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Bhutan, Water

Bhutan Border Dwellers Repair Lifeline Canal

For centuries now, people living on the foothills of Bhutan have been dependent on rivers and rivulets flowing down from the mighty Himalayas. The sharing of water and other natural resources has been much dependent on the geo-political climate between the two countries.

Fortunately, the diplomatic relations between the Government of Indian and Royal Government of Bhutan have always been cordial except for localized conflicts in different border areas. Taking positive advantage of the congenial atmosphere between the two countries, NERSWN (North East Research and Social Work Networking), a Kokrajhar-based civil society organization, has been mobilizing communities on both sides of the Indo-Bhutan border along the Saralpara-Sarphang area to participate in sustainable sharing and governance of the trans-boundary river — Saralbhanga.

As part of the similar endeavour, more than 500 people from 36 villages of Saralpara area participated in the voluntary work to repair the traditional diversion-based irrigation system, which the locals call ‘Jamfwi/Dong’. During the ‘shramdan’ work, one of the members of the Irrigation Committee, Amarsingh Iswary said, “We are so grateful to our neighbouring country Bhutan that they have always been kind enough to allow us to draw water from Saralbhanga/Swrmanga River. This irrigation canal is the lifeline for more than 15,000 farmers in the Saralpara area alone. If the flow of water stops in this Jamfwi, we will have no option but to migrate or perish.”

The general secretary of the Irrigation Committee, Matla Mardi said, “The Saralbhanga River is the lifeline for human beings, wildlife, flora and fauna and all the living beings in Ultapani Ripu Chirang Reserve Forest. One cannot imagine life without the flow of water in this Jamfwi. We feel so fortunate that people here have become organized due to the active mobilization of NERSWN to further develop this trans-boundary irrigation system.”

The South Asian region, including India, has already started witnessing the impacts of climate change. The 2017 floods had a devastating impact in the region. India alone had a casualty of 1,046 people. Climate change-induced disasters have wider impacts and are affecting multiple countries. The ever-increasing frequency and intensity of disasters have already overwhelmed capacities of countries to respond. The regional fragilities have increased manifolds and water stress and its impact on riparian livelihoods is also an emerging problem.

There are several rivers that flow down from Bhutan to India; 56 such rivers flow down from Bhutan to Assam itself. Though these rivers are the lifeline for riparian communities in both the countries, many a time these rivers wreak havoc with flash floods, long-term inundation, erosion, cyclone and siltation. Unscientific mining, unsustainable fishing and improper water management and flood protection measures can be the determining factors for cumulative risks and vulnerabilities in the region. These rivers if governed effectively can help both the countries thrive in trade and tourism and also lead to prospering livelihood among the riparian communities.

Historically, Bhutan and India always enjoyed a friendly and cordial relationship. Both the countries exchange goods and goodwill through different established gateways called ‘Dooars’. Formal diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan were established in 1968 with the establishment of a special office of India in Thimphu. Before this, India’s relations with Bhutan were looked after by the Political Officer in Sikkim. The basic framework of India- Bhutan bilateral relations was the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed in 1949 between the two countries, which was revised in February, 2007.The India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty not only reflects the contemporary nature of relationship but also lays the foundation for their future development.

The golden jubilee of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan was celebrated in the year 2018. In addition to the bilateral diplomatic relations, people-to-people ties through exchanges in the form of culture, goods and services also have been cordial between the citizens of both the countries.

Pratibha Brahma, a renowned social activist said, “Our efforts to bring together the two friendly nations for meeting the developmental aspirations of people living along the Indo-Bhutan border are bearing fruits. People-to-people ties are facilitating cordial sharing of natural resources, especially water on the border area. The Saralpara initiative for trans-border river sharing is one of the best things that I have ever seen in my life.”


ICAO red-flags Bhutan over aviation safety oversight

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) after its validation mission in August last year has red-flagged Bhutan for lack of effective implementations, especially in the Air Navigation Services (ANS).

ICAO red flags countries whose oversight over the aviation industry does not comply with international standards and issues significant safety concern (SSC).  ICAO’s latest audited list of states show four red-flagged countries – Bhutan, Eritrea, Haiti and Kyrgyzstan.

However, a significant safety concern does not necessarily indicate a particular safety deficiency in the air navigation service providers, airlines (air operators), aircraft or aerodrome; but, rather, indicates that the State is not providing sufficient safety oversight to ensure the effective implementation of applicable ICAO standards.

Bhutan’s effective implementation also improved from 39.14 percent to 55.57 percent when the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority was audited in August last year.

ICAO, in its analysis, asked the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) to clarify who is the authorised air traffic service provider in the state (Bhutan) and designate the portions of airspace and aerodromes in relation to the ATS that are to be provided.

It also pointed out to carry out immediate corrective actions like ensuring that an ATS provider is not allowed to operate unless it has been formally authorised to do so. It also recommended ensuring that a thorough,   documented review of all relevant aeronautical information of Bhutan is performed by qualified and experienced staff, to ensure clarity, consistency and compliance with the State’s legislation and organisation.

Although ICAO has not specially mentioned, the Air traffic control at the Paro international airport is currently managed by the Indian air force, which is not subject to BCAA regulations as it is a civilian regulator.

Speaking at the meet the press on March 1, information and communications minister, Karma Donnen Wangdi said that the issue is currently under discussion and that the government had a number of talks with the government of India. “As per our initial agreement with ICAO, of which Bhutan is a member, we are required to take the management of ATS by ourselves,” he said. “We are working towards it because when such Red-Flagging is done, it could have negative effect on our tourism sector,” he said.

Lyonpo said that the safety concern was raised because the air traffic navigation is handled by Indian air force. “We consider this very important and we will resolve this as soon as possible.”

Foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji said that safety observations at Paro airport were raised since 2000. “It does not mean that safety at the airport is compromised,” he said. He clarified that as per ICAO requirement, the person handling air traffic should be certified by ICAO, but in this case, the Indian air force,  which is not certified by ICAO is managing air traffic control.

He informed that following the ICAO observations, the government had taken it with the government of India and have concluded the discussion on handing over air traffic management to Bhutanese. “Following this, we will resubmit our stand to the ICAO,” he said. “We are hoping that once we take over the management of the ATA and once the air traffic controllers are certified by ICAO, this will be removed.”

Asked if the country had expertise and the resources to man the ATS, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that the ATS is equipped by the government. On the human resource competence, he said there are trained people to man the ATS. “Some trained people are even nearing retirement.”

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India’s longest, 19.3 km long, Assam-Meghalaya river bridge building approved

Boost for north east road connectivity! 4-lane bridge to connect Assam with Meghalaya. Check details

A year after the longest river bridge in India, Dhola-Sadiya, was opened in the north-eastern state of Assam, the Modi government has announced plans for a longer bridge, again over the river Brahmaputra. The announcement came by the government ahead of the opening of the world’s longest sea bridge, between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong. According to an IE report, the new bridge over the river Brahmaputra is likely to be completed by the year 2026-27. It will run between Dhubri in Assam and Phulbari in Meghalaya, which is close to the Bangladesh border. At 19.3 km, the new bridge will be twice as long as the Dhola-Sadiya bridge, which at present, is the longest in the country.

  • The proposed new bridge will run between Dhubri and Phulbari. Currently, people cross the river either in small boats or by vehicles that have to take a longer route of 100 km before climbing the Naranarayan bridge. According to an official of the Assam’s Public Works Department, four lanes have been proposed for the project. A detailed project report is being prepared by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways through the National Highways and Industrial Development Corporation Limited (NICL) and an initial loan amount has been approved by Japanese funding agency JICA. As India looks to build yet another long river bridge, we list out the longest river bridges of the country:
  • The country’s longest river bridge at present, which is 9.15 km long, lies between Dhola and Sadiya in Assam. Moreover, it extends up to 28.50 km if the approach roads on either side are included. The bridge reduces the distance from Rupai in Assam to Roing in Arunachal Pradesh by 165 km, and travel time from 6 hours to just an hour.
  • The 6.2 km long bridge in Arunachal Pradesh, over the river Dibang, was opened this year. Currently, it is the second longest in the country.
  • The 5.75 km long bridge between Patna and Hajipur, over the river Ganga is the next on the list of river bridges.
  • The 5.6 km long Bandra Worli Sea Link in Mumbai is the longest bridge over sea. The sea-link project has been built by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) at a cost of Rs 1,702 crore.
  • A 4.94 km long bridge, Bogibeel is all set to be opened this year. It is the country’s longest rail-cum-road river bridge. The bridge will be over the river Brahmaputra and will connect Dibrugarh in Assam to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh. It has two railway lines at its lower deck and a three-lane road bridge on the top. At present, a train journey from Arunachal Pradesh to Dibrugarh means a detour of 500 km via Guwahati. But, with the commencement of the Bogibeel bridge, the train journey will cover less than 100 km. Also, train travel time from Delhi to Dibrugarh will also come down by about 3 hours to 34 hours as against 37 hours presently.

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Seaplane Service Between Guwahati & Shillong

The Civil Aviation Ministry has agreed to start a seaplane service between Brahmaputra river in Guwahati, Assam to Umiam Lake ( Borapani) in Shillong, Meghalaya in an effort to promote tourism.

Shillong MP Vincent Pala informed the media that the Union Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu has approved the proposal.

With a motive to boost tourism, the Union Civil Aviation Ministry has agreed to kick-start a seaplane service between Brahmaputra river in Guwahati, Assam to Umiam river in Shillong, Meghalaya. Shillong MP Vincent Pala has taken up the proposal with Union Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu, who in return has approved the plan.

A seaplane is a powered fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off and landing (alighting) on water. Seaplanes that can also take off and land on airfields are in a subclass called amphibious aircraft.

India’s first water aerodromes are slated to come up in Chilika Lake in Odisha, Sardar Sarovar Dam and Sabarmati River Front in Gujarat.

Sites in Odisha, Gujarat, Assam, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have been identified by the Airports Authority of India for water aerodromes. The aerodromes would be set up near tourist spots and locations of religious importance as per the proposal.

It may be mentioned that the Northeast region was among the priority areas to be brought under the regional connectivity scheme (RCS), also known as Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) during the second round of bidding that was concluded in January 2018.

Source: Time8

Seaplane Service Between Guwahati & Shillong

Prime Minister Modi to inaugurate Bogibeel Bridge

 Financial Express

 Bogibeel bridge, India’s longest rail-cum-road bridge, will be gifted to the nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 25! The Bogibeel bridge connects the north and south banks of the Brahmaputra river. Falling in the eastern part of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, it is a much-awaited rail-road bridge that will provide a huge connectivity boost to the North-East. PM Modi will inaugurate the Bogibeel bridge on December 25 which is also marked by the government as Good Governance Day, and is the birth anniversary of late AB Vajpayee.

The Bogibeel bridge spans over 4.94 kilometres and is located just over 20 km away from the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. It spans over the Brahmaputra river in the north eastern state of Assam between Dhemaji district and Dibrugarh district. The bridge will connect the town of Dibrugarh in the south to Dhemaji to the river’s north. The bridge has two railway lines on its lower deck and a three-lane road bridge on the top.

While former PM HD Deve Gowda laid the foundation stone for the Bogibeel bridge in January 1997, the work started only in April 2002 when former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated the construction work. Since then, the challenging railway project has missed several deadlines. However, with Modi government focusing on improving railway connectivity in the North-East, the work on the Bogibeel bridge was expedited and recently for the first time a freight train ran on it.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted a video of the first loaded freight train running over the Bogibeel bridge. He said that the development of Bogibeel Bridge is part of a larger effort by PM Narendra Modi to bring about growth & development in the North-East through infrastructure projects, in order to truly integrate the Seven Sisters with the mainland.

Bogibeel bridge will save time both in terms of road and rail travel. As of now, a train journey from Arunachal Pradesh to Assam’s Dibrugarh means a detour of 500 kilometres through Guwahati. But, after the Bogibeel bridge, the train journey will be of less than 100 kilometres. Additionally, Delhi to Dibrugarh train travel time will come down by about three hours to 34 hours as against 37 hours presently.