivers to have this status,” said Ben Price, the national director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a nonprofit public interest law firm that helps people facing threats to their local environment. By contrast, other countries have granted rights only to individual bodies of water.

“In Bangladesh, the river is considered as our mother,” Mohammad Abdul Matin, general secretary of the Dhaka-based environmental group Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, told NPR. “The river is now considered by law, by code, a living entity, so you’ll have to face the consequence by law if you do anything that kills the river.”

The country already had fines in place to discourage people from harming the waterways, but those penalties weren’t working well enough to prevent pollution, illegal dredging, and the encroachment of human settlements. The Supreme Court hopes its landmark ruling will change that. Noting that “water is likely to be the most pressing environmental concern of the next century,” it called for rivers to be protected “at all costs.”

That’s music to the ears of environmentalists, but others argue that granting rights to rivers does come with real costs, and that they’re too high. With more communities getting interested in enshrining the rights of nature in law — Price said that activists in Europe, Asia, and Australia have reached out to CELDF for help — now is a good time to explore the difficulties that are likely to arise as this movement spreads.

Three problems with enforcing the rights of nature

Even as the rights of nature movement has inspired new legislation around the world, it’s also made clear how ill-equipped governments are to enforce it.

For one thing, once a river gets rights, what happens to all the people who live off it? In Bangladesh, millions — fishers, farmers, and their families — live in informal settlements or slums alongside the rivers and depend on the waters for their livelihoods. Now some are being evicted.

“The government must take stock of poor communities who need resettlement or protection from industries and real estate developers,” said Matin. “If enacted well, the verdict will be helpful in returning the rivers to the people who have historically depended on them.”

It’s also important to note that in some countries where these laws have been enacted, including Bangladesh, nature may now enjoy more rights than some humans in those societies do.

Bangladesh is currently hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees who have been driven out of neighboring Myanmar; these refugees, many of them women and children, lack legal status in Bangladesh and are restricted from attending Bangladeshi schools or working. The Bangladeshi government is also trying to find ways to get rid of the refugee population — through forced repatriation to Myanmar or sending refugees to a remote island accessible only by boat. Local officials have sought to justify this by saying the refugees are destroying the local environment.

A second problem is jurisdictional. Rivers don’t obey borders — they often traverse more than one country. If a certain country has granted rights to a river but a neighboring country hasn’t, that makes it difficult to legally protect the waterway from environmental harm. Bangladeshi environmental activists are already talking about how they won’t be able to compel India to comply with the new law on rivers.

Children collect plastic bottles from a polluted river in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Children collect plastic bottles from a polluted river in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

India itself dealt with this conundrum after the high court in Uttarakhand state granted personhood status to the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in 2017, appointing the state government as the rivers’ legal guardian. The state government soon challenged this law in India’s Supreme Court on the grounds that it was impractical because the river stretched far beyond Uttarakhand.The court agreed and stripped the rivers of their short-lived legal rights.

A third, related problem is that rights of nature laws tend to get tied up in court — and not everybody has the kind of money required to file a lawsuit. The risk, then, is that whoever has the funding may get to impose their will.

We’ve already seen an example of this in Ecuador, where an NGO called the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature sued a construction company that wanted to build a road over a river. The NGO won in court, but the company didn’t obey the ruling — and the NGO reportedly didn’t have enough money to launch a second court case against the company. So the ruling wasn’t properly enforced.

In Ohio, the Lake Erie Bill of Rights — the groundbreaking legislation that allows citizens to sue on behalf of the lake when it’s being polluted — is caught up in legal wrangling right now. The day after Toledo residents passed the bill in a special election in February, a corporate firm representing agribusiness interests filed a federal lawsuit against the city.

“We expect this kind of pushback because there are competing interests: The community needs healthy drinking water, while the business community has an interest in making money,” Price told me. The lake is currently experiencing severe algae blooms, and the city of Toledo just filed a new motion trying to get the lawsuit against the bill of rights dismissed.

How the rights of nature idea took off

In 1972, the case of Sierra Club v. Morton came before the US Supreme Court, leading to a deliberation over whether nature should have its own rights. The Court decided the answer was no, but Justice William O. Douglas dissented. “Contemporary public concern for protecting nature’s ecological equilibrium,” he wrote, “should lead to the conferral of standing upon environmental objects to sue for their own preservation.”

That same year, law professor Christopher Stone made a splash with an article titled “Should trees have standing?” It catalyzed other academics to write a slew of articles and booksconsidering whether natural environments ought to have rights enshrined in law.

In 2006, that question left the ether of academia and came to bear directly on toxic sewage sludge, which had been dumped in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. Residents fought for — and won — the first rights of nature law in the world. Two years later, Ecuador became the first country to enshrine the rights of nature in its constitution, thanks in large part to the work of indigenous activists.

Since then, the victories have come fast and furious. In 2014, New Zealand recognized the legal rights of the Te Urewera forest. In 2017, it also declared the Te Awa Tupua river to have legal personhood. That same year, Colombia granted rights to the Atrato River and India recognized the Ganges and Yamuna rivers as legal persons.

In 2018, the Amazon rainforest got rights, and for the first time, so did a specific plant species: the wild rice known as manoomin, one of the Anishinaabe people’s staple crops. And this February, Ohio voters passed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights.

Granting the status of personhood to a natural environment may seem like a bizarre legal fiction, but it’s no more bizarre than the idea that corporations should enjoy that same status, which has been with us since the 1880s.

If we find it strange to view nature the way we view people, that may just be because we’ve grown up in an anthropocentric intellectual tradition that treats the natural world as an object to be examined and exploited for human use, rather than as a subject to be communed with and respected.

“The idea that we can be separate from nature is really a Western reductionist way of looking at the world — we can trace it back to Francis Bacon and the scientific method,” said Price.

He told me that just as women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery were once unthinkable but gradually became accepted and normalized, the rights of nature idea seems odd now but will eventually gain social currency. “For the rights of nature to be understood and become something we’re comfortable with is going require a paradigm shift, just like the end of slavery did,” Price said.

That paradigm shift may entail nothing less than a total rejection of capitalism, according to Eduardo Gudynas, the executive secretary of the Latin American Center for Social Ecology in Uruguay. He argues that attempts to reduce environmental devastation while staying within a capitalism framework won’t be enough to address the climate crisis.

“The debate around the rights of nature is one of the most active frontlines in the fight for a non-market-based point of view,” Gudynas told me. “It’s a reaction against our society’s commodification of everything.”

Nature

Eco-China: Tibet sees significant progress in restoring biodiversity

Aerial photo taken on July 16, 2019 shows trees planted along banks of the Yarlung Zangbo River in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. Tibet has seen significant progress in restoring biodiversity, with a forest coverage rate of 12.14 percent, said a white paper released in March this year by China’s State Council Information Office. The population of Tibetan antelopes has grown from 60,000 in the 1990s to more than 200,000 and Tibetan wild donkeys have increased in numbers from 50,000 to 80,000, noted the document, titled “Democratic Reform in Tibet — Sixty Years On.” Since the Qomolangma Nature Reserve was established in 1988, Tibet has set up 47 nature reserves of all kinds, including 11 at state level, with the total area of nature reserves accounting for more than 34.35 percent of the total area of the autonomous region, the white paper said. Tibet has 22 eco-protection areas, including one at state level, 36 counties in receipt of transfer payments from central finance for their key ecological roles, four national scenic areas, nine national forest parks, 22 national wetland parks, and three national geoparks, figures showed. The central government has continued to increase eco-compensation for Tibet in return for its cost for protecting the eco-environment and the consequent losses in development opportunities. The white paper said that since 2001, the central government has paid 31.6 billion yuan (4.71 billion U.S. dollars) in eco-compensation to the autonomous region for protecting forests, grassland, wetland, and key ecological reserves.

Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi

Animals, Nature

5 new species of fish discovered in Arunachal Pradesh

There are numbers of flora and fauna species in Arunchal Pradeshified yet.   reserchers and conservationists find them out them out sometime.Researchers of the Rajiv Gandhi University here have recently discovered five new fish species in various districts of the state.

The scientific names of the newly-discovered fish species are Mystus prabini, found in Sinkin and Dibang rivers in Lower Dibang Valley district and Exostoma kottelati, found in Ranga river in Lower Subansiri district, a release by the university said.

Other discovered species are Creteuchiloglanis tawangensis, found in the Tawangchu river in Tawang district, Garra ranganensis, found in Ranga river and Physoschistura harkishorei, found in Dibang and Lohit rivers in Lower Dibang Valley district, it said.

The team was led by Prof D N Das of the fisheries and aquatic ecology research wing of the Zoology department of the university.

“Majority of the water bodies in remote areas of the state are still not easily accessible to the researchers due to a difficult terrain that includes rain forests, steep hills besides communication problems,” Das said.

He, however, said his research team is optimistic that meticulous exploration may result in more discoveries of new fish species from the state in the future.

Dam, Water

Indian Government helps Bhutan to generate hydropower plunging Indian downstream people

Happy Bhutan had unleashed unhappiness in the form of water to the people of Assam for years. While the Union Government and stakeholders are opposing Chinese dams on the Himalayan rivers flowing into India, our government is not concerned over dams built by Bhutan over trans-boundary rivers. On the other hand, the Union government is patronizing hydro projects upstream in complete disregard to the interests of the people of Assam downstream.


by Chandan Kumar Duarah


Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on his second visit to Bhutan, inaugurated the Mangdechhu hydroelectric power plant in Thimphu on Saturday and also launched stamps to commemorate five decades of India-Bhutan hydropower cooperation.


With the inaugural of 720MW Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Plant and opening of official discussion on the Sunkosh, the biggest project targeted, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit is in a way commemorating five decades of hydropower cooperation between Bhutan and India.


“I am very happy to come to Bhutan at the beginning of my second term,” Mr. Modi said in a joint press statement after delegation-level talks with his Bhutanese counterpart at the historic Simtokha Dzong. The two countries signed 10 MoUs in the fields of space research, aviation, IT, power and education.


The commissioning of Mangdechhu takes Bhutan’s installed power capacity to 2,326 MW from 1,606, an increase by 44.8 percent. Mangdechhu is the fourth project implemented under inter-government (IG) model.
The first project under the IG model was 336MW Chukha project financed with 60 percent grant and 40 loan grant from the government of India and commissioned in 1986.


The 1,020MW Tala and 60 MW Kurichhu were other projects implemented under IG model. The two projects of Punatshangchhu are also being implemented under the IG model with 70 percent loan and 30 percent grant.


Sunkosh, which has the potential to generate over 2,500MW of power is the priority for the government currently. Discussions during PM Modi’s visit  revolves around the modality of implementation and financing.
But Dams in Bhutan continues to be a nightmare downstream, having created havoc at regular intervals. In the last 10 years, over one lakh families were rendered homeless while more than one lakh hectares of farmland were devastated in the downstream districts of Baksa, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Kokrajhar, Chirang and Nalbari.


But Modi’s stand with Bhutan makes a grave concern to downstream people of Assam (India) living along the rivers originates in Bhutan. In last week of July, after a little relief, the flood situation has deteriorated once again in Assam with Bhutan releasing the excess water from 55 meter tall dams in eastern Bhutan adjoining western Assam.


Although there is an agreement between India and Bhutan to share information on the release of water from the Kurichu dam, Bhutan allegedly continues to release water from the dam without sharing the information with the Indian (Assam) authorities. There are instances when unannounced release of water Kurichu dam by Bhutan jeopardized the lives of thousands of people downstream.


The sudden surge of water release again caught Assam authorities off-guard. It so happens that during incessant rains, waters from the dam is released flow down to Assam. In July this year, there was a sudden rise in the water levels of the Beki river that washed away a part of the embankment at Panchmile, inundating the entire Manas National Park.


Last month Druk Green Power Corporation Limited (DGPC) of Bhutan, which runs the 60MW Kurichhu project in eastern Bhutan, had announced that it would release excess water from its dam. Several flood-affected districts in lower Assam are on alert following the release of excess water from the dam of Kurichhu hydropower plant in Bhutan early on July 25 morning.


In Barpeta district, the administration has sounded a red alert for people residing on the banks of the Beki and Pahumara rivers appealing them to move to higher and safer locations.


Further, the threat of Kurichu looms large on pristine wildlife habitats like Manas—a world heritage site, an elephant project, a tiger project and a biosphere reserve.

Situated on the western flanks of Assam, Manas National Park is one of the most vibrant forest ecosystems in India. Situated on the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, brushing the Bhutan border, this pristine and primordial wilderness reserve is a treasure trove of bio diversity.


Situated on the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, brushing the Bhutan border, this pristine and primordial wilderness reserve is a treasure trove of bio diversity. Conservation activists voiced the concern of the downstream people. The situation prevailing in Manas is likely to happen in wildlife habitats of upper Assam when hydro electric power projects are commissioned in China, Butan and Arunachal Pradesh (India).


Happy Bhutan has been unleashing unhappiness in the form of water to the people of Assam for years without informing concerned authorities except last time. While the Union Government and stakeholders are opposing Chinese dams on the Himalayan rivers flowing into India, our government is not concerned over dams built by Bhutan over trans-boundary rivers.
Conservationist activists expresses the concern of the downstream people and the situation prevailing in Manas is likely to happen in wildlife habitats of upper Assam when hydro electric power projects are commissioned in China and Arunachal Pradesh.


It is another matter of concern that on July 18, 2019 the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave the go-ahead to the Dibang hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh. Pegged at a capacity to yield 2,880 megawatts, the project is going to be India’s largest hydropower venture. When completed, it would reach the elevation of a staggering 278 metres – also making it the world’s tallest concrete gravity dam.


The central government has decided to build the project without any public consultation or study of the potential impacts in downstream Assam state. Anti-dam activists are now concerned Modi’s government will now push ahead with a series of mega dams planned in the northeast region, ignoring all expert and advisory committees in an attempt to harness “green” hydropower.


The Dibang is just one of 168 massive dams slated to produce 57,000 megawatts of hydropower in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh states. This strategically important region, which borders Myanmar in the east, Bhutan in the west and China in the north, is described by politicians as India’s ‘future powerhouse’ and is a key focus point of the country’s dam building programme.


China is involved in a major dam building programme on its side of the border, also using the waters of the Brahmaputra – which it calls the Yarlung Tsangpo. China’s plans to build a massive dam three times the size of the Three Gorges Dam on the Great Bend before the river swings round into India.


The Brahmaputra is one of the world’s major rivers, winding across the Tibetan Plateau through China, India and Bangladesh before joining with the Ganga and flowing out into the Bay of Bengal.
The dam building programme in north-east India has been highly controversial. Opponents say it not only ignores geological and ecological factors – it also fails to take into account the impact of climate change in the region.


Experts also say no proper overall plan has been put in place: though India and China have signed a limited agreement to data on river flow, there is no specific deal on managing the Brahmaputra’s waters.
Protests about the dams have been growing, with work on the 2,000 megawatt Lower Subansiri dam on one of the Brahmaputra’s tributaries – repeatedly held up.


Broken promises
In the build up to 2014 elections, Narendra Modi held a rally in Pasighat in the East Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh in February where he acknowledged peoples’ concerns about large dams and committed to developing small hydropower instead.


“I know citizens of the region are against large power projects,” he had said. “I respect your sentiment. But hydropower can also be harnessed using smaller projects, while protecting the environment” Modi pretended.

Insurgency

‘Naga national flag’ hoisted across Naga-inhabited areas on ‘Independence Day

The influential Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) on Wednesday hoisted the ‘Naga national flag’ to celebrate the 73rd ‘Naga Independence Day’ across the Naga-inhabited areas, including Myanmar.

On August 14, 1947, leaders belonging to various Naga tribes came together to unfurl their ‘national flag’ in Kohima, now the capital of Nagaland which attained statehood in December 1963. This was to ‘assert their right to independence’ after the transfer of power from the British to ‘Indians’.

The ‘Naga Independence Day’ has been an annual event, but the celebration this year attained significance in the wake of the withdrawal of special status to Jammu and Kashmir making the former State’s red flag with three vertical stripes and a plough redundant.

NSF president Ninoto Awomi, however, said there was no political message in the unfurling of the ‘Naga national flag’ at the Naga Solidarity Park in Kohima and all other Naga-inhabited areas simultaneously at 11 am.

“The NSF has been observing the day not to show that the Nagas are against India but to celebrate our identity, culture, history, and rights. More than a 1,000 people turned up for celebrating the day in Kohima,” he told The Hindu on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the State government instructed the deputy commissioners of all the 11 districts to make the NSF units “aware of the legality of their action [hosting the flag]” that could “create unwanted situation and may lead to grievous law and order problem”.

‘Common Naga flag’

Mr. Awomi said the flag unfurled on Wednesday was the “common Naga flag’. The flag – blue with a whitish star and a rainbow running almost diagonally – is similar to that used by the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, which has been seeking a separate flag as part of the peace deal.

But the Naga National Council (NNC), the first extremist group of the Naga Hills, said the original ‘Naga national flag’ should ideally be hoisted to mark the show of rebellion in 1947. There is clarity on the colour and design of the flag unfurled that year.

The first Naga flag is considered to be the one that the NNC, formed by the legendary Angami Zapu Phizo in 1946, hoisted on March 22, 1956.

The Hindu

Insurgency

Kashmir Valley’s shadow on the Naga Hills

Nagaland is governed by Article 371(A) of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees certain protection to Nagas. Governor Ravi has already promised 371(A) won’t be touched.

From Srinagar to Kohima may be a long and distant 3,000 km, but the recent developments in troubled Kashmir may have a heavy bearing on the impending fortunes of the evolving Naga issue. And vice versa.

On the two key demands—a separate constitution and a distinct flag for Nagas—the Naga underground leaders often alluded to Kashmir which till last week had both.

Three years ago, VS Atem, emissary to the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) collective leadership and a key figure in the ongoing talks, had told this journalist: “If Kashmir can have a separate flag, why not Nagas?”

Now with no example to point to after the watering down of Article 370 and abrogating of 35A on August 5, it will be interesting to see how the talks between New Delhi and the NSCN-IM pans out.

Particularly as the constitution and flag issue continue to be unresolved ones.

It is well understood that the talks between New Delhi and the NSCN-IM has reached a certain level of mutual comfort and understanding. Initiated about 22 years ago, the progress in the talks was recorded in the Framework Agreement signed in 2015. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi and present home minister Amit Shah in attendance, the document was inked by NSCN-IM’s general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and RN Ravi, the interlocutor who is currently the governor of Nagaland.

The ongoing talks followed the incremental model. It meant all points of agreement were sealed and locked up while the negotiations continued on the difficult and prickly issues. And the impossible ones kept out.

So issues like complete sovereignty or total independence for Nagas, separate currency were ruled out.

Agreements on transferring federal powers were reached and sealed. While deliberations continued on the difficult ones. Like a separate constitution, a separate flag or the carving out of a ‘Greater Nagalim’ by incorporating Naga-dominated areas of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.

Admitted that there can be no comparison between the Kashmir and the Naga issues as they are as different as can be, but it will be interesting to see New Delhi’s response to imminent questions like how it abolished certain privileges in Kashmir but granted them or retains them in Nagaland post the expected agreement.

Nagaland is governed by Article 371(A) of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees certain protection to Nagas. Governor Ravi has already promised 371(A) won’t be touched.It will also be interesting to see if the Centre gives special treatment to the backward districts of the state in a way not much different from the granting of Union Territory status to Ladakh. Incidentally, a delegation of the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) representing the backward tribes of eastern Nagaland was in the national capital on Tuesday (August 13) at the Centre’s request for a parley. Seemingly, New Delhi is brewing quite a potion.

by Sanjib Kr Baruah

International

First Indian cargo ship from Bhutan arrives in Bangladesh via India

 For the first time, an Indian cargo ship carrying 1,000 tonnes of
stone aggregates from Bhutan has arrived in Bangladesh through India via
the Brahmaputra river, significantly reducing travel time and transportation cost.
An inaugural ceremony held at Narayanganj city near here on Thursday,
Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das, Ambassador
of Bhutan to Bangladesh Sonam T Rabgye and vice-chairman of
Bashundhara Group Safwan Sobhan received the first-ever consignment
through the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route, the Indian high commission
here said in a statement.
The ship, MV AAI of the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), was digitally flagged off by Indian Minister of State for
8/13/2019 First Indian cargo ship from Bhutan arrives in Bangladesh via India .
The ship then sailed from Dhubri in Assam and travelled to Narayanganj in Bangladesh, over the river Brahmaputra, the
statement said.
Dhubri was declared a port of call in October 2018. This is the first time an Indian waterway is being used as a channel for
transport of cargo between the two countries, using India for transit, it said.
The stone aggregates were transported by trucks from Phuentsholing in Bhutan which is 160 kilometres from IWAI’s Dhubri
jetty in Assam.
Bhutan was exporting significant quantities of stone aggregates to Bangladesh through the land route.
Mandaviya said the development is a historic one and takes forward Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to promote cargo
transportation through inland waterways.
He said the move will benefit India, Bhutan and Bangladesh and will strengthen relations between the neighbouring countries.
Transport of cargo through this route will cut short travel time by 8 to 10 days, and reduce transportation cost by 30 per cent,
bringing down logistics costs, Mandaviya said, adding that it will also be a more environment friendly mode of transport.
Mandaviya also said it will also open up an alternative route to India’s North Eastern states, making it easier and cheaper for
goods to reach these places from other parts of the country

Flood, Sc. & Tech.

China, Russia, France share satellite data on Assam floods

Flood in Assam could be minimised with the help and application of early warning system, says Chandan Kumar Duarah,  a science journalist and conservation activist in Assam. Satellite data has been playing a crucial role  which was ignored during Assam flood.  Several countries including China, Russia and France collaborated with India on sharing satellite images of the scale of inundation. As signatories to the The International Charter Space and Major Disasters, any of the 32 member countries can send a ‘request’ to activate the Charter. This would immediately trigger a request by the coordinators to space agencies of other countries whose satellites have the best eyes on the site of the disaster.

Based on an activation request by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on July 17, France’s National Centre for Space Studies, China National Space Administration and ROSCOSMOS of Russia shared satellite images of the flood situation in the districts of Dhubri, Marigaon, Barpeta, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur in Assam with ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre. ISRO’s CARTOSAT satellites too got the Indian space agency its own images.

‘Standard practice’

Ravish Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said in response to a query from The Hindu that combining earth observation assets from different space agencies allows resources and expertise to be coordinated for rapid response. This was a “standard practice” and in the past ISRO too had provided information to other space agencies in response to similar requests. In August 2014, for instance, ISRO’s CARTOSAT shared images after an activation request from China after an earthquake struck Yunan province and killed 398.

Since 2000, when the Charter came into operation there have been about 600 activations and data from 61 satellites have helped with disaster operations in 125 countries.

Indigenous People, Nature, Water

Meghalaya Cabinet approves draft water policy

The Meghalaya Cabinet has approved a draft water policy to address water usages, issues of conservation and protection of water sources in the state.

Chaired by Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, the cabinet on Friday discussed at length the various aspects of the policy before approving the draft policy, Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong said.

“All issues related to utilization of water and livelihood and how to preserve water bodies have been outlined in this policy including community participation in the implementation of this policy by constituting a water sanitation village council at the village level,” Tynsong said.

The policy was drafted by the state Water Resources department in consultation with experts in water conservation and protection of water bodies.

The deputy chief minister said that Meghalaya being a hilly state, receives a lot of rainfall but the same water cannot be retained and all water reach Bangladesh in no time.

Among the other issues discussed on the policy was the need to optimize usage and conservation of water, steps needed to protect water bodies and water sources including ground water and protection of catchment and springshed areas.

Recently, the state government has launched the Jal Shakti mission to address the problems related to water.

The state cabinet has also approved the proposal of the Finance department to hike the salary of chairman and members of the Meghalaya Public Service Commission based on the recommendations of the fifth Meghalaya Pay Commission.

Water Mission

The Water Resources Department is implementing one new initiative which is the Integrated Water Resources Management Programme (IWRMP) which covers the activities under the Water Mission under the aegis of the IBDLP through the Meghalaya Water Resources Development Agency (MeWDA). This Programme is a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of the eco-system. Under this Programme, activities for management and maximum utilization of the available water resources through the implementation of water harvesting structures, Jalkunds and Multipurpose Reservoirs are being taken up. Further, other Programmes relating to water quality, capacity building and awareness, monitoring and evaluation of projects, policy and regulation have also been initiated.

Activities under the Mission

Briefly the present status of the different activities and Programme taken up under the Integrated Water Resources Management Programme is as follows:

Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs)

During March 2013, an amount of Rs. 29.15 crores was sanctioned under Special Plan Assistance for development of Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs). Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs) are water bodies created in a cascade that will cater to the different water needs of the community. It may be mentioned that the Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs) will have the following components:

  1. Structural components having a combination of components for different uses such as Drinking & Domestic Water, Irrigation, Fisheries, Livestock, Micro hydel (< 100kw; where ever feasible) etc.
  2. Non-structural components like capacity building, institution building, Management Information System (MIS), monitoring & evaluation, entrepreneurial promotion, etc.
  3. Ancillary Components like water filtration, soil fertility testing, water testing kits, improvement of traditional sources, improvement of catchment areas, conveyance systems through canals and pipes, etc. Presently, the District Water Resources Councils (DWRCs) have been instructed to identify feasible sites for which this Programme can be taken up shortly. The consultant engaged to support the Meghalaya Water Mission is also helping out to carry this work forward.

Jalkunds/Water Harvesting structures

A total amount of Rs. 28.00 crores has been sanctioned for the construction of Jalkunds and Water Harvesting structures for which the funding is as shown below:

  1. Under Special Plan Assistance – Rs. 15.00 crores
  2. Under Special Central Assistance – Rs. 10.00 crores
  3. Under the State Plan – Rs. 3.00 crores Total – Rs. 28.00 crores
  4. Out of this available fund, Rs. 7.99 crores has been allotted to the 164 schemes as proposed by the Water Resources Department, while Rs. 10.00 crores has been sanctioned for 385 schemes proposed by Soil & Water Conservation Department. The schemes are being implemented through the District Water Resources Councils (DWRCs). In order to sensitize the public on the implementation of Jalkunds and Water Harvesting structures, capacity building Programme have been taken up in the 7 district head quarters. A separate Programme on this subject was also held at Mawkyrwat in collaboration with the Mawkyrwat Farmers’ Association. Officers from the MeWDA, the Water Resources Department and the Soil & Water Conservation Department were deputed as resource persons for the Programme. Further, it is also proposed to implement Roof Top Rain Water Harvesting projects in Government and School buildings, PHCs and CHCs and accordingly the District Water Resources Councils have been instructed to identify and submit proposals.

Capacity Building & Awareness Programme

MeWDA and Water Resources Department, in collaboration with Central Soil & Material Research Station (CSMRS), New Delhi, has organized Awareness Programme on the topic “Save Water , Save Earth” in Khliehriat & Tura. The Programme at Khliehriat was held on 17th May 2013 and 200 students from different schools in the district had participated. In Tura, the Programme was held on 21st May 2013 with 250 students participated in the Programme. Competitions were held and prizes were distributed to the winners. Apart from competitions, presentations relating to water were made by the resource persons from Central Soil & Material Research Station (CSMRS), New Delhi.

Investigation, Planning & Preparation of Water Resources Projects

MeWDA has procured 2 (two) nos. of Light weight reflectorless Total Stations for the Soil & Water Conservation Department, one each for the Garo Hills and Khasi-Jaintia Hills Circle amounting to Rs. 9.2 Lakhs. These instruments will help the Department to take up more survey & investigation works and also help in preparing Detailed Project Reports (DPRs).

Monitoring & Evaluation of projects

MeWDA through the Integrated Water Resources Management Programme has funded an amount of Rs. 13.77 Lakhs for engaging an agency for third party monitoring of projects under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), implemented by the Water Resources Department and Soil & Water Conservation Department. The work is under progress.

Others

Others MeWDA with the assistance of the engaged consultants are in the process of preparing two proposals for funding by Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the creation of Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs) in the State.

Chandan Kumar Duarah