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With Xi’s visit, Pokhara entrepreneurs hopeful business will grow

Businessmen in Pokhara say they are hopeful the number of Chinese tourists visiting the lake city will increase following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day state visit.

Bikal Tulachan, chairman of the Western Regional Hotel Association in Pokhara, said that with the visit, he hopes Nepal-China relations will strengthen and Chinese investments will come in for the development of the tourism sector in Pokhara. “It is obvious that the number of Chinese tourists will increase more now, following Xi Jinping’s visit,” said Tulachan.

Tulachan’s assumptions are not baseless. According to the data of the Tourism Board, there has been a steady increase in the number of Chinese tourists coming to Nepal in recent years. In 2018, around 154,000 Chinese tourists arrived in Nepal. The number was 124,000 in 2014.

It is not just Nepali entrepreneurs who are hopeful. Chinese entrepreneurs, who have been running their businesses under an umbrella organisation called Overseas Chinese Association, are also quite optimistic.

According to Tulachan, Chinese entrepreneurs have invested around Rs 500 million in hotels and restaurants in Pokhara, and currently run 17 of them. Some of the entrepreneurs have also invested in the agriculture sector. He said, “It is necessary to invite the Chinese government’s investments in mega projects for the development of Pokhara. Many Chinese entrepreneurs come to Pokhara with interest in starting four- and five-star hotels.”

Chinese entrepreneur Zhan Jiang Song, chairman of the association, claimed that the tourism sector will be developed in Nepal following Xi Jinping’s Nepal visit. He said, “Chinese people will be more informed about Nepal and this will aid in increasing the number of Chinese tourists here.”

Liao Ji Bing, a Chinese national who has been operating a restaurant in Lakeside, said “Pokhara is a beautiful city with good weather. Chinese people are attracted to visit this friendly city.” He, however, added that in order to draw more Chinese tourists, the country’s roads (such as the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway and the Pokhara-Lumbini roadway) need to be upgraded.

Gandaki Province and Hainan Province of China have already established sister relations to co-operate bilaterally in education, tourism, trade, culture energy among other sectors. Pokhara City has also established sister relations with Kunming, of China, to promote cultural relations through connectivity, tourism, exchanges of high-level visits, and researches.

by Deepak Pariyar

Deepak Pariyar is the Kaski correspondent for Kantipur Publications.

International

Xi arrives, heralding the rise of an influential geopolitical actor in Nepal

The visit of the Chinese President might come with material benefits for Nepal but it is laden with geostrategic symbolism, analysts say.

Binod Ghimire

It was more than two decades ago that a Chinese president last crossed the Himalayas and landed in Kathmandu. But on Saturday, Xi Jinping did not cross the Himalayas, he flew over the Tarai plains—straight from Chennai, India, after the second informal summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

While Xi’s visit, the first by a sitting Chinese president after 23 years, no doubt holds great significance for Nepal, analysts say it is up to Nepal to make the most out of China’s goodwill, which may come with strings attached.

As far as Beijing is concerned, it is clear about its foreign policy, how it wants to expand its influence in South Asia and beyond, and what measures it will take to broaden the reach and appeal of Xi’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). But in the past week, South Asia was on Xi’s mind.

Just before flying to Chennai on Friday, Xi welcomed Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan. In the aftermath of New Delhi’s August 5 decision to strip Kashmir of its autonomous status, Beijing and Islamabad appeared to be on the same page, much to India’s chagrin. The meeting between Xi and Modi too materialised after some level of uncertainty.

But in Kathmandu, despite no official communication from Beijing regarding Xi’s visit until just a few days earlier, preparations to welcome the Chinese president were underway a fortnight ago. China has been Nepal’s all-weather friend, but despite enjoying over six decades of diplomatic ties, high-level visits from the north have been sparse.

That’s one reason why Xi’s visit is a watershed moment in Nepal-China ties, say analysts. 

“Xi’s visit definitely takes China-Nepal relations to a new stage,” said Ajaya Bhadra Khanal, a political analyst who is also a columnist for the Post. “The visit is a positive response from China.”

Khanal, however, did not miss the symbolism of Xi’s arrival from across the plains.

Xi arrives, heralding the rise of an influential geopolitical actor in Nepal

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) in Kathmandu.  Angad Dhakal /TKPbookmark12

“Nepal wants China to look at Kathmandu without bringing in New Delhi, but Xi arrived straight from India. So doubts persist,” he said.

This long overdue visit from a friendly neighbour was not particularly due to China’s unwillingness to engage with Nepal on a high level, say foreign policy watchers. It was largely due to political instability in Nepal. The 2015 constitution and the 2017 elections have brought about a semblance of stability in Nepal, installing a strong government that is largely seen as much more open to engagement with China.

Political stability certainly paved the way for a visit, but Nepal’s concerns are more material.

Constantino Xavier, a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings India, a think tank in New Delhi, said that Nepal seeks greater connectivity with China to reduce its reliance on India, whether on trade, energy security or digital connectivity.

“This also explains the strategic debate within the Nepali government, between those arguing for China’s BRI and a northward focus to Tibet, across the Himalayas, and those who have made a case for diversification by linking Nepal southwards, beyond India, to the Bay of Bengal region and the Indo-Pacific,” Xavier told the Post in an email interview.

Nepal has signed up for the BRI but India has cautiously refrained from taking part.

Unlike India, Nepal lacks the economic and geopolitical heft to abstain from a project as ambitious as the BRI. China is a global power and Xi one of the most powerful leaders in the world. China has engineered an economic boom in recent years, while the United States and Europe were licking their wounds after financial crises. With the West, particularly the US, wringing its hands regarding China’s rise, American President Donald Trump has launched a trade war against China.

But Beijing is not naive. It knows that the US move is not just about trade, say analysts. For China, this is a good moment to shore up its backyard.

“Economy and security are the two factors that China is concerned with,” said Khanal. “Taking neighbours along is a must for China, which has as an aspiration to expand its influence globally.”

According to Khanal, how Nepali politicians carry forward their foreign policy will also decide Nepal’s future course.

“Foreign policy must not become a tool for domestic politics,” he said. “But unfortunately, the Nepal Communist Party and its leaders are trying to benefit politically from their relations with China.”

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli won the 2017 elections on the back of nationalist posturing against India, which had just imposed a months-long economic blockade when Nepal was still reeling from devastating earthquakes. Oli played up ties with China as a counter-balance to Nepal’s unhealthy dependence on India, even signing a transit and transport agreement with the northern neighbour. India has not been particularly pleased with these developments, especially since it has long considered Nepal to be within its sphere of influence.

But India isn’t the only country watching Nepal in its pursuit of China. The US, which has long been wary of a rising China, has time and again cautioned Nepal against Chinese goodwill, sometimes bluntly. During their visits to Nepal, American officials have reminded Nepali leaders that any assistance from the north should be in Nepal’s interest, not China’s. Even though they have stopped short of mentioning the Belt and Road Initiative, their references to Sri Lanka and some African countries, which have fallen into what the West calls a “debt trap”, clearly demonstrate what they mean. The Chinese have been quick to counter such statements and they maintain that the Belt and Road Initiative is meant for shared benefits.

The US has also included Nepal in its broad Indo-Pacific Strategy. Even though American officials have attempted to qualify that the strategy is not targeted at any particular country, many, including the Chinese, see it as an attempt to counter China.

An article in The Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, on Wednesday said that Xi’s visit to India would improve China’s ties with the South Asian country and also “serve as a response to the Indo-Pacific Strategy intended to contain China”.

In this tussle between the great powers, Nepal is a footnote, but its geostrategic location gives its an edge that belies its small stature.

“Chinese support for infrastructure and foreign direct investment is what Nepal is looking forward to,” said Tanka Karki, a former Nepali ambassador to China. “At the same time, it is an opportunity to show Nepal is China’s trusted neighbour.”
Connectivity with China would not just benefit Nepal but also the region, which is in the shared interest of everyone, including China and India, who aim to take their bilateral trade over the $100 billion mark by the end of the year.

Railway connectivity to India via Nepal is certainly in China’s interest, analysts say.

“After the Wuhan normalisation, China has been insistently advocating trilateral connectivity or infrastructure projects with India, which Beijing calls the ‘India-China plus one’ model,” said Xavier. “Recognising Indian concerns about the BRI and its projects in PoK [Pakistan-occupied Kashmir], China has been testing India’s openness to develop a Himalayan economic and transportation corridor between India, Nepal and China.”

The cross-border railway is high on the Xi visit agenda. While there is euphoria among Nepalis regarding a rail link to China, a railway across the Himalayas, by their own admission, will be a test for China’s technological might.

While there are sections in Kathmandu that caution Nepal against falling into a debt trap over a train line, ruling party leaders have rejected the notion of a debt trap wholesale, saying it is an “imported notion”, created by westerners. The experience of many African countries, however, says otherwise. Even China itself is “recalibrating” its BRI in response to criticisms of creating indebtedness among poorer nations.

Nevertheless, around a dozen agreements related to connectivity, infrastructure and hydropower are expected to be signed during Xi’s 20-hour stay in Kathmandu. But more than the material, Xi’s presence in Kathmandu is laden with symbolism.

“More than a few projects Xi is expected to inaugurate or announce, his visit marks the rise of China as an influential political actor in Nepal,” said Xavier. “Beyond financing, China has been silently cultivating a new generation of Nepali politicians, journalists and scholars through public diplomacy and exchange programmes.”

Xi’s visit to Nepal follows a two-day symposium on “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” in Kathmandu, which was attended by leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), including Prime Minister Oli.

“The recent workshop conducted in Kathmandu for ruling party members indicates Beijing is using its sharp power to shape the politics and institutions of one of Asia’s least developed democracies,” said Xavier.

But amid all these maneuverings, what is important for Nepal is how it maintains its autonomy, say analysts. Nepali politicians should make prudent moves and exhibit deft diplomacy to make the most of its friendly nations.

“Nepal should be able to maintain its strategic autonomy,” said Khanal. “Relations must be transparent to ensure other friendly nations aren’t skeptical.”

With Xi’s arrival, however, the consensus is that the Oli administration has pulled off a coup by materialising a visit from the northern neighbour.

“In the contemporary world where China is expanding its role, Xi’s visit has huge diplomatic and strategic meaning with long-term implications,” said Ramesh Nath Pandey, a former foreign minister. “Traditional and ritualistic diplomacy has been replaced with direct and tactical diplomacy.”

According to Pandey, while deals on infrastructure and other support from the Chinese side matter, what’s more significant is how the one-on-one meeting between Prime Minister Oli and President Xi moves ahead.

“That meeting will pave the future course of the Nepal-China relationship,” said Pandey.

International

Nepal and China sign and exchange 20 agreements

Nepal and China signed 18 memorandums of understanding and two letters of exchange on Sunday on the concluding day of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day state visit.

fficials from Nepal and China signed the agreements on various issues in the presence of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Xi on Sunday morning.

The instruments are related to the partnership between government bodies including the ministries of home; foreign affairs; physical infrastructure and transport; agriculture and livestock development and industry, commerce and supply.

Foreign ministers from Nepal and China as well as finance, home and foreign secretaries and secretaries at related ministries and the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yaunqi signed and exchanged the memorandums of understanding and letters of exchange.

The instruments are related to the partnership between government bodies including the ministries of home; foreign affairs; physical infrastructure and transport; agriculture and livestock development and industry, commerce and supply.

Foreign ministers from Nepal and China as well as finance, home and foreign secretaries and secretaries at related ministries and the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yaunqi signed and exchanged the memorandums of understanding and letters of exchange.

Kathmandu Post

International, Water

Bangladeshi oganisation raises to make bilateral agreements public

Left Democratic Alliance yesterday demanded that the government make public the bilateral documents it signed with India during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit to the neighbouring country.

Reportedly, Bangladesh’s interests have been overlooked and India’s interests were given priority in the agreements, the alliance leaders said at a press conference in the capital’s Mukti Bhaban.

In protest, LDA will stage a rally at Jatiya Press Club on Sunday afternoon, they said.

On Saturday, Bangladesh and India signed seven bilateral documents, aiming to further strengthen the relations between the two countries, according to media reports.

The bilateral documents are: MoU for providing a coastal surveillance system; the standard operating procedure on the use of Chattogram and Mongla ports for movement of goods to and from India; MoU on withdrawal of 1.82 cusec water from the Feni river by India for a drinking water supply scheme in Sabroom town of Tripura; agreement on implementation of the lines of credit committed by India to Bangladesh; MoU between the University of Hyderabad and the University of Dhaka; MoU on cooperation in youth affairs and renewal of a cultural exchange programme.

The government has agreed to India’s use of Bangladesh’s sea ports but it did not disclose the agreement’s terms and conditions before the countrymen, said Communist Party of Bangladesh President Mujahidul Islam Selim.

Nothing has been said about whether there are any “protective measures” in the agreement, he said.

Selim also said the present government came to power through a “farcical election”. As a result, it agreed to whatever demands were made by India because its aim was to “survive” in power.

“This government has to step down if Bangladesh’s interests are to be upheld,” he added.

On the killing of Buet student Abrar Fahad, the left-leaning politician said such incidents would not have happened at a renowned educational institution if students there had the chance to practice and engage in ideology-based political activities.

Reading out a written statement, LDA central leader Abdus Sattar said countrymen are aggrieved and frustrated over PM’s consent to the withdrawal of water from the river Feni, as Bangladesh’s demand for logical distribution of water of common rivers, including the Teesta, still remains unresolved.

“This is similar to betraying the country and its citizens after sacrificing Bangladesh’s interest,” he said.

Saiful Haque, general secretary of Revolutionary Workers Party of Bangladesh, said Bangladesh as a sovereign country has failed diplomatically during PM’s recent visit to India and that the countrymen also rejected the government’s recent deals.

Withdrawal of Feni River Water: Experts see little impact here

India is going to draw around 51.54 litres of water per second from the Feni river once the deal between Bangladesh and India is implemented, but doubts remain as to how much impact it would have on Bangladesh.  

The Feni water-sharing agreement was signed in the presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi on October 6.

Some experts say the drawing of water will have little impact on the downstream of the Feni river. 

Yet, the deal regarding withdrawal of 1.82 cusec of water by India, to be used as drinking water for the people of Sabroom town in Tripura, triggered sharp criticism in Bangladesh.  

The condemnation comes due to India dillydallying on signing the Teesta deal for last eight years even after finalisation of the deal and suspicions regarding the nature of the deal. 

“I think withdrawal of 1.82 cusecs of water will have very little impact in the downstream. After a series of discussions, we have agreed to provide them the water for drinking purpose. There is no shortage of water during the monsoon and during the lean period, the river has a minimum flow of the water around 110 cusecs,” said KM Anwar Hossain, member, Joint Rivers Commission (JRC), Bangladesh.

He explained the quantity of water in one cusec water was equivalent to 28.32 litres of water flow per second. So, 1.82 cusec will be equivalent to 51.54 litres water per second. 

When asked when the water-sharing would start, Anwar said it would start soon as the MoU was already signed.  

While there is optimism on a government level, questions remain regarding how much water is to be withdrawn and how it would be monitored. 

Professor Saiful Islam of the Institute of Water and Flood management, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), said the discharge of Feni river was around 750 cusecs during the monsoon, while it was over 100 cusecs in winter. 

“That means they are going to withdraw around two to three percent of water from the river during the lean period, which would not be a problem. 

“But if they withdraw more than 1.82 cusecs, it may affect Muhuri-Feni irrigation project based on the water from Feni river,” he said. 

Around 230.076 hectares land area is under the Muhuri-Feni irrigation project.

He, however, said it was necessary to sign deals on sharing of the water of all transboundary rivers. 

Locals living by the Feni river in Khagrachhari said India had been withdrawing water from the Feni river “unofficially”, by setting up small pumps at zero point. 

Regarding the deal, many said there was confusion whether it was to draw 1.82 cusec of water or more.  

“If they withdraw 1.82 cusec of water, it will not have much impact downstream. But, if they withdraw 1.82 cumec instead, it will be a disaster for us because 1.82 cumec is 35 times higher than 1.82 cusec. So, the government should make it clear about the signed MoU,” said M Inamul Haque, Chairman, Institute of Water & Environment. 

According to the joint statement of Hasina’s official visit to India, it is mentioned that 1.82 cusec of water will be withdrawn. A copy of the MoU, however, is yet to be made available on public domains.

In regards to monitoring, JRC member Anwar said, “Now India will invite Bangladesh to oversee the withdrawal activities jointly with them. They will set up water pumps to withdraw the water, while officials of Bangladesh and India will jointly monitor the activities,” he said. 

“The officials will monitor some issues like whether the withdrawal activities cause any harm to the river, so it does not cause any erosion on the river bank,” he said.

Source: The Star Daily

Defence, International

Indian Army’s Cheetah helicopter crashes in Bhutan, 2 pilots killed

At least two pilots lost their lives after an Indian Army Cheetah helicopter crashed in Bhutan on Friday. 

The Indian Army pilot who died in the crash was of Lieutenant colonel rank while the other was a Bhutanese Army pilot training with the Indian Army, news agency ANI said quoting sources in the Indian Army.

Bhutan: An Indian Army Cheetah helicopter crashed in Bhutan today, both pilots lost their lives. It was enroute from Khirmu(Arunanchal) to Yongfulla(Bhutan) on duty. The 2 pilots were-an Indian Army pilot of Lieutenant colonel rank&a Bhutanese Army pilot training with Indian Army

The pilots have been identified as – Lieutenant Colonel Rajneesh Parmar (Indian Army) and Captain Kalzang Wangdi (Royal Bhutan Army).

Below are some of the pictures of the wreckage of Cheetah helicopter that crashed in Bhutan today:

Indian Army spokesperson Col Aman Anand said that the chopper crashed at around 1 pm near Khentongmani, Yonphullla in Bhutan due to foggy weather. The chopper went out of the radio and visual contact soon after 1 pm. He added that a ground search and rescue operation was launched from Yongfulla and the wreckage was spotted. 

Indian Army Spokesperson, Col Aman Anand: An Indian Army Helicopter crashed at 1 pm near Yongphulla in Bhutan. Helicopter went out of radio and visual contact soon after 1 pm. It was enroute from Khirmu (Arunanchal Pradesh) to Yongfulla on duty. (file pic) 

“The chopper was on its way from Khirmu (Arunanchal) to Yongfulla on duty. Ground SAR was launched immediately from Yongfulla,” he added.

Climate Change, International, Nature

The world has a third pole – and it’s melting quickly

Gaia Vince

Many moons ago in Tibet, the Second Buddha transformed a fierce nyen (a malevolent mountain demon) into a neri (the holiest protective warrior god) called Khawa Karpo, who took up residence in the sacred mountain bearing his name. Khawa Karpo is the tallest of the Meili mountain range, piercing the sky at 6,740 metres (22,112ft) above sea level. Local Tibetan communities believe that conquering Khawa Karpo is an act of sacrilege and would cause the deity to abandon his mountain home. Nevertheless, there have been several failed attempts by outsiders – the best known by an international team of 17, all of whom died in an avalanche during their ascent on 3 January 1991. After much local petitioning, in 2001 Beijing passed a law banning mountaineering there.Advertisement

However, Khawa Karpo continues to be affronted more insidiously. Over the past two decades, the Mingyong glacier at the foot of the mountain has dramatically receded. Villagers blame disrespectful human behaviour, including an inadequacy of prayer, greater material greed and an increase in pollution from tourism. People have started to avoid eating garlic and onions, burning meat, breaking vows or fighting for fear of unleashing the wrath of the deity. Mingyong is one of the world’s fastest shrinking glaciers, but locals cannot believe it will die because their own existence is intertwined with it. Yet its disappearance is almost inevitable.

Khawa Karpo lies at the world’s “third pole”. This is how glaciologists refer to the Tibetan plateau, home to the vast Hindu Kush-Himalaya ice sheet, because it contains the largest amount of snow and ice after the Arctic and Antarctic – the Chinese glaciers alone account for an estimated 14.5% of the global total. However, quarter of its ice has been lost since 1970. This month, in a long-awaited special report on the cryosphere by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists will warn that up to two-thirds of the region’s remaining glaciers are on track to disappear by the end of the century. It is expected a third of the ice will be lost in that time even if the internationally agreed target of limiting global warming by 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is adhered to.

Whether we are Buddhists or not, our lives affect, and are affected by, these tropical glaciers that span eight countries. This frozen “water tower of Asia” is the source of 10 of the world’s largest rivers, including the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Yellow, Mekong and Indus, whose flows support at least 1.6 billion people directly – in drinking water, agriculture, hydropower and livelihoods – and many more indirectly, in buying a T-shirt made from cotton grown in China, for example, or rice from India.Advertisement

Joseph Shea, a glaciologist at the University of Northern British Columbia, calls the loss “depressing and fear-inducing. It changes the nature of the mountains in a very visible and profound way.”

Yet the fast-changing conditions at the third pole have not received the same attention as those at the north and south poles. The IPCC’s fourth assessment report in 2007 contained the erroneous prediction that all Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035. This statement turned out to have been based on anecdote rather than scientific evidence and, perhaps out of embarrassment, the third pole has been given less attention in subsequent IPCC reports.

There is also a dearth of research compared to the other poles, and what hydrological data exists has been jealously guarded by the Indian government and other interested parties. The Tibetan plateau is a vast and impractical place for glaciologists to work in and confounding factors make measurements hard to obtain. Scientists are forbidden by locals, for instance, to step out on to the Mingyong glacier, meaning they have had to use repeat photography to measure the ice retreat.

In the face of these problems, satellites have proved invaluable, allowing scientists to watch glacial shrinkage in real time. This summer, Columbia University researchers also used declassified spy-satellite images from the cold war to show that third pole ice loss has accelerated over this century and is now roughly double the melt rate of 1975 to 2000, when temperatures were on average 1C lower. Glaciers in the region are currently losing about half a vertical metre of ice per year because of anthropogenic global heating, the researchers concluded. Glacial melt here carries significant risk of death and injury – far more than in the sparsely populated Arctic and Antarctic – from glacial lake outbursts (when a lake forms and suddenly spills over its banks in a devastating flood) and landslides caused by destabilised rock. Whole villages have been washed away and these events are becoming increasingly regular, even if monitoring and rescue systems have improved. Satellite data shows that numbers and sizes of such risky lakes in the region are growing. Last October and November, on three separate occasions, debris blocked the flow of the Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet, threatening India and Bangladesh downstream with flooding and causing thousands to be evacuated.

An artificial glacier in Ladakh, created by engineer and farmer Chewang Norphel.
 An artificial glacier in Ladakh, created by engineer and farmer Chewang Norphel. Photograph: Chewang Norphel

One reason for the rapid ice loss is that the Tibetan plateau, like the other two poles, is warming at a rate up to three times as fast as the global average, by 0.3C per decade. In the case of the third pole, this is because of its elevation, which means it absorbs energy from rising, warm, moisture-laden air. Even if average global temperatures stay below 1.5C, the region will experience more than 2C of warming; if emissions are not reduced, the rise will be 5C, according to report released earlier this year by more than 200 scientists for the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). Winter snowfall is already decreasing and there are, on average, four fewer cold nights and seven more warm nights per year than 40 years ago. Models also indicate a strengthening of the south-east monsoon, with heavy and unpredictable downpours. “This is the climate crisis you haven’t heard of,” said ICIMOD’s chief scientist, Philippus Wester.

There is another culprit besides our CO2 emissions in this warming story, and it’s all too evident on the dirty surface of the Mingyong glacier: black carbon, or soot. A 2013 study found that black carbon is responsible for 1.1 watts per square metre of the Earth’s surface of extra energy being stored in the atmosphere (CO2 is responsible for an estimated 1.56 watts per square metre). Black carbon has multiple climate effects, changing clouds and monsoon circulation as well as accelerating ice melt. Air pollution from the Indo-Gangetic Plains – one of the world’s most polluted regions – deposits this black dust on glaciers, darkening their surface and hastening melt. While soot landing on dark rock has little effect on its temperature, snow and glaciers are particularly vulnerable because they are so white and reflective. As glaciers melt, the surrounding rock crumbles in landslides, covering the ice with dark material that speeds melt in a runaway cycle. The Everest base camp, for instance, at 5,300 metres, is now rubble and debris as the Khumbu glacier has retreated to the icefall.

The immense upland of the third pole is one of the most ecologically diverse and vulnerable regions on Earth. People have only attempted to conquer these mountains in the last century, yet in that time humans have subdued the glaciers and changed the face of this wilderness with pollution and other activities. Researchers are now beginning to understand the scale of human effects on the region – some have experienced it directly: many of the 300 IPCC cryosphere report authors meeting in the Nepalese capital in July were forced to take shelter or divert to other airports because of a freak monsoon.

But aAside from such inconveniences, what do these changes mean for the 240 million people living in the mountains? Well, in many areas, it has been welcomed. Warmer, more pleasant winters have made life easier. The higher temperatures have boosted agriculture – people can grow a greater variety of crops and benefit from more than one harvest per year, and that improves livelihoods. This may be responsible for the so-called Karakoram anomaly, in which a few glaciers in the Pakistani Karakoram range are advancing in opposition to the general trend. Climatologists believe that the sudden and massive growth of irrigated agriculture in the local area, coupled with unusual topographical features, has produced an increase in snowfall on the glaciers which currently more than compensates for their melting.Advertisement

Elsewhere, any increase in precipitation is not enough to counter the rate of ice melt and places that are wholly reliant on meltwater for irrigation are feeling the effects soonest. “Springs have dried drastically in the past 10 years without meltwater and because infrastructure has cut off discharge,” says Aditi Mukherji, one of the authors of the IPCC report.

A man tends a vegetable plot in the Karakoram range.
 A man tends a vegetable plot in the Karakoram range. Photograph: Luis Dafos/Getty Images

Known as high-altitude deserts, places such as Ladakh in north-eastern India and parts of Tibet have already lost many of their lower-altitude glaciers and with them their seasonal irrigation flows, which is affecting agriculture and electricity production from hydroelectric dams. In some places, communities are trying to geoengineer artificial glaciers that divert runoff from higher glaciers towards shaded, protected locations where it can freeze over winter to provide meltwater for irrigation in the spring.

Only a few of the major Asian rivers are heavily reliant on glacial runoff – the Yangtze and Yellow rivers are showing reduced water levels because of diminished meltwater and the Indus (40% glacier-fed) and Yarkand (60% glacier-fed) are particularly vulnerable. So although mountain communities are suffering from glacial disappearance, those downstream are currently less affected because rainfall makes a much larger contribution to rivers such as the Ganges and Mekong as they descend into populated basins. Upstream-downstream conflict over extractions, dam-building and diversions has so far largely been averted through water-sharing treaties between nations, but as the climate becomes less predictable and scarcity increases, the risk of unrest within – let alone between – nations grows.

Towards the end of this century, pre-monsoon water-flow levels in all these rivers will drastically reduce without glacier buffers, affecting agricultural output as well as hydropower generation, and these stresses will be compounded by an increase in the number and severity of devastating flash floods. “The impact on local water resources will be huge, especially in the Indus Valley. We expect to see migration out of dry, high-altitude areas first but populations across the region will be affected,” says Shea, also an author on the ICIMOD report.

As the third pole’s vast frozen reserves of fresh water make their way down to the oceans, they are contributing to sea-level rise that is already making life difficult in the heavily populated low-lying deltas and bays of Asia, from Bangladesh to Vietnam. What is more, they are releasing dangerous pollutants. Glaciers are time capsules, built snowflake by snowflake from the skies of the past and, as they melt, they deliver back into circulation the constituents of that archived air. Dangerous pesticides such as DDT (widely used for three decades before being banned in 1972) and perfluoroalkyl acids are now being washed downstream in meltwater and accumulating in sediments and in the food chain.

Ultimately the future of this vast region, its people, ice sheets and arteries depends – just as Khawa Karpo’s devotees believe – on us: on reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. As Mukherji says, many of the glaciers that haven’t yet melted have effectively “disappeared because in the dense air pollution, you can no longer see them”.

The report firt published in The Guardian

International

India to soon set up apex water authority for northeast region

To evolve a consolidated strategy for management of its north-east region’ water resources, India will shortly set up a North East Water Management Authority (NEWMA), according to government officials. The authority is being set up on the recommendations of a high level committee headed by NITI Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar, in the backdrop of China’s ambitious $62 billion south-north water diversion scheme.

NEWMA will be the apex authority for developing all projects related to hydropower, agriculture, bio-diversity conservation, flood control, inland water transport, forestry, fishery and eco-tourism in the region. It will also help spearhead India’s efforts to establish prior user rights on waters from the rivers that originate in China.

The committee was set up in October 2017 with the aim of helping India’s flood-ravaged north-east. Its mandate was to facilitate optimising benefits of appropriate water management and NITI Aayog, the federal policy think tank headed the efforts. This assumes significance as India has been pushing to establish prior user rights on rivers that originate in China in an effort to fast-track projects in the northeast. Also, Japan has joined hands with India to aggressively develop infrastructure projects in the region with an India-Japan Coordination Forum for Development of North East been set up.

“The committee’s report has been finalised and its is on that basis that a structured approach is being considered. The main purpose is to take care of power generation, irrigation, flood control, soil erosion among all other measures,” said a senior Indian government official requesting anonymity.

“The report has been submitted some months back. We are going ahead with constituting the NEWMA. The vice chairman of Niti Aayog chaired this. Niti Aayog has been at the forefront of this,” said a second Indian government official who also did not want to be named.

With one of the focus areas being hydropower, the strategy will also help establish first-user rights to the waters of the Brahmaputra. The total hydropower generation potential of India’s North-Eastern states, and Bhutan, is about 58,000MW. Of this Arunachal Pradesh alone accounts for 50,328MW, the highest in India.

Queries emailed to NITI Aayog vice-chairman Kumar and a Niti Aayog spokesperson on Thursday morning wasn’t immediately answered.

To have all states on board to work in tandem for implementing a concerted strategy, the chief secretaries of all the eight states of the region were included in the committee. The committee also comprises secretaries from the ministries of development of north-eastern region (DoNER), power, water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, National Disaster Management Authority, departments of border management and space.

Developing hydropower projects has been a recurring theme of India’s strategic play in the border areas, specifically with China and Pakistan in mind. A case in point being the 330 MW Kishanganga hydro power project in Jammu and Kashmir that was commissioned last May on the river Kishanganga, a tributary of Jhelum. While Pakistan had challenged the project under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, the International Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled in India’s favour in 2013.

India is now also looking at expediting strategically important hydropower projects in Jammu and Kashmir to fully utilize its share of water under the Indus Waters Treaty. State run NHPC Ltd plans to construct these hydropower projects in the context of China developing the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The committee’s terms of reference against the backdrop of floods that have brought life to a standstill in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur also included identification of gaps in the existing mechanisms and arrangements for water resource management, and suggesting policy interventions.

Mint reported on 30 August that 103 private hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh with a total capacity of 35 gigawatts (GW) still to take off despite the government’s Act East policy. This comes against the backdrop of growing concerns on the delay in India’s plans to generate power from rivers originating from neighbouring China. A delay in building hydropower projects on rivers originating in China will affect India’s strategy of establishing its prior-use claim over the waters, according to international law.

China on its part is going ahead on its south-north water diversion scheme of the rivers that feed downstream into the Brahmaputra, known in China as the Yarlung Tsangpo. Of the 2,880km of the Brahmaputra’s length, 1,625km is in Tibet, 918km in India, and 337km in Bangladesh. Of the eight river basins in Arunachal Pradesh, Subansiri, Lohit and Siang are of strategic importance, as they are closer to the border with China.

Utpal Bhaskar, the livemint

International

ICFRE-ICIMOD’s REDD+ Himalayan programme extended till 2020

The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programme being carried out in the himalayan states jointly by Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has been extended till July 2020.

ICFRE-ICIMOD’s REDD+ Himalaya: Developing and using experience in implementing REDD+ in the Himalaya programme was launched in January 2016 in Mizoram to addresse the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in India’s Himalayan states. 

While the initiative was meant to last only till 2018, it was on August 26, 2019, “extended till July 2020 keeping in view of the contributions made” by the agencies, RS Rawat, scientist in-charge biodiversity and climate change division, ICFRE told Down to Earth in an e-mail.

“The project was aimed at capacity building. We found that people’s major dependence on forest was for fuelwood, so we tried giving the people wooden stoves with better fuel efficiency. We also created alternative sources of income through planting bamboo, share coffee plantation,” said VRS Rawat, advisor ICFRE, who was involved with the process.

“People grow turmeric in the area and to process it, they use fire to dry it. We provided a village with solar drier for this process to reduce the demand for fuelwood,” Rawat added.

The project is supported by the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety ministry of Germany, was implemented in four countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region— Bhutan, India, Myanmar and Nepal.

The REDD+ programme was initiated by the United Nations in 2005 to mitigate climate change through enhanced forest management in developing countries. It aimed to create incentives for communities so that they stop forest degrading practices.  

More than 300 REDD+ initiatives have taken place since 2006. The mechanism is enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement and its implementation transitions from smaller, isolated projects to larger, jurisdictional programmes with support from bilateral and multilateral agencies. 

By Ishan Kukreti
International, Water

No Change in India’s Position on Proposed Teesta Water-sharing Agreement: Jaishankar

After a meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart AK Abdul Momen, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday said there is “no change” in India’s position on the proposed Teesta water-sharing agreement between New Delhi and Dhaka.

“We have a position. We have a commitment to that position. There is no change,” he told the media after his meeting with Momen at the state guest house Jamuna, reported Dhaka Tribune. Sharing of water of the Teesta River, which originates from Sikkim and flows through West Bengal to merge with the Brahmaputra in Assam and Jamuna in Bangladesh, is the most contentious issue between New Delhi and Dhaka. While Bangladesh has demanded 50 per cent of the river’s water supply from December to March, India has claimed a share of 55%.

POWERED BY PLAYSTREAM

Previously, the Teesta water agreement was slated to be inked between the two countries on September 6, 2011, during the visit of former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Dhaka. But the proposed deal was called off after repeated objections by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The water-sharing issue was once again discussed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka in June 2015. Modi had assured his Bangladeshi counterpart, Shiekh Hasina, that the waters of the river would be shared while looking forward to achieving a quick resolution to the issue.

Jaishnakar, who is on a three-day visit to Bangladesh, held “fruitful interaction” with Momen on a wide range of bilateral issues including Rohingyas and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s upcoming visit to New Delhi in October. The External Affairs Minister said India is looking forward to host her. Jaishankar described Bangladesh-India relations as a model for other South Asian countries.

“Speaking to the media after the bilateral discussions #JamunaGuestHouse, EAM @DrSJaishankar said that he had a fruitful interaction with Foreign Minister H.E. Dr. @AKAbdulMomen and that #India is looking forward to host Prime Minister H.E. Sheikh Hasina in #NewDelhi in October,” the Indian Embassy in Bangladesh tweeted.

While speaking on the issue of Rohingyas, Jaishankar said Bangladesh and India have agreed upon their “safe, speedy and sustainable return” to Myanmar.More than 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar’s western Rakhine state after a military crackdown that started in August last year. Many of them entered Bangladesh and are living there since then. Jaishankar is scheduled to meet Hasina. Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka, Riva Ganguly Das, will be hosting a private dinner for the minister tonight.

Dr S Jaishankar on Tuesday told Bangladesh that Assam’s citizenship register was an ‘internal matter’ for India.

The new external affairs minister was replying to questions at a joint briefing with his Bangladesh counterpart AK Abdul Momen at the state guesthouse Jamuna in Dhaka after bilateral talks on Tuesday.

Before the meeting, the foreign minister visited Bangabandhu Memorial Museum at Dhanmondi-32 and paid tributes to Bangladesh’s Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by placing wreaths at his portrait there.

S Jaishankar, who arrived in Dhaka on Monday night on a three-day official visit to Bangladesh, said the two countries can take the relationship to the next level.

Rohingya repartition is in ‘national interest’

On Rohingya issue, Jaishankar said they agreed that the “safe, speedy and sustainable” return of Rohingyas to their place of origin in Rakhine State is in the national interest of the three countries — Bangladesh, Myanmar and India.

We reaffirmed our readiness to provide more assistance for the displaced persons in Bangladesh and to improve the socioeconomic condition in Rakhine State, he said.

Dhaka-Delhi Working for resolve Teesta issue

External Affairs Minister Jaishankar said Bangladesh and India were working to find “mutually acceptable formulas” to share water from 54 rivers which flow through both nations while keeping India’s commitment to resolving Teesta issue unchanged.ADVERTISEMENT

We look forward to making a progress to find mutually acceptable formulas to share water from our 54 shared rivers, he told reporters adding that they are ready to make a start wherever it is possible.

Asked about long-pending Teesta water-sharing matter, Jaishankar said there has been no change regarding their commitment to resolve the issue. We have a position. You all are aware of it. We have a commitment on that position. And there’s no change in that regard.

Bangladesh-India partnership role model for the world

Jaishankar said India’s partnership with Bangladesh remains an example of what neighbours can do if they work together.

He said the Narendra Modi government is determined to ensure that this partnership is truly a role model in South Asia and for the world.

The minister said the Indian government would like to offer all possible support to realise Bangladesh’s development agenda which is in India’s interest as well.

Claiming that the ties between two nations were currently in golden age, he said India and Bangladesh will benefit mutually if the partnership grows.

Jaishankar said the two countries have a very important shared history and they look forward to sharing Bangladesh’s celebrations of birth centenary of Father of Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence in 2021.

On trade issues, Jaishankar said they are ready to move to the next stage of economic partnership as Bangladesh’s economy develops and matures. We’ll make progress at a phase which is comfortable for Bangladesh.

On people-to-people contact, he said the largest consular operation of India is now in Bangladesh and they are very proud of that.

The foreign minister is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence on Tuesday. Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Riva Ganguly Das will host private dinner for Jaishankar. He will leave Dhaka for Kathmandu on Wednesday morning. ( India T0day/ ANI)

Economy, International

 Arunachal Prades Tea touches the record heights set by Assam tea

 A variety of tea grown in Arunachal Pradeshon Wednesday touched the record heights set by Assam tea earlier this month selling for Rs 75000 per kg at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC). 

Golden Needle‘ tea produced by Donyipolo Tea Estate in Arunachal Pradesh was sold by Contemporary Tea Brokers and was bought by city-based buyer Chattar Singh Narendra Kumar for online tea seller Absolute Tea, GTAC Buyers Association secretary Dinesh Bihani said. 

On August 13, Dikom Tea Estate of Assam had sold its Golden Butterfly tea at Rs 75,000 per kg at the GTAC, auction centre official said. 

Donyipolo Tea Estate had last year set a record when their tea was sold for Rs 39000 per kg, Bihani said. 

​Donyipolo Tea Estate had last year set a record when their tea was sold for Rs 39000 per kg. (Representational Image: www.taooftea.com​)
Donyipolo Tea Estate had last year set a record when their tea was sold for Rs 39000 per kg. (Representational Image: www.taooftea.com)

“These teas do not draw the real picture of the tea industry. But the industry should appreciate producers who are making top notch teas and are making a name for Indian Tea Industry in the world,” Bihani said. 

Arunachal Pradesh recently came up in the tea map of the country for producing speciality tea. These have been appreciated by tea lovers across the world, Bihani said. 

“We had bought Donyipolo Golden Needles in the past few years. The response has been superb and we expect a similar response this year,” Kumar said. 

The tea was made from the tips of selected clones by skilled artisans, Satyanjoy Hazarika, managing director, tea, of Contemporary Brokers said. PTI